Ethiopia: Cardinal Berhaneyesus Invites Countries to Dialogue On Dam Project

Addis Ababa — President of the Episcopal Conference of Ethiopia Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel has called for dialogue between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on the construction of Great Renaissance Dam of Ethiopia (Gerd), a massive hydroelectric dam, which is causing tensions among the countries of the Nile Basin.

Cardinal Berhaneyesus spoke on Friday, September 11 in his New Year message to Ethiopians as guided by the Ethiopian calendar.

"I invite all parties to continue on the path of dialogue so that the eternal river continues to constitute a vital lymph which unites and does not divide, which always nourishes friendship, prosperity, fraternity and never enmity, misunderstanding or conflict," Cardinal Berhaneyesus said echoing Popes call made on August 15.

"Water is life and as such it is right that the three countries in question, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt place great value on it," the Cardinal who is also the Archbishop of Addis Ababa said.

Pope Francis commented on the issue of the dam saying he was "following with particular attention the situation of the difficult negotiations regarding the Nile between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan."

The Great Renaissance Dam of Ethiopia when completed will be the largest hydroelectric facility in Africa. The commencement of its construction in 2011 ignited tension between the three countries because they all depend on the water from the Nile for livelihood.

Egypt is a desert and relies on water from the Nile to support agriculture which is largely on irrigation. Citizens also depend on the river for fresh water hence the project is viewed as a threat to their survival.

According to Sudan, Ethiopia's project is a risk to the survival of their own dams.

Attempts by mediators to resolve the tensions have since been unsuccessful. Sudan and Egypt and demanding for a deal to be reached before Ethiopia starts filling the dam, whose volume is 74 billion cubic-metre.

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