Friday, August 21, 2020

Ethiopia's Proposed Dam on the Nile: Will it bring shared benefits or cause war among Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan?

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Nile River View Cairo, Egypt | Source: Sherif Moharram via Unsplash

The longest river in the world, the Nile,  spans a distance of over 4000 miles, passing through large parts of Africa including Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, to name a few, and finally emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.

The Nile is a lifeline for Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, whose mutual relation took a beating when Ethiopia proposed to build the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD). The proposed dam would make Ethiopia the biggest exporter of electricity in Africa and give a boost to its growing economy.

However, this project invited furious responses from Egypt as Nile is deeply connected to the history of the country since ancient times. Also about 95% of Egyptian population resides along the banks of the Nile and are heavily dependent on the river for sustaining their livelihood. Building the large reservoir will deplete the water resources of Egypt which will threaten their livelihood.

The Nile is experiencing pernicious effects of escalating population and climate change and the United Nations has projected that it is expected to cause immense water scarcity by 2025. “We’re worried. Egypt wouldn’t exist without the Nile. Our livelihood is being destroyed. God help us” says Hamed Jarallah, an Egyptian farmer.

This 5 billion-dollar project was initiated in 2011, is capable of producing a whopping 6000 megawatts of hydro power and has a reservoir capacity of 74 billion cubic metres. This dam is projected to annually contribute over a billion dollars to the Ethiopian economy. It is alleged that Ethiopia has already started filling the reservoir despite the protests from other countries.

In 2015, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan signed a ‘Declaration of Principles’ which called for the equal water distribution. Despite more than five years of negotiations, these countries are still not able to reach mutually acceptable agreements. Earlier, Sudan supported Ethiopia’s dam proposal as it was promised adequate electricity at a cheaper cost. However, the failure to reach a conclusive agreement led it to oppose Ethiopian dam. Sudan has already gone ahead and notified the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the dangers its people will face via a letter advocating them to step in.

Al-Sisi meeting President Trump | Source: The White House via Wikimedia

When Egypt made a demand for GERD to release around 40 billion cubic metres of water every year, Ethiopia denied this suggestion while Sileshi Bekele, minister for water, irrigation and energy, called the volume of water ‘inappropriate’. Finally, in 2019, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi turned towards U.S President Donald Trump to settle this long dispute. “The Ethiopian side does not want an agreement and has not offered an alternative” says Egyptian minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati as Ethiopia retracted from the US-led conciliation over GERD.

Secretary Pompeo Meets with Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu | Source: U.S. Department of State via Wikimedia

Ethiopia further provoked Egypt when Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew tweeted that Ethiopia will have “all the development it wants” from the river and that the Nile is theirs. This was a strong posturing which sparked whispers of an apparent war between Egypt and Ethiopia. If it escalates into a war involving the military then Ethiopia might succumb to the powers of the Egyptian army. However, according to Sisi, military intervention is unlikely to take place as he believes negotiation is the best way to arrive at a viable agreement.

As these three countries march ahead in their task to find a middle ground, they should focus on ideas which would include potential for a ‘shared economic advantage’ and also include organizations like the World Bank which can provide financial backing for improvement purposes in such regions.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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