War and Water: Hydropolitics propel balkanization in Africa

Jun 10, 2013 12:00 AM

Wherever there are reports of melting glaciers and a future of diminished water resources, there is an increasing Balkanization of nation-states. Those who manipulate world events for maximum profit understand that it is much easier to control water resources if one is dealing with a multitude of warring and jealous mini-states than it is to deal with a regional power…

The Nile Basin is seeing record fragmentation of nation-states by secessionist and other rebel movements, some backed by the United States and its Western allies and others backed by Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Yet other secessionist groups are backed by regional rivals such as Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, and Sudan.

Ethiopia has announced that its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project on the Blue Nile will begin diverting the Blue Nile at the end of 2014. Ethiopia’s decision has set off alarm bells down river in Sudan and Egypt, which are both critically dependent on the Nile for drinking water, irrigation, and in the case of Egypt’s Aswan High Dam, electric power. A 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan guarantees Egypt 70 percent and Sudan 30 percent of the Nile’s water flow.

Egypt’s government has warned Ethiopia, a historical rival, not to restrict the Nile water flow to the extent that it would adversely affect the Aswan Dam or Egypt’s water supply. Sudan has voiced similar warnings. Cairo and Khartoum are also aware that their mutual enemy, Israel, has close relations with Ethiopia and the Republic of South Sudan, the world’s newest nation. The independence of South Sudan would not have been possible without the backing of Israel’s leading neo-conservative allies in Washington and London.

The White Nile flows from the Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, through Uganda and South Sudan, to Sudan. Egypt and Sudan have also been concerned about Israel’s heavy presence in South Sudan. The South Sudanese secession put tremendous pressure on the future territorial integrity of Sudan, which faces additional Western- and Israeli-backed breakaway movements in Darfur and northeastern Sudan.

Independence for South Sudan was long a goal of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her god-daughter, current U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice. The splitting of Sudan into an Arab Muslim north and a black Christian and animist south was also long a goal of Israel, which yearned for a client state in South Sudan that would be able to squeeze the supply of the Nile’s headwaters to Egypt and north Sudan.

South Sudan’s independence was cobbled together so rapidly, its Western sponsors were not even sure, at first, what to call the country. Although South Sudan was finally agreed upon, other proposals were to call the nation the «Nile Republic» or «Nilotia,» which were rejected because of the obvious threatening meaning that such names would send to Cairo and Khartoum.