What’s missing in Aljazeera’s documentary By Kiflu Hussain

October 19th, 2012 Print Print Email Email

Despite repetitive adverts of a documentary and even its screening on Aljazeera titled “Struggle over Nile,” it’s a couple of days ago that I managed to watch it. My first attraction to the documentary stemmed from the fact that I am a denizen of Ethiopia from where flows, according to the documentary itself, 85 percent of the water that sustains the land of the Pharaoh’s. Indeed, the Blue Nile River is Egypt’s lifeline. It joins hand with White Nile at Khartoum that originates from the Ugandan side of Lake Victoria to its final destination, Mediterranean Sea. Blue Nile, popularly known as Abbay in Ethiopia, would have been unparalleled had it not been for the other wonders of nature, Amazon River in South America. While I don’t recall hearing about Amazon River being the cause of mistrust and bickering between the Latinos on whose valleys Amazon traverses, Nile on the contrary has always been the source of discord in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is particularly so between Ethiopia and Egypt. Perhaps it’s because none of the countries in South America depends desperately on Amazon like Egyptians do on Nile. According to a cyber source “on average, only an inch of rain falls in Egypt per year.”(Sic but not so sic).Hence, no wonder if Egyptians feel touchy on any design upstream countries entertain on the flow of Nile.

At present, Egypt is pissed off with almost all the riparian states for disregarding the colonial era treaty that gives it monopoly on the use of Nile through a partnership these countries formed and christened as Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).Yet, as Aljazeera’s documentary depicted, Egypt is naturally more nervous by the current fad the Ethiopian regime trumpets on Blue Nile. Those who constitute the NBI partnership, by the way, are Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Egypt itself and Eritrea as an observer. Notwithstanding the fact that the initiative began with “a dialogue” to “achieve sustainable socioeconomic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from the common Nile Basin water resources,” Egypt baulked when it felt the partnership’s ambition upsets its monopoly on Nile. However, Wikipedia informs us further that the upstream countries namely, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi signed an agreement to “seek more water from the River Nile.”To the vehement opposition Egypt alongside its historical lackey, Sudan showed, the representatives of the signatory states responded as to how “tired” they are to always appease Egypt “before using River Nile for any development project like irrigation.”Even though, Aljazeera’s documentary highlighted all aspects of Nile in terms of ecology and geopolitics among all riparian states, it ultimately and rightly focused between the two main rival countries, Egypt and Ethiopia. On top of picking scholar’s and expert’s brains from both sides, the documentary also reflected the sentiments of ordinary people on River Nile or Abbay.Thus; an Egyptian historian intimated that King Menelik of Ethiopia threatened to “divert Nile to the Red Sea.”

Considering Egypt’s blatant aggression against Ethiopia in the wake of Egypt’s emergence following the decline of the Ottoman Empire, diligent students of history would agree that Emperor Menelik was within his right to make such a bluff. No record on this end, however, shows that Menelik was given to making such idle threats.

The crude fact is Egyptians have always felt insecure that Nile is their only source of water and much of it comes from Ethiopian highlands. Consequently, it’s understandable if some of its elites get carried away by figments of their own imagination. To their credit, Egyptian elites, while still prone to paranoia over Nile, have “matured” from making any frontal attack against Ethiopia like they did at the battle of Gundet and Gura in 1875 and 1876.Instead, as Shumet Sishagne showed in his scholarly researched book “UNIONISTS & SEPARATISTS; THE VAGARIES OF ETHIO-ERITREAN RELATION” they had resorted to sponsoring subversive groups such as the Eritrean secessionists who in turn nurtured another ethno-fascist and divisive element in Ethiopia. Notable among these is the group that ousted the military regime of Mengistu Hailemariam on a ticket to secede another Ethiopian province adjacent to Eritrea.

