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HomeGeopolitical CompassNile Valley & N.AfricaThe Dam That Broke Open an Ethiopia-Egypt Dispute

The Dam That Broke Open an Ethiopia-Egypt Dispute

Author: Sherif Mohyeldeen

Affiliation: Carnegie Middle East Center

Organization/Publisher: Carnegie Middle East Center

Date/Place: Feb 12, 2021/Beirut, Lebanon

Type of Literature: Article

Number of Pages: 5


Keywords: Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, Dispute, Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, National Security




Sherif Mohyeldeen discusses the dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the construction and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). While focusing on the significance of the project’s consequences on Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, he claims that Sudan has a great interest in solving the dispute peacefully and preventing military confrontation since the Sudanese, if confrontation happens     , would be the most threatened party. Mohyeldeen argues that Sudan could play the role of a third party in resolving the dispute, or at least, preventing military action. He provides a historical background about the Nile River dispute of water distribution between the Nile basin countries, in which the Egyptian-Ethiopian dispute has its origins. Starting from the 1929 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty to the 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan, Ethiopia has protested the ignoring of its water needs and its right in the Nile. The establishment of the GERD started in 2011 without any reference to Egypt or Sudan since Ethiopia considers it a sovereignty matter. There has been more than one attempt to reach an agreement between them, but none has succeeded in resolving the dispute. The author, then, validates his argument that Sudan could play a critical role to end the deadlock and avoid military action. Although Sudan seems not in the position that qualifies it for mediation and dispute-resolving due to its political transition, ethnic conflict, as well as its deteriorating relations with Ethiopia, other factors allow Sudanese mediation. Sudan is more flexible than Egypt, while it is also concerned about the amount of water that will flow downstream. On the other hand, Sudan will also benefit from the GERD since it will provide it with cheaper electricity, easier irrigation, and less threat of flooding. Altogether, this places Sudan in the middle between the two parties and provides it with relative impartiality that enhances trust from both sides. Moreover, the author assigns three other incentives to a Sudanese mediation initiative. First, the consequences of a conflict between its most critical neighbours would never be avoided taking its geographical location into consideration. Any Egyptian airstrike on the GERD’s reservoirs would lead to flooding Sudan even more than Ethiopia due to the direction of the stream. Second, Sudan is threatened with flooding because of any technical flaws due to the absence of any regulations controlling the GERD’s operations. Third, such mediation would boost its regional and international standing, especially its relations with Egypt and Ethiopia, including the resolution of its border disputes with both countries. However, such initiative would necessitate the responsiveness of Egypt and Ethiopia. He concludes that both parties of the dispute are in real need of such initiative that should be welcomed by them for their national interests. If Sudan manages to mediate this dispute, it would be the basis for a permanent solution to the Nile River dispute. 


By: Yomna Süleyman, CIGA Research Assistant



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