Decolonizing the Nile/Abbay: revisiting the ideational power tactics of Egypt over the GERD

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Abebe Yirga Ayenalem


The absence of harmonized and binding transboundary water law worldwide exacerbates the tensions on the states' sovereignty and hydro-hegemony (Gupta, 2016). Abbay, the name by which the Nile river is known by Ethiopia, has been captured by Egypt (and to some extent by the Sudan) through different strategies and tactics. The resource capture was reinforced by the colonial-era treaties that excluded Ethiopia and other riparian states. The beginning of the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile in 2011, has been shaking the long-existed hydro-political configurations in the Nile basin. The GERD is a self-funded mega-project with no foreign fund and is a non-consumptive hydropower dam. Upon completion, it is expected to uplift tens of millions of Ethiopians from poverty and more than seventy million Ethiopians from the darkness. From a symbolic point of view, it is considered national pride and a flagship project. Moreover, it would intensify regional economic integration. For Egyptians side, the dam has been considered a threat to its national interest. Since 2011, the transboundary water relation between Egypt and Ethiopia is jam-packed with conflicts. In this article, I examine the ideational power tactics, which have been employed in the post-2011 by Egypt towards the different actors to maintain the existing 'water allocation'. The main focus of this study is on the strategic narratives which have shaped Egypt's water diplomacy. This study is informed by the hydro-hegemony framework.

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