Thirsty child of the Nile versus the Nile accord irony- by Robele Ababya

November 30th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

Harnessing Ethiopia’s rivers for development

“Thirsty child of the Nile” is a popular proverbial irony in water-rich Ethiopia where hunger and thirst are rampant amid plenty. (more…)

Harnessing Ethiopia’s rivers for development

“Thirsty child of the Nile” is a popular proverbial irony in water-rich Ethiopia where hunger and thirst are rampant amid plenty. The Amharic version widely used is “Ye Abayin lij wuha temat”; it is meant to ridicule the paradox of abject poverty amid plenty; it extends to laxity in solving a problem in the face of untapped ideas, resources, knowledge or skills.

The first serious widespread slogan to harness Ethiopian rivers was enshrined in the revolutionary poem/song presented in 1974 to the Ethiopian people by the then famous Ethiopian Air Force. Two lines of the poem are reproduced below:

ወንዞች ይገደቡ ይዋሉ ለልማት፣ (wenzoch yegedeebu yewalu lelemat)
በከንቱ ፈሰዋል ለብዙ ሺ ዓመታት። (bekentu fesewl le bizu shi ametat)

It simply means that rivers have been flowing in waste for thousands of years; it is long overdue that they are harnessed for development by building dams for power generation and irrigation.

It is irrefutable that the patriotic song, with no Marxist ideological undertone, rallied the Ethiopian people for peaceful bloodless change aimed at development and prosperity for all – irrespective of ethnic origin or creed. Unfortunately the song was taken of the air after a few months under extreme pressure of communist ideologues labeling it ‘nationalistic’. The coward and ignorant Mengistu succumbed to the pressure of the leftist extremists.

It would be appropriate at this juncture to state that our forebears brought the indispensability of our rivers to the development of Ethiopia. School boys staged dramas on parents’ days attributed to our rivers. Those rivers that started and ended in Ethiopia like the famous river Awash were given the accolade of patriots; others like the Nile River in particular were branded traitors for they carried not only waters but also massive fertile soil across national boundaries. This sentiment is engraved in the minds of the past and present generations in spite of puppet regimes like TPLF serving foreign interests overtly and covertly in order to stay in power.

So the thorny issue of the Nile waters and indeed of all the waters of Ethiopia shall remain at the center of our relations with interested parties, including Egypt. This is more so in view of rising poverty in Ethiopia coupled with shortage of water for human consumption on our planet.

Nile accord 1993 & languages used in the accord

The centerpiece of the accord is the River Nile although the title reads “Framework for General Co-operation between the Arab Republic of Egypt and Ethiopia”. The preamble of the Framework reads: “Recognizing the importance of traditional ties existing between the two countries that have been consolidated during their long history of close relations and linked by the River Nile with its basin as a center of mutual interest”.

The above is obviously a cheap propaganda given the centuries-old acrimonious relations and mutual suspicions between the two countries always provoked by Egypt, which had launched multiple military aggressions against Ethiopia; each time, the aggressor suffered a humiliating defeat by heroic Ethiopians fighters under the able leadership of genius patriots like Ras Alula Aba Nega.

Nile Accord 1993 was made in the Arabic and English languages both texts being equally authentic. It is an insult to Ethiopia in that it is Amharic that has been the official language of independent Ethiopia for centuries. Tyrant Meles openly showed his hatred for the Amahars and our official language as well as contempt for the Ethiopian people.

Nile Accord 1993 is a two-page small document comprising eight short articles, five (5) of which pertain to the Nile basin. The Nile is actually also mentioned in the preamble as stated in the first paragraph of the under the above caption. Salient comments on key articles of the accord are briefly provided below. For the benefit of readers, wherever the word “shall” appears in a clause, it means in legal parlance that the provision therein is mandatory to comply with by the party concerned.
Article 4 stipulates that “The two parties agree that the issue of the Nile Waters shall be worked out in detail through discussions by experts from both sides, on the basis of the rules and principles of international law”. It is mandatory, a command to meet the conditions of Article 4. Article 5 is another command; it reads: “Each party shall refrain from engaging in any activity related to the Nile waters that may cause appreciable harm to the interests of the other party.” Article 6 commits Ethiopia to cooperate in projects that would increase the volume of flow of the river Nile. This is preposterous in that Egypt is actually warning Ethiopia that she has to commit to undertakings to ensure the increase of the volume of Nile Waters crossing her boundary. Article 7 in effect underlines that regional peace and stability will be threatened unless the two parties to the accord create a mechanism for periodic consultations “on matters of mutual concern, including the Nile waters”. Article 8 stipulates it is mandatory that “The two parties shall endeavor towards a framework for effective cooperation among countries of the Nile basin for the promotion of common interest in the development of the basin. It is strange that Ethiopia which contributes more than 86% of the Nile waters should join the major beneficiary Egypt for “effective cooperation among countries of the Nile Basin.

