“Egypt considers itself an aspiring hegemon that expects to wield transregional influence over North Africa, East Africa, and the Levant. It feels challenged by Ethiopia’s peaceful Rise as a developmentally driven and fiercely sovereign Great Power.” — Andrew Korybko, August 1, 2022
Part 3 of 8
The Horn of Africa is one of the most coveted geopolitical spaces on earth. Today, the Horn that con- sists of Ethiopia as its primary hub, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Somalia is the epicenter of the “new Cold War.” Egypt exploits this “war” to maintain its hegemony over the Nile in general and the Abbay River (the Blue Nile) in particular. Ethiopia challenges Egypt’s outdated and colonial orthodoxy. The two countries have been competitors since time immemorial.
Egypt intends to continue its hegemony over the Nile River through alliances and proxy wars. On July 25, 2022, Egypt Daily News reported that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and newly elected Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud “discussed GERD dispute and the Red Sea security.” At about the same time and for the first time in years, the terrorist group Al-Shabab attacked Ethiopia.
It is critical to remember as a background that Somalia is a worn-torn, broken, and fractured country that still suffers from constant atrocities by Al-Shaba. So, the question I pose is “How in the world does the the President of Somalia justify siding with Egypt at a time when his own country faces constant terrorist threats from Al-Shabab, Al-Qaeda and other extremist forces?”
The club of deaths and mayhem destruction
Terrorists TPLF in the North, Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) in the South and northern Shoa, the Gambella Liberation Front and the Benishangul Peoples Liberation Movement in the North-west of Ethiopia, newly minted ethnic movements like Kimant and Agew groups in the Amhara region–all in concert and separately continue — to inflict pain and suffering on innocent Ethiopian civilians, especially babies, the unborn, girls, women, and the elderly.
Egypt’s ultimate strategic objective is to keep Ethiopia lawless, insecure, fractured, and poor. The need for water is not the sole objective. Egypt has numerous alternatives such as desalination, recycling, water conservation and exploitation of its immense and untapped aquifers. Keeping Ethiopia poor and conflict-ridden assures Egypt “hegemon” over the region.
Why is Benishangul-Gumuz a focal
Wikipedia describes the strategic importance of this regional state. “It shares a border with Sudan. It was previously known as region six.” The TPLF and its allies determined that it was imperative to alienate the huge and lucrative land mass called Metekel from the Amhara region and incorporate it into the newly formed Benishangul-Gumuz regional state. The TPLF regime left Amhara Indigenous people who constitute most residents exposed and vulnerable.
“Following the adoption of the 1995 constitution, the region was created from the westernmost portion of the Gojjam province (the part north of the Abay River), and the northwestern portion of the Wellega Province (the part south of the Abay). The name of the region comes from two peoples – Berta (also called Benishangul) and Gumuz.”
Metekel is strategic in two ways a) it sits on the most fertile land masses in Ethiopia and b) it is the heart of the Blue Nile River (Abbay). “The region is home to Africa’s largest hydroelectric power project (GERD). The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) started generating electricity last month. It is situated in Metekel zone of the regional state.” The district called Dangur envelopes the former Metekel district. The TPLF, OLF and other ethnic parties alienated it from Gojjam/Amhara with the intent of a) depriving Amhara of fertile and irrigable lands and b) incapacitating Amhara from controlling the Abbay River (Blue Nile) that has enormous potential for hydroelectric generation and irrigation dams.
Intolerable killing fields and proxy
The killing fields of Ethiopia do not just happen because Ethiopians hate one another. Domestically ethnic elites and their foreign allies trigger, encourage and support these killings and displacements to redress the past and re-write history. Externally, Egypt, the European Union and the United States operate with domestic operatives to exercise dominance over Ethiopia; and shape its political future. The killing fields in Benishangul-Gumuz, Oromia, northern Shoa, the Amhara region and around Addis Ababa are normalized and given legitimacy for a reason. The implicit moral arguments and justifications are that “revengeful acts” of Amhara and their likes are justified because they are intended to redress past oppression, subjugation, exploitation and “colonialism.” The most recent atrocities in Benishangul-Gumuz and Oromia attest to this.
More than a hundred people have been killed by terrorists in Benishangul Gumuz. In June alone, more than 1,500 innocent civilians, most of them Amhara were slaughtered like chickens in Oromia. More than one hundred young people, most of them Amhara students were abducted by the OLA.
Behind recurrent killings and massive displacements of innocent civilians, most of them Amhara in Benishangul-Gumuz is also the intense contest for the Abbay River (the Blue Nile). Egypt contends wrongly that the GERD will deprive Egyptians and Sudanese (downstream peoples) of “Nile waters upon which they depend,” argues.” Andrew Korybko in an OPED posted on August 1, 2022. Like me, he opines that Egypt wishes to influence international public policy and pressure the UN Security Council again to justify military intervention by “weaponizing water” as a national security threat.
The late Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi initiated the dam in 2011. It is important to go back and trace the genesis of the dam though. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s (GERD’s) conceptual roots and preliminary designs are traceable to Emperor Haile Selassie’s valiant efforts in the 1950s and 1960s. The US Bureau of Reclamation was instrumental in surveying the Abbay River and offering a blueprint for future development. It took several decades for Ethiopia to initiate a mammoth project that is now near completion. Although not officially confirmed, Ethiopian sources report that the third filling of the GERD has occurred. Ethiopia notified Egypt and Sudan that the third filling in process.
I showed in Parts one and two of this commentary that Egypt leaves no stone unturned to abort the completion of the GERD on time and to prevent Ethiopia from harnessing and utilizing its transboundary rivers and improve the livelihoods of its increasing population and accelerate the modernization of its national economy.
Therefore, President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud’s visit to Egypt is deliberate and well planned. He is part and parcel of Egypt’s proxy war, albeit on the diplomatic front. Al- Sisi’s target is to entice Mahmoud and show the international community that a key Horn of African state that is not even a member of the Nile Basin supports Egypt’s case for “a binding agreement.”
Egypt’s Daily News said “During their meeting, Presidents Al-Sisi and Mahmoud affirmed their mutual interest in advancing bilateral cooperation and working together to consolidate security and stability in the Horn of Africa. During a joint press conference ,Al-Sisi said that the discussions also touched on the developments of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) issue, and the two sides agreed on the danger of unilateral policies when undertaking projects on transboundary rivers.”
Egypt’s misrepresentation of the facts in the DOP
The reference “on the danger of unilateral policies when undertaking projects on transboundary rivers” is laughable and indefensible. Ethiopia has consistently adhered to the principles contained in the 2015 Declaration of Principles (DOP) that Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan signed. Article III of the DOP: Principle Not to Cause Significant Harm requires that “The Three Countries shall take all appropriate measures to prevent the causing of significant harm in utilizing the Blue/Main Nile. Where significant harm nevertheless is caused to one of the countries, the state whose use causes such harm shall, in the absence of an agreement to such use, take all appropriate measures in consultations with the affected state to eliminate or mitigate such harm and, where appropriate, to discuss the question of compensation.”
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