Abiy Guarantees Deal Would Be Reached on Ethiopia Dam Despite US Pressure

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), in call with President Donald Trump, expressed optimism that an agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was near and would benefit all parties involved, Reuters reported today citing a White House spokesman.

Ethiopia, nonetheless, was being pushed to accept an agreement that could compromise its interest to generate power from its grand dam and increase access to electricity for its alarmingly growing population, according to sources close to the matter. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Water Resources of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan and their delegations convened in Washington for the past four days, although no final agreement was signed between the three regional powers.

During the talks between the three countries, although World Bank and US were expected to participate as an observer, the two were forcing Ethiopia to accept terms that could possibly delay filling of the dam and allow the direct involvement of Egypt in the operation of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), sources said.  “The US is evidently siding with Egypt. Ethiopia’s negotiation team bravely defended the interests of Ethiopians. Had the team been not strong, the final outcome would have been disappointing,” a source explained.

However, US President Donald Trump on Friday explained that he is confident that a US-brokered deal will be finalized soon on a giant dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile, which Egypt fears it will restrict already scarce supplies to its huge reservoirs.

To resolve the diplomatic standoff that has heightened tension between the three countries, there were a series of meetings in Cairo, Addis Ababa and Washington over the past two months.

The three African countries met in Washington to finalize an accord until last Thursday after talks earlier on January 2020, but negotiations continued until Friday and concluded without a final agreement. “Ethiopia will not accept any solution unless it preserves his country’s right to use water from the Nile,” said Fitsum Arega, Ethiopian Ambassador to the US.

The water ministers of the three countries reached an agreement on a schedule for a stage based filling plan of the GERD; a mitigation mechanism for the filling and operation of the dam during drought and prolonged periods of dry years, according to joint statement with the United States and the World Bank after the talks.

The countries also discussed and agreed to finalize a mechanism for the annual and long-term operation of the GERD in normal hydrological conditions, a coordination mechanism, and provisions for the resolution of disputes and the sharing of information, according to the statement.

Moreover, they also agreed to address dam safety and pending studies on the environmental and social impacts of the GERD, the same source says. The Ministers, according to their joint statement, have instructed their technical and legal teams to prepare the final agreement, for a signing of the three countries by the end of February, 2020.

“Document to be signed by the three countries will be further deliberated by legal team supported by technical team. This will continue next week to complete comprehensive document within 30 days,” said Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, Seleshi Bekele, who affirmed that the dam is progressing well to deliver the needed result and negotiation of trans boundary concerns are last lap to be resolved.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in its official Facebook page, said that outstanding issues over the filling and operation of the dam will be resolved at subsequent negotiations and detailed rules and guidelines will be prepared.  The Ministry also affirmed that the government of Ethiopia is committed to maintain the rights of Ethiopian people to use the waters of the Nile for the benefit of current and future generations.

Two weeks ago, Authorities in Ethiopia announced that the filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam on Nile will be finalized within a period of 4-7 years.  While the filling will take place during the wet season, generally from July to August, it will continue in September subject to certain conditions. But the government of Ethiopia did not disclose whether this is a part of the new agreement that is expected to be drafted soon.

Ethiopia began construction of the huge renaissance dam in 2011, and this has triggered concerns that the massive project would cause water shortages in Egypt, which relies on the Nile for 90Pct of its water supply for the population and for agriculture. On the other hand, Ethiopia, which has planned to complete the dam by 2022, pledged that GERD will not have a significant damage on downstream countries.

The Dam, which has been under construction since 2011, was first planned to have an installed capacity of 6,450MW of power. However, the project office of the Dam recently slashed the installed capacity to 5,150MW, reducing the number of turbines to be installed for power generation.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Abiy has visited the construction site of the Dam. “Key progress has been made in building the early power generation waterways hydro mechanical and electromechanical works, which had been stalled for some time, thereby severely hampering the dam from completing on time,” explained Abiy, in his official Facebook page.

 

 

 

Samson Berhane

Editor-in-Chief samson.b@ethiopianbusinessreview.net


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