Posts Tagged ‘ethiopian airlines’

Why ethnic-federalism deters equitable, integrated development

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

By Aklog Birara, PhD

Hunger is actually the worst of all weapons of mass destruction, claiming millions of victims every year. Fighting hunger and poverty and promoting development are the truly sustainable way to achieve world peace. There will be no peace without development, and there will be neither peace nor development without justice.” – Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed wealth is something to be ashamed of.” – Confucius, Chinese Philosopher

Whether it is a country that is well governed such as the United States where the middle class is squeezed by the one percent rich in whose hands incomes and wealth are concentrated; or in a poorly governed country such as Ethiopia, where corruption and illicit outflow from one of the two poorest countries in Africa, is now endemic, the impacts are the same. Repressive and corrupt governance entails injustice and shame for those who are left out. Poverty and injustice are sources of shame and agony, especially when these are induced by minority ethnic elite that extract billions of dollars each year from the poor, the society and country. Economic plunder is injustice; and where it exists, peace is inconceivable in the long-run. The Oxford University Multidimensional Index identifies Ethiopia as among the two poorest countries in Africa. If one gauges poverty using the African Development measurement of US$2 dollars per capita per day, ninety percent of the Ethiopian people are poor. Poverty affects all segments of society. It is perhaps the one shame that all ethnic and religious groups have in common.

Over the past several months, I offered compelling reasons backed by concrete evidence why Ethiopians must unite; and why they can indeed unite if they are willing. I admit that it is easier to diagnose problems from all sides and suggest alternatives going forward. There must be social forces on the ground and support outside that are bold enough to implement alternatives that would embolden ordinary people to free themselves from the shame of injustice, poverty and destitution. It is within the realm of possibilities.

In my 2010 book Waves; I analyzed the evolution of ethno-nationalism, and the socioeconomic and political architecture of the current government. I strengthened the arguments of its pitfalls and the vulnerabilities it poses to national cohesion, stability, democratic interactions, equitable and inclusive growth and development, and the threats ethno-nationalism poses to the country and to its diverse population. The single most worrisome source of these vulnerabilities that the vast majority of Ethiopians share is endemic poverty. Another is continuous exodus out of the country to escape injustice and poverty. Wide spread and recurring hunger is a glaring example of injustice. Increasingly, poverty is compounded by rising inequality. This emanates from the plunder of national incomes and resources and its concentration in a few at the top of the policy, decision making and resource allocation process. It is a pyramid. Corruption, illicit outflow, gross human rights violations, nepotism and discrimination are a consequence of a system; and the system happens to be ethnic, repressive and corrupt.

For this reason, I concur with President Lula of Brazil that hunger is “actually the worst of all weapons of mass destruction.” I agree that “there will be no peace” without resolving Ethiopia’s endemic corruption and hunger crises. Regardless of one’s political stand with regard to Ethiopia’s future, the urgent need for social justice is embedded in this vicious cycle that is akin to a national tragedy. When a governing party uses humanitarian aid to punish opponents and reward supporters, you know that the governance is not only unjust; but cruel. Those who are left out, unemployed and hungry have no stake in the stability a system that denies them a chance to eat and earn decent living. I share the notion that overcoming hunger is a collective, and not solely, a government responsibility. However, lead accountability and responsibility for destitution, hopelessness and hunger reside with the top leadership of the governing party. It is this leadership that created the ethnic federal political and socioeconomic system that serves it and its allies well while keeping the poor where they are.

No matter how one diagnoses it, ethno-nationalism and ethnic-federalism now contribute to the lack of a level playing field in social and economic life. It is legitimate for the reader to ask a simple question and try to answer it honesty. How did the current income and wealth concentration arise? Why are billions of dollars stolen each year and not recycled within the country to build factories, schools and hospitals and to boost agricultural productivity? Stolen wealth was not inherited or granted by forces from the heavens. It is manmade; and it is only humans who can reverse this corrosive and corrupt economic system that makes poor people even poorer. I keep suggesting that, if things persist as they are, a person born poor in Ethiopia has a higher chance of dying poor. Poor parents cannot transfer real assets; they transfer poverty to their children and the cycle continues. They have no assets that will free them from this vicious cycle.

Capital accumulation and concentration in a few is never accidental. It is systemic and arises from a system that allows it. In their provocative and well researched paper, “Rethinking business and politics in Ethiopia: the role of EFFORT, the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray,” Mesfin Gebremichael and Sarah Vaughan make a direct correlation between Tigrean elite political capture at the top and capture and plunder of economic and financial resources throughout the country. They show public “frustration at persistence of a non-competitive, moribund and oligopolistic market, based on low levels of productivity, and regularly delivering high levels of opportunistic rents.” These “opportunistic rents” emanate from procurement deals and commissions; government sponsored and financed construction of roads, bridges, schools, health facilities, dams, offices; dominant roles in the transport and export and import business; generous and non-collateralized access to and provision of urban and rural lands, credits and loans; biased permits; accesses to foreign exchange and so on. Keep asking what type of system allows this to happen? You will be in a position to unravel the mystery of capital in Ethiopia and the success of EFFORT and other monopolies.

So what is wrong with the EFFORT monopoly story? This monopoly has a specific ethnic designation and conveys the perception that its lead and primary role is the “rehabilitation” of the Tigray region. Instead, it more than rehabs a selected few party officials and their extended families. It is owned by and benefits a specific ethnic elite group, Tigrean. I have consistently made the distinction between Tigrean elite at the top and the rest of the population. Let us be fair and objective.

As much as one cannot associate ‘past ills and mistakes’ on the entire Amhara or any specific group of people that the TPLF ethnic core designates by ethnicity rather than citizenship, it is not justified to attribute the horrendous injustice, plunder, repression, genocide, crimes against humanity, corruption, illicit outflow, transfer of real resources to domestic ethnic elite allies, foreign governments and firms on the entire Tigrean population. Similar to previous regimes, this repressive and plunder-prone system draws support from members of other ethnic elites. It is a ‘Scratch my back and I will scratch yours’ model. The system would not survive for long without providing material and financial incentives to individuals and elites from other ethnic groups. This gives a semblance of shared benefit and shared stake in the future. It is done without devolving real policy and decision making authority from a core Tigrean ethnic elite at the top. In my view, it is among the weakest links in the system.

As one anonymous author put it, the other weakest links in the system are embodied in the personification of social, political and economic ills identified earlier in the top leadership, especially “the Prime Minister and the security and defense establishment” that ethnic Tigrean officers lead and command. In light of this, the vast majority of Tigrean people on whose name and on whose behalf these ills are perpetrated need to wake-up in unison with the rest of the population. By the same token, the rest of the population that wishes to advance justice and political pluralism must reach out and join forces with them. As the African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It takes all of the Ethiopian people to restore justice and establish a genuine and lasting foundation of democratic governance.

The extraction of rents is national and the beneficiaries are principally Tigrean elites and persons. The bulk of the sources of internal riches and illicit outflow of funds is either funded largely by a central or federal government that is dominated by the same ethnic elite or condoned by it. This unjust system punishes the vast majority of the population while amassing incomes and wealth assets that are simply grotesque and unjust. One should not dismiss the public perception that the Tigrean population as a whole benefits from the largesse of the federal state dominated by the TPLF core. Tigrean nationals who oppose the system must recognize this unfortunate perception and the collateral damage the minority ethnic elite has caused in the short run and will cause in the medium and long term. This collateral damage by association without gaining benefits compels them to side solidly with the rest of the Ethiopian population and abandon the divide and rule strategy of the TPLF core and its allies.

Income redistribution to “us” from “them” through narrow ethnic-based political power has the effect of limiting economic and social opportunities for the rest, including ordinary Tigrean. There is no legitimate or valid argument that any Ethiopian could make that the socioeconomic and political system should result in a zero-sum game. If ethno-nationalism and ethnic-federalism prove to be impediments to shared growth and development, it behooves all political and social leaders to reexamine the model of crony capitalism itself. In the medium and long-term, Ethiopia cannot afford an economic and social model which rewards those with political power and punishes those without one. The system keeps the entire society on a low productivity path. This is why it is labeled as “moribund” and the lead reason why I wanted to tie the hunger issue with ethno-nationalism, and ethnic-federalism. Both are impediments to equitable, inclusive and rapid growth and development for all Ethiopians.

If the current ethnic federal system is a barrier to equitable growth and development; and if it is the lead source of repression and corruption (double whammy), is it at all sensible to propagate ethnic politics as a virtue and a corner stone for democratization? I am afraid to report that there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Studies show that ethnic politics, organization and leadership will not advance justice, equitable accesses to economic and social opportunities. It will not advance political pluralism and the rule of law. It is conflict and instability ridden. Ethnic politics will not lead to the sovereignty of the people. Sovereignty is gained when each person has the right to voice her/his opinion and has the chance to participate in the political, policy and decision-making process freely.

In light of this, I welcomed the recent monumental decision by one wing of the Oromo Liberation Front to abandon narrow ethnic politics and secession and to join other Pan-Ethiopian democratic forces in the quest for political and social justice for all Ethiopians. This is a most welcome development and should encourage others who believe in the independence and territorial integrity of the country and in the unity and sovereignty of the Ethiopian people to coalesce, collaborate and struggle for the same cause. Dissidents must seize the opportunity now. It is among the prime reasons why I am writing this series.

This latest positive development notwithstanding, I am not entirely convinced that, as yet, Ethiopian political and social elites appreciate the economic, social and political forces that are shaping the new world of this century. This unfolding world places enormous emphasis on educated workforces and national cohesion on the one hand and flexibility to manage the risks and harness the benefits from an increasingly integrated world. Globalization is mean unless one has a nationalist government that places singular emphasis on national ownership of assets and on productivity and equity. Globalization is mean for the weak and for those countries whose leaders are not nationalistic. Globalization identifies and exploits opportunistic leaders who place a premium on their wealth and power. The recent recommendation to the Ethiopian government by Access Capital to sell some of the most profitable and national icons such as Ethiopian Airlines to the private sector is not an isolated phenomenon. Access Capital did not say anything about the US$12 billion that was stolen and taken out of the country; and the billions of Birr squandered and diverted internally. Ethiopia does not suffer from shortage of financial capital. It suffers from poor, repressive and corrupt governance. This, Access Capital, the World Bank or IMF do not say. Why?

The next decades call on a new generation of educated people who use science and technology to create and recreate their own societies. The old way of organizing and managing is increasingly out of place. This new and demanding world requires fresh and outside the box rethinking of how Ethiopian society ought to be organized and governed in meeting new challenges. Ethnic governance is not it. The TPLF/EPRDF model of ethnic governance is not suited to respond to this demanding world of change. A few examples from past practice will illustrate this point. The leadership conspired and turned over Eritrea in general and the port of Assab in particular and made the country landlocked. A landlocked economy is a dependent economy. Import and export costs are astronomical because of the regime’s unforgettable and deliberate policy mistake. It offered 1,600 square km of some of the country’s fertile lands, waters, flora and fauna to the North Sudanese government as dividend for Sudanese support when the TPLF was a liberation front. Having failed to achieve food self-sufficiency and security for the Ethiopian people, it embarked on one of the most disastrous policies of any government. It offered millions of ha of the most fertile farmlands and water basins to companies and persons from 36 countries; and to Tigrean elites that are loyal to the TPLF. It is therefore not equipped to deal with the intricacies of managing a society in the 21st century that calls for national cohesion.

Without going much further than the later part of the 20th and the early part of the 21st century, governance in Ethiopia has been based on the principle of political and economic capture by narrow ethnic and ideological elite. This was done through non-peaceful and non-democratic means. Political and economic capture has been about punishments and rewards. In coming to power, successive regimes had to inflict sufficient pain on their enemies so that they will never resurrect. Since the gains realized from continued political capture are substantial, the ruling group must reward itself and its supporters in order to solidify its power base. Correspondingly, it had to deprive its competitors of political and economic roles. In a poor country, financial, budgetary and other economic resources are very limited and are thus strategic tools. The TPLF core is a master at marrying ethnic governance, including ethnic federalism with economic capture.

Traditionally, an ethnic-based regime does not see the duration of its governance as finite and as subject to public consent. Political capture has always been a win-lose strategy. The biggest losers in this strategy are the poor, the society and succeeding generations. Political leaders do not wish to lose with grace through free, fair, open, transparent and competitive elections. The political tradition is for the ruling group to win big by any means necessary, including electoral fraud, intimidation, killings, imprisonment or persecution of adversaries. The TPLF/EPRDF top leadership has perfected this instrument of control at substantial costs for the country, and the vast majority of the population, including the vast majority of Tigrean.

Ethnic-governance and ethnic-federalism embed drawbacks in social, economic and political terms. Elections are always contested and are directly affected by them. Accesses to social and economic opportunities are influenced and directed deliberately. Land leases and allocations are decided through ethnic elite lenses. The concentration and uncontested nature of political and economic power at the executive level has offered the ruling-party the institutional and material means to hold on to power and to refrain from initiating needed socioeconomic and political reforms. Reform would mean sharing power and resources with the rest.

In an effort to appease nations, nationalities and people, the system allows the minimum required. It promotes and allows cultural, linguistic and other forms of freedoms while exercising monopoly over institutions, policies, decision-making and capture of their natural resources. Regional ethnic elites and personalities act as modern vassals and ‘lords’ and are often blamed and sacrificed when things go astray. The succession of Regional Presidents in the Gambella region who have been sucked is a case in point. Their primary role is not to serve the people and region they represent. It is to be loyal to and serve the party in power. Regional ethnic officials are never free or independent to enjoy freedom of choice. I do not underestimate the perceived emotional and real benefits associated with ethnic federalism. I contest its democratic content. Ordinary people on whose behalf pretensions of ethnic amity and freedom are exercised are paying a huge price now; and their children will bear the brunt of exploitation and plunder at play. The system will not initiate radical reforms that will make them masters of their own national resources.

In my assessment, radical reforms are needed urgently to empower Ethiopian society as a whole and to feed the millions who depend on international emergency food aid, hundreds of thousands who leave the country, and millions who are unemployed. Even if one were to ignore the developmental reasons, this back drop is vital for humanitarian causes. To ignore this injustice of recurrent and massive hunger is to deny justice to the affected millions. I do not know of a single Ethiopian who is not ashamed and saddened by the level of destitution, hunger and recurring famine in Ethiopia. While leaders of donor institutions and non-governmental organizations empathize with the hungry or send food or money or both and feed millions, it is a matter of dignity and honor for Ethiopians regardless of ethnic affiliation to reject the system that allows these to occur in the first place.

Ethiopians cannot go on depending on food aid for ever. For those in the Diaspora, it is about a recurrent human tragedy of a country with which they identify and they love. For them, and for millions of concerned people around the globe, the hunger of a child, a mother or a father waiting for emergency food aid is an affront to conscience and human dignity. It is a lead indicator of failed leadership. This failed leadership is fundamentally flawed because it is based on ethnic domination and divide and rule.

For government officials who live in what an Indian economist, Khanna, calls “mansion villas,” destitution has become a normal and acceptable part of life. Someone just wrote a note and told me that this person must have visited Mekele. I said yes; he has. He also visited Gondar, Bahir Dar, and Awassa, Addis Ababa and other cities and towns where ‘villas and mansions’ dot slums. For this reason alone, I will highlight critical policy issues, as a prelude to this series on the devastating impacts of ethnic political and economic capture.

While children, girls, boys, mothers and fathers are starving and dying, the ruling-party continues business as usual. It is more concerned about regime continuity, and less about the bigger and most immediate issues of hunger, famine, starvation, unemployment, slum-like shelters, dependency and endemic poverty. In this sense too, the ruling party’s values are worrisome to most Ethiopians across the ideological and ethnic spectrum. They feel that the regime focuses much more on rewards and punishments to keep itself in power and to extract more wealth and incomes from a broken system. It inflicts punishments on those who dissent and disagree with or oppose its policies and programs. Many Ethiopians say that the ruling-party rewards its members, affiliates and supporters handsomely. In doing this the leadership has elevated the punishment and reward equation to a new and dangerous level. This has the unsettling ingredients of collapse and civil unrest that is unpredictable. In light of this, I conclude that the TPLF/EPRDF socioeconomic and political conception, design, policies and programs have proven to be totally ethnic political elite-based, self-serving, dictatorial, corrupt and dangerous. The executive branch has replaced all institutions with regard to policies and decisions.

The conception of ‘victories I win or defeats me lose’ formula has strengthened the proclivity to hold on to power by all means necessary. Historically, political power in Ethiopia was characterized by a macho culture of defeating enemies. Battling out policies and programs through peaceful and democratic means, with the intent of letting voters decide, has never been the norm. Devaluing and limiting the formation of political pluralism and advancements toward a democratic culture of voter preferences and choices, the ruling-party uses public funds to recruit and mobilize members. It incentivizes and guides voter patterns to its own advantage. It punishes those who challenge the system in any way. It rewards those who support it. Affiliated ethnic parties and elites who lead them facilitate this phenomenon. This way, the political culture of exclusion continues indefinitely regardless of social injustice.

The reader would say that such a punishment and reward route to political power is not unique to Ethiopia. It has been a pattern throughout post-colonial Africa. I agree. My lead argument is that the primary motivating factor in this century as in the past behind the same model continues to be acquisition of wealth assets. On October 16, 2009, the Financial Times (FT) put this succinctly in an article entitled “Affluent Africa: The most reliable route to riches in Africa once lay via politics and “public” service.” No surprise, since “the state in many of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 48 countries controlled the principal levers (pillars) of the economy in the decades following independence.” The article cited numerous examples of extraction of riches by and for political elites using “absolute power.” Most African government leaders and elites were famous–many still are–not so much for public trust or public services but for extracting wealth at the cost of the vast majority. While there have been changes in a number of Sub-Saharan African countries, Ethiopia remains among the exceptions in not expanding opportunities and tackling endemic poverty. Many African intellectuals rightly ask why the country is unable to feed itself.

Ethiopia is also among the exceptions in prolonging and sustaining direct links between the party in power, the state and ethnicity. I shall show that these links promote and show corrupt practices and allow massive illicit outflow of funds. Similar to other Sub-Saharan African regimes that have not yet changed, those in power are not sole gainers from political and economic capture. They create foreign and domestic alliances and partners to justify their grip. The Ethiopian case mimics such partnerships in globalization as well.

One example might illustrate the point. In the same FT article quoted above, Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi, one of Africa’s wealthiest men is identified as one of the movers and shakers of Ethiopia’s political economy. An Ethiopian newspaper had identified the relationships between Al-Amoudi’s large business empire and monopoly and the ruling-party as a “state within a state”. A capitalist has found a lucrative alliance in a country where there are hardly any large scale domestic or national competitors. “Al-Amoudi is close to the ruling regime and partly funded Ethiopia’s millennium celebrations in September 2000. Al-Amoudi’s business empire centers on the Midroc Global Group, a conglomerate that owns more than 30 enterprises; and employs 24,000 people in four continents. Having leased vast tracts of land for commercial farming, the Sheikh also owns the Legadembi gold mine, which produces roughly 3.5 tons of fine gold a year.” I do not know of many governments that turn over a precious source of foreign exchange for the country to a foreign monopoly. The TPLF does.

The point of the quotation from the FT article is to suggest that the ruling-party allows unrestricted investments and operations, including leases of “vast tracts of land for commercial farming” to foreigners and domestic allies as long as such investments and partnerships pay dividends financially, politically and diplomatically. “Absolute” state political and economic power allows virtual centrally driven investments and economic monopolies to thrive. They crowd-out and undermine national firms and domestic entrepreneurs. In short, the system perpetuates dependency; and suffocates domestic private sector development. How can deserving Ethiopian nationals enter and sustain businesses if monopolies are given special privileges? The gold mine owned and run by Al-Amoudi was once state owned and profitable. Privatization proved to be lucrative for ethnic folks and ethnic endowments that are close to the ruling-party. Massive asset transfers associated with privatization show the dilemma. Among other factors, privatization has not expanded domestic and nationally owned and managed and merit based enterprises. It has not generated large employment. It has not produced a vigorous middle class. There is little benefit for Ethiopian youth, especially girls. Contrast and compare this condition with the Asian Miracle where privatization and indigenous development took advantage of globalization in general and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in particular; and offered enormous employment and incomes opportunities for millions.

(Author can be reached at Biraraa@yahoo.com)

Ethiopian flight 409 might be a victim of Israel-Hizbullah war (Wikileaks)

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Wikileaks has released documents today that shed new light on what has cause the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 in 2009. The new WikiLeaks releases are email threads from the global intelligence firm Stratfor dating back to the time of the Ethiopian Airlines crash. While investigations were taking place in Beirut and Paris, Stratfor was prying for answers from different high level sources. The sources included a hospital director in Beirut, a Lebanese military source, and a Hezbollah media source… [read more]

Stop bullshitting

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

By Elias Kifle

After I wrote a commentary a few days ago saying that we Ethiopians need to give the new prime minister some time to prove himself worthy of our support, I have received a flood of responses from some who supported my call, others who strongly opposed me, and a few who are in the middle. Supporters of TPLF are also disguising themselves as opposition and trying to exploit the discussion to their advantage. They want Hailemariam to fail so that they will return to power.

To my surprise, the most aggressive criticism of what I’ve said came mostly (not all, but mostly) from individuals who are contributing little or nothing to the struggle for freedom in Ethiopia. By contrast, those who have been expressing goodwill toward Hailemariam are mostly those who have been active in the struggle. My focus in this commentary are the cynics.

One of those cynical individuals is a friend of mine who called me on Friday afternoon, right after the new prime minister was sworn in, to give me tongue lashing. She said, ‘How dare you ask us to support Hailemariam? How is he better than Meles? Nothing has changed… Didn’t’ you hear his speech today? He didn’t give any hint of change… I am angry at you… etc.’

I asked her: ‘Did you expect Hailemariam, who is currently surrounded by TPLF hynas, to say any thing that would antagonize them? Do you want him to get assassinated? Do you want him to become another Teferi Benti or Aman Andom?’

My friend: ‘At least he could have hinted that there will be changes and that he will release the political prisoners… He is too weak to say or do any thing that contradicts the wishes of his TPLF bosses…’

Me: ‘Do you mean Hailemariam should be brave like Andualem, Eskindir, Prof. Asrat…? I am sure you would not shed a drop of tear if TPLF put a bullet in his head? What have you done when TPLF jailed brave Ethiopians like Andualem? What have you done when Meles gunned down all those young pro-democracy protestors in the streets of Addis Ababa? I bet you didn’t lose even one hour of sleep over that…’

Not surprisingly, my friend did not have any answer.

It is the same story with many (not all) of those who are now condemning Hailemariam before the guy was not even sworn in. Such individuals are engaged in nothing more than political bullshitting. Empty talk, no action! They come up with all kinds of excuses not to support opposition groups and the independent media. And yet, they have no shame in expecting some one to sacrifice himself.

Let’s be serious: Was it really that difficult to overthrow Meles Zenawi, or at least force him to come to the negotiation table? Meles’s strength was our apathy, laziness, and disunity. Meles could not have thrown the political leaders and journalists in jail had enough people been serious about the struggle. Without firing a single shot, through economic boycott alone, we could have crippled Meles and his Woyanne junta. It is because most people have become so selfish and stopped caring for one another that very few people have to pay heavy sacrifices.

Hailemariam cannot do any thing by himself. His first priority is not our demand. It should be his own survival. He is surrounded by TPLF, a gang of cold-blooded murderers who are capable of killing him in a split second. To me, the fact that Ethiopia is no longer led by an evil dictator who hated her and her people is by itself a major change. By all accounts Hailemariam is not an evil person, and he doesn’t hate Ethiopia. I heard from various people who know him closely that he is a decent man. That is a good starting point. Now it is up to us to help him transition Ethiopia to genuine democracy by weakening and defeating the enemy, TPLF. We have the power to defeat TPLF without firing a shot. Let’s do it.

If you want Hailemariam to release the political prisoners, I have this message for you: get off your butt and let’s campaign against the TPLF, not Hailemariam. Let’s boycott all business enterprises that are controlled by TPLF, such as Ethiopian Airlines (that is headed by an incompetent TPLF cadre named Tewolde Gebremariam), Wugagan Bank (owned by Sebhat Nega), Guna Trading (controlled by Azeb Mesfin) and others. For the next 3 month or so let’s also reduce the money we send to our families in Ethiopia by 20 – 30 percent. TPLF will be forced to agree to release all the political prisoners, or else they will run out of money. That is how the U.S. forced TPLF to accept Hailemariam as prime minister. There was no money in the bank after Meles Zenawi’s family and friends looted the treasury. Banks had stopped giving hard currency to importers. The economy, that is dominated by TPLF, was about to collapse. The U.S. promised them hard currency infusion if they do not block Hailemariam from becoming prime minister. They relented. We can do the same think. We can force TPLF to accept our demands.

If you are not willing to take part in such campaign, shut the hell up please.

Ato Seye and his politics

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

By Yilma Bekele

Mr. Charles Krauthammer is an American syndicated columnist, political commentator and is considered a highly influential conservative voice. He is critical of President Obama’s policies and supports the election of Mr. Romney to be President. As a tradition if a candidate for the presidency does not have a thick resume when it comes to foreign policy issues they normally travel to friendly European countries to shake hands with the leaders for what is called a ‘photo opportunity’.

It is with this in mind that Mr. Romney flew over to Great Britain to rub shoulders with British Conservative Party leaders and attend the opening of the Summer Olympic Games. Unfortunately the trip did not go as intended. Mr. Romney got the British all pissed off by doubting their security plans and furthermore questioning if they were enthusiastic about the games being held there. It is fair to say all of Britain wanted nothing more than for Mr. Romney to pack and leave.

His ill manners in Britain were a source of unbearable anguish to his friends and supporters in the conservative camp. I very much enjoyed Mr. Krauthammer’s analysis of the unfortunate situation. He wrote “What Romney answered in that question, it’s unbelievable, it’s beyond human understanding, it’s incomprehensible. I’m out of adjectives,” Krauthammer said. ‘All Romney has to do is say nothing. It’s like a guy in the 100-meter dash. All he has to do is to finish, he doesn’t have to win. And instead, he tackles the guy in the lane next to him and ends up disqualified. I don’t get it.”

I brought this up because that is how his friends and supporters must have felt when they heard Ato Seye Abraha’s speech in Seattle a few days back. Fresh from his two years course at Harvard all Ato Seye got to do was utter a few smart sounding phrases and reintroduce himself into our politics. Just like Mr. Romney Ato Seye ended up putting his foot in his mouth. Mistakes like this occur not because the individuals are uninformed but rather they just happen to be clueless about their surroundings and lack common sense to fully understand what is expected of them to achieve the goal they set for themselves.

Mr. Romney goes to Britain and undermines his hosts and Ato Seye traveled to Seattle to insult the sensibilities of his fellow Ethiopian citizens in exile. Their action is what is called self inflicted wound. The fact that Ato Seye was invited by the same poor immigrants that left their homeland due to the policies put in place while he was part of the leadership is what makes the situation a little difficult to comprehend. I always say we Ethiopians are a marvel to watch and Seattle is the epicenter of that phenomenon. I do not know how to put it in English but in Amharic we say ‘teteketo asteki’.

At Seye is not an ordinary Ethiopian. He is one of the founders of the Tigrai Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) and was member of the Central Committee or Politburo of that infamous organization. Upon the defeat of the Derg and TPLF takeover of power Ato Seye has served his party as Defense Minister, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigrai (EFFORT) and Chairman of Ethiopian Airlines.

After the war between Shabia and Woyane in 19998-2000 Ato Seye was accused by his friend Meles Zenawi of leaning towards Bonapartism and extreme corruption. He was expelled from the TPLF, tried by Ato Meles’s kangaroo court and spent six years in prison. One can say he is lucky because normally in the TPLF dissent can cost you your life. It is also good to note that unlike other prisoners taken by TPLF he did not have to ask for pardon to get his freedom.

Upon his release Ato Seye formed Forum for Democratic Dialogue (FDD) with the aim of bringing opposition activists together. Around this time Judge Bertukan Mideksa Chairman of Andenet Party was again accused of fabricated charges by Ato Meles and taken to Kalit prison. In her absence Dr. Negasso Gidada another former member of EPRDPF assumed the Chairmanship. Ato Seye joined Andenet Party. Please note his admission to the party caused such an upheaval that a few of the founding members such as Professor Mesfin and Ato Debebe Eshetu including quite a few young activists were driven away from the party.

This was also the time Ato Meles and his TPLF Party were holding elections. This was also the main reason Chairman Bertukan was removed from the scene. Our beloved leader was held in solitary confinement and subjected to psychological abuse and inhuman treatment with the knowledge of Meles Zenawi and his security department.

Despite the fact that their Chairman was in jail for no crime other than being highly popular and a proven leader, despite the fact that the so called ‘Election Board’’ was still under the TPLF, despite the fact that foreign observers were put on short leash and despite the fact that plenty Ethiopians advocated boycotting this election charade Andenet choose to give Meles Zenawi a cover of legitimacy by showing up to be humiliated. While the TPLF was holding election circus Andenet candidates were in North America holding ‘Town Hall’ meetings with the Diaspora that cannot vote.

It was not long after the 99% Meles victory Ato Seye came to the US to go to school. For two years he stayed out of Ethiopian politics. He did not involve himself in Diaspora politics either. Seattle is the first instance we hear from Ato Seye. He was representing Medrek with fellow politician Dr. Merera Gudina.

As far as I am concerned the timing is a little difficult to comprehend. Our country is on the verge of change after over twenty years of TPLF dictatorship. The Woyane kingpin has died unexpectedly and his Party is moving heaven and earth to find a formula to continue the misrule. Why in the world would an Ethiopian opposition leader hold a meeting in faraway USA is a good question to ask? On the other hand it fits the pattern. When there is vital burning issue at home the leaders travel outside to hold discussion with the non stake holders. It is definitely not to explain the situation to us. We have more unfettered discussion in the Diaspora. We enjoy free press. We have more Radio and television service. Our Web sites are unblocked and independent. What in the world can they tell us that we don’t know?

Ato Seye’s short speech (http://www.awrambatimes.com/wp-content/uploads/SEEYE-SEATTLE-SPEECH.pdf) in Seattle was a little short on facts and completely void of vision and historical accuracy. It can also be said that Ato Seye has Chutzpah or Cojones or in simple English balls to show up among the Diaspora and read eulogy for the person that caused so much hurt and agony to our people. Dr. Merera as usual served as a sidekick the role he has played the last eight years or so.

I am hundred percent sure he(Seye) is aware of the fact that our people were ordered to line up in the rain and forced to show grief but choose to tell us it was a voluntary action why? He is knowledgeable of the workings of the Woyane system he helped set up that practiced the art of control and coercion starting in Tigrai, why is he pretending otherwise?

I am one hundred percent sure he did not chastise his American friends when they celebrated the death of Osama Bin Laden whereas we are lectured to be ashamed of showing pleasure at the death of the tyrant why is that? Don’t we feel pain? Don’t we grief for the many thousands that were killed by TPLF army and security?

I am really surprised by his lecture regarding our lack of ‘diplomatic skills’. He brought the example of Armenians in the US that play a strong and vital role lobbying to steer American foreign policy to help their homeland. He also thinks our vehement opposition to Ambassador Susan Rice’s speech at the dictator’s funeral to be misguided and false. I beg to disagree on both points.

The first analogy is way off mark. Armenians migrated to the US a long time ago. About three generations back. In fact about twenty years ago the Governor of California was of Armenian descent. Ethiopians are still on the first generation. The fact of the matter is we are the most successful and vibrant group among the new immigrants. Our New Year events are attended by Governors, Congressmen and Mayors all across America. We have managed to schedule hearings in the US Congress regarding our country and even managed to present a bill to help assure Human Rights in dear old Ethiopia. No new immigrant has scaled such heights. We got work to do but we have not been idle. I do not recall Ato Seye giving us a hand the last two years he has resided in the US.

As for Ambassador Rice she was wrong. She made mockery of our people’s quest for freedom and dignity. She insulted us. We will not trade our honor to curry favor from no one. We vented our frustrations. Sometimes it is necessary to stand for what we believe to be right and she has to be told in no uncertain words that heaping praise to a human right abuser, denier of democracy and murder of our family and friends is never acceptable.

The Seattle speech was geared to lay a conciliatory tone to a certain wing of TPLF and also advise the rest of us not to look back. I don’t care about the TPLF part but I do agree it is a good idea to move forward. There is also this little thing called history. We learn from the past so we avoid certain mistakes. South Africans have managed to do that. They just did not gloss over past mistakes but brought it up in the open and dealt with it. That is what ‘Truth and reconciliation’ is about. Air your dirty laundry for all to see and punish those that crossed the line and reform those that show remorse. Moving forward without doing that is like putting dirty cloth after a shower. The murder of Assefa Maru, the death of Professor Asrat the shooting of Shibre and others have to be laid to rest in a proper way.

I am not being uncharitable towards Ato Seye. As I said before he is not an ordinary Ethiopian. He was invited to Seattle because he is a political figure. He was one of the leaders of TPLF Party. He was present when Eritrea gained its independence a decision made behind closed doors, he was there when the current constitution was imposed on us, he facilitated the formation of Kilil Bantustans, he was aware that the so called EPDRF was nothing but a cover up for TPLF domination, he was the CEO of EFFORT which got its start by using the law to steal important businesses and properties that belonged to all Ethiopians to be controlled by a party and a family and today he is one of the leaders of the biggest and important legally recognized opposition party. This is the reason we should hold him to a higher standard.

Leadership is not an easy matter. That is why all the advanced democracies hold competition on a level playing field to pick the best among many. The leader can make or break the country. For every Nelson Mandela there is an Adolf Hitler. It is obvious we do not have the skills to choose a good leader. We haven’t had the experience. Our people have not yet chosen a leader thru the ballot. We must be among the very few in the world that have not enjoyed the luxury of deciding who the leader should be. Throughout our history leadership has been usurped by the strong and cunning.

Why is it so? Is it because we don’t question authority? Do we differ to other due to wealth, education, age or linage? Why are we so meek? When is this behavior going to stop? When are we going to stop being cheer leaders and start the real work of leading by example? The Diaspora has to stop serving as an ATM machine to those that use our kind heart to further their failed policies. The Diaspora has to stop being a door mat and learn how to say no. There is nothing wrong with that. Ato Seye has to stop treating us like imbeciles and go join his old party now his nemesis is gone. This idea of telling us there has been twenty years of peace and progress in Ethiopia should be laid to rest. This idea of lecturing us on how to mind our business sitting on top or the sideline is not acceptable. We got plenty of that what we are lacking is bold leadership that listens to our heart beat.

BOYCOTT Ethiopian Airlines – NO RIGHTS? NO FLIGHTS!

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Airline boycott has a storied past in South Africa as part of a broader consumer boycott by activists standing against state repression. These activists who called for a free and democratic South Africa understood that, if one is serious about human rights and democracy, then every
nonviolent resistance, including economic boycott, must be waged.

For 21 years, the violent and manipulative TPLF rulers have been coercing where they can — such as human rights defenders in Ethiopia and everyone else in the country. And where they can’t coerce, for example, outside of the country, they have been playing with the minds of pro-democracy Ethiopians abroad, leading us to dither and to limit ourselves in the nonviolent methods we use to wage our fight against dictatorship in our country. It is time that we take the example of the freedom-fighters in South Africa. We should take action and stop flying Ethiopian Airlines (EAL) to put pressure on the oppresses.

With every flight on EAL, we are dutifully handing over our scarce cash, in the form of foreign currency, and are unwittingly keeping the hungry TPLF well-fed and the military loyal to them.

Here are just a few significant moments in the boycott movement against the South African Apartheid rule’s airline, South African Airways (SAA). This can inspire us to do our part and quit using EAL:

As early as the 1960s, several African states pioneered the application of pressure on the brutal Apartheid regime through the regime’s airline, by prohibiting the use of their airspace by SAA. This made it exceedingly difficult for the regime to operate its airline. Under effective grassroots activism, SAA started to become a liability for respected firms left and right that had been associated with SAA. For example, in 1985, the well-established Washington D.C. law firm Covington & Burling, which used to represent SAA, dropped it as a client.

Patriotic anti-apartheid activists were able to also influence US policy to pass in 1986 the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act. Among other things, the law banned flights by SAA into the United States. Soon thereafter, Australia followed suit with a similar legislation concerning SAA.

In 1988 anti-Apartheid activists in London unrelentingly occupied SAA’s offices there, as part of the ‘No Rights? No Flights!’ campaign. Activists realized that one of the ways to effectively strike at the heart of the violent and racist white rule in South Africa was to target a boycott where it hurt the repressive rulers: at their treasured cash-cow, the government controlled airline. The poster on the left in the picture above (and enlarged below) subverts the Apartheid regime’s advertisement slogan for the purpose of galvanizing consumers to stop flying SAA.

