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Ethiopia will continue diplomatic effort on GERD, says Abiy Ahmed

Ethiopia remains committed to equitable use of the water, says government

Ethiopia _ Dam
GERD Project design. Source : Travel Ethiopia

July 7, 2020

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appeared in the parliament on Tuesday. The 2013 Ethiopian budget was the agenda item but he also faced questions related to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Some parliamentarians noted that Egypt has been making an effort to disrupt Ethiopia’s development, at times through the agency of political forces in the country that are inimical to Ethiopia.

In video footage from state Media, Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, one parliamentarian is seen posting the question to the Prime Minister.

“…using water from Abay [the Nile River] is a matter of survival for Ethiopia. Where are we in terms of the diplomatic effort and what is the future plan in that direction?” he said. The level of project completion is another question posed to the prime minister.

Abiy said that negotiation with lower riparian countries is not halted. He also said that Ethiopia will continue to have a talk with countries from the lower and upper course of the Nile River.

In terms of negotiation strategy, he painted the “African problem with African solution”, which is a reference to the involvement of the African Union as a mediator, as a sort of success story for Ethiopia.

“Ethiopia will continue to uphold the principle of equitable use of the water by all riparian countries,” he reiterated.

The Prime Minister seems to have a positivist view of project completion.  It is extricated from poor management after the new leadership, he asserted.  To demonstrate that, he said that the dam is currently at 560 meters high which is 35 meters up from what it was when he took over power.

Meanwhile, the state media reported that preparation for filling the initial stages of the water is completed and will start filling some time in mid-July.

On June 29, 2020, Hachalu Hundessa, an Ethiopian singer who is popular for his Oromo songs, was killed in the capital. A preliminary investigation from fourteen suspects, as disclosed by the Attorney General, reveals that the killing was orchestrated to trigger a civil war in Ethiopia. And the government claims that the internal and external enemies of Ethiopia took part in the planning.

Egypt covertly implicated in the assassination. For most Ethiopians, Egypt has always been looking for a means to destabilize Ethiopia, and extremists Oromo nationalists are perceived to have links with Egypt. In the 19th century, Egypt attempted to directly engage Ethiopia militarily but failed twice after losing battles in Gundet and Gura. Since then Egypt has rather been trying to destabilize Ethiopia indirectly.  There is a growing bitterness towards Egypt due to what many believe to be Egyptian relentless effort to destabilize Ethiopia exploiting internal fissures. 

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  1. The best outcome for Egypt would be if to engage with all the nine other Nile Basin countries under the Comprehensive Framework Agreement which unfortunately Egypt and Sudan did not adopt or even accept to. Now Egyptian policy makers are hip-hopping to far away lands – Washington, London, Paris, Riyahd and later Beijing in the false hope that some world power or powers are going to order Ethiopia or any other country in the Nile basin to stay away from Nile River waters for Egypt’s exclusive use! Egyptian politicians and academics have even hinted about “using our army which is the 9th strongest in the world to enforce/preserve our share and historical rights over the Nile Waters.” (By the way this is a fallacy, and one that may end up being very detrimental to Egypt). Apparently Egypt’s entitled share and the historical rights stem from an “agreement” that it signed with the UK , then the colonial master of the majority of the countries in the Nile Basin. And in the insular view of the Egyptian policy makers, it doesn’t matter UK was doing so on behalf of people it had invaded, conquered, colonized, looted their treasures and did not consult them when giving away their natural rights over the water that flowed in their lands. Now that is the agreement Egypt is brandishing around and it expects other people to respect. If Egyptian policy makers don’t see any problem with this they they are firmly set on a permanent collision course with the other Nile Basin countries and much of Sub-Sahara Africa in general where people are still fighting to shake off the debilitating effects of colonialism. It does not help matters that in all attempts to make the CFA operational earlier or to find a solution to the Ethiopian Grand Rennaissance Dam, Egypt still thinks that the only acceptable outcome is one where all the other countries subject their own rights to Egypt’s so called historical rights and its UK given share of the Nile Waters. To even aggravate the problem further, Egyptian policy makers, through propaganda and use of skewered facts have built up a dangerous situation in the country where now people believe that any concension Egypt makes would be a loss and therefore not acceptable. Overt and dog-whistling talk of readying the world’s ‘ninth strongest army’ to go beat up and blow away the Rennaissance dam or any other threat in the rest of the Nile Riparian countries to enforce Egypt’s way means that Egyptian negitiators are in a precarious place. The people in Egypt, just like many else where, understand that there is no military solution to the Rennaissance Dam conflict or even the quickly emerging new problems with in the Nile Basin. Unless of course Egypt plans to invade, defeat and permanently occupy all the other Nile Basin countries, which it cannot do. A Military misadventure at this point would mean that the door for negotiations or any consideration for Egyptian interests in the Nile will be forever shut. And this is the least of the problems. The Nile River is already dying at a very rapid pace due the population explosion which is putting unprecedented pressure on the water resources, arable land and the Nile eco-system . Forests, swamps and other water catchment areas that traditionally made up the Nile River basin rain water factory are disappearing. The Upstream countries are seeing reduced rain volumes and will soon have to use Lakes and River waters for agricultural irrigation just to feed their population. This will mean little or even no water going down stream. Egypt for the most part has paid little or no attention to this problem where it would have been better placed to lead the reforestration and environment saving efforts in the basin that gives it life. It is diplomatic malpractice that Egypt is frantically engaging far away governments/countries about issues of the Nile while almost not involving the Nile Rparian countries except Sudan and Ethiopia with whom it is currently involved in a conflict about one project. The Rennaissance Dam may have disabused the misconception that the Nile belongs to Egypt but may not be the existential threat to the land of the pharaohs. The real existential threat is the slow but real death of the Nile. And the cure to the disease eating way the Nile is not in far away glamorous lands where Egypt policy makers are shuttling to. And it will never be goose stepping and rampaging men of the ‘world’s ninth strongest army’ and its billions dollar worth of toys. The solution is right in Egypt’s backyard – the Nile Basin countries. That is if Egypt is ready to lead, engage and work out a cure that mutually and equitably beneficial in a new consensual frame work that does not carry the stink of colonialism/neocolonialism.


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