African food insecurity and the Russia Ukraine war

In PublicationsOctober 1, 20229 Minutes

African food insecurity and the Russia Ukraine war

Staff Writer

The Russian-Ukraine war has exposed the depth of Africa’s food insecurity. But its leaders remain unmoved. The war in Ukraine has illucidated several political and economic vulnerabilities from Europe to China, the US, and Africa. While the type of impact from this war varies significantly across the board, the magnitude of the challenges to communities remains similar. There are daily reports showcasing how the brunt of these consequences is borne by Europe as energy prices reach unbearable levels for industries and households. As Germany alone shells out 200 billion euros to subsidies energy bills and put a break on inflation, the potential of this energy war to bring economic sectors to a halt and fuel social instability has dramatically altered the priority list for European policymakers.

Energy security and energy sovereignty are now the most critical elements of European collective interest which has already led to the EU eyeing gas-rich Algeria in North Africa and other Caucasus energy hubs as substitutes for Russian gas and providing incentives for renewables.

Africa is yet to be harmed by direct reductions in energy supplies. But impending food insecurity has suddenly unraveled, threatening the stability of governments and positive gains from decades of economic growth. Disruptions to wheat supplies are having major repercussions on food security across the continent. A report by the International Centre for migration policy development noted that Sudan saw the price of bread nearly doubling, with some bakeries forced to close following a 60 percent drop in wheat imports since the beginning of the war. The report shows that the fragile stability in Libya could be threatened by food insecurity as it imports 75 percent of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia and supply disruptions have led to increases in bread prices. It singled out Somalia, Sudan, Mauritania, Congo, Kenya, and Eritrea as heavily dependent on wheat imports from Eastern Europe and thus significantly vulnerable to impending food insecurity as fallout from supply disruptions. Ukraine alone accounts for 10% of global wheat production and exports large quantities to North African states, according to calculations by the Kiel Institute for the Kiel-based World Economy.

Prices of bread retain not just nourishment value but also socio-political currency in many African countries. Increments in bread cost had an infamously notable impact in the Arab spring and several North African countries as a result continue to subsidize bread prices to keep disenfranchised populations away from street-level protests. As such, cheap large quantities of Ukrainian and Russian wheat to Africa have provided over 40% of Africa’s demand, according to a New York Times report. A FAO report indicates in 2021, Russia and Ukraine ranked among the top three global exporters of wheat, barley, maize, rapeseed and rapeseed oil, sunflower seed, and sunflower oil. In the African context, its wheat imports have increased by 68 percent to 47 million tonnes from 2007 to 2019, according to the UN.

They show that Africa’s vulnerability due to its significant dependence on non-African sources for food is quite disconcerting. Assessments indicate that African countries imported 54.8 million metric tons of wheat in 2021 while its total production stood at 25.7 million metric tons. It is also reported that 32 percent of total African wheat imports come from Russia and 12 percent from Ukraine; with 25 African countries importing more than a third of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia. Egypt is the largest importer of wheat globally, with 85 percent of its supply provided by Russia and Ukraine, according to research conducted by ICMPD. African Development Bank AfDB warned in April of this year that the continent’s wheat prices have increased by 60%, estimating that the continent will lose up to $11 billion worth of food due to the conflict.

Fertilizer, a critically strategic input without which agricultural production fails, is also imported from Russia, which ranks as the world’s top exporter of nitrogen fertilizers, the second leading supplier of potassic fertilizers, and the third largest exporter of phosphorous fertilizers, according to FAO. Severe shortages of fertilizers for African farmers are expected to cause reductions in harvests in 2023, further straining availability and pushing up prices.

The fact that African countries or the African Union have not placed the continent’s dire dependency on imports for its food supply as their top security and strategic challenge will have multiple ramifications. With Africa spending about USD 35 billion a year on food imports, according to the world bank, the major part of African farmlands is still used to grow coffee, cocoa, and cottonseed oil for export while staple crops of the African diet, wheat, and rice, mainly come from outside of the continent. The growing cost is unsustainable and the risk of instability in the most fragile parts of the continent is too heavy to put the issue on the back burner.

In essence, the wake-up call the energy crisis provided to Europe is what the grain crisis could do to Africa if policymakers seize it as a window of opportunity for policy shifts toward putting more political focus and resources into ensuring food sovereignty. Africa’s food security is tied to a permanent geo-strategic hotspot is a stranglehold that can be avoided by investing in the farms of Africa. With wheat consumption in Africa projected by the UN to reach 76.5 million tonnes by 2025, of which 48.3 million tonnes or 63.4 percent is projected to be imported outside of the Continent, there is a critical need to reevaluate the traditional idea of Africa importing its food while it possesses 60 percent of the global arable land to insulate itself from external shocks where it maintains little or no influence.

While Antonio Guterres’s warning in March of this year that many African countries were at risk because of their dependence on Russia and Ukraine for food may not be taken seriously, lessons from Ethiopia, where a government-led program to massively expand wheat production is expected to turn the country into grain self-sufficiecy as early as 2023, could propel the issue of food sovereignty in Africa to the front of debates. Ethiopia plans to reverse an annual practice that sees it importing 85% of its wheat demand. If its self-sufficiency drive becomes successful as planned, the policy implications in trade, security, and geopolitics will be far-reaching and consequential beyond Africa. Considering how strongly food insecurity is linked to migration and the refugee crisis in Europe, a favorite punching bag for surging right-wing politicians, the west should also support African best practices in agriculture as an act of self-interest.


Why is a large dam important for Ethiopia? Experiences from the Danube River

In PublicationsSeptember 16, 202218 Minutes

Why is a large dam important for Ethiopia? Experiences from the Danube River 

Silabat Manaye

Silabat Manaye is an international relations professional based in Addis Ababa. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in Geography and Environmental Studies from Wolayta Sodo University and his Bachelor in Science from New Generation University College in Addis Ababa. Silabat also completed his Master of Arts in Diplomacy and International Relations from the Ethiopian Civil Service University. His research interests include water politics, Peace journalism, as well as Digital and mobile journalism

In the case of Ethiopia, about 90% of the available water is received mainly in three months. Hence, dams could effectively store water during heavy rain seasons between June to September and some extent during the short rainy seasons.

Large water storages are therefore essential. In addition, we can expect the following advantages could be expected from building big dams in the Blue Nile basin: The flood waters are wasted unless large major dams are constructed, Large dams are eminently suited for carrying over storage and thus impart greater reliability and stability to the system, Large dams generate cheap and clean hydropower, Dams provide the most effective way of flood regulation and control.

Large dams are most reliable during drought periods as small storages are fast depleted and suffer excessive evaporation. In drought years, small dams are scarcely reliable. Longevity as large silt pockets, per unit areas stored with large dams, is much less as compared to small dams.

Diversion and transfer of surplus water to water-scarce basins can be an option only through big dams. Employment potential is higher in large dams throughout the year. In the case of small dams, there is little employment potential as seasonal rains affect only small local areas.

The imperatives for large water storage were supported by the former President of the World Water Forum Council who stated that “some 8,000,000 dams (of which 45 000 are major, higher than 15 meters in height) exist around the world delivering energy, flood protection and water for household, industrial and agricultural use”

He further stated that “despite the drawbacks, the world’s growing population and their need for greater economic development call for more water, in which demand will exceed availability. More and larger storage will be necessary to meet the challenges of development and socio-cultural fabric and make sure that those people affected by the development of dams will be better off than the alternative.

While giving special attention to the environmental and displacement aspects, Ethiopia should construct large-scale dams that: increase economic and social productivity and hence increase consumption of goods and services, irrigate 2.2 million hectares identified in the basin, distribute benefits to millions of inhabitants through employment in mechanized agriculture in the basin, provide better settlement, equipped with socially, economically and technically sound services in the basin for millions and change their life; producing complex hydroelectric power for trade with the trans-boundary countries.

Therefore, Ethiopia needs urgent action on matters concerning the building of major dam structures in the Abbay, Baro-Akobo, and Tekezze catchments and other River basin areas in accordance with some detailed studies and engineering designs.

Ethiopia has made many valuable studies and design works without much chance of putting them into action mainly because of lack of funds.  To date, Ethiopia is the most minor user of the Blue Nile run-off in the Eastern Nile Basin, compared to Sudan and Egypt. At the national level, economic and institutional capacities are also limited. Despite many hindrances, Ethiopia should concentrate on the modern agricultural development options, focused on the rivers so that these resources could be utilized to realize meaningful irrigation programs.

Climate Change should concern the Nile Nations

A holistic approach to conservation, protection and utilization of the Nile River basin was sparsely implemented. The long-standing dispute over the Nile River was primarily on the utilization of the waters. But without arriving at a comprehensive governance scheme to address the environmental problems posed against the basin an equitable and reasonable share of the Nile waters would not be secured.

The blame must go to the downstream countries for their reluctant approach to a basin-wide agreement to address the governance challenges including the climate change impacts. Benefit-sharing should come after sharing of burdens on the costs of conservation and protection of the Nile environment.

Climate change has become a global threat to the environment including watercourses. The globe has launched several international mechanisms to deal with climate change.

The 2015 Paris climate accord was the latest of all initiatives. There is a nationally determined emission reduction to withhold the global warming rate below 2 Degree Celsius. The Nile riparian states are duty-bound to mitigate the environmental problems threatening the water flows of the Nile River.

Their mitigation should be expressed through their cooperation in afforestation programs on the headwaters and tributaries of the Nile River.  Those headwaters are located in Ethiopian highlands. Ethiopia has embarked on the planting mission of twenty billion trees within a four-year period.

The downstream countries should participate in this green legacy mission and should cover the conservation and protection costs of the Nile basin. To that end, Ethiopia should offer a call for participation in the green legacy mission to the downstream nations.

For the downstream nations, participating in the greening of Ethiopian highlands would be a mitigation strategy for the millennial damages caused to the Nile River. They have depleted the Nile surrounding area with over-exploitation and mismanagement of the river. With that said, long-term cooperation on the conservation and protection of the Nile River Basin should be governed through basin-wide legal and institutional frameworks. Such a basin-wide arrangement could establish a permanent river basin commission to administer and facilitate cooperation among the riparian nations in the fight against climate change and its adverse impacts on the Nile ecosystem.

Lessons on Governance for Nile Nations from the Danube River

The Danube River Basin Cooperation provides a laudible lesson and example to the nations of the Nile Basin, as there are striking similarities between the two basins. The anticipated lesson to be learned by the Nile Nations from the Danube River Basin Cooperation is the harmonization and integrated management that brought tangible results and ensured peaceful co-existence within that region. Some of the outstanding achievements of integrative development and management approach of the communities of the Danube River Basin and their experiences are summarized below to illustrate the power of harmony and spirit of the shared responsibilities of the ordinary inhabitants of large river basins to the Nile families.
As mentioned in the study made by Oregan, Sullivan, and Bromley, the Danube is a large river that covers approximately 800,000 square kilometers in the territories of 18 states, with over 80 million inhabitants and 60 large and growing urban centers. The Danube is a slow-moving river with well-developed alluvial plains in its course. The Danube River covers an area of 675,000 ha and is internationally recognized as one of the most important watersheds in Europe.
The basin area covers all of Hungary, most of Austria, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, and Montenegro; significant parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech and Moldovan republics, as well as a smaller area of Germany and Ukraine. Albania, Italy, Macedonia, Poland, and Switzerland also have small geographical areas within the basin. The Danube River Basin is spread across countries with very different levels of economic development and social and environmental diversities. Germany and Austria, highly developed nations, are located in the upper basin with longstanding membership of the European Union. In the middle basin Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungarian, and Ethiopia are experiencing an appreciable degree of economic growth. Further downstream Romania, Bulgaria, and Ukraine are less developed states in Europe but they are experiencing political and economic transition. Also, within the basin are the Former Yugoslav republics and northeast Moldova, the least developed country in Europe, heavily dependent on agriculture.

