Ethiopian diplomacy diminished Egypt’s ambition for dominance
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Ethiopian diplomacy diminished Egypt’s ambition for dominance

By Gemechu Tussa
Tigrai Online, Ethiopian News, Dec. 23, 2016

Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have been undertaking various discussions on the impact of the Grand Ethiopian renaissance Dam for the past four consecutive years.  These series of meetings at ministerial and technical levels have in some extent help the two downstream countries to understand the insignificant impact of the dam to them. However, there are still ambitions of maintaining the colonial thinking particularly on Egypt side.


The Nile is the longest river in the world, the merging of the White Nile whose sources are a river in Burundi and Lake Victoria in Uganda and the Blue Nile.   Egyptians were and still are the ones who benefit the most out of the Nile Water. As a result of this wonder of nature, there were cultural, technology and commercial trade exchanges among the peoples of the upper and lower streams.

Due to dominance of water usage by Egypt and denial of others to use the relationship between Ethiopia and Egypt remained as turbulent for centuries.  International laws and water conventions indicated that countries both in the upstream and the downstream have equal rights in using the Nile in a fair and equitable manner.  

That is why the Nile Basin Initiative was established in 1999 by Nile basin countries with a vision stated as, “achieving sustainable socioeconomic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile basin water resources”.  In fact, there is no law that could prohibit Ethiopia  from using its natural resource in a fair and equitable manner as the colonial thinking never work today in the 21st century. 

However, Egypt continues to venture on colonial treaties of the 1929 and 1956, which only reward both Egypt and Sudan to share the Nile water only for them ignoring the upstream countries.  There are to extreme principles that Ethiopia and Egypt have been sticking to since time immemorial in connection to their common wealth. Ethiopia wants to apply fair and equal share of the Nile water and develop together with other riparian countries.

Egypt wants to maintain its dominance on the Nile Water. It rejects fair and equitable utilization of water.  Egyptian politicians have always opted for policies and strategies which are aimed at destabilizing Ethiopia economically and politically. Such destructive and disingenuous policies and strategies include among others, Egypt’s intervention Ethio-Somalia as well as Ethio-Eritrea wars.  Besides, it largely participated in the recent violence in Amhara and Oromiya Regional States.

 The anti-Ethiopia campaign has been held by Egypt together  with Eritrea and Libya. Some political analysts argue that Egypt also played an indirect role in the creation and strengthening of the Al-Shebab.

Egypt secretly supplied arms to the regime in Eritrea in its war of aggression against Ethiopia in 1990. Egypt always attempts to neutralize Ethiopia’s active role in maintaining peace and security in the continent. There are reports now that Egypt and Eritrea have established a command post along the Red Sea.  Egypt has been also lobbying international financial institutions and countries not to provide any development loan to Ethiopia.  

Egypt’s old policies and strategies in connection with the Nile couldn’t achieve their intended purposes. Firstly, Egypt enjoined the support of the US for an extended period of time simply because Egypt plays an important role in the politics of the Middle East. Sources also indicate that Egypt gets a considerable financial and military support from the US on yearly basis, helping Egypt to build a huge army and relatively a strong economy in the region. 

On the other hand, Ethiopia is emerging as one of the fastest growing countries in the Africa region, with strong economic and diplomatic ties with countries at global, regional and sub-regional levels. Its constructive role in the Africa region is increasing from time to time with a firm stand against global and regional terrorism. All these present a formidable challenge for Egypt to pursue its diplomatic efforts in ensuring its grip of the Nile.

Secondly, on the diplomatic front, the African Union and IGAD are becoming very effective and strong institutions in maintaining peace and security in the continent. They have been encouraging sub-regional co-operations and initiatives such as the Nile Basin Initiative.  Finally, unlike previous years, countries in the East Africa sub-region are among the fastest growing economies in the world.

In addition to their close cultural ties, these countries are becoming closely interconnected with each other through trade, energy power and scientific research. The power energy connections between Ethiopia and Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya are examples of economic integration of best practice and who knows there might be similar connection between Ethiopia and Egypt in the future.

These countries are also playing a major role in bringing Somalia into a stable and peaceful country which shows the economic and political strength of these countries in resolving regional conflicts on their own resources.  Therefore, it is perfectly logical to infer that no country or international organization restrained itself from standing on the side of Egypt in its diplomatic campaigns against the construction of Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam.

Analysts also say that taking the Nile as a national security issue by Egypt which contradicts with the principles of establishment and implementation of the Nile Basin Initiative is putting Egypt in a very difficult situation in getting support in its diplomatic efforts, simply because Egypt is only a consumer and not a producer of the Nile Water.

The construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam is not simply to satisfy the energy needs of the industrial sector but a matter of survival. The country’s forest has decreased from that of 40% one hundred years ago to a mere four percent at present due to rapid deforestation for energy, building and other basic needs.

Ethiopia has put in place a comprehensive and sound environmental policy of conservation and rehabilitation, and the use of alternative energy sources. The need for the construction of the Grand Renaissance dam therefore, falls within this broader policy objective of enhancing resiliency to shocks from climate change and ensure a system of “Green Economy.

Therefore, the Grand Renaissance dam means a question of survival, identity and a symbol of strength, determination and hope which has galvanized Ethiopians of all ages both at home and in the Diaspora. Although Egypt has unpredictable stance in connection to the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam, Ethiopians know that they  have full right to harness their natural resource  without inflicting significant harm on the downstream countries.

The desire of Egypt to maintain its unfair and inequitable use of the Nile Water doesn’t work this time. All riparian countries want to use their common resource for their development. They want to have a win-win approach in order to avoid conflict and promote peace in the region.

The ambition to maintain the colonial treaty conducted by the two downstream countries doesn’t work nowadays. Besides, Egypt’s diplomatic lobby failed to work as the Ethiopians have been using their own finance in constructing the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The only option for Egypt is to cooperate with upstream countries particularly with Ethiopia to maintain not its dominance over the Nile Water but  ensure its faire and equal water shares with other riparian countries.

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