Archive for the ‘Ethiopian News’ Category
Egypt and Ethiopia Heading Toward a War Over Water
By Mustafa al-Labbad Translated from As-Safir (Lebanon).
In the coming years, Egypt and Ethiopia may be forced to fight a “water war” because Ethiopia’s ambitions contradict Egypt’s historical and legal rights in the Nile waters. Ethiopia can only be deterred by the regional and international balance of powers, which in recent years has favored Ethiopia.
For any Egyptian government, Egypt’s water share and securing the Nile’s headwaters are the top national security priorities, irrespective of the Egyptian government’s ideology or domestic policies. This fact is dictated by geography. For thousands of years, Egyptian rulers have been aware how important water is for Egypt. Water is the lifeline of Egypt (97.5% of Egypt is barren desert). Egyptian rulers have always used any means to defend their country’s historic rights to the Nile waters. As Greek historian Herodotus said, “Egypt is the gift of the Nile.” Egyptian civilization, which is one of history’s greatest civilizations, depends on the Nile. To illustrate the Nile’s importance, we should remember that Egypt is the largest desert oasis in the world. Life in Egypt is concentrated on the river banks where 90 million people live. In short, any Egyptian government should have one eye on the Horn of Africa — on Ethiopia, where the source of the Nile lies — and another eye on the Sinai Peninsula and the Levant, and the balance of power there. History has shown that most of Egypt’s invaders entered through that door.
Egypt’s sentries against the country’s internal and external foes have been sleeping on the job. Their first eye failed to notice the developments at the Blue Nile’s source in Ethiopia (the Blue Nile constitutes 86% and the White Nile 14% of the Nile water volume. The two tributaries meet in Sudan before flowing to Egypt). Their second eye had lost the ability to distinguish friend from foe. Now, with the worsening economic crisis and the political deterioration between the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and the opposition, the balance of power is more and more tilting toward Ethiopia, which may unilaterally increase its water usage. That will affect Egypt’s historic rights of the Nile water and cause a serious threat.
In the report below, we will try to shed light on the Nile conflict and on why Ethiopia’s negotiating position toward Egypt has improved. We will end with a recommendation.
The conflict over the Nile waters
The two groups fighting over the right waters are as follows: the first group are the downstream countries, it includes Egypt and Sudan. The other group are the upstream countries which includes Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Congo, Burundi, Tanzania, Southern Sudan, Rwanda and Kenya.
Egypt depends on the Nile River for 95% of its water needs for drinking, agriculture and electricity generation. The growing Egyptian population is increasingly dependent on Nile water. Egypt has historical rights to these waters under the Nile Water Agreement signed with Britain in 1929. It gave Egypt the right to veto any project in upstream countries affecting Egypt’s share of water flowing to it. It is worth mentioning that the 1929 agreement is binding for the three upstream countries — Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda — on the grounds that Britain, which colonized these countries, was their legal representative and could sign binding international agreements on their behalf.
Egypt codified its legal status in an agreement with Sudan in 1959. The agreement gave Cairo 55.5 billion cubic meters of water (or 66% of the total water flow), which would go to the Aswan Dam, and Sudan received 18.5 billion cubic meters (22%). The remainder, 12%, is lost to evaporation.
The downstream countries argue that they were not a party to those agreements at the time, and therefore do not recognize their legitimacy. The upstream countries want to modify the water-sharing agreement and keep more of the water by building dams, which will directly affect the water share of the downstream states, Egypt and Sudan.
The problem is compounded by the projected large population increase in the Nile basin. The UN projects that the population in the 11 basin states will reach 860 million people by 2050. This is pressuring both sides to try to improve their positions in the conflict over the Nile waters.
In May 2010, Ethiopia drafted the Entebbe Agreement to modify the historical and legal basis for the sharing of water. Most upstream countries supported the agreement but Egypt and Sudan refused it. It is true that the Entebbe Agreement is not legally binding for Egypt and Sudan, but it does show that Ethiopia is aware of the balance of power and its ambition to impose facts on the ground regarding the construction of dams, which will necessarily affect Egypt’s share in the Nile waters and thus represent an existential threat to Egypt. It is true that Ethiopia cannot force Cairo to sign, but the Entebbe Agreement shows that a major crisis between Cairo and Addis Ababa is on the way. What follows is an explanation of the Ethiopian diplomatic attack on Egypt and Sudan.
The geopolitical framework strengthens Ethiopia’s position
In recent years, the geopolitical framework has clearly shifted in Ethiopia’s favor, and it shifted the balance of power between Ethiopia and Egypt. The geopolitical changes that favor Ethiopia can be seen in six key indicators:
First, the disintegration of Somalia, Ethiopia’s traditional rival with which it fought a tough war over the Ogaden region, removed the geopolitical balance facing Ethiopia’s political ambitions in the region. Ethiopia exploited Somalia’s disintegration to strengthen its regional presence in the Horn of Africa. For years, Ethiopia has been “fighting terrorism” emerging from Somalia. Ethiopia has been doing that under an American umbrella from 2006 to 2009 and then again since 2011 until now.
