Ethiopia’s controversial dam on the Blue Nile could trigger a visit to the African continent from United States president, Donald Trump who reportedly said he will ‘cut the ribbon’ at its inauguration.
Trump’s government is leading mediation efforts to resolve a dispute among Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt over how the dam should be operated.
Egypt is worried that the rate at which the dam is filled could negatively affect the flow of water downstream, while Ethiopia which insists that it needs the dam to satisfy its energy needs says Egypt’s concerns are unfounded.
Current mediation by the Trump administration has resulted in the setting of a January 15,2020 deadline to settle the technical differences.
Washington is a key ally of Egypt and Ethiopia in several areas especially security cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
Ethiopia’s minister for water and irrigation, Sileshi Bekele said Trump told the ministers from Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan he would be happy to inaugurate the dam when its completed.
‘‘President Trump sat with six people [two from each country] and tried to understand the situation. At the end of the discussion, he said he’d want to cut the ribbon with us on the inauguration,’‘ Sileshi said.
Sileshi added that Trump had instructed his treasury department ‘to lead discussions for smooth, quick and careful completion of the project’.
A joint statement issued on behalf of the three countries by the US Treasury Department however did not mention any plans by the US president to open the dam.
Trump, who became president of the United States in 2016 is yet to visit any African nation. US diplomats have struggled to justify the Trump administration policies in Africa that have included a travel ban on some countries, and the infamous ‘shithole’ remarks.
Ethiopia expects to inaugurate the $4bn dam next year. When fully operational, it is expected to be able to generate a massive 6,000 megawatts of electricity.