“The Nile and Red Sea determine Ethiopia’s future. They will contribute either to its development or demise.” stated by PM of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed
Addis Ababa (ANN)-” The unification of Eritrea with Ethiopia through a federation shows UN’s recognition” said Abiy ahmed at Presented speech to the House of Peoples’ Representatives A new motion that carries the security of the region and the strategy of Ethiopia’s future plan.
Ministry crafts nation building, national interest documents
A draft document prepared by the Ministry of Peace has proposed that the current administration should seek to reaffirm Ethiopia’s strategic and economic national interests in the Red Sea. These interests have been of great geopolitical importance to Ethiopia for centuries, until Ethiopia has become landlocked.
Titled “Ethiopia’s National Interest: Principles and Content,” the draft document emphasizes the imperative for Ethiopia to exercise its right to construct and utilize ports, ensure access to the Red Sea, as well as the Eden and Gulf Peninsula regions, and exercise its right to port development and utilization.
The Horn of Africa and the Red Sea region have become a magnet to superpowers competing for their geopolitical, geo-economic, and geostrategic interests, according to the document. Therefore, “Ethiopia should engage with other nations in the area to ensure its access to the ports and be able to overcome geostrategic impediments in this respect, the draft document noted, before such actions start to impede the development of the region,” it states.
The document provides a list of priorities, including the preservation of the country’s territorial integrity, enhancing regional influence, promoting peace and security, effectively advancing Ethiopia’s interests in the Red Sea and Gulf Peninsula area, and fostering pan-African development.
Establishing principled bilateral and multilateral relationships, securing Ethiopia’s right to use the Nile River, ensuring access to ports, and maximizing the utilization of untapped natural resources, are also listed as priorities.
Considering its proximity to the Red Sea, “coupled with its growing population and economy, Ethiopia should promote its security, geopolitical, and economic interests in the red sea.” The document further asserts that the African Union should have ultimate authority over Africa’s water resources, seas and ocean shores.
In a documentary broadcasted on the state television channel FanaTv sources last Friday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) stated: “The Nile and red sea determine Ethiopia’s future. They will contribute either to its development or demise.”
The Ministry has produced another draft document titled “Ethiopia’s National Identity and National Values Identification/Decisions.”
This document outlines a new plan for Ethiopia to reconstruct its national identity. It addresses the necessary steps, principles, and approaches required for the implementation of Ethiopia’s revitalized nation-building project at various levels. It emphasizes Ethiopia’s new national identity project on the global stage and suggests the registration of patent rights.
The nation-building document recommends that the envisioned national values incorporate a range of factors, including the country’s diversity and historical heritage.
From a Single drop to Sea water
Presented to the House of Peoples’ Representatives
• Water is an integral part of our lives, something we cannot afford to overlook. Ignoring the importance of water compromises our very existence. Our bodies are primarily composed of water, and our daily lives revolve around its presence. Therefore, a profound understanding of water and a conscientious approach to our natural environment are essential to avoid adverse consequences. As knowledge about water continues to expand, it is likely that water will become a source of both conflict and wealth on the global stage in the future
• What is our 21st century national strategy? It is not the strategy of PP, NAMA, or EZEMA. It is Ethiopia’s grand strategy that concerns the collective and transcends to the next generation.
• The first is, achieving peace and unity. We need peace. We also have to be united. We need to be united in order to be powerful as water. You can [exist] separately but you won’t get anywhere. For example, if Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Ethiopia were to be united into one country – forget about whether its going to be through federalism or federation – if they become a single country, do you think Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti or Eritrea will beg [for foreign aid]? It would become another Russia, China, or America; it would become a very huge country. When we can boost our capability by coming together, we lose our strength by remaining divided. That’s why we have to be united. Peace is the foundation of all. Without peace, there is no research or prosperity.
• Secondly, we aspire to achieve all-encompassing prosperity. However, it’s essential to recognize that for prosperity and unity to become a reality, we must take into account the influence of geopolitics. Mere changes in the constitution or efforts to attain food self-sufficiency, reduce unemployment, and other similar measures, while valuable, will not suffice on their own to ensure unity. Geopolitics plays a pivotal role, and by holding on to it, we can secure comprehensive prosperity, peace, and unity.
• Most of us here have lived half of our lifespans. What concerns us more than our personal gains is the continuity of generations. One of the things that needs to be examined for the neighborhood to be peaceful is the Red Sea. The issue of the Red Sea needs to be thoroughly discussed. We shouldn’t say, ‘We won’t raise the issue because it will provoke conflict.’ We don’t want conflict, but we will discuss the issue. The second concern is the Blue Nile. The third issue pertains to the Horn of Africa in general.
