Egypt’s threats towards Ethiopia and its Grand Renaissance dam project on the Blue Nile seem to be backfiring on all sides. On 3rd June, President Morsi, beset by growing internal problems, had a clever idea. His government would drum up an external threat, and call for internal unity. He invited leading Egyptian politicians to a meeting to discuss the issue of Ethiopia’s “diversion” of the Blue Nile – the source of most of Egypt’s water. Never mind that the supposed “diversion” was simply a temporary rerouting of the river by some 500 meters from its normal channel. President Morsi called the meeting to review the impact of the dam (if any) on Egypt’s water supply. Strangely enough, he failed to inform the politicians that their meeting was being broadcast live on TV, which encouraged them to engage in a favourite pastime – the repetition old myths of their ownership of the Nile waters and willingness to fight for Egypt’s right to control them. He may have also failed to inform his politicians that three days earlier an independent panel of experts (including members from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan) had reported the findings of a yearlong study, that the hydropower dam […]
Egypt/Ethiopia: There will be no water war in the Nile Basin because no one can afford it – By Seifulaziz Milas
The comedy started last Monday when the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi invited leading politicians to discuss the report of a tri-partite Egypt-Ethiopia-Sudan commission. The commission had recently conducted a one year study on Ethiopia’s plan to build a hydropower dam on the Blue Nile; the source of most of the water reaching Egypt and Sudan. Some three days earlier the commission had reported that the hydropower dam would not significantly reduce the flow of water to the downstream countries. This coincided with a report that Ethiopia had diverted the flow of the Blue Nile (by some five hundred meters from its normal channel) as part of the process of construction of its $4.2bn Grand Renaissance hydropower dam, now about 20 percent complete. This provided the occasion for the politicians to engage in one of their favorite pastimes: repeating time-worn myths about the river Nile, their ownership of it and their readiness to fight over control of its waters. An aide to President Morsi later apologised for failing to inform the politicians that they were live on air, which allowed viewers to watch them discuss plans to sabotage the dam and undertake a variety of other hostile acts against Ethiopia. The […]
For the next and final round of presidential elections, Egyptians are being asked to choose between an Islamic or military dictatorship both claiming legitimacy through the ballot box. Egypt may be following one set of democratic procedures, but it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a transition to democracy, irrespective of who becomes the next President. Elections are only one element of democracy, and to reduce democratic practice to what happens at the polling station is highly problematic. We need to ask ourselves what the conditions are that have influenced people’s choices? And to what extent did these restrictive conditions influence their choices? Have they been offered money or in-kind goods for their vote? Have they been given misinformation that amounts to deception about the different candidates? To what extent are people being mobilized along religious lines? Are you on God’s side or not? How did Egypt end up with such a polarized scenario, caught between an old decadent rock and a very hard place? What went wrong? For the revolutionaries, the fact that Egyptians voted in such large numbers for Shafik (a former senior commander in the Air Force) is an insult to the revolution, and conspiracy […]
The following editorial was first published as Solidarity Peace Trust: Zimbabwe Update No.1. March 2011. The effects of the events in North Africa on Zimbabwean Politics. Given the economic and political convulsions that have marked Zimbabwean politics for the last decade, it is not surprising that the momentous events in North Africa have been imported and constructed in contested ways by the major political players in Zimbabwe. With the Zimbabwean landscape torn by the polemical rupture between the redistributive language of the ruling party Zanu PF that has monopolized the legacy of the liberation struggle, and the opposition MDCs and civic movement that were formatively shaped by the politics of human rights and constitutionalism from the 1990’s, the complex events of the Maghreb have resonated differently within Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s Zanu PF have responded with a combination of renewed coercion of opposition and civic leaders, and combined this with the launch of their campaign for the next election which could take place in either 2011 or 2012. Soon after the events in Tunisia and Egypt, Zanu PF organized a form of pre-emptive demonstrations and violence demanding a greater indigenization of the economy. This action and its accompanying demand need to be […]
By Hein Willemse In the weeks following the uprisings that brought about regime change in Tunisia and Egypt several local social commentators predicted that in the not too distant future the South African government might face similar expressions of popular disenchantment. Even Pravin Gordhan, the usually sanguine Finance Minister, warned that the country could face widespread upheaval, “North Africa is about allowing inequalities to grow, allowing joblessness to grow. It is about a state that hasn’t actually performed, about a minority that accumulates things for itself. If you want to follow that path for the next 20 years, we’ll end up like North Africa.” These dire predictions prompted President Jacob Zuma to quell such speculation “There will never be uprisings in this country because our [independent oversight] institutions are working.” Rather than addressing matters of economic discontent alluded to by Gordhan and other commentators the President had chosen to highlight the autocratic nature of the North African regimes. It was a deft shimmy on his part, for South Africa has evolved into a vibrant, if uneven, democratic state and in that respect, is unlike the autocracies up north. Neither Zuma nor his detractors are clairvoyant, but this spat points to […]
Tunisia and the ousting of Ben Ali came first – beginning in December 2010 and reaching a high-point when the President stepped down in January 2011.
The collapse of one of North Africa’s longest-serving rulers – Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia – sent shockwaves through the Arab world and triggered an uprising of equivalent proportions in Egypt, the most populous Arab country. The revolts, which have been on an unprecedented scale, have surprised many and prompted widespread speculation over a possible ‘domino effect’, as a result of which successive authoritarian regimes fall as the impact of developments in Egypt and Tunisia begin to be felt. In this spirit, a guessing game of ‘who’s next?’ has begun.
A Tunisian who works for the moderate Islamist channel Al Wihar met me yesterday and said: “Sudan is next, but not in the same manner.” Several Sudanese opposition writers and politicians have also predicted a Tunisian or Egyptian style uprising in Sudan. Let us consider the causes of unrest and see if they fit the situation in Sudan. British and U.S. responses to events in Egypt are wide of the mark. Two examples illustrate this. The highly respectable newspaper The Guardian enumerated in an editorial (27 January) the grievances of the protesters ” … sparked by self-immolation, unemployment and high food prices.” What the editorial leaves out is equally important: it is kowtowing to the West and Israel. It was most insensitive to force the Egyptians to engage in the siege of Gaza at a time in which US and British officials denounced the Israeli attack on the Flotilla carrying aid. The U.S. Huffington Post provides another example. Marcus Baram wrote (29 January) that People in Egypt were disappointed in President Obama, especially in the wake of his June 2009 Cairo speech. He cited very relevant U.S. controversial policies like cutting funding for democracy and governance as well as funding […]