Economic boycotts such as these, along with a wide range of methods to resist the authoritarian racial rule in South Africa, led to the crumbling of Apartheid rule in 1990.
Boycott Ethiopian Airlines

A day of joy for Ethiopians; the blood-sucking terrorist tyrant is dead!

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012


Today is a day of joy for most Ethiopians and all freedom loving people around the world. The ruling Woyanne tribal junta has finally admitted this morning that Meles Zenawi, the genocidal tyrant who has been terrorizing the people of Ethiopia for the past 4 decades, is dead.

The state-controlled ETV reported that Meles Zenawi has died yesterday, but the fact is that he died in the early morning of Sunday, July 15, as first announced by the Ethiopian National Transitional Council (ENTC).

Meles suddenly disappeared from the public view 61 days ago on June 20. On July 11, he went into a coma and was flown to Belgium, according to an eyewitness who is working for Ethiopian Airlines. After the doctors at St. Luc Hospital tried to revive him for the next 4 days, he took his last breath on July 15.

Why is Ethiopian Airlines overcharging passengers?

Monday, August 20th, 2012


Ethiopian Airlines (EAL) is consistently proving to be a bad financial deal for travelers to and from Ethiopia. EAL used to tout itself as the most affordable way to travel back home. But our research finds that at least nowadays, that is most certainly not the case. For the three-week time period beginning on September 1, we randomly searched on Expedia.com for round-trip flights from locations where many Ethiopians live abroad, to Addis Ababa. What we find is that EAL always turns out to be more expensive than the best deal, sometimes by many hundreds of dollars. See the results further below for trips to Addis from DC, Atlanta, London, and Rome, for example.

Why is EAL overcharging passengers? Two factors appear to play a role.

(1) Extracting foreign exchange from the diaspora. Even before the Meles-disappearance fiasco, the regime had been in a bind, running dangerously low on foreign exchange reserves. But now things are going from bad to worse: Woyanne elites and others with political connections
are bringing their hard currency reserves into safety, i.e. out of the country, as reported here. The past and ongoing Forex crunch of the TPLF regime is likely to create pressure for companies under TPLF control that get their primary business from the diaspora and foreigners — such as EAL — to do their best to extract as much hard currency money from their customers. After all, hard currency from the diaspora is now needed more urgently than ever, to keep senior military officials rich and happy so that they don’t turn on the TPLF elite.

(2) EAL mismanagement. Since a competent chief executive of EAL had been removed and the airline put into the hands of TPLF insider Tewolde Gebremariam, EAL has been undertaking bizarre moves, such as forcing airline staff to take wage cuts shortly after announcing sterling profit growth (read here). So it shouldn’t surprise if flights become as expensive as they have become.

Click on the image to enlarge

Profits drop 40% at Ethiopian Airlines

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Ethiopian’s profit plunges by 40 percent

The Reporter

August 11, 2012

The net profit of Ethiopian Airlines in the 2011/2012 fiscal year has tumbled by 40 percent to 732 million birr year-on-year. In the 2010/2011 fiscal year Ethiopian earned a net profit of 1.23 billion birr, which dropped by 500 million birr. In the 2011/2012 fiscal year, which ended on June 30, Ethiopian hauled 4.6 million passengers, a 25 percent surge in comparison to that of the previous year. The airline generated an operating revenue of 33.8 billion birr, up 37 percent. Operating expense increased by 35 percent to 5.7 billion birr. The airline made an operating profit of 1 billion birr and its net profit stood at 732 million birr.

Ethiopian said the unaudited figures for the fiscal year show that despite the challenges faced by the airline during the year, it finished the year in black with strong overall performance and is set to continue its growth to achieve goals set in its Vision 2025. At a press conference held yesterday Ethiopian CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam, said that the just ended fiscal year was the most challenging year.

“The fuel price hike was a daunting challenge. For the first time the price of fuel stayed high for a long time. It was above USD 120 per barrel for a year-and-half. The European economic crisis reduced the demand for air travel and the economic growth of China and other Asian countries stalled,” Tewolde told reporters at his office. “All these have affected the profitability of the global airline industry. As you have heard Kenya Airways has started laying off employees. And a number of major international airlines have registered loss. Despite all the challenges we are profitable. We made an annual salary increment of 6-8 percent.”

An official at Ethiopian told The Reporter that the 20 percent devaluation of the Ethiopian currency against the US dollar in September 2010 inflated the net profit the airline made in the 2010/2011 fiscal year. “One of the contributing factors for the surge in profit in that fiscal year was the devaluation. And it is unfair to compare the profit made in 2010/2011 to the 2011/2012 fiscal year,” the official said.

The airline introduced a six percent salary increment for employees earning a monthly salary of 4000 birr and above, seven percent for those who earn between 2000-4000 birr and six percent for those who earning 2000 birr and below.  At an annual internal meeting with employees held on Wednesday at the African Union Assembly Hall the management of Ethiopian management briefed them about the challenges the airline faced during the fiscal year.

It was a tough year for the global airline industry. Last March IATA forecast that the global airline industry would make a profit of USD 3 billion. However, IATA said African airlines would lose a total of USD 100 million. South Africa Airways, which is currently in the red, is receiving subsidy from the government. Royal Air Marroc, the national flag carrier of Morocco, which declared bankruptcy, is laying of employees.

Tewolde said Ethiopian is in the third year of the Vision 2025 (a 15-year development strategy) adding that the airline is growing according to schedule. “We are growing at an annual rate of 25-30 percent. We are on the right track,” the CEO said.

He added that the airline plans to build a new cargo terminal and maintenance hangar.

Ethiopian has set up a second hub in West Africa in Togo where its affiliate airline ASKY is based. ASKY was established by the private sector in 2007 and became operational in 2009. Tewolde said that ASKY, which is in its third year of operation, has managed to achieve a rapid growth.

The CEO disclosed his management’s plan to establish two regional hubs in southern and central Africa.  Under Vision 2025 Ethiopian anticipates to increase its fleet to 120 from the existing 47, the number of destination to 90, the volume of passengers to 80 million and its employees to 17,000.

Currently, the airline is expanding its aviation academy at a cost of 42 million dollars.

Starve the TPLF beast: Boycott Ethiopian Airlines

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Statement by Boycott TPLF Task Force

Don’t hand over your hard-earned dollars, euros, any foreign currency to them! And save your own money in the process!

Meles Zenawi is either dead, or if he is not actually clinically dead, he is as good as dead in terms of his physical and mental condition and well-being. Here is a critical question: What can every Ethiopian, especially Ethiopians living across the world, do to make it as difficult as possible for Woyanne to continue to rule the country with an iron fist without missing a beat, now that Meles is out of the picture?

One of the greatest powers we all have is the power of our money. Especially at this time of uncertainty, foreign exchange is one of the most important resources TPLF will try to hold on to and continue to amass. They are desperate for forex in order to be able to buy the necessary military and police hardware to put down any uprisings or opposition attacks against them. Perhaps more importantly: Foreign exchange is also needed to keep the military elites happy and well-taken care of—now more urgent than ever for TPLF, because some senior military officials may start getting restive in light of the death (or as-good-as-death) of their patron-saint, Meles.

One of the major sources of foreign exchange for woyanne are revenues they extract from Ethiopian Airlines, predominantly from ticket purchases by Ethiopians residing abroad. Starve the beast by stopping to hand over your money to Woyanne through Ethiopian Airlines (EAL). Moreover, EAL prices are likely to increase, in part because of inefficiencies in management—now likely to get worse since they recently removed a respected chief executive and put one of their own, a true-blue Woyanne, at the helm of EAL. Therefore, in fact EAL is more often than not more expensive than other airlines. So by quitting EAL and taking other airlines instead, you are not only depriving TPLF of foreign exchange that they need now more desperately than ever; you are also being wiser in managing your own finances.

Here is just one of many examples (see on the right) where flying EAL is more expensive than flying other airlines (screenshots from Expedia.com). For a randomly picked roundtrip flight from Washington DC to Addis and back, Lufthansa is the cheapest flight with $1,194, while EAL costs $1,382.

Ode to timidity – the Ethiopian experience

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

By Yilma Bekele

I knew something was missing. It kept nagging at me, the little voice in side kept saying ‘you know you have been here before.’ I was driving south on the 580 Freeway when it hit me. It was 2005 deja vu. How could I forget? I ask for forgiveness, I am an Ethiopian and memory is an option. Our long-term memory is intact and is usually retrieved at a drop of a hat. Now short term is a different matter. We are very selective about that. Why do you think I keep writing about the crimes of the regime? It is my humble attempt to act as a reminder, to help us visualize and store for easy recall.

This is what I wrote in 2009 during the Kinijit debacle “Psychologist Ellen McGrath calls it ‘the rumination rut’…. a style of thinking in which, like a hamster in a cage, you run in tight circles on a treadmill in your brain. It means obsessing about a problem, about a loss, about any kind of setback or ambiguity without moving past thought into the realm of action.’ This in turn makes us loose our focus. While our problem stays constant our focus wonders aimlessly. It is like trying to hit a moving target.”

See what I mean, what we got here is mirror image of our situation then. I am not that much of a religious person. But I am beginning to see what we commonly refer to as the Ethiopian God or Allah. What ever the force is it looks like we got some body, someone looking after our ancient land. It is too much of a coincidence to be dismissed lightly. The force is with us again. Despite our weakness it always shows up to salvage all that we mange to squander. This time it came in full glory with trumpets, whistle and drums.

There was the time when the TPLF regime in consort with Shabia declared us superfluous and discarded us as old shoes. We lost use of a port, we let our army march in shame, we opened our border as a one way highway, shared a common National bank, contemplated changing the name of our Airlines and even took a second fiddle to exporting the mighty coffee. Then the force showed up. Need I say more? No.

There was a time when Somalia and Ogaden were quiet. Poor Somalia was going thru growing pains. The whole world was dumping on our brothers. Literally dumping toxic waste on their coast and fishing their resources out of existence. The brave and fierce Somalis said enough. The arrogant west decided to practiced target shooting on live humans. Well, well, well guess who decided to be part of this game. Thus we marched into Mogadishu dressed, armed and driven with foreign sponsors. It was not long before we left in the middle of the night whipped, demoralized and in a hurry. The force showed up.

In 1993, during the conclusion of an interview, a reporter asked the lately departed Ashebari on his views of Ethiopian history and he replied, “ Ethiopia is only 100 years old. Those who claim otherwise are indulging themselves in a fairy tale.” The arrogance, the hubris boggles the mind on the other hand it leads one to do reckless stuff. Thus Waldeba Monastery was condemned to be a sugar plantation. Over fifteen hundred years of treasure was to be replaced by a farm so we can sweeten our coffee. The mighty force was not amused. Shall we say the Christian God and the Muslim Allah got together and decided to declare a recall of a defective specimen. I am not being presumptuous but some things have to be explained in a manner we can all understand. This is my take on this situation.

I believe we have been cashing our credit once too often. There should come a time when we should help our selves instead of relying on an outside power to straighten our never-ending screwups. What better than now to acquire some stiff spine or an extra pair of balls if you don’t mind my expression. Is it possible to trade in timidity with bold action? I know it is a tall order but you know what it is actually possible. May I be allowed to whisper Arab Spring in your ear please? I really don’t want to startle you, so I will try to jog that short-term memory into the front for easy recall.

I associate Arab Spring with rage. Our cup has runneth over and it is time, don’t you think? That is what happened with our Arab neighbors, their cup runneth over and they exploded.
Who would have thought forty years of Gadaffi, thirty years of Mubarak, thirty years of the Assad’s and whatever year of Ben Ali will be such a push over? It is all about rage my friend. Did the Arabs have elaborate plans of what comes next when they decided to do away with the garbage? I am afraid not. There was no user manual. There was no formula and there was no divine guidance. Just your everyday dream of hope and optimism is all they needed. There were no leaders showing the way, there were no grand coalitions, there were no Fronts and no organized Parties. It was just your average ordinary citizen taking matters into their own hands and drawing and redrawing the future one-day at a time.

The few scattered voices turned into a tsunami of screams. Some took long while a few were done is a short time. As I said there was no blueprint. What they got in common was rage. What runs thru their story is the common theme of a relentless confidence that tomorrow whatever it is cannot be as bad as today. Yesterday stank, today is more of the same thus the only thing left is to try to change tomorrow so it would be a better day. There was nothing to lose. If we can call the happenings in the last few months’ as history, no question it will be judged a success. A few hiccups but it is work in progress and no one promised a rose garden.

It could be said it is a pivotal moment in our long history. We got a choice to go forward in good faith, unsurpassed optimism or march on the same spot till we fall due exhaustion. No one can make that choice for us. As psychologist McGrath said ‘we can run that tight little circle in our brain obsessing about our problems’ or go past that rumination stage and commit our selves to act.

What we got today is a very peculiar situation that can only happen in Ethiopia. We are always different, aren’t we? Looks like our dictator is gone. The evil that has polluting our very existence has been removed by the grace of God. He was the center around which eighty million people revolved. The center has collapsed on itself. When the Sun dies an about five billion years or so all the planets revolving around it will disappear too. That is the law of physics. The death of evil Meles will result in the withering away of his evil TPLF party and those hodam teletafis revolving around him. No one can stop that.

What should our response be like? You know us; it is as muddled as anytime before. Right now we are on a freeze mode. We are unable to go beyond the ‘talk’ stage. Looks like we jabber so much we substitute that for action. I have been the beneficiary of so many incredible responses by my friends and acquaintances I consider myself immune to farce, idiocy, ignorance not to mention comedy. I had people admonishing me for celebrating the death of an evil tyrant, folks lecturing me about my giddy disposition regarding the demise of the cancerous cell in our body politic or rebuking me for falling on my knees and thanking God almighty. As you can see I am one confused Abesha. How exactly I am supposed to view the death of my countries and people enemy is not clear to me.

Our Amharic saying goes ‘helm teferto kuch belo aytaderm’ A very simple and beautiful statement. Should we have prayed to God to allow the idiot to live a little longer since we are afraid what would come next? No one seems to have told this Ethiopian insight to the Tunisians, Libyans or Egyptians. Aren’t you glad? I believe since we screwed twice before in this business of trying to bring change we area little gun shy now. It is understandable but definitely not rational. Life does not work like that. How many times have each one of us made mistakes in our everyday life? It has not stopped us from trying again has it? Of course there is no guarantee of success now but that should not deter us from trying, should it?

We also have this issue of a leader. It is associated to a simple lack of self-esteem. Following comes natural to us due to our old culture of fear of family, fear of elders and fear of authority. Thus we are always looking for a leader, a redeemer or a fall guy. We expect Dr. Berhanu, Ato Bulcha, Professor Mesfin, Judge Bertukan or others to lead us to the Promised Land. We also insist they form a Front, unite or be one for us to approve. Why do you think that is so? Is it possible that we want to avoid responsibility in case things do not work out? Is it because we always seem to prefer that others stick their neck out for our benefit? Or could it be that we can always have someone to assign blame to? Again I wonder how this philosophy would have translated in the land of the Arabs.

Fear of failure is our number one enemy. Fear of assuming responsibility is our Achilles heel. Lack of self-esteem is our undoing. I love Judge Bertukan. I respect Dr. Berhanu. I miss Eskinder. They all stood up for what they believe and paid a price. The net effect on me is that they inspire me. I pay them compliments by emulating their unselfish act. My resolve to be free makes them a better leader. By fighting for their freedom and dignity they inspire me to demand for mine too. We complement each other. We are equal human beings; they just have the added responsibility of standing in the front with my consent. It is true we are all leaders it is a matter of degrees. The difference is some of us lack faith in our good judgment.

Today same old Woyane bastards are toying with us. The evil man is dead but his evil system is still functioning by remote. Absolute idiot like Berket Semeon, a high school graduate that won his last election by cheating is giving out incoherent press conferences. A senile fatherly figure like Sebhat Nega with mind stuck in the ‘70s, and no authority from anyone we know of is trying to explain to us how things work. There is no such thing as a legitimate Ethiopian Constitution, there is no such thing as a freely elected Ethiopian Parliament and here we are trying to interpret and split hair of a non-existent phantom situation. All ado about nothing.

All I see in my head is Arab Spring. All I think about is the power of rage. I remember the brave Egyptians burning Mubarak’s headquarters to smitten and I grin from ear to ear. I dream of my brave fearless people smashing the walls of Maekelawi and letting my brothers and sisters out. I lounge for the day when the doors of Kaliti are flung open and my people march singing and dancing all the way to Merkato and Kebena and Gulele. I smile when I see in my head Meskel Square full of my people celebrating their freedom and hugging, kissing shouting “Free at last, thanks God almighty we are free at last!!” I jump with joy when Ethiopian Airlines lands at Bole with the scattered children of Ethiopia from the four corners of the world bring her future back to build and make our ancient land the center of African freedom and dignity. Yes you can make that happen but you first have to have faith in yourself, respect for your fellow human and a heart full of love and tolerance the rest will take care of itself. It is all about you talking personal responsibility and rising up to the occasion. Hate of dictatorship is acceptable. Celebration of the demise of evil is a human duty. Wanting to be free and live in dignity is as important as breathing and eating.

Meles died in Europe. Meles should be buried in Europe. Alive he did not care for Ethiopia. Dead there is no place for him in Ethiopia. We want to be free of his body and spirit. This is not about hate but a perfectly normal closure for the pain and agony he inflicted on our country and people. TPLF should be warned regarding this notion of a state burial for a tyrant. Do not thread on our sensibilities and bring the ugly in all of us. Let us open a new chapter in peace and harmony.

Meles Zenawi is said to be dead – multiple sources

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

An Ethiopian Airlines employee, who wants to remain anonymous, informed Ethiopian Review this afternoon that Ethiopia’s dictator Meles Zenawi has died 4 days ago. But according to our sources, his bodyguards are still at St. Luc Hospital in Belgium. If Meles is dead, what are they doing in Belgium? Is it a diversionary tactic?

When asked how he found out the information, the EAL employee said that he overheard it by accident on Monday from senior airline officials who are members of the ruling party. He added that he receives Ethiopian Review email updates regularly and decided to contact us with this information after hearing Bereket Simon’s interview this morning and was offended by what he heard.

Coupled with similar information we have been receiving since Sunday from several credible sources, the story about the dictator’s death is gaining more credence by the day.

Woyanne propaganda chief Bereket Simon’s press conference this morning (watch below) raised more questions than answers. Observers speculate that the Woyanne junta could be keeping the dictator’s death secret because there is a growing dissatisfaction with Meles Zenawi’s choice of Berhane Gebrekristos as his successor.

ESFNA rocks Dallas

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

The Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA) opened its annual soccer tournament on Sunday, July 1st, in Dallas, Texas, with a big fanfare. I have been to several ESFNA events in the past, and I am sure many people would agree that this year’s is the best organized, and the most exciting event in the Federation’s 29-year history. On top of that, it feels like a genuine family event where Ethiopian patriotism is once again fully embraced. A horse galloping into the stadium with the rider carrying an Ethiopian flag while Teddy Afro’s Tikur Saw was playing was a particularly fantastic and emotional scene. The only thing that tempered my excitement was when some one informed me that the Woyanne-operated Ethiopian Airlines was among the sponsors of the Dallas event. After ESFNA’s patriotic Ethiopians successfully expunged Al Amoudi servants and Woyanne thugs from the Federation, apparently there are still some who are lurking around trying to cause trouble. ESFNA has come a long way in cleaning up its house from Woyanne thugs, but the fight must continue until all remnants of Woyanne are fully cleared from this great Ethiopian institution. The ESFNA event will continue until next Saturday. I urge you to come with your family and enjoy. I am told that the horse will make an appearance again on Wednesday, July 4. Watch the video below. - Elias KIfle

ESFNA 2012 Dallas Opening Ceremony

Al Amoudi Woyanne festival in DC a total failure (video)

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

The festival that is organized in Washington DC under the name of AESAONE by Al Amoudi and Woyanne thugs, in collaboration with a bunch of hoodlums, turned into total failure on its opening day this afternoon. After spending over $2 million to promote the event, less than 500 people turned out for the opening ceremony, and many of those who were seen in stadium are singers and Woyanne cadres who were flown from Addis Ababa in 3 Ethiopian Airlines planes. Every one who was entering the RFK Stadium today faced hundreds of Ethiopian protestors who are frustrated and angry at the corrupt genocidal regime in Ethiopia that is led by dictator Meles Zenawi. I am really proud of fellow Ethiopians in Washington DC who faced these hyenas who are looting and plundering Ethiopia. Promotion of the event is being handled by the notorious law/public relations firm DLA Piper. See the video below. – Elias Kifle

Church leaders call for economic boycott of the TPLF junta

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Secretary of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church’s Holy Synod in exile, Archbishop Abune Melketsekik, and other church leaders have called on the people of Ethiopia to boycott all businesses that are affiliated with dictator Meles Zenawi’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The economy boycott includes profitable enterprises such as Ethiopian Airlines that are serving the genocidal junta as cash cows, and food exports from Ethiopia. Listen below.

[A condensed version]

Ethiopia for sale – Graham Peebles

Friday, June 1st, 2012

The Ethiopian Land Giveaway – OpEd

What’s yours is mine, what’s mine’s my own

By Graham Peebles | Eurasia Review

It is a colonial phenomenon, appropriate land for the needs of the colonists and to hell with those living upon the land, indigenous and at home. Might is right, military or indeed economic. The power of the dollar rules supreme in a world built upon the acquisition of the material, the perpetuation of desire and the entrapment of the human spirit.

Africa has for long been the object of western domination, control and usury, under the British, French, and Portuguese of old. Now the ‘new rulers of the World’ large corporations from America, China, Japan, Middle Eastern States, India and Europe, are engaged in extensive land acquisitions in developing countries. The vast majority of available land is in Sub-Saharan Africa where, according to The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues report, ‘The Growing demand for Land, Risks and Opportunities for Smallholder Farmers’ “80 per cent (of worldwide land) –about 2 billion hectares that is potentially available for expanded rain-fed crop production” is thought to be. Huge industrial agricultural centres are being created, off shore farms, producing crops for the investors home market. Indigenous people, subsistence farmers and pastoralists are forced off the land, the natural environment is levelled, purging the land of wildlife and destroying small rural communities, that have lived, worked and cared for the land for centuries. The numbers of people potentially affected by the land grab and its impact on the environment is staggering. The UN in it’s report states “By 2020, an estimated 135 million people may be driven from their land as a result of soil degradation, with 60 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone.”

Ethiopia

This contemporary ‘Land Grab’ has come about as a result of food shortages, the financial meltdown in 2008 and in light of the United Nations world population forecast of 9.2 billion people by 2050, and three main resulting pressures. 1. Food insecure nations – particularly Middle Eastern and Asian countries, seeking to stabilise their food supply. 2. To meet the growing worldwide demand for agro-fuels and thirdly, by the rise in investment in land and soft commodities, such as coffee, cocoa, sugar, corn, wheat, soya and fruit. Often investors are simply speculators seeking to make a fast or indeed slow buck, by ‘Land Banking’, sitting on the asset waiting and watching for the price to inflate, then selling, the Oakland Institute in its report ‘The Great land Grab’ found “along with hedge funds and speculators, some public universities and pension funds are among those in on the land rush, eyeing returns of 20 to as much as 40%”. Land not as home, land as a chip, to be thrown upon the international gambling table of commercialisation.

Chopping trees cutting Costs

As well we know everything and indeed everyone ‘has its price’. Even the people and land of a country, sold into destitution by governments motivated by distorted notions of development, where people, traditional lifestyles and the environment come a distant second to roads, industrialisation and the raping of the land. People too poor to hold on to their dignity, too weak in a world built and run on power and might, to protest and demand justice for themselves and their families and rounded, responsible husbandry for the environment. And the price of land, well as one would expect bargain basement, with 99 year leases the norm and various government incentive packages. In some cases the land is literally being given away, as the Oakland Institute (OI) states in its report, “In Mali one investment group was able to secure 1000,000 hectares (ha) of fertile land for a 50 year term for free. Elsewhere “$2.00 a hectare (roughly equal to two Olympic size athletic grounds) is the going rate.” According to The Guardian (21/3/2011) “The lowest prices are in Africa, where, says the World Bank, at least 35 million hectares of land has been bought or leased. Other groups, including, Friends of the Earth say the figure is higher.”

Ethiopia. For sale

The Ethiopian government, through the Agricultural Investment Support Directorate is at the forefront of this African Land Sale. Crops familiar to the area are often grown, such as maize, sesame, sorghum, in addition to wheat and rice. All let us state clearly, for export to Saudi Arabia, India, China etc, to be sold within the home market, benefitting the people of Ethiopia not.

The Oakland Institute research “shows that at least 3,619,509ha of land (an area just smaller than Belgium) have been transferred to investors, although the actual number may be higher.” The government claims that the land available for lease is unused and surplus, this is disingenuous nonsense. Large areas of land are in fact already cultivated by smallholders subsistence farmers and pastoralists using land for grazing, all of which are un-ceremonially evicted. Villages are destroyed and indigenous people expelled from their homeland and forced into large scale villagization programmes. Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its report ‘Waiting Here For Death’ states, “The Ethiopian federal government’s current villagization program is occurring in four regions—Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz, Somali, and Afar. This involves the resettlement of approximately 1.5 million people throughout the lowland areas of the country—500,000 in Somali region, 500,000 in Afar region, 225,000 in Benishangul-Gumuz and 225,000 in Gambella.” Imposed movement then, often applied with force, in order to provide pristine land, free of any inconveniences to the corporate allies.

Level growing field

There are five areas of prime, fertile land up for grabs. Gambella is the largest where unbelievably a third of the region (around 800,000 hectares) is available. Indian corporations have already snapped up 352,000 hectares (ha) and around 900 foreign investors have so far taken advantage of this giveaway. Afar, The Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region, where 200,000 hectares has been leased or sold, Oromia, where three Indian companies have leased a total of 138,000 ha and Amhara, make up the reduced to clear rail.

With the land grab crucially goes water – and the appropriation of this vital resource, both surface and ground water. Investors are allowed to do what they will with the land they lease, this includes diverting rivers, digging canals from existing water sources, building dams and drilling bore holes. The Oakland Institute in its report ‘Land Investment in Ethiopia quotes Saudi Star stating “that water will be their biggest issue, and numerous plans are being established (including the construction of 30 km of cement-lined canals and another dam on the Alwero River).” There are no controls imposed on foreign corporations whatsoever and no payment structure for ‘appropriating’ water is in place. These politically favoured investors are being offered carte blanche. Water supplies in Ethiopia are poor, even in the capital, where irregular mains flow is common in many neighbourhoods. There is water galore 90% of the Nile e.g. flows through Ethiopia, distribution though is inconsistent, maintained to be so some say, the people drained, exhausted and kept firmly in their place.

In Gambella the government in 2011 offered huge areas of land to Bangalore-based food company Karuturi Global for the equivalent of $1.16 per hectare, to lease more than 2,500 sq. km (1,000 sq. miles) of virgin, fertile land for more than 50 years. This cost compared to an average rate of $340 per ha in the Punjab district of India, no wonder then that the CEO of Karuturi described “the incentives available to the floriculture industry in Ethiopia as “mouthwatering,” including low air freights on the state-owned Ethiopian airlines, tax holidays, hassle-free entry into the industry at very low lease rates, tax holidays, and lack of duties,” reports Oakland in its Ethiopia report. Up to 60,000 workers will be employed by Karuturi, who are paying local people less than $1 a day, which is well below the level of extreme poverty set by the World bank. The company will cultivate according to The Guardian 21st March 2011 “20,000 hectares of oil palm, 15,000 hectares of sugar cane and 40,000 hectares of rice, edible oils and maize and cotton… “We could feed a nation here”, says Karmjeet Sekhon, Karuturi project manager. Land and people for a few rupees, cushioned by a cocktail of sweeteners offered by the Ethiopian government, allowing the decimation of the environment and the destruction of lifestyles – generations old. And in a hurry, The Guardian found “the [land] concessions are being worked [by Karuturi] at a breakneck pace, with giant tractors and heavy machinery clearing trees, draining swamps and ploughing the land in time to catch the next growing season. Forests across hundreds of square km are being clear-felled and burned to the dismay of locals and environmentalists concerned about the fate of the region’s rich wildlife.”

Unstable supply of staples

Around five million people in Ethiopia rely on food aid and live with constant food insecurity that will only increase under the land grab bonanza. According to the Oakland Institutes report “commercial investment will increase rates of food insecurity in the vicinity of the land investments” and Open Democracy reports an interview with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, for the Financial Times (7 August 2008), in which he ‘predicted that “large-scale farming could bring some employment, but “not much”. It would not solve the problem of food insecurity.” Intensifying food insecurity is the transfer of vast areas of land used for the cultivation of traditional staples such as Teff to other crops. This is largely responsible for costs of Teff (used to make injera – the daily bread) quadrupling in the last four years. The Guardian (Monday 23 April 2012) reports Friends of the Earth International “The result (of land sell offs) has often been … people forced off land they have traditionally farmed for generations, more rural poverty and greater risk of food shortages” Food security will be realised when local smallholders are encouraged to farm their land, given financial support, machinery and the needed technology, as Oxfam in its report ‘Land Power Rights’ points out, “Small-scale producers, particularly women, can indeed play a crucial role in poverty reduction and food security. But to do so, they need investment in infrastructure, markets, processing, storage, extension, and research.”
Keep development small, for, of, and close to the people in need, and see them flourish.

Land rights, human cost, environmental damage

The land rights of the indigenous people of Ethiopia are, as one would expect somewhat ambiguous. As a legacy of the socialist dictatorship of the 1960s and ‘70s, the government technically owns all land. However there is protection in law for indigenous people. The Ethiopian constitution Article 40, 3 states “Land is a common property of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia and shall not be subject to sale or to other means of exchange. And 4) “Ethiopian peasants have right to obtain land without payment and the protection against eviction from their possession.” And in regard to pastoralists affected by the land sell off, paragraph 5) “Ethiopian pastoralists have the right to free land for grazing and cultivation as well as the right not to be displaced from their own lands.”

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Ethiopia signed in 2007, making it a legally binding document, states in Article 26/1. “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources, which they have traditionally owned, occupied or other- wise used or acquired.” And paragraph 2.”Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.” The declaration also outlines compensation measures for landowners. Article 28/1. “Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent.” Paragraph 2. “Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources 10equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.”
The law it would appear is clear, implementation and respect for its content is required, and should be demanded of the ruling EPRDF by the donor countries to Ethiopia.

Land and People

People are not being consulted or democratically included in the decisions to transform their homeland. This contravenes the Ethiopian constitution, that states in Article 92/3. “People have the right to full consultation and to the expression of views in the planning and implementations of environmental policies and projects that affect them directly”. Hollow words to those being evicted from their land, like Omot Ochan a villager, from the Anuak tribe whose family has lived in the forest near the Baro river in Gambella for ten generations. Speaking to The Observer Sunday 20 May 2012, he “insisted Saudi Star had no right to be in his forest. The company had not even told the villagers that it was going to dig a canal across their land. “Nobody came to tell us what was happening.” He goes on to say “This land belonged to our father. All round here is ours. For two days’ walk.” Well that was the case until the Government in their infallible wisdom leased some 10,000ha to their friend, the Ethiopian born Saudi Arabian oil multi millionaire, Sheik Al Moudi (In 2011, Fortune magazine put his wealth at more than $12bn) to grow rice for his Saudi Star Company. Omot continued, “two years ago, the company began chopping down the forest and the bees went away. The bees need thick forest. We used to sell honey. We used to hunt with dogs too. But after the farm came, the animals here disappeared. Now we only have fish to sell.” And with the company draining the wetlands, the fish will probably be gone soon, too. Sheik Al Moudi plans to export over a million tonnes of rice a year to Saudi Arabia. To ease relations with the Meles regime and as The Observer states “to smooth the wheels of commerce, Amoudi has recruited one of Zenawi’s former ministers, Haile Assegdie, as chief executive of Saudi Star.”

Traditional land rights for people who have lived on the land in Gamabella and elsewhere for centuries are being ignored and in a country where all manner of human rights are routinely violated, legally binding compensations are not being paid.

Government drafted lease agreements with investors state the Meles regime will hand over the land free of any ‘encumbrances’ – people and property that means, anyone living or using the land to graze their livestock or pastoralists moving through. The Independent 18th January 2012 reports “Ethiopia is forcing tens of thousands of people off their land so it can lease it to foreign investors, leaving former landowners destitute and in some cases starving.” The Government says any movement is voluntary and not enforced, a clear distortion of the facts. HRW in their report confirms the government’s criminality “mass displacement to make way for commercial agriculture in the absence of a proper legal process contravenes Ethiopia’s constitution and violates the rights of indigenous peoples under international law.”

A price worth paying it would seem, to the Ethiopian government and those multi nationals appropriating the land, seeing a market and capitalizing on the countries need for dollars. Desperate in a world propelled by growth to maximize the value of every so called asset, even if it means prostituting the land, sacrificing the native people and destroying the natural environment.

About the author:
Graham Peebles

Graham is Director of The Create Trust, a UK registered charity, supporting fundamental social change and the human rights of individuals in acute need. He may be reached at graham@thecreatetrust.org

How Meles rules Ethiopia

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

By Richard Dowden

Meles Zenawi is the cleverest and most engaging Prime Minister in Africa – at least when he talks to visiting outsiders. When he speaks to his fellow Ethiopians, he is severe and dogmatic. But he entertains western visitors with humour and irony, deploying a diffident, self-deprecating style which cleverly conceals an absolute determination to control his country and its destiny, free of outside interference.

He was one of four African presidents to be invited to the Camp David G8 meeting last weekend. The aid donors love Meles. He is well-informed, highly numerate and focused. And he delivers. Ethiopia will get closer to the Millennium Development Goals than most African countries. The Ethiopian state has existed for centuries and it has a bureaucracy to run it. So the aid flows like a river, nearly $4 billion a year. And Meles is the United States’ policeman in the region with troops in Somalia and Sudan. He also enjoys a simmering enmity with his former ally, now the bad boy of the region, President Isias Afwerke of Eritrea. “It’s Mubarak syndrome,” a worried US diplomat told me. “We only talked to Mubarak about Egypt’s role in the region, never about what was happening inside Egypt. It’s the same with Ethiopia.”

In the 2005 election when the opposition won the capital, Addis Ababa, and claimed to have won nationally, the government arrested its leaders and tried them for treason. Some were imprisoned, others fled into exile. Now with 99.6% of the vote, the ruling Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has created a virtual one party state. In an interview last week Meles told me he did not know of a single village in the whole country that voted for the opposition.

This is subtle totalitarianism, dubbed ‘Authoritarian Developmentalism’ by some. If you do what the government says, you get assistance – land, water, services. If you don’t, you get nothing. The basic principles of political freedom enshrined in the constitution are frequently undermined by subtle edicts from government departments. Press freedom is clearly spelt out and recently a minor ruling stated that printers must take responsibility for everything they publish and can refuse to print anything the government might consider illegal. Hardly a devastating blow to press freedom you might think until you discover that the only presses in Ethiopia capable of printing newspapers are government-owned.

Meles’ remarkable achievement since he took power in 1991 has been to attract foreign companies to Ethiopia through a policy of low taxes and a free hand. Growth has been between 8 and 11 percent over the past eight years thanks to the private sector (both western and eastern.) The economy has doubled over the last five years. Meles is rushing to develop the country as fast as he can. Using the Chinese model he has attracted foreign investors to develop agriculture and manufacturing. As he told me: “The criticism we had in the past was that we were crazy Marxists. Now we are accused of selling the family spoons to foreigners. It’s a balance.”

Meles has leased more than 4 million hectares of land to foreign or domestic companies to grow food or flowers. And to provide them with water and power he has built dams which he says are environmentally much better than power stations since they are built in gorges with little water loss through evaporation. But it is not a completely free market solution. There are government monopolies in banking and telecoms. Nor will the government give people title deeds. All land is state owned. Meles has made it clear he will keep it that way.

“Have we created a perfect democratic system? No it’s a work in progress. Are we running as fast as our legs will carry us? Yes. And it’s not just Addis but also the most remote areas. Unlike previous governments we have really created a stable country in a very turbulent neighbourhood. Our writ runs in every village. That never happened in the history of Ethiopia. The state was distant, irrelevant.”

He fiercely defends his policies, in the face of Western NGO criticism, that this development is environmentally unsound and indigenous people have been removed forcibly from their land. He insists that in every case they were consulted, dismissing a report by the Oakland Institute in the US which said people had been forcibly removed as “bullshit”. When I suggest that pastoralists should be allowed to continue their nomadic way of life, he says I am a romantic westerner. But he adds that it is their right to continue their way of life.

It is the same with the politics. Having taken power by force in 1991 and coming from a minority, Meles created a safety valve by writing into the constitution the right of every “nation” in Ethiopia to declare independence. Whenever there are local political problem he re-asserts that right to leave but it is unlikely the clause will ever be put to the test through a referendum.

The current trouble spot is the southern region of Gambela where land has been given to agricultural businesses. Meles is defensive about reports of recent forced removals. “We are making sure that the Gambela people are settled and have land and that young people can go to farms not as guards but as farmers,” he said, assuring me that the people who have been moved were consulted. Only when all those in the region who want to work have jobs will other workers be recruited from other parts of Ethiopia.

Is the Meles plan for rapid, state directed capitalism working? At the recent World Economic Forum meeting in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa earlier this month, criticism came, not from western NGOs , but from China, Ethiopia’s closest ally. Gao Xiqing of the China Investment Forum, warned Meles: “Do not necessarily do what we did”. Policies of “sheer economic growth” should be avoided, he said. “We now suffer pollution and an unequal distribution of wealth and opportunities… You have a clean sheet of paper here. Try to write something beautiful.”

Has any Chinese official ever publically criticised an African leader in such terms before?

And some foreign investors are not happy either. They have driven Ethiopia’s growth but now the government and Ethiopian firms are desperate for a greater slice of the profits. Flower and horticultural companies have been suddenly ordered by the government to only use Ethiopian companies for packing their produce, transporting it to Addis Ababa airport from where only the state-owned Ethiopian Airlines must be hired to fly it to Europe. As the distraught owner of one of the biggest flower farms told me last week: “Ethiopia does not have such companies yet”. But if they refuse, their licences will be withdrawn. It appears that having lured foreign businesses into Ethiopia, the government is now tying them down and taking their profits.

Meles is caught in a bind, under pressure on several fronts with problems that economic growth may not solve. Inflation is coming down but has been running at almost 50 percent. Everyone I spoke with in Ethiopia said that the cost of living was the highest they had ever known. There is real hardship among the poor as the staple grain in Ethiopia, teff, has quadrupled in price recently. The universities are pouring out graduates but there are few jobs. One recent graduate I spoke with said she was one of about 10 out of more than 100 in her class who had a job. The government’s hope is that it can grow the economy even faster. It is promising mining as the next bonanza and Meles hinted last week that oil has been discovered.

But this is the scenario he may soon be facing: a mass of urban poor hurt by the price rise of the staple food and large numbers of educated but unemployed urban youth. Sounds familiar? The Arab Spring was watched closely by Ethiopians. And, it appears Meles senses it is coming. He told the World Economic Forum meeting: “The going is going to get tough so Ethiopia needs a tough leader, a leader prepared to say no. You can’t please everyone.”

Richard Dowden is Director of the Royal African Society and author of Africa; altered states, ordinary mircles.

Emirates takes advantage of boycott against Ethiopian Airlines

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Several Ethiopian media organizations have recently called for boycott of Ethiopian Airlines as part of the civil resistance campaign against the genocidal junta in Ethiopia. To those of you who are asking for an alternative, here is an answer for you. Emirates Airlines has just announced that it is slashing its fares for Ethiopian passengers. So if you care to punish the Woyanne junta for the atrocities it is committing against the people of Ethiopia, and at the same time save some money, when you fly to Ethiopia next time, use Emirates Airlines.

Emirates Offers Special Fares to Ethiopian Customers

(NewBusinessEthiopoia.com) One of the world’s fastest growing airlines, Emirate, has announced special fares to Ethiopian customers to a wide range of destinations across Europe and America.

Emirates’ special Economy Class fares to the United States include: Seattle from 1123 US dollars, Dallas from 1,123 US dollars, New York from 1,273 US dollars, Los Angeles from 1,673 US dollars and Houston from 1,672 US dollars. European cities on offer include Rome from 694 US dollars, Milan from 692 US dollars, Venice from 692 US dollars, Geneva from 694 US dollars, Zurich from 716 US dollars, Amsterdam from 710 US dollars, Frankfurt from 749 US dollars and Paris from 774 US dollars.

In addition to the special fares, Emirates has also announced a special stopover offer, with free hotel accommodation for Economy Class passengers transiting for 8 hours or more until June 30, 2012.

Fares to America are valid for ticketing on or before May 31st 2012 for travel on or before June 30th 2012. Fares to Europe are valid for travel and ticketing on or before June 10th 2012.

Unveiling the new fares and stopover offer, Emirates Country Manager for Ethiopia, Abdalla Al Zamani said the offer was part of the airline’s mission to make travel as comfortable and affordable as possible for Ethiopian customers this summer.

“Emirates is committed to the Ethiopian market and to providing our customers with outstanding value for money and the most attractive travel experience available. Our free stopover offer and special fares to some of Emirates’ most popular destinations represent a very significant saving, meaning that there has never been a better time to book a holiday, business trip or to visit friends or relatives overseas,” he said.

All fares are quoted on a return basis, are inclusive of all taxes and can be purchased from Emirates sales offices or through authorized travel agents.
“By offering these discounted fares and free accommodation to passengers with a transit time of 8 hours or more, Emirates is demonstrating its investment in the total passenger experience and to ensuring that it is the airline of choice for all,” said Mr Al Zamani.

Emirates serves 123 cities around the globe with a young and technologically advanced fleet of 169 aircraft to support the expansion of its international routes. Operations on Emirates connect Ethiopia to the world through the airline’s route network, with extensive connections to Europe, the Americas, the Far East, Australia and India Subcontinent.

Since its launch in 1985, Emirates airline has received more than 300 international awards in recognition of its efforts to provide unsurpassed levels of customer service. The airline says that Emirates operates out of Dubai with no government protection or subsidies and in an environment that does not restrict competition.

Clearing out the Al Amoudi trash

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

Removing the Al Amoudi and Woyanne thugs from the Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA) is a major victory that must be replicated in all other Ethiopian organizations and places of worship. The fight is hard, but we are starting to win some battles against a multimillion-dollar operation. Even their high-powered DLA Piper lawyers who are being paid $50,000 per month are no match for patriotic Ethiopians in the Diaspora. The next big battle is to dry Woyanne’s hard currency sources by boycotting Ethiopian Airlines and other enterprises.

ESFNA back in our hand

After Al Amoudi thugs were kicked out from the ESFNA, they attempted to hijack the organization by forming a new group named “ESFNA One.” Since all of the ESFNA’s 29 teams are participating in the annual event this coming July 4th weekend in Dallas, feeling desperate, Ayaya Arega, Sebsebe Assefa and the other Al Amoudi bootlickers tried to bring Tigrean players from the Tigrean annual festival to play for “ESFNA One” in Washington DC during the same time. The Ayaya gang wanted the Tigrean teams to pose as those that are going to Dallas. However, the Tigreans told Ayaya that they would come, but they will keep their Tigrean name. To make matters worst for them, last week a court in Maryland ruled that they must stop using the name ESFNA in any form and forced them to announce on their web site that they have nothing to do with the ESFNA, as seen below.

Discussion on boycotting Ethiopian Airlines (audio)

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Ethiopian Review editor Elias Kifle discusses with Netsanet Le Ethiopia Radio about boycott campaign against Ethiopian Airlines and other TPLF-controlled enterprise. Listen below:

Ethiopian media organizations call for boycott of Ethiopian Airlines

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Several Ethiopian media organizations issued a worldwide call for economic boycott against the ethnic apartheid dictatorship in Ethiopia.

The call was made by 12 major Ethiopian electronic and print media at a teleconference that was held on Saturday, April 12, 2012. The conference was attended by over 600 Ethiopians around the world.

The worsening repression in Ethiopia and particularly the recent ethnic cleansing of Amhara ethnic groups in southern Ethiopia, the displacement of tens of thousands of people in Gambela and Afar, and the ongoing genocide against the Ogaden people have prompted the media groups to make the call.

The boycott particularly focuses on Ethiopian Airlines and other major enterprises that are sources of hard currency for the genocidal regime.

Click here [pdf] to read the joint statement released by the media organizations.

Southern Ethiopia — the playground of Meles Zenawi

Friday, April 13th, 2012

By Yilma Bekele

Most locations are just bland places. There is not much variation in the topography. Look at Google satellite map of Africa and you will see what I mean. Endless flat land, a stretch of desert, an occasional river or a few hills is the norm. Our Ethiopia is different. In the North we have the Semen Mountains rearing high as if trying to reach heaven. With their rugged nature and sharp escarpments they kept us safe for centuries. They were our natural defense. The North is keeper of our old history. With its exotic monasteries, ancient obelisks it is here Jesus walked and Mohamed (may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him) sent his family for safety.

In the East our low lands are as fierce as the warriors they give birth to. There is no place lower than Afar depression on mother Earth. Loo and behold today it is considered the birthplace of the Human race. It is here mankind is thought to have become bipedal.

The West is where the mighty Nile flows with our water and soil to nurture that other civilization in the land of the Pharos and the great pyramids. It is also home to the famous tropical forests of Gambella and every animal life one can think of. With its lush landscape and colorful people this is where man feels one with nature.

The South is where God took his sweet time to create paradise. Who would deny that after visiting the Rift Valley? The lakes of Langano, Shala and Hawasa, the caves of Wolayeta, the natural splendor of Arba Minch, the hot springs of Wondo Genet make a grownup cry with joy. Our creator blessed us with beauty and wealth when he made our home.

The South is also where God’s curse has befallen us for all our sins. He sent us Meles Zenawi to teach us the price of vanity. I am really sorry to write in such a way in this week of Easter. But truth has to be told. Meles Zenawi is a curse on the land of the Habeshas. Such venomous hate one might say. I believe I am entitled to that. For twenty years the regime has rained death and destruction on our land and people. I am not imaging it. All what I say is verifiable fact and recorded history. Spare me your tolerance and indignation please. You wouldn’t think that if you stand in the shoes of the discarded and displaced.

You see my friend our TPLF leaders grew up isolated and alone in their little hamlets up north. There was no diversity. To Adwa and vicinity as Gertrude Stein will say ‘there is no there, there.’ That is why when they conquered our country they did not know what to do with the South. The diversity confounded our warriors. They know that they hated the Amhara, they loathed the Oromo, they were not really concerned about the Afar, the Gambellan, or the Somali but the South was a foreign land to our northern warriors. That is why when they created the Bantustans they lumped all the Southerners into one big bowl and named it ‘Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region.’ What a defangled name is what comes to mind when you hear this twisted designation.

The South is where TPLF asserted total control unlike in the other Bantustans. The South is where Meles Zenawi exercises his renowned divide and rule principles as an art. TPLF arrived with ready-made political Parties for every Bantustan they created. Local faces were chosen from the prisoners of war they have acquired during their struggle. The puppets were already versed in accepting their TPLF masters as the final word on any and all issues. Thus all the local boys were assigned a baby sitter or a minder from Adwa. The South has Abate Kisho a Sidama with Bitew Belay as the real power. Corporal Kuma Demeksa of Oromia was taken under the wing of Solomon Tsimo and Hilawi Yesuf lorded it over Addisu Legesse in the Amhara Bantustan.

Abate Kisho was a simple sports teacher from the town of Leku near Yirgalem. He was not at all ready for prime time and it showed. He even has the audacity to side with one faction over the other during the TPLF drama. It was pathetic to see Meles haul his ass to jail with some trumped up charge. The current Foreign Minster replaced him as the new toy. By 2001 the Sidama people were becoming hip to this patronizing practice and demanded a certain amount of autonomy or self-administration as granted by the Constitution. Meles replied with tough love and sent his Agazi forces to teach them a lesson. Even the US State Department noted this wanton murder of unarmed protesters in Hawasa. Melese Marimo the vice president and perpetrator of this crime was rewarded for his ordering of the massacre by being sent to South Africa as an Ambassador, of course with the First Secretary a TPLF cadre in charge. That is the normal operating procedure in all the Embassies.

The issue percolated and during the election of 2005 the Southerners answered by siding with CUD (Kinijit) and were able to trounce the regime’s candidates. In 2006 Meles convened a meeting in Hawasa and was able to mollify the locals with some bizarre actions. The renaming of ‘Southern University’ to ‘Hawasa University’ was seen as a triumph of Sidama assertiveness. The current puppet Shiferaw Shigute was crowned as the new face of Southern independence. Abate Kisho was released from Federal prison and sent back home poor but alive and a good symbol of what could happen when natives fill their head with funny notion of being equal.

Of course the raping and pillage of the south continued unabated. There was no stone left unturned to cultivate animosity between the different tribes and keep them at each others throat. The Sidamas were made to compete with the Wolaitas, the Siltes were divorced from the Gurages, and the Konsos were made to envy the Derasas etc. etc. The cadres encouraged turmoil and civil war. As in the rest of our country Southern Ethiopia was full of drama with the TPLF active in every village fanning the hate flame.

Ethiopianess was discouraged while allegiance to tribe was glorified. Meles and company have done their homework in how to create havoc on our country while in their caves. They did not dream of building hospitals, schools or factories but were busy drawing maps, creating language barriers and perfecting the Kilil concept. The South was their dream come true. Our common language was their first casualty. It was deemed inappropriate. Trained teachers were sent away to their respective Bantustans and the English alphabet became the language of the schools in Sidama. Without adequate preparation, without trained teachers, without books available the Southern children were left to fend for themselves. It was sad to witness a simple application that has to be written in one language to be translated to another when it reaches Hawasa the capital city. The South was made unable to communicate within its own Bantustan. It was a crime. The TPLF party was the orchestrator of such tragedy.

Shiferaw Shigute is the Frankenstein monster Meles created. He is the son of Meles Zenawi. Like his parent he is devoid of empathy and proud of his betrayal of his people. Look at him closely and you will see Meles – indifferent, arrogant and know it all. From his expensive Savile raw suit with matching ties to his air of superiority he is the kind that makes his maker proud. When his own Party found him guilty of abuse of power and voted to oust him, our fearless step child thumbed his nose at the assembly and said “I did not do this alone, we shared the money with the wife of the Prime Minister, Mrs. Azeb Mesfin. If we are going to be accountable, we should both judged by the law. If we have to return the Birr, we both have to return it” and stormed out of the meeting. His stepfather reversed the decision of the assembly. Like father like son! It is Shiferaw Shigute practicing ethnic cleansing today or rather it is Meles Zenawi using his toy boy that is displacing our people. It is the concept of Kilil coming home to roost.

Why am I going thru all this recounting our ugly history is a valid question? It is because the past is important to avoid making the same mistakes again. We learn so we don’t repeat that which has not worked. I am not obsessing about the things that we cannot control but rather I am hoping we learn from it so we can focus on tomorrow where we have the power to build a better Ethiopia. The do’s and don’ts of today are based on the lesson from the success and failures of yesterday.

Thus we learn from human history to see what works and what to avoid. The quest for liberation and a building a better Ethiopia for all will be accomplished if based on that principle. Each and every one of us is the building stone for it to succeed. Some folks were upset because I criticized a few physicians for their enabling activity regarding building a ‘referral hospital’ in our country. People feel upset when asked to boycott Ethiopian Airlines or avoid drinking Woyane beer. We advocate such action not out of hate but precisely because such form of ‘peaceful resistance’ have proven to work. There was a time when the West led by Britain and the US tried to justify their investment in South Africa by claiming they were creating jobs for the poor African masses. It was not true. They were realizing huge profit from slave labor.

What did Black South African say about that? Steven Biko, the charismatic young leader wrote ‘those who professed to worry over Blacks suffering if the economy deteriorated had missed the point. We’re already suffering’ He often reminded us ‘those who live in constant fear of being shot, beaten, or detained without charge, for those whose children already live in abject poverty and near starvation, an economic downturn is not the major area of concern.’ Nobel Laureate Albert Lutuli, president of the African National Congress in one of his speeches said:

“The economic boycott of South Africa will entail undoubted hardship for African. We do not doubt that. But if it is a method which shortens the day of bloodshed, the suffering to us will be a price we are willing to pay.”

We are not saying anything different. Your investment in Meles’s land scheme, your patronizing Meles’s Airlines, your partying in Alamudi’s hotels, your support of the so-called hospital is hurting our people. No need to qualify it with good and bad investment, it all goes to the same pot.

As some of us are preparing to celebrate Easter let us not forget what it really means. Easter is Jesus Christ’s victory over death. It is a time of renewal and rebirth. Let us work for the rebirth of our glorious history. Let us resurrect the spirit of our forefathers that stood united and were able to hand us a proud history. Our love for each other our tolerance of the little imperfections in each of us is what our country needs in this time of hopelessness and apathy. Happy Easter.

Resources used:

http://www.ethiomedia.com/courier/awassa_tplf_drama.html

http://www.ethsat.com/2012/02/28/shiferaw-shigute-implicates-pms-wife-in-corruption/

http://www.sidamanational-liberation.org/documents/06meles.pdf

http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41603.htm

Boycott Woyanne cash cow: Ethiopian Airlines

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

By Elias Kifle

The Woyanne junta continues to commit horrible atrocities against Ethiopians with impunity. The recent ethnic cleansing campaign against the Amhara, Gambella and Afar people is not surprising because nothing has been done when khat-addicted dictator Meles Zenawi waged a war of genocide against fellow Ethiopians in Ogaden, filled Ethiopian prisons with Oromos, stolen elections, destroyed historic monasteries, sold Ethiopian fertile land to foreign investors at basement bargain prices, etc.

The Woyanne tribal junta is doing all this not because it is a superior power. It is a regime that survives on foreign handouts! Woyanne is peeing on us because we allowed it to do so. We finance its crimes against us by paying tax, buying goods and services from Woyanne-controlled businesses, socializing with Woyanne members whose hands are socked with the blood of our brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers.

We can stop the Woyanne junta dead if we are really serious. One of the first things we can do to stop Woyanne is to wage a worldwide economic boycott campaign and target its revenue sources.

One of the biggest hard currency earning enterprises for the tribal junta is Ethiopian Airlines. Currently there are serious discussions going on about boycotting Ethiopian Airlines and this coming Saturday, for the first time, several Ethiopian media representatives will propose a set of actions. [see here]

Ethiopian Airlines is Ethiopian only in name. From the CEO down it is controlled by central committee members of the Tigrean People Liberation Front (Woyanne). Many of the Ethiopian pilots are leaving and being replaced by foreigners who are hired at double the salary. The sales, maintenance, and all other parts of the company are staffed with Woyanne members.

Since the Woyanne took over the airline, domestic flights drastically decreased while flights to Tigray region expanded manyfold.

In 2010, the airline generated USD$1.3 billion for the junta. This money is being used to fuel the Woyanne killing and torture machine.

I heard some individuals saying that Ethiopian Airlines should not be boycotted since it carries the Ethiopian national flag around the world. This argument doesn’t work any more, because at the current pace, there will be no nation called Ethiopia if we allow Woyanne to remain in power. When Meles and gang implement Article 39 of their constitution, Ethiopian Airlines will be renamed Greater Tigray Airlines.

Let’s stop bitching and take action. Starve the Woyanne beast by drying its sources of income.

Amhara cannibalized by hodam Amharas

Monday, April 9th, 2012

By Elia Kifle

The recent ethnic cleansing of 78,000 Ethiopians of the Amhara ethnic group from southern Ethiopia by the Woyanne junta is a horrible crime. Ethiopian Review has been reporting similar ethnic cleansing campaigns against other Ethiopian ethnic groups, particularly the Ogaden and Gambella over the past several years. How is it that Meles Zenawi and his Woyanne junta are able to commit such atrocities against millions of Ethiopians?

I’m not providing any new fact when I tell you that the main culprits of these horrors are other Amharas — those Amharas, Oromos, Ogadenis, Gembellas and other ethnic groups who obey the Woyanne rule, who socialize with Woyanne members, who pay tax to the Woyanne regime, who fly Ethiopian Airlines, who drink Al Amoudi’s Pepsi, who socialize with Woyanne members, who go to Ethiopia from the Diaspora and try to open businesses or buy properties… all these individuals are knowingly or unknowingly contributing to the crime of ethnic cleansing and genocide against their own ethnic groups.

One of the Woyanne junta cheerleaders, Mimi Sebhatu, who hosts a radio program in Addis Ababa, said in an interview yesterday that the Amharas who were expelled from the south are illegals. Mimi is half Amhara and her husband Zerihun Teshome, who is an adviser to Bereket Simon, is full Amhara, and yet she calls Amharas “illegals” in their own country. These anti-Amhara Woyanne collaborators must be condemned and ostracized until they are brought to justice for aiding and abetting the Woyanne ethnic cleansing campaigns.

We don’t necessarily need to shoot bullets at Woyanne to stop it from committing injustice against us. What we need is to STOP doing business with Woyanne-affiliated businesses that fuel its machinery of repression.

One of these businesses is Ethiopian Airlines, which has become a major cash cow for the Woyanne junta. If you have to travel to Ethiopia, pay a little extra money and take Lufthansa or any of the other airlines that fly to Ethiopia.

The other major sources of income for Woyannes are those Ethiopians in the Diaspora who go to Ethiopia for vacation or try to open businesses there. They are collaborators in Woyanne’s atrocities, including the recent ethnic cleansing campaigns against Amharas and Gambellas, as well as the ongoing war of genocide in Ogaden.

Saudi agent Al Amoudi is currently trying to hijack or split up and destroy the recently liberated Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA). Many of the players and business owners he is inviting to participate in the event are Amharas and Oromos who seem to be saying, “I don’t give a *** if Al Amoudi is looting Ethiopia and trafficking our sisters to the Middle East to work in slave-like conditions.

Let’s stop cursing Woyanne and take concrete steps to weaken and kill it. Start from the collaborators — hodam Amharas and Oromos who are cannibalizing their own people.

Loving Ethiopia to death – the Doctors

Friday, April 6th, 2012

By yilma Bekele

On November 11, 2011, Yenesew Gebre was driven to kill himself on behalf of all suffering Ethiopians. He killed himself out of love for his people and country. He made the ultimate sacrifice to wake us up so we can see what it means to be humiliated in your own home. Love can be expressed in so many different ways. Yenesew’s method was that of a teacher. That is what he was in real life. Yenesew was a shepherd and an example-setter to his people.

On March 24, 2012 Ethiopian Review reported about exiled Ethiopian physicians holding a meeting in Virginia, USA, to raise money to invest in a referral hospital in Ethiopia. A very laudable act you might say. They must love their country and people so much that even after being kicked out, exiled or driven off from their homeland they were willing to help. Isn’t that a sign of generosity and love? I agree. There is nothing like giving. Aren’t we such a blessed people to have caring individuals among us?

Wait a minute, let us not put the cart in front of the horse please. Everything has a context, otherwise it is meaningless. Our physicians ‘love’ for country has to be put in its context so we can really understand and appreciate their ‘selfless’ act. This is where the problem rears its head. They say the devil is in the details and it is nowhere true than in this instance. Our physician’s act is nothing more than a cheap trick to pad their bank account while looking selfless and honorable. Their act is that of a charlatan. They are trying to get advantage using deception. It is petty theft and nothing more than the act of a common criminal.

How sad coming from people of such high knowledge that have taken the oath to do good. Well they are Ethiopians aren’t they; the rules don’t work in the land of TPLF Ethiopia. Being a physician is a sign of high achievement. It requires sacrifice, dedication and plenty of work. It is an honorable profession. Doctors are held in high esteem and it is every mother’s dream for her baby. They teach you how to cure the sick in medical school. They make you a technician of the human body. The engineer build bridges, the architect designs house, the mechanic fixes engines, the chauffeur drives a car, the physician cures disease, the politician leads and the shoeshine cleans shoes. All are expert in their field. It is the contribution of each that makes a society work in harmony.

We put physicians on a pedestal. We ascribe a certain amount of higher intelligence to the doctor. That is more so in a backward society like ours. It is not healthy. We confuse education with common sense. One might be trained to be nuclear scientist but the possibility is there that the individual might be void of common sense or social grace. Those that have spent a major portion of their life pursuing a single goal can sometimes loose sight of the bigger picture.

When it comes to our learned compatriots we are dealing with two aspects of this myopic situation. There are some that are truly attracted to do good and help their people. At he same time there are those that will betray their people for thirty pieces. Isn’t that the situation we got here?

That is what I believe. In a country where one man surrounded with his ethnic group and lords it over eighty million others, in a place where one is judged by his blood line instead of his deeds, in a location where no none is allowed to speak or associate freely and in a land where the young and able are forced to leave due to lack of opportunity our esteemed doctors are collecting money to enable the evil doer.

None other than Ato Girma Birru — our Oromo Ambassador, called them into a meeting. I know it is rude to identify an individual by his ethnic affiliation, on the other hand, Ato Girma owes his position due to his ethnic identity. He was the token OPDO Minster in the TPLF cabinet and today he is the token representative in the US. Before his assignment to his new job he was Minster of Industry and Commerce in emerging democratic Ethiopia. Makes you wonder what he did all day doesn’t it? When you consider that he was a simple student like the rest of us before the arrival of TPLF and today he counts as one of the richest individuals in the country you know what he was busy at in his position. The well-dressed and manicured Ambassador is a picture of well-fed and modern Ethiopian.

Our physicians are the symptom of the disease afflicting our country. We focus on them because they are an easy target to identify. But this disease of discounting Ethiopia is nothing new. It has been going on for so long that it has become part of us. We all have become numb to being humiliated, trampled upon and discarded. No need to point our fingers at the greedy doctors when every house is a source of this virus of selfishness and greed. I do not mean to insult you my dear Ethiopian but isn’t time we reflect on our actions?

Tell me who buys stolen plots of land? Who flies Ethiopian Airlines? Who party’s in Addis among the starving? Who invests in hotels and brothels from Mekele to Moyale? Who turns a blind eye when the Anuaks are massacred in Gambella, the Amharas displaced from Benji Maji, the Oromos imprisoned in mass, the little girls sold into slavery in the Middle East? Don’t tell me you did not know. You knew but you choose to keep silent.

We choose to be upset because Hillary Clinton sat with the monster in Arat Kilo. We seethed with anger because the little dictator inserts himself in every international meeting, we blow our tops when Gambella is leased to grow rice, Professor Asrat was murdered, teacher Assefa Maru is gunned down, Kinijit is imprisoned and elections are stolen. It took all five minutes to cool as down. Our anger was not real. It did not come from deep. Surface anger is so pathetic don’t you think so?

Our esteemed physicians came to the west because they could not serve the people that paid for their training working under the existing regime. Unfortunately they forget why they were driven away. They are just showing us how self-centered and idiots they are. Doctors without borders are in Ogaden tending to the deliberately starved, they are in the rift valley helping the intentionally marginalized and our doctors were assembled in Virginia to serve the less than one percent. Shame is an understatement. When did we loose our moral compass is a valid question?

You know what it took me along time to push send after I wrote this piece. I was worried offending you. I felt like I am not a good ‘chewa’ Ethiopian, rude and confrontational is not our style. Then the picture of the displaced came to me. I saw the children from Benji Maji left to be homeless. I remembered my sister Alem Dechasa alone and helpless in Lebanon. I thought of my people in the jungles of Central Africa to be eaten by wild animals or drawn into harms way in other peoples’ conflict or imprisoned in Yemen and I said enough is enough. I have no reason to please no one.

I have bad news for you my people. Freedom cannot be outsourced. The Americans, the British nor the Norwegians are going to liberate you. Liberation comes from deep inside. It comes from being true to your self. It comes from caring for other as you care for yourself. How could you save others when you are sinking your self? As for our physicians that are deluding themselves about helping our people I have one message for them-kindly shove your PhD’s where the sun does not shine and take two aspirins for the pain. The physical pain will go away but the mental anguish caused by your betrayal will never leave you, ever.

As for me my friends, I am working overtime to bring this nightmare to an end. I support Ginbot 7, I am energized by the new OLF, I help ESAT and I am always there to expose Woyanne atrocities every chance I get. I teach people on the goings in my homeland. I write my Congress representative to remind them of the plight of my people and I will never rest until this cancer is wiped out from my body politic. Sometimes the going gets rough, the road seems impassable but no one promised me a jolly ride. The fact that some individuals or groups betray our trust is no reason to resign and go home. I just reengineer and thrust on because the liberation of my country and people cannot be dumped onto others. What about you are you just complaining insistently, blaming others or are you becoming part of the problem like our educated but reality challenged physicians? It is a choice you have to make.

TPLF Inc. Survives on repression and not public trust

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Aklog Birara, PhD

Those of us who enjoy freedom from constant purges, harassment, intimidation and fear need to remind ourselves each day that the Ethiopian people continue to suffer from poor and repressive governance-induced hyperinflation, hunger and malnourishment that is legendary, growing unemployment that drives thousands out of the country each month, glaring wealth and income inequality, pervasive corruption and illicit outflow of resources, dispossession and dislocation of hundreds of thousands from their homes and ancestral lands and massive transfer of the pillars of the Ethiopian economy to foreigners and a selected few ethnic elites. The dispossession of the Ethiopian people from sources of livelihood: urban and rural lands, waters, minerals and other critical assets, is the core issue of the day.

The thesis in this commentary is that TPLF Inc. has lost the trust and confidence of the Ethiopian people. There is very little evidence to show that it is ready or willing to reform itself. Nor is there any indication that the donor and diplomatic community appreciate the dangers the country faces in terms of its long-term stability and security and the welfare of its people. What could be more dangerous than the wholesale transfer of the pillars of the economy to foreigners and ethnic allies? What could be more telling than the continued purging and removal of patriotic and democratic leaning Ethiopians from their work? Accordingly, the task of supporting the Ethiopian people in their time of need is urgent; and rests with all who accept the dangers ahead and are ready, committed and willing to sacrifice time, resources and creativity. We cannot afford to wait until things fall apart completely and irreversibly. We need to move from talk to action. Action must be rooted in Ethiopia with the Ethiopian people who bear the brunt of repressive governance and economic mismanagement.

It is up to us

The outside world is unlikely to respond to us until we lead the effort. In commentary nine of this series, I showed how aid has done little to boost the capabilities of the Ethiopian people including smallholders. Close to 13 million Ethiopians depend on some form of international emergency food aid. A World Bank study last year showed that more than 5 million Ethiopians depend entirely on remittances. Thus, at minimum, 20 percent of 90 million Ethiopians depend entirely on some form of assistance from outside. Nationally, 21 percent are chronically unemployed. It means that growth has benefitted the few; but has not produced employment for most. At minimum 41 percent of the population is not part of the development process. With per capita income of $350 and with 46 percent wishing to immigrate, it is not hard to suggest that the mythical growth propagated by TPLF Inc. is not meaningful to most Ethiopians. It will not be until and unless Ethiopians enjoy a semblance of freedom to hold their government officials accountable.

I and many others who care deeply about the future of the country have provided analytical tools showing the dangers of the current system for all Ethiopians regardless of ethnic or religious or demographic affiliation. The mess affects each and every one of us, and future generations. A classified piece written from former Ambassador to Ethiopia, Donald Yamamoto, to his government, entitled “US knew but ignored abuses by Ethiopia’s Zenawi,” released by Wiki-leaks reinforces the depth of dispossession and disempowerment that defies the imagination on which I have written as have others. Although the leak refers to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where “hacks” of TPLF Inc. dominate policies and programs everywhere, the problem of purging and replacing those purged by ethnic and party loyalists has been standard practice for 21 years. It is part of systemic dispossession and dismantlement of anything and everything that is Ethiopian or national.

In February 2009, Ambassador Yamamoto confirmed and questioned the recruitment and staffing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs—one of the most corruption-ridden institutions of the country—by “230 new trainees,” as part of TPLF Inc. capacity” building process. “Of the 230 new hires, all are party officials, and receive Ministry financed housing and salaries at levels double the prevailing rates of current Ministry of Foreign Affairs officers.” This practice is the norm and has been the norm for several years, especially in most sensitive institutions such as Defense, Intelligence and Police. How else would a general afford a mansion or luxury building that costs 45 to 90 million Birr in Bole?

The undermining of Ethiopia’s national cadre of competent and meritorious civil servants that Robert Calderisi identified in his book, “The Trouble with Africa,” 3 years ago is now complete. It is done systematically and deliberately to rob the country of public service oriented individuals and replace them with party hacks. TPLF Inc. does this through the Business Practices-Reengineering (BPR) process. It may as well be called a cleansing process, a system designed to purge those whose tribal and party loyalty is questionable. Its discriminatory nature is obvious not only to former Ambassador Yamamoto but also other foreigners who work in Ethiopia and with Ethiopians. BPR grades officers on the basis of ethnic and party loyalty, with “members of the ruling party and are fully loyal receiving an “A” automatically regardless of qualification, merit and competency. In contrast, “Those perceived to oppose the ruling party or its platform are given a “D” and terminated from their jobs.”

Dispossession and alienation from private assets such as homes, lands and other personal properties, and assessments (gimigema) that lead to purges from jobs amount to the same thing. Simply put, they erode Ethiopian citizenship. They lead to poverty and immigration. Donors and the diplomatic community observe these travesties; and occasionally critique TPLF Inc. But, they do not dare to challenge TPLF Inc. to change its ways. As explained in the previous commentary, donors and the diplomatic cannot change the policies or programs of the regime. Only Ethiopians can change the system; and they can if they pull their resources together.

What conclusion did Ambassador Yamamoto reach?

The former Ambassador concludes that, “While the US government may have had influence over the Ethiopian government to induce positive reform up until, and soon after, the 2005 elections, it has lost all such influence since then.” If this is the case, why continue to offer the repressive regime with close to $1 billion per year. The bottom line is this. Long-term, the US shoots itself in the foot by ignoring an unfolding human tragedy that may lead to civil conflict and instability if it does not take bold steps now and pressure TPLF Inc. to entertain a peaceful transition. We are thus left with the only viable option that will compel the US and others to stand firmly on the side of the Ethiopian people.

This option is to set aside minor and non-strategic differences and take collective and practical action on the diplomatic front while supporting those who struggle for justice, the rule of law and representative governance within the country. Both are essential. The more we do this, the more likely it is that we will win friends. It is fear of the alternative that compelled Ambassador Yamamoto to warn, “We must remain mindful to explain our common stability objectives (the premium donors and the diplomatic community use as rationale in support of dictators) clearly to the Government of Ethiopia and EPRDF and to avoid overreaching for too drastic of reforms lest the ruling party opt to choose survival over engagement.” It is the same reasoning the US and others deploy in Syria where close to 10,000 innocent people have been massacred by their own government.

It does not take much to conclude that the country is under more stress than ever before in its history. Dispossession is now universal. The Ethiopian people have less say and power compared to foreigners who own a large chunk of the pillars of the economy and ethnic elite that plunders the society each day. Equally unprecedented is gaping inequality, corruption and illicit outflow. All these and more are linked together and are indicators of repressive and corrupt-ridden governance that will let at our own peril.

Anchor the struggle in Ethiopia and embolden Ethiopians

It is the above reality that leads me to suggest again and again that the vast majority of the Ethiopian people reject TPLF Inc. It is also this that prompts me to argue that any struggle for a better future for the Ethiopian people must be anchored in and led by civil society and political groups within Ethiopia. Those of us who sit on the sidelines must be persuaded that we are losing a country and all that this implies. The purging of Ethiopians from their jobs is symbolically the purging of competent and meritorious persons from any segment of the society. In the area of land giveaway and transfers of wealth, no amount of wealth would recompense such a loss for generations to come. TPLF Inc. is now in the business of mortgaging the entire country in the name of development. Even the last forested and treed places in the country such as churches and monasteries are no longer sacrosanct.

It happens to Waldiba

What responsible government would allow or encourage the deforestation and desecration of lands around churches and monasteries such as Waldiba in the name of development and transfers lands and forests to investors? What is happening in Waldiba, Gambella, Ogaden, Afar and others erode trust and confidence in the regime. It does not seem to care. A recent example on corruption shows that confidence and trust in TPLF Inc. and its associates is practically zero.

I should like to remind the reader that graft, bribery, mispricing, embezzlement and illicit outflow are possible in the absence of oversight. Independent oversight is virtually impossible when there are no nationally-oriented opposition parties, independent civil society organizations, academics and journalists. For this reason, TPLF Inc. does anything it wishes and gets away with ‘murder.” Here is the truth. “In Ethiopia today, it is argued, all civil society organizations, opposition political parties, individuals and groups in private enterprise, and other groups are described as rent-seeking, while in contrast, EPDRDF (run by TPLF Inc.), the ruling party, is claimed to be the only one which has developmental credentials.”

This attribution of “rent-seeking” to all opponents is granted to deceive, and establish grounds for harassment, intimidation and fear; and to ensure that there is no competition. Here is part of the menu of evidence that says it all. In its seminal report last year, Global Financial Integrity (GFI) lamented that “The people of Ethiopia are being bled dry. No matter how hard they try to fight their way out of absolute destitution and poverty, they will be swimming upstream against the current of illicit leakage.” The reader will recall that, in 2009 alone, Ethiopia lost “US$3.26 billion in illicit outflow, exceeding both the value of its total exports and the total development aid it received that year.” You will agree with me that it is not leaders or members of “civil society organizations, opposition political parties” academics, journalists or other persons who did this. Critics are in jail or have been forced out of the country. Opposition political parties do not have the freedom to operate in the country let alone own businesses and steal from the society.

