The Nile Cooperative Framework Agreement opened for signature
The Cooperative Framework Agreement of the Nile Basin, agreed at the special ministerial council session of Ministers of Water Resources at Sharm el Sheikh earlier this year, was opened for signature in Entebbe, Uganda last Friday (May 14). The agreement, the result of ten years of talks, transforms the Nile Basin Initiative into a permanent Nile Basin Commission. It will allow for equitable and sustainable use of the resources of the Nile River in the best interests of all riparian members of the Nile Basin, that is Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Eritrea has observer status. The Framework allows for equal opportunities in utilization of the water. It underlines the message that the usage of the resources of the river will be sustainable and equitable in the best interests of all members of the Commission. It gives equal opportunity to all, “in the spirit of co-operation on the basis of one Nile, one Basin and one Vision”. The Nile River is not merely a waterway. It is also a bridge, a link that has been connecting the peoples, cultures, economies and civilizations of the sisterly riparian countries for millennia. It will always continue to do so in the future. During the opening ceremony, ministers, ambassadors, other delegations and representatives of the media were present. Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda were the first four riparian countries to be signatories of this historic agreement. Kenya signed the following Wednesday. Once the Framework Agreement is ratified by a minimum of six riparian states according to their respective constitutional requirements, it will become a binding international agreement. The Nile Basin Commission itself will be established after the entry into force of the Agreement.
Speaking on the occasion, Ato Asfaw Dingamo, Minister of Water Resources of Ethiopia, said the event was a landmark event, the realization of a goal toward which all have been working for over a decade. He said it marked the culmination of the long distance that the riparian states have cooperatively traversed over a decade to reach the level of trust and confidence that has enabled them to achieve the Cooperative Framework Agreement. “The Agreement benefits all of us and harms none of us”, added Minister Asfaw. The Agreement is, of course, a response to the necessity of cooperation on the Nile to avert recurrent drought and floods in the riparian countries. As all the riparian countries are very aware, climate change is threatening the Nile and the Nile Basin. This Framework Agreement is only one step to meeting a challenge that is beyond the reach of any single country acting alone. There can be no reason for anyone not to join it.
Although Egypt and Sudan have rejected the Agreement, during the signing ceremony the current signatories invited Egypt and Sudan to come on board and work towards the realization of the objectives of the Agreement. They have already made it clear that nobody is going to cut off water to countries downstream; the point of the Agreement is to ensure the provision of equal opportunities in utilization. Any disputes that arise in the future will be moderated through the Nile Basin Commission. It is no surprise that the Agreement is open for signature for a year, offering all the riparian states the availability for united action and agreed development. The upper riparian states have made it clear that they hope that during this year it will be possible to bring Egypt and Sudan into the Agreement. Indeed, the signatories have pledged to do their level best to this end.
After Egypt claimed this week it would be able to block dams and other projects upstream, Prime Minister Meles told Al Jazeera “the way forward is to seek a win-win solution through diplomatic efforts.” The upper riparian countries want to be able to implement irrigation and hydro-power projects in consultation with Egypt and Sudan, though nothing they do is likely to diminish the flow of the river greatly. The Prime Minister noted that Ethiopia had the necessary resources to build relevant infrastructure and dams on the Blue Nile for development. There are already plans to sell electricity to the Sudan when the latest hydro-power projects are fully on stream.
The Tana Beles hydro-electric power project inaugurated
Tana Beles, Ethiopia’s largest power plant, with a generating capacity of 460MW, was officially inaugurated by Prime Minister Meles on Friday last week. It will become fully operational in the next two months. Tana Beles is the third such plant to be opened this 2009/10 fiscal year, following the launch of the Tekeze dam (300MW) in November 2009, and the Gilgel Gibe II project (420 MW) in January. Tana Beles is an environmentally friendly power plant fitted with state-of-the-art technology. Its construction took five years, employing 4000 workers and engineers, including some international experts, and as the Prime Minister noted the government covered the full cost of construction. The unique feature of the Tana Beles project is that the water that gushes out of the 26 km tunnel falls 275 meters onto the four turbines to generate 460 MW, at full capacity. The water will then be able to be used further to help develop 140,000 hectares of land. With the launching of Tana Beles the current power supply in the country will increase by 23%, easing the current power shortage and significantly increasing the number of towns and villages with electrification.
