Nile Basin: More talks on new pact and water use needed, donors say
Key donors have broken their long silence and are putting pressure on the Nile Basin states to engage in more constructive dialogue to solve the impasse over the new treaty.
The European Union and the British government will continue supporting the Nile Basin Initiative Secretariat and development projects. But the riparian states must enhance interaction among themselves to benefit their populations, they said.
Five upstream countries - Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda - have signed the Comprehensive Framework Agreement that erases the 1929 and 1959 colonial treaties.
The colonial treaties gave the North African state a disproportionate share of the water.
DR Congo and Burundi are expected to sign and open the way for ratification of the new treaty by individual riparian states. Egypt and Sudan have rejected the treaty as it removes their historical claims to the waters of the Nile.
Britain, which signed the old treaties with Egypt, said it would not get involved in the dispute.
The EU has taken a stance similar to that of Egypt - which had initially declared its intention to approach donors to pre-empt potential funding of upstream projects that could affect its water share - a bilateral charm offensive.
A spokesperson for the British High Commission in Nairobi, Charley Williams, told TheEast African, "We are following the developments closely but will not be taking sides. We urge all parties to continue THE discussions."
The EU also dismissed fears that it would withhold funding for projects in the basin. Thorsten Bargfrede, head of the Regional Political Section in the Horn of Africa, EU Delegation in Kenya, said: "We will support the co-operation."
Like the British, he said the EU will not be dragged into the conflict.
Current Nile Basin Initiative executive secretary Henriette Ndombe and Kenya's Water and Irrigation Minister Charity Ngilu have also expressed confidence that the new Commission to be created by the new treaty will not face any financial problem.
Financing the Nile projects and the Initiative is estimated to cost $140 million for the Shared Vision Programme project implementation, $30 million for the Subsidiary Action Programme project preparation and general NBI facilitation, and $10 million for programme management.
Most of this funding comes from a World Bank-managed, multidonor Nile Basin Trust Fund.
The Fund is made up of the EC, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, France and the United Kingdom.
Other donors to the Initiative are Finland, Germany, Italy and various UN agencies.
The World Bank, which leads the consortium through the Nile Basin Trust Fund, also has a policy that does not allow it to sponsor projects under dispute.
Ethiopia's Gibe 3 hydropower project has also been contested by Egypt.
Dr Philip Raburu, a hydrobiologist at Moi University, says any attempt by Egypt to block donor funding is unlikely to get far, owing to bilateral relationships between donors and the Basin countries.
Dr Raburu, who chaired the Nile Basin Discourse, a grouping of civil society bodies of the upstream riparian states, added that Egypt and Sudan should engage in dialogue.
He added that they should agree to pay for the water they are using.
During the recent meeting between Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga and President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, Egypt offered to help in efforts to conserve water catchment areas around Lake Victoria to increase water levels.
Dr Raburu said the offer was not enough. "In other agreements on transboundary waters, downstream countries pay the upstream ones for the water they get, based on the principle of Payments for Environmental Services.