Thursday, June 4, 2009

Egypt has no right to block us from using Nile water, EAC says

Tuesday, 2nd June 2009 - By Benson Kathuri

Five East African Community (EAC) partner states have vowed to block Egypt's fresh attempt to prevent them from using water from River Nile and that flowing into Lake Victoria.

Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda have trashed the argument by Egypt that it holds historical rights to bar other countries on the Nile basin from using the water without direct approval from Cairo.

During a meeting in Kinshasa, DRC, ten days ago, Egypt and Sudan, that entirely depend on River Nile for electricity generation and irrigation, failed to convince the other Nile Basin riparian countries to abide by treaties signed in the 1920s giving such rights.

The four went ahead to endorse the River Nile Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) that provides a formula for using the waters.

Though they pledged to consult other riparian countries when undertaking major projects using the waters, they vowed not to recognise the treaties signed between Sudan and Egypt and the British colonial Government.

"The Kenya Government should be able to sign the framework agreement within the next three months," said Mr John Nyoro, the director in the Ministry of Water, who led the negotiating team.

New agreement

Speaking during a Press briefing in Nairobi, Nyoro said Ethiopia and DRC supported the new agreement while Eritrea enjoys observer status.

Kenya is unable to fully use water from rivers mainly in western Kenya that flow into Lake Victoria because such a move would affect the flow of River Nile.

Nyoro said six countries are required to sign the agreement to make it operational and all the four EAC countries have agreed to endorse it soon.

The new twists come at a time when donor funds pledged over a decade ago to start the initiative are drying up, casting doubts whether the ambitious development programmes identified are sustainable.

A consortium of donor agencies led by the World Bank have released $130 million (Sh9 billion) out of $150 million (Sh10 billion) pledged when it started over ten years ago, leaving only $20 million to be released.