Top leaders and supporters of TPLF Inc. do not like people with integrity. Anyone who speaks the truth against the system is an enemy of the party and state and goes to jail if not worse. Truth and patriotism, justice and freedom and other indicators of good governance are inimical to TPLF Inc. This is why competent people are purged from universities and ministries all the time. As a result, TPLF Inc. puts the argument upside down and accuses opponents of “rent-seeking.” The greatest “rent-seekers” are those who run the merged state—ethnicity, party and government. It is they who have perfected political capture and made it an instrument in the accumulation of incomes and wealth nationally. It is a business; and businesses will do anything and everything to thwart competition. At least, there is some form of regulation and ethic that guides and governs private businesses. In the case of TPLF Inc. there is nothing that contests it. Any contest or any telling of the truth will land you in jail unless you flee for your life. This cannot go on.

Fabricated growth data

In “A Climate of Corruption: Ethiopian edition,” Janice Winter of Investigative Journalism captured mistrust and lack of confidence in the Meles Government when she said this. “Conveniently for Meles, no independent institutions in Ethiopia exists, to check the veracity” of anything, including “of government high growth rates” or corruption or gross human rights violations including killings and rapes. She continues to suggest that, “Indeed, the average growth for Meles’ entire 20 year rule is less than 5 percent (below the African average of 6 percent.” Ordinary Ethiopians know this better than Diaspora tourists who see glitz and accept it as structural change in the economy. Each and every day, Ethiopians live with “hyperinflation, widespread unemployment, a stagnant private sector and corruption.”

Here is one critical point that I would like the reader to take. One of the casualties in Ethiopia today is the truth. Top officials of TPLF Inc. fabricate untruth like General Motors fabricates cars. The TPLF Inc. high growth phenomenon is part of the untruth factory; as is the fabrication that anyone who dissents is a terrorist. In 2005, the regime stole the election after it lost decisively and explained to the world that it had won. By any definition, fraudulent electoral outcomes are an outcome of corruption and lies.

Security, police and defense forces are deployed in parts of the country where there is potential dissent and threat with little or no differentiation. The Anuak killed or massacred in Gambella, Somali girls and women raped, indigenous people forced from their ancestral homes in the Lower Omo Valley, Tigreans kept numb and silent in Mekele and elsewhere, Amhara speaking residents in the Southern part of the country forced to leave their homes and property and Christian churches razed to the ground, Oromo students harassed, jailed and killed for seeking fair treatment and justice—these and more violations are justified by TPLF Inc. in the name of peace, security and the constitution. For almost 21 years, it has gone uncontested in pitying one group against another; in assaulting one group in isolation from the other and so on. The rest of us watch a dishonest and dishonorable group do this day after day. My question is simple. Don’t you find these as elements of justifiable cause for principled unity and action in unison? I do. They actions by TPLF Inc. erode public confidence and trust in their government and its officials at any level and in any region.

On Yekatit 1, 2004 Ethiopian calendar, Shiferaw Shigute, President of Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP), was accused of corruption and embezzlement. This is not surprising as such occurrences from urban and rural land sales and leases, permits and trade are routine. What is stunning is what he said. He admitted that he and Azeb, Meles Zenawi’s spouse and one of the wealthiest persons in Ethiopia today, colluded and stole millions of dollars in illegal trade of coffee, Ethiopia’s main export. Mispricing of coffee and illegal trafficking and trade in coffee and other commodities are among the major sources of illicit outflow. Meles Zenawi was forced to reverse the decision against Shiferaw. Family comes first; and not justice or the rule of law. The law and constitution are manipulated to serve an unjust and corrupt system.

In a similar vein, Mr. Omet Obang, Regional President, Gambella, was accused of ‘murders and massacres’ of his own people. He said, “If I go to jail for crimes against humanity, Meles Zenawi should to. It is he who gave me weapons and orders.” Obang did not go to jail and Meles remains in power. This is how the system works; and how corrupt it is.

Reports of endemic corruption and recurring illicit outflow of funds and other resources by UNDP, Transparency International and most prominently, GFI prompted global outrage and concern among donors and diplomats in Addis Ababa. The Ethiopian government was forced to hire an outside firm to conduct investigations of corruption. The country’s so-called Anti-Corruption Commission that has absolutely no teeth hired a Tanzanian firm, Kilimanjaro International, to investigate corruption, a cancer that has infected the entire system. The firm was financed by the World Bank and cost almost half a million dollars. The firm interviewed and surveyed 6,500 persons and institutions. To the dismay of TPLF Inc. officials but not to Ethiopian society, the investigation concluded five of 27 government institutions are the most corrupt across the entire country.

I should like the reader to remember that all state institutions cannot be alike. They play different roles. Some possess authority and power that allow them access to resources; and others not. Some have direct effect on the day to day lives of people and others do not. The five most corrupt institutions of government identified are the following:

1. Courts. In a country bound by laws and not political allegiance, courts adjudicate matters fairly, justly, impartially and with the highest level of integrity. The institutions that adjudicate the law and regulatory system are, themselves, soiled in corrupt practices. Officials have been reduced to rationalizing and defending a tainted system that cannot be saved without radical reform. Impartiality and justice are only dreams in Ethiopia today.

2. Police. In countries where institutions are de-politicized and de-ethnicized, public service and security are fundamental and observed by police. This is not the case in Ethiopia today. The police serve as instruments of harassment, intimidation and fear. They do what they are told regardless of innocence.

3. Customs. Licenses, import and export permits duties, trade transactions, fees and so on depend on ethnic and party affiliation. Thus, customs officials and their allies at the top have unlimited opportunities to game the system. It is who you know and who you ally with that matters most. No wonder that customs is one the most corrupt institutions in Ethiopia today.

4. Local and Regional Administration. Urban and rural lands, commodity marketing, the provision of services such as seeds and fertilizers are among the major sources of corruption and abuse of public trust. The SNNP and Gambella offer examples of massive collusion. Nothing worthwhile occurs without some insider deals in local and regional administration in Ethiopia today.

5. Municipalities. Does anyone know any urban place in the country where permits to acquire a piece of land, build something of value and licenses to operate something, to initiate a business and so does not require some form of bribe. This is why Freedom House and the Wall Street Journal concluded last year that the cost of doing business in Ethiopia is among the highest in the world today.

Are there institutions that are relatively free of corruption? Yes; they include Ethiopian Airlines, the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, the National Bank of Ethiopia and the Postal service. I should caution that it is not easy to steal from an airline. Is it? It is not easy to steal from a commercial bank at least directly unless you rob it. By the way, the government robs banks by forcing them to lend to it. The National Bank has become a piggy bank that prints money and contributes to hyperinflation and the erosion of the Birr everywhere in the country. These relatively corruption-free institutions are not the real service interface between the government and its citizens. The five are. So, it really does not make sense to compare apples and oranges.

Given the mix of the survey, the Tanzanian outfit concludes wrongly that corruption is 78th in the hierarchy of national crisis. In my assessment, corruption that leads directly to illicit outflow is at the top of national crisis. Further, it is not sufficient to confine investigation on corruption to money and related concerns. Equally important is political corruption that has led and continues to lead to the rigging of elections. TPLF Inc. ‘won 99.6 percent’ of the votes in 2010 by barring others from competition; and purges. The ‘silent violence’ against dissidents, opposition political parties, civic organizations, teachers, students and others is a form of corruption.

The forced relocation of 1.5 million Ethiopians from their ancestral lands by 2015 is an abusive of authority and therefore a form of corruption. TPLF Inc. does not allow opponents to offer viable options; affected citizens have no say in the matter. Continued exodus of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians from their country in search of alternatives abroad emanates from a corrupt and repressive system that does not allow them to prosper within their own homeland. More directly, corruption and illicit outflow of massive amounts of resources out of the country deprives communities, the society and the country the investment capital they need to expand productive capacity and capabilities: build quality schools, health facilities, safe drinking water, and access roads to rural communities, factories that produce fertilizers, basic consumer goods and so on. It is when the structure of the economy changes dramatically that hyperinflation can be contained Corruption and illicit outflow is therefore a tax on this and the coming generation. It is principally the system that produces and tolerates it.

Given the above, how and why would people trust the TPLF Inc. government, its officials and institutions that are corrupt and tolerate corruption; that lie to them that they are better off today than before it took power 21 years ago while compelling them to accept lies as truths; and that repress them while telling the world that these are done in the name of peace, national security, anti-terrorism and development? I am convinced that lies are an integral part of the ethos of TPLF Inc. and will not change until the entire system changes.

Governments with moral and ethical leadership change when they lose the confidence and trust of their citizens. TPLF Inc. and its civil servants seem to be both arrogant and oblivious or are in complete denial that they are unloved and unwanted. Berhanu Kifetew, the head of the Anti-corruption Commission confirmed this when he dismissed the modest findings and conclusions by the firm he helped hire. He said the study lacked “analytical and statistical depth.” This is a pattern. TPLF Inc. reached the same conclusion on killings and massacres following the 2005 elections; the same conclusions following the massacres in Gambella and the Ogaden.

The reader should never doubt that Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people are hurting big time from corruption and recurring illicit outflow of resources. The reader should not doubt that the beneficiaries of the system cannot possibly change the corrupt and repressive system that keeps them employed. The reader should not doubt for a second that corruption and illicit outflow undermine public trust and confidence in the government, its institutions and officials.

It is up to those—within and outside the country–who love the country and respect the hopes and aspirations of all of the Ethiopian people, to work in unison and to leave a legacy of peaceful transformation anchored in Ethiopia and owned by the Ethiopian people that future generations would recite and the world would admire.

3/07/2012

The sacrifice Andualem and others are paying must be shared

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

The Woyanne junta in Ethiopia continues to commit gross injustice against Ethiopians with impunity. Meles and gang are not paying any price for their crimes. That must stop, and it can be stopped only when a large number of Ethiopians say enough. Woubshet Taye, Debebe Eshetu, Andualem Arage, Eskinder Nega and all the others who have been arrested had the opportunity to go into exile like the rest of us. But they chose to stay in the country and scarify themselves for the freedom of all Ethiopians, as did thousands before them. Their sacrifices need to be shared by the rest of us. All Ethiopians have the moral obligation to join them in solidarity and say BEKA (enough).

Suggested immediate actions for Ethiopians inside the country:

1. Boycott Woyanne-owned businesses
2. Take your money out of Woyanne-owned banks
3. Disable Woyanne-owned buildings and factories
4. Get organized and be prepared for tougher actions

Those of us in the Diaspora can take the following actions immediately:

1. Declare a general economic boycott against the Woyanne regime, including the boycott of Ethiopian Airlines.

2. Isolate, ostracize and confront all Woyanne cadres and their hodam supporters we find at social events, restaurants, places of worship, etc.

3. Stop fighting each other and focus on Woyanne and only on Woyanne.

We owe it to heroic Ethiopians like Debebe Eshetu, Andualem Aragie and others to take action. It’s morally reprehensible to keep silent in the face of such injustice.

Volcanic ash cloud heading toward Addis Ababa

Monday, June 13th, 2011

ADDIS ABABA (AP) – Airlines that travel through East Africa said Monday they are keeping an eye on an ash cloud after a volcano eruption in Eritrea, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the eruption is forcing her to cut short a three-nation African tour.

Clinton was to have spent Monday night in Addis Ababa but will now leave immediately because the ash cloud from Monday’s explosion in Eritrea is heading toward the city.

U.S. officials said the airport at Addis Ababa was to be closed. That meant Clinton faced being stranded if she had proceeded with her planned meetings in Ethiopia on Tuesday.

Spokesman Getachew Tesfa said Ethiopian Airlines is closely watching the cloud with the help of weather experts.

Germany’s Lufthansa airline is also watching. Spokesman Marco Dall’Asta said flights from Frankfurt to the capitals of Ethiopia and Eritrea may be affected by the volcano.

The Volcanic Ash Advisory Center, which advises the aviation industry about volcano eruptions, said Eritrea’s Dubbi volcano began erupting early Monday. Eritrea borders Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti. It has a population of about 5 million people.

Wife of Ethiopia’s tyrant on Dubai shopping spree

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Last Saturday, Azeb Mesfin, the wife of Ethiopia’s blood thirsty dictator Meles Zenawi, flew to Dubai on another shopping spree, according to Ethiopian Review sources.

Azeb arrived at the airport around 11 AM local time accompanied by a few close friends and bodyguards. She then proceeded directly to a small private plane.

Upon arrival in Dubai, she was greeted by Woyanne embassy employees who took her shopping. After she finished her shopping, the goods she purchased were handed over to Ethiopian Airlines employees to be flown to the U.K.

As instructed, the Ethiopian Airlines employees delivered all the items at a house owned by Azeb in London which is currently occupied by Semhal Meles, the dictator’s daughter.

On Monday morning, Azeb returned to Ethiopia.

Azeb Mesfin, who is called “the mother of corruption,” reportedly owns several homes in the U.S. and Europe. She is known for her shopping trips to European and Middle Eastern cities spending hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time.

Elias and their ilk: Proving Sigmund Freud wrong?

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

By Kiflu Hussain

Let alone in the strictly patriarchal society like Africa where the father as the head of the family wields a great deal of power that make or mar the psychology of his children, even in the Western society that prides itself of liberty and emancipation of women, the presence or absence of fathers be it in a domineering or accommodating fashion plays a pivotal role in shaping the personality of children into manhood or womanhood. Although, I may touch upon the general parent-children relationship irrespective of gender, since this missive is inspired by Elias Kifle’s nominating his father as the Ethiopian Review 2010 person of the year, I would mostly concentrate on father-son relationship. As Africa is still in its rudimentary stage, relationships in the social scheme of things are crude and rude. Therefore, husbands can “discipline” their wives by beating them up. Also the spouses do the same towards “disciplining” their children.However,we should bear in mind that despite the dominant patriarchal culture, there are some communities in Africa that never impose iron discipline on their children, especially on boys. Pastoral communities are known for raising their boys in an absolutely free and fiercely independent ways. That’s the general picture of a society in rural Africa including the multitude of uneducated and poverty stricken urban dwellers.

Come to the so-called few educated and middle class family. You find nothing much changed in disciplining wives and kids. The only difference here is the subtlety of the method applied. When disciplining goes out of hand and serious abuses take place, it would still remain a hush-hush story for the most part to protect the honor and privacy/GEMENA/of the family from any scandal.Thankfully, this has nothing to do with being backward or having a black skin color. Westerners themselves have many skeletons in their respective closets to this effect. But there is another kind of imposition on children, particularly on boys. If the father is successful, renowned or someone who is seen as a role model in the community, the son is also expected to grow up like him which can be taxing on his personality. Daughters don’t have this sort of burden so long as they succeed to land a husband with good social standing and confine themselves to the three Ks August Bebel described in German as “Kuche, Kirche, Kinder” meaning kitchen, church and children. Probably that is the reason that we still don’t see many women leaders in the Western world despite the much vaunted liberty and emancipation.Ironically, societies considered to be too conservative, backward, extremist or even barbaric produced female leaders long before the Western world. Remember Indira Ghandi of India, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Khaleda Zia of Bangladesh, Corazon Aquino of Philippines and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia? At any rate, it’s not only the father who attains prominence due to his record in public service or valour as a military man or entrepreneurial skill or academic prowess that expects his son to be like him. The society itself expects nothing less of him. Whenever the son falls short of expectation, he will be reminded not to be a weakling and a disgrace to his family, particularly to his father. In short, he would find it difficult to be himself wherefore one remembers Sigmund Freud’s “A son can’t be a man until his father dies.” Without going into the nitty-gritty of what led Freud to arrive at such a drastic conclusion, it’s easy to observe how successful fathers can be overbearing and intimidating more than ordinary fathers thereby overshadowing the healthy growth of their sons. The late Irving Wallace, an American novelist, testified to this fact in his book ‘The Almighty’ by saying “It’s hard for big self-made men who have everything to consider their puny sons as their equals and to trust them.” To emphasize this point, I would cite one example closest to home. According to Mulugeta Lule in one of his articles on the defunct monthly Tobia or Lisaane Hizeb, the renowned Ethiopian, Tekle Hawariat Tekle Mariam deflated his son’s ego, Girmatchew Tekle Hawariat on his appointment as minister by sarcastically remarking “Your appointment will not solve Ethiopia’s problem.” Thankfully, Girmatchew was not daunted. On the contrary, he earned a name and fame for himself. Negadras Tessema Eshete too saw the rise of his own son, Yidenekatchew to renown before he died. Can we say the same about Tadele? Well, almost. On top of being a successful businessman, he is also gifted on public speaking, a trait he inherited from his forefathers. Despite their unsung patriotism and hard-work in their respective endeavor, there are/were/other fathers too who begat sons and successfully raised them to noble causes. To mention a few, Dr. Berhanu, son of Nega Bonger whose father is a leading Hotelier who rose to success from a humble means through hard work. Ato Andargatchew son of Ato Tsige whose father not only taught academics but conducted himself as an exemplary upright citizen to his students. Ato Neamin son of the late Commander Zelleke whose father is particularly remembered for transforming Assab, the then portal town of Ethiopia from a scorching desert to a romantic town most sought by visitors. What is remarkable about these fathers apart from their own achievements is that they have never been like ordinary, content and self-centered fathers who advise their children to concentrate on mediocrity by avoiding risks and sacrifices. Either they encouraged their sons or at least didn’t get in their way. Before I say kudos to all of them including Elias’s dad, Kifle Seifu, I would like to add about those famous and less famous fathers who succeeded on top of their own success to raise their daughters to prominence.

The first one is Professor Getatchew Haile who also had a shootout with the henchmen of a dictatorship. Unlike Ato Kifle, Prof. Getatchew had a showdown with Woyanne’s predecessor, Derg whereby he got wounded and confined to a wheelchair for a life. This, however, had never dampened his spirit. In addition to his own contribution both to the Ethiopian cause and academia, his daughter, Rebecca, whom I believe owe her success to him, published a book titled “Held at a distance; my rediscovery of Ethiopia.” Another one is an Ethiopian I used to know from a distance before I went into exile.Though, he is not widely known on a national scale, he had a good record in the agricultural sector where he served quietly most of his life. On top of his deceptive villager demeanor underneath an astute mind crowned with a PhD, he was known not to buckle for something he didn’t believe in. His name was Dr.Gualu Endegnanew. Recently, I learned happily that his daughter who is the spitting image of him succeeded by achieving the highest position in a field that is heavily dominated by men even in the Western world. She is the first Ethiopian to fly a big commercial airliner as pilot-in-command. Her name is Captain Amsale Gualu. These Ethiopians taught their kids by being there for them and by their own money earned by the sweat of their brow unlike our current rulers who steal from the public coffers to send their spoiled kids to fancy schools in a limousine accompanied by bodyguards. My point, therefore, is Elias’s choice of person of the year for 2010 unlike his rash and highly controversial choice in 2008-09, has a salutary effect on almost all of us. Personally, it made me refer to a very good article I read on BBC Focus on Africa magazine by a Ugandan-born Canadian journalist and freelance writer named Nam Kiwanuka. She began her piece which she titled “My fragile father figure” with how ‘like many African children, grew up in fear of her father hence one of his looks can be enough to send her running.’ Yet, despite her fear, she admired him greatly wherefore she bragged about him “My Dad can do push-ups with one hand; He’s better at Kung fu than Bruce Lee.”

As parting company with a good dose of humour is good to preserve our sanity, I would also like to share my own or rather my last brother’s bragging on account of our father. All of us used to brag, but my brother’s as he revealed it to us much later after we grew up is really funny. He was showing off our father’s travel experience to all the ‘important’ countries to his childhood friend. Since our father was sent twice to U.S in his Air Force years, obviously America came first. Trouble is his friend’s father had also been to the U.S as a civilian employee of Ethiopian Airlines. So my brother began calling all the countries my father visited including the ones he didn’t visit. His friend claimed that his father too had been in all those places. Finally, my brother recalled my father’s conversation while reminiscing about his training days in the Air Force. He just remembered the phrase that my father used to employ “when I was cadet” in Amharic. The direct translation into English sounds like ‘when I was in cadet’ which made my brother assume in his childhood brain that cadet was a country. So he said to his friend “My father had also visited cadet!” whereby his friend admitted that he never heard a country called ‘cadet’ let alone to know about his father traveling to one.

(The writer can be reached at kiflukam@yahoo.com)

Col. Asrat Bogale passed away

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Col. Asrat Bogale, a prominent and long time opponent of the Woyanne regime in Ethiopia, has passed away early Friday morning after receiving medical treatment in Paris.

Col. Asrat Bogale left Ethiopia over 30 years ago when the Derg military regime came to power. He hijacked an Ethiopian Airlines plane and forced it to land in Djibouti. After 2 year in jail, he was granted political asylum by the French Government and joined Ethiopian Democratic Union (EDU).

When Woyanne came to power 17 years later, he joined Kefagn, an armed resistance group that was formed by Shaleqa Atana Wassie and others to fight the ethnic apartheid regime.

Later on, he formed his own clandestine group, and worked closely with the late Dr Kitaw Ejigou’s Ethiopian National United Front (ENUF).

He also took time to author 7 books, according to his daughter Rebecca Asrat who is currently living in Canada.

Col. Asrat is survived by his wife Wzr. Almaz Bantirgu and 8 children.

Memorial service for Col. Asrat will be held Thursday in Paris.

Messages of condolence can be sent to rebeccaasrat@yahoo.com

Passenger dies on Ethiopian Airlines flight on its way to DC

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Boston area TV, WCVB, reports that an unidentified passenger died on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 500 that headed to Washington DC. The flight was diverted to Boston.

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 500

BOSTON (WCVB) — A flight headed to Washington DC, was diverted to Boston on Wednesday after a 64-year-old man died on board, CNN reported.

The man died on Ethiopian Air Flight 500, CNN reported. The man’s name, nationality and cause of death were not immediately available.

The flight was headed to Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., from Rome when it was diverted to Boston.
The plane landed at Logan Airport at 7:15 a.m. and continued to Washington at 9 a.m.

Heroin addiction reaching epidemic levels in Ethiopia

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Just a couple of decades ago Khat (ጫት) consumption was limited to a small area of Ethiopia, mainly eastern and south eastern of the country. Today, Khat use is pervasive in all parts of Ethiopia, except the Tigray region where it is outlawed.

As a result, currently a growing number of Ethiopian youth are addicted to khat, causing most of them to be less productive citizens who walk around like zombies.

The ruling party doesn’t want to control khat — although it knows about its debilitating effect on the society — because many of its officials are deeply involved in the khat trade

It is estimated that the khat market in Ethiopia alone generates well over one hundred million dollars per year.

Attracted to the fast money from trafficking in Khat, the Meles regime officials are upgrading to heroine, a dangerous drug that fries the brain. These days, in Addis Ababa and other major cities in Ethiopia, heroin use is becoming rampant, destroying the lives of a significant number of young Ethiopians.

According to Ethiopian Review sources, most of the heroine is entering the country via Ethiopian Airline flights from Asia. The traffickers include airline hostesses and airport officials who are affiliated with the ruling party who easily bypass security checks.

The heroine market in Ethiopia has become so lucrative that as a business strategy, Ethiopian aviation officials, and Ethiopian Airlines itself, are giving blind eye to heroin traffic, turning Ethiopia into a major narcotics transit route between Middle Eastern, Asian, and West African heroin markets.

The amount of drugs transiting via Ethiopia is increasing., according to OSAC. “Heroin transits Ethiopia for markets in West Africa, Europe, and the United States, primarily due to Ethiopia’s good airline connections between those markets and Asia. Nigerian and Ghanaian traffickers use Ethiopia as a transit point on a limited but increasing basis.”

Marching to confront a genocidal tyrant – update

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

6:30 PM – The demonstration at Columbia against the despot in Ethiopia is now over. The protesters are dispersing. Today’s demonstration has been exceedingly successful in that it has educated Columbia University and others about Zenawi’s dictatorship and the devastation it has caused in Ethiopia, exposed the two professors who are cheerleaders to African tyrants, and brought together several Ethiopians for action. Let’s get prepared for more actions that will defeat and destroy the Woyanne junta.

5:15 PM – Woyanne supporters stage a counter demonstration. Columbia Spectator has reported that Meles’ speech lasted 20 minutes. Read here.

4:50 PM – Hundreds of Ethiopians are currently holding a protest rally at Columbia University in New York where Meles Zenawi is invited to speak. Across the street, about 50 Woyanne supporters accompanied by Solomon Qindibu Tekalign are singing Tigrigna songs in support of Meles.

3:47 PM – A large crowd of protesters have now gathered at 115th and Broadway. Their number is increasing as more Ethiopians are arriving by train and cars. Columbia students with ID card are allowed to enter the campus and they are staging their own protest against the despot in front of Lerner Hall near Ronne Arledge Auditorium.

2:30 PM – The first bus that left DC has arrived in New York. Three other buses from the DC Metro Area and 2 buses from Boston will arrive at Columbia in the next few minutes. About 50 Woyanne supporters are already there to support their boss. We have been informed that some of them are Ethiopian Airlines staff and security guards who flew with him from Addis Ababa. The Woyanne-controlled Ethiopian mission at the U.S. has been sending out instructions to supporters of the regime through out eastern U.S. to come to Columbia.

12:52 PM – Freedom riders head to New York to join the protest against Meles Zenawi at Columbia University. … more update in a few minutes.

The University’s media center told Ethiopian Review that the event will not be broadcast live today, but a video will be posted online in a couple of days.

12:20 PM – One of the 4 large buses that is taking protesters to New York has stopped for break in Delaware. Here Ethiopians pose for photos during the break.

11:05 AM – Ethiopian protesters inside a bus heading to New York’s Columbia University from Washington DC to confront fascist dictator Meles Zenawi. More update shortly…

10:35 AM - The buses that left DC and Virginia are now arriving in Delaware. Prof. Bhagwati of Columbia University sent this message today:

Congratulations to Professor Vestal whose track record on Human Rights, especially in Ethiopia, is praiseworthy. It is good that he has also spoken out.

He endorses (as I did) the idea that Universities should be free to invite even tyrants to their campuses but that this must be accompanied by tough debate with them on their abusive record, rather than by encomiums to them drafted by academic entrepreneurs with personal agendas.

Aside from removing such inappropriate “sucking up” and offensive material from his website, and investigating how it got there so he does not get snookered again, I think that it is enough for President Bollinger (who is a champion of liberal values) to avoid appearing at the event. [Many academics on campus happened to strongly disagree with him when he himself attended the talk and strongly condemned the President of Iran, leading to unfortunate divisions on campus.]

Warm good wishes,
Professor Bhagwati
University Professor, Economics and Law

9:20 AM – Three buses full of protesters have already left the DC Metro Area and are heading to New York to confront Ethiopia’s brutal dictator Meles Zenawi today. A fourth bus is about to leave. Some Ethiopians are driving their own cars and taking train. Columbia University, where Meles will be speaking, is bracing for a large protest rally… more update and photos in a few minutes

Woyanne replaces Ethiopian Airlines CEO with one of its own

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

The TPLF-junta controlled Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) reported today that Ethiopian Airlines CEO Girma Wake has been replaced by Tewolde G. Mariam.

The news doesn’t indicate why Seyoum Mesfin, chairman of Ethiopian Airlines’ board, decided to replace Girma, who has been a successful CEO.

Up to now, Ethiopian Airlines has been one of the few major institutions in the country who has not been run by a Woyanne Tigrean. The ethnic apartheid regime will not rest until nothing left in the country that is not controlled by one party and one ethnic group.

Tewolde G. Mariam is a relative of Seyoum Mesfin and is said to be a hard core Woyanne who has been preparing himself take over Ethiopian Airlines by working under Girma Wake as chief operating officer.

Ethiopian extortion victim lands in jail

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

When we picked up the story about Ethiopian scientist and inventor Admasu Gebre who was thrown in jail for copyright violation in Ethiopia, we were almost certain that the ruling party Woyanne was behind it. We have heard too many similar cases in the past to reach at such a conclusion. Copyright dispute would not land any one in Ethiopian jail unless the complainant or the plaintiff is a member or friend of the ruling party.

The facts we have gathered since the story (see here) published on August 31 indeed show that retired Ethiopian Navy commander Admasu Gebre is a victim extortion. Here are some of the facts we have collected so far:

1. Commander Admasu Gebre, 70, is a native of Ethiopia and currently holds Dutch citizenship. He was a commander of the former Ethiopian Navy. As an engineer and researcher, he holds a patent for Vehicle Guidance System, which is worth tens of millions of dollars (USD). Last year, he started to build a manufacturing plant in a suburb of Addis Ababa that produces solar-powered lamps. He is involved in many other projects as well.

2. Admasu has an interest in the arts. In 2006, he was looking for a film to finance. He is introduced to Los Angeles resident Bruke Mekbib Abayneh that same year. Admasu reads a script titled Mentiyewochu (the twins) written by Adinew (Adonis) Woldemariam. He purchases the script and all domestic and international rights for a total sum of 20,000 birr, which is thought to be a fair market price in 2006.

3. Bruke Mekbeb, under his company Bruke Films Plc in Addis Ababa, signs a one film production agreement with Navcon Energy PLC owned by Admasu Gebre. They agree to split the profits — Bruke 45%, Admasu 55%. Bruke Mekbib does not invest any money in the deal. In fact, Bruke receives a 25,000 Euro advance from Admasu against his future 45% earnings. Bruke uses the advance to rent an office and hire a staff in Addis Ababa. Bruke Mekbib is named as Producer of the film under Executive Producer Adamsu Gebre in local news media.

4. The witness and guarantor during these negotiations, agreements and transactions was Bruke’s uncle Alemseged G. Yohannes the former Addis Ababa Police Deputy Commissioner. No need to go further to find a reason for Admasu’s predicaments. But let’s continue any way.

5. Soon after the agreement, Commissioner Alemseged receives a Euro 10,000 loan from Admasu.

6. After signing the contract in Addis Ababa, Bruke returns to Los Angeles.

7. Los Angeles based filmmakers Zeresenay ‘Z’ Mehari (Director), Alula Amdemicael (Cinematographer) and David L. Smith (Editor) sign on to make the film. Zeresenai Mehari flies to Addis Ababa and starts casting actors.

8. Admasu wires an additional $83,000 into Bruke’s bank account in Los Angeles. The money was to be used to purchase film making equipment.

9. Alula Amdemichael and David Smith identify and assist Bruke in the purchase of all equipment on behalf of Admasu Gebre’s company Navcom Energy PLC. All reciepts are sent to Admasu in Ethiopia.

10. Around this time, Bruke’s uncle, Commissioner (or more commonly known as “Shaleqa”) Alemseged comes to Los Angeles to buy cars to ship to Ethiopia. Bruke takes him to an auction and helps him buy 3 cars.

11. In Addis Ababa, Admasu pays tariff and takes delivery of the equipments. All the equipments were bought in his name.

12. All the purchased film equipment are shipped to Ethiopia via Ethiopian Airlines Cargo in November 2006. Admasu pays all tariffs and takes delivery of his equipment and records all serial numbers and verifies receipts.

13. Bruke, Alula and David arrive in Addis December 5, 2006. Admasu allows equipment to be transferred and housed in Bruke Films offices for the duration of the project. Pre-Production of the film starts right away.

14. In Jan 2007, Zeresenay Mehari resigns and returns to Los Angeles.

15. Alula Andemicael takes over directing duties.

16. Observing that Bruke is incompetent and free spending with the film production money, Admasu tries to replace him from his position as Producer while allowing their financial arrangement to remain intact. Bruke refuses to leave and chases away his replacements through intimidation. Production of the film starts at the end Jan 2007. Admasu and Alemnseged have a very public falling out at the Hilton Hotel Lounge.

17. Admasu goes to court claiming breach of contract. Bruke argues that Admasu refused to give him additional funds to finish production and asks the court to void the initial contract and award him 100 percent ownership of the film.

18. Alemseged is also sued by Admasu for misrepresentation and fraud. After endless appointments at the courts, which is typically followed by new appointments, the film is close to being completed.

19. The court rules in favor of Admasu and orders all film equipment, script copies, filmed material as well as edited footage to be returned to Admasu effective immediately.

20. By this time greed and vendetta set in. The intention of Bruke and Alemseged from here on is to make an example out of Admasu for daring to stand up to members of the ruling class.

21. Admasu wins the court case, but Bruke refuses to return the equipment and film to its rightful owner. The police prove useless in enforcing the court order.

22. After filming is completed in July 2007, Bruke returns some of the equipment and hardware. What was inexplicably missing amongst other things was the raw footage, the Apple G5 computer used for editing and several hard drives containing the ingested film. Admasu cries foul. He is given more appointments (six of them).

23. In September 2007, the court orders Bruke to return all the remaining property to Admasu. But with assistance from Shaleqa Alemseged, he smuggles the computer and hard drives out through Bole Airport and both fly to Los Angeles.

24. Admasu files a complaint through his lawyers in a Los Angeles Court. Admasu’s lawyers present a paper trail proving rightful ownership. The Los Angeles court agrees Admasu is the rightful owner. Admasu’s lawyers take possession of the G5 computer, the hard drives and all its contents.

25. In early 2008, Admasu contracts Alula and David to complete the post production of the film and make it ready for release.

26. Bruke and Shaleqa Alemseged re-launch a new court battle against Admasu, this time with the help of Woyanne heavy-hitters.

27. In June 2008, the film was ready. Alula Andemicael returns to Addis Ababa. Admasu starts the advertising campaign with ads on ETV announcing the release. However, after about two runs, a common thug and an employee of ETV, Tewodros Oqubai, a cousin of Bruke, intimidates ETV programmers into stopping the broadcasting of the ad.

28. Admasu is interviewed on a local radio station. He talks about the details that are happening. Shalaqua Alemseged pays a visits to the radio host and demands a retraction of the interview. Alemseged was too late. The interview was already being broadcast on 104.5 and Alemseged got the pleasure of listening to it in his car as he was driving.

29. Bruke goes to a district court and obtains an injunction against showing the film in theaters. Immediately after that, Admasu gets permission from the President of the High Court to premier the film at Sebastopol Cinema in Addis Ababa.

30. Two days later, Admasu shows the film at Cinema Empire twice in one day. Addis Ababa police pick him up and detain him for 4 days and he is released after the police could not find any legitimate thing to charge him with.

31. The police from Maekelawi (Central Investigation Station) question Alula for 6 hours. Representatives if the US Embassy in Ethiopia along with Admasu and his lawyers arrive at Maekelawi Station on behalf of Alula Amdemicael a US citizen. Alula is told he is free to leave. Federal Police waiting outside Maekelawi arrest Admasu and accuse him of being in possession of a wireless Internet router.

32. Admasu languished in jail for 2 weeks before he gets his day in court. The prosecutor tells the judge, in open court, that Admasu is a genius and that his actions need to be watched carefully as he has the mental power to turn the earth and sky upside down. The embarrassed judge admonishes the prosecutor for uttering such nonsense and orders the Federal Police to release Admasu immediately. The judge apologizes to Admasu.

33. In 2008, Ministry of Trade publishes an article on Addis Fortune announcing Bruke Films PLC to be an illegal entity not allowed to conduct any business in Ethiopia since 2003. It was found that Bruke Films never paid taxes since its inception in 2003. (Bruke Films produced the Teddy Afro Lambadina Music Video series in Ethiopia in 2005, among others works, including several commercials.)

34. In 2009, Bruke takes Admasu to yet another court. Shaleqa Alemseged, who is no longer an official at the Addis Ababa police, currently runs his own private security company, and spends most of his day at Sheraton Hotel and Castellini Restaurant courting local businessmen. On top of running a security company, Alemseged is also known as a fixer (guday asfetsami).

35. There are published reports proving Admasu has won several high value patent infringement cases against such giant corporations like Sony, Motorola, Siemens, Nokia, Thales, BMW, and FORD. Such facts gets the attention of other hustlers. Suddenly, requests for partnerships start to come from powerful elements connected to the ruing party, which Admasu has always declined.

36. Earlier this week, Bruke, Shaleqa Alemseged and gang have finally managed to nail Admasu by manipulating the court system. The kangaroo court hands down a 2.5-year prison sentence against Admasu for a made-up charge of copyright violation.

36. In 2008, Admasu offered Bruke et al yet another olive branch: Let us release the film. We’ll put the proceeds in an escrow account until the court gives a final verdict. Either way, Bruke was to still going to receive his initial 45% share in the profits of the film minus the advances he already had received. Bruke’s response was, “I will show the film after you die.”

Admasu is guilty of one thing for sure: Guilty of being naive about Woyanne.

Woyanne invites Indian hospitals to set up branches in Ethiopia

Friday, June 18th, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: A smart and sound policy would be to make it suitable for the thousands of exiled Ethiopian physicians in the U.S. and Europe to return to their country and open clinics. Ethiopian doctors are fleeing their country because the genocidal regime made the country unlivable for most Ethiopians.

NEW DELHI (The Economic Times) — Ethiopia Woyanne wants private Indian hospitals to open branches in that country to provide specialized treatment to its citizens, an official said.

An Ethiopian A Woyanne regime delegation was in India this week with the twin aim of learning from India’s health sector and small and medium enterprises.

“We felt that it will mutually benefit Ethiopians and the Indian private sector if they come to Ethiopia, especially Addis Ababa, and open branches, so that they attract not only Ethiopians but also other Africans,” Redwan Hussien, head of the delegation said.

The delegation, which included the health minister of the Addis Ababa city administration, met representatives of private hospital chains, like Fortis Healthcare and Moolchand Healthcare.

“In the last seven-eight years, we have been growing at double digits and the middle class has been booming, so people can afford to go out of the country for medical treatment,” said Hussien, a senior official in the city administration.

Addis Ababa, a city of 3.3 million, is also home to a substantial number of foreigners. It is the headquarters of the African Union and other international institutions. “Since Ethiopian Airlines is a major African airways, Addis Ababa is also a major transit point for Africans from other countries,” said Hussien.

But there is no equivalent level of specialized medical treatment available inside the country. “Most people travel to South Africa, or Bangkok or come all the way to India,” he said.

After discussions with private health providers, Hussien said that “Fortis Bangalore were really interested in going to Addis Ababa.”

A memorandum of understanding is being drafted and may be signed soon.

Hussien said space will be given in an existing Ethiopian hospital to set up a specialized treatment unit. Also, Indian doctors will be teaching their Ethiopian counterparts as part of the transfer of technology.

On the small and medium enterprises sector, Ethiopia is also looking towards Indian trainers to come to Africa. “We want Indian experts to come and teach in about 4-5 areas that we have drawn up,” he said.

The delegation also met with the Mayor of Delhi Prithviraj Sawhney and invited him to visit Ethiopia.

Mechanical glitch forces Ethiopian jet to return to Beirut

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

BEIRUT (AFP) — An Ethiopian Airlines plane was forced to return to Lebanon after takeoff early on Thursday when crew noticed a door was rattling, a Beirut airport official said.

“The door had not been closed properly and some five minutes after takeoff, the pilot was able to return and land in Beirut safely and without having to signal an emergency,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The Boeing 737-800 — the same model as an Ethiopian Airlines jet which crashed off the Lebanese coast in January killing all 90 on board — took off at around 4:30 am (0130 GMT) bound for Addis Ababa.

“The flight was delayed another six hours before it was cleared for takeoff,” the official said.

On January 25, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 crashed only minutes after taking off from Beirut in bad weather, killing all 83 passengers and seven crew.

The preliminary report based on an analysis of black box data indicates a series of errors led to the fatal crash, including the two pilots’ inexperience with the jet, a source close to the investigation told AFP last month.

Captured suspect talks about a bomb abroad Ethiopian jet

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

By Peter Heinlein | VOA

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — Ethiopian Airlines officials are closely following a report that a captured terrorism suspect has told of a bomb aboard a plane that crashed off the coast of Lebanon in January. Investigators have not determined the cause more than two months after the crash.

A report on a U.S. Internet Web site says British intelligence agents have reopened their investigation into the mysterious crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet January 25. The Boeing 737 plunged into the Mediterranean Sea minutes after takeoff from Beirut airport, killing all 90 people aboard.

News reports initially quoted witnesses as saying the plane had broken up in the air and fallen into the sea in a ball of flames. But Lebanese officials immediately ruled out terrorism, and suggested pilot error was to blame.

The “G2 Bulletin” Web site, which calls itself an independent online intelligence newsletter reports an operative of the group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula told interrogators the aircraft was destroyed by a suicide bomber trained in Yemen.

The operative is said to be among more than 100 terrorism suspects recently arrested in Saudi Arabia. He is reported to have told his captors the Beirut bomber trained in the same camp as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to set off a bomb in his underwear on a plane landing in Detroit on Christmas Day.

Ethiopian Airlines chief Girma Wake has been critical of what he called premature and misleading speculation about the cause of the Beirut crash. In a telephone interview, he cautioned that this latest report must be checked thoroughly. But he said it raises questions about why Lebanese politicians were so quick to rule out foul play and blame pilot error.

“The very fact the Lebanese authorities were saying the aircraft exploded in the air, or when they say there was a trace of fire as it was coming down. All this leads you to check it. I’m not saying that is the cause, but it leads you to check this,” said Girma.

Girma declined to say what he thinks the cause may have been. He said, ‘if you rush to conclusions, they will be the wrong conclusions.’

News reports from Saudi Arabia say the recently arrested terrorism suspects were part of a network of al-Qaida-affiliated radicals that included two suicide bombing cells.

Mahboub Maalim, head of the six-nation East African regional economic group known as IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), says al-Qaida-linked terror cells in the Arabian Peninsula are working with like-minded groups in the Horn of Africa.

“We’re almost certain in Somalia the group al-Shabab is not a Somali group any more, and we think a lot of other nationalities are there in the name of that cell, the al-Qaida cell, and definitely we feel there is also a link with the group in Yemen,” note Maalim.

A statement from the Saudi interior ministry last week said the recently arrested terrorism suspects were plotting attacks on oil and security installations. Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest oil exporter.

There has been little speculation about any terrorism motive in connection with the Ethiopian Airlines crash. But experts have noted that the crash occurred almost exactly five years after the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, after whom Beirut’s airport is named.

A Special Tribunal into the Hariri killing is reported nearing a conclusion that would bring the perpetrators to justice. An earlier United Nations backed probe said it had found evidence implicating senior officials of the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services.

Remembering Ato Ketema

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

By Yilma Bekele

I am sure you are familiar with all the big numbers thrown around when it comes to the number of Ethiopians in the US. Hundreds here thousands there add up to make an impressive amount. My travels the last few years have taken me to different parts of the Country. To tell you the truth I was not ready for DC metro area. The sheer number of Abeshas in all walks of life begs the question ‘who is left in Ethiopia?’

Why bother traveling to Addis when you can just drop by U Street. The smell of freshly brewed coffee with a whiff of caramelized onions and itan (እጣን) smoke was permeating the air. On U Street the mind plays tricks on you. One is virtually transported back to Ethiopia. A certain UN describable spirit takes over. It is Merkato tossed with Bole and a sprinkle of Piazza but cleaner. And a procession of never ending Ethiopians. This scenario is repeated in most metropolitan areas of the continent.

From Toronto to Vancouver BC, from New York to LA and from Seattle to Dallas there are Ethiopian enclaves mimicking life at home. Telegraph Avenue of Berkeley/Oakland is the same as Little Ethiopia in Los Angles. 12th. Street of Seattle resembles U Street of DC. It is all about Ethiopians working with Ethiopians making each other proud for being able to create such a vibrant community in exile. The Restaurant owner, the shop keeper, the lawyer, taxi driver, university professor, house wife, Beauty saloon operator, contractor, real estate agent etc. etc. mingling to help their community thrive.

Damn, I said to myself ‘there sure is plenty of us in exile.’ All available evidence points to a resourceful people that have managed to adapt to a new and strange environment. We have also managed to make our new home resemble the one we left behind. We can make any mother proud. But, there is always a ‘but’ isn’t there? That’s life. It is a shock to find out the appearance is what we are into. Just like Hollywood creates illusion to simulate the imagined event we have created our own façade to hide our indifference. We wave the flag to show our love while we feed the monster that devours the flag.

Our behavior is very perplexing. It is very unreasonable. It is just not like us. When did we change? That is what brought the memory of Ato Ketema into my head. The story of Ato Ketema was a ‘teachable moment’ in my life. It was a powerful lesson. It was an incident that was etched in my brain.

I was in my teens in a small town in southern Ethiopia. It was a time an organization called ‘From Alem Gena to Wollamo road building project.’ (ከአለም ገና አስከ ወላሞ የመንገድ ሥራ ድርጅት) was founded. As the name implies the idea was to build a highway between the two cities. They were going to issue stocks to build the road and recover their investment by running a bus system on the new highway. Thus the directors of the organization travel to all the major towns and meet town elders to assess the situation. Based on income they will levy an amount the individual or his family is expected to invest in the project.

So one summer they showed up in our little town. They went about their business of asking merchants for investment. I remember my family being exited about the shares they acquired. There is always one nay sayer in any gathering. Ato Ketema was one. Ato Ketema is a well to do shop keeper with a thriving business. In fact his store was so big that it has two doors. I believe the investment asked of him was not much. It was definitly something he can afford. For some odd reason Ato Keteka refused to buy shares and help his people. His friends, family and neighbors were sent to appeal to him. He refused. What do you think they did? They decided to punish his anti social behavior by utilizing the power of boycott. A gathering was called and his refusal to give back to the community that sustains him was condemned. People were instructed not to enter his store, associate with him and not even invite him to weedings and funerals. He was made a pariahs by the town.

It was not long before Ato Ketema was reduced into a shadow of his former self. His store was empty and his friends were avoiding him like the plague. Within a matter of weeks Ato Ketema was walking down the street talking to himself and dispalying strange behavior. Ato Ketema was finding out the cost of his one man stand against the many. Ato Ketema was forced to come infront of the elders accompanied by religious leaders and beg for forgivness. He was made to pay a fine and the social curse was lifted. No matter, Ato ketema never recovered from the humiliation.

As a young person I was impressed by the powerful show of force by the community. The good of the many can not be overriden by the benifit to the individual. I saw the effect of social sanction to modify a persons anti social behavior.

Imagine my surprise later in life when I found out what the people of my town did was duplicted both by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Our town used the weapon to change the behavior of an individual while our two teachers used it to challange and change an unjust law.

In 1930 the British colonizers passed the Salt Tax. It made it illigal to collect salt from the coast, sell or produce salt. The British assumed monopoly on salt. Gandhi wrote to the viceroy and told him of his plan to march 248 miles to the coast in defiace. He said ‘I regard this tax to be the most iniquitous of all from the poor man’s standpoint. As the Independence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land, the beginning will be made with this evil.’ The Mahatma gathered seventy-eight of his pupils and made the jorney attracting many followes along the road. The salt march ushered in the struggle for independence that ultimately succeed and was able to create a stable democracy.

Martin Luther King led the boycott of Montegomery, Albama bus system to oppose the city’s policy of racial segrgation on its transit system. The boycott caused financial hardship on the transit system. The refusal of Mrs. Rosa parks to surrender her seat to a white person led the US supreme Court to rule segregation of the bus system to be unconstitutional.

Gandhi challanged the British law. Gandhi showed the Indian people that un just law does not have to be obyed. Disobdience comes with a price. Being shot at, thrown in jail or exiled is the price leaders pay. That is what is called the burden of leadership. Ask Gandhi, ask Mandella, ask MLK or ask Bertukan. They will tell you freedom by petition is not going to happen. Experience shows freedom is attained using a combination of bullets, boycots, marches and international awareness. That is what is called the stick and the carrott approach.

Martin Luther King took the route of boycott as a weapon of prefrence to challange the system. He was aware that the system will not tolerate killing. They can use water hose, tear gas, police dogs or police battons but not live bullets. He used that to the maximun.

In todays Ethiopia where the dictator has his own Agazi militia, Kilil dogs and the whole military under his command the picture is a little different. He shots to kill. He has been killing the last seventeen years. Whether we like it or not a force will emerge that will successfuly challange the clueless regime. Where there is repression there is resistance. That is the law of nature.

On the other hand one can’t just sit and wait for a redemer. When it comes to our self interest we seem to be action oriented. We walk/fly over oceans and mountains to get away and start a new life. That is why we are here. Because we wanted to do better. To be free. To thrive. How come that is not translated into helping those that were left behind. ‘Is it a case of I got my share the rest be damned?’ (እኔከሞትኩ ሰርዶ አይብቀል እኮ የአሀያ አስተሳሰብ ነው።) That is not going to work. That little voice inside of us can not be silenced.

We should do what we can to help. We should be very careful not to hurt. We should use everything in our power to uphold the sacredness of human life. We should work to shame those that abuse human beings and bring sadness and agony on their people. We are not against individuals. It is their lawless act we fight against. When we say no and deny them our support they will be forced to modify their destructive behavior. When we refrain from being part of their ponzi investment scheme, when we refuse to fly their private airlines, when we do not participate in their illigal land grabs they will be forced to listen to us. Money is their aphrodisiac. Without it they shrivel. My town people knew the power of not rewarding a destructive behavior. We should learn to use the power of “NO”!

Health minister contradicts govt claims on ET-409 crash

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lebanon’s Health Minister is contradicting claims and leaks by his own government that Ethiopian flight 409 crashed because of weather and pilot error. Jawad Khalifeh said yesterday that the plane exploded.

BEIRUT (AFP) — An Ethiopian jet which crashed off Lebanon’s coast last month exploded after take-off, Lebanon’s health minister said on Tuesday in the first such official comment since the mysterious crash.

Remarks by Jawad Khalifeh could not be immediately confirmed by other officials in Beirut and came as Ethiopian Airlines said one of the plane’s black boxes has been sent to France for analysis.

“The plane exploded during flight and the cabin, as well as the bodies of those on board were dispersed into the sea, in different locations,” Khalifeh said to explain why some corpses were found dismembered.

“The first bodies which have been retrieved following the crash were intact but after that, we began to find body pieces or mutilated corpses,” he told reporters.

Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi refused to comment on the reported explosion. “I have no information about this,” he told AFP.

Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 plunged into the Mediterranean before dawn on January 25, just minutes after take-off from Beirut airport during a storm.

It was bound for Addis Ababa with 83 passengers and seven crew on board. No survivors were found and searchers have been struggling to recover bodies as most victims were believed to be still strapped to their seats.

There have been conflicting reports as to whether the jet exploded while airborne or after it hit the water, and officials have said there will be no answers until the data from the black boxes is analysed.

Lebanon has ruled out sabotage, blaming the bad weather for the tragedy, and officials have said the captain was instructed by the control tower to change to a certain heading but then the aircraft took a different course.

Experts have told AFP that the stormy weather may not have been the only reason for the crash, and that the aircraft may have had engine or hydraulics problems.

Witnesses have said they saw a ball of fire as the plane plunged into the sea and a defence ministry official said on the day of the tragedy that the plane broke into four pieces before crashing in the Mediterranean.

Lebanese army divers retrieved one of the plane’s two black boxes on Sunday and Ethiopian Airlines said it has been sent to France for analysis.

“We cannot say when we’ll have news because it is a process and there is an investigation,” spokeswoman Wogayehu Terefe told AFP in Addis Ababa.

Wogayehu said more bodies had been retrieved but said they were still waiting for an exact figure. Twenty three bodies had been found by Sunday.

The probe into the mysterious crash is being carried out by a Lebanese commission with support from a French body responsible for technical investigations of air accidents.

U.S. and Ethiopian investigators are also involved.

Ethiopian Airlines does not rule out sabotage

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ethiopian Airlines responds to leaked information that the crash of ET409 may have occurred due to pilot error. It is becoming all too apparent that the Lebanese regime, with the complicity of Woyanne, is trying to cover up some thing. The following is a press release by EAL.

Ethiopian Airlines would like to express its position on the latest speculative reports released on the cause of the accident on ET-409, 25 January.

As a member of the investigation team, Ethiopian Airlines strictly adheres to the ICAO annex 13 regulation, in which it is mandated to refrain from any inconclusive comments on the process of investigation.

The investigation is still in its early stage and the CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) and the aircraft wreckage are not yet retrieved for analysis, it is therefore, too early to conclude the cause of the accident. Ethiopian Airlines does not rule out all possible causes including the possibility of sabotage until the final outcome of the investigation is known.

Ethiopian Airlines would continue to cooperate with the investigation team to complete the process in accordance with the ICAO regulation and reveal the truth.

We share the pain and sorrow of the families of our crew and dear passengers who have lost their lives in the accident.

Lebanese leak information on Ethiopian jet crash investigation

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: Any investigation conducted by the regimes in Lebanon and Ethiopia cannot be taken seriously. Both of them seem to have some thing to hide. The Lebanese, in particular, are acting in a highly suspicious manner.

BEIRUT (Reuters) — Pilot error caused the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane off the coast of Lebanon last month which killed all 90 people on board, a source familiar with the investigation into the accident said on Tuesday.

“The investigation team has reached an early conclusion that it was pilot error, based on the information from the black box,” the source told Reuters.

An investigation team involving Lebanese, French and Ethiopian officials had headed to France on Monday with the flight recorders, commonly known as “black boxes”, for analysis.

The Boeing 737-800 plane crashed minutes after taking off from Beirut in stormy weather on January 25, plunging in a ball of fire into the sea.

The pilot had failed to respond to the control tower’s request to change direction even though he acknowledged their demands. The plane made a sharp turn before disappearing off the radar, the Lebanese transport minister said at the time.

The eight-year-old plane, carrying mostly Lebanese and Ethiopian passengers, last had a maintenance check on December 25 and no technical problems had been found. It was bound for the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Since retrieving the flight recorders from the Mediterranean on Sunday, Lebanese and international search teams have also located parts of the plane’s fuselage, where most of the victims’ bodies are believed trapped.

The bodies of at least 23 victims have been recovered so far.

Lebanon hands over ET-409 black box to France

Monday, February 8th, 2010

ADDIS ABABA (PANA) — Lebanon will hand over the recovered Flight Data Recorder (Black Box) of the crashed Ethiopian Airlines jet, ET 409, to the French authorities for investigations, Ethiopian Airlines Chief Executive Girma Wake said on Sunday.

‘The flight data recorder has been recovered. The search crews are in the process of retrieving the cockpit voice recorder. Once they are retrieved, they will be sealed and taken to France for decoding,’ the Ethiopian Airlines CEO told PANA by phone.

The Ethiopian Airlines plane with 90 people on board crashed off the coast of Lebanon on 25 January, shortly after take-off. The search crews located the main parts of the aircraft’s rear wings on Sunday.

Mr Wake said the Lebanese authorities had decided the flight data recorder would be handed over to the French authorities for â~decoding.’

‘It will be read in the presence of the Ethiopian authorities, the Lebanese and the representatives of the Boeing Corporation of US,’ Mr Wake said.

The flight data recorder will tell the investigators the possible causes of the crash.

It will indicate the exact speed at which the jet went down and could also tell if any instruments malfunctioned after take-off.

The cockpit voice recorder, which has not been retrieved, will tell the investigators the exact details of the conversations between the pilot and the airport control tower.

The aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, was last checked in December, 2009 and proved to be fit to fly.

France and Canada have been best known for the decoding of flight data and cockpit data recorders. The French are known to have pioneered the introduction of the flight data recorders in air accident investigations.

Crashed Ethiopian plane’s black box recovered

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Navy commandos have recovered the flight recorders from the Ethiopian Airlines jet that crashed off the coast of Lebanon last month, killing all 90 people on board.

The Lebanese military says navy commandos retrieved the jet’s flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder on Sunday.

The recorders were taken to a Beirut naval base, where they were given to investigators.  The two “black boxes” will be flown to France for analysis.

Lebanese Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi said searchers also located the cockpit and parts of the fuselage Sunday. Eight more bodies from the crash were recovered, bringing the total to 23.

The Boeing 737 went down January 25 just minutes after takeoff from Beirut during a heavy thunderstorm.  The plane was headed for Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

The plane abruptly changed direction shortly after take-off, and officials have said the pilot was unresponsive to appeals to correct its course.  But Lebanese and Ethiopian officials have cautioned against blaming the pilot until the flight recorders are reviewed.

The jet broke apart in mid-air, erupted into flames and crashed into the sea.

Ethiopian Airlines is considered one of Africa’s best carriers.  It operates regular flights to Lebanon, where thousands of Ethiopians work.

Searchers locate black boxes of crashed Ethiopian plane

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Searchers located the black boxes of an Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed in the sea off Lebanon last month killing 90 people, Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi said on Saturday.

“The boxes have been found under the rear part of the fuselage” which was found on Saturday morning, the Lebanese minister told AFP.

“Lebanese army divers have gone down to retrieve them, but this operation will take time,” said Aridi.

“We have to be cautious because we must preserve the data contained in the boxes,” he added.

Aridi stressed special measures would be taken to bring to the surface the flight recorders in a way to avoid any damage that could be detrimental to the information they contain.

The minister also said he had been informed by the Syrian authorities that debris from the plane had been found in the Mediterranean Sea off the western city of Lattakia.

He said earlier that the search vessel, Ocean Alert, had located the rear sections of the aircraft’s cabin.

The sections found were between 10 and 12 metres (33 and 40 feet) long, and at a depth of 45 metres (150 feet) off Naameh, 12 kilometres (seven miles) south of Beirut, Aridi said.

The Boeing 737-800 went down before dawn on January 25, just minutes after take-off during stormy weather from Beirut airport. It was bound for Addis Ababa with 83 passengers and seven crew on board.

No survivors were found from Flight 409, and only 15 bodies have so far been recovered.

Aridi said he hoped other sections of the plane would soon be found, along with bodies of the remaining victims still thought to be strapped to their seats.

Of the 15 bodies found, nine were Lebanese, five Ethiopian and one Iraqi. Fifty-four Lebanese were on board the aircraft.

The Lebanese military said on Saturday that “pictures are being taken” of the located section of fuselage with a view to raising it.

Flight recorders are usually placed in the rear of commercial airliners.

Lebanese officials have said the captain was instructed by the control tower to change to a certain heading, but that the aircraft then took a different course.

Experts have told AFP that the stormy weather may not have been the only reason for the crash, and that the aircraft may have had engine or hydraulics problems.

(Source: AFP)

ET-409 and the surplus Ethiopians

Friday, February 5th, 2010

By Yilma Bekele

It took an article on LA Times to help me gather my thoughts together. I knew there was some thing missing in the story unfolding in front of me. The article by Alexandra Sandels and Borzou Daragahi of Los Angles Times brought it all in focus.

ET409 is a tragic story. We all felt the pain. Although death is a natural occurrence, an accident like ET409 has unpleasant effect on all of us. It is death magnified. ET409 was death in the family. Sudden unexpected death.

Then the passenger manifest started to come out. There were eighty passengers and seven crewmembers. Twenty-two of the passengers were Ethiopians returning home from Lebanon. As far as the foreign press is concerned they were ordinary passengers. Business people or vacationers returning home. But we Ethiopians know better. It was no surprise to us that they were all women. No one has to tell us they will all be young. We have close relatives like that all over the Middle East. They are the surplus Ethiopians.

This group of Ethiopians returned home in a body bag. Some will stay in the Mediterranean. All will have a special place in our hearts. On the other hand talk to any Ethiopian Airlines employee and they will tell you the horror stories of the returnees from the Middle East. The trip back home should be renamed the ‘horror express’. Some return with deep psychological scars, some with visible body scars and some in a casket. Some sit there like zombies unable to talk, afraid to move unsure of themselves. Some come back home to die. They will never recover from the deep humiliation and abuse.

They all go there to better themselves and their family. There used to be a long line stretching all the way to the street and sidewalk in front of the old courthouse in Ledeta. It was a line of girls registering a name change to go to the Middle East. Having a Muslim name was a plus. Then came Woyane and institutionalized the process. They called it employment opportunity and started to charge for the service. Woyane makes a lot of money selling citizens. It is a very lucrative business. It is true they started selling maids to the Middle East before they graduated to selling children to the West in the so-called ‘adoption’ scam.

So our sisters flock to the Middle East to make something of their life. In Lebanon, Dubai, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia etc. they join others like them from the Far East in perpetual servitude. They enter a region with no laws, minimal view of human right and total absence of justice. The plight of our people in the Middle East is an open secret. The suffering and humiliation have been told and retold plenty of times. They jump from high-rise building and kill themselves. They kill their tormentors in self-defense. Unable to understand their agony their brain shuts off.

So the ones that died in the accident are the carriers of this horror. Despite all this happening to them our sisters are on of the highest contributors to Woyane’s 10% growth that is told and retold again and again. Let us take Lebanon by itself. They say there are over twenty five thousand Ethiopians working there. Let us assume each one sends US $100.00 per month. That is US$ 2.5 Million per month and US $30 Million a year. In Ethiopia that will be $390 Million Bir. A lot of money if you ask me. That is what you would call a cash cow.

How does the Ethiopian government appreciate the contribution of these citizens that cling to their motherland despite the threat to their well-being. Silence and indifference is their response. So it was a surprise to see the Woyane Foreign Minster in Beirut after the accident. There he was sitting with the Lebanese Prime Minister. Why did he go there is a good question? Did he go there to gather his people around him and console them in this time of grief? Did he go to meet with friend and family of the victims and tell them their government’s commitment to help in the search and rescue effort? Did he go there to give them moral strength? Did he go there to hold their hands and be with them? I am afraid the answer is none of the above. In Woyane’s Ethiopia those who rule don’t mingle with those ordinary Ethiopians. His Excellency does not have time for uneducated simple maids.

Then why did he go? Well he went as his capacity as Board Chairman of Ethiopian Airlines. Yes he is the Chairman of the Board. Don’t ask what his qualifications are for such a high post. Does his resume shows his talent in managing a little kiosk? Does it show his education and capacity for such a demanding job? Does he have a track record of growing a business? The answer is none of the above. His qualification is his membership in TPLF. Thus he went there because some Lebanese officials used to degrading our Ethiopian sisters upgraded their contempt and questioned the skill of the pilots and crew. The Foreign Minster went there to calm the nerves of the Lebanese officials. He went there to protect the integrity of his cash cow called Ethiopian Airlines. Why they don’t change the name to ‘Woyane Airlines’ is a mystery. The only thing Ethiopian is the name. In America they call it truth in advertising.

Thus it was no surprise to see my Diaspora friends decrying the racism of the Lebanese in the ill treatment of those in grief. Despite the fact that the horrible condition of the Ethiopian guest workers is known to all of us some of us choose to vent our rage on the people of Lebanon. I agree with Fekade, it is totally ‘a misplaced rage’. Our rage should be directed at those that allow such conditions to exist. Our indignations should be directed at the root of the problem. We should be careful in our wholesale condemnation of the Lebanese people. We should be aware that there still are over twenty five thousand of our people working there. We don’t want to contribute for their further ill treatment. Our quarrel is with the TPLF regime that considers the rest of us as trespassers in our own land. We fix our house first and the world will shower us with respect and love. As Henry Thoreau said ‘there are thousands hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the roots…’ don’t tell me you are still hacking at the branches! That is so yesterday my friend. Rage against Lebanon is hacking the branch.

Our misplaced rage at the Lebanese

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

By Fekade Shewakena

The harrowing experience of Ethiopians on the doomed Ethiopian airliner in the Mediterranean Sea last week, and the racist ways in which grieving Ethiopians who were trying to know the fate of their fellow Ethiopians on the plane were treated in Lebanon, could have been used to raise important questions and start a more important discussion. Sadly, it is being deflected in a useless direction – complaint about racism, anger at the wrong parties and a cyber-war or words with the wrong culprit. Frankly, I find the self deceptiveness and empty bravado and hypocrisy of my fellow Ethiopians more maddening than the racism and degrading treatment of Ethiopians in Lebanon which we know exists in the region all along. It is good to be angry and not unreasonable at all. But it will be a foolish exercise if we don’t know where to direct our rage to. In my view, this anger has to be directed primarily at ourselves for letting this to happen to us. If we think that this experience is an isolated case then we have closed our eyes. What has gone so wrong with our generation, the sons and daughters of a proud people, who throughout the ages fought hard to keep their pride and dignity and never let anybody look down on them? What the damn went wrong with us!

As we often do in many cases, we are taking our eyes off the big picture, completely failing to raise and answer the most important questions that we need to ask ourselves about our country and ourselves as a people. How and why have we ended up being subjected to this kind of humiliation and racism and how are we going to end it? How is it that the beacon of hope and freedom of black people around the world ended up making an industry out of exporting their beautiful children to slave labor in the Middle East at the turn of a new century?

To those of you who seemed to be angry by the racist treatment of our fellow Ethiopians, I have some more questions for you. What were you expecting a bunch of maidservants who live and work much like medieval slaves were going to be treated like in a country where most people only know them as domestic slaves? Do we expect them to read our history before they buy their slaves and be forced to care that we Ethiopians are a proud and dignified people with a along and proud history of not allowing ourselves to be looked down upon by anybody? Was this the only incident and instance that Ethiopians have been treated in inhuman, degrading and racist ways around the Middle East? Have you asked why even our Airline, Ethiopian, the island of modernity in Ethiopia that we are all proud of for its world class service and record, and frankly, one that dwarfs most Middle East carriers in every respect, couldn’t dodge the racism. Have you seen how minutes after the accident and before any evidence was available, the transport minister of Lebanon and their journalists blamed the accident on the pilot. And mind you, this is a terrorist infested area and the first eye witnesses were saying the plane went down in flames. You see, after all, Ethiopian Airlines is owned and operated by a country and people that dump their beautiful children as slaves in their countries to work seven days a week in the most dehumanizing conditions. So, what in the world have we expected them to treat us like other than in indignity?

There are many more questions that any Ethiopian worthy of self respect should ask. How many times have you heard epidemic levels of Ethiopian suicides in the Middle East? How many of us have heard Ethiopian girls throwing themselves from the top floors of buildings to end their misery in these countries? Haven’t you heard that the Ethiopian embassies in these countries routinely tell our slave sisters to go to hell whenever they ask for help? How many times have we heard that boatloads of Ethiopians travelling from Bosaso in Somaliland sink in the Red Sea while attempting to reach the cost of the Arabian Peninsula where they were treated like animals? Have you wondered why hours after the first boat capsized with all Ethiopians on board others keep riding the next ramshackle boat taking a chance on their lives? Haven’t we seen pictures of Ethiopian women beaten, sometimes even burnt by their masters in this region? How often have we heard women thrown into jail, or their passports confiscated and thrown out on the streets for voulchers to play with them? Have we not heard that many are often denied their slave salaries by their masters and thrown out on streets? Have we not heard that many dead Ethiopians are simply buried in the sands and vanish like the wind? How many of us have heard Ethiopian maidservants calling the voice of America or Ethiopian community radio stations in the West to tell us harrowing stories of mistreatment and racism pleading with us for help? An Ethiopian airline crew member I met recently told me that it is not unusual to travel from the Middle East to Addis Ababa with many young Ethiopian girls who suffer from extreme forms of depression and trauma, some who lost their minds and behave strangely. Yes, there is some awful thing happening to us as a people and we seem to be lost. If there is anything strange in this particular case, it is our attempt to treat it as an isolated case, a self deception that borders on stupidity. Rather than blame ourselves for letting this happen to us we tend to project it elsewhere.

The first job of any government anywhere is to protect its citizens, so we hear in nearly all countries. In that case we have no government. We have allowed robber barons to rule over us. The anger should be directed at us for letting our country be run by a slave trading oligarchy – the government of Meles Zenawi that turned selling young Ethiopian girls in the Middle East into a huge industry. I hear that this slave trade is now becoming one of Meles Zenawi’s most important hard currency earning businesses in the country.

From time to time I meet some pigs who feed at Meles Zenawi’s trough. They tell me something I already know very well. They tell me the economy in Ethiopia is growing. Nobody is contesting that other than the inflated statistics cooked-up in Meles Zenawi’s office for propaganda purposes. This is not even a secret. I have heard it from people who work on analyzing and reporting the data. These pigs, like any pig, hardly understand the meaning of economic growth and development as it relates to social welfare and how to measure it and account for the source of the growth and who benefits out of it. If they see buildings and asphalted roads and bridges and a few people in Addis Ababa and elsewhere striking it rich overnight, that’s it- economy is growing. They seem to have very little clue that the TPLF is expected to do something for a living or that it is supposed to show us something in the form of growth for being one of the world’s most important destinations of billions of dollars of foreign aid in the world and the huge remittance from millions of Ethiopians abroad, including from the slave labor its sells to the Middle East and the massive number of children it sells for adoption? By the way, have you stood by at major terminals of Ethiopian Airlines? The most common scene is a parade of people carrying small Ethiopian children. I once saw an old Ethiopian woman crying profusely at the site of the little children at Dulles Airport in Virginia. These adopters say they pay a fortune to Mr. Zenawi’s government to get these children. Did you hear that the government of Australia saw the obscenity and was forced to stop it recently? Is this a proud thing to do for a people and a country which boasts “unheard of” economic growth?

The naming of the Abay Bridge by Meles Zenawi is an interesting illustration of how Meles himself and the pigs at his trough perceive economic growth and development. According to the local media reported at the time of the inauguration of the bridge, Meles Zenawi named the bridge “Hidasse dildiy” – meaning the “bridge of renaissance.” What makes this interesting is that the construction of the bridge was 100% funded by the Japanese government! Silu semta doro tanqa motech!

Whatever its source, what is economic growth or development anyway if it is not meant to improve the life of people? Why is it that our loss of pride and dignity and humiliation so positively correlated with this reported growth? I mean, how is it that the more the country grows economically, the more people live in humiliation and desperation, and the number of the poor increases exponentially? Who is getting rich any way? What the pigs and the TPLF officials don’t tell you is that the number of the absolute poor and the perennially aid dependent population more than tripled since TPLF arrived in Addis Ababa almost two decades ago? Beggary is no more a humiliating exercise in Ethiopia. It used to be. If you happen to meet any of these pigs, or any of the government officials who brag about economic growth in Ethiopia, ask them to show you what the country manufactures and sells to the world other than good old coffee and other agricultural products that we began exporting a century ago. Ask them how many extractive industries like mining are operating.

And lo and behold, a slavery of epic proportions is hovering at your door steps. If you are not redirecting the anger and rise up to make changes as any people worthy of dignity and respect must do now, wait until the Middle East tycoons begin operating the land Meles Zenawi is selling them at bargain prices now. If you think the current land grab in Ethiopia is traditional investment and not colonialism, just wait until your relatives begin working in the Egyptian, Arabian and Asian plantations. I am not sure if it will be too late by then. If you are angry that you are despised outside of your country, you will see what it looks like when they come home to take the land our fathers fought hard to leave for us. But when are we going to say enough is enough! Ehhhhhhhhhhh!

(The writer can be reached at Fekadeshewakena@yahoo.com)

Ethiopians in Beirut hold memorial service for crash victims

Monday, February 1st, 2010

By Joshua Hersh | The Faster Times

Hany Gebre was killed in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight on January 25

Sunday morning, I went with the photojournalist Matthew Cassel (Just Image) to the Ethiopian Full Gospel Church, in Sebtiyeh, just outside of Beirut, for Sunday services and the funeral of one of the congregants, Hany Gebre, who died in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 last Monday.

If you are looking to understand the plight of Ethiopian domestic workers in Lebanon, look no further than the fact that this service — six days after the incident — was the first time the Ethiopian community could reliably get time off from work to gather. About 150 women — and they were ALL women — were there, and many cried for the entire three hour service, which was conducted through song and spoken word, wholly in Amharic. Representatives from the Ethiopian Consulate stopped by to pay their respects and distribute their personal mobile numbers, which everyone in attendance dutifully wrote down. They, too, left in tears.

The ceremony itself was spectacular — haunting in its beauty and sorrow.

Read more below by Matthew Cassel at JustImage.org

Ethiopians mourn in Beirut

Ethiopians mourn in Beirut (Photo: Matthew Cassel)

I went with a friend and journalist today to cover a service at an Ethiopian church outside Beirut to remember one its members, Hany Gebre, along with 89 other people, mostly Lebanese and Ethiopians, killed on an Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed into the Mediterranean Sea shortly after takeoff last Monday. Hany was employed as a domestic worker in Lebanon and was on the way to visit her family for the first time since she came to Lebanon three years ago when the plane went down. The community of Ethiopian women at the church is tightly knit, and most women said they knew Hany well. We entered to a roomful of sobbing women listening to the animated preacher singing prayers in Amharic.

It was an awkward experience for me to again take pictures of a room full of people letting their tears flow, and like I told my friend in the church, I hate taking pictures in these situations but I know that I should so others can see. As he sat there with his notebook I thought of a quote by Lewis Wickes Hine, one of my favorite photographers who once said, “If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug around a camera.” Even though my Canon isn’t quite as obtrusive as the cameras were in Hine’s day, the act itself will always be obtrusive in a situation like this and make me wish that I could remain unseen in a corner capturing the scene by jotting down notes in a small notebook.

At one point I had to leave the emotional scene in the church and get some “fresh air” by smoking a cigarette across the street. Outside, I sat staring at the Lebanese passersby. I wondered what a society that many have increasingly called “racist” thinks of the hundreds of black women who gather in their neighborhood each Sunday.

I noticed an older Lebanese woman walk past with her Ethiopian “helper.” In the standard contract that all employers must sign, migrant domestic workers in Lebanon are allowed to take at least one day off per week (usually Sunday), but many employers prevent them from doing so. I assume this was an example of that. The Ethiopian worker, arm-in-arm with her employer, glanced inside the church as they walked past and immediately started crying on the street. The Lebanese woman seemed not to notice (or not to care) as she asked the worker for help while she rummaged through her oversized handbag.

Since the death of Theresa Seda across the street from my home, I’ve been increasingly involved in the plight of foreign workers in Lebanon. Previously, I hadn’t focused on this issue because my reason for being in the Middle East is to combat a highly inaccurate image of this region and its people being portrayed in much of the Western media. If I was going to cover the exploitation of workers, I wouldn’t need to travel half the globe to do so. And I distrust many Western journalists who come here critical of everything Arab while ignoring their own government’s role in shaping this war-torn and unstable part of the world. But the abuse of workers in this country is unavoidable. Every time I leave the house I see a foreign woman carrying a bratty child, picking up dog shit or staring out the window of her “madame’s” car in envy at those of us walking around with relatively few cares in the world. There is a common expression shared by oppressed peoples. Its one that screams of a yearning to spend time with family, swim in the sea, relax on a nice chair, meet friends, have money to purchase goods, travel, be free. And as someone concerned with social justice, it’s impossible to turn a blind eye to the abuse in Lebanon that is happening all around me.

Now, the big question: are Lebanese racists? Some Western journalists feel they’re in a position to say yes, but not this one. Surely there are many racist Lebanese, and it is a serious problem affecting the whole of society — nearly everyone refers to migrant domestic workers as “Sirlankiin” (Sri Lankans) regardless of what country they actually come from. But, for example, is the Ethiopian worker and her Lebanese employer an example of this racism? It’s hard to say. Before making generalizations and pointing the finger solely at Lebanese, I would take a step back and look at the question on a global scale — how many societies existing today don’t contain elements of racism? If these Ethiopian and other workers were to travel elsewhere (or stay in Ethiopia), would that solve the problem?

I thought about all of this before I heard the music sounding (seen in the video below) through the church doors and out into the street. I quickly put out my cigarette and ran back inside lugging my camera along to help me tell a story we don’t often hear.

Ethiopian Airlines jet makes emergency landing in Chad

Friday, January 29th, 2010

NDJAMENA (AFP) — An Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet which made an emergency landing in Chad due to a radar problem took off again today, but 120 of its 150 passengers refused to board, airport authorities said.

The plane, a Boeing 737 en route from Dakar in Senegal to Addis Ababa via Bamako in Mali, “left this morning at 5:00 am (0400 GMT),” said an airport official, as well as airport police.

The incident comes days after another Ethiopian Airlines 737 with 90 people on board crashed into the Mediterranean minutes after takeoff from Beirut during a raging thunderstorm on Monday. There were no survivors.

Of the 150 passengers on the African flight, “120 refused to leave on the Boeing,” an airport official said. “They have been put up in different hotels. A large plane will come to collect them.”

Contacted by AFP, an Ethiopian Airlines spokesman in Ndjemena declined to comment and said that an “information office” had been opened by the company in Addis Ababa.

On Thursday, the Boeing 737 “circled around N’Djamena for one hour before making an emergency call. There was a radar problem, so it landed,” an airport official said.

An airport source said the plane, which had made a stopover in Bamako, Mali, was dumping its fuel before landing.

The same plane had already experienced electrical troubles when leaving Dakar earlier Thursday, and had had to return, passengers said.

Ethiopian, Lebanese relations sour

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

By Dalila Mahdawi and Wassim Mroueh | The Daily Star

As investigations continue into the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash on Monday, relations between the Ethiopian and Lebanese communities seem to be under strain.

Ethiopian Airlines flight ET409 crashed into the Mediterranean Sea just minutes after taking off from Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport during a heavy thunderstorm early morning. Some 90 passengers were aboard, including 54 Lebanese and 30 Ethiopian nationals, seven of whom were crew members. No survivors have been found, though a number of bodies have been pulled from the water.

Officials from both countries have remained diplomatic in the face of the disaster, with Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Health Minister Mohammad Jawad Khalifeh paying their condolences at the Ethiopian Consulate. But not everyone has been so courteous.

After Lebanon’s Transport and Public Works Minister Ghazi Aridi suggested Tuesday pilot error could have caused the crash, several Lebanese media outlets carried stories inferring Ethiopia was to blame.

“The aviation discipline is such that when there is an accident, you don’t rush to conclusions, you have to wait for the investigation to be completed,” Ethiopian Airlines CEO Girma Wake told reporters on Tuesday following Aridi’s comments. “Rushing remarks, I don’t think … helps anybody.”

Message boards on Lebanese and Ethiopian websites have seen a flurry of activity, with tersely-worded accusations being hurled on either side. One commentator on the Al-Arabiya website said they believed “the Lebanese government is looking for a scapegoat” to cover up for poor airport safety.

On Monday night a regional broadcaster conducted a live interview outside the Rafik Hariri University Hospital, where bodies of the passengers are being taken. A bereaved Ethiopian who accidently walked into shot was quickly dragged out of view by the television crew.

At the hospital grounds Thursday, a group of Ethiopian women gathered to wait for news of their friends. They initially said they had been treated well by the Lebanese following the plane crash but later said they were being ignored. “There are too many problems here,” said one woman who wished to be identified as Kelile. “Many of our friends aren’t being allowed to come to the hospital. The employer of one of our friends didn’t even tell her that her sister had been onboard.”

There are around 20,000 Ethiopian migrant workers in Lebanon, mostly women who work as live-in house-keepers or nannies. According to many of those gathered outside the hospital, many of those who perished on Monday were workers who were returning home after finishing their contracts in Lebanon. Others were escaping abusive employers. “The friend I had on the plane was just released from prison,” one woman told The Daily Star, declining to identify herself or her friend. Her friend spent nine months in prison because her papers were not in order.

Pathologist Ahmad al-Muqdad told OTV the Lebanese would accept DNA samples from the Ethiopian Consulate in Beirut to help identify Ethiopian victims on board, but did not say whether genetic data would be sent to Ethiopia.

“I had friends on the plane,” said Ethiopian freelance worker Desta (not her real name). “They worked hard in Lebanon and some weren’t treated well by their employers. It makes me so sad to think how much they suffered here and then, on their way home, to have this happen.”

Desta said she’d heard from other members of her community that relatives of Ethiopian passengers were put in a separate waiting room at Beirut’s international airport following the crash. “It’s as if we’ll contaminate them [the Lebanese],” she said. “But everyone is suffering. Don’t the Ethiopian families deserve respect too?”

Crashed Ethiopian Airlines black boxes have been found, not yet recovered

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Search teams on Thursday sought to recover the black boxes from an Ethiopian aircraft that crashed off Lebanon’s coast, with hope the data would provide answers to the mystery surrounding the tragedy.

“We expect to have them some time today,” Lebanese Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi told AFP.

An international search team picked up signals from the flight data recorders late Wednesday approximately 10 kilometres (six miles) west of Beirut airport at a depth of 1,300 metres (4,265 feet) below sea level.

“As of this morning we are evaluating the necessary means to retrieve the boxes,” a military spokesman told AFP, requesting anonymity.

“We hope to find the plane in the coming hours,” the military spokesman said.

Aridi confirmed that the body of the Boeing 737-800 had yet to be located four days after the tragedy, in which all 90 passengers and crew are presumed dead.

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409, bound for Addis Ababa, crashed into the Mediterranean minutes after takeoff from Beirut at 2:37 am (0037 GMT) during a raging thunderstorm on Monday.

Only 14 bodies, including those of two toddlers, and some body parts have been recovered so far.

Lebanese dailies carried obituaries for some of the passengers on Thursday, including some who have not yet been found.

Rescue officials have said a number of the bodies may still be strapped to their seats underwater and hope to recover them once they find the wreckage.

There were conflicting reports as to whether the jet exploded while still airbound or after it had hit the water, and officials have said there will be no answers until the data from the black boxes is retrieved and analysed.

Lebanese authorities have said they are counting on the flight data recorders to explain why the pilot veered off course on takeoff but have ruled out sabotage.

They have also cautioned against blaming the pilot without sufficient evidence.

Lebanese officials have said the pilot acknowledged instructions from the Beirut airport control tower to avoid the storm.

“To say there was pilot error is pure speculation,” Aridi told AFP earlier, echoing similar comments by the defence ministry.

Ethiopian Airlines spokesperson Wogayehu Tefere said the pilot was experienced and had been with the company for 20 years.

“He had been a co-pilot on this aircraft before and he flew this route on a regular basis as well as other routes,” he said.

The US National Transportation Safety Board and the French body for civil aviation security, the Bureau D’Enquetes et D’Analyses (BEA), have sent experts to join a team investigating the tragedy.

An international search operation was launched by the Lebanese navy, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), a civilian boat from Cyprus and US navy destroyer USS Ramage with sonar equipment.

Ethiopian Airlines has had two other deadly accidents over the past 25 years, one of which was a hijacking which ended in a crash when the plane ran out of fuel.

Flight 409 had 30 Ethiopian nationals on board, including the seven crew members. Most of the Ethiopian passengers were employed in Lebanon as domestic workers and were flying home to see their families.

There were also 54 Lebanese on board, most of them Shiites from southern Lebanon. Many were transiting in Addis Ababa to other countries in Africa, where they work.

Also among the passengers was Marla Sanchez Pietton, wife of France’s ambassador to Lebanon.

(Source: AFP)

U.S. Navy locates Ethiopian flight 409 black boxes

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

By Yara Bayoumy

USS Ramage

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A U.S. navy vessel located on Wednesday the flight recorders from an Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed off the coast of Lebanon two days ago with 90 people aboard, a security official said.

“The U.S. ship located the black boxes 1,300 metres underwater and 8 km west of Beirut airport,” the security official told Reuters, adding that search teams now had to assess the best way to retrieve the recorders.

Flight ET409, a Boeing 737-800, was carrying mostly Lebanese and Ethiopian passengers and was heading to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

The plane apparently broke up in the air before plunging in a ball of fire into the Mediterranean during a thunderstorm early on Monday.

The security official said it was still too early to say whether the USS Ramage, brought in to help with the search, had also located the plane’s fuselage.

“Theoretically the black boxes should be inside the plane’s fuselage, but this is all speculation at the moment,” he said,

Lebanese and international teams, including European and U.N. peacekeeping ships, helicopters, planes and divers have been scouring a search area 10 km (6 miles) out to sea and 20 km long for the plane’s fuselage and more of its victims.

The search has been hampered by rough seas and because of the uneven depth of the sea bed.

The flight recorders should shed light on why the pilot did not respond to a request to change direction even though he acknowledged the control tower’s commands.

Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi said the plane made a sharp turn before disappearing off the radar. He said it was too early to draw any conclusion of pilot error.

Only 14 bodies and some body parts have been recovered since and authorities have all but given up on finding survivors.

The eight-year-old plane last underwent a maintenance check on Dec. 25 and no technical problems were found.

The last fatal incident involving Ethiopian Airlines was in November 1996 when a hijacked Boeing 767 crashed off the Comoros Islands, killing 125 of the 175 passengers and crew.

The truth must be told about Ethiopian Flight 409

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

By Mengistu Adugna

Over the last few days, most of us have been in sombre sadness disheartened by the disaster of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight FT-409 destined Beirut to Addis Ababa – leading to the death of 90 people onboard as it has now (at the time of this writing) been confirmed. Firstly, my condolences go to the families of the victims irrespective of where/who they belong to.

In this disaster, we also have been witnessing the unfair treatment given by some of the Beirut media and some circles directly or indirectly linked to the case. Though we may not have love for our own rulers in Addis Ababa, one of the Ethiopian iconic and unifying emblems in the tri-colour is the Ethiopian Airlines. I have been saddened to witness, at early stages of the Beirut tragedy, the unfair blames that the Tri-colour and its flight crew have been receiving, as have been mischaracterised by the Lebanese journalists, Ministry of Transport, Defence Officials etc. These comments of mine don’t implicate the Prime Minister of Beirut and other Officials who fairly have been reflecting on this tragedy.
 
In the first day, one of the Lebanese journalists made a crude and wrong statement saying that “the Ethiopian Airlines is not one of the best in the world.” The same journalist, by the name “Mariam Soleh,” also stated that “the pilot could have flown his plane better”, that “he must have made a mistake somewhere.” She continued saying that the pilot “did give extra fuel” to the plane. The question one asks is that did she say anything critical about the flight controllers at the airport? With no doubt in her mind she was in fact praising them that they were supporting/aiding the pilot! The Lebanese air traffic controllers have also characterized the cause of the disaster as that the pilot hasn’t maneuvered the plane as instructed by them. This view has been repeatedly played by some circles of the Lebanese victims’ family.

To this end, the Lebanese Defense Ministry and the Transportation Ministry have stated that pilot failed to follow recommendations to change the course of the flight.” This was adding the fuel to the earlier speculation of the officials with the intention of concealing the authorities’ mishandling of the flight by instructing the pilot to take off under adverse weather condition in the first place. The fact that other planes were taking off/landing can’t justify the wrong decision made by the flight controllers or anybody associated. What some circles of the Beirut media and some of the officials are doing is pointing fingers at others — the crew of the Ethiopian in this case.

I posted comments in protest of the officials’ unethical and unprofessional statements on Monday. The journalist mentioned above seemed to me that she has no proper training in journalism. The other media outlets were echoing the same guilty verdict around the world.

The Beirut air traffic controllers are in a similar way attempting to delegate responsibility by blaming the Ethiopian pilot with 20 years experience of flying a commercial jet when they have advised him to take off in such adverse weather condition.

It would be premature to draw conclusions regarding the cause of this tragedy before a complete investigation of this disaster is conducted. This has to involve the US experts knowledgeable in such cases, Boeing engineers, the Ethiopian Airlines, the Lebanese and other relevant bodies that can help with the investigation.

In the mean time, the Ethiopian Airlines management, engaging knowledgeable experts in the field, should aggressively defend the Airlines’ good name and reputation.

(The author, Mengistu Adugna, Ph.D., is a University lecturer in Computer Networks and Distributed Applied Programming. He can be reached at: mengist2000@yahoo.co.uk)

Ethiopian Flight 409 black box found

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

(BBC) — The “black box” flight recorders from a passenger jet which crashed off the coast of Lebanon two days ago have been found, officials say.

A search team located the recorders from the Ethiopian Airlines flight just over 1.3km (0.8 miles) underwater, 10km west of the capital, Beirut.

The search team is now trying to retrieve them, Lebanese security officials said.

All 90 people on board the flight are presumed dead following the crash.

At least 24 bodies have been pulled from the sea so far.

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409, bound for Addis Ababa, crashed into the Mediterranean minutes after take-off from Beirut at 0237 (0037 GMT) during a severe thunderstorm on Monday.

Witnesses said they saw the plane plummet into the sea in flames.

The international search operation has included Lebanese navy troops and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) as well as US navy destroyer USS Ramage and a civilian vessel from Cyprus with sonar equipment.

The cause of the crash is not yet known, however Lebanese officials have said the jet did not fly in the direction instructed by the Beirut control tower.

The officials said the pilot had been asked to correct his course, but turned in the opposite direction.

Seven crew and 83 passengers were on board the Boeing 737-800. Most were Lebanese or Ethiopian.

Marla Pietton, the wife of the French ambassador in Beirut, was among those on board.

Correction: Captain originally assigned to fly ET-409 escapes crash

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Ethiopian Airlines sources have revealed that the captain who was originally assigned to fly Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 was not on board when the plane crashed into the Mediterranean Sea.

According to Ethiopian Review sources, Captain Amaha Fisseha went to Mekelle to attend a wedding, and in his place another pilot, Captain Habtamu Benti, with Co-pilot Alula Tamrat, flew the ill-fated plane.

[Correction: It was reported yesterday that Captain Amaha called in sick.]

AP and other news agencies are reporting that the pilot made a ‘strange turn’ after take off and ignored instructions from flight controllers on the ground, Lebanon’s transportation minister said Tuesday.

The tower “asked him to correct his path but he did a very fast and strange turn before disappearing completely from the radar,” Transportation Minister Ghazi Aridi told The Associated Press.

The Boeing 737-800 had taken off from Beirut airport Monday during thunderstorms and lightning. It went down 3½ kilometres off the Lebanese coast at roughly 2:30 a.m. local time, only minutes after takeoff en route to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

All 90 people, including a Canadian passenger, are feared dead. Search-and-rescue teams have so far recovered more than 20 bodies and are looking for the plane’s black box and flight data recorder.

“Nobody is saying the pilot is to blame for not heeding orders,” Aridi said, adding: “There could have been many reasons for what happened.…Only the black box can tell.”

It is not clear why the pilot did not correct his flight path or whether he could. The Boeing 737 is also equipped with its own onboard weather radar, which the pilot may have used to avoid flying into storms.

The Lebanese army also said the plane was on fire shortly after takeoff. A defence official said some witnesses reported the plane broke up into three pieces. Officials have ruled out terrorism as a cause of the crash, without elaborating.

Beirut air traffic control was guiding the Ethiopian flight through the thunderstorms for the first two to three minutes of its flight, an aviation analyst familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press.

The official said this was standard procedure by Lebanese controllers to assist airliners leaving the airport in bad weather.

Ethiopian Airlines said the pilot had more than 20 years of experience.

Lightning reported in the path of crashed Ethiopian plane

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
Flight 409 crash site

Flight 409 crash site

(AccuWeather) — Frequent lightning was in the area of Monday morning’s Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 crash into the Mediterranean Sea, according to data compiled by AccuWeather.com.

“A significant bolt was detected at 2:37 a.m., local time, 10 miles South of the Beirut Airport and 2.5 miles west of the coastal town of Na’ameh,” said AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity.

There were rain showers accompanied by a considerable amount of thunder and wind in the vicinity of Beirut at the time of the crash. Such weather is very conducive to lightning strikes.

“Turbulent weather, such as the thunderstorms that were in the area during the time of the crash, allows the separation of charges, which causes lightning to occur,” said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Mike Pigott.

The strike was in line with the runway, and occurred shortly after the plane left Beirut at 2:30 a.m.

It appears that this bolt was directly in the flight path of the plane, which was headed to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Boeing 737-800 had approximately 90 people aboard. Several bodies have been recovered, and no survivors have been reported.

Lebanon’s Transportation Minister Ghazi Aridi told the Associated Press that the pilot made “a very fast and strange turn before disappearing completely from the radar.” It is unclear as to why that happened, but officials have ruled out terrorism.

According to the World Wide Lightning Location Network out of the University of Washington, data showed severe lightning in the Lebanon area hours within the time of the crash.

“Eight WWLLN sensors detected this particular stroke, which indicates the stroke was stronger than average,” said Professor Robert Holzworth, Director of the World Wide Lightning Location Network.

A relative of one of the passengers commented that the plane should have been delayed at take off due to bad weather.

“They should have delayed the flight for an hour or two to protect the passengers. There had been strong lightning bolts and we hear that lightning strikes planes especially during take offs.”

Commercial jets are equipped with special lightning protection, including aircraft skins made of electricity-conducive aluminum, Fuel tanks and any piping carrying fuel are also protected by a skin that is thick enough to withstand sparking.

According to the Scientific American, it is estimated that each airplane in the U.S. commercial fleet is stuck by lightning more than once each year.

(Story by AccuWeather.com’s Carly Porter and Gina Cherundolo, with content contributed by Professor Robert Holzworth, Director of the World Wide Lightning Location Network. wwlln.net.)

Flight 409 pilot flew into violent storms

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

By Charles Bremner | Times Online

The crew of an Ethiopian airliner that crashed off Lebanon on Monday apparently flew into violent storms after failing to follow controllers’ instructions to avoid them, it emerged today.

“A traffic control recording shows that the tower told the pilot to turn to avoid the storm, but the plane went in the opposite direction,” Elias Murr, the Lebanese Defence Minister, said. “We do not know what happened or whether it was beyond the pilot’s control.”

All 90 on board the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 died when the aircraft hit the Mediterranean shortly after taking off from Beirut airport at 2am. Initial reports talked of a possible mid-air explosion and a possible engine fire before the aircraft took off, but the nearby thunderstorms were seen as a more likely explanation.

Violent cumulonimbus, or thunder, clouds can lead to the destruction of even the biggest aircraft. Airliners fly around them, guided by their own weather radar and sometimes by ground controllers as well.

When flight ET409 took off, controllers gave it vectors — compass headings — to steer around a line of powerful storms that crossed its path over the Mediterranean. Such instructions from departure control are common in the first minutes of flight when bad weather is near by.

Flight ET409 disappeared from radar after five minutes of flight after apparently flying straight into the line of storms.

Ghazi Aridi, the Lebanese Transport Minister, said that the pilot at the controls flew in the opposite direction to that advised by the controllers. They “asked him to correct his path but he did a very fast and strange turn before disappearing completely from the radar,” he said.

There was no indication over what caused the crew to follow the wrong heading.

Severe weather has been blamed for many airliners disasters, most recently the crash of a Kenyan Airways Boeing 737 in Cameroon in 2007.

A line of violent thunderstorms is also believed to have been a major factor in the crash of Air France flight 447 that came down off Brazil last June 1. The causes have not yet been determined, but the sequence that led to the crash began when the Airbus A330 flew into violent storm cells, then, in heavy turbulence and rain, its speed-reading probes were blocked by water or ice.

The explosive vertical columns of wind in the heart of mature cumulonimbus clouds can quickly send aircraft out of control and even rip off their wings and tails. There is speculation among airline pilots today that the pilots of the Ethiopian Boeing may have lost control in such violent weather.

Without correct recovery by the pilots, this could have led to a stall or spin and a crash, or even a mid-air break-up. The aircraft was only at about 8,000ft altitude as it climbed away from Beirut. This would have given the crew very little time to regain control.

The mystery of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

By Charles Bremner | TimesOnline

Stormy weather or sabotage are being cited in the aviation world as possible factors in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 409 off Beirut.

There is no evidence yet to suggest what caused the modern Boeing 737-800 airliner to hit the Mediterranean minutes after take-off. But attention focused on powerful thunder storms in the area and the possibility that an explosion could have caused the sudden end to the flight.

The crew were talking to the area “departure control” which was handling their flight when their transmissions stopped. This could mean that the aircraft suddenly broke up or that the crew were too busy handling an emergency to transmit a message.

The airport was under heavy rain and a line of thunderstorms were positioned off the coast, along the route of the Boeing as it climbed out of Beirut. The pilots would normally avoid the violent “cells” in the cumulonimbus thunder clouds, but these have brought down airliners in the past.

Most recently, in May 2007, a Kenyan Airways Boeing 737 crashed after a night take off in thunderstorms and heavy rain from Douala, Cameroon, killing all 114 on board. The cause of the crash has still not been determined, but the bad weather is thought by experts to have played a big role.

The explosive turbulence inside a cumulonimbus can upset even the biggest airliners. Such storms were an element in the crash last June 1 of Air France flight 447 off Brazil, according to the preliminary findings.

Lightning strikes are not normally a danger to airliners but dense rain can occasionally cause jet engines to “flame out” and stop. In this case, the crew would normally report their predicament to controllers, telling them that they were gliding and attempting to restart.

It is too early to rule out sabotage, as the Lebanese Government did, unless it holds information that it has not released.

If the pilots did not reported any problem, an explosive or other foul play cannot be excluded, aviation experts said. Speculation over possible sabotage or terrorism is natural, given Beirut’s position in the Middle East and Ethiopia’s support for the government of Somalia in its conflict with Islamist insurgents.

Eye-witness reports of a mid-air explosion should not be taken at face value. Such reports are common whenever a night-time crash is witnessed. The usual reason is the much higher speed of light than sound. The witness sees the fire of a distant crash before the noise, giving the false impression of preceding it.

Simple pilot error has sometimes caused airliners to crash after night take-off.

In January 2004, an Egyptian Boeing 737 hit the Red Sea shortly after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all the 148 aboard, most of them French tourists. It was found that the automatic pilot was not connected and the pilots, flying in pitch dark, let the aircraft fly almost on to its back before they lost control.

Ethiopian Airlines is viewed as one of the best on the African continent and the Boeing 737 is one of the world’s most reliable aircraft. The last fatal incident involving the airline was in November 1996. A hijacked Boeing 767 crashed-landed off the Comoros Islands after running out of fuel. Fifty of the 175 people aboard survived.

The Boeing 737 has been manufactured since 1967 with over 6,000 aircraft delivered. On average there are 1,250 737s airborne at any given time.

Names of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 passengers

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

All the Ethiopians are women whom the Woyanne junta exploits by exporting them to Arab countries as domestic workers.

Names of passengers aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409:

1) Addis Abera Demise (Ethiopia)
2) Bahrnesh Megersa (Ethiopia)
3) Kidist Wolde Mariam (Ethiopia)
4) Elisabeth Tilhum Habtermariam (Ethiopia)
5) Rahel Tadese (Ethiopia)
6) Etenesh Admasie (Ethiopia)
7) Woinshet Meugistu Melaku (Ethiopia)
8 Azeb Betre Kebede (Ethiopia)
9) Tigist Shikur Hajana (Ethiopia)
10) Hani Gebre Gembezo (Ethiopia)
11) Alunesh Tkele (Ethiopia)
12) Shitu Nuri (Ethiopia)
13) Selam Zigdaya (Ethiopia)
14) Yikma Mohamed (Ethiopia)
15) Seble Agezc (Ethiopia)
16) Aynalem Tessema (Ethiopia)
17) Eyerus Alem Desta (Ethiopia)
18) Mekiya Sirur (Ethiopia)
19) Lakesh Zeleke (Ethiopia)
20) Tigist Anura (Ethiopia)
21) Askalesh Soboka (Ethiopia)
22) Meselu Beshah (Ethiopia)

Other Nationals

23) Kevin Graingur (UK)
24) Marla Sanchez Pietton (France)
25) Akram Jassem Mohammad (Iraq)
26) Mohammad Abdel-Rahman Saii (Syria)

Lebanese Nationals:

1) Hanna Nakhoul Kreidy, born on 26/6/1987
2) Haidar Hassan Marji, born on 7/11/1976
3) Ali Youssef Jaber, born on 2/4/1967
4) Ali Ahmad Jaber, born on 5/8/1969
5) Abbas Mohammad Jaber, born on 13/7/1977
6) Mohammad Mustapha Badawi, born on 5/9/1970
7) Khalil Ibrahim Salah, born on 5/9/1961
8 Hassan Adnan Kreik, born on 25/1/1984
9) Saeed Abdel-Hassan Zahr, born on 5/10/1984
10) Hussein Ali Farhat, born on 25/1/1966
11) Mohammad Hassan Kreik, born on 14/10/2006
12) Ali Souheil Yaghi, born on 28/6/1973
13) Rawan Hassan Wazni, born on 27/6/1990
14) Bassem Qassem Khazaal, born on 10/3/1974
15) Haifa Ahmad Wazni, born on 25/10/1967
16) Ali Ahmad Tajeddine, born on 3/4/1979
17) Tanal Abdallah Fardoun, born on 1/2/1952
18) Mustapha Haitham Arnaout, born on 16/9/1986
19) Fouad Mahmoud Lakiss, born on 25/8/1946
20) Mohammad Kamal Akkoush, born on 23/12/1983
21) Toni Elias Zakhem, born on 18/6/1976
22) Hamzah Ali Jaafar, born on 31/5/1985
23) Hassan Mohammad Issaoui, born on 22/11/1951
24) Hassan Kamal Ibrahim, born on 13/12/1973
25) Ghassan Ibrahim Katerji, born on 15/12/1964
26) Haifa Ibrahim Farran, born on 25/9/1965
27) Hussein Youssef Hajj Ali, born on 26/7/1968
28) Fares Rashid Zebian, born on 28/9/1955
29) Farid Saad Moussa, born on 3/6/1966
30) Mohammad Ali Khatibi, born on 27/12/1989
31) Yasser Youssef Mahdi, born on 25/8/1985
32) Anis Mustapha Safa, born in 1941
33) Hussein Moussa Barakat, born on 16/12/1983
34) Antoine Toufic Hayek, born on 30/5/1965
35) Elias Antonios Rafih, born on 29/5/1959
36) Tarek George Barakat, born on 21/10/1971
37) Khalil Naji Khazen, born on 20/6/1967
38) Rana Youssef Harakeh, born on 1/2/1980
39) Mohammad Abdel-Hussein Hajj, born on 24/1/1957
40) Julia Mohammad Hajj, born on 2/8/2007
41) Hussein Kamal Hayek, born on 15/11/1977
42) Assaad Massoud Feghali, born on 22/4/1965
43) Ziad Naeem Ksaifi, born on 5/10/1974
44) Reda Ali Mastoukirdi, born on 31/3/1968
45) Albert Jerji Assal, born on 4/11/1959
46) Imad Ahmad Hather, born on 13/5/1980
47) Fouad Mohammad Jaber, born on 6/5/1957
48) Khalil Mohammad Madani, born on 1/12/1968
49) Hasan Mohammad Abdel- Hassan Tajeddine, born on 15/8/1960
50) Yasser Abedel-Hussein Ismail, born on 1/4/1973
51) Jamal Ali Khatoun, born on 5/11/1973
52) Afif Krisht (Lebanese British), born on 29/4/1954
53) Abbas Hawili (Lebanese Canadian), born on 2/11/1945
54) Anna Mohammad Abbs (Lebanese Russian), born on 23/1/1973

No survivors found in Ethiopian Airlines plane crash (video)

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Update

BEIRUT, Lebanon (Los Angeles Times) Airlines flight that crashed into the sea early Monday during a fierce winter storm.

The Boeing 737-800 bound for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, was carrying eight crew members and 82 passengers when it crashed into the Mediterranean shortly after takeoff from Beirut amid hail and thunder. The U.S.-born wife of the French ambassador to Lebanon was among the passengers.

Authorities have yet to find the flight data and voice recorders, or black boxes, that could yield clues about the cause of the crash. But officials said the ferocious overnight storm that blanketed the small country’s mountains with snow was likely a major factor.

“Bad weather was apparently the cause of the crash,” said Defense Minister Elias Murr, according to local news outlets. “We have ruled out foul play so far.”

Lebanon’s airport has been a subject of controversy because of allegations that the Shiite Muslim political group maintains a security presence there to oversee the importation of weapons. No flights originating in Lebanon land in North America, largely because of security concerns.

But Lebanese and Ethiopian officials quickly discounted the possibility of terrorism or sabotage in the downing of the plane. A spokesman for the Addis Ababa government said the airline had received no prior threats.

Ethiopian Airline flight crashes, no word on survivors

Monday, January 25th, 2010

An Ethiopian Airlines plane with 90 people on board crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from Beirut in stormy weather early on Monday. The airline’s chief executive said there was no word of survivors.

The Boeing 737-800, heading for the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, disappeared off the radar about five minutes after taking off at 2:37 am local time (0037 GMT) during a thunder storm and heavy rain.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman ruled out foul play.

“As of now, a sabotage act is unlikely. The investigation will uncover the cause,” Suleiman told a news conference.

Fourteen bodies have so far been recovered near the crash site three-and-a-half km (two miles) west of the coastal village of Na’ameh. Eighty-three passengers and seven crew were on the flight, Transport Minister Ghazi al-Aridi said at the airport.

Marla Pietton, wife of the French ambassador to Lebanon Denis Pietton, was one of those aboard, the French embassy said.

Besides Pietton, the passenger list included 54 Lebanese, 22 Ethiopian and two British nationals, according to airline officials. Other nationals included a French Canadian, a Russian, an Iraqi and a Syrian.

‘Ball of fire’

As the Lebanese government declared a day of mourning, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri visited the airport to meet distraught relatives waiting for news.

Some of the family members were angry that the plane was allowed to take off in bad weather. Heavy rains and storms have caused flooding and damage in some parts of the country over the past few days.

“They should have delayed the flight for an hour or two to protect the passengers. There had been strong lightning bolts and we hear of lighting strikes at planes especially during take-offs,” a relative of one of the passengers told a local television station.

Meanwhile, FRANCE 24’s Lucy Fielder reported from Beirut that witnesses saw “a ball of fire descending into the sea.”

Fielder said a “massive rescue operation” was underway, as Lebanese army patrol boats and helicopters searched a small area off Na’ameh, 10 km (six miles) south of Beirut.

The military spokesman for UN peacekeepers in Lebanon, Colonel Diego Fulco, said two ships from its maritime task force were at the crash site and a third was on its way. Two UN helicopters were also at the scene, he said.

According to a Lebanese defence ministry official, the US has offered a P-3 aircraft to assist in the search operation, and the French organisation responsible for technical investigation of civil aviation accidents was assisting in the probe.

An unusual accident for Ethiopian Airlines

State-owned Ethiopian Airlines has positioned itself as a major player in international air traffic in Africa and has recently expanded its Asian network.

It has regular flights to Lebanon, catering to business clients and the hundreds of Ethiopians who work there as domestic helpers.

In an interview with FRANCE 24,  David Learmount, aviation expert and an editor at Flight International, a magazine on the industry, expressed his surprise at the events.

“Ethiopian Airlines has, until this, been absolutely a beacon of light,” he said. “It’s got an exceptional safety record.”

Learmount also noted that the plane that went down was “from the latest version of the 737 series”, making the crash even more unusual. “We have a first-class airline and a first-class airplane, and there’s been an accident,” he said.

The last major incident involving Ethiopian Airlines was in November 1996 when 125 of the 175 passengers and crew died after a hijacked Boeing 767 crashed into the sea off the Comoros Islands.

The airline’s website carries this statement: “Ethiopian Airlines regrets to confirm the unfortunate accident of ET-409 which took place shortly after departure from Beirut International Airport today January 25, 2010.”

It added that an investigative team had already arrived at the scene.

The airline company supplied the following numbers for people seeking additional information about the crash: +251 11 517 8766, +251 91 150 1248, +251 11 517 8028, +251 11 517 8054, +251 11 517 8025, +251 11 517 8030, +251 91 125 5577, +251 91 120 3412 or the Ethiopian Airlines toll free number: +251 11 662 0062

(Source: France 24)

U.S. Part of Lebanon Search

Monday, January 25th, 2010

We're told the US Navy is part of an international effort to find any survivors of the Ethiopian Air Lines crash off Beirut Lebanon.  The 6th Fleet guided missile destroyer USS Ramage which was on maneuvers in the area is involved, as is a P-3 Orion maritime search and rescue aircraft.

The airline is saying no Americans were on the flight.  There was a total of 90 people on board and feared dead. The majority of them are  Lebanese and Ethiopian.  There were two Britons, a French person and a Canadian.

A US official does tell us, though, that there are many "dual nationals" in Beirut, that is, those carrying both Lebanese and American passports, they don't always show up on first review, so the last word on this will have to wait.

As for cause, locals tell us it was a stormy night in Lebanon and bad weather is being looked at as the principal cause.

Right now terror or sabotage is being ruled oiut.

Mechanical fault can't be ruled out, although the type of aircraft, the 737-800, is durable.   The New York-based CIT Aerospace firm which actually leased the plane to Ethiopian Airlines referred questions back  to the firm.

The Beirut Airport is built right up against the densely populated outskirts of the city.  New video indicates two flashes came from  the plane over land but the craft went down into the sea.   A tragedy could have been worse.

Rescue teams search for survivors in Ethiopian plane crash (video)

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Lebanese rescue teams Monday recovered 10 bodies from the wreckage of an Ethiopian airliner that plunged into the Mediterranean Sea minutes after takeoff in heavy rains and storms from the Beirut International Airport earlier in the day.

“We have so far found 10 bodies at the crash site off the coast of Naameh, 7 miles (12 kilometers) south of the Beirut airport,” an unidentified defense ministry official told a local news agency. (RTTNews)

An Ethiopian Airlines flight 409 with 90 people on board crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from Beirut in bad weather early on Monday.

Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Ato Girma Wake said a team of eight people from Derbyshire-based crisis management company Blake Emergency Services, which specialises in airline incidents, was travelling to Beirut.

Local media quoted Lebanese army officials as saying that seven survivors had been rescued.

However, according to other reports, police officers said there had been two survivors. The conflicting reports of survivors were not confirmed by the UN or government officials.

Confirmation of the loss of the flight came from the operator in Addis Ababa.

“Ethiopian flight ET-409 scheduled to operate from Beirut to Addis Ababa on January 25 lost contact with the Lebanese air controllers shortly after takeoff. The flight departed at 02.35 Lebanese time from Beirut International Airport,” the airline said in a statement.

The aircraft carried 51 Lebanese nationals, 23 Ethiopians, as well as Iraqi, Syrian, British,and French nationals, the minister said. One of the passengers is believed to be the wife of the French ambassador in Beirut.

Lebanon’s President Michel Suleiman described the incident as “painful”. Suleiman put all medical and security forces on maximum alert.

Lebanese army patrol boats and helicopters were searching a small area off Na’ameh, 10 km (six miles) south of Beirut.

The military spokesman for U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon, Colonel Diego Fulco, said two ships from its maritime task force were at the crash site and a third was on its way. Two U.N. helicopters were also at the scene, he said.

A Cypriot police helicopter and another from the British military stationed in Cyprus were also involved in the search.

According to one source, residents on the coast saw a “ball of fire” crashing off Na’ameh.

