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Partnership in development: The pillar of Egypt-Ethiopia relations

Amid current row over upstream Nahda 'Renaissance' Dam project, Cairo must adopt a new multidimensional approach to rebuilding relations with Ethiopia based on principle of partnership in development

Essam El Haddad , Monday 3 Jun 2013
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Views: 5430

If the strategic vision of Egyptian foreign policy gives priority to the African dimension, Egyptian-Ethiopian relations are at the heart of this dimension.

Ethiopia is a significant and influential country in the African continent and among its emerging economies. It is also an essential actor in the Horn of Africa region, which continues to witness political, economic and social dynamics that indirectly influence Egypt's national security.

In addition, Ethiopia is Egypt's leading partner, along with Sudan, in the Nile Basin file, due to its sovereignty over the Nile's sources in the Ethiopian highlands in addition to its direct influence on the Equatorial Lake Plateau.

Given this, it is necessary to develop strong and stable Egyptian-Ethiopian bilateral relations, which had sharply deteriorated since the mid-90s of the last century.

Egypt, hence, adopted a new multidimensional approach to rebuilding these relations based on the principle of partnership in development.

The new approach aims to create a web of political and economic interests between the two countries with the belief that true development, which provides basic needs and improves the quality of life at all levels, is the key to facing crises and the gradual transformation to stability.

Stability is not only for the mutual benefit of Egypt and Ethiopia, but of all African states in general, thus protecting the national interests of Egypt.

One dimension of the approach is concerned with maintaining sustainable political communication with Ethiopia at all levels through reciprocal presidential calls and visits, coordination between the concerned ministries of both countries, activation of civil societies and people-to-people relations, and spreading cultural and media awareness about the importance of Egyptian-African relations in general and Egyptian-Ethiopian relations in particular.

Other means include proposals for cooperation agreements and protocols in the different economic fields such as agriculture, irrigation, food industries, energy, and infrastructure, along with service sectors such as health and education for the mutual benefit of both countries, in addition to the activation and improvement of established cooperation areas.

The approach also allows a common ground to be found for dealing with crises that led to tensions in bilateral relations that have continued for some time between the two countries, such as the Cooperative Framework Agreement and Nahda 'Renaissance' Dam files, which are directly linked to the issue of Egypt's share of Nile water and the means for protecting it.

The Cooperative Framework Agreement crisis exceeds the bilateralism of Egypt and Ethiopia, affecting all the riparian states. The major problem with the agreement lies in the absence of a provision stipulating commitment to the historical shares of Egypt and Sudan and those acquired by virtue of previous agreements.

Despite the legally correct position of Egypt and Sudan, the experience has proven that the final results largely rely on the political relations between countries.

Hence, Egypt finds it necessary to re-launch negotiations and redouble diplomatic efforts to reach an agreement that satisfies all stakeholders through the adoption of the concept of equitable use.

According to this concept, water would be distributed based on the needs of each of the riparian states, rather than its even distribution, taking into account other water sources for each state.

Adopting this concept allows Egypt to merge other modern concepts in negotiations that include all basin resources rather than being limited to its surface water forms, such as green water and virtual water. It also provides opportunities for harvesting rainwater and utilising losses.

This would, in turn, increase chances of reaching a new formulation for the Cooperative Framework Agreement that preserves the interests of Egypt while taking into account the legitimate needs of other countries.

It would also endorse a stable system for the distribution of Nile Basin resources, paving the way for a developmental cooperation model between its countries instead of conflict that wastes all their resources to varying degrees.

With regards to the Ethiopian Nahda dam, the current position – upon which a final report will be issued by the technical committee concerned – raises anxieties over its negative impact on Egypt's share and quality of water.

Actually, the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawy had succeeded in transforming the dam into a national project supported by the Ethiopian people. Egypt’s opposition to the project feeds into a typical negative image of Egypt that had spread among African peoples throughout the past decades – namely, that Egypt was among those behind the absence of development and economic progress in African countries because of its unjust acquisition of the greater portion of water. And this image must be corrected.

Hence, Egypt seeks to be a genuine partner in development in Africa and is aware of and respects the rights and requests of people for development. At the same time, Egypt is committed to the principle of not harming other stakeholders through current or future development projects.