Institutional Framework Experience

The development of the Danube River Basin is coordinated through several institutions formed by all member states and policies directed by these bodies. The most important of the European-level policies is the European Water Framework Directive (WFD), which seeks to introduce comprehensive river basin management and environmental protection initiatives across Europe. The Danube River Protection Convention forms the overall legal instrument for cooperation on transboundary water management in the Danube River Basin. The Convention was signed on June 29, 1994, in Sofia (Bulgaria) and came into force in 1998. Based on this document, the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), with 13 cooperating states and the European Union, was established in practice. The ICPDR makes recommendations for improving water quality, developing mechanisms for flood and industrial accident control, agreeing on standards for emissions, and ensuring that these measures are reflected in the cooperating states’ national legislations and applied in their policies.
To meet the needs of this single basin-wide management plan, each country is in the process of preparing national reports (roof reports) which give an overview of WFD issues such as the pressures on the surface and groundwater resources and related environmental impacts that will form the basis of the river basin management plan. In the 1990s, countries of the DRB took significant steps to improve the management of the Danube with recognition of the growing regional and transboundary character of water management issues and related environmental issues. In 1991, the Environmental Program for the Danube River Basin (EPDRB) was established in Sofia, Bulgaria by the countries of the DRB, together with international institutions and NGOs, to start an initiative to support and enhance actions required for the restoration and protection of the basin. This was followed by the Convention on Cooperation for the Protection and Sustainable Use of the Danube River Basins signed in June 1994. It was signed by 11 states and the European Union and provided the legal basis for the protection and use of water resources in the basin.

Water Use Practices

The Danube plays an important role in the development of the region, as its communities rely on it for water supply (domestic, agricultural and industrial), power generation, navigation, waste disposal, and recreation. The Danube waters have also been intensively harnessed for hydroelectricity (particularly in Austria and Germany) and irrigation schemes for agricultural developments (especially in the middle and lower basins).
The need for water storage in the face of seasonal variations and to generate hydropower have led to dam building across the basin. Between 1950 and 1980,69 dams with a total volume exceeding 7.3-billion-meter cube were constructed on the Danube River. Groundwater resources represent as much as 30 percent of the total internal renewable water resources of some DRB countries. Aquifers are the main resources of drinking water while some have permeable aquifers, which are highly vulnerable to pollution from point and nonpoint resources. The extent of hydro-morphological changes for navigation environmental has had a major impact on natural floodplains and their ecosystems. In many places along the river floodplains, meanders have been cut off from the river system. However, as a result, 80 percent of the historical floodplain of the larger rivers of the basin has been lost over the last 150 years. The loss of this area has led to a reduction of flood retention capacity and floodplain habitat. Some of the remaining areas have either received protection status under different national or European legislation or international conventions, while other areas remain vulnerable.

Civil societies and Private Institutions Environmental Experiences

The Regional Environmental For Central and Eastern Europe (REC), and the Danube Environmental Forum (DEF) represent nearly 200 NGOs across the region. The aim is to protect the Danube River and its tributaries, their biodiversity, and resources, through enhancing cooperation among governments, non-governmental organizations, local people, and all kinds of stakeholders towards sustainable use of natural ecosystems. Many of these institutions are participants in the annual Danube Day festivities marking the signing of the Danube Convention and celebrating the river, its ecology, and its people. Festive events, festivals, public meetings, and educational events take place along the river and Danube Day is described as a powerful tool for enhancing the “Danubian identity of people living in the basin, demonstrating that despite their different cultures and histories they have a shared responsibility to protect their precious resource.”
There is also increasing involvement from the private sector. At the basin level, the most visible private company involved in water resources management is the multinational Coca-Cola. Cola protects the Danube River Water Basin and it is committed to business approaches that preserve the environment and integrate principles of environmental stewardship and sustainable development into its business decisions and processes. At the local level, the company is piloting a number of water-themed sustainability projects, across the basin in partnership with local authorities and NGOs. Coca-Cola is also a major sponsor of Danube Day.


Another Milestone in Ethiopia’s GERD project: a discussion with Professor Yacob Arsano.

In PublicationsSeptember 16, 202216 Minutes

Another Milestone in Ethiopia’s GERD project: a discussion with Professor Yacob Arsano.

Professor Yacob Arsano

Professor Yacob Arsano currently serves as an Associate Professor at Addis Ababa University’s School of Political Science and International Relations (AAU- PSIR). Dr. Yacob’s research focus on hydropolitics, coupled with his adamant advocacy for equitable water use in the Nile Basin, makes him a leading authority on  inter-state relations in the Eastern Nile Basin.

His expertise, particularly on the construction  of the GERD project and the consequent  negotiations with riparian states, has allowed  for a scientific framing of recently emerging  water disputes in the region.

Question: What is the general guideline for utilizing a shared resource? Particularly as it relates to lower riparian countries?

Answer: According to the UN Convention on Nonnavigational Uses of International Water Courses, which was adopted in 1997, as well as the Cooperative Framework Agreement -CFA, which is an agreement that the Nile Basin countries signed in 2010, the use of shared waters should be reasonable  and equitable between the riparian countries. It is accepted that if one country uses the shared waters,  that country is required to be cautious not to inflict significant harm to other riparian countries. The  three-round fillings of GERD in 2020, 2021, and 2022 have not caused any damage to Egypt and Sudan. There is no evidence for any presumed claims of harmful effects of the three GERD fillings.

This Declaration of Principles which was signed by the Presidents of Egypt and Sudan and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia in March 2015 is an excellent example of transboundary river development cooperation. In this agreement, many provisions indicate beneficial interests to all three parties. The understanding is that Ethiopia owns and manages the GERED and, upon completion “priority will be given to downstream countries to purchase power generated from GERD”., As you know, the filling process goes in tandem with the progress of the construction, in accordance with the Declaration of Principles. Thus far, I am yet to see anything that Ethiopia has done to undermine the agreement. So far, there is no evidence that the water going to Sudan and Egypt has been significantly reduced, blocked, or put in jeopardy.
It is open fact that Sudan suffers from cyclical annual Nile flooding in the months of summer., However, as a result of the commencement of the staged GERD filling destruction to life and property has been relatively minimal in downstream Sudan.

On the occasion of the completion of the third filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) Horn Review discussed with Professor Yacob Arsano the technical, cooperative, and policy issues surrounding the dam. 

Question: The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign affairs has reported that Ethiopia wrote a letter to Egypt on August 2nd stating that it would be filling the dam in the months of August and September. However, Ethiopia completed filing the dam 15 days earlier, on July 18. What is your opinion on this matter?

Answer: As the owner of the dam, it is Ethiopia’s commitment to notify the lower Nile riparian states of its plans to fill the dam before doing so. Egypt’s accusation that “Ethiopia’s dam should not be filled” or complaints of receiving the letter after the dam has already been filled is simply a weak argument. The very purpose of building a dam is to fill it with water Ethiopia has the right to build the dam and fill it with water, without causing significant harm to downstream countries. So, Ethiopia is filling the dam parallel to the construction as agreed in the Declaration of Principles of March 2015. when the dam is fully completed, it will help avoid annual floods in the rainy season in downstream countries. Ethiopia should be thanked for this and many other benefits the GERD brings to Egypt and Sudan. I do not think Ethiopia should be accused by Egypt since this is the third filing, not the first. In my view, accusations from the Egyptian side are simply baseless.

Question: Professor, according to Asharq al-awsat news, this third filling, more than the previous ones, is expected to create more tension. Do you think there is some truth to that statement?

Answer: I do not think so. More than 80 percent of the construction of the dam has been completed since 2011, and the dam is now in its third round of filling. This is neither abrupt nor unexpected. Ethiopia didn’t flippantly start filling the dam., The dam was built for the sole purpose of filling it and producing electricity. When the first and second phases of filling took place, the countries on the lower river basin were made aware of the annual filling schedule. The third filling was executed in a similar manner.

Since the filling of the dam will not cause water depletion in Egypt or Sudan, they will not be affected by the filling of the third round. So, since there will be no water reduction expected, I don’t think this 3rd filling poses a problem; disagreement or controversy is unnecessary.

Question: Just to follow up on this question, to the best of your understanding, what are the  significance and implications of Egypt’s claim of “historical rights?” Is there a precedent of historical rights over trans-boundary resources?

Answer: Because the agreements signed by Egypt with the British in 1929 and with the Sudanese in 1959, are not related to Ethiopia and other Nile riparian, Egypt and Sudan should not claim to be the sole proprietors of the Nile waters. The Nile is a shared resource by all riparian nations and is meant
to be utilized by all parties equitably and reasonably. It should, instead, be advocated for joint use of this precious resource amongst all parties.


Since it is the resource of the watershed countries, all parties involved are entitled to fair and equitable
usage. Therefore, it is unjustified for one or two parties to monopolize the shared resource. Ethiopia
and other upstream countries cannot be bound by the unilateral agreements of Egypt and Sudan  between themselves or with an external actor in the Nile basin.

The international experience is that countries in respective river basins agree to utilize their shared resources jointly and collaboratively. They establish common principles and institutional mechanisms. For instance, the Mekong river basin riparian nations have established the Mekong River Basin Commission. Similarly, the riparian nations of the Senegal river basin have established Senegal River Basin Commission. Elsewhere in Europe, the Rhine and Danube riparian nations have respective river basin commissions for each of the shared rivers. Nowhere in the world, a single riparian country claims a monopoly of shared river waters. It is only in the Nile Valley, that the Egyptian party insists that the other riparian countries be governed by Egypt’s rules and interests.

Question: Until this third filing, downstream states were involved in tripartite negotiations. However, due to civil unrest in Sudan, the African Union also blocked the country from further participating. So, how will the negotiations continue in this situation? If there is any negotiation to happen, what kind of  step will be taken next? Is it only with the two of them or how can this work for Egypt says that Sudan must enter?

Answer: Until April 2021, now, the Coalition Government of Sudan was attending the negotiation platform facilitated by the African Union together with Ethiopia and Egypt. But Egypt and Sudan are not willing to be on the negotiation stage putting up preconditions, and further stalling the negotiation process.

It is not the case that Egypt is not attending the negotiations because Sudan has been banned from the process due to the recent military takeover in Sudan. The actual fact is that together, Egypt and Sudan are making elaborate excuses for their refusal to proceed with the talks under the auspices of the Africa Union. Ethiopia has clearly explained that it does not accept the binding agreement which was initially proposed by Egypt after the failed Washington talks in January 2020. The so-called binding agreement which is very strongly put forward by Egypt and Sudan would be suicidal to Ethiopia’s sovereign rights over its national resources.

