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S.Sudanese say ‘time is right to demand share of Nile water’

Authors: Okot Emmanuel | Daniel Danis | Published: Saturday, November 28, 2020

File: The Nile River -East of Juba, South Sudan. Credit| Daniel Danis

South Sudanese say the country must now assert its claim over the share of the Nile water following the visit of the Egyptian President to Juba this morning.

They want South Sudan to be represented in any discussion over the Nile River.

“Since President Al-Sisi visited Juba, now is the right time for South Sudan to engage in any future discussions as a member of the Nile basin countries,” said James Mangook. “It should actually be the right time.”

Trilateral negotiation between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan are ongoing over a multi-billion-dollar dam project.

Egypt and Ethiopia are involved in a dispute over the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, GERD, on the Blue Nile –about 20 kilometres upstream from Sudan.

The GERD dam – an approximately $5 billion hydropower project with an installed capacity of 5,150 megawatts, will double Ethiopia’s electricity production.

It contains about 74 billion cubic meters of water and is expected to provide a significant economic boost for Ethiopia’s economy.

But Egypt argues that the dam will eventually impact drinking water, household usage, agriculture, fishing, water transportation and tourism.

Egypt relies on 90 percent of its water supply from the Nile and about 57 percent of that comes from the Blue Nile.

Experts say the contention between Egypt and Ethiopia could have a lasting impact on the African riparian nations who depend on the Nile River for water consumption, agriculture, and navigation.

Egypt and Sudan, which are downstream countries fear the dam will greatly reduce their access to water.

The impact on South Sudan has not been publicly stated.

“We have a share of the Nile water, we should be included in the negotiations,” Johnson Malish asserted.

A colonial-era agreement of 1929, reviewed in 1959, gives both Sudan and Egypt a near-monopoly of the exploitation of the waters.

But Ethiopia insists that the geopolitical and economic landscape has changed since approximately 85 percent of the waters flowing downstream come from Ethiopia.

Years of negotiations among the three countries have failed to reach a consensus on how and when to fill the reservoir, and how much water it should release.

South Sudan has not asserted its claim over the Nile water.

When asked by Eye Radio in June, the Office of President Salva Kiir said South Sudan will come out to claim its shares of the river when it fully restores peace.

It stated that South Sudan was yet preoccupied with implementing the revitalized peace agreement.

However, some South Sudanese say now is the time for the country to join the ongoing negotiations to claim its Nile waters.

“We have a share of the Nile water, yet we are acting like we have no share,” said Suzana Abuk. “You should join the contention and negotiation on the Nile water.”

The Egyptian President left Juba this afternoon after engaging in bilateral talks with President Kiir.

Among issues discussed are the construction of dams to collect water to reduce floods in areas along the Nile in South Sudan.

In 2010, just ahead of the launch of the project, six riparian countries – Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Burundi – signed the new Nile Basin Cooperation Framework Agreement with the view of replacing the old deal.

So far, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania have gone ahead to ratify it.

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