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GERD Filling Up: Ethiopia must celebrate the late PM Meles Zenawi

Yohannes Aberra, PhD
July 23, 2020

The somber mood  induced by the Corona pandemic and the tragic violence of the past week has been brightened by the news of the start of the filling up of the GERD. Every time some significant milestone is reached that could elevate Ethiopia our attention is normally focused on who were the initiators and leaders whose dedication was instrumental for the great achievement.

We celebrate Tewodros II not because he was an angel but whatever bad things he did he united Ethiopia and sacrificed his life for Ethiopia’s honor. Yohannes IV had also his own share of vice but we celebrate the great role he played in National defense. Menilik II is also blamed by many for atrocities but he gave us the large Nation that we are proud of. Haileselassie I was a modernizer and the father of Africa. We don’t need to curse him for the serfdom that he allowed to prevail and abandoning Ethiopia during Italian occupation. Mengistu was a blood thirsty tyrant but he ended serfdom and defended Ethiopia against Somalian invasion.

Next in the line is Meles Zenawi. He is cursed for “giving out” Eritrea,  for turning blind eye to rampant corruption and bad governance in the EPRDF. It is unfair to allow double standards creep into our judgments when it comes to the role played by Meles Zenawi to break the “Nile spell” over Ethiopia by boldly starting the construction of the GERD. Even Afework Gebreyesus was being celebrated as the first to write a novel in Amharic by a certain FM radio broadcast last week. The FM was at the same time telling the public that Afework was a Banda serving Italians against Ethiopian patriots. He also foul-mouthed the north. As a person whose maternal grandfather was killed by Italians I could bear grudges on Afework. However, I feel that his contribution to literature should not be obliterated by his betrayal of Ethiopia in bad times.

Meles Zenawi invented GERD like Thomas Edison who created the light bulb. The bulb created by Thomas Edison is inferior to the high tech light bulbs of today, but creating is harder than improving. Many past leaders of Ethiopia may have dreamt of a GERD as many scientists before Thomas have dreamt to replace  candle light. Fate was on the side of Meles to realize that dream of generations as it was for Thomas Edison. How do we celebrate Meles Zenawi? I have to inseparable proposals: 1. To name the GERD reservoir as “Lake Meles”; 2. Include his name in the history curriculum.

If we fail to celebrate heroes that have toiled and boiled for Ethiopia we will never have heroes in the future. If our criterion for judging heroism has conflicting indicators we will never have heroes in common. A Country with shared heroes is a Country that would endure. If a hero for one is a villain for the other this is a recipe for disintegration.     


Editor’s note : views in the article reflect the views of the writer, not the views of borkena.com

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  1. God bless you sir
    this is the right thing that we have to do.I condemn ESAT the terrorists who do not shy to say that the GERD is built by emperor hailesilasie

  2. This is a well balanced opinion piece. Even though Meles is instrumental in the synthesis of the curse of ethnic federalism, Meles’ contribution in the planning and development GERD is second to none.
    Some even claim that he paid the ultimate sacrifice and died for it. His untimely death through radiation poisoning is the work of our eternal enemy the Arab Republic of Egypt. We should show our respect, thanks and gratitude for his role in Ethiopia finally realising the dream of taming the Abbay. He deserves to be remembered and appreciated by generation to come for his contribution. Even though he started of as an ardent anti-Ethiopian in his formative years (starting from the Wingate riots, those old Wingaters would probably remember his role in the riots), towards the end of his life he was showing traits of a true Ethiopian. I totally agree that it would be a great gesture from Ethiopians to name the great GERD lake after Meles. Let us also not forget that great Engineer Simegnew Bekele. It would be great if one of the wings of the power plant is named after Engineer Simegnew Bekele.

  3. We should adopt a culture of giving credit for one who deserve it. The late PM Meles Zenawi definitely deserves much credit for starting the GERD.

