Tecola W Hagos (25 June 2020)
Dedicated to Heroes, the enlightened true believers in what it means to be Ethiopians, to Muhammed Al-Arusi, Sayat Demisse, Taye Bogale, Core Dawit, Yemane Niguse, and Mustafa Omer. Beautiful and courageous People. May your love and patriotism shatter the petrified hearts of all those who breed hate and divisions across ethnic lines in our Ethiopia. Thank you.
Of late, Egypt seems to be in a panic acting as if the end of the World is to happen tomorrow. By contrast, Ethiopia seems too calm in the face of threats, war drums rolling, escalating COVID-19. I wish there were some peaceful ways to resolve such challenges. What I find tragic is that there is no peaceful way one can delaminate Ethiopia and Egypt as long as Egypt insists to utilize lopsided share of the Nile water that does not take into account the interests of all riparian states of the Nile River system. The sovereign rights of Ethiopia, the source of over 85% of the Nile River Water that finally reaches and traverses Egypt, have been overlooked for years that is now being legitimately asserted in the Form of a great hydropower project: the GERD.
Ethiopia and Egypt are tied together with unbreakable bond for all of eternity until the day the River Nile starts flowing South reversing its course of millions of years or dries up. This whole Egypt-instigated controversy is surrealistic that backfires on Egypt, for Ethiopia has done nothing wrong except build a high-quality dam by itself on its own Tikur Abayi River within its own territory. The Dam will not affect the flow of water, but is discharged to turn power turbines to produce electric power. Being perceived as a poor country seems to have opened Ethiopia up as a vulnerable country triggering Egypt’s predatory attack and sabotage.
First thing first, Bring Home All Stranded Ethiopians
PM Abiy Ahmed started out with great pronouncements, with a great humanistic vision. Though he might have shown tremendous weakness at the beginning of his administration, he gradually started asserting some degree of authority. What deforms that vision the most is seeing Ethiopian young females stranded in Lebanon and several Arab and European cities. At the very least you should instruct those Ethiopian Consulate missions to open their doors and provide temporary shelter to those Ethiopians in such dire circumstances. There is nothing more degrading of a nation than the neglect and dehumanization of its Citizens. Use the Ethiopian Airlines to bring home all such citizens wherever stranded. It is also a good exercise for the Pilots and Crew before they start squeaking rusting for lack of their professional activities. It is advisable to open a fund for helping such stranded Ethiopians supplementing the funding by the Government.
Egypt at the Security Council of the United Nations
Complaint and Sameh Shukry
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry made veiled threat to Ethiopia interviewing with The Associated Press on 21 June 2020 “accusing Ethiopian officials of stoking antagonism between the countries.” What Shukry failed to understand is that his carefully crafted statements were in fact threats. The moment an adversary declares himself that he is peaceful implies the opposite. He also repeatedly claimed that 2015 Declaration of Principles forbids filling the GERD prior to an Agreement. That is false claim repeated by others too all over the Arab world. Here is what that Declaration states:
Article 5: The principle of the dam’s storage reservoir first filling, and dam operation policies:
– To apply the recommendations of the international technical experts committee and the results of the final report of the Tripartite National Technical Committee during different stages of the dam project.
– The three countries should cooperate to use the final findings in the studies recommended by the Tripartite National Technical Committee and international technical experts in order to reach:
a. An agreement on the guidelines for different scenarios of the first filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam reservoir in parallel with the construction of the dam.
b. An agreement on the guidelines and annual operation policies of the Renaissance Dam, which the owners can adjust from time to time.
c. To inform downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan, on any urgent circumstances that would call for a change in the operations of the dam, in order to ensure coordination with downstream countries’ water reservoirs.
– Accordingly, the three countries are to establish a proper mechanism through their ministries of water and irrigation.
– The timeframe for such points mentioned above is 15 months from the start of preparing two studies about the dam by the international technical committee. [emphasis added]
The problem with poorly drafted international agreement or declaration is that it leads to insurmountable difficulties at implementation. Ethiopia had such fallout with Italy leading to the celebrated Battle of Adowa because of a phrase that meant one thing read in the Amharic sense and a different thing read in the Italian sense. Now, coming to the Declaration, the ambiguity is in Article 5(a) in the sense that the “construction” of the Dam may include the filling of the Dam that can be carried out in “parallel” or during the negotiation. No Sovereign country would agree where another country has a veto power in the development of its natural resources. At any rate, this agreement is only a “Declaration” of Principles, a sort of guide that should be interpreted loosely to accommodate the principal goals of developing one’s own natural resource.
