The Nile in Legal and Political Perspective

Between Change and Continuity


Competition over the Nile watercourse is becoming a global crisis. As population growth, economic development, and urbanization increase the demand for water in the Nile Basin while climate change threatens its supply, the region faces a looming water crisis. An effective resolution of this multifaceted issue, which impacts 11 African countries, requires detailed multidisciplinary research. Until now the academic discourse regarding the Nile watercourse has been primarily dominated by monodisciplinary studies. This book fills that gap, providing a retrospective and prospective look at the Nile through multidisciplinary lenses—commingling history, hydro-politics, climate change, and law. It scrutinizes the legal and hydro-political trajectories of the Nile Basin, from the 4th century A.D. to 2022.

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Mahemud E. Tekuya, JSD/Ph.D. (2022), McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, is a research and teaching assistant at Oregon State University. He has published extensively on the Nile River and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.



List of Table

List of Abbreviations

1.1 The Global Water Crisis: Finite Supply, Growing Demand

1.2 The Looming Water Crisis in the Nile Basin

1.3 The Legal and Hydro-political Setting of the Nile Basin

1.4 Significance, Objective, and Organization of the Book

Part 1
Reconstructing the Legal and Hydro-political History of the Nile Basin
2The Politics of the Nile Basin: Water Imperialism, Hydro-political Cold War, and Hegemonic Dominance

2.1 Pre-colonial Myths and Realities
2.1.1 The Nile as a Bargaining Chip for Ancient Ethiopia

2.1.2 The Nile Wars

2.2 The Nile in the Age of Colonialism: The British River Empire
2.2.1 The British Nile Empire and Basin-Wide Planning

2.2.2 The Coming of Europeans in the Blue Nile: The Tana Dam Concession

2.3 The Nile in the Age of Cold War: Hydro-political Rivalry and the Scramble for Dominance
2.3.1 The Hydro-political Cold War and Downstream Hydraulic Works

2.3.2 The Cold War Rivalry and Upstream Hydraulic Plans


3The Status of Colonial Nile Waters Treaties under International Law

3.1 The Colonial Nile Waters Treaties
3.1.1 The 1902 Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty

3.1.2 The 1929 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty

3.2 Immediate Post-colonial Dispute over the Colonial Nile Waters Treaties
3.2.1 Swimming against the Current: Revisiting Ethiopia’s Arguments against the 1902 Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty

3.2.2 The Nyerere Doctrine and the 1929 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty

3.3 The Colonial Nile Waters Treaties and State Succession
3.3.1 The Vienna Convention on State Succession in Respect of Treaties

3.3.2 The Intertemporal Customary International law

3.4 Fundamental Change of Circumstances


4Legal Arguments Based on the 1959 Agreement and Customary International Law

4.1 The 1959 Agreement
4.1.1 The 1959 Agreement: Negotiating History, Content, and Dispute over Water Loan

4.1.2 The Upstream States and the 1959 Agreement

4.1.3 South Sudan and the 1959 Agreement

4.2 Customary International Watercourses Law
4.2.1 Theoretical Foundation International Watercourses Law

4.2.2 Basic Principles of International Watercourses Law


Part 2
Post-cold War Attempts to Change or Maintain the Status Quo
5Between Unilateralism and Cooperation: The Nile Basin in the Post-cold War Era

5.1 Bilateral Cooperative Initiatives
5.1.1 The 1991 Khartoum Declaration

5.1.2 The 1993 Framework for Cooperation

5.2 Multilateral Cooperative Initiatives
5.2.1 Overlapping Initiatives: From Hydromet to the Nile Basin Initiative

5.2.2 The Nile Basin Initiative: Structure, Programs, and Hydro-political Implications

5.3 Back to Competition: Unilateralism as Post–cold War Modus Operandi


6The Cooperative Framework Agreement

6.1 Drafting and Negotiations of the cfa : Sisyphean Endeavors?

6.2 Basic Principles of the Cooperative Framework Agreement
6.2.1 Substantive Principles

6.2.2 Procedural Principles

6.2.3 Institutional Structure, Dispute Settlement, and Amendment and Termination of the  cfa 

6.3 Hydro-political Implications


Part 3
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the Revival of the Dispute over the Existing Nile Water Agreements
7The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Declaration of Principles

7.1 The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: The Beginning of De-Facto Change in the Status Quo?
7.1.1 The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: Non-consumptive Hydroelectric Project

7.1.2 Downstream States’ Preliminary Positions and Reactions

7.1.3 Negotiation History of the Declaration of Principles

7.2 The Declaration of Principles on gerd : A New Paradigm?
7.2.1 The Declaration of Principles vis-à-vis the Existing Nile Waters Agreements

7.2.2 Analysis of the Basic Principles


8Sink or Swim: Unlocking the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Dispute

8.1 First Filling and Annual Operation of the gerd
8.1.1 The Two Studies on the  gerd 

8.1.2 Egypt’s Bid to Preserve the Status Quo—and Its Hegemony

8.2 The gerd Washington Talks: Illuminating the Sticking Points
8.2.1 Sticking points: The Three Drought Mitigation Mechanisms

8.2.2 Disagreement over Dispute Resolution

8.3 The Role of the United States in the gerd Talks under International Law
8.3.1 The U.S. Treasury Statement: Is a Preliminary Agreement Necessary to Fill the  gerd  Reservoir?

8.3.2 The U.S. and the  gerd  Talks: From Observer to Self-proclaimed Mediator?

8.4 Post-Washington Negotiations
8.4.1 Letters to United Nations Security Council

8.4.2 African Union and the  gerd  Negotiations

8.5 The Way Forward: Towards Unlocking the gerd Dispute
8.5.1 Procedural Considerations: Involvement of Third Party in the Negotiation

8.5.2 Substantive Propositions: Towards Taming the Elephant in the Room


Part 4
Looking into the Future: Towards Building a Flexible Legal and Institutional Framework in the Nile Basin
9Governing the Nile under Climatic Uncertainty: The Need for Climate-Proofed Basin-Wide Treaty

9.1 Building Flexibility into Treaty Regimes
9.1.1 Flexible Water Allocation

9.1.2 Response Strategy for Extreme Events

9.1.3 Amendment and Periodic Review

9.1.4 Termination Clauses

9.1.5 River Basin Organizations ( rbo  s)

9.2 Adapting the Nile Basin to Climate Change: Analysis of Treaty Flexibility
9.2.1 The 1959 Agreement

9.2.2 The Cooperative Framework Agreement

9.2.3 The Declaration of Principles

9.3 The gerd Negotiations: Towards a Flexible Tripartite Agreement?

9.4 The Way Forward: Towards a Basin Wide Climate-Proofed Treaty


10Overall Conclusion



Policymakers, researchers, scholars, and students interested in the sustainable management of international watercourses, the use and allocation of the Nile River, the legal regime governing the Nile Basin, or the history and geopolitics of North-eastern Africa.
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