Three-way talks Concerning Ethiopian Dam Reach a new Impasse

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Last year Ethiopia announced the commencement of The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd) building on the Blue Nile. The Ethiopian government expected completion of the project soon because it was set to improve its economic growth.

The Ethiopians began construction of the dam in 2011. Since then, the constructors began holding back water to fill up the dam reservoir to the required height. By December 2020, the constructors revealed that the dam so far held 4.9 billion cubic meters of water in the reservoir sitting behind the dam.

Why the Dam Row Began

In December, the current water levels achieved the required height of the first two turbines. Because of these results, the Ethiopian government expected to begin producing electricity for Ethiopians in Ethiopia within the next 12 months. Upon completion, the Gerd would become the biggest hydro-electric plant in Africa. Furthermore, the Gerd would be capable of providing power to 65 million Ethiopians.

But Ethiopia’s decision to hold back water for its project did not sit well with some countries. Egypt and Sudan, both downstream of the Nile, particularly were not happy with Ethiopia’s project. The countries asked Ethiopia to stop the project because they feared that the dam would significantly reduce their access to water.

Egypt entirely relies on the River Niles water for its water supply. Due to the introduction of the dam, Egypt argued that it could lead to a reduction in the water levels and, thus, a reduction in the water supply to Egyptian citizens. Therefore, the Egyptian government asked Ethiopia to end its project as it posed a threat of existential proportions.

On the other hand, Sudan said they recorded a reduction in water levels when the Ethiopians commenced with the holding back of water to fill up its reservoir. This prompted the country to join hands with Egypt in bitter disputes with Ethiopia. Since the dispute began, Ethiopia has disregarded Egypt and Sudan’s complaints and insists that the project will continue to completion. The dam-building has since led to a long bitter dispute between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. Due to the conflict last year, the three nations agreed to hold talks between themselves to end the dispute peacefully.

Impasse Reached Between the three Nations.

This week the months of negotiations between the three countries reached an impasse. Ethiopia and Egypt blame Sudan for the lack of progress in the matter. In a separate statement,s each nation revealed that the Sudanese government objected to the talks’ framework, hence causing the impasse.

Before the negotiations began, Ethiopia insisted on including the African Union experts in the meetings. At first, the experts were included in the talks. But days later, Sudan objected to Ethiopia’s terms of reference and refused to include the experts in the meeting, effectively halting the discussions. Sudan insists that the African Union experts should offer solutions to contentious issues. But Egypt and Ethiopia have since had their reservations about that proposal.

Another Sudanese official statement revealed that Sudan objected to the African Union taking part in the negotiations because of a letter made on Jan 8th. Ethiopia’s letter to the African Union stated that Ethiopia would fill the dam reservoir for the second year in July with 13.5 million cubic meters of water. The letter further revealed that Ethiopia said it would fill the reservoir whether an agreement was reached or not.

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