Egyptian authorities on Monday, yet again, requested for more time to “consult widely” on the terms and implications of the contentious clauses in the new cooperative framework that seeks to refine sharing of the River Nile. The request was resultantly granted by the Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-COM) meeting chaired by Water and Environment minister Sam Cheptoris at Protea Hotel, following hours of protracted haggling that went on into the night.
Mr Cheptoris, who also doubles as the Nile-COM chair, said the meeting was to “prepare ground” for the high level summit of heads of state of the 11 countries sharing the river called by President Museveni later this year “to conclude” the matter in case the ministers fail to broker a deal.
“Our Egyptian friends asked for more time to consult with their government and other stakeholders back at home before they can pronounce themselves on anything,” Mr Cheptoris said.
Also in attendance were water ministers of Burundi, Egypt, Rwanda, South Sudan and Sudan while Kenya was represented by the Principal Secretary for Water and Irrigation and Tanzania by their Deputy High Commissioner to Uganda. DR Congo snubbed the meeting. The agenda for Monday’s meeting was to receive feedback from Egypt on the report of the special committee of Nile-COM that met early this month in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, as part of the ongoing shuttle-diplomacy to sway Cairo back into the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), a temporary non-governmental organisation established 17 years to steer new cooperation amongst the Nile Riparian countries.
Egypt, being the main dependant on the river, is opposed to the CFA specifically over Article 14(b) which requires other members “not to significantly affect” its water security. The CFA was signed by Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Kenya to work towards attaining a greater share of the Nile shares but Egypt and Sudan declined insisting on the pre-colonial agreements which grants them bigger shares of the Nile waters but which the former interpret as granting “monopoly” over the river.