The development of Tana Beles is an important part of the Government’s 25 year Electric Power Development Master Plan designed to enhance its generating capacity from renewable energy sources. Under this the country, which inherited around 350MW of electricity a decade and a half ago, is now generating over 2000MW. The aim is to increase generation capacity to 10,000MW in the next 5 years. Power is an integral part of enhanced economic development, and the expanded provision and use of electricity power both stimulates growth and provides strong correlation with economic development. The increasing demand for power in Ethiopia has grown out of the recent rapid economic growth in the country. Addressing the current and future demand for power in the country is important to ease shortages, stimulate development, increase foreign exchange earnings through export of power, and contribute to integration and peace in the region. The growth of power supplies is in line with the development strategy, including the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, supporting the emphasis given to large scale farming, as well as industrial and infrastructural development over the next five years.
The Government believes that the growth in power generation will encourage the development of regional infrastructural projects, including power-system interconnection projects, and allow for economies of scale. Given the overall present world energy crisis, interconnection of regional electric energy networks is the best alternative to unnecessary and expensive power generation in regional and international power markets. Ethiopia has therefore devised a strategy for accelerating cross-border trading in power supplies with the neighboring countries and other nearby states to encourage regional economic growth. There is the possibility of strategic links with the SAPP, South African, EAPP, the East African, NAPP, the North African and WAPP, the West African Power Pools. Additional benefits that might be expected from developing regional and international interconnections and operation in a power pool include strategic partnerships among the parties, significantly contributing to regional economic development, cooperation and stability, increased sales, lower unit energy costs for receiving systems, and the complimentary operation of power systems.
Eritrea’s short-sighted calculations
Eritrea’s leaders never tire of shifting allegiances. Their moves whether in bilateral relations or in multilateral forums seldom appear to be based on well-thought out strategic decisions or any predictable set of principles. All too often, friendships are forged or broken, based on the whims of its leaders. Such short-sighted calculations have been used to carry out the series of destructive activities that Eritrea has long been known for. Most decisions seem haphazardly made with little or no regard to the rules that govern the normal behavior of states. Time and again they have displayed the incorrigible habit of resorting to extreme measures if and when these moves enhance, however temporarily, excessively selfish interest. Eritrea has consistently and publicly flaunted this behavior from the beginning. It should be added that duplicity is a common thread that runs through all of this. Eritrea’s aberrant behavior is nowhere more apparent than in its relations with its neighbors and the ease with which it shifts between enmity and friendship without so much as a moment’s consideration. Its leaders managed to turn Ethiopia from a strong ally to a sworn enemy overnight by invading and seizing Badme. President Isaias needed no excuse for his sudden declaration of a commitment to peace in Sudan, despite Eritrea’s long years of arming Sudanese opposition movements and making open threats against its government. The story with Djibouti was similar as Eritrea invaded and seized Ras Doumeira. All along, Eritrea’s leaders have never had any qualms shifting from one position to another if they believed it might promote their own, often destructive, interests.
Its actions underline two characteristics of the regime. One has been its diametrically opposed views of the role of diplomacy. Normally the Government of Eritrea has consistently, by default, rejected all normal methods of conducting international relations. Indeed, its leaders often take pride in not bothering with ‘unnecessary diplomatic niceties’, even going so far as to openly ridicule respected international institutions for the flimsiest of reasons. Eritrea’s leaders frequently pride themselves on being unlike any other nation. At the same time, whenever they find themselves in trouble and facing the need to settle accounts, they are quick to change gear, kicking and screaming in a manner that is a far cry from their usual bravado. It has often worked Despite repeated brushes with international law and its leaders’ open support for extremist elements in Somalia and indeed throughout the whole region, the regime in Asmara has too often got away with blatant wrong-doing. This, indeed, has had the effect of reinforcing the regime’s rejection of normal behavior for a long time.
