Prepared by: Rabaa Wazeer
the Geopolitical Files
The world is anxious about a question regarding the situation in Ethiopia. On a different level, the Arab world and Africa are concerned with two issues. What is the consequence of this conflict in the Horn of Africa, and the outcome of the “the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) ” file in light of the developments in Ethiopia; will it become more complicated, or will discussions resume? To answer these concerns, the situation in Ethiopia, as well as international views and regional changes in the Horn of Africa, must now be examined.
The Ethiopian conflict situation; what Changed the Course of the War?
Following the developments in the operational situation on the Ethiopian battlefield, the first party Abiy Ahmed announced a military operation, at the beginning of November 2021, targeting his leadership of the Ethiopian army to confront the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. He believed that the Front did not express the interests of the Territory rather its own interests. Its presence undermined the security situation and threatened the stability of the country. Accordingly, civilians were called before in August 2021 to take the necessary measures for the participation of the Ethiopian forces in their war against the “Front” rebels, whose fighting doctrine against the government forces was based on a set of hypotheses, the most important of which is Abiy Ahmed is a usurper of power and wants to remove the TPLF after more than 30 years of rule, in addition to his attempt to change the country’s 1994 Constitution, which states that Ethiopia is a federal State, and that power is met by the provinces and not by the federal government as it is under his government.
Thus, the first military operation was declared against TPLF, which lasted for two weeks, was able to control several towns belonging to the Territory, including “Ghashana Orbit “ area, which is a strategic hub linking four major cities in Amhara province, as well as “Lalibela” region-which is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List – has been restored again eleven days after the control of the Ethiopian army, in addition to two strategic towns after the Front achieved successes in several regions and the advance of the TPLF forces reached nearly 300 kilometres from the capital. Addis Ababa, however, the situation has changed and the TPLF forces have been forced to return back to the north of the country.
A dramatic shift in the Ethiopian conflict changes the balance of power
The variation of external support for the parties to the conflict
Although the confrontation between the parties has intensified in the Ethiopian war, the situation has undergone a significant transformation, the reasons for which could be attributed to the variation of external support for the parties to the conflict
The drones and qualitative superiority, the drones played an important role during the Ethiopian War. The Ethiopian government was able to make deals with Turkey worth $95 million in August 2021 under a cooperation agreement between the two countries, as well as Iranian support represented in the continuity of Iranian aircrafts flights to Addis Ababa for the purpose of supplying drones to participate in the Ethiopian war.
The desire of the Front for a role in the upcoming political settlement perhaps, one of its motives for retreat lies in its desire to put pressure on Ethiopia by the international community to engage in national dialogue following the formation of the National Dialogue Commission by the federal government, and international pressure and continued economic sanctions.
Why the international appeals denouncing the situation in Ethiopia declined? is it a chance for other actors?
Abiy Ahmed’s recent moves towards the TPLF confronted International silence at several levels, primarily by the United States of America since the appeals when compared at the beginning of the war were wide and lyrical. Perhaps this silence comes in the context of allowing the government of Abiy Ahmed by rearranging its papers and managing the internal conflict in the country, and by trying to establish a framework for a political settlement that would satisfy all parties, since the retreat of the parties from the advance and the continuation of the fighting is a sign of hope for many States because it has saved the country from falling into the abyss, even though the calm is not guaranteed at the moment, it is a positive step, especially since Ethiopia is a strategic ally in the Horn of Africa and is actively participating in the pacification and counter-terrorism operations in the region. Moreover, some of its troops participated in peacekeeping forces. In the event that the situation in Ethiopia is not quiet, there is a threat that the region will be broken.
Abi Ahmed’s policy of dealing with the conflict may have been one of the factors that have silenced the international community, namely, the withdrawal step, the call for a national conference to reach a peaceful political settlement, and the omission of the Tigrai leadership to suggest its ability to control and resolve the situation, To try to convince the international community that a settlement is under way and that the situation is on a tight line – albeit a formality – but may contribute to a dampening of voices.
On the other hand, the international silence on the Ethiopian file may be an opportunity for China, Turkey, Iran and Israel to play a greater role in the Ethiopian arena, especially since these countries have already supported the federal government with equipment and supplies to confront them. Thus, the silence of the international community is a great opportunity for these and other regional powers to expand their relationship with Ethiopia, as a key to supporting their presence in the entire Horn of Africa region at both the economic, military, security and other levels, and this will greatly benefit China in the context of a frenzied Chinese – American rivalry between the two sides.
Is the water file witnessing new developments? What are the options for the Egyptian side?
The situation in the Sudan and Ethiopia is impeding the resumption of negotiations
According to the current data, it is expected that Abiy Ahmed is setting a course for his policy in the coming period, which is based mainly on trying to address internal differences, expand and deepen partnerships with the regional and international powers. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) may witness a delay in the search for stability and decline in resolving Ethiopia’s internal problems.
The continuing situation in the Sudan and the lack of political settlement to date contribute to the continued freezing of the ” GERD ” file and the disruption of the resumption of negotiations, as the Sudanese authorities are concerned about the internal situation.
Does the status of the “GERD ” file change with Senegal’s presidency of the African Union?
Despite the Senegal’s earlier commitment to bridge the gap of GERD file and be at the top of its priorities during its presidency of the African Union. However, the chances of its influence are small, given the lack of clarity regarding the situation in both the Sudan and Ethiopia.
In addition, the “Nahda Dam” file is no longer on the current U.S. administration’s list of priorities, perhaps because of its desire to preserve Ethiopia as an ally in the Horn of Africa, and the stability of this area is linked to Ethiopia’s stability, Therefore, all their actions are concerned with calming the situation inside Ethiopia.
What are the options for the Egyptian leadership? The Egyptian leadership faces limited alternatives and fuzzy scenarios for reaching a binding agreement on GERD file. Thus, there is still a diplomatic tool available to the Egyptian side and could resort to the option of economic diplomacy based on Egypt’s financing of the rest of the dam and the establishment of transmission and export lines for electricity to be Egyptian projects to support the needs of the Ethiopian people and to initiate constructive cooperation among the countries of the region.
Local solutions based on the continuation of lining of canals projects, desalination of seawater and the adoption of new irrigation and farming systems that reduce water losses could contribute to a part of water needs, although they are few and do not cover local needs, but the option remains on the table, and Egypt could resort to pressure on Ethiopia through some international powers to start sitting at the negotiating table, or even regional powers, primarily Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.
From the above-mentioned scenarios, the situation in Ethiopia can be inferred from the questions raised at the forefront of the vision. While the situation in Ethiopia remains blurred, the possibility of a return to escalation is still present, as previously analysed. This situation is therefore based on the creation of roles and spaces for actors in the Horn of Africa, given the international community’s silence on Ethiopia at least for the time being, thus no remarkable developments could be expected in the ” GERD Dam” file, especially with the escalation of unrest in the Sudan as well. Even if the situation tends to stabilize, the Ethiopian Government will certainly find its justification for continuing to freeze the negotiations.