Egypt’s border security: Sudan, the Renaissance Dam and regional challenges
Renaissance Dam - REUTERS

CAIRO: Egypt’s southern borders have continuously been the source of unease for Egyptians, on both the security and political levels.

Many observers have stressed the need for increasing cooperation with Sudan to protect the borders that potentially pose a serious threat against security on one hand, and could pave the way for restoring Egypt’s influence in Africa on the diplomatic and political scale, on the other.

Amany Al-Taweel, an expert in the African affairs at the A-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, noted that the relations with Sudan witnessed notable deterioration since the June 30 demonstrations. She added that the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi sharply affected the positions adopted by Sudan’s government towards many issues related to Egypt.

Regarding the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Taweel told The Cairo Post, “Sudan is a partner to Egypt, and as such their role during the current crisis with Ethiopia should not be neutral.”

She stated that the change of the Sudanese position towards the issue came as a result of the Ethiopian flexibility in dealing with the border differences between the two countries, referring to Ethiopia’s ceding of disputed territory to Sudan in exchange for a more supportive stance on the Dam. She added that Ethiopia promised to provide Sudan with cheap electricity after the construction of the dam.

However, Dr. Abdel-Rahman Ibrahim, Deputy Media Advisor in the Sudanese Embassy in Egypt, said in a statement to The Cairo Post that Sudan enjoys cordial relations with Egypt, pointing to the recent visits conducted by a number of Sudanese officials to Egypt recently. He said that the visits came to pave the way for restoring the historic relations between the two countries.

Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karty visited Egypt on Thursday, weeks after the visit conducted by Sudan’s Minister of Defense Abdel-Reheim Hussein. The Sudanese Foreign Minister expressed his country’s readiness to mediate between Egypt and Ethiopia to resolve the current crisis of the Renaissance Dam.

Ibrahim stressed the need for reaching a compromise on this issue. He said that Sudan has common interests with both Egypt and Ethiopia, adding that it should maintain its relations with the two countries.

Hany Raslan, another political expert in the African affairs, previously stated to The Cairo Post that Sudan’s political stance aims to protect the ruling regime of President Omar Al-Bashir. Accordingly, he pointed to the Ethiopian influence in the internal conflicts witnessed in Sudan as the main reason behind the change witnessed in the Sudanese position.

Regarding Sudan’s position in relation to the 1959 Egypt Sudan Nile Water Agreement, the Sudanese official said, “The priority now is to reach a compromise to ensure Egypt’s historic right to the Nile water on one hand and Ethiopia’s right to achieve development on the other hand.”

The treaty was signed between Egypt and Sudan in November 1959. According to the treaty, Egypt is entitled to 55.5 billion cubic meters annually of the Nile Water, while Sudan is entitled to 18.5 billion cubic meters.

On the other hand, he described the incidents witnessed in the borders as individual cases, adding that it is difficult for the authorities of the two countries to control them. He added that the two countries will form a joint security and military delegation to secure the borders.

“Sudan looks forward to a direct Egyptian role in the current internal conflicts witnessed in Sudan. Egypt could perform a major role in this regard to avoid the negative repercussions of these conflicts on its national security and to restore its influence in Africa as whole,” he continued.

Yet, former Minister of Irrigation Mohamed Nasr Al-Din Allam stated that relations with Sudan are still strained despite the visits. He strongly condemned the initiative submitted by Sudan’s Foreign Minister to mediate between Egypt and Ethiopia to resolve the crisis of the Renaissance Dam. He described this initiative as a violation of Sudan’s commitments to the 1959 Agreement.

He continued, in a statement to The Cairo Post, that the matter is not limited to the crisis of the Ethiopian Dam; it extends to other issues, including the border differences in the cities of Halayeb and Shalateen.

“Sudan’s government raises the border differences with Egypt, while it neglects to address its internal conflicts and the demands of separation witnessed in different areas in the country.”

The former official stressed the need for restoring Egypt’s influence in Sudan, in order to prevent other powers from using the internal conflicts in the country as a winning card at the expense of Egypt’s interests. He added that he submitted a proposal in 2010 to form a confederation or economic integration between Egypt, Sudan and South Sudan to protect their common interests.

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