Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul. Gumuz Region, Ethiopia, on September 26, 2019. Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: Sudan hinted it couldreconsider Ethiopia’s sovereignty over the Benishangul region, on which the Renaissance Dam is built, if it continued its approach of disavowing international agreements related to the waters of the Nile and the borders between the two countries.

This came after the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, pledged his country adheres to the second filling of the dam next July, assuring his citizens he will overcome the challenges facing his country.

In a statement, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced statements by Ethiopian officials who stated that Sudan is working to bind their country to “colonial agreements”, referring to the 1902 border agreements and the 1959 Nile waters agreements.

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry said these statements were “irrelevant”, given that Ethiopia was an independent state at the time of the signing, while Sudan was under British colonialism. It said that disavowal of previous agreements also meant that Ethiopia relinquished its sovereignty over the Benishangul region (the site of the Renaissance Dam), which was transferred to it from Sudan in 1902, according to agreements that Ethiopia calls ‘colonial’.

Benishangul, which embraces the facilities of the Renaissance Dam, was Sudanese territory from the era of the Mahdist state, in the 19th century, until its fall in 1898, when Ethiopian forces intervened and occupied it, along with other Sudanese areas (Fazogli and Rosiers).

Thi was until the British reached an agreement known as the Treaty of Addis Ababa 1902, according to which Ethiopia retained the province of Benishangul, which has a Muslim majority who spoke the Arabic language, provided that Addis Ababa withdrew from the rest of the regions.

The head of the Sudanese Border Commission, Moaz Tango, had said in previous statements that Ethiopia’s failure to recognise the 1902 borders would prompt Sudan to think about restoring the Benishangul region, which was under its sovereignty before the border demarcation process.

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry said: “We do not need to remind Ethiopia that the irrational complacency in using such misleading claims and disavowing previous agreements also means compromising the Ethiopian sovereignty over the Benishangul region, to which sovereignty over it was transferred from Sudan according to some of these agreements in particular.”

It added that Ethiopia’s selective disavowal of international agreements for propaganda and domestic political reasons is a harmful and costly approach that does not help in reaching a negotiated agreement acceptable to all parties.

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry said that the Ethiopian claim that the relevant agreements are colonial legacies was an explicit fallacy of historical facts.

The Sudanese statement added that mobilising local public opinion against Sudan for internal political reasons was an irresponsible measure that poisons the climate of international relations and makes it vulnerable to individual wills, creates chaos and undermines the foundations of good neighborliness, on which Sudanese-Ethiopian relations were founded.