Sudan, Egypt Reaffirm Commitment to 1959 Nile Treaty

KHARTOUM, Sudan

Sudan and Egypt this week reaffirmed their commitment to the 1959 Nile treaty, as well as to active consultation with other Nile Basin countries.

Speaking on September 15th at the 55th session of the Nile Water Permanent Technical Commission in Khartoum, Sudanese Minister of Water Resources, Irrigation, and Electricity Mutaz Musa cited Sudan's allocation of budgetary funds to support Nile commission activities, even though the country is facing severe economic challenges, as evidence of its commitment.

He also urged the commission to accelerate application of modern technology in water monitoring and analysis and archiving.

Egypt and Sudan have often been at odds with upstream Nile Basin states in negotiations over sharing the river’s water.

Egyptian officials just resumed attending Nile Basin Initiative meetings this year, after a boycott that began in 2010 when other riparian countries signed a new agreement on sharing the river’s waters.

The Entebbe Legal Framework Agreement, signed by six of the NBI members -- Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi -- gives all the Nile Basin countries equal rights to access the river’s water and to “utilize the water resources of the Nile River system and the Nile River Basin in an equitable and reasonable manner.”

The previous Nile treaty, signed between Great Britain and Egypt in 1929, gave Egypt control of 66 percent of the Nile’s water. It was amended in 1959 to include Sudan.

In addition to the Entebbe agreement, Egypt has also been in contention with Ethiopia over that country’s $4.2 billion USD, 6,000-megawatt Grand Renaissance Dam project, currently being built on the Blue Nile near the Ethiopian-Sudanese border.

Egypt fears the dam will reduce the Nile’s flows and jeopardize its share of the river’s water. To address those concerns, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan last year formed a Tripartite National Committee to oversee studies on the dam’s impacts.

The process of implementing the studies has stalled recently, after one of the selected consultants, Netherlands-based Deltares, pulled out. The three countries are now looking at other options to move forward with the dam negotiations.

On March 23rd this year, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi, Sudanese President Omar al Bashir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn also signed a “declaration of principles” for cooperation on the dam project. The agreement outlined how the nations would cooperate to use the Nile’s water equitably and resolve any potential disputes through peaceful negotiations.

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