There are only two documents that attempt to deal with the relationship of Ethiopia and the lower riparian countries with regard to the utilization of Nile. Those are the 1902 Ethiopia and UK Treaty and the 1993 Ethio-Egypt Framework Agreement. [The 1993 Accord was posted previously in this blog(link)]

The 1902 Agreement was signed by Ethiopia’s Emperor Menelik and United Kingdom’s envoy Lt. Col. John Lane Harrington in Addis Ababa in May 15 1902.

The Ethiopian public hardly aware of the 1902 Treaty and/or its implications find it bizarre that Egypt and Sudan partitioned the Nile waters amongst themselves in the absence of Ethiopia, where 85% of the water originates.

However, Egypt and Sudan which were colonies of UK in 1902 claim to the rights in the Treaty based on principles of state succession. Moreover, it is argued the 1929 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, which gives Egypt veto power, binds not only the then colonies of UK but also Ethiopia by virtue of the 1902 Treaty. Consequently, Egyptian and Sudanese scholars claim the 1959 Treaty is binding on upper-riparian countries including Ethiopia. That is why you find the the 1902 cited on the website of Egypt State Information Service.

Here is the full text of Treaty.

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A Treaty Between Ethiopia and Great Britain on the Delimitation of the Frontier between Ethiopia and Sudan

His Majesty Edward VII by the Grace of God, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Emperor of India, and His Majesty Menelik II, by the Grace of God, King of Kings of Ethiopia, being animated with the desire to confirm the friendly relations between the two Powers and to settle the frontier between the Soudan and Ethiopia, and His Majesty King Edward, having appointed as His Plenipotentiary Lieutenant-Colonel John Lane Harrington, a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, His Majesty’s agent at the court of His Majesty Menelik II, King of Kings of Ethiopia, whose full power have been found in due and proper form, and His Majesty the Emperor Menelik, negotiating in his own name as King of Kings of Ethiopia, they have agreed upon and do conclude the following Articles, which shall be binding on themselves, their heirs and successors :

Art. I – The frontier between the Sudan and Ethiopia agreed on between the two Governments shall be: the line which is marked in red on the map annexed to this Treaty in duplicate, and traced from Kher Um Hagar to Gallabat, to the Blue Nile, Baro, Pibor, and Akobo River to Melile, thence to the intersection of the 6th degree of north latitude with the 35th degree longitude east of Greenwich.

Art. II – The boundary, as defined in Art. 1, shall be delimited and marked on the ground by a joint Boundary Commission, which shall be nominated by the two High Contracting Parties, who shall notify the same to their subjects after delimitation.

Art. III – His Majesty the Emperor Menelik II, King of Kings of Ethiopia, engages himself towards the Government of His Britannic Majesty not to construct, or allow to be constructed, any work across the Blue Nile, Lake Tsana, or the Sobat which would arrest the flow of their waters into the Nile except in agreement with His Britannic Majesty’s Government and the Government of the Soudan.

Art. IV – His Majesty the Emperor Menelik, King of Kings of Ethiopia, engages himself to allow His Britannic Majesty’s Government and the Government of the Soudan to select in the neighborhood of Itang, on the Baro River, a block of territory having a river frontage of not more than 2 000 meters, in area not exceeding 40 hectares, which shall be leased to the Government of the Soudan, to be administered and occupied as a commercial station, so long as the Soudan is under Anglo-Egyptian Government. It is agreed between the two High Contracting Parties that the territory so leased shall not be used for any political or military purpose.

Art. V – His Majesty the Emperor Menelik, King of Kings of Ethiopia, grants His Britannic Majesty Government and the Government of Soudan the right to construct a railway through Abyssinian territory to connect the Soudan with Uganda. A route for the railway will be settled by mutual agreement between the two High Parties.

The present treaty shall come into force as soon as its ratification by His Britannic Majesty Shall have been notified to the Emperor of Ethiopia.

In faith of which His Majesty Menelik II, King of Kings of Ethiopia, in his own name, and Lieutenant-Colonel John Lane Harrington, on behalf of His Majesty King Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Emperor of India, have signed the present treaty, in duplicate, written in the English and Amharic languages identically, both texts being officials, and have thereto affixed their seals.

Done at Addis Abeba, the 15th day of May, 1902

JOHN LANE HARRINGTON LT. COLONEL

SEAL OF HIS MAJESTY EMPEROR

MENELIK II

(Ratifications exchanged in Addis Ababa on 28 October 1902)

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I would rather refrain from commenting on this Treaty and invite readers to share their view. Share your opinion on any aspect of the Treaty in the comment space below.

Daniel Berhane

Daniel Berhane