Sisi Goes to Addis Ababa
By ALEX DE WAAL
Published in the New York Times Opinion Pages
On one of the last occasions an Egyptian president visited Addis Ababa, he got no further than the road from the airport: In 1995 the motorcade of President Hosni Mubarak came under fire from Egyptian jihadists. Mr. Mubarak was saved by his bulletproof car, his driver’s skill and Ethiopian sharpshooters.
After that, Ethiopian and Egyptian intelligence officers worked together to root out terrorists in the Horn of Africa, contributing, along with pressure from the United States government, to Osama bin Laden’s expulsion from Sudan in 1996. But that was the limit of their cooperation.
Egypt and Ethiopia have otherwise been locked in a low-intensity contest over which nation would dominate the region, undermining each other’s interests in Eritrea, Somalia and South Sudan. A quiet but long-sustained rivalry, it is one of those rarely noticed but important fault lines in international relations that allow other conflicts to rumble on.
This week, however, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt is expected to fly to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, to attend a summit of the African Union. He will also meet with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia, a rare chance to shift the political landscape in northeastern Africa.
The heart of the rivalry hinges on how to share the precious waters of the Nile River. Running low is Egypt’s nightmare, and more than 80 percent of the Nile’s water comes from rain that falls on the Ethiopian highlands and is then carried north by the fast-flowing Blue Nile. (Ethiopia is nicknamed “Africa’s water tower.”) Yet management of the Nile is formally governed by a 1929 treaty between Egypt and colonial Britain, and a 1959 treaty between Egypt and Sudan that awarded most water rights to Egypt, some to Sudan and none explicitly to Ethiopia or the other states upstream. This arrangement is widely considered unfair, especially to Ethiopia, which was never colonized, and on whose behalf Britain could not even claim to have spoken. This legal framework also limits the right of upper riparian states to build dams or irrigation systems even though they were sidelined from helping shape it.
Egypt has a history of blocking Ethiopia’s requests for international aid to build dams, at times even threatening military action if it attempted to go ahead. Following the 1978 Camp David accords with Israel, President Anwar Sadat declared, “The only matter that could take Egypt to war again is the Nile water.” To this day, Egyptian engineers are stationed as far as Lake Victoria, in Uganda, monitoring activities along the river.
Ethiopia has continued to reject Egypt’s approach, not least because it is one of the poorest countries in the world and considers economic development to be essential to its survival. In 1999 Ethiopia, along with eight other states, set up the Nile Basin Initiative to develop a cooperative and equitable partnership to manage the river’s resources. (Egypt and Sudan are nominal members but inactive; South Sudan joined in 2012.)
So far most concrete actions taken have been about combating erosion along the Nile’s watersheds and encouraging sustainable management of lakes and subsidiary bodies of water.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who was in power from 1991 until his death in 2012, also commissioned several huge dam projects. The largest of these is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, a point of national pride whose construction has been financed through the issuance of special bonds.
The plan has not gone down well with Egypt. During a meeting chaired by President Mohamed Morsi in June 2013 — captured on television cameras, apparently without the participants’ knowledge — Egyptian politicians proposed sabotaging the dam project. (Last April unidentified gunmen attacked a bus near the site of the dam, killing nine people.) But Mr. Sisi knows that Ethiopia will not change course.
He also realizes that the dam’s threat to Egypt is more symbolic than material. (His predecessors, including Mr. Morsi, knew that as well, but seemed more interested in entertaining anti-Ethiopian sentiment among Egyptians.) The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is being built a few miles from Ethiopia’s border with Sudan, in rocky terrain unsuitable for irrigation. The dam will generate electricity, meaning that Ethiopia, like Egypt, wants the water to flow through rather than be stopped. Moreover, the dam is set in a gorge at high altitude: It will store large amounts of water with less surface area in a cooler climate than, say, Lake Nasser in Egypt, reducing evaporation and saving water, which should also benefit Egypt.
