By Kidane Alemayehu
Although it is a well known fact that Ethiopia is the source of 86% of the Nile River water that cascades through the Sudan to Egypt, its ownership of the important natural resource including the soil that is carried from Ethiopia to the two countries is not accorded the necessary recognition. On the contrary, mainly due to colonial malfeasance, Ethiopia has not benefitted from the Nile River as adequately as it should.
According to works by Dr. Richard Pankhurst, Dr. Said and Dr. Minga, Ethiopia used to be paid 50,000 gold coins per annum by the Ottoman Turks for the use of the Nile River when they were ruling Egypt. However, when the British colonized Egypt and the Sudan, they applied practices that inappropriately reflected their ownership of the Blue Nile River. Later, Egypt and the Sudan followed the same policy and entered into agreements apportioning the water to themselves.
The main reason for the above predicament was mainly due to the fact that the Ethiopian Government had not acted on the preservation of its nation’s rights regarding the Blue Nile River. However, due to the important initiative undertaken for the construction of the important GERD Dam, Ethiopia is currently in the process of taking effective steps for exercising its rights to benefit from its major natural water resource.
A useful example to refer to here is my experience in Lesotho, a nation that is situated in the middle of South Africa and possesses immense water resources. I was involved, as a leader of a Lesotho delegation in 1977, in my capacity as the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Works, at a negotiation meeting in Cape Town regarding the utilization of Lesotho’s river by South Africa which resulted in an investment of over US$1 Billion and the payment of an average $50 million annually to Lesotho by South Africa. For more details, it would be useful to refer to my book: “My Journey with the United Nations, the Quest for the Horn of Africa’s Unity and Justice for Ethiopia”.
It is obviously important for the Ethiopian Government to ensure that the nation’s rights to benefit from its very important resource, the Blue Nile River, is fully protected and utilized for the benefit of the Ethiopian people with due regard to the needs of the Sudan and Egypt in compliance with international laws.