Amb Fitsum Arega Explains Why Ethiopian Dam is A Matter of Life and Death for Ethiopia

The Op Ed below by Ethiopia’s envoy to the United States, Ambassador Fitsum Arega, is an excellent presentation on the importance of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam-GERD, for the future of Ethiopia and Africa.

“Therefore, for Ethiopia, building the GERD is not a matter of choice, but an economic and developmental necessity and the way out of poverty for a nation of 112 million people.”

Reprinted from BlackPressUSA,, July 14, 2021

OP-ED: The Untold Story of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

NNPA NEWSWIRE — In 2011, Ethiopia announced to build a hydroelectric dam on its Abbay River, known to outsiders as the Blue Nile or Nile River. The dam was named the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) because it was designed to bring about the economic and renewal of Ethiopia, a nation mentioned in Genesis 2:13 as the Land in which the River Ghion (or Nile) flows. The GERD will be the largest hydropower dam in Africa and when completed it is expected to generate more than 5,000 MW installed power generation capacity and will have more than two times the capacity of Hoover Dam.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has now reached 81 percent completion that includes 98.5 percent of civil, 55 percent of electromechanical, and 55.3 percent of the hydroelectric structure works.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has now reached 81 percent completion that includes 98.5 percent of civil, 55 percent of electromechanical, and 55.3 percent of the hydroelectric structure works.

By Fitsum Arega, Ethiopian Ambassador to the U.S., Special to the NNPA NewswireFitsum Arega is the Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States.

Fitsum Arega is the Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States.

There is a great story unfolding in Africa. It is a story that literally throws light on what has been called, “The Dark Continent.”

In 2011, Ethiopia announced to build a hydroelectric dam on its Abbay River, known to outsiders as the Blue Nile or Nile River.

The dam was named the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) because it was designed to bring about the economic and renewal of Ethiopia, a nation mentioned in Genesis 2:13 as the Land in which the River Ghion (or Nile) flows.

The GERD will be the largest hydropower dam in Africa and when completed it is expected to generate more than 5,000 MW installed power generation capacity and will have more than two times the capacity of Hoover Dam.

The total capacity of the reservoir is 74 billion cubic meters to be filled over several years. It will cost nearly $5 billion to complete the dam.

The GERD has now reached 81 percent completion that includes 98.5 percent of civil, 55 percent of electromechanical, and 55.3 percent of the hydroelectric structure works.

As seen on the photo, the two water tunnels have been completed and started operating in April this year.

Out of the 13 turbines the first two will be completed and are expected to generate 750 MW in September 2021. The dam is expected to be completed within two years.

The GERD is completely financed by the contributions of the Ethiopian people without any foreign aid or loans. It is being built with the blood, sweat and tears of the Ethiopian people.

Ethiopia generates 85 percent of the Nile River flow, but colonial-era and postcolonial agreements on the Nile, to which Ethiopia was not a party, have given Egypt the disproportionate amount of water while giving Sudan a lesser amount. These agreements gave zero water allocation to Ethiopia. Egypt today wants to keep the old colonial arrangement in place in one form or another.

According to a 2018 World Bank report, “About 70 percent of the population in Ethiopia live without electricity.”

The purpose of the GERD is to provide access to electricity to more than 60 million Ethiopians and provide affordable electricity to the service, industrial and agricultural sectors.

It also aligns with Ethiopia’s green development ambitions as it represents a sustainable socio-economic project replacing fossil fuels reducing CO2 emissions.

Therefore, for Ethiopia, building the GERD is not a matter of choice, but an economic and developmental necessity and the way out of poverty for a nation of 112 million people.

The GERD will also provide many benefits to the entire Horn of Africa region and beyond. It will provide affordable and renewable energy to Sudan, Egypt and other countries in the region.

It will also significantly help in regulating the supply of water to Egypt and Sudan during dry and wet seasons and provide regional water storage capacity with less evaporation and prevent flooding to Sudan and Egypt, all these at no cost to both countries.

In 2015, the three countries signed the Declaration of Principles, per which the downstream countries [Egypt and Sudan] should not be negatively affected by the construction of the dam.

Hardly a day goes by without complaints from Egypt and Sudan about the harm that could result from construction of the GERD. They claim they will get less water because of the dam.

That is far from the truth because the GERD releases the water downstream once the water is used to spin the turbines that produce electricity. GERD is not an irrigation or water consuming project.

Ethiopia has been open and transparent in its construction of the GERD. Ethiopia has invited both Egypt and Sudan in good faith to participate in the International Panel of Experts (IPOE) to discuss the design, work together on technical issues and resolve any issues of concern in the spirit of African brotherhood.

Unfortunately, Egypt has tried to pressure Ethiopia by coordinating action with the Arab League, which has issued various statement of solidarity with Egypt and against Ethiopia.

Egypt has also tried to use the Trump administration to pressure Ethiopia. In September 2020, the Trump administration “paused” U.S. aid to Ethiopia because Ethiopia would not agree to a deal on the GERD drafted by Egypt and the U.S.

Egypt has also taken the issue before the U.N. Security Council to pressure Ethiopia. Just last week, the Security Council considered the matter and determined that the African Union is the best forum to deal with the issues.

Ethiopia’s position on GERD negotiations is guided by a simple principle. “African solutions to African problems.”

While the Arab League and the U.S. could play a role in encouraging the three countries to resolve their differences diplomatically, the fact remains that the three African countries must use their own resources at the African Union to deal with their problems.

Ethiopia’s principle of African solutions to African problems is based on the belief that Africans are fully capable of taking care of their own problems without interference. Indeed, after nearly seven decades of independence, Africa has the leadership and resources to deal with its own problems.

Ethiopia is acutely aware of the fact that Africa’s post-colonial experience and more recent trends in foreign interference in African affairs has not been positive.

Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan signed their joint Declaration of Principles (DOP) in 2015. The DOP is based on 10 basic principles which require the three countries to work cooperatively and in good faith to negotiate and resolve differences on the GERD.

They agreed to work cooperatively among themselves, without external interference, to ensure regional integration, prevent significant harm from construction of the dam, share data on the dam’s performance, increase dam safety and commit to peaceful resolution of disputes.

Egypt has given lip service to African Union involvement in resolution of GERD disputes.

Egypt’s reliance on the Arab League and efforts to use the U.S. to pressure Ethiopia, reflect either lack of confidence in the AU or a determination that external pressure can even override AU efforts and give Egypt greater negotiating advantage. This may account for Egypt’s lack of serious commitment and unwillingness to negotiate within the AU framework.

To date, no significant harm has been caused to Egypt or Sudan as a result of the ongoing construction of the GERD.

The first filling of the dam in July 2020 went uneventfully. The current filling which is ongoing since early July 2021 has presented no issues as well. Egypt has issued a public statement to that effect.

