Egypt & Ethiopia: The war of two morons By Abebe Gellaw

June 18th, 2013 Print Print Email Email

Just like the proverbial bald men fighting over a comb, two unpopular regimes in Cairo and Addis Ababa have lately ended up being ridiculed and jeered across the world for their absurdities. With that melodrama, the long standing loveless relationships between Egypt and Ethiopia have hit rock bottom. It appears that the root cause of the recent debacles by the two beleaguered regimes appears to have little to do with water security but the maddening internal crises that both wanted to divert attention from.

The comedy was started by none other than the foolhardy TPLF that sent out its poodle Demeke Mekonen and the Eritrean-born Amhara leader “Bereket Simon” (aka Comical Simon) to openly declare a top “secret” undertaking. On the occasion of the 22nd anniversary of the fall of a brutal military junta and the rise of TPLF’s apartheid, Comical Simon and his colleagues came up with the most absurd idea that triggered an absurd war of words. Following a carelessly crafted bravado, the officials declared that the TPLF regime had “diverted” the Nile. But it turns out that the bravado was far from the truth and extremely misleading. The blazing propaganda claimed that Abay was now totally harnessed and diverted from its natural course. And yet, given the sensitivity of the Nile waters, the unnecessary spin was a total madness.

The news in English released by state-run media outlets and distributed globally reads: “The diversion of the course of Abay (Nile) River was successfully undertaken on Tuesday to make way for the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

“Speaking at the a ceremony held at Guba, site of the GERD in Benishangul Gumuz State, President of the GERD Construction Public Coordination Council and Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnin said the diversion of the River has been successfully done to utilize the resource for national interest…. Demeke said the government would remain focused to realize the vision of the late Great leader Meles Zenawi and martyrs, thereby promoting the Ethiopian Renaissance.” (ERTA May 28, 2013)

Ethiopia, being the major source of the Nile that generates 85 percent the total water flow, has every right to utilize its water. The monopoly that Egypt and Sudan exercise over the Nile is based on archaic myths and an unacceptable colonial era fraud committed by Britain to water its cotton plantations. Ethiopia was not part of the fraudulent arrangement. It is clearly not only unacceptable but also unsustainable. Nonetheless, TPLF’s bravado of declaring “the successful diversion of Abay” is quite obviously a moronic act.

One could notice that the clumsy spin doctor Comical Simon and his collaborators attained nothing but notoriety that defies the norms of modern diplomacy and international relations. On May 30, Comical Simon even appeared on Al Jazeera, which also happily amplified the TPLF-generated news. “The River Nile has been a source of life for millions over the centuries. Now Ethiopia is diverting water to build a giant dam pushing those downstream who depend on the river to wonder when and whether this issue can be resolved peacefully,” David Foster, the presenter of Inside Story, said adding emphatically that the issue can lead to “death on the Nile.”

Foster exaggerated the dam’s impact using data from the Egyptian misinformation campaign. He said that the loss of water for Egypt, as a result of the construction of the dam, is estimated between 11 to 19 billion cubic meters. “An idea of what that means, a four million cubic meters of loss could turn a million acres of land into a desert…An expert says that would cause two million Egyptian families to lose their livelihoods. The Ethiopian dam could also affect Egypt’s electric supply by 25 to 40 percent, it is argued, which would leave upper Egypt in darkness.”

It was in this context that the inarticulate Comical Simon, who seemed clueless like a sloth, appeared on Al Jazeera to “refute” the root cause of the problem, i.e. his own bravado that Ethiopia diverted the Nile. The background Comical Simon also chose was also as provocative as pornography. He loomed large over an artist’s impression of the so-called Renaissance Dam.

Comical Simon inarticulately and unconvincingly explained that the dam would result in “more flow of water of the Nile River to downstream riparian countries.” But he obviously failed to show his magic wand.

“We believe in Ethiopia we are doing a lot of conservation works [sic], environmental improvement works whereby we are enriching the underground water of the country [sic]. We will have more water in our streams,” says the Minister of Miscommunication cryptically in a way that even himself can hardly understand.

In Cairo, a different kind of bravado followed. A “secret” war plan was broadcast live on TV confirming to the world that the contention over the Nile is more of a comedy than an issue that calls for a serious dialogue and diplomacy. President Morsi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood that is in trouble for hijacking and diverting the popular revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak, convened a secret meeting with political leaders from other parties including the opposition. But he and his advisers felt that it was an issue to exploit for a populist cause in order to divert attention from the critical internal crisis the regime is facing. But the decision to broadcast the “secret” meeting live on TV was not communicated to those convened at the palace. The politicians were unaware that the secret meeting was on live TV. Their nonsensical discussion rather exposed the lack of leadership in Cairo, as much as in Addis.

