From: Biniam Tekle (email@example.com)
Date: Wed May 12 2010 - 09:37:09 EDT
12 May 2010 - 14H19
Egypt won't give up one drop of Nile water rights
*- *Egypt is refusing to relinquish a drop of its legal right to the lion's
share of Nile river water, despite demands from other African countries for
a more equitable sharing agreement.
Following years of barren negotiations, seven upstream African countries --
Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi-- are on Friday
expected to push forward with a new water-sharing deal to replace an
agreement that gives Egypt and Sudan majority control of the water flow.
Egypt has repeatedly cited its "historical" right on the river which
provides the country of 80 million people with 90 percent of its water
The upstream countries want to be able to implement projects, in
consultation with Egypt and Sudan, but without Egypt being able to to
exercise the veto power it was given by a 1929 colonial-era treaty with
A 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan -- following Sudan's independence
in 1956 -- allocated 55.5 billion cubic metres of the Nile to Egypt, and
18.5 billion to Sudan, a combined total of 87 percent of the Nile flow.
Egypt's water needs are expected to exceed its supply by 2017, according to
a government report last year.
"Egypt is exerting efforts with leaders of the upstream countries to
persuade them to delay the agreement," said Hani Raslan, a Nile expert with
the Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.
"The only way out of the problem is cooperation," he added.
Raslan said that the Nile Basin Intitiative -- a basin countries umbrella
group funded by the World Bank -- had studied 22 projects including energy
projects, saving lost water and irrigation.
"Unilateral signing will abort these projects. And Egypt will object to any
project that affects its share," Raslan said.
Egypt says it is still hoping to negotiate, failing that it has threatened
"If certain countries of the Nile Basin sign an agreement without consensus,
Egypt will insist that all countries respect international law," Foreign
Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit told a local newspaper on Saturday.
"If necessary, we will treat this in the adequate legal way," he said,
adding that his country's water rights were a "red line."
The outcome of the next meeting could unravel the 10-year-old Nile Basin
Initiative, which the World Bank credits with helping keep the countries
talking with each other on quotas.
Raslan says that an agreement on May 14 that excluded Egypt and Sudan would
bring an end to the initiative, a message Abul Gheit says has been delivered
to the basin countries.
"Egypt has been careful to affirm to the Nile Basin countries and donors
that opening the door to signing the agreement means the end of negotiations
and an announcement that the Nile Basin Initiative has failed," he said.
Egypt has proposed to help manage its African partners' water resources, and
vowed to better make use of its own.
But Egyptian diplomats say the African countries will have a hard time
financing large projects if there is no consensus among the Nile countries.
Cairo "will not accept the construction of any project in the Nile basin
that could affect its water resources," Abul Gheit said.
Some observers say Egypt is not serious about negotiating.
"Egyptians are behaving with the Africans the way they accuse Israel of
behaving with the Palestinians: they say they are ready to negotiate but
without committing to the difficult issues," one western diplomat told AFP
on condition of anonymity.
And Egypt insists that the Africans have other sources of water.
"Egypt only has water coming from the river. The Africans have it from the
rains," one Egyptian diplomat said.
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