Kenya is now chair of the Nile Council of Ministers and will be led by Water Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui.
Mr Chelugui takes over from Burundi’s Minister of Environment, Agriculture and Livestock, Dr Deo-Guide Rurema.
The handover was done at a pre-conference in Nairobi on Wednesday, where the Council outlined an ambitious plan for the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).
On Friday, the Council of Ministers led by NBI Secretariat under the executive director of NBI Prof Seifeldin Hamad Abdalla launched the $5.5 million Nile Basin Regional Hydro-Met System that will enable NBI member states to share reliable data for monitoring of the Nile Basin resources as well as collect data to inform planning to prevent potential conflicts over the use of the Nile waters, said Mr Chelugui.
The launch was attended by Water ministers from NBI member states, the Nile Technical Advisory Committee, stakeholders and civil society organisations.
The Hydro-Met System project funded by the European Union and the government of Germany, will include 79 hydrological monitoring stations, 322 meteorological monitoring stations and upgraded water quality laboratories.
As the chair, Kenya will lead the initiative for a period of one year and is seeking to transform it into a co-operation like other basins around the world.
“We want to transform it to a co-operation where equitable use of water resources is practised,” said Mr Chelugui.
Top of the to-do list for Mr Chelugui is bringing back Egypt to the Initiative.
Egypt left in 2010 to protest the signing of the Co-operative Framework Agreement (CFA) by some member countries, a pact that it was opposed to.
Currently, six countries have signed the CFA—Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi—of which only four—Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda — have ratified while Kenya is in the process of ratifying after signing it on May 19, this year.
Ethiopia has already deposited the CFA with the African Union, while Sudan reviewed its position in 2010.
“We intend to employ persuasion and diplomacy to bring back Egypt. We want to reach consensus and reconciliation on the issues which made the state leave,” Mr Chelugui added.
Egypt, on the other hand, wants an alternative agreement which will allow other Nile Basin countries to do projects along the River Nile.
The country still stands by the 1929 Nile Waters Agreement and the 1959 agreement between itself and Sudan.
Other members of the NBI are South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Eritrea as an observer state.
River Nile upstream countries have been pushing joint projects, and there is an interconnection and power generation project between Kenya and Uganda (Lessos-Tororo- Bujagali), which is expected to increase cross-border power trade and access to reliable and affordable energy and reduce operational costs, said Mr Chelugui.