Marathon negotiations between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia that spanned over 10 years dashed all hopes that had been placed on them in the face of the Ethiopian insistence on refusing to sign any binding agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
For many decades, Ethiopia has viewed Egypt and Sudan as seizing its right to the Nile waters, which has caused the poverty it has suffered from for a long time. It also believes that the time has come to act in what it believes of its ownership of the Blue Nile River.
On the other hand, Egypt sees “absolute Ethiopian control without agreements or restrictions as an existential threat to the Egyptian people.” Fears are rising about the destruction of the already meagre Egyptian agricultural area and the decrease in the quotas of water allocated for drinking, as Egypt relies almost entirely on the Nile River, which provides more than 90% of the country’s water needs.
In turn, Sudan fears that the Roseires dam, one of the most important sources of irrigation and electricity generation, will be affected by the lack of water resources that reach it through Ethiopia. The impact of GERD on the Sudanese agricultural sector is also a major concern.
Will GERD break open an Ethiopia-Egypt military dispute?
The most aggressive tone from the Egyptian side appeared for the first time, in the words of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who said: “We do not threaten anyone, but no one can take a drop of water from Egypt, otherwise the region will witness a state of instability that no one imagines.”
He added: “No one should think that he is far from our capabilities, Egypt’s waters are untouchable, and touching it is a red line.”
He continued, “Negotiation is our choice, which we started with, and hostilities are ugly and have effects that extend for many years because people do not forget that.” In another meeting, Sisi stressed that “all options are open.”
There is no room to compare the capabilities of the Egyptian army, which is one of the most powerful armies in the world, with the Ethiopian military power. But the long distance between Egypt and the Ethiopian Nile dam is one of the most difficult obstacles that Egypt may face if it considers military action.
Also, Egypt, which was known for pursuing diplomacy to the fullest extent with its neighbours on the African continent, which had great material and moral impact during the era of the late President Abdel Nasser.
Egypt has always had a special status among the countries of the continent, will be very difficult for it to sacrifice this historical legacy unless it was forced to, especially since military action will have far-reaching political and strategic effects.
In case, the military option became unavoidable, it will be very difficult without the use of Sudanese lands. Egypt and Sudan can cooperate through the deployment of the Egyptian Air Force inside Sudan. In this case, it will be easier to launch an airstrike on it, with much better results.
But Egypt in this case will be careful not to entirely destroy the dam, as flooding is a probable outcome. Thus, the strike will be directed at the weakest place in the dam’s structure.
I hope that Egypt will not be forced to engage in military action against the brothers in Ethiopia, “not because Egypt is helpless, but because Egypt is sane.”
Egypt has endured the provocations issued by the Ethiopian regime and is seeking every effort to a peaceful solution through a legal agreement, and this is what the Abiy Ahmed regime seeks to undermine.