by Nizar Manek
No electricity flows yet from the 6,000-megawatt Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a dream of the late rebel-turned-statesman Meles Zenawi. His unilateral decision to construct it is unravelling into an equally grand hydro-political fallout with Egypt. Addis Ababa has built strong regional diplomatic support behind the GERD. For Egypt, the preamble to its new constitution echoes Herodotus: “Egypt is the gift of the Nile and the gift of Egyptians to humanity.”
Suspicion over what is set to be Africa’s most contentious hydroelectric power project flows. “Everyone is involved,” says a person close to diplomatic and donor thinking on the $4.8 billion dam, which is probably the continent’s biggest-ever development project to be undertaken without grants or concessional finance. “Not taking sides means taking the Egyptian side, and they don’t want this to turn into a major conflict. The realm of perceptions is the most critical on the Nile hydro-political chessboard.”
After a meeting between Egypt’s foreign minister Nabil Fahmy and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at the EU-Africa summit at the beginning of month, Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency said the EU ambassador to Egypt James Moran confirmed that the EU is looking into the issue and is not providing Ethiopia financing support.