Hence came Egypt's foreign policy attempts to reach ongoing understanding with Ethiopia on the how-to's of managing the dam project through several technical issues, including hydrological specifications of the dam that do not harm the water flow and participation of Egyptian experts in the committee responsible for managing and operating the dam.

Egyptian action is taking place within this framework in full coordination with Sudan through an international tripartite expert committee responsible for issuing dam assessment reports. Egypt continuously reaffirms the necessity of waiting for final official technical reports before funding any dam-related projects.

Additionally, Egyptian diplomacy has urged Nile Basin countries not to embark on water projects without giving prior notice and to try to reach agreement with other countries that would be impacted by these projects.

Egypt seeks to build a system of positive relations that integrates the paths of cooperation in development and water issues so that the latter becomes a part of the former in the context of a multi-dimensional approach to rebuilding Egyptian-Ethiopian relations, in an attempt to turn controversial issues into a greater system of cooperation whose diverse components aid in the preservation of the national interests of both sides. 

Essam El-Haddad is Assistant to President Mohamed Morsi on Foreign Relations and External Cooperation

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ProudlyEthiopian
13-06-2013 06:38pm
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A Good start
Well written and fairly balanced stance. Egypt is seen by most sub-Saharan African states as a development obstacle. This is mainly as they disassociate themselves to the realities of being African and principles of Ubuntu. For decades, they were funding and mobilizing rebel forces to create instability, and civil unrest among the upstream countries, in particular Ethiopia. They are too selfish and bullish to demand the lion share of the Nile water, and trying to impose their own bilateral agreement on to those who had objected it or didn’t even agree or sign the treaty. The awareness, needs and capabilities Africans has recently improved and such a mischievous approach is doomed to fail, and this is what we are seeing. Egypt needs to rethink and reshape their foreign relationship with Africans, as a whole. What the people of Africa now needs is more cooperation, sharing and goodwill support to each other. Egypt must align her foreign relationship strategy on the pillars of the common goals of the African people, and become truly African.
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14



Dam
07-06-2013 08:54pm
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Forget the river, what about the tributeries
Egypt's arrogance went way beyond patience can handle when the expressions by its ignorant and novice politicians was aired to the world. Its shameful to see the leader of a country allowing such a childish suggestions to be entertained. The fact that mursi didn't apologize for such expressions would indicate that he shared the idea of destabilizing Ethiopia. Egypt has done a lot of damage so far on Ethiopia. Most war, famine and instability in the country were designed by Egypt. It is high time that such acts change. if peaceful dam is objected, the tributaries may end up in farmers hands who lived for years on the mercy of rain. Nile is nothing with out the small streams pouring through the highlands. Don't turn Ethiopians in to maniacs; they are brave over their enemies and generous to their friends.
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13



Bire
05-06-2013 12:22pm
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Old Dog with Old Tricks
I am wondering why not a single Egyptian comments on articles like this. Is it due to the medium (English) or they are busy swearing on us? My suspect is rather than dialogue they are working on the tested & proven method of sabotage as we witnessed on the live debate their higher officials held.
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Ketema
04-06-2013 09:58pm
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Who can trust Egypt?
Egypt has been busy damaging Ethiopia and Ethiopians. To mention few; 1) 27-wars of invasion which were successfully foiled by Ethiopia, albeit with huge human and material cost. 2) incubating, training and arming bandits from Ethiopia's the then Eritrean province using tribal bandits the likes of Osman Saleh Sabe for secessionist agendas. Egypt succeeded, Ethiopia lost after 30 years. 3) Arming Said bare of Somalia to invade Ethiopia. Ethiopia foiled it but at a huge cost. 4) arming and supporting Isayas Afeworki of Eritrea to invade Ethiopia in 1998. Ethiopia won but with too much cost. 5) Egypt was and still is a security threat to Ethiopia. Dear Mr. Haddad, how can Ethiopians trust Egyptians after all these atrocities and mischievous acts? Sadly, the sabotage is still continuing. As things stand now, I cannot see a dim light from the side of Egypt for consideration let alone a step forward for honest cooperation. Please convince me if you have one.
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11



