Ethiopia Must Persevere Over the Abbay River

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Aklog Birara (Dr.)

Regardless of whether we agree or disagree with the brutal and barbaric Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that does not even have an ounce of respect for the Ethiopian Orthodox church or for the Muslim religion or for the lives of children, harnessing the enormous potential of the Abbay River (Blue Nile) for the betterment of the Ethiopian people is a fundamental and non-negotiable national right. Sadly, this sovereign right that has been asserted by generations of Ethiopian leaders might be at risk because Ethiopia does not have a patriotic, representative and competent national defense or security force. Its internal ethnic and religious division favors its adversaries. Ethiopians must wake up before it is too late. They must bridge minor differences; unite and defend the country from internal and external adversaries.

While the TPLF led Agazi, federal police, defense, security and allied forces target Amhara, Oromo and other innocent Ethiopians, including children, Ethiopia’s traditional adversaries have encircled the country and threaten its very existence. In order to survive and thrive, Ethiopia needs a competent, patriotic and integrated and national defense and security force drawn from all segments of Ethiopian society. This generation of Ethiopians must determine and unite to save Ethiopia from Balkanization and its people from civil war and genocide. This is the most urgent task facing us today. The current defense and security establishment is an arm and a tool of the TPLF and therefore part of the problem.

In all countries but few, the sole responsibility and accountability of a defense and security establishment are to protect and defend the country and its people from foreign aggression. Until the TPLF took power 27 years ago and dismantled the country’s renowned national defense forces, Ethiopia had such an established tradition. This tradition must be restored for Ethiopia to defend its territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty. The current defense and security establishment is the exact opposite. It is totally dominated by Tigrean officers for the benefit of Tigrean elites. This skewed and ethno-nationalist reality alone makes Ethiopia vulnerable.

I should like to draw your attention to the notion that when a country is conflict ridden, ethnically polarized and corrupt its external adversaries are emboldened exponentially. This has occurred under the socialist military dictatorship that was brutal but not even corrupt financially. The TPLF has decimated the cultural, spiritual, moral, historical, economic and geopolitical bonds of the Ethiopian people that are critical in defending external threats. It does not do this alone. It has external allies and is willing to bargain and trade Ethiopia’s national interests for the sake of dominance. Remember, Ethiopia lost its access to the sea because of the TPLF.

The TPLF is so inimical to internal unity of national purpose and Ethiopia’s national security that it creates internal divisions and conflicts perpetually in order to prolong its harsh and brutal rule. This compound risks for the country.

What gals and angers me is not external threat for which Ethiopia is renowned; and for which its citizens together proved resilient and unconquerable. The Battle and Victory of Adwa should be our shining light. Rather, what appalls me is the TPLF-led polarization and division of Ethiopian society. A regime that murders youth and other innocent citizens at a celebration of Epiphany has no soul and possesses no redeeming feature.

A regime that desecrates the Ethiopian Orthodox faith, a bedrock of our national culture, heritage and identity and spiritual and moral strength deserves outright condemnation and revulsion by all Ethiopians. For me, it is unthinkable to imagine Ethiopia without its major faiths, Christianity and Islam together; and without its splendid diversity.

I think of and am elated by the Annual celebrations of Timket in Gondar and the Oromo Irreecha festival that draws thousands of Ethiopians of all faiths and ethnic groups that the TPLF does not honor or respect. Each of these events distinguish us from other societies; and they must be cherished and respected by any Ethiopian regime.

Sadly, recurrent practices show that any form of peaceful expression of dissent against the TPLF is met with extrajudicial measures even at Holy events. I ask myself why the TPLF, including its generals and its supporters desecrate faiths and their symbols; and why they devalue human life; and instead worship material possession. It is therefore reasonable to conclude from these episodes that a regime that does not value Ethiopian human life cannot be a guardian of Ethiopian national interests and sovereignty.

For the TPLF citizens and faiths must submit to its ideology of ethnocracy and plutocracy. Despite this, I am convinced that Ethiopia will surmount these difficulties and outlive the TPLF.
Fortunately for Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people, the young generation of Amhara and Oromo youth in particular, has shown fierce and patriotic determination to fight for justice, democracy, shared prosperity, national unity and Ethiopia’s sovereignty. Millions now appreciate the fundamental premise that our ancestors sacrificed their lives and their livelihoods to preserve Ethiopia’s independence and the unity of its diverse population. Ethiopia is central for their existence. It is this social force emanating from its youth that will change Ethiopia and preserve and defend Ethiopia’s national interests, including the Abbay River.

