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Nile Basin countries building bridges over Ethiopian dam, to calm tensions

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Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance dam on the Blue Nile. PHOTO | FILE 

By FRED OLUOCH

Posted  Thursday, March 9   2017 at  17:21

In Summary

  • Tension among the five Nile Basin countries started building in October last year when Ethiopia’s Oromo people staged anti-government protest over land in which over 300 died, forcing the government to declare a state of emergency.
  • Ethiopia accused Egypt of harbouring, supporting, and funding terrorist groups in Ethiopia.
  • Egypt is opposed to the Ethiopian dam over fears that it will reduce water downstream.

Five Nile Basin countries have moved to build bridges following an imminent falling out over the use of the Nile waters.

The issue surfaced last October when former director general of external security of Uganda David Pulkol wrote in a report that Egypt had teamed up with Juba and Kampala to stop the construction of Ethiopia’s $4.7 billion Grand Renaissance Dam by any means.

Mr Pulkol — a former intelligence officer who fell out with President Yoweri Museveni — claims in the report that Museveni, South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Egyptian President Abdullah Fatah Sisi had hatched a plot to open training camps for Sudan armed opposition at the Uganda-South Sudan border with the view to toppling the Sudanese and Ethiopian governments.

The South Sudan rebel movement led by Dr Riek Machar weighed in with allegations in January that Egyptian war planes had bombarded their positions in Upper Nile after President Salva Kiir visited Cairo in January to sign military co-operation and infrastructure agreements.

These developments have caused a flurry of activities that saw President Kiir late last month lead a government delegation to Addis Ababa to allay any fears and to also discuss bilateral issues. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn visited Kampala on Thursday as Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda move to normalise relations.

Controversial Ethiopian dam

Sudan supports the construction of the Ethiopian dam since it will benefit from the flood control and from the produced clean energy imported at lower rates. The dam has a capacity of producing 6,000 Megawatts.

Ethiopian authorities had last October accused Egypt and Eritrea of sponsoring the mass protests by the Oromo ethnic group in and around the capital Addis Ababa, claiming that they had video clips showing members of the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) sharing a stage with Egyptians. Sudan has also insisted that the SPLM-North and Darfur rebels are being supported by Juba.

Tension among the five Nile Basin countries started building in October last year when Ethiopia’s Oromo people staged anti-government protest over land in which over 300 died, forcing the government to declare a state of emergency.

As recent as last December, Prime Minister Desalegn said that there are Egyptian institutions harbouring, supporting, and funding terrorist groups in Ethiopia.

However, Ethiopia’s ambassador to Kenya Dina Mufti Sid told The EastAfrican that previous misunderstandings and suspicions have been cleared after President Kiir gave assurances during the recent visit that South Sudan will not be used to conspire against Ethiopia.

“Ethiopia’s position is that we want to build good relations with our neighbours and beyond because the dam which is now 59 per cent complete will benefit all the Nile Basin countries. We have no issues with Uganda, we are co-operating within the African peacekeepers force to fight Al Shabaab in Somalia,” said Mr Ding.

Not going to war

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