President Trump is putting pressure on Ethiopia in the ongoing negotiation with Egypt over the Ethiopian Dam, protesters accuse. A bigger protest could occur in Ethiopia.
February 27, 2020
Hundreds of Ethiopians staged a protest rally on Thursday morning in front of the United States State Department in Washington D.C.
They opposed President Donald Trump’s government pressure on Ethiopia in the negotiation effort on the operation and filling of the Ethiopian Dam.
“Stop pressuring Ethiopia,” Ethiopians chanted in front of the U.S. State Department.
“Mr. Secretary, 100+ million people deserve a fair share of the Nile,” reads another placard that Ethiopians carried during the demonstration.
Tibebu Assefa is one of the coordinators of the protest rally. He told D.W. Amharic that “Abay [Nile] is a matter of existence for all Ethiopians.”
Ethiopians say the Trump administration is putting unfair pressure on Ethiopia to make Egypt get away with Ethiopia’s right to generate electric power from the mega-dam project on the Nile River – the longest in the world over 80 percent of the volume of Water originates from Ethiopia.
Protesters also demanded the Ethiopian government to make public all details regarding problems in the negotiation. The government has been under pressure locally too.
Based on citizen reports and conversation on social media, public opinion seems to be swinging towards the view that the USA and the World Bank are not neutral “mediators” or observers as they call themselves. Going forward, there seems to be an interest in carrying the negotiation through African mediators or other neutral state actors from outside of Africa.
Those advocating for that position argue that the Trump administration is primarily interested in helping Egyptian leader Sisi to get unfair deals at the expense of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan have been negotiating the Dam since November 2019. The United States and the World Bank were present in the negotiation since then as “observers.”
Reports from media outlets who claim to have insider information about the negotiation process indicated that the “observers” are putting unfair pressure on Ethiopia to defend to promote Egypt’s position, which is informed by the Colonial-era agreement to which Ethiopia was not a signatory.
The negotiation is not finalized. The latest round is taking place on February 27 and 28 in Washington D.C., but Ethiopia notified the U.S. government that it would not attend it this time. The Ministry of Water, Irrigation, and Energy said in a statement on Wednesday that consultation with stakeholders is not completed.
Negotiating parties were at the stage of drafting a detailed legal document that would govern the operation and filling of the Dam, but they could not reach an agreement. The Ethiopian government has officially announced that agreement is not achieved but did not specify what exactly was the controversial point – seemingly to observe rules set for the negotiation. However, the Ethiopian government said that it would not compromise the national interest or sovereignty of the country.