Back to Front Page

Transforming CFA to Nile Cooperation


Transforming CFA to Nile Cooperation

Fekadu Wubete


Ministers in charge of Water Affairs from the ten Nile Basin Member States  had  on Thursday 14th July, 2016 gathered in Entebbe, Uganda at the 24th Annual Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-COM) meeting. The ministers from Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, had deliberated on how the riparian countries can further cooperation on the Nile and strengthen managing and developing Nile water resources, which continues to be an essential fountain of life for Nile Basin citizens.

The ministers had also discussed on a few other pertinent issues, such the financial sustainability of Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) which is based on the strategy of   increasing individual country contributions every two years, to meet the organization’s operational costs. They said it enables to close the chapter of donor-receiver relation with the World Bank and manage to establish lasting Nile Basin Trust Fund.

The meeting had also discussed as to how to expedite the implementation of already prepared investment projects worth more than 6 billion USD to increase food, energy and water security and improve livelihoods of over 400 million Nile Basin citizens. It also discussed Egypt’s non participation in NBI activities as engaging Egypt is important to NBI’s efforts aimed at establishing basin-wide platform and facilitate inclusive and inter-state dialogue.

The current meeting had also enabled NBI to change leadership of both the governance and management bodies and Uganda had assumed chairmanship of the Nile-COM from Tanzania, while an appointee from Rwanda had replaced Kenya, as Executive Director of the NBI Secretariat.

The Entebbe Agreement, which is also called the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) was signed by Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Rwanda, then on February 28, 2011, Burundi became the sixth signatory (Egypt argues that both the 1959 agreement, as well as another accord signed in 1929 under British rule, stipulate that the approval of all Nile Basin states must be gained before the implementation of any water-utilization projects).

However, the six countries that signed the Entebbe Agreement rejected such reasoning, and reminded Egyptians that the 1929 and 1959 agreements were void and invalid because they were written and ratified by horse-trading British colonialists that concluded Faustian agreements at the expense of upper riparian countries. The recently-revised Entebbe Agreement that was signed on May 4, 2010, was written by native, full-blooded Africans.

                                              Highlights on CFA

Entebbe Agreement is the miniature of the Nile Basin Framework Agreement. It was named after the Ugandan city which hosted its signing ceremony in May 2010 by six countries mentioned above. The idea of NBI surfaced in 1997 and took its formal shape on 22 February 1999 in Dar es-Salaam, the Republic of Tanzania, after the Water ministers of the Nile Basin countries initialed the minutes of the meeting which founded the NBI. Those ministers agreed that the aim of the Initiative was to achieve sustainable economic and social development through equitable benefits from the common Nile water.

The injustice on the use of Nile water has given rise to CFA. For instance, the 1929 agreement gave Egypt veto-power over any project being built along the Nile, and also gave it the lion's share of the waters. Ethiopia, for example, has been able to utilize only 0.65 percent of the water resources of the Nile basin even though it contributes over 86 percent of the Nile waters. The upper White Nile riparian states, namely Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, together use less than 0.05 cubic kilometers of the waters of the Nile. Compared to the 55.5 cubic kilometers used by Egypt, it is safe to conclude that these states haven't even begun using the Nile.

CFA is based on a group of principles on the use, development and protection of the Basin, including the principle of exchanged cooperation that observes equality of sovereignty and good-will and also the principles of sustainable development. It is also based on the principle of equitable and reasonable use, like the provision of the UN Agreement on the International Water-courses, the right of each member state of the Nile Basin to the use of the Nile water within its territories without inflicting significant harm on the other member states.

The Agreement establishes an inclusive commission of all member states for administration of the Basin, exchange of information and discussion of the joint projects. The Agreement obligates the member states to resolve their disputes peacefully, detailing the procedures and bodies of the solutions.

There is a deep-rooted bitter grievance among the nations of the Nile source caused by the arrogant and eliminating policies of Egypt and the Sudan in connection with the Nile water and asking those nations to submit to them applications for using the river water(let alone the tremendous sympathy with the source nations due to the policies and positions of Egypt and the Sudan around the Nile water.

Joining Entebbe Agreement will remove part of this grievance and sympathy and will offer a proof of good-will on the part of all Nile Basin countries besides providing a possibility of a sincere cooperation (rather than hollow cooperation slogans).

Seeing the undeniable facts of injustice committed against upper riparian countries, the World Bank and a number of donors had played a facilitating role in the birth of the Initiative. The Initiative succeeded in several aspects, including establishment of a secretariat in Entebbe, Uganda, an office for the eastern Nile in Addis Ababa, and an office for the Equatorial lakes Nile in Kigali, Rwanda, in addition financing a number of joint projects from the donors fund which was established for the purpose.

Reluctance of Egypt and Sudan to approve CFA

The water security part of CFA, Article 14, deals with the water security which, according to the Agreement, includes the right of each Nile Basin member state to utilize the water for health, agriculture and environment purposes.

Firstly,  according to Dr. Salman Mohamed Ahmed Salman, scholar of international water law, this article was the main reason for the collapse of the negotiations as Egypt and Sudan insist that their existing uses and rights referred to in the Nile Water Agreement of 1959 which divides the Nile water between them (55.5 billion cubic meters for Egypt and 18.5 billion cubic meters for the Sudan) is not subject to negotiation(they take it like Crossing the Rubicon) and constitutes the water security for them and these rights should be secured by the Entebbe Agreement.

