The U.N. Security Council is likely to meet in the next few days to discuss the conflict between Ethiopia and both Egypt and Sudan over the forthcoming Renaissance Dam project and its impact on Nile River water.
Ethiopia wants to build the enormous dam to generate electricity, but Egypt and Sudan harbor major concerns about some pivotal – and, to them, vital – issues.
For example, if the security of the Renaissance Dam is not perfect, and if it collapses in the future, tens of millions of Sudanese people could drown from the resulting torrent.
The Renaissance Dam as designed would confine over 70 billion cubic meters of water, a volume larger than most other extant dams. It is not surprising, therefore, that Sudan would be concerned about the dam’s safety and the potential for catastrophe if it collapsed.
Egypt might not be as directly affected by a collapse as would Sudan, but the nation retains legitimate concerns about the rate of filling the reservoir. A rapid and unilateral filling by Ethiopia is likely to cause a water shortage in Egypt, with subsequent and likely permanent damage to its agricultural land.
Such a scenario portends serious damage to the country in other ways, such as encouraging radicalism and ultimately leading to significant political instability in the region. Issues include security in the Horn of Africa, shipping via the Suez Canal, security cooperation with Egypt to prevent illegal immigration into Europe, particularly by radicals, the peace treaty with Israel and the ability to secure gas supplies to Europe.
It is important in this context to mention that the U.S. Treasury Department and the World Bank have tried to broker an agreement on the reservoir-filling issue and concluded that no unilateral decision should be made by Ethiopia without providing clear evidence regarding the dam’s safety. Ethiopia refused to sign the agreement in the last moments.
No doubt Ethiopia has the right to generate electricity using water from the Nile, and Egypt and Sudan have accepted this in principle. According to international law, however, Ethiopia does not have the right to deprive the downstream countries of their water supply.
In fact, Ethiopia signed an agreement with Egypt and Sudan in the past regarding the amount of water that should reach their territories. If Ethiopia wants to withdraw from the previous agreement, then the country would have to forfeit ownership of the land of the Renaissance Dam’s reservoir – the previous agreement ceded Sudan’s control over that area.
Given the high stakes involved in this issue, the Biden administration must work to prevent a disaster in the region, one that could end in either genocide or a major war in a part of the world that desperately needs stability. U.S. political influence can play a critical role in mediating the process by encouraging Ethiopia’s neighbors to supply it with enough electricity to allow for a slower filling of the dam to prevent irreversible damage to agriculture in Egypt.
In addition, the United States can insist that the filling of the dam occur only after the necessary safety and security measures, as previously established by the Treasury Department and the World Bank, have been ensured.
In brief, involvement of the Biden administration in this issue at this critical time would be a wise expression of foreign policy, one that could prevent a disaster that might not be confined to the borders of the mentioned countries.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid (aka Tarek Abdelhamid) M.D.; Mlitt (Edu) has testified before Congress and before the European Parliament. Dr. Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: How Radical Islam Works, Why It Should Terrify Us, How to Defeat It." Read Dr. Tawfik Hamid's Reports — More Here.
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