Ethiopia refuses World Bank arbitration over Nile River dam
By ELIAS MESERET
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on Saturday refused the suggestion made by Egypt in late December that the World Bank should be brought in to resolve the dispute with Ethiopia over the construction of the dam on the Nile River that Egypt says threatens its water security. Sudan is also part of the negotiations because the Nile flows through it on the way to Egypt.
“Ethiopia will not accept Egypt’s request to include the World Bank in the tripartite technical committee’s talks on the dam,” Desalegn told the state run Ethiopian News Agency after visiting Egypt on Friday where he met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. “There is an opportunity for the three countries to resolve possible disputes by themselves.”
Egypt’s suggestion came amid a 10-month impasse over technical negotiations for the dam, which will be Africa’s biggest hydro-electric plant. Egyptian officials have called the World Bank “neutral and decisive” and said the organization could facilitate negotiations “devoid of political interpretation and manipulation.”
But the Ethiopian leader said that “seeking professional support is one thing; transferring it to an institution is another thing. So we told them (Egypt) that this is not acceptable with our side.” Desalegn said that Egyptians are not getting accurate information about the source of Nile waters and how Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam will operate.
The $5 billion dam is about 63 percent complete. When finished it will generate about 6,400 megawatts, more than doubling Ethiopia’s current production of 4,000 megawatts. The dam will also help to spare Ethiopia from drought and famine.
Ethiopia maintains that the dam’s construction will not reduce Egypt’s share of the river’s water. It insists the dam is needed for development, pointing out that 60 million of its citizens don’t have access to electricity.
But Egypt fears that if the reservoir behind the dam is filled quickly and if too much of the Nile waters are retained each year, the reduction of the river’s flow would have negative effects on Egypt’s agriculture.
Desalegn tried to reassure Egyptian during his visit to the country. “The people of Ethiopia did not nor will ever subject Egyptians to danger,” said Desalegn, in Cairo Saturday on his first visit to Egypt as prime minister. “We will not hurt your country in any way and will work closely together to secure the life of the people of the Nile basin and take them out of the cycle of poverty.”
While Ethiopia has said the dam is a “matter of life or death” for its people, Egypt has said water is a “matter of life or death” for its people.