Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has hailed the "historic" early filling of the massive dam on the Blue Nile River that has stoked tensions with downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.

Addis Ababa had long said it planned to begin filling the dam's reservoir this month, in the middle of its rainy season, drawing objections from Cairo and Khartoum who wanted to first reach a trilateral agreement on how the dam would be operated.

Ethiopia's announcement on Tuesday that it had hit its first-year target for filling the dam came as the three countries were participating in talks overseen by the African Union (AU) to try to resolve the dispute.

"The completion of the first round of filling is a historic moment that showcases Ethiopians' commitment to the renaissance of our country," Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace laureate, said in a statement read on state television on Wednesday.

"The fact that we reached this milestone by our own efforts when no one else believed in our capabilities to accomplish such initiatives makes the moment even more historic.

"We conducted the filling of the dam without causing harm to anyone," said Abiy.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has been a source of tension in the Nile River basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on it in 2011.

Ethiopia said the colossal dam offers a critical opportunity to pull millions of its nearly 110 million citizens out of poverty and become a major power exporter.

Downstream Egypt, which depends on the Nile to supply its farmers and booming population of 100 million with fresh water, asserts that the dam poses an existential threat. Sudan also views the dam as a threat to its water supplies.

After Tuesday's call with the AU, leaders from the three countries said they had agreed to continue with the negotiations, though it was unclear what concrete progress had been made.

In a statement Wednesday morning, Egypt's foreign ministry stressed "the necessity of reaching a binding legal agreement on the rules for filling and operating the Renaissance Dam" that would "include a legally binding instrument to resolve conflicts".

Ethiopia has resisted a legally binding dispute resolution process. Its officials said the dam would not harm downstream countries.

They have also said this year's filling was a natural and inevitable part of construction.

By filling the reservoir with 4.9 billion cubic metres (173 billion cubic feet) of water, Ethiopia is now in a position to test its first two turbines - an important step on the way towards actually producing energy.

 

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Ethiopia’s communications regulator said on Friday it received twelve bids for the two telecom licences it plans to award to multinational mobile companies, breaking the state monopoly.

Nine bidders are telecom operators and two non-telecom operators, and one submission was incomplete, the regulator said.

Bidders include Etisalat, Axian, MTN, Orange, Saudi Telecom Company, Telkom SA, Liquid Telecom, Snail Mobile and Global Partnership for Ethiopia, a consortium of telecom operators made of Vodafone, Vodacom, and Safaricom. The two non-telecom operators are Kandu Global Telecommunications and Electromecha International Projects.

The issuing of licences will open up one of the world’s last major closed telecoms markets in the country of around 110 million.

The Ethiopian Communications Authority said the licenses will be awarded through a “competitive bidding process,” but did not clarify a deadline for it.

“This is the initial stage. We will soon have...the second stage,” said Balch Reba, director-general of the Ethiopian Communication Authority.

 

Reuters

Leaders of Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt said they were hopeful that the African Union could help them broker a deal to end a decade-long dispute over water supplies within two or three weeks.

Ethiopia, which is building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) which worries its downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan, said it would fill the reservoir in a few weeks, as planned, providing enough time for talks to be concluded.

Tortuous negotiations over the years have left the two nations and their neighbour Sudan short of an agreement to regulate how Ethiopia will operate the dam and fill its reservoir, while protecting Egypt’s scarce water supplies from the Nile river.

Ethiopia’s water minister, Seleshi Bekele, said that consensus had been reached to finalise a deal within two to three weeks, a day after leaders from the three countries and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who chairs the African Union, held an online summit.

Billene Seyoum, a spokeswoman for Ethiopia’s prime minister, said that in Friday’s agreement there was “no divergence from Ethiopia’s original position of filling the dam.”

The Egyptian presidency said in a statement after the summit that Ethiopia will not fill the dam unilaterally.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is being built about 15 km (9 miles) from the border with Sudan on the Blue Nile, the source of most of the Nile’s waters.

Ethiopia says the $4 billion hydropower project, which will have an installed capacity of 6,450 megawatts, is essential to its economic development.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister’s Office said that the three countries agreed that the Nile and the Grand Renaissance Dam “are African issues that must be given African solutions.”

