Home | Comment & Analysis    Sunday 27 June 2010

The Egyptian role in Sudan’s development and underdevelopment 1899-2010

By Professor Ali Abdalla Ali

"It never happened in any era or age in which Egypt paid attention to the fact the Nile has other wives and sons who should share in the great heritage (the Nile).We were brought up to believe in a great myth that the Nile is exclusively Egypt’s own and we went on making love songs about Egypt and showing our pride to the world that we were able to build a great civilization along its shores. Dr. Rushdi Saeed ( a well known Egyptian geologist) has drawn our attention to the dangers of this great myth!!"

Iqbal Baraka,"It is not our Nile alone", in Rose El Yosef, Cairo, 7th.June 2010 No.4278, page 80.

June 27, 2010 — For so many years now one was wondering as to the claim by Egypt regarding its historical rights on the Nile acquired through the 1929 Agreement which was signed by Britain when Egypt was still under British domination and gave it the right not to allow any riparian country to undertake any project and /or projects on the Nile without prior approval from Egypt. The 1959 agreement which was signed during late Nasir’s rule, which was signed with Sudan prior to the construction of the Aswan High Dam (AHD) gave it the right to utilize 55.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) of water and the Sudan 18.5 bcm of water. This is so in spite of the historical fact that Egypt does not contribute a single bucket of water to the Nile water!! In addition to the historical fact that the riparian countries including the Sudan were under British rule. In both agreements no riparian country was consulted since they were under foreign domination .In the 1929 Agreement the Sudan was not consulted because Sudan was considered part of Egypt. In the 1959 Sudan was an independent country which obtained its independence away from both Britain and Egypt. Egypt was free from British domination 1922 and from the Tukisk dynsty when Nasir took over in 1952.In. the 1959 Agreement Nasir was in control of Egypt and Sudan was under the first military rule of late Ibrahim Abboud. When Abboud took over they had the feeling that there was an unnecessary relation gap between the two countries and, therefore, being both military and of the same mentality the Sudanese side was ready to do anything for Nasir in order for both countries to become friendly again. This was so because of Egypt’s infiltration in the North Eastern part of Sudan called Halaib Triangle and took it over. At that time the Western world was dead against Nasir’s regime and that is why it was easy for Sudan to win its case against Egypt when the issue was tabled before the Security Council.(see Ali Abdalla Ali,"Halaib 1958;How it started and How was it resolved," Currency Printing Press,2008).The case is still in front of the UNSC.

In that 1959 agreement neither the Sudanese people nor neighbouring Ethiopia which contribute 86 % of Nile revenue through its Blue Nile were consulted. More worse was that when the Sudanese technicians (in Cairo) were negotiating with their Egyptian counterparts, the Egyptian side started to feel that they will not win their case, they suddenly stopped negotiations and reverted to Nasir. The chief Sudanese negotiator (the late Minister of Information) immediately went back to Khartoum and met with Abboud. Abboud ordered him to sign immediately without referring to the Sudanese technicians who were waiting back in Cairo!! This produced the most unfair agreement and without the consultation of anyone. In fact the resort to quickly sign the agreement was the Sudan was under fiscal crisis as much as was the case during 1929 in which was also in a fiscal crisis. There was no visible objections from most of the riparian countries because the need for water was not that critical and, moreover most of those countries in Africa had high respect for Nasir since Egypt was very active and extended its real help to the liberation movements in Africa and had many close and intimate relations with other known figures in Africa such as Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya and others.

Now the question that one would like to try and answer as to why Egypt is so nostalgic and obsessed with historical rights in the waters of the Nile in spite of the fact that Egypt as was mentioned does not contribute a single bucket of water to the Nile. Moreover, Egypt is holding to agreements that were signed in the previous century and many waters flowed by and the world in which these agreements were signed have changed so much maybe beyond recognition. The question is it changing needs that must govern the relation between people or is it some outmoded agreement that no longer hold? In other words is it the law that comes first or the human need? The writer will try to explain such notions through tracing the role that Egypt played in Sudan the since 1899, when together with the British reconquered Sudan in 1898 at the Battle of Karrari defeating the Mahadiya troops led by Khalifa Abdullahi Al Taishi. Such a role as we shall see was very positive from the point of those who were holding the key in Sudan. But after the Sudan opted to become independent from both Britain (the Common Wealth) Egypt followed a certain strategy towards independent Sudan which was fraught with many uneasy relations which moved like a pendulum until today in spite of the fact that many view the relation considered between Sudan and Egypt as eternal. Since independence Egypt always tried to abort any efforts for Sudan to make a break through in its development especially agricultural development as we shall see. One would like to trace such a development after independence which one believes had retarded Sudan’s development in contrast to the positive role played by Egypt in the development of Sudan during the British domination of both Sudan and Egypt. Through this tracing one would like to explain the nostalgic and even selfish motives of Egypt towards the Nile waters and what it considered as historical rights as well being unable to think that Sudan is no longer any part of Egypt nor a colony of Egypt and that it has become an independent country .Recently an Egyptian ambassador declared that if anyone wishes to intervene in Sudanese affairs has to go through Egypt’s door first!! What kind of arrogance is this??!!.


