Archive for the ‘Ethiopian News’ Category

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 [...]

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Internet in a suitcase

Monday, June 13th, 2011

U.S. Department of State is financing efforts by activists to circumvent Internet blockade by dictators such as Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, according to a New York Times report: By JAMES GLANZ and JOHN MARKOFF | The New York Times The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy “shadow” Internet and mobile phone systems [...]

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George Ayittey’s War on African Dictatorships

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Alemayehu G. Mariam George Ayittey, the distinguished Ghanaian economist, and arguably one of the “Top 100 Public Intellectuals” (a person of ideas who stands for things far larger than one’s academic discipline) worldwide who “are shaping the tenor of our time” has been at war with Africa’s tin pot dictators and their lackeys for at [...]

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Syria braces for more anti-regime protests

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Syria plunged deeper into chaos and bloodshed Friday as adamant pro-democracy protesters took to the streets across the country in cities and towns including Homs, Lattakia, Amouda, Izram, Dara, Der Ezzor and Qamishli in mass protests that mark what protestors have called “Friday of Tribes.” The theme of Friday’s protests means, “The clan is with [...]

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ESAT is back on air

Friday, June 10th, 2011

ESAT (Ethiopian Satellite TV) has announced that is once again back on air and transmitting direct to Ethiopia for the 7th time starting yesterday. The new satellite parameters are: ABS1 Satellite 75 degree East C Band Downlink: 3.480 GHz Vertical (3480) Symbol Rate: 1.852 Msps (1852) FEC : 2/3 The regime in Ethiopia has been [...]

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Ethiopia’s dictator clings to power: CBS

Friday, June 10th, 2011

By Joshua Norman | CBS This is an installment in the CBS WorldWatch series, “The world’s enduring dictators,” inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, in which CBSNews.com takes a look at the men who continue to rule their lands unimpeded by law. See a complete explanation of the series and a list of others [...]

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Do the people of Ethiopia need more tanks?

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Ethiopia’s khat-addicted, bleached skin Yemeni dictator Meles Zenawi has ordered 200 tanks from Ukraine at the cost of USD$100 million, according to a Ukraine newspaper (read here). Who are the tanks going to protect? The answer is obvious. They are being purchased to protect Meles and his vampire Woyanne junta from the people of Ethiopia. [...]

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Meles blames the Ethiopian people

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

By Yilma Bekele I am not making this up You can follow the link below and watch the four part video of the leader for life meeting with Ethiopian business leaders. It is a very interesting video. The video is edited and posted on You Tube by Ethiopian TV. I am very grateful. They should [...]

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‘Zenawi told me that he is Yemeni’ – Gaddafi

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

In televised speech 20 years ago this month (June 1991), Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi told a cheering audience that Ethiopia is an Arab country and that the new leader, Meles Zenawi, is a Yemeni: Apart from the the royal family, and with the exception of a few black groups, all the rest of Ethiopians are [...]

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Notorious criminal Col. Tesfaye WoldeSelassie died

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Col. Tesfaye Woldeselassie, the Derg regime’s security chief who is responsible for the torture and death of thousands of Ethiopians, has died in prison. Suspicions have risen after the fall of the Derg regime that during his last years as Minister of National and Public Security, Col. Tesfaye had been secretly working for Woyanne, and [...]

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10 Ethiopians on their way to Yemen suffocated to death

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

YEMEN (UPI) — At least 14 refugees died at the hands of smugglers as they traveled from Somalia to Yemen, the United Nations said Tuesday.

The U.N. refugee agency said in a release issued in New York that 10 Ethiopians suffocated when the smugglers crammed them and about 15 others in the boat’s engine room with no ventilation. Survivors claimed the bodies of the dead were tossed into the sea.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said there were reports the boat carried as many as 115 passengers as it set out early Sunday from Bossaso in northern Somalia.

Concerned the Yemeni navy would spot them, the smugglers allegedly forced the rest of the passengers to get out of the boat too far from land and four more people drowned before they could reach shore, the U.N. release said. Two of the bodies had been recovered.

“We condemn the unscrupulous and inhuman treatment of refugees and others who are desperately seeking to flee the violence, human rights abuses and seriously debilitating life options in the Horn of Africa,” said Erika Feller, assistant high commissioner for protection.

EHSNA invites you to its first annual Ethiopian festival in DC

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

ETHIOPIAN HERITAGE SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA
Invites you to the First Annual Ethiopian Heritage Festival (JULY 1-3/2011)

The first annual Ethiopian Heritage Festival will be held in Washington D.C. from July 1, 2011 to July 3, 2011. The Festival will be held at the immaculate and majestic George Town University multi-sport facility conveniently located in the heart of D.C. located at 3700 O St. in Georgetown with free parking.

This first annual Ethiopian Heritage festival themed “CELBRATE & DISCOVER” Ethiopia is one of a kind celebration and is organized by the Ethiopian Heritage Society of North America (ESHNA). The society requests the attendance and participation of all in the Festival. The Festival intends to proudly display Ethiopia’s rich heritage and diversity through its various three days event. The Festival includes historical exhibition, cultural shows, delicious food, contests, music, sports, symposiums, and workshops focusing on Ethiopia. What’s more, the Festival is family friendly and encompasses various events for children in our Children Amba. Simply put, the Board of the Ethiopian Heritage Society has worked tirelessly to make this Festival one that lives up to its name and is expected to be a memorable occasion for all.

From its inception to the successful ‘Kick-Off’ party on May 14, 2011 held in Washington D.C., the Society has made every effort to make the Festival an appealing and glamorous experience to all. The Festival and the formation of the Society is an answer to the public’s long, repeated and frequent call to have an Ethiopian Festival where Ethiopians from all different background, ethnicity, religions, beliefs, values, and political opinion gather and celebrate our common heritage and home – Ethiopiawent. Washington D.C. is selected because it’s a city where hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians reside, and is home to the largest number of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia.

While the Society invites you to the Festival and hope it will be an unforgettable fiesta, the Society strongly believes that there is more work to be done in the coming years to make the Festival even more inclusive, more representative, and more closer to the goal and mission it set out to achieve. Accordingly, the Society invites all with skills, knowledge, or talent to join us in making a more perfect festival in the coming years. The Society, therefore, renews and reiterates its call to all Ethiopians with ideas and thoughts on how to better and improve the Society or the upcoming festivals to be a part of us.

The Society also wishes to extend its invitation to the business community to partner with us in promoting your businesses, take advantage of our limited vendor spaces, and showcase your products to the many Ethiopians who will be in attendance at the Festival. Further, historians, religious leaders from all religions and denominations, professionals, and community leaders are invited to share their vast expertise, experience, and skills in making the Festival and the society more effective.

Therefore, the emphasis of the first Ethiopian Heritage Festival is our common heritage, culture, tradition, and, celebration of our uniqueness. This Festival will be the first and major historical event and celebration designed to promote Ethiopia and Ethiopians the aim being to connect the past with the present and to pass it on to the future generation. Consequently, all roads should lead to Washington D.C., Georgetown University, beginning July 1 to July 3, 2011 to be a part of an invigorating and historical Festival.

For more information please visit our website www.ethiopianheritagesociety.org or contact us at info@ethiopianheritagesociety.org

Tel# 202-466-1677

The SEEDs of Hope in the Ethiopian Diaspora

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Alemayehu G. Mariam

[This commentary is an expanded version of remarks I gave at the annual SEED Award Dinner (Society of Ethiopians Established in Diaspora)[1] held at the Georgetown University Conference Center, Washington, D.C. on May 29, 2011.]

I thank the Executive Board of SEED and its chairman Prof. Melaku Lakew for selecting me as one of the 2011 honorees.

The very acronym of the organization is inspiring. Seeds germinate, become seedlings, develop roots and grow. In time, they bloom and blossom into beautiful flowers and drop new seeds for the next generation. For the last 19 years, SEED has been growing and blossoming, and this evening we see the seeds of SEED in the faces of these extraordinarily accomplished young men and women we are honoring.

I am proud there is an organization such as SEED to recognize Ethiopians who have aspired to make their own small contributions to the cause of Ethiopianity and humanity. For that, we should all celebrate SEED and congratulate its Board and members for having the foresight to establish and sustain for nearly two decades a non-partisan civic organization dedicated to recognizing the contributions of Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia regardless of ideology, political affiliation, ethnicity, nationality, religion or race. SEED is a shining example of what individuals can accomplish by acting collectively through civic society institutions.

I am proud and deeply humbled in being selected to be among a group of honorees that has made extraordinary contributions in the service of all Ethiopians. W/o Abebech Gobena has been called by many as “Africa’s Mother Teresa” for her life-saving humanitarian work with orphaned and abandoned children and abused women. Dr. Woldemeskel Kostre trained generations of Ethiopian Olympic gold medalists and other athletes who have set numerous world records. Professor Redda Tekle Haimanot has made singular contributions to the eradication of polio and helped improve health care access in one of the most medically underserved parts of Ethiopia. Ato Ezra Teshome is widely recognized for his extraordinary contributions to the eradication of polio and helping to empower poor women and children in Ethiopia.

There are two Ethiopians who are being honored tonight posthumously. Professor Hussein Ahmed was an outstanding scholar whose original research illuminated the role of Islam as a cohesive factor in Ethiopia. Dr. Melaku E. Bayen was the first Ethiopian physician to graduate from an American university. He coordinated a Pan-Africanist campaign against Italian aggression in Ethiopia in the 1930s.

When I find myself standing among these towering and heroic figures, I remind myself, in the words of the poet Robert Frost, that I “have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep”.

These individuals are great role models for me, all of us here tonight and the next generation of young Ethiopians.

Speaking about young Ethiopians, I am especially proud to share this stage and event with the high school and college graduates honored this evening. The academic achievements of these young people are among the absolute best in America. Their community service and extra-curricular activities are inspiring to all of us. I am so proud of these young people that my “cup runneth over.”

I am not only proud this evening but also blessed. I share this stage with my daughter Abigail who is being honored in her own right for extraordinary academic achievements and community service. What took decades for me to learn, she mastered in her teen years: True democratic citizenship involves taking individual responsibility to help one’s community and those less fortunate than oneself with a sense of duty, obligation, commitment and honor. I have learned from her that when young people look beyond themselves and their daily distractions and frustrations, they become a mighty force for good and humanity.

This evening I want to say a few words to you from the heart. Many of you know me for the things I have said and written from the mind. Every week in my commentaries, I speak in the language of facts, statistics and evidence. I try as best I can to weave facts through a fabric of persuasive analysis and argumentation to convey my message. But speaking from the heart is more difficult because one has to penetrate the inner crust of facts and statistics and speak from the bedrock of truth.

The truth is Ethiopia’s young people are Ethiopia’s future. Nearly 70 percent of the Ethiopian population of 80 million is estimated to be young people (50 percent of them under age 15). An old Ethiopian proverb reminds us:  “Our youth are today’s seeds and tomorrow’s flowers. (Ye zare frewoch, ye’nege abebawoch).”  For me, the most important question today revolves around these future flowers in Ethiopia and in the Diaspora.

We in the older generation often ask the question, “What can we teach and do for our young people to prepare them for the future? How can we guide them to a better future?”

The right question in my view is: “What can we learn from young Ethiopians today?”

I believe the vast majority of young people everywhere share one common virtue: Idealism. They believe they can change the world and make it a better place despite the endless wars, communal and sectarian conflict and human rights abuses. Young people want freedom, peace and equal opportunity. They are deeply offended by unfairness and injustice. They have little tolerance for dishonesty and hypocrisy, the principal reasons for their disengagement from politics which they think is all about lying, money and corruption. They despise those who abuse their powers. They have contempt for double-talkers. They are turned off by the older generation’s attitude of “do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do.” They are disappointed when they see us lacking in courage and integrity and selling out for a few pieces of silver.

When I look across the proverbial “generation gap,” I see a gap in thinking, attitude and perspective, not age.

The young people have a “can-do” attitude; for most of us in the older generation, it is “no can do”. They find reasons to do things, we find excuses not to. When churn over old and tired ideas, they come up with innovative ones. When we wallow in despair over what could have been, they bubble with hope and excitement over what could be. We hesitate, they act. We brood, they think. We see the darkness in the tunnel, they see the light at the end. We drive looking through the rear view mirror; they cruise along looking through the windshield. Some of us in the older generation want things to happen. Many of us sit around and wish it to happen. Our young people make it happen! Such is the nature of the gap we need to bridge.

A long time ago, we in the older generation started out on the road to idealism, but somewhere along the way we took a detour to a destination called realism. There we began to worship at the altar of greed, power, wealth, fame and the rest of it. When our realism ultimately proved disappointing, we became cynical and concluded that in a dog-eat-dog world, only the strong survive. We became self-centered and indifferent to the suffering of the weak and defenseless, turned a blind eye to their plight, a deaf ear to their pained cries and muted our lips to the injustices inflicted upon them by the powerful.

We must now return to our idealist roots. George Carlin, the irreverent satirist, said “Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.” Maybe you have seen a glimpse of that disappointed idealist in yourself. But there is nothing shameful in being an idealist. The greatest political and moral leaders of the world over the past century have been idealists. They were great visionaries because, like young people, they could imagine and envision a much better future. Gandhi told the British colonial masters: “In the end you will leave India because 100,000 Englishmen simply cannot control 350 million Indians if those Indians refuse to cooperate.” Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. “dreamt that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” Nelson Mandela pledged, “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another…”  These idealists were laughing-stocks in their day, but in the end they won and the world is a much better place because of their struggle, leadership and principles.

To be idealistic also means to be ready, willing and able to unlearn and change outdated attitudes, beliefs and fears. It took me a long while to appreciate Gandhi’s teaching, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Today I think in terms of humanity and not ethnicity or even nationality. I replaced my ideological rigidity with intellectual flexibility. I once kept silence in the face of brutality, today I champion accountability. I watched others relate on the basis of enmity, today I seek to promote cordiality. My ultimate hope is to mobilize global unity against inhumanity.

In 2005, I broke out of my hardened cocoon of realism into the mushy soft world of idealism. Following the May elections in Ethiopia that year, 193 unarmed protesters were massacred by government troops in the streets, and 763 shot and wounded. Over thirty thousand people were rounded up and imprisoned. The post-election events of 2005 plunged millions of Ethiopians into the abyss of cynicism and despair.  It had the opposite effect on me.

My conscience was seared by the sheer brutality and inhumanity of that bestial and barbaric massacre. I thought of the Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa in March 1960 where apartheid policemen killed 69 unarmed black South African protesters. I was too young to speak out for the Sharpeville victims, but not too old now to speak for the 193 Ethiopians and the thousands of other victims of crimes against humanity.

That is how I became idealistic. I came to believe that it is possible to have an Ethiopia where citizens can peacefully protest the actions of their government and not be massacred for it. No person should become a political prisoner or a target of government persecution because s/he dissents with those in power. I believe those who hold the reins of power in Ethiopia must bow their heads before the law and not sit on the throne as the deities of the law. In other words, they are not the gods of law but the law’s humble and faithful servants. I began to imagine that no person in Ethiopia should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. I even had the audacity to imagine that there must be an independent free press in Ethiopia to stand as a watchdog over government and expose corruption. There must be an independent judiciary to administer justice and hold accountable those who abuse their powers. Elections must be free and fair, and young people should be allowed to play a central role in the country’s future. Long story made short, I became, as some might say, a hopeless idealist.

When you become an idealist, you stand up for your convictions. You preach and teach what you believe in. So I do my best to promote democracy, human rights and freedom in Ethiopia and Africa and elsewhere. I try to be the voice of the voiceless, though some may think I am just a voice in the wilderness.

It is true that I am a relentless critic of oppression, injustice and dictatorship. No doubt, some will laugh and call me naïve for my efforts. Surely, I must know that a few idealists cannot possibly change the world. That may be true, but I am persuaded by Margaret Mead who observed, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Idealism also means using ones misfortunes to help others in daily life. Several years ago, my wife developed breast cancer which was discovered in its earliest stages through an annual routine mammogram and successfully treated.  Though my wife had an excellent outcome, so many Ethiopian women die needlessly by not doing regular mammograms and hiding the fact of that disease from their loved ones and friends once diagnosed. She decided to come out in public and write a “letter to my Ethiopian sisters” to raise awareness about breast cancer and how to prevent it from taking so many lives. Some well-intentioned people advised her not to make her condition public implying that there is something embarrassing about having the disease. She is an incorrigible idealist in her own right and believed that if more Ethiopian women knew the truth about early detection and treatment, they will be able to beat breast cancer every time. Silence about breast cancer kills more of our sisters and mothers than breast cancer itself. Let us all be whistleblowers against breast cancer!

We need to bridge the generation gap I spoke of earlier. We can do that if we speak the same language as our young people. We bridge the gap when we learn from each other. They can teach us about the future and the great things they can accomplish; and we teach them about the past, how to avoid the mistakes we made and the things we did right.

Some may think my bridge-building ideas are impractical, unattainable, fanciful and the stuff of dreamers. In my own defense, I will answer them with a question: After all, what do expect from a utopian Ethiopian?!?

In the struggle of all idealistic people, the outcome is always the same as Gandhi taught: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

We will assuredly win if we are on the side of our young people. If you don’t believe me, talk to the young people in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya… I say, let’s join the Youthvolution in Africa.

If I have one message for all of you, and particularly the young people here tonight, it is that we all need to be the voices of the voiceless and stand up and be counted. In the words of the great Bob Marley, I say: Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights (and their rights too)! Don’t give up the fight! Make change happen one person at a time.

Thank you SEED and all of you who have come to honor us tonight!

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Barack Obama

[1] SEED is a non-partisan civic organization established in 1993 dedicated to the recognition of Ethiopians and Ethiopian friends who have demonstrated outstanding achievements as educators, scientists, artists, religious leaders, high school and university students and community leaders. http://www.ethioseed.org

Previous commentaries by the author are available at: www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/ and http://open.salon.com/blog/almariam/

 

U.S. says Yemen president should resign

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

The Obama administration, anxious to deny al-Qaida’s most dangerous offshoot more space in which to flourish, urged Yemen’s wounded president on Monday to immediately step aside and clear the way for a transfer of power aimed at averting all-out civil war.

The administration’s call came as U.S. diplomats worked with Saudi Arabian and European officials to revive a plan to replace Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh with a national unity government and end violence that has killed scores of people and splintered the regime, the Yemeni military and the country’s powerful tribes.

There was no sign that Saleh, who was in Saudi Arabia being treated for a wound he sustained Friday in a rocket attack, was ready to step down. Vice President Abed Rabbo Masour Hadi told European diplomats that Saleh’s “health is improving greatly and he will return to the country in the coming days,” according to the state-run news agency.

The return of Saleh, 68, who has held power since 1978, could lead to further bloodshed, something the Obama administration is anxious to avoid. U.S. officials have soured on their onetime ally after a tumultuous four months in which pro-Saleh gunmen attacked anti-regime protesters, top military officials and diplomats defected, and street battles erupted in the capital, Sanaa, between Saleh’s forces and those of a rival tribal sheikh.

Washington is worried that al-Qaida’s local branch, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, could exploit the growing unrest to expand a sanctuary in Yemen from which to launch attacks on neighboring Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer, and U.S. targets.

“We are calling for a peaceful and orderly transition, a non-violent transition that is consistent with Yemen’s own constitution,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday. “We think an immediate transition is in the best interests of the Yemeni people.”

Members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, an amalgam of Yemenis, Saudis and others, including Americans, were behind the 2000 USS Cole attack, as well as the failed 2009 Christmas attempt to bomb an airliner over Detroit and a failed 2010 plot to ship bombs disguised as printer cartridges to the U.S.

A leading member of the group is Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical cleric born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents, who has been linked to the bomb plots and who allegedly helped radicalize a U.S. Army major accused of killing 12 people and wounding 31 others in a 2009 shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas.

Some experts think that the danger posed by the group has been overblown, especially by Saleh, who they contend used it to squeeze out U.S. financial assistance – which rose to $217 million in 2010 from $102 million 2009 – and to bolster his image as a strongman indispensible to the U.S.-led fight against terrorism.

In his latest use of that tactic, several experts said, Saleh withdrew security forces from several areas in recent weeks, including the south-central coastal town of Zinjibar, allowing Islamic extremists to seize them.

“He’s willing to do anything to stay in power,” said Princeton University professor Bernard Haykel, who pointed out that Saleh employed Islamic radicals in the past to fight political threats.

Many experts, however, agreed that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula would benefit from a prolonged civil war that splintered Yemen, which was already embroiled in a northern tribal insurgency and a separatist movement in the south when massive protests demanding Saleh’s ouster began in February.

“They have the capacity to mount attacks against American interests. They’ve said they’ll do it again and the bigger the space that (the group) has to plan and mount operations against international targets, the more dangerous they become,” said Christopher Boucek of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“A failed state right next to the world’s biggest oil producer is bad.”

Until recently, the U.S. closely cooperated with Saleh. It dramatically increased U.S. aid and training for Yemen’s security forces in a bid to stabilize the impoverished country of 24 million at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Nearly 40 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day.

But in the face of ever-widening popular protests, U.S. officials threw their weight behind an Arab-drafted transition plan that called for Saleh to turn power over to Hadi, the vice president, within 30 days, in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Hadi would lead a government comprising ruling party and opposition members until elections were held within two weeks.

Saleh refused three times to sign the plan, and the White House last week dispatched John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, to the region for consultations.

On Saturday, however, Saleh was evacuated to Saudi Arabia for treatment for a wound he suffered in a rocket attack on his palace, allowing the U.S., Saudi Arabia and European countries to revive the power transfer scheme.

Experts warned that even if he were to agree to the plan, the country’s dire economic straits could derail any chances for political stability.

“Yemen’s collapsing economy, that’s the big story,” Boucek said. “That is the source of all instability in Yemen.”

(By By JONATHAN S. LANDAY, McClatchy Newspapers. Special correspondent Adam Baron contributed reporting from Sanaa, Yemen.)

Disintegrating Tyrant’s Key Pillar of Support – THE MILITARY

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Military force is viewed as the “trump card” by authoritarian regimes. Unlike police personnel, military units are often separated from civilian society. This separation from the public hinder the development of personal relationships between military and civilian families. [read more]

BEKA spreads in western Ethiopia

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Tinsae Ethiopia members sent this photo from the western Ethiopian town of Assosa. (read more at Tinsae.org)

Woyanne calls economic sabotage report a ‘hoax”

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Bloombeg has reported today that Shimeles Kemal, the communication state minister for Ethiopia’s ruling tribal junta, said that Tinsae Ethiopia Patriots Union’s report on attacking Woyanne’s infrastructure is a hoax and that “we have not heard of such group.” Shimeles (aka Shiwushet) is a certified liar who says that Woyanne won the last election with 99 percent of the votes in a free and fair election. Read the full report here at Tinsae.org

Fiber optics communication line cut off in southern Ethiopia

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Government offices, banks, and Woyanne-affiliated businesses in a large part of southern Ethiopia are currently without broadband internet connection after Tinsae Ethiopia members and supporters cut off the fiber optics communication line that is routed through southern Ethiopia to Kenya. [read more at Tinsae.org]

Aiming at the Tyrant’s Power

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

The state’s power is heavily dependent on the cooperation of certain key institutions and organizations. We call these supporting organizations pillars of support because they support the power structure in society… [read more]

Tinsae Ethiopia cut off power in northern Addis Ababa

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Members of Tinsae Ethiopia Patriots Union have cut off electrical power lines in Sululta area yesterday and today, causing power outage in some parts of northern Addis Ababa. [read more at Tinsae.org]

Hope Springs Eternal in Africa

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Saving Africa From Thugtators

Two historic events are unfolding before our eyes in Africa today. The new president of Cote d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, is asking the International Criminal Court (ICC) to conduct an investigation into gross human rights violations in his country. In a letter to ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Ouattara wrote: “It appears the Ivorian justice system, at the moment, is not best placed to consider the most serious crimes committed over the recent months, and that any attempts to bring to justice those who are most responsible would risk running into all kinds of difficulties.” He emphatically urged the prosecutor to bring the “people who bear the greatest responsibility for the most serious crimes before the International Criminal Court.”

Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s iron-fisted dictator for three decades, and his sons are expected to stand trial in an Egyptian court for human rights violations. The Egyptian Attorney General announced that Mubarak & Sons will face charges of “intentional murder, attempted murder of demonstrators, abuse of power to intentionally waste public funds and unlawfully profiting from public funds for themselves and others.”

Bernard Munyagishari, one of the most notorious leaders of the genocidal Rwandan Interahamwe, was apprehended last week (along with, in a separate incident, Ratko Mladic, the Butcher of Srebrenica (Bosnia)) of  the Democratic Republic of Congo after nearly 16 years on the lam. According to a 2005 ICC indictment, Munyagishari “masterminded a virulent hate campaign against the Tutsis” and trained and distributed weapons to Interahamwe groups to enable them “more efficiently to attack and kill the Tutsis and Hutu opponents.”

Omar al-Bashir of the Sudan remains a fugitive from justice following his ICC indictment for genocide and crimes against humanity. Bashir is accused of “masterminding with absolute control” a criminal plan “to destroy in substantial part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups” and causing the deaths of 35,000 people “outright” in the Darfur region since 2003.

A number of former Kenyan officials including the deputy prime minister and two other ministers, the cabinet secretary, police chief and others stand accused of murder, rape and persecution by the ICC. They are suspected of orchestrating the post-election violence that resulted in the deaths of some 1,500 Kenyans and displacement of over 600,000.

There is no question that Moammar Gadhafi & Sons will soon be indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity and war crimes in connection with the massive atrocities that are taking place in Libya today. In his ICC application for an arrest warrant, Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampos argued: “The evidence shows that Moammar Gadhafi personally ordered attacks on unarmed Libyan civilians. His forces attacked Libyan civilians in their homes and in the public space, shot demonstrators with live ammunition, used heavy weaponry against participants in funeral processions and placed snipers to kill those leaving mosques after prayers.”

The trial of the ruthless Liberian warlord Charles Taylor before the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes recently concluded in The Hague after three and one-half years of litigation. A verdict is expected in the foreseeable future.

Africa’s dictators who once sneered at the very notion of legal accountability for their flagrant  human rights abuses are now waking up at night in cold sweat. They keep interrogating themselves in the middle of the night: First it was Bashir. Now it is Mubarak. Next is Gadhafi and after him… Ben Ali, Ali Saleh and then…?

Lady Justice “is like a train that is nearly always late”, but she has finally arrived at her African destination with a scale in one hand and a sword in the other, and without her blindfold to see the atrocities that continue to be committed by Africa’s thugtators.  A new dawn is rising over the darkness of dictatorship that envelopes Africa.

The Beginning of Africa’s Second Independence?

For much of the six decades of independence, much of Africa has been under the thumbs and boots of ruthless military and civilian thugs palming themselves off as leaders while sucking the continent dry as their private estate. There have been over 80 military coups in Africa and hundreds of attempted, plotted and alleged coups. A 2002 African Union study estimated that corruption cost the continent US$150 billion a year. Last week, a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) commissioned report from Global Financial Integrity (GFI) on “illicit financial flows” (money stolen by government officials and their cronies and stashed away in foreign banks) from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) revealed the theft of US$ 8.4 billion from Ethiopia, the second poorest country on the planet.

Could the election of Alassane Ouattara signal the beginning of Africa’s second independence?   Is there hope for the end of thugtatorship in Africa and the beginning of a new era of democratic governance, openness and political accountability?

Ouattara’s letter to Moreno-Ocampo is in itself an extraordinary act of leadership, courage, audacity and supreme self-confidence. It is a monumental event in Africa’s modern political history. No African leader has ever asked or invited the ICC to investigate human rights abuses and prosecute the violators. In fact, in August 2010, the African Union (AU) thumbed its nose at the ICC stating: “The AU Member States shall not cooperate pursuant to the provisions of Article 98 of the Rome Statute of the ICC relating to immunities, for the arrest and surrender of President Omar El Bashir of the Sudan”. In other words, Africa’s leaders will shelter the Butcher of Darfur from facing justice.

Against the backdrop of the AU denunciation, Ouattra’s invitation for an ICC investigation is refreshing and reassuring. Manifestly, Ouattra is aware of the fact that an ICC investigation is a double-edged sword that could cut him and his supporters just as easily as Gbagbo and his crew. To be sure, there are serious allegations of human rights abuses by Ouattara’s current prime minister, Guillaume Soro.  An ICC investigation could potentially implicate Ouattara himself, possibly casting a long dark shadow over the remainder of his presidency. Regardless, Ouattara says full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes. Let the chips fall where they may!

Why is Ouattra doing this? Does he have something up his sleeve? I am still reeling from the fact that an African leader is actually upholding human rights instead of trashing them, calling for an independent investigation instead of putting out a whitewash. Could it be that Ouattara is a truly new breed of African leader?  Is it possible that he genuinely believes in the rule of law, human rights and full legal accountability? Maybe he wants to end the culture of impunity in his country and set a shining example of a new culture of respect for human rights for the continent. Just maybe Ouattra’s leadership role model is Nelson Mandela.

On May 21, the day of Ouattara’s formal inauguration, the ICC Prosecutor lodged an application with the ICC to investigate “crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court that have been committed in the Ivory Coast since 28 November 2010.”

Nature of Human Rights Violations in the Cote d’Ivoire

The human rights violations alleged in Cote d’Ivoire are of the most egregious types. According to a January 2011 Human Rights Watch Report, security forces and militia under the control of Laurent Gbagbo have allegedly committed extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture, and rape. Gbagbo’s supporters are accused of undertaking an “organized campaign of violence targeting members of opposition political parties, ethnic groups from northern Côte d’Ivoire, Muslims, and immigrants from neighboring West African countries.” Seven women supporters of Ouattara engaged in peaceful demonstration were gunned down before the cameras by Gbagbo’s forces in February 2011.

According to an April 2011 Human Rights Watch Report, “forces loyal to President-elect Alassane Ouattara killed hundreds of civilians, raped more than 20 alleged supporters of his rival, Laurent Gbagbo, and burned at least 10 villages in Côte d’Ivoire’s far western region.” The report alleged “in one particularly horrific incident, hundreds of ethnic Guéré civilians perceived as supporting Gbagbo were massacred in the western town of Duékoué by a mixture of pro-Ouattara groups.” Credible reports by charity groups who visited the location put the number at over one thousand.

The Ivorian human rights violators will likely face war crimes and crimes against humanity charges similar to those lodged against the former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor.  For purposes of war crimes (Convention III, Article 3 Geneva Convention (1949) and of Additional Protocol II), charges will likely include unlawful killings, terrorizing the civilian population, physical violence, sexual violence, abductions and pillage, among others. Other particularized charges may include ill-treatment or deportation of civilian residents, the killing of prisoners and  wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages. Charges of crimes against humanity (Article 7, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court) will likely include murder, rape, abductions, political or religious persecution and other inhumane acts and practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority. There is substantial evidence to show the occurrence of widespread and systematic practices of atrocity by both sides of the Ivorian conflict in the post-election period to justify vigorous prosecutions.

No Truth, No Reconciliation. No Justice, No Peace.

What Ouattra has done in Cote d’Ivoire could be the most significant act in the cause of the freedom, democracy and human rights in Africa’s modern history. By the stroke of his pen,  Ouattra has the raised the bar for legal accountability and may have begun a new era and tradition of the rule of law in the continent. By letting justice take its course, Ouattara has taken the first decisive step to heal the wounds and divisions of Ivorian society.

There are many lessons to be learned from Ouattara’s heroic act. First, without revealing the truth about human rights abuses, there can be no reconciliation in Cote d’Ivoire or any other society victimized by massive human rights violations. The South Africans managed to make an effective transition to democracy and heal a society torn apart by the vile and inhuman ideology of apartheid in their Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Second, if Africa’s dictators believe they will face justice for their criminal actions regardless of how long it takes, they will think a hundred times before ordering massacres of peaceful unarmed demonstrators in the streets, jailing of  thousands of innocent people and indiscriminate  bombing of civilians. Third, legal accountability under international human rights standards means Africa’s dictators will have no place to run to or hide and enjoy their billions in stolen loot. The world will be their prison.

When the rule of law is deep-rooted in Africa, the tables will finally turn. The people will no longer fear their leaders and governments. Rather, the leaders and government institutions will fear the people. That will mark Africa’s long overdue transition from thugtatorship (“the highest stage of African dictatorship”) to democracy.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Justice has yet to arrive for 193 unarmed Ethiopian protesters massacred in the streets in 2005 and 763 shot and wounded. These victims are not some nameless individuals buried in shallow graves. Their identities are well known to all and shall never be forgotten. The identities of the 237 policemen who committed the massacre are also well known.  There is overwhelming evidence of gross human rights abuses in Gambella in western Ethiopia and in the Ogaden region in the east as well as many other parts of the country.  There are thousands of political prisoners languishing in secret prisons in Ethiopia today.

The monstrous crimes committed against these victims will not remain forever shrouded in the fog of history because the arc of the moral universe is long and it bends towards justice. That is why I believe justice delayed in Ethiopia is NOT justice denied. Paraphrasing the great African American poet Langston Hughes, justice delayed in Ethiopia is a “sore that festers and runs, and sags” like a heavy load ready to explode.

Keep Hope Alive in Ethiopia!

Previous commentaries by the author are available at: www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam and http://open.salon.com/blog/almariam

 

 

Tension in Ethiopia’s capital

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa is swarmed with security forces today as the ruling Woyanne tribal junta prepares to celebrate its 20th year in power. Youth groups are also attempting to stage protests to demand an end to the 20-year-old dictatorship, but every gathering is immediately dispersed by the Federal Police, Meles Zenawi’s death squads.

Meles Zenawi's death squad harass and disperse young Ethiopians in Addis Ababa

In the morning, the Woyanne regime staged its own rally in support of its recently announced plan to build hydroelectric dam along the Nile River. It has bussed thousands of government employees to Melskel Square to listen to a speech by the khat-addicted dictator. A short while later, the crowd dispersed without incident.

