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Leaders meet over Lake Victoria

By | October 27th 2009

By john oyuke

The five East African Community (EAC) member countries are set for a major meeting on the future of Lake Victoria Basin today.

Over 250 participants from central Governments, key local Governments, development partners and leading authorities on urban environmental issues are expected at the Kisumu forum.

The symposium is being held as part of the 10th Anniversary celebrations of the East African Community expected to climax in signing of the EAC Common Market Protocol next month.

Under the theme "Strengthening Synergies and Cooperation in Sustainable Development in Lake Victoria Basin", participants at the Forum, to be held from 27-28, will have the opportunity to explore and tackle a diverse range of issues including natural resource management and income generation.

Other issues in focus include improved quality of life, population and good governance.

Lake Victoria Basin Commission, the conveners of the forum, said the two-day conference is aimed at allowing stakeholders to exchange experiences and challenges faced in contributing towards a shared strategy for management and development of the Lake Victoria Basin.

Shared by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, Lake Victoria, is the world’s second largest fresh water body (at 67,480 square kilometers) and supports one of the densest and poorest rural populations in the world.

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Poverty is associated with rapid population growth, land degradation, and declining human health, agricultural productivity and water quality.

The Kisumu forum comes ahead of the celebrations of the East Africa Community 10th Anniversary celebrations whose climax events will be held in Arusha on November 20, 2009.

The conference is held in the backdrop of the contentious Nile Cooperative Framework Agreement, which is currently under debate.

Egypt’s Assistant Minister for Foreign and African Affairs, Mona Omer who visited the country last week, said her country had been blamed "wrongfully" for blocking efforts to establish a permanent River-Basin Commission to implement development projects on the Nile.

She said Egypt was only questioning some clauses in the Nile Cooperative Framework Agreement and not objecting to the cooperation.

"After all we (are) only at the receiving end of the Nile and we cannot control who gets what or misses what on the Nile, but our livelihood solely depends on the Nile waters that’s why we are keen on what we agree on," she said.

The Nile Agreement seeks the establishment of a permanent Nile River Basin Commission through which member countries will act together to manage and develop the resources of the Nile.

Nile treaty

It is expected to replace the old one of 1929 which gave Egypt and Sudan the lions share of the waters of the Nile. Both countries are said to be pushing for maintenance of the status quo.

"We know we all stand to lose, if we don’t come to agreement, and its all in our best interest that we come to terms soon, we are open to negotiations and we hope by December when we meet in Dar Salam we will have reached a consensus," Mona Omar told The Standard.

The contentious issues include article 4, (equitable and reasonable use of the Nile waters, Article 5 (prevention of harm to the waters), Article 6 (protection and conservation of the basin and its ecosystem) and Article 8, which requires prior consent before using the waters.

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