The mercurous nature of Sudanese diplomacy continues with leaps and bounds. First, Sudan categorically refused to enter into the repatriate negotiations on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) earlier and after it joined the negotiations, the Sudanese government has been unilaterally boycotting it due to various reasons that were outside the scope of the declaration of Principles (DoP) and normal diplomatic relations.
Apart from continuously disrupting the negotiations process, Sudan forcefully occupied Ethiopia’s border territory with the assumption that the rebellious Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) will be reinstated in power and that Ethiopia will be weak in terms of military power.
Nonetheless, with due disrespect and its policy of belittling the role of the African Union (AU) in coordinating the tripartite negotiations, Sudan, in cooperation with Egypt tried to take the case first to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) which ultimately endorsed AU role in the negotiations.
The UN usurped its observer role as a witness and tried to make Ethiopia sign an unfair agreement document that sided with the lower riparian countries. Sudan called for the involvement of the Quartet of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and the African Union that failed due to international procedural standards on negotiations.
Again, Sudan exhibited its chameleonic diplomacy by opting to take the case to the International Court of Justice, Human Rights Commission and COMESA Court as part of its well-known strategy of externalizing the issues on GERD beyond Africa.
This clearly indicates that Sudan has never been seriously interested in following up to the provisions of international laws and principles regarding the use of Trans Boundary Rivers.
However, Ethiopia’s stand and actions on the utilization of the waters of the Blue Nile was based on international laws and principles that governed its actions. In the first place, Ethiopia shared the blue print of GERD based on the international principles of transparency, fairness and information sharing.
Once more, the country took the initiative of kick starting the negotiations which were always faltered due to the intransigence on the part of Egypt and Sudan. Rejecting the legal rights of all Nile Riparian Countries, Egypt and Sudan refused to join in the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). Both countries, continued to wage a propaganda war and media misinformation in gross violation of the DoP to which they were a party.
To clearly understand the context of Ethiopia’s adherence to international law, it would be useful to look into important international legal provisions. The United Nations Watercourses Convention (UNWC) states that
Watercourse States shall in their respective territories utilize an international watercourse in an equitable and reasonable manner. In particular, an international watercourse shall be used and developed by watercourse States with a view to attaining optimal and sustainable utilization thereof and benefits therefrom, taking into account the interests of the watercourse States concerned, consistent with adequate protection of the watercourse.
Ethiopia has fully complied with this law and in fact shared information with Egypt and Sudan in accordance to Articles 11-19 UNWC provides that watercourse States are under a duty to consult, exchange information and notify other States before implementing a planned measure.
Ethiopia has been sharing every bit of information regarding the first and second filling of the GERD and other information related to the reservoir. In fact, the entire global legal provisions on Trans Boundary waters is in favor of Ethiopia’s rights to collective utilization of the waters of the Nile as it stresses on genuine negotiations that could culminate in a win-win approach.
On the other hand, Ethiopia strictly adhered to the provisions of the DoP which was founded upon ‘principles of cooperation’, which include ‘common understanding’, mutual beneﬁt’, ‘good faith’ and ‘principles of international law’ (DoPs, 2015, art. I).
Relevant principles of international law referred to in the text include the ‘Principle of Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity’, whereby the three states commit to ‘cooperate on the basis of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, mutual beneﬁt and good faith in order to attain optimal utilization and adequate protection of the River’ (DoPs, 2015).
The whole point of establishing the NBI in 1999 was to ensure equity in the sharing of the waters of the Nile from which Sudan could have benefitted. Yet again, with the institution of the Nile Cooperation Framework in 2010 after a rigorous negotiation for ten years, Sudan followed Egypt in unlawfully envying the riparian countries from using their internationally recognized right to equity on the use of the Nile waters.
Sudan was a victim of a colonial water treaty of the 1959 which allotted only 18.5 billion cubic meters of water annually while Egypt enjoyed 55.5 billion cubic meters of water. I reality, the principles of justice, fairness and equity was trampled by the treaty but today Sudan is fighting under the framework of this obsolete colonial treaty which made it subservient to the interests of Egypt.
However, Sudan is now choosing to take the issue of GERD to accuse Ethiopia who has zero shares of the waters of the Nile.
Sudan and Egypt have, indeed, subjected Ethiopia to a triple jeopardy of non-recognition of Ethiopia’s rights to use the Blue Nile in her own territory pursuant to the provisions of the UNWC and now resolving to take the issue to the ICJ.
GERD has already become an irreversible reality after more than 80 percent of the construction has been completed. In addition, by further elongating the negotiations process, both countries have subjected Ethiopia to a financial loss of over 1 billion USD every year.
As one Ethiopian adage goes, a whip cracks louder while hitting its victim. If going to an international court was necessary to seek justice and equity, Ethiopia is understandably the one to proceed to the court but although the main victim, the country chose to remain in negotiations under the auspices of the AU as a global requirement on the path to justice.
Ever since the startup of the initial negotiations on GERD, Egypt has never demonstrated any level of genuine talks but continuously resorted to employing a number of strategies that were meant to drag down the negotiations into an impasse.
In its military pact with Egypt, Sudan’s strategic interest in obstructing the completion of the GERD goes far beyond the scope of the dam. While nominally negotiating on GERD, Egypt and Sudan wish to weaken Ethiopia politically, diplomatically and work towards putting the Nile Riparian countries and the rest of Africa under its own sphere of influence.
GERD is a symbol of the unity of nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia. It is an indicator of the future development of this country that no one can contest. No diplomatic efforts or lobbying at the corridors of the offices of big powers or any international litigation that undermines Ethiopia’s legitimate rights to use the waters of the Nile.
It is regrettable that Sudan, a country much closer to Ethiopia, is out to do everything at its disposal to stabilize the nation who saved it from total political crisis two years back. Sudan as an Ethiopian proverb goes is busy biting on the fingers of its feeder.