Bridging the Gap in the Nile Waters Dispute
The three-way dispute among Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan over the sharing of the Nile waters remains deadlocked. An April 2018 leadership transition in Ethiopia eased tensions between Cairo and Addis Ababa. But the parties have made little headway in resolving the crisis triggered by Ethiopia’s 2011 decision to build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), expected to be the largest hydropower plant in Africa. Egypt fears that the dam will drastically reduce water flow downstream and thus imperil its national security. Ethiopia and Sudan assert their right to exploit the Nile waters to further develop their economies. The three countries need to act now to avert a graver crisis when the dam comes online. They should accede to immediate steps to mitigate damage, particularly during the filling of the dam’s reservoir, when water flow to downstream countries could decline. Next, they and other riparian states should seek a long-term trans boundary agreement on resource sharing that balances the needs of countries up and down the Nile basin and offers a framework for averting conflict over future projects. This report outlines the main actors’ perspectives on the dispute and explores how they can reach such an agreement. It proposes that parties focus first on settling the GERD crisis to defuse tensions before the dam comes online. It suggests that the parties go on to negotiate a comprehensive trans boundary resource management agreement, involving other riparian states, that could both ease tensions over the dam and include a lasting basin-wide settlement for resource sharing.