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Geopolitical Relations: Uganda’s Role in the Development and Use of the River Nile Open Access

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This study examined the geopolitical relations of the Nile Basin by looking at Uganda as a case study, and to analyze Uganda’s use and development of the River Nile. It looks at the history of transboundary politics and treaties in the region and of Uganda’s development projects of the region. The project discusses modern relations and agreements, with a focus on the most recent agreement between the Riparian States, the Cooperative Framework Agreement, and how Uganda fits into them with regards to their interest in hydropower development within their borders on the Nile. It then explores possible future developments on the river and the potential for future conflict in the region, and finishes by making recommendations for the Nile Basin and Uganda. The whole project is looked at using the sustainable development paradigm. This study was conducted over six weeks through primarily document review and eight expert interviews. Documents provided historical information and facts and statistics on the modern development and geopolitical relations of the Nile Basin. Field based interviews served to enhance and further the information gathered in document review. All interviewees were experts in their fields and most worked within the Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment and their directorates. The study was conducted in accordance to ethical considerations and all wishes of interviewees were upheld throughout the paper. The researcher found that modern geopolitics of the region have been greatly influenced by the 1929 and 1959 colonial agreements that gave Egypt power of the Nile. Today geopolitics focus on changing this status quo, despite protests from Egypt. Uganda must balance its position as both an upstream and downstream Riparian state, and could be a key middle ground country for maintaining peace in the region by appealing to both sides of the water sharing debate. Uganda’s primary investment in the river is hydropower, and so they must balance the want to release enough water to generate electricity, and preserving their water catchments to protect the resource for long term use. Other than hydropower, which is a hotspot for international criticism due to environmental and cultural impacts, Uganda has the potential to develop irrigation from the Nile and Lake Victoria that could increase agricultural yields. Uganda’s position in the Nile Basin makes it unique both in its ability to use and regulate the White Nile, and in the political framework of the region.

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