Ethiopian PM Calls for Mediation over GERD Project

By Staff Reporter

Ethiopia-South-AfricaJanuary 13, 2020 ( -- Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has called on the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to mediate between Ethiopia and Egypt over the contentious Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project as the president takes over rotating chairmanship of the African Union Commission next month.

The premier’s request is reported as a first move by Ethiopia seeking a mediator, in addition to the involvement of third parties, namely the US government and the World Bank, on the negotiations of Africa’s biggest hydropower dam project.

The recent tripartite talks in Addis Ababa between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan over the filling and operation of the GERD ended in disagreement due to Egypt’s new demands.

Egypt’s new demands included filling of the dam between 12 and 21 years and release 40 billion cubic meters of Nile water annually to the downstream as the dam becomes operational, which Ethiopia considers outrageous and totally unacceptable. Egypt presented such a lofty demand for the first time since the negotiations started. Some see this as a last-minute maneuver to nudge Ethiopia to its initial request of 11+ years of filling period. The Ethiopian side characterized Egypt's latest stand as aggressive and highly contentious.

Many Ethiopians are concerned about whether Abiy Ahmed's team has the necessary capacity to handle Egypt's changing stances, especially as the country approaches crucial national elections.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa, who will be the next Chairman of the African Union Commission, is a good friend of Ethiopia and that of Egypt. He can resolve the controversy going on between the two countries peacefully. It is impossible for Africa to attain its development goals without peace. I called upon President Ramaphosa to mediate the three countries as friend and brother to all of them,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was quoted as saying by DW Amharic.

The visiting Prime Minister‘s request was accepted by President Ramaphosa who emphasized the need for the three counties reach an agreement, recalling the Nile is vital for both African states and the discussion he had with President al Sisi of Egypt over Ethiopia’s dam.

“Leaders of Ethiopia and Egypt are open for discussions on the matter. I hope they will reach a conclusive agreement," Ramaphosa said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed disclosed that his request for legal residence permits for tens of thousands of Ethiopian migrants in South Africa has got acceptance.

Addressing Ethiopian nationals in South Africa, the premier said President Ramaphosa promised to set up a special committee that will be in charge of processing legal resident permits of Ethiopian Diaspora in South Africa.

According to a joint communiqué issued after the leaders’ meeting, the two leaders agreed on the waiver of visa requirements for holders of diplomatic or official/service passports to ease the travel of officials of both countries.

The leaders also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreeing to cooperate in the field of tourism, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), mining, agriculture, and knowledge transfer.

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