Water war in Africa?

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neverfail
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Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by neverfail » Mon Jan 25, 2021 5:28 pm

Ellen,

As often, I found your most recent post on Ethiopia illuminating.

One thing I have discovered is that the task of the president (or Prime Minister, or any other top politican) in a multi tribal, multi-ethnic state like Ethiopia can't be an easy one. "Uneasy on the head rests the crown". Imagine: instead of being able to get down to business of important matters the leader has to perform a delicate balancing act placating this ethnic group or that one. It would be understandable if some African leaders simply lost patience with all of the frigging around involved and imposed some kind of autocratic rule in order to sort the country out with the application of unchallenged power.

(It is within that context that I find explanation as to why so many post-colonial African states spurned democracy to become one-party states, dictatorships ruled by agitator/strongmen or ruled by military junta's. The British in their African former colonies left behind parliamentry institutions of government modelled closely on their own. With one or two exceptions these perished, in most cases soon after independence was granted - ground down by the contingencies of inter-ethnic politics).
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Christianity was not designed specifically as a creed for nation building yet strangely it has been in the past and can be even now rather potent in helping to facilitate this development. To illustrate I will pass on a story, apparently a true one, told to me by a Christian (penticostal) friend of mine;

As part of Australian aid giving to our former south western Pacific mandated territory of Papua Nuigini (PNG)an Australian government employee who happened to be an athiest was sent there. He soon noticed when in Port Moresby ( the country's capital) that there were an inordinate number of Christian churches: a church on every street corner. Most athiests can take the presence of churches in their stride but this was one apparently of the militant-pathological type who couldn't: he was personally bothered by the sight of so many Christian churches in Moresby. There was a PNG civil servent whom the Australian was tasked with working with on the age project and this man, after listening to the athiest's gripes about the churches finally said to him "come with me!".

He took the Australian out to a 4WD government vehicle he had use of and drove out of town. Half an hour later he pulled over to the side of the road. Pointing to an outcropping rock formation the PNG man said "Do you see that rock?" The Australian replied "yes". The PNG man went on "if this were the old days (he meant before Christianity was introduced) by now we would have had you spread all over that rock slaughtered and dismenbered". The Australian was left speechless - what could he have said?

The PNG government employee was of course referring to his people's historically all too recent past as neolithic cannibals and headhunters.

That represents a past time of darkness that the Melanesians of PNG and all of the other southwestern Pacific island states all the way to Fiji have absolutely no urge to revisit.
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Getting a place like PNG prepared and ready for eventual independence was in one way arguably even more of a challence than trying to do the same in Africa. In Africa they had "tribes": some of which were demographically large enough to be defined as kindgoms or (more recently) submerged, stateless nations. No such entity existed in pre-colonial PNG where every dillage was like a mini-soverign republic in its own right. Peaceful intercourse between them was nearly impossible: in the majority of the hundreds of languages and dialects on New Guinea island the word for "stranger" and "enemy" is the same word.

Inconcievable that someone who was not of "our" village community could be here with peaceful intent.

Then there was the matter of technological attainment. Africans were, had been for centuries, in the iron age but the Melanesians possessed not a single metalurgical object until in the latter 19th century when seafaring white traders began barter-trading hatchets, knives and razor blades with them in exchange for the small number of saleable commodities and objects the Melanesians produced to trade with.

Christianity had at least the redeeming advantage of getting these peoples into the habit of worshipping the same god instead of a multitude of local spirit deities whose veneration had previously helped keep them divided. Spiritual unity as the foundation of national unity? It had worked so often in other parts of the World.

Ellen
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Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by Ellen » Mon Jan 25, 2021 10:27 pm

Thanks for the anecdote about Papua New Guinea. That "country", if you can call it that, was one of Spengler's favorite objects of reference when talking about the death of languages. Every month or year (can't remember which) one spoken tongue in Papua New Guinea goes silent, as urbanization, modern education, and assimilation kill off the native tongues, which - as you say - are spoken often by only a few hundred people in a one village.

