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US hypocrisy: 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt, including US citizens.

Post by Zmeselo » 10 Jun 2021, 02:57

Activists look to Congress after Biden requests military aid for Egypt without human rights conditions

Egypt has been the second-largest recipient of US military aid since the Camp David Accords in 1978.

June 08, 2021

By Rupa Shenoy ... hout-human

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi holds a news conference with the chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, Gen. Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan, at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum, Sudan, March 6, 2021. Credit: Presidency of Sudan via AP

During his campaign for president, then-candidate Joe Biden promised “no more blank checks for Trump’s favorite dictator”: Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

But some human rights activists say that’s just what Biden has done by recommending $1.3 billion in military aid ... for-egypt/ for Egypt without imposing any human rights conditions.

Groups, including Amnesty International, had urged the administration ... -aid-egypt to use the aid to encourage Cairo to address abuses. But instead, the proposed defense budget ... ense-budg/ released late last month makes the same request for Egypt that’s been made since 1987.


To me, this is policy on autopilot, on cruise control.

Seth Binder, director of advocacy at the Project on Middle East Democracy

To me, this is policy on autopilot, on cruise control,
said Seth Binder, director of advocacy at the Project on Middle East Democracy.

Egypt has an estimated 60,000 political prisoners ... iolations/ — including activists, lawyers and academics. Among them are five Egyptian Americans. Last month, the Washington, DC-based advocacy group, The Freedom Initiative, released a report ... st-report/ showing that Egypt had also jailed the family members of five people in the US after they spoke out about human rights.


These are clear efforts on the part of the Egyptian government to curtail rights and freedoms in the United States.

Allison McManus, research director, The Freedom Initiative

These are clear efforts on the part of the Egyptian government to curtail rights and freedoms in the United States,
said Allison McManus, the initiative’s research director.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cited The Freedom Initiative report when he was in Cairo last month meeting with Sisi.
I certainly raised this in my meeting today and will continue to do so until Americans are reunited with their families,
he said during a press conference. ... nce-jordan
More broadly ... President Biden takes the issue of human rights, and our commitment to human rights, very seriously. Indeed, he's asked us to put it at the heart of our foreign policy. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. And that was reflected in the conversations that we had today.
McManus said many in the US hoped that the meeting between Blinken and Sisi would lead to the release of their imprisoned family members.
We celebrated the attention that was given to the issue, but we can't really celebrate until we see more releases,
she said.

Meanwhile, Egypt earned the Biden administration’s gratitude for its help during the recent violence between Israel and the Palestinians — something Blinken mentioned at the same press conference.
Egypt played a crucial role in brokering the ceasefire,
he said.
It's already committed $500 million to the reconstruction effort in Gaza.
Egypt has been a key ally of the US, and the second-largest recipient of military aid from Washington — after Israel — since the Camp David Accords of 1978.

The Biden administration has already indicated it will take a nuanced approach to its relationship. But in February, it approved a $197 million sale of missiles ... -lobbying/ to the country, to the disappointment of human rights activists.
That was an opportunity for the US government to say, ‘No, no, no, we are making a change. We're not just going to continue business as usual and move forward on an arms sale. We're going to need to see legitimate progress on human rights reforms,’
Binder said. “And they didn't do that.”

Advocates pushing for a harsher stance toward Egypt now have their hopes centered on the US Congress, where the budget will go next for review. And Congress has already shown a willingness to act. Last year, it made a portion of aid to Egypt conditional to the release of political prisoners. But Blinken has the power to waive that requirement in the interest of national security, and he has until the end of September to do so.

Binder hopes Congress takes that power away:
I'd like to see them remove the national security waiver entirely to send the strong message that Congress does care about human rights in Egypt, and is unwilling to sit back and wait anymore.
Some experts believe that making military aid contingent on human rights ... man-rights improvements will have the wrong effect — for instance, pushing Egypt into the arms of countries like Russia. And earlier this year, Egypt did defy the US by buying Russian jets.

McManus of The Freedom Initiative acknowledged the argument but said she doesn’t see any leverage being used by the US toward Egypt.


When push comes to shove, we don't actually see firm policy changes.

Allison McManus, research director, The Freedom Initiative

I think what we're seeing is a desire to return to business as usual, where the administration will insist on human rights behind closed doors, where they'll continue to really insist that they are prioritizing issues like political detentions, like freedom of expression and freedom of association,
she said.
But when push comes to shove, we don't actually see firm policy changes.
Whatever the Biden administration’s approach, thousands of families are hoping it will somehow result in the release of wrongly imprisoned Egyptians and Egyptian Americans in Egypt.

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Re: US hypocrisy: 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt, including US citizens.

Post by Aba » 10 Jun 2021, 08:44

Tembienai monster: 60,000 prisoners in Eritrea including Americans, working for peace and prosperity in Ethiopia.


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Joined: 30 Jul 2010, 20:43

Re: US hypocrisy: 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt, including US citizens.

Post by Zmeselo » 10 Jun 2021, 10:28

Prelude to War? The US/NATO, Egypt, and Ethiopian Sovereignty

Ann Garrison, BAR Contributing Editor ... overeignty

09 Jun 2021

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Ethiopian American activist and community organizer Benyam Kitaw tells Ann Garrison that US hostility toward Ethiopia could lead to further sanctions, economic pressure, and perhaps even war.

The primary issue is Ethiopian sovereignty vs. US/NATO military hegemony.

Ethiopia is a nation of more than 112 million people, the second most populous in Africa, at the center of the geostrategically critical Horn of Africa. It has fallen out of favor with the U S foreign policy establishment since the 2018 uprising that overthrew the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) junta and put Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in power. In 2019, Prime Minister Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating peace to end the longtime border conflict with Eritrea.

I spoke to Los Angeles based Ethiopian American activist Benyam Kitaw about increasing US hostility to the Abiy government and to Eritrea, Ethiopia’s neighbor, former foe, and now ally.

Like other Ethiopians and Eritreans I have spoken to, he seems convinced that the U.S. foreign policy establishment’s primary issue is not so much control of Ethiopia’s markets and natural resources, but Ethiopian sovereignty vs. US/NATO military hegemony.

Ethiopia recently raised $850 million by holding an open auction ... 973c7f0838 for a national telecommunications contract and it was awarded to a primarily Western consortium including the UK’s Vodafone, Kenya’s Safaricom, the British finance development agency CDC, and Japan’s Sumitomo. However, China is investing and loaning heavily in Ethiopia, and its investments include a $1.2 billion investment in the transmission lines of the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam ... ssance_Dam (GERD). Much of the dam, however, was financed by bonds purchased by Ethiopians, particularly Ethiopians in diaspora.

Ann Garrison: What's the significance of the peace that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed negotiated to end the decades-long border conflict with Eritrea. And why has it been so upsetting to the US foreign policy establishment?

Benyam Kitaw: Well, Isaias Afwerki is the President of Eritrea. And one good thing that he's done for Eritrea is to make it so that outside countries, namely the United States, the UK, and the EU block have virtually no influence.

So peace is good, right? Like if the United States was at war with Canada or Mexico, that would make it very difficult for the country to progress. So peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea—and Somalia—is always a good thing.

I think really the issue for the United States, the UK, and the rest of the NATO countries is that they didn't really have a hand in it, it wasn't something that they controlled. And they don't like that. It means that the United States government can’t control what the peace entails. One being AFRICOM, the US Africa Command. Eritrea has refused to participate in AFRICOM or allow Western powers to put boots on the ground in Eritrea. The AFRICOM command base is in the Horn of Africa, in Djibouti, and pretty much any Western power can operate out of that base, but not in Eritrea, which neighbours both Ethiopia and Djibouti and has a geostrategically important port, Massawa, on the Red Sea. That upsets some of the previous colonial powers, as well as the United States.

But Ethiopia needs peace. It’s been a long time since Ethiopia has had peace, probably not since the so-called Workers’ Party headed by Mengistu Haile Mariam seized power in 1977.

AG: Eritrea is the only African nation that refuses to collaborate with AFRICOM, right?

BK: Yes, so far as I know.

AG: And Ethiopia has been a partner of AFRICOM and a troop contributor to AMISOM, the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia, which has been under US command. Do you think that will continue?

BK: I'm not sure. And I think the United States government is probably nervous about that. But whether Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is in power or not, what the common Ethiopian wants is sovereignty, so that Ethiopia can pursue peace and other goals as a sovereign nation.

I think the TPLF was allowed to rule with the blessing of the Western powers for so long because it subjected itself to US foreign policy.

So we don't know whether Abiy, if he stays in power, or the next prime minister, whoever that may be, will allow the United States to keep military boots on the ground in Ethiopia. I don't know.

