CAIRO – 8 July 2021: “What do we expect from the Security Council?... The answer is nothing. Then why are Egypt and Sudan there?... To do the right thing. We did everything and the world is watching.”
That is how Amr Adib, a prominent T.V. host, addressed the question asked by many Egyptians as they await the results of the Security Council session on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Thursday.
He added that the Security Council will call for fruitful talks between the three countries considering how important the Nile River is for them all, and that it will call on Ethiopia to be more positive in negotiations.
However, raising the issue to the Security Council is important to tell the world of Ethiopia’s 10 years of intransigence, and to show how Egypt offered good will and time and involved multiple parties to mediate such as the African Union, South Africa, Congo, and the U.S, Adib continued.
French U.N. Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere, council president for July, has already said the Security Council could only bring the three states together to explain their worries and call for the resumption of negotiations.
However, that the Security Council holds two sessions on GERD means it recognizes the gravity of the situation in such a sensitive, and currently volatile part of Africa.
Egypt is largely a desert; still a large segment of its population depends on agriculture for their livelihood, not to mention the food security of the most populous Arab state. Drought, wide-scale unemployment, illegal immigration, displacement, violence, and extremism are plausible consequences in the worst-case scenarios.
Sudan, on the other hand, has deep worries about floods, water quality, and the safety of its own dams in case Ethiopia continues to fill and later operate the dam without a binding agreement that ensures full coordination.
The resolution proposed by Tunisia on behalf of the Arab League, to which both Egypt and Sudan are members, demands that the agreement ensure that Ethiopia has the capacity to produce hydroelectric power from the dam without inflicting significant harm on the water security of downstream nations. The terms also include:
1 – Demand that Ethiopia cease the second filling of the GERD
2 – Demand that Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia resume negotiations.
3 – Reach a binding agreement on GERD in six months.
4 – Demand that the three countries stop any measure that delays negotiations.
5 – Demand that Ethiopia stop unilateral decisions.
Ethiopia: Intentions and not agreements
Ethiopia has maintained that the GERD is an internal issue as long as it does not intend to harm downstream communities, and that the Blue Nile, the main tributary of the Nile River, is an Ethiopian river. It has also maintained the motto “African solutions for African problems,” and accused the Arab League of meddling.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told his Congolese counterpart Felix Tshisekedi Wednesday that Egypt and Sudan took the GERD issue to the Security Council because of Ethiopia’s intransigence and attempts to impose a fait accompli.
Sisi, who previously stated that negotiations could not go on forever, said the move is meant to enhance the African Union’s leadership of negotiations in cooperation with the participating countries and entities. Negotiations with Ethiopia under the auspices of the African Union went on for years with three countries presiding over the institution. The Egyptian president said he wants for the African Union to ultimately have an effective role in directing the discussion and help the three countries reach a binding agreement in a specific timeframe on the filling and operation of the dam.
Former assistant to the foreign minister, Mohamed Hegazy, told Youm7 on Wednesday that GERD is now a case of transgression against international law and the Declaration of Principles of 2015. He said that East Africa does not belong to one or two countries, calling on the international community to take the appropriate measures before the situation erupts due to Ethiopia’s intransigence and unilateral actions.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s commitment to international law allows it to defend its interests and national security as it sees fitting, he added.
“Commitment to international law indicates a country’s status and its respect for international rules, but if the other party oversteps the bounds, article 51 of the United Nations Charter allows states to defend their national security interests in the manner they deem appropriate. The international community will witness [the issue] and after the Security Council session on Thursday, we will have a different discussion,” Hegazy explained.
The GERD issue is not relevant to Egypt and Sudan only, but many other countries; if this region descends into trouble, many countries will be affected in light of the Ethiopian intransigence that has lasted 10 years of negotiations and culminated in an explicit threat to the peace and stability of the vital Arab region in the east of the continent, Hegazy concluded.
For his part, former Minister of Water Resources Mohamed Nasr el-Deen Allam told Youm7 Egypt followed all routers of diplomacy to resolve the GERD issue and put an end the Ethiopian intransigence in 10 years, despite Ethiopia continuing to build and fill the dam.
“Egypt has exercised self-control and has shown goodwill,” the former minister said.
Egypt and Sudan have acknowledged the dam in the Declaration of Principles provided there would be an agreement on the filling, operation, and safety of the dam, as well as compensation, he said, accusing Ethiopia of evading all rules of international law.
On the potential dangers of the dam, Allam said “The huge storage capacity of the dam is on a main tributary although the Nile River is the sole source of water for Egypt and Sudan, and the dam may therefore cause deficits in drinking water and in agriculture and industry. This means an impact on Egypt in terms of political and economic stability as Egypt already is 50 percent below the water poverty rate at 550 cubic meters of water per capital a year.”
Meanwhile, head of the Ahram Center for Political Studies, Dr. Mohamed Farahat, said the Egyptian diplomacy successfully internationalized the GERD issue, accusing Ethiopia of violating international law and agreements.
Farahat told Youm7 that Ethiopia’s unilateral actions destabilizes the international law on matters as such, emphasizing that the Nile River is not an Ethiopian internal affair, but rather it is an international river and there are “historically acquired rights” based on international law and agreements that should have governed the Ethiopian decision makers, and not internal calculations.