• If you are to ask, “How do we address the reality of water and our country’s situation? How do we see the issue of water and Ethiopia?” Ethiopia is an island surrounded by water and yet suffers from thirst [of water]. We get much larger rainfall, are blessed with large underground water reserves, are surrounded by the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and yet we suffer from water shortage. Why is that?
The issue of owning a sea outlet: an overview
• Ethiopia is a nation whose existence is tied to the Red Sea. Ethiopia is connected to both the Blue Nile and the Red Sea. It won’t work to say, ‘This water (Blue Nile) concerns you, but this one (Red Sea) doesn’t.’ Nature doesn’t dictate that. The Tekezze River and the Red Sea concern Eritrea. Both the Blue Nile and the Red Sea concern Sudan. Both the Blue Nile and the Red Sea concern Egypt.
• Whenever I have a conversation with emissaries from the superpowers, they don’t accept my arguments about Ethiopian projects on the Blue Nile being our internal affairs. They assert that the Nile isn’t our private matter but concerns both the Egyptians and the Sudanese, whose lives depend on it. Everyone says this; it is not taboo. But in Ethiopia, what I find saddening and painful is the fact that we consider it taboo to discuss the issue of the Red Sea, even among members of Parliament. While outsiders freely discuss matters like GERD, which are internally financed projects, why do you find it taboo to discuss such a crucial issue as the Red Sea? We can decide not to take the Red Sea, but why don’t we discuss it? Why are we shy to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of acquiring [an outlet] to the Red Sea? The Red Sea and Abay determine Ethiopia’s fate, are tied to Ethiopia, and are the basis for the development or destruction of Ethiopia. We can negotiate over the Red Sea as we did with the GERD. Negotiation is not a problem as long as it doesn’t mean we can’t use it [a port].
• There is [a statement] in the UN charter that says, “The rights and claims of Ethiopia based on geographical, historical, ethnic or economic reasons, including in particular Ethiopia’s legitimate need for adequate access to sea”. We need to examine this agreement. There are some people who are concerned that merely raising the issue of the Red Sea would risk putting us in conflict with Eritrea or Djibouti.
The pressure created by the complicated water politics and unceasing tension
Understanding International context
Upgrading our understanding of our water resources
• We were 50 million but in 2030 we are projected to have a population of 150 million. 150 million people can’t live in a geographic prison. There is also the issue of poverty. So whether we like it or not, it will inevitably “blast”. It is necessary to discuss and find a solution in order to prevent the population from blasting and scattering.
• Carrying something for a short while may not be a problem, but continuing to bear it for a long time will result in paralysis. I don’t have a problem holding this cup of water for one minute; holding it for an hour would make me feel weaker and weaker. But if I were to hold the same cup of water for a day, my hands would get exhausted and feel numb. Bearing something for thirty years may make you feel weak, but if it is for sixty years, you’ll feel numb, and your hands can’t bear it. So, what shall we do? Let’s discuss the issue and its consequences. If we can’t discuss the Red Sea, we shouldn’t also discuss the issue of wheat, the green legacy, or the collection of revenue. What meaning would it have? It would be meaningless if we manage to make advances in wheat production, the green legacy, etc., and yet lose it because of the absence of an outlet to the Red Sea. Let’s discuss it; we may end up turning it down if we see it as unworthwhile, but we shouldn’t be afraid to discuss it.
• Tekeze goes to Eritrea, the Blue Nile goes to Sudan and Egypt, Baro goes to South Sudan, Omo goes to Kenya, and Genale-Dawa and Wabi Shebele go to Somalia. Among its neighbors, which one doesn’t take water from Ethiopia? It’s only Djibouti, and we are supplying it with water and electricity from our dam. We are providing our neighbors with fresh, drinkable water. If we were the recipients, it wouldn’t have been a problem. There isn’t a single country that gives Ethiopia a single liter of fresh water; all are recipients. They deserve it, and we will give them more. But it’s not right to say, ‘let us share what you have, but don’t ask us what we have.’ If we plan to live together in peace, we have to find a way to mutually share from each other in a balanced manner. Otherwise, if what we have is free to be taken, but what the other side has is untouchable, then it means there is no fairness and justice. If there is no justice, it’s only a matter of time before entering into conflict.
• Ras Alula Abanega had said, “The Red Sea itself has been and will continue to be Ethiopia’s natural boundary.” There is a lot of wisdom in what he is saying. He is saying Ethiopia can’t be denied what nature has bestowed on it. He didn’t say we deserve it because of our proximity to the Red Sea. He said it is a natural boundary. Historically, the kingdom of Axum controlled most of the Red Sea from both sides. It is based on this that in the book, Ye Medemer Twlid, it says, “when we are close to the Red Sea and when we are far…” When we approached the Red Sea, we were among the few kingdoms in the World. But what happened when we went far away from it?
