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Ethiopia & Egypt “angling for war” over Africa’s most vital resource “Nile River”

Egypt and Ethiopia " angling for war " over the River Nile

The Nile Water Treaty was signed by Ethiopia’s Emperor Menelik the 11 and  United Kingdom envoy Lt. Col. John Lane Harrington in Addis Ababa in May 2,1902. Egypt and Ethiopia which were both colonies of United Kingdom lay claims to the water rights to the 1902 treaty based on the principle of state succession. Moreover, it is argued that the 1929 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, which gave Egypt veto power, binds not only the then colonies of UK, but also Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda by virtue of 1902 treaty.

The Nile is made up of 3 major tributaries, the White Nile, the Blue Nile and the Atbara.  The Nile river is the longest river in the world, with a n extremely complex and delicate riparian basin, covering over 3,030,700 square kilometers, stretching over the following countries. The Nile water basin transverses though 11 countries and affects the livelihoods of over 300 million people.


In 2010 six upstream riparian states including Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi Tanzania signed a cooperative framework agreement seeking more rights to the Nile waters. Egypt and Sudan rejected the agreement because, it challenged their historical and natural rights that were conferred by 1902 colonial treaty.

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The upstream countries that are the source of the bulk of the Nile waters argue that the Nile treaty lacks in distributive justice and fairness. About 80% of the water that flows into the White Nile originate from the Blue Nile which has its source in Lake Tana and Ethiopian mountains. The rest of 15% flows from the White Nile , which has its source in the Eastern African states.

The ownership and water rights of the river has been a heavily contested , controversial and emotive debate by Egyptian and Sudanese stakeholders. International water agreement initiative, including the Helsinki Agreement of 1966, United nations Conventional Agreement of 1997 on the Non- Navigational use of International Water Course, 1999 Nile Basin Initiative have failed to address the problem.

Ethiopia has completed the ambitious, Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile, and is planning to start the process of filling the reservoir with water. The dam will be the largest power generating plant in Africa and the 7th largest in the world.

Tension has been building between Ethiopia, Sudan & Egypt.  Sudan and Egypt are concerned about the water flow of the Nile water, which they argue will affect the livelihoods of 100 m people in Egypt and feels that the move by Ethiopia to fill the GERD poses an existential threat to Sudan. Sudan has declined calls to negotiate a bilateral agreement with Ethiopia insisting on tripartite agreement that will incorporate Egypt.


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