Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1235, (26 February - 4 March 2015)
Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Issue 1235, (26 February - 4 March 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Unresolved matters

The rift between Egypt and the Nile Basin countries over sharing the waters of the Nile River was not healed during the recent meeting in Khartoum, reports Reem Leila

Unresolved matters
Unresolved matters
Al-Ahram Weekly

A high-level delegation, headed by Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Hossam Moghazi, travelled to the Sudanese capital Khartoum on 21 February for a one-day meeting of the Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-COM).

During the meeting, Egypt renewed its opposition to the Entebbe Agreement on shares of Nile River water, leading to tensions among the attendees. As a result, the extraordinary meeting was transformed into an “unofficial meeting” at which Sudan tried to adjudicate views between the disputing parties.

During the unofficial meeting, attended by the irrigation ministers of Egypt, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania and Rwanda, Egypt announced its willingness to attend the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) meeting in Ethiopia next June.

Meanwhile, Moghazi announced to the press that there will be a tripartite meeting next March between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. The aim is to reach a compromise between Egypt and Sudan on the one side and Ethiopia on the other, and to solve differential issues.

During the March meeting, 12 experts from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia will choose from among four offers submitted by four international executive offices, tasked with preparing the studies for implementing amendments to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

“Egypt presented its views about the required amendments on certain items of the Entebbe Agreement. Egypt’s participation in the meeting could be considered an incomplete step towards narrowing the gap between Egypt and the Nile Basin countries which signed the Entebbe Agreement,” Moghazi said.

Sudanese Minister of Irrigation Moataz Moussa called on Egypt to proceed with its efforts to join the NBI, in order to cooperate with the Nile Basin countries on sharing the benefits of the River Nile and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

“We discussed different means to sustain the River Nile’s resources and develop them during the unofficial meeting. This is in addition to sharing the benefits of the Nile and not the Nile water alone,” Moussa said.

Moghazi added, “I expect the coming period will witness further moves to solve all the unresolved or pending issues.” He said that Egypt would also work to solve the disputes that led to the suspension of its membership of the NBI.

“Egypt’s presence at this meeting means a step towards returning to the African continent,” Moghazi said.

All the upstream Nile Basin countries — Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania — signed the Cooperative Framework Agreement, known as the Entebbe Agreement, in 2010. The agreement allows for sharing the water of the River Nile and the implementation of development projects for irrigation and electricity.

The newly formed country of South Sudan signed the Entebbe Agreement in late 2011, a move strongly condemned by Egypt and Sudan as violating the treaty signed by Egypt and Great Britain in 1929.

According to this treaty, Cairo and Khartoum were given the right to object to any project in the upstream countries that might affect their shares of Nile water.

Egypt’s annual share is 55.5 billion cubic metres, while Sudan’s is 18.5 billion cubic metres. Together they claim almost 85 per cent of the Nile’s water. Both countries suspended their membership in the NBI when they saw the danger of Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam to their shares of Nile water.

Diaaeddin Al-Qousi, an international water expert, said that Egypt’s need for water will exceed its resources within the coming two or three years. The upstream and downstream countries have been negotiating over the Nile water for decades to reach a balanced agreement that takes into consideration the welfare of all Nile Basin countries.

Nothing tangible has been reached so far from the prolonged and complicated negotiations. Said Al-Qousi, “If Egypt and Sudan do not reach an agreement soon with the Nile Basin countries regarding their shares of the Nile water, both countries might suffer from droughts.”

Egypt cannot accept the Entebbe Agreement as it makes no reference to the existing agreements of 1929 and 1959. Al-Qousi said that Egypt’s signing of the proposed agreement would nullify the existing agreements and make them void.

The Entebbe Agreement is based on altering shares in the Nile water, and neither Egypt nor Sudan could ratify such a treaty, he said. “Egypt wants to address the outstanding problems through political, diplomatic and legal channels,” he added.

Al-Qousi said that Egypt and Sudan should start designing projects to limit the expected losses. “Projects such as Jonglei, Mashar, Bahr Al-Ghazal, Bahr Al-Zaraf, and Bahr Al-Gabal could save tens of billions of cubic metres of water that could be divided between the two countries,” he concluded.

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