• But the main problem is, how are we going to approach it? Just because Ethiopia has 120 million people, has power, has the ENDF, an air force, is it going to approach it by bombing and killing people? No, we must not do that. It must not be through killing and war. It is also not right to deny the fact or seal it so as not to do it through killing and war. We will discuss it and see together how it is going to be carried out.
• Recently too, Ethiopia had access to the Red Sea. As you can see this is the picture of Emperor Haile Selassie sitting by the Red Sea. This too is history. It can’t be erased. You can’t tell me this isn’t Ethiopian history. We can debate about how it came and got away but it happened. So, whether it is during the time of Alula or Janhoy [Haileselassie], history is telling us something. There are facts which we can agree on, not figments of our imagination.
• The second is demography. This is the Afar Triangle. The Afar live in Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea. Demographically, 1.5 million Afars live adjacent to the Red Sea. If you claim Afar’s of different citizenship shouldn’t be considered as one, it should be recalled that all Afars come together to elect the Sultan, their traditional leader, to Asaita [Afar region]. Eritrean and Djibouti Afars send their delegation to take part in the election. They not only have one language and culture, but, undeterred by boundaries, they are also governed under one sultanate. This means, both history and demography don’t undermine Ethiopia’s claim.
• But it is not just the Afar, it is also the case with the Somali. There are Somalis in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia. Somalis of Djibouti can access the Red Sea; Somalis of Somalia can access both the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, while Kenyan Somalis can access the Indian Ocean; so what did the Ethiopian Somalis do to be deprived of an access to the sea? Had it been because of a shortage of resources, it would have been understandable.
• There are 44 landlocked countries in the world, and none of them have a population as substantial as Ethiopia. Furthermore, our population is not going to remain at 120 million; it is expected to grow to around 150 million. Looking ahead, it is projected to double by 2050, surpassing 350 million people.
• In Africa, there are 17 landlocked countries, and one-third of the population of these landlocked countries resides in Ethiopia. If we divide Africa vertically, the western side comprises 21 countries, including some like the DRC that have narrow strips of land to access a port. These countries place a strong emphasis on securing access to the sea, even through limited land connections. In contrast, the eastern side of the continent consists of only seven countries. There are plenty of resources; they’re not being utilized. And our population is growing which is causing us to be anxious. This is a matter of existence for Ethiopia; it is not a matter of luxury. Unless we get it through lease or invest on it…
• For example, China has invested in Djibouti, the UAE in Berbera, and Turkey in Mogadishu. If these countries can invest from a distance, why can’t we, the ones who rely on these facilities, be allowed to invest as well, fostering cooperation? If trust is a concern, Ethiopia is building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which ranks first in Africa and is nearing completion. Let us invest in Massawa, Zeila or Adulis, [we aren’t picky about the place], they can take 20-30 percent share from GERD. We didn’t just say give us; you can take as well. But we need it [a port]. If you say, “we don’t want GERD”, you can take 20-30 percent share from Ethiopian Airlines which ranks 1st in Africa. If you don’t want Ethiopian Airlines, you can take share from Ethio Telecom, the largest telecom in Africa which has 70+ million subscribers.
• A UN study reveals that access to a sea outlet can contribute to 25-30 percent of a country’s GDP. That means, if Ethiopia’s GDP is estimated at 100 billion, it means it would give up 25-30 billion birr in additional value. The moment Ethiopia secures access to a port, this value would undoubtedly increase. Therefore, if Ethiopia were to invest 30 billion in obtaining this access, it would make sound business sense. This is precisely why we are inviting others to consider a share in GERD. We have done the calculations.
• There is no country in the world so close to the sea that doesn’t possess a port. We can see that only a narrow strip of land separates us from the sea. It is crucial for the present leaders of Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia to engage in discussions, not just for the present, but to ensure lasting peace. We cannot afford to say, ‘Let’s avoid conflict now, but allow our children to face it later.’ Instead, we should have discussions to prevent future conflicts. These discussions may include considerations of investment, leasing arrangements, or utilizing the resources available here in Ethiopia. We must explore the available options; it is incorrect to simply reject the idea of discussions.
The key justifications for Ethiopia’s ownership of a port
• Ethiopia’s demand for a port isn’t only historical but also a question of economic existence. A person called Tim Marshall has written that being a prisoner of geography is embracing poverty.
• Ethiopia has all the potential necessary to become a superpower in Africa. It has [large] population, resources and an educated human capital. What it lacks, it can acquire in due course. The issue of port prevents Ethiopia from holding the place it ought to have.
