July 24, 2022
Aklog Birara (Dr)
Part 1 of 8
“Indeed, the US has a long criminal history of meddling into the political affairs of other nations —a history that spans at least a century and, since the end of World War II, extends into all regions of the globe, including western parliamentary polities. This interview with Noam Chomsky reminds us that the United States is no stranger to election interference; in fact, it is an expert in this arena.”
Noam Chomsky Interview, “On the long history of US meddling in foreign elections, January 29, 2017
“In his Christian New Testament Epistle to the Galatians, Paul the Apostle writes: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
Ethiopians and the rest of Black Africa are now used to US government sanctions and the threat of sanctions. Sanctions are solely intended to influence government policy in Ethiopia and in the rest of Africa. Sanctions are intended “to give effective or authoritative approval” for the sanctioning power. Sanction is war by a different and “civilized” means. Punitive sanctions give the USA international legitimacy and global acceptance (the UN system) and allow it “to impose a penalty or economically or militarily coercive measures.” The harm to the target county can be devastating. For example, sanctions prevent access to investment capital.
Sanctions are not the only tools the United States deploys to punish or to change regimes that the US does not approve. Proxy wars, cyber-attacks, direct or indirect support to domestic opponents and insurgents feature prominent in US foreign policy.
My thesis in this commentary is that, behind relentless proxy wars and lawlessness in Ethiopia —ethnic, terrorist and others—are Egyptian machinations and Egypt’s cohort of internal and external conspirators, plotters, supporters and enablers.
This external threat that bedevils Ethiopia and threaten its very survival are fueled hugely by fierce domestic competition among ethnic political elites for political power and resources; by terrorist actions; by the dearth of wisdom and statesmanship among Ethiopia’s leaders; as well as by misguided government policies and priorities. This pathology within emboldens external forces.
The reason for Egypt’s multipronged attack of Ethiopia are two-fold a) to forestall the completion (third filling and the rest) of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (the GERD); and b) to abort other irrigation and hydroelectric power generation dams. Egypt is determined to keep Ethiopia ethnically and religiously polarized, conflict ridden, lawless and poor. It spends tons of dollars to do this.
Egyptian hegemony over the Nile and proxy wars
In June 2013, Egypt warned Ethiopia over potential diversion of waters from the Blue Nile (Abay) to fill the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a 6,000 megawatts hydroelectric power generation project financed in its entirety by Ethiopians. At that time, Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi threatened Ethiopia and declared that “all options are open” in dealing with any threat to his country’s water supply posed by the GERD and future dams.
While President Morsi refrained from declaring war against Ethiopia, he announced publicly that Egypt will not permit Ethiopia to endanger its water supply. Arab media and the BBC quoted President Morsi saying that “Egypt’s water security cannot be violated at all.”
Mr. Morsi who was later overthrown was adamant and clear that “As president of the state, I confirm to you that all options are open.”
Egyptian state policy of hegemony over Blue Nile waters and veto power over the operation and management of the GERD have not changed since. In a meeting with Tanzania’s Foreign Minister June 11,2022, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi “stressed Egypt’s firm position towards preserving its water security and all historical rights acquired in the Nile waters, through reaching a binding legal agreement on the rules for filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) that preserves the right of current and future generations to the Nile, the main source of water in Egypt.”
Egypt is not alone in its claim of “natural and historical rights” over Ethiopia’s Blue Nile /Abbay river and tributaries that together supply 86 percent of Nile Waters. The Arab League and the European Union support Egypt. American support to Egypt over the GERD is subtle.
Egypt does not contribute an ounce of water. Ethiopia’s water supply to Egypt is a free good, an entitlement that, in my assessment is a relic of the colonial era.
In March 2020, former US Ambassador to Ethiopia, David Shinn, wrote an OPED that urged that “The United States Must Not Pick Sides in the Nile River Dispute.” Instead, he recommended rightly that “Washington should be helping them (Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan) compromise, rather than doing Cairo’s bidding.” The EU should have followed the same policy.
