The Changing geopolitics of the Nile River and the Grand Renaissance Dam

After Israel normalized ties with Sudan in Trump’s last-minute efforts to have a real legacy. I got ideas to write about the Nile and its changing geopolitics. If you are confused by now you need to go read about the Peace Canals that connect Israel to the Nile under the Suez Canal through the Sinai desert. Earlier before the deal, Trump had suggested Egypt an African country to attack Ethiopia and destroy the Grand Renaissance Dam. One would say why is a Ugandan concerned about what happens downstream of the River Nile, well, there are like 40 million reasons why.

As I was getting ready to publish my piece that talks about the civil war that started coming out of Ethiopia. The Tigray Region north of the country attacked the Ethiopian federal government forces through the military wing of the TPLF. The TPLF is a political party that dominated Ethiopian leadership for almost 30 years. Its origins are from the North of the sovereignty where the Tigray people who make up 6% of the country’s population reside. The reason why I halted is that as war broke out Egypt moved its troops to Sudan for what they called a military drill. It’s around this same time that the Grand Renaissance Dam started to hold water from the Nile to fill a new lake they creating. Chances are high Egypt and its allies were part of the war. Earlier this year Ethiopia had deployed the S-300PMUI and S-400, the Spyder-MR, and Pantsir-SI all these are modern air defense systems from Russia and China that can down up to 288 jets in a battle with 75% accuracy levels.

With that said let us try and make sense of what happened for things to things to get here that the American president is cheering for war “that moron” his former Secretary of State was right in that regard. The River Nile has been the center of human civilization for a long time, Egypt for 1000s of years was because of the Nile even when they didn’t know where the river was having its source. Forthwith other people along the Nile River want to develop into modernity. It’s no secret that the River Nile Powers Uganda’s energy sector and that of some parts of Kenya and Rwanda where we export electricity. In Sudan, the Nile is the main source of agriculture with the largest irrigation systems in the world. South Sudan a newer country is yet to explore the potentials of the waterway.

All these developments are regulated by Egypt that claims to have authority over the river basing on an agreement that they signed with colonialists before there was Uganda or any other upstream countries in 1929. In that agreement Sudan and Egypt under auspices of Britain the colonial master gave them selves the waters of the Nile River. Ethiopia was not part of the Working arrangement for controlling irrigation in the Sudan deal. They have never recognized the agreement. In 1959 another funny one was signed and again Ethiopia which has 85% of the water supply coming from its highlands forming the Blue Nile was again left out.

The Nile water is not used for transport like other waterways in the world. That doesn’t make it less important, the river has fresh water that is used for agriculture, industrial use and day to day human water consumption all along the Nile basin. But it’s Egypt that uses most of the water since 98% of the population live on the banks of the Nile River. As it has been for some 3000 years Egypt is the Nile and the Nile is Egypt. It’s this reason why the aggressively oppose any projects that affect the flow of the river in the upstream countries.

For a Dam to be constructed for years Cairo has to be consulted. This all changed in April 2011 as Egypt was coping with the aftermath of the Arab spring Ethiopia made it’s move when the kicked off a 5 billion dollars project that was previously know as project x during the feasibility study and the procurement process for the contractors. Unlike other big infrastructure projects in Africa this was domestically funded mostly by the citizens of Ethiopia making one of the few things that unit the very polarized country on ethnic lines.

Project x is now know as the Grand Renaissance Dam and when completed is expected to produce about 16,000GWh/y of power. It can supply to 234 million people and yet Ethiopia has only 109 million people meaning they will have an energy surplus. They will be able sell power to the horn of Africa and East Africa. The project is expected to bring in 100 billion dollars every year for Ethiopia from inter-regional energy trade when fully operational. It’s expected to solve the food security paradox for Ethiopia with a new lake formed that will be used for irrigation all year round. Ethiopia is a supper power sleeping with 22 rivers coming out of the country if they are all utilized to full potential. It’s such prospects that make the issue of a United Africa valid.

In March 2015 Egypt and Sudan that had threatened to bomb the Dam since construction started in 2011. It’s the 8 largest in the world by the way. Come to terms with the project and decided to start talks on how the Dam is going to be used. The three countries started talks under the Helsinki Rules of 1966 on international water ways. They were seeking to work out the technicalities of how the Dam is going to hold water to fill up the new lake. Ethiopia wants to fill it up as soon as possible so that they cash in on there investment. Egypt has suggested a 15 year period and Ethiopia is not agreeing to that. Egypt claims that if the reservoir is filled up in 3 years they will lose half of their farm lands that depend on the Nile, and if it’s 6 years 17% of farm land will be lost. Ethiopia says since Lake Victoria is full to capacity which is true given to the flooding of late, it can compensate for the water being held as Ethiopia kicks of its project to bring all turbines to use. So Uganda is in play now at the same time we have our own projects only that we just generate power and let the water flow.

At some point in 2017 the talks failed but this year they had started till America was brought onto the table to disorganize the process as they do all over the world. At some point in late October of 2020, they were encouraging war between Egypt and Ethiopia which would have set the world not just Africa on fire. It turns out if the third world war was to happen it would be about freshwater, not oil and nuclear. From my personal perspective, it looks like the TPLF from the Tigray Region was a proxy to send a message to Ethiopia. But even in that brief war, we saw UAE bring in drones in Eritrea that were used to strike the TPLF, Sudan is now dealing with refugees from Ethiopia another sign that my problem can catch up with my neighbors. Ethiopia is fast pulling troops from Somalia creating a security vacuum to reinforce its domestic affairs. To understand why the UAE came in you have to understand it’s issues with Turkey which is operating in Somalia. These are all complexities related to an internal conflict. Can you imagine Egypt goes to war over the Nile with Ethiopia.

Before construction

The times have changed meaning Egypt can’t always monopolize it’s the authority over the Nile, other upstream countries can and should develop the way they did thousands of years ago. Africa has to solve the Nile internally and keep the former colonial powers out in the final settlement. There is a blueprint for the situation in West Africa. War is not good for anyone and the Nile like any other resources on Earth should be for everyone. For Now Ethiopia, the pride of Africa seems to have the upper hand and the rest have to respect that. Egypt can farm, Uganda can cash in on tourism and parting, Sudan can fish, and Ethiopia can have their new lake if all parties in the Nile Basin sit including Burundi and the rest, and work on an African solution for an African problem.


11 thoughts on “The Changing geopolitics of the Nile River and the Grand Renaissance Dam

  1. Hill Study Center kindly share the Aljazeera link of this. I would love to watch it. Benjamin, this article is very educational. I am rendered speechless about what is happening over the Nile.

    Liked by 1 person

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