By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
/ADDIS ABABA/ – The Eritrean President, Isaias Afeworki has downplayed reports alleging his country’s deepened ties with Egypt are intended to sabotage the construction of Ethiopia’s massive hydro-power dam project.
The Nile River is a lifeline to some 80% of Egyptians and the desert North African nation fears Ethiopia’s huge dam project being built on the main tributary of Nile River will ultimately diminish Cairo’s historic water rights.
In 2013, Ethiopia and Egypt have been locked in a bitter war of words after Egyptian politicians were caught on camera proposing sabotage, including an air strike to halt the project.
However, tensions eased after Cairo and Addis Ababa engaged in a number of positive discussions along with Sudan which led to a cooperation deal signed in March 2015 in Khartoum. Ethiopia insists the dam will not harm the interests of Sudan and Egypt rather provide economic benefit
“The claim made by the Ethiopian regime that the relation between Eritrea and Egypt is targeting the millennium dam [Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam] is unfounded and stems from an unhealthy mindset” Said President Isaias in an interview with State-run ERITV this week on the 26 independence day anniversary occasion.
Ethiopian government officials were not immediately reachable for reactions.
In regard to the growing ties between Eritrea and Egypt, Afeworki further said that the bilateral relationship between the two countries has tremendously grown in a short period of time and that this will have significant dividends to the promotion of peace and stability in the region.
In October last year, the Eritrean leader visited Cairo where he met his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and the two leaders discussed the deepening ties.
Ethiopia had previously accused some Egyptians and the government in Eritrea of providing support to Ethiopian opposition groups to disrupt construction of the multi-billion dollar power project and to destabilise the nation.
Ethiopia which is investing billions of dollars in building a number of hydro-power plants aims to become a renewable energy hub of the region.
It plans to export large amounts of clean and cheap hydro-power-processed electricity to its neighbours, other African countries as well as the Middle East and beyond.
The ambitious plan is part of the Horn of Africa nation’s efforts towards becoming a middle-income country by 2025.
Although construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is seen by Ethiopians as having a vital role in transforming the country’s economy and poverty alleviation, Egyptians view the project as a potential threat to their water security.
Ethiopia’s Nile dam will be Africa’s largest and the world’s 8th biggest once completed.
The 4.2 billion dollar dam project is nearly 60% completed, according to the government. The Dam, being constructed on the Blue Nile has a capacity of 74 billion cubic meters and is expected to generate up to 6,450 megawatts of power.