Ethiopia won’t budge. The African country won’t sign a deal with Egypt and Sudan over its dam on the Nile River—not even with pressure from the United States.
Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gedu Andargachew, says the three countries need to resolve their differences without outside pressure.
“In the talks held in Washington, D.C., . . . we were pressured to quickly reach an agreement and sign a deal before resolving outstanding issues,” he says. “We are of the opinion that an agreement reached under pressure is not in the best interest of anyone.”
Ethiopia is building on the Nile River. The project is more than 70% completed. Now tensions are rising over a standoff between Ethiopia and Egypt regarding the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. (See “Damming the Nile.”)
When Ethiopia didn’t attend a February meeting in Washington, Egypt’s foreign ministry called the country’s absence “unjustifiable.” Officials added, “Egypt will use all available means to defend the interests of its people.”
Following the unsuccessful meeting, U.S. President Donald Trump phoned Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and “expressed hope that an agreement on the [dam] would be finalized soon.”
Ethiopia is drafting its own proposal on how to resolve the standoff. Officials will present it to Egypt and Sudan.
“We won’t subscribe to an agreement just because the U.S. . . . came forward with it. We need to take time and sort out sticking points,” Gedu stresses.
Meanwhile, the deadlock over the dam is getting increasingly bitter. Ethiopia’s top military officers visited the site of the dam. They issued a statement warning that they will respond “if there are any attacks on the dam.”
Ethiopia’s construction of the mega-dam, which will be Africa’s largest, has been prickly for years. Ethiopia says its 100 million people need power from the dam to pull many of out of poverty. But Egypt warns that filling the dam’s reservoir too quickly in the coming years will threaten its fair share of Nile River waters.
Ethiopia wants to fill the dam in seven years. But Egypt relies on the Nile for irrigation and water for its population of about 100 million. Egypt proposes a slower fill over a period of 12–21 years.
“We are building this dam inside our territory, with our water resource and using our own money,” says Gedu. “More than 65 million Ethiopians don’t have access to electricity. This is not acceptable. We are trying to pull them out of darkness using the power generated from this dam.”
Gedu insists the main disagreement “stems from Egypt’s refusal to accept the rights other countries have on the river. . . . I know the Nile River is God’s gift for Egypt.” However, he says, “The same is true for Ethiopia and Sudan. Egyptians should come to terms with that.”
(In this June 28, 2013, file photo, the Blue Nile river flows near the site of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam near Assosa, Ethopia. AP Photo/Elias Asmare, File)