State-owned Ethiopian Airlines, which confirmed the crash, has positioned itself as a major player in international air traffic in Africa and has recently expanded its Asian network.

It has regular flights to Lebanon, catering for business clients and the hundreds of Ethiopians who work there as domestic helpers. Lebanese aviation sources said some of the passengers had been en route to Angola.

Last Friday the airline announced an order for 10 of Boeing’s Next-Generation 737-800s for a total price of $767 million.

The last major incident involving Ethiopian Airlines was in November 1996 when 125 of the 175 passengers and crew died after a hijacked Boeing 767 crashed into the sea off the Comoros Islands.

One airport official said the plane was struck by lightning before it fell into the sea.

The Boeing aircraft disappeared off the radar screens shortly after takeoff, the state-run Lebanese National News Agency reported.

Witnesses in the area said they heard a loud noise and then saw a plane on fire plunging into the water.

Rescue teams were seen gathering near the area where the plane reportedly crashed.

“The weather is not helping us at all,” a member of the rescue team said. “But we hope to find some survivors.”

Aridi said the crash site had been identified at 3.5 km west of the coastal village of Na’ameh.

The Boeing 737-800, heading for Addis Ababa, disappeared off the radar some five minutes after taking off at 2:37 a.m. (0037 GMT) during a thunder storm and heavy rain. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said he did not think the plane had been brought down deliberately.

“As of now, a sabotage act is unlikely. The investigation will uncover the cause,” Suleiman told a news conference.

Eighty-three passengers and seven crew were on the flight, Lebanese Transport Minister Ghazi al-Aridi told reporters at the airport where relatives of the passengers gathered to wait for news of survivors.

“(The crash) site has been identified three-and-a-half km (two miles) west of the (coastal) village of Na’ameh,” he said.

Fifty-four of those on board were Lebanese, 22 were Ethiopian, two were British and there were also Canadian, Russian, French, Iraqi and Syrian nationals.

Marla Pietton, wife of the French ambassador to Lebanon Denis Pietton, was on the plane, the French embassy said. The Lebanese government has declared a day of mourning.

The U.K. Foreign Office said one British national and one with dual nationality were on board Flight ET409.

No further details about the two people would be released until next of kin had been informed, it added.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “Our thoughts are with the families of all those involved in this tragedy.”

At least 21 bodies have been recovered, and there has been no news of anyone surviving the crash.

An RAF helicopter, based in Cyprus, has joined the Lebanese authorities’ search-and-rescue operation.

(Source: Reuters, AP, IANS, BBC)

Worries growing about Ethiopia elections – The Economist

Monday, January 25th, 2010

ADDIS ABABA (The Economist) — Worries about Ethiopia’s election, due in May, are growing. Aid-giving Western governments hope it will pass off without the strife that followed the last one, in 2005, when 200 people were killed, thousands were imprisoned, and the democratic credentials of Meles Zenawi, despite his re-election, were left in tatters.

Though poor and fragile, Ethiopia carries a lot of weight in the region. A grubby election could worsen things in neighbouring Sudan, where civil war threatens to recur. The borderlands near Kenya, where cattle raiding, poaching and banditry are rife, would become still more dangerous. A renewal of unrest in Ethiopia would be exploited by its [Woyanne regime] arch-enemy, Eritrea, which already backs sundry rebel groups in an effort to undermine the country’s government Woyanne. And it could make matters even worse in Somalia, where jihadist fighters linked to al-Qaeda want to weaken “Christian” Ethiopia, where a third of the people are in fact Muslim. Foreign intelligence sources have long feared a jihadist attack in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia is a country of contradictions. With its present population of around 82m growing by 2m a year, it is poised to overtake Egypt as Africa’s second-most-populous country after Nigeria, with around 150m. It hosts the seat of the African Union. It runs one of Africa’s biggest airlines. This year its economy is predicted to grow by 7%, one of the fastest rates in the world [according to the Meles regime]. It is wooing foreign investors with offers to lease 3 million hectares of arable land [pushing out local farmers]. It is expensively branding its coffee for export.

Yet the grim side is just as striking. Hunger periodically stalks the land. Some 5m people rely on emergency food to survive; another 7m get food aid. Few people benefit from the country’s free market [the beneficiaries are only members of the ruling party]. Ethiopia has one of Africa’s lowest rates of mobile-phone ownership [to keep the people in the dark age]. Income per head is one of the most meagre in the continent.

All this is the responsibility of Mr Meles’s Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which has run the show since 1991. The party is dominated by former Marxist rebels from Tigray, even though Tigrayans, among them Mr Meles, make up only 6% of Ethiopia’s population. Not that Tigrayans want to cling to power, says Mr Meles brusquely. It is just that Ethiopia needs consistency to pursue a long-term development agenda. And the EPRDF can point to some successes. Since Mr Meles came to power, infant mortality has fallen by half, school attendance has risen dramatically and life expectancy has increased from 45 to 55 years.

Nourishing a liberal democracy or upholding human rights, however, has never been central to that agenda, even less so after Mr Meles clobbered the opposition in 2005. Some Western diplomats insist, implausibly, that politics has got better since. The government and some opposition parties have, for instance, signed a code of conduct for the coming election. Some of the opposition groups are genuine, but others are in hock to the EPRDF. In any case, the main opposition grouping, Forum, refused to join the talks, arguing that the EPRDF would exploit any agreement for its own ends. The government has been smothering potential sources of independent opposition, such as foreign and local NGOs. It insists it does not censor the press, but newspapers continue to close and independent journalists are moving abroad. Some farmers allege they are being denied food aid for political reasons.

Forum is demanding the release of one its leaders, Birtukan Mideksa, from prison. She was jailed with other opposition figures after the 2005 election, later pardoned, then arrested again. She is unlikely to be let out again before the poll as she could, some say, pose a real threat to the EPRDF in Addis Ababa and other cities.

Yet most Western governments seem keen to downplay Mr Meles’s human-rights record, hoping his re-election will keep his country stable. America is to disburse $1 billion in state aid to Ethiopia this year, more if covert stuff is included. Ethiopia can expect a similar amount from the European Union, multilaterally and through bilateral arrangements with Britain and others. And climate-change deals may bring Mr Meles even more cash.

Storm appears to have caused the crash of Ethiopian Airlines jet

Monday, January 25th, 2010

A fierce storm appears to have caused the crash of an Ethiopian Airline jet that plunged in a ball of fire into the sea with 90 people on board, Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr said yesterday.

“Bad weather was apparently the cause of the crash,” Mr Murr said.

“We have ruled out foul play so far,” he added, noting that soldiers combing the Lebanese shoreline had recovered pieces of the plane.

“When there is an explosion (on board an airplane) nothing is usually left.”

A massive international search and rescue operation was hastily scrambled as Lebanese President Michel Sleiman ruled out foul play and officials played down hopes of any survivors from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 bound for Addis Ababa.

“Up until now, we have ruled out foul play,” Mr Sleiman said.

A Lebanese security official said that by noon (9pm AEDT), 21 bodies had been pulled from the sea, including that of a child. One rescue official said that the bodies recovered were dismembered. Eight empty seats from the Boeing 737-800, as well as luggage and personal belongings, had started washing up on the Lebanese shoreline, just south of the airport. Soldiers on the beach dragged large metal chunks of the plane.

He added that Prime Minister Saad Hariri would chair an emergency ministerial meeting later Monday to assess the situation.

The plane exploded into four pieces before crashing shortly after takeoff at 2.30am. Investigators were trying to determine whether lightning had hit the jet.

A worker at a petrol station near the site said he heard an explosion and saw “a huge ball of fire” as the plane crashed into the sea. Another witness said: “It was like the whole sea lit up.”

Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi said Flight 409 had lost contact with the airport control tower shortly after takeoff and crashed into the Mediterranean 3.5km off the coastal town of Naameh, south of the airport.

“The control tower was assisting the pilot of the plane on takeoff and suddenly lost contact for no known reason,” Mr Aridi said.

The Lebanese army and navy, as well as the UN Interim Force in Lebanon and aircraft from France, Britain and the US, were assisting in the rescue.

Officials listed 83 passengers and seven crew members on board the flight. The passengers include 54 Lebanese, 22 Ethiopians, one French woman and one British national. Among the Lebanese were two children. The French passenger was identified as Marla Sanchez Pietton, wife of France’s ambassador to Lebanon, Denis Pietton.

Families of the passengers, some of them weeping uncontrollably, huddled at the VIP lounge of Beirut International Airport to await news of their loved ones.

One woman was sobbing and screaming, “Why, why?” as others fainted and had to be carried away by Red Cross volunteers.

“I know they won’t find him,” wailed one woman, referring to her husband, who was on board the flight.

Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Girma Wake said in Addis Ababa that the aircraft had been serviced on December 25 and passed inspection.

British Aviation safety analyst Chris Yates noted that modern aircraft were built to withstand all but the foulest weather. He said that reports of fire could suggest “some cataclysmic failure of one of the engines” or that something had been sucked into the engine, such as a bird or debris.

Lebanon has been lashed by storms in the past two days that have caused flooding and damage in some parts of the country.

(Sources: AP, AFP, BBC)

Ethiopian plane crash should not sully success story

Monday, January 25th, 2010

lebanonWhen news of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash broke this morning my heart sank at the thought of covering yet another negative story about Ethiopia.

It’s particularly galling for Ethiopians that the airline is one of the few international success stories for a country known mostly for famine and war.

When the news emerged I also immediately knew how hard the company’s staff would take it. I’ve been to the sprawling campus that serves as headquarters to Africa’s arguably flagship airline many times. The last time was just last week to interview CEO Girma Wake and I left with a gift of Ethiopian coffee and the impression that I’d rarely seen people so passionate or proud about their work and what it does for their country.

Ethiopian Airlines is a company that Ethiopians are proud of. It has consistently expanded and remained profitable through tough times for other airlines and all manner of global economic strife. It has prioritized safety in a continent with a lamentable record and it is aggressively expanding into China and India.

It had an impressive safety record before today, last suffering a disaster in 1996 when Somali hijackers demanded to be flown to Australia, causing the plane to run out of fuel and ditch off the Comoros, killing 123 of its 175 passengers.

Ethiopians I spoke to this morning said they didn’t think people outside of the country would be surprised that an Ethiopian Airlines plane had crashed, so negative are foreign perceptions of the country. But the fact is: it is a surprise.

The airline is a symbol of hope for Ethiopia. And Ethiopia is a truly unique and propitious country of 80 million people — albeit with a desperate history.

Democracy is now — debatably — slowly emerging, a middle class has appeared, the economy is growing, more Ethiopians than ever before are being educated, and ambitious and fiercely patriotic Ethiopians are taking control of the future of one of Africa’s most exciting prospects. Ethiopia is not just bad news anymore.

The cause of the crash is still unknown. But it would be a shame if this one incident damages perceptions of an emerging airline and a promising country.

Ethiopian Airlines jet crashes after taking off from Beirut

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Ethiopian Airlines jet (file photo)

BEIRUT (Reuters) – An Ethiopian Airlines plane with 85 passengers on board crashed into the Mediterranean sea shortly after taking off from Beirut international airport in the early hours of Monday, airport sources said. The plane, said to be a Boeing (BA.N) 737 by one source, disappeared off the radar some five minutes after takeoff.

About 50 passengers were Lebanese nationals, most of the others were Ethiopians, the sources said. There were thought to be seven crew members.

The plane took off shortly after its scheduled time of 3:10 a.m. (0010 GMT), flying south-west, the sources said.

Ethiopian Airlines’ website shows it has a flight from Beirut to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa around that time, operating a Boeing 737. The airline could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to one source, residents on the coast saw a plane on fire crashing.

Senior Lebanese officials headed to Rafik Hariri International Airport after news of the crash. The plane had flown in from Addis Ababa earlier in the night, the sources said.

Hundreds of Ethiopians work as domestic helpers in Lebanon.

(Reporting by Nadim Ladki; editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Africa-Asia ties flying high

Friday, January 15th, 2010

AFRICA-CHINA/RISKSInvestment from China and other Asian countries was an important factor in several years of unprecedented growth in Africa before the global downturn hit.

It is very much seen as a critical driver for Africa’s future growth prospects as well.

China has repeatedly emphasised its commitment to Africa through the global troubles and is emerging even more solidly implanted on the continent now. Other Asian countries are also pushing hard, as a recent high-level Indian visit showed.

As one of the main links between Africa and Asia, Ethiopian Airlines offers an interesting indicator as to how the ties have held up and are expected to grow.

Early last year it was talking of cuts, but it is now at 14 flights a week to China and 12 to India. It is planning flights to more destinations in both countries.

Unlike many airlines elsewhere, it also managed to double its profits in its last business year.

Picture: A visitor walks past a map of Africa at the African Development Bank meeting in China in 2007. REUTERS/ Aly Song

Siphoning off Ethiopian Airlines’ profit (video)

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Foreign Minister of Ethiopia’s tribal regime, Seyoum Mesfin, is reportedly siphoning off tens of millions of dollars from Ethiopian Airlines’ profit… and other news. Watch below:

Why has Ethiopia’s regime locked Birtukan in jail?

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

By Abiye Teklemariam Megenta

Bertukan Mikdesa

Birtukan Mikdesa

One blazing hot Sunday afternoon in December, I drove my old BMW 316i to Ferensay Legacion, an area in North East Addis Ababa dotted with clusters of shanties. The roads were layered with unevenly carved cobble stones and red sand which made driving nearly impossible. Outside most of the small hovels, which were made of mud walls and corrugated tin roofs, stood people–mostly women, talking to each other and fetching water from public spigots. Most of them were dressed in threadbare clothes and dust-covered sandals. A young woman with a baby tied on her back waved her right hand as I drove by. Birtukan Mideksa, the young, charismatic leader of Ethiopia’s biggest opposition, had lived in the village all her life except when she was in Kaliti, the notorious Ethiopian jail. “This is who I am. Ferensay is not just a village to me. It represents the ethos of solidarity, self-sacrifice and fighting to succeed in spite of adversity,” she told the crowd of adoring villagers, who gathered to celebrate her courage and leadership in late August 2007.

Birtukan, who is 35, lived in a three room house set behind a crumbling tin fence with her three year old daughter, her mom and niece. She met me just outside of the house where I parked my car and led me to her room. She was dressed ordinarily; tight jeans and blue linen shirt. No make-up. Her hair was pulled back tightly, and her high cheek bones and soft facial features were fully exposed. Her eyes were wet and lined in red. “Sleepless nights?” I asked her. She proffered an inscrutable smile in response. A neatly organized shelf lined by books with broad ranging themes occupied the left corner of the room. There were Jean P. Sarte’s “Being and Nothingness,” Messay Kebede’s “Survival and Modernization,” and John Austin’s “The Province of Jurisprudence Determined.” “Most of them were sent to me by friends and people I don’t even know when I was in prison,” she said, pointing to the shelf. The right side of the room was dominated by a big poster of Aung San Suu Kyi, her idol. She directed me to her bed and said, “You can sit there if you don’t mind, or I will ask them to bring you a stool.” She sat on the opposite end of the bed.

This was one day before a re-arrest which would condemn her to life in prison, and she knew what was coming. Did she think they would put her in jail? “You have to know that they are paper tigers. They are weak, but want to appear strong. They would think caging a woman with a three year old daughter who lives under their firm surveillance every day demonstrates their toughness.” She smiled nervously. “I don’t want to go to jail. It is terrible, but defiance is the only way to beat them.” Birtukan has a well-earned reputation of fearlessness, but here she seemed shaken. She folded her arms over her stomach, and disappeared into herself for a few minutes. “I am apprehensive of prison,” she said as her daughter poked her head in and looked playfully at her mother. “I have a daughter who needs me, a mother who is old.” Then her passion flares. Her hands unfold; her face frowns. “They forcefully make people hostage to their family and social commitments. They compel you to choose between freedom and family.”

Over the past 15 years, Ethiopians have become accustomed to politico-criminal arrests and trials. Journalists accused of threatening the national security of the country, opposition politicians put in trial for treason and attempted genocide, regime-opponent artists jailed for crimes petty and serious, and government officials charged of corruption- coincidentally, most of them after they started raising their voices against Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. But no affair has befuddled and stunned as many as the Birtukan case. Why have they imprisoned her?

A month earlier, Birtukan arrived in London in a driving downpour, hustling through umbrella-wielding political friends to reach the car awaiting her. This was the start of her two-week trip to Europe. She would visit supporters of her party, raise funds, explain her party’s political objectives and strategic choices, and meet officials of different countries. She had delayed her trip for weeks because she wanted to follow the US elections from home. “Obama dazzled her. She read his two books, listened to his speeches and, like millions, thought he was the real deal,” said journalist Tamerat Negera. “She saw herself in him. Her political ambition has always been to seek a common ground in a country which is polarized by ethnicity, conflict and ideology.”

The trip to Europe was one of the biggest challenges to this ambition. After the internal feud which rent apart the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), a party to which numerous Ethiopians pinned their hopes, many Diaspora Ethiopians had become frosty and suspicious towards opposition politicians. Her newly- minted party’s claim of the mantle of a CUD successor had serious doubters. In the ten months since the split of the CUD, even her ardent supporters questioned whether she had the necessary leadership skills and toughness to revive the opposition movement. Critics accused her of “surrender” to the EPRDF when she declared that her party had chosen “peaceful struggle”. Ethiopianreview, an influential website published in America, declared that the “Lady Liberty became Lady Surrender.” Europe was experiencing one of its coldest autumns in history; Birtukan hoped her political trip didn’t mirror the weather.

She also knew she had to walk a tightrope. Critics of the Meles government would blow horns in support if she made high-pitched, passionate anti-government remarks. But she cared about the consequences of her actions. She thought she was in a long-term political game and there was no reason to endanger her new party.

Generally, the European trip went well. Her critics were polite; her unenthusiastic supporters were galvanized. There were a few spats with activists, but they were all behind the screen. But a statement she uttered at a meeting in Sweden would trip her up. She told an audience of not more than 30 Ethiopians that the pardon she and other opposition leaders signed as a condition for their release from prison was the result of a political process and had no formal legal force.

On December 12, 2008, Birtukan was summoned by Workneh Gebeyehu, Ethiopia’s Federal Police Commissioner, and asked to issue an apology for the statement she made in Sweden. Workneh, a man of considerable bulk, is regarded by his colleagues as “a small time boss with big title.” The real power behind the curtain at the Federal Police is the lesser known Tesfaye Aberha, the assistant commissioner. Workineh is, however, the force’s public face. “He does all the dirty laundry and the floor-sweeping as Tesfaye makes decisions out of public and media sights,” said one of Workine’s close friends. He also has a reputation for ruthlessness and Byzantine intrigue, so atypical of the place he came from, the swinging Shashemene.

With him was one of the Prime Minister’s trusted men, Hashim Tewfeik, former State Minister of Justice, now working as a legal advisor to the Federal Police. I first met Hashim in December 2005 at his office in the green and white boxy building which housed the Ministry of Justice. The newspaper I edited was closed by the government and I had submitted a complaint to the Ministry of Justice. Hashim’s secretary arranged the meeting. He was skinny with tapered fingers and thin lips. He wore a blue suit and white shirt. Soft-spoken, articulate and with owlish visage, there was nothing to hint about him the EPRDF official who deliberated in decisions to terrorize the press and opposition leaders and supporters.

Hashim, a close relative of former Supreme Court Chief Justice and Election Board President, Kemal Bedri, was a popular lecturer of law at the Civil Service College before he left to Australia to study constitutional law at the Melbourne Law School. His doctoral dissertation, Ethiopia: the challenge of many nationalities, was a rather unabashed defense of EPRDF’s system of ethnic federalism. In 2004, he returned to Ethiopia; a year later, he was appointed State Minister of Justice, and quickly transformed into one of the regime’s most ardent political operatives.

“I am a student of this constitution and I defend it with all my capacities,” he spoke to me in modest whisper. It was a concealed suggestion that my newspaper had gone over the constitutionally prescribed limits of free speech. When I met Hashim again two years later in a barber shop around Sar Bet, he was already on the verge of leaving the Ministry of Justice to the Federal Police. Befitting such transfer, he was reading “At the Center of the Storm: My Ten Years at the CIA,” a book by former CIA boss, George Tenet.

Birtukan sat in the room, listening patiently to the two talking about her transgression of the law as they delivered the ultimatum: retract her Stockholm statement within three days, or she would face life imprisonment. She didn’t interrupt them, but her demeanor suggested that she was unfazed. When she spoke, her statement was a question packaged in mischievous brevity. “By what authority are you giving me this ultimatum?”

Two days later, she wrote her last word on the issue in Addis Neger, a weekly newspaper. This was Birtukan in her defiant and fearless mode. “Lawlessness and arrogance are things that I will never get used to, nor will cooperate with,” she penned. “…For them, a peaceful struggle can only be conducted within the limits the ruling party and individual officials set, and not according to the provisions of the constitution. For me, this is hard to accept.” In less than 72 hours, her pardon was revoked and she was dragged to Kaliti federal prison to serve a life sentence.

Why have they arrested her? For many Ethiopians, the entire Stockholm controversy was a grand ruse. Other opposition politicians, including former CUD leader Hailu Shawel, had questioned the credibility of the process of pardon even more forcefully. But not a finger was raised against them. Her accruing days in prison reinforced that suspicion. Even by Ethiopian standards, her treatment has been harsh. She spent more than two months in solitary confinement; she was denied access to books, newspapers and radio. The only people who are permitted to visit her are her mother and daughter; her lawyers have been refused to see her several times. “She is not a normal political prisoner. I have never seen the prime minister so infuriated as when he is asked about her arrest,” says Tamrat Negera. “The notion that her arrest is related to the pardon stuff was hogwash.”

In mid-January, two lawyers appeared on State TV to defend the decision of the government to re-arrest Birtukan. One of them was Shimeles Kemal, a tall man with a narrow face and long chin. Shimeles is such a complex and contradictory character that if he didn’t exist, someone would be obliged to invent him.

At the end of 1970s, Shimeles was a radical, rebellious teenager who dreamed of the formation of an Ethiopian socialist republic. He distributed propaganda leaflets of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Party, a Marxist group which was battling a powerful military junta, and agitated his friends for struggle. But like most of his compatriots, he paid dearly for his views and actions. In 1991, the same year armed rebels toppled the junta, the former teenage idealist added a law degree to a CV which included seven years of prison life. His relationship with the new leaders was a roller coaster. As a judge, Shimeles convicted and sentenced the famous dissident Professor Asrat Woldayes, who died of a debilitating disease he acquired in prison. Then he was disgracefully removed from his judgeship while he was presiding over the case of another prominent dissident, Taye Woldesemait.

At the end of 1990s, he turned himself into a defender of free speech, writing brilliant legal and philosophical articles in the weekly newspaper, The Reporter. His friends claimed that the new image he tried to cultivate was so contrary to the decisions he made while in black robe that people stopped taking him seriously. With no allies, he ran into the embrace of Bereket Simon, the ruling party’s powerful propaganda man, and effortlessly turned back the clock. By 2006, he had already started drafting laws which would unduly constrain free speech and freedom of the press, prosecuted political detractors, journalists and human rights activists and overseen the expulsion of foreign journalists. His victims included his best friends and ex-girlfriends. Commingled in his brilliant mind are the ideas of the law as an instrument of political power and an utter contempt for political opposition. He has turned into the quintessential lawyer who has no moral qualms, the Jacques Vergas of the Ethiopian government.

In the TV appearance, Shimeles shook his fists threateningly and declared that the members of the press who tried to “patriotize and beatify” her would face criminal prosecution. After the interview, he rushed to his office to prepare a propaganda manual for political discussion. The right side of the first page of the manual was marked in black ink with these words: Attn: to all federal civil servants and regional public relations bureaus. The manual served as a document of discussions which were held in government offices, public corporations and regional public relation offices in February and March. The main theme of the discussions was: Why was Birukan rearrested? The answer was unlikely to emerge either from Shimeles’ TV interview or the manual he had prepared. Both doggedly stuck to the official line. In Addis Ababa, a city given to conspiracy theories, the discussions inflamed speculations and questions: why would they force civil servants to discuss Birtukan’s arrest?

Saturday, March 14, 2009, was the day of off-putting tasks. I had to clear my office desk, pack my bags, and call my friends to say goodbye. A day later, I would board an Ethiopian airlines plane leaving to the US. I put my books and some documents in the trunk of my car and went back to the second floor of my newspaper’s building to fetch old newspapers. Before I left the documentation room, my phone rang. It was my informant, Ashu – name changed to protect his security – who had close contacts with people high up in the EPRDF’s power hierarchy. He wanted to meet me before I left Ethiopia. “Can I see you at Chinkelo Butchery in 30 minutes?” he asked.

When I arrived 15 minutes late, Ashu was already half way through his raw meat, cutting the meet systematically with falcate-shaped knives and eating the slices with injera and spicy awaze sauce. When I told him I couldn’t cut meat, he rolled his eyes in disbelief. Ashu is a plump, moon-faced man with a proclivity for sybaritic life. His “business”, never clearly defined, gave him access to many of the country’s corrupt elite, including some of the biggest officials of the ruling party. As he sat in the butchery wearing a brown Aston Nappa leather jacket and track pants, drinking a bottle of Gouder wine and eating raw meat, many people going in and out of the butchery stopped to greet him, or at least waved at him. His reactions revealed that he loved the attention. In January, I asked Ashu to find out the real reason behind Birtukan’s arrest and he was here to tell me what he discovered. “If you want to know why Birtukan was arrested, follow Siye,” he said.

Birtukan had a gibe she used often in her conversations about politics. “Ethiopia,” she would say, “is the country of the future.” Demographically, her statement makes sense. More than 70% of Ethiopians are less than 30 years old. Politically, young Ethiopians wonder when the supposed generational power shift would occur. “Our politics is all the continuation of the psychodrama of the 60s and 70s,” said Dagnenet Mekonnen, a journalist. “Birtukan is one of the very few exceptions.”

Siye Abraha is among those old political elites. Before the split within the ruling party’s core political group, the Tigrayan Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF), Siye was one of the most powerful Ethiopian politicians, known for his dismissive political statements. In 2001, his opposition to Prime Minister Meles landed him in jail. After six years in jail, he came back to the country’s political scene a changed man, both physically and mentally.

His hair was buzzed to a gray stubble; his forehead speckled with a plethora of lines. He speaks with the calmness and patience of a Scandinavian scholar. Over tea and biscuits in his house in early January 2008, he confided to me that he thought the way forward for Ethiopian politics was consociationalism. A former defense minister and the leader of the military wing of TPLF during its days of armed struggle, talk was cheap for him. He started plotting the creation of a consociational party immediately.

Birtukan was integral to his plans. She was young, energetic, articulate and charismatic. She was the de facto leader of the integrationist movement in Ethiopian politics. But more than anything else, she was regarded as authentic, a person who could rally people. Even after the daily flogging in the headlines, there were few who questioned her integrity. The two started a long political discussion. He wanted to unite all major opposition parties, regardless of their ideologies, based on common minimal principles. She wasn’t entirely convinced of its practicality, but wanted to listen. “I like this guy. Although he may not be telling me all what I want to know, I will patiently listen,” she told me in June 2008. Siye helped create a coalition of some of the major political groups under an umbrella called Medrek, but by the time Birtukan was arrested, the coalition was sorely missing the membership of an important group–Andinet, Birtukan’s party. “It is very close to happening. I don’t know in which form we join Medrek, but we will join them eventually,” she told me a week before her arrest.

“They knew that. They were worried about the two forming a political partnership. He would appeal to members of the EPRDF. She would appeal to a lot of Ethiopians, and with all major groups in it, they thought Medrek would be a formidable coalition,” Ashu said. “I heard that from a top official.” I was skeptical. “So they arrested her just to thwart the formation of a strong political alliance?” His answer was firm. “Yes!”

“But why her? Why not him?” I asked.

He shook his head in irritated disbelief. “You seem to have no clue about the internal dynamics of the TPLF, and I am not going to recite the alphabet with you.”

On April 28, 2009, Washington presented me with a contrary hypothesis. Addis Neger asked me to write about the government’s allegation of a “Ginbot 7” orchestrated attempt to topple it. I rang a Horn of Africa expert whom I met while reporting the 2008 US elections. Sitting at the Thai Coast restaurant near Foggy Bottom, we walked through Ethiopian politics. “Do you think Meles will leave office?” “No.” “What is the perception of Birhanu at Foggy Bottom?” “Mixed, but not enough information.”….And then Birtukan “I think Birtukan grew too big too quickly. She was turning into a darling of foreign diplomats,” he said. “Meles might have wanted to show who was in charge.”

Among the foreign diplomats, nobody loved Birtukan more than Stephane Gompertz, the articulate, ex-French Ambassador in Addis Ababa. Gompertz is an Ethiopia-enthusiast. A skinny man in his late 50s with a retreating hairline, he collected Ethiopian art even before he became his country’s ambassador in Addis. For a person who just served as a Minister Counselor at the French embassy in London, an ambassadorship to Ethiopia might not feel like a promotion, but Gompertz tried hard to get the post. In late 2005, a few months after his arrival in Addis Ababa, he found himself in the middle of one of the country’s worst political problems. Diplomatic efforts to solve the stand-off between the government and the CUD failed, opposition leaders were jailed and the democratic space narrowed significantly. Gompertz continued to push the Meles government to relent. At the same time, he was also making visits to Kaliti prison to meet with Birtukan.. A strong bond developed. “Birtukan could be a great leader of the country in the future. She has some great qualities. She just needs to be a smart political player,” he told me during a lunch at Hotel de Leopol in Kazanchis in April 2008.
And then there was Donald Yamamoto, the diminutive, soft-spoken ex-US ambassador in Addis Ababa who was the classic citizen of the deceptively smooth diplomatic world. But when it came to Birtukan, Yamamoto occasionally meandered off script. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he said to politicians in one of the US embassy’s famous cocktail receptions, “I am proud to introduce you to the rock star of Ethiopian politics.” At the time when the media buzz about the rock star appeal of Barack Obama, the ambassador’s statement was interpreted by most guests as a masked comparison of the then Illinois Senator and Birtukan. Similar sentiments were echoing throughout other diplomatic offices in Addis Ababa. Even Vicki Huddelston, the former US charge D’affairs, who had no sympathy for the Ethiopian opposition was said to be in awe of Birtukan.

But Birtukan never let the soft air kisses touch her face. One evening, I watched her talk to a group of young activists from her party at their office in Meshulekiya, a village in South East Addis Ababa. Her clear, distinctive voice flowed at a consistent volume with varying pitch; her hands sliced angular patches through the air. There was no prepared text; rather, a stream of passionate, flowery words gushing from the lips and heart of a politician who was living her life on a dramatic scale.

“When I was at the beginning of my political career,” she began and then paused.
“When did I begin politics? Was it last week?” she said, poking fun at herself and her short political career and provoking laughter from her audience. “I thought that diplomatic battle was a major part of the non-violent struggle. In politics, as they say, a week is too long. I have learnt my lessons. This is our fight. We ask them to join the fight for freedom and justice. We ask them to live up to their rhetoric and supposed creed. But we don’t beg them. This is our fight, not theirs. They would come running when they think they think that we have won it.”

Later in her office, she was drinking strong coffee, one demitasse after another. I asked her about the speech. “We have to stop overemphasizing their value,” she answered. “They like winners. They have strategic objectives which only winners can help them achieve. We should show them that we are winners, not beggars.” If Birtukan had, in talks to activists and private conversations, discounted the role of western countries and their diplomats in Ethiopia, she nonetheless did sometimes flirt with them. They had to be seduced, not trusted.

But are words of affection from diplomats enough to be Birtukan’s ‘La Brea Tar Pits’? In February this year, Meles seemed to lay out the terms. In a characteristic outburst, he contemptuously suggested that Birtukan had thought deliverance would come from “powerful people in powerful positions.” It was a clear finger pointing towards Western diplomats and politicians. “Had we indulged her assumptions, the message that we would have conveyed would be ‘nothing happens to you no matter what you do. If you have friends in higher places, you can ride roughshod with everything. That message I think is a very dangerous political message to convey in an emerging democracy. The rule of law and equality involves everyone.”

Scratch the surface and his statement might not be as significant as it seemed. The Ethiopian prime minister had used explosive accusations against Western nations when he arrested dissidents at home to preempt them from pressuring him to release the jailed. In truth, Meles had given the diplomats an opportunity for that deliverance. Days before her arrest, some asked Birtukan if they could help her escape the country-no doubt on Meles’ nod. Her emphatic “nay” to the offer brought much disappointment. Meles had told them ‘what’ was to come. He had used them as a conduit for communicating his intention to Birtukan, and these actions spoke louder than his calculated outbursts. Birtukan is as far removed from Melesian political values and behavior, but in the understanding of the actions and objectives of the West and its diplomats, they shared the same hemisphere.

“It was never more than ‘she is a decent woman; we like her’ stuff,’ said a political analyst in Addis Ababa, in reference to the statements of the diplomats. “Look, this is about tough-minded realism. No sentiments. While they were blowing kisses to Birtukan, these guys were bedwetting with the thought that Meles was going to resign. Meles knew that. So hopefully did Birtukan. There was no reason for him to arrest her owing to their comments. There must have been other factors. ”

At the beginning of the year, Birtukan’s name was on the lips of many people and the pages of international newspapers. With only days remaining before the first anniversary of her arrest, the outcries have quieted and the ink has dried up. Meanwhile, robbed of Birtukan’s leadership, the opposition coalition is struggling to gain attention and credibility. Western diplomats have also hit the refresh button. The political consequences of her arrest are becoming clearer. The question is: Were they designed?

(Abiye Teklemariam Megenta was the Executive Editor of Addis Neger newspaper which announced its closure owing to harassment last week. He can be reached at abiye.megenta@gtc.ox.ac.uk)

Seize the time: Challenge the dictator

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

The Ethiopian Prime Mister has been a very visible figure lately. If there is such thing as frequent flyer marketing by Ethiopian Airlines Ato Meles is sure to have enough to go to the moon and back. Stop wishing it were a one-way ticket ok? The period after the 2005 general election has not been good to Ato Meles.

The sure win situation was spoiled by the upstart and spoiled brat called Kinijit. Kinijit took the wind out of Ato Meles and his ethnic entourage. TPLF (EPDRF) was shown to be a house built on sand. A little strong wind and the whole thirteen years Hollywood style façade were shattered to pieces. Kinijit victory was total. The Ethiopian people knew it. The foreign observers concurred. The only one denying reality was TPLF.

Ato Meles always keeps something in his back pocket for a rainy day. He was able to whip out the predicted ‘Interhawme’ scenario to overcome the defeat. He used the threat of Interhamwe (conspiracy to kill all Tigreans by Kinijit) to declare state of emergency. Of course one evil deed leads to another and in a panic he ordered the murder of unarmed protesters by his security force, imprisoned over forty thousand fellow citizens and jailed the whole opposition including human right advocates and civic leaders. The charge included ‘attempted genocide’.

It was a return to the yesteryears of African strong man scenario. Sham elections, rejection by the population, the use of force to change the natural outcome and finally hiding to sit out the shame associated with such barbaric and ugly deed against fellow human beings. The illegal acts ushered in a long winter of exile and lock down. Ato Meles went into hibernation. Let alone Europe and America he was not welcome in most parts of the country. He settled for Adwa as a vacation spot. Talk about downgrading. His party used the down time to fine-tune the repressive machine. The ‘kind’ image cultivated for the election was jettisoned to be replaced by the ‘mean’ not forgiving TPLF.

New programs were designed to satisfy the donors and the Diaspora was actively cultivated to bring needed dollar and euro. Elections were held with new safeguards to assure victory. There is nothing better than to run unopposed and win resoundingly. The ferenjis were happy and were able to fill the necessary forms to continue business as usual. TPLF was happy that once again victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat. The Ethiopian people were depressed and started their geography lesson to scan for a quick way out of the Africa.

Ato Meles emerged from his cocoon around 2007. The world was flush with money and the ferenjis were throwing it out as if it grew on trees. The job market was such that new immigrants were working two jobs. It was planet wide party time. The fantastic amount of remittance flowing into the country and the surge in commodity prices were making the TPLF regime delirious. No one was willing to challenge the fantasy of 12% economic growth thrown around by the regime.

The fight against terror came at an opportune time too. Ato Meles jumped on the bandwagon and declared Jihad on ‘Islamists’ wherever they are. In a split second he was re incarnated as defender of the faith and slayer of Al Qaeda and whatever dada. Not bad for an old Marxist whose religion was dialectic materialism. Jesus was in Marx was out. Condoleezza Rice and Jendayi Frazier were happy to declare Ato Meles No. 1 Jihad fighter in Africa. The fearless leader promised the Pentagon Somalia on a silver platter. It was supposed to be a weekend excursion, a quick jaunt with enough time to be home for dinner. Well, the drive to Mogadishu was a freeway. In fact our Somali friends waited at roadsides to wave at the invaders and wished them a quick trip to the Indian Ocean resort.

