Below is the Grand Renaissance Dam Project timeline and all you need to know about the project from beginning to the present date. The construction project has created as much controversy as it has anticipation given the impact it will have on the region. On the one hand there is the control it will give Ethiopia over the Nile waters to the chagrin of Egypt and the benefit it will bring to neighbouring countries in terms of control of perennial flood waters and power generation
Ethiopia announced plans to build the dam on the Blue Nile River with the potential to supply over 5000MW of electricity which would make it the largest hydro power project on the continent.
Shortly thereafter Egypt protested citing a pre-colonial agreement that gave Egypt exclusive control over the use of the Nile waters upstream.
The Ethiopian government signed a contract with Salini Impreglio S.p.A to build the Grand Renaissance Dam Project at a cost of US$4.8 billion and the then Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi laid a foundation stone effectively commencing construction works.
That year a tripartite committee met for the first time over the GERD project and its effect on the three countries Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan.
President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt visited Ethiopia with hopes of making Ethiopia appreciate Egypt’s concerns
Ethiopia diverts the Nile waters in order to begin construction of the actual dam wall. President Morsi’s regime is overthrown in Egypt and talks stall for a while before resuming
In 2014 real progress appears to be made when Egypt under President El-Sisi agreed that Ethiopia can develop the Grand Renaissance Dam Project with certain conditions. This agreement was drawn up under the Malabo Declaration
Several committees, experts and consultants are commissioned to help study, provide recommendations and stave off any future disputes. By this time the dam is 32 percent complete.
An agreement is signed between the three countries called the Declaration of Principles.
Despite this disagreement simmers between Egypt and Ethiopia over the technical studies being done
Finally, the three countries sign technical studies on the impact of the dam downstream. A disagreement, however, arises over Egypt’s proposal for more holes in the Dam
Failure to reach agreement on the agreement on a report from the technical studies persists
2018 – Sisi and Abiy Ahmed agree on resuming cooperation efforts
Ethiopia rejected Egypt’s proposal to involve the World Bank as a technical party with an impartial view to decide on the differences in the work of the Tripartite National Committee.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry announced that an agreement has been reached during the tripartite summit on ending the technical studies of the Grand Renaissance Dam within a month, and further emphasized Egypt’s commitment to the Declaration of Principles.
President El-Sisi said he agreed with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Ahmed to enhance confidence and cooperation between the two countries, and that the two countries would work on a final agreement on the GERD issue that would ensure development and prosperity to the Ethiopian people and at the same time upholding Egypt’s water needs and rights.
2019 – Negotiations stumble and resume, Egypt and Ethiopia’s leaders address the issue at the 74th UNGA
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Shoukri called for negotiations on the Dam to pick up pace and further demanded that the agreements reached between the three involved countries be respected.
After months of suspension, Egypt’s request for a new round of negotiations between the 3 countries on the filling of the GERD reservoir and its rules of operation is granted and the negotiations are launched in Cairo.
However, the negotiations failed after Ethiopia rejected Egypt’s proposal, saying that it infringes on its sovereignty.
On the 24th of September, Egypt President Sisi and his Ethiopian counterpart Sahle-Work Zewde addressed the GERD issue at the UNGA’s 74th session. President El-Sisi called for international intervention in the negotiations, and insisted that “Nile water is a matter of life and an issue of existence for Egypt”. On his part, President Zewde made assuarences of Ethiopia’s commitment to reaching a deal over GERD.
A tripartite technical committee finalized a four-day talks in Khartoum, Sudan and presented their final report on the outcomes to the three countries’ irrigation ministers. Soon after, a new round of meetings between the irrigation and water resources ministers kicked off in Khartoum.
The spokesperson of the ministries’ negotiations revealed that negotiations have reached a dead end due to the “intransigency” of the Ethiopian side. The United States then called on the three sides to “put forth good faith efforts to reach an agreement that preserves those rights, while simultaneously respecting each other’s Nile water equities.”
2020 – Conflict moves to African Union
In July, the conflict over the commencement of the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) moved to the African Union (AU) for resolution after Ethiopia strongly opposed arbitration by the United Nations Security Council during a video conference on June 29.
Egypt took the matter to the UN Security Council, but Ethiopia with the support of South Africa (the African Union chair) lobbied for the issue to be first handled by the continental body.
During the same month the Chairperson of the African Union and President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed the resumption of trilateral talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on the controversial Grand Renaissance Dam Project and appealed to the involved parties to find solutions and reach an amicable agreement.
