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Sudan to hold joint war games with Egypt amid dispute over Nile dam project

Hamza Hendawi
May 22, 2021

Military branches from both nations will join forces this month

EGYPT UNREST SINAI
Egyptian army pick-up trucks and Humvees driving in the desert before it was announced joint war games will take place with Sudan later this month. AFP

Sudan’s military on Friday said it would hold war games with Egypt next week, the latest in a series of joint operations by the two allies that coincide with rising tension with Ethiopia over the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

A brief statement by the Sudanese armed forces on Friday said the May 26-31 war games will involve units from all branches of the military.

Participating Egyptian forces, it added, have already arrived by air and sea for the joint exercises, codenamed “Protectors of the Nile”.

Aerial war games held earlier this year between the two nations were code-named “Nile Eagles”.

The war games will take place as Ethiopia says it will go ahead with a second, much larger dam regardless of whether an agreement is reached with downstream Egypt and Sudan on the operation and filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

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Both Egypt and Sudan, which have forged close military ties in recent months, have warned Addis Ababa against taking unilateral action, with Khartoum arguing that, if not co-ordinated, the filling of the dam could put the lives of 20 million Sudanese, roughly half its population, at risk.

Sudan is also locked in a long-simmering border dispute with Ethiopia.

The dispute led to a series of deadly clashes when Sudanese troops moved late last year to wrest back control of a border enclave long settled by Ethiopian farmers and protected by loyal militiamen and federal troops.

Ethiopia has called on Sudan to pull back its troops and accused its military of stoking the border dispute for the benefit of a third party, a thinly veiled reference to Egypt. Cairo has repeatedly vowed to come to Sudan’s aid to “safeguard its territorial integrity”.

Egypt is worried the dam could significantly reduce its share of Nile River water, which provides more than 90 per cent of its fresh-water needs. It says such a reduction would wipe out hundreds of thousands of jobs and disrupt the delicate food balance for its 100 million people.

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“It is an existential issue to Egypt, which will not accept any harm to come to its water interests,” Egypt’s leader, Abdel Fatah El Sisi, told a senior US envoy in Cairo earlier this month.

Egypt and Sudan have for a decade been negotiating with Ethiopia over the dam but have failed to persuade it to enter a legally binding deal governing the operation of the dam as well as mechanisms for dealing with persistent drought or future disputes.

Ethiopia insists that guidelines should be sufficient. It has also rejected proposals made by Egypt and Sudan for a quartet comprising the US, EU, UN and African Union to mediate the dispute.

The dam, built less than 20 kilometres from the border with Sudan, is expected to generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity upon completion.

Ethiopia says the dam, which is 80 per cent complete, will lift millions of its people out of poverty and will be key to its future development.

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