Something went wrong. After the heroic arrival in Mogadishu those tricky Somalis closed all the exits. The African Union solders dug in and refused to budge out of their camp. The West said ‘you broke it, you fix it.’ The UN said not now we got more pressing problems. There goes your name, your reputation and the little savings in the coffer. Life is not fair.

At least something good came out of this debacle. Ato Meles was out and about. The Chinese turned out to be real friends in times of need. They were willing to forward loans and collaborate with TPLF and World Bank to show economic activity. Remember most are not sustainable enterprises but who is to complain. Ato Meles leveraged Ethiopia’s position as the seat of African Union to get involved in environmental and aid issues.

By hiring advisors and lobbyists in the West he was able to rehabilitate his image. He started by visiting fellow African dictators. Then he moved in to the periphery like China, Russia or the Middle East. He was worming his way. He always made sure that it was a locality with no civil liberties where his people are not allowed to confront him. For a time it was a days visit to Europe. It was never announced and was done fast. Then he ventured to America under the guise of attending the UN. The ice was broken.

The last year we have seen him in London, Rome and now Pittsburgh. He is seating with who is who on this planet. He wants to be admitted into the Major league. Play with the big boys. All attending G8, G20 meetings are legitimately elected heads of states. None have served more than two terms. Except for the Russian and the Chinese all are dependent on the good will of their people to maintain their status as a leader. In all major meetings Ato Meles is the only ‘leader’ that has clung to power for more than ten years. The vast majorities are new to the job. The meetings are a venue where they jockey to score good deals for respective countries. Ato Meles can sit and watch.

Ato Meles was happy to sit on the same table. He can have his picture taken, attend dinners and such but he cannot speak or vote. Sitting with the big boys have its price. There is certain behavior that is not tolerated unless of course one is either strong or rich neither of which Meles can claim to be. Yes there are always exceptions. That is real life. On the other hand a complete disregard of basic decency is not tolerated even for the rich. The Chinese leaders were shunned after the Tienamen affair. They are very careful and conscious about their dark side since that incident. Despite the ugly display before the dinner in Pittsburgh, I am sure he is happy with his performance.

In that case let us take him for his word. Let us agree that he has matured enough as a leader that he can be included in such gathering. I believe deeds should follow the rhetoric regarding the rule of law, the need for a free and fair elections and observance of the declaration of human rights that Ethiopia is a signatory of. That is good enough for starters. Democracy is the price to sit on that table unless of course you got a few nuclear warheads in your back yard. Suffice to say Ato Meles couldn’t even whip a disorganized Somali rag tag police force. He can only bully un armed civilians.

I believe we should seize the time and use this opportunity for the Ethiopian people to take advantage of the many liberties and rights promised by the Constitution. Meetings by political party’s, associations and organization should be automatic and free. Political parties should be free to lobby the system by using such methods as marches, sit ins and public gatherings.

We know that Ato Meles is preparing to position himself as a selfless leader to assume some positions in international organization when he retires. It is to be commended. Surely a leader that sits with the Barrack Obamas, Angela Merkels and Gordon Browns will not allow his solders to shoot and kill citizens demanding justice. It will definitely affect the next G20 meeting or next climate conference. You just don’t wash your hands with people’s blood and expect a seat with the big guys. It is highly unlikely such deed will go unnoticed. It is definitely a conundrum. This is what is called between a rock and a hard place. Leadership sometimes calls for tough solutions.

It is a tough choice isn’t it? To do the right thing and live in harmony or commit a transgression that will result in being ostracized once again. The decision to use the iron fist will add a lot of uncertainty in what comes after. The call for the International Criminal Court to act will be loud. Other matters that have been pushed under the rug will start to surface. Do we really want that? There are some forces urging Ato Meles to stay the course, but aren’t they sacrificing him to save their behind?

I hope the real opposition will use this opportunity to call Ato Melese’s bluff regarding democracy and freedom and test how real the promise of Woyane ‘Constitution’ is. I hope Ato Meles realizes his legacy is on line. I hope the nightmare decade will be replaced by a long period of prosperity and real peace. With TPLF in charge there is no such thing as a sure bet. Anything is possible.

Drought stricken Ethiopia tries to get rid of eucalyptus tree

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

By Kristin Underwood | TreeHugger.com

eucalyptus tree

Today Ethiopia is classified as having over 70% severe desertification, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). While there are several reasons, one major one is thanks (or no thanks) to eucalyptus brought over from Australia. But, the folks over at the Entoto National Park project, want to see that eucalyptus is replaced with indigenous plants in an effort to restore the soil and save water, as reported in Selamta.

The Entoto National Park project is not actually a national park, so tourists coming to see the hyena and lammergeyers are often disappointed as no such park exists. But the area is a 1300 hectare spot north of the capital Addis Ababa, which was decimated thanks to poor planning almost 150 years ago. The Emperor at the time, Menelik, ordered construction of the “new” city which meant the need for a lot of fuel and fast. The solution: import eucalyptus from Australia. 120 years later: Houston, we have a problem.

What’s Wrong with Eucalyptus?

Koalas love it and we’re losing tons of it through the drought in Australia. So why would the Entoto National Park project want to out and out destroy it? Eucalyptus needs water, and a lot of it. For a plant that is taking over to also be so demanding, kind of makes it hard to justify the cost of keeping it around, particularly in developing countries where the soil could be put to better use.

Which brings us to our next problem: erosion. The eucalyptus plants are thriving but also destroying the soil, which doesn’t help in an area that already suffers from “high gradients, heavy rainfall and…clay [soil].” Thus, restoring the landscape to more native species will also reduce flooding and soil loss.

How to Replace Eucalyptus

First, workers on the project have been planting trees native to Ethiopia, such as “Juniperus excelsa, Acacia abyssinica, Olea europaea cuspidata and Hagenia abyssinica. To stop the erosion, project workers are creating terraces and check dams along the hillsides. Neighbors to the park who allow their animals to roam free (and eat the new saplings) will be fined, thus the park has hired guards to monitor and protect the park.

The eucalyptus plants themselves can be “debarked” to prevent regrowth, but this takes a large amount of time and money. The eucalyptus stalks can also be sold for use as telephone poles and fence posts. The restoration plan is estimated to cost one Birr one million per year for the next five years.

In the short time since the program began, there have already been nice results. Areas that are already undergoing reforestation are thriving and animals like dik diks and jackals are starting to return to the area, along with birds. Workers at the Entoto National Park just hope that the good work keeps up and that they can afford to keep going.

Ethiopian Airlines and Rwandair sign code share agreement

Monday, September 14th, 2009

By BOSCO HITIMANA | BusinessWeek

KIGALI, RWANDA — Rwandair and Ethiopian Airlines have entered into a code share agreement to boost their visibility.

Under two national flag carriers’partnership, Rwandair will serve as the marketing carrier while Ethiopian Airlines will be the operating carrier.

Ethiopian Airlines Vice President Commercial, Mr. Tadesse Adane and Rwandair Chairman, Mr. Gerald Zirimwabagabo recently signed the agreement in Kigali, Rwanda.

“This is a major milestone in the development of Rwandair and the airline industry in our country,” Zirimwabagabo said after signing.

He said the small airline is looking for partnerships that will allow its clients fly beyond its destinations.

The Ethiopian carrier, according to Tadesse, seeks partners to develop and increase its market share in southern Africa, particularly the Rwandan market.

Tadesse said the airline has embarked on helping African small airlines to be competitive and boost the African airline industry. He said currently the carrier flies daily to and from Kigali and that he hopes the new partnership will ‘greatly’ double the flights.

The two airlines are incomparable in both resources and market share but the airlines’ bosses believe they will reap from the partnership.

Rwandair’s code share with Ethiopian Airlines came following similar partnerships with other major airlines including Brussels Airlines, and the USA- based Virgin Atlantic Airlines to boost its visibility.

The airline is also pursuing an ambitious plan to purchase two used CRJ aircraft from Lufthansa, a Germany based carrier, with ambitions to reposition in the regional aviation industry.

Currently Rwandair operates three aircraft on lease while Ethiopian Airlines commands 35 aircraft. Ethiopian Airlines has been crowned the African Airline of Year 2009.

Ethiopian Airlines receives its new Boeing 737-8AS

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Ethiopian Airlines' "new" Boeing 737-8AS ET-ANB (msn 29935, ex EI-CSW) is pictured at Lasham before it departed on September 13.  Copyright Photo: Antony J. Best.Ethiopian Airlines’ “new” Boeing 737-8AS ET-ANB (msn 29935, ex EI-CSW) is pictured at Lasham before it departed on September 13. [Photo: Antony J. Best]

Ethiopian Airlines operates an all-Boeing fleet of 737 and 767 aircraft.

Last week, Ethiopian Airlines, it acquired its second MD-11 freighter aircraft from the Chicago-based Boeing Corporation.

The airline Management told Business Times that the newly leased aircraft with a payload capacity of 95 tons, 32 pallets and a volume of 513 cubic meters will increase capacity 23 percent following the Airlines code share agreement with Rwandair.

Management said the aircraft will help them serve the newly established markets of Europe and South-East Asia. Currently, Ethiopian airline has a total a fleet of six aircrafts consisting of two, B757-200, two, B747-200 and two MD-11F.

An idea whose time has come – Eleni Gebre-Madhin

Monday, August 24th, 2009

By Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin

Many Ethiopians have been intrigued by the advent of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange and many voices have been heard from around the world in our virtual cyber-community and in private communication, some encouraging, some thrilled, some questioning, some skeptical, some downright opposed. I would like to thank all of those who have taken the time to express their interest, whatever their viewpoint. Open dialogue on important ideas, in a mutually respectful manner, is vital to our ability to grow and evolve as a society and as an economy. As we proceed in our dialogue, I trust that those who organize these forums will enforce the necessary standards of courtesy worthy of our age-old civilization.

To quote Victor Hugo, “there is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” In response to the many thoughtful and sometimes provocative questions that have been raised, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you why we believe that the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange is an idea whose time has come. Here in Ethiopia, over the past two years, we have continuously held open discussions with our stakeholders, in numerous events, engaging with thousands of private market participants from farmers to traders to processors to exporters, from all sides of the market, as well as others. Given the recent interest by those in the Ethiopian Diaspora, we are happy to take the time to respond to concerns raised and to clear up the misinformation and misunderstanding that seem to currently prevail among some. We do so out of respect for our fellow Ethiopians and because we believe that all deserve to get the facts about this important initiative in our country. This is probably a good time to make the appropriate disclaimer that the views presented here are my views and, where relevant, those of the Exchange, and do not represent the government of Ethiopia, any other institution, or any political party. In this essay, I will focus on the core questions related to the need for the Exchange, its ownership and possible control by government, and whether it is a free market or a monopoly. For those who might not appreciate the technical detail provided, please skip to the end where I summarize the key points. For the rest, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

I start with addressing why ECX is needed to begin with, and why we believe it can fulfill its vision of “transforming the Ethiopian economy by becoming a global commodity market of choice.” Like most countries in early stages of development, Ethiopia depends on agriculture as the backbone of its economy. To get out of agriculture and transform into a modern industrial state, Ethiopian agriculture must become increasingly productive so that labor can shift into other sectors. Greater productivity comes through investing more capital into production, through investing in productivity-enhancing technology, such as fertilizer, seeds, better farming tools, mechanization, etc. This investment can only happen if it is profitable. Profitability depends on whether there is a market where the product can be sold reliably and efficiently. Understandably, farmers hate risk. In addition to weather and production risks due to pests, crop disease, and other vagaries of nature, farmers also face the risk that there is no buyer, that they can’t access the market or it is too costly to do so, that prices are unknown or will drop, or that they won’t get paid. These very real market risks and costs prevent them from making the investments they need to make to be more productive. So they are stuck in a vicious cycle, producing at low yields, mostly for themselves, which is why only 25% of total agricultural production reaches the market. Farmers are not the only people whose livelihood is constrained by the market. If they are unable to get the supply of raw commodity delivered to them when they need it or prices fluctuate or the quality is unreliable, industrial processors, such as flour factories or biscuit or oil manufacturers, routinely incur higher costs because they are unable to utilize their machinery at full capacity and are thus discouraged from expanding their production. Similarly, commodity exporters who have contracted with international buyers face the terrible risk of not being able to make their shipment on time if they are unable to get the supply in time or in the right quality. To avoid this risk, they often are forced to tie up their capital holding large inventories, which means they can’t readily expand their business. So there is a real market problem, and it is faced by many actors on all sides of the market. And this problem constrains our economic growth. How does ECX provide a solution? ECX is a neutral third party, providing service to the market in four major ways. First, ECX certifies the quality of the commodity to be sold and holds it in warehouse on behalf of the seller, thus guaranteeing the quality, quantity, and delivery of the commodity to the buyer of that commodity. This solves the problem faced by buyers such as exporters and processors. Second, ECX operates a payment clearing and settlement system which takes payment from the buyer and transfers it to the seller, guaranteeing that the payment will be made in the correct amount and on time. This solves the problem faced by sellers, such as farmers and traders. Third, ECX provides a trading system which enables buyers and sellers to find each other when they need to trade. This trading system is for now a physical Trading Floor where bids and offers are made in person by buyers and sellers (or their agents) but will also have an electronic trading platform which can be accessed remotely. Finally, ECX disseminates information on prices as soon as trades are made to everyone in the market so that no one is at a disadvantage because they are missing market information. This price transparency helps everyone to plan their commercial actions better and thus make better deals. Having a reliable market system helps farmers produce more, expands our industrial base, increases our exports, and enhances our food security because commodities reach the areas where they are most needed faster and at lower cost. That is why commodity exchanges are part and parcel of most advanced and more recently emerging economies around the globe, starting with the best known US commodity exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade, started in 1848 for precisely the same reasons why our farmers and others in Ethiopia and our economy as a whole would benefit from an organized market.

I would now like to address a set of related questions: Who should own the exchange? If the government of Ethiopia owns it, how can it be considered a free market? Is it a monopoly and/or an instrument of control? These are all valid questions and have been asked many times by our stakeholders here in Ethiopia. Let us start with ownership. The historical experience is that exchanges in Western countries were set up by private actors as “mutual organizations” on a non-profit basis, meaning that a group of merchants got together and set up this third party marketing system which sustained itself from fees charged to its mutual owners, or members, at zero profit. Even though the exchange itself was non-profit, the members who owned the exchange on the other hand privately benefited from the system by restricting entry into the mutual organization and charging for-profit brokerage fees to non-members to use the exchange trading system, thus becoming very profitable, large brokerage firms such as Charles Schwab, Merrill Lynch or others. Over time, this system of mutual ownership become problematic because of the inherent conflict of interest in that the owners who were also members tended to put their private interest ahead of the market’s interests. So, traditional exchanges in most of the Western countries and newly established exchanges in the emerging markets have in the last decade evolved to “demutualized” entities, meaning that the owners are separate from the trading members. In the US, this has meant that most of the exchanges have gone public, meaning that they have sold shares to many individuals, who are not members of the trade. In places like India, exchanges have been recently set up owned by a few investors, such as banks or insurance companies (half state owned and half private), again who are not trading members. However, if there are investors or shareholders, it implies that the exchanges no longer have a non-profit orientation, meaning that they charge fees intending to maximize profit, rather than at cost. In the case of Ethiopia, having reviewed these various global experiences, we chose a unique “hybrid” model. Our model adopts the demutualized entity status in keeping with global trends, but retains the traditional system of membership and the non-profit status of the exchange, in order for it to attract maximum participation and not to impose a financial burden on the market users. In effect, this is a Private-Public partnership model in that, as a non-profit, it would only make sense for the state to sponsor the investment since no private actor would be willing to invest large sums on a non-profit basis. At the same time, there is private ownership of a restricted number of permanent and freely tradable membership seats (like shares) which gives incentive to private members to profit from using the exchange system and from charging brokerage fees to non-members. This model essentially marries the social objectives of creating an organized market with private profit incentives. By law, and unlike any other publicly owned enterprise in Ethiopia, our Exchange operates on an at-cost basis and does not pay dividends to the government Treasury and may only re-invest any net earnings into its own scaling up. Initially, in fact, the Exchange is operating at a loss since it charges fees somewhat below cost, in order to encourage participation. Thus, there is no motive to retain ownership by the state and over time, as the Exchange system takes hold, the government has publicly expressed its commitment to passing ownership to private entities. This model is not entirely without precedent. In the US, Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) in the financial sector, the most well known of which are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac corporations which operate multi-trillion dollar markets for home mortgages, were set up under state ownership in 1938 and later went into private shareholding in 1968. Their recent bailout, along with other financial institutions, by the US government following the 2008 financial crisis has restored ownership back to the US government. Many stock exchanges in emerging markets, such as Dubai, Tel-Aviv, Eastern Europe, and others, are established with government ownership, usually for the same reasons as Ethiopia, that the investment costs are too high to encourage private investment and because the exchange is desired for social objectives, as a benefit to the economy. I should mention that the start-up cost of our Exchange is in the order of US$ 24 million which, because of its public ownership and non-profit nature, was able to be financed by donor partners such as the USAID, World Bank, UNDP, WFP, Canada, and others.

And now, for what really matters, what about control? To begin, it is important to understand that, although government-owned, the Exchange is not a part of government. It is not an agency or department of any particular state organ. It is established, by law, as an autonomous commercial enterprise having its own legal status. A parallel example might be Ethiopian Airlines, although the corporate governance of the Exchange is unique. Our establishing law extends the concept of demutualization further to separating ownership, membership, and management. Thus, by law, the Exchange is managed by professionals that cannot be appointed from within government or come from the trading community. The Exchange has its own salary structure and its employees are not part of the civil service. In fact, at present, the Exchange has an internationally recruited management team of 10 professionals, financed by external donors, as a management on loan program, to ensure that the Exchange is run professionally and to transfer needed skills. Again, unlike any other publicly-owned enterprise in Ethiopia, the Board of Directors is composed in almost equal part of representatives of the owner (state) and the private members of the Exchange as well as the CEO as a non-voting director. The Exchange’s CEO is appointed by and reports to this Board of Directors. Thus, without any doubt in the law or in practice, the Exchange is managed independently of any government organ and is a serviceproviding entity to the private market actors. There is no interference or intervention in any aspect of day to day ECX operations, whether it is the warehousing and quality inspection, the dissemination of price information nationally and internationally (which relies mainly on the systems that ECX itself has developed), the financial systems, or the trading sessions. One could say, and many of our private sector members have quickly realized once it was explained, that the ownership-membershipgovernance model described above essentially gives a free pass to our private members, who can gain private profit from the exchange at minimal cost, without investing in the expensive assets, and still have a big say in the management of the entity.

At the same time, like in any country, no market can exist in a vacuum outside the reach of policy or the laws of the land. Thus, our Exchange regularly consults with appropriate line Ministries on the direction of policies, regarding changes to domestic or external trade policies, tax, or macro policies. This is no different than in South Africa, the US, India or elsewhere. For example, in 2008, when domestic inflation got out of hand, the Indian government banned rice and wheat trading on the Exchange and imposed an export ban. This has nothing to do with who owns their exchanges (in fact it is a combination of public and private investors). Similarly, the US has recently initiated a crackdown on excessive speculation in the commodity markets (oil) and imprisoned or fined several market actors such as Bernie Madoff who violated laws in the financial market. In addition to the laws and policies that govern a market in any country, all exchanges also have their own internal Rules that govern how the market is organized and how the market actors must behave. The Rule books of the Chicago and New York commodity exchanges are thick volumes with thousands of pages developed over 160 years with detailed instructions on how to govern their market. We also have our Rules of the Exchange that, like in the US, Argentina, Brazil, India or elsewhere, have to be approved by our regulatory body, the newly established Commodity Exchange Authority. This Authority is a government body which has the mandate of overseeing that our Exchange itself and our Members are in compliance with our law and with the other laws of the country and with our Rules. Having been set up alongside our Exchange, the Authority has been in active partnership to build its capacity through training with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, on which it is modeled. In any country with a serious market, government regulators like SEC and CFTC in the US, or FMC and SEBI in India, have a significant and constant presence. So a market is not a free market because it is operates outside of laws or rules. It is in fact the presence of these laws and rules that ensures that the integrity of the free market, or the principle of market competition, is maintained. For example, one of our rules regarding our Trading Floor is that all prices must be shouted out audibly so that all market actors can hear the bid or offer. This is a rule designed to ensure that everyone has a fair chance to compete for that trade.

So what makes a free market? It is, within the confines of the existing rules and laws in place, the absence of interference by any third party in the actual buying and selling of any good. In a free market, as long as the rules are followed, any seller can sell whatever they want to any buyer at any price, any time, and in any amount, and vice versa. Let us think of a free market like driving on a highway. As long as you have a driver’s license, a registered and insured vehicle, and follow the traffic rules, you can drive in any car you want, anywhere you want, with whomever you like, for as long as you like (gas permitting, of course). The rules are there to ensure that everyone is safe on the highway. In our Exchange market, this is precisely the case today. Our 450 mostly private trading members freely trade at prices and quantities and with whom they like without any interference whatsoever.

Finally, what about a monopoly? Why force all coffee or all sesame trading into the Exchange? Why not let people choose to use the Exchange of their own free will? To extend our above analogy, we might say that this is like forcing all drivers onto a single highway. At first glance, this seems quite unpalatable and rather contrary to the notion of a free market. Here is the catch. Among the four functions of the Exchange that were listed above, its very core role is to provide a central trading system for buyers and sellers to match their trades. This trading system results in what is known as “price discovery” which is the emergence of the competitively bid market price that reflects true supply and demand of a good at a particular moment. However, to be a truly representative market price, the trading system needs a critical mass of sellers and buyers, otherwise the Exchange’s price is meaningless as an indicator of market supply and demand. In other words, if the ECX price represents only a small share of the actual market trading, then this price is not the true market price. For this reason, all of the world’s exchanges essentially force this critical mass of trading in a commodity or stock into a single trading system. That is why there are only two major stock exchanges (NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange) for the entire U.S. economy and most companies are only listed on one of these exchanges. Similarly, for commodities, although there are about 4 active commodity exchanges in the US, each commodity is traded exclusively on only one exchange. For example, Hard Red Spring Wheat is only traded on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange and Soft Winter Wheat is only traded on the Chicago Board of Trade, and so on. By the way, the term “monopoly” is not the correct use of the term in this case since monopoly implies a single buyer or a single seller that sets prices non-competitively and, here, we have hundreds of buyers and sellers freely trading competitively at their own prices. We would hardly say the Chicago Mercantile Exchange has a monopoly on corn trading, no more than we would consider that the CEO of Fannie Mae is part of the US government. So, more appropriately, it can be said that our exchange, like other exchanges elsewhere, is an exclusive platform for trading in particular commodity contracts. Over time, as the market volume and liquidity grow, it might be appropriate to have more than one commodity exchange and our law provides for the Ethiopian regulatory body to recognize other exchanges.

IN SUM, here are the key points. A better functioning market is good for everyone and for the economy, from farmers to domestic traders to processors to exporters and an exchange is a tried and true model to deliver a better market. Though state owned, ECX is an autonomous (non-government) commercial entity set up on a non-profit basis, with private ownership of membership seats, which thus represents a Private-Public partnership model in which private seat owners are able to gain profit from using the exchange system at minimal cost. Our corporate governance structure ensures that ECX is managed independently and professionally with a Board of Directors representing nearly equally both the owner and the private trading members and a separation by law of management from ownership and membership. At the same time, the Exchange operates within the policies and laws of the country, like any exchange in the world. Within these rules and policies, there is no interference by the state in the operational management of the exchange or in the day to day trading by market actors. Finally, ECX cannot be considered a monopoly in the correct sense of the word but rather an exclusive trading place for specific commodities, in order to have a critical mass of buyers and sellers, in keeping with the way exchanges are set up around the globe.

In subsequent essays over the coming days, I will address the human side of ECX, the lives that have been touched and who is really benefitting, particularly among small farmers, and the very important issue of coffee trading and the concern on specialty coffee, as well as our first year performance and the exciting plans ahead as we embark on our second year. Some of these themes are also addressed on our website, www.ecx.com.et, where you can also find our establishing law. Some have questioned why invest the time to engage in this dialogue. It is because we believe that a national institution such as ours must be accountable and transparent to all Ethiopians, wherever they are. Public education is part of our job. We also believe that, through bringing knowledge or investment, anyone can meaningfully engage with ECX. After all, it is your Exchange too.

(Dr Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin is Chief Executive Officer of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange)

Col. Kassaye Kifle passed away

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

Colonel Kassaye Kifle Colonel Kassaye Kifle has passed away on July 14, 2009, after receiving medical treatment at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.

Friends and family held a memorial service for him at the Debre Keranio Medhanialem Church in Nashville on July 17.

His funeral services will be held at the Debre Libanos Monastery in Ethiopia on July 25, 2009.

Many who had served as officers in the Ethiopian armed forces remember Col. Kassaye as a leader who served his country honorably.

Over during his career he was trained as an aviator in the United States, and aviation commander in the Soviet Union and the Ethiopian Air Force Command Staff College.

As a member of the Ethiopian Army Aviation Unit, he led Assault Helicopter Teams and received medals for bravery.

His contribution to Ethiopia continued as a pilot trainer at Ethiopian Airlines.

Col. Kassaye Kifle is survived by his wife, two children, and two grand children.

(Messages of condolence to the family can be sent to ethiopia_love@yahoo.com)

የኮሎኔል ካሣዬ ክፍሌ አጭር የህይወት ታሪክ

ኮሎኔል ካሣዬ ክፍሌ ከእናታቸው ከወይዘሮ ደመቀች አስፋውና ከአባታቸው ከአቶ ክፍሌ ደስታ እንደ ኢትዮጵያ አቆጣጠር በ 1935 ዓ∙ም∙ በአዲስ አበባ ከተማ ተወለዱ::

እድሜያቸው ለትምህርት ሲደርስ የ 1ኛና የ2ኛ ደረጃ ትምህርታቸውን በአዲስ አበባ ኮከበ ፅባህ ቀዳማዊ ኃይለ ሥላሴ ዩኒቨርስቲ ከገቡ በኋላ አገራቸውን ለማገልገል በፅኑ ወዳመኑበት ሀረር ጦር አካዳሚ በመግባት ከፍተኛ የውትድርና ትምህርት ቀስመዋል::

ኮሎኔል ካሣዬ ክፍሌ ከሀረር ጦር አካዳሚ ከተመረቁ በኋላ በአርሚ አቪዬሽንና በኢትዮጵያ አየር ኃይል በአውሮፕላን አብራሪነት ለረጅም አመታት አገልግለዋል::

ኮሎኔል ካሣዬ ክፍሌ በስራ ባልደረቦቻቸው ክብርና ከፍተኛ አድናቆትን ያተረፉ ከመሆናቸው ሌላ በሀገር ፍቅር ስሜታቸውና በቆራጥነታቸው እጅግ ተወዳጅ ነበሩ::

ኮሎኔል ካሣዬ ክፍሌ ከባለቤታቸው ከወይዘሮ ዘሪቱ ዘውገ በሰላምና በፍቅር ለ 27 ዓመታት በጋብቻ ፀንተው የኖሩ ሲሆን ሁለት ልጆች አፍርተዋል::

ኮሎኔል ካሣዬ ክፍሌ ባደረባቸው ፅኑ ህመም በህክምና ሲረዱ ከቆዩ በኋላ በናሽቪል ከተማ ሴንት ቶማስ ሆስፒታል እንደ ኢትዮጵያ አቆጣጠር ሐምሌ 7 ቀን 2001 ዓ∙ም∙ ከዚህ አለም በሞት ተለይተዋል:: አስከሬናቸው ወደ ውድ አገራቸው የተላከ ሲሆን በዛሬው እለት እንደ ኢትዮጵያ አቆጣጠር ሐምሌ 18 ቀን 2001 ዓ∙ም∙ የቀብር ስነስርዓታቸው በኢትዮጵያ የደብረ ሊባኖስ ገዳም ይፈፀማል::

ቸሩ ኣምላክ የኚህን ጀግና የኢትዮጵያ ልጅ ነብስ ከፃድቃን መካከል እንዲያኖራት የሁላችንም ፀሎት ነው::

Ethiopian Airlines says to go ahead with Dreamliner order

Friday, June 12th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (Reuters) — Ethiopian Airlines will take all 10 of the Boeing 787 Dreamliners it has ordered, its CEO said on Tuesday, and may buy more planes as it sees medium-term growth of 20 percent in revenues and passengers.

The airline ordered 10 Dreamliners which are due for delivery between July 2010 and 2013, and it is considering buying more from 2014 onwards.

“We’ve started talking to both Boeing and Airbus — it depends who gives us the best price,” Chief Executive Girma Wake told Reuters on the sidelines of an airlines meeting, adding that he was also looking at buying other types of planes from next year.

(Reporting by Neil Chatterjee; Editing by Sara Webb)

Ethiopian Airlines makes profit despite global turbulence

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopian Airlines has collected 45pc more revenue in the first eight months of the 2008-09 budget year than it has planned according to its officials.

The phenomenal performance has come during the global economic crisis that has put contributed to a loss of 8.5 billion dollars for the aviation industry in 2008 and an anticipated 4.7 billion dollars loss this year. The airline has registered 8.37 billion Br in revenue over eight months, three per cent higher than the 8.15 billion Br plan for the entire year.

Of the gross revenue, 6.12 billion Br was collected from ticket sales for about 1.95 million passengers. This represents 99pc of the planned passengers for the eight months.

Boosting operations with three additional aircraft to its fleet size in the current fiscal year, the flag carrier’s performance in the cargo service has also, equally, gone beyond the plan its executives authored for their operations through the year.

“To facilitate the country’s export sector, the airline has bought a cargo plane for $60 million and rented two passenger airplanes, a Boeing 757 and a Boeing 737-800.” Girma Wake, chief executive officer of the national carrier, said. He was reporting the performance of the Airline to the Infrastructure Affairs Standing Committee of the House of People’s Representative last Wednesday June 3, 2009.

Ethiopian has collected 1.33 billion Br in revenue from transporting 354 million tons of freight overseas. The revenue from the cargo is five per cent higher than the actual plan for the eight months.

It has also collected 850 million Br from payments for extra luggage, training and postage services. Previously, its plan was to collect 570 million Br from these sources.

Its expenditures over the same period were 7.64 billion; representing 96pc of expected expenses. This is a 45pc increase compared with the same period last year.

The increasing oil consumption due to increased operations accounts for 3.39 billion Br of the total expenditure. This represents 44.3pc of its total expense.

“We are astonished by the performance of the airline,” said a member of the Standing Committee as he asked the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines how they managed to achieve such a performance at a time many other airlines are closing or loosing money due to the global financial crisis.

“33 of the 53 flight destinations of the airline are in Africa which has not been hit hard by the financial crisis,” said the CEO.

Conference travellers have also contributed to the performance of the airlines, according to Girma.

“Unlike Ethiopian, many airlines have more leisure travellers who are tourists. Thus, when a crisis like the one besieging the world happens, travelling for leisure is likely to decline. Business travellers, however, have to travel,” the CEO said while explaining the questions raised by the MPs.

“The airline has increased flight frequencies to many of its destinations and a modern airport facility built by the Airports Enterprise increases travellers’ comfort,” Girma said.

Many airlines have faced challenges in continuing their services during the global economic downturn which has decreased business and leisure travel worldwide. Some governments such as the republic of South Africa and China have been forced to inject hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure their airlines are able to continue providing service.

South African Airways, one of the biggest airlines in Africa and one of only two Star Alliance members in Africa, received a 2.8 billion Rand (a little over 348 million dollars) injection from their government while China Southern is set to be the first mainland carrier in China to fly out of the financial turbulence after getting a capital injection of three billion Yuan (approximately 440 million dollars) from their government.

Hit by declining passenger traffic, China Southern lost over 4.8 billion Yuan (a little over 700 million dollars) in 2008.

Similarly British Airways reported 850 million dollars in losses over the same year.

The aviation industry experienced losses in 2008 due to the increasing price of oil. In July 2008, oil reached 147 dollars per barrel. The aviation industry lost 8.7 billion dollars. Now, with oil prices decreasing to their current price of approximately 66 dollars, the aviation industry still continues to suffer from losses. The CEO’s report also included speculation of industry experts that this year, the aggregate loss is will reach 4.7 billion dollars.

Despite a daunting global context where profitability has become rare, Ethiopian Airlines has managed to surpass its plans.

“We found the performance of Ethiopian Airlines impressive,” Wubneh Emiru, chairperson of the Infrastructure Affairs Standing Committee, told Fortune. “We cherish the achievements of the airline.”

But not surprising is the performance for experts in the industry.

“The achievements of Ethiopian are expected,” Zemedenen Negatu, managing partner of Ernst & Young, who has been consulting the airline since 2004, told Fortune.

He attributes the success of the airline to an efficient management system and the visionary leadership pursued by its management and board.

Nevertheless, its domestic operations seem to have enjoyed less attention. The CEO was asked to explain the contrast.

“It is a fair criticism,” Girma said.

But there are plans in the making to improve the domestic services.

“We have bought eight Bombardier Airplanes from Canada,” he said. “We will buy four or more planes from the same company next year.”

Ethiopian is also working to upgrade its pilot training institution at a cost of 30 million euro (45 million dollars) with financing through a loan from French Bank. With the finalization of the expansion, the training institution would be upgraded to an Aviation Academy, according to the CEO.

As part of its preparation for membership in the Star Alliance, it has also signed a code share agreement with Singapore, Thai and United airlines of Singapore, Thailand and United States, respectively.

It has also bought 25pc equity share in the establishment of ASKY airline in Togo in collaboration with the government of Togo and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional block of 16 countries founded in 1975.

Ethiopian will be responsible for maintaining the air crafts and management of airline operations.

Togo will serve as the airline’s West African hub, according to the CEO, though Nigeria offers the largest number of passengers for Ethiopian in the continent.

- Addis Fortune

Ethiopian man found in a flight cargo hold at Dulles Airport

Monday, June 8th, 2009

CHANTILLY, VIRGINIA (Fox News) — Federal authorities say they’ve discovered a stowaway who arrived at a Washington-area airport in the cargo hold of a flight from Ethiopia.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Steve Sapp says ground personnel at Dulles International Airport were pulling baggage from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 500 when they noticed an arm sticking out.

Sapp says the stowaway was an Ethiopian man who was exhausted and dehydrated. He was taken to Reston Hospital Center and is now being held at a federal detention center.

Sapp says the man has been charged with being a stowaway and will be deported, but is not a security threat.

He says the flight departed from Addis Ababa and stopped in Rome before landing at Dulles shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday.

U.S. to send back stowaway on plane from Ethiopia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A stowaway on a flight from Ethiopia was being detained in Washington and will be sent back, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.

Baggage handlers discovered the man, described as in his late 30s, in the luggage compartment of an Ethiopian Airways Boeing 767 that landed at Dulles International Airport on Saturday, the newspaper said.

The stowaway was dehydrated and exhausted but a Customs and Border Protection spokesman said he did not appear to present a threat, the Post reported.

Customs spokesman Steve Sapp told the newspaper the man, who was not identified, would face an administrative charge and would be sent back on an Ethiopian Airways plane.

A U.S. Customs official did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Ethiopian plans to establish new airline

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

By Kaleyesus Bekele | Reporter

The Ethiopian Airlines is planning to establish a regional hub in Southern Africa by establishing another airline.

Recently Ethiopian bought a 25 percent stake on ASKY, a newly-established private airline in Togo. Ethiopian is now establishing a regional hub in West Africa, Lome. Girma Wake, CEO, told Airline Business that Ethiopian may ultimately duplicate the model by forming a southern Africa hub. “South is probably the next place we will look to. We are looking from Zambia to Mozambique, Botswana and Malawi,” Girma said.

However, he said his airline does not want to do many things at a time. “We do not want to do many things at once. We want to make sure ASKY is operating profitably first. Starting two carriers at once could cause problems. So we will do it gradually,” he said.

Ethiopian has a strong network in Africa. Today Ethiopian serves 33 destinations and hopes to reach at least 45 by 2015, starting with three additions this year.

In a bid to strengthen its regional partnerships in Africa, Ethiopian recently signed a five-year management contract with west and central African regional start-up, ASKY, which was promoted by Eco Bank, a Togolese bank. ASKY, which will launch its operations shortly, will operate Boeing 737 aircraft.

Under the plan, ASKY and Ethiopian will feed one another’s networks, with Lome forming a hub for flights in West Africa and beyond. Within five years ASKY is planning to form other West African hubs and branch out into international flights, using Boeing Being 767 to serve long-haul destinations.

Ethiopian is one the few airlines which is making a profit during the current economic downturn. Last year Ethiopian handled 2.5 million passengers and delivered 970 million dollars in revenue, only 30 million dollars shy of its 2010 target. Its jet fleet rose to 26 and its net profit reached a record high of 53.7 million dollars.