Ethiopia will stick to the African Union-led process concerning trilateral negotiations on the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) despite downstream countries' insistence on a quartet, a spokesman has said.
Tensions intensified among Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt concerning Ethiopia’s flagship hydroelectric project after a trilateral meeting held under the auspices of the current chair of the African Union, Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshekedi, did not produce a breakthrough.
Sudan proposed that the EU, US and UN join the African Union as mediators -- a proposal Egypt seconded but Ethiopia categorically rejected.
“The EU and the US are still observers and we don’t mind if their roles are enhanced,” Ethiopian Ambassador and Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti told a news conference on Saturday.
Enhanced roles, he said, would entail that they can raise issues, comment on issues and have a certain level of say, but the African Union suffices to lead the process. “It is an African water.”
Mufti said Egypt and Sudan were being intransigent to the African Union process in their bid to internationalize the issue. “That won’t be helpful.”
“The impasse can be overcome by agreeing on the filling and operation of the dam,” he said, adding: “Then we can proceed to the other issues, including a comprehensive agreement.”
Mufti said signing a comprehensive agreement entails water sharing, and that would be for all the 11 riparian countries of the Nile to determine.
Ethiopia broke ground on the GERD at a site near the Sudanese border in 2011 and construction is already late by four years from its original plan. But the country filled 4.9 billion cubic meters of water at the dam’s reservoir last year and is planning to fill another 13.5 billion cubic meters in July and August -- the main Ethiopian rainy season.
Egypt and Sudan, however, are calling for the signing of a comprehensive agreement before the second-year filling is undertaken.
A 2015 Declaration of Principles signed among the three countries gave Ethiopia a prerogative to fill its dam while engaging in negotiations because the second-year filling, which will bring the amount of water to be impounded at the reservoir to 18.4 billion cubic meters, will be necessary to test two of 16 dam turbines.
- EU back to Ethiopia’s election scene
Mufti, in another development, said the EU will send a technical team to monitor Ethiopia’s elections slated for June 5.
Initially, the EU said it would not observe the upcoming Ethiopian election unless two demands have been met: the EU wants to come with a special communications gadget called V-sat and it wanted to give statements ahead of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE). Ethiopia rejected both demands, citing that it contravenes the country’s sovereignty.
“Just yesterday, the EU has decided to send a technical team to Ethiopia to monitor the elections,” he said, adding that the EU retreated from both previous demands.
Ethiopia is gearing up to conduct its sixth parliamentary elections after a year-long delay because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many politicians consider the elections a make-or-break, high-stake event that would determine the integrity of the country.
The NEBE said Friday that more than 28 million people have already registered to cast ballots in the polls where 46 political parties and hundreds of independents are vying for seats in the 547-seat House of People’s Representatives -- the country’s lower house of parliament.
The party that wins a majority of votes will form the next government electing the prime minister who will, in turn, form his Cabinet and appoint judges for both the supreme and high courts.
By Addis Getachew in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia