Ethiopian PM asks S.Africa to mediate Nile dam dispute

FILE - In this June 28, 2013 file photo, the Blue Nile river flows near the site of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam near Assosa, Ethopia. Two days of negotiations between top officials from Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan were hoped to reach agreements on technical issues related to the $4.6 billion dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River, but the talks concluded Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 without an agreement. (AP Photo/Elias Asmare, File)
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Updated 12 January 2020

Ethiopian PM asks S.Africa to mediate Nile dam dispute

  • Abiy called on South Africa’s president to intervene in the negotiations
  • Ethiopia’s ties to Egypt have soured since the east African country launched the dam construction

PRETORIA: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Sunday asked South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in a long-running dispute with Egypt over a massive dam being built on the Blue Nile River.
Ethiopia’s ties to Egypt have soured since the east African country launched the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam in 2011.
Set to become the largest hydropower plant in Africa, the project has fueled tensions because Egypt depends on the river for 90 percent of its water supply.
Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan — where the Blue Nile converges with the White Nile before flowing north — started discussions in November that are meant to yield an agreement next week.
But major sticking points remained in the latest round of talks on Thursday and the parties have yet to clinch a deal.
Abiy, who visited South Africa this weekend, called on Ramaphosa to intervene in the negotiations as the next chairperson of the African Union (AU), which he will take over from Egypt this month.
“As he (Ramaphosa) is a good friend for both Ethiopia and Egypt and also as incoming AU chair, he can make a discussion between both parties to solve the issue peacefully,” Abiy told reporters at a press conference in South Africa’s political capital Pretoria.
Ramaphosa said South Africa was open to playing a role in facilitating “whatever agreement can be crafted.”
“What is pleasing, as far as I’m concerned, is that both countries are willing to discuss this matter and find solutions,” he said.
The president said he had already brought up the issue with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who was “willing to have discussions with Ethiopia.”
Abiy received the Nobel Peace Prize last month for his efforts to resolve a long-running conflict between Ethiopia and its neighboring foe Eritrea.
Just three months after Abiy took office in 2018, he ended a 20-year-old stalemate between the countries over a 1998-2000 border conflict.
US President Donald Trump made a controversial statement earlier this week in which he complained about Abiy receiving the prestigious award.
“To be honest, I don’t have any clue about... how the Nobel committee selects an individual for the prize,” said Abiy, struggling to contain a smile at the mention.
“If President Trump complained it must go to Oslo, not to Ethiopia.”


Over 1 million marooned in Bangladesh as floods worsen

Updated 14 July 2020

Over 1 million marooned in Bangladesh as floods worsen

  • Water levels at major rivers were rising Tuesday at around two dozen points in 20 districts
  • Bangladesh is crisscrossed by 230 rivers, including 53 shared with India

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Heavy flooding is worsening in parts of Bangladesh, with over 1 million villagers marooned or leaving their homes for higher ground along with their cattle and other belongings, officials and volunteers said Tuesday.
Water levels at major rivers were rising Tuesday at around two dozen points in 20 districts. Many new areas in northern, northeastern and central Bangladesh have been affected over last 24 hours, Arifuzzman Bhuiyan, an executive engineer with the Water Development Board, said by phone. Bangladesh has 64 districts.
“The situation is worsening," he said. “The worst thing is that the floods are getting prolonged this year, which is a bad sign.”
Bhuiyan said heavy rainfall and rushing waters from upstream India were the main reasons for the floods in the delta nation of 160 million people, which receives monsoon rains between June and October every year, often leading to flooding.
The floods started late last month, and after briefly easing continued to worsen, affecting many new areas, destroying crops and driving people from their homes in several impoverished regions. Bangladesh is crisscrossed by 230 rivers, including 53 shared with India.
In the northern district of Kurigram, one of the worst-hit areas, thousands of villagers have moved from their homes to higher ground since the weekend, bringing along their cattle and other belongings, said Mizanur Rahman Soikat, project coordinator with the Bidyanondo Foundation, a local charity. The foundation has been distributing both cooked and dry food to the flood-affected villagers, many of whom have lost their crops and livelihood.
Soikat said that over the last few weeks, the charity has distributed food to some 135,000 people in Kurigram, while the government’s relief office was also providing food, cash and cattle food.
“Over last two days, the situation has deteriorated and many villages went underwater in the district," he said by phone. “I have seen thousands taking shelter.”
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a statement Monday that more than a million Bangladeshis have been marooned by the floods, with the worst of it happening since the weekend.
“Thousands of people are expected to leave their homes throughout the beginning of this week to seek shelter in higher ground as the Water Development Board warned that the onrush of water from upstream would further intensify,” the statement said.
A.T.M. Akhteruzzman, a relief and rehabilitation officer in the northern district of Rangpur, said about 50,000 people who live along the Teesta River basin have been marooned.
“Waters are coming from India, while heavy rainfalls in the region are causing havoc,” he said. “We are trying to do our best to stand by the people, as we have already provided more than 300 tons of rice, cattle food, baby food and a good amount of cash. Our relief operations will continue."