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More Hurdles On The Ethiopian Way

While the building of Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is now in full swing, reliable studies assessing the harm this could have on Egypt seem even more remote.

This month, the two consultancy firms supposed to submit the studies failed to meet the deadlines. One also withdrew, leaving Egypt with the possibility of having to choose another firm which could take another six months while the dam is becoming more and more of a fact on the ground.

Further meetings with Ethiopia and Sudan to discuss a way out of the problem are not possible soon, as Addis Ababa is busy with putting together a new coalition government, meaning it will not be able to attend a meeting before the end of October.

Ethiopia initially blamed the deterioration in its relations with Egypt on Cairo and Egypt’s alleged neglect of an active Egyptian role in Ethiopia or Africa in general, said Maghawry Shehata, an expert on water issues.

“Now we are trying to open channels of dialogue and find joint interests. It is Addis Ababa that is putting up obstacles and delaying things in resolving the Dam issue,” he added.

The Dutch consultancy firm Deltares declared on 9 September that it had decided not to participate in the studies assessing the impacts of the Grand Renaissance Dam commissioned by the Tripartite National Committee (TNC) of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt and consisting of four representatives from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

The company wrote on its Website that “after three months of negotiations on possible cooperation in the studies with BRLi [the other consultancy firm], Deltares had to conclude that the conditions as imposed by the TNC and BRLi on how the studies should be carried out did not provide a sufficient guarantee for Deltares that an independent high-quality study could be carried out.”

Nader Noureddin, a professor of agricultural resources at Cairo University, was not surprised by the withdrawal of the Dutch company, chosen by Egypt and Sudan. Although it is an experienced company in the field of building dams, he said, Addis Ababa had insisted on selecting the French company BRLi as the main consultancy firm although its experience was mainly in irrigation and drainage.

“This is the best example of Ethiopian intransigence. As a result, BRLi was commissioned to carry out 70 per cent of the work and Deltares only 30 per cent. Deltares found this situation condescending to its status and decided to decline the studies altogether,” he said.

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