Wars for water, as a strategic resource, are gradually becoming a political reality. The states located in the upper reaches of this second greatest river in the world began to challenge the dominant position of Egypt on the Nile. Taking advantage of the instability of the situation in Egypt, which for decades controlled the main waterway of Africa, six African states, led by Ethiopia, decided to implement irrigation and hydropower projects without the knowledge of the Egyptian government. And Egypt expressed its readiness to defend its interests on the Nile by any means, including the military.
The Nile is one of the two greatest rivers in the world. In 2013, scientists found that the longest river system in the Amazon is 6992 kilometers, and in Nile 6852 kilometers. The Nile is of great importance for the population of the countries where it flows. The Nile River basin is divided into 12 countries - Burundi, Egypt, Kenya, Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Central African Republic, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. The water resources of the Nile have been used for irrigation and other needs since ancient times. Especially a huge role, since ancient times, the Nile plays in Egypt. This is the only river in North Africa, which runs through the Sahara Desert and reaches the Mediterranean Sea.
It is the source of life for Egypt, where most of the country lies in the belt of deserts. Delta and the Nile Valley occupy only 5.5% of the total territory of Egypt, but 97-99% of the population live here and this is the most important region of the country. Here are the largest cities and industrial centers - Khartoum, Aswan, Luxor (Thebes), the agglomeration of Cairo-Giza, Alexandria. Taking into account the rapid growth of the population - in Egypt there are already more than 85 million people (2013 data of the year), the problem of water supply of the population and the provision of water to agriculture is a matter of life and death for the country.
Geography of Egypt.
However, the population is growing in other countries located in the river basin, as is the desire to use the water flow for the development of agriculture, for industrial purposes and for the construction of hydropower plants. In particular, the population of Ethiopia from 55 million in 1995 year increased to 93,8 million people in 2013 year; Uganda's 21,3 million in 1995 year to 34 million in 2013 year. Population growth and the need to extract water for the needs of food supply to the population (most of the countries located in the upper Nile are predominantly poor, agrarian countries), increase the tensions of the water situation in the Nile Basin. As a result a situation arises when the economic development of upstream countries creates a threat to the strategic interests of Egypt.
Until now, the beginning of the military conflict was also restrained by the factor of Egypt's military-technical and political superiority. Egypt is the leading power in the region in terms of armaments. In addition, Egypt was an ally of the world's leading superpowers - first the USSR, then the United States. Neighbors of Egypt on the Nile did not have the appropriate resources to resolve the issue by force or by political pressure, when the words of diplomats are confirmed by guns. Yes, and at present, the Egyptian armed forces have an overwhelming superiority: more than 300 thousand people in the ground forces (including 8 mechanized and 4 tank divisions), over 3,7 thousand tanks, over 5,5 thousand various armored vehicles, about 1 thousand towed and self-propelled howitzers, MLRS, more than 5 combat, combat training and transport aircraft (including more than 700 F-200 various modifications of American and Turkish production), about 16 helicopters. In service with the Navy: 250 frigates, 8 corvettes, 2 submarines, more than 4 missile boats, etc. For comparison, the total number of the armed forces of Ethiopia is more than 20 thousand people, in service with the ground forces - 130 tanks, 246 armored vehicles, about 450 towed field artillery guns and MLRS. The Air Force is armed with about 450 aircraft and helicopters (the most modern machines are 130 multipurpose Su-11 fighters). But the problem is that since the beginning of 27 Egypt has entered a revolutionary period that does not have the best effect on the unity of society, its economy, and overall defense capability. There is even a threat of civil war and the collapse of the state.
In addition, the unfair nature of the agreements that relate to the water resources of the Nile River is obvious. Thus, the share of the flow of tributaries of the Nile River in Ethiopia is about 85-86%, and the state uses only about 1% of the flow of the Nile. Egypt and Sudan divided most of the Nile's wastewaters: according to the 1959 agreement of the year, Khartoum got a quarter of the flow, the rest belonged to Cairo.
