Part one of five
By Aklog Birara, PhD
“ዓምላካችን ያበረከተላትን ይህን ኃብቷን (አባይን) ለሕዝቦቻቸው ሕይወትና ደህንነት በማዋል እንዲጠቀሙበት ከጎረቤት ወዳጂ አገሮች ጋር በለጋስነት በጋራ ለመካፈል ዝግጁ ብትሆንም፤ ይህን የውሃ ንብረቷን በቁጥር እየጨመረ ለሚሄደው ሕዝቧና በማደግ ላይ ላለው ኢኮኖሚ ጥቅም እንዲውል ማድረግ የኢትዮጵያ ተቀዳሚና የተቀደሰ ግዴታዋ ነው።”
ቀዳማዊ ኃይለ ሥላሴ፤ ጥቅምት 1957 ዓም
“Watercourse States shall in their respective territories utilize an international watercourse in an equitable and reasonable manner. In particular, an international watercourse shall be used and developed by watercourse States with a view to attaining optimal and sustainable utilization thereof and benefits there from, taking into account the interests of the watercourse States concerned, consistent with adequate protection of the watercourse.”
Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses, UN General Assembly resolution 49/52 of December 1994
At the height of the Arab Spring in 2011, Al-Jazeera requested that I write commentaries on Ethiopian perceptions of the largely youth led and socially motivated revolution that was turning dictatorial societies upside down. I felt strongly then as I do now that beyond Ethiopian fascinations with popular revolutions in the Maghreb and especially in Egypt—whose ultimate outcomes are still uncertain–there are monumental and risk-prone strategic economic, existential and diplomatic dimensions with far reaching implications at play. Water is one of the most precious resources on the planet. Experts suggest that by 2030, almost four billion people will face severe water shortages. Millions of them will reside in the Horn and in Northern Africa.
In light of the dramatic social, political and economic changes that are taking place and will take place over the coming decades, the world community is fixated with different scenarios concerning motives and directions in Egypt, the Horn and the rest of Africa, with no clear answers. Behind the respective societies and political actors that are currently affected are external vested interests including the US and China that wish to influence outcomes, namely, who wins and who loses in the process. As the increasingly violent demonstrations at Tahrir Square suggest, Egyptian society is torn apart into different directions. The military, the only Egyptian institution that remains intact and trusted by most Egyptians, took matters into its own hands and carried-out a coup d’état and overthrew a democratically elected President who won 52 percent of the popular vote. This is an unfortunate precedent for those who believe in peaceful change and electoral outcomes. Ethiopia and Ethiopians have paid a huge price following the 2005 Parliamentary Elections. The governing party has made elections periodic charades and meaningless.
Egyptian political and social groups are now trying to settle their differences through nonelectoral means thereby creating another precedent for the rest of the world. The point I shall present is this. Whatever may be said about the different factions that are battling it out to determine the soul and future of Egypt, the implications for Egyptians, Africans and the rest are huge. Leaving the current violent confrontations among the population aside, there is a stark contrast between Egypt and Ethiopia that will affect the futures of the respective societies. Egyptians are heavily involved in determining their future. They are dying in the streets for causes they believe. Ethiopians are not. It is not because they are free; it is because they are repressed. Such public demonstrations in search of justice, human dignity, genuine participation and democracy are inconceivable and disallowed in Addis Ababa. All civil liberties are denied under the rubric of anti-terrorism that the US government continues to support.
Ironically, both Egypt and Ethiopia are America’s friends. They are among the largest aid recipients; and the US has so far played a peripheral and behind the scenes type of role. Egypt’s democratically elected government under President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood–which was under heavy scrutiny in the West and in Israel for one year—is no more. Nothing America can and would do will reverse Morsi to the throne. Experts agree that his short-lived Presidency was well known for its frightening extremism and fundamentalism, calling for military intervention in Ethiopia and Syria. Morsi’s leadership resembles Ethiopia’s in that it was never inclusive. It seems to me that, in the long run, Ethiopia and Egypt would benefit more from genuine political pluralism within; and from cooperation than confrontation. However, given the current turmoil in Egypt and continued repression in Ethiopia; no one really knows how the contentious issue of the Nile would be resolved. It is most likely that Ethiopia will face a similar turmoil unless and until the current government conducts meaningful reforms fast. In terms of relations with Ethiopia, a central question to ponder is the extent to which the Egyptian military establishment’s position is radically different from that of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood? If it is not different, the prospect of peace with Ethiopia is diminished regardless of who governs Egypt.
