September 04, 2020 (GMN) - News reports that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has approved a plan to stop $100 million in U.S. foreign aid to Ethiopia, because of the country’s ongoing dispute with Egypt and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD), finally confirmed what we all knew from the beginning, that the U.S. has never been an impartial mediator in this conflict and instead fully supportive of Egypt.
With this action, the Trump administration, under the leadership of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (not the State Department), has fulfilled the request made last year by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, in essence, urging President Trump to assist them. This is unfortunate and unjust, and the U.S. Congress must intervene, investigate, and fully restore aid to Ethiopia.
Cross-boundary water-sharing agreements are thorny issues that are not easily sorted out. It takes good faith and cooperation from all sides to eke out a win-win solution. The conflict between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan has been exacerbated by external interventions, especially the U.S. government.
This is a conflict mainly between two founding members of the African Union (AU), Ethiopia, and Egypt. The AU has a Peace and Security Council that serves as “the standing decision-making organ of the AU for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflicts and is the key pillar of the African Peace and Security Architecture that is the framework for promoting peace, security, and stability in Africa.” This U.S. action is aimed at undermining the ongoing negotiations under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and the current AU Chairperson.
To top it off, in a tweet a few months ago, the World Bank President David R. Malpass let it be known that he has spoken: “with Ethiopian PM @AbiyAhmedAli on recent @WorldBank financing approvals important to unifying Ethiopia and its neighbor’s ability to sustain constructive dialogue + cooperation on water sharing.” To my knowledge, no statement was issued to tie the World Bank’s financial support to Egypt with its cooperation (or lack thereof) on water sharing with Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is a reliable and very stable democratic ally of the U.S. on many vital fronts and should be treated with respect and dignity.
History will judge the U.S. government and the World Bank’s unjust intervention to deny 110 million Ethiopians an “equitable and reasonable” share of the Nile River for their development needs. This is nothing short of condemning a black African nation and her population to abject and perpetual poverty. No one should condemn Egypt to suffer unduly, considering that 97 percent of its population depends on the Nile River. Justice requires treating both nations and they're over 200 million people fairly with justice the result on both sides.
Looking at the World Bank data on electric power consumption (kilowatt per capita) shows how much Ethiopia needs the GERD. In 2014, the most recent year for which World Bank data is available, the average for the world per capita electric power consumption is 3133 kilowatts. The figure for Egypt is 1683. For Ethiopia, it is a mere 69 (sixty-nine). A former World Bank Deputy Global Manager, Yonas Biru, wondered how Ethiopia could survive with next to nothing-electric power, in a recent article in Addis Fortune.
His answer was as revealing as it is saddening. “The nation rides on the shoulders and backs of women. From cradle to grave, women carry Ethiopia on their backs, literally. Girls are condemned to fetching water from miles away rather than going to school. Their mothers travel just as far and spend just as much time collecting firewood.”
The GERD, Biru said, signifies “the emancipation of Ethiopian women. The interventions by Egypt, the Arab League, the World Bank, and the U.S. to delay and scale back the GERD is a setback for women. It is a revocation of the emancipation of Ethiopian girls and women.”
Ethiopia, one of the poorest black African nations, is standing alone against the mighty forces of the U.S. and the World Bank. Befitting of its history, Ethiopia remains unflinching with its indomitable sovereignty and unwavering spirit with its trust in what its people call “Ethiopia’s God.”
The World Bank’s professed dream is “A World Free of Poverty.” It behooves me to ask if Ethiopia, too, is in the Bank’s dream. The World Bank board of directors needs to explain to over 50 million girls and women in Ethiopia why the World Bank stands against their economic emancipation.