Africa: Nile Dam - AU Mediated Talks Ongoing in Kinshasa

The three-day talks are aimed at seeking a long lasting solution to the year-long wrangling.

A new round of African Union-mediated talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan has begun. The talks are aimed at resolving a year-long dispute over a massive dam built by Addis Ababa on the Blue Nile, a main tributary of the Nile River. The three-day talks that kicked off on Saturday, April 3, 2021 are taking place in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, under the auspices of President Felix Tshisekedi, current chair of the AU. Foreign and irrigation ministers of the three nations are attending the talks over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), along with AU experts, according to Ethiopia's Irrigation Minister Seleshi Bekele. A Sudanese diplomat is quoted as saying to the Associated Press news agency that, the experts from the three countries and the AU met on Saturday, ahead of ministers meeting yesterday Sunday and today Monday.

Egypt's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Cairo wants the negotiations to eventually lead to a legally binding agreement over the operation and filling of the dam's massive reservoir. Sudan said it would take part in the Kinshasa round with an aim of agreeing on a "negotiating approach" to ensure the talks would be constructive. That would include an Egyptian-backed Sudanese proposal to include the United States, European Union and United Nations as mediators along with the AU, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. But Ethiopia has rejected the proposal, saying it "believes in resolving African problems by Africans."

The Nile, the world's longest river, is a lifeline supplying both water and electricity to the 10 countries it crosses, with the Blue Nile being its main tributary. Upstream Ethiopia says the hydroelectric power produced by the dam will be vital to meet the energy needs of its 110 million people. Egypt, which depends on the Nile for about 97 percent of its irrigation and drinking water, sees the dam as an existential threat. The talks in Kinshasa come a few days after Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said his country's share of Nile River waters were "untouchable" a stark warning apparently to Ethiopia, which is preparing for another stage of the dam's filling later this year. Al-Sisi on Tuesday warned of "instability that no one can imagine" in the region if the dam is filled and operated without a legally binding agreement.

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