Cascao 2007 Chroniques Egyptiennes


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Cascao 2007 Chroniques Egyptiennes

  1. 1. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 141 New Nile Treaty: A Threat to Egyptian Hegemony on the Nile? ANA ELISA CASCÃO1 This article aims to analyze and understand the hydropolitical relations between Egypt and the neighboring Nile riparian states during the year 2007. Particular attention is given to a potential new Nile agreement, for which negotiations involving all ten Nile riparian states were concluded in June 2007. Through the assessment of the Egyptian and regional media coverage of the issue, as well as interviews with main actors in the negotiations, the article attempts to cast light on the negotiations for the Nile “Cooperative Framework Agreement.” It includes analysis of the details of the negotiations, the contents of the draft agreement and its possible consequences on Egypt’s access to the Nile water resources in the future. Cet article analyse les relations hydropolitiques entre l’Égypte et les États riverains du bassin du Nil au cours de l’année 2007. Une attention particulière est portée au nouvel accord de partage des eaux du Nil dont les négociations entre les dix pays du bassin ont été conclues en juin 2007. À partir de l’étude de la couverture médiatique des négociations en Égypte et dans la région, et d’entretiens avec les principaux acteurs, cette contribution examine les enjeux du « nouvel accord cadre de coopération » et expose le détail des négociations, le contenu de l’accord préalable et ses conséquences potentielles sur l’accès de l’Égypte aux eaux du Nil. Ana Elisa Cascão is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Geography at King’s College – University of London (UK), and has been conducting research about water resources management in the Nile River Basin. She is also a member of the LSE/KCL London Water Research Group. Contact: []
  2. 2. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 142 CHRONIQUES ÉGYPTIENNES 2007 T HIS ARTICLE aims at understanding the hydropolitical relations between Egypt and the Nile riparian countries during the year 2007. In that year, the draft of a new Nile treaty was concluded involving all the riparian states. What has been negotiated, which are the contents © Johan Resele CARTOGRAPHY of this new agreement and the OF THE NILE potential consequences for Egypt’s access to water resources, will be discussed further. The draft treaty is a classified and top-secret document, where access is restricted to the negotiators and top-level politicians. Hereby, the analysis will be based on the information available in the media and in interviews conducted in Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. The initial goal of the article was to analyze Egyptian media coverage to understand what is and is not debated in the public domain in Egypt concerning negotiations over the Nile waters. Insufficient coverage of this issue by the Egyptian media, in particular from independent newspapers, made this evaluation impossible. Instead, this article analyses the developments in the Basin negotiations based on a collection of reports from Egyptian as well as international newspapers, magazines, online news agencies, reports, and interviews with official and non- official stakeholders. The article follows a chronological order of the events and available public information, which puts in evidence the thriller-style of the negotiations. Egypt’s Positionality in the Nile River Basin Egypt is a desert country bisected by the longest river in the world – the Nile River – which is its main source of water. Egypt has historically developed the Nile waters for several economic purposes, from agriculture to hydropower production, industry, services, and tourism. Despite the fact that Egypt shares the Nile River with other nine African countries, 142
  3. 3. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 143 NEW NILE TREATY: A THREAT TO THE EGYPTIAN HEGEMONY ON THE NILE? it is indisputably the main user of its waters. The management and allocation of Nile water resources is embedded in a complex hydropolitical chessboard. The Nile is a transboundary river shared by ten countries – Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the past, the Nile Basin has experienced several diplomatic conflicts due to these shared waters. Alarmist analysts predicted “water wars” between Egypt and the upstream countries.2 However, since 1999 the ten Nile countries are involved in a cooperative process, the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), whose goal is to achieve common management and shared allocation of the Nile waters. Under the auspices of the NBI, long and tough negotiations defining a Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) have taken place in the last decade.3 In June 2007, the riparians have reached a final draft framework that can eventually turn into the first Nile Treaty including all riparians. The agreement includes provisions on equitable use of water resources and introduces a new and ambiguous hydropolitical concept – “water security.” The CFA postulates that “all states,” not just the downstream states, have the right to achieve and sustain “water security.” Does this agreement downplay the “acquired rights” of the downstream riparian and put an end to the Egyptian hegemony in terms of Nile waters utilization? The media coverage of the negotiations and its outcomes put in evidence an initial optimism of the Egyptian authorities followed by a strategic silence in the public domain, and by late 2007 a strong criticism toward the Egyptian negotiators. New Nile Treaty – A Threat to Egypt’s Hegemony on the Nile? On June 26, 2007, in Entebbe-Uganda, the nine Nile riparian countries4 concluded a draft document of the Cooperative Framework Agreement – a comprehensive legal agreement on the Nile water resources. The agreement has been negotiated under the auspices of the Nile Basin Initiative and lasted ten years (1997–2007), involving the Ministries of Water Resources of the Nile riparians, legal and technical national negotiators, and external advisors on international water law. According to the NBI official Web site “once ratified, this historic agreement will be the first Nile Treaty to include all riparian states of the 143
