Ethiopia says equitable use of the Nile is its redline during negotiations

Emnet Assefa

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said in negotiations with Egypt equitable use of the Nile water is Ethiopia’s redline that his government would not allow any country to cross.

Briefing the media this morning for the first time since he was selected as Prime Minister in Sep. 2012 following the death in August of Meles Zenawi, PM Hailemariam firmly asserted that negotiations on the water with Egypt will only be bases on the mutual benefit of the water.

Overwhelmed by questions regarding recent diplomatic sabre-rattling between Ethiopia and Egypt, the source and the major consumer of the Nile respectively, over the former’s decisions to diverts the Blue Nile to make ways for the construction of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), PM Hailemariam also referred to the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), a rare mention since April 2011 when Ethiopia first launched the construction, and in which “Ethiopia played a major role,” as something that will serve as a guideline for negotiations between riparian states. “The initiative [NBI] aims at working together for the equitable use of the water in order to grow together,” he said.

Asked if he could shed more lights on the recent report by the ten Panel of Experts (PoE), PM Hailemariam said that the team has only given its expert’s point of view and not a diplomatic and political view, which has to be done by the countries involved, in this case Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.  The starts of negotiations between the ministers of foreign affairs of the two countries were good beginnings which will continue further until the countries reach a mutual point, he further said.

However, PM Hailemariam said that Ethiopia seriously considers recommendations given by the team of experts as part of the overall construction process of the dam, while negotiations with Egypt will determine further implementations of the recommendations.

“We are ready to negotiate on Nile issues based on principles of the 21st century and not the 1929 colonial era treaties,” he said, but added the construction of the Dam will not stop; nor will Ethiopia consider downsizing it.

A few “mad” Ethiopians

Speaking on bringing national consensus over the GERD, PM Hailemariam said 99.9% of Ethiopians have a consensus over the dam and its benefit for Ethiopia whereas a few “mad” Ethiopians oppose the project more so than some Egyptians. “We don’t believe there is a different national consensus on the dam but this doesn’t mean that there aren’t people, mad people, who have an opposing view about it,” he said.

Asked what he felt about the recent threat by some Egyptian opposition politicians against Ethiopia, which were caught on tape, Hailemariam also said that he doesn’t believe the Egyptian government has the same stand with that of some of the Egyptian opposition leaders who were on the tape “accidentally or by design.” Most importantly the two countries are holding on-going diplomatic negotiations to find better solutions for mutual benefits of the water.

During the three hour session Pm Hailemariam answered questions on issues ranging from inflation to currency depreciation to youth unemployment, economic policies, corruption, and human rights violations in the country.

Ed’s Note: the print version of our magazine, which was held back from going to the press due to the event, will carry a part of PM Hailemariam’s response to Addis Standard’s question on human rights violations in Ethiopia.


Photo Emnet Asefa- Addis Standard

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