It would be nice if there were some kind of peaceful agreement, but I think what's most important, first, is the sovereignty of the African countries involved—Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia—and the peaceful agreements between them.

AG: You’ve named three powers involved, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia. Aren't there two other countries in the Horn, Djibouti and Kenya?

BK: Yes, Kenya. Kenya has historically been a friend to Ethiopia. The only time that I've seen any type of potentially hostile behavior between Kenya and Ethiopia happened recently, when Kenya signed a military agreement with Egypt, which is of course hostile to Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River. But Kenya has been peaceful. Djibouti has been peaceful. There hasn't been a lot of recent conflict in comparison to the other three countries, especially Somalia and Ethiopia.

And so this agreement between Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia is a good thing, whether you like their current leaders or not. They're trying to figure out how to have some kind of collective agreement to peace and to shared economies. It's a very good thing.

AG: It most likely upsets the US foreign policy establishment to see three African nations in the Horn coming together to chart an independent path.

BK: I fully agree with that. And I think the behavior of US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and probably this guy, Jeffrey Feltman, the new US Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa, confirms that. They're kind of like the voices of an old voice on US foreign policy, namely Susan Rice. She’s not even supposed to be involved in foreign policy now—she’s supposed to be Biden’s domestic policy advisor—but it seems like everything she believes is leaking back into current US foreign policy.

What I mean by that, for example, is that during the Meles regime, and then after him, all kinds of ethnic atrocities were committed. Actually, one of the people involved was Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the current Director-General of the World Health Organization. If Secretary Blinken and Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman were so concerned about atrocities and ethnic cleansing, then they should be talking about how this was the historical record of the TPLF regime headed by Meles Zenawi, but they're not. They're focusing on what's happening in Tigray because they want their puppet government back. They want a government that they can control. They're not really concerned about the innocent people.

Now what's scary about that is this seems to be a pattern everywhere. The US talks about helping with democracy. Usually it ends up being a complete mess. I mean, we have a couple of really good examples in Syria and Iraq.

AG: President Trump cut a hundred million dollars in aid to Ethiopia and warned that Egypt, a key US ally, might blow up the Grand Renaissance Dam, which is Ethiopia's project. And then the US Congress recently censured the Ethiopian government over alleged atrocities in Tigray and imposed sanctions. How much is this hurting Ethiopia?

BK: Well, the sanctions themselves, at the moment, aren't going to significantly hurt the common Ethiopian people. The current sanctions target members of the Ethiopian government. The sanctions could be ratcheted up to hurt the whole population—that’s the usual pattern—but right now the cuts in aid are more of a problem.

And the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is another linchpin of US foreign policy. It could take 5 to 15 years to fill the dam, depending on rainfall, but if the GERD is completed, that means Ethiopia will have greater access to electricity. It has the potential to provide electricity to roughly 100 million people, many of them peasant farmers. And that means that Ethiopia will become more economically self-sufficient and become a serious economic competitor to Egypt. And that's what Egypt is really angry about. They don't want another economic power in the region, and it appears that the US is trying to help Egypt keep Ethiopia weak and aid dependent, instead of allowing it to become economically self-sufficient.

AG: I looked this up: Egypt seems to be Africa’s third largest economy after Nigeria and South Africa. Nigeria’s GDP is US$448 billion; South Africa US$351 billion/year, and Egypt US$300 billion/year.

Ethiopia already has one of the larger economies in Africa with a GDP of $95 billion/year, roughly the same as Kenya’s, but that’s only about one third the size of Egypt’s.

BK: Yeah, but Egypt doesn’t want that to change, and the US wants to keep Egypt happy.

AG: Hostilities to both Ethiopia and Eritrea have been undeniably similar to those preceding the US NATO wars in Libya and Syria. And some people have told me that Ethiopians in Eritrea are preparing for the possibility of direct US military aggression or aggression by a US regional proxy, most likely Egypt or a multinational force led by Egypt. Do you think those preparations are warranted?

BK: Warranted by the Ethiopian and Eritrean people? Absolutely. My guess is that the US is going to keep tightening the noose with sanctions and economically.

They've already granted Egypt more military aid. I think that was just about a month ago. And it would be easier for the US foreign policy establishment to use some kind of Egypt-led force to impose what it wants than to put US boots on the ground. But in any case, it seems very clear that the US just doesn't want the Ethiopian or Eritrean people, or any of the peoples in the Horn, to have true sovereignty. Besides and beneath the turmoil about the GERD, sovereignty is the main point of contention.