  4. 4. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 144 CHRONIQUES ÉGYPTIENNES 2007 Nile River Basin.”5 What will happen to the previous water agreements, such as the sacrosanct 1959 Agreement, which protects the current Egyptian and Sudanese water allocations, is the crux of the matter and will be analyzed in the following sections. Egypt’s “Lion Share” of the Nile Waters Egypt has a leadership position in the Nile Basin. Since pharaonic times, Egypt had been using the Nile waters for the country’s development. A systematic use of the river, through the construction of canals and expansion of irrigation, was initiated under Muhammad ‘Alî rule at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Later, the completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1971 allowed for the massive extension of Egypt’s irrigated land. The construction of this giant hydraulic infrastructure was preceded by tough negotiations with Sudan during the 1950s. In 1959, the two Nile downstream riparians signed a legal agreement called the Agreement for the Full Utilization of the Nile Waters,6 which established the water allocations between the two countries – 55.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) for Egypt and 18.5 bcm for Sudan (75 per cent and 25 per cent respectively). The 1959 Agreement has replaced the previous bilateral agreement of 1929 signed between Egypt and the British administration on behalf of Sudan, which just included a “partial utilization” of the Nile waters.7 On the other hand, the upstream riparians were not part of these agreements and have continuously refused to acknowledge it, considering it a “colonial agreement” based on inequity.8 Ethiopia and some of the Equatorial Nile countries have previously denounced the 1959 Agreement. Besides upstream countries have no legal entitlement to specific allocations of the Nile waters, and have not systematically developed the Nile water resources in their national territories. Therefore, the 1959 Agreement had been the recurring source of the diplomatic conflict between downstream and upstream riparians during the last decades. Upstream countries have repeatedly accused the downstream countries, in particular Egypt, of monopolizing the common water resources. Moreover, upstream countries want to make use of the Nile water resources for their own economic development, which would increase competition for Nile resources. 144
  5. 5. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 145 NEW NILE TREATY: A THREAT TO THE EGYPTIAN HEGEMONY ON THE NILE? Cooperation on the Nile After decades of diplomatic conflicts, threats of water wars, hot debates concerning the existent and potential uses of Nile waters, and disputes about the legitimacy of the existing legal agreements, the Nile riparians are allegedly cooperating on the management of common water resources. In 1999, the Nile Basin Initiative was created to include all the ten Nile riparians and gathering a lot of political and financial support from the international community.9 The NBI comprises several medium- and long-term water projects to be implemented in all the Nile countries including hydropower generation, irrigation, watershed management, enhancement of water expertise, and capacity-building.10 However, the NBI is a provisional mechanism and not yet a river basin organization. To become a permanent institution, the NBI will need to have a legal status, thus a comprehensive legal framework must be adopted. Negotiations for a new legal framework have been running in parallel with the NBI process, managed by the Panel of Experts (PoE) composed by representatives of all Nile riparians and facilitated by the international community. These legal negotiations were a conditionality of the Ethiopian government to participate in the Basin cooperation.11 All the other riparians, including Egypt, have accepted the conditionality for the sake of a comprehensive cooperative process. Nevertheless, for Egypt this potential new agreement was not intended to supersede the 1959 Agreement but rather to acknowledge it, according to the Egyptian authorities interviewed. The negotiations for this new legal and institutional framework started in 1997, firstly under the designation of D3 Project and later renamed Cooperative Framework Agreement. These legal negotiations take into account the customary international water law, such as the 1997 UN Convention on the Non-Navigational Use of International Watercourses.12 Indeed the Convention has been very influential in the treaty negotiations and in the Draft Cooperative Framework Agreement itself, according to Stephen McCraffrey,13 the main international legal advisor to the negotiations. Once signed, adopted by the national governments and ratified, the new treaty will enter into force and the Nile Basin Commission will be created.14 Once the Commission will be established as a river basin organization, it “might contribute to increased funding for development projects and programmes”15 and projects on the ground can move forward. 145
  6. 6. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 146 CHRONIQUES ÉGYPTIENNES 2007 New Agreement – Positions and Secrecy Volumetric water allocations and legal agreements have always been one of the most conflictive issues in the Nile Basin hydropolitics. The 1959 Agreement represents the status quo situation that Egypt and Sudan want to maintain, and the “acquired and historic rights” are considered nonnegotiable. The Egyptian position is based on the argument of “prior use” of the Nile waters.16 The Egyptian bargaining position in these negotiations has been consistent with this argument. On the other hand, upstream riparians regard the 1959 Agreement as unacceptable and consider that cooperation is possible only if a new and comprehensive water agreement supersedes the 1959 Agreement. Upstream riparians claim the development of the Nile water resources should foster national as well as regional economic development. In the last decades, antagonist public positions have been adopted by the respective governments, although they have been camouflaged by a diplomatic veil since the creation of the NBI. Nevertheless, the status of the previous agreement is still the major obstacle to reaching a cooperative framework agreement. The negotiations and the draft agreement concluded in June 2007 reflect these apparently incompatible positions. An analysis of the media coverage puts in evidence the confidentiality and political sensitivity of the issue. The governments have beforehand decided to safeguard the confidentiality of the negotiations. Public information and debate about the negotiations are scarce, although the issue concerns all the citizens of the Basin. The analysis will be based in the coverage of the negotiations by the Egyptian media and online information, but also external sources, such as newspapers from other countries. Personal interviews with stakeholders from the Basin will also be used.17 Negotiations – Constant Delays Negotiations for the new Cooperative Framework Agreement were expected to be concluded some years ago. Already in 2004, Al-Ahram Weekly mentioned that “Nile Basin countries are trying hard to reach an agreement to establish a new legal framework governing the sharing of Nile waters.”18 But it was not until mid-2006 that the Nile negotiations for a new agreement gained momentum. An article in the Daily News Egypt19 highlighted the main issues at stake from the Egyptian perspective. 146
