Ezana Sehay 3/19/2014  

For the most part, Ethiopian officials have so far risen above the fray despite the virulent statements coming out of Egypt. That silence of the Ethiopian officialdom has left the stage to a long line of doomsday observers and experts who are competing with each other in spelling out a dicey moment for the region.

Far from satisfying the aspirations of the people, the kaleidoscopic of the Egyptian revolution has proven to be a very polarizing and tumultuous political process.

Unfortunately, the forces that followed the overthrow of the Hosni Mubarak regime: the Muslim Brotherhood and the military junta that deposed it; instead of dealing with the actual political and economic problems, have in lieu, taken up the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GRD) as their monomania.

Officials of the current regime capriciously pulled out of the tri-lateral (Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan,) negotiation, and start making quixotic demands, thereby creating a vicissitude atmosphere which is breeding all kinds of ant-Ethiopian sentiments in the country (Egypt).

Consequently, their media is engaged in an extensive campaign of misinformation and distortions not only about the GRD but also about Ethiopia and Ethiopians. In the Egyptian capital; scholar, pundits and talking heads are busy pilling up hogwash conjectures which have no empirical evidence but paint a negative image of Ethiopia. In addition to flaunting their ignorance, some have even declared war.

In their rendition of the Ethio-Egyptian discord, same western experts and observers are making the constant use of the words “war”, “military strike” and “bombing”, all to the determent of Ethiopia. Keep in mind these are the same experts who at the outset of the election of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, predicted the potential collapse of other states that make up the regions “moderate axis”.

No doubt, Addis Ababa's silence has created an ominous back drop that nurtured and multiplied these prophesies. In true, however, Ethiopia’s sober response to the hyperbolic and hallowed propaganda of the Egyptians, demonstrate its confidence and diplomatic maturity.

It also understands the current ephemeral Egyptian toxic rhetoric is a déjà vu of the Mubarak era posturing to discourage the upper riparian countries from ratifying the Nile Basin cooperative Framework Agreement.

Moreover, in every aspect of its relationship with Egypt, Ethiopia now finds itself in a relative position of strength.  And in the current impasse, it has the backing of all the Nile Basin Countries including Sudan.

Nevertheless, the Egyptians are performing arduous diplomatic maneuvering, and making rhetorical bombasts and veil threats they cannot and will not carry through.


1.      Here to fore, Egypt has been able to convince western countries and international financial institutions to deny the upper riparian countries much needed finances to develop their hydro resources. But that kind of chicanery is not going to work this time around for a couple of reasons.

First, the GRD is entirely financed by the government and people of Ethiopia, and is being built, for the most part, by Ethiopian engineers. Second, unlike in the past, Ethiopia’s current global diplomatic clout is on par, if not stronger, than that of Egypt.

2.      Egypt's obstinate stand and hectoring in defence of archaic colonial treaties makes its case inimical and incongruous with the reality and the interest of the upper basin countries.

3.      Ethiopia’s lucid policy of willingness to accommodate the needs of the lower riparian countries (Egypt and Sudan), and address their concern has been its trump card.


Another option much talked about by Egyptian pundits and some geriatric officials, and echoed by some westerners is a military action against Ethiopia. Seemingly, the conscious reasoning of those who advance such action point is not in control of their behavior. In other words, for Egypt to poke the lion of Ethiopia would be prohibitively costly.  Besides, didn’t they try that before? They did… and it was a colossal failure.


Hence, we can ascertain Egypt will opt for what has worked in her favor in the past; i.e. engage in a surreptitious war against Ethiopia through proxy. The idea is to weaken Ethiopia by destabilizing and sabotaging its unity. Previously Somalia and to some extent Sudan were the breeding ground of rogue elements willing to do Egypt’s dirty work.

At Present, that role is assumed by Eritrea which has become a Mecca for all kinds of machination against Ethiopia. True to form, the Eritrean regime is working hard to exploit the Ethio-Egyptian impasse; heaping of fuel on the flame, so to speak.

As we speak, there is unconfirmed report…  Egypt has already started arming Ethiopian rebel groups stationed in Eritrea.  Be that as it may, the Egyptians are grasping at straws. The alphabet soup Ethiopian rebel groups in Eritrea have no capacity to even cause a dent in the country’s security. On the other hand, terrorism is a labor intensive profession.

However, should these groups break the carapace Ethiopian security and commit terrorist act to thwart the country’s peace and development; the ultimate causality of Ethiopia’s reprisal will be Isayas and his Moonies. That would deprive Egypt of its only doormat in the region.


The reality is, the GRD, to which the national pride is tied to, is Ethiopians’ third rail.  Its construction is progressing well and there is nothing Egypt or anyone else can do to roll back that reality.

 Egyptians’ exigent diplomatic shenanigan to sway international opinion against Ethiopia is not going to bear them any fruit. Egypt’s military threat is punching above its waist.

The only way out of the standoff is for these two giants (Ethiopia and Egypt), with shared historical perspectives and obviously life line is to build closer relationship based on transparency and mutual interest.

Just before resigning, the last Egyptian Prime Minister, Nabil Fahmy, said something that struck a rather different tone than what the hardliners are spewing. In dealing with Ethiopia, He acknowledged negotiations are arduous and could take years to finalize, and also emphasized there is no other option, but keep talking. That suggests Egypt's obstructive activity is to leverage a better position in the negotiation table, to see if it could garner some concession from Ethiopia.

Parallel to the prime minister’s pronouncement, some Egyptian figures proclaimed; the new framework of the Nile Basin Countries, even if not to their liking, is none the less, a good basis for negotiation with Ethiopia.

Neither the ex-prime minister nor the other elites made these clear statements not out of love for Ethiopia. They have spoken because only diplomatic and peaceful settlement of the issue is vital strategic interest of their country.    

The clear desire to avoid violent conflict is not an aim of Ethiopia only, but also of all regional countries. This can and should become a primary building block for the creation of fruitful relationship not only between tri-patriot countries (Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt), but in synergy of all the Nile Basin Countries.

What that suggests in practical terms is that Ethiopia is approaching its relationship with Egypt with a large major of justified self-confidence, knowing that it continues to operate from position of strength.

Prime Minister Hailemariam has, in no uncertain terms, averred, he does not see Egypt as an adversary rather a partner. It is time for Egyptian leadership take that overture seriously and work for mutual advantages through peaceful engagement. It is time, for Egypt to stop promulgating insidious and farcical narratives and proposing sneak oil solutions.

In the grand scheme of things; despite the warnings of the doomsday prophecies, Ethiopia is right to act with pragmatism. By understanding its relatively strong position, it knows it can go a long way towards safe guarding its own interests as well as serve as a responsible and powerful anchor of sanity in the region.








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