Map of Nile River, Egypt and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project

In case you didn’t get the notice, water is the new oil, and we could see a war between Egypt and Ethiopia over the not-so-slick stuff flowing through the Nile River.

Hearing Egyptian President Mohamad Morsi’s version of the story – a version that I’m sure is partially driven by the prodding of his government colleagues and his desire to get Egyptian citizens to focus on anything other than the static season that exists in the country after the so-called Arab Spring revolution in 2011 – Ethiopia’s plan to build a dam upstream on the Nile River will result in a water shortage so severe that Egypt will cease to exist. Morsi also cites agreements signed in 1929 and 1959 that give Egypt and Sudan exclusive rights to the Nile’s water.

In other words, Morsi is saying “To hell with the fact that eight other nations sit on the Nile river and might want a drop of that water, or that Egypt should theoretically get sloppy tenths since the country is situated so far downstream, or that 86 percent of the Nile’s water comes from Ethiopia while Egypt contributes only 4%. We don’t need facts before going to war!”

Even though the mainstream press is generally quick to reference those aforementioned water rights agreements signed by Egypt but fails to mention how those agreements don’t sound even remotely rational given everything I just wrote, let’s still poke some fun at Morsi’s claim. The 1929 NIle Water Agreement was signed by Egypt, Sudan and Great Britain. What happened to Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia – the other countries that sit on the Nile? Now for a trick question: when Egypt and Sudan signed the 1959 Agreement for Full Utilization of the Nile Waters, guess which countries were not invited to the negotiating table?

How can countries directly affected by Nile River or who contribute the most to the river’s water flow be bound to a set of agreements that they never signed nor were asked to attend a meeting to voice an opinion?

The answer is simple: nonsense. The course of events clearly demonstrates that Egypt has never given a lovely damn about the other riparian states since 1929.

Rational policymakers know that wars are more costly than economic development, so the most logical solution is for all involved parties to sit down and discuss how the river’s water can be managed for the benefit of all.

Oh. That already happened. But Egypt refuses to listen.

Here’s a report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) [PDF] that provides some useful background and statistics on the issue. Meanwhile, let’s see how far Morsi takes this drama…

song currently stuck in my head: “queens get the money” – nas

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