Ethiopia believes the GERD will bring many benefits to the Horn region and beyond. A comprehensive agreement on the GERD between the two countries is possible today if Egypt and Sudan genuinely commit to the AU-led negotiations. The negotiations could be expedited and bear fruit if Egypt and Sudan undertake the following:

  • Fully and wholeheartedly commit the negotiations taking place under the sponsorship of the African Union.
  • Apply the 2015 Declaration of Principles in guiding the negotiations.
  • Refrain from engaging in propaganda and disinformation wars during the AU-led negotiations.
  • Depoliticize the GERD, exert maximum political will and focus on resolving technical issues.

A negotiated, mutually beneficial and equitable solution is the only way to achieve long-term interests in the region.

Ethiopia is committed to continue to push for a constructive negotiation to reach a mutually beneficial agreement that ensures the legitimate interests of the three countries.

Ethiopia believes the only way to resolve the differences regarding the filling and operation of GERD is through dialogue and by resorting to technically informed consultations.

The Nile is bountiful for all countries to share and use wisely. We must all think in terms of regional and collective benefits.

Paraphrasing the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan are part of “an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” We must work together in good faith and good will for the betterment of our people.

Fitsum Arega is the Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton

Ethiopia Election: A Vote for Peace, Unity, and Prosperity

Lawrence Freeman speaking with Dr. Birhanu Lenjiso of Prime Media

Below is a 30 minute interview with on the Ethiopian national elections conducted on June 21, 2021. It was conducted in the studio of Prime Media on the June 23rd, in Addis Ababa.

The Ethiopian people proved all the critics, pundits, Western media, and Western governments, especially the United States and Great Britain wrong in their predictions of violence and chaos for Ethiopia’s national elections. The Ethiopian people surprised even some government supporters with their orderly, calm, and peaceful manner in electing Prime Minister Ably Ahmed and the Prosperity Party.

Hours after my interview, former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo, at a press conference in Addis Ababa, representing the African Union declared that the election was conducted in a “peaceful, orderly and credible manner.” Obasanjo echoed the observations made by the East African Standby Force in a press conference on Tuesday following the election. Both ESAF and AU has observers monitoring the election process.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton

Will The U.S. Support Egypt’s Violation Of Ethiopia’s Sovereign Right to Operate The GERD?

Countries of the Nile River Basin-World Bank (Courtesy of researchgate.net)

Will The U.S. Support Egypt’s Violation Of Ethiopia’s Sovereign Right to Operate The GERD?

Lawrence Freeman

June 5, 2021

Is the United States’ continued escalation of hostile policy towards Ethiopia preparing the groundwork to support Egypt’s “colonial rights” over the Nile River? As the White House and Congress threaten more sanctions against Ethiopia, their sovereign right to generate electricity for its people through the operation of the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) is being linked to the conflict in Tigray. Is the Biden administration and the Democrat controlled Congress ominously following in the footsteps of President Trump, who shockingly gave a “green light” for Egypt to bomb the GERD? This would be a grave mistake, with more disastrous consequences than the Obama’s administration’s bombing of Libya and overthrowing President Kaddafi. While U.S. foreign policy in the region is aligning itself more closely to Egypt, it continues to undermine Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s sovereign authority to prevent the Balkanization of his nation.

Sanctions Are Not For Allies

Secretary of State, Antony Blinken’s still unproven, but often repeated March 30th allegation of ethnic cleansing by the Ethiopia government in Tigray, has provided the impetus for the crescendo of group-think Congressional voices to attack Ethiopia, America’s foremost ally in the Horn of Africa. On May 23rd, Blinken intensified U.S. aggression towards Ethiopia by:

  • Issuing sanctions.
  • Cutting off funds for security and economic growth.
  • Pressuring multi-lateral institutions to cease funding programs in Ethiopia.
  • altering U.S.-Ethiopia defense accords, which have been essential in the war against terrorism and providing security for East Africa.

(Read: New U.S. Hostilities Against Ethiopia Threatens Horn of Africa)

Addis Ababa February 5/2021 (ENA) Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed held phone conversation with United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Thursday.

Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives support Secretary Blinken’s sanctions against Ethiopia. Sanctions are a very poor and crude tool for conducting foreign policy, and I have opposed their implementation except in the most unique cases. However, it is unheard of to apply sanctions against a long-standing ally, and it is utterly counterproductive. The government of Prime Minister Abiy should be supported in defeating the insurrectionists, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). This is contrary to calls from the U.S and United Kingdom for a cease fire and reconciliation between the Ethiopian National defense Forces (ENDF) and the TPLF.

TPLF, not the Tigrayan community, is intent on tearing apart Ethiopia, and weakening the government of Prime Minister Abiy.  Ethiopia’s future existence as a sovereign nation-state depends on quelling this insurrection.

Pause for a moment, think, then ask yourself; how did President Lincoln personally conduct the war against the southern rebels? He summarily shunned all calls for peace and reconciliation, until the anti-Union, insurrectionist movement was defeated.

The Biden administration and the U.S. Congress are contributing to the potential dismemberment of the most vital nation in East Africa by sanctioning, threatening, and punishing the government of Prime Minister Abiy.  If these officials, actually had any knowledge of the dynamic of ethno-nationalism in Ethiopia, they might come to realize that their actions could encourage more ethnic regions to attempt separation from the nation of Ethiopia.

Senate Recklessness Led by Bob Menendez

A new level of belligerence towards Ethiopia was on display at the May 26th,  Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the conflict in Tigray.  It is interesting to note that all but one of the speeches and accusations against Ethiopia were uttered by liberal Democrats. Ranking Member, Frank Risch, was the only Republican to join the anti-Ethiopian crusade.

Chairmen Bob Menendez referenced Secretary Blinken’s allegations of ethnic cleansing and other alleged crimes by the Ethiopian government. He demanded that Ambassador Godec, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, who was testifying, provide the proof that Ethiopia has “committed war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Tigray. Appallingly, the other Democrats on the committee followed Menendez in lock-step, demanding “action now” against Ethiopia.

Senator Bob Menendez (D. NJ) Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Courtesy foreign.senate.gov)

Sarah Charles, testifying from USAID Humanitarian Assistance, further inflamed the hearings by projecting that Ethiopia will experience another “man-made famine,” reminiscent of 1985, if actions are not taken immediately. The potential for a new famine became the mantra of the senators at the hearing.

Allegations of hunger, and atrocities committed during the conflict must be fully investigated.  However, to compare the current situation in Tigray to the famine of 1983-1985 that caused over one million deaths in Ethiopia, is contemptible. That famine was exacerbated by the destructive policies of Mengistu Halle Mariam, leader of the fascist-Marxist Derg. Likely unbeknownst to the uninformed senators, Mengistu, from 1976-1978  launched the “Red Terror,” murdering over half a million Ethiopians, in a genocide against his own people. To equate the famine of 1983-1985 and Mengistu’s policies to Ethiopia today and Prime Minister Abiy, is beyond reprehensible.