Given these common interests, Egypt should cooperate with Ethiopia to manage the Nile’s waters. Mr. Sisi made a strong start on this front last year, when the two countries set up a bilateral commission to examine all aspects of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. It is now time for Egypt to join the Nile Basin Initiative’s Cooperative Framework Agreement, which was signed in 2010 to “promote integrated management, sustainable development, and harmonious utilization” of the Nile and to protect it “for the benefit of present and future generations.”
Better relations with Ethiopia could also be Egypt’s ticket to mending its difficult relations with other governments in sub-Saharan Africa. Two days after the Egyptian military ousted Mr. Morsi in July 2013, while Gulf states rushed to assist the new government, the African Union suspended Egypt’s membership on grounds that the coup violated its principles. (Egypt has since been reinstated.) And there is little sympathy on the continent for Cairo’s position on the Nile issue, since it appears to be blocking Ethiopia’s development under colonial-era treaties widely seen as exploitative.
Mr. Sisi should take advantage of his coming visit to Addis Ababa to finally make progress on joint management of the Nile. That could open the way for Egypt and Ethiopia to find common ground on thornier issues, such as how to handle internal conflicts in Somalia and South Sudan. And that, in turn, could be a step toward greater stability in the region.
Alex de Waal is the executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University.
Following years of struggling to conceive, Ethiopian woman gives birth at 56
A 56-year-old Kiryat Malachi woman gave birth at the age of 56 to her first child -- a healthy 3.01-kilo baby boy.
The new mother came on aliya from Ethiopia during Operation Solomon in 1991.
Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot reported on Monday that the woman was kept in a hospital bed for a month to protect the fetus from movement that could endanger the birth, which was carried out by cesarean section.
Stephen Harper urged to intervene as Canadian languishes in Ethiopian prison
As the eighth anniversary of the rendition and imprisonment of Canadian citizen Bashir Makhtal passes virtually unnoticed, his family members, supporters and Amnesty International are begging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to step in and directly negotiate with the Ethiopian government for his release.
“He’s still languishing in an Ethiopian prison cell, following a deeply unfair trial and appeal process and facing a life prison sentence,” said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada. “The fact we’re marking yet another unfortunate anniversary of Bashir Makhtal’s arrest and imprisonment … underscores the need for something different, and in our view that something has to be Prime Minister Harper’s personal involvement.”
Makhtal’s Canadian lawyer, Lorne Waldman, said that “it makes sense to escalate the representations to the highest level.”
Can Ethiopia’s Resource Wealth Contribute to its Growth and Transformation?
Source: World Bank
ADDIS ABABA, January 26, 2015 – Ethiopia has averaged a 10.7% economic growth rate over the last 10 years, more than double the annual average of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, which was around 5.2%. However, despite having a huge potential to contribute to Ethiopia’s economy, the development of oil, gas, and mineral resources are not among the key drivers of the country’s growth.
Although the country has geological potential for the discovery of new, sizeable oil, gas and mineral deposits, most of its extractive industry is still in its infancy stage. Currently, there is one large-scale gold mine in operation, while a growing number of large mining projects are under development and exploration for oil and natural gas is intensifying after significant discoveries in neighboring countries. Ethiopia also has an extensive and unique artisanal mining sector; the government estimates there are around 1 million miners, making it an important source of job creation, and an important source of foreign currency.
The report notes that resource wealth can potentially have a positive impact on the social and economic development of Ethiopia if the industry is developed and managed in a sustainable and transparent manner, following international good practices.
"In 2012, the Ethiopian mining sector accounted for 19% of the country’s exports revenues- mainly from artisanally mined gold- while in comparison, coffee, Ethiopia’s largest export commodity, generated 26% in export revenues. "
World Bank Group Washington, DC, 2014
Strategic Assessment of the Ethiopian Mineral Sector
So what can Ethiopia do to ensure that its resource wealth contributes to sustainable development? The report highlights the following recommendations:
Obtain good-quality geo-data and put in place an effective data management system: To to manage and plan for the industry, the government needs to know what is actually in the ground. Effective acquisition, maintenance and dissemination of geo-data can help to attract investment and can help governments to make informed decisions and negotiate more effectively. Currently, only 74% of Ethiopia is mapped at a low-quality scale.