Younes Makhioun, Chairman of Al-Nour Party, focused on a conspiracy theory and concluded that Israel and the U.S. were behind the dam. He proposed that Egypt should use rebel groups and, if that fails, the security service should destroy the dam.

The founding chairman of the Ghad El-Thawra Party put forward the idea of spreading rumors that Egypt had obtained advanced aircraft refueling capability that enables her to bomb the dam. One participant was advising everyone that the meeting should be kept top secret, when it was announced a minute or so later to the room that the secret meeting was actually live on TV. Embarrassed with their own folly, the politicians had no choice but to giggle and chuckle.
The Egyptians know full well that insisting on a colonial era fraud never helps their case. When the colonial masters, British officials, were asked if they could help resolve the “dispute” they suggested that the best way forward would be to have a dialogue among the riparian states in the Nile basin. It is quite obvious that no one will be able to monopolize an international river like the Nile as long as equitable share is the only acceptable solution.

It is quite Quixotic on the part of Egyptian politicians to quote an ancient saying attributed to Herodotus now and again: “Egypt is the gift of the Nile.”

“If Egypt is ‘the gift of the Nile,’ then the Nile is God’s gift to Egypt,” President Morsi declared at a recent all-Islamic conference that was aimed at creating more illusion than helping Egyptians live in the 21st century. “We will defend each drop of Nile water with our blood if necessary,” he warned.

Rhetoric aside, Morsi knows the reality that Egypt can do little to stop Ethiopia from drinking its water and quench its perennial thirst and hunger. For most Ethiopians, the issue of the Nile is not a matter of dispute. Ethiopians have a long established consensus that the problem is to do with their moronic regimes that incite tension for little political ends while doing so little to protect our national interests. After all, this is a regime that has willfully made the country one of the biggest landlocked countries in the world.

There are two fundamental issues that remain unanswered. First of all, building a mega dam without even mobilizing enough resources is like putting all eggs in one basket. It is estimated that the dam would cost around five billion dollars. So far between 10 to 15 percent of the total cost has been collected. The regime has no idea where the remaining 85 percent of the outlay would come from.

Ethiopia needs micro-dams across the country not only for hydroelectric power generation but also irrigation to ensure food security for its hunger-stricken population. While starting from small scale projects is a wiser approach, investing all resources and subcontracting EFFORT companies along with their foreign accomplices will not bring about the construction of a mega-dam. It will only sustain TPLF’s mega-corruption industries that have made the selected few filthy rich criminals.

Secondly, and more importantly, the TPLF-led tyranny should also listen to the cries of Ethiopians across the world. It should dam racism and gross human rights abuses before Abay. Most Ethiopians are wise enough to avoid the war of the two morons in Cairo and Addis. They won’t be hoodwinked.

No diversion, please! We need freedom, more than a mega dam!

  1. Robele Ababya
    | #1

    This is the most hard hitting and objective commentary I have read so far on the phantom GRED. I say Amen to “No diversion, please! We need freedom, more than a mega dam!” I am sure that the Ethiopian youth at home and in the Diaspora will listen to the clarion call.

    “The war of two morons” is a fitting title to your commentary.

    God bless my hero

  2. Alem
    | #2

    It is perplexing that two incompetent ministers Demeke and Bereket are the ones explaining this matter to the world. What exactly is Foreign Minister Tedros’ responsibility? I have been arguing Tedros should never have been moved from Health Department [he is trained in infectious diseases and not fit to be top diplomat]. Ethiopia is losing the public relations side of the Dam.

  3. Taye
    | #3

    Abebe, you never fail to amaze. By the way, I didn’t know Ethiopia was in the water “generating” business. LOL! That moronic statement aside, you seem intent in “generating” your own facts and argue against them at the same time. How long you need to be on this earth to know that you don’t know what the EPRDF or as you like to call them Woyenes are all about? I know you get your instructions from a higher power, praise to Saint Gabriael, but you need now and then to check with the facts on earth and deal with them. The science and principles of generating electrical energy by conversation of mechanical energy to electrical energy are real. The science and principles of civil engineering dictate diverting the flow of water to build the foundations and reservoir of a dam. The brevity and commitments of EPRDF are legendary – visible in the progress of our development. Dear Mr. Know It All, the dam was not an overnight dream interpretation of a higher power, rather it’s a throughly thought and well planned vision by a great visionary leader and his party. As long as you cannot get in terms with those stubborn facts, you are doomed to sound like a broken record. What was your old tired song – I forgot the entire lyrics: We need freedom before development! May the Saint enlighten you with another clue to your own good. No diversion, please – you say. Is that “diversion” of the Nile or of something else? Thinking out loud!

  4. Dawi
    | #4

    Abebe’s another assertion again.

