CFA Appears Withering in the Nile Basin

June 20, 2014
By Ilmas Futehally
Solutions suggested in Strategic Foresight Group’s 2013 report “The Blue Peace for the Nile” may still hold the key to realising the vast potential of the river basin at a time when CFA seems to be withering

The Nile Basin Initiative meeting in Khartoum in June 2014 spells gloom and doom for regional cooperation process in the basin within the framework of Comprehensive Framework Agreement (CFA) but other solutions may provide hope.

To seek cooperation on water resources the riparian countries  of the Nile Basin - Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, The Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda- formed the Nile Basin Initiative in 1999, with South Sudan joining in later. The idea of cooperation between countries is needed to realise the vast potential of the river basin. However several issues of contention have impeded the socio-economic development of the river basin.

In Strategic Foresight Group’s 2013 report “The Blue Peace for the Nile” we looked at the Comprehensive Framework Agreement (CFA) also known as the Entebbe Agreement, which seeks to alter the historical water sharing arrangement. However the number of signatories to the CFA has remained unchanged since the writing of the report. Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi have signed the Agreement, and Ethiopia ratified it in 2013. Contrary to expectations in the West, South Sudan has not signed the CFA. In fact it signed a military cooperation agreement with Egypt in March 2014, signalling thereby that it would not displease Egypt on the CFA issue. No additional country is ready to sign the CFA and in fact some signatories are reconsidering the terms of the agreement. For example earlier in June 2014 Tanzania called for the CFA to be reviewed. Thus the future of the CFA remains uncertain.

The SFG report however emphasized that the CFA was not the only solution to the problems of the Nile. Other bilateral treaties, such as the 1993 accord between Egypt and Ethiopia, or multilateral conventions such as the UN Biodiversity Convention or the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature may be more useful and applicable. Our report then proposed that an independent committee of legal experts be set up to perform an appraisal of all the relevant instruments and give practical suggestions for increasing state compliance with the relevant treaties.

Another crucial element to resolving the deadlock according to the SFG report is to involve Heads of Governments in the decision making process. Currently the dialogue is limited to Ministers of Water and Irrigation. The Nile ecosystem has an impact not only on water supply but also on agriculture, irrigation, electricity generation, industry, trade, urbanisation, migration and social stability. Our report therefore proposed an Annual Summit for a high level discussion to take place between Heads of States, followed by regular meetings of designated Special Envoys from each country. SFG had supported the Nile Secretariat to convene a workshop of Nile Parliamentarians at Kigali in June 2012 to discuss these alternative solutions. However, at the last minute an upper riparian country conducted diplomacy in such a manner that a problem solving workshop was made impossible. Now that CFA is faltering two years later, it is about time the international donor community come out of the CFA mindset and explore progressive, collaborative and sustainable solutions and the Blue Peace approach of SFG may show a way out of deadlock.

To read the SFG report “The Blue Peace for the Nile” click here.

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