Gebreab Gebrewold Uganda, Kampala 04-05-18
Comprehensive Framework Agreement (CFA) is a framework, which appreciates accommodating the rational interests of all riparian countries of the Nile Basin. CFA is signed by six countries namely Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and out of which Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania have ratified it. For the countries that ratified, CFA has become part of their national laws. This asserts that CFA is by no means a subject for negotiation.
Nile River is the longest and the third largest River in the world. It crosses ten countries including Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Eritrea is with an observer status.
The Nile Basin is home to over five hundred million people and over four hundred million of which are inhibited in the upper riparian states. The upper riparian states are all except Egypt and Sudan. These upper riparian states are required to feed, educate, provide access to electricity and improve the livelihood of their people as the lower riparian states required of doing the same.
However, paradoxically, with the exception of Egypt and Sudan, the riparian countries had never benefited out of it. On one hand because t he use of the Nile River has, for centuries, been monopolized by the two lower riparian countries- mainly Egypt and lack of internal leverage of the countries to use out of it on the other hand. But, the compelling rational for the upper riparian countries for not using their resources was not because of Egypt. It was because the countries were internally unable to do so.
This status caused tense tensions among the riparian countries. As a result, this hegemony over the Nile Waters was challenged by the principle of equitable share of the Nile River waters. Nevertheless, the two lower riparian countries, especially Egypt is stubborn enough on its obsolete position-‘historic right’. In fact, there would no history and right to utilize the source of others. ‘Mine is mine and yours is also mine’ does not work for the 21 st century. This is absolutely old fashion that no one can buy.
In this regard, colonial treaties signed between the colonies and their ‘masters’ and the treaties concluded between Egypt and Sudan are often mentioned as the legal foundations of their right to monopole the Nile waters by Egypt. Ethiopia had strongly been rejecting these treaties since the beginning. It was not part to the treaties though. Neither was it invited to participate. In the view of Ethiopia, the colonial treaties are legally invalid which have no legal effect on the use of the Nile basically not because they were ‘colonial treaties’ but because Ethiopia and like countries were not part of the treaties and are not fairly put. This view, now, is shared by all the upper riparian states.
Due to this understanding, a new and different breakthrough had come to the hearts and minds of the leaders of the Nile Basin countries. Thus, the leaders of countries of the Nile basin sat together, in 1999, to open a new chapter. After consecutive and prolonged debate, they have come up with a new legal book called CFA. Egypt stood debating with its ‘historic right’ position negating the new revelation. Egypt is not able to see the dynamism happening in the globe. The debate over the monopole use of the Nile, in fact, did not hold water and the upper riparian countries have gained momentum over the fair and above all equitable share of the waters of the river. Now, no riparian country including the Sudan hangs around to get a node from Egypt.
The upper riparian countries took the initiative to discuss among all the riparian countries on how to better utilize the Nile Waters. These countries need to negotiate on their interests not their positions. They realized that Egypt’s position of ‘Historical right’ no long works. It does not benefit Egypt either. Primarily Egypt’s stubborn position affects only Egypt not Sudan or the other riparian states.