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1 Water and Security in Africa Conference Hosted by U.S.

Department of State and AFRICOM Arlington, Virginia 21-22 July, 2011 Comments on the Nile Basin by David Shinn Adjunct Professor, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University

A summary follows of my remarks on Nile Basin water issues during a panel discussion at the above mentioned conference on water and security issues in Africa: The Nile Basin includes all or part of eleven countries. The most important countries in the Basin are Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda. Smaller parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya and Eritrea complete the Nile Basin watershed. The problem of water cannot be separated from other security issues in the Nile Basin countries. Water contributes to conflict but has never been the sole reason for major conflict in the region. Water and Examples of Conflict in the Nile Basin Arguably, East Africa and the Horn is the most conflicted region in the world since the end of World War II. Water has been one of many factors behind this violence and usually not among the most important reasons. On occasion, however, water has contributed directly to conflict. In 1984, for example, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army halted work on the 175-mile long Jonglei Canal when it attacked the project headquarters. The Canal would have moved an additional 4 billion cubic meters of water quickly from the south end of the huge swamp known as the Sudd to its north end. This additional water would have been divided equally between Sudan and Egypt. About two thirds complete, there has been no work on the canal since 1984 and the project remains in limbo until South Sudan decides if it wants to resume the project. Egypts interaction with Ethiopia, the source of about 86 percent of all the water reaching the Aswan Dam, has always been dominated by Ethiopias position on use of Nile water. There have been occasions, for example with Egypts policy in Somalia, when Egypt has supported positions hostile to Ethiopia in order to gain leverage for its Nile water interests. Much of this region of Africa is pastoral with herders constantly seeking areas with more rain and better pasture. This has led to local conflicts dating back centuries, especially as drought conditions force pastoralists to enter land traditionally considered to belong to

2 other people. A case in point is the situation in Abyei along the North-South Sudan border. Most of the permanent residents are Ngok Dinka people with loyalties to South Sudan. Each year, however, the Misseriya, a nomadic Arab people with ties to Khartoum, use the land for pasturage during the dry season. Because the political future of Abyei remains in doubt, this situation led to serious conflict in the period leading up to independence in South Sudan and remains unresolved. Drought can directly cause or exacerbate conflict. This occurred during the terrible famine in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s when the government at the time tried to use the drought for political advantage. The famine today in areas of southern Somalia controlled by the al-Shabaab extremist group is also contributing to conflict. Key Water Related Issues Water scarcity is the single biggest threat to food security in the region, and the countries in the Nile Basin have increasingly been unable to meet local food requirements. Conflict is most likely when a downstream riparian is highly dependent on river water and is militarily and economically strong in comparison to upstream riparians. This describes the situation between Egypt and upstream riparians. In 1959, Egypt and Sudan divided the Nile water between them, about three quarters to Egypt and one-quarter to Sudan. Egypt has said consistently it is not prepared to give up its share. Most upstream countries are seeking to use more water before it reaches Egypt. This region has one of the highest population growth rates in the world. According to World Bank projections covering the period 2007-2015, Egypt has the lowest population growth rate at 1.7 percent while Burundi has the highest at 3.5 percent. The population growth rates for all Nile Basin countries except Egypt are 2.4 percent or higher. About 220 million people live in the Nile Basin. Population in the basin is predicted to double between 1995 and 2025. There are good statistics dating back to 1870 on the amount of water reaching the Aswan Dam in Egypt. Although the flow has varied enormously on an annual basis and sometimes over decades, between 1870 and 1988 the average annual flow was 88 billion cubic meters. In more recent years, the average annual flow has been 84 billion cubic meters. This suggests there may be a long-term decrease in the amount of water reaching Egypt. While population growth can be predicted with some accuracy, the experts have not agreed on the impact of climate change except that they believe it will have a major impact on the quantity of water in the Nile Basin. While there could be more rain in the region, there could just as likely be less rain. It is fairly certain, however, that there will be changes in the location of rainfall, disrupting existing agricultural patterns. This has

3 already happened in recent decades. Drought and food shortages are occurring more frequently in the region than in past centuries. The amount of water in the Nile system is limited, the population is increasing and riparian needs for water are growing. This creates the potential for conflict. Avoiding Conflict The riparian countries have already taken some steps to minimize the possibility of conflict. They created several organizations to resolve problems cooperatively. The most important one is the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), a regional partnership of riparians. Its mandate, however, is largely technical; it does not have the authority to resolve more important political differences. The World Bank coordinates the International Consortium for Cooperation on the Nile (ICCON), which promotes financing for cooperative water resource development. Some of these programs benefit riparians by improving water quality, encouraging cultivation of crops that require less water, reusing drainage water and improving the environment in watersheds. There are some innovative proposals for regional resource sharing such as Sudans oil for Ethiopias excess hydro power capacity. For a good analysis of this issue, see Harry Verhoevens paper published by Chatham House at The long term solution, however, is regional economic integration that goes far beyond anything envisaged so far by the East African Community or the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. Role for the United States The United States should elevate Nile Basin cooperation to an important foreign policy priority in the region. This will require that U.S. ambassadors/embassies in the Nile Basin think regionally and not just in terms of the bilateral relationship with the country where the ambassador is assigned or embassy located. Washington and U.S. personnel assigned to embassies in Nile Basin countries need to make discussion of cooperative solutions for the use of Nile water a routine part of diplomatic dialogue. The United States should support the Nile Basin Initiative, Nile Basin Trust Fund and ICCON.

4 The United States should offer technical assistance to develop regional climatic models, short and long-term hydro meteorological forecasting and modeling of environmental conditions. The United States should encourage the NBI to draw on U.S. technical expertise in areas such as remote sensing and geographic information systems.

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