Ambassador Shinn’s proposal that “A Nile agreement will have to be a part of a cooperative framework for greater regional and economic integration. The GERD will heighten the interdependence among the countries that share the Nile and enhance the need for close and proactive coordination to optimize the river’s various uses across borders. As climate change creates new vulnerabilities such as erratic rainfall, it will become even more essential to actively coordinate water usage across the full stretch of the Nile.”
During the impasse of negotiations in early 2020 and when Egypt and Sudan reverted to the US and the World Bank as “mediators” and imposed severe conditions on Ethiopia, The International Crisis Group advised Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan that in the long-term, “The parties should support efforts towards a long-term trans-boundary cooperation agreement up and down the basin. This is the option that the EU failed to push.
The Center believed that “Egypt could demonstrate good faith by rejoining the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), the most effective platform to reach a broader Nile basin agreement. This gesture would be both forward-leaning and justified by the present state of affairs: Egypt (along with Sudan) froze participation in the NBI because upstream countries refused to abide by the 1959 Nile agreement, which allocated 100 per cent of Nile waters to the two downstream countries. Those disagreements are now moot as explained above: the dispute is no longer a battle for hydro-hegemony but rather an argument about how to share resources in a way that benefits all riparian states.”
Unfortunately, Egypt is adamant that its colonial era of “natural and historical rights” over Nile waters is sacrosanct and overrides all other options. The record shows that instead of negotiating for a win-win solution among all Nile River riparian countries, Egypt:
- Arabizes, regionalizes and internationalizes this legitimate and African rights issue.
- Sticks rigidly and arrogantly to colonial era 1929 and 1959 Nile water treaties and agreements that are non-binding on Black African Nile River riparian countries. Egypt refuses to accept that “The Nyerere doctrine of 1962”that nullifies and makes colonial agreements and or treaties non-binding.
In an unprecedented move, the European Union (EU) made a huge strategic mistake when it announced recently that it embraces and supports Egypt’s claim of “natural and historical rights”. This diminishes the EU’s moral authority and legitimacy that it can play an impartial role on future Nile matters.
- The EU, Egypt and other parties know that the 1959 Nile water treaty with Sudan grants Egypt 5 billon cubic meters of water,18.5 billion cubic meters of water to Sudan, and avails 10 billion cubic meters of water for evaporation. The treaty grants none to the rest of Black African Nile River riparian countries including Ethiopia.
Ethiopia never accepted Egypt’s hegemony over Blue Nile waters. At the same time, Ethiopia never threatened to harm Egypt or Sudan. It continues to adhere to the spirit of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan signed in 2015.
- In addition, Egypt believes that an exclusionary, unfair and unjust Nile water treaty with Sudan facilitated by then colonial power Great Britain grants Egypt veto powerin the development and utilization of Nile waters. This veto power is identical to the veto power granted to Nuclear power nations in the UN Security Council.
The implication of Egypt’s veto power is that it poses an existential threat for Ethiopia. It cannot harness its Blue Nile water resources for hydro power and or irrigation projects. It must first seek permission from Egypt on a natural resource asset that Ethiopia’s geographical location granted to Ethiopia; and not to Egypt.
Egypt is a desert. It does not produce an ounce of water. But Egypt consumes huge quantities producing agricultural commodities, a bulk of foods for export. Egypt squanders tens of billions of cubic meters of water each year.
A free good is not free at all free
The “gift of the Nile” is really a gift from Ethiopia. Luckily for Egypt and Egyptians, Ethiopia has been supplying Egypt with its waters for thousands of years, for the most part rent free.
As my distinguished friend and compatriot, Mr. Kidane Alemayehu, who worked in Lesotho as a high official keeps reminding Ethiopians and the rest of the world, there is no such entitlement as a free good when it comes to a precious and finite asset, water.
The small nation of Lesotho supplies waters to South Africa and earns more than $50 million per year from South Africa. For the government of Egypt paying rent for Blue Nile waters to Ethiopia is unthinkable. Because, Egypt believes that it owns the Nile. Its core argument is that any reduction in the amount of water flow to Egypt is a national security matter.
