ADDIS ABABA (AA) – The president of South Sudan on Thursday voiced support for Ethiopia in its conflict with ethnic Tigray rebels and what he called foreign interference in the Horn of Africa country.
Concluding a half-day visit to his country’s eastern neighbor after a meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Salva Kiir condemned an attack by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that he said sparked a months-long conflict with the government, according to Ahmed’s press secretary, Billene Seyoum.
“The focus of the visit was to discuss key bilateral and regional issues of mutual concern,” Seyoum said in a press briefing.
“Of particular interest was strengthening economic ties and joint infrastructure development,” she said on the visit by Kiir and a delegation including Foreign Minister Beatrice Wani-Noah.
The visit came on the same day that the UN Security Council is scheduled to meet on Ethiopia on the situation in the northern Tigray region where the TPLF has been making advances, including into the adjacent Afar region.
Kiir also congratulated Ethiopia on the successful conduct of parliamentary elections in June and its progress in constructing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the on Blue Nile river.
Egypt has been opposed to the construction of GERD saying it would significantly reduce its “traditional share” of the Nile waters while Sudan has been expressing concerns related to the safety of its own dams downstream.
Ethiopia, for its part, says that no significant harm would befall the downstream countries and it “direly needs” electricity for national development.
Heavy battles are being fought in Ethiopia on numerous fronts, despite a June 29 unilateral cease-fire declared by the government and the ensuing withdrawal of its troops from the northernmost region of Tigray.
The TPLF ruled Ethiopia for 27 years until 2018. Last November, its forces raided federal army bases stationed in Tigray, including in the capital Mekelle, killing soldiers and looting sizable military hardware. Consequently, the Ethiopian government launched a sweeping operation to quell the insurgency.
Over the past two months alone, more than 500,000 people have been displaced from the Amhara and Afar regional states due to TPLF’s incursions, Billene noted.