In a surprising turn of events, President Salva Kiir of South Sudan embarked on an urgent mission to Cairo, seeking military assistance from Egypt.
The unexpected visit to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sissi highlights the increasingly dire situation in Juba, as the nation grapples with the need to bolster its military strength ahead of the tumultuous 2024 general elections and ongoing political campaigns in the volatile Upper Nile region.
Egypt, a longstanding ally of President Kiir’s government, responded to the plea for arms, but not without a unique twist.
In exchange for the much-needed weaponry, Cairo has requested that South Sudan intensify its dredging activities along the Nile River, ensuring a swift and unimpeded flow of water to the Arab Republic of Egypt.
This arrangement comes at a critical time for Egypt, as it faces the challenge of supporting its growing population and filling a massive artificial river project with a price tag of $5.2 billion.
The bilateral talks, officially characterized as diplomatic discussions between the two nations, resulted in an agreement to extend river clearing efforts.
While Juba would refer to these activities as “river clearing,” Cairo would term it “dredging.”
The specifics of this initiative involve the removal of obstructions in the Sudd Swamps and other yet-to-be-identified areas along the Nile River, with the aid of Egyptian experts.
During the discussions, President Kiir and President El Sissi also addressed the ongoing conflict in neighboring Sudan.
With the urgency of South Sudan’s request for arms and the inability of Russia to provide support due to its involvement in the Ukraine conflict, Juba finds itself in a precarious situation that may shape its future in the lead-up to the 2024 general elections.