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Bloomberg: Eritrea Denies Knowing Group Linked to Ethiopian Dam Plot

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Thursday, 02 March 2017 

Eritrea Denies Knowing Group Linked to Ethiopian Dam Plot 

by Nizar Manek 

2 maart 2017 10:02 CET 2 maart 2017 12:48 CET 

-Ethiopia says it thwarted rebels based in neighboring nation 

-Country alleges plan to attack showpiece hydropower project 

Eritrea’s government denied any knowledge of a rebel group that Ethiopia said had plotted to attack the country’s flagship hydropower plant. 

Ethiopian security forces killed 13 members of the Benishangul Gumuz People’s Liberation Movement who’d traveled from Eritrea to attack the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, Zadig Abrha, Ethiopia’s deputy government spokesman, said Thursday by phone. Seven other members of the group fled to neighboring Sudan, whose authorities handed them over to the Ethiopian government, he said. 

“This whole accusation is preposterous and peddled for some sinister reason,” Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel said in a message sent via Twitter. He said he has “never heard of this group.” 

The 6,000-megawatt GERD, scheduled for completion next year, is set to be Africa’s biggest hydropower plant, according to a June report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. It’s being built on the Blue Nile River near the border with Sudan at an estimated cost of $6.4 billion and may be used to export power to East African countries, BNEF said. 

Eritrea achieved independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after decades of armed struggle. The two countries fought again in 1998-2000 over the disputed territory of Badme on their border in a conflict that left at least 50,000 people dead. 

Rebel Groups 

The BPLM is part of the Peoples’ Alliance for Freedom and Democracy, an anti-Ethiopian government coalition, according to a statement issued by the Oslo-based PAFD in October 2015. The alliance, which includes four other rebel groups, didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. Calls to the telephone number listed in the statement for the BPLM, with an Eritrean dialing code, didn’t connect. 

“They’re clearly supported and trained by the Eritrean government,” Zadig said. 

Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman didn’t answer calls seeking comment on whether his country handed over the insurgents to Ethiopia. 

While the alleged rebels “were in no way close the dam,” they had a plan and were “marching toward” the facility when apprehended, Zadig said. 

Eritrea’s government has “been in business of destabilizing Ethiopia in the region for more than a decade now,” he said. The GERD “is the symbol of Ethiopia’s renaissance. It’s not just a dam -- it has political, economic, social significance.”
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