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Ethiopia asks Saudi Arabia for clarifications after minister’s accusations

By Alpha K.
[/caption]The Africa Report
March 9,2013

Ethiopia is seeking clarifications after 

a Saudi Arabian minister unleashed a barrage of attacks on the country, saying that the Horn of Africa nation posed a threat to the Nile River water rights of Egypt and Sudan.

“The Renaissance dam has its capacity of flood waters reaching more than 70 billion cubic meters of water, and is located at an altitude of 700 metres and if it collapsed then Khartoum will drown completely and the impact will even reach the Aswan Dam,” the Saudi Deputy Defence Minister, Khalid Bin Sultan said at the meetings of the Arab Water Council in Cairo last week.

The massive $4.8 billion Renaissance Dam is still under construction and is scheduled for completion in 2015.

It lies close to Sudan’s eastern borders and will have power generating capacity of 6,000MW and is considered a critical cog in Ethiopia’s quest to become an electricity exporting powerhouse.

The Saudi official further accused Ethiopia of being 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 said.

“The establishment of the dam leads to the transfer of water supply from the front of Lake Nasser to the Ethiopian plateau, which means full Ethiopian control of every drop of water, as well as [causing] an environmental imbalance stirring seismic activity in the region as a result of the massive water weight laden with silt withheld in front of the dam, estimated by experts at more than 63 billion tonnes,” he added.

Ethiopia has asked for clarifications from the oil rich country after those comments appeared in the Sudan Tribune.

Ethiopian foreign affairs ministry spokesperson, Ambassador Dina Mufti said the accusation was unexpected and shocking, as Saudi is one of Ethiopia’s strategic partners.

He said officials from the foreign affairs ministry held a meeting on the matter with the Saudi ambassador in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, on Thursday.

At the meeting, the Saudi ambassador said the minister’s speech was not in line with the government’s stance on the matter, adding, however, that clarifications on the matter would come from Riyadh.

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.

The agreements gave Egypt and Sudan over 90 percent of the Nile’s water flow and the power to veto the construction of other dams along the river, even though 85 percent of the river’s water flows from the Ethiopian highlands.

Ethiopia and the upstream states contend they need more water to cater for growing populations, industrialisation and agricultural projects.

Water needs are expected to rise as the Nile basin population is projected to reach 654 million by 2030, up from 372 million in 2005, according to UN estimates.

Since 2011, Ethiopia has doled out thousands of hectares of lands to Saudi Arabia, to grow rice and other vegetables and fruits.





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