On the 18th of June the Nile-Technical Advisory committee (Nile-TAC) of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) announced that Egypt has suspended participation in NBI activities. Outgoing chairman of the NBI, Saif al-Din Hamad who is Sudan’s minister of irrigation and water resources, said that Egypt suspended participation in the NBI and did not attend the preparatory meetings recently held in Khartoum.

However, the Sudan tribune says http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article51385 that Sudan’s official news agency (SUNA) reported that an Egyptian delegation headed by ambassador Sherif Isa arrived in Khartoum to participate in the NBI 22nd ministerial meeting that started on the 19th of June.

Hamad says that Sudan recognises the right of the upstream countries to a reasonable and equitable utilisation of the Nile resources for the benefit of their people, stressing that cooperation among the Nile basin countries is inevitable. He points out that while some states have the opportunity to generate electricity, others have agricultural land at their disposal and others have industrial capabilities.

He notes that South Sudan has great potential for electric power generation and Egypt has large industrial capabilities, underscoring the need for cooperation between the two countries to take advantage of these integrative opportunities. “Our biggest challenge is how to build confidence among the Nile basin countries to establish a strong regional bloc in order to reduce poverty and offer support for the people in the region.”

The meeting of ministers in charge of water affairs in the NBI in Khartoum on Thursday witnessed a change in the NBI governance in which South Sudan’s minister for electricity, water and irrigation, Jemma Nunu Kumba handed over the chairmanship of the Sudanese minister of electricity, Mutaz Musa Abdalla Salim. The changes in the NBI leadership and top management are in line with the NBI tradition of rotating the two positions among its member states in alphabetical order.

The NBI is a partnership among the Nile riparian states that seeks to develop the river in a cooperative manner, share substantial socioeconomic benefits, and promote regional peace and security. It began with a dialogue among the riparian states that resulted in a shared vision to achieve sustainable socioeconomic development through the equitable utilisation of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources.

The NBI was formally launched in February 1999 by the water ministers of nine countries that share the river: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as Eritrea as an observer.

The Entebbe Agreement, designed to reallocate Nile water shares, was signed in February 2011 by Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi. But Egypt rejected the accord saying it violates its legal rights in the Nile water per agreements signed during the colonial era.

Cairo is also in a lingering dispute with Addis Ababa over the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam as it fears the dam will diminish its water share and will eventually affect the country’s people, most of whom heavily rely upon the Nile’s water.

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