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Rift Valley Institute

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Egypt and Ethiopia change course on Nile Basin treaties

By Aly Verjee

Amid continuing political drama in both Egypt and Ethiopia, the management of Africa's longest river might not seem an urgent priority. But every year that passes without meaningful cooperation between the Nile Basin's two most populous states narrows the room to find compromise over that most precious of finite and depleting resources: fresh water. With the appointment of a new government in Egypt and the death of Ethiopia's long-serving prime minister, Meles Zenawi, the emergence of new leadership in both countries presents opportunity for renewed dialogue and cooperation on Nile waters. …

No war over water is imminently probable. Yet even the colonial legacy that gives Egypt the bulk of the Nile's flow, and in the absence of a new consensus determines the share of Nile waters – treaties signed in 1929 and 1959 are still in effect, even though the signatories did not even consult Ethiopia or other upstream states – is not enough to meet Egyptian demand.

Aly Verjee is senior researcher at the Rift Valley Institute, specialising in the politics of eastern Africa.

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