Ethiopia calls for diplomatic solution for equal use of Nile water
ADDIS ABABA (AFP) Feb 26, 2004
Ethiopia on Thursday called for diplomatic negotiations, instead of confrontations, to find a solution for equitable use of the Nile River water by countries in its basin.

"We want to see equitable use of the Nile one way or the other, but we need to do it through negotiations and diplomatic understanding," Ethiopian water resources ministry spokesman Yetebark Mengesty said.

"That is why we are working on the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), with all Nile basin countries, on some projects which will lead us to equitable utilization of the Nile waters," Yetebark said.

"We need to build confidence among the countries, particularly Egypt and the people of Egypt, to show them our real need of the water and to make it clear that although we claim to own 86 percent of it, we are not saying we can do whatever we want with it," Yetebark stressed.

He was referring to Ethiopia being the source of the Blue Nile, which joins the White Nile from Lake Victoria in Sudan before the huge river flows on to Egypt.

"Within the NBI, we have a project called D3, which aims at hammering out strategies and directions towards equitable utilization of Nile water, and by doing so, the Nile basin countries will be beneficiaries on equal footing," Yetebark added.

He said Ethiopia had reservations about the 1929 Nile Treaty between Egypt and the British colonial government, under which countries under British rule would notify Egypt before using water from either the Nile, or Lake Victoria, the source of the White Nile, but did not openly call for its revision.

"But now the need for equitable use of the water is growing every now and then," Yetebark said, pointing out that even though Ethiopia is considered the major source of the Nile, it had never been a beneficiary.

Previous governments had been trying to exploit Nile water, but due to the strong diplomatic muscle exercised by Egypt and weak resources, were not able to put it to any tangible use.

Kenya and Tanzania have openly declared they will not recognise the treaty, since they were not party to it, with the latter announcing a major project that will draw water from Lake Victoria against the treaty.

NBI member countries include Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.