Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Struggle On The Nile : The Background

This is second post regarding the crisis currently between the Nile basin countries. I explained in previous post general information about the river Nile and its basin countries .
Today I will speak about the Nile basin treaties which is the reason behind that huge crisis.But first I would like to hint out that it is remarkable that throughout history the great Egyptian rulers paid attention to the Nile and its strategic importance as part of our national security since the time of ancient Egyptians. I will not spEgyptian Sudaneak in ancient history but I will speak about the modern history. Mohamed Ali understood the importance of both Sudan and the Nile sources and thus he expanded in the South before he would go to the  East and to the North building his fast empire. Till the first decades  of the 20th century the Equatorial directorate in Egyptian Anglo Sudan included Victoria Lake.
The main disagreement between Egypt and Sudan on one side and the rest of the Nile basin countries or some of them to be accurate on another side is on the Nile river treaty of year
The Nile River treat of year 1929
The treaty was between the Kingdom of Egypt and Sudan and the UK on behalf of Uganda,Tanzania and Kenya during that time. Do not forget Egypt was officially independent then while all those countries were under the British occupation ; of course Egypt was unofficially under the British occupation too but UK knew the importance of Nile to Egypt and its cotton and wheat. The treaty was meanly about the water relations between Egypt and Sudan ; Sudan was under Egyptian-Anglo control. Most provisions were about the cooperation between Egypt and Sudan yet there are one previsions that causing all the fuss.
That provision is:
The Egyptian government must grant its approval to the Nile basin countries if anyone of them want to build any projects on the Nile whether from dams or stations or any other project whether on the river or the tributaries or lakes that would affect the share of Egypt from the water Nile as this is her natural and historical right.
According to the 1929 treaty Egypt has the right to use 48 billion cubic meter of water per year where as the Sudan has the right to use 4 billion cubic meter.
After the independence of Sudan in 1954 and our announcement to build the high in 1956, Sudan wanted to revise the treaty of 1929 and thus the treaty of 1959 between Egypt and Sudan regarding the Nile and their cooperation after full independence from the UK
The most important 1959 treaty provisions beside of course cooperation ..etc :
1// The two countries agree that Egypt would build the high dam and Sudan would build the Al-Rusirs dam on the blue nile.
2// Egypt and Sudan keep their historical and natural shares which they got from the 1929 treaty.
The first provision also included the new added water shares after the construction of the high dam as they would receive 22 billion cubic meter annually which would distribute it as follows :
- Egypt would receive 7.5 billion cubic meter plus its original water share “48 bcm” ; Egypt receives accordingly 55.5 bcm
- Sudan would receive 14.5 billion cubic meter plus its original water share “ 4 bcm” ; Sudan receives accordingly 18.5 bcm.
It is interesting and good to know that high dam increased the water share of Sudan , of course not only it increased its water share but also its share from the rich fertile soil of the Nile.
This treaty was signed in Cairo November 1959 and earlier by two months in September 1959 Ethiopia officially sent a memo to our Foreign ministry objecting on the high Dam’s construction.Of course Nasser used his powers  and Ethiopia despite the support of Western countries then could not do anything.
Tanzania right after its independence had sent to Egypt and Sudan in 1962 telling them it was not obliged to follow the 1929 treaty.
In 1964 the United States bureau of reclamation helped Ethiopia to construct 4 dams in move all experts and historians considered to face the Soviet aid to Egypt in constructing the high dam, still to be honest the high dam won all those four dams. During the Nasser era we used our diplomatic powers and Nasser's charm to have a foothold in Africa using the slogans and principals of liberalization from colonialism and imperialism.
During the Sadat era we used our military forces threat to remind the Nile basin countries in 1980 that we were not that tolerant when it comes to the Nile especially Ethiopia which had a soviet back up then , the famous Red Mengistu * wanted to mess with the wrong man , may be Nasser was dead but who said that Sadat was tolerant when it comes to our share of Nile.
In February 1999 the Nile basin initiative came to the world to give some hope but 10 years later in 2009 it seems that we are Ethiopia and Uganda do not like the initiative and want to cancel the 1929 treaty threatening that they would go to the IJC to sue Egypt and Sudan , of course they forgot that in 1989 IJC ruled out that the international water agreements and treaties are just like the borders treaties and agreements which can’t be amended or cancelled and this was in case between South Asian countries.
Our mistake in the last 27 years that we or rather the regime has neglected our national security and our relations with the Nile basin countries , forgetting that the Nile river sources are part of our national security and looked to what is happening now ; the NIB initiative is not enough.I do not know what we have been doing in time of Mubarak expect that Dr. Mahmoud Abu Ziad ,the former minister of water sources and irrigation was sucked off his position because of the Nile basin countries negotiations as some official media outlets have hinted** and Minister Mahmoud Allam was appointed in his place but instead of putting an end that would please all parties ,the crisis seems to be growing with no solution.

