OLF and Ethiopian sovereignty



By Zerihun Abebe Woldeselassie, University of Bergen, Department of Social Anthropology

Recently there is a growing debate within OLF regarding its stand on the question of a a common Ethiopian state and there seem to be a revitalization of the question of ethno-nationalism and Ethiopian sovereignty, particularly among the Diaspora. There are now a group or individuals who previously identified themselves and recognized by others as member or supporter of OLF but their struggle, membership and claim of representation have become contested by some other group of individuals who consider themselves as more authentic ane legitimate than the other. I argue that the recent development within the OLF demonstrates yet again the very nature of the post-socialist Ethiopian politics which is characterized by contestation and fragmentation. And this pattern is a result of the historical and unsuccessful Ethiopian nation-state formation and inter-group (ethnic and religious)…

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Hidden Oppression in Eritrea

By VITTORIO LONGHI October 3, 2014 In Europe’s debate about how to deal with the flow of desperate migrants from Africa, there is an important element missing: the crisis in Eritrea. Every month almost 4,000 Eritreans flee to escape oppression, according to a United Nations special rapporteur. A visit to Asmara, the Eritrean capital, is revealing. In the cafes you won’t hear people talking about the government of President Isaias Afewerki, and in the streets you will never see a march or a demonstration. Any sign of protest is quickly crushed, and opponents of the government face immediate imprisonment and torture, often in underground jails in remote areas. There they are stuffed into metal containers where the heat is unbearable, and given little food or water. The right to trial does not exist, and those convicted have no recourse to appeal. This oppression is eerily invisible. You won’t see police officers along the sunny avenues of Asmara, nor are there soldiers around. But if you have a camera and start taking pictures, people stare and point at you. In this silent, secret system of terror, reminiscent of Soviet communism, every citizen is a potential spy. The government in Eritrea exercises control also through the “national service,” which is compulsory and open-ended for both men and women from the age of 17. It is easy to see why Eritreans will risk dangerous journeys to escape. On Oct. 3, 2013, 366 young Eritreans drowned off the tiny island of Lampedusa. The night after the shipwreck, I watched the survivors mourn the dead. They were taken to an airport hangar to wander among long rows of dark wooden coffins, and a line of five little white coffins for the children. The weeping sounded like a howl of despair for a generation fated to live in a country where hope for a better future had been banished. It was a cry for help. As people gathered in the main streets of Asmara after the shipwreck to view photos of the dead, the police arrived to disperse the crowd, but not before making a list of those who attended. “Nobody will come to save us,” said a 30-year-old teacher I met on my way to Asmara in May, who asked not to be identified. At one time, she said, she worked for European NGOs, but these organizations were expelled by the government in 2006. President Afewerki denies that the country needs any aid or assistance from foreigners. “Isaias keeps isolating our country so that nobody can see what happens here,” the teacher told me. State workers earn an average monthly salary of 500 nakfa (about $15 at the black market rate) and represent cheap labor for both the public and private sectors, especially in mining and construction, where Chinese investments are growing. Many Eritreans rely on informal work to feed their families. In Massawa, once a major port on the Red Sea, Awate Tsegay rents his car to foreigners and hopes to earn enough money to cross the border and join his brothers in Sudan. “Military officers ask up to $1,000 per person to hide you in a car so that you can get through safely,” he said. The government tacitly encourages illegal migration, recently introducing a 2 percent tax on remittances from abroad. Once in Sudan, Eritreans avoid the police and take any job available, until they can hire a trafficker to take them to Libya or Egypt, where they can attempt the sea crossing to Europe. The desert crossing is perilous, and many refugees fall victim to torture and organ harvesting. Meanwhile, President Afewerki, who has ruled for 20 years, still plays the role of the victim. He uses the pretext of the border conflict with Ethiopia to justify tight control over his people. European Union diplomats have expressed concern about the systematic violation of human rights. But if Europe were serious about addressing the causes of the exodus from Eritrea, it would put more pressure on Mr. Afewerki to loosen his grip. Likewise, the international community has done little to resolve the border conflict. Even less has been done to support Eritrean opposition forces, which could challenge the generals and set the country on the path to democratic elections. But the Eritrean opposition is fractured and presents little threat to the Afewerki government. “The most active democratic groups are based elsewhere, in Sudan or Europe,” says Valentina Fusari, a researcher in Asmara. Smaller ethnic groups of dissidents are in exile and too disorganized to be an option. At this stage, without a coordinated effort by the opposition, the dictatorship will keep perpetuating terror and forcing its people to choose between the loss of their freedom if they stay, or a potentially deadly journey if they leave. Vittorio Longhi is an Italian journalist. His latest book is “The Immigrant War: A Global Movement Against Discrimination and Exploitation.” Source: New York Times 03.10.14

Ethiopia: Embracing Development and Security Means Embracing Free Expression

By: Birtukan Mideksa

Last week, Washington D.C. hosted the US-Africa Leaders Summit, where over 50 African heads of state discussed important issues ranging from public health to trade and development. I was honored to participate in a parallel civil society conference that highlighted the challenges faced by civic leaders on the continent, including the all too prevalent crack-down on free expression.

