Why a ‘water war’ over the Nile River will not happen

Instead of issuing harsh rhetoric, Egypt should work together with Ethiopia and endorse its dam-building programme, says Dr. Harry Verhoeven, Convenor of the Oxford University China-Africa Network (OUCAN).

Is northeastern Africa heading for a bloody “water war” between its two most important countries, Egypt and Ethiopia? Judging by the rhetoric of the past two weeks, one could be forgiven for thinking so.

Ethiopia’s plans to build a multibillion dollar dam on the Nile River spurred Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi – whose country lies downstream from Ethiopia – to vow to protect Egypt’s water security at all costs. “As president of the republic, I confirm to you that all options are open,” he said on Monday. “If Egypt is the Nile’s gift, then the Nile is a gift to Egypt… If it diminishes by one drop, then our blood is the alternative.”

The following day Dina Mufti, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry spokesman, said that Ethiopia was “not intimidated by Egypt’s psychological warfare and won’t halt the dam’s construction, even for seconds”.

Read the full opinion piece in Aljazeera online.

Harry Verhoeven completed a doctorate at the University of Oxford, where he teaches African politics. His research focuses on conflict, development and environment in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region, and he is the Convenor of the Oxford University China-Africa Network (OUCAN).

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