Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Opposition supports Ethiopia Dam, Egyptian army threatens

Ethiopia’s main opposition parties announced support for the country’s latest hydroelectric dam but criticized the politicization of the massive project by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. The largest coalition party MEDREK and the EDP said they are cautious but in favor of the “Great Millennium Dam.”
The planned dam will be the largest dam in Africa in electric power generation capacity and the 10th largest in the world. Professor Beyene Petros, the former leader of the Southern Ethiopia People Democratic Coalition, is now the current chairman of Medrek. Mr. Petros said he is concerned about Sudanese and Egyptian opposition to Ethiopian projects. “It is right that Ethiopia uses its natural resources and we have no opposition to the government’s intention to build the dam,” Beyene Petros said. “Our concerns are the after-effects of the move and whether stakeholders, such as other riparian countries, were consulted. Such moves need strong diplomatic support.”
The stakes are extremely high as Ethiopia’s biggest enemy is poverty,” Beyene said. “One way of fighting poverty is to nurture our energy sector so that it can fuel development projects. If anyone tries to prevent us from achieving this task, we will not be forgiving.”
According to Addis Fortune, the “Millennium Dam will have two powerhouses with 10 turbines on the left side of the river bank and an additional five on the other side, each generating 350MW at a time. This is equal to the combined capacity of Tis Abay I and II, Koka, Melka Wakena, as well as Awash I and II dams. [It] will have a height of 145 metres, shorter than Tekeze Dam by 43 metres, while it will stretch 1,800 metres wide. Once completed, the dam is designed to hold 63 billion cubic metres of water, making this manmade lake twice the size of Lake Tana, the source of the river on which the dam is to be built.”
The new president of the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP) opposition party, Mr. Mushe Semu said his party supports hydroelectric dam developments in Ethiopia. If there are Ethiopian dissidents in the Diaspora who oppose this dam, “They are not real Ethiopians” he declared. Asked if Meles will get benefit from this dam, Mr. Semu said “Meles will unfortunately get political advantage by the success of this dam but the dam is more than politics. It is about our country, about fighting poverty and it is a call of our generation.” Semu said he is calling on his party’s supporters and members to back the construction of this dam while fighting Zenawi’s politicization of development projects in the country.
Oromo political analyst Kemal Abdisa said Meles should not be praised for the initiative since the project was first planned during the Emperor Haile Selassie I era and all governments are expected to improve a nation’s basic infrastructure in their time. According to him, irrigation projects along the Nile are more important than Zenawi’s dam projects. “All people in Ethiopia, no matter which ethnic group or religion they belong to, must support infrastructural advancement. But this does not make Meles a democrat or excuse the failure of his economic policies the last 20 years. Ethiopians still want the end of the one-party dictatorship in their country,” Mr. Abdisa stated.

The Millennium Dam which will be built along the Nile River, has caused uproar in Cairo. Some Egyptian media outlets stated that authorities in Egypt have ordered the Egyptian air force to prepare for possible attacks in Ethiopia. In response, Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Dina Mufti played down the rhetoric. “It’s a psychological threat persisting from the early time of Egypt's former President Anwar Sadat”  Mr. Mufti added. The Comprehensive Framework Agreement (CFA) signed by the majority of Nile basin African countries has effectively stripped Egypt of its veto rights. However, Egypt has managed to block international funding for Ethiopia’s new development projects, including China, which Meles previously claimed was immune to such lobbying. Sources in Ethiopia say the Meles government has been disappointed with some Chinese officials. Earlier this year, Meles was praising China's and India’s nonpolitical role in Africa as his government saw the growing Asian giants as alternative sources of finance to the WEST.

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