Senator Menendez opened the hearing by claiming that the conflict in Tigray echoes what happened in Darfur, Sudan. I travelled to Sudan many times from 1996 to 2012, including two tours of Darfur. Between that and my own extensive research, I am very familiar with Sudan and its history.  I can assert unequivocally that there is no resemblance between Darfur, Sudan, and Tigray, Ethiopia.

Tragically, the behavior by the U.S. Congress, is shameful and reflects an acute superficiality in understanding the complex history of Ethiopia.

Overturn Geo-Political Thinking

While the U.S., led by Secretary Blinken, is reversing decades of friendship between Ethiopia and America, and endangering the Horn of Africa, the Biden administration is enhancing its rapport with Egypt.

On May 26th, while the Senate was ratcheting up the pressure on Ethiopia, Secretary Blinken was in Cairo conveying:

“President Biden’s appreciation to President Sisi for Egypt’s critical mediation efforts in support of a cease fire between Israel and Hamas…”

“The Secretary affirmed the strong strategic partnership between the United States and Egypt, and President Biden’s commitment to this relationship.  He reiterated the United States’ commitment to Egypt’s water security and to the urgent resumption of substantive and results oriented negotiations under the leadership of the African Union to resolve the dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).”

The sovereign right of Ethiopia to fill and operate the GERD for the general welfare of its citizens has become linked to the conditions in Tigray.

Democrat Senator Mendez, at the hearing ostensibly on Tigray, made the same veiled threat on the GERD as President Trump, who infamously suggested that Egypt might try to blow-up the GERD. Mendez blurted out, that Egypt has told him more than once, “if the GERD issue is not dealt with in a way that assures their water needs…they will do what is necessary…They have red lines…”

Ethiopia and its seven neighboring countries

On May 27, Egyptian President Sisi, traveled to Djibouti, whose port provides access to the Gulf of Eden and Indian Ocean for its neighbor and major trading partner, Ethiopia. This was the first visit ever of an Egyptian head of state to Djibouti. According to African Intelligence, the two leaders discussed new security relations between their nations. African Intelligence further reports that Egypt’s defense minister and army chief of staff, who also visited Djibouti, “would like to see the creation of an Egyptian base in Djibouti not far from the Ethiopian border.”

At his news conference in Djibouti, President Sisi said:

“I stressed Egypt’s rejection of any attempt to impose a fait accompli through unilateral measures that disregard the interests and rights of the two downstream countries.”  

Egypt has made repeated military threats against Ethiopia, has formed a military alliance with Sudan, and last month, carried out joint military exercises with Sudan labeled “Guardians of the Nile”.

Since Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. aid next to Israel,  it would not be difficult for the U.S. to convince Egypt to stand down.

According to a knowledgeable expert on the region, the Biden administration is preparing to relocate the hub of its anti-terrorism  deployment in the Horn of Africa, from Ethiopia to Kenya.  The U.S. is trying to persuade Gulf nations, who support Ethiopia, to leverage their relationship in an effort to pressure Ethiopia to abandon its commitment to the GERD.

President Biden may or may not be aware of the implications of his decision to undermine Prime Minister Abiy’s government and support Egypt in their brinkmanship with Ethiopia regarding the GERD. His administration, filled with personnel from the Obama and Clinton presidencies, is following the same warped geo-political doctrine of his predecessors. Rather than responding to the fixed contours of the contentiousness surrounding the GERD, a true statesman would desire to shift the discussion to a higher level of potential resolution. Instead, the U.S., dominated by geo-politics, is fixated on seeking partners, who serve their narrow immediate interests, such as Egypt’s role in mitigating the Israel-Palestine crisis.

In fact, there is no danger of Ethiopia depriving downstream nations (Egypt and Sudan) of water for their people.  This was admitted by Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry himself: Egypt Foreign Minister Says Water Safe Despite Ethiopian Dam Threat.

The GERD will actually help both Egypt and Sudan by regulating the Nile, preventing deadly floods, reducing evaporation, and providing a water bank to draw on in emergencies. However, the GERD is not even the fundamental cause of Egypt’s water problem, as Yaniv Cohen explains: Egypt has a water problem and it’s not only the GERD

 

Eskom’s Koeberg nuclear power station today turned on its temporary mobile groundwater desalination plant, which will ease the pressure on the City of Cape Town’s water supply. Courtesy esi-africa.com)

The real issue concerning the Nile River is strategic; the Nile does not have enough water to provide for the hundreds of millions of Africans living in the nations of the Nile Basin.

For the economic growth and well being of the nations of the Nile Basin, more water is needed than the Nile can deliver. The equivalent of a second Nile has to be created by human beings. This is the discussion that should take place among the Nile Basin nations and the larger international communities. It requires creative and visionary  thinking, outside of the box, not confined to geo-politics. To alleviate nations from quarreling over a limited supply of Nile water, let us be bold in our imagination. Instead, conceive of the New Nile Project by constructing nuclear powered desalination plants along the Mediterranean and Red Sea to create large amounts of new potable water. These nuclear plants in additional to efficient desalination, and supplying abundant energy, would become nuplexes– manufacturing hubs for industrial and agricultural development.

Some addicted to the narrow thinking of geo-politics today, will object and say it cannot be done, it will take too long and cost too much. To those naysayers, I would respond by asking, is it better to have water wars among emerging nations that are struggling to feed their people laden by poverty? As populations expand, and economies grow, more water will be required. Why not use the urgency of resolving today’s combative dispute over the filling of the GERD, to prod our lazy minds to create a solution for the future of the Nile Basin?  Overcoming all the many engineering and scientific impediments to achieve our New Nile Project will be challenging, but this is the very reason we human beings were put here on earth.

President Lincoln delivering his Second Inaugural Address March 4, 1865. (courtesy hisotyplace.com)

A Just End To A New Beginning

The fighting in Tigray, the ancient birthplace of Ethiopia, must come to end as soon as possible to prevent the loss of more lives and further suffering. This laceration in the fabric of Ethiopian society should be healed, and not allowed  to propagate. Following the government’s safeguarding of the Tigray region, an all-out mobilization must be launched, with vigorous international support, to rebuild the province, upgrading economic conditions to guarantee that every person living in Tigray, a productive and dignified life.

When the conflict in Tigray is concluded, it would be appropriate for Prime Minister Abiy to emulate the spirit of President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. It was delivered  on March 4, 1865, almost four years after the war began, which killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, and six weeks before his enemies assassinated him. After President Lincoln affirms his commitment to defeat the southern rebels at all costs, he compassionately pleads for peace.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Let Prime Minister Abiy use this overture as a prelude to lead a healthy dialogue with the Ethiopian people; to unite the nation around the preeminence of an Ethiopian identity, one that supersedes ethnicity.  Reformulation of the Ethiopian Constitution of 1995 to emphasize Ethiopian citizenship, which transcends ethno-regionalism, should follow.

