Egypt’s minister of foreign affairs, Sameh Shoukry, has been extremely busy trying to bolster diplomatic support for Egypt during negotiations over Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in the Nile River. Egypt is worried that Ethiopia’s fill-rate for the massive reservoir would lower levels of the Nile River downstream, which Egypt depends on for its own energy production and agricultural output. In the past two weeks, Shoukry has traveled to fourteen African and two European countries, and has sent a delegation to a number of other North African countries.
The purpose of this packed travel itinerary is to carry a consistent message from Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi: a call for the international community to back Egypt’s stance requiring Ethiopia to sign the comprehensive agreement to fill and operate the GERD. The agreement was reached under the mediation of the United States and the World Bank in a series of meetings held between November 2019 and February 2020. Ethiopia maintains that the Washington agreement overly favors Egypt, whereas Egypt has issued strong warnings and promises of repercussions should Ethiopia begin filling the GERD without signing the agreement.
Why It Matters
Historically, the Nile River has been one of the most significant rivers in human civilization. Countless wars have been fought to secure access to and control of the river, which functions as both a transportation route for trade and military purposes, and as the major source of water for the region’s agricultural sector. As climate change escalates, water becomes scarcer, which could fuel conflicts. Reaching an agreement over the GERD is crucial for establishing an international legal and diplomatic precedent for water resource management. In the worst-case scenario, if Ethiopia and Egypt were to go to war, the devastation for East Africa and the Horn of Africa would be incalculable.