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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya say deal that excludes Egypt and Sudan 'cannot be unsigned'


guardian.co.uk, Sunday 27 June 2010 17.12 BST
Nile nations stand firm in water row

Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya say deal that excludes Egypt and Sudan 'cannot be unsigned'

The upper Nile in Sudan The upper Nile in Sudan. Photograph: Kazuyoshi Nomachi/Corbis

Five East African countries said today that they would not go back on a deal to share Nile waters that has drawn fierce criticism from Egypt and Sudan.

After more than a decade of talks driven by anger over the perceived injustice of a previous Nile water treaty signed in 1929, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya signed a deal last month without their northern neighbours.

"The signed [agreement] can't be unsigned," said the Ethiopian minister for water resources, Asfaw Dingamo. "But we hope to reach a consensus and I hope to do it very soon."

The five signatories have given the other Nile basin countries – Egypt, Sudan, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – one year to join the pact. Burundi and the DRC have so far been tight-lipped about their intentions.

The latest meeting of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) ended with open disagreements at a press conference in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The Sudanese water minister, Kamal Ali Mohamed, said his country would stop co-operating with the NBI.

"We are freezing activities regarding the NBI until these issues, these legal implications, are resolved," Mohamed said.

The statement drew immediate fire from Asfaw, who said the Sudanese had not revealed their intention to freeze co-operation during the two-day meeting.

Egypt's water resources and irrigation minister, Mohamed Nasreddin Allam, said a meeting to discuss the Nile agreement would be held in Nairobi between September and November. The official Egyptian news agency Mena said the other states had said they "understood Egypt and Sudan's position ... and based on this an exceptional ministerial ... will be held to decide how to move forward."Under the original pact Egypt, which faces possible water shortages by 2017, is entitled to 55.5bn cubic metres a year, the lion's share of the Nile's total flow of around 84bn cubic metres. Some 85% of the Nile's waters originate from Ethiopia and the Lake Basin is estimated to harbour more than half of Kenya's surface water resources.

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