Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn met President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda last Thursday for bilateral talks that were dominated by the issues of the Nile waters and insecurity in East Africa.
According to the Ethiopian ambassador to Kenya Dina Mufti Sid, PM Hailemariam visit was reciprocal, in which the leaders were to sign several bilateral agreements and also discuss a way forward for regional stability.
Mr Sida said that while Ethiopian and Uganda peacekeepers are already engaged in efforts to stabilise Somalia under the umbrella of Amisom, the instability in South Sudan has placed a big burden on Ethiopia due to the increasing insecurity along its common border with South Sudan and the flow of refugees.
“Ethiopia considers the peace and stability of South Sudan its obligation and we have to join hands with those who are involved in restoring peace in South Sudan like Uganda,” said Mr Ding.
As civil unrest spreads to more regions in South Sudan, Uganda recently became the biggest host of South Sudanese refugees with 520,577, followed by Ethiopia with 321,342, according to the latest figures by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
However, other diplomatic sources said that PM Hailemariam and Museveni discussed at length the issue of the Nile waters. Ethiopia and Egypt are currently at crossroads over the $4.7 billion Grand Renaissance Dam, which Cairo strongly opposes on the grounds that it will reduce the amount of water flowing to the country.
While The Daily Monitor quoted President Museveni as calling for equitable use of the Nile waters and urging Egypt to sign the Nile Basin Co-operative Framework Agreement of 2011, diplomatic sources hinted that the burning issue for Ethiopia is the alleged presence of Egyptian troops in South Sudan, allegedly to help the government fight rebels.
Addis Ababa is uneasy that South Sudan could be used as a launching pad to destabilise Ethiopia over the Renaissance Dam.
Last week, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan accused Cairo of supplying South Sudanese President Salva Kiir with weapons and ammunition to fight rebels. Juba government spokesman Mawien Makol called Bashir’s allegations baseless and unfortunate.
During President Kiir’s visit to Cairo on January 10, Egypt and South Sudan signed a military co-operation agreement and soon after the rebel movement led by Dr Riek Machar alleged that the Egyptian government had sent 58 senior military advisers to help the government plan attacks against them.