The Reporter (Addis Ababa)

15 March 2014

Ethiopia: Debate Over the Nile

The third-year anniversary of the inauguration of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will be colorfully celebrated throughout the nation. Starting from its inception, the project has been drawing the attention of millions of Ethiopians locally and across the globe.

In relation to this massive hydroelectric project, much has been said and published, many of the published articles, books and other materials lay more emphasis on the historical narration, which revolves around the colonial treaties that Egypt uses to apply for monopoly of the water, the historical agreements of 1929 and 1959 signed between Sudan, Egypt and Great Britain.

Other areas that are mainly covered in the publication related to the issue of the Nile also focus on the political aspect of relations between the countries that use the Nile water, an equitable share of water and so on. It is in this regard that a book written by Hailu Woldegiorgis entitled "Leabay Weha Muget" was published by the Addis Ababa University Press a few years ago. The writer of the book is a former Ethiopian ambassador to France. He was also working in several international organizations, as a political science and law graduate from the Political Science Institute of France. He was also working as deputy minister for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ethiopia.

Based on his extensive knowledge of international law, he conducted intensive research over the issue and the book is beautifully written and explains the historical and legal confrontations over the issue of the river Nile. The book has three main sections that explore the legal litigation revolving around the river Nile. Along with these three sections, the book also contains numerous chapters and a very solid general conclusion that elucidates how to overcome if Trans Boundary Rivers are becoming the source of tensions between and among the riparian countries.

Each section of the book is written on the basis of academic research methods. The writer tries to present the issue free from any kind of personal bias, and presents the issue in an appealing way.

Though the book focuses more on the legal issues related to trans-boundary rivers generally and the issue of river Nile particularly, it also covers the historical relations between Ethiopia and Egypt as a common user of the water and Egypt's claim of domination over the Nile. The book has many interesting facts and figures, which clearly depict the long-standing legal debates and confrontations both within the two countries, other riparian countries and in the face of the international community.

This book is valuable for anyone who is concerned about knowing and understanding what the colonial era agreement signed between Sudan, Egypt and the former colony of the two countries, Great Britain in all about. The book in its introductory part gives a detailed explanation about the river Nile and narrates the source of the Nile, Ethiopia's contribution to the Nile and other riparian countries, the weather and climate condition of the area.

The first section of the book covers international law and the issues of trans-boundary rivers in an international perspective. In this section of the book, the concept and evolution of the Trans boundary issue are covered.

The salient feature of international law concerning the trans-boundary rivers is also explained well, in line with many demonstrations as an example and the governing theories of the issues.

The second section of the book is all about the legal issues of the river Nile, and it covers the treaties and agreements that have been concluded over the river Nile. In this section a reader can acquire a full and well-detailed explanation about the colonial era agreements over the Nile and many more legal issues concerning the Nile, such as the technical agreements and so on. The third section of the book covers issues related to rights and responsibilities of the riparian countries and application of the basic principles related to international law concerning trans boundary rivers. This section of the book narrates the questions that the Egyptians raise to defend the customary application of the already existing colonial era agreements and the value of the agreements before the law.

This section also covers the importance of a new legal regime for the Nile, the efforts made to maintain an equitable use of the water, and lessons drawn from the rest of the world. The entire book is valuable to understand and assess the overall legal, political and diplomatic activities in relation to the equitable use of the river Nile, unlike other books concerning the issue of the river Nile. Since the book is written in Amharic, it has a significance to the general reader, which also makes the book more valuable beside its content and detailed explanations.

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