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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ebola Lockdown May Be Extended

Lockdown, which started Friday, aims to allow health workers to locate hidden Ebola patients, educate others on how to avoid the deadly disease More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid