African countries on the upper reaches of the River Nile plan to push their demand for changes in the allocation of its waters, saying Egypt gets too great a share, a Ugandan minister said.
State Minister for Water Jennifer Namuyangu told Reuters ministers from upstream eastern Africa had agreed to meet in Uganda on Friday to sign a framework agreement reached last year.
Egypt, which gets almost all its water needs from the Nile but faces possible shortages by 2017, has angered the upstream states by sticking to colonial-era pacts that guarantee it can use most of the Nile's flow.
Egypt and Sudan are not expected to attend the meeting.
"The signing of the agreement will pave way for the opening of the Permanent Nile Commission to be based at Entebbe and this commission actually might help us resolve some of the contentious issues between us and Egypt and Sudan," Namuyangu said.
However, Sudan said that more time was needed to broker any new deal. It said an agreement without it and Egypt would be "unfortunate", undermining decades of efforts to come up with a formula acceptable to all nine countries.
"We are very close. Why go on your own? We just need more time," said Ahmed El-Mufti, legal counsel for Sudan's delegation.
He told Reuters that it was not true Egypt and Sudan had an unfair share of the Nile as the other countries had plenty of other sources of water. "They have water from other areas. They have a lot of rain. This is nature. They do not need the water. Here in Sudan we need water."
Uganda's Namuyangu said it was the clause on water security that remained the contentious issue.
Under a 1929 agreement, brokered on one side by British colonial powers in Africa, Egypt is entitled to 55.5 billion cubic metres a year, the lion's share of the Nile's total flow of around 84 billion cubic metres.
But the upstream nations, desperate for development are hoping to break with the past, potentially deepening an already bitter struggle for water resources across the parched region.
"We've not been insensitive to Egyptian concerns about water security but what we are opposed to is their insistence on maintaining their veto as it is in the colonial agreements," Namuyangu said.
ReutersLast Mod: 14 Mayıs 2010, 00:19