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Wednesday, 26 May 2021

What’s going on down south?

Has Ethiopia already started the second filling of GERD? Sudan apparently has evidence to suggest that Ethiopia began the second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s (GERD) reservoir at the beginning of May, Reuters reports, citing an unnamed Sudanese official. Khartoum has gathered data on river flows, which “show changes in the level of the Blue Nile River that indicate water is being pooled,” Bloomberg reports, also citing an unnamed Sudanese official.

Ethiopia says it’s fake news: Sudan’s claims are “not true” and are “deliberately misleading statements targeted to confuse everyone,” Ethiopian Irrigation Minister Seleshi Bekele told the business information service. Addis Ababa has previously said it plans to begin the second filling of the dam during its upcoming rainy season, which is expected around July or August, and has recently maintained it will move ahead with the filling with or without an agreement with Sudan and Egypt on the filling and operation of the dam.

What’s certain is that Ethiopia has pushed ahead with the construction needed for the second filling, Sudanese political analyst Essam Dakeen told Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa. Addis Ababa appears to have begun pooling some amount of rainwater, but it is uncertain whether this means it has actually started the second filling of GERD’s reservoir. In all cases, Ethiopia has proven that it will act unilaterally for its own interests without heeding requests from Egypt, Sudan, and the international community to reach an agreement first, Dakeen said (watch, runtime: 6:35).

So, what now? For starters, let’s not jump straight to war, pundit Emad Eldin Adib tells Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi. It is highly unlikely that President Abdel Fattah El Sisi would opt for this scenario unless all other options have been exhausted, which is not the case yet (watch, runtime: 4:53). Political commentator Mostafa El Fekky said much the same to Yahduth fi Misr’s Sherif Amer, suggesting that GERD affects too many other countries in the region for the international community to sit back until an open conflict unfolds (watch, runtime: 3:42). Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry recently said Egypt was “confident” it would be able to mitigate the effects of the GERD filling through water conservation efforts, and that escalations would only take place if the filling material damages Egypt’s water supply.

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