Monday, August 03, 2009



Writes Leo Odera Omolo In Kisumu City

KENYA has taken a bold and firm stance in rejecting as” old and obsolete” all colonial agreements signed many years ago between her former colonial power, the Great Britain, Egypt and Sudan on the use of shared waters of both Lake Victoria and River Nile.

This was one of the ten points resolution contained in the draft statement issued to the press at the end of a one day workshop held at the lakeside City of Kisumu.

The workshop dubbed, ”awareness and creation of sensitivities on the proposed Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement [CFA}”, was held at the posh Imperial Hotel, and was attended by five cabinet Ministers of the Kenya government and more than 20 members of Parliament and senior government officials and experts from the East African Community.

The attending ministers were, Water Development Minister Mrs Charity K. Ngilu, the Minister for Public Services Dalmas Otieno, the Minister for Lands James Aggrey Orengo, the Minister for Fisheries Dr. Paul Nyongesa Otuoma and the Minister for East African Affairs Jefferson Amason Kingi.

MPs present were Hon Peter Njuguna Gitau,Hon Ababu Namwamba,Hon John Olago Aluoch, Hon Fred Outa, Hon Prof Patrick Ayirecho Olueny,Hon David Koech,Hon,Silas Washiali,Hon.Shakeel Ahmed Shabir,Hon Elijah Lagat,Hon Oyugi Magwanga, and Hon. Yusuf Chanzu.

The draft resolution was read to newsmen by the chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Lands and Natural Resources, Hon. Rev Mutava Musyimi. It said in part, “The importance of the Lake Victoria Basin water resources and the on-going negotiations on the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework {CFA} were some of the major issues discussed”.

It went on to state that during the consultations on the above issues, the Kenyan Mps noted with great concern that Lake Victoria is a national and natural asset that is very key to the survival and development of Kenya within the lake basin and the nation as a whole.’.

The more details of facts and figures regarding Lake Victoria water resources is required as different riparian countries appeared to hold unreconciled data. In other words the riparian countries appear not to be reading from the same script.

The Ministers and MPs resolved that the downstream riparian countries, specifically, the Sudan and Egypt, which contributes very little water into the basin and yet are the largest users of the waters do not contribute to investments and management of the water catchments in the upper riparian countries which sustain the Lake Victoria and the River Nile.

They resolved that all the previous legal instruments on which they {Sudan and Egypt] seem to rely on are now moribund and therefore have no current validity.

The Ministers and MPs further noted with great concern that the water level in Lake Victor attributed to the unregulated release of water from Lake Victoria through the Owen Falls and Bujagali hydro power stations in Jinja, Uganda. “This has seriously undetermined development projects in Kenya and must be brought under control”, the statement said, adding that Kenya must assess the net benefits of being party to the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework agreements before the same is adopted and endorsed by the National Assembly.

The participants defiantly declared that meanwhile, and before the conclusion and ratification of the cooperative framework, Kenya will continue to invest in projects within its side of the basin that will impact positively and advance its interests without regard to the old and obsolete agreements.

The workshop further resolved that the article of the framework confer obligations to riparian member countries who otherwise do not benefit equally from implementation of the agreement. A fund will be established to be applied in the management of water catchment areas and the same be entrenched in the agreement.

It was further noted that the two downstream riparian states namely Sudan and Egypt have an obligation to make substantial contributions towards environmental conservation and sustainable development of the water catchment areas, specifically in the Kenya’s highlands.

The Ministers and the legislators resolved that more consultations should be undertaken to create consensus and awareness amongst stakeholders before ratification.

At the workshop, speaker after speaker severely criticized Ugandan of being dishonest with its partner states in the EAC and for recklessness in releasing Lake Victoria waters to the downstream riparian.

It was also disclosed during the deliberations at the workshop that Tanzania has unilaterally taken the bold steps of using Lake Victoria waters for irrigating its rice fields with remarkable success and in total disregard to the existing agreements signed many years ago, while that country was still known as Tanganyika under the British Colonies. The speakers urged Kenya to follow suit.

In her opening remarks, the Kenyan Water Development Minister Mrs Charity K. Ngilu said the workshop’s main objective was meant to create awareness among Members of Parliament on the Nile Basin Initiative. It was deliberately organized by her Ministry to enhance awareness to MPs and seek their support in discussing and rallying the Cooperative Framework Agreement once it is brought before Parliament.

The Minister told the participants that Lake Victoria is a very important water resource to the people of Kenya and hence indispensable to the nation.

The Lake Victoria Basin alone harbors 54 percent of the Kenya’s surface water resources and about 50 per cent of the country’s population entirely rely on the waters of the Lake Victoria Basin on the Kenyan side.

She went on, ”The efficient and effective utilization of the waters of Lake Vitoria and the rivers feeding into the lake is crucial to our country, and plays a great role in the development of various sectors, especially in the field of agricultural activities, hydro power, domestic use and environmental balance. “In order to effectively develop and use the shared water resources of the Nile River Basin, there is need to have a level playing field that allows mobilization of the required resources for such development”, she added.

Ngilu said that it is regrettable that today there is no Nile River Agreement that is in force and which is acceptable to the ten Nile Basin States. This, she said, is because the existing agreements were not negotiated by the independent Nile Basin riparian states, and were based on rights and not equitable and reasonable utilization of the shared water resources as they ought to have benefits.

It is indeed on this understanding, she said, that Kenya as a riparian state of the Nile Basin had agreed to go to the negotiation table with other states.

The Minister said that it is against this background that Kenya’s position, with regards to these existing colonial agreements has been very clear and equivocal, that such colonial agreements, that were never negotiated by the independent Kenya are not binding her.

It is on the same note that the Draft Nile River Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement that has been negotiated for more than ten years be signed and ratified.

The Minister said that in order to achieve a peaceful and sustainable utilization of any shared resources, the states must cooperate, which requires an agreement that provides clearly the rights and obligation of each state that are regulated by an established River Nile Basin Commission, as the proposed Nile River Basin Commission..

Since its inception in 1997, Kenya has benefited from some tangible projects initiated through the Nile Basin Initiative. “The contribution of these projects to socio-economic development, poverty alleviation, and enhancement of food security among the basin communities cannot be overemphasized”, said added.

She also talked about part of article 14 [b] on water security that is provided to replace the article on existing agreements on water security. The Council of Ministers met in DRC Congo during the month of May this year, where the negotiated Cooperative Framework Agreement was adopted, and further agreed to annex article 14[b] that will be resolved through consultation within six months.

Again, she explained, from 2006-2007, the Nile Council of Ministers held discussions on the Draft Cooperative Framework Agreement and concluded by agreeing on all articles except 14[b]


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