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.

Ethiopian relations with Egypt and Sudan worsen while Getachew Reda makes new friends for Tigray

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s problems with Sudan and Egypt are only getting worse by the day. Ethiopia remains in severe disagreement with Sudan, Egypt, and by alliance with much of the Arab league over who has sovereignty over Nile water use relating to construction of the Grand Renaissance Damn in the northeast west region of Ethiopia known as Beningshagul. Abiy Ahmed’s Eritrean alliance and land disputes with Sudan are also playing a big role in creating an increasingly adversarial crisis.

In July 2021, former Egyptian Minister of Irrigation Mohammed Nasr A’llam told the Al-Monitor that Egypt was closely following developments of the GERD. They believed that the damn had some technical problems otherwise they might have considered military action against the dam at that time.

TPLF advisor to Tigray President Debretsion appeared on Egyptian Television to a receptive audience

Tigray Peoples Liberation Front close advis0r to elected President  Debretsion Gebremichael  of the Tigray State recently appeared on an Egyptian Television interview to discuss the Ethiopia Tigray conflict and other issues. It appears he met a receptive and sympathetic audience in Egypt. Personal sources close to Egyptian leadership have told me that Egypt opted out of military action for two reasons, one that they believe there may be technical problems limiting the filling and secondly they look forward to a Tigray victory that will make for better negotiations. 

The United Nations Security Council has discussed the issue without resolution for months. Apart from saying that Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia should have a binding agreement, in effect, giving standing to all three to which Ethiopia disagrees. Now it has referred the case to the African Union for resolution. 

It is notable that President Debretsion was once the head of the Ethiopian Electrical Power Corporation and oversaw much of the GERD construction. Additionally it is now known that Tigray Army units have progressed northwest of Gondar in the direction of the Beningshagul region which has seen uprisings sympathetic to the same cause as the TPLF. Many speculate that the Tigray intend to open a supply route via Sudan.

Widely respected journalist Bashir Hashi Yussuf has suggested that Egypt is secretly supplying arms and aid to the Tigray via Sudan. This has also been raised as possible by Foreign Policy and other analysts. Sudan now has a joint defense treaty with Egypt. Additionally Ethiopia has demanded that Sudan remove its soldiers occupying a disputed region called al-fashaga which had been claimed by Ahmara expansionists supporting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Sudan claims the fertile farm area as its own.

Eritrean opposition groups to Esaias Afwerki, leader of Eritrea and ally of Ethiopia in the Tigray conflict met in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, to discuss how they could remove the Eritrean government. They may also be forming an armed movement as well based in Sudan. Sudan has long standing problems with the Esaias regime regarding his support of the Grand Renaissance Damn and respect of Sudanese sovereignty.