News / Africa

Nile River Countries Consider Cooperative Framework Agreement

Nile Basin countries mull over the Cooperative Framework Agreement. Proponents see the deal as paving the way for an equitable share of the Nile waters

Multimedia

Audio
Ashenafi Abedje

This is Part 1 of a 5-part series: Sharing the Nile's Waters
Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

The Nile is the world’s longest river, spanning a distance of almost 6,600 kilometers. It is formed from the White Nile, which originates in the Great Lakes region of central Africa, and the Blue Nile, which begins at Lake Tana in Ethiopia. The two rivers meet in Sudan and travel northwards, flowing through Egypt until finally emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.

Water use issues have long been a source of contention among the Nile Basin countries, who disagree on what constitutes an equitable distribution of the river's waters.  For decades, the answer to that question has been determined by colonial-era agreements that heavily favored Egypt.  A recently negotiated agreement by upstream countries could alter the historic water-sharing arrangements.

The Niles water are vital for farming, livestock and human consumption.
The Niles water are vital for farming, livestock and human consumption.

Entitled the Cooperative Framework Agreement, it was recently signed by Burundi, which joins other countries -- Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda – that are seeking what they consider a more equitable share of the river’s waters. Egypt, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are still mulling over the framework’s provisions.

Framework

The agreement marks the culmination of years of negotiations among the Nile Basin countries. The process was launched by the seven upstream countries, which see old treaties favoring Egypt and Sudan as an unfair vestige of colonialism.

Egypt has long refused to re-negotiate the colonial-era treaties if it means cutting its share of water. But the former minister of water resources and irrigation, Mahmoud Abu-Zeid, sees the framework agreement as a positive beginning.

“During the last ten years, we have been working on a framework and everybody agreed to more than 95 percent of the articles,” he says. “We believe having six countries sign the framework opens the door for working on cooperative programs and projects along the Nile.”

Egypt’s stance

Burundi’s signing came amidst a major political transition in Egypt following the departure of long-time president Hosni Mubarak. Abu Zeid says just like previous governments, Egypt’s interim military rulers take the issue of the Nile waters very seriously.

“When the government met for the first time, he says, “They put on their agenda as the first item the Nile water. They have indicated the Nile water issue is a priority issue, a national security issue.”

The former Egyptian minister says what worries his country most are efforts by some to scrap the “No Harm” provision of the old treaties – a provision requiring that upstream uses of the Nile waters not interfere with the current uses and rights of the downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan. He says if these principles are honored, the framework under consideration will be acceptable to all the Nile Basin countries.

The Nile River runs through many countries
The Nile River runs through many countries

So does the framework agreement address the concerns of all the Nile Basin countries? “To a large extent,” says Henriette Ndombe, former executive director of the Entebbe-based Nile Basin Initiative.

“Without Nile, Egypt is a desert. Other countries also need water. All the countries need water. This all has been taken into account in this cooperative framework agreement – except Article 14b,” she explains.

Article 14b

The contentious Article 14b of the framework agreement refers to water sharing, and Egypt and Sudan have rejected all efforts to drop it in the new agreement. Egypt says even with the favorable provisions in existing agreements, the Nile alone will not be able to meet the country’s water needs after 2017. The government has previously threatened military action against upstream nations if they construct projects that slow the flow of water to Egypt.

Ndombe says war is not the answer for resolving the outstanding issues.

“The seven countries don’t want to fight Egypt because of water. And there is no need for Egypt to fight other countries because of water. They cannot fight against seven countries. Better for them is cooperation. That is, join the six countries which have signed the cooperative framework agreement,” she says.

Old Treaties

A 1959 treaty between Egypt and Sudan apportioned nearly 90 percent of this resource to the two downstream countries -- 55.5 billion cubic meters to Egypt, and 18.5 billion cubic meters to Sudan. The treaty did not include the upstream countries, including Ethiopia, which contributes 85 percent of the river’s water. Egypt has veto power based on a provision carried over from an agreement it signed with Britain in 1929.

Agreement

The framework agreement includes the creation of a permanent commission that will manage the Nile waters and guarantee an equitable allocation of its resources. The deadline for signing the agreement is May of this year. Once the signing process is completed, the accord goes before the legislatures of the countries for ratification.

Former Egyptian water resources minister Mahmoud Abu-Zeid says a practical approach to addressing the concerns of upstream countries will be to develop under-utilized parts of the Nile Basin to help generate additional sources of water. Analysts warn if the controversy over use of the river is not handled carefully, it could generate conflict in the not-too-distant future.

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs