Water Fight in East Africa

May 23, 2010

A girl carries a container filled with water from the Nile from a pump in Manshiyet Nasser shanty town in eastern Cairo May 18, 2010. Four east African countries signed a new deal creating a permanent commission to manage the River Nile's waters on Friday, putting them on a collision course with Egypt and Sudan. Stretching more than 6,600 km from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean, the Nile is a vital water and energy source for the nine countries through which it flows. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh (EGYPT - Tags: SOCIETY)

When one thinks of a natural resource being at the center of conflicts in an area of the globe such as Africa, one tends to identify commodities such as oil or diamonds as the likely culprit. But it’s the most basic and fundamental resource of all that’s the focus of an ongoing standoff in East Africa: Water.

Water from the Nile River, to be exact. 

While the Nile may be the world’s longest river, thanks to a colonial-era agreement, about 90 percent of its waters belong to two countries: Egypt and Sudan.

While disputes over water can be divisive—it’s becoming increasingly acknowledged that desertification and the ever-worsening shortage of water in the Sahel region are major causes of the ongoing conflict in Darfur, for example—in this case, the struggle for the resource is actually bringing several countries together.

Representatives from Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia met in Uganda last week to sign an agreement to pressure Egypt and Sudan to share the Nile’s bounty. The agreement is the result of frustration produced by 13 years of negotiations between nearly a dozen African countries that have yet to produce an agreement.

Ethiopia, for example, contends that is the source of the Blue Nile, and yet is allotted very little of the resource under current agreements. Egypt and Sudan counter that their control over the Nile is a matter of national security and, in the case of Sudan, that the other East African countries get more rainfall per year and therefore need the water less.

With several other countries considering signing on to the agreement, it doesn’t look like the fight over the Nile is likely to end anytime soon.

-By John Bavoso


  1. Absolutely right. I think the stakes in this one are about as high as they are going to get, especially because Egypt is already suffering from a lack of water, and all predictions – even assuming the Nile flows freely – point to severe/catastrophic water shortages with the next 20 years.

  2. Nile is for the nations security problem in Egypt, If Nile stop Egypt life is stop . this means Egypt is dependent of Ethiopia

    Egypt must respect and thanks the Ethiopian people that she feed up on the hand of Ethiopia .if the Nile get dried they must understand that Egypt is belonging to Ethiopia . R ember the bounder of Ethiopia is Gaza

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