Wednesday,20 September, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1350, (22 June - 5 July 2017)
Wednesday,20 September, 2017
Issue 1350, (22 June - 5 July 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Presidential summit in Uganda

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi headed to Uganda this week to attend a presidential summit meeting of the Nile Basin Initiative, reports Reem Leila

Al-Sisi during his meeting with Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour in Cairo on 3 June
Al-Sisi during his meeting with Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour in Cairo on 3 June

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi travelled to the Ugandan capital Kampala on 21 June to attend a two-day presidential summit meeting of the Nile Basin countries, which was supposed to be held seven years ago.

The summit, which had been postponed three times, finally took place after efforts made by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to mediate between the countries involved and personally invite their presidents to the meeting.

The summit meeting came after years of failure in resolving issues related to managing the resources of the River Nile since the signing of the 2010 Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA), known as the Entebbe Agreement, between five upstream countries sharing the River Nile — Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya.

This week’s summit was attended by the presidents of the 10 member countries of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), a partnership which aims to facilitate dialogue on mutual economic development and the fair usage of the water resources of the River Nile.

The NBI comprises 10 permanent members, including Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, with Eritrea having observer status.

Attendees at the Uganda meeting followed up on the results of earlier meetings in Khartoum, as well as points of contention emerging from the Entebbe Agreement. Uganda is the current chair of the Council of Ministers for Water Affairs of the NBI. Egypt froze its NBI membership in 2010 over disagreements about the Entebbe Agreement.

In mid-May, it was decided that the meeting, originally slated for 25 May, would be held in mid-June in Kampala in the wake of an Ethiopian request for more time to study Egyptian proposals regarding the Entebbe Agreement. These are consistent with international agreements relating to relations between countries sharing the same river resources.

In February 2011, all the Nile Basin countries had signed the agreement except Egypt and Sudan, which were not satisfied with all of its terms. The agreement increases the share of Nile water for upstream countries at the expense of downstream countries, and Egypt said the agreement was against the interests of Egypt and Sudan.

Egypt has suggested a new document as an alternative to the Entebbe Agreement, and options were explored at this week’s meeting in Kampala regarding mechanisms for resolving disputes among Nile Basin countries. Egypt and Sudan are committed to their rejection of the Entebbe Agreement in order to affirm the historical rights of downstream states to the waters of the Nile.

Egypt’s new document includes governing principles for managing the River Nile based on international law, such as the fair and equitable use of water.

According to Nader Noureddin, a professor of water resources at Cairo University, Egypt’s proposals include principles, rights and obligations for the cooperative management and development of Nile Basin water resources.

“Rather than quantifying equitable rights or water use allocations, the document intends to establish a framework to promote integrated management, sustainable development, and the harmonious utilisation of water resources in the Nile Basin, as well as their conservation and protection for the benefit of present and future generations,” he said.

It proposes the creation of a permanent institutional mechanism, the Nile River Basin Commission (NRBC), which would serve to promote and facilitate the implementation of the new agreement and facilitate cooperation among Nile Basin countries in the conservation, management and development of the Nile Basin.

The upstream countries have also rejected agreements signed before the Entebbe Agreement in 2010, but Egypt has called for respecting historic agreements.

The River Nile receives nearly 3.9 per cent of the sum of water resources in the upstream countries and the rest is wasted, but were the Nile Basin countries to cooperate further this would lead to their collecting nearly 100 billion cubic metres more of water, Noureddin said.

The upstream countries only want to share the water of the river bed, but Egypt says the sharing should include the whole of the river’s resources.

Ethiopia has refused to accept the principle of previous notice to downstream countries before undertaking any projects on the river, and Egypt refuses the principle of absolute sovereignty over common resources.

“The only way out of water wars is for the parties concerned to agree to meet half-way, taking into consideration the benefits for all the parties,” Noureddin concluded.

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