US President Donald Trump commented on the Nile dam dispute between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia on Friday, following his brokering of a rapprochement between Sudan and Israel. The giant hydro-electric dam dubbed the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been centre of dispute between the three African nations.
During the call Trump said that Ethiopia broke a deal he had worked on to resolve the dispute and said he has since cut off millions of dollars in aid to Addis Ababa.
“You can’t blame Egypt for being a little bit upset,” Trump said on a call with the Sudanese and Israeli leaders celebrating their diplomatic breakthrough.
“It’s a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way,” the president said. “They are going to end up blowing up that dam … they will blow up that dam.”
Egypt fears it could threaten its 55bn cbm share of the River Nile’s water, although Ethiopia insists that the dam will not negatively affect Egypt’s interests. Nile water make up more than 90% of Egypt’s water supply. The current per capita share of water in Egypt is around 570 cbm annually, way below the threshold of water poverty (1,000 cbm/year per capita), according to the World Bank.
Unilateral operation of GERD threatens Egypt’s water resources by increasing the possibility of food and water shortage, as well as public health risks.
Both Egypt and Sudan also have other fears over the dam’s security and safety, due to its location in an active geologic region which puts it at a risk of earthquakes or mass floods.
GERD negotiations saga started in 2011, when the Nile Basin downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan, expressed concern over the surprise announcement of dam building.
Egypt and Sudan are seeking a legally binding deal that would guarantee the appropriate flows of water and a legal mechanism for resolving disputes before the dam starts operating.
Tensions escalated after Ethiopia started filling the dam’s reservoir. The last round of negotiations, which were sponsored by the AU, failed to reach fruitful results on the dam’s disputed technical and legal points.