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Briefing 78 / Europe & Central Asia

塔吉克斯坦预警:内部压力和外部威胁

塔吉克斯坦如今正处于危险的重负之下——因其受暴力、腐败和经济困难所扰,苦其与阿富汗边境之漫长而不安全。拉赫蒙总统的专制破坏了1997年签署的和平协议,并助长了境内伊斯兰激进主义的发展。随着其国家愈加脆弱、且或波及周边列国,塔吉克斯坦应成为冲突预防中的优先对象。

概述

塔吉克斯坦数中亚贫困之最;于内于外,它都面临着巨大的压力。埃莫马利•拉赫蒙总统23年以来的统治充满了暴戾、问责制的缺失、腐败和大规模的移民返乡。劳工转汇和贩毒是国家收入的主要来源。他对宗教和反对派的控制——包括禁止温和的塔吉克斯坦伊斯兰复兴党(IRPT)——则助长了民怨。塔吉克斯坦与阿富汗所接壤的边境线长达1400公里,而沿线的安全即使在在最佳时期也难以保持一致;此外,阿富汗北部局势日益不稳,且中亚武装分子在此地和塔利班结盟,并对塔吉克斯坦、吉尔吉斯斯坦和乌兹别克斯坦造成了新的威胁。俄罗斯对塔吉克斯坦的支持是区域安全的一个重要组成部分,但莫斯科方面对塔吉克斯坦内部反对拉赫蒙一事则愈感担忧。欧盟和美国对塔吉克斯坦政府的影响甚微,但欧美、俄罗斯以及其他的国家却都应对拉赫蒙的领导方向、国家失败的风险和伊斯兰极端分子乘机而入的可能性保持警惕。

1997年的和平协议仅是掩盖了——但并为解决——其残酷内战后产生的紧张局面;而这一协议亦正在被瓦解。和平协议的核心是让伊斯兰复兴党能在议会中代表战争反对派,然而在2015年3月那场充斥着违规的选举后,拉赫蒙剥夺了该党的议会席位;同年8月拉赫蒙禁止了其参会权;并于9月宣布伊斯兰复兴党为恐怖主义组织。伊斯兰复兴党的命运和该国对宗教表达的限制都充满体现了塔吉克斯坦对政治多元化的蔑视。腐败和任人唯亲之行径四处蔓延,而这似乎在向伊斯兰主义者和世俗公民传递着一个信息:任何试图挑战拉赫蒙的政治进程都会被终止。

2016年5月,时任特警部队头领的Gulmurod Khalimov将军投诚了叙利亚的伊斯兰国(IS);他的叛变则揭露了安全部队精英内部的分裂,也暗示着拉赫蒙可能不再知道谁才值得被信任;同时这也反映了伊斯兰中暴力激进教派在塔吉克斯坦境内与日俱增的吸引力。拉赫蒙总统对此的回应主要是谈论他劫后余生之想,而非试图扭转民众对政府已在政治上和道德上破产的看法。

塔吉克斯坦的经济已陷入瘫痪,而俄罗斯的经济低迷更是雪上加霜;这是因为劳工汇款占塔吉克斯坦国内生产总值的40%以上,与此同时,在2015年,有三十至四十万劳工因就业难而返回故土。然而,如此恶劣的经济环境实则基本上是由政府一手所致:多年的地方性腐败榨干了当地企业,发展援助所产生的影响亦是寥寥无几。同时,来自阿富汗的毒品走私日益增多。尽管塔吉克斯坦获得了来自俄罗斯、欧盟和美国的资助和技术援助,其边境安全问题仍充满不确定性;这则一方面是出于塔吉克斯坦多山的地理环境,而另一方面则是因为非法贸易已腐蚀了塔吉克斯坦的安全结构。

鉴于其存在的问题,塔吉克斯坦应当被国际社会列为冲突预防的优先对象。尽管务实性对策应将重点放在防止进一步的压制、并鼓励在2020年拉赫蒙任期结束之时进行有序的政权交接之上,但在考虑政策之时,国际社会也应将塔吉克斯坦将持续暴戾——且其视正规政治进程于无物的——独裁制度的风险考虑在内。在经济危机和政治停滞的压力下,国家力量会被进一步削弱;这或许对边界问题的影响不大,但国家于内于外的脆弱或会导致不稳定,并最终对边界问题产生影响。边界安全薄弱使得塔吉克斯坦沦为伊斯兰武装分子夺取中亚其他地区的中转站。乌兹别克斯坦边境实力虽比较强大,但与吉尔吉斯斯坦相比则又显得薄弱。

