‘Ethiopia is keen on harming Arab nations’
The Ethiopian government officially demanded clarification about a hostile speech by a Saudi Arabia prince regarding the Grand Renaissance Dam’s hydro power project. The Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Khalid Bin Sultan said that Ethiopia is posing a threat to the Nile water rights of Egypt and Sudan at the meeting of the Arab Water Council held on February 26th in Cairo, Egypt.
Following the comment, the Ethiopian government summoned the Saudi Ambassador to Ethiopia and requested an explanation about the comment.
According to government officials, the Ethiopian government is now investigating the underlying motive of the speech that targets Ethiopia.
Dina Mufti (Amb.), spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), told Capital that high government officials have held talks with Abdu Al Bagi, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia, and the Ethiopian government is demanding clarification about the speech’s intent. During the talks held this week, the Saudi ambassador to Ethiopia said that his Deputy Defence Minister’s speech does not represent his government’s position.
“The two countries have good relations and we are surprised by the Prince’s speech,” Amb. Dina said on his part.
“The Saudi Ambassador has promised that he will bring back with his government’s response,” the spokesperson added.
The name of the government high official who held the discussion with Saudi’s ambassador was not disclosed by the spokesperson.
Yakob Arsano(PhD), Nile negotiator and expert on cross border rivers told Capital that before the official statement, detailed investigation have to be made because the reason is not clear. “Because we have to really know the intention of the speech, the government has to wait to officially respond to such things. Moreover the two countries have strong relations,” he explained. He said that may be the issue is raised for the interest of another country.
A day after the hostile remark by Saudi official in Cairo, on February 27, the Finance Minister of Saudi Arabia, Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf, met with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, in Addis Ababa as part of an official visit.
Officials of the Ethiopian government and other experts of the Nile issue were highly surprised by the Saudi official’s aggressive remarks. But the issue was not raised during the meeting held between the PM and the Saudi Finance Minister. “We want to keep the relation between the two countries unscathed,” Dina said.
“This kind of hostile remark has not happened even from countries that have direct relation with the Nile. The comment from an official of a country that has good relation with Ethiopia is also unexpected,” analysts commented.
Saudi does not have direct border relation with Ethiopia and there is also a good relationship between the two countries.
In his speech the Saudi deputy defence minister is quoted as saying “the Grand Renaissance dam has a capacity of flood waters reaching more than 70 billion cubic meters, and is located at an altitude of 700 meters and if it collapses then Khartoum will drown completely and the impact will even reach the Aswan Dam.”
“Egypt is the most affected party from the Ethiopian Renaissance dam because they have no alternative water source compared to other Nile Basin countries and the establishment of the dam 12 Km from the Sudanese border is for political plotting rather than for an economic gain; and constitutes a threat to Egyptian and Sudanese national security,” the Saudi official was quoted.
The Saudi deputy defence minister is said to go further saying that Ethiopia is keen on harming Arab nations.
“There are fingers messing with water resources of Sudan and Egypt which are rooted in the mind and body of Ethiopia. They do not forsake an opportunity to harm Arabs without taking advantage of it,” Prince Khalid was quoted, according to different news report.
Nile basin countries calling for reallocating Nile water shares is a “real threat” to Egypt’s future. “The information is alarming and it is important that we do not underestimate the danger at the moment and its repercussions in the future,” he is quoted as saying.
Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, along with Ethiopia, signed an agreement to overturn British-colonial-era agreements dating back to 1929 that gave Egypt and Sudan 90 percent of the Nile water flow and the power of veto over dam-building, even though 85 percent of the river’s water flows from the Ethiopian highlands.
The construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam officially commenced in May 2011. The necessary finance for the project, estimated about 76 billion birr, will be fully covered by the government of Ethiopia. The project that will produce 6,000MW of electric power will start its first phase production by 2015. With this and other several electric projects Ethiopia plans to expand its electric power production up to 10, 000 MW by 2015 from the current 2,200MW. Ethiopia is also working to be one of the biggest power exporters in the continent.
On several occasions the Ethiopian government disclosed that the electric dam project line under Nile will continue without any delay aside with negotiations with the Nile Basin downstream countries.
Currently, the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation, which is one of the most effective public enterprises with the expansion of the electric supply, is undertaking several electric projects including wind, geothermal and several hydro projects.
According to studies, Ethiopia has the capacity to produce 45,000 MW of electric power from hydro sources, which make the country one of the major potential in the continent after the Democratic Republic of Congo. A revised study has also indicated that the country has the potential to generate 1.3 million MW of electric power from wind resource.