Getachew Begashaw, PhD
In the first two parts of this series, we presented a focused analysis of the GERD, based on evidentiary information that is available in the public domain. We argued objectively and cogently that the social, economic, environmental and ecological adverse impacts of the GERD could be incalculable, and that the imminent danger that the GERD poses to the long-term interest of that poor nation could be irreparably devastating. As the construction of the dam proceeds at a dazzling speed, we called upon all genuine Ethiopians to evaluate the hard facts surrounding the project, without succumbing to the mind numbing TPLF propaganda, and to take appropriate measures before the damage is completely irremediable.
In this last section, we present a summary of the recently leaked report of the International Panel of Experts (IPOE), by way of elucidating further the insidious reason why the TPLF desperately wants to construct the GERD, and irrevocably conclude that the GERD is but a part of one grand wicked scheme that the TPLF regime and its deceased leader have long designed to permanently drain her natural resources and to plant interminable hostilities among its inhabitants who have lived for centuries in peace and harmony.
The IPOE Document
It is recognized that in the absence of reliable data on important aspects of the design, construction and maintenance of the dam, it is futile to attempt to have a meaningful discussion on the topic. Unsurprisingly, the secretive government in power did not involve or inform the public in the planning and designing of the dam, or has been not willing to share any relevant information to this day about the decision-making process that led to the construction of the dam. In this regard, it was fortuitous that we now have access to an important document, which was prepared by the IPOE and recently leaked to the public. The document is impartially compiled by an independent party, and gives a wealth of information about the project that has previously been inaccessible.
Below, we highlight a few essential elements of the document, as summarized by the International Rivers, a non-governmental civic group with an impeccable record of standing with the Ethiopian people in their fight against the continued abuse and brutalization by the TPLF regime. More specifically, the document indicates:
- The present design criteria are “quite general, and do not include project- and site-specific conditions. The project’s main design report is outdated and does not reflect numerous and significant design changes to the project”.
- The stability of the main dam and other main structures should be verified under consideration of additional geological and geotechnical findings. Structural measures might be needed to stabilize the foundation to achieve the required safety against sliding.
- The project did not assess its sensitivity to climate change. A project of this scale and with such heavy reliance on rainfall patterns requires a better understanding of future hydrologic conditions to ensure the highest degree of flexibility and resiliency in its design and operation. The panel recommends a study that looks at the potential influence of climate change on the flow regime at GERD and further downstream.
- The project did not include an analysis of sediment deposition in the reservoir (a troublesome issue for dams on the muddy Nile). The panel notes that sediment flows downstream of the dam will be substantially reduced, with implications for floodplain farming productivity, navigation, riverbank erosion, and biodiversity. The panel also recommends additional studies on water quality changes from the project, particularly on methane gas production and the depletion of dissolved oxygen levels in water releases that could harm fisheries and biodiversity downstream.
- Very little information on how the dam will be operated was given. At a basic level, both present and future needs for “peaking power versus base power needs to be assessed in more detail,” and “needs to be taken into account in (project) planning and sizing.” The report requests verification of the 6,000MW installed capacity. The panel writes that “it is not clear whether the present design considers (capacity, functionality) the minimum mean flows of the dry months release to the downstream countries” without use of power generation facilities or the spillway.
Despite the above shortcomings and other technical, environmental, social and ecological problems, construction on the project is proceeding on “an aggressively accelerated schedule” with little room for adjusting key elements of dam design to reduce harm or prevent problems.
The TPLF dictators consider treasonous any attempt to question the integrity or viability of the project, thereby effectively discouraging credible intellectual discourse to better understand the issues surrounding the dam and to seek mitigating measures.
TPLF’s Real Motive to Construct the GERD
To understand the wicked motive why the TPLF regime has embarked on the construction of a mega dam, it is important to put in perspective the issue relative to the horrendous track record of the ethnic-based group since its inception as a terrorist organization with a deviant ideology of hate, anti-Ethiopianism and inter-ethnic animosity. As outlined below, the damage it has caused against Ethiopia is so abominable it has no parallel in the annals of Ethiopian history.
a) In an uncanny departure from the time-honored duties of all known governments in human history who pledge to defend the sovereignty of the lands they rule, the TPLF regime, under the leadership of the late Meles Zenawi, made a purposeful and conscious decision to dismember Ethiopia and make it the only landlocked country in the world with a large population that has no access to the sea. As reported elsewhere, the loss in revenue as a consequence of land-lockedness far outweighs any benefit even from the most profitable dam imaginable.
b) In a contemptible pursuit of a policy of divide-and-rule, the TPLF leaders wickedly divided Ethiopians along ethnic lines and have sown the seed of extremism that is now manifesting itself in genocidal episodes among people that have lived for centuries in relative harmony. As gruesomely depicted in a recent documentary (see, e.g., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjkSzZZh93 ), the poisonous ethnic agenda of Meles Zenawi and his TPLF party is already leading the country to a path of unimaginable destruction and complete disintegration. No government with a genuine intention of building a dam to benefit its people will at the same time promote a policy of genocide and extremism as a means of consolidating power.
c) In a brazen defiance of Ethiopian patriotism, the TPLF government and its former leader desecrated the flag of the nation, and have selfishly and callously parceled out fertile agricultural lands to foreigners, in the process forcefully dislocating the poor and defenseless people from their ancestral homes without any compensation. To the chagrin of the millions of Ethiopians who are helplessly watching as their country is being auctioned, these ruthless dictators have shamelessly ceded to Sudan, as down payment for support against any future threat by oppressed people, the country’s cherished territory that our forefathers had protected for centuries with blood and sweat. No government that builds a dam with a true intention of promoting the long-term interest of the country it rules would sell to foreigners ancestral lands at dirt cheap prices or give away territory to neighboring countries to protect it against its own people.
d) Following the May 2005 elections, in which the people overwhelmingly rejected the TPLF and its vile policies, the regime unabashedly transformed itself into a police state, unseen since the fall of the Iron Curtain, and viciously denied Ethiopians their basic human rights. It controls every aspect of life in the nation through an iron fist and enormously expensive security apparatus, and has clamped down on any credible opposition to its domination. It keeps behind bars journalists in the likes Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu; incarcerates and harasses peaceful human rights activists and political leaders, including Andualem Andargie and Bekele Garba; and ruthlessly massacres innocent civilians in every part of the country.
It is beyond rational limits of tolerance and naiveté to deny the veracity of the above and attempt to give these deceitful dictators the benefit of the doubt about their hidden agenda surrounding the dam. The TPLF, besides the political gains it is drawing from this project, is purely interested in the GERD for a starkly clear economic boon it will be enjoying from the dam during and after its shoddy completion.
As is widely reported, all the major sub-contractors of the GERD are TPLF owned or business enterprises affiliated with the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), including Mesfin Industrial Engineering (MIE), SUR Construction PLC, and Messebo Building Materials Production PLC — the three largest domestic companies that are supplying most of the construction materials including metal, cement and labor.
SUR Construction PLC is established by EFFORT in 1992 with an initial capital of Birr 108 million as a General Contractor. Since its establishment, the company has been awarded more than 31 road projects, over 44 various building contracts, as well as 2 airfield and 2 hydropower projects. The total worth of those projects to date is more than Birr 8 billion, and the company reportedly owns about 1,100 heavy and light duty pieces of construction machinery and plants with over 2,200 permanent and contract employees and about 6,000 daily laborers. SUR has its own six storey head office building in Addis Ababa and a modern workshop and training center at the branch office in Mekelle. Currently, SUR is executing 7 projects all over the country worth in excess of Birr 7 billion and has achieved an annual turnover of more than Birr 1 Billion. Messebo Building Material Production PLC (MBMP PLC) is one of the EFFORT group companies, located in Mekelle, and has an investment capital of about Birr 2 billion. The third company, Mesfin Industrial Engineering PLC (MIE), also affiliated with the TPLF, is the leading equipment manufacturing company in East Africa. A wide range of products is manufactured at its industrial complex, which is fully equipped with the state-of-the art machinery. It designs, manufactures and installs equipment and components for the energy, mining, manufacturing, construction, mining and agricultural sectors.
