When it comes to the Nile River, particularly to the Blue Nile, our new Pharaohs show clear signs of being “spoilt”. By spoilt I mean that they have been taking far too much from their share of the Blue Nile water, and they take this lion’s share as theirs by right. And what is more, they are threatening to use force to protect what they call their “historic right”.
I believe that there are at least two good reasons for the new Pharaohs showing clear signs of being spoilt when it comes to the sharing of the Nile water. The first reason is our own, Ethiopians’ past weaknesses. We were not strong enough, economically and technologically, to make good use of our share of the Nile. As a result, the Pharaohs came to believe that the whole water belongs to them. Things have now changed. We Ethiopians are now ready, and determined, to make good use of our faire share of the water, and we wish to remind our new Pharaohs to wake up to this new reality.
The second reason for the spoiling of the new Pharaohs is colonial Great Britain. This legendary colonial power sat down with Egypt and Sudan and crafted the 1929 and 1959 Nile River treaties where, in the first treaty, Egypt is given the right to take 48 billion cubic meters of water, whereas Sudan is to take four billion cubic meters annually. In the 1959 treaty, colonial Great Britain was even more generous and granted Egypt and Sudan 55 bcm and 15 bcm of water, respectively. During all this feasting on the Nile water, Ethiopia, the source of the Blue Nile, is not even mentioned in the deal.
What makes the colonial treaties outrageous is that Egypt would not need the consent of upstream states to undertake water projects in its own territories but could veto projects on any tributaries of the Nile in the upstream countries. What more could be said to add to the new Pharaohs’ being spoilt by colonial Great Britain?
Why did colonial Great Britain graciously pamper the new Pharaohs by coming out with such outrageous treaties mentioned above? It is a long and broad geopolitical story and let it be set aside for the time being. For now, let us focus around the Nile River. To start with, let us focus on us: Ethiopian, Egyptian and Sudanese brothers and sisters. The Nile is a common blessing bestowed upon us by Nature. It is meant to enable us to sustain our common lives. Such a vital gift has to be handled with the utmost care. The most crucial element here is justice. Where there is justice, there is equitable use of the Nile. Where there is equitable use of the Nile, there is peace. Where there is peace, hard work and creativity, there is material and spiritual prosperity for us all.
All of us – Ethiopians, Egyptians and Sudanese brothers and sisters – must speak in common, and come to a clear understanding on how to use Mother Nature’s generous gift for our common good. Although we value outside advice, I believe that the people of our three countries have deep rooted wisdom that would enable us to handle problems arising in connection with the Nile.
It is true that, at present, there are some problems on the side of the Egyptian leaders. Officials still cling to the above mentioned, grossly unjust colonial treaties. What colonial Britain left behind in Egypt is a time-bomb in the form of an uncurbed and treaty-masked appetite for the Nile water. It did this mainly to gain favorable advantages in connection with the use of the Suez Canal. It is this treaty-masked, unrealistic, selfish, and unjust appetite that often puts the new Pharaohs and their generals into a mode of saber rattling and bravadoism aimed at militarily intimidating Ethiopians.
Recently, Egyptian leaders succeeded in aligning practically the whole Arab World to stand unjustly behind their unjust cause. As a follow up, they are sending emissaries to Arab capitals to re-enforce their unjust message. They are doing the same thing in the UN Security Council and in the European capitals.
When it comes to the “fight” for the share of the Nile water, our new Pharaohs have always dominated. They have always been the “upper-dog”. What is strange now is, in their current international propaganda campaign, they are pretending to be the “under-dog” and are crying for help. An upper-dog pretending to be an under-dog!
Egypt is building a scare scenario designed for the consumption of the West, as well as for the Arab World. In short, it seems to go like this:
Ethiopia is building a mega-dam. It is going to reduce my historic share of the Nile water. For Egypt, protecting this historic share of water is a matter of life and death. This protecting may mean attacking Ethiopia. Such a measure will naturally create tension in the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, the Horn Region, the Gulf of Aden and the Oil Region. This tension will be a threat particularly to the vital national interests of Western countries. Because of their vital national interests, these countries will sympathize with Egypt and bear pressure on Ethiopia to give in, for a variety of conditions, and to release my historic share of water.
I believe such a scenario is a miscalculation. I do not believe that Western governments will fall for it, particularly when they realize the true stand of Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s stand, expressed again to our Egyptian brothers and sisters – as well as to the rest of the world – is that the Nile is Nature’s common gift to us and we should gratefully use it peacefully and with justice, equitability and wisdom.
At present, our planet is endangered in so many ways as a result of our (man’s) ignorant activities that are messing up the ecological system. As a result, we are witnessing many serious signs that show danger for life on this planet. For example, the earth’s salty sea level is rising. On the other hand, underground and surface freshwater is rapidly diminishing. The Nile is a good example. Confronted with such serious, global ecological challenges, it would be foolhardy for anyone leader and his generals to even think about bravadoism and war.
Recent successive Pharaohs and their generals have told us repeatedly that “they have all of their options on the table” if what they call their historic share of the Nile water is threatened by Ethiopia. Let us just pause for a moment and ask a hypothetical question: What would the present Pharaoh and his generals do if what they say is their share water is threatened by Ethiopia? Then let us assume that Egyptian forces attack Ethiopia and, somehow, succeed in reaching the Renaissance Dam and damage it. What happens then? For sure, the Nile water will continue to flow, but it would never be the same Nile. More than 110 million Ethiopians would rise, offended and in anger. Not only the people but also the plains, the valleys, the mountains, as well as the springs and tributaries that feed into the Blue Nile, would rise in anger. And the Blue Nile water would carry this anger through the land of Egypt.
What would Ethiopia have done had it been attacked in the manner described above? It could have retaliated in any traditional, tit for tat way. That would have called for further counter retaliation on the other side. Soon, the two countries would have been embroiled in an ending process of mutual destruction. What could be more senseless than this?
Let us look at this hypothetical mutual destruction in a wider context. As pointed out above earlier, man has interfered with nature’s ecosystem thus causing a mess in its delicate balance. The magnitude of the damage that this imbalance has already caused, and is destined to continue to cause, is global. Compared with this global damage, the damage that our assumed combatants would have caused to each other is relatively small. At a time when mankind is beset by global life-threatening problems caused by the disruption of our ecosystem, people should come together, join hands and help to restore nature, instead of fighting each other.
In short, Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan, common beneficiaries of nature’s blessing, have only one choice: to be trusted allies – not adversaries – and to work together. They should plan together. They should come up with common projects designed to develop and preserve the Nile so that it could continue be a source of prosperity for our peoples. What Nature gives us generously, we should receive gratefully and use it peacefully, justly and equitably.
Ed.’s Note: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter. The writer can be reached at [email protected] or +251913058595.
Contributed by Dr. Hailu Araaya