Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to begin discussions on controversial Ethiopian dam project

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to begin discussions on controversial Ethiopian dam project

The Ethiopian dam has been a source of considerable tension between Addis Ababa and Cairo in recent years.

FILE PHOTO: File photo of Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam seen under construction during a media tour in Benishangul Gumuz Region, Guba Woreda, Ethiopia

Photo: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri

Officials from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan will gather today for further discussions on the highly divisive Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

The Ethiopian dam has been a source of considerable tension between Addis Ababa and Cairo in recent years. Indeed, the dam is being developed on the Nile, prompting concern from downstream Egypt—which relies on the river for 95% of its water—that its water supply will be disrupted. For Ethiopia, the dam will go a long way to providing electricity to its population of over 100 million.

While Cairo has traditionally dominated the Nile, its influence is waning as Ethiopia’s economy has grown, shrinking the power gap with Addis Ababa. As such, despite being originally opposed outright to the dam, Cairo has gradually softened its position, hoping to minimise its impact via diplomacy.

With the key sticking point being how quickly the dam will fill—Ethiopia wants it filled in three years, compared to Egypt’s hope for ten—Cairo must either hope that diplomacy can leverage its position, or risk direct conflict by attempting to coerce Addis Ababa with the threat of force.