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HomeGeopolitical CompassNile Valley & N.AfricaIs a war between Egypt and Ethiopia brewing on the Nile?

Is a war between Egypt and Ethiopia brewing on the Nile?

Authors: Olivier Caslin and Hossam Rabie

Affiliations: Jeune Afrique

Organization/Publisher: the Africa Report

Date/Place: May 6, 2021/France

Type of Literature: Commentary 

Word Count: 2600


Keywords: Egypt and Ethiopia, Water War, GERD


The diplomatic efforts and negotiations between Ethiopia on the one hand and Egypt and Sudan on the other hand to reach an agreement on the management and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has been hampered by warmongering speeches of the countries’ leaders. Leaders of both Egypt and Ethiopia are using the altercations over GERD for domestic political consumption. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke up about the threatening activities of the Ethiopian government over the Nile river, explicitly stating that any action that would take away a drop of Egypt’s water share will meet a military reaction. Many Egyptians within and abroad, including the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, have shown their support to Sisi’s position towards Ethiopia and its Nile River project. In return, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been utilizing the GERD disputes with Egypt to generate domestic support and unite the very fragmented Ethiopian societies. Such exchange of war speeches by the leaders negatively impacts effective negotiations to be held among parties in conflict. However, the leaders’ propaganda of aggression is not likely to turn into war for many practical reasons. Egypt, despite its extensive superiority in air fighting technologies over Ethiopia, lacks the arsenals needed for such a huge operation to destroy the Ethiopian project; and Egypt’s option to attack the dam through ground army is impossible for several reasons. Ethiopia, on the other hand, can’t afford war given the country’s ongoing deep domestic political crisis, particularly in the Tigray region and the ensuing humanitarian crisis that has contributed to the country’s isolation from the international community.              

By: Jemal Muhamed, CIGA Research Associate



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