The conclusion of a number of "water" treaties in Africa, which include the Nile Basin, dates back to a time when the UK and other colonial powers dominated the continent. The main role in the conclusion of these agreements was played by the United Kingdom. 15 On April 1891, an Anglo-Italian agreement was concluded. Italy gave a guarantee that it would not carry out irrigation work on the Atbara River (the right tributary of the Nile, passes through the territory of Sudan and Ethiopia), which may affect the flow of the Nile. 15 May 1902 was an agreement between the UK and Ethiopia. Ethiopia has committed itself not to build structures that reduce water runoff at the Blue Nile, Lake Tan, or the Sobat River (right tributary of the White Nile River). Ethiopia could begin such construction only with the consent of the government of Great Britain and Sudan. This agreement was subsequently one of the most contested, especially by Ethiopia. On the other hand, Sudan, referring to this agreement, demanded Addis Ababa not to use the waters of the Nile without his permission. Khartoum was supported by Cairo, which did not conceal its intention to use military force otherwise.
9 May 1906 England and the Congo entered into an agreement. It concerned work in the basins of the Semliki River, which could reduce the amount of water flowing into Lake Alberta (the river flows from the lake. Albert-Nil). Belgium signed this Agreement on behalf of the Congo; it was beneficial only for water users in the lower reaches of the Nile River - Sudan and Egypt, being discriminatory for the residents of the Congo. 13 December 1906 was signed an agreement between England, France and Italy, it was aimed at protecting the interests of Great Britain and Egypt in the Nile Basin. Ethiopia’s sovereign right to use its own waters was ignored. Ethiopia refused to recognize this agreement, but the level of its military and political influence did not allow it to defend or restore its rights to use the waters of the Nile River. In 1925, the United Kingdom and Italy exchanged notes that touched Lake Tang. The Italian government has recognized the priority rights of Egypt and Sudan. Work on the main waters of the Blue Nile and the White Nile and their tributaries, which could significantly change the flow of water to the Great Nile, was prohibited. Ethiopia has protested.
7 May 1929 was an agreement between Egypt and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Egypt and Sudan use 48 km3 / year, respectively, and 4 km3 / year of the Nile River, respectively; in the dry period of the year (20 January-15 July) the flow of the Nile was maintained for Egypt; Egypt had the right to control the flow of the Nile River in the states located in the upper reaches of the river; Egypt was granted the right to implement river-related projects without consulting with the countries located above the river; Egypt reserved the right to ban any project that would negatively affect its interests on the Nile. As a result, Egypt gained complete control of the Nile during the dry season, when water is most needed to irrigate agricultural land. The amount of Nile waters for the Sudan was limited, while the share of runoff to other coastal states was not foreseen at all. England played the decisive role in these discriminatory agreements, and at the same time played the role of judge and representative of its colonial territories, supporting Egypt to the detriment of other territories.
The 1929 Agreement of the Year became the basis for the 1959 Agreement of the Year between Egypt and Sudan. In 1956, Sudan gained independence and wanted to change the provisions of previously signed agreements that it considered unfair. He claimed 44 km3 waters of the Nile for irrigation 2.22 million hectares. And Egypt planned to build the Aswan Dam to control the entire river flow. Before the start of this project, the Egyptian government wanted to obtain guarantees from the Sudan and international recognition. After the talks, Sudan and Egypt, which were water consumers, not “contributors” to the Nile stock, and did not invite other countries to the talks, did not get their consent, signed the 1959 agreement of the year. The average annual flow of the Nile was divided between Sudan and Egypt in the volumes 18.5 km3 and 55.5 km3, respectively. About 10 km3 were defined as annual water losses due to evaporation and other factors. Khartoum received the right to carry out work aimed at increasing the flow and preventing water loss in the Sadda marshes in the White Nile basin. The cost and benefits of such projects should be equally divided between countries. Cairo obtained the right to build the Aswan Dam, which is capable of maintaining the annual flow of the Nile River completely. Sudan received the right to build irrigation and hydraulic structures on the Blue Nile within its share. This agreement was unfair to other coastal states and caused a negative climate for the development of coastal cooperation in the Nile basin in the future.
