Kenya signs Nile basin pact

May 19, 2010 12:00 am

, \"\"NAIROBI, Kenya, May 19 – Kenya has joined the list of countries that have signed the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement, ignoring protests from Egypt and Sudan which have had the lion’s share of the Nile waters since colonial times.

The new treaty is to replace the 1929 accord signed by Egypt, Sudan and Kenya’s colonial master Britain, giving the two countries in the upper Nile basin control of more than ninety percent of the waters.

Water and Irrigation Minister Charity Ngilu said on Wednesday that the 81 year-old accord is obsolete and unfair as Kenya and other countries in the lower basin were not involved in the negotiations.  

“We actually said that we will ensure that no significant harm would be done to any of the riparian States in the use of this water. However that is what they do not want and two States out of nine cannot stop us from now implementing this Cooperative Framework Agreement,” she said.

The new agreement will allow Kenya, Burundi, DRC, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia to use the Nile waters equitably.

“We have all come to this agreement and therefore nothing stops us from using the waters as we wish. It is now up to Egypt and Sudan to come on board and agree with us to share these waters,” she said.

Mrs Ngilu also said the 1929 treaty was non-binding as Egypt and Sudan failed to have it registered under international treaties after Kenya got independence.

“In 1963 when President Kenyatta took over he made an announcement that any agreement that had been made prior to independence…that people who had made such treaties should come forward so that they can be registered with the UN and other bodies. He gave them two years but they never came forward so it lapsed,” she explained.

She further said that the clash between Kenya, Sudan and Egypt over the use of the Nile waters had been discouraging donors from funding any projects on the disputed waters.

“Without cooperation on trans-boundary water management the government is constrained in its efforts to attract funding in order to put in place large scale investment that requires international financial support,” she said.  

Burundi and DRC are scheduled to sign the framework agreement bringing to seven the list of signatories. Egypt and Sudan remain non-committed to the agreement terming it a mistake.

Egypt’s Minister for Legal Affairs Mufid Shehab is on record saying the agreement should not be implemented as it goes beyond the framework of cooperation.

The Nile Basin Initiative will become the Nile Basin Commission and will approve or reject the creation of projects related to the River Nile.

The 1929 accord gave Egypt 55.5 billion cubic meters of the waters of the Nile and 18.5 billion cubic water meters to Sudan. According to Mrs Ngilu, the River Nile basin has water resources potential of over 90 billion cubic meters per year and that Kenyan rivers flowing into Lake Victoria (the source of River Nile) contribute 11 billion cubic meters per year.

The Lake basin alone habours over 54 percent of the Kenyan water surface resources and about 50 percent of Kenyans rely on the waters of the upper Nile river basin for survival.


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