Ethiopia Celebrates completion of the first phase of the GERD

5 Aug 2020

A key historical moment was celebrated when the first-year filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was achieved, with no effect at all on the downstream flow of the Nile River, or the ‘Abay’ as it is known in Ethiopia. The filling of the Dam was made possible by a particularly heavy rainy season, which is ongoing.

The news was announced on 19th July and brought joy and a great sense of satisfaction to Ethiopians, from rich to relatively poor, most of whom had contributed to the construction of the Dam, according to their means, by investing in Bonds. Senior government officials congratulated the public on their invaluable contribution and spoke of the transformative nature of the GERD.

This satellite image shows the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on 28th July.

President Sahle Work Zewde commented that July 19, 2020 will forever remain an historic day for Ethiopia and Ethiopians. “Congratulations! she said. “We are translating our dreams into reality.” She recalled that generations of Ethiopians and former leaders had sought to utilize the Nile waters but failed because of “innumerable obstacles”. “Despite failures,” she said, “they were rightfully hopeful that future generations of Ethiopians will one day build a dam on the river.

The current generation has fulfilled the dreams of its forefathers. Those who were doubtful have seen the results today. As long as we utilize our resources and potential with unity and commitment, nothing would be impossible to achieve.”

The President added, “Our utilization of the Nile waters creates an opportunity to further strengthen cross-border relations among neighbouring countries. The development of the dam has reached a point of no return, a triumph for all stakeholders who have been trying hard to build peace and ensure security in the region.” The president concluded, “We should not forget that we have a lot to do to achieve our dreams of development. Let us think big and aim to reach the stars. No challenge stands for long if we are united and work together.”

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said:

“Ethiopians have proved that they know how to execute nationally focused projects. I think the world will surely understand that the dam is a turning point for Ethiopia’s move towards standing on its own two feet and beating poverty.”

The Prime Minister stressed that “the dam will benefit the lower riparian countries, and Ethiopia has no intention of harming Sudan and Egypt during the construction and operation of the dam.” He extended his gratitude to the millions who had raised funds and to those who had participated in negotiations. The PM also praised former Ethiopian Prime Ministers for their contribution to the success of the dam.

Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Dr Seleshi Bekele, was also among the first government officials to congratulate Ethiopians. “The first phase of the filling of the Dam was successfully completed, letting the reservoir hold the required 4.9 billion cubic metres of water that flows from the top of the dam. This was achieved without interrupting the continuous flow of water to the lower basin, and is a major milestone that will enable us to generate two turbines next year.”

On 2nd August, Ethiopians at home and abroad voiced their support to the GERD at events held under the theme, “Our Voice for Our Dam”. Thousands flooded the streets of Addis Ababa dressed in national dress, waving Ethiopia’s flag and holding up banners. People in cars honked their horns, others played loud music, and danced in public spaces to mark the occasion. Similar events were held in other cities in Ethiopia.

Ethiopians celebrate the first filling of the GERD in Addis Ababa. Photo credit: Abinet Teshome

Speaking on the occasion, Deputy Prime Minister, Demeke Mekonnen, called on the public to rally behind the dam and support the completion of its construction.

“Today is a date in which we celebrate the beginning of the final chapter in our dam’s construction…We want the construction to be completed soon and begin solving our problems once and for all.”

Here in London, diplomats and staff joined the merriment at an event on 3rd August.

Speaking on the occasion, Deputy Head of Mission, Amb. Ababi Demissie, noted the momentous achievement and thanked Embassy staff for their commitment and contribution towards the GERD. He also appreciated the Diaspora’s support, dedication and contribution towards the construction of the Dam.

Urging them to stand together for Ethiopia’s principled stand over the construction of the Dam, he added “I look forward to seeing the final conclusion of the GERD, which will benefit millions of Ethiopians and people in the wider region.”

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