October 29, 2020
Dear Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel,
In July 2020 we expressed our concern about the misleading reporting in connection with the filling of the Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Ethiopia in an open letter to you Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel. The letter was signed by 60 Ethiopians and German-Ethiopians living in Germany, representatives of organizations, communities and associations, academics of various disciplines, artists and entrepreneurs.
Some time has passed since then and the first filling of the GERD has been successfully completed. So far the feared water shortage for Sudan and Egypt has not occurred. On the contrary, Sudan experienced a flood of the century in September 2020. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid, the Nile reached the highest water level in living memory at 17.5 meters. The 4.9 Billion Cubic Meter (BCM) stored in the GERD has helped to lessen the blow.
Climate researchers observe that global warming is resulting in increased precipitation in East Africa. The dam will therefore make a major contribution to regulating floods and preventing flooding in the Sudan in future. The benefits of the dam have thus become clearer, especially to the population in the Sudan. A recent widely circulated study by the Nature from independent researchers (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-19089-x) showed the benefit for BOTH Sudan and Ethiopia without significantly impacting Egypt. In Ethiopia, the construction work to complete the dam is now making a good progress. The attitude towards the dam in Egypt has also improved recently.
However, we are currently shocked by a statement made by the incumbent President of the United States of America, Donald Trump. On 23rd of October 2020, during a telephone conversation with the leaders of the states of Israel and the Sudan, which was circulated in the various media, he also spoke about the dam. He mentioned that the dam would not allow any more water to enter Egypt, thus Egypt would have to blow up the dam. Literally he said: “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,” (you can find the link of the conversation on YouTube: https://youtu.be/XSxvCd7af-c).
President Donald Trump is obviously unaware of many aspects, such as the fact that a dam used to generate electricity must let water through to perform its function. Experts agree, that the dam will improve the region’s water supply in the long run. In 2020, heavy rainfall enabled Ethiopia to achieve the first phase filling in very short time.
Ethiopia has the right to fill and operate the GERD by complying with the principles of equitable and reasonable utilization and the obligation not to cause significant harm. Though, Ethiopia contributes 86% of the Nile water, over 65 million Ethiopians do not have access to electricity, while 98% Egyptians have access to electricity. Ethiopia does not possess a significant amount of ground and sea water for desalination as Egypt does. Most of Ethiopia’s energy is derived from biomass resulting in deforestation and environmental and land degradation causing flood, draught, animal and human disease. Due to climate change and erratic rain, about 8million people in Ethiopia depend on emergency Humanitarian food assistance every year. Building the dam and generating energy is not luxury for Ethiopia, actually it is a grave necessity. Ethiopia needs the dam to lift its rapidly growing population (which now more than 110 million) out of extreme poverty.
Egypt shows lack of flexibility and a strong claim to control Nile water as per the colonial treaty to which Ethiopia is not a signatory. Egypt has a lot of water in its High Aswan Dam and there is currently a record amount stored.
President Trump’s comments were received with great concern and outrage by Ethiopians from all social classes. The Ethiopian people – and we, the signatories, also – believe that such threats and insults to Ethiopian sovereignty are misguided, unproductive and clear violations of international law. The president’s remarks do not reflect the long-standing diplomatic relations between USA and Ethiopia that has existed for more than 100 years.
With this letter, we would like to bring to your kind attention the ongoing situation with a view to achieve balanced stance that will eventually lead to a negotiated outcome.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the government of the Federal Republic of Germany and the European Union for their constructive cooperation in full mutual respect and with respect for national sovereignty. We would also like to thank the Federal Republic of Germany and the European Union for the current support in the fight to against Covid-19 and for continued development assistance. Our thanks also go to the German media for their balanced reporting.
With best regards,
Prof. Dr. Asnakech Laß-Seyoum
Dr. Tsegaye Degineh