No parochial deal through GERD cooperation
By Fekadu W.
Tigrai Online, updated Jan. 17, 2018
It was to be reckoned that last December Egypt was ardently stating that it had ``new idea’’, while its Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, had visited Ethiopia. The ‘’new idea’’ was to help intrude the heavy hands of World Bank (WB) in to the Grand Ethiopoian Renaissance Dam - GERD negotiation. However, Ethiopia has asked Egypt to take time and mull over the ‘’new idea’’ and lastly Ethiopia had rebuked the idea of bilateral agreement proposed by Egypt.
Let alone not letting WB to join the discussion table, predominately Ethiopia respects the stand of Sudan and its right to trilateral negotiate with Ethiopia and Egypt and jointly seek possible solution to the problems encountered on the GERD and Nile Cooperation. Indubitably, Ethiopia is opening bi-lateral negotiation with Egypt and involving the facilitation of WB means rejecting the importance of Sudan and sidelining its indispensable partnership to solve the problem.
Egypt understands the crucial fact that Sudan is backing Ethiopia to construct the GERD (though it vehemently opposed the GERD at the beginning) as the Project is verified to be beneficial to the Sudan, at least to save its villages from devastating floods that occur annually.
And Egypt knows that the tie of Ethiopia and Sudan is as strong as good neighbors and Egypt can not diplomatically influence Sudan from backing away the GERD. Hence, its ``new idea``as the best alternative has come to sideline Sudan and discuss only with Ethiopia, through the auspices of WB that has been favoring Egypt since long. And it is unimaginable to Ethiopia while the matter related to GERD is equally important to the three countries (some say Egyptian water policy on Nile is gripped with colonial era experience of conspiracy, sidelining and playing A off against B).
The issue of the GERD is making Egypt to blow hot and cold and attempt to achieve its objective by hook or by crook.Some times it boasts of `` all options are on the table’’. Indeed, Ethiopia very well understands the very fact that Egypt plays both head and tails.Heads, it attempts to win the hearts of all countries through diplomatic gambit; tails, it tries to hurt and subvert Ethiopia through conspiracy and stealthy maneuver as far as organizing the opponents of Ethiopia, in the sense that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
So far, no other country has ever been exposed through clumsily televised program while conspiring to hurt another country, but unwise Egyptian politicians had openly conspired to employ all demonic means to damage the interest of Ethiopia and destroy its infrastructure. Since then, Egypt is shuttling from Cairo to Addis Ababa seemingly in a diplomatic mission (while it is playing hide and seek behind the curtain).
Ethiopia has got used to the threat of Egypt. It readily knows how to respond to Egypt and play in a civilized manner.It never plays in a way that hurts the interest of its people and the Sudanese and Egyptian peoples as well. It is adamantly stating that the issue of Nile is a matter of life and death to all Nile Basin countries.Egypt has to cooperatively work with all Nile Basin countries and accept the principle of cooperation whole heatedly.
Whatever the case, the construction of GERD has got the attention of all Nile Riparian countries and the international community as well, since its inception. Currently, Egypt said it has come up with a ‘’new idea’’, even though it has no idea to solve the egoistic riddle deeply entrenched in the Nile River. It is saying that the World Bank has to observe the discussion of the two countries regarding the GERD.
However, Ethiopia is firmly stating that the issue of Nile should be discussed by Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt itself. No arbiter, mediator and observer is needed. This issue of Nile is tri-lateral and multi-lateral concern.And Egypt cannot influence Ethiopia by meddling the hand of World Bank which is irrelevant and in appropriate to judge the concern of the two countries. Matter of fact, Egypt can not influence Ethiopia through the World Bank.
First, involving WB in the negotiation of GERD should not be conceived unilaterally. If need be, this kind of idea should be proposed by the joint meeting of the three countries. Second, it witnesses Egypt has become despondent and it imagines all venues had been thoroughly explored to find solution, while the declaration of principle states that problems might be solved by the head of states if it is not ironed out by delegates.
Nevertheless, hydrologists and scholars engaged in the area of basin development and water management has stated that the ‘’new idea’’ of Egypt is not feasible. They said the interference of WB in the internal affair of both countries is baseless. Moreover, it hampers the principle of mutual benefit, win-win negotiation (insignificant impact) and problem solving based on the principle of give and take.
Most importantly, the involvement of ‘’this financial jaggernaut’’ may forcefully make the issue of GERD discussion a subject of submission, coercion and striking parochial deal with the enforcement of the dollar muscle of World Bank, while discussions of countries on trans boundary rivers like Nile (and GERD, the biggest infrastructure ever seen on Nile) should be made on free will, consent, mutual benefit and cooperation.
