Ethiopia army voices readiness to pay the price for Nile dam


nileA host of Ethiopian army commanders have voiced their readiness to protect the country’s multibillion-dollar hydroelectric dam project, currently at the heart of a major row with Cairo due to Egyptian fears the dam could threaten its traditional share of Nile water.

State-run television reported that military commanders had visited the project site, during which they had voiced their readiness to “pay the price” to protect the dam, which they described as a “national project.”

According to state television, the visit – the first by military commanders to the site – came as part of activities marking Ethiopia’s Army Day.

Relations between Egypt and Ethiopia soured last year over a plan by the latter to build its Grand Renaissance Dam on the upper reaches of the Nile River – which has historically represented Egypt’s main source of water.

The controversial project raised alarm bells in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, which fears a reduction of its traditional share of Nile water.

Water distribution among Nile Basin states has long been regulated by a colonial-era agreement granting Egypt and Sudan the lion’s share of the river’s water.

Ethiopia, for its part, is determined to build a series of dams in order to generate electricity, both for local consumption and export.

Addis Ababa insists the new dam will benefit downstream states Sudan and Egypt, which will be invited to purchase the electricity thus generated.

Last week, Egyptian Water Resources and Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Muttalib said that Egypt was leaving “all options are open” in dealing with the project.

“Ethiopian decision-makers must bring a solution to the table that won’t compromise Egypt’s share of water,” Abdel-Muttalib had told Anadolu Agency.

Local Egyptian media recently quoted Irrigation Ministry spokesman Khalid Wasif as saying that Egypt would take its complaints against the Ethiopian dam project to the “international” level.

In response, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said his country would “win politically” if Egypt insisted on international arbitration.