Nile Basin countries discuss water laws

Ten African countries sharing the River Nile met on Monday in Uganda to discuss a legal framework that will replace colonial laws which give Egypt a preferential use of the river’s resources, officials said.

“We have started the meeting and all countries are represented by officials, who are trying to come up with a legal and institutional cooperation framework that will be the basis for usage of River Nile waters,” Ugandan Water commissioner Ssenfuma Nsubuga said.

“Negotiations are not easy. It might take a year, but we know that we are on the right course,” Ugandan Water Minister Mary Mutagamba also said by telephone, pointing out: “It is the third meeting in the framework process that started in Addis Ababa last September.”

The current meeting, under the auspices of the 10-nation Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) that handles the management of the river, is due to last until June 4, but it is doubtful that a final agreement will have been reached by then.

The negotiators are supposed to forward their final document to the NBI ministers of water, none of whom are attending the Entebbe meeting.

In 1929, Britain and Egypt signed a treaty that required Nile Basin countries to seek permission from Cairo before embarking on large-scale projects that will affect the level and flow of the river’s waters.

Upstream countries have rubbished the treaty as a colonial relic and in 1999, together with Egypt, which had earlier tried to cling to the old treaty, launched the NBI, tasking it with finding a better way of sharing the river.

Nile Basin countries include Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.—Sapa-AFP

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