May 23, 2011

Ethiopia Commits Not to Use Renaissance Dam for Irrigation

Filed under: Egypt,Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 7:20 pm
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Ethiopia has neither the plan nor the intention to undertake any form of agricultural development from the waters of the Renaissance Dam, simply because there is no area behind the dam suitable for irrigation projects.

The reassurance from the second topmost Ethiopian government official came last week, despite lingering doubts and suspicions among Egyptians that Ethiopia could develop massive irrigation projects once the dam is completed in seven years.

“There is no viable or arable land there for the use of irrigation,” Hailemariam Desalegn, deputy prime minister and foreign minister, said in a brief to the local media in his office on Menelik Avenue on Thursday, May 19, 2011. “I am sure that this view comes from people who do not have technical knowledge on the nature of the project.”

He cited studies conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation to confirm his claims.

The Eastern Nile Technical Committee, a subcommittee within the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), has complete information on Ethiopia’s aspirations to build the hydroelectric project on the Nile River, according to Hailemariam.

The Renaissance Dam is estimated to cost 80 billion Br and generate 5,250MW electricity upon its completion by Salini Costruttori, the Italian construction firm that also designed the dam.

The official announcement was made by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who laid the foundation stone at the dam’s site between the hills of Libiyat and Neqor mountains in Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State, 40km from the Sudanese border, in April 2011. Subsequently, the public has reacted positively and with euphoria.

Tens of thousands of civil servants pledged to donate a month of their salaries to finance part of the project cost, while many in the private sector continue to buy the government bonds totalling 11 billion Br.

Leaders in the administration were caught by surprise.

“There was no expectation of such public reaction,” Hailemariam said last week during the media briefing.

His government is now keen to organise and direct the popular force in realising its ambitious plans. Earlier this month, it formed a National Coordination Council for the Renaissance Dam to oversee all financial mobilisations from the public. It comprises 75 members and includes prominent figures in Ethiopian society as well as representatives of professional associations, labour unions, and opposition parties.

Chaired by Hailemariam, the council was launched on May 13, 2011, with Bereket Simon, chief of the government communications affairs office, as its secretary. It has at least five committees assigned to mobilise finance from the public, organise support for the dam from the Diaspora, undertake events planning and management, and conduct follow up meetings on the progress of the project.

“The council ensures there is no inefficiency and mismanagement in the use of the public support,” Hailemariam said. The government is determined to see the dam completed with as few problems as possible.”

The deputy prime minister called on his fellow Ethiopians to “tighten our belts,” because the government does not plan to seek outside support in the form of aid, nor is it positive over prospective loans from foreign sources.

One of the hurdles of soliciting loans to finance dams in the Nile Basin, which is believed to have the potential to develop hydropower dams with a total generating capacity of 10,000MW, is Egypt’s historical, yet powerful, lobbying against it at international financial organisations.

Meles was very frustrated with the response from leaders in Sudan and Egypt to his grand plan, despite assurances by Ethiopia that the dam, which is planned to hold 63.8 billion cubic metres of water to make it the largest in Africa, would not harm their interests.

“If there was to be justice, all three countries could have contributed to the cover the construction cost,” he said at the launching of the project back in April.

Sudan should have covered 30pc of the cost, and Egypt 20pc, according to the Prime Minister.

“There has not been such farsighted cooperation in the history of the riparian states,” he said.

The lack of such cooperation is due to an erroneous perception created in Egypt by relentless propaganda, rather than evidence, on which public opinion in Egypt is based, according to Hailemariam.


Ethiopian Political Activists Opposed to Meles Claim Power-Cable Sabotage

Filed under: Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 3:27 pm
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Ethiopian political activists opposed to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s rule said they sabotaged power lines in the west of the country as part of a campaign against the government.

The Tinsae Ethiopian Patriots Union said it cut electricity cables in Awi Zone on May 20, causing outages in towns including Asosa, 477 kilometers (296 miles) west of Addis Ababa, and Metekel, 400 northwest of the capital. Power still hasn’t been restored in some parts of the region, it said in an e-mailed statement today. The group posted pictures on its website that it said showed the damaged cables.

“They must be joking,” Communications Minister Bereket Simon said a phone interview. “There were problems with power supply, but it’s not related to sabotage,” he said, adding that he had only previously heard of Tinsae on “some foreign blogs.”

Tinsae said it and other groups are planning a campaign of “peaceful civil resistance” to bring about “multiparty Western- style democracy where government exists to serve the people” in Ethiopia. A Facebook group calling for protests on May 28 against the rule of Meles’s Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front said 3,112 people had confirmed they would attend. The date is the 20th anniversary of when rebels marched into Addis Ababa to remove Mengistu Haile Mariam’s Marxist military junta from power.

Tinsae says it is composed of members of the now defunct Coalition for Unity and Democracy that led street protests after a disputed 2005 election resulting in a crackdown by security forces that left 193 people dead.

In March, the group said it distributed pamphlets in three of the major Ethiopian languages calling for protests this month. At the time, the group also appealed to the country’s armed forces to support its campaign.

The EPRDF won more than 99 percent of 547 parliamentary seats in May 2010 elections that European Union observers said failed to meet certain “international commitments.”

Ethiopia’s economy has grown by an average of 11 percent for the last 7 years, International Monetary Fund data shows. The country ranks 157th out of 169 countries ranked in the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index, which measures life expectancy, education and living standards.

To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa via Nairobi at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson in Nairobi at

Kenya: MPs Vow to Block Ethiopian Power Plant

Filed under: Ethiopia,Kenya — ethiopiantimes @ 8:06 am
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Northern Kenya MPs have vowed to stop the construction of Gibe III hydroelectric power in Ethopia. Joseph Lekuton(Laisamis) Ekwee Ethuro(Turkana Central), Chachu Ganya (North Horr) and Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth called on the people of Loiyangalani to back their protests as they talk to the government to stop Ethiopia’s power plans. “The contract signed between the Kenyan and Ethiopia government to supply us with electricity should be revoked. People are dying due to lack of resources provided by the waters of Lake Turkana,” Lekuton said.”There is enough wind and solar that can generate electricity for the Turkana people. We do not need to sign a contract with our neighbour so that they can supply us with electricity while we are capable of generating our own,” he added.Ganya said: “Gibe dam will be fought to the end”

Gibe III is in its final construction stages, associated with generation of hydroelectric power on the Omo River in Ethiopia. Omo River drains its waters into Lake Trukana, the biggest desert lake in the world. Once completed it would be the largest hydroelectric plant in Africa with a power output of about 1870 Megawatts.

As of July 2010, the project was 38% complete. The completion of the dam was tentatively scheduled for July 2013. Full commissioning is scheduled for June 2013 after the reservoir is filled with water and the plant completed. Local and international environmentalists have raised concerns over the negative social and economic impacts of the dam.

Ethiopia’s plans to build Gibe III Dam now threatens food security and local economies that support more than half a million people in southwest Ethiopia and along the shores of Lake Turkana. Construction began in 2006.

Turkana South MP Josephat Nanok urged locals to “choose the right leaders” especially after the recent attack of Turkana people in Todonyang at the Kenyan- Ethoipian border. The MPs made their plans known at the fourth Lake Turkana festival at Loiyangalani at the weekend

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