These are but three of the TPLF companies, established by the money stolen from the coffers of Ethiopia, that are the ultimate beneficiaries of the GERD and that will continue to pilfer the hard earned money of the people.
Even in the unlikely scenario that the economic, social, environmental, ecological and technical shortcomings of the GERD are mitigated, and the dam turns out to be profitable, there is no uncertainty that it is the same corrupt group that will collect, control and disburse the money, and use it either to deposit in foreign bank accounts or to strengthen its grip on power. The people of Ethiopia have never had any means of controlling the activities of this illegitimate regime ever since it came to power in 1991, or to hold it transparent and accountable in its handling of the money and resources of the nation. To this day, the government has not even responded to a report of the Global Financial Integrity which uncovered that the leaders have illicitly taken over US $12 billion out of the country!
As elucidated in this piece, the TPLF regime does not have the track record or the moral eminence to be trusted with a project of the magnitude, national symbolism and economic significance of the GERD. A regime that is guided by a philosophy of anti-Ethiopian unity, inter-ethnic animosity, corruption and repression, cannot embark on a project with the long-term interest of the nation at heart. This is a group that has much blood of innocent people on its hands; dehumanized Ethiopians and dishonored their pride in their heritage; and pauperized the people and subjected them to untold misery, poverty and hopelessness. It is an aberrant variety of despotism that has poisoned the political climate, and created a future very much imbued with uncertainty and tribulation.
Ironically, a country that has been defended heroically by its valiant sons and daughters against waves of external aggressors over the centuries, has now, for the first time in its illustrious history, found itself vulnerable and unable to repel the insidious assault on its survival by internal enemies. As the government in power promotes genocidal policies, tearing apart the national fabric, the seeds of extremism and ethnic clashes are chillingly sprouting across the land.
Sadly, intellectuals and professionals who have the sacred duty of standing on the side of justice for the oppressed and challenging the disastrous schemes of the illegitimate regime, instead appear to be succumbing to the allure of the TPLF propaganda machinery and becoming instruments of repression. Health professionals in the Diaspora, who were educated at the expense of the lowly poor back home, are seen as they nauseatingly compete amongst each other, notwithstanding the hippocratic oath of do-no-harm they solemnly vowed, to curry favor with the regime. Professors of all disciplines from major learning institutions are observed as they insolently flock to Mekele and other visible places to get the attentions of the repressive rulers. Avaricious businessmen and entrepreneurs too eager to have a share in a proportion of the loot that trickles down to lackeys, flagrantly kowtow to the will of conniving TPLF cadres, contributing to the repressive machinery with kickbacks and bribes.
Indubitably, the GERD is but a smokescreen for the continuation of the discredited agenda of the TPLF and Meles Zenawi to destroy Ethiopia as a nation, and, hence, should be relentlessly and vehemently scrutinized, and its oversight and operation immediately handed to independent Ethiopian experts in the profession. This is a generation that has the most sacrosanct responsibility to stand up to TPLF’s aggression against Ethiopia’s survival, and ensure passing to posterity the glorious heritage handed to it by our forefathers. Therefore, as I conclude my piece on the GERD, I leave my fellow countrymen and erudite citizens back home and in the Diaspora, who refuse to see the crimes being committed by the TPLF regime in power, with the following immortal words of Mahatma Gandhi:
“There are Seven Deadly Social Sins:
Politics without principle.
Wealth without work.
Commerce without morality.
Pleasure without conscience.
Education without character.
Science without humility.
Worship without sacrifice.”
And, to the TPLF leaders who are blinded with a false sense of invincibility, may the foreboding words of Frederick Douglass serve as a wake-up call:
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
Ethiopia shall prevail!