There have been continuous warnings that Israel was and is still messing around in the Nile Basin countries encouraging them to build dams giving them expertise needed to do such thing in order to affect Egypt's share from the Nile water and it is enough to see Lieberman for some reason visiting these countries to know that it is not coincidence. For years there have been warning that that Ethiopia was building not only one dam but several dams.
The last dam made the headlines in Egypt thanks to the warnings of Dr. Mamdouh Hamza in official and unofficial publications "Like Rosa Al Youssef and Al Dostor" was the Tekeze dam.

The Tekeze dam is one the Tekeze river in Ethiopia which is considered one of the tributaries of the Nile.The dam tekeze_dam surprisingly was not built by Israeli help but with our friends help , with Italian and Chinese help , yup our friends as the official media portrays them.
Thanks to Hamza we began to hear something from our officials and more surprisingly is that this dam’s construction started in August 2002 , yes 2002; all that time we were sleeping in honey !! The dam was finished and we did not know.

Here is a video from the Tekeza Dam site :

Tekeze Dam

Dr.Hamza said that the dam doesn't appear on Google earth and it was a shady conspiracy , of course I respect the man too much and I believe this was true in the past but now the dam in on Google earth ,you can see it here.

View Tekeze Dam Location in a larger map

Of course what came from the officials was more of relaxation statements , relax everyone there is no danger or threat from that dam.
They even brought the Ethiopian water resources minister Asfaw Dingamo to tell us in Egypt that this dam is only for generating electricity and there is no threat on water share; the same water share Ethiopia is already refusing and demands to be re-determined. Ironically this dam when you read more about you will know that it is dangerous to Ethiopia and its environment judging on its cons which have been discussed by the world. Among the cons of the Tekeze Dam :

1// Tekeze will completely change the face of one of Africa's deepest canyons. The deepness of the canyon walls will likely contribute to major sedimentation at the dam site once the region is flooded

2//The siltation will  likely reduce the capacity and lifespan of the dam, leading to reductions in irrigation and economic growth.

Strangely this dam won’t benefit the rural poor in Ethiopia as the the power generated will go mainly to large cities or sold to neighboring countries with more developed industries.Of course international groups like Bread for the world suggested an alternative development plan for Ethiopia that includes small and medium dams, forestation and hill terracing, and development of alternative energy sources, in order to both sustainably tap the natural resources and equitably distribute its benefits but it seems that the Ethiopian government is insisting on it.
I would like to see this video from BBC about the Gilgel Gibe III Dam on the Gilgel Gibe river “unlike Tekeze thank God it is not related to the Nile” .
Of course Ethiopia and also Uganda have leashed on us a war in their media. Egypt should be realistic and stop being selfish according to the Ugandans whom I respect their point of view very much despite I do not like that threatening tone on how the Nile basin states Shall not be tolerant forever. Of course the Ugandan newspaper forgot to mention that the Ethiopia and also our ally Sudan are no longer tolerant and have been building dams that would affect us all not only Egypt.
Of course the Ugandan newspaper forgot to mention that Egyptians already will suffer from Water shortage by year 2017 making the Uganda and other Nile basin states much more fortunate than Egypt. I understand their concern so much and I understand that part of this crisis is our mistake.
By the way I focus the previous part on Ethiopia but I did forget Sudan and its dams , yes Sudan has the right to build dams after the approval of Egypt and yes it seems officially Egypt approved the harmless Merowe dam but we should know :
1// Sudan is going to build other 3 dams in the future
2// The South of Sudan is going to have its elections to determine if it wants to be an independent state or not in 2011 , I think you may understand the danger here. 
We will leave all those conspiracies outside and go to what is happening inside.
With my all respect in the current there is a huge responsibility lay on us whether a regime or the people . We are wasting the Nile water in the best way we can using it in useless projects like golf courts and those endless swimming pools everywhere where as farmers do not have access to clean water and use sewage instead and people across the country can't have a clean glass of water !!!!??
Of course the official media is attacking the farmers and does not dare to open its mouth against the businessmen who are wasting our precious water in useless projects and polluting with their industrial and chemical wastes. I believe the current crisis , the current struggle is an alarm to all of us.
Some people say that we are on the verge of the first water war in the world , I disagree , we can reach to a peaceful solution that will make everyone happy if we really want to. If we have a real cooperation with the Nile basin countries , if we can make them our really allies , if we want to stop Israel for messing around us and threatening our national security we must think in strategic way in winning allies and friends. Those African countries need us as much as we need them.
* President Sadat originally called him red specifically in this incident.
**Rumors “and mostly true” say that former minister Mahmoud Abu Ziad was sucked off his position because his disagreement with Prince Al Walid Ibn Talal who owns hundreds of thousands of acres in Toshka for very cheap money and has only reclaimed 30,000 acres.


  1. Hello dear Zeinobia...

    Sorry for being off-point the subject,but since both of us have the glories of the past as a common interest I would like to have the pleasure of inviting you to this post in my blog:

    please if you have more relevant photos kindly share them with us.

    Thank you.

  2. I am glad for the info + opinions presented in this post, Zeinobia. I think what happened is a 'red alret' that we missbehaved in the issue of 'The Nile' and relations with the basin countries and hopefuly we'll go for better

    p.s. I wanna say "Hats Off" for your blog generally and this post especially. I am proud -and not surprised of course- that we've people think you. This is not compliment because I don't do this either in real world or virtual one.

  3. Black Granite countertops exporter is welcome you. I like your blog. It is very interesting infomation on your blog. Thank you for share knowledge.

  4. Great research.
    You skim over the events involving Sudan..
    The 1929 Agreement was made by the Brits to lightly threaten and remind Egypt's government at that time, that the water it received was the remnants of water that had not been consumed by Sudanese agriculture.
    The 1959 Agreement is viewed unfavourably by the Sudanese due to it's devastating effects on Halfa and its people, its meager compensation for the flooding and its zero benefits to the Sudanese. The democratically elected civilian government wanted a different agreement so AbdelNasser supported the first military takeover of power by an administration that accepted his terms...

  5. Zeinobia, you forget that the Upper Nile basin countries did not sign the 1929 agreement, the UK did. SO I guess if they went to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), they can nullify the agreement.

    I went to the ICJ web site and looked at the 1989 cases - and before - and could not find the case you are referring to!!

    If you want to join the discussions about the Nile, join us at


    Nabil El-Khodari
    Founder, Nile Basin Society

  6. You know that there are general elections in Sudan in less than a month.
    A questionnaire has been designed to help Sudanese voters determine which party suits their views.
    One of the questions is:
    الموضوع رقم 30/29
    اتفاقية مياه النيل
    Nile Water Agreement
    هل ينبغي إعادة التفاوض على الاتفاقيتين الخاصتين بمياه النيل لعامي 1929 و1959 بالتعاون مع الدول المتشاطئة على نهر النيل؟
    Should the Nile water agreements of 1929 and 1959 be renegotiated in cooperation with all Nile basin countries?

    Most visitors responded with a resounding 'yes'

    Yes, the tide is turning...

  7. Let me tell you something!
    What if we started charging you by the barrel for free water you have been receiving from Ethiopia for thousands of years just like OPEC charges the world for their most prized natural resource, oil? Have you even paid us $1 or sent us a thank you card for the water and millions of metric tons of fertile eroded soil you have been getting for thousands of years for free from Mother Ethiopia? FREE!!! Whose water is it anyway? Have you started thinking about Desalination from the Mediterranean just like Israel does? Ethiopia who supplies 85% of your living water was not under British control and was never part of the agreement between them and Egypt. Go figure. Others making agreements excluding the property owner. She might have been poor in the past but she is rising now. No one except God can stop it. I know that people have to live and need to share water resources. But what gives you the right to be innately proud of the fact that Nasser beat us in the political maneuvering and Sadat threatened us with military power which Isreal turned into powder quite a few times. Well pride goes before destruction, doesn’t it. You better come to the negotiating table. I don’t DON’T like Arab arrogance. Neither do I recommend it for me or my people.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Hi, This is Anonymous again.
    Sorry for the rant and rave I wrote in your blog. I know that you love your country and that is great. I feel the same way about my country. I believe peace and cooperation goes a long way than conflicts. I think you did a good job when it came to doing your research. But when I read about how some Egyptians left comments on news websites of starting wars with upstream countries, it really irked me. I really believe that some Egyptians should restrain themselves from words of hostility and air of superiority military wise and come to the negotiating table for the equitable use of the nile. Zeinoba, good job. Everybody needs water. Let us respect each other.

  10. Anonymous why do the comments made by ignorant people about starting wars with upstream countries bother you?!
    It's all empty rhetoric, Egypt may have a strong army but it is still incapable of attacking upstream Nile states.
    They will 'never' be allowed to use Sudanese airspace or territory to attack Ethiopia, and the diplomatic fallout of such an attack would be disastrous - it's not as if Egypt has a good image amonst upstream states, the Sudanese and black Africans in general!

    We in Sudan are waiting for respect to be shown to us in a way that does not insult our intelligence by Egypt (academics, leaders and the media) - and we are all in favour of 'equitable use'.

  11. Most provisions were about the cooperation between Egypt and Sudan yet there are one previsions that causing all the fuss.

  12. I wanna say "Hats Off" for your blog generally and this post especially. I am proud -and not surprised of course- that we've people think you. This is not compliment because I don't do this either in real world or virtual one.

  13. Sudanese Observer8/06/2010 02:56:00 PM

    Read and learn:

    Why Sudanese public opinion opposes the Nile Water Agreements? (1929 and 1959)

  14. who assigned egypt as a leader or owner of the water here is the truth u think the upper part of the basin have no power to do nothing on the nile and we tell u now this idea was history in the past few decades no tolerans on think like that w've no power to do no project on the nile so, what egypt should have agreed with upper country about the nile this is best for all of our identity finally we all are equal no one can act like a boss and everone has the right to develope his mother country b bye luv u all!


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