Friday’s round of talks brokered by the African Union, is the latest attempt to move forward negotiations which have repeatedly stalled due to technical and political disagreements. They also signal an intention to solve the issue without foreign intervention.

Ethiopia’s statement said the African Union, and not the U.N. Security Council, will assist the countries in the negotiations and provide technical support.

Cairo had appealed to the Council in a last-ditch diplomatic move aimed at stopping Ethiopia from filling the dam. The Council was expected to hold a public meeting on Monday to discuss the issue.

 

Reuters

It’s two years since a surprise leadership change took place in Ethiopia. Introducing himself with a historic speech to the nation, the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed preached democracy as the only future for the country of more than 110 million.

The initial reforms were breathtaking. So much so that imagining democracy became justifiable. But Abiy’s administration inherited an extraordinary set of problems.

Apart from the challenge of democratising an authoritarian state, it had to deal with ethnic violence and conflicts. And massive internal displacement of citizens.

Two years later, the government seems to have controlled the issue of internally displaced people. Resettlement programs appear to have been mostly successful.

And there’s been considerable progress in ensuring peace and stability. News of violence is now mostly confined to two areas where the Oromo Liberation Army operates.

Beyond domestic politics, the volatile Horn of Africa also posed major challenges to Abiy’s leadership. But Ethiopia’s former arch-rival, Eritrea, is no longer a regional adversary.

In addition, Abiy played a major role in the Sudanese transition from chaos to some political promise. And the fact that he changed the loud silence between Somaliland and Somalia into potentially history-making meetings also deserves recognition.

But, looking back over this period, Abiy’s major achievement could be viewed as the dismantling of the 28-year-old Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front and the birth of a nationally unified political organisation, the Prosperity Party. This is not without its challenges too, however.

These developments have reinvigorated opposition groups afresh. In particular, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a regional political organisation that had major dominance over the old revolutionary front, has now emerged as a major political foe to Abiy’s Prosperity Party.

This poses a menace to Ethiopia’s path to reform. As a result, Ethiopia’s road to democracy and national elections, which were due to be held in August, is now facing two challenges: a global pandemic, and deteriorating relations between the Tigray regional state and the Prosperity Party, which is in charge of the federal government, and the remaining eight regions and two city administrations.

National elections

In its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Ethiopia has so far done a promising job. But cases continue to grow – slowly but alarmingly.

Abiy cited the pandemic as a reason to postpone the national elections. The current administration’s five-year tenure was set to expire come September 30, 2020. Debates on the legitimacy of the government after that date have dominated national discussions.

The government proposed a number of options. One was to dissolve parliament and declare a state of emergency. Another was to request a special constitutional interpretation of the challenge. Yet another was to extend the tenure of current incumbents.

The opposition was consulted and the issues were discussed in parliament. The decision that was finally taken was to ask for a judicial review process to provide a constitutional interpretation. These are done through the Council of Constitutional Inquiry, which then submits its recommendations to the House of the Federation for discussions and a decision.

The House of the Federation is the upper house of Ethiopia’s bicameral legislative branch. Its legislative authority is limited to powers on budgetary allocations, powers to interpret the constitution, and to safeguard the federal constitutional framework.

Based on House’s decision, the chamber postponed the national election.

The decision was not received well by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The regional parliament in Tigray has since defied the federal government’s decision, and announced it will hold its own elections.

High stakes

This decision has wide-ranging implications. By holding an election without the supervision of the National Electoral Board, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front is undermining Ethiopia’s federal constitutional system.

Going it alone is a reflection of the front’s loss of power since the demise of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition. This has weakened its resolve to maintain Ethiopia’s constitutional system.

The decision poses a threat to Ethiopia’s promising democracy. It has ignited an unprecedented level of tension between the Tigray region and the federal government. If this situation deteriorates further, the country’s fledgling democracy could regress.

So far, Abiy’s administration has ignored the threat from the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. This could lead to undesirable repercussions.

The federal government’s reluctance to address the crisis in Tigray might lead to renewed violence. This could in turn harm government’s response to the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, unless addressed, the deteriorating relations between the federal government and the Tigray region could further unravel Ethiopia’s dangerously designed federal system that in any case, is in need of major revision.