One example was the response to the passing of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1907, imposing sanctions on Eritrea. Eritrea’s leaders quickly played all the cards at their disposal, making feverish efforts to portray themselves in the most favorable light possible in the eyes of the international community without any effort to mend Eritrea’s ways or change its policies. It is now trying every effort possible to convince the rest of the world that the reality of Eritrea is not the way that the region or the international community sees it as. President Isaias and senior officials have recently been shuttling between capitals in Africa and the Middle East apparently underlining a new-found Eritrean commitment to peace in the region. There’s no indication it is genuine. Its diplomatic blitz has not made any efforts to address the very problem that landed it in trouble in the first place: its open destabilizing activities throughout the entire region.
Despite its alleged peaceful façade, Eritrea is still pursuing the path of destruction, not one of redemption. If anything it has, in recent weeks, multiplied its efforts to cause trouble. There have been numerous terrorist attempts underwritten by Eritrea to try to scuttle the success of the elections in Ethiopia. Of course, breaking with a belligerent habit and dispensing with a confrontational disposition is perhaps the most difficult challenge Eritrea’s leadership faces. It predisposes it actually intends to do so. Eritrea’s leaders may now appear to have begun to play diplomatic cards in the last few weeks, in face of the growing impatience by the international community, but this should not be mistaken for a genuine overture for peace without very clear evidence. Interest in peace has never been one of the obvious interests of any of Eritrea’s leaders in the last seventeen years.
The acrobatics are all too familiar, of course. They are based on Eritrea’s time-honored principle of vulgar pragmatism. Equally, there is another interesting aspect to their behavior. Eritrea’s leaders have seldom bothered with the business of spelling out the country’s strategic national interests or with devising appropriate policies and strategies to promote these. Its leaders have for a long time now confined their policies to destabilization of the region as the number one priority. Indeed, they appear to have consistently been more interested in sabotaging Ethiopia’s national interests than in promoting their own. It is hardly an exaggeration to assert that almost every activity of the government of Eritrea today appears to be about trying to derail Ethiopia’s progress in whatever field. President Isaias’ virulent support for any and all who classify themselves as rejectionists of the current political process, and his passionate pursuit of Ethiopia’s destruction by all means, is a manifestation of the extent to which he is prepared to go. What is particularly curious about this is that many of the groups he supports are openly antagonistic, at least on paper, to the independence of Eritrea and call for Ethiopia to take control of Assab. This apparently doesn’t matter to President Isaias whose concern for Eritrea’s own national interests appears minimal. Short-term calculations inform all of his decisions. One only has to look at Eritrea’s support for Al-Qaeda’s terrorist allies in Somalia. In fact, Eritrea’s leaders have never been equivocal about their readiness to join any party or group that might potentially stand against Ethiopia’s national interest in whatever form, even if by doing so they might also harm Eritrea’s own interests.
A recent comment by President Isaias Afeworki during an interview with Egyptian Television on a visit to Cairo speaks volumes about this aspect of his regime. Referring to the recent signing in Uganda of the Cooperative Framework Agreement to set up the Nile Basin Commission by five of the upper riparian Nile countries, President Isaias, whose country has observer status in Nile Basin negotiations, expressed his agreement with Egypt over its opposition to the Agreement. President Isaias claimed the upstream countries had made “wrong agreements and regulations” on the use of the Nile river, and added that this “not only aggravates the situation but also creates tension.” As someone whose country stands to gain substantially from the win-win outcome that the deal actually represents, he might have known better than to toe his host country’s line so obviously. This is actually a deal in which all the Nile riparian countries, upper and lower alike, including Eritrea, as well as Egypt and Sudan can come out as victors. It is a deal that ensures sustainable and equitable use of water resources. President Isaias, however, claims to be opposed to the deal on grounds that even the Egyptians might find overstated. It is vintage President Isaias indeed. In this case, he is taking up a position against the Agreement merely because he and his government apparently believe Ethiopia stands to gain from the deal, although it actually provides very clear gains for all the riparian countries, even Eritrea. It is classic case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Even more, he is continuing to carry on with what his government does most often: offer Eritrea’s services to anyone who believes their interests might be compromised by Ethiopia. Given Eritrea’s past record, we would be surprised if anyone would fall for such a cheap and useless offer.
