By Molla Mitiku Ayenew 10-19-16
The peoples of Ethiopia and Egypt believe that the two countries should apply a win-win approach in which both sides could be beneficiary. The construction of the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam, by no means, could be a reason for the dispute between the two countries as it has no significant impact to the amount of water flowing to downstream countries.
Following the televising of the videos showing the cooperation of Egypt and the OLF and their cooperated efforts to maintain the instability in some areas of the Oromiya Regional State, the situation between the two countries turned gloomy.
In the meantime, speaking at a military lecture last week the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said Egypt has no intention to inflict harm on Ethiopia; rather it respects Ethiopia's sovereignty. "I reaffirm to our brothers in Ethiopia that we had two choices, either cooperation or confrontation, and we chose cooperation," El-Sisi said.
The Ethiopia Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn also once told Al-Jazeera, “The most important thing is the mutual understanding and mutual respect between Ethiopia and downstream countries. This is a societal developmental issue. Ethiopia is there not to significantly harm Egypt or the Sudan. We are inseparable as the Nile River has connected us. We have to either sink or swim together. Ethiopia chooses to swim together than to sink”.
In fact, cooperation is the best solution for the two countries. But both countries have to be loyal for their mutual understanding cooperation.
There is no doubt that cooperation is what the two people want to prosper regardless of their past experiences. It is known that the Nile Basin is huge enough to help all basin countries in poverty alleviation under proper water management.
However, there is some media coverage that indicates Egypt’s supportive action to the violence in Ethiopia. Many political analysts also suggest that Egypt could interference in Ethiopia’s internal situations for some reasons.
Firstly, if Ethiopia successfully builds such a huge project on the Nile River, nix will deter it from manipulating the Nile further. Besides, if the dam has completed, it could play a significant role in the country’s economy so that Ethiopia will be economically strong and capable of easily managing other similar projects.
Secondly, Ethiopia has been taking the step forward and gaining diplomatic acceptance while Egypt has been losing its supremacy on the Nile Basin Countries in particular and the African Countries in general since its revolution, which began on 25 January 2011.
It is known that Egypt had been considering itself as one of the Arab countries having forgotten its African roots for decades. In fact, it was using its money and making some financial supports to some of the poor nations in the region in a bid to persuade them to stand by its side, which helped it to get what it desired for those old days.
On the contrary, Ethiopia began to come to the front and has been achieving some diplomatic gains. Its persuasive power has been rising from time to time in the African Union and among the Nile Basin countries due to its mutual understanding and cooperation for mutual benefit approach. Its win-win approach has attracted the interests of African countries to strengthen their relations with Ethiopia.
That is why most basin countries came together and work for mutual development. As a result, Ethiopia and the other upper riparian states have launched the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement in a bid to ensure an equitable utilization of water among riparian states since May 2010. However, Egypt is one of the three countries denying to sign this agreement witnessing its need to maintain its water dominancy.
Historical documents also witnessed that Egypt was successful in convincing donors and development partners to restrain from financing any project on the Nile Rivers. Incredibly, Egypt has also attempted to apply that strategy at the very beginning of the launching of the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam.
However, the game Ethiopia played was so different that the project is fully financed by the government and people of Ethiopia. The country’s capability of financing such a huge project by itself has disqualified the historical barriers to develop any project on the Nile River. This is because of the fact that the overall situation in Ethiopia has incredibly changed in the past two decades.
This scenario compelled Egypt to change its tactics in approaching developed countries that it attempted to convince them to persuade Ethiopia to stop constructing the dam on the Nile River. But it was impossible for them to do so and Egypt got no positive response; the United States of America and the European Countries rejected Egypt’s demand and restrained themselves from interfering in Ethiopia’s rights to utilize its natural resources.
IPE Confirmation, the Sudan
Other significant issue could be the coinciding of the report of the International Panel of Experts (IPE) with what Ethiopia had been raising from the very beginning. The two major concerns on Egypt’s side among many others were the impact of the dam and its standard.
The report confirmed not only the insignificant impact of the dam to the downstream countries but also the dam meets its international standards. This is another instigating factor to Egypt to support groups aiming to destabilize Ethiopia.
The other issue annoying Egypt could be the Sudanese position. The Sudan has already realized the benefits of the dam to downstream countries and has been cooperating with Ethiopia.
