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Mideast Egypt Ethiopia
An Egyptian fishes with a net in the Nile River, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Egyptian officials tried to cool tensions with Ethiopia Wednesday over the new Nile River dam project by highlighting its neighborliness as the Ethiopian prime minister’s spokesman insisted that nothing would stop the dam from being completed upstream from Egypt, which is wholly dependent on Nile River water. (Al Jazeera/AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

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”.

Morsi’s bellicose warnings followed the suggestions of leading Egyptian politicians on television last week that Cairo should prepare airstrikes and send special forces to uphold its God-given right to the lion’s share of Nile waters. The Ethiopian government of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has signalled that it is not impressed and that it will carry on with work on the multibillion dollar Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – a move seen by some as raising temperatures further, possibly triggering the “water wars” that pessimists have long predicted will characterise the geopolitics of the 21st century.

The rest of this article appears as an opinion piece on the website of Al Jazeera. This preview is reposted here with the permission of the author and Al Jazeera.

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