Al-Sisi`s Nile Policy: What is New and What is Not?

By: Zerihun Abebe Yigzaw

As A Background

Following the popular revolt supported by a military coup of July 2013 Egypt`s democratically elected President Morsi was deposed and the country was ruled by a caretaker government nearly for a year. On June 2014 Egyptians “elected” a new president named Abdel Fatah Al Sisi-who was a defense minister under Morsi and who was, in fact, in the forefront in unseating Muslim Brotherhood`s Mohamed Morsi. Since January 2011, from Field Marshal Mohammed Tantawi to Field Marshal Abdel Fatah Al Sisi, Egypt has seen four presidents and four prime ministers who in one way or another reflected their stance about the Nile.

Following the ousting of Mohammed Hosni Mubarak, Essam Sharaf`s transitional government was quick to criticize the way Mubarak`s regime ‘treat upstream states of the Nile and lambast its Africa policy. The transitional prime minister further while sending a public diplomacy delegates to upstream states of the Nile pledge that the old era is gone and a new era is opened between the riparian states of the Nile and Egypt. As a good gesture and good neighborliness, the then Premier of Ethiopia the late Ato Melese Zenawi promised to delay the ratification of the Cooperative Framework Agreement on the Nile (CFA)-which is devised to establish a new Nile Basin based equality of all riparian states, until Egypt elects a stable and democratic government. This promise worked for Egypt and despite the public diplomacy delegates and the then Prime Minister Essam Sharaf promised a new era was opened, his successor Mohamed Morsi who was elected as a result of popular election slightly wining over Ahamed Shafiq who was the last Prime Minister of the Mubarak era was not strong and committed enough to continue the track.

Despite Morsi`s had the chance to solve the Nile dispute, the Tamarod movement with the military was on his neck. Then he was forced to use the Nile card to mobilize Egyptians to a foreign ‘enemy’ on the upstream of the Nile to avoid the mob stood against him. His speech and people around him barreled of a water war drums and `our blood is an alternative for a drop of water of the Nile` with the drama at the Presidential campus are what makes his presidency`s memorable moments regarding the Nile. But the very interesting development was the June 2013 brief visit to Ethiopia of Mohamed Amr who was a Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt and the consequent joint statement they made to commence on discussions to implement the recommendations of the International Panel of Experts (IPoE).
Following the termination of the discussion, Egypt went back to the common way of undermining Ethiopia through its propaganda machine in the media. The then minister of Egypt`s Ministry of Water and Irrigation, Motaleb turned in to accusing Ethiopia of being uncooperative and stated that “Egypt will never negotiate on its water share”- a share which Egypt claimed it has under the 1959 ‘Agreement’ with the Sudan-an agreement which is nullified and not a concern of upstream states mainly Ethiopia.

Politicians and statesmen in Egypt have this commonality that they always state that their country`s only water source is the Nile and strives to show that their country is unthinkably dependent on the Nile. And they went further and for them the Nile issue is a matter of life and death. For them the self-apportioned 55.5 billion cubic meters of the Nile waters as per the 1959 ‘Agreement’ is not negotiable. So they say Ethiopia and other upstream states must recognize that. Due to this main reason, Egypt`s relation with upstream Ethiopia is at unhealthy. At the center of the conflict mainly is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Behind all these developments, Abdel Fatah al Sisi`s inauguration as the new president of Egypt, by many, is regarded as a change in policy and in fact for some a shift in Egypt`s policy on the Nile. The question is the, are there any new developments on the Nile? Is Al Sisi`s presidency different from his predecessor`s policy on the Nile? What is new and what is not?

The Al Sisi Rhetoric

President Abdel Fatah Al Sisi (photo from BBC) As a presidential candidate competing with the Nassrist Hamdeen Sabahi, Al Sisi stated that, he understands Ethiopia`s need for development but the “Nile water is a “matter of life and death” for Egypt,” Ahram Online reported. He further stated that he is ready to visit Ethiopia for dam talks to resolve the dam row with Ethiopia peacefully. In his inaugural speech, Sisi also stated that he “won’t allow the Renaissance Dam to cause a crisis or a problem with sisterly Ethiopia“. This new rhetoric is mainly a pledge that Egypt is ready to solve the Nile crisis especially the dispute on GERD peacefully and through dialogue. This was further stressed in the discussions between Dr. Tedros Adhanom and President Abdel Fatah Al Sisi. The new president further understands that GERD is not an Ethiopian dam project alone rather it is a symbolic Africa`s project. This understanding is of course reflected in the President`s speech when he say, “I will never allow the issue of the Renaissance Dam to be a source of creating a crisis or a problem or be an obstacle for enhancing Egypt’s relations with Africa in general or with sisterly Ethiopia in particular.” The meeting between Ethiopia`s Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Egypt`s previous Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy and the understanding to continue the tripartite meeting was also regarded as a positive step. The remarks and developments mentioned in one way or another were regarded as Egypt`s change of heart.

Continuing the Tripartite Meeting

What is new from the pre-Sisi Egypt is, the agreement reached between Ethiopia and Egypt to continue the Tripartite discussion to implement the recommendations of the IPoE. The discussion was started in November 2013 under the Adly Mansour presidency and continued until January 2014 in Khartoum-the capital of the Sudan. However, the discussion was halted due to the unnecessary tabling of an agenda out of the scope and purpose of the discussion by Egypt. Mainly, in the January discussions, Egypt came up with the so-called “principles of confidence building” which was another attempt to bring back the 1959 ‘Agreement’ by other means.

Now the Al Sisi administration seems worried that Egypt`s unwise decision to push for the discussion halted back in January is not helping the country as Ethiopia is also continuing the construction of GERD 24 hours a day for seven days a week. The decision to resume the discussions by including the Sudan is a positive step. Yet no one is sure whether Egypt will stick to the principles of the discussion and refrain from tabling unnecessary agendas.

Egypt: Stemming the Technical Nile and Propel the Political Nile

Despite almost all transboundary watercourses involve politics and appear political due to the nature of modern states and their boundaries. Had there no boundaries, rivers would have remain one geographical unit and apolitical. The Nile is the most politicized transboundary watercourse as compared to other similar transboundary watercourses including Euphrates-Tigris as well as Mekong. Egypt is the dominant state in pushing the politicization of the Nile as compared to other riparian states. For almost all riparian states of the Nile upstream to Egypt including Sudan, the Nile is a technical issue not a political one. It is the Ministries of Water Affairs which are responsible in dealing with the Nile issue in all riparian states except in Egypt-where the Ministry of Water and Irrigation has nominal power in Nile related negotiations. In almost all upstream states the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other related institutions play a supportive role and plays a crucial role in diplomacy. That is why the ministries are working together by strengthening their horizontal relationships.

But, Egypt, relentlessly has been trying politicizing the Nile especially following the signing of the CFA and the commencement of the construction of the GERD. This is move of Egypt is based on its (mis)calculation that putting the Nile issue on the political table will allow here to use any instrument possible to pressurize upstream states rather than solving the issue technically which is more based on scientific data and evidences. Egypt is trying to play its 1959 game that helps her to win over the coup troubled Sudan. The political Nile is more open for lobbyist strategy than the technical Nile. It is this writers doubt that the recent moves of Egypt despite not new is an attempt to propel the Nile in to the political space.

