Saturday, 29 June 2013

Nile waters row: Lawmakers say Egypt is selfish

Egypt says Ethiopia’s move to divert the flow of the Blue Nile river to construct a giant dam is a potential disruption of its national security. Net photo
Egypt says Ethiopia’s move to divert the flow of the Blue Nile river to construct a giant dam is a potential disruption of its national security. Net photo
Parliament endorsed the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA), which will  enable the establishment of the Nile Basin Commission. The Commission was initiated by the Nile Basin Initiative.
Over 20 members of Parliament this week criticised  on Egypt for what they deem as unfair and unreasonable self-centeredness when it comes to sharing waters of the River Nile.
This was on Tuesday as the Chamber of Deputies debated and unanimously endorsed the Bill authorising the ratification of the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) of the Nile basin member states (riparian states) signed in Entebbe, Uganda on May 14, 2010.
Shortly after Stanislas Kamanzi, the Minister of Natural Resources, explained the benefits of ratifying the agreement, lawmakers stressed that riparian countries have equal rights to the river and should not be held back by colonial pacts.
The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) was established in 1999 as a transitional mechanism of the then nine Nile riparian countries to equitably and sustainably manage and develop the waters of the Nile Basin.
Kamanzi said that even if the NBI’s objective is to develop the Nile waters for mutual benefit, previous meetings ended without unanimity as Egypt and Sudan are against any agreement that does not recognise “their historical right” over the waters, which they acquired during the colonial period.
While strongly supporting the ratification of the 2010 pact, Gideon Kayinamura, chairperson of the standing committee on foreign affairs, cooperation and security, stressed that Rwanda was not party to in the colonial era pacts that gave Egypt exclusive rights on the Nile.
He said that even though most of the great river’s water [nearly 46%] comes from the Blue Nile tributary (in Ethiopia), Rwanda also must use its own for development projects. Only about 16 per cent of the river’s water is from sources within the east African region, including Rwanda.
“When he was president, [Egypt’s Anwar El] Sadat, said that ‘any action that would endanger the water of the Blue Nile will trigger a firm reaction on the part of Egypt, even if that action should lead to war. And just this month, President [Mohamed] Morsi, of Egypt said that, ‘if any action diminishes one drop of water of the Nile, then our blood is the [next] alternative,” Kayinamura told the House, further requesting the minister to allay concerns over what he said was Egypt’s bullying attitude.
Sadat was the third President of Egypt, who served from October 1970 until October 1981.
MP Emmanuel Mudidi dismissed the colonial era pacts – including a deal in 1959 dividing the Nile’s waters between Sudan and Egypt – saying that such agreements “do not bind us.”
Mudidi said: “Our countries should go ahead with their development plans and if these two do not want to cooperate with us, they should not try to intimidate us. Our new agreement will be very important, and we are more than ready to cooperate with others. We should actually pass this Bill today and the ratification finalised today.”
MP Faith Mukakalisa stressed that “if they [Egypt and Sudan] have legal rights, then we too have natural rights.”
MP Joseph Desire Nyandwi reminded the Assembly that Rwanda puts a lot of effort in conserving Nyungwe forest so as not to negatively impact on one of the  sources of the Nile.
“But are we supposed to request for permission for projects such as Rukarara [hydro dam] in our own country? I don’t understand this,” said Nyandwi.
Earlier, MP Juliana Kantengwa, Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Economy and Trade, argued that because Rwandans miss out on considerable development projects on Nyungwe forest so as to protect its biodiversity, Egypt whose economy relies on River Nile should understand this and even compensate Rwanda.
This is from the rationalisation that the Nyungwe forest area water shed feeds the River Nile yet Egypt often opposes the idea of any development projects by riparian states, or downstream countries, which could affect the river’s flow.
Kantengwa said: “If we did not conserve Nyungwe, Egypt which is complaining that Ethiopia is constructing a dam (alonge the river), would simply keep quiet. For us to be able to properly conserve Nyungwe, it is because we forego some opportunities. We need it, but the world also needs it because Nyungwe is the watershed of the Nile.”
Reached for comment at the time, Egypt’s envoy to Rwanda, Khaled M Abdel Rahman Abdel Satam, noted that he does not understand why it would only be Egypt, and not all Nile Basin countries to provide compensation where it is rightly due.
He, however, noted that matters regarding the opportunity cost incurred by a country were too technical for him to go into.
The diplomat said: “These things are maybe a bit technical for me, you know, and soon we will have a meeting of the NBI in Juba, on July 20 and I think this can probably be discussed. It is very difficult for me to give you a response on this because it is a technical issue and I am not an expert (in that).”
Bonafide concern?
Egypt has expressed concern at Ethiopia’s move to divert water from the Blue Nile, the main tributary of River Nile, to allow construction of a the nearly US$5 billion the Renaissance Dam hydroelectric facility.
Last month, Egypt’s cabinet reportedly met to discuss Ethiopia’s announcement that it was diverting the course of the Nile to construct the dam that is scheduled for completion in 2017. The dam is expected to be the largest in Africa, producing as much electricity as six nuclear power plants.
The Egyptian government’s stance is that Egypt totally depends on the Nile for its water supply, thus making any potential disruption a national security issue.

Rwanda benefits
The CFA, which was rejected  by Egypt and Sudan seeks to establish a permanent River Nile Basin Commission through which member countries will jointly manage and develop the Nile’s resources. If signed and ratified by governments, the CFA will give all countries in the Nile Basin equal rights on the waters.
According to Kamanzi, the benefits of the ratification of the CFA are many, including: removal of the inequitable colonial treaty which gives all rights to only two countries (Egypt and Sudan) in the use of Nile waters, and limits other countries including Rwanda to exploit the river.
“The CFA, once ratified, will lead to the establishment of a permanent river basin organisation that will ensure the sustainable development and equitable utilisation of the common water resources of all the Nile Basin member countries,” he said.
NBI has initiated various investment projects with other riparian countries in general. “In Rwanda we can mention Rusumo Hydropower project with an investment totaling US$ 440 million. There is also the regional energy interconnection project linking DRC, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. Rwanda has received a grant totaling US$120 million for this project.”
River Nile is the world’s longest river flowing 6,700 kilometers through 10 countries namely  Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt.


Post a Comment

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Walgreens Printable Coupons