Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations (UN), during the UN Security Council Meeting on Peace and Security in Africa: Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, 29 June 2020

Mr President,

We thank Under-Secretary General, Rosemary DiCarlo, for her briefing and we welcome the participation of the representatives of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan in our discussions today.

Mr President,

Over the last few weeks, the Security Council has received letters from each of the three countries detailing their perspectives on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

What is no doubt clear from the letters received and the interest in this matter is that the Nile river is an extremely important resource for the African Continent, specifically the three countries - Ethiopia as the origin of the Blue Nile, Sudan where the confluence of the White and Blue Nile takes place and Egypt where the Nile flows into the Mediterranean sea.

The river is not only a source of development, but survival, for all riparian States and as a shared natural resource, it is essential that there be cooperation on its utilisation.

The construction of the GERD has been ongoing for almost a decade and is expected to usher in a new era of development not only for Ethiopia but potentially the entire sub-region. It will be the biggest hydro-electrical dam on the Continent and should therefore be celebrated as a symbol of much needed development, and not become a source of conflict and disagreement.

Mr President,

The Security Council discussion today is taking place under the agenda item, “Peace and Security in Africa”. This is a clear recognition that the issue of the GERD affects the African Continent.

The Chairperson of the African Union, the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, convened a meeting of the Bureau of the AU Assembly on 26 June 2020 inviting the leaders of all three countries to participate and discuss developments pertaining to the GERD. The Bureau was represented by the Presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Kenya and Mali. The Prime Ministers of Ethiopia and Sudan and the Chairperson of the AU Commission were invited to participate in the meeting.

The meeting was characterised by a positive and constructive spirit that clearly showed the willingness of all the parties to find a mutually accepted agreement on all outstanding issues pertaining to the GERD. Importantly, the Bureau of the AU Assembly recognised the potential of the GERD project for the African Union and they committed to a process facilitated by the AU Chairperson.

We welcome the undertaking by the three Parties at the Bureau Meeting to refrain from making any statements, or taking any action that may jeopardise or complicate the AU-led process aimed at finding an acceptable solution on all outstanding matters.

While noting that most of the issues in the tripartite negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have already been resolved, the Bureau of the AU Assembly agreed to augment the Tripartite Committee dealing with the GERD issue consisting of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan with the participation of observers. The observers will be South Africa in its capacity as Chairperson of the AU, Members of the Bureau of the AU, and experts from the Commission. The Committee will address all outstanding technical and legal issues and will present its report to the Chairperson of the Bureau in one week.

Furthermore, the Bureau of the Assembly and the participating Heads of State and Government agreed to reconvene in two weeks to consider a report on the outcome of negotiations of the outstanding issues concerning the GERD matter.

Mr President,

The Bureau of the African Union Assembly and participating Heads of State and Government have requested the United Nations Security Council to take note of these developments and the fact that the African Union is seized with this matter that is of concern to the Continent.

It is therefore important that the Security Council respect these Continental efforts and provide space for the parties, through the agreed upon mechanisms, to find a solution that will ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for these three neighbourly countries.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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