Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, Gedu Andargachew

Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister says that Egypt is unable to realize that Nile basin countries have a need to use their water resource so as to meet the development needs of their countries

In an interview this week with state media, Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC), Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew, said that Egypt failed to see new realities in Ethiopia. He said Egypt is fixated to the Colonial era arrangement When it comes to the Nile water.

Egypt calls the arrangement, which gives about 55.5 billion cubic meters of the Nile water a “historical right.”  The agreement was between what was the United Arab Republic (before Syria seceded in 19) on the one and Sudan. No other Nile Basin Country was a party to the agreement.

For Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, Gedu Andargachew, Ethiopia has reached a point where it is using its water resources to generate power as a matter of life and death. What has changed? Unlike the times of the colonial era, Ethiopia now has over 100 million population, the majority of which is living in poverty.

One of the ways that Ethiopia intends to provide a livelihood to its growing population is by expanding industrialization for which power supply is a requirement. Over the past ten years or so, Ethiopia has been building billions of dollars worth of industrial parks in different parts of the country, hoping to attract Foreign Direct Investment relevant for job creation and enhancing export trade earnings.

Moreover, Gedu mentioned that more than 65 percent of Ethiopians do not have access to electricity – and that is one of the issues that the Ethiopian government seeks to change by generating more power.

The reality in other Nile Basin countries is also changing as more and more countries now seek to use their water resources to meet the development needs of their people.

Ethiopia aims to generate power from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam without causing significant harm to the flow of water to the lower riparian countries. Sudan seems to be clear about it as it believes that its national interest will not be harmed by the Ethiopian Dam.

Egypt, on the other hand, has been playing a combination of trickery, misrepresentation of Ethiopia’s position, and outright ranting for “military action.”

The series of negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan in Washington, D.C. faltered as they were unable to reach agreement on the operation and filling of the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam.  The World Bank and the United States “facilitated” the talk as “observers.”

Ethiopia did not make it to the last round of US-brokered talk in late February in Washington DC.  At the end of the meeting, the United States issued a statement warning Ethiopia not to start filling the Dam without signing an agreement with Egypt. A day after the United States’ infuriating statement, Ethiopia expressed disappointment with a warning like a statement from the United States. Furthermore, Ethiopia said that it would not allow infringement on its sovereign rights.

Meanwhile, Egypt mobilized the Arab world to form a bloc against Ethiopia on the issue of the Dam.  In early March, Egypt managed to table a position paper in the Arab League, condemning what it called “infringement on Egypt’s historical right on the Nile.”  All member states except Sudan, which is one of the negotiating parties on the Ethiopian Dam, supported Egyptian position. On March 6, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia issued a statement rejecting “blind support” of members of the Arab League Countries to Egyptian misrepresentation.

Soon after the March Arab League meeting in Cario, Egypt launched a diplomatic campaign to Europe. In response to that, Ethiopia’s had a diplomatic campaign in Africa focusing on Nile Basin member countries. President Sahle-Work Zewde traveled to Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda to explain Ethiopia’s position.

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is said to be 72.4 percent completed, and Ethiopian authorities anticipate that filling the reservoir could start as early as during the rainy seasons of July and August. However, the Ethiopian government seems to be preoccupied with the fight against the Coronavirus disease and minimizing its economic impact.