These days, Ethiopia is undertaking preparations to facilitate the second filling of the reservoir of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The country is highly fostering activities targeting at completing the technical works on the one hand and exerting efforts to disprove false allegations and defamation on the essential grand project on the other.
In a discussion forum on GERD held recently in Arba Minch town, Water, Irrigation and Energy (MoWIE) Minister Sileshi Bekele (PhD) said preparation to the second filling of the grand dam is being undertaken side by side refuting false allegation produced by some downstream countries.
In his opening remarks at discussion forum titled “Intellectuals and Citizens Engagement for the Realization of GERD” Sileshi noted that Ethiopia is working to contain sufficient water in the second-round filling without causing significant harm to the lower riparian countries. Explaining the overall progress of the project, he mentioned that the height of the dam has reached 565 meters and is expected to reach 595 in the coming few days. “The completion of the dam will have a great contribution to the development and progress of Ethiopia.
As to Sileshi, realizing the GERD is the responsibility of all Ethiopians since it has immense role in being victorious over poverty. Although Ethiopia is the source of Abbay River, some 26 and 65 million of its citizens are yet facing shortage of potable water and electricity. “Accomplishing the dam is not a matter of choice but an obligation to solve problems and get the next generation benefited,” he said. Accelerating the construction of the dam is important to establish industries with the needed power to speed up country’s growth. And it is also vital to strengthening the economic integration among the East African countries.
“However, some downstream countries like Egypt and Sudan have an egocentric motive to utilize the river in monopoly that elongates the colonial era agreement on the sly. And this is incorrect and unacceptable on our side. Therefore, it is time to our scholars who conduct studies on Abbay to focus on the reality of the river to the existence of our people. This will help to aware the world about Ethiopians’ truth and genuine interest to accomplish the dam. And the people have to strengthen their unity to resist foreign influences and finalize the project,” Sileshi said.
On the occasion, National Coordination of Public Participation for the Construction of the GERD Office Director-General Aregawi Berhe (PhD) stated that Egypt and Sudan need to compensate Ethiopia for their monopolistic benefit from the water and soil of Ethiopia that the river has been transporting to them for years. A cow can give milk if only it gets the needed forage, the Director-General said, adding that Egypt and Sudan have to contribute their fair share to the development works on Abbay River than merely looking for monopolistic benefit exploiting the stream. They should be also refrain from attacking the origin country of the river through discarding mutual development and GERD defaming.
“We need to complete the GERD and strengthen our economy. To this end, we have to be united and work together for common goal,” as to Aregawi. He also called on scholars to unveil the intertwined but the untold relation of Abbay River with the life of Ethiopians. He demanded the scholars to disclose this truth to the world based on their researches. In this regard, Arba Minch University is playing its due role in encouraging scholars to do so. University President Damtew Darza (PhD) expressed that his university is working to nurture scholars that possibly conduct valuable researches on Abbay River. According to him, GERD is a national project that has helped Ethiopians fortify unity once again. All stakeholders have to work together to disprove the influence to halt Ethiopia from utilizing its own river for its development or to get its people out of poverty, he urged.
In the same token, the country has been endeavoring to tell the world in various occasions and diplomatic meetings about the significance of the project to its development and regional integration. Ministers, diplomats and other high profile individuals have been exerting efforts to propagate this message. On 11 may 2021, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was conferred with AU Chairperson Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi on the GERD. On the discussion, Abiy underscored Ethiopia’s commitment to solve the GERD issue in the agenda of African Solution to African problems. He also expressed his country’s determination to the AU-led negotiation.
He noted that Ethiopia will work consistently to accomplish the construction of the grand dam in in a way it couldn’t trigger any significant harm on Egypt and Sudan. Instead, the premier noted the country is zealous to make the project symbol of cooperation and mutual development among the downstream countries. He assured that the countries can reach common understanding on the negotiation based on the Declaration of Principles (DoP). Ethiopia will persistently exert efforts to find valuable and win-win solution participating in the negotiation that chaired by the AU. He also thanked the chairperson for his commitment to negotiate the countries for positive outcome.
On 10 May MoWIE Minister Sileshi put in his Facebook page that he conferred with the US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa on the negotiation on GERD. “I have held a candid and friendly bilateral discussion with US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman and his delegation on the construction progresses and AU-led trilatera negotiation process on the GERD I have explained what utilizing Abbay river means for Ethiopia and the way forward for reaching agreement. Amb. Feltman reaffirmed his country’s sincere and impartial support and firm commitment to help the three countries find a win-win outcome under the AU-led process.”
In addition to such a vital conversations, utilizing the opportunity of conveying message about the GERD on events is also another mechanism that the country is craving for. And this was clearly seen when the 6th Nile Basin Development Forum held here with a theme of “Rethinking Regional investments in the Nile Basin.” The forum is intended to gather stakeholders to discuss on water and natural resources to reach common understandings on solutions for mutual problems. It was hosted for 23 days in 30 events through webinar discussions and in person meetings but with small number of participants. And Ethiopia also used that to describe the vital contribution of GERD to national and regional development.
Hence, strengthening cooperation among citizens is important to finalize the dam through joining hands. In fact, the grand dam is a symbol of unity in which all Ethiopians inspired to realize it since the commencement of the construction. For years, Ethiopian artists were portraying Abbay River as the mother of all rivers and the gift of the country and the main instrument to get out of poverty. This emanates from the long lived perception of the people on Abbay River as a solution to their economic problems.
Therefore, internalizing this concept to the realization of the grand dam is important. To this end, exploiting the long lived artistic culture is significant to mobilize the public. On 19 May 2021, MoWIE Minister Sileshi was attended one of the art nights held in the capital with the presentation of artistic pieces on various national issues including Abbay river and GERD.
He wrote on his Facebook page that it was a great pleasure to him to be participated on Tobiya Poetic Jazz night. The program at this edition was dedicated to the Abbay (Nile). The poems dedicated to the Abay River show the love and support the Ethiopian people have for our flagship nation building project of the GERD, he mentioned. “I was also honored to be among the poets who read out a poem dedicated to the Abbay and the GERD. As the people of Ethiopia show their love and appreciation to the Abbay they also show their love and support to the GERD in many ways from buying bonds to poetry. Let’s us all unite for a prosperous Ethiopia,” Sileshi wrote.
To sum up, mobilizing the people to support and finalize the GERD is essential to accelerate the overall progress. It is also essential to combat foreign influence and allegation to defame the significance of the dam through strong diplomatic pressure. Therefore, Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia need to work together these days than any other times to win false claims and realize the Grand National project.
BY YOHANES JEMANEH
The Ethiopian Herald June 10/2021