GERD Talks Must Shift To Higher Level: Developing the Nile Basin

Lawrence Freeman being interviewed by the Ethiopian Herald on Dec 23, 2023 about the 4th round of talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

December 27, 2023

The colonial mentality has to give way to the mandate for development –

BY ZEKARIAS WOLDEMARIAM, THE ETHIOPIAN HERALD

“I didn’t expect that these discussions would lead to anything because you have to change the topic of the discussion” says Laurence Freeman, American Political Economic Analyst for Africa (www.lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com), asked about the outcome of the 4th round of the latest series of tripartite talks on the first filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

The negotiation which took place from 17-19 December 2023 in Cairo, Egypt was held to deal on the final rules and regulations for the filling and operation of the dam. Unfortunately, the talks ended up with no deal concluded following which Ethiopia and Egypt issued statements expressing their stance during the negotiations and why they blame the other side for the failure to reach agreement.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia says that Egypt’s efforts to maintain it historical rights based on the colonial period agreements were the impediments to reach agreement. “During these four rounds, Ethiopia endeavored and keenly engaged with the two lower riparian countries to address the major issues of difference and reach an amicable agreement. Egypt, in contrast, maintained colonial era mentality and erected roadblocks against efforts toward convergence.” The statement read.

Freeman on his part argues that the topic of dialogue among the riparian countries, i.e. Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt should not be to maintain historical rights, but to plan future cooperation on how to use the water together. “It should not be how do we guarantee so much water which the Ethiopians can’t do. But how do we proceed on a development program that would advance the standard of living of all the people living in and now basic. If there’s going to be another round of discussion that should be the main topic.”

Here is the detail of the brief interview with Lawrence Freeman on the latest development around the GERD talks. Enjoy reading!

Could you tell me your reflection on the 4th round of GERD dam talks which took place recently in Cairo?

When Prime Minister Abiy was in Egypt in July, he suggested to President El Sisi, that they continue the discussion was another round of talks on the implications of the GERD, which just occurred last week was the fourth round of these talks, which, from what I read in the media, nothing really happened that changed the position of either country. And I didn’t really expect that it would. I think that both countries now have made very clear what their positions are. Ethiopia claiming the right of sovereignty over its river systems and energy production. And I don’t think much is going to change from that. 

And I don’t think there’s anything Egypt is going to do that’s going to change it. And the Egyptians have maintained that they must have so much water guaranteed for them every year, which is impossible for Ethiopia to do. I don’t think anything more is going to happen. Hopefully, there is no political or other escalation in this disagreement.

(Curtesy of researcgate.net)

After the conclusion of the talks with no deal Ethiopia and Egypt are trading blames for failing to reach agreement. How do you see the stance of the two sides in this regard?

I think the Egyptians are motivated by a type of ideology, rather than an understanding of the implications of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the GERD is a dam for producing hydropower for development. I mean, electricity is ready to be exported to Djibouti, Kenya and Sudan. And we should look at the potential of this increase injection of 5150 megawatts as a potential to develop nations in the Blue Nile and the White Nile. Well, now basically, the Egyptians do not want to have I believe in Ethiopia as a major economic competitor or see Ethiopia as a major economic competitor, which is a false way of looking at the potential rather than countries uniting together for economic development. I think Egypt was caught up in trying to suppress economic progress in Ethiopia.

And of course, the Egyptians claim that the historical rights now and they don’t have historical rights, nobody has historical rights. Plus the fact that the dam is on the Blue Nile, not on the White Nile, so there’s no real argument there. I think the Egyptians want a guaranteed amount of water that will flow to the Aswan dam and that cannot be delivered and the Ethiopians would be remiss and wrong in my view if they guaranteed it, because they can’t. But there can be joint collaboration and Egyptians for the moment are rejecting it.

This tripartite talk on GERD has failed after progressing for four rounds starting from August 2023. Do you think it is being influenced by internal and external factors, or Egypt is intentionally changing its stance every time?

I don’t think the Egyptians have changed their stance at all; this has been their policy going back to 2015. I think the Egyptians have to accept the fact that this, as we say, is a fait accompli. This has occurred, the dam is at proximately 41 billion cubic meters of water filled. I think it’ll go up to 47 or so around there. 

And then that’s the level of which we’ll be operating on. Each year, it will go down to that level as it’s filled up to 74 billion cubic meters from the rain. And this will produce electricity, which can be used for the development of the nations of the Nile Basin; the Egyptians have a different view. But it’s not going to happen; it is not going to work. There’s no way of Egypt, challenging a dam for energy development. And it’s already been built. So it can’t be unbuilt. So I don’t really understand all the political motivations for Egypt. 

Except what I said earlier, I think they want to maintain the dominant position and retard Ethiopia’s economic development  potential. I didn’t expect that these discussions would lead to anything because you have to change the topic of the discussion. It should not be how do we guarantee so much water which the Ethiopians can do? But how do we proceed on a development programme that would advance the standard of living of all the people living in and now basic, if there’s going to be another round of discussion that should be the main topic.

