ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia / ANKARA
Ethiopians on Saturday reacted to US President Donald Trump’s remarks that Egypt will have to blow up the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
Trump made the remark in a telephone conversation with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdella Hamdok on Friday.
“I had a deal done for them, and then unfortunately, Ethiopia broke the deal which it should not have done,” Trump said admitting for the first time his administration overstepped its role as observer and authored a deal, which Trump did through his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“We’ve stopped payment to them of about – of a lot of aid,” he said and claimed that the dam “stops water from flowing into the Nile.”
“It is a very dangerous situation, because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way. They’ll end up blowing up that dam [...] I say it loud and clear, They’ll blow up that dam,” Trump said.
Trump was noticeably irked by Ethiopia’s withdrawal from Washington-sponsored talks in late February after his administration came up with a document for signing that Ethiopia rejected saying it favors the interest of Egypt. Sudan also did not sign that agreement.
Now negotiations on the GERD is in the hands of the African Union as Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt try to hammer out a win-for-all deal.
Ethiopia began construction of the over $5 billion hydroelectric dam project in 2011, triggering a long drawn out diplomatic battle with Egypt that had enjoyed thousands of years of hydro hegemony on the Nile.
Ethiopia contributes 85% of the waters of the Nile, though a 1959 agreement between Sudan and Egypt gave 55.5BCM to Egypt and 18.5BCM to Sudan and nothing to Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew summoned the US Ambassador Mike Raynor to seek clarification on Trump's remarks.
Gedu said: “The incitement of war between Ethiopia and Egypt from a sitting US president neither reflects the longstanding partnership and strategic alliance between Ethiopia and the United States nor is acceptable in International Law governing interstate relations.''
“The Minister further informed the Ambassador that Ethiopia has never and will not in the future succumb to threats to its sovereignty and will be committed to continue the trilateral negotiations under the framework of the African Union,'' according to a statement.
Etsegenet Yimenu, Ethiopia’s acting consul general in Istanbul, condemned Trump's comments.
“The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is an affirmation of Ethiopia’s commitment for equitable and reasonable utilization of the Abbay River [The Blue Nile], Yimenu told Anadolu Agency on Saturday.
“Ethiopia's commitment to a peaceful resolution on issues of the GERD is based on cooperation, non-interference, desire to seek win-win solution based on the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization [of the Nile]. Abbay [river] is Life and Pride to Ethiopia,” the Ethiopian diplomat added.
“Reckless conversation of the President of US with Sudanese PM [prime minister]. Sorry to say but the man doesn't have a clue on what he is talking about. Ethiopia and Ethiopians will never be threatened by such irresponsible statement. History will teach every one,” Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn tweeted on Saturday.
A hydraulic expert very close to the Nile talks told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity that Trump missed the whole point including in his claim that a hydro dam stops a river’s water flow, which is impossible and unscientific.
“It was not justice or reason speaking, it was power talking,” the expert said, indicating that Trump sounded very anxious about getting the three countries to make a deal as soon as possible before the Nov. 3 US elections.
“Trump seemed successful in getting a deal between Israel and UAE; and he want to couple his perceived foreign policy win with the Nile deal to use as election fodder,” he added.