GERD and Ethiopia's fallacies

Mohamed Salmawy
Saturday 17 Jul 2021

As Israel relied on a series of fallacies to justify its violation of international laws and conventions, Ethiopia’s behaviour doesn’t differ regarding the GERD

Everyday the difference between the attitudes of Egypt’s two enemies appears more stark. One of them is an eternal enemy, the other more recent. 

The first is Israel, which has been hostile towards Egypt since its foundation because Egypt is the biggest Arab force that constitutes the greatest obstacle in the way of the Jewish state’s hegemony and control of Arab countries.

The second is Ethiopia, whose relations with Egypt have been fluctuating throughout history between peaceful coexistence and military confrontation.

If Israel is the epitome of international “thuggery” through its violation of international laws and conventions without deterrence or accountability, it seems that it has become the example which Ethiopia emulates in its present violation of international law and infraction of agreements regulating Nile Basin countries’ rights.

As Israel relied on a series of fallacies to justify its violation of international laws and conventions, Ethiopia’s behaviour doesn’t differ regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Perhaps the biggest Ethiopian fallacy in this regard is its denial that the River Nile is an international waterway and considering the Nile a transboundary water source. There is a huge legal difference between an international waterway and a transboundary water source of an upstream country. 

The Nile, which passes through 11 countries, is an international river. The river basin is a hydrological unit that is indivisible, while the source basin or the transboundary river of a country is regarded as a lake belonging to the upstream country. The international river is subject to concluded agreements between its concerned states according to international laws and the acquired rights of each state.

The international law doesn’t allow the construction of dams except with the consent of downstream countries. The 1997 UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes stipulates that when an upstream state intends to construct a dam on an international river, it has to obtain the consent of the potentially affected states. If they refuse, the construction of the dam should be postponed until they reach consensus over mitigating its harmful effects. 

In addition, one of the international legal safeguards makes the funding of these dams conditional on not being harmful to other river basin countries. Towards these safeguards, Ethiopia resorts to a flimsy ploy, saying that when Egypt has signed the Declaration of Principles on GERD in 2015, it has changed the nature of the Nile from an international waterway into a transboundary water source. This contradicts the facts of geographical resources and terrains which were made by nature -- which can’t be changed by any agreement.

Like Israel, Ethiopia strives to portray its crisis with Egypt and Sudan as a confrontation with an Arab bloc and sometimes with an Islamic bloc. It wants to be viewed as a victim when in fact it is the aggressor on the downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.  

As Israel relies in usurping Palestine on a religious myth that has it that Palestine is a land promised to the Jews by God, Ethiopia has started to resort to fabricated religious myths saying that the Blue Nile originating from Lake Tana in Ethiopia is God’s gift and it has the right to do what it pleases with its water by selling it just like other countries sell their oil. In saying this, Ethiopia ignores the fact that the Blue Nile is an original tributary of the international Nile, just like the White Nile originating in Lake Victoria in Tanzania and Uganda, which is the river’s main course. 

In propagating its fabricated myth, Ethiopia has used some government-loyal Islamic imams headed by Sheikh Haji Omar Idris, the general mufti and president of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, who issued a religious edict that Ethiopia has been promised the Nile by God and that Egypt has no right to use water that doesn’t originate in its land. He also stated that the Islamic Sharia stipulates that the country in which water originates has the right to use it to meet its needs then it may give it to its neighbours if it so wishes.

This claim was refuted by Dar Al-Ifta of Al-Azhar based on the Prophet Mohammad’s saying that the flowing water isn’t subject to ownership and it is a right for all humans.  

If the voices of some Ethiopian Islamic leaders have begun to rise recently, this has taken place after several decades of persecution. Muslims in Ethiopiahave been the most vulnerable group throughout history in spite of the fact that they are the biggest single religious group constituting 35 percent of the population. 

The Ethiopian government started to exploit this group in an attempt to Islamise the GERD crisis after Muslims in Ethiopia remained deprived from declaring their religious identity or practising their religious rites in public. 

Even the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, which the Ethiopian government has acknowledged in January 2020, had been banned in the last six decades. 

All the fallacies propagated by Ethiopia are refuted by the five agreements it has signed since the end of the 19th century.

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