On Thursday, Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister announced that the country is preparing for the fourth filling of its mega-dam reservoir on the Blue Nile, despite opposition from Egypt, its downstream neighbor.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a colossal project worth $4.2 billion, has been at the center of a regional dispute since its inception in 2011.
Egypt and, at times, Sudan have consistently urged Addis Ababa to halt the reservoir filling.
Demeke Mekonnen, Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, stated, “The GERD is now approaching its fourth filling. The previous three fillings have not affected lower riparian states, and the upcoming ones will be no different.”
Mekonnen emphasized that the project is nearing completion and criticized those who seek to monopolize the utilization of the shared African river.
A conference on the Nile is taking place in Addis Ababa, including a “high-level ministerial round table” with foreign ministers from Nile Basin nations such as Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Tanzania. However, Sudan and Egypt, the downstream countries affected by the Ethiopian dam, are absent from the gathering.
Sudan and Egypt have previously regarded the dam as a threat due to their reliance on Nile waters. In contrast, Ethiopia considers it crucial for its electrification and development.
While Egypt, which depends on the Nile for approximately 97 percent of its irrigation needs, maintains that the dam poses an “existential” threat, Sudan’s position has fluctuated.
In January, Sudan’s leader, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, stated that Khartoum and Addis Ababa are “aligned and in agreement” regarding the dam.
Since mid-April, Sudan has been afflicted by deadly clashes between forces loyal to Burhan and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, resulting in over 2,000 casualties and the displacement of more than two million people.