ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua)
-- Disagreement over the Nile,
one of the world’s largest river systems, could turn
into win-win cooperation instead of fueling conflict,
experts have said.
For the past
weeks, there have been media reports suggesting a mega
hydro dam being built by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile river
could be a catalyst for a larger conflict involving
Egypt and Ethiopia.
senior researcher at the Ethiopia Foreign Relations
Strategic Studies (EFRSS), a local think thank, told
Xinhua that ongoing tensions about Nile river usage
should not divert from win-win solutions.
countries already agree on a range of economic and
security themes, including the common threat of
terrorism,” he said.
companies have substantial investments in Ethiopia,
estimated to be more than 1 billion U.S. dollars, while
Ethiopia is working on a long-term plan to sell
electricity to energy-hungry Egypt.
longstanding disagreements on the Nile river have only
served to delay the inevitable consensus both nations
should reach on various issues.
Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a 6,450-MW hydro dam
project whose construction was launched in April 2011,
is expected to become the largest power project in
Ethiopian government has recently said the dam project
that is 63 percent complete will start test power
generation in 2018.
being separated by thousands of miles, Ethiopia and
Egypt are intertwined by the Nile river with the former
being source for 86 percent of the waters and the latter
depending on Nile as its major surface fresh water
insists the mega hydro dam is part of its desire to
equitably use Nile water to help power its economic
lower riparian nation, fears the hydro dam will cut into
its water supply, potentially crippling its agricultural
sector that is already facing water shortages.
Alex de Waal,
Executive Director of World Peace Foundation, agrees
that despite occasional heated rhetoric from Egypt and
Ethiopia, both countries are likely to find common
ground on Nile river usage.
observer of politics in Northeast Africa, he argues that
both countries are run by risk-averse governments that
prioritize cooperation over potential conflict.
becoming less and less reliant on agriculture and more
on manufacturing, services sector, oil and gas and the
commerce that goes through Suez Canal, it’s economic
reliance on the Nile river is lessening,” said de Waal.
said Egyptians and Ethiopians share a strong
psychological affinity to the Nile river, and that it
could be used as an emotional card in potential
tensions on Nile river has often been characterized as
binary issue between Ethiopia and Egypt, recent tensions
involving other Nile basin countries Eritrea and Sudan
has shed light on its complexity.
lower riparian nation that borders Egypt and Ethiopia,
has in recent years positioned itself closer to the
latter by publicly supporting the construction of the
between Egypt and Sudan have been tense over the past
years on other issues, including a territorial dispute
over the border region of Halayeb and Shalateen.
has a bitter border dispute with Ethiopia has cultivated
close ties with Egypt, fueling speculation in Ethiopia
and Sudan that it could act as a proxy for Egypt in case
major crisis erupts over Nile.
Eritrea fought a border conflict between 1998-2000 that
left an estimated 70,000 people dead from both sides.
Sudan in the
past also had tense relations with Eritrea over the
latter’s support for Sudanese rebel groups.
Aynete dismissed the possibility of a war involving the
Nile river dispute breaking out in Northeast Africa.
Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have their own domestic
weaknesses, making it highly unlikely a war will break
out involving the Nile river,” he said.