Nile Basin: Ethiopia disappointed over Egypt and Sudan’s unfair advantage

Reading time 4 min.
The Nile river
The Nile river

Discrepancies among Nile Basin countries continue unabated as water ministers of the Nile Basin countries delayed a water sharing pact on Tuesday July 28, 2009 owing to member countries’ disagreement on a proposed treaty. So far, Egypt and Sudan have kept an unfair water sharing advantage over other Nile basin countries including Ethiopia, which contributes about 80% of the water to the Nile basin.

Water ministers of the nine riparian countries of the Nile basin held a four day meeting in Egypt to find a consensus on a water sharing proposal to no avail as Egypt and Sudan opposed the proposed pact, Asfaw Dingamo Minister of Ethiopian Water Resource (MoWR) explained to the Ethiopian press. According to him the countries have agreed to meet in six months.

The architect of the proposed treaty, Jose Endundo, Minister for Water Affairs of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and also Chairperson of the Nile Council of Ministers (NCM), dealt with three points that he believes could help settle the impasse pertaining to the contentious Article 14b, under which water share has been managed for decades. Most of the riparian countries’ interest to use the basin for further developments had led them to call for an amendment of the Article. Endundo’s proposal was submitted to the council in May 2009.

Even though the new round of negotiations saw the riparian countries arriving at a consensus on the amendment of several articles, disagreements and suspicions that have lasted for more than 10 years, with respect to Article 14b, are still rife despite the acceptance of the three point proposal made by water minister of DRC. Jose Endundo’s proposal suggested, “Deleting article 14b; reformulating it and establishing a commission and annex article 14b to be considered by an international audit committee that will fine tune article 14b”.

In June this year, the Nile Council of Ministers, with the exception of Egypt and Sudan agreed on option three which suggests setting up “a Commission and annex article 14b to be considered by an international audit committee that will fine tune article 14b”.

Egypt remains rigid on “Formulating Article 14b” as it explains that an article that deals with the historical water rights and uses should be formulated with a Committee of Ministers from the Eastern Nile, the Equatorial Lakes region, Egypt and Sudan and one or two experts from international organizations. The northern African country also demands that the committee formulates an acceptable text to be presented to the council within six months. The two options were set on the table this week in Egypt, which now holds the chairing position of the council.

The meeting, which was expected to find a solution to the dispute, ended up without a concrete decision for the Nile basin member countries, with the exception of Egypt and Sudan. According to Asfaw the meeting was concluded with an accord to meet within six months time. Technical advisers to the council have been authorised to work on a formula by which the council could establish a committee when they meet in six months.

“This is a bitter defeat for Ethiopia and the rest of the upper riparian countries”, hydro politician at Addis Ababa University said. According to him the meeting skipped the three essential points and concluded in favour of Egypt’s proposal which gives Egypt and Sudan an upper hand.

It should be noted that an agreement signed in 1929 between Egypt and Great Britain, which represented its African colonies along the 5,584 kilometre (3,470 mile) river, gave Egypt veto power over upstream projects. Another agreement signed in 1959 between Egypt and Sudan allowed Egypt alone to use 55.5 billion cubic meters (87% of the Nile’s flow) and Sudan 18.5 cubic metres of water each year. Ethiopia, which contributes more than 80 percent of the water to the Nile basin, and the rest of the riparian countries have been left out.

Ethiopia – Egypt: A tug of war over the Nile basin

Despite a generous offer made by visiting Egyptian minister of Water Rosources and Irrigation, Dr. Mohamed Nasr Eldin Allam, Ethiopian Minister of Water Resources, Asfaw Dingamo, has stood by his government’s firm stance to continue with its decision to protect the upper riparian (Nile basin) countries. The Ethiopian position seeks to limit Egypt and Sundan’s indiscriminate use of the Nile’s water resource. The Egyptian Minister visited Ethiopia this week… Read More

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