18 July 2020

It is indeed our dam – GERD the pacifier and pride of Ethiopians

Ethiopia, the land of origins, as Ethiopians often call it, is a landlocked country with lots of untouched and unused natural resources. It has got lots of rivers and water resources, but it is yet to use one of its biggest, the Blue Nile – Abay River as Ethiopia has just finalised building the largest hydroelectric plant in Africa called the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam - GERD.

GERD is expected to change the lives of millions in Ethiopia and countries in East and horn of Africa once fully functional. It will indeed be a game changer and bring Ethiopia out of poverty. It is going to be crucial for Ethiopia’s economic growth and its path towards prosperity. More than 60 million Ethiopians will have access to basic electricity. It will also bring investments in different sectors including tourism, fisheries, and water transport. It is expected to reduce risk of flood in the Sudan. Despite all the promising benefits of the GERD, there is still a lot to do to see all these into practice.

Agreement with upstream countries, Sudan, and Egypt on a fair and equitable share of the Nile River should be reached at in the not too-distant-future. Ethiopia has always been ready for that, but the much sought and expected agreement could not be reached at straightforwardly as the upstream countries seem to be stuck in their colonial era agreements of 1929 and 1959 and the benefits the old and outdated agreement grants them, especially to Egypt.  In this day and age, it is unreasonable and injudicious of the upstream countries to expect Ethiopia to agree to a monopoly over the Nile waters based on the colonial era agreements signed among Egypt, Sudan and Britain, to which Ethiopia is not a signatory. Ethiopia has no intention of hurting any country but has clear, legitimate and moral demands here. Honourable use of its water resources. Equitable share of Nile waters. Respecting Ethiopia’s sovereign rights. Meeting its developmental needs and thriving together with others including upstream countries. In general terms, it is all about Mutual Benefits, Reciprocity, and Sovereign Equality. This is 21st century, where we are interdependent on one-another and should cooperate; but that cooperation should be mutually sought based on mutual interests. It is not time for one side wins all and others remain bystanders.

For Ethiopians GERD is a pacifier. It is a sign of national pride that brings Ethiopians together. In fact, their pride has many reasons. More than anything else, Ethiopians have made financial sacrifices. The  cost of the dam, which is estimated to be more than $5billion has been largely covered by Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia.  Hence there is a sense of ownership of the biggest developmental work Ethiopia has undertaken. GERD is a unifier and has almost no political boundaries amongst Ethiopians. For Ethiopians both in Ethiopia and the diaspora, GERD is more than a project. It is more than a political interest. It is about belongingness. It is about the Ethiopian identity.

The social media campaign by Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia under the hashtag #ItsMyDam brought together activists, experts, politicians, commentators and those in love with the land of origins. Here are a few posts on twitter globally including one from the wonderful and creative Anna Chojnicka
The Campaign also brought the attention of international media, here is one from Turkish TV
The time is now for an agreement and equitable share of the Nile waters. It is all about good will, which Ethiopia has in abundance. Time for compromise and agreement as we have past the one party wins all era. The GERD - the unifier is at its important milestone. Ethiopia is determined, ready and willing. Better days ahead for all of us.

Time to Get Out and Vote – Democracy in Action

  United Kingdom goes to the polls on July 4th.  Since the election was called by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, I have had the opportu...