Calming the waters: the East African community and conflict over the Nile resources

Control of the waters of the Nile Basin has long been contested among the ten African riparian states that sit within the wider catchment area. In colonial times, use of the Nile was regulated by treaties promulgated and supported under British rule. These agreements favoured Egyptian and, to a lesser extent, Sudanese primacy in controlling the great river. This situation began to be challenged in the 1960s with the end of colonial rule in the region, and these challenges have now again been renewed in recent years with the revival of the East African Community. The members of the EAC, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, have a common interest in facilitating the economic development of the Lake Victoria Basin, and by extension this gives them an incentive to tackle the long-standing issues over the regulatory devices governing use of the Nile waters. This article reviews the background to the conflict over the Nile waters and describes the activities of the revived EAC to demonstrate the ways in which this regional organization has, since 1999, elaborated new policies and structures to strengthen and sustain the Nile Basin Initiative and the Nile Basin River Commission.