Historical and narrative rationale
Ethiopia had a port pre-colonial times
The unification of Eritrea with Ethiopia through a federation shows UN’s recognition
The impact of the past 50 years
Ethiopia’s strength and weakness in relation to owning a port
• Our options for a port and an outlet to the sea
• Zeila served as a port for the Ifat Sultanate in Ethiopia, making it one potential option. Djibouti, which we still benefit from, is another viable choice. Adulis in Eritrea presents itself as an option for consideration. Additionally, Massawa and Asab can also be explored as potential solutions. We do not insist on a specific location; our primary goal is to secure an outlet, regardless of the nature of the agreement, be it a lease, purchase, or any other suitable arrangement.
• Our population is increasing. We can’t continue to bear it and with time things will get out of control. At least it should be a subject of discussion among the high level political elite. The action may be postponed to the next generation. But it is not something we can be silent about. Otherwise it will endanger Ethiopia’s existence.
• I’m not sharing this perspective with you as a Member of Parliament or as a member of the Prosperity Party. I’m speaking as a concerned citizen who loves his country. This is not a matter of politics. You can interpret it as you wish. I am confident in expressing my views on the global stage. I’m not seeking personal gain. I firmly believe what is just should be resolved through dialogue. When we engage in discussions, we gather more information, explore alternatives, and identify better timing for actions. But if there is no discussion, few could do something wrong thinking it is the right thing to do.
• If we have a port, we would be able to build GERD, a fertilizer factory every 2 or 3 years from what would have been payment for port use. This would help us to develop as our funds won’t be spent for payment to port use.
• The other aspect that should not be underestimated is the vast potential for oceanography, which could provide us with significant reserves of fuel, minerals, fish, and opportunities for tourism. Fish farming also plays a substantial role in sustaining our growing population
Principles of conduct
• As much as possible, we must assert our claim through peaceful means. Merely having a claim, a population of 100 million, or a standing army should not lead us to interfere in the affairs of another nation. This is wrong. We don’t have such an interest. Is it possible to do it peacefully? Yes, it is, because everyone who wants shared benefits, prosperity, development and peace would do it.
• It is not good to just see colonial boundaries. It would be good to see Afar, Somali, and Ethiopia’s population as these are actual facts.
• It should be based on a just cause. If we were to demand what we don’t deserve, it won’t benefit us; it’s only a matter of time. However, if we receive what we deserve, and the other side also gets what they deserve, then we can coexist.
• It will also enable us to support each other economically [economic integration].
• What are the options? Firstly, it is through federation or confederation. If you consider Ethiopia and Eritrea, these two trees look different, just like people whose flags and names are different. But their roots are intertwined. The confederation laws that were a subject of disagreement among us at that time can be re-examined. The feelings prevailing at that time and now are not the same. The federation can be properly implemented. For instance, the issues of name, flag, etc., can be properly established. We can rectify it with the feeling that we have now. As you know,the faith and language that Tigray, Afar have is the same. The people are one; our food is Injera with Wot; our music, everything except the politics is the same. We can restore it very easily. What if they say, “no, it is unthinkable”? They can, it is their right. It can’t happen by force.
• The second is through exchange of territories. There is an international experience in this regard. Give and take is common in the world. We can talk about timing but whoever they are, they would be wrong if they say Ethiopia doesn’t need it.
International experience in regards to territorial exchange
Israel and Palestine – in process
Serbia and Kosovo – in process
Bangladesh and India – completed
Belgium and Netherlands – completed
USA and Mexico – completed
• Some political elites suggest that ‘Ethiopia should take Assab.’ We must exercise caution to ensure that such statements do not have consequences in the future. It’s essential for us to establish a consensus among political elites regarding the topics we will be addressing. We should refrain from participating in unproductive debates.
• The second matter relates to the narrative. Take the Navy, for example. This issue didn’t emerge suddenly; it’s been in our plans for a while. There are those who oppose the idea of establishing Ethiopia’s Naval Force, and I find their stance perplexing. How can they disregard the importance of preparation? We must change this narrative. We require a Naval force. Ethiopia is a great nation. We rank 11th in the world by population. This is not something small, and it should not be underestimated. While our economy may lag behind, our population makes us great. Our media should be mindful of this
Social and psychological preparation
Nurturing a naval vision
Strengthening cross border social relations
Improving people to people relations
• “Sixty or seventy years ago, when Haile Selassie was talking about the Blue Nile, and he was told not to dare try it, he replied, ‘I don’t have the capability now, but my children will do it.’ Now you are saying to me, ‘Don’t you dare touch the Red Sea.’ I’ll say to you, ‘I don’t have the strength, but my children will deliver it.’”