A few weeks ago, I looked at the regional politics of sharing water from the Nile River in the wake of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s death. The conflict between upstream and downstream Nile countries over water usage has historically pitted Ethiopia and the upstream countries against Egypt and Sudan. In Meles’ final years, Ethiopia began pursuing a more aggressive strategy, including the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam, set to be completed in 2018. The Dam has been a source of tension between Ethiopia and Egypt, and Meles’ successors have continued to pursue the project.
Alongside disagreement, however, Egypt and Ethiopia have made efforts at dialogue. This week brings news that may help reduce tensions. From the Africa Report:
A tripartite commission, established by Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan will meet on 8 October 2012 in Addis Ababa to discuss the impact of Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam on the three other countries.
The commission, established after Egypt raised alarm, will discuss the effects of the Ethiopian on both Egypt and Sudan.
However, Ethiopia maintains that the dam over the Nile River will not affect either Egypt or Sudan.
Ethiopia seems unwilling to halt construction of the Dam, but it is possible that the commission could produce some agreements and compromises. With or without the Dam, the situation is unsustainable – by 2017, even under the status quo, experts predict that Egypt’s share of the Nile will be insufficient for its needs. And in the meantime the upstream countries’ water needs and dissatisfaction will only grow. The two sides will eventually need a mechanism to settle the dispute. Hopefully the commission will represent a step in that direction.