Egypt’s tried, failed approach towards Abay River

They will not only hang themselves but also try to impose the agreement on others. Traveling with this forgotten colonial agreement in the 21st century is not beneficial by any standards. Egypt wants the upstream countries, especially Ethiopia, to remain very poor, weak, and vulnerable.


Since Ethiopia launched the construction of the Abay dam, Egypt has been leaving no stone unturned to obstruct the construction and operation of the dam claiming it as an existential threat.

Leaving aside Ethiopia’s cordial and genuine effort to cultivate trust and consensus among the downstream countries regarding the symbolic project, Cairo has been dragging its feet to come on board. It has rather been engaged in various deceitful strategies to plunge the dam into murky waters, though to no avail.

Over the years, Ethiopia despite contributing 86 percent of its share to Abay River came up with an amicable solution. The country produced results leading to inking Declaration of Principles and Memorandum of Understanding among the three countries.

As the adage goes you can teach a new trick to an old dog, Cairo has been stuck on referring to the obsolete colonial treaties that give its unfair share and monopoly over the shared resource. To this very day, Egypt continues exerting unfair pressure on Ethiopia leveraging on colonial-era treaties signed in 1929 and 1959 that deny Ethiopia the right to utilize the river.

In different instances, Cairo also tried to give technical issues a political fig leaf and internationalize the dam. Egypt has taken the issue to the UN Peace and Security Council by mobilizing the League of Arab States unnecessarily internationalizing the matter. However, its attempts failed due to Ethiopia’s genuine and valid causes. Ethiopia is constructing the project singlehandedly with the fund raised by the public with the construction of the dam reaching 90 percent.

Like the previous phases, the country will commence the fourth round filling complying with the principles. The mega project which is expected to produce more than 5,000 megawatts of electricity will become Africa’s largest hydroelectric power generator and one of the world’s largest dams. The dam is expected to bring millions of Ethiopians out of darkness and provide much-needed energy to the expanding industry sector.

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As the construction of the dam progress, so does Cairo’s last ditch yet doomed-to-fail intrigues. Since the start of its construction in 2011, Egypt has pulled out all the stops to halt the construction. With Ethiopia bracing for the fourth filling of the dam, the downstream country is cooking something fishy using the Arab League as an agent.

Recently Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hani Sewilam addressing the 2023 UN Water Conference on Wednesday 22 March 2023 allegedly accused Ethiopia of taking unilateral measures in filling and operation of the dam, Ethiopia is undertaking the process of filling and operation complying with the 2015 Declaration of Principles (DoP) signed between the three countries though.

He stated that “The continuation of unilateral measures with regard to the Abay dam can constitute an “existential danger” on 150 million citizens, in reference to the Egyptian and Sudanese population. “Although it is said that hydroelectric dams cannot cause harm, the fact of the matter is that such unilateral and non-cooperative practices in the operation of this dam of exaggerated size can have a disastrous impact,” Sewilam stressed.

In sharp contradiction to the above claims, Ethiopia’s flagship project brings lofty benefits to Sudan and Egypt in terms of providing regulated water flow and power supply. Neutral observers have in many instances attested to these facts.

Yet, Ethiopia also has been going to the end of the earth to ensure transparency and agreement regarding the dam. It has been firm and consistent to find diplomatic and peaceful solutions to disputed issues. In fact, it is better to call it camaraderie or benevolence at its best. Ethiopia’s sound water policy remains unchanged despite the belligerence and lopsided propaganda of Cairo and its allies.

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“We should not have to remind the League that the Nile River and all the riparian countries are found in Africa. The League is once again serving as the spokesperson of one state, disregarding basic principles of international law. Such attempts to politicize the issue of GERD neither advance friendly relations nor support the efforts to arrive at amicable solutions, as they are not based on facts or supported by law.” The Foreign Ministry stated following the Arab bloc’s resolution in early march.

The African Union has been facilitating the trilateral negotiations among Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt to resolve the remaining outstanding issues, guided by the maxim, “African Solutions to African Problems.” The League’s characterization of the negotiations is incorrect. The fact is that Egypt with its obdurate stance to maintain a colonial era-based self-claimed water allocation and its unending attempts to internationalize the matter is the reason for the delay of the negotiation, the Ministry underscored.

“The Government of Ethiopia has been committed to the AU-led negotiations. The League’s resolutions and statements by Egypt call into question whether Egypt has been engaged in good faith in the negotiations under the AU’s auspices.” Ethiopia is constructing the dam abiding by the principles of not causing significant harm to the downstream countries and following the principles of trans boundary Rivers.

Most of the policies that Egypt pursues in the River Nile are self-serving and exclude upper-stream countries including Ethiopia, which have the lion’s share in water contribution. Speaking to the Ethiopian Press Agency (EPA), Water Resource Management Expert Fekiahmed Negash stated that the first manifestation of Egypt’s exclusionary approach is trying to reactivate the defunct colonial agreements. Even today, Egyptians try to rely upon the 1929 and 1959 agreements which ensured their exclusive benefits from the Nile waters.

“They will not only hang themselves but also try to impose the agreement on others. Traveling with this forgotten colonial agreement in the 21st century is not beneficial by any standards. Egypt wants the upstream countries, especially Ethiopia, to remain very poor, weak, and vulnerable.”

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They have their own strategies for this. Now a day in an era where the world is like a village and in an age where science and technology are advanced, efforts to damage and destroy a country with such backward and obsolete thinking are not acceptable in any way.

Fekiahmed said “Every country has a sovereign right to its resources, adding that regarding water, this sovereign right will be limited. Ethiopia is an upper basin country and the water comes mostly from Ethiopia. However, Ethiopia’s sovereignty in the utilization of the water is not absolute.”

“If Ethiopia is going to use the water that is going to downstream countries in its entirety, it has its own problems because life and civilization are based on that water for several million years, on that water and problems. Ethiopia should be able to use the water without harming Egypt’s share and the Egyptians should think in the same way.”

Due consideration should also be given to reaching a lasting agreement in the fair utilization of Nile waters and transforming the Ethio-Egypt relations to cooperation and partnership instead of hesitation and confrontation. Since the commencement of the project Ethiopia demonstrated a strong political commitment to dialogue and communication with Egypt on all levels and through different forums and the latter should also follow this suit. Regarding the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA), the expert pointed out that Ethiopia has done a lot of work with the upstream countries to foster the implementation of the agreement.

Commendable jobs have also been done so that the use of water is governed by law and order. Six of the 11 Nile riparian countries have signed the CFA and four approved it. Three countries are in the process of ratification. Although it seems to be slow, it can be said that it is on the right track, Fekiahmed remarked.


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