Conflicts Over Water Resources Can Be Averted-Experts

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In short
Experts from the Global Water Partnership say that countries with shared water resources like River Nile need to strengthen their negotiation skills on how to apply international water law whenever disagreements arise over shared water resources.

International Water Law experts are optimistic that conflict over shared water resources in Africa can be avoided even in the face of Climate change, food and water shortages.

Experts from the Global Water Partnership say that countries with shared water resources like River Nile need to strengthen their negotiation skills on how to apply international water law whenever disagreements arise over shared water resources.

This was part of the message at the opening of a 3-day training for government officials at Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe on Monday. Participants at training are drawn from thirty countries across Africa.

They are mainly from ministries that deal with trans-boundary water resources management or those drafting or negotiating agreements on water. The trans-boundary water resources are governed under the 1992 Water Convention which requires countries that share water resources to come up with trans-boundary agreements and establish institutions for cooperation.

Alistair Rieu-Clarke, a reader in International law says many basins in Africa are yet to come up with agreements on how to manage shared water. He adds that while the demand for water from shared resources is on the increase, some of the regions have not put in place legal agreements and how to strengthen cooperatives arrangements. 
 
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Alistair Rieu-Clarke adds that disagreements between water users are inevitable given change in uses, climate change and other pressures in water politics. However, he says, southern Africa countries have done much better in negotiating and agreeing on their trans-boundary resources than those in Eastern Africa and IGAD.

There are a lot of trans-boundary rivers and basins in Africa.  Some are huge like the Lake Victoria and the River Nile while others are smaller yet very vital for the survival of communities that live around those shared water bodies.

Kenge James Gunya, a Knowledge Management Officer with Global Water Partnership says there are different benefits that accrue from the same river basin but conflicts can be avoided where there is cooperation among the countries around the resources.
 
Gunya says in the case of River Nile; upstream countries like Uganda, Tanzania , Ethiopia and others may need to use water from the Nile for dams but they should not deny the downstream countries like Egypt, South Sudan and Sudan water to irrigate their crops.
 
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The desire by the upstream countries to take back control of the Nile waters remains a big issue as countries like Egypt that entirely survive on the Nile cling on the agreements signed with colonialists to claim control.

There is a simmering conflict between Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo over Lake Albert boundaries that has been exacerbated by the discovering of oil in the lake.   But Alistair told URN that DRC and Uganda need to work out agreements and arrangements guided by international water law so that the disputes don't escalate into a conflict.

There is also a running dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the right to exploit the Nile River's water resources for power generation.