Following endless negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the River Nile, tensions have risen once again after Addis Ababa suddenly announced that it had completed the second-stage filling of the dam on July 19. The move is a further provocation for Egypt with President Abdel Fattah al Sisi having previously warned that this was a red line and further filling of the dam may even warrant military action.
Soon after the second-stage filling’s completion, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sought to allay the fears of both upstream states Egypt and Sudan, saying in a statement on July 20 that “the second filling of the GERD has been successfully completed during the rainy season with caution. This filling will not harm the downstream countries.”
However, given that Cairo and Khartoum have both called the dam a “national security threat,” Ahmed’s words will do little to assuage such concerns. After all, around 80 percent of Cairo’s water supply comes from the Nile, and the city has relied on the river socially and economically since ancient times. Sudan, another upstream state, has also stated that the dam could deprive 20 million Sudanese civilians of water.
Sisi reiterated his warnings about the perils the dam posed to Egypt. At a July 15 conference which entailed the launching of the “Haya Karima” (Decent Life) project for the development of Egypt’s countryside, the Egyptian president said in a gloomy briefing: “Every drop of water that is seized because of the dam means a shortage of water used for drinking, irrigation and production in Egypt, which leads to the collapse of the entire Egyptian state.”
— Dr Eng Seleshi Bekele (@seleshi_b_a) July 26, 2021
GERD has therefore been a source of tension, as Ethiopia also says it needs the dam to generate electricity and improve the lives of its 115 million inhabitants, many of whom have had to live with power shortages. This also comes at a time when Ethiopia has been facing growing financial damage from the coronavirus pandemic and its expenditures in the war with separatists in Ethiopia’s Tigray province since November 2020. Economic woes in all three countries are clearly adding more fuel to the fire in this dispute over rights to access the Nile’s waters. Continue reading here.