He said the other member states reject this and insist that they have rights in the Nile water in accordance with the equitable and reasonable benefits theory and that Egypt and Sudan have to recognize those rights and negotiate on them.
Secondly, according to him, Egypt and the Sudan demanded inclusion of detailed provisions in the Agreement on the advance notification to all member states on projects any member state plans to establish on the River Nile. The other member states reject this matter, fearing that the notification might be interpreted as granting Egypt and the Sudan the right to imposing a veto. Those member states argued that Egypt and the Sudan did not notify the other states on any one of their projects on the River Nile.
Thirdly, Dr. Salman stated that Egypt and Sudan demanded that any amendment should be made by consensus or majority, provided that the majority must include Egypt and the Sudan. The other member states opine that an amendment could be made by an ordinary majority, irrespective of whether or not including Egypt and the Sudan, and that no state must possess the right to veto. Those disagreements were so grave that they caused an impasse in the negotiations.

The Way Forward

Cooperation is the mainstay of the International Water Law. The UN Convention on Water-courses mentioned the word “cooperation” and its derivatives 15 times and, according to this UN convention and also to Entebbe Agreement. Cooperation is based on the principle of equitable and reasonable benefits which, as underlined by the International Court of Justice, over-rules all other principles (the Sudan agreed in 1999 that this principle would be the foundation of the Nile Basin Initiative). The UN Convention came into force in August 2013, which means that it is only a matter of time for Entebbe Agreement to come into force thoroughly.

Dr. Selman said in the wake of the Sudan’s support to construction of the Renaissance Dam, the benefits that can be collected from a sincere cooperation have become apparent. The same benefits can be gained from Entebbe Agreement, which is founded on cooperation, opening up new and wider horizons for cooperation with the other Nile Basin states.

If Sudan joins the Agreement it will be regarded as a serious state for cooperation on common basins. The country will also occupy crucial position in the Nile Basin Commission which will be the spearhead for cooperation, exchange of information and conflict resolution. Hence, joining the Entebbe Agreement will show that Sudan possesses a political will-power for taking decisions that serve its own interests, just as it has done with regard to the Renaissance Dam.

For these reasons, it is believed that the non-CFA member states including Sudan must join Entebbe Agreement as soon as possible and in its present form as, through sincere cooperation and diligent action, the Nile Basin nations will embark on a new chapter aimed at emancipating their peoples from poverty, hunger, thirst and backwardness which engulf most of the territories of those nations which widen day-by-day.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia believes that as a Nile project, the GERD (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam) has enabled to invigorate diplomacy activity, close the saga of disagreement and break the stalemate between upper and lower Nile riparian countries(particularly Ethiopia and Egypt. In deed Ethio-Egyptian ties are not currently restricted to only the subject matter of Nile and discussions on the GERD).

Ethiopia has been adamantly stressing on the fact that lasting solution to the dead-lock of Nile Cooperation may be devised through accomplishment of activities that could enhance the prevalence of peace in the region and strengthening Nile Cooperation and development. All riparian countries have to cooperate to resolve problems by strengthening infrastructure development in the region, enhancing peaceful-coexistence and cultural exchange of people.

Ethiopia is striving to forge cooperation on the use of Nile waters based on the laws of trans-boundary rivers. The GERD has not only started to rectify the imbalanced geopolitics and hydro politics attitude of the region but also it has been triggering countries to make continuous diplomatic relation to the betterment of their relation on Nile Cooperation and regional integration.

GERD diplomacy has started to pay, slowly but surely. Hence, Egyptian higher officials have started to accept the truth related to sharing the water of Nile in an equitable manner and commend on the importance of discussion and cooperation. A case in point, President Abdel Fattah  el-Sisi and Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry of Egypt had commented on building consensus and trust between Ethiopia and Egypt(nation believes this acceptable comment should be acclaimed and encouraged to forge mutual ties between Nile riparian countries).

Overall, it could be said that the diplomatic effort of Ethiopia is taking roots in the hearts of Egyptians .On the way to U-turn from its colonial remnant, Egypt is also following the path of backing cooperation (even though it is reluctant about the water discharge and content of the GERD).Currently, the relation of these Nile riparian countries is going in an encouraging pace and Ethiopia is expressing commitment to strengthen relation and establish cooperation on rock-solid foundation.

Ethiopia’s firm belief is to enhance CFA to regional integration and cooperation and build the trust of Egypt(on both Nile Cooperation and the GERD, enhance the modus operandi of mutual benefit, peaceful-coexistence and resolving the impasse on Nile in constructive and amicable way. Activities used to boost the consensus of Nile riparian countries about the Nile Cooperation and GERD will continue, particularly to make Egyptian people understand the fact that the interest of Ethiopia is development and poverty alleviation based on equitable use of Nile water.

Nation is striving to transform CFA(and the GERD as well) to Nile cooperation. Currently, Ethiopia has summoned its strength to navigate the storm on Nile, sure enough to surf the right way and finalize the course successfully. Ethiopia is expressing its commitment that it will move heaven and earth to fully materialize Nile cooperation and reverse age-old and rapacious use of the river. Indisputably, nation will keep on its indefatigable effort to enhance Nile cooperation, win the trust of Egypt and its people, construct the GERD and employ it for development. National call to mutual benefit and equitable use of Nile will continue endlessly parallel to prioritizing development agenda and executing poverty alleviation mission.

Back to Front Page