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Vol 51 No 17

Published 27th August 2010

The battle of the Nile

Egypt and Sudan are playing a central role in the dispute over the Nile. They know they can no longer ignore the thirst for water of the seven upstream countries but are focussed on their own growing needs. The five states most concerned, led by Ethiopia, intend to change the balance of water power.

The old arguments about the Nile waters will enter a new stage this autumn, when the nine governments of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) next meet. On present form, it looks improbable that this will heal the rift between Egypt and Sudan on one hand and the upstream countries on the other. The flow of conciliatory but firm statements from Egypt and Ethiopia has been rising. Rwanda and Tanzania joined Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda (all major regional players) in signalling that it was time for change by signing the NBI Cooperative Framework Agreement on 14 May. The CFA rejects the 1929 and 1959 Nile Waters Agreements, which gave the lion’s share – 85% or 55.5 billion cubic metres per year – to Egypt, but it did not decide new allocations. This leaves room for manoeuvre and negotiation.

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