East Africa: Nile Dam - Ethiopia Says Trump's Remarks an 'Instigator of War'

Previous negotiations between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt in Addis Ababa over the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam have failed to find a resolution of the dispute over the dam's potential to disrupt the flow of the Nile.
26 October 2020

US President Donald Trump's remarks suggesting Egypt may blow up the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd) has resulted in anger among Ethiopians across the globe.

According to AFP, President Trump issued the remarks on Friday in a telephone conversation with Sudanese and Israeli prime ministers while normalisation of relations between the two countries.

"It's a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way," he told reporters in the Oval Office with Sudan and Israel's leaders on speakerphone.

"They'll end up blowing up the dam. And I said it and I say it loud and clear - they'll blow up that dam. And they have to do something,."

"They [Egyptians] should have stopped it long before it [the dam project] was started" he said, regretting that Egypt was in domestic turmoil when Ethiopia launched the multi-billion Dollar project in 2011.

He was referring to the popular Egypt revolution in 2011 that saw Hosni Mubarak's ouster from the presidency.

"Incitement of war"

A day after Mr Trump's controversial comments, Ethiopia's Ministry of foreign Affairs summoned the US ambassador to Ethiopia, demanding an explanation.

Addis Ababa has termed the US leader's remarks "irresponsible" and an "instigator of war" between the African countries.

"The incitement of war between Ethiopia and Egypt from a sitting US President neither reflects the longstanding partnership and strategic relationship between Ethiopia and the United States" Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement today.

The ministry further said Mr Trump's narrative is not acceptable under any international law governed by sovereign states.

Ethiopia, a source of 85 per cent of World's longest Nile River, added that the President's statement will negatively affect negotiation by Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

After the summons, Ethiopian Foreign minister Gedu Andargachew told the American diplomat that Ethiopia will not "bow to any threats to its sovereignty and that such threats from a sitting president won't be acceptable".

However, the Ethiopian minister reaffirmed his country's commitment to continue the African Union (AU)-brokered negotiations to reach a final, comprehensive agreement with downstream countries.

Major consequences

Since February 26, when Ethiopia abandoned US- led Nile talks in Washington, President Trump has been at odds with the country despite its position as a longtime ally on the Horn of Africa's security issues.

At previous talks, Addis Ababa accused the United States of pressuring Ethiopian negotiators into signing a deal with Egypt and Sudan before resolving outstanding issues.

Ethiopian negotiators said they were pressured by the US to quickly reach an agreement and sign a deal in a manner favourable to Cairo.

The US President then reacted with orders for the State Department to suspend millions of dollars in aid to Ethiopia.

"They will never see that money unless they adhere to that agreement," he said, as reported by AFP.

The office of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the "occasional statements of belligerent threats to have Ethiopia succumb to unfair terms still abound"

"These threats and affronts to Ethiopian sovereignty are misguided, unproductive, and clear violations of international law. Ethiopia will not cave in to aggressions of any kind."

Hailemariam Desalegn, former Ethiopian Prime Minister dismissed Mr Trump's remarks as "reckless and irresponsible".

"The man doesn't have a clue on what he is talking about," the ex-PM tweeted.

US congressman Jason Crow also condemned President Trump's Friday comments, saying the United States must play the role of a mediator, and not propagate a discriminatory intervention to the Nile waters dispute.

"The US must act as an honest broker to ensure a sustainable and diplomatic settlement," the congressman said.

"The President's comments on Gerd are reckless and uninformed," Mr Crow also said ,adding the President's speech did not take into account the dam's future.

He urged the Trump administration to stop a "senseless foreign aid cuts", noting that Ethiopia is a long-time ally of the United States.

Flights ban

Earlier this month, Ethiopian authorities banned flights in Benishangul-Gumuz region, where the Nile mega dam is being built, citing security risks amid the unresolved dispute.

They said the restrictions will ensure the safety of the dam and did not hint at any military threats on what would be Africa's largest dam.

Khartoum and Cairo fear that Addis Ababa's $4.8 billion mega dam will eventually diminish their historic water share from the Nile River.

The AU-brokered round of talks by Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt ended in August without any major breakthrough.

The three parties are yet to negotiate on the most outstanding issues - rules for filling, particularly during the drought season and the annual operation of the Gerd.

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