Novelist. Author of APSARAS and tales from the beautiful Saigh Valley. First person to quantify spiritual values.

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Tuesday 8 February 2011


The riots in Egypt have calmed as president Hosni Mubarak seeks to have talks with opposition groups ahead of fresh elections in September.
Mubarak has rightly in my opinion not listened to the siren voices of the west calling on him to expedite an early transition to a new, more democratic regime. He is going to do it his way which will be in the best interest of the Nation of Egypt, which does not always  mean the appeasement of the people. This will almost certainly mean that he will not listen too closely to the mob. Of course he has made mistakes; the country apparently is still under a state of emergency introduced decades ago, enabling him to rule with the iron fist of the army, one of the largest in the world. However it has enabled him to give his people over thirty years of peace in a region of massive unrest. This legacy is not to be underestimated.
One of the major criticisms of the regime is the rising cost of food. Egypt's history is about the cultivation of food along the rich Nile Valley and the annual inundation that fertilizes the river banks. With a population of over 80 million people and growing, the demand for food has never been greater at a time when all the other countries of Africa are struggling. And this is the point; at some time in the near future, Egypt might have to go to war to protect its water rights when upper Nile countries want to abstract more of the life giving water. The last thing it wants is to fight Israel on another front, stretching its army to bursting point.

In August 2009, for the Reader newspaper I wrote an article about Egypt's water problems.

Examples of the problems include the Jordan valley where water levels in Lake Galilee have fallen dramatically, and the building of the new Merowe dam in Sudan, disrupting the annual Nile flood in Egypt. Around the world, rising populations and land usage for agriculture will place ever greater demands on water supply. In Israel, if levels in Lake Galilee fall further, the waters might become salt contaminated sparking conflict with Judan and Syria.

Since 1929,a British brokered 'Colonial' agreement gave Egypt rights to the waters of the Nile. This was reinforced in 1959 when Sudan was also given rights, but restricted abstraction by the upstream states. Now Ethiopia, Uganda and others are challenging the accord as being out of step with the modern reality. The problem for Egypt is that it has no alternative water supply; unlike the UK for example it has no rainfall. Therefore, although a Nile Basin Initiative was set up to reach agreement between all the interested countries, no agreement has been reached. This should come as no surprise because the Egyptians cannot afford to step back from their current position. Already, reduced flood waters have meant no new silt deposits, so that for the first time in 5000 years of Egyptian civilization, farmers are having to use fertilizers, forcing up the costs of food production and therefore prices.

With the population of the nations that share the Nile expected to rise from 300 million to 600 million in the next 25 years, some commentators suggest that Egypt will have no other viable option but to fight for its water.

This said, it is no time for the Nation of Egypt to be weak. It does not need to give more power  to the people. Yes, listen to their grievences and act reasonably but the Government cannot afford to reduce the grip on those trying to undermine the country for religious or other ideological reasons.

Hosni Mubarak has reportedly amassed a personal fortune of over 20 billion dollars. This is worrisome because it suggests he hasn't only had the people of Egypt's interests at heart and a truly great leader would not be thinking of himself at all.

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