The Nile: “Importance to Egypt and Ethiopia`s Plan and need for development”

On Ethiopian side it is most neglected to remind the phrases in Al Sisi`s inaugural speech where he said, “if the dam [GERD] constitutes its [Ethiopia`s] right to development, the Nile represented our [Egypt`s] right to life.” The Egyptians have been constructing the discourse of their extreme “dependence” on the Nile and Ethiopia`s perceived “less dependency on the Nile”- a statement which is baseless and not supported by facts. As for Egypt, it is one of the most ground water richest countries on the world with the potential of almost equivalent to the Nile`s 500 years flow. Ethiopia`s dependency on the Nile is more than answering its developmental questions rather it has to do with the life and death of the people of the country. Ethiopia`s territorial integrity, its peace and stability, its economy-in terms of energy, agriculture, surface water availability etc is shouldered by the country`s Nile Basin which accounts 2/3 of energy and irrigation potential, 70 percent of the country`s water resource, nearly 40 million people and 2/3 of the regional states.

Following the 23rd African Union Summit (AUS) in Malabo-Equatorial Guinea the leaders of the two countries-Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and President Abdel Fatah Al Sisi met and discussed on various issues to boost bilateral relations. In the meantime, the Egyptian media have reported that, following the meeting of the two leaders, “Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian foreign minister, along with his Ethiopian counterpart Tedros Adhanom, stressed in the statement that Ethiopia will understand the importance of the Nile to Egypt; and that Egypt will understand the Ethiopian plans and need for development.” In this statement the phrases “Ethiopia will understand the importance of the Nile to Egypt” is a manifestation that Egypt is trying to bold its dependency on the Nile and is an attempt to bowl Ethiopia in to its shrewd politics. This is clearly seen when the following statement declare that “Egypt will understand the Ethiopian plans and need for development.” These statements clearly and unambiguously matches President Al Sisi`s inaugural speech and his remark about the GERD. The statements are not, of course, a problem but they are because of the discourse attached. The message is Ethiopia is less dependent on the Nile than Egypt, and as far as Ethiopia`s question is concerned, its question is a question of development and it can be answered by other means. Can Ethiopia afford that? Never! Ethiopia should be worry of such phrases and texts. It is language in use and that is discourse. What is astonishing is, though, the statement by the two foreign ministers was misinterpreted by the Egyptian media-which is the usual business. The discussion and the focus of the joint statement was regarding the GERD but the Egyptians attempted and tried hard to make the center of the discussion the Nile in general and with the usual cunning politics.

Where is the Changed Heart?

The Sisi rhetoric does not reflect a change of heart of Egypt. It is too early to conclude that Egypt`s Nile policy is changed. The declaration that the solution on the Nile is dialogue and peaceful discussion between the concerned parties is what all Egyptian leaders since the January 25, 2011 popular revolt have been saying but fall a short when it comes to practice. Above all the pillars of Egypt`s Nile policy is not changed and is less likely to happen in the near future. There are plenty of reasons for this conclusion.

Egypt has always saying that the self-claimed and apportioned “Nile water share as per the 1959 Agreement is not negotiable.” This is a matter of life and death in the Egyptian view of the Nile and any hydraulic infrastructure development in the upstream of the River. In his visit to Chad on April 2014, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab stated that ” We’re not against the Ethiopian people but we advocate our interests… We [Egypt] will protect our rights to the Nile water with the support of the world and African countries, and with our efforts,” The Problem is not protecting their interest. The real problem is the definition of their interest as it is based on unfairly, unjustly and unlawfully claimed right based on colonial, partial and non-inclusive pseudo agreements of 1929 and 1959. Moreover, the emphasis on the importance of the Nile for Egypt and its restriction as a question and plan of development for Ethiopia is a clear manifestation of the real stance of Egypt. In fact, it is in the same administration that we are hearing from the Minister of Agriculture, Adel Al Beltagy appointed by President Abdel Fatah Al Sisi himself, saying “Egypt will not give away a single drop of water of its share of Nile Water, which totals at 55 billion cubic meters.

Besides, like the previous years Egypt seems continuing the divide and rule policy that it is known for. The solution for the Nile is not a bilateral path rather a multilateral one which embrace all the riparian states under one legal regime and river basin commission which is responsible for the management and utilization of the Nile waters. But the Sisi administration like its predecessors have already focused on strengthening bilateral relations than the multilateral one. The visits to Sudan by the president Al Sisi and the minister of Irrigation -Hossam Moghazy  and the planned visits to other Nile Basin countries is part of the divide and rule approach that the country adopts. So where is the Changed Heart of Egypt?

In Sum
Negotiation on the Nile is over and closed back in 2009 at the Kinshasa meeting of the Nile Council of Ministers of Water Affairs. What remains is discussion regarding the implementation of the recommendations of the IPoE on the GERD. The discussion despite held in three rounds from November 2013 to January 2014 at Khartoum it was halted due to the obstructionist strategy of Egypt. Currently, Egypt through its president and minister of foreign affairs pledge that the discussion will be resumed by including the Sudan-whose GERD position is clear and supportive of Ethiopia. Such come-back for discussion and talks over the GERD would not be taken for granted as a change of heart from Egypt in its Nile policy. It is too early to conclude as the pillars of Egypt`s heart is not yet changed and roped by its position on the unfair, partial, unjust, colonial and bilateral pseudo-agreements. In fact, one should not forget the current constitution of Egypt and its Article 44 which hinders the government of Egypt from solving the Nile dispute as it obliges the government to protect the so-called Egypt`s `historic right` on the Nile. As repeatedly said, though, the only solution for the Nile problem is dialogue and genuine cooperation which needs the true change of heart from Egypt not a tactical change to preserve a dying and obsolete zero-sum ‘regime’ on the Nile. Till that, what we have seeing and listening is no more than a mere change of tactic to buy time and appear cooperative while continuing the divide and rule policy.


A Proxy Campaign against Ethiopia? A Response by GERD National Panel of Experts (NPoE)

Ethiopia National Panel of Experts (NPoE) on GERDP responded to the the biased news release of the hydropower extremist International  Rivers Network (IRN) which tried hard to mislead readers and the general public in a way that favored Egypt which is unexpected from an institutions which portrayed itself professional. In fact IRN has been remained in the forefront in accusing Ethiopia`s efforts for development and transformation with its unscientific, baseless and unscientific as well as biased news releases and unfounded “reports.” The full article of the response by GERDP is posted below.


International River Network (IRN): GERD Panel of Experts Report: Big Questions Remain, Monday, March 31, 2014”

A Proxy Campaign against Ethiopia? A Response by GERD National Panel of Experts (NPoE)


For so many years now the IRN, International River Network, this self-appointed “guardian” of all rivers of the world, has been leaving no stone unturned in its effort to subvert Ethiopia’s efforts to develop its water resources and lift its vast and growing population out of poverty. This is manifested most glaringly in its incessant negative campaign against the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), initiated from the very first days when the idea of water resources development on the Abbay was floated, including even through the Nile Basin Initiative.


