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APRIL 2021

Egyptian President Warns Of “Unimaginable Instability” If Ethiopian Dam Begins Full Operation

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Egyptian President Warns Of "Unimaginable Instability" If Ethiopian Dam Begins Full Operation

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On March 30th, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi warned of “unimaginable instability” if Ethiopian dam begins full-scale operation.

Egypt, along with its southern neighbour Sudan, is seeking a legally binding agreement over the operations of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which Addis Ababa says is crucial to its economic development.

“I’m not threatening anyone here, our dialogue is always reasonable and rational,” el-Sisi said. “I say once again no one can take a drop from Egypt’s water, and if it happens there will be inconceivable instability in the region.

“Any act of hostility is detestable … but our reaction in the event that we are affected” by a reduction in Egypt’s own water supply “will affect the stability of the entire region”, he declared at a news conference in the Suez city of Ismailia.

The construction of the dam, on the Blue Nile close to Ethiopia’s border with Sudan, has heightened regional tensions.

Egypt fears the dam will imperil its supplies of Nile water while Sudan is concerned about the dam’s safety and about regulating water flows through its own dams and water stations.

“Ethiopia doesn’t have any intention to cause harm to Sudan and Egypt. But we also don’t want to live in darkness,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said.

The Nile, the world’s longest river, is a lifeline supplying both water and electricity to the 10 countries it traverses. Ethiopia says that GERD is needed to supply electricity to 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.

Sudan is also downstream and it fears that its own dams will be compromised.

Egypt’s share of the Nile’s waters “is a red line”, el-Sisi said.

On March 30th, Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti said that Addis Ababa was committed to regional talks, involving the African Union (AU).

Earlier, on March 6th, the Egyptian President visited Sudan for talks on the dam. He warned Ethiopia against filling the dam completely.

Ethiopia, which says it has every right to use Nile waters started filling the reservoir behind the dam last year after Egypt and Sudan failed to secure a legally binding agreement over the hydropower dam’s operation.

El-Sisi said that Egypt and Sudan have agreed on the importance of relaunching “serious and effective” negotiations that aim at achieving a “fair, balanced and legally binding” agreement on the dam’s filling and operating.

The two countries also reject attempts by Ethiopia to “impose a fait accompli and control the Blue Nile through unilateral measures that do not take into account the interests and rights of the two downstream countries,” he said.

It is likely that if the situation deteriorates, and if it comes down to an armed conflict, Ethiopia is in a very precarious situation, since it still can’t recover from the instability in its Tigray region. Even without the Tigray region’s instability, Addis Ababa is unlikely to stand any chance against Egypt’s military might.

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