  7. 7. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 147 NEW NILE TREATY: A THREAT TO THE EGYPTIAN HEGEMONY ON THE NILE? According to Mahmûd Abû-Zîd, the Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, there was no conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia and negotiations were moving forward. Ayman ‘Abd al-Wahhâb, from Al-Ahrâm Center for Political and Strategic Studies, reinforced the idea that currently Egypt and Ethiopia understand better the water needs of the neighbors and that an agreement was expected to be ratified in 2006. An idea highlighted in this article was that Egypt would continue to fight “strongly to maintain its quota of at least 55.5 billion cubic meters per year” but nowadays considers that hydraulic projects in Ethiopia will not affect the Egyptian water quota. Despite the good relations between the negotiators from the Nile riparians, the article mentions that negotiations were postponed to September, due to “expected hot weather […] and for no other reason,” according to the Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation. In December, the Egyptian Ambassador to Uganda, Redâ Bîbars, reiterates “the sincere will of all member-states to conclude the [Nile] agreement.”20 Nevertheless, the negotiations would be postponed again several times during the following months due to divergences between upstream and downstream riparians, rather than weather conditions, as later analysis will show. Flattering and public declarations about cooperation on the Nile, and the NBI in particular, have since 1999 replaced the talks about water conflicts in the Nile region. Egyptian media and official sites about the Nile hydropolitics often praise good hydropolitical relations in the Basin, even considering that this “spirit of cooperation [is] a result of Egypt’s leadership.”21 Since the 1990s, hydro-diplomacy became a tool of the Egyptian leadership in the Basin. However, the legal agreements remain the most conflictive issue. But what have been reported about the would- be Nile agreement? And what does this future agreement mean in terms of management and allocation of the Nile water resources among the Nile neighbors? 2007 – High Expectations for a New Nile Treaty A new phase of negotiation took place in several capitals of the Nile countries during 2007. Negotiations in which only ministers and advisors have participated have been closed-door sessions and little information about the terms of the agreement has been given to the public. However, 147
  8. 8. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 148 CHRONIQUES ÉGYPTIENNES 2007 generalized optimism characterized the declarations of the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, such as: “Eastern Nile Basin countries including Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia are about to agree on the legal and institutional framework of the Nile Basin countries comprehensive agreement (…) the three countries approved 99 percent of the agreement’s terms.”22 Several interviews with water experts in Egypt and Sudan during this period also indicated that an agreement was to be reached soon. Extraordinary ministerial talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during January were considered by Minister Abû-Zîd as “fruitful and constructive [and] extremely important in coordinating the stances of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on the very few controversial points in the new draft agreement.”23 The Ministers of Water Resources of all Nile riparians (Nile-COM) were expected to meet in Rwanda, in February, for the celebrations of the Nile Day and to conclude the Cooperative Framework Agreement. “Riparians have agreed on 99 percent of the articles” had been a common answer from the regional water experts and national negotiators, but detailed information about the articles was never provided. In January, Minister Abû-Zîd disclosed that the discord was about the article on “water security” and that Ethiopia demanded explanation on the term.24 Indeed “water security” is not a concept of customary international water law25 and the wording has surprised several water analysts in the region.26 It is also unknown who has suggested the “innovative” and controversial terminology, which supposedly could accommodate the divergent positions of upstream and downstream riparians and facilitate a compromise. Lost Opportunities but Still Optimism On February 22, celebrations of the first Nile Day, organized by the NBI and financed by the World Bank, took place in Kigali, Rwanda, and “have been the occasion to reiterate the vital importance of the river for the 10 riparians.”27 The article highlights the festive environment, including dance shows, exhibitions, and debates involving Nile citizens. Nevertheless, “stakeholders beyond the national governments,” i.e., civil society, have not been included in interstate negotiations.28 Negotiations have been restricted to governmental officials. Alan Nicol, a technical 148
  9. 9. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 149 NEW NILE TREATY: A THREAT TO THE EGYPTIAN HEGEMONY ON THE NILE? adviser to the Nile Basin Discourse,29 questions whether or not the negotiations and documents should be open to the concerned Basin populations, concluding that “time is ripe for a more public debate on the nature of the document being negotiated.”30 Despite the high expectations that a new Basin-wide would be signed in Kigali, no draft agreement was reached. Allegedly the riparians were not able to reach a consensus. The results from the high-level negotiations on the new agreement, as well as the documentation under discussion, have again been kept secret. Nevertheless NBI experts, negotiators, and World Bank representatives have maintained optimism in the progress of the negotiations toward the achievement of an historical agreement in the short-term.31 During the months following February 2007, the Egyptian media focused on the continuation of the negotiations with the same previous optimism. In March, Minister Abû-Zîd demonstrated confidence “that a final agreement could be expected within months [and] the majority of the treaty’s articles have been endorsed by all sides, although a handful of outstanding issues have yet to be settled.”32 In May, Redâ Bîbars, the Egyptian ambassador to Uganda reinforced the optimism, stating “the legal agreement is almost ready. We are 98 percent ready, but the 2 percent is very important.”33 Newspapers in Cairo also reflected the generalized optimism of the Egyptian negotiators and try to calm down old fears that upstream countries, in particular Ethiopia, can threaten the Egyptian water quota. Al-Akhbâr mentioned “all the pending issues among the Nile countries will be settled [and] final agreement is expected to be declared in Uganda in June”34 and quoted Sudanese Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Kamâl ‘Alî Muhammad saying “we are on our way to set a historical agreement that will settle and regulate future relations between the Nile Basin countries.”35 It was also reported that “the Eastern Nile countries achieve progress in examining their joint projects [such as] floods forecasting, watershed management and hydropower trade.”36 New public releases reaffirmed that these projects were under Egyptian coordination and that there are no conflicts between Ethiopia and Egypt, confirming that a new agreement would be signed in June37 under a “unified vision for the Nile.”38 At the same time, top officials of the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources denied suggestions that Nile water storage in the Ethiopian highlands would be replace the Lake Nasser storage, or that these projects 149