For democracy to take root in Ethiopia, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front’s defiance to the country’s constitutional order must resolved.The Conversation

 

Yohannes Gedamu, Lecturer of Political Science, Georgia Gwinnett College

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Amid heightened tension along its border with Ethiopia, Sudan swore in a new defense minister. Major General Yassin Ibrahim Yassin was recalled from retirement to fill the position following the death of General Gamal al-Din Omar.

Yassin's swearing-in came after an alleged Ethiopian cross-border attack which left at least one Sudanese soldier and a child dead, according to Sudan's military. Three Sudanese civilians and a soldier were also wounded.

The attack, which took place in the eastern province of al-Qadarif, started after an Ethiopian militia group penetrated Sudan's border to fetch water at the Atbara river, Brigadier Amer Mohammed al-Hassan, a spokesman for the Sudanese military, said.

Map showing Sudan's al-Qadarif province next to Ethiopia's border.

"It is not clear exactly what triggered a flare-up of this long-standing border dispute. Sources suggest that Sudanese security forces may have responded to incursions by Ethiopian farmers, which in turn brought in Ethiopian security forces," William Davison, senior Ethiopia analyst at the International Crisis Group, told DW.

The heavy exchange of fire reportedly left one Ethiopian militia wounded. "If these allegations are true, then it is an escalation," Kjetil Tronvoll, professor of peace and conflict studies and Research Director of International Studies at Bjorknes University College in Oslo, told DW.

The border clashes flared up as Ethiopia and Sudan were preparing to meet in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, for a second round of talks aimed at resolving the border dispute. "There have been negotiations and they reached an understanding that most or all of this contested land can be under Sudan," Tronvoll said. "The interesting aspect is why there is new violence now and possibly also at a higher level than before."

Sudanese soldiers on top of military vans. (picture-alliance/Photoshot/M. Babiker)

Sudan sent more troops along the border with Ethiopia to stop the incursions

According to Sudan's military, tensions along the border between the two countries have recently heated up amid increasing attacks on Sudanese troops. Following the incident, Sudan summoned Ethiopia's envoy and urged the Ethiopian government to do all it can to end such border clashes.

Ethiopia's call for diplomacy

Ethiopia offered its "deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims of the conflict along the Ethiopia and Sudan border." Addis Ababa urged the two countries to pursue diplomacy as a means of resolving the border dispute saying there was no need for the countries to "descend into hostility". Last month, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent General Adam Mohamed Mahmoud, the country's military chief to Khartoum in a bid to ease the tensions.

 

Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on the - Border Incident. @NEBGET

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For Tronvoll, solving the dispute via diplomatic means is reasonable and should be encouraged. However, he said there could be more to the clashes. "There are various actors and processes within the region, and this is an opportune moment for some to ignite some tension between Sudan and Ethiopia," Tronvoll said. "Hopefully, the two sides can sit at the negotiating table and come to a conclusion."

Former Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir (Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images)

Sudan's ousted former president Omar al-Bashir had tolerated Ethiopia's encroachment along the border

Root of Ethiopia-Sudan border dispute

Sudan and Ethiopia share a common boundary that stretches over 1,600 kilometers (994 miles). The border was drawn following a series of treaties between Ethiopia and the colonial powers of Britain and Italy. However, to date, this boundary lacks clear demarcation lines.

Sudan's al-Fashqa region which covers approximately 600 km, is a rich fertile land conducive for agriculture. For decades, Ethiopia has allowed its farmers to plant crops there.

Former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir largely turned a blind eye to his country's territorial incursion. However, Sudan's transitional authorities, who took over after popular protests which eventually led to the ousting of al-Bashir, have initiated talks with Ethiopia in a bid to have to Ethiopian farmers withdraw.

More Sudanese boots at the Ethiopian border

For the first time in nearly 25 years, Sudan deployed its troops along the al-Fashqa border strip at the end March. This came after an attack which prompted a top security team to visit the area.

"There are old problems. Herders have lost their livestock and farmers have lost their lands," Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, Chairman of Sudan's Sovereignty Council, said in an interview with the national network, Sudan TV, after touring the border region. Al-Burhan defended the troop deployment saying the armed forces were left with no choice but to protect their territory because the Ethiopians had imposed their presence.

