On Thursday, 15th of July, Egyptian President El-Sisi celebrated the inauguration of the second phase of the “Decent Life” project with tens of thousands of Egyptians who benefited from the first phase. Decent Life is a national project with a huge budget, provided by the national Tahya Misr Fund, that targets upgrading the lives of poor citizens in urban cities and rural areas.
The first phase of the project succeeded, in a record time of five years, to magically remove hundreds of random housing areas around Cairo and Alexandria. The citizens who had lived in such inhuman conditions for years were eventually moved to proper housing areas and supported with monetary solidarity schemes that help them live a decent life.
The second phase of the “Decent Life” project targets improving the living conditions for citizens living in rural villages. That is through renovating the infrastructure of rural cities, which represent more than 80% of the inhabited geographic area of Egypt. The project targets a total of 4,584 villages, with an estimated budget of 700 billion Egyptian Pounds (about 45 billion US dollars).
For the second phase of the Decent Life project to succeed, the Egyptian state needs to secure the flow of the Nile River to the Lower Egypt region, at the Delta region, close to the Mediterranean shores. The Ethiopian government’s insistence on continuing with filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) without coordinating with Egypt and Sudan, via a legally binding agreement, is threatening the development projects Egypt is working on.
Some geopolitical analysts claim that GERD filling and operation may eventually lead to farmers’ mass immigration from northern Egypt to Europe, as water scarcity is expected to rise to unbearable levels. The only way to guarantee this may not happen is by making Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan sign a legally binding agreement that prevents the Ethiopian government, current or prospect, from abusing the GERD to prevent the Nile waters from naturally flowing to downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan.
At the Decent Life Project celebration, on Thursday, President El-Sisi pronounced a number of clear and focused messages regarding the Nile River conflict. The tone and the timing that president El-Sisi chose to voice his messages adds to their significance.
One of these messages is directed to the Ethiopian leadership. “Let’s make a legally binding agreement that will bring prosperity, security and peace to all of us;” said President El-Sisi in a calm but decisive tone. “We have the economic and military power that enable us to force our will and defend our interests. All the options are available, and we will consider using each of them in the proper time and circumstances.”
Then, El-Sisi explained to the Egyptian people the government’s international outreach and diplomatic efforts to put an end to this conflict. “We put the GERD issue on the international agenda during the UNSC meeting… We offered delivering our expertise in agriculture and energy production to our brothers in Sudan and Ethiopia, on the condition that Egypt’s water rights not be touched. Egypt is a big country and we – Egyptians – should not be worried.”
On the flip side, the Ethiopian government is still maneuvering in order not to sign a binding agreement that guarantees Egypt and Sudan share in the Nile River. The Ethiopian stubbornness can only be interpreted in a negative way. In other words, if Ethiopia’s intentions towards Egypt and Sudan are good and sincere, as Abiy Ahmed claimed in one of his recent tweets in Arabic, then why he does not want to sign the agreement.
The patience of the Egyptian leadership on this issue should not be taken for granted by the international community, which is currently set to vote on a resolution to settle the conflict at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).