  10. 10. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 150 CHRONIQUES ÉGYPTIENNES 2007 were part of the cooperation negotiations.39 In a common press conference at the beginning of May, the Ethiopian Minister of Water Resources stated that “Ethiopia doesn’t aim to harm the Egyptian water share” and Minister Abû-Zîd reaffirmed that Eastern Nile riparians are “settling many issues regarding the formalization of the new agreement.”40 Beyond Optimism – Ambiguity and Discord on “Water Security” Despite all the enthusiasm of the Egyptian authorities reflected in the national media, personal interviews with experts from the Basin revealed that downstream and upstream countries were not able to agree on the article on “water security” due to its ambiguity and lack of clear formulation in legal terms. From an Egyptian perspective, “water security” must include the protection of the historical agreements and the current water allocations, and regarded as defining Egyptian’s national water security. The emphasis is on the legal principle of “no significant harm” as defined by the ILC Convention.41 Egyptian water experts interviewed underlined that the 1959 Agreement is not to be superseded by the new Framework Agreement, and both agreements can co-exist. The argument goes that the 1959 Agreement is a bilateral agreement concerning water allocations, and the CFA is a multilateral agreement concerning “win- win” solutions for the Nile water management and “sharing of benefits” resulting from joint projects. On the other hand, upstream countries consider that the “water security” provision is acceptable only if it endorses specifically the legal principle of “equitable and reasonable utilization”42 of water resources. Some analysts in the upstream countries consider that volumetric allocations need to be included in a second phase of negotiations, which would in the future replace the current allocations established by the 1959 Agreement. These opposing positions confirm that the status of the previous agreements is still the major impediment for wider cooperation, i.e., the “2 percent” of discord mentioned by the Egyptian ambassador. It also confirms the previous apprehension that the draft agreement is still “marred by square brackets”43 and it persistently reflects the enduring divergence between riparians. The public reactions of the upstream countries concerning the new agreement differ. For example, Maria Mutagambwa, Minister of Water and Environment in Uganda, declared enthusiastically that “Egypt has 150
  11. 11. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 151 NEW NILE TREATY: A THREAT TO THE EGYPTIAN HEGEMONY ON THE NILE? no problem with the Commission. They are willing to share river Nile reasonably with all the partner states.”44 The Kenyan Minister for Water and Irrigation, Mutua Katuku, also believed on “a new Nile River Basin Commission being adopted soon”45 although “countries were yet to decide on the definitions of some contentious terms, like the meaning of water security.”46 The Ethiopian press was more careful with the generalized optimism, considering that “there is a high reverberation in the NBI that the New Nile Water Agreement will be signed soon, good news for Ethiopia [but] still now, Egypt vehemently sticks to its age- old policy and claims the natural and historical right over the Nile waters. Sadly, Sudan follows the same path.”47 Another article in the same newspaper alerted: “The Nile countries cannot decide on a Commission or Initiative [because of] contentious points.”48 Tesfaye Wolde Mihiret, the NBI’ National Project Coordinator for Ethiopia, also highlighted that there are remaining problems concerning the definition of some of the articles, namely the one on water security, because “for the Egyptians, it is a big deal, but for other countries the concept is not even clear…we can not have an article or proclamation with any ambiguity.”49 The negotiations’ outcome seems far from the Ethiopian expectations of an “equitable entitlement of the Nile Waters to all the riparian States” as expressed by Lemma,50 the former Director-General for Legal Affairs of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Egyptian position seems at odds with the Ethiopian position. Indeed, in the last two years, the Egyptian negotiators stated clearly that Egypt’s interest in the negotiations was to maintain the historic rights and furthermore to search for “additional water.” In 2006, Abû-Zîd stated: “The largest challenge has been to agree that the 55.5 billion cubic meters is assured for Egypt. This took so long. We had to show that the potential for additional water is great and that we can increase the yield of the Nile through this or that project, for everyone.”51 The search for additional Nile water has been always an important factor for the Egyptian participation in the NBI. As mentioned in the Egyptian National Water Resources Master Plan, published in 2005, “cooperation with the riparian countries of the Nile Basin is expected to lead to additional inflow into Lake Nasser,” through the implementation of upstream water conservation projects, mainly in 151
  12. 12. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 152 CHRONIQUES ÉGYPTIENNES 2007 Sudan and Ethiopia.52 Several reports from the Egyptian media during 2007 have even alleged that “as agreed with the Nile river countries, Egypt will have an extra share of the Nile waters (…) in order to enable Egypt to expand its agricultural projects.”53 Egypt water authorities seem more interested to reap extra-benefits from the cooperation process rather than to make concessions to the other Nile riparians in terms of allocation of water resources. June 26, 2007 – A Final Draft Agreement Was Concluded On the June 26, 2007, the Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-COM) concluded its negotiations on the Nile River Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement in Entebbe, Uganda. According to the NBI, “this achievement brings close to conclusion a 10-year process of analysis and negotiation to establish the institutional structure and legal basis for cooperation in the management and development of the Nile River.”54 Unfortunately, the NBI has not provided any public information on the adopted document or details about the provisions of the draft framework. The public opinion has remained uninformed about how the pitfalls were overcome (if they have) and which were the final positions of the upstream and downstream riparians. At the same time the Egyptian media, which seemed so concerned with the issue during the previous months, have completely disregarded the fact that a final draft was achieved in Uganda. What is the justification of this silence? Is the silence justified by reasons of confidentiality and lack of information made public? Or the achieved draft agreement has not pleased the Egyptian authorities? What happened in Entebbe? What has been the final formulation of the thorny provision on “water security”? Could Egypt and Sudan guarantee the protection of the 1959 Agreement? Or, on the other hand, does this new agreement represent a threat to the downstreams’ hegemony in the Nile Basin? Does this new agreement really challenge the status quo in the Nile Basin? What will then happen to this draft agreement? Can we expect the creation of the Nile Basin Commission soon? Or will the NBI continue to be a provisional mechanism without a legal framework? Officials and press have not provided clarification of these questions during 2007. The new Nile agreement remains (partially) a secret of the gods! However, the silence was broken in mid- 152
