ADDIS ABABA (AFP)— Egypt and Sudan will not be forced into signing a new deal on the sharing of the Nile’s waters, officials stressed Sunday at talks in Addis Ababa.
The water ministers of Egypt and Sudan, the largest consumers of the Nile’s waters, were in the Ethiopian capital to discuss the increasingly contentious issue, which is pitting them against five other riparian countries.
Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda inked a framework in March replacing a 1929 colonial-era treaty between Egypt and Britain which gave Cairo veto power over upstream projects.
“The deal can not be forced upon us. It will only be an obligation for those countries, not Egypt’s,” Mohamed Nasreddin Allam, Egypt’s water resources minister, told AFP.
The new deal would need at least six signatories to come into force with indications that DR Congo and Burundi may soon follow suit, but Egypt and Sudan have so far refused to give up the previous arrangement which gave them the lion’s share of the river’s flow.
Allam was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of ministers from the Nile Basin Initiative which sat to review progress of the 11-year old scheme.
“Egypt has no source of water other than that coming from upstream countries. The upstream countries have many sources and aren’t managing our Nile properly. That’s what we are asking for,” he said.
“The problem can solved easily if we appreciate the conditions of each country,” Allam added.
“We will never sign the treaty unless all controversial issues are resolved. Legal implications will still exist even if six countries sign it,” his Sudanese counterpart Kemal Ali Mohommed told AFP.
“We are happy that these countries have agreed to meet in an extraordinary meeting,” he said, referring to another meeting to be held later this year.
The two-day meeting concluded on Sunday with Egypt handing over the body’s chair to Ethiopia.
At the heart of the dispute is a 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan that allowed Egypt 55.5 billion cubic metres of water each year and Sudan 18.5 billion cubic metres.
Some of the Nile Basin countries say past treaties are unfair and they want an equitable water-sharing agreement that would allow for more irrigation and hydro-power projects, not subjected to an Egyptian veto.
Egypt, a mostly arid country that relies on the Nile for the majority of its water, argues up-stream countries could make better use of rainfall and have other sources of water.