Kenya reassures Egypt on new Nile pact

May 23, 2010 12:00 am

, CAIRO, Egypt, May 23 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga said on Sunday that Nile basin states would never threaten Egypt\’s water interests, after Kenya became the fifth country to sign a water-sharing pact opposed by Cairo.

“Mr Odinga "made clear" during a Cairo meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that "his country and other Nile basin states could not and will not think of harming Egypt\’s water interests," presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad told reporters.

President Mubarak held talks with the Kenyan Premier and later separately with the president of Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, as part of diplomatic efforts to ease the water-sharing crisis.

Kenya signed the new pact last week joining Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda who have also signed the treaty ignoring protests from Egypt and Sudan which have had the lion’s share of the Nile waters since colonial times.

Egypt is now trying to engage in discussions to ensure it is not left out of a process that is vital to its future.

Next month, Egypt\’s Agriculture Minister Amin Abaza and Investment Minister Mahmud Mohiedine will head to Ethiopia and Uganda for talks with officials there.

Egypt has repeatedly said it has a "historic right" to the Nile and threatened legal action to preserve its right to the water on which its 80 million people depend.

The upstream countries on the other hand want to be able to implement irrigation and hydro-electricity projects in consultation with Egypt and Sudan, but without Egypt being able to exercise the veto power it was given by a 1929 colonial-era treaty with Britain.

Mr Odinga appealed to Egypt to sign the Cooperative Framework Agreement that intends to transform the Nile Basin Initiative into a Permanent Nile River Commission to manage the water resource on behalf of the Nile basin states.

“The treaty provides mechanism for monitoring how other countries are using the Nile,” he said adding that “It is a way of bringing everyone on board so that they participate in any crucial decisions that are made on the use of the Nile waters.”

At the same time, the Egyptian President pledged that his country would help with the conservation of Kenya’s water towers as they were a major source of the river Nile.

President Mubarak emphasised that his country would help Kenya and other countries at the source of the Nile to increase the water levels in Lake Victoria.


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