BY MULATU BEALCHEW

Reaching a fair deal is a joint project and not a burden Ethiopia should shoulder alone in GERD matters, said Dejen Yeman, International Law Lecturer at Wollo University.

Speaking to The Ethiopian Herald Dejen said in reality, the best deal for Ethiopia is no-deal but if a deal becomes a must, the possible agreement shouldn’t be a treaty, shouldn’t include a provision that may implicate a threshold of significant harm; and should avoid judicial means of dispute settlement clause. “Hence, reaching a fair deal is a joint project and not a burden Ethiopia should shoulder alone in GERD matters.”

It’s obvious that the three countries, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan, are negotiating on the rules and guidelines of the filling and operation of the GERD, using the Declarations of Principles (DoP) as a basis but there are sticking points in the negotiation. Accepting or rejecting the sticking points would determine the outcome of the negotiation. The scholar said the nature of the document is the first controversial issue between the negotiating States. Ethiopia wants only a soft and nonbinding cooperative document that could facilitate the filling and annual operation of GERD while Egypt and Sudan require an outright binding trilateral treaty.

The second disagreeable subject of the negotiation is filling and release of waters during drought, prolonged drought, and prolonged periods of dry years. Egypt and Sudan request Ethiopia to bear the burden during such periods. This in turn aims to put a significant harm threshold by inserting a volumetric indication of water release either from the flow or inflow of the GERD reservoir. Ethiopia doesn’t want to take this unilateral obligation.

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The third point of discord, as to him, is the issue of future developments upstream. Ethiopia needs a provision that recognizes its right of future developments while Egypt and Sudan want a provision that puts Ethiopia’s right conditional on their approval. The final point of discord is dispute settlement ways. Egypt and Sudan are looking for arbitration as a settlement way for any potential dispute over GERD. Ethiopia opts for only diplomatic means to resolve potential dispute.

“Hence, given these sticking points, Ethiopia is advised not to accept all illegitimate and ill-fated quests of Egypt and Sudan,” the scholar said. Regarding the involvement of international institutions, he said international financial institutions operate as per the very interest of their members. Their decision is mainly influenced by the geopolitical interest of their members.

World Bank is one institution that persistently refused Ethiopia access to loans and aids for its hydro projects. Egypt is located at a very important geopolitical placement and its partners, for instance, the US, keep Egypt’s interest at the expense of Ethiopia’s interest. Hence, the way out for Ethiopia is self-reliance and GERD is an example of self-reliance, he said.

Ethiopia was not under any international legal obligation to invite Egypt and Sudan to discuss the GERD. GERD is a unilateral project which needs no intervention from outsiders. “By inviting Egypt and Sudan to the GERD, Ethiopia overstepped international law and she made herself open for the manipulation of Egypt and Sudan’s illegal interest,” the scholar said.

“The ongoing backtracking negotiation is the result of that. Now, Ethiopia can reject the unbearable interests of the two countries. Egypt and Sudan are pushing towards the legitimatization of their illegal interests over the Abay River. Ethiopia must say no. And interests should only be protected through law. An illegal way to preserve interest is illegal. That’s what Egypt and Sudan are doing.” Dejen further added Egypt’s and Sudan’s stance is a stumbling-block for cooperative governance of the Nile River.

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The right way to cooperate was through basin-wide legal and institutional frameworks. Egypt and Sudan have sidestepped the basin-wide approach and came into a short-cut path to preserve their unjust status quo on the Nile River. This won’t take them a bit further. Ethiopia will remain determined to block their unjust mission.

Ethiopia’s development will first serve the demand of its people and will assist the region for a power revolution. By no means can GERD be a threat to the region. It is rather a beacon of hope and light for the region, he added. But to bring this into reality, the Government of Ethiopia should restrain from compromising the project’s operational quality through the illegitimate questions of Egypt and Sudan. Skipping any potential GERD deal is by far the best way out, as to Dejen.

As to him, if Egypt and Sudan acted in good faith, GERD can facilitate regional integration in many aspects. GERD does mean the addition of energy to the region to foster energy-intensive development. “But Egypt’s unfriendly approach in the GERD negotiation will devalue possible integration at the regional level. Cooperation is badly needed for regional integration.”

Economic impoverishment is the main cause of insecurity and instability in the Horn of Africa. Smuggling and human trafficking are triggered due to abject poverty. GERD would uplift Ethiopia from this impoverishment and will tackle migration, smuggling, and human trafficking across the region, Dejen further noted.

“The only way to get rid of underdevelopment is by using natural resources efficiently. Ethiopia is starting to utilize its river to alleviate its energy deficiency. Energy is a vehicle for any development. Hence, the three nations should handle GERD in a way that could support regional peace and security. Regional peace and security are endangered due to Egypt’s escalation, securitization, and politicization of the GERD matter. Egypt should restrain from this approach, as to the scholar.

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The intention to entrap Ethiopia through a GERD agreement would trigger regional instability and insecurity. Above all, opposing Ethiopia’s sovereign right to own and utilize Abay is against the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, the supreme law of nations, he underlined.

The Ethiopian herald August 27,2020

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