Water war in Africa?

Discussion of current events
neverfail
Posts: 6415
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:47 am
Location: Singapore

Water war in Africa?

Post by neverfail » Wed Jan 20, 2021 4:01 am

Will an alliance comprising Egypt and Sudan invade Ethiopia to ensure Nile wates keep on flowing downstream to them?
China at the heart of rising Nile River conflict

China-financed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is Africa's largest and most divisive development project

https://asiatimes.com/2021/01/china-at- ... -conflict/
Which leads me to wonder what sort of debt trap China has enticed Ethiopia into?

Ellen
Posts: 144
Joined: Tue Sep 08, 2020 10:02 pm

Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by Ellen » Wed Jan 20, 2021 9:59 pm

Nice topic. I am an Ethiopian partisan for several reasons.

This is one of those subjects of great long-term significance to the broader Near East, of which Ethiopia is a part. It is not only a leading African country, which is what Western liberals like to focus on, but it is actually part of the greater Middle East. Look back to history and this is very clear. The Ethiopians were the first nation to accept Christianity as their national faith, and they believe they are the descendents of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, which gives them a blood relationship to the modern-day Jewish people in Israel. These points have been shoved under the carpet of PC consciousness because they have nothing to do with race-mongering obsessions, but rather with culture, religion, and historical consciousness, topics that Western liberals don't want to go near with a barge pole.

Yet, facts trump PC. And yes, Trump did have a more accurate vision of the future of the Near East than the Obamoids, Kerryites, and other assorted nincompoops (eg, Emanuel Macron) who devoted themselves to Near Eastern policies that were doomed to fail.

To your question: Will the Arab nations of Egypt and Sudan invade Ethiopia to prevent the completion of GERD, which will make Ethiopia a energy-exporting power of the Horn of Africa? It will also give them a certain degree of control over the fate of two large Arab states. I don't know the answer to that question, because it depends on whether General Sisi thinks he can get away with it. It also depends on whether the cost of invasion will be born by some entity other than his own near-bankrupt country. The Gulf Arabs are running out of money, and have enough internal problems and problems with Iran and its Shiite proxies. It's hard to believe they want to finance another Arab aggression against a nonArab power.

Yet, as Yitzhak Rabin once said, logic is not important in determining the behavior of our neighbors. Sisi may invade anyway to distract his wretched people from their misery, and because the Nile is really the life blood of Egypt. Egyptians believe that controlling the Nile is their birthright, because the British Empire encouraged them to believe that they were the most important civilization on the Nile. I beg to differ. In today's world, Ethiopia is a rising power and Egypt is a declining one. If Egypt is foolish enough to lead yet another Arab invasion of a nonArab power, I suspect they will come to rue it. I wonder who the wily Netanyahu is supporting in this conflict. I would venture to guess - Ethiopia. Blood is thicker than water.

neverfail
Posts: 6415
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:47 am
Location: Singapore

Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by neverfail » Wed Jan 20, 2021 11:30 pm

Hi Ellen,

Thanks for your above contribution. Ethiopia is a bit out of my neck of the woods and more in your own so I welcome your insights.

I was surprised to discover that Ethiopia has a population of over 100 million - which demographically puts it in a similar order to Egypt.

From my Google research I can see that the Ethiop economy has been growing robustly for years. If a rapid rate of economic growth over time is the hallmark of a rising power then your assessment of Ethiopia as a rising power would seem to be accurate.

Yet don't write off Egypt! I know that several years ago it's economy was on the brink of collapse but according to my information it has pulled itself out of that and thanks to ongoing reforms is currently on the mend. In 2019 their economy grew at a rate of 5.6% - not as high as Ethiopia's 9% but still far better than most western countries and in line with that of China. I presently do not know whether or by how much the 2020 coronavirus pestulance has derailed the growth of either. Better growth rate than any western country including mine.

In any case I will get off the theme of economic growth and how it serves to differentiate a rising power from a declining one and look at the situation from another angle.

The angle is military. Depending on how much water the Ethiopians allow to continue flowing down the Blue Nile from that dam: Is they get too greedy (or arrogant) and do not allow enough to sustain Egypt and Sudan then these two jointly will have a big incentive to make a military strike against Ethiopia - regardless of cost.

To acheive their goal they need not even march their armies up onto the Ethiopian plateau. All they would need to do is to make one or two air strikes to bomb the dam to concrete rubble.

How do the air power assets of the three compare? See the Current Inventory of the three and compare:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian ... _inventory

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudanese_ ... _inventory

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egyptian_ ... _inventory

1. Ethiopia seems to have so few working combat aircraft as to be well nigh defenceless against an aireal attack.

2. Sudan seems better equipped with attack (combat) aircraft yet I guesstimate could do only limited damage on the offending dam if it had to attack along BUT

3. Egypt has the aircraft and very likely the explosive ordinance to blow the dam away.

User avatar
Sertorio
Posts: 4626
Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by Sertorio » Thu Jan 21, 2021 1:19 am

This is the sort of conflict the UN was designed to deal with. But it is somehow chic to denigrate the UN and consider it an useless organization. I am sure people who want to put an end to it would be the first to regret the consequences thereof...

