Open Letter to President Donald Trump,
President of the United States of America
The White House,1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20500
From: The Ethiopian Waters Advisory Council (EWAC),
Ethiopian International Professionals Support for Abay (EIPSA),
WeAspire, Washington Based Think Tank focused on Africa,
Europe and Australia GERD Support,
Minnesota – Midwest GERD Support,
Dallas GERD Support,
Nashville GERD Support,
Los Angeles GERD Support,
Re: President Donald Trump’s Regrettable Remarks Approving
Egyptian Bombing of the Ethiopian GERD
Date: October 26, 2020
Dear President Trump:
We write this letter to you in our capacity as Ethiopian American professionals dedicated to scientific studies of the Nile Basin. We are also a group committed to the promotion of democratic governance, the rule of law, equitable, sustainable, and reasonable utilization of the Nile waters.
Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country, is home to the Nile tributaries including the Blue Nile (or Abbay River) which constitutes 70 percent of its total surface waters and supplies more than 85 percent of the Nile water to the Sudan and Egypt. Unfortunately, Ethiopia is not a beneficiary of its major natural resource. Currently, over 65 percent of Ethiopia’s 115 million citizens lack access to electricity and more than 40% lacks access to clean potable water. Furthermore, its food security is one of the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa. This unsustainable situation is an impediment to the country’s long-term development and to the prosperity and stability of the region as a whole. This needs to change. That is why Ethiopia is determined to achieve middle-income status by 2025-2030, in large part by harnessing, among other things, its water resources to stimulate manufacturing, industrialization, and employment.
Presently, Ethiopia is constructing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile close to the Sudanese border. GERD came out of many cooperative efforts by Ethiopia to use the Nile waters in an equitable, reasonable and sustainable manner, which were all frustrated by Egypt. GERD is not only an Ethiopian resource but that of all Africa, a key component of the integrated African Power Pool to ensure every African has access to electricity in 2063.
GERD is a self-financed dam being built by contribution from the public and the Ethiopian government. Such a level of commitment to a project of this magnitude is unprecedented in the recent history of the country and the region at large. People from all walks of life including mothers selling firewood, shoe shiners and daily laborers have contributed to financing the project by buying bonds. They believe that the dam and the electricity it generates and the employment it creates will substantially enhance their wellbeing and the future of their children.
Building a dam over its sovereign rivers is not therefore a luxury for an impoverished Ethiopia. Instead, it is an absolute necessity to sustain life, mainly by providing affordable energy, in a rapidly growing region of the world. As a respected member of the international community, Ethiopia has always supported internationally recognized transboundary principles of equitable and reasonable water use as laid down in its national Water Management Policy (EWMP). The GERD, like hydropower projects elsewhere, does not consume water. Many international studies show the filling of the dam does not affect downstream countries, including Egypt. They demonstrate that Egypt and the Sudan will in fact benefit from the dam through the generation of affordable electricity, the control of flooding, and the management of water flows.
Unfortunately, the efforts of successive Ethiopian governments to develop the country’s water resources have been scuttled by ill-willed Egypt, which successfully lobbied against international financing, not to mention underwriting political destabilization schemes. Currently, Ethiopia faces food, energy, and water crises due to a long development backlog and Egypt’s reckless policies that have inflicted irreparable damage on Ethiopia. Going against international law and practice, Egypt has brazenly claimed a hundred percent of Ethiopia’s sovereign waters which it enshrined in the 1959 treaty signed with the Sudan. It even added the clause ‘protecting the historical right of the Nile’ in the 2014 Egyptian Constitution that implies the water sources countries like Ethiopia can’t utilize the water. The treaty which gave Egypt veto power over the river and the actions that followed in the succeeding years completely excluded Ethiopia. Cairo’s hegemonic ambitions and wasteful water use are widely understood as the primary obstacles to the ongoing GERD negotiations and the more important Nile Basin treaty that would govern water allocation, basin restoration, environmental rehabilitation, and coordination of major projects.
