In a surprising turn of events, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed proudly announced the successful completion of the fourth and final filling of the colossal Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile. This milestone comes amidst the collapse of negotiations involving the three key parties: Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan.
Prime Minister Ahmed conveyed his message via the “X” platform, acknowledging the challenges faced during this journey. He stated, “We faced many challenges, and we were repeatedly forced to retreat. We faced an internal challenge and external pressures.” However, he remained steadfast in his commitment, emphasizing that Ethiopia will honor its pledges.
The timing of this announcement coincides with appeals from Sudan and Egypt, urging a halt to the dam’s filling until a tripartite agreement on operational mechanisms can be reached. Nevertheless, Ethiopia has taken a different stance on this matter.
Experts and observers of the Renaissance Dam issue have noted that Ethiopia has adopted a policy of fait accompli by proceeding with the dam’s filling. This has placed downstream countries in an inevitable position, capitalizing on Sudan’s ongoing conflict and Egypt’s economic challenges to push forward with the filling.
Professor Mustafa Al-Bashari, an expert in water and conflict resolution, remarked, “There is supposed to be another strategy on the other hand from the countries of the corridor and downstream with regard to the Renaissance Dam, but unfortunately the two countries are each mired in their own problems.” He highlighted the pressing priorities of ending the war in Sudan, which have taken precedence over the dam issue.
Al-Bashari did not rule out the possibility of a water war among the Nile Basin countries, especially with the increasing populations in the region, encompassing a total of approximately 250 million people among the three nations.
Diverse Opinions in Sudan Regarding the Dam
Within Sudan, public opinion has diverged regarding the dam’s filling. Many respondents in a recent poll condemned Ethiopia for reducing Sudan’s share of the Nile water, impacting agricultural productivity. Others, however, believe that the dam will lead to increased water levels in the Nile, enabling two planting seasons instead of just one.
Hamid Al-Fateh, a resident of northern Sudan, reflected on his observations, saying, “A month ago, I was an eyewitness to the Nile flooding there, and the flood begins in the month of 7. The height of the Nile that I witnessed there is not the height of the Nile that I witnessed in the past years, meaning it is low.”
On the other side of the debate, Mohammed Ahmed shared that the dam has improved his agricultural practices, allowing for two planting seasons annually, compared to one before the dam’s construction.
Egypt and Sudan Express Concerns
Egypt swiftly denounced Ethiopia’s unilateral announcement of the dam’s completion, categorizing it as a “legal violation.” The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement asserting that Ethiopia’s actions disregard the interests and rights of downstream countries, and contravene international law.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is of paramount importance to Addis Ababa, with a total cost exceeding $3.7 billion. Its construction has been at the center of a regional dispute since Ethiopia initiated work on it in 2011. The dam, stretching 1.8 kilometers in length and rising 145 meters high, is intended to double Ethiopia’s electricity production, raising concerns in Egypt and Sudan about potential reductions in their water supplies.
Negotiations had recently resumed in Cairo on August 27, following a commitment from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to reach an agreement on the dam’s filling and operation within four months. However, these negotiations eventually collapsed, leading to Ethiopia’s announcement of the fourth filling of the Renaissance Dam’s completion.