November 3rd, 2013 Print Print Email Email

“Compromise makes a good umbrella, but a poor roof; it is temporary expedient, often wise in party politics, almost sure to be unwise in statesmanship.”

James Russell Lowell.


I. Introduction

In General: The events of the last four weeks may as well have determined the future course of Ethiopia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. On October 7, 2013 Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn made some remarks in a Press Conference that will resonate for years and make or break his political future, as well as the future of Ethiopian partisan politics. What I heard on video of the News Conference of October 7, 2013, is the most incredulous statement by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn so far. He announced that he will welcome the participation of Egypt and Sudan in the construction of the Renaissance Dam and that his government and he consider the Dam to be “jointly owned” by Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt.

To make this type of statement at this early stage of the controversy by a Head of Government is unconscionable and the worst form of negotiation strategy I have ever witnessed or read about in our long history. Such fast retreat of leadership in front of a national controversy is unheard of in Ethiopia’s long political life. However, to be fair to all concerned, let us examine the situation surrounding this sudden reversal of historic position, carefully and dispassionately. Mind you that there is no serious threat by anybody against Ethiopia except some habitual bullying by Egypt, and a few months ago by an errant Prince from Saudi Arabia (who was promptly removed from office) that the Prime Minister of the Ethiopian Government should be trembling with fear and trepidation and recapitulate so easily. Even if there is real military threat against the sovereignty and integrity of Ethiopia, is the statement by the Prime Minister within acceptable discretionary power of his office? I think not. The Prime Minister has far exceeded his duty and power circumscribed by the provisions of the 1995 Ethiopia’s Constitution: Article 55 (2) (a); 55 (17); Article 74 (6); Article 86, when he spoke of creating some kind of joint ownership of an Ethiopian asset that borders of surrendering sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ethiopian State..

As a simple strategy of negotiation one does not show the hand that one holds at the initial stage of confrontation with a historically ever belligerent foreign national government. Egypt and the Arabs in general have been the relentless enemies of Ethiopia for centuries to this day. They have sought the destruction of Ethiopia despite admonishment of the Prophet Mohammad since the eighth century. They never heeded the words of their own Prophet. At this very moment they are busy mobilizing to halt the development effort of Ethiopia by throwing obstructionist threats. A type of prescription I have for my fellow Ethiopians is that when we seek peace and development we need get ready for war.

The construction of the Great Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile within Ethiopian territory is indisputably an act of Ethiopia’s Sovereign power. Whether such construction was premature, too ambitious, problematic due to lack of technical expertise et cetera are issues that should not be confused with competence or sovereignty. Ethiopian successive Governments for almost a hundred years have openly stated their desire to take into account the national interests of both Egypt and Sudan in the effort to create an equitable use of the waters of the Nile and its Basin for all riparian states. Egypt has refused to recognize the fundamental sovereign rights of riparian states to use the waters of the Nile some of such states being originating/source countries. Currently, the Ethiopian Government seems to be committed in its effort to bring about fairness and equitable use of the Nile waters among riparian states to the extent of offering the Great Renaissance Dam in joint ownership to Egypt and Sudan. As I stated earlier, I am not convinced such generosity on the part of Ethiopia will help solve the greed of Egypt.

Issues to consider: Even though such unbelievably generous offer by the Government of Ethiopia may be applauded by some, I am much concerned not only with the future of the Dam itself but also with the continued existence of Ethiopia. Some of the most pressing issues are as follows: What is the meaning of “joint ownership”? What are the risks for Ethiopia sharing ownership of its natural resource with foreign sovereign countries and their governments? Are there legal regimes and/or political modalities to insure the Sovereign right of Ethiopia on the Dam and the Water resource of the Blue Nile and its basin at all times? What effect would such “joint ownership” have on other riparian States of the Nile River? What is the need for secrecy (lack of transparency) of the Ethiopian Government?

II. A. The Development Imperative and Sovereignty

The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, in Article 47 states that “nothing in the present Convention shall be interpreted as impairing the inherent right of all peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources.” Ethiopia ratified the Covenant on 11 June 1993, and Egypt signed twenty five years earlier on August 4, 1967 and ratified the document on 14 January 1982; Sudan ratified the Covenant 18 March 1986. As of May 2013, the Covenant had 74 signatories and 167 parties.

This section of the Covenant is what is claimed to be the basis of the concept of “permanent Sovereignty” on natural resources by members States of the United Nations. To me that concept has become part of the customary international norm and principle as customary international law. Thus, when we are discussing sovereignty over the resources of a country, we are not simply dealing with historical reality but also recognizing concepts in international law and relationships of States. Of course, the concept “permanent Sovereignty” over resources has undergone modifications and its own exceptional development, such as the idea of equitable use of shared resources, the new Sovereign Wealth Funds and State- Owned Enterprises et cetera.

World population prediction for 2050, i.e., in a mere thirty five years from the present time, draws a grim and alarming reality for Ethiopia. The estimate listed here under seems to be on the conservative side, for a fact we know the 2015 prediction for Ethiopia is too low since Ethiopia’s population for 2013 exceeds by almost ten million people the United Nations estimate for 2015. I believe the estimate for 2050 would be about 200 million for Ethiopia. We have now in our hands an ongoing population explosion—a disaster in the making unless we implement some creative and daring developmental programs. The harnessing of the power of the Blue Nile is one out of very many concerted steps to be taken by all states in the region. The increase in population means dramatic increase in the demands for services, food supplies, housing, schools, universities, infrastructure, et cetera. Putting to good use our natural resources is a matter of duty/right of acute necessity and not a luxury. One must take into account the enormity of population growth in all the nations of the world in order to understand our precarious existence in the next fifty years.

