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Ethiopia: Dispelling the Curse of the Nile

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05/30/13

  11:19:13 pm, by admin, 2062 words  
Categories: Ethiopia

Ethiopia: Dispelling the Curse of the Nile

A rendering of Grand Renaissance dam in Ethiopia

Ethiopia: Dispelling the Curse of the Nile

By Terefe Masresha


Since Ethiopia started building a large dam on the Nile River, it has been at the receiving end of a barrage of disinformation and mixed messages aimed at discouraging, frustrating and halting the construction. This means putting on hold the country’s growth and development efforts.

The aim of this article is to encourage compatriots from all walks of life to express their views against the coordinated campaign Egypt and its allies are aggressively waging. This is important, because we cannot afford to leave the on-going disinformation drive, its implications and consequences unattended until too late.

The faces of disinformation
On March 24 this year, Mustafa al-Labbad posted ‘Egypt is Battling Ethiopia over the Nile Water” on Lebanon’s As-Safir Arabic Newspaper. The author, in a speculative and assertive manner, stated: “Egypt and Ethiopia may be forced to fight a “water war” because Ethiopia’s ambitions contradict Egypt’s historical and legal rights in the Nile waters.” Please read the translated English version of Mustafa’s post.

On the 1st of May, Egypt's state-controlled MENA disseminated 'Ethiopia's Dam Likely to Collapse for Technical Problems'. It further indicated that the construction site is exposed to seismic risk.

Mohamed Bahaa El-Din, Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, says “Crisis in the distribution of water faced in Egypt […] and the complaints of farmers from lack of water confirms that we cannot let go of [single] drop water from the quantity that comes to us from the Upper Nile”.

Ethiopia has started diverting the flow of the Nile and Egyptian authorities are saying we were aware of the diversion plan, the dam will not affect the Nile water share, the dam is a reality to cope with, etc. While Egypt officially states the project’s importance to Ethiopia, we cannot be certain that Egypt supports the dam without reservations. This is because Egypt will need an additional 21 billion cubic metres of water per year by 2050, on top of its current quota of 55 billion metres, to meet the water needs of a projected population of 150 million people. This means Egypt cannot be expected to support Ethiopia’s initiative by compromising its strategic interests.

Where do we go from here?
It is very difficult to be neutral to the barrage of disinformation (media aggression) being waged against Ethiopia. The situation calls for making our voice heard and ensuring the strategic interests of our country are promoted, protected and fulfilled. Ethiopians from all walks of life (regardless of our political persuasion) need to take part and demonstrate our responsibility by speaking about and advancing the long-term interests of the country – political parties and/or leaders come and go, but Ethiopia remains forever! We, therefore, need to stand united against Egypt’s campaign and mixed messages.

Over the long dignified history of our country, we have learned from our heroes and heroines that we do not need to be invited to defend the interest of our country. Our political paths can be different, but Ethiopia’s interests must be supreme. Promoting and entrenching deep-rooted differences of opinion over the merits and demerits of the dam (with regard to timing, cost, environmental and social impact, etc.) in the midst of extreme poverty misses the point. If there is a debate to be had, it need not focus on the dam, but on policy issues concerned with long-term growth and people-centered development.

We have a tradition of standing in unity when our country is threatened and is confronted with blatant aggression. We need to strengthen and build on previous experiences. Our efforts must transcend political differences, because Ethiopia is greater than the divergent discourses regarding where the country must be, how it ought to be led or who is in power. In the late 1970s, the government of Somalia was emboldened to go to war with Ethiopia; taking advantage of internal weakness. In 1992, Isayas Afeworki waged war on Ethiopia at a time when the country’s army was dismantled. However, Ethiopians united against the aggressor and resolutely defended the country and maintained our dignity. The sacrifice of the defense force, the contribution of the diaspora and the unity of the opposition parties will be vividly remembered.

We all recognize the shuddering head to toe feeling that resonates in our hearts and minds when our national flag is held high in victory. On May 5, we celebrated Ethiopian Easter and marked Ethiopian Patriots’ Day. When Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross he said “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus didn’t waste precious time blaming those who sentenced, mocked, cursed, tortured, nailed, deserted and denied him. He rather focused on his mission of love, compassion and forgiveness. When our patriots relentlessly fought and stung the Italian invaders and became martyrs, their primary motivation was the liberation of our country (to see our national flag to be raised and to fly high). This doesn’t mean that they didn’t have issues which divided them, but they knew division could fatally weaken them. This generation must demonstrate exemplary wisdom and responsibility by focusing on the big picture (protecting and defending Ethiopia’s long-term interests).

Analysing the disinformation campaign
Returning to the disinformation campaign, it is important to underscore that the dam is one of the most important projects for Ethiopia. The reason for this is simple and straightforward. Energy is critical for advancing a country’s growth and development strategy. Ethiopia is, reputably, the water tower of Africa. It must, therefore, optimize the use of its water resources now and in the future.

Since the overthrow of Mubarak’s regime two years ago, Egypt has been unstable. The on-going disinformation crusade and warmongering seems to be an effort to divert Egyptians’ attention from an aggravated internal crisis. The news from MENA is part of this distorted priority; at a time when many poor Egyptians are struggling to meet their basic needs, Coptic Christians are fleeing the country because of increased discrimination and violence, and when the decline of significant revenue from tourism is causing economic havoc.

The MENA report states that an expert team composed of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia has been commissioned to assess the quality of the construction work and the effects of the dam. This invites the following questions: a) Is it possible that adequate studies were not conducted on the geological structure of the site before the construction started? b) Could it be true that the risk of seismic activity was not adequately appraised? c) Why is the finding so important to MENA at this time? Is it to warn Ethiopia about an impending structural failure? If so, why did MENA find it important to leak the information before the report is submitted to the presidents of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan?

The Government of Ethiopia has a huge responsibility to put the record straight by openly and transparently informing the public about the state of the dam (I am not being naïve here, but highlighting the duty of a government to inform citizens). The possible answers to the above questions lie in the intentions and strategic interests of Egypt with regard to the use of the Nile waters; accompanied with the claim of historical and legal rights. However, Egypt has never accepted the rights of upstream countries to have their fair share of the Nile. Most importantly, Egypt and Sudan are still procrastinating to sign the Nile Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA). Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, signed the agreement in 2010 and Burundi followed suit a year later.

Instead of looking for a constructive, forward looking and win-win arrangement under the Nile Basin Initiative, Egypt uses various proxies to thwart Ethiopia’s important project. To this effect, several efforts have been made to frustrate and distract construction. For example, the statement made by the Deputy Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia opposed the dam and an Egyptian newspaper article threatened Ethiopia of war. The latter suggested a military intervention by Egypt and advised Egypt's President to prioritize preparations for war instead of dealing with the deepening political, economic and social quagmire the country is bogged in.

The news from MENA is a plot by Egypt to advance its long standing agenda (full utilization of the Nile without due consideration of the interests of upstream countries). For anyone reading between the lines, the report implicitly suggests: Ethiopia need to suspend and delay the construction of the dam.

So, what might be MENA's intentions in disseminating the malicious news? Admittedly, the news that the dam is likely to collapse due to cracks could trigger doubt and public anger, because many Ethiopians have contributed and are contributing to the construction effort; by buying bonds from their meager earnings and making financial contributions through other means.

There is widespread awareness that Egypt has plaid a destabilizing role against our country; using various proxies. The latest disinformation is no exception. On the basis of empirical evidence, it is fair to say that Egypt doesn't want Ethiopia to be a strong nation. Egypt's stance towards Ethiopia, concerning the use of the Blue Nile, gives the impression that Egypt views Ethiopia’s development as an indicator of less water flowing from the Blue Nile. Ethiopia’s efforts to raise external finance from major lenders like the World Bank have been frustrated, because of Egypt's strong lobbying against the project. In doing so, it has garnered the support of other Arab countries and continues to do so. We need to recognize that the plot against Ethiopia is so ominous that some countries including Egypt will use any means to weaken the country.

Concluding remarks
The disinformation campaign being aggressively promoted by Egypt and its supporters seems to aim at paving the way for limiting the progress that Ethiopia could make. The Government of Ethiopia needs to do more to inform the public in an open and transparent manner about the progress being made in the construction of the dam, and should take concrete measures against the disinformation campaign. Most importantly, it should handle such destructive external soft aggression as carefully as possible. Is someone listening?

