Will increased rhetoric over control of the Blue Nile’s critical water resource lead to eventual conflict?
The twenty-first African Union (AU) Summit was held in Ethiopia’s capital between 19 – 27 May 2013. The event has based itself in Addis Ababa since 1963 because of its regional and continental role. Ethiopia also benefits from the perception across Africa that the state has institutional stability and a history of successfully repelling colonial occupations. Ethiopia may possibly feel that the gravitas this event affords can enable it to push forward with a grander and further reaching foreign policy including its plans for the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERM) project; despite the fact the GERM project will attract the significant ire of Cairo. A day after the AU Summit ended, Ethiopian authorities formally began to divert a stretch of the Blue Nile in preparation to construct a 6, 000-megawatt hydroelectric dam and power plant. The move caused instant controversy with nations downstream of the Nile, such as Sudan and its larger northern neighbour and regional barometer Egypt. Egypt has chosen to be the most vocal opponent. Although the plans for the GERM have been known for several months as part of a US$12 billion investment project to boost power exports, the political sensitivities around Ethiopia’s agreement to put the GERM project into action still remain. The GERM project has the potential to continue to raise regional tensions. Talk of all out war between the neighbours in the short term has even begun.
The thirteen-tonne bunker-busting bomb recently developed by the US could be the game changer in Middle Eastern politics. In a region stalked by bloody sectarian wars and the constant threat of future conflicts, military developments can be crucial. The diplomatic cables leaked in 2010 showed that central to almost every international discussion was the question of Iranian nuclear proliferation. With the elections commencing on 14 June 2013, time is running out for the US and Israel to act.
(Note: This is part two in a series that analyses the risk of kidnaps in Libya)
When undertaking an operation as ambitious as physically rooting out wayward militias in Libya, a few ‘security snags’ are expected to pop up along the way.
Indeed, as the Maghreb nation’s government-backed forces remain entrenched in their campaign to expunge armed groups in the capital under the rather unimaginatively titled “Operation Tripoli”, authorities have also simultaneously noted a rise in criminal activity, especially the hostage-taking kind. This has led to assumptions that – in addition to a rise in general reporting from an increasingly confident national police force – the growth of kidnaps as of late could also stem from the intensification of government’s ‘anti-militia’ operations. In other words, these rogue militias, angered by the perception that the world may actually be caving in around them, could be resorting to retaliatory acts of abduction in a last ditch effort to cement their power.
CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE CONTINUES TO SPREAD: NILE DELTA TO CAIRO AHEAD OF 09 MARCH 2013 COURT DATE
“The air still stings from gas but brief calm. Rocks teas gas cartridges + canisters litter area” a tweet posted by a foreign journalist in Port Said at 1000hrs (local) recorded on 08 March 2013. The tweet followed the injury of fifty-four people and the death of a thirty-three year old local resident, Karim Atout, the previous evening, during clashes between locals and Green Eagle ‘Ultra’ fans of the local Port Said football team against the Central Security Forces. Atout became the seventh person to be killed during the past week in the northern restive city (three security officials and four civilians) as reports emerge that the vilified police, and its commanding officers in the Interior Ministry, are attempting to negotiate a truce with the ‘Ultras’ in the city through the defacto ‘ultra’ head Ali Spicy; something which is not expected to yield positive results for either side. Emerging reports at the time of writing may also suggest that most police have left Martyr’s Square in the city after an announcement was made by the Army that it would occupy the Security Directorate building. Twitpics from the area suggest some soldiers assisted protesters to remove a Ministry of Interior flag from the building, whilst others showed some demonstrators mounting tanks and chanting “one hand” in unity with the army.
For the past six days youths wearing surgical masks, dressed in black clad with scarves and hoodies have thrown stones and Molotov cocktails at police lines. They have responded with teargas and stun grenade rounds into streets strewn with rubbish and debris. The primary focus of activism continues to centre around the Port Said Security Directorate building, the al Raswa Customs Port Authority and the Port Said-Ismailia Road. Local businesses and government buildings remain closed as part of a rolling city-wide shutdown. On 07 March 2013, security officials declared that they were increasing protection of the central prison and Suez Canal Authority offices in the days ahead following clashes which prevented some staff of a Suez Canal container company from going to work, however the Suez Canal remains operational.
Over the last two years, under the umbrella of the ‘Arab Spring’, uprisings have coursed through the MENA region and have drastically altered its political landscape. After decades of authoritarian rule, the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen have all been forced from power, allowing for the introduction of more democratic institutional structures in the respective countries. Meanwhile, Syria continues to face protracted civil resistance as opposition to the regime of President al Assad has plunged the country into a civil war. Whilst the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council have not been left unscathed, they have proven comparatively resilient to the turbulent train of events that has shaken the Arab world since January 2011. With only Bahrain having experienced large-scale protests, the stability and survival of the current monarchic rulers at first glance appears unthreatened. Closer examinations, however, reveal emerging cracks beneath the surface as the economic and political pillars upon which the GCC states have rested are encountering mounting pressures.
Egypt remains beset with a deepening domestic political rifts and an escalating wave of violence following mass protest actions since the evening of 24 January 2013. At least sixty Egyptians have died in clashes with security forces over the last few days, and more than 1,400 have been injured. 178 “rioters” have also been arrested according the security sources. The most reputable figures allege that five have been killed in Cairo, forty-five in Port Said (including two police officers), and ten in Suez. The three canal cities of Port Said, Suez and Ismailia were declared under a State of Emergency (SoE) for a thirty day period on 27 January 2013. Although Morsi is now in Europe meeting with German Chancellor Merkel on 30 January 2013, and has delegated powers to provincial governors in the three cities to ease SoE procedures if they deem fit, in his absence, a curfew between 2100 – 0600hrs remains the norm. Protests however have not been dissuaded from occurring which have to date manifested themselves in open defiance of the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and have seen as cacophony of horns, colour and chants via balaclava clad youths wearing t-shirts with slogans such as “We Will Stand and We Will Fight”. Particular venom remains reserved for the recent political moves made by President Morsi which has also manifested itself in the creation of a new anarchic political movement known elsewhere in the world as the ‘Black Bloc’. However, it is still unclear to what extent the ‘Black Bloc’ has played a role in any of the violent incidents reported over the past few days, or if they are actually armed.