Notwithstanding, Ethiopia is convinced that the dam is an essential project and will contribute immensely to the development of the region as a whole. Despite Egypt’s one-sided approach and multiple attempts to undermine the project, Ethiopia sticks to the principles of equitable and sustainable use of the waters of the Nile River. It supports negotiation and coordination and calls for a comprehensive treaty framework for a joint and efficient utilization of transboundary waters. At the present, Ethiopia’s ambitious and domestically financed dam, the GERD, is about 77 percent completed. As stated in media, over 90 percent of the technical issues concerning the filling schedule has been agreed upon among the governments of Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Sudan.
Needless to say, Mr. President, your regrettably erroneous remarks about Ethiopia blocking the flow of the Nile and rejecting your patently unfair proposal has undermined confidence in the role of the USA as an impartial observer and negotiator. The African Union has stepped in to play a constructive role in mediating the remaining issues that the Prime Minister of the Sudan flagged to you. A win-win solution is indeed possible.
Dear Mr. President:
As Ethiopian Americans, we are deeply dismayed by your willful mischaracterization of the Nile disputes and, more alarmingly, by the threat of punitive economic sanctions against a blameless Ethiopia which has yet to benefit from its waters. Your encouragement of the use of military means to resolve disputes contravenes Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter, sends a wrong signal to Egypt and adds fuel to a tense situation. We are understandably outraged by your disregard for the principle of peaceful resolution of water disputes as clearly outlined in the UN Convention on Transboundary Rivers and the Declaration of Principles (DOP) signed by Egypt, Ethiopia and the Sudan in 2015.
Ethiopia is the hub for the African Union and has been a reliable American ally in the war against global terrorism. US-Ethiopia relations, which officially started in 1903, is one of the oldest and strongest in the African continent. We take this opportunity to proudly remind that the GERD was in fact initially conceived by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 1964 as part of four major dam sites on the Blue Nile. The US, we gratefully note, has been at the forefront of supporting Ethiopia’s bid to achieve food security. It is therefore with consternation that we heard your unfounded accusations against Ethiopia. Your apparent endorsement of violence to settle disagreements undermines the highly promising Nile Basin Initiative involving eleven riparian countries and the ongoing AU-led negotiation process which is in the advanced stage. Your impetuous pronouncement that “Egypt should bomb the dam” diminishes the stature of the Office of the President of the United States. It emboldens Egypt to go to war rather than move away from an untenable status quo by acceding to good-faith dialog under the auspices of an impartial African Union.
The Ethiopian Water Advisory Council (EWAC) along with seven other GERD Support organizations and Think Tanks rejects the unprovoked, dangerous, distortionary, unfairly coercive, and precedent-setting remarks and urges the U.S. Government to play a constructive role by encouraging the immediate completion of the dam and making it fully operational, reaching a technical agreement among Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia concerning this dam (the GERD) and proceed to craft a comprehensive Nile Basin treaty on equitable sharing of transboundary Nile waters, sustainable basin management, environmental rehabilitation, and reciprocal sharing of data–all under the applicable international conventions and practices. EWAC believes that doing so is in the best interest of the U.S. It will ensure growth and prosperity in the Nile Basin countries, bring peace and stability to a strategically vital region of the world, and promote America’s long-term strategic security and economic investments.
We stand ready to help provide evidence-based analyses to ensure that the stakeholders reach a mutually agreeable legal regime to govern the Nile’s increasingly scarce waters. Thank you.
Aklog Birara (Dr), Chairman
Ethiopian Waters Advisory Council
8843 Greenbelt Rd. #343
Greenbelt, MD 20770-2451
H.E. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia
H.E. General Abdel el Sisi, President of Egypt
H.E. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Sudan Prime Minister
H.E. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel Prime Minister
H.E. President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Chair, the African Union
H.E. Mr. Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary General
H.E. Mr. Vassily Nebezia, President, United Nations Security Council
H.E. David-Maria Sassoli, European Parliament President
H.E. Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President
H.E Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State
H.E. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House
H.E. Senator Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate
H.E. Congresswoman Karen Bass, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus & Chair of Africa Subcommittee, US Congress Foreign Affairs Committee
H.E. Congressman Eliot L. Engle, Chair, US Congress Foreign Affairs Committee
H.E. Senator James E. Risch, Chair, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee
H.E. Mr. Gedu Andargachew, Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs
H.E. Dr. Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy
H.E Ambassador Fitsum Arega, Ethiopian Ambassador in the US