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GERD reservoir reaches overtopping water level on July 19, 2021. Photo Anadolu Agency


Burundi believes the right to life for Egyptians comes before the right to development for Ethiopia in a row over a project, the country’s top diplomat said Tuesday.

He was speaking about the dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a $4 billion hydropower project on the Blue Nile River which Ethiopia argues is crucial to its economic development and for providing power.

The project has triggered worries over water shortages and safety in Egypt and Sudan, which also depend on the Nile River’s waters.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in the capital Cairo, Burundi’s Foreign Minister Albert Shingiro said that while the hydropower project is a very sensitive issue, access to water is a matter of “life or death” to Egyptians.

“The right to life should always come before the right to development because, without the right to life, the right to development cannot be enjoyed. The choice here is clear,” Shingiro said.

Dismissing a military option to resolve the issue, the top Burundian diplomat underlined the need for the GERD dispute to be resolved through negotiations, cooperation, and legal agreements binding to all parties.

“We believe in the power of diplomatic endeavors and good deeds,” Shingiro said.

He reiterated his country's support for the initiative of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the current chair of the African Union, to mediate between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

“We believe that we should work on encouraging dialogue to reach solutions that would spare us tensions,” said Shingiro.

Egypt and Sudan have said while they support Ethiopia's plans to build the GERD in order to further its economic development goals, such development should not come at the expense of the interests of downstream countries.

The two countries’ attempts over the years of trilateral negotiations to convince Ethiopia to sign a comprehensive and legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam to safeguard all parties' interests are yet to bear fruit.

In July, Ethiopia announced the completion of the second filling of its controversial dam, despite the lack of an agreement with Cairo and Khartoum.

Shoukry commended Burundi, saying it has always supported Egypt after an “understanding of the core issues affecting Egyptian national security.”

Egypt has raised concern over the dam project, fearing its Nile water supplies, on which its life almost entirely depends, would be affected. Sudan has also expressed its fears about the dam’s safety and the effect on its own dams and water stations.

Last July, the United Nations Security Council backed an African Union bid to mediate the dispute and called for all parties to resume talks.

The US had also warned that Ethiopia’s filling of the dam had the potential to raise tensions and urged all parties to refrain from any unilateral actions. - James Tasamba, Anadolu Agency

Tian Tang Group Limited has been sued by URC.  Photo The Observer


Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) has sued Chinese firm, Tian Tang Group Limited for alleged theft and vandalism of railway materials valued at Shs 12 billion.

URC accuses Tian of destroying 14 tons of railway materials recovered from the Chinese factory in Mbalala in Mukono district. Evidence before the court indicates that URC, which is in charge of maintaining all railway infrastructure, installations, locomotives and equipment on behalf of the Ugandan government faced the challenges of vandalism on a number of occasions.  

“Following a tip-off and a court-sanctioned search of the defendant's/Tian Tang premises at Mbalala Mukono conducted by the Uganda police, 14 tons of the plaintiff's railway materials/equipment were recovered at the defendant's aforesaid premises and in a state where they were not re-usable, neither could they be reinstalled by the plaintiff thereby occasioning the plaintiff colossal financial loss,” reads the suit.   

On March 29th, 2021, Mukono grade two magistrate, Steven Waidhuuba issued an order to search the premises of Tian Tang for rail sleepers, steel rails and Kyaci materials. The search was witnessed by URC and security officials led by Capt Henry Mawejje and SP Agnes Agabirwe.

According to URC, Tian had converted some of the materials to different uses from the purpose for, which they ordinarily procured them.

"The plaintiff shall aver and contend that all of the said actions of the defendant were illegal, callous, criminal, detrimental to a public good railway works infrastructure, and in most material particular, the defendant facilitated vandalism of the plaintiff's railway installations/equipment/materials by providing a black market for the same reason of which the plaintiff shall propose to the court that the defendant be condemned to punitive damages", the suit adds.   

URC argues that the actions of Tian amounted to an actionable conversion purposed to permanently dispose of it of its property. 

Through their lawyers, Engoru, Mutebi Advocates, the applicants want the court to order Tian to pay Shs 11.4 billion for the replacement of the rail material and value as well as compensation, Shs 150 million as cos of reinstatement and Shs 400 million as cost of freight, insurance, procurement and other related costs.

The High court civil division registrar, Jamson Karemani has already issued summons to Tian Tang Group Limited to defend itself within 15 days. - URN/The Observer

Boris Johnson to extend ‘draconian’ lockdown laws for six months

Boris Johnson has sparked fears of a winter lockdown with plans to extend "draconian" Covid powers for another six months, it’s been revealed.

The government has confirmed plans to renew some temporary powers under the 2020 Coronavirus Act.

But the plans will be opposed by Tory anti-lockdown MPs, 35 of whom rebelled last time the Act was extended. 

The legislation gives authorities and police powers to regulate public gatherings, close premises, and force people to self-isolate.

They also include powers for the Health Secretary to shut down individual events, gatherings, shops or restaurants if they pose a particular risk.

But it also supports pandemic safety nets like protecting renters from eviction and ensuring sick-pay for people who are self-isolating.

Tory MP Mark Harper, of the Covid Recovery Group, said the Act contained “the most draconian detention powers in modern British legal history”.

He told the Financial Times: “Our vaccine rollout has been a huge success. We have seen a dramatic and welcome fall in people suffering from serious disease and death from Covid as a result.

“We are going to have to learn to live with this virus, and retaining sweeping powers of detention in the Coronavirus Act is not consistent with this.

“What justification can there be for extending these measures?”

Brent MP Dawn Butler said it was “wrong” for the Government “threatening to extend it again”.

“The Coronavirus Act is a blanket of draconian, unaccountable powers the Government has wrapped itself in,” she tweeted.

“It’s wrong that this Govt is threatening to extend again. It’s outdated and unfit for purpose. @uklabour & Tory rebels must vote against it’s time [to] replace it with something better, fairer and more transparent.”

Ex Cabinet minister David Davis added: "The Coronavirus Act contains some of the most draconian powers ever introduced in the UK.

"Thankfully, the crisis point of the pandemic has passed. So it is now time to roll back the extensive powers unwisely handed over to the State."

A Government spokesman said: “We will allow temporary powers in the Coronavirus Act to expire wherever possible, as we have at previous review points.

"However, it would be irresponsible to allow all temporary provisions to expire.

"Doing so would remove the government’s ability to protect renters from eviction, give sick pay to those self-isolating from day one, and direct schools to reopen where needed, for example.

"The British public would expect us to retain these powers in case they are needed through the winter."

The government has not confirmed which temporary provisions will be extended or when exactly a vote will take place. By Leah Sinclair, Yahoo News/Evening Standard

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