Debate over a new Nile Treaty rages on


In a worrisome development, smacking of bias and displaying a neo-colonial attitude of the worst order, have 12 “development” partners in a joint communiqué demanded that the Nile River source countries of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Congo DR and Ethiopia accept the status quo, i.e. the 1929 and 1959 Nile Treaties masterminded by the colonialists, doing Egypt and Sudan a favor beyond their status.

The Eastern African countries, expected to be joined by Southern Sudan after the 2011 referendum, have for long demanded that those treaties be nullified and succeeded by a negotiated new treaty that recognizes the waters of Lakes Victoria and Albert and the White and Blue Nile, as a national resource of the countries of origin. Egypt and the regime in Khartoum have been fighting a losing battle, as Tanzania has for some years now simply ignored the treaty, into which the British forced it on independence.

The partisan statement of the “development” partners, led by the World Bank, has promptly raised the political temperature in Eastern Africa, where sections of the media are now openly promoting a “hands off our water” approach.

Parliamentarians and members of the public were most outspoken about the issue in call-in radio shows and through other means, while government officials held their fire – for the moment at least until a joint position to this perceived “insult and meddling” has been formulated.

The response will also consider that up to a billion US dollars in loans and over US$250 million in grants are at stake for the source countries, should relations with the donors take a serious knock over this development.

Egypt has in the more recent past pursued a policy of both economic engagement with the source countries of the water (carrot), but also resorted to diplomatic pressure and thinly concealed threats to defend their priority veto status over the use of Nile waters (stick).

In regard of the Southern Sudan, Egypt in fact let it slip that they would not consider an independent Southern Sudan a “viable entity,” forgetting that the Southern Sudan is rich in natural resources and, when integrated in to the East African Community, well able to develop and fulfill her own national aspirations without being told by third parties what to do and what to leave – having had enough of that sort of treatment by the Khartoum regime until the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed.