“If Egypt’s water from the Nile decreases by one drop, then our blood is the alternative. Whoever imagines that Egypt and the people of Egypt can be preoccupied with their challenges and the problems or economic challenges they face after the revolution about protecting our borders, water and land is delusional. Never mind if one drop of water touched. It is not water, but the vein and artery of life”  .
Speaking here to the late Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in front of a huge public gathering that was called in 2012 by hundreds of public figures, symbols of political parties, representatives of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, Egyptian churches, water experts and members of professional unions.
The first democratically elected president by the Egyptians after the January 2011 revolution was keen that the response to the unilateral Ethiopian decision to build the Renaissance Dam be of the size and importance of the Nile for the Egyptians, and he sought to make this threat an opportunity at the same time, to restore internal national cohesion.
It is related to the lifeblood of Egypt with its civilization, state and society. In the fall of 2012, international newspapers reported what was included in one of the leaks of the famous WikiLeaks website about a possible Egyptian-Sudanese plan to blow up the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam if it was built without a prior agreement. The Nile is not just a flowing water, but it is For Egypt in particular, it means life and existence, and without it there is no food, no people, no state in Egypt, or as the Greek historian Herodotus (500 BC) said: “Egypt is the gift of the Nile”  .
The mystery of the source…the journeys of the pharaohs to the upper Nile
The waters of the Nile have been a source of frequent tensions in the past decades, and the last attempts to open this file date back to 1999, when the countries forming the Nile Basin tried to launch collective negotiations in order to set new legal rules for sharing the river’s water, but they failed due to the refusal of Egypt and Sudan Infringement of their historical rights and the status quo in this field, and Egypt is considered the most keen on maintaining this situation, as it differs from the rest of the Nile Basin countries with its dry geography devoid of any other rivers, and lacking in rain, unlike the rest of the basin countries  .
Since the dawn of history, Egypt has sought to obtain the largest share of the Nile water, and has also worked hard to control and exploit this water, and historical sources record that the Pharaohs, in early eras, campaigned towards the upper Nile in order to explore and secure the secrets of its sources and to ensure the safety of the flow of water the river to Egypt  .
During the Islamic era, Egypt inherited this great interest in the waters of the Nile and its sources. The sultans were keen to investigate everything related to the course of the Nile and the conditions of southern Egypt and Nubia. The Nile River was a key determinant of the relationship with Abyssinia, which controls an important part of the Nile’s sources.
The lifeblood.. a rule for thousands of years is at stake
At the beginning of February 2020, the American newspaper “The New York Times” published a lengthy report entitled “Egypt has controlled the Nile for thousands of years, but the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam threatens this control”  .
The American newspaper begins its report with the scene of an Egyptian farmer complaining about the weak water flow and the lack of agricultural product compared to the previous situation, which it said may worsen further with the completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, located 2,000 miles to the south, deep in Ethiopian territory.
According to the New York Times, the matter is related to a huge dam costing about 4 billion and a half billion dollars, and it will be the largest in Africa, with a reservoir the size of the British city of London, which has turned it into a source of concern in Egypt and Ethiopia, because it raises patriotic feelings and fears among the two peoples . .
About 95% of Egyptians live on the banks of the Nile or in the “delta” region that ends at its mouth, and this river provides almost all of Egypt’s water needs, which explains the Egyptians’ fears from the moment Ethiopia starts filling the huge reservoir of the Renaissance Dam, which is likely to be Reflects negatively on the water flow in Egypt.
The newspaper’s talk about Egypt’s control over thousands of years over the Nile waters was explained by the fact that the pharaohs loved the crocodiles of this river, and they also used it as a means of transporting the huge stones they used in building their famous pyramids.
The Ethiopian dream… the specter of thirst hangs over Egypt
In a report for the American CNN website, she said that the Nile Basin extends over 11 African countries, but Egypt, which is considered one of the oldest civilizations in the world, controlled thousands of years ago the lion’s share of the water and bounties of this great river, “which may be The change is currently underway,” the report says, referring to the Ethiopian dam project  .
The importance of the Ethiopian source of the Nile lies in the fact that it is the cradle of the Blue Nile, which alone provides about 85% of the Egyptian Nile’s water supply. electricity. A project that almost represents an inevitable threshold for Ethiopia’s exit from poverty, by generating energy and irrigating fertile agricultural lands.
But the value of the Nile water is no less important to the Egyptians, but rather exceeds the size of the Ethiopian dream of rising out of poverty. In the report of the United Nations Agriculture Organization “FAO”, the Egyptian citizen’s share of water in 2014 was in the range of 637 square meters, compared to more than 9500 in the share of the American citizen in the same year, and with the continued demographic increase in Egypt, and its tendency to reach the level of 120 million people in the year 2030, the share of the Egyptian citizen of water will fall below the threshold of 500 cubic meters, which means that it will enter the circle of danger  .
If the existence of Egypt is linked historically, presently and in the future with the Nile River, then the misfortune of the Egyptians is that these two sources feeding this river are not located inside Egyptian territory. As for the Blue Nile, which is the second source of the river, it is found in Lake Tana in the Ethiopian highlands. The two Niles meet in an area near the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, and from there it makes its way north to cross the Egyptian lands towards the Mediterranean Sea  .
Scientific expectations say that the Ethiopian dam project threatens to desertify a large part of the arable land in Egypt, and they are specifically talking about an area ranging between two and four million agricultural hectares that will turn into a barren desert, out of between 8 to 10 million hectares currently available in Egypt, and this desertification means A great economic loss for Egypt, in terms of its food production, job opportunities, and more migration towards urban areas  . https://www.youtube.com/embed/3jSuVOGCCpc?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent
Political pressure card.. the struggle of the pharaohs and Abyssinia
The history of Egypt and Ethiopia includes a long track of relations and conflicts, most of which revolve around one of two things: religion and the Nile. The first pillar state in Abyssinia is considered to be the one established by the Emirate of Aksum. The date of its founding varies between the period prior to the birth and the first century AD, but this kingdom known as Abyssinia fell into decline in the eighth century AD.
The Egyptian-Ethiopian relations were effectively established with the conversion of the Aksumite king “Izana” to Christianity during the fourth century AD, as the Ethiopian Church became under the direct guardianship of its Egyptian counterpart since then until the end of the fifties of the last century  .
After the Islamic conquest of Egypt in the year 640 AD, Ethiopia became in a defensive position towards its previous spiritual source of inspiration. The ancient kings of Ethiopia against Egypt.
The first to write about the possibility of Abyssinia changing the course of the Nile to deprive Egypt of it was the Coptic scholar “Girgis Al-Makin bin Al-Ameed” who lived in the 13th century AD, and the idea of diverting the Blue Nile’s course towards the Red Sea became inspiring European thinkers and theorists in the subsequent centuries, As a potential effective weapon against Egypt  .
The relationship between Egypt and Abyssinia continued to revolve around the waters of the Nile. Abyssinia, on its part, appreciated the importance of this supervision, which is related to vital interests for Egypt, and it took this supervision over the sources of the Nile in many cases as a means of political pressure, and invoked it to achieve some of its interests and demands pending on the will of Egypt. .
As for Egypt, it used its spiritual powers to guarantee its interests in the waters of the Nile, as it controls Jerusalem and its holy places in Christianity, and thus controls a spiritual source for millions of Christians in Abyssinia, in addition to embracing the center of the Patriarchate of St. Mark, to which Abyssinia follows from a religious point of view . ] .
Al-Najashi’s message… an explicit threat to divert the Nile
In the phases of turmoil or persecution, and when Christian interests or Christian subjects suffered some injustice, the kings of Abyssinia sought with the sultans of Egypt to lift this persecution, or to obtain some grants, such as returning some churches that had been demolished or releasing detainees or other demands. The kings of Abyssinia always found the allusion to the Nile water and its sources under their supervision as a tool to achieve their demands, in addition to their control over the fates of many Muslim subjects in some Abyssinian states as another factor of pressure, equivalent to the Egyptian sultans’ control over the lives of Christian subjects.
Among the most important preserves of historical sources in this regard is the letter sent by the Negus of Abyssinia “Zra’ Yaqoub” in the middle of the 15th century AD to Sultan al-Zahir Jaqmaq in Egypt, threatening him with preventing the waters of the Nile from Egypt.