Put in place an effective management system and a governance framework: This will ensure that the benefits are distributed as fair and widely as possible, and social and environmental risks are minimized:Ethiopia was admitted as a candidate country to the Global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in March 2014,one step towards that goal.
Diversification of Ethiopia’s economy and facilitation of economic linkages to avoid heavy dependency on the resource wealth: The linkages that are being created between the potash and agricultural industries in the Afar Region is just one example of potential economic partnerships; supporting the production of potash fertilizers in order to increase small holder farmer’s crop production.
Balance short-term and long-term development priorities, and reinvest the resource wealth into productive investments including high-quality health and education
Past experiences of other resource-rich countries provide a roadmap that can inform Ethiopia’s decision-making as the government start to put institutions, policies and laws in place to ensure that resource wealth contributes to sustainable development.
Developing the untapped potential of the extractive industry is not without its challenges, which include the possibility of increased corruption and the need to manage the potentially significant social and environmental impacts. Recognizing this, the WBG, along with other development partners, have joined together to support Ethiopia’s efforts to develop the industry in a clear and viable way.
“As highlighted in the study, if well managed and well supported, the Ethiopian mineral sector has the potential to make a difference in the economic development of Ethiopia and to contribute to the poverty reduction agenda,” said Christian Moller, WBG lead economist. “This will require a strong public sector. As the World Bank Group, we are committed to contribute to this process.”
In October 2014, the WBG and the Ministry of Mines jointly organized the 2014 Ethiopia Extractive Industries Forum, one of the major recent initiatives. It was organized with support from other key partners such as the UNDP, the Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (Canada), UK Department for International Development (DFID), and the African Minerals Development Center (AMDC). The event, the first of its kind, was held to help raise awareness about opportunities and challenges in the extractive industry, as well as to share good practices for its sustainable management. It included a broad-based representation of stakeholders with about 120 participants from industry, government, development partners, and civil society.
The forum also provided the opportunity to discuss the findings of the “Strategic Assessment of the Ethiopian Mineral Sector” study, which was jointly published by the Ministry of Mines and other development partners. The report represents the first comprehensive assessment of the Ethiopian mining industry, examining the primary opportunities and challenges for growth and transformation in mining, while also providing an initial analysis of policy options for Ethiopian decision makers.
“In today’s global village the Ethiopian government by itself cannot overcome the challenges facing the mining sector,” said His Excellency Ato Tolosa Shagi, Minister of the Ministry of Mines, in his opening speech during the forum. “Therefore, we would like to underpin our co-operation with development partners and best performing countries in the areas of building up the indigenous expertise with more emphasis in regulating the mineral and oil and gas resources to properly administer contracts as we are dealing with nonrenewable natural resources.”
The WBG is providing technical assistance to the Ethiopian government to support them in translating the recommendations of the report to build a competitive, predictable, and responsible strategy, legislative and institutional framework for the Oil, Natural Gas and Mining industry. This will allow the Ethiopian government to conclude better deals for the extraction on their oil and mineral resources in a way that maximizes the benefits to the country, reducing the risk of costly or politically difficult remediation at later stages. It is supported by the Extractive Industries Technical Advisory Facility (EI-TAF), a demand driven multi-donor trust fund. The EI-TAF will be launched in the beginning of 2015 and will help to structure extractive industry development projects and related policies.
UK diplomats clash over Briton on death row in Ethiopia - Daily Mail
An explosive row has erupted between diplomats and Ministers over their reluctance to help a British man on death row in Ethiopia.
A series of extraordinary emails, obtained by The Mail on Sunday, reveal officials’ increasing frustration at political inaction over Andargachew Tsege.
Tsege, 59, a father-of-three from London, was snatched at an airport in Yemen last June and illegally rendered to Ethiopia. There are concerns he may have been tortured.
Yet Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he could not ‘find time’ for a phone call to raise the issue and did not want to send a ‘negative’ letter.
In one email, an exasperated official asks: ‘Don’t we need to do more than give them a stern talking to?’
Tsege, who has lived in the UK since 1979, has been called Ethiopia’s Nelson Mandela. Tsege fell out with his university friend ex-Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, after he exposed government corruption and helped establish a pro-democracy party.
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