In the aftermath of the Egypt’s announcement of the failure of the tripartite negotiations in Cairo, last November, which were meant for the completion of the impact assessment of the Dam, a flattering and a flap of distorted information coverage have soon emerged to the detriment of the whole issues relating to the Ethiopian Dam.

It is unfortunate that the ill-intentioned information circulated through a vicious media apparatus tended to deliberately conceal the true state of affairs of the negotiations.

Some observers pointed out that failure of Egyptian Government to explain and clarify the related facts about the negotiations and the positions of other parties have triggered belligerent Egyptian media attacks against both Sudan and Ethiopia. For others, an Egyptian pursuit for its own interests and demands, have led it to express dissatisfaction of the ongoing righteous track of the negotiations.

The perpetuation of such trend might eventually lead to the watering down and consequently failures to of all cooperative endeavors which were achieved thus far between Egypt and both Sudan and Ethiopia.

In response to the aforementioned stances, Sudan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Ibrahim Ghandour has intimated in a recent meeting with members of Diplomatic Corps in Khartoum, that there have always been a cordial and deep-rooted relations between Sudanese and Egyptian peoples, and it is evident that Sudan has no intention of harming Egypt or undermining its interests. The Minister ascertained that there are certain circles that attempted to worsen the relations between the two countries by disseminating distorted and falsified information about the position of Sudan during the negotiations. However, professor Ghandour expressed confidence in attaining consensus among the three countries through negotiations.

As one writer has put it, we are not laying a wreath on a monument. Accordingly, there is a lot to be done concerning benefiting from the Dam project in the form of trade and investments and other related cooperative projects among Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt. Despite the antagonistic media attacks against Sudan and portraying the country as taking sides with Ethiopia at the expense of Egypt, it is high time to boldly unveil such a weak and a malicious argument. Sudan Minister of Foreign Affairs Professor Ghandour has latterly revealed that Sudan has for long invited Egypt for agricultural and other joint investment projects to benefit both countries.  He has lamented that Sudan’s offers to jointly exploit its vast arable lands for the sake  of the country and Egypt 100 million population have been neglected despite this friendly and fraternal gesture.

Sudan position towards the issue at hand is based on well-recognized principles that govern international relations. Sudan has for long preached for sustained development, growth and cooperation in Africa through distinct relations with its neighbouring countries and the international community at large. As such, Sudan has sought constructive and transparent policies that are derived from its inherent principles and convictions which are central for consolidating and promoting relations for the good and welfare for all peoples in the region.

The renaissance Dam which costs almost 5 billion dollars and expected to produce about 6 thousand megawatts of electrical power, and a reservoir of 74 billion cubic meters of water, is undoubtedly a project that cannot be overemphasized or underestimated. For Sudan, the advantages and benefits of the Dam obviously overweigh the perceived minor disadvantages. It is indeed an asset that adds to the cooperative development schemes for Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

Sudan Minister of Water Resources, Irrigation and Electricity, Ambassador Mutaz Musa in a recent meeting with Heads of Diplomatic Missions accredited to Khartoum, explained basic facts about the Dam and Sudan’s position towards the issue:

  • High rainfall rates at the Ethiopian highlands reaches about 422 billion cubic meters of water. This causes great erosion and drifting of soil which brings huge amounts of siltation to Sudan. This situation has adversely affected the operational capacity of Sudanese Dams and costs the country a lot in terms of cleaning turbines and irrigation channels, hence the erection of the Renaissance Dam helps in alleviating these problems. Sudan would also benefit from a steady and constant flow of water that helps in irrigation, river transport and electrification of vast villages and communities.

  • The hydroelectric Dam is expected to produce about 6 thousand megawatts of electrical power. This huge amount would definitely benefit Sudan and helps in the proposed electrical connection among Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

  • The safety of the main construction body the Dam have been given utmost priority and Ethiopia has positively responded to all observations to that effect.

  • Cooperation have been duly pursued among technical experts in the three countries. When a political support was needed the three countries signed the framework Agreement in Khartoum in March 2015.

  • The two remaining issues concerning the Dam are: a) the environmental, economic and social impact; b) the hydrology and operational issues of the Dam.

  • The three countries contracted an international specialized consultancy (two French companies) for whom adequate information and relevant data was provided.

  • As is normally the case, the consultancy forwarded a preliminary report explaining its methodology and the expected results. Here, Sudan raised certain observations concerning the report. Firstly, the erroneous aspects and the points which tended to contradict the contractual terms of reference. Secondly, as regards a relying on the 1959 Agreement as a baseline in the determination of the hydraulic impact of the Dam, Egypt has insisted on devising the current utility of water which reaches about 65 billion cubic meters. Accepting such a formula would have meant depriving Sudan of its water rights as envisaged in the 1959 Agreement. Thirdly, to state that any data utilized in the study does not entail a newly-stated right to any party, or deprive it from an established right.

 

Sudan minister of irrigation pointed out that Ethiopia has accepted the abovementioned points while been refused by Egypt which insisted on the current utility and usage of water as a baseline. Egypt has also voiced its objection to Sudan and Ethiopia’s direct communication with the consultancy concerning certain aspects of the report.

Sudan Minister of Irrigation Ambassador Mutaz Musa furthermore criticized the distorted and utterly erroneous information and data which was disseminated by the Egyptian media. He blamed Egyptian formal institutions for not rectifying and correcting the situation. The Minister stated further that Sudan has the right to question the consultancy for more information and explanations.

The giant Renaissance Dam undoubtedly enormous benefits to Ethiopia especially as regards electrification and other associated economic benefits. However, and as the Ethiopian Minister of Irrigation once said, Ethiopia is committed to benefiting from its water resources without causing harm to anyone.

Sudan, on the other hand believes that the negotiating table is the most suitable place to guarantee a shared, cooperative and fair formula to the benefit of all parties involved. The contentious issues pertaining to the filling of the reservoir and the operational procedures of the Dam, remain to be appropriately handled. It is strikingly astonishing to note that Egypt which has the lion’s share in the water of the Nile that exceeds 65 billion cubic meters, would venture complain that the filling of the Dam would cut down on its water supply. Egypt has also contributed to the failure of the last negotiations by attempting to insert outside issues like the siltation of its Delta or a diminishing power supply as a result of the erection of the Dam.

However, Sudan’s role to transcend the current impasse is apparently decisive. Sudan could not allow for more divisiveness and disintegration that would undermine the perceived development and cooperation among the three countries. Sudan on the contrary should continue its mediation role to end the conflict and the stalemate in the negotiations by exerting due efforts to successfully overcome all contentious issues and to gauge the necessary perception for cooperation and an essential negotiated solution for all the problems associated with the issue of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

 

Mohamed Eisa Ismail Dahab

Ambassador of Sudan-Kiev, UKRAINE

19th of December, 2017