What will Uganda do about the Nile water agreement after southern Sudan votes to secede?

Picture showing a general view of the River Nile river in Cairo

It is true the CPA Agreement is silent on the issue of the Nile, implying that if the New Southern Sudan state may choose to do what it pleases with the Nile as they are not bound by the colonial Nile treaty although this could be the subject of a protracted international legal case, focusing on inherited responsibilities

To conclusively understand this issue, one needs to closely consider the following:Strategic interests of Uganda, Southern Sudan and Egypt vis-à-vis the Nile water;The degree and scope of control/influence Egypt and Uganda have over the new entrant (southern Sudan);The international and economic options of the new Southern Sudan State.

Other than Kenya, Uganda is a key ally of the SPLM, hence South Sudan, it has made strategic investments in the SPLM struggle and government, and remains critical to the security and economic health of a new south Sudan state, simply put; south Sudan will collapse without Uganda’s support (logistical and supply lines, foreign investments, geographical location and supply of manufactured items; the latter clearly demonstrated in the multi-billion investment in the Nimule-Juba road and recent trade figures between Uganda and South Sudan).

Uganda on the other hand seeks regional domination and repute through control of South Sudan (so far, we have played very good patronage to the South), its a pretty good market; check our exports statistics since the CPA was signed.

Egypt on the other hand has the Nile at the top of its national security. While the current Nile agreement tends to favor Egypt and North Sudan, the fact is that the portion is simply not enough and even the slightest reduction will lead to significant impacts on the Egyptian economy, they recognize these hence the explanation for the Egyptian envoy in Jinja, their reluctance to re-negotiate, and the recent overtures towards south sudan in light of increasing signs of breakaway from the North, its a courtship in the making.

Uganda has been at the forefront of revising the Nile agreement not because it is critical to its economy (except for power generation) but for moral (right and wrong) as well as regional power issues; which Egypt has resisted.

My impression is Uganda will use South Sudan state as a tool to put more pressure on Egypt since the south depends more on Uganda than Egypt and they too like Uganda have little to directly utilize the Nile in the immediate future.

Keep in mind the Nile agreement only serves the interests of North Sudan and Egypt hence any actions are likely to affect the two more than any other state.

In the unlikely event that the opposition wins (I am under the impression they will loose and become even more weakened as a result of absorption of strong individuals into the NRM; this will leave Mao a stronger contender in the next election), I have the feeling that they still have no concrete plans for the Nile and it would be unwise for us to attempt to guess what they will do even when they themselves don’t know. I reckon they will concentrate more on establishing themselves internally other than rocking the boat internationally and regionally in the event that they win.

As Abbey Semuwemba says; “Byebyo banange”

Phionah Kesaasi


4 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Lance Corporal (Rtd) Patrick Otto,

    Western Europe has four rivers that have more than 6 riparian states…like your Nile. Those rivers are governed by 175 treaties and the majority of them were arrived at after disputes, some of them involving armed confrontation. Africa has 12 such rivers and they are currently governed by 34 treaties.

    If we are going to end up with a water management regime that is similar to Western Europe’s (after all we like adopting everything from them: dress, language, political systems etc), then if 4 rivers have 175 treaties, 12 Rivers of Africa might end up with (12 X 175)/4, that is 525 treaties.

    Since we already have 34 treaties (most of them favouring the two upstream riparians), theoretically we have 491 treaties to go. If each of those treaties is going to be preceded by a conflict like is likely to be the casefor a very irritable continent, then hypothetically, we could have 491 conflicts, the majority of them over the Nile waters, the Nile being one river course with the largest number of riparians. Now there are 8 riparians. After the referendum in Sudan, they will be 9.

    If Southern Sudan does not sort out the incipient problems that caused the 1991 rupture in the SPLA/M, we could end up with 10 riparian states, as the Acholi, Nuer, Shilluk etc develop misunderstandings with the majority Dinka and opt to secede from the young Southern Sudan to form their own republic….Eastern Equatoria…or something like that. That is a plausible scenario.

    As you know, as Anuar Sadat signed the Camp David accord to sort himself out with Israel he remarked that the next war in the region will be over water, and as they say, Egypt is a gift of the Nile. Their population increases by 1 million every nine months, that of Sudan by the same number every twelve months, ours doubles every 21 years…similar for our neighbours all of whom are riparians. Cairo/Khartoum are already relying on irrigation for agriculture, we shall soon join them (hence my shock over Ms Kesasi’s complacence…that the Nile is only for hydroelectric power). We are still 11% urbanised, let us urbanise and everyone starts flushing the toilet whenever they do the No. 2, i.e., 20 litres (unlike now when we still fertilizing the lusuku)….

    As you know, it takes 3 litres of water to produce a tin of vegetables, 100 litres to produce a kilogram of paper, 4500 litres for a ton of cement, 4300 litres to produce a ton of steel, 50000 liters to manufacture a ton of leather, and no less than 2.7million litres to make a ton of worsted suiting. An average human being who is adequately fed requires drinking at least a liter of water a day to be alive. You will soon be 100 Million in Uganda, no longer living in mud and wattle shacks, feeding from irrigated farms and bourgeoisfied, hence in love with the suit, showering twice a day, wearing leather shoes…all that I transcribe into four letters: N, I, L, E. That means war!

    When I see the Otunnus just forging silly documents in search of offices whose responsibilities they have no clue about, I feel like dusting up my Lance Corporals chevron and getting back into my boots and preparing to salute those geniuses strictly with my left hand….and all that is implied by military insubordination to clumsy politicians in a poorly institutionalised polity!

    Lance Corporal (Rtd) Patrick Otto

  2. Lance Corporal (Rtd) Patrick Otto,

    I meant “Since we already have 34 treaties (most of them favouring the two downstream riparians)” …….not upstream….

    Lance Corporal (Rtd) Patrick Otto

  3. It is true that Uganda and other signatory nations of the May 2010 New Nile Treaty have better options that Egypt regarding water resources.It is also true that even if 100 % of the Nile Water flows to Egypt ,it will not be enough for the Egyptian people and economy if the old practice will continue in Egypt such as growing rice in the Egyptian Desert.This is like boiling the Nile Water and wasting it.The best option is for Egypt to sign the New Treaty and discuss how to help the Egyptian people including New Generation to come to survive.One solution could be to develop the agriculture in Uganda , Ethiopia and other countries that are source of the Nile and have cooler climate due to the highlands such as the Ethiopian Plateau.Egypt should stop it old useless strategy of wasting billions of dollars of buying arms because those arms any independent nation can buy them in one week.The Egyptian people are brothers of the African countries and their problem is the problem of the African countries.Building Dams for Hydro power has no problem and also using some for irrigation .The only action left is to efficiently use the water in Egypt.An Egyptian Minister said ,how can we tell the Egyptian farmer move from here because the water is needed by other African countries in the upper stream.But,you do not tell them that way.There should be transitional period and package of solutions.In fact, the first thing is awareness creation. But, this all has to start in Egypt.Egypt has to openly declare that it was following wrong strategy for the last 500 years-basically destablising especially the Horn of Africa.It is inhuman to undermine the concern of the Egyptian Government of sharing the Nile Water.But, it is also in human to tell upper Nile countries you continue to die of drought and shortage of electricity.It is time for Egypt to stop shopping for arms and invest those billions of dollars in agriculture in Upper Nile Countries.We are in the 21 Century and every country has the capacity to use any type of weapons ,hence let every body start thinking positively.

  4. Ayieny,

    Musing world

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