THE LEGACY OF NILE BETWEEN EGYPT AND ETHIOPYA
The Egyptians exploited much of the Nile waters since time in memorial. While Ethiopia, although, a major contributor never used the water to alleviate its dire economic situation Egypt rather than being great full to this gift presented Ethiopia with dreadful political and economic challenges inhibiting both stability and economic development in the country. These challenges have significantly affected Ethiopiaís right to use the waters of the Nile as well as its effort to keep its stability and security. That greed driven activity however, is not loosing its momentum mainly because Ethiopianís continued economic development and political stability particularly during the last nearly 20 years. It has more and more became evident that Ethiopia canít be stopped from using all its resource including the Nile waters.
We have therefore reached a point where the lower riparian countries must negotiate a fair settlement with Ethiopia or stand to loose in the zero same game that they have been playing for centuries.†††††
The Issue of the Nile between Egypt and Ethiopia
A Hydrological History of the Nile
††††††††††† The renowned Greek historian of the 4th Century B.C. Herodotus observed that Egypt was a gift of the Nile which holds true to this very time.† The Blue Nile nourished the desert along its banks with decomposed basalt, rich alluvial soil and salts from millennia converting it into rich farming ribbon.† The Nile is the main stay and basis of the existence of Egypt.† This verity ought to obligate Egypt to rational use rather than to an abuse of such a peerless and onerous resource. J.A.Allan
Besides, the vast majority of the Egyptian populations are farmers.† They depend on the Nile waters for irrigation.† In fact, 90 percent of the population lives in the Valley of the Nile.† The Egyptians constructed the first largest man-made lake (Aswan Dam) with reservoir which is 591 Kms long.† It is capable of releasing 1500 tons of water every second for irrigation during times of drought.† The Dam was estimated to expand cultivated land by 1.3 million acres and result in the application of permanent irrigation on 700,000 acres using the basin system.† Its ultimate aim is to ensure the water security of Egypt by minimizing the risk of fluctuation of the Water flow. Moreover, the Dam was intended to provide considerable hydroelectric power as well as improved navigation possibilities below the dam.† Egypt is not only dependent on waters of the Nile, but also on their fertile soil which the various tributaries that feed the Nile carry with the annual floods from the Ethiopian highlands.
††††††††††† Egypt has made a greater use of Nile River.† This is due to the geographical, historical and economical circumstances.† Except for the small Mediterranean strip and the narrow Nile Valley, the rest of Egypt is a vast desert.
††††††††††† These were historical factors, for instance, Mohammed Ali had constructed the first barrage in 1843 to divert the natural flow of the Nile River.† This was to promote perennial irrigation in Egypt.† In 1867 Sir Samuel Baker dreamed of the complete control of the Nile by building a single dam above the first cataract at Aswan.
††††††††††† Professor Kinfe Abraham wrote in his book, Muhammad Ali who wanted to ensure the security and prosperity of Egypt by controlling the Lake Tana area had tried to use the conquest of the Sudan in 1820 as a stepping-stone.† This was aimed at advancing the imperial ambition of Egypt over the Blue Nile and Lake Tana. The successor of Muhammad Ali, Kadive Ismail, also wanted the Nile to be an Egyptian river.† But the military expeditions which he launched in 1875 and 1876, resulted in defeats for Egypt. Campaigns resulted in the loss of at least 15,000 Egyptian lives.
††††††††††† Egyptian support extended towards the creation of Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) in Cairo by Muslim students in 1960.† The Egyptian leader Nassar campaigned the "unity" of Nile Valley. His "unity" proposal aimed at bringing Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Somaliland, Somalia, Uganda and Kenya under Egyptian control.† In addition, the veil of cold war rhetoric and power politics served to undermine the pro-American and Pro-Israeli government of HaileSelassie and to advance Egypt's prominent agenda of usurping the waters of the Blue Nile.
††††††††††† The late President Anwar Sadat stated that "any action that would endanger the waters of Blue Nile will be faced with a firm reaction on the part of Egypt, even if that action should lead to war".
