Over the past years, Ethiopia has implemented three phases of dam filling and started the operation of its mega dam unilaterally despite objections by Egypt and Sudan over fears for their peoples interests. AFP
The massive $4.2 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been at the centre of a regional dispute ever since Ethiopia broke ground on the project in 2011.
Khartoum and Cairo have previously cited the dam as a threat because of their dependence on Nile waters and have repeatedly asked Addis Ababa to stop filling the reservoir.
"The GERD is now approaching its fourth filling. The last three fillings have not affected lower riparian states. Likewise, the rest of the fillings will not be any different," said Demeke Mekonnen, who also serves as foreign minister.
"The project is near completion, withstanding the rhetoric of some actors that seek to monopolise the use of the shared African river," he said, opening a conference on the Nile in Addis Ababa.
The meeting includes a "high-level ministerial round table", with Demeke and his foreign minister counterparts from some Nile Basin nations such as Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Tanzania participating.
But neither Sudan nor Egypt, the two countries located downstream of the Ethiopian dam, are represented.
Egypt, which depends on the Nile for around 97 percent of its irrigation needs, insists that the dam poses an "existential" threat to downstream countries. While Ethiopia deems the ambitious national project essential for its electrification and development.
Egypt say that Ethiopia is attempting to "buy time" to continue filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam unilaterally without reaching a deal, while also emphasising that Addis Ababa’s continued claim of Egyptian "politicisation" of the GERD issue is an attempt to "evade legal responsibility."
Ethiopian media quoted the Spokesperson of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Meles Alem, on 12 April, as saying that Addis Ababa “has no obligation to request permission from anyone to fill the Renaissance Dam."
Over the past years, Ethiopia has implemented three phases of dam filling and started the operation of its mega-dam unilaterally despite objections by Egypt and Sudan over fears for their peoples’ interests.
Egypt has warned frequently that it would not compromise its water share.
“A compromise to Egypt’s water share is a red line, and our response [if our water share is affected] will affect the stability of the whole region,” Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi told reporters in 2021.
Egypt and Sudan have been negotiating for over a decade with Ethiopia to reach a legally binding and comprehensive deal on the GERD’s construction,
Despite Egyptian and Sudanese concerns regarding the dam, Ethiopia has continued the unilateral filling of the dam’s 74-billion-cubic-metre reservoir over the past three years beginning the fourth filling process today.
*This story was edited by Ahram Online