  4. edison DID NOT invent anything…ever!

    he lied, stole & literally had hit men stop anyone in competion to his company or he would use his legal & political backers to force them to surrender patents to his own company

    the writer seems to be an apologist for the low life traitors that have kept this great nation behind. even behind the least civilised countries of Africa & the world.

    the writer may have a Ph D, but theorectical acedemic knowledge is nothing if you don’t live in the true world. you will find that no book will teach you anything about what the world is all about & how it works.

    pls don’t try to impose your so-called higher learning to rewrite your version of history. the people know their history & what has happened. neither you nor your circle of like minded “educated” self indulgent apologists can change that.

  5. Hi Bornfree. I’m with you!

    Hi Yohannes

    The annoying suggestion is in the title – “Ethiopia must celebrate Meles..”? wow! Come of it! As if Ethiopia is devoid of heroes and heroic achievements. You try to look objective and balanced but your main message is in the title. I, for one, say NO!

    By the way, can you enlighten us on the widely held belief that, when the time is right, ‘Greater Tigrai’ would incorporate Benshangul Gumuz, among other regions. It is claimed that that is according to the grand design of the TPLF.

    Sorry. that is a pipe-dream now, but some say Meles’ enthusiasm for the dam was just because of this grand design.

    You seem to be in the know; so please comment.

  6. I respectfully disagree.

    Harnessing Abay by building a dam is the combined dream and sacrifice of generations of Ethiopians going back to Emperor Haile Selassie and beyond. Look no futher than what is depicted on the Ethiopian birr at the time. If anything the lake and the dam should pay tribute to the entire Ethiopian people as a collective. Something like “Renaissance Lake” make better sense to me… not only to honor the thoughts and strategy of the generation who oversaw the building of the dam but to underscore the need for continuous renaissance to propel our people forwards. Meles does deserve recognition but I think a plaque at the lake will suffice for him. He is and will continue to be a very polarizing figure in Ethiopian peoples psyche for some time. Never mind “giving out” Eritrea and the Port of Assab without due process that comprehends the interests of the Ethiopian people which is a huge deal. Meles had a perfect opportunity to shape a better Ethiopia for all Ethiopians alike. Yet he chose a path of hatred against a particular group, ethnic antagonism and divisive politics to serve his own skin and that of his mafia group (I do not include the gallant people of Tigray – one of the crucibles of the Ethiopian nation here). It is an undeniable fact that Meles oppressed, killed, looted and destroyed the lives of other ethnic group while he was in charge.

  7. I often wonder where individuals like the writer of this article went to school. “Meles Zenawi invented GERD like Thomas Edison?” Imagine comparing a scientist with an autodidact. The difference between Meles and all who preceded him is that Meles was against Ethiopia as a unifying ideal. Another point the writer of this article conveniently leaves out is that the hydro dam was the brainchild of Emperor Haileselassie. Meles only took up the project (that Mengistu also did In 1976) in 2011 after he realized his end was near and wanted to make a name for himself. He died in 2012.

    I still agree Meles should not be forgotten from our history. Future generations should remember him for introducing destructive ethnic politics as federalism and for his incompetence in not arranging an orderly transition.

    Finally, Meles had a diabolical plan to connect Benisgangul-Gumuz to Tigray on the western corridor and control the hydro power generation. It was to that end that Tigray schools were using a textbook with a greater Tigray map that was discovered in 2008! Just one among many examples of Meles’s betrayal of Ethiopia’ s long term interests.

  8. Bornfree

    I do agree with you. I personally dont care wether he started GERD or even of he died of it.

    Tell it to the thousand of mothers who lost their sons and daughters at the hand of meles cronies. He was nothing but brutal dictator who invoked fear into the hearts of milllions.

    We create new dictators because we easily forgive the past dictators.
    He developed tigray and marginalized the rest. He ruled by inciting animosity between communities.
    He tortured dissident and some disappeared for good.
    He stole millions and died a billionaire
    His corrupted wife is a millionaire.

    Abiy Ahmed is tough with protesters with sticks and stones and yet he cant show his toughness and bring back the money and wealth from those cronies from the north.

    The wealth belongs to Ethiopia not to tigrai


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