Egypt has insisted on safeguarding its interest which is a vestige of colonial period agreements. Do you see any possibility of coming to terms with a negotiated deal where one of the sides is insisting on colonial era agreement?1

Well, if you look at the reality of this of the situation, one is Sudan, only gains from the GERD and I think the Sudanese before the crisis that began several years ago, and I believe even now, they’ve made statements to the effect that they’re not suffering at all from reduction of the flow of the Nile through the country in Khartoum. I don’t think Sudan is part of this at all at this point. I think that they were early on, I think they were pressured by the Egyptians. 

The problem that the Egyptians have and people who support their position is that the water that flows into the White Nile, I mean, 80% of it comes from three rivers in Ethiopia, the largest Blue Nile but then you also have two other rivers that contribute to the White Nile. And the power plant; The hydroelectric power plant is on an Ethiopian soil and Ethiopian rivers I visited myself I also visited Blue Nile falls, I’m very familiar with it. And fact of the matter is there is more potential. A designated site is three mores sites for dams that have been revealed in a survey done many years ago, that could be also hydroelectric dam.

So there’s a potential in the Blue Nile Basin for more power beyond the 5150 megawatts that the GERD is producing. It would be in Egypt interest to let’s discuss this type of potential for the future. The problem is colonial rights. The Egyptians believe that the British gave them control of the Nile. Because in the history, the British controlled Egypt and Sudan under the 1899 agreement, the Anglo Egyptian condominium, and they think that they have this right. No, they don’t have a right to other people’s waters, especially since the headwaters for both the White Nile and the Blue Nile do not originate in Egypt. 

Now, Egypt built the Aswan Dam, which was their right to provide electricity for their population. But they can’t demand that other countries cannot build on the Blue Nile, what is that lead into the white Nile and that’s the problem is you had a colonial agreement in 19, it was 1929 with British and the Egyptians and the Sudanese that’s, that stipulated no blockage of the water could be no blockage of the water was permitted to the white nile. 

Now, Ethiopia wasn’t at that discussion, even though it was an independent country in 1959. If the Sudan and Egypt became independent, they had another water agreement. And this water agreement, we affirmed the 1929 agreement. And again, Ethiopia was not at that discussion. So the Egyptians really don’t have any legitimate basis, despite claiming colonial rights that have given to them by the British Queen. 

They don’t really have any historical basis for telling Ethiopia what to do. And in fact, the British and other Neo colonial powers never wanted Ethiopia to develop this dam. They wanted to use Lake Tana as a giant water tank to feed their agriculture in Sudan and Egypt. So they’ve always been opposed to this. I mean, this goes back 300 years to the present. 

They’ve been opposed to the development of the Blue Nile Basin, they’ve been opposed to electricity and that position cannot stand up to the needs of providing electricity, employment, agricultural development, for not only Ethiopian people, but from the neighboring nations, which the good will provide. So the colonial mentality has to give way to the mandate for development.

Blue Nile Basin has potential for more hydro-electric dams for development of the Nile Basin (Courtesy sierrarios.org)

How do you think could the two sides break the stalemate and strike a deal in the future?

As I said earlier, we have to change the subject. The topic of providing a guaranteed amount of water to the Aswan Dam each year is a dead issue. That cannot happen. It’s over. The dam has been built as only a small amount. More has to be collected in the first phase up to I think 49 billion cubic metres. 

We have to leave that subject and we have to go to a higher plan; we have to go to a different thinking; a different manifold no longer discussing water guarantee to the Aswan Dam, but discussing how do we use the GERD and potentially other developments of more dams in the Blue Nile Basin for the benefit of all of the downstream nations in the Nile basin. This requires a higher level of thinking. It requires a level of thinking where your concern is the future development of all the people. 

Those who are living in the Blue Nile, basically, that’s several 100 million people over I think, 10 countries? How do we get together and improve the standard of living of our people? How do we end poverty? How do we use this energy, which is a potential 5150 megawatts, and more energy potential. 

So we have to stop thinking about my country’s historical right. And the same thing comes up in discussions in the Horn of Africa. We have to get beyond that. And think about what is the benefit for the futures of our people in the next one to two generations, like we have to expand our thinking, improve our thinking, to this level, and get away from this is mine. This is yours. You can’t take mine. This petty, geopolitical mentality is really stupidity. And I and the leaders of African nations on many different fronts have to learn to rise above this and think about the future. What is going to help their people in the future? And how do we work with other nations? Not how do we demonize other nations. That’s what’s discussion has got to be. 

The Ethiopian should be actually promoting this discussion. Go beyond where they’ve been at this point, and actually promote a conference have let’s have a conference in Addis Ababa, on the future development of the Nile basin, and which then we can discuss how to cooperate with each other for the benefit of our people.

Thank you very much for your collaboration!

Read my earlier posts:

GERD: Utilizing the Blue Nile to Create Energy for Development in Ethiopia & The Horn of Africa

Freeman Speaks On The GERD: An Engineering Marvel-A Necessity For The Nile River

New Book on Ethiopia’s GERD: Historical Battle of the Nile-Colonialism vs Development

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 a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. Mr. Freeman strongly believes that economic development is an essential human right. He is also the creator of the blog:  lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

“Pan African Visions” Freeman Interview: The Newly Expanded BRICS Has Indelibly Changed The Universe-Ethiopia and Africa

Pan African Visions

The addition of Ethiopia with over 115 million people, and Egypt with over 105 million people strengthens Africa’s hand in BRICS , says Lawrence Freeman.

For almost three decades, Lawrence Freeman, an American Political Economic analyst for Africa has been voicing critically against the west’s approach towards its economic relation with the developing world especially Africa. After creating his website entitled, www.lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com he has been lobbying for economic interventions that liberate Africa from poverty and has been suggesting ways that African policy makers should adopt in order to sustainably address the economic problems of Africa. During his latest interview with The Ethiopian Herald in connection with the BRICS summit in South Africa, he said that he is happy to see one of his dreams, for which he fought for about a generation, has come true. Enjoy reading the detail!

September 26, 2023

The interview below is reprinted from Pan African Visions

Read: BRICS-alliance-challenges-the-old-order

Question: How The BRICS Alliance Challenges The Old Order

Lawrence Freeman: The addition of Ethiopia with over 115 million people, and Egypt with over 105 million people strengthens Africa’s hand in BRICS , says Lawrence Freeman.
For almost three decades, Laurence Freeman, an American Political Economic analyst for Africa has been voicing critically against the west’s approach towards its economic relation with the developing world especially Africa. After creating his website entitled www.laurencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com, he has been lobbying for economic interventions that liberate Africa from poverty and has been suggesting ways that African policy makers should adopt in order to sustainably address the economic problems of Africa. During his latest interview with The Ethiopian Herald in connection with the BRICS summit in South Africa, he said that he is happy to see one of his dreams, for which he fought for about a generation, has come true. Enjoy reading the detail!

Question: How do you see the course that BRICS has passed through so far?

Freeman: The BRICS now has already emerged and is now accelerating its institution as an alternative to the western view of the world, and the Western political economic system that gives now called a new rules based international order. And that unipolar Western domination is now ending. And the BRICS is a very strong, emerging alternative. And as you know, an additional six countries have been invited to join the BRICS beginning 1st of January 2024. And of those six countries, Ethiopia is one of those countries, and Egypt is another. And therefore, out of the 11 nations, that will be BRICS members three of them will now be from Africa. So, this is very good news for Ethiopia, for Africa, and for the World Development.

Question: Two more African countries are now invited to join BRICS. How do you see the representation of Africa in the bloc?

Freeman: What is clear now is the addition of Ethiopia, which is over 115 million people, and Egypt, which is over 105 million people. You’ve now two very important countries added to the bloc, the second and third most populous countries of the African nations, and together with the existing member of South Africa.

So this is a very powerful representation, because these countries represent very significant pillars of the African continent.

Now, Ethiopia has been a leading nation in terms of driving economic development, not only in the country of Ethiopia, but really implicitly for the whole continent. Because of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is going to produce 5,150 megawatts within two years. This dam will also lead to a great development in the Horn of Africa, East Africa, and Nile Basin nations.

Egypt has also been expanding its economy. It’s building nuclear power plants. It has built industrial complexes along the Nile River. And so these two additions, plus South Africa, which is the most industrialized nation on the continent, these three represent a very significant force for change and economic development in Africa. And the BRICS now has made it clear that they’re going to build the New Development Bank (NDB), which was set up after the BRICS; the NDB is going to be increasing its lending and 30% of its new lending will be in local currencies. So what we’re seeing is the domination of the dollar and the domination of the rules based order are now being said really weakened.

And we’re already in or approaching to the post unipolar Western dominated world. And BRICS is going to be one of the most central institutions in making those kinds of dynamic changes for world economic development. And of course, for Africa, with the level of poverty that exists on the continent, this could be a game changer.

Question: Do you think there will be a confrontation with other contending blocs now that BRICS is expanding by more than double?

Freeman: There is the danger of the West, taking measures against the BRICS, they have been organizing against the BRICS consistently. In fact, I found it very revealing that even days before the BRICS summit, which was the 22nd 23rd, and today to 24th, the whole western establishment in Western media was talking about how unimportant the BRICS summit was, and how it was much to do about nothing. And of course, they were just expressing their fear. Because if you ask China and other countries, they will tell you that they need oil. But they’re not just taking oil, they are building infrastructure and expanding the markets.

And the West has basically lost a level of its thinking capability, because rather than adjusting itself to these new developments; they’re trying to maintain the old developments. If, these BRICS countries, that are now growing to 11 increase the trade among themselves, if they’re increasing the investment among themselves, if they are building important infrastructure, manufacturing capabilities, and expand their markets, that each one of them can be selling to the other then it is given that the thing is going to be more and more dominated outside of the dollar, it’s going to be conducted in local currencies. So, if the West, my United States, was more intelligent, we would be oriented toward also being part of the changes but the geopolitical mindset have always been on top and is in control, and the hegemony is preventing the west from thinking clearly.

The BRICS is a reality; just like the Belt and Road Initiative is a reality. It’s not going to be put back in the bottle, as we say. And it’s a potential for real growth, and energy for infrastructure and energy for manufacturing development projects.

Development is the most important aspect of Africa’s relationships with the BRICS, says Lawrence Freeman.

It would be beneficial to all the countries involved, and the sooner the West, and the Secretary of State Blinken and President Biden and others wake up to this new reality, the better the world would be. We are facing a dangerous situation in Niger, West Africa, which I know well, is a sign of the same dynamic that you’re having. West African countries are rejecting colonialism; the French control over their economy, and are also rejecting military intervention. The coups are driven by the fact that the country is poor. One has to know the fact that there is only 3% of the Niger population accessing electricity. Less than 50% of the African continent has electricity access. Development is the most important aspect of the relationships with the BRICS. And the West does not or refuses to understand this vivid fact.

