Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Ethiopia's GERD on the Nile : Some facts about Egypt and why we are concerned about GERD since day one

It has been a very long time since I have posted something really political or something related to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam especially recently but I guess I can’t ignore anymore.

Egypt has already taken the matter to the United Nations Security Council following the Ethiopian officials that GERD will be filled in early July whether there is an agreement or not.

Nile boats in Cairo
The Nile in Cairo 

On Monday, Egypt’s Foreign minister Sameh Shoukry addressed the security council with a very important speech about Egypt as well as Sudan’s concerns about GERD and impact.

Shoukry warned that any unliteral action aka Ethiopia fills the dam without an agreement

It was one of the best speeches I have heard from a governmental official in the past ten years. You can read Shoukry’s word here in English from Ahram Online.

Sudan’s UN permanent representative gave a balanced statement asking for a fair agreement supporting Egypt in rejecting any unliteral action from Ethiopia’s side will cause higher tensions in the regime; which is true.

Ethiopia fired back to Shoukry and Egypt with a speech read by its permanent representative to the UN full of inaccurate information with my all due respect.

Ethiopia stated that GERD was not a matter for the UNSC.

In the open session, the member states of the UNSC urged Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to continue talks in order to reach for an agreement. Most of the member states warned of any unilateral action in their short statements except China.

In case you do not know Chinese banks participate in the financing of the huge project with lots of investments in the country. Needless to say, I need to warn the Ethiopians from the Neo-Chinese colonialism in Africa. 

A Nile boat in Egypt's Nile river
The Nile in Cairo 

Now there are some important points I would like to clarify here in my post concerning GERD and some points I would like to clarify :

General points and facts 

  • Egypt depends on the River Nile for 95% of its water needs.
  • Egyptians live only 7% of Egypt’s land around the Nile valley because simply we are a dry desert country.
  • a water share of around 570 cubic metres per person annually, well below the water scarcity level of 1,000 cubic metres per person per year
  • Egypt has very low rainfall with about 18.1 mm of rainfall /year comparting to Ethiopia which has annually 848 mm/year according to the United Nations’ Food and Organization “FAO”.
  • The agriculture in Egypt depends mainly on irrigation from the Nile whereas Ethiopia depends on rainfall.
  • Egypt’s annual water share from the Nile is 55.5 billion cubic meters of water according to the 1959 treaty.
  • Egypt is already committed to this share when according to irrigation experts, we need now actually not less than 80 billion cubic meters to satisfy the true need in the country.
  • Egypt does not have enough groundwater to sustain or meet its water demands.
  • Professor Farouk El-Baz’ western desert groundwater’s theory and his the ill-fated project were never more than talk in the media because scientists and geologists in Egypt proved him wrong. “Ethiopian media brought it up”
  • Yes, we are still using our old agriculture and irrigation techniques but we are trying our best.
  • Egypt is already suffering from water poverty and is preparing for the worse because of global warming.
  • Desalination won’t meet our Egyptian growing population’s demand alone, not to mention it needs nuclear power project and yes, Egypt has already planned to open a nuclear power plant in Marsa Matrouh to desalinate seawater already but its construction has started yet. “I am against the use of nuclear power in the first place and worried about it”.
    The Nile in Egypt's Aswan
    The Nile in Aswan 

The Nile treaties and Egypt’s water share.

  • The 1902 Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty, the oldest treaty when it comes to the Nile and Lake Tana, Ethiopia signed it historically when it was a free independent country with full sovereignty. 
  • The 1929 treaty which Egypt “which was an official independent state” and Great Britain representing Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and Sudan gave the right to Egypt to veto projects higher up the Nile that can affect its water share.
  • The 1959 treaty was signed between Egypt and Sudan  were completely and fully independent  and it was annexed to the 1929 agreement giving us, the Egyptians 55.5 billion cubic meter of water annual due to its growing demands
  • In July 1993, Egypt and Ethiopia signed a Cairo Cooperation Framework where both countries pledged not to implement water projects harmful to the interests of the other and consult over projects to reduce waste and increase the flow of waters.
  • In 1999, the Nile Basin Initiative was formed and in 2009, the Nile basin countries signed an agreement except for Egypt because it would not allow any agreement that would deny its water share as determined in the 1959 agreement aka 55.5 billion cubic water. 
  • From 1993 to 1999, things went bad to worse between Egypt and Ethiopia as following Mubarak’s assassination attempt in 1995 and Ethiopians accused Mubarak of supporting Eretria in their war. I have to hint out that Mubarak was ousted in 2011 and he passed away in 202 and even if the Ethiopian regime has a problem with any Egyptian regime, it should not bring the lives and the future of millions of Egyptians into this fight.  
  • In 2015, the three countries signed the Declaration of principles which stipulates that no country should act unilaterality in a way that will harm other countries.
  • An Island in the Nile in Aswan, Egypt
    The Nile in Aswan