During the summit, participants repeatedly noted that respect for fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, is critical for sustainable economic growth. The press is a vital component of society, allowing diverse voices to be heard and balancing the power between the government and the people. The independent media also plays a particularly important role in combating corruption as it oversees how governments spend development and aid money.

In his post-summit address, President Barack Obama echoed these sentiments, noting that “even though leaders don’t always like it, the media plays a crucial role in assuring people that they have the proper information to evaluate the policies that their leaders are pursuing” and that “nations that uphold these rights and principles will ultimately be more prosperous and more economically successful.” Secretary of State John Kerry—who spoke at the civil society forum—reiterated the belief that “when people can trust their government and rely on its accountability and transparency on justice, that society flourishes and is more prosperous and more stable than others.”

According to Secretary Kerry, the U.S. “will continue to support press freedom, including for journalists charged with terrorism or imprisoned on arbitrary grounds.” However, one of the United States’ most important security and development allies in Africa, my home country of Ethiopia, is also one of the continent’s worst jailers of the press.

On April 25 and 26, less than three months before President Obama highlighted the importance of a free press, three independent journalists and six bloggers were arrested and eventually charged under Ethiopia’s widely-criticized 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. The journalists were known to write on a wide range of topics, including corruption. The bloggers, for their part, were part of group called “Zone 9,” which had a large following on social media and were known for their campaign to promote the rights provided under Ethiopia’s constitution. They were all arrested shortly after Zone 9 posted an announcement on Facebook indicating that the group would begin blogging again after a seven month hiatus.

The six bloggers and three journalists were held without any formal charges against them for over two and a half months and were finally charged on July 18. In response, 41 NGOs sent a letter to Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn calling on his government to immediately release the detainees and revise the law. The U.S. government has also condemned such an abuse of anti-terror legislation. Secretary Kerry publicly expressed his concern about the arrests during a visit to Addis Ababa just days after the they were detained. He specifically mentioned blogger Natnail Feleke, with whom he had met on a previous visit, and adamantly insisted that the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation should not be used as a mechanism to curb the free exchange of ideas.

Unfortunately, what happened to these independent journalists and bloggers is neither new nor surprising.

On September 14, 2011, Eskinder Nega, a prominent journalist and human rights defender, was arrested and charged under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. Ten months later, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison. While the Ethiopian government asserts that Mr. Nega’s prosecution is unrelated to his work as a journalist, an independent inquiry found otherwise. In Opinion No. 62/2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention held that Mr. Nega’s imprisonment violated Ethiopia’s obligations under international law. In addition to procedural violations, the Working Group found Mr. Nega’s detention resulted directly from his exercise of free expression. They concluded that the overly broad offenses established by the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation constituted “an unjustified restriction on expression rights and on fair trial rights.” Thus far, however, the government has ignored the Working Group’s call to release and compensate Mr. Nega. It also continues to imprison journalists Reeyot Alemu and Woubshet Taye on similar grounds.

Other international bodies have also criticized the use of anti-terror laws against journalist, including the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and five United Nations special procedure mandate holders.  During Ethiopia’s Universal Periodic Review earlier this year, a number of countries, including the United States, raised similar concerns. Most recently, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, denounced the arrests of journalists and bloggers declaring that “the fight against terrorism cannot serve as an excuse to intimidate and silence journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and members of civil society organizations. And working with foreign human rights organisations cannot be considered a crime.”

The Ethiopian government has long relied on the same arguments to defend its actions—falsely claiming that the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation copies equivalent European standards. The international community can no longer tolerate these kinds of wholly inadequate explanations, especially when respect for human rights impacts the prospects for growth and security on the continent so greatly. If we are serious about development and peace in Africa, we need to hold the Ethiopian government accountable and reinforce the proposition that there can be no robust, sustainable growth without respect for the fundamental rights for all Africans.

Birtukan Mideksa is former federal judge, political leader, and prisoner of conscience in Ethiopia. She has held fellowships with the National Endowment for Democracy and Harvard University and is a member of Freedom Now’s Board of Advisors.

