I can vividly remember sitting in a Nairobi classroom in Kenya and scribbling away my discussion to validate that assertion. I also clearly remember answering the same question in Ordinary Level Secondary school in Jinja, Uganda and when I returned to my country of birth, Tanzania, I again had to respond to the same question in Advanced Level High School.
My explanation was simple, Egypt is a dessert country and its main source of fresh water is the Nile. Without the Nile, they would be no Egypt…
It was the correct answer; the answer that my teacher liked and am sure so does Egypt. What of the countries of East Africa, the source of the Nile. Well, the teaching goes, they too need the Nile, but since they are tropic countries that receive considerable amount of annual rains, they don’t need the Nile as much as Egypt does.
That is the conservative look, or dare I say the Neapolitan colonial brainwash to children. It is designed to prepare the children of East Africa to be complacent. To believe that it is Egypt that is in more need of the Nile than them. It is construed so that when we grow up and become leaders we may have that exact outlook that I described above; the answer that my teacher liked, the ‘correct’ answer.
Let’s look at the facts, did you know Egypt produces more flowers or horticulture in general than the rest of Africa.
Think of impoverished Sudan……………… home of the Sahel
The Nile, 15yrs, $4 bn and Africa’s largest hydropower dam
For almost a decade now, since 2011, Ethiopia has been constructing what is in effect the largest dam in Africa. It cost $4 billion this far and upon completion, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will produce in excess of 6,400 megawatt.
To put it in perspective, that’s enough power to light up all of Africa and part of Europe. Only one catch, it will take up to 15 years to fill up the dam!
Ethiopia has built the dam on the Blue Nile and as expected, of course, Egypt is up in arms over the dam and its cry has been sided by another riparian country, Sudan.
The query is simple, the dam is just too large and filling it up will take a significant amount of water. If Ethiopia is left to channel water from the Nile, then Sudan and Egypt would fall short. Nonetheless, Ethiopia says its 105 million people need it and has proceeded to fill up what it describes as a significant portion of the dam’s 155 metres high walls.
While no specifics have been issued as to what exact amount is meant by ‘significant,’ Ethiopian authorities say the remaining part of the dam will be filled depending on weather conditions.
The dam has the capacity of more than 74 billion cubic meters and when filled, with water from the Nile, it will make the continent’s largest artificial lake.
After throats were talked dry on Washington’s Capitol Hill back in January, it is in Khartoum, the capitol of dry Sudan that a Nile water-sharing deal was been drawn up at the end of the same month.
Witnessed by the US Treasury and representatives of the World Bank including the President of the World Bank, technical teams from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia deliberated what their countries’ ministers had raised up as issues to be addressed a fortnight before; logistics of filling the massive dam without affecting water supply to Egypt through Sudan.
According to local media, the trio are in accord and agree that ‘a joint implementation committee to oversee when to suspend filling, reducing volumes or surging the flow.’
Egypt’s annual 5.5 bn cubic metres
This agreement comes with one key condition, build and fill the dam as you please but Egypt wants a guarantee of at least 5.5 billion cubic metres a year. There are several other key conditions:
- A schedule for the filling plan of the GERD
- Provision for dispute resolution and information sharing
- A collaborative mechanism for the filling of the GERD in drought
- A collaborative mechanism for the dam operation in drought/prolonged periods of dry years.
- Finalize mechanism for operation of the GERD in normal rain periods
- Dam safety and environmental and social impacts of the GERD.
The signing of the pact by the three countries is expected to take place by the end of February with a positive reaffirmation of the importance of cross border cooperation in the development of the Blue Nile.
The Nile is Egypt: Closing the alleged conspiracy
It is one thing to assert that the body of water, the Nile, is the source of livelihood for Egypt i.e. Egypt is The Nile. It is a whole other contention to declare ‘The Nile is Egypt.’ In the former, its asserted that the Nile sustains Egypt hence ‘Egypt is The Nile.’ In the second claim, it is the reverse, Egypt sustains the Nile, and hence ‘Egypt is the Nile.’
Which begs one to wonder, how does Egypt bring about the Nile?
As you read this article, it is reported that farmers in Egypt are currently facing scarcity and the United Nations has warned that Egypt will face what it has described as, an absolute water crisis by 2025. As such, understandably, Egypt is wary that Ethiopia’s grand dam will only serve to worsen matters.
Is this a fact? Or is Egypt exercising its power, muscling up? A senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, Meressa Kassu seems to think so. In an interview with Detche Welle he bluntly described Egypt’s intentions as, “I think showing [their] power and hegemony in the region could be [Egypt’s aim].” And why does the researcher think so?
“In the Declaration of Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, it is clear that any [upstream] countries will not significantly harm the downstream countries,” he told DW.