Ethiopia holding national consultation as dam talk stalls

Ethiopia is having national consultation days after discussion to draft final agreement on the filling and operation of the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam failed in Washington DC. Egypt claimed last week that agreement is about to reached on the issue.

Ethiopia _ Dam _ consultation
National consultation on dam talk in the office of the prime minister. Photo credit : Office of Prime Minister

February 17, 2020

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called a meeting in his office on Monday to discuss the Ethiopian dam negotiation, which US government representatives say will be finalized at the end of February  2020.

A day after his return from three days working visit to the United Arab Emirates, the Prime Minister presided over the meeting which chief negotiators, stakeholders, technical experts, and prominent Ethiopians including former Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegne attended.

“The meeting discusses the direction of upcoming negotiations on the dam,” the office of the Prime Minister disclosed on Monday.

Seleshi Bekele, Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Energy, briefed participants regarding where the negotiation is at this point and what the issues are.  

On February 13, 2020, Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States, Fitsum Arega, announced that discussion about preparing a document for the agreement on the filing and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) ended without consensus.  

Seleshi Bekele seems to have confirmed the information from the Ambassador. On February 14, he tweeted, “The 12-13 February, 2 days Ministerial negotiation in Washington on #GERD rules for filling and operation is ended. Ministers reviewed progresses on technical issues & legal articles. Progresses are made but the agreement still needs more work to be finalized by end of this month”

Seleshi Bekele _ Ethiopia _ Dam _ Egypt
Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Energy, Seleshi Bekele, briefing government authorities and stakeholders on the Nile Dam negotiation. Photo credit : Office of PM

National consultation with government authorities and relevant bodies, he said, is the next step as far as Ethiopia is concerned. And the meeting in the office of the Prime Minister on Monday is framed as one.  It is unclear if the matter is going to the House of People’s Representative for a discussion.

Sources who claim to have insider information reported last week that Ethiopia is standing on her own in the negotiation at this point as all the parties to the negotiation, including the United States and the World Bank who are attending as “observers, are mounting pressure on Ethiopia.

Public opinion, as expressed in a number of social media and other platforms, swings appears to be firm that Ethiopia should in no way compromise its right to use water from the Nile to develop despite mounting pressure from Donald Trump’s Administration and the World Bank.

On the other hand, a News source from the Middle East reported this past Saturday saying “Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan reach a final deal on filling Renaissance Dam.”

According to the source, the United States and International Monetary Institute would take part in drafting a document for a final agreement, which is expected to be signed at the end of February.

The long term operation of the dam, including during times of drought and extended dry period, are some of the issues that turned out to be controversial between Ethiopia and Egypt.

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