Question: How should African countries work in collaboration with BRICS as an alternative source of finance, market?

Freeman: One good thing is, they’re now going to be capable of having access to loans from the BRICS New Development Bank, and the NDB set up in 2015. So now this NDB is going to increase its loan portfolio. And it means that these countries may have an opportunity to get these loans. Now, these loans do not contain the conditionality that the IMF and World Bank attaches with. And the mindset of the BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, is the global south has to be developed.

The BRICS has already represented about a third of the GDP worldwide, about 40% of the global population. So, both those figures are going to increase. So, the reality is that the African nations are joining a new dynamic in a world that is going to offer them with the new opportunities. Don’t forget, Africa is suffering; people are dying every day, because of a lack of electricity, and a lack of manufacturing capability. Those two things had been denied to the nation’s economies of Africa, this now gives an opportunity to change. But the West has never wanted to see this kind of economic development, in manufacturing, in particular, and electricity. Those two things are addressed along with a plan for high speed integrated rail, which I’ve also written about it on my website, those things will change or transform the African continent, and this is the way to eliminate poverty.

And if you eliminate poverty, you can eliminate instability. The reason is a lack of security in many countries, especially on the Sahel is because there’s no development, because people live like beasts, forced to live that way without the basic qualities of life. And so if you transform that, you can transform the entire political economic security situation. So, Egypt is all the way up in the north of the continent. It has an effect on the whole Sahel region. Ethiopia is right there in the center of East Africa, is the largest economy in East Africa. This could obviously affect a number of countries, Kenya, Djibouti and Sudan. And then you have South Africa in the very tip in the south. And if we expand the relationships, if we build the high speed railroads, if we expand the electricity, if we build manufacturing centers, we can see a whole different Africa.

Now, the BRICS, can’t do that overnight. But as they expand their lending capability, and also complementary is the Belt and Road Initiative, over a period of time, we can see a significant change in the lives of Africans and that their material standard of living. So now, three of the 11 nations of the BRICS are African nations, because that’s already a very sizable bloc within the BRICS itself. So I’m very optimistic about the potential and I’m very happy and excited for Ethiopia, because Ethiopia, if it gets this kind of new economic relations with the BRICS, then more of the desire and potential of Ethiopian economy can be realized, which is what I’ve been advocating for over 10 years.

Question: What kind of challenge do you expect for the newly invited countries in the course of joining BRICS?

Freeman: They will become official members of BRICS in about four months. And what we need to do for Ethiopia, especially all the countries involved in Africa, is long term low interest. What I mean is 2% to 3% long term interest rates on 15 year loans, government backed loans, or government supported loans for infrastructure. We need to be building an additional 1000 gigawatts of power on the continent. We need to have a high speed rail system that connects every port, every major city, every major industrial center, and every major agricultural center, connects the continent so that we can do the merger of Africa. Failing to have this infrastructure and have this manufacturing capability is the biggest weakness which is observable now. And only 13% to 15% of trade from African countries is among African countries, they’re exporting 85%. The African countries are importing 40 billion and plus dollars’ worth food commodities. The fact is that there is no reason for Africa to become self-sufficient in food. But Africa also needs the infrastructure, and it needs manufacturing.

So there’s a lot of potential, how aggressively would the BRICS proceed, I don’t know. But if they’re going to proceed as aggressively as possible, in effect, Africa can become a different place. All in all, the changes that are going on in West Africa are really part of the same process. The rules based order is no longer, hegemonic. The world is not unipolar. And therefore, that gives us potential for transformational change in Africa.

Question: How do you think developing countries including Africa maintain their ties with the west in the middle of the possible rift that could happen between BRICS and the other blocs?

Freeman: I suggest African countries have to understand this. There is no reason and there’s no benefit to attacking the West, head on. What these countries will be doing is that they will maintain their relations with the West. But they will not be forced to submit to the conditionalities of the West. And they want to drive out the last vestiges of colonialism. So, you have the French controlling 14 countries’ economies in Francophone Africa to a new form of colonialism. We have 1500 French troops in Niger, we have 1200 American troops. We have six bases in just Niger alone, that we’ve helped build. We’ve spent billions and billions of dollars on the so called counterterrorism.

What we now have to do is we have to spend billions and billions of dollars on development. So the African countries will say, we are open to working with everybody.

We will work with the West, we will work with the Global South. But we’re going to only work in ways that build our nations.

Lawrence Freeman backs calls by South African International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor for African countries to prioritize investment that also boosts local production

You had a very interesting statement from Naledi Pandor, who is the equivalent of foreign minister of South Africa last month when she met with her counterpart from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, [ And she said do not accept any investment that does not include manufacturing in your own country, and I agree with her 110%, then there should not be. The African nations now also have to expand their energy. And that means they should burn and use their natural resources. That means coal; that means oil; that means gas; that means hydro. And it means expanding nuclear energy, with the help of Russia, China and India will help in this regard. And they have to be and they’re not going to accept the dictates of the bank, the Western banking system that says, No, we’re not going to lend you money, unless you stop burning fossil fuels. And the African countries have said clearly, we are going to go ahead and burn our fossil fuel because we need energy to keep our people have a fulfilling life. So I don’t think the Asian countries in general are not going to be confrontational, but they no longer have to submit to the dictates of the rules based order.

Question: What do you think the countries of the West should do to maintain their relations with BRICS and developing countries?

Freeman: This is a very interesting question I’ve been writing and speaking about this. The problem that the West has, take the United States, for example, is that it is dominated by a geo political ideology. And this ideology says that the world is fixed, doesn’t grow. And therefore, the only way for superpowers to exist, they have to be on top, they have to be in control, called the zero sum game, everything has to add up to zero. So if I’m on top, you’re going to be on the bottom. If I am on the bottom, then you’re going to be on top. And this mentality is completely destructive. Now that mentality, that ideology, which is perverse, in my view, is under attack, because the reality of the universe we live in, has changed as you and I have been discussing.

So now, the world as a result of this BRICS summit and the changes in the BRICS configuration is a new factor in reality. It cannot be changed back in the west now, either they have to become aware of that and reflect on your policies and change their policies to pro development policies for these emerging markets, or the West will be left out of it or gets to military confrontation. So , can the West adjust? Can the West, think? Can people like the Secretary of State Blinken and Biden, think and reflect that the policy they’ve been advocating has failed? I don’t know if they’re going to do that. But that’s what they have to do. If they want to remain relevant in the world, and not push the world to military confrontations or impossible nuclear wars we’re seeing with Ukraine and Russia, whether they will actually have the ability to rethink and understand the errors of the ways is a very interesting question are going to see over the next several months, but the reality has changed, and that fact, can no longer be denied as much as the media would like to.

Now the 11 nations in the BRICS are representing larger and larger portions of the world economy in the world’s population, a large percentage of those almost 30% now of African nations, this represents a new reality. This represents a new dynamic. As we speak, the world has already changed. So now we have a new potential. And it is up to leaders of these African nations, and leaders of the BRICS, and leaders of other global south nations, to make these new realities, new potentials come about to realize that and to organize them around a new paradigm of economic order for development. And that is something very exciting. Something I’ve been fighting for 30 years, and I’m very happy to see the progress we’re making. And the reality has now changed as of today.

Thank you very much for your time!

You’re most welcome!

Culled from the September Issue of PAV Magazine and published Courtesy Of ZEKARIAS OLDEMARIAM, THE ETHIOPIAN HERALD SATURDAY 26 AUGUST 2023

Read my earlier post: BRICS Offers New Potential for Africa & The World: The Human Race Will Benefit

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 a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. Mr. Freeman strongly believes that economic development is an essential human right. He is also the creator of the blog:  lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com.

New Book on Ethiopia’s GERD: Historical Battle of the Nile-Colonialism vs Development

Lawrence Freeman, delivering the opening presentation at the launch of a new book on the GERD, written by Dereje Tessema.

May 7, 2023

Below are my remarks at the book launch at Georgetown University, Washington, DC on April 29, 2023

We discussed the contribution by author Dereje Tessema, in his new I unique book: How This Happened:  Demystifying The Nile, History and Events Leading to the Realization of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) (amazon.com/HOW-this-HAPPENED-Demystifying-Realization)

In my brief presentation (see below), as the lead presenter, I reviwed the history of the battle in the Nile Basin of colonialism versus economic development, and the positive role of the United States in identifying the GERD, sixty years ago.

Greetings!

It is an honor to be here with all these distinguished panelists and for me to speak on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam–The GERD. Here we are, discussing this new fascinating book on the GERD, 12 years after the first brick was laid by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on April  11,  2011.

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the GERD and get a tour by the deputy project manager in December of 2022 on my last visit to Ethiopia.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam under constrcution

It was a magnificent sight. You have this huge scientific engineering marvel–a great infrastructure project built between two mountains over the Blue Nile-the Abbay River. The water has been flowing through this area into the White Nile from lake Tana for approximately 5 million years. And The Ethiopians, to their credit, realized that they can make this lazy river do some actual work. They understood that the Abby could be exploited for the benefit of humankind by making this unproductive river produce electricity for Africa. Electricity, in my view, as a physical economist, is the most vital category of hard infrastructure that Africa is lacking. Africans suffer every day from a gross deficiency in electricity. The Ethiopians by 2025, when all 11 turbines are projected to be functioning, will add 5,150 megawatts of electricity to their grid. This will be the biggest new injection of electricity on the African continent.

For me it was exceptionally exciting to visit the GERD. Because it confirmed to me: that humankind, through the exercise of our uniquely human creative imagination, intervenes upon the physical universe, to  improve the conditions of life for us human beings. This understanding of human creativity is the underpinning of my philosophy about the universe and the foundation of my economic thinking.

The Ethiopian people and successive Ethiopian governments should be congratulated for self-funding and constructing the GERD. It does not just benefit Ethiopia, but the GERD enhances the entire Nile Basin, including Egypt and Sudan.

One of the most interesting features in this book, among many, is the several hundred year history of the White and Blue Nile River Basins. The key issue which I believe characterizes this 300 year conflict is: the right to utilize the resource of the Blue Nile for the development of the Ethiopian nation and its people. This history is relevant to the efforts today, by some, to prevent the dam from reaching its full productivity; though I am convinced the anti-GERD campaign will not be successful.

