For centuries, Egypt has sought to be Master of the Nile – seeking to tame the river’s unpredictable flow and ensure exclusive control over its use.
But today, countries upstream are challenging this dominance and pushing for a greater say and greater share of the River Nile.
“I know that some people in Egypt have old-fashioned ideas based on the assumption that the Nile water belongs to them and that Egypt has the right to decide … who gets what of the Nile water and that the upper riparian countries are unable to use the Nile water because they will be unstable and because they will be poor. These circumstances have changed and changed forever,” says Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian prime minister.
The first episode of the three-part series, Struggle Over the Nile, examines attitudes towards the river in a country where 95 percent of the population live along its banks and their fears that other Nile basin countries will challenge their historic control over its waters.
Hussam Swailam, a former Egyptian military general, says: “We are wholly dependent on the Nile. We have no other water sources. So, the truth is any threat against the Nile waters will result in the reduction of Egypt’s share. This would threaten us with thirst and death …. We don’t have hostile intentions against anyone. We don’t go to war just for the sake of fighting. But if someone is going to stop the water, Egypt will die of thirst. Then we will fight … with all means available.”