Since April 2010 in Sharm Al Sheikh in Egypt, in which the Nile Basin countries excluding both Sudan and Egypt declared that they will sign the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) as scheduled on 14th.April 2010,a lot of considerable debate had taken place especially in both media in both Sudan and Egypt. Many views were brought up some for others against but generally it was a debate that centred around the fate of the Nile basin which has been the lifeline of many countries of the basin especially Sudan and Egypt. During all these various seminars and conferences the question of historical rights was always brought up by Egypt as speaking on behalf of the Sudan also. During almost all these discussions one felt that these historical rights are taken for granted without any questioning as to where such rights came from or how such rights were designed and given to Egypt and later after 1959 to Sudan. Thereafter try to see the run of events as regards the relation between Sudan and Egypt carried itself before independence and after Sudan became independent in 1956, since before and after make a very different and intriguing story.


In 1989 the British army manned by both British officers and Egyptians and some Sudanese invaded the Sudan to revenge for the assassination of General Gordon .The invading army was able to destroy the Sudanese army under the leadership of Khalifa Abdullahi who succeeded the great Mahdi in the well known Karrari battle in Omdurman .When the Sudan came under what used to be called the condominium agreement (CA)(i.e. governed jointly by both Britain and Egypt) both found the Sudan in a very underdeveloped stage .There was hardly any economic activity in the country. The people were poor living on the rain fed areas and along the banks of the river Nile. Their major activities were in the area of simple crafts, boat building and petty agricultural activities, making their clothes and shoes and there was hardly any private activity as we see today and to find out what they can do in such a difficult country. The currency that they used in their daily dealings was very rudimentary and made in what used to be called Beit Al Mal. According to Winston Churchill who was in the Battle of Omdurman as a young reporter observed;

" Who shall say that some day stronger hands that ours shall not spread the river water over the barren plains and make the confluence of the Blue and White Niles the seat of man’s happiness and dignity? But of this we may assure ourselves, that the physical must precede the moral, that there must be some wealth before there is any wisdom and that the time has not come when the Khartoum College with perhaps a chair of philosophy or political economy- need be established in the desert at the expense of the British people. We must irrigate before we educate and it will a long time before it is economically worthwhile to do either in the Sudan,"(Young Winston Wars)
Another observation regarding the situation at the time of the reconquest was made by R.LTignor.He said,

"No doubt British accounts exaggerated the destructiveness of Mahdist rule and glorified their achievements. Still the economic situation under the Khalifa was dire.The enforced population movements,the seizure of land, and the confiscation of property disrupted the economy and led to epidemics and a substantial reduction of inhabitants, though certainly not from 8 million to 2 million as suggested by Governor F.R. Wingate in his annual report of 1903." He goes on to state that, "The Anglo-Egyptian occupation of the Sudan at the turn of the century, then, began at a low commercial level. As the British surveyed the wrechage of two decades of autocratic rule they opted for firm paternalistic administration. The foundations of a sound system of modern economic development were largely lacking.Transportation was defective…."(in The Sudanese Private Sector; An Historical Overview,The Jof Modern African Studies 25,2(1987)).

