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The Nile Ain't Just a River in Egypt


The Nile actually runs through 11 countries, and therein lies Egypt’s problem. One of those countries, Ethiopia, is planning to dam the mighty Nile. The dam, which will eventually be Africa’s largest, is already under construction, and several days ago Ethiopia began diverting water from the Nile’s normal course. Downstream in Egypt, outrage is gaining momentum.

Last week, at a supposedly “secret” meeting, Egyptian politicians were caught on live television describing the dam as an act of war by Ethiopia backed by (who else?) the US and Israel. A member of the Salafist Nour Party said the US and Israel “would use it as a lethal bargaining chip to pressure Egypt.” “We should intervene in their domestic affairs,” argued a liberal politician. This is “a matter of life and death,” said a Muslim Brotherhood official. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi threatened that “all options are open” for Egypt in dealing with the dam.

Angry Egyptian lawmakers stepped up the pressure today by blasting the government for failing to stop Ethiopia from continuing with construction. The Prime Minister called the dam an “act of defiance” but quickly left parliament as lawmakers began to attack him for not backing up his words with action. “Egypt will turn to a graveyard,” one parliamentarian shouted to his colleagues. “We have to stop the construction of this dam first before entering negotiations.”

Ethiopia has no intention of backing down. In Addis Ababa today, the government summoned the Egyptian Ambassador to explain these “hostile” remarks and to inform him that construction will continue.

According to unnamed experts cited by the Associated Press, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will divert 20 percent of Nile water away from Egypt over the three to five years it will take Ethiopia to construct the dam. With fuel shortages already causing food prices to soar, tourists avoiding the country, and foreign investment drying up, a thirsty Nile would be yet another disaster for Egypt. The river has been the country’s lifeblood for millennia. From Egypt’s perspective, there is no good time for an Ethiopian dam on the Nile.

[Image of the Nile in Cairo courtesy of Wikimedia]

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  • wigwag

    I don’t know if the United States or Israel really is backing Ethiopia’s dam building enterprise but it sounds to me that if they’re not, they should be.

    • Fred


    • Andrew Allison

      Haven’t we suffered enough from interference in other people’s business?

  • Fat_Man

    I am sure that Egypt’s treatment of the Copts has not helped Egypt’s image in Ethiopia

  • ljgude

    I must say my sympathy for Egypt is not at an all time high, but this seems like a genuine problem for them unlike the self inflicted destruction of their tourist industry.

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