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Ticking time on the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)!!!

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By: Hiwot Abebe Mekuanent
e-mail: [email protected]

The River Nile is formed from the White Nile, which originates from Lake Victoria and the Blue Nile, from Lake Tana of Ethiopia. The two rivers meet at Sudan and enter the long journey in the desert of Sahara, to reach Egypt.  Though the White Nile is bigger in size than the Blue Nile, its contribution to the Nile is about 15% of its water. That means 85% of the Nile water is from the Blue Nile. Though Ethiopia is a huge contributor to the river, there is none or little benefit it draws from such resource, while it is extensively used by both Sudan and Egypt, to build their economy.

dam 17Though a mega project on Nile could resolve the revolving shortage of electricity in the country only 44.98% of the Ethiopian population has access to electricity, leaving more than 55% of the population in the dark.

Nile remained as a lifeline to the Sudanese and Egyptian people for centuries, perhaps from the beginning of their very existence as sovereign states. Egypt and Sudan have the gift of nature to use the Blue Nile, fairly and with mutual understanding. Egypt, spent years working against the right of Ethiopia to construct a dam on Blue Nile. Ethiopia had been victimized by the Egyptian government for many years. Egypt consistently worked to disable to Ethiopia, from building a dam to address its high demand for electric power. The government of Egypt lobbied so many donors, not to lend Ethiopia any amount of money to build projects on river Nile. Currently, Ethiopia is in the process of finalizing the Renaissance dam, on Nile and it is at brink of filling the dam, which will hit turbines, produce thousands of electric power and flow to the low land as usual.

However, the government of Egypt is playing a political drama to try to halt the process of filling the dam, by calling for unfair and exclusive debate against the interest of Ethiopia. Egypt’s greed for the water and its unfair position is causing some social and political turbulence in both countries.

The renaissance dam, that was founded by the late prime minister Meles Zenawi had its own grange with Egypt, starting from its onset. Despite of his dictatorial leadership and politics of divide and rule, he had solid stand on foreign relations and standing for the national interest of Ethiopia. Though he was dictator and was successful in creating his empire with his own group, he was one of the strongest leaders in our country, when it comes to the national interest of the country.

After his death, in 2012, the renaissance dam was not handled properly. It was mismanaged by the METEC, a military technology group, that took the majority of the contracts of the dam and other groups exploited the funds and it began to be lagged behind. The dam was not finished according to its schedule. In the meantime, since 2015, the country entered into a new era of continuous social demonstration and uprising. The movement of the youth against oppression stagnated the work of the dam for some time and later a new prime minister emerged from the same party, that was leading our country for twenty-seven years.

The new prime minister who was sworn in April 2018 was welcomed like a celebrity, because of his speech and the sense of unifying the country. At the beginning, he did some good jobs, like widening the political arena and creating peace with Eritrea, though it did not last long.

Primarily, the current prime minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed said that the renaissance dam was built for political consumption and that it may take more than ten years to complete it. Sadly, the general manager of the dam was found dead in his car, at the Meskel square of the city of Addis Ababa. The public pressure woke the prime minister up and he began to work on the renaissance dam. On his trip to Egypt, he swore infront of the president and high ranking officials of the country that he will not to affect the interest of Egypt on Nile, which was inappropriate and illegal to give such consent without permission from the Ethiopian people.

The prime minister was in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to sign agreement with the Eritrean president, which is kept secret to the Ethiopian public, until this day. This man signed huge agreement that could affect the national interest of Ethiopians.

Many politicians were telling their fear about the honesty of our prime minister and they were doubting that he night have betrayed our country, to buy temporary financial support from those countries, that are manipulated by the government of Egypt. Later, the fear of many Ethiopians was realized, when the negotiation between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan was taken to US and Russia in different times, which is irrelevant to the nature of the negotiation.

The new prime minister of Ethiopia allowed the government of Egypt to go back to its position that was before the building of the dam. For any logical person, it is easy to understand that any dam is built to hold water. Due to the weak leadership and the inconsistency in his leadership, Egyptian government went back to point zero and began to discuss on how to avoid filling the dam with water in July of 2020.

