By Bayelegne Yirgu
Tigrai Online March 18, 2013
There are patriotic intellectuals who work day and night with the best interest of their country and their people in mind. They regard knowledge above personal interest.
They labor to find acquire scientific methodologies of inquiry and use them to analyze facts, evaluate the past and give recommendations about the future.
Though they can earn tons of cash being paid per hour and per page, they voluntarily dedicate themselves into raising the awareness of their people, advising their government and defending their national interest in media and in conferences held in foreign countries that we didn't hear about.
There are a number of such patriotic intellectuals supporting their country's right to use Blue Nile, but I will not list their names, because I may forget and disappoint one or two of them. But Ethiopia is indebted to them.
On the other hand, there are opportunist intellectuals who elevate personal interest and vendetta about their motherland. They can't see the difference between their lust for political power and national interest.
They think their personal interest is the center of everything. If their country faces threats from terrorist groups in Somalia, they salivate wishing EPRDF will loose power as a result.
If aid and loans are delayed, they rush to applaud and congratulate without worrying about the poor who would have benefited from it.
They have no free time for their country. For each hour and page, they tax the diaspora, NGOs and foreign embassies.
One of such opportunists is Prof. Al-Mariam (Alemayehu Gebremariam).. His academic papers are on American issues with no relevance to Ethiopia.
The only thing he is willing to contribute to his motherland is promoting extremist propaganda, with pocket money from ESAT, Huffinton Post, and other diaspora websites and also clandestine political financiers.
He never spent a minute defending Ethiopia's right to use the Blue Nile and its peoples hope to scape poverty.
But he spent years begging aides of US Congressmen to impose sanction on Ethiopia, until they got tired of him and started telling him to leave voice message or note with their secretary. Even the only two pro-Eritrean Congressmen who shared his views have either lost the last election or got busy with other issues.
He spend several kilogram ink and paper promoting Human Right Watch's effort to stop international development aid to Ethiopia. Money that is used to support basic services, such as basic education, agricultural extension, etc.
Al-Mariam is the first to support when any international NGO or media denounces any development project in Ethiopia. He denounces government led projects, American & US aid, China & India investments.
Al-Mariam doesn't believe Ethiopian farmers can be productive and feed the country. But he denounces irrigation, private Agricultural investments. When any anti-dam NGO makes a statement, Al-Mariam rushes to endorse and promote it.
Al-Mariam has no principle, except seeking political power and cheap popularity at all costs. When you ask him if has principles, he tells you he was against the online distribution of Mengistu Hailemariams's book. His sense of “intellectualness” blinds him, so he thinks we don't know he was campaigning with Ginbot 7 to blacken the name of EPRP, which stole the book and released it.
Both Al-Mariam and the extremist media ESAT (that he leads with other Dergue cadres like Tamagne Beyene) like to claim now and then that Ethiopia didn't respect the human rights of Al-shabaab soldiers. But they never denounce the dictatorship in Asmara, the increasing danger of terrorism in East Africa, etc.
When Eritrean soldiers attempted a coup d'etat demanding democratic reforms, last January, Al-Mariam and ESAT chose to ignore it. Either because they thought that is good for EPRDF or they worried for the God-father of the diaspora opposition Isaias Afeworki or for both reasons.
Last month, when the issue of Blue Nile became a hot topic, Al-Mariam, ESAT and other extremists were nowhere to be found.
They had convinced themselves and their followers there is no dam to be built. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam is a fake project, don't buy bonds (rather give the money for ESAT), etc. etc.
However, when the Saudi Arabia Defense Minister Khalid bin Sultan made unfriendly statements about the dam project, they could not continue with their deceit.
Many extremists kept silent. Whereas ESAT, after a few days silence, reported it at the end of the news adding that EPRDF is prolonging the dam project.
A dam they said fake is now taking long to be completed. This was a weak move and Al-Mariam knew it and waiting biting his nails and thinking how to profit from it.
For weeks, Prince Khaled's statement was discussed among real Ethiopians. With the analysis from patriotic intellectuals, seasoned diplomats and the statements from Saudi officials, and considering the Prince's habit of making such blunders(he did the same to Turkey), people started to give it less attention and turn to other pressing development issues.
Some supporters of extreme opposition started to say, what other evidence do we need that the dam is real? What will we tell our children if we failed to take part in the grandest project of our generation? In fact, some started criticizing the specifications of the bond (implicitly indicating that they started thinking of buying some and contributing their share).
This was a bad news for the extremist politicians and media. It was obvious the two years mantra is discredited. They can not go on claiming that the Renaissance dam is EPRDF's tactic to stop an imaginary revolution and to collect money.
