Egypt, Ethiopia lock horns over Nile water

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November 23, 2010 23:21

A night time photograph made by an International Space Station Expedition shows the bright lights of Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt on the Mediterranean coast as well as the Nile River and its delta which stand out clearly. Photo - Reuters/NASA

Who: Ethiopian and Egyptian government.

What: Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi claimed that Egypt could not win a war with Ethiopia over the River Nile and accused Cairo of supporting rebel groups in an attempt to destabilise the Horn of Africa nation. Egypt responded by saying it was ‘amazed’ by Ethiopia’s suggestion and rebuffed Ethiopian claims.

Where: The Ethiopian premier made the accusations in an interview with Reuters in the capital city of Addis Ababa. Egyptian foreign ministry responded in a statement issued in Cairo: “The charges that Egypt .. is exploiting rebel groups against the ruling regime in Ethiopia are completely devoid of truth.”

When: The African nations traded accusations on Tuesday, 23 November.

Why: Egypt is almost totally dependent on the Nile and is threatened by climate change. It needs the Nile waters to feed a farm sector that accounts for a third of all jobs. Cairo is wary of dam construction in upstream countries that could affect flows and have an impact on its agriculture. Ethiopia has built five huge dams on the Nile in the last decade and has begun work on a $1.4 billion hydropower facility.

How: The River Nile passes through Egypt, Ethiopia and seven other countries. Ethiopia and other upstream countries are angry over the perceived injustice of a previous British-sponsored Nile water treaty signed in 1929. Under the 1929 pact, Egypt draws 55.5 billion cubic meters of water a year out of the Nile’s total flow of around 84 billion cubic meters. The water treaty heavily favoured British interests in Egypt despite the fact that some 85 percent of the water originates in Ethiopia. Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya signed a new deal to share the waters in May this year.

A map of the River Nile. Courtesy -

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