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February 28, 2011

Egypt threatened to use force over threats to Nile waters - Wikileaks

by Jeff Otieno

The government of the ousted Egyptian strongman, Hosni Mubarak, at one time considered the use of force if upstream countries threatened its historical rights to the use of the Nile waters.

The administration was incensed by riparian states insistence on using the Nile for irrigation and other water consuming projects.

According to confidential cables sent to Washington by American diplomats based in Cairo, the Mubarak administration viewed access to its quota of Nile waters as a national security issue, “and a creation of a system that threatens this quota will be seen as an existential threat.”

The documents, written in 2009 and released by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, said Egypt felt its existence as a nation was under threat, following the failure of upstream countries to guarantee access to 55.5 billion cubic metres of water annually.

“Upstream countries led by Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda argued that climate change has changed the circumstances, making it difficult to rely on rain-fed agriculture, and they need to use Nile water for agriculture, power, fisheries and other water-dependent industries necessary for their security,” said one of the cables sent by the US embassy in Cairo.

Egypt, however, with some support from Sudan, maintained that downstream countries must approve any water use by upstream countries that could reduce their “guaranteed quotas” and threaten their existence.

The use of the Nile, the world’s longest river, has in the recent past become controversial with analysts warning that it might be a potential for water wars is not carefully handled.

The Nile is an important resource for millions of people in East, Central and North Africa.

It has improved food security through fishing and farming, helped many access electricity generated by hydropower plants and contributed to the growth of agro-based industries, employing millions of people.

The major dams on the Nile are Roseires Dam, Sennar Dam, Aswan High Dam, and Owen Falls Dam.

The Nile Basin Initiative was established in 1999, by riparian states to promote co-operation and equitable use of the waters.

The members are Burundi, D.R Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

All the upstream countries, except Burundi and D.R Congo, have already signed the Nile Basin Draft Agreement, which has been contested by Egypt and Sudan.

If the two upstream countries sign the document, this year, it will pave the way for ratification of a pact that strips Egypt of its veto powers to the flow of the Nile.

Egypt pointed fingers at Kenya and Tanzania for being vocal about using Nile water for development “and have made domestic political promises to do so.”

“According to Khalil, Kenya accused Egypt of taking Lake Victoria water to cultivate two million acres of food in Uganda. Metawie stated that diminishing water levels are as a result of Uganda releasing water for power generation, not agricultural cultivation,” says one of the documents.

The destiny of the new Egypt is to become the lion of Africa

Both Rafik Khalil and Fattah Metawie, were part of the delegation dispatched to negotiate with the other riparian states on the use of the resource.

The delegation insisted that attempts by the upstream states to set up a Nile River Basin Commission laid ground for “abuse of Nile Waters” and violated the spirit of “consensus.”

The East African

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