Ethiopia says its Air Force is “in a position to protect and defend” the county’s airspace from any kind of attack.
The statement issued by the Commander in Chief of the Ethiopian Air Force comes shortly after the successful completion of the third round of filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a move that would raise further tensions with downstream countries.
Earlier Egypt said it has “received a message from the Ethiopian side on July 26, stating that Ethiopia would continue filling the reservoir of the Renaissance Dam during the current flood season”
Last month, Egypt wrote to the UN Security Council “to register its objection and complete rejection of Ethiopia’s continuation of filling the Renaissance Dam unilaterally without a deal.”
Tripartite talks between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt over the GERD have remained stalled since April 2021 after the African Union’s (AU) mediation failed to broker a deal.
As GERD talks stalled and Ethiopia unilaterally completed the third dam filling, there are growing concerns that Egypt might resort to a military option.
In May, Egypt threatened that it will look at all its options if diplomatic efforts to resolve the GERD dispute failed.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said the country reserves its right guaranteed in the UN charter to take all necessary measures to ensure and protect its national security, including against any harm that Ethiopian unilateral measures may cause in the future.
Previously, Egypt had reportedly ordered $ 2 billion worth of 24 Su-35 fighter jets from Russia.
According to military analysts, Egypt’s intention is to rapidly improve its aerial capability by replacing its short-ranged F-16 fighters with the Russian Su-35 fighter jets which have the capability to reach Ethiopian air spaces.
The United States has threatened to enact sanctions should Cairo fail to cancel the deal with Russia.
Egypt’s threats are nothing new
Since the launch of GERD in 2011, Egypt has repeatedly been threatening to use the military option to halt the construction of the controversial Ethiopian dam project.
Addis Ababa however doesn’t seem to be alarmed by the repeated Egyptian threats and a potential air strike against its $ 5 billion mega-dam project.
The Ethiopian Air Force, said last Friday that it is on high alert to defend the country.
“Our Air Force is in a position to protect and defend our airspace from any kind of attack” Lieutenant General Yilma Merdassa, the Commander in Chief of Ethiopia’s Air Force, told state media.
The military official said the Air Force envisions developing the technology and producing trained manpower to become Africa’s leading air force by the year 2029/30.
Egypt’s military option
Previously, Cairo has warned the United Nations Security Council that Ethiopia’s intention to fill the GERD without an agreement among concerned states “potentially threatens the welfare, well-being, and existence of millions of Egyptian and Sudanese citizens”
It said Ethiopia’s unilateral moves of filling the massive dam would provoke “crises and conflicts and a serious threat to international peace and security.”
“Given the stalemate, ruling out a military confrontation is hard, but geographic distance makes its feasibility most unlikely,” Metta-Alem Sinishaw, a senior political analyst on Ethiopia and the East African region told Sudan Tribune.
“Despite its impressive military capability, Egypt could only intimidate but not destroy GERD”.
Metta-Alem, however, says Egypt will continue to mount special clandestine operations in Sudan to support nationalist groups in Ethiopia to undermine the progress of the dam.
“Egypt will intensify its diplomatic efforts to isolate Ethiopia and exploit internal contradictions and economic predicament by supporting dissidents to undermine the negotiation capability of the federal government and shift its focus from GERD” he added.
If Egypt preferred military action to thwart the construction of what would be Africa’s largest dam the implications on regional stability will be substantial.
“If Egypt pursues the military option, it would most likely attack GERD from Sudan, which will lead to massive flooding with dire consequences for Sudan,” said Metta-Alem.
“Retaliation from Ethiopia would turn the current border skirmish with Sudan into a full-blown war and adversely affect the region” and world powers and regional actors will intervene to curb regional instability and humanitarian crisis.
“Egypt’s military adventure is likely to slice its diplomatic relations with the African Union and shatter its regional geopolitical position as countries such as Israel counter a more assertive and embolden Egypt,” said Metta-Alem.
Ethiopian Air Force’s statement
“The Ethiopian Air Force has built its manpower free from the influence of “politics and ethnic thinking”, the Chief Commander said, adding that it has also completed the reform and restructuring works in human resources, modern weapons and war infrastructures equipment with the slogan “Great Air Force for a Great Country.”
At the moment, the 93 years-old Ethiopian Air Force, which is Africa’s first, is in a position to safeguard the Ethiopian airspace 24 hours a day and it is “ready for any duty.” the Ethiopian military official added.
“Ethiopia’s statement on the readiness of its Air Force is more of a public opinion campaign to portray the administration’s strong stance to internal dissents and other non-state actors such as al-Shabab than Egypt which has a much more technological capability,” said Metta-Alem.
New irrigation minister
Meanwhile, Egypt has replaced its Irrigation Minister, Mohamed Abdel Aty, one day after Ethiopia announced completing GERD’s third filling.
Hany Swailem was appointed Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation after the Egyptian Parliament held an emergency session on Saturday.