Will disputes between Ethiopia and Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam spill over into conflict—or something else?

By Callum Wood (theTrumpet.com) |

Falling as a gentle rain in the mountains of Gojjam, the lifeblood of nations begins. Trickling down the slopes, the runoff forms creeks, and the creeks feed waterways such as the Lesser Abay River. These rivers run across the plains and waterfalls of Ethiopia to fill the country’s largest body of water, Lake Tana. And from this lake flows the Blue Nile, the primary source of the mighty Nile River.

Those formative raindrops travel more than 5,000 miles until they reach the Mediterranean Sea.

But along the way, they now face a new obstacle, one that affects those who live along the Nile, and those who live far from it.

Controversial Construction

Now rising up in the path of the Blue Nile is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Many Ethiopians say this vast project is the solution to the country’s energy crisis. But downstream, Egypt’s 94 million residents live almost exclusively along the Nile. And the Egyptians consider the dam a threat. As the Trumpet wrote in 2012, “The power to shut down the Nile—even temporarily—is the power to destroy Egypt.”

Ethiopia has staunchly defended the project, attempting to dismiss Egypt’s fears. But with the dam now 70 percent completed, cracks in Ethiopia’s arguments are forming. Egyptians think this confirms their skepticism, and relations between Egypt and Ethiopia are showing major signs of stress.

How does this affect you? Both of these nations are located beside some of the world’s most important maritime choke points, which could easily shut off seaborne trade in the event of an open conflict. Large portions of oil and commerce traverse the Bab el-Mandeb and the Suez Canal. Millions of barrels of oil and millions of tons of other goods are the fuel that keep nations running, particularly in Europe.

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