Question: Around 10% of the water reserve in Aswan High Dam is said to be reserved for Gulf states. Do you think this might be a complicating factor in potentially internationalizing the dispute?

Answer: I am not sure of the 10% figure. However, the water stored in the Aswan High Dam should, logically, be used by Egypt within the natural Nile basin. Egypt’s poor water management is self-evident, and this goes against the principles of protecting and conserving of the shared waters by each of the riparian countries. Egypt has unilaterally crossed a portion of the Nile waters to the Sinai Peninsula which is located outside the Nile watershed. Ethiopia has long protested this action. Second, it is known that Egypt created a new valley in the west direction of the High Aswan Dam to create a new valley. It is an open secret that Egypt has a new plan to divert the Nile waters to the New mega city on the western reach of the Suez Canal Ethiopia, along with other basin states continue to protest against the unilateral and wasteful utilization of the shared Nile water resources.

Question: While we are on the subject of informal objections or complaints, Egypt often runs to the UN security council with every possible objection. Entertaining this as a neutral objection, a neutral subject, and what is the merit and downfall of international level litigation?

Answer: So, if one country complains about another country’s actions as it relates to shared trans-boundary waters, that country is expected to follow the procedure of the International Court of Justice when the case is subject to international litigation. Similarly, bringing the case to UN Security Council should qualify the merit of security threats. However, barring other countries from using the trans-boundary water resources within respective territorial jurisdictions is a different ball game. Countries cannot go to ICJ or UNSC to protect their unlawful monopoly control of the otherwise shared waters. We are yet to see Egypt lodging a formal complaint to the concerned international tribunal because that course of action would not be in the best interest of either Egypt or Sudan. The previous two appeals of Egypt and Sudan to the UNSC did not induce the Council to consider the case as a matter
of security. The Council, however, advised the parties to take the case to the AU forum as an “African problem” and a development issue.

Question: We know that the dam is being built by internationally acclaimed construction companies. However, Egypt and Sudan claim to worry about the safety and structural integrity Dam. Is there any merit to this concern? 

Answer: Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan jointly created an International Panel of Experts, IPoE, in 2012 and 2013 which included expert members from each respective country, in addition to intellectually recruited technical experts based on international competence. The International Panel of Experts then did evaluate the dam project and made a report in 2013. The IPoE report that the dam is up to international standard, that it is of high quality; and that the safety of the dam should not be an issue of
worry. The Egyptian experts duly signed the report alongside the rest of the IPoE members. Therefore, the Egyptian government has no credible reason or evidence to claim that the dam-building process is weak.

The IPoE didn’t come to this conclusion on its own, they first analyzed all 153 documents Ethiopia has
been using throughout the design and construction process. Additionally, IPoE members made an  onsite visit to the dam site and inspected the setup in person, confirming that the dam meets international standards. I find the safety-related objections to the dam prejudicial, be it misguided.

On the occasion of the completion of the third filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) Horn Review discussed with Professor Yacob Arsano the technical, cooperative, and policy issues  surrounding the dam.



ከህዳሴው ግድብ ሶስተኛው ሙሌት በኋላስ?

In PublicationsSeptember 16, 20222 Minutes

ከህዳሴው ግድብ ሶስተኛው ሙሌት በኋላስ?

መሐመድ አል-አሩሲ

የኢትዮጵያ ፓርላማ አባል

ይህ ርዕስ በህዳሴው ግድብ ጀርባ ካለው በቢልዮን ከሚቆጠረው ውሀ ሊበልጥ የሚችል ዝርዝሮች የያዘ ርዕስ ነው ማለት ይቻላል! በህዳሴው ግድብ ላይ እውቀት ያላቸው ፍትሃዊ ባለሞያዎች ይህ ርዕስ ልክ በሱዳንና በግብፅ ወንድሞቻችን ላይ እደሚዘንበው ዝናብ አስፈላጊ መሆኑን በአንድ ድምፅ ተስማምተዋል።

ሳይንሳዊና ቴክኒካል ትንተናዎች ኢትዮጵያ ለጎረቤት ሀገራትና ለአለም አቀፉ ማህበረሰብ የገባችው ቃል ማረጋገጥ ካልቻሉ በቴሌቭዥን እና በተለያዩ ሚድያዎች ከመታየት ውጭ ምንም ነገር አላበረከቱም ማለት ይቻላል።

እሁን ለአስርት አመታት አልፎ ተርፎም ለዘመናት አብረን የተጓዝንበት መስቀለኛ መንገድ ላይ ነን። ያለፉት ዓመታት ያጋጠሙን ችግሮች ሁሉ ምንም እንኳን ባያስታውቀንም ይበልጥ እንድንቀራረብ አድርጎናል።

እናም በማንኛውም መልኩ የአንዱ የጠይሟ አህጉራችን ክፍል ድል ቢያገኝ፣ ደስታው ሌሎቹን የአህጉሪቱ ክፍሎች ሁሉ ያዳርሳል።

የበላይ መሪ የሆነች ትልቅ ተስፋ ያላት አህጉር አለችን …

አፍሪካ… የአለም ገነት…

ታዲያ ያለ ኢትዮጵያ ግብፅ እና ሱዳን የምንኮራበት አፍሪካ ልትኖር ትችላለችን??

የሰላም መርከቦች በአቢሲኒያ ከፍታዎች በጥቁር አባይ ዳርቻ ላይ አርፈው ኢትዮጵያዊያን ከግብፅና ከሱዳን ጋር ውህደት፣ ትብብር እና የጋራ ተጠቃሚነት እንዲኖር ጥሪ አቅርበዋል።

እኔ እዚህ የእነዚህን ስማቸው ብቻ የሚበቃ ሶስት ሀገራት ታሪካዊ ታላቅነት ለመዘርዘር አይደለም የቀረብኩት። በጌታ ፈቃድ ሦስተኛው ሙሌት ከተጠናቀቀ በኋላ አድማሱ ተከፍቶ ከመጣላት እና ካለመግባባት ይልቅ ትብብር እና አንድነት ከረጅም ጊዜ በፊት መጀመር እንደነበረብን ግልፅ ያደርግልናል። እነዚህ የብልጽግና እና የዘላቂ ልማት ሰንደቅ ዓላማዎች የሚውለበለቡባቸው አድማሶች ናቸው።

ከሦስተኛው ሙሌት በኋላ፣ አሁንም ያልተስማማንባቸውን ነጥቦች መከለስ ይጠበቅብናል። የህዳሴ ግድቡ አስከፊ አደጋ ነው እያለ ጉዳቱን ሲጠብቅ የነበረ አሁን በተጨባጭ የህዳሴውን ግድብ ጥቅምና አዋጭነት መዳሰስ ችሏል!

እንዲሁም የህዳሴው ግድቡ ካለቀ በኋላ ጥማትን እና ሞትን ሲጠብቅ የነበረ ሁሉ። በአላህ ፈቃድ ዉሀው ኤሌክትሪክ ካመረተ በኋላ የህዳሴው ግድብ በሮች ዉሀው በአግባቡ እንዲደርሳቸው አድርጎ ተስፋ የቆረጠውን ሁሉ በኤሌክትሪክም በውሀም ማስደመም ችሏል።

የክፋት መንገዶች ይፈርሳሉ የመልካምነት መንገዶች ጸንተው ይቆያሉ። ስለዚህ በግብፅ እና በሱዳን ያላችሁ ወንድሞች ለሀገራችንና ህዝቦቻችን ወደሚጠቅም ትብብር እንድትመጡ ጥሪ አቀርባለሁ። ያለፈውን አልፈን አሁን ያለውን በጋራ እንገንባ።

የአገሮቻቸውን ጥቅም ከግለሰቦች ጥቅም በላይ የሚያሳስባቸው አገሮች እንዴት ልዩ ናቸው? እስኪ ጮክ ብለን እንበል፡- የህዳሴው ግድብ የሚያስተሳስረን ፕሮጀክት ነው።


ماذا بعد الملء الثالث لسد النهضة ؟

In PublicationsSeptember 16, 20222 Minutes

ماذا بعد الملء الثالث لسد النهضة ؟

محمد العروسي

عنوان تربعت تحته مليارات التفاصيل التي قد تفوق مليارات المياه في سد النهضة 

لقد أجمع العارفون العادلون في قضية سد النهضة. منه على جدواه التي تنهمر كما الأمطار على أشقائنا في السودان ومصر  

وقد تظل التحليلات العلمية الفنية لا تراوح مكانها خلف شاشات التلفاز ووسائل الإعلام بمختلف أشكالها وألوانها إذا لم تثبت صحة الوعود الإثيوبية لدول الجوار والأسرة الدولية 

إننا اليوم في مفترق طرق سلكناها سويا لعقود أو حتى قرون من الزمان

فكافة الإشكاليات التي خُضنا غمارها خلال السنون الغابرة جعلتنا أكثر قربا من بعضنا البعض حتى وإن لم نشعر بذلك في حقيقة الأمر 

ولئن كان النصر حليفا لبقعة من بقاع قارتنا السمراء في أي أمر كان فإن فرحة الظفر به تتسكع في  كل بقاع القارة كيفما شاءت لتحتل كافة البقاع الأخرى  

وإن لم تبلغ مرادها هذا فإنها تحتفي بما

 استطاعت احتلاله

قارة واعدة قائدة سائدة …

إفريقيا … جنة الدنيا …

وأي إفريقية نتباهى بها دون إثيوبيا ومصر والسودان ؟

لقد أرست مراكب السلام دعائمها على مرتفعات بلاد الحبشة في ضفاف النيل الأزرق ليطلق ربانها الإثيوبيون دعوات التكامل والتعاون والمنفعة المتبادلة مع مصر والسودان !

ولست هنا بصدد سرد العظمة التاريخية لكل دولة من الدول الثلاث ، فيكفيك من عظمتهن اسم كل منهن 

وحينما يتم الملء الثالث تتفتح الآفاق بإذن ربها لتبرز لنا كيف أنا بحاجة إلى التعاون منذ أمد بعيد منا إلى التصارع والتغابن

إنها آفاق تلوح في فضائها رايات الإزدهار والتنمية المستدامة


وبعد الملء الثالث يقتضي بنا مراجعة أوراقنا التي لازلنا نراهن عليها

فمن كان يقول بأن سد النهضة خطر محدق قد بات يلمس واقعيا منافع السد وجدواه بعد أن كان يرتقب ضره وأذاه !

ومن بات يرتقب العطش على إثر قيام السد أسعفته بوابات سد النهضة بماء أجراه الله بإذنه وقوته بعد أن أمره الله بتوليد الطاقة من ماء غير آسن ، فأبهر اليائس بماء وكهرباء بعد أن ارتقب العطش والبوار …!

