Faculty Mentor

Kristin Edquist, PhD

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-2022


International Affairs


Access to water is a critical aspect of human survival; we have seen an increased tension over transboundary water over the years. In the northeast of Africa, the Nile River is among the most vital source of water and a source of conflict among three of its major riparian countries (Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia). For downstream states (Egypt and Sudan), the river serves as a lifeline, but for upstream states (rest of equatorial states), it provides an opportunity for economic growth. Historically Egypt has been the regional hydro-hegemon in the Nile Basin through historical treaties and agreements. However, the independence of Nile Basin countries in the mid-1900s has allowed upstream states to reassert their rights and establish equal control and benefits from the Nile River. International efforts to establish a legal structure since the 1900s was unsuccessful and has done little to convince downstream countries to agree on any legal framework. While no direct military confrontation between any of the beneficiaries of the Nile River has occurred, studies have predicted that the recent disputes between Ethiopia and Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is likely to lead to armed conflict. This study explores the trilateral disputes over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam involving Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan by examining the following research question: Under what conditions can Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan work to resolve their disputes over the Nile River in the absence of legal framework? The study suggests that while there is a possibility of direct arm conflict, it is unlikely that it will occur because any military confrontation between any of these states will result in a costly regional crisis and will supersede peace resolution of the ongoing disputes.