June 25, 2010 (SSNA) —This week, fight over who owns the Nile has reached political peak, with Cairo leading the way on diplomatic fronts. During the colonial era, Egypt was the only nation to oversee and manage the use of Nile waters. But now, things have changed.
Egyptian Finance Minister Youssef Botrous Ghali travelled to Burundi earlier this week for talks regarding the treaty, al-Masry al-Youm reported.
"This is serious," said Henriette Ndombe, executive director of the intergovernmental Nile Basin Initiative, established in 1999 to oversee the negotiation process and enhance co-operation. "This could be the beginning of a conflict."
Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s intelligence chief, is in talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala over differences concerning the recent Nile basin agreement, Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm reported on Thursday.
"We were saying: ‘This is crazy! You cannot claim these rights without obligations”, Isaac Musumba, Uganda’s state minister for regional affairs, and its Nile representative, told the Guardian.
In May, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania signed a "River Nile Basin Co-operative Framework" agreement. Kenya which was first seen as less interested in the agreement later signed on. Burundi, along with Congo, abstained from signing the agreement.
Under the agreement, each state’s share of the Nile Basin water will depend on climate, economic, population, social, and other important issues.
“All the upstream states saw the move by Egypt (Sudan has a more passive role) as "tantamount to an insult", Minelik Alemu Getahun, one of Ethiopia’s negotiators, was quote by the Guardian as saying.
If the deal is ratify, a body to decide on water allocation will be set up without Egypt and Sudan that need the river most. This causes panic in Cairo.
The 1929 bilateral treaty gave Cairo a power to veto any water development project in the Nile basin.
In 1959, Egypt and Sudan signed a deal that gave them "full utilisation of the Nile waters".