Ethiopian engineer of controversial renaissance dam found dead

Simegnew Bekele managed the $4.8bn Ethiopia Grand Renaissance Dam being built along the Nile river.

Semegnew Bekele’s body was found inside a Toyota Land Cruiser, which had been parked near a busy in Addis Ababa. [STR/EPA-EFE]

The project manager of a controversial dam being built by Ethiopia along the Nile river was found shot dead in his vehicle on Thursday.

Semegnew Bekele’s body was found inside a Toyota Land Cruiser, which had been parked near a busy road at Meskel Square in the heart of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

“We have confirmed that engineer Simegnew Bekele was shot dead,” Zeinu Jemal, head of Ethiopia’s Federal Police Commission, told reporters.

“He had a bullet wound behind his right ear,” Zeinu said, adding a Colt pistol was found inside the car.

Bekele managed the $4.8bn Ethiopia Grand Renaissance Dam that is being built along the Nile river. He had been overseeing the project since the dam’s construction began in 2011.

Hundreds of protesters angry at the engineers’ death, which many suspect to be a murder, gathered in front of state television ETV calling for justice.

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At the scene, apparent bloodstains were visible inside the car, where Bekele was found in the driver’s seat.

“Engineer Semegnew’s body is now taken to a hospital for examination,” state broadcaster ETV said.

The news brought shock, with many Ethiopians mourning his death, and social mediafull of comments and speculation.

On Twitter, Fitsum Arega, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s chief of staff, said Abiy was “saddened and utterly shocked” to hear of the killing.

Currently about half completed, the project – which is expected to more than double Ethiopia’s current electricity production – has caused a long-standing dispute with neighbouring Egypt, which fears the dam could reduce its share of the Nile waters.

A bone of contention for Ethiopia and Egypt is the speed at which the dam’s reservoir would be filled, with Cairo fearing the river’s flow will be significantly reduced.

Under a new 2015-2020 development plan, Addis Ababa wants to raise power generation to 17,346MW from a current capacity of just over 4,300MW from hydropower, wind and geothermal sources.

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In June, the leaders of Ethiopia and Egypt vowed to iron out their differences peacefully. They also agreed to take steps to put into effect an agreement, which includes Sudan, to set up a fund for investing in infrastructure in the three countries.

Hydro-economics: Egypt, Ethiopia and the Nile


Hydro-economics: Egypt, Ethiopia and the Nile



  1. Yes, it is sad when people die, especially in this manner. But Semegne was the chief engineer of a project which can be characterized as the grand corruption scheme of 21 century in Ethiopia. The whole project was conceived and executed in an atmosphere of secrecy so that its intended beneficiaries got the most out of it. It was used to transfer an immense amount of wealth to Tigray. Semegene knew that more than anybody else, not only he went along with it and he never said anything to that effect. Nobody of those who are beating their chest now do not know in reality what was going on with this project. If Semgene was such a nice person and knowledgeable person as most people trying to portrait him, he should have resign from his position long time ago, when he realized about the scope and magnitude of corruption that is going on with the dam project and technical and other problems associated with project.
    He should have stayed in Canada with his Family and come clean with Ethiopian people about the problem of the dam.

    The only sensible thing to do now is that: to demand three things form the GOE and PM Abey:
    • to set up independent commission to investigate the death of Semegen
    • request an external audit to investigate how the public money was used for the project
    • From now on, the full details of collection of funds and expenditure for this project should be transparent.

  2. Unless the terrorists in Mekele are brought to justice, they will continue committing crimes. Yes, they are far away from Addis Ababa, but they have money to hire mercenaries. They still are with their communication tools, such as mobile phones, laptops and all modern gadgets to commit crime from far.

    Prime Minister Abyi should convince or force the Tigrai Killel government to handover the prime suspects of this crime, such as those close to METEC and INSA. If they are not cooperating, the Prime Minster should order the Army to capture the criminals by force in Mekele.

    With just one national call from PM Abyi, 100 Million angry people are also ready to go to Military training camps for a quick 3 months training and march to Mekele to capture the criminals. Our brothers and sisters, the people of Tigrai are not our enemies, and we know they will align with the Ethiopian people to capture the few TPLF criminals. The criminals in Mekele may also have connections in Addis Ababa with TPLF criminals in the Parliament (such as Assmelash Weldesselasie). So, those TPLF suspects in Addis Ababa should also be investigated.

    No more begging the criminals! PM Abyi, use peoples’ power. You have it. 100 Million angry people are behind you and are ready to avenge the killing of Engineer Simachew and many other innocent Ethiopians.

  3. What is ‘controversial’ about this dam? It originates and flows for hundreds of kilo meters in Ethiopia, right? I never knew Egypt borders Ethiopia and Blue Nile’s source has always been in Egypt. The mighty Colorado River originates in the USA and it has Hoover Dam right on top of it in the state of Nevada and Arizona, right? It took 5 years and the lives of more than 112 workers. It was built because the USA had the right and the need for electric power. So does Ethiopia. There is nothing controversial about this dam. None whatsoever!

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