Nile dam talks resume as Ethiopians celebrate progress

Tuesday August 04 2020

Ethiopian citizens celebrate the successful filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) as the dam's first two turbines' electricity production is tested, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on August 2, 2020. PHOTO | AMANUEL SILESHI | AFP


Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have resumed second round of talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile River mediated by the African Union.

Ethiopia said Monday that the negotiations, seeking to secure an agreement on the filling of the mega dam and its operations, will continue in the direction set by leaders of the three countries based on the outcomes of the first round of talks.

However, the tripartite talks were suspended after 11 days on July 13 having failed to yield an agreement. At the time, Ethiopian Foreign Affairs spokesperson Dina Mufti told The EastAfrican that negotiators and observers would submit their reports to the AU Secretariat and heads of State of the three countries for further guidance.


The resumption of talks on Monday came a day after millions of Ethiopians at home and across the globe celebrated the completion of the first phase of filling of the GERD, thanks to heavy rains.

In the capital Addis Abba, tens of thousands of people went to the streets on Sunday to express their support and joy, while those in the diaspora were urged to show their support in whichever way for three minutes, starting at 4pm local time.


Hailu Abriha, the head of communications at the Office of the National Council for Coordination of Public Participation on the Construction of the GERD, said Sunday's campaign was themed ‘Our voice for our dam’.

“The global campaign intends to convey a strong message to the international community that the dam is being built based on the principle of fair utilisation of resources of Nile River,” said Mr Hailu.

The campaign also intends to mobilise the public to raise more funds for completing the dam. Ethiopians have been raising $4.8 billion to build the hydroelectric dam.

Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen called upon citizens to continue making contributions to complete the reservoir.

He said the celebration date marked the beginning of the final chapter of the dam’s construction.

On Monday, the country tested electricity generation at the dam using the first two installed turbines.


The global campaign further wants the Ethiopian diaspora to engage in public diplomacy efforts, to counter Egypt's, which is seeking to pressure the international community against Ethiopia’s use of the Nile water resources.

Egypt fears the project could eventually diminish its historic water share from the Nile River and has been warning against Addis Ababa's move to unilaterally fill the dam.

Last week, Cairo expressed concerns saying the filling of the dam before reaching a deal “cast a shadow on the meeting and raised many questions about the feasibility of the current course of negotiations and reaching a fair agreement,” Egypt’s Irrigation Ministry said in a statement.

Sudan said Ethiopia’s action was “a harmful and disturbing precedent in the course of cooperation between the countries concerned,” according to a statement from its Irrigation Ministry.

However, some Ethiopian officials say the two downstream countries have nothing to worry about.

"The first phase filling has assured downstream countries that it won't affect their water shares. We want all Nile basin countries and the international community to recognise that," Mr Hailu told The EastAfrican.

"The GERD issue is technical, not political. However, Egypt had been politicising it by taking the matter to the UN Security Council and to the Arab League,” he added.

Disputes over the Nile have strained relations between Ethiopia and Egypt after Addis Ababa rejected calls from Cairo and Khartoum to delay filling the dam pending the final agreement on operations.

Slated for completion in 2023, the $4.8 billion hydro dam project is poised to be Africa's largest.