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Ethiopian Herald| Saudi Prince a 'wanna-be proxy agent' [print version]

[Note: I had published this article on this blog on Saturday, titled “Saudi Prince a ‘wanna-be proxy agent’| Ethiopian Herald“. However, since some readers in Ethiopia had difficulty accessing it, it is published here again. Thanx.]

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Last Thursday, I posted on Facebook and Twitter a screen-shot of the websiteScreen-shot of Ethiopian Herald's deleted article on Saudi Arabia of the state-owned newspaper Ethiopian Herald and remarked:

Looks like the Ethiopian gov’t is stepping-up its rhetoric against Saudi Arabia. The latest one being The Ethiopian Herald.

On Wednesday, it published an Editorial – Viewpoint, titled: “Unveiling the Saudi minister’s proxy rant on the Grand Renaissance Dam”.

Unfortunately, the link no longer works. Temporary glitch or….?

Certainly, it was not a glitch as the website published a watered-down piece, “Open Letter”, the next day – apparently to disguise curious visitors – while the previous post remained inaccessible.

Thus, I checked the print version. It was a featured opinion piece published at page-3, next to the editorial column (Thanx for the misleading setting of the website). Yet, any item on the newspaper is often deemed indicative of government position. And, that could be the reason it was removed from the website.

It is difficult which particular part of the article triggered its removal from the website. Could it be because of the following parts sentences?

“It seems he wanted to play a proxy role to the two countries. But unsuccessfully. Because, he did not nave facts on hand to substantiate all the so-called “threats” either on Sudan or Egypt.”

“Whatever the intent of this comment and the reactions it could perhaps instigate in the Nile Basin, Ethiopia’s stand to keep its national interest through peaceful and win-win means would be unshakable.”

“The dam, which is intended for the country’s broad economic advancements in its future should not be mistakenly drawn as a political weapon by those who do not have clear understanding and awareness on the reality on the ground and long-term purposes of the project as a whole.”

Or, it may be its reference to the military intervention of the Axumite King Kaleb to save Christian Arabs in present-day Yemen from a Jewish ruler. The article presented it as:

“A century before the Prophet, when Himyarite Arabs sent repeated petitions to be rescued from an oppressive ruler, Phineas, Ethiopia mounted an expeditionary force to Himyar, current day Yemen, to liberate Arabs.”

You may read the full text below.

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Unveiling the Saudi minister’s proxy rant on the Grand Renaissance Dam

The Grand Renaissance Dam is among the mega projects underway via which that the. country hopes to realize its dream to regain its renaissance. It is planned to be fully financed by the country due to lack of assistance from international donors. Now that it has become a symbol of national unity and cooperation, the construction of the dam has become a matter of making the dream “yes we can.”

The tasks undertaken so far within a short span of time witness united hands of we Ethiopians can make any thing possible. The dam’s construction could contribute a lot to bring the ancient days of Ethiopian renaissance and civilization back and inherit the future generation a better nation. It is these grand goals and purposes that help citizens boost their courage, cooperation and unity to make their mutual .dream a reality.

This national scheme has passed a number of ups and downs to reach its present stage after a couple of years. Various international opinions (both constructive and destructive) have been lingering on the air especially during the first few months of its commencement. Lately the Saudi Arabian Deputy Defence Minister, Prince Khalid Bin Sultan, tried to fire a shot and unexpected remark on the dam project. He said Ethiopia is posing a national security threat on Sudan and Egypt, on the sidelines at the occasion of the third Arab Water council held in Cairo. “Ethiopia’s power plant project, which is under construction on the Blue Nile river near the Sudanese border is intended for political plotting rather than for economic gain and constitutes. a threat to Egyptian and Sudanese national security.” The minister also added Ethiopia has ulterior motives for the dam and further cautioned the project would be particularly a menace to Egypt for 95 per cent of Egypt’s population depends on the Nile.

The intent curtailed with all the minister’s comments is baseless and seems to be a proxy rant. After all, Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with the waters of the Nile, if it does not dare to represent either Egypt or Sudan unjustly on such an issue that solely rests on these respective sovereign countries. Moreover, it is not expected from such a high official to speak on the issue while research and report on the overall effect of the dam on lower riparian countries is still underway and expected to be announced a few months later. Of course, this vividly indicates that the minister is not well aware of the overall scenarios underway on the ground.

It seems he wanted to play a proxy role to the two countries. But unsuccessfully. Because, he did not nave facts on hand to substantiate all the so-called “threats” either on Sudan or Egypt. Of course, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Ethiopia, clearly indicated that the Minister’s views are not representative of the Saudi government. His comments are disingenuous after the fact that the dam instead of flooding lower riparian states could contribute a lot in minimizing the floods especially on the swamps in Sudan. Ethiopia has made it clear, since laying down the cornerstone for the project, that the dam’s construction will not have effects on both the people of Sudan and Egypt. Moreover, the group comprising members from the three countries (Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt) and international experts is undertaking the vital task to assess the overall impact of the project. The report from this independent body of experts is expected to be unveiled till coming May.

However, such inflammatory statements are not intended to reflect the reality on the ground, rather simply to capitalize on the moment as a proxy agent to Egypt and Sudan. And the comments would not lay scars hopefully on the multilateral ties between the people and governments of Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia.

Spokesperson with the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Dina Mufti, said the Ethiopian government has requested immediate explanations on the overall intent of the deputy minister’s comments. “we can not take it as an individual opinion and his comments do not reflect our diplomatic relationship with Saudi Arabia, which is at a good state,” .Dina noted. The Ethiopian government prioritizes the interests of its people and ensuring the country’s sovereignty any time, not based on changing circumstances in diplomatic ties, he added.

Whatever the intent of this comment and the reactions it could perhaps instigate in the Nile Basin, Ethiopia’s stand to keep its national interest through peaceful and win-win means would be unshakable. The old-fashioned rhetoric of tending to dominate others who have a just right to use the waters of the Nile is unacceptable in contemporary international diplomacy and political dialogue. What is vital at the moment for the common good of the riparian states is to capitalize and work in schemes that are prepared under the Nile Basin Initiative(NBI). The construction of the dam should not need to have .any influence on the ongoing negotiations to include all riparian states under tl,e Comprehensive Framework Agreements(CFA). It is via the realization of this agreement that mutual benefit from the waters of the Nile Basin could become a reality.

All the riparian states must make up their minds to live in the 21 st century and free themselves from the rhetoric of the 19th century. Comments and opinions made either on the dam construction project or on the general use of the Nile waters should be based on the existing reality on the grounds, not on the realities of the past they were imposed by colonialism, as a historical mistake by the colonizers. It is the needs and interests on today’s dwellers in the Nile Basin that should matter most instead of the unjust needs and interests that the past has imposed on us.

The sensitive and unique allegations forwarded by the Saudi Minister do not only refer to Ethiopia, but also to other Nile Basin states who similarly have the right to use the water in fair and just manner. From this perspective it is possible to deduce that the minister has thrown his unexpected shots and rants directly on Ethiopia and indirectly on other countries of common interest.

There should be a further diplomatic effort to clear the dilemma behind the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam among some members of the international community both in neighboring and farther away. The dam, which is intended for the country’s broad economic advancements in its future should not be mistakenly drawn as a political weapon by those who do not have clear understanding and awareness on the reality on the ground and long-term purposes of the project as a whole.

Above all, Ethiopia has never-of course will never-be a threat to the Arab world. Our past glittering relations has already been canned in history books, but quite different from what the Minister puts. For instance, Ethiopia is recognized as ‘The Land of Justice’ by Prophet Mohammad, which had been well based on valid reasons. A century before the Prophet, when Himyarite Arabs sent repeated petitions to be rescued from an oppressive ruler, Phineas, Ethiopia mounted an expeditionary force to Himyar, current day Yemen, to liberate Arabs. Ethiopia did not colonize the land. Atse Kaleb, the king of Ethiopia, pulled out his forces once the mission was accomplished. When Arab infidels rejected his message of Islam and were seeking to kill him and his followers, it was Ethiopia that welcomed the Sababah of Prophet Mohammad and Islam with open arm – the Hijarat. That is why the Prophet said: “Leave Ethiopia alone!”

With no doubt, this deputy has not heard before about the issues we discussed above. And this might be an opportune moment to him to refer the Holy Qur’an as well as every history books. Hopefully, all will spectacularly prove him that Ethiopia has been always a good friend to the Arabian world.

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Source: HornAffairs.com

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Daniel Berhane
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