Therefore , the CA had to face a lot of challenges to change the above picture since the intention was to pacify the country and quell what they assumed to be a sort of Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt’s backyard. However, the country was so underdeveloped that it needed considerable financial resources in order to develop the country’s basic infrastructure. From 1989 until 1924, the British were able to convince Egypt which was still under their domination (until 1922) in order for it to undertake the responsibility of financing such basic infrastructure at the expense of the Egyptian tax payer. The argument was that since Sudan is the backyard of Egypt and since Egypt did not wish to be harassed anymore by the staunch Mahdists once again, that Egypt should really bear such a responsibility. In fact it was a lame excuse since the British did not want to bring in funds from Britain in order to develop Sudan. The book by Mukkawi Mustafa on the "Modern Establishment of the Sudanese Economy-The Establishment phase and the Role of Egyptian loans and Grants," is an extremely valuable book published in 2004,covering details of the loans and grants given to the Sudan from the Egyptian Treasury which greatly helped in the development of the infrastructure on which Sudan’s modern economy survived. This included the construction of Sennar Dam, the roads and bridges, the extension of Sudan Railways in to the interior to transport the Cotton produced by the Gezira scheme, the telephone and telegraph as well as construction of major government buildings such as the Ministry of Finance and the Post and Telegraph which still stand like formidable castles reflecting Egyptian ingenuity and hardness. There is a very interesting literature on the massive scale which the British were so cunning in burdening the Egyptian tax payers to finance such projects. This activity continued from the year of 1898 in which both Britain and Egypt reconquered the Sudan until 1924,when a revolt took placed by Ali Abdelatif who was an army cadet and decided with his fellow officers to take over from the British and join with Egypt .The British suspecting that it was a revolution instigated by Egypt decided to break with Egypt and that was the end of the Egyptian presence in Sudan. It is known in Sudan’s history as the Revolution of 1924. From 1924 onwards, the British took over the exclusive responsibility of running the Sudan without Egypt .This created a lot of discontent in Egypt because they were always given the impression that Sudan was very much a real part of Egypt.

One would like to differ with the views of Mekkawi because he maintained that Sudan should be very grateful to Egypt for its contribution to the establishment of modern Sudan without which a lot of its subsequent development would not have taken place. This is partly true but the problem is that all these loans were enforced by the British ruling at that time , and were repaid by the Sudan to Egypt. Moreover , the British wanted these developments to take place in Sudan so that Cotton could be grown in Sudan for the benefit of the British Empire. They (the British ) even at one time refused to allow the Egyptian farmers to come to Sudan so that they might not have a positive impact on the Sudanese and were replaced from workers from West Africa to work in the Gezira (G.Balamon) . Such deeds by the Egyptians were never a result of any eternal friendship with the Sudan. If Sudan was theoretically under Egypt would such developments have taken place. What did the great Mohamed Ali Pasha think of Sudan except as a source of raw materials such as Copper ,Gold and slaves for his army. In return the British were able to appease the Egyptians that since they will undertake the responsibility of developing Sudan’s infrastructure and raise it from its underdeveloped status under the Mahdia, that they will guarantee to them their lifeline in the form of the Nile from the upper streams down to Alexandria in the North. The British were at that time in firm control of the African interior which now constitute a number of the riparian countries.

Now let us look at the various agreements which gave rights to Egypt and have control of the waters of the River Nile without having to contribute one bucket of water to the Nile as mentioned before!!


Before 1891 according to Dr. Ahmed El Mufti (the Sudan government chief law advisor on the Nile issues) there were no agreements organizing the flow of the Nile waters whether from the African heartland or from the Ethiopian Highlands. There were various agreements which out of interest may be referred to here and which are;

First ;the 1891(April 15th,) known as the Anglo-Italian Protocol in which Article lll states that," the Italian government engages not to construct on the Atbara River , in view of irrigation , any work which might sensibly modify its flow into the Nile". It goes on (Wikipedia free Encyclopedia ) to say ,"that the language used in this Article was too vague to provide clear property rights or rights to the use of the water.

Second ; was the 1902(May 15th) between the British , the Italians and Ethiopia .Article lll states that, "His Majesty the Emperor Menilik, Kings of Ethiopia. engages himself towards the Government of His Britannic Majesty not to construct or allow to be constructed any works across the Blue Nile, Lake Tana or the Sobat, which would arrest the flow of their waters except in agreement with His Britannic Majesty’s Government and the Government of Sudan,(which was Britain itself together with Egypt (the Condominium Agreement-CA) .This agreement was never ratified by Ethiopia because the Amharic version gave a different interpretation.

Third ;was the. 1906(May 9th,). Article lll of the Agreement between Britain and the Government of the Independent State of the Congo. Article lll states ," The Government of the Independent State of the Congo undertakes not to construct, or allow to be constructed, any work over or near the Semliki or Isango river which would diminish the volume of water entering Lake Albert except in agreement with the Sudanese Government (which was under both Britain and Egypt-CA).Belgium signed this agreement on behalf of the Congo, despite the agreement favouring only downstream users of the Nile waters restricting the people of the Congo from accessing their part of the Nile.

Fourth; 1906(December 13th. Article 4(a) of the Tripartite Treaty (Britain-France-Italy.) Article 4(a) States, "To work together … to safeguard;… the interest of Great Britain and Egypt in the Nile Basin , more especially as regards the regulation of the waters of that river and its tributaries(due consideration being paid to local interests) without prejudice to Italians interests." This treaty, in effect, denied Ethiopia its sovereign right over the use of its own water .Ethiopia has rejected the treaty their military and political power was not sufficient to regain its use of the Nile.

Fifth; The 1925 exchange of notes between Britain and Italy concerning Lake Tana which states,"…..Italy recognizes the prior hydraulic rights of Egypt and the Sudan…. not to construct on the head waters of the Blue Nile and the White Nile(the Sobat) and their tributaries and effluents any work which might sensibly modify their flow into the main river." Ethiopia opposed the agreement and notified both parties of its objections:

"To the Italian Government: The fact that you have come to an agreement, and the fact that you have thought it necessary to give us a joint notification of that agreement make it clear that your intention is to exert pressure, and this is our view, at once raises a previous question. This question which calls for preliminary examination, must , therefore, be laid before the League of Nations."

"To the British government: The British Government has already entered into negotiations with the Ethiopian Government in regard to its proposal, and we had imagined that, whether that proposal was carried into effect or not, the negotiation would have been concluded with us; we would never have suspected that the British Government would come to an agreement with another Government regarding our Lake."

When an explanation was required from the British and the Italian governments by the League of Nations, they denied challenging Ethiopia’s sovereignty over Lake Tana (Tilahun,1970:90). Not withstanding, however there was no explicit mechanism enforcing the agreement. A reliable and self-enforcing mechanism that can protect the property rights of each stakeholder is essential if the principle of economically and ecologically sustainable international water development is to be applied.

Fifth; 1929 (May 7th.) An Agreement between Egypt and the Anglo-Egyptian
Sudan. This agreement included:

* Egypt and Sudan utilize 48 and 4 billion cubic meters of the Nile flow per year ,

* The flow of the Nile during January 20 to July 15 (dry season) would be reserved for Egypt;

* Egypt reserves the right to monitor the Nile flow in the upstream countries;

* Egypt reserves the right to undertake Nile river related projects without the consent of upper riparian states;

* Egypt assumed the right to veto any construction projects that would affect her interests adversely.

In effect, this gave Egypt complete control over the Nile during the dry season when water is most needed for agricultural irrigation. It also severely limits the amount of water allotted Sudan and provides no water to any of the other riparian states.

Sixth ;The 1959 Nile agreement between the Sudan and Egypt for full control of the Nile waters. This agreement included:

* The controversy on the quantity of average annual Nile flow was settled and agreed to be about 84 billion cubic metres measured at AHD, in Egypt,

* The agreement allowed the entire average annual flow of the Nile to be shared between the Sudan and Egypt at 18.5 and 55,5 billion cubic metres respectively,

*Annual water loss due to evaporation and other factors were agreed to be about billion cubic metres. This quantity would be deducted from the Nile yield before the share assigned to Egypt and Sudan.

* Sudan, in agreement with Egypt would construct projects that would enhance the Nile flow by preventing evaporation losses in the Sudd swamps of the White Nile located in the Southern Sudan. The cost and benefit of same to be divided equally between them.

If claim would come from the remaining riparian countries over the Nile water resource, both Sudan and Egypt shall, together, handle the claims.

* If the claim prevails and the Nile water has to be shared with another riparian state that allocated amount would be deducted from the Sudan’s and Egypt’s and allocations/ shares in equal parts of Nile volume measured at Aswan.

* The agreement granted Egypt the right to construct the AHD that can store the entire annual Nile river flow of a year.

* It granted the Sudan to construct the Roseires Dam on the Blue Nile and to develop other irrigation and hydroelectric power generation until it fully utilizes its Nile share.

* A Permanent Joint Technical Commission to be established to secure the technical cooperation between them.

Seventh; The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). The NBI is a partnership among the Nile riparian States , "seeks to develop the river in a cooperative manner, share substantial socioeconomic benefits, and promote regional peace and security". It was formally launched in February, 1999 by the water ministers of 9 countries that share the river- Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Eritrea , Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.(All the items from first to Seventh are drawn from Wikipedia free Encyclopedia).

From the above narration of the details of these agreements, which had been included at this juncture, is the necessity of wishing the readers to ponder at these developments which were at that time made sense, but could never convince one today that such agreements , designed and protected by the colonial powers of Britain, Italy, France and Belgium are relevant in the face of a much globalized world where everyone realized his lost rights and wants to have a place under the Sun even if one had to take to arms!!
Certain points come out as regards the historical rights of Egypt and Sudan and more so Egypt’s incredible quest to have full control of the Nile;

* It is clear that there were no agreements before 1891.Egypt was occupied by Britain in 1882 .In 1898,the British reconquered the Sudan jointly with Egyptian resources and capabilities, cleared vegetation along the Nile River and created alternative drainage paths to divert water and improve its flow. After taking over the Sudan the British as mentioned earlier thought of undertaking the development of the infrastructure in Sudan. Egypt was very important for Britain because it was in Egypt controlling the most important water way i.e. the Suez Canal in which the British government at that time was able to buy the indebted Egyptian Ismail’s 44% sharing in the Suez Canal for Sterling 4 million and secure and control this waterway. Egypt was important to Britain but the British government did wish to fund the development in the Sudan and imposed on the Egyptian to fund these developments in Sudan as stated earlier. Therefore, had it not been for this imposition these projects would not been carried out. To appease Egypt the colonial powers such as Britain and Italy helped Egypt to have such rights in order to control the Nile River in return for funding the much needed development of Sudan. If the British were not there in Sudan and Sudan remained under the control of Egypt Sudan would never have enjoyed these developments that took place at the expense of the Egyptian taxpayer. The same intentions of Mohamed Ali would have remained.

In most of these agreements Sudan is thought of as an appendage to Egypt and Egypt remains the senior partner in spite of that the fact that 63 % of the Nile is in Sudan. Egypt’s importance to Britain comes out from the fact that it had the Suez Canal and the Sudan was considered a gateway to the interior in which Britain did not wish it to be used for the expansion of Mahadism. So Britain was in fact using both Egypt and Sudan for its strategic imperial objectives. Moreover, Egypt was given the impression that Sudan is part of it. That is why when Egyptian ministers of irrigation and other officials talk to the media they always talk on behalf of both Egypt and Sudan and as if both are in one bowl. One can also notice the arrogance and greed as stipulated in the 1929 agreement and later on the 1959 agreement. In fact the Sudan would not have been consulted on the issue of the AHD had it not been for the fact the AHD would have flooded parts of Northern Sudan. The outcome of the 1959 agreement is still considered by the Sudanese as the most unjust agreement.

* Although the funding of Egypt towards the construction of infrastructure in Sudan between 1898 and 1924 as explained earlier could be considered as development, but one would consider it as a development instigated and planned by the colonial authority and executed through funding from Egypt. The people of Sudan if free might have charted there way away from such development. The main idea of the British was the development of the central region of Sudan so that Cotton could be grown in the Gezira Scheme. The rest of the country was excluded and put under the "Closed Districts Ordinance" which had controlled the movement of the Sudanese as well as cutting of the South in order to stem the extension of any Islamic penetration. The picture of Sudan unbalanced development is very clear in the statistics produced in 1955/56 which reflected such striking underdevelopment and unbalanced growth from which the Sudan still suffers. Moreover , such funds were repaid to Egypt.


Before Sudan became one of the early independent countries in Africa considerable struggle took place since Sudan was rule by both Britain and Egypt through the CA. There were two major contending parties in Sudan one sympathic to join with Egypt and the other calling for independence from both Britain and Egypt. The final outcome came in favour ofa Sudan independent from both Britain and Egypt. This was a big blow to Egypt because it always had the strong feeling that Sudan is Egypt’s backyard and very much part of Egypt. Secondly that they have spent considerable amounts of financial and human resources to develop the infrastructure of the Sudan at that time.

