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A History of Turbulent Waters: Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Nile River

August 9, 2021
Boat on the river Nile, Egypt | Credit: Vincent Fourneau

Two tributaries of the world’s longest river, one intimate struggle in the making for centuries: the Renaissance Dam. Sitting near-completion and only partially full, the Ethiopian structure has been deemed an aggressive – if not viscerally dangerous – encroachment upon the Blue Nile’s basin. As things stand, Egypt dines with speculation, its media outlets saturated with justifiable anxieties and not-so-justifiable fear-mongering. While the world looks on, eyes fixed on the spectacle that is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Egypt and Sudan grapple with this newfound life-source tourniquet. So, what brought on this cutthroat antagonism? A simple answer: water. A not so simple answer: decades upon decades of slow-burning tension over the Nile river. Between British imperialism and the looming paranoia of drought, there is plenty worth unpacking but few willing to do so. Rather, for the past decade, people have been quick to cut their teeth on the subject with heart and little context. Egypt and Ethiopia’s lack of rapport can be credited to century-old claims, now dampened and delegated to the margins of thought in favor of more recent developments – as is the case with most multifaceted,…

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