Sudan's military has vowed that it is willing and ready to protect its citizens and territory.

Sudan's about-turn in Ethiopia's mega dam project

The border dispute could complicate Ethiopia's plan to construct the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). On Wednesday, Sudan wrote to the UN Security Council calling on it to urge Ethiopia and Egypt, not to take unilateral action on the dam. Sudan had initially backed Ethiopia's project but later refused to sign on an initial agreement which would have paved the way for Ethiopia to begin filling the dam.

Aerial view of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam (DW/Negassa Desalegen )

Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam project has increased tensions along the River Nile

For Ethiopia analyst Davison, the border dispute has little to do with GERD. "Ethiopia and Sudan are holding regular discussions to prepare the ground for the resumption of trilateral GERD talks, so the process is restarting rather than stalled," Davison said. "It does not appear therefore that the border incident has caused a significant disruption to the negotiations."

According to Davison, Sudan and Ethiopia need to ramp up their existing discussions over the borderlands in order to come to an understanding that will lead to a final resolution of the issue.

 

Credit: Deutsche Welle

Egypt said that it is willing to resume negotiations with Sudan and Ethiopia over the filling of a controversial mega-dam that has been a source of tension between all three Nile basin countries.

“Egypt is always ready to enter into negotiations and participate in upcoming meetings ... to reach a fair, balanced and comprehensive agreement,” the foreign ministry said.

The ministry said the agreement would have to take into account “Egypt’s water interests as well as those of Ethiopia and Sudan”.

Cairo’s thawing stance comes after Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok held a virtual meeting with his Ethiopian counterpart Abiy Ahmad earlier Thursday to hammer out a deal.

The online meeting comes after Addis Ababa said it would not delay filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which it began constructing in 2011.

In April, Ahmad proposed proceeding with the “first stage filling” that would collect 18.4 billion cubic metres of water in the dam’s reservoir over two years.

But both Egypt and Sudan fear the reservoir, which has a capacity of 74 billion cubic metres, will trap their essential water supplies.

Hamdok and Abiy’s talks were the first after a diplomatic spat that broke out between Egypt and Ethiopia reached the UN Security Council.

Filling and operating the dam “would jeopardise the water security, food security, and indeed, the very existence of over 100 million Egyptians, who are entirely dependent on the Nile River for their livelihood,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said in a letter to the UN Security Council dated May 1.

In a response dated May 14, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew accused Egypt of being obstructionist.

“Ethiopia does not have a legal obligation to seek the approval of Egypt to fill the dam,” Gedu said.

Egypt wants Ethiopia to endorse a draft agreement emerging from the talks earlier this year facilitated by the US Treasury Department, which stepped in after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sissi put in a request to his ally US President Donald Trump.

But Ethiopia skipped the most recent round of those talks and denies any deal was agreed upon.

Cairo’s heavily worded letter to the Security Council raised the spectre of the possibility of armed conflict stemming from the dam deadlock.

 

The decision by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to postpone the elections in Ethiopia has created a constitutional crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is the context for this but not the cause.

The Ethiopian government decided to postpone the scheduled elections for an unlimited time as a result of the pandemic. But this extension comes with a unique problem, what the authorities are now calling a constitutional crisis.

The five-year term of the federal and regional legislatures, as well as their administrations, will expire on September 30. This brings about a distinct challenge.


Read more: Explainer: why Ethiopia's federal system is deeply flawed


Beyond September 30, who will have the mandate to govern until an election can be held?

The ruling party presented four possible scenarios to circumvent the constitutional crisis: dissolving parliament; declaring a state of emergency; amending the constitution; and seeking a constitutional interpretation.

Of the four options, the ruling party was partial to constitutional interpretation. Parliament endorsed this on May 5, 2020. They have asked the House of Federation to issue an interpretation within a month. Most opposition parties with significant constituencies have rejected the decision.

The Oromo Federalist Congress and its six coalition parties have rejected it and called for a dialogue to find a political solution. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front rejected it as unconstitutional and said it would prepare for regional elections. It said this would avoid an illegitimate power grab by the incumbent.

In Ethiopia’s divisive ethno-political landscape, this year’s planned elections were always going to be a tricky affair.

