"The problem with the River Nile is lack of cooperation in water management," Debay Tadesse, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Addis Ababa, said. "There is enough [water] for all the riparian states and this agreement opens the way for more equitable management."
The 14 May Nile River Basin Cooperative Framework was signed by Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, but was left open for a year. It followed a meeting of water ministers in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, where Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda agreed to it.
Egypt and Sudan have rejected it, saying the accord only reflects the views of seven, not nine, states that share the resource. They suggest more talks.
"For Egypt and Sudan, as well as the other eight riparian countries, the question of how much water they can use to irrigate their agricultural land and sustain their growing populations [has] become [an] existential [matter] that dwarf[s] the other political conflicts plaguing the region," Nadia Anne Zahran wrote in The Middle East Channel on 19 May.
On 6 May, the International Crisis Group warned the dispute could polarize the region. It could also harden Egypt`s resolve to maintain the status quo by rallying behind Sudan and against the other countries.
The new agreement, signed in Entebbe, Uganda, after 10 years of talks, also transformed the Nile Basin Initiative into a permanent Nile River Basin Commission and will facilitate its legal recognition in the member countries.
Kenya signed on 19 May. "Nothing now stops us from using the waters as we wish," Kenya`s Water Minister Charity Ngilu said. "It is now up to Egypt and Sudan to come on board in the spirit of cooperation on the basis of One Nile, One Basin and One Vision. Two states out of nine cannot stop us from implementing this framework."
For ratification, the agreement now needs to be signed by DRC and Burundi.