The two armies have been alerted that the Egyptian air force now has the capability to strike the dam at a distance of up to 1,500 kilometres, following the purchase of 24 Rafale fighter jets from France. The Ethiopians have deployed long-range missiles around the dam as a precautionary measure and Sudan’s forces have been placed on standby.
The Renaissance Dam is being built to fulfil Ethiopia’s energy needs; it is on the Nile in the Benishagul Gumuz region. The project is opposed by Egypt, which believes that it will affect the flow of the great river and cause water shortages. The scheme is set to be the eighth largest dam in the world and has caused a major diplomatic row between the Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. After initial objections, Sudan supports the building of the reservoir behind the dam.
Relations between Egypt and Ethiopia hit a low point in 2013 when Egyptian politicians inadvertently discussed sabotaging the dam in a live broadcast on state-owned television. A declaration of principles signed by the governments in Cairo, Khartoum and Addis Ababa has not helped to ease the tension. It is unclear whether the agreement will actually have any significant impact on the situation.
Reports published last week by Sudanese newspapers quoted members of an Eritrean opposition group who suggested that Egypt has made a secret deal to open a new naval base on Nora Island in the Red Sea off the coast of Eritrea, Ethiopia’s northern neighbour. The move has angered Addis Ababa, even though Egyptian military sources have denied any such plan.