Woyanne rally at Meskel Square – 28 May 2011

Grand Strategy for BEKA! Awakening

Friday, May 27th, 2011

The broadest conception of how an objective is to be attained in a conflict by a chosen course of action. The grand strategy serves to coordinate and direct all appropriate and available resources (human, political, economic, moral, etc.) of the group to attain its objectives in a conflict… [read more]

Internet is down through out Ethiopia – update

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

UPDATE (7:00 PM Addis Ababa time)

Internet is now working in Ethiopia. Broadband connection to eastern Ethiopia is still down.

———-

This morning Internet seems to be down all over Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Review has tried to communicate with its contacts in several cities and all of them have confirmed that they are unable to access their emails or read web sites. It is not clear who or what caused the shut down.

Banks and other organization that depend and Internet are also closed today, according to an Ethiopian Review correspondent in Addis Ababa.

Heavily armed troops and machine gun-mounted truck are patrolling the city.

Yesterday we have reported that an unknown group has sabotaged fiber optics lines to eastern Ethiopia shutting down broadband internet connection to government offices and Woyanne-affiliated companies.

Next Saturday, May 28, the ruling Woyanne junta will celebrate its 20th years of misrule. On the same day, the junta is preparing for a large rally at the Addis Ababa Stadium in support of its Nile Dam scheme. Students and government workers have been ordered to show up at the rally.

Less than 2 percent of Ethiopians have access to the Internet (see here). This was done purposely by the Meles regime to keep the people of Ethiopia in the dark age.

Internet lines to eastern Ethiopia are down

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Woyanne telecom minister and TPLF politburo member DebreTsion GebreMichael was shocked to learn today that an unknown group has cut off the fiber optics Internet lines that connect the ruling junta to its military and government agencies in eastern Ethiopia up to Jijiga.

The regime is now using satellite service for Internet connection in eastern Ethiopia, which has a limited capacity.

Broadband Internet connection through the fiber optics lines are available only to the Woyanne regime and businesses that are affiliated with the ruling junta. Broadband service is not available to average citizens.

Last Friday, Tinsae Ethiopia Patriots Union cut off power lines in Western Ethiopia causing power and telephone outage in several towns for four days.

Only 13 percent of Ethiopians have access to electricity, according to the World Bank.

Declaration against the TPLF tyranny

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

GLOBAL CIVIC MOVEMENT FOR CHANGE IN ETHIOPIA

A Call for Unity of Action and Purpose

RECOGNIZING the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all Ethiopians, indeed all people, regardless of ethnicity, faith, political opinion, age, gender, race or financial status, is the foundation for democracy, freedom, justice, peace and unity in Ethiopia;

NOTING with dismay that the TPLF/EPRDF government has implemented apartheid type divide and rule political programs over the past twenty years, and hence not only revoked the civil and political rights of 80 million people, but has turned the age old country into one of the sixteen failed states in the world;

NOTING with dismay that Ethiopia is at the bottom of world good governance standards, as evidenced by the World Bank, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the African Peer Review Mechanism and other similar ratings;

CONCERNED that the TPLF/EPRDF continues to administer sham elections; where in May 2005 it killed 193 unarmed protestors, wounded 800 innocent civilians and kept close to 50,000 pro-democracy activists in concentration camps; and in May 2010 it unashamedly claimed to have won 99.6% of the seats of the House of Peoples Representatives;

NOTING that Ethiopia is ranked lower than all but 4 nations in Africa in human development, access to clean water, press freedom, internet use and pervasive corruption in spite of the deceptive propaganda of double digit real economic growth reported by TPLF/EPRDF;

CONCERNED that the misguided economic policy that was implemented over the last twenty years, that was characterized by crony capitalism, opaque privatization, discrimination, an unprecedented land eviction, corruption, monopolization of the economy by party owned companies; has led to employment discrimination, hyperinflation, abject rural and urban poverty and forced migration;

CONCERNED that access to higher education and employment in public enterprises and government departments are restricted to TPLF/EPRDF members, and hence violating one of the cornerstones of civil and political rights of citizens;

CONCERNED that the education system implemented during the last ten years has not been able to prepare the youth for decent higher education, innovation, self employment and entrepreneurship, thus making the future of the youth more uncertain;

ALARMED that the perpetrators of various crimes against humanity, including but not limited to the massacres of 2005, are living with impunity, and Meles Zenawi continues to protect suspects that should most certainly face national and international justice;

DEEPLY CONCERNED that the TPLF/EPRDF continues to deny the existence of armed conflicts and clandestine political organizations, hence the absence of national dialogue and reconciliation is exacerbating the further disintegration of the country;

CONVINCED that ethno nationalist movements are increasingly becoming significant political and military forces in Ethiopia and time has vividly shown that TPLF’s bankrupt policy has not resolved the root causes of these movements, indicating that the reality on the ground requires a new vision for Ethiopia;

NOTING WITH INTEREST the ethno-nationalist movements’ recent effort to break the ethnic wall, we encourage members and supporters of ethno nationalist movements and all political and social forces to welcome the overture, and urge all to join a process that leads to building a critical mass and the required leadership that aims at the eventual replacement of the minority dictatorship with a transitional government;

COMPELLED to emphasize and underscore once again the need for nationalist and ethno-nationalist political and social forces to work towards the removal of the minority dictatorship with the clear understanding that the destiny of post-TPLF/EPRDF Ethiopia shall be determined by all the citizens of the age old nation, after an unfettered free and fair election;

KEENLY AWARE that TPLF/EPRDF’s misguided foreign policy, reckless diplomacy and gross incompetence in foreign policy have led to several scandalous international agreements, including but not limited to the stalled Algiers Agreement, the creation of a land locked country that is inhabited by 80 million people, the ceding of territories to the Sudan without the knowledge of the people of Ethiopia, the 1993 Egyptian-Ethiopian Water Agreement which has ended up in the rubbish bin, and the recent foolish-man’s game with the River Nile (Abbay), cannot lead to a sustained peace and development in the region;

AWARE of the power of mass uprisings in removing age old dictatorships, including but not limited to the 1974 revolution in Ethiopia, the 1989 revolution in Eastern Europe and now in the Middle East and North Africa;

CONSISTENT with the previous declarations of Ethiopian civic organizations, including but not limited to the CHARTER that was issued at the turn of the Ethiopian Millennium, the Chicago Resolution of the Ethiopian National Priorities Consultative Process (ENPCP), the Virginia Declaration on Good Governance, Peace and Development in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa; the various Statements of the Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia (SMNE), the call by the Ketet network of activists, and the recently issued 8 point demands of the Oromo National Youth Movement for Freedom and Democracy, we in the Global Civic Movement for Change in Ethiopia join the chorus in demanding the removal of the minority dictatorship from the yoke of 80 million people. We have resolved to engage in peaceful resistance to end tyranny so that a broad based transitional government is established.

The primary functions of the transitional government are to prepare the country for an unfettered free and fair election, protect and defend the territorial integrity of the country, maintain law and order, and perform other duties of transitional nature. The civil resistance is a country wide action that will be spearheaded by the youth and supported by Ethiopians in the country and in the Diaspora. The Movement rejects all forms of violence and extremism. It advocates for democracy, equality, justice, peace and unity. It is against the TPLF/EPRDF cabal. It is not against ordinary members of the TPLF/EPRDF or indeed the Ethiopian Defense Forces.

RECOGNIZING the incontrovertible fact that no single opposition party, be it nationalist or ethno-nationalist, on its own can successfully lead the masses into action in the present era, and fully cognizant of the truth that Ethiopians have significantly more in common than not, we urge all to clench our many fingers that are pointing at the TPLF/EPRDF cabal, and guarantee that no one ethnic group will ever again vanquish the people of Ethiopia;

NOW THEREFORE, WE have adopted the following actionable resolutions:-

1. We demand that the regime immediately stops the twenty years of continued military campaign against the people of Ethiopia. We demand that the International Red Cross (IRC) be given immediate access to all conflict areas. At present, the IRC has been kicked out of the Ogaden region. We ask for the United Nations to carry a full, independent, and unfettered investigation of both the recent UN staff killing and the mass murder of civilians in the Ogaden. We call upon the international community to continue to put pressure on the dictatorship so that international NGOs are allowed to deliver emergency aid to conflict and drought affected areas;
2. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. We demand that especially the Maikelawi Prison (central investigation prison) and the underground prisons and concentration camps be immediately dismantled and closed for ever, and the perpetrators of all forms of human rights abuses be brought to justice;
3. We demand that the TPLF/EPRDF security forces immediately stop harassing, imprisoning and intimidating legal opposition forces and students;
4. We call for the immediate supply of basic goods such as sugar, cooking oil and bread for the people by the government at subsidized prices while the commodity market is allowed to stabilize;
5. We demand that all the so called private properties of Zenawi’s family and their close associates be administered by a branch of government until judicial enquiry about ill gotten assets is completed;
6. We demand that all the assets of the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigrai (EFFORT) be divested and distributed to the rightful owners, the Ethiopian people, through privatization by an Initial Public Offering system open to all the people of Ethiopia. The management can be restructured, by hiring professional managers and the proceeds from the sale of shares can be used for financing the construction of secure and economically, environmentally and technically feasible large and small dams, as appropriate;
7. We demand that the land grab policy that is being implemented by the TPLF/EPRDF regime be immediately stopped, and that international agreements that relate to the land grab be put on hold. All evictions of rural farmers and nomads from their ancestral lands must be stopped. We demand a judicial enquiry into the circumstances, and whether there was corruption in the sale/lease of virgin lands to foreign entities at unbelievably low prices;
8. We demand that the misguided urban land policy of TPLF/EPRDF which is creating unprecedented price bubbles and excessive speculation through credit channeling, distorted interest rates and corrupt land lease, be replaced by people centered and equitable urban development policy that will make housing more affordable and accessible to Ethiopian citizens The recent demolition of houses in cities such as Hawassa and Mekele must be stopped. We demand that those who sent the Federal Police, to prevent the protest demonstrations be brought to justice;
9. Consistent with the Virginia Declaration on Good Governance, Peace and Development in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, and the 8 point demand of the Oromo National Youth Movement for Freedom and Democracy, We in the Global Civic Movement for Change in Ethiopia, unreservedly endorse the call for the immediate resignation of Meles Zenawi and his spouse Azeb Mesfin from all State and Party powers;
10. We demand that both chambers of parliament be immediately dissolved and the TPLF/EPRDF authored constitution be suspended. We call for the establishment of a transitional government that is constituted from Civil Society, all major ethno nationalist movements and all opposition political organizations, that works towards instituting genuine democracy, freedom and unity in Ethiopia and peace and stability in the Horn of Africa;
11. We shall struggle to make the primary work of the Transitional Government to focus on preparing the country for an unfettered free and fair election, maintain the rule of law, protect all Ethiopians, protect private and public property, and defend and protect the country’s sovereignty. We shall endeavor to influence policy so that all stakeholders of the Nile River System and other resource endowments are put to the benefit of all the people of the region. We shall advocate for peace and stability in the Horn of Africa and beyond;
12. Finally we call upon all Ethiopians to rise up in unison to end dictatorship in Ethiopia. We call upon the international community to avoid using double standards. We call upon the United Nations’ Security Council to adopt a Libyan type policy against all dictators who are killing their own people. We respectfully request the United Nations’ Secretary General to take contingency measures as the ruthless dictator’s track record shows that he is more than likely to follow his peers in Libya, Syria and Yemen by brutally suppressing popular uprising against 20 years of TPLF/EPRDF tyranny.

Beka ! Geye! Bes! Yiakel! Aloni! Ditah! Wetandem!
For more information contact: Ethiopians.say.beka@gmail.com

The following organizations have also issued statements calling for a civil resistance to bring change in Ethiopia:

ALJE (pdf)
Civic Movement
EPRP (pdf)
EYM (pdf)
Ginbot 7 (pdf)
OLF (pdf)

Media reports on western Ethiopia power outage

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

The action taken by Tinsae Ethiopia members that cut off power in western Ethiopia has received a wide media coverage, including this report (click here) by Bloomberg and the following video by ESAT.

Book Review: Pentecostalism and Orthodox Christianity

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Review of Tibebe Eshete’s Book, The Evangelical Movement in Ethiopia

By Messay Kebede

Published by Baylor University Press (2009), the book is a well-researched and abundantly documented account of the inception and spread of evangelical Christianity in Ethiopia. With special emphasis on Pentecostalism, the book goes beyond an eventful account of the evangelical movement; it provides a theoretical explanation for its rapid spread in a country reputed for its long-standing commitment to Orthodox Christianity. It must be said that the book is remarkably up to the challenging task of combining a descriptive account of important events with theoretical insights whose explanatory power is impressive, even for a skeptical reader.

The thorough appreciation of the book requires that the reader be fully cognizant of the various purposes of the book. Tibebe does not indulge in a laudatory discourse on the evangelical movement; nor does he present a disparaging portrait of Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church. Even if we find here and there praises and blames, the book remains a scholarly work intent on providing understanding rather than eulogy. This restraint to an objective account is all the more remarkable, given the personal dimension of the book to the author, who is himself a convert from Orthodox Christianity to evangelical faith.

The first purpose of the book is Tibebe’s intention to correct the dearth of scholarly studies on the evangelical movement in Ethiopia. Misinformation and bias explain the neglect: many Ethiopianists still consider the movement as marginal and foreign-inspired, which is typically summed up by the Amharic term of “mete haymanot.” The label of “imported religion” gave the justification for covert persecution during Haile Selassie’s reign and overt persecution after the establishment of the Derg and socialism. Through its cadres, the Derg used all means, including violence and coercion, to eradicate the movement. The tangible result of this systematic attempt to eradicate was, however, a phenomenal growth of the movement. From one percent of the population in the early 1960s, the movement grew to 6 million in 1994 (some estimates put the number at 12 million). Hence the main question of the book: what explains this remarkable expansion in a country fraught with adverse forces to the faith?

The other important purpose of the book is the removal of the bias against the evangelical faith in Ethiopia, which Tibebe wants to accomplish by forcefully displaying its native character. Without denying the role of foreign missionaries and the international support of evangelical churches, Tibebe argues that the movement has powerful native sources and has always followed one dominant motto, namely, “the Gospel for Ethiopians by Ethiopians.” His argument significantly weakens the “foreign paradigm” through the suggestion that, without the decisive impact of indigenous factors, the phenomenal growth of the movement is utterly incomprehensible.

One cannot but admire Tibebe’s attempt to show the native sources of Pentecostalism. Notably, his view that practices such as healing through prayers, exorcism, display of emotional expression, etc., are just reviving suppressed practices, allows him to speak of Pentecostalism as a renaissance of Ethiopian Christianity. To quote him, “viewed from a historical and analytical perspective, the evangelical faith as embraced by Ethiopians does not signify desertion or denial. Rather, it is an expression of the latent dimension of an already existing faith. Significantly, for those who tuned into the faith from the Orthodox background, Christianity simply took renewed emphasis and meaning” (p. 314). Some such approach definitely goes a long way in dismissing the accusation of foreign religion. Far from being desertion, Pentecostalism, Tibebe insists, is the expected, the longed-for revival of Ethiopian spirituality.

The depiction of the native sources of the movement introduces the third important purpose of the book, namely, the call for acceptance and mutual appreciation. Tibebe asks Ethiopian Evangelists to appreciate and inherit the rich tradition of Ethiopian Orthodox Church and its eminent national character and role both in defending Ethiopia against foreign invasions and in nurturing a home grown Christianity. In return, Orthodox Ethiopians should recognize the native roots of the evangelical movement in Ethiopia and engage in interface activities rather than animosity. Tibebe firmly believes that a change of this nature will be beneficial to both congregations and a significant contribution to the consolidation of democratic spirit in Ethiopia. Witness: the challenge of Pentecostalism has stimulated reformist activities within the Orthodox Church, as shown by the popularity of the revival movement known as “Amanuel Menfesawi Maheber.”

To fulfill these purposes, Tibebe adopts the appropriate method, to wit, the use of historical analysis by which he traces the major events marking the spread of the evangelical movement. The inquiry offers an ample documentation on the growth of the movement since the seventeen century. In particular, it gives a detailed account of the status of the movement during the reign of Haile Selassie and the tumultuous rule of the Derg. We learn that, even though persecutions were by no means absent, the reign of Haile Selassie was “the heyday of missionary activity in Ethiopia” (p. 75). As to the situation under the Derg, the account reveals how the use of systematic repression and brutality only strengthened the resolve of followers, which became a cause for an accelerated expansion of the movement.

To explain the resilience of the movement, Tibebe combines historical research with theoretical explanations. He thus advances the thesis that, in addition to the properly religious need, sociopolitical factors were active in making evangelism, especially in its Pentecostal form, attractive to many Ethiopians. A word of caution: one would totally misrepresent the content of the book if one loses sight of the primacy of the religious factor. Tibebe nowhere reduces the expansion of evangelism in Ethiopia to a political protest against the autocratic rule of Haile Selassie or the brutality of the Derg. Not that sociopolitical conditions were inconsequential; rather, they were only contributing factors to the principal need, which was religious.