Ethiopia acknowledges the water levels behind the giant dam are increasing and filling has begun, though according to Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s water minister, the GERD water filling is in line with the dam’s natural construction process. He further added that the inflow into the reservoir due to heavy rainfall and runoff exceeded the outflow and created natural pooling. This continues until overflow is triggered soon.
Ethiopia’s office of the Prime Minster announces that the first round of filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is completed, and hinted that it will start generating electricity in a few months.
In August, Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia concluded a new round of talks without reaching consensus on a draft deal to be presented to the African Union (AU) regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
According to Sudan’s Irrigation and Water Resources Ministry, the three countries agreed to conclude the current round of talks without consensus on the draft integrated deal which was supposed to be submitted to the AU on Friday. “Continuation of the talks in their current form will not lead to achieving practical results,” said Yasir Abbas.
Elsewhere, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo approved a plan to halt U.S. foreign assistance to Ethiopia as the US government attempts to mediate a dispute with Egypt and Sudan over the construction GERD.
The decision could affect up to nearly US $130m in U.S. foreign assistance to Ethiopia and fuel new tensions in the relationship between Washington and Addis Ababa as Ethiopia carries out plans to fill the dam.
In October, Ethiopia’s minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Dr. Seleshi Bekele, announced that Ethiopia is set to start generating electricity from the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) over the coming 12 months. According to the minister, Performance of the project increased by 2.5% to 76.35% in the first quarter owing to efforts made to enable the dam to start generating power with two turbines this Ethiopian fiscal year (2020/21). The minister added that construction works at the dam are now at 76.35%. Ethiopian authorities recently banned all flights over the GERD “for security reasons”.
In Early November, Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia resumed talks. The week-long negotiations held via videoconference included: water ministers from the three countries, as well as representatives from the African Union, the European Union and the World Bank.
In late February, Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy Engineer Seleshi Bekele announced that Ethiopia is keenly working on completing the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project by 2023 and considering the dam as water security threat is unfounded and unscientific. He further added that the construction of GERD has reached 78.3% and it is expected to be completed up to 82% until the upcoming rainy season.
According to him, the overall construction of the dam has seen rapid development following the swift measures taken by the reformist administration to ensure professionalism. The administrative adjustments have solved the most critical problems related to decision making and follow-up system.
“The new administration and the board jointly with the Ministry and Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) have solved the factors that led for the delay of the construction before the reform in 2018. Solving the major problems, undertaking continuous follow-up, assessment and evaluation has enabled the country to return the process of the construction of the massive power plant on the right truck. Therefore, the GERD will be fully operational by 2023 as per the reschedule,” he said.
During the same period, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water, Irrigation, and Energy published a new satellite image of the construction progress at its controversial large dam on the Blue Nile River. The image clearly showed that the dam’s reservoir has a stable water level, which has reached the level of the concrete wall.
In early March, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Sudanese counterpart Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi stressed that Ethiopia’s possible second phase filling of the Nile dam unilaterally would pose a direct threat to water security of Egypt and Sudan.
The two ministers highlighted the importance of reaching a binding legal agreement on filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) that would achieve the interests of the three countries, preserve the water rights of Egypt and Sudan, and limit the damages of the project to the two downstream countries.
Shoukry and his Sudanese counterpart also stressed that they have political will and a serious desire to achieve this goal at the earliest possible opportunity, urging Ethiopia to show goodwill and engage in an effective negotiation process.
The two ministers also affirmed that their countries are adhered to the proposal made by Sudan and supported by Egypt on developing the negotiation mechanism sponsored by the African Union through the formation of an international quartet led and managed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the current chair of the African Union.
They also expressed appreciation for the efforts made by South Africa during its presidency of the African Union in guiding the path of the GERD negotiations.
In Mid-March, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and his counterpart of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Felix Tshisekedi discussed the Nile dam dispute between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia over the phone.
During the conversation, Sisi reiterated Egypt’s position that calls for reaching a legally binding agreement on the rules of filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) before the next rainy season, in order to preserve the water rights of the downstream countries. Sisi also affirmed Egypt’s support for the Sudanese proposal to form an international quartet under the chairmanship of the African Union to mediate the Nile dam dispute.
