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The Renaissance Dam: Time To Move Beyond ‘Soft Power’
Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly (R) and his Sudanese counterpart Abdalla Hamdok give a joint press conference after meeting for talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in the Egyptian capital Cairo, March 11, 2021.(Selman Elotefy/AFP via Getty Images)

The Renaissance Dam: Time To Move Beyond ‘Soft Power’

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, March 17

Ethiopia rejected the Sudanese proposal, supported by Egypt, to transfer mediation over the Renaissance Dam talks to the International Quartet – consisting of the United States, the European Union, the African Union, and the United Nations. Instead of embracing the initiative to mediate talks by an international forum, Addis Ababa declared that “African problems must be solved through African solutions” and that “the African Union and the Democratic Republic of Congo (the Union’s rotating chair) are fully capable of reaching solutions that are a win-win for all.” It is clear that the Ethiopian intransigence is a product of Egypt’s conciliatory approach on the Renaissance Dam issue. After signing the Declaration of Principles in 2015, Egypt began exerting “soft power” vis-à-vis Ethiopia, seeking to use diplomacy to find ways to get the two countries to find a path forward. Unfortunately, Ethiopia did not react positively to Egypt’s gesture and insisted on undermining all international rules and norms that regulate the management of rivers and water rights. What has become clear over the course of the past few months is that Egypt’s soft power approach has failed. Egypt and Sudan have no other choice but to change their approach and use their full power to impose a binding agreement on the Ethiopian government. The first step could be filing a joint Egyptian-Sudanese complaint against Ethiopia in the Security Council and International Court of Justice. Further, the two countries must sever their ties with Ethiopia and launch an aggressive media campaign against the latter’s obstinacy. They must remind the world that the lives of 150 million Egyptian and Sudanese people depend on the waters regulated by this dam. For some reason, the Ethiopian government has come to the conclusion that it is in a better negotiating position today than it was a few months ago. It seems determined to set facts on the ground, similar to what has been done across Africa during the colonial era. However, it seems to have forgotten that Egypt was the country that led the national liberation movements in Africa, and the Third World, in their fight against colonialism. The Egyptian government said time and again that, while development is the right of Ethiopia, life is the right of Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia committed itself to the first but did not respect the second. The battle ahead of us is not easy but we have no choice. The only way to stop Ethiopia from pursuing unilateral moves is to immediately adopt a harsher and more militant Egyptian foreign policy; one that employs all political and legal tools available at Egypt’s disposal. With Egypt’s water security on the line, the time has come to take firmer action. –Amr Al-Shobaki (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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