Egypt’s leadership has chosen the negotiating path with Ethiopia to resolve the issue of filling the Renaissance Dam, based on its conviction that ensuring both parties’ interests is the best way to establish long-lasting, strong and cooperative ties. The win-win diplomatic approach has always been adopted by Cairo, especially when dealing with its neighbours, but under the condition that the interests of all parties are well-served.
This diplomatic approach has been consistent with the endless ups and downs of Ethiopian policy and Egypt has extended its hands with good intentions to avoid any misunderstanding between the two countries that could negatively affect their ties. However, the Ethiopian side has not been able to understand the flexible stance taken by Egypt where the filling of the dam is concerned, because, after a long marathon of negotiations sponsored by the United States and the participation of the World Bank and Sudan’s representatives, the Ethiopian delegation did not show up to sign a deal that was initially reached by all parties including the Ethiopians.
Diplomacy can hardly explain such a situation, the only explanation could be seen within the context of the competition between Ethiopia’s political parties for the parliamentary elections. The heated bidding among the electoral parties has turned the issue of the dam into a political auction where the Ethiopians have been mobilised to a war zone rather than a diplomatic stance that preserves the country’s relations with its neighbours.
Such a stance is clearly stated by Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gedu Andargachew, who said, “The land is ours, the water is ours and the dam is ours.” Mr Andargachew seemed to be taking part in a political demonstration and his statement is clearly far beyond the diplomatic norms not to mention international law. His words are cheap political propaganda that should never be stated by a responsible statesman. He chose to ignore the rules of the international law and the traditions of history and geography, not to mention the importance of the Nile to Egypt. Historically, Ethiopia has relied on rainwater, whereas Egypt, as a downstream country, is heavily dependent on the River Nile and thus has well-established legal rights that should be observed for its people to survive.
If Mr Andargachew has not yet realised these facts, then he should be told that his statements have had a negative impact on the negotiating environment. Egypt’s patience should not be misinterpreted by the Ethiopian minister or anyone else. However, Egypt’s insistence to reach a solution that takes into consideration the interests of the Ethiopian people has not been weakened simply because we do not believe that strong people should easily respond to such a political circus. Egypt knows for a fact that it will get its full rights and will never give up a single term of its historical and legal privileges.
Taking care of Ethiopian interests will never come at the cost of Egypt’s rights to the Nile. The fact that the Egyptian leadership is patient, hard to provoke and works to promote sustainable development in Africa does not mean that it is willing to back down to unreliable statements. This country has always sided with its African neighbors in issues of independence and development.
Cairo has been working hard to help most African nations turn into giant economic powers. The current leadership has exerted great efforts to develop a network that connects the northern tip of the continent in Cairo down to its far southern part in South Africa, this in addition to the coastal road, the railway network and the electric connections.
The current leadership has made it its priority to promote trade among African nations, in addition to several giant infrastructure projects that have been underway at several African states to enhance the technical, administrative and production capabilities.
Ethiopia should have been part of such relentless efforts to build up a comprehensive African renaissance instead of limiting itself to the narrow scope of going all the way by itself to achieve progress while leaving behind the others. A big country like Ethiopia should not make the issue of filling its dam part of the election bidding, thus mobilising its people against Egypt.
Cairo has never stood against the development of Ethiopia, not to mention the production of electricity from the Blue Nile. This stance has always been reiterated by Egypt and its diplomatic positions over the past few years, despite the fact that this country has the right to go as far up to the UN Security Council and the international courts to block the construction of the dam. But, Egypt believes that a friendly solution that serves everyone’s interests will last longer and will always benefit all parties involved.
Yet, if the Ethiopian leadership would go as far as ignoring the deal reached by the Sudanese, the Egyptians and its own delegate and sponsored by the US, then Cairo has the right to protect its interests as it could never ignore its peoples’ right to survive, develop and progress.
Despite the fact that the leadership in this country is still looking forward to the Ethiopian side taking the issue seriously and responding wisely to the good intentions expressed by the Egyptian delegation, yet several scenarios have also been put in place in accordance with the expected responses from the Ethiopians.
All parties should realise that we are running out of time and patience, which will not be in anyone’s interest. The Ethiopian leadership should realise that its attitude will never lead to peace and development and will have serious consequences. Betting on time is not exactly the best way to settle such serious issues and it is certainly not the right path to enhance and promote bilateral ties based on mutual respect of each other’s rights.