The primacy of the religious need fully transpires when Tibebe explains why Pentecostalism seduced so many educated Ethiopians who came from firmly established Orthodox background. For him, the seduction has its roots in the failure of the Orthodox Church to reform itself in accordance with new needs arising from the exposure to Western education and the modern world. Indeed, modernity assumed for Ethiopians the form of an immense challenge to their legacy and became the cause of a deep cultural disorientation and existential anxiety. While many among the educated elite attempted to find answers in the then dominant ideology of Marxism-Leninism, others looked for a renewal of their religious faith, thereby increasingly paying attention to evangelism. In effect, those who went over to evangelism could listen to “qualified speakers on various subjects, like the relationship between science and faith, creation and evolution, or spirituality and rationalism and logic” (p. 138). These were topics that the Orthodox Church was not ready to tackle, as shown by the fact that demands from within the Church to renovate and modernize the faith—the most important being the movement known as Haymanote Abew—repeatedly fell on deaf ears.

Granted the primacy of the spiritual need, the fact remains that the tendency to look for answers to new needs outside the authority of Orthodox Christianity would not have gained momentum without the sociopolitical realities of Ethiopia under Haile Selassie and the Derg. Such is Tibebe’s sophisticated approach. It was already obvious that the success of evangelism in the southern part of the country, notably in Wollega and Wollaita, was a form of protest against the southern Neftegna Gebar system. As Tibebe puts it, “the new faith brought for the believers not only salvation, but also liberation from traditional oppressive structures, healing, and a sense of worth in a sociopolitical milieu that sustained social inequalities” (p.86). Clearly, what particularly hampered the missionary work of the Orthodox Church in the south, besides the use of inappropriate methods, was the close link of the church with the detested Ethiopian state. The lack of independence associated its teachings and missionary efforts with the oppressive structure of the imperial state or the Derg.

This same lack of independence explains why evangelism made such impressive inroads, especially Pentecostalism, in areas traditionally committed to the Orthodox Church. The evidence for this is that the expansion of evangelical movement was essentially an urban phenomenon that involved young educated Ethiopians coming from Orthodox background. To the question why many modern educated Orthodox Christians felt the need to convert to Pentecostalism, in conjunction with the primary reason of being unable to find in the traditional church the answers they needed to the challenges of modernity, one must refer to their inability to reform the faith, owing to its close tie with the Ethiopian state, and their increasing dissatisfaction over the sociopolitical realities of Ethiopia under Haile Selassie and, with greater reason, under the Derg.

While Tibebe does an excellent job in articulating major themes with relevant events and back them with sound arguments, questions pertaining to clarifications as well as to theoretical developments come to mind. Granted that one cannot but praise the attempt to remain as objective as possible, still one cannot avoid the feeling that Tibebe’s understanding of the Orthodox faith remains external in that it is viewed from an alien religious stand considered as normative or superior. He draws the explanation for the conversion of many educated Ethiopians to Pentecostalism from the disabilities of the Orthodox Church, thereby suggesting that evangelism is not only superior, but that it has also effective answers to the challenges of modernity to religious faith. One can reasonably contest the assertion if only because no religious doctrine is immune to the assaults of science, evolutionism, and the debunking of fideism. The commitment to a specific faith is more a matter of choice than doctrinal superiority.

The use of an alien normative stand, otherwise known as Eurocentrism, misses the particularity, the unique nature of the Orthodox faith. The lack of theological sophistication, the use of crude methods of conversion, the alliance with the Ethiopian state, etc., turn into defects only in the eyes of alienated Ethiopians who use Western religiosity as a prototype. To this approach, one can oppose the idea that Ethiopian religiosity should not be judged by the norms of doctrinal refinement and theological sophistication. Instead, one should bring out its cultural nature, which is such that Christianity in Ethiopia is like the air we breathe. In Ethiopia, God is everywhere; His presence is felt not only in churches and holy places, but in any personal or social manifestation. God is not so much conceptualized as felt like the immovable background of everything. Christianity in Ethiopia has never been an issue of doctrinal conversion, but a native attribute that one acquires for being member of a distinct and messianic polity, the very one flowing from the definition of Ethiopia as God’s favored nation. Accordingly, as an extension of divine election, missionary work is perceived as integration into a privileged, restricted polity, less so as a doctrinal allurement.

Doubtless, as Tibebe convincingly argues, when Ethiopians became exposed to Western education, the need for a rationalized faith transpired, which need started to paint the traditional religion in negative terms, that is, as not being as doctrinal and speculative as Western religions. Equally true that the Orthodox Church proved unable or reluctant to satisfy the doctrinal needs of the educated elite. Still, it makes little sense to put the blame on the faith, since it amounts to saying that it should be other than what it became as a result of a protracted and native historical development. The religion had a long history and resisted the powerful assaults of Islam and colonial incursions, not because of its doctrinal power or purity, but because of the powerful sentiments agitated by the sense of divine favoritism as enshrined, for instance, in the popular belief that Ethiopia is the guardian of the Arch of the Covenant.

Tibebe is absolutely right to say that the Orthodox Church failed to address the concerns of modern educated Ethiopians. Unfortunately, as he himself admits, the latter were alienated people and, as such, little able to make sound judgments or choices. A culturally disoriented generation is certainly unfit to provide norms by which Orthodox Christianity should be criticized or to select the religion by which it should be replaced, especially in light of its glorious accomplishments in preserving the independence and identity of a polity in a hostile environment and for such a long time. Since the assumption is that the religious response was healthier than the political radicalism imparted by the adoption of Marxist-Leninist ideology, Tibebe is hereby asked to provide the reasons for the beneficial effects of evangelical spiritualism.

All the more reason for asking the question is that Tibebe does not hesitate to conceptualize the attraction of Ethiopian students to Marxism-Leninism and Pentecostalism in the late 60s and early 70s as different responses to cultural disorientation and political frustration. Even though disagreements and clashes soon irrupted between the two movements—the radical students accusing Pentecostal students of being CIA agents conspiring to politically demobilize the youth by luring it into religious ecstasy—there is no doubt that both movements shared the character of being extreme. The question is then: why extremism, be it in the form of political radicalism or religious fundamentalism? Whether it was a counter-response to the spread of Marxist atheism among the students and educated elite or the expression of frustration over the socialism of the Derg, since religious fundamentalism clings to the faith by intensifying it, the dissonance between the response and the premises of modernity stands out.

To be sure, it is not clear how religious intensification can be construed as a modern response. In particular, rationality goes in the direction of accommodating faith with the scientific spirit, not in the direction of introducing into the faith beliefs and practices that clash with science. What all this means is clear enough: the attempt to rank one religion above the others in the name of modernity is a risky business since in the eyes of science all religions without distinction belong to the sphere of the irrational. Let us admit it, the development of modern ideas and the diffusion of the scientific spirit have turned religious conversions into obsolete practices.

Similarly, while the great value of the book lies in the linkage it establishes between religious conversion and sociopolitical concerns, it is not clear in what sense Pentecostalism can be classified as a protest. For the pioneers of the movement, the conversion must be explained in purely religious terms, that is, as expression of God’s revelation, and not as an outcome of impersonal forces resulting from economic or political hindrances. Tibebe rightly objects that the purely religious account cannot explain why the movement expanded at a particular time and with such a rapid pace. In thus saying that social conditions favored the expansion of evangelism, Tibebe posits the movement as a component part of social protests. Some such assumption goes against the prevailing view describing the movement as apolitical or, according to the radical students of the 60s, as frankly reactionary. People saw the movement as an incitement to withdraw from politics through an all-consuming pursuit of otherworldly goals. In other words, Tibebe has yet to convince us why this type of religious fundamentalism is not a reaction, a flight from the harsh reality of politics, just as he has to show us how it encourages modern and democratic forms of thinking.

One critical issue conspicuously absent from the book is the standing of the evangelical movement in relation to the other important and established religion, namely, Islam. Tibebe exhaustively analyzes the inroads of evangelism in the southern part of Ethiopia where primal religions mostly prevailed and in regions traditionally populated by Orthodox Christians. But he nowhere deals with the legitimate question of the status of evangelism in Muslim-dominated regions. Is evangelism making any progress in these regions as well? If yes, why? If no, why not? Being able to answer these questions certainly helps provide a more general and specified account of the progress of evangelism in Ethiopia.

Lastly, one issue that needs further clarification is Tibebe’s analysis of the attitude of Haile Selassie. He advances the view that Haile Selassie wanted to reform and modernize the Orthodox Church despite its resistance. Yet, he also maintains that he blocked reformist movements within the Church: for instance, the movement of reform initiated by Haymanot Abew failed because it was ultimately controlled by him, which control deprived it of dynamism and autonomy. Was Haile Selassie’s policy an attempt to subdue the Church or a genuine desire to modernize it? A more rigorous analysis of Haile Selassie’s attitude would be helpful to understand the impediments of the traditional religion. Moreover, Tibebe asserts that Haile Selassie was tolerant to the evangelical movement while at the same time viewing the tolerance as a component of his strategy to bolster his international image. Our understanding of the situation would acquire greater clarity if these imperial contradictions, which were real, were conceptualized in specific terms.

To conclude, Tibebe’s book is highly informative and enlightening, in addition to inviting new reflections on issues that most people either misconstrue, ignore, or find baffling. The questions that I have raised in no way diminish the value of the book; on the contrary, they are appeals for Tibebe to further expand his inquiry in the direction of finding some answers. The truth about the book is that it is a must-read for all those who want to understand the changing face of Ethiopia.

(Dr Messay Kebede can be reached at Messay.Kebede@notes.udayton.edu)

Woyanne Diaspora campaign debated on German Radio

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Deutsche Welle (German Radio) on its Sunday, 22 May 2011, program interviewed Ato Neamin Zeleke, Dr Messay Kebede and Woyanne ambassador Dina Mufti on Woyanne regime’s failed attempt to get the support of Ethiopians in the Diaspora. Listen below or click here [forward to 8:00 minute mark].

Africa: Cause Looking for Rebels

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

[This commentary is based on talk I gave at the first annual University of California, Los Angeles Habesha Student Association[1] Networking Night event held at Ackerman Union on May 14, 2011.]

I have been asked to comment on youth political apathy and how to transform apathy into constructive action. That is a very tall order, but I am glad to be able to share with you my views on a subject that has defied and puzzled political scientists and pundits for generations.

The general allegation is that young people are uninterested, unconcerned and indifferent about matters of politics and government. Political apathy (crudely defined as lack of interest and involvement in the political process and general passivity and indifference to political and social phenomena in one’s environment) among youth is said to be the product of many factors including lack of political awareness and knowledge, absence of civic institutions that cultivate youth political action and involvement and the prevailing cultural imperatives of consumerism and the media. Simply stated, young people are said to be self-absorbed, short attention-spanned and preoccupied and distracted by popular culture, social networking, leisurely activities and the ordinary demands of daily life to pay serious attention to politics.

Longitudinal studies of youth political apathy in the U.S. suggest that many young people are politically disengaged because they believe politics is about “money and lying and they don’t want to involve themselves in it.” Many young Americans complain that politicians ignore young people and have little youth-oriented communication. They accuse politicians of being in the back pockets of big money and that their votes are inconsequential in determining the outcome of any significant issues in society. Feeling powerless, they retreat to cynicism and apathy.

In contrast, in the 1960s, young Americans led the “counter-culture revolution” and were the tips of the spear of the Civil Rights Movement. The Free Speech Movement which began at the University of California, Berkeley was transformed from student protests for expressive and academic freedom on campus to a powerful nationwide anti-war movement on American college campuses and in the streets. Young African Americans advanced the cause of the Civil Rights Movement by employing the powerful tools and techniques of civil disobedience staging sit-ins and boycotts to desegregate lunch counters and other public accommodations.  On May 4, 1961, fifty years to the month today, young inter-racial Freedom Riders set out to challenge local laws and customs that enforced segregation in public transportation in the American South, and succeeded in eliminating racial segregation in public transportation at considerable personal risk.  Young people in the Black Power Movement in the late 1960s demanded racial equality dignity, economic and political self-sufficiency and advocated black nationalism.

A similar pattern of youth activism is evident for African youths. In many African countries, students and other young people have been in the vanguard of social forces demanding political changes. University students in Ethiopia agitated and mobilized for the revolution that overthrew the monarchy in 1974. It is ironic that the very individuals who hold the reins of power in Ethiopia today were among those university students who fought and died for democracy and human rights in the early 1970s. In 2005, these former university students ordered a massacre which resulted in the killing of at least 193 unarmed largely youth protesters and the wounding of 763 others. In 1976 in South Africa, 176 students and other young people protesting apartheid were killed in Soweto. In recent months we have seen young people leading nonviolent uprising in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other countries to remove decades-old dictatorships. In Uganda today, the young followers of Kizza Besigye, (Museveni’s challenger in the recent elections) are at the center of the Walk to Work civil disobedience campaign protesting economic hardships and a quarter century of Museveni’s dictatorship.

The African Youth Charter

Africa has been described as the “youngest region of the world”. The African youth population is estimated to be 70 percent of the total population (nearly 50 percent of them under age 15).   Virtually 100 percent of the top political leadership in Africa belongs to the “over-the-hill” gang. Robert Mugabe still clings to power in Zimbabwe at age 86. It is manifestly hard to demand higher levels of political participation and involvement among African youths when they come of age in societies controlled and stifled by dictators long in the tooth. But there is no question that youth apathy is the greatest threat to the institution and consolidation of democracy in Africa.

There may be a glimmer of hope for African youths in the African Union’s “Youth Charter”, which provides comprehensive protections for Africa’s young people. Article 11 (“Youth Participation”) is of special significance. It requires signatory states to ensure “every young person” has the “right to participate in all spheres of society.” This requires state parties to “guarantee the participation of youth in parliament and other decision-making bodies”, access to “decision-making at local, national, regional, and continental levels of governance” and requires “youth advocacy and volunteerism” and peer-to-peer programmes for marginalised youth”. States are required to “provide access to information such that young people become aware of their rights and of opportunities to participate in decision-making and civic life”.  Africa’s youths should hold their doddering dictators accountable under the Charter.

Transforming Youth Apathy Into Youth Action?

I have no ready prescriptions to convert youth apathy into youth action. My view of the issue is very simple. The word apathy has roots in a Greek word “apathea” denoting lack of emotion. Young people in America, Africa or elsewhere are apathetic because they are “not fired up and raring to go.” They lack that “fire in the belly”. They find themselves in a state of political paralysis unable to act. So, how can African youth escape the political doldrums of apathy on a sea of cynicism, pessimism, negativism and disillusionment? The short answer is that they need to find the issues in society they care about and pursue them passionately. The long answer revolves around a few basic principles:

Be idealistic. Robert Kennedy said, “There are those who look at things and ask why. I dream of things and ask why not.” Nelson Mandela said, “I dream of an Africa at peace with itself.” Bob Marley said, there will be no peace until “the philosophy which hold one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned”, “there no longer are first class and second class citizens of any nation” and “basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all.” Young Africas should dream of an Africa free from the bondage of ethnic politics, scourge of dictatorship, debilitating poverty and flagrant human rights violations. Why are these youthful dreams not possible? As Gandhi said, when you are idealistic, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Examine your lives. When Socrates was put on trial for encouraging his young students to question authority and accepted beliefs, he said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” It is important for Africa’s young people to question their beliefs and actions. If they are indifferent to the suffering of their people, they should question themselves. Part of that self-examination is knowing if one is doing the right or wrong thing, and making corrections when mistakes are made. Unless we question our values and actions, we end up doing things mechanically, impulsively and blindly.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi said these simple but powerful words. The revolution we want to see in the world begins with us when we strive to relate to others on the basis of high moral and ethical standards. If we want to see a just, fair and compassionate world, we must begin by practicing those values ourselves. I want to congratulate the UCLA Habesha Student Association for bringing together young Ethiopians and Eritreans in one organizational setting to work cooperatively and harmoniously on issues of common interest and concern. Such collaboration sets an extraordinary example for all young people in the Horn of Africa to follow because the UCLA students have been able to relate with each other at the most fundamental human level instead of as members of opposing camps nursing historical enmities. It is a great mindset to be able to see beyond ethnicity and national boundaries; and most importantly not to be sucked into the vortex of historical grievances kept alive by the older generation.

Be independent thinkers and empower yourselves. Always ask questions and follow-up questions. One of the things those of us in the older generation do not do well is ask the right questions. Often we do not base our opinions on facts. Africa’s young people should think for themselves and creatively. The Buddha said, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” It is easy and comfortable for others to do the thinking for us. The alternative is for the older generation to do the thinking for the youth. Do Africa’s youths want that? To think independently means to keep an open mind and tolerate opposing viewpoints. Africa’s dictators fear young independent thinkers because  the young trumpet the truth.

Stand for Something. Rosa Parks, the great icon of the American Civil Rights Movement, is credited for modifying the old adage by saying: “Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.” Young people of courage, character and determination today are the seeds of great leaders tomorrow. Africa’s young people need to take a stand for human rights, democracy, freedom and peace. They also need to take a stand against all forms of violence, ethnic politics and the politics of intolerance, hate and fear.

