03 March 2014
By Patrick Kisembo
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania – The government wants the Nile waters to shared by all countries it passes through.
The affirmation was made last week by President Jakaya Kikwete when having talks in Dar es Salaam with Egyptian Envoy to the president, Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy who had been sent by Egyptian Interim President Adly Mansour to present a message to President Kikwete on strengthening various matters of bilateral relations between the two countries.
[The Nile river is the world’s longest waterway and passes through 9 countries before it reaches the flood plains of Egypt, who have long claimed the bulk of the water.]
After their talks, President Kikwete commented on the use of Nile waters stressing the position of Tanzania that it was the right of every country where the river flows through to use that water for its development.
“All countries where the river flows , in one way or another, have the same rights to use the river water for their country’s development,” this is Tanzania ‘s position, said President Kikwete, adding that he believes in fair use of water in all countries where the river flows.
Previously Egyptian Foreign minister, Mr. Fahmy had told President Kikwete about the importance of the Nile river in Egypt, stressing that his country, Egypt, gets rains three days only on average per year.
“All the water we use comes from the Nile river. So, you can understand the importance of the river for fairness and prosperity of our country,” he noted. Egypt depends on the Nile for almost 95% of its water.
Egypt has a natural historical right on the Nile river, and principles of its acquired rights have been a focal point of negotiations with upstream states.
The fact that the right exist means that any perceived reduction of the Nile water supply to Egypt is tampering with its national security and thus could trigger potential conflict.
There have been occasions when Egypt has threatened to go to war over Nile water.
Already one of the Egyptian online, Ahram Online has quoted President Kikwete as saying Nile Basin countries should consult and decide on a mutual agreeable arrangement prior to the construction of any dams that impact several countries.
The online was reporting the visit of the Egyptian Foreign Minister Mr. Fahmy to Tanzania after he met with President Kikwete.
“The Tanzanian president was understanding on the situation and stressed that no country should suffer or be harmed from the consequences of the Renaissance Dam,” Foreign ministry spokesperson Badr Abdel Ati was quoted.
President Kikwete’s stand on Nile River was utilization comes at a time when there is moving crisis over the Grand Renaissance Dam Ethiopia aims to build.
The planned Grand Renaissance Dam is a $4.2 billion hydro-electric dam on the Blue Nile, one of the main tributaries of the Nile.
The project has been a source of concern for the Egyptian government since May last year, when images of the dam’s construction stirred public anxiety about possible effects on Egypt’s share of Nile waters, the country’s main source of potable water.
Fahmy carried a message from Interim President of Egypt, Mansour requesting the government of Tanzania to assist in asking the African Union (AU) to re-admit his country’s membership.
Upon his arrival in Dar es Salaam, the Egyptian minister had audience with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Mr Bernard Membe and informed him about the quest for Egypt to regain her AU membership.
He said factors that led to suspension of the membership, (military coup) were no longer valid. “It was people’s decision to defend their country from extremists,” he said, adding that the country was presently geared towards preparation for national referendum before elections next year.
The Nile river is subject to political interactions. It is the world’s longest river flowing 6,700 kilometers through ten countries in northeastern Africa — Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt with varying climates.
The meeting also discussed various issues related to bilateral agreements between the two governments whereby; four businessmen from Egypt were also connected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC), to explore investment opportunities in the country.
In 2010, Ethiopia, along with five other countries based along the river Nile (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Burundi in 2011) signed a Cooperative Framework Agreement that addressed issues of using the water in ways that do not cause significant harm to other countries reliant on the water. Basically these countries were fed up with always having to ask permission from Egypt before they could attempt to use the river in any development project. The agreement lays the foundations for creating a Nile River Basin Commission that would manage all water rights and development projects along the river.
Ethiopia claims that the $4.2 billion hydroelectric dam would benefit agriculture and any energy consumers in East Africa, whilst at the same time not affecting the flow of water downstream; even Sudan has shown its support for the project.
Egypt claims that it signed a 1959 agreement with Sudan that granted them the rights to 55.5 billion cubic metres of water from the total 84 billion cubic metres flowing through the river. However, Ethiopia and other upriver countries have rejected the agreement.