This article first appeared in the SiC Report “The Global South in an Era of Great Power Competition. Click here to access the introduction and a full pdf download of the Report.

By Bantayehu Demlie Gezahegn, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg 

I would like to thank Prof. Firat Demir for his constructive feedback on the earlier version of the manuscript. I also acknowledge the valuable input received from the discussant of my paper Prof. Adham Saouli and other participants during the presentation of the paper at the “The Global South in an Era of Great Power Competition” conference at Northwestern University Qatar in Doha in November 2023. 

Abstract: Mainstream discourses particularly in the West synonymize the Nile with Egypt; yet the Nile River spans across eleven African countries. The launch of the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in 2011 upset the status quo and sparked a major hydro-geopolitical dispute among Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan. The dispute has also attracted the interest of great powers and other regional actors. This piece sheds light on the presence of great power competition in the Nile basin, based on an analysis of media portrayals of the GERD dispute. It first maps the official narratives of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, followed by the involvement of great powers and key regional actors (the United States, European Union, China, U.N. Security Council, African Union, Arab League, BRICS countries, and Turkey). It then analyzes how major media outlets select and amplify particularly dominant frames – ownership of the Nile, water war, water security, decolonization of the Nile, and development and natural rights. The study concludes with some key findings. Firstly, media from across different geopolitical regions converge in their reporting about a shifting power dynamics in favor of Ethiopia and other upstream African countries. Secondly, the role of China is an important point of difference between Global North and Global South media. Finally, the portrayal of GERD as a geopolitical project is accompanied by a dearth of reporting about the dam from the perspective of human security – entailing lack of inclusion of voices that may instead foster cooperation over confrontation and mutual benefit over exclusion. 


Despite spanning across eleven riparian African countries, the Nile tends to be synonymized with Egypt particularly in Western media and public discourse. The launch of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) over the Blue Nile in 2011 upset the status quo, sparking a major hydro-political deadlock among Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan. After decade-long negotiations, the three parties have not yet come to an agreeable resolution of the impasse. In September 2023 Ethiopia announced the fourth and final filling of the dam’s reservoir. 

The start of January 2024 saw a set of significant developments with potentially far-reaching implications on the future of the dispute involving the GERD: While Ethiopia announced the dam to be 94 percent complete, Egypt officially withdrew from the negotiations track and stated readiness to defend its water and national security.1 On 1 January 2024, both Egypt and Ethiopia became official members of the BRICS alliance. Also on January 1, landlocked Ethiopia announced a naval-commercial port deal with Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland in return for potential recognition of the latter as an independent state – igniting a realignment of alliances across the Nile Basin, the Red Sea, and the Horn of Africa.2

As in history, contemporary control of the Nile remains of considerable interest to great powers. In the GERD controversy, different geopolitical actors expressed interest and exerted influence through both action and inaction. The actors directly involved include the United States, the European Union, the U.N. Security Council, the African Union, and the Arab League – in addition to other actors to be discussed later such as China, whose involvement is less direct. 

Investigating media portrayals of Africa’s would-be largest hydropower dam offers vital insights into intra-basin power shifts taking shape and the evolving dynamics of great power influence. While some scholars have compiled Egyptian and Ethiopian media narratives, to date no comprehensive analysis of media storylines from beyond the Nile basin (especially vis-à-vis great power interests) exists. This paper analyzes narratives by major media outlets from both Global South and Global North in light of great power competition in the Nile basin. 

Methodologically, it first maps official narratives of riparian countries and the involvement (and positions) of great powers and geopolitical actors. This map serves as a benchmark. The paper then uses a qualitative analysis to identify how the media select, amplify, reframe, and narrate different issues. As a result, the selection of media and their storylines is purposive and illustrative and by no means exhaustive. It is hoped that the study will ignite further conversation and serve as a basis for future research on the topic. 

