Planeload of Kalashnikovs sends warning to world over Ethiopia’s massive new dam

The plane from Egypt packed with a cache of weapons was meant to arrive in Somalia in May.

But the two thousand Kalashnikovs, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, pistols and mortars never touched down.

They were stopped, a senior Somali official told The Sunday Telegraph, because of fears in Mogadishu of Somalia being publicly drawn into a growing row between two of Africa’s superpowers.

Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam

Egypt has been the dominant power on the Nile for thousands of years. But the balance of power is about to shift far upstream.

In the next few weeks, when the rainy season arrives, Ethiopia will start to fill up a vast reservoir with the waters of the Blue Nile, one of the great river’s two main tributaries. One of Africa’s largest infrastructure projects will effectively give Ethiopia the power to turn off the taps in Egypt – and could force neighbouring countries to pick a side.

 

For nearly a decade, Ethiopia has been constructing a one-mile-long wall of cement almost twice the height of the Statue of Liberty. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, as it is known, straddles the Blue Nile, only a few miles from the border with Sudan.

The mega project is almost complete. It will be the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, capable of holding 72-billion cubic metres of water and doubling the country’s unstable energy supply.

For Ethiopia, the dam is a national wonder — a statement of a people treated cruelly for the last century emerging onto the world stage, and a stepping stone towards industrialisation.

The £3.8bn needed for the project has been raised without international help through private donations and government bonds. Ethiopian civil servants have even been asked to pay part of their salary towards the construction.

But for Egypt, whose 100 million people live almost entirely off the freshwater from the river, the dam poses an “existential threat” according to Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Shoukry.

Egyptian officials say that even a small reduction in the Nile’s waters could worsen already bad droughts and wreak on the country’s rich agriculture sector and water supply.

Sudan, the other downstream country, stands to benefit from the cheap electricity and the flood control the dam will provide.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi meets with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali in Cairo
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi meets with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali in Cairo
Talks between the three countries over how the dam should be filled and managed have failed to resolve these fundamental differences.

In February, a US-backed round of talks ended with Ethiopia walking out at the crucial moment. The talks came close to reaching a deal but broke down over detailed legal issues of drought management and international treaties. Ethiopia felt these would damage its sovereignty.

Now Ethiopia is planning to fill it with or without an agreement. In recent weeks, this has prompted analysts and diplomats to issue unprecedented warnings that a peaceful resolution must be found immediately.  Read More on The Telegraph

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