ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia is a proud country. A country that doesn’t like foreign, especially colonial interference in its local affairs. The Nile River is one of those areas that across the board late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was successful at bringing the country together.
When the Los Angeles Times wrote a lengthy article on the Nile River, it sparked massive anger in Ethiopia over what many called the “orientalist” support for the Arab world.
“I think this just shows that the so-called media has no idea how things really work in the world and just are getting behind countries and places where people want to read about,” said one government official who told Bikyamasr.com that the best thing the Zenawi regime did over the past two decades was to begin the process of building the Renaissance Dam.
He said that “the future of Ethiopia and Africa depends on not standing by and allowing foreign treaties by occupiers to control our destiny,” noting the continued claims by Egypt to the lion’s share of Nile River water comes from a British-brokered treaty in the 1920s and 1950s.
The LA Times article, which puts more weight and argues that if Egypt were to lose their allotment of water, the country could head to widespread shortages and agricultural detriment.
But Egypt has already reported water shortages and has failed to use desalination and other means to secure water a priority, said Ethiopian researcher Mohamed Jabar, who urged both sides to think reasonably.
“The Times article does not give any weight to the Ethiopia cause and this is unfortunate and angering,” he began, “but at the same time, the LA Times is not going to make policy or change how Ethiopia and Egypt deal with water issues.
“Cairo should not be flouting itself as anti-West and independent and at the same time hide behind a treaty that was created on their behalf when the British were in control of the country,” he added.
That treaty is a contentious issue here in Ethiopia. The British Water Nile Agreement of 1929 – brokered by the British when they were the colonial power – delivered Egypt as the sole recipient of Nile River water, at least the vast majority.
Egypt was guaranteed 48 billion cubic meters of water. Following a further 1959 deal, which did little more than reaffirm Egypt and Sudan’s right to a majority of the Nile, this was increased to 55.5 billion cubic meters, while Sudan is allotted 14.5 billion cubic meters.
“It is not Ethiopia’s problem that Egypt’s sole source of water is Nile. Sure, our country is blessed with several rivers but it is absurd to suggest that we should spare Nile for foreigners. No international law prevents Ethiopia from utilizing its natural resources, no amount of war mongering from Egypt will stop the building of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The author even mentions that Ethiopia uses just 3% of the water despite it supplies more than 75% of the water to Nile,” wrote an editorial by Nazret.com, an Ethiopian news portal, on the topic of Nile water.
Top Ethiopia government officials have told Bikyamasr.com that they are looking at jumpstarting the massive Renaissance Dam project along the Nile River in an effort to increase water resources and energy for the East African country.
The moves could threaten the regional stability after the Egyptian government said it remained “concerned” over Ethiopia’s actions along the Nile River.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also called on Addis Ababa to push the dam project to the backburner in order to focus on other economic initiatives.
While Cairo has denied any intention of attacking the dam, as reported by whistleblower website Wikileaks, the country’s Water Resources and Irrigation Minister Mohamed Bahaa el-Din said last month that his country was maintaining its concerns about the construction of the Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia.
He did say that officials at the Ethiopia foreign ministry “assured Egypt and Sudan that in case there was any impact on their water quota to the dam, other projects will be carried out to collect lost water and cover shortages.”
It is the latest in the ongoing battle for the world’s largest river’s water, with Egypt and Sudan continuing to remain obstinate in amending any of the colonial treaties that guarantee their countries with a lion’s share of water from the Nile.
Wikileaks released documents this fall that revealed Egypt and Sudan had been planning to attack an Ethiopian dam project to “protect” their rights over Nile water based on colonial era treaties.
In documents revealed by Wikileaks, the Egyptian and Sudanese government appeared ready to develop a launching pad for an attack by Egypt against the dam.
Wikileaks has leaked files allegedly from the Texas-based global intelligence company, Stratfor, which quote an anonymous “high-level Egyptian source,” which reported that the Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon said in 2010 that Egypt “would do anything to prevent the secession of South Sudan because of the political implications it will have for Egypt’s access to the Nile.”
Ethiopia’s massive dam project has seen much concern from Cairo and Khartoum, who fear the establishment of Africa’s largest dam would affect previous colonial deals on Nile water-sharing.
It is to be built some 40 kilometers upstream from Sudan on the Blue Nile.