One day after an online summit, Ethiopia says it will start filling dam in 2 weeks

Ethiopia will start filling its $5 billion hydroelectric dam on the Nile River in two weeks, the Ethiopian government said, according to Anadolu Agency.

The announcement came on Saturday, one day after an online summit between leaders of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt convened by the African Union (AU) for negotiations on guidelines for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said the three countries have agreed to continue dialogue and reach a deal within the next two weeks.

“Ethiopia is scheduled to begin filling the GERD within the next two weeks, during which the remaining construction work will continue. It is in this period that the three countries have agreed to reach a final agreement on a few pending matters,” it said in a statement. “The meeting also resolved to notify the United Nations Security Council that the Africa Union is seized of the matter.”

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, current chair of the AU, presided over the meeting, which was attended by representatives of the Bureau of the AU Assembly, comprising Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali.

AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat participated in the discussions.

All officials urged Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt “to cease unnecessary media escalation.”

A communique by the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union issued Saturday said it “decided to lend renewed impetus to the tripartite Negotiations and urged the three Parties to expeditiously work towards finding a mutually acceptable and amicable solution on the outstanding technical and legal issues in the negotiations process.”

The Bureau, it said, “Welcomed the commitment of the three Parties to an AU-led process … and agreed to augment the Tripartite Committee dealing with the GERD issue consisting of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan with the participation of observers, namely South Africa its capacity as Chairperson of the AU, and experts from the Commission, with a view to addressing outstanding technical and legal issues.”

Ethiopia started building the GERD in 2011 on the Blue Nile, a tributary of the Nile River, near the border with Sudan.

The construction of the 147-meter (482 feet) high, 1.8-kilometer (1.1-mile) long project is expected to be completed by 2023.

With a reservoir capacity of 74 billion cubic meters, the hydroelectric dam will produce 6,475 megawatts for Ethiopia’s domestic and industrial use, as well as export to neighboring countries.

Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt met Friday under AU auspices

Leaders of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt met last Friday, 26 June 2020, to deliberate on the faltering trilateral technical and legal negotiations on Ethiopia’s $5-billion hydro dam on the Nile River.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attended the video conference organized by the African Union Commission. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, also the chairperson of the African Union for this year, presided over the meeting that also saw the attendance of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“Fruitful discussions on African Solutions to the #GERD with the Bureau of the AU Assembly plus #Ethiopia, #Sudan & #Egypt. I appreciate @CyrilRamaphosa for his leadership in facilitating these high-level talks of continental significance,” Abiy, Ethiopia’s 2019 Nobel Laureate for Peace, said on Twitter.

He also expressed gratitude for Ramaphosa who played an active role in bringing the three leaders together.

“Our continental organization, with a Pan-African spirit, is the right space for a dialogue on issues that are of value to #Africa. The #GERD offers all stakeholders the opportunity for unprecedented economic growth and mutual development,” Abiy said.

Talks between the three resumed this month after having been suspended since February after a series of meetings held in Washington under the auspices of the US, UN and World Bank.

Ethiopia launched the $5-billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project in 2011 at a site 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from its border with Sudan.

Ethiopia hopes to retain 4.9 billion cubic meters of water during the coming rainy season in July and August as part of the first-phase filling and the volume will be enough to test two turbines in mid-2021.