Colonial Mentality Over the Nile

As part of their imperialist policy, the British were obsessed with the Nile River Basin, as part of their plans to control indirectly or directly the entire eastern spine of Africa from Egypt to South Africa. Through their control of Egypt, nominally part of the Ottoman Empire, first through Pasha Muhammad Ali and then later his nephew, Khedive Ismail, and finally the outright conquering of Egypt militarily at the end of the 1800s, the British believed that they owned the Nile. Though several battles were waged by the Egyptians against Ethiopia, the Egyptians like the Italians years later at Adwa, were unable to militarily defeat and conquer Ethiopia. The British in their attempt to be the overlord of the entire Nile River Basin, were intent not to allow Ethiopia to develop its own productive capabilities, which most definitely would involve utilizing the water from Lake Tana.

The author, Dereje Tessema, presenting his conception and motivation for wrting his book: How This Happened:  Demystifying The Nile, History and Events Leading to the Realization of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) .

There were over two dozen treaties and official diplomatic exchanges from 1891 to 2015 concerning the Nile that affected Ethiopia. I will highlight only a few.

As early as the 1891 protocol between the United Kingdom and Italy, Britain made very clear that it would recognize Italy’s control of the northern part of Ethiopia, which is now Eritrea, in return, the Italian government would agree not to obstruct the flow of water from the Atbara River that is one of the three main tributaries, that supply 85% of the water into the White Nile. In 1899 the British with the Egyptians created the Anglo Egyptian Condominium ,which effectively allowed the British through Egypt to govern Sudan. This was another step in the process of the British attempt to have control over the entire Nile River system. It is interesting to note that it was also in 1899 that the British began the construction  of the Aswan Low Dam that was completed in 1902. This of course was replaced several decades later by the larger High Aswan Dam.

In the 1902 Anglo Ethiopia Treaty to delineate the borders between Sudan and Ethiopia, the British  included a demand that Emperor Menelik II, could not obstruct the flow of any water into the Nile by building anything across the Blue Nile, Lake Tana, or the Sobat River. The British intended never to allow Ethiopia to utilize the Blue Nile for the benefit of its people. The British did not want an independent, developing nation disrupting their plans for the Nile Basin. Rather, they envisioned, utilizing Lake Tana to as a large rain fed storage area, releasing water during the dry season for the  agriculture-irrigation schemes in the downstream nations of Egypt and Sudan.

In the 1920s, prior to Mussolini’s invasion in 1935, Britain made clear to the Italians that it would be happy to have Lake Tana controlled-protected from Ethiopia’s utilization by a nation friendly to Britain.

The 1929 Water Agreement between the British, Egypt and Sudan, codified Egypt’s so called natural and historical rights to the Nile. The agreement allocated 48 billion cubic meters of Nile water to Egypt and 4  billion to Sudan–less than 1% of the total 52bcm. The agreement also gave Egypt the right to prevent construction of any project on the Nile that would reduce the flow of the Nile water to Egypt. Ethiopia was not part of this agreement and was not in attendance even though it was an independent sovereign nation that provided the majority of Nile water joining the White Nile under the Khartoum- Omdurman bridge.

Ethiopian Ambassador, Seleshi Bekele, speaking at the book launch. To his right, is retired US Ambassador, David Shinn.

The 1959 Water Agreement between the Republics of Sudan and Egypt increased the water allocations for both countries. Egypt would now receive 55.5 billion cubic meters of water, and Sudan would receive 18.5 bcm. The agreement also allowed Egypt to construct the Aswan High Dam and for Sudan to construct the Rosaries dam, on the Blue Nile, which I visited many years ago. This new water agreement also stipulated again that no other construction could be built on the Nile, implicitly the Blue Nile as well. Essentially this agreement gave Egypt and Sudan veto power against the right of Ethiopia to erect its own dam on its own sovereign territory. Again, Ethiopia was not a participant to this agreement. To my knowledge, Ethiopia has not been a party to any official water agreement with Sudan and Egypt regarding the rights to develop the Blue Nile Basin, even during the negotiations in the Trump administration.

Potential of Blue Nile Basin  

Two years before the 1959 Egypt-Sudan Water agreement, Ethiopia officially severed itself  from the colonial mentality regarding the Nile, by informing Egypt, on September 23, 1957, that Ethiopia will utilize it water resources for irrigation and hydropower. Quoting the diplomatic note (Part I, Chapter 3, page 50):

 Ethiopia has the right and obligation to exploit its water resources for the benefit of its present and future generations of its citizens and must, therefore reassert and reserve now and for the future, the right to take all the measures in respect of its water resources.

Reflecting the better period of United States, when our foreign policy reflected our commitment for development in Africa, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Department of the Interior, signed an agreement with the Ethiopian government to investigate the land and water resources of the Blue Nile River Basin. The project began in 1958, was completed in 1963, and its findings were published in 1964. The report was seven volumes and referred to as the Nile Report. Quoting Dereje (page 54 of the same chapter of his book):

The author signing his new book at the conclusion of the event.

The purpose of this program was to:  a) investigate the land and water resources of the Blue Nile River Basin; b) assist in the establishment of an appropriate administrative and engineering organization within the Imperial Ethiopian Government; and c) train Ethiopian personnel in the various disciplines as appropriate.