More than 1,400 miles upstream in Ethiopia, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)—an ethnic minority elite that dominates the ethnic-coalition government of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has practically closed the opportunity for the evolution of a strong, unified, just, inclusive, equitable, prosperous and democratic society in Ethiopia. Public dissent, expression of outrage for indignities, ethnic cleansing, forced displacement of indigenous people from their lands, nepotism are endemic; favoritism, administrative mismanagement, corruption and other forms of bad governance have become common. These and other travesties from a dictatorial government are virtually institutionalized and condoned by the governing party that has ruled the country for 22 years and intends to continue for more. Such conditions diminish the society’s ability to defend the country and its natural resources assets from external threats. It is no wonder then that many Ethiopians who love their country and defend its interests are skeptical concerning the motive of the ruling party to build the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). As an Ethiopian activist who read and critiqued this article noted rightly, the GERD is a “monumental project that parallels the Battle of Adwa” that Ethiopians won. They won because the society was more unified. Having betrayed the country’s interests over and over again and having imposed one of the most repressive governments of the 21st century, Ethiopians have very little reason to trust the regime. I share this genuine skepticism and lack of trust in the TPLF core. Despite numerous external threats, the TPLF core continues to repress the rights and freedoms of the Ethiopian people. Ethiopia’s ambitions and desires to transform itself from one of the poorest and un-freest countries into one of the most prosperous societies in the world is undermined by a narrow ethnic elite coalition that has amassed inconceivable wealth and power.
In June 2013, President Barack Obama of the USA visited Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania and talked a lot about youth, the private sector, democracy, American investment, environmental sustainability and the like. However, he did not say much about what matters the most for Africans; namely, American values that have enduring impact on the future. These include such human worth and dignity, repression, human rights, anti-corruption, anti-ethnic cleansing, etc. by repressive governments in Ethiopia, the Sudan and others. He did not mention or suggest ways and means to mediate the quarrel between Egypt and Ethiopia on the Nile nor did he highlight other hot issues such as the need for greater domestic private sector participation that may anger ethnic-type dictatorships. Clearly, it is America’s self-interest that guides US foreign policy. Accordingly, America’s values seem to be subordinated to short term political, strategic and diplomatic pragmatism. Saying little or nothing about the primacy of justice for stability is most likely to reinforce the status quo rather than hope and the future.
President Obama recognizes that today’s Africa is different
However, President Obama’s visit to Africa underscores America’s growing interest in the future of the African continent. This interest is more than commercial. It is strategic. Whatever has happened in the past, the Nile River and its future development and use are part of the American calculation for engagement with emerging Africa. In the old days—under Haile Selassie and the Military Junta—any move on the part of Ethiopia to build a monumental dam on the Abay River would have been scuttled by the US either directly or indirectly. Things have changed dramatically. Ethiopian and other African governments have established strong trade and investment links with non-Western economies. China has offered Ethiopia billions of dollars in soft and commercial loans to finance several mega dams, including $1 billion for the GERD. These trends are part of the calculation for influence. Although the degree of friendship may be different, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda—among the key upstream riparian countries—are America’s emerging strategic friends. Simply put, Egypt is no longer the lead and decisive country in Africa and the Middle East that influences American foreign policy. Americans know that the future potential and combined current and future wealth of SubSaharan African countries eclipse Egypt and the rest of the Arab World.
In light of these and other dynamic changes in international relations and given material changes in the political economies of Sub-Saharan African countries, the future role of the Nile River and its major tributaries require deeper analysis and understanding, with a special focus on the adversarial relations of Ethiopia and Egypt. I suggest that Ethiopians study the intricacies and implications with more objectivity than they have in the past. For the moment at least, Egypt and Ethiopia are the two most significant countries in the Region with enormous potential to shape the future. Their geographic positions and their enormous population sizes matter. These adversarial relationships have always revolved around one natural resource, namely, control of the Nile River, to which Ethiopia’s waters contribute slightly more than 85 percent. Historically, Egypt has managed to manipulate one super power against another–the Soviet Union against the US. It built the High Aswan Dam by persuading the USSR to finance it; and then switched sides and became America’s ally under Anwar Sadat. Ethiopia squandered its friendship with the US during the Dergue. Angered by the Dergue and its vitriolic attacks against the US, America worked very hard to influence the formation and rise to power of the TPLF/EPRDF and the secession of Eritrea. The ethnic party that emerged is the lead beneficiary; and this leadership occurred with America’s blessing and material support. In the process, Ethiopia lost Eritrea and its access to the sea. It is ironic that a ruling party that secured financing and diplomatic support from the West, Egypt and other Arab countries and that turned over Assab and other seaports to Eritrea willingly is now determined to assert Ethiopia’s right over the Nile waters. This in itself reinforces public criticisms and suspicion of the ruling party. America gained a trustworthy ‘ally in TPLF/EPRD’ and lost the admiration of most of Ethiopians. Who would America support this time and why?
