ADDIS ABABA (HAN) May 1. 2021. Public Diplomacy and Regional Stability Initiatives News. Monitoring Regional Issues. OPINION By Eyob Belachew. Ethiopia is working to correct a century of injustice in the Nile politics, which has overwhelmingly favored Egypt’s development over Ethiopia’s, by constructing Africa’s colossal dam since April 2011. Plans to fill the mega dam for a second round are at the heart of the conflict, as Egypt fears the project would enable Ethiopia to control the flow of Africa’s longest river and the dam would severely restrict its water supply.
Although, Ethiopia is calling for win-win solution, nonetheless, Egypt has been threatening for dire consciences to happen if Ethiopia touches a single drop of water from the 55.5 BCM annual share of the water from the River Nile according to the 1959 Nile agreement signed between Sudan and Egypt.
Egypt’s foreign minister Sami Shoukry in his recent bilateral discussion with Russian counterpart Sergie Lavrov, pointed out that Egypt is working to protect its national security and takes all measures that are in its interests. He noted that if Egypt’s water rights were harmed, it will be considered as a hostile act.
Ethiopia, on its part, has stated emphatically that it adheres to the international water treaty principles of not causing significant harm to the downstream countries, while maintaining its equitable and reasonable utilization stance. It seems though that Egypt constantly and intentionally ignored to recognize Ethiopia’s generosity and understanding to negotiate in good faith.
In terms of Sudan, it has been praising the significance of the dam for its massive advantages to the Sudanese people, while recently expressing “fears” about the dam’s safety. Despite Sudan’s rejection of the filling of the dam because of such ‘concerns’, the dam’s safety is a problem that Ethiopia has taken care of well for its own safety and Ethiopia has sufficiently addressed all of Sudan’s technical concerns on the dam according to Ethiopia’s foreign ministry recent tweets.
Besides, it is no secret that the Sudanese officials have been lauding the importance of the dam in deterring flooding, regulating water flow for irrigation, and removing a large amount of silt and sedimentation. The Sudanese side had also lauded the dam’s potential to provide cheap energy.
Thus, in this regard, Sudan has no legitimate excuse to continue rejecting the dam’s impoundment, unless they want to replicate last year’s worst case, in which Sudan’s cities were heavily flooded by the Nile River. Their stance is absolutely disastrous to the Sudanese people settled around the bank of the River.
Given Ethiopia’s repeated claims that it abides by the international water convention’s principles of not causing significant harm, it appears that Ethiopia was able to prevent the “significant harm” to the river’s downstream water flow in the first round of filling last year. Ethiopia has shown its determination to maintain its “principles” in this regard and nothing will be different in the second-round impoundment according to Prime Minister Abiy.
Prime Minister Abiy recently tweeted “Ethiopia, in developing Abbay River for its needs, has no intention of causing harm to lower riparian countries. Heavy rains last year enabled successful 1st filling of the GERD while the presence of the GERD itself has undoubtedly prevented severe flooding in neighboring Sudan.”
“Ahead of the 2nd round filling, Ethiopia is releasing more water from last year storage through newly completed outlets & sharing information. The next filling takes place only during heavy rainfall months of July/August, ensuring benefits in reducing floods.
Unless Egyptian and Sudanese officials go with towillful blindness with a sole ambition of preserving their hydro-hegemony, it is hard to believe that their fears are legitimate. Considering the fact on the ground which is highly compatible with Ethiopia’s claim, Egypt’s and Sudan’s concerns are simply exaggerated and unnecessary.
If their concerns were genuine, we wouldn’t be surprised by the recent statement by the FM of Egypt, Sami Shoukry. “The second filling of the dam will have no impact on Egypt “We have enough water in the Aswan Dam. Studies show that there is a large amount of water in the summer, so it can fill the depleted water immediately” he said in a report to the country’s parliament.
The rational explanation for why Egyptian officials suddenly changed their position on the ramifications of the dam’s second filling, which they previously said posed an immediate threat to Egypt’s water supply, is that Egyptian officials were simply pretending to be concerned about a water shortage rather than having real concerns. They were clearly lying to mislead the international community. If not, how did all that “I’m thirsty, I’m dying” hymns change all at once?
It seems they were compelled to change their previous narratives, which were absolutely untrue and strongly contradicted their earlier stance on the filling of the dam, because Ethiopia continues to take a principled approach to GERD impoundment. In my opinion, Ethiopia’s unwavering and peace-loving stance on GERD has exposed the weak point of Egypt and Sudan- that the cultural imperative of lying in their nation, not a real fear at all!