The Final Push of Egypt to Secure Zero-Sum Water Share Agreement with a “Destabilized Ethiopia”!
Ermias Hailu/November 23, 2018
After Egypt’s failure to integrate Eritrea to its territories by the end of the second world war, due to Emperor Haile Selassie’s superior diplomatic skills, the then Egyptian Pan- Arab nationalistic President Nasser’s government turned to ethnic and religious subversion against Ethiopia. In 1955 Egypt began working for the instigation of an “Arab” revolution in the then autonomous Ethiopian province Eritrea, to that effect, hundreds of young Muslims from Eritrea were invited to Cairo to study and enjoy special benefits. Though, the Muslims from Eritrea were not native Arabic speakers they absorbed the spirit of Arab revolution and adopted a modern Arab identity. Furthermore, these Eritreans Muslims were trained how to set up a modern guerrilla ‘liberation front’ and established the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) in 1959 with the support of Egypt. Thereafter, the ELF launched an open anti-Ethiopian revolt in Eritrea in 1961, claiming and propagating a fake Arab Eritrean identity “The Arabism of the Eritrean People”.
To promote Eritrea’s liberation from Ethiopia, Nasser also helped local Eritrean Christian Tigrayans who resisted reunification with Ethiopia. In 1955, the prominent leader of Christian Tigrayans in Eritrea, WaldeAb WeldeMariam, was invited to broadcast daily anti-Ethiopian propaganda on Radio Cairo and the Nasserist regime and subsequent Egyptian governments remained the main pillar of support for the Eritrean separatist movement.
The myth of Eritrea’s Arabism, adopted and advanced by Eritrean Muslims, was to survive until 1980’s and the war in Eritrea that was instigated by Egypt lasted 30 years and caused untold human and financial losses both to Ethiopia and Eritrea. As of today, Eritrea has been a de facto colony of Egypt and has been used as a proxy war front against Ethiopia and it has been also the command post of those Egypt funded Ethiopian political groups who opted to ally with Egypt or Eritrea to destabilize Ethiopia. In a new development both the Eritrean government and the Ethiopian political groups who resided in Eritrea are making peace with Ethiopia but how they will free themselves from Egypt’s standing agenda of “destabilizing Ethiopia” is yet to be seen. I doubt if this new development was possible without the blessing of Egypt and it could be an indication of a new strategy of Egypt towards Ethiopia.
No less significant was the Nasserist influence on the Somali nationalists and starting in the mid-1950s Nasserist agents worked to enhance the anti-Ethiopian dimension of Somali nationalism branded it as “Greater Somalia”. The Somalis encouraged by the potential Egypt backing claimed about one-third of Ethiopia’s territory and fought two unsuccessful wars that subsequently resulted in the disintegration of Somalia. The disintegration of Somalia and the subsequent civil war which has caused the scatter of Somalis throughout the world and death of millions of Somalis by war and famine and wastage of decades of nation building opportunity was a byproduct of the failed Egypt destabilization strategy of Ethiopia using Somalia as its proxy.
Similarly, after Egypt failed to stop the British from allowing Sudan to declare its independence from Egypt in 1956, it has been constantly interfering into the internal affairs of Sudan including the Sudanese army staged coup d’état in November 1958, overthrowing the civilian government of Abdullah Khalil which had uncompromised and hard negotiation position for the interest of Sudan on the Nile river, in which Egypt friendly Gen. Ibrahim Abboud led the new military Sudan government.
The 1959 Nile water share agreement signed between Egypt and Sudan which gave the lion share to Egypt (78% to Egypt and 22% to Sudan on the net annual flow after deducting 10 billion cubic meters for evaporation loss) was agreed with the Egypt friendly Gen. Ibrahim Abboud. Since, the flow measuring point is deep in Egypt at the Aswan High dam and the annual hypothetical evaporation loss of 10 billion cubic meters, the share for Sudan is substantially lower than 22%. However, If the water share allocation was done considering “population size and arable land area” as factors, Sudan’s share should have been not less than 40%. I am confident that the new PM of Ethiopia will not make same mistake as Gen. Ibrahim Abboud of Sudan.
Though Egypt opposed the split of South Sudan from Sudan during the pre-independence war period, currently it is the main sponsor of the fragile and corrupt President Kiir government and is prolonging the suffering of the South Sudan people with the objective of getting a foothold near to Ethiopian border to sabotage Ethiopia and possibly to resurrect its aborted project of digging the Jonglei Canal in South Sudan.
Therefore, due to Egypt’s standing strategy of securing the lion share of the water from the Nile river( under the pretext of ensuring water security) at the expense of more than 300 million people around the Horn of Africa, it has been obsessed in sabotaging the peace and stability of Ethiopia and Sudan for more than 50 years and as the result the whole of Horn/East of Africa has been unstable and remained as one of the poorest regions in the world and major source of migrants to Europe and elsewhere. Since the mid of 20th century, the Horn Africa has witnessed the death of millions of people, aggravation of poverty and wastage of scarce billions of dollars for a war that could have been used for development due to the behind the curtain evil activities of Egypt.
However, the Zero-Sum game that has been played by Egypt to ensure its water security has become unsustainable, out of dated and irrelevant for the following reasons:
Creating jobs and feeding the rapidly growing population in the Horn of Africa and in the countries of the Nile Basin demands governments to generate power for industrialization and to transform traditional farming to mechanized irrigated farming to produce sufficient food to ensure food security which requires more consumption of water. The domestic consumption of water also increases in proportion to the population growth.
