Ethiopia will never sign agreement that harms national interest,minister reiterate

As Ethiopians express concern that the negotiation to be singed with Egypt and Sudan could damage its right to use the Nile water in the future, Minister reiterate that Ethiopia will not sign an agreement that will affect its national interest

Ethiopia _ Dam
Seleshi Bekele on press conference in his office. Credit : Ministry of Water, Irrigation, and Energy

February 6, 2020

As Ethiopians are increasingly alarmed about the negotiation between Ethiopia and lower riparian countries of the Nile River (namely Sudan and Egypt), the top negotiator says, “Ethiopia will never sign an agreement that harms the country’s national interest.”

It was Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Energy (Dr. Eng. Seleshi Bekele) who said so during an event organized by the Institute for Strategic Affairs at the Hyatt Regency on Thursday in the capital Addis Ababa.

Policymakers, government officials, and researchers participated in the event – a monthly seminar that the Institute for Strategic Affairs organizes.

Ethiopia _ Dam
Institute for Strategic Affairs Seminar at Hyatt Regency where Seleshi Bekele briefed participants about the dam negotiation. Credit : Ministry of Water, Irrigation, and Energy

In his presentation to the participants, Seleshi Bekele said the focus needs to be on “a win-win” approach to the negotiation.

According to a social media update from the Ministry of Water, Irrigation, and Energy, there was a question and answer session with a panel including Eng. Gedion Asfaw, Eng. Tefera Beyene and Eng. Kifle Horo – who is currently the manager of the Grand Renaissance Dam Project.  Engineer Tefera Beyene and Engineer Gedion Asfaw are members of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Negotiating team.

Based on information for Ethiopian officials, there was an intention to make the Nile River an agenda item for the negotiation, but the Ethiopian side proposed that the discussion has to be about Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam.

On Wednesday, Seleshi Bekele had a press conference in his office to highlight the outcomes of the negotiation so far. He reiterated that the negotiation is underway in a way that defends Ethiopia’s national interest and in a way that does not harm the benefits of lower riparian countries.

The three countries are currently working on detailed legal and technical documents regarding the filling and operation of the Ethiopian dam.

“If there is a single word in the document to be signed that could compromise Ethiopia’s right to use the water, Ethiopia will not sign the document,” Dr. Seleshi Beleke told journalists.

Among the issues that Ethiopia is looking forward to in the document to be signed are conflict resolution mechanisms that do not violate the rights of Ethiopia.

On the other hand, some Ethiopian media (Wazema Radio, for example) are claiming that Ethiopia is poised to sign an agreement that could permanently harm its right to use the Nile water.

The United States of America and The World Bank are attending the negotiation as “observers” but there are reports that these entities put immense pressure on Ethiopia to sign an agreement that will harm its national interest.

Negotiators from the three countries will meet again this month in Washington DC and are expected to sign a final agreement if all goes well.

Ethiopia has already reduced the number of turbines from 16 to 13, and the dam will only produce 5150 MW of power, as explained by Seleshi Bekele. There is also a plan to use the dam for tourism and fishery development.

Electro-mechanical part of the project was contracted out to METEC, a government-owned industrial enterprise under the ministry of defense. It is part of the reason for the delay of project completion, which cost the country over a billion-dollar, according to government officials.

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