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Uganda's President Accuses Egypt of Excluding his Country from Using Nile Waters - 2004-04-03

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni accuses Egypt of unfairly excluding his country from using the Nile waters.

President Museveni told reporters Saturday Uganda's farmers, with their dependence on unpredictable rains, need the waters of the Nile for irrigation.

"Although we have rain, sometimes rain doesn't come on time, so we would need a standby arrangement," he said. "In case rain delays, then we use the irrigation system, which means that most of the time, Egypt will get the water anyway. But there will be that insurance for us. Besides, Egypt has got also other advantages. Although Uganda has got water and rain, but we are very far from the sea, from the ocean."

Uganda is one of 10 countries that are trying to renegotiate a long-standing pact, which gives Egypt control over Africa's longest river.

Under the terms of a 1929 treaty, countries along the river must seek Egypt's permission if they want to use Nile waters for hydroelectric, irrigation or other projects.

Neighboring Tanzania has started a major project, using Lake Victoria water, and Kenya is planning to do the same. Last year, Kenya and Egypt clashed over the use of the lake, with Egypt reportedly threatening to go to war with anyone over the issue.

Uganda says it wants to build a hydroelectric power plant on the river.

President Museveni said it is true Egypt depends solely on the Nile to meet its water needs, but should not exclude others.

"But we don't want to fear somebody excluding us from using irrigation, especially as a standby system," Mr. Museveni said.

A meeting of water ministers from the 10 countries met last month in Kenya and are due to meet again in Uganda next month to try to renegotiate the Nile agreement.