This message says:
“…and it is not hidden from you or from your authority that the Nile Sea is flowing to you from our lands, and we have the ability to prevent the increase that irrigates your lands from walking to you, because we have countries that we open up to places above them to dispose of to other places before he comes to you, nor Nothing prevents us from that except for fear of God Almighty and hardship for God’s servants”  .
The context of this letter was the existence of tension between the Negus and the Egyptian sultan, after Abyssinia attempted to rebel against the spiritual authority of Egypt, and to link the local church directly to Rome, with what this meant of an alliance with European powers, which confirms the importance of the Nile River and its waters in the historical relations between Egypt and Abyssinia. .
The Renaissance Dam is a barrier on the water road to Egypt.. Will Egypt remain silent?
An Egyptian march to the sources of the Nile… A threat to Britain’s interests
Egypt continued to realize the connection of its existence with the Nile River in the modern era, and gradually abandoned the mythical explanations for the strength of this river by trying to maintain control over its sources of water, through the extension of direct sovereignty over large areas of Sudan and Abyssinia, and Egypt married in the past two centuries between military campaigns and scientific expeditions Which reached the original sources of the Nile in the heart of Africa  .
Sudan was a dream of Muhammad Ali, in order to achieve three goals, the first of which is to eliminate the remaining Mamluks who fled to the country of Nubia, and secondly to search for gold and wealth, and thirdly to discover the sources of the Nile River and begin to control them  .
Muhammad Ali’s campaign against Sudan at the beginning of the 19th century is considered the most famous Egyptian campaign towards the depth of the Nile, where that campaign witnessed the arrival of the Egyptian army to the confluence of the White and Blue Rivers. Towards the sources of the Blue Nile located in present-day Ethiopia, where it seized Sennar, a city in central Sudan  .
While the army was in Sennar, the disease spread among the soldiers, so Ismail had to request extensions from his father, so he sent supplies to him under the leadership of Ibrahim Pasha, and the brothers agreed to divide the work between them, and Ismail’s task was to crawl his army on the Blue Nile, while Ibrahim went to discover the sources of the White Nile.
In the middle of the year 1822, Muhammad Ali sent a third army, led by his brother-in-law, “Muhammad Bey Al-Daftardar”, to invade the Sudanese region of Kordofan, and took revenge on the Shendi king who had burned Ismail and some of his companions during their return to Egypt. And the Egyptian conquests began extending deep into Sudan, which raised Britain’s fears of its arrival in Abyssinia, so the General Consul of England in Egypt rushed to meet Muhammad Ali, and led to him that England did not welcome such action. Muhammad Ali told him that Abyssinia, even if it was filled with gold and jewelry, and opening it was an order Investigating it, he prefers to abandon it so as not to worsen his relationship with Britain  .
Historical wars took place between Egypt and Ethiopia, the center of which was always the Nile River
The occupation of Ethiopia .. the defeat of the Egyptian army
After the campaign of Muhammad Ali, Khedive Ismail’s campaign against Abyssinia in the seventies of the nineteenth century is considered the most famous of the Egyptian-Ethiopian confrontations in the modern era, and this war caused a dispute between Khedive Ismail and the Negus “Tedros” over the Sudanese “Sinheit” area, as Khedive Ismail intended to extend A railway line connects Sudan with the Red Sea and passes through this area, which the Negus considered as belonging to Ethiopia  .
In the year 1867 the dispute erupted again, but this time between Abyssinia and the British, where the Negus “Tedros”, the Consul of England and some English merchants, was arrested. And that in the event of a war between the British and him, he would not prevent the British from crossing Egyptian lands to attack him.
The Negus insisted on the refusal, so England sent a military campaign led by Lord “Nabih”, and ordered Khedive Abdul Qadir Pasha Al-Tabji to assist the English army in its descent to the land, and for the Egyptian fleet to be under his command. Theodoros, and the British returned to their country, and then the throne of Abyssinia was transferred to King John  .
Khedive Ismail then tried to extend his influence south into the Ethiopian lands, and his eye on the sources of the Blue Nile, and devoted multiple military campaigns to this, the last of which was the one that fought a major battle in Qura on March 7, 1876, and ended with the defeat of the Egyptian army, and the capture of about 250 Egyptians Among the Egyptian prisoners, Muhammad Rifaat Bey, head of the Turkish pen at the Diwan of Jihadism, sought to make peace with King John, on the condition that the Egyptian soldiers withdraw from the land of Abyssinia, King John return the prisoners to Egypt, and open the trade route between Massawa and Abyssinia. And the “Sinheit” area remained from the property of Egypt  .
During the reign of Khedive Ismail, Egyptian forces attacked Ethiopia in an attempt to control the source of the Nile River
Remnants of colonialism..British support for Egyptian rights
The direct European presence in the region further complicated the disputes over the waters of the Nile. Egypt came under British control starting in 1882, while Ethiopia defeated Italy, which tried to colonize it. At the end of the 19th century, it became the only African country that confronted and defeated the European colonial campaign, but the colonial presence The European Union in the region and the resulting emergence of states that did not exist before, such as Eritrea, Rwanda and Uganda, produced a new regional competition over water resources.
Since Egypt was the key to British control of the region, and its first platform of communication with its Indian colonies, and given the importance of the Nile to Egypt, Britain supported the Egyptian rights in this river.
After military skirmishes between British forces and their French counterparts over control of the sources of the Nile, the two European powers ended up agreeing to France taking over the Congo River area, in exchange for Britain taking over the Nile Basin area, and this European conflict revealed great ignorance of the reality of the Nile Basin, how the belief was still prevalent Most of the Nile water comes from Lake Victoria  .
Ethiopia is preparing militarily for any possible scenarios by Egypt against the Renaissance Dam
Distribution treaties.. Egypt’s veto over the Nile Basin
The first international and regional negotiations on the waters of the Nile took place in the colonial phase, as Britain was keen to secure the maximum possible water imports for the Egyptian Nile Delta region. In 1902, Britain obtained a commitment from the Ethiopian Emperor “Menlik II” to consult it before constructing any installations over the waters The Blue Nile and Lake Tana from which it originates.
After its independence in 1922, Egypt entered into negotiations with the British colonies over its share of the Nile water, which culminated in the 1929 treaty, which provided for Egypt’s share of the water, with the right to exercise a veto against any installations established by other basin countries over its waters, and Ethiopia remained outside this agreement. Because ignorance was continuing about the volume of water that comes from the Blue Nile, which in fact constitutes the majority of the flow  .
And came the 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan, which determined each of them’s share of the river’s water, while most of the other Nile Basin countries had not gained their independence, but the Ethiopian protest came through Emperor Haile Selassie’s opening of disengagement negotiations with the Egyptian Church, which ended long-standing relations More than 1600 years old. A spiritual separation to which the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser responded by encouraging Muslims in both Eritrea and Somalia to seek their independence from Ethiopia  .
The problem with these agreements is that they do not guarantee any clear rights to Ethiopia, the country from which the Blue Nile originates, or to any of the other eight countries that the White Nile crosses. cotton  .
Post-independence tension.. Mubarak’s assassination attempt
The first explicit and direct tension between independent Egypt and Ethiopia over the Nile waters dates back to the end of the seventies during the era of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, when Sadat decided to extend the Nile water to irrigate 35,000 feddans in Sinai. Egypt is accused of misusing the Nile waters.
Tensions escalated to the point where the Ethiopian President “Mengistu” threatened to divert the course of the Nile River. For his part, President Sadat addressed a sharply-worded speech to Ethiopia, declaring that the Nile waters are a red line linked to Egyptian national security  .
As for the era of former President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, it witnessed a new phase of relations, in which the tension of the political discourse between the two countries eased, and was replaced by a breakthrough in the Egyptian-Ethiopian relations in the form of cooperation and understanding in various fields, and this path did not stop until after the attempt to assassinate Mubarak in Addis Ababa. 1995.
After more than 15 years of stagnation, Egyptian-Ethiopian relations witnessed a new turn after the January 2011 revolution that toppled the Mubarak regime. Ethiopia took advantage of the situation to announce its initiation to the construction of the Renaissance Dam, and the initiation of ratification of the framework agreement on the Nile waters signed by five African countries, namely Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, and Egypt and Sudan oppose it, as they stipulate a retreat from the quotas specified in the previous treaties of the two downstream countries, i.e. 55.5 billion cubic meters for Egypt and 18.5 billion cubic meters for Sudan, which is considered a sign of igniting a war that Egypt did not seem to Abdel Fattah el-Sisi reigned with enough grit and determination to win her bet. Will Egypt lose the water of its historical Nile?