    [[..Ethiopia needs micro-dams across the country not only for hydroelectric power generation but also irrigation to ensure food security for its hunger-stricken population...]]

    What is your studies based on?

    If you look at failure rates it is known that the total cost of small dam failures can be greater than the rate of large dams.

    “A study of US dam failures in 1999 looked at the number of deaths from such incidences over the period of 1960-1998. It found that the failure of dams less than 15m high caused 88% of fatalities, while the failure of very small dams (less than 6m high) caused 2% of the deaths.”

    “For example in China, the 1975 failure of the Shimantan and Banqiao dams was the result of the cumulative failure of 60 upstream dams. More than 230,000 people died. While in 1982 the failure of the 8m high Lake Lawn dam in Colorado, US, killed three people and caused US$31M in damage, despite warnings and evacuation.”

    So at a minimum your assertion doesn’t hold water. It is just like your assertion “freedom before food”. How do we sustain “freedom” without food? The chicken or the egg theory?

    It is just amusing if you ask me.

    Sooner or later you got to confront a bully. That is what Meles/EPRDF did with caution, after building the necessary meticulous diplomatic work needed in that region. They are getting support from all corners. Did you read what David Shinn said on the subject lately.

    Egypt’s Nile Threats Weaken Case to Secure Water: Shinn http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-16/egypt-s-nile-threats-weaken-to-secure-water-shinn-says.html

    EPRDF have done a superb job. Even Sudan supports the dam. What else “wiser approach” do you want? I give them A + for their “approach” and standing up to the chauvinists in Egypt. Give credit where credit is due.

    Yes the “inarticulate Comical Simon” is not as fluid as Meles but, did a superb job on Al Jazeera.

    [[.. investing all resources and subcontracting EFFORT companies along with their foreign accomplices will not bring about the construction of a mega-dam..]]

    The fact on the ground speaks otherwise. Tekeze dam is complete, Gibe dams are in final stages and so on. Are you saying Egypt is just wasting her time for nothing then? They are building the “mega-dam” alright; that is why the chauvinists are jumping up and down..

  5. Sam
    | #5

    I have not followed the situation concerning the Ethiopian government’s interest in building the dam as Abebe seemed to have had. Even if I choose “misguided” for “morons” I pretty much agree with what Abebe had to say. But with one statment of his I disagree with passion. Abebe wrote “president Morsi, the leader of the Muslim brotherhood that is in trouble for hijacking and diverting the popular revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak, convened a secret meeting with political leaders from other parties.” Morsi did not “hijack” an election. Egyptians voted him to office. Abebe might not like as I was the outcome of the election, but he has no foundation to say the Morsi presidency is illegitimate. When a free election is held more often than not the outcome is unpredictable. In Egypt case the only organized political entity to assume power was the Muslim brotherhood, so they did. Abebe might be under illusion that every popular uprisings might lead to a coming to power of a democratic government. Not really. That belief of him might be rooted if he equates a free election is what is nedded to have a full blown democracy. Not really again. Egypt has lived under dictatorship for millenium. To believe just one election will erase the past is totally a misguide belief. Even if a democratic governmrent had taken power in Egypt, not the Muslim brotherhood, the chances of forming a democratic society is not great. The “shieks” have dictated politics for years, and they will not disappear to a thin air because democracy seems to start having a footing in Egyptian politics. In any third world country that will hold a free election, I might dare say, the chances of forming a democratic government will not be predictated the day after the elections. Rather many, many years after that election. By the way Morsi is not only the leader of the Muslim brotherhood, but also the president of Egypt. Abebe should take notice.

  6. Anonymous
    | #6

    as Sam said (above) the situation of Egypt and Ethiopia is vastly different. Morsi is elected by the Egyptian people, while Ethiopia is ruled by an unelected gangster mafia cabal called TPLF. Most studies show that small dams are more effective both for irrigation and for power generation. Most importantly, Ethiopia needs FREEDOM before a DAM – never get our eyes away from the Prize! especially to be distracted by talk of a fantasy dam designed solely to pillage the poor people of Ethiopia down to the last drop of blood – never mind if the dam could not be built, as it appears to be the case

  7. dodo
    | #7

    what happened to my comment

  8. Dawi
    | #8

    [[..Ethiopia needs FREEDOM before a DAM – never get our eyes away from the Prize! especially to be distracted by talk of a fantasy dam designed solely to pillage the poor people of Ethiopia..]]

    *What* did you say? “the “prize” …. Ha!

    It seems you are looking at the small pie instead of the bigger one. If your cause has validity of bringing EPRDF/Woyane down, a richer country won’t stop you from going to the top. Would it?

