Ethiopian Parliament passed a law to ratify the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement (a.k.a. the Entebbe treaty) and make it part of the domestic law today with a unanimous vote.
The Treaty – an out come of ten years long negotiations and deliberation of Nile basin countries – is the first genuinely multilateral treaty regarding the Nile, stipulating for the equitable sharing and utilization of the waters.
It was signed in Entebbe Uganda on May 2010 by Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania. Kenya and Burundi followed suit in early 2011. However, Egypt and Sudan refused to sign as it doesn’t recognize the so-called “historical rights”, which is based on colonial-era treaties of dubious legal status.
The two other Nile basin countries, Congo and South Sudan have not signed the treaty yet. Congo has no official reservations and is expected to sign. South Sudan was not involved in the process, as it attained independence in mid-2011. However, South Sudan formally declared last March that its rejection of colonial-era treaties and decision to sign the new Treaty.
The Treaty became legible for ratification by each country by February 2011, with Brundi’s signature, as it was stipulated that ratification could commence when 6 of the 9 countries involved ink the Treaty.
However, the Egyptian revolt took-place the same month. Cairo sent a “public diplomacy” team in April 2011 consisting various sections of Egyptian people came to plead that Ethiopia reconsider the treaty and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam project launched the same month.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi promised them that the treaty will be put on hold until the end of the year, so that Egypt sorts out its internal matters, elects a parliament and make up its mind on the Treaty. Yet, Ethiopia made it clear from the outset that it has no intention to re-negotiate the treaty.
The treaty remained on hold since then, as Egypt’s political turmoil continued and Cairo couldn’t make up its mind on the matter.
However, last April, the Council of Ministers referred a draft proclamation to ratify the Treaty to the Parliament. Though a draft legislation normally wait weeks, if not months, to be tabled in the parliament, the draft proclamation to ratify the treaty was tabled in less than 8 working days. Later that month, the Parliament held a first reading of the draft proclamation and referred it to its Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Standing Committee. Thereby putting the Treaty one session away from ratification.
Once the Treaty gets ratified by six of the signatories, a Nile Basin Commission will be established with the mandate to monitor the equitable utilization and development of the Nile Waters and enforce the proper application of the rights and duties of the countries party to the Treaty.
Minister Bereket Simon was quoted today by Reuters as saying that:
“Most of the upstream countries have approved it through their parliaments. We delayed it as a gesture of goodwill to the people of Egypt until a formal elected government was in place.”
“We have a principled stance on the construction of dams. We are determined to see our projects brought to completion.”
Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal told AFP today that:
“Ethiopia has never considered the 1959 (and) 1929 agreements binding, as it has never been a party to it”.
“The CFA is a response to the unjust colonial imposition on the part of the riparian states, preventing them from exploiting equitably the Nile resources”.
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