The Nile Basin encompasses nine countries (containing 250 million people) in northeast Africa: Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Zaire, the Sudan, Egypt, Rwanda and Burundi (Shahin 1985:15; Hulme 1990:60). Some scholars also add the Central African Republic as a partner to this great river basin (Jovanovic 1985:82). Studies of the Nile basin made over almost a century have produced differing and even conflicting data about the dimensions of the river and its tributaries, as shown in Table 1.1. The differences probably arise from the difficulty of including secondary and tertiary tributaries in the Equatorial Lakes region within the drainage basin of the Nile.
In this book we have adopted the measurement of the Nile provided by the Register of International Rivers in which the catchment area of the Nile is listed as 3,030,700 km2 and its length as 6,825 km, which probably includes all secondary and tertiary tributaries (United Nations 1978:16; Collins 1990b: 154).
What are the particular geographical and political aspects of the Nile basin which might give rise to conflict over its waters? First, the Nile basin, which covers one-tenth of the African continent and is either the longest or the second longest river in the world, shows the lowest specific discharge (Hulme 1990:60; Okidi 1990:193) 1 of comparable large rivers (Shahin 1985:15). Second, there is a great contrast between the riparian state which contributes almost all the water to the Nile but uses almost none (Ethiopia) and that which contributes nothing to the Nile but uses most of its water (Egypt). Third, sharing the waters of the Nile has become urgent for rapid population growth, and the needs of the farming economies of the riparian states has turned the Nile waters into a greatly demanded but scarce commodity. These issues and the way they are related provide the bulk of the material in this chapter.
1 Specific dischargewhere is the long-term mean discharge and A is the surface area of the river catchment.