Home | News    Friday 26 June 2009

Sudan not part of possible action against Egypt on Nile water

June 25, 2009 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan will not be part of possible legal action against Egypt being pursued by some Nile basin countries, an official said today.

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A family of fishing people, with from left to right, Um Ahmed and her grandsons, Mohammed Ibrahim and Adel Ibrahim as they work in their boat on the Nile river in Cairo, Egypt (AP)

The independent Al-Akbar newspaper said that the UK based Guardian newspaper reported that parliamentarians from 11 African Nile basin countries are considering file a lawsuit against Egypt regarding the 1929 and 1959 agreements that gave it exclusive right on the usage of the longest river in the world.

The 1929 agreement signed between Britain and Egypt states that no project on the Nile would be undertaken by any basin countries that would impact the volume of water reaching Egypt.

Legal experts say that the agreement is binding to Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo despite the fact that most of these countries were not independent at the time.

Thirty years later Sudan and Egypt amended the agreement that enabled the construction of the Aswan dam close to the borders between the two countries.

The 11 countries will reportedly also add Britain to the case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) asking for compensation losses incurred because of these agreements.

The move reportedly came after Egypt refused to sign a framework agreement in the Congo last month saying it amounts to its “historical right” in the Nile water.

The Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly newspaper said that Cairo asked that other signatories “explicitly approve Egypt’s right to 55.5 billion cubic square meters of water annually; that no projects on the Nile be implemented without Egyptian approval, and that Convention articles be amended only on a unanimous vote”.

However, the stipulations put forward by Egypt were deemed unacceptable by other countries.

The 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan states that no projects are allowed on the Nile by any other country without its consent.

A unidentified Sudanese official at the water resources and irrigation ministry emphasized to Al-Akhbar newspaper that neither his government nor Ethiopia will join the effort to sue Egypt.

He added that Sudan under British rule in 1929 and thus was not a party to the first agreement and noted that it is up to the political leaderships not the parliamentarians to take such a step.

Egypt is extremely sensitive to any talk about modifying its share in the Nile water with some officials saying that this amounts to a declaration of war warranting military action.

Yesterday the editor in chief of the semi-official Al-Ahram daily Morsi Atallah wrote a column saying, “Nile water is a red line”.

“Egypt will not forfeit its historical rights…will move to defend these rights if any attempt is made to touch Egypt’s share and no one inside or outside should be surprised” he wrote.