Is there any hope of an agreement on the Ethiopian dam?

“A mediation from China could help”

Mustapha Kamel Al Sayed, political scientist at Cairo University

“The Egyptian government is not hostile to the great Ethiopian Renaissance dam even if it wanted a less gigantic infrastructure. This first battle was lost. The Egyptians were naïve. They have placed too much hope in the mediation of the United States; Ethiopia does not have such a decisive relationship with Washington.

They have not learned from the repeated failures of negotiations. Ethiopia refuses any compromise. It even opposed a technical expertise, but there are still doubts about the quality of this dam. And now, in the context of Ethiopia’s civil war, it is important for Addis Ababa to show that it does not sell off the country’s national interests. The dam is a source of pride there. Any concession made to Egypt would be seen as a surrender.

With 600 m3 of water per inhabitant per year, instead of the 1,000 m3 required, Egypt is already suffering from water scarcity. We need an agreement to extend the duration of the dam filling, to put in place rules of operation during times of drought and to create a mechanism to resolve conflicts if they arise.

One could draw inspiration from the example of the management of the Danube basin. The last hope of arriving at such a binding agreement is to appeal to other mediations, in particular China which invests and builds the electricity grid in Ethiopia. Beijing thus has leverage. “

“This roadblock will be a fact”

Marc Lavergne, geopolitologist at CNRS, specialist in the Horn of Africa

“Egypt stands firm on its position which consists in saying “Don’t touch my Nile”. Over the decades, it has never made the slightest gesture towards the countries upstream of the river, in particular Ethiopia, which has been permanently kept away. It was not until the countries revolted in 2010.

Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania then, in an agreement, called for a new sharing of the waters. This was the prelude to the launch of the great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd). Due to the dispute over water sharing, the World Bank refused to provide financial assistance to Ethiopia.

On what basis of reciprocal concessions could an agreement be based today? The Gerd will be a fact. Ethiopia does not intend to conserve the water of the Nile. She wants to generate electricity. The roadblock that was to serve as a national ferment failed to bring the Ethiopians together, and the country sinks into war.

For its part, Egypt has the colossal Aswan dam, the reservoir of which makes it possible to regulate the flow of the Nile if necessary. And it’s time for her to sweep in front of her door to better manage the water she wastes. She only talks about the lack of water. But it also suffers from too much water, because of its flooding techniques, to the point that in places buildings collapse. Not a drop of water from the Nile arrives in the Mediterranean. The delta subsides and is taken over by seawater. ”


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