Egypt and Sudan, though member countries of the river Nile basin, did not turn up to sign the agreement following longstanding disagreements with some of it’s articles.
The countries which signed the agreement today include Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda.
The Tanzanian minister of water and irrigation underplayed fears that Egypt could militarily attack the countries which signed the agreement and bomb them from air.
“Egypt can not move all the way from Cairo and bomb Rwanda, Burundi or Tanzania. They are part of it’s family. They can always settle their differences amicably,” said the minister.
This follows a statement made by Mohammed Allam, minister of water resources and irrigation that “Egypt reserves the right to take whatever course it sees suitable to safeguard its share,” while adding that the north African country saw the matter as a national security issue. “Egypt’s share of the Nile’s water is a historic right that Egypt has defended throughout its history,” Mohammed Allam had threatened.
But his Tanzanian counterpart explained that “Egypt and Sudan can always join the rest and sign the agreement since there is a provision of one year in which member countries can sign.”
Although Kenya’s minister of water did not turn up to sign the agreement, the county’s ambassador to Uganda, major general Henry Okange who represented his country at the signing ceremony said that the minster failed to turn up due to state duties.
The ambassador promised that the water minister would sign the agreement in the near future. “Kenya stands by the countries which have signed the agreement. The signing of the agreement is an initiative of equitable utilization of river Nile water by countries in the Nile basin which is good,” he said.
The Nile basin countries said they were tired of first getting permission from Egypt before using river Nile water for any development project like irrigation as required by a treaty signed during the colonial era between Egypt and Britain in 1929.
Led by Ethiopia, which contributes to over 80 per cent of the Nile’s water resource and yet enjoys an insignificant share, upper riparian countries among the Nile Basin countries have long sought an equitable share and a departure from pre-independent and colonial treaties. Egypt and Sudan alone enjoy 90 per cent of the Nile River’s water resource.
Negotiations between the ten countries of the Nile Basin Initiative to sign a Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) have been ongoing for at least 13 years. Last month, negotiations between Nile basin member countries stalled over Cairo’s refusal to give its stamp of approval to a new Nile water share plan that could see a reduction of its water quota. Sudan has always supported Egypt.