Is Egyptian Politicians’ proposal on GERD being approved?

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By Lamessa Hata‟u (May 29, 2014)


It is now almost a year since Egyptian politicians were inadvertently caught on live TV proposing military action to sabotage the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) at a meeting called by the then Egyptian President, Mohammed Morsi. During this meeting which was triggered by Ethiopia‟s diversion of Blue Nile, participants suggested hostile acts against Ethiopia to stop it from building the dam. Their suggestions were all centered on military actions to curb what they claim is a threat to Egyptian national security. To pick some of the suggestions, Ayman Nour, head of Ghad Party, suggested spreading rumors that Egypt is buying military planes in order to create the impression that it is planning an airstrike to destroy the dam. Yunis Makhyun, who heads Islamist Nur party, on his part, said the dam constitutes a strategic danger for Egypt, requiring it to support Ethiopian rebels which would put pressure on Ethiopian government. Others raised the possibility of sending Special Forces to destroy the dam. These suggestions have no power to change anything considering the stance of Ethiopia on GERD, but needs to be vigilant enough towards these suggestions.
After these embarrassing statements on live TV transmission, several commentators including Egyptians themselves forwarded severe criticism against these politicians. But, here I have doubt whether the majority of the critics from Egyptian side were against the suggestions or against the intention of the live transmission of such a meeting. On the other hand, the Ethiopian Government did not perceive it as something new than as the usual bullying style by Egypt when it comes to the Nile issue. The spokesperson of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Ato Getachew Reda went to the extent of saying the suggestions are “a day dreaming!” Nevertheless, the government has not undermined what were being suggested by the politicians rather summoned the resident ambassador of Egypt to Ethiopia and seek explanation about the hostile remarks. Whatever the reactions were, there were two possibilities, either the incident was just a customary bullying style of Egyptians, so that the government will not dare to go beyond suggestions or the Egyptian government will consider what were suggested. Considering some recent developments in the region [The Horn] which are initiated by Egypt, I am obliged to accept the latter that the Egyptian government is approving what were proposed by the politicians.
At that time President Mohammed Mursi did not directly react to the suggestions, but said in concluding remarks that Egypt respects Ethiopia and its people and will not engage in any aggressive acts against it. However, during Mursi‟s Presidency or after, several incidents can be raised to illustrate that the Egyptian government is following the blueprint of the angry politicians. The first incident that needs to be raised is the frequent Egyptian high level officials travel to Eritrea. For instance, in January 2014, Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Envoy of interim President Adly Mansour, Ambassador Hamdi Sanad Loza paid a visit to Eritrea and talked regional and bilateral issues. In addition, in March 2014 a senior Egyptian intelligence team visited Eritrea and talked on regional security issues with probable special focus on Ethiopia. These visits might meant for finding ways to destabilize Ethiopia by assisting Ethiopian rebels headquartered in Eritrea. Eritrea is suitable for this mission as it is already playing destabilizing role in the region for which it is already sanctioned by UN, AU and IGAD. As mentioned above, this strategy was suggested by the angry politicians although it had not been strange to Egypt. One can clearly understand from the timing of the visits [soon after Ethiopia diverted Nile] that Egyptians have no other urgent agenda than the GERD issue to talk with Eritrea at the time. Had it not been the issue of the GERD, there is no need for such frequent travels especially for high level security officials. I don‟t think Eritrea risks its national security by providing military base to Egypt for Eritrea remembers the consequence of the last war with Ethiopia. Hopefully, Eritrea also understands the current situation in Ethiopia i.e. improving democratic system, stability, economic development, military strength and so forth in which Eritrea lags far behind Ethiopia. Therefore, the only thing that Egypt may consult with Eritrea is the way to assist Ethiopian armed groups in order to destabilize the country and by doing that divert its attention from building the dam.
The second incident is the news of Egypt‟s plan to purchase fighter jets and other military armaments from Russia. On that provocative meeting, Ayman Nour, head of Ghad Party, suggested spreading rumors that Egypt is buying military planes in order to create the impression that it is planning an airstrike to destroy the dam. Although we can not be sure that Egypt is really set to buy fighter jets or the news is just to spread a rumor as Mr. Nour suggested, we cannot deny the connection between the proposal and the news. Some media even reported as the arms deal was concluded, which makes the dream of Mr. Nour come true.

The third incident is the attempt of Egypt to exploit the current demonstrations over the „Addis Ababa & the Surrounding Oromia Region Master Plan‟. Egypt tried to exploit the demonstration held in Cairo on May 7, 2014 by some members of Oromo Diaspora Community. In alliance with their plan of destabilizing Ethiopia by assisting opposition, the Egypt security forces supported the protest in Cairo. As certain regional security expert commented, protest law in Egypt was not applied, but facilitated Oromo community protest in Cairo.” As we know the recent protest law of Egypt has been sparking anger among political activists, who considered it a means to limit the freedom of expression. Surprisingly, this law was not considered when the some members of Oromo Diaspora community took their case to Tahrir Square.
Finally, the recent arrest of three Egyptians in Gambella Region can be mentioned even as a more solid incident that shows the fact that the Government of Egypt is working on the proposals of the politicians. The politicians suggested the possibility of sending special force to sabotage the dam. Amazingly, those arrested are believed to be spies who might be sent to investigate any possible way of sabotaging the dam. Fortunately, they could not go further; they were arrested near the border, thanks to our active security force! Of course, when Spokesperson Getachew said the proposals were like “day dreaming,” it seems like Ethiopia ignored what the politicians were talking about. But, what we witnessed in the case of these three Egyptians does not imply that Ethiopia has ignored the possible threat that may emanate from the suggestions of the politicians
After all, Ethiopia has to give further emphasis to each and every assumption from the circle of those influential politicians as Egyptian government is always ready to take into account their ideas, however crazy their ideas are. Out of desperation, there is nothing that Egyptian politicians would not suggest. In the same token, although the Egyptian Government is believed to act in a bit responsible way than the politicians, there is no guarantee to assume the Egyptian Government as independent from the emotion that comes from the circle of those politicians.

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