Well, this is a test for Pan-Africanism
Saudi Arabia has announced that it is throwing its weight behind fellow Arab-League nations, Egypt and Sudan in their ongoing dispute with Ethiopia over a massive hydropower dam built by the latter on the Blue Nile, the Nile River’s main tributary.
For almost a decade now, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been the source of diplomatic standoff between Ethiopia and downstream nations Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia is pinning its electricity needs on the project, but the Egyptian government says it’s people rely on the Nile river for almost 90% of their fresh water while the Sudanese also fear the project could restrict their citizens’ water access.
On Tuesday, a day after Ethiopia began filling the dam’s reservoir, Saudi Arabia’s state news agency SPA said the kingdom supported Egypt and Sudan in “preserving their legitimate water rights”, as well as their efforts “to contain this crisis and their demands to solve it in accordance with the rules of international law,” Aljazeera reports.
“The kingdom calls on the international community to intensify efforts to find a clear mechanism to start negotiations between the three countries to get out of this crisis,” it said.
Quick facts about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam GERD
The project broke ground in 2011 and the three countries of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia have been locked in inconclusive talks since then.
The dispute centres on the speed at which a planned reservoir is filled behind the dam, the method of its annual replenishment and how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multiyear drought occurs. Another point of difference is how the three countries would settle any future disputes.
Egypt and Sudan want a legally binding agreement on the dam’s filling and operation, while Ethiopia insists on guidelines.
Ethiopia says GERD is essential for its economic growth, arguing that the vast majority of its 112 million people population lacks electricity. The dam will generate more than 6,400 megawatts of electricity, a significant boost to the country’s current production of 4,000MW.
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country with more than 100 million people, depends on the Nile for almost all of its water needs. It fears that a quick fill would drastically reduce the river’s flow, with potentially severe effects on its agriculture and other sectors.
Sudan wants Ethiopia to coordinate and share data on the dam’s operation to avoid flooding and protect its own power-generating dams on the Blue Nile.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam GERD is estimated to cost about $5 billion, Ethiopia is pinning its economic development on this one project.