Historical Background, Official Positions, and Key Actors

Historical Context

The Nile, arguably the world’s longest river, passes through eleven riparian nations across central, eastern, and northern Africa. Ethiopia contributes the single largest share of the Nile waters (about 86.4%) through the Blue Nile (Abay), Baro (Atbara), and Tekezze (Sobat) tributaries.

Egypt, a desert country, depends on the Nile, which is referred to as the lifeblood of Egypt, and Egyptian leaders consistently consider the Nile as part of the country’s national security. In 1979, for instance, the then Egyptian President Anwar Sadat said, “the only matter that could take Egypt to war again is water.”3

Since the late 19th century, British interest in controlling the Nile for cotton plantations along the Nile Basin laid foundations for water use patterns that historically favored Egypt. Egypt continues to claim historical rights chiefly based on water quota agreements dating from 1929 and 1959.4 A 1902 border agreement is also referenced to strengthen Egypt’s claim.

In 1902, Ethiopia and the then British Government of Sudan signed a treaty regarding the Ethio-Sudanese borders. This treaty prohibited Ethiopia from constructing any works across the Blue Nile, Lake Tana, or Sobat, which would arrest the flow of the waters of the Nile without the consent of Sudan.5 Ethiopia denounced the treaty in September 1957, arguing that the treaty is no longer binding. More recently, Ethiopia’s view is that the terms of the agreement do not apply to the GERD as the hydropower dam will “not arrest” the flow of the Nile waters. It is also debatable if Egypt can enforce a claim based on a treaty that it is not party to, since the treaty was signed between British Sudan and Ethiopia. 

In 1929, Egypt and Great Britain (the latter representing its colonies including Sudan) signed a treaty, which gives Egypt a veto right over any upstream Nile basin projects. Under this treaty, 4 billion cubic meters (BCMs) of water were allocated to Sudan, but the entire timely flow during the dry season in the upstream countries and a total annual volume of 48 BCMs was reserved for Egypt. Ethiopia, which was not a party, rejects the treaty as non-binding.

In 1959, following the independence of both Egypt and Sudan from British colonization, a treaty between the two downstream nations further reiterated their exclusive historical and natural shares arising mainly from the 1929 Anglo-Egyptian treaty. Egypt’s water share was raised from 48 to 55.5 BCMs and Sudan’s share from 4 to 18.5 BCMs, and nothing to all other riparian countries. The remaining from the total annual flow of 84 BCMs is left for evaporation, equally shared between the two countries. Ethiopia rejects this agreement as well. 

In 1999, in a move to break with the past, Nile riparian nations launched the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) as the first and the only all-inclusive regional platform for mutual dialogue. Lengthy negotiations under this initiative led to a new agreement – the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA), also known as the Entebbe Convention. The CFA denounces the 1929 and 1959 agreements and the Nile water quota system. Instead of quantifying water rights and water use, the CFA aims to “promote integrated management, sustainable development, and harmonious utilization” of the Nile basin waters.6 It also includes the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization and the obligation not to cause significant harm. In May 2010, five upstream Nile countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania) signed the CFA, followed by Burundi in February 2011. While the remaining three upstream nations expressed support for the CFA, downstream countries Egypt and Sudan rejected it. Six ratifications are required for the CFA to enter into force, and four (Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda) have been made.

In March 2011, Ethiopia unveiled the construction of the GERD over the Blue Nile in Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia, less than 20 kilometers east of the border with Sudan. With an installed capacity of 5150 megawatts of electricity, the GERD is set to be the largest hydropower project in Africa and one of the largest in the world. The reservoir behind the dam has a capacity to store 74 billion cubic meters of water. 

