Harmonizing continental regulations with regards to the exploitation of Africa’s natural resources may be the most viable step towards African integration. When we talk of African integration, many think of the entire continent under one political front with unified security forces. This is the final step of integration, and the simplest. How to get there amidst many social, political, cultural and economic differences is the continental concern.
Africa has many natural resources that are shared amongst different countries for the wellbeing of their people. A case in point in East Africa lake victoria, shared by three different countries (Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania)
Natural resources have no limits with regards to boarders or politics, the imaginary boarders or boundaries drawn by our colonial masters have created a big problem creating a rift between neighbors, clans and tribes that find themselves in the cross roads.
Man is one with nature and cannot be separated from it. It’s from this strong bond that the genesis of the do’s and don’ts, what we can eat and cannot, taboos, totems, and all kinds of cultural practices that in turn evolved into law as we recognize it today.
Civilizations and societies grew as a result of shared basic needs and in this case, natural resources like rivers, swamps, forests, mountains among others which different sects, clans or tribes unanimously utilized. The exploitation of these resources has always been a question of controversy in the event that such activities have a direct impact on the neighbors.
The Nile River for instance is the cradle of civilization and a common heritage of mankind. It’s the longest river in the world with its tributaries in over 11 countries/independent states. The governing principle in regards to a common heritage is that no state shall claim or exercise sovereignty or sovereign rights over any parts of res communis or its resource nor shall any state or natural or political person appropriate it. No such claim or exercise of sovereignty shall be recognized in international law.
I strongly believe you cannot talk integration without harmonizing the laws that make economic, social and political activities easy to navigate. Lets take an example of The Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), it is a very big project with a planned installed capacity of 6.45gigawatts. It will be if completed the largest hydro-electric plant in Africa and seventh in the world. Filling its reservoir began in July 2020 and will take four to seven years to fill it with water.
Egypt being located 2500 kilometers downstream the reservoir is opposed to its construction arguing that it will reduce the amount of the water available from the Nile. This is a point of contention because Egypt’s entire civilization emerged and depends on the Nile. It has been argued by many scholars that the Nile is its lifeline and without it, the entire civilization could collapse.
With the knowledge of the above, Egyptian leaders historically sought it wise to engage into agreements with other riparian states in order to clearly cement their interests and protect its people from eminent disaster. These have been the 1929 and 1959 treaties aimed at securing Egyptian interests. These treaties however have loopholes, one majorly being that all riparian states that are found in the Nile delta were never involved in these crucial negotiations.
The 1929 treaty was concluded between Egypt and its colonial master Britain without and to the total exclusion of the riparian states.
The notable salient features of the 1929 treaty were;
- The Egypt and (Anglo- Egyptian )Sudanese utilize 48 and 4 billion cubic meters (BCM) of the flow per year respectively, that is 92.3% for Egypt and 7.7% (for Sudan) for the total utilizable flow precedence to the so called historic/ acquired rights.
- That the flow of the Nile between January 20 to july15 (the dry season) be reserved for Egypt
- That Egypt reserves the right to monitor the Nile flow in the upstream countries.
- That Egypt assumes the right to undertake Nile river related projects without the consent of upper riparian states.
- That Egypt assumes the right to vet and construction projects that would affect her interests adversely. This was captured in paragraph 27 which stipulates in part that save with provisions agreement of the Egyptian government no irrigation or power works or measures are to be constructed r taken on the river Nile or its banks on the lakes from which its flows.
In my own analysis and legal understanding, it is from such provisions and authority that Egypt feels the need to VET and interfere with the project being carried out by Ethiopia.
In addition to that, the 1959 treaty gives exclusive rights to only Egypt and Sudan. The treaty was gotten into shortly after the free officers seized power in Egypt after they embarked on a project to build the high dam on the Nile. Before this could be achieved an agreement had to be signed by both states of Sudan and Egypt because the project would impact/ affect populations settling along the riverbank in Sudan. An estimated170km along the Nile valley up to the contour line of 182 meter above sea level.
A treaty according to law only binds parties to it, and this is why we have to harmonize regulations with regards to natural resources because it’s crucial in championing development and maintaining peace among the masses.
TO BE CONTINUED…
We therefore need to understand why it is crucial that states enter into agreements that will help protect the common person on the ground