Ministers feud over Nile Treaty

Saturday June 28 2014

By Emmanuel Muga, The EastAfrican

Tanzania’s Foreign Minister Bernard Membe has dismissed suggestions by the his Water colleague, Prof Jumanne Maghembe, that the country will ratify the Nile Basin Treaty in November.

“I am the foreign minister; you should know that foreign ministers the world over take precedence on foreign issues over other ministers,” Mr Membe told The EastAfrican.

“I am the one who speaks with the president on every foreign affairs matter, and the Nile Treaty is a foreign affairs matter.

“There will be no ratification in November, I can assure you. Tanzania’s position hasn’t changed. This is a diplomacy issue, not a technical issue for any engineer to comment on.

“What I have said is that Egypt should be given preferential treatment in using Nile waters. That is a desert country; we have to be fair to them.

“I have told Maghembe to go slowly — to take the country’s position.”

Mr Membe said the Nile Treaty was far from being ratified.

“Four have signed but have not ratified it, two have refused to sign, only three have signed and ratified. You cannot call this an agreement,” he added.

Earlier in the week, Prof Maghembe had told the Nile Basin Council of Ministers’ 22nd meeting in Khartoum, Sudan, that the Tanzanian government had given its final approval for the contentious Co-operative Framework Agreement (CFA) to be presented to parliament for ratification.

“Given the timetable of the sittings of parliament in Tanzania, I am upbeat that the CFA will be ratified in November 2014,” Prof Maghembe said.

The CFA, which Egypt is opposed to, proposes a commission representing all the signatories that will approve or reject large-scale hydraulic projects, dams, canals and anything else that affects the course, volume or quality of the Nile waters.

Additional reporting by Michael Wakabi