Politics, World, Africa

Nile dam equates second to human life: PM Abiy

Last round of talks between Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan stalled after Ethiopia reveals US openly siding with Egypt in talks

Addis Getachew  | 01.04.2020 - Update : 01.04.2020
Nile dam equates second to human life: PM Abiy

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia 

The $5 billion dam Ethiopia is building on the River Nile is the second most important thing for Ethiopians and second only to the human life, the prime minister said.

Although the new coronavirus emerged as the most existential threat currently, Abiy Ahmed said: “But it should not hold us back from finishing our dam, which is our lifeline. Saving lives is our priority while second to this we have the GERD."

Abiy made his remarks in a statement issued on occasion of the ninth year of the start of construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a flagship project coming up on a tributary of the river in Ethiopia near the Sudan border.

The move by Ethiopia greatly irked Egypt, a nation most downstream and that for centuries dominated the Nile on claim that the resource is Egypt’s "historical right".

Ethiopia contributes 85% of the waters of the Nile, a mighty river that traverses 11 countries.

Egypt fears the GERD would significantly reduce its “share” that amounts, according to a 1959 colonial-era treaty that did not involve Ethiopia, to 55.5 billion cubic meters. Ethiopia maintains that the Nile is its natural resource and it needs energy for development.

The 2019 Nobel Laureate for Peace, Abiy reiterated that Ethiopia "will begin filling the dam in the coming rainy season (July)."

"The COVID-19 phenomenon should not deter us from finishing the GERD, which is a symbol of both sovereignty and national unity for Ethiopians," he said.

The latest effort to diffuse tensions between Ethiopia and Egypt was initiated by U.S. President Donald Trump and the round of Washington talks between Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt did not bear fruit as Ethiopia rejected an "order" by U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin that Ethiopia should not start filling the dam before agreement is reached.

Mnuchin’s statement in late February drew far-reaching criticisms in Ethiopia and abroad for disrespecting Ethiopia’s sovereignty.

Abiy also called on Ethiopians to intensify the buying of bonds and participate in the mobile phone fundraising mechanism so that Ethiopia "will not have to depend on funders."

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