CAIRO: Egypt is to begin a public relations initiative in the West in an attempt to bring the international community on board regarding its rights to the Nile water after four Nile basin countries signed a new treaty excluding Egypt and Sudan.
A diplomatic effort will be launched in the coming days. Delegates to the United States, the European Union and China will lobby to back Egypt in the dispute over the distribution of Nile water.
They will also attempt to appropriate Western help in annulling the treaty signed last Friday between Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda with Kenya, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo due to sign the agreement at a later date.
Yet Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies researcher Nabil Abdel-Fatah had criticized the official approach, saying that the Egyptian response to Nile issue has been “slow and lacking in dynamism.”
He added: “The Egyptian political and diplomatic structure still perceives Africa from a position of superiority; they still see it as the old Africa just after colonialism.”
“Egypt must stop perceiving Africa in such a regressive way,” he said, “And our dealings with Africa should be revised on a more equitable and developmental level.”
Egypt and Sudan had no part in the treaty, as they have the lion’s share of use of the Nile water dating back to a treaty signed with the British in 1929 and later revised in 1959. The other seven countries have since gained independence and are calling for more equitable rights in the water-sharing agreement.
Under the treaty, Egypt and Sudan have the right of use of 87% of the Nile waters, which is around 74 billion cubic meters, 55.5 billion of which goes to Egypt, while 18.5 billion goes to Sudan.
“Many Egyptian researchers have long stated that the water sharing agreement should be revised or Egypt would face a problem. The Egyptian government dragged its heels and its interest in Africa waned,” Abdel-Fatah said.
After the treaty was signed, the Egyptian foreign ministry said that it was not binding to Egypt nor did it exempt the signatories from their commitments “under the rules of international and customary laws, and the current practices, as well as the existing agreements, which enjoy sanctity as being border agreements that cannot be disregarded.”
Recent talks between the nine Nile Basin countries in Sharm El-Sheikh had failed to reach common ground, as Egypt and Sudan insisted that they retain the right to grant permission to the other countries before beginning any large-scale projects that would affect the river’s water levels. Talks over a revised treaty have lasted a decade with no headway.
Abdel-Fatah said, “The latest comments from Egyptian officials was an attempt to placate public opinion, the government needs to revise its policy towards the Nile basin countries, which hasn’t happened till now.”