Ethiopia on Saturday condemned “war-threatening threats” over the huge dam it has almost completed on the Blue Nile River, a day after US President Donald Trump said downstream Egypt would “blow up” the project it has called an existential threat.
Without naming Trump or the United States, the statement from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office came amid a shout in Ethiopia over Trump’s latest threat to the dam. The $ 4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a source of national pride aimed at pulling millions of people out of poverty.
“The man has no idea what he’s talking about,” tweeted former Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, calling Trump’s remark ruthless and irresponsible.
Trump made the comment while announcing that Sudan would begin normalizing ties with Israel. Downstream Sudan is a party to talks with Ethiopia and Egypt over the disputed dam. “They (Egypt) will end up blowing up the dam,” Trump said. “And I said it, and I say it loud and clear … they blow up the dam. And they have to do something. ”
The U.S. president earlier this year told the State Department to suspend millions of dollars in aid to Ethiopia because of the dam conflict that angered Ethiopians who had accused the United States of being biased in their previous efforts to mediate an agreement on the project among Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia walked away from these talks.
“They will never see that money unless they abide by the agreement,” Trump said Friday.
“Occasional statements about belligerent threats to cause Ethiopia to collapse under unfair terms are still in abundance,” Ethiopia’s statement said on Saturday. “These threats and confrontations with Ethiopian sovereignty are misleading, unproductive and clear violations of international law.”
It added: “Ethiopia will not bow to attacks of any kind.”
Ethiopia celebrated the first filling of the dam in August, citing heavy rains to the dismay of Egypt. Ethiopia later banned flights over the dam in concern over possible military action from Egypt.
>> The debate: Tensions on the Nile – Could Egypt and Ethiopia really go to war over water?
Now, with Trump’s new remarks, some Ethiopians are urging Ethiopian Americans to help vote him out of office in next month’s election.
The statement from Abiy’s office said that negotiations with Egypt and Sudan had shown significant progress since the African Union stepped in to monitor them. Trump’s statement could undermine this process, said Abel Abate Demissie, a fellow at Chatham House, adding that it proves the United States was not an honest mediator from the start.
Ethiopia says the colossal dam can help it become a major exporter of power. Egypt relies on the Nile to supply farmers and a thriving population of 100 million with fresh water.
Negotiators have said there are still key questions about how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the countries will resolve any future disputes. Ethiopia rejects binding arbitration in the final phase.
A military strike on the dam would be catastrophic, a water expert warned. The dam already has more than 4.9 billion cubic meters of water in the reservoir, ”Abebe Yirga told the Associated Press. “It will affect thousands of people along the way if this huge amount of water flows out of the dam.”
The Blue Nile joins the White Nile in Sudan to become the Nile, and about 85% of the river’s flow comes from Ethiopia. Officials hope the dam, now more than three-quarters complete, will reach full power generation capacity by 2023.