أواصر الشر تتفكك وأواصر الخير تدوم ، فهلموا أيها الأشقاء في مصر والسودان نحو التعاون إلى مافيه صلاح بلداننا وشعوبنا 

لنتجاوز الماضي ونبني الحاضر معا فما أرقى الأمم التي تغلب مصالح أوطانها على مصالح أفرادها ولنقل بصوت عالِ :

سد النهضة رابطة تجمعنا 

دمتم بخير


A Comparative Analysis of Cybersecurity Capabilities of the Nile Lower-Riparians (Part II)

In PublicationsSeptember 16, 202218 Minutes

A Comparative Analysis of Cybersecurity Capabilities of the Nile Lower-Riparians (Part II)

Abdijabar Yussuf Mohamed

About the Author

Abdijabar Yussuf Mohamed is a graduate of the Schwarzman Scholars Program in Beijing, China where he obtained his Masters in Global Affairs. Previously, he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Middlebury College in Vermont, USA. As a Middlebury undergraduate, he was a Kathryn Davis Fellow for Peace & an exchange/associate student at Keble College, Oxford University in the U.K.  He previously worked as Artificial Intelligence (AI) policy researcher and cybersecurity engineer. He currently researches the intersection between cybersecurity and public policy.  His research interests include cybersecurity and cyber policy; AI & Data Science; Sino-Horn of Africa (HoA) relations; data-based (empirical) study of political violence in the Somali Region of Ethiopia.


This article attempts to investigate Ethiopia’s cyber prowess relative to Egypt’s and, albeit to a lesser extent, that of Sudan. Of the three countries, evidence shows Egypt as the nation, among the three, has the superior cybersecurity regime. Ethiopia is ahead of Sudan but falls significantly behind Egypt. Additionally, Egypt has a National Cyber Strategy while Ethiopia and Sudan are yet to adopt robust and sound cybersecurity strategies that advance multi-stakeholder collaboration in the security, public, and private sectors. Additionally, Egyptian elite ethical hacker teams are ahead of Ethiopian and Sudanese ethical hackers in the international “cyber Olympics”. This article concludes with policy recommendations for building a cyber-resilient Ethiopia in which the national critical infrastructures such as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) are protected from foreign cyberattacks.

In part I of“The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) as an African Cyberwarfare Front: A Simplified Cyber Attack Scenario & Some Plausible Cyber Attack Consequences”, this article illustrated what a simplified cyberattack scenario on the dam’s command & control (C2) involves and the plausible cyber-physical impacts of a cyberattack on the riverine Benishgul Gumuz Region (BGR) communities and the power grid system. These consequences include devastating power outages, future loss of life due to water poisoning, and reduction of the dam’s computer infrastructures to a global cybercrime station for local and international cybercrime syndicates. Part II will focus on assessing Ethiopia’s cyber capabilities vis-à-vis Egypt and, to a lesser extent, Sudan. After a brief discussion of a simple methodology & limitations, this article provides a discussion on the Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) ranking of the three countries.

1. Methodology & Limitations

This is an underinvestigated topic and, as a result, there is little previous body of work upon which to build. Due to limiting legal and security reasons, first-hand data on the full extent of each of these countries’ cyber talent pools. Such data falls into the realm of classified intelligence world and it is not my intention as an “objectivity-seeking researcher” to even attempt to seek data that could be, in any shape or form, construed to undermine the respective national security laws that limit access to such critical data. Notwithstanding the dearth of first-hand data, there are useful talent data availed by the GCI ranking and CyberTalents, an independent platform that competitively nurtures global cybersecurity talent through organizing an annual national and regional Capture the Flag (CTF) competition. A CTF in computer security is a competitive exercise in which individuals and teams compete to find “flags” that are secretly obscured in deliberately vulnerable programs or websites. It is a way to determine expertise in hacking within the confines of the law. CyberTalents provides Jeopardy-style CTFs in which competing teams are presented with several challenges of varying complexity levels. The challenges are drawn from ethical hacking categories including, but not limited to, network security, web security, digital forensics, and reverse engineering. Teams can either compete independently or collaborate to form a national team.

2. Commitment to National Cyber Strategy: Egypt and Ethiopia

There are many tools for assessing a country’s commitment level to cybersecurity. This article will refer to the GCI, arguably the most reliable assessment tool for understanding how much emphasis a given nation places on advancing cybersecurity. The GCI is computed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the specialized United Nations (UN) agency responsible for matters pertaining to information and communication technologies, to assess the level of commitment to cyber development of its 193 member states and the State of Palestine. First launched in 2015 and rooted in ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Agenda, the GCI is based on five pillars that determine the intrinsic building blocks of a national cybersecurity culture: legal, technical, organizational, cooperation, and capacity-building measures.

According to the 2021 GCI index, Egypt is one of the cyber powerhouses in the Global South. In global rankings, Egypt scored 95.48% and claimed position 23 out of 182 surveyed countries. In the same year, Sudan scored 35.03% (corresponding to position 102 out of the 182 surveyed countries) whereas Ethiopia scored a dismal 27.74% and position 115 out of the 182 surveyed countries. There are, however, other regional rankings for the Middle East and Africa (MENA) and Africa that respectively included and omitted Egypt.

Given the vastness of the five pillars of the GCI, this article will use two key considerations as our yardstick: national cyber strategy and technical readiness, to fully understand how Ethiopia’s cyber capabilities compare to the two riparian downstream states of Egypt and Sudan

3. National Cyber Strategies: Egypt and Ethiopia

A national cybersecurity strategy (NCSS) refers to a high-level plan of action that is designed with the primary objective of enhancing the security and resilience of a nation’s critical infrastructures. It is essentially a top-down approach that works towards entrenching cybersecurity in critical infrastructures in line with a range of national objectives that are aimed at being attained within the limits of a given timeframe. The next section assesses the national cyber strategies of Egypt and Ethiopia. Due to the sparse availability of reliable cyber strategy information, Sudan is not discussed in this section.

3.1 The Case of Egypt

Egypt has a constitutionally-mandated National Cybersecurity Strategy (2017-2021), an action plan for the period between 2017 and 2021. This strategy involves several key programs that support Egypt’s strategic cybersecurity objectives. It acknowledges the most significant threats and challenges facing the nation’s critical infrastructures – specifically the energy sector, the information communication technologies (ICT) sector, the transportation sector, the health sector, etc. To achieve the security of these critical infrastructures, the strategy greatly emphasizes the distribution of roles among the various government agencies, businesses, civil society, and the private sector. To implement this strategy, Egypt has the Egypt Supreme Cybersecurity Council (ESCC). Developed under the auspices of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies (MCIT), ESCC reports to the cabinet and MCIT. It is made up of key stakeholders involved in national critical infrastructure management including the concerned government agencies, professional experts from the private sector, educational institutions, think tanks, and research scholars. The ESCC is expected to update the strategy and shepherd coordinated efforts aimed at safeguarding the national critical infrastructure from internal and external cyberattacks(National Cybersecurity Strategy 2017-2021, 2017).

3.2 The Ethiopian Case

For a very long time, Ethiopia has been trailing its peer nations in technological development. Since the 2006 creation of the Information Network Security Agency (INSA), the Ethiopian government has accorded special attention to cybersecurity policy. Since then, the government of Ethiopia approved two key proclamations – the 808-2013 and 1072-2018. As a result of these proclamations, in 2011, Ethiopia formulated a cyber policy. This policy is still under review and the nation lacks a comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy that guides coordinated efforts at combatting cyberattacks. In addition to the lack of political will to implement a national cybersecurity policy and implementing mechanism, there are two major challenges that the nation faces. The first one is a lack of awareness among the citizenry on what cybersecurity entails and its significance to the nation’s critical infrastructures. Second, is the lack of consideration of the international ISO 27001 cybersecurity standards, the international standard for information security (Markos, 2022).

4. CTF Cyber Supremacy Battle: Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan

One way of measuring a country’s cyber power is by scrutinizing the existing cyber talent. Because it is the cyber talent that undergirds a nation’s cyber offensive and defensive capabilities, it is worthwhile to comparatively analyze how that given country compares to its potential digital battle enemies. In this case, we are interested in fathoming how the existing Ethiopian cybersecurity talent compares to those of Egypt and Sudan.
CyberTalents previously organized national CTFs for Egypt and Sudan but Ethiopia had its first national CTF (organized by CyberTalents) in 2020. Given that the 2022 competitions are yet to be held, we considered the available CTF data for 2020 and 2021. As indicated in tables 1 and 2 below, Egypt is ahead of both Sudan and Ethiopia in both participation & winning teams. In 2020, 40 Egyptian teams signed up to compete, 34 of whom successfully solved some of the challenges. In the same year and competition, Ethiopia fielded 37 teams. Out of the 37 teams, 21 teams won points.
Sudan, on the other hand, had 23 participating teams. Only 7 of the Sudanese teams won points.

Similarly, in 2021, Egypt had 102 participating teams and 66 winning teams; Ethiopia had 27 teams and 14 winning teams; Sudan had 16 teams with only 8 of the teams emerging as winners. Comparing the statistics of the two years, notice that Egypt’s participating and subsequently winning teams dramatically improved. In 2021, Egypt had 62 more participating teams and 32 more winning teams than in the year 2020. Contrarily, Ethiopia’s participating teams dropped by 10 and as a result, the previous year’s (2020) winning teams declined by 7. Similar to Ethiopia’s dismal performance in 2021, Sudan had 7 participating teams less than in the year 2020 and 1 more winning team than 2020. In both years, all three countries tied in high-level accolades (gold, silver, and bronze). Hence, these awards are not differentiating factors.

Table 1: The 2020 National CTF competitions data for Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan

Table 2: The 2021 National CTF competitions data for Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan

Going by the tabular data above, Egypt boasts of a more active and robust cyber talent than both Ethiopia and Sudan. Coupled with the individual teams’ points for the three cases, we can conclude that Egypt is the cyber talent superpower among the three, followed by Ethiopia and lastly Sudan.

4.1 Tri-Nation CyberTalent CTF Competition Visuals

More self-explanatory details of the team pseudonyms, member pseudonyms, team leaders, specific winning time, points, award levels, etc. are demonstrated in figures 1-6 below.

Image 1: Ethiopia National Cybersecurity CTF 20204

Image 2: Egypt National CTF 20205

Image 3: Sudan National Cybersecurity CTF Competition 20206

Image 4: Ethiopia National Cybersecurity CTF 20217

Image 5: Egypt National Cybersecurity CTF 20218

Image 6: Sudan National Cybersecurity CTF 20219

5. Conclusion and Policy Recommendations

Based on the aforementioned findings from the previous sections, one can conclude that compared to Ethiopia, Egypt is a relative cyber power.
While Sudan is a close competitor of Ethiopia in cyberspace, it does not outperform Ethiopia. Egypt’s cyber capabilities in combination with Sudan’s could mean devastating outcomes for Ethiopia in the event that these two countries collaborate in cyber operations against Ethiopia.
Such a scenario can occur if an international battle over the GERD extends beyond the domains of air and land to incorporate belligerent actions in the cyber realm. Bearing this in mind, it behooves Ethiopia to adopt evidence-driven policies that facilitate the following:

  • (a) Quicken the process of adopting a comprehensive national cyber strategy that can protect the national critical infrastructures such as the GERD;
  • (b) Create an Ethiopian Cyber Command, an organization composed of professional cybersecurity experts that can enhance Arat Kilo’s capability to & authority to guide and control cyberspace operations for strategic purposes;
  • (c) Create a Cyber War Studies Program with experts that conduct research in cyber war simulation, cyber war games and defensive technical posture for the protection of the national critical infrastructures;
  • (d) Provide support to cybersecurity & cyberwarfare researchers at both public and private universities;
  • (f) Integrate a cybersecurity education into the national and regional curricula. Egypt enjoys a democratized higher education that cheaply provides cybersecurity education;
  • (g) Provide support for cybersecurity hackathons, conferences, and journals at Ethiopian universities and colleges.