Network with other young people and learn techniques of grassroots organizing. The UCLA HSA is committed to self-help through networking. That is important and very useful. But networking can be used for political activism and advocacy as well. Using technology and social media, young people can create effective virtual and actual communities to enhance their political participation and be more actively engaged in the political process. Grassroots organizing is the most elementary and one of the most effective methods of youth political action. Youth grassroots organizing won the day during the Civil Rights Movement fifty years ago, and it won the day in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria.

Become a voice for the voiceless. There are hundreds of millions of Africans whose voices are stolen at the ballot box every year and remain forgotten as political prisoners in the jails of Africa’s dictators. Corruption, abuse of power, lack of accountability and transparency are the hallmarks of many contemporary  African states. Young Africans must raise their voices and be heard on these issues. The great international human rights organizations are today the voices of the voiceless in Africa. They investigate the criminality of African regimes and present their findings to the world. Africa’s youths must take over part of the heavy lifting from these organizations. It is not fair to expect international human rights organizations to be the voice boxes of Africa’s masses.

Never give up. It is important for young people to appreciate and practice the virtues of tenacity, courage, determination and perseverance. In 1941, Winston Churchill speaking to young people at a school inspired them with these timeless words: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Churchill’s words ring true for every generation of young people everywhere. For Africa’s youth, the message is simple: “Never yield to force.”

Cause looking for Rebels

If I have any words of wisdom, it is that young Africans must rebel against apathy itself through a process of self-examination. I believe a successful rebellion against one’s own apathy will be the defining moment in the pursuit of the greatest cause of this generation, the struggle for human rights. The cause of human rights in Africa and elsewhere needs armies of young rebels to stand up in defense of human dignity, the rule of law and liberty and  against tyranny and despotism. To stand up for free and fair elections is to stand up for human rights. To fight for women’s rights is to fight for human rights. To defend children’s rights is to defend human rights. To uphold human rights is to uphold ethnic rights, religious rights, linguistic rights, free press rights, individual rights….

Ralph Nader, the implacable American consumer advocate warned: “To the youth of America, I say, beware of being trivialized by the commercial culture that tempts you daily. I hear you saying often that you’re not turned on to politics. If you do not turn on to politics, politics will turn on you.” That can be said equally of African youths. I say defend human rights, speak truth to power!

Think global, act local. Think local, act global.

[1] The HSA “aims to bring together people of Ethiopian and Eritrean descent (a/k/a Habeshas) at UCLA “by jointly organizing and sponsoring “cultural events, college workshops and community activities that promote the success of Habeshas at UCLA and the surrounding community.”  It also aims to provide a “forum to discuss issues, share ideas and simply connect on a peer-to-peer level.” I thank the UCLA-HSA for the opportunity to dialogue with them.]

Previous commentaries by the author are available at: www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/ and http://open.salon.com/blog/almariam/

Over 70 percent of western Ethiopia is without power (photos)

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Ethiopian opposition group Tinsae Ethiopian Patriots Union has posted photos of the power lines that its members cut off on Friday. According to the group’s web site, over 70 percent of western Ethiopia continues to be without power today. The Ethiopian Electric and Power Authority (EEPCo) issued a news release yesterday saying that it is trying to restore power in the area. … [see photos and read more at Tinsae.org]

Opposition group cut power in western Ethiopia

Friday, May 20th, 2011

A large part of western Ethiopia is currently without power after Tinsae Ethiopia Patriots Union has cut electric power lines in Awi Zone last night. Mobile and landline phones have also stopped working due to the power outage. … (read more at Tinsae.org)

Organizing BEKA

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

A successful nonviolent struggle requires ongoing organizational efforts in the following areas:

THE PUBLIC:
▪ Publicizing facts and grievances.
▪ Promoting sympathy.
VOLUNTEERS:
▪ Recruiting.
▪ Training, incorporating into actions.
Promoting commitment.
LEADERSHIP:
▪ Developing leadership skills among the members.
▪ Preparing advance replacements for arrested leaders.
MOVEMENT IN GENERAL:
▪ Preparing training manuals.
▪ Preparing participants to act without leaders when necessary.
▪ Maintaining communications. … (read more)

Interview with Prof. Getachew Begashaw (video)

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

ESAT interviews prominent economist Prof. Getachew Begashaw on Ethiopian economy. Watch below:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Encounter with gilgel Woyannes

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

By Yilma Bekele

It is only four weeks ago when a few of us drove down from Oakland to San Jose to attend the public meeting called by the Ethiopian regime. We don’t really recognize the current Ethiopian regime as a democratically elected representative of the people, thus one of the reasons for our trip was to peacefully protest this illegal event and at the same time teach our own people and the American citizen regarding the nature of the TPLF regime and cry loudly for the voiceless, the silenced ones.

It was a sad event. Protesting against ones own people is never easy. It feels like washing one’s dirty linen in public. But it has to be done. Silence is our number one enemy. I agree with Elie Wiesel who wrote ‘Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.’ They tried to silence us by calling the police. The police told them ‘it is a free country and we can protest to our hearts content as long as we don’t infringe upon the freedom of others.’ They picked and choose who can attend and refused entry to some they defined as un-desirable. During question and answer time they decided who gets the microphone. We watched them in amazement. It was a choreographed event with no soul, no love and no life. It was a cadre convention. The blind leading the blind is what we saw.

We drove down to San Jose one more time this weekend. You can tell this trip was different. Everybody was in a festive mood. It was a bright beautiful Saturday and the gathering of all this Ethiopians to do good made it brighter. We drove fast. We shouted and we argued in good nature and San Jose got a lot closer this time around. This time we were attending a fundraising event for ESAT. Dr. Berhanu and Ato Tamagne were the invited guests. We were driving mad to help support the voice of freedom. As Dr. Berhanu said ‘our own Aljazeera.’

When people work with passion they do miracles. The mother of all Ethiopian flags was brought out and computer, projector and sound were weaved out of thin air. Ethiopians showed up on time. Some showed up early. I believe we are onto something. You can tell this meeting was different. No one was impatient. They just kept arriving. We kept adding more chairs.

And thenTamagne showed up on the stage. He does not have to do anything. His presence was enough. You can feel over three hundred brains working in harmony. They all show heightened sense of happiness and this uncontrollable urge to scream with delight. I was standing in the back and I saw them being electrified. People sat up straight. They were all smiling. To frown would have been totally rude and out of place. Tamagne exudes Ethiopia. Tamagne knows how to work that. What is fact and what is fiction gets blurred. The joke becomes a ‘Eureka’ moment and you start to see what is right in front you. He gets you totally immersed in the story the message sips in by osmosis. I told you he is good. He had the place in perfect sync. You know what? You can’t get enough of Tamagne.

I was worried. Dr. Berhanu is next and how do you follow Tamagne. That is the Ethiopian in me, always anxious. Well, it was all for nothing. Our Dr. has this rare ability to relate. Dr. Berhanu has perfected the art of reducing stuff into their simplest form. That must be the teacher in him. When he speaks he talks to you. He connects the dots and one start to see the picture. Please don’t ask him to finish it for you. He will send you to remedial class. Ask Meles he will tell you. Dr. Berhanu deals with facts not rumors. He tells you as it is not as the way you would like to see it. He does not evade question but meets it head on. You get to see why he is loved and respected by so many while he brings out the hate in some. The professor does not suffer fools gladly.

ESAT was celebrated as never before. The whole house was in such euphoric mood and the Ying and the Yang were in perfect harmony. Contributions for ESAT came like tis esat falls. It was raining money. Guess who shows up to prove the need for a free and independent press in Ethiopia? None other than our unfriendly neighborhood Woyane that is who. It was a perfect picture. The same folks that were standing outside and pointing out Ethiopians that are not allowed to attend their meeting four weeks earlier and the person that was on the podium with the TPLF officials as chairman were sitting comfortably in our festival. We were happy to see them. Not a soul asked them to leave. We saw it as a teachable moment.

Our Woyanes were in a hostile mood. They were ready for question and answer moment. They assumed we would deny them the microphone. They were taken by surprise. Our microphone was awarded on first come basis. You raise your hand first and you are the first to ask. When their turn came they were given the microphone. Their first questioner decided ‘insulting’ the house was the best strategy. Poor Abbay was the foil. Our grand father looking Woyane told the house to be thankful because in his own words ‘before Meles showed up we were not even aware of Abay’! Yes he said that and he was allowed to say it. You can feel the tension in the assembly but not a soul moved to object to such verbal aggression. He was provoking us. He was in search of chaos. We were more irritated than angry.

A few questioners later the second Woyane decided to change tactics. First he complained the way Dr. Berhanu answered his friend’s question and said ‘I found your answer condescending’ and went on and on some tirade. Since he was not asking but rather making a long statement he was asked to please hurry up since others were waiting for their turn. He was not interested in a dialogue but went on to hurl more insults in a loud manner. That was the feather that broke the camels back. Our friend was hauled out unceremoniously. His comrades tried to intervene but it was futile. The door was closed and the meeting continued as if nothing happened. TPLF cadres do not seem to understand that being allowed to ask a question is a privilege not a right.

The fact we are raising money for independent media for our motherland speaks a lot. We are not investors looking for profit. We do not have any agenda of our own that we are trying to pursue. Out two guests traveled across the continent for free. We are doing all this because independent media is not allowed in Ethiopia. Our country is only one of a handful on this planet where the government deicide what the citizen hears, watches and views. The regime controls all media. That was why we got together to raise money for ESAT. That is Ethiopian Satellite Television. ESAT is the fruit of some patriotic Ethiopians that donated their time and money to this noble cause. ESAT is not affiliated with any party or ideology but the truth.

ESAT has been under siege since birth. Meles Zenawi vowed in public to cripple ESAT. Based on his own admission his salary is not enough to wage a war against ESAT. He was vowing to use the taxpayer’s money to wage his private war. Believe me a country is a formidable enemy. Poor ESAT has been tossed around like a boat in stormy seas. First it was ArabSat but Meles and company checkmated with our beloved Sheik, then onto Thailand and AsiaSat, crap the Chinese probably launched the Satellite and the orbit requires a special gizmo on the dish. Well that is not good is it? It is like announcing ‘here Mr. Woyane look at me.’ ESAT is on the third or forth satellite. You know what ESAT is still alive because so many wish it to succeed. ESAT defines our common dream of Independence. ESAT is the voice of freedom.

Our gathering was to raise funds for ESAT. Because the Meles regime denies the citizen to be informed by independent media we are compelled to use our limited resources to combat censorship. Today we have millions of people starving, millions of kids with out vaccination, millions without adequate schools, teachers or books but the regime is spending millions to block ESAT and our independent Web sites.

The Meles regime does that because we let them. There is no victimizer without a victim. History shows victimizer will not relent without the victim demanding it. Some enable the victimizer by their silence while a few due to lack of the moral strength to stand up to bullies. Meles and a few of his friends decide the fate of eighty million people. We make all kinds of excuses for our failure to stand up for what is right. We make the argument for him to cover our fear and cowardice. We allow less than a thousand cadres lord it over eighty million souls. It is a shame.

The gelgel Woyanes that showed up at our fund raising were doing what comes naturally to cadres following orders. Their job is to show up and create chaos. Their aim is to insult, degrade and intimidate us. If it was in Ethiopia they will be armed.

ESAT will help us regain our self worth. Our Saturday afternoon festival was to enable our people get different perspective unfiltered by Woyane censors. Those that gathered that Saturday afternoon came to collect money so ESAT will do its job. There is a bright cloud of change coming to our country. That it is coming is not the question, the gist of the matter is, are we ready? I believe ESAT is one of the tools that will help create a well-informed and smart citizen. A conscious citizen is the best defense against tyrants and dictators. That is why the Ethiopian regime is hell bent in blocking ESAT and that is why we freedom lovers have vowed to make ESAT strong enough to penetrate their flimsy weak curtain. Go to http://www.ethsat.com/ and donate. Organize ESAT support group in your neighborhood and help ESAT. TPLF owns the Internet, television transmission, radio and newspaper and we got ESAT.

Legendary Ethiopian singer Yirga Dubale passed away

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

We are sad to report that popular Ethiopian singer Yirga Dubale has passed away yesterday at the age of 81. The legendary musician has been entertaining Ethiopians for the past 6 decades. He is well known for his traditional and patriotic songs. The following is one of his most popular songs.

$8 billion secretly taken out of Ethiopia – UN report

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Is there any question about who is taking the money out of the country? The Meles crime family has has been looting Ethiopia’s treasure for the past 20 years.

By TAMRAT G. GIORGIS

(Addis Fortune) — Ethiopia may be touted at international conferences on development agendas as one of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world, but it is also one of the top 10 out of the 45 least developed countries (LDCs) where foreign currency flows out in an illicit manner, worse than countries such as Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea, a new study found.

Over 8.3 billion dollars left Ethiopia in 18 years after 1990, an amount comprising an average 3.6pc of its GDP, a damning and first of its kind study, conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), revealed last week.

This is part of the one trillion dollars that is believed to have left LDCs over the years covered by the study, an amount estimated to be 10 times larger than what these countries receive from rich countries in the form of official development assistance (ODA).

Ethiopia’s loss of over eight billion dollars in the past nearly two decades represents an average of 3.6pc of the amount it has received from its development partners during the same period, the study revealed.

The worst period was in 2006, when illicit funds representing 9.2pc of foreign assistance for the year, amounting to 1.4 billion Br, was believed to have left the country.

Bangladesh stands above any of these countries found to be victims of the illicit outflow of foreign currency; it has lost 34.7 billion dollars (equal to 3.4pc of its GDP) to illicit money transfers, followed by Angola, which lost 34 billion dollars, 10.9pc of its GDP.

“This money could be used for the countries’ development efforts,” Helen Clark, UNDP administrator, said at a panel discussion held in Istanbul, Turkey, on the side of the UN’s fourth conference on LDCs.

The 63-page report by the UNDP was released on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 11, 2011, where Abdella Hamdok, an expert on the issue from the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), was one of the panellists.

“It is an excellent report that has managed to capture the extent of the problem,” she said.

Although there are 49 countries listed as LDCs, and 45 of them were covered under the study, 70pc of the illicit outflows of funds as “any money that is illegally gained, transferred, or received” originated from Africa, according to Hamdok.

Another finding of the report that raised eyebrows among panellists was the revelation that the usual suspects of African dictators and their cronies do not have as much part in the money laundering scheme as members of the private sector. A staggering 79pc of money laundering out of these countries was funnelled through what the studies described as the “mispricing of trade.”

The mispricing of trade involves businesses under or over invoicing of their merchandise, according to Clark.

“When a ton of bananas is sold for a dollar, but the invoice says 50 dollar cents, the other half is slashed to be sent to an offshore account,” said Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, a former senior official from South Africa who now serves UNDP as director of Democratic Governance Group.

The source of illicit money is tax evasion and an attempt to launder the gains through the international financial system, according to the UNDP study.

“That there is a lack of adequate global tax monitoring and the absence of information sharing has contributed to the outflow,” said Moleketi.

Macroeconomic problems such as high inflation, structural characteristics of an economy including non-inclusiveness of growth, and overall governance issues such as political instability were blamed by the UNDP experts as the reasons behind money laundering from poor countries.

Ethiopia, sharing all or some of these factors, lost an annual average of 491 million dollars over 18 years, the study disclosed. The highest amount to have fled the country, 2.1 billion dollars, was recorded in 2008.

It claims nearly eight per cent of the country’s GDP registered that year, according to the UNDP study.

Ethiopia’s loss of foreign currency to money laundering between 1990 and 2008 was 1.2 points below the 4.8pc average recorded for all the countries covered in the study, while 27 of these countries are above this average which bleeds their economy. Chad is the biggest prey with a loss of 15.4 billion dollars (27.3pc of its GDP).

Government representatives at the discussion were advised by the UNDP officials to modernise their customs systems and undertake public administration reforms to provide expertise to fight money laundering. No Ethiopian government delegate was present; while over 30 had arrived in Istanbul, they left the day before.

Apart from an Ethiopian working for the UN and stationed in New York, there were two other Ethiopians in the room where the discussion took place. Among them was a shareholder of a prominent importing company in Ethiopia, Garad Plc. They had also left before the recommendations of the UNDP were read out.

Statement of solidarity with striking taxi drivers in Ethiopia

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

PRESS RELEASE

The Global Civic Movement for Change in Ethiopia welcomes the strike that has just been started by taxi drivers in Addis Ababa. We support it because it reflects the grievances of the people of Ethiopia, and it is peaceful. It is part of the resistance against the minority regime that has been in power for 20 years through brute force and fraudulent elections.

In 1974 the Imperial regime was removed from power through the peaceful protest of all Ethiopians. During the election related crisis of 2005, taxi drivers supported the pro-democracy movement. Today, they are reminding us that change is possible. We, therefore, fully support the strike, the first of its kind since the brutal suppression of mass uprising in 2005 by Zenawi’s security forces. We call upon all Ethiopians to conquer their fear, stand together and support the demands of the taxi drivers. Their demands are as much political as they are economic.

