Between Ambivalence and Necessity in the Nile Basin: Occlusions on the Path towards a Basin-Wide Treaty

Takele BULTO

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While the Nile riparian states are engaged in legal, political, and doctrinal wrangling pertaining to state sovereignty on the way to a basin-wide agreement over the equitable allocation of the common waters, each day brings a heavy but avertable cost on the lives, economic, security, and environmental well-being of the tenth of the African population that inhabits the Nile Basin. The riparian states of the Nile basin do not have any significant alternatives to the joint management and equitable utilization of the Nile waters. This paper seeks to identify some of the obstacles that hinder the process of treaty formation over the allocation of the Nile waters among the riparian states. It examines the role of some riparian states’ adherence to colonial treaties and the mindset created thereby, the culture of mistrust surrounding interstate interactions, doctrinal controversies, attitudes of the riparians towards the formation of a basin-wide treaty, and problems of good faith on the part of the riparian states. It argues that the success of the Nile Basin Initiative (“NBI”), and the resultant establishment of a legal and institutional mechanism for the eventual equitable and reasonable allocation of the Nile waters hinges on the removal of these obstacles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-320
Number of pages30
JournalColorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


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