Thanks for providing additional color.

The constant fear of ethnic/tribal warfare in Africa and the Arab world is the main impediment to creating functional societies, given the ludicrous borders that were set by the Europeans before they decolonized. Because Europeans don't understand the power of tribalism they didn't think it was important in determining borders. Hence Africa and the Arab world are saddled with nonviable states where the rulers are perpetually scheming for one tribe or against another, for the purpose of staying in power, in order to plunder the resources for themselves and their clansmen. There is no real sense of national identity in most of these states. It's about rule and plunder.

In the Arab world, the militarization of these regimes, largely from oil wealth and foreign aid, means that these countries are wretched zones of oppression. Until a few years ago, their opposition to and hatred of Israel (and by association, America) barely kept the lid on, by giving them a common enemy. Now that this attitude is being abandoned in favor of "normalization", the only thing that can preserve these countries is true modernization and representative government. As anyone can see, they are far away from that, and not even moving in that direction, except perhaps the UAE and maybe Morocco. There are many countries in Africa that are closer to becoming viable modern states than in the Arab world, because they didn't waste the last 70 years focusing their energies on hating other people.

In that context, Abiy is a modern and progressive African leader, but he is saddled with an impossible combination of rival ethnic groups, many of which are large enough to be nations themselves. I wish him well. A strong, successful Ethiopia would be a great boon for Africa, the Middle East, American influence, and Israeli security. And proof that culture and religion are more important than race in determining the success of societies. Abiy is a symbol of that view and therefore his success is really key to undermining the race-obsessions of foolish Western liberals who have done more than enough damage to these fragile societies already.

neverfail
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Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by neverfail » Tue Jan 26, 2021 2:10 pm

Ellen wrote:
Mon Jan 25, 2021 10:27 pm
Thanks for the anecdote about Papua New Guinea. That "country", if you can call it that, was one of Spengler's favorite objects of reference when talking about the death of languages. Every month or year (can't remember which) one spoken tongue in Papua New Guinea goes silent, as urbanization, modern education, and assimilation kill off the native tongues, which - as you say - are spoken often by only a few hundred people in a one village.
Yep. I only thought to mention PNG and the special challenge in nation building it represents as a contrast to more familar African scenarios. Years before even Spengler mentioned it I had heard or read several references to the disappearence of those landuages but now conclude that those seeking to preserve them are sentimentalists. Those multiple languages and dialects were barriers that helped keep New Guinea island socially and politically fragmented probably since the beginning of time. Their repeacement by PNG's dual lingua franca of pidgin and English means that New Guinea natives are shedding their traditional mutual fear and loathing for one another and "gelling" into a distinct national type.
The constant fear of ethnic/tribal warfare in Africa and the Arab world is the main impediment to creating functional societies, given the ludicrous borders that were set by the Europeans before they decolonized. Because Europeans don't understand the power of tribalism they didn't think it was important in determining borders. Hence Africa and the Arab world are saddled with nonviable states where the rulers are perpetually scheming for one tribe or against another, for the purpose of staying in power, in order to plunder the resources for themselves and their clansmen. There is no real sense of national identity in most of these states. It's about rule and plunder.
Ellen: in the big Africa carve-up that took place during the second half of the 19th centuury into the early 20th I don't believe that the colonising powers of Europe even cared. Europe was using Africa as it's means of working off tensions between powerful rival states: if one European power annexed a bit of Africa at at least two others would subsequently try to annex adjoining bits of Africa in order to save face. In those days there seems to have been a general fear among European statesmen to the effect "if you do not have your own overseas empire then everyone will think that your country is just a second rate power. (I am certain that this was what propelled Imperial Germany to join in the race for colonies.) I have given the economics of the time a cursory study and concluded that hunger for natural resources to exploit was not the driving force propelling the scramble for Africa - national prestige was.

The last annexation in Africa took place in 1911 when Italy took over Libya. Three years later World War One erupted in Europe. With no more Africa left to carve up nor remote Pacific attols to plant their flags on tensions between the European powers finally boiled over uncontrollably.

The question that comes to my mind (re. Africa's legacy of mismatched frontiers) is: if the European colonising powers of yore had not drawn Africa's international borders where they are now, then where could they have drawn them? Africa was and is such an intricate patchwork quilt of ethnicities that the drawing up of international borders across the continent, no matter how carefully done in relation to the native interest would still leave multiple groups disaffected.
In the Arab world, the militarization of these regimes, largely from oil wealth and foreign aid, means that these countries are wretched zones of oppression. Until a few years ago, their opposition to and hatred of Israel (and by association, America) barely kept the lid on, by giving them a common enemy. Now that this attitude is being abandoned in favor of "normalization", the only thing that can preserve these countries is true modernization and representative government. As anyone can see, they are far away from that, and not even moving in that direction, except perhaps the UAE and maybe Morocco. There are many countries in Africa that are closer to becoming viable modern states than in the Arab world, because they didn't waste the last 70 years focusing their energies on hating other people.

In that context, Abiy is a modern and progressive African leader, but he is saddled with an impossible combination of rival ethnic groups, many of which are large enough to be nations themselves. I wish him well. A strong, successful Ethiopia would be a great boon for Africa, the Middle East, American influence, and Israeli security. And proof that culture and religion are more important than race in determining the success of societies. Abiy is a symbol of that view and therefore his success is really key to undermining the race-obsessions of foolish Western liberals who have done more than enough damage to these fragile societies already.
Ellen, you express admiration for this fellow Abiy but in my view when the future of a country depends on just one man then that future would seem to be rather tenuous. What might happen (for instance) were Abiy to be assassanated?

Ellen
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Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by Ellen » Wed Jan 27, 2021 1:04 am

"I have given the economics of the time a cursory study and concluded that hunger for natural resources to exploit was not the driving force propelling the scramble for Africa - national prestige was."

Thanks for 3 thoughtful comments.

1. I totally agree with you that national prestige was the main factor driving colonization in Africa. Not economic gain, of which there was very little. A study some years ago showed that the British had derived profits from only 4 of their dozens of colonies in Africa and Asia, though I can't remember which 4. I believe Ghana (the Gold Coast) and Kenya were among them. The idea that the success of capitalism require colonization of backward parts of the world once the European markets were saturated is another example of how Marxism makes people stupid. Lenin spread his awful ideology partly by this unsubstantiated claim that was later proven wrong. The empire - however picturesque and prestigious it was - drained Britain of resources that could have gone into its own modernization effort after WWII, and left it nearly bankrupt by the 1960s.

2. Regarding the best way to draw borders in territories where ethnic groups live like a patchwork quilt. This is a very difficult problem with no ideal solution. Much of human warfare over the ages has been at attempt to solve this problem of drawing borders that rival powers feel are fair, representative of the demographics, and defensible (!!!). The last criterion is the most important. If a border is not defensible then there will be another war shortly, to create a more defensible border. No strong country agrees to live with indefensible borders. [On that note, that is why Israel will never withdraw to the so-called 1967 borders, which were actually the 1949 armistice lines from the War of Independence. It is indefensible under the conditions of today's world. No amount of peace processes will change that fact. Israel would prefer another war with the same result as 1948 than to agree to an indefensible border].

What this implies, sadly, is that the African countries should have been left to create their own borders through conflict and migration, in the same ways as Europe's borders were created, over the centuries. That may sound cruel, but eventually a reasonable arrangement is arrived at - as one sees today with current borders in Europe. What the outsiders could have done is to guarantee that there are no genocides during this period of conflict, by mediating population transfers in places where this produces a satisfactory arrangement.

At the very least, the Europeans should not have done things like the following: creating 2 ludicrous countries on either side of the Congo River, in order to save one country for King Leopold of Belgium and another for the French. So you end up with the Belgian Congo and the French Congo - Brazzaville. On either side of the border you have the largest tribe in the region - the Congolas - who are split between 2 nonviable countries. What could be more absurd than that? All for the sake of the pride of King Leopold who wanted Belgium to have at least one colony in Africa so he could play the Imperial game???

3. Lastly, you ask if Abiy is so necessary to Ethiopia's future what sort of future can it have, given that one man is mortal and no country's future can hinge on the fate of one man. True. But he isn't just one man. He has a political party, and there are other men from the Amharic people and even from the Oromos who are now in secondary leadership positions who can carry on this work. One very good thing Abiy is doing is building a cabinet (with gender equality, mind you) including all sorts of officials who actually wield power. He is not a one-man show, with the assorted relatives and hangers on, like you normally see in underdeveloped countries. In the Arab world, this is the only type of regimes that exist. In contrast, Abiy is trying to institutionalize democratic and party rule, and that is one of the reasons he won his Noble and deserved it. He is not looking (at least one hopes) to be the "el jefe" of Ethiopia, like Fidel Castro. That type of regime produces nothing of value for the long-term, just more of the same.

By the way, General Sisi is exactly that sort of one-man show, as were all of his predecessors since Nasser. Look at what they have done to Egypt. One long uninterrupted period of decline.

neverfail
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Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by neverfail » Wed Jan 27, 2021 4:08 am

Ellen,

this has nothing to do directly with the topic under discussion but I thought that it might be of interest to you anyway:

https://oilprice.com/Energy/Natural-Gas ... NDC6F9Wj9A

Egypt And Israel Look To Capitalize On Natural Gas Resources

neverfail
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Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by neverfail » Wed Jan 27, 2021 4:39 am

I looked up an online map of the region and saw how the GERD seems periously close to the Ethiopia-Sudan border. I investigated further and found I was right:
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is a 6,450 MW hydropower project nearing completion on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, located about 30 km upstream of the border with Sudan. It will be the largest hydropower project in Africa.

https://www.hydropower.org/sediment-man ... n%20Africa.
There are field artillary pieces that have ranges of 30 kilometers or greater. I do not know whether either downriver state owns any such guns but I am sure that if not they could be easily acquired. It would seem that if Egypt and Sudan became desperate they would not even need to fire guided missiles at the dam wall. All they would need to do is shell it from the closest part of Sudanese territory.

Ellen
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Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by Ellen » Wed Jan 27, 2021 5:06 am

You are right, it seems that it would be rather easy to damage or even destroy the dam from cross border shelling or bombing by Sudan and Egypt. I would imagine that Abiy and his government (and Chinese creditors) have given some thought as to where their brinkmanship might actually end up. If it leads to the destruction of the dam and therefore the inability to pay back their loans to China (like so many other poor countries who borrowed money from China for infrastructure projects), where does that that leave them? Worse off than before, actually. No dam, but debts from previous construction.

So, perhaps he is trying to get the best deal by threatening, then negotiating on his terms. You may notice that this is the Iranian negotiating tactic regarding their nuclear research. The Iranians are purposely dragging the process out so long that eventually they will have a bomb and missiles to deliver it, which puts them in a winning position to conclude the negotiations on their own terms.

Re: Iran, Israel won't allow this to happen. If necessary, it will destroy the nuclear facilities itself, now with help from its Arab allies and all the internal Iranian collaborators who want the regime to fall. But, it's a dangerous game.

Re: the dam, is Ethiopia trying to draw Egypt into attacking the dam, which then allows Abiy to do what? Bomb the Aswan dam? Declare war on Egypt? There is no end game here that makes sense. But would Egypt actually declare war on Ethiopia, as it claims it will because the Nile is its lifeblood? Hard to believe. Sisi is not well loved by the Biden people. They view him as a human rights violator who needs to be put into his place, like the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Starting a war over water would destroy his standing in Washington, cause him to lose his foreign aid, etc. This might provoke another revolt. Doing nothing might provoke another revolt also. So, beats me. It seems that they are both maneuvering themselves into a position called Zugzwang in chess. Any move either of them makes now will weaken their position and possibly lead them to ruin. But, meanwhile, work on the dam progresses.......

Ellen
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Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by Ellen » Wed Jan 27, 2021 5:29 am

neverfail wrote:
Wed Jan 27, 2021 4:08 am
Ellen,

this has nothing to do directly with the topic under discussion but I thought that it might be of interest to you anyway:

https://oilprice.com/Energy/Natural-Gas ... NDC6F9Wj9A

Egypt And Israel Look To Capitalize On Natural Gas Resources
This is interesting and I am aware of it. However, I can't imagine why anyone is so certain about the stability of Egypt under Sisi's tyranny. I've read comments by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, which he is mercilessly pursuing, jailing, and killing. They predict another uprising sooner or later. I hope they are wrong, but if he doesn't give the bottom third of Egyptian society some benefits from the economic growth, that's exactly what will happen.

neverfail
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Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by neverfail » Wed Jan 27, 2021 4:35 pm

Ellen wrote:
Wed Jan 27, 2021 5:06 am
You are right, it seems that it would be rather easy to damage or even destroy the dam from cross border shelling or bombing by Sudan and Egypt. I would imagine that Abiy and his government (and Chinese creditors) have given some thought as to where their brinkmanship might actually end up. If it leads to the destruction of the dam and therefore the inability to pay back their loans to China (like so many other poor countries who borrowed money from China for infrastructure projects), where does that that leave them? Worse off than before, actually. No dam, but debts from previous construction.

So, perhaps he is trying to get the best deal by threatening, then negotiating on his terms. You may notice that this is the Iranian negotiating tactic regarding their nuclear research. The Iranians are purposely dragging the process out so long that eventually they will have a bomb and missiles to deliver it, which puts them in a winning position to conclude the negotiations on their own terms.

Re: Iran, Israel won't allow this to happen. If necessary, it will destroy the nuclear facilities itself, now with help from its Arab allies and all the internal Iranian collaborators who want the regime to fall. But, it's a dangerous game.
Ellen, Israel is alleged to have a stockpile of approx. 80 nuclear warheads assembled and ready for use at its Dimona facility. It is hardly a secret that the State of Israel is nuclear armed. So what are the Israelis worried about?
Re: the dam, is Ethiopia trying to draw Egypt into attacking the dam, which then allows Abiy to do what? Bomb the Aswan dam? Declare war on Egypt? There is no end game here that makes sense. But would Egypt actually declare war on Ethiopia, as it claims it will because the Nile is its lifeblood? Hard to believe. Sisi is not well loved by the Biden people. They view him as a human rights violator who needs to be put into his place, like the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Starting a war over water would destroy his standing in Washington, cause him to lose his foreign aid, etc. This might provoke another revolt. Doing nothing might provoke another revolt also. So, beats me. It seems that they are both maneuvering themselves into a position called Zugzwang in chess. Any move either of them makes now will weaken their position and possibly lead them to ruin. But, meanwhile, work on the dam progresses.......
In 2001-12 Egypt has the only election I can recall ever having taken place during my lifetime and (guess what?) the Egyption public voted the Muslim Brotherhood into government.
The "will of the Egyptian people" as expressed through the ballot box was NOT what the starry-eyed left-liberal idealists in the Obama Administration presumed it would be.

At this point the Americans seem to have started to get more savvy about the folly of promoting "democracy" in a place like the Middle ( :lol: muddle?) East. Sisi led a military coup against what was seemingly a freely and fairly elected government that the Americans and Israelis alike disapproved of. Apparently the putsch was made with the blessing of both. Thus did the USA (not for the first time either) make a hypocrite of itself going against its own espoused principles in foreign policy.

The Americans can't have it both ways. With Egypt they can have a military dictatorship hated by the people but broadly compliant with American wishes or they can have an elected government embarking on policies that go against US interests: but they can't have it both ways.
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Abiy? No, I cannot claim to read the man's mind either Ellen. It could be (my speculation) that while Abiy might be something of a visionary about the development path ahead for his own country, his propensity to think big might not extend to foreign policy. For he and his government seem to be quite insensitive to the (I believe legetimate) worries of Ethiopia's two big downriver neighbours of Islamic heritage. Abiy's dismissal of these might therefore be due to plain myopia and hubris. (Which is to say that along with being a competent governor and a visionary Abiy may well be an arrogant twerp).

Ellen, (as I pointed out in my earliest post in this thread with links that compared the air force assets of Ethiopia with those of Egypt and Sudan): as things stand Ethiopia's would swamped from day one in any war. The strength of Ethiopian air force assets lie in heloicoptors; not in combat aircraft. I would inteperet that as a legacy from their long war against Eritrian secessionist insurgents. Hellicoptor gunships are quite good for that but useless when it comes to fighting against fixed-wing combat aircraft.

Likewise, that Egypt is better equipped with more and better combat aircrft I would intepret as reflecting the fact that within living memory it has had to go into battle against the Middle East's most formidable air power - the Israeli Air Force. :D

Though Ethiopia may have the short-term advantage of a defendable topography - most of the country and that the most populous part seems perched on top of a high plateau - which is the principal reason why it has survived so long as a Christian island flanked by a sea of Muslims. But I see it as long-term vulnerable because it lacks a seacoast. If the Ethiopian government were to suddenly embark on a program of building up the country's military defences the imported equipment would have to pass through the port of a neighbouring country like Djibouti - and the Ethiopian government importing it would need to declare the contents. The info would quickly get to Cairo. By contrast both Egypt and Sudan have seacoasts and working seaports - so in their case it would be possible to undertake a secret military buildup supplied by some (unknown) arms manufacturing power willing to cooperate in secrecy.

Same rule applies to arms imported via air freight: the aircraft delivering would need to overfly the airspace of at least one neighbouring country before arriving at an Ethiopian airport.

Ellen
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Re: Water war in Africa?

Post by Ellen » Thu Jan 28, 2021 8:00 am

The problems of importing weapons through someone else's sea ports in time of war is precisely the reason, I believe, that Ethiopia will eventually invade Eritrea and take (or retake since this area was once part of Ethiopia) their seaport. There is no way in this region, where warfare is still a first or second resort after an argument, that Ethiopia can survive without a seaport to import weapons during a war.

And while its previous war was with a guerilla group, and lasted 30 years, the next war is likely to be with a national state such as Sudan or Egypt or perhaps Somalia. War would be very bad for both Ethiopia and Egypt. I accept your analysis of Ethiopia's airforce problem. But Stinger missile and anti-aircraft defenses could solve that problem, and both can be obtained from a variety of possible allies, not including the US.

Your comment about the problem of democracy in the Arab world is right on target. This is why the situation of the Arab societies is so dire and hopeless. Democratic elections produce Muslim fanatic governments that can't run anything properly, leading to internal breakdown or a military coup or external invasion and defeat. On the other hand, more secular military regimes are corrupt, uncaring, and unable to develop the country at all - from an economic or political point of view. The middle class prefers to flee to the West than to improve their society from within (can you blame them?). So, a pretty dismal scene.

There is nothing America can do at this point to solve the problems of the Arabs, except wash its hands of them. This is what both parties are trying to do, both Obama and Trump, and now Biden. But, as we have scene, if you try to abandon the MidEast, it comes back to haunt you, and you can never quite leave. That is the burden of being a super power.

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