1950 2000 2015 2025 2050
Ethiopia 18,434 62,908 89,765 113,418 186,452
Egypt 21,834 67,884 84,425 94,777 113,840
Sudan 9,190 31,095 42,433 49,556 63,530

[Source: United Nations Population Division]

How is Ethiopia going to feed that many people (almost two hundred million people) with its existing economic system and limited programs of farming and industrial involvements? Ethiopia has no choice in the matter but to develop its hydropower as a cheap source of energy in order to develop its agriculture, industry, education, democratic governance, and good relationship with its neighbors and the world at-large. A poor and devastated Ethiopia is a real danger and threat to the region. By contrast, a prosperous and engaged Ethiopia is the dynamo for the region’s much needed development and stability.

There seems to be a degree of confusion between source of power/right and the scope of that power/right in regard to Ethiopia’s position on the waters of the Nile River and the Blue Nile and its Basin. There is also a tendency to lump all riparian states of the Nile River in the same cast of characteristics. Very many distinguished Ethiopians, such as Zewde Gebre-selassie, Daniel Kendie, Gebretsadik Degefu, Tesfay Tafesse, et cetera have devoted time and energy tackling several questions dealing with Ethiopia’s natural resources and on the development of such resources and the modality of the proprietary rights thereof.

A recent addition to such distinguished Ethiopians tackling the historic problem of sharing the waters of the Nile/Blue Nile and the Basin thereof is Fasil Amdetsion. Fasil Amdetsion is a rising star in international (law) jurisprudence and a highly capable lawyer. His long academic journal article on the Nile/Blue Nile controversy is an excellent read. [Fasil Amdetsion, Scrutinizing “The Scorpion Problematique”…, 44 Tex Int’L J (2008)] One reservation I have on that article is that Fasil seems to overlap Ethiopia’s source of power on the waters of the Blue Nile and its Basin with the scope of that power. For example, he asserts that Ethiopia’s position of absolute “Sovereignty” on the Blue Nile River is untenable under international law. My criticism of such position is a rhetorical one by arguing that in the same way Egypt has based the source of its claim on treaties and cite provisions from those same treaties to assert the scope of its proprietary/use rights on the waters of the Nile, Ethiopia uses “Sovereignty” as a source for its proprietary rights but not as an absolute, for Ethiopia has always promoted the idea of “equitable” use of the waters of the Nile/Blue Nile among all riparian States. There are situations in the past, under extreme provocation and in the face of belligerency of Egypt and Sudan, whereby Ethiopia as a matter of rhetorical argument might have stated that it has the ultimate sovereign power over its natural resources and territorial integrity and threatened to dam the Blue Nile. Such statements must not be taken as Ethiopia’s foreign policy position, but for what they are—just rhetorical statements.

The provisions of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) that was established in 1999 reflect far more accurately Ethiopia’s position as an active member of NBI. The NBI clearly shows that the derive is to replace the 1929 (later amended in 1959) colonial treaty that divided the entire Nile water between Egypt (75%) and Sudan (25%), completely ignoring the riparian rights of ten States including Ethiopia from whose highlands 86 % of the Nile water flows from. Not all riparian States of the Nile River are “Scorpions,” as Fasil would label them in his academic article, but most are victims of the greed of Egypt, the only “scorpion” in that group of riparian states of the Nile. The irony of it all is that Egypt does not contribute even a single drop of water to the Nile River, but is monopolizing its use to the tune of over 80% in absolute terms.

II. B. Claims by Egypt and the Polarizing United States Military Assistance

The Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1902 is an important Treaty that shows clearly how a colonial power forced its hand on a sovereign independent nation’s natural resource. The 1902 Treaty is seldom mentioned by Ethiopian scholars and by Ethiopians in general. Even though there are serious conflicting provisions between the Amharic and the English versions of the Treaty, the Treaty overall shows the coercive colonial power of Great Britain in getting unconscionable concessions from a relatively weak Emperor of Ethiopia. The Treaty arguably either forbid the construction of any work without agreement with Britain that “arrest the flow” (English version) or “completely block” (Amharic version) the waters of the Blue Nile, Sobat, or Lake Tana. There is also problem of interpretation as to the identity of a “third party” or Ethiopia acting for her own self-interest.

Nevertheless, Egypt has been consistent in its claims as a “historic user” not as a “sovereign” on the waters of the Nile. Egypt has never claimed any form of direct ownership or sovereign right on the waters of the Blue Nile or on any of the head waters of the tributaries of the Nile River. What Egypt has claimed in the past and what it is claiming now was the “historic use” of the waters of the Nile based on treaties as well as history. Ethiopia and other riparian countries claim that the standard must be the “equitable use” of water and not “historic use” of water that lopsidedly favors Egypt completely over other riparian countries including those countries that are headwater (source) countries.

If Egypt has its way, it wants to maintain its share of the yearly quota allocation of over 55 billion cubic meter water under the 1959 agreement it entered with Sudan. This has nothing to do with Ethiopia for Ethiopia is not signatory to such agreement. In fact, Ethiopia has repeatedly officially through diplomatic channels let it be known that it is not bound by agreement of third parties and would maintain is sovereign right on its natural resources including rivers, lakes, and territorial waters. Moreover, one must examine to what use is the water of the Nile is being used in Egypt.

The Ethiopian Government officials have failed to organize and disseminate factual/statistical data on Egyptian use of the water of the Nile detailing the types of abusive use of precious water. We still do not have a detailed water use profile and statistical data on Egypt’s use of the water of the Nile. For example, we have no idea how much water is being used in Egypt on frivolous schemes, such as watering golf courses in resort areas, feeding swimming pools, et cetera while in Ethiopia millions of Ethiopians are experiencing famine, poverty, lacking clean drinking water et cetera.

