Ethiopia Dam Dispute
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — It’s a clash over water usage that Egypt calls an existential threat and Ethiopia calls a lifeline for millions out of poverty. Just weeks remain before the filling of Africa’s most powerful hydroelectric dam might begin, and tense talks between the countries on its operation have yet to reach a deal.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew on Friday declared that his country will go ahead and start filling the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam next month, even without an agreement. “For us it is not mandatory to reach an agreement before starting filling the dam, hence we will commence the filling process in the coming rainy season,” he said.
“We are working hard to reach a deal, but still we will go ahead with our schedule whatever the outcome is. If we have to wait for others’ blessing, then the dam may remain idle for years, which we won’t allow to happen,” he said. He added that “we want to make it clear that Ethiopia will not beg Egypt and Sudan to use its own water resource for its development,” pointing out that Ethiopia is paying for the dam’s construction itself.
He spoke after the latest round of talks with Egypt and Sudan on the dam, the first since discussions broke down in February, failed to reach agreement.
No date has been set for talks to resume, and the foreign minister said Ethiopia doesn’t believe it’s time to take them to a head of state level.
The years-long dispute pits Ethiopia’s desire to become a major power exporter and development engine against Egypt’s concern that the dam will significantly curtail its water supply if filled too quickly. Sudan has long been caught between the competing interests.
- Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew
The arrival of the rainy season is bringing more water to the Blue Nile, the main branch of the Nile, and Ethiopia sees an ideal time to begin filling the dam’s reservoir next month.
Both Egypt and Ethiopia have hinted at military steps to protect their interests, and experts fear a breakdown in talks could lead to conflict.