Nile: River of discord between Egypt and Ethiopia

Addis Getachew   |19.05.2020

Tensions escalate in North Africa, with Egypt seeking the intervention of UNSC against Ethiopia on river water sharing issue


Tensions have escalated in the Eastern Nile region, with Egypt taking a complaint to the UN Security Council (UNSC) against Ethiopia’s plan to fill a $5billion hydro dam.

The move has riled a cross-section of people in the region, who believed that Egypt should have exhausted to find regional solutions first by approaching the African Union (AU) – a 55-member pan-African body — before knocking at the doors of the UN.

On May 1, Egypt formally complained to the UNSC, accusing Ethiopia of diverting waters of Nile River to fill its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 15 km east of the border with Sudan.

The dam is believed to be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa and the seventh-largest in the world.

Although Ethiopia has said that it has prepared its response to the complaint, it, however, assailed Egypt for taking the issue to the UNSC and ignoring the AU.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had sought the intervention of the current chairperson of the AU, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa to mediate between the countries to settle the water issue.

Talks between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt broke down in February when the US, which was mediating produced a document that was interpreted heavily tilted in favor of Cairo.

Ethiopia contributes 85%of the waters of the Nile River, which traverses along 11 countries before it joins the Mediterranean Sea.

In its complaint to the UNSC, Egypt has accused Ethiopia of adopting a policy of obstructionism and prevarication that has undermined the negotiating process.

“Ethiopia’s overall objective was, and remains, the exercise of unfettered control over the Blue Nile, including by filling and operating the GERD without considering the interests of downstream countries, “said the complaint.

It has also blamed Ethiopia for harming the rights of downstream riparian states by trying to secure an unrestrained right to undertake future projects.

Egypt launches diplomatic pressure

“Egyptians as of late have launched a multi-pronged diplomatic pressure on Ethiopia cognizant of an international water law that guarantees the rights of riparian countries to utilize rivers within their respective national boundaries,” Silabat Manaye., an author and a senior reporter with the Addis Ababa based Fana Broadcasting Corporate told Anadolu Agency.

Silabat, who has authored a book on Nile politics said that for years foreign powers have plotted against Ethiopia to prevent it from using waters of Abbay, the local name for the Blue Nile River.

“Ethiopia has 65 million people [out of a total 110 million population] without electricity. I completed my schooling studying without electricity. I resent that, “he said.

Zerihun Abebe, a diplomat who is a member of the Ethiopian negotiating team said he was surprised at the attitude of Egypt for taking the complaint to the UNSC and accusing Ethiopia of “unilateralism”.

He said that Ethiopia had a sovereign right to fill the dam constructed within its borders and through local funding.

“Ethiopia invited both Egypt and Sudan and shared details about the GERD in 2012 and kick-starting a process of trilateral talks. And that was based on Ethiopia’s firm stand on the principle of cooperation, regional partnership and to find a win-win solution, “said the diplomat.

According to Ethiopia’s Water and Energy Minister Seleshi Bekele, his country over many years has shared more than 150 technical documents with Egypt and Sudan. Rejecting the allegation of resorting to unilateralism, he said Ethiopia has been committed to multilateralism both regionally and internationally.

Established in 1999, the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) an intergovernmental partnership had been providing a forum for consultation and coordination among 10 countries to settle water sharing issues. The countries included Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. Eritrea is an observer.

But Egypt left the NBI when it was decided to set up a Nile Commission. A Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) has been already ratified by four countries including Uganda. By the time six countries ratify, it would become an international treaty to govern all activities in the Nile basin. Leaders of the riparian countries will be members of the much-awaited Nile Commission.

Dam to be filled in four to seven years

According to Ethiopia’s Water and Energy Ministry, it is planning to fill the dam in four to seven years to avoid any water shortage to downstream countries.

The first stage of filling the dam with 4.9 billion cubic meters is expected to begin in July to test two turbines. The GERD gas total capacity of accommodating 74 billion cubic meters of water. The second filling stage will add 13 billion cubic meters of water.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) had recommended a series of steps to prevent escalation of tensions in the region.

The ICG Adviser for Ethiopia William Davison described Egypt’s attempts to knock the doors of the UNSC to bring pressure on Ethiopia into signing the US-sponsored draft deal.

“This is unlikely to be successful as there’s no sign that Ethiopia is willing to reverse its position. Instead of diplomatic escalation, Egypt should return to the trilateral process and encourage Ethiopia to propose fresh drought-mitigation measures, which have been a key sticking point,” he said.

