I am for the completion of the Renaissance Dam

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Since President Obama opted to travel to Ethiopia despite a vociferous opposition, the Ethiopian people need to get some benefit out of it, the completion of the Abay Dam. There has been a lot of back and forth between supporters of the Abay or Renaissance Dam and those opposed to it on technical and economic reasons. My initial opposition was solely based on economic reason, which rests on the concept of efficient allocation of a scare resource, capital. I would have preferred smaller dams to be used for both irrigation and power and away from harm from neighboring countries.

In 2005, Meles cornered by stolen election and loss of face with the Ethiopian electrets started on a whim the Abay or Renaissance Dam, war with Somalia and fear mongering with Eritrea.  The dam is being built with blood, sweat and tears of poor Ethiopians. In 2014, President Obama announced a $12 Billion new aid to Africa for power projects.  It is time that President Obama did something significant to leave a last legacy in Africa by helping Ethiopia complete this project through his energy initiative.

Ethiopia has done most of the leg work and almost 50% of the dam is completed. President Obama can help Ethiopia finish it. I would recommend that the dam be called Obama Dam. This complex dam and one of the largest in Africa will bear Obama’s name for ever to eclipse other American president including George Bush, who is highly regarded.

It is a great burden for the Ethiopian people to finance it on their own. Poor workers, farmers, and business are forced to fork out part of their hard earned salary to finance huge undertaking for a country with limited resources and capital. Banks are forced to use 27% of their available funds to buy Abay bonds for a slim 5% return, which is not at all guaranteed. Worse by the time they get their principal, inflation would have eaten most of it.

When the project started, Ethiopia was slated to spend close to one year of its budget to build the dam. If the U.S. were to undertake a similar task it will be equivalent to $3.7 trillion dollar. Can you imagine the U.S. undertaking a project of this size for any reason? Or can you imagine such an investment at a whim by any President or Congress in any country.  Meles after an election fiasco and fall out with his TPLF members decided to win over mostly the nationalist or more anti Arab, anti Muslim, anti Eritrean forces in Ethiopia. During this time, he started playing anti-Somali, anti-Muslim, anti-Eritrean card by telling Ethiopians that the country is under threat from all sides. As far as starting to build the dam, he defied Egypt and Sudanese threat, where no previous leader dared to do. This was done to raise his profile, and to win among conservative Ethiopians, not to help or develop Ethiopia. Now, it is too late to go back, so we have to finish it with the help of President Obama.

Despite, Meles’ design; many Ethiopians want the Abay Dam finished and get it over with. They are tired of paying for it, while they have little or nothing to live on based on their meager income, as most Ethiopians are employed in the public sector. Ethiopia’s private sector is in infancy, as the government overwhelmingly owns most of the productive assets land, telecommunication, utilities, and other assets.

I believe Obama wants to visit Ethiopia because it is the seat of the OAU, UN, and he finds Ethiopia like Mandela an alluring place to visit, like a pilgrimage to holy place.  Ethiopia provokes pride, great legacy for most educated Africans and African-Americans with its rich and long history, written alphabet, language, independence from European occupation, as the land of Lucy, and great architecture versus the dark and savagery image of Africa, conjured by the West.

America’s investment will serve also as a deterrent for future Egyptian regime from attacking or trying to destroy the Abay or Obama dam for any reason. With billions of American stock pile of weapons, Egypt has the capacity to do serious damage on Ethiopia and on the dam anytime it wishes. Using its F-16C planes from it Aswan base, Egypt can send AGM-158 JASSM cruise missiles and hit the dam with an accuracy of 8 feet and destroy it anytime. In addition, Egypt is setting up satellite states such as Eritrea, S. Sudan and even Djibouti in order to encircle Ethiopia. When Egypt gets its house in order and deals with the Muslim Brotherhood it will start looking outside and the Abay problem may surface again.

According to documents released by Wiki Leaks  in September, 2012,  the Egyptian and Sudanese governments had planned to attack the Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia and some Egyptian legislatures were supporting  others hostile and clandestine operations, like planting false propaganda, arming rebels groups and instructing Egyptian spies to simply destroy the dam altogether. In light of these revelations, as Ethiopians, we have to coalesce given the outside potential threat.

Meles like any dictator had undertaken some good projects such as the expansion of schools, clinics and some bad ones with potentially low return on investment (ROI). Such projects include a wind Turbine ($220 million Euro), the Tekeze hydroelectric dam ($360 million dollars) with dwindling water supply, planned railroad from Djibouti to Mekele and the Abay dam. The most important economic tool, efficient allocation of scare resources, such as capital, was not taken into consideration in some of these cases.

I have been an opponent of the dam for economic reason, because such a mega project takes too much time and too many resources. According to recent reports, most of such mega dams are a failure in terms of return on investment and environmentally. However, now Meles, the mischief maker is gone and Ethiopia is left with the bag.  Meles may have started to build the dam to save his skin and to win over the nationalist forces and to reduce his paranoid view of the Ethiopian people. He has also put Ethiopia at risk of going to war with neighboring countries.

It is time Ethiopians of all stripes should  join hands and complete the project, given that the Ethiopian people with great sacrifice so far successfully completed half of the construction.  Let us also hope President Obama, to leave a lasting legacy and to lift this financial burden from the Ethiopian people will throw in his support for the completion of the dam.




Post Title: I am for the completion of the Renaissance Dam
Author: dula
Posted: 19th July 2015
Filed As: Events
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