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Here is why the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) won’t be a Danger to Egypt’s Water Necessity

Ghelawdewos Araia, PhD                                                  October 7, 2017

This essay, in effect, is a response to a recent USA Today special piece entitled “Here is Why Egypt’s Nile River is in Danger” and contributed by Jacob Wirtschaffer on September 27, 2017.

Time and again, I have scribbled on the Nile issue pertaining to the concerns of Egypt with respect to shortage of flow of water as a result of the GERD construction in Ethiopia. To some extent, Egypt’s concern is legitimate because the country would simply cease to exist without the Nile; the Nile indeed is the lifeline of the Egyptians and it is not without reason that the ancient Egyptians of Kemet worshipped the god of the Nile named Hapi. However, Egyptian politicians, for the most part, are jittery when it comes to the waters of the Nile and their concern is overblown and out of proportion, and at times they exhibit unnecessary and infantile provocation against Ethiopia. This kind of misconduct is duly manifested in Egypt’s material support to some disgruntled Ethiopian opposition forces in the Diaspora, and it is further manifested in setting up military site in Eritrea, and attempting to undo the new agreement of the Riparian States that denies Egypt’s predominance on the use of the Nile waters.

  Back in 2013, in my article entitled: ”Egypt has no Choice but to Cooperate with Ethiopia on the issue of the Nile,”1 I suggested that Egypt should transcend confrontational politics and embrace and pursue rather cooperative gestures toward Ethiopia in order to garner sufficient flow of water in spite of the GERD. Initially, the Egyptian leaders were stubborn and adamant and they thought they could pressurize Ethiopia and hoped that Ethiopia would either postpone or altogether abandon the project of the GERD. Soon, however, the Egyptians realized that the construction of the GERD is not solely government initiative but it is also coupled by the steadfast determination of the Ethiopian people to begin and complete such a grand project. In point of fact, Ethiopians have not only poured money for the GERD but also sung in unison Endejemernew Enchersewalen, meaning ‘as we have initiated it, we shall complete it'.

The terrifying grace of the Ethiopians, at one point, had an impact on the Egyptian modus vivendi (preliminary agreement of conflicting parties for coexistence) and modus operandi (methods and approaches used to realize a certain rapprochement), and President El Sisi, in particular, showed propensity toward a peaceful and diplomatic talk with Ethiopia on the first month of 2015. That was a wonderful thing, I said to myself then, and I was prompted to write another article that somehow reflected the new and positive mood of the Egyptians. The title of the essay was “The Historic Ethiopian-Egyptian Renewed Diplomacy and Cooperation”, and I stated, in part, the following: “I am gratified to witness the renewed Ethiopian-Egyptian diplomacy and cooperation after much turbulence, mistrust, and bellicose political climate that have griped the two nations for decades.”2

Now, again, to my chagrin, my gratification has evaporated in thin air when the Egyptians defected from the Ethiopia-Egypt-Sudan agreement and began employing their old tactics and resorted to anti-Ethiopia policy in general and against the completion of the GERD in particular. Nevertheless, Egyptian politicians will not be successful because the GERD is more than 60% complete and no abortion could be performed at the end of the second trimester and beginning of the third trimester unless mindless physicians are involved and carry on the abortion process to the destruction of the fetus and detriment of the mother.

Why the Egyptians worry so much is beyond me when in fact Egypt will continue to enjoy abundant water despite the construction of the GERD. During the heavy rainy season in Ethiopia (i.e. June, July, and August) the Nile valley in Egypt is inundated with water and creates enormous damage to the farming areas, and the GERD, by default, will actually enable Egyptian farmers to control the flow of the Nile and successfully maintain their farming plots, very much like the Tekezze Dam that enabled Sudanese farmers to control the flow of the river and harvest more yield of crops from their respective farms on the Atbara site. In this context, thus, Hany Hamroush’s claim is irrelevant. Hamroush, a professor of geology and geochemistry at American University in Cairo says, “It is alarming how much information is missing about the dam. There has to be a complete transparency and honesty and full professional data to make sure that the dam will be safe.”3  

In the said USA Today story, it is stated that “Ethiopia’s dam could drop the Nile’s levels by 25%”, but there is no credible evidence to support this statement, and Professor Hamroush’s claim of the lack of information and data is neither plausible nor convincing, because the Egyptians are aware of the hard fact that the GERD is 500 ft tall, will generate 6450 megawatts in a 74 billion cubic water, and will also form a new artificial lake stretching 250 km backwards from the dam. On top of this, what may not be relevant to Egypt but of great vested interest for Ethiopia is the fact that the GERD has created 12,000 jobs for Ethiopians and this is in anticipation of the Dam’s enormous contribution to growth and transformation as well as agricultural and industrial development in Ethiopia.

On top of the above facts, Ethiopia has reassured Egypt that the main purpose of the GERD is hydropower production, but despite this reassurance, Ahemd Abdul Zeid, spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as quoted in the USA Today piece, said, “Egypt’s water security is non-negotiable; it is considered a red line that no one can approach.”4   This kind of rhetoric and condescending remark, however, will be counterproductive, and if Egypt does not negotiate with Ethiopia, the government in Addis Ababa could isolate Egypt through its diplomatic muscles in the African Union and through its efforts in strengthening the Agreement of the Riparian States, although to my surprise and disappointment Ethiopia is not making enough dialogue with the Riparian group. Ethiopia is lagging behind in the renewal and strengthening of relations with the Riparian states; in this regard and astonishingly, I have no words to explicitly explain why Ethiopia wants to negotiate with Egypt only when the latter, on the contrary, negates all negotiation efforts. Ethiopia is well advised to initiate a new approach with the Riparian states and Ethiopian policymakers might as well have a glance at an article entitled “Time to think about Ethiopia’s Post-GERD Nile Policy”5 that was posted on IDEA’s website a while ago.

Finally, beyond its utility function, it should be known that the GERD is a continuation of the great edifices constructed by ancient and medieval Ethiopian civilizations, and once completed and begins its operations, it will observe annual renaissances for succeeding generations of Ethiopians. Above all, the GERD, will become a grand symbol of the rebirth of a nation and a country determined to uplift itself for the sole purpose of defeating and eliminating poverty, illiteracy, and all social ills associated with backwardness, and pave a way for economic transformation and prosperity. Moreover, the GERD will signify the rugged self-direction and sense of independence of the Ethiopian people because it is one grand project that is under construction without any aid extended from global donors.   




1. Ghelawdewos Araia, “Egypt has no Choice but to Cooperate with Ethiopia on the Issue of the Nile,” www.africanidea.org/Egypt_has_no_choice.html

June 12, 2013

2. Ghelawdewos Araia, “The Historic Ethiopian-Egyptian Renewed Diplomacy and Cooperation,”  January 12, 2015 www.africanidea.org/Historic_Ethiopian_Egyptian_diplomacy.html

3. Jacob Wirtschaffer, “Here is Egypt’s Nile River is in Danger,” special for USA Today, September 29, 2017

4. Jacob Wirtschaffer, USA Today, Ibid

5. Fasil Amdetsion, “Time to think about Ethiopia’s Post-GERD Nile Policy”, www.africanidea.org/Nile_Coop-Waters.pdf


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