Africa’s newest state, South Sudan, will join the Nile Basin Initiative next month, Egyptian government officials said on June 6.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the officials said South Sudan will become the 11th full-fledged member of the regional organization during the Nile Basin Ministerial Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda in July.
South Sudanese officials demanded membership in the initiative during the African Water and Irrigation Ministerial Meeting held in Egypt last month, and participating countries supported them in this.
Joining the inter-governmental initiative will allow the fledgling state to take part in making decisions and laws related to use of Nile water.
It will also be able to join the Entebbe Legal Framework Agreement signed by six upstream Nile countries -- Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi – if it wishes.
However, South Sudanese Water Minister Paul Mayom stressed during a visit to Cairo last month that “we will not sign the Entebbe agreement, and we will not pose harm to Egypt’s water interests.”
This assurance was reiterated in a meeting on June 10 between Egypt’s foreign minister and the newly appointed South Sudanese ambassador in Cairo.
Egypt, Sudan and Congo have refused to sign the agreement, claiming it does not acknowledge downstream countries’ “historical rights” to Nile water.
Egyptian sources said Egypt and Sudan would freeze their activities in the initiative until a settlement is reached in the dispute over the legal framework agreement.
South Sudan is unlikely to side against Egypt in the debate, as it receives millions of dollars in aid from the Egyptian government.