It is in the shared, common, and self-interest of all Ethiopians to participate in the development of their society and increase the wealth of their economy for the benefit of themselves and their posterity. With the near future generation of 6,200 megawatts of electricity from the GERD, Ethiopia will bring light and prosperity to all its citizens. This is cause for all Ethiopians to join together in joyous celebration.

Read my earlier posts:

New U.S. Hostilities Against Ethiopia Threatens Horn of Africa

Prime Logue/Media Interviews Lawrence Freeman in Addis Ababa: “Without the Elimination of Poverty, There Will Be No Democracy in Africa”

U.S. Senators’ Call for Postponing Ethiopian Election Is Foolish & Very Dangerous

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton

Prime Logue/Media Interviews Lawrence Freeman in Addis Ababa: “Without the Elimination of Poverty, There Will Be No Democracy in Africa”

May 10, 2021

On April 30th. I was interviewed in Addis Ababa by Prime Logue/Media for an hour. The interview is separated into four parts.

For those of you who do not have the time to view the entire interview, I would suggest you watch Part 4-16 minutes long. Here, I outline my development policy for Africa. In this, the 22nd century, the African continent will be the focus of strategic policy for the world. My policy starts from recognizing the uniquely human power of creative reason. The key question for policy makers should be how do we develop human beings. True democracy, cannot flourish unless and until poverty is eliminated. The nation state must be strengthened to provide for successive generations of its people. “The leadership of the U.S. does not understand, or want to understand, that the key to  supporting Africa is development.”   

Topics discussed in Part 1 include: Nigeria, refurbishing Lake Chad, Lalibela, Tigray, humanitarian assistance, Covid19 vaccinations in Africa.

Topics discussed in Part 2 include: poverty, developing Ethiopia, the nation-state, regime change in Libya, TPLF attack in Mekele, genocide, human rights.

Topics discussed in Part 3 include: US-Africa policy, flaws in Ethiopia Constitution, GERD, Egypt, Ethiopian identity, June 5 elections.

Topics discussed in Part 4 include. Slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism, reason, agape, food, electricity, desperation, jobs, ICC,

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton

Sovereignty Must be Respected: Ethiopia’s National Identity Transcends Ethno-Nationalism

March 13, 2021

Watch my interview, Part I above & Part II below, with Ladet  Muleta from PrimeLogue/Media. I discuss the challenges Ethiopia is facing and important strategic subjects relevant to all African nations today.

Topics discussed included: respecting the sovereignty of African nations, the importance of national identity, the deleterious effects of ethno-nationalism, the potential for regime change in Ethiopia, the wrongful division of Sudan, the importance of the Battle of Adwa, Ethiopia’s national mission, real genocide in Africa, the significance of the Prosperity Party for Ethiopia, Africa’s infrastructure deficit, and what is necessary to develop Tigray.

 

Read: Celebrate Ethiopia’s March 1, 1896 Victory at Adwa: Ethiopia is Fighting Another Battle Today to Protect its Sovereignty

Horn of Africa Endangered by Untrue Media Attacks on Ethiopia 

Ethiopia’s Prosperity Party: A Revolutionary Necessity

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Trump Administration Intervention Against Ethiopia Undermines Africa’s Progress

October9, 2020

While I have rarely, if ever agreed with any position of the {London School of Economics}, or for that matter, the {Washington Post}, and don’t’ support all the content that is contained in the article below, it is undeniably true; President Trump’s cutting aid to Ethiopia is harmful to the Africa continent. There is no justification for supporting a British colonial legacy that denies Ethiopia the right to develop its nation by harnessing the power of the Blue Nile. Ethiopia, with its large population, is aspiring to improve the conditions of life for its people, and eliminate poverty. It is attempting to become a leading manufacturing nation in Africa, which will not be possible without access to electrical power. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), with its capacity to generate, 6,200 megawatts, is potentially not only a “game changer” for Ethiopia, but also for its neighboring nations in the Horn of Africa. Sadly, the Trump administration continues to repeat unfounded allegations against China, which include claims that China has imperialist designs for Africa. And  without a shred of evidence, claiming that China is attempting to trap African nations into unpayable debt so they can seize their assets. Reality is, Africa needs massive investments in infrastructure to industrialize its economies. China is collaborating with African nations to build energy plants, railroads, airports, etc., and the US, under President Trump, has followed the same wrong headed policy of his predecessors, who foolishly repeat the mantra-“the US doesn’t build infrastructure.”

Far better than undermining the progress of Ethiopia, an emerging African nation, President Trump should reverse course and support the development of Africa. It is not too late. Read my earlier post: Trump’s Aid Cut Harmful to Ethiopia and All of Africa

A conflict is brewing on the Nile — and the Trump administration is making things worse-

Excerpts:

“This summer has seen significant escalation between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan over the filling of the new Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the latest front in a longstanding dispute between the countries over rights to the Nile’s water. The United States has tried to play the role of a mediator in such disputes. But in September, the Trump administration announced it would slash Ethiopia’s aid budget by $130 million, intervening in support of Egypt and exacerbating tensions.

“Ever since construction began on the dam in 2011 — and indeed for decades before that — it has been a flash point in the region. The problem is that all parties have a point. The GERD would provide Ethiopia with clean, cheap and abundant energy — a much-needed addition to a country in which 55 percent of people lack electricity and 27 percent live in poverty. Failing to move forward with the dam’s filling would deprive 65 million Ethiopians of substantial energy potential, condemning them to inadequate living standards and sluggish economic prospects.
“Yet to dam a river that provides 90 percent of Egypt’s freshwater will deepen that country’s perilous water crisis. In recent years, Egypt’s persistent water deficit has strained its agricultural industry and upended life in many parts of the country…
“The issue is complex and requires careful mediation, but the Trump administration has taken a different approach. By cutting aid to Ethiopia, Washington appears to be pressuring it to accept Egypt’s demands: to slow the dam’s filling and sign up for deferential water-sharing quotas. In practice, the abrupt move has worsened the dispute — hardening Ethiopia’s resolve, emboldening Egypt’s nationalism and undermining the United States’ own credibility as an international mediator.”

Read: Egypt-Ethiopia Standoff on Nile

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Trump’s Aid Cut Harmful to Ethiopia and All of Africa

Artist rendition of the completed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

August 6, 2020

Trump’s Aid Cut Harmful to Ethiopia and All of Africa

By Lawrence Freeman

President Donald Trump has instructed Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo to pull back from a commitment to provide $100 million in security related aid to Ethiopia, a leading developing nation on the African continent. According to the New York Times, the State Department indicated this would be a “temporary pause” on some aid in response to “Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to begin to fill [its] dam before an agreement was reached…” This action by the Trump administration is more than an outrageous encroachment of Ethiopia’s sovereignty. It is an assault on the right of emerging nations to take actions to improve the living conditions of their people.

