By Orion Demame
Tigrai Onlne - April 06, 2014
Let me start by congratulating the Ethiopian people in general and the heroes of the GERD at the sight who, undeterred by the heat and cold, are struggling day and night with resolve and determination to make the dam a reality. Rest assured, my compatriots, when all this is over, your good sacrifice (the Ethiopian good) will have won over the Egyptian evil. That day will be the day the world will rejoice and start to flock to Ethiopia to witness the good and the victory. I have been following the Ethiopian news with mixed feelings. There is a lot to be proud of the diligent and hard working Ethiopians that are determined to change the ugly face of poverty from the country once and for all. I am very happy to see the development taking place in all sectors and throughout the country. Most importantly, there is no village left behind in present Ethiopia. While these are good news for Ethiopia and Ethiopians, they have also become the envy to others. Envy can be both positive and negative. It should not be a problem seen from a positive angle. The negative aspect of envy can be that of jealousy. There are those who are jealous that do not want to see anything positive in Ethiopia. Jealousy can't be a good thing. Friends can envy us but enemies would be jealous. Someone who is jealous can't be predictable and often times can come up with destructive ideas. So it is absolutely essential not to be destructed, and to stay stead fast and focused. As we celebrate the 3rd Anniversary of the GERD, I would like to share my thoughts on few selected areas not directly related to the dam.
Egypt, Ethiopia and Abbay
Egypt is not poor in water resources as it customarily portrays itself to be. It is only using the Nile water to fulfill its grand design of being seen as the richest and most affluent in the region at the cost of Ethiopia and other upper riparian countries. It very well knows that once Ethiopia is on the right development path there will not be any return. Perhaps, its fear emanates from three angles namely business, politics and history. From the business point of view, it would mean that Ethiopia would be a serious competitor in the market where Egypt operates. With material wealth also comes political influence. Egypt now claims to be the dominant tourist destination in Africa. It offers one of the oldest history and world civilization that is supported by its pyramids and tombs of the pharaohs. Egypt benefitted tremendously from its tourist sector, while Ethiopia's benefit was negligible. With the accelerated economic development, Ethiopia has started to develop its tourist destinations. It has all of a sudden discovered that it has a wealth of destinations that it can show to the world that can't be matched by Egypt.
As I mentioned earlier, Egypt offers its tourists the pyramids, the sphinx, the tombs of its pharaohs and its diving attraction on the Red Sea. But Ethiopia has much more to offer including the obelisks and tombs of its kings in Axum, the unique rock hewn church of Lalibela, the castles of Gondar, the old churches and monasteries including the floating church, the oldest mosque after Mecca, the safaris, the bird watching, the picturesque wonders of the Semien mountains, the plains, the Afar smoking mountains, the Stonehenge of the south, the Harar Wall, the sanctuary caves of the South East, the rivers, the lakes, the endemic animals and birds, the diverse and rich flora and fauna, the intangible heritages, not to mention the pleasant 13 months of sunshine. Moreover, Egypt wants to keep the status quo that it has the oldest civilisation in Africa. Well, this myth has to change because soon Ethiopia will show to the world that the Ethiopian civilisation precedes that of Egypt and history will be rewritten. All the credit given to Egypt as the source of civilisation is simply racially loaded on the part of European historians that preferred to undermine black people, black civilisation and black history. But those historians' cardinal mistake was that they forgot the fact that whatever civilisation recorded in Egypt was made by the indigenous black Africans (the Nubians and Ethiopians) and was never attributed to the Arab (Balkan and Middle East) settlers. Obviously, tourists equipped with the right information, would certainly prefer to spend their time in Ethiopia as it would give them value for their money. These are perhaps the issues that Egypt fears and not that it would get less water from Abbay. So it must be told that it needs to look to alternative water resources. In fact Egypt has the largest ground water (aquifer) in the region that would last for over 100 years. It is time for Egypt to use this resource instead of moaning and shading crocodile tears.