After the press Conference of October 7, 2013 Egypt has issued its new expectations and how far it is interested in safeguarding its national security and economic interest, through an official, who chose to remain anonymous, on October 16,

“The government has prepared a new paper to negotiate with Ethiopia regarding the Renaissance Dam. Technical and legal teams have been tasked with studying the Egyptian [negotiating] items, which are expected to be presented to the Ethiopian side at the next meeting. … The Egyptian offer includes full participation in the construction, management and operation of the dam, by dispatching Egyptian engineers who specialize in the field of dam construction; the signing of an agreement with the Ethiopian side on sending [to Ethiopia] a permanent Egyptian water mission [that will be stationed] at the dam; and [Egypt’s] participation in the funding and working as an intermediary to obtain aid and international loans and grants to finance dam construction.” [Ayah Aman, Al-Monitor, October 23, 2013]

One serious problem facing Ethiopia, which is in the background of most conflicts that threaten the survival of Ethiopia, is the military assistance of the United States to Egypt to the tune of a couple of billion dollars every year for the last two decades. Such polarizing assistance to Egypt seems to add to the arrogance and inflexibility of the Egyptian Government. The United States Government either must stop such outrage or provide Ethiopia also with as much military assistance as it does to Egypt. Egypt did not help the United States in its global effort to squash Al-Qaida terrorist members. Some of the leaders of such anti American groups are Egyptian citizens. By contrast, the Ethiopian Government is fully engaged in the fight against terrorism with the United States as a partner for peace and security. Why is the United States always undermining Ethiopia’s interest at crucial moments in our history for the last one hundred years of relationship with the United States?


III. Joint Ownership

The current concept of “joint ownership” has its root in Roman Law as “dominium” and “condominium.” However, the literature shows that form of ownership/possession was not popular nor an accepted form of ownership and even of possession between states. “Sovereignty” is a very jealous mistress and would not allow any other Sovereign power to share in its domain. From hundreds of dams constructions around the world only a handful are jointly owned by two or three Sates. Even those very limited jointly owned dams are not free from great conflicts and most often on the verge of complete breakdown and possible war. For Ethiopia, as well as, for Egypt and Sudan, this idea of “joint ownership” of an Ethiopian natural resource is extremely dangerous in creating another flash point between the three countries and their supporters.

“Co-ownership refers to legal relationships that entitle two or more entities to equal rights to the use and enjoyment of property. Although it most often arises in the context of real property, co-ownership may apply to any type of property. Co-ownership also takes numerous legal forms…. In each case, the central economic and legal problem is how conflicting preferences and actions of the co-owners can be coordinated. In the absence of such coordination, owners may overindulge in activities that impose costs on their co-owners and under invest in projects or activities whose benefits are shared with co-owners. The legal mechanisms used to cope with these externality problems range from doctrines that impose liability on co-owners for engaging in inefficient activities (such as the law of waste), to legally mandated common decision-making (as in compulsory unitization statutes), to forced termination of the co-ownership relationship (partition). In addition, successful coordination and decision-making in co-ownership situations often depend on social sanctions and norms outside the domain of law.” [Marshall E. Tracht, ENCYCLOPEDIA OF LAW: co-ownership and condominium.]

III. A. Joint Ownership of Ethiopian Asset

What is the meaning of “joint ownership”? What is the legal and political significance of “joint ownership” of Ethiopian national asset and natural resource by Egypt and Sudan? In international law the idea of Joint ownership is not something new, in fact, it goes by an old name from Roman legal concept of “condominium,” which in our days is often used to identify individual apartments run by jointly owned system. However, the legal literature that is of record that includes the United Nations’ International Court of Justice as well as the decisions of arbitration tribunals is very limited almost to a point of non-extant. The ICJ had decided only on one case in controversy in the last sixty years. In other words, joint ownership by Sovereign entities is not a popular process at all.

The pronouncement of the Prime Minister on October 7, 2013 Press Conference is like a lightning strike in broad daylight—something that has no legal or historic precedence. The Ethiopian Government can minimize the premature statement by the Prime Minister in the following two steps:

1) by censoring or rebuking the Prime Minister that he had exceeded his authority in making such sweeping statement that affects the Sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation and instructing him to withdraw his statement of October 7, 2013 [1995 Constitution: Article 55 (2) (a); 55 (17); Article 74 (6); Article 86];

2) by creating a structure that will prevent either Egypt or Sudan any direct ownership in rem the Dam and/or the Blue Nile and its Basin. One way of doing that is to create a public utility corporation that will be owned jointly by Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan. This joint ownership of the public corporation may be extended to all Riparian States of the Nile.

The “Public Corporation” thus instituted leases the Dam from the Ethiopian Government that is the sole and only owner and the only Sovereign power over the Dam and the Blue Nile and its Basin. The public corporation will not have any ownership right of the Dam; It has a lease contract renewable every twenty five years for a maximum lease period not exceeding one hundred years. The public corporation will run the Dam as a business enterprise; it will control the flow of water, the distribution and sale of electric power, manage all administrative work, undertake all ongoing upkeep and maintenance of the Dam, and provide annual report to the “Share Holders” of the corporation. The Ethiopian Government will receive royalty for leasing the Dam to the corporation and for the use of the Blue Nile water resource. Since the Ethiopian Government is the majority share holder in that corporation, it will also be entitled to the percentage share of the profit of the corporation. Here is where Egypt and Sudan exert their control/influence in the day to day administration of the corporation thus created.

III. B. Slippery Slop: military engagement with Egypt and Sudan

For the time being Egypt may not sound as aggressive as it was at the start of the controversy in 2011 and even more so a few months ago in 2013. However, Egypt will increase its demand as time goes by with the increased pressure to complete the Dam in reasonable time. In fact, Egypt will demand that a contingent of its military force be stationed near the Dam in Ethiopia or across the border in Sudan in order to ensure the safety and security of the Renaissance Dam that it now owns jointly with Ethiopia and Sudan. Such deployment of security forces will pause a permanent threat to the security and sovereignty of Ethiopia. If there is any form of civil strive, the Egyptian forces would have clear excuses to occupy the Dam area within Ethiopia in order to protect Egypt’s joint ownership of the Renaissance Dam.