The key point here is that, in the past, it is Ethiopia and Ethiopians who lost in the process.
Ethiopia became the largest land-locked country in Africa and among the largest in the world. As important, it has benefitted the least from its water resource. It is, thus, reasonable to propose that Ethiopia has an unquestionable right to use its water resources for the betterment of its population. It cannot be bound by outdated agreements. However, Ethiopia’s future security and the prosperity of its growing population will depend on the unity of its diverse population, its readiness and capacity to harness its natural resources, especially its rivers and farmlands. In other words, lack of unity with justice and equity will remain to be costly for everyone. Given increased demand for food and water, growing population, urbanization and industrialization, experts agree that water will be among the most critical sources of conflict in the future. In the event of conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia, Ethiopians would have to make hard choices irrespective of their religious, ideological and ethnic affiliation. A key question that would emanate from this is whether or not people will make Ethiopia and the national interest primary over everything else. Political correctness aside, this is a fundamental question that must be anticipated and answered
Water determines life
Many countries in the Horn and in North African face the prospect of severe water shortages in the decades to come. Competition for control will therefore be fierce. The quotes from Emperor Haile Selassie and the UN General Assembly indicate that Ethiopia and other Sub-Saharan African countries with stake in the Nile are on the right side of history. The world community knows and understands this fundamental right. We are talking about 437 million Africans in 11 countries. Article 5 (2) of the UN Watercourses Convention provides a legal basis or framework for equitable use of watercourses by riparian states. It further suggests that in the event of conflict, nations had an obligation to settle their dispute through the auspices of the International Court of Justice. The point of contention is that the principle of equitable use of watercourses embedded in the UN Convention conflicts directly with the Egyptian and Sudanese position of “historic rights.” These rights were conveyed to the two countries at the exclusion of and at immense costs to Sub-Saharan African nations—the origins and rightful claimants of the waters of the Nile. This externally imposed Hegemony over the Nile was facilitated and supported by Great Britain, a world colonial power at the time. In essence, international law, agreements and norms disregarded the interests of Sub-Saharan African countries (SSA). Agreements never anticipated that these countries would grow and will demand fair and equitable treatment at some point in the future. “Historic rights” is an outdated concept and no longer acceptable in this century. The time for change is now.
The ancient dispute is about wellbeing and security
I concede the point that the TPLF/EPRDF government does not deserve un-critical support from any fair-minded observer. It is its own worst enemy and must therefore change. I further concede that Ethiopian opposition parties, civil society organizations and intellectuals differ on what positions to take on the Nile. My contention is that harnessing the waters of the Abay River is not about political opposition and or mistrust and rejection of the governing party. Rather, it is about the country and its future. Setting aside the political and diplomatic haze that surrounds the issue, the growing tension over the development of the Abay River goes beyond ethnic, religious and political tensions and rivalry in Ethiopia. It is about national interest and security and future generations of Ethiopians. It is about long-term food security, employment generation, rapid modernization and prosperity. It is about supplying electricity to the Ethiopian people, the vast majority of whom live in the “dark ages.” Only 1/5th of the population has access to electricity. It is important to remember that Egypt and Ethiopia have been rivals and adversaries since time immemorial. In light of this, the current tension between the two over who has the right to control the Nile was both predictable and inevitable. This is because the agreements that govern the use of the Nile were patently one sided and unfair not only for Ethiopia; but also for other Black African countries. In the article, “The Nile Project: a hidden bomb? Or, a promise for shared prosperity,” I opined that Egyptian hegemony over the Nile was no longer viable or acceptable or defendable. I know of no country in the world that accepts agreements that impose draconian conditions in the use of its own natural resources.
I further suggested in the article that Ethiopian opponents of the current ruling clique in Addis Ababa ought to be careful when they take positions on strategic and long-term national policy issues. They need to refrain from confusing a government leadership that most agree is brutal, corrupt, exclusionary and divisive and that will inevitably change and Ethiopia’s long-term national interests that should endure and support generations to come. Regimes come and go; nations do not. One is obliged to believe in Ethiopia’s durability and in the power of Ethiopians to change. Egyptians overthrew a dictatorship that ruled their country with an iron fist for 60 years and are still trying to translate “the Arab Spring” into durable and genuine democracy. Egyptians changed and are still changing regimes. They are not changing Egypt into a different country. They believe in Egypt’s future. In other words, they make differentiation between regimes and their country. This is the difference.
