Last Updated on June 29, 2020

Grand Renaissance Dam: Ethiopia Agree to Postpone Filling


Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia have agreed that Ethiopia will delay filling its Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile. This will allow them to hold talks in a bid to end the dispute concerning the dam. The move comes after weeks of escalating tensions amid fears of open conflict.

Ethiopia will delay filling the dam’s reservoir on the Blue Nile until the three nations have reached an accord on the use of the river’s water-sharing.

The announcement comes after weeks of escalating tensions between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia had previously pushed to start filling its multi-billion-dollar Grand Renaissance Dam in July. Both Egypt and Sudan had appealed to the UN Security Council last week to intervene in the decades-old dispute.

Progress in Sight for the Dam

The office of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi said: “A legally binding final agreement for all parties stressing the prevention of any unilateral moves, including the filling of the dam, will be sent in a letter to the UN Security Council to consider it in its session discussing the Renaissance Dam issue today”.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok also issued a statement saying, “it has been agreed upon that the dam filling will be delayed until an agreement is reached.” His office also said technical committees for all three countries will start negotiations with the aim of reaching a deal within two weeks.

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“Sudan is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Grand Renaissance Dam and also one of the biggest losers if risks are not mitigated. It thus urges Egypt and Ethiopia to the impending necessity of finding a solution,” Hamdok further said.

The Grand Renaissance Dam at 75% completion

The statements from the two leaders announcing the breakthrough came after an emergency virtual summit of the AU, chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

While there was no immediate response from Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Twitter described the discussion about the dam as “fruitful.”

Why Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan are at Loggerheads

Ethiopia has been vocal about its intentions of filling the dam. Ethiopia says the dam is critical to its electrification and development needs. It also says the $4 billion (€4.57 billion) hydropower project will have an installed capacity of 6,450 megawatts. Furthermore, the dam will help bring millions out of poverty.

Egypt, on the other hand, relies on the Nile for 97 percent of its freshwater needs. It says the dam cut could its water supply and have a devastating impact on its population. Sudan, too, depends on the Nile for water and has played a key role in bringing the two sides together.

Both Egypt and Ethiopia have hinted at taking military action to protect their interests, raising fears of open conflict.

A Decade of Dispute

The construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam began on the Blue Nile tributary in 2011. Egypt’s biggest fear is that the dam will allow Ethiopia to control the flow of Africa’s largest river: Nile.

Currently at 75% complete, the Grand Renaissance Dam will be Africa’s biggest hydroelectric power plant.

The current dam talks being mediated by the US and the World Bank is the 12th round since the construction started. The US has constantly put pressure on Ethiopia to sign a deal with Sudan and Egypt.

All previous talks about the dam have all ended with one or more parties being dissatisfied.

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