Mother Ethiopia diverts the Blue Nile and opens a new chapter


Mother Ethiopia diverts the Blue Nile and opens a new chapter

(Blen Tilahun)

It was only 2 decades ago that the world was worried that Ethiopia could end-up in a chaotic disintegration and lawlessness of seen in Yugoslavia and Somalia. Just 10 years ago, many were skeptic of our development strategy. At the time when the government adopted a national vision to reach the status of a middle-income earning country some pundits tried to mock it. Many of the opposition politicians called it a dream.

Some extremists argued using flawed economic arguments that Ethiopia would not be able to reach middle-income status even in forty years. Their arguments was based on their fatalist outlook.

Their belief was based on their mistrust of the peoples' potential as agents of development. They thought there is no other option but limited growth and that can only be driven by collecting policy-rent from multinational financiers and corporations.

The developmental state paradigm that His Excellency Meles Zenawi introduced and the double digit annual growth targets seemed impossible However, today no sensible person questions that Ethiopia's economy is booming. International data show the size of Ethiopia's economy is bigger than all the countries in east Africa, including Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania. A growing number of countries are showing interest to invest in Ethiopia's 5-years Growth and Development Plan (GTP). The GTP was said a few years ago ambitious and impossible.

Now, every month we we see developed countries and emerging economic powers taking part in one or another mega projects. Banks, corporations and politicians coming from Brazil to China, from Russia to Turkey, are participating in railway, dams and other projects by financing and construction contracts.

Just this month, Brazil and China provided the finance necessary for the construction of two sections of the new railway line - that is; the line that stretches from Jimma to Addis Ababa and the line that extends from Addis Ababa to Djibouti.

Companies from Turkey and India are conducting further design works on other parts of the new railway line which they showed interest to finance. France and Sweden are among the latest two countries to send high-level delegations consisting their chief businessmen and industrial associations. All these changed Ethiopia's image around the world and most of her citizens, except some pessimists and extremists.

But the pinnacle of all these is the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance dam. Both for its economic potential and its importance to break the narrative of humiliation and defeat.

The economic benefits are big and crucial. The target of achieving 10,000 MW generating capacity by 2015 partly depends on this dam as it will have the capacity to generate 6,000 MW power. Moreover, it will place Ethiopia as a reliable regional powerhouse.

Currently, Ethiopia earns about 30 million dollars per year from exporting power to Djibouti only. By 2017, the power export to Sudan and Kenya will generate hundreds of millions dollars each year - higher than the revenue from coffee export.

However, the dam is also important interims of breaking the psychology of weakness and strengthen the virtuous cycle of developmental mindset. Meles Zenawi described this fundamental and critical aspect of the dam in his speech at the launch of the project. He underlined:

“As you all know, and our rapid economic development activity has underlined, we are determined to eradicate poverty from our country. We are fully aware that in this struggle against poverty, many friends stand with us; our gratitude to our development partners is limitless.

Before we mobilized our efforts to eradicate poverty, centuries of impoverishment curtailed our development and restricted us from exercising our right to use the resources of our own rivers. Now, thanks to the dedication of our peoples, we have safely put those times behind us. We are close to opening a new chapter through the realization of our Renaissance dam project.

Henceforward, nothing can stop us from exercising our rights; the other dams we plan to build are less challenging than this, the Renaissance Dam. So, the first message is that we not only have a plan, but we also have the capacity to assert our rights.”

That was what happened today, which is the date of the 22th anniversary of the May 28, 1991 change. The change from brutal military dictatorship to a constitutional democracy is a big cause of celebration by itself. The continuous double-digit GDP growth of the past 8 years is an additional reason for excitement.

The progress in the Growth and Transformation Plan is yet another reason to be optimist about the future and pay tribute to the martyrs who made this day possible including Meles Zenawi who engineered and guided the political and economic stride all the way.

However, diverting the natural course of the Blue Nile river means much more than that.

Of course, Ethiopia astonished all the world in the last two years. We started the Renaissance dam while every body asking where we will get the money for it. But Ethiopians - at home and abroad - turned en-masse to contribute money. Ethiopia's booming economy and prudent fiscal policy raised the necessary finance.

With 5,000 laborers employed, 1,200 machineries in operation and a factory capable of producing 800meteric cube concrete per hour, the Renaissance dam project is now 21% complete!

But one of the four main milestones in the construction of the dam hadn't been conducted to date. That is the diversion of the natural course of the river. Diverting the Blue Nile (Abay) river was technically necessary because the construction of the dam could not be conducted without diverting the water flow. However, the diversion means a lot more than technical construction procedures. Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonene explained the profound implication of the work saying that: “for centuries Abay (Blue Nile) has been flowing as it wishes. But now, Abay is tamed. It will flow in a direction we set for it. The mere fact that Abay is flowing in a direction we set for it is symbolic of the Renaissance of Ethiopia and Africa”.

Equally important is the change of attitude it created among our neighbors Egyptians.

The Egyptians led by the chauvinistic regime of Hosini Mubarak has created a zero-sum politics mind-set. That is; either Ethiopia or Egypt can use the Nile but not both. Based on that many doomsayers have been predicting a crisis even war between the two brotherly countries.

However, the Egyptians are now slowly realizing that cooperation is the way forward. It was reported in Egypt newspapers that: “Egypt’s Ambassador to Ethiopia Mohamed Idrees described Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam as a "reality" that Egypt must cope with and added that his country's goal in its ongoing dialogue with Ethiopia is not to shut down the project, but to find ways for both countries to benefit from it.”

Of course, as Meles said “the dedication of [Ethiopian] peoples....have safely put those times [of weakness] behind us. We are close to opening a new chapter through the realization of our Renaissance dam project.”

It will also usher a new chapter of cooperation among the brotherly peoples along the Nile basin.

God Bless Ethiopia!

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