To confront the danger of the Renaissance Dam,is the military option on the table?

September 25, 2019

In a new development related to the Renaissance Dam, Ethiopia has rejected an Egyptianproposal to operate the dam, 70 percent of which has been completed. Cairo wants to get40 billion cubic metres of water a year, Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele said.Egypt’s historical share of the Nile water is 55 billion cubic metres annually, most ofwhich comes from the Blue Nile.He added, after returning from the Egyptian capital Cairo: “This is not right, we alsohave needs for future development, and the passage of this amount through Sudan is apressure.” He also said that the other Egyptian proposal on the Aswan Dam wasunacceptable, referring to Egypt’s desire to keep the water level at the dam at 165 metres.The military optionWith negotiations deadlocked with a full failure, is the military option on the table?Many observers say the next world war will be over water, and there are few areas in theworld that are as tense as the Nile basin.The Renaissance Dam on the Nile could trigger a war on water unless Ethiopia reachesan agreement with Egypt and Sudan, as some observers expect developments in theregion.The outlook for water warfare jumped after Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesmanNebiat Getachew said that his country would not accept any infringement of itssovereignty over the Renaissance Dam project.Observers considered this statement to suggest that Addis Ababa takes into account thepossibility of Cairo seeking to intervene in Ethiopian affairs in any way, includingmilitary intervention.It cannot be forgotten that the military option was proposed twice in Egypt, and bothtimes President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was an important part of the regime.The first time was in 2010, when the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak askedSudan to build a military base that would be a springboard to bomb the RenaissanceDam if Ethiopia insisted on proceeding with the construction of the Renaissance Dam,according WikiLeaks.At the time, Major General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was the director of military intelligence,which meant that the request could not have been made without his knowledge.The second time military intervention was launched was in 2012, when al-Sisi wasdefence minister.This time, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi held a dialogue with political partyleaders, at which some suggested a military strike on Ethiopia or at least the bombing ofthe dam’s construction site.The al-Sisi regime later considered that broadcasting the proposals complicated thenegotiations with Ethiopia.No choiceAfter al-Sisi came to power and overthrew the country’s first democratically electedcivilian president he signed a principles agreement with Sudan and Ethiopia.The agreement recognised Ethiopia’s right to build dams on its rivers, and observers saythe deal ended Egypt’s right to international arbitration.In practice, this agreement reduced the number of choices Egypt has for using theRenaissance Dam.While the agreement left one choice for Egypt, only to reach an agreement with Ethiopiaon the operation of the Renaissance Dam, Ethiopia has rejected all Egyptian proposals tooperate the dam and Cairo has no political options.Cairo has no planes or missiles that can fly a long distance from Egypt to Ethiopia,meaning it needs a foothold somewhere close to Ethiopia if it decides to use the militaryoption.Observers say that Egypt has actively engaged with South Sudan in the hope of finding afoothold on the border with Ethiopia and waiving a military response. But South Sudanremains unstable, with the capital Juba severely divided.The second option for Cairo was Eritrea. The al-Sisi regime tried to strengthen itsrelations with Asmara to be present near Ethiopia and tighten its noose. But Addis Ababapre-empted those attempts, and began talks with Eritrea.Historical warsHave there been military confrontations between Egypt and Ethiopia?Yes, it happened twice, and the Ethiopian side was the winner according to manyhistorical references.The two military confrontations that took place between the two countries were in thenineteenth century AD. In both confrontations the Egyptian leader of the campaign waskilled, as were most of his soldiers. The wars are known as “Gundet” and “Gora” after thename of the two battle zones.The main reason for the Egyptian side’s loss was that it did not realisethat there wouldbe such large numbers of Ethiopian fighters, which were more than ten times theEgyptian forces.Nor did it know that they were using rifles at the time.The Battle of Gundet took place in November 1875, while the Battle of Gora took place in