Archive for the ‘Ethiopian News’ Category
It is has been a little more than two months since the death of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Since then, the country that he ruled over for 21 years has effected a remarkably smooth transition. His deputy, Hailemariam Desalegn, has taken over as both party leader and prime minister. There have been no major reshuffles. Policy changes, where they have happened, have been encouraging. Any threats to Desalegn’s succession were muted and, evidently, unsuccessful.
There is one problem, however. It’s minor in the grand scheme of things, perhaps, but raises a few nagging questions that Meles’ successor could do without. It’s also rather tricky to handle, even with the best of intentions.
Journalist Argaw Ashine explained the sensitive situation for Daily Nation: “The powerful widow of former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is reportedly stalling on vacating Ethiopia’s national palace for the country’s new leader and his family. According to government sources, Mrs Azeb Mesfin has ignored instructions to move to a new residence that would also be accorded full security detail. The government has given Mrs Azeb and her children the option of three residential villas in Addis Ababa but she is said to have refused to even visit any out of her own security concerns.”
Meanwhile, Desalegn and his family remain in their relatively small villa in a suburban area in the west of the capital. This is not particularly convenient for Ethiopia’s new head of state, although it does reveal his considerate side; he leaves for work very early in the morning and returns late at night in order to spare the already jam-packed Addis Ababa streets the further chaos that accompanies the passage of his convoy.
At a human level, it is easy to sympathise with the widow. Meles Zenawi was just 57 when he died, and her grief is real; the pair had been married for a quarter of a century. For most of that time, the couple lived in the prime minister’s residence in the national palace, as was their right. With Meles showing no signs of relinquishing power before his death, Azeb Mesfin would have envisaged many more years in what had become, in effect, their personal home. But losing her husband also means losing her home, a double blow which Azeb is probably not yet ready to face.
“For Azeb to leave a house she lived in for 21 years takes a lot longer than one might possibly imagine. Especially the properties of her late husband including his memorabilia, books, several of his precious possessions and other things might require time to be arranged and moved out of the house,” said Seble Teweldebirhan, an Addis Ababa-based reporter.
At a political level, things are a little more complicated (as they always are). Azeb Mesfin was no mere ornament to her husband’s immense power. She is a successful politician in her own right, and chairs an influential multi-billion dollar government fund for the rehabilitation of the Tigray region. Not coincidentally, most of Ethiopia’s political power is concentrated in the hands of people from this region (although not the new prime minister, it should be noted; he is from a southern province).
In her own way, she was just as powerful as her late husband. “She is not just Meles Zenawi’s wife, but practically second-in-command of her husband’s tyranny. In fact, those who know her well say that she is very mean and more dictatorial than her husband,” wrote Abebe Gellaw, an analyst on an anti-government website. His view is jaundiced, but it contains an element of truth: Azeb and Meles were a team.
In fact, right after Meles’ death, speculation began that his widow would manoeuvre herself into power. If true, she obviously failed, but perhaps this explains the strange delays in confirming Desalegn, the official successor, to the position. It also explains why she’s so reluctant to leave the official residence, the last vestige of executive power remaining to her.
For Desalegn, the issue is fraught. If he pushes too hard to get her out of the palace, he risks coming across as uncaring, potentially losing the support of Meles’ supporters. If he does nothing, however, he might come across as soft, and not in control – qualities that Ethiopians have not seen a leader for many decades.
15 October 2012
Violent land grabs in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley are displacing tribes and preventing them from cultivating their land, leaving thousands of people hungry and ‘waiting to die’.
As the world prepares to raise awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger on October 16 (World Food Day), Ethiopia continues to jeopardize the food security and livelihoods of 200,000 of its self-sufficient tribal people.
Tribes such as the Suri, Mursi, Bodi and Kwegu are being violently evicted from their villages as Ethiopia’s government pursues its lucrative plantations project in the Valley.
Depriving tribes of their most valuable agricultural and grazing land, security forces are being used brutally to clear the area to make way for vast cotton, palm oil and sugar cane fields.
Cattle are being confiscated, food stores destroyed, and communities ordered to abandon their homes and move into designated resettlement areas.
One Mursi man told Survival International how the process of villagization is destroying his family. ‘The government is throwing our sorghum in the river. It has cleaned up the crops and put them in the river. I only have a few sacks left…We are waiting to die. We are crying. When the government collects people into one village there will be no place for crops and my children will be hungry and have no food.’
A Suri man also said, ‘They cleared the land. Why did the government sell our land? There is no grass for the cattle. People are hungry … We are worried about fodder. We have become angry and hopeless.’
Key to the plantation program is Ethiopia’s controversial Gibe III dam. Once completed, the dam will stop the Omo River’s annual flood, preventing tribes from using its fertile banks to produce valuable crops and feed livestock.
Ethiopia has not consulted any indigenous communities over the construction of Gibe III or its aggressive plantation plans in the Valley, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Stephen Corry, Survival’s Director said today, ‘On World Food Day, people need to be aware of Ethiopia’s decision violently to strip Lower Omo Valley tribes of their self-sustaining way of life. These peoples have used their land to cultivate crops and graze cattle to feed their families for generations. This basic right has now been taken from them, in a brutal manner, leaving them hungry and afraid.’
Based on the signal from ‘Ethiopian American Convention’ to be held on Sunday October 14, ‘Vote Free Ethiopia’ and other civic organizations and Ethiopian Americans should immediately make assessment to decide which candidate to endorse. We are not requesting for promise, but words backed by a strong action. After that Ethiopian American should decide which candidate and specific party to endorse and announce their choice on the local media and news outlets.
We need to articulate what we should be requesting and most importantly educate the Ethiopian American voters in Virginia of our demands, from the next US administration. I am not going to the Ethiopian American Convention on Sunday, October 14 to complain, but make a specific demand before I cast my vote on November elections.
These would be the greatest one time opportunity, for Ethiopian Americans to get the attention of the next US administration.
The author is a graduate student in Washington D. C metor area.