Integrated Regional Information Networks | June 7, 2010
After ten years of talks, five Nile Basin countries signed an agreement last month to ensure fairer access to Nile waters. Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo are expected to sign within a year. But Egypt and Sudan have rejected the agreement, suggesting more talks are needed.
Farmers know that a secure water supply is crucial for good yields. Recognizing this, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya negotiated and signed the agreement. The five countries want to minimize conflicts over water in the future, and secure water for their growing populations.
For many years, Egypt and Sudan have taken the biggest share, up to 87 percent of the Nile flow. This is a result of agreements between Egypt and the UK in 1929, and Egypt and Sudan in 1959. But the other Nile Basin countries say that Egypt and Sudan’s near-monopoly over Nile waters is not acceptable.
Egypt receives very little rainfall. The Nile irrigates its agricultural lands, which sustain its growing population. Egypt’s rights to the Nile are a matter of life and death, according to Moufid Shehab, Minister of Legal Affairs. They are not prepared to give up these rights.
Reliance on the Nile will increase in the region. Farmers in Kenya want to expand irrigation. Ethiopia is building dams. Any agreements on water use will affect the four hundred million people living in the countries that share the river. Other countries say they don’t want to cut off water supplies to downstream nations such as Sudan and Egypt. They say that they just want an equal chance to use the water.
Mary Mutagambwa, Uganda’s water minister, sees the signing as “an opportunity to unite and develop.” She hopes that Egypt and Sudan will sign within the year.