In the above picture President Mubarak displays aloofness and contempt unbecoming of a host, while tyrant Meles is apparently perusing the ‘English’ text of the accord. What a shame!

The entire accord is clearly in the interest of Egypt. It is null and void for it is not ratified by the Ethiopian people. And this affront by the boss of the brutal TPLF regime is an open invitation for coordinated, urgent and decisive response by all opposition forces in unison.

Déjà vu rhetoric

Each time there are serious domestic political upheavals, the regimes in power used the issue of the river Nile to deflect attention of the public. This was the case during the Imperial regime; leaflets/ flyers inundated Addis Ababa in a futile attempt by government officials to convince the public that the solution to permanently stem the kind of famine of 1974 and usher in prosperity was to build dams on the Nile for power generation and irrigation farming. The Derg regime went so far as to express its intention to exact price for every barrel of water reaching Egypt. The cunning Meles reassured the sovereignty of the Egypt over the waters of the Nile in the accord signed in 1993 to get political support of Egypt for his fledgling Transitional government. The cunning tyrant is now playing cheap politics to fool Ethiopians once again staging demonstration by few his supporters in Washington purportedly seeking the support of the Obama Administration to reign in Egypt so that it will not interfere with Ethiopia’s plan to build dams on the Nile. Most ridiculously, the tyrant is accusing Egypt of beating the drum about the impending war with Ethiopia starting with destabilizing the latter by supporting dissidents.

The pronouncement by Meles may have come as a surprise to Mubarak. But this is only for public consumption, because, as the saying goes, the duo keeps its tents apart but its hearts together. The President of Egypt will never let down Meles who has surrendered veto power to Egypt over all issues relating to the development of projects using the waters of the Nile – 86% of which emanate from Ethiopia.

It is absence of democracy, stupid!

Ethiopians understand and respect the natural dependence of Egyptians on the Nile waters as a sole source of their survival; they understand the moral, political and legal consequences of denying neighborly countries of their fair shares of waters under international law. However, Ethiopians can no longer afford to go thirsty and starving while their own fair share of waters cross national boundaries. What is needed is amicable solution to this age-old problem through civilized dialogue. But the problem is that the masses of Ethiopia and Egypt are ruled by despotic regimes that repress their respective peoples.
The status quo in the sharing of Nile waters cannot continue. The young generations in both countries, Egypt and Ethiopia in particular, should rise up in earnest to foster democracy in their respective countries while cooperating to seek solution in a friendly frame of mind to the present grossly and unacceptably skewed share of the Nile waters in favor of Egypt.


The so-called “Framework for General Co-operation between the Arab Republic of Egypt and Ethiopia” is nothing but the first ever formal endorsement of the power of veto bestowed on Egypt by the arch colonial power of the time. Period!
Meles surrendered Ethiopia’s rights of veto power, in any issue involving riparian states, on the strength of her contribution of 86% of the Nile waters. There is no need for Ethiopia to run an errand for Egypt to promote cooperation among states of the Nile basin. Ethiopia’s decision on how best under international law to protect her interests over the Blue Nile within her territory will in no way affect states contributing 16% of the waters of the White Nile.

The signing of the Nile Accord 1993 coupled with ceding of large tracts of fertile to the Sudan, which is also a beneficiary of the Nile waters, is another recipe for popular uprising in self defense. Add to this the stolen elections in the last two decades particularly elections 2005 and 2010 that culminated not only in daylight robbery of votes but also in premeditated execution of democrats; incarceration of tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators by security forces under the direct command of Meles Zenawi.

Opposition forces that Meles publicly branded as enemies have every right to defend and protect the rightful wealth of the country in unison holding their political difference in abeyance. Those that may have fallen to the age-old intrigue of Egypt will not get anything back in return. For Egypt too it is better to deal with a democratic, prosperous and law-abiding Ethiopia.
Finally, I wish to remind readers that despot Meles once said that democracy is not an option for Ethiopia but a necessity for her survival. Those who took him at his word should now know that thousands of political prisoners are still in filthy jails suffering unprecedented mental and physical torture. All pillars of democracy have been shattered. Election 2010 has been stolen. Immoral funds from some Western donors continue to flow generously to the coffers of the brutal ruling regime.
Therefore, it is long overdue to commence massive coordinated and effective civil disobedience.


Release all political prisoners in Ethiopia!

Never forget victims of genocide & martyrs of 2005 massacred by the ruling regime!

  1. የዲሞክራቲ:ታዛቢው!!!!
    | #1

    No chance to IRRIGATE or HYDROELECTRIC POWER with out DEMOCRACY !!!!!
    think about be Intelligent!!!!!

  2. aha!
    | #2

    That is why the focus has to be directed more than ever on one Nation, one language, One Flag and perhaps one Official Religion, where the country is for all and freely practicing their individual religion. That is why the focus in the last 19-20 years, so far as I understand, is an egagement in peacefull struggle for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians under liberal and/or social democracy against a multi-layer, hiearchical political model structured and adanced in the last 19 years in its ethnic and secessionist politics and/or policies inscribed in its constitution, where the the government does not have independent branches of government, and the country and its silent majority are under exploitation and in a political and economic strangle hold by TPLF and TPLF and TPLF affiliated enterprises and has been proped up by the teletafi parties, where in the teletafi party, ANDM is administered by people of Tigrean origin to further undermine the Amahara ethnic group to further pigeon whole that ethnic group which thinks of Ethiopia first their ethinicity second and are not engaged in any liberation fronts to secede and the loyalist opposition parties implicitly sustaining the TPLF/eprdf regime, whether as Medrek/efdre or individual parties in favor of ethnic federalism and/or secessionism, rather than state federalism and individual freedom of all ethiopians spercede ethnic rights and seccionist rights. Then and there you a nation with one language, one flag, you a government that speaks and signs an agreement in Amharic and Arabic languages. It is not the first time that Amharic as national language has been undermined as a medium of communication. It was also when the by laws for AFD was written.

  3. Shame on bandas
    | #3

    Ameche meles has already signed to egypt that there will not be any activity arround abbay which will decrease the volume of the water instead he will do all what he can to increase the volume of the water. May be idiot meles will start soon digging ground water to increase the volume of water [ abbay]. AS brother Robel clearly stated above the problem between egypt and will ethiopia should be solved in a civilized way by dialoge. These two countries should stand side by side for common goal and focus on large scale prjects on abbay for common use. To happen that both egyot and ethiopia should have democratically elected leades. Idit meles can sign any agreement with all land grabbers and water grabbers, but their agreement will work untill this idiot stays in menilik’s palace. The land grabbers from india, arabia , korea, china and other countries should know that they are dealing with one un civilized and um matured separatist group who do not have a even a sense of ethiopiawinet. They are committinga crime . From ameche’s meles skirmish solgan , we can understand one thing, The freedom fighters from all corners are bleeding him, more youths are joining those freedom fighters and he is sure that he is going to loss the war against those freedom fighters. So he should formulate one national dramma like bedme’s war AND by using that dramma like egypt is on the way to invade us , so we should raise up to defend our country . after that he will use that dramma to fight those freedom fighters and idiot meles tries to associate those ethiopians with egypt to tell the ethiopia’s ppl that those who are fightig agait me are working with ethiopia enemies like egypt and eritrea. One of meles’s real nightmares are here in watch and forward your idea , suggestion to those proud ethiopians who decide to give their life to save ethiopia.

  4. Chercher
    | #4

    I think the problem of Ethiopia is not ethnicity or multiplicity of cultures and languages. It is the idiocy of its leaders like Melet Zegawi.

  5. aha!
    | #5

    While my previous comment alludes that the negotiatiations and treaties are not conduct in the interest of Ethiopian nationalism and Ethiopian natioanal interests until there is a change of government of the people by the people and for the peole through the peaceful struggle for unity, territorial integrity sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians.

    Having said that the second order of business for the prospective government that maintains Ethiopian nationalism and Ethiopian national interest is the revitalise the Northern and the Central Highlands of the water catchment basins for Nile and its tributaries, which is available in a project format to retain rain water, reduce run off, increase productivity of livestock and cereals and increase fertility of the soil and cater to carbon dioxide seqestration program through afforstation of the very steep slopes with trees and orchards, making sure those investments are made on private land ownership, subsidized by the government from foreign aids.

    The third order of business for prospective government is to harness the tributaries for electricity and irrigated farming, once the siltation problem has been taken care from the preceeding project of the existing and forseable dams. These farms run both by private holdings supported by the current non-humanitarian with long term sustainable aid will alleviate the massive and bulky food transport from foreign donnors at times of drought, while simutaneously negotiationg the distribution of water and harnessing the nile water for irrigation, which of minor significance as far as irrigale lands, I presume.

    These last two projects are long overdue to improve the economic wealth of the farmers and maintaining sustainable production of the highlands of population density and diminishing carrying capacty of the land due to drought and frost and soil erosion and debt burdened from use of fertilizers with the current regime by TPLF affiliated enterprises, to say the least of the environmental imact of these fertilizers on streams and rivers of drinking waters.

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