CW 14/2021: Old dispute and new wind?
Press Review 2 April 2021 to 9 April 2021

Renewed failure of talks on GERD

In the long-standing dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), renewed talks between the three countries ended in Kinshasa on Tuesday without an agreement. The President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and current chairman of the African Union, Félix Tshisekedi, had hoped to achieve a breakthrough with the meeting of the foreign and water ministers of the countries, but after three days of negotiations, this did not succeed. Ethiopia rejected the proposal by Egypt and Sudan to appoint the AU, the European Union, the USA and the United Nations jointly as official mediators, as it preferred to continue the talks under the sole leadership of the AU. The two neighboring countries accuse Ethiopia of lack of good will and breaking international law. Egyptian President Al-Sisi said that after the breakdown of the talks “all options are open again”. Negotiations have been taking place for several years, but so far no agreement on a common basis has been reached. The conflict intensified last summer when Ethiopia began filling the dam. This week, the Ethiopian Minister of Water, Seleshi Bekele, announced that filling would continue with the start of this year’s rainy season in June or July. In 2020, an amount of 4.9 billion cubic meters of water was dammed, this year a further 13.5 billion cubic meters are to be added. The Ethiopian dam, the construction of which began ten years ago, will be the largest hydropower plant on the African continent when completed and is located on the Blue Nile, about ten kilometers from the Sudanese border. Ethiopia sees the project as indispensable for the electrification of the country and its economic development. Egypt and Sudan, which are dependent on the water of the Nile, fear for their own water supply. Even before the dam began to be filled, they called for a trilateral agreement on its operation. The main aspects of contention are the management of the reservoir during dry periods as well as the amount of water Ethiopia is willing to release from the dam.


Change of Course in Tanzania? 

With the assumption of office by the new President Samia Suluhu Hassan, there are first signs of a political turnaround in Tanzania. While the late President John Magufuli downplayed the dangers of Covid-19 and declared measures and vaccinations against the virus unnecessary, Suluhu Hassan has now announced a change of course in the country’s crisis management. On Tuesday, she announced that an expert committee of scientists would be consulted to determine the status of the pandemic in the country and devise new measures to combat the virus. Since May 2020, the East African country with a population of 58 million people has not published any new infection figures. In addition, the new president plans to rely on international cooperation to fight the pandemic in the future. Suluhu Hassan also announced plans to improve the investment climate by reducing bureaucratic hurdles and making it easier for foreign staff to obtain work permits. In addition, Suluhu Hassan ordered the return of licences to media houses that had been closed in recent years under her predecessor following statements critical of the government. Observers remain sceptical, however, whether this is intended to usher in a serious return to freedom of the press and freedom of expression. A day later, the government spokesperson rowed back and limited the reopening to online television channels only. Locally, this caused speculation about a conflict between Suluhu Hassan and the Ministry of Information, which under Magufuli implemented laws that made independent reporting in the country de facto impossible. In the meantime, Suluhu Hassan seems to be following the course of her predecessor in one respect: With the arrest of high-ranking government officials such as the director general of the National Port Authority TPA, she demonstrated a clear edge in the fight against corruption in the first weeks of her presidency.


In other news
The telecommunications company Safaricom is activating East Africa’s first 5G network in Kenya. At the launch in Nairobi, the Kenyan company showcased the network’s potential applications using a 5G hologram, ultra HD video communication and virtual fashion shopping. The upgrade to 5G can support up to one million connected devices per square kilometre compared to 100,000 on a 4G network. The new service has been activated in the cities of Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii and Kakamega for now, but is expected to be rolled out to 150 locations across nine cities in the East African country next year. Nokia and Huawei have been selected as technology partners to implement the deployment. On Tuesday, Nokia confirmed its official partnership with Safaricom to provide the first commercial 5G service.



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