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We must prepare for a war vs Egypt over Nile waters

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In 2005, I was assigned by my editors at The EastAfrican to follow up with government officials what they made of an Egyptian threat to declare war on Kenya or any other Nile Basin country that unilaterally violated a archaic 1929 British Treaty giving the Arab nation the right to utilize most of Nile river waters.

I called the then Livestock, Water and Fisheries Development Edward Lowassa and demand the government’s position on the controversy but he said that Tanzania is not yet decided to go to war with the bullying Arab nation.

I perfectly understood him and did not consider his modest response which stressed on dialogue as a symbol of weakness but rather a better way to address the problem created by a former colonial master.

While my Nairobi based editors were less happy because their government had taken a tough stance on the subject with one cabinet minister threatening that the east African nation will go it alone and start using Lake Victoria waters for development work, Dar es Salaam chose the less confrontation path of dialogue.

Over a fortnight ago, four Nile Basin countries including Tanzania signed a new agreement which demands that the archaic 1929 Treaty be scrapped to allow them use waters of Lake Victoria which is the source of White Nile, for development work such as irrigation.

As usual Egypt resorted to threats and verbal military oriented messages warning the Nile Basin countries of the danger of violating the 1929 agreement.

Press reports quoted two senior government officials, in fact cabinet ministers telling their parliament that Cairo will do everything to safeguard its right to unilaterally use the maximum of Nile waters as per 1929 treaty.

Moufid Shehab who is Minister of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs told parliament that the four Nile Basin countries that signed the Nile River Co-operative Framework Agreement a fortnight ago, took a wrong step.
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Mr. Shehab argued that his government will stand firm and affirm it’s inalienable and historical rights over Nile River waters.
Shehab’s peer, Mohammed Allam who is Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation added his voice to the controversy by stressing that Egypt reserves the right to take whatever course it sees suitable to safeguard its share.

Back at home, Minister for Water and Irrigation, Professor Mark Mwandosya as usual, was less aggressive but stressed that several, if not all Nile Basin countries want a renegotiated Nile Treaty and that the 1929 Treaty does not hold any water.

Mwandosya’s soft tone does not mean that we as Tanzanians are cowards, no, no, not at all but prefer to exhaust the path of peaceful negotiations first. People with short memories such as the aggressive war mongering Egyptians may as well go back to search engines are learn something about Tanzania’s ability to fight.

The Ugandans and Libyans have a better understanding of our prowess to strike if our tolerance has been overstretched and definitely the Egyptians may have one of the most modern and advanced military arsenal but certainly will not cow all of us as Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi recently said.

Nile Basin countries including Tanzania need to start making authorities in Cairo understand that time for tough talking military threats is over and that they are entitled to start using similar tough language to make the Egyptians understand.

Continuing handling of this spiraling crisis with kids gloves should end now and Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda should adopt a tough stance against the bullying Arab nation and send a clear message that this will not business as usual.

Although Lake Victoria only accounts for less than 16 percent of Nile River through While Nile compared to Blue Nile which rises from Ethiopian Highlands, the importance of securing a sustainable agreement to tap this commodity in future, is vital.

Obtaining such an agreement with a war mongering and tough talking administration of Hosni Mubarak, we need to boost our war arsenal and work closely with similarly tough talking Nile Basin partners such as Kenya and Ethiopia.

The danger of going to war against Egypt is real and rather than thinking that it’s still far off, Nile Basin governments need to start serious preparations for the war. Although Uganda which hosts the source of White Nile has in recent days retained a soft stance stressing dialogue as a way out of the crisis, arms analysts show that Kampala is boosting its military budget.

In a 2008 report, Swedish International Peace Research Institute revealed that Kenya is ranked fourth out of 23 eastern and southern African countries in military expenditure. Nairobi’s budget defence expenditure rose from US $222 million in 1999 to US $260 million in 2008.

The report also noted that Kenya recently purchased armoured personnel carriers and Y-12 military utility planes from China. But Uganda is also not basking in peace but certainly preparing for a war. The Pearl of Africa’s military expenditure rose from US $173 million to US $237 million between 2003 and 2008.

