Despite downstream countries’ insistence on a quartet, Ethiopia will adhere to the African Union-led mechanism for trilateral talks on the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), according to a spokesman.
Tensions between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt have risen over Ethiopia’s flagship hydroelectric project after a trilateral meeting convened under the auspices of the African Union’s new chair, DRC President Felix Tshekedi, failed to yield a breakthrough.
Sudan advocated that the European Union, the United States, and the United Nations join the African Union as mediators, which Egypt supported but Ethiopia flatly opposed.
At a news conference on Saturday, Ethiopian Ambassador and Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti said, “The EU and the US are still observers, and we don’t mind if their positions are strengthened.”
He explained that enhanced positions would allow them to raise concerns, speak on issues, and have a certain amount of say, but that the African Union would be sufficient to lead the process. “This is African water,” says the narrator.
In their attempt to internationalize the problem, Egypt and Sudan, according to Mufti, are becoming intransigent to the African Union mechanism. “That isn’t going to help.”
“The impasse will be broken by deciding on the dam’s filling and operation,” he said, adding, “then we will move on to the other topics, such as a robust agricultural policy.”
According to Mufti, signing a formal agreement includes water sharing, which will be decided by all 11 Nile riparian countries.
Ethiopia began work on the GERD in 2011 near the Sudanese border, but the project is now four years behind schedule. However, Ethiopia filled the dam’s reservoir with 4.9 billion cubic meters of water last year and plans to fill another 13.5 billion cubic meters in July and August, the biggest rainy season in Ethiopia.
Egypt and Sudan, on the other hand, are demanding that a formal agreement be signed before the second-year filling can begin.
Since the second-year filling, which would bring the volume of water impounded at the reservoir to 18.4 billion cubic meters, will be used to test two of the 16 dam turbines, a 2015 Declaration of Principles signed by the three countries granted Ethiopia the prerogative to fill its dam while engaged in negotiations.
The EU has returned to Ethiopia’s election scene.
In other news, Mufti announced that the EU would send a technical team to Ethiopia to observe the June 5 elections.
Initially, the EU stated that it would not attend the forthcoming Ethiopian election until two conditions were met: the EU wished to bring a special communications device known as V-sat and make announcements ahead of the Ethiopian National Electoral Board (NEBE). Ethiopia has dismissed all requests, claiming that they violate Ethiopia’s sovereignty.
“The EU only yesterday agreed to send a technical team to Ethiopia to oversee the elections,” he added, noting that the EU had backtracked on both previous requests.
Ethiopia is preparing to hold its sixth national elections, which have been postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The polls are seen by many leaders as a make-or-break, high-stakes affair that will decide the country’s independence.
According to the NEBE, more than 28 million people have now enrolled to vote in the elections, in which 46 political parties and hundreds of independents are competing for seats in the country’s lower house of parliament, the 547-seat House of People’s Representatives.
The faction with the most votes will lead the next government, appointing a prime minister who will nominate judges on both the supreme and high courts.