Ethiopia rejects Egypt’s proposal on Renaissance Dam as it infringes on sovereignty

Egypt seeks to dictate tripartite talk and intends to infringe on sovereignty on the issue of Renaissance Dam construction. Ethiopia is not letting that happen.

Ethiopia _ Egypt _ Dam project
Ethiopia’s Minister for Water, Irrigation and Energy , Seleshi Bekele. Photo credit : FBC

September 18, 2019

Tripartite talk over the construction of Ethiopia’s mega-dam on Nile River in Cairo on Sunday was unsuccessful. Egypt blamed Ethiopia for it.

The Middle East Monitor cited on Wednesday Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation to report that Ethiopia has “refused” the Egyptian Proposal on the Renaissance Dam during the latest talk in Cairo which was attended by Sudan as well.

However, the report did not spell out details of what the Egyptian proposal was. What is reported is that technical matters were not discussed “because of Ethiopia’s refusal to discuss the proposal that Egypt has already offered to both countries.”

As it turns out and based on Ethiopia’s Minister for Water, Irrigation and Energy – Seleshi Bekele-, it seems the case that Egypt rather intended to dictate the terms of agreement regarding technical matters including filing and operating of the Renaissance Dam.

In a press conference with local journalists which was called to share updates regarding the progress of the dam, and also the outcome of the recent dam talk in Cairo, Seleshi said two of the turbines will start generating power in December 2020.

He also unveiled details of the latest disagreement during the tripartite ministerial-level talks for which Egypt accuses Ethiopia.  Egypt wants Egyptian engineers to be part of the Ethiopian Dam construction Project the Ethiopian water minister says is, rightly, infringement on Ethiopia’s sovereignty – as reported by DW Amharic service.

As well, Egypt wants the Renaissance Dam to release 40 billion cubic meters of water annually ,which does not seem to be practical from an Ethiopia’s point of view, and maintain Aswan Dam height at 165 meters. The amount of water the Renaissance Dam can release annually is between 29 and 35 billion cubic meters of water annually, according to Gedion Asfaw, who is a member of Ethiopian negotiating team, according to a report by Fana Broadcasting Corporate (FBC)  

Much of Egypt’s position seems to be informed by its claims of “historic rights” over the Nile water 85 percent of which originates from Ethiopia. And Egypt’s explanation to its claim is the 1929 and 1959 agreements over the Nile to which Ethiopia is not a party.  Ethiopian authorities, including Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, have reiterated that Ethiopia is committed to equitable use of the Nile water. 

Ethiopian political pundits who discuss the issue seem to question if there is a sincere interest on the part of Egypt to negotiate Nile water use with the principle of Equity in mind. In the past, Egypt has been accused of meddling in Ethiopian affair by way of using radical Oromo ethno-nationalists forces to the extent that Ethiopia had to summon Egyptian Ambassador to Ethiopia sometime before Abiy Ahmed came to power. Egypt denied the allegation.

The three countries are to hold an emergency meeting in Khartoum, Sudan, from September 30 to October 3. In this meeting, Ethiopia, and Sudan will present their proposals too. And then water ministers from the three countries will have a meeting on October 4 and 5. If all goes well, the ministers will sign an agreement based on the outcomes of the Khartoum meeting from September 30 and October 3.

Ethiopia seeks to generate about 6000 MW of power from the Dam when it is completed and a significant portion of it will be exported to neighboring countries including Sudan.

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