I am aware that advising a government which advances ethnic policy to the extent of emboldening federal authorities to make Ethiopians refugees in their own country is difficult. Despite such repulsive actions reminiscent of Rwanda in 1994, Ethiopia and the spirit with which we hold our nationality is much bigger. A few days ago, I finished reading Hiwot Teffera’s book Tower in the Sky. The book in a nutshell is about the failure of a generation that failed to listen to each other and lost a golden opportunity to work together. This failure destroyed Ethiopia’s best and brightest and our country hasn’t recovered since then. Folks, we need to listen to one another. The path of division, character assassination, blind faith, and the ‘what is in it for me’ attitude will not facilitate our emergence from the quagmire that we are in.

I do not want to see Ethiopia and Egypt to go to war over the use of the Nile water. I believe there are constructive ways to address the issue with the aim of meeting the water needs of upstream and downstream countries. However, Ethiopia's efforts to grow and develop need to be supported by wisely using its natural resources including its rivers. The dam on the Nile belongs to present and future generations of Ethiopians. Ensuring adequate access to electric power is important to break the darkness that continues to trap the country in poverty.

Egypt’s objective is to deter the construction of the dam by blowing up geo-political issues and misunderstandings, out of proportion, under the pretext of a dooms day scenario for Egypt and Sudan; by preordaining the looming danger of Ethiopia's rise and prominence for the two countries in terms of a potential reduction of water from the Nile.

I encourage my compatriots to respond to such noxious disinformation campaigns by demonstrating that there is another way to resolve contentious issues other than war. Egypt’s longstanding strategy around the Nile waters and its implications for Ethiopia needs to change and Ethiopia must be prepared for all sorts of eventualities.

At this time, we cannot accept such malicious reports to distract our attention from paving our future.

May the spirit of cooperation thrive over unproductive rivalry and the propagation of conflict!

Long live Ethiopia!

16 comments

Comment from: Ts [Visitor]
Ts

I was expressing my ideas in such a way that TPLF first free all jailed as it was done only for Tigree politicians and remove influence on the other ethnicity in the Country. This action will increase harmony, unity, love, equality and fairness.

From thereon a reaction against any external threat is a mere phrase: go and protect your right. Otherwise it is difficult to undermine a possibility of ignition from the domestic, who has been abused, jailed, denied an equal right.

05/31/13 @ 01:30
Comment from: Azeb [Visitor]
Azeb

Believe me we will stand one by one against everyone and everything who try to divert our attention from transforming Ethiopia.

This fire we are holding is fed with millenia of energy stored for so long. Nothing can stop it, even we ourselves not. Ethiopia will be up again after millenia. It is just our fate to rise up again now.

If you have not contributed for the dam so far please do it now!

Ethiopia shall prevail!

05/31/13 @ 02:54
Comment from: Extraterrestrial [Member]  

You are a true Ethiopian, I absolutely agree with you, It is the responsibility of all Ethiopian to fight back the misinformation. Arab news are even trying to link the Renaissance Dam with Israel to gain support against Ethiopia.

05/31/13 @ 03:18
Comment from: Tagesse [Visitor]
Tagesse

Thank you the writer .I feel the same thing when I am reading Egyptian misinformation about the Nile in different medias.The main thing is let be hands in glove and make our efforts to build the dam even we have differences in politics.I recommend let us contribute our money and energy to build the dam .We know we are not in democratic country of Ethiopia However let us give priority for our countryand our people .If there is third party which can funnel the the money directly to the dam we can give our money in that way
Long live Ethiopia
Unity is strength God bless our country

05/31/13 @ 07:37
Comment from: forward with comrade tamagne [Visitor]
forward with comrade tamagne

Well articulated article. this issue should have been one of the most unifing issue concerning our country. unfortunately some people are willing to sacrifice the stratejic interest of our country to their selfish political end. it is very sad these people are willing to sleep with the most dangerous enemies of our country just because they hate the politics of the government.i dont know when we are getting mature and separate the government from the country. god help us. thank you nazret for publishing this different than usual article.

05/31/13 @ 08:40
Comment from: ilula lemma [Visitor]
ilula lemma

Well done Terefe , your point reflects the main concern of Ethiopians who does not agree with the political course of the current government but have a firm stand when it comes the unity and territorial integrity of Ethiopia.
Egypt an Sudan will stay Ethiopians mysteries neighbors who back stub us when ever they got a chance. Now it become official what they want to do with us if we use one cup of water from Abay(Nile) river. They are telling us 100% Nile water belongs to them by an agreement with Britain in 1929 that did not even include Ethiopia at that time. WE need to stand together and do what ever it takes to overcome Egyptian arrogant and aggressive behavior.

