July 28, 2009 (ALEXANDRIA) – A meeting of the nine Nile Basin countries failed to reach an agreement on a new framework pact for water-sharing following intense lobbying from Egypt and Sudan.
- A small boat passes Elephantine island in the River Nile, off the southern town of Aswan, 800 kms south of the Egyptian capital Cairo (AFP)
The water ministers instead decided to delay signing the proposed accord for six months to give time for the countries to reach a compromise according to one official.
“Six months was allocated to solve the problem,” Ethiopian Minister of Water Resources Asfaw Dingamo told reporters at the end of the meeting.
“Before that our technical advisers will sit down and come up with a technical agreement to be signed,” he said.
Egypt and to a lesser extent Sudan are strongly resisting attempts by other Nile basin countries to modify their shares of the river per the 1929 and 1959 treaties.
The 1929 agreement signed between Britain and Egypt states that no project on the Nile would be undertaken by any basin countries that would impact the volume of water reaching Egypt.
Legal experts say that the agreement is binding to Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo despite the fact that most of these countries were not independent at the time.
Thirty years later Sudan and Egypt amended the agreement that enabled the construction of the Aswan dam close to the borders between the two countries.
The 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan states that no projects are allowed on the Nile by any other country without its consent.
It was reported that some Nile Basin countries are mulling resorting to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to resolve the dispute over the agreements.
The issue of water is highly sensitive matter to Egypt and the latter has historically stated that they would go to war over if its Nile Water share is affected.
With almost 80 million people, Egypt’s water demands are projected to exceed its supply by 2017, according to a government reported published earlier this month.
Other Nile Basin countries, some of which suffer periodic droughts, drafted the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) in June at a Democratic Republic of Congo summit that omitted mention of Egypt and Sudan’s historic claims.
The Sudanese irrigation minister Kamal Ali Mohamed told official news agency (SUNA) that his country was able to convince its peers to delay signing the CFA for six months.
He added that the Nile basin countries will form working groups to narrow any differences that emerged during previous meetings.
Today Mona Omar, Egyptian deputy foreign minister for African affairs, told reporters that there is “no way” Egypt would allow a reduction of its quota,
Egypt sought to downplay the differences after the summit, and said it is proposing economic incentives to the countries.
“It’s normal that there are disagreements," cabinet spokesman Magdi Riyad said at a press conference. "(But) there was a unanimous agreement that the resources of the Nile Basin were more than enough if managed properly.”
He said Egypt proposes widening the scope of the Nile Basin Initiative, the World Bank funded umbrella group of Nile Basin countries, to include other natural resources.