Ethiopia is denying reports that it received funding for its Renaissance Dam project from Qatar, a provocative charge that comes amid its own crisis with Egypt and Sudan over Nile River impacts and as Qatar’s tensions with Gulf neighbors and their African allies continue.
In response to Egyptian media reports about Qatar’s role, Ethiopian foreign affairs spokesman Ato Meles Alem denied the claim and said his country “doesn’t need to get permission from any other country” to move forward with the USD $4.8 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project.
“Ato Meles noted it was being built by Ethiopians and for Ethiopians, and it embodied an issue of survival,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. “Equally, Ato Meles pointed out that GERD would not only benefit Ethiopia but also other riparian countries including Egypt and Sudan.”
The dam project is an ongoing source of diplomatic tension between the African nations, with both Egypt and Ethiopia insisting that access to Nile River waters is a matter of life or death.
Reports that Qatar is backing Ethiopia’s GERD project, which Ato Meles says is now 60 percent complete, followed the announcement last week that negotiations over the dam failed.
“Egypt is worried about the failure of the technical negotiations because it jeopardizes the future of cooperation between Sudan and Ethiopia and their ability to agree on the Renaissance Dam and to avoid its potential risks while preserving Egypt’s water security,” said Mohamed Abdel Aty, the Egyptian Minister of Water and Irrigation, following failed talks at mid-month.
Ethiopia insists that all parties stick to a 2015 deal, while Egypt has returned to a 1959 agreement in arguing its water rights and all three countries remain suspicious of each other. “It’s high time Egypt pays what it owes and for Sudan to get its full share,” said Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour earlier this week, while his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry disputed his view.
As the water access becomes viewed as a security issue, inflammatory charges of Qatar’s involvement and its “villainous role” escalate the tensions. Egypt was among the first nations to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in June, while Qatar maintains a cordial relationship and hosted Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn on an official visit last week.
The biggest foreign backer of the dam project, Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi, was arrested in Saudi Arabia earlier this month as part of an alleged corruption crackdown. He remains detained in Riyadh along with dozens of other businessmen and leaders.