The rest of us have a moral obligation to rise-up beyond parochialism and side with those who are sacrificing their lives for a better tomorrow. It is these social forces that are spearheading fundamental change. Young and promising leaders are emerging.

The reason for this commentary is once again to defend Ethiopia’s sovereign right to harness the Abbay River through the construction of electric and irrigation dams. At last, Egyptians must be persuaded; and if not, pressured to recognize the principle that their “right” to use the River Nile is indefensible without, at the same time, showing a modicum of recognition of Ethiopia’s right to harness its rivers for the betterment of Ethiopians.

One-way negotiation by Egypt pressuring and threatening Ethiopia to surrender its rights is a losing proposition that the current or future generations of Ethiopians won’t accept regardless of military threat.

In this connection, I should like to draw the attention of the reader to a previous commentary “Why Egypt is threatening Ethiopia now?” The commentary also suggests that the only way to avert Egyptian threat is for the Ethiopian people to unite against and remove their internal cancerous and brutal tormentors with a view of defending Ethiopia’s long-term interests. Democracy is unthinkable unless Ethiopia exists.

On February 2, 2018, Al-Jazeera offered a video showing massive movement of Sudanese troops towards the Eritrean border. This ominous sign of military preparedness on the part of the Sudan is not to invade Eritrea or Ethiopia. The Sudanese have two fundamental reasons why they are preparing their country against Egyptian aggression and expansion.

First is a contested area, Hala’ib Triangle that was once occupied by the Ottoman Empire that both Egypt and the Sudan claim.

Second, is the notion that, behind this is the undeclared war of nerves between the Sudan and Ethiopia on one side and Egypt on the other. This is driven by the contentious issue of the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) for which Ethiopia has spent billions and plans to complete. The Sudan and Ethiopia have reached the conclusion that the mutual benefits from the dam outweigh the costs.

Therefore, the second reason for troop movements might plausibly be Sudanese and Ethiopian tacit agreement to prepare and guard against Egyptian aggression against the Sudan and Ethiopia over the GERD. Sudan has a national interest in the GERD. The dam would offer the Sudan cheap electricity and increased volumes of water for irrigation.

The video suggests that the tripartite agreement (Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan) recently is a smoke screen. The Egyptian President’s assertion that Ethiopia’s or Sudan’s interests are identical to that of Egypt and vice versa is a routinized Egyptian rhetoric.

Equitable use for Egypt is not to lose “even one drop of Nile waters” from its traditional share. There is no way imaginable that building one of the largest dams in the world won’t affect the flow of water at least temporarily. It is unfeasible for any regime in Addis Ababa to guarantee Egypt such a deal of “not a drop of water loss” without betraying Ethiopia’s national interest.

The Al-Jazeera news and video clips of “A geopolitical crisis is building over who controls the River Nile” show that the tripartite meeting of the Presidents of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia in Addis Ababa “to resolve a dispute over building a dam on the river in Ethiopia” has very little chance of success unless Egypt drops its arrogant and unreasonable position concerning Ethiopia’s rightful and legal position to harness the Abbay River for its modernization and the welfare of its 105 million people.

As the news report noted, the façade of unity among the leaders of the three countries has been “contradicted as pictures emerge of Sudanese troops near Kassala, near the border with Eritrea.” The regime in Addis Ababa continues to fail in informing the Ethiopian public why “massive” military movements are taking place along its borders with the Sudan and Eritrea.

The regime in Addis Ababa FAILED miserably to recognize the strategic importance of rapprochement with the regime in Eritrea. Strategic thinking suggests that the Eritrean and Ethiopian people have much more in common than either regime appreciates. The destinies of the two peoples are intertwined and a way out of the current morass must be explored. Neither “country” should allow its territory to be used against the other.

Ethiopia’s loss must not be Egypt’s gain. The people of Ethiopia and Eritrea deserve amity and not animosity. Peace, harmony and some for of unity between Ethiopia and Eritrea will pay enormous dividends for both peoples. People to people relations must therefore be cultivated and promoted.

Objective assessment suggests that Eritrean and Egyptian friendships and strategic relationships could have been averted if the regime in Addis Ababa dominated by the TPLF had made Ethiopia’s national interests, security and sovereignty the sole criteria in determining relations between the Ethiopian and Eritrean people. A nationalist government would have tended to opt for this alternative.

The above medium and long-term option and missed opportunity aside, I conclude that Ethiopia’s right to harness its rivers for the betterment of its people is non-negotiable.

2/12/2018