The Queen of Sheba
18 March 2020
Since over a century ago, the Arab Republic of Egypt has aggressively peddled the 1929 and 1959 colonial water agreements to which Ethiopia was never a signatory. In fact, while Ethiopia produces more than 85 percent of the water, the infamously inequitable colonial agreements handed her a zero share of its own contribution. The Arab Republic of Egypt greedily amassed 54 billion cubic meters of water while allocating 18 billion to the Sudan. Interestingly, these so called agreements were so generous that they allocated the remaining 10 billion cubic meters for evaporation and wastage from the total of 84 billion cubic meters that Nile typically generates a year. Alas, the utter inequity, sheer greed and lack of shame could not be more glaring.
Egypt—the Seller of the Nile Water
It is these so called discreditable agreements that the Arab Republic of Egypt continues to insist on forcing on Ethiopia—a country which was never colonized hence not a subject of the colonial agreements. Furthermore, Ethiopia, whose burgeoning population of nearly 110 million, now only second to Nigeria, has been resolutely striving to extricate itself from a cycle of poverty—including the provision of electricity to its population, of which 60 percent leave without it. In the 21st century, dubbed as the information era, 3 in 5 Ethiopians live condemned to the brutality of darkness isolated from communication, development—and civilization.
Yet, the Arab Republic of Egypt not only has a 100 percent electricity coverage but also vastly squanders much of the water, among others, through farming water-intensive cash crops mostly owned by companies allied with the powerful military industrial complex, its generals and high-ranking officials, and wealthy businesses. These cash-crops are handsomely sold to wealthy Middle-Eastern Arab countries which have cut lucrative deals with the Arab Republic of Egypt to ensure the provision of healthy nutrition to their population. It is reported that the Arab Republic now sells the water and land rights to these businesses.
Water, More Water—for Free
More profoundly, the Arab Republic of Egypt is building a brand new mega city which is anticipated to demand a colossal amount of water—yet again seeking more water to quench its insatiable appetite not only for its basic needs but also its fancy swimming pools in the bone-dry deserts. Oh, yes, the Arab Republic of Egypt has never had the courtesy nor the respect to consult Ethiopia nor the other riparian African countries as it is doing so. This may not probably be surprising given the history that it did the same as it was building its massive Aswan Dam.
The Arab Republic of Egypt, the very nation which has benefitted from the Nile so immeasurably, has never contributed towards its development, though the river has been so critical for its very existence—and prosperity. Instead of ensuring the continuity and sustainability of this vital river, which covers close to a dozen riparian countries but it remains the largest consumer, the ungrateful neighbor continued to contemptuously sabotage Ethiopia’s development overtly and covertly so that it will continue to act as the only supreme power to selfishly tap and exploit the water—for eternity.
As President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda once stated, the Arab Republic of Egypt has never seriously engaged or consulted with the riparian countries in developing the catchment areas and the slowly diminishing wetlands that sustain the volume of water. Instead, he said, it runs to Washington and Europe to consolidate the colonial agreements which Africans have all unanimously rejected. He stated that the river is slowly dwindling as a result of deforestation due to largely massive need for fuel wood which the production of electricity—generated from such dams—could readily and ecologically better replace it.
The Sinister Motive: A Crude Response
It is way too baffling why the Arab Republic of Egypt has been hell bent on opposing the building of the Renaissance Dam on the Nile when all evidences prove its many advantages: from hugely minimizing the serious silting problem (and costly effort to remove it) to reducing the water evaporation—estimated at 3 billion cubic meters—that occurs in the Sudanese and Egyptian deserts. The reason is way too obvious: The Arab Republic of Egypt does not wish to see a strong, developed and self-sufficient Ethiopia which could use its God-given resources optimally. Thus, it is not inconceivable that even if Ethiopia continues to cede much of what it belongs to it, the Arab Republic of Egypt, which has been Ethiopia’s historical adversary, if not arch enemy, would never remain satisfied nor would it stop to conspire in isolating, undermining and destabilizing the country. This must be unambiguously written in all the textbooks that Ethiopian schoolchildren must be reading now and forever.