The Aswan High dam only stores one-year flow of the Nile water, whereas, global warming and other unpredictable climate changes could result in a drought that lasts to the biblical-proportion of up to seven years. In that case, the Aswan dam could dry with unimaginable consequences on Egypt’s 94 million growing population and makes Egypt’s current water security strategy null and void.
The growing population of Egypt also requires more water than the storage capacity of the High Aswan dam. That necessitates the construction of additional reservoir dams either in Ethiopia and/or Sudan (building an additional dam in Egypt looks not practical).
The Aswan high dam may be filled by silt within the next 300 to 500 years. How will Egypt manage such unavoidable fact with a huge population that is 95% dependent on the Nile water?
Considering the above points, it is expected that Egyptian water security strategists and the Egyptians government covertly want the construction of more dams (reservoirs) in Sudan and Ethiopia as far as their so called historical share is not significantly affected. They also know that dams built in Ethiopia along the deep Abay River Gorge could only be mainly used for hydroelectric power generation with lower evaporation loss and lower construction cost per volume. Egyptians are also considering other sources of water such us linking the Congo River with the White Nile and digging the Jonglei Canal in South Sudan which are good ideas but difficult to implement. If Egypt succeeds to dig the Jonglei Canal, the construction of dams on the Abay river is mandatory to regulate its flow and avoid flooding of Khartoum,
Therefore, Egypt’s strategy of sustaining its water security through sabotaging and destabilizing Ethiopia and Sudan is no more a relevant strategy as Egypt needs more water reservoirs to be built both in Sudan and Ethiopia for sustaining its water security and cater for its growing population. Storing water in the deep Abay Gorge is the most attractive option as it could store more water at lower cost and less evaporation loss and lower usage of water other than generating hydroelectric power by Ethiopia. However, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt should negotiate and agree a win-win water share tripartite and bilateral agreements. Of course, all other Nile Basin countries like Uganda, Kenya, and South Sudan etc. should also agree with both Sudan and Egypt on how to share the White Nile water.
Whatever plot Egypt may try to sabotage and destabilize the main water supplier to the Nile “Ethiopia “and the main potential Nile water Consumer” Sudan” may not be effective now as Egypt is currently economically weak and facing serious external and internal terrorism and war threats. In addition, the main neighbors of Ethiopia, including Eritrea and Somalia, that Egypt had been historically using as a proxy to destabilize Ethiopia, are currently making peace with Ethiopia most likely as they are fully aware of the consequences of being manipulated and used by Egypt to conspire against their strategic neighbor.
Currently Egypt is working very hard to bring Sudan on its side by disintegrating the joint front/alliance that was established by the former EPRDF government between Sudan and Ethiopia regarding the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam(GERD). At the same time Egypt is blackmailing the GERD and directly or indirectly (through the Middle East countries) pressurizing Ethiopia to sign a water sharing agreement that legitimizes Egypt’s claim of its so called historic rights.
The theme of this article is to forward some ideas for the Ethiopian government that could be used for the negotiation with Egypt as illustrated below:
The Negotiation with Egypt must consider the following points:
- The Egyptians badly need the construction of dams in Ethiopia as far as there is an agreement that protects their interest (this is a driver for win-win negotiation).
- Population growth
o By the year 2050 and 2100 the population of Ethiopia will reach 190m and 240m respectively. Hence, any water share agreement should consider such future population growth
- The economic value of the water flowing to Sudan and Egypt
o As of today, the annual flow of water from Ethiopia’s rivers to South Sudan and to Sudan is estimated to be 73 billion Cubic meters. Assuming ocean water salination cost is USD 0.40 per Cubic meter (this is the currently lowest cost according to new salination plants build by Israel) and assuming 25% of salination cost to be the price of each cubic meter of water flowing out of Ethiopia, the annual price of the total water out of Ethiopia is: USD 0.40/ cubic meter X 25% X 73 billion cubic meter = USD 7.3 billion per year
o Assuming Ethiopia is willing to share 50% of the annual flow free of charge to both Sudan and Egypt (based on the principles of equitable usage of water), Ethiopia could charge both Sudan and Egypt USD3.65 billion per year to both Egypt and Sudan. Considering Egypt share is 78%( as per Egypt and Sudan agreement), Ethiopia could demand Egypt to pay Ethiopia about USD 3 billion per year.
o The above calculation does not include the economic value of fertile slit going out of Ethiopia with the water.
- Egypt wants Ethiopia to curtail its population growth and continue with the existing unsustainable rain fed agriculture instead of irrigated agriculture (these conditions should not be accepted by Ethiopia). Considering the erratic nature of rainfall mechanized irrigated agriculture is the only viable option for Ethiopia’s future food security
- It is recommended to benchmark Turkey water share agreements and experience with its neighbors on Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.
- Any agreement with Sudan and Egypt:
o Should be conditional to both countries committing that they will not be directly or indirectly involved on any activity that destabilizes or harms the interests of Ethiopia such as security, economy and political interests.
o Ethiopia should be compensated for the water and silt its rivers are taking to both Egypt and Sudan.
o Should have exit provisions that enables agreed parties to revoke the agreement at any time based on defined evets of defaults.
o Should have specified time span and expiry date (it could be 15 to 20 years). This allows all parties to renegotiate new agreement (from zero draft) every 15 to 20 years.
o Egypt must abandon its claim of zero-sum historic rights
o Ethiopia’s sovereignty over its rivers in its territory and its right to build cascade of dams over its rivers and to use the water for irrigated farming should not be compromised
o As beneficiaries from the water from the Ethiopian dams(reservoirs) both Sudan and Egypt must contribute up to 50% of the dam construction cost (assuming Ethiopia will give them 50% the water flows to Sudan free of charge)
God Bless Ethiopia!