We must also ask about the ramification of such joint ownership on the other Riparian States such as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and South Sudan. The recent activity and pronouncement in press conferences by the Leaders of the Ethiopian Government have already casted Ethiopia as an unreliable partner in any form of controversial relationship with Egypt and the Arab world in general. I do not believe the Ethiopian Government has consulted with the other Riparian States (NBI members) on the idea of “joint ownership” of the Renaissance Dam. This form of sporadic, crises-based reactionary actions, secrecy, et cetera by the Leaders of the current Ethiopian Government will undermine the legitimacy and authority of the Government itself.

III. C. Joint Ownership of Aswan Dam and the Suez Canal by Ethiopia

The Ethiopian position as stated by the Prime Minister on October 7, 2013 seems to upgrade the claims of Egypt of unlimited use the water of the Nile to a level of ownership of the Blue Nile and all the waters of the basin itself. This is a windfall for Egypt and the Sudan. Now Egypt and Sudan are going to have a proprietary right that will eventually be casted in the form of sovereigns’ rights of foreign nations with all international implications and consequences. We had experienced one horrible incident when Italy sneaked into our Sovereign power by buying from a private owner Rubattino Shipping Company some land bought earlier [1869] from a local tribal chief as trading post (real estate) on the Red Sea coast. Even though there is a distinct difference at law between “sovereignty’ and “property” that distinction is just academic when the owner of that property is a “Sovereign” entity. The dispute in such conflicts between two sovereigns claiming sovereign power over a single property becomes quite murky and vague allowing for all kinds of legal maneuvering.

If we go down that route, which I do not favor at all, may be we could borrow from principle of Comity and also from the concept of parity to counter the full impact of the slippery slop of losing Ethiopian sovereignty due to the joint ownership of the Renaissance Dam. It is far more justifiable for Ethiopia to claim joint ownership of Merowe Dam in Sudan, and Aswan Dam in Egypt than the suggested Sudan and Egypt’s joint ownership of the Renaissance Dam and by extension the Waters of the Blue Nile. After all, the fertile highland soil of Ethiopia carried down by the Blue Nile for thousands of years gave life to Egypt itself. If we go that far, it will only be fair that Ethiopia jointly with Egypt own the Suez Canal too. If we allow the current Ethiopian Government logic, then we should also have joint ownership of Egypt itself. If we go that far, why not form one whole country made up of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. Well, while we are at it, we can add Somalia, Kenya, Uganda may be all the way to South Africa in this form of new fraternity of African States. We might as well create the “United States of Africa.”

IV. Unchartered legal minefield

The literature on joint ownership of dams is quite limited. From about three thousand treaties and agreements dealing with the navigation and non-navigation use of waterways and international rivers, only a handful deal with dams. Even then, the record of the legal and political problems surrounding such jointly owned dams ought to raise a red flag for Ethiopia. Even within African nations involved in joint ownership of dams there are some serious conflicts of equitable sharing of both water and generated hydropower. In South America all of the jointly owned Dams are the sources of serious conflicts. The same types of conflicting interests of joint owners of dams in Africa are also similar causes of conflicts as is the case with their counterparts in South America.

One must study carefully the cases of joint ownerships of dams indicated here in below, before jumping into a minefield of legal controversies by creating a joint ownership of the Great Renaissance Dam and the Blue Nile and its Basin.
1. Senegal/Gambia Dams – contentious relationship a far cry from a harmonious state cooperation.

2. Cahora Bassa Dam, Mozambique/South Africa –
3. The Kariba Dam, Zambia/Zembabwe
4. Salto Grande – Argentina and Uruguay
5. Yacireta Dam – Argentina and Paraguay
6. Itaipu – Brazil shared with Paraguay
7. Narva Reservoir (Russia shared with Estonia)

Ethiopia is very new in the construction of mega dam buildings. Joint ownership of dams and other sovereign assets is a very complex and risky processes. One must learn from the experiences of other states that have traveled down that risky road. Thus, Ethiopia must develop its own expertise and avoid the continued dependence on foreign advisers and experts. This is a task that takes up time, but can be accelerated by mobilizing capable and well qualified Ethiopians in the Diaspora. Even more lacking is old fashioned Ethiopian patriotism and nationalism. I am quite certain about the extent of my own commitment to Ethiopia, I am not sure that I see the type of patriotic commitment in most of the political leaders both in the Diaspora or back home in Ethiopia. What I witnessed so far is divisive and ethnic based fractured leadership that is eating the very core of our continued survival.

V. On Ethiopian Patriotism and National Security

I do not know to what extent the current Ethiopian Government officials are patriotic or nationalist in the context of the current crisis surrounding the construction of the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile. However, I can point out that their recent dance with wolves does not show much of patriotic zeal. I cannot discount also the fact that they have very well learned advisors surrounding them. However, despite my goodwill and favorable disposition to the new Ethiopian Government, I do not feel comfortable in entrusting such monumental task dealing with Ethiopian Sovereignty and territorial integrity to any of them. The shadow of Meles Zenawi still seems to eclipse the new Ethiopian Leaders impeding their independence and the full commitment to Ethiopia’s Sovereignty and territorial integrity. In short, I need more reassurance with clear policy that enshrines the Sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia. This is one time, despite my previous sever criticism of Emperor Tewodros, that I longed for a Tewodros to come to our rescue.

Nevertheless, it will be a mistake to equate intelligence with patriotism or nationalism. Meles Zenawi left us with a legacy that truly had undermined Ethiopian patriotism and Ethiopian nationalism. The “pragmatism” he expounded had always bordered treason when it relates to boundary disputes, national security et cetera. We saw it happen early in his leadership signing away Eritrea and the Ethiopian coastal territories, and signing up an arbitration agreement under defunct colonial treaties resurrected to give life to an independent “Eritrea.” It was during his watch that Ethiopia became landlocked without a coast or coastal waters. To this day, we do not know what arrangements and territorial concessions he had made with the Sudan to get their cooperation on the construction of the Renaissance Dam. Whatever it is, we must have paid too steep a price. Soon enough we will find out the extent and scope of our loss in our Sovereignty and territorial integrity.

