MORE SABRE RATTLING BY EGYPT OVER NILE WATERS
Inspite of the political upheavals over the past few months, and a diplomatic charm offensive by the current government in Cairo with visits to Eastern African countries in recent weeks, there is another dimension to the now valid new Nile Treaty, after the signing of Burundi made the new deal ‘official’.
Yet, the latest information from Egypt is that the military, probably thinking longer term and more strategically than the current and probably inexperienced civilian politicians now in power, has made thinly concealed threats towards the ‘water producers’ in Eastern Africa. The army leadership reportedly instructed relevant units to ‘be prepared for any eventuality over the dispute on the Nile waters’, instantly raising the barometer in relations between Egypt and Eastern Africa, and the present water and irrigation minister echoed similar sentiments when first saying ‘we will ask the international community to intervene if Ethiopia does not reply’ after claiming that no answer was received to their expressed concerns over the start of the construction of a new hydro electric dam near the Ethiopian border with Sudan, which commenced last week. The minister wisely left the question of ‘direct intervention’ open, but had to admit that Egypt was lobbying hard around potential financiers of the project to withhold funds until the Egyptian side has asserted their authority under the old and outdates, and now superseded Nile treaties of 1929 and 1959. References to the possibility of ‘renewed regional conflict’ also did not help to calm the nerves in Eastern Africa, and Uganda for that matter is actively considering acquiring a fleet of modern military aircraft to be able to defend her airspace in case of such an ‘intervention’ as the Egyptians seem to keep in the back of their minds.
The unrest in Egypt could hence not have come at a worse time, leaving the army there to ‘hold the bag’ and left without political oversight and a strong hand to ‘guide’ them, they might well be capable to acting irrationally over the Nile waters, claiming ‘vital national interests’ and jump the proverbial ‘gun’ in the process without an assertive political leadership in Cairo to stop them..
The new dam in Ethiopia is expected to hold some 62 billion cubic metres of water, which while filling up when the dam is completed will somewhat reduce the flow of the Blue Nile. This branch of the river, when reaching the confluence with the White Nile in Khartoum, adds more than 2/3 of the entire water mass to the river, as it flows downstream.
Watch this space as the Nile water saga continues to erupt back into the forefront of reporting.