Feb 27, 2004 10:42 am


No, you will not find this in the NYT. Inter African disputes ahve no place in it. You must go instead to the best window on the Arab world anywhere - Memri.

It would tell you Egypt, which rails against the legacy of Western Colonialism and American hegemonism, tries to threaten its African neigbors while privately spinning some more conspiracy theories. Here's a taste:

Egypt accuses"hidden fingers known to the Egyptian side [which] are openly inciting the traditional allies of Egypt in the Nile Basin to annul the agreement, arguing that it is incompatible with the population and political developments that have transpired in the last 75 years."(13) The anonymous senior Egyptian official who has made the allegation about the"hidden fingers" stressed that any change in the agreement was inconceivable and warned that"any infringement of the agreement would suggest that the African countries do not respect regional obligations."

Luckily, this is all unpleasant if not atypical bravado - Let us not forget that Nasser's Egypt, not Hussein's Iraq was the first country to use chemical weapons on fellow arabs in in Yemen.

The last and least likely alternative is to resort to the use of force to uphold Egypt's right to exercise the veto power on activities that it deems dangerous to its national interests. Egypt's saber rattling cannot be taken too seriously, certainly not by the African countries themselves. Indeed, as one Egypt daily pointed out,"the harsh language adopted by Abou Zeid ... might not be working..."(17) Not only does Egypt lack the military capacity to strike at countries two thousand miles outside its borders, but it will be hard pressed to justify a military action to enforce the provision of a 75-year old agreement concluded to satisfy colonialist considerations and priorities but dissatisfy the needs of the countries upstream. A Kenyan father of two, who owns eight ponds for fish farming, was quoted as saying:"If the Egyptians try to invade Kenya for the sake of its water we are ready to die for our rights. Kenya must forget the Nile agreement and return to the commercial consumption of the Lake Victoria Lake."

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