It was the weakness of our prime minister that took Ethiopia in to the negotiation table with a defensive position, that wouldn’t happen, if the late prime minister was alive to handle his project. The renaissance dam is built on funds raised by Ethiopians and Ethiopian origin individuals residing in the diaspora. It is property of millions of Ethiopians, who bought bond by starving their family, having a good faith that the future of their children will change. However, this prime minister chose to go back to a negotiation table with a shaky and limp position. It is the best interest of all Ethiopians to see the start of filling the dam in the rainy season of July 2020 and all Ethiopians are looking forward to see the beginning of the process, despite any concern from Egypt or Sudan..

After excessive pressure from the public the prime minister and his government were forced to take of the negotiation from other irrelevant bodies to the African Union. The African Union had a meeting yesterday and an agreement had been reached. Sudan and Egypt announced that Ethiopia has agreed to stop the filling of the dam, until next negotiation, but the Ethiopian government declared that the dam will start to be filled within the time set to do so. As usual three or more confusing and jargon briefings were released by the Ethiopian government. The press secretary agreed that an agreement will be reached in two weeks and that was the agreement signed yesterday, but he affirmed that the filling of the dam will be strictly done by the scheduled time. On the other hand, if the negotiation is to be started in two weeks, the filling of the dam will not happen. There is no need to negotiate, if there is no other topic to discuss and if the dam will start to be filled by the schedule. The main reason for the negotiation was to halt the filling of the dam and if the dam is going to be filled, there is nothing to negotiate. In this case, it shows that the Ethiopian government is not telling the truth to its own people. It is believed that the prime minister and his team handled such a huge national task irresponsibly.

All Ethiopians are anxiously waiting to see the dam being filled with water, to be used for its intended purpose. However, the government officials are trying to ease the public anger by telling non existing facts. If Ethiopia allow the passing of this July to start filling the dam, it is unlikely to easily start filling the dam in any other day. July if the month that the country gets the highest rainfall, most of which is based on relief rainfall. July is the time that Sudanses and Egyptians became flooded by Nile. It is easy for the country to retain huge amount of water than in any other month of the year.

Ethiopians are watching to the ticking clock and this the strongest test to the government of Dr. Abiy Ahmed to assure that he works for the best interest of Ethiopia and for others. It is time to show that he can lead the country, beyond his outspokenness. If this gets cancelled or postponed in favour of Sudan and Egypt, our country will enter in to social, economic, and political crisis, which could lead into a serious security concern, in the country.

Egypt took advantage of the Lack of good leadership in Ethiopia to push its interest against the dam to its maximum and unacceptable level. We Ethiopians do not blame Egypt, but our prime minister, who betrayed our country and left it without strong position, for the sake of his hunger for power. He should not have taken our interest in to a negotiation table, from the very beginning. Such negotiation was supposed to happen, when the idea of constructing a mega dam was started, during the time of prime minister Meles Zenawi. At that time, Egypt was trying to intimidate Ethiopia by training soldiers in the near by country and by disseminating false propaganda of war against Ethiopia. At that time, prime minister Meles officially told Egypt to refrain its wild zest to control and use our resources alone. He also told Egypt to examine its history of war against Ethiopia and how it was ashamed in the past. He said, “what had happened to Egypt, in the past will happen now, if they try to touch our soil, for any reason”. That was a clear message to the Egyptian government, and they were fine with what Ethiopia was doing, until this new prime minister came in to power.

It is good for the world to know how greedy the Egyptian government is, when it wants to use the Nile river by denying the right of the owners of the source. Ethiopia owns Blue Nile and it is undisputable right to use its resources to liberate its people from poverty. It is unimaginable to any normal minded person what Egypt is doing to exclude Ethiopia from its own resources.

I hope Dr. Abiy and his team will understand the eagerness and latent anger of Ethiopians on his government, due to the weak handling of our national interest. I hope the dam will start to be filled on July 1/2020 in Ethiopian Calendar which will be around July 7.

The Ethiopian public is aware of the word play and cheating of the government officials in the past two years. No more misinformation will resolve this serious concern of national interest and it is better for the Ethiopian government to listen to its own people and start filling the dam with what ever risk, from the unfair government of Egypt. Our national interest is to affirm our right to use the Nile water to produce electricity and eradicate poverty.

To be continued!