Ethiopia’s need is to develop and prosper, not to cause harm

13 Jun 2020

Wednesday, 10th June 2020

Letter to the Editor, BBC Africa Live

Your BBC Africa Live post “Ethiopia PM defends dam: ‘We are tired of begging” of 9th June 2020 is highly misleading and contains a wrongly-translated quote that could be misconstrued and damage the current negotiations for a win-win agreement between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan.

The Prime Minister said Ethiopia does not have a history of causing harm to others and Ethiopia’s only need is to develop and prosper. This was not made clear in the BBC Africa Live post, and subsequent social media posts, which have since been taken down – Nobel laureate Abiy Ahmed has told parliament that Ethiopia is “tired of begging” Egypt and Sudan over completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Nile River.”

To put this in context, the Prime Minister, in his address to Parliament on Monday 8th June 2020, explained the reason why Ethiopia is building the Dam:

He said, “our need is development and prosperity, which is an existential priority for Ethiopia, because we are tired of begging for wheat, we are tired of knocking on the doors of other countries in order to address the emergency of humanitarian aid. We want to stop begging. But Ethiopia has no ill intentions towards neighbouring countries. As you all know, Ethiopia, with a population of over 100 million, has no access to seas and oceans or to ports, rather it is a landlocked country. We need the international community to understand this reality.”

The Premier added, “over 50 million Ethiopians have no clean drinking water and electricity in this, the 21stcentury. As a result, almost two thirds of school children in Ethiopia remain in darkness and millions of women still trek long distances to fetch water and firewood, whereas 98% of Egyptians have drinking water as well as electricity. Thus, the aim of constructing the GERD is to ensure Ethiopia’s energy security, alleviate abject poverty and meet the needs and sustain the livelihoods of millions of Ethiopians, which are basic rights.”

“With 70% of productive youth in Ethiopia, we want to grow and develop, and our neighbouring countries can help us, they should, at the very least, not present obstacles. There are those who do not recognize our basic development rights of lifting millions out of extreme poverty, we find this hard to accept. Developed nations call on us to emerge from poverty and begging. We do want to overcome poverty and that is why we planted four billion trees last year, and this year we intend to plant five billion more trees. With similar afforestation and natural conservation efforts our neighbours can join us in common goals. These actions will enrich the sources of the Nile and ensure sustainability.”

“Therefore, our ambition is to promote prosperity and sustainable environmental protection, whereby no one can stop Ethiopia from alleviating the misery of our people.”

The Premier stressed that upon completion, the GERD will be of pivotal importance to Egypt, Sudan and the entire African continent. To this end, he concluded that “negotiations have reached the final phase and Ethiopia remains dedicated to the success of them for our mutual benefit.”

Ethiopia has always been a staunch believer in open and constructive dialogue and will continue to be so. Any outstanding issues will be addressed together with Egypt and Sudan, once negotiations resume this week.

Given the enormous influence that comes with your name [as in the BBC], this kind of reporting is unacceptable, so I would appreciate a speedy amendment to your post to reflect the correct statement.


Ababi Demissie
Charge d’Affaires a.i.
Deputy Head of Mission



Friday 12th June 2020: BBC News Website: Africa Live page, 9 June 2020

An earlier entry on the live page wrongly reported Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as telling parliament that Ethiopia was “tired of begging” Egypt and Sudan over completion of the Grand Renaissance Dam on the Nile River.

He was actually quoted by the Ethiopian News Agency as saying: “We are tired of begging and the desire to develop does not mean we have intentions to harm other countries”.

We would like to apologise for the error, which was due to a misinterpretation of these comments and which has since been corrected on the page and in corresponding social media posts.

Source: BBC – Corrections and Clarifications

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