The brutal regime has already started to suppress the peaceful protest. It has confiscated some taxis, and imprisoned drivers. We condemn this lawless act in the strongest possible terms. We call upon all sectors of Ethiopian society, –the youth, students, workers, merchants, civil servants, farmers — to stand in solidarity with the Taxi drivers, wage a sustained and all inclusive civil resistance and withdraw all forms of cooperation from the dictatorial regime of Meles Zenawi.

Freedom, Justice and Democracy for the people of Ethiopia!

Beka! Geye! Yiakel! Bass! Wetandem! Aloni, Diiteh! Gides!

Freedom, justice, equality for the People of Ethiopia! Victory to the people of Ethiopia!

For more information contact: Ethiopians.say.beka@gmail.com

Youth group express solidarity with the taxi drivers in Ethiopia

Monday, May 16th, 2011

PRESS RELEASE

The Ethiopian Youth Movement expresses its solidarity with Ethiopian taxi drivers who went out on strike on Monday to protest the unbearable working conditions that have been imposed on them by the regime in Ethiopia.

We believe that now is the time to bring about change and democracy to our country. We are fully aware that our destiny is in our hands. We are also inspired by our peers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

During the 1974 revolution, Ethiopian taxi drivers played a key role in pressuring the government and soon their protest spread to other sectors of the society. Paired with mass demonstrations and general expression of dissatisfaction by the people, the taxi strike helped the Ethiopian youth to overthrow the regime. Unfortunately, the revolution was then hijacked by power hungry dictators.

This time we can and we will change the faith of our country for the better. Strikes in various sectors of Ethiopia are a necessary tool for defeating the corrupt regime and propelling the movement forward.

This time the taxi drivers of Addis Ababa are taking the lead by withholding their crucial services in the city. The Ethiopian Youth Movement fully supports the taxi drivers’ strike in Addis Ababa and we have already asked all our members in Ethiopia to support it as well.

The first massive demonstration against Meles Zenawi’s regime will be taking place on May 28th (20th anniversary of Meles Zenawi’s dictatorial rule in Ethiopia) in Addis Ababa. It will be the largest demonstration that our country has yet seen. We also call upon all Ethiopians to support the taxi drivers’ strike and begin the cascade of strikes in other sectors of our society as well.

We call upon Ethiopian students, farmers, workers, civil servants, businessmen and women, professionals, political organizations, civic organizations, religious leaders, and men and women in uniform to join the youth movement to remove the dictatorship.

In unity we shall find freedom and a brighter future for our Ethiopia.
Ethiopian Youth Movement
E-mail: ethiorevolution@gmail.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=107472902664461

Ghaddafi arrest requested by ICC; Zenawi next?

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Libya: ICC prosecutor seek warrant for Gaddafi

(BBC) — International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo (4 May 2011) Mr Moreno-Ocampo’s office reviewed more than 1,200 documents and 50 interviews.

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor is seeking the arrest of Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi and two others for crimes against humanity.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Col Gaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam, and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanusi bore the greatest responsibility for “widespread and systematic attacks” on civilians.

ICC judges must still decide whether or not to issue warrants for their arrest.

The Libyan government has already said it will ignore the announcement.

Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaim said the court was a “baby of the European Union designed for African politicians and leaders” and its practices were “questionable”.

Libya did not recognise its jurisdiction, like most African countries and the United States, and would ignore any announcement, he added.
‘Greatest criminal responsibility’

Earlier, Mr Moreno-Ocampo’s office said that after reviewing more than 1,200 documents and 50 interviews with key insiders and eyewitnesses, he would request later on Monday that the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber issue three arrest warrants.

The men are suspected of committing two categories of crimes against humanity – murder and persecution – under the Rome Statute which established the court.

The charges cover the days following the start of anti-government protests on 15 February.
Protester in Tobruk (24 February 2011) The application is expected to focus on the initial clampdown against protesters in February

“The evidence shows that Libyan security forces conducted widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population and led to the identification of those who bear the greatest criminal responsibility for such crimes,” a statement from the prosecutor’s office said.

“Additionally, there is relevant information on alleged commission of war crimes once the situation developed into an armed conflict. The office will evaluate these crimes with the same standards, in particular allegations of rape and attacks against sub-Saharan Africans wrongly perceived to be mercenaries.”

An inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council is expected to submit its report on the alleged war crimes to the UN Security Council on 7 June.

The application for warrants is expected to focus on the initial clampdown against protesters by Col Gaddafi’s government. Between 500 and 700 people are believed to have been killed in February alone.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo said he was acting in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1970, which referred the situation in Libya to the ICC, and stressed the need to hold to account those responsible for attacks on civilians.

The Pre-Trial Chamber’s judges may decide to accept the prosecutor’s application, reject it, or ask him for additional information.

If Col Gaddafi is named, it would only be the second time the ICC has sought a warrant for a sitting head of state. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been indicted for crimes including genocide in Darfur.
Nato ‘abuses’

Meanwhile, the Libyan government has condemned British calls for Nato to bomb a wider range of infrastructure targets to put pressure on Col Gaddafi.
Continue reading the main story

If we do not up the ante now there is a risk that the conflict could result in Gaddafi clinging to power”

Gen David Richards UK Chief of the Defence Staff

Benghazi: ‘We’re all volunteers now’

A spokesman said the comments by the Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Sir David Richards, was a threat “aimed at terrorising civilians”.

Gen Richards told the Sunday Telegraph: “The vise is closing on Gaddafi, but we need to increase the pressure further through more intense military action”.

“The military campaign to date has been a significant success for NATO and our Arab allies. But we need to do more. If we do not up the ante now there is a risk that the conflict could result in Gaddafi clinging to power.”

UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox said he agreed with Gen Richards, telling the BBC: “It’s legitimate to degrade the command and control and intelligence networks of the regime which are used to control those forces and provide that threat.”

Libyan Prime Minister al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi later told the UN’s special envoy, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, that his country wanted “an immediate ceasefire to coincide with a halt to the Nato bombardment and the acceptance of international observers”, according to the Jana state news agency.

Libya, he added, was committed to the unity of its territory and people and that Libyans had the right to “decide on their internal affairs and political system through democratic dialogue away from the bombing threat”.

Mr Mahmoudi accused Nato of “abuses and violations”, including “political assassinations, the unjust maritime siege, bombing of civilian sites and destruction of infrastructure”.

Overnight, Libyan state television reported said Nato aircraft had bombed an oil terminal in the eastern port of Ras Lanuf.

The alleged strike came after rebel fighters said they had taken full control of the western city of Misrata and said the situation was now “static”.

Ethiopian Review 20th Anniversary Celebrations – DC

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Ethiopia
This year, Ethiopian Review is celebrating its 20th year of service and commitment to the global Ethiopian community by organizing various informational, educational and fund-raising activities. The anniversary events will be launched at a special event to be held on July 2, 2011, in Washington DC.

In its first decade of service, Ethiopian Review has been a source of information and critical analysis for all Ethiopians and provided a readily available print outlet for Ethiopian scholars and commentators. Over the past decade, Ethiopian Review has been the global cyber gathering place for all Ethiopians seeking critical analysis and investigative reporting.

Ethiopian Review is grateful for the financial and moral support it has received from all Ethiopians and others as it evolved to become a strong voice for human rights, democracy and accountability in Ethiopia. We are most grateful to our friends and supporters for making Ethiopian Review the foremost information source on Ethiopia for many years running.

Ethiopian Review has clear vision and sense of purpose. First and foremost, we recognize the struggle of the Ethiopian people for freedom is just and sacred. Ethiopian Review will continue to support the struggle in no uncertain terms, as we have done so for the last 20 years. We have come this far through the undying love and support of our readers and our dedicated staff who work day and night.

As we celebrate our 20th anniversary and achievements, we are also deeply mindful of the enormous tasks that face all Ethiopians in bringing about a democratic and just society based on the rule of law. We hope to renew and reaffirm our commitment to the struggle for democracy, freedom and accountability in Ethiopia and provide an open forum for all to join the debate and articulate competing ideas and perspectives towards those ends.

Ethiopian Review continues to believe that its contribution to the causes of political pluralism, civil liberties, fundamental human rights and the rule of law in our country depends on an organic link with the forces of democracy at home and others around the globe. Ethiopian Review will mobilize intellectual, technical, managerial, financial and material resources for this just and right cause.

We ask all friends and supporters of Ethiopian Review to join us at a special event launching our 20th anniversary on July 2, 2011.

Place: Washington Ethical Society
Address: 7750 16th Street NW, Washington DC 20012
Ticket: $50 (tickets can be purchased online. Please click on the button below, or click here.

Ethiopian Review paypal payment

For those who are unable to attend the anniversary event in Washington D.C., we ask for your participation and support by purchasing one or more tickets. Ticket sales will be used to pay the costs of setting the anniversary events and support Ethiopian Review’s 2011 Expansion Plan.

Taxi drivers in Ethiopia go on strike

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa is hit with a work stoppage by taxi drivers today. Most taxi drivers have stayed home this morning, causing a massive transportation disruption in the city. Many residents are observed walking to work. The taxi drivers are protesting the unbearable cost of living and a recent regulation that limits them to certain areas of the city.

German Radio Amharic Service has this report (listen here – Amharic).

Addis Ababa taxi strike
[Photo: Awramba Times]

Africa: Is the World Growing Honest?

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Is the World Growing Honest or Doomsday Near?

I encountered the tantalizing headline unexpectedly: “Bold Words From British Government Representative”. Britain’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Norman Ling, said:

We should not be giving aid to African dictators, but there is a lot of public support in Britain for spending money on people who are demonstrably poor.

“African dictators? No aid?” Do my eyes deceive me?

For a fleeting moment, I recalled some lines from Shakespeare.

Hamlet: “What news?”

Rosencrantz: “None my Lord, but that the world’s grown honest.”

Hamlet: “Then is doomsday near, but your news is not true?”

Diplomats are famous for double-talk, gobbledygook and twaddle, not straight talk. Bluntly honest and sincere words from a living, breathing diplomat?

Is the world growing honest or doomsday near?

It was Sir Henry Wooton, another English ambassador centuries ago, who said, “An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.”

Not so for Ambassador Ling! He told the truth on behalf of his country and Ethiopia:

Under our new programme, we will be adding a new element called ‘wealth creation,’ which is designed to particularly support the private sector (in Ethiopia)…. That sends a signal that most of our money, which has been channeled through government channels, will now be channeled through private channels.

Bravo! Ambassador Ling. “Way to go!”, as the Yanks would say!

I just love straight talk, no bull. Ambassador Ling’s words were music to my ears:

I do not know how long it [aid] will continue. What I can say is that we are not entirely happy with political governance here; that is an issue for us. We believe it is also an issue for Ethiopians. As we see elsewhere in the world, sustainable development is achieved only if you have good political governance. Ethiopia’s political governance needs to improve.

We do not have a fully functioning democracy here. What we have is, as the ruling party has made clear, a dominant party model.

Elections should be free, fair, and transparent. The opposition should be given more space. The media should be given more space to report and more protection when it does so.

We would like to see greater freedoms enshrined in the laws of this country so that people know if they went to court if a case was brought against them, the courts will be truly free and fair [in their rulings]. There are many areas where we believe the political, legal, and judicial systems need to improve…

Ambassador Ling did not mince his words when it came to the Ethiopian opposition:

One reason why we have not seen the political diversity that Ethiopia requires is the weakness of the opposition parties since 2005. That is regrettable. Every government needs an effective opposition. While they do not always welcome it, they need it. That is holding back Ethiopia’s broader development. Economic and social development does not happen in isolation. It needs a challenge that a democratic system provides. I hope that will happen.

In other words, a divided, disunited, disorganized, disassembled and discombobulated opposition is not part of the solution in Ethiopia.

Touché!

How I Wish to Hear a Little Straight Talk From U.S. Ambassador Donald Booth

The U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Donald Booth, has been soft-pedaling his way straight to  Zenawi’s palace. Just before  the publication of the latest U.S. State Department Country Human Rights Reports (April 8, 2011), Booth said: “The Ethiopian people have accepted the outcome of this election. It is not our job to challenge their wisdom in that.”

Excuse me?!?

Either Mr. Booth does not read or agrees with Zenawi’s characterization of the U.S. Human Rights Country Reports on Ethiopia as “lies, lies and implausible lies”. The recent report on Ethiopia documented, among other things, “significant increases in arbitrary arrest and detention in the pre-election period”, abuse of “humanitarian assistance as incentives to secure support for the ruling coalition”, obstruction of “independent observation of elections, including restrictions of accredited diplomats to the capital and barring them from proximity to polling places,” the existence of “ample evidence that unfair government tactics–including intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters–influenced the extent of [the 99.6 percent may election] victory, the absence of a “a level playing field for opposition parties” and the prevalence of a “climate of apprehension and insecurity” in the country.

Mr. Booth seems conveniently oblivious of the fact that his own embassy drafted the recent human rights report which “challenges” both the “wisdom” and claims in the “outcome of that election”.

Anyway, on which planet did they say Mr. Booth is an ambassador?!?

Since his arrival in Ethiopia last year, Mr. Booth has been pontificating on all sorts of things. Recently, he said that in East and the Horn of Africa the “military can play an important role in supporting positive change and stability”, and stressed the “need for the U.S. to build a strong and mutually beneficial partnership with African countries.” During his confirmation hearing last year, Mr. Booth promised Africa Subcommittee Chair Senator Russ Feingold he would look into  allegations of human rights abuses in the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia.  In December 2010,  he journeyed to Dire Dawa in the Ogaden region to deliver books, inspect drilling projects and celebrate the renovation of the Teferi Mekonnen Palace in Harar. He did not have time to stop by and chat about war crimes and crimes against humanitywith the Ogadenis. What a shame!

A few years ago when we undertook a broad advocacy effort to help pass H.R. 2003 (Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act), the idea was to leverage U.S. aid to promote respect for human rights, institutionalize the rule of law and strengthen democratic institutions and processes in Ethiopia, very much the types of things Ambassador Ling was talking about. Among the key provisions of H.R. 2003 included:

Release and/or speedy trial of all political prisoners in the country.

Prosecution of persons who have committed gross human rights violations.

Provision of financial support to strengthen human rights and civil society groups.

Support for the creation of an independent judiciary and growth of an independent media.

Facilitation of access to the Ogaden region by humanitarian organizations.

Strengthening of local, regional, and national legislative bodies.

Support for dialogue and negotiated settlement of political disputes.

Support for civil society groups and election comission.

Spring in North Africa, Still Winter in Sub-Sahara Africa

The events in North Africa may have taught the U.S. and the West a few lessons. First, their “expert analysis” could be terribly wrong. It is perfectly possible for a peaceful, popular uprising to overthrow decades-old dictatorships. Second, the West cannot afford to blindly support African dictators in the name of “stability”. A powder keg is stable until the fuse is ignited. It took the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi to trigger the explosion of the Tunisian powder keg. Dormant political volcanoes do erupt unpredictably, and it did in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria. Countries like Ethiopia may seem peaceful and dormant but they remain firmly within the North African “ring of fire”. The compressed powder keg of ethnic grievances, seething anger over injustices and accumulated resentment and bitterness will explode without warning. What is happening in North Africa and the Middle East today is a bellwether of what is likely to happen in the Horn and the rest of Africa.

U.S. policy has been consistent in supporting African dictators come hell or high water. The challenge for U.S. policy in Africa will be how it should respond to youth cynicism and disillusionment with dictatorship. Young Africans are sick of the corruption, cronyism, patronage, favoritism and abuse of power of the self-absorbed dictators. Sooner or later Africa’s youth “bulge” will burst and sweep away the decaying African dictatorships. Can African youths  rely on President Obama’s promise who, in reassuring Egyptian youth said: “A new generation, your generation who want their voices to be heard, and so going forward we want those young people and all Egyptians to know America will continue to do everything we can to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy in Egypt.” Will America support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy in Ethiopia, Kenya, Ivory Coast, the Sudan… ? Listening to Mr. Booth, the answer is a resounding “Hell, No!”

When the Americans issued their Declaration of Independence from England in 1776, they protested the “absolute tyranny and despotism” of the “present King of Great Britain” in the American colonies. It is refreshing to hear an English ambassador protest absolute tyranny and despotism in Ethiopia in 2011 and speak boldly about ending aid to it and all other tyrannical African regimes.

Money Talks and Everything Else Walks

Few Africans have illusions about Western condemnation of African dictators and promises of support for democracy, freedom and human rights. Perhaps the “doomsday” in North Africa is giving the West a new perspective on blindly supporting dictators. Regardless, it is refreshing to hear straight diplomatic talk like Ambassador Ling’s (though honest diplomatic talk may be an oxymoron). The Yanks are actually very good when it comes to straight talk. They say, “Talk is cheap.” When they really want to drive the point home, they say “Put your money where your mouth is.”  Ambassador Ling says, “No money for African dictators!” I say, right on! “Now, put your money where your mouth is!”

Previous commentaries by the author are available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/ and http://open.salon.com/blog/almariam/

 

 

Ethiopians overwhelm Mozambique refuge camps

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Thousands of Ethiopian and Somali asylum seekers trying to make their way to South Africa have been marooned in overcrowded camps in northern Mozambique since the government introduced measures limiting their movements.

