Rehistoricizing the Nile Waters Agreement, 1948–1963 The view from the British Colonial Office and its afterlife


  • John Doyle-Raso



Colonialism, Development Studies, Flooding, Foreign investments, Irrigation, Postcolonialism, State succession


This article examines the final years of colonialism and the establishment of independent government in East Africa, particularly Uganda. It finds that the British broke from the Nile Wa- ters Agreement by not only ceasing to recognize it but by also circumventing the process for ensuring treaty compliance. They did so on behalf of foreign investors seeking irrigation water. Furthermore, this article shows why the colonial government in Uganda integrated the proposal to flood Lake Albert – which would displace many Ugandans – into discussions about the treaty. The government based this decision on Cold War politics, the personal biases of its advisers and technocratic designs for resettling the region. To contextualize the lack of scholarly analysis re- garding these issues, this article examines how former colonial officials became diplomats, then scholars, who downplayed their treaty breakage and their roles supporting the proposal to flood Lake Albert. Providing further context for the lack of analysis regarding Uganda, it shows how the independent Ugandan government navigated the ambiguous situation that the British left. It also finds that scholars have reproduced the Lake Albert proposal without considering its local signifi- cance. I conclude that although the colonial breakage from the Nile Waters Agreement left the in- dependent governments with no relationship to it, the present role of the Ugandan government in Nile governance is part of a resurgence of foreign investments in East Africa. Outsider control of Lake Victoria is becoming entrenched even as the influence of the Nile Waters Agreement wanes.


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How to Cite

Doyle-Raso, J. (2022). Rehistoricizing the Nile Waters Agreement, 1948–1963 The view from the British Colonial Office and its afterlife. International Journal of Water Governance, 9.



Research Article

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