By Amanuel Biedemariam,
THE recent “Agreement on Declaration of Principles between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project (GERDP),” is yet another example on how the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is selling Ethiopia while in-the-process of formulating the Greater (Abay) Independent Tigray.
The TPLF has been selling the Hidesa/Renaissance Dam as if it is an existential issue and, that it is “Ethiopia’s right to develop.” To that end, the TPLF turned the issue to a political-campaign designed to rally the Ethiopian people, sold shares to ensure funding (albeit unsuccessfully) and tried to paint Egypt as villain-determined to stop Ethiopian progress by any means.
However, contrary to the rhetoric, the agreement favors Egypt and neutralizes Ethiopia’s sovereign right to the Nile. Any future development project related to the Nile must go through international panel of experts. That means Ethiopia can-no longer unilaterally decide what it can do with the Nile.
The core of the agreement is predicated upon the headline, “Principle to Cooperate on the First Filling and Operation of the Dam,” which states,
“To implement the recommendations of the International Panel of Experts (IPOE), respect the final outcomes of the Technical National Committee (TNC) Final Report on the joint studies recommended in the IPOE Final Report throughout the different phases of the project. The three countries, in the spirit of cooperation, will utilize the final outcomes of the joint studies, to be conducted as per the recommendations of the IPoE Report and agreed upon by the TNC.”
The question; what lead to the sudden change? How did the parties come to the framework of agreement? Most important, why did Egypt agree?
The government of Sudan is happy with the TPLF regime. In fact, one can argue that ethnically divided and weakened Ethiopia serves Sudan’s national interests and the TPLF is a perfect vehicle. Moreover, huge chunks of Ethiopian land were given to Sudan as part of border agreement and, on the 40th Anniversary of the TPLF, President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan was amongst the prominent figures that participated.
Egypt on the other hand has always had acrimonious relations with Ethiopia. Egypt has long been suspected of arming various Ethiopian rebels and, accused for lobbying against the funding of the dam.
The agreement may have changed the relations finally. And if body-language and facial expression can tell, the smiles and joyful expression of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt tells it all. The agreement is a significant achievement because for the first time Egyptians are able to secure an agreement that can settle the Nile issue finally.
The question remains why the TPLF signed an agreement that places more restrictions on Ethiopia’s ability to exploit the Nile. Why now, after years of grandstanding, did the TPLF cave-in and sign an agreement?
The reality, it is a classic modus-operandi for the TPLF to sell all they can, be it land, resources etc… for minor-temporary political gain at the expense of the long term future of the country. In this case, however, the TPLF sold-out the minority TPLF hardliner which went to-bat to sell the idea of the Hidesa Dam.
Key: the reason the TPLF sold-off what it calls, “Ethiopian Right to the Nile,” is to join the alliance led-by Saudi Arabia to attack Yemen and with a belief, by joining the alliance, it could remain relevant on regional affairs.
And true to form, on a recent article on its mouthpiece Aigaforum, TPLF declared Ethiopia, “Africa’s Next Hegemon: Behind Ethiopia’s power plays,” and placated the agreement as a major achievement.
However, selling-off the rights to the Nile is a sign of the desperate state that the TPLF finds itself. It is evident that no matter how hard Hailemariam Desalegn tries, he cannot assume the stature Meles Zenawi garnered internationally because he is dealing from a position of weakness.
Tigrayans that support the TPLF regime have been pointing fingers at the average Ethiopian around the world that stood against the regime and tried to stop it from raising funds by selling shares and other coercive measures.
The agreement changed that. The people of Tigray are growing uneasy about the direction of the TPLF. In fact, for the first time, Aigaforum, the mouthpiece of the TPLF, was exposed showing its concern when it responded to a Reuter’s article, “Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan pick two firms for Nile dam study,” April 10, Aigaforum wrote,
“We hope these two firms have nothing in common with International River or Oakland Institute! It is also good to check if Mr. Leakey and his “Lake Turkana” fiasco against Gibe III has nothing in common with the Dutch company!”
The TPLF is leading Ethiopia and particularly the people of Tigray into a deep dark state. The longer the TPLF stays in power the worse it will get. All the rhetoric about Nile was a political ploy that TPLF sold for a temporary political gain. TPLF is a sham and if not checked they will loot and run leaving Ethiopia in tatters.