God bless Ethiopia

05/31/13 @ 09:42
Comment from: sf [Visitor]
sf

To Mr. Terefe Masresha
“political parties and/or leaders come and go, but Ethiopia remains forever”
Not true my friend, unless you are making a propaganda as usual.
Ethiopia with etnic politics will not survive for ever. Ethiopia only survive, if we built a true democratic system which respect the rights of all Ethiopian. Do not fool us Mr. Terefe Masresha.
Enough is enough no more Propaganda!!!!!

05/31/13 @ 10:17
Comment from: Minyaregal [Visitor]
Minyaregal

Dam or no dam, the right of Ethiopians to have a say in their government cannot be abridged.

Ethiopia belongs not just to ethno-centric Woyanes bout to all Ethiopians. No power on earth can take away that right and it is not something we can negotiate in exchange for a dam.

It is easy for Woyane to create an environment where the human rights of all Ethiopians are not violated! The only thing it has to do is invite all Ethiopians who are stakeholders in their country’s development and future to come together and particiapte in a genuine power sharing.

Before we talk about dam, let’s talk about freeing Eskinder Nega, Reyot Alemu, and all political prisoners who are languishing in Woyane jails.

Before we talk about dam, let’s talk about the crimes of ethnic cleansing Ethiopians are subjected to, particularly Amharas.

Before we talk about dam let’s talk about dismantling EFFORT and removing corrupt Woyane leadership in the civil and military Woyane bureaucracy.

Before we talk about dam, let’s talk about how to right the wrongs done during the May 2005 Elections!

Before we talk about dam, let’s talk about elections, press freedom, and independent judiciary in Ethiopia!

In the absence of all these rights, any benefits of the dam will be for a minority ethnic group, and eventually a Rwanda-type genocide is going to wipe away any benefits gained!

05/31/13 @ 10:39
Comment from: john john [Visitor]
john john

This is real time we must unite and defend our national interest regardless what. The project must go on as schedul.

05/31/13 @ 19:58
Comment from: Ethiopiawenet [Visitor]
Ethiopiawenet

Why bring your religion in your article. Are you trying to tell us the country belongs only to northern Amhara/Tigri coptics or what?
You are extremist, exclusivist, isolator, oppressor, selfish, rigid, backward who always stick to religion rather than secularism.
You want drawn the country into centuries of war.
You are a child who lacks strategy. Your article is full of hate and ego.
Your line is from feudal ancestors teachings so I trash all what you said to us.
Grow up hyper

05/31/13 @ 22:39
Comment from: abas [Visitor]
abas

Minyaregal - Doma , tultula kadre ,Hager ena poletica leyiteh ewek.

Kegibtsochu gar teselifeh na.
Wagahin tagegnalh.

06/01/13 @ 07:14
Comment from: mesfin_b [Member]  
mesfin_b

አቶ ተፈራ ምነው አንተም የወያኔዎቹ አፈ ቀላጤ ሁነህ ቁጭ አልክ!!
ገና አንድ አምስተኛው ብቻ የተጀመረው ይህ ግድብ ለማለቅ ዘመናት የሚፈጁበት በጀቱ ሳይጠና ገንዘቡ ሳይፈቀድ በ ተዘከሩኝ ያውም ኢትዮጵያውያንን :) በአገራችን ሽግር እያራወጠው ካለው ህዝባችን ከ ጉሮርው ተነጥቆ ውጪ ያለነውን ሃበሾች ለምነው ነው ገና ገንዘቡ ተጤራቅሞ የሚገነባውን አሁን ደግሞ ግብጽን የ ፕኦለቲካ ልመና አድርጉ የምትለው:):):)
አባክህ ሳቅና ቀልድ ለ ሌላ ጊዜ ይሁን :)
ያ እብዱ መለስ ዜናዊ ስሜን አስጠራለሁ ብሎ የ ቅዠት አላማውን ለማወቀር የጀመረውን የ ልጆች ጨዋታ ብንተወው ይሻላል :)

