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Destabilizing Egypt: Ethiopia’s Nile River Dam

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Ethiopia’s new “Grand Renaissance Dam”, scheduled to be completed next year, will take close to half (40%) of the Nile River’s water every year for the next 5 years as it fills up. How is Egyptian President Al Sisi going to survive for the next 5 years without almost half the Nile’s water when the country is presently suffering serious water and hydroelectric shortages, never mind crippling inflation, growing hunger and a terrorist insurgency?

So far the world thinks that somehow, some way, Egypt, almost 100 million people and growing, already on shaky ground economically, will find a way to survive something that the country has not faced in over two thousand years, almost a half less water from the river Nile for 5 years straight. And what if a drought hits the Ethiopian highlands, the source of the Nile River, with chances are this happening at least once in the next 5 years with the accelerating global warming trend, and Egypt loses over half of its water?

If international opinion turns out to be wrong, and that cutting Egypt’s water by nearly half for 5 years is  not survivable, then an enormous explosion is brewing in Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest country, this huge explosion being brought about by the construction of Ethiopia’s massive dam generating 6,000 MW of electricity, something that Ethiopia doesn’t even have the infrastructure to use.

If Ethiopia can’t even distribute this new source of electricity for its people to use due to an almost complete absence of any national power grid, let alone local level infrastructure, than why has the country gone so deeply into debt to build a dam that will do so much damage to its northern neighbor, Egypt

Those in the know are asking this question, for a potential catastrophe could be in the making in Egypt with a hunger driven popular explosion of rage against the rule of President Al Sisi and fundamentally threaten the Egyptian military’s ability to hold the country together. As in Syria and Iraq, ISIS is sure to take advantage of the resulting chaos to spread its insurgency across the country and all of this could lead to an Egyptian failed state situation.

Such a scenario has directed attention towards the likelihood of the Egyptian military attacking Ethiopia’s new dam if the situation starts to deteriorate domestically. Cutting the Niles water will be a devastating blow to Egypts ability to feed itself and cutting off its ability to produce food for export causing the loss of desperately needed foreign currency.

Will the Egyptian people be able to endure such a dramatic increase in their hunger and hardships for 5 years without an inevitable explosion? Will Al Sisi be able to hold the Egyptian military together and prevent the government from collapsing as a result of such a major water shortage and inevitable mass hunger?

The origins of the very idea of Ethiopia daming the Nile are found at the World Bank, majority owned by the USA. The World Bank, whose policy for many disastrous decades was to push dam construction in some of the most vulnerable areas of the planet was the first to raise the “grand dam” idea, to harness the waters of biblical proportions for a “Greater Ethiopia”.

The problem, again, is that 70% of Ethiopians don’t have access to government electricity, almost 70 million people. The Ethiopian government has gone so deeply into debt building this new 6,000 MW dam there is nothing left over to build the electrical distribution network the country so desperately needs. So all that new electric power will not go towards uplifting the lives of Ethiopians, “for a Greater Ethiopia”, but be sold on the East African market to pay the onerous debt incurred in building the damn thing.

The needs of Ethiopia for many years in the future could have been met by building a series of smaller, much less expensive dams that would not cause such a drastic interference in the Nile River’s flow.

Yet thanks to the World Banks persistence, Ethiopia went ahead with its “grand dam” and the result could be an explosion of popular anger in Egypt that could threaten much of the worlds economy, being that Egypt controls the Suez Canal, through which the largest trading partners in the world, Asia and Europe, do 90% of their business. It is Egyptian troops, whose salaries are paid for by the USA, that control the Suez Canal and if the Egyptian military loses control of the country in a popular uprising similar to which brought down Mubarak, than the continued reliability of the army to control the Suez Canal comes into question. Of course, there is always the Israeli Army waiting in the wings, ever ready to step in and occupy the first Great Canal in Suez.

Could it be that having Egypt and Ethiopia, two out of three of Africa’s largest countries, at each others throats is in the national interests of the USA, that wants at all costs to prevent African unity, neither economic or political?

Again we find the USA’s policy of “crisis management” behind the scenes in this brewing conflict, as in create a crisis and then manage it to divide and conquer, the better to loot and plunder African resources with as little resistance as possible.

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Thomas C. Mountain attended Punahou School for six years some half a dozen years before “Barry O’Bombers” time there. He has been living and writing from Eritrea since 2006. He can be reached at thomascmountain at g_ mail_ dot _com

CounterPunch Magazine


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