The much-talked about Nile Basin treaties do not after all exist, Water resources management and development Minister Martha Karua said. Karua instead blamed the three east African countries for self-censorship to commercially use the Lake Victoria waters saying the perceived treaties were just notes exchanged between the then region’s colonial rulers and the Egyptian government.
The minister told a meeting of the East African Legislative Assembly that people have been going with “hear-says” than facts over the issue which has made it impossible for the lake region residents to use huge amount of the water without authority from Egypt, major beneficiary. Speaking in Kisumu, the minister said the believed treaty of late 1920s was “just a note” of her Majesty the Queen of England to the Egyptian administration allowing the latter to freely use the Nile River waters which originate from Lake Victoria.
“I have done thorough research and found that the Queen just wrote a note to the Egyptian Administration on May 7, 1929 and there was nothing barring our three countries from making use of the Lake Victoria waters,” she told the meeting of various lake Victoria stakeholders. Karua then challenged East African MPs and the three governments to get acquitted with the Nile basin issues to enable them talk authoritatively over the now focused 1929 and 1959 Nile basin treaties.
The minister told the EA. legislators led by speaker Abdurahaman Kinana that negotiations have been going on about the said treaties since 1967 but with no fruits and asked the three governments of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to be time bound over the issue to help alleviate poverty around the lake.
“Let the three governments seriously look into the Nile basin documents, which prevent us from doing what we are supposed to do” said Karua who urged the EA. leaders to take the responsibility of assisting the Lake region residents to economically use the water. Commenting later, Kenya’s East African Legislator Maxwell Shamalla who supported Karua said they have been asking to be shown the treaty but no one had ever come out with the talked about treaties.
And presenting his paper, a legislator from Uganda told the meeting that the east African community have to choose either to unilaterally reject the colonial agreements or work within the framework and agree on what is to be achieved within East Africa. “Let’s put our house together first and prepare for the consequences; and Integrate defense and security concerns with Water resource management issues,” said the EALA MP from Uganda.
Joseph Ojwang is a free-lance journalist. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Kenya, Africa.