Egypt announced Sunday that it will hand the Government of Southern Sudan 300 million USD tagged for water and electricity infrastructure projects, quite a handsome sum I suppose for a country greatly dependent on US aid.
As a regional super-power and Sudan’s big brother Egypt has lost considerable prestige and influence over the years. Compared to the heyday of Egyptian involvement in Africa, in particular the brotherly support provided by Nasser’s state to liberation movements across the continent and the organic veto over Sudanese affairs um al-dnya (mother of the world) has compromised a lot of its past posture. Once an ambitious empire, although technically under mandate, and able to stretch a long military arm upstream to the sources of the Nile Egypt now is scuffling to overcome an East African power bloc intent on doing away with the colonial agreements that determine Egypt’s share of the Nile waters. The Egyptian nervousness regarding emerging East African economic powerhouses anxious to increase their cut of the Nile’s agricultural and hydroelectric potential is not hard to explain considering its ultimate dependency on the river. However its failure to grasp the blow of geo-political winds around it is not.
Regarding Sudan, it has lost out to a host of politically more acute competitors, regionally to the IGAD councillors in the case of the North-South re-configuration, and to Libya and Qatar in the case of Darfur. Apart from the regular exchange between presidential palaces in Cairo and Khartoum the country awash with Sudanese refugees, dissidents, businessmen, shoppers, and tourists has largely failed in re-inventing its organic connection with its Southern ‘hinterland’. Instead of an Egyptian arbitrator it is now almost always an American viceroy who decides on the what and how of Sudanese dilemmas.
Faced with the expected secession of Southern Sudan, a development that runs contrary to mainstream notions of Khartoum/Cairo geo-strategic security, Egypt can only dig deeper into its pockets and cash up to win favour with the proto-state already integrated into the East African market and largely committed to fraternal solidarity with its stronger neighbours. In frank terms Egypt’s obsessive bargain on SAF to secure its interests upstream has proved to be a knock-down misjudgement. It long supported Numayri even in his delusions; and post-Turabi it cushioned up to Bashir and Co sure of their strong military hand. Well, both did not deliver, Numayri landed in Cairo a president without a country, and Bashir may well deliver a nightmare to Egypt, i.e. a new state on the Nile, supplanting its fantasy of military rule.