Around the same period, Sudan submitted a formal request, for quadripartite international mediation to resolve the dispute with Ethiopia over the dam. Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdouk sent letters to the US, the European Union (EU), the African Union (AU), and the United Nations (UN), asking them to mediate in negotiations. It is hoped that their involvement will help reach a solution for the dispute over filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
In late March, Sudanese information minister announced that Sudan’s cabinet has backed an initiative for the United Arab Emirates to mediate in a dispute over Sudan’s border with Ethiopia, and over GERD.
Tensions surrounding the control of farmland in al-Fashqa, on the border, have escalated in recent months, while talks over the operation of the GERD, which will affect water volume downstream in the Sudanese portion of the Blue Nile, are deadlocked.
In early April, it was reported that a new round of African Union-mediated talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan had begun. The three-day talks that kicked off on the 3rd were taking place in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the current chair of the AU. According to Ethiopia’s Irrigation Minister Seleshi Bekele, Foreign and irrigation ministers of the three nations were attending the talks, along with AU experts.
After the 4th day of negotiations the talks seemed to have broken down. This is after Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said in statement that Ethiopia had a “lack of political will to negotiate in good faith.” To further complicate proceedings, a Congolese mediator said that Sudan had objected to the terms of a draft communique. The country felt that its interests in the River Nile were at threat.
Later, Ethiopia announced that it would continue filling the dam’s massive reservoir during the upcoming rainy season, which normally begins in June or July; sparking new warnings from downstream countries Sudan and Egypt, which are worried about their water supply.
Sudan’s irrigation minister warned that his country stood ready to harden its stance in the dispute and lobby afresh at the highest international levels including the UN Security Council, while Egyptian president warned Ethiopia over touching a drop of Egypt’s water, because all options are open.
Later that week, reports emerged that Sudan had received an Ethiopian offer to share details on the second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in an attempt to ease Sudanese, regional and international pressure on Addis Ababa.
In mid-April, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that the second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will proceed as planned for July/August.
“Ethiopia, in developing Abbay (Blue Nile) River for its needs, has no intention of causing harm to lower riparian countries. Heavy rains last year enabled successful first filling of the GERD while the presence of the GERD itself has undoubtedly prevented severe flooding in neighboring Sudan,” said the PM.
“Ahead of the second filling, Ethiopia is releasing more water from last year’s storage through newly completed outlets & sharing information. The next filling takes place only during heavy rainfall months of July/August, ensuring benefits in reducing floods in Sudan,” he added.
In early May, Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said that legal teams in Sudan are willing to sue the Ethiopian government over the Grand Renaissance Dam Project if they started the second filling unilaterally
The Sudanese Minister of Irrigation added, that several visits to African countries will be conducted during the coming period in order to explain Sudan’s position on resolving the Renaissance Dam issue. He also affirmed that his country is still adhering to resolving the issue through negotiations to protect water security interests.
In mid-May, USA affirmed its commitment to working with international partners to find a solution to the differences between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
The US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, said in a statement at the end of his visit to Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia, that he discussed with leaders in Addis Ababa, Cairo, and Khartoum “Egypt and Sudan’s concerns over water security, and how the safety and operation of the dam can be reconciled with Ethiopia’s development needs through substantive and results-oriented negotiations among the parties under the leadership of the African Union, which must resume urgently,” read the statement.
“We believe that the 2015 Declaration of Principles signed by the parties and the July 2020 statement by the AU Bureau are important foundations for these negotiations, and the United States is committed to providing political and technical support to facilitate a successful outcome,” the media note of the US Department of State added.
In late May, Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced that Egypt has already taken precautionary measures to mitigate the potential impacts of the second filling of the GERD. Both Egypt and Sudan seek to form an international quartet that includes the African Union (AU), the United States, the European Union and the United Nations to mediate in reaching the desired agreement.
In mid-June, Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Antti said that Egypt is keen to resume the tripartite negotiations with Sudan and Ethiopia to reach a just and binding legal agreement for all three Nile countries, with preserving their water shares when it comes to the rules of operations and filling the controversial GERD.
Abdel-Atti added that the current negotiations track under the auspices of the African Union will not lead to significant progress, clarifying that Egypt and Sudan asked for forming an international quartet led by the Democratic Republic of Congo that currently chairs the AU, United States, the European Union and the United Nations.
The Irrigation Minister affirmed that Egypt and Sudan will not accept any unilateral action of filling and operating the Ethiopian dam.
