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Egypt’s battle over the Renaissance Dam: A timeline

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrived in Khartoum on Monday to try and find a political solution to the turmoil whirling around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, in a meeting that could mark the beginning of the end of a six-year long battle over Nile waters.

Ethiopia announced it would build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in 2009, without first consulting Egypt and Sudan, the Nile’s main beneficiaries. The US$4.2 billion project is anticipated to act as a major electricity generator. Egypt has claimed that if it is constructed, the dam would dramatically reduce its water resources. As per a 1959 treaty with Sudan, Egypt currently receives 66 percent of the river’s waters.

Egypt contested the dam before the United Nations and the African Union in 2010. Foreign powers did not intervene, however, and Ethiopia finalized plans for the dam just a few months later. Since then, diplomatic tensions have continued to flare, with sporadic rumors of possible military intervention.

Mada Masr tracks the genesis and development of the conflict in the following timeline. 

October, 2009: The Ethiopian government begins surveying the dam’s area.

May 1, 2010: Ethiopia announces its intention to build a hydraulic dam along the Nile that may affect Egypt and Sudan’s portions of the waters.

May 14, 2010: Five Nile Basin countries, including Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, sign the Cooperative Framework Agreement on the Nile Basin Countries, known as the Entebbe agreement. Egypt and Sudan strongly oppose the move.

May 21, 2010: Mahmoud Nasser al-Din Allam, minister of water and environmental resources at the time, confirmed that he successfully struck an agreement with Sudan to preserve “the historical rights of both countries to the Nile’s water.” 

May 23, 2010: Former President Hosni Mubarak calls on the presidents of Congo and Kenya to support Egypt and Sudan’s initiative in the Nile Basin.

June 2010: Egypt expresses its official grievances to the United Nations and the African Union, and demands that the dam’s funding be cut. Ethiopia asks Egypt to participate in discussions about cooperation between the two countries.

November, 2010: Ethiopia announces the completion of plans for the dam. International backers require an agreement between Nile Basin countries before agreeing to fund the project.

March 31, 2011: An Italian contracting company is awarded a contract for US$4.8 billion, without competitive bidding.

April 2, 2011: Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi places the dam’s foundational stone and establishes an airstrip for the rapid transport of aircraft.

May, 2011: Ethiopia announces it will share plans for the dam with Egypt so that the latter can study the impact the project will have on its share of the Nile.

September 19, 2011: Ethiopia suggests a partnership to Sudan wherein Ethiopia would provide Sudan with electricity as a provision of their agreement. 

July 14, 2012: Former President Mohamed Morsi visits Ethiopia, the first time an Egyptian president makes the trip since a failed assassination on Mubarak’s life 17 years prior. The negations between the two countries stopped a few months later.

April 6, 2013: Morsi visits Bashir, both confirm Khartoum’s cooperation with the Nile Basin countries.

May 28, 2013: Ethiopian government starts construction work.

June 3, 2013: Egypt broadcasts a “secret” meeting between Morsi and political forces in which they ask the president to circulate a rumor that Egypt will launch a military attack on the dam.

November 4, 2013: After briefly halting in the aftermath of Morsi’s ouster, negotiations between the three countries resume in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.

December 4, 2013: Bashir confirms to the Ethiopian prime minister that the dam will be beneficial for all the Nile Basin countries, including Egypt.

January 4, 2014: Another round of negotiations commences in Khartoum.

February 10, 2014: Egypt’s Irrigation Ministry declares that the Khartoum negotiations have failed.

February 12, 2014: Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry refuses Egypt’s request to stop construction. Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources spokesperson Khaled Wassef says that Egypt will take the international route to challenge the dam. Wassef claims that the dam has technical issues that could damage the surrounding area.

February 19, 2014: Sudan declares neutrality in the conflict.

March 1, 2014: Ethiopia finishes 32 percent of construction work.

March 24, 2014: Egypt’s irrigation minister declares that diplomatic efforts will continue, denies potential military recourse.  

March 26, 2014: UN states that Egypt did not request international interference in the dispute.

April 6, 2014: Ethiopian defense minister states that his country is ready to fend off any military attack. 

April 22, 2014: Russia, China, the European Union, Italy and the International Monetary Fund stop financing construction work on the dam.

April 24, 2014: Ethiopian prime minister calls on Egypt to resume negotiations with Ethiopia and Sudan.

April 25, 2014: Ethiopian prime minister announces that the dam will generate electricity starting next year.

May 17, 2014: Ethiopia’s field marshal declares that his army is ready to defend the dam against any military operation.

June 26, 2014: Sisi meets Ethiopian minister during African Summit to discuss the conflict.

August, 2014: A 10-person international commission, including representatives from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, finds that the dam’s impact on Egyptian waters would be minimal.

January 1, 2015: Egyptian irrigation minister declares that a breakthrough is imminent in negotiations.

March 23, 2015: Sisi Meets with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in Khartoum to sign deal that includes provisions protecting Egypt’s share of the Nile.

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