What is the Bitter Dispute between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt is all About? This is is a Good Example and Glimpse of What the Colonial Powers of the Yesteryear has Done to Africa and other Parts of the World

Introduction/Background information

These days the world is observing endless negotiations taken place between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. What is going is one of the multiples negatives legacies and disputes left behind by the colonial powers of the yesteryear such as Britain France, Spain and others. These colonial powers have left behind defective colonies, artificial demarcation lines they called borders and worse of all defective and mostly illegitimate entities they called nation states as well as illegitimate and biased agreement the people of their colonies were never a part of.  It is unbelievable what these colonial powers have done to the people of Ethiopia and other upstream River Nile countries. They have struck entirely unfair treaties between themselves and in many cases Ethiopia was not a party to those unfair, illegal and biased treaties. Moreover, Menelik, Haile Salessie and even Mengisto Haile Mariam did not do anything about these unfair treaties that has given Egypt a country a downstream state of the Nile river 55.5 Billion cubic meters of water, and 18 billion cubic meters of water year to Sudan and zero water to Ethiopia which is the source of over 86% of the River Nile water. On top of that these treaties have banned Ethiopia and other upstream countries to formulate any projects such as dams along the Blue Nile and White Nile tributaries of the main Nile River. While 86% of River Nile water comes from Ethiopia, it keeps zero share of the water coming from its country. Another reality of this saga is the fact that Egypt is a country that depends on its entire water needs on water that comes outside its water.  What many people are surprised to ask is how come Egypt a so-called important country failed to come with another source of water? The inability of Ethiopia to use one of its major natural resources may be one of the reasons for its underdevelopment despite of its old age. Another intriguing question is why Ethiopia did not fight this historical unfair imposition on itself not to make use its water resource? What exactly happened to Ethiopia regarding the use of the Nile River is an eternal colonialism. It is like a homeless person is using your house and making you become a homeless person. Kudos for president Zinewi to become the only Ethiopian leaders among Ethiopian leaders in thousands of years how realized the illegal, an unfair and an unjust imposition on Ethiopia not to use its water resources.

Unfair and Illegal Nile Treaties

The first treaty over the River Nile water was struck between Britain and Italy in 1891, and Ethiopia and other downstream Nile River countries were not parties to that treaty. The second treaty over the Nile River has struck in 1902 between Ethiopia and colonial Britain on behalf of Sudan (under British rule), and Ethiopia. Although the main purpose of the treaty was to determine the boundary between Ethiopia and Sudan, the treaty banned Ethiopia to construct or allow to be constructed, across the Blue Nile, Lake Tana, or the Sobat, dams which would arrest the flow of their waters into the Nile except in agreement with the British colonial Government of the Sudan.”The third Nile River treaty was signed in 1929 was a bilateral treaty between Egypt and Britain, whereby the later was ostensibly representing Sudan and its East African colonies (Kenya, Uganda, and the then Tanganyika). The Treaty illegally and unfairly has provided Egypt with a so-called historical natural rights and veto power over any construction projects along the Nile and its tributaries. The fourth Nile River treaty has struck in 1959 has also allocated the bulk of the Nile’s waters to Egypt, 55.5 billion cubic meters (BCM) (or 66%) of the rivers total 84 BCM water flow. Sudan was allocated 18.5 BCM (22%) and the rest, 10 BCM (12%), was left for evaporation and zero water to Ethiopia. The treaty completely ignored the rights of upstream countries, including Ethiopia whose territories contribute 100% of the Nile. There is no tributary from either Sudan or Egypt that contribute to the Nile River. What see today is a huge paradigm shifted started with a rising and rapidly developing Ethiopia and declined Egypt in both the African continent and also in the world scene. Modern Ethiopia is a rising giant led by a maverick 21st century reformer; while Egypt is led by a 20th century military dictator came to power through a very bloody coup that ousted a democratically elected president. Egypt in the 1960sand1970s of the last century was a well-respected star country in the forefront of African and Asian liberation from the colonial yolk, while Egypt today is a dictatorship in retreat an economically struggling state fighting for legitimacy and relevance. It was late Meles Zinawi who started the Ethiopian renaissance dam and rejected to respect the old Nile River treaties and considered it null and void because Ethiopia was never a party to most of such colonial era treaties. Egypt keep on claiming historical rights based on mostly colonial agreements that never put the people and the land they colonize into consideration, something Ethiopia and the people in the downstream part of the Nile categorically reject. Egypt is the only country in the world that depends on all of its water from sources outside her border. Egypt’s so-called historical claim to have 55.5 cubic meters of water, Sudan 18 cubic meters of water is something impossible and extremely biased against Ethiopia. Ethiopia has fought very hard these historical unjust treaties that tied its hands for a very long time ago even if that leads into war or wars.  I am sure Ethiopia would have won if war over the Nile water has happened in its quest to rectify these impositions on her. These treaties are similar to the unfair versaille treaty imposed on Germany after the end the so-called WW1 that caused WW11. These days Egyptian keeps on threatening Ethiopia if it does not keep her false and erroneous right to get nearly 70% of the Nile River water which clearly is a water from a river in which 70% of its water comes from Ethiopia. The question is if Egypt follows through with its constant threat to wage war on Ethiopia can they win that war? First, to answer that question let us examine the distance between Egypt and Ethiopia which is thousands of Kilometers, second, Ethiopia do not have a sea excess whereby Egypt could attack from the sea, third, Sudan which is also one the downstream Nile River countries is between Egypt and Ethiopia. For example, if for some reason If Sudan lets Egypt use its country as a base through which Egypt can wage war on Ethiopia, Ethiopia will then launch a counter ground attack on Sudan, and currently Ethiopia has battle hardened army that has found many wars such Adwa war in 1896 where Ethiopia sounded defeated Fascist Italy, 1935 when Fascist Italy captured Ethiopia but later drove them out of Ethiopia, the 30 year Eritrean liberation war. In addition to that since 1948 Egypt has fought 4 wars with Israel, and in all those 4 wars Egypt has lost. In the 4 wars Egypt fought with Israel they lost a great deal of territory. Clearly in those wars Egypt has been soundly defeated and in some of these wars and especially in the 1967 they have been humiliated. Currently has a military that did not see any major wars for more than 30 plus years. Moreover, Egyptian army is enmeshed in Egyptian economy and civilian affair. Today Egypt has an army that has so many war gadgets because Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty or Camp David accord the United States provides Egypt with one billion plus dollars a year, and they get most of that aid in the form of American military hard ware. If Egypt uses its air force to hit the Ethiopian renaissance dam; Ethiopia also has the ability to hit back both the Egyptian high dam and the Sudanese dam. At any rate Egypt will lose if it follows through with its constant empty threats of Ethiopia. It is worth noting to remember the 1967 war with Israel has been caused by constant Egyptian outrageous threats by saying they will completely takeover Israel in few hours, and everybody knows what happened in that war when the entire Egyptian air force has been destroyed while sitting in their hangers by Israeli air force, and as a result of that their forces in the Sinai peninsula has been routed when they became sitting ducks in the Sinai desert without air cover. In that war the entire Egyptian army has been destroyed. In this River Nile dispute Egyptian has very few choices in this Nile River dispute with Ethiopia and the downstream countries.


Prof. Suleiman Egeh a political commentator and analyst, freelance writer and a senior science instructor

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