Egypt: Potential strategic partners for Amhara on the Nile and Lake Tana – By Haileyesus Adamu

In 2018, the Tigray ethnic minority regime in Ethiopia will finish the so-called Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Metekel, Amhara people land, and this becomes an immediate concern for the very existence of Egypt people. There are already massive dams on Nile river which were built by the current Ethiopian government. These massive dams are severely diminished the Nile river water flow. For example, the recent Tana Beles and Tis Abay dams severely damaged lake tana, the source of Blue Nile, and the Blue Nile Falls by diminishing and diverting the natural water flow from Lake Tana and the Blue Nile river. All of these massive dams built on Amhara people land by forcefully displacing millions of Amhara people and it has been affecting their livelihoods as it affects the Egyptians. Amhara people need a reliable partner in the volatile Horn Africa region in their struggle for survival and there is no better strategic partner for Amhara than Egypt.

Amharas are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia and Horn Africa. Currently, millions of Amara people have been subjected to ethnic cleansing and genocide in different parts of Ethiopia by the current Tigray ethnic minority Ethiopian government. In 1976, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that is currently ruling Ethiopia crafted its Greater Tigray Manifesto. TPLF claimed in its political program as a struggle against “Amhara and imperialism” and labeled the Amharas as staunch enemies of the Tigray people. During the last 27 years, the ruling Ethiopian government and its cohorts have committed various gruesome human rights violations against members of the Amhara (Amara) ethnic group in Ethiopia. Due to these atrocities and ethnic cleansing, thousands of Amhara people are fleeing their home country.

The Amhara people and organizations should take into account the geopolitics and ethnic politics of Horn Africa in their foreign policy decisions and considerations. For instance, the Sudanese government is currently working with the Ethiopian government and its foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour recent statement reflects this close working relationship with them. On the other front, the current Eritrean government has a conflict with Tigray minority Ethiopian government due to economic and border issues but both of them are from the same Tigray-Tigrinya ethnic group. So, for Amhara, it is crucial to find reliable partners from the region who shares common interests.

What about Egypt?

Egypt is the most populous Arab country. The Amhara people have a long historic relationship with Egypt people. They are bonded together by the Nile river and both of these people drink the same Nile water for generations. The Nile and water security issues have been Egypt’s main national security concern for a long period of time. As you already know, the Ethiopia government has been built different dams on Nile river. All of these dams and all parts of Blue Nile are located on the Amhara people land. In fact, the main and the only stakeholders of Blue Nile river in Ethiopia are the Amharas. The impact of these massive dams on Nile river is catastrophically dangerous for Egypt water security and have resulted in forced displacement and destruction of millions of Amharas livelihoods. For example, the massive Tana Beles hydroelectric dam and associated land grabs for sugar plantations on the Nile river and Lake Tana threaten both the livelihood of the Amhara and Egyptian people who are closely linked with the river and the lake. The same is true with regards to Tis Abay I and II dams on the Nile river. Due to these poorly planned projects, Lake Tana in Ethiopia has been massively affected by the invasive weed, water hyacinth. Ecosystems of Lake Tana are being degraded through the high pressure on natural resources. Lake Tana is the source of Blue Nile and if it drys, it will threaten the existence of Blue Nile. Richard Banges, the author of ”Stealing the Nile: Famous Falls no more”, described the action of the Ethiopian government on the Blue Nile as a crime against nature. So the Amhara and Egyptian people who live in the Lake Tana and Nile river region faces imminent danger of destruction from these massive dams and plantation on Blue Nile river and Lake Tana. Avoiding massive hydroelectric and sugar plantation dam on the Blue Nile river and lake Tana is in the best interest of both Amhara and Egyptian people. Recently, there is an opinion shift among Amhara people towards Egypt and there is an interest to work together with the Egyptian government on the protection of Nile and Lake Tana ecosystem. In fact, Egypt is the best partners for the indigenous Amhara people to maintain and protect the ecosystem and natural flow of Lake Tana and Nile river.

In conclusion, the Amharas need reliable partners in their struggle for survival and Egyptians have limited options on GERD. For Egypt, so far, diplomacy doesn’t bring any solution. Even though the Egypt government insists that all options are on the table, a direct military strike will be difficult and it will draw international condemnation and isolation across the African continent and around the world. So the best and effective way for the Egypt government to maintain its national water security interest is to directly cooperate and work together with the Amhara peoples. The Amhara people are on the same side with Egyptian people and government on the issue of Nile river. The Egyptian government can show a good gesture and express their interest to work with the Amharas by providing technical support and machines to remove the invasive water invasive weeds ( ”Emboch” in Amharic) from Lake Tana and Blue Nile river. In addition, supporting and working closely with the Amhara NGOs for these common interests will be a good start. Such actions will send a strong message to the Ethiopian government and be having the support of the indigenous Amhara people will solidify Egypt Nile water position on the international stage. The Amharas are the only stakeholder of Blue Nile in Ethiopia and they can directly negotiate with other Nile basin countries such as Egypt by establishing Amhara Nile and Tana Commission to secure their interests.

Haileyesus Adamu (Founder and editor in chief of Amhara Network, Researcher & Public Health specialist, Former Lecturer in Jimma University, Ethiopia; currently lives in exile in Sweden. Contact email:haileeysusadamu@ymail.com)

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