  1. National Cybersecurity Strategies. (n.d.). [Topic]. ENISA. Retrieved September 2, 2022, from
  2. Markos, Y. (2022). Cyber Security Challenges that Affect Ethiopia’s National Security. Available at SSRN 4190146
  3. Mohamed, A. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) as an African Cyberwarfare Front – Horn Review. (August 11, 2022). Retrieved September 2, 2022, from
  4. Egyptian Supreme Council. (2017). National Cybersecurity Strategy 2017-2021.


Ethiopia’s Exposure to the Existing International Terrorism Law ( Part II)

In PublicationsAugust 11, 202240 Minutes

Ethiopia’s Exposure to the Existing International Terrorism Law

Shimels Sisay Belete (Ph.D.)

Dr. Shimels is a human rights lawyer by profession with a hybrid experience working both in academia as a lecturer and researcher, and through his practical engagement in the field of human rights advocacy. He holds a Doctoral Degree (Dr. iur.) in International Human Rights Law, Terrorism and Counterterrorism from the European University of Viadrina, in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany. He received his master’s degree in Human Rights Law from Addis Ababa University and LLB Degree in law from Haramaya University.
Currently, Dr. Shimels serves as the Ethiopia Country Director for the International human rights NGO called Freedom House. He also works for European Center for Electoral Support (ECES) as Electoral Trainings Coordinator and the Legal Expert on Civic and Voter Education and Inclusion. He also holds a visiting professorship position and teaches the African Human Rights Regional System at the Faculty of Law, European University of Viadrina, Germany.

The 1957 Penal Code of Ethiopia

The Code’s wide-ranging coverage of similar crimes committed against a foreign state or interstate organizations might also be cited as indicators of Ethiopia’s earlier attempts and its political willingness to take part in the pressing demands of cooperation and transnational responses to crimes of international concern, despite that, an act of terrorism has never got an explicit mention within such category. A typical practical example that Ethiopia mentioned in its report was the successful investigation, prosecution, and trial of the offenders who participated in the assassination attempt of the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.24

A typical practical example that Ethiopia mentioned in its report was the successful investigation, prosecution, and trial of the offenders who participated in the assassination attempt of the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

The third category of essential provisions of the old Penal Code – perhaps the most contiguous and highly affiliated offenses with that of the crime of terrorism, both in times of peace and war – are those proscribed in the second title of the Code, under Arts 280 and the following, as offenses against the law of nations. In exactly similar fashion or with direct reference to the international law instruments to which Ethiopia is a party, the Code had defined crimes of genocide; crimes against humanity; war crimes against the civilian population; and war crimes against the wounded, sick, shipwrecked persons, prisoners, and interned persons and branded them as grave offenses against the international community. There are tendencies equating terrorism with that genocide when committed systematically against a particular targeted group of civilians, or as a war crime when perpetrated targeting civilians not actively taking part in hostilities during armed conflicts. Accordingly, only a few might have contested if one would have quoted these provisions of the Code in dealing with acts of terrorism in the absence of any discrete law explicitly addressing this conduct as a separate crime.
Apart from that, as provided under Art. 17, the Penal Code had also established national jurisdiction prosecuting crimes committed in a foreign state against international law or universal order – an international offense specified in Ethiopian legislation, or in the international treaty or convention to which Ethiopia has adhered and implemented in the domestic jurisdiction. With this integrationist approach, those specific conventions dealing with particular offenses, or acts related to terrorism, could have domestic application even if the proscribed conduct has been committed neither inside the territory of Ethiopia nor against the national interest of the state, hence giving effect to the already highlighted conventions beforehand.

Furthermore, stressing the importance of some other sections of the penal code in the prevention of terrorism, Ethiopia had been invoking its capability of remedying any potential crimes of terrorism.25 With a particular focus on the suppression of financing terrorism, for example, solicitation of funds for a commission of criminal acts, including that of terrorism, had been treated as intentionally associating oneself with the principal offense leading to criminal liability either as principal joint-offender or as an accomplice – pursuant to Arts 32 and 36 of the Code, respectively. At the same time, Arts 267, 438, 439, and 473 of the Code had been invoked as pertinent provisions in criminalizing failure of reporting the commission or preparation to commit serious crimes; harboring, comforting, or aiding of alleged offenders; and indirect aid or encouragement for the commission of such crimes, including a crime of terrorism. Besides, the recruitment of terrorist groups and the supply of weapons for the commission of the crime had also a special coverage under the Code as general offenses despite the absence of explicit reference to the crime of terrorism.

Besides, the recruitment of terrorist groups and the supply of weapons for the commission of the crime had also a special coverage under the Code as general offenses despite the absence of explicit reference to the crime of terrorism.

Apart from the general Penal Code of 1957, other proclamations enacted, either to amend a particular provision of the Code or to regulate a new criminal behavior had also been contemplated as pertinent normative frameworks, mainly in the prevention aspect of the State’s obligation in relation to terrorism. Laws, such as the Amended Legal Notice No. 229/1960 and the Special Penal Code Proclamation No. 8/1974, alongside the Commercial Registration and Business Licensing Proclamation No. 67/1989 were enacted to regulate the manufacturing, repairing, import-export, selling, possession, and dispossession of weapons in Ethiopia, and thus criminalizing illegal trafficking in arms and explosives. The Provisional Military Administrative Council Revised Special Penal Code Proclamation No. 214/1981 had also apportioned a separate provision in Art. 41 proscribing illegal trafficking in arms as one of the serious crimes punishable with the gravest penalty up to death.26
There had been also laws aimed at regulating the establishment, registration, and financial and operational supervision of associations – be it religious, charitable, cultural, or whatsoever – as potential normative watchdogging tools to monitor the legitimate functioning of the associations and minimize illegal purposes like that of channeling the financing of terrorism.27

The 2004 Revised Ethiopian Criminal Code

It has to be noted from the outset that almost all the values ascribed to the 1957 Penal Code and the other supplementary statutes mentioned hitherto in the context of the suppression and prosecution of terrorist crimes are also the defining characters of the Revised FDRE Criminal Code;28 indeed with the more intriguing articulation of the provisions incorporating new advancements entrusted in modern criminal law as well as the radical changes in the political and socio-economic environment of the country. Accordingly, this section focuses only on those add-ons that the Code has brought into the domestic criminal justice system as the most significant progressions bearing upon or connected with the matter at hand.29 Fathomably, one of the justifications necessitating the revision of the old Penal Code has been the need to proscribe the newly emerged crimes born out of the complexity of modern life, and hence terrorism being one as such.30

one of the justifications necessitating the revision of the old Penal Code has been the need to proscribe the newly emerged crimes born out of the complexity of modern life, and hence terrorism being one as such.

To begin with, the vain attempt made at the drafting stage of the Revised Criminal Code, the crime of terrorism was proposed as one of the newly included separate crimes of its own. In an exact replication of the definition provided under the OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, draft Art. 252 of the Criminal Code defined the crime as follows:
1. Whosoever commits a terrorist act which may endanger the life, physical integrity or freedom of, or causes serious injury or death to, any person, any number or group of persons, or causes or may cause damage to public or private property, natural resources, environment or cultural heritage and is calculated or intended to:
(a) Intimidate, put in fear, force, coerce or seduce any government, body, institution, the general public or any segment thereof, to do or abstain from doing any act, or to adopt or abandon a particular standpoint, or to act according to certain principles; or
(b) Disrupt any public service, the delivery of any essential service to the public or
(c) to create a public emergency; or Create a general insurrection in a state; is punishable with rigorous imprisonment from ten to twenty-five years; or in grave cases, with rigorous imprisonment for life or death.
2. Any promotion, sponsoring, contribution to, command, aid incitement, encouragement, attempt, threat, conspiracy, organizing, or procurement of any person, with intent to commit any of the acts referred to in Sub-Art. (1) of this Art. shall be punished in accordance with Sub-Art. (1) hereof.
Furthermore, some related crimes, inter alia, arson; damages to installations or protective works; explosions and causing dangers by the use of explosive, inflammable, or poisonous Substances; damages to services and installations of public interest; and grave endangering or sabotage of communications or transport could undoubtedly deter and incriminate conducts which terrorist perpetrators mostly employ as methods and means in the commission of the crime. Moreover, when the aforementioned crimes have caused loss of life, injury to the body, or impairment of health, the degree of the crime is treated as a grave offense with rigorous punishment up to life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Most importantly, prohibited acts proscribed under the discrete international terrorism-related conventions are explicitly criminalized on separate provisions of their own. Arts 507–511 of the Revised Criminal Code, for example, have integrated almost all acts proscribed under the 1963 Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed On Board Aircraft, the 1970 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, the 1971 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, the 1988 Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence at Airports Serving International Civil Aviation, and the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation.
In doing so, Art. 507 criminalized unlawful seizure or control of an Aircraft or exercising control of a fixed platform on a continental shelf stating that:

[w]hoever, by violence or threats thereof or by any other form of intimidation, by deceit or by any other unlawful means intentionally seizes or exercises control of a fixed platform on a continental shelf or an aircraft in flight or landing in an airport or a ship on navigation or harboring on a port, is punishable with rigorous imprisonment from fifteen to twenty-five years.31

Not only the seizure or excessing control of these protected objects but also an intentional and unlawful act of endangering these assets and any act of violence against a person on a fixed platform on a continental shelf or an aircraft in flight or landing in an airport or a ship on navigation or harboring on a port which is likely to endanger the safety of the platform, the aircraft, or the ship is also proscribed as one of the gravest crimes punishable with rigorous imprisonment or even up to death penalty if the act causes death or bodily injury or impairment of health.
What can be asserted is, therefore, despite the absence of any distinct comprehensively articulated provision fastening the crime of terrorism with aptly defined legal, moral, and material elements of its own, the Revised Criminal Code had further boosted the domestic legislative domain and the criminal justice machinery that the State needed to uphold its obligation in the prevention and combating of terrorism.
This said, however, such unwarrantable omission of the crime of terrorism from the newly Revised Criminal Code – a law enacted in 2004 by the time when terrorism has gained the choosiest attention as a serious threat to international peace and security, and given one of the justifications necessitating the revision of the old code being the need to incorporate crimes of such a threat – depicts the missed opportunity of the time. Perhaps, the drafters might have had better comparative insights and augmented portrait as to the distinctive features of terrorism and the abovecited crimes that are successfully inserted in the Code, but misleadingly assimilated or synonymized with an act of terrorism.
Tellingly, as it has been empirically witnessed in most terrorism charges instituted against alleged perpetrators since the adoption of a discrete antiterrorism law in 2009, there remains discernible purviews intermingling those genuine acts of terrorism with the aforementioned crimes, the commission of which by no means constitute an act of terrorism per se. 32

Post-2009 Terrorism and Related National Legislation

The ‘no-specific-terrorism’ law standing came to an end in 2009 following the issuance of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No.652/2009 as one of the most controversial laws enacted in the recent legislative history of the State. 33 Soon after, the Prevention and Suppression of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Proclamation No.657/2009 proceeded,34 which was later replaced by Proclamation No. 780/2013.35 It is then in pursuance to these fledgling normative frameworks that the issue of terrorism and conducts allegedly constituting the crime are being regulated in the national criminal justice system.
Indeed, the overall impact of these antiterrorism laws has not been limited only to the actual administration of the crimes. It goes rather beyond, to the extent of triggering the revision of the laws and policies which are deemed to have direct or implied ‘cause–effect’ corollaries in their enforcement. In this regard, the National Intelligence and Security Agency Re-Establishment Proclamation No.804/2013;36 the Information Network Security Agency Re-Establishment Proclamation No.808/2013;37 the Adver- tisement Proclamation No.759/2012;731 the Protection of Witnesses and Whistleblowers of Criminal Offences Proclamation No. 699/2010;732 the Computer Crimes Proclamation No.950/2016;733 and the Electoral Code of Conduct for Political Parties Proclamation No.662/2009734 are few among others, as laws inevitably moulded and reformulated to complement the nuanced contents and approaches tinted in the antiterrorism proclamations.

The tilting repercussion of the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation is not only limited to the aforementioned laws enacted in the aftermath of its entry into force. Even laws that are proclaimed before have been retrospectively stricken and their content and normative values have appeared futile. The two most affected laws in this regard are the 2008 Freedom of the Mass Media and Access to Information Proclamation No. 590/2008 38 and the 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation No.621/2009.39 Most notably, Art. 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which criminalizes any intentional or negligent publication of a statement that is likely to be understood by a section of a society either as direct or indirect encouragement to terrorism – showing no venial by imposing rigorous imprisonment up to 20 years – have accelerated the already thinning status of the right to freedom of expression and political dissent in the country. Ethiopia’s marque image as a State with the highest number of journalists in exile next to Iran, and with the highest number of journalists in jail with speech related offences next to Eritrea, alongside the number of leading opposition figures held in prison would exhibit the untold implication of the proclamation on the ground. 40

Most notably, Art. 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which criminalizes any intentional or negligent publication of a statement that is likely to be understood by a section of a society either as direct or indirect encouragement to terrorism – showing no venial by imposing rigorous imprisonment up to 20 years

The same impact of the antiterrorism laws on the actual application of the Charities and Societies Proclamation can also be posited from the ever-increasing number of NGOs and Civil Society Organizations whose licenses are being annulled on allegations of violating their obligations imposed by the law, and their involvement in activities other than their objectives.41 The more sensitive, unrestrained, and vaguely articulated provision under Art. 69 of the Proclamation authorizes the Ethiopian Charity and Society Agency to refuse a license if the proposed Charity or Society is ‘likely to be used for unlawful purposes or purposes prejudicial to the public peace, welfare or good order in Ethiopia42 and thus, such a wider discretionary power has posed a loophole as a potential normative tool in stifling the work of human rights advocacy and human rights defenders under the guise of banning illegal organizations and their financial source from the outset in the larger context of preventing the financing of terrorism.43 In this regard, the skeptics do not seem groundless if one takes into account the strict notion stipulated under Art. 12 of the Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Proclamation No.780/2013, as it subjected any religious or non-profit organization for oversight to ensure that the funds they collect are not used for financing of terrorism.44
The overall influence and thrums of the Ethiopian anti-terrorism law have been also vividly noticeable in the recently drafted national criminal law policy. The Policy unequivocally, barred a crime of terrorism as one of the non-bailable offenses proscribing that a person arrested with suspicion of having committed any terrorist crime shall not, in any circumstance, exercise his right to be released on bail.45
Generally, it has to be noted, therefore, when it comes to thoughts regarding the Ethiopian legislative and policy frameworks on issues of terrorism, the bigger theme has to be posturized beyond the two antiterrorism proclamations currently in force given the direct or indirect stamp that these laws have cemented, at least, as inspirational standard precursors in the drafting and/or application of the other highly connected laws and policies hitherto discussed.
This said in regard to the opposite broader picture while harnessing the national statutory amasses pertaining to terrorism in general, the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No.652/2009 remains, however, the solitary domestic law that set out and attempted to respond to the two most pivotal, but controversial, issues in terrorism discourse. That is, matters concerning the definition and scope of the crime of terrorism and issues relating to the power, reasons, and procedures of proscribing entities as terrorist organizations. Needless to say, be it in dealing with the rest of the related crimes prohibited in this proclamation – such as membership, incitement, encouragement, financial or material support, training, or participation – or other prohibitions and restrictions postulated in allied statutes referred above, the foundational basis for each of the crimes radiates from the definitional stance on the very concept of the crime of terrorism itself and the prescription measures. Furthermore, the special and extended investigative powers and tactics entrusted to the old or newly restructured enforcement organs as well as the slackened evidential standards are also justified based on the definitional characteristics of the crime of terrorism and the perceived distinctive features of entities purportedly branded as masterminds of the act.46

Glancing the Content and Structure of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No. 652/2009

The Anti-Terrorism Proclamation is a composite of only thirty-eight provisions, with a considerable number of them vested on matters substantially insignificant as such, like the title and miscellaneous parts.47 Given the very first of its type, and considering the national statutory and jurisprudential dearth on the subject, it is not snobbery to reasonably expect a full-bodied and more comprehensive with detailed regulatory frameworks. Perhaps, such a thicker approach might have minimized the undesired outcomes of those contentiously and vaguely articulated sections of the proclamation, and it might also have genuinely responded to many of other issues left unsettled and muffled lacking an apposite legislative answer.
These thirty-eight provisions of the Proclamation are subsumed into seven sequential constellations. Whilst Art. 2 of the general part provides a definition of terms used in the text, the second section has stipulated a comprehensive definition and elements of a ‘terrorist act’ under Art. 3, followed by a bunch of other crimes related to terrorism. These crimes include planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement, and attempt of terrorist act; rendering support to, and encouragement of terrorism; participation in terrorist organization; possessing or using property for terrorist act; possessing and dealing with the proceeds of terrorist act; false threat of a terrorist act; failure to disclose terrorist acts; and inducing or threatening witness and destroying or hiding evidence relevant to the case. Alongside the crimes, the corresponding penalties upon conviction are robustly cemented ranging from the least intrusive three years of rigorous imprisonment to that of the gravest punishments of life imprisonment or sentence to death.48
The third part – embracing the other ten provisions of the proclamation – on the other hand, embodies the conspicuous rules on investigation powers and measures in the prevention of terrorism. Of more intriguing in this section are the rules governing the conditions and procedures in the exercising of powers vested to the police and the National Intelligence personnel for the gathering of information, operationalizing sudden searches, and covert searches, effecting arrests, and the taking of samples. Whereas, evidentiary and procedural rules on cases relating to terrorism are governed by Arts 23 and 24 of the proclamation. Accordingly, some critical quarries on the source of th evidence and its admissibility, the weight, and credibility of the evidence, the burden of proof and statute of limitations for prosecution are inexplicably entrenched.49

The other most contentious feature of the proclamation is traced under part five which addresses the mandate, justifications, and procedures in the course of proscribing an entity as a terrorist organization and the ramifications therefrom.

The other most contentious feature of the proclamation is traced under part five which addresses the mandate, justifications, and procedures in the course of proscribing an entity as a terrorist organization and the ramifications therefrom.50 Accordingly, apart from the aforementioned individual criminal liabilities as a result of participation in different forms, inter alia, as leader, trainer, recruiter, or supporter of the organization in question, measures against the legal status quo and the various interests of organization on its own personality, particularly the ceasing of its legal personality, the freezing and seizure of, as well as forfeiture of its property are also incorporated as consequences of the decision of proscription.
Last but not least, part six of the proclamation tends to accredit the directly responsible institutional setups entrusted to follow-up cases of terrorism with a special mention to the ministry of Justice, Federal Police and the National Intelligence and Security Service, the latter being in charge of the leadership role. Besides, unlike other crimes, the jurisdiction to adjudicate terrorism cases is solely restricted as a federal matter, as such an exclusive power is vested in the Federal High Courts and the Supreme Court.

The New Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No. 1176/2020: Substantial discoursal change or a piecemeal move entwined with the older purview?

As one of the bolder moves driven by the post-2018 legislative and political reform initiatives, Ethiopia revised the previous draconian anti-terrorism law and adopted Proclamation No. 1176/2020 as a new regulatory framework aimed at preventing and controlling the crime by enabling the security forces to take strong precautionary and preparatory acts centered at the nature of the crime while ensuring the rule of law and fundamental rights of individuals as for provided under the FDRE Constitution and international human rights instruments ratified by Ethiopia.

While the new proclamation is commended for its progressiveness in terms of addressing some of the normative, interpretational, and enforcement gaps under the previous law, this latest legislation has also encountered substantial critics as it still reflects specific problematic nuances

While the new proclamation is commended for its progressiveness in terms of addressing some of the normative, interpretational, and enforcement gaps under the previous law, this latest legislation has also encountered substantial critics as it still reflects specific problematic nuances of the old version that may have a negative impact in legitimizing potential abuse by the government as some of the provisions and the practical interpretation and application of which may create loopholes to erode fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens. In this context, some of the proscribed acts as crimes of terrorism – such as the vaguely articulated crime of “intimidation to commit a terrorist act as stipulated under article 5 of the Proclamation” – lack clarity to the extent of defining the legal, the moral, and material elements of the crime. Other components of the new proclamation, such as the mandate and the procedure under which a certain entity could be proscribed as a terrorist organization; the degree and gravity of the punishments which still maintain the death penalty; and standards and degree of evidential proof while establishing criminal guilt also call for an in-depth and critical review and auditing vis-à-vis their compatibility with that of the international law relating to terrorism and international human rights law standards.


24 The first Ethiopian Report to the 1373/2001 Committee, supra note 33, p. 6.

25 See generally: Supplementary Report of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Pursuant to Paragraph 6 of Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001), United Nations Security Council, S/2002/1234, 8 November 2002. 701 Ibid., p. 5.

26 Art. 41, Revised Special Penal Code of Proclamation No.214/1981, Federal Negarit Gazeta, No.2, Provisional Military Administration Council, 5 November 1981.

27 The Supplementary Report, supra note 56. In this regard, Regulation No.321/1966 and Proclamation No.84/1994 had paramount importance.

28 The Criminal Code of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Proclamation No 414/2004 [hereinafter, the Revised Criminal Code], entered into force on 9 May 2005. See generally Arts 238–280.

29 See more on the overall justifications necessitating the new criminal code: Kassa, W. D., Examining Some of the Raisons D’être for the Ethiopian Anti-Terrorism Law, Mizan Law Review, 7:1 (2013), pp. 49–66.

30 See the Preamble of the Revised Criminal Code. Supra note 64.

31 Art. 507 (1), Revised Criminal Code.

32 See more: Gordon, L. (ed.), Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Law: A Tool to Stifle Dissent, The Oakland Institute and Environmental Defender Law Center, Report, 2015. See also: Sekyere, P. and Asare, B., An Examination of Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation on Fundamental Human Rights, European Scientific Journal, 12:1 (2016), pp. 351–371.

33 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No. 652/2009, supra note 5.

34 The Prevention and Suppression of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Proclamation
No.657/2009, supra note 6.

35 The Prevention and Suppression of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Proclamation
No.780/2013, Federal Negarit Gazeta, 19th year, No 25. Addis Ababa, 4 February 2013.

36 House of Peoples’ Representatives; The National Intelligence and Security Service Re- establishment Proclamation No. 804/2013, Federal Negarit Gazeta, 19th Year, No. 55, Addis Ababa, 23 July 2013. For more details on the overall implication of this proclamation, see infra, Chapter 9, Section 9.7.

