Ethiopia is calling the statement by US president Donald Trump over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam misguided, unproductive and a violation of international law.
In a White House phone conversation with the leaders of Sudan and Israel in front of the press, the US president announced the agreement reached between Israel and Sudan and added Egypt could potentially blow up the dam if it would not it to be able to live with the project.
Sudan, like Egypt, is downstream from the dam which is being built on the River Nile. Trump has been a staunch supporter of Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and its position against the filling of the dam anytime soon. Egypt says doing so without a signed agreement is a breach of international law and would dangerously impact its own water supply downstream.
“It’s a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way,” said Trump on the call.
“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 should have stopped it long before it started,” Trump said of the $4.5 billion project. The US president, who directed his comments primarily to Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, said he had made similar points to Egypt’s leaders in trying to pull them back to the negotiating table with Ethiopia over the dam.
Representatives of international organizations and US politicians have expressed their disappointment over the statement made by the president, who is accused of trying to fuel the tension among the three countries.
“An agreement on the filling of the GERD is within the reach of Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. Now is the time for action and not for increasing tensions, said Josep Borrell, current high representative of the European Union.
“Your [Trump] remarks are divisive and anti-democratic in the course of an ongoing diplomatic conversation among the parties involved,” said Alexander Assefa, an Ethiopian-born Nevada state assemblyman in an open letter sent to the White House.
Ethiopia started the construction of its giant dam on Nile in 2011 when Egypt was in the Arab Spring revolution that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak. The dam was initially planned to end in 2017, but it has delayed due to construction mismanagement and corruption, which led to the arrests of government officials.
Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed has been undertaking corrective measures aiming to complete the dam within two years.
His administration gave a green light for the involvement of a third party in the negotiation with Egypt and Sudan over the operation and filling of the dam, a position his predecessor had opposed. Taking this as an opportunity to advance its interest, Egypt invited the World Bank and the United States to mediate with the endorsement of the three nations.
Earlier this year, Ethiopia walked away from the talks and accused Trump of playing favorites with Egypt.
African Union, chaired by South African Leader Cyril Ramaphosa intervened and has been trying to end the deadlock between the three countries with little luck to date Meanwhile, Ethiopia unilaterally started the filling of the dam, saying it has no significant impact on the water volume Egypt receives.
Disappointed by Ethiopia’s unilateral action, the US State Department suspended developmental aid worth up to $264 million. “They will never see that money unless they adhere to that agreement,” Trump said on Friday.
“Ethiopia will not cave into aggressions of any kind, nor do we give recognition to a right that is entirely based on colonial treaties,” read a statement from the Ethiopian prime minister’s office released on Saturday. It underscored that a great milestone was achieved in August when the first phase of water filling was successfully completed.
Despite the dispute over the dam, Ethiopia still plans to embark on the second phase of the water filling which is for the most part is funded by tax payers as a public duty to respond to the nation’s dire need of lack of electricity and access to water to much of the population of more than 100 million.