(This is the second part of the article about Egyptian authorities and opinion makers over the Nile River).
Egyptian politicians still seem to see any kind of agreement or discussion on equitable utilization of the Nile waters as an act of compromising their national security. As Fekahmed Negash, Boundary and Trans-boundary River Affairs Director at the Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy, told the Ethiopian Herald on January 19, that Egyptian officials seemed to consider that if other countries use the water, their national security would be under threat and they would do anything to prevent other countries from utilizing the water. The conclusion is that the Egyptian geopolitical and hydro-political mindset remains unchanged. It still looks back, even in this 21st century, to the historical burial grounds of the long out-dated and irrelevant colonial era agreements.
These deluded references to “historic rights” prevents Egyptian officials, authors and journalists from discerning that the natural rights of Ethiopians, and those of the other peoples of the Nile Valley, do not in any way jeopardize the interests of Egyptian peoples. The mindset of the colonial era agreements prevents an understanding of the logic of Ethiopia’s natural rights to rescue its citizens from the scourge of poverty along with the interests of other riparian countries. It prevents acknowledgment of the fact that the riparian nations have the right to equitably and fairly share in the use of the waters or implement development projects according to international law of Trans-boundary Rivers best recognized by the Helsinki Accords.
They seem unable to understand or accept the reality of the Ethiopian Poet Laureate’s praise of the Nile River as a gift for the present and future generations of North Eastern Africans in the march towards the African Renaissance. Tsgaye Gebre-Medhin portrays Ethiopia as “the mother of the tallest traveler on the longest journey on Earth to cultivate peace…from Ethiopian sacred mountains but this is providing the majestic bloodline of African glory that showers the starved soul of the world as the eloquent that rings the Ethiopian bell across the deaf world to fertilize the scorched sands of Arabia. Without the Nile Mediterranean shall be a rock of dead waters and Sahara shall be a basket of skeletons.
The Logic of Right
Cooperation is the logic of right in the 21st century, to produce an answer for the thorny problems of just and mutual utilization of the Nile waters. Ramzi Tadrus, a prominent 20th century Egyptian Coptic intellectual underlines the point in his book, “Ethiopia’s Present and Future”, recommending that Egyptians should reach a stage of comprehensive cooperation and mutual help with Ethiopia. He emphasizes that there is no other remedy or solution that can extricate the people of the Nile Basin from current and future challenges than cooperation, and cooperation based upon trust and mutual understanding.
Certainly, the Nile Basin countries have been endangered by the multitude of regional and global challenges. Wondwossen Teshome, a researcher at the Department of Anthropology, University of Vienna, asserts that the “Nile Basin is characterized by environmental degradation, extreme poverty, high population growth and political instability….the world’s poorest nations are found in the area.” The Basin faces global warming, drought, illegal human trafficking, terrorism, and the impact of global financial and economic crises. To overcome these threats, the Human Development Report 2013, suggests a better strategy would be ‘responsible sovereignty’, whereby countries engage in fair, rule-based and accountable international cooperation, joining in collective endeavors that enhance global welfare.
Quite so, and instead of indulging in obviously inaccurate and aggressively ferocious statements, whether about different meetings or the construction of the GERD, Egyptian officials, writers and journalists might start to think about fair and proper utilization of the Nile waters as an instrument for the integration and unity of the peoples of North Eastern Africa. This would allow all to jointly face the challenges of the 21st century in the spirit of promotion and acceleration of human development in line with equity, sustainability and socio-cultural integration.
There can be no argument. Ethiopia’s very clear foreign policy objectives towards the waters of the Nile, and other regional and global issues, are based upon mutual benefit and win-win approach. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) can be considered as a manifestation of the approach of win-win solution, creating a platform of cooperation that can link the lower riparian countries, Egypt and Sudan, with Ethiopia in order to launch a pattern of development that can make serious inroads into the developmental problems and constraints of the Nile Basin region. The GERD helps the lower riparian countries avoid sedimentation, silt and floods that will incapacitate and crush dams, particularly the Aswan High Dam, according to hydrologists.
To mention only one example, the Sudan is ready to work with Ethiopia to reap the benefits of cheaper and greater supplies of electricity and of the abatement of the floods that regularly traumatize its agricultural hub, Aljazirah, and its capital, Khartoum. These potential developments in agriculture, energy and other area will have other political benefits in moderating the dangers of conflict and inter-state war and removing the roots of possible threat. Egypt will also benefit similarly from the Dam and will be able to join in the march towards prosperity and tranquility that Ethiopia and other riparian countries will be taking.
Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the UN, suggested in February 2002 that the water problems of our world need not only offer a cause of tension; they can also be a catalyst for cooperation. The Nile Valley is no exception to this sharp statement of fact. It would be far better for Egypt to choose to partner with other riparian countries in their journey towards progress and prosperity to ignite the fire of African Renaissance than to issue belligerent rhetoric and unsubstantiated comment about development projects on the Nile.
Cooperation based on democracy, social justice, the rule of law, sustainability and mutual respect can resolve and settle any contentious issues about the Nile waters and turn the region into a garden of peace and prosperity. Now is a time for the governments of the region, all the governments of Nile Basin, to cooperate and to collaborate and take the road of interdependence and progress rather than the route of catastrophe and disaster.