Abebe
04-06-2013 05:16pm
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Sabotage and development: The pillar of Egypt-Ethiopia relations the last 130 yrs
Dear Essam Al Haddad, In contradiction to what you have outlined Politicians meeting with Egypt's president on Monday proposed hostile acts against Ethiopia, including backing rebels and carrying out sabotage, to stop it from building a dam on the Nile. Why should Ethiopia trust Egyptian politicians? What the world have seen on TV screens on Monday is evidence that Egypt's approach violates international norms. From now on, whatever event follows will be the consequences of this tragic miscalculation and the end result is quite predictable.Very sad indeed! Thank You Abebe
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10



BlueNile
04-06-2013 04:06pm
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A drop of water.
Oh, Egyptian Leaders we saw them debating on the Blue nile . Is blue nile changed it's source? otherwise how can they say us "don't reduce a drop of water from blue nile" not alone a drop we are asking them for equitable use of our(Ethiopian's) resources. we have also listened them to fight with Ethiopia, Israel and US are the egyptian leaders normal. They have to think for the coming Egyptian generation for now Ethiopia alone is enogh to defend it's right. to cooperate with Ethiopia is a good solution as we ethiopians beleive we are harmless for any people but for our country we we know what to do and also I think the egyptians also know it very well in their history.
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9



Addis
04-06-2013 04:04pm
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At a long last, somebody with a good sense:
Inexperienced politicians in the opposition are are recklessly pressuring president Morsi to abandon his positive instinct to forge a new relationship with Ethiopia to the benefit of both countries. It appears the liberals in democratic Egypt won't stop at anything if it serves their political interest. I do hope that Egyptians won't allow these selfish and immature politicians exploit Egypt's strategic relations with Africa generally, and Ethiopia particularly, to score cheap political points. Thaks.
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Farida
09-06-2013 09:39am
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You are wrong
Excuse me, Addis, but it seems like you need to revisit the video and the facts that it entails: Monday's meeting was boycotted by the opposition. It was only "liberal" Ayman Nour, who has been closely cooperating with the Muslim Brotherhood lately, who attended the joke-of-a-meeting. All the participants were Islamists. Don't be a victim of Muslim Brotherhood propoganda.
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Mulualem (Ethiopian)
04-06-2013 10:06am
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"Legally correct position of Egypt and Sudan?"
I just have one question for the writer of this article: How is it "legally correct" for Egypt and Sudan to insist that up-stream countries of the Nile be abide by a colonial-era treaty that gives them (Egy.and Sud.) 100% of the water and the up-stream countries 0%? That is none-sense!
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7



Tamrat
04-06-2013 04:19am
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Let's hope cooler heads prevail
Good article, two disagreements though noted below. The failure is really on the Egyptian side for betting on a strategy of destabilizing Ethiopia at any cost. Since that has not worked, what does Morsi decide to do: whip up popular nationalistic support. Well, that may feel good in a short run, but the dam is going to be built, as they say, cry me a river (pun intended!!!). To the disagreements: the CFA, by virtue of it being signed by most riparian countries makes old treaties null and void. Egypt has NO "historic" right to lay claim to 90+% of the Nile waters (along with Sudan). If that is your argument, good luck selling that a life of an upriver African is worth nothing and all water has to be reserved to the Lower Nile residents. It's 2013, not 1913. Secondly, I am sure you understand what sovereignty is. If Egypt wants to have veto power on all things happening on the Nile, I have a bridge to sell you too. Ain't going to happen, especially in a country that has always been independent. Perhaps a more sensible approach is sorely needed, mostly by Egypt at this point. You are not in a position to dictate anything so best to come to the negotiation table with all other riparian states for a common good.
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6



David
04-06-2013 04:15am
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Don't go around the bush....come to the point
when you look this article sacrificially, it looks positive but the whole intent is still the usual zero sum policy of Egypt. Dear my Egyptian friends, unless and otherwise you recognize our natural right to use our beloved river(Blue Nile for the benefit of our people, it is impractical to think about a genuine relationship between the two countries. A way forward is based on mutual respect and understanding rather than combining diplomacy and other options. Whatever fake diplomacy or economic ties you are proposing, it will not give any sense without a genuine recognition of our fair share. Forget about the logic of rain and other rivers inside Ethiopia for your ''don't touch policy''. What we are seeking is fair share. We have more than 50 Million people with in the Blue Nile Basin. So what about this people while you are enjoying with Nile in an abundant way.I believe that the Egyptian people and government should change their attitude towards equitable utilization of the shared resource. Pleas don't make unjust arguments in order to promote your interest only.....
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