African countries in the Nile Basin have agreed to set up a commission governing the river’s use, although a few sticking points remain, Kenya’s water minister said March 28.
The 6,695-kilometer river has been a source of conflict for decades between the impoverished nations in its catchment area and Egypt, for which it is a lifeline. (HNN 1/5/07)
“We have agreed on most of the things on the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework. We will be establishing a commission which will be able to regulate the use of the waters of the Nile,” Kenyan Water Minister Mutua Katuku told journalists.
“If you are doing a major project within the Nile, you must inform the partners and if anyone has any problem with the project you want to initiate, they can raise it with the commission, then the issue will be resolved.”
Katuku said the 10 Nile Basin countries were yet to decide on the definitions of some contentious terms, like the meaning of water security, but he said he expected the cooperative framework would be ready in a month’s time.
Under a 1929 pact between Egypt and Britain, acting on behalf of its then east African colonies, downstream Egypt can veto use of upstream water that it feels threatens its usage. That agreement has generated resentment and predictions of future wars over the water of one of the world’s biggest rivers.
The commission is to replace the Nile Basin Initiative formed in 1999 by Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Eritrea. Members have discussed building a water infrastructure system for East Africa that would provide irrigation systems, joint hydroelectric production, and early warning systems for floods.