Official Positions of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan

Egypt: Egypt maintains that the GERD contradicts Egypt’s historical rights (including the right to veto upstream projects) under the 1929 and 1959 agreements. Egyptian officials also fear that if Ethiopia builds its dam without an agreement, other upstream countries might follow this lead.7

A major concession Egypt made in departure from colonial-era agreements came when it signed the trilateral Declaration of Principles on GERD in 2015 with Ethiopia and Sudan. However, subsequent progress in the technical negotiations has been accompanied by ‘a war of words,’ initially from Egypt and later from Ethiopia as well. Escalation in rhetoric has come at three important stages: (i) when Ethiopia began diverting the flow of the water to commence construction; (ii) when the U.S.-mediated negotiations stalled; and (iii) when Ethiopia disclosed plans to start initial filling of the dam’s reservoir in July 2020 (and annually since then when Ethiopia continued to fill the reservoir).

When Ethiopia temporarily diverted the flow of the Blue Nile in May 2013, Egyptian politicians considered the diversion of the water flow as a declaration of war by Ethiopia on Egypt. Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi threatened that if the Nile waters were to decrease by a single drop, his nation’s option would be “blood.” In addition, in a live televised meeting of political party leaders convened by the President (aired allegedly without the knowledge of participants), Egyptian politicians stated that Egypt would use all alternatives including supporting insurgent groups fighting against the Ethiopian government to sabotage the construction of the dam.8 

Ethiopia: Ethiopia considers the GERD to be at the heart of its development aspirations and poverty reduction strategy. The dam will provide electricity for Ethiopia’s 120 million people, and meet the energy demand for its industrialization ambitions. Only one third of Ethiopia’s population currently has access to electricity. The GERD is expected to improve availability of electricity by up to 200 percent when complete.9 Ethiopia also plans to export energy to neighboring countries and mitigate the foreign currency shortage the country regularly faces.  Furthermore, Ethiopia considers the dam as a symbol of its independence, national unity and sovereignty. For over a decade, and particularly during the past few years’ deadly conflict in northern Ethiopia, the GERD has become the single most unifying national project garnering support across political and ethno-religious divides.10 Works of popular art and culture portray the GERD as “finally” heralding a resolution of an age-old paradox – of a river that is so integral to Ethiopia’s national identity but abandons the very people who deeply cherish it without being put to use in reducing the reality of abject poverty.11

Due to international financiers’ reluctance to fund construction of the dam, the GERD has been financed by the people of Ethiopia through the purchase of bonds from their salaries and incomes. Lack of availability of international financing is attributable to Egypt’s successful lobbying of institutions such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the European Investment Bank not to fund the GERD and other upstream projects on the Nile.12 Ethiopia also frames the GERD as an issue of justice and fairness. Despite being the single largest contributor of the Nile water supply, by some estimates, Ethiopia utilizes only less than one percent of the Nile.13

Sudan: Sudan’s positions on the GERD project have changed several times. Initially, Sudan was against the GERD. In March 2012, Sudan expressed its full support for the construction of the dam, citing benefits in controlling seasonal floods and sedimentation, and potential cost-effective electricity imports from Ethiopia. Among several Arab League resolutions that back Egypt’s position on the GERD, Sudan was the only member state to reject a resolution from 2020.14 Ethiopia’s other neighbors Djibouti and Somalia, though voting in favor of the resolution, subsequently expressed neutrality after Ethiopia requested clarifications on their positions. Under the joint civil-military transitional government, Sudan’s positions are reportedly divided with the military wing allegedly aligning with Egypt. The outbreak of full-fledged conflict in 2023 further complicates Sudanese positions and role in the GERD controversy. 

Involvement of Great Powers and Multipolar Actors 

While Ethiopia maintained that disputes over the GERD could be resolved at trilateral level, Egypt sought the involvement of great powers and international institutions, while Ethiopia sought to limit the resolution to an African Union framework. Egypt (in alignment with Sudan) on the other hand insisted on engaging “non-African” actors such as the U.S., the European Union, the U.N. Security Council, Russia, the Arab League, and other regional actors such as Saudi Arabia.15 The following discussion highlights how different great powers and multipolar actors positioned themselves vis-à-vis the GERD dispute.

The United States: To date, the U.S. is the great power most directly involved in the GERD project. In November 2019, the U.S. and the World Bank stepped in to revive negotiations upon Egypt’s request. Rounds of talks took place both in Washington D.C. and in capitals of the three countries with the aim to draft an agreement in early 2020. On 15 January 2020, a joint statement (Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, U.S., and WB) was issued outlining points of initial agreement to serve as a basis for a final agreement.16 The Ethiopian delegation however skipped follow-up talks scheduled in Washington D.C. in February 2020, when the signing of a final agreement was expected; talks continued in Ethiopia’s absence. The U.S. Secretary of Treasury issued a statement cautioning, “Final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement.”17 Ethiopia subsequently accused the U.S. of taking sides and stated that it will stick to the initial plan to fill the GERD as set out in the joint statement. The U.S. withheld aid amounting USD 130 million to Ethiopia as a condition for forcing the latter to sign the U.S. proposed agreement.18 The amount withheld could be considered insignificant, compared to an estimated USD 3.6 billion of U.S. assistance to Ethiopia, mostly in humanitarian assistance between 2020 and 2023.19 However, the U.S. action coupled with President Trump’s subsequent remarks in October 2020 that the Egyptians may “blow up” the dam was interpreted as U.S. bias towards Egypt.20 The post-Trump administration clarified that “it rejected the Trump Administration’s approach and disconnected any assistance considerations from the GERD.”21 

The European Union: The EU, alongside the U.S., continues to endorse Egypt’s “water security,” which Ethiopia considers a bias towards Egypt. On several occasions, the EU issued statements that Ethiopia has interpreted as echoing Egyptian talking points.22 For instance, in its July 2021 statement following Ethiopia’s announcement of second filling of GERD’s reservoir, the EU “regretted” Ethiopia’s action stating that filling of the dam should not take place “without reaching a prior agreement with downstream partners on this issue”23 (along the line of the U.S. warning mentioned above following the failure of Washington-facilitated talks). The statement was issued while the EU maintained an observer role in the African Union-led process. 

In addition, in a June 2022 joint statement upon the conclusion of the 9th Association Council meeting between Egypt and the EU, the EU explicitly endorsed Egypt’s position by welcoming the UN Security Council presidential statement on GERD (which Ethiopia rejected), and by stressing the need to protect Egypt’s water security by reaching an expedited agreement. “Reaching such an agreement as soon as possible is a top priority for the EU and Egypt in order to protect Egypt’s water security and promote peace and stability in the wider region,” the statement reads.24

China: Unlike the U.S. and the E.U., China is not actively trying to resolve the GERD dispute. Yet especially in the West, China is the “perceived financier” of the construction of the GERD.25  This view holds that China sees the GERD as a key puzzle in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and mentions Chinese loans of about USD 3 billion since 2013 to expand Ethiopia’s power grid and Ethiopia’s 2019 decision to hire Chinese contractors for part of GERD’s electro-mechanical work.26 However, this position is debatable since construction of the dam is domestically financed. Ethiopia also receives a significant amount of development financing from western and Gulf countries as well. Moreover, the principal contractor of the construction of the dam is the Italian company Webuild (formerly Salini Impregilo). 

The U.N. Security Council:  Egypt also sought a resolution from the U.N. Security Council, which deliberated on the GERD twice in 2020 and 2021, and issued a presidential statement in 2021 (its first ever on transboundary water resources). The Council resolved in favor of mediation by the African Union (AU). At the insistence of Egypt and Sudan, the EU and the U.S. hold observer status in the AU-led process. Ethiopia reacted to the U.N. Security Council statement by rejecting any precedent-setting value of the statement, criticizing Tunisia’s push for a binding Council resolution as a “historic misstep,” and welcoming the decision to defer the case to the African Union.27 The decision to defer to African Union mediation and the emphasis on the U.N. Security Council not to set a precedent for water disputes was also emphasized by Council members China and India, partly owing to their own interests involving transboundary watercourses.  