One other legacy of Meles Zenawi is the fanatical steps he took to hide what he had done in his bid for international recognition that affected Ethiopian sovereignty and territorial integrity. No one knows much about the agreements Ethiopian officials signed that are the basis of our relationships with foreign states such as China, Egypt, Kenya, Sudan et cetera. There are no timely press releases about negotiations or draft agreements before the signing of such agreements by the Ethiopian Government officials. There is no set mechanism for public debate on issues of international agreements or relations with foreign governments. The people of Ethiopia have no access to read treaties entered by the Government of Ethiopia. There is no official publication devoted to inform the people of Ethiopia the types of international duties and obligations the Ethiopian State is entering into.

This essay was not meant to be this long. It was meant just to raise some critical issues and open a forum for discourse and sharing of views. The issues and historical background are very complex and extensive. I hope that readers would see this article as prompt rather than a definitive and exhaustive treatment of the subject matter. Thank you all. Long Live Ethiopia.

Tecola W. Hagos
Washington DC
November 1, 2013

  1. Mola
    | #1

    Dear Mr Hagos
    What do you expect from TPLF? For the TPLF blue Nile represents Ethiopia( Amhara nationalism )so it is part of the TPLF plan to take the control of Nile River out of the ethiopian (Amhara) People. After the independence of Tigray with the Moslem benishangul, Sudan and Egypt the Tigray republic will have the full control over the Nile dam.

    The plan is to put the rope on the nick of Ethiopia step by step, what do you think the purpose of Article 8 and 39 on the constitution?
    Think what happened in Russia after the break up of USSR or Yugoslavia after the war. The Newly independent nations took all properties within their boundaries. After some time basically the state of benishangul will be the owner of the dam with TPLF,Sudan and Egypt financial control..

    So the plan is to make benishangul free from Ethiopians ( Amhara) population ( am sure you heard the expulsion amahars from that region and inviting the Sudan and Egypt to buy share or bond. or joint ownership.

    TPLF and EPLf with help of the Arabs have been working for the past 40 years and now it is the time to take one step further … until the last breath of Ethiopia stopped

    Kind Regards,

  2. Alex
    | #2

    a wise and very constructive alarm for the Ethiopian government, specifically to the PM of FDRE. As a national, I would like to ask our leaders to open up their eyes and ears and seriously consider such an intelligent remarks rather than considering such a great thought as one of the shouts heard from the opposition in the west. The bottom line of this issue should be our national interest, sovereignty and the long term benefit of our people. I have really a confidence in our government not to fail Ethiopians by meddling on this issue with Egypt.

  3. Nabil El-Khodari, Nile Basin Society
    | #3

    You confuse shared resources like international rivers with resources that are not shared. The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, in Article 47 refers to non shared resources.

    As regards to shared (international) water resources another UN convention applies that is the 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses.

    I advise that you read the article “The International obligation of Nation States over shared watercourses. The case of looming conflict over the construction of the Grand Renaissance Hydroelectric Dam over the Blue Nile. What is the law? Unilateral and Multilateral options. “ By Eshetu Girma, available at

  4. Abraham
    | #4

    If you get a listening ear, good for you. I believe the EPRDF leaders require a legal advise in what they do in international issues.
    We know the Ethiopian government with its people won the war against the Shabia agression after sacrfiying so many lives.
    What the EPRDF did was to go to Algeria and put Bademi on the table to be decided by arbitration. we know what happen after that.
    The same could happen when a weak yes man sit as a prime minster make unnecessary committement to our enemy.
    If the EPRDF does not believe the other ethnic group, they can consult tigraian intellictualls on legal issues. This will help to avoid another blandder.
    1. making ethiopia land-locked country (allowing to give assebs believing we will be allowed to use asseb without a cost)
    2. To give Bademi after sacrifying thousands of lives. Whether we like it or not Eritrea has a good legal basis as the government at the time sign to resolve the issue in court
    3. Now trying to cool the egyptian temper, make the biggest blander. If you do not have the money and defense capbility, leave the project now. The next generation will work on it. BUt do not sign any legal document to build a giant monement that will be owned by Egypt in our land.

  5. jobir
    | #5

    Great article. Ethiopians are notorious for signing bad treaties. I am glad you raised this issue, hopefully, before it is too late.

  6. Anonymous
    | #6

    We are 100% opposed to any deal that over rides our national present and future interest. If TPLF does anything, this is a cut throat for every single Ethiopians. The day TPLF seal any deal that deny Ethiopians their resources will be considered killing all Ethiopians. Be warned TPLF.

  7. Latii
    | #7

    FYI, they are on meeting today at Khartoum.

    The main problem is on extremist diaspora who work day and night for our enemy. They disturbed diaspora community from raising money for construction.This water is not international resource by any means since it is not passing through Ethiopia but It flows out of Ethiopia into rivers taking away fertile soil because currently Ethiopia can’t afford to stop it by building dams

  8. Dany
    | #8

    Professor ,please accept my greatest thanks and appreciation as usual .
    I thank God that Ethiopia is not devoid of responsible and educated citzens.
    Practising joint ownership of Abbay Dam is tantamount to give it as a present to Egypt and Sudan . One can remember these two countries are intimately related and even united as one nation at one time in the past .
    So for any decision , two thirds voting rights (shares)(100/3X2=66.66%) will always win and we know Sudan and Egypt have no reason to differ in thier decisions taking account their past and present alliances .One third voting right of Ethiopia is just meaningless.
    Ethiopia will in worst scenerio won’t have even the right to use its own resources for itself in the future .
    Given the current African and in particular Ethiopian Economic developmental rate , it won’t take us long time to consume Abay Dam output locally .
    As this issue goes beyond any political or ethnic issue or divide , each and every responsible citzen should stand by and save his/her motherland .
    If the government is doing it deliberately , it is time to give it a stern warning ,or ignorantly ,it is time for it to seek advices from professionals both residing in the country as well as outside.
    God bless Ethiopia !