The other major study of the Blue Nile Basin, was The Abbay River Basin Integrated Development Master Plan, initiated in 1994 and completed in 1998. Dereje documents that in the twentieth century there have been more than 18 feasibility studies of the Nile and Blue Nile River Basin, investigating potential projects for irrigation and hydropower.

The 1957-1964 Nile Report examined the potential of 32 irrigation and energy projects in the Blue Nile River Basin, which are listed in this book on pages 259-260. Four potential dam sites were proposed that could provide sufficient electrical power to satisfy domestic consumption and export to other nations in East Africa. The study identified four potential hydropower projects described on pages 262-266. One of the four hydro-power sites, that the Nile Report called the Border Dam, is today, known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

The author celebrating with his family.

In Conclusion

As we are assembled here today discussing the contribution of this new treatise on the GERD by Dereje , we should remember what Emperor Haile Selassie  said in the 1960s, when he was unable to secure funding for the various irrigation and hydropower projects identified in the 1957-1964 Nile Report. (Quoting from Part V, Chapter 17, page 334): Emperor Selassie said:

 We don’t have the capacity to build a dam on the Abbay at this time. Friendly countries will not support this endeavor for fear of antagonizing Egypt. However, the future generations will build it using its own resources. Keep the study safe.

We are less than two years away from celebrating the completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with GERD DAY, my proposal for a new national Ethiopian holiday.

Read my ealier post:

GERD: Utilizing the Blue Nile to Create Energy for Development in Ethiopia & The Horn of Africa

Join Me Saturday-Definitive Book on Ethiopia’s GERD, and the Blue & White Nile River Basins

  Topic:   Book Launch and Panel Discussion-How this Happened: Demystifying the Nile-History and Events Leading to the Realization of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam      
Date:    Saturday, April 29, 2023
Time:    2:00-5:00 PM EST
Venue:  In person – Georgetown University, Intercultural Center (ICC), DC
(Public parking is available at the Southwest Garage. Use 3611 Canal Road as the address for GPS direction to the parking garage. Sign posts will be available to direct guests to the Center)
Virtual: Zoom Link (Registration Required)              https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_HjSqlMAsQBK72cadz3XCNw  
Abstract   Competition over limited resources, including freshwater management and use, was and continues to be a source of conflict. Unresolved, these issues could affect political relations between riparian states and may exacerbate existing tensions, increase regional instability, and provoke social unrest. The 2018 research by the European Joint Research Center shows that the Nile is the second riskiest basin next to the Ganges-Brahmaputra basin in terms of hydro political issues arising. Eleven riparian states with a total population of over 530 million (2022 UN population report) share the river marking the Nile as the second densely populated basin, next to the Ganges River basin. 
In his latest book How this Happened: Demystifying the Nile – History and Events Leading to the Realization of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) (Gashe Publishing 2023), Dereje Tessema, a research fellow at the Nile House and adjunct facility at Georgetown University, discusses events that started thousands of years ago, culminating in the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). In this six part book he documented the geo- and hydro-politics, diplomacy, international water law, treaties, and agreements. He also provided an overview of the science of the Nile River, the relationship of riparian countries to the river, the project management aspect of the dam, and finally, a recount of his trips from the two sources to the mouth of the Nile River.This panel discussion is designed to give the book launch event participants the opportunity to hear from experts, policy makers, and scholar-practitioners on these five domains. 
     
Event Schedule and Speaker’s Bios
Register to Attend Virtual                

Read my earlier posts below:

New Treatise on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Linking the History of the White & Blue Nile River Basins

U.S. Should Make the Right Decision: Support Economic Reconstruction of Ethiopia & GERD Completion

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 a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. He is also 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

New Treatise on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Linking the History of the White & Blue Nile River Basins

I will be a featured speaker, along with many specialists, at this book launch on April 29, at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C. This new book is treasure trove of information regarding the history, science, and geography related to the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The GERD is not only a game changer for Ethiopia, but also for the whole African continent. It demonstrates that African nations do not have to remain economically backward and underdeveloped. That they can make sovereign decisions to pursue policies for the development of their nation that will benefit their people.

***SAVE THIS DATE***

Click on link below for schedule and speakers’ profiles

Africans Combating Covid-19 With Vaccines and Leadership

January 14, 2022

Promising News from Africa CDC 

In an important interview, At Least 9 African Countries to Produce Covid Vaccines, Dr. John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported on the progress Africa is making in combatting the Covid-19 pandemic. It was published by The World on January 5, 2022

For Africa to vaccinate its entire population of 1.5 billion people, the continent must shift from total dependence on vaccine supplies from other nations. I have written on the necessity of African nations to have their own manufacturing and distribution capability to vaccinate their entire populations. This would require massive investments in all categories of hard and soft infrastructure, which African nations already desperately need. All epidemiologists know that as long as hundreds of millions of Africans remain unvaccinated, the virus will spread and mutate, endangering the entire planet. It is in the self-interest of the developing sector  to help African nations develop their own indigenous capability to manufacture and distribute vaccines to defeat covid-19. Our goal for African nations should be nothing less than 100% vaccination before the end of this year.

Read my earlier posts below.

The exciting news  from Dr. John Nkengasong is that several African nations are in the process of preparing to produce their own vaccines.

