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  • Yazarın fotoğrafıMohammedin Awel Abdulla

The Positive Contributions of Diaspora Communities In Ethiopia's Diplomacy:  Resisting and Taking The GERD To Successive Stage


The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is a dam project in Northern Ethiopia along the Blue Nile, and is set to become the largest hydro-power plant in the African continent.  With its current construction date set at 2023, the dam promises to bring industrialization and development to Ethiopians.  Since, The new prime of Ethiopia comes to power , the GERD constructions could  goes with high speed and its now filled for 3rd times.



Despite the opportunity the dam may represent for Ethiopians, it has been met with objections from others.  In fact, Sudanese and Egyptian politicians, whose populations actually not in dark as such more than 60th percent of the Ethiopian population are not access to electricity. Accordingly the Prime Minister of Ethiopia H.E Dr Abiy Ahmed is pushing things to move right directions the neighboring states, likes he directly went to Egypt and Sudan to fix the tensions, when Ethiopia is to partially fill up the reservoirs of the dam, the relationships between the states have begun  to be soured. The disagreements concern the applicability of colonial treaties, the  balancing of the right to economic development with the right to water, and ways to facilitate effective regional cooperation.


The Grand Ethiopians Renaissance Dam (GERD) is a source of national pride for many Ethiopians since the dam is being built for Ethiopians, by Ethiopians. Over the past 13 years the Ethiopian diaspora has been supporting the construction of GERD both financially and diplomatically irrespective of the apparent political differences one may expect from the diaspora. However, the support has never seen such a massive growth until the first filling of the dam was materialized. The first filling of the GERD has not only accelerated the rate of support the Ethiopian diaspora has been making but also increased its motivation to the highest level. The Ethiopian diaspora community has made significant contributions to Ethiopia's diplomacy, particularly in the context of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations. Here are some ways in which they have played a crucial role:



“Advocacy and lobbying for the cause of GERD”

The Ethiopian diaspora community has been actively engaged in advocating for Ethiopia's interests in the GERD. They have used their all available networks and platforms to raise awareness about the importance of the dam for Ethiopia's development and to garner support for Ethiopia's position. In this regard, the Ethiopian Diasporas specially in the countries like middle east, United states of America, Europe, Africa, Australia and other many western countries mobilize the Ethiopian in and outside the country to stand in the solidarity with Ethiopian Government in revolutionizing and reconstructing the GERD which was already stuck when the Abiy Ahmed government assumed the office in 2018. They have utilized the mainstream & social Medias to undertake their advocacy. Mainly, the Facebook & twitters are among social media platforms used to undertake numerous campaigns in the support of GERD. Accordingly, the Ethiopian diaspora communities have played irreplaceable role in advocating for the construction of the dam and create awareness among the world nations regarding the purpose of GERD.


From 2nd – 5th July, 2020 a global virtual campaign aimed at raising awareness and support for the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) took place. Organised by United Ethiopians for Peace and Reconciliation (UE4PR), a UK-based civic organization, in collaboration with Global Knowledge Exchange Network (GKEN) and Ethiopia International Professional Support of Abay (EIPSA), the campaign informed members of the international community of the Renaissance Dam, the negotiation processes, and also raised vital funds for the completion of the dam. As part of the campaign, all Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia were urged to join hands and be Ambassadors of the GERD by spreading GERD-related news and campaign material using the hashtags #ItsMyDam #እኔምለአባይአለሁ across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. (Ethiopia, 2020).


Launching the campaign, the then Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, H.E. Gedu Andargachew, in a video message to the Diaspora, called upon Ethiopians and foreign nationals of Ethiopian origin to redouble their support and reach out to foreign government institutions, civic organizations, and the media in their respective countries and advocate Ethiopia’s fair and principled position on GERD and generate support for the dam. Heeding the call, Ethiopians in the UK and abroad took part in the campaign, which saw thousands posting social media content and videos of themselves in support of the GERD and encouraging others to continue with their support to see the completion of the dam.


These campaigns have tremendous effects in shifting the some individuals and western countries position on the construction of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam (GERD). Ethiopian diaspora have clearly pressed that the purpose of constructing the dam is for generating electricity not for threatening others brotherly nations of Egypt and Sudan. The facts argued by the diaspora include: While Ethiopia contributes over 86% of the Nile waters, over 60% of its population lives in the dark, Egypt has achieved universal access of electricity to all of its citizens. While Ethiopia asks for fair and equitable share of the Nile waters, the downstream countries try to enforce a colonial era agreement which leaves 0% of the Nile waters for Ethiopia.

 

Picture indicates when the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) enjoying the GERD constructions with Diaspora teams Invited their country to visits the status of the GERD together with GERD Workers.


In the quest for Ethiopia’s legitimate rights over the Nile waters, many in the diaspora have held rallies in support of Ethiopia’s stride towards providing light to its people in the dark. Major cities across the world be in US, Europe and Australia has witnessed avalanches of Ethiopian’s and friends of Ethiopia in their streets requesting Ethiopia’s fair share on the Nile, among others.


Members of the Ethiopian diaspora have not only filled streets of western capitals for the request of equitable share of the Nile waters, but they have also been making different public relations campaigns and advocating Ethiopia’s cause to the whole world by using media outlets. Ethiopians’ residing in the Arab countries or those who are eloquent in Arabic language have become common faces in Arabic channels challenging the status quo of Egyptian monopoly of the narrative in that part of the world. Little by little wrong narratives that have been taken for granted are being deconstructed and a new reality which portrays the facts on the ground is being constructed by Ethiopians versatile in Arabic culture and the history of their beloved country. Chief among Ethiopians prominent in Arabic channels include Mohammed Al Arusi, Ustath Jemal Bashir & young activists, Suleiman Abdela among the others.


