As Nile is for Aswan, So is Abay for the GERD!

BY WOSSENSEGED ASSEFA

It has been years ago that I heard my grandfather advising his children about maintaining and strengthening unity among themselves with a very interesting story. And I found it illustrative for the message I want to convey here.

There were three bulls that have troubled the entire village with their gang acts. The one has black color and the others white and red. They get everything they need using a collaborated force. The villagers couldn’t resist their alliance. They knew that unless the bulls are in a state of disunity, it is indeed impossible (for the villagers) to lead a proper life. The villagers then sat down to devise a plan to disrupt the unity among the bulls. After a thorough discussion the villagers concluded a divisive means. Then after, they sent a message to the bulls. The messenger waited for the moment where the red and black bulls were alone and approached them. He told them that their mighty power is highly celebrated by the villagers and that they want their influence to perpetuate. The red and the black bulls nodded their heads and waited for what the messenger has to say next. The messenger continued, “However, you need to be able to avoid attacks from your enemies to fully concentrate on your ruler ship. You need to understand that it is the presence of the white bull that is exposing you to your enemies since his white color can easily be noticed from distance.” The black and the red bull nodded their heads in agreement and did as advised – they killed the white bull.

After a while the villagers sent a messenger again. This time the messenger delivered the message only to the red bull so that he does the same on the black ox. The red bull was convinced that he would rein the entire village alone if he gets the black bull out of sight; then he did so; he killed the black bull by throwing him from a cliff where he was grazing. The villagers wisely dodged the two bulls and killed the third bull easily since he is all alone. The era of the bulls was then over. United they stood, divided they fell.

Ethiopia, the land of origins, encompasses a number of different nations with their own respective cultures, histories, psychological make-ups and aspirations. We all however are under one umbrella called Ethiopia. Ethiopia exists as long we all exist; Ethiopia shines when we all shed our lights on each other; Ethiopia stands proud when we hold each other tight.

No matter how different our colors are, no matter how different our cultures, produces, philosophies, political agendas and the like are if we fail to stand together in such times, we fail to exist in all times. Our individual existence is reassured only if our existence as Ethiopia is laid upon a concrete base. It is not the time we toil to grab our individual share of the pie, but stand together and join hands to preserve the whole piece of the pie. The unity within is deterrence outside. Our strength emanates from our unity. The difference we have within should be a source of beauty in diversity; not a source of weakness.

Unity is of course a two-edged sword that can resolve our political/security and economic problems. Production in each economic sector soars high when a sense of unity swipes across the air. If the chain of the business is ethnic oriented (as seen in the banking and insurance industry) instead of market competition, if our socio-economic relations are ethnocentric, augmenting economic production and maintain political instability can’t be achieved. As unity alleviates our economic and security problems as a two-edged sword, disunity is also a two-edged sword that exposes us to external intervention and minifies economic production.

As religious people say “I” is the center of s“i”n, self-centered and ethnocentric attitudes dismantle our national unity. The political differences that we fight over each other are not as time sensitive as that of the external threat we are facing at the moment. Some concerns are more right than others. We should join hands to achieve the greater good.

Unity is not just coming together; rather it is to understand and execute ones role and follow an organized line of command. Each of us needs to play our part so that the national rhythm becomes symphonious. Our government has to follow a proactive foreign policy and diplomatic measures. The government doesn’t have to take only reactive measures following what adversaries do or say. As offense is the best defense, preemptive diplomatic actions have to be considered. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has to be active and be able to take bold measures and build confidence in neighboring countries and other major powers. As a government and its officials are faces of a nation, their boldness builds public confidence.

Our foreign policy orientation should also be realistic. History teaches us that Emperor Tewdros and Emperor Yohannes have faced similar foreign policy challenges during their reign. They both believed in Christian solidarity and expected Britain to help them in their fight against Egypt. Britain however has neglected their letters and showed her alliance to Egypt. Religion wasn’t regarded as a priority by realists as opposed to the Emperors understanding. Rather it is economic and strategic partnership that has been driving foreign policy direction of Britain. This is even today’s reality. Abdel Fettah el-Sisis’ government is violating human rights and yet the West prefers to turn deaf ears as long as their national interests are kept. It is a Machiavellian world after all. The other common feature that the Emperors share was the internal rivalries from various lords and princes. This has made the emperors lose focus in the international and foreign affairs. Since we are living in a world where realism triumphs, the government need to incorporate elements of realism along with idealist instruments while dealing in foreign affairs. We need to stretch our diplomatic efforts to the Arab world too with a win-win approach.

The media on its part should consistently aware the public about the geopolitical importance of the Dam. Our children need to be thought about our river be it in the school curricula or in a form of memorable childhood songs. Ethiopian artists have to work on this like never before.

The Ethiopian Diaspora, particularly the Ethiopian American Civic Council (EACC), has so far been successful in awakening each other and in lobbying famous personalities such as Jesse Jackson, a prominent American civil rights activist and the founder and president of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. Jackson has on his part said that “the African Union, Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Ethiopian-American Caucus, and American civil rights leaders should stand by and with the government of Ethiopia.” The Diaspora community and the council need to strengthen their efforts in lobbying and addressing the Nile issue to the congress and other international bodies.

On the other hand, Egypt needs to know that the dam will be filled in one way or the other, be it in a year or twenty. However, it would be so wise for Egypt to invest its time in building a long-term relationship with Ethiopia and Sudan than to do otherwise. Because the repercussions on Egypt would be dire if the dam is filled under such controversies and hostilities. Egypt has to drop its obsolete colonial agreements and agenda of enjoying a hegemonic right over the Nile.

Our adversaries have a foreign policy of destabilizing and polluting the political atmosphere. Alienating Ethiopia from the major powers and the Arab league has been the priority of Egypt. We contribute 86% of the Nile waters and yet they keep telling us to urge for their blessings to use the water we have a natural right on. How absurd!

Meanwhile, the greatest deterrence mechanism we have as a nation is unity among ourselves. We need to shun the differences and join hands to realize the completion of the GERD since it is our national emblem and source of pride. Egypt on its side should set aside its ego and accept our natural right for a fair and reasonable share and utilization of our water, that we prefer to call ABAY. As Nile did for Aswan, it would certainly do for the GERD.

The “all means available” propaganda won’t take the Pharaohs further since we also have “all men available”. As the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said, “We Ethiopians prefer to go to war and die than to die because of poverty.” Our desire is to harness our natural resources and elevate our people out of poverty. If in case they keep echoing war drums, we want them to know that we haven’t missed our history classes describing what had happened at the Battle of Gundat (1875) and Gura (1876).

The Ethiopian Herald April 2/2021

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