The ambitious project by Ethiopia to build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has roused a diplomatic row with Egypt and Sudan over the flow of the Nile River, and the tensions are not abating.
Abiy Ahmed, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, recently asked South African president Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in the dispute so that peace is maintained among the countries.
Ethiopia's gigantic project is brewing tensions with Egypt that could threaten regional stability if not properly addressed. Ethiopia is building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the river's Blue Nile tributary. The Nile is vitally essential for the survival of Egypt and this project is deemed an extremely serious threat to Egypt's security. But with this risk in the way, Ethiopia has said that the project is equally vital to its development and that is will proceed with building the dam.
Any misunderstanding between these two populous countries in Africa could be catastrophic to the regional security in the region. Negotiations between the two countries have failed to reach a conclusive settlement, and Egypt accuses Ethiopian officials of dismissing their water security concerns.
Abiy Ahmed thus made a plea to South Africa's president so that he can help the countries reach a compromise and avoid any simmering tensions from exploding into devastating conflict. He made his plea during the recently held 108th birthday celebrations of South Africa's majority party, the African National Congress (ANC).
The PM said, "I made this request to President Ramaphosa as he is a good friend of both Ethiopia and Egypt, and as an incoming chair of the African Union [for 2020] he can make this discussion with both parties to resolve the issue peacefully." For economic development to be realized fully, Abiy stressed the need for peace.
Ramaphosa expressed his willingness to help, "I had a discussion with [Egyptian] President [Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi and he said they are willing to have discussions with Ethiopia, and the same has been pronounced by Prime Minister Abiy, and I believe a solution is possible."
The $4 billion dam project has caused a diplomatic row that has drawn in the United States and Russia. One may ask what their real motives are in taking a special role about easing the tensions. The genuineness of US assistance is yet to be seen.
Sudan is also concerned about its water security. The US is mediating among these three countries, and January 15 is the deadline struck by Washington to reach a compromise. If there is none, the "countries’ water ministers will refer the issue to their heads of state to seek further outside mediation." The hope is to keep the diplomatic crisis contained until a settlement beneficial to all parties is reached.
If the dam is completed, its reservoir will have a capacity of up to 67 billion cubic meters of water. As Ethiopia has been commended for taking the initiative to end the border conflict with Eritrea, it is now stuck in these diplomatic row with Egypt and Sudan. The historical partition of the Nile, mainly presided over by Britain, is now causing these problems.
Header image credit - CGTN