“A lot has happened and continues to happen in the course of this pandemic. The heads of states came together and launched a program called Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing. And through that partnership, at least nine countries on the continent have engaged in the pathway for producing vaccines, including South Africa, Rwanda, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, Egypt. Egypt, for example, is already producing about 3.5 million doses of vaccines. We know that South Africa is now producing vaccines. So I think you’ll continue to see that the landscape will change significantly in 2022.” (emphasis added

Speaking on the impact of Covid-19 on the existing AIDS pandemic in Africa, the Director the Africa CDC said: 

“I think it is important to know that we are dealing with two pandemics across the world. The HIV/AIDS pandemic and COVID[-19] is a pandemic that has just emerged over the last two years. And very unfortunately, and very concerning, is the interaction of the two pandemics. We now know that people infected with HIV tend to not clear the virus, that is, the COVID-19 virus, appropriately, especially if they have not been fully treated — and that has the risk of creating variants. We don’t know what the trajectory for COVID[-19] will look like in the coming years, but we know that HIV has been with us for 40 years [and] has killed almost 37 million people. Tremendous gains have been made in the fight against HIV, especially in Africa. But we should be mindful of what COVID[-19] can do to erode the significant progress that we have made in achieving remarkable progress in controlling HIV/AIDS over the years.” (emphasis added)

Rwanda Provides Vaccination Leadership

According  to Dr. Nkengasong:

“Africa remains the world’s least vaccinated continent against COVID-19, with about 10% of the continent’s population fully vaccinated. Only seven African countries have met the global target of vaccinating 40% of their populations against COVID-19 by the end of 2021.” 

In an article published on January 4th: What is Behind Rwanda’s Rapid Covid19 Vaccination Drive?, author Betrand Byishimo analyzes the Rwanda’s success in achieving one of the highest vaccination rates on the African continent.

Rwanda is only one of seven African nations to reach the goal set by the World Health Organization, of vaccinating over 40% of its population of 13.5 million in 2021.

Rwanda has delivered 13.9 million doses of the vaccine and has vaccinated 43.9% of its population, according to ourworldindata.org. The U.S. with access to the vaccine for over one year, has only vaccinated 62% of the American population.

According to the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, “the nation’s central health implementation agency,” as of January 13th: 7,851,445 Rwandans have received one dose; 6,030,321 have received both doses; and 516,062 have been given their booster shots. Rwanda is also one of the nine African nations working to manufacture the covid-19 vaccine itself.

Byishimo reports that a mere 102 million Africans “equivalent to 8% of the African population” have been vaccinated. He writes:

“Considering the hoarding and protectionism of the vaccine, it is of interest to find out how Rwanda managed to achieve these global milestones amidst the suffering continent of Africa.”

Civilization will not survive the stark reality that the fastest growing population in the world is the least vaccinated.

Rwanda is clearly doing something right that should be emulated across the continent and supported by the developed nations.

A Rwanda government official succinctly summarizes the reasons for his nation’s accomplishment.

A resident receives the covid19 jab at Nyabugogo Taxis Park on December 13, 2021.Early January 2022, over 5.5 million Rwandans had been fully vaccinated while above 7.7 M people had obtained their first dose . / Dan Nsengiyumva

“Effective leadership, institutional readiness, long term health sector infrastructure investments and partnership.

On top of working hard to secure vaccines, including paying high cost from its budget, the Government of Rwanda allowed its people free access to the vaccine. The buy-in of the people on the vaccine showed  the trust the people have towards their leadership. Covid-19 also showed institutional readiness; ability to rollout the vaccine nationally as soon as the vaccines arrived in Rwanda. There is also evidence that Rwanda reaped from its long term investments in the health sector infrastructure.”

READ: At Least 9 African Countries to Produce Covid Vaccines

READ: What is Behind Rwanda’s Rapid Covid19 Vaccination Drive?

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.

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

Lawrence Freeman Discusses Key Principles For Developing Africa

Watch the 8 minute video above, where I outlined succinctly the essential policies necessary for the development of Africa. I participated in a July Fourth celebration webinar sponsored by “Watch Democracy Grow.”

In the longer video below I discuss a range of topics regarding Africa’s development. After visiting Nigeria (Kaduna and Abuja) for two weeks and Ethiopia for one week, I became more convinced than ever, that peace and stability will come only when the basic necessities of life, such as food, water, electricity, land, and railroads are provided by industrialized African nations.

Lawrence Freeman: Stories from Africa – East to West

LAWRENCE FREEMAN, POLITICAL-ECONOMIC ANALYST FOR AFRICA…
He is a highly respected researcher, writer, and speaker on a variety of topics concerning Africa, who has visited African nations 30 times.. An outspoken critic of neo colonialism and the ICC. Insisting that Africa no longer be forced to live in a dark age, he has consistently brought African governments a roadmap for transformative infrastructure projects. As the author of dozens of articles and reports on Africa. Freeman served as a member of AFRICOM’s Advisory Committee under U.S. General Kip Ward. Most recently, he was appointed Vice Chairman of the Lake Chad Basin Scientific Committee and is currently working on a project to replenish the shrinking Lake Chad. Presently, he is teaching courses on the history of Africa, utilizing his decades of experience and knowledge. In this video he takes us through a journey in Africa where he has just returned from visiting both Ethiopia and Nigeria.

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