Ensuring the integrity of the upcoming Elections: everyone should vote on Sunday
Sunday is polling day and all eyes are fixed on it. All the parties have concluded their campaigns and the mood among them is that they have given the campaign their all. The process so far has been remarkably successful and underlined the overall optimism of the democratic process. Despite a few allegations, largely from expected quarters, the vast majority of the political parties and their members appear to have been content with the way the campaigns went. The final days before the official closure of campaigning on Thursday saw particularly enthusiastic rallies by supporters of the parties with most conducted without a hitch. There is a widespread feeling that this really is going to be a watershed moment in Ethiopia’s democratization process in more ways than one. To begin with, the level of participation of the public both in terms of the number of registered voters and the level of activism has been very impressive. It points to the growing sense of ownership of the democratization process by Ethiopians of all regions and of all walks of life. There is a clear realization that this is indeed a totally Ethiopian affair in which citizens are duty bound to contribute.
Equally, the role taken by the various stake holders has also been exceptionally impressive. Political parties, ruling and opposition alike, have largely been for the most part fully aware of the need to respect the rules of the game and to conduct themselves in a manner that fosters trust and confidence in the political institutions. The Code of Conduct has clearly contributed to the more or less smooth conduct of campaigning. It will hopefully continue to do so even after polling day. Leaders of all the major parties including that of the incumbent have concluded their campaign remarks on a very positive note, all emphasizing that they will respect the outcome of the election whoever wins. The successful deployment of observer missions has also been another successful factor. Apart from the observer missions deployed by the EU and AU, Ethiopian civic associations have managed to deploy more than forty thousand observers in different parts of the country. This will certainly go a long way in ensuring the credibility of the election.
Nor should the preparations by both the government and in particular by the National Electoral Board be forgotten. These have been another major factor contributing to the more or less smooth process in the run-up to polling day. The National Electoral Board has introduced a number of reforms that have helped build its capacity to carry out the entire process effectively and efficiently. The training and number of its employees was also increased in a manner that enabled it to address the shortfalls of previous elections. The fact that the selection of election officials was carried out with the full and open participation of all stakeholders has gone a long way in enhancing the effectiveness of the Electoral Board. As far as the government is concerned, it has made every preparation necessary to ensure the credibility and legitimacy of this election. Apart from reiterating its resolve to avoid a repeat of the post-election problems of 2005 , it has also conducted the necessary sensitization campaigns among various stakeholders to underline the ethical as well as logistical requirements for conducting free and fair elections. Campaign funds were disbursed among contending parties for the first time since the beginning of the democratization process in the country. Equally important, the police have made the necessary preparations to ensure the peaceful conduct of the election.
Of course, a few voices of rejection remain. They will not significantly affect the essentially free and peaceful conduct of the elections. The peoples of Ethiopia now realize more than ever before just how important Sunday will be for further cementing the country’s political institutions. There is little chance that spoilers will be able or allowed to disrupt what is in fact a remarkable and impressive process. Sunday will be a historic day for Ethiopians, at home or abroad. We hope everyone will make the effort to participate. Whatever the outcome of the vote, the winner is Ethiopia’s democratization process.
As you are aware, since December last year, A Week in the Horn has been running a series of articles on Ensuring the Integrity of the Upcoming Elections. With voting taking place in a couple of days, it seemed apposite and of interest to provide a link to half a dozen of the more immediate of these columns : Click The following Link
We would also add that the whole series of 23 articles, written between December 18th 2009 and May 23rd 2010, can also now be accessed on the Ministry’s website at
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs