Ethiopia: The Threatened Egyptian Dirty War


June 28, 2013: U.S. diplomats are trying to ease tensions between Ethiopia and Egypt. Egyptian politicians were caught on live microphones discussing ways to stop Ethiopia’s Nile River dam projects. The options discussed included covert military attacks and supporting rebel groups –in other words, the Egyptians were vetting war options. The U.S. has proposed that Ethiopia and Egypt establish a joint working group to examine the impact of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The U.S. has urged Ethiopia to minimize the impact of the dam on downstream nations. The Egyptian leaders were initially embarrassed but they discovered that the Egyptian people rally around the Nile. Despite its own numerous internal troubles, the Egyptian government has continued to threaten Ethiopia should Ethiopia fail to suspend dam construction. Egypt has diplomatic and political power. However, threatening Ethiopia with covert attack invites retaliation by Ethiopia, and at the moment Egypt is far less stable than Ethiopia. Egypt lacks the logistical capacity and long-range strike weapons to conduct a sustained military operation. Conceivably they could use the Nile River as a supply line, but barges on the river would be very susceptible to interdiction by air attack, mines, or other forms of interdiction. (Austin Bay)

June 23, 2013: Ethiopia said that Egypt’s claims of a dooms-day reduction in the flow of the Nile River due to the GERD are absurd allegations. Ethiopia has consistently stated that filling the reservoir behind the Grande Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will take five to six years. Ethiopian government engineers contend that during this process the flow rate of the Nile River not be reduced to any degree that Egyptians will even notice it. The Ethiopian reservoir will hold 74 million cubic meters of water. One of the diplomatic options for resolving the row between Ethiopia and Egypt is for Ethiopia to agree to take 10 or 11 years to fill the reservoir. (Austin Bay)

June 21, 2013: The head of Egypt's National Water Research Centre claimed that Ethiopia could reduce the flow of the Nile river water to Egypt by ten billion kilo-liters a year. He also claimed that every one billion kilo-liter reduction will take around 200,000 acres of farm land out of production. According to Egyptian figures, Egypt already suffers from a water deficit of around ten billion kilo-liters a year. The research center recently reported that Ethiopia’s dams could lower the river level and make upstream water ferry travel more difficult. Ethiopia rejects these claims as inaccurate and simply more Egyptian propaganda.

June 20, 2013: The U.S. State Department reported that so far Ethiopia has managed a successful transfer of power following the August 2012, death of long-serving leader Meles Zenawi. Ethiopia’s economy has averaged a ten percent increase in GDP every year for the last five years. The U.S. and Ethiopia cooperate in numerous areas, to include supporting several on-going African Union security operations in Africa. At the moment the one serious problem in the Ethiopia-U.S. bilateral relationship is what the State Department called Ethiopia’s “weak human rights record.” Very bad human rights record is more accurate but diplomats must be diplomatic.

June 17, 2013: For several decades the Kenyan military (Kenyan Defense Forces, KDF) has relied on the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK) for assistance in training. The British training cadre maintains a training facility in the town of Nanyuki. BATUK has also served as a liaison unit to facilitate training exercises with British forces and the KDF. Recently the KDF acknowledged that the training cadre had helped prepare Kenyan forces for their operation in Somalia. Implicit in the statement was that the training was high quality and it produced good results in the field. Kenya is not the first former British colony to recognize the benefit of British military training methods. Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and South Africa are all former British colonies and all rank high on the UN’s list of quality forces for peacekeeping missions.

June 13, 2013: The Ethiopian parliament approved a new Nile Water rights agreement which reduces Egypt’s traditional allotment if Nile River water. Six upstream Nile River basin countries support the agreement. Of course Egypt is not a party to the new agreement. Ethiopia’s parliament was really mocking the Egyptian government’s threats to retaliate against Ethiopia’s new dams. Ethiopian diplomats pointed out that for over ten years Ethiopia has been asking Egypt to participate in Nile River water discussions and Egypt has refused.

June 12, 2013: A senior Egyptian defense official stated that the escalating disagreement between his country and Ethiopia over Nile River water flow “is not a military issue at this stage.”

June 11, 2013: The Ethiopian government refused to stop work on any of its new dam projects. Ethiopia accused Egypt of making irresponsible threats.

June 10, 2013: Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi said that he does not want to go to war with Ethiopia but unless Ethiopia suspends its dam construction projects Egypt will consider “all options.” The Ethiopian government issued an immediate reply and said that Ethiopia is prepared to defend the new Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

June 9, 2013: Egypt rejected Ethiopia’s rejection of the Egyptian demand that Ethiopia cease construction of its major Blue Nile dam projects. The government of Egypt said that Egypt will never give up a single drop of Nile River water. The Egyptian government declared that it has a plan of action. However, Egypt is willing to talk with Ethiopia.

