Egypt/Ethiopia – Muhammad Mursi, Egypt’s president, has stated that, “all options are open” regarding Ethiopia’s potential dam building on the Nile River. The Nile River is Egypt’s main fresh water source, and Egypt is currently suffering a major water shortage. President Mursi was also clear, however, to mention that he considered Ethiopia a friend and he has personally visited Ethiopia in the recent past. Egypt’s ruling government is facing a huge problem of growing dissent against its rule due to instability, poor security and a agonizing economy.
The crisis began on May 13, when Ethiopia diverted the flow of the Blue Nile; one of the Nile’s main sources to allow the construction of the dam. A ten member group from Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and other countries released a study on the impact of building the dam, which was startling for Egypt. 85% of Egypt’s water comes from Ethiopia. In the past, Egypt has threatened to go to war over its historic right to Nile waters.
On June 13, Egyptian political leaders suggested that it should be Egyptian policy to support Ethiopian rebels in order to halt construction of the dam. Egypt claims that its current water shortage will become worse when the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is completed in July 2017. Two of the main problems will be the dam filling to capacity, which will slow the flow of water to Egypt, and evaporation from the reservoir. This could be a huge problem and a threat to Egypt especially as it relies on water originating in Ethiopia. Any major fluctuation in Egypt’s water supply could cause a great crisis within Egypt and lead to a regional conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia.
In President Mursi’s speech there is an attempt to unite Egyptians on the issue of access to water from the Nile River, and the undertones in his speech of possible conflict with Ethiopia cannot be ignored. A public diversion such as the matter of a dam on the Nile River being built in Ethiopia may be seen as a way of alleviating public anger toward him and his Muslim Brotherhood party. Egypt also needs to safeguard its fresh water supply, and a potential Ethiopian-built dam would be an existential threat to the country.
Libya - On June 11, an Under Vehicle Improvised Explosive Device (UVIED) was found under a vehicle driven by two Italian nationals working at the Italian embassy in Tripoli. The two Italians in the vehicle were targeted, and after a short shopping trip in Tripoli, drove off and heard a noise under the car. They stopped and found the device. After informing the police, the UVIED was detonated in a controlled fashion. It is hard to say who is responsible for placing the explosive. The controlled blast of the UVIED was of low intensity, and the vehicle was not totally destroyed and is thought to be a home made device.
This incident shows that the two Italians probably set a pattern of movement and were subsequently targeted. The device was intended to maim or kill either the passenger or the driver. Security in Libya has been in decline since the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi, with constant clashes by militia groups and bomb attacks happening frequently. This is the second attack on an Italian diplomatic vehicle. The last known attack was on January 13, when unidentified gunmen fired on an Italian consul’s armored car as he returned from his residence.
Nigeria – On May 30, several press sources reported that a huge cache of arms had been discovered in northern Nigeria. Along with the weapons, three Lebanese nationals were arrested. The weapons included seventeen AK47 rifles, eleven anti-tank weapons, an RPG along with twenty-one rockets for the weapon, four anti-tank mines, two sub-machine guns, and seventy-six grenades. The authorities believe that the armory belonged to Hezbollah, but they are unsure who the receivers of the weapons were to be, although there are suggestions that they were for Boko Harem.
The three Lebanese suspects, Fauzi Fawaz, Abdullahi Tanini and Talal Roda, are all naturalized Nigerians. The “Nigerian News Report” states that a trend is emerging:
“A Ukrainian aircraft filled with weapons was impounded by security in July 2009. Similarly, an Iranian with a Nigerian accomplice was apprehended at Lagos airport a year later for importing thirteen containers of firearms, while fifteen Russians were arrested for importation of arms in October 2012.”
It is believed that the weapons were to be used against Israeli and Western interests, although no more specific information about where these targets were to be attacked has been given. In the February 28 361 Security Terrorism and Security Report, it was reported that on February 21, three members of an Iranian-backed militant cell had been arrested. Also, in the April 13 361 Security Terrorism and Security Report, it was reported that the Iranians arrested on February 21 were providing intelligence and support to a militant organization that was thought to be Boko Haram (BH).
It is possible that with other African nations tightening up their importation security procedures, Nigeria’s lack of border and transport security allows Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah to use Nigeria as a transit point for weapons for its operations on the African continent. Another theory is that the Iranians and Hezbollah are supporting BH. With the recent Nigerian security clampdown operation against BH, it is probable that these seized caches were either a supply of weapons that have not reached their destination yet, or that they may have been held in reserve and were to be sent to BH and to be used against Nigerian security forces. Nigeria must improve its security procedures for the importation of goods, and stop illegal weapons and ammunition from being bought into the country through a “legal” route such as a major airport.
Paul Ashley is the Senior Counter-Terrorist Analyst