Third, since most of the Nile flows through the Sudan Egypt would not be at ease as regards such a neighbour. The Nile is Egypt’s lifeline. Egypt’s fury and anger was
converted in an extremely subtle policies towards the Sudan that were to be executed in later years which according to the writer constituted a reversal of their policies prior to independence where they were pushed by the British to fund Sudan\s infrastructure. These policies in their totality was meant to arrest Sudan’s economic development as a vendetta for not being grateful for what they have done to the Sudan.
The political side of these subtle policies started in 1958 when during Nasir’s time Halaib Triangle was taken over by the Egyptian army and Sudan was able to table a complaint to the UNS Council and Nasir had to withdraw his army and apologize for the Sudanese people. The issue is still in the coffers of the UNSC. From then on the relation kept moving like a pendulum with many ups and down until recently when the issue of the NBI was splashed in the media. The story is very long and, therefore the writer wishes to mention just some major developments which according to him were meant to arrest and impede Sudan’s economic development after independence. The first was the 1959 agreement which gave the Sudan its share as mentioned above and which was thought by the Sudanese as absolutely unfair. The way in which the agreement was forced on Sudan during the regime of late General Abboud is still being remembered because it was completely against the advice of the Sudanese technicians .The Sudanese Minister who was leading the negotiations was ordered by General Abboud to sign whatever was there in the agreement.

The second one was the question of raising the level of the Roseires Dam in order to store about 4 billion cubic metres of water in order to irrigate both sides of the dam. Although Egypt had no objection for the dam to be constructed but objected to the raising of dam since it will avail water for the development of Sudan’s agriculture. This was proved to the writer when he was on an official mission to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The writer asked the Deputy President of the Saudi Development Fund as to why their Fund was not keen in helping to raise the Roseireis Dam. The answer was that,"[Your] brothers in the North do [not] wish [you] to have such a project." This was a direct reference to no other than Egypt. It is now common knowledge in Sudan that Egypt in a very subtle manner was able to sabotage the raising of Roseires Dam for four decades, until this present government was able to find financing for it after finishing the Merawi Dam. Egypt was never keen to allow inland storage in order not obstruct the flow of the Nile water to Egypt. Imagine how much agricultural production had been lost by the Sudan as a result of this Egyptian subtle policies.

The third is an issue which the writer observed at close range as Economic Advisor to the late Minister of Finance Mamoun Bheiry.That was the establishment of the Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment Development (AAAID) in 1976.Members of the Arab League convened in Rabat, Morocco to establish the AAAID which was meant by the members to contribute and convert the Sudan into the granary of the Arab world because of its unusual natural resources .The study was undertaken by a team headed by an Iraqi citizen (Dr. Khalid Tahseen) who was an expert in the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development in Kuwait. The Sudanese representatives were mainly Mamoun Bheiry and Sudan’s Ambassador in Morocco (late Rasheed Nour El Din).The Egyptian delegation was in full force against the idea of such an establishment. They suggested that it should be a small company with a small capital. The Sudanese delegation strongly protested and walked out of the meeting. Late King
of Morocco intervened and the AAAID emerged with a very massive capital of some billion dollars and a proposed President the Iraqi Khalid Tahseen. One member of the
Egyptian delegation went back to Cairo and told President Sadat that Bheiry ,the Sudanese Minister of Finance had taken all the money of Arabs to invest it in Sudan’s agriculture. The Egyptians not tired of intrigues noted that since there was an Iraqi citizen as head of an Arab League institution (Dr.Abdel Al Al Sakban-Secretary General of the Economic Unity) then it will not be fair to have two Iraqis heading two most important institutions of the Arab League. Therefore , a compromise was made and it was decided to give the Presidency of the AAAID to Dr,Ibrahim Badran (an Egyptian). The story of the failure of AAAID during the term of Badran is known to every Sudanese. He just killed it to the size required by Egypt’s subtle policies. Late President Nimeiri had twice made very harsh comments on the performance of AAAID which was supposed to convert the Sudan into the granary of the Arab world. Unfortunately because of such Egyptian policies the granary remained empty. Why? The answer is very simple. Egypt does not want Sudan to become strong and politically influential in the Arab and African worlds through becoming strong economically by Arab money. Becoming strong economically means that Sudan will consume more Nile waters. The increased demand for Nile water must come, directly or indirectly on the account of Egypt as the share of other riparian countries are at minimum levels. This can be seen through trade off perspective. Egypt’s resistance in this case, proves that the agenda remain now as it was before. At no one time in history was Egypt keen to have a strong Sudanese backyard!!

