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Egypt and Ethiopia face off over Nile water

AFP/AFP - The Blue Nile in Guba, Ethiopia, during the diversion ceremony
February 6, 2014

Aljazeera – On Jan. 8, Ethiopia turned down Egypt’s demand that it suspend construction of its mega-dam on the Nile, further escalating tensions between the two states. Fearing that Ethiopia’s $4.2 billion project would reduce the river’s flow, Egypt calls for a halt in construction until the dam’s downstream impact is determined. Otherwise, it has vowed to protect its “historical rights” to the Nile at “any cost.”

While scoffing at Egyptian threats, Ethiopia has called for Cairo’s collaboration in negotiations and claims that the dam will have no adverse effect on Egypt. It would, in fact, decrease evaporation and improve water flow. Ethiopia hopes that the ambitious hydroelectric project, slated to be completed in 2017, would catapult the country out of poverty. Frustrated by what it described as Ethiopia’s stubborn stance, Cairo is threatening to take the issue to the United Nations Security Council.

Is this just standard diplomatic brinkmanship before an inevitable compromise, or a harbinger of a looming water war? Regardless, the lack of progress on the diplomatic front bodes ill for a quick end to a stalemate that has long gripped the region. Home to 600 million people, more than half of Africa’s total population, the Nile Basin is already traumatized by endless internal political strife and mounting pressures to feed a population growing at Malthusian proportions.

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2 comments on “Egypt and Ethiopia face off over Nile water

  1. What Ethiopia wanted from the Renaissance Dam is only electric power and then send the water to the low-stream countries, namely Sudan and Egypt

    The fact that Ethiopia is building a big Dam just 20 kilo meter away from the Sudan border guaranties that no diversion of water for irrigation purpose is possible thereby ensuring every drop of water goes to Sudan and Egypt, not to mention the regular flow of water throughout the year. If we build a number of smaller dams here and there, as the Egyptians suggest, instead of the big dam under construction, the water level to Egypt could be affected as it gives Ethiopia the chance to use the water for Irrigation purpose.

    War or sabotage? Egypt will be the loser.

  2. Long but a very good analysis. But I don’t agree with the author’s assertion that Egypt’s military might is capable of intimidating Ethiopia.

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