Water is life. Its availability and quality directly relates to what is possible in agriculture as well as human health. In Southern Africa, water issues have become an important political agenda as a result of the droughts that the region has been experiencing. The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), in its water protocol advises its member states to set up river basin organisations to manage transboundary rivers in Southern Africa. The aim is to encourage the sustainable use of international rivers. Sharing international rivers has proven to be a very difficult issue as shown by the voting patterns on the UN Convention on the Law of Non Navigational Uses of Transboundary Rivers and the subsequent failure of entry into force of this convention. While strategic interests on the global levels manifest themselves in voting patterns in forums like the UN Assembly, the situation is trickier at the regional level. These strategic interests are ever present as a result of states’ need for recognition of their sovereignty and the inability of states to accept any hierarchical enforcement. This study investigates the impact of these interests at the basin level on the structure of cooperation. With the use of a case study, namely the Okavango River Basin Commission, and guided by regime theory, the study looks at the process of regime formation and maintenance in the basin. It concludes that states use cooperative arrangements (international water cooperation regimes) as tools for the strategic protection of their sovereignty.