The Maratane Refugee Camp in Nampula Province, which normally accommodates around 5,500 long-term residents from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Rwanda, now has a population of over 10,000, while an additional 1,000 asylum seekers are staying at a temporary site in the coastal town of Palma, near the border with Tanzania.

“We did our best to expand facilities – building additional shelters, [drilling] boreholes, and by procuring food and non-food items, but given the sheer volume of the numbers, we’re obviously overwhelmed,” said Girma Gebre-Kristos, country representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Mozambique.

A steady stream of Ethiopians and Somalis started arriving in Mozambique in 2010, mostly by boat, but as long as the number of new arrivals at the Maratane Camp roughly equalled the number of departures, authorities were able to cope, Gebre-Kristos told IRIN.

However, this changed unexpectedly at the beginning of 2011, when the number of new arrivals increased significantly and the government of Mozambique put in place strict measures controlling the movements of asylum seekers outside the camp.

Gebre-Kristos said groups of Somalis and Ethiopians making their way south towards the border with South Africa had been picked up by police and returned to Maratane.

Aderito Matangala, acting head of the National Institute for Refugee Assistance (INAR), the local government counterpart of UNHCR, explained that while the law in Mozambique allowed asylum seekers freedom of movement, they first had to complete a registration process at the camp, which took three months.

“The existing law gives [asylum seekers] freedom of movement even before being granted refugee status,” Matangala told IRIN, and many Somali and Ethiopian asylum seekers chose to come to Mozambique because of its reputation for treating refugees well.

“My personal view is that not all of them want to go to South Africa,” he said, noting that some of the new arrivals were economic migrants rather than genuine asylum seekers.

Reports in recent weeks that the local police commander in Palma had deported about 150 Somali and Ethiopian asylum seekers to Tanzania, and that four Somali asylum-seekers were shot dead by border police on 29 April in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique’s most northerly province, suggest that police and immigration officials are not always aware of their country’s obligations to asylum seekers. The government is investigating the shooting and the deportations.

UNHCR and INAR are appealing for help to deal with the food, shelter, water and sanitation needs of the new arrivals in Maratane and Palma. So far the World Food Programme and the Mozambique Red Cross have stepped in with contributions of tents and food.

However, the situation in Palma remains dire. The camp is located next to a swampy, mosquito-infested area with no potable water, but Gebre-Kristos said an alternative location had been identified and would be ready soon.

Besides a lack of infrastructure, the Maratane Camp is struggling to balance the needs of the new arrivals with those of more established residents from the Great Lakes region, many of whom are involved in self-reliance projects and no longer need food assistance.

By contrast, said Gebre-Kristos, the newer residents were often “frustrated and angry young men who think their journey to South Africa has been interrupted”.

(Source: IRIN)

The four factors that must concide for toppling a Dictator

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Broad-based popular mobilization is difficult to achieve because it requires bridging the disparate interests of the urban and rural poor, the middle class, students, professionals, and different ethnic or religious groups… [read more]

In memory of Ethiopian patriot, Sultan Alimirah

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

By Amb. Kadafo Mohamed Hanfare

Sultan Ali Mirah Hanfare (1921 – 2011) was born in Awsa, Ethiopia in a village called Fursee. He was born to father, Hanfare Aydahis and mother Hawy Omar In the early 1920s. His grandfather Mohammed Hanfare Illalta was a famous king of Afar who participated in the Adwa battle with the Emperor Minilik against the Italians. He also defeated the invading Egyptian army led by Ismail Basha to conquer Ethiopian lands. Sultan Alimirah himself, as a young man in Awsa, joined the group of young Ethiopians who resisted the Italian occupation of Ethiopia. After the defeat of Italy by the Ethiopians, Sultan Alimirah together with his brother in law Yayo Hamadu were amongst the Afar people who welcomed the victorious return of the Emperor HaileSelassie in Addis Ababa.

At that time Mohamed Yayo, the uncle of Sultan Alimirah, was the Sultan of Awsa. The Afar elders, however, including Yayo Hamadu, suggested that the young Alimirah replace his uncle as Amoyta (Sultan). Emperor HaileSelassie accepted their recommendation and gave the title of Dajazmach to Sultan Alimirah and the title of Fitawrare to his brother-in-law Yayo Hamadu. He also gave them a well trained brigade from his bodyguard army, headed by a general in case Sultan Mohamed resisted to handover power to his nephew. After several days of journeying, they arrived in Aysaita in the dark of the night. They spent the night in Aysaita while Sultan Alimirah stayed behind. Fitawrari Yayo Hamadu and his followers together with the trained military officers who accompanied them, left for Hinale, where the palace of Sultan Mohamed was located. The next morning, however, the resistance they were faced with was not as expected. They found Sultan Mohamed sick on his bed. So the military officers who accompanied Sultan Alimirah took Sultan Mohammed to Addis Ababa while Hamadu stayed behind.

In 1945, Sultan Alimirah officially became the Amoyta (Sultan) of the Afar people. What happened to Sultan Mohamed Yayo, however, is a story that will be discussed some other time.

After becoming the Sultan, Alimirah was faced with several challenges. His aim was to create a peaceful and united environment for all Ethiopians everywhere, and for the Afar people, in particular. He worked to bring modern education, agricultural and economical development to the towns in Awsa. Towards the end of the 1960s Awsa became a prosperous area in Ethiopia. A lot of Afars became cotton farmers and settled in Aysaita, Dubti, Baadu and Daat Bahari. Many Ethiopians from the other regions also became farmers and settled in several areas of the Afar region. The sultan established The Awsa Farmers Association and borrowed money from the Addis Ababa bank, whose general manager, Ato Debebe Yohanes, was the his personal friend. Together they invested a lot of money in Awsa and the Baadu areas, also distributing money amongst farmers. At that time, Awsa was known as the “little Kuwait” because of its prosperity.

In 1974 when the Derg took power in Addis Ababa and invaded Awsa in June of that year, the sultan left behind over 60 tractors, 8 bulldozers and 3 Cessna planes. One of the three Cessna planes was piloted by the Sultan’s cousin, a trained Afar pilot by the name of Hanfare Ali Gaz.

Seventeen years later when Derg was defeated and the sultan returned to Ethiopia none of those things existed anymore, several people had been killed and many things destroyed. The sultan tried to start from scratch but things were very tough.

In 1972, Sultan Alimirah was invited to visit the USA by the USAID through the State Department visitors program. I was one of the 3 Afars who was fortunate to accompany his highness the Sultan. Myself, his personal assistant Ali Ibrahim Yusef, his personal advisor, Hashim Jamal Ashami, interpreter, the sultan himself and the state department escort all visited 15 states during our stay.

One of the 15 states we visited was Chicago, Illinois, were the sultan visited operation push, later called the Rainbow coalition which was led by Jesse Jackson, a well known African American activist at that time. When the Sultan arrived there, he was given a standing ovation as he talked about the Ethiopian history and his admiration of the leadership of Emperor HaileSelassie. The sultan was extremely impressed by this. The Sultan also visited, Elijah Mohamed, leader of “The Black Muslims” at that time and also met several state department officials. On our visit to Lubbock, Texas, we were given Honorary American citizenship by the mayor of the city.

The American government, and the American people we visited with the late sultan were very welcoming and greeted us with great hospitality. The sultan expressed his extreme gratitude to the government of America and its people to the United States Ambassador in Addis Ababa at that time. Very impressed with his visit, he called America the land of “milk and healthy young people.”

As we went to the different states, the sultan was constantly asking if any Ethiopians lived there. In those days, however, not many Ethiopian lived in the States, but we met many students at the several universities we visited. Forty-five days later the sultan left to visit London while I stayed behind to continue my education at the American University in Washington D.C. After His visit to London the Sultan returned back home.

In 1974, when the Derg came to power, Sultan Ali Mirah, being the reasonable man that he was, tried to reach some kind of understanding with the Derg leaders. Briefly he did succeed in reaching an understanding with the Derg when General Amman Andom was the leader. Unexpectedly, however, the Derg killed General Amman Andom and over 60 Ethiopian officials overnight. After that it became clear to him that it was impossible for him to work with them. The Sultan left Ethiopia through Djibouti to settle in Saudi Arabia, where King Khalid welcomed him and fifty of his followers.

During his stay in Saudi Arabia, he established The Afar Liberation Front (ALF) that was fighting the Derg regime for 17 years alongside TPLF, OLF, ELF, EPLF and several other Ethnic groups fighting against the Derg dictatorship.

In 1991, after the fall of the Derg dictatorship, the sultan returned to Ethiopia and attended the July 1991 Conference together with his two sons Hanfare and Ahmed Alimirah as representatives of ALF and the rest of the Afar people. I attended the conference as an Observer.

At the opening of the conference, the Sultan discovered that the Eritrean leaders did not wish to participate in the conference as representatives but as observers. This he later understood was because of their wish to create a separate nation. This was new to the sultan as he believed that after fighting Derg for so long, that they all had the same intention of creating a peaceful, democratic, united country with equality for all, but he was alarmed to see that this wasn’t the case. To argue the point with the rest of the conference members, he raised his hand to be recognized and to state his opinion. When the chairman refused to recognize his presence and allow him to speak, the sultan grabbed a microphone from beside him and said:

In my opinion this conference was not to dismember Ethiopia but to unite Ethiopia. A conference that discusses how to achieve, equality,justice,democracy and good governance for all Ethiopians. The Ethiopian people expect us to come out of this conference with a new government and democracy not two different nations.”

Isaias Afwerki, then leader of Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, stormed out of the room in anger.

The sultan then continued by saying that, “if Eritreans were allowed a referendum for their future that Ethiopians should also be allowed to decide, voices of the Afar people should have particular significance, as a part of Afar land was part of the Eritrean province. He also claimed that he never wished to see Ethiopia landlocked.”

The sultan lived everyday for Ethiopian unity and his loss was mourned by all of Ethiopia and neighboring countries.

I would like to take this opportunity as a dear family member and a dear friend of the sultan to thank all of those who have expressed their condolences through various means. I would like to personally assure all Ethiopians that we, the family of the Sultan – The Afar people, will follow in his footsteps and work for the peace and unity of the Ethiopian People!

(The writer can be reached at Kadafoh@hotmail.com)

Distorted ethnic federalism in Ethiopia

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

By Mohamed Hassen

In 1991, as the result of military ruling collapsed, Ethiopia established a federal system creating largely ethnic-based territorial units, its framers claiming they have found a formula to achieve ethnic and regional autonomy, while maintaining the state as political unit. The initial process of federalization lasted four years, and was formalized in a new constitution in 1995. The Ethiopian ethnic federal system is significant in that it provides for secession of any ethnic unit.

The leading party EPRDF consisted of four parties; although, TPLF led the regime. TPLF working hand-and-gloves with Eritrea rebel at the time had deliberately designed a controversial article 39 so that EPLF should have created its own government and it succeeded to make Ethiopia a country without a port.

The secession clause is one of the most controversial issues in public discourse in Ethiopia and its Diasporas communities today. The TPLF and EPLF soldiers had disarmed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and put them in jail; even though, the honey moon of TPLF and EPLF did last for a short period and we all knew that they had bloody war that claimed the lives of 70 thousands innocent people in 2000.

Opponents of ethnic federalism fear that it invites ethnic conflict and risks state disintegration. The Ethiopian state, they worry, may face the same fate as the USSR and Yugoslavia. Others, of an ethno nationalist persuasion, doubt the government’s real commitment to self-determination; they support the ethnic federal constitution per se, but claim that it has not been put into practice. To many critics, the federal state is a de facto one-party state in which ethnic organizations are mere satellites of one ethnic organization, the Tigray Peoples Liberationits Front (hereafter referred to as TPLF), the leading unit in the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (hereafter referred to as EPRDF). Finally, those who consider Ethiopia to be a colonial empire sees the federal exercise as yet another colonial trick, and advocate “decolonization.” Supporters of ethnic federalism point out that it has maintained the unity of the Ethiopian peoples and the territorial integrity of the state, while providing full recognition to the principle of ethnic equality. It is important to examine objectively whether ethnic federalism is a viable way of resolving conflict between ethno nationalism and state nationalism. Now that the ethnic federal experiment is more than two decades old, it is possible to make a tentative evaluation of its performance. According to a reliable data, the ethnic conflicts have been exacerbated in the last two decades and more conflicts have been emerged in Ethiopia. The main ones are Somalis against Oromo, Oromo against Harari, Afar against Somalis and within Somalis, etc. ,

I posed a key question, not only about the conflict but about whether the current liberation fronts be it OLF, or ONLF should have the controversial secession sentiment is valid: “The question has hovered over Ethiopia Federal System from the moment the Deg regime collapsed whether TPLF, EPLF, ONLF or ONLF join their cousins fighting in its zone: Was the battle for Ethiopian power the clash of a brutal dictator against democratic opposition fronts, or was it fundamentally a tribal civil war?” The brute answer was a tribal civil war and all the fronts have shown their ugly heads once they got a power seat.

This is the essential question because there are two kinds of school of thoughts in Ethiopia: “real united country approach” with long histories in its territory and strong national identities (Amhara, Tigray, Oromo, Somali, Afar, Gurague etc); and those that might be called “tribes with bullets approach,” or more artificial regions with boundaries drawn in sharp straight lines by TPLF’s pen. Those have been trapped inside their regional borders myriad tribes and sects who have volunteered to live together for centuries and have fully melded into a unified family of citizens if they are not organized along the nation and nationalities line.

They are Somali Region, Afar Region, Amhara Region, Trigray Region, and Oromo Region to name a few. The nations and nationalities and sects that make up these more artificial regions have long been held together by the iron fist of EPRDF, kings or military dictators. They are no real “citizens” in the modern sense. They have been asked to forcefully endorsed the identity of their nation origin aka balkanization of apartheid South Africa.

The balkanization disease has not only gone through the people in homeland, but Ethiopians who live in Diaspora. On April 9, and 10, Ethiopian officials visited 14 cities in North America and discussed the so-called Growth Transformation Plan. According to a reliable information that I got from Minnesota, clash of clans had surfaced among the Somalis.

The President of Somali Region Abdi Mohamud Omar had welcomed his own sub clan Ali Ysuuf of Ogadeni and did not want to see any other Somali clans who inhabited in Somali Region. These had a created a tension among the six other Somali clans had formed an organization to fight under the banner of unity of Ethiopia and distanced themselves from the ethnicization. On one occasion, the President of Somali Abdi Mohamudd Omar had insulted the counselors in Washington DC Embassy because they did give a preference to his own sub-clan during the conference. It seems that the Meles regime is doing deliberately to foment tribal conflict so that he elongated his Power. For instance, Somali Region President has spent 90, thousands dollars during his visit to North America, but two millions Ethiopian Somalis are on the brink of starvation in Somali Region. The same thing is going in Somali Region. Many Somali clans had sent a letters of complain to the Federal Government. This attested how much the introduction of article 39 and zoning had destroyed the fabric of Ethiopian society. The people of Ethiopia had lived for centuries, intermarried and fought together to make Ethiopia a land that had never colonized. Currently, ONLF, OLF and G7 political Organizations are meeting in North America and we urged them to focus on the unity of Ethiopia to dismantle the dictatorial regime of Meles Zenawi and to echo the uprising of Arab World.

Finally, sadly, we can’t afford to divide Ethiopia along nations and nationalities line. We have got to get to work on our own country. If the Diaspora is ready to take some big, hard, urgent, decisions, shouldn’t they be first about fighting for freedom, justice and rule of law in Ethiopia? Shouldn’t he first be forging a real unity that will go beyond nations narrow outlook that weakens all the the unity and true Ethiopian identity and a budget policy that secures the Ethiopian dream for another generation? Once those are in place, I will follow the Meles and his gang to be routed out from the power seat as Mubarek and Ben Ali had been relegated to the history bin.

(The writer can be reached at mohamedhassen91@yahoo.com)

Inflation rate in Ethiopia rose to 30 percent

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

ADIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s year-on-year inflation rate rose for a second straight month to 29.5 percent in April, from 25.0 percent a month earlier, driven by a sharp rise in food prices, the statistics agency said on Tuesday.

“The total price index of cereals in April 2011 has increased by 14.6 percent as compared to the same month last year, which significantly contributed to the rise in the indices of food and the general consumer price index,” the Central Statistical Agency said in a statement.

Ethiopia’s regime has imposed price ceilings on more than a dozen commodities including some essential foodstuffs. Food accounts for just over 57 percent of the basket used to measure the inflation rate.

Regime officials have accused traders of artificially inflating food prices on the back of higher global prices and a September devaluation of the birr currency ETB=.

Ethiopia is grappling with rising inflation like other countries in Africa, including Uganda where spiraling food and fuel prices have led to protests.

