CAIRO: The Kenyan Parliament is scheduled to ratify the Entebbe Agreement during the coming weeks, MENA reported Dina Mufti, Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, as saying Wednesday.
Mufti added that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta revealed the intention of his country to ratify the agreement during his visit to Ethiopia last week.
Egyptian experts claim the Entebbe Agreement poses a serious threat to Egypt’s historic rights Nile water rights.
They say that it could open the door for establishing projects on the Nile, without Egypt’s approval, thereby reducing its share of the Nile water. Other experts fear it could provide legitimacy to the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that recently sparked a crisis between Egypt and Ethiopia.
“The Egyptian government rejects the treaty, as it does not ensure Egypt’s historic share of the Nile water … It cannot not gain legitimacy; it ignores the legal rights of the other countries,” Egypt’s former Ambassador to Ethiopia Robert Iskandar told the Cairo Post Thursday.
The Entebbe Agreement, also called the Cooperative Framework Agreement, was signed by five Nile Basin countries – Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Kenya – in 2010. Burundi later signed the agreement in 2011.
The treaty enshrines “the principle that each Nile Basin State has the right to use, within its territory, the waters of the Nile River System in a manner that is consistent with the other basic principles referred to herein,” and specifies the utilization of water “in an equitable and reasonable manner,” based on “the contribution of each Basin State to the waters of the Nile River system.”
It was rejected by Sudan and Egypt, because it does not grant Egypt and Sudan veto rights over Nile projects.
However, in 2013, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir declared his country’s support for the Renaissance dam, claiming that it would not harm Sudan.
“The Entebbe Agreement ignores the principle of prior notification, in a clear contradiction to international law. It allows the downstream countries to establish their own projects on the Nile without studying their negative effects on Egypt and Sudan,” Iskandar said.
He expressed confidence that donor organizations would not finance any projects on the Nile that could undermine the rights of the upstream countries, adding that “Egypt’s diplomacy works to pressure the countries of the Nile Basin to reach a compromise over the agreement to ensure historic rights.”
Dr. Ayman Abdel Wahab, a specialist in Nile Basin affairs at Al-Ahram Center for Political Studies, said the statement about the Kenyan decision to ratify the agreement came from the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry; not the Kenyan side, adding that Ethiopia was “once again trying to pressure Egypt.”
Wahab told The Cairo Post Thursday, “Ethiopia works to prove to the world that its position towards Egypt is shared by other downstream countries.”
He praised Egypt’s Foreign Ministry saying, “Egypt, though its diplomatic institution, convinced donor countries the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam violates Egypt’s water rights.”
He added, “Egypt refuses the agreement because it infracts on Egypt’s right to study the effects of the projects established on the Nile water … this violates Egypt’s water security … our current quota is not even enough.”
According to a 1959 treaty between Egypt and Sudan, Egypt is entitled to 55.5 billion cubic meters annually of the Nile, while Sudan is entitled to 18.5 billion cubic meters.
“One of the main points of contention is the proposal to pass decisions on the viability of projects through a majority vote. Egypt requires that such decisions be based on consensus,” Wahab said.
He added the agreement reflects “Ethiopian ambitions to perform a regional role at the expense of Egypt.”
He continued, “Egypt insists on cooperating with the Nile Basin countries to achieve the common interests and refuses to turn the issue into a political conflict.”
He signaled that Egypt did not express protest against the construction of a number of dams built on the Nile, as they have not affected Egypt’s share of the Nile water.
Ethiopian Ambassador to Cairo Mahmoud Dareer Gidy refused to comment on the issue when contacted by The Cairo Post Thursday, saying, “We have the right to assess the questions and to decide whether to answer or not.”
Dr. Alaa al-Zawahry, a member of the International Tripartite Technical Commission on the Renaissance Dam, said in a Thursday statement to The Cairo Post that “Egypt is ready to join the treaty if the downstream countries show flexibility in dealing with the concerns of Egypt and Sudan.”
The tripartite commission is composed of 10 members, including six experts from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan and four international experts in the field of water engineering. The commission was formed after Ethiopia’s former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi submitted a proposal in April 2011 to study the effects of Renaissance Dam on the upstream countries.
Zawahry added that Egypt should work to “convince the countries that signed the treaty to delay the step of ratification to pave the way for more negotiations to reach a compromise during the coming period.”
Regarding the legal aspect, International Law Professor Ahmed Refaat, Egypt’s former Ambassador to UNESCO, said the treaty should not enter into force without the agreement of the upstream countries, per the provisions of international law.
“The government should refer the issue to the International Court of Justice or the UN Security Council. The matter can be addressed under Chapter 6 of the UN Charter to resolve international disputes in peaceful ways.”
While the decisions taken by the International Court of Justice on such issues are not binding, “ they could strengthen the Egyptian position on this issue,” he said.