Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed inaugurated the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) power generation facility in the presence of distinguished Ethiopian leaders, including former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegne and former President Mulatu Teshome, and amidst great popular and media expectation.
Ethiopia has thus taken another important step in the development of the infrastructure of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with the start of electricity production from this facility, which it built around the Nile River and which sparked controversy with African neighbours Egypt and Sudan, nations that also claim their rights in the management of the Nile's water.
As reported by Asharq media, Abiy Ahmed was in person at the inauguration of the dam's first electricity production, which amounts to 375 megawatts. Ahmed said on the social networking site Twitter that this start of electricity production is "good news for our continent and the downstream countries we aspire to work with".
The power production process thus began with the operation of the first of the two turbines recently installed at the dam, the production capacity of this first turbine is 375 megawatts, while the production of a second turbine is expected later, bringing the total initial production in this first phase to 750 megawatts.
Despite the Ethiopian president's messages, Egypt denounces the water shortages that the implementation of the dam will bring to the nation. Egypt's Minister of Irrigation, Mohamed Abdel-Aty, said in an official statement that "Egypt is one of the most water-scarce countries in the world", and noted that "it is making great efforts to meet the challenges of water, implementing a comprehensive development and modernisation of the water system", applying measures to rehabilitate canals and irrigation and other water-related facilities and the implementation of reuse and desalination projects of this precious commodity that is scarce in many areas of the African continent.
The minister said that "Egypt attaches importance to the Lake Victoria-Mediterranean navigation corridor project," and explained that the project "aims to transform the Nile River into a development axis" linking the countries of the Nile Basin to achieve regional integration, given that "river transport is one of the best means of transportation," as indicated in the official communiqué.
Both Egypt and the other country in contention, Sudan, have long pointed out that this Ethiopian infrastructure affects these two downstream nations. The Ethiopian authorities, however, believe that it is not intended to harm the other countries in the Nile River's area of influence. Egyptian and Sudanese leaders see the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam as an "existential threat" because of their heavy reliance on the Nile River for agriculture, as noted by Asharq media.
Once Ethiopia's announcement to build the dam came through, clashes with Sudan and Egypt erupted for months over various aspects of the facility, mainly related to issues such as water filling and dam management regulations, the years required for water filling, the system to be used in case of disputes or conflict of interest, and the means of sharing information regarding the project and the management of the dam during non-rainy periods.
The problem goes back a long way, specifically from the start of construction of the dam in April 2011. The infrastructure is now 83% complete. The investment made by Ethiopia amounts to 5 billion dollars and the African country plans to generate 6,000 megawatts of energy when the construction is completed, as reported by Al-Ain News, to become one of the most important players in terms of electricity generation in Africa and to use this element for its national self-sufficiency.
The United Nations (UN) tried to mediate the conflict and called for talks between the countries concerned under the mediation of the African Union, but disagreements between Ethiopia on the one hand and Egypt and Sudan on the other have continued to emerge. All of this taking into account that the talks on the issue had stalled due to internal problems in the countries, such as the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia and Sudanese political instability, including the resignation of Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok in the face of military pressure.