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The Fight for the GERD (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam) – Remarks of Mahder Serekberhan – February 19, 2021

February 22, 2021

Nile River Basin

Full Program on YouTube

The Fight for the GERD – a Zoom Panel discussion, sponsored by WAAS – Women of Africa Alliance for Solutions. February 19, 2021

As the conditions of the people of Africa deteriorate it is urgent that there is a pan African cooperation beyond borders to insure that the projects for dams and electrification meet the needs of the working poor. That is why any project on the Nile requires cooperation between borders of any one state in the Nile Valley. The technical questions and as well as the hydrological issues need to be discussed at all levels and not simply with specialists which why I really want to thank Mamay (Worku) for organizing this discussion.

Mahder Serekberhan

Introductions by Mamay Worku, co-Chair of the Ethiopian Public Diplomacy Task Force, active in Colorado’s Ethiopian Community.

Mamay Worku introduces Mahder Serekberhan and Rob Prince

Mahder Serekberhana Master of Arts Student at Syracuse University finishing her thesis on the 2019 Sudanese Uprising. Her research includes African social movements and Womens’ Movements and the African approach to democratization, the Sudanese approach to the mobilization and African political and transformational organization. An active member of the Pan African Congress – North American Delegation. President – Syracuse University African Students Network.

Mahder Serekberhan: Thank you Mamay so much for organizing this discussion and for inviting me.

Professor Prince it is also a pleasure to be speaking alongside you and thank you Rohuma and everyone else who is participating tonight.

I want to start by emphasizing the historical centrality of the Nile for all the Nile countries but especially for Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. Egyptian civilization was literally built on and around the Nile River. Similarly Sudanese local political and economic history is deeply tied to the Nile.

Today more than 90% of Egyptians live along the Nile or in its delta and the river provides nearly all of their water. Sudan, having intense cultivation on either side, the Nile has served as a source of life for Sudanese farming and pastoral communities. It has also attracted colonial and large state economic projects such as the Gezira Project.

Of course from the numerous songs in Ethiopia, the Nile’s significance in the nation’s collective heart cannot be denied. Ethiopia is the source of the Blue Nile – the largest tributary of the Nile River – which also consists of 86% of the water reaching Egypt.

We are now at a stage where Haili Selassi’s vision of a dam is becoming a reality.

It was around the 1950s and 1960s when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation conducted a study on the utilization of the Blue Nile Water’s and that is when it was decided that these projects would be undertaken. Due to constraints also faced by the Dergue Regime, funding, civil unrest did not result in the project being realized until now.

As Professor Prince mentioned it’s in 2011 that the dam started being built.

Shortly before that, in 2010, a study of the Nile Basin Initiative – an intergovernmental partnership formed in 1999 conducted how Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan can plan for multi-purpose joint projects on the Nile. After failed negotiations and lack of cooperation in 2011 the Ethiopian government decided to pursue the project on its own.

I am no engineer, but let me just start with a few useful facts about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

∙ The GERD is a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River of Ethiopia. It is located as Dr. Prince mentioned in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia in a place called Guba which is less than 50 kilometers from Sudan.

∙ The dam has 74 billion cubic meters storage capacity and about 60 billion cubic meter live storage and is expected to generate 6000 megawatts of electricity

∙ On average Ethiopia’s current annual electrical production is about 4000 megawatts so the GERD would provide an extra 6000 megawatts of energy annually

∙ With ten Nile Basin countries which include Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, GERD becomes an opportunity to chart new directions of African development and deal with the impact of climate change on the continent.

∙ Currently Africa generates 4% of global electricity. And a report from the World Bank reveals that close to 72% of South Sudanese, 75% of Somalis, 25% of Kenyans, 40 of Djiboutians, 85% of people in Somaliland – and I can continue…

But the fact is that all these people depend upon firewood and animal dung to provide themselves with heat for cooking and light.

So we have some very obvious shared issues like the survival of our people and the development of our region.

From 40-80% of Africans that live along the Nile Basin depend on deforesting and labor intensive means to access electricity.

The GERD becomes an opportunity to change this

More importantly we are faced with draught-famine patterns that threaten peoples’ livelihood and existence.

I was reading a report yesterday that from March to May 2020-2021 that there will be unexpected humidity levels in the region that can contribute to harvest issues, locust and even exacerbate COVID-19. I don’t know if any of you have followed it, but in Sudan seasonal floods destroyed over 100,000 homes and affected more than 600,000 people across 17 of the country’s 18 states.

I could go on but the main point is that the potential to alleviate some of these shared issues is central to why I support the project.

As the conditions of the people of Africa deteriorate it is urgent that there is a pan African cooperation beyond borders to insure that the projects for dams and electrification meet the needs of the working poor. That is why any project on the Nile requires cooperation between borders of any one state in the Nile Valley. The technical questions and as well as the hydrological issues need to be discussed at all levels and not simply with specialists which why I really want to thank Mamay (Worku) for organizing this discussion.

The peoples of Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan need to be engaged beyond their political leaders, especially considering the continuing struggle of peoples in each of these countries. Those who use military power to accumulate wealth will militarize differences instead of working slowly to build a better understanding of the required steps needed to enhance our cooperation.

So with the increased impact of climate change, population increase, water demand in the region, issues of water allocation utilization and management of trans boundaries requires Pan African engagement at the grassroots, especially among progressive intellectuals, technicians, that can insure that the project for reconstruction will be supported by people beyond a particular order of the country in which the dam will be constructed.

Generally that is where I stand and thank you once again everybody for being here.

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