Egypt is also surrounded by the Red Sea in the east and the Mediterranean Sea in the North. It should use its financial resources from its oil, gas, tourism, chemical, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, etc. sectors to erect a couple of sea water desalination projects. The cost of desalination is not prohibitive these days, as it has significantly become cheaper compared to what it was 20 years ago. The technology is within its reach as well. If Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that don’t have rivers and that use sea water cab happily exist as they do, why is it difficult for Egypt not to do so? So, Egypt must be told in no simple terms to "live and let live" and think responsibly. Most importantly, it needs to understand that the "age of innocence" is gone forever not to return back, at lease for Ethiopia. It should also be told that using Egypt's population growth as a pretext to flex its muscles and harass others is futile. In fact according to CIA World Fact book, Egypt's 2013 population growth stood at 1.88% while that for Ethiopia was 2.9%. Similarly, the 2050 population forecast for Ethiopia is 143 million while it is 123 million for Egypt. So why is Egypt claiming its own population growth to justify its injustice?
Egypt has been utilising Ethiopia's and Sudan's rightful share of Abbay water for thousands of years and should have been very grateful for the higher material wealth it has achieved. Instead, it is ranting and threatening the upper riparian Nile Basin countries in general and Ethiopia in particular. Now, it is time for Ethiopia to claim compensation from Egypt for all the years until present.
It is important to note that there is confusion over the use of names with respect to the rivers that the three countries refer to. There are three segments of the river Nile. Egypt is talking in terms of the river Nile. This is the segment that stretches from Khartoum to the Mediterranean Sea. Sudan's concern is the one segment that stretches from Ghalabat/Metema to Khartoum and is known as Blue Nile. So Nile and Blue Nile should not be the concern of Ethiopia in its negotiations. I am of the opinion that Ethiopia should at all times use the proper name "Abbay" and nothing else in all discussions relating to the river starting from its source until it reaches Metema. It seems to me that the discussion as it pertains Ethiopia is the amount of water leaving Nile when it reaches Metema before it becomes Blue Nile in Sudan. It may be 30%, 40% or 50% of the flow but it is to be decided within the CFA. Ethiopia should secure its maximum share that it can sell to Egypt (if it wants) until the time the former finds it necessary to utilise it domestically.
I was surprised to read Egypt's increase in its water demand from the current 55.5m3 billion to 83m3 billion. I can say with confidence that I know how it thinks because I have studied with Egyptians, was taught by them and have worked with them. As I know them, they happen to be the most cunning, boot leaking and selfish people on earth. God has given them exceptional gift of the tongue. They are masters in talking sweet. Even an Egyptian peasant that has never been to a school for a day can be a good orator. It can be said that almost all Egyptians are humorous and good to be with, not for a serious matter though. So I am rather uncomfortable over their recent ranting. So far, Government of Ethiopia has done just fine in handling the Egypt and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) though.
Speaking of the GERD, I don't think the point of discussion at this time should be about equitable use of the water. It seems to me the discussion should revolve around whether the Dam affects the flow of the water to Sudan and Egypt or not. As long as the technical report by the commission that included Egyptian experts has asserted that it doesn't have significant effect, then that is it. The question of water sharing, equitable use, etc. is a matter that will be decided under the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) of the Nile Basin countries. In so far, Ethiopia has gone the extra mile to clear imagined ambiguities and uncertainties about the GERD. So Egypt should praise Ethiopia rather than blame it over imagined and unfounded allegations. But enough is enough. Firstly Ethiopia does not have any legal or moral obligation to open its project to whatever enquiries Egypt may put for they are many and never ending. Secondly, Egypt does not have right what so ever to press Ethiopia to abide by the 1929 and/or 1959 treaties for the simple reason that Ethiopia can't be held responsible to honour treaties that it has never been part of as a signatory.
