Despite Cordial Meeting, Egypt and Ethiopia Remain at Odds Over Nile Dam

Despite Cordial Meeting, Egypt and Ethiopia Remain at Odds Over Nile Dam
A fishing boat sailing down the Nile River in Cairo, Egypt, Sept. 3, 2011 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Associate Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent.

It was a busy week for diplomacy related to a long-running dispute over the Nile River, culminating Thursday in Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s first visit to Egypt. “We must make sure that this great river never becomes an object of competition, mistrust or conflict,” Hailemariam said in Cairo. But recent events, including statements from earlier in the week, highlight the extent to which it already has.

Ethiopia is nearing completion of its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, an enormous project on the Nile’s main tributary that is estimated to cost up to $5 billion. The Ethiopian government says the dam is essential for expanding access to electricity and fostering development. Egypt, however, says the project, in particular plans to fill the dam’s reservoir, threatens access to water Egyptians need to survive.

As Julian Hattem reported for WPR last July, the Nile has been a regular source of discord, with Egyptian officials talking of sabotaging projects that might disrupt water flow and floating the possibility of military action. The dispute has drawn in several countries; Egypt accuses its neighbor, Sudan, of siding with Ethiopia, and is also wary of Turkish meddling.

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