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Presidents set to resume Nile water talks

By Tom Mugisha,

KAMPALA –  Regional leaders must meet and resolve the impasse over sharing of River Nile waters, ministers from countries in the Nile basin have resolved.

The ministers under Nile Council of Ministers[Nile-com], the highest decision-making body on all political and development matters related to the Nile Basin initiative resolved on Thursday in Entebbe that the presidents must meet end the stalemate over the use of R. Nile

“The heads of state provide the highest level of engagement on Nile issues,” said Sam Cheptoris, the Ugandan Minister of Water and Environment was quoted by the New Vision newspaper.

In July the heads of state summit chaired by President Museveni in Uganda ended in stalemate the leaders disagreed and it ended prematurely. President Museveni promised another summit would be convened at date to be confirmed.

Nile-com was attended by Ministers in charge of Water Affairs from Burundi, Sudan and Uganda. Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania sent representatives.

The countries in the catchment of the Nile are Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Egypt, Eretria and DR Congo. Eretria is an observer.

Egypt and Sudan, which are favoured by two colonial agreements of 1929 and 1959 are opposed to the fresh agreement (Cooperative Framework Agreement opened for signing in May 2010) on grounds that it does not recognise their historical rights.

Both countries pulled out of NBI but Sudan later agreed to return. The countries in the Nile Basin have been discussing to resolve outstanding issues for Egypt to participate in the NBI meetings.

NBI is a framework which was set up in 1999 is a Programme of the 11 countries funded by several donors including the World Bank, GIZ and EU. It has been facilitating the meetings of the ministers and technical negotiators. It was expected to produce two outcomes; the Nile Cooperative Framework and the Nile Basin Commission.

The meeting on Thursday came up with NBI’s 10-year Strategy referred to as the new strategy, approved by the Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-COM).

The strategy captures the development goals of the NBI, considering the prevailing context and challenges in the Nile Basin as well as priorities in the catchment of the Nile.

“These have been conceptualized into six goals; namely increasingly hydropower, development and power trade; improving food security; protecting and restoring ecosystems across the basin,” said Kebede Gerba, State Minister, for Water, Irrigation and Electricity of Ethiopia.

“The other goals are improving basin resilience to climate change impacts; strengthening trans-boundary water governance in the Nile Basin as well as enhancing availability and sustainable management of trans-boundary water resources of the Nile Basin.”

Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, Dr. Eng. Sileshi Bekele replaced Uganda’s Minister of Water and Environment, Sam Cheptoris.

Ethiopia will chair both the Nile Council of Ministers and the Nile Technical Advisory Committee of the NBI for the next one year.

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