It irks me that Egypt does not entertain the counter argument that Ethiopia’s failure to harness its Blue Nile waters for the betterment of its people is equally a national security issue.
In the light of this undeniable fact, I am convinced that someday in the not- too-distant future, Ethiopia will be in a stronger position to charge Egypt reasonable annual rent for suppling it with fresh waters from the Blue Nile and tributaries. But Ethiopians must defend payment and fight for it. Ethiopia must, as a national priority, restore peace, stability and human security.
- Egypt’s covert and overt operations against Ethiopia have a long and infamous track record. a) In 2014, Ethiopia arrested a group of Egyptian spies, state agents and saboteurs operating in concert with the TPLF, OLA and other anti-government individuals and groups. b) Egypt signed military cooperation and security dealswith Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan, Uganda; and agreed on a deal for the construction of a hydroelectric construction project (the Nyerere hydroelectric generation dam) with Tanzania)
These Sub-Sahara African countries are members of the NBI group. Egypt’s primary intent in singling out and signing military, security and development deals with these NBI countries goes beyond altruism.
Behind these strategic deals is to alienate Nile River Black Africa from Ethiopia. It is at minimum to create doubt that African nations do not speak from the same script concerning the Nile in general and especially the GERD. It is to use Sub-Saharan African Nile River riparian countries as conduits for covert operations against Ethiopia.
There is no doubt in my assessment that Egypt is determined that it must weaken Ethiopia by a) recruiting into its orbit a group of NBI countries in support of its continued hegemony over the Nile; and b) financing and promoting ethnic and religious conflicts within Ethiopia to make it fragile, ungovernable and lawless.
In its incisive analysis “Egypt boosts relations with Nile Basin countries via military deals” dated 06-04-2021, Xinhua quotes Egyptian Political Scientist and Professor Tariq Fahmy with the University of Cairo who says rightly that “Although Egypt’s military agreements are meant to confront terrorism in Africa, they also carry Egyptian messages addressed to Ethiopia over its disputed giant Grand Renaissance Dam issue. Egypt’s rapprochement with the Nile Basin region would not only preserve the water rights of Egypt but also achieve regional security and stability.”
The lead reason is to send a clear message to Ethiopia that other options like overt military operations can be deployed.
Professor Fahmy opines “Egypt has been pursuing a cooperation-led strategy with the Nile Basin countries, mainly the ‘ring countries’ around Ethiopia to protect its water, which helped in changing the policies of some African countries towards Egypt.”
The alleged conspiracy and plot by the government of Uganda—a plausible “Trojan Horse” on behest of Egypt– against Ethiopia that I plan to analyze and discuss over the coming few weeks is inseparable from Egypt’s carefully crafted and executed military, security as well as development strategy and programs in Africa.
Egypt’s proxy war is real and poses an existential threat for Ethiopia. Egypt mobilizes the Arab world, the EU, the US and a selected few Sub-Saharan African country in its campaign against Ethiopia. Mobilization draws international attention. It enhances public relations and public diplomacy for Egypt. In turn, this offers Egypt regional and international backing and legitimacy as the party that is being harmed by Ethiopia’s GERD and beyond.
Egypt’s singular goal against Ethiopia is twofold: a) zero in on “a ring of countries around Ethiopia” and b) mobilize, finance and incentivize domestic terrorists like the TPLF and OLA and make Ethiopia ungovernable.
Ethiopians and the rest of Africa must be conscientious of Egypt’s corrosive, divisive and seemingly altruistic agenda that negates and undermine the Nyerere doctrine. This doctrine calls for all Nile River riparian nations to forego as non-binding colonial treaties and agreements; and instead, agree and adopt a new post-colonial, fair, just and equitable Nile River water sharing Agreement under the auspices of the African Union as soon as possible.
Ethiopia Shall Prevail!!
July 24, 2022