The Nile, one of the wonders of the natural world, finds itself the subject of an escalating war of words. It could turn the river from a source for civilisation and peace to a source of conflict.
War looms on the horizon after nine years of exhausting negotiations over damming the Nile by Ethiopia.
For thousands of years, Egypt built its ancient civilisation and the basis for its modern economy – not least the nation’s identity on the unstoppable flow of the Nile water. But, for the first time, it is threatened by thirst.
The Ethiopian Renaissance dam near the border with Sudan will be the biggest in Africa – a $4.6bn project. Ethiopia is leaning on it for electricity and a potential economic boost. Nevertheless, Egypt is worried that if the dam is filled too rapidly in the coming years, then it will not get its fair share of river’s water during that process. The dam is about 70 per cent built and Ethiopia plans on starting to fill it this July. They want it filled in seven years, Egypt thinks it should happen over 12 to 21 years to mitigate the impact on its water supplies.
After the three-way talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia failed, they settled on the US and the World Bank as external mediators. The uphill negotiations led by the US Treasury’s Steven Mnuchin have resulted in an agreement, which the US believes it “addresses all issues in a balanced and equitable manner, taking into account the interests of the three countries”.