††††††††††† In 1959, Egypt and Sudan signed an agreement for the full utilization of the Nile waters without including other riparian states in the agreement; in country which But Ethiopia contributes 86% of the Nile waters. Further more, Egypt has also been blocking international finance for water development projects in Ethiopia.
††††††††††† Egyptian leaders on Ethiopia politics:-† Egypt's position as the center of the Eastern Orthodox Church served to further its influence in the internal and state affairs of Ethiopia since the Ethiopian monarchs were anointed by Egyptian Coptic Bishops. Egyptians even held sway in the courts of Ethiopia.
††††††††††† One example of Egyptian interference in Ethiopian internal affairs was that it (Egypt) refused to send its bishops when Yukuno Amlak, after accession to the throne in 1270, subdued the Muslim dominated Sultanate of Yifat adjacent to Showa.† In fact, it was not until Emperor Yukuno Amlak conducted a successful campaign against all sultanates allied to Cairo that Egypt was again forced to send the bishops.† In addition to his military victories, AmdeTsewon has in fact threatened Al Nasir that he would divert the course of the Nile.† It was then that Al-Umari said, "Ethiopia is the guardian of the course of the Nile."
In NBI Context
The relevance of the ongoing Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) will have to be viewed in a regional context.† The rather ambitious initiative aims to establish regional cooperation and build mutually beneficial relationships among the riparian nations.† The Nile Basin countries, as well as the international community, seem to have realized the intimate linkage between environmental factors and regional security in the Nile Basin.
††††††††††† The NBI has charted out two ambitious goals; enhancing the socio-economic development of riparian countries through sub-basin cooperation and establishing a legal and institutional framework which will have the effect of regulating the inter-state utilization and management of the shared water resources.
††††††††††† Professor Kinfe Abraham wrote in his books,(The Nile dilemma) NBI can also lead to cooperation in economic and political fields.† This, in turn, will result in the creation of a secure Nile Basin community.† Cooperation can also create an environment conducive for a more efficient utilization of the water of the Nile.† This, for instance, can be done by building dams in cooler countries where the loss through evaporation is low.† Moreover, there is a great potential for hydroelectric generation via joint investments.† This, in turn can promote trade in energy.† In addition, cooperation could be promoted via trade in agricultural products.† If Ethiopia succeeds in a significantly and developing agriculture via irrigation; Egypt could import it from Ethiopia cheaply.† Such cooperation is produce food crops because of its cooler climate.† This would result in cheap virtual water (food) for Egypt.† It also means that Egypt can concentrate more on manufactured goods.
††††††††††† The international customary law on trans-boundary Rivers consists of laws like the Helsinki Convention, which states the "convention on the law of non-navigational uses of international water courses".† This law states that the riparian countries have the right to use their water resource but the way they utilize the resource should not damage the other riparian.† The law has been approved by the UN General Assembly.† The Convention stresses on "equitable utilization" and "obligation not to cause a significant harm".† It also obliges justified use of the water.† The Convention also stresses that countries are eligible to use their natural resources in a proper and justified way.
††††††††††† The two lower riparian countries, the Sudan and Egypt, have been exploiting the river for centuries.† Both countries are using the Nile water for development of irrigation on 3 - 4 million hectares.† Ethiopia, on the other hand, out of about 4 million hectares, it can utilize, it is utilizing only 199,720 hectares.† Having the potential to produce 33,000mw Power, it produces only 420 mw. of electric power.
††††††††††† Both the upper riparian and lower riparian countries should move equitable utilization and benefit from the common Nile Basin water resources.† In addition to water conservation efforts, use of reclaimed waste water and shift out of sugarcane and rice to less water intensive crop.
The Impact of Hydro-Politics
††††††††††† The importance of the Nile issue is underpinned by its sheer span and length and the ten countries which are affected by it.† It affects North Africa, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Zaire, Uganda, Sudan, Egypt, Rwanda, Burundi and Eritrea.† This at once amplifies its geo-political significance.