A lot has been said on how Ethiopia should respond to the Arab Republic of Egypt’s explicit and implicit threats and bravados and I do not wish to belabor on that. I wish however to build on the piece I wrote earlier under a heading “Building Baby Dams to Save the Mother Dam: Ethiopia’s Option”. I am attempting to unpack that idea a bit to help arrest Egypt’s continued pressure, provocation and threats which Ethiopia has accustomed to since time immemorial. To recall from the earlier piece, I noted “Ethiopia may find it appropriate to refuse to play by the uncharitable, if not uncivilized, warfare book which preaches an eye-for-an-eye should the war between two countries broke out. In reaction to the ever-belligerent position of the Arab Republic [of Egypt], Ethiopia could initiate a sustained campaign to utilize all its waterbodies making up the ‘Mighty Nile’ in a determined, if not retaliatory, manner.”
I further noted that “While Ethiopia has to defend itself resolutely, it may need to refuse to send its natural missiles, by instead building thousands of small-scale, off-the radar “baby dams” at every hamlet conceivable in retaliation for the Arab Republic’s man-made missiles. It should be that BBDs [baby dams] need not be sanctioned by a government or external funding entity but simply built, managed, filled and operated by “poor and illiterate” peasants of Ethiopia—the very victims of the Arab Republic’s explicit and hidden hands of conspiracy and destabilization. Oh, yes, it may be a slightly onerous task for the Arab Republic to hunt down every Ethiopian peasant involved in BBDs”.
Supreme Council of Water Resources
In arresting this perpetual desire of the Arab Republic of Egypt, the federal government and the relevant state governments of Ethiopia need to earnestly consider establishing a Supreme Council of Water Resources—that imitates the Supreme Councils of the Arab Republic—which strategizes on the effective use of the Nile water should Ethiopia eventually forced into terms that are not to its liking. This body, supported by high-profile experts from a wide array of disciplines and fields from around the country and the world, should meticulously and deliberately develop a national strategy that optimally utilizes water resources, starting with the Nile.
Every hamlet, village, town and city—where the water and its multitude of tributaries are snaking—should be targeted to effectively tap the water—without restriction—through financial and logistical support from the governments, businesses and the diaspora in a way to compensate for what would be lost in the unfavorable terms. This should include among others wide-scale irrigation (including those designated as barely-irrigable land), massive afforestation, (local and international) tourism development, massive fish farming, and (mini- to mid-level) power generation. These efforts need to be aggressively augmented by favorable investment policy which actively attracts local and diaspora investors. For instance, loans amounting from low to zero interest rates should be entertained in advancing this effort in a national campaign which the country is known to do best once its people stand behind their government—as in the case of the Renaissance Dam.
Oh, Yes, Futile Sanctions
We hear that the Arab Republic of Egypt is threatening to impose sanctions on companies involved in building the Renaissance Dam. Well, the first thing Ethiopia should do is to start talking to these very threatened companies on the possibilities of building ever more dams around the country—if necessary preferentially, without a bid. In the meantime, Ethiopians wherever they may be should start talking about boycotting Egyptian products and services and pursue public relations campaigns aggressively.
At the end, it may be naïve to entertain the idea that the Arab Republic of Egypt would refrain from its perpetual corrupt, but now dangerous, behavior of greed, sabotage, threats—and military adventures. Someone may need to impress it on the ungrateful nation that sub-Saharan Africa—which the Arab Republic has derided and treated with contempt for so long—would not tolerate the shoving of colonial treaties on the throats of the nation which every black race is tremendously proud of its history of fighting—and defeating—colonists and aggressors alike. Egypt needs to recall, albeit painfully, its earlier disastrous adventure to invade Ethiopia.