June 8, 2013: Residents of the Somali seaport of Kismayo reported that a major firefight occurred between the Ras Kamboni militia and a local militia. The Ras Kamboni militia is an ally of the Kenyan Defense Forces (Kenya Army) which are still the primary peacekeeping force in Kismayo. The Ras Kamboni are loyal to Ahmed Madobe who recently declared himself president of southern Jubaland. The Somali government is concerned that Madobe will turn Jubaland into a semi-autonomous state.

June 7, 2013: Ethiopia rejected Egyptian demands that it cease construction of its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project on the Blue Nile River. The government said that Egypt’s complaints about the dam were not based on scientific evidence. Ethiopia also contended that Egypt lacks a coherent policy regarding Nile River water rights. A government spokesman accused the former Egyptian government led by Hosni Mubarak of supporting Ethiopian rebel groups and claimed that Mubarak’s attempts to destabilize Ethiopia had failed.

June 6, 2013: The United Kingdom announced that it will compensate five thousand Kenyans for their suffering during the 1950s Mau Mau rebellion. The individuals compensated were held in detention camps. Many were abused and several claimed they were tortured by British colonial authorities. The British compensation offer is an attempt to settle a variety of claims, some of which have been in litigation for years. UK attorneys made the argument that the independent (since 1963) Kenyan government had taken over responsibilities for the colonial government and it should be liable for any damage claims. In November 2012, claimants produced official files that documented attempts by colonial security officials to cover up the March 1959 Hola detention camp incident. At Hola 11 prisoners were beaten to death. No prison official was ever properly investigated or held responsible for the murders. The UK decided to pay the damage claims. Each claimant will receive around $3,900. The Mau Mau rebellion was a complex insurgency. The number of people who died during the rebellion is disputed. 10,000 is a common figure. The rebellion began in 1952 and ended in 1960.

June 5, 2013: The Egyptian government demanded that Ethiopia stop construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile. The demand amounts to doubling down. After an open microphone caught senior Egyptian leaders discussing covert actions against Ethiopia, Egypt was initially embarrassed. However, protecting the Nile has proved to be a domestic political issue that unites most Egyptians.

June 4, 2013: A senior aide of Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi has apologized for one of the most public diplomatic and political mistakes committed by anyone in recent years. The aide neglected to tell politicians meeting with President Morsi to discuss Ethiopia’s Blue Nile River dam projects that the meeting was being broadcast live on state television. At the meeting several participants, unaware that the world was watching and listening, openly suggested ways for Egypt to sabotage Ethiopia’s dams, in particular the $4.2 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The GERD is about 15 kilometers from the Ethiopia-Sudan border. The president and the politicians were discussing a report by the tripartite Egypt-Sudan-Ethiopia commission analyzing the impact of Ethiopia's dam project and its decision to divert the Blue Nile River. Ethiopia has already partially diverted the Blue Nile at the site of the GERD. One political leader, Yunis Makhyun, a member of the Islamist fundamentalist Nur Party, called the GERD a strategic threat to Egypt. He thought the Egyptian government should consider supporting an Ethiopian rebel group, in order to pressure the Ethiopian government. Ayman Nour, a member of the liberal-secular Ghad Party, suggested Egypt buy or circulate rumors that it will buy new military aircraft (implying ne strike aircraft that could hit the dam). He speculated that this would put political pressure on Ethiopia. He also said that Egyptian political, military, and intelligence personnel might be sent to Ethiopia to “intervene” in Ethiopian domestic politics. Egypt claims 87 percent of the Nile River’s water. The legal basis of this claim is a 1929 colonial-era agreement. In 1959 the Nasser government reiterated this claim. Egypt claims the right to veto upstream river projects. Ethiopia says it was not a party to the 1929 agreement.  Since the public vetting of these belligerent options, the Egyptian government has stated that none of the recommendations, suggestions, or speculations by the political leaders at the meeting are Egyptian government policy. (Austin Bay)

June 3, 2013: The Kenyan military will acquire unmanned aerial aircraft (UAVs) for use in surveillance missions. The military said that it has sought advice and assistance from both the U.S. and Japan. The military will use the drones to support military missions, but the government will also employ them in a variety of paramilitary security missions. One of the key UAV missions is monitoring light weapons smuggling. The national police also need help in monitoring tribal raiders who cross Kenya’s northern border from South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Cattle raids continue to be a major problem in northern Kenya. The UAVs can also be used for game preserve protection, to monitor wild animal herds and to look for poachers.

June 2, 2013: 10,000 Ethiopian political demonstrators marched in the capital, Addis Ababa. Most of the demonstrators were from opposition political parties. The demonstrators demanded that the government respect the constitution. They also demanded that the government release political prisoners. Authorities said it was the largest anti-government demonstration held in the country since the 2005 election. Street violence in that disputed election left over 200 people dead. The demonstrators accused the government of suppressing dissent. Ethiopia’s parliament has 547 members. Only one current member of parliament represents an opposition party.


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