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Ethiopia vs. Egypt: Justice delayed and denied for 120 years. By Mekonnen Kassa.

“Ethiopians do not know the value of their water resources; they have yet to realize it.”
Dr. Seleshi Bekele. Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy of Ethiopia

In the last nine years or so, issues related to #Ethiopia, #Egypt, and the Nile river have dominated international news, some with alarming headline foretelling world water war. Almost all news items required detailed historical background knowledge, demanded skill to understand international transboundary laws and agreements, and mandated an ability to decode technical details. With this piece, I will try to keep the explanation at high level and discuss the River Nile, #Ethiopian current destitute situation, #Egyptian role in keeping #Ethiopians in poverty, and recommend the best way forward for #Egypt to temporarily tap in to her 160 BCM High Aswan Dam water reservoir while #Ethiopia fills her #GERD reservoir.

The River Nile is made up of two rivers, the Blue Nile and the White Nile. The Blue Nile originates in #Ethiopian highlands (locally known as Abay river) and contributes up to 60 billion cubic meter (BCM) of water annually. The White Nile originates in Uganda and contributes about 14 BCM. The two rives join in #Khartoum, #Sudan and continue to flow from south to north through #Egypt and finally into the Mediterranean, completing an over 6000 km journey. The Blue Nile originating in #Ethiopia crosses over large #Ethiopian land mass resided by millions of poor #Ethiopian.

#Ethiopia has over 100 million people and it is one of the poorest counties in the world. Most people remember #Ethiopia from the 1984 famine when #Ethiopians faced a “biblical hunger in the land closet to hell.” Their situation has hardly improved since 1984. Though they have not faced famine, almost all the population is malnourished, encounters reoccurring draught, and suffers from perennial food shortage. Despite having millions of hectares of irrigable arable land and fresh river waters, #Ethiopians completely depend on seasonal rain and literally live in the dark because of lack of electricity. They burn wood for light and collect cow dung for cooking fire. The macro economy has suffered as well. The Ethiopia GDP is a meager 100 billion USD, they earn only 4 billion a year from Export, and import over 15 billion USD annually. Life for Ethiopians will not get better any time soon.

Ethiopia’s sky rocketing population is projected to reach 205 million by 2050. The rapid urbanization is projected to result in 50 million as well. Both are exacerbating food shortage, delivery of health care services, supplying drinking water, and the challenges related with deforestation and climate change, just to cite a few. The major cause for difficulty of life and dire #Ethiopian situation is #Egypt because it has conspired and acted to prevent Ethiopians from using their own Blue Nile waters.

#Egypt is located on the edges of Red Sea and Mediterranean sea, it maintains over 150 trillion cubic meter (TCM) of under-ground water reserve, and has stored 160 billion cubic meter (BCM) of water in her High Aswan Dam (#HAD). Yet, #Egypt continues to completely depend on the Nile river as her single source of water. To guarantee the supply of Nile waters, #Egypt outlined five strategies aimed to deter and prevent #Ethiopia from using her own Blue Nile waters.

These five strategies included direct invasion, encircling #Ethiopia by hostile Arab league member nations, fostering and supporting internal conflict and destabilization, working with world leaders and financial institutions to deny finance, and overt and covert threats to take military action. #Egypt started carrying out all her strategies, as needed, starting in 1875 and continues implementing them to the present. #Egypt invaded #Ethiopia in 1875/1876 and suffered a resounding defeat. #Egypt has sponsored and encouraged Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, and Eritrea to join the Arab league and provides them military and financial support. For the last 70 years, #Egypt has interfered in internal political affairs of #Ethiopia and provided military, financial, and political support to liberation fronts and to political groups operating in #Ethiopia.

During the same 70 years, #Egypt colluded with world leaders, like USA and Russia and the Arab league, and financial institution, like World Bank, to deny financing to #Ethiopia for any project she planned over the Blue Nile. To this end, #Egypt even signed the Camp David agreement officially recognizing Israel, becoming the only Arab country to do so in the process. Lastly, #Egypt built a large army and acquired expensive armaments from USA and uses it to threaten military action against #Ethiopians. These strategies have been very effective for the last 120 years – starting from 1902- and have enabled #Egypt to monopolize the use of the Nile waters and have allowed her to enjoy a veto power against all project by any upstream country.

Fortunately, starting in 2011, #Ethiopians managed to overcome almost all of the five #Egyptian obstacles, and successfully commenced building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (#GERD) on the Blue Nile (Abay river). This hydroelectric dam is fully financed by #Ethiopians and is designed to generate 6400 MW of electric power. The #GERD project is now estimated to be over 70% completed and filling the reservoir is scheduled to begin by July 2020.

#Egypt opposed the project and “tried to stop the unstoppable.” And now #Egypt is demanding the #GERD reservoir filling must be over 21 years. The sum total annual flow of White Nile and Blue Nile, the two that become the river Nile, is estimated to be 74 BCM, and all of it is shared exclusively between #Egypt and #Sudan. Though the Blue Nile water originates within #Ethiopia’s borders and it contributes about 60 BCM to the Nile flow, #Ethiopia has never been allowed to use even an ounce of water from the Blue Nile. This has kept generation of people stuck in a cycle of poverty for 120 years. This is immoral, criminal and must not go on even for a day if we could change it.

#Egypt must abandon her colonial monopolistic mindset that devalues the lives of #Ethiopians. #Egypt is better to realize that her sinister strategies that have successfully deterred #Ethiopians for 120 years are no more. This realization would help #Egypt to negotiate in earnest and it will enable her to protect her long-term interest. A good start is for #Egypt not only accept the building of #GERD but also to help #Ethiopians start using their water resources immediately to prevent hunger and to speed up electrification to restore the forest that guarantees rain and results in more water flow in to Nile river.

The best way forward to do so is for #Egypt to agree to use some of her 160 BCM of water stored in #HAD reservoir while #Ethiopia fills her 79 BCM #GERD reservoir. Agreeing to such a win-win proposition builds trust between #Ethiopians and #Egyptians. This will not redress the injustice suffered by #Ethiopian for the last 120 as the result of #Egyptian activities, but it will usher an equitable sharing of and benefit for all from the mighty Nile river. It will also make other negotiations easier to reach an agreement, including the future #GERD operational condition negotiation.

Justice has been denied to #Ethiopians and their right for equitable use of their own Blue Nile waters has been delayed because of #Egyptian’s malicious conspiration and deliberate actions. #Egypt must discard her old strategies and, instead, accept an approach that is fit for the times and that is best to protect her long-term national interest. #Egypt should agree to use her waters stored in her HAD reservoir while #Ethiopia redirects enough Blue Nile waters, that originates in #Ethiopia, and use it to fill the #GERD’s reservoir as quickly as possible. This will likely last about three years, and after the #GERD reservoir is filled, then the Blue Nile water will start to flow to #Egypt uninterrupted like it has for thousands of years.

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