对俄罗斯、由莫斯科领导的集体安全条约组织(CSTO)中的其他成员国,和中国——其不安宁的新疆省与塔吉克斯坦接壤,且长达414公里——而言,无论何种成因导致的塔吉克斯坦国家失败都将是个头疼的麻烦。集体安全条约组织的成员国身份以及俄罗斯在塔吉克斯坦的驻军都可被视为对入侵的威慑力量,然而集体安全条约组织却尚未能经实战考验。乌兹别克斯坦、吉尔吉斯斯坦和哈萨克斯坦,在维护塔吉克斯坦的和平与安全方面,都有着明确的利益,它们应优先保护各自与塔吉克斯坦接壤处的安全,而非仅仅关注塔阿边界的问题。

俄罗斯、欧盟和美国应当为增进边界和平提供支持。在参与该地区政治——包括正式的安全和人权对话框架——的过程中,欧盟及其成员国和华盛顿都应强调政治压迫、侵犯人权和长期不稳定性之间的紧密关系。俄罗斯、联合国和其他助力达成1997年和平协议的国家——包括美国和伊朗在内,则都应督促拉赫蒙为维持可持续稳定而遵守原则。否则,在北阿富汗和伊斯兰武装力量的煽动下,塔吉克斯坦和国际社会都将无力阻止昨日区域纷争的重现。

比什凯克/布鲁塞尔,2016年1月11日

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir take part in a tripartite summit regarding a dam on the Nile River, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 10 February 2019. AFP/ANADOLU AGENCY/Handout /Presidency of Egypt
Commentary / Africa

Calming the Choppy Nile Dam Talks

Egypt and Ethiopia are exchanging harsh words over the dam the latter is building on the Blue Nile. At issue is how fast the Horn nation will fill its reservoir once construction is complete. The two countries’ leaders should cool the rhetoric and seek compromise.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed are set to meet on the margins of an ongoing two-day Russia-Africa summit in Sochi in an effort to ease tensions over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Ethiopia is building the dam on the main tributary of the Nile, and Egypt fears that the project will imperil its water supply.

Experts from those two nations and Sudan, the third country directly involved, had neared a technical consensus last year on how fast Ethiopia would fill the dam’s reservoir. But the past few months have seen Addis Ababa and Cairo move further apart amid feisty exchanges of rhetoric. Experts made little progress at their latest meeting this month in Khartoum.

There are still reasons to think a deal can be struck. First, however, the two leaders need to reiterate at Sochi their intention to cooperate over the GERD, so as to create an atmosphere conducive to agreement on filling and operating what will be the continent’s largest hydropower plant.

The background

Ethiopia began building the GERD on the Blue Nile River in 2010. Meles Zenawi, then Ethiopia’s leader, argued that the dam was critical to the country’s development efforts and would benefit the whole region. He said nearby states, including Egypt, would gain from purchasing the cheap electricity Ethiopia intends the dam to produce.

The scheme alarmed Cairo. Egypt claims “historical rights” over the Nile, stemming from treaties to which upstream countries, with the exception of Sudan, were not party. Most of those treaties date to the colonial era; the latest, a 1959 Egypt-Sudan pact, apportioned all 84 billion cubic meters of the Nile’s waters between Egypt (then the United Arab Republic), Sudan and evaporation. Egypt still bases its supply on the 55.5 billion cubic meters agreed upon in 1959 but it is estimated to use more than that as Sudan does not use its full allocation.

Egypt is especially vulnerable to reductions in Nile flows.

Egypt is especially vulnerable to reductions in Nile flows. It relies on the river for about 90 per cent of its water needs. Abdullatif Khalid, head of the irrigation sector, said recently that “drinking water is consuming 11 billion cubic meters. … Industrial usage consumes 8 billion cubic meters, and the rest is distributed to agriculture”. Egypt also relies on the Nile to generate about a tenth of its power, particularly from its High Dam at Aswan. Egypt characterises the status of the Nile as a life-and-death matter. It fears the loss of Egyptian influence and control over upper Nile states that Ethiopia’s unilateral project represents. It also worries that acceding to Ethiopia over the GERD could pave the way for other major hydropower and irrigation projects by upstream Nile nations.