The High Dam of Egypt

  • Egypt is a downstream country and there is no country after it so I do not understand why Ethiopia claims that we should have asked for their permission while building the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s.
  • Among the mistakes I believe the Egyptian government had done in this project was not compensating the Sudanese after the drowning some of their lands. The Egyptian government has not compensated the Nubian Egyptians fairly already. When I asked why this happened then was that the Egyptian government or rather the State was busy in preparing for the war against Israel as officially we were in war with Israel which was occupying Sinai “1/3 of Egypt’s total space” when the dam was inaugurated in 1970.
  • Egypt is downstream and there is no country after us, it is the Mediterranean sea and so I do know or understand why Mubarak’s failed project in Toshka is brought up.
    Egypt's Aswan High Dam
    The High Dam of Aswan 

Egypt’s Concerns and Demands

  • Egypt’s water share from the Nile will be reduced as soon as Ethiopia starts the first filling of the Dam.
  • One of the worst-case scenarios is if Ethiopia fills the dam in three-years, Egypt will lose nearly 26 billion cubic meter of water and will lose subsequently 6.75 million feddans of fertilized agricultural land “7 million acres” aka nearly 60% of our agricultural land aka millions of Egyptian farmers and families losing their main source of income.
  • The Egyptian irrigation experts are concerned about natural drought, which happens from time to time in the Nile; this in addition to the “man-made drought” aka “reduced share if Ethiopia insists on its plans” then it will be the biggest blow to Egypt since the Middle ages if I may say.
  • Egypt is trying to minimize the losses we will have from that dam
  • Egypt says Ethiopia should release at least 40 billion cubic meters of water annually while Sudan demands that at least 35 billion cubic meters of water reach its territory every year.
  • Egypt wants Ethiopia to prolong the first filing of the dam as much as possible in a way that will generate energy enough for export but at the same it wants
An agricultural land in Egypt's Sharkia
Agricultural land in Sharkia, Nile Delta

Talks with Sudan and Ethiopia

  • It is worth to mention that Ethiopia announced that it would construct the dam in 2009 and this would have caught the attention of Cairo only in 2010 “Mubarak’s legacy” and in 2011 when Egypt was busy in January 2011, Ethiopia began to construct the dam in a clear violation of the Law of International water resources regulating the cross-border water resources
  • According to the Egyptian foreign minister, till this day Ethiopia withholding information about the dam’s technical and safety measures. 
  • Ethiopia rejected having a foreign consultancy as Egypt and Sudan agreed to have technical consultants to present non-biased studies about the dam’s impact.
  • Ethiopia rejected having the World Bank as a mediator
  • In the last online round of talks between the three countries, Egypt and Sudan found Ethiopia present a new proposal which was described by the Sudanese officials as a “backtrack on previous agreements
  • Ethiopia proposes the release of 31 billion cubic meters of water to the downstream countries every year, but in the case of a rain shortage on its highlands and the water's volume is below 31 billion cubic meters “aka natural draught”, it will release all the water to Sudan and Egypt.
  • Sudan’s situation is much better than Egypt, it already has got more water sources in Egypt and GERD will actually help it but on the other hand, there are concerns that we only know publicly last month.
  • Sudan is concerned about how GERD will threaten the operational safety of Sudanese dams and the flood-plain agricultural system of Khartoum as well as possible socioeconomic and environmental harms.

Egypt goes to the UNSC but it is not the first time

  • This is not the first time Egypt has headed to the UNSC concerning GERD, it had represented two letters in the past two months; one in May and the other was in late June.
  • Sudan joined Egypt and presented a letter to the UNSC concerning GERD expressing its fears about the dam and warning from any unliteral action. 
  • Ethiopia fired back and sent to the UNSC letters full of inaccuracies about Egypt which I addressed in the above points FYI.

From Egyptians to Ethiopians

  • Egypt and Egyptians are not against the development project that will result in the welfare of other people but not on the expanse of their life with my due respect.
  • Giving Egypt’s its fair share of the Nile won’t affect the generating power of the dam and it won’t make Ethiopians poor.
  • Aside from the current disagreement, I would like to tell our friends in Ethiopia that the dam itself won’t turn them rich nor it will bring welfare in not time and please listen to an African person living in the north. What will bring welfare and proper living condition to the people is not the dam itself but rather the economic policies of your government.
  • We will not operate the dam nor do we want to operate, it is your dam but on a river that according to international laws shared with two other countries.
  • Many Egyptians are sceptical that the African Union will stand beside Egypt accusing it of being biased according to the reactions I have seen on the social media.
  • I feel that we are being collectively punished because we are being drawn as the villain in the Ethiopian media, which is not different than the controlled Arab media.
  • I do not mean anything but the Ethiopian government portrays us as the villains in the North but we are not all.
  • It is a matter life or death and Egypt's civilization built on agricultural land in the beginning and now we feel that death to this fertile land for the first time. 
    Nile fishing in sunsent

I am sorry that I wrote all these in points but I am truly and honestly exhausted.


  1. What both countries need is an agressive family planning program. Overpopulation is part of the problem. Other than that, let peace and brotherhood prevail.

  2. When Egypt and Russia built the Aswan High Dam, some Sudanese farmers lost their land to flooding if I am not mistaken. This makes you sound a little chauvinistic when you say "Egypt and Egyptians are not against the development project that will result in the welfare of other people but not on the expanse of their life with my due respect." (My italic.) In addition, the next two bulleted points that you make in that section will sound like arrogant lecturing to Sudanese and Ethiopians, I expect.

    I find myself in agreement with Ethiopia that GERD isn't the UNSC's business since not all the African parties want them involved. It's hard to see it being any of France's business, too.

    It will be interesting to see what happens. I know you favor talk and negotiation to, e.g., bombing. But the existence of GERD, as a fact on the ground, a fait accomplis, weakens Egypt's position with respect to solutions based on talk. Since you are the predominant military power among the involved parties, a temptation to exercise that option could arise.

  3. Do I need to say more than what Jason so aptly described; i.e. your arrogance and chauvinism? I could add willful ignorance and selfishness. you referred to a 1902 agreement. That is when Great Britain was a colonial power controlling your country, Egypt. Ethiopia didn't really have much saying in this century old agreement. Times have changed, my friend. Egypt has always been directly or indirectly involved in waging a proxy war against Ethiopia and still does. Because Peace and stability in Ethiopia means the government can focus on mega projects like the GERD. Yoh have been successful so far and Ethiopia, with over a hundred million people, has been living in abject poverty and total darkness with no electricity, industry, mechanized agriculture. Even if the Nile river belongs primarily to Ethiopia as 85% of the water comes from Ethiopia, its government is fully aware of its international and humanitarian obligations to Share the water with all the downstream countries including Egypt. The GERD will not affect Egypt's water availability. Once electricity is generated, it will continue to flow as usual. My understanding is that if and when Ethiopia starts generating electricity and the industrialization and agricultural process takes root, the country will be economically strong and will have a considerable political influence on the Horn of Africa. Egypt will potentially lose its strategic and economic supremacy in that part of the continent. This fear is totally unfounded and the reasoning behind it is simply selfish. Neighbors can not coexist like that. The two governments must cooperate and work together so that they can feed their people. Military options are not going to solve the problem. Only dialogue is the way to get out of this unnecessary quagmire. If Egypt opts for a more forceful and aggressive approach, I don't think Ethiopia will sit idly and wait for Egypt to attack. Aswan Dam is not that far or hidden for the Ethiopian missiles. If the GERD , as Donald Trump suggested, is destroyed, there will be no Aswan Dam in Egypt either.


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