By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
April 13, 2017 (ADDIS ABABA) - Court in Ethiopia on Thursday handed down lengthy prison terms to 10 members of a rebel group, the Benishangul Gumez Peoples Movement (BGPM), for carrying out an attack near the construction site of the country’s multi-billion dollar hydroelectric power plant project.
According to court charge sheets obtained by Sudan Tribune, the rebels had carried out hand grenade attack at vehicles heading to the Dam project known as Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and killed nine people and injured four others.
The court has also found the defendants guilty of separate attacks which killed three others.
According, the court has passed prison terms ranging from 9 years to life against the ten defendants who all denied the charges.
The Ethiopian government argues that the ultimate goal of the armed rebels was to attack the $ 4.2 billion dollars massive power plant project which the horn of Africa’s nation is building on Nile River at Benishangul Gumuz region near the Sudanese border.
Earlier last month, Ethiopia said it had thwarted an attack at the Dam site when 20 members of the same opposition movement tried to attack the heavily-guarded project site which Addis Ababa hopes would transform its economy and support in its stride to join middle-income countries by 2025.
Ethiopian security forces then immediately killed 13 members of the group while seven other who escaped to Sudanese border were later apprehended to Ethiopia by Khartoum, which has long existing border security deal with Ethiopia.
Government officials told Sudan Tribune that the armed BGPM rebels crossed to Ethiopia’s Benishangul Gumuz region via Sudan after receiving military training by Arch-rival Eritrea to sabotage the construction of what would be Africa’s largest dam.
Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a 1998-2000 border war that killed over 70,000 people and hence then their ties remain strained, routinely trading charges over supporting one the other’s rebel group.
Launched in 2011, GERD which Ethiopia is building from own coffers will upon completion have electricity production capacity of 6,450.
According to government figures, the massive dam is currently 56% completed.