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Ethiopia: Thousands pay tribute to Grand Renaissance dam engineer

Semegnew Bekele, 53, was found dead in his car in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.

Thousands of people have gathered in Addis Ababa to pay their respects to the project manager of a controversial dam being built by Ethiopia along the Nile River, according to state media.

Semegnew Bekele, 53, was found dead in his car in Ethiopia's capital on Thursday.

Police said a gunshot took the life of the engineer but have not given any other details. An investigation is under way and no arrests have been made.

A state funeral for Semegnew was held in Addis Ababa on Sunday, with a requiem-playing brass band leading a solemn procession that included people carrying wreaths of flower and a long motorcade following the undertaker van. 

There were tearful tributes to Semegnew, whose coffin was draped in an Ethiopian flag at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in the presence of President Mulatu Teshome and many other high-profile personalities.

Thousands of people also gathered in central Addis Ababa to pay their respects to the fallen engineer.
Images posted on social media showed police firing tear gas after the crowd attempted to push past them to reach the funeral.

Controversial project

Currently about half completed, the the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam - 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.

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.

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