Ethiopia blames Egypt over unrest, vows to fill mega dam

Sidama youth leader carrying a flag addresses people as they gather for a meeting to declare their own region in Hawassa. File photo: REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri.
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Ethiopia’s Water, Irrigation and Energy Minister Seleshi Bekele has pointed an accusing finger at Egypt over recent unrest that followed the death of popular musician Hachalu Hundessa.

The government says the neighbouring country’s motive was to stop Ethiopia from continuing with the Grand Renaissance Dam project, set to be Africa’s largest.

Construction of the mega dam has sparked tensions with neighbouring countries that are downstream on the Blue Nile. Egypt and Sudan reckon that the billion dollar project threatens the livelihoods of its citizens.

The Ethiopian government has also pointed out that the unrest took place while United Nations-backed talks between the three countries were ongoing, and has hinted at the use of mercenaries to incite violence but did not offer proof of this.


However, officials now say that the project remains on course as the government vowed to fill the dam despite the outcome of ongoing talks.

Mr Bekele said the dam is ready for the first round of filling and turbines already installed, adding that it is 74.5 percent complete.

Dam talks have resumed between the three states, with Kenya providing technical and legal support in efforts to reach a final agreement.

Initially, the deal was to have an agreement within two weeks but negotiations were suspended after Hundessa’s killing.

With a projected capacity of 6,000 megawatts of electricity upon completion, the dam is an essential component of the country’s development blueprint.

On the other hand, Egypt completely relies on the Nile’s waters and sees the dam as a major threat to its economy if water shortages occur in future.


The government says 1,200 protestors have been arrested following last week’s violence while at least 160 people were killed, including police officers.

However, opposition sources say this is a conservative figure and places their own estimate at about 200 people.

The deaths occurred in the Oromia region and the capital, Addis Ababa.

Among those arrested are opposition politicians, protestors and journalists.

Four television channels were also shut over claims of fanning tension and violence.

Source: Daily Nation