Biruta roots for equal rights over the Nile

No country should take unilateral decisions on the management of the Nile River at the expense of other countries of the Nile Basin, the Minister for Natural Resources, Dr Vincent Biruta, has said.
Minister Biruta speaks during the Nile Day Celebration in Kigali yesterday. (Elias Hakizimana)
Minister Biruta speaks during the Nile Day Celebration in Kigali yesterday. (Elias Hakizimana)

No country should take unilateral decisions on the management of the Nile River at the expense of other countries of the Nile Basin, the Minister for Natural Resources, Dr Vincent Biruta, has said.

Biruta was on Wednesday speaking during activities to mark the Nile Day in Kigali, an annual event to commemorate the establishment of the Nile Basin Initiative.

The event was marked under the theme, “Water and improved Livelihoods-opportunities in Nile cooperation.”

“The benefits accruing from managing the river together can be of great help to our people in terms of increased food security, energy production, food and drought management and better environmental conditions,” he said.

“Furthermore, the benefits generated beyond the river can be far reaching from wider cooperation in trade and economic integration.

“As water is common property, the implementation of the Nile Basin Initiative is not for a single party; we should implement this in agreement with other countries. One country should not have monoploy of taking decisions and we should not follow the agreement made in colonial period. Now it is time to partner and renew agreements through dialogue.”

Plans to conserve the river

Many plans have been put in place to prioritise most undermined areas in terms of maintenance of some sub-basins of Nile by not only fighting against erosion, but also conserving the river.

Since 2012, in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Nile Basin Initiative tried to prioritise several activities at the tributaries aimed to sustain Nile River in Rwanda as well as in other countries, according to Arsène Mukubwa, the water resources engineer in Nile Basin Initiative, Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Programme (Nelsap).

The activities include fighting against erosion, environmental conservation including in swamps, constructing drainages, terraces and irrigation projects.

Minister Biruta said the Nile should be a bridge to cement mutual cooperation and unity of the people of the Nile Basin.

He said despite the efforts that have been made towards increased access to water, the scale of intervention needs to be broadened and intensified in order to address the ever growing challenges, including environmental degradation, silting of water resources from poor land use practices as well as floods and droughts.

The Nile Basin includes 11 African countries; Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

In May 2010, five upstream Nile Basin countries signed the Entebbe Convention, which calls for the re-division of the Nile water quotas, and cancelling of the agreements of 1929 and 1959, a deal which Egypt and Sudan rejected.

Britain, a coloniser of Egypt then, signed the 1929 agreement on Egypt’s behalf, which bars the establishment of projects on the Nile Basin except after consulting with downstream states.

The International Court of Justice had ruled in 1989 that the water agreements, like border agreements, shall not be modified.

As per the 1929 and 1959 agreements, Egypt receives 55.5 billion of the estimated total 84 billion cubic metres of Nile water each year, with Sudan receiving 18.5 billion cubic metres.

Egypt, in February, attended for the first time in five years a Nile Basin Initiative meeting which took place in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

The Arab country had boycotted the initiative after the Nile Basin countries signed the Entebbe Convention, which undermines Egypt’s majority share in Nile River water.

Media reports in Cairo indicated that the Minister for Water Resources and Irrigation, Hossam Moghazy, said Egypt attended to clarify why it had not been present during previous talks.

Moghazy is also reported as saying that Egypt had not cut itself off from the Nile Basin situation, but internal affairs had previously prevented it.

The Nile Basin Initiative aims at cooperatively developing the River Nile, sharing substantial socio-economic benefits and promoting regional peace and security.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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