Ethiopia completes final filling of dam after failed Cairo talks

The $5 billion hydroelectric project has been opposed by Egypt and Sudan

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in Guba, Ethiopia. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Ethiopia completed the fourth and final filling of a controversial dam built on the Blue Nile, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Sunday.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a $5 billion hydroelectric project that has been opposed by Egypt and Sudan.

Mr Ahmed announced the completion of the filling in a post on social media platform X, in which he celebrated the completion of the project “despite external pressure”.

He met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi this summer and agreed on resuming negotiations to reach a binding agreement on filling and operating the dam.

On Sunday night, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the fourth filling, which it called a b of the preliminary agreement signed in 2015 by the three Nile basin countries in Khartoum, which outlined a set of principles according to which the dam would be operated.

"Ethiopia's taking of such unilateral measures constitutes a disregard for rights of downstream countries and their water security, which are guaranteed by international law," the ministry said.

Negotiations in August between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the dam ended without a breakthrough, with Egypt saying Ethiopia's position did not "tangibly change" after two days of talks in Cairo.

Since the start of its construction in 2011, the dam has been a point of contention between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan.

While Ethiopia sees the dam as a vital power source for its economic development, Egypt and Sudan view it as an existential threat to vital water resources.

Ethiopia says more talks are planned in its capital Addis Ababa this month.

Egypt’s Water Resources Minister Hany Seweilam in August emphasised the importance of reaching a binding agreement “taking into account the interests and concerns of the three countries” on the rules concerning the filling and operation of the dam.

The agreement should stress “the importance of stopping any unilateral steps in this regard, and that continuing to fill and operate the dam in the absence of an agreement is a violation of the Declaration of Principles”, he said.

However, the agreement was described as vague, only outlining a list of 10 principles – some of which were common understanding, good faith, development and not causing significant damage.

Updated: September 10, 2023, 6:47 PM