Other Multipolar and Regional Actors: As highlighted above, the African Union and the Arab League have been among the multipolar actors influencing the course of the GERD dispute in differing ways. The Arab League adopted several resolutions backing the positions of Egypt and Sudan, portraying GERD as a threat to “Arab water security.” The African Union on the other hand emphasized the motto of “African Solutions to African Problems” and sought to limit the GERD as an “African” issue. Moreover, several key regional players offered to mediate talks in the dispute, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, and Turkey. With the admission of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran – along with Egypt and Ethiopia themselves – to the BRICS bloc, it is unclear how the role of such actors will evolve. 

Frames of Media Storylines about the GERD 

The GERD received extensive worldwide media coverage. The following discussion analyzes dominant frames through a purposive sampling of storylines and media content that use emotive appeal, framing, and agenda setting. 

“Who Owns the Nile?” Frame: This is a question that arose in the wake of the launch of the GERD, and again following subsequent milestones such as the Declaration of Principles (DoP) and initial filling of the dam’s reservoir. The question highlights the GERD’s impact in upsetting the status quo. Media from across different political regions published storylines questioning the ownership of the Nile. For instance, following the DoP signing in 2015, Doha-based Al Jazeera Media Network asks the question “Who owns the Nile?” and answers “It’s more complicated than you think.”28 In May 2015, Hargeisa-based Geeska Afrika newspaper (which focuses on the Horn of Africa) asked the same question and responded “The Nile belongs to everyone,” emphasizing the role of the DoP in ushering a path of cooperation.29 In February 2020 (amidst U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempt to broker a deal), the New York Times wrote “For thousands of years, Egypt controlled the Nile. A new dam threatens that.”30

“Water War” Frame: Significant reporting features the frame of “water war,” which implies a “military option” to resolve the GERD dispute. As such, it is considered to reinforce Egypt’s position. In December 2021, Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail wrote “Egypt’s farmers are on the front line of the water wars,” in a report entitled “Fear along the Nile: Why Egypt sees a massive dam in Ethiopia as a matter of life and death.”31 In April 2020, British daily The Guardian wrote “‘It’ll cause a water war:’ divisions run deep as filling of the Nile dam nears.”32 In connection with an alleged Egyptian cyber-attack on GERD infrastructure, in September 2020, U.S. magazine Foreign Policy published an expert’s point of view entitled “The Ethiopia-Egyptian water war has begun,” adding that it “is just happening in cyberspace.”33 The BBC in February 2018 featured a report entitled “The ‘water war’ brewing over the new River Nile dam.”34 In 2017, Turkish public broadcaster TRT World reported the GERD controversy as “Africa’s water war.”35

“Water Security” Frame: Another framing emphasizes the pressure of climate and demographic changes, and is also associated with an Egyptian perspective. In May 2023, Abu Dhabi-based privately owned newspaper The National wrote a storyline entitled “Millions of Egyptian livelihoods could dry up as Ethiopia dam threatens Nile water access.”36 In June 2014, Al Jazeera published an extensive interactive reporting entitled “Could mega-dams kill the mighty River Nile?”

“Decolonization of the Nile” Frame: Reporting along this frame emphasizes the colonial origins of current water use patterns and the embedded unfairness therein. As such it reinforces the position of Ethiopia and other upstream African countries. In October 2019, Reuters reported “Ethiopia says Egypt is trying to maintain ‘colonial era’ grip over the Nile."37

It is also important to note reporting that dismisses the colonial roots of the 1929 and 1959 agreements. The BBC – in a September 2023 report entitled “Why is Egypt worried about Ethiopia’s dam on the Nile?” – writes: 

“A treaty from 1929 (as well as another treaty from 1959) gave Egypt and Sudan rights to almost all the Nile's water. It also gave them the right to veto projects by countries upstream (such as Ethiopia) that would deprive them of their share of water. Ethiopia said it should not be bound by these old treaties, and it decided to start building the dam during the Arab Spring, when there was political turmoil in Egypt.”38

This framing erases the colonial basis of the treaties (involving only Egypt on the one hand and Britain representing its colonies including Sudan on the other). It also does not  recognize that Ethiopia was not a party to these treaties: implying that Ethiopia rejected the treaties just because they were old and unfair.  

