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Itís Time to Book the GERD on the National Agenda

By Mahlet Mehari
Tigrai Onlne - March 22, 2014

Since the start of the Ethiopian “Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam” project was announced, there aren’t a trick Egypt’s (government) politicians, academics and Media didn’t try to hinder the project; or failed to mention the name “Nile”. Their political difference or the fact that the issue of ‘who will lead Egypt?’ isn’t resolved yet, didn’t hinder them from making the Nile issue their national agenda, by citing that it’s connected to Egypt’s existence.

Itís Time to Book the GERD on the National Agenda
The main part of the Ethiopian Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is shaping up beautifully.

The tools that are used by Egyptian government politicians, intellectuals and media to stop the GERD construction project are many; which range from ‘they’re poor’ rhetoric’s to making threats. Although its only a short time since the project started, and many rulers from Mubarak to Moorsi and currently the Field Marshall Al-Sisi puppetered transitional government took power in short span of time as a result of the ongoing political turmoil in Egypt, I don’t think there have been much of a difference on the approach they take with regards to the Nile waters.

Their customary act of homogeneously claiming the Nile is an existential issue, by burying their political difference, doesn’t need any explanation – as their actions till now speaks high volume of this; also the fact that they are making it a national agenda.

In another case, although the ‘GERD’ is an issue of existence for all Ethiopians as well, and an important cog to win the struggle against poverty, I don’t think our country’s politicians, academics and Medias are successful in making it our national agenda.

Of course our people from border–to–border are participating in the construction of the dam by pouring their money, labor and knowledge, which started from laying the cornerstone of the project.

However, some domestic oppositional and foreign-based extremists “politicians” are using this national issue to quench their own personal power–crazed thirst, instead of treating it in a way it guards our national interest. This act of theirs does not take into account or understand our country’s people strong commitment to finish the project or the fact that it is a national agenda (for them).

It’s hard to think that there will be an Ethiopian that wouldn’t want to break from poverty and backwardness. Be that as it may, I think it should be answered why we all are unable to make the ‘GERD’ project; which has a huge role in curbing our own poverty and backwardness, a national agenda. As its known, as a consequence of the unfair utilization of the River, we were forced to be cited as an example of poverty and backwardness for years.

As a consequence to the sanction levied on us from using our water resource, we have lost many of our citizens repeatedly to death. This has made our country the only country in the world whose citizens’ dies to shortages of water, while having a huge wealth of water resource. This has been a source of disappointment for years.

Understanding that changing this situation means guaranteeing the country’s survival; the FDRE government by initiating country-wide anti-poverty struggle announced the ‘GERD’ project. Considering that the GERD construction is connected to whether or not we can change our history of poverty and backwardness, the fact that it should be treated as a national agenda cannot be put up for debate.

So, the issue of realizing the GERD construction is not only about changing or not changing the present generation’s life, but a Grand National project that will define the future generation’s and the country’s existence.

So, obviously making the Dam construction; which has a key role in alleviating Ethiopia’s nation, nationalities and people from poverty, a national agenda is the responsibility of all Ethiopians. As it’s known, Egypt’s politicians intellectuals and Medias; who are making the ‘GERD’ project a national agenda, are seen arguing that the 1978 the Vienna convention on Succession of States in respect of Treaties.

It’s true that countries are implementing this Vienna convention. However, as this agreement has to do more with national borders, and not cross-boundary Rivers, this issue cannot be anything more than ‘comparing Oranges to Apples’.

Although there is an international border agreement, there are no international agreements with regards to cross–border Rivers. It’s mainly done through regional agreement. In addition to this, the 1929 and 1959 agreements that Egypt usually throws for its argument is only signed only by the two riparian (Egypt and Sudan) countries. And since these agreements didn’t include the signature of the rest of the riparian countries, they cannot be acceptable.

Not only this. Egyptian politicians state that their country’s right to use the Nile water is inviolable. But, as this was on an agreement that was signed only by two countries in a colonialism-era where principle like ‘mutual benefit’ was unknown, it would be naiveté to think this will be acceptable in the current era where the world has made ‘mutual Benefit’ it’s working principle.

Thus, it’s not hard to understand that the 2010 ‘Nile Basin Initiative’; signed by all the riparian countries (except for the two downstream countries), is the most acceptable agreement and is fast ending the colonial-era treaty. This why the Egyptians effort can be categorized as “wasted effort”.

As any reader of this article knows the upstream countries including our own country are poor and are vulnerable to recurring drought. As a result, they are mostly forced to be expectant of the international community relief. As the amount of rainfall they use to get is fast decreasing and add climate change in the mix, their citizens are put to face famine, hunger and deaths.

When the truth is this, the fact that the Egyptian politicians and media work to solely and greedily use Nile without taking others into consideration is inhumane. This is because they are clearly following a path of “we don’t care if you are starving, as long as we are eating”.

It should be understood that, as the Egyptians claim it’s a matter of life or death, it should also be noted that it’s a very important key to unlock Ethiopians from the chains of poverty that has been strangling them to death for years.

So as the Egyptian politicians, academics and the media have all made it their national agenda; similarly we should make the ‘GERD’ construction our national agenda, as it’s our way out of poverty. This would be easy considering Ethiopians love to their country can’t be questioned.

All in all I believe there are some limitations with regards to making the project a national agenda, despite the fact that the project’s huge implication on the country is very well known.

Although the efforts that are underway are encouraging, I’m saying that the issue should be turned into a national agenda. As the Egyptians have made the project their national agenda since its commencement, there are also some Ethiopian politicians, intellectual and Medias that are carrying out their professional responsibility and prioritizing national interest.

These people are executing their professional responsibility by diffusing disinformation disseminated by the Egyptians through notifying the benefits of the dam’s construction and giving updated information about the project’s current state.

Recently we are seeing some efforts that suggest our country’s academics are working (focusing) on countering the efforts made by the Egyptian government politicians and Medias to hinder the construction of the dam. One of these efforts includes the agreement signed by Ministry of foreign Affairs and Addis Ababa University and the books that are published by our academics.

In parallel, the governments’ and some private Medias’ contribution in preserving the momentum of the public with regards to treating the project as a national agenda should be appreciated.

All in all, it should be understood that we have to work very hard, compared to the efforts made by Egypt. Thus, we have to work to make the efforts made to make the GERD project successful (which have a huge contribution to our country’s renaissance) our national agenda.The Dam has a lot benefits, whether it’s to our country of the downstream countries.

With regards to our country, the dam’s role in supporting the anti–poverty struggle and its positive role in helping the country realize its renaissance can’t be put to discussion. When the project is finished, not only will it expand the country’s electricity coverage, it will give a satisfactory answer to our people in the rural areas once and for all, settling years of electrical demands.

This will stop deforestation & soil erosion, climate change and drought. In addition to this, it will give solution to health problems that occur in relation to (electric) power usage, while hugely reducing the fund that would be spent on Medication. This makes its benefit many-fold.

The dam will have more benefit when the construction is finished. We can sell electricity to neighboring countries. And this can be a huge source of income that would improve our people’s living which is intertwined with poverty.

The foreign exchange that will be generated from the sale will have a huge contribution on improving the public’s living and speeding up the country’s growth. Thus, since the dam project is an issue of breaking free from poverty and backwardness or not, it should be understood that for us, it’s an issue of existence.

What we should understand here is that although our country follows an agriculture-led economic policy, the success it’s currently having on that will inevitably transform it into industry-led economy. And this demands a heavy electrical power.

I don’t think it’s difficult to understand the importance of the ‘GERD” project, considering the huge raise in investment flow it will trigger. So, in addition to sustaining the current heavy flow of investment, the ‘GERD’ project has a huge role in speeding up our effort to enter into industry–led economy.

This is why it’s said the realization of the success of the dam project is not only a question of realizing our economic growth; but also a question of securing the country’s sovereignty.

As it’s known, the success of the project is not only tied up to the above issues, it also has benefiting results to our neighbors. And this has a direct relation to guaranteeing our peace. Thus, the dam’s role in solving the electrical problems of Kenya, Djibouti and Sudan, and in strengthening their economic ties and integration is huge.

This shows the contribution dam has in guaranteeing peace and security in the region in addition to its economic benefits. Although Egypt is having a rigid position with regards to the issue, I don’t think Egypt and Sudan will not see what benefits the dam has for both of them.

The dam (when finished) not only can save both countries from heavy flooding by stabilizing the flow of the water, it can also save them from spending heavy sums of money on clearing sedimentation from their dams, by reducing the amount of siltation (sedimentation) both on the Sudan’s ‘Roseires’ dam and Egypt’s ‘Aswan’ dam. Not only this.

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The GERD also has a positive contribution with regards to the environment. As it gives solution to deforestation and soil erosion, it benefits to the countries is clear for all to see. when the dam’s benefit to our country and even to our neighboring countries is this, Egyptian politicians, intellectuals and Media repeatedly states that touching the Nile is like posing a threat to their existence.

They echo this from the mountain top. They don’t stop with this. There isn’t a stone they leave untouched to hinder the dam’s construction. Seeing as how these Egyptian politicians, academics and the Media are all presenting the issue as their national agenda for all Egyptian citizens, it raises the question ‘Are we doing what’s expected of us?’

As any reader of this article recalls, starting from the moment and time the developmental and democratic FDRE government laid the cornerstone on the place where the dam is to be constructed, the whole Ethiopian nation, nationalities and people of Ethiopia as one have all made a promise to do anything for the success of the project with their own drive.

And this act has opened a new chapter where years of disappointment and desire to use its natural resource, the Nile River has ended. This has made the GERD, the only project to be funded and constructed solely by the people’s full participation; a project of the people by the people. As a result it has become an example to other nations.

As it’s a project constructed by the people (by compromising their living) and given an utmost care by the citizens, its historical significance is enormous. Of course when the nation, nationalities and people of Ethiopia decided to construct the dam on the spirit of national consensus with their money and labor, is not out of having enough money but rather out of their believe that the torturing days of poverty should be stopped (come to an end). I think it’s obvious that it’s their immense hatred for poverty that drove them to participate for the project’s success, without any outside push.

So, when the facts on the grounds are these, the effort exerted by Egyptian government politicians, intellectuals and Media to hinder the GERD is still continuing by barging on new irrational rationales like – ‘our people’s livelihood will be in jeopardy as the amount of water will decrease’, ‘it will destroy our heritages’ etc … By barraging these kind of misinformation they are using it to diffuse their current simmering political climate.

Of course it can’t be said that all Egyptians have the same position with regards to the dam’s construction, as some don’t share the above position of their government.

They claim that not only the amount of water will not decrease, they also state that it’s provides a solution to the water that’s lost through evaporation by backing it up by researched studies. However, most of the Egyptian politicians have difficulty in accepting this hard truth.

In addition to this, the Entebbe agreement has confirmed that the dam’s construction will save 7 to 10 billion cubic meter water. Nevertheless, paranoid politicians with their antique “it will hurt us” mentality are using the issue for their own political expediency. However, our country’s adhered foreign policy isn’t envisioned to hurt anyone, not today or tomorrow.

In fact our country is showing in various outlets that not only it believes in, but also acts in line with the principle of ‘mutual benefit’. One of these acts is the Entebbe treaty, which guarantees mutual benefit for all the riparian countries.

The fact that this treaty took thirteen years to finalize goes out to show how much effort it took. Changing the outlook that used to be associated with utilization of the Nile, with the principle of ‘mutual benefit’ alone demands huge undertaking.

All in all despite Egypt’s current political atmosphere, there isn’t much difference seen between Egyptian politicians, academics and the media with regards to guaranteeing their right to use the Nile. What we can understand from this is the fact that these politicians separate between national interest and (petty) politics. I think they have taught us that our responsibility of securing our national interest should not be tainted by a difference in political outlook.

Truth be told, some of our country’s opposition politicians thinking and action is very different from this. The so-called oppositions’ power-crazed outlook doesn’t have the eye for national interest.

It doesn’t seem they have the capacity to stand for national interest by shrugging off their difference in political outlook. Instead by considering such things as an opportunity, there’s a tendency seen from them to prioritize or stand against it.

For this the ‘GERD’ project is a glowing instance. As it’s known since the day of the commencement, some opposition forces despite their awareness of the dam’s benefit and their national responsibility to work for the success of the project, they were seen parroting Egypt’s position.

On top of this, terrorist groups like ‘Ginbot 7’ and ‘OLF’ not only opposed the construction of the dam, they have also promised to obstruct the construction work. Even some opposition groups who are based here don’t look at the project favorably.

Although these forces don’t officially oppose the construction project fearing isolation and backlash from the public, they still don’t fail from stating they don’t support the construction citing various pitiful excuses.

On one part they claim that it’s not acceptable for the dam’s construction to go ahead before creating national consensus, while on other hand they are seen plotting to diffuse the public’s motivation by turning the ownership of the dam to EPRDF (the ruling party). In parallel with this, there are handful numbers of private Medias who propagate these forces outlook though they don’t have that many followers.

These medias instead of fulfilling their professional ethics and responsibility of prioritizing national interest, they have become propagators of extremist political outlooks. Looking at these facts, it begs the question ‘Are these people Ethiopians?’

Although Egyptian politicians, intellects and media know for a fact that the ‘GERD’ construction has no negative impact, this fact still didn’t stop them from working to guarantee their country’s interest and their desire to use the river alone.

When we come to our country, it’s not a new thing to see forces who make the ‘GERD’ appear as a threat to our security (when it’s a key to break free from poverty and a hope to our future generations); forces who shameless by argue that we should negotiate with the Egyptian government and forces who are pissed that these project is being undertaken under the tutelage of EPRDF and foreign lackeys who won’t back down from giving away national interest – although these forces are marginalized by the public.

In my view some opposition politicians and private Medias, who are slowly turning out to be a personalized media to some extremist politicians, should stop their act of inciting hateful politics and compromising national interest. Although they adhere to disagreeable political outlook, they should operate by making the country’s national interest their base. Otherwise they should be aware that they’re playing a negative role in dragging our country’s politics backwards.

So taking into the fact that outside of this handful extremists the whole Ethiopians wants to see the project come into fruition, it would be behoove of them to understand that, it, more than anything and for always will be a huge national agenda.

I don’t think there won’t be anything else more than this project to be treated as a national agenda, seeing how it’s being undertaken by the people, sacrificing their food and clothes.

Thus, in order to preserve and continue on the outpouring public motivation, created since the announcement of the project, I think the whole Ethiopian politicians, academics and Media should play their own constructive role. And every citizen in its respective field should play an ambassadorial role by representing the project’s accurate image (mentioned earlier in the article) and by exposing Egypt’s misinformation and unconstructive outlook.

Egypt's 2012 constitution under Article 19 and the article 44 of current illegal leadership constitution had declared that ďThe Nile River and water resources are a national wealth.
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 Ethiopiaís stability and influence in the region

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