Why has Ethiopia banned flying over a dam on the Nile?

Ethiopia in northeastern Africa has banned all flights over a huge hydroelectric dam on one of the tributaries of the Nile. The measure is intended to ensure the security of the project that has not yet been opened.

The Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is one of the most important infrastructure works by the country’s government. The new hydropower plant proposes not only to generate energy for the population of the country, but also to make Ethiopia the largest electricity exporter on the continent.

According to Reuters, the dam is at the center of an Ethiopian diplomatic crisis with neighboring countries. This is because Egypt and Sudan rely on the Nile as the main source of their water supplies, and the congestion caused by the structure can affect supplies to these countries. The Addis Ababa government denies the work will cause harm. The African Union (AU) led the rounds of negotiations between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, which ended with little progress in August.

Filling of the dam is expected to begin shortly without an agreement with the two countries, and large-scale power generation is expected in 12 months. Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority’s director general, Wesenyeleh Hunegnaw, told Reuters that all flights are banned in order to protect the dam from outside interference, without giving further details on the reasons. “The ban was imposed after consulting the Air Force and other relevant government and security agencies,” he said.

Blue Nile Waterfall, near where the great dam is located. BILD: Armin Hamm via Wikimedia.

The head of the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority told the UK BBC network on Monday (5) that it is customary for the country to ban flights over major projects. “These restrictions are customary to keep a country safe,” said Wosenyeleh.


Last week, Maj. Gen. Yilma Merdasa, chief of the Ethiopian Air Force, told local media that Ethiopia was fully prepared to protect the dam from attack. According to the BBC network, Merdasa stated in an interview with the country’s state television that the military has “a plan A, a plan B, etc., on how to deal with an enemy who has consciously or unconsciously tried to make this project impossible” .

Portal All Africa reported that Merdasa said the army was fully ready to prevent any enemy attack on the Nile dam. “The Air Force is armed with fighter and patrol jets that can stay in the air for more than four hours to defend against enemy action. We monitor the country’s airspace around the clock, especially the Renaissance Dam, ”he said. “The threat of an air strike on the dam is not a problem for Ethiopia,” concluded the military.

The United States decided in September to cut aid to Ethiopia by $ 100 million over disputes over the dam. A US State Department official told Reuters that the decision to cut some funding for Ethiopia was triggered by concerns about the country’s unilateral decision to fill the dam ahead of a deal.

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