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Agreement on Declaration of Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project: A Reaffirmation of the 1929 and 1959 Agreements?

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Abstract

The central objective of this study is to assess whether or not the declaration of principles agreed between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan in 23March 2015 reaffirms the past colonial agreements on the Nile. To achieve this objective, the researcher employed qualitative methodology. In order to gather data to the study, a secondary source was used. Accordingly, books, journal articles, reports and internet sources were used. Based on the data analyzed, findings of the study show that despite the seemingly positive development in the two countries' relations on the issue of Nile, the current agreement has incorporated many elements which corroborate the 1929 and 1959 agreements on Nile. It reaffirms the past colonial agreements by compromising the sovereign power of Ethiopia, recognizing Egypt's right on the management of the dam, vaguely obliging Ethiopia to give priority to downstream countries, granting Ethiopia a very restricted utilization of the Nile water, and including the tributaries of Nile river in the ambit of the agreement.
Agreement on Declaration of Principles on the Grand Ethiopian
Renaissance Dam Project: A Reaffirmation of the 1929 and 1959
Agreements?
Bayeh E*
Department of Civics and Ethical Studies, Ambo University, Ambo, Ethiopia
*Corresponding author: Bayeh E, Department of Civics and Ethical Studies, Ambo University, Ambo, Ethiopia, Tel: +25192159 7152; E-mail: endbayeh@gmail.com
Received date: March 14, 2015; Accepted date: April 08, 2016; Published date: April 13, 2016
Copyright: © 2016 Bayeh E. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use,
distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Abstract
The central objective of this study is to assess whether or not the declaration of principles agreed between
Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan in 23March 2015 reaffirms the past colonial agreements on the Nile. To achieve this
objective, the researcher employed qualitative methodology. In order to gather data to the study, a secondary source
was used. Accordingly, books, journal articles, reports and internet sources were used. Based on the data analyzed,
findings of the study show that despite the seemingly positive development in the two countries’ relations on the
issue of Nile, the current agreement has incorporated many elements which corroborate the 1929 and 1959
agreements on Nile. It reaffirms the past colonial agreements by compromising the sovereign power of Ethiopia,
recognizing Egypt’s right on the management of the dam, vaguely obliging Ethiopia to give priority to downstream
countries, granting Ethiopia a very restricted utilization of the Nile water, and including the tributaries of Nile river in
the ambit of the agreement.
Keywords: Nile River; Ethiopia; Egypt; Declaration of principles;
Colonial agreements
Introduction
Aer long time of political frictions, Ethiopia and Egypt including
Sudan came to reach an agreement on the principles of utilization of
Nile on March 23, 2015. It seems a major departure in the Ethio-
Egyptian relation as regards the utilization of Nile waters. For long
time, the two countries had been on opposite sides as to the issue of
Nile. Egypt used to invoke the 1929 and 1959 colonial agreements on
the use of Nile waters. ese agreements are devoted to the interest of
Egypt in the sense that they helped Egypt to exercise a veto power on
the utilization of Nile waters [1]. Backed by those historic agreements,
Egypt maintained its hegemony over Nile waters so far. On the other
hand, Ethiopia, which is the major contributor to the total volume of
Nile water, stood on the opposite side to challenge the hegemony of
Egypt on Nile. Ethiopia has passed through dierent attempts to
establish a basin wide cooperation in the utilization of Nile waters.
However, as Egypt strongly committed to its status quo, no
comprehensive agreement between the two countries has been put to
the ground. Hence, the declaration of principles made recently is the
rst of its kind for the two countries come to the talk on the table
round which has never been seen before.
However, though the agreement seems to have positive changes in
the history of Ethio-Egypt relations, it has a number of points that
needs to be considered. To put it simply, there are principles which
make the declaration similar to the historic colonial agreements.
Hence, this piece of paper briey discusses how the declaration of
principles rearms the past colonial agreements which are main
references of Egyptian’s argument in the struggle to maintain their
hegemonic status on Nile. Accordingly, it rst introduces major
elements of those colonial agreements and then analyses the
declaration of principles vis-à-vis those principles. In doing so, the
paper also tries to refer the relevant international agreements.
