The Roar and the Reality: What Hamdeen Sabbahi and Abdel-Akher Hammad Missed
Zerihun Abebe Yigzaw
This piece is my response to the remarks made by two public figures from Egypt.
Today two known figures from Egypt have aired their views about Ethiopia’s mega project on the Nile-the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). In one way or another the tone of these two individuals known Egyptian opposition leader and former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi and Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya mufti Abdel-Akher Hammad is similar. Hamdeen whil considering Ethiopia’s dam project tantamount to declaration of war, he said that “If such a war is forged against us, we are ready to fight and we will embark on it with all our strength to defend our honour.” Sabbahi on his part going on saying that Ethiopia’s decision to go ahead with the project – only days after President Mohamed Morsi’s state visit to the country – was “extremely humiliating to Egyptians.” From this we can understand that, their concern is not the reality on the ground but the honor and pride of Egypt which it unfairly claimed for long due to the unjust help of its colonial master Great Britain. While talking about Egyptian pride and honor these two individuals seem to forget the pride and honor of Ethiopia and other upstream states.
Though, I do not blame these individuals for what they said. It is because they are from the old school and thinking incubated by Anwar Sadat and his successor Hosni Mubarak who only sees the Nile from one angle and denying other states as if they are not there with their people. Sabbahi is talking about using the Suez Canal to punish Ethiopia to stop it from utilizing the Nile waters. What he missed is there is other route to reach to Ethiopia despite the short way goes long but left a scar on the relation between the two brotherly countries. And this scar will be painful. And I hope and I think the government of President Mohamed Morsi is wise and knows what to say, what action to take, when and how-to maintain the good relation between the Nile Riparian states and to use the fruits of the Nile waters for mutual benefit.
These issues must be clear to these people and all Egyptians. Firstly, the Nile is a pride and honor of all peoples and countries sharing the river. The Nile is a gift of all the riparian states and their people. Hence they have the right to utilize the waters of the Nile for any thing they want, at any time in accordance with international law and good neighborhood and brotherhood as children of one river-the Nile. Secondly, it is a publicly stated position of Ethiopia that Ethiopia has called downstream Egypt and Sudan that they should share the costs of the dam because they are also the beneficiaries from the end results of the GERD. By denying this fact as if they are not heard, the remarks proved to us that, they are still in their old school and fortress made by Sadat and enhanced by Mubarak which will profit nothing except suspicion and mistrust. Thirdly, it should be clear for Egyptians that there is no one in upstream-Ethiopia to harm Egypt. Ethiopia’s aim is one-to meet its energy needs and to lift up its people from poverty and hunger. Ethiopia must not and will not shackle its hand not to utilize its water resources while its people are dying of hunger and live in darkness while the whole Egypt turned to a shining jewel and while the Sahara desert is turned into something green. Ethiopia’s call is one-let us share the waters of the Nile together for mutual benefit.
Irrespective of the truths on the ground and rather than sorting out constructive arguments that will benefit the Nile riparian states, the two individuals run to yell about war. Who will benefit from war? Do they know the long-term consequence that will not be healed by one or two generations? What did Egypt profit from previous attempts of war from Ethiopia? Is war as simple as these individuals spoke? I think Alula Aba Nega, Khedive Ismail Pasha or Werner Munzinger must not be alive to remind these guys about the consequences of Gundet and Gura. War rhetoric will not help. It is destructive and its consequences sever. The means of war have been changing throughout history and a lot of transformation has been recorded with the change in technology. But this must be clear and underlined-the essence of war is not changed. I hope both individuals will regret for what they said.
What amazed me is that, Sabbahi further going on saying that “a drop of water would exceed a drop of blood in value.” I hope Egypt`s Ambassador in Ethiopia Mohamed Idrees told him that we in Ethiopia also say Water is thicker than Blood. And the message is very clear. I retreat to say it, in Ethiopia our call is clear. Our message here at Guba where the dam is constructed is not of war but peace, not of hostility but friendship, not of suspicion but trust. Ethiopia has stretched its hand to hug; it is up to Egypt to accept this call of brotherhood as children of one Nile. We are saying አንድ ወንዝ አንድ ህዝብ-نهر واحد شعب واحد (nhar wahid she`ab wahid)-one river one people. But if you talk about blood and water we also say, Water is thicker than Blood.