Why Ethiopia Rejected the Validity of 1929 and 1959 Agreements?

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By: Memar Ayalew Demeke, 17 June 2013

The Nile river, being international and trans-boundary in nature, has been the subject of various agreements. However, there is no internationally agreed up on treaty on the management and utilization of the Nile River which secures the benefit of all riparian countries. Therefore, the legal instruments for the utilization and the management of the water consists disputed bilateral agreements concluded amongst the basin countries. The treaties and legal regimes regulating the use of Nile River can be divided into different categories. For instance, Yacob Arasano in his book “Ethiopia and the Nile: Dilemmas of National and Regional Hydro-politics, 2007:95”, divided the agreements related to the utilization of the river in to three categories based on historical sequence. These are:

1. Agreements between colonial powers. This category consists of the Anglo-Italian protocol of 1891, The 1906 agreements, The 1925 Anglo-Italian agreement and The 1934 Agreement concluded between Britain and Belgium.

2. Agreements between colonial powers and regional states. It includes the 1902 AngloEthiopian Agreement, The 1929 Agreement signed between Britain and Italy and The 1952 Agreement.

3. Agreements between independent states of the basin. In this category one can three treaties such as The 1959 Agreement signed between Egypt and The Sudan, the 1993 Ethio- Egyptian Agreement and the Comprehensive Framework of Agreement (CFA) singed among the seven basin countries in 2010. The bilateral agreements in the first and the second category signed were primarily initiated by the then colonial powers.

The colonial powers which had involved in the making of the agreements were Britain, France, Italy and Belgium. It is important to look the colonial possession these countries in the political map of the Nile basin to understand why they engineered the agreements. Britain had colonized Egypt, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It had a greater interest on the Nile waters. Italy had territorial possession in the Horn of Africa such as Eritrea and the Italian Somaliland in Somalia. France had a monopoly over the present day Djibouti. Among the Nile basin countries, Ethiopia is the only which has never been colonized by any colonial master of the region. The overall intension of the colonial powers in signing the agreements was to exploit the resources to the extent possible for their colonial project.

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