37 House of Peoples’ Representatives; The Information Network Security Agency Re-establishment Proclamation No. 808/2013, Federal Negarit Gazeta, 20th Year, No. 6, Addis Ababa, 2 January 2014.

38 House of Peoples’ Representatives, Freedom of the Mass Media and Access to information Proclamation No.590/2008, Federal Negarit Gazeta, 14th year, No. 64. Addis Ababa, 14 December 2008.

39. House of Peoples’ Representatives, Charities and Societies Proclamation No .621/2009, Federal Negarit Gazeta, 15th year, No 25. Addis Ababa, 13 February 2009.

40 Tadeg, M. A., Freedom of Expression and the Media Landscape in Ethiopia: Contemporary Challenges, University of Baltimore Journal of Media Law and Ethics, 5:1-2 (2016), pp. 69–99; Ali, M. S., Jurisprudential Challenges to Freedom of Expression in Ethiopia: Critical Reflections on Selected Legislations of the Country, the Internet Journal Language, Culture and Society, 42 (2016), pp. 1–12.

41 During the year 2008 Ethiopian calendar alone (July 2015–June 216), 108 organizations were banned while other 167 were given warnings of different levels. Ethiopian News Agency, 27 June 2016.

42 Art. 69 (2) Charities and Societies Proclamation, supra note 92 [emphasis added].

43 Centre for International Human Rights North Western University School of Law, Sounding the Horn: Ethiopia’s Civil Society Law Threatens Human Rights Defenders, November 2009.

44 Art. 12, The Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Proclamation, supra note 82.

45 Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Ministry of Justice, Criminal Justice Policy
(unpublished), 4 March 2011.

46 Conte, A., Human Rights in the Prevention and Punishment of Human Rights: Common Wealth Approaches: The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Springer, Heidelberg, 2010, pp. 424–425.

47 See Arts 1, 37, and 38, the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, supra note 80.

48 See the penalties imposed up on conviction on crimes under Arts 3, 4, 5 (2), and Art. 7 (2) of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.

49 On evidence-related concerns arising from the Proclamation, see, generally, Chapter 8, Section 8.5.

50 Art. 25–27 of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.


The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) as an African Cyberwarfare Front

In PublicationsAugust 11, 202218 Minutes

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) as an African Cyberwarfare Front: A Simplified Cyber Attack Scenario & Some Plausible Cyber Attack Consequences

Abdijabar Yussuf Mohamed

Abdijabar Yussuf Mohamed is an incoming graduate student and Kennedy Fellow at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he will be pursuing a Master of Public Policy (MPP) at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. His research interests span from computational public policy, Artifician Intelligence (AI), cybersecurity & cyberwarfare, Sino-Africa relations, to armed conflicts in the Horn of Africa.

Wartime thriller enthusiasts are familiar with Alfred Hitchock’s Saboteur (1942). In this enthralling American spy film, famous for its climactic sequence atop New York City’s Statue of Liberty, the protagonist, Barry Kane (as portrayed by Robert Cummings), a California-based aircraft factory worker, is falsely accused of committing an act of sabotage that led to the demise of a co-worker. Determined to exonerate himself, Kane flees from police custody and, accompanied by Patricia Martin (acted by Priscilla Lane), sets on a perilous cross-country chase to catch the actual criminal. During the course of the manhunt, the protagonists thwart a sabotage plan by American fifth columnists who were conspiring to blow up the Hoover Dam (formerly known as the Boulder Dam) that harnessed the waters of the mighty Colorado River to provide electricity to Los Angeles-based American defense plants. The Hoover Dam, still one of America’s largest hydroelectric facilities and an engineering marvel, is a concrete arch-gravity dam situated across the Black Canyon of the Colorado River and straddles the U.S states of Nevada and Arizona. Today, the threat of hydroelectric dams and reservoirs being blown up is neither limited geographically to America nor is it a preserve of riveting American thriller films.
In the 21st century, as such critical infrastructures as massive hydroelectric power plants (dams and reservoirs) are connected to the internet, there is a palpable threat posed by cyber terrorists who are hellbent on wreaking havoc on targeted critical infrastructures. Hackers, largely sponsored by rival nation-states, wage borderless battles on enemy nation-state’s critical infrastructures such as hydroelectric power plants, water supply systems, the power grid, hospitals, etc…. In this regard, cyber attacks on critical infrastructures continue to emerge as a force to reckon with and form a significant component of the arsenal in geopolitical conflicts. A case in point is the GERD (shown in Figure 1 below), Ethiopia’s $4.5 billion flagship project and Africa’s largest hydroelectric power plant. The GERD, the epicenter of the geopolitics of water pitting the Horn of African nation against the downstream riparian states of Egypt and Sudan, will arguably become one of the defining fronts of cyberwarfare in Africa.
In June 2020, Ethiopia’s Information Network Security Agency (INSA) reported that it thwarted cyber attacks carried out by Cyber_Horus Group, a state-sponsored Egyptian hacker group. Aimed at mounting pressure on Arat Kilo over the construction and filling of the GERD, the group hacked numerous Ethiopian government websites under an image depicting a skeleton pharaoh and defaced the websites with the following threatening message:

“If the river’s level drops, let all the Pharaoh’s soldiers hurry and return only after the liberation of the Nile, restricting its flow. To prepare the Ethiopian people for the wrath of the Pharaohs.”

“If the river’s level drops, let all the Pharaoh’s soldiers hurry and return only after the liberation of the Nile, restricting its flow. To prepare the Ethiopian people for the wrath of the Pharaohs.”
Again, in May 2022, INSA reported that the agency had foiled a cyber attack attempt targeting the GERD and other Ethiopian critical infrastructures. According to Shumete Gizaw, Director General of INSA, in a bid to frustrate the works of the GERD and major financial institutions, the state-sponsored malicious hackers affiliated with a foreign nation that envies “the peace and development endeavors of Ethiopia” targeted approximately 37,000 interlinked computers used by the Horn of African nation’s financial institutions. He further alleged that this is part of a cyber war campaign against Ethiopia, code-named the “Black Pyramid War”.

Figure 1: Satellite of Image of the GERD (source: Maxar Technologies)

Organizational Structure

That Egyptian-affiliated hackers pose an unprecedented threat to Ethiopia’s national critical infrastructures, specifically, the GERD is given. However, little is known regarding the nature of cyber warfare that Ethiopia will be embroiled in with Egypt (and potentially Sudan as well) over the GERD. Despite its limited purview, this short work – the first part of a series of informative pieces available in future Horn Review publications- aims to enlighten the Ethiopian authorities and the public on this matter. In this part, I start with a simplified but possible cyber attack scenario on the GERD. Then, this is followed by an analysis of some possible effects of a cyber attack on a computerized GERD. Part II of the following publication will delve deeper into Ethiopia’s preparedness on the digital battlefield vis-à-vis Egypt and Sudan, the urgent need for establishing a dedicated Ethiopian Cyber Command, the place of an African Union (AU) Cyber Command that would conduct “virtual peacekeeping” over the GERD and other critical Ethiopian institutions in the likely event of destructive cyber-attacks that follow when GERD negotiations falter, and policy recommendations to facilitate towards shaping a cyber resilient Ethiopia.

A Simplified Cyber Attack Scenario on the GERD

For the sake of the hypothesis and as it is in many parts of the world, let us assume that the operations of the dam are remotely controlled by a contractor (let us call it Gidibachin, an imaginary contractor based in the Bole, Addis Ababa) that employs about 100 specialists who remotely work on different parts of the GERD. A malicious attacker, based in Cairo, Egypt, sends a barrage of meticulously crafted phishing emails that contain malicious payloads to all of Gidibachin’s 100 employees. As soon as the emails are received, one of Gidibachin’s employees falls for the ruse and instantly downloads the malware. As a consequence, the Egyptian hacker gains access to the employee’s user credentials and other critical data. Utilizing the stolen user credentials, the hacker gains remote access into GERD’s networks through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) in order to hide his digital footprints. Immediately afterward, the hacker maintains access to the GERD’s systems using an undetectable backdoor. The criminal familiarizes himself with the GERD’s intricate details and subsequently gains control of the dam’s automated components.

Plausible Impacts of Cyber Attacks on the GERD’s computers

By its very nature, critical infrastructure such as a hydroelectric power plant is a complex system. To ensure smooth operations, dam operators and technicians must continuously monitor the different parts of the system. Thus, operating such a complex system as the GERD implies that there is a need for administrators and other relevant authorities to frequently interact with the systems. This calls for the adoption of Industrial Control Systems (ICS)/Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems to enable the dam administrators and authorities to regulate the processes both locally and remotely. If hackers gain access to the ICS/SCADA systems (the dam’s command and control systems), then they can wreak unprecedented cyber-physical havoc in several ways. To mention some but few key risks, hackers can cause the following: (1) flooding the waters ; (2) poisoning the waters of the GERD; (3) engendering power blackouts to the national and regional power grids connected to the GERD; and (4) leveraging the GERD’s systems as a launchpad for conducting transnational cybercrime activities in Ethiopia and beyond.

Flooding the Waters of the GERD

The village of Bameza, Benishangul-Gumuz Region (BGR), where the GERD is located, and the BGR in general, has been historically prone to flash floods. Adverse weather phenomena like the El Nino and heavy rainfalls during the rainy season frequently induce deadly floods and landslides that are detrimental to human lives and crop production. Alongside the natural disasters that the BGR is vulnerable to, the region is now vulnerable to the man-made impacts of a devastating cyber attack on the GERD. If Egypt-based hackers gain access to the GERD’s system, they could empty the reservoirs by simultaneously opening the floodgates and other outlets of the dam. As a result, the rapid flow obliterates the adjacent turbines and power stations and leads to destructive floods that, in addition to destroying crops, could claim many lives and force residents to evacuate from the area. Although we have not yet witnessed such devastating effects on GERD, the possibility of such consequences is not far-fetched. A historical precedent for such potential consequences exists.

Although we have not yet witnessed such devastating effects on GERD, the possibility of such consequences is not far-fetched. A historical precedent for such potential consequences exists.

In 2016, the U.S Justice Department unsealed an indictment against Hamid Firoozi, an Iranian who, along with other six Iranians acting on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the ideological custodian of Iran’s 1979 revolution, was allegedly involved in a 2013 intrusion into the SCADA systems of the modest Bowman Avenue Dam near Rye Brook, New York. The dam’s SCADA systems that were installed a few years before the Iran-backed security breach incident was connected to the internet through a cellular modem. The access level that Firoozi and his accomplices had would have allowed them to obtain critical information on the dam’s water level and temperature information. Furthermore, this access would have allowed them to remotely operate the dam’s floodgates. It is only that during the period of intrusion into the dam’s systems, the electronic gate was taken offline for maintenance purposes. Even though Rye Brook, located outside New York City, is a low-population area, a 2007 flood caused more than $80 million worth of damages to the nearby City of Rye. If the Iranian hackers had access to the dam’s command and control systems during a storm, they would have been in a position to open the dam’s floodgates and cause more damage to the local community living near the Bowman Avenue Dam. Extrapolate this logical point of departure to the devastating effects that could emanate from Egyptian hackers obtaining access to the floodgates of the massive GERD. Thousands of lives in the Bameza villege, BGR, would be claimed, crops destroyed, and an Internally Displaced People (IDP) crisis could follow.

