Wednesday, June 4, 2014

We will stick to Nile Basin pact, minister tells House

Water minister Jumanne Maghembe responds to

Water minister Jumanne Maghembe responds to MPs’ views when winding up debate on his ministry’s 2014/15 budget proposals in Dodoma on Monday. PHOTO | EDWIN MJWAHUZI 

By The Citizen Reporter

Dodoma. The government has said it will continue abiding by the Nile Basin Cooperative Agreement which seeks to establish a permanent Nile River Basin commission which will set clear procedures of water sharing.

The procedures will replace the two widely disputed colonial-era pacts deemed unfair by seven Nile Basin Initiative members of Tanzania, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.

Water minister Jumanne Maghembe told Parliament when winding up debate on his ministry’s 2014/15 budget estimates on Monday evening that Tanzania signed the agreement on May 14, 2010.

“Tanzania is now in the process of ratifying the protocol to the agreement,” said Prof Maghembe when clarifying a statement made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Bernard Membe, indicating that foreign ministers within the Nile Basin Initiative will meet in July, this year, to review the agreement and give priority to Egypt on the use of the Nile River.

A 1929 pact between Egypt and Britain gives Egypt veto power over upstream projects as well as access to most of the Nile waters. Further still, a 1959 pact between Egypt and Sudan, allowed the two countries 55.5 and 18.5 billion cubic metres of water, respectively, every year.

However, Tanzania, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda maintain that these past treaties are unfair and they want a reasonable water-sharing pact that allows for more irrigation and power projects.

In May, 2010 Egypt insisted it could block dams and other projects upstream on the Nile, challenging the new deal among African nations seeking to alter historic water sharing arrangements and secure more water for farms and growth.

Prof Maghembe said Ethiopia and Rwanda have already ratified the protocol to the treaty while Burundi, Kenya and Uganda were on advanced stages of ratifying the protocol.

The minister said the agreement was very important since it provided for the power to veto energy and irrigation projects in signatory states.

Egypt has already warned that the new agreement lacked legitimacy and plans to press donors for support. Yet upstream countries say they need more water too. Power shortages have hindered investment in Africa even though alternative sources to hydroelectric power exist.

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