The classical historian Herodotus wrote that Egypt is the gift of the Nile. Having recently surpassed an official population count of 100 million, Egypt remains dependent on adequate flow of Nile River water for drinking, agriculture, and generation of hydroelectric power. Egypt and Ethiopia have been in negotiations to reach a fair and just allocation of Nile River water since Ethiopia announced that it would begin construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam ten years ago. The dam, located near the northern border of Ethiopia, was proposed in order to harvest hydroelectric power that would contribute to Ethiopia’s development. At the same time, the dam would constrict the flow of Nile water to Sudan and to Egypt, and so Egypt has opposed the construction of the dam without an agreement in place to ensure adequate access to water, despite asserting its support for the successful development of Ethiopia.
The US and its Department of the Treasury, while officially an observer to negotiations, has played a key role, along with the World Bank, since October in bringing the parties to the table and working on parameters of a framework agreement. An agreement of principles was to be signed by the end of February, but negotiations between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia broke down when Ethiopia rejected a US proposal on filling the reservoir behind the dam and on the operation of the dam, and has suggested that its elections later this year will necessitate delaying further discussions.
Water is a human right and a necessity. No single country can restrict another’s access to that life-giving resource. The US has worked to broker a resolution to this dispute that threatens the well-being of the Sudan and Egypt, whose people depend on the Nile’s waters. Take action to urge the US Administration to pressure the parties to return to the table immediately to reach an agreement that guarantees the necessary access to Nile water each country needs.
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