Source: Freedom Now

Nile River Politics: When Sisi Met Desalegn

BY: Nizar Manek
The guests had been seated at the tables of the great hall in Addis Ababa, and fanfares rang out as the Emperor Haile Selassie walked in with President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt at his right hand. Nasser was a “tall, stocky, imperious man, his head thrust forward and his wide jaws thrust into a smile,” next to him Selassie’s “diminutive silhouette,” his “thin expressive face, his glistening penetrating eyes” worn by the years. Behind the extraordinary pair, the remaining leaders also entered in their pairs, writes Ryszard Kapuściński in his chronicle of the fall of the Abyssinian monarchy and the intrigues at Selassie’s court. The audience rose; everyone was applauding. “Ovations sounded for unity and the Emperor. Then the feast began.”
Their corresponding persons, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn — a pair less extraordinary, their relations less gregarious —find themselves seated together on June 26 at the 23rd Ordinary Summit of the African Union in Equatorial Guinea. During his presidential campaign, El-Sisi spoke of his interest in travelling to Ethiopia “not once, but ten times” for the mutual benefit of the two countries. As El-Sisi addressed the crowd at his presidential inauguration ceremony at the Qubba Palace in Cairo, Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus looked on among Arab royals, the First-Vice President of Sudan, Lieutenant General Bakri Hassan Saleh, and heads of state, from Chad’s Idriss Déby and Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki to Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has held power in Equatorial Guinea even longer than El-Sisi’s military predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. El-Sisi professed to the crowd he would protect pan-Africanism, and he wouldn’t allow Ethiopia’s self-financed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) to “cause a crisis or a problem with sisterly Ethiopia.” Over centuries, the Nile has tied the two countries together. Ethiopia’s priority now is power generation, while Egypt, a desert country, prioritises irrigation against the Nile water source countries on the Central African and Ethiopian plateaus, which have greater rainwater.

The GERD is a major issue of peace or war. As he summits in Malabo with Adhanom over Egypt’s Nile water crisis, El-Sisi finds himself confronted with deep and changing historical forces. When Britain occupied Egypt in 1882, Britain immediately understood it had become “ruler of a hydrological society,” and that the irrigation question was central to maintaining stability along its Suez Canal, notes Terje Tved, professor at the universities of Bergen and Oslo and an authority on the Nile. Then everything changed after the First World War, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and the Egyptian revolution of 1919, and yet Britain’s strategic interests remained the same. This trickled into a series of colonial treaties, including the 1959 Nile Waters agreement, which contributed to Sudan becoming Egypt’s downstream hydro-political ally, and safeguarded Egypt and Sudan’s over 90 percent share of Nile waters. Ethiopia, the source of the Nile, was left only with ghosts of discord. Selassie himself was left affronted by Nasser’s marginalisation of Ethiopia in the 1959 agreement, and was to be overthrown in a 1974 coup d’état. At the same time, notes a March 21 2011 memorandum from the international businessman and dam engineer Dr Ibrahim Mostafa Kamel submitted to the first post-Mubarak government of Essam Sharaf, since 1969 Egypt has lost an estimated 100 million tons annually of silt, “creating a 4.1 billion silt dump which lies over the Egyptian-Sudanese border.”

Even if he is a diminutive Nasser, El-Sisi’s jaws will not likely be thrust into a smile, even a wry one. It is not even sure whether there will be a feast as in Kapuściński’s tale, or if so, whether it will be sumptuous. Only three days before El-Sisi’s presidential inauguration, the governments of Ethiopia and South Sudan arrested three Egyptians reportedly sent by Cairo to spy on dam projects in South Sudan and western Ethiopia, principal among them the 6,000-megawatt GERD. Egypt fears the GERD is a threat to its lifeline, the Blue Nile at Ethiopia’s Lake Tana upon which Egypt depends for over 85%of its Nile water flow. As the dispute fanned to a flame earlier this year, Egypt boycotted talks over the dam as they ground to an acrimonious standstill, and followed with a diplomatic card game to enlist the support of external stakeholders and African countries keen to capitalise on strategic alliances.

The real threat to Egypt is the reaction of Sudan, given its part in the 1959 agreement; not the GERD itself. If there are signs of a rapprochement between Egypt and sisterly Ethiopia, it is by Egypt’s necessity; it coincides with a growing rift between El-Sisi’s Egypt and Omer Hassan Ahmed El-Bashir’s Islamist regime in Sudan, a former ally of Mohammed Morsi’s government of Muslim Brothers. Egypt courts South Sudan in spite of Sudan, and besides Egypt’s anti-Islamist alliance with Saudi Arabia, there are signs of a rapprochement with Libya’s anti-Islamist leader General Khalifa Belqasim Haftar. While the Sudanese vice-president Bakri Hassan Saleh attended El-Sisi’s presidential inauguration, he has also reaffirmed Sudan’s commitment to the GERD; Ethiopia is also an important strategic alliance for Sudan. One reason is its interests in the six-month long conflict in South Sudan.

The Nile Basin Initiative, which met in Khartoum last Thursday, has called on Egypt to re-involve itself in the activities in the initiative, which both Sudan and Egypt left four years ago in protest over the signing of the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement by four Nile Basin countries (Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania). Burundi and Kenya later signed onto the NBI, which removes Egypt’s veto power over upstream irrigation and hydro-power projects. It is bound to reduce Egypt and Sudan’s historically protected Nile water share. After El-Sisi overthrew Morsi, Sudan returned to the NBI. Its new chairman also happens to be Sudan’s Minister of Water Resources and Electricity, Muattaz Musa Abdallah Salim. “I should like to place an appeal to our sister nation Egypt,” Salim said at the meeting of Nile Basin water ministers, according to AFP. “Your resumption of your activities in the NBI will further consolidate our gains and integrity in the region.”

For M. Jalal Hashim, a professor at Comboni University College and a close observer of Nile politics, the flutters of Khartoum’s heart have more to do with Khartoum’s calculations for political survival than technical issues connected with transboundary water management. “If Khartoum stood against the GERD, this may lead Ethiopia to host the military opposition of the regime, and the remaining of the regime in Sudan is a matter of inertia, not strength,” he says. “There is enough opposition to put it out.” During his brief reign, Morsi, who is now languishing behind bars in El-Sisi’s Egypt, showed his readiness to give the disputed area of land at the Egypt-Sudan border called the Halayeb triangle to Sudan, a matter Hashim thinks played a role in his overthrow.

When the Ethiopian delegation brought up the topic of the GERD for the first time, in Kampala according to Hashim, the Sudanese delegation was late by hours due to disruptions in airway programmes. When they joined the meeting, he says, they discovered that the Egyptian delegation had already blessed the project. They were “furious” and made clear their reservations to the GERD being built in an area vulnerable to volcanic eruptions and notified their minister, who, by his turn, notified his Egyptian counterpart in protest. “If such a tremor and earthquake takes place and destroys the GERD that would be disastrous to both Sudan and Egypt,” according to Hashim. “The water will be almost 26-metres high in Khartoum for days. The threat of dam collapse can wipe out Sudan, while Egypt would not be affected directly.”

The Sudanese experts repeatedly warned their government while negotiating with the Ethiopians, “hoping that wisdom would prevail, but in vain,” says Hashim. According to him, Khartoum’s position at the time prompted the Egyptian delegation to withdraw their agreement to the GERD, while Khartoum’s position has now aligned with the rising power of Ethiopia, which Egypt continues to contest. Even while Ethiopia’s award of a no-bid contract to an Italian company to construct the US$4.8bn. dam contributed, alongside Egypt’s earlier protests, to it being left without concessional finance, the World Bank is heavily invested in Ethiopia and region. At the end of last month, the bank approved US$178.5mn. credit and a US$254.5mn. grant to help Ethiopia develop its geothermal energy resources to boost electricity supply. Several electricity export contracts have already been signed, and Yemen’s Minister of Electricity Saleh Sumai and Adhanom have now agreed to begin studying electrical interconnection between the two countries across the Red Sea through Djibouti.

Ethiopia seeks to capitalise on its new economic development, part of which involves the Nile; Egypt faces the winds of an economic and national cohesion crisis. Sounds for unity are growing; but because Egypt is fast running out of alternatives, and faces major change on the Nile. As the late rebel-turned statesman Meles Zenawi said in an interview on Egyptian television, the relationship between the two countries is “like a very old marriage, which has no possibility of divorce. It has its ups and downs, but it is very solid. It is of long standing.” “Sometimes we quarrel, sometimes we agree,” Zenawi told the Egyptian interviewer, radio waves fizzing in the background. “That has been the case for thousands of years.”

Nizar Manek is an independent journalist reporting on Africa.

Copyright © 2014 Le Monde diplomatique—distributed by Agence Global

Half of the world’s poor classed as ‘destitute’ – Oxford study

Ethiopia ranks the second poorest country in the world just ahead of Niger. The study is based on analysis of acute poverty in 108 developing countries around the world. Despite making progress at reducing the percentage of destitute people, Ethiopia is still home to more than 76 million poor people, the fifth largest number in the world after India, China, Bangladesh and Pakistan. India has the world’s largest number of poor people at more than 647 million. 87.3% of Ethiopians are classified as MPI poor, while 58.1% are considered destitute. A person is identified as multidimensionally poor (or ‘MPI poor’) if they are deprived in at least one third of the weighted MPI indicators. The destitute are deprived in at least one-third of the same weighted indicators, The Global MPI uses 10 indicators to measure poverty in three dimensions: education, health and living standards. In rural Ethiopia 96.3% are poor while in the urban area the percentage of poverty is 46.4%. Comparing the poverty rate by regions, Somali region has the highest poverty rate at 93% followed by Oromiya (91.2%) and Afar (90.9%). Amhara region has 90.1% poverty rate while Tigray has 85.4%. Addis Ababa has the smallest percentage of poverty at 20% followed by Dire Dawa at 54.9% and Harar (57.9%).

An Oxford University study to identify the multidimensionally poor in the developing world has found that in 49 countries, half of the poor are so deprived they should be classed as ‘destitute’.

The researchers’ global multidimensional poverty index or MPI measures ‘overlapping deprivations’ in health, education and living standards, with the ‘destitute’ being those who experience extreme deprivation such as having lost two children or more, having someone severely malnourished in the household, or having no assets at all.

The study says overall the situation has improved for the world’s poor due to poverty reduction programmes and economic growth; however, there is still a formidable core of extremely poor people. The largest numbers of destitute people, 420 million, were found in South Asia. In India alone, drawing on the most recent official figures available, the Oxford researchers calculate around 343 million destitute people. In sub Saharan Africa, there are around 200 million destitute people, with the highest proportion found in Niger where over two-thirds (68.8%) of the population were classed as destitute.

The study by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) also identified countries where there were improvements for poor people. Of 34 countries for which there are data, those that made the most progress in reducing destitution were Ethiopia, followed by Niger, Ghana, Bolivia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Nepal, Haiti, Bangladesh and Zambia (all low income or least developed countries except Ghana and Bolivia). In Ethiopia, the research shows that the share of destitute people shrank by 30 percentage points between 2000 and 2011.

OPHI’s Director Dr Sabina Alkire, from the Oxford Department of International Development, said: ‘There is a growing international consensus that we have to put an end to the worst forms of poverty and this should be the target for the new development agenda. While the successes of poorer countries show progress is being made, these findings show that for now, destitution – with all the grinding hardship it entails – remains a grim reality for hundreds of millions of people. Renewed efforts are needed post-2015 to ensure those in deepest poverty are not left behind.’

The global multidimensional poverty index (MPI) is unique in capturing the simultaneous disadvantages experienced by poor people, such as malnutrition, education and sanitation, providing a high-resolution lens on their lives. If people are deprived in one-third or more of ten (weighted) indicators, they are identified as MPI-poor.

In 2014, the global MPI covered a total of 108 countries which are home to 78% of the world’s population. Some 30% of them – 1.6 billion people – are identified as multidimensionally poor. Of these 1.6 billion, 85% live in rural areas, which is a markedly higher percentage than income poverty estimates of 70-75%. Most live in South Asia (52%), followed by Sub-Saharan Africa (29%), and most – 71% – live in middle income countries.

A destitute person in the new study is MPI-poor, and is also deprived in a third or more of the same weighted indicators, according to more extreme criteria: for example, where no one in the household has completed at least one year of schooling; or two or more children in the household have died.

Two-thirds of destitute people have someone at home with severe malnutrition. Some 40% of the destitute have a round trip of 45 minutes to find safe water by foot if they have access to it at all. Over 80% have a dirt floor, and more than 90% have no proper sanitation and have to relieve themselves outside, with all the vulnerability, fear and shame this entails, particularly for women.


Nile dam study fails to stem the tide of Egyptian indignation towards EthiopiaClaim and counter-claim has attended the delayed publication of a report on the likely impact of the Grand Renaissance dam

The opening sentence of Egypt’s new constitution describes the country as the river Nile’s gift to Egyptians. It is a grand claim, but one that helps explain Egypt’s indignation at the ongoing construction of a blockage on the Nile, thousands of miles upstream: the $4.7bn (£2.8bn) Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam (Gerd).

Egyptians have long maintained that Ethiopia’s dam project will dangerously deplete its water stocks – about 95% of which are derived from the world’s longest river. A year ago, a former Egyptian water official boldly claimed that the Gerd might deprive Egypt of up to 10bn kilolitres, devastating roughly a million acres of farmland along the shores of the Nile.

“Then you might cross the Nile on the back of a camel,” the former head of Egypt’s National Water Research Centre said at the time, in what were highly contested claims.

Egyptian politicians have used such claims to portray the dam as a threat to national security, and have occasionally made ambiguous statements about the possibility of military action. For their part, the Ethiopian government sees the Gerd as a crucial developmental goal – a 6,000 megawatt source of surplus electricity that they could sell to foreign countries to boost their economy.

Last month, the saga took a fresh twist after the leak of a highly anticipated and hitherto suppressed report into the long-term effects of what would be Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam. Written by two water experts from each of the three main countries concerned – Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan – as well as international advisers, the report was seen as a much needed means of arbitration between the parties concerned.

But for nearly a year the report’s contents were a mystery. After its submission last April, publication was suppressed at the request of one of the countries involved, enabling all concerned to make whatever claims they liked about its contents.

That should have changed at the end of March, when a leaked version (pdf) was finally published by the International Rivers Network (IRN), an independent group that campaigns against dams across the world. But rather than clarifying the dam’s impact once and for all, the report has become the latest pawn in a war of words between Egypt and Ethiopia.

IRN said it showed that “big questions remain” and called for a halt to the dam’s construction. But Ethiopian government spokesman Getachew Reda said the group was “absolutely biased”, and “part of the smear campaign organised by Egypt”. In the meantime, the dam’s construction continues apace.

The report is nuanced and complex, and does not try to quantify exactly the likely downstream effect of the dam on Egypt’s water supply. But its 48 pages nonetheless contain alarming findings. If the dam’s reservoirs are filled during years of average or above-average rainfall, says the report, the hydroelectric capacity of Egypt’s downstream Aswan High dam (Had) – which provides about 15% of Egypt’s power – could face a temporary 6% decrease. But if filled during years of below-average rainfall, the Gerd may “significantly impact on water supply to Egypt and cause the loss of power generation at Had for extended periods”.

