President Cyril Ramaphosa has given assurances to Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed that Ethiopians living in South Africa will be protected against any forms of attacks in the country.

Ramaphosa was briefing the media following a bilateral and diplomatic relations meeting with Ahmed at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Sunday.

Responding to a question from an Ethiopian journalist about last year’s attacks on foreign nationals, Ramaphosa said the incidents were regrettable.

“We seek to protect all people who live in our country not only South Africans but everyone, wherever they come from. That is the stated approach and policy of our government. And late last year, we went through a rather difficult situation and we regretted that. What we want to say to the Ethiopians who are here in South Africa is that they should rest assured that the South African government will protect Ethiopians, will protect all people of our country against all forms of attacks.”

Nile dam project dispute 

President  Ramaphosa has agreed to assist in facilitating talks to resolve an impasse between Ethiopia and Egypt over the massive Nile dam project.

Ahmed, who was on a two-day state visit in the country, said that Ramaphosa as the incoming chair of the African Union could play an important role in ensuring a peaceful resolution is found.

Egypt is blaming Ethiopia for the failure of the latest round of talks on the construction of the dam which is a critical issue for Cairo as it wants to protect its main freshwater source for its large and growing population.

Ramaphosa said that South Africa is willing to play a role in resolving the impasse. “ There must be a way in which their interests can be addressed and there must be a way in which a solution must be found and as for ourselves we are willing to play a role in facilitating whatever agreement that can be crafted and we will remain supportive to finding peaceful solution in countries in our continent.”

Responding to a question about a way forward on the Nile dam project, Prime Minister Ahmed said that it is crucial that a peaceful resolution is found.

“The current request for President Ramaphosa as he is a good friend for both Ethiopia and Egypt also as incoming AU chair he can make a discussion between both parties for us to solve the issue peacefully because peace is a foundation for everything and here in Africa without having peace we can’t realise our vision of development and growth.”

Memorandums of understanding

The two countries also signed one agreement and two memorandums of understanding.

Ramaphosa is set to assume the rotating Africa Union chair position this month, taking over from Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. This also coincides with South Africa’s third term as the non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

He also made an announcement that the two countries have signed an agreement to waive visa requirements for holders of diplomatic and official passports. Two memorandums of understanding were also signed.

“ That is expected to ease the travel of officials between our two nations, the memorandum of understanding on co-operation in the field of tourism will extend our partnership to a sector of great importance to both countries due to employment opportunities that are created and the foreign currency generated through tourism we also welcome the memorandum on co-operation in the field of health which is vital area that is of great importance to the citizens of both countries especially the young, the old and infirm.”

Concluding his address, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Prime Minister Ahmed, encouraged South African businesses to invest in his country.

“Ethiopia is now opening up to private capital in telecommunications, energy, logistics and other industries which South African investors have great experience on these fields , we also discussed the way in which we could boost our trade volume between our two countries considering the great potential that exists particularly through the opportunities that the African continental free trade area provides for bilateral and intra-regional trade.”

Ethiopian community in SA

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, Abiy Ahmed, was warmly welcomed by Ethiopian nationals at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Sunday.

Author- Nomalizo Mandela