The master-mind of this ethno-fascist element romanticized the Eritrean secessionists in a publication he titled “The Eritrean struggle; from where to where.”Ironically, the man whose heart and mind belongs to the Eritrean secessionists by blood and deed; and who was indirectly sponsored by the Egyptians became the ruler of Ethiopia, postponing his agenda of seceding the other province he meant to “liberate.”This Trojan horse named Meles Zenawi who died on July 14 but pronounced dead effective August 20 by his cronies traded off many of Ethiopian vital interests to the cause he championed.Zenawi, the “Ethiopian” representative pushed aside an offer to successfully negotiate the retention of Assab as its rightful gateway to the sea at the London peace talk in May 1991. Mr. Herman Cohen, Assistant Secretary of the United States for African Affairs mediated the talk. Assuming power in Addis, Zenawi went on to disparage and belittle anything Ethiopian. He disbanded the professional Ethiopian military and jailed upright officers known for their valor and uncompromising patriotism under the pretext of prosecuting war crime. He allowed his Eritrean secessionist cousins to distort history and foment hate, while gagging Ethiopians including unionist Eritreans by denying them the right to air their views on the electronic media that his régime monopolized. Having made sure that the field is so skewed to the Eritrean secessionists, he wrote a letter to Mr. Boutros Boutros- Ghali, then secretary general of the United Nations so that the latter sponsors a referendum on Eritrea’s fate. Feeling more Egyptian than behaving as an impartial arbiter of the UN, Mr.Ghali failed to consider at least two glaring hindrances to conduct a referendum in a free and fair environment.

The first one was that Zenawi, as mere president of a transitional government, had no mandate to write such a letter to the UN on behalf of Ethiopia. Secondly, the choices the Eritreans were confronted with in the referendum were so monstrously reduced as a question of “freedom or slavery.”When asked as to what would be the fate of thousands of Eritreans enjoying life more than any other Ethiopians, Zenawi bragged that “Ethiopia and Eritrea will not go the Pakistani-Indian way.”Alas! A few years later after this asinine remark, Zenawi dragged Ethiopia in the most senseless bloody war never recorded in its history against Eritrea. Without mentioning the carnage at the battlefield, Zenawi himself instigated mass deportation of Eritreans and those suspected of having Eritrean ties. Ironically once again, the man who championed the Eritrean cause and promoted anything Eritrean at the expense of Ethiopia justified the mass deportation, waving a flag of “sovereignty” all of a sudden, as a statesman’s prerogative to order the expulsion of anyone if he doesn’t like the “color of that person’s eye.”

From “sovereignty” to the “Renaissance” dam

While acknowledging that it’s a daunting task to incorporate every aspect of a geopolitical history in a half hour documentary, I am of the opinion that Aljazeera missed the convoluted history of collaboration between “Ethiopian” secessionist elements and Egyptians. While the documentary echoed the fear that “asserting patriotism and politics over the River Nile” exacerbates the existing tension thus reminding me of Captain Fikreselassie Wogderes’s—prime minister during the Mengistu era—prediction on “the future war over water” which has also been reiterated by current analysts that “access to freshwater can become more incendiary than access to fossil fuels,” again I am of the opinion that Egyptians feel no immediate pressure to blow the “Renaissance” dam to smithereens .

Although, Egyptians might have entertained the idea to bomb Zenawi’s pet project on River Nile as disclosed by Wikileaks, I don’t think that it amounts to anything more than a psychological warfare. Egyptian elites know very well that the deceased embarked on fancy “development” projects such as the “Renaissance” dam for diversionary purposes sugarcoating it with patriotic fervor. They know too that he was not crazy enough to risk confrontation with their highly trained and better equipped military after disbanding the elite Ethiopian military, particularly the Air force to replace them with his own morons that frequently crashed jet aircrafts and helicopters on markets in towns and on farms. They also remember as to how he duped Ethiopians after sacrificing the Ethiopian youth on empty talk of “sovereignty” over a barren land; and how he traded off the victory gained at the battlefield to a defeat in diplomacy waving the right of appeal and by agreeing to be adjudicated via a colonial treaty that was inimical to Ethiopian interest but beneficial to Eritrea.