Apart from being amused, the NPOE so far had chosen to ignore IRN’s anti-Ethiopia lobbying which is driven by an ideological, if not fanatical-messianic mission to “protect [the world’s] rivers and … to stop destructive dams”. IRN is accuser, police, judge and jury all rolled into one. IRN determines for countries, particularly for developing and poor countries like Ethiopia, how to do water resources development projects the “right” way. For these “backward” countries, IRN is the high priest that communes with God the Almighty and determines what is the most environmentally appropriate, most efficient and economical, and most beneficial for local, national and regional not only flora and fauna but also human communities too. What paternalism!!


Until now we did not find it worthwhile to get into polemics with what we thought were basically misinformed and misguided IRN activists. That is, until now. But now we are compelled to revise our stance toward these people. The straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, happened on March 31, 2014 when IRN posted on its website a piece entitled “ GERD panel of Experts Report: Big Questions Remain” in which IRN explicitly called on Ethiopia to halt the construction of GERD!!


It would be unconscionable for us as professional Ethiopians well versed with and advising on GERD related issues to keep on looking at these people with bemusement and indifference when they peddle, clearly siding with Egypt, distorted, unsubstantiated and hostile mercenary propaganda against GERD and the Ethiopian people. It would take pages and pages to show the intense partisan nature of IRN in its entirety. However, the next few paragraphs suffice to illustrate our concern and to show a clear pattern of IRN’s growing hostility toward Ethiopia. IRN’s campaign against GERD and Ethiopia happened in four overlapping but discernable distinct stages:

Stage 1: Dissuade them!

True to its anti-dam creed, IRN did its best to discourage the idea of dam building in Ethiopia in the first place. IRN put forth whatever argument to dissuade decision makers. Arguments included those dams of a GERD scale would drain the national budget, would distort priorities, would be difficult to fund, etc. Here is one quote from their website:

“The US$5 billion scheme [GERD] is out of scale for such a poor country; the current cost estimate equals the country’s entire annual budget. The costly project is monopolizing government funding for the energy sector, leaving many worthy projects that would directly address the nation’s high energy poverty underfunded.”


IRN, in a piece titled “A Tale of Two Dams: Comparing Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance to Hoover” and “drawing lessons” from ‘follies’ of the Hoover Dam, offered advice to Ethiopia: do not repeat USA’s mistakes! We will not go into the contentious and invalid arguments, to say the least, put forward and better ignore IRN’s unsolicited advice. What is interesting is the poison that is wrapped in the package of IRN’s advice. Read on:


“Ethiopian engineers recently compared the Grand Renaissance Dam to Hoover as a project that can lift a struggling nation out of poverty, and a project whose accomplishments will go down in history.  Yet the darker lessons from Hoover’s long history might be equally relevant for Ethiopia to review. Consider: The mega dam model is a dinosaur. Ethiopia would be better off leapfrogging over it to a more modern and efficient system, and find less provocative ways to assert its interests over the Nile waters” (emphasis added)


IRN’s message is not only that Ethiopia should not build big dams. The message is also that Ethiopia should stop being “provocative”. IRN advises Ethiopia to assert its right other than through being provocative i.e. other than through deciding to build GERD.   To IRN, Ethiopia’s decision to build GERD is provocation!! So much, for IRN’s “advice”!


When the above tactics fail, IRN, referring to an expert (which it conveniently pluralizes), sheds crocodile tears by stating that Ethiopia is wasting its scarce resources on oversized projects like the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Here is another quote from their website:


“Ethiopia’s Biggest Dam Oversized, Experts Say Date: Thursday, September 5, 2013.

In May, Ethiopia diverted the Blue Nile to begin building its largest dam project to date, the 6,000 MW Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD) – a move that angered Egypt, which fears its water supply will shrink over the many years it will take to fill the huge reservoir. Besides the tensions this huge project is causing politically, there is growing concern that the dam will not produce nearly as much power as it has been designed to.” (Emphasis added)

Again, IRN never loses opportunity to lobby for its Egyptian paymasters. Not only does IRN talk about the “oversize” of GERD, but also about the Egyptians’ negative emotions over GERD: anger and fear!


In yet another alarmist piece related to GERD, IRN bemoaning “Ethiopia’s Dam Boom”, fabricates outrageous white lies:


“International Rivers is monitoring dam planning in Ethiopia, working to keep international donors from investing in the worst projects on the drawing boards, and sharing knowledge about better alternatives and the legacy of Ethiopia’s past dams with international civil society.

Water for irrigation from large reservoirs is mostly earmarked for large-scale agricultural producers – and increasingly, for foreign agricultural developments taking advantage of a government-sponsored land leasing program. (Emphasis added)


Alas, IRN has nothing factual to show, in any of the GERD plans, to substantiate its claim that GERD is an irrigation project!! We should not dwell on this any longer for the facts speak for themselves.



Stage 2: Smear campaign

When its dissuasion tactic failed and GERD implementation proceeded on with earnest, IRN had to embark on what we may term its Stage 2 tactics: a smear campaign. Here IRN does all it can to find any fault – big or small, real or imagined- with GERD in a bid to discredit it in the eyes of the world, particularly funders. Here is one quote from an IRN piece of 06/07/2013 with an eye catching alarmist title “Why has the Nile become a Battleground?:


“This week, Ethiopia announced it was diverting the flow of the Blue Nile to begin building the huge Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Within days, water-stressed Egypt – a downstream Nile Basin nation – called for Ethiopia to halt its work on the giant new dam. Why is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam causing such strife? In addition to Egypt’s fears that it will reduce its lifeline of Nile waters, the tensions have been fanned by the project’s “SAD” planning process:
• Secretive: Although it is Africa’s biggest dam project and will have lasting impacts on its longest river, it has been
developed under a veil of secrecy.
• Autocratic: The dam will impact Ethiopians and downstream neighbors, yet its planning process has been top-down and unilateral. The public and dam-affected people
have not been given a meaningful opportunity to critique the project or process.
• Dismissive: Ethiopian government officials have flatly stated they will not make changes to the project, and
have asserted that the project will not have impacts on downstream countries


The dam poses a number of risks to these downstream neighbors; one reason for the growing tension is that these risks have not been properly analyzed. Egypt has virtually no other sources of water for its people, and is already making do with less water per person than the international average. By at least one estimate, the Grand Renaissance reservoir could evaporate 3bn cubic meters of water a year – three times Egypt’s annual rainfall, and enough to meet the basic needs of up to half a million people. The reservoir could take 3-5 years to fill, reducing Egypt’s water supply by up to 25%.


However, damming off a shared river in a secretive and unilateral fashion is a provocative approach to resolving conflict in a water-stressed basin such as the Nile. Says Mohamed Allam, former minister of irrigation and water resources in Egypt: “This is not just about Egypt and Sudan. International rivers are governed by laws and conventions, in accordance with which any action that affects water quotas requires advanced notice and guarantees against possible harm.”

The Nile situation is not an isolated incident. Ethiopia is being similarly aggressive over the development of the shared Omo River, where it is building the controversial
Gibe III Dam and developing large-scale plantations. These developments threaten Kenya’s Lake Turkana”. (Emphasis added)


IRN, the all-knowing God of water resources development, is angry that Ethiopia did not observe its commandment of good water resources planning.


Oh, GERD planning is too “secretive” concludes IRN. As if Egypt shared hers with us! IRN can dream all it wants. But we deal in and with the real world.