Earlier, documents had it that WB had been denying loans to Ethiopia when it was interested to undertake development projects on the various tributaries of Nile at home. A case in point, no one is oblivious of the very fact WB rejecting the loan document of Ethiopia when it asked to develop Tana Beles Project in its northern part, at the end of 1990s.
This denial and rejection had emanated from persuasion of Egypt not to fund Ethiopian projects on Nile.Today, no one could deny that the WB may attempt to twist the arms of flimsy countries like Ethiopia, may be employing shrewd machination and financial power to lend and not to lend, at least.
Similarly, the Declaration Principle (DP) signed by Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt stated that the three countries should jointly strive to seek solutions that could mutually benefit them all. In addition, the DP has made it clear that no country should make a uni-lateral publication about Nile (the Agreement has included Principles of Cooperation based on common understanding, mutual benefit, good faith, win-win and international laws and cooperation in understanding upstream and downstream water needs in its various aspects).
Hence, Ethiopia rejecting the current offer of Egypt not to let in WB is a matter of abiding by the Principle signed by the three countries. It believes the issue of GERD is solely the concern of Nile Riparian countries. Particularly, the problem related to GERD may be solved by the tireless discussion of the three countries.
The Principle has included articles to peacefully settle disputes. It says the Three Countries will settle disputes, arising out of the interpretation or implementation of this agreement, amicably through consultation or negotiation in accordance with the principle of good faith. If the Parties are unable to resolve the dispute thorough consultation or negotiation, they may jointly request for conciliation, mediation or refer the matter for the consideration of the Heads of State/Heads of Government.
Needless to say, the idea of Egypt to involve WB in the GERD discussion is not new. Earlier, Egypt has proposed to include WB in 2013 and 2014 and raised the idea of bi-lateral negotiation and discussion. However, Ethiopia had rejected this idea saying that the three countries should decide the way forward by themselves (and no some say Egypt knows the fact that Ethiopia cannot accept its proposal of WB from the beginning and it may open the door to blame Ethiopia).
Ethiopia believes World Bank has its own big role to play in the world of business which is right to be carried out elsewhere, particularly in the financial world where big loans are needed to help develop economies. However, it should and may not meddle in the affair of countries brazenly in the name of arbitration and negotiation.
In addition, seen from legal and political point of view, discussion (and negotiation) conducted between the three countries is far better advantageous than arbitration and mediation that employs third parties like WB. Negotiation needs its own legal framework ,while the two countries have no legal frame work. And hence, the best alternative for them is to meet face to face and discuss without the interference of external bodies (like now the WB).Significantly, free discussion enables all parties to wholeheartedly discuss the bones of contention on GERD and the Nile and seek remedies.
Moreover, there is no legal framework of cooperation and negotiation between the two countries that calls for arbitrators and mediators.Similarly, it would have been better if Egypt was a signatory member of the Comprehensive Framework Agreement(CFA) on Nile to ask Ethiopia to step up to the negotiation table via external organs. Accordingly, a state that has not accepted international Agreements like CFA cannot force CFA member countries like Ethiopia to negotiation using WB and pass through its opening.
Commendably, there is strong will on the side of Ethiopia to cooperatively discuss with Sudan and Egypt about the possible impacts of the GERD. Until now, Ethiopia has been cooperative enough to provide all the documents about the GERD to Sudan and Egypt.And it will continue as far as fruition.
It is also openly inviting all diplomats and media crews to go to Guba area (in Benishangul Gumuz State where the GERD is located) and observe what is going on with their naked eyes; contrary to Egypt who has been selfishly utilizing Nile water for many years and systematically hindering other Nile Basin countries no to utilize the Nile.
Let alone far-reaching cooperation, had Egypt consulted Ethiopia and other Nile Basin countries when it constructed Aswan? Never! But Ethiopia is opening itself and inviting Sudan and Egypt (and all Nile Riparian countries) to cooperatively study the possible impacts of the GERD and devise solutions used to enhance mutual benefit.
Currently, Ethiopia is stating that by gone is by gone. Let’s start a new and conjure new ways to help catapult mutual benefit of countries on Nile utilization. Parochial agreements, unilateral and bilateral efforts can no longer benefit any country. Let’s be open, air and legal on the matters related to the GERD and Nile.
Indubitably, nation will keep on its tireless effort to enhance Nile cooperation, finalize construction of the GERD and employ it for development. And nation’s unflinching stance and audible call to mutual benefit and equitable use of Nile will continue until finalization of GERD.