“Development and Natural Rights” Frame: This framing deemphasizes the “natural rights” and “acquired rights” argument by Egypt (and to some extent by Sudan). As such, it is associated with the position of Ethiopia and other upstream countries. In July 2023, Kenya-based newspaper covering east Africa The East African highlighted “Ethiopia’s right to water” for agriculture and household consumption.39 The framing also highlights the development potential of the dam beyond Ethiopia. In April 2021, a Ugandan independent newspaper The Daily Monitor published a report on how the potential benefits of GERD -- including for Sudan and Egypt -- are underappreciated, under the heading “Ethiopian dam: Blessing for Nile Basin countries.”40 The newspaper built on the Declaration of Principles logic earlier in April 2017 when it wrote: “Why Nile-sharing countries have no choice but to cooperate.”41

Reading media frames in light of Great Power Competition and Human Security  

In framing the GERD controversy, the above frames are generally widely reported across media from different regions. It may be difficult to associate the frames with specific geopolitical spheres although some frames are more accentuated in some regions than others. In terms of great power competition and human security, the following conclusive observations can be made. 

Convergence on shifting power dynamics in the Nile Basin 

Reporting by media from Global North and Global South regions, and across sub-regions finds one area of convergence: observing a shifting power dynamics in the Nile Basin. In October 2018, CNN asks “Is Ethiopia taking control of the River Nile?”42 The report reads: “The Nile River Basin extends to 11 African countries, but Egypt – one of the oldest civilizations in the world – has controlled the river and used the lion’s share of its waters for millennia. That could be about to change.” Along the same line, the “[GERD] is a fait accompli, it’s time to get real,” reads South African newspaper Daily Maverick in April 2023.43 The observation of a shifting balance of power is also consistent throughout academic literature. For instance, a work published by the Italian Institute for International Political Studies in September 2020 argues that Egypt could not prevent the construction of the dam despite the attempt to internationalize the dispute, illustrating “Egypt’s failed power projection.”44 Overall, this reading calls for cooperation between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan (and other Nile basin countries) as the recommended course of action.

Divergence on the role of China

Another observation across media discussion is a divergence between Global North and Global South depictions of the potential role of China in the construction of the GERD and in its clout for resolving the dispute. Reporting from Global North outlets highlighted China’s embeddedness in the GERD construction. In October 2021, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) published a blog-post describing China’s role as “Everywhere and Nowhere to be seen.”45 The article notes that China played a key role in paving the way for the construction of the GERD and that its non-interference policy is put to test in the GERD dispute. China’s appointment of a special envoy for the Horn of Africa in 2022 followed by hosting a peace mediation summit in Addis Ababa is mentioned to emphasize China’s growing proactive role in the region (and potentially in GERD dispute). Reporting by Global South media outlets offers a nuanced perspective, for instance Moroccan media reporting about China’s “vested interest in maintaining regional harmony”46 –  something that is also evident in the admission of both Egypt and Ethiopia to BRICS.  

Dearth of human security frame 

Last but not least, media reports converge in portraying the GERD as an essentially a political project involving a far-reaching shift in power dynamics. As such, the framing of issues is consistent with the position of States or regional blocs where the media is located. This includes for example Indian media highlighting that India opposed the U.N. Security Council mandate on GERD due to Indian contestation over river use with neighboring countries. As a result, there is a dearth of reporting from a human security perspective (both negative and positive impacts on local communities, sustainability, and access to clean energy). As such, reporting about GERD also departs from previous international media reporting about other Ethiopian dams. The voice of non-State actors such as civil societies, which could foster cooperation, is also underrepresented. 