††††††††††† To the above may be added the demographic size of the Nile basin which houses a population of more than 300 million people, has a catchment area of 3,030,700 km3s and a length of 6,825 kms (UN: 1978:), longest river in the world.
††††††††††† The Nile issue is the attitudinal hurdles of governments which are preoccupied with the challenges of rapidly rising populations whose demand for water is set to continue to rise.† This is exacerbated by the impact of distributive inequalities.† But, in addition to the distributional justice is the factor of the intelligent, utilization of this scarce resource whose value will inevitably continue to rise.† This calls for exploring new technically efficient ways of putting the water to use.
††††††††††† One should also point out that the Nile issue and the involvement of the Nile basin countries is likely to be affected by global hydro-politics, particularly by the Middle East.
††††††††††† Due to the influence of Egypt in the Arab world, the issue of the Nile also affects Ethiopia's relations with other countries when extremism gains ground in Egypt, Needless to say, a fair amount of ignorance has also contributed to aggravating Ethio-Egyptians relation.
††††††††††† Egypt's assumption maybe when Ethiopia is wracked by war, it cannot focus its efforts on development.† Hence the logic maybe that although Ethiopia may wish to develop, leaving poverty behind, it will not be able to; and Egypt will continue to have unfettered access to the Nile's waters.
††††††††††† The other Egyptian strategy has been to see to it that Ethiopia does not manage to secure aid and loans to utilize the Nile waters.† Owing to its influence in the Arab world, it has managed to prevent Ethiopia from receiving grants and credits from any Arab nation in the purpose of related projects.† It has also laboured to perpetuate hostility and suspicion towards Ethiopia.† Egypt has also more or less succeeded by using its influence as leader of the Arab world in blocking Ethiopia from obtaining aid and loans from other sources to exploit the water resources of the Nile.† Egypt's belief has been that Ethiopia, mired in poverty and embroiled in endless conflict, could not develop the basin on its own, and that with the opportunities for aid and credit closed, Ethiopians will have no choice but to sit and watch the river flow to those who can then put it to good use.
††††††††††† Along with our own internal efforts, we need to work to create a regional and international atmosphere suitable for an equitable utilization of the waters of the Nile.† We should indicate unequivocally that we have no intention of obstructing the development endeavours of others, but that we aim to ensure that our development needs are met, and that the solution must balance interests.† We need to be able to clearly show the injustice of any attitude which does not respect Ethiopia's right to use the Nile to fight its recurring problems to drought and famine, and underline that such a position is unacceptable.† This should be communicated to donor countries and institutions, requesting them not to withhold their support and to play their part in reaching a solution regarding the waters of the Nile and† also to seek the political and diplomatic support of our African brothers and sisters to the same effect.† Effort are also required to explain our objectives and to seek †the support of the Egyptian people, and the Arab world renewal.
††††††††††† A central component
of our policy should be to fully implement the agreement recently reached
between the Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt.† We need, based on this agreement, to
build a climate of trust among the countries.† We need to introduce
step-by-step issues of economical and fair utilization of the water resources.†
Egypt must replace the ignorance and suspicion with an informed policy, and is
important that focusing on security, development, democracy and peace, engage Egypt patiently and farsightedly. We need to engage Egypt patently andfarsightedly
††††††††††† The states of the Eastern Nile basin can certainly gain from collaborative engagement with one another in all maters of the shared water resources, and beyond.† In this regard, the economic, environmental, legal-institutional as well as security needs of the riparian countries must be taken into a profound account.† Such strategic option can be taken as mutually beneficial approach to all the countries in the sub-basin.† This one is a progressive strategic option with a greater potential for confidence building, cooperation and prosperity.† In this strategic option the national and regional factors interact.† In shared water regime, it will be a futile exercise to go it alone with economic planning for water development; otherwise it would be a terrible mistake to be complacent with nationally bounded environmental management of the shared water regime.† Security in general and water security in particular require mutuality and reciprocity.† Active engagement of states in their mutually accepted agreements and some form of institutional framework will be necessary.
Miftah Beyan 07/21/09