Egyptian Foreign Policy wins Over Ethiopia regarding the Nile Dam; Sameh Habeeb

Sameh Habeeb writes that Ethiopia is on brink of collapse meanwhile it’s major project of Nile Dam could be halted. Only a joint cooperation between the two countries in managing the dam could result in peaceful outcome.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is an ambitious project that Ethiopia has been pursuing to generate electricity for the country. The government, however, also hopes that it will improve the water supply and reduce poverty in Africa’s second-most populous nation. Egypt was worried that such a Dam will limit its share from river Nile water. But Egyptian foreign policy won over Ethiopia regarding this issue when President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was elected president of Egypt in 2014, through his silent diplomacy efforts.

The GERD is a huge project that was started in 2011 with the aim to generate around 6000MW of electricity, which will be mostly consumed by Ethiopia itself. But when it comes down to water supply not only for Ethiopia but also for downstream countries like Egypt and Sudan, one can say that there are some concerns about this dam’s impact on this issue. Ethiopia has been planning the dam for decades, and in 2011, it started constructing it but with a delay of several months due to some technical problems. The World Bank offered its help, even though there were also concerns about the environmental impact of the project by other institutions like the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In 2013 there were concerns that the dam would reduce water flow to Egypt during certain months of the year, and in 2014 Ethiopia started building a new tunnel, which would divert more water from Sudan. This caused tensions between these two countries since both depend on Nile’s waters. To fix this problem, President Omar al-Bashir visited Ethiopia in 2014, which was the first time in almost 20 years that Sudan’s president had visited this country. Egypt employed it’s active diplomacy worldwide and managed to solicit support from the UN and major western powers.

Ethiopia also tried to solve this problem with Egypt by telling them that they are building a new tunnel and will not stop supplying water for electricity generation when it comes down to these months of the year when there is less flow. But the relations between these two countries worsened when Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was elected president of Egypt and announced that Ethiopia should stop building the dam or else there would be consequences. His warning may sent a clear signal to Ethiopia that Egypt could use military power in case the Dam will impact its share.

Since this announcement, Egyptian foreign policy won over Ethiopia because Sudan is already an ally of Cairo in its position concerning GERD, while many international organizations like World Bank also agree with it.

Ethiopia and Egypt have been long-time allies; however, in recent years, these alliances have waned. The relationship between the two countries has deteriorated due to Ethiopia’s occupation of territory claimed by Eritrea. The instability caused by this tension was exacerbated when Sudan closed its border with Eritrea allowing for increased arms smuggling into that country.

Due to this, Egypt has acted as a mediator between the two countries in an attempt to reach some sort of resolution. Recently, however, it seems that Ethiopia is willing to come back into Cairo’s good graces if they are given access through Sudan and across Eritrean territory for development projects such as dams.

More than just access to the Nile and its resources, Egypt is also very interested in stabilizing Sudan as a country.  Over 80% of 18 to 30-year-olds are unemployed, causing many young men to join radical groups such as ISIS or Al Qaeda instead.

Furthermore, Ethiopia has been making efforts towards creating its own dam, which would severely reduce the amount of water entering Egypt. This would not only harm agriculture but also threaten the country’s energy supply, which is almost totally reliant on hydroelectric power.

Despite their history as antagonists, if Cairo and Addis Ababa can come to an agreement, it will be beneficial for both countries to stabilize them against radical groups and other countries in the region. This agreement would also be beneficial for both Ethiopia as they will gain access to Sudan’s ports, but more importantly, Egypt who has many vested interests there, including oil pipelines that run through it.

Egypt is relaxed as Ethiopian government is almost collapsed 

Cairo is making a smart choice by trying to mend relations with Addis Ababa especially since the other option is extremely costly for both countries.  Meanwhile, Ethiopia is facing massive wars for the last few years with the capital Adis Ababa is almost falling in the hands of Tigray fighters. Ethiopian government accused Egypt of instigating and fuelling that war, but egypt totally denied any involvement.

Both Ethiopia and Egypt have goals that are not only beneficial to them but will also promote stability throughout the region as a whole which would be good news for everyone, including Western powers looking to prevent further entry of radical groups into the area. One could only recommend that managing the Dam should be jointly and not by Ethiopia only. Egyptian government must have its say on how this dam works and on what capacity so it avoids any disaster of any future crisis.

As of the civil war in Ethiopian now, Egypt can be a major player as a mediator between warring parties. Egypt has strong history and relations in that region and can help bring about stability but I think it’s prime minister Abi Ahmad could refuse that.

It would be interesting to see if there are changes regarding their stances on each other, especially with how they have been working together recently. With all that was said, it seems like both countries still share a lot in common when it comes to foreign policy. Their interests are still aligned with each other in terms of the middle east, Africa, and more. This will be interesting to see if there are any changes between them in their stances on different issues they have been working together on recently.

With what was said, it seems like both countries share a lot of similarities in terms of foreign policy and their interests. Despite this, we will have to see what happens when it comes to how they approach certain issues – especially with the change of leadership in Ethiopia.

Sameh Habeeb is UK based journalist and communication consultant. He is also director of International Center For Relations and Diplomacy and co founder for Newswire Now, a london based press release distribution service.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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