In response to the decision by the State department, Eyob Tekalign, Ethiopia’s state  finance minister said correctly, “We don’t think that the U.S. has thought this through carefully…We are hopeful that they will reconsider because Ethiopia is doing what is absolutely right and in all senses of the word legally, morally as well.”

The Ethiopian people have funded the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) themselves. This fulfills a bold vision to develop their nation with the 6,200 megawatts (MW) of electricity that the dam will generate when completed. Ambassador Fitsum Arega aptly expressed the desire of the Ethiopian population, when he tweeted, “we will pull Ethiopia out of the darkness,” which is literally and metaphorically true.

Trump’s Bias

All indications are that President Trump acted on the insistence of Egyptian President el Sisi, who has claimed “historical rights” to the Nile River. In truth he is asserting “colonial rights” to the Nile bestowed on Egypt by the British Crown.

At the end of 2019, at the request of President el Sisi, President Trump instructed Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to act as an independent broker in discussions with Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia. Over four months, several meetings of the three Nile riparian nations were held in Washington DC discussing the “fill rate” of the GERD. There are legitimate concerns about how much water would be withdrawn annually in the next several years to fill the GERD’s reservoir of 74 billion cubic meters (bcm) of water. Technical issues like the rate of which water should be withdrawn from the Nile to fill the reservoir should be resolved by the three nations with the understanding that a functioning GERD will benefit all the people living in the Horn of Africa.

The heavy rains at the beginning of Ethiopia’s rainy season this summer have already filled the GERD with the required 4.5 bcm of water to test two turbines. This was accomplished without any reduction in the flow of the Nile.

As the tripartite discussions, with the US Treasury and World Bank in attendance continued into February 2020, it became clear that the US was “putting its thumb on the scale” for Egypt, in the words of retired US Ambassador David Shinn. By the end of February, Mnuchin secured an “agreement” regarding the Nile with Egypt, without the participation of Ethiopian representatives.  On February 28, 2020, an official statement from the US Treasury Department praised Egypt’s “readiness to sign the agreement,” and instructed Ethiopia that “final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement.” For more information read my earlier post: Africa Requires Ethiopia Fill Its Dam.

Eventually, the unresolved issue of the Nile shifted to the proper venue for African nations to settle disputes, the African Union. The dialogue has continued under the personal supervision of South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairperson of the African Union.

The GERD is built in Ethiopia on the Blue Nile River, which supplies 85% of the Nile when it joins the White Nile north of Khartoum, Sudan

Bringing Africa Out of Darkness

What President Trump does not understand; is that his “pause” in aid is not only harmful to Ethiopia, but it is detrimental to the entire African continent. Whether he is aware of it or not, is establishing a dangerous precedent in foreign policy, and not just for Africa.

Ethiopia, with a population approaching 110 million, has made a commitment to eradicate poverty. To that end, Ethiopia has embarked on erecting significant infrastructure projects in roads, railroads, and hydro-electric dams. The GERD has the potential to generate over 6,000 MW of power, doubling Ethiopia’s present capacity, and placing Ethiopia only second to South Africa in energy production in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Ethiopia would also become an energy exporting nation potentially providing electricity to neighboring South Sudan, Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania.

The root cause of virtually every crisis that African nations are facing today, including ethnic conflicts, can be traced to underdevelopment. This is especially true when one examines the dearth of hard infrastructure in SSA with a population nearing 1.5 billion that is projected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050. Electricity for SSA is estimated between 100,000-130,000 MW. This level of output is criminally deficient for a population over 1 billion, with 600 million Africans having no access to online electricity. The lack of electricity is literally a death sentence for millions of Africans.  Is this not a form of genocide?

Without abundant and accessible electricity Africa will not progress at the level necessary to provide for its present, much less its expanding population. Energy is the sine qua non for economic growth, and to eradicate poverty. It is required for; agriculture, producing fertilizer, pumping water, cleaning water, transportation, lighting hospitals, vaccine production and storage, shipping food in refrigerated cars, powering industry, constructing and lighting modern homes, schools and libraries. For Africans to enjoy the same access to electricity 24×7, as we experience in modern nations, Africa needs a minimum of 1,000 gigawatts or 1 million megawatts of electricity.

Does anyone in the Trump administration, or any individual in the leadership of the Democratic Party think on this level?

President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act-TVA on May 18, 1933. (courtesy inthesetimes.com)

What Roosevelt Would Do?

Rather than being threatened with cuts in aid, Ethiopia should be supported in its bold efforts to build and operate the GERD. A thoughtful US policy would be assisting all African nations in addressing the enormous multi-trillion dollar infrastructure deficit, with long term-low interest loans to finance massive investments in life saving infrastructure. Instead of President Trump and his foolish advisors hurling geo-political condemnations against China, it would be far better for the US to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is building vitally necessary infrastructure in Africa and around the world.

Both the Democratic and Republican Party, including President Trump himself, from time to time utter fond references of President Franklin Roosevelt. However, I have found that no leader in either party has any comprehension of the genius of President Roosevelt’s economic policies. FDR as he is known, understood the importance of infrastructure. This was abundantly evident in his New Deal, his creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and his Good Neighbor policy. During the war he sternly reprimanded Winston Churchill for his Imperial-Colonial policies in Africa. President Roosevelt intended to end the British Empire’s political and financial control in the world. He had a vision to develop Africa, including greening the desert, with the same methods he had successfully implemented in the US: great infrastructure projects. I can assure you, that President Roosevelt would have championed and aided any developing nation that embarked on energy production.

Sadly, in the seventy-five years following the death of President Roosevelt, the only President, who had shown enthusiasm for the economic development of Africa, was John F Kennedy.

Let the Trump administration pause to rethink this wrongheaded policy that not only violates Ethiopia’s sovereignty, but undermines a strong US ally in East Africa. Let us recognize Ethiopia’s endeavors to improve the living conditions of its citizens, and pause again to ask, how would President Franklin Roosevelt respond.  His TVA harnessed the power of the mighty Tennessee River generating electricity to transform the lives of millions of poverty stricken Americans living in seven undeveloped southern States.  Is it not in the strategic interest of the US to support nations working to eliminate poverty in Africa using Rooseveltian methods?