The second indicator is represented by the partition of Sudan into two states: Sudan and South Sudan. That development has weakened Sudan (and thus Egypt) in the Horn of Africa and allowed Ethiopia to participate, since 2012, in the UN peacekeeping forces in the Abyei region, which is disputed between Sudan and South Sudan.
The third indicator is the following: the weakening of Sudan has shifted the balance of power in Ethiopia’s favor. The crisis in Darfur and the international isolation of the Sudanese president (an international arrest warrant was issued against him by the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2009) has significantly limited Khartoum’s ability to maneuver in the Nile conflict.
The fourth indicator is the improved relationship between Ethiopia and the West in general, and between Ethiopia and the US in particular, after Addis Ababa emerged as a reliable partner in the Horn of Africa. Every year, Ethiopia gets $4 billion in military, development and food assistance. But the matter is not limited to direct aid. The West has started looking at Ethiopia differently in regard to development projects, such as the construction of dams in Ethiopia. The West had opposed such projects for decades because they were considered a threat to regional security.
The fifth indicator is about China. China is Ethiopia’s primary trade partner and Beijing has expressed willingness to finance a dam construction in Ethiopia and offered Chinese expertise in building large dams. China wishes to have a foothold in the region. There is oil in South Sudan and the Congo has mineral resources.
The sixth indicator is the weakening of Egypt’s political weight in the Horn of Africa. Egypt has no role in Somalia and was not even a key party in the negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan. Egypt’s preoccupation with internal matters is weakening its ability to confront regional and international players, such as China. Even though Egypt is the biggest market for Chinese goods among the 11 basin countries, China has favored other considerations over Egyptian priorities and Egypt’s rights in the Nile waters. So much so that China has offered its technological expertise in constructing dams, which is a complete disregard to Egyptian rights. What will Egypt do about all that? Only God knows.
In the coming years, Egypt and Ethiopia may be forced to fight a “water war” because Ethiopia’s ambitions contradict Egypt’s historical and legal rights in river waters. Ethiopia can only be deterred by the regional and international balance of powers, which in recent years has favored Ethiopia.
The government of Hisham Qandil (an irrigation expert, not a diplomat, legal expert or strategist) seems unable to manage such a complex issue with legal, political, economic, military and international aspects. His government is unable to solve everyday problems that are less complex, such as security, traffic, and fuel and food supplies. This portends dire consequences for Egypt.
What is needed is a way to manage the crisis and use Egyptian soft power toward Ethiopia, especially the Coptic Orthodox Church, which is the Ethiopian Church’s mother church. It is necessary to form a fixed Egyptian team to manage this highly sensitive issue. The team should go beyond party affiliation and include leading Egyptian Nile specialists. Ideological or religious affiliation should not be a factor in choosing that Egyptian crisis team. What is important should be the capabilities and competencies of the team members, who will come from the “clay” of the country, not from a particular group, party or political current. Clay, to those who don’t know, is what Egyptians call their country’s soil, which is a fertile soil resulting from the mixing with the Nile water.
Will Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi realize the seriousness of the situation and deal with that issue as a major national matter and quickly implement the required policies and procedures, or will he hesitate, as usual, and go down in history as someone who squandered the historic rights of Egypt and its future generations?
Read here for more: http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2013/03 … -damascus/
The ruling junta in Ethiopia removed 4 senior members: Seyoum Mesfin, Arkebe Oqubay, Berhane Gebrekristos, and Zer’ay AsgedomWednesday, March 20th, 2013
Young Ethiopians in Addis Ababa promote a protest rally against Graziani statue – Sat. March 16 (video)Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
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BBC News, Sinai
Lamlam, 17, is one of thousands of people who make the treacherous journey from Eritrea to Egypt each year. Many fall victim to unscrupulous people traffickers, who kidnap them and demand ransom money from their families.
"The kidnappers would make me lie on my back and then they would get me to ring my family to ask them to pay the ransom they wanted," she says, lifting up the back of her shirt to expose a rash of deep scars.
"As soon as one of my parents answered the phone, the men would melt flaming plastic over my back and inner thighs and I would scream and scream in pain.
‘Please help me’
I will never forgot the desperate words, broadcast on the BBC, of an Eritrean refugee who was being held hostage in Egypt’s north Sinai.
"It’s bad, bad. Have no enough food, enough water," a tearful and desperate man called Philemon Semere told me on the phone last November.
"Always hit by sticks and burnt by fire and electricity. Daily burning by fire. My body is burning. Please, please help me, Mike."
