Ethiopia’s Prime Minster Visits Sudan Prior to the Tripartite Technical Committees Meeting

Prior to the technical committees meeting between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on May 4, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, arrived to the Sudanese Capital Khartoum on Wednesday, according to Xinhua.

Al-Bashir and the Ethiopian leader will discuss bilateral cooperation in trade and economic exchange, border security and regional and international issues of mutual concern, said Sudan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Mohamed Abdalla Idris quoted by official SUNA news agency.

He said the talks come in continuation of the recent talks held by the two leaders in Ethiopia’s Bahir Dar, and as a culmination of exchanged ministerial visits by the two sides.

The Ethiopian prime minister is scheduled to visit institutions and development projects, namely the agricultural ones, he said. Meetings of the Sudanese-Ethiopian Business Council will also be held during the visit to discuss trade issues and role of the private sector.

Last year Ethiopia and Sudan have signed several agreements to heighten cooperation on a range of development economic relations and strengthen ties between the two countries.

Regarding the Renaissance Dam, Sudan and Ethiopia reiterated their commitment to the 2015 tripartite agreement they signed with Egypt to resolve the dispute on the upcoming Nile dam in Ethiopia.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made the commitment during their talks in Khartoum.

“We are committed to the Declaration of Principles on the GERD (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam) and to the importance of the tripartite committee,” al-Bashir said.

He hoped the tripartite technical committee of Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan would achieve cooperation in water security and overcome the barriers which halted the technical negotiations.

The Ethiopian prime minister reiterated his country’s keenness to enhance strategic ties with Sudan in all fields and to work with Sudan to realize peace and development in the continent.

The last round of tripartite talks on GERD was suspended in April without reaching an agreement on the technical report prepared by French firms on the potential impact of the dam.

In December 2017, Egypt proposed to have the World Bank as a neutral party on the tripartite technical committee, but Ethiopia refused.

GERD, which will cost 4.7 billion U.S. dollars, is now 64 percent complete. Ethiopia hopes the project will provide a constant supply of clean and affordable power and accelerate its shift from an agricultural economy to an industrial powerhouse. Ethiopia and Sudan eye massive benefits from the GERD construction, while Egypt is concerned it might affect its 55.5-billion-cubic-meter annual share of the Nile River water.

Egypt Wants to Speed Up Ethiopia Dam Negotiations

This week, Egypt said that it wants talks over a dam Ethiopia is building speeded up in a sign of its apparent frustration over what it sees as foot-dragging by Addis Ababa over the dispute, reported Reuters.

Egypt and Ethiopia are at loggerheads over the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam as Cairo fears will reduce waters that run to its fields and reservoirs from Ethiopia’s highlands and via Sudan.

Addis Ababa hopes the dam will make it a hub for the electricity-hungry region and denies it will undermine Egypt’s access to water.

Ties between Egypt and Sudan were strained when Khartoum backed the dam because of its need for electricity.

“There’s a need to accelerate the pace of negotiations after some three years or more have passed since the signing of the preliminary agreement in Khartoum and things have remained frozen,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told a joint news conference with his visiting French counterpart in Cairo.

The three African neighbors are set to meet on May 15 for further talks, Shoukry said, adding that Egypt had initially proposed several nearer dates for negotiations, but they were turned down by the two other countries.

“We continue to show flexibility and continue in a positive direction, but taking into account that we must achieve the progress that leads to achieving common interests, and also that there is a time frame for all countries that must be taken into consideration,” Shoukry said.

The countries’ technical committees will meet on May 4, Shoukry said.

Egypt has accepted Ethiopia’s proposal to hold a high-level technical committee meeting on May 4, with the participation of ministers of foreign affairs and irrigation, as well as heads of the intelligence agencies of the three countries.

Is It Only a Matter of Time?

Ethiopia and Sudan Agreed to Joint Military Force to Protect the Dam

Despite all the meetings and negotiations held between the three countries as well as the diplomatic statements about the committed to the Declaration of Principles on the GERD  as stated during Ethiopia’s Prime Minister visit to Khartoum.

However, in reality, it seems that both Ethiopia and Sudan have another agenda.

Last week, Ethiopia and Sudan agreed to joint military force to protect the Dam, according to the Sudanese Media Centre.  

Sudan and Ethiopia have agreed to set up joint forces which will protect Addis Ababa’s, Grand Renaissance Dam.

Military forces from the two countries will be deployed on both states’ borders for the sake of suspending any hostile activity against the two countries, in addition to protecting the GERD that is being built on the Blue Nile near Sudan.

The two provinces in Ethiopia and Sudan that will see the joint deployment of military forces are the “Blue Nile” province in Sudan and Beni Shanqwl in Ethiopia

The Chiefs of Staff of both countries, Kamal Abdul-Marouf Al-Mahi and Samora Yunus, met last week to discuss the defense protocol signed between the two countries and a number of issues of common concern.

The Ethiopian-Sudanese Joint Military Commission concluded its work in the Ethiopian capital last Friday.

The two sides stressed “the need to abide by the results achieved and the readiness for full solidarity in securing the border, the exchange of information and control of rampant groups, combating smuggling, human trafficking, arms trade, drugs and transient crimes.”

They agreed to “activate forces … to maintain security and stability, as well as cooperation in the fields of joint training and exchange of experiences.”

In the same context, an Ethiopian official said that the Renaissance Dam is expected to start partial test power generation soon, seven years after construction started, an official has said.

Bizuneh Tolcha from the Ministry of Water, Irrigation, and Energy (MoWIE) also disclosed that the project is 66 percent complete.

The Renaissance Dam, Mr. Tolcha said, is part of a wider plan by Ethiopian government that will see the country’s power generation capacity increase from the current 4,280 MW to 17,300 MW by 2020.

Egypt fears Ethiopia’s dam could reduce its Nile water share. Ethiopia has said it needs the dam for its development and is seeking to assure Cairo that it will not significantly harm it. The sticking point appears to be how quickly the reservoir behind the dam will be filled and if that will impact Egypt’s water share.

Egypt has traditionally received the lion’s share of the Nile’s waters under agreements seen by other Nile basin nations as unfair. Former Egyptian presidents have warned that any attempt to build dams along the Nile will be met with military action.

Last month, Egypt’s Parliament of Egypt passed legislation banning cultivation of crops that require high volumes of water, as rice, bananas and other crops, with violators facing prison time and fines of up to $3,000.