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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs