Ethiopia demanded a clarification from U.S President Donald J. Trump over comments he made regarding blowing up the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a project whose construction is mired in deep controversy.
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Gedu Andargachew, Ethiopia’s foreign minister summoned the US ambassador Mike Raynor to demand a full explanation. According to the statement released by Addis Ababa, “incitement of war” by a sitting American president does not reflect the long-standing partnerships and strategic alliance between the two countries. Trump’s remarks were in reference to Egypt, who has not ruled out any option in resolving the dam tussle.
Speaking to journalists in a live broadcast meeting at the Oval Office, Trump also announced the normalization of relations between Sudan and Israel. The U.S President described the happenings as a “dangerous situation” where Egypt is “not going to live that way.”
The Grand Renaissance Dam
This huge project towers 145 meters and stretches 2 km wide. GERD is expected to contribute to the highest amount of electricity for Ethiopians. Over 15,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity will be produced starting 2022 while sourcing water from the continent’s longest river- the Blue Nile.
The dam is under construction 15 km (9 miles) east of the Ethiopian border with Sudan. Construction began in 2011, though the site was already earmarked for construction in 1956 and 1974. At a cost of $4.6billion, when completed it can hold 74 billion cubic meters of water. Neighboring countries are worried about the impact of this dam on their own water supplies.
Economic benefit of the GERD dam
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has taken a hardline approach to the negotiations. He recently issued a statement in English defending the dam and touting the recent talks held by the African Union as “significant progress." These talks are brokered by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and the current chairperson of the African Union. However, in an Amharic version of his statement, he used tough language recollecting the country’s historical past when faced with adversity.
Currently, over half of Ethiopians live without electricity. The government has set up an ambitious plan to see to it that tens of millions of citizens are connected to power once the dam is set up. The first of 13 turbines will be operational in mid-2021. The megaproject currently employs over 6000 workers braving tough working conditions and 50-degree hot weather.
Washington tried to arrive at a deal that would resolve the dam dispute, but the talks fell over after Ethiopia claimed that Trump favored Egypt. Last month, the United States suspended a portion of its financial commitments due to Ethiopia as the process barely seemed to progress forward. The move was also a sign of displeasure in the country’s decision to fill up the dam unilaterally. According to the Washington Post, the aid amount on hold was about $264 million.
The populous North African nation is nourished by the Nile River, has worries over the rapid filling of the reservoir that threatens its water supply while allowing Ethiopia to control the flow of the Blue Nile.