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The source of the current crisis can be traced to 1998 when an initial agreement was reached on a plan of action and policy guidelines to establish the Nile Basin Initiative at the 2nd Nile Technical Advisory Committee meeting held in Arusha. A few months later, the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) was officially launched at an extraordinary meeting of the Nile Basin Council of Ministers, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (Mohamoda 2003). According to Swain (2004), "In March 1998, the Council of Ministers of Water Affairs of the Nile Basin States reached a broad agreement at Arusha, Tanzania, over sharing and managing the Nile water, and endorsed a new program of action. This led to the formal launching of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) in February 1999, of which all but Eritrea are members" (p. 106).
During the period between 1993 and 1999, further preparatory steps were taken in furtherance of the Nile River Basin Action Plan, including obtaining the support of donor agencies as well as drafting the relevant policy guidelines that would define the Shared Vision Program that would guide the initiative in the years to come (Mohamoda 2003). In this regard, Haggai (2003) reports that, "In February 1999, the ministers of water affairs of nine countries (Egypt, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Congo, Kenya, and Uganda, with Eritrea as an observer) stated jointly that 'for the first time in history, all Nile basin countries have expressed a serious concern about the need for serious discourse' and they declared that their 'shared vision' was to 'achieve sustainable socioeconomic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile basin water resources'" (p. 213).
Other efforts during this period included the formation of several adjunct agencies to facilitate the implementation and administration of the Nile Basin Initiative. For instance, in 1997, upon request by the Nile Council of Ministers, Nile-COM, an organization comprised of the respective ministers of water affairs of the Nile Basin Riparian Countries, requested the World Bank to serve as the coordinating agency of the Nile River Basin Action Plan which it accepted in partnership with the United Nations Development Program and the Canadian International Development Agency (Mohamoda 2003). At this juncture, a definition of the terms involved is in order. According to Black's Law Dictionary, riparian rights are "belonging or relating to the bank of a river or stream; of or on the bank. Land lying beyond the natural watershed of a stream is not riparian. This term is sometimes used as relating to the shore of the sea or other title water, or of a lake or other considerable body of water not having the character of a water course. This is not accurate. The proper word to be employed in such connection is 'littoral'" (p. 1327).
These three organizations, then, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program and the Canadian International Development Agency make up what has been termed the "Nile-Team" which is concerned with the riparian rights involved in the adjudication of the Nile River waters, forged an additional partnership with the Nile Basin Initiative to support their efforts in achieving the shared vision for these valuable resources (Mohamoda 2003). The initiative has also enjoyed widespread support from numerous other multinational and bilateral donors (Mohamada 2003). Six of the riparian countries (the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda) created the Technical Cooperation Committee for the Promotion of the Development and Environmental Protection of the Nile Basin (TECCONILE) and the four remaining riparian states served in the capacity of observers (Boon & Davies, 2009). It is within this framework that the Nile River Basin Action Plan (NRBAP) was developed with support from the Canadian International Development Agency and other Nile Team members (Boon & Davies, 2009).
The Strategic Action Program that emerged from these early efforts consists of the basin-wide Shared Vision Program (which covers seven projects), as well as two subsidiary action programs: (a) the Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program (which will benefit the Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt), and the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (consisting of the six Equatorial Lakes Countries, as well as Egypt and the Sudan (Mohamoda 2003). In sum, the Nile Basin Initiative is guided by the shared vision "to achieve sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile basin water resources." Pursuant to this shared vision, two Subsidiary Action programs are being implemented in order to leverage the shared vision into real-world achievements as follows:
1. The Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program;
2. The Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (Mohamoda 2003, p. 23).
This shared vision, though, may not be shared by all of the stakeholders that are being affected by these ongoing efforts by the riparian countries to secure more than their fair share of the Nile waters based on agreements that were negotiated by the previous administration. For example, there are clear indications that the Arab Spring uprisings that have rocked Arab world have been especially pronounced Egypt where young people and opposition groups, fueled by recent events in Tunisia which resulted in the overthrow of the Tunisian government, staged a "Day of Rage" protest on January 25, 2011 to coincide with the national "Police Day" that included nationwide demonstrations and labor strikes (Egypt, 2012).
Although a war hero in his former days, Egypt's President Mubarak had become the target of a growing number of Egyptians who were frustrated by a lack of progress in the provision of employment opportunities, as well as the nepotism and corruption that were rampant throughout the country. Many Egyptian young people were being forced to delay marriage and having a family because there were not enough jobs, and even many highly educated Egyptians were under- or unemployed. According to U.S. analysts, "Protester grievances focused on police brutality, state emergency laws, lack of free speech and elections, high unemployment, rising food prices, inflation, and low minimum wages" (Egypt, 2012 p. 2). Moreover, President Mubarak enjoyed the support of the country's well-entrenched military cabal of old school generals. Nevertheless, Mubarak clearly saw the handwriting on the wall as thousands of his young countrymen joined together to protest his regime and its cozy relationship with the United States. The impassioned pleas he made to all of Egypt to give him more time fell on deaf ears, and the half-measures Mubarak implemented in response to the Arab Spring uprising in his own backyard were ineffective as well. For instance, analysts with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency report that, "Within several days of the onset of protests, President Mubarak addressed the nation pledging the formation of a new government, and in a second address he offered additional concessions, which failed to assuage protesters and resulted in an escalation of the number and intensity of demonstrations and clashes with police" (Egypt, 2012, p. 3).
Following Mubarak's resignation of February 11, 2011, the country's leadership was assumed by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces which dissolved the Egyptian parliament, suspended the nation's constitution, and forged a committee with a mandate to recommend constitutional changes to facilitate a political transition through democratic elections (Egypt, 2012). Despite some challenges along the way, elections for a new parliament were conducted between November 2011 and January 2012 and presidential elections were conducted in May and June which resulted in the election of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Mursi, over the country's former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq (Egypt, 2012). It is against this dynamic political backdrop that the current debate over the administration of the riparian rights for Nile River waters is taking place as discussed further below.
What is the Egyptian approach to the Nile crisis?
Although negotiations have varied in content, scope and amicability in recent years, the "Egyptian approach" to managing the Nile crisis can best be characterized as unflinching in placing a high priority on not only protecting its historic and current riparian rights, but expanding these in ways that are detrimental to downstream and littoral stakeholders. In this regard, Boon and Davies (2000, p. 19) emphasize that, "Unlike national legislation defining water quality goals, laws regulating access to surface water vary regionally. In most of the East, where water is historically abundant, water use is governed by the doctrine of riparian rights. Individuals who own land adjacent to flowing water have the right to use that water as long as some is left for downstream landowners." Therefore, by enforcing its current levels and prosecuting its case for expanded rights in the future, Egypt is positioning itself as a hegemonic force in an already volatile region where water has been the source of war in the past and where many experts caution such conflicts may well recur if steps are not taken today to ensure all stakeholders are afforded their…[continue]
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