In deep water

Jawad Anani
Jawad Anani (Photo: JNews)
The closer we get to an agreed solution on the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam the more we realize how illusive that solution is. Both Egyptian and Sudanese officials complain that their Ethiopian counterparts are stonewalling all queries that are addressed to them. In return, the Ethiopians cite historical events and agreements which they refuse to accept because those led to an inequitable distribution of the Nile’s water.اضافة اعلان

The parties who met in Kinshasa under the patronage of President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Felix Tshisekedi failed to agree on two points aimed at “enriching the negotiations”. The first issue is the refusal of the Ethiopian minister of water, irrigation, and electricity to include a previous British-brokered treaty of water-sharing because he claims it gives Egypt more than its fair share. The Egyptian and Sudanese ministers, Sameh Shoukri and Samia Al-Sadeq, insist on keeping that treaty as a reference.

The second unsettled point pertains to the enlargement of the negotiation overseas to include — other than the 55-member Organization of African Unity — the UN, the EU, and the US. The Ethiopians refuse such a notion and assert that the issue is African and should remain solely an African affair. The refusal emanates from the Ethiopian lack of trust in Western countries, who had always dealt Ethiopia sever blows.

If a solution fails to materialize in time, war becomes a likely, if not imminent, outcome.

Flip the page and let us travel to Syria and Iraq. Both countries have been almost helpless vis- à-vis Turkey’s dam projects siphoning the water of the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers. The Ataturk Dam project consists of 22 dams on both these historical rivers.

The same story repeats itself with the Jordan River, whose main course and feeding tributaries in Lebanon, Syria, and Israel have been over-tapped which led to a quantum recession in the Dead Sea’s level, where the Jordan River eventually flows.

It is unfortunate for the Arab countries that they are downstream of all these rivers. This geographical misfortune applies to Egypt and Sudan, Syria and Jordan, and Iraq.

The Nile, where history and geography walk hand-locked along its banks, is now a hot spot where Egypt and Sudan may seek to avenge Ethiopia’s hostile attitude and insistence on finishing the dam and filling it with water. While in the case of Iraq and Syria vis-à-vis Turkey, the notion of negotiating is yet to surface. As for the River Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Syria in particular need to press forward for their fair share.

A new river water sharing model is badly needed in the region. There are models elsewhere in the world that are worth looking into in order to resolve water feuds along equitable and sustainable formulas.