Nile Basin heads of state meet in Uganda

Nile Basin heads of state meet in Uganda

Ownership of the world’s longest river will be up for discussion today when Nile Basin heads of states gather in

Photo: Rod Waddington

Photo: Rod Waddington

Ownership of the world’s longest river will be up for discussion today when Nile Basin heads of states gather in Uganda to revisit the controversial Entebbe Agreement. Whether dispute-resolution proposals sink or swim will depend on the resolution of several crucial diplomatic disputes.

Classified as an ‘international’ river under international law, the Nile flows through 11 countries, all of which rely on the river as their only reliable source of renewable water. Water insecurity is worsening across the region; the Horn of Africa is experiencing its worst drought in decades and Egypt could be water-scarce by 2025.

Only six Nile Basin states have signed the Entebbe Agreement, which manages water rights and dam construction on the river. Egypt and Sudan have refused to sign, arguing that the treaty impinges on their pre-existing water rights. They point to colonial-era agreements that afforded the two North African powers control over the entire Nile, the legitimacy of which is hotly contested by their neighbours.

Yet Egypt’s control over the Nile has also weakened due to its struggling economy and shifting geostrategic balances in the Basin, rendering Cairo more amenable to cooperation. However, this cooperation has limits and Ethiopia’s plan to dam the Nile under the Entebbe Agreement could be Cairo’s line in the sand.