By Aklog Birara (Dr.)
Ethiopia began the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a monumental project estimated to cost $4 billion in 2011, with fanfare and ceremony. I welcomed this initiative that was conceived by Emperor Haile Selassie but made virtually unattainable because of Egyptian rigidity and the prevailing diplomatic conditions at the time.
I continue to contend that Ethiopia serves as the origin of 90 percent of Nile waters and has a legitimate right not only to finish the GERD for electric power generation; but also, to construct other dams for irrigation. Egypt’s colonial position of “historical and natural rights” over the Abbay River and other tributaries of the Nile is no longer a winning proposition.
In my considered opinion, Egypt and its allies are trying to undermine Ethiopia’s development objectives by bolstering weaponizing ethnic and religious division. The widespread instability, arms trafficking, robbery, lawlessness and rebellion throughout Ethiopia is deliberate and well financed to dismantle Ethiopia. The ethnic-federal system and administrative structure that the TPLF with support from other ethnic parties and foreign governments imposed on the Ethiopian people has diminished Ethiopian national identity and replaced it with ethnic identity.
Ethiopia is now porous, vulnerable and weak. Its intuitions cater more to ethnic and religious elites and less to Ethiopian national goals. “Amhara, Oromo, Tigre etc. first” is a mantra that diminishes Ethiopian nationalism. This is the reason why Ethiopia in 2020 is identified as a “failing or failed state.” Remember the old adage “You reap what you sow.” The seeds of dismantlement were sown when the current nationality and language-based constitution was formalized. Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that incorporated secession. It is the only county in Africa that legalized ethnic political formation, with the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Party (EPRDF) that has now morphed into the Prosperity Party as Ethiopia’s pioneer in the ethnicization of politics.
While the ethnic coalition may have evolved, its roots, political culture, ideology, structure and institutional making are still intact. This setting diminishes Ethiopia’s capacity and resolve to defend its national interests. Its adversaries, including Egypt take advantage of this internal weakness.
Despite this disadvantage, I suggest strongly that the most reasonable policy option is for Egypt, Ethiopia and North Sudan to agree on an equitable and fair position that serves all countries. Ethiopia won’t remain weak and fragmented. Accordingly, allowing Ethiopia to finish the GERD is a prerequisite for future win-win options. If Egypt refuses to budge, Ethiopia should revert to other options, including constructions of numerous irrigation dams throughout the country. Irrigation dams will, in fact, have serious and adverse impacts on water volume than hydroelectric dams; and will affect Egypt.
Egypt should stop insisting that the filling of the Dam takes over many decades to ensure that Egypt is not affected. This position penalizes Ethiopia and reduces the economic benefits that accrue from Ethiopia’s investment. Ethiopia must not be penalized to mitigate Egyptian fears. The current impasse that United States, the World Bank and others are trying to mediate should not delay the timely completion of the GERD.
Egypt must honor international law and standards that every civilized nation accepts. Equally, the government of Ethiopia must be firm and unwavering. It must apply diplomatic pressure on Egypt; and must muster the will and resolve to defend Ethiopian national interests. Ethiopian opposition parties must support the project and express anger and resentment against Egypt’s proxy wars and propaganda.
Why does the impasse persist?
The primary reason is this. Egypt insists that it should not allow a decrease of an ounce of water from its “historical” allotment that it granted itself with the consent of the British and its Sudanese cohorts. Ethiopia and other Sub-Saharan African riparian states were treated as irrelevant and unworthy of participation. This perception does no longer hold water. Egypt has to accept that it is dealing with a rising Black Africa against which it won’t win in the long term. Africans deserve equitable treatment.
Ethiopia needs to stand firm.
Egypt can no longer defend its “historical and natural rights” position in any reasonable international court as long as Ethiopian officials deploy patriotic and skilled diplomats and technical experts in defense of Ethiopia’s legitimate position.
Ethiopia must show national resolve and strength.