  13. 13. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 153 NEW NILE TREATY: A THREAT TO THE EGYPTIAN HEGEMONY ON THE NILE? 2007, when a Kenyan newspaper, The Standard, published an article ironically suggesting that Egypt and Sudan were against the equitable sharing of the Nile waters. This article was then republished by the Sudan Tribune. According to the source, “Egypt and Sudan have failed to agree with other countries on equitable sharing of the Nile River basin waters. But the ten States sharing the water resource have finally come up with a new framework that allows equitable development and use of the basin.” 55 For the first time, the public was informed that the new version of the agreement would include 39 articles but that a disagreement on “water security” Article 14 was still remaining. Nevertheless, the article has not explained the contents of the articles included in the draft agreement. Finally, The Standard stated that “the cooperative framework is [now] to be presented to the governments for consideration and ratification.”56 The information that the draft agreement is currently in the hands of the heads of government for political consideration and possibly adoption and ratification, was later confirmed by regional and international experts during personal interviews. However, no information was given about the time frame for a final decision. At the end of 2007, there was still no feedback from the heads of government about the would-be adoption and ratification of draft agreement. In August 2007, Uganda’s newspaper East African Business Week57 unraveled some specific details about the draft agreement signed in Kampala in June. The newspaper acknowledged that the negotiations of the CFA had been concluded but highlighted that “the agreement reached by the water ministers falls short of the most fundamental provision that would guarantee a safe passage out of poverty for the upstream countries,” i.e., the equitable sharing of the water. The newspaper reconfirmed that 39 articles had been deliberated by the ministers and negotiators, but one remains unresolved –Article 14 on “water security.” For the first time, the wording of the thorny article was revealed. According to the newspaper, Article 14 states: “Having due regard for the provisions of Articles 4 and 5, Nile Basin States recognize the vital importance of water security to each of them. The States also recognize that cooperative management and development of the waters of the Nile River system will facilitate achievement of 153
  14. 14. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 154 CHRONIQUES ÉGYPTIENNES 2007 water security and benefits. Nile Basin States therefore agree, in a spirit of cooperation, to work together to ensure that all states achieve and sustain water security and not to significantly affect the water security of any other Nile Basin State.”58 Apparently the article includes provisions on both “equitable utilization” and “no significant harm,” as indicated by the ILC 1997 Convention.59 However, the newspaper emphasizes that all states agreed on this provision except Egypt and Sudan, which would prefer the following wording “[…] not to adversely affect the water security and current uses and rights of any other Nile Basin States.”60 The definition of the provision on “water security” remains the major pending issue. In brief, Egypt and Sudan wanted a version of the new agreement that would protect and acknowledge the previous agreements (1929 and 1959 Agreements). According to this newspaper storyline, the Egyptian and Sudanese version was not accepted by all the other Nile riparians, and the downstream countries expressed reluctance concerning Article 14. Interviews with several national negotiators and regional experts, already at the beginning of 2008, confirmed that the CFA maintained the initial wording, and only Egypt and Sudan included reservations. Gordon Mumbo, Project Manager of the NBI – CBSI (Confidence Building and Stakeholders) program, also “regretted that Egypt and Sudan had refused to adhere to the new terms stipulating the utilization of the Nile waters.”61 Does this explain the silence of the Egyptian authorities and press since June? The draft agreement seems to represent a diplomatic defeat for the Egyptian negotiators. A potential ratification of the draft agreement by the upstream riparians alone might jeopardize the downstream riparian sacrosanct 1959 Agreement or even cancel the current Egyptian and Sudanese water entitlements. The future scenarios are difficult to predict, nevertheless this new draft agreement represents at least a strong political message from the upstream countries to Egypt. Egyptian Reactions to the Nile Draft Agreement and Cooperation The Egyptian reactions to the draft agreement are enigmatic, and emphasize how the issue of water security is still framed in terms of 154
  15. 15. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 155 NEW NILE TREATY: A THREAT TO THE EGYPTIAN HEGEMONY ON THE NILE? national security. On August 13, the media office of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,62 reported a meeting in Addis Ababa between Egyptian, Sudanese, and Ethiopian officials and parliamentarians concerning the Nile waters. The report of the MFA focused on the diplomatic development of the cooperation process in the Nile Basin, the potential for projects on the ground and the involvement of several donors in the NBI activities. Nevertheless, the report of the MFA is not so explicit on the legal and institutional concerns in the draft agreement. It mentioned that during the meeting Mekuria Tafesse, the Executive Director of the NBI stressed “the importance of adopting it as soon as possible” and that the Ambassador Muhammad ‘Alî, Chief of the Defense, Foreign, and Security Affairs Committee at the Ethiopian parliament, “requested more information on the controversial issue of water security, and called for determining the countries which have voted against it, and the current negotiations status in this regard.”63 More intriguing are the declarations of Ambassador Girma Amare, Special Advisor to the Ethiopian Foreign Minister, stating that: “Water security has been reached to resolve the most sensitive issues in the draft framework cooperation agreement, which is the relation between the new framework agreement and the existing ones. However, no precise definition has been agreed upon yet for this term. […] the Ministers of Water Resources, in their last meeting in Entebbe in June 2007, did not reach an agreement on this article since seven countries have agreed on the text of the proposed article while two countries have voted against it [the countries were not named].”64 The report has not included the Egyptian declarations during the meeting neither did it include the positions of Egypt with regard to the draft agreement. The report has not denied or confirmed if the two countries who voted against the agreement are Egypt and Sudan. The information in the Kenyan and Ugandan newspapers makes it possible to presume that it was Egypt and Sudan that voted against the document. Such an outcome would make it clear that Egypt and Sudan are not yet prepared for a comprehensive framework including all the Nile riparian countries. Nor are they willing to renounce the 1959 Agreement, considered illegitimate, unfair, and unsustainable by the upstream countries. The maintenance of the status quo is still the main 155