GERD planning is autocratic says IRN – it was not discussed with its neighbors!


GERD planning is dismissive judges IRN – since Ethiopia will not change the parameters of the project!


Oh GERD is wasteful condemns IRN – It will evaporate 3 BMC of water annually, equivalent to a non-existent Egyptian rainfall! IRN is making this fabricated statement, while keeping mum on the 10-15 BMC annual evaporation loss the Egyptian High Aswan Dam is causing in the middle of the Sahara Desert! How “fair” of IRN!!

Oh yes, GERD is provocative, says IRN, referring to Mohamed Allam, of all people, a former Egyptian Minister hostile to Ethiopia and eternal defender of the self claimed Egyptian quota.


Oh yes, GERD is harmful bemoans IRN, because it is going to affect Egypt, which has no other source of water, which is making do with less water per person.


Oh, dear IRN folks, need we tell you that of all African Countries, surely of all Nile Basin countries, it is only Egypt that has over 98% of its population with access to potable water, while an Ethiopian girl of sixteen has to go on average 6 kilometers each day back and forth to fetch a gallon of water from a river or a dug hole!! How “fair” of IRN! IRN, as usual, never missed this opportunity to work on and provoke friendly and neighboring Kenya! As far back as Mach 2004, IRN, in a cynical piece on the Nile Basin Initiative titled “Can the Nile States Dam Their Way to Cooperation?” in the part which discussed the Tekeze Dam had “warned”:

Ethiopia has reportedly neglected to formally consult with downstream Sudan and Egypt on the scheme, a decision which could further strain relations between the countries”

Oh IRN folks. What do you say to the appreciation Sudan is heaping on Ethiopia for the positive impact of that dam!!


Stage 3: Create Alarm!

IRN, noticing that its dissuasion and smear campaigns did not achieve its goals of stopping GERD at its inception or planning stages, embarked desperately to create alarm among the international community and downstream countries the fervor of which the Egyptians might envy.


IRN first attempted spinning or otherwise amplifying a conspiracy theory about GERD thus:

“The project’s launch came in the midst of the Egyptian revolution, which some observers believe was intended to take advantage of the more powerful nation’s confused political state at a time when the issue of who controls the Nile is heating up.”

IRN also “psychologized” Ethiopia’s decision to build the GERD thus:

“Egypt has long held the majority rights to the Nile – a situation that especially angers Ethiopia, which is the source of 85% of the river’s waters.”


Be that as it may, the worst is that IRN seems to wish any conflict, violent or otherwise, between Egypt and Ethiopia is better than seeing the GERD completed. Here is another one:


“While there are no known studies about the dam’s impacts on the river’s flow, filling such a huge reservoir (it will hold up to 67 billion cubic meters of water, and could take up to seven years to reach capacity) will certainly impact Egypt, which relies almost totally on the Nile for its water supply. Development Today magazine reports that the Nile flow into Egypt could be cut by 25% during the filling period. Many fear the project could set off a water war in the region, and indeed, in mid-2013, tensions flared dramatically. Climate change could increase the project’s many risks. The potential for conflict is probably the main reason international funders have shown no interest in supporting the project.”


Again IRN’s concern is Egypt’s water security, not Ethiopia’s poverty, water, energy and food insecurity! And then the allusion to conflict, referring to Many” (whoever they are!) who fear the almost inevitable conflict and war that would follow if Ethiopia proceeds with GERD. Oh, international financiers beware! Do not put your money there. What shameless partisanship of IRN. Should we be accused if we suspect payment under the table?


Stage 4: Conduct a Stop Them Campaign!

IRN, realizing its preceding three maneuvers did not yield any meaningful result, had to come to the open, reveal itself and launch its outright and blatant campaign against the GERD.


In a June 2013 piece titled “Why has the Nile River Become a Battleground?” the IRNspeculated:

“But what if Ethiopia refuses to engage? Some believe the International Court of Justice should be called in. – a move that Ethiopia rejects. Others hope Ethiopia’s major donors will use their diplomatic leverage to intervene. . . .” The article further urged that “Western donors have thus far mostly stayed out of the debate on Ethiopia’s dam building. Yet Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest recipients of foreign aid. The US has been the largest donor to the country, through a range of programs. Ethiopia has been receiving $3.5 billion on average from international donors in recent years – a critical portion of its national budget. This assistance explains how such a poor nation can afford to build costly dams and irrigation infrastructure without dedicated funding. Western donors such as the United States have a responsibility to step up diplomatic pressure on Ethiopia …”


IRN’s maneuverings and multifaceted campaigns notwithstanding, the GERD progress has continued unabated, almost a third complete, thanks to the whole hearted and unequivocal support for and rally of the Ethiopian people behind their project! IRN seems to have gotten desperate. There is nothing more telling of this than its latest piece, dated March 31, 2014, apparently based on a “leaked” IPOE report, full of lies and distortions, entitled “GERD Panel of Experts Report: Big Questions Remain.” Here is an extensive quote from that piece:

“The mega dam is being built on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, near the Sudan border, and has created conflict with Egypt over its downstream impacts; the experts’ study confirms Egypt’s concerns that the project’s impacts could be significant and are not well understood. Egypt has called for mediation if further studies are not allowed; at this writing, Ethiopia had refused, and was continuing with dam construction.

…. It is also clear that there is precious little oversight on Africa’s largest dam project to date. While the international panel has brought a type of oversight, it may be too little, too late – and with too little teeth; it seems the panel does not have a continuing role in ensuring best practices as construction proceeds. The panel’s report is almost a year old at this writing, yet its members have been mostly silent since their report was completed (as far as we know, none of the panelists have made public statements about the project). The Egyptian and Ethiopian governments continue the war of words, while at the same time construction on the mega dam proceeds, and questions raised by the panel remain unanswered. Going forward, International Rivers recommends construction on the project be halted until all necessary studies recommended by the panel are completed, and a process is in place for ensuring public accountability on the project. Given the panel’s findings, Egypt’s call for mediation in the process is reasonable, and donor governments and international bodies should support such a process” (emphasis added)


In the first place the IPoE did not have an “oversight” role as erroneously stated by IRN. The IPoE’s role as defined by the three Ministers of water affairs of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan is “ mainly facilitative, focused on promoting dialogue and understanding around GERD related issues of interest to the three countries so as to build trust and confidence among all parties.”

We appreciate the response to the biased IRN article posted on by Mr Danieil Berhane entitled, “ Anti=dam group doctors report, joins Egypt to stop Ethiopia’s dam” (April 6, 2014 We invite readers to read this article for a line by line rebuttal to the IRN unsubstantiated and distorted writing entitled,GERD Panel of Experts Report: Big Questions Remain, Monday, March 31, 2014”


We would however like to pose our own BIG QUESTIONS to IRN:


Where in the IPoE report do the IRN experts find recommendation of the IPoE that states to stop or delay the GERD until the recommended additional studies are conducted??!

Where in the report do the IRN experts find a statement that statesthe experts’ study confirms Egypt’s concerns that the project’s impacts could be significant and are not well understood.” ??!

What is peculiar with the panel’s recommendation to conduct “a full transboundary environmental and social impact assessment … conducted jointly by the three countries.”, since theTransboundary Environmental and Socioeconomic Impact study conducted through the initiative of Ethiopia and based on desk study requires more data and information from the downstream countries??!

