Towards Searching for Workable Options for Egypt to Deal with New Realities


By Desta B. Sbhatu
June 16, 2013

… “Egypt will not sign the agreement unless [certain] points of contention are modified.” Al-Din said. The points of contention, for Egypt, include that Egypt be given a decision making position in the proposed Nile River Basin Commission. Also that Egypt be notified before the construction of any project aimed at using the Nile River water. (Entebbe Agreement Not Binding on Egypt: Irrigation Minister; Ahram Online and MENA, Sunday 16 2013) 

Guided by the most viable political ideology (i.e. revolutionary democracy) and tried and true economic policy (i.e. developmental state), Ethiopia began marching towards reclaiming its rightful position in the world since the last decade of the 20th Century. After a decade into the 21st Century, it became plainly apparent that Ethiopia’s quest towards its rightful place is not a fantasy as some would hope but a reality we are witnessing – a destiny where sorority, diversity, equality, capability, and ingenuity shall be exhibited in all aspects of the lives of Ethiopians. Ethiopia launched the Growth and Transformation Plan (2010/1 – 2014/5), three years ago, aiming at placing itself amongst middle income countries within a decade and half. Of the major projects launched as per the Plan, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, under construction on the Nile River, is the most outstanding project. Twenty seven months into the construction of the Dam, the diversion of the River’s course to give room for putting the dam’s major structure is considered a significant milestone by all citizens. It symbolizes the beginning of the realization of Ethiopians’ long-awaited aspiration to putting their hands on the River. The Renaissance Dam, for some, it may simply be a mega structure on the face of some territory in Africa. For Egypt, it is a source of unjustified fear. For Ethiopians, nonetheless, it is more than that – it is a phenomenon. It is a phenomenon in that it signifies sorority – where it strengthens the unity in diversity of Ethiopians; in that it signifies equality – where it benefits all Ethiopians; in that it signifies capability – where it exhibits the capacity of Ethiopians in loosening themselves free of the grip of poverty; and, in that it signifies ingenuity – where it demonstrates the determination of Ethiopians to pursue outstanding initiatives towards realizing their quest for development. Hence, it can be confidently claimed that, it is even more than that. The Grand Dam is a Grand Phenomenon.

Following the River’s diversion – which occurred twenty seven months after the beginning of the Project – the world is witnessing the puffing and huffing of all sorts of steam by the Egyptian elites and politicians. Egypt’s leader, Mohamed Morsi and other politicians, showed up with a list of options from the playbook of arrogance of their predecessors to sabotage the Project. They, all in all, as summarized by HE Mr Bereket Simon, in his live radio interview with Addis FM 97.1 on the 14th of June 2013, have a list of six options for sabotage. Generally speaking, if the options from the old playbook of arrogance are taken as a package, it can be described as a square peg in a round hole. The utterances of such options on live TV are, however, the cardinal manifestations that Egyptian elites and politicians are still wildly failing to understand that such options – which are acts of wanton crime in the first place – cannot work anymore. It requires quite an elementary mathematical endeavor to show how Egypt can be left with negligible volume of freshwater when all communities in the upper riparian countries (with current estimated population of 365 million) become capable of utilizing (and recklessly wasting) water resources at a fraction of the scale of utilization and wastage by Egypt. A glaring inevitability!

Illegitimate, less and undemocratic, and inept governments crave for characters that scare the masses to make them feel that they are vulnerable. The masses, in turn, crave for protection, and let the governments take unrestrained freedom to mess things up. Typical examples include: communism, terrorism, and China to successive governments of United States of America; and, Israel and the American Imperialism to many governments in the Middle East. In this regards, past Egyptian governments used three excellent characters to gain the blind support of the majority of the Egyptian masses – Israel, the Nile (Ethiopia), and the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, the Muslim Brotherhood occupying the driving seat of the Egyptian government, Ethiopia and other upper riparian states remain to be scary characters upon which President Morsi and his followers would pull their excuses from. As a matter of luck for the Brotherhoods, majority of Egyptians were kept clueless, by a grand design, about the true and real historical and geographical discourses and narratives regarding the Nile. The cluelessness of Egyptians about the true and real discourses and narratives while fed with mythologies to harbor over-inflated arrogance is believed to make them zealots ready to pay blood for any volume of water taken out of the Nile. President Morsi’s sloganeering, with characteristic tone of arrogance, in reaction to the 27 months old Project makes sense nicely for the Egyptian audience. Why would, otherwise, a drop of Egyptian blood be spilled for a drop of water taken by an Ethiopian out of a spring in his front yard?

