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Simegnew Bekele Aynalem (Amharic: ስመኘው በቀለ አይናለም; 13 September 1964 – 26 July 2018) was an Ethiopian engineer who served as chief project manager of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project as well as three other similar dam projects in Ethiopia.[2] He was considered the "public face" of the dam project.[3][4]

Simegnew Bekele
ስመኘው በቀለ
Simegnew Bekele Aynalem

13 September 1964
Maksegnit, Begemder, Ethiopia
Died26 July 2018(2018-07-26) (aged 53)
Cause of deathSelf-inflicted gunshot[1]
Burial placeHoly Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Alma materAddis Ababa University


Simegnew was born in 1964 in the small town of Maksegnit located in Begmeder Province (now in the Amhara Region). He completed a course at the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo) technical training center in 1986. He taught at the institution for a while after graduating with a degree in Civil Engineering from Addis Ababa University in 1997.[5] He served as deputy project manager for the Gilgel Gibe I and the project manager for the Gilgel Gibe II dams.[6] In 2011 he was designated project manager for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), since the start of its construction in 2011. In 2015 the Tigrai Online e-magazine named him as its person of the year.[7]


On the morning of 26 July 2018, Simegnew was found shot dead in his Toyota Land Cruiser on Addis Ababa's Meskel Square. Speaking at a press conference, Ethiopian Federal Police Commissioner Zeinu Jemal said that he had been found with a Colt gun in his right hand and a bullet wound behind his right ear, however foul play has been suspected.[4][8] Simegnew had been scheduled to give a press conference on the progress of the dam later that day, following comments by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that construction could take up to ten more years, far more than previous projections.[8] He was the public face of the dam being built near the country's western border with Sudan that, when completed, will be Africa's largest.

Simegnew's death is the second of a high-profile company official in recent months. In May, gunmen ambushed and killed Deep Kamara, the country manager for Nigeria's Dangote Cement, alongside two others in the Oromia region outside Addis Ababa.[2][9] Simegnew's death sparked protests in Addis Ababa, with marchers demanding justice for what they assumed was his assassination.[10][11] Tens of thousands of people gathered in Meskel Square and along Menelik II Avenue to witness his funeral procession on 29 July.[12] Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reacted to the news, saying he was "saddened and utterly shocked" by the engineer's death.[4] On 7 September, police examination reports suggested that Simegnew committed suicide by self-inflicted gunshot.[13]


  1. ^ "Engineer Simegnew, project manager of GERD, committed suicide: Police preliminary report". Fanabc. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Ethiopian engineer of controversial renaissance dam found dead". Al Jazeera English. 26 July 2018. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  3. ^ Maasho, Aaron (26 July 2018). "Ethiopian Nile dam manager found shot dead, crowds call for justice". Reuters. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam manager Simegnew Bekele found dead". Deutsche Welle. Reuters. 26 July 2018. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  5. ^ Endashaw, Dawit (28 July 2018). "A tragic end to a celebrated engineer". The Reporter (Ethiopia). Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  6. ^ Aregay, Daniel (2018-07-26). "የኢንጂነር ስመኘው በቀለ አሟሟት እያነጋገረ ነው" [Regarding the death of Engineer Simegnew Bekele]. Zehabesha Amharic (in Amharic). Retrieved 2018-07-26.
  7. ^ "Tigrai Online person of the year 2015 is Engineer Simegnew Bekele". Tigrai Online. 2 January 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  8. ^ a b "Engineer Simegnew Bekele,Grand Renaissance Dam Project Manager assassinated". Retrieved 2018-07-26.
  9. ^ "Engineer of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam found dead". The East African. AFP. 26 July 2018. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  10. ^ Maasho, Aaron (July 27, 2018). "Hundreds in Ethiopia Protest Apparent Killing of Dam Project Manager". Voice of America. Reuters. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  11. ^ Dahir, Abdi Latif (26 July 2018). "Ethiopia's Nile dam engineer died of bullet wound - Police chief". Africanews. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  12. ^ Marsh, Jenni (29 March 2018). "Police fire tear gas at protesters during state funeral for Ethiopia's Grand Dam engineer". CNN. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  13. ^ "Africanews | Ethiopia's GERD project engineer committed suicide - police". Africanews. Retrieved 2018-09-07.