Egypt – Cut losses and mend Ethiopia relationship

OPINION – By Tesfu Telahoun Abebe – Following the US State Department’s faux pas and geo-political farce that was the ill fated 3rd leg, GERD ‘talks’ held in Washington DC, USA, involving all but the most important stakeholder; like most Ethiopians of good will I was only too glad that the endless and fruitless series of ‘talks’ seemed to be over.

After all, now that the historic and game hanging dam is being expedited by committed professionals instead of incorrigible kleptomaniacs; it is clear that the GERD saga has entered a defining phase. Surprisingly though the ‘talks’ were back on-and in Addis Ababa-apparently due to persistent Sudanese initiative. What is not at all surprising is that even after 5 days of deliberations the two main protagonists are as far apart as ever. In fact, we can state that this last ditch round of talks has well and truly failed-at least from the Egyptian perspective.



Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Getu Andargatchew’s subsequent statements to the press detailed the intransigence of Egypt and its demonstrated unwillingness to accept anything but all of its own demands. Egypt came to the table to shout orders and not to negotiate. The Ethiopian foreign minister is by the way, coming into his own and deserves a salute; he has been eloquent and extremely statesmanlike as befits Ethiopia’s top diplomat-a role to which many had considered him to be an odd choice for a position which demands natural dynamism and a certain cosmopolitan flair.

Throughout the nearly decade long GERD related interaction between Ethiopia and Egypt as well as (nominally) Sudan, Ethiopia’s stance has been consistent, meticulously legal and extremely courteous and almost painfully cooperative.

On the other hand Egypt’s stance has waxed and waned. Even now, there are some reports that the Egyptians have finally come aboard-yet another instance demonstrating inconsistency. Egypt’s archaic claims are based on raw emotion rather than on international laws. What’s more; the Egyptian state, allied organizations including the Arab League, Egyptian and pro-Egypt media and others have and are routinely undiplomatic, threatening and often even racist to Ethiopia. The latest from Egypt is that it has vowed to refer the issue to the United Nations Security Council. This is yet another provocation from which Egypt will surely lose even more face.

Be that as it may, Ethiopia has dug in for what is justifiably its inalienable sovereign rights over its own resources and Egypt is still hell bent on perpetuating the illogical status quo.

Ethiopia’s case is not only legally, morally and technically sound but also A HIGHLY VISIBLE FACT ON THE GROUND. This furthers Ethiopia’s position in terms of the objective and scientific reality of the situation.

In stark contrast, Egypt obstinately clings on to snippets of jaded mythology and emotive anecdotes and prose. Egypt’s closest semblance of documentary ‘evidence’ are the then and now worthless colonial era ‘agreements’ on Nile water rights. These so called treaties are so ridiculous as to defy belief.

They were essentially compiled by the British for the British and signed by the British! Of course, they were cloaked as if they were signed by and among sovereign nations. The fact is that the treaties were devised on behalf of Britain’s ‘senior’ colony-Egypt, and their ‘joint’ sub colony-The Sudan;also officially known then as (believe it or not) the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium of Sudan!



Chances are that whatever Egypt has agreed to or not at this time, it is bound to renege. What remains is the ‘threat’ to refer the matter to the Security Council. In my opinion this is an empty threat because Egypt knows its position via a vis international law is at best weak and at worst ridiculous.

What’s more, there is no legally acceptable avenue by which the Security Council can adopt a resolution unfavorable to Ethiopia. The Council cannot sanction Pr apply any pressure on Ethiopia-simply because Ethiopia is well within international law. In fact, the Council would be in breach of international law if it did sanction Ethiopia.

At most, the Security Council may issue a resolution urging all stakeholders to refrain from escalating tensions and to seek a peaceful negotiated solution. Egypt’s seasoned diplomats are aware of this and it is doubtful they would take the issue to the United Nations. In the meanwhile the GERD’s Lake Hedassie will be filling as millions more Ethiopians begin to enjoy electric power as the nation comes into the light.