Egypt – Ethiopia Conflict: Way Forward

Published on 12th June 2013

The simmering dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the waters of the Nile threatens to resurrect the long-standing controversy over who has rights to the waters of the Nile amongst upstream African nations. Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's president, has warned Ethiopia that "If [Egypt] loses one drop, our blood is the alternative." Addis Ababa on the other hand has stressed that no force will stop the construction of its massive $4.2 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Upstream Nile nations — Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda — decline to be bound by a treaty drawn up by the British in 1959 that gave Egypt 55.5 cubic kilometers of the river’s flow and Sudan 18.5 cubic kilometers, but no formal entitlements for any nation upstream.

It is not very clear why tensions should mount when ordinarily, water used in the proposed dam will turn the turbines and be released back to the river to proceed to Egypt. There is urgent need to develop a water footprint that will help ascertain water use. Measuring virtual and real “water exports” may help lead to an amicable solution. Investing in technologies that will harness the Mediterranean and Red seas to supplement the quest for water should not be ruled out.

It is projected that by 2050, the entire Nile region may become arid to semi-arid due to rising temperatures in the region. The Nile nations in the short term ought to mitigate the effects of evapotranspiration and in the long term plan how they will operate under this scenario.

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