From Tenuous Legal Arguments to Securitization and Benefit Sharing: Hegemonic Obstinacy - The Stumbling Block against Resolution of the Nile Waters Question

Author:Dereje Zeleke Mekonnen
Position:Ph.D., Institute of Federalism & Legal Studies, ECSC
Pages:232-257
SUMMARY

Resolution of the Nile waters question has proved, once again, to be an elusive task. Identifying the major hurdle which has bedeviled past cooperative initiatives and rendered current efforts mere Sisyphean ones is thus of paramount importance. The main thrust of this article is to identify this challenge which has thus far stifled almost all efforts at resolution of the Nile waters question in... (see full summary)

 
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FROM TENUOUS LEGAL ARGUMENTS TO
SECURITIZATION AND BENEFIT SHARING:
HEGEMONIC OBSTINACY THE STUMBLING BLOCK AGAINST
RESOLUTION OF THE NILE WATERS QUESTION
Dereje Zeleke Mekonnen
Abstract
Resolution of the Nile waters question has proved, once again, to be an elusive
task. Identifying the major hurdle which has bedeviled past cooperative
initiatives and rendered current efforts mere Sisyphean ones is thus of
paramount importance. The main thrust of this article is to identify this
challenge which has thus far stifled almost all efforts at resolution of the Nile
waters question in a fair and equitable manner. The consistently obstinate
position Egypt has taken over the years to maintain its poignantly inequitable
“share” of Nile waters forever is the heart of the problem which makes any
settlement of the Nile waters question a virtual impossibility. Relying on its
status as the basin’s hydro-hegemon, Egypt has so far been able to not only
defend the indefensible but has also been able to effectively hoodwink and
contain the non-hegemonic riparians by engaging them in “cooperative
initiatives” and a “benefit sharing” scheme it effectively is using as stalling
tactics while aggressively pursuing giant hydraulic projects as instruments of
resource capture. A real transformation and a breakthrough in this stalemate
requires, of necessity, a change in the malign, oppressive nature of Egyptian
hydro-hegemony into a benign, cooperative one, at least. The non-hegemonic
riparian states have thus to adopt effective counter-hegemonic strategies in
order to force Egypt back to the negotiation table, developing, in the mean
time, the resource and technical capability that would enable them to resist and
overcome the multifaceted pressure and influence the hydro-hegemon will
inevitably exert to keep them in line; failure to do so would surely condemn
them to live, ad infinitum, with the grotesquely inequitable status quo.
Key words:
Equitable utilization; Nile waters question; cooperative framework agreement;
hydro-hegemony; securitization; benefit sharing; international water law.
Ph.D., Institute of Federalism & Legal Studies, ECSC. E-mail: derejezeleke@yahoo.com
4(2) Mizan Law Rev. FROM TENUOUS ARGUMENTS TO BENEFIT SHARING IN THE NILE WATERS 233
Introduction
Sharing trans-boundary resources in general and trans-boundary freshwater
resources in particular is quite a difficult task. Found in the water-stressed
hydrographic region of the Middle East and North Africa where “negative
hegemonic configurations appear to predominate”1 the Nile poses far more
serious challenges to efforts aimed at sharing its waters in fairness and equity.
The comparatively much smaller discharge which contrasts with its fame and
majesty, the burgeoning population of the basin which has added a serious
demographic challenge to the existing problems, the extremely poor and
bellicose inter-riparian relationship and, more importantly, the prevalent
hegemonic hydro-political configuration entrenched in the anachronistically
lopsided treaty regime constituting the status quo make the just and equitable
resolution of the Nile waters question a daunting task, if not an utter
impossibility.
Ever since its official launch in February 1999, the Nile Basin Initiative
(NBI) has been a source of much hope and optimism in a basin noted for
aggressive competition, mutual suspicion and lack of rapprochement and, thus,
long identified as a potential flashpoint, a future scene for a merciless water
war.2 In what may be considered a clean break from the past, the NBI managed
to bring all Nile riparian countries together for the first time around a shared
vision “to achieve sustainable socio-economic development through the
equitable utilization of, and benefits from, the common Nile Basin water
resources.”3 Realization of the lofty Shared Vision has been pursued primarily
through the negotiation of a Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) which
would provide the basin with a permanent legal and institutional framework
1 M. Zeitoun and J. Warner (2006), “Hydro-hegemony – a Framework for Analysis of
Trans-boundary Water Conflicts”, Water Policy (8) 435 – 460, at 439.
2 J. Kerisel (2001), The Nile and its Masters: Past, Present, Future (A. A. Balkema,
Rotterdam), p. xiv.
3 NBI, Shared Vision, available at: <www.nilebasin.org>. In view of the extremely poor
and dangerously bellicose nature of inter-riparian relations and the many other
problems rife in the basin, one may understandably find the lofty Shared Vision too
good to be true. The very adoption of the Vision has thus been dismissed rather as an
act of supreme hypocrisy involving “the sweeping cooptation or invocation of
seemingly progressive norms” by its authors – “officials representing governments
that are internationally known for their repression of their peoples, gross violation of
human rights and civil liberties, wanton corruption, and their limitless contempt for
political dialogue and political pluralism.” Okbazghi Yohannes (2008), Water
Resources and Inter-Riparian Relationships in the Nile Basin: The Search for an
Integrative Discourse (State University of New York Press, Albany), p. 25.

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