And I don't understand why. It would actually be much easier for the US government to try to work with the existing powers in the Horn instead of trying to undermine or overthrow them. Because what Ethiopia will do is move closer to Russia and China. Ethiopia has been developing deeper relationships with China, and there've been diplomatic relations between Russia and Ethiopia for about 140 years. And Russia and China are going to continue to be big powers, and that’ll just push Ethiopia closer to them instead of the US and other Western powers.

AG: If the US is aggressive, the aggression will push Ethiopia and its allies in the Horn closer to Russia and China?

BK: Absolutely. And Ethiopia is not a pushover. Ethiopia may not be militarily as strong as the UK or the United States, but it has a very well-established history of defending its sovereignty very effectively. So if the United States invades in some form or fashion, whether it's through Egypt or through a NATO force or whatever, it's not going to go the way they think it's going to go. It's going to be messy and ugly. And the Ethiopians are going to dig in because the Ethiopians enjoy a proud history of sovereignty and independence.

I wish the US and the rest of the Western block would just accept Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Somali sovereignty, even if it's just temporarily until the next guy's in power. There could be temporary solutions. But those countries are not going to take military aggression lightly. And the historical pattern is that it doesn't go in favor of the invading power.

AG: Well, this new US Special Envoy to the Horn, Jeffrey Feltman, said that Ethiopia would make Syria look like a picnic.

BK: Yeah, he’s right, and I think he's a smart guy, but he’s just not going to get what he's trying to push for. It seems as though he specifically, maybe more than anyone else, really wants the TPLF’s US puppet regime back in power. And that's just not happening. The Ethiopian people will not allow that.

Benyam Kitaw is a Los Angeles-based, Ethiopian American activist and community organizer. He can be reached on Twitter @Benyam_Kitaw .

Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace through her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes Region. Please help support her work on Patreo n . She can be reached on Twitter @AnnGarrison and at [email protected].

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Re: US hypocrisy: 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt, including US citizens.

Post by Zmeselo » 10 Jun 2021, 11:04

Abdel-Shaheed Gerges walks at his farmland near a canal which flows into the River Nile at Comer village in Esna, south of Luxor, Egypt, October 27, 2019. Picture taken October 27, 2019. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Egypt has a water problem—and no, it’s not only the GERD

By Yaniv Cohen ... -the-gerd/

WED, JUN 2, 2021

The much-talked-about Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the mega-dam threatening to leave Egypt thirsty, is just the latest straw straining the camel’s back. Egypt’s water stress has been building up long beforehand. The Nile River, a once seemingly unending water resource serving Egypt as a dependable and mighty lifeline for millennia, now barely reaches the Mediterranean Sea. It is being drained—not so much by the GERD, which began filling only last July— but primarily by exponentially growing populations whose needs have ballooned to outstrip the Nile’s capacity, and who now bear the risk of simply not having enough to drink.

From the standpoint of the Egyptian government, this risk is both domestic and international. There is a real possibility that water scarcity, affecting Egypt’s agriculture economy and food prices, will factor into renewed ... egypt.html anti-government protests mirroring those that led to the 2011 revolution. Yet, the water scarcity strains not only Egypt’s water-dependent economy, but also its relations with its neighbors upstream. The coming years will test Egypt’s resilience to water stress, its ability to adapt, and the strength of international diplomacy.

Population growth, now a moderate ... cations=EG 2 percent per year, is the primary driver of Egypt’s water stress, as measured in units of water per capita. Between 1960 to 2020, Egypt’s population grew ... cations=EG from twenty-seven million to over one hundred million, leading per capita water supply to quarter. By 2025, water supply is estimated to drop ... s-scarcity below five hundred cubic meters per capita, a very low level that hydrologists typically define as “absolute scarcity.” ... r%20demand. Climate change is playing a role, too, resulting ... 19EF001247 in more rainfall in the south of the Nile basin, but also in more hot and dry years on average. Taken together, the trends of population growth and climate change reveal a bleak picture of the future of water sufficiency in Egypt, with no signs of reversal.

Declining per capita water availability is bound to impact Egypt’s rural population directly. Egypt’s agriculture sector accounts for only 11 percent of GDP, ... cations=EG but it employs about a quarter of the population and supports the livelihoods of nearly a quarter more. This water-stressed sector, sustaining about half of Egypt’s population, also consumes 86 percent of Egypt’s freshwater withdrawals. Ultimately, water availability limits agricultural production potential and the amount of income the sector can sustainably support. If current trends continue, an increasing amount of Egypt’s already rural poor population could go jobless or struggle to make ends meet as a direct result of the agriculture sector’s unquenched thirst.

