GERD issues could escalate to conflict; Egypt is loath to let it go that far

By | Rachel Brooks 

With special guest, Mohamed Maher

January 18, 2021 

Image credit: “The flag waver of Mohamed Mahmoud Street 2” by alisdare1 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Despite superior military force, Egypt is reluctant to allow the GERD issues with Ethiopia to escalate. Egypt faces political strife domestically that it must address, and a conflict with Ethiopia would prolong these issues. Our guest, researcher and author Mohamed Maher gives insights. 


How would you say recent events in Darfur may impact the politics surrounding GERD dam?

Although tribal violence incidents in the Darfur region occur from time to time, the most recent of which was Monday, January 18th. 

It resulted in the killing of 20 people Monday in the village of Al-Tawil Saadoun, about 65 kilometers south of the city of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur State, and that such violence is one of the frequent scenes in the troubled Sudanese region, which has been witnessed since 2003 during the war between pro-government forces and rebel minorities. Nearly 300,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million displaced, according to the United Nations.


In general, at first glance there is no indication that the recent incidents of violence in Darfur are related to the ongoing political conflict around the GERD  Dam between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, but of course the expansion of the circle of violence and unrest in the Horn of Africa, whether in Darfur, or in the Ethiopian Tigray region, Or on the Sudanese-Ethiopian borders, matters that could eventually lead to a full-scale war in the region, especially in the presence of an Egyptian-Sudanese-Ethiopian dispute over the issue of the GERD  Dam, which is vital and so important to the three peoples.

Do you expect the west to attempt to intervene in this potential local conflict, and if so, what will the consequences be?

If you are talking about the GERD Dam file, my personal assessment is that the United States and Europe do not have a real political will to intervene in the GERD Dam crisis. Do not forget that Washington tried several months ago, and the American mediation represented by the United States Department of the Treasury and the World Bank would have succeeded had it not been for the Ethiopian intransigence. The Ethiopian delegation withdrew at the last moments after the proposed draft was signed by the Egyptian and Sudanese side, and the administration of the outgoing President Trump paid special attention to mediating this file, given the historical relations between Cairo and Washington, and tried through diplomatic methods at times and through pressure at other times to try to reach an agreement that satisfies All parties, but Addis Ababa rejected all these attempts in a strange and provocative manner, which resulted in the US administration withholding some aid intended for Ethiopia, and the explicit threat that President Trump came out earlier that the Ethiopian intransigence policy would lead to the Egyptians bombing the dam in the end because they could not. he said Egypt can not live in that way.

How likely is the ensuing crisis within North Africa regarding the dam to create ripple effect issues with the Gulf states and Israel? Could the conflict bleed beyond the borders of Africa?

All evidence clearly indicates Egypt’s unwillingness to resort to a military solution. Let me here point out that the Egyptian policy for dealing with the dam file is based on solving the problem through diplomatic and peaceful channels, as the Egyptian President and the Egyptian Foreign Minister emphasized these meanings on more than one occasion, and let me I remind you that Egypt recently came to the UN Security Council to solve the crisis, before the Security Council referred the file to the African Union. 

My guess here is that the Egyptian diplomacy will try to reach an agreement that satisfies all parties through soft diplomatic means (negotiations and mediation) or through coarse means, which are happening now from (resorting to the Security Council and other regional and international organizations), but I think that if Ethiopia continues to be intransigent and provoke Cairo then here The matter could lead to a military conflict, and this could take two forms, direct or indirect, and in the end, according to the Global Fire Power website, there is a clear military advantage between Egypt and Ethiopia in favor of Egypt, as Egypt ranks 13th in the world, while Ethiopia is ranked 60th and everyone He knows this, but Egypt also has very complex international obligations, and it has its own war against extremists, and the battle for development after the years of turmoil that accompanied the Arab Spring revolutions. Therefore, the military option is not preferred for Cairo, despite its clear military superiority.

See Global Fire Power for reference.