Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan can’t agree on Nile dam

Disagreements on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are still unresolved. Egypt feels vulnerable, Sudan gets a tougher approach, Ethiopia rejects colonial-era treaties. And the reservoir are soon going to be filled for the 2nd year without an agreement.

Talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia fail

The talks organized by the African Union between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was unsuccessful. As the project comes closer to being finalized, tension grows.

Egypt and Sudan are asking for international mediation, which Ethiopia refuses. Sudan wants the USA, the UN and the EU to participate as mediators instead of being observers while Ethiopia wants the African Union to keep leading the talks entirely.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project started in 2011 and has created tensions between countries since then. It will be the biggest dam in Africa and could provide power to 60% of the population in 2022, while Ethiopia just received bids for the privatisation on its telecomm industry in the first step of the liberalisation of its economy.

The countries had found agreements in the past but the flow of the water downstream the dam is the sticking point, and remains unresolved.

The quantity of water amid Egyptian concerns

Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said “Egypt will not give up a single drop of its share of the Nile water“. The Nile is in fact critical for Egypt, which relies on it for its agriculture and commerc0e. The dam makes Egypt vulnerable to Ethiopia which would have the power to regulate the flow.

The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Dina Mufti reject the historical agreements on shares of the Nile waters made in 1959 and 1929. In 1959, Egypt and Sudan secured a minimum quantity of water they should receive from the Nile, without referring to the 9 other countries where the Nile flows. And in 1929, Great Britain, which represented Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Sudan at the time, had given Egypt the right to veto any project on the Nile’s upstream waters which could impact its share. In 2010, the upper riparian states found an agreement, which was not signed by Egypt and Sudan. Egypt prefers the treaties already signed.

The Grand Reservoir Ethiopian Dam at the border of Sudan will impact Egypt supply of water
The Grand Reservoir Ethiopian Dam at the border of Sudan will impact Egypt supply of water

Sudan first welcomed the project as it could be regulating floods affecting the country or even allow for a third farming season. The country also saw an opportunity to get a more stable source of electricity. However, the increased influence of the military in Sudan, its proximity with Egypt and border claims with Ethiopia make diplomatic talks more tense.

Ethiopia also wants to have some flexibility in dealing with the flow in case of drought, suggesting it could be used for agricultural purposes rather than as a source of electricity.

With the rainy season coming up soon, the reservoirs behind the dam will start to fill up for the 2nd year without an agreement. This time, the quantity of water will be 3 times what the reservoir contained the year before.

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