  9. Dave
    | #9

    What did Turkey do with their river??

  10. Abegaz
    | #10

    Prof. Tecola is absolutely right when he says that Ethiopia shoiuld own its own resources. The Nile resource is not a bank, a telecom or a textile industry where you can chase out owners at will.

  11. Teodros Kiros
    | #11

    Thanks for a authoritative legal analyses, I am very enlightened by the fine piece of legal argumentation.

  12. Alazar
    | #12

    Woyane Endehu yerasun edme enjie lemanim silemayasib ayadergewum Aybalim.

  13. Yihdega Itiopis
    | #13

    Dear Professor Tecola,

    Thank you for a very important and timely article. The Government of Ethiopia must retract this statement ASAP. Any Egyptian involvement in the dam opens a can of worms. It will be a good pretext for the invasion of Ethiopia.

  14. Negassi Yishaq
    | #14

    Almost everyone who is a remnant of the distorted Ethiopian order of the
    past including Dr.Tekola Hagos have the same feeble and cunning mindset
    whether in group/organizational or individual thinking. And
    that is
    - To hijack ideas and processes started by true dedicated Ethiopians
    and to clone or own them as theirs. The seat on the fence looking down
    what someone else is accomplishing and try to jump and steal to own them.
    They never join in or participate at the hardest time of breaking the rock for foundation actually the play discouraging roles but later they
    like to come down as chosen elites to bless and posses as owners.
    what was the political term given to such people ?
    But this time EPRDF leadership together with the Ethiopian people have
    played so well to execute their plans and make sure that the owners are
    the people and not day dreaming few social elites like Dr. Tekola and co.
    who were trying to stop it and still dreaming about creating a vaccum by slowing the process so as to mount onto it and take the driver’s seat.
    SORRY Drs. Tekola and co !
    The Ethiopian people with his dedicated EPRDF leaders will own and lead
    his progress by himself.

  15. Latii
    | #15

    Please no argument needed. Can we do something to prevent this from happening. I am about to lose my mind. Diaspora political parties have gone to the extreme and forgot their only home. We could have contributed the needed money.

  16. Anonymous
    | #16

    HMD is a soulless-powerless puppet.
    It’s naive to have faith on the TPLF/EPLF regime that has left Ethiopia landlocked, looted Ethiopia, sold Ethiopia’s land, incarcerated, tortured and killed thousands and thousands of law-abiding Ethiopians to negotiate in the best interests of Ethiopia. As saying goes: fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

  17. jobir
    | #17


    amara amara atbel abo. isn’t it why we hate tplf? who told you that amhara nationalism is a good thing?

  18. Meles from Hell
    | #18

    I sold the costal lines of Ethiopia. And now they are trying selling Abay. Tomorrow they will sell YOU. All these are happening because the Ethiopian intellectual has kept failing to collaborate.

    For all the evil things I did, I am paying for it now, suffering in hell.

  19. Development without Freedom
    | #19

    Is this the latest treason from Weyenes?

  20. Development without Freedom
    | #20

    Another unelected leader negotiating the sovereignty of Ethiopia with foreigners. Luckily the foreigners will not accept his proposal.

  21. yilmab
    | #21

    With all due respect I would say this is an empty bravado solely meant to deflect our attention from the abuse meted on our people on a daily basis by the Tigrai controlled state machinery. Again with all due respect you are worried about the question of soverignity of the Ethiopian state while the citizen living within that state is enslaved by the minority regime in power. All this analysis and all this rhetoric to defend the country while the most important asset-the people are abuse, denied basic human dignity and forced to serve the less than 6% is a little too much to stomach for the 94%. My dear sir the issue of building such a collosal dam on Abay is a cancerous idea left over by that nameless criminal PM as a goodbye insult on our country and people. You can see his followers scurring around the six continents to collect spare change and pit our people against each other. You seem to have taken the idiotic idea a step further and make it look like a question of soverignity instead of a ponzi scheme which we all understand it to be. My question to Woyane supporters and enablers is how come you are not so much in love with Ethiopia but do not seem to have any concern about her children. How come you fret about a stupid dam while those demanding democracy and respect to the rule of law are harassed, jailed and exiled. Where are you when Blue Party members are defined as terrorists, when UDJ members are beaten and jailed? I am not worried about Egypt as much as Woyane dogs that are under my nose. Let us drop this disinformation and deal with our problems facing us right now. Democracy and the respect for basic human right is the burning question not some future conflict with Egypt or anyone else. I like the cheer leaders with so many fake names, a childish game if you ask me.

  22. Mola
    | #22

    Dear Jober,
    Nationalism has been the great curse of humanity so I did not say Amhara nationalism is good .What I was saying was ‘’for TPLF Ethiopia means Amhara. If you conceder your self as unethnicized Ethiopian ask any TPLF members who you are. He or she tell you you are Aamhara if you no they will tell you are created in the image of Ahmarah.

    So it is not me who said it, it is the TPLF racist ideology. It is similar to the Nazi’s ideology or the white boers in South Africa. Mr Jober I know many people wants to hear the green story of how we live in harmony, the economy is growing TPLF has changed, The original goal to establish greater Tigray now is not possible because most TPLF people are rich in Ethiopia so on, TPLF also telling us the present Ethiopia is firmly based on mutual friendship of various ethnic groups etc. all this gullible subjective nonsense and lies . TPLF telling us of the era of Ethiopia as one multi-ethnic state is over in 1991. According to TPLF they assembled Ethiopian in 1995 and can disassemble is short notice. if any of the newly created killils wish to be independent state.
    For TPLF Ethiopia means a BRAND name. A Brand TPLf uses it to advance their objective. Such as exploitation of the county, international aid. in some case they we Ethiopians forced them to keep the name . Our presence in deferent part of the country is a huge problem for TPLF.