Media Campagn in Arabic languages made by Ethiopian former Daispora Mohammed Al-arusi

The foreign professionals have also provided their insights on the purpose of constructing this dam and start supporting Ethiopian position in this regard.

 


                   

In a video message, Professor John Struthers, Professor of Economics and Director of CAREED (Centre for African Research on Enterprise and Economic Development) at the University of the West of Scotland, who also happens to be Ethiopia’s Honorary Consul to Scotland, outlined the economic benefits that Ethiopia will reap from the GERD project.


“The sheer scale of this project will produce an extra 6GW of hydropower electricity, in a country where perhaps no more than 25–30% of the population have access to electricity will be truly transformational. It has been estimated by some economists that the supply of electricity will be double what the country actually needs. Therefore, Ethiopia could become the largest exporter of electricity on the continent of Africa. Moreover, in terms of GDP growth, some estimates suggest that this could be as high as 35–40% over the next 10-15 years.”


Former MP and British Prime Minister Trade Envoy to Ethiopia, Jeremy Lefroy in a statement said the GERD will “bring substantial additional benefits to Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt in preventing flooding and silting, and a more reliable water supply” . He also added; “I appreciate just how important the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is for producing sustainable low carbon power for Ethiopia and all countries in the region…This is an opportunity to show the world how natural resources can be shared peacefully and cooperatively between sovereign nations.”


Diaspora’s Financial support for GERD

The diaspora community has also provided financial support for the construction of the GERD. Through fund-raising efforts and donations, they have contributed to the financing of the dam project, demonstrating their commitment to Ethiopia's development. The Ethiopian government has encouraged the diaspora to invest in the country both financially and through knowledge exchange to assist in developing the country and improving its fiscal situation. With an ever increasing remittance flows over the last couple of decades, the diaspora’s role in the development efforts of the country has gained huge importance & recognition from the government. Considering the impact of the financial contribution the diaspora has been making over the years, the government is devising different approaches that can harness the diaspora’s potential to the fullest. When these mechanisms become operational, they are supposed to boost the financial support. Recently, banking regulations have been liberalized to permit the Ethiopian diaspora with foreign citizenship to invest and buy shares in private commercial banks, set up lending businesses in the state-dominated financial sector, and contribute to major infrastructure projects.  As a result, the financial contribution of the diaspora to the construction of GERD has quadrupled from a little over 784,000 dollars in 2012 E.C to over 6 million dollars in the past three years alone. This contribution was made either by buying bonds or giving large sums of money as a gift for the completion of the dam. In total, over the last ten years, the diaspora has contributed close to 50 million dollars. Ethiopian Diaspora has significantly utilized different social media campaigns to mobilize resources for GERD.



“Expertise and knowledge sharing for GERD”

Many members of the Ethiopian diaspora community have expertise in various fields, including engineering, water resource management, and international relations. They have officially invited by government of Ethiopia to share their knowledge and skills with Ethiopian officials and experts involved in the GERD negotiations, providing valuable insights and perspectives. Besides financial remittances, flows of skills, knowledge, and social remittances have also gained more attention, particularly the relevance of diaspora associations as drivers of development processes. The Diaspora Engagement Directorate on its part facilitates the participation of the diaspora in trade, investment and tourism sectors by providing a single window service. It also promotes knowledge and technology transfer of the diaspora; remittance flow, banking sector investment and other diaspora engagement activities. More significantly, different Ethiopian scholars have been making appearances on various global media networks operating mainly in Arabic, French and English languages, revealing the truth on GERD.” The diaspora community is not trailing on a shifting image of its position and status but rather a viable good representation that is based on citizenship and Ethiopian nationality can be considered expertise & knowledge sharing contributions of Ethiopian diaspora.


“Cultural diplomacy”

The Ethiopian diaspora community has also played a role in promoting Ethiopian culture and heritage on the international stage. By showcasing the rich cultural diversity of Ethiopia, they have helped to enhance Ethiopia's soft power and improve its image abroad, which can have positive implications for diplomatic relations.


Summary

Overall, the Ethiopian diaspora community has been playing a key role in Ethiopia's diplomacy, particularly in advancing the GERD construction and filling procedures. Their positive contributions have helped Ethiopia to resist external pressures and firmly advance with its position in national interests in this critical issue. Accordingly, government of Ethiopia has to deeply strengthen the diaspora engagement in the country’s economic development through the implementation of various policy reforms adopted in recent years for attracting trustworthy diaspora investment in their home country and recognize those diaspora organizations and individuals who are boldly engaging in this matter. The Ethiopia’s future is surely in the hands of its children inside and abroad. No force on the face of the globe can stop Ethiopians from utilizing the Nile River abiding to international water convections and security.


References

ABN. (2021). Ethiopian Diaspora: Attorney for GERD. Addis Ababa: Ayssinia Business Network.

Ethiopia, E. o. (2020). #ItsMyDam: Ethiopians and Friends of Ethiopia in the UK support GERD in virtual campaign. London, UK: Embassy of Federal Demorcatic Republic of Ethiopia.

ENA. (2023). Worldwide Twitter Campaign Launched in Support of GERD. Addis Ababa: Ethiopian News Agency

 

 

 

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