Ellen
Posts: 144
Joined: Tue Sep 08, 2020 10:02 pm

Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by Ellen » Thu Jan 21, 2021 2:08 am

You are undoubtedly correct, NF, that the Egyptian air force could turn the dam into rubble fairly quickly. This is one of the reasons Egypt has remained within the Camp David Accords in spite of temptations to scrap the agreement (even under Moslem Brotherhood leader Morsi, they remained in compliance). They have 2d tier American military equipment which gives them total superiority over all neighbors, except....Israel.

As far as the legitimate claims go: the Ethiopians claim that what they are doing does not threaten the downstream water flow, although it's hard to see how that can be true. If it takes 5 years to fill up the reservoir of GERD, then it must lessen the flow to the downstream countries to some degree. Will it be enough to dry up the Nile River Valley? Only technical experts understand these things.

It is now very much a question of national pride and ego for autocratic rulers, although Ahmed Abiy, the Ethiopian President was democratically elected. On the other hand, he now faces an insurgency and civil war in the Tigre Province, and standing up to Egypt would show that he is the boss and won't be intimidated. Ethiopia's economic boom over the past 18 years is very impressive. I worked on a project with them 20 years ago (in healthcare), when they were considered the poorest, most diseased, and backward country in Africa (which means the world), and they've been on the up and up ever since. Meanwhile in spite of recent economic growth statistics that look good, Egypt is a 2-tier country. Most of the wealth is in the top 20% and the bottom third is really destitute. Sisi promised to do something about that, and really hasn't, even before Corona.

Ethiopia has a bright future, if they can solve their internal ethnic problems. These are very severe. Ethiopia is more of an empire than a national state (like Iran), and it's not clear how they can build a political system that gives voice to all of the many ethnic groups without ripping the country to shreds. Sadly, when faced with a dilemma of this sort (see Iran), the regional powers tend to go to war to unify the country and produce a morale-raising victory, rather than addressing their internal existential problems. I hope Mr. Abiy will not do this, which may wreck Ethiopia's future. On the other hand, he cannot back down without looking like a weak puppet of an Arab country that has been in a state of decline for decades.

The British gave the Egyptians the dominant voice over the Nile waters back in the early 20th century, when Egypt was thought to be the center of a rising Arab world, and Britain was moving toward decolonization. (see the great film, Lawrence of Arabia, for details) Ethiopia was backward, bedraggled, and black. No one cared what they wanted and no one assumed they would ever be in a position to do anything about it. Wrong. The same people thought that a Jewish state in the Biblical Land of Israel would never come to be. It was destined to be part of a pan-Arab empire. Wrong again. Sorry if I don't have much sympathy for the pro-Egyptian side in this argument.

Militarily, what Abiy needs to protect the dam from the American-bought Egyptian air force is an Iron-Dome type missile defense system that Israel has, also developed with American money and help. Yes, once again it boils down to the proliferation of American weapons in countries with historic rivalries that have not bought into the zeitgeist of kumbaya. Where will Abiy get a missile defense system to protect his dam, if it comes to war?????? Can he pay for it???? If not, will someone lend him the money so he can buy the missile defense system at a bargain rate? Did you ever hear the expression, "I can get it for you wholesale", about the rag trade in New York? I guess we will all stay tuned.

I bet on the Ethiopians, though. Egypt has had its day.

User avatar
Sertorio
Posts: 4626
Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by Sertorio » Thu Jan 21, 2021 2:22 am

Does anyone still remember that the same problems arose at the time of the building of the Aswan dam?...

Jim the Moron
Posts: 2154
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2016 9:51 pm

Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by Jim the Moron » Thu Jan 21, 2021 4:25 am

Ah, yes - "the zeitgeist of kumbaya."

Over the years I have been favorably disposed towards Ethiopians, given what Mussolini arrogantly did to them.

"This is the sort of conflict the UN was designed to deal with." (Sertorio) Really?
We recall reading of the futile pleas of Haile Selassie before the LON . . . Rastafari!

User avatar
Sertorio
Posts: 4626
Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by Sertorio » Thu Jan 21, 2021 4:36 am

Jim the Moron wrote:
Thu Jan 21, 2021 4:25 am
Ah, yes - "the zeitgeist of kumbaya."

Over the years I have been favorably disposed towards Ethiopians, given what Mussolini arrogantly did to them.

