NAIROBI, September 5 – Kenya on Friday protested over Egypt’s apparent frustration of efforts to sign a new regional pact on the use of Nile waters.
Cabinet Minister Charity Ngilu told a meeting of East African Water Ministers that Egypt was still using most of the water for irrigation at the expense of other countries that share the same resource.
“I would have expected that Egypt should be able to come out and say, we have a shared important resource here, how do we protect it, how do we ensure that this shared resource is well protected for our use?” she lamented.
“But they want to operate on their own.”
The treaty, which has been negotiated for ten years, seeks the institution of a permanent Nile River Basin Commission through which member countries would manage and develop the Nile resources.
There has been a conflict among the ten countries that share the Nile basin on the use of its waters for development.
The countries include Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Egypt.
The basin’s main source of water is Lake Victoria.
The controversy arose from the 1929 Nile Water Agreement and the 1959 Agreement for the Full Utilisation of the Nile that gave Egypt and Sudan extensive rights over the river’s use.
Other countries have argued that the treaties have served to give Egypt unfair control over the use of the water.
Uganda had also recently been accused recently of signing a ‘secret’ pact with Egypt on the use of the Nile to which the Water Minister Maria Mutagamba has denied.
“I want to say that this is totally untrue because we don’t have a pact as a country with Egypt,” she said.
She added: “But the President of Egypt visited Uganda like any other President would and whatever they talked about had nothing to do with signing an agreement. Matters concerning the Nile basin were left to Ministers.”
Responding to claims that Tanzania had expressed dissatisfaction with the secret pact, the country’s water minister Professor Mark Mwandosya said his country had no concerns at all.
“We have absolutely no concerns whatsoever about bilateral relations between sister countries in Africa and in this particular case whatever has been entered into is cast between Uganda and Egypt,” he said.
“We have faith that in whatever we do we have regional interests at heart.”
Ngilu on the other hand urged for proper conservation methods to avert the declining lake levels and high pollution rate.
“This is threatening to render the investments within the basin hopeless. Because of this, water works have had to be abandoned and so are the shipyards,” she noted.
“In my view what we need to do should have been done yesterday.”