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Ethiopia PM inaugurates electricity production at Nile mega-dam

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed officially inaugurated electricity production from the country's mega-dam on the Blue Nile on Sunday, a milestone in the controversial multi-billion dollar project.

Abiy, accompanied by high-ranking officials, toured the power generation station and pressed a series of buttons on an electronic screen, a move that officials said initiated production.

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After flicking a digital switch to turn on the turbines in the first phase of the project, Prime Minister Abiy sought
to assure those nations that his country did not wish to harm their interests.

“Ethiopia’s main interest is to bring light to 60 percent of the population who is suffering in darkness, to save the labor of our mothers who are carrying wood on their backs in order to getenergy,” Abiy said.

“This great dam was built by Ethiopians but not only for Ethiopians, rather for all our African brothers and sisters to benefit from,” an official presiding at the launch ceremony said.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is set to be the largest hydroelectric scheme in Africa but has been at the center of a regional dispute ever since Ethiopia broke ground there in 2011.

Ethiopia’s downstream neighbors Egypt and Sudan view the dam as a threat because of their dependence on Nile waters, while Addis Ababa deems it essential for its electrification and development.

The $4.2-billion (3.7-billion-euro) project is ultimately expected to produce more than 5,000 megawatts of electricity, more than doubling Ethiopia’s electricity output.

State media reported that the dam, which lies in western Ethiopia not far from the border with Sudan, had started generating 375 megawatts of electricity from one of its turbines on Sunday.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry accused Ethiopia of further violation of a preliminary deal signed between the three nations in 2015, prohibiting any of the parties from taking unilateral actions in the use of the river's water.

The first violations of the initial agreement related to the filling of the dam, the ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

There was no immediate comment from Sudan.

Read more: Egypt, Sudan urge UN action on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Ethiopia says ‘no’

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