'Burundi believes that access to water constitutes a 'right to life',' FM Shingiro tells Shoukry

Amr Kandil , Tuesday 7 Sep 2021

In remarks on the GERD dispute, Burundi FM said his country believes that access to water is a matter of 'life or death' and that the 'right to life' should come before 'the right to development'

FMs of Egypt and Burundi
Burundian Foreign Minister Albert Shingiro and Egypt FM Sameh Shoukry on 7 September, 2021.

Burundian Foreign Minister Albert Shingiro said that his country believes that access to water is a matter of "life or death" and that the "right to life" should come before "the right to development".

Shingiro's remarks came as he addressed the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute during a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, on Tuesday in Cairo.

"It's a very sensitive issue and we believe that each country and its people have the right to enjoy development, whether it is a neighbouring country or a remote one," Shingiro said during the presser.

Shingiro said that Burundi, a Nile Basin country, understands that the issue of access to water is a matter of "life or death" to Egyptians.

He added that "the right to life should always come before the right to development, because without the right to life, the right to development cannot be enjoyed."

"The choice here is clear," he stressed.

"Burundi has balanced between the right to life and the right to development," Shingiro said.

The top Burundian diplomat said that his country is keen that the GERD dispute be resolved through negotiations, cooperation, and legally binding agreements that all parties should participate in.

Shingiro added that the idea of a military option to resolve the dispute is "neither good nor wise", adding that he does not think that Burundi nor Egypt would benefit from such a course of action.

"We believe in the power of diplomatic endeavours and good deeds," Shingiro said, reiterating his country's support to the initiative of the DR Congo — the current head of the African Union — to mediate between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

The Burundian FM also said that "parallel mechanisms or initiatives to that of the DR Congo's may not be productive or useful."

"We believe that we should work on encouraging dialogue to reach solutions that would spare us tensions," Shingiro added.

Egypt and Sudan have repeatedly expressed their support to Ethiopia's plans to build the GERD in order to further its goals of economic development, but have insisted that such development should not come at the expense of the interests of downstream countries.

Cairo and Khartoum have attempted in years of trilateral negotiations to convince Ethiopia to sign a comprehensive and legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam to safeguard all parties' interests but to no avail.

Ethiopia has recently completed the first and second filling of its controversial dam in 2020 and 2021 despite a lack of agreement with Cairo and Khartoum.


Bilateral relations, cooperation

During the presser, Egyptian FM Shoukry expressed his appreciation to Burundi and its stances that "have been always supportive to Egypt and understanding of the core issues affecting Egyptian national security."

Egypt, for its part, is also exerting all possible efforts to contribute to Burundian developmental and reform efforts within the framework of the priorities set by Burundi, Shoukry said.

He added that his meeting with Shingiro affirmed the need to follow through with the agreements between the two countries, noting that implementing these agreements will contribute to the developmental efforts in Burundi.

Shoukry affirmed the need for further efforts within the framework of the firm bilateral relations and mutual understanding with Burundi.

"Egypt has a strong political will to continue this relationship [with Burundi] in light of their joint vision and mutual understanding and support between the two countries and their governments," Shoukry added.

Meanwhile, Shingiro noted that relations with Egypt have been further strengthened thanks to Burundi's President Évariste Ndayishimiye's visit to Cairo last March.

During their meeting, El-Sisi and Ndayishimiye witnessed the signing of multiple memoranda of understanding (MoU) in various fields.

The fields addressed in the signed MoUs include the integrated management of Burundian water resources and the mutual visa exemption for passengers of both countries who carry official passports, according to an Egyptian presidential statement.

The signed MoUs are also concerned with the fields of education, culture, tourism, and media.

During Tuesday's presser, Shingiro invited Egyptian investors to pump investments into various fields in Burundi, saying his country now enjoys stability after it has managed to end the conflicts that have been holding it back.

Shoukry said that his talks with Shingiro included a review of the level of trade exchange between the two countries, which is currently not in line with the two countries' strong political relations.

He also agreed with Shingiro on the formation of a joint business council that includes businessmen from both countries to determine Burundian priorities in terms of cooperation with the Egyptian side and also to review the available Egyptian capabilities in this regard.


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