Nile watershed topography

Hundreds of millions of people in the Nile basin area depend on the Nile’s water.  Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi (the ten “Nile basin countries”) all depend on this vital resource, but a 1929 treaty with the UK endowed Egypt with veto powers over upstream water-related projects in neighboring countries.  In 1997, the Nile Basin initiative was launched to negotiate an equitable water-sharing treaty between the nations, but to date Egypt and Sudan have refused to sign proposed agreements. Since 2010, six of the basin states have signed an agreement that would reduce Egypt’s share of the Nile water; under a treaty between Sudan and the UK from 1959, Egypt is entitled to 55.5 billion cubic meters of water annually – 66% of the Nile’s annual flow.  More recently, Ethiopia has launched dam construction projects around the country in the hopes of harnessing outflows to generate electricity for domestic use and export, but possible fluctuations in downstream water supplies have caused alarm in Egypt and Sudan. In May 2011, Ethiopia publicly announced a project to build a hydroelectric power dam on the Blue Nile river, which flows into neighboring Sudan and on into Egypt.

An internal email written in 2010 at the private intelligence firm Stratfor, obtained by WikiLeaks, cites Egyptian diplomatic sources as saying that following an Egyptian request to station commandos in Sudan, Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir had agreed for a small airbase to be built in the Kursi region of the country. The airbase was to be used as a relay point for a possible military assault by Mubarak-regime Egypt on Blue Nile hydroelectric facilities.  Stratfor’s sources emphasized that Egypt only planned to use these options if all diplomatic efforts failed.

Another Stratfor source from Egypt, identified only as a “security/intel source keeping close direct contacts with Mubarak and Suleiman” (described by Stratfor analysts as having “A-level” reliability and “level 2″ credibility) revealed that Ethiopia was the only upper Nile country who was not cooperating with Egypt/Sudan.  Asked about Sudanese and Egyptian military cooperation, he said, “Yes, we are discussing military cooperation with Sudan.  We have a strategic pact with the Sudanese since in any crisis over the Nile, Sudan gets hit first then us.  We can’t afford that.”  The source also explained how Egypt would respond to the building of a large dam by Ethiopia after all diplomacy options fail:

If it comes to a crisis, we will send a jet to bomb the dam and come back in one day, simple as that. Or we can send our special forces in to block/sabotage the dam. But we aren’t going for the military option now. This is just contingency planning. Look back to an operation Egypt did in the mid-late 1970s, i think 1976, when Ethiopia was trying to build a large dam. We blew up the equipment while it was traveling by sea to Ethiopia. A useful case study.

Blue Nile River near Ethiopia’s Lake Tana.

The Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon, another source, told Stratfor analysts that Egypt would do anything to prevent South Sudan from gaining independence in March 2010. The ambassador believed the Nile issue was so important that Egypt could not afford to deal with two separate Sudans on the issue. According to the ambassador, Egypt even tried to urge the Arab League to cooperate and invest in Southern Sudan so the Southerners would choose to remain united with the North at the 2011 referendum.  At the same time, Ethiopia was working to aid South Sudan in gaining its independence, confident that a new South Sudan state would side with the upper Nile countries, led by Ethiopia, on the Nile dispute. A later email in July 2010 cites the same ambassador as saying that Egypt had given up its hopes on South Sudan’s unity with the North, and that the Egyptian government planned to shower South Sudan with aid and money once the new state declared independence.

Reports in the past few months, including the August report of Egypt’s cash flow to South Sudan, have shown Egypt giving aid to be used for irrigation development. The death of Ethiopia’s long time Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on August 20, 2012 is suspected to bring certain new challenges to a resolution of the Nile water dispute.

Written by @Noel_Laforet and edited by WikiLeaks Press

Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, the
Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi.