c) In a brazen defiance of Ethiopian patriotism, the TPLF government and its former leader desecrated the flag of the nation, and have selfishly and callously parceled out fertile agricultural lands to foreigners, in the process forcefully dislocating the poor and defenseless people from their ancestral homes without any compensation. To the chagrin of the millions of Ethiopians who are helplessly watching as their country is being auctioned, these ruthless dictators have shamelessly ceded to Sudan, as down payment for support against any future threat by oppressed people, the country’s cherished territory that our forefathers had protected for centuries with blood and sweat. No government that builds a dam with a true intention of promoting the long-term interest of the country it rules would sell to foreigners ancestral lands at dirt cheap prices or give away territory to neighboring countries to protect it against its own people.
d) Following the May 2005 elections, in which the people overwhelmingly rejected the TPLF and its vile policies, the regime unabashedly transformed itself into a police state, unseen since the fall of the Iron Curtain, and viciously denied Ethiopians their basic human rights. It controls every aspect of life in the nation through an iron fist and enormously expensive security apparatus, and has clamped down on any credible opposition to its domination. It keeps behind bars journalists in the likes Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu; incarcerates and harasses peaceful human rights activists and political leaders, including Andualem Andargie and Bekele Garba; and ruthlessly massacres innocent civilians in every part of the country.
It is beyond rational limits of tolerance and naiveté to deny the veracity of the above and attempt to give these deceitful dictators the benefit of the doubt about their hidden agenda surrounding the dam. The TPLF, besides the political gains it is drawing from this project, is purely interested in the GERD for a starkly clear economic boon it will be enjoying from the dam during and after its shoddy completion.
As is widely reported, all the major sub-contractors of the GERD are TPLF owned or business enterprises affiliated with the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), including Mesfin Industrial Engineering (MIE), SUR Construction PLC, and Messebo Building Materials Production PLC — the three largest domestic companies that are supplying most of the construction materials including metal, cement and labor.
SUR Construction PLC is established by EFFORT in 1992 with an initial capital of Birr 108 million as a General Contractor. Since its establishment, the company has been awarded more than 31 road projects, over 44 various building contracts, as well as 2 airfield and 2 hydropower projects. The total worth of those projects to date is more than Birr 8 billion, and the company reportedly owns about 1,100 heavy and light duty pieces of construction machinery and plants with over 2,200 permanent and contract employees and about 6,000 daily laborers. SUR has its own six storey head office building in Addis Ababa and a modern workshop and training center at the branch office in Mekelle. Currently, SUR is executing 7 projects all over the country worth in excess of Birr 7 billion and has achieved an annual turnover of more than Birr 1 Billion. Messebo Building Material Production PLC (MBMP PLC) is one of the EFFORT group companies, located in Mekelle, and has an investment capital of about Birr 2 billion. The third company, Mesfin Industrial Engineering PLC (MIE), also affiliated with the TPLF, is the leading equipment manufacturing company in East Africa. A wide range of products is manufactured at its industrial complex, which is fully equipped with the state-of-the art machinery. It designs, manufactures and installs equipment and components for the energy, mining, manufacturing, construction, mining and agricultural sectors.
These are but three of the TPLF companies, established by the money stolen from the coffers of Ethiopia, that are the ultimate beneficiaries of the GERD and that will continue to pilfer the hard earned money of the people.
Even in the unlikely scenario that the economic, social, environmental, ecological and technical shortcomings of the GERD are mitigated, and the dam turns out to be profitable, there is no uncertainty that it is the same corrupt group that will collect, control and disburse the money, and use it either to deposit in foreign bank accounts or to strengthen its grip on power. The people of Ethiopia have never had any means of controlling the activities of this illegitimate regime ever since it came to power in 1991, or to hold it transparent and accountable in its handling of the money and resources of the nation. To this day, the government has not even responded to a report of the Global Financial Integrity which uncovered that the leaders have illicitly taken over US $12 billion out of the country!
As elucidated in this piece, the TPLF regime does not have the track record or the moral eminence to be trusted with a project of the magnitude, national symbolism and economic significance of the GERD. A regime that is guided by a philosophy of anti-Ethiopian unity, inter-ethnic animosity, corruption and repression, cannot embark on a project with the long-term interest of the nation at heart. This is a group that has much blood of innocent people on its hands; dehumanized Ethiopians and dishonored their pride in their heritage; and pauperized the people and subjected them to untold misery, poverty and hopelessness. It is an aberrant variety of despotism that has poisoned the political climate, and created a future very much imbued with uncertainty and tribulation.
Ironically, a country that has been defended heroically by its valiant sons and daughters against waves of external aggressors over the centuries, has now, for the first time in its illustrious history, found itself vulnerable and unable to repel the insidious assault on its survival by internal enemies. As the government in power promotes genocidal policies, tearing apart the national fabric, the seeds of extremism and ethnic clashes are chillingly sprouting across the land.
Sadly, intellectuals and professionals who have the sacred duty of standing on the side of justice for the oppressed and challenging the disastrous schemes of the illegitimate regime, instead appear to be succumbing to the allure of the TPLF propaganda machinery and becoming instruments of repression. Health professionals in the Diaspora, who were educated at the expense of the lowly poor back home, are seen as they nauseatingly compete amongst each other, notwithstanding the hippocratic oath of do-no-harm they solemnly vowed, to curry favor with the regime. Professors of all disciplines from major learning institutions are observed as they insolently flock to Mekele and other visible places to get the attentions of the repressive rulers. Avaricious businessmen and entrepreneurs too eager to have a share in a proportion of the loot that trickles down to lackeys, flagrantly kowtow to the will of conniving TPLF cadres, contributing to the repressive machinery with kickbacks and bribes.
Indubitably, the GERD is but a smokescreen for the continuation of the discredited agenda of the TPLF and Meles Zenawi to destroy Ethiopia as a nation, and, hence, should be relentlessly and vehemently scrutinized, and its oversight and operation immediately handed to independent Ethiopian experts in the profession. This is a generation that has the most sacrosanct responsibility to stand up to TPLF’s aggression against Ethiopia’s survival, and ensure passing to posterity the glorious heritage handed to it by our forefathers. Therefore, as I conclude my piece on the GERD, I leave my fellow countrymen and erudite citizens back home and in the Diaspora, who refuse to see the crimes being committed by the TPLF regime in power, with the following immortal words of Mahatma Gandhi:
“There are Seven Deadly Social Sins:
Politics without principle.
Wealth without work.
Commerce without morality.
Pleasure without conscience.
Education without character.
Science without humility.
Worship without sacrifice.”
And, to the TPLF leaders who are blinded with a false sense of invincibility, may the foreboding words of Frederick Douglass serve as a wake-up call:
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
Ethiopia shall prevail!
(The author, Dr Getachew Begashaw, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)