Ethiopia sells $3.8bn Nile mega dam bonds like it were the Olympics, and the masses are buying

A Horse-drawn carriage festooned with balloons and Ethiopian flags stops in front of a crowd at a ramshackle football stadium.

Two women in traditional white dresses pluck a gold trophy from the cart and place it on a stage inside a garland of red and white roses. Beneath is a computer-generated image of the $3.8 billion dam Ethiopia is building across the main tributary of the Nile River.

The trophy celebrating what will be the world’s seventh- biggest hydropower plant, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, has arrived at Debre Birhan town.

It’s the latest stop in the African nation of almost 100 million people in an Olympic torch-style promotional tour.

The rally featuring circus performers in Ethiopia’s red, yellow and green colours is part of a four-year drive to raise funds for the GERD project that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who died in 2012, said Ethiopia had to pay for on its own.

An engraving on the trophy’s base dedicates it to the dam’s owners, the Ethiopian people. Public events maintain momentum for a unifying project that offers hope, said Zadig Abraha, deputy head of the dam’s fund-raising council, on May 5

“We have starved and experienced famine for so long while having this immense resource,” he said about the Blue Nile. “When the government decided to build the dam the people have enormously welcomed it as they know they will benefit.”

In tents outside the festivities 130 kilometers (81 miles) northeast of the capital, Addis Ababa, dam bonds denominated as low as 25 Ethiopian birr ($1.22) are sold.

Mobile lottery

Assefa Yeshitla, a farmer at the pageant, bought a 500-birr bond with an interest rate below inflation. “I really want to contribute with what I have,” he said.

A text-message lottery featuring prizes of cars and houses is regularly held to help pay for works scheduled for completion in 2017.

Ethiopia’s government says the project will end poverty and make it a regional electricity hub. GERD is designed to produce 6,000 megawatts, almost triple the country’s current generating capacity.

Downstream, Egypt worries the dam may leave its citizens short of the water they get from the Nile for crops and industry. Analysts including Harry Verhoeven, a professor of government at Georgetown University in Washington, caution a lot needs to be done before the benefits of the dam are realised.

At the pageant, cardboard placards scrawled with slogans handed out to school kids, farmers and civil servants proclaim a determination to harness the river that begins in Ethiopia’s highlands. Seven weeks before parliamentary elections, the ruling coalition’s worker-bee logo is prominent. Concerts, sports days and a bond-buying week in April mark the project’s fourth anniversary.

Financing blocked

“Meles, we will fulfill your word,” says a sign that Assefa, wearing a green wooly hat, is holding. “The Nile dam will become reality with the help of our people.”

Garissa MPs to petition Nkaissery over curfew imposed on four counties

MPs from Garissa have said they will petition Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery over the curfew imposed on four counties.

They have said the curfew is a violation of the constitutional rights of the residents from the area and will therefore present their petition when Parliament resumes in June.

They said the curfew order was meant to intimidate and punish the people from the region and to divert attention from government’s failure to address insecurity in the country.

Speaking on Saturday during the graduation ceremony of Islamic students at Najah Madrassa, they said the curfew imposed on the four counties of Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Tana River is illegal and against the Constitution of Kenya since it has restricted the freedom of movement, association and worship.

The leaders were angered by the extension of the curfew by the Interior Cabinet Secretary from May 16 to June 16, 2015.

Garissa County woman representative Shukran Gure said she will table a petition in the National Assembly against CS Nkaissery when the House resumes from recess challenging his “illegal” orders.

“People of the region are denied their constitutional rights to go to the mosque for night and early morning prayers.

“People are denied their inherent rights to make a living at night by (not) operating their businesses.

“They are denied their fundamental rights to have social gatherings at night and as leaders we can’t allow the rights of people to be abused by their own government,” she said.

Mrs Gure said the curfew order has been abused by security officers whom she said are harassing, intimidating and extorting members of the public going about their normal businesses at night under the pretext of maintaining security.

This, she said, is retrogressive and will only make people get more alienated.

“When the Parliament resumes on June 8 I will table a petition to censure the Interior Cabinet Secretary for unconstitutionally making the residents of Garissa suffer, denied the right to worship and go about their other engagements,” she said amid cheers from the crowd.

“We are ready to support the government in fighting terrorism and other criminal elements hurting our country but we will demand our rights as Kenyans.

“Accessing health facilities for the sick people and women in labour has becoming a nightmare during the curfew hours,” she added.

ENHANCE BORDER SECURITY

The leaders at the same reiterated their undivided support and commitment to assist the National Government in fighting terrorism, adding that the government needs to enhance security along the Kenya-Somalia border and other areas prone to inter-communal.

Lagdera MP Mohamed Shidiye faulted the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) for what he called usurping the roles of the Kenya Police of conducting patrols within towns and in the process harassing innocent civilians through beatings.

“The work of the military is to stay at the border and defend the country from external aggressors.

“They should leave to the police officers the work of manning roads since the police have the knowledge of dealing with civilians,” Mr Shidiye said.

He also called on the government to assist Somalia in the fight against terrorism adding that Kenya should increase its presence there and have their embassy inside Somalia rather than having it in Nairobi.

Dadaab MP Mohamed Dahiye appealed to the county government to assist in erecting permanent fences in all learning institutions that can be easy targets of Al-Shabaab to avoid the recurrence of the killing of students like what happened at Garissa University College on April 2, 2015.

“Kenya Medical Training College which was closed down recently over security concerns doesn’t have a fence. This makes them very vulnerable to attacks.

“I would therefore appeal to the county government to consider putting fences in all institutions while the National Government should provide enough security officers to protect the students from terror attacks,” he added.

The function was also attended by Governor Nathif Jama, acting County Commissioner James Kianda and several members of the county assembly.

 

Somali Islamists deny Burundian president’s claim of planned attack

MOGADISHU – The Somali Islamist group al Shabaab denied a claim by Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza on Sunday that they were plotting an attack against the country, calling the beleaguered president’s claims a distraction from a political crisis in his country.

Nkurunziza, who has faced weeks of protests and an attempted ouster over his decision to seek a third term in office, made his first appearance in the Burundian capital in days to say he was “very preoccupied” by the threat posed by al Shabaab.

“We think that this is an attempt by him to appease his people, who are standing in the streets protesting against his dictatorship, or to divert the world’s attention from him while he possibly prepares his mass revenge,” al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mahamud Rage said in a statement to Reuters.

(Reporting by Feisal Omar; Editing by Edith Honan)

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