By Zeray Hailemariam
Tigrai Onlne - March 20, 2014
It is proofed scrutiny that the economic integration among African nations is extremely poor as a result Africans have been experiencing acute poverty. Though complex in nature, Africa’s quagmires are partially as result of the poor investment and trade connections among themselves. There is no significant trade and investment cooperation that we can talk much within African states. It has been said repeatedly that Africa is gifted with profuse natural resources accompanied with productive human resources. Surprisingly enough, for external and internal rationale, however, the continent’s untapped natural resources have been labeled as ‘resource curse’ for centuries. That left Africa much behind second to none. Practical example in point is the Nile River resources.
Ethiopia is said to be the water tower within the East-North African countries and it is well situated to utilize its water resources and export hydro power to all its neighbors which are underway. For Ethiopia to eradicate poverty is not a choice but to survive as a nation. Ethiopian leadership clearly anticipated that the country could only continue as state if it can be able to defeat the brutal poverty prevailed for centuries. To eradicate the ugly face of poverty, however, Ethiopia perfectly believes that it has to utilize its available natural resources. Poverty in Ethiopia is regarded as the sources of national shame. All ugly problems emanate from poverty. The biggest enemy in Ethiopians mind is not Egypt or Eritrea but poverty.
From economic perspective, one hast to exploit its available natural resources to develop. Ethiopia has no other choice but to use its available water resources if the ugly face of poverty is to be purged. Expectedly enough, the available resources are its people and water. And it is well carefully studied case that Ethiopia should not harm others in order to develop itself. Her development must be complementary. This is the spirit Ethiopia is perusing in the region. Handy evidence in point is that its role in fostering regional economic integration. Africa is now determined to integrate its markets and Ethiopia has been exemplar in realizing and in leading this process by establishing agreements with its neighbours for power and transportation corridors. Kenya, Sudan, Djibouti and even the war torn Somalia are being connected with Ethiopia to realize mutual benefit and regional economic integration as well. Security and development cooperation become first crucial in those countries. The biggest resource where the East-North countries can cooperate is on the Nile River waters as it carries potential untapped development opportunities if poverty is to be confronted.
Barriers planted by Egyptian elites
Knowingly or unknowingly Egypt is still intensely collaborating poverty to triumph in the region by standing on the course of conquering it. Egypt is trying to defend the un-defendable facts on the Nile issue. It is, for example, engaged in producing more comical statements every other day despite the fact that it couldn't qualify as a valid reason to deny the sovereign right of Ethiopia to utilise its natural resources fairly, to say the least. The mockery is when they argue that the pyramids will shake if Ethiopia builds a dam but not if Egypt builds dams.
It is obvious and openly spoken out Egypt's claim of historical right and Nile water quota has no legal ground on the basis of International River waters utilization consensus laws and is fully rejected by upstream countries. And Egypt knows that it is an inherent truth though it is struggling to swallow it. The elites are living in the past by sticking to the unjust colonial era without realizing actually the existing realities. Zerihun Abebe was right when he asserted it, “in fact, it is difficult to call the 1929 "Agreement" as a bilateral agreement between Egypt and Britain as the former was still under tight political and economic control of the later. It can better be said that the 1929 "Agreement" was between Britain and Britain for Britain as concluded to make sure that its textile factories in Manchester had secured uninterrupted cotton from Egypt produced by the Nile waters”.
Albeit, it is a constitution perched with the ousting of Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's 2012 constitution under Article 19 and the article 44 of current illegal leadership constitution had declared that “The Nile River and water resources are a national wealth. Egypt has to maintaining it’s historic rights thereto”. The interpretation source of both articles is the agreement their colonialists signed in 1929. Here, nothing more can be said but offer the timely advice of the late Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi. The late unmistakably said in his interview with Reuters, “The Egyptians have yet to make up their minds as to whether they want to live in the 21st or the 19th century”. No problem, they can claim Nile belongs to Egypt in their old paper or heart as far as they would not dare to implement the in-implementable on the ground. After all, these articles contained in their constitution will trouble Egypt itself first.
