Rethinking the Voices of Aswan Dam and Gerd [opinion]

Endless echoes of Egypt’s disrelish, imaginative fear, uncorroborated reports from partisan experts, and mythical prophecies of the perils of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) upon the peoples of Egypt have reverberated and resonated over the geopolitical sphere of the Eastern Nile Basin.

The media, academia, polity and hydro-diplomacy deployed are also calling to halt the construction of the Dam. It is very timely and quite essential to unveil and fathom Egypt’s enigmatic hydro-political calculation and conclusion behind the Aswan Dam and Ethiopia’s aspirations to make GERD an emblem of regional progress and prosperity.

Aswan Dam: a symbol of extractive Egyptian power

The completion of the Aswan Dam on July 21, 1970 sent one critical message to Africa, and most importantly to Ethiopia. That is, the Aswan Dam was meant to divorce or delink Africa in general, and Ethiopia in particular, from the waters of the Nile. The Nasserites’ Dam proclaimed that Ethiopia was no longer a provider of fertility, sustenance and survival to Egypt. In other words, the radical young military officers voiced that the Aswan Dam was a game changer to make Lake Nasser the source of the Nile waters abandoning Lake Tana or their calculation amplified that the Aswan Dam would make Lake Nasser Lake Tana’s superior. Removing Ethiopia, the major contributor of the Nile, from the waters of the Nile was absolutely a mirage as their geopolitical calculation was against nature, humanity, history, geography and sustainability.

At the inauguration of the Dam, the euphoria, rhythmical words and phrases and promises of the then President Anwar el Sadat deemed to hold and captivate the attention of those who closely follow developments in the Nile Basin. January 15, 1971 was the typical time in which Egyptians rallied to celebrate the completion of the Aswan Dam. On the occasion, President Sadat hailed Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Aswan Dam as great symbols of this nation (Egypt). What was disheartening to Africa in President Sadat’s characterization of the Aswan Dam was the absolute denial and neglect of the presence of the heart of Africa, including the headwaters of Ethiopia and other upper riparian countries of the continent, from the geopolitical scene of the Nile Valley. Sadat’s Machiavellian ignorance and neglect of Africa was to fix and bind the self-justifying historical and acquired rights. He symbolized the Aswan Dam as a life which has remained for long eras and centuries awaiting the will of change, reiterating that we have here before us the dream, the leader and the accomplishment, or… .the principle. This principle was the unilateral, myopic and narrow entitlement of Egypt to the waters of the Nile anchoring the water security based on the delusory paternalistic hydro political hegemonic mindset. This kind of delusion has continued to the present day forsaking Ethiopia’s survival, water, and food insecurity.

What was also appealing in Egypt’s hydro-politics has been its mercurial or inconstant position to sustain its dubious exclusive control of the Nile. The same day, President Sadat adorned the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) for its financial and technical contribution for Egypt’s symbol of power – Aswan Dam – adding that the leadership of the Soviet Union does not need any comparison to the role of another party. He castigated the United States for its reluctance to support the Aswan Dam, underlining that the US was a preponderant perpetrator to shake our nation’s self confidence, dreams, revolutionary leadership and its aspiration in development and revolution. What was amazing was Sadat’s later apprenticeship and baptism to America’s capitalism and liberal democracy dislodging the Soviet’s communism and help. Again, while Ethiopia was dithering in harrowing drought and famine, President Sadat visited Haifa and declared his plan to construct the Suez Canal tunnel and promised the Israelis: After the tunnel is completed, I am planning to bring the sweet Nile waters – this is the sweetest of the four big rivers of the whole world – to the Sinai. Well, why not send you some of this sweet water to the Negev Desert as good neighbors? Egypt’s vacillating stance has continued till today to sustain its exclusive use of the Nile traversing the meadows of cooperation at one time and contention at the other.

The second chapter of the Aswan Dam to eternally control the Nile is the Toshka Canal. According to Ana Cascao, the 1997 President Mubarak’s unilateral move in reclaiming more lands in the North Sinai, the West Delta and the South Valley was to cement [Egypt’s] historic rights to the Nile waters in order to avoid other riparian countries from the development of the Nile. In 1998, the late Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, questioned Egypt’s unsustainable journey over the use of the Nile, saying that Egyptian politicians had dedicated to treat the Nile as though they were a purely Egyptian affair rather than one concerning the states in the Nile basin. The Aswan Dam voices that Egypt is not ready to work with other riparian countries based on the cardinal principles of equality, fairness, coordination and shared benefit for the sustainable development of the Nile Basin. GERD: a symbol of inclusive regional prosperity

Ethiopian doctor, economist, and intellectual, Negadras Gebrehiwot Baykedagn (1886-1919,) bemoaned on the sorry state of affairs of the country during the last decades of the 19th century, lambasted his generation for being purposeless and opportunistic, and concluded by saying: what befell you, oh people of Ethiopia! When are you going to awaken from deep sleep and open your eyes to get even a glimpse of all that is going on in the rest of the world? But no one heeded to his recommendations to chart a new route so as to place the country in its right place. He departed his beloved homeland with a dreadful weight of grief in agony and profound sorrow.

Thoroughly discerning and deciphering Negadras Gebrehiwot Baykedagn’s innermost discontent, deep lamentation and sober recommendations as well as the crushing castigation upon his generation, Ethiopians have emerged in the drama of regional and international geopolitical and hydro-political chessboard in the 21st century. This emergence is accompanied with a just, factual, and scientific driven socio-economic rejuvenation model to prosper with their neighboring nation-states under the spirit of mutual respect, mutual benefit and win-win results. Ethiopia’s reawakening has just started with a deep aversion to tear the fabric of indignity, hopelessness, grinding poverty and emerging threats in close partnership with its sisterly African nations and indeed other friendly countries of the world.

One emblematic solid testimony of Ethiopia’s rebirth is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project. It has awakened Ethiopians from their long slumber to heal their frenzied pain of frequent famine and tumultuous images of drought-stricken walking skeletons under the shade of the waters of the Nile River along with their brothers and sisters of upper and lower riparian countries. Drifting away from the dreary years of the passing ages, the people of Ethiopia are sowing their sweats and financing the project to turn the Nile from the sign of peril into the harbinger of Ethiopian Renaissance as well as African Rebirth.

When the GERD was launched in April, 2011 in Guba, Benishangul Gumuz region, the late Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, reiterated that the Dam was the definition of Ethiopian Renaissance together with the revival of African Rebirth. He affirmed that the people of Ethiopia, the Horn as well as fellow African brothers and sisters would not be made victims of grinding poverty, ominous famine, senseless violence, frequent drought, heinous indignity, incessant suffering and excess of sorrow under the head waters of the Nile. Indeed, the Dam will end Western portrayal of apocalyptic vision of the African experience as famine-overwhelmed, hopeless continent, socio-political traumatic field, and many other distressing words in their visualization of African past, present and future. Having comprehended Egypt’s abhorrence to equitable and constructive self-interest and its sustained attempts to undercut Ethiopia’s determination to secure funding overseas to accomplish the project, Ethiopians are committed that the project requires only themselves to make the Dam a reality as they are the descendants who crushed the invincibility of the white man’s sheer violence, power and psyche at Dogali, Adwa, Walwal, etc, as well as having made the architectural monuments of the gigantic sculptured obelisks of Axum, Tiya Tikil stones and the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. He also voiced that Ethiopia, the Horn and Africa would not be places where darkness and complete blankness engulf the hopes and aspirations of their peoples, stressing that the Dam would kindle and brighten the huts of the peoples of the Basin, Africa, and even beyond with affordable and cheap electricity prices. He added Ethiopia would commit its hydropower potentials to export to its neighbors. In fact, Ethiopia has lived up to its promises in supplying electricity to the eastern region of the continent. The proposed power trade of the GERD would further deepen and reinforce the mutually cooperative partnership and fast track the regional economic communities to attain the integration, unity and solidarity of the people of Africa. He underscored that frequent suffering as a result of flooding and drought would not knock the lives and livelihoods of the Eastern Nile Basin peoples, adding that the Dam would regulate and increase the annual flow of the River and avert the aerse consequences of the Blue Nile, Atbara and Sobat on the peoples and physical infrastructure of Sudan and Egypt including dams, irrigation canals and reservoirs.

According to hydrologists, the Dam will indeed prevent the detrimental effects of flooding that afflicted Egyptians and Sudanese in 1964, 1973 and 1988, and promote the consolidation of the navigation sector in lower-streamers, which in turn contributes to the development of the tourism and fishing industries, when completed. They also say that the Dam at Ethiopian highlands will avoid evaporation, sedimentation and siltation in lower riparian countries including the Aswan Dam, Merowe Dam, and etc. The reduction in sedimentation and siltation at Aswan will enable Egypt to avoid the increasing coastline erosion (125-175m (410-574ft) per year) encircling the Nile Delta. When the GERD completed, the evaporation loss at Aswan Dam will be 9.5 percent instead of the already 10.8 bcm per year.

At the end of his remarks, Meles Zenawi reaffirmed that we not only have a plan, but we also have the capacity to assert our rights through our savings and sales of bonds. He pointed out that Ethiopians were devoted to use the Nile waters in their fight against none other than poverty. He lastly called for all Nile Basin countries to come to the new route of cooperation and partnership, noting that the Dam will also stand as an expression of our commitment to the benefits of all the peoples of the Basin.

It is now very clear that the Aswan Dam shows Egypt’s hydro political dexterity and geopolitical ploy to downplay the needs of the peoples of up-stream countries. As a result, underdevelopment, chronic conflicts, economic marginalization, disease, hopelessness, political decadence, serious famines and other social ills engulfed the Nile Basin region and afflicted the lives of many peoples in the 20th century. Happily, GERD has come to correct the basin’s failure, the injustice and the flaws of the policies of Egypt. The GERD offers another alternative – the mutually cooperative partnership over the development, management and utilization of the Nile – to fairly and equitably channel the waters of the river for the mutual development and transformation of the Nile Valley region and for the realization of the priorities of African Renaissance. Imperatives for a way forward

A prolific African political scientist remarked that for centuries, Egypt contributed to Ethiopia’s salvation through the Coptic Church of Alexandria. He further went on to say that for even more centuries, Ethiopia has contributed to Egypt survival through the waters of the Nile. What is vexing for anyone is Ethiopia’s catastrophic torment through periodic droughts and frequent famines. Now is high time for Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan and other riparian countries for inclusive, sustainable and basin-wide survival of the peoples of the Nile Valley. This is because, according to former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, a nation or a human being is not sufficient to itself or himself or herself living in the age of globalization, the era of interdependence and the volatility of the 21st century. Egypt’s colonial, paternalistic mentality of if I win, you lose must wither and Ethiopia’s win-win must flourish over the hemisphere of the Nile Basin. Egypt’s leadership must innovate itself than extending the singular delusory principle of the country to control the Nile. As Ethiopia’s Reawakening is being manifested, Egypt’s must be borne for the sustainability of humankind on the Nile River.

Ed.’s Note: Nurye Yassin is a researcher on African and Middle Eastern Affairs and a lecturer at a private university college in Addis Ababa. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter.nbsp

Source : The Reporter

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