    The reality is
    Facts 1. There is no a legal terminology or name called ‘’the Ethiopian people’’. Read the constitution. The country’s constitutions article 8 clearly stated that national. nationalities and People are the sources of Ethiopian sovereignty. So Ethiopian or the Ethiopian people only exist in our mind.
    Fact 2. The constitution 39 article stated nations, nationalities and people can secede at any time.
    So the Nile dam is not owned by Ethiopian people. It is owned by the TPLf led government and when the government decided to dismantle Ethiopian or collapse like USSR, Yugoslavia or a good example during the separation of Eretria from Ethiopia the Nile dam will be the property of the Benishangul state, shareholders and titleholders such as Sudan and Egypt.
    It clear and simple please can you stop this wishful thinking that the Nile dam is belonging to Ethiopian people. I am an Ethiopian because I believe I am. But the law of the country doesn’t recognise me as Ethiopian. I held ID based on my ethnic and linguistic categorisation. Legally Killils can evict me at any time if they wish unless I am members of that killi ethnic group. I cannot clam I am an Ethiopian and can’t live any part of the country. We live just by default. Do you listen there is no as such you call it Ethiopian Citizen, Citizenship is based on Amhara, Tigray Oromo and Somali etc
    Basically the legal fact is who ever clime to be an Ethiopian Citizen in Ethiopia he or she is a squatter and liable for eviction at any time. We are living under the mercy of TPLF.

    Many of us don’t want hear this fact. It may not be tomorrow or next year, when this government collapses as all government do there no is legal case or system to keep us as one country.

    Every thing has a shelf life and TPLF will go one day. That day you will choose your new home like many Indiana’s during the separation of Pakistan and India. (10 million ? killed choosing new home )
    In 1917 the Bolsheviks thought USSR system is will last until the end of the world, but lasted only 70 year. After that no one from the former Russia’s regions stayed with the current Russian federation. All of them now are independent states . The sameas in Yugoslavia, India after independence. TPLF tells you their system will last forever. My advice is to learn from the history.
    We are all attached to the idea of Ethiopia as one nation. But there no legally recognised Ethiopia only what we have is Killil!. So if I am an investor planning to buy bond for the Nile Dam . I will stop and ask my self from whom I am going to clime my money back. From TPLF,? Sudan, Egypt, Sheikh Al Amoudi or the state of Bensgangul

    Kind Regards

  23. Anonymous
    | #23

    We are witnessing the slow deaths of Ethiopia/ns at the hands of TPLF/Woyanes. The majority of Ethiopia’s land is going to be owned, by Greater Tigrae/Eritirea, Sudan and Egypt. What are the oppositions waiting for? How many Ethiopians have to be locked up, abused, tortured and murdered? How many acres of Ethiopia’s land TPLF have to sell and give away? When is enough is enough?

  24. Alem
    | #24

    Dear Sir,

    I think you read way too much in the two words:’joint ownership’. Your argument would have been valid if Ethiopia stopped construction of the dam and negotiated joint ownership. Egypt has been told in no uncertain terms that construction for a second. It’s sad every time we have a disagreement on policy we question the pateiotism this government. Take a deep breath and watch. This dam will be built not with words and bluster but by a determined government in Ethiopia.

  25. aha!
    | #25

    Professor Tecola Hagos, you have the unsurpassed ability to deflect the focus from the current non-violent uprising to regain individual freedom, liberty and equality to super cede ethnic and secessionist rights, Ethiopian nationalism versus ethnic federalism and/or ethnic nationalism and totalitarianism and/or state capitalism as primary causes to the sovereignty of Ethiopia, lack democracy and free market capitalism to the silent majority of Ethiopia, but not the sovereignty of over joint ownership of the Nile GRDP. Even, if you believe, the idea came from the Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, but not from the TPLF Politbeurro, to blunt the threat from Egypt to blow up the dam to a joint ownership/co-dominion of the dam in profit sharing from electric power, while putting at staking the water supply from Blue Nile diminished, a project that suffers from lack of funding by IMF funding, and has been found to have a weak structure, drains the national economy, a joint venture with TPLF/eprdf over the dam does not have any ipact on the sovereignty of Ethiopia, more than the constitution with ethnic federalism, secessionism and totalitarianism and or state capitalism that denies the silent majority of Ethiopians economic and political freedom, access to free market capitalism with land ownership as one of the means of production.

  26. aha!
    | #26

    Having responded to your argument over the “joint ownership of the Blue Nile DRD project as it relates to sovereignty in Part One, Section I. Your argument in Part One, Sec. II, however is based on “Permanent Sovereignty” over natural resources, which has been modified “to equitable use of shared resources” as it relates to the use of water resources for irrigation and domestic uses by Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on the pretext of population growth in Ethiopia and the need to feed its people. In order to meet the objectives of population growth, the TPLF/eprdf regime need to revitalize the water of the Central and Northern Highlands of Ethiopia to revamp food production, to conserve soil and water and to avoid siltation of the GRD and combine its objectives for building the dam for irrigation for food production to meet the demand of population growth as well shortage of food supply and generate electric power as part of its infrastructure development for industrial and domestic uses with an equitable use of its natural resources with the countries stated above, in particular, while taking into consideration the unavailability of water by diversion, and waiting period for the dam to fill up without siltation after the current dam’s structural flaw is corrected and becomes operational with equitable distribution of water to the down stream countries, pending availability of funding/working capital and sovereignty of Ethiopia and Ethiopians is resolved and the constitution is ratified to establish a democratic government.

  27. Anonymous
    | #27


    Dany, don’t overplay it. Tekola Hagos has been the supporter of TPLF, when ignored, He tried to make a point. He was one of the few who went AddisAbaba for the support of TPLF. When things did not work for him, now
    He is trying to act as opposition. He supports ethnic politics in a very subtle way. Be wise please.