Read: Africa Requires Ethiopia Fill Its Dam

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Africa Requires Ethiopia Fill Its Dam

Artist drawing of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

 

Africa Requires Ethiopia Fill Its Dam

Lawrence Freeman

July 17, 2020

Ethiopia is entering a crucial period for the future of its nation, as we approach the second half of July. Ethiopia must use the forthcoming rainy season (July to September) to begin the partial filling of its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) being built on Ethiopia’s Blue Nile River. When fully completed, the GERD, Africa’s largest hydroelectric project is capable of producing over 6,000 megawatts (MW). This is not only a game changer for Ethiopia, but will contribute to transforming the Horn of Africa.

The Blue Nile, which joins the White Nile just north of Khartoum, Sudan, provides 86% of the water that becomes the Nile River. From there, the Nile flows north through the deserts of Sudan and Egypt before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.  Ethiopia has been involved in intense discussions with Sudan and Egypt, downstream from the dam, about the amount of water to be withdrawn from the Blue Nile to begin filling the GERD’s 76 billion cubic meter storage/reservoir. Egypt continuously attempts to forestall the filling of the dam, alleging that since it is dependent on the Nile, if the volume of the Nile is reduced, its citizens will suffer irreparable harm. For most of the last century Egypt has received the majority of the Nile River’s 84 billion cubic meters (bcm) of water.

Electricity for Development

The GERD, which is 75% finished was entirely funded by the Ethiopian people, is a $5 billion water infrastructure project initiated in 2011. Its purpose is to provide much needed electricity to power Ethiopia’s transition from an agrarian dominated economy to one that encompasses manufacturing and industry. In the years ahead, Ethiopia envisions become a light manufacturing hub for Africa, increasing manufacturing output, and manufacturing jobs by 440%.

The functioning of the GERD is not an option for this emerging nation of 110 million people, but a categorical necessity.

As a physical economist, who has studied Africa for decades, and knows the key drivers of economic growth, I can tell you that nothing is more vital for the survival of Africa, than the production of electricity.  Without abundant and accessible electricity, poverty and disease will not be eliminated. Poverty is the number one enemy of Africa and is the cause of immense suffering for hundreds of millions of Africans.

Approximately 600 million Africans, almost half of the continent’s population, are not connected to a central energy grid. The overwhelming majority of them reside in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). More than 65 million Ethiopians, 40-45% of the population, do not have access to electricity. While Ethiopia suffers from one of the lowest per capita levels of electrical energy consumption, Egypt’s population of 100 million has 100% access.

When completed, the GERD will increase Ethiopia’s power generation from its current level of 4,500 MW to close to 11,000 MW, which will make it the second largest energy producer in SAA, behind South Africa. Ethiopia has already entered into agreements to export its excess electricity to other nations in East Africa.

“The Ethiopians officials have announced an annual investment of one billion dollars over the next decade in the development of specialized industrial parks.” (Courtesy Medafricatimes.com)

Ethiopia’s commitment to construct the GERD resonates with the same vision that compelled the nation to build the Addis-Ababa to Djibouti rail line; to expand their economy, eliminate poverty, and provide a meaningful future for their expanding young population.

While Ethiopia is blessed with several water systems, the Blue Nile provides between 70% of its surface water. Ethiopia suffers from water shortages, droughts, and food insecurity due to inadequate infrastructure and under development.

It is true that Egypt has one of the lowest water per capita consumption rates in the world at 570 cubic meters per year, well below the global average of 1,000. Ethiopia’s amount is a mere 125 cubic meters per capita, barely more than 20% of Egypt’s level.

However, the Ethiopia government has plainly stated that the intention of the GERD is not to provide water for irrigation or consumption. The motivation and sacrifice of the Ethiopian people in undertaking this mega infrastructure project is to provide electrical power for the purpose of developing their nation. Ethiopia intends on becoming a low-middle income nation. It can no longer allow its people to be without electricity, relegated to burning wood. Improving the lives of their citizens today and future generations is the objective of an operational GERD.

Blue Nile joins White Nile in Khartoum, Sudan

 

Sovereignty Versus Colonialism  

The Blue Nile descends from Lake Tana, deep inside Ethiopia’s mountains, traveling through Ethiopia before entering Sudan. The GERD will capture Blue Nile waters about 40 meters before the Sudanese border. Ethiopia intends to fill the dam’s reservoir with 14.5 bcm of water over the first two years for testing. The withdrawing of this amount from the Blue Nile’s 49 bcm will not adversely affect downstream nations (Sudan, Egypt). In fact, the GERD will benefit these nations by regulating the flow of the Nile, preventing flooding, reducing silt, and decreasing evaporation.

Ethiopia has the wonderful distinction in Africa of having never been colonized. Unlike my beloved American July 4th, celebrating our independence from the British Empire, Ethiopia has no Independence Day. Instead, Ethiopia celebrates Adwa Day, March 1, 1896, when they defeated the Italian army on the battlefield in northern Ethiopia. Yet Ethiopia is fighting the remnants of British colonialism today in its determination to generate energy to free its people from the bondage of poverty.

Contrary to Egyptian claims, the negotiations between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan are not about water sharing or water allocation. There have been two water allocation agreements regarding the Nile waters, that involved only Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia was not a signatory nor participants to either accord, yet Egypt asserts historical rights over the Nile River, including Ethiopia’s Blue Nile. The most recent such agreement was in 1959, three years after Sudan’s independence from Britain, which recodified the 1929 British Imperialist agreement guaranteeing 55 bcm of Nile waters to Egypt and 18.5 bcm to Sudan. At the time of the 1929 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, both Egypt and Sudan were colonies of Great Britain as stipulated by the 1899 Anglo-Egyptian Condominium.  This treaty also “granted Egypt veto power over construction projects on the Nile or any of its tributaries in an effort to minimize any interference with the flow of water into the Nile.”

To maintain geo-political domination and control of trade along the eastern spine of Africa, Britain maintained authority over the Nile waters from Cairo down to Khartoum and beyond into southern Sudan.

Ethiopia, an independent nation was not subject to Britain’s edicts and retained sovereignty over the Blue Nile.

Thus, from whence does Egypt’s historical claim to dominance of the Nile originate.

In a statement signed by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, sent to the Honorable Congresswoman Karen Bass, Chair of the Black Caucus, dated May 19, 2020, Rev. Jackson reveals that Egypt’s “historical rights” over the Nile are derived from the British Queen.

He cites a letter dated May 7, 1929, from Mahmoud Pasha, Chairman of the Egyptian Council of Ministers, to the British requesting affirmation of Egypt’s “natural and historical” rights to the waters of the Nile. Lord Lloyd, Britain’s High Commissioner in Cairo, responded on behalf of the Queen:

“I would like to remind your Excellency [Mahmoud Pasha] that her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom has already recognized the natural and historical rights of Egypt to the waters of the Nile. I am entrusted with the responsibility of declaring that Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom considers the observance of these rights as a fundamental principle of the policy of Great Britain.” 

