Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Need Sobriety: War talk over the Nile water should not replace Intensive Diplomacy | Tom Wilt News

The Nile water catchment has returned to haunt Eastern Africa nations against upper riparian states like Sudan and Egypt who have dismissed the treaty wholly. The simmering row over the Nile between the northern countries and those in the sub-Saharan escalated in 2004. The lower riparian states announced their withdrawal from the 1929 and 1952 Nile treaties and argued that they were colonies at the time the treaty was signed.

Tanzania announced plan to build 105-mile pipeline to draw Nile water to serve its people. Other states want too to generate hydropower and irrigation to mitigate persistent drought, which has left millions of their citizens starving.

When Egypt says of the Nile to be a National Security issue, at least going by the assertion in parliament by Egyptian Minister of Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Councils, Moufid Shehab, it could also apply to the opposed nations.

While the old Nile water Agreements has been criticized as non-binding, Egypt and Sudan continue to be irrational to the reasoning of other East Africa nations.

The earlier treaties guaranteed Egypt 55.5 per cent of lion’s share of the Nile. Tough talk buoyed by Egypt’s military dominance and its use of force had hushed previous tensions over the Nile waters.

In 2004, then Egyptian water minister, Mahmoud Abu-Zeid, described Kenya’s intention to withdraw from the agreement as an “act of war”. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the former secretary-general of the UN predicted that the next war in the region would be over water.

Xinhua news reported a senior Egypt official saying the coming weeks are to see intensive diplomatic actions by Cairo to resolve the water dispute. Saying it was not the end of the game and the signing was a “wrong step”, already Egypt has dispatched a diplomatic ensemble and irrigation experts to Khartoum for what they termed as “…Consulting and sharing visions on the joint action plan for preserving the water quota of the two countries.”

Today all East Africa (EA) nations have signed a new agreement and effectively pulling out of early treaties. They have since moved on to gang considerable influence in terms of resources. Uganda has virgin deposits of crude oil. Tanzania is already at advanced stage in manufacturing gas and exporting. Kenya’s oil exploration has shown high chancing on oil and gas. If this is what power is, then what is it considering Kenya’s multi-covert corps that lie large. This could be the reason why the three EA states are diplomatically speaking more unanimously in the newfound framework under the East African Community- with an EastAfrican Standby Brigade. Contrasting its neighbors, Nairobi appears measured and manipulative but can be diplomatically tooled, and astute today than years ago.

However, it is critical in the next few days that the two fractious groups find a suitable way to channel their grievances and avoid confrontations that can be disastrous to either party. This could be so if Egypt is to be perceived as to ruse international donors and partners to stop the funding of upstream water projects. Understandably, Dr. Helmi Sharawi, an Egyptian expert in African affairs, has shown Egypt’s intent on the necessity of drawing local, Arab and African investments in the Nile Basin countries as to make the best use of the Nile water.

According to the Daily monitor, Dr Allam, the Commission’s Secretary General said that any unilateral agreement signed by the upstream Nile Basin countries is not binding to downstream countries, adding that Egypt and Sudan lacks legitimacy.

The bandying of words comes as a parallel source in Xinhua news noted, Egypt, which is almost entirely dependent on the waters of the Nile, warning that the new agreement lacks legitimacy, saying it “reflects only the views of the seven states”.

The new CFA has been signed to formally transform the Nile Basin Initiative to a Nile Basin Commission to look at how to utilize the Nile for all countries.

In Nairobi, signing the CFA treaty separately at a ceremony witnessed by the executive director of the Nile Basin Initiative Henriette Ndombe, Kenya Water and Irrigation Minister, Charity Ngilu supported the recent agreement indicating Kenya’s intention to utilize these waters. She invited Egypt and Sudan to join in the treaty in the spirit of cooperation based on “One Nile, One Basin and One Vision.”

The agreements and previous exchange notes between the nations is problematic because it gave Egypt exclusive property rights over the Nile waters with no obligations to the other riparian countries except Sudan. Egypt claims 65 per cent per year of Nile waters to which many studies already out are indicating that the current usage of the Nile is unsustainable. This is largely due to population growth and environmental degradation along Nile tributaries. This thrust has bolstered the opposed countries to the 1929 and 1952 Nile treaties. The recent signing in Entebbe has driven the confirmation home.

There are early studies that accommodate as efficient the Nile agreements citing the early principles of Coasian analysis and Posner’s assignment, that explain primarily on the economics of utility like markets, law and social cost. Nonetheless, their claim to protect Egypt’s monopoly has been contradicted by latter studies on the same issue.

Interestingly upper riparian countries have been consistently getting favorable views and validity from publicists upholding the sentiments on the binding Vienna Convention on laws and treaties.

The understanding has been that the new commission on the Nile will supposedly examine some critical aspects that beggars answers.

First, how property rights over the Nile water would be assigned and under what criteria. Alternatively, what legal rule should be applied to protect the assigned property rights? These two rules should go in tandem emphasizing on the economic equity model as opposed to competing vendetta. On this, all stakeholders need to engage to found a suitable standard in the management of the common Nile resources.

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