  28. Abiyadi
    | #28

    Every concerned Ethiopian knew TPLF is an International mercenary clique. So why Tecola ,who has been one of the chief supporter to this unwell come orphan-TPLF,at this time want to distant himself form it.You have told us in the past, time and again, how Melese was a man with a special leader ability. And that you spoke highly of him about what you termed, fidelity to his wife.

    In all this it is not for lack of accurate knowledge that you were unwilling to speak the truth about one of the most despicable person ever surfaced in Ethiopian political land scape. You were unwilling to speak the truth because you chose to cast yourself for what many see “blood is thicker than water”. The fact of the matter is Melese by his very nature is a paranoid individual. Many of our people know him as one who likes to rub arms frequently with his captors rather than addressing Ethiopians. It is precisely because of his servitude to his handlers he said Ethiopians in one of his televised speech, after the 97 massacre , said “Manim Ayadenachum! America Ayadenachum!” His words were taken to mean I am the servant of these powers; I can freely kill and still enjoy support from my masters. He spends all his twenty years immured in his Minilek Palace for fear of assassination. How can he who lived a fear ridden life even think to socialize outside from his circle of friends? In his palace all the maids and servants are from Adwa according to one of the report by non- Tegrian Palace guard.

    Besides, he was a known substance abuse with chat, cigarette, and poor health.Therfore, your portrayal of him as honest family man is due to your close relationship with him.

    Again, just last year when Haile Mariam was tactically made figure head P/M you come with one of your tricks claiming Haile Mariam needs time because he will surely introduce a new change and democratization process. The defense advocate you played in this forum for TPLF gets you nowhere. I mean it never gained you any support as you thought. However you look at it, by any stretch of imagination it is the conviction of all Ethiopians across every party line there has never been any group that climbed to Ethiopian political power as the bandits of Adwa&Entcho.It is for this reason true Ethiopians such as Eskinder and millions across the political spectrum stood to the face of TPLF evil un waveringly, while you chose to speak in support of her leaders. You see you may come with different masks as you want but you will not fool those of us who have been closely following your political stand. What other factor could have persuaded you to make this statement.”TPLF leaders need to consider releasing Eskinder and deport him to oversee. My reply is only such close affinity as it exists between you and the leaders of TPLF cabal. bb
    You know what time it is.The moment is in the hand of Ethiopians. So please spare Ethiopians our valuable time with your useless diatribe of the concept of Ethiopian nationalism. What does a collection of ordinary bandits has to do with such Nobel idea of nationalism?

  29. Haile Kebede
    | #29

    Abiyadi: Mark the following carefully:
    - First, have some courage and write in your own name rather than hide behind a made-up name.
    - Second, try to learn to write English properly.
    - Third, focus on the issue at hand rather than being all over the place. We all know Tecola W. Hagos. His essays and articles abound in the Internet. Unlike you, he has the courage to stand by himself and state his views clearly.
    - Fourth, do not misrepresent or misattribute out of context statements made by Tecola W. Hagos.
    - Fifth, Tecola W. Hagos is highly critical of Meles Zenawi as a political leader and as the planner of the economy of Ethiopia.
    - Sixth, he is a descendant of great Ethiopian heroes and liberation fighters, unlike most Diaspora politicians and current Ethiopian politicians. He is a true Unitarian nationalist.
    - Seventh, he has already written about his two-year experience with the Transitional Government of Ethiopia in 1991-1993. He has been highly critcal of the EPRDF/TPLF and the leadership of Meles Zenawi for the last twenty years.
    Do not make silly remarks, and write in Amharic.

  30. Abiy Adi
    | #30

    [Haile Kebede],

    You come up with a bunch of dirty laundry list that you felt I must adhere. At first, I decided not to answer to your mean spirited list. As I read it second time, It occurred to me your objective was to discourage me from participation on this forum. I am not sure how far you succeed on your objective? One of your criticism states this.

    “We all know Tecola W. Hagos. His essays and articles abound in the Internet…”.Who is you referring when you say ‘we’? Do you mean the TPLFits and you? Certainly, the lists you have before u me sounds very much an autocratic demand, which in itself a familiar trade mark and

    characteristic of the Authoritarian TPLF inner circle?

    Still you wrote,

    “Six, he is a descendant of great Ethiopian heroes and liberation fighters, unlike most Diaspora politicians and current Ethiopian politicians. He is a true Unitarian nationalist.”

    In the above statement you subtly try to communicate, because of his linage and his connection to the men of the past, without explaining who these men are, he too needed to be regarded as hero. I reject such outmoded blood line inculcation. If anything this is what I read from your statement. You scuff at Diaspora and Ethiopian politicians for not springing up from respected blood line as Tecola.This too is not a new invention ,Melese,told us in his speech of “Atum Menasey”how proud he is for springing up from the ‘golden generation’. Simply said your statement above is an echo of his speech.
    Finally you said,

    ” Do not make silly remarks, and write in Amharic.”
    If I want I can write in Amharic but why should I follow your instruction? You are not invited to read my post skip and go to the next one

  31. yohannse Eshete
    | #31

    Thank you Doctor Tecola Hagos and I firmly agree with your article and you are standing firmly stand for our country Ethiopia and you are always protector of Ethiopia national interest and security of Ethiopia from long years and up to now and please keep up your good work and your for the interest and integrate, security, and unite Ethiopia. please do not listen those destructive elements and It is from the depth of my heart I agree always with your point of view. But there are some destructive elements who did not stand for Ethiopia, but those elements are power hungry. For example, when I write this comment some Ethiopians might say I am from the north of Ethiopia or Wayne and TPLF,but I grew northern shoa and I went high school in Addis Abeba. I like Dr. TACOLA HAGOS because he always stand firm for National interest of Ethiopia for so long years and I read his articles for so many years. Ethiopia needs so many like DR. TACOLA HAGOS.

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