There have been conflicts brewing within the Nile basin countries particularly between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Nile waters. Although a Cooperation Framework Agreement (CFA) to give each country of the Nile basin a fair share of the Nile waters was finalized in 2010, it has to date been signed by only 6 countries out of 9 original NBI countries. The CFA has only been ratified by three countries, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda. Therefore, there is no agreement among riparian countries. Former Egyptian Foreign State Minister (later U.N. Secretary General), once said “the next war in our region will be over the water of the Nile, not politics.” More recently a wikileaks source quoting a high level security from Egypt indicated “If it comes to a crisis, we will send a jet to bomb the dam (Grand Renaissance Dam of Ethiopia) and come back in one day, simple as that”. 

NatureUganda organized a public talk on “ARE THE WAR DRUMS OVER THE NILE WATERS REAL? How is Uganda involved and what does this mean for the country?” on Thursday 1st August at the Uganda Museum.

The keynote speaker Dr. Callist Tindimugaya (in photo), a Commissioner in the Ministry of Water and Environment and one of Uganda’s representative on the Technical Advisory Committee of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) (Nile-TAC) and an expert in water resources management gave a lecture to understand the issues better and to highlight Uganda’s stand.

He highlighted the status, challenges and prospects about the cooperation. “We should know that we are dealing with world’s longest river whose source is the 2nd largest Lake in the world, Lake Victoria”. The 11 nations that share the Nile are Burundi, the DR of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The population of the Nile states is about 300m people and estimated to reach 600m in 2025.

He discussed about the hydrolics and politics pointing out that that the flow origins of the Nile explain the politics. He further noted that 65% of the waters end in Sudan. Ethiopia contributes about 80% that constitute the Nile. Egypt entirely depends on the Nile. Compared to other systems, the Nile has very little water hence the need to use it sustainably. He noted that the water resources are there but have not been developed.

He further highlighted on the evolution of cooperation on the Nile which lead to the formation of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI. He cited the 3 Nile Treaties, the 1902, 1929 and 1949-1952 as those that gave most of the Nile water to Egypt and Sudan and made it a requirement for anyone developing structures on the Nile to first consult those two countries.

The cooperation on the Nile is important for Uganda because we are the “Egypt” of East Africa (EA), downstream of the rest of the EA countries and yet upstream of the rest of the countries outside EA. Studies show that 69% of Uganda’s water comes from other East Africa countries. Because of this uniqueness, Uganda has taken the role of the mediator between the other countries.

International rivers are governed by laws and conventions, in accordance with which any action that affects water quotas requires advanced notice and guarantees against possible harm to all interested parties. 

To that effect, a Nile treaty was signed by the upper riparian states in 2010, the Cooperative Framework Agreement, has not been signed by either Egypt or Sudan, as they claim it violates the 1959 treaty which gives Sudan and Egypt exclusive rights to the Nile’s waters. This has however not stopped the other states from moving forward to form the Nile Basin Commission with the hope that the two states will join with time.

Asked whether the water will be enough come 2025, he said “the projections say there will be enough water as long as it’s used sustainably.” He added that water needs to be regulated and protected.

Mr Achilles Byaruhanga, the ED, NatureUganda mentioned that the Nile Basin Discourse (NBD) which is a network of civil society organizations from the 11 countries has 960 organizations and that these CSO’s are working together.

In his closing remarks, Dr Callist said that the benefits of cooperation over Nile waters seem to out way the benefits of war. Click here for the full presentation (PDF).