Firstly, the dam could meaningfully reduce the amount of water evaporation as it is situated in a deep gorge. Scholars argue that the annual water loss due to evaporation is about 10 billion cubic meters. This amount of evaporation could meaningfully be reduced when the GRD is completed.
Secondly, it reduces the damages the two countries have been facing due to flood in the rainy season. As the water levels of the Blue Nile is rising, the downstream countries face flooding challenges. This happens every year in the rainy season.
For instance, in August 2015, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reported 130,000 Sudanese were affected by the flooding; ruining infrastructure and livelihoods. It also indicated that 14,000 houses were destroyed.
Thirdly, the dam will reduce the amount of silt that filled the dams in downstream countries. Available documents indicated that the Sudan spent 70 percent of its water budget to avoid silts. This is also a problem for Egypt. However, the building of the GRD could help these countries to receive filtered water.
Fourthly, the Sudan and Egypt will get constant amount of water throughout the year as there is now variations of the amount of water flowing to them during the rainy and sunny seasons.
It is known that during the sunny seasons, the amount of water flowing to the Sudan and Egypt reduces significantly and during the rainy season the amount of water rises too much and devastated those two countries with flood.
The Sudan has realized all the aforementioned problems could be solved after the completion of the construction of the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam.
The dam really will bring other additional opportunities as well to both downstream countries. The Sudan and Egypt will get the chance to buy cheap electricity so that they could develop their industry.
Despite all these importance of the dam to downstream countries, some officials and groups in Egypt have never ceased their hidden agendas of destabilizing the country and jeopardizing the building of the dam.
Facts on the ground
We learnt from the live broadcasting in some Egyptian media that Egyptians have been supporting the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). OLF is a terrorist group responsible for wave of protests in some areas of the Oromiya Regional State.
The coordinator of the Congo and Nile Rivers, Dr. Nancy, told Al-Isman Television that Egypt is working day in day out to aggravate the destabilizing protests.
She urged all Egyptians to support OLF as it promised to respect the 1959 Colonial Treaty made between the two downstream countries under the auspice of Great Britain if OLF manage to over-through the current government. In fact, this is one of the critical issues Egypt has been raising since the launching of the GRD.
The treaty allowed Nile to be shared among the Sudan and Egypt at 18.5 and 55.5 billion cubic meters respectively ignoring the remaining Nile basin countries.
But this is only a daydreaming. The State in Ethiopia has a strong public base. It is impossible for such group residing abroad to over-through such a strong government.
OLF has been fooling Egypt as if it has public base on the ground so as to get much money, which is used for the prosperity of individuals in the OLF and some for its terrorist activities at home.
In the real sense, Egypt won’t benefit from its supportive efforts to destabilize Ethiopia. All its attempts would remain fragile as Ethiopia is not such a country that could be destabilized in such moves.
Ethiopia is a strong country with nation loving population. Regardless of political interests, ethnicity, religions and the like, the people, above all, are strongly concerned about their peace and their country’s development.
They want to sustain their development and keen to maintain their unity. They never give any room to any party or group aiming to hold back the country; rather support the country’s forward movement. They are keen to have more infrastructure, justice, investment, jobs, social institutions and good governance.
Egypt could only be benefited from the win-win approach that the Ethiopian people and government have been suggesting from the very beginning of the launching of the Grand Renaissance Dam, which aimed to benefit all countries without inflicting harm to one another.
Ethiopians should understand that Egypt had no choice other than the Nile Water. In the same token, Egyptians should know that the Nile water is crucial for Ethiopians to get their daily bread. Here should come the mutual understanding.
I believe this understanding is already created on the Ethiopian side. They repeatedly promised Egypt that they don’t have any desire to run any project that inflicts harm to Egyptians on the Nile River.
That is why the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam is designed only to generate electricity. It will only move the turbines and continue its natural flow to downstream countries. Ethiopia has no intention to use this dam for any irrigation purposes in order to avoid any impact on the water flow.
Egyptians also need to look inward for loyal cooperation. As president El Sisi said, if the destabilizing activities made by the collaboration of OLF and some officials like Dr. Nance and other Egyptians is out of the knowledge of his government, it seems crucial for his Excellency to take corrective measures.
The paradox is how OLF could open an office in Egypt without the consent of the Egyptian government? How could it conduct a series of meetings and gatherings to plot violence at home without support from Egypt? I think it is better for the two countries to look inward and take appropriate measures to promote their affirmative relations and cooperation.