Ethiopia’s enigma on GERD filling after Egypt, Sudan agree AU-led talks

Mohammed El-Said
3 Min Read

Ethiopia is scheduled to begin filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in the next two weeks, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced in a statement on Saturday. 

The statement added that, during this time, the remaining construction work on the project will continue.

The statement did not clarify whether the filing is conditional upon the three sides involved in GERD negotiations, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, reaching an agreement or not. Egypt has firmly rejected any unilateral action by Ethiopia in this matter. 

Ahmed’s statement seems contradictory to the consensus made by the three countries on Friday when Ethiopia declared it will delay filling the dam’s reservoir until an agreement was reached on the project’s pending points, according to a statement from Sudan’s Prime Minister on Friday evening.

On Friday, the AU, currently chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, brought together Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia’s heads of state and government, in a mini-summit to address the dispute.

Ramaphosa said on Twitter, “The Bureau of the African Union Assembly convened an extraordinary meeting last night to facilitate negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan on the finalisation of the GERD.”

During the meeting, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdouk and the Ethiopian Prime Minister agreed to resume talks under AU mediation.The talks would look to reach consensus on the outstanding points before Addis Ababa takes any further action in the process of filling the dam’s reservoir.

Members of the AU’s Assembly Bureau, Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat, and the Presidents of Kenya, Mali and DR Congo, have presented at the meeting as well. 

In the statement on Saturday, Ahmed mentioned that the River Nile and the GERD project are African issues that should be discussed “under the African umbrella to find African solutions”. 

A technical and legal committee from Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and members of the AU’s Assembly Bureau, will meet to formulate a legal agreement on the GERD’s filling and operation. A team of international observers will also be present during further talks.

“AU and Bureau members will support the process of reaching an agreement. Convening this has demonstrated that it is seeking an ‘African Solution to African Problems’ as a correct pathway for Africa’s problem solving. Africa can truly tackle its problems effectively,” Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Sileshi Bekele, wrote on Twitter following the meeting. 

The GERD is a large-scale hydroelectric dam project under construction in Ethiopia’s Benishangul-Gumuz region on the Blue Nile River. Construction of the Dam started in April 2011. Egypt has expressed concerns that the construction of the dam could negatively affect its 55bn cbm share of the River Nile’s water.

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Mohammed El-Said is the Science Editor for the Daily News Egypt with over 8 years of experience as a journalist. His work appeared in the Science Magazine, Nature Middle East, Scientific American Arabic Edition, SciDev and other regional and international media outlets. El-Said graduated with a bachelor's degree and MSc in Human Geography, and he is a PhD candidate in Human Geography at Cairo University. He also had a diploma in media translation from the American University in Cairo.