The Not So Quite Nile “Diplomacy”


By Entehabu Berhe
June 2013

Starting May 28, 2013, the Blue Nile (Abay) has taken a brief detour, of less than a kilometer, from its regular path to pave a way for the construction of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the river bed. However, Abay still continues to trek downstream without interruption or alteration in the quantity or quality of its ‘tribute’ as it has done so for millennia.

Since the temporary detour of Abay, however, some in the Egyptian media and the power circles of Cairo have been negatively casting the GERD, a regional dam, and speculating on perceived conspiratorial motives of Ethiopia and other sinister shadowy co-conspirators including the governments
of Israel and the United States of America.

With clear ulterior motives, some in the media and a particular group of politicians have been amplifying the Egyptian narrative and ‘serving’ it with malice and contempt to the rest of the stakeholders of the Nile, especially Ethiopia. It is particularly jarring to be exposed to the unvarnished intent and reality of the inner thoughts of the power circles in Cairo without the benefit of the usual diplomatic filter or mask.

Some have keenly observed that the rerouting of Abay is being used as a diversionary tactic to redirect Egyptians away from the daily tumult of economic, political and social unrest that continues to reverberate throughout Egypt as an aftershock of the revolution.

Recently Egypt’s top court, the Supreme Constitutional Court, invalidated the laws that governed the only operating part of parliament and the assembly that was tasked with the new constitution. The lower house was similarly disbanded last year by the Constitutional Court. The rulings effectively diminished the legal standing of President Morsi and the new law makers at a time when many Egyptians are struggling to come to terms with the post-revolutionary let down and the sever economic distress that continues to plague the country.

Many Egyptians now feel that the post-Mubarak transition has been fraught with a democratic deficit and are openly challenging the government’s inability to effectively run the country in accordance to the ‘spirit of Tahrir’. Others observe that the core guiding principles and the views and policies of the current administration have been highly susceptible to the political muscle and sectarian views of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm.

It seems to me the series of serious political and economic setbacks that struck a blow to the party and government of President Morsi may be behind the recent ramping up of the rhetoric and hostile posturing against the brotherly people of Ethiopia and their individual and collective stake in their transformative signature undertaking – the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. There are also indications that Egyptian leaders may have underestimated the strength and resilience of the institutions of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in absorbing and withstanding
unanticipated shocks such as the untimely demise of the late Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi or the hostile Egyptian attempt to twist the arm of the Ethiopian people and their nation. However, the precedent setting interregnum period and the smooth transition that followed it have dispelled many long held myths and assumptions about the nature of the Ethiopian state and the ruling party. Despite such an undeniable reality, some still seem to have lingering doubts about the emergence of the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia as a regional powerhouse and a stable anchor state.

In light of the current reality of the nation, some regional observers have dismissed the Egyptian elites’ recent utterances as an attempt to delay the inevitable and inconvenient reality of regional power shift and restructuring. Whatever the case, it is regrettable that Nile politics is being used as an excuse to deny the dignity and human and democratic rights of Egyptians and as a means of distracting the people of the Nile Basin from bringing in to reality the just, equitable and sustainable development initiatives of upstream nations.

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