Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Sunday asked South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene to settle a long-standing dispute with Egypt over an important hydro dam that Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile.
1.8 km long and 145 m high, the Great Renaissance Dam (GERD) must become the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa but its construction, started in 2011, worries Egypt, located downstream, which depends of the river for more than 90% of its water supply.
Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan – countries where the Blue Nile converges with the White Nile before continuing its journey to Egypt, began discussions in November but, on Thursday, these discussions were still unsuccessful.
Also, Abiy Ahmed, visiting South Africa this weekend, asked Ramaphosa to intervene in negotiations as the next president, in January, of the African Union (AU).
« Since he (Ramaphosa) is a good friend of Ethiopia and Egypt and also the next AU president, he can organize discussions between the two parties to resolve the issue peacefully, » said Abiy. during a press conference in Pretoria.
Cyril Ramaphosa said he was willing to play a facilitative role, especially since « both sides want to talk about it and find solutions. » He said he had already discussed it with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah al-sisi, who wants to « have discussions with Ethiopia ».
Nine years of discussions have so far resulted in no agreement. After a meeting in Washington in November, the three countries had given themselves until January 15 to find an agreement but the last tripartite discussions, completed Thursday in Addis Ababa, have once again stalled on one of the thorniest questions: the speed of filling the tank.
Egypt fears that overfilling the 74 billion m³ reservoir will reduce the flow of the Nile too much, and affect millions of Egyptians.
The Nile provides 97% of Egypt’s water needs and its banks are home to 95% of the country’s roughly 100 million people, according to the United Nations.
In October, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, just after obtaining the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, had assured that “no force” could prevent the construction of the dam, and warned that “millions” of people could be mobilized for the defend if necessary.