Almost unnoticed did a key ceremony take place last week in Kampala, when the six signatory nations to the new Nile Treaty came together to formally pronounce the treaty ratified and valid, and becoming the ‘new law’ of how the Nile waters would be governed and shared. The ‘Cooperation Framework Agreement’ has now finally replaced the ‘old’ treaties and opened the door to global financiers to back projects involving the waters of the two Nile arms, of Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga and Lake Albert.
Egypt’s former regime had been fundamentally opposed to even discuss giving up their veto rights, enshrined since the 1929 and 1959 treaties initiated by colonial power Britain back then, which subsequently forced these treaties upon the newly independent states in East Africa, namely Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.
Egypt’s position was enforced by regular sabre rattling over the potential use of force to secure ‘their water’, conveniently overlooking however that the Nile waters, from the East African ‘White Nile’ and the Ethiopian ‘Blue Nile’ were ‘produced’ in those countries and region and should be treated as a natural resource belonging to the people of those countries.
When Burundi some weeks ago became the sixth country to sign on to the new Nile Treaty, it became de facto ‘law’ and the ceremony in Kampala last week only served to re-enforce this for all the partner states to see.
The countries of Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo DR and Ethiopia, soon to be joined by the new Republic of South Sudan, are considered the ‘producer states’ while the downstream countries of the remaining Khartoum Sudan and Egypt are considered ‘consumer states’ as far as the Nile waters go.
Intriguing enough, the swearing in of President Museveni brought heads of state and government from the six signatory countries together and it is understood that the remaining country, the Congo DR has given assurance that they too will now sign on, as will – when independent – the Republic of South Sudan.
The Egyptian Prime Minister too was in Kampala, although Khartoum’s regime leader, wanted by the ICC for alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes, only sent a representative. Could Egypt’s new government have made overtures towards the ‘produce countries’ in regard of their new political position and readiness to engage in meaningful dialogue at last?
Compiled by Jackie