Change is not alien to Ethiopians; they have overthrown dictators in the past and will do so again. Over and over again, we have witnessed that people will not remain oppressed forever. Claim over and optimal use of the Abay and other rivers and tributaries is, in my estimation, a fundamental right of the Ethiopian people regardless of who governs the state. This is why I suggest that harnessing any river within Ethiopia’s boundaries for the benefit of the country and its 94 million people is beyond politics, religion and ideology. In some respects, it is about national survival and sovereignty. It is about fulfilling human potential and restoring human dignity for all Ethiopians. I believe that the Ethiopia people will ultimately prevail from two hurdles: the dictatorship hurdle that emanates from repressive governance; and from the hurdle imposed by colonial powers on Ethiopia’s right to use its watercourse to advance its development. Both are winnable over time. To win both, Ethiopian society, especially, the opposition must begin to speak with one voice and stand firm for a common national purpose.
The entire article written on the Nile for Al-Jazeera more than two years ago–translated into
Arabic and disseminated throughout North Africa and the Middle East– is represented below; albeit with substantial elaboration. Its original content is intact. I am told that reaction from readers was “measured and civil.”
The specifics of the argument
In light of recent developments and the accelerated construction of the “Renaissance Dam” and the vitriolic reaction from the Egyptian government and civil society, I will dig deeper into the socioeconomic, diplomatic and geo-political implications for all riparian states and especially for Ethiopia and Egypt. What do these countries want, why and for whose benefit?
- Ensure drinking water security for their people; “the no water; no life” argument
- Harness their waters, irrigate their lands and feed themselves; the food security argument
- Develop hydroelectric power and provide reliable, cheap and renewable energy for their societies; and export and generate foreign exchange ; the sustainable energy argument
- Establish agriculture based and other industries; the industrialization base argument
- Promote tourism; the eco-tourism argument
- Reduce water loss from evaporation; protect the environment and secure sustainability long-term; the avert or reduce climate change argument
- Expand fish farms; the food diversification argument
- Improve water transport; the infrastructure argument
- Generate employment; improve the standard of living argument etc. etc.
It is clear that Egypt and Ethiopia have similar needs and requirements. If we assume parity and fair play, Egypt and Sudan can no longer dictate the terms of future use whether individually or together. Sudan is building its own dams, with agreement from Egypt. In the event Egypt continues to insist that its “historic rights” must prevail over fair and equitable use, “Ethiopia will have few options. It must entertain the idea of going to the International Court of Justice for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. It can use its power of legitimacy as a major source of most of the waters that belong to the country. It can assert its legitimate claim over its water shares” and seek backing and support from all the upriver states which happen to be “Black African” nations. It can also ignore Egypt and go it alone and wait for Egypt to react in any manner it chooses. Backing from Sub-Saharan African countries is probable because these nations were harmed by Egypt and its allies in the past. Alternatively, Ethiopia can let Egypt take punitive actions and suffer from or respond to consequences after harm is done. The last is a defeatist option. For the last to occur, Egypt must have the capacity to sustain war against Ethiopia and occupy it indefinitely or throw the entire country into the abyss. This is only possible if kilil elites and their supporters opt to fend for themselves and decide to use the opportunity to secede. In the event, most if not all will lose. Ethiopia will Balkanize.
Ethiopia is most likely to resort to the first three options. Whatever scenario we may wish to entertain, Egypt’s and Sudan’s contentious and outdated “historic rights” arguments as a foundation of negotiation in the 21st century do not hold. I cannot find any country that accepts economic and security strangulation. The negotiation options assume that the international community, especially the US and other major powers support the African “equitable use” argument over the Egyptian “historic rights” argument. My estimation is that the US would ultimately opt for a win-win solution and would not allow war as an instrument to settle the dispute over the Nile. In addition, China has a vested interest in Ethiopia’s investments; it has offered substantial loans and lines of credit to the Ethiopian government for hydroelectric construction. African countries have a vested interest in the future of a stable, united, inclusive and prosperous Ethiopia.
