NBI appeals to Egypt over Nile

By Pascal Kwesiga

Added 16th March 2017 08:58 AM

The NBI, which was created in 1999, is the intergovernmental technical arm of the ten countries in the Nile Basin.

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The NBI, which was created in 1999, is the intergovernmental technical arm of the ten countries in the Nile Basin.

The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) has appealed to Egypt to lift the suspension on participation its (NBI) activities to resolve the dispute over the trans-boundary River Nile resource.

The NBI, which was created in 1999, is the intergovernmental technical arm of the ten countries in the Nile Basin. It is a platform for the Nile Basin stakeholders to share information and promote honest discussion and collaboration regarding the use of the Nile. 

However, Egypt and Sudan suspended their participation in NBI activities in 2010 after six countries out of ten signed Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA), creating a legal framework for (NBI) and overriding the powers given to Egypt over the Nile by the colonialists.

However, Sudan lifted suspension on participation in NBI activities in 2013, but Egypt has since stuck to its guns. Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Ethiopia signed the CFA. But only Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia have ratified the agreement.

During a press conference addressed by President Yoweri Museveni and the Ethiopian Prime Ministers, Hailemariam Desalegn, at State House Entebbe over a fortnight ago, the Ugandan leader said Uganda will ratify the CFA after hammering out the outstanding misunderstandings among the Nile basin countries over the trans-boundary resource.

The two leaders called for a summit of heads of state to resolve outstanding differences over the use of River Nile.  Museveni and Desalegn said the major threats to the Nile include inadequate electricity and primitive agriculture which are responsible for the massive cutting down of trees for charcoal and wetland reclamation.

The NBI executive director, Eng. Innocent Ntabana, said it is important for Egypt to lift the suspension and facilitate continuation of dialogue over the Nile.

“We have been talking for years, and we still want Egypt to continue talking and moving together with other countries,” he added.  
Contentious issues

The amount of water that flows through the Nile is estimated at 83 billion cubic meters annually. The 1929 and 1959 colonial treaties require the countries in the upstream (where Nile flows from) to seek permission from Egypt before undertaking any projects on the trans-boundary resource.
Egypt and Sudan, according to the treaties, are entitled to the 55 billion cubic meters and 18 billion cubic meters of the annual River Nile yield respectively. A cubic meter has 1,000 liters.  The amount of annual River Nile yield is measured at the Aswan high dam located at the border between Sudan and Egypt.
“The treaties mean that the entire River Nile had been given to two countries. It means that if 73 of the 83 billion cubic meters is shared among two countries, the remaining amount of water would be lost in evaporation, and the countries in the upstream would not use the Nile,” Ntabana said.
At the discussion stage for CFA, the line ministers (water) in the eight countries resisted pressure from Egypt and Sudan to include clauses recognizing the historical right of the two states over the Nile, and committing not to undertake projects around the trans-boundary resource that would reduce the amount of water flowing into the two nations.
The most important issue now, according to NBI, is to continue talking to Egyptians to appreciate that the countries in the upstream have a stake in the Nile, and the resource can be used for the greater good of all the stakeholders.
“All these countries have their needs to meet. The population has increased and climate change and power needs require them to use Nile water resources which was not the case before. The countries can collaborate on trade in many areas like electricity,” Ntabana added. Ethiopia is building a massive hydroelectric power dam on the Blue Nile. It will produce over 6,000MW.

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