The 1959 Unfair Agreement
Before Sudan was pushed into accepting the 1959 Nile water unfair agreement that took place
even without the prior consultation of Ethiopia which supplied the main Nile with no less than 86% of the waters of the Blue Nile, many important happenings took place. The first one was that Sudan’s political parties decided in 1955 to go for full independence from both Britain and Egypt. Since Sudan was jointly governed by both Britain and Egypt, and solely by Britain after 1924, it had the choice of either joining Egypt in a form of union or join the British Commonwealth. The decision which was declared from inside the Parliament by late Ismail Al Azhari, the then PM. This was the first sudden blow to the Egyptians who were hoping that Sudan will join with Egypt.(Thanks to Allah it did not happen.)This had created considerable grievances on the part of Egypt and the Egyptians since they were brought up to believe that Sudan was part of Egypt and that Egypt is the Gift of the Nile. In fact they had some right because most of the infrastructure that was carried out in Sudan before independence was largely financed by Egyptian financial resources drawn from the Egyptian taxpayers (see Makkawi Mustafa). This is quite true. However, it must not be forgotten that Egypt was strictly under British domination. So the decision to use Egyptian financial resources was not in the hands of the Egyptians. Moreover, these funds were considered as loans (maonat-assistance) and were repaid by Sudan to Egypt by the time of independence. If it were for Egypt to spend such funds, it would not have done so for sure since Sudan was always considered by many Egyptians as its backyard which was not destined to be developed!!.
The second point relates to some sort of distrust of late Nasser as regards the government of late PM Abdalla Khalil, because the Americans through the World Bank started helping Sudan in the field of agriculture-Managil as well as Sudan railways. In addition to that Nasser had his mistrust that the Sudan being in good relation with USA might allow USA to establish military bases in Sudan and be able to harass Egypt from its Southern borders. Thus Nasser decided to enter Halaib Triangle during Khalil’s reign. Being the ruling PM he called for a press conference on the evening of 17th February in his office for a very serious national crisis. He stated that there are some serious news that Egypt claims Sudanese lands (Halaib) which were accepted by all-countries- including Egypt that these lands were an integral part of the Republic of Sudan when Sudan’s independence was declared in the UN in January 1956.He added that since the last 56 years these lands (meaning Halaib) were administered by Sudan without least claims by Egypt on such lands.(see for more details , Ali Abdalla Ali-Halaib 1958-How the Crisis started and How it was Resolved-translation-Currency Printing Co.-second edition 2008). Egypt had to decline when the issue was tabled in the Security Council. Nasser feeling that Egypt shall lose , had to give in because all the members of the UN stood behind Sudan’s legitimate right on Halaib. Moreover, all the Sudanese people stood as one man behind Khalil’s government!! This had a scared the Egyptian public. Nasser stated in a speech made in Damascus, that the United Arab Republic (Egypt and Syria) shall collaborate with Sudan against colonialism and common enemy and then added ,”we support the Sudanese people from all our hearts and shall work together against any invasion.”!!!!!
In November of the same year (1958) Khalil handed over the government to the military headed by General Abboud in a preemptive step against any possible foreign intervention. Some indicated to the notion that Nasser being distrustful of Khalil who seemed supported by USA planned to change Khalil’s government?? The new government headed by General Abboud continued its good relations with every country including Egypt. By that time Egypt decided to build the Aswan High Dam (AHD) and had to negotiate the matter with the new government of General Abboud since the AHD will by necessity submerge the town of Wadi Halfa and a greater part of the lower reaches of the Nile thus creating what is now known as Lake Nasser. Negotiations started with Sudan’s delegation in order to agree on the cost of resettlement of the people of Wadi Halfa. They were to be resettled in Eastern Sudan. Negotiations on the part of the Sudanese side stood at Pound 15 millions which was not acceptable to the Sudanese side. The head of the delegation had to fly to Khartoum in order to consult with General Abboud. General Abboud in the usual Sudanese generosity asked the head of the delegation to accept and sign the agreement. The head of the delegation returned to Cairo and signed the unfair agreement without discussing with the technical delegation. It was an order. The agreement was not only unfair on the financial side but also unfair on the size of the Nile waters agreed upon. Egypt had to take 55 b.c.m. of water and the Sudan allocated only 18.5 b.c.m. of water, a country that had about 200 million feddans of land. This unfair agreement had greatly disappointed the Sudanese people and greatly limited Sudanese policy-makers ability and vision about future development of the Sudan. The AHD was constructed with the assistance of the Soviet Union at that time because the World Bank refused to finance the project. Wadi Halfa was totally submerged by Lake Nasser .The Lake also buried with it an ancient civilization under its waters. As for the people of Wadi Halfa moving to a totally different geographical terrain became a real nightmare for them and their families.
In a conference which was held in Cairo in 2004 re the Nile waters, the writer of this column asked an Egyptian Engineer a hypothetical question as to what would have happened if Almighty Allah chose for the Nile to flow from the Mediterranean to the Sudan. The engineer made a subtle laugh and said swearing by the Prophet Mohamed (saas) that the Sudanese would not have hoped to get one glass of the Nile water !!! No comment !!