Ethiopia has been calling on the Sudanese authorities to reverse the situation and stresses that this is not helpful to the Sudanese and Ethiopian people and the region at large.
H.E Ambassador Dina Mufti, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the FDRE briefed the local and international media based in South Sudan.
In his opening remarks, H.E Amb. Dina explained that the aim of the briefing was to provide the correct information about news circulating globally regarding Ethiopia. He focused his briefing on three issues; the law enforcement operation in Tigray Region and its aftermath, the Ethio-Sudan border issue, and the GERD (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam) negotiations.
After a brief introduction on the three items, he responded to questions from members of the press. The main points are as follows:
On the law enforcement operation in Tigray:
He pointed out that since 2018, important changes are taking place in Ethiopia and the TPLF (Tigray People Liberation Front) which was dominating political and economic activity was showing resisting this change. The operation was, therefore, necessary because the leaders of TPLF who have been trying to sabotage the important political changes that have been taking place in Ethiopia since 2018, engaged in subversive activities and sponsoring various conflicts in the country finally attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Force stationed in Tigray region and looted military equipment on Nov. 4, 2020.
He indicated that the operation is now over and the government is engaged in the rehabilitation of areas and people affected by the operation; confidence-building; and relief operations in the region. The government is working with 26 international agencies in providing relief operations to 92 distribution centers.
About the role of the AU on the law enforcement operation, he stressed that the issue is entirely an internal matter to Ethiopia and as such did not see any role of an outside body. He reemphasized that the operation is over now and rehabilitation efforts are is going on in the region.
On Sudan -Ethiopia border issue
He expounded that the two countries have longstanding friendly relations and that they not only share borders, but also the same history, same community, same cultural make-up, and cooperation.
However, he indicated that recently when the Ethiopian government focused its attention on the law enforcement operation in Tigray, the Sudanese army encroached into Ethiopian territory, destroyed property owned by Ethiopians; and some Sudanese officials even said that they have ‘reclaimed’ territory they said was Sudanese.
Ethiopia has been calling on the Sudanese authorities to reverse the situation and stresses that this is not helpful to the Sudanese and Ethiopian people and the region at large. Ethiopia emphasizes that the border issue which was there for a long time should be handled by the different mechanisms that the two countries were engaged in. The dispute should be solved peacefully, and war is not helpful at all. Ethiopia is calling our Sudanese brothers and sisters to look at the big picture, which is peace and tranquility in the region and focus on development.
On the role of South Sudan and others who offered to mediate, he said that Ethiopia appreciates initiatives of all concerned countries and bodies who offered to assist in resolving the border issue. Ethiopia is always ready to negotiate and solve the issue peacefully. The two countries’ border agreement was signed between Ethiopia and the British Colonial Administration. However, the British (Major Gwynn) conducted a demarcation exercise unilaterally, without the presence of the Ethiopian side. In 1972 the two sides exchanged notes to renegotiate and re-demarcate the border again and settle it amicably while maintaining the status quo.
The countries have been on the right track to solve the issue by establishing relevant joint committees/commissions. However, there is no reason for Sudan to violate the status quo at this time. This belligerence on the Sudanese side does not reflect the longstanding relations between the two countries, and Ethiopia is asking Sudan to respect the status quo. We are also asking our friends and partners to impress upon the Sudanese authorities to that effect. And Ethiopia believes that our Sudanese brothers and sisters will heed our requests and the issue to be settled peacefully. He also indicated that the border issue which was there for a long time is not related to the GERD Issue.
On the issue of the GERD (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam)
H.E. Amb. Dina indicated that the construction of the dam has been taking place for a number of years and the tripartite negotiations on the filling and operations of the dam have been taking place between the three countries of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Negotiations have been taking place on technical and legal issues and agreements have been reached on some issues.
However, it seems that Egypt and Sudan are not negotiating in good faith. Sudan has concerns regarding the safety of the dam and data sharing. In this regard, the International Panel of Experts (IPoE) which consisted of experts from the three countries as well as independent experts from other countries have studied the impact of the dam and proved its safety. And Ethiopia takes more care about the safety of the dam. Besides, Ethiopia is also willing to share data in reciprocity. So, these concerns seem to be pretexts for other motives that are against the interests of the people of Sudan.
The purpose of the dam is the generation of electricity and therefore, does not create significant harm to both Egypt and Sudan. Rather, it benefits both countries through the retention of siltation, reduction of water loss through evaporation, regulated flow of water throughout the year irrespective of low or high inflow, etc.
As it is a hydroelectric dam, the water hits the turbines and continues to flow to the Sudanese and Egyptian territories. Therefore, even though the trilateral negotiations have stalled now, we believe that the best solution is an agreement between the three countries through the trilateral negotiations under the auspices of the African Union. And while expressing its gratitude to the outgoing chair of the AU, the Republic of South Africa, Ethiopia is confident that the new chair of the AU, the Democratic Republic of Congo, will bring the three parties together again and help lead to a successful conclusion of the negotiations.
H.E. Amb. Dina also emphasized that Ethiopia has the legitimate right to use its natural resources, with the principle of equitable utilization of transboundary resources. As such, the construction and filling of the dam will continue as scheduled. Therefore, the second-year filling will be done during the upcoming rainy season as it is during this time that we get an adequate flow of water.