Declare Article 5(a) and (b) Void or Amend for Clarifications
Ethiopia did not build the GERD with such devotion and tremendous effort with billions of dollars cost just to look at it. And Egypt in the guise of negotiation cannot indefinitely holdback its agreement to stop the filling of the Dam. Ethiopia cannot be forced to go against its own paramount national interest. Article 5 (b) is even worse for it directly compromises the Sovereignty of Ethiopia for it requires Ethiopia to submit for approval to Egypt and Sudan its government policy in the operation of its Dam. That is totally unacceptable. Ethiopia can legitimately declare the Declaration of Principles Article 5 (a) and (b) void and nonapplicable to the GERD. [Peremptory Norms (Jus Cogens)] And conduct itself in filling and operating the GERD according the guidelines and principles of the 1997 Convention on non-navigational uses of international watercourses.
At the Security Council (UN)
Egypt has sent letters of complaint against Ethiopia to the Security Council on 1 May and 19 June 2020. The Security Council has specific function with rights and duties in the United Nations Organization, Power and Function system. Let alone Members even non-members may have a voice to be heard at the Council if the subject matter deals with the functions and duties of the Council. It is unfortunate and poor showing of good neighborliness that Egypt submit a letter of complaint to the Council. At any rate, Ethiopia did object about such process taken by Egypt while Ethiopia and Sudan were engaged with Egypt in a tripartite negotiation. Sudan also objected to Egypt’s complaint to the Security Council. It also declared that Sudan will not go to war with Ethiopia if Ethiopia fills its Dam as it has planned. Ethiopia should have entered over the years complaints against Egypt for all kinds of infractions that threaten the peace and security of the region. At any rate the Security Council through its spokesperson had informed us that it will not convene a hearing nor issue any such resolution intervening, and advised the three nations to resolve the problem by themselves looking at the Declaration provisions.
At any rate, to my satisfaction and to my surprise Gedu Andargachew is doing remarkably well facing off Egypt and its scheming. However, the Ethiopian Representative at the United Nations is far less effective and also far less active than his boss. The Ambassador in Washington DC is also a disappointment because he is not doing his diplomatic work as effectively as the Egyptian Ambassador, for example. Had he contacted well established international law professors, Members of the African American communities in DC and elsewhere in the United States? The Jewish Community? The Arab Community? et cetera. Get seasoned Diplomats to assist in such effort even if it means activating retired individuals. By now there should have been a couple of major conferences sponsored by academics at major Universities such as Harvard, Georgetown, Virginia et cetera. I understand the CODIV -19 have complicated matter and severely restricted large gatherings, but there are ways to counter that problem. They are not able to cultivate relationships with opinion makers and activists, and religious leaders. At the very least they should have influenced Ethiopians in the United States to stage massive demonstration against Egypt.
Egypt has sent letters of complaint against Ethiopia on 1 May and 19 June 2020. What Egypt wrote is actually a veiled threat that it will use force against Ethiopia for a nonaggressive act of filling a Dam Ethiopia built on its River and within its territory. It is not that easy to get any resolution from the Security Council, even more so if one is aiming some kind of sanction. China can be counted upon to veto any adverse process in the Security Council not just for political strategy, but because it has invested in Ethiopia very heavily with grants and loans in billions. The only way it can recover such huge debt is through the development projects planned with the effective operation of the GERD. I just learned that China has already welded its veto power and the process did not go forth from just the rollcall.
it is impossible to have a sanction against a Member State without the unanimous affirmative vote of all the Permanent Members of the Council in super majority of nine Members. [Art 27 (3)] Same is true in making decisions on other than procedural issues. The one exception being the election of the Secretary General. The problem now facing us, assuming we have our way of filling our GERD, is knowing what is next. PM Abiy has been consistent and unambiguous on the filling of the GERD. It seems he has taken a lesson from his disastrous error in agreeing to have the United States as an Observer a couple of months ago. He should avoid the United States in any negotiation dealing with the GERD. At any rate, Ethiopia will have a much safer situation after filling the first stage of the filling program of the GERD.
