Under the auspices of the African Unity, Ethiopian, Egyptian, and Sudanese Foreign and Water Relations Ministers met in Kinshasa to resume trilateral talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) (AU). H.E. Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and new Chairperson of the African Union, opened the conference. The Minister of State and Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as well as the chairperson of the African Union’s Executive Council, presided over the Ministerial conference on April 4 and 5, 2021. The AUC’s Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security was present at the conference.
The meeting was called to assess the negotiation’s success and map a course forward. In his opening remarks, H.E. Demeke Mekonnen reaffirmed Ethiopia’s commitment to the successful conclusion of the negotiations under the AU framework. He also emphasized the importance of collaboration and the interests of all riparian countries to use the Nile River. He also emphasized the importance of ending the downstream countries’ monopoly on the use of the Nile’s waters. The Deputy Prime Minister also remembered the GERD’s chance for collaboration and stressed the importance of seeing the talks through to completion.
Discussions on the possible improvement of the position of observers were conducted after agreement was reached on the continuity of the three observers in the mechanism (the Republic of South Africa, the United States of America, and the European Union). As a result, Ethiopia agreed to recognize the position of observers to exchange information and proposals when collectively demanded by the countries, in order to ensure complete control of the mechanism by the three countries and the legitimacy of the AU-led process. The stance of Egypt and Sudan, on the other hand, that observers should have the same function as the AU, is not acknowledged.
Ethiopia backed the draft communiqué presented by the AU Chairperson with slight changes at the end of the conference. Egypt and Sudan, on the other hand, opposed the draft, asking that observers take the position of the three countries and the African Union. The two countries took a policy aimed at disrupting the AU-led mechanism and withdrawing the issue from the African forum. They have put a stop to the resumption of the talks by opposing a draft communiqué containing the outcomes of the two-day conference. Instead, both countries tried to stymie the operation.
Ethiopia’s determination to find an agreement on the dam’s first filling and associated operations failed due to Egypt’s and Sudan’s adamant determination to use the negotiation and its conclusion to affirm their self-claimed water share and exclude Ethiopia’s share. Ethiopia is unable to enter into an arrangement that would deny it its existing and potential legal rights to the Nile’s use.
According to the Declaration of Principles, the GERD will be filled in the second year as planned (DoP). Ethiopia expressed its commitment to promote data and information sharing on the dam’s filling in this sense.
The arguments against the dam’s filling before an arrangement is reached have no legal justification and are incompatible with Ethiopia’s fundamental right to use its natural resources.
Ethiopia holds the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, H.E. Félix Tshisekedi, the AU Chairperson, in high regard for his role in hosting the meeting to restart the trilateral negotiations. Ethiopia reiterates its support for a trilateral mechanism that preserves the countries’ ownership and the dignity of the AU-led process, and promises to work for its conclusion.
The conference is expected to start in the third week of April 2021, according to Ethiopia. Ethiopia anticipates the conference being reconvened at the behest of the African Union’s new chairperson.