Thursday, July 8, 2021

Ethiopia’s GERD to UN Security Council Part 2 : A Night to watch

Egyptians are waiting eagerly for what will happen in New York Thursday as the United Nations Security Council is going to hold a session on the latest developments of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam “GERD” dispute with Ethiopia per the request of Egypt and Sudan from last month.

It is like a football match in the Euro 2021 at least for me.

Both Nile Downstream countries went to the UNSC for the second time after last year as the talks with Ethiopia reached deadlock insisting to go on with the second filing of GERD (It did start filing the dam) again this year. It is a bit Deja vu but this time Sudan is with Egypt, unlike last year.

Tunisia, the only Arab non-permanent member of the UNSC in this session presented a draft resolution to the Council in coordination with the Arab bloc in the UN as well as Egypt and Sudan. I read the draft resolution and it is very balanced. (This is what both Egypt and Sudan want)

The draft resolution stipulates that Ethiopia ceases immediately the second filing of GERD which it started. It also called the three countries to resume negotiations at the joint invitation of the Chairperson of the African Union and the Secretary-General of the UN to finalize, within a period of six months, the text of a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD.

GERD from above as seen by a satellite ""
GERD from above as seen by a satellite ""

Both Egypt and Sudan have been demanding a timeframe for the talks after nearly wasting years in bottomless talks with Addis Abbas.

The resolution adds the required agreement should "ensure Ethiopia's ability to generate hydropower from the GERD while preventing the inflicting of significant harm on the water security of downstream states."

It urges the "three countries to refrain from making any statements or taking any action that may jeopardize the negotiation process.

Now according to diplomatic sources that spoke with Cairo-based Ahram Online from New York on Wednesday, the vote could be put off till next week so both Cairo and Khartoum can guarantee more votes in its favour.

Personally, I doubt that Abiy Ahmed and his government would cease the second filing so easily because it is a matter of national pride now in a time of military defeat for them. He needs to keep his image as the man standing against “Western imperialism and their agent Egypt” according to his media.

Tonight’s UNSC session comes at a critical time as Ethiopia informed both Downstream countries on Monday that it started the second filing of the dam in a unilateral move against both countries.

Both Egypt and Sudan have been insisting that Ethiopia should sign a legally binding agreement on the filing and operation policies of the GERD before Ethiopia would go with the second filing.

Again, the second filing is going to harm Sudan and its 20 million citizens population before we can feel its impact in Egypt.

Egypt’s letter to the UNSC

Egypt sent a letter last month to the UN Security in June along with-a-96-pages-detailed Aide Memoire with annexe on the GERD matter.

Sudan also sent a letter to the UN Security Council, but I was not lucky enough to read its content.

This memo was prepared by the Egyptian Foreign ministry and Irrigation Ministry. There are more details in the memo that must be known to understand Egypt’s position from GERD.

Despite initially rejecting the idea of the GERD, Egypt made it clear that it is not against the idea of development or development projects in Ethiopia or any other Nile Basin Country.

On the contrary, Egypt has participated in the construction of several dams as well as water management and irrigation projects in Nile Basin countries.

Egypt’s concern is its Nile Water share, which is something understandable because the country depends on 97% of its water sources on the Nile and currently is suffering from water poverty and is worried about climate changes.

Unlike Ethiopia or even Sudan which both have several water sources including rain and rivers, we only have one river with a growing population in uncertain climatic change.

Egypt is concerned that with Ethiopia withholding the technical data of the dam while filling as well as operating it unilaterally in the absence of a cooperative drought mitigation mechanism, Egypt can lose a water shortage of over 123 billion cubic meters over 20 years.

This number means life won’t be the same as we know it in Egypt’s Nile valley.

According to the studies conducted by international experts Egypt officially mentioned in the memo, only one billion cubic meters of water can lead to 290,000 people losing their incomes and 130,000 hectares of cultivated land lost.

Addis Ababa aims to store up to 13.5 billion cubic metres of water in the GERD’s reservoir during the current year's flood season, which started in July.

Till now we are protected by the Aswan High Dam and the Nasser Lake but they won’t last forever and we are hunted by the ghost of prolonged drought and Ethiopia controlling our historical water share.

Also, it is not only us, the Egyptians but the Sudanese as well and this year, they will feel the hit harsher than last year.

It is not over and there is more to follow in this dispute in the valley of the Nile over the River Nile.

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