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Why Ethiopia is grieving 'hero' dam engineer Simegnew Bekele

In this file photo taken on March 31, 2015 Chief Engineer Simegnew Bekele poses during a tour of the Grand Renaissance Dam under construction near the Sudanese-Ethiopian border.

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The dying of Simegnew Bekele, the undertaking supervisor of the multi-billion-dollar Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, has been met by an outpouring of grief in Ethiopia.

Condolences flooded social media from journalists, businessmen lecturers, ambassadors and even flag-carrying Ethiopian Airways after it was reported that Mr Simegnew’s physique was present in a automobile within the capital, Addis Ababa, on Thursday.

The police are investigating the circumstances of his dying. He died because of a bullet wound and a hand gun was present in his automobile, which was parked in Meskel Sq. within the metropolis centre.

By the afternoon, lots of had taken to the streets within the capital, in addition to Mr Simegnew’s hometown of Gondar, with protesters demanding “justice” for the late engineer.

To grasp why a undertaking supervisor has managed to elicit such shock and widespread mourning – usually seen in different nations after the dying of royalty, celebrities or politicians – one has to take a look at what the Grand Ethiopian Dam has come to characterize.

‘Patriotic ambitions’

Straddling The Nile, the dam has been referred to as probably the most formidable infrastructure tasks ever achieved on the continent. As soon as constructed, the 1.8km (1.1 mile) broad and 155m (500ft 5in) excessive dam will triple the nation’s electrical energy manufacturing.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is ready to be Africa’s greatest hydropower plant, is considered one of various large-scale infrastructure tasks that hopes to place Ethiopia on track to change into a middle-income nation by 2025.

Its scale and potential has introduced uncommon unity within the nation, which has confronted political and ethnic strife through the years, Beletu Bulbula Sorsu, editor of BBC’s Afaan Oromo Service, says.

“The undertaking unites Ethiopians,” she says.

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The authorities says Mr Simegnew goes to get a funeral “a nationwide hero deserves”

Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Africa correspondent for the Wall Avenue Journal who knew Mr Simegnew, says he has come to characterize these patriotic ambitions.

“He was somebody who was extraordinarily patriotic and had devoted his life to the betterment of his nation,” she instructed the BBC’S Concentrate on Africa radio programme.

“He appeared to have devoted his complete life to Ethiopia’s future by contributing what he may, which was his engineering abilities.”

Not a ‘massive man’

The 53-year-old gained his diploma in civil engineering from Addis Ababa College and went on to to steer two different dam tasks – Gilgel Gibe I and Gilgel Gibe II dams.

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The brand new dam will regulate the circulation of the Nile

He got here to the general public’s consideration in 2011, when he was put answerable for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Ms Beletu says he was often interviewed by the press and was broadly perceived as being uncorrupted, modest and accessible.

“He was not a ‘massive man,'” she says of Mr Simegnew’s trustworthy nature.

“He behaved as if he was one of many the labourers engaged on the undertaking.”


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Tibebeselassie Tigabu, from the BBC’s Amharic Service, interviewed Mr Simegnew days earlier than he died.

“He gave his life for the dam,” she says, explaining that he spent most of his time across the dam, which was positioned in Ethiopia’s Benishangul-Gumuz area close to Sudan, almost 1,000km north-west of his dwelling in Addis Ababa.

“It’s a tough place to stay and he had been there for greater than six years,” she provides.

A person of symbols

Mr Simegnew turned the image of the dam and his dying would possibly change into emblematic of the issues dealing with the undertaking.

“He was the spokesman for the undertaking, he was the entrance man and I’m not positive how that shall be changed so simply,” Ms Stevis-Gridneff says.

a 360-degree version of the Damming the Nile VR series from BBC News

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The dam is believed to be 60% full, however there was rising anger over delays.

Within the final week of July, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed stated that on the present tempo of building the dam won’t be accomplished within the subsequent 10 years.

Ethiopians are happy with the truth that the dam is a largely self-financed undertaking. However a greenback scarcity disaster has slowed down its building, Ms Stevis-Gridneff says.

Then there’s geopolitical pressure the dam has created downstream with Egypt anxious that the infrastructure undertaking will put a pressure on its water provide.

“Whereas the undertaking is coming into hassle for sensible causes, I additionally see his dying as an actual blow to the symbolism of this undertaking and the way it was recorded within the psyche of regular Ethiopians,” she says.

Mr Simegnew was anticipated to be buried a day after his dying. However a press release by a nationwide committee set as much as organise his funeral stated it had postponed the burial.

They’ve as a substitute made preparations for an even bigger funeral on Sunday 29 July ” nationwide hero like him deserves”.

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