  16. 16. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 156 CHRONIQUES ÉGYPTIENNES 2007 option for the two downstream countries, as public declarations of the Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation highlight. According to Minister Abû-Zîd “there is no problem to secure Egypt’s current share” and “the only remaining point is the most difficult one; it is the point related to handling of the old agreements between Egypt and some of the Nile Basin countries.”65 Abû-Zîd had even been more incisive stating that “we made it clear for them during the previous phases of negotiations… We insist, and no one can touch the current share, the 55.5 billion cubic meters.”66 Moreover, Minister Abû-Zîd reaffirmed Egypt’s capacity to maintain cooperation with its Nile neighbors, confirming that “Egypt is maintaining good relations with all the Nile Basin countries and we are currently establishing several development projects in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Kenya, and the fact that confirms the strong Egyptian presence in the African region.”67 Egyptian water analysts interviewed during 2007, reinforced the idea that the Egyptian stake on the Nile is not in danger. The interviews also confirmed the disseminated long-lasting thought of Hasanayn Heikal that “the first consideration of any Egyptian government is to guarantee that Nile waters are not threatened.”68 Nevertheless, not all Egyptian observers share the same optimism of the Minister of Water Resources concerning the relations with the Nile upstream countries. In an article published at the end of June, Al- Ahram Hebdo mentioned that the Nile countries were concluding a new agreement on the management and distribution of the Nile waters and questioned if “a water war is on the horizon” whereas Egypt will have to negotiate the water quantities with its neighbors.69 The same newspaper had previously published an interview with Rushdî Sa‘îd, the most renowned Egyptian geologist, who stated that conclusions about current regional hydropolitical relations are difficult to take because “there in no transparency” concerning the NBI process. Sa‘îd also considered “it is hard to get information about it,” concluding that “this initiative is impossible to be materialized at the present time.”70 Other experts raised their critical voices against the Egyptian authorities and the cooperative process in the Nile Basin. For example, Maghâwary Diâb, water expert and former Dean of Menûfiyya University considered that “President Abdel Nasser successfully managed to build strong relations with the Nile countries, which granted Egypt a hegemonic situation. However, during the regimes of Sadat and Mubarak, things went strongly out of control.”71 Similar concerns were expressed by Hasan 156
  17. 17. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 157 NEW NILE TREATY: A THREAT TO THE EGYPTIAN HEGEMONY ON THE NILE? Nâf‘a, professor of political science at Cairo University. According to this analyst the recent events confirm the impression that “Egypt no longer carries a portion of its former weight in the Nile Basin.”72 The Al-Akhbâr went further in the analysis, alerting its readership that the “new agreement for the water distribution cancels Egypt hegemony and control over the water use,” and further highlights the fact that “finalizing the agreement will spontaneously cancel the 1959 agreement that gives Egypt a complete control on the water use,”73 according to sources of the Tanzanian Ministry of Water Resources. In the same article Magdî Subhî, water expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies laments that “the Egyptian official and political actions in the Nile Basin regions is very weak.”74 These warnings drew attention to the legitimacy crisis that Egyptian water authorities might have to face in hydropolitical relations with other Nile riparians, and that the notion of Egypt’s “historic rights” to the Nile waters might be waning. Preliminary Conclusions on the New Nile Agreement On the basis of this analysis, it is possible to assume that Egypt and Sudan might not see a Nile Treaty as such an urgent priority as the other riparians. As ‘Abd al-Fattâh Metawi, chairman of Egypt’s Nile Water Sector at the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, highlighted “these issues [agreements] could take many years (…) but we will reach agreement, even if it takes many years. There is plenty of water. The problem is managing it.”75 Egypt and Sudan have a bilateral legal agreement and several hydraulic infrastructures that have protected hitherto their current uses of the Nile water resources. On the other hand, the upstream riparians have no agreement and few hydraulic infrastructures, and are the countries more keen to reach an international legal agreement, which would open the doors for external investment in water projects in their national territories. Moreover, experts from the donor community have also expressed their strong will to provide funding for hydraulic projects once the Nile riparians agree on the legal framework, thus creating a safer environment for international investment. However, for an international treaty to enter into force, the Cooperative Framework Agreement must first be accepted and adopted by the heads of states of the Nile Basin countries and then ratified by the respective national parliaments. The Nile Basin Initiative will then be replaced by the Nile Basin Commission, a river basin organization 157
  18. 18. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 158 CHRONIQUES ÉGYPTIENNES 2007 with legal status. At the end of 2007, when this article is being written, it is still uncertain when (and if) there will be a treaty in the near future. It is also unclear if an agreement can be adopted and ratified by just some of the Nile riparians, and what consequences of such a decision would be in diplomatic and cooperative terms. Conclusion At the beginning of 2008, Nile negotiations remain in suspense. It is still unknown if the new Nile agreement will be adopted and ratified by the Nile Presidents and Parliaments. Although the negotiations were concluded in June 2007, the signature of agreement is still pending. The lack of decision represents the postponement of the challenges to 2008 or beyond. A second phase of negotiations, including water allocations, cannot start without the ratification of the Cooperative Framework. Meanwhile the Nile riparians are under pressure of the international institutions and the bilateral donors that require a ratified agreement and the creation of a Basin Commission as a sign of trust to continue investment in the Basin. But is Egypt prepared to relinquish the status quo and its “historical” entitlement to the Nile waters, and to allow upstream countries also to