By Aldo Ajou Deng Akuey
The Egyptians claims of the control of River Nile, Blue and White, on bases of the 1959 Nile Water Agreement (NWA), signed only by Egypt and Sudan, giving to themselves the lion-share of the water in expense of Ethiopia and the rest of the Nile Basin Countries, NBC, does not bind on none signatories of a treaty, in accordance with Vienna Convention of 1967. This convention nullifies claims by Egypt or any other nation-state in the region.
The stated prophecy or an old dream that “the Nile is the life-blood of Egypt,” may not hold tight at this stage. The source of this blood flows from the free Ethiopian highlands, creating the Blue Nile, parallel to the White Nile, flowing concurrently from the Great Lakes of the East and central Africa, moving the sweet African waters and a fine rich black silk, all the way to finally converge at Khartoum in Sudan, from where the two waters, blue and white, diffuse and fuse forming the main Nile and finally pours the dream blood into Egyptians’ lives (see the map.) It is here that the Nile water turns to blood, and peacefully settles at the Nile Delta, pushing away and replacing the unused salty water of the Mediterranean Sea.This water journeyed for more than seven thousand Miles none stop. However, the Nile had been a contentious river to the Arabs and Europeans colonial powers from the seventh century to date.
photo by.By Solomon Goshu: Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to left, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan in the middle, and Egyptian’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
In 1929, after the British control of East Africa and Sudan, the British and Egyptian Governments formulated a Nile water agreement for Egypt and Sudan ownership of the Nile water. After Sudan won political independence from Britain and Egypt in January 1956, the Nile water agreement of 1929 was further reviewed and replaced with a new Nile Water Agreement (NWA) in1959 and signed into law by Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and the Republic of Central Africa did not sign the 1959 agreement or even heard of it either. This agreement gave to Egypt the control of the Nile, Blue and White, and power of veto over the use of water or reservoir of water without prior permission from Egypt. The self-made agreement gave to Egypt a yearly quota of the water volume of 55.5 billion of cubic meters and Sudan with 18.5 billion of cubic meters. The rest of the Nile Basin countries (NBC) remained in the cold and ignored. But the excluded NBC did not stay Culp-Handed by Sudan and Egypt while they continue in control of the Nile and its water. They instead moved and promoted “the Nile Basin Initiative, (NBI).” The NBI focused only on the unification of NBC for join and equitable distribution of the Nile water to benefit development, especially on agricultural irrigation and hydro-electric power. Though this initiative was resisted by Sudan, Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo, nevertheless, the NBI was able to convene the Entebbe Nile Water Conference in 2010.
PHOTO PPU: Uganda’s Museveni flanked by the leaders of Egypt and Ethiopia, outlines the importance of Cooperative framework Agreement, CFA, to reconcile the Nile Basin countries.
The NBI convened the conference whose sole agenda was to review the 1959 Nile Water Agreement between Sudan and Egypt. This agreement was categorically subjected to total replacement with comprehensive, inclusive and equitable benefits of all the NBC without extra-powers to anyone. The Entebbe conference successfully agreed, canceled 1959, and put in its place the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA), signed by Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya Burundi, Republic of Central Africa, Ethiopia and South Sudan lately in 2012. Egypt, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo did not sign. But their invitation remained on the table, pending their response.
The CFA is now fully ratified by eight countries signatories to it out of eleven countries. Egypt and Sudan, particularly, stick to 1959 NWA, which is not binding to the rest of the NBC. Egypt still insists that the 1959 agreement holds and its power of veto over any project on blue or white Nile must be approved by it. This lone-rangering by Egypt, rejecting the implementation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, (GERD), is seen as self-defeating by international historians and Egyptologists. This stance by Egypt, with Sudan wavering, brings Egypt and Ethiopia closer to the “long expected” Nile water war that could implicate all the Nile Basin Countries in defending the CFA. Egypt will not win a legal or military campaign against Ethiopia without Sudan’s diplomatic support to calm the NBC to embrace diplomatic interaction towards a comprehensive agreement. Egypt also loses the legal process in accordance with the 1969 Vienna treaty since Ethiopia is not a signatory to 1959 unilateral and disappointing agreement of the colonial era.
Egypt is sure and aware of its legal weaknesses in this case. Ethiopia has no deal with Egypt, Sudan or their 1959 NWA. Ethiopia is, therefore, free to control its domestic water and use it for the benefit of Ethiopians without prejudice to international treaties signed by the Nile Basin Countries (NBC) that may, eventually, include Egypt, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. On this legal bases, Ethiopia is not in violation of any agreement, be it the archaic 1959 or the present CFA. Nothing, so far, that could hinder its legal and sovereign right to plane and execute the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, GERD, the project without any anticipated dispute with members of the Basin, let alone Sudan or Egypt. Also by CFA, along with Egypt’s 1959 agreement, Egypt has no legal right to circumvent or attempt to block the GERD’s project implementation.
The GERD is an Ethiopian national project to enhance agricultural food security and the hydroelectric power for domestic use and exports to the neighboring countries and beyond. The GERD is largely financed by Ethiopia’s national government to a tune of $5 billion, targeting electricity generation of 6,000 megawatts. That’s a big deal for Ethiopians, three-quarters of whom now lack access to electricity. The sale of excess electricity to other countries in the region could also bring in $1 billion a year in revenue.
Analysts argue that the dam will create a reservoir more than twice the size of the Hoover Dam’s Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States. It will ultimately store 74 billion cubic meters of Blue Nile water. That’s about 64 million acre-feet or the amount of water needed to cover 100,000 square miles of land one foot deep. Filling it could take anywhere from five to 15 years.
During this period of fill, a “study in the Geological Society of America’s journal GSA claims the Nile’s freshwater flow to Egypt may be cut by 25 percent, with a loss of a third of the electricity generated by the Aswan High Dam.” That is, of course, Egypt’s own massive dam on the Nile, completed in 1965, roughly 1,500 miles downstream. The GSA study, led by Smithsonian Institution geologist Jean-Daniel Stanley, claims that Egypt faces “serious country-wide freshwater and energy shortage by 2025.” Agriculture in the delta, which produces up to 60 percent of Egypt’s food, could also suffer from shortages of irrigation water.
Nevertheless, the alternative could be worked out to sustain the Egyptian’s lost of water for irrigation. Some water substitute for the lost water supply could be opened up to the White Nile Sudd region where we are losing the huge volume of water into the evaporation. Another is to open up the Congo-Nile water divide to ensure more water flow into Bahr Al Ghazal river and its tributaries which are now blocked by silk and papyrus grass. On the other hand, Egypt may need an African and international monetary assistance for five years until the reservoir is filled.
In conclusion, Egypt lacks legal power to bring Ethiopia to the International Court of Justice, ICJ. It should not also take the law into its own hands based on its pledge that “losing one cubic meter for Egypt is a matter of life or death.” That slogan should not guide the approach to this problem. if it happens, the peace and security in the Basin shall be jeopardized and could amount to the violation of UN Charter.