Home | News    Saturday 4 December 2004

FEATURE-Nile water deal threat to regional stability

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By Ken Ramani And Waweru Mugo

NAIROBI, Dec 03, 2004 (The East African) — The use of the Nile river waters threatens regional stability and specifically the peace process between the Sudan government and the SPLA/M.

Civil societies working in Southern Sudan have warned that the issue of the use of the waters was deliberately removed from the agenda of the Naivasha peace talks two years ago yet it was too close to the people’s hearts.

Justice Africa director, Yoanes Ajawin, says SPLM/A regime in the semi-autonomous south will be forced to negotiate with Egypt and Khartoum over the use of the resources.

He was addressing a conference on resource-based conflicts in the Horn of Africa being held in New Site, South Sudan. "The use of Nile water is a matter that is likely to cause friction with the north immediately we settle down," said Ajawin.

The 1929 Nile Water Treaty gives Egypt exclusive rights over the resource that the upper riparian countries are trying to re-negotiate.

The agreement prohibits Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan and Ethiopia from implementing projects utilising Nile water without prior permission from Egypt.

"The agreement should be renegotiated. It was clearly an agreement between the British and Egypt. The upper riparian countries as they exist today have nothing to do with it," Ajawin said.

Representatives from Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya,Uganda, Sudan and Tanzania said the treaty must be urgently reviewed to allow them to utilise the water to alleviate recurrent food shortages in the region.

Ajawin expressed concern that the protocol on oil wealth sharing could be a sham since Khartoum has not yet disclosed its concessions and contracts with the multi-national oil companies.

He said the ongoing oil exploration in the south must be carefully regulated to avoid an environmental catastrophe. "Oil exploration has resulted in mass displacement and grave rights violations in southern Sudan. In the absence of transparency in the management of the oil sector, many areas of Upper Nile may turn out to be worse than the Ogoniland of Nigeria," he said.

University of Nairobi’s Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies lecturer, Dr Josphine Odera, said while natural resources will continue being a source of conflict in the region, they could also open opportunities for managing conflicts.

"Careful exploitation, management and distribution of resources or benefits from them can help address the perennial problems of underdevelopment and poverty and thus alleviate some of the causes that arise from poverty and denial," he said.

She said the major problem with the Nile water crisis is the absence of a legal regime and collaborative mechanisms for the utilisation of the waters.

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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