Among other criticisms, the report warns that the dam’s foundations may need further structural support to protect against sliding. It also says Ethiopia has done little to assess the Gerd’s effect on local people, ecosystems and biodiversity. Based on these findings, the IRN concludes that the report “confirms Egypt’s concerns that the project’s impacts could be significant”, and calls for construction to cease pending better analysis.

Not all independent analysts share this view, however. According to Dr Ana Cascão, a researcher at the Stockholm International Water Institute whose doctoral thesis analysed hydropolitics in the Nile basin, Egypt fought for the report to be kept secret. Cascão argues the study is largely optimistic about the Gerd’s impacts – “and that’s why Egypt was not happy for it to be released”. It is critical about the dam’s social and environmental impact, she says, “but otherwise – in terms of dam safety and even in terms of water going downstream – the report is quite positive”.

This is because the Gerd may eventually help to reduce the build-up of sediment in downstream dams like the Had, increasing capacity. The Gerd will also help to keep the Nile’s flow – which presently fluctuates according to the amount of rainfall, potentially causing problems for downstream farmers even in Egypt – constant throughout the year. In terms of structural safety, Sudan – the country most endangered by any catastrophe at the Gerd – is satisfied with its construction.

Egypt’s interests may actually be aligned with Ethiopia’s, since Ethiopia will ultimately want to see as much water flow through the Gerd as possible in order to maximise hydroelectric power. It is, says Cascão, Sudan’s intentions that may instead cause the greatest long-term concern for Egypt. The Gerd would allow Sudan to siphon off more downstream water for farm irrigation, potentially allowing the republic to take more water from the Nile than allowed by an agreement signed with Egypt in 1959.

Sudan has achieved this leverage by engaging positively with the dam’s construction; Egypt’s only means of reaching a grand compromise may be through similar engagement.

But it may now be too late. According to the Ethiopian government, an army of 8,500 builders, working 24 hours a day, has already completed about 30% of the 1,800 sq km site.

Source: The Guradian

The Pitfalls of TPLF and EPLF leadership: A Retrospective Analysis

By Zerihun

When they demolished the Derg-regime in the early 1990s, through a collation of ethnic or nationalist movements, the TPLF (Tigray Liberation Front) and EPLF (Eritrean Liberation Front) (and other) political movement leaders had the impetuous dream of establishing peaceful and friendly countries through two short and long term plans. The short term plan was driven by the impulse to let Eritrea secede from Ethiopia while trying to make it legitimate in any way possible. This was facilitated through a) the characterization of “the Eritrean question” as colonialism against the existing academic consensus, and b) the immediate and formal recognition of the Eritrean independence, by the then TPLF-led Ethiopian government, despite the fact that TPLF with its coalition was not an elected Ethiopian government at the time.

The long term but furtive plan was the obstinate desire to control, for some years to come, state power in Ethiopia and Eritrea using Ethnicity and Nationalism as legitimizing ideologies. The Eritreans felling into the clutches of the EPLF can only be explained by the promotion of a nation-state style nationalist ideology by the EPLF in which ordinary Eritreans are told how they are different if not unique from other Peoples in the horn, especially from their former co-citizens, Ethiopians. And an independent Eritrean state, they were promised, would end oppression and suffering and bring prosperity, welfare, democracy and peace.

TPLF in its turn legitimized its state control in Ethiopia through ethno-nationalist ideologies characterized by contradictory political moves. On the one hand this is accomplished by marginalizing and excluding other competing ethno-nationalist movements (such as the OLF for example, which for various reasons, I do not discuss in this paper). On the other TPLF had also legitimized its power by institutionalizing what many commentators characterize as pseudo-federal state system through the practice of “encadrement” in which the elites of the various ethnic groups in the country (which are now nation, nationalities and peoples) are accorded access to state power and resources in as much as they are not subversive to the regime or power of the ruling elites.

To the dismay of some of the leaders as well as the majority ardent followers of the two parties, after almost 20 years of Eritrean independence and control of state power in Ethiopia and Eritrea, not only are they yet trying to be stable political communities, there is also no friendly or plausible political relationship between the two states. In fact the relationship between the two countries is not something they can ignore or avoid without putting in place some legal and political arrangement, that consider the geographical, cultural, historical and political relationships of the two respective populations.But it seems obvious that as pro-secessionist movements they didn’t care about the possible and future effects of creating a new state and a new boundary. In addition to the growing migration, sufferings, inequality,  the bloody war that broke out early in 1998, despite the fact that when TPLF and EPLF came to power, they arrogated to themselves the wisdom of establishing peaceful political orders was a major evidence. Not only the war claimed the lives of many human beings from both sides but also there is still a continued and erratic military raid and other incidents that show no avail.

