Sudan has rejected an Ethiopian proposal to sign a partial agreement for the first filling of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, throwing the row over the Nile river into further uncertainty.
Sudanese Prime Minister Abadalla Hamdok, instead, called for a tripartite agreement between Khartoum, Addis Ababa and Cairo, before the start of the first filling of the Renaissance Dam, expected in July.
Sudan’s stance effectively means there can’t be any deal that may sideline Egypt, the country that most needs the Nile waters.
Sudan stressed that the signing of any partial agreement for the first stage cannot be agreed upon due to the technical and legal aspects that must be included in the agreement, including the coordination mechanism, data exchange, dam safety, and environmental and social impacts.
Sudan’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources said Dr Hamdok, in his response to the letter of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, “stressed that the way to reach a comprehensive agreement is the immediate resumption of negotiations, which have made great progress during the last four months.”
Hamdok argued that the current conditions may not allow negotiations through regular diplomatic channels, but they can be resumed through video conferences and other technology to complete the negotiation process and agree on the remaining points.
Saleh Hamad, the leader of Sudan’s negotiating team, said the most important issues to be ironed out will include coordination mechanism on the filling of water, data exchange on levels of the river, dam safety, and environmental and social impacts, “closely related, not only to the first filling but to all stages of filling and Long-term operation, and therefore cannot be divided.”
Hamad revealed that Khartoum is making progress to resume the negotiation process by referring to the Washington track that dealt with about 90 per cent of the points of disagreement.
He was referring to a series of meetings arranged by the US Treasury and supported by the World Bank.
Ethiopia declined to sign, or even send a representative, at the last such meeting in March, which the US had proposed an agreement. Cairo has since initialed on the document, which in diplomatic parlance means an end to negotiations.
Ethiopia has bickered with Egypt and Sudan ever since it began constructing the $4.5 billion dam on the Blue Nile, the main tributary of the Nile originating from Ethiopian highlands.
The dam known as the Grand Renaissance Dam [GERD], Ethiopia argues, could be the biggest power source in Africa estimated to produce some 6GW when fully operational.
But the filling of its reservoir, Cairo claims, would hurt its only water supply. Cairo proposed a gradual filling of that reservoir to last at until 15 years, something Addis has opposed.
In turn, Ethiopians say the dam would produce enough power for the country and neighbours including Egypt; ending any perennial shortages on the eastern side of the continent.
As the clock ticks towards July, it would be seen how Addis fills the dam. Officials there said that programme will start regardless of an agreement with riparian countries.