The desk study has clearly shown that all expected downstream impacts can be mitigated and thus the more detailed recommended studies will not change the major findings of the desk study. Other studies done by the Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office of the NBI have also confirmed that changes in hydrological conditions due to GERD are all manageable. Thus these additional studies do not necessitate the delay or stopping of the construction of the GERDP .


Instead of sowing seeds of mistrust with your unsubstantiated writings among the people of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, we offer our humble advice to appreciate the most obvious benefits of the GERDP for the downstream countries that may assist you to be rational and refrain from propagating irresponsible and biased information.


  1. The energy generation from the GERD will enhance regional and economic integration such as through power interconnectedness, regional cooperation, trust and confidence building
  2. Due to regulated and increased flows a longer period of navigation on the Nile River downstream High Aswan Dam (HAD) will be possible. This will have important benefits for the tourism sector by extending the present touristic period
  3. The HAD reservoir capacity loss due to sedimentation will be reduced since the GERD Reservoir will store substantial quantity of sediments.
  4. With GERD operating upstream, average annual HAD losses will be 9.5 BCM/year instead of 10.8 BCM/year in case of HAD alone. Losses by evaporation, decrease by 12% comparing to HAD alone situations
  5. With GERD there will be increased flood control and due to its routing capacity there will be better flood control downstream of HAD and Risk of HAD overtopping will be eliminated.
  6. With GERD, the total storage capacity along the Nile River will significantly increase in the long term. This will reduce the risk due to hydrological variability with sequences of dry and wet years.
  7. The GERD will regulate the flows of the Blue Nile and this will support flows arriving at HAD.
  8. The GERD will reduce negative impacts on population and infrastructures in Sudan caused by recurrent floods.
  9. The GERD will capture sediment, protecting irrigation canals and equipment from damages caused by sedimentation both in Sudan and Egypt.
  10. The GERD will improve Sudanese dams efficiency and water use optimization and energy generation will be increased by more than 2,657 GWh/year due to the GERD regulation of flow.



It is obvious that in its desperation the IRN has been forced to come out and show its true color: a proxy for Egypt masquerading as an international environmental group fighting for the health of rivers!!


In all its ranting does IRN feel obliged, even if to feign decency, neutrality and disinterest, to mention Ethiopia’s need and desperation. By the way, is not Sudan a downstream country? Why does IRN shut up about Sudan’s identification with and support for GERD?!!!!!!!!!


Why does IRN dwell and fight exclusively for Egyptian interests, harps on their real or imagined and fabricated fears, while not uttering a single word about the waste incurred via the High Aswan Dam (HAD), via the Toshka project, etc?


By contrast, IRN never feels obliged to mention a single merit of GERD. It is a taboo!


IRN has no boundaries of shame. It accuses the IPOE members of ‘keeping silent”! Should every sensible human being on the face of the earth turn into a corrupt IRN partisan activist?


The IRN! The IRN that resides in California, USA, whose activists never have endured or experienced what it means to go thirsty or hungry for days; the IRN, if it had all the power to do so would have halted all water resources development projects all over the developing world.


Or, is it only in Ethiopia?


Consider this: Prior to1950 large scale dams worldwide did not number more than 5000. By 2000 large scale dams were more than 40,000. As of 2006, they stood at over 50,000. IRN’s campaigns notwithstanding, big dams are there to grow, especially in the developing world. So, given these trends what is IRN talking about, except to single out a single country, Ethiopia, and treat it as pariah and discourage its progress? Ethiopia never forgets the pains it had to bear due to its geography. Ethiopia has endured centuries of invasions and subversions by powers from far and close that aspired to control the headwaters of the Nile. Ethiopia has been prevented physically from accessing its water resources by keeping it busy with wars, direct or proxy wars. IRN’s anti Ethiopia campaign is but a continuation of that history – by another means, that is.

Be that as it may, we condemn IRN’s unfair and biased support for Egypt in its disagreements with Ethiopia contrary to its own mission statement. We categorically reject IRN’s advice to Ethiopia to accept its proposal and halt construction of GERD. What more do we need to prove our contention that IRN is doing ethically dubious job and propagating proxy campaigns against Ethiopia on behalf of Egypt.


We would like IRN, all friends and foes to know that the Ethiopian people are determined to develop their water resources and the construction of GERDP will not stop or delayed for a second.


News: International Ethiopian Professionals Support for Abay (Nile)- IEPSA Established

Ethiopian experts, professionals, university professors, doctors, doctoral students and graduate scholars in Europe, USA and Canada established a group named International Ethiopian Professionals Support for Abay (Nile)- IEPSA. The group which is composed of more than 25 Ethiopian experts is drawn from different fields of studies that are directly and indirectly related with water issues both from the hard sciences and the social sciences. The following is the full press release of IEPSA.


Establishment of the International Ethiopian Professionals Support for Abay (Nile)

Press release

On June 22nd 2013 Ethiopians composed of experts from different disciplines across different continents establish an international organization called International Ethiopian Professionals Support for Abay (IEPSA).  .

IEPSA’s main objective is to mobilize Ethiopian professionals across the world to provide support in their professional capacity for the successful completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD); and for ensuring the continuous utilization of Abay (Nile) River by Ethiopia based on fair, equitable and internationally acceptable principles.  The major factors for the establishment of the IEPSA are: firstly, there is no other non-governmental body to deliver researched and organized information to the international community about GERD which is currently under construction. Secondly, the majority of the Egyptian people know only what they are told by their politicians and have no information about the significance and importance of the GERD for upstream countries. Furthermore, the people of Egypt do not understand the rights of other riparian states on the Nile and as a result their attitude to upstream water development projects is very biased and negative. . Thirdly, there are also questions raised by Ethiopians about the size and location of the GERD-which needs clear answers. Fourthly, there is no formal arrangement made to bring the professionals of other riparian states so that they can play a constructive role regarding the GERD. And fifthly, there has not been any platform or mechanism to bring Ethiopians across different countries together so they could professionally support the efforts of Ethiopia on water and related projects.

With the aim of filling the aforementioned gaps and the necessity of focusing on the ongoing projects on Abay (Nile) River, the IEPSA aspires to achieve certain objectives mainly providing scientifically conducted and research based information about the GERD to the concerned entities, provide  professional support and work in cooperation with the National Committee for the Coordination of Public Participation on the Construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam on different issues which need expertise, working towards maintaining and protecting Ethiopia`s national interest on the international stage through strengthening public relation works and lobbing, establishing a database to make any information on the Nile River, in general and the GERD in particular, available for the public and answering all questions regarding the Nile in general and the GERD in particular. IEPSA will also support the national committee to mitigate and answer the critical questions raised by the international environmental organizations on the GERD.

IEPSA is composed of professionals from different disciplines who are mainly university professors, doctors, researchers, expertise in different fields working in big companies; and doctoral students and university graduate scholars mainly from America, Europe and Canada. The composition includes engineers from different disciplines, economists, environmental scientist and conservation professionals, water management experts, and trans-boundary water management professionals, international law experts, information technology professionals; and international relations/hydropolitics researchers.

