Egypt has long been posturing itself as the only gift of the Nile. It is currently waging diplomatic war its level best in every corner of the world to strip the right of Ethiopia to use the Nile water. Here in Ethiopia, we say Nile is the gift of Ethiopia and we have an exclusive right to use it. Ethiopia owns Eighty-six percent of the Nile river waters. Yet it has been suffering from many cycles of drought when the Nile River is available to be used. Egypt made sure Ethiopia does not get loan from international creditors in order to dam the Nile for irrigation or hydropower. Given Egypt’s current aggressive campaign to stop Ethiopia from using the Nile waters there are four scenarios Egypt may apply; 1) use neighbouring countries to wage direct war against Ethiopia; 2) apply modern far-reaching armaments to destroy the dam 3) use internal feuds within Ethiopia for its benefit and 4) pressures from the US administration.
1) On direct war engagement with Ethiopia, many people think that Egypt has a modern army and should any conflict arises between Ethiopia and Egypt, Egypt may get an upper hand in the outcome. In this scenario, it is highly unlikely Egypt will attack Ethiopia without using neighbouring countries, chiefly Sudan. If Egypt tries to come to Sudan, Ethiopia has the capacity to control Khartoum in a space of short time, given the battle-tested army of Ethiopia and ordinary citizens enthusiastic to defend their country. It is, therefore, wrong to think Egypt’s superiority in armament will help her defeat Ethiopia. This is wrong perception is in the minds of people who have not studied the history of Ethiopia. Ethiopia had successfully defeated Egypt and Sudan many times in the past. The main aim of all of these wars against Ethiopia has been the same Nile River.
2) One may think that modern defence technology has gone a long way and Egypt may have a capability to attack Ethiopia or destroy the dam without even coming to the gates of Ethiopia. There is one remedy for this; Ethiopia will divert the Nile River to the south or north to drain the water in the sands of Sudan if Egypt attempts to do anything in this regard. At that point Egypt has no option except direct war engagement with Ethiopia. Direct engagement will give Ethiopia’s military good opportunity to crush Egypt’s invading army
3) Ethiopia’s major threat can only come internally. In this instance, the TPLF is the only agent to collaborate with Egypt. Thanks to PM Abiy’s swift action to create peace and stability with Eritrea, Eritrea now is the best ally of Ethiopia in the horn. If Tigray mercenaries try to serve Egypt’s interest, Ethiopia should tighten the noose on TPLF to alienate it from the people of Tigray, and at the same time having talks with the people of Tigray. One area of close monitoring is Ethiopia’s northwest border with Sudan. Ethiopia should put its strongest army in its porous border – between Tigray and Sudan. As the economic hardship gains momentum in Tigray, one possibility TPLF can do is it may try to invade Eritrea and control the Red Sea or reinstate a client state in Asmara. This is very dangerous and is an area Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Isayas Afeworki should keep an eye on.
4) President Trump has taken the Nile issue personal. Egypt’s president Al Sisi’s close relationship with President Trump has escalated the Nile talks. The main reason behind American interference maybe President Trump’s long term interest in Egypt rather than his aggressive Middle East policy related to Israel. We know Al Sisi is a president for life in Egypt, whereas President Trump will lose election come November or surely after four years. Egypt is a global tourism centre. President trump’s personal investments are in the hospitality sector. He may well eye Egypt for his global business expansion in Cairo. That is why he has taken the Nile issue personal. But make no mistake president Trump is not a popular leader in USA. He is getting a barrage of criticism from the media, the democrats and from the majority of the population in the USA. His approval rating has dipped particularly due to his slow response to the Corona Virus pandemic. He will lose the election next November. Ethiopia should not be worried about pressures coming from Trump. After all Ethiopia plays a vital role for peace and security in the horn of Africa which is necessary for American security. Ethiopia has many friends both in the democratic and republican parties who recognize its fundamental effort in African peace and stability. Ethiopia should also work with moderate countries such as France and Germany and natural allies like Russia and China. America alone cannot dictate Ethiopian natural rights to Egypt. After all we have a lot to learn from Cuba who survived American pressure for over half a century. Egypt has used our water for free for centuries. We pay Djibouti in billions for using port service. Why not Egypt pays us for using our share of the Nile waters. In fact we should demand back arrears. Over 70% of our people have no lights and drought and famine are recurring issues every 5 years. Ethiopia has good reason to use the Nile water. Ethiopia should take the Nile negotiation back to Africa. In any case, what kind of fair outcome we expect when an observer country (USA) in the Nile talks, turned into writing the negotiation on Egypt’s behalf? Ethiopia should not also go into any negotiation with Egypt until the end of the next election let alone in this Corona Virus pandemic.
Conclusions and Recommendations
1) It is unlikely Egypt will invade Ethiopia without using neighbouring client states and internal mercenaries like TPLF.
2) Ethiopia should firmly control its northwest border – between Tigray and Sudan.
3) Ethiopia should start a detailed topographic survey in the lower part of the Nile River (within Ethiopia) to determine the easiest and lowest elevation to divert the Nile water. Once a good topographic map is made, diverting the Nile water is a piece of cake; that is the best way of permanently teaching Egypt should it attempts to go into war with Ethiopia.
4) Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed should lobby or hold talks periodically with main opposition parties, influential people and the elderly to unify the country. He should give a stern warning to his police not to harass peaceful opposition party leaders and members.
5) TPLF’s financial transactions and information flow should be monitored. More than that TPLF must be defeated quick and be punished for its crime against humanity committed during its 27 years rule in Ethiopia.
6) Prime Minister Abiy should not be sleepless over President Trump’s night phone calls. He should learn a lot from the biography of Cuba’s Fidel Castro, and rather be ready to work with other allies.