Ethiopia's Inalienable Right Not Up for Negotiation!


The use of the Nile waters is drawing unwarranted meddling from countries nearby and far afield with acts encroaching on the natural rights of the upper riparian countries, particularly Ethiopia, on the rise. The multi-pronged campaign aimed at dissuading Ethiopia from using its resources is testing its patience.

The United States, which executes its Middle East policy through Egypt's surrogacy, has set out to stop Ethiopia from filling the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) without the say-so of Egypt. Its blatant attempt to arm-twist Ethiopia, which is the source of around 86 percent of the annual flow to the Nile, in support of a country that does not contribute a single drop is an affront to Ethiopia's sovereignty. As the US seeks to constrain the legitimate rights of 260-million-plus strong Nile basin countries in favor of Egypt, Ethiopians need to stand together to expose and end this sheer folly. History will neither forget Egypt's display of maliciousness towards Ethiopians as they build a dam on the Nile for the very first time in the pursuit of their right to use the river's waters in an equitable and reasonable manner nor the US' myopic stance. Ethiopia's inalienable right to utilize the Nile can never be up for negotiation.

Ethiopians find it offensive to consider let alone accept an agreement smacking of colonial era treaties that they feel condemns them to perpetual poverty by curtailing their right to exploit a resource they own. Spurning calls for Africans to make the Nile waters a basis of cooperation and shared economic growth Egypt, with the support of the US, is spoiling for a fight over them. As the US resorts to the usual tactic of intimidation to impose unacceptable terms on Ethiopia the world should be reminded the dangerous consequences of its foreign policy misadventures as well as the domestic upheaval it is undergoing due to civil rights violations that belie its claim to be the vanguard of democracy. Ethiopia is the only African nation that has never been colonized and handed humiliating defeats to scores of aggressors including Egypt. The US should thus immediately desist from acts undermining Ethiopia's sovereignty and collaborate with all the Nile basin countries on realizing the equitable and reasonable use of the river's waters.

Mindful of the fact that its erroneous policy on the Middle East and elsewhere has engendered crisis after crisis, it is incumbent on the US to halt putting its thumb on the scale and compel Ethiopia to sign an unjust agreement that severely limits its inalienable right to use the Nile lest its meddling throws the region into turmoil. If it insists that Ethiopia must sign the agreement prior to filling the GERD, Egypt has to agree to empty its dams before then as well. If this is a non-starter the only option is to sit down and conduct constructive negotiations. The length the US has gone to bend Ethiopia to its will for purely selfish reasons is entirely unacceptable to Ethiopians. Some 60 percent of the Ethiopian population does not have access to electricity. In Egypt the proportion is barely three percent. While millions of Ethiopians live in abject poverty and perennially need food assistance Egypt produces an exportable surplus of fruits and vegetables using the Nile. The 10 billion cubic meter water evaporating annually from the Aswan High Dam and the large volume of water that drains into the Mediterranean Sea is sufficient to secure Egypt's water. If the US had cared to take a real look at these figures it would not have adopted a position that solely advantages Egypt to the detriment of Ethiopia.

If all Ethiopians get is a dagger to the heart when all they want is to use the Nile equitably and reasonably, they have to do whatever is in their power to break the hydro-hegemony Egypt asserts over the Nile that colonial British did. Egypt's intransigence to any modification regarding the usage of the water is driven by the desire to maintain its hegemony by whatever means necessary, including setting off the time bombs left by Africa's colonizers. As a nation which dealt a blow to the evil designs of a colonial power with the Great Adwa Victory, Ethiopia will continue to be a beacon of freedom by commencing the filling of the GERD on schedule. There is no doubt that the present generation of Ethiopians will emulate the heroism of their forefathers in achieving a glorious victory. The US and others should know well that a nation's vital interests can never be surrendered through negotiation. The generous and farsighted people of Ethiopia have never sought to harm their neighbors. But they will not stand idly by when the national interest is imperiled. No one can dictate to them when to start filling a dam they have built with their own resources. Anyone who tries to ride roughshod over them will get to know the true measure of their character.

The leaders of some upper riparian countries suffering from the lingering effects of colonialism may be pressured into acquiescing to the demands imposed on them. Sooner or later though they will be forced to follow their citizens' lead and stand with Ethiopia inspired by the knowledge that it stood up to and faced down a superpower as it did during the Adwa battle over a century ago. Once again Ethiopia will show to the world that justice will prevail over injustice. Contrary to US contentions Ethiopia is a force to be reckoned with not only in East Africa alone but also in the whole of Africa. It has demonstrated its strength before and will do again now. The US would do well to learn from history instead of meddling in a matter it does not have a proper grasp of. It better not trifle with a great nation of over 110 million people which have a proud history. It's not in its interest to compound the mess created by its flawed Middle East policy by sowing the seeds of another conflict. It already has enough enemies as it is. Just as it does not countenance any objection by Mexico in regards to the Hoover Dam, the US should not expect the opposite from Ethiopia. It should remember that Egypt did not consult anyone when it built the Aswan High Dam. If it considers Ethiopia's willingness to build the GERD in a spirit of cooperation and submit to negotiations on outstanding issues to be a sign of weakness, it's sorely mistaken. It's ironic that a country roiled by widespread protests against institutionalism racism targeting the black community is putting its fingers in matters that do not concern it even as it fails abysmally at healing its society.

The U.S. must abandon its blind support of Egypt in the negotiations over the filling of the GERD and play the role of a neutral observer. It cannot act as an honest broker if it keeps echoing Egypt's unreasonable stance. Ethiopia should not have been stabbed in the back despite going the extra mile and offering to use its own resource equitably and reasonably for the shared benefit of all riparian states. The statements issued by the US National Security Council last week and US Treasury Secretary in February warning Ethiopia not to start filling the dam as planned before a final agreement is reached between it, Sudan and Egypt are entirely unacceptable. Ethiopians can never be coerced into acceding to a demand compromising a national project that is dear to their heart. It needs to be absolutely clear that Ethiopia does not anyone's blessing to harness its natural resources. This inalienable right is not up for negotiation!

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