The Political Deadlock on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam


The failure of the latest talks over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has intensified tensions between Ethiopia and downstream states Egypt and Sudan. What could have been strictly technical negotiations have turned into a political deadlock. The GERD has become a new reality challenging the traditional dynamics in the Nile River Basin. Three key factors can explain the current deadlock. The three parties entered the negotiations with different needs and objectives. These different positions have historical roots and are part of the respective countries’ traditional approaches to Nile Basin management. The GERD is situated in a geopolitical hotspot. The region is turning into a competition stage for external actors over its natural resources, such as oil, natural gas, hydropower, and precious metals. It is a region evincing a number of overlapping conflicts, with alliances forming across conflicts that are becoming hard to separate. The region also hosts external armed forces from over a dozen countries, including the United States, France, and China. This creates partisanship in terms of which country external actors support. The domestic costs of the negotiations for the three countries are high. State leaders tied their own hands in the negotiation process by adopting nationalist rhetoric to make domestic gains. The political climate is also fragile, with intra-state and border disputes leading to waning trust and increased accusations of meddling.

In GIGA Focus Africa
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