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A Dam Project on the Nile

Italian company is building Ethiopia's controversial Renaissance Dam

By Haile Bokure

I met the late Henry Courlander who authored over forty books related to Eritrean, Ethiopian, Caribbean and African-American folklore in his house located at Bethesda, Maryland. It is to be recalled that I translated two of his books into Tigrigna. He told me that he visited the Emperor whose interpreter was Blata Efrem Gebremedhin. It was in the late forties. Following is the account of his conversation including Gordon regarding the construction of the Dam along the river Nile:-

- Selassie spent an hour with the two men. He told them about the many challenges facing his country: the lack of resources, made worse by the British who directed every item they needed toward the war effort. He told Courlander that the Italians had killed many of his brightest and best of the young Ethiopian intellectuals who had studied in Western Universities. Now the country needed teachers, people who could speak the different languages of indigenous people- Amharic, Oromofia, Somali - and would be able to help Ethiopians achieve full literacy.

Courlander, who knew people through his research and his works with foundations said he would try to help.

Then Gordon spoke to the Emperor of his dream project, which he thought would do the most to help the country: building a dam at Lake Tana. Gordon had all sorts of ideas that he presented to Selassie about how he would lobby for the project and find the funds, architects, and builders.

Selassie smiled. He knew Gordon a little. " And if we build this dam, my friend, what share would you like to have in it?"

 "Your Majesty! When the dam is under construction, I would like to have the hot dog concession," Gordon replied.

Selassie said, " Very well, Mr. MacCreagh- We'll talk about it when the time comes."

From this brief  discourse we can tell how big  or how small  the issue is from the vantage point of building dam along the river Nile,  which is a jugular vain to Egypt and surrounding regions. Generations of explorers including James Bruce were trying to find out the source of the River Nile in order to strengthen their hold in these trouble spots. In this case, a careful appraisal is required on the part of Ethiopia as long as its right to territorial waters is concerned.

Jaffe, Nina (1977) A Voice For The People. The Life And Works of Harold Courlander.

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