use the water resources for their own economic development? Or will Egypt take the risk that the upstream riparians develop the water resources unilaterally? Egyptian authorities seem to be in a catch-22 situation. The new cooperative framework agreement does not seem to put an immediate threat to the Egyptian status quo as it does not imply redefinition of volumetric allocations, however a second phase of negotiations is not desirable because it will confront the provisions of the 1959 Agreement. Egypt had been accused of blocking the adoption of the framework in an attempt to gain time. Simultaneously, Egyptian authorities seem aware that cooperation with the neighbors might be the best way to contain unplanned and unilateral hydraulic development upstream, which would certainly affect the Nile flows. However, at the present time, cooperation in the Nile Basin might collapse if the Cooperative Framework Agreement is not adopted. Nevertheless, Egypt maintains its long-standing position – cooperation is acceptable only if the “historical rights” of Egypt will be acknowledged or, in the best scenario, if it will provide additional water resources. 158
  19. 19. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 159 NEW NILE TREATY: A THREAT TO THE EGYPTIAN HEGEMONY ON THE NILE? The events of 2007 provide evidence that the Nile waters question is still a highly politically sensitive issue in the region and in Egypt in particular. The treatment of the Nile issues in the media is of extreme importance for the Ministry of Water Resources and the president himself. This political sensitivity of the Nile negotiations has been reflected in the Egyptian media during the year. In general, debates in the public domain about the negotiations were not welcomed and the draft treaty remained a classified document. The analysis presented here has only been possible combining different sources of information, both from Egypt and from the other riparian countries. Finally, management of transboundary water resources involves challenging technical, economical, social, environmental, and primarily political decisions. The present hydropolitical relations in the Nile River Basin demonstrates that countries have to come together if the aim is the best utilization of shared water resources. Time is an important factor to take into account. Agreements can take years to negotiate and more years to implement. The ideal agreement tends to be postponed. But the economical and social challenges caused by the scarcity of water resources and the manner of its allocation and distribution are already serious problems that need to be tackled soon. The establishment of a comprehensive legal framework appears to be a crucial element in the promotion of good hydropolitical relations in the Nile Basin. An agreement encourages essential institutionalization of the cooperative processes and promotion of international investment in the region. At the end of the day, a comprehensive legal framework might be the key to the success of water resources management at the Basin level, and the way to avoid the failures of previous attempts at cooperation. “I saw a river: it was made of water and time. And then I saw another river.” Jorge Luís Borges Notes 1 With the collaboration and translations of Heba Naiem. 2 J.R. Starr, “Water Wars,” Foreign Policy, 82, Spring 1991, pp. 17–36; J. Bulloch and A. Darwish, Water Wars: Coming Conflicts in the Middle East, London, Victor 159
  20. 20. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 160 CHRONIQUES ÉGYPTIENNES 2007 Gollancz, 1993; P.H. Gleick, P. Yolles, and H. Hatami, “Water, war and peace in the Middle East,” Environment, 36(3), April 1994, pp.6–15; T. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1999. 3 The aim of achieving a Cooperative Framework Agreement had been included in the Nile Basin Initiative Act, February 14, 2002. See []. 4 Eritrea is just an observer in the negotiations for the Cooperative Framework Agreement. 5 “Ministers agree on a Cooperative Framework for the Nile Basin,” NBI News, June 23, 2007, [ &Itemid=83]. 6 See “United Arab Republic and Sudan Agreement for the Full Utilization of the Nile Waters (1959),” [ aty.pdf]. 7 For details of 1929 and 1959 Nile Agreements see “Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database,” []. 8 Tanzania and Kenya have often claimed the Nyerere Doctrine (1961), which challenges the legitimacy of agreements signed during the colonial period. 9 World Bank, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the UNDP have been involved in the process since the beginning. Nowadays several international and bilateral agencies are supporting financially the NBI projects. See “Nile Basin Trust Fund” in the World Bank Web page, []. 10 For details on Shared Vision Programs see [], and for details on Subsidiary Action Programs see Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program (ENSAP), [], and Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP), []. 11 In the past, Ethiopia has refused to be a member of the cooperative initiatives, such as Hydromet, Undugu and TeccoNile, because they have not addressed the legal aspects of cooperation. Ethiopia had participated in these past initiatives solely as an observer. 12 See “Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses 1997,” []. 13 S. McCafrey, The Law of International Watercourses, 2nd edition, New York, Oxford University Press, 2007, p.271; S. McCaffrey, The 1997 UN Watercourses 160
  21. 21. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 161 NEW NILE TREATY: A THREAT TO THE EGYPTIAN HEGEMONY ON THE NILE? Convention: Retrospect and Prospect, presentation to the Symposium on the Brundtland Commission’s Report at 20 and the UN Watercourses Convention at 10, Institute for Sustainable Development University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, November 17, 2007. See also “McCaffrey Goes To Africa Again,” May 19, 2006, in []. 14 NBI News, June 23, 2007 (see footnote 3). 15 Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), “Transboundary Water Management as a Regional Public Good – Financing development – an example from the Nile Basin,” SIWI Report 20, 2007. 16 D. Phillips, “Sanctioned Discourses as an Element of Hydro-hegemony: The Arguments of Israel and Egypt Concerning ‘Prior Use’,” presentation given in Amman, November 13, 2007. 17 Due to the confidentiality of the issue mentioned above, the interviewed personalities are not identified. 18 “Fresh Water Talks,” Al-Ahram Weekly, June 11, 2004. 19 “Egypt to protect its quota of Nile water,” Daily News Egypt, August 8, 2006. 20 “Africa drying up,” The New Vision (Kampala, Uganda), December 13, 2006. 21 “Drop in the ocean,” Al-Ahram Weekly, March 29–April 4, 2007, n°838. 22 “Eastern Nile Basin Countries Agree On 99% Of Comprehensive Water Agreement’s Terms,” IPR –Strategic Business Information Database (Cairo), January 25, 2007. 23 “Minister of Irrigation: Nile Basin Initiative vital for sustainable economic, social development,” Egypt State Information Service (SIS), February 21, 2007. 24 Ibid. 25 The main principles of international water law, as defined by the ILC 1997, are “no significant harm” (Article 7 of the UN 1997 Convention) and “equitable and reasonable utilization” of the water resources. 26 Details about the controversial article would just been made public later in a Ugandan newspaper. 27 “Un don à partager,” Al-Ahram Hebdo, February 28–March 7, 2007, n°651. 28 Kameri-Mbote, Patricia, “2007. Water, Conflict, and Cooperation: Lessons From the Nile River Basin”, in Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, January 2007, n°4, pp.1–6. 29 The Nile Basin Discourse is a network of civil society organizations from the Nile Basin countries that seek to achieve critical impact on the Nile Basin Initiative. See []. 30 A. Nicol, “Whose Cooperative Framework?,” Nile Basin Discourse Newsletter, June 2, 2007. 161