    Look at Brazil today. The middle income folks are demonstrating so even if Ethiopia becomes a middle income country you can still do what you need to do. So there is no reason for you to condemn the majority Ethiopians to abject poverty and wait until you come to power.

    When the GERD is built, I have no doubt it is going to built because the economics makes sense. It can pay itself in one to two years according to some studies done by selling just the 2 thousand Mega Watts to neighbors. If it was me I will find a hard money lender [some sovereign fund out there] if the bond sale doesn’t raise enough cash.

    If the Egyptian chauvinists stop threatening lenders a low interest loan can be found instantly but even with their threat I say in today’s economy we can find a lender that will take a risk.

  9. jjeffa
    | #9

    Yes, they are not twins hatched out of the same egg; however, they have been the arch enemies of Ethiopia bent on harming our country. Neither Egypt nor Hiwhat-tplf has legitimacy to fight over our waters.

    Nevertheless, nothing compares with our main enemy that came into Ethiopia 22 years ago with a lot of guns and bullets to loot and murder Ethiopians; this enemy is, the enemy that has been launching war on Ethiopia for years and still is holding guns on Ethiopians.

    Today, everything and anything that is available below and above the lands in Ethiopia is owned, controlled, and run by members of the organized criminal group, TPLF-HIWHAT. We all, Ethiopians must continue to build synergy among ourselves and friends of Ethiopia in a complete eradication of the rodent that is bleaching the future of the current and future generation.

    The marriage between Egypt and Hiwhat soon breaks; the feud is already creating chaos. There is little or no hard currency to even run the system that has been in place since 1991; members on the top hierarchy are charging with one another, purging and charging is the only remedy that seems working temporarily, but not a guarantee that that keeps the system alive. It has been a year since Meles Zenawi dead and lonesome in a grave that he ran to and hid in with 3 billion dollar in stolen money left to his wife and children, but outside his grave, the system that he built in collaboration with Egyptian rulers is close to give away and crumbles on his grave to demolish it.

    Dead or alive, Zenawi shall stand trial and face the justice that he ran away.

  10. dikdik
    | #10

    in the end, they and the wall they built will be submerged. The plan has been ambitious, lucrative, and risky. After years of looting and robbing the country, the river that they took bath in with cash is at its low level; it must be refilled with the flow of cash. The bond selling cities around the world,from Addis, to London, to DC, to Venice, to Miami has crushed; raising a fund by robbing off the resources of the country and pickpocketing every citizen in Ethiopia is a crime.

  11. Kato
    | #11

    This reminds me of the story “the boy who cried wolf”. Who in the right state of mind trusts this regime? all of a sudden, just out of nowhere started paying attention to our national interest? one must either be severly naive or a fool. Our forefathers said long ago “yemiategb injera kemetadu yastawkal” this stll holds true. If this regime really is interested to impress the masses, why not start by releasing all those jailed based on false and fabricated allegations? History tells us most dictators have always tried to build the biggest, tallest, widest whatever to make themselves big and immortal, and in order to achieve that they have walked over dead bodies. The Nile deal is nothing different. Show us more justice, freedom as well as a politics that’s more inclusive than that we have seen until now namely the 99,6% type politics.
    Respectfully

  12. aha!
    | #12

    Putting aside the war of words over GRED, for which TPLF/eprdf regime does not have the proper funding and feasibility studies of the dam to be built on the back of the Ethiopian bond holders and contributers from their meager salaries, until a negotiated settlement is reached by all the basin and/or riparian states on the equitable distribution of the Nile water, despite the fact the GRED is solely designed for electric generation but not for irrigation in a region where the evaporative demand of the huge and cleaning up the deposit from siltation to incur Ethiopia into another cost. With that remark, I say amen to your suggestion, I quote “Ethiopia needs micro-dams across the country not only for electric power generation but also for irrigation to ensure food security for hunger stricken population”, which I had remarked upon in the past by suggesting that approach based on Fekadeshewa kena assessment, simultaneous with afforestation and revitalization of water cachment basins in the highlands of Ethiopia to avoid floods, siltation of the dams, increase productivity, conserve soil and increase water retention to raise the ground water table.

  13. aha!
    | #13

    In addition to the last statement, of food security by including irrigation as projects at distributed locations serve to mitigate drought incidences and less dependency on humanitarian aid of bulky food grains from western democracies by engaging Ethiopians into irrigated farms. But for that to be a reality the silent majority of Ethiopians would to be endowed of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the basic tenet of a constitution together with an economic freedom of the individual to private ownership of land as one of the production in a free market capitalism anywhere in Ethiopia.

    In terms of probability statistics, the chances of failure of five dams is 1/5 to that of GERD which is 1/2, which amounts to five billion for GERD to that of five distributed dams with irrigated farm products as a plus on to of electric generation power that could be funded by IMF.

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