Transnational Resource Conflict: Ethiopia VS. Egypt: The River Nile


The Nile is the world largest river and passes through Ethiopia, Egypt and seven other countries. The colonial-era agreements signed in 1959 gave Egypt and Sudan control of 75% of the water flow; however Ethiopia is now pushing its rights and has taken steps to make use of the river to produce more electricity and irrigation. Most parts of Egypt are desert and rivers and rain from different countries make the Nile flow. The river feeds a farming sector which counts for one third of all jobs therefore Egypt is almost totally dependent on it.

The Blue Nile flows from the Ethiopian highlands and is a major contributor of the river. Ethiopia which is the upstream had little access to the Nile. Significant numbers of Ethiopians receive food aid from international donors. The Ethiopian government claimed that making use of the water resource,  aid dependency would be reduced significantly. The government had therefore built in last decade five huge dams on the Nile and has also began work on a $1.4bn  hydropower projects and claimed the geographical and moral high ground.

The Egyptian government stated that diverting the water flow would mean a threat to their entitlement and national security and said that it would use force against Ethiopia if the flow of the water is restricted.  The former president Sadat stated that “Any action that would endanger the waters of the Blue Nile will be faced with a firm reaction on the part of Egypt, even if that action should lead to war.” The Ethiopian government rejected the threat from Egypt to stop the contractions of dams and water projects upstream on the Nile River. The Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said in an interview conducted last Tuesday (24.11.2010) that Egypt was arming rebels that are operating inside Ethiopia, however Egypt said that it has never backed rebels.

A new agreement, the Nile Basin Co-operative framework were signed in Entebbe to replace the 1959 agreement. Both Egypt and Sudan criticised this agreement and showed fears that their water supply would be severely reduced if the seven other countries used the river for domestic irrigation and hydro-power projects.

Both Egypt and Ethiopia should come to term that the river is a common pool of resource and that a means of cooperation rather than fighting over water is needed.


4 Responses to “Transnational Resource Conflict: Ethiopia VS. Egypt: The River Nile”

  1. solidaarisuus Says:

    This is very interesting and so disturbing at the same time. I knew about the problems regarding the water distribution in Nile, but had not realised how serious the situation really is and how easily this could lead to an actual conflict. It somehow seems that everyone is right and wrong at the same time. The river Nile should be the commons for all, but has been enclosed from Ethiopia in the form of colonial time agreement and now Ethiopia is trying to compensate its earlier loss. However, does Ethiopia have the right to commodify the river to this extent when it obviously harms the other countries?

    And while the countries’ governments argue between themselves about who has the rights to what, it makes me wonder, where does all this leave the ordinary people of any of those countries? I can only guess that livelihoods of many were destroyed, for some it probably happened in the form of dam construction while to others it was the lack of water for their agricultural production.

  2. spessima Says:

    This issue of conflict is not only between Egypt and Ethiopia when it comes to joint natural resources.Let me also bring in the issue with the MANO RIVER.This is a river that boarders Sierra Leone and Liberia.Both governments signed an accord in 1980 to construct a bridge to link both countries and to facilitate commerce.In the 1990s both countries were at war and this bridge/river became a major political asset.It was a mining place for rebels from both sides of the country.Management and control was left in the hands of the military/rebels.The lack of trust at the political level led to the destruction of thousands of lives and properties and above all prolonged the civil wars in these countries.The rational by individuals and government to use natural resources for political power/ individual gains is always to the detriment of the weak and poor

  3. Dawit Says:

    we want huge water so we don’t release any kind of water for other countries and i want to warned for Egypt gov’t officials about Nile water because God give this water to only to Ethiopia so close your mouse to this topic from Addis

  4. Mwafrika Says:

    This river belongs to Africans and if arabs from the north can’t put up, theyn they better leave Africa and head back to the middle east desert. Ethiopia, please proceed with the construction of the dams!

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