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Press release on USA Secretary of Treasury`s Statement of 28th Feb 2020 on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Press release on USA Secretary of Treasury`s Statement of 28th Feb 2020 on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

                                                                                                                                                            02 March 2020

Ethiopian International Professional Support for Abbay (EIPSA) is an independent and voluntary association of professionals of Ethiopian-origin specializing in relevant disciplines, and residing in several countries across the world. The founding principles of EIPSA include conducting scientific assessments on issues concerning the transboundary water management and use on the Nile. EIPSA has advocated for regional cooperation that will ensure mutual benefit among the riparian states with fair and equitable utilization of the waters of the Nile for the last seven years.

To that effect, EIPSA has produced a significant body of research outputs that is informative on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) filling scenarios, the benefits of the GERD to the sustainable and equitable utilization of the resource, the benefits and conditions of cooperation, and alternative instruments that could contribute to trading energy and other derivative outputs across the riparian states. 

EIPSA is also a body that is duly aware of the fact that Ethiopia`s utilization of the Nile is a right, necessity, and not mere development agenda. With a severely impoverished population, and majority of its population having no access to electricity, Ethiopia requires little justification to tap into the massive hydropower generating potential of the Nile. Given this, the GERD has been passionately supported by the Ethiopian people who entirely financed the project out of what little they have. The GERD also brings the multiple dividends of regulating water flows in downstream countries, improving energy access in the region, and improving environmental conditions. EIPSA’s support of the GERD comes from this rationale.  

Given this, EIPSA has been keenly following the efforts of the Secretary of the Treasury first as observers and later as facilitators in the tripartite negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, regarding the GERD. EIPSA appreciates the offer made by the Secretary of the Treasury to observe and to facilitate the negotiation process such that the parties get closer to getting into an agreement on the matter. However, the Statement that was put out by the Secretary of the Treasury on 28th Feb 2020 has come as a complete shock to EIPSA. It appeared that Secretary of the Treasury made a leap of roles from being an observer and facilitator to a partisan Arbitrator, with a statement denying Ethiopia`s right to the use of the waters of the Nile and undermining its sovereignty.

With due respect to the Secretary of Treasury, EIPSA would like to note that the statement is ridden with factual errors. Although the statement refers to the document signed by Egypt as an ‘agreement’, given that Egypt is the only body that signed the document among the three negotiating parties, the document, by definition, fails to be an agreement. Furthermore, the statement states that the ‘agreement’ provides for the resolution of all outstanding issues on the filling and operation of the GERD. EIPSA finds it baffling that the Secretary of the Treasury Department apparently making a judgment on what is a satisfactory resolution to the outstanding issues, without Ethiopia’s opinion on the matter. 

EIPSA also found the statement to be condescending to Ethiopia as it states that the United States shares the concerns of Egypt and Sudan regarding unfinished work on the safe operation of the GERD and that Ethiopia needs to implement all necessary dam safety measures in accordance with international standards before filling begins. This statement runs in contrast to the fact that Ethiopia has addressed all dam safety related issues during the International Panel of Experts process and that Egypt and the Sudan had expressed their appreciation under Principle 8 of the Declaration of Principles, which Ethiopia will continue to implement.

Furthermore, EIPSA found the stance by the Secretary of the Treasury that “…final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement” rather unacceptable. Needless to say, trying to dictate a sovereign nation on what it should/should not do on its grounds is tantamount to undermining its sovereignty. Specific to the matter at hand the statement goes against the Agreement on the Declaration of Principles on the GERD of March 2015 that the leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and the Sudan signed to guide their discussion on the GERD.

EIPSA is also of the view that the incidents of 27-28 February 2020 seemed rushed for no reason and too invested in getting the agreement done so quickly given that the Secretary of the Treasury remains a mere observer/facilitator. Given that Ethiopia has notified the negotiating parties and indeed the Secretary of the Treasury in due time that it needs more time to prepare for the meeting, the negotiation process could have accommodated Ethiopia’s request for courtesy reasons, if not for that fact that the negotiation is about the GERD-a dam that is being built in Ethiopia. That said, EIPSA believes Ethiopia would have no objections to the Secretary of the Treasury holding bilateral meetings separately with representatives from Egypt and Sudan, as it did in those two days. What EIPSA found rather mysterious is the need for the Secretary of the Treasury to take the steps that it took that finally culminated in a statement that EIPSA, as pointed out above, finds unpalatable on many grounds.

Given this, EIPSA would like to stress that:

  • It rejects the Statement by the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States of America on the GERD released on 28th February 2020.
  • EIPSA also calls for the Secretary of the Treasury to withdraw its statement as soon as possible.
  • It also requests the Secretary of the Treasury to resign from negotiators’ role and stop the unfair and unjust pressure on Ethiopia, and the use of intimidating words and expressions.
  • given the gross biasedness with which the mediation process was handled by Secretary of the Treasury, EIPSA would like to call upon the international community to show solidarity with Ethiopia.

Finally, EIPSA holds the view that the three countries should aim for maximizing the joint gains from the Nile and the sustainable use of the resource for the good of the current and future generations in all the riparian countries. Indeed, attempts to secure individual benefits at the expense of others is a thing of the past; is a recipe for endless conflicts; and most importantly leaves out benefits that would be reaped otherwise. Given this, EIPSA believes the best way forward for the Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan will be to continue the negotiations in the spirit of fairness, mutual respect, and with no interference from outsiders what so ever.


                                                       02 March 2020

                        Ethiopian International Professional Support for Abbay (EIPSA)



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Article | by Dr. Radut