Unfortunately, Egyptian technical experts, intellectuals, civil society, opposition groups, government leaders and the military appear to share the common view that Egypt must not give up its “historic rights” argument. Regardless of the current turmoil in the country, Egyptians have a common stand with regard to the Nile. It affects them all regardless of their political and or religious persuasion. I should like to present an example of why this is so. The “Group of the Nile Basin (GNB),” composed of an assortment of Professors from technical faculties, notably Engineering, Irrigation and Hydraulics have taken matters to the next level. Their ultimate objective is to “support the effort of the Government and decision-makers” through scientific research, analytical studies, scenarios and policy options. Their studies show that Ethiopia’s four large dam projects including the Renaissance Dam pose threats to Egypt’s security. They accuse the Ethiopian government of failing to consult in advance, to conduct “sufficient structural and hydrologic studies and environmental assessments” and to carryout world class technical analysis and design of these dams. To my knowledge and according to experts, the Egyptian and Sudanese governments never consulted the Ethiopian government on any dam or water use project that had consequences on Ethiopia and other upstream riparian states. Agreements in 1929 and 1959 took place without Ethiopian participation. The Aswan High Dam that loses enormous quantities of water through evaporation was constructed without any consultation. No outside power or group of experts challenged the Egyptian government concerning the size of evaporation emanating from the Aswan Dam etc. Egypt and Sudan constructed their dams unilaterally. The GNB concludes “Reduction in the water share of Egypt will result in abandoning huge areas of agricultural lands and scattering millions of families. It would result in increasing the pollution of the water streams and creating problems in the supply of water for drinking and industry. 3/
This technical analysis which does not offer the prospect of a win-win solution was presented to the Egyptian government, opposition parties and civil society to stimulate discussion and offer a policy alternative. It provided more fodder to an already tense situation between the two countries. Making matters worse, the GNB offered the following recommendations to the Egyptian government thereby cornering the Ethiopian government and undermining Ethiopia’s national interests:
- “Request stopping the construction of the Dam until completion of negotiations
- The minimum requirement for the Egyptian Government should be that the maximum size of the Ethiopian Dam must not exceed 14 billion cubic meters compared to the 74 billion cubic meters” designed and under construction by Ethiopia
- Ethiopia must commit officially not to use the water behind the Great Ethiopian
Renaissance Dam (GERD) for agricultural purposes
- Ethiopia must commit to give advance notice of future projects it has in mind
- The design of the GERD must be reviewed by Egyptian experts.”
These are huge and unacceptable demands by Egyptian technical experts and scholars for which there is very little current parallel or best practice. A group of Egyptian experts, who are partisans on the issue, have effectively recommended to their own government how the Ethiopian government and Ethiopian society ought to behave with regard to the water resources Ethiopia owns. Their central thesis is that the “major threat” to Egypt is the “result of the magnified (large) size of the dam.” Contrary to my thesis in this essay, the experts feel strongly that “It is not a secret that throughout history, Egypt has never been an obstacle preventing the development in the African countries in general and the countries of the Nile Basin in particular.” If this was the case in the past, why present an unacceptable hurdle today? On the contrary, it is not true that “Egypt has always been supporting the projects of common benefits to the people of the Nile Dam” except with respect to Sudan. Designs of all major hydroelectric power generating dams were carried-out under Haile Selassie’s government without fruition. The TPLF/EPRDF government is implementing projects conceived and designed by previous Ethiopian governments. The difference is that the Imperial regime tried all it could but did not succeed to secure expertise and financing from major donors including the World Bank to construct major dams. This happened after a major study was conducted by the American Bureau of Reclamation. Implementation was thwarted every time Ethiopia tried because of resistance from Egypt and its allies. The United States was reluctant to support Ethiopia’s ambitions; as were most Western governments at the time. It is ironic that, today, the International Monetary Fund and others talk of the need for greater competition with regard to water resources development and others. They were completely silent when Egypt exercised dominance over the Nile for decades. 4/