e 1929 Agreement
e 1929 agreement was signed between Egypt and Britain (on
behalf of majority of other Nile riparian countries). is agreement
provided Egypt an exclusive right to use Nile waters. e agreement
states that “no irrigation or power works or measures are to be
constructed or taken on the River Nile or its tributaries, or on the lakes
from which it ows in so far as all these are in the Sudan or in
countries under British administration, which would entail prejudice
to the interests of Egypt” [2]. is agreement conferred 48 and 4 billion
cubic meters of water for Egypt and Sudan respectively. is shows
how far the agreement was committed to the interest of Egypt and
downtrodden other upper riparian countries’ interest. Not only this,
Egypt had also been given “the right to inspect and veto upstream
water projects that would aect the volume and perennial ow of the
river” [3]. Moreover, the agreement expresses the recognition of
Egypt’s “natural and historic rights in the waters of the Nile” by Great
Britain [1]. us, this agreement was one of the basic tools used by
Egypt so as to attain and project its hegemonic inuence [3] despite the
fact that Ethiopia consistently opposed the application of the
agreement on it.
e 1959 Agreement
Following the independence of Sudan in 1956, a pressure was posed
on Egypt by Sudan to renegotiate the 1929 agreement to better secure
its interest. Consequently, an agreement was signed between Egypt and
Sudan in1959. By allocating 55.5 and 18.5 bcm to Egypt and Sudan
respectively and leaving 10 bcm for evaporation and other factors out
of average annual Nile ow, which is agreed to be 84 bcm, the
agreement totally excluded other riparian countries all in all. Let alone
Arts and Social Sciences Journal Bayeh, Arts Social Sci J 2016, 7:2
http://dx.doi.org/10.4172/2151-6200.1000170
Research Article Open Access
Arts Social Sci J
ISSN:2151-6200 ASSJ an open access journal Volume 7 • Issue 2 • 1000170
other riparian countries, Ethiopia which is the major contributor of the
total volume of Nile water (86%) was not part of the negotiation and
has not been given any share in the water. us, the agreement was
made in exclusion of all other riparian countries. As a result, Egypt
continued to claim its share considering the 1959 agreement as being
sacrosanct. e agreement also allowed Egypt to construct the Aswan
Dam for “long term” water needs [1]. On top of this, in this agreement,
both states agreed to stand together against the challenges from other
riparian states. Ethiopia continued to resist the acceptability of this
agreement, too.
In all cases, what one can understand from the above mentioned
treaties is the entire exclusion of upstream countries from the Nile
share and the veto power given for Egypt as regards the issue of Nile
waters. e interest of all upper riparian countries has been
disregarded. ey neither participated nor were granted a share on
Nile in both agreements
Following the unreserved struggle of Egypt to secure its hegemonic
power on Nile and its failure to adhere to the comprehensive basin
wide cooperation on the utilization of Nile, Ethiopia started to take its
unilateral measure on its rivers. e most important and aggressive
project of Ethiopia is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (herein
aer GERD). In 2011, Ethiopia announced the commencement of the
dam which is expected to produce 6000MW electricity upon the
completion of the dam in 2017 [4]. Following such announcement,
however, Egypt started to release its psychological war thereby
hastening the already existing hostile and crude relations between the
two countries. Egypt strived in dierent ways, including inuencing
donor countries not to give support, to avert the project. On the other
hand, the Ethiopian government showed its rm position of
perpetuating its project and continued its diplomatic struggle.
Subsequently, the coming into power of El-Sisi in Egypt brought a new
and unprecedented change in the long standing position of Egypt in
the sense that he supported the construction of the dam as well as the
development of Ethiopia. Most importantly, Ethiopia, Egypt, and
Sudan came to reach an agreement on the principles of utilization of
Nile on March 23, 2015. ough this declaration has good signs of the
two countries’ future positive relations, there are a number of elements
which go against the interest of Ethiopia and favor Egypt. ese may,
in turn, be challenges for the positive prospects of the two countries’
future amicable relations. ese elements are the matters of discussion
herein under.
Major Elements in the Declaration of Principles
Principle of cooperation
In examining this article, the researcher will focus on its sub article
2 titled “To cooperate in understanding upstream and downstream
water needs in its various aspects”. According to Minga et al. [5], the
phrase “in its various aspects” connotes the need of downstream
countries for additional waters or the need for upstream countries to
give up their development opportunities incase downstream countries
decide to develop new habitations. is is what is apparent in Egypt
that due to the increasing population growth and pressure on the Nile
valley and delta region, Egyptian government decided to inhabit the
people in the desert area and started developing agricultural projects
[6]. Such projects have immense water requirements and the Nile
water is taken to be the predominant source to satisfy those needs.
Hence, the incorporation of such phrase will bind Ethiopia to consider
such water demands of Egypt in its utilization of Nile waters thereby
making Ethiopia at disadvantageous position.
Principle of equitable and reasonable utilization
Here again the focus is on the guiding factors listed under sub
article 2 of this principle. According to this principle, in the realization
of equitable and reasonable utilization on Nile waters, the three
countries need to take into consideration of certain guiding factors.
e researcher will consider only the most important ones for his
analysis, to mention, a) Geographic, hydrographic, hydrological,
climatic, ecological and other factors of a natural character; b) e
population dependent on the water resources in each Basin State; c)
Existing and potential uses of the water resources; d) e availability of
alternatives, of comparable value, to a particular planned or existing
use.
