No issue troubles Egypt like the Nile.

The river provides the country with well in excess of 90% of its water. Yet countries upstream (from Uganda to Ethiopia) are determined to shed the colonial treaties that shackle their use of the Nile. Egypt is running out of water and is deeply troubled.

Earlier this year it was reported that Egypt rejected the new treaties proposed by the rest of the Nile states (see article below).

This trip by Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Nabil Fahmy, is the latest attempt to resolve the issue.

Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy  (AFP Photo)

Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy

Source: Egypt’s Daily News

A Ministerial delegation has departed Egypt to begin a three-stop tour of Nile Basin countries in an attempt to strengthen relations and cooperation with the countries.

Interim Minister of Foreign Affairs Nabil Fahmy will visit Uganda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo during the tour and will be accompanied by interim Minister of Agriculture Ayman Abu Hadid and interim Minister of Housing, Utilities and Urban Development Ibrahim Mahlab, according to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement.

The tour, according to the statement, “reflects the upmost importance the Egyptian government attaches to strengthening cooperation… with Nile Basin countries.” The ministers are expected to stress the importance of using the Nile River as “a tool for cooperation and to achieve mutual benefits for all countries in the Nile Basin.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed that in order to achieve these benefits, the “developmental needs of the basin countries” must be recognised and addressed. The statement added that Egypt is keen to contribute its expertise in this field and to explore investment in the Nile Basin.

Fahmy himself is expected to deliver a message from interim President Adly Mansour, which promotes cooperation and “constructive dialogue” to “ensure the promotion of development, stability and prosperity for the peoples of the Nile Basin countries.”

The tour will also give Fahmy an opportunity to meet with Ugandan, Burundian and Congolese officials to discuss bilateral relations and regional issues. The statement pointed out that the Nile water issue would be top of the agenda for discussions. In addition, Fahmy will raise the issue of promoting stability in East Congo and the “situation in the Horn of Africa and relations within the framework of the African Union.”

Following the removal of Mohamed Morsi as president of Egypt on 3 July, the African Union decided to suspend Egypt’s membership to its Peace and Security Council, a decision that Fahmy has denounced.

See also from the Daily News:

Water ministry rejects new Nile agreement

  /   January 13, 2013

Treaties ensure Egypt receives 55.5 of the 84bn cubic metres of water that flows through the Nile annually

The Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Baha’a El-Din said on Saturday that Egypt will not be signing the Entebbe agreement with other Nile-Basin countries as the agreement in its current form is not suitable for downstream countries such as Egypt.

According to the State Information Services, the minister told the official Chinese news agency Xinhua that the Entebbe agreement is useless without Egypt and Sudan’s signatures.

China is investing in water development projects across several Nile Basin countries. Baha’a El-Din told China that any water project they fund must not have a negative effect on Egypt.

Historically Egypt has always had the largest share of the Nile water. In 1929 Egypt was ensured the lion’s share of the water by Britain and in 1959 Egypt and Sudan signed an agreement which guaranteed 55.5 billion cubic meters of water to Egypt annually, of the estimated 84 billion cubic metres.

The irrigation ministry spokesperson Khaled Wasif said that Egypt actually needs another 7bn cubic metres to cover a water shortage. The Entebbe agreement, Wasif said, does not touch the issue of water but nevertheless there are three contentious issues which the nations have not been able to resolve .

The first issue surrounds how decisions are made. The upstream nations want decisions to be taken by a majority vote, whereas Egypt is demanding consensus.

Wasif said: “Second, we need everyone to respect previous agreements. We have had our share of the water for thousands of years and we need to respect previous agreements made by Italy, Belgium, England and other countries that occupied Egypt and the Nile Basin countries.”

The third issue raised by Egypt surrounds the construction of water installations along the Nile: “We need to be informed before other nations install any water structure.” Wasif added that Egypt did not have to approve the construction, but it would need to be kept informed in order to determine what effect the construction could have on the water quota.

When the colonial agreement which guaranteed a majority of the water for Egypt was made, Egypt’s population far surpassed that of its upstream neighbours. Now however, countries such as Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) rival Egypt’s population, with an estimated 91m and 71m people respectively, although the DRC relies mostly on the Congo River.

Ethiopia, which supplies most of the Nile with its water, is technically not guaranteed any water from the colonial agreements. In an effort to deal with the unequal water distribution, the Nile Water Basin agreement was set up in 1999 by nine of the countries that share the Nile, including Egypt and Sudan. To further combat the monopoly on the water guaranteed by colonial treaties, a new agreement was drawn out in 2010, which Egypt and Sudan have not recognised.