Semere, along with two other Eritrean refugees, is still in the hands of his kidnappers who have threatened to kill him if his family fails to pay the $25,000 they are demanding.
When I asked the leader of the kidnappers how he could justify torturing and murdering hostages he replied without any sense of shame or regret: "A lot of people I have killed here. This is my work, I live by this work."
Listen to the interview
"This, they hoped, would put extra pressure on my mother and father to find the money."
A man standing next to her gently places a hand on her shoulder as she finishes speaking.
Zere, his faced swathed in a red and white scarf, was one of those kept with her in a windowless basement room for almost a year.
"They had about four of five of us tied up together and they would pour water on the floor and then electrocute the water so that all of us would get electrocuted at the same time," he says.
"They would starve us, they would burn us and they would not let us sleep."
Zere says that nine out of the 20 people held hostage with him died. But, he tells me, by that point those still alive would have welcomed that fate.
"All of us were actually hoping for death because that would have been an escape from the torture."
In fact Lamlam and Zere were able to escape – rescued by a local Bedouin leader, Sheikh Mohammed al-Maniri.
A small building at the back of his house is now home to a dozen people that he has rescued.
Sometimes though, he says, it is too late.
"Many people we bring here have been really badly tortured.
"In two cases recently some of those we rescued died, here in this house, because they had been injured so much."
‘Hundreds of bodies’
The UN has described the growth of the kidnap and people trafficking trades in Sinai as one of the most unreported humanitarian crises in the world.
It estimates that 3,000 Eritreans alone fled their repressive and impoverished country last year.
Many headed for the swollen refugee camps of neighbouring eastern Sudan, now home to more than 90,000 people.
The UN says that 70% of the new arrivals then vanish.
Many fall into the hands of ruthless and well-armed people-smuggling gangs as they try to make their way to Israel or Egypt in search of a better life.
Whilst some do make it through, others are sold on to different gangs two or three times as they are trafficked north.
Hostage victims are often taken to the largely lawless, desert area of north Sinai, where their kidnappers can operate with near impunity.
In 2012, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said that a "criminal network" of smugglers and traffickers was "taking profit of the desperate situation of many Eritreans".
Egyptian security forces do operate in this region but only in limited numbers because of a long-standing peace agreement with neighbouring Israel.
In the mortuary in the town of El Arish, the extent of the carnage caused by the gruesome kidnap trade is even more evident.
"Since the revolution there have been hundreds of bodies because the borders have been more lax," says mortician Era Ki, as he points towards the deep-freeze cabinets in front of us.
"The corpses usually have torture-style injuries.
"The ones that come from the Bedouin [people-traffickers] have always been tortured to get their families to pay ransoms.
"If their families can’t pay, they have no use for them and torture them to death."
Even those whose families somehow manage to pay the large ransoms demanded, often feel they cannot go home now that their relatives have been financially ruined.
Berhane, an Eritrean refugee I met living in a squalid Cairo slum is one.
After being beaten, tortured and electrocuted for months before his family paid $30,000 (£20,000) for his release, he says he has constant terrifying flashbacks and cannot face going home.
Berhane has this message for any Eritreans thinking of following in his footsteps: "Stay where you are.
"Whatever you do, don’t let yourself fall into the hands of the traffickers."
Mike Thomson’s Assignment, Escape from Sinai, will be broadcast on the BBC World Service on Thursday 7 March at 09:05 GMT.
Ms Israel Yityish Aynaw
(JTA) — Yityish Aynaw, a former Israeli army officer, became the first Ethiopian-Israeli to win the Miss Israel pageant.
A panel of judges awarded the title to Aynaw, a 21-year-old model who came to Israel about a decade ago, at the International Convention Center Haifa on Wednesday.
"It’s important that a member of the Ethiopian community wins the competition for the first time," she was quoted by Israeli media as telling the judges in response to a question. "There are many different communities of many different colors in Israel, and it’s important to show that to the world."
Aynaw came to Israel with her family when she was 12. Acclimating to Israel was difficult at first, Aynaw said, but she picked up the language quickly with the help of a friend.
She has been working as a saleswoman at a clothing store since her army discharge.
During the competition, Aynaw cited the slain American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. as one of her heroes.
"He fought for justice and equality, and that’s one of the reasons I’m here: I want to show that my community has many pretty qualities that aren’t always represented in the media," she said.
She said Dr King fought for justice and equality, and that’s one of the reasons I’m here – to show that there are also good things in my community, which are not presented in the media.
"I see it as a mission to represent Israel’s different colors. There are not enough dark-skinned models in Israel.
"I hope to become a successful model thanks to the contest and create a change in the perception of dark-skinned models. I would be happy to be the first Ethiopian television host, an Israeli Tyra Banks."