If we look into the geographic condition of Egypt, it forms part of
the Saharan desert. It is characterized by the climatic conditions of hot
dry summers and mild winters and it received very low, irregular and
unpredictable rainfall [7]. Egyptians are 97 percent dependent on the
Nile waters with no viable alternative water resources. Hence, it is all in
all dependent on the Nile waters. erefore, in view of these factors,
the treaty seems an instrument of securing and maintaining the water
need of Egypt. All the forgoing elements of the principle armatively
work for Egypt. is, in turn, keeps Ethiopia loyal to the water interest
of Egypt thereby compromising its domestic interests.
Principle to cooperate on the rst lling and operation of the
dam
Sub article (e): Agree on guidelines and rules for the annual
operation of GERD, which the owner of the dam may adjust from time
to time.
is provision shows deterioration of an ownership right of
Ethiopians. is is due to the reason that the agreement subjects the
dam to the joint management of the three countries. As a result, all the
three countries will have power to decide on the manner of annual
operation of the GERD, thereby diminishing the autonomous say of
Ethiopian people. is, in fact, is compromising the country’s
sovereign power over its natural resources.
Principle of condence building
Priority will be given to downstream countries to purchase power
generated from GERD. As it is clear from the argument of Ethiopian
government, the dam is a meant to satisfy energy demand of
neighboring countries and other countries with a special emphasis to
the interest of downstream countries. Hence, in the rst looking, this
principle does not seem paradoxical with the intention of Ethiopian
government as to the priority to be given to downstream countries.
However, it seems naïve if those concerned downstream countries are
allowed to unduly prot in the guise of such principle. It is rational to
allow them to be beneciary as far as they are competitor to other
energy demanding countries. While the priority is given to them,
aording the price set (what others are ready to pay) seems mandatory.
In a nutshell, the agreement fails to put the duties/parameters to be
met by those downstream countries to enjoy the aforesaid privilege.
is, in turn, would result in misunderstanding and dispute.
Citation: Bayeh E (2016) Agreement on Declaration of Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project: A Reaffirmation of the 1929
and 1959 Agreements? . Arts Social Sci J 7: 170. doi:10.4172/2151-6200.1000170
Page 2 of 3
Arts Social Sci J
ISSN:2151-6200 ASSJ an open access journal Volume 7 • Issue 2 • 1000170
Principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity
e three countries shall cooperate on the basis of sovereign
equality, territorial integrity, mutual benet and good faith in order to
attain optimal utilization and adequate protection of the River.
is article is fairly standard. However, it seems paradoxical with
other principles contained in the declaration. e points in the
declaration are in one way or another instruments to erode the very
sovereignty of Ethiopia. For instance, the declaration informs Ethiopia
to act very carefully, at the pain of paying compensation for the
damage that might be caused to Egypt, in the utilization of Nile water.
As Minga et al. [5] wrote the agreement also includes tributaries of
Blue Nile within its ambit. is is against the power of Ethiopia over
the natural resources found in its territory. e fact that the declaration
empowers Egypt on the management of the operation of the dam also
seems ceding the power of Ethiopia on its national project. e whole
atmosphere of the declaration restricts the sovereign power of Ethiopia
while it seems fair and balanced agreement at the rst view. us, the
above stated principle seems a veil of all the inequitable elements of the
declaration.
Other Related Issues
e need for public discussion on the matter
As discussed above, the agreement contains of a number of elements
which are detrimental to the interest of Ethiopians. e Ethiopian
government made a big decision on the Nile which is highly expected
to determine the future of Ethiopians in terms of alleviating poverty.
is is apparent from the strong commitment made by the government
as well as the whole people of the country. Domestic residents as well
as diasporas abroad have given due importance for the dam under
construction through, inter alia, nancing the project. is shows the
fact that each and every Ethiopian has an interest in it. It is a logical
conclusion, therefore, that involving the people to have their say on the
issue under consideration is highly imperative. If the agreement is
ratied by Ethiopia’s parliament without taking into consideration of
the public opinion, the researcher strongly believes that there will be
public dissatisfaction and the agreement will remain a point of
criticism against Ethiopian authorities, which in fact will entail adverse
eect on the two countries’ relations. Above all, the agreement will
produce a long term negative eect on Ethiopia in the sense that it will
cripple the eorts on the part of Ethiopia to realize the purpose the
dam is intended to serve following its completion.
