The Brief – 09.07.21

9 Jul 2021

On the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam…

On 8th July, the UN Security Council convened an in-person briefing on an ongoing disagreement involving Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), under the agenda item “Peace and Security in Africa.”

There were briefings from the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Horn of Africa, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga; the Executive Director of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), Inger Andersen; and a representative of the Permanent Mission of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to the United Nations, as the chairperson of the African Union.

Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan were represented at ministerial level by Ethiopian Minister for Water, Irrigation and Energy, H.E. Eng Seleshi Bekele; Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry; and Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi.

In a letter to the President of the United Nations Security Council on 5th July, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, H.E. Demeke Mekonnen Hassen, rejected the unwelcome meddling by the League of Arab States on the matter of the GERD following the League’s submission of a letter to the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly to intervene in the matter.

The approach followed by the League risks undermining the friendly and cooperative relations between AU and the Arab League since the trilateral negotiation on the GERD is underway under the auspices of the African Union (AU), the letter adds.

The letter noted that the African Union, as a common organization for Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan, offers the tripartite a platform to negotiate and reach a win-win outcome guided by the conviction of finding “African solutions to Africa’s challenges.

…Excerpts of Remarks by H.E Dr (Eng) Sileshi, Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy (check against delivery)

Thanks to the Republic of South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo for their effective facilitation of the African Union-led talks to resolve the outstanding issues [on the GERD] and reach a mutually acceptable outcome under the auspices of the AU.

We are dealing with a hydroelectric dam project, which is not the first of its kind in Africa or in the world. We are building a reservoir to store water that will generate electricity by hitting turbines. For your information, the GERD reservoir is two and half times smaller than that of the Aswan Dam in Egypt. Perhaps what puts the Gerd in distinction from other projects is the extent of hope and aspiration it generated for 65 million Ethiopians who have no access to electricity. It is also unique because the construction of this $5 billion Dam is financed by the blood, tears, and sweat of ordinary Ethiopians.

[The GERD is a people’s project and a humble attempt to realize our development needs. The Dam has the fingerprints of Ethiopia’s farmers, pastoralists, daily laborers, students, businesswomen and men, and the diaspora around the world who eke out a living in extremely difficult circumstances. Ethiopians have best wishes and neighbourly care for their compatriots in Egypt and Sudan. We have all the intention to live together in peace and cooperate for our mutual benefit. The GERD demonstrates this core principle of collective wellbeing and prosperity.

We are here because Egypt and Sudan have expressed their opposition to the GERD. Our two neighbours have large and small dams and canals they have constructed, with absolute disregard to the right of other riparian countries and rejecting Ethiopia’s request for consultation. Unlike Egypt and Sudan, Ethiopia has no considerable ground-water reserve. We also don’t have seawater to desalinate. Nearly 70 percent of my country’s water is in the Nile Basin. Even if we want to, even if we try, we cannot avoid utilizing the Nile River.

Ethiopia believes that an agreement is within reach, given the necessary political will and the commitment to negotiate in good faith. Understanding has already been reached on a number of the issues. The African Union is seized of the matter and is ably facilitating our negotiations. The Security Council is faced, today, with the question to determine whether or not Ethiopians have the right to utilize the Nile. On behalf of all Ethiopians, I implore our friends in this Council to answer this question: ‘Do Ethiopians have the right to drink from the Nile?’

Despite the undue pressure, Ethiopia will continue to exercise maximum restraint and showcase cooperation because we are forever linked by this majestic river. Whether we like it or not, we’ll continue to drink from the same river and must learn to live together as neighbours. Ethiopia’s longstanding commitment to the AU-led process is underpinned by a belief that Africans have the wisdom, the technical expertise, and more importantly, the agency to address their challenges. The phased approach proposed by AU Chair could help us break the quagmire. The filling process is pure physics. Once the dam concrete reaches a certain height, the water either flows through the bottom outlets or overflows the concrete. This year the Dam will store water until it reaches the 13.5 billion cubic meters indicated in the filling schedule.

The Nile belongs to all the half billion people in the 11 riparian countries. The water is enough for all of us. Ethiopia generates 77-billion-meter cubes of water per year. It is only fair that we impound a small fraction of the annual inflow for its hydroelectric Dam.

We urge our Egyptian and Sudanese neighbours to understand that a resolution to the Nile issue won’t come from the Security Council; it can only come from good faith negotiations under the auspices of the AU with due care for the wellbeing and development of each other.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the United Nations said it stands ready to support Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan in efforts to resolve the disagreement over the GERD, under the mandate of the African Union.


