Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam. The Law, History, Politics and Geopolitics behind Africa’s Largest Hydropower Project
Since 2011, the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has provoked a diplomatic crisis between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan, adding fuel to the already combustible geopolitics of the Horn of Africa. Despite its technical aspects, the GERD dispute has over time become a multi-layered geopolitical crisis where a plethora of actors and dynamics have been influencing the ongoing negotiations. Protagonists are no longer only Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan, and the resolution of the crisis is now dependent on factors beyond technical solutions. Moreover, the crisis seems to have become an instrument that the three countries are using to deal with issues of national legitimacy, territorial disputes and regional balance. However, while instrumentalisation can be politically expedient in the short term, all parties have an interest an equitable and regionally based, inclusive and cooperative agreement. In order to understand how multilateral organisations can contribute to the finding of an equitable and reasonable solution, a multi-layered analysis – on local, national and regional dynamics – needs to identify the main drivers for Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.
Paper prepared in the framework of the project “African challenges to multilateralism: the geopolitics of the Nile between conflict and cooperation”, October 2022.
1. The Nile and its historical legal use
2. A decade of negotiations: From the IPoE to the African Union mediation
3. Domestic ambitions and regional dynamics