Ethiopian Government and Opposition Parties Unite in Nile Water Agreement

Nile River
It is widely understood that the Nile water share issue is a tie that binds the Ethiopian opposition with the ruling government coalition.

By Yohannes Anberbir, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 22 May 2010

Ethiopian opposition parties and government have presented a united front on the new Nile treaty signed between five of the upstream countries and urged Egypt and Sudan to accept the new equitable sharing of the water.

It is unlikely to see such similar positions between the Ethiopian opposition and the ruling party, Ethiopian Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Only as recently as 2008, they had — with the exception of the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP) — objected the ruling government’s decision to enter Somalia.

But after Bulcha Demeksa, an MP and chairman of Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM), praised the government’s role in the latest Nile pact, it is widely understood that the Nile water share issue is a tie that binds the Ethiopian opposition with the ruling government coalition.

The latest water sharing deal would ensure that Ethiopia’s rightful portion of the Nile water is upheld, while guaranteeing that all parties receive a fair share of the Nile’s essential water resource.

Urging all parties to adopt a similar position on the issue, Bulcha said, “We are now in a national election that could bring a possible change of government, or not, however all parties should be in the same position”.

The MP also advised the EPRDF to deeply appraise the historical and legal backgrounds of the water and stand firm on the issue should the party regain power for the next five years. Bulcha also invited Egypt and Sudan to agree on a mutual share of the river’s resource among all riparian countries.

Haliu Shaule, an Engineer and member of All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP) — popular opposition party next to Mederek — also affirmed the ruling government’s achievement in averting the colonial era pact.

“I am not an opposition for the sake of opposing,” Hailu said, “I started my job on the Nile Basin by studying Tana Beles Hydropower Project for 36 years and I know how it can empower the country’s economy”.

Merera Gudina (Phd) chairman of Oromo Peoples Congress and MP lauded the ruling government’s achievement over the new Nile deal, but according to him, this is not the time to be festive, rather he recommended the government to remain firm on the issue.

The agreement signed last week by four of the Nile Basin countries, with Kenya inking its signature this week, could see the creation of a new Nile Basin Commission installed in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

The new agreement, the Nile Basin Co-operative Framework, will replace the 1929 and 1959 accords between Egypt and Britain (on behalf of its colonies) and Egypt and Sudan that allowed the two countries to control 90 per cent of the Nile’s water — 55.5 and 18.5 billion cubic meters of water, — respectively, every year.

Egypt has protested the new pact and began a diplomatic process to stop the financing of key players in East Africa. The northern African country has also expressed its discontentment over a new hydropower dam on the Tana, a source of the Nile, inaugurated by Ethiopia.

Ethiopia produces about 85 per cent of the Nile’s water.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi, is quoted saying in an interview with Al-Jezeera that Egypt’s approach is out of date. “The way forward is not for Egypt to try and stop the unstoppable. The way forward is to seek a win-win solution through diplomatic efforts,” he told Al-Jezeera.