06/01/13 @ 07:38
Comment from: Teka [Visitor]
Teka

NO GOOD REASON FOR OPPOSITIONS TO HOLD THE GREAT DAM AS HOSTAGE
Here is the unfortunate reality about politics in Ethiopia:Just when it appears the ruling party is coming to take action that is important to the country,oppositions in the fringe,see an opportunity to further their own agenda.The idea behind this is that everyone is distracted, and the progress on a bigger issue grinds to a halt.
After a series of,more than five decades long,famine and draught that had costed numerous lives,it appears that Ethiopians have finally came to their sense–to build the biggest dam ever in the continent to use it for hydroelectric power.such a mega project can affect millions and millions of people.It ameliorates the quality of life,in general.
yet politics of opposition–just meant to oppose–is attempting to put the entire project in jeopardy.
Ethiopians ,be it home or specially in diaspora should not allow that to happen.If the opposition want to consider alternatives,they should have peaceful and democratic way to present it to the people.Without having or presenting any better alternatives,it is irresponsible to oppose because somebody whom I hate is doing it for the country and the people.The idea of I’m good to do it and not any body else is obsolete.It seems that the oppositions,especially in diaspora,seems to lack knowledge of demarcating national interest vis a vis their idea which they want to impose on the people.
Ethiopians are free to consider changes provided that there is a better alternatives.Ethiopians have never been captives to anybody except Ethiopians in diaspora who have been hostages by the oppositons.Buying bonds is aligning oneself with what they call the oppressor as if the EPRDF is going to take the dam when it is gone.
Writing letter to EU or US state department to put political pressure on GOE is meant to halt the progress of the construction of the dam.What does this mean?
So let me put my advice,as the author of this article,to the readers that politics of opposition for the sake opposition should not delay our progress in curbing overdue problem of hunger.Ethiopians in diaspora should break their political bond from their captors and work as hand and gloves to the the rising of Ethiopia.

06/01/13 @ 14:17
Comment from: Dagmawi [Visitor]
Dagmawi

You speak out of my soul Mr.Terefe, it is time to stand together for the sake of Ethiopia as a country. I belive Ethiopia will survive not only the enemies media propaganda against it, but also the hated ethn-centric division within its people. We know,even we came acros the so called zemen-mesafint with integral ETHIOPIA. Now it will not be different, Ethiopia will stay integral, prosperous and powerful again.
God bless Ethiopia!

06/02/13 @ 05:45
Comment from: Ts [Visitor]
Ts

If TPLF continue to ignoring people’s request, people continue to revolting TPLF until Oromo, Amhara etc politicians and Journalists released regardless of any person be a member of OLF, G-7 etc. True govt allows freedom to all and adhere to upheld rule of law than repress people. Fight against the Dam opposition will reflect the voice of disadvantageous people, and then the advantage of the Dam would be less feasible to an obstructed citizen. There is no philosophy of jailing mass of people, for example Oromo, while only TPLF politicians get released. There is no self fooling as if the Dam benefits only innocent citizen but not the oppressor. As far as the oppressor continue, there will be no sustainable development.

How comes a specific group of ethnicity back up by govt to have weapons and extensively attack other ethnicity, as a case impact on Oromo in Meiso, E. Wellega? It appears the TPLF will probably abolished.

06/02/13 @ 13:13
Comment from: George [Visitor]
George

Thank you so much Ato Terefe. This is indeed the reflection of a true Ethiopian. I hope those who try to sell out their country because of differences in political views would carefully read and understand the message you are trying to convey. We must unite when our nation or its interest is threatened by our enemies. Our enemies must know that no Ethiopian should die again due to starvation because of our inability to make use of our God given resources.

For hundreds of years Egypt has worked against the interest of Ethiopia by waging direct and proxy wars including the Ethic-Somalia and Ethic-Eritrea wars as well as supporting various anti-unity factions in the country to divide and weaken our country. Now it has started a new campaign of misinforming the world community regarding the dam we are building besides its campaign and solicitation of international monitory institutions not to finance it.

If Egypt wants war, we will let her have it even though we did not want it. The government and the people of Ethiopia time and again have told Egypt to negotiate and address any fears and suspicions in a peaceful manner. But despite assurance from Ethiopia, they do not want to listen because of their unreasonable belief that the Nile belongs to Egypt only.

In the event of any unfortunate war Ethiopia and other downstream countries will certainly triumph and Egypt will most certainly be made to by pay for every drop of water it draws from the Nile.

Long live Ethiopia.

06/02/13 @ 21:08

rebtel

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