Sadly, for Ethiopia, Egypt has other tools that it has deployed with aplomb. It is called proxy wars. It identifies ethnic and religious silos and vulnerabilities in Ethiopia; finances agents and saboteurs everywhere; creates insecurities and uncertainties; and promotes a deliberate program of Ethiopia’s Balkanization and dismemberment with the intent of continuing Egyptian hegemony over Nile waters in perpetuity. It penetrates core institutions such as security and defense. It propagates propaganda by hiring subversives etc.
Egypt would have been unable to do the above and more without internal agents and surrogates. A strong and unified Ethiopian federal government leadership would deal with these pockets of entry and vulnerabilities immediately and forcefully by going after and arresting and jailing agents such as ethnic extremists and religious fundamentalists. Colleges and universities are among the centers of Egyptian penetration. For example, Amhara college and university students outside the Amhara region are subjected to the worst form of inhumane treatment in Ethiopian history. Among the culprits are agents of external forces such as Egypt and Iran. At least 10 Amhara students have been killed or hacked. Girls are abducted and raped in day light. Abduction of girls is identical to the case of Nigerian girls abducted by Boko Haram. At least 10 young people have been murdered or hacked to death. An estimated 40 to 50 thousand Amhara students, most of them in Oromia, have been expelled. Many have been beaten and dehumanized.
Where in Africa does such inhumanity against students have taken place and have been tolerated? Why does the global media ignore such crimes against girls and boys? Why do Ethiopian opposition parties and academics ignore to voice their anger and frustration?
Tragically, Amhara students who protested against whole sale murders and expulsions have been arrested and or dismissed from their schools in the Amhara region. For all practical purpose, there is no regional or federal leadership that stands for human rights and the rule law in Ethiopia.
Who benefits from these cruelties and inhumane treatments? Egypt, ethnic elites and fundamentalists, of course. Who does the bidding of anti-Ethiopian forces?
There is ample evidence to show that federal and regional authorities are now part and parcel of the problem with regard to the mistreatment of Amhara students. Ethiopia today is identified as a failing nation, unheard of even under the TPLF dominated regime. A failed or failing state does not protect its citizens. A stable state does.
What is the proof of Ethiopia’s failed or failing state?
- Extremists, including Boko-Haram, Al-Shabab and other look alkies are thriving
- Ethnicity and ethnic fragmentation are widespread
- You cannot afford to travel and expect to return home alive
- Personal insecurity is at an all-time high
- Investments are being destroyed
- Land and property prices are at an all time high and profiteers are every where
- Robberies and armament shipments arms trafficking are rampant
- Regional and federal police are either incapable of ensuring law and order or are complicit in the acts
- Inhumane and cruel treatments are normalized, for instance, 7 children who work as shepherds in the Amhara region were murdered
- Unknown armed groups roam in some parts of Ethiopia and demand ransoms
- The rule of law is remains unaddressed
- Criminals are not hold responsible for crimes
Ethiopia’s worsening humanitarian crisis is best illustrated by the recent UN report and call that as many as 10 million Ethiopians, most of them in Oromia and Somali regions would need emergency food aid over the coming months.
At least 3 million Ethiopian remain displaced.
Further, Ethiopia continues to suffer from an unsustainable debt level and from crushing high unemployment of youth. This fact alone contributes to Ethiopia’s vulnerabilities. This environment offers a fertile ground for extremist forces that exploit it in serving their narrow and short-term interests as described by the International Criss Group and by Foreign Policy.
It is against these serious and dangerous scenarios of existential threat for Ethiopia and the wellbeing of its 115 million people that the current government is proposing an election.
Whether we accept it or not, Ethiopian ethnic elites, home grown ethnicsts, terrorists and fundamentalists that are also re-writing Ethiopia’s history via new curriculum are doing Egypt’s bidding. They are determined to destroy Ethiopia.
This environment favors Egypt and not Ethiopia.
I shall provide a few illustrative examples by comparing Egypt’s political economy with Ethiopia’s to hammer my argument.
- Egypt possesses the largest consumer market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA); while Ethiopia is endowed with Africa’s second largest population and possesses one of the world’s largest water towers.
