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African Countries, Egypt Clash Over Nile Rights

African Countries, Egypt Clash Over Nile Rights

Four East African nations are moving forward with a new agreement on how to share water from the world's longest river, despite objections from Egypt and Sudan.

Listen to Edward Yeranian's report on the agreement:

Officials from Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda signed the deal Friday in Entebbe after 13 years of discussions. Kenya did not sign the agreement but issued a statement of support.

The new deal calls for experts to determine how to fairly share the Nile's water resources. It seeks to help replace previous agreements, from 1929 and 1959, that give Egypt and Sudan control over about 90 percent of the Nile's water

Virtually all of Egypt's water comes from the Nile, April 2010
Virtually all of Egypt's water comes from the Nile, April 2010

Uganda's minister of water and environment tells VOA, from Entebbe, that the deal is needed to ensure the region's growth and stability.

Egyptian officials reacted to the signing by saying that the deal does not apply to them or to Sudan.

Egypt's water minister said Friday that Egypt will take legal and diplomatic steps to preserve its water rights.

In a formal statement, Egypt reiterated that the new agreement does not supersede previous agreements on rights to the Nile's water. It also said that the Nile provides Egypt with 96 percent of its water, while the other Nile Basin countries rely on the Nile for no more than three percent of their water needs.

Egyptian officials have been concerned that there may not be enough water to sustain the country's rapidly growing population.

Ugandan Minister of Water and Environment Maria Mutagamba tells VOA the Nile Basin countries plan to meet again in June or July. She says that, in the meantime, they will continue to talk with Egypt in hopes of getting Cairo's support.

Mutagamba also suggested that leaders from the Nile Basin countries hold informal talks to help reduce tensions.

On Thursday, the head of a European Union delegation to Egypt asked the East African nations not to sign the new deal, warning that it would "make the political problems that exist worse."