Thursday, June 5, 2014
Tanzania backtracking Nile deal demanded review Uganda & S. Sudan oppose
World Bulletin / News Desk
Uganda and South Sudan have both expressed their opposition to a Tanzanian proposal to review a 2010 Comprehensive Framework Agreement (CFA) signed by upstream Nile Basin countries, known as the Entebbe agreement, in order to consider Egypt's water needs.
"Tanzania was the one pushing for the agreement; it would be a surprise to see them backtracking now," Callist Tindimugaya, Uganda's representative to the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI)'s technical advisory committee, told Anadolu Agency.
"International water law recognizes that once you have signed an agreement you cannot backtrack," Tindimugaya said. "What you can do is keep quiet; you may not say 'I signed because I was under threat'."
Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Kamillius Membe has called for a review of the CFA to consider Egypt's water needs.
"Tanzania feels that the chapter providing equal and fair share of the natural resources of the Nile to all states ought to be reviewed in favor of Egypt, considering that it is a desert country whose lifeline is the Nile," Membe told parliament last week.
In 2010, upstream states Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania signed the Entebbe Agreement in an effort to increase their traditional allotments of Nile water.
The following year, Burundi signed on to the agreement.
The deal aims to replace a colonial-era treaty that gives Egypt and Sudan the lion's share of river water.
Both Egypt and Sudan, for their part, rejected the treaty, fearing it would affect their historical share of water.
Tindimugaya criticized plans by Tanzania to call for a meeting of all Nile Basin states to discuss the agreement.
"Tanzania cannot invite us; they are not the current chair of the NBI," he said. "Tanzania is a sovereign state and they can do as they please, but they do not have the capacity to do that."
The NBI was launched in 1999 by the ten riparian states of the Nile as a temporary institution until CFA negotiations were concluded and a permanent institution created.
According to its website, the NBI provides "the only all-inclusive regional platform for multi stakeholder dialogue, information sharing, as well as joint planning and management of water and related resources in the Nile Basin."
South Sudan's Foreign Ministry said the Entebbe agreement had to be maintained, since it took into consideration the right of all riparian states to Nile water.
"The agreement speaks of freedom to use the Nile water. Any country along the Nile has the freedom to use the water for their good," ministry spokesperson Mawien Makol Arik told AA.
He went on to criticize calls to review the water treaty.
"South Sudan cannot accept this because – as a developing country – we rely a lot on the Nile," said Arik. "We know it is a critical issue to Egypt, since they feel the initiative will reduce the water volume reaching them – but we also need to use the water."
"The Entebbe initiative came as a result of the domination of Egypt on the Nile water based on an old colonial agreement. It [the new agreement] is to help the countries use the water and share it based on each country's economic development," he added.
"We have to sit down as countries along the Nile and support each other on using the Nile. That is why we supported the Ethiopian [hydroelectric] dam initiative," the ministry spokesperson said.
Relations between Ethiopia and Egypt have been strained due to a multibillion hydroelectric dam now being built by Addis Ababa on the Nile's upper reaches.
Egypt is worried that the Ethiopian dam project will reduce its historical share of Nile water.
Addis Ababa insists the new dam will benefit downstream states Sudan and Egypt, both of which will be invited to purchase the electricity thus generated.
Ambassador Arik, meanwhile, urged Egypt to forget the colonial-era agreement and work with other Nile basin countries to everyone's benefit.
"The agreement by the colonial powers cannot hold now and Egypt cannot hold on to it. They have to let go and sit down to discuss how the Nile can benefit everybody," he said.