"This is the sort of conflict the UN was designed to deal with." (Sertorio) Really?
We recall reading of the futile pleas of Haile Selassie before the LON . . . Rastafari!
The LON wasn't the UN, and maybe it was inefficient because the US refused to be part of it...

neverfail
Posts: 6415
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:47 am
Location: Singapore

Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by neverfail » Thu Jan 21, 2021 3:52 pm

Ellen wrote:
Thu Jan 21, 2021 2:08 am


Militarily, what Abiy needs to protect the dam from the American-bought Egyptian air force is an Iron-Dome type missile defense system that Israel has, also developed with American money and help. Yes, once again it boils down to the proliferation of American weapons in countries with historic rivalries that have not bought into the zeitgeist of kumbaya. Where will Abiy get a missile defense system to protect his dam, if it comes to war?????? Can he pay for it???? If not, will someone lend him the money so he can buy the missile defense system at a bargain rate? Did you ever hear the expression, "I can get it for you wholesale", about the rag trade in New York? I guess we will all stay tuned.

I bet on the Ethiopians, though. Egypt has had its day.
I would not dismiss Egypt out of hand Ellen. It has existed for the past 4,000 years and (like China or India) has known plenty of "down's" as well as "ups". In recent times it has endured a "down" period but that does not mean it will remain in that state forever.

I would interpret the apparent woeful state of Ethiopian air defences in the following way: Ethiopian defence planners (I hope they have them :) ) likely dismissed the possibility of air attack from any neighbouring state on the assumption that those which do not have friendly relations with their country (like Eritria for instance) lack the means to do so . Hence the few combat aircraft. The obvious strength of their air force lie in attack helicopter. Helos are useless as a defence against enemy fixed wing aircraft but very useful aganinst armed injsurgents on the ground. Ethiopia fought a long war against an Eritrian insurgency movement before having to call it quits and cede independence to its former sole maritime province anyhow.

Eritria was not traditionally one of Ethiopia's imperial provinces. before WW2 it was an Italian colonial outpost as was Somalia. Then in the mid-1930's Fascist Italy staged an opportunistic invasion to add territory to the Italian Empire. The Ethiopians were using men armed with spears against tanks and dive bombers so the result was inevitable. In WW2 the British (with support from Empire and Commonwealth allies) wrested both Ethiopia and the two maritime Italian outposts from Italy (1940-41) but not before the Italians had built a good, all weather paved dual carriageway road connecting Massawa, the seaport capital of Eritria with Addis Adaba. Ethiopia had never had a single paved road before that. After WW2 with Haile Selanne back as Emperor of Ethiopia the British handed Eritria overm to Ethiopia so that it would no longer be landlocked. No one considered what the Eritrains may have wanted.

Thanks to that Italian built paved road link Ethiopia has conducted its seaborne international trade ever since via Massawa.

The handicap suffered by any landlocked country is that in order to conduct international commerce and trade, especially in heavy and bulky products, beyond its terrestial neighbours it that it needs to (obviously) rely upon the goodwill and collaboration of its maritime neighbour/s. Ethiopia seems to enjoy friendly relations with its neighbours to the south, Kenya and Uganda: but I believe that road links with these are still poor and rail links non-esistent. That would seem to place Kenya's seaport of Mombasa out of reach for Ethiopia's importers and exporters.

Somalia's ports like Mogadishu are out of bounds as that country is in such chaos as to have effectively ceased to exist as a state. Meantime, relations with Eritria are still fraught.

This affects military defence. I do not get the impression that either Ethiopia or the two disaffected Nile basin states have much to speak of in the way of domestic arms production - though munitions production might be a different matter So to sustain a prolonged military confrontation both sides would need to import the wherewithall to do so. If Eritria were to close its borders (and air space) to Ethiopian imports (in effect siding with the Egypt - Sudan alliance: not unlikely) then Ethiopia would really have problems defending itself.

neverfail
Posts: 6415
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:47 am
Location: Singapore

Re: On things Ethiopian: like the coming civil war

Post by neverfail » Fri Jan 22, 2021 3:52 am

Ellen, you provided far too rosy a picture of Ethiopia. Despite all of the improvement of the last 20 years including rapid ecomonic growth, a big drop in infant mortality etc. it seems that Ethiopia is on the brink of disintegration by civil war.

The well publicised trouble in Tigre seems to be only the tip of a far larger iceberg. Ethiopia's ethnic groups are restive.
Please read this BBC article: it shocked me.
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-54932333

Why Ethiopia is spiralling out of control
If and when the civil war erupts in full, not all of the electric power generated by that dam will save Ethiopia from disintegration.

So as I see it, the downriver states , Sudan and Egypt may not need to go to war against Ethiopia to derail the dam project after all. All they need to do now is wait until the Ethiopians start fighting among themselves (they are already doing it in Tigre).

Indeed, if the two were not by now fanning up the coming civil war by providing surreptitious aid and incouragement to the various rebel groups within then both countries must be led by fools. It is always cheaper to fund someone else's insurgency struggle than to go to war yourself.

Think Yugoslavia - then recall how it disintegrated in those spate of wars in the 1990's after the death of its long lived dictator Marshall Joseph Broz Tito.

Post Reply