Ethiopia Defends Plans To Begin Filling Nile Dam

The grand Ethiopian modern dam has over the years been a source of tension in the Nile River Basin ever since the country broke ground on the project in 2011. Information reaching Wakeupafrica360 from our correspondence in the country stated that the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Workneh Gebeyehu told the UN Security Council through an open letter stated that Ethiopia sees no need to delay the filling of the dam despite warnings from Egypt that doing so will destabilize the region.

A general view of the Blue Nile river as it passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia, on 26 December 2019

According to the Ethiopian government, the dam is crucial to the country’s economy but the Egyptian government fears that if the dam is constructed, it will disrupt the flow of water in the Nile River. This lead to a prolonged talks between the two countries with one held earlier this year and involved the two countries as well as Sudan (another country benefiting from the river). The Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, proposed in April 2020 for the commencement of the first stage filling expected to collect 18.4 billion metres of water in the dam’s reservoirs for 2years. Egypt together with Sudan fear the dam reservoir will trap water supplies as the reservoir has a capacity of 74 billion cubic metres of water. According to Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian Foreign Minister through a letter to the UN Security Council on May 1 ; filling and resuming operations in the dam would be detrimental to water security, food security and may threatened the livelihood of over 100 million Egyptians dependent on the river for their daily living. This is definitely one of the issues that potentially pose a serious challenge to the peace and security in the region.

The Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia: Reuters Africa

Reacting to this letter, the Ethiopian Foreign Minister accused Egypt of being an obstructionist. He went further to say that the country has no legal obligation to seek approval from Egypt to fill the dam and the country has tried its very best in accommodating Egypt’s demands and unpredictable behaviors.

Speaking on the issue, David William of the International Crisis Group said that the possibility of armed conflict due to the dam dispute is still very unlikely even though the letter to the UN Security Council by Egypt made the matter more complicated. There will be diplomatic escalation but negotiation can really be the best option for the parties involved.

Furthermore, according to Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopian Water Minister, there are plans already put in place to start filling the dam next rainy season and it is expected that it will start generating power with two turbines on December 2020. The Egyptian government proposed a longer period so that there will not be a dramatic drop in the river level especially during the first phase of filling of the reservoir. The United State is now mediating on the matter after rounds of talks by the three countries involved without any progress. The Minister while reacting to the talks held last week between the two countries told BBC’s Kalkidan Yibeltal that he does not think the Egyptian government have any intention of reaching an agreement and the new filling timetable they presented won’t work as it required filling the dam to take from 12 to 21 years.

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