It is absolutely imperative for Ethiopia to watch the movement of Egypt as Egypt does on Ethiopia directly and through other Arab and non-Arab countries. For instance, Egypt's current shift to Russian war machinery should be of significant concern and an imminent one. According to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, vol.51 of 26/02/2014, its recent arms deal includes 24 Mig 29 fighters, Tor-M1 short range air defence systems, M24 helicopter gunships, anti-ship missiles, etc. They have requested S-300 long-range air defence systems as well. Certainly, these arsenals are not to be used against Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan or Israel. They also have a deal with Germany for the purchase of two submarines armed with Harpoon Block II missiles one of which may have already been delivered or will be delivered soon. Using the submarines from the Red Sea could be one of the most probable measures that the Egyptian Water and Irrigation Ministers had in mind when he ranted and threatened that the venue of negotiation with Ethiopia was over.
Relations with the Gulf
The Arab governments are evil minded. This is no more evident than the revolutions in Libya and Syria. The worst of them is Saudi Arabia (Arabia). In the aftermath of the first huge oil revenue surplus following the 1973 OPEC price hike, Arabia started spending massively to destabilise the Horn of Africa (in essence, it is Ethiopia they destabilised). It is estimated that it has spent over US$50 billion in the last 40 years in its scheme of destabilisation. On another account, Ethiopia and Ethiopians will never forget how King Faisal humiliated Emperor Haileselassie in 1973 as we read from historian Dr George Hagar's writing. We also remember the ranting of a Saudi prince in 2013 from Cairo. Although the House of Saud wisely responded in diplomatic language to Ethiopia's request for clarification, it is hard to comprehend how a member of a royal family, a deputy minister of defence, a policy maker and a chief of staff of the armed forces of the country does not have a knowledge of his government's position. So, whatever the prince uttered must be taken as an official stand of the Kingdom and not treated as an isolated personal reflection of the individual.
Furthermore, when the colour revolution and the Arab-spring-like revolution in Ethiopia failed miserably, Arabia had to devise a scheme on a more effective way of destabilising Ethiopia. Again, the Arabian government anticipated that repatriating a massive number of workers to a struggling economy would cause turmoil in the country and would galvanise people at home to revolt, etc. But what they forgot is that the country they are dealing with is Ethiopia and not just a banana republic. They forgot that Ethiopia's over 7,000 year old institutions are still intact. The institutions can be modernised but they can't be shaken even by the most powerful tsunamis ever. Since Arabia will never ever rest even for a second before it puts Ethiopia under its control, it would be difficult to know what Arabia's next move will be. So, Ethiopia should stop saying "they told us so.., they assured us this ...., we believe them..., we trust them..., etc." rhetoric because the day you trust the Arabs in general and the House of Saud in particular will be the day they bury you alive. Therefore, Ethiopia should always have four plans in its interaction with the Gulf region, i.e. if plan a works, fine; else, plan B, or plan C or else plan D.
Ethiopia innocently thinks that Arabia is a friendly nation, la, bla, bla. But the latter's actions show the contrary. First and foremost, Egypt through "The Buotros Document" has abundantly made it clear that it had no enemy in the East and, therefore, no war with Israel. Mr Buotros Ghali, in his capacity as the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, vehemently declared that Egypt's next war would be in the south, 'the war for water' and that would be with none other than Ethiopia. Knowing this, Arabia together with Qatar has shown willingness to finance Egypt's US$3 billion arms deal with Russia and is a clear indication that they are on the side of Egypt. Second, the recent ranting and threat made against Ethiopia by the then Saudi Arabian Deputy Minister of Defence who also happened to be a Royal Prince close to the throne and an army general as well. Third, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, Arabia has concluded wider economic and military co-operation agreement with Pakistan. So according to the above mentioned Defence Weekly, Arabia has requested Pakistan to deploy significant number of its troops in Arabia on its border with Yemen and the Persian Gulf region. If so, where will the Saudi troops be deployed? That is a million-dollar question.
