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Ethiopia accuses Egypt, Sudan of stalling dam talks

— Ethiopia has accused Egypt and Sudan of having stalled the latest round of talks on the Nile dam convened in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

DRC’s President Felix Tshekedi, who is also the current African Union chairperson, convened the talks on April 3-5 to resolve the decade-long dispute.

Ethiopia has been facing opposition from Egypt since it launched the $5-billion dam on the Nile in 2011.

Egypt fears the dam would lessen the flow of water downstream.

Ethiopia maintains that the scheme is vital to provide much-needed electricity for millions of homes and industries as well as for exports to neighboring countries.

The latest talks ended with a positive response from Ethiopia but were met with rejections from Egypt and Sudan, another stakeholder.

“The two countries (Egypt and Sudan) followed an approach that seeks to undermine the AU-led process and to take the matter out of the African platform,” said a statement issued after talks concluded.

“At the conclusion of the meeting, Ethiopia supported the draft communique submitted by the AU Chairperson with minor adjustments,” it said. “However, Egypt and Sudan rejected the draft demanding observers’ role to replace that of the three countries and the AU.”

Sudan recently proposed that the mediation be expanded to include the US, EU and the World Bank, a proposal that Ethiopia rejected.

Thus, the trilateral talks failed to progress into substantive talks on the filling and operation of the hydro dam, including the sticking points as to how much water Ethiopia will need to release from the dam’s reservoir in the event of droughts and extended years of dry seasons.

Another unresolved issue has been hammering out legal resolution mechanisms for future disputes between the three countries.

“Ethiopia’s resolve to reach a settlement on the first filling and related operation of the dam failed to bear result due to Egypt’s and Sudan’s rigid stance to make the negotiation and the outcome a tool to affirm their self-claimed water share and foreclose Ethiopia’s share,” it said.

It added that “Ethiopia cannot enter into an agreement that would foreclose its current and future legitimate rights over the utilization of the Nile.”

The statement reiterated that Ethiopia would go ahead with the second-year filling of the dam in line with a 2015 Declaration of Principles signed between the three countries.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi last week threatened “unimaginable regional instability” if Ethiopia touched “a drop” from the Nile waters. More than 85% of the Nile waters originate from the Ethiopian highlands.

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