EMF reportage (By Dawit Kebede – Atlanta)
This week, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda,Tanzania and Kenya signed the new Nile treaty in Entebbe despite strong opposition from Egypt and Sudan downstream. Following the signing Ethiopia inaugurated the Tana Beles dam which might cause possible war between Egypt and Ethiopia.
Arabic translationانقر هنا لقراءة الترجمة العربية
In 1970, Anwar Sadat, then President of Egypt, threatened to go to war with Ethiopia. He stated: “Any action that would endanger the waters of the Blue Nile will be faced with a firm reaction on the part of Egypt, even if that action should lead to war.” The May 2010 signing as well as the inauguration of Ethiopia’s Tana Beles dam will change the course of the future Africa.
The new agreement, the Nile Basin Co-operative Framework, is to replace a 1959 accord between Egypt and Sudan that gave them control of more than 90 per cent of the water flow. The two countries have expressed fears that their water supply would be severely reduced if the seven other Nile users divert the river with domestic irrigation and hydro-power projects.
Meles Zenawi told Al Jazeera on that Egypt will not be able to stop his country from building dams on the river. He states: “Ethiopia is not unstable. Ethiopia is still poor, but it is able to cover the necessary resources to build whatever infrastructure and dams it wants on the Nile water.”
Egypt has been in fierce disagreement with upstream Nile countries over the distribution of water, the officials also held meeting and expressed their anger over Ethiopia.
Due to the public pressure, President Mubarek set for Italian visit to discuss with Italian Prime Minister, Sivio Berlusconi over Salini’s involvement on Tana Beles dam.
Invasion, Treaties and Ethiopia’s interest over Lake Tana
1865: Invasion of Egypt
Egypt controlled the port of Massawa from 1865 to 1885, and occupied parts of present – day northwestern Eritrea from 1872 – 1884, with a view to using these areas as bases for military operations against the rest of Ethiopia. Egypt’s military adventures, as noted earlier were, however, brought to a halt, at least temporarily, by its disastrous defeats at Gura and Gundet.
1875: Egypt occupied Harar
Egypt occupied Harar and killed the Emir in 1875. The Egyptian action created a strong resistance in the Muslim community of Harar. Emir Abdullah took control and led a campaign against the Egyptians, which ended in 1887 when Menelik, Prince of Shewa, who later became Emperor of Ethiopia in 1889, waged war against the army of Egypt and defeated them.
1902: Ethiopia and Government of the Sudan
In 1902, London dispatched John Harrington to Addis Ababa to negotiate Ethiopian border and Nile water issues with Emperor Menelik. Article III of the 15 May 1902 Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty, which resulted from the visit, affirms:
His Majesty the Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia, engages himself towards the Government of His Britannic Majesty not to construct or allow to be constructed, any works across the Blue Nile, Lake Tana or the Sabot, which would arrest the flow of their waters into the Nile except in agreement with His Britannic Majesty’s Government and the Government of the Sudan.
Ethiopia’s legitimate reasons to exploit the waters in its own territory for development purposes should be understandable. This fact alone would provide sufficient grounds that the agreement was between Ethiopia and Governments of the United Kingdom and/or Sudan. However, the 1902 agreement was never ratified, either by the British Parliament or by the Ethiopian Crown Council.
1906: Tripartite Agreement
The Treaty between the United Kingdom, France and Italy, also called the Tripartite Agreement, signed December 13, 1906, in which the principle of non-interference with the flow of the Blue Nile, Atbarah and Sobat tributaries is recognized. [Ethiopia was not included or asked to sign this agreement]
1925: The Rome Agreement [Ethiopia was excluded]
The Rome Agreement of 1925 concluded between the United Kingdom and Italy in which the latter recognizes the acquired rights of both Egypt and Sudan in the waters of the Blue Nile and White Nile and their tributaries and pledges not to set up constructions on any of them that would restrict the flow of water in the Nile proper.
1927: Plan of building a dam on Lake Tana
Ethiopia has planned to explore the possibilities of building a dam on Lake Tana. For example, in 1927 Ethiopia reached an agreement with J. G. White Engineering Corporation of New York, for a number of engineers and experts had visited Lake Tana and studied the feasibility of building a dam at the source of the Blue Nile. The required feasibility studies were carried out for the construction of a dam at Lake Tana at an estimated cost of $20,000,000. The project interrupted during the Italian invasion in 1932.
1929: Treaty between Egypt and Britain [Ethiopia was excluded]
In 1929, there was an Agreement between Egypt and Britain. It stipulated that “no irrigation or power works or measures are to be constructed or taken on the River Nile or its tributaries, or on the lakes from which it flows in so far as all these are in the Sudan or in countries under British administration, which would entail prejudice to the interests of Egypt.” Since Ethiopia had never been a British colony, or part of any European power for that matter, except for the five years (1936–1941) of occupation by Fascist Italy, it maintains that this agreement has no legal effect on it.