He further recommended that Ethiopia should meet Egypt halfway to consider its request for a third-party arbitration, perhaps to use an African dispute-resolution mechanism instead of the international process. Prime Minister Ahmed should also recommit to negotiate a comprehensive GERD accord with Egypt and Sudan, he said.

The ICG further stated that if the parties are unable to strike a comprehensive agreement, they should focus on closing an initial deal for the first two years of filling. “That would institutionalize cooperation and provide a suitable foundation and more time to finalize an all-encompassing agreement on GERD’s filling and operation, “said the ICG advisor.

Both Egypt and Sudan, however, reject the prospect of an initial agreement on the first filling as suggested by the ICG – an idea of the possibility of which Ethiopia’s PM consulted with the leaders of the two countries. Ethiopia says it is, however, not obligated to inform Egypt of its filling schedules.


  1. So far the voice of the people of Ethiopia has never been given a chance to be heard in these negotiations . Only the voice of the Ethiopian elites/Ethiopian tyrants were given chances to be heard in these negotiations.

    The Abiy Ahmed tree planting experience should come useful now to plant some plants inside GERD for these plants to be used as foods for fish farm which GERD should be turned into , now is a good time to start planting these plants before Ethiopia starts filling GERD with water because the best option for Ethiopia is to make GERD a fish farm/fish tank rather than to generate electricity from GERD because Ethiopia needs to release the water about to be filled with to get electricity from GERD then when GERD’s water gets empty electricity will be interrupted until GERD fills up with water again which takes considerable amount of times to fill with water again, it will be black out which will cost unimaginable loss while denying electricity to those who start to depend on it. Until the GERD is filled with water for the second round Ethiopia will have to pay foreign currency to neighboring countries including Egypt to buy electricity because those depending on GERD for electricity cannot stop or pause (their factories) until it is filled during the second water filling period, since they will have to pay the international loan lenders their monthly payments on time or the factories will be repossessed by the foreign lenders WHICH RESEMBLES COLONY ( foreign lenders forgot to mention the black out that takes place during these second , third , fourth ……rounds of filling periods on purpose).

    So rather than depending on this GERD dam for electricity WHILE JEOPARDIZING ETHIOPIA’S FUTURE OF KEEPING THE UNCOLONIZED HISTORY RECORD it is better to EXERCISE PATIENCE and make GERD a fish farm!!!!!
    It is also better to build other smaller multiple dams on other rivers in Ethiopia for electricity . All rivers waters of Ethiopia should not be used for electricity purposes only , so make GERD a fish tank and make other rivers dams those that can be filled at interval times the sources of hydroelectric power plants electricity , that way Ethiopia will not need to buy electricity from Egypt during future repeated rounds of GERD water filling / electricity Interrupting blackout periods but Ethiopia can depend on Ethiopia’s own dams within Ethiopia for her own electricity consumptions.

    አባይ ወንዝ ላይ አራት ግድብ መስራት እንችል ነበር ክፍል 2 – Netsa Weyeyet
    YouTube · Nahoo TV
    1 month ago

  2. METEC got awarded GERD’s Construction contract without a bid same as GEDA Construction Plc. & Co. currently got awarded GERD’s Contract without a bid.

    METEC looted GERD same as GEDA Construction & Co. is looting GERD while endangering safety standards.

    METEC ordered assassinations of Engineers same as GEDA Construction & Co. orders assassinations including that of Simegnew Bekele’s.

    METEC currently is being led by Azeb Mesfin the widow of Meles Zenawi same as METEC was being led by TPLF for decades.
    Not even a year ago by the order of Azeb Mesfin, METEC has given out numerous ( thousands or more) free farm tractors and METEC still remained in business after incurring huge capital loss for giving out all those brand spanking new farm tractors for free because METEC got the Ethiopian federal military budget backup , the same budget that pays for those missiles currently put around GERD and the same budget that pays for the assassinations of whistle blower engineers at GERD.

    Soon UN security Council will bring every little deeds including the GEDA Construction & Co.’s crimes out to light so.
    Ethiopia will not suffer for long under
    EPRDF TPLF PP METEC Geda Construction Plc. & Co……..

    PP fails to negotiate properly and PP fails to protect Ethiopia’s national interest because PP is too busy looting selling out Ethiopia to foreign colonizers financial lenders Industrialists , if this looters stay in power soon you will hear GERD put on the market for sales as Ethio Telecom , EAL , Ethiopian Shipping Lines are being put out for sales.
    The proxy war in Somalia got PP EPRDF
    military addicted to dollars.They will sell their own mothers for dollars.They will chase away qualified Ethiopian diplomats for dollars . They will rent out their wives for adultery for dollars. They will soon sell the GEDA Construction & Co. mercenaries out for for dollars from the UN Security Council .

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