Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister warned Tuesday that if there’s a need to go to war over a dam project disputed with Egypt his country could ready millions of people, but he said only negotiation can resolve the current deadlock.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made the remarks during a parliament question-and-answer session, his most prominent public appearance since winning the Nobel on Oct. 11.
The 43-year-old, who was awarded the prize for sweeping political reforms and for making peace with longtime rival Eritrea after taking office last year, faced lawmakers’ questions about a number of sensitive issues — notably the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Talks collapsed earlier this month over the construction of the $5 billion dam, the largest in Africa, which is around 70% complete and is expected to provide much-needed electricity to Ethiopia’s 100 million people.
But Egypt, with a similar population, fears the Nile dam will reduce its share of the river and leave the country with dwindling options as it seeks to protect the main source of fresh water.
Pro-government media in Egypt have cast the issue as a national security threat that could warrant military action.
“Some say things about use of force (by Egypt). It should be underlined that no force could stop Ethiopia from building a dam,” Ethiopia’s prime minister said. “If there is a need to go to war, we could get millions readied. If some could fire a missile, others could use bombs. But that’s not in the best interest of all of us.”
Abiy stressed that his country is determined to finish the dam project, which was initiated by former leaders, “because it’s an excellent one.”