At a time when Addis Ababa is close to completing its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project without settling its disputes with Sudan and Egypt, circulated reports claim that development is not the main objective of Ethiopia’s dam or any dam on the Blue Nile water, according to Rassd News Network, citing BBC.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has revealed that there are British documents related to the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) to the effect that it only came to challenge Egypt and nullify its rights in the Nile River waters. The BBC report noted that British diplomatic reports about half a century ago expected that Addis Ababa would build the dam and expressed “pity” for Egypt’s situation. in case of its occurrence.
“According to the documents, the Ethiopians informed the British three decades ago that challenging these rights (in the Nile), which Sudan and Egypt adhere to, and revoking them was the most significant motivation behind Ethiopia’s projects of building dams on the Blue Nile, the source of more than 80% of the main Nile River’s water.
That’s what the Ethiopians say. Neither the Egyptians nor the Sudanese objected to it, on the condition that none of these projects harm what they consider “established water rights”.
Challenging these rights, which Sudan and Egypt adhere to, and revoking them is the most important motive behind Ethiopia’s projects to build dams on the Blue Nile, the Source of more than 80 percent of the waters of the main Nile River, as British documents reveal.
According to the documents, which I have seen, the Ethiopians informed the British of this three decades ago.
In the second half of December 1992, the School of Oriental and African Studies “SOAS” at the University of London organized a conference to discuss “Water in the Middle East: Legal, Political and Commercial Consequences”.
In his evaluation of the conference, Greg Shepland, responsible for the water file in the Middle East at the British Foreign Office and the London representative in the multilateral talks on water, said that it had “good and bad aspects.”
The assessment came in a top-secret cable addressed to the head of the Research and Analysis Department, one of the main providers of information to decision-makers in the State Department. According to Shepland, who was sent by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to “SOAS” to in-depth study of the water file in the Middle East, the positive aspects included discussing general international law issues related to rivers shared by two or more countries, and general issues related to water allocations between economic sectors within countries.
According to the BBC report, the British expected, in 1961, that if the Ethiopians had money, this would push them to take water policies that put Egypt in a very difficult position, which was achieved in 2011. The Ethiopians implemented their project and began building the Grand Renaissance Dam on the main artery of water of the Nile River.
According to the report, in 1956, Ethiopia decided that it would keep the Nile water in its lands to use it in the way it would see fit.
“Egypt has acquired rights regarding the amount of Nile water it currently uses, and Egypt’s agricultural security depends on recognizing these acquired rights, and the Blue Nile emanating from Ethiopia is the source of more than 80 percent of the general Nile River water,” The report stated.
According to the secret communications, the actual use of water is not the only decisive factor in determining the amount of water that any country receives, and indicated the need to take into account “fairness” in the distribution of water shares.
For more than 6 decades, Egypt has obtained 55.5 billion cubic meters of water annually from the Nile, and this amount of water is the result of the agreement for the full use of the Nile waters concluded on November 8, 1959.
In 2015, then-Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn, Sudanese Presidents Omar al-Bashir and Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi signed a Declaration of Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Seven years later, the differences remain.
Regarding the “bad sides,” Shipland spoke of the “usual lack of understanding between Egyptians and Ethiopians” and “between Arabs and Israelis” on water.
Counselor Dr. Awad Mohamed al-Murr, then president of the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, was the head of Egypt’s delegation to the conference.
Shepland summarized the Egyptian position, as presented by Murr, as follows:
Egypt has acquired rights regarding the amount of Nile water it currently uses, and Egypt’s agricultural security depends on recognizing these acquired rights, and Egypt will never tolerate Ethiopia building any dams on the Blue Nile. The Blue Nile is the Source of more than 80 percent of the general Nile River water.
According to Shepland’s cable, Murr’s words were not convincing. He said, “The position of the Egyptians here is weak, and it is likely to fail” in winning support.
The British diplomat based his assessment on the fact that actual water use is not the only decisive factor in determining the amount of water a country receives.
He pointed out the need to take into account “fairness” in the distribution of water shares.
“While we learned from the more general sessions that discussed international law that ‘existing use’ is a factor that is taken into account in determining water shares between states, it is far from being the only factor,” he said.
“It is given a concept ‘Fair Use ‘ At least the same weight.
He considered that the Nile is an ideal case to which this principle should be applied. “This is particularly true in a case such as the Nile, where the country that wants to increase water use (Ethiopia) is less developed than the country that wants to freeze current levels of use (Egypt),” he said.
At that time, Egypt was, and still is, insisting that it has a “realistic share” that has existed for many years and considers it a historical right, which is 55.5 billion cubic meters of water annually from the waters of the Nile River.
It also stresses its right to be notified of any projects upstream of the river, the lifeblood of Egypt, in accordance with international agreements.
The British diplomat criticized the Egyptian proposal at the “SOAS” conference, which he saw as rejecting the idea of ”the development of international law.”