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Egypt, Kenya play down Nile water row

by Staff Writers
Cairo (AFP) May 24, 2010
Egypt and Kenya sought to play down a regional row following the signing by five African states of a new agreement on water-sharing opposed by Cairo.

Kenya's visiting Prime Minister Raila Odinga praised the "strong relationship" between Cairo and Nairobi and stressed that the new agreement is "not anti-Egypt."

"We are very concious of the fact that the economy of Egypt will not thrive without the Nile and therefore we will do everything possible to ensure that the water security of Egypt is not in any way affected by any agreement," Odinga said.

The new pact was signed by Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda for what is said to be an equitable sharing of the Nile's waters, despite strong opposition from Egypt and Sudan which currently enjoy the lion's share of the river.

Egypt is now trying to engage in discussions to ensure it is not left out of a process that is vital to its future.

It has been taking part in the negotiations for the new agreement but refused to sign due to reservations over one clause in the text.

Irrigation and Water Resources Minister Mohammed Allam told AFP that the clause in question pertained to "water security" but did not elaborate.

Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif insisted the disagreement was over the wording, not the essence of the new pact.

"There is no disagreement over the meaning or the essence of the agreement. The disagreement is in the drafting," he said, adding that discussions with all parties were ongoing.

"We are stressing our rights and they need more flexibility from us," he said, adding that Egypt is "willing to listen to all our African brothers."

Cairo has repeatedly said it has an "historic right" to the Nile and threatened legal action to preserve its interest in the water on which its 80 million people depend.

But Odinga reassured his hosts, saying all points were open for discussion.

"I want to say that I'm bringing the message of optimism and a clear message of hope... Any clause that will cause anxiety and concern to Egypt will be reviewed," he said.

"Nothing is cast in stone. I'm sure we will come to an agrement that is acceptable to everyone," he added. "I believe an understanding will be reached in the coming months."

The upstream countries want to be able to implement irrigation and hydro-electricity projects in consultation with Egypt and Sudan, but without Egypt being able to exercise the veto power it was given by a 1929 colonial-era treaty with Britain.

Egypt's 80 million inhabitants draw about 90 percent of their water needs from the Nile. Cairo maintains that, even by the favourable terms of current agreements, its water needs cannot be met by the Nile alone after 2017.

Cairo this week launched a diplomatic offensive aimed at resolving the water crisis.

Odinga met on Sunday with President Hosni Mubarak, who also held talks with Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila. Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza is expected in the Egyptian capital next month.

Also in June, Egyptian Agriculture Minister Amin Abaza and Investment Minister Mahmud Mohiedine will head to Ethiopia and Uganda for talks with officials there.

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New Nile agreement a wake-up call for Egypt
Cairo (AFP) May 21, 2010
A new agreement by five African states on Nile water sharing has been a wake-up call for Egypt, which has long considered the river its own, analysts say. Until now, Cairo had distanced itself from any discussion that would change the favourable terms of treaties signed in 1929 and 1959, guaranteeing the lion's share of Nile waters to Egypt. The new agreement by Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, ... read more

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