ADDIS ABABA – South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has reiterated support for an Ethiopian dam project that has been a source of tension between Ethiopia and Egypt, denying that a recent military agreement between Juba and Cairo was directed at Addis Ababa.
Speaking during a meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on Thursday, Kiir said that a recent visit by South Sudanese Foreign Minister Barnaba Benjamin to Egypt had nothing to do with the Ethiopian dam project.
Kiir, who arrived in Addis Ababa on a one-day visit on Thursday, reiterated that his government supports the construction of the Ethiopian dam, according to the Amharic Daily Addis Zemen.
Benjamin had visited Cairo in March, where he had held talks with Egyptian and Arab League officials.
The visit came shortly after the South Sudanese Defense Minister visited Cairo, where he signed a military cooperation accord between Egypt and South Sudan, a move that sent shockwaves in Ethiopia.
The newspaper quoted Hailemariam as saying that Kiir confirmed his country’s readiness to sign the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) – an agreement designed to replace the old colonial accords of the Nile water.
The CFA was signed by Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. The agreement was ratified by the Ethiopian parliament.
Ethiopia is building a $6.4-billion dam on the Blue Nile, which represents Egypt’s primary source of water.
The project has raised alarm bells in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, which fears a reduction of its historical share of Nile water.
Water distribution among Nile basin states has long been regulated by a colonial-era treaty giving Egypt and Sudan the lion’s share of river water.