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In-Depth Research & Reports

November 25, 2020

The temperature is rising, the fever white hot: The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam as flashpoint between Egypt and Ethiopia

By Christopher D. Booth

Once considered unlikely by regional experts, military confrontation along the Nile is a growing possibility, as a diplomatic solution to the Egyptian-Sudanese-Ethiopian stand-off recedes. Outside observers may not understand why Egypt considers the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) an “existential threat” to its existence, but, regardless, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and his advisors see it as such.

A new Atlantic Council issue brief, “The Temperature is Rising, the Fever White Hot: The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam as Flashpoint between Egypt and Ethiopia,” authored by Christopher D. Booth, describes the relationship between water scarcity and government stability in Egypt. The current Egyptian government is aware of the the role that water scarcity may have played in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, and of the continuing threat that water issues pose nearly ten years later, particularly in light of Egypt’s political and economic challenges. 

Booth warns that, given the inconclusive diplomacy of the West regarding the threat the GERD poses to Egypt, the Egyptian regime may determine that it has no other choice but to take up arms against its “oppressors” and roll the dice in an attack against the dam.

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Image: Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Ethiopia, on September 26, 2019. Source: REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo/File Photo