Therefore, their de-facto ideologue of the opposition Al-Mariam rushed to save the extremists
He had to provide a revised anti-Renaissance dam manifesto. But this time he can not do it by blabbering “it is diversionary, etc”. So, like a real coward he collected the tactics used by anti-Ethiopian elements to intimidate and undermine our morale.
Al-Mariam's rhetoric on the Renaissance dam had five themes.
1/You are poor
Al-Mariam vindictively declares that:
“ the whole “Grand Renaissance Dam” project is being staged in the theatre of the absurd? Is it possible to raise USD$5bn by 2015 from the people of the second poorest country in the world "
God knows which ranking Al-Mariam is using to say Ethiopia is “the second poorest country in the world". But forget the ranking for now, we know we are poor.
That is why the Great Leader Meles Zenawi said during the launch of the dam construction:
" The estimated cost will be 3.3 billion Euros, or 78 billion birr. As we will be financing several other projects in our plan, the expense will be an additional and heavy burden on us. All our efforts to lighten this have been unsuccessful, leaving us with only two options.
Either to abandon the project or do whatever we must to raise the required funds. I have no doubt which of these difficult choices the Ethiopian people will make. No matter how poor we are, in the Ethiopian traditions of resolve, the Ethiopian people will pay any sacrifice. I have no doubt they will, with one voice, say: 'Build the Dam!' "
What new information did Al-Mariam brought us, except for trying to intimidate us by reminding us our poverty?
If he really cared about our financial capacity, he would have looked for some data and learnt that Ethiopia has already raised about 20 billion birr for the dam.
To the contrary, he say "Business and institutions have been forced to buy bonds. The regime’s Diaspora bond sales effort has been a total failure”.
If Al-Mariam really believes that, why is spending long hours and pages to discourage people from buying bond and from supporting the dam?
Al-Mariam has no intellectual interest to get facts and scientifically analyse the prospect of the dam. He didn't even care to check the actual planned date of completion of the dam that he writes as if it is scheduled to “come online in 2015”. The Professor didn't even check Wikipedia be fore writing such a long anti-Ethiopian blabber.
Sadly, what took most of Al-Mariam time is fancying misfortune on his country. He makes an odd claim that:
“The World Bank has publicly stated it will not to fund any new projects on the Nile without Egypt’s approval.”
If you ask him where and when World Bank said that, he would have no answer.
Al-Mariam's ill-wish doesn't end there. He declares Ethiopia have no hope of selling power to her neighbors.
“To add insult to injury, the Meles regime has the gall to say that it intends to sell the power from the "Grand Renaissance Dam" to the Sudan, Egypt and the Arabian peninsula once construction is complete. That is not only nonsensical but downright insane!
Mind you, this is actually Al-Mariam's dream. So far, no Egyptian and Sudanese said that. In fact, Ethiopia has already much progress in its power export plans.
With regard to Sudan, according to the latest news from the Herald:
“The Ethiopian Electric and Power Corporation (EEPCo) announced the launching of electricity supply to neighboring Sudan. CEO Mihret Debeb said that Ethiopia has been testing the power supply tests since the completion of the Ethiopia-Sudan transmission line. The 230kV cross-border transmission line stretches for 296km from Ethiopia to Sudan. Mihret said Sudan is now being provided with 100MW of electricity via the Gedaref-Galabat transmission line which will, in the long-term, enable Khartoum to replace its thermal power generating units with Ethiopia's renewable and clean hydro-power generated energy. According to Mihret, Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir will soon visit Ethiopia to attend the project's official inauguration ceremony.”
Of course, Egypt and Sudan are not the only prospective buyers of Ethiopia's power export. As reported in another featured story:
“The Eastern Africa Power Pool aims to connect the power grids of at least nine countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Djibouti. It may also be extended to northern and southern Africa........
The 283-km Ethiopia-Djibouti transmission line was officially inaugurated in October 2011. The 230-kV line, enabling Djibouti to import up to 60 MW of electricity, is estimated to be earning Ethiopia at least $1.5 million per month, and has eased Djibouti's reliance on fossil-fuel power plants and generators.
The 500-kv transmission line connecting the Kenyan and Ethiopian grids is expected to be completed by the end of 2016 at a cost of up to $1.26 billion. It would make Kenya, which has the region's largest industrial base, the largest buyer of Ethiopian power at an eventual 400 MW, and could allow Ethiopia to export up to 1,600 MW to countries further afield.
In June 2012, EEPCo brokered its fourth power export agreement with the newly independent country of South Sudan, to be undertaken in two phases. South Sudan, which has rich oil reserves, has depended on fossil fuels for its power supply.”
Let's say Al-Mariam didn't hear about these facts? Shouldn't he be researching on how we can sell the power rather than laughing on his motherland?
3/ Egypt & Sudan will be harmed
It seems Al-Mariam was not worrying about Ethiopia as he was busy being more Egyptian than the Egyptian themselves.
Without shame, Al-Mariam argued against Ethiopia's write to use Nile, by copy-pasting claims from Egyptian officials and experts. He boldly argued that the Renaissance dam will be “significantly reduce” water supply and soil fertility in downstream countries. He said:
“There is little doubt that IF the “Grand Renaissance Dam” is completed, it will have a significant long term impact on water supply and availability to the Sudan and Egypt. The general view among the experts is that if the dam is constructed as specified by the regime in Ethiopia, it could result in significant reduction in cultivable agricultural lands and water shortages throughout Egypt. According to Mohamed Nasr El Din Allam, the former Egyptian minster of water and irrigation, if the dam is built “Millions of people would go hungry. There would be water shortages everywhere. It's huge.”
Experts suggest that the water reservoir behind the dam could hold as much as 62bn cubic meters of water; and depending upon seasonal rainfall and the rate at which the reservoir is filled, there could be significant reductions in the flow of water to Egypt and Sudan.”
It is mysterious how Al-Mariam could take such claims by Egyptians as a truth. Of course, they are promoting their national interest, they wish Ethiopia doesn't touch a milliliter water. Which side is he?
Whichever side Al-Mariam may be, let's give him some insight about the misleading alleged problems of water loss and soil fertility by the dam.
Al-Mariam simply claimed the Renaissance dam will have “significant impact on Egypt water supply”. But what does significant mean?
Of course, there will be evaporative loss of water, as it is the case with any dam. And, Al-Mariam didn't say he is against all dams. Therefore, it is necessary to see the evaporative loss from the Renaissance dam in context.
The estimated rate of evaporation loss from the Renaissance dam's reservoir is around1.7 billion cubic meters (bmc) per year, whereas the evaporative loss from the Egyptian High Aswan dam is around 10-15 bmc per year!
This is because the topography of the Renaissance dam's location and the fact that the reservoir is to be built in a deep gorge minimizing the water's direct exposure to sunlight (or smaller surface/volume ratio).
Thus, if the more than 200 million people living in Nile Basin are to benefit from hydro-power, it is a dam in Ethiopian highlands that incurs the least possible evaporative loss.
Al-Mariam's worry that Egypt & Sudan will suffer from significant reduction of cultivable land is, in simple words, meant to say that the dam's reservoir will retain silt, soil nutrients and sediment that Blue Nile used to take downstream every year.
Imagine an Ethiopian making this argument? However, the claim is unconvincing no matter who makes it.
Firstly, the current level of soil nutrients transported downstream by Blue Nile is not completely a natural one. Without a need to bring historic data, a reader can easily understand that deforestation and poor conservation works in Ethiopian highlands take the lion share for the matter. Therefore, improvement in such areas, even without any dam, will certainly decrease the amount of nutrients and sediment transported. Will Al-Mariam object conservation works as well?
Second, it is obvious that any man-made construction will have impact on an environmental status quo. Thus, the necessary mitigating measures have to be taken. If the Renaissance dam “could result in significant reduction in cultivable agricultural lands”, then Sudan and Egypt will have to seriously engage in watershed management and conservation works to compensate the impact. There is no free lunch.
Thirdly, Egypt and Sudan never managed to make a good use of the silt transported by Blue Nile to date. To the contrary, Sudan's Roseires dam is already incapacitated by the level of Silt accumulated, while the Aswan dam is heading in that direction.
Al-Mariam's claim that the Renaissance dam reservoir will result “significant reductions in the flow of water to Egypt and Sudan” is utterly non-factual and misleading.
In reality, initial designs of the reservoir anticipate the reservoir will be filled up in a period of at-least 72 months. While a longer time span is noted as contingency, where it is found necessary due to climatic factors, downstream impact and the like.
4/ Watch out, Meles will be glorified.
Depressingly, all Al-Mariam's talks are a cover up to his real problem. That is his hate for Meles and his legacy.He revealed his malicious spirit by saying:
“this Dam is a vanity make-believe project partly intended to glorify Meles and magnify his international prestige”
“Meles will never have a cement monument built on the Nile to celebrate his life. ”What a sad mindset? Some intellectuals effort to advance their country's interest, other dream its failure. It is this mindset that incentivises Al-Mariam co. to sleep in bed with anyone from Asmara to Mogadishu.