  22. 22. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 162 CHRONIQUES ÉGYPTIENNES 2007 31 “Ethiopia: NBI Permanent Cooperative Framework Progressing,” The Ethiopian Herald (Addis Ababa), February 23, 2007. 32 “World Water Day: Nile Bounty Not Enough to Supply Egypt with Water,” IPS – Inter Press Service (Cairo), March 22, 2007. 33 “Nile Commission to Succeed Nile Basin Initiative,” NBI News, July 12, 2007, [ Itemid=28]. 34 Al-Akhbâr, May 1, 2007. 35 “Optimism prevails on the ministerial meeting of the Eastern Nile,” Al- Akhbâr, May 1, 2007. 36 “The Eastern Nile countries achieve progress in examining their joint projects,” Al-Ahrâm, May 2, 2007. 37 “The Eastern Nile countries settle future cooperation issues,” Al- Jumuhûriyya, May 2, 2007. 38 “A unified vision for the Eastern Nile Counties regarding the new agreement,” Daily Rûz al-Yûsif, May 3, 2007. 39 “The Ministry of Irrigation negates the American suggestion of storing the Nile water in Ethiopia,” Daily Rûz al-Yûsif, May 7, 2007. 40 “Ministers of the Eastern Nile give a press conference,” Al-Akhbâr, May 7, 2007 41 United Nations, Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses, 1997, p5, []. Article 7: Obligation not to cause significant harm (1997 UN Convention): 1. Watercourse States shall, in utilizing an international watercourse in their territories, take all appropriate measures to prevent the causing of significant harm to other watercourse States. 2. Where significant harm nevertheless is caused to another watercourse State, the States whose use causes such harm shall, in the absence of agreement to such use, take all appropriate measures, having due regard for the provisions of articles 5 and 6, in consultation with the affected State, to eliminate or mitigate such harm and, where appropriate, to discuss the question of compensation. 42 Article 5: Equitable and reasonable utilization and participation (1997 UN Convention): 1. Watercourse States shall in their respective territories utilize an international watercourse in an equitable and reasonable manner. In particular, an international watercourse shall be used and developed by 162
  23. 23. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 163 NEW NILE TREATY: A THREAT TO THE EGYPTIAN HEGEMONY ON THE NILE? watercourse States with a view to attaining optimal and sustainable utilization thereof and benefits there from, taking into account the interests of the watercourse States concerned, consistent with adequate protection of the watercourse. 2. Watercourse States shall participate in the use, development and protection of an international watercourse in an equitable and reasonable manner. Such participation includes both the right to utilize the watercourse and the duty to cooperate in the protection and development thereof, as provided in the present Convention. 43 L. Seifeselassie, “Cooperating on the Nile not a Zero-Sum Game,” United Nations Chronicle, September–November 2001, []. 44 “Egypt accepts new Nile arrangement,” The New Times (Kampala, Uganda), April 3, 2007. 45 Speech by John Mutua Katuku, Minister for Water and Irrigation, during the official release of the IEG Report, March 28, 2007, Nairobi. 46 “Nile Basin states agree to ruling body on water use,” Reuters, March 28, 2007. See also “New panel to govern Nile water use,” Al-Jazeera, March 29, 2007, [ 53DBFB55BEE8.htm]. 47 “Untapped Water Resources Potential,” Addis Fortune, March 25, 2007. 48 “Commission or Initiative: Nile Countries Cannot Decide,” Addis Fortune, March 25, 2007. 49 “An Abbay issue (interview with Ato Tesfaye Wolde Mihiret),” Capital (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), June 4, 2007. 50 L. Seifeselassie, op.cit. 51 “Banks on upstream projects to yield more water,” Daily News Egypt, June 8, 2006. 52 Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation (MWRI – Egypt), National Water Resources Plan for Egypt – 2017, Cairo, January 2005. 53 “As agreed with the Nile River countries, Egypt will have an extra share,” Al-Jumuhûriyya, August 1, 2007. See also “World Water Day: Nile Bounty Not Enough to Supply Egypt with Water,” IPS – Inter Press Service, March 22, 2007; “The Eastern Nile countries settle future cooperation issues,” Al-Jumuhûriyya, May 2, 2007; “The Nile Basin Initiative is a step for developing the River resources,” Al-Akhbâr, November 20, 2007; “95% of Nile water is wasted,” Al-Ahrâr, November 24, 2007. 54 NBI News, June 23, 2007 (see footnote 3). 163
  24. 24. 06-SPCascao 9/25/08 3:31 PM Page 164 CHRONIQUES ÉGYPTIENNES 2007 55 “Egypt, Sudan against equitable sharing of Nile water,” The Standard (Nairobi, Kenya), June 29, 2007; “Egypt, Sudan against equitable sharing of Nile water,” Sudan Tribune (Khartoum, Sudan), June 30, 2007. 56 Ibid. 57 “River Nile Agreements – No Change for Poorer Downstream Countries,” East African Business Week (Kampala, Uganda), August 20, 2007. 58 Ibid. See also “Rift Widens Over Nile Basin Pact as Egypt, Sudan Remain Reluctant,” The New Times (Kigali, Rwanda), February 29, 2008. 59 See footnotes 41 and 42. 60 Ibid. 61 “Country Blocked From Tapping Nile 9 Waters,” The New Vision (Kampala, Uganda), July 30, 2007. 62 Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Egypt), “First Nile Meeting of the Nile countries,” August 13, 2007, [ GB/Foreign_Policy/International_Relations/Egypt_Africa/13_8_first_meeting _nile_countries.htm]. 63 Ibid. 64 Ibid. 65 “The Minister of irrigation discuss vital issues essential for the every citizen’s life,” Al-Akhbâr, 30 July 2007. See also “The amount of the flood cannot be calculated before mid August,” Al-Ahrâm, July 1, 2007. 66 Ibid. 67 “95% of the water is wasted,” Al-Ahrâm, November 24, 2007. See also “As long as the High Dam exists, there is no need to fear of floods or drought,” Al-Ahrâm, July 1, 2007. 68 M.H. Heikal, “Egyptian Foreign Policy,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 58, n°4, July 1978, pp. 714–727. 69 “La guerre de l’eau à l’horizon 2025?,” Al-Ahram Hebdo, June 27–July 3, 2007, n°668. 70 “Ce qui nous reste à faire, c’est d’essayer de diriger Tochka vers un autre objectif, interview with Rushdî Sa‘îd,” Al-Ahram Hebdo, May 2–8, 2007, n°660. 71 “The International Forum of the Nile Basin countries warns against the Israeli presence in the African continent,” Al-Misrî al-Yawm, November 7, 2007. 72 “Egypt must turn,” Al-Ahram Weekly, November 1–7, 2007, n°869. 73 “A new agreement for the water distribution cancels Egypt hegemony and control over the water use,” Al-Akhbâr, November 22, 2007. 74 Ibid. 75 “The Waters of Life,” Time, April 23, 2007. 164