Trump comment on ‘blowing up’ Nile Dam angers Ethiopia

4 mins read

October 24, 2020

Ethiopia’s prime minister has said his country “will not cave in to aggressions of any kind” after President Donald Trump suggested Egypt could destroy a controversial Nile dam.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is at the centre of a long-running dispute involving Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan.

Mr Trump said Egypt would not be able to live with the dam and might “blow up” the construction.

Ethiopia sees the US as siding with Egypt in the dispute.

The US announced in September that it would cut some aid to Ethiopia after it began filling the reservoir behind the dam in July.

On Saturday, Ethiopia’s foreign minister summoned the US ambassador to clarify President Trump’s comments.

Why is the dam disputed?

Once complete, the $4bn (£3bn) structure on the Blue Nile in western Ethiopia will be Africa’s largest hydro-electric project.

The speed with which Ethiopia fills up the dam will govern how severely Egypt is affected – the slower the better as far as Cairo is concerned. That process is expected to take several years.

Sudan, further upstream than Egypt, is also concerned about water shortages.

Ethiopia, which announced the start of construction in 2011, says it needs the dam for its economic development.

Negotiations between the three countries were being chaired by the US, but are now overseen by the African Union.

What did the Ethiopian PM say?

PM Abiy Ahmed did not address Mr Trump’s remarks directly, but there appears to be little doubt what prompted his robust comments.

Ethiopians would finish the dam, he vowed.

Threats of any kind over the issue were “misguided, unproductive and clear violations of international law”.

In a separate statement, the foreign ministry said: “The incitement of war between Ethiopia and Egypt from a sitting US president neither reflects the longstanding partnership and strategic alliance between Ethiopia and the United States nor is acceptable in international law governing interstate relations.”

The Blue Nile and the White Nile converge in KhartoumIMAGE COPYRIGHTREUTERS
image captionSudan is worried too – the Blue and White Niles meet in Khartoum

Why did Trump get involved?

The president was on the phone to Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu in front of reporters at the White House on Friday.

The occasion was Israel and Sudan’s decision to agree diplomatic relations in a move choreographed by the US.

The subject of the dam came up and Mr Trump and Mr Hamdok expressed hopes for a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

He continued: “And I said it and I say it loud and clear – they’ll blow up that dam. And they have to do something.”

President Trump on the phone to the Israeli and Sudanese leaders, 23 October 2020IMAGE COPYRIGHTREUTERS
image captionThe dam came up in a phone call with Sudan’s prime minister

What is the state of the negotiations?

Mr Abiy maintains that the negotiations have made more progress since the African Union began mediation.

But there are fears that Ethiopia’s decision to start filling the reservoir could overshadow hopes of resolving key areas, such what happens during a drought and how to resolve future disputes.

Ethiopia dam map


  1. No one will blame the old country if such off the cuff remark by the President upsets many over there. It was not a comment of wisdom. The Abiy government was the first country in that region to call both leaders of UAE and Israel with congratulation when they signed the peace agreement. Ethiopia has been the staunchest friend of Israel for ages except for a short lull in the 1970’s and 80’s. No other nation in the region worked so hard and sacrificed so much for peace in Africa and the region. So other country in the region committed itself and manpower so much in the fight against international terrorism more than the old country. The president’s off-the-cuff inciting remark is uncalled for. Those black folks are just exercising their birth rights with having their brothers and sisters in Sudan and Egypt in mind. If the President’s remark is intended to be a green light for Egypt that it can send its F-16’s to blow away the dam. It will not be something that will benefit the peoples of Sudan and Egypt. In fact it may end up to be the end of the Blue Nile as we know it today. That dam has already built up so much silt behind those thick and huge walls that sudden blowing up of the dam may trigger what hydrologist call an alluvial tsunami which will force rivers to flow backwards, The Blue Nile may end up flowing back in the direction it came from. I’m sure the leaders of Egypt understand that very well and they will just laugh it off upon hearing the president’s remark.
    I call this an off-the-cuff remark just because the press conference was not even about the dam but it was about the peace treaty agreed upon between Israel and Sudan. In any case, you folks make your own decision. I can see how Obbo Professor Al reacted to this remark. I can envision how he flew through the roof.

  2. The majority of the third World War will be fought in the open within the Saharan desert if the current cold war which is being fought about the GERD is not put to rest soon. The weapons manufacturers of the world are betting once the third World War starts it will last for decades before it ends.

  3. Humble Opinion
    If one is serious about what Tramp says — especially at this point in time — that person needs a psychiatric treatment to calm him/her down. In any case, United States of America has all the precautions, check & balance, etc to go around and bomb countries of the world by a SINGLE deranged person who is incapable of controlling his loose tongue.!!!
    Just an opinion, in a BLESSED FREE country.

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