The Nile and Eritrea: The Nexus between Two Major Conflict Issues of Northeast Africa, 1941–1991

  • Teferi Mekonnen Bekele DrTeferi Mekonnen Bekele is an associate professor of History at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University, and a research fellow at the Institute for Dispute Resolution in Africa, University of South Africa.


AbstractThis article attempts to analyze the nexus between the history of the hydropolitics of the Nile and the Eritrean question, the later armed struggle to secede from Ethiopiaacross time from 1941 to 1991. It advocates that the Nile issue and the Eritrean question were so intertwined that they needed to be considered to understand together conflicts in the Horn of Africa. The article elucidates the various ways in which the downstream states, mainly Egypt and the Sudan, employed to hamper Ethiopia’s water-development programs these fanned the flame of the Eritrean question, which had the potential to develop into an armed struggle. It also argues that the two downstream states’ moral and material support for the Eritrean secessionists was a direct outcome of the hydropolitics of the Nile. On the other hand, the political strife and wars that Egypt and Sudan helped to instigate inside the Ethiopian Empire, through their support of the Eritrean insurgents, induced Ethiopia to divert its scarce resources into security and defense. Such resources could have been better used to harness the waters of the Nile for development.