Ethiopia’s deteriorating relations with Sudan and Egypt will benefit Tigray

Sudan’s military reclaimed regained control of Shai Pet agricultural settlement in May 2021 a part of Al-Fashaga

While trying to induce sympathetic feelings of Pan-Africanism from other African countries, Abiy Ahmed lead Ethiopia continues to stumble badly when dealing with fellow African countries, Sudan and Egypt. Their relationship with the Ethiopian Prime Minister is deteriorating severely. If anything they may be increasingly inclined to help the Tigray.

Leading Egyptian news source, Al-monitor, today reports that Egyptian Minister of Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Aty has stated that Egypt is increasingly finding the current Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam lack of agreement untenable. Despite numerous meetings with the African Union representatives, United Nations representatives, and leading world powers Abiy Ahmed has simply refused to talk further. There seems on the part of Egypt a growing call to act before the damn filling proceeds further. On the contrary, Tigray Presidential Advisor, Getachew Reda, held an internet video meeting with an Egyptian television network which warmly greeted and praised the Tigray.

In conversations with personal friends with connections in Egypt I am hearing that many in Egypt think there is a problem with the GERD. For the past two years Abiy Ahmed has promised electricity generation but it has not happened. Experts looking at the damn have informed Egyptian government officials that there is a fault in construction which will prevent it from reaching full capacity. This perceived fault and the potential for the Tigray to prevail in the current Ethiopia Tigray conflict have prevented military action by Egypt so far even though President Trump famously told Egypt to “bomb it”. Opinion polls in Egypt in 2020 carried out by Gallup polls show that 70% of Egyptians are concerned that GERD will affect their vital supply of water.

Earlier this year Sudan and Egypt signed a joint defense treaty and had war games in a show of force to Ethiopia. Sudan complains that uncontrolled water control has and will lead to further mixes of drought and flooding.

This year there has been growing incidents occurring on the Sudanese Ethiopian border known as al-Fashaga.  Abiy Ahmed negated previous agreements for land sharing with Sudan leading to Sudan expelling Ethiopian farmers in December 2020. Ethiopia complains that Tigray Defense Forces have tried to enter from Sudan through this route. This week another clash happened with a disputed number of casualties suffered by Sudan when Amhara and Ethiopia as well as Eritrean forces entered al-Fashaga.

Even though there is current unrest in Sudan this damn dispute could act as a unifying factor for taking more action against Ethiopia. Many note that the relationship between Sudan and Ethiopian war partner, Eritrea, has been also damaged by Eritrea’s support of uprisings at the Port of Sudan.  Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, has sponsored meetings and organization for opposition groups to Isaias Afwerki, leader of Eritrea, this past year. The defense pact with Egypt is a significant factor as well as some have theorized although not proven that Egypt is providing support to the Tigray military forces. Nizar Manek and Mohammed Kheir Omer noted authorities predicted in Foreign Policy that Sudan might ultimately align with the Tigray in November 2020 at the beginning of the conflict.

Author: Professor Tony Magana

Professor Tony Magana is Head of the Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia. He directs a neurosurgery residency and training program as well as neuroscience research.

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