Additionally, the declining per-capita water availability will increase Egypt’s food security risk. Once a breadbasket of the Roman Empire, Egypt now imports about 40 percent of its food consumption in monetary terms, making it one of the most food-import-dependent countries in the world. Wheat and corn are consistently both the most produced and most imported ... 1=HS4Depth crops in Egypt, demonstrating that the country’s inability to meet its most basic food needs domestically is not for lack of trying. After cereals, the amount of land used to produce fruit—much of it for exports—is a distant second. Global price shocks to staple crops can create severe shortages in Egypt and increase food prices drastically, and the declining per-capita agricultural production could make these price shocks more severe.

There is little Egypt’s government can do at this point to halt population growth or climate change quickly, yet there is plenty it can do to mitigate other drivers of water scarcity, as well as its effects. A 2009 government publication estimated the efficiency of water conveyance and irrigation in Egypt at 70 and 50 percent, respectively, meaning that simply fixing leaks and switching from surface to drip irrigation techniques can save vast amounts of water.

Indeed, the Egyptian government has been pursuing water-saving efforts, launching its second National Water Resources Plan in 2017. The plan envisions investing $50 billion by 2037, ... r-scarcity of which Egyptian authorities have so far committed ... Speech.pdf about a third of the funding. Recently, authorities have begun enforcing change by fining ... talks.html farmers with inefficient irrigation practices. However, a widespread transition to drip irrigation is still fraught with farmers’ financial barriers and skepticism of leaving behind trusted irrigation methods.

There is also potential to quadruple the amount of the treated ... in%20Egypt. wastewater, which could increase water availability by five percent or so. Sourcing water through desalination is expensive and is only a competitive option as an alternative to transporting water large distances. Egypt is currently investing ... in-5-years $2.8 billion to increase its desalination capacity by roughly 0.88 BCM/yr (billion cubic meters a year) by 2025—an incremental increase upon its renewable water resources ... GY-WRS.pdf of 57.5 BCM/yr.

Additionally, Egypt can address the possible harsh consequences of water scarcity by preparing for potential increases in rural unemployment and food price shocks. It can prepare for increasing rural to urban migration by providing targeted job training and ramping up job creation in industry and services. More workers cannot add to Egypt’s agricultural output when it is maxed out due to water restraints, so creating alternative jobs will be crucial. Of course, this is easier said than done. Egypt has been struggling ... ic-monitor to develop and diversify its economy for many years. The best risk mitigation of uncommon but impactful risks, such as food price shocks, is usually some form of insurance. Food price hikes can be insured in various ways, such as by creating a storage of national food reserves, an emergency fund for subsidizing food imports, or trade agreements to secure food imports at fixed prices.

While there is much Egypt can do to mitigate risk domestically, its water problem ultimately relies on the activities of its upstream neighbors, too. This reliance is increasingly a source ... ute-170190 of tension in the region, especially between Egypt and Ethiopia, as the GERD dispute remains unresolved after nearly a decade of negotiations. The GERD may constitute a single, non-continuous water withdrawal project, but the dispute is not just about the dam’s filling and operation. Throughout the negotiations, Ethiopia has been challenging ... gerd-deal/ Egypt’s claim to a Nile inflow of 55.5 BCM/yr, which has been promised to Egypt in bilateral agreements with Sudan going back a century. It is a difficult dispute to resolve prominently because it serves as a front to the more fundamental regional problems of water scarcity and allocation.

Upstream, the populations of the Nile countries are growing at an even faster rate than Egypt’s, and their water demands can expect to increase accordingly as they strive to develop their economies. Further water withdrawal projects will likely rise in the future, and it remains entirely uncertain how Egypt can continue fending them off.

While the GERD appears to challenge Egypt’s water supply, it is but the last of developments that seek to extract water in a drying basin where economies are simply outgrowing nature’s water capacity. The region, it seems, is reaching its limit. It will be important for countries in the Nile basin—and for Egypt especially—for the entire region to swiftly adopt water saving solutions and slow the increasing water demand. For this reason alone, the Nile countries have an imperative to cooperate multilaterally rather than compete for unilateral solutions.

Yaniv Cohen is a recent graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a former intern at the Atlantic Council.

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