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The East African : November 18th 2013
The EastAfrican OUTLOOK NOVEMBER 16-22,2013 nomic interests Wate≥ wa≥s that dog Af≥ica n By JANET OTIENO The EastAfrican WATER WARS in Africa are not new, given the growing populations and rising temperatures, especially where rivers are shared by more than one country. Experts have tied these wrangles to water usage rights and shortages. Some of the disputes have even resulted in serious conflicts. Egypt and Ethiopia are at each other’s throats over the River Nile. Ethiopia is constructing a controversial dam, that Egypt complains will disrupt the river flow, with detrimental impact on its population that is almost entirely dependent on the Nile. Addis Ababa has embarked on construction RWANDA Has been accused by UN of destabilising eastern Congo by supporting rebels there Joined Kenya and Uganda to form Coalition of the Willing Signed a Single Customs Territory for the three countries; Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Was upset by Kikwete’s suggestion that Kigali open talks with Hutu rebels in eastern Congo Has been very supportive of Kenya’s deferral application at ICC of the $4.2 billion Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD) with 6,000MW electric power generation capacity in April 2011, possibly taking advantage of the Arab Spring, that was then distracting Cairo. This move angered Egypt so much that at one point, Cairo threatened military action against Ethiopia, though the parties later agreed to dialogue over the Nile’s governance. Ethiopia adopted the Harmon Doctrine — an international resources law that holds that a country has absolute sovereignty over the water that flows through its territory, regardless of its impact on other riparian states. Cairo now views Ethiopia’s move as bullish and reads political sabotage Egypt, however, held onto the 1959 histori- cal usage rights to exploit the waters and earlier treaties that the majority of Nile Basin nations never signed. Egypt gets 94 per cent of its total water resources from the river. TANZANIA Was the only country that contributed troops to DRC that defeated M23 Is at loggerheads with Uganda and Rwanda over Congo rebels Protested against “Coalition of the Willing” by Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda Threatened to forge a new economic alliance with DRC and Burundi Is both a member of EAC and SADC Nile Basin woes The Nile Basin supplies water to about 300 million people across Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Congo, Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia. There have been calls for various countries to utilise the three main river basins of Africa — the Nile, the Zambezi and the Senegal. The three constitute the economic backbone of the countries they flow through. Just last year, conservationists in Kenya were e bloc. From a wider perspective, these gnments across the continent uld leave Africa with four disnctive regional blocs: a South Afcan-led bloc running from Cape wn to the jungles of DR Congo d the beaches of Dar es Salaam; Ethiopian-led East African bloc at runes from the hills of Rwanda the deserts of Sudan; an Egypan-led Maghreb bloc that stretchacross the top of the continent; d a Nigerian-led West African oc that straddles the belt south of e Sahara and the forests of Cenal Africa. This could lead to at least two delopments. First is a deepening of tegration within each bloc with rriers to trade and the movement goods and people eliminated as happening in the Single Customs rritory in East Africa. Secondly, this could then provide geographical base from which oss-border and cross-bloc capil, from the likes of South Africa’s TN and Stanbic to Nigeria’s Dante Group, flows across Africa in pursuit of profit. With the emergence of power- ful continental capital houses and investments as well as fewer but larger and better integrated blocs across Africa, the next step would then be the integration of the blocs themselves. This would not necessarily turn the continent into a country or a federal political entity — naysayers say the continent is too diverse, too varied for that. However it would turn Africa in- to a more close-knit continent of a few mega regional blocs brought together by common economic interest and welded together by crossborder highways, oil pipelines, power grids and railway lines. Some 130 years after Europeans met in Berlin to carve up Africa a new scramble is underway on the continent, only this time it is by Africans seeking to break down the colonial-era boundaries, redraw the map, and reassemble the continent around common interest, not the interests of colonial masters or their legacy. Africans are about col- outraged after Ethiopia announced that it would build a dam on River Omo, which is the main source feeding Lake Turkana. They argued that the lake in northeastern Kenya, which sustains many communities, could dry up due to reduction in the flow of the Omo. Ethiopia insisted it would go ahead with the Gibe III dam project. The Friends of Lake Turkana lobby pointed out that the water mass has been shrinking because of increased evaporation, reduction in the flow of the River Omo due to less rainfall and human activities like irrigation and upstream dam projects. The lake has now disappeared altogether from Ethiopian territory and retreated south into Kenya. In 1990, armed clashes erupted between Ni- geria and Cameroon over the use of Lake Chad water. This was fuelled by water and land scarcity. Lake Chad has since shrunk by 90 per cent, though it remains the only large source of fresh water in the Sahel zone. Nigerian fishermen who depend on the lake, followed the retreating water up to Cameroonian territory and established villages there, leading to outbreaks of conflict. The case was then taken to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which ruled in Cameroon’s favour in 2002. Then there is the Migingo Island dispute pit- ting Kenya against Uganda. The island in Lake Victoria measures just about an acre of land. Kenyan anglers have complained of harassment by Ugandan police for “illegal fishing in Ugandan waters.” Kenyans living there have also been asked by Ugandan authorities to purchase residence permits. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, one Fishermen prepare for a fishing expedition off Migingo Island. Picture: File time insisted that the island was in Kenya but the waters surrounding it belonged to Uganda. The island is a fisherman’s paradise going by the reports that 29 the waters around it are a fertile ground for Nile perch. About 30 million people depend on the lake for survival — as a source of income, employment, food and foreign exchange for East Africa. According to the Lake Victoria Fisheries Or- ganisation, the lake produces a fish catch of over 800,000 tonnes annually, currently worth about $590 million of which $340 million is generated at the shore and a further $250 million a year is earned in exports from the Nile perch stock. Nile perch stock is dwindling in the lake due to overfishing, overpopulation, pollution and deforestation according to the Uganda National Fisheries Resources Research Institute. This has forced five factories to shut down leaving only 15 in the country, which are themselves operating below capacity. Experts have traced the conflict to the declining fish stock and declining water levels. In Southern Africa, the Lake Malawi issue is the hot topic now, with both Malawi and Tanzania claiming ownership. The issue is being mediated by SADC even as Malawi threatens to take it to ICJ if not satisfied with the mediation. The dispute, which has been running since colonial times, was reignited last year when Malawi allowed gas and oil exploration to begin around the lake. The lake, which connects Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique, is the eighth largest in the world and sustains about 600,000 people. The River Cuito, which has its source in An- gola, flows through Namibia before ending in Botswana. It has also been a source of conflict with each country trying to exert control, though the dispute has not escalated. Namibia and Botswana also exchanged bitter words over the ownership of Sedudu/Kasikili Island in the Chobe River, which is on the border of the two countries. After failing to resolve the issue amicably, they both presented it to ICJ which recognised the territorial claims of Botswana. The Zambezi River, flowing within SADC countries with a catchment area of 1,300,000 square kilometres, passing through the territories of Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, has also been projected as a potential source of conflict if water resources are not properly managed. However, Dr Shadrack Kithia, a water expert at the University of Nairobi, believes that investing in research to enable African countries to tap into available resources like underutilised aquifers will help reduce water wars. “Africa has large and often underutilised aq- uifer resources, which can sustain large populations in both arid and semi-arid areas,” he said. Dr Kithia also called for trans-boundary trea- ties and legal frameworks to regulate the management of shared resources that often extend across the borders to reduce water wars.
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