Current Ethio-Egypt relations in light of GERD

The Nile Basin countries have endowed with a huge resource: the Nile River. They could have been mutually benefited from the water had they applied appropriate water management and good will to develop together.

However, there are impediments in implementing cooperation among the basin countries due to various reasons._ One of the major reasons that retarded the countries from working for a win-win solution is the interest of the downstream country, Egypt, to maintain its water monopoly.

In this regard, Ethiopia has been attempting to bring downstream countries to a round table so as to create the notion of mutual benefit. As a result, different negotiations have been made so far between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, although the process was terminated recently.

Following the disharmony and termination of the tripartite discussion, there is a plan for the two leaders, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegne to meet in Cairo and discuss the issue.

There are some reports about some Egyptian Parliament Members who have been attempting to poison the Ethio-Egyptian relations. According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the number of MPs who have been opposing the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s visit to Cairo and his scheduled speech to parliament are insignificant.

It is usual that some media, scholars and politicians have been sticking to the colonial thinking that goes arguing that Egypt is the only country that should utilize the Nile Waters. That monopolistic thinking remained for a very long time.

Egypt has been utilizing the Waters almost alone, having given a gift of about 18 cubic meters to the Sudan._ In the real sense, Sudan has not been benefited equally with Egypt based on the colonial treaty.

The egoist outlook of some Egyptians to maintain that water monopoly was challenged when Ethiopia announced its hydro-power dam construction on the Nile River in 2011. This project is the first of its type that Ethiopia has been construction on the Nile since time immemorial.

Although the country was poor and need to harness its resource to feed its people, it was not in a position to execute such mega projects due to various reasons.

One of the most crucial constraints was financial problem. Ethiopia for a long time had no enough finance to implement such projects. It was also hard for the country to get funds from other development partners due to Egypt’s influence against Ethiopia’s fund raising efforts for such projects.

That strategy has worked for long. In those times, Egypt has the upper hand in the diplomatic arena and Ethiopia was so isolated from the rest of the world due to the failure of previous Ethiopian regimes.

These challenges restraint Ethiopia to use its natural wealth while Egypt and to some extent Sudan have been utilizing it to feed their peoples properly.

In fact, the Nile River is so huge that it has the potential to benefit all had there been good will and cooperation. However, still there is self centered attitude particularly by some Egyptian groups.

The need to monopolize the water never fades away even in the 21st century, at the time of globalization. The issue of the Nile Rivers is not the only concern of Ethiopia, but all upstream and downstream countries.

These countries need to cooperate to properly manage and utilize the water. Sticking to a treaty that ignored these countries by no means could be binding. The 1929, the 1959 and other previous agreements that excluded upstream countries from negotiations are typical examples. Those agreements did not incorporate all riparian countries, ironically countries that significantly contribute to the Nile Water.

However, it is a public secret that the interest of Egypt to use the water entirely, having ignored other riparian countries is a serious concern to the others. These countries need to have fair and equitable water share.

The Sudan has been cooperating with Ethiopia for the past six years for the realization of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. In all the discussions held so far among the three countries: Sudan hold same stance with Ethiopia.

Speaking at the celebration of the 12th Ethiopian Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Day held in Semera, the capital of Afar State, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir emphasized that “Ethiopia’s renaissance is Sudanese renaissance”.

This argument of really indicates that there is full understanding between the two countries that any development project in any of the countries along the basin could benefit all the other countries. If Ethiopia managed to accomplish the construction of the dam, it will also benefit other countries in the basin besides Egypt and the Sudan.

The experience of past decade witnessed that the rapid development in Ethiopia has contributed significantly to the development of countries like Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan directly or indirectly.

But Egypt still resisted, not only to joining the New Framework Agreement that was signed by all basin countries but three, but also refused to_accept the development in Ethiopia.

It has brought preconditions after preconditions in the ongoing tripartite discussions which were terminated recently._ It is not unusual that Egypt has been executing various activities in a bid to jeopardize development efforts of upstream countries along the Nile Waters._

All the upstream countries need to apply a win-win approach._ However, some Egyptian politicians and media outlets failed to stop their zero-sum game politics. Some officials of that country have been attempting to jeopardize development efforts in upstream countries, particularly in Ethiopia.

The current move by some members of the Egyptian Parliament is just the sequel of what that country has been doing on Ethiopia for long.

But this brings about a change on the schedule and on the entire diplomatic relationship between Ethiopia and Egypt. According to Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Meles Alemu, these groups could not impede the Premiers’ visit to Egypt and the scheduled speech delivery to the Egyptian Parliament.

In fact, there are always some groups in every society that usually oppose whatever governments do home and abroad.

This is inevitable. But the majority of the Egyptian people should know that Ethiopia is not running a project that inflicts any harm on Egypt. Rather, they have to understand the fact that the dam has multifaceted benefits to the Egyptians as well.

If the people get enough information that could encounter the propaganda of some of the groups and the media in Egypt that have been disseminating unfounded stories about the impacts of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, there would be better cooperation between the peoples of the two nations.

In fact, Ethiopians understand that the Nile is the life of Egyptians as their entire life is interconnected with the River.

But the Egyptians should also understand that Ethiopia’s poverty alleviation goals can only be achieved through harnessing its natural resources, basically its water resources.

Ethiopia’s Minister of Government Communication Affairs Office once said, “Development is a matter of life or death to Ethiopians”._

The country has been implementing its poverty alleviation schemes that incorporate various mega projects. GERD is one of these projects believed to ensure sustainable development.

The Premier’s visit that aimed to address the Egyptian people’s concerns about the construction of the dam could help the Egyptian people to balance all the negative propagandas that have been inflicted up on them by some irresponsible officials and media in that country.

It is believed that the people in Egypt would know the reality from the first source and will cooperate with Ethiopia for mutual benefit and development.

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