It is often said the world’s next world war will be fought over water and there are few places as tense as the River Nile.
Now sources at Okllo House Kampala reveal that President Museveni is airborne to Cairo, Egypt for a two-day state visit and top on his agenda is discussing the controversial Ethiopian plans to build a dam on the Nile that Cairo fears will impact its water supplies.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has twice visited Kampala over the same issues; first in December 2016, and in June last year during the Nile Basin Heads of State summit, which ended in deadlock.
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Reports in Kampala say ahead of the Museveni-el Sisi meeting, technocrats from both countries under the joint ministerial commission, convened at the weekend with consultations continuing today on political and diplomatic issues of mutual interest. Uganda’s technical team is led by the Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Patrick Mugoya.
The two countries have over the years have been locked in negotiations over the sharing of River Nile waters. Uganda is dragging feet to ratify the new Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) that seeks to replace the British colonial agreements that apportioned Egypt 75 per cent (55.5 billion cubic metres) of the rivers annual flow of 85 billion cubic metres.
Egypt, which is almost totally reliant on the Nile for irrigation and drinking water, says it has “historic rights” to the Nile, guaranteed by treaties from 1929 and 1959.
Cairo argues that the treaties grant it 87 percent of the river’s flow, as well as the power to veto upstream projects.
But President Museveni believes that the world’s first war over water can be avoided on the Nile, and it could even be an example of how to resolve complex disagreements over water. “The problem of Africa is not water. The problem of Africa is confusion, under-development and ideological disorientation. Instead of quarreling, we should agree on the Nile, develop the population so that we do not waste the water,” Museveni said.
But it will take a lot more effort to navigate an agreement between Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Egypt.