Egyptians Need Assurance for the Dam Not to Reduce
the Amount of Flow
Egypt is almost exclusively dependent on the waters of Nile and this
fact is armed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stating that
"You will develop and grow and I am with you, but be aware that in
Egypt the people live only on the water that comes from this river,” [8].
He further assured that “for Egyptian farmer the issue of Nile is matter
of life and death, and not a choice of livelihood” [9]. To this end, they
need a guarantee. e researcher strongly believes that Egypt will insist
Ethiopia to adhere to those above discussed elements of the agreement.
If Ethiopia raties this agreement, the duty will lie on its shoulder to do
always for the best interest of Egypt. To conclude, the two countries
future relations will be contingent upon whether or not the dam
reduces the water ow.
Conclusion
Generally, the agreement is too brief and lacks detailed explanations
thereby causing ambiguity and confusions. Beyond that, as discussed
above, the agreement seems positive development on the two
countries’ relations oven the Nile River as it incorporates some fair
principles. However, it is fair to conclude that the agreement has
incorporated several elements which rearm the previous colonial
agreements. e current agreement rearms the past colonial
agreements in that it compromises the power of Ethiopia over the dam,
recognizes Egypt’s right on the management of the dam, vaguely
obliges Ethiopia to give priority to downstream countries, and does not
exclude the tributaries from the agreement. ese cumulatively put
Ethiopia at a disadvantageous position. e agreement consists of
unfair, inequitable and unsustainable clauses that are disastrous to
Ethiopia.
References
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Citation: Bayeh E (2016) Agreement on Declaration of Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project: A Reaffirmation of the 1929
and 1959 Agreements? . Arts Social Sci J 7: 170. doi:10.4172/2151-6200.1000170
Page 3 of 3
Arts Social Sci J
ISSN:2151-6200 ASSJ an open access journal Volume 7 • Issue 2 • 1000170
... Egypt's Arab spring leading to the fall of the 30 year-long M.H. Mubarak's regime in 2011, then to the overthrow of the newly elected President M. Morsi in July 2013 and to the establishment of Gen. Al Fattah Al Sisi, who's policy released tension over Nile management (Bayeh, 2016). In April 2011, construction of the Millennium Dam, later re-baptised the ''Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam'' (GERD), was launched to become the largest Ethiopian infrastructure. ...
... On the 23rd of May 2015, Egypt, Ethiopia and The Sudan signed an Agreement on Declaration of Principles establishing cooperation in water management, which brought the three countries around a table after a period of very tense relations during which even technical cooperation had virtually ceased. With this recent agreement, Egypt acknowledged the construction of the GERD but revamped its historical rights over discharge management as can be sensed in several paragraphs (Bayeh, 2016). Despite its shortcomings, this Agreement comes as a relief to international observers that for more than 20 years, have been warning that the Nile Basin is an area where the likelihood of a military confrontation between riparian states over water resources is higher than anywhere else in the world (Wu and Whittington, 2006;Swain, 2011;Keith et al., 2013), also because Cairo never hesitated to threaten upstream riparians to ''protect the life of Egyptians'' (expression used by Egyptian officials, see also Swain 1997). ...
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The colonial state craft and water regime building in the eastern Nile basin
  • W Ferede
Ferede W (2014) The colonial state craft and water regime building in the eastern Nile basin. Academia Journal of Agricultural Research 2: 62-73.
Perspectives on the declaration of principles regarding the grand Ethiopian renaissance dam
  • M Negash
  • S Hassan
  • M Muchie
  • A Girma
Negash M, Hassan S, Muchie M, Girma A (2015) Perspectives on the declaration of principles regarding the grand Ethiopian renaissance dam.
The Nile treaty: state succession and international treaty commitments: A case study of the Nile water treaties. Occasional Papers, Konrad Adenauer Foundation
  • A Okoth-Owiro
Okoth-Owiro A (2004) The Nile treaty: state succession and international treaty commitments: A case study of the Nile water treaties. Occasional Papers, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Nairobi.
The Nile Hydro Politics; A Historic Power Shift
  • M Yimer
Yimer M (2015) The Nile Hydro Politics; A Historic Power Shift. Inter J Polit Sci Develop 3: 101-107.
Sudan sign agreement on Nile dam
  • A Khalid
Khalid A (2015) Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan sign agreement on Nile dam. Reuters, Khartoum.
Agreement on Declaration of Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project: A Reaffirmation of the 1929 and 1959 Agreements?
  • A Teferi
Teferi A (2015) Ethiopia and Egypt -On a New Page. Citation: Bayeh E (2016) Agreement on Declaration of Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project: A Reaffirmation of the 1929 and 1959 Agreements?. Arts Social Sci J 7: 170. doi:10.4172/2151-6200.1000170