Agreement on Allocation of sharing of the Water of the Nile
It is very wise of Ethiopia in separating the filling of the Dam from the allocation of the shares of water amount with riparian and source countries. Such negotiation might be best if it involves all Nile River basin Nations. Ethiopia need not say or express now how such negotiation is going to take place. No interviews or governmental statements from Ethiopian Officials. Especially PM Abiy Ahmed must never make any remark on that subject, and must really guard against any goofing as he did in his Scandinavian meeting with El-Sisi over two years ago,. No theatrics as he did in Cairo either.
Creating New Alliances
Ethiopia must focus on African Union, Asian Countries, and European Union, and forget The Arab League. When your friends turn against you, you should not curl up and retreat into your shell. Instead, you venture out and recruit new friends and alliances. Ethiopia is not some helpless country. If push comes to shove, it can go on a war path, in all directions into its historic territories. However, before we go that way, let me identify what we need from the world and our neighbors.
The Arab League is already committed and manipulated to support Egypt at all cost against Ethiopia. What is interesting is the fact that Djibouti, Qatar, and Somalia questioning, and accusing Egypt of misleading statements and inappropriate behavior, and did not vote for the second Resolution No. 8524 this last Tuesday, 23 June 2020. [The League statement stated “all” Members voted.] The Resolution was supporting Egypt and Sudan against Ethiopia. In this resolution they have added a new principle that ”water security of Egypt, Sudan js inseparable from Arab national security.” So Much for Sudan’s loyalty. No undue overt friendship or animosity with Egypt or Sudan.
PM Abiy and President Isaias, please, get the Port in Assab running at great massive effort. Build oil depos to stockpile needed fuel for the general population and especially for the Military Forces both in Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Government must Contact Iran through third parties in clandestine arrangement. Appoint prominent Ethiopian Israelis in Israel as liaisons with Israel’s Government. It might have been wise not to have Israeli Ethiopians openly supportive of Ethiopia and the GERD in order to avoid being accused as surrogate for the Israel Government fighting Arabs.
Foremost, make public the draft agreement prepared by the US Treasury Secretary, and the documentation that clearly shows Egypt’s demands. I have repeatedly pleaded, shouted out loudly, even tried blackmailing in order to make the Ethiopian Government understand the value of having full disclosure administrative principle within the entire structure of the Ethiopian Government. The advantages for the Ethiopian Government for being transparent are numerous. I have also suggested a separate Website to post all documentations in connection with the GERD.
I suggest a monograph be prepared and issued by the Ethiopian Government/Office of the Prime Minister that would include the history, all relevant treaties and international instruments dealing with the Blue Nile Basin, the negotiations on the building, filling, and operation of the GERD, et cetera for public distribution both in Ethiopia and Internationally. Such a monograph should be sent to Members of Congress in the United States, Members of t Parliament, to Members of the African Union, to Members of European Union and to major Universities, and to opinion Makers. Such effort should be an ongoing process with updated follow up publication. This is a major undertaking and can be contracted out to a secure private enterprise.
In a symbolic way, the current situation between Ethiopia and Egypt reminds me of Verdi’s famous Opera “Aida” libretto about the captivity of the Ethiopian King Amonasro and the tragic love story of his daughter Princess Aida, and the Egyptian Commander Radamès, who dumped his fiancé Amneris the Daughter of the Pharaoh for the Ethiopian Princess. Because of their love, the Princess and the Commander were entombed alive. I ask: are we going to entomb Egypt and Ethiopia? No Ethiopian I know ever wants to deprive Egypt or Sudan from sharing in the bounty of the water that originates from Ethiopia. It is Egypt that wants to harm Ethiopia exclusive use of the water that originates from Ethiopia.
This is a crucial time for Ethiopians to consolidate power around PM Abiy Ahmed. The Arab League is mobilizing its economic power and military forces behind Egypt. The American President is willing to sacrifice Ethiopia in favor of Egypt. Under such situation, we Ethiopians must unite and stop antagonizing our fellow Ethiopians through their ethnic background, including those living in Europe and the Americas. Can you imagine Ethiopia with any of the opposition leaders in leadership positions? I have much to say, but stop here not to give enemies counter ideas. Keep Safe All. Long Live Ethiopia!
Tecola W Hagos
25 June 2020