Ethiopia announced Wednesday, April 7, that it would continue to fill the mega-dam it is building on the Nile, despite persistent disputes with its downstream neighbors, Egypt and Sudan, who have their on the insured side do not rule out any option to defend their interests. These statements come the day after the end of fruitless negotiations between the foreign ministers of the three countries in Kinshasa, under the auspices of the Congolese head of state, Félix Tshisekedi, current president of the African Union (AU).
Since Ethiopia began work on the dam in 2011, Egypt and Sudan wanted a tripartite agreement on the operation of the dam before filling began. But Ethiopia believes that this filling is an integral part of the construction of its Great Renaissance Dam (GERD) and cannot be delayed. Despite the diplomatic deadlock, the filling, a first phase of which was completed in 2020, will therefore continue during the next rainy season, which is due to begin in June or July, Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele announced on Wednesday. “As construction progresses, filling takes place”, he said at a press conference. “We are not giving it up”, he assured.
From Khartoum, Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas warned Addis Ababa that for his country, “All options are possible, including a return to the Security Council and the path to political hardening”, if “Ethiopia undertakes second filling without agreement”. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also reiterated his warnings. “I say to our Ethiopian brothers: do not touch a drop of the water of Egypt because all options are open”, he said at a ceremony in eastern Cairo. At the end of March, President Sisi had already mentioned a “Unimaginable instability” if the dam threatened ” a drop of water “ Egyptian.
The peoples of the Nile basin “threatened”
The GERD has been a source of tension between the three countries since the laying of the first stone in April 2011. This mega-dam, with a total capacity of 74 billion cubic meters of water, is built in the north-west from Ethiopia, near the border with Sudan, on the Blue Nile which joins the White Nile at Khartoum to form the Nile. With an announced capacity of nearly 6,500 megawatts, it could become the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa.
Ethiopia says the hydroelectric power produced by the dam is vital to meeting the energy needs of its 110 million people. But Egypt, which depends on the Nile for about 97% of its irrigation and drinking water, sees the Ethiopian dam as a threat to its water supply. Sudan, meanwhile, fears its own dams could be damaged if Ethiopia fully replenishes GERD before a deal is reached.
The last attempt at negotiations to date, in Kinshasa, ended on Tuesday evening with a new observation of failure. Ethiopia “Threatens the peoples of the Nile basin, and Sudan directly”, said the Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mariam Al Mansoura Elsadig Almahdi, at the end of the three days of discussions. “Without a new program [pour les discussions], Ethiopia has a boulevard in front of it to put the peoples of the region and the entire African continent in imminent danger ”, she estimated.
Ethiopia’s water minister lamented Wednesday that Egyptian and Sudanese negotiators have called for increased involvement of South African, American and European Union (EU) observers. Ethiopia wishes to prioritize the process led by the AU Presidency, which is headquartered in Addis Ababa. Talks are due to resume before the end of the month, Ethiopian diplomacy said Tuesday evening.