Kampala — Uganda is set to ratify the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) that seeks to replace the 1929 and 1959 colonial agreements which appropriated bigger say on affairs of the River Nile, including a bigger share of the waters, to Egypt and Sudan, respectively.
State minister for Environment, Dr Goretti Kitutu told Daily Monitor on Tuesday during a telephone interview, that the ratification is aimed at ensuring that upstream countries, including Uganda, also benefit from the Nile.
"As Cabinet, we gave the minister of foreign affairs a go ahead. The 1920 agreement gave Egypt powers. If you are to touch the Nile, permission was needed from Egypt," Dr Kitutu said.
"Currently we have an issue and that is irrigation, to irrigate the cattle corridor, if you follow the 1920's agreement then you have to go back to Egypt for permission."
The River Nile basin is shared by ten countries better known as the Nile Riparian states-- Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and DR Congo, which are permanent members of Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).
The colonial agreements estimated the annual volume of Nile water flow at the Aswan High Dam to be 85 billion cubic metres, and granted Egypt a 55 per cent share (55.5 billion cubic metres) and 18 per cent (18.5 billion cubic metres) to Sudan.
Britain, the colonial master of almost the entire Eastern Africa, and the architect of the agreements assumed that other countries would get water through other sources like rain or even fresh water, lakes which Egypt and Sudan don't have in abundance.
The consequence, since then, has been that the upstream riparian countries had to first consult especially Egypt before undertaking any development on the Nile.
The CFA, also known as the Entebbe agreement, which seeks to replace the colonial agreement was midwifed in Entebbe, Uganda in 2010. Egypt and Sudan declined to sign the agreement but notwithstanding, for it to come into force requires a total of six instruments of ratification with or without Egypt and Sudan.
When Parliament eventually ratifies the CFA, Uganda will become the fourth country to do so after Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
Once the CFA takes effect, it will replace the NBI with a permanent Nile Basin Commission which will set clear procedures for water sharing, allowing for equal access to the Nile's waters and annulling the colonial era agreements after years of deadlock on the issue.
The deputy head of the media centre, Col Shaban Bantariza added that the ratification of the Nile will provide legal basis for the use, development, protection, conservation and management of the Nile River Basin water resources for the benefits of all Nile Basin countries.
"Signing of the Cooperative Frame Work Agreement would provide a basis for establishment of the Nile River Basin Commission which will be a legal entity in the Nile Basin Countries unlike the Nile Basin Initiative which is transitional arrangement without any binding legal basis," Col Bantariza said while addressing journalists in Kampala.