To clear some clouds between Egypt and Ethiopia
There are some misperceptions between the two people which need to be cleared- Egyptians believe that Ethiopia is going to cut the Nile waters that they are going to be dying of thirsty of water. Whereas, the Ethiopian side believes that Egypt is against any development in Ethiopia. The majority people in Egypt were made by few influential Egyptian elites to believe that Ethiopia is building the dam to leave Egypt water vulnerable. Some Egyptian politicians and scholars have been blinding the people by twisting scientific facts to externalize local public anger. The Egyptian elites used to tell Egyptians that Ethiopia might block Nile Water by building dams and that Egypt must focus on it. Such policy had been the main tool for Egyptian politicians to prolong their power till the publicly ousted president Husini Mubarek and the leaders who came after him are in aggressive move to apply that policy. They understood how to use it to get legitimacy even for a minute.
Quite contrary views, Ethiopian people have the culture of ‘eating together’. It does not matter whether it is enough or not. A poor Ethiopian farmer never eats alone whether the food he has is enough or not. Whether you are strange or not it doesn’t matter too, he would definitely invite you to join him to eat together. Because this is the culture he/she is born/grown with. And the Ethiopian leaders are the product of this good culture; as a result, they have been championing the ‘let us eat together’ fair policy. History tells us that a single Ethiopian leader has ever never perused the ‘zero sum game’ policy (the let me eat alone syndrome). The Egyptian people should know that their Ethiopian brothers never wish unstable Egypt as they appreciate from history that the ‘unstable politicians’ tried to project external enemy as to divert the local chaos they face.
We all know that stable and democratic Egypt can only play constructive and complementary regional policy. The Ethiopian elites know it very well that the opinion of the Egyptian mass is quite different from their Elites that Egyptian people never share the selfish and unscientific opinion of their elites.
Egyptian Ambassador to Ethiopia H.E Mohamed Idris believed that there are few people in both sides who twist facts and advocate hostile policy by producing negative story about the dam just to blind both peoples as to get their own personal gain. The ambassador advises both people to fight the evil intended story back in his exclusive interview with WIC. The Egyptian Ambassador was close to right when he said “I can say that whoever says that never reflect the near popular nor politician position of Egypt- we are keen for cooperation and committed for the benefit of both great people responding the question why Egypt is against the dam. “The views never reflect the Egyptian or the government position. Nile must be binding us for cooperation. That is the spirit. In Egypt, we view from that perspective; there is no way but to cooperate together for prosperity with Ethiopian brothers for the wellbeing of the all people concerned”.
From practical historical point of view, however, Ethiopians have had enough reasons to believe that leaders of Egypt are against any kind of development in Ethiopia. For example, due to hydro politics, Egypt has worked hard to undermine Ethiopia’s stability and influence in the region (Medhane 2004). “It is public knowledge that Egypt fought hard to ensure that Ethiopia does not receive international financial loans even for minor water development projects”. It has, Medhane believes, been achieved much of its intended goals though it was not the best solution. This is, he added, however, changing slightly as Ethiopia has begun realizing huge projects by itself. More importantly the International communities and the US begun bit by bit to mark down Egypt’s unfair stance and accept Ethiopian argument that security in the region/horn is ultimately dependent on development, hence Ethiopia is fully right upon developing the waters of the Blue Nile basin to fight poverty.
Considerable Egyptian politicians and academicians seemed to comprehend that prolonged deadlock is counter-productive. Such minor evil scenario in Egyptian policy circles will be nothing but harm itself. Value of peace and sense of rationality is growing in the mind of various elites of Egyptians enough to break the century’s long psycho-hydro mentality of Egyptian politicians, Medhane observed. “The mentality that Nile River belong to Egypt unconditionally has gone some way to break the norms in the Egyptians political circles”. As there are Egyptian scholars emerging recently with logical idea –equity is the best scenario. There is a realization now that Nile River and the Ethiopian dam present great potential to all concerned countries. This is not, However, to conclude that the dust of hostile policy of Egyptian is over. As certain Egyptian politicians are still beating the old war drum to aggravate the circumstances just as usual to divert local public fury. They found the Ethiopian dam as good opportunity to fool their people though their heart knows the dam never harm but benefit them. For instance, a high profile military leader said he opts to die in the dam site than seeing it being built. Some conspiracy mentality to sabotage the dam is not fully cleared probably from the mind of some few influential Egyptian elites. Other Egyptian officials announced to repair their slightly failed counter-productive scenario to the world as to block Ethiopia from gaining loans. Some even bragged to make the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) an issue of Arab states. Here it seemed the officials failed to understand the historical bond of Arab countries is more closely linked with Ethiopia than Egypt. After all, preaching such silly propaganda in the time of globalization is nothing but ignorance. They should have predicted that the Arabs value their own benefit with Ethiopia instead of being dragged to Egypt’s unjust claim.