Ethiopian officials portray such concerns as quasi-imperialist. “The struggle is between a country which wants to ensure equitable and reasonable utilisation and another which wants to maintain a colonial-era treaty of injustice and unfairness”, said one Ethiopian diplomat. A statement from the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry blamed Egypt for acting as a spoiler at this month’s Khartoum talks. Ethiopian officials argue that Egypt built the Aswan dam in a bid to drive its own economic growth but that Cairo has since used its international influence to prevent upstream Nile development. They portray Ethiopia’s eventual decision to construct the GERD as an effort to redress a historic imbalance and as a last resort after Egypt refusal to cooperate over the basin.

Forging an initial filling deal could increase trust among the parties, which is all the more important given the threat posed by rising temperatures in the Nile basin.

In March, Crisis Group encouraged Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to persevere in trying to agree a detailed policy for filling the GERD’s reservoir. The three countries had taken some steps in that direction. In 2015, they signed a Declaration of Principles pledging to equitably share water resources and cooperate over the GERD, and since then have met regularly at both technical and political levels to try to reach agreement.

Forging an initial filling deal could increase trust among the parties, which is all the more important given the threat posed by rising temperatures in the Nile basin. In the longer term, Crisis Group supports the idea that the three countries, together with the other eight who share the Nile’s waters, establish a broader resource-sharing arrangement via the Nile Basin Commission that is to form once six of the eleven riparian nations ratify the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA).

Egypt signed on to the 2015 Declaration, but, along with Sudan, it rejects key parts of the CFA. Cairo stresses in its Nile policy the “inviolability of our water share”. Addis Ababa, meanwhile, is explicit that water allocation treaties to which it was not party have “no applicability whatsoever on Ethiopia”.

After some heated words of its own, Cairo put its well-oiled diplomatic machine into action at late September’s UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Egyptian diplomats met with counterparts from Burundi and South Sudan, two riparian countries that are cash-strapped and experiencing major internal crises. Burundi, along with Kenya and Uganda, has signed but not ratified the CFA, while South Sudan has not yet made its position clear. An experienced observer of Nile politics says it is “common knowledge that Cairo increases its activism with upper riparians, especially South Sudan, whenever rhetoric with Addis increases”. Egypt’s intention appears to be to forestall explicit statements of support for Ethiopia’s position from other upper Nile nations and to drag out the CFA’s ratification.

The sticking point

The initial challenge lies in the sides’ competing positions on filling the GERD reservoir.

The initial challenge lies in the sides’ competing positions on filling the GERD reservoir. Ethiopia wants to move quickly to expedite maximum power generation. Egypt is concerned about how the dam will be managed during drought years and wants the GERD filled slowly enough that a sufficient volume of water can flow downstream each year during filling. Egypt also says it wants an office at the GERD site staffed with its own technicians. Ethiopia counters that this proposal breaches its sovereignty. It also has repeatedly rejected as unnecessary Egyptian calls for third-party meditation in the dispute.

The GERD’s 74-billion cubic meter reservoir is to be filled in three stages. The first consists of tests of the initial two turbines, which require some 3 billion cubic meters (bcm) of water and would take one year. Second, all 13 turbines would be tested, requiring at least another 12 bcm and one more year. Last, Ethiopia would fill the rest of the reservoir – although its volume would fluctuate by around 50 bcm each year as Ethiopia would have to allow much of the water out ahead of seasonal rainfall to prevent overflowing. The first two years’ filling would use too little water to significantly affect downstream supplies. It is the final stage that worries Egypt and prompts its disagreement with Ethiopia.

Last year, the National Independent Scientific Research Study Group, comprising Egyptian, Ethiopian and Sudanese experts, made progress toward a filling agreement that all parties could get behind. This deal would entail Ethiopia annually releasing about 35 bcm (around 70 per cent of the Blue Nile’s average annual flow) of water downstream as it fills the dam.

Egypt subsequently slowed down the pace of talks. At the February meeting of the African Union, President Sisi told Prime Minister Abiy that he wanted to discuss the minutes from the study group meetings. These conversations led to a new Egyptian proposal, which called for a minimum annual release of 40 bcm of water from the GERD during the period of filling. Egypt had also requested that the entire average annual Blue Nile flow of 49 bcm be released once the GERD is operational and the dam filled. If the flow decreases, Cairo says Addis Ababa should make up for the deficit the next year. Ethiopia has rejected both suggestions.

