US brokers agreement in controversial construction of Ethiopia's biggest dam
WASHINGTON - The United States on Wednesday brokered a deal that would minimize tensions witnessed between Ethiopia and Egypt over the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam.
For years now, Cairo and Addis Ababa have been at loggerheads over the new dam, with neighbors Khartoum also dragged into the feud.
While Ethiopia insists that the project on the Blue Nile which started in 2011 does not violate any existing treaty, Egypt believes that the dam will have a massive impact by affecting water levels at Aswan High Dam.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, recently warned that no amount of intimidation will make Ethiopia drop plans to complete the dam.
"We have a plan to start filling on the next rainy season, and we will start generating power with two turbines on December 2020," Ethiopia's Water Minister Seleshi Bekele said in September.
But Egypt has proposed a 10-year period this will mean that the level of the river does not dramatically drop, especially in the initial phase of filling the reservoir.
President Donald Trump hosted foreign ministers from the three countries where they reached an agreement that would ease tensions.
“The meeting went well and discussions will continue during the day!” the president tweeted on Wednesday.
In a joint statement issued by the U.S. Treasury after the meeting, the minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry of Egypt, Gedu Andargachew of Ethiopia and Asma Mohamed Abdalla of Sudan, noted the significance of the Nile to the development of the people of their countries.
It also "reaffirmed their joint commitment to reach a comprehensive, cooperative, adaptive, sustainable, and mutually beneficial agreement on the filling and operation" of the GERD.
The $4bn (£3bn) dam is at the heart of Ethiopia's manufacturing and industrial dreams. When completed it is expected to be able to generate a massive 6,000 megawatts of electricity.
Ethiopia has an acute shortage of electricity, with 65% of its population not connected to the grid.
The energy generated will be enough to have its citizens connected and sell the surplus power to neighboring countries. PM Abiy has earmarked the project as one of his flagship projects.
Trump's decision to intervene is a huge relief to Abiy Ahmed given that he's currently struggling to contain ethnic violence that has rocked the Horn of Africa nation.
In October, over 78 people died following spontaneous protests at the Oromia region. Media entrepreneur Jawar Mohammed had accused the government of plotting for his assassination following the withdrawal of his security.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner is also facing resistance from Somalia, with sections of Jubaland leaders accusing him of working closely with the Federal Government to undermine regional leadership.
Abiy's reputation as a peacekeeper has increasingly been subjected to scrutiny, despite winning the lucrative Nobel Peace Prize. The timely intervention by Trump may have after all saved his diplomatic challenges.