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Sudan, Egypt must stop beating the drums of war over Nile dam project

By Editorial | Apr 13th 2021 | 2 min read

Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia, on September 26, 2019. [Reuters]

Egypt President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is talking tough after failure of the latest round of talks over Ethiopia’s Nile dam. After the talks that ended last Sunday in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, al-Sisi warned that not even a drop of Egyptian water would be taken, and that ‘all options are open’. He warned the region would fall into unimaginable instability if its water taken.

The construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam started over a decade ago, to provide electricity to Ethiopia and export the surplus to neighbouring countries. This, without doubt, is a noble initiative. However, the Egyptian government fears that the mega-dam may reduce water flow into the country. Egypt relies on the Nile for more than 90 per cent of her water needs.

Khartoum is on Cairo’s side, and has warned that any unilateral decision by Ethiopia to fill the dam will affect Sudan’s “national security” and have “regional repercussions”. Ethiopia plans to collect 13.5 billion cubic metres of water in July, but the two countries are against the move.

Needless to say, the three countries have good intentions. They want to use the Nile waters for the good of their people. However, it is worth reminding them that the Nile does not belong to them alone. The waters of the longest river in the world belongs to all the 11 countries through which it passes.

For that reason, Ethiopia is in order to criticise the colonial pact that gave Egypt 55.5 billion cubic metres of water and Sudan 18.5 billion cubic metres. All countries along Nile basin have a right to tap and flourish from its waters.

That said, it is imperative that commonsense prevails. This shared resource must be used responsibly by each of the countries. None should threaten the lives of those downstream due to its own interests. The Ethiopian dam is important, but it must not snuff out life downstream.

In the same vein, Egypt and Sudan should not feel more entitled to the Nile than the rest of the countries. They must desist from issuing threats of violence over the Nile waters. There is need for a middle ground in this dispute. While Ethiopia should be allowed to fill up its dam, it must do so responsibly. Not even a single person downstream should suffer as a result.

The failure of the Kinshasa negotiations is not the end of the road. Egypt and Sudan’s suggestion for a binding pact over the filling of the dam backed by the United States, the United Nations and the European Union, is a good idea. But threatening war is not. Dialogue, however elusive, is the only road to a permanent solution.  

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