Ethiopians may not see US President Donald Trump as their favourite American but his rating has plummeted after a controversial statement about their pet project on the River Nile.There is still consternation in Ethiopia days after Trump suggested that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) may be blown up by Egypt where there is a dogged opposition to the project.
Speaking of Egypt’s undeclared intentions Trump said: “They’ll end up blowing up the dam. And I said it and I say it loud and clear — they will blow up that dam. And they have to do something”.
The US leader was on the phone with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdulla Hamdok, when Washington announced normalizing diplomatic relations with Khartoum after a decades-long hiatus.
Reacting on Social media ordinary Ethiopians moved by a patriotic fervour, condemned Trump’s remarks as not only condescending and dismissive of their right to development as a country, but as a direct affront to their sovereignty as a people.
It is being seen as an existential threat for the very survival of Ethiopia as a developing country.
It is also seen as the clearest indication yet of where Trump’s loyalty lies, discrediting Washington’s diplomatic drive to help reach a conclusive agreement on the GERD dam between Ethiopia and its downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan.
Cairo and to a lesser extent Khartoum have long voiced their misgivings and even opposition to the dam project, apprehensive about its environmental and social implications to tens of millions of their peoples who depend on water from Africa’s longest river for its domestic, agricultural and economic value.
To these countries, losing their usual share of water from the Nile if the dam becomes operational is not an option at any one time.
For Ethiopia, a dam on the Nile is a sure ticket to realising its socio-economic development aspirations, powered by energy.
So for Ethiopians who are enamoured of what would be Africa’s biggest hydroelectric dam, Trump’s statement is tantamount to a declaration of war on Ethiopia.
“And we would defend the dam at the expense of lives”, Ethiopians were quoted by the local media as vowing.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew on Saturday summoned the U.S. Ambassador Mike Raynor to seek clarifications on President Donald Trump’s remarks about the massive dam.
Gedu described the president’s speech as “misleading and wrong”, insisting that GERD will not stop the flow of water from the Nile.
He described Trump’s statement as an incitement to war between Ethiopia and Egypt which neither reflects the longstanding strategic alliance between Addis Ababa and Washington nor respects international law governing interstate relations.
Minister Gedu told the US ambassador that Ethiopia will succumb to threats about its sovereignty but will remain committed to trilateral negotiations under the framework of the African Union.