By Yasser Al-Hussain
Egyptian-Sudanese relations have yet to address any of the major points that are being discussed between the two countries today and this is primarily due to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Sudan is greatly concerned that Egyptian officials believe that it is within the best interests of their country’s national security to prevent any dams from being built outside of their national borders. Meanwhile for Sudan, any agricultural development is directly tied to building more dams, particularly outside the Sudanese borders.
Water storage facilities in Sudan are not capable of housing the amounts of water resources that are needed to irrigate the vast amounts of agricultural planes in the country. Even when it comes to the question of Halayeb, an area of disputed land between the Egyptian and Sudanese border which is currently under Egyptian control much to the fear of the Sudanese, it is likely that Egypt will use this territory as a playing card with which it will place pressure on Sudan to give up some of its most basic water rights.
On the other hand, Egypt is worried about the possibility that Sudan will later affect its ability to control the Nile’s waters through a series of proposed dams both inside and outside Sudan. Sudanese officials are accusing Egypt of using this mentality against the Sudanese people as a means to control them in a way that completely ignores the possibility of reconciliation and only works in Egypt’s favour. In fact, if Sudan were to demand its share of the Nile’s water (approximately 10 billion cubic metres according to the Nile Waters Agreement signed in 1929) Egypt would view this as an act of aggression.
The Sudanese claim that the whereabouts of the original copy of this agreement is unknown. They also point to the fact that they signed this agreement while they were under a bilateral (British-Egyptian) occupation. They believe that the original copy of the agreement includes more Sudanese rights, which the Egyptians would like to keep hidden.
At the time that Sudan preferred not to participate in the Entebbe Convention, Egypt also expressed its reluctance to abide by the 1929 Nile Water agreement to the letter, despite the fact that abiding by this agreement would grant Sudan its full water rights. Moreover, the biggest danger of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is that it sets a precedent for other countries to go against Egypt’s will when it comes to controlling the Nile. Cairo has expressed its anger towards Ethiopia for not asking for their permission before beginning their vast project. [please continue on page 2]