In the future, Egypt and Sudan had some disagreements regarding the use of the Nile flow. But acted in tandem when it came to a third party in the consideration of water issues. Sudan proposes to revise the 1959 agreement of the year to increase its water quota to 23 km3 / year. The problem of Egypt's access to the waters of the Nile complicated the process of the collapse of the Sudan and the appearance on the world map of South Sudan. Cairo tried to build bridges with the South, participating in the implementation of several projects for the development of socio-economic infrastructure.
It should also be noted that gradually in the upper reaches of the river formed alliances against the monopoly of Egypt. In 2001, tensions arose between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, on the one hand, and Egypt, on the other. Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania opposed the 1929 Agreement of the Year, which denied them the use of Lake Victoria water for irrigation. And Ethiopia was denied additional use of the waters of the Nile River, although most of the river is located within that country (Ethiopia controls 85% of the sources of the Nile). The 1929 Agreement was enslaving for other states of the Nile River Basin, prohibiting the construction of structures and the implementation of projects that could lead to a decrease in water flow to Egypt.
Egypt and Ethiopia Conflict
Ethiopia has embarked on setting a fixed water quota for each Nile Basin State. Egypt was forced to maneuver, on the one hand, expressing readiness to deepen cooperation in the Nile Basin, on the other hand, advocating the maintenance of the "status quo". In the case of the intransigence of neighbors, Egypt has repeatedly expressed its readiness to use force. So, in 1999, the Egyptian government threatened to use military force if Ethiopia abused its position in the upper reaches of the Nile. At the same time, Cairo prevented Ethiopia from receiving foreign assistance for the implementation of hydrotechnical projects in the upper reaches of the river. Back in 1990, when Addis Ababa was planning to start building a dam on the Nile, Cairo put pressure on the African Development Bank, and he refused to allocate a loan. Ethiopia had to abandon the project. At the same time, the Ethiopian government did not abandon plans for the future to spend on the needs of its agriculture up to 16% of the water resources of the Blue Nile, and it is in the rainy season 60% of the Nile flow.
At the end of May 2013, it was reported that Ethiopia was beginning to divert Blue Nile waters to build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam hydroelectric power station (Great Dam of Ethiopian Renaissance) hydroelectric station, which should become the most powerful on the African continent. Downstream, Egypt and Sudan have protested. Addis Ababa announced a project to build a hydroelectric power station in the upper reaches of the Blue Nile, near the border with Sudan in 2011. It is very symbolic that the project was announced a few weeks after the overthrow of Egyptian President H. Mubarak. The cost of the project is estimated at 4,8 billion dollars, the design capacity of the hydropower plant is 6 thousand megawatts, the height of the facility is 170 meters, and the length is 1,8 km. The construction is led by the Italian company Salini Costruttori. Currently, the project is implemented, according to media reports, on 21%. The diversion of the river from the channel is necessary, since a dam is being constructed in the middle of the river. After completion of the work, the river will again be allowed along the natural channel. According to the Minister of Energy of Ethiopia, Alemayeh Tegen, the implementation of this project will not harm any country.
Cairo and Khartoum have expressed concern that the construction of the dam will significantly reduce the water intake, which could cause drought and food disaster. The Egyptian government began to demand that the construction of the dam be stopped, since it "could threaten the water security of Egypt." In the Egyptian press, there was a lot of hype, some Egyptian experts and politicians began to voice the idea of “bombing the dam”, or supporting the Ethiopian rebels. 10 June Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi during the National Conference for the Preservation of the Right of the Republic of Egypt to the Water Resources of the Nile reported that Cairo is considering all the scenarios for resolving the threat posed by the construction of the dam in Ethiopia. The president said Egypt would not allow anyone to threaten its water security. "If Neal decreases even by a drop, then our blood will replace it," said M. Mursi, and called on all political forces in the country to stop disputes and unite in front of a common threat.
