The photos widely published in the local press…

The photos widely published in the local press, showing the friendly looking leaders of Ethiopia and Egypt rather glosses over a relationship of mistrust and mutual suspicion, gossip observed. Smiling directly into his eyes and holding Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s hand, Egypt’s newly elected president, Abdul Fettah Al-Sisi, had an after lunch session with him in Malabu, the capital of the Equatorial Guinea, as a side to the African Union (AU) summit held last week.

It was their first encounter, gossip noticed. They were meant to meet in Cairo during the swearing-in ceremony of the military-cum-politician Sisi back in the first week of June, 2014. That Eritrea’s Issayas Afeworqi had attended the presidential inauguration while Ethiopia’s Prime Minister did not reveal a story within itself, claims gossip.

Either Egyptians were insensitive to diplomatic tussles between the leaders of the two nations, at odds in inviting both to a rather symbolic event, or Ethiopian diplomats must have been oversensitive in pushing Egypt to choose between the two; yet, gossip is unable to determine which could have been the case.

In Malabu though, President Sisi was eager to meet a Prime Minister perceived by the largest segment of his constituency to preside over a country posing a threat to their survival, gossip disclosed.

A decorated military man, if not a passionate cyclist, Sisi might have realised that the era of coercion and threat of force is over. Upon their meet, Sisi reminded Hailemariam of his record when it comes to the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD); a year and half during the short-lived government of the Brotherhoods, he publicly acknowledged Ethiopia’s right to develop the utilisation of its resources and advised the Mursi government against its war rhetoric, gossip disclosed.

Yet, the tide in Egypt’s public opinion has been against the views the President may hold, gossip observed. To Egyptians, who are convinced that Ethiopia is there to tighten the noose, a moderate appearing leader willing to compromise presents an issue, gossip claims. President Sisi went to see Hailemariam, hoping to get some form of reassurance to take back to his countrymen and women, gossip reveals.

Ironically, Hailemariam’s was a tough talk, conveying his own frustrations and those of his country over what is largely believed to be Egypt’s relentless effort to keep Ethiopia weak and restrict it from developing its endowments connected to the Nile River and its many tributaries, gossip disclosed. A series of efforts by successive governments in Ethiopia to reassure Egypt over its water security have yielded nothing but a historical foe, always bent in cutting Ethiopia short, using disgruntled forces as proxy, Hailemariam would have said, claims gossip.

The divergent points of the two countries are over the platform of engagement, gossip observed. While Ethiopia wants to deal with Egypt through the comprehensive framework agreement (CFA) – a regional platform of talks, in which it wants to include all riparian states – Egypt wants to deal with Ethiopia bilaterally. Egypt’s negotiators had opted out of the CFA during the third round of talks, and remain adamant about it, gossip noticed.

The result of such an icebreaking discussion between the two heads of state is an expression of interest in seeing the resumption of dialogue and engagement, and nothing of a substantive deal, gossip disclosed. It was rather an encounter, which both leaders used to test the water, claims gossip. Nonetheless, they have agreed to see their negotiators meet at any time during the coming three months to explore the possibility of the resumption of talks, according to gossip.

Granted, ministers of the waters of Egypt and Sudan already met last week, and have extended an invitation to Alemayehu Tegenu, Ethiopia’s lead negotiator, to join them in Khartoum this coming week, gossip disclosed. His welcoming of this invitation may not bode well among some Ethiopians involved in the case, as they feel it is unbecoming of the two countries to simply call a senior official of a sovereign nation without embracing him from the start, gossip disclosed.

Published on July 06, 2014 [ Vol 15 ,No 740]



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