Ethiopia: Of Egypt, Gratuitous Contempt and National Identity

Egypt proposal to Attack Ethiopia
Egypt has been trying to destabilize Ethiopia for decades

AFRICANGLOBE – Much has been said and written over the past couple of weeks about Egypt, the Blue Nile, Ethiopia’s determination and resolve, and the national identity. This article is not intended to add to the volumes of responses and musings, some of which appear to be giving advise to the Ethiopian government on how to respond to the provocative acts of an unreliable sisterly state. Others have simply taken to the feverish swamp of the Internet to respond to the barrage of insults and the perceived arrogance of Egyptian politicians who have yet to free themselves from the deadly grip of the 19th century.

The Egyptian response to Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) initiative has been confused, confusing and unfortunately, immature as well. From all indications, the Egyptians initially supported the initiative; then, at Ethiopia’s insistence, they agreed to the formation of a select committee drawn from experts from Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and internationally renowned experts to study the impact of the dam. Though the initial framework called for a non-binding report, the Egyptians, true to their trademarked dilatory tactics utilized for ages, decided not to accept or even consider the report once it was finalized. In other words, they began trashing the work of the committee they themselves had a hand in constituting.

Over the course of a few days, Egyptian politicians, egged on by their chief cheerleader Islamist president Morsi, began trashing Ethiopia and its interests. Even beyond that, Egyptian politicians trashed Sudan, and by naming Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia as potential partners in crimes against the Ethiopian state, set out to make official an otherwise secret but well-trodden tactic of subversion and destabilization against a sisterly country.

In the opinions of some of Egypt’s politicians, what will hurt Ethiopia most is pitting one African country against another in such a way that, in the words of one politician giving advise to Morsi, “… the Africans finish off each other”. Sadly, this is a country that appears to know nothing of giving a little or has never ever learned to share. A message to Egypt’s leaders ought to be that Ethiopia and Ethiopians are no longer a people who want nothing more than we were able find! We wish to create, we wish to utilize, and we wish to prosper using our natural resources. Furthermore, Egypt’s leaders need to know that as citizens, our location in a particular place is our only distinction, and that otherwise, we are a people bound by one common bond: we are Ethiopians.

It is disturbing to note the gratuitous contempt Egypt has for Africans in general, and Ethiopia in particular. Perhaps, we suspect, Egyptians may not wish to be seen as Africans. Perhaps, this is a new development since the emergence of an Islamic government in Cairo. Perhaps, it stems from a sense of national identity crisis that has been suppressed by successive regimes only to manifest itself at a time of a national crisis. Whatever the cause, we as Africans, need to be quite alarmed that there appears to be forces within Egypt who seem to enjoy the gratuitous doling out of contempt for the people of the continent.

Satisfied and in harmony with the way the Ethiopian government has handled the entire situation to date, I will not comment further on Egypt’s belligerent behavior or on the ignorance of its leaders. Suffice it to state that the Ethiopian government has been exemplary in its response to Egypt’s manufactured crisis with regard to the GERD. From Dina Mufti’s responses [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] to Mr. Kebede’s eloquent statements [Prime Minister’s Office], Ethiopia has been respectful, firm, point-of-factly precise, and diplomatically dignified and impressive.

The icing on the cake, however, is Prime Minister Haile Mariam’s observation that those in Egypt who wish to declare war over water must have gone mad! There is a Chinese martial art form called Tai Chi, and according to Tai Chi, “movement in one direction usually begins with a very subtle move in the opposite direction”. Let us just hope that the clumsy movement to the extreme position by the Egyptian’s is an episode of only temporary insanity.

The aim of this brief article is to humbly suggest a couple of ideas worth exploring. The first of these ideas, in view of the declared hostile acts by Egypt against Ethiopian interests, is the formation of a Select Committee for the Protection of National Assets (SCPNA). Ethiopia has been investing billions of dollars in infrastructure and related projects. Billions will be spent on the GERD itself; billions more on a national railway system; several other big and significant dams; major airports; power grid systems which will cost billions more; transportation networks; storage and warehousing networks; supply chain management networks, etc.

All of these require billions of dollars of investment, and most if not all of these projects will be funded using borrowed funds. The borrowed funds are the nation’s liabilities, and must be paid back to the lenders with interest. As is the case with all self-funded projects, the money to pay back the loans is expected to come from the stream of incomes the projects are expected to generate. However, a disabled power line does not help generate income; a sabotaged power station does not generate income; a malfunctioning supply chain network is not only useless but also does not help generate income. It also undermines the confidence investors have in the system.

A sabotaged railway network is only good as scrap metal unless repaired immediately; and an interrupted transportation network damages the profit margins of businesses, and makes the supply of essential materials and goods difficult if not impossible. For the cost minimizing entity, time is money.

To safeguard the nation’s investments, to react to and prevent perceived threats in a timely manner, and to coordinate national policy on emergencies pertaining to such assets, the SCPNA should be established and organized. It is possible that such a body already exists; in which case, this suggestion should simply be viewed as an endorsement of that effort. I envision a SCPNA with four distinct organs: a military, intelligence, academic, and civil society. Very briefly, the military unit will be composed of crack units with rapid movement and deployment capabilities and training to secure, prevent, and in the event of attacks, to eject or capture hostile forces.

Part Two