Rev. Jackson stresses in his letter, that Ethiopia should not be pressured “into signing a neo-colonial agreement will make Egypt a hegemon over the Nile River.”

U.S. Gets Involved

In September, Egyptian President Al-Sisi requested U.S. assistance in negotiating the operation of the GERD. President Trump asked Treasury Department to host a series of meetings in Washington DC, beginning in November 2019. Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt attended along with a representative of the World Bank, with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, to act as an impartial observer, not a mediator. Ethiopia compromised by indicating they would extend the filling beyond 3 years, to 5-7 years and increased the amount of water to be released from 35 bcm to 40 bcm in seasons of healthy rain. With the negotiations failing to lead to a resolution, Ethiopia requested to postpone the February 27-28 meeting. The meeting proceeded without Ethiopia. Sudan and Egypt attending, but Egypt alone initialed an agreement prepared without Ethiopia’s input, which the Ethiopia Foreign Ministry characterized as “unacceptable and highly partisan.”

On February 28, 2020, an official statement from the US Treasury Department praised Egypt’s “readiness to sign the agreement,” and instructed Ethiopia that “final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement.” The next day, Ambassador Shinn (ret), former ambassador to Ethiopia, whose has spent decades in the State Department, questioned whether the U.S. was “putting its thumb on the scale in favor of Egypt.”

In a June 22, 2020 bipartisan letter addressed to Ambassador David Hale, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, seven former Assistant Secretaries of State for African Affairs, asked the U.S. to embrace neutrality regarding the GERD talks. They wrote:

“The U.S. position at this sensitive juncture will also have long term implications. It will either strengthen or seriously weaken our future relations with Ethiopia. While there is no question that resolution of the Nile issue will require flexibility and compromise on all sides, it is not politically viable for Prime Minister Abiy (or any Ethiopian politician) to indefinitely delay filling the GERD. However, the perception—rightly or wrongly—that the United States has sided with Egypt in the negotiations will limit our ability to support efforts aimed at reaching a settlement.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chair of the African Union convening the teleconference on the GERD

 Discussions Move to Africa

Egypt, not satisfied with the negotiating process, attempted to involve the United Nations in forcing an agreement on Ethiopia that violated its sovereignty over the GERD. On June 29, 2020, Egypt with the support of the U.S. brought the matter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The UNSC is not the normal forum to settle such matters, but Egyptians were hoping to mobilize international pressure against Ethiopia. The UNSC has instead preferred to have the African Union (AU) resolve the issue of Ethiopia’s right to operate the GERD. On the previous Friday, June 26, the Extraordinary African Union Bureau of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government conducted a video-teleconference meeting on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat noted that more than 90% of the issues between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan had been resolved.

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the AU is committed to have “an African led process in the spirit of African solutions to African problems.”

In a June 23rd statement, the U.S. Congressional Caucus emphasized the pivotal role of the AU in these tripartite negotiations. They went on to discuss the importance of the GERD for Africa.

The GERD project will have a positive impact on all countries involved and help combat food security and lack of electricity and power, supply more fresh water to more people, and stabilize and grow the economies of the region.”

The Conference of Black Mayors, in a June 29th statement, expressed their support for the filling of the GERD

“Today, on behalf of global leaders throughout the African diaspora that hold the office of mayor, the Conference of Black Mayors released the following statement in support of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the impact GERD would have on Conference of Black Mayors member cities…

“It is known that Ethiopia generates 86% of the Nile waters but has been unable to use this considerable natural resource effectively in the past. Now, following more than a decade of impressive economic growth, Ethiopia desires to utilize its naturally endowed resource for its nation’s critical growth and development. Countries throughout Africa are in dire need of electric power to enable and sustain their respective nations rise out of poverty. The creation of a sustainable energy source will create a national infrastructure that directly contributes to the wellbeing of citizens our mayors represents through our global mayors’ association…

“We strongly support a timely fill of the dam without further delays to avoid the economic impact on Ethiopia and neighboring countries.”

 Ethiopia is desirous to cooperate with downstream nations, but it will not have its sovereignty violated by having the operation of the GERD jointly managed or contingent on the requirements of water for Egypt’s downstream High Aswan Dam.

Ethiopia should and will begin filling the GERD. It would be irresponsible not to use this year’s rainy season to begin filling the reservoir, with the dam already 75% constructed. Ethiopia’s leadership will not disappoint the aspirations of the Ethiopian people, who view the GERD as emblematic of their national identity, and a critical vehicle to raise their standard of living and secure a more prosperous future for their posterity.

Ethiopia’s use of the word Renaissance in describing its new dam is not metaphorical. When fully functional, the GERD will lead to a rejuvenation of Ethiopia’s economy and that of its neighboring nations.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

Is the Trump Administration Violating Ethiopia’s Sovereignty?

(Courtesy Ethiopian Foreign Ministry FACEBOOK)

Is the Trump Administration Violating Ethiopia’s Sovereignty?

Lawrence Freeman

March 10, 2020

In the first week of March, representatives of President Trump’s administration presented conflicting responses on Ethiopia’s right to operate the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) for the production of electrical power for the nations of East Africa. The construction of the GERD is over 70% complete and is expected to commence operation in 2021, with a capacity to generate 6,200 megawatts of electricity.  The GERD built near the border of Sudan, will be filled by water from the Blue Nile, that flows from Lake Tana, located in the mountainous region of Ethiopia. Ethiopia cannot be deprecated for exercising its sovereign right to exploit its most important resource, water, for the benefit of its people, and neighboring African nations.

Ethiopia and the two downstream nations, Sudan and Egypt, have been involved in discussions that now primarily focus on the “fill rate”-how much water is withdrawn each year from the Blue Nile to fill the GERD’s 79 billion cubic meter reservoir. Egypt is justifiably concerned about how the reduced flow of the Blue Nile resulting from filling the reservoir will affect the level of water reaching Egypt’s High Aswan Dam.  The Blue Nile contributes 85% of the Nile’s volume of water when it joins the White Nile just north of Khartoum.

Without harming downstream nations, the GERD requires a minimal fill rate to permit the generation of electricity. Egypt, claiming that filling the GERD reservoir with water from the Blue Nile will cause hardship for its people, has made excessive demands on Ethiopia to guarantee an unreasonable allocation of the Nile’s water. This is principally an issue to be resolved by the engineers in the technical committees of the three nations.

Since December, the Trump administration has hosted, several meetings of the three nations in Washington, under the auspices of the US Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin. Secretary Mnuchin’s involvement was to be as a neutral observer, not a mediator. However, recent written and oral statements from Mnuchin, and the Treasury Department, has called into question the impartiality of the US. Retired Ambassador David Shinn’s blog of February 29, he questioned whether, the United States seems to be “putting its thumb on the scale in favor of Egypt.”

