Egypt objects to new Nile basin agreement

The Nile is a vital water source for nine countries through which it flows.

Updated: May 16, 2010, 12:29 PM IST

Cairo: Egypt on Saturday objected to a new agreement signed by four Nile Basin countries in Uganda for changing the way the river waters are shared, even as the deal created a permanent body to manage it.

Nile river stretches more than 6,600 km from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean. The Nile is a vital water and energy source for the nine countries through which it flows.

The original colonial-era agreement gives Cairo the power to veto dams and other water projects in upstream countries. Although the Nile waters are divided by means of an agreement that dates back to 1929, Egypt and Sudan being upstream countries insist that the old agreement still holds.

Four of the seven upstream countries signed a new agreement in Uganda on Friday to set up a body to overlook the distribution of Nile waters in a different way against the will of both Egypt and Sudan.

Despite strong opposition from their northern neighbours, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia signed the agreement. Kenya, Burundi and the DR Congo were expected to sign it within the 12 months allowed by the accord.

Egypt has expressed vehement objection to the agreement signed by a number of Nile Basin countries changing the way the Nile Waters are shared.

With no exception, all Egyptian newspapers featured the news of the agreement signed by Nile basin countries on Friday to share the Nile waters.

Most of the official newspapers were repeating, with no avail obviously, that Egypt`s share of Nile waters is an issue of national security and a red line not to be crossed.

On the other hand, some high tone papers considered the agreement might be the reason behind the first international war over water.

This possibility is refused by Strategic expert on water security Nur Abd-Al-mun`im Nur who said, "Egypt will never make an enemy out of a Nile Basin country. It is currently working for the talks and negotiations to continue.”

“It only wants her historical share of Nile waters and this is not making enemies out of the countries which have signed the new agreement. But when donor countries say they will not support these countries and fund any project on the Nile then it is on Egypt`s side."

All the Egyptian official statements so far have insisted that the agreement is non-binding and illegal since the international laws protects historic agreements even those signed under occupation as the one to share Nile waters.

Analysts are blaming Egypt for a regression in its presence in Africa which is the main reason for the rift between Nile Basin countries.

But for the time being Egypt is going to launch a campaign in international institutions and organisations to protect its rights and prevent the agreement from materialising on the ground.