In light of this and innumerable other betrayals of his own country, Egyptians are smart enough to see that the deceased was in the habit of coming up with diversionary tactics under the guise of big projects to escape from his own deception that threatened to choke him. It was also obvious to them that without his Western financiers that he could never bring such a project to completion except using the scheme to extort money from his own gullible subjects by feeding on their fear or by pandering to their patriotic feelings. More comforting to the Egyptians is the man who replaced the deceased. In addition to being spineless with no mind of his own, the people who manipulate him are still busy with unfinished power struggle. Notwithstanding the rhetoric, therefore, carrying on the much vaunted “vision” of the deceased is not in their priority list. Despite this respite, however, Egyptians must recognize the right of the people of upstream countries including Ethiopia to use River Nile. Like Aljazeera’s documentary pointed out, so long as we maintain “calm heads” and employ “cooler words,” I don’t think there will be any difficulty to enjoy Abbay equitably. After all, Nile’s blessing or in the words of one ordinary Egyptian in the documentary, “God’s blessing is all around us.”Concerning the latest fad in Ethiopia on Blue Nile reminds me of my own doggerel which I scribbled twelve years ago. I am happy to share it once again as published by the Ethiopian weekly newspaper of August 2, 2000.

Speaking of Rivers

A thought struck me
While I was savoring the breathtaking scenery
From a vantage point
Selected by an ex-serviceman
With a keen foresight
Whereupon, he called it after his rank and name
As Basha Amare Hotel.

So, standing there at the edge of the terrace
I said to myself looking down at Awash
Which had been flowing like that
Dividing in twain for centuries the barren land
That if it’s possible for the Israelites
Why would it be difficult for Ethiopians
To convert
The desert
In Asaita like Negev in the Middle East
With Awash flowing right under its nose?

Can’t see any obstacle to do that
If the Israelis, despite all those fights
Succeed to bring heaven on earth
There’s no reason on our part
That we can’t turn the barren land
With a river that anyways ends up in a sand.

Being a layman, I may sound naïve
But, please consider this doggerel of mine
Now that the fad is all about the Nile.

An Ethiopian social and political commentator exiled in Uganda

  1. selamta
    | #1

    WOW……THE title should have been i miss MELES…What on earth are you blabbering about man,you took this forum to talk about a dead man as if you miss him already.I have this to say to you ,Melese came did what he did and moved on and the world will talk about him every time you talk about ETHIOPIA that is how powerful his legacy is ,and when it comes to you sir YOU have so much hate in you that you wont let go of MELES even in death……..What a shame

  2. Anonymous
    | #2

    Dear Ato Kiflu,
    It is excellently written with great thought and deep analysis of the recent past. Please keep up your good work of enlightening of the Ethiopian public and the rest of the world about facts on Ethiopia.
    May God help Ethiopia to recollect her lost children who are all over the earth in search of democracy and freedom to their motherland?
    May God also help all Ethiopian refugees all over the world to return to their homeland with pride and victory?
    God Bless Ethiopia and God bless you my dear.

  3. Gigi
    | #3

    I think their whole game is to take the country itself. We know they systematicly kill our people and make them powerless economically politicly and socially by dividing the nation ethnically as well including separating Eritiria from Ethiopia and are leasing the land to Egypt and beyond. So this a delebrate war against all of us to
    destroy this proud and old nation and people.

    WE GOT TO SAY NO! with one voice, it is a matter of our lives and our country. This are criminals beyond believe
    What would be wrong if they want to live with us or work with us peacefuly some time, but is that what they do?
    why do they must kill people? That what Terroristes do or may be that is what all mussilim do at the end.

    We have only wittinesd that for ages. What kind of people or nation can take the world for granted to this level??
    Does it think it doesn’t exist? How so? did it make sure of it?…..I wouldn’t be surprised knowing what I know
    about the world and how confused people are all around the glob about what is going on, but it is clear and simple to know who is doing that and that is the people who are doing it and they are Arabs and Mussilims.

    May be not all but we can call them names ………and you name it.

  4. Gigi
    | #4

    And why is it that we have only observing Ethinopian mussilim social and political gatherings and demonstration for the last
    three or four years in Ethiopia to a point of looking like it is only mussilm people that lives in the nation???????

    We know every body is told not to do that, they have some exceptions??????? the nations political arena is almost
    in a state of no existence, why?????. That is it? good by Ethiopia??????. What is it then??????

  5. Gigi
    | #5

    Their is some one els who can demonstrate in addis or in Ethiopia , ‘The Eritirians’ . When Ethiopians are told
    not hole a public rally in concern of national security, why is it OK for Mussilims and Eitirians and so on????
    Are we suppose to be a more threat to our nation than this people???? where and how? does that even make any sense???…you know if you call a carrot a banana their is some thing wrong with you or their is a lot you don’t know.

    For example do you for sure know that Issayas and Meless are Eritirians? What if you are so wrong and they are Somalies? Not to say I disregard their clam whom every they say they are. But do we know for sure who this people are, we know we can’t imagine any body Ethiopian to do what did to our nation any ways, so why would any body do that?????, lets say ma be they are mussels secretly or oviousely, can we be wrong about that????
    Unless what do you make of their did against all of us the whole nation that includes Eritiria????? who would want this? Italy???? But are they Italians???? what the hake is that?????

  6. Liban
    | #6


    Nearly half of the waters of the White Nile also originate from Ethiopia. The Barro River that flows through the town of Gambella provides half of the flow of the White Nile that reaches Khartoum, where the Blue Nile (Abbay) joins up with White Nile.

    River Tekezze, also from western Ethiopia is the last & smallest of the Nile tributaries (it is nothing more than a dry river bed or a wadi for more than six months of the year).

    All in all, Ethiopia provides about 85% of the waters of the Nile that reaches Egypt (not Sudan). Of the Ethiopian contribution, the Blue Nile’s (Abbay’s) share is about 50% – give or take.

    This means that a large percentage of the water that leaves lake Victoria in Uganda never reaches Egypt as most of the water drains into the vast in-land marsh known as the Sud found in south Sudan.

    Years ago, Egypt & Sudan had a plan to construct a canal on the White Nile near the town of Jonglai, south Sudan. This canal was designed to make the waters of the White Nile by-pass the marsh via this canal & flow directly to Egypt.

    However, what many don’t realise is the link between the Sud marshes & the amount of rain that falls on the Ethiopian Highlands, heartland of Ethiopia’s rain-fed agriculture & the source of all of the major rivers in Ethiopia – Abbay, Baro, Tekezze, Awash, Ommo.

    The clouds that bring kremt or summer rains to Ethiopia get most of their moisture from the Sud marshes, the Congo rain forest & the Atlantic ocean. No Sud marshes (larger than France & England combined) means less rains for Ethiopia, which in turn means less water carried by Abbay or Baro to Sudan & Egypt.

    The Nile is a bit like a small spring when compared to the mighty Amazon. In fact, the Nile doesn’t even make up the top 50 rivers of the world in terms of the amount of water it carries.

    It is only the fifth largest river in Africa in terms of the volume of water it carries after the mighty Congo, Niger, Zambesi & Ogue of Gabon.

    Nile is said to be the longest river in the world. Even this claim is disputed by some as recent studies show that the Amazon is as long, if not longer.

    The Nile is famous mostly because of the biblical fairy tales associated with it & the understandable obsession of the long-dead dead & mysterious pharaohs of Egypt.

    The Nile, like the biblical river Jordan, is a desert river. This is why its waters are fought over, not because it is a particularly large river in terms of the volume of water it carries.

  7. Gigi
    | #7

    May be Jesus can deliver us from this kind of shrouded evill, deceptive, and so cruel. Pity full stink ancient graves.
    Imoral, uncivilized ungodly cowered bastards, who only turns the world in to dungeons of human suffering on every known generation of the world and who parishes to kill even. That is a child of dark unknown. So is
    the appearance of his mothern or mother.

  8. Gigi
    | #8

    They are even unfashionable than the concurring Mongols, who was out only for distraction of the world
    because of their little knowledge of the world and their moral standards, so backward and out of sense and out of any sort of morality and care of the world except their stomack may be. Not to say they shouldn’t worry about it for no one can’t live with out eating. but do it peacefully please and learn how to share.

    But the Arabs are rich enough today to question us if we the Ethiopians are the reason for their civilization
    may be stack on making ceramic food plats may be. And may be, not Ethiopia makes any thing ceramic in the past but as their ceramic knowledge gets bigger lets say we had to fetch our rivers or water ( gibey) out of the
    ceramic valley……depending on how they see the distance between them and the civilized world of technology
    their is nothing they won’t do or say to say they worn’t stupid enough to not come up with it if it wasn’t for
    what ever…………..and that is just because they live in a world of mind created heroism of some sort. Some time
    I think their is no objectivity in all of their doing except the heroism they might achieve in their communities of being fearless and jihadist (spiritual warrior) and so on based on their religion ideology.

    But again that whole thing is a proof of where their morality lay’s. And they are beyond dengers and every where.

  9. Dawi
    | #9

    Not only you were late in looking at Aljazeera’s documentary but your entire analysis on Meles is based on outdated facts and stories of the man. You have completely ignored his development and transformation to one of the greatest leaders Ethiopia has ever seen.

    Writing of a “Trojan horse” in 2012 is being absolutely obsolete in thinking. And since you’re quoting a former Derg PM with minimal contribution as a leader (if any), it gives one a window of where you are coming from. You must be the first on the planet to quote Captain Fikreselassie? :-)

    Having said that, Meles qualitatively differentiated himself after 2000’s from just a TPLF by becoming the top dog of the Ethiopian State. On that power base he unleashed his philosophy of Developmental State in Ethiopia. He had to be the strong top leader and play that role properly to implement such a developmental state MODEL/theory as practiced in the Asian Tigers.

    He has put that foundation as it now embraced by most Ethiopians today. Leave the past for history books but look of what he arrived at after tireless study and hard work at the end.

    Meles starting the developmental state of Ethiopia to modernize it and make it a middle income country in a short time has/will make him as one of the giants in Ethiopian history.

  10. Gigi
    | #10

    We are some stone age people to you? some Africans some Israeliets some chines some Japanese? ………let me tell you what we did with

  11. love
    | #11

    The TPLF regime with their foreign groups are setting up for Islam take over. While instigating with the Muslim uprising which they can protest but not other Ethiopians, they are sending a message, the Muslims have more power in Ethiopia than the rest and they are opening the door for asserting their power in Ethiopia. So is Kiflu saying the Dam is just a sketich and it is not real? The TPLF sending this propoganda is going to start war with Egypt and give the power to Muslims and bail out that is the plan I think. The fact that the Muslims are still protesting is a sign that it seems they are waiting some kind of signal from TPLF,

  12. Yewnetu Miskir
    | #12

    The bbig dam on Abay is primerly meant to solve the silting problem
    of the Aswan Dam (lake Naser) while it secondarily be used to protect
    Kartum from flood and also can generate electricity to ethiopia until it becomes full of silt like the Gibe I. Meles should have receuved about USD
    6 to 8 billion secretly as it is an Egyptian project. We shall fight the Woyane in unison. With resolve and God’s help, we can surely defeat them
    and they may come to their senses. You know Meles totally prohibited and dismissed the construction of a water supply dam in Sululta for the supply of drinking water for Addis Ababa. Because this is on The Bluenile water shed. He assures Egypt 100% uninterrupted supply of the Blue Nile including its tributariesand the water shed. This was a secret deal extremely harming and killing Ethiopia & its people,

  13. kentu
    | #13

    there is a breaking news this days meles wife aziab mesfen she allready make love affair after her huband dead one month ago with billioner alamudi even he invite her to attens to get relief from her husband loss but that was not the couse the real issue is to get privacy in europ it is realy so breaking news

  14. kentu
    | #14

    now days people expecct change from new prim miniter of ethiopia but for you i have a proverb mandla say we disnt expect honey from fly only dirty when Egypt president jemal abdelnasir dead replaced by new presdent his name was sadat automatical sadat make basic poletical reform make with hitorcal enemy izreal it was realy risky job but he did it he becam succesful till today but when we come to our history it will never hapen becouse we are not humans we are leaving by fear specialy we need to delit one ugly proverb from our dictionery KERAS BELAY NIFAS

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