On the Situation in Tigray …

…Statement on humanitarian flight arrangements to Tigray

The Government of Ethiopia has repeatedly affirmed that it would closely work with Humanitarian operators following its bold and magnanimous declaration of the Unilateral Humanitarian Ceasefire in Tigray. Although the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority has closed the northern part of airspace for all kinds of flights below flight level 290 since 30/05/21, the Ethiopian Government announced on Monday, July 5, 2021, that it gave special permission to fly for all interested parties to provide humanitarian services in the Tigray region while the airspace closure is going on.

In this regard, the Government of Ethiopia would like to underscore that it has not denied any request for a flight of goods and passengers to the Tigray Region. In fact, The WFP has requested flight permission yesterday for two airplanes that intend to fly passengers to the Tigray Region.

To better facilitate such requests, the Federal Government issued guidelines containing instructions and information that humanitarian operators should strictly adhere to, in order to get permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia and other pertinent bodies. In this regard, the Government has clearly stated that all flights coming from abroad or domestic airports in Ethiopia must first land at Addis Ababa airport before proceeding to Tigray. Flights coming from the prohibited airspace must also land at Addis Ababa airport before proceeding abroad or a domestic airport in Ethiopia.

As detailed in the guidelines, all operators must submit and get approval for flight details, such as flight number, type of aircraft, the purpose of the flight, details of passenger, and type of cargo before conducting flight operations. It is also stated that standard search shall be conducted at Addis Ababa Bole international airport on all departing and arriving aircraft, cargos, passengers, crews, and including bulky cargos which might need dismantling for search and screening. The Federal Government also requires all passenger and cargo airplane flights to carry people or equipment related to only humanitarian aid missions.

Despite the above-stated arrangements and the Federal Government’s willingness to work closely with humanitarian operators, some reports, mistakenly or otherwise, have continued to misinform the international community as if the Government of Ethiopia has been obstructing flights into the Tigray region.

In this regard, the Government of Ethiopia has written a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations protesting the unconstructive actions of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) that do not commensurate with the fruitful and productive relations that Ethiopia has built with the organization since 1984. The Federal Government believes that the engagement of the UNOCHA, through its inaccurate reports and statements in depicting the situation in Tigray, has not been helpful and constructive since the beginning of the law enforcement operation in the Tigray Regional State.

The Federal Government also is under the impression that OCHA’s statements and reports seem to be framed to encourage and compliment the TPLF that have continued to fuel misperception and led the international community to misconstrue the situation in the region. It is also revealing that the Office continues to refer to the outlawed group, which the Ethiopian parliament categorized as a terrorist organization, as the Tigrayan Defense Force (TDF). The Government of Ethiopia would like to request the Office to refrain from issuing biased and misleading statements and take corrective action soon to avoid detrimental effects on the longstanding cooperation between the Ethiopian Government and the organization.

The Federal Government of Ethiopia would like to announce that details of the guidelines on the flight arrangements to the Tigray Region will soon be communicated to all stakeholders and interested parties, and the public via appropriate channels.

… Statement by Ethiopia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, H.E Ambassador Taye Atske Selassie, at the UN Security Council meeting on the situation in Tigray

On 2nd July 2021, the UN Security Council convened a briefing on the situation in Tigray. Ireland, the UK, and the US requested the meeting, which was the first open Council session on Tigray since the beginning of the law enforcement operation in November 2020.

The Council held this meeting following the announcement of a unilateral humanitarian ceasefire in Tigray by the Government of Ethiopia in order to ensure better humanitarian access and strengthen efforts to rehabilitate and rebuild the Tigray region.

In his statement to the Council, Ethiopia’s Permanent Representative at the UN, H.E. Ambassador Taye Atske Selassie reaffirmed the Government’s resolve to continue ensuring accountability for human rights abuse and crimes committed in the Tigray region.

“We will make sure that impunity is not tolerated. We remain committed to working with all bilateral and multilateral partners through genuine partnership and the understanding that the Government of Ethiopia is more than capable of overcoming these challenges. We encourage Council members to play a constructive role in supporting the Ethiopian Government in the implementation of the humanitarian ceasefire.”


The Brief is a bi-weekly publication from the Ethiopian Embassy in London covering current affairs in Ethiopia.

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