The latest round of Egyptian-Ethiopian negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), brokered by former African Union (AU) president Cyril Ramaphosa, ended without agreement, adding another episode to the chain of failed negotiations. Egypt accused Ethiopia of derailing the GERD negotiations and evading its obligations under the binding agreement.
It is worth noting that GERD has the potential to disrupt the lives of more than 150 million Egyptian and Sudanese citizens and create an avalanche of socio-economic turbulence in the region. The previous talks failed because they focused on the initially divergent positions of Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. Thus, Addis Ababa wants to fill the dam with water even if the country does not agree with Cairo and Khartoum, while the latter insists on the need to reach a trilateral agreement first, so that their share of the Blue Nile River is not affected. Sudan reacted rather sharply, with its official spokesman protesting against Ethiopia’s decision to fill the Renaissance in July irrespective of the opinion of neighboring states.
Cairo fears that Ethiopia’s plan to build a huge hydroelectric dam on the Nile will reduce the country’s access to water. At the heart of the dispute is Egypt’s fear that once the dam is built, the country will receive less of the annual 55.5 billion cubic meters of water that are a minimum requirement for Egypt’s population.
However, Ethiopia is confident that the dam will not have an adverse effect on the countries downstream of the Nile.
Recently, tensions between Cairo and Addis Ababa have greatly increased. In particular, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi stated that the Nile “is a matter of life and death” for his country, and that “no one can encroach on Egypt’s water share.” In response, Ethiopia objected that the dam was a matter of life and death for it as well.
Ethiopia explains the construction of the Renaissance on the Nile very simply: a country with a developing economy simply needs a new stable source of electricity (the stated capacity of the Ethiopian hydropower plant will be about six thousand megawatts). A hydroelectric power plant on the Nile, which will be the largest in Africa, will allow this country not only to fully supply itself with electricity, but also to sell it to its neighbors.