Ethiopia has announced the completion of the fourth and final filling of its controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a $5 billion hydroelectric project located on the Nile River.
Despite opposition from Egypt and Sudan, the Ethiopian government, led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, celebrated the completion of the dam, despite what he referred to as “external pressure”.
The completion of the dam’s filling was announced by Prime Minister Abiy on a social media platform. It marked a significant milestone in a project that has been surrounded by geopolitical tensions and has been a long-standing source of disagreement among the three Nile basin countries – Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan.
The GERD project has been a point of contention since its construction began in 2011. Egypt and Sudan have expressed concerns over the potential negative impact it could have on their water security and downstream countries’ rights. Egypt, in particular, has consistently opposed the dam’s construction, arguing that it would reduce its share of the Nile’s water and jeopardize its agricultural and industrial sectors. Sudan, on the other hand, has had a more nuanced stance, as it has recognized the potential benefits of the dam but has also raised concerns about its safety and the impact on its own dams.
In an effort to address these concerns and resolve the dispute, negotiations have been held between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan. In August, talks took place without reaching a breakthrough, as Egypt accused Ethiopia of maintaining the same stance and not making tangible changes in its position regarding the operation and filling of the dam. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry condemned the fourth filling of the dam, deeming it a violation of the preliminary agreement signed in 2015 in Khartoum, which outlined principles for the dam’s operation.
Ethiopia, however, argues that the construction of the dam is essential for its economic development and poverty reduction efforts. It sees the GERD as a vital source of clean and renewable energy that would contribute to its energy independence and regional power integration. The dam has the potential to generate a massive amount of electricity, providing access to energy for millions of Ethiopians and potentially exporting it to neighboring countries.
Despite the ongoing dispute, there have been instances of cooperation among the three countries. Earlier this summer, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and agreed to resume negotiations in an attempt to reach a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam. This meeting was seen as a positive step towards resolving the issue peacefully and diplomatically.
Ethiopia views the dam as a crucial power source for its economic growth, while Egypt and Sudan perceive it as a severe threat to their essential water resources. Ethiopia has confidently announced that further discussions will take place in its capital, Addis Ababa, this month.
Egypt’s Water Resources Minister, Hany Seweilam, stressed the significance of reaching a binding agreement that considers the interests and concerns of all three countries regarding the rules for filling and operating the dam. He emphasized the importance of halting any unilateral actions and that filling and operating the dam without an agreement would violate the Declaration of Principles.
However, the agreement was deemed vague, merely outlining ten principles, including common understanding, good faith, development, and avoiding significant damage. A more robust and comprehensive agreement is necessary to address the concerns of all parties involved.