The Ethiopian Prime Minister Heilemariam Desalene called the Egyptian President’s threats empty words, reassuring the public that “no one and nothing will stop the construction of a hydropower plant”. A few days later, the Ethiopian parliament ratified a new framework agreement that dealt with the use of the Nile Basin. In addition to Ethiopia, this document was signed by five more states - Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and Rwanda. Eritrea has become an observer. Readiness to accede to this agreement was expressed by the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Ethiopia’s hydropower project is beneficial for neighboring countries, since Addis Ababa has expressed its willingness to fill the electricity shortage in these countries. As a result, Egypt and Sudan are challenged, their monopoly position is becoming a thing of the past.
The head of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Kamel Amr, visited Ethiopia with an unscheduled visit. Negotiations were conducted on the construction of hydropower plants. The Egyptian Foreign Minister expressed to his colleague Tedros Gebreisus the main claim of Cairo: Addis Ababa has not yet provided data on the dam to Egyptian specialists of the relevant commission. Although under the 1929 and 1959 conventions. Egypt and Sudan control the flow of the Nile and all hydraulic works, must not only be approved by Cairo and Khartoum, but also carried out under the supervision of a joint Egyptian-Sudanese technical commission. However, this visit did not bring visible results.
What does this mean?
- The world can witness a new type of conflict - the war for water. And this conflict will inevitably take on the most fierce and bloody character, because there is a question about the survival of tens of millions of people.
- Created another hotbed of instability on the planet. It must be remembered that this time bomb was laid by the UK. This conflict fits well with the strategy of turning the vast region from Central Africa to the borders of Russia, China and India into a sea of fire.
- The region splits on the front: on the one hand - the Arab, Muslim countries Sudan and Egypt, on the other - predominantly Christian countries (with a significant Muslim community) Ethiopia, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo.
- The Egyptian elite (both the military wing and the supporters of the Islamization of the state) received an excellent excuse for “releasing steam”, dumping the passivity of millions of young Egyptians. The more the war grinder of lives grinds, the better for Egypt. Otherwise, internal instability can lead to an internal explosion, civil war and the collapse of the country. Another scenario of external conflict is a war with Israel, too dangerous. The Egyptian press is already full of militant statements about possible military intervention in Ethiopia, air strikes on hydroelectric power plants. True, the war needs money and a lot of money that Cairo does not have. But the builders of the Caliphate - Qatar and Saudi Arabia, can distinguish them. The Deputy Minister of Defense of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Prince Khalid bin Sultan, during an official visit to Egypt, has already fallen from the scathing criticism of Ethiopia. According to the prince, if an already built dam collapses for some reason, Khartoum will be flooded. “The Great Dam of the Ethiopian Renaissance,” according to a high-ranking Saud, is a direct threat to the national security of Sudan and Egypt.
What can Egypt do?
Cairo is currently trying to exert diplomatic pressure on Ethiopia. But without apparent success. The implementation of this project can dramatically improve the status of Ethiopia in the region. Addis Ababa considers hydropower "the gateway to the future." The station will allow Ethiopia not only to solve its problems with electricity, to develop industry and agriculture, but also to sell electricity to neighboring countries that suffer from a chronic shortage of this resource. From a political point of view, the hydropower plant will give Ethiopia a lever of pressure on neighboring countries that Egypt and Sudan have already experienced. Therefore, the effectiveness of the political measures of Cairo is questionable.
In Egypt, the idea of supporting armed rebels in Ethiopian territory was voiced. Khartoum and Cairo already have successful experiences of such actions. In 1970-1980, Egypt and later Sudan actively supported the Popular Front for the Liberation of Eritrea. This led to the collapse of Ethiopia and the emergence of the state of Eritrea. This option is quite feasible, since several opposition groups are currently fighting against the government of Ethiopia. They are already trying to unite efforts to overthrow the legitimate government. Eritrea could be a springboard for helping the rebels. Ethiopia is a Christian state, but Muslims constitute more than 30% of the population. Radical Islamists have a good social base.
In addition, there is the possibility of a direct military clash between Egypt and Ethiopia. There are two scenarios here - limited intervention, in the form of an air strike on a dam; and full-scale intervention (full support for Sudan is needed here). With military intervention in order to overthrow the existing regime in Ethiopia, it is possible to include other neighboring states in the war.