“Good Bye Lenin”
Amen Teferi 01-11-17
Some zealot Egyptians have found their old fashioned ideas to be absolutely indelible. This unalterable notion reminds me of the story in the film Good Bye Lenin! The film tells us about an East Berlin mother who had a heart attack and falls into a coma. When she revives, many months later, the Berlin Wall has fallen and East Germany is history. The children want to bring her back to their apartment but the doctors are reluctant to let her leave the hospital, as any shock could trigger another infarction. The children promise to provide as unthreatening an environment as possible; they conspire to prevent their mother, who was content under the communist regime, from learning about its demise. They go to increasing lengths to establish and maintain this conceit; they remove their new furniture and return their apartment to the way it once was, search the city for the old brand of store she loved and have a friend produce news programs that purport to be from the now defunct German Democratic Republic.
Once, by mistake, real television news fills the screen and the mother watches old clips of the Berlin Wall being breached. She becomes agitated, but is reassured by her children that while this is true, it is Westerners who have broken through the Wall to seek asylum in the East. Suitably reassured, the mother insists that it is their patriotic duty to take in some Western refugees. Word about the make-believe apartment gets around, and elderly people, unable to adapt to change, come around to enjoy its anachronistic ambience and reinforce one another’s nostalgia for the old life. However, their rosy reminiscences bear no relationship to the fact on the ground.
But we have an opposite story with Sudan. I still remember the jovial mood when the last delegation of the Sudanese public diplomacy had met with PM Hailemariam Desalegn. The Sudanese public diplomacy had gone back home wrapping up its stay in Ethiopia with a lively discussion that was graced by the presence of His Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn.
Hailemariam Desalegn has exchanged views with members of the Sudanese delegation in a convention particularly marked with a jovial mood. His speech was inspiring and embedded with remarks that that could easily forge trust between the two sides.
As we have seen in the footage televised by the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC), the meeting was now and then energized by the crack up of laughter the PM had skillfully created as he expounded on the prospect of the strong relationship Ethiopia and Sudan has established. His speech and mannerism was capable of sending a clear message to his Sudanese audience that his government is candidly honest in its engagement with the lower riparian state to forge a win-win situation in the utilization of the Nile River.
In fact, he was so frank and honest with his audience. The remarks he made, in my view, would easily reflect the just position of his government in the utilization of the Nile River. As it appears to me, the room of the meeting is filled with a breeze of brotherhood that would herald the dawn of a new chapter in the century-old relationship of the two countries. I have witnessed a new spirit boldly asserting itself as confrontational attitude that had been lingering for so long among the countries in the Horn gives way to cooperation.
The PM has asserted the strong relationship of the two people using an excellent metaphor that has spurred a kind of excitement among his Sudanese audience. He said, “If 75 % of the human body is water, then water circulating in the veins of the Ethiopian and Sudanese people is water drawn from the Nile River. Allah has given us this water presaging a kind of division of labor and according to his design, Ethiopia ought to utilize this water for the generation of hydro-electric power and Sudan for irrigation.”
Recapitulating the historic ties of the two people and mentioning the indispensable support Sudan had rendered to freedom fighters in their fight against the dictatorial regime of the Derg, Hailemariam commended the current shape of the relationship of the two countries.
He also said, “Sudan and Ethiopia are anchor states to the region of the Horn of Africa” declaring that the GERD is nothing but a project that would serve the two countries to consolidate their relationship.
In my view, the future is promising. Gone are the days when the heart and mind of the two people are incarcerated in fear and suspicion. Gone are the days when the two countries are engaged in the business of destabilizing each another’s government by supporting insurgents. The notorious attitudes of the past regimes have now given ways to constructive engagement that would promote the strategic interests of the two nations. In the past, fear and mistrust had incapacitated their vision and subverted the huge potential of forging excellent cooperation.
Now the leaders of the two neighboring countries have committed themselves to build an unprecedented economic, diplomatic and political cooperation between the two sisterly countries. As they become willing to appreciate each other’s interests and concern, the general condition for cooperation will eventually improved in an increasing manner.
As Hailemariam Desalgn has underscored the cordial relationship of the two countries will have huge impact on the entire region. The cooperation the two countries have established is meant to promote economic integration, while envisaging a political integration in the long term.
The development exhibited in the relationship of the two countries can represent the changing nature of the politics in the Horn of Africa. As the premier has noted their relationship would ensure the peace and security of the Horn as it allows them to make strong alliance in the fight against terrorism.
Beggaring one’s neighbor was a finely developed political art in the Horn of Africa. Unlike the present, Sudanese regional policy during the 1990s was characterized by regional aggression (exporting political Islam) that has ended up antagonizing it with all its neighbors.
Sudan under NIF was exacerbating the chronic problems of the Horn by its aggressive foreign policy that was designed to spread political Islam to the farther corner of the region. This has alerted the government in the region to engage in covert and overt move to contain or remove the government in Khartoum.
Hence, it had fragmented the regional diplomatic landscape and weakened the regional organization IGAD by further complicating the civil wars both in the South Sudan and Somalia and disrupted the search for peace.
In the past, the Ethiopian government like its neighbors was unable to identify where its true national interest lays visa vise its neighbors. In fact, all countries in the region were oblivious of the economic dimensions of peace and security in the Horn. The diverse complexity and incompatibility of the political system in the region has therefore become venue for regional conflict. Hence, the Ethiopian government has devised a foreign policy that is prefigured as solution to the historical contradiction that deposed the Horn as the most fragile crisis region of the world. The policy aims at transforming the longstanding confrontational attitude into cooperation.
Now, Ethiopia does not export conflicts in the Horn. The internal and external policies that it has adopted have enabled her to dispel intensive intra and inter-state conflicts. This largely explains the cordial relationship Ethiopia is now enjoying with Sudan and other countries in the Horn. These changes have transformed the longstanding inter-state rivalry and politics of destabilization that has been assumed as the main characteristic of the Horn. Overcoming its defects, Ethiopia has managed to pursue realist foreign policy that has served her as a means to catalyze peace in the region. Egypt ought to do the same to be able to say “Good Bye Lenin!”