1941: Ethiopia declined the 1929 agreement
Following the restoration of Emperor Haile Selassie’s government in 1941, it repudiated the 1902 Treaty on account of British recognition of the Italian “conquest” of Ethiopia. Moreover, Ethiopia also declined to recognize the 1929 agreement arguing that it had never been a British colony.
1952: King Haile Selassie declined to visit Egypt
After Gamal Abdel Nasser took power in 1952, he repeatedly extended official invitations to Haile Selassie to visit Egypt. The emperor repeatedly declined the offers.
1956: Melesse Mikael Andom appointed to discuss matters with Gamal Abdel Nasser
In December 1956, King Haile Selassie instructed his ambassador to the Sudan, Melesse Mikael Andom, to discuss matters with Nasser, who had not given up on the idea of the unity of the Nile Valley countries. Melessse Mikael Andom sent letter to Egypt President, Gamal Abdel Nasser:
You claim to be an Arab and to lead the Arab world, but you interfere in the affairs of your Arab neighbours, and have tried to cause trouble for the Governments of Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, and the Sudan. We Ethiopians do not belong to your world, although like you we drink of the water of the Nile. You have military objectives. We do not know exactly what they may be, but we have no confidence in the strength of your armed forces.
1956: Egypt to destabilize Ethiopia
In 1958, a small military training camp for Eritreans opened near Alexandria, where some of the future military commanders received their initial training. Idris Mohammed Adem, the former President of the Eritrean Parliament, Ibrahim Sultan, Secretary General of the Islamic League, and Wolde Ab Wolde Mariam, President of the Eritrean Labour Unions, and others, were encouraged to go to Egypt.
1958: Radio Cairo broadcast to Eritrea
Wolde Ab Wolde Mariam was given a special radio program and began to broadcast to Eritrea from Radio Cairo. Radio Cairo broadcasts started to remind Ethiopian Muslims where their “primary loyalties” lay. Providing scholarships to Muslim Eritreans at Al-Azhar University followed suit, and soon, Cairo became the center for the Eritrean Student Union in the Middle East. He sought to undermine Haile Selassie’s Government and urged Eritreans to take up arms and to struggle for their independence.
1959: Agreement between Egypt and Sudan [Excluded Ethiopia]
On November 1959 Egypt and the Sudan signed agreement on the division of the waters of the Nile. The agreement gave Egypt 75 percent of the waters of the river (i.e., 55.5 billion m3) and 25 percent to the Sudan (18.5 billion m3) .2 5 The very agreement which allowed Egypt to receive three times as much water as the Sudan, refers to “full utilization” and “full control of the river,” when it involved only two states. Needless to say, Egypt and the Sudan were both recipients and users and, therefore, arguably cannot have the last word on the utilization of the waters of the river.
1959: Ethiopia declined the 1959 treaty
Similar to the 1929 agreement, the Ethiopian King, Haile Silassei I, declined to recognize the 1959 Agreement which didn’t include the Nile riparian countries.
1977: Egypt provided military training and weapons to Somalia’s
From 1964 to 1978, Somalia received extensive military aid from the Soviet Union. But Egypt also provided military training and weapons in order to help Cairo maintain leverage over Ethiopia, and to prevent Ethiopia from achieving stability. For example, in 1978 Egypt gave Somalia millions of dollars worth of Russian equipment. Sadat was also quoted as saying that in addition to sending arms, Egypt might send troops to help Somalia.
As a result, Ethiopia argued that thousands of defenseless people we re killed; and thousands we re uprooted and made destitute, and development projects in eastern and southern parts of the country worth millions of dollars we re destroyed. Schools, hospitals, bridges, farms, power plants, water supply systems, industrial plants, and even UN financed settlement projects for nomads were not spared. Whole villages and towns we re razed to the ground.
1986: Famine in Ethiopia
While Ethiopians were dying during the 1980ties, Egypt never provided a bag of flour to the victims of drought and famine in Ethiopia.
1988: Tana Beles project began during Mengistu’s regime
Despite the de-stabilizing effect of the Eritrean conflict, the first phase of Ethiopia’s $300,000,000 Tana Beles project began during Mengistu Hailemariam’s regime in 1988. The project aimed at doubling Ethiopia’s hydroelectric power and provide irrigation for a settlement scheme that would take water from Lake Tana to the Beles River, across which five dams were to be built. Some 200,000 farmers were to be settled after the completion of this project. However, Egypt blocked a loan from the African Development Bank because Cairo feared that the Tana Beles project would consume too much Blue Nile water.