It is with great privilege we invite all Ethiopian professionals and scholars to join us the ‘International Ethiopian Professional Support for Abay .Your contribution and participation in this timely issue would be greatly appreciated. You can rich us by email:

ዓለምአቀፍ የኢትዮጵያ ባለሙያዎች  ድጋፍ ለአባይ (ኢፕሳ)

International Ethiopian Professional Support for Abay (IEPSA)


Politicization of science from Cairo University on the Ethiopian Dam

Zerihun Abebe Yigzaw

Politicization is a process of making something and some issue to serve the political perspective of someone. In fact, as the political scientist-Rober Cox in 1981 famously stated even “Theory is always for someone and for some purpose.” Hence, politicization of science is the process and act of using or manipulating-better to say, science to serve a needed political goal or end. It is obvious that science and politics are intertwined in many aspects. Yet a mere polarization mostly created a very perilous situation if we have two opposing views where the facts based on science could solve such differences-for example the politics behind climate change is one illustration of such kind.

As clearly explained by Pielke (2004), an extreme politicization of science by scientists is dangerous because it is “a threat to the institutions of science and democracy.” Pielke was challenging the politicized works on climate change and related issues. He mainly focused his explanation on the book entitled The Skeptical Environmentalist wrote by a Danish statistician Bjørn Lomborg. Pielke in general warned that “If scientists evaluate the research findings of their peers on the basis of political perspectives, then “scientific” debate among academics risks morphing into political debates.” This is exactly what happened when a group of professors from Cairo University released what they cliamed is a report on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

The professors are members of what they said “Group of Nile Basin (GNB) at Cairo University to Support Egypt.” Most of them are drawn from the engineering and hydraulic faculties. Mohamed Nasir El Din Alam ex-minister of Water Resources and Irrigation during the last days of the Mubarak era is a member of the group as well. As stated in their report which is translated by Egyptianchronicles blog “The purpose of the group is to support the effort of Government and the decision makers facing these serious escalating water threats” These individuals recently prepared a “report” of their view about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The full report is available in the blog mentioned above but here I will reflect on what they said is the major concerns about the GERD and other three remaining dams on the Blue Nile which are lined up to follow. But there view is extremely politicized and it forces us to question their credibility. In the following parts I will show how much their conclusions are politicized.

A. On the International Panel of Experts on the GERD Report

The professors from Cairo University blatantly misuse and misinterpreted the conclusions of the final report of the IPoE on the GERD. This is mainly because they run to select on what they claim are the concerns as

  1. There are no sufficient structural studies.
  2. There is a lack in the hydrological investigations.
  3. There are no environmental impact assessments on the two downstream      countries; Egypt and Sudan.

But the other side of the story as evidenced in the IPoE Report is

  1. The design of the dam is based on international standards
  2. The dam upon accomplishment will yield a lot of benefits to the basin countries
  3. The GERD will not cause significant harm to water flow downstream
  4. To increase the benefits and reduce unseen risks it is recommended to do further studies on socio-economic and environmental aspects

The selection and exaggeration by the professors is purely political and had they have the firm belief in solving the Nile dispute in a way that benefits all riparian states by win-win gains this would not be the way. Yet because what they have in mind is one political perspective they ignored the other side of the story. It should be worth mentioning that had the Dam had that exaggerated impact on downstream states as the professors in Egypt loud it, Sudan would not have to be quite. But Sudan chose the other way of cooperation and affirms and reaffirms the importance of the Dam to downstream states.

B.  Areas of Concern: Politicization of Science on its Peak

The professors under sub-title “Areas of Concern to be considered by the Egyptian Government” have identified four concerns and their counter solutions. All of the concerns in one way or another are victims of politicization and are merely designed to pressure the government of Egypt as well as other riparian states that Egypt will not move an inch to compromise on the 1959 Agreement despite it is a dead-end for upstream states. Furthermore, the politicization process is further aided by the mistrust and suspicion developed in the Egyptian mind which emanates from what I called-Ethiophobia.  The following are their concerns and my reflections is done accordingly.

1. “The plan for the 4 dams on the Blue Nile aims at total control of the water in the Blue Nile which is the main supplier to the Nile. As such, this plan shall subsequently include total control of the share of Egypt’s share of the water in the Nile and the possible redundancy or at least dwarfing the role of the High Dam in securing the future supply of water to Egypt.”

The professors are concerned about Ethiopia´s plan of constructing not only the GERD but the remaining three mega dams on the Blue Nile namely Mabil, Kara Dobi and Mendaia. The professors’ wariness is understandable but in this part they did not provide us with scientific evidence except airing their political suspicion that by constructing these dams Ethiopia is to control the waters of the Nile. This claim of the professors is based on two assumptions. Firstly they are talking about “Egypt´s share of the Nile.” What is this share? Is there any water allotted to the riparian states equitably and reasonably? The answer is no. But these individuals are claiming that share is based on the bilateral 1959 Agreement which is null and void from upstream perspective morally, legally as well as politically. The second assumption is psycho-political in nature which is a result of mistrust and suspicion developed throughout history and largely since the 1950s. Egypt and Egyptians must be aware that no one in Ethiopia is working too anger or harm Egypt. Ethiopia has been calling Egypt for peace not for war. Ethiopia has been calling Egypt and Sudan for win-win gains of positive-sum-game not for zero-sum-game. If mistrust is in our mind how can we cooperate? All Ethiopians do understands the nature of Egypt and its dependency on the Nile. But its call is let us benefit from the fruits of the Nile together which at the same time we can increase its benefits. Regarding the GERD, Ethiopia has called Egypt and Sudan i public to share the cost of the dam as they are also beneficiaries from the fruits of the dam. If Ethiopia had had aim of causing harm to Egypt, it would not have to call both countries to cooperate on the dam and to establish the IPoE.

2. “The minimum requirement for the Egyptian Government should be the maximum size of the Dam not to exceed 14 billion cubic meter as per the proposal prior to the January 2011 Revolution. This capacity would enable producing 60% of the proposed electricity from GERD and with efficiency exceeding double the efficiency of the huge GERD and with much less cost and much less negative impacts that can be lived with. In addition, the proposed design of 14 cubic meters would fulfill most of the advantages of Sudan from GERD and as such, unifies the points of views of both Egypt and Sudan.”

The proposal of the 14 billion cubic meter dam for Ethiopia is problematic from different points of views. One taking the growing energy need of the country and expanding industries the operation of the GERD with full capacity is of huge importance. It is because of this reason that design change was made to increase the capacity of production from 5270 to 6000 megawatts of electricity. Hence a 40 percent reduction for Ethiopia is catastrophic because it is a country where its energy needs is doubling every three years. It should also be underlined that the structure on the ground now will not make it possible to reduce the size of the dam which is more than 20 percent accomplished. Moreover, it should be underlined that the construction of the dam and its full operation as well as the following construction of the other three dams for hydropower generation has no significant harm or impact on downstream states. So why Ethiopia is requested to change the design and install a 14 billion cubic meter dam while the 63 billion cubic meter dam has no impact on water flow downstream? Again this concern follows from the one explained under #1. That is the politics of mistrust and suspicion.

3. Reduction in the water share of Egypt will result in abandoning huge areas of agricultural lands and scattering millions of families….

