According to their history, geography, and Arab and Muslim identities, the relationship between Egypt and Sudan should be ideal on every level. Where else would ideal relationships exist? Where would they be, how would they be and what would their nature be? All of the past and current generations in these two countries were raised on this idea. It was in their curriculums throughout their various educational levels in Egypt and Sudan. In Egypt’s case, there was the “King of Egypt and Sudan”, while in Sudan, Egypt and Sudan are “one”. Here in Egypt, we grew up with the phrase, “our brothers in Sudan” and in Sudan they say “our brothers in Egypt”.
What has changed? What has happened? How has the situation between the two countries escalated to this level? I have always hoped that the differences and issues of contention between the two neighbouring countries remain contained within the official authority, on the negotiations table, in their discussions and in their meetings. However, the situation between the two neighbouring countries has reached the international corridors and circles and even reached the level of the masses. This is the most dangerous development in the relationship between the two neighbouring nations, which must be addressed immediately, even if the problems remain unresolved.
I do not know how the Halayeb and Shalateen crisis became public in this manner given the presence of a political leadership in both countries that should be aware of the significance of the relationship between the two neighbouring countries. Suddenly, we found ourselves facing a Sudanese action, heading to the UN, when it made a speech rejecting the agreement specifying the maritime borders between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, signed on 8 April 2016. They considered this agreement recognition of Egypt’s right to the Halayeb Triangle and Shalateen. Instead of Egypt addressing Sudan directly in order to contain the crisis, the Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman immediately wrote a letter to the UN rejecting Sudan’s actions.
The consecutive Sudanese and Egyptian measures confirm the fact that dialogue between the two countries has reached an impasse, and this should not be accepted by the people and shouldn’t have been accepted on the official level. However, this crisis in particular confirms that there are many crises that must be dealt with as soon as possible, including the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam crisis. This is because all indicators suggest that Sudan’s position has never been supportive of Egypt’s right to the Nile waters, or at least this is what the Egyptians believe. Furthermore, Egypt was forced to deal with this issue in isolation from coordination with Sudan most of the time since Sudan attempted to link this issue with the Halayeb and Shalateen issue, based on the popular idea of “I’ll let go if you let go”.
This negative development on the popular level between the two countries is strange and it confirms that there are shortcomings when it comes to the media’s performance in both countries. This has certainly resulted in political shortcomings. This is because those monitoring the public opinion in Sudan in particular will discover that there is great bitterness towards Egypt that has certainly not formed instantaneously. It is a product of years of media incitement, as well as media shortcomings and short-sightedness. This has reached the point of videos showing Sudanese citizens, or brothers, carrying weapons and stating there are willing to liberate Halayeb and Shalateen by force, blood and fire. It is as if they are referring to an historical enemy.
By looking at the social networking sites in particular, we will find that there is a misconception among the Sudanese brothers regarding the Renaissance Dam crisis. This is because they have received misleading information that was promoted on these sites and now they are repeating it all the time. This information says that Egypt’s issue with the Renaissance Dam is not the reduction in the amount of water that will reach it, but lies in the fact that this dam will regulate the water reaching Sudan, and stop it suffering problems such as flooding or droughts. This will allow Sudan to cultivate large areas of land through three agricultural cycles. This is troubling for Egypt, as Sudan will become a developed self-sufficient country.
Therefore, we must admit that we are facing a crisis of trust if such concerns are present in the minds of Sudanese officials. If this is the case, we are facing a serious problem that requires us to work on refuting them immediately and without hesitation. However, if these concerns are believed by the citizens there, as a result to being subjected to hostile media outlets, we must make every effort to address them, especially because they are complete lies and slander. First of all, we in Egypt want nothing more than to obtain our share in the Nile water in order not to cause harm to the Egyptian state, including the people, animals, agriculture and development in general.
Secondly, we in Egypt are aware that any positive development in Sudan is a positive development for Egypt; otherwise Egyptian official and popular investments would not see Sudan as having a bright future and would not head there.
The aforementioned facts and others push us to admit that there are mistakes in the relationship between the two countries that must be addressed and corrected before it is too late. We should base our actions on the idea that “Egypt and Sudan are one”.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 28 December 201
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.