Was Dam Agenda Behind Netanyahu’s East African Trip?

The visit of Benjamin Netanyahu to four east African nations has raised a few eyebrows. The author of this piece, Girma Feyissa, questions whether the fact that four riparien nations, sharing the same philosophical stance towards the equitable and fair distribution of the waters, were included is simply coincidence. With the construction of the Hidasse Dam mega project well underway, we will soon discover the outcomes of his trip.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s east African visit is said to be the first high official setting Prime Minister visit paid to these four upper Nile countries in recent times. The visit comes at a time when the construction of the Hidasse Dam on the Blue Nile River is progressing as planned. Ethiopia, the source of over 85pc of water in the Nile River, is committed to completing this mega project. They mean business and over 50pc of the dam construction has been completed already.

Every soul engaged in the construction of the dam is fully committed to the success of the project, even under the most testing weather conditions humanly bearable.

But, above and beyond the most hazardous conditions, the Dam has been the most unifying force our diversified country has ever seen – even during external invasions, which put the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country at risk.

When seen in the light of the perspective and context of the Hidasse Dam construction, we pose a simple question to ourselves: why was the Prime Minister’s visit conducted to the four East African nations that share the same opinion and belief of sharing the waters of the Nile River equitably and fairly among all member countries?

This notion may sound simple and straight forward at this time, but the issue was not that simple and direct. The two main downstream riparian countries, Sudan and Egypt, had grudgingly reviewed the plan, often referring to the 1929 and 1959 agreements signed by the two countries during the British rule, which specified the percentage share of the waters by the two countries.

Ethiopia was not a signing party to those colonial era agreements. The recent visit of Netanyahu to these staunchly committed nations cannot simply be a casual tourist trip.

The date, July 4th 2016, also happens to be historically coincidental. That date may be known as US Independence Day, but it is also the date of “operation Entebbe” – also known as “Yonatan operation” – which took no more than 90 minutes to free all Israeli hostages from Palestinian hijackers. That operation was not only one of the most breath-taking ever recorded in history, but it saw the release of all hostages except one, Younathan Netanyahu, the brother of Prime Minister Netanyahu. We paid due tributes to the date of his death.

There is a proverb that says blood is thicker than water. Al Sisi’s recent visit to Israel and the immediate visit of Netanyahu to the four riparian countries cannot merely be a normal visit.

Ethiopia’s point of contention to promote the justification of the Dam project has been contentious on the grounds that the country, as the water tower of East Africa, should not touch the Nile Waters. This argument was contested by the vulnerability of the country, which is also known as being synonymous with hunger and famine.

This year’s weather situation could have served as no better justification. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn had pleaded for more food aid to be delivered in order to save lives. This was a factual justification. But the country’s politicians seem to have rehearsed the rhetoric, telling the world that it is overseeing an 8.5pc GDP growth.

The Israeli Prime Minister reiterated the narrative that Ethiopia is one of the world’s fastest growing countries. Have we realised what this kind of rhetoric will imply to the Nile project?

At this moment in time, we are not yet sure as to how Mr Netanyahu’s mission will turn out. We may soon enough witness a treaty made in principle between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia. The French companies may well be ready to produce their impact studies. We shall soon know about the outcomes of these studies.

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Jul 19,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 846]



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