Was the current impasse avoidable?

The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia was reorganised in 2018. Former opposition leader Birtukan Midiksa was appointed as its head. Despite these developments the government remained reluctant to hold elections on schedule.

Prime minister Ahmed stated that his government needed to consult all the political groups in the country to decide whether holding the election on time was appropriate.

In its most recent report, the International Crisis Group indicated that Ahmed’s tactics were reminiscent of the authoritarian past he had vowed to abandon. This included the arrest and harassment of activists and opponents.

It was only in October 2019 (following the Nobel Committee’s announcement that Ahmed had won the Nobel Peace Prize) that the premier stated explicitly that any delays in the poll would affect the legality and legitimacy of his government.

The electoral board and its new chairperson claimed that they had begun working on preparations for elections. However, an election timeline was only released in February this year. This goes contrary to custom whereby the board should have announced the calendar nine months prior to polling day.

In the February calendar, it planned to hold the elections on August 29, 2020.

Several organisations and political groups expressed their concern about the choice of date. Because of the rainy season, most rural areas are not accessible at that time. This would limit the participation of the majority of Ethiopians. The electoral board insisted on going ahead with the August date, claiming that any delay would result in a constitutional crisis because an un-elected government would be in office.

From this sequence of events it is clear that the constitutional crisis was already brewing before the additional problems posed by COVID-19. The late preparations and unrealistic choice of date already posed a very serious problem to the practicality and legitimacy of the elections. COVID-19 gave the government a golden opportunity to justify further delays.

The way forward

Analysts who follow Ethiopia closely, for example Rene LeFort – a writer, reporter and author of Ethiopia: An Heretical Revolution? – have indicated that Ahmed is increasingly personalising power. They say he has shown his aspirations to become the “big man” of Ethiopia at any cost. This would include operating outside the legal framework if necessary.

The Abiy administration has reversed early gains that were made by opening the political space. The resumption of intimidation and mass incarceration of opponents point to a return to the old authoritarian days. His regime is failing to deliver on its promises and is quickly losing its legitimacy.


Read more: Why Ethiopians are losing faith in Abiy's promises for peace


When it dissolved the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front and replaced it with the Prosperity Party it arguably abandoned its legality. The Prosperity Party only has the façade of legality because the representatives who were elected under the front irregularly assumed Prosperity Party membership.

The postponement of the poll without proper political settlement could be the last straw. The country is at risk of balkanisation along ethnic lines.


Read more: Why Sidama statehood demand threatens to unravel Ethiopia's federal system


The Tigray region has declared that it will go ahead with its regional elections. Neither the electoral board nor Ahmed’s government can legally stop the Tigrayans from holding elections.

Any attempt to stop the election by force could split the Ethiopian army along ethnic lines. Such an attempt could be a recipe for the Tigrayans to invoke article 39 of the constitution and declare an independent state. Several major opposition groups, including the largest coalition of Oromo national organisations, have also declared they might go it on their own beyond September 30. They refuse to recognise an illegitimate government.

The solution, therefore, is more political negotiation rather than constitutional “interpretation”. None of the provisions in the constitution, however much they are stretched for convenient interpretation, allow for the extension of the incumbent’s mandate beyond September.

An agreement on the poll date, as well as the type of provisional administration to bridge the gap between September and the next election, can only come through dialogue between all political parties and key civil society organisations. Anything less could spell the most severe crisis in Ethiopia’s modern history.The Conversation

 

Mulugeta G Berhe (PhD), Senior Fellow, World Peace Foundation, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts, Tufts University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

64 Ethiopians suffocated to death in a container that carried them illegally across the border between Malawi and the western Mozambican province of Tete, the independent television station STV reported on Tuesday.

According to the Tete provincial health authorities, a further 14 Ethiopians survived.

Provincial health director Carla Mosse said the immigration services stopped the truck carrying the container in the district of Moatize early on Tuesday morning. . When the container was opened, the 64 bodies were found.

"It is assumed that death was by asphyxiation, but we are still working on the matter", said Mosse.

The immigration services gave a different figure for the death toll, claiming that 78 Ethiopians had died in the container.

