President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for “African solutions” in identifying the workable share of River Nile’s waters.
At a meeting with Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde in Nairobi, President Kenyatta said he understood that rising populations in the Nile Basin demand changes in the formula of sharing the water resources, but suggested discussions by Africans themselves.
“The two heads of state discussed the challenges facing the Nile River basin and emphasised the need for pursuing African solutions to African Problems,” a dispatch from State House said.
That mantra of African solutions was created by the African Union five years ago, but the leaders’ reference to it came in the wake of recent discussions between the Ethiopian government, Sudan and Egypt on how to ensure the Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Ethiopia does not harm the flow of water to Egypt, which relies on it for its irrigation.
A communique from the meeting indicated the Ethiopian leader travelled to update the Kenyan President on negotiations by the three countries, which showed cracks last week.
“The President (Sahle-Work) also underscored Ethiopia’s commitment to continue working with all Nile Basin countries and ensure that only treaties that are properly entered into by the countries will apply to the basin.
“President Uhuru Kenyatta underlined the need for Africa to sustainably utilise its natural resources to address the needs of its increasing populations,” a communique issued after the meeting said.
“The President also emphasised the importance of ensuring equitable and reasonable utilisation of natural resources. The two leaders agreed on the importance of reaching a resolution in the spirit of African Solutions to African Problems and concurred on the need for the African Union to support the countries reach a win-win outcome.”
Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia had been discussing the ratios in Washington in talks sponsored by the United States, and facilitated by the World Bank, the financier of the project estimated to produce about 6GW of power when all its intended turbines are at full function.
However, a fortnight ago, the countries appeared to differ on whether the initial agreement on the filling of the dam had actually been filled.
Egypt went ahead to put initials on the draft document, which in diplomatic terms signals an end to negotiations.
Ethiopia, which skipped the last talks two weeks ago, rejected Washington’s offer to sign the agreements, arguing there had been no final draft yet.
Last week, Egypt tabled a proposal to the Council of Ministers of the Arab League, showing the bloc would not accept any proposals that violated Egypt’s rights to the waters.
A communique the council issued last week said the 22 member-state bloc supported Egypt’s rejection of any “infringement against Egypt’s historical rights to the water resources of the River Nile”.
The Arab League’s statement further rejected any “unilateral measures” that Ethiopia might take in this regard, meaning Ethiopia’s move to fill the dam before reaching any final agreement.
Sudanese officials, however, refused to endorse the stand, saying it could jeopardise Arab-Ethiopian relations.
Dismayed by the league’s decree, the Ethiopian government on Friday issued a statement, accusing it of “giving a blind support to a member state [Egypt] without taking into account facts at the center of the GERD talks.”
Ethiopia is the source of nearly 80 per cent of the River Nile’s waters although the Nile basin includes Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Kenyan and Ethiopian leaders also said they also discussed their own bilateral issues.