AfricaDiplomacyEgyptEthiopiaGERDNile RiverViewpoint

View point: Indeterminate negotiation is fatal


Dejen Yemane Messele @MesseleDejen

Addis Abeba, August 07/2010 – The head-to-head negotiation between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan on the GERD is continuing without make or break.  It was noteworthy that Egypt’s opposition and warning against Ethiopia not to start filling the GERD before striking a comprehensive deal on the filing and operation of the GERD was snubbed and the first filling has been achieved. The GERD negotiation is, however, still ongoing with an uncertain outcomes.

The negotiation seems to be continued until an agreement is struck.  But striking an agreement seems an impossible project given the ever unbearable quests from Egypt and Sudan. This improbable track makes negotiation very indeterminate. But the commitment to continue and to live with the negotiation indefinitely should be questioned from Ethiopia’s side. Egypt’s and Sudan’s commitment to live with and to stay on board the GERD negotiations is quite obvious, they have clear objectives. But what’s Ethiopia’s objective to live with this indeterminate negotiation, a negotiation that might come to an end only when Egypt and Sudan are satisfied?

This would cost Ethiopia a lot. Continuing and living in the negotiation puts Ethiopia in a position of unfair bargaining​-​cheap. Egypt and Sudan have secured the agreement from Ethiopia to fill the dam from four to seven years which could have in fact been filled only within three years. But what does Ethiopia get from the negotiation other than backtracking costs?  Would Egypt and Sudan leave the negotiation floor if Ethiopia remains firm in rejecting their illegal and unacceptable claims? They would not. They will agree to sign an agreement on the points where consensus has already been reached. But Ethiopia can decline to sign even those partially agreed points. Doing so would mean filling GERD with full sovereignty.  

The negotiating team should present new claims to Egypt and Sudan. Environmental costs and compensation for the past injustices made by those two states against the upper riparian state can be raised in this regard. This will restrain both from making unacceptable quests.  Without doing this, just stating ‘we will never negotiate on Ethiopia’s national interest’ by the end of each negotiation serves nothing.  Ethiopia will lose by staying in this endless negotiation unless measures are taken to end it.  The negotiation process is now interpreted as an obligation to reach into a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD. This interpretation may bring an unfortunate consequence to Ethiopia’s operation of the GERD.

Ethiopia must quit this indeterminate negotiation with the determination that ‘sovereignty has a name.’ AS


Editor’s Note: Dejen Yemane Messele is a PhD student, Addis Abeba University, College of Law and Governance Studies. He can be reached at

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this opinion are that of the author’s and do not reflect the editorial stand of Addis Standard.

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