The fourth issue is a recent product in the aftermath of the NBI in which Egypt appears to be defending the interest of Sudan in the Nile water issue, decided to decrease the cultivation of water thirsty crop such as Wheat, Rice etc. in Egypt and started sending its companies to grow such crops on Sudanese soil and irrigated through water allocated to Sudan and transport such products to Egypt because it is maintained that Egypt has a wider industrial base. This is similar to the case of Britain which grew Cotton in the Gezira and transported the raw Cotton to Lancashire textile mills!! What is the difference between British policy and this one?? Not only this but few weeks ago the Egyptian Minister of Irrigation declared that he was going to Sudan to see what kind of investments are being undertaken by Arab and other investors in the field of agriculture. One is surprised at this behaviour which is tantamount to interfering in the affairs of Sudan. This is so because Egypt is always worried of any development activity in Sudan lest it might be at the expense of the water allocated to Egypt.


* The 5th Century Greek philosopher described Egypt as the ," Gift of the Nile,".In fact Egypt and its civilization has been created by the Nile, to which it does not contribute even a cup of water and its waters originate thounsands of mile away from it in the shape of the Indian Ocean rains and rains from Equatorial Africa on which only God has control on and not the Egyptians or Egypt.A wise and rational person does not claim what is not his.

* As regards historical rights it must be made clear that such rights were designed and given to Egypt by some imperial powers who also had no right to give because it is not owned by them. Rights are usually a legal frame for something which is real i.e. human need etc. Which one should come first is it the legal frame or the real human need. The need come first and the law comes as a frame to specify and make clear the boundaries and rights of the contracting players. Therefore ,when human needs change it is implicit that the legal frame must be redesigned and renegotiated so that the contracting parties need not go into conflict especially if such need is water which God had given to be shared freely among all people.

* When the British and the Egyptians reconquered Sudan in 1898, the British pushed them to take and finance development of the Sudan as explained earlier, the intention was that since Egypt is neighbouring the Sudan at that time and since it is the Egyptian who will suffer any antagonism from Sudan as a neighbour that it should help in the pacification of that backyard so that Egypt shall remain safe. In return the British knowing how nostalgic the Egyptians were about the Nile and its water, guaranteed for them a gradual control over the Nile as reflected in the agreements mentioned even at the expense of ignoring other riparian countries. The British legacy when they left Africa, left behind so many time bombs in the colonies under their control from which a number of African countries are still suffering from until today. More so the Egyptians
were left to believe that Sudan was a real part of Egypt.

* Such development which had taken place by Egyptian loans and grants did create an infrastructure in which the Sudanese had no hand. However, it was imposed by the British so that Cotton continues to be produced for the sake of Britain’s mills and also safeguard any possible decline in the production levels in Egypt which were burdened by taxes. Moreover, these loans were repaid to Egypt. Such an action does not make of Sudan a backyard for Egypt. Moreover, if Egypt and not Britain was in control of Sudan such developments would have taken place, only in as far as securing the exploitation of the Sudan as conceived by Mohamad Ali Pasha .Many of present Sudan problems of unbalanced development and marginalization emanate from the infrastructure imposed on Sudan and financed by Egypt.

*When Sudan decided to declare its independence in 1956 from both Britain and Egypt ,the Egyptians were shocked and thought that the Sudanese political parties were so ungrateful to Egypt after they have done what they did of development in

the Sudan. From that day a sort of a very subtle vendetta started first by Nasir taking over Halaib Triangle as mentioned above. Since then Egypt tried to put all impediments in Sudan’s development as explained above.

* Last but not least it is often talked about that Sudan is the security of Egypt and that Egypt is the security of Sudan from the North. This seems to be a total myth since Egypt wants to secure water for itself from the South but always on account of the progressive developments in the Sudan that must need increasing quantities of water on account of Egypt whether directly or indirectly.

* After this narrative, what could Sudan do ? The answer to is very clear. Egypt, official Egypt never wished to have a strong neighbour in its backyard. Egypt has no confidence except in itself and has its own strategy which it executes in cold blood. There is no eternal brotherhood but eternal interests. The Sudanese on the other hand are usually shy and polite people according to their traditions. Two things in our habits we feel ashamed as Sudanese to talk about is food and water!! 63 % of the Nile goes through the Sudan, Sudan is rich in natural resources especially agriculture. Sudan has to cooperate with nieghbours whom it could trust and a strategy away from Egypt. As long as the relation between the Sudan goes along the present pattern Sudan will never, never be to have its independent development. It is something has to be resolved now and not tomorrow.

Professor Ali Abdalla Ali , Ahlia Omdurman University & Economic Advisor, Khartoum Stock Exchange. He can be reached at aliabdalla.abd@gmail.com.