- Egypt’s economy is the most diversified in Africa; while Ethiopia’s still agriculture based.
- Egypt’s private sector is thriving while Ethiopia’s is dominated by party and state-owned enterprises.
- Egypt attracted more than $2.6 billion in American Foreign Direct Investment (FDI); while Ethiopia’s is a miniscule half billion from the U.S. during the same period.
- By 2030, Egypt plans to provide more microfinance to women in rural areas; and intends to create an estimated 100,000 jobs in rural areas; and 25 percent of bank loans shall be channeled to small and medium enterprises while Ethiopia’s is still unknown.
- Egypt tries to scuttle Ethiopia’s GERD while it plans to build the largest solar park destination in Africa with intent to generate 4 million new jobs for its people.
- Egypt’s growth pillars include energy, science and technology, research, health services, investments in its female workforce of 35 percent in 2030 and 750,000 graduates and jobs each year while Ethiopia is unable to provide personal security for its college and other high-level graduates in place.
- Egypt is at least stable; Ethiopia is not.
Egypt is led by a nationalist and patriotic regime.
- Ethiopia’s agriculture sector dominates at 34.8 percent and industry at 21. 6 percent in 2019 and the services sector a huge 43. 6 percent of GDP.
- Egypt plans to attract more than 10 million visitors each year and plans to invest $675 billion in new physical infrastructure investments in the coming 20 years while Ethiopia suffers from internal insecurity and lawlessness.
- Ethiopia has enormous potential for tourism but is unsafe. Its physical and social infrastructure is undeveloped. Internet technology is undeveloped. Electric and water services are erratic. Personal security and safety are not assured.
Nevertheless, Ethiopia has enormous potential for cultural, historical site, physical and other forms of tourism. It can attract at least 1 million Chinese visitors each year and millions more from other parts of the globe. It must, first and foremost provide safety and security for its own citizens.
Egypt has finally restored security. It is therefore able to reattract millions of tourists each year.
Despite corruption and a repressive regime, Egypt offers more opportunities. Its economic development model is based on boosting domestic productivity, the private sector, capacity building and employment met generation for youth and females. The private sector dominates economic and social life.
In comparing Ethiopia and Egypt, what concerns me most is that Egypt’s private sector shall account for $230 billion of investments, with Egyptian private individuals owning more assets compared to Ethiopia’s private sector that will continue to suffer from miniscule private sector participation and ownership of private assets. This log-jam in policy must be broken soon.
Ethiopia’s youth is among the most disempowered in Africa and the Middle East. The private sector is among the least developed in Africa.
- Ethiopia must provide safety and security for all its youth. Its government leadership at all levels, especially federal authorities including the Prime Minister must show the courage, determination and resolve to stop lawlessness, robbery, murder and burnings etc. Criminals, including those who abuse human rights must be held accountable.
- Ethiopian authorities must restore public confidence by resorting law and order; by guaranteeing the safety and security of each and every Ethiopian. They can demonstrate resolve by announcing a special proclamation that each and every student in the country has the full support and backing of the government; and that anyone who transgresses and abuses students will be brought to a court of law and will face severe punishment.
- Authorities can and should reinstate all students expelled from their campuses. Parents whose children were murdered or violated must be compensated. If authorities can’t provide security, they must allow each and every student to go back to their regional state and attend education there.
- Authorities must go after extremist, jihadist and terrorist forces and hate mongers. They must go after sources of funding of extremist and hate groups, and apply diplomatic pressures against governments including Egypt that support and fund surrogates.
- Authorizes must first and foremost give priority to protecting and preserving Ethiopia and defending the security of all of its 115 million people. This is the first priority of the federal government before any election.
- Authorities must no longer allow a porous and undefended border. Weapons traffickers and merchants of death must be punished and source of arms purchases must be stopped.
- Authorities must be persuaded to hold an all-inclusive conference and arrive at a national consensus on the future of Ethiopia before any election. Ethiopia’s centrality must be acknowledged and defended by all Ethiopians.
- Finally, the government of Ethiopia must stand firm with regard to the timely completion of the GERD.