Space for compromise

Despite the recent disagreements, the 2018 progress and expert studies suggest that a compromise solution exists. In a period of average or above-average rainfall, releases of around 35 bcm would allow Ethiopia to fill the dam at a slightly faster rate than if the annual release was at 40 bcm, while also avoiding acute water shortages in Egypt.

Ethiopia seems ready to agree to a 35 bcm release. According to experts like Kevin Wheeler from the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, who has studied the GERD filling options with a team of experts, a 35 bcm release could fill the dam’s reservoir in five to six years, assuming average flows. Ethiopia said after the latest inconclusive talks that it proposed to fill the GERD in four to seven years.

There are also steps that Egypt could take to manage water more efficiently and mitigate the dam’s potential impact on agriculture and manufacturing.

Despite Cairo’s reservations, this fill rate does not appear likely to significantly damage Egypt’s water supply or power generation. “Under wet to average conditions with a 35 bcm release, Egypt does not need to suffer any shortages, or very minimal reductions if they use their drought management policy”, Wheeler told Crisis Group.

There are also steps that Egypt could take to manage water more efficiently and mitigate the dam’s potential impact on agriculture and manufacturing. Aid programs could improve irrigation efficiency, for example.

For its part, Ethiopia could also be more accommodating, especially given climate volatility and Egypt’s concerns about how the dam will be managed in drought conditions. One experienced observer questions why Ethiopia is apparently so fixated on filling the reservoir quickly to its maximum volume of 74 bcm. After all, the reservoir will need draining to around 20 bcm each year before the rainy season to guard against over-spilling.

Nor is it clear whether sufficient demand exists in either Ethiopia or export markets to justify maximising the GERD’s power generation in the first few years. For example, in 2017/18, all of Ethiopia consumed less electricity than the 15,760 gigawatt hours a year that the GERD is projected to generate. In that same year, Ethiopia sold 1,516 gigawatt hours to Sudan and Djibouti. It has ambitions to sell power to East Africa via an under-construction transmission line to Kenya, but there is work to do on building further inter-connections and negotiating export deals, including, potentially, with Egypt and Gulf states.

The likely gap between the dam’s maximum output and demand means that Ethiopia could take a concertedly flexible approach to the initial stages, including filling the dam only to the extent it needs at present. Such an approach may allow it to initially release more water each year, ensuring that the reservoir at Aswan retains a healthy volume and giving Egypt more time to adapt.

Returning to constructive talks

It is hard to say precisely when the GERD will start impounding water, but parties should have at least all next year to thrash out a deal on filling. There was a major hiccup in the dam’s construction last year, when Ethiopia’s political power struggle and the transition that saw Abiy come to power rocked the mega-project. But the Ethiopian state seems to have rallied behind the GERD again. Its completion is inevitable – as Prime Minister Abiy made clear in Parliament yesterday – even if there are further delays.

Given the renewed spat between their countries, Sisi and Abiy could help prepare the ground for constructive negotiations during their meeting in Sochi at what is the first Russia-Africa summit. Even if warm words are exchanged, a real breakthrough at the technical level is unlikely any time soon. But if Sisi and Abiy can achieve a reset it would increase the chances that the engineers, lawyers and diplomats can hammer out a deal.

A deal on filling and operating the GERD should create space for renewed diplomacy aimed at safeguarding the Nile basin’s long-term future.

More broadly, a deal on filling and operating the GERD should create space for renewed diplomacy aimed at safeguarding the Nile basin’s long-term future. Climate change means that not only Egypt but all Nile nations should be concerned about water shortages. A study published in August in the Earth’s Future journal found that despite models projecting increased rainfall, nations like Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda may have less water available to them due to hotter and drier years in the Nile basin. Such findings are of even more acute concern to rain-starved Sudan and Egypt, which rely on downstream flows.

Addressing the mistrust among riparian nations, which the GERD presently symbolises, is critical. Those countries need to institutionalise cooperation, including exchanging data on critical elements such as rainfall levels, river flows, dam volumes and power needs. If President Sisi and Prime Minister Abiy can set the right tone in Sochi, they could set a path for a GERD agreement that in turn could catalyse the eventual ratification of the Cooperative Framework Agreement and management of the world’s longest river via the Nile Basin Commission.

This commentary is co-published with The Africa Report.