Not even the waters of Africa’s greatest river can cool the heat generated by the row over the dam that Ethiopia has built across the Nile.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed says the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be filled with or without an agreement with the riparian countries Sudan and Egypt who view the dam as an existential threat.
They rely on the Nile for more than 90% of the water needs in their largely desert countries.
Ahmed recalls that Ethiopia was left out of negotiations on the use of the Nile waters between Britain, as the colonial power, with Egypt and Sudan.
He maintains that building the dam, which will make Ethiopia a hydro-electrical-generating power, is its sovereign right.
His predecessors warned that they would go war to protect their access to the Nile waters. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi subsequently ratcheted things down in favour of negotiations.
Recently though, both he and his Sudanese neighbour have resorted to bellicose language.
Egypt would not allow a drop of Nile water to be stolen from it, he said.
Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas warned “all options are open” in safeguarding his country’s access to the water.
Both the riparian countries and Ethiopia have in turn gone to the United Nations Security Council swapping accusations of negotiating in bad faith.
As African Union Chairman last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa attempted, without success, to mediate an agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD.
Current AU chair, Congolese President Felix Tshisikedi had a bash at mediation earlier this month that also ended in deadlock.
Al Sisi has taken yet another diplomatic initiative, sending his Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on a six-nation African safari, hoping to win support from continental partners.
Shoukry visited the Comoros, South Africa, the DRC, Niger, Senegal and Tunisia.
In South Africa, the minister engaged in some fence mending.
He thanked President Cyril Ramaphosa for his mediation last year.
It is no secret that Egypt was highly suspicious of these efforts, suspecting that Ramaphosa was biased in favour of Ethiopia
Shoukry’s trip will be viewed favorably by African leaders who hold fast to the principle of African solutions to African problems.
However Al Sisi maintains his wish to see the United Nations, the European Union and the United States involved in trying to get Ethiopia to take a more understanding view of Egyptian and Sudanese fears.