Poisoning the Waters of the GERD

Malicious cyber actors with access to the GERD’s internal systems can cause wanton destruction by increasing the Chlorine levels. By increasing the amount of water treatment chemicals such as Chlorine beyond what is fit for human consumption, cyber attackers on the GERD can kill people who drink the dam’s waters. In the recent past, hackers attempted to poison water treatment facilities.
In 2000, the police in Queensland, Australia, arrested a man for deploying a computer and a radio transmitter to take control of the Maroochy Shire Council’s Sewerage System and subsequently released sewage into parks, rivers, and even the grounds of a Hyatt Regency Hotel. Similarly, In 2021, malicious hackers gained unauthorized access to a water treatment plant located in the small American town of Oldsmar, Florida. Upon gaining access into the plant’s networks, the hackers momentarily adjusted the levels of lye (Sodium hydroxide) in the drinking water before being mitigated by the state’s cyber incident responders. In small amounts, lye is a chemical used for treating the acidity of water and removing metals from the water before being supplied to the residents. In larger amounts, it is a toxic chemical that can lead to the death of people who consume the resultant poisoned waters. A similar attack by Egyptian hackers into the GERD’s water filtering system would have dire consequences for Ethiopia.

Catastrophic Power Outages

Many Ethiopians, especially those living in rural areas of the emerging states such as the BGR, Gambella Region, and Somali Region, lack access to electricity. To enhance its citizens’ access to energy, the Ethiopian government is eyeing to provide electricity to Ethiopia by harnessing the Blue Nile Waters in the GERD reservoirs. Additionally, it aims to be a regional powerhouse that sells electricity to neighboring countries in the Horn of Africa, and beyond. If hackers sponsored by foreign governments successfully infiltrate the GERD’s networks, then they could escalate their access privilege to eventually disrupt power distribution and even cause a nationwide and region-wide power blackout. Such apocalyptic scenarios are tantamount to the loss of millions of dollars for Ethiopia and its future electricity customers in neighboring countries such as Kenya, Somalia, and Djibouti.

If hackers sponsored by foreign governments successfully infiltrate the GERD’s networks, then they could escalate their access privilege to eventually disrupt power distribution and even cause a nationwide and region-wide power blackout.

Leveraging the GERD’s computers as a Transnational Cybercrime Station

Besides the aforementioned risks, hackers with diverse affiliations and hats (nation-state-sponsored hackers, hacktivists, local cybercrime syndicates, etc.) could attempt to gain access to the GERD’s networks. If they successfully manage to do so, they may initially deliberately refrain from causing damage to Ethiopia’s critical infrastructures. Instead, they could leverage the robust computerized systems that undergird the massive as a station for hosting robot networks (botnets) that will be used for mounting Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, malware attacks, phishing attacks, and ransomware attacks, among others, to local and international businesses and governments. In such a scenario, the GERD could be reduced to a cybercrime Mecca that attracts sophisticated transnational cybercrime syndicates and serves as a testing ground for the so-called script kiddies (novice hackers).


The Horn of Africa Regional Security Complex

In PublicationsAugust 4, 20225 Minutes

Exploring the International Peace Support Training Institute

Brig. Gen. Sebsibe Duba

Commandant of IPSTI
International Peace Support Training Institute (IPSTI)

Brig. General Sebsibe Duba is the commandant of the Ethiopian International Peace Support Training Institute. A highly-decorated 29-year veteran of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Brig. General Sebsibe most recently served as Chief Training Officer at AMISOM Force Headquarters. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Leadership and Military Sciences from the Ethiopian Defense Command Studies and Staff College and served as Head of the Security and Strategy studies department at the Ethiopian Defense Command. General Sebsibe obtained his Master of Arts in Managing Peace and Security in Africa from Addis Ababa University and holds a post-graduate Advanced Diploma in Defense and Strategic Studies from the National Defense University (NDU) of China.

Ethiopia has deployed over 150,000 personnel for peace operations, both under Chapters 6 and 7 of the UN Charter.

Ethiopia has a long and illustrious history of international peacekeeping support. As a founding member of both the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU), the nation’s participation in UN-authorized operations dates back to 1951; since then, Ethiopia has deployed over 150,000 personnel for peace operations, both under Chapters 6 and 7 of the UN Charter. Its deployments range from infantry units, tactical and utility, helicopter units, motorized battalions, and mechanized battalions, to hospital and well drilling units.

Established under the Peace Keeping Center (PKC) in 2010, the IPSTI is dedicated to training security sector leaders both from Ethiopia and other African countries. The IPSTI provides over 25 courses on various thematic and functional areas tailored for both national and international participants, i.e. military, police, and civilian students. The institute’s coursework is structured around conflict prevention, post-conflict recovery, and other cross-cutting disciplines. IPSTI is lauded for its individualized attention to participants and discussion-based learning. The Institute’s campus includes training and office facilities, a canteen, accommodations, and a theatre facility. According to the Commandant of the Institute, IPSTI aims to become a premier center of excellence in peace support training, education, and research in Africa.

IPSTI campus, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Student Residence on campus, Addis Ababa.

Commandant Brig. Gen. Sebsibe adds that the Institute aims to become a frontier in peacekeeping pre-deployment training, particularly on UN mandates and compliance, human rights, and gender equality support in Africa.

Commandant Brig. Gen. Sebsibe adds that the Institute aims to become a frontier in peacekeeping pre-deployment training, particularly on UN mandates and compliance, human rights, and gender equality support in Africa. Secondly, the IPSTI offers specialized foreign language training, as well as testing, in preparation for international deployments. The IPSTI offers a robust English and French language training program and is in the process of crafting additional language training and soft-skills programs. Third, IPSTI has a highly specialized Peace and Conflict Management graduate program which comprises accomplished military leaders, as well as enrollees, from around the African continent. Participants are often sponsored by their respective governments to complete the coursework. Lastly, the institute conducts various research on peace support operations and conflicts to promote regional peace.

According to the commandant of the school, regional peace, particularly in a crucial geo-strategic location like the Horn, is a collaborative effort that requires the attention and participation of various stakeholders. Hence, the IPSTI has a range of core and institutional partners ranging from nations like Germany, Japan, and the UK to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the African Union (AU). Through the support of various national and international partners, the IPSTI is able to enhance the capacity of its regional standby forces and further expand its training modules into academic programs.

IPSTI training Facility, Near Kebena, Addis Ababa.


China’s “Peaceful Development” agenda in the Horn of Africa

In PublicationsAugust 4, 20228 Minutes

China’s “Peaceful Development” agenda in the Horn of Africa

Getachew Nigatu

Getachew obtained his first degree from Addis Ababa University’s Political Science and International Relations department PSIR. He holds an M.A. in International Relations from Addis Ababa University and an M.A. from the University of Leeds, UK, in Political Communication. Getachew served as Director General at the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and worked as Secretariat for the Foreign Policy Review Team. Upon Joining the private sector, Getachew worked as a senior political editor at The Reporter Newspaper in Ethiopia.

China’s Foreign Ministry appointed a Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa, Xue Bing attended the first ever ‘China-Horn of Africa Good Governance, Peace and Development Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from June 20 to June 22, 2022. Senior officials and representatives of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, and South Sudan were in attendance at this event that is to mark a shift in China’s partnership model, particularly with Eastern Africa. Zhao Zhiyuan, China’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, who was also in attendance, insisted on the presence of the Chinese Special Envoy at the summit upon invitation; adding that China doesn’t have any other agenda than assisting development and peace prospects in the Horn of Africa.

The conference, led by H.E. Xue Bing, was also intended to encourage dialogue between the Government of Ethiopia (GoE) and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) but looked into discussing the crisis and conflict plaguing the broader region. This raises several critical questions worth considering.

First, what is the actual interest of the Chinese government in the Horn of Africa, particularly, how may this summit serve in bolstering regional peace? It is a fact that Horn States owe the Chinese government billions of dollars in debt, hence conflict conditions and instability in the region will not only result in the loss of critical partners in the region but also a massive economic loss incurred by the Chinese government.

The Chinese Government’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) lays out a clear framework for diplomatic engagement, economic cooperation, resource self-sufficiency, and more to expand China’s cooperation with African partners.

The Chinese Government’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) lays out a clear framework for diplomatic engagement, economic cooperation, resource self-sufficiency, and more to expand China’s cooperation with African partners. Despite multiple security threats posed by various entities, one must ask: “if not for the geostrategic and economic incentives the Horn region offers, would China’s government have prioritized such a high-level engagement with the region’s governments?” The answer is likely NO. Given the Chinese government’s prior engagements with the African States, it is a recent phenomenon for China to pioneer good governance and peace initiatives in other countries. As is the case with most Horn Governments, China seldom comments on political developments and prefers not to involve in protection, de-escalation, or peacebuilding initiatives. However, The contrary is true when it comes to its deeply entrenched involvement in African economies. What accounts for the sudden shift towards peace and development, as well as good governance? Could it be a protective mechanism for its investment holdings in these countries?

Africa’s stability matters to China. China is not only involved in trade and investment and infrastructure development but Chinese companies are also heavily involved in mineral exploration and widespread mining in Africa. The continent’s rich natural resources, and ample market for services and goods, are increasingly attractive to China; hence instability in Africa means it cannot exploit the mineral and economic prospects in Africa. 

However, the terms of these loans are not disclosed to the public- remain a secret between the signatory African heads of state and China.

Africa’s raising debt to the Chinese government exceeds 140 billion USD and at least 18 African countries have been renegotiating the terms of their past agreements. However, the terms of these loans are not disclosed to the public- remaining a secret between the signatory African heads of state and China. These loans, through the so-called “Peaceful Development initiative” often take infrastructures from poor African countries as protection or guarantee. It only becomes public knowledge when countries in debt default on their payment and settlements become difficult.

 Chinese loans are often considered predatory. When asked, most African governments and China would claim that their partnership is a “win-win.” However, heavy Chinese investments, particularly in infrastructure development are said to be highly impropriety; the African officials signing these loan agreements often advance their individual interests under the cover of secrecy. The Chinese government itself provides certain shields for corrupt African officials. This is by providing officials from African governments with the power of signing infrastructure loan agreements a grand corruption platform that makes them commit to these unethical loans. The Heritage Foundation in its piece ‘Chinese Corruption in Africa Undermines Beijing’s Rhetoric about friendship in Africa’ claims’ that Beijing either encourages or ignores corruption and that China’s government-linked and government-owned companies habitually use corruption that hurts ordinary Africans.

Infrasture development in Ethiopia and other African countries often fails to repay their loans, further entrenching the into dependency.

Infrasture development in Ethiopia and other African countries often fails to repay their loans, further entrenching the into dependency. For example, six years after launching the first Sub-Saharan Africa light rail system, the Addis Ababa transit system went from bad to worse. According to The Reporter news Paper, during its first four years, the transit system earned a gross revenue of 11 million USD; it, however, needs 154 million USD to operate. The General Auditor’s report shows that the rail system falls far short of its original feasibility study. ‘The feasibility study has been inadequate, and it was conducted without collecting enough information.’ Who is responsible for these kinds of irresponsible loans? Officials in African governments or China?