ANAYLISIS: Why Uganda, Egypt on collision course over Nile treaty review

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Close up shots of speedy Nile River water

By Timothy Sibasi, timothy.sibasi@alleastafrica.com

KAMPALA – The deteriorating bilateral relations between Uganda and Egypt on a daily basis are threatening to plunge the two countries into a bloody political turmoil, as Uganda’s president Gen. Yoweri Museveni remains undeterred over possible Egyptian offensive on Kampala.

President Museveni inspects pass out of troops ready to defend Uganda against any external invasion.

Should Gen. Museveni sticks to his guns in his dismissal over Egypt’s proposed amendment of the Nile Treaty to safeguard the Nile waters which are regarded as a source of life to Egyptian, it may put two countries on collision course.

Egypt has made several attempts to restrain the Kampala and Addis AbabA governments from putting up mega projects along the Nile River which they claim have slowed down the water velocity of the Nile River flowing up stream to Alexandria, paralyzing Agro-economic activities along the Nile River in Egypt.

Egyptian president Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi clad in his heavily decorated combat; signaling heal of battles he has faught.

Apparently, the Egyptian president Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has recently visited Tanzania and Rwanda as part of a four-state-tour that also took him to Chad and Gabon, in a diplomatic move aimed at convincing them to adopt its position towards the proposed agreement.

However, independent analysts believe that Gen. Abdel Fattah’s visit to the four countries had aimed to seek general consensus about the impending charm offensive against the Kampala-based regime; however, as to whether President Paul Kagame of Rwanda can easily play a betrayal game against his political and military mentor Gen. Yoweri Museveni remains a matter of great concern for analysts who are closely following Gen. Fattah’s maneuvers against the trigger happy and war monger Gen. Museveni of Uganda, over his objection towards Cairo’s demands for the revision of the Nile Treaty to safeguard the Nile water source in Uganda.

Meanwhile, a statement released by Egypt’s Presidency last month to the Kigali-based government that has found its way to the Kampala based government indicates, that Al-Sisi pledged support for Nile Basin countries in return for favorable sharing terms of the Nile waters, which he said are a matter of life and death for his people. In 2010, controversies emerged amongst countries over water security, championed by Egypt and Sudan. This created an impasse.

Museveni and Hailmariem plans

Gen.Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi (far right) inspects guard of honor during his state visit to Rwanda, (left)Maj Gen. Paul Kagame of Rwanda

Egypt is trying to convince countries to adopt its renegotiated position on the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) ahead of this month’s Council of Waters Ministers’ meeting of the riparian states.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi visited Tanzania and Rwanda last week, as part of a four-state-tour that also took him to Chad and Gabon, in a diplomatic move to convince them to adopt its position and proposed agreement.

Tanzania and Rwanda recently ratified the Nile Basin Common Framework Agreement that Egypt opposes, as it lobbies for its own renegotiated and updated CFA that, it says, addresses its concerns.

While in Tanzania, President John Magufuli expressed his country’s understanding of the importance of the River Nile to Egypt as its main source of fresh water, but failed to make a commitment in support of Egypt’s position.

Why Gen. Museveni of Uganda and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn are opposed to Egypt’s position?

Why Gen. Museveni of Uganda and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn are opposed to Egypt’s position?

In an interview with AlleastafricaInnocent Ntabana, the executive director of the Nile Basin Initiative that it came to his notice that the strong ties between President Museveni and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn formed a solid ground to make it difficult for the Egyptian proposals to be easily discussed in detail, in the planned meeting that month.

At the June summit in Kampala, Egypt pushed for the regional countries to replace the Entebbe Agreement with a new CFA, but most members were reluctant to accept it.

During the meeting, the heads of states, including Egypt’s Al-Sisi, Ethiopia’s Desalegn and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, failed to strike common ground on the matter.

What next for Egypt?

Egypt has objected to the CFA, which was adopted in 2010 and has been signed by six upstream countries — Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, and Burundi — though they are yet to fully ratify it.

Instead, the North African country has proposed its own terms to ensure maximum utilisation of Nile resources, while maintaining a colonial agreement that gives it a lion’s share of the Nile, according to Ugandan diplomats who spoke to Alleastafrica on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the sensitive matter.

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Cairo has initially secured Khartoum’s backing but the recent fallout between Sudan and Egypt over alleged political interference and territorial disputes have left it on its own. This fall out has attracted a set-back of frustrations from Cairo.

Now Egypt is seeking to have an alternative agreement signed by the heads of states, which will accommodate a number of principles governing the management of the Nile water.

This new agreement, which it failed to push through at the Entebbe talks in June will also set up the main lines of co-operation and decision-making mechanisms in relation to any project on the river.

Cairo’s main drive is that, as much as the 2010 Entebbe agreement was binding, it is yet to be finalized, as not all signatory countries have ratified it.

Efforts for Cairo to win the support of Tanzania to contain Gen. Museveni in Uganda some not to be promising to Gen. Fattah, “I believe that the Nile Basin countries will reach an agreement that all parties would accept. We have agreed to continue negotiations over this issue,” President Magufuli’s joint press statement with President Al-Sisi.

The Egyptian leader Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has since admitted that they could not reach an agreement, but both agree on further negotiations over how best to handle the Nile Basin issue.

“We will offer our support to the Nile Basin countries so that all parties achieve the maximum benefit from the Nile without harming Egypt’s water interests, and taking into consideration Egyptian concerns in this regard as a matter of life or death,” President Al-Sisi, press statement.

Egypt’s position to Rwanda

President Al-Sisi talks with President Paul Kagame have also since leaked to the Uganda government; one diplomat confirmed that the Egyptian leader’s visit to Rwanda was aimed at cementing Egypt’s position on the sharing of Nile resources.

The two presidents did not take questions from journalists in Kigali but read out statements.

“The President asserted Egypt’s support for the Nile Basin countries with Egyptian technical experts to achieve development in these countries, stressing Egypt’s keenness to achieving the maximum benefit from the Nile for all Nile Basin countries without harming Egypt’s water interests, and taking into consideration Egyptian concerns in this regard as a death and life matter,” the statement read.

President Kagame said Rwanda was happy to co-operate with Egypt on matters concerning the Nile and trade.

“Egypt and Rwanda do not share a border but we have many common interests on which our friendship is based. This includes our shared responsibility to care for the River Nile which sustains life for tens of millions of Africans as it makes its way to the Mediterranean,” he said.

“We are happy to cooperate with you and all the countries in the region in pursuit of this crucial objective that we share,” President Kagame said.

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