Now the international communities and Ethiopia expect Egypt to come to play constructive role through learning from its past practical mistakes.
The worst and best relations of the Nile Basin Countries (NBC) are dependable on their political will and leadership commitment. Political commitment encompasses several goals to come to agreed documents on how to use Nile waters fairly. This will change greatly the geopolitics of North-East African and alter the age-old security order in the region. Hence, it will be best example of conflict resolution complementarily and development.
Generally evaluated, the move is positive as is evident among Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and South Sudan are coming to realize the dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River has no real harm but could benefit Egypt and Sudan in many ways. Those countries have come to realize circumstances coupled with scientific facts. The gab b/n Sudan and Ethiopia is being narrowed –with Sudan increasingly coming to closer to the Ethiopian position of advocating policy of equity and fair water use. That is the greatest achievement of the NBC to say the least though it requires serious treatment such equitable share water issues to deepen and sustain it. The economic dimension of the future regional peace and security order in those countries is likely to be positive if Egypt comes to its sense.
As Professor Medhane Tadesse recommended NBC before ten years in his research book (2004) titled “turning conflict to cooperation in the horn of Africa”. The AU, UN and the League of Arab nations must pressurize Egypt to follow peaceful, fair, win-win and constructive path which can benefit its own people and other people instead of projecting external enemy. Encouraging Egypt to be a crucial partner in the region will be the responsibility of the people of Egypt and other stakeholders.
The old mentality that ‘I win and you lose’ policy of Egypt will not only work out but it also will put her in a vicious circumstance. If Egyptian elites are heartily keen to benefit their own people then they have to cooperate with the remaining riparian countries. Egypt must know that as it needs water for its people the other countries also need water for their own people to live too. There is no other way but to peruse win-win cooperation.
Even Ambassador Mahammed Idris himself admitted openly that the 1929 agreement was not fair when he said “we were also victims of the colonial era in so many aspects as we were not the colonial power, we were disadvantaged –it has consequences as we move from one system-it is not an issue of monopoly-it is not sticking to colonial, we have inherited a lots of consequences in our continent from colonialists. We should move to new realities to satisfy all needed countries. We do not look only to the interest of Egypt but to all people concerned. We have to move in to new horizons”.
Ultimately the Egyptian elites must know that the democratically elected Ethiopian leaders would not have any right to sign unjust document which harm Ethiopians. They have no any right even to stop the construction of the dam. I told you already the dam is of the people. Period! The only legal right our leaders have is to negotiate for win-win benefit.
And one serious thing the Egyptian elites must know is that any conspiracy against the dam will be considered as evil act, as equal as against the people and is counter-productive. It is because the dam is being built with the blood and sweat of the entire people just to overcome poverty. The Renaissance dam being built in the Nile River has nothing to do with the government. It is the property of the entire people. As the dam is just to generate power no water will be reduced. The natural flow of the river will continue after generating power. Egyptian elites must work for mutual benefit rather than trying to blind their own people by fabricating unscientific story concerning the dam just to stay in power. They have to tell their won people that Ethiopia is building the dam to defeat poverty and to benefit the region. They have to live for truth.
You can hug the old filthy treaty paper between you and your colonizer for ever but, the fact is, how you can enforce that right when the Ethiopian farmers whom you have been tirelessly working to make them live in poverty are building more capacity to build fairly accepted dams just to defeat poverty. I really liked a quote from a man I was so much a fan of him, Meles Zenawi, when he said to Egyptians, "Things have changed, and for good." ‘You cannot stop the unstoppable’. You can make any kind of noise to cause problems but doesn't move the objective reality and the fact an inch in keeping Egypt's monopoly of Nile water.
I, therefore strongly warn that any evil mentality against the dam will be the end of the day. Truth must be told as such. If the push turns to shove, then……..will be the turn.
Let me conclude by borrowing a quote from the great Ethiopian late Prime Minister Meles zenawi, “the choice is either to swim or sink together”.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org