By Malith Alier
Stand on the banks of the River one lovely evening like this and watch the River flow north in one style, progressively determined for its destination. The cadet blue water takes after the River valley silts. The Riverbanks are lush with evergreen grasses that drink from the River day and night at no cost. Huge green trees parade calmly morning and evening along the course of the River. They play with the mighty wind during the day in contrast to the morning and evening posture.
Stand on the banks and watch the shadow of the trees cross to the other side of the River during sunrise and sunset. The sun mysteriously throws plant shadows across to commune with one another on the divide in a spiritual union.
The River attracts every creature, insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians and above all people who develop inseparable association for millions of years with the River. The River is their life and their life is the River.
Crocodiles, hippos, fish and insects dominate the second longest River in the world. The crocodiles are the strongest of the reptiles. They police the Nile down to the bottom. They are master swimmers and live longer than any other creatures in the Nile. Their teeth grow continuously. The new ones push the old ones out in gradual replacement. They must have the strongest jaws in the world to support the long teeth that are in perpetual growth.
Walk on the Nile one evening and notice amazing scenery, the nature’s gift of water that nourishes flora and fauna. The water swirls on the deepest spot as it moves with speed like a dancing crane. This is one of the latent powers that enable the water to redefine the River course. The water has the power to carry away soil and vegetation in its passage. It soaks hard ground and dissolves it despite resistance. The rocks underneath are laid bare by the same power that dissolves and erodes the less compacted soils.
The Nile feeds and keeps alive the Mediterranean Sea in Arabian Egypt. The people of Egypt who demand exclusive use of water also regard it as a give from the almighty. This false entitlement perception is a result of the Anglo Egyptian treaties of 1929 and 1959. These not only deprived the upstream peoples of their natural accession but also set a dangerous course for the future generations to contend with.
River Nile is like a great serpent moving from highlands to lowlands. It dug a trench million years ago where water collects from the mountains through the valleys and eventually to the sea. It waters the fields that feed mankind.
Lake Victoria joins the countries of East Africa of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. This is thought to be the important source of the Nile. The city of Jinja is the first exit point of the River. The River meanders through Uganda, DRC, South Sudan, Sudan and finally Egypt. Egypt is the self-appointed mother or father of the Nile River who has never been.
The total length the River is approximately 3,700km or 2,300 miles from the city of Jinja to the delta.
The Nile is given names in sections from the Lake to the sea. From Lake Victoria to Lake Albert is Victoria Nile. Albert Nile is after Lake Albert in Uganda. Bahr El Jabal is from Nimule to where it is joined by Bahr el Ghazal River and that section becomes White Nile. It eventually becomes River Nile from Khartoum where it is joined by Blue Nile, which emanates from Ethiopian highlands.
The Busoga People in Jinja continuously collect water hyacinth (Eichhonia Crassipes) barred by a dam immediately after the River exit. This is one way of keeping the Lifeline River from pollution this strange weeds whose native abode is South America. A few metres upstream after the bridge are Bujagali Falls. This is where Uganda generates much of its electricity supply. The water holds back, collects and superimposes on the rock forcing its way and creating incredible energy as it falls. Man has realized that this can be harnessed to generate power for lighting and industry usage.
The other waterfalls on the way from Uganda to south Sudan are Karuma falls, Murchison falls and the lesser Fulla rapids. Water features like these are not only for power generation but are also tourist attractions. Towns or cities with waterfalls serve as tourist attraction sites. The incredible sights and thrill or sport are difficult to erase in the memory of those who witnessed them forever.
Listen to water roars as you approach Murchison or Karuma falls. The mountain devils unleash wails for help as water splash mercilessly between the rocks. This is a rite of passage with force even the mountains cannot deny. The Nile creatures dare not to be careless on the falls for their lives may be in danger. The canoe people and the swimmers exercise extra care over the falls. And then there is the Murchison Falls National Park. Uganda is blessed with plenty of animals in the wild. These animals are threatened by urbanization, pollution and poaching. It has become a habit for all countries to provide protection to these wild creatures in game Reserves and Parks. This is the age of harnessing nature in modernity. Waterfalls are for sports and generation of energy and wild life generates income through tourism. Poaching is the killing of endangered wildlife for meat or parts like tusks for sale. This is illegal in most countries including Uganda.
The Nile associated vegetation are in form of papyrus, tall bamboo like grasses, reed mace (Typha Latifolia), water lettuce (Pistia Stratiotes) and water hyacinth (Eichhonia Crassipes). Large fruit tree like mangoes are a feature of the River valley.
River Nile is not the only source for fresh water, fish fruit trees but it also used in other beneficial ways. Watch the people mould bricks on the banks in Juba. Young men build huge hillocks of moulded earth, which is burnt to increase strength for construction of shelters. This is an important source of income in Juba in particular. Young people who are unemployed successfully engage in brick molding which in turn make them useful contributors in the development of their country. Self-employment is the word.
Stand on the Nile and look at the fishermen traversing the River in canoes morning and evening. These are called “atooc” in Dinka. They have special skills in dealing with the River. They hollowed logs for use as canoes. They are usually seen rowing canoes with small oars or bamboo, which is lowered down to push the canoe forward in shallow sections close to the banks. This is also the case in rocky and shallow sections in the middle of the River. The catches include tilapia, Nile perch and other variety.
In South Sudan, the nomads depend on the River like no one else. Crossing to either side seasonally is like a sport. This usually is motivated by the search of green pasture during dry season. The cattle owners envy the greens on the western side of the River known as “toc” the night before the crossing is a colorful night. Certain rituals are performed like those of the Israelites when they crossed the Red sea. This is usually to avert disasters like the refusal of a herd to successfully cross all in one accord. Someone volunteers to kill a cow. Others perform prayers, usually someone whose ancestors were the ones who led such activity. In this way, crocodiles and other animals that have potential to destroy the epic journey are put to rest that day.