For a neutral and critical observer the leadership of the two parties have so far preferred to avoid accountability by pointing finger on each other. The EPLF-led Eritrean leaders blame their TPLF counterparts for their failure to enforce the Algiers Agreement and the Boundary Commission ruling. The Ethiopian leaders in their part emphasize the dogmatic position upheld by the EPLF leadership and consequently adopt a policy which they think could contain and isolate Eritrea while at the same time insisting that there should be further talks before any enforcement of the ruling of the Commission. Such dispute, however, doesn’t deal with the very basis of the conflict in the first place. It rather eschews those structural questions that should have been dealt, from the very outset, by responsible and rational political leaders, who should have thought seriously not only regarding the consequences of this on the two populations, but also about their future relationship in respect to lasting regional and national peace, equality, democracy and rule of law – an important issues which is still not considered by the OLF and ONLF leaders and supporters, who romanticize secession as if it would necessarily bring peace to the region.

Looking into the current strained relationship, it is fair to argue that rather than rushing into the business of expediting Eritrean secession and controlling of state power, the TPLF-leadership, who claimed a self-ascribed moral and legal authority of “liberating Ethiopian” populations, could at least have addressed the following main issues with their EPLF counterparts. First, was Emperor Haile Selassie’s annexation of Eritrea in 1962 and the subsequent union with the Ethiopian empire-state colonialism? What was and is the consensus or suggested points regarding this by the existing majority academics? Second, how can we legally and politically maintain the interest of the two peoples, in situation of secession, in a way that doesn’t favor one at the expense of the other? Third, how can we incorporate the different (diversities of) voices of the two peoples in such processes? Fourth, does EPRDF have a legitimacy of power to facilitate and officially recognize an independent Eritrea? Does winning a war necessarily lead to peace? Howe does the position of TPLF relate to the question of Ethiopian sovereignty as a state?

Neither TPLF nor EPLF leaders had rational, pragmatic and scientifically supported explanations for such questions. They probably had already raised and discussed some of these issues. Yet it is now self-evident that like most if not all secessionist movements, they hadn’t dealt with them with the will and strong desire for conflict transformation and seeking long term peace and political stability in the region. First, there is and was an overwhelming consensus among the academics that Eritrean annexation of Eritrea was not colonialism. Second, the referendum as well as the subsequent relationship was driven by the logic of resentment and constructing/marginalizing the political others. Third, as a party not yet elected by any kind of election EPRDF had no any legal mandate to facilitate the secession of Eritrea. For example, it should have suspended the recognition and passed such issues to the responsibility of the Ethiopian people themselves. In that EPRDF didn’t protect Ethiopian sovereignty. Fourth, neither TPLF nor EPLF allowed the establishment of free civil society.

I want my readers, here to understand that by raising such questions, I am not longing for the returning to the status quo ante bellum. The main point rather, though in hindsight is to demonstrate the political mistake of the TPLF and EPLF leadership in not properly dealing with the most fundamental issues of peace and political stabilities in the region which have affected the long term relationship, political and economic interest as well as historical and cultural ties of the populations in the two countries. And this has immensely contributed to the current volatile and fragile nature of their relationship and the failure in establishing sustainable peace and security in the region.

Referring to the Eritrean case in his work entitled Nation Building, State Construction and Development in Africa, Andebrhan Welde Giorgis, recently (2010) argues that “the state in Eritrea, … has failed to provide for the needs, promote the well being, cater to the aspirations and safeguard the security of the people. It is characterized by a crisis of legitimacy, delivery and relevance.” pp. 1. “The promise to create a modern, advanced and competitive economy within two decades has failed to materialize, leaving the Eritrean economy in tatters.” pp.13. Such  statements not only clearly imply that the very reality on the ground is far from what is envisaged through secession or rather embellished by EPLF’s nationalist ideology but also indicates that the fundamental question is whether Eritrea is a viable state to its citizens without any good and friendly political, legal and economic relationship with its immediate neighbor, Ethiopia.

Regarding the Ethiopian situation, one recognized academics, J. Abbink (2009), in his recent article entitled The Ethiopian Second Republic and the Fragile ’Social Contract’, Africa Spectrum, 44, 2, wrote that – ”In post-1991 Ethiopia ethnic identities, mainly in the form of linguistic-cultural background and based on Stalin’s conception of “nationalities” (originally in his work The National Question and Marxism, 1914) were recognized politically and made the basis of regional and local administrations, to be filled by local people (often to the exclusion of so-called “non-natives” despite their job qualifications). As such this was a new answer to the problems of multi-ethnic Ethiopia, but the tensions between population groups on the national and local level were far from solved by it. Ethno-political competition emerged, also exclusionist discriminatory practices, and conflicts on power and budgets” pp. 13. The argument of Abbink clearly indicates that notwithstanding some achievements especially in respect to use of local language and economic growth, the re-configuration of the Ethiopian empire along ethnic lines has also created a fragile political order that failed to solve tension and competition among ethnic-elites contrary to what the EPRDF leaders flaunt.

One shouldn’t therefore wonder why after promoting “self-determination” through a long history of “liberation movement” and coalition of “liberation struggles”, the TPLF and EPLF “liberators” failed to create a lasting peace and stability between Eritrea and Ethiopia to the satisfaction and aspiration of their respective citizens. This is instructive as to how we should see the claims of similar parochial movements like OLF and ONLF, whose true aim is boundary marking and political closure through referendum while romanticizing  secession as a good solution, despite the fact that experience (from Somalia for example), reflects the contrary.

I argue that rather than sustainable peace and devolution of power (which should be the primary goal of any liberation movement, of course theoretically) to the Ethiopian and Eritrean populations, the main aim of the TPLF and EPLF leadership were controlling state power and achieving their eccentric objectives.  These objectives had varied natures that could be personal and collective, appealing to individual as well as group motives. In the meantime a number of unforeseen circumstances had in fact emerged and today’s situation needs a different analytical framework than stipulated here. Nevertheless, looking into the present scenario in retrospective one can conclude that both TPLF and EPLF leadership had only pursued their respective interest and motive (in a dogmatic rather than pragmatic manner) against what is plausible and common to all Ethiopians or both Ethiopians and Eritreans.

This political behavior is still evident in TPLF-leaders who use all the power at their disposal to punish or marginalize (rather than negotiate and engage) any dissent voice that doesn’t directly support or at least sympathize with what they politically or ideologically think is the only and better political idea and practice to the Ethiopian population. Similar behaviour is still observed in EPLF-leaders who resorted to a Stalinist style and tactics in order to achieve what they think is the right way to build Eritrea as a nation-state, even if that is oppressive or inimical to the long term interest of Ethiopian and Eritrean populations.

On the other hand the TPLF-led Ethiopian government now seems to have the firm stand that the only solution regarding Eritrea is negotiations which I suspect set to correct, if possible, past-mistakes by addressing any lingering issues and re-defining the future political and economic relationship between the two peoples. This has to be seen partly in the context of local demand and political mobilizations that challenges Eritrean claim of Ethiopian territory as per Algers arbitration. In its weekly publication A Week in the Horn, the Ministry of Ethiopian Foreign Affairs publish a briefing entitled “Talking, not shooting is the only choice for Eritrea” seems to imply this position by noting that “the Ethiopian Government still upholds its determination that the problems between Eritrea and Ethiopia can only be resolved through negotiations and dialogue”. http://www.mfa.gov.et/Press_Section/Week_Horn_Africa_Mar_16_2012.htm#3. Whether the two leaderships will come to a table and begin to sort out and discuss their issues to reach a rational and legal consensus regarding not only the border case, but also other vital matters that have greater implications to the lives of ordinary Ethiopians and Eritreans is not clear, at least to the near future. However, we now know for sure that the negotiation and dialogue, the EPRDF is now insisting should have been desired and pursued 20 years ago in good time and condition.

One may of course ask why the TPLF leadership failed to negotiate with the EPLF from the very outset. The evident explanation is that when they organized themselves based on ethnic and nationalist ideologies and finally were able to succeed (because of in fact different factors) in removing the Derg-regime in the early 1990s, the TPLF and EPLF-leadership either were driven primarily by sentiments of grievances and competition for political and economic resources while essentialsing lingustic differences. Moreover, they didn’t have the relevant political competence and will to foresee and negotiate for a lasting and sustainable peace considering the long term ramification of most of their political decisions on the lives of the ordinary human beings in that region.

Needless to say that the interest or foreign policy of global powers especially that of the West in general and the USA in particular had played their share directly or indirectly. Nevertheless, at the end of the day the various elites of the two parties including their ardent supporters, as the main actors and decision-makers personalities, cannot elude responsibility for the post-socialist predicament and plight of the peoples of the two countries. Any reconciliation, transformation of conflict and creating consensus should therefore consider this if there will in the future be a genuine  and pragmatic desire to move to long term peace and political settlement both within and among the two populations.

Therefore, had the leadership of the two parties were not merely motivated by grievances, competition for potical power through “oppression ideology”, they could have consulted neutral academics and all other voices or stake holders that have been subsequently and consciously marginalized and excluded from the processes of creating peace and stable political order in the two countries.  By doing this not only they could have possibly avoided the war and the current deadlock (no peace/nor war policy) but also the now anti-EPRDF and anti-TPLF forces (so called opposition groups who are also mimicking both  TPLF and EPLF) would have allied with them and share not only their right to protest but also the responsibility and burden of building and bringing peace, equality, democracy, the rule of law and development to populations of that region. In fact we could have seen a different political discourse or scenario than what we are now witnessing. Generally, what we are now experiencing between Ethiopia and Eritrea is the unforeseen and embarrassing pitfalls if not pratfalls of the elites of TPLF and EPLF leadership.