Riparian countries on Monday warned that the region could go to war unless a new treaty on the use of the Nile waters is drawn up.
Nile Basin countries have increased pressure on Egypt to get back to the negotiating table for discussions on how the waters of the world’s longest river can be used.
On Monday, participants gathered at Nairobi’s InterContinental Hotel for the Fourth Nile Basin Development Forum warned the region might face conflicts over water in future if a new agreement is not reached.
“We are hoping that cooperation around the Nile is going to increase security and stability. The key words are equitable and responsible use of the Nile resources.
“That is the only way we can do this peacefully. Otherwise if we don’t do it, we are going to be at war because of water,” Prof Judi Wakhungu, the Environment, Water and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary told the Nation during a break in the sessions.
The Nile Basin includes 11 countries that either use or are the source of much of the river water. They are Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Egypt, Sudan, Tanzania, Burundi, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Together, they created the Nile Basin Initiative in 1999 to start negotiations for a treaty that would lead to an “all-inclusive” use of the river. Eritrea participates in the NBI as an observer.
Although the NBI was supposed to help reach the comprehensive framework agreement (CFA) that would guide proper use of the waters, the riparian states are concerned that Egypt is no longer willing to take part in negotiations.
Egypt and Sudan have traditionally taken the biggest share of the Nile even though they have the least percentage share of contribution to its waters. This is because of two treaties signed in 1929 and in 1958 when most of the riparian states except Ethiopia were colonies of Britain, Belgium and France.
“We the emerging countries have said we do not recognise the 1929 and 1954 agreements because that prevented us from using the Nile water resources.
“We can argue that we as Kenyans can do anything we want with the water, but we have to work cooperatively with our partners and we are confident that this is the best way,” Prof Wakhungu said.
About 25 dams are either under construction or have been planned by riparian states along the Nile.
Egypt was represented at Monday’s forum by its ambassador to Nairobi, Mr Kadri Abdel-Motelib.
The CFA opened for signing in 2010 has only been ratified by two countries; Rwanda and Ethiopia. Kenya says it will ratify the agreement before the end of the year.
“It happens that all the 10 countries of the Nile Basin are in, except Egypt. That is why we need Egypt so we have one Nile Basin. The vision is clear that we have to use equitably and wisely, the water resources that we have. In these times, all of us have to benefit from the Basin,” Sudan’s Electricity minister Mutaz Abdalla Salim told reporters.
He is the chairperson of the Nile Council of Ministers.
“We are in the process of correcting the whole thing together, and we are in good engagements to try and bring in Egypt and all other countries.”
Six ratifications will be enough to bring the CFA into effect, but Egypt has not signed the agreement.