When optimism replaces concern
By the Gazette Editorial Board
During his first visit to Cairo early this week, the new Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed Ali swore not to affect Egypt’s share of the Nile. He even promised to work with Egypt's government to increase Egypt's quota of the Nile waters to meet the country’s growing demands.
In fact, Dr Abiy did not need to make a pledge before God to reassure Egyptians about their share of the Nile. The Egyptians: officials and people, felt they could trust the new Ethiopian prime minister when they heard him addressing the joint press conference held in Cairo on Sunday with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.
Dr Abiy said that his strategy towards all his African neighbours was to be built on co-operation rather than conflict. He noted that for 100 years, some African countries had been plotting against each other in a way that served no one. He noted that we gained nothing out of these plots and conflicts. Thus, it was time to co-operate and to eliminate all the reasons for conflict between African countries.
When he promised that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) would cause no harm to the Egyptian people and their rightful share of the river, the Egyptians believed him and hoped that the two governments would succeed in co-operating in every field, making the most of the fraternal relations between the two African nations and their great human and natural resources.
President Sisi confirmed Ethiopia's right to implement projects to ensure its development. While declaring that the River Nile was a matter of life and death for Egyptians, President Sisi promised to work sincerely to promote co-operation in all fields. He also promised to activate an accord that Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan had signed in the past, to create a fund to finance infrastructure projects in the three states.
Since taking office in 2014, Sisi has resorted to dialogue and diplomacy to settle the conflict over the GERD, the biggest dam in Africa, and has rejected all calls to refer the issue to an international body that would settle it and secure Egypt's historic rights in the river. Sisi has said he was totally convinced that the project should be turned into a reason for co-operation by the three nations and a trigger for their development, rather than be a cause for dispute and enmity.
However, the repeated impasse in the tripartite talks at the level of technicians and ministers roused the concern and despair of the Egyptian people over the three years that followed the signing of the Khartoum Declaration of Principles. However, now with Dr Abiy, the Egyptians have begun to feel optimistic about the future. Since taking up office in April, Dr Abiy has adopted a clear strategy of fostering good ties with his neighbours and achieving his country's development without harming the interests and future of others.
It is to be hoped that the friendly climate that prevailed in the two countries after Dr Abiy's visit to Cairo and before that to Khartoum last month,will soon lead to the signing of an accord to regulate the operation of the GERD and turn good intentions into action.