Uganda: Nile Basin Cooperation Buoyed By Return of Egypt

Uganda last Thursday assumed leadership of the Nile Basin Council of Ministers, the highest decision-making organ on political and development matters relating to the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).

With the end of the 24th annual NILECOM meeting at Protea hotel in Entebbe, Uganda’s water and environment minister Sam Cheptoris became the chairman, replacing Tanzania’s Gerson Lwenge.

Uganda will also chair the Nile Technical Advisory Committee of the NBI for the next one year, while Rwanda’s Dr Canisius Kanangire becomes the eighth executive director of the NBI Secretariat for a two-year term. He replaces Kenya’s Dr John Rao Nyaoro on September 1.

“The changes in leadership are in keeping with the NBI tradition of annually rotating the position of chairman among member states, in alphabetical order,” Cheptoris said on Thursday evening.

The meeting was attended by ministers from Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Burundi and DR Congo sent representatives.

Most eye-catching was the presence of Egypt. In 2010, Egypt pulled out of NBI activities in objection to the Cooperative Framework agreement that advocates equitable use of the Nile resources.

“I would like to seize this opportunity to reaffirm Egypt’s sincere will to continue and build upon what we started in 1999, putting aside all the challenges and misunderstandings that may hinder our regional cooperation,” said Egyptian water resources and irrigation minister Mohammed Abdel Ati.

Among other issues, the ministers discussed cooperation to achieve sustainable management and development of the Nile. On the initiative’s financial stability, they resolved that each country should make its contributions promptly. Some countries are heavily indebted, but Uganda has fully paid up, officials said. Burundi will host the next NILECOM meeting in 2017.

LEAF PROJECT

One of the larger projects NBI is undertaking to improve livelihoods along the basin is the Lakes Edward and Albert Integrated Fisheries and Water Resources Management (LEAF) project, which has now accumulated funding of $23.5 million.

During committee discussions last week, it was revealed that the second phase of the project, LEAF II, is set to be launched either later this month or in August. For this, NBI has got $8.1 million from African Development Bank, a grant from the Global Environmental Facility.

The project will be executed jointly by the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program and Uganda and DR Congo, with the main goal of poverty reduction and promoting sustainable livelihoods for the fishing communities.

Some two million people in Uganda and five million in DR Congo will benefit from the developments around the lakes.

Source: The Observer