In mid-June, Ethiopia rejected an Arab League resolution calling on the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the lingering Grand Renaissance Dam Project dispute. Foreign ministers of the 22-member bloc met in the Qatari capital Doha in the latest effort by Cairo and Khartoum to reach an agreement on the filling of the GERD.
“The Arab League of States should know that utilization of the Nile waters is also an existential matter for Ethiopia,” Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “It is about lifting millions of its people out of abject poverty and meeting their energy, water and food security needs. Ethiopia is exercising its legitimate right to use its water resources in full respect of international law and the principle of causing no significant harm,” it added.
In late June Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that Egypt seeks to reach a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) as the international community is aware of the great danger it poses on downstream countries.
In early July, Egypt’s minister of water resources and irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Aty accused Ethiopia of intransigence over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The minister was representing his ministry while addressing a conference organized by the German government.
“Egypt is one of the driest countries in the world and suffers from water scarcity; Egypt’s water resources are estimated at 60 billion cubic meters annually, most of which comes from the waters of the River Nile, in addition to very limited amounts of rainwater, estimated at 1 billion cubic meters, and deep, non-renewable groundwater in the deserts,” he said.
Around the same time, Egypt through the Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the UN Security Council to highlight developments in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute. The letter written by Foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, emphasized on the country’s objection to Ethiopia’s intention to continue filling the dam during the upcoming flood season. It also expressed the government’s rejection of Ethiopia seeking to impose a fait accompli on the downstream countries through unilateral measures.
Egypt and Sudan have drafted a resolution about the dam to be presented to Arab foreign ministers.
In mid-July, a United Nations Security Council meeting was held on the failed Grand Renaissance Dam Project negotiations between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. At the meeting, Sudanese Foreign Minister clearly documented the damage that occurred to Sudan due to the unilateral filling of the Renaissance Dam in 2020.
Later, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry praised the Sudanese Foreign Minister’s speech and added that a draft resolution was submitted by Tunisia that contained elements sought after by both Egypt and Sudan, including a stronger role for observers in negotiations and allowing the council to provide proposals and solutions on the issue.
Around the same time, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the trilateral negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have been underway to reach an outcome on the first filling and annual operation of the GERD, as per the Declaration of Principles.
“It is regrettable, however, to witness that the progress of the negotiations has been dragged and politicized. Ethiopia has made its position clear time and again that this is unproductive and bringing the subject matter to the United Nations Security Council was and is unhelpful and far from the mandate of the Council,” he said.
“It is recognized that the AU-led process is an important vehicle to address each party’s concerns and they have been able to reach understanding on a considerable number of issues through this setting. Furthermore, the process has also revealed the longstanding challenges which have to do with the absence of water treaty and basin-wide mechanism on the Nile,” said the minister.
“Ethiopia is committed to bringing the AU-led trilateral process to a successful conclusion aiming to reach a mutually acceptable outcome. It is prepared and ready to work on the phased approach proposed by the Chairperson of the African Union, and, therefore, encourages both Egypt and Sudan to negotiate in good faith to bring the process to fruition,” he added.
In late July, Ethiopia announced that it had completed filling the reservoir of the GERD for a second year and the plant may start generating power in the next few months. According to Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s minister for water, irrigation and energy, the second filling of the Renaissance dam has been completed and the water is overflowing. “The next milestone for GERD construction is to realize the early generation in the next few months,” he said.
Around the same time, Sudan’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources, Yasir Abbas underlined the necessity for Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia to reach a legal and binding agreement. He further stressed that while negotiation is the best solution to reach a binding legal agreement regarding the filling and operation of the GERD, Sudan is not ready to enter into negotiations with the same methodology as before, because it means buying time, and Sudan fully believes that the only solution in the file of the Renaissance Dam is through serious negotiation that preserves the interests of the three countries.
In late August, Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia met with Ambassadors of the member states of the United Nations Security Council and called on them to reject the draft resolution submitted by Tunisia on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
The DPM briefed the ambassadors on the status of the construction of the Renaissance Dam and the content of the draft resolution submitted to the Security Council by Tunisia. He said the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a development project and should not be considered by the Security Council.
He further added that it is inappropriate for Tunisia to refer back the resolution to the Council since it violates Ethiopia’s right to use its natural resources and maliciously tries to advance the unjust interests of the downstream countries.
He called on Sudan and Egypt to abandon the status quo and the so-called “historical right” over the Nile River basin and refrain from unnecessarily politicizing and internationalizing the matter.