In the beginning I have said that the professors` report is influenced by their political perspectives. So far the above two concerns fit that conclusion and here is the third one too. The professors are talking about the “water share of Egypt” which they claimed they have. But the issue of the 1959 agreement has nothing to do with this. The CFA was meant to solve the legal problem on the Nile by declaring the equality of all riparian states and their utilization of the Nile equitably and reasonably. This go with obliging all riparian states to take all necessary measures not to significantly affect the water needs of the other riparian states. The water sharing dispute is not yet addressed because Egypt and Sudan are not signing the CFA despite they had been negotiating to the last minute. But this does not stop upstream states from signing and ratifying the agreement. While not considering these all issues, in the concern they raised, the professors are talking about the huge areas of agricultural lands that would be abandoned due to a reduction of water due to upstream dams. Here it is worth mentioning that, Egypt since 1997 has increased its dependency on the Nile waters by diverting the Nile out of its natural basin to Northern Sinai and in the South West to Toshka. Such out of basin diversions are prohibited under international law. This Muabrak´s policy was to preclude Ethiopia and other upstream states from utilizing the Nile waters by creating facts on the ground that would help Egypt to control every drop of the Waters of the Nile. Yet Ethiopia from the very beginning has opposed the policy and is not responsible for the negligence of Egypt under Mubarak. So what is important now is leaving the old school and coming to dialogue and negotiation to minimize risks.

4. “Collapse of GERD will result in catastrophic effects in both Sudan and Egypt. This includes failures of dams, drowning of major towns and villages and exposing millions to the dangers of death and relocation”

The most absurd issue that I have been hearing is the would be collapse of the GERD from Egypt. This no more than either a wish to the demise of the dam by any means including sabotage as we watched from the televised discussions of the Salafist politicians or an extreme level of arrogance of scholarship on the area of dam engineering and hydrology as if Egyptians are the only in the area. It is an Italian company which working on it, don’t worry. If you are talking about endogenic forces Guba is free from that and in case if any, the engineering working has assumed it too.

The highly politicized view of the professors is further evidenced in their recommendations to their government. The professors are extremely worried about the size of the dam and they need to be notified for any future work on the Blue Nile. The way forward is an increasing trust and the Egyptian decision to join the CFA where the Nile riparian states can benefit a lot from their shared water resources. As I stated on other articles on the GERD and the CFA, such moves of Egyptian politicians or university professors is political and identical. What they need is the acceptance of the 1959 agreement by all riparian states and to make the CFA null before the ink gets dry. The 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan (Egypt actually due to the coup détat and other political issues) divided the entire Nile flow between Egypt, Sudan and evaporation. No cup of water was left to upstream states. So the question is: is it moral even for the Egyptians to ask their Nile brothers to be arrested by a treaty which the later never consulted, signed and accepted?

In general, the professors’ move was a mere rush to use their knowledge of expertise to achieve their political goals as mentioned above. But it would be nice for all epistemic community on the Nile have a common ground of humanity, mutual respect, mutual benefit and trust for win-win gains on the Nile. That is the only way out.


NB. One thing surprises me in the professors´ report is this point at the last paragraph. The professors claimed that, “It is not a secret that throughout … history, Egypt has never been an obstacle preventing the development in the African Nations in general and the countries of the Nile Basin in particular.” Be that as it may, the truth is on the contrary. I am not here to bring bad memory but I will post my article “Scars of the Nile Dispute since the mid-1900s” soon. I will show how development is undermined in upstream Ethiopia in particular and the Horn of Africa in general. Before that though I will be posting the excerpts and my own analysis on the importance of upstream dams to downstream states from three main researches done Guariso and whittington (1987), Whittington and McClelland (1992) and Block (2007).

The 1959 Nile «Agreement»: Why it is null and the way Forward for Downstream States

Zerihun Abebe Yigzaw

The Nile Basin is undergoing a dramatic shift since May 2010. Actually the process of change begun in the mid1990s when preparations were done to establish the later Cooperative Framework Agreement of the Nile (CFA) which was called D3 project initially and the 1999 establishment of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). This was a period where once complacent over the Nile upstream riparian states in the Equatorial Lakes region started to engage rigorously in the Nile issue. Above all, the consolidation of new government in Ethiopia and the clear position of the country on the Nile-negotiating for equitable and reasonable water sharing on the Nile triggered the issue of change. This process was backed by development partners such as UNDP, CIDA and later the World Bank until the benefit sharing issue came in. In fact, Egypt had to drop its long standing position on no new water negotiation issue at this time. This process was also paralleled by the intensification of mega projects in both upstream and downstream states of the Nile.

The making of the multilateral Nile treaty took more than ten years from 1997 to 2010. The draft document of the treaty-the CFA was accomplished on 2007. Yet because upstream and downstream states of the Nile have divergent positions on the Nile regarding Article 14(b) its opening for signature was delayed. Despite reasoned on water security issue in the article mentioned above, the real cause of the divide were colonial and bilateral agreements concluded exclusively to benefit downstream states at the expense of upstream states. At the center of the debate is the 1959 Agreement which is the subject of this piece discussed below. To shed light to the existing situation though I have to remind readers that regarding Article 14(b) of the CFA all riparian states of the Nile except Egypt and Sudan that it should be read us Not to significantly affect the water security of any other Nile Basin State…” Egypt proposed the replacement of the agreed wording by “Not to adversely affect the water security and current uses and rights of any other Nile Basin state.” Egypt´s proposal is an attempt to maintain the status quo which is based on the 1959 “Agreement” with the Sudan.

Moreover, following Ethiopia´s decision of constructing the mega dam called the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile-which is according to official statements more than 20 percent accomplished- Egyptian officials went on saying that the dam will reduce the water “share/quota of Egypt.” But let us ask this big question-which share? Who give you that quota? Their answer is clear the 1959 “Agreement.” They went on further saying that Egypt is not against any water development in upstream but as long as it is not against the 55.5 billion cubic meter of water they claimed they have according to this treaty with the Sudan. But is the 1959 agreement a matter of concern for upstream states? What are its basic elements? Is there any way for Egypt and Sudan to have a safe exit to join the CFA by nullifying this agreement? Why is the agreement null for upstream states?

The 1959 “Agreement” some Basic issues

One of the divisive issues regarding this agreement is its title which reads: AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC AND THE REPUBLIC OF SUDAN FOR THE FULL UTILIZATION OF THE NILE WATERS.” The very title of the agreement which is signed between two water receiver countries, without involving any of the water source countries and declaring “full utilization” its nonsensicality. This is in fact, an insult to upstream states, to their people and their interest.

The agreement furtherer endorsed the so-called acquired rights of both Egypt and Sudan. What are these rights? The agreement under Part I declared that both countries had rights under colonial treaty signed in 1929 when Great Britain on behalf of Sudan and its colonies in the region. The agreement further allotted the entire flow of the Nile between the two downstream states and the evaporation at Lake Nasser behind Aswan High Dam. Allocation is made then as follows. Egypt to utilize 55.5 billion cubic meters, Sudan to use 18.5 billion cubic meters and for evaporation more than 10 billion cubic meter. It should be clearly noted that the entire flow of the Nile as measured at Aswan in Egypt is estimated 84 billion cubic meters but vary from year to year. The colonial agreement of 1929 and the 1959 agreements are further problematic because they gave Egypt to have veto power on any upstream water projects.