It is often mentioned that Arabia is the largest investor in Ethiopia. If this investment excludes Sheikh Al Amoudi's business interests in the country, then we can encourage Arabia's investments. But if it does, then it is evident that Arabia is not interested to invest in Ethiopia. I for one believe that their only interest in Ethiopia is to build Wahabist mosques, Wahabist training centres and to invest on Wahabist militants that would incite conflict similar to the ones in Iraq, Libya and Syria. So, I strongly have the opinion that Arabia should not be granted any agricultural land in Ethiopia. They haven't produced anything so far any way. If they are granted, it should be strictly conditional that they start work within two months if not it should be denied of its privileges.
The Sudanese connection
The current good relationship with the brotherly Sudanese people is appreciated. But Ethiopia should always be cautious in its dealings with that country because it can willingly or unwillingly breech agreements and treaties any time. Trade and commerce between Ethiopia and Sudan should be enhanced. But it shouldn't be forgotten that Sudan calls itself Arab and is a member of the Arab League as well. Sooner or later, Sudan may not be able to go against the will of the Arabs and the Arab League. It has to be known as well that the Arab League that was founded by President Gamal Abdel Nasser to advance Egypt's economic and geopolitical interests in the region is headquartered in Cairo and run by an Egyptian. As such, it would be suicidal for Ethiopia to trust Sudan's verbal promises and compromise Ethiopia's vital interests. Since Sudan says it agrees to equitable use of the Nile water, then the first thing it should do is to sign and ratify the Nile Basin Initiative CFA document. I can't see any reason why it should verbally accept at the same time it keeps the document on hold unless it is trying to get the maximum out of Ethiopia before it positions itself with its long time allay, Egypt. Plans A, B, C and D is, therefore, absolutely necessary for all Ethio-Sudanese relationships.
Somalia has now become a stable government thanks to the heroic sacrifices of the Ethiopian and AMISOM Armed Forces. The relative peace in Somalia has attracted the attention of many countries to the region due to the abundance of resources and its geopolitical strategic importance. But, foreign interest groups may derail the peace and encourage Somalia to start another round of instability to itself and mostly to its neighbour Ethiopia. It should also be noted that Somalia is a member of the Arab League and could be used by the League to continue destabilising the region. The recent Egyptian arms shipment destined to Al-Shabab and intercepted by Yemen is evidence that Egypt will never slow its sinister activities against Ethiopia. Somalia's soft approach to Egypt, not being able to tell Egypt not to meddle in its affairs should be a reason to be watchful as well.
The Eritrean case
Egypt profoundly believes that Eritrea is one of its strongest cards in the evil design it has for Ethiopia. It is well known fact that Egypt was advising, financing, mentoring and arming Eritrea all the way from the beginning of the struggle up to now. However, all its attempts on that front have miserably failed. Eritrea's president Isaias has finally got it that it would be suicidal to start another blunder. From my point of view, Ethiopia shouldn't be bothered to normalise relations with Eritrea at all as long as Shaibia is in power. I have no problem with Eritreans though. They are our brothers and sisters. I also believe that they are good people and proud of their Ethiopian past. They were only hugely deceived by Shaibia cadres with empty promises. They were also intoxicated by the fake and fictitious Eritrean history authored in Baghdad and Kuwait cities by some of their cadres and Arabs, mainly to make them feel have worth. They are so timid that they unconditionally believe tons and tons of lies told to them by their authorities. Their crime is to worship their President even when he lied to them all the time and dictatorially imprisoned and killed their leaders. But, Eritrea is independent now. So if the government of this neighbouring country shows a tendency of being used by Egypt again, then, Ethiopia with no mercy, should decisively respond not proportionally, but exponentially. To borrow a phrase from President Isaias has time and again told us during the 1998/2000 Ethio-Eritrean war that "might is right" and there is no reason why Ethiopia shouldn't play his game to root-out Shaibia if it continues to b a nuisance.