The Reporter (Addis Ababa)

5 April 2014

Ethiopia: The Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam - a Monument Being Erected By All Ethiopians for the Edification of Ethiopia

Ethiopians have been using various art forms throughout the ages to vent their frustration over our inability to put the river Nile to meaningful use.

The fact that we have been under the yoke of poverty for so long while nature has endowed us with a precious gift like the Nile has always infuriated and made us ashamed in equal measures. All this sadness and frustration however, is now giving way to determination and optimism with the laying of the cornerstone of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) some three years ago.

The current generation of Ethiopians is staking its claim to history by displaying the determination to undertake a monumental project that many had thought we would not dream of let alone embark on. Currently the construction of the GERD is a third of the way through.

The entire process--including the design, funding and execution of the project-- is owned and driven by the people and government of Ethiopia. The GERD is a harbinger of a new era for a country whose people are striving to make history by making poverty, a source of national embarrassment for far too long, a thing of the past. It heralds a bright future for a country that aspires not only to rid itself of poverty but also to be a land of democracy and justice. It was not an easy thing for Ethiopia when it set out to build the dam three years ago.

The country knew it could not obtain a loan or a grant from overseas to finance the construction. Meanwhile, ever since the project was announced, foreign enemies and a handful of internal elements opposed to the Ethiopian government have been hard at work to discredit the project. However, the people of Ethiopia have set their political differences aside and managed to overcome these daunting challenges to allow the construction to reach the critical stage it has reached now.

The GERD cannot be a cannon fodder that forces with sinister motive use to sow discord between the people of Ethiopia for it is a monument being erected by them with a shared vision. Any attempt to use the dam for political consumption is bound to steer one on a collision course with the Ethiopian people and is akin to stirring a hornet's nest.

The historic and humiliating victory that Ethiopia inflicted on the invading Italian army at Adowa in 1896, in which all black people take pride, was a result of the heavy sacrifice paid by all Ethiopians. Just as no one can deny to whom the victory belongs, it is the same thing with the dam. It also belongs to the Ethiopian people.

The citizens of Ethiopia have stopped lamenting their fate over the Nile and are making history by harnessing the huge potential it offers as part of their endeavor to extricate their beloved country from the clutches of poverty as well as build an economy that guarantees a fair distribution of resources. If this effort is to bear fruit and the negative image associated with the country is to be changed, we must adopt a multi-pronged approach that addresses all sectors.

Accordingly, the same level of commitment being shown to ending poverty must be demonstrated in ensuring respect for human and democratic rights, justice, good governance and the rule of law. There can be no doubt whatsoever that the people of Ethiopia, who are making history in the shape of the grand renaissance dam, will build a democratic country through their blood, sweat and tears.

The present generation of Ethiopians, which is building a monument that is destined to take Ethiopia to the next level and strengthen its unity, is duty-bound to emulate its predecessors in handing down a country that was founded on the principles of tolerance and solidarity. It is doing its part to discharge with conviction the heavy burden it is shouldering.

This is borne out by the fortitude it has displayed in standing up to the intimidation of successive Egyptian authorities since the beginning of the construction of the GERD. Such a resilience is one of the factors that enables one to declare with confidence that nothing can and indeed will stop the completion of the dam's construction.

It's not only Egyptian authorities and other hostile foreign elements that have tried to derail the GERD in its track. Though the equally vitriolic rumors spread by a few misguided forces who have a beef with the Ethiopian government failed to achieve their intended objective, their treasonous act will never be forgiven by history.

They better desist from driving a wedge between the people and the government for political gain on matters which advance the national and public interest. The dam is an enduring reminder that both they and the ruling party would do well to see to it that their political calculations do not harm issues of national significance if they are to earn the endorsement of the public.

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