The 1959 “Agreement” and upstream states

There are no any moral, legal as well as political reasons for upstream states to recognize this agreement. For them both the 1929 colonial and the 1959 agreements are null and void. Regarding the colonial treaties especially the 1929 agreement where Great Britain signed on behalf of its colonies, upstream states upon achieving their independence have made it clear that colonial treaties regarding the use of the Nile waters has no any binding nature on them. The famous Nyerere Doctrine is developed in this context. The making of international treaties and agreements perspective, any country would be abide by a treaty if and only if it is a signatory state or acceded to it. Neither of the upriver riparian states were party to this treaty notably the not colonized state Ethiopia.

To be specific to the 1959 Agreement no upstream state has recognized as well as acceded to it. In fact, to the contrary all upstream states undermined and denounced the actions of downstream states. Notably Ethiopia from the very beginning has made it clear that any treaty made on the Nile without its involvement will not binding and has no any effect on the country. Be that as it may, the dramatic developments in the Basin would necessitate the renegotiation of the treaty between the two signatory states themselves because the Basin is undergoing a fundamental change of circumstances. Yet this agreement should not be surfaced by downstream Egypt as a threshold for any Nile water negotiation with upstream states. Upstream states have every legal backing to nullify Egypt´s claim of the agreement to be accepted by upstream states. If Egypt continues with this position it should be underlined that no upstream state in the Nile is going to accept what it requests as they made it clear through the signing of the CFA

The Way Forward

There is only one solution to the problem. Egypt and Sudan must come to table and accept the CFA. Both countries were in the negotiation for more than 10 years. Egypt´s claim as if it has a water quota allocated to is non-existent from upstream point of view. The CFA declares equitable and reasonable utilization of the Nile waters by all riparian states. In line with this it also obliges all riparian states to take all measures not to significantly affect the interest of other riparian states. Hence, it should be clear that these two principles are basis of contemporary international water law especially the 1997 United Nations convention on the law of the non-navigational use of transboundary watercourses. On the contrary, what Egypt claimed as historic rights or acquired rights have no a foundation in international water law.

Both Egypt and Sudan have door opened in their own treaty to make changes to their stance and use the 1959 Agreement as a way to adjust themselves to the CFA. Despite not stated and acclaimed like the water quotas it grants to Egtypt and Sudan, this agreement under Part Five paragraph two states that:

As the riparian states, other than the two Republics [upstream states], claim a share in the Nile waters, the two Republics have agreed that they shall jointlv consider and reach one unified view regarding the said claims. And if the said consideration results in the acceptance of allotting an amount of the Nile water to one or the other of the said states, the accepted amount shall be deducted from the shares of the two Republics in equal parts, as calculated at Aswan.

This provision clearly states the 1959 agreement would be changed one day when the neglected and undermined upstream states turn their face to the river-which they do. Both countries Egypt and Sudan can use this provision as a safe exit to the CFA rather than making the 1959 agreement dogmatic.  The 1959 bilateral agreement was done between Sudan and Egypt. Yet taking the overall political atmosphere the change in government in Sudan it is not illogical to say the 1959 agreement was between Egypt and Egypt for Egypt. But the CFA which was negotiated by all Nile riparian states except Eritrea and signed by six Nile states where two other states are likely to sign and endorsed by all riparian states except Egypt followed  by Sudan is a multilateral treaty for the benefit of all riparian states. Joining the CFA is in the best interest of all riparian states of the Nile. Hence, Egypt and Sudan should answer that call for their own sake and for the peace and prosperity of the whole Nile Basin. It is up to Egypt and Sudan to answer that call…  The bell is ringing…

MoFA: Ethiopia will intensify its efforts towards the construction of the GERD

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia

12 June 2013

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has previously issued a statement on the unhelpful and unnecessary propaganda campaign being carried out by some Egyptian politicians, civil society leaders and political parties about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

The statement noted that Ethiopia had twice called the Egyptian Ambassador in Addis Ababa to the Foreign Ministry in order to explain the position of his government over these comments, and had indeed requested formal clarification from the Government of Egypt itself. Ethiopia, in turn, made clear its own unshakable belief in friendship, cooperation and mutual benefit as the underlying principles of its relations with all friendly states, including Egypt.

That being said, Ethiopia was deeply frustrated to see further unconstructive propaganda aired about the GERD in the presence of the President, Mohamed Morsi, the Prime Minister, Hisham Qandil, and other high ranking Egyptian officials at the Popular Conference on Egypt’s Rights to Nile Water. Among the baseless allegations aired at the Conference were comments that claimed the Dam posed a danger to the survival of the people of Egypt and malicious suggestions on ways to initiate activities aimed at putting pressure on Ethiopia to halt construction of the GERD. There were, in general, a series of provocative statements attacking both the national interest of Ethiopia and the will of its people to escape poverty. Indeed, a barrage of inaccurate and ill-advised comments, aimed at undermining the report of the International Panel of Experts, were also aired during the Forum.

The proposed suggestions of any resort to war or other forms of sabotage are unacceptable and have no place in the 21st century. In this context, Ethiopia would like to make it clear that it expects the Government of Egypt to refrain from all such unacceptable forms of behaviour or engagement and work towards greater cooperation between the two countries.

Ethiopia affirms that it will not be discouraged by this violent rhetoric. It reiterates in the strongest possible terms that it will not accept any proposal, from Egypt, to halt or delay the construction of the GERD. This apparent attempt to use alleged protests against the GERD as an element of internal domestic politics is against the interests of the people of Egypt.

Ethiopia would like to take this opportunity to extend its warmest appreciation to the Government of Sudan for the positive statements it has made about the benefits of the GERD as detailed in the report of the International Panel of Experts. It would hope that   others could learn much from the strong stance taken by Sudan in this regard.

Ethiopia would like to remind the Government of Egypt that as the report of the International Panel of Experts made very clear; the GERD offers major benefits to Egypt. Ethiopia remains firm in its genuine desire to cooperate with Egypt and foster greater friendship between the two countries.

No need for Egypt to worry about the Nile Dam

Ethiopia`s MInister of the Ministry of Water and Energy Alemayehu Tegenu reassure Egypt and Egyptians not to worry about the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam. The Minister went on saying that Ethiopia is ready to have dialogue on any issue that Egypt is concerned about. The following is the news report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia.


Ethiopia’s Minister for Water Resources, Alemayehu Tegenu, has repeated that there is no reason for Egypt to worry about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The Minister said says construction of the Dam posed no threat to Egypt or Sudan: “We do not have any plan to harm downstream countries, Sudan and Egypt. If Egypt has some issues to discuss with Ethiopia, we are very ready to discuss them.” The report of the Technical Committee on the Dam was presented to the respective governments at the weekend. The report remains confidential but it concluded that the construction of the dam is meeting international standards and will not significantly affect the lower riparian states. The Minister made clear that the decision to divert the river which started last Tuesday, was unrelated to the completion of the Report. He said the diversion of the river was according to the schedule set earlier. He also underlined that the point that “river diversion does not to stop the flow of water to the downstream countries. River diversion means it is the rerouting of the river flow to facilitate the construction in the riverbed, nothing else.”

Available at: