Mending the Wall of Disconnection

Tayitu 14th


This week has seen the Ethiopian Public Diplomacy Delegation, the first of its kind comprising more than 70 renowned personalities from all walks of life, visiting Cairo.

The delegation is meeting Egyptian officials and peoples sticking to the theme of narrowing the distance between the two peoples, broadening the cooperation fields as well as re-activating the historic friendship and long-standing contacts that have existed between the two nations since time immemorial.

What is quite telling is that this visit or the making of diplomacy public by Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs embodies the essence of the re-definition of Ethio-Egyptian people-to-people ties with the strong belief that shared interests far outweigh differences. It is also the resumption of the other civilizational and historic contacts for mutual development of the two peoples.

Sadly, to the dismay of the peoples of the two ancient countries, the Nasserites, basking in the halo of Arab nationalism and the cultivation of Pan-Islamic Arab identity, centered their hydro-political machine at capitalizing on the disconnection through, according to Professor Haggai, the construction of Aswan High Dam, which aimed at delinking the Nile from Lake Tana, as well as the break-up of Ethio-Coptic ties. The Pan-Islamic Arab narrative, according to Professor Haggai, cemented the myth of Somalia’s and Eritrea’s Arabism to merely extend Egypt’s exclusive usage of the Nile. That partly resulted in the break-up of Eritrea from Ethiopia and the current unfortunate state of affairs of Somalia.

Today’s Ethiopia and Egypt have undergone several changes. After testing the severity of falling behind in the making of prosperity and re-examining its failures for external and internal security threats, Ethiopia has, on the basis of re-orienting and re-fashioning its domestic and foreign policies, become an emerging hub of hydroelectricity trade and internal infrastructure development in the region aiming at changing the course of the road to indignity, fragility and collapse into Ethiopian and African Renaissance. The construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) becomes an arresting sign of Ethiopia’s commitment to the de-carbonization of the region’s energy system, the transformation of the structure of the economies of the region through this clean energy as well as the way out from the Malthusian pessimist narrative of water-wars and resource curse.

Happily, Ethiopia is now deploying its public diplomacy to tell the Egyptian population that Cairo and Addis Ababa have a myriad of bonds that need to be revamped and enriched and should go beyond the River Nile. Indeed, Ethiopia’s public diplomacy delegation aims to abandon the specter of inheriting the past negative legacies of geo-political rivalry, militarization and securitization of conflicts and the Nile. It is meant to reiterate that the Malthusian narratives of water-wars and other debilitating pessimist rhetoric have no place in the praxis and formulation of both countries’ hydro-political and regional security architecture.

Ushering in a new era of friendship and practical cooperation, on the basis of science and evidence than myth and uncorroborated fear and mistrust, is at the heart of this visit for greater progress of the two peoples. Indeed, Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, Tedros Adhanom (PhD), in a session held on December 15 with the delegation, underscored that the visit was monumental in “conveying Ethiopians desire for mutual growth, strong bond and genuine cooperation.” He also underlined that the delegation’s visit was suggestive of the strong desire for the elevation of “the positive momentum between the leadership of the two countries as exemplified in the resumption of the tripartite talk over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the successful Joint Ministerial Commission held in Addis Ababa” recently into new heights.

The making of Ethiopia’s public diplomacy knocks the door of connection than Nassir’s disconnection to concretize the late Ethiopian Poet, Hailu Gebre-Yohannis’ vision of the Nile: We shall seek solution in unity and cooperation, /We shall get the knowledge; the method, and the system, /To be able to use it in peaceful cooperation, /Unless we take it seriously, /Unless we can use it in unity, /An African wealth-such as the Nile, /… continues to live taking of our worthlessness. This historic opportunity of connection through the deployment of public diplomacy centering people at its heart should jointly be seized by all and it should not slip away. This can only mend the wall of disconnection enshrined by myopic strategist, politicians and media personnel.

Ethio-Egyptian people-to-people exchanges through the employment of a public diplomacy team are timely as well as foundations to promote a sense of community of common destiny. The continuity of such exchanges need to scaled up across the Nile Basin region to make An African wealth-such as the Nile- a source of strength, trust, sustenance and a defining element of all the peoples’ future. It will surely go beyond this treasure and tap all cooperation potentials. This positive step ought to be emulated by Nile Basin countries to safeguard the fundamental interests of all peoples. Given Ethiopia’s new vision and leadership on the win-win management and usage of the Nile River as well as the harmonization of the interaction among economic growth, ecological protection and political stability, it ought to deploy its public diplomacy delegation as a bridge-builder between the lower and upper riparian countries to demonstrate its vision, regional cooperative hydro-diplomacy and sustainable security architecture. This will set the stage for a secure, stable and harmonious region.

Ed.’s Note: Nurye Yassin is a researcher on African and Middle Eastern affairs. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter.

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