04 November 2013

Noise from an Ethiopian Ex-patriot in DC Misses the Mark

I hesitate to repost this inflammatory article I read on the politics of Ethiopia and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam from a friend's page. So I will link it, but not repost it. The arguments - very long - put forth in this article are well expressed, but not fair or complete in their political assessment.

The author begins by citing the statement that Ethiopian PM Haile Mariam is attributed with - that the GERD will not only be an Ethiopian dam, but welcome to Sudan and Egypt to be involved in the project. This attitude of cooperation is one that wins the day - and has in so many other instances of shared rivers around the world. Why is cooperation receiving criticism?

When there is a river that is shared across international boundaries, the use of that river must be cooperative and jointly managed. Otherwise common people suffer - not to mention the relations of those neighboring governments. Offering the Renaissance dam up as a platform for peace and cooperation is brilliant. I have not found a news article quoting the Ethiopian PM in this regard. Joint ownership is a way to have neighboring countries vested in the project, as well as allows for multi-use of the infrastructure. This certainly DOES NOT threaten the sovereignty or integrity of Ethiopia, and this avenue of argument, not unfamiliar, is indeed outdated. In fact, if true, it demonstrates forward thinking that should be considered an example for other countries looking to develop transboundary freshwater resources.

The author in this text clearly does not see the Renaissance Dam as a mark of modernity in Ethiopia, but some mark of political vitality or end to it. I have seen today quite a few articles speculating the integrity of Ethiopia in this whole endeavor. I still reserve judgement. How can one judge the desire of a nation to do something about issues of poverty and underdevelopment? It is not at the cost of downstream neighbors - the expertise on the dam are not in question - neither the resulting analysis of the review done recently on downstream impacts. The fact that the governments of the 3 countries are meeting to discuss, rather than sending military to the front lines to force change, speaks in itself. Maturity in politics is something perhaps countries like my own - the USA - could certainly learn from.

Patience and reserve of judgement, and possible international support, is key.