Kenya and Congo to join new Nile water deal

Kenya has signed onto a new agreement on the distribution of Nile water that goes against Egypt’s wishes. With Kenya’s support, the initiative now has five signatories.

Four Nile Basin states–Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda–gathered in Entebbe, Uganda last Friday to sign the new document, which is rejected by both Egypt and Sudan. Eritrea is overseeing the process.

Kenyan Minister of Water Resources Charity Ngilu signed the treaty at 11 AM at her ministry’s headquarter in Nairobi amid intensive media coverage.

A sixth Nile Basin country, Congo, is expected to sign the treaty today. Burundi will make a decision on the issue after its 28 June presidential election.

Ngilu invited Egypt and Sudan to sign the agreement in order to achieve the “progress aspired to under a united initiative.” She stressed that she will accompany Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga on a visit to Cairo on Saturday. The Kenyan delegation has been invited by Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif. Ngilu, however, said that the Kenyan and Egyptian delegations will not discuss the water issue.

Ngilu described the the 1929 Nile Basin Treaty as “obsolete and timeworn,” saying that it was ratified by Egypt and Britain during the colonial era and signed on behalf of occupied African countries that were not consulted. Egypt and Sudan want to uphold the 1929 treaty, which gives them rights to almost 90 percent of the Nile’s water.

Ngilu added that former president Jomo Kenyata called on the states that signed deals with his country before its independence in 1963 to formulate new agreements under the auspices of the United Nations. Ngilu said that Kenyata gave these states a one-year deadline, during which no response came from Egypt.

A permanent commission of Nile Basin states is planned to for 2012 to oversee Nile water distribution without granting any commission members veto powers.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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