The Resumption of Jonglei Canal Project: A Catastrophe for Current and Future Generations of South Sudan

The Jonglei Canal Project was one of the main issues that triggered the Second Sudanese Civil war between North and South in 1983. The deal was reached by Khartoum and Cairo to dig a large Canal known as Jonglei Canal on the River Nile to supply Egypt with abundant water for domestic use. The Southern Sudan led movement SPLM/A objected such project and disrupted it militarily. The project died out until Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed on January 09, 2005 paving the way for the formation of the New Republic of South Sudan on Saturday July 09, 2011.

Why Jonglei Canal was Objected?

The Southern Sudanese by then where having no government and were well aware that, Jonglei Canal was a suicide for our people, animals and a larger biodiversity. It was one of the tools used by Khartoum against Southerners to imposed serious human catastrophe and famine. It was a Project that guaranteed Egypt 95% control over the Nile water. Currently, there are more than ten (equal 12) Countries in Africa stakeholders of the Nile water. These Countries are called “The Nile Basin Countries” including: Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, D.R Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Chad. The Geographical size of these Countries, combined together is equal to 3,349,000 km2 or (1,293,000 square miles). The length of the River Nile is 6,695 km or (4,130 miles) long from Lake Victory in Uganda to Aswan in Egypt, making it the longest River in the World. 

The Sharing Agreements of the Nile Water 1929-2010.

There are four (04) Water Sharing Agreements (WSA) governing the use of Nile Water as hereunder.

01. The Nile Waters Agreement (NWA). This Agreement was signed on 9th May 1929 between British Colonial Masters on the use of Nile water by Egypt for development. This Agreement is also known as “The Egyptian Gazette” signed between Lord Lloyd, the British High Commissioner and Muhammed Mahmoud Pasha, the President of the Egyptian Council of Ministers. The Agreement recognizes on one hand that, Sudan needs more water of the Nile and on the other hand, gave Egypt the Historical Rights over the Nile Water.

02. Egypt-Sudan Agreement on the Nile Waters (ANW). The Sudan and Egypt signed an Agreement on the full utilization of the Nile Water by Egypt in 1959. The agreement determined 84 billion cubic meters of the Nile water measured should be flowing to Aswan High Dam in Egypt regularly. That was the quantity and average annual flow of the Nile water agreed by Sudan and Egypt in 1959.

03. The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). This Agreement was signed on 22nd February 1999 by the Ministers of Water Affairs of the ten (10) Countries that includes: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Eritrea. The objective was to achieve sustainable socioeconomic development through equitable utilization of the common Nile Basin water resources.

04. Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA). This Agreement was signed on May 10, 2010 by the five (05) upstream Countries to seek more water from the River Nile. Although Sudan and Egypt strongly opposed the move and abstain from signing the CFA, five (05) Countries includes: Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania signed the CFA with Burundi signing CFA a year later on February 2011 topping the list to six (06) Countries. The upstream countries who signed the CFA, cited that, they were “tired of first getting permission from Egypt before using River Nile Water for any development Project like “irrigation”, as required by a treaty signed during the colonial era between Egypt and Britain in 1929.

Disputes over the Nile Water, the case of Egypt and Ethiopia.

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project (GERDP). On April 02, 2011, Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian Prime Minister by then, laid the foundation for the construction of the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam. The dam is located on the Blue Nile, in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region of the Country. Following the news of GERDP, the Egyptian Authorities in Cairo immediately began to accuse Ethiopia of violating Egypt’s water needs. Therefore, Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi, angrily stated that while he was not “calling for war” with Ethiopia, “Egypt’s water security cannot be violated at all,” thus, “all options are open,” and that Egyptians would not accept any projects on the Nile River that threatened their livelihood. In March, 2015, Ethiopia and Egypt reached a deadlock on the construction of Ethiopians Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile with Sudan playing intermediary roles between them calling colonial Agreements on Nile Water are “Unsustainable”. Ethiopia took decision to complete the construction of GERDP and filled it before internal war erupted between Federal government and Tigary Region on the 3rd November 2020.

Reactions of Nile Basin Countries against 1929 and 1959 Water Agreements for Egypt. 

The twelve (12) Riparian States of the River Nile includes: Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, D.R Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Chad. Egypt, Sudan and South Sudan are downstream Riparian States. South Sudan, however, repeatedly indicated that, it does not recognize the 1959 bilateral agreement between Egypt and Sudan. Sudan called the 1929 British colonial Agreement as “Unsustainable ” and the nine (09) Upstream Nile Basin Member States, also the primary signatories of CFA said, “they were tired of first getting permission from Egypt before using River Nile Water for any development Project like “irrigation”, as required by a treaty signed during the colonial era between Egypt and Britain in 1929. 


Therefore, River Nile signifies life to every member State as water needs on domestic use, development, transport, Wildlife and other socio-economic activities directly depends on it. As South Sudanese people, we are not in position of depriving citizens of any Country rights to water access on the Nile nor citizens of other countries depriving us rights to use water of the Nile. About 85% of South Sudanese populations are pastoralists depending on small scale Agricultural scheme and livestock. In my own view, resumption of Jonglei Canal Project would mean slaughtering of our civil populations. We urge our government to listen to the voices of its citizens that are viral on social media widely condemning and opposing the Construction of Jonglei Canal Project. 

We cordially advice the concern Authorities, especially, His Excellency, the President, Salva Kiir Mayardit to revisit the plan distance himself from effecting this project in efforts of protecting lives of millions of people, ensure environmental safety and larger biodiversity. If Authorities fails to acknowledge the views and opinions of the South Sudanese Citizens and decide to continue with the project, that would be very harmful to our seasonal rivers and Sudd swarms as they will permanently dry up and degrades. If the current generation is not, then, the next coming generations are going to be water conscious. The quotation from Dr. John Garang de Mabior. “After we are done with this war and achieve the hard-won Independence, many of you will use Pangas to cut the large pieces of land that worth millions of Dollars and sell it cheaply for a piece of bread and a bottle of beer”, I’m telling you the truth, he said”.

About the Author,

Ariik Kuol Ariik Mawien, 

He holds Post Graduate Diploma in Rural Development and Community Studies (2018/2019) and Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Economics (2013-2017) from Rumbek University of Science and Technology (RUST). Works as Journalist and Opinion Writer in many occasions. He works in accordance to National and Media Authority Laws, Rules and Regulations throughout his Service. He observes standards of journalism with high Degree of neutrality, impartiality, integrity, professionalism and balanced information. He can be reached via contacts below: 

Juba, Central Equatoria State

Twitter: @AriikKuolAriik 

Skype/WhatsApp: +211 (0) 923 650 380

Cell Phone: +211 (0) 928 187 790.

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