My contention here is that peaceful and fair competition and war like rhetoric do not go together. The national security and strategy meeting called and chaired by President Morsi on June 3, 2013 surfaced the dark side of Egyptian foreign policy which has been at play ever since anyone of my generation would remember. Has Egypt ever stopped subverting and sabotaging Ethiopian unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and development, especially Ethiopia’s right to harness its water resources at an optimal level? Egypt uses religion as a tool in its foreign policy with regard to Ethiopia and will continue to do so in the future. There is no evidence of noninterference and non-sabotage of Ethiopia by Egyptian political leaders. The prospect of war, “bombing the dam, arming and financing opposition groups” etc. is not new. However, fueling instability in Ethiopia and other countries of the Horn is no longer in the interest of the Egyptian or Ethiopian people. Sabotaging Ethiopia’s dams would mean perpetual wars between the two countries. In war, even the Aswan Dam will not be safe. Contrary to the views of some commentators, I suggest that Ethiopia did not start claiming its water resources after the Egyptian revolution that toppled Mubarak. On the contrary, “In fact, Ethiopia started work on the new dam in 2011 and had ‘been planning this and other projects on the Blue Nile’ for decades.” Ethiopia’s otherwise weak and timid parliament “unanimously ratified the Nile Basin Cooperative Agreement on June 13, 2013 and thereby annulled all treaties on the Nile signed between 1891 and 1959 that had solidified Egypt’s hegemony over the Nile.” Therefore, the recommendation offered by the Egyptian academics and experts is incongruent with a rising and assertive Sub-Saharan Africa of which Ethiopia is a part. 5/
I should like to remind Ethiopian readers of the following. Whatever one may want to say about the political gridlock, current turmoil, incompetence of government officials and disarray in the country, the consistency and harmony of Egyptian academic and expert view on the GERD is nothing less than impressive. On the religious front, both Egyptian Coptic Christians and Muslims are united in their stand with regard to the Nile. I do hope that Ethiopians of all faiths take a common stand too. Egyptians have a common view, namely, “Egypt before ideology and religion.” This shows that, despite the turmoil, Egyptian nationalism is still strong and enduring. This is in contrast to Ethiopian academics, individual intellectuals, political elites and opposition parties who do not seem to show a unity of purpose on compelling national policy issues such as building the GERD. Egyptians are doing both. I believe we can and should do the same. I mean, Egyptians are fighting an increasingly non-secular and undemocratic government and a highly economically vested and entrenched military establishment to realize the full benefits of the “Arab Spring” while showing solidarity on the future of the Nile. Ethiopians had the “yekatit and kinjit spirits” too.
Dr. Mamdouh Hamza, “one of Egypt’s leading hydraulic engineers” who studied the blueprint of the GERDG shares many of the central policy options of the GNB and others. He represents Egyptian nationalism and recommends that:
- “Ethiopia’s Dam must be used for electric power generation and never for irrigation.
- The price of electricity sold to Egypt and Sudan should be at cost,” thereby nullifying the value added from the project and negating the market itself. Ethiopia does not dictate at what price Egypt should sell its gas, it oil and its cotton and textiles. This is absolutely arrogant and a non-starter.
- Filling the waters of the Dam’s reservoir should be staggered over 6 years to reduce disruption to Egypt’s supply and
- The operation of the hydro plant should be coordinated with Egypt,” thereby undermining Ethiopia’s sovereignty and diminishing its power. 6/
In comparison to the draconian recommendations of the GNB that simply provide modern languages to colonial scripts, Hamza comes across as mild and reasonable. For example, staggering the fill of the reservoir is an option and a potentially win-win formula to consider. However, his fundamental prescriptions have more in common with his compatriots than with international norms, African needs and global trends that offer win-win solutions. My rebut to Dr. Hamza is that one sided solution will undermine the entire intent of the GERD and
Ethiopia’s sovereign right to harness its waters without undue influence and pressure from Egypt or other third parties. Egyptian experts are telling us that nothing has changed for thousands of years and nothing should change for another thousand years. A Washington Post article by Griff Wifle on June 13, 2013, “Egypt frets and fumes over Ethiopia’s Nile Plan” says it all. “Since long before the Pyramids towered above the rich soil of the Giza, Egyptians have given thanks to the muddy waters of the Nile” and have been assured that nothing will change its constant flow. Successive Egyptian governments have known that their primary responsibility is to defend this sacred water—the source of life—by any means necessary, including financing Ethiopian opposition groups, sabotaging the dam itself and making Ethiopia unstable. I challenge Ethiopian experts and intellectuals to come together, diagnose the issues and offer alternatives in the same way that Egyptian experts and academics have done.
In a nutshell, this is the unchanging Egyptian position. If you are an Egyptian, you have a solemn duty to yourself and to your country to defend the status quo. However, unlike 1929, 1959 and the rest of the 20th century, maintaining the status quo is antiquated. In a rapidly changing world with new vested interests and stakeholders, and in a fast-changing Sub-Saharan Africa, the status quo is no longer acceptable. The other side wishes to be heard in real terms. I stand on the side of this changing trend. I will show the reason why in a series of articles on the subject.
Updated and revised July 11, 2013