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Friday, June 25, 2010

Nile Basin Ministers to Meet in Ethiopia this weekend


James Karuhanga

Kigali — Ministers in charge of water in Nile basin states are scheduled to meet in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, this weekend for their Council of Ministers.

In an e-mail sent to The New Times, Environment Minister, Stanislas Kamanzi, confirmed that he will attend the June 26-27 meeting, which will be preceded by the Technical Advisory Council session.

"Fast tracking projects and programs in the pipeline will be the main component of our agenda. We will certainly look into aspects accruing from the signing of the CFA," Kamanzi noted in his e-mail.

This follows the May 14 signing by Ministers from Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania , the new Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) which was boycotted by Egypt and Sudan, both saying the pact is illegal.
"It is indeed regrettable they didn't sign, but we will ensure it doesn't derail the cooperative process that was contemplated with the creation of the NBI, hoping they will end up signing," says Kamanzi.

The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), a partnership among the Nile riparian states endorsed in 1999, seeks to develop the river in a cooperative manner, share substantial socio-economic benefits, and promote regional peace and security, involving all riparian countries.

"We did indeed provide for one year [period] since the opening of the signing on May 14th, so as to allow other countries to sign when they are ready. We are expecting Burundi and the DRC to do the same any time soon."

Even though Kenya, the DRC and Burundi were presented during the May 14 signing, they did not sign, though Kenya signed the treaty a few days later.

The CFA will set clear procedures of water sharing. It will replace two disputed colonial-era pacts deemed unfair by the other seven Nile basin countries.
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A 1929 pact between Egypt and Britain gives Egypt veto power over upstream projects as well as access to most of the Nile waters. Further still, a 1959 pact between Egypt and Sudan, allowed the two countries 55.5 and 18.5 billion cubic metres of water, respectively, every year.

Upstream countries argue that, Egypt and Sudan have kept an unfair water sharing advantage over other Nile basin countries. They want a reasonable water-sharing pact that allows for more irrigation and power projects.

Egypt wants to maintain its share of the river and also wants veto power over any new irrigation projects undertaken by the other states, but the latter have rejected this clause.

Ethiopia currently chairs the Nile Council of Ministers.

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