Burundi joins Nile basin pact opposed by Egypt

March 1, 2011

Burundi is the sixth upriver country to sign the accord, joining Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda. Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo have not signed, although Kenya last year said it expected Congo to come on board.

Burundi’s Environment Minister Jean-Marie Nibirantije said the central African nation also wanted to tap the Nile’s waters to generate power. “Donors have always put the signing of this agreement as a condition to provide funds for the construction of those hydro-electric plants,” the minister said.

“There are many projects to boost power in Burundi and in neighboring countries which will now be implemented due to the signing of that agreement.”

The new agreement replaces one signed in 1929 and creates a permanent commission to manage the water, with the aim of guaranteeing equitable use of the resources by the parties.

Burundi’s power projects include two hydro-dams with a capacity of 410 megawatts, to be situated at the country’s border with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Officials say the electricity demand in the coffee-producing nation has increased by 4 megawatts (MW) each year since 2006 and the power deficit is estimated at 25 MW during peak hours, due to aging infrastructure.

The installed electricity capacity in the central African country of 8 million people stands at 34 MW.