1988: Bahir Dar airport built to defend Tana
Bahir Dar airport has been built by the Derg regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam for dual purposes: to serve civilians during peace time and defend Tana Beles from Egypt and Sudan attack. The air port has been designed to deploy troops and run military jets.
1999: Ten Nile riparian countries created the Nile Basin Initiative
In 1999, ten Nile riparian countries created the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), which sought to substitute a half century-old Nile water usage agreement and bilateral contract between Egypt and colonial Britain with a new multilateral agreement that reflected current demographic and development realities. The outdated agreement, which secures well over 87 percent of the Nile’s flow to both Egypt and Sudan, is fueling anger from water strapped upper-stream countries.
2005: Meles and Mubarek discussed
Meles Zenawi led his delegation to the NEPAD Summit in Sharm al-Sheikh (April 16 to 19, 2005). During his stay, he was received by Hosni Mubarak. Discussions focused on the situation in Africa, particularly East Africa and the Horn of Africa. High on the agenda also were developments in the Middle East and means of consolidating bilateral ties.
2009: Egyptian invests $1 billion USD in Ethiopia
Egyptian invested approx. US$1 billion in 2009. The figure covers the manufacture of electricity cables, irrigation motor engines and water pipelines among others. During Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif’s visit to Addis Ababa (December 2009), numerous agreements already in existence were renewed (protecting and encouraging investments); new agreements were signed (double taxation avoidance; removing obstacles to trade).
Ethiopia had informed Egypt of its intention to carry out a project to generate electricity, included within the projects of the Nile Basin Initiative, all of which Egypt approved over the last two years without making sure of the nature of the different projects or their real goals.
2010: Ethiopia constructed the Tana Beles Dam
The Tana Beles Dam project was interrupted during the Ethiopian civil war but continued right after Meles Zenawi’s visit to Egypt in 2005. The construction took four years, the hydro-electric plant inaugurated with the capacity of producing 460 megawatts was constructed by the Ethiopians and Italian contractor Salini Constructtori S.A. for more than half billion dollar expense. ($300,000,000)
2010: The upstream countries signed agreement
The upstream countries want to be able to implement irrigation and hydropower projects in consultation with Egypt and Sudan, but without Egypt being able to exercise the veto power it was given by a 1929 colonial-era treaty with Britain.
2010: Egypt officials reaction over Tana Beles Dam
The head of the Nile Water Sector, Abdel Fattah Motawei, nor any of its technical authorities, had information about the Ethiopian dam, which led to their downplaying its importance in a report to Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Nasr Eddin Allam. Consequently, Egyptian officials who are responsible for the Nile issue held meeting to deal with the new situation. They asked for detailed information about the dam to be presented to President Hosni Mubarak”.
Diaa el-Qousi, former adviser to the irrigation minister, said building dams may affect Egypt’s quota of Nile water, regardless of storage capacity, and added that it’s unacceptable for each of the source countries to work in its own interest only. El-Qousi also emphasized the importance of joint cooperation between Egypt and Sudan to face such dangers, as well as the necessity of implementing joint projects between the two countries to make use of water losses in the Ghazal basin in order to save 30 billion cubic meters of water, especially in areas such as Gongli, Moshar and Bahr el-Ghazal.
2010: Ethiopia to build 70 more dams
Ethiopia plans to build more than 70 dams to for electricity generation during the upcoming ten years. Nile Water Sector’s role in embarrassing the minister before the public– in light of the sector’s responsibility for following up on relations between Egypt and Nile basin countries and the impact of water projects in source countries on Egypt, which posed a negotiation dilemma for Eddin’s ministry.
The Tana Beles dam lies on one of the tributaries of the Blue Nile. Its water comes from Lake Tana and its storage capacity reaches seven billion cubic meters and irrigates 250,000 feddans, sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm.
2010: Meles responded for Egyptian reaction
Meles Zenawi rejected a threat by Egypt to prevent the building of dams and other water projects upstream on the Nile river.
Meles Zenawi told Al Jazeera that Egypt will not be able to stop his country from building dams on the river.
His comments came nearly a week after Ethiopia joined Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania in signing a new treaty on the equitable sharing of the Nile, despite strong opposition from Egypt and Sudan who have the major share of the river waters.
What is next?
A stormy parliamentary session is expected in Cairo. Egypt might declare war on Ethiopia and bombard Ethiopia from air… Sudan could also start a ground war from north-west of Ethiopia. The question will remain, “is Ethiopia ready for the upcoming possible war? Are Ethiopian radars and anti-air craft missiles ready for action?” Time will tell.