Mnuchin Not Impartial

Following the decision by the Ethiopian delegation not to participate in the February 27-28 meeting with Sudan and Egypt, Mnuchin publicly tipped his hand in favor of Egypt. In a February 28th letter, the U.S. Department of the Treasury wrote that Egypt initialed an agreement on the GERD, and instructed Ethiopia that “final testing and filling should not take place without any agreement.”  Feb 28 letter by Secretary of the Treasury on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.  The truth is, there is no existing document to be initialed or signed, because such an agreement can only come about as the fruitful result of the participation by the representatives of all three nations.  Mnuchin, has no legal or political authority to instruct Ethiopia about the functioning of the GERD.

The next day, on February 29, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rebuffed Mnuchin’s letter: “The ‘text’ reportedly initialed by the Arab Republic of Egypt in Washington D.C. is not the outcome of the negotiation or the technical and legal discussion of the three countries.” The Foreign Ministry wrote: Ethiopia as the owner of the GERD will commence first filling of the GERD in parallel with the construction of the Dam in accordance with the principles of equitable and reasonable utilization and the causing of no significant harm as provided for under the Agreement on the Declaration of Principles (DoP).”

On March 3, testifying before the House Ways and Means committee, Mnuchin was even more blatant in his disregard for Ethiopia’s sovereignty over the GERD. Congressman Steven Horsford (D-Nev) asked Mnuchin to correct the narrative that the US is not trying to impose its will on Ethiopia and requested a balanced approach towards all the core nations involved. Mnuchin brazenly responded, “Ethiopia should not fill the dam until there is an agreement signed.” Presently, Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia have not formulated any agreement to be signed. Clearly, Mnuchin has without any mandate, expanded his role as a neutral moderator to an advocate for Egypt’s position.

(Courtesy of Yale Environment 360)

State Department Doesn’t Agree

On the very same day that Mnuchin was infringing on Ethiopia’s sovereignty, another branch of the Trump administration, the U.S. State Department, had a different response to the GERD negotiations. On March 3, the Woodrow Wilson Africa Program sponsored a forum, The Trump Administration and U.S. Africa Policy: What has been accomplished and what lies ahead? The speaker was Tibor P. Nagy, Jr., Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African affairs, an experienced ambassador to Africa. I was able to question him about the US position towards Ethiopia. Specifically, I asked, since President extols national sovereignty for the U.S. and repeatedly exalts “America First,” wasn’t it a double standard to deny Ethiopia the same sovereign rights regarding the GERD? Nagy then flatly contradicted Mnuchin, when he answered, “What I can say is that the U.S. has consistently said we are neutral in that whole business.” Nagy’s boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in Addis Ababa on February 18, said “A great deal of work remains, but I’m optimistic that over the coming months we can resolve this.” Clearly Nagy and Pompeo are not operating on the timetable of President Trump and Mnuchin who wanted the deal resolved by the end of February.

Sudan Differs With Egypt and Arab League

Mnuchin’s letter of February 28, implies that Sudan supported the so called agreement written without Ethiopia’s participation. Sudan in fact refused to add its initials to those of Egypt on the agreement. This indicates that it was only Egypt, just one of the three nations involved, who with Mnuchin, took this stance.

According to an article from Middle East News Agency (MENA), Sudan rejected a resolution from the Arab League supporting Egypt’s position regarding the GERD on March 5. MENA reports that Sudan, “asked not to include their name in the decision [resolution], and added that decision is not in Sudan’s interest…”   (emphasis added.) At the Arab League Summit, Sudan formally withdrew its name from the resolution criticizing Ethiopia.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to the Arab League resolution in a strongly worded statement on March 6. They wrote, “Ethiopia expresses its profound appreciation to Sudan’s principled position that helps advance win-win solutions for all parties involved through a commitment to open dialogue. Ethiopia reiterated that it “has the right to use its Nile water resource to meet the needs of the present and future generations.” March 6 Statement on Arab League

Africa Needs Energy

Once the GERD is completed, it will have the capacity to produce 6,200 megawatts of electrical power. This will benefit not only the people of Ethiopia, but also those nations of the Horn of Africa and beyond. Sub-Saharan Africa needs energy, and lots of it-minimally 1 million additional megawatts. It is a matter of survival. Without abundant and accessible electricity, African nations will not develop, and thus be subjected to various forms of destabilization due to rising unemployment of its youth and persisting poverty. Ethiopia has taken a bold step in constructing the largest hydro-electric dam in Africa intended to develop the Nile River Basin. All existing difficulties can and must be resolved in a dialogue among the three principal nations, who share this majestic historic waterway, the birthplace of ancient civilizations.

There is no intrinsic conflict between Ethiopia and the down stream nations of Egypt and Sudan, as Sudan has already implicitly recognized.

It is appropriate here to repeat what I wrote last October: “How many years will it take to fill the GERD’s reservoir, and what will be the flow rate of the Nile at the Aswan Dam, are yet to be resolved. These are technical matters that scientists and engineers must continue to examine in an atmosphere of good will and good faith. Such cooperation is essential to promote the common interests of all nations for a prosperous Nile Basin.” Grand Renaissance Dam Essential for Africa’s Economic Growth

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

Are the US and Egypt Violating Ethiopia’s Sovereignty Over The Blue Nile?

March 2, 2020

Below Ambassador David Shinn raises the concern that the US is supporting Egypt in limiting Ethiopia’s sovereign right to to use the Grand Renaissance Dam to provide desperately needed hydro-electric power for the Horn of Africa.

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: What Role is the U.S. Playing?

Posted: 29 Feb 2020 The U.S. Department of the Treasury posted on 28 February 2020 a “Statement by the Secretary of the Treasury on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.”

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at the request of President Trump has been meeting since early this year with representatives of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia in an effort to reach an agreement on the fill rate of the reservoir behind Ethiopia’s large hydropower dam on the Blue Nile River known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The dam is about 70 percent complete. The Blue Nile provides more than 50 percent of the water that eventually reaches Egypt via the Nile River. While the reservoir behind the dam is being filled, it will hold back water that would normally flow to Sudan and then Egypt. It is essential that the fill rate not harm Sudan and Egypt. But it is also essential to fill the reservoir in a manner that will allow Ethiopia to produce hydropower without unreasonable delays.

The statement by the Treasury secretary is strange in that it appreciates the readiness of Egypt to sign the U.S.-brokered agreement, which is not part of the public record, but warns Ethiopia that “final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement.” Ethiopia has not yet signaled that it is prepared to accept the agreement and, apparently, neither has Sudan. The United States seems to be putting its thumb on the scale in favor of Egypt. Perhaps it is time to make the agreement public so that everyone can see what the United States is proposing.

The fact that the U.S. Treasury Department is in charge of this effort is surprising. In any other administration, the State Department, which actually has expertise on this issue, would broker the agreement. So I wonder. What is the United States up to?