By Mesfin Genanaw
“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.”
Recently on two different occasions, Egypt President Al-Sisi made the following bully-pulpit remarks regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD):
“No one can take a single drop of Egypt’s water.”
“God had sent rain to Ethiopia and provided hilly lands for the water to reach Egypt, affirming that what God wants will not be changed by humans.”
Anyone politician who makes an absolute claim to “know” what God “wants” is speaking through his hat — or worse. Suppose God wanted the Nile river to benefit Egypt only. What constrained the Omnipotent God to give Egypt all the “hilly lands” or sprung up the water at mount Sanai or even at the desert instead of laboring it from thousands of miles away in Ethiopia’s highlands? We all know God is not constrained by time, space, or metaphysics as we are.
It is dangerous and outlandish to invoke God’s “wishes” to support one’s politics or weaponize it for political or economic ends. Instead of shooting from the hip, if one is a man of God, he should read religious texts for guidance considered divinely or supernaturally revealed or inspired by the Deity about his wishes and commands. I find it apt to list notable and pertinent quotes from the Quran and the Scripture about an Egyptian Pharaoh who brags about owning the Nile river:
In Quran (43:51)
وَنَادَىٰ فِرْعَوْنُ فِي قَوْمِهِ قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ أَلَيْسَ لِي مُلْكُ مِصْرَ
And Pharaoh called out among his people; he said, “O my people, does not the kingdom of Egypt belong to me, and these rivers flowing beneath me; then do you not see?
The Scripture (Ezekiel 29) has more pernicious and baleful revelations to the Pharaoh who claims the river “belongs to him“:
“1 In the tenth year, in the tenth month, in the twelfth day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2 Son of man, set thy face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt:
3 “Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.”
8 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring a sword upon thee, and cut off man and beast out of thee.
9 And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and waste; and they shall know that I am the LORD: because he hath said, The river is mine, and I have made it.
10 Behold, therefore I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from the tower of Syene even unto the border of Ethiopia.
11 No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years.
12 And I will make the land of Egypt desolate ………. and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries.
13 Yet thus saith the Lord GOD; At the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the people whither they were scattered:”
I do not wish these doomy revelations to fall upon the brethren people of Egypt. I really don’t. And there is no record in Egypt’s past this has ever happened. But the fact that the blasphemous words that came out of Egypt’s current “Pharaoh” coincide with Ezekiel’s revelation about the locations of future disasters (the towers of Syene’s currently known as Aswan) up to Ethiopia’s border (where the GERD is built) in this thousands of years old revelation are frightening. It should be an alarm bell for Egypt to ponder.
Ethiopia has no nefarious design except to lift its people out of poverty and darkness by building the GERD. It is domineering and downright greedy to send a warning not to touch “a drop of water” to a country that contributes 86% of the pot that goes to Egypt and Sudan and currently using 0% but needs a fraction of that to fill up the dam on stages. The amount of water Ethiopia plans to hold for the GERD second filling (13.4 BCM) is much less than the amount of evaporation loss from the inefficient Lake Nasser (16BCM) reservoir every year. In fact, the much smaller evaporation loss at the reservoir at highland Ethiopia eventually would massively increase the total amount of water flowing down the Nile making a more apt hydrological sense. GERD reservoir contains much less water but generates three times as much hydropower than the Aswan Dam.
Egypt portrays the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) as an existential threat for its people but as non-existential for Ethiopia, as if the project is a Grand Ethiopian Resort Development to promote beach parties. GERD is designed to lift over sixty million Ethiopians out of darkness, transform the country’s economy, reduce poverty, and protect the environment as part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals. It is very shameful for Egypt to mislead its citizens and the world with its fake ad as if the GERD is “trying to cause 150 million Egyptians to die of thirst.” A sophomore student knows a non-consumptive dam doesn’t stop the flow of water downstream. All it needs is non-acrimonious close coordination of the filling and release of water b/n the three countries not to cause significant harm to downstream countries.
Egypt’s claim that all Nile water belongs to her is based on colonial treaties to which Ethiopia was not a signatory. If colonial treaties were to hold today, Egypt would have been ruled by the British now. Ironically, Ethiopia as a source of the water is for sharing, and it is Egypt that refuses to share. But Egypt has powerful allies in the news media and many western governments and international organizations who “believe” the lie that Ethiopia is blocking the flow of water to Egypt using its non-consumptive dam. Egypt’s fundamental motive is to ward off rising Ethiopia (that it had battled with for centuries for influence and control) and protect its chipping away regional significance. By successfully blocking international funding organizations not to finance development projects in Ethiopia, Egypt wants to milk Ethiopia bone dry like a colonial power at the expense of starving Ethiopians.
This water-sharing issue has been lingering for decades. Ethiopia had engaged all riparian countries to strike a deal to share water through the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA), but Egypt and Sudan refused. Later, Egypt had tried to make a bilateral agreement with Ethiopia, but Ethiopia refused to do it behind Sudan’s back. It appears now Egypt and Sudan have found new military alliances posturing for military action against Ethiopia, and some of the African riparian countries are trying to have it both ways to exploit the situation. No sane person or nation would go to war with a country of hundred twelve million people who control its drinking water source based on false premises.
But if the whistle of war is blown against Ethiopia, as Al-Sisi said, “all options are open” for Ethiopia too to win the war without relying so much on war gadgets that Egypt has been piling up for years and so much fond of. The battle-hardened Ethiopian people, who are condemned to pull in their meager income through crowdfunding to finance the project, will be united overnight to take the matter into their own hands without even waiting for the government’s order for retaliation. It is a joy for Ethiopians to die for their sovereignty. They have done it many times throughout history and will do it again. Egypt has been one of the best firsthand witnesses after losing major battles to Ethiopia in the nineteenth century. That said, let’s hope cool heads in Egypt and Sudan eventually prevail and stop the looming madness that benefits no one.