UN Tells East African Countries to Take Nile Dam Dispute to AU

The foreign ministers of Egypt and Sudan appealed to the United Nations Security Council to intervene in their dispute with Ethiopia over the operation of a mega dam on the Nile River, Voice of America (VOA) reports. Tensions have escalated since Addis Ababa said on July 5, 2021 that it had begun the second phase of filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan object, insisting that a legally binding agreement that governs how the dam is filled and operated must first be in place.

Egypt and Sudan asked the council to adopt a resolution put forward by council member Tunisia, demanding that Ethiopia stop filling the dam and calling for the three countries to resume negotiations and reach an agreement within six months. Mariam al-Mahdi, Sudan's foreign minister, acknowledged after the meeting that the council appeared to have little appetite to adopt the resolution. Instead, council members urged the countries to find the political will and momentum to quickly resume substantive negotiations to resolve outstanding differences. U.S. envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the African Union was the most appropriate body to address the dispute and that Washington would provide political and technical support.

VOA reports that the Nile flows northward, with one tributary (the White Nile) beginning in South Sudan and the other (the Blue Nile) in Ethiopia. The two merge in Sudan and continue flowing north to the Mediterranean Sea. Along the way, the river crosses through 11 countries, and populations have depended on its water for millennia. Ethiopia started building the GERD in 2011 on the Blue Nile as a major hydropower project. Construction is nearly complete, and Addis Ababa says the dam will help bring electricity to 65 million Ethiopians who do not have it. But Cairo and Khartoum insist the issue is an important national security matter.

InFocus

The Nile River has delivered fresh water, fed agriculture, and supported livelihoods in Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan for thousands of years.

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