When Ethiopia refused to accept the proposed deal crafted by Egypt, Donald Trump suggested Egypt should bomb the dam if Ethiopia proceeds without his proposed agreement.
Texans and other Americans suffered due to the power outages, rolling blackouts, discomfort, and tragedies from freezing weather. Millions of Texans and others lost their electricity and water due to a frigid weather that accompanied a huge winter storm.
Unfortunately, millions of people in other countries live in permanent blackouts and discomfort that are beyond description. One of those countries is Ethiopia, where 60% of the population of 115 million has no electricity. The rest suffer serious blackouts lasting days or hours. Most countries have no way of changing their predicament. Ethiopia is one of the few with a plan to change that longstanding suffering. This, however, depends on the completion of a controversial dam being built on the Blue Nile or Abay River, often referred as the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD}. The Abay River contributes the biggest share of the water needs of Egypt and Sudan. Egypt and Sudan do not want Ethiopia to build the dam or engage in any activity affecting the flow of the river, as this may have a potentially adverse impact on their share of the water.
Donald Trump’s Disastrous Mediation
In retrospect, the role of former president Donald Trump as a mediator to resolve the dispute between Ethiopia and the two upstream countries was a disaster. Donald Trump decided to become a mediator among Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt, as a favor to Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and to help him win the Nobel Prize for Peace. Trump referred to General Al Sisi as “his favorite dictator,” who supposedly helped Trump in his 2016 bid for president with a $10 million donation.
When Ethiopia refused to accept the proposed deal crafted by Egypt, Donald Trump suggested Egypt should bomb the dam if Ethiopia proceeds without his proposed agreement. Moreover, Donald Trump froze all economic aid to Ethiopia as long as Ethiopia does not sign the agreement which was almost gave the veto power to Egypt on the filling and the management of the dam (Biden de-link-AID-to-Dam). Many believed this stance by the U.S. would embolden Egypt to go to war against Ethiopia.
According to Tom Campbell, professor of economics at Chapman University, Ethiopia successfully managed to keep outside interference in the negotiation between the parties. It only accepted U.S. mediation thinking that the U.S. was a neutral party and a friend of Ethiopia.
General Al-Sisi enjoyed President Trump’s support despite engaging in egregious human rights violations in his own country, declaring himself as “president for life”, and overthrowing a democratically elected government. Last year, Egypt received $1.42 billion—a substantial increase from previous years. Egypt has garnered over $81 billion in foreign aid from U.S. taxpayers’ money since 1946. Some of the funds are used to purchase Russian arms, oppress civil society, put puppets regimes in the Horn of Africa or destabilize non-cooperating states in that part of Africa.
Although the Ethiopian dam is designed to produce power, not irrigation, Egypt is still apprehensive of its consequences. Consequently, Egypt is using domestic and foreign proxies, to destabilize and to thwart any development efforts in Ethiopia. Egypt was given a monopoly by Britain that ruled Egypt as a protectorate from 1882-1956. The British colonial treaty signed in 1929 excluded Ethiopia and gave virtual control over the Nile River to Egypt, even though the Blue Nile originates in Ethiopia supplying 86% of the water. Another British treaty in 1959 between Sudan and Egypt assigned 55.5 billion cubic meters of the river flow to Egypt and 18.5 billion to Sudan, but none to Ethiopia or other downstream states. Egypt is using diplomatic, military and economic pressure on Ethiopia to derail the completion of the dam. It is indirectly supporting Sudan’s invasion of Western Ethiopia and is accused of plotting with the Tigrayan People’s liberation Front (TPLF) on the 3rd of November, 2020 to overthrow the reformist government in Addis Ababa, led by Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed.
In the meantime, most Ethiopians continue to suffer from lack of access to water and electricity. Furthermore, without electricity, Ethiopia cannot escape its current predicament, nor grow its economy, or even end its recurring famine and abject poverty. Ethiopia, despite its needs for power, was unable to secure financing from the World Bank and other financial institutions because of Egyptian opposition to such financing by putting undue pressure on these institutions, and so Ethiopia had to rely totally on internal financing to build the dam. Now, Egypt and Sudan are threatening Ethiopia with an invasion or sabotage if it proceeds with the completion and filling of the dam without their approval or an agreement favorable to their own water supplies. This comes in total denial of Ethiopia’s entitlement to use the Blue Nile for its development to overcome poverty and famine, to which the country has been subjected for many decades.
The U.S. role in expanding access to water and electricity is critical for humanitarian reason and to promote stability around the world. It should also serve as an impartial mediator to solve world conflicts when needed. In Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia, the majority of the people lack access to electricity, others suffer outages, and rolling blackout without any end in sight. In countries like Ethiopia, water is scarce and dirty, and increasing child mortality and high incidence of death from water borne diseases occur regularly. Electricity is another scarce commodity that forces mothers and young girls to fetch wood in the forest to make a living and to help them cook their food with carbon monoxide, smokes and ashes enveloping their faces. Consequently, accidental carbon dioxide related death are common. This excruciating life experience is common and pervasive throughout the developing world; however, this is not by any means to minimize the suffering and deaths that took place in Texas and other states which could have been avoided with proper planning and preparation.
This, I believe, starts with being sensitive to climate change, scarce resources, such as water, electricity and other essentials of living that could create havoc unless managed carefully by setting aside greed, ideological and political differences.