Ethiopia rejected Egyptian Foreign Minister’s proposal for a joint control of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam – Africa’s biggest dam being built on the main source of the Nile river in western Ethiopia.

Egyptian officials have been publicly contemplating several option – from threat of military attack, to an international politico-diplomatic battle – in a bid to stop Ethiopia from completing Africa’s biggest dam, which is now more than 30% complete and expected to start generating 700MW electricity next year. The 4 billion dollar dam will provide 6,000 MW hydropower upon in its completion in 2017.

Egypt officially launched a diplomatic campaign against the dam two weeks ago, which was immediately joined by an American anti-dam group, International Rivers – known for its opposition to Ethiopian dams.

In an apparent diplomatic ruse, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi told  the Brussels-based Royal Institute for International Relations and the European Union’s Foreign Affairs chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, in separate occasions last week, that Cairo would like to finance the construction of the dam and take part in its management.

The proposal was flatly rejected by the spokesperson of the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry Ambassador Dina Mufti.

The spokesperson emphatically stated that this a matter of sovereignty and not of aid and cooperation. A joint administration of the Renaissance dam is unacceptable.

Adding that, the Renaissance dam belongs to Ethiopians and the government of Ethiopia. There is no room for Egyptian administration of the dam.

It was not immediately clear how Mrs. Ashton, who is British, responded to the Egyptian Foreign Minister’s proposal that had no room for Sudan.

It is to be noted that the Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Office indicated in the 1980s that it deems Egyptian claim of having a legal monopoly right on the Nile waters as legitimate. While that office’s current standing is not clear, the Anglo-American media propagates that notion to date.

Nonetheless, Ethiopia’s insistence on full control of the Renaissance dam has been reiterated by another senior official of the Foreign Ministry.

Director-General of the Trans-boundary resources at the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry, Yelbu Lijalem, reiterated that the Renaissance dam is a show-case of our self-reliance and the proposal for joint-management runs counter to that.

In a related development, the Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom (PhD) noted that the Renaissance dam signifies an end to the colonial legacy that stood on the way of the utilization of the Nile waters for long. In a comment to the Global Dialogue Review, last week, Tedros said:

In the past we have been unable to use this considerable natural resource effectively. Now, following a decade of impressive growth, we are finally in a position to do so. The Nile, of course, links a total of 10 countries in the Nile Basin, and we recognize the vital role that shared interests and development can play in benefitting us all.

This is why we believe cooperation is the rational and strategic way forward for all the countries of the Basin, as demonstrated by the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA). It is time to throw off the legacy of colonialism, which had bedeviled the exploitation of the Nile Basin for so long, and finally move into a new era of cooperation, with real and sustained development.


Daniel Berhane

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