Sudan rejects Ethiopia’s plan to fill Nile dam for second time

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Sudanese official also said that Ethiopia had put forward “impossible conditions” related to the division of the share of the water, which Sudan considers outside the scope of negotiations.
Monday 28/06/2021
Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia. (REUTERS)
Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia. (REUTERS)

KHARTOUM – Sudan has rejected an Ethiopian proposal to manage the filling for a second time of a giant dam that it is building on the Blue Nile, a senior official said on Sunday, deepening a regional dispute over the project.

Ethiopia has pinned hopes of development and power generation on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), while downstream Sudan is concerned about regulating flows to its own dams and Egypt fears an impact on its water supply.

Addis Ababa has said it will again fill the reservoir behind the multi-billion dollar hydropower dam after seasonal rains start this summer, a move that both Sudan and Egypt oppose without a binding agreement on filling and operating the dam.

Sudan and Egypt last week sent letters asking the UN Security Council to take up the issue.

Sudan’s foreign minister sent a message to the council head calling him to urge Ethiopia to stop the “unilateral” filling of the dam “which exacerbates the dispute and poses a threat to regional and international peace and security”, a government statement said.

Talks mediated by the African Union, most recently in theDemocratic Republic of Congo, have repeatedly stalled.

Sudan has also indicated that it is open to a partial interim agreement before the second filling of the reservoir, with certain conditions.

However, on Sunday the senior Sudanese official said the Ethiopian proposal for the second filling was “not real” and “a way to buy time”, adding that any such proposal should come under the auspices of AU mediators and involve all parties.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official also said that Ethiopia had put forward “impossible conditions” related to the division of the share of the water, which Sudan considers outside the scope of negotiations.

Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier in June, Arab foreign ministers backed calls for the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the lingering dispute over the massive dam.

The move, announced at a meeting in Qatar, was then the latest push by Cairo and Khartoum to reach an agreement on the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the Arab countries will press for the Security Council to hold an urgent session on the decade-long dispute.

The dam is now 80% complete and is expected to reach full generating capacity in 2023, making it Africa’s largest hydroelectric power plant and the world’s seventh-largest, according to reports in Ethiopia’s state media.

The dispute now centres on how quickly Ethiopia should fill and replenish the reservoir and how much water it releases downstream in case of a multi-year drought. The latest round of African Union-brokered negotiations in April failed to make progress.