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South Sudan set to sign new Nile agreement

New treaty would replace colonial-era law that gave Egypt control of most of the Nile as power dynamics shift in region.

Last Modified: 20 Jun 2013 09:44
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Ethiopian and Egyptian foreign ministers have decided on another round of talks to discuss the dam project

South Sudan is set to sign an agreement that would replace a colonial-era law that gave most of the River Nile's waters to Egypt and Sudan, local media have reported.

The signing of the Cooperative Framework Agreement of the Nile Basin countries, sometimes known as the Entebbe agreement, is likely to be signed and ratified at the Nile Water Summit in Juba on Thursday. 

Paul Mayom Akec, South Sudan's Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources, said earlier in the week that the signing of the agreement was "inevitable".

"The process of joining the agreement has started at all levels of the state apparatus in South Sudan," Akec stated in a press conference on Wednesday.

Akec said South Sudan would implement the agreement as soon as parliament ratifies it.

If signed, South Sudan will be the seventh riparian country to sign the agreement on sharing the Nile waters.

Six other countries have already signed the agreement: Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi.

Prosperity and welfare

Akec said South Sudan would benefit from the agreement by using the Nile River water to construct projects that will bring "prosperity and welfare to its citizens". 

Akec's statement comes after Mohamed Bahaa al-Din, the Egyptian minister of water and irrigation, said that the agreement was not binding on Egypt, unless and until it became a signatory.

Egypt will only sign the agreement once they were able to settle a few points of contention, al-Din said.

On Tuesday, the Egyptian and Ethiopian foreign ministers met in Addis Ababa to discuss their recent row over a hydroelectric dam being constructed by Ethiopia.

The countries have been embroiled in a heated dispute after Ethiopia began diverting the Blue Nile River last month for the construction of the 6,000 megawatt Grand Renaissance Dam.

About 86 percent of Nile water flowing to Egypt originates from the Blue Nile out of Ethiopia, and Cairo has said the construction of the dam is a security concern

In a joined statement, the Ethiopian and Egyptian foreign ministers decided on another round of talks between ministers and experts in a few weeks to further discuss the dam's effect, if any, on Egypt's Nile water sharing.

The 1929 Nile Water agreement gave Egypt 66 percent control over the general management and usage of the Nile waters.

Egypt's subsequent deal with Sudan in 1959 divided the Nile waters between the two countries with Egypt entitled to 55.5bn cubic metres of a total of 74bn after evaporation.

This, however, is being opposed by the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) member countries and, according to the controversial treaty, Ethiopia will be able to build developmental projects along the Nile without prior consent from Egypt.

Established in 1999, the NBI serves as a forum through which member state seeks to develop the River Nile in a cooperative manner, share substantial socio-economic benefits and promote regional peace and security.  

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