Egypt’s argument that hydropower dams constructed upstream are threats to its water needs, and thus its survival, cannot be genuine. As a matter of fact, hydropower dams are the most accessible and favorable means to boost the economies of upper riparian countries. The development of the upper riparian countries – with booming populations, growing economies, and dependable partners – will have a direct and inescapable consequence on Egypt’s wasteful water needs, but not on its survival. Ethiopians have known this very myth all along. As the perceived threat comes not from dams but from the development of upper riparian communities, Egypt’s infringements (including proxy wars) were and are aiming at derailing the development of these communities – criminal but successful undertakings. Now, things are changing! It, thus, goes without saying that Egyptian elites and politicians should abandon their archaic and criminal options and go for viable ones that guarantee the survival of their state.

The need as well as the identification and adoption of viable policy options for Egypt do not require a brainer. However, there has to be a good deal of political work to bring about a paradigm shift in the Egyptian mindset. Here, among others, there are five good things Egyptians should do. First, Egyptian elites and institutes should demonstrate the courage to free themselves off over-inflated arrogance and self-imposed ignorance – twin sins that characterize the discourses and narratives of Egyptians as far as the Nile is concerned. The playbook of the leaders of Egypt and the mindset of its people need to be liberated from the discourses and narratives of over-inflated arrogance and self-imposed ignorance. Second, the Egyptian people should seek the truth and the whole truth in regard to the history and present day realities of the Nile. The Egyptian people have to distinguish between the mythologies on the one hand and the true and real historical and geographical discourses and narratives of the Nile. Third, Egyptian elites and politicians should agree on one bitter truth – that Egypt’s policies with regard to the Nile are acts of wanton crime on the upper riparian communities and have never been sustainable and viable. God may have a good reason to flow the Nile the way it is. By the same token, God has taken the supreme duty to put all the ingredients within the faculties of His children in the upper riparian communities to enable them to use the springs that flow through their backyards and front yards. Fourth, Egyptian elites and academic communities should be courageous enough to teach the Egyptian people that the intimidating characters in the Egyptian playbooks and tales, in fact, were and are, by God’s design or by Mother Nature’s default, the ones who have ensured and would ensure the sustainability and viability of the Egyptian communities. Lastly, Egyptian elites and politicians should stop confusing themselves by their own long-held myths and face the reality. They need to abandon old tricks and learn new and workable means. They should understand that Ethiopians consider the Grand Dam as a Grand Phenomenon. They should realize that it is a Grand Phenomenon by which the shallow scars and deep wounds inflicted up on the Ethiopian psych are to be healed. It is a Grand Symbol up on which the Ethiopian splendor is to be re-built and its destiny to be drawn.

If Egyptian elites and politicians are able do those, they can work for the realization of the paradigm shift – from the mindset of arrogance and self-imposed ignorance (that put them in awkward position of fitting oversized shoes) towards the mindset of embracing their brotherly and sisterly peoples upstream for honest cooperation and collective security. The mindset of honest cooperation and collective security helps Egyptians realize: that they have lost a good deal of time shielded off the realities by the mythologies of their own making; that they have a long way to go to ensure the sustainability of their communities; and that an Egypt entirely dependent on the riches of the Nile can never be viable. The realization of these facts and inevitabilities, in turn, would help them abandon old tricks and adopt workable options in regard to the Nile – and by extension for Egypt!