This piece highlighted media depiction of the traces of great power competition in the Nile basin, following the start of the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Illustrative examples of media reporting from across different regions highlight dominant narratives along the frames of ownership of the Nile, water war, water security, decolonization of the Nile, and development and natural rights. Each framing is associated with contested positions of riparian countries (in particular between Egypt, and Ethiopia and other upstream riparian countries). More conclusive observations can be made around the following points. Firstly, there is a convergence of media framing asserting a regional shifting power dynamics in favor of Ethiopian interests. In terms of great power competition, the Nile has historically been and continues to be a site for great power interest as shown in British colonial era treaties on the Nile waters. In the GERD dispute, the U.S. is most directly involved in attempts to sponsor agreements. Ethiopia accuses the U.S. of Egyptian bias, which is consistent with the  European Union’s endorsement of the water security framework. Reporting on GERD also depicts a key role of China already in the dam construction and a growing role for potentially engaging in the resolution of the dispute. Finally, there is a dearth of reporting about GERD from the perspective of human security. This is attributable to the portrayal of GERD as a (geo) political project. Lack of reporting based on a human security lens is associated with lack of the inclusion of voices that may instead foster cooperation over confrontation and mutual benefit over exclusion.


1: Addis Standard (9 January 2024), “Analysis: Egypt vacates the seat at GERD negotiations, what is next?,”

2: BBC (8 January 2024), “Ethiopia-Somaliland deal makes waves in Horn of Africa,”

3: Al Jazeera, 9 December 2023, “Next on Egypt’s to-do: Ethiopia and the Nile,”

4: Salam Abdulqadir Abdulrahman (4 November 2018), “Agreements that favour Egypt’s rights to Nile waters are an anachronism,” 

5: See Article III of the 1902 Treaty between the United Kingdom and Ethiopia,

6: Text of the Cooperative Framework Agreement (2010),

7: Institute of Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) (2020), Egypt Conflict Insight,

8: BBC, 28 May 2013, “Ethiopia diverts Blue Nile for controversial dam build,” See also BBC, 4 June 2023, “Egyptian politicians caught in on-air Ethiopia dam gaffe,”

9: Yohannes Yihdego et al (2017), “Nile Basin Dispute: Perspectives of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD),” Global Journal of Human-Social Science Vol. 17 Issue 2 Version 1.0,

10: Mohammed Seid Ali and Embiale Beyene Admasu (2021), “The Politics of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) – an Ethiopian Perspective,”

11: Abebe Yirga Ayenalem (March 2023), “The Songs of the Nile: from A’bay to the GERD,”

12: Ngambouk Vitalis Pemunta et al (2021), “The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Egyptian National Security, and human and food security in the Nile River Basin,” Cogent Social Sciences Vol. 7 Issue 1,

13: See for instance, Daniel Abebe (2014), "Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Nile: The Economics of International Water Law" (University of Chicago Public Law & Legal Theory Working Paper No. 484),

14: Ahramonline, 5 March 2020, “Sudan refuses to endorse Arab League resolution supporting Egypt in Nile dam dispute,”

15: Mohammed Seid Ali and Embiale Beyene Admasu (2021), “The Politics of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) – an Ethiopian Perspective,”

16: Joint Statement of Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, the United States and the World Bank, 15 January 2020,

17: Statement by the Secretary of Treasury on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, 28 February 2020,

18: Robbie Gramer (27 August 2020), “U.S. Halts Some Foreign Assistance Funding to Ethiopia Over Dam Dispute with Egypt, Sudan,”

19: U.S. Department of State (November 2023), “U.S. Relations with Ethiopia: Bilateral Relations Fact Sheet,”

20: Yohannes Gedamu (September 2020), “Suspension of U.S. aid to Ethiopia is yet another example of Trump’s disregard for Africa,”

21: Jeffrey Feltman (Amb.), U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, “A Perspective on Ethiopian-U.S. Relationship after a Year of Conflict,” 1 November 2021,

22: See for instance, Egypt Independent (24 June 2022), “Ethiopia categorically rejects EU statement on GERD crisis, describing as “biased,””

23: European Union (8 July 2021), “Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: Statement by the Spokesperson on the announcement of the second filling,”

24: Council of the European Union (20 June 2022), “Joint press statement – 9th Association Council meeting between Egypt and the European Union,”

25: Ngambouk Vitalis Pemunta et al (2021), “The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Egyptian National Security, and human and food security in the Nile River Basin,” Cogent Social Sciences Vol. 7 Issue 1,

26: Jack Massingill (2020), “China's Quiet Influence on Ethiopian Development,” The Virginia Journal of International Affairs,

27: See Ethiopia statement on UNSC presidential statement about GERD (15 September 2021)

28: Al Jazeera, March 2015, “Who owns the Nile? It’s more complicated than you think,”

29: Geeska Afrika, 5 May 2015, “Who Owns The Nile?”

30: New York Times, February 2020, “For thousands of years, Egypt controlled the Nile. A new dam threatens that,”

31: Eric Reguly (December 2021), “Why Egypt Sees a Massive Dam in Ethiopia as a Matter of Life and Death - The Globe and Mail,” The Globe and The Mail,

32: The Guardian, April 2020, “‘It’ll cause a water war:’ divisions run deep as filling of the Nile dam nears,”

33: Foreign Policy, September 2020, “The Ethiopia-Egyptian Water War Has Begun,”

34: BBC, February 2018, “The ‘water war’ brewing over the new River Nile dam,”

35: TRT World (2017), “Africa’s Water War: Fighting for Survival,”

36: The National, 1 May 2023, “Millions of Egyptian livelihoods could dry up as Ethiopia dam threatens Nile water access,”

37: Reuters, October 2019, “Ethiopia says Egypt trying to maintain ‘colonial era’ grip over the Nile,”

38: BBC, September 2023, “Why is Egypt worried about Ethiopia’s dam on the Nile?”

39: The East African, July 2023, “Egypt, Ethiopia working on water deal: What it means for other Nile River nations,”

40: Daily Monitor (Uganda), April 2021, “Ethiopia dam: Blessing for Nile Basin countries,”

41: Daily Monitor (Uganda), April 2017, “Why Nile-sharing countries have no choice but to cooperate,”

42: CNN, October 2018, “Is Ethiopia taking control of the River Nile?

43: Daily Maverick, April 2023, “Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a fait accompli, it’s time to get real,”

44: Stephan Roll (September 2020), “The Nile Conflict and Egypt’s Failed Power Projection” (Italian Institute for International Political Studies),

45: Lisa Klaassen (October 2021), “ ‘Everywhere and Nowhere to be Seen:’ How China’s role in the GERD dispute challenges Beijing’s non-interference principle,” (LSE Blog),

46: Morocco World News (December 2023) “Inside the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s Tensions and Regional Implications,”

Bantayehu Demlie Gezahegn is a research fellow and doctoral candidate at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. He holds an LL.M. in International Legal Studies from American University Washington College of Law and bachelor’s degrees in Law and Psychology from Addis Ababa University. Bantayehu has several years of experience in humanitarian and governance portfolios in his native region of the Horn of Africa. He was a Senior Humanitarian Program Manager at Irish Aid (the Irish Government’s official overseas development cooperation program) and a Political Advisor/Governance Program Officer at the Royal Norwegian Embassy based in Addis Ababa. He was also a Protection Associate at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and an Adjunct Lecturer at Addis Ababa University School of Law. Bantayehu recently held fellowships at the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. His research interests include migration, development, business and human rights, and the history and practice of international law with particular focus on Africa and the Global South. ban. or

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