To increase its regional support, the Sudanese Foreign Minister conducted a visit to West African countries after Ethiopia announced that it would start the second filling of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) without a deal. Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi stressed that Sudan received solidarity and support from West African leaders regarding its position on GERD.
In her statement, al-Mahdi also talked about Sudan’s bilateral relations with the West African countries that she visited. Pointing out that Sudan had deep-rooted historical relations with West African countries, al-Mahdi noted that “Sudan aims to revive the existing agreements”. Lastly, she indicated that countries agreed to hold future talks in order to reactivate the existing agreements.
In another statement on the tour, Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Mansour Bold emphasized that “the main agenda of the visit was to express Sudan’s views on the GERD project, as well as to strengthen its relations with West African countries”. Bold also added that Sudan’s diplomacy on this issue was based on three basic principles. The first of these are African solutions to African problems; the second is a win-win situation in exploiting African rivers, and the third is the rejection of such unilateral decisions at the expense of mutual interests.
The GERD project is located within the territory of Ethiopia, the upper basin of the Blue Nile tributary, which supplies approximately 80% of the Nile’s water flow, and close to the Sudanese border. With this project, Ethiopia aims to become an energy exporter country by meeting most of its electricity needs with the hydroelectric facilities of the dam.
However, the sub-basin countries Egypt and Sudan argue that a tripartite, comprehensive, and legally binding agreement should be reached on equal sharing of the river’s water flow and the operation of the project. However, the negotiations for the resolution of the conflict between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, ongoing for about 10 years, still have not yielded any results.
Since late 2020, GERD negotiations have been conducted under the auspices of the African Union, previously mediated by the US and the World Bank. As members of the African Union, the three sides of the conflict attended three summits: the latest one being held in Kinshasa in March 2021.
Following the third failure of negotiations, Egypt and Sudan have proposed to internationalize the GERD issue, proposing the inclusion of a quadruple mediation group that includes the African Union, the UN, the US, and the EU. The proposal was rejected by Ethiopia based on the discourse of “African solutions to African problems”.