Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Tuesday said the ongoing protests over the killing of Hachalu Hundessa would not derail the government’s plan to begin filling the Nile dam this month, despite objections from Egypt and Sudan, reported France 24.
Last week, violent protests erupted in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and the surrounding Oromia region following the death of Hundessa, a popular singer from Ethopia’s largest Oromo ethnic group. Over 160 people died in inter-ethnic killings and in clashes between protesters and security forces, according to the latest official toll.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Abiy said the domestic unrest was specifically intended to throw Ethiopia’s plans for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam off course.
“The desire of the breaking news is to make the Ethiopian government take its eye off the dam,” Abiy said during a question-and-answer session with lawmakers, without giving evidence to support the claim.
He reiterated Ethiopia’s position that the filling process is an essential element of the dam’s construction.
“If Ethiopia doesn’t fill the dam, it means Ethiopia has agreed to demolish the dam,” he said adding, “On other points we can reach an agreement slowly over time, but for the filling of the dam we can reach and sign an agreement this year.”
The Ethiopian officials haven’t announced any exact date yet as to when they intend to start filling the dam.
While Ethiopia claims the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is very essential for its electrification and development, neighboring countries Egypt and Sudan are worried that the dam will restrict access to vital Nile waters.
Addis Ababa is seeking to start filling the dam’s reservoir this month in the middle of its rainy season. But Cairo and Khartoum want the three countries to first reach an agreement on how it will be operated. Talks between the three nations resumed last week.