Ethiopians in the capital, Addis Ababa and the northern city of Gondar took to the streets on Thursday, protesting the death of Simegnew Bekele, the project manager of a $4 billion Ethiopian dam was found shot dead in his vehicle.
Crowds in Addis Ababa marched to the state television station’s headquarters chanting “No to killings” and “Justice for Simegnew”.
Hundreds also packed the streets of his birthplace, Gondar.
Amongst our requests is the repatriation of his body back to his own city.
“Amongst our requests is the repatriation of his body back to his own city,” said one protester, who only gave his name as Geremew.
Police investigates possible murder
People in the crowds said they believed Simegnew Bekele had been murdered, though there was no immediate confirmation from the authorities, or details of any motive.
“We have confirmed that engineer Simegnew Bekele was shot dead … He had a bullet wound behind his right ear,” the head of Ethiopia’s Federal Police Commission, Zeinu Jemal, told reporters.
Zeinu said a Colt pistol was found in the vehicle in the city’s Meskel Square – a massive road junction and open space usually packed with vehicles and pedestrians during daylight hours.
A Reuters photographer saw blood stains along an arm rest inside his vehicle – a gold Toyota Land Cruiser – before an ambulance took away the body.
Ethiopia’s ambitious dam project
Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was “saddened and utterly shocked” by the death, his chief of staff said in tweet.
Simegnew was the public face of the Grand Renaissance Dam project on the River Nile – the centrepiece of Ethiopia’s bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter.ALSO READ: Ethiopia PM visits GERD site, heads to Sudan on official visit
Ethiopia has been pushing on with the project in the face of opposition from Egypt which fears it will affect the flow of the Nile, its main source of water. In June, the leaders of Ethiopia and Egypt vowed to iron out their differences peacefully.
The dam is currently only half complete, but the government says it is designed to churn out 6,000 megawatts (MW) of power on completion.