HomeAfricaEthiopia: Of Egypt, Gratuitous Contempt and National Identity

Ethiopia: Of Egypt, Gratuitous Contempt and National Identity


The intelligence unit will be an essential part of gathering, detection and analysis of security needs pertaining to the national assets. The academic unit will be composed of notable experts, scientists and practitioners in the particular areas that end up as being deemed or classified as national assets. Finally, the civil society unit will be composed of members of civil society who could assist in the coordination of related or connected activities. Simply relying on local militias and the federal police is insufficient in the face of a determined adversary.

In my opinion, Prime Minister Haile Mariam is making very subtle moves that, while similar in form to that of the late Prime Minister Meles’, are different in their nuances. For example, he has taken a very public stand against illegal immigration, while previous policy was essentially ‘good luck, and may you enjoy your journey’. From what we have seen with the Muslims in Addis, and with the Blue Party a couple of weeks ago, there seems to be some space allowed for people to demonstrate and protest.

As Tecola Hagos has observed recently [to the chagrin of Shiferaw Abebe, I must add]*, these may not constitute as examples of the showering of democratic rights in Ethiopia, they are certainly indications of subtle differences in the governing of the country. I believe that a national committee such as the SCPNA will give the Prime Minster another opportunity to bring in both supporters and detractors into the fold at least in an area of national interest and concern to all. Like it or not, the GERD is an Ethiopian project, and as such, it has, by definition, become a national identity project.

The national railway network, regardless of whom and what it transports will be an Ethiopian network. These are projects for which we are collectively responsible—we are all debtors for those funds that have been borrowed in our names! Moreover, there will be enormous additional costs in maintenance once the projects are completed, and if these are not taken care of in a timely fashion, in deferred maintenance costs.

The Egyptians have publicly stated what they are likely to do to our assets, and no one is absolutely certain who might be recruited to assist and enable them from within. For our forefathers, life was not based on what they had, but on how well one used what they had. It is up to us to meet a similar but an even more taxing challenge. I believe the SCPNA or a similar entity will help overcome some of these challenges. In addition, it would eliminate ad-hoc responses as the country manages to move from one crisis to another. Beyond that, it is simply a very prudent way of managing a country’s critical national assets.

The second major point I wish to make is with regard to Ethiopia’s position on the waters of the Blue Nile [Abbay]. As I understand it, current policy is framed in the vernacular of “equitable utilization” of the waters of the Blue Nile. This framework acknowledges and cedes the point that Egypt has as much right to the Blue Nile as does Ethiopia. Many Ethiopians believe this is a winning strategy.

This position would also gather more diplomatic support, as seems to be the case now, and might even be consistent with international law. The problem, however, is that Egypt is not only unhappy with this view; it wants to control the waters of the Blue Nile only for itself and Sudan. Moreover, Egypt seems bent on the idea of uniting its people by giving them a common enemy—Ethiopia. I am wondering, therefore, if the Ethiopian position should shift in its nuances to: ‘Egypt is entitled to the waters of the Blue Nile when it reaches her’?

In my opinion this is an appropriate response to an adversary who has mishandled and mis-managed a golden opportunity to cement a lasting, stress/conflict free relationship with a reliable ally from whose territory the life-giving Blue Nile thunders down stream. Perhaps we are making it too easy for the Egyptians to define the terms of debate and engagement on this crucial issue. Ethiopia had not utilized the Blue Nile in the past not because it was afraid of Egypt, not because it was constrained by a treaty, not because it had no need for the waters of this river. It had not utilized the waters of the Blue Nile simply because it lacked the necessary capital to develop it.

The proverbial camel allowed to shelter only its nose eventually takes over the entire tent!! The Egyptians are surely behaving like the proverbial camel—with insults added for good measure. May be the camel ought to be kept out at a distance until those already in the tent have secured enough space for themselves!! I know I am reaching a bit too far with this argument, but the ungratefulness of Egypt and its leaders, and the attempts to assail Ethiopia’s good name and it’s generosity makes one wish to behave as selfishly as they have.


By: Teshome Abebe

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