Immigration officer Amelia Direiro told STV that her colleagues ordered the truck to stop "but the driver didn't want to stop. My colleagues hear a noise in the truck. They checked and found 14 citizens who had entered illegally and 78 who had already suffocated".

The driver of the truck is a Mozambican from Beira. The truck is from Malawi, and crossed the border illegally.

The driver and the driver's mate are both under arrest. The case is being handled by a team with representatives from the provincial health and justice directorates, the police, the criminal investigation service (SERNIC) and the immigration service.

Mosse said the 14 surviving Ethiopians will be screened for the new coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease Covid-19.

It is not known what the final destination of the Ethiopians was, but it is likely they were making their way to South Africa, where there is a large Ethiopian community.

Several African governments on Sunday closed borders, canceled flights and imposed strict entry and quarantine requirements to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, which has a foothold in at least 26 countries on the continent as cases keep rising.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster and warned the outbreak could have a “potentially lasting” impact on the continent’s most-developed economy, which is already in recession.

Measures to be taken there include barring travel to and from countries such as Italy, Germany, China and the United States.

“Any foreign national who has visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa,” he said, adding that South Africans who visited targeted countries would be subjected to testing and quarantine when returning home.

South Africa, which has recorded 61 cases, will also prohibit gatherings of more than 100 people, Ramaphosa said.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said his government was suspending travel from any country with reported COVID-19 cases.

“Only Kenyan citizens, and any foreigners with valid residence permits will be allowed to come in, provided they proceed on self-quarantine,” he told the nation in a televised address.

The ban would take effect within 48 hours and remain in place for at least 30 days, he said.

Schools should close immediately and universities by the end of the week, he added. Citizens would be encouraged to make cashless transactions to cut the risk of handling contaminated money.

Kenya and Ethiopia have now recorded three and four cases respectively, authorities in each nation said on Sunday, two days after they both reported their first cases.

In West Africa, Ghana will ban entry from Tuesday to anyone who has been to a country with more than 200 coronavirus cases in the past 14 days, unless they are an official resident or Ghanaian national. Ghana has recorded six cases.

President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a televised Sunday evening address that universities and schools will be closed from Monday until further notice. Public gatherings will be banned for four weeks, he said, though private burials are allowed for groups of less than 25 people.

In southern Africa, Namibia ordered schools to close for a month after recording its first two cases on Saturday.

Djibouti, which has no confirmed case of COVID-19, said on Sunday it was suspending all international flights. Tanzania, which also has no cases yet, canceled flights to India and suspended school games.

Other nations have also shuttered schools, canceled religious festivals and sporting events to minimize the risk of transmission. Some 156,500 people worldwide have been infected and almost 6,000 have died.

 

Reuters

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has accepted the task, saying that a solution was surely possible. Egyptian officials have occasionally threatened military action against the dam.   

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Sunday said he has asked South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in an ongoing dispute with Egypt and Sudan over Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam.

The filling of the dam has been a source of tension between the Nile countries. Egypt and Sudan argue that Ethiopia has not provided sufficient guarantees to their water supply, which is highly dependent on the Nile River.

All three countries were expected to have finished negotiations ahead of signing a deal later this week. But negotiators say significant issues remain.

"As (Ramaphosa) is a good friend for both Ethiopia and Egypt and also as incoming AU chair, he can make a discussion between both parties to solve the issue peacefully," Abiy said at a press conference in the South African capital Pretoria.

Egyptian fishermen fish on the Nile River as the sun sets in Cairo, Egypt

Egypt fears its water supply could be threatened by the dam

'A solution can be found'

For his part, Ramaphosa said he had accepted the task and that he had already reached out to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

"The Nile River is important to both countries and there must be a way in which both their interests can be addressed," said Ramaphosa. "There must be a way in which a solution can be found."

Concerns over the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, one of the main sources of the Nile River, have dogged relations between the African nations for years. At times, Egyptian officials have threatened military action against the dam, including airstrikes, saying its existence poses an existential risk to Egypt.

For Ethiopia though, the dam is a much-needed source of power to energize what has become one of Africa's fastest growing economies.

Ethiopia and South Africa also signed several trade agreements spanning health, tourism and telecommunications industries during Abiy's visit.

 

Credit: DW

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