This is what we need to be doing to change the Egyptians war mentality back to the negotiating table where surely key concessions to address the archaic 1929 British made treaty which is basically denying our countries a fair share of the basic resource.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Gregg Davie

    21/06/2010 at 7:07 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with this. In fact Tanzania and Uganda have been quiet all along while Kenya has been even sending some ministers to Ethiopia and Sudan due to this issue. It’s time the east African countries really joined and gave their firm stand on this issue.

  2. Elsie Eyakuze

    21/06/2010 at 11:37 pm

    Hi Finnegan,
    Thank you for this interesting article. Are you saying that this is a military action waiting to happen? That is the overall conclusion I am taking from the blogpost, please do enlighten me.

  3. Finnigan

    22/06/2010 at 1:26 pm

    Exactly Elsie, that’s what the bullying Egyptians will understand, let’s join Kenya and Ethiopia in defying Cairo’s anarchy on Nile water use!!

  4. nora

    28/06/2010 at 2:23 pm

    Why a war? trying to understand what Egypt would be thinking when preparing for the WAR, -maybe he will make the nile basin part, colony, ruled by them? maybe he will terrorise the people to cry to their governements to agree to it?
    What will they be wanting to acheive? Who will they be killing? everybody/anybody?
    THESE ARE THE WONDERS OF WAR WHICH ME AS A WOMAN WILL NEVER COMPREHEND!!
    But lets prepare anyway, prepare to kill, prepare to assist Ethiopia at least

  5. Paul

    05/07/2010 at 11:05 am

    Seen your article your excellence ‘Mr Chairman’ can you please update us on what is a development so far as a series of meetings has happened since you reported the piece.

  6. enos nkundwe

    27/08/2010 at 1:35 pm

    I want to know how much Tanzania has spent on buying equipments and training of staffs for the coming war with Egypt?
    Do you have the figures for Tanzania as you showed us for the Uganda and Kenya?

  7. ani jozeni

    12/01/2011 at 10:10 pm

    Talking of war over Nile waters is a little old fashioned, as Egypt can’t conquer and rule any of its neighbours. Again, Egypt is now part of COMESA and has every interest to make its ties cordial for wider markets. The Nile’s worst enemy is climate change; Hosni can’t fight it.

  8. dylan peterson

    05/03/2011 at 12:57 am

    i think we will go to war with libya and othe countries as well such as mexico north korea and posibly cuba and russia libya because of the unarmed civilians being killed also if the civil war breaks out we will have to help mexico be cause the killings of all the national guard and border patrol The only reason cuba and russia would join is for mexico cuba is like mexicos big sister and russia is like cubas cousin so they will al wanna help out each other and north korea be cause we are helping south korea with finatial and cival needs now i am only 15 with a limited recorses on the internet but it doesent take a geniouse to see wats happening in the world sorry for any spelling and punctuation errors and plz keep me informed on this i realy wanna know

  9. Mahmoud

    21/01/2012 at 3:40 am

    war who talking about war war is the last choice for egypt .egypt hase no other water resource accept Nile .egypt with out nile will be desert are other countries will make egyptians thirethty ..egyptan Gov. and egyptian military will never allow any one take any water …if you want awar you are wecome.

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Muitiko huo ambao Grant ameuelezea unahusiana na tabia za kijamii ambazo zimeunganishwa kwenye ubongo wa mwanadamu tangu karne nyingi za uumbaji. Kama wanyama wengine, binadamu wameumbwa kupata msaada kutoka kwa familia na jamii zao ili waweze kuishi. Lakini inafika wakati tunaogopa kuomba msaada hata kama tuna shida.

 

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Hata hivyo, ni mara chache sana matokeo hasi tuliyoyaona hapo juu kutokea mara tunapoomba msaada. Katika utafiti mwingine, Mwanasaikolojia  Vanessa Bohns alichunguza sampuli ya watu 14,000 ambao walitakiwa kuomba msaada. Na alibaini kuwa idadi kubwa ya walioomba msaada walikuwa na uwezekano mkubwa wa kupata kuliko ambavyo walikuwa wanaamini awali.

Katika semina mbalimbali, Mhamasishaji, Antony Luvanda amekuwa akisisitiza kuwa kuomba msaada siyo ishara ya unyonge bali ni ishara kuwa umeimarika kimaisha.

Kwa maneno mengine, inaweza kuwa rahisi kupata msaada kuliko kuomba.

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