July 9, 2021

Ethiopia reaffirms hardline stance over GERD amid pressure from Egypt and Sudan


The previous talks over the GERD and its progress between the three countries.

Avatar: Rehobot Ayalew
By Rehobot Ayalew

Rehobot is a lead fact-checker at HaqCheck. She is a trainer and a professional who works in fact-checking and media literacy.

By Solomon Yimer

Solomon is a content editor at Addis Zeybe. He has worked in print and web journalism for six years.

Ethiopia reaffirms hardline stance over GERD amid pressure from Egypt and Sudan

Several international media outlets reported on July 5 that Ethiopia has begun filling the Grand Ethiopian renaissance dam (GERD). The News quoted an official letter that was sent from the Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy to its Egyptian and Sudanese counterparts on the same day. 

According to foreign media outlets, the Egyptian irrigation minister responded to the letter sent from Ethiopia saying the development on the main tributary of the Nile River constituted “a violation of international laws and norms that regulate projects built on the shared basins of international rivers," adding that Egypt had expressed its "firm rejection of this unilateral measure".

Even though the Ethiopian government didn’t officially announce the starting of the second filling of the dam, some government officials shared their thoughts on social media. Fitsum Arega, Ambassador of Ethiopia to the USA, tweeted: “Due to favorable rainy season in the region the amount of water entering the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam GERD is more than the outflow. Some call it 2nd filling, we call it water pooling!” 

On Monday morning, Shumete Gizaw, Director General at Ethiopia’s Information Network Security Agency wrote a message on Facebook, indicating that the filling of the dam had begun.

On July 6, the Egyptian and Sudanese foreign ministers expressed their continued alarm at the commencement of the second filling of the GERD, the largest hydropower plant in Africa and the tenth-largest globally.

In 2001, when Ethiopia started the construction of the dam, Egypt and Sudan blamed the dam project for reducing their water share in the downstream countries.

Seleshi Bekele Awulachew, Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Energy speaking at the UN Security Council, yesterday July 08, 2021.

Last year in July 2020, after years of tension and disputes with Egypt and Sudan, Ethiopia announced the completion of the first-round filling of its mega-dam project GERD, as it sought to target and harness the power of  4.9 billion cubic meters of water.

The three nations have attempted multiple times to strike a deal to solve disagreements regarding the GERD. After the National Independent Scientific Research Study Group, comprising Egyptian, Ethiopian and Sudanese experts failed to produce an agreement, on November 6, 2019, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan resumed talks on the GERD observed by the U.S. Treasury and the World Bank. However, Ethiopia, claims that the U.S. and World Bank overstepped their remit and said that the proposed drought mitigation proposals favor Egypt. It has refused to sign a draft agreement put forward by Cairo.

Through all the discussions, Ethiopia claims its position on constructing the mega-dam has been clear and based on scientific facts which show that the dam will not harm any downstream countries. Ethiopia argues that downstream countries will benefit from the hydroelectric dam in many cases. For instance, the dam will benefit Sudan and Egypt immensely by delivering steady water flow throughout the year as well as it can benefit the downstream countries mainly Sudan and Egypt by removing silt and sedimentation.

The two basin countries’ ministers considered the announcement as a violation of the provisions of the Declaration of Principles Agreement signed between the three countries in 2015. Ethiopia says that the filling process is being carried out according to the same principle agreement signed by the three countries.

It has been reported that Egypt’s foreign minister will urge the U.N. Security Council to require Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia to negotiate a binding agreement within six months on the contentious issue of water availability from the dam.

Egypt has tried in recent months to exert pressure on Ethiopia to halt the second filling of the dam. This has included a  meeting initiated between Egypt and Sudan in Qatar with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit calling for the intervention of the  United Nations Security Council to push Ethiopia to sign a binding agreement. 

On July 8, the United Nations Security Council discussed the latest developments on GERD. Ethiopia's Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Energy addressed the council about Ethiopia’s longstanding position on the equitable use of the Nile river among all the peripheral countries.

"The Nile belongs to all the half billion people in the 11 riparian countries. The water is enough for all of us. Ethiopia generates 77 billion meter cubes of water per year. It is only fair that we impound a small fraction of the annual inflow for its hydroelectric Dam," said Sileshi.

While the foreign ministers of Egypt and Sudan have appealed to the U.N. Security Council to intervene in and push to sign a binding deal over the filling and operation of the damSileshi has stressed that good faith negotiations under the auspices of the Africa Union are the diplomatic route supported by many African countries. “Unfortunately, we are discussing the Nile issue here in the Security Council whose mandate is to deal with dangers to international peace and security,”  Martin Kimani, Kenya's Ambassador & Permanent Representative to the United Nation said in his speech yesterday.

In his July 8 statement, Sileshi said that Ethiopia has a natural right to use its resources to make a way to develop and protect its people. He said it was an issue that was perfectly reasonable. not strange. “It’s not the first of its kind in Africa or the world. We are dealing here with a hydroelectric dam. We are not building a nuclear plant.”