CAIRO — Amid stalled negotiations over Ethiopia’s controversial dam it is building on the Blue Nile, the Nile’s main tributary, recent Ethiopian remarks have deepened the dispute with Egypt and Sudan.
In an interview with Al Arabiya TV channel on February 12, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Redwan Hussein called on Sudan and Egypt not to stick to their position on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam ( GERD), noting: “Ethiopians cannot wait forever. We are waiting for the green light to use our resources.
He said, “Egypt should encourage Ethiopia to quickly complete the construction of the GERD as we need to cooperate together to take advantage of our resources even during droughts.”
Hussein noted, “We have informed the Sudanese that we are ready to regularly exchange data to address their concerns about the safety of their small dams, but their position now serves the interests of a third party, not theirs.”
He continued, “Ethiopia has provided more opportunities for Egypt and Sudan to benefit from the dam, despite their inability to appreciate it.”
He stressed that Ethiopia will use its resources without harming downstream countries and that the dam is a cooperation and regional integration project.
Mona Omar, former assistant to the foreign minister for African affairs, told Al-Monitor: “Hussein’s statements are an attempt to drive a wedge between Egypt and Sudan, and they are a continuation of the torrent of Ethiopian statements regarding the GERD, at some point. when Egyptian officials are reluctant to make similar statements.
She said: “Such statements are meant to divert public attention from what is happening in Ethiopia. It is natural that Egypt requires the passage of water even in times of drought, especially since the country is now below the water poverty line.
Omar noted: “Coinciding with Senegal’s assumption of the African Union presidency and anticipation of the role it is likely to play in sponsoring further negotiations on the GERD – in addition to discussions on the possibility of Djibouti’s mediation to find a way out of the crisis – Ethiopia tries to exert pressure by spreading rumors that Egypt would like to benefit from the waters of the dam alone and does not care about the development that Ethiopia seeks to achieve .
She added, “There is only solution through negotiation, and common ground must be found through a good mediator.” She said that Senegal is a strong country with influence on the African continent, is respected by all and can play this role, as long as all parties show goodwill.
Despite the deadlock in the GERD negotiations since April 2021, Egypt has always underlined its desire to reach a binding legal agreement on the management and operation of the dam.
Ayman Abdel Wahab, deputy director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor: “Hussein’s statements included three inaccuracies. The first is to consider Sudan as a country that does not know its interests as if Ethiopia were a guardian who can determine its [Sudan’s] interests and threats, while the Ethiopian position was adamant about coordinating with Sudan and providing it with data on the filling of the dam.
He said: “The second inaccuracy relates to the Ethiopian portrayal of the Egyptian view of the GERD as if the dam does not pose an explicit threat to Egypt’s water security and therefore its national security. Evidence of this is the exaggeration of the amount of water stored in the GERD, which exceeds its capacity, and Ethiopia’s need to generate electricity, which makes the safety of the dam questionable in light of the problems. techniques with which he is confronted.
Egypt, which suffers from water scarcity, sees GERD as an existential threat that will reduce its share of water in the Nile, and Sudan shares the same concerns, while Ethiopia sees it as a source of development by the production of electricity.
Abdel Wahab noted: “The third inaccuracy is that Ethiopia did not negotiate seriously and did not wait for a binding agreement to be reached. Everything he has done in the last 11 years is just procrastination to buy time and impose a fait accompli, as evidenced by his launching of the first and second fill without coordination with the other parties. Meanwhile, Egypt has shown great flexibility.
He explained: “Addis Ababa did not take the negotiations seriously. The goal of GERD is not at all cooperative or developmental as it claims. Rather, Ethiopia is using it to maximize its interests at the expense of Egyptian water security, as it also seeks to impose a new fait accompli to be the one who decides when and how much water downstream countries get.
On July 19, 2021, Ethiopia announced the completion of the second filling of the dam reservoir without an agreement with Egypt and Sudan. On September 9, 2021, Ethiopian Water, Irrigation and Energy Minister Seleshi Bekele announced that his country plans to generate electricity from GERD turbines by the Ethiopian New Year. , September 11th.
Abdel Wahab stressed: “The Ethiopian statements try to hold Egypt and Sudan responsible for obstructing the negotiations, to gain public opinion, especially after the civil war. [with the Tigray] which seriously damaged the image of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The GERD is thus Ethiopia’s winning card on which Ahmed is betting to improve his image internally and externally by showing a kind of false flexibility.
Meanwhile, Heba al-Bashbeshi, a researcher at Cairo University’s Institute of African Studies, told Al-Monitor that Hussein’s statements provoked the people and political leaders in Egypt. “Cairo has a right to the waters that Addis Ababa holds in GERD,” she said.
She noted, “Ethiopia did not give any opportunity to the other parties. He declined to share any information about the dam, how it was built or the safety factors it contains, especially as many experts have warned of technical problems with the GERD.
Bashbeshi noted that Addis Ababa seeks to raise the issue of GERD in the media in order to support the continuation of Ahmed’s regime, which she says has lost legitimacy.
She stressed the need for Egypt to maintain its position by adhering to a legal agreement and ignoring Ethiopian statements.