The new Executive Director of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) Dr. Florence Grace Adongo has pledged to continue engaging the government of Egypt to resume its active participation in discussions regarding the collaborative use of water resources of the Nile.
Uganda’s Dr. Adongo was appointed last month by the Nile Council of Ministers (NILECOM) – the top decision-making organ of NBI, to take up the reigns of the regional body for the next two years.
The Ugandan career civil servant was until last month serving d as the Director of the Directorate of Water Resources in Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment.
Following the official handover of the office at the NBI headquarters in Entebbe on November 6, Dr. Adongo told journalists that she will continue with the tradition of engaging Egypt for the peace of the region.
“I wish to continue the tradition left by my predecessor of continuing to engage Egypt in all the discussions we have. I am ready to continue to receive them and to share all the information that we have. This is not new. Recently we held the Nile Development Forum, and the governance meetings. We invited them and the government sent about 20 people who participated,” said Dr. Adongo.
Egypt froze it’s active participation in NBI activities, despite being one of the key founders of the transitional body. This followed the adoption of the Cooperative Framework Agreement in 2010, a protocol that is supposed to transform NBI into a permanent Commission whose decisions shall have the force of the law.
The CFA provides that 6 out of the 10 members constitute the majority and can make decisions that bind on the rest of the members.
Egypt rejected this and prefers that all decisions are made on the basis of unanimity- meaning that if one member disagrees, then a decision is null and void.
Sources within NBI say that Egypt has been openly undermining NBI and that they recently persuaded the European Union to cancel a multimillion dollar NBI project that they had offered to support.
This notwithstanding, Uganda’s Minister of Water and Environment Sam Cheptoris said Egypt should not be sidelined but be engaged to ensure they understand the benefits of cooperation.
Despite their raproachment with Egypt, Minister Cheptoris noted that they are not losing sight of their goal to transform NBI into a permanent Commission.
So far five of the 10 member states have ratified the CFA protocol and deposited the ratification instruments with the African Union.
With Egypt and The Sudan strongly opposed to the CFA, efforts are being made to persuade Kenya, and DR. Congo to ratify the protocol. Kenya signed it but is yet to depost it with the AU.
The immediate former ED of NBI, Eng. Sylvester Matemu from Tanzania, received praise from Minister Sam Cheptoris, who is the Chairman of NILECOM, for his cordial character as well as for his achievements in improving the financial status of the regional body.
Before Eng. Matemu’s tenure NBI was dogged by severe funding challenges, partly arising from failure by member states to meet their annual contributions.
By the time he left, Matemu had helped NBI improv its car fleet, restored the financial reserves of institution by up to US$ 150,000 and secured salaries of staff for the next eight months.