In a significant stride towards establishing the long-awaited Nile River Basin Commission, Ethiopia has disclosed plan aimed at launching the Commission by the end of 2023.
This move comes in the face of Egypt’s steadfast claims to historical rights over the Nile’s waters, rooted in a colonial-era agreement.
However, Ethiopia is determined to chart a new course by adhering to the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA), which sets standards for the fair and sustainable utilization of the Nile’s resources.
During a pivotal meeting this week, the Peace and Foreign Affairs standing committee of the Parliament engaged in a constructive discussion with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The primary agenda was to evaluate the Ministry’s quarterly performance report.
Representatives from the Ministry disclosed that Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Rwanda had forged a groundbreaking agreement, with the aim of pressuring three other nations—namely, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, and South Sudan—to swiftly ratify the CFA.
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The Framework Agreement, which emerged as the first document open for signature in 2010, stands as a landmark agreement in the Nile basin. It explicitly advocates for equitable and reasonable utilization of the Nile’s waters, emphasizing cooperation, avoiding harm, and adhering to fundamental principles of international water law.
Currently, six nations—Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda—have signed the CFA.
To bring the CFA into full effect, a minimum of six riparian states must both sign and ratify the agreement.
Cairo remains resolute in its position, maintaining that Egypt’s historical rights to the Nile’s waters are enshrined in a 1959 colonial-era arrangement, which it asserts falls outside the purview of the CFA.
During the report hearing, Fisha Shawl (Amb.), Africa Affairs director at the Ministry, revealed that Ethiopia had successfully convinced Burundi to support the agreement, thereby paving the way to unlocking the colonial-era deal governing Nile River usage.
He further expressed optimism, indicating that the final stages of this process are nearly complete, with hopes of establishing the commission by the year’s end.
Fisha emphasized that ratifying the CFA and establishing the commission would “effectively challenge Egypt’s long-standing claims, nullifying its colonial-era entitlements and ushering in a fresh era of cooperation among the Nile Basin countries.” He says the Commission would serve as an institutional platform to manage and develop the Nile’s resources sustainably and equitably.
Echoing Fisha’s sentiments, Reta Alemu (Amb.), the Ministry’s international law director, expressed his expectation that Kenya and South Sudan would soon join the pact, further strengthening the momentum.
He underlined the urgency of establishing the commission, emphasizing the need for fair and acceptable water consumption practices.
The Nile Water Treaties of 1959, which were negotiated between Egypt and the United Kingdom on behalf of its colonies Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, continue to cast a shadow over the Nile Basin.
These agreements, heavily skewed in Egypt’s favor, restricted upstream nations from harnessing the Nile’s waters without the downstream countries’ consent. The repercussions of these treaties remain a contentious issue to this day.
According to officials from the Ministry, the forthcoming Commission will serve as a vital institutional framework, fostering collaboration among the Nile Basin States, on the responsible use, development, preservation, conservation, and management of the Nile River Basin and its invaluable resources.
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