(Reporting by Aaron Masho; Editing by Richard Lough and Susan Fenton)

Ethiopia: An Imaginary Conversation with Nelson Mandela

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Alemayehu G. Mariam

The Triumphalism of African Dictators

There is nothing that is both amusing and annoying than the chest-beating triumphalism of Africa’s tin pot dictators. This past February, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda lectured a press conference: “There will be no Egyptian-like revolution here. … We would just lock them up. In the most humane manner possible, bang them into jails land that would be the end of the story.” That is to say, if you crack a few heads and kick a few behinds, Africans will bow down and fall in line. Museveni must have been a protégé of Meles Zenawi, the dictator-in-chief in Ethiopia. In 2005, troops under the direct control and command of Zenawi shot dead at least 193 unarmed demonstrators, wounded an additional 763 and jailed over 30 thousand following elections that year. That was the “end of the story” for Zenawi. Or was it?

In March of this year, Zenawi reaffirmed his 99.6 percent electoral victory in the May 2010 elections and ruled out an “Egyptian-like revolution” by proclaiming a contractual right (read birthright) to cling to power: “When the people gave us a five year contract, it was based on the understanding that if the EPDRF party (Zenawi’s party) does not perform the contract to expectations it would be kicked out of power. No need for hassles. The people can judge by withholding their ballots and chase EPDRF out of power. EPDRF knows it and the people know it too.” For Zenawi, electoral politics is a business deal sealed in contract. Every ballot dropped (and stuffed) in the box is the equivalent of an individual signature in blood on an iron clad five-year contract.

Following the recent uprisings, the delirious 42-year dictator of Libya jabbered, “Muammar Gaddafi is the leader of the revolution, I am not a president to step down… This is my country. Muammar is not a president to leave his post, Muammar is leader of the revolution until the end of time.” Simply stated: Muammar Gaddafi is president-for-life!

In 2003, Robert Mugabe, the self-proclaimed Hitler of Zimbabwe, shocked the world by declaring: “I am still the Hitler of the times. This Hitler has only one objective: Justice for his people. Sovereignty for his people. If that is Hitler, right, then let me be a Hitler ten-fold.” In Mein Kampf, the self-proclaimed leader (Der Fuhrer) of the “master race” wrote blacks are “monstrosities halfway between man and ape.” Africans have deep respect for their elders because they believe wisdom comes with age. Sadly, the 87 year-old Mugabe is living proof of the old saying, “There is no fool like an old fool.”

What makes African dictators so mindlessly arrogant, egotistically self-aggrandizing, delusionally contemptuous, hopelessly megalomaniacal and sociopathically homicidal? More simply: What the hell is wrong with African dictators?!?

Seeking to answer this question, I conducted an imaginary interview with Africa’s greatest, most respected and universally-loved leader, Nelson (Madiba) Rolihlahla Mandela. The answers below are quotations pieced together from President Mandela’s books, public statements, speeches, interviews, court proceedings and other publications and materials.

An Imaginary Conversation With President Nelson Mandela

Q. President Mandela, many African leaders believe they can cling to power forever by “locking up” their enemies and “banging” them in jail, shooting them in the streets and waging a sustained psychological campaign of fear and intimidation against their people. Is peaceful change possible in Africa?

A. “The government has interpreted the peacefulness of the movement as a weakness: the people’s non-violent policies have been taken as a green light for government violence. Refusal to resort to force has been interpreted by the government as an invitation to use armed force against the people without any fear of reprisals…

Neither should it ever happen that once more the avenues to peaceful change are blocked by usurpers who seek to take power away from the people, in pursuit of their own, ignoble purposes.

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner. It always seems impossible until it is done.”

Q. Many African leaders “lead” by intimidating, arbitrarily  arresting, torturing and murdering their people. What are the leadership qualities Africa  needs?

A.  “I always remember the axiom: a leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind. Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.

As a leader… I have always endeavored to listen to what each and every person in a discussion had to say before venturing my own opinion. Oftentimes, my own opinion will simply represent a consensus of what I heard in the discussion.

This [first democratic election for all South Africans] is one of the most important moments in the life of our country. I stand here before you filled with deep pride and joy – pride in the ordinary, humble people of this country. You have shown such calm, patient determination to reclaim this count. I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.”

Quitting is leading too.”

Q. Many African leaders today believe they are “supermen” who have a birthright to rule their people as they wish. Does this concern you?

A. “That was one of the things that worried me – to be raised to the position of a semi-god – because then you are no longer a human being. I wanted to be known as Mandela, a man with weaknesses, some of which are fundamental, and a man who is committed, but, nevertheless, sometimes fails to live up to expectations.”

Q. You have spent  many decades in prison. Do you have any regrets for all the sacrifices you have made?

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for. But, my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Q. There are African leaders who say democracy and freedom must be delayed and rationed to the people in small portions to make way for development. Can freedom be rationed?

A. “There is no such thing as part freedom.”

Q. What is at the end of the rainbow of freedom?

A. “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”

Q. One African leader takes great pride in comparing himself to Adolf Hitler, the iconic symbol of hate in modern human history. Why are so many African leaders filled with so much hatred, malice and bitterness?

A.  “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Q. Do you believe an election is a contract between Africa’s iron-fisted rulers and the people?

A. “Only free men can negotiate, prisoners can’t enter in contracts.”

Q. What can Africans do to liberate themselves from the scourge of dictatorship?

A. “No single person can liberate a country. You can only liberate a country if you act as a collective.”

Q. Why are so many well-off Africans afraid to take a stand against dictatorship, human rights violations and  corruption on the continent?

A. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us: it’s in everyone. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Q. How can African intellectuals contribute to the struggle for democracy, human rights and accountability in the continent?

A: “A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”

Q. What is the one important thing young Africans need to guarantee a bright future for themselves and the continent?

A. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president…”

Q. What is you dream for Africa and humanity in general?

A.  “I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself. I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent. I dream of our vast deserts, of our forests, of all our great wildernesses.

Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another. If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.

This must be a world of democracy and respect for human rights, a world freed from the horrors of poverty, hunger, deprivation and ignorance, relieved of the threat and the scourge of civil wars and external aggression and unburdened of the great tragedy of millions forced to become refugees.”

Q. What are the choices facing the people of Africa today?

A. “The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means within our power in defense of our people, our future and our freedom.”

Thank you, President Mandela. May you live for a thousand years!  Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. (God Bless Africa.)

Previous commentaries by the author are available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/ andhttp://open.salon.com/blog/almariam/

 

 

 

Allow Red Cross access to Ogaden

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

PRESS RELEASE

Reports coming out of Ethiopia indicate that the mass arrest of the Oromos has continued unabated. Meles is engaged in a witch-hunt strategy to destroy any form of opposition to his dictatorship. Like most desperate dictators in North Africa and the Middle East he unsuccessfully attempted to associate the emerging new pro democracy movement with foreign forces.

The naked truth is that the minority dictatorial regime that has been in power for 20 years through brute force and fraudulent elections is severely threatened by the uprising that is brewing all over Ethiopia. Civil resistance is slowly but surely spreading in almost every part of the country. Like the dictators in the Middle East and North Africa, Meles is trying to deflect public attention by preposterously linking the pro-democracy movement in side Ethiopia and in the Diaspora with foreign forces.

The Global Civic Movement for Change in Ethiopia (GCMCE) strongly condemns the latest political machination of the Zenawi regime, demands the immediate halt to the mass arrests, egregious human rights violations in the Ogaden, Oromia, and other regions, calls for the unconditional release of all political prisoners and the resignation of Meles Zenawi so that it paves the way for the formation of a Transitional Government.

We also call on the regime to allow the International Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations to resume their operations in the Ogaden and other drought affected areas of Ethiopia.

Beka! Enough! Geye! Yeakel! Bass! Aloni! Ditteh! Wetandeem! Gides!

Freedom, justice, equality for the People of Ethiopia! Victory to the people of Ethiopia!

For more information contact: Ethiopians.say.beka@gmail.com

Global Civic Movement for Change in Ethiopia

Democracy, Freedom, Liberty, Unity Shall Prevail in Ethiopia

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

PRESS RELEASE
Ethiopian Youth Movement

The Ethiopian youth is once again determined to make history. We have unanimously decided to conduct tactical campaign strategy and remove the despotic regime that has been in power for more than 20 years through brute force and fraudulent elections. In 1974 the popular revolution that overthrew the age old imperial regime was led by the youth. It was the result of the sustained struggle of the Ethiopian student movement that culminated in a popular revolution. After the 1974 revolution, the Ethiopian youth vehemently fought the military regime, and paid dearly. The sacrifice required retreat and change of strategy. In 1991, the youth managed to remove the military dictatorship. Unfortunately like the 1974 revolution, the 1991 revolution was hijacked by poor leaders and blood thirsty Marxist dictators that used ethnic differences as a card to impose an apartheid type minority rule. Today the Ethiopian youth faces severe hardship, has little sense of national cohesion, and is living with grim future. It is facing high unemployment, mass migration, bad education, eviction from its ancestral land to give way to land to foreigners and lost its God given liberty.

On the positive side, there is hope. We are fully aware that our destiny is in our hands. We are also inspired by our peers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere. There is no reason why we cannot have the Arab uprising in Ethiopia. We can have an Ethiopian Spring that addresses the root causes of bad governance. Therefore, we have resolved to bring the torch to Ethiopia, and liberate the country from the minority dictatorship that has been in power for more than 20 years.

To this effect, the youth wings of major political organizations have agreed to work for peaceful change, with the main objective of creating a platform in bringing the Ethiopian youth together, to network and build solidarity, brainstorm ideas, strategize long term and short term plans to shape the political, social and economic future of Ethiopia. We want to contribute to peace and development not only in Ethiopia but in the Horn of Africa. We want to resolve the Nile River issue with a win win situation for all countries. Our aim is to promote democracy and end minority rule through peaceful resistance. It is to promote equality, justice, unity and mutual respect among all Ethiopians. The Ethiopian Youth Movement is an independent network with structures in most parts of Ethiopia, and in the Diaspora. It has been operating for sometime. It is an action oriented movement that does not aspire to hold a political office. Our movement rejects all forms of extremism.

In the short term, the struggle will focus on removing the dictatorship through peaceful resistance. The struggle period can be short or a protracted one. It aims to minimize the level of sacrifice. Our struggle is not against the ordinary TPLF members or the Ethiopian Defense Forces. It is against the TPLF cabal, the violators of human rights and corrupt officials. We have an excellent relationship with the global youth movement. Our short term aim is to help the formation of a Transitional Government that prepares the country for an unfettered free and fair election.

The Transitional Government, in addition to preparing the country for a free and fair election, shall maintain law and order, and defend the unity and territorial integrity of the country during the transition period. It shall have no hidden agenda. The Ethiopian Youth Movement therefore fully supports the recently issued press statement of the National Oromian Youth Movement, and calls upon the removal of Meles Zenawi from power. We support the suspension of the constitution and the abolition of the rubber stamp parliament of TPLF.

No amount of suppression and propaganda shall confuse the Ethiopian youth from its target. We are very happy to announce that the peaceful resistance for change will start on May 28, 2011. We call upon Ethiopian students, farmers, workers, civil servants, businessmen and women, professionals, political organizations, civic organizations, religious leaders, and men and women in the uniform to join the youth movement to remove the dictatorship. We also call upon all armed and clandestine opposition forces to declare cease fire and support the peaceful struggle.

The struggle for democracy and unity shall continue!

Ethiopian Youth Movement

E-mail: ethiorevolution@gmail.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=107472902664461

Seventy years ago today

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

By Tsehai Berhanse-Selassie

5 May 2011

Seventy years ago, Ethiopians won the war against colonial aggression by their archenemy Fascist Italy. For a people conscious of its history, seventy years is not far, and for Ethiopians the sorrows, destruction and glories associated with the five-year war are still fresh in their memories. As a tribute to the patriotic resistance fighters, this write-up presents their perspective with the purpose of reminding the current generation some of what our ancestors approved or disliked in relating to foreign allies. There are two points I wish to highlight. One of them is that the fighters acknowledged British help, but they were essentially proud of their own resistance to Italian presence. To the end of their days, they insisted that they fought a war of invasion from 1935 to 1940/41; their country was not occupied despite a foreign army that they managed to dislodge eventually. The other point of emphasize here is that Ethiopians were aware of contemporary episodes that were used for asserting negative views about their political processes.

Italy crushed an Ethiopian army at Maichew in October 1935 and took the capital on 5 May, but the southern Ethiopian war front of Sidamo*, Harar, Arsi and Bale, Ras Desta, Dajazmaches Gebre Matyam and Debay, Beyene Merid and others went on fighting until February 1937. Ras Imiru, with members of young standing army cadets, sustained an army and a government in Wellega and the west until June 1936. In and around the capital, resistance picked up as guerrilla warfare in September 1937 and kept going until 1941. The same type of warfare was conducted in Gojam, Begemder, Wello and parts of Tigre, more or less throughout the same time. Far from extracting colonial wealth, the invader had to maintain a substantial fighting force at a heavy cost to Italy itself.

The United Nations has declared that five-year war as the beginning of World War II. When it ended in Ethiopia in 1940/41, it escalated elsewhere because Fascist Italy joined Germany and Japan to contest world superiority. On top of its provocation in Europe, Italian air force bombed towns along the Kenyan border and even took Galbat and Kassala on the Ethiopian Sudanese border in June and July of 1940. In a well-known historical saga, the British Middle East Command, especially General Platt in Sudan, General Cunningham in Nairobi and the French in Djibouti wanted to use the Ethiopian warriors against the Italians. Their purpose was to ‘mop up’ Italians from their African military bases and secure the Red Sea. The British authorities in Sudan reached out to the fighters along the Ethiopian Sudanese border, and gave them uniforms and supplies. So did those in Kenya and the French Djibouti.

How the British and their agents engaged Ethiopians in dialogue is a fascinating historical episode that has some relevance to contemporary attempts of approaching westerners concerning the country. At the time, only a few held the once wide-spread belief that the League of Nations would help Ethiopia against their aggressor. Indeed, those on the side of the British mission reported that they had difficulty in winning over the confidence of the fighters. Some were highly suspicious that they would only change one European aggressor for another. Others distrusted the claim that the emperor was returning with a British force. Those who finally accepted British offer of help, did so because they strongly believed that the Emperor would have the upper hand in making final decisions on Italian or any other European presence in Ethiopia. They saw the role of the British as marginal to the war effort to throw out the Italians.

Most fighters rejected the offer preferring to take their commands from the emperor. Leaders such as Amoraw Wubneh (styled ras by his followers) told the British in Gedaref “What is the difference to me. White are White, be they British or Italians or British”. Even news of the emperor’s imminent arrival in their midst did not help the British mission that was sent to coordinate the warriors’ efforts. Thus, Lij Belay Zeleke (whose bravery had obliged his followers to style him “emperor by his own might”) would not shake hands with a member of the British mission that had reached his camp in Gojam. In Kenya, General Cunningham had to restrain some Ethiopian exiles who refused to fight under the command of British colonial officers. Only the exiles in Djibouti were happy to fight the enemy as long as the French authorities cooperated with them.

The history of the British involvement in the war in Ethiopia adds another interesting aspect to foreign involvement in the affairs of the country. Once General Cunningham launched the attack against the Italians, he found that the Italians were much weakened in the south. He soon reached the center, and on April 4 had the Royal Air Force bomb the airport where it destroyed 32 planes; the following day, he entered the Addis Ababa. His use of weapons and military force from British territorial holdings in southern Africa was minimal cost to the British. The Ethiopian resistance had already carried the critical cost of dislodging the Italian forces.

Whatever the British thought they were doing in Ethiopia, the Ethiopians accompanying them were made to understand that they were only receiving assistance in their struggle against the Italians. They were easing the advance of the British columns to the capital and beyond, whether they were coming from the north and west or from the south. Later, however, the British put a facile twist of military diplomacy, with a dash of racism particularly from their military bases of their Southern African colonies, and claimed that their relationship with the fighters was one of ‘inciting a rebellion’ in the Italian ‘colony’.

This was a negation of the spirit of Ethiopian sovereignty, and with General Cunningham’s dash to enter the capital symbolically expressed it. Haile Selassie and the resistance fighters were deliberately delayed. The resistance fighters, including the famous Ras Abebe Aregai had hoped to stage a deservedly grand entry into the capital with the emperor in the lead. The same day that Cunningham arrived in Addis Ababa, Haile Selassie hoisted the Ethiopian flag in Debre Markos, Gojam. He and his warriors had to wait for until 5 May to enter the capital. British friends, who considered the emperor as a symbol of unity, also lauded that date as important for being the fifth anniversary of the emperor’s departure into exile five years before.

Once their forces from Sudan and Southern Africa overrun Ethiopia, they set to consolidating their victory over the Italian army. They dismantled its weapons, looted its administrative centers and took what they could carry to Kenya. The emperor and his government personnel had to engage in diplomatic maneuvers to finally get rid of British administrative and military personnel. Some of their administrative decisions included the attempt at forging territorial boundaries in the neighboring countries of North East Africa, notably Ethiopia and Somalia.

The resistance fighters never accepted Italian or any other claim that they had lost their sovereignty. They rejected British claims to liberate Ethiopia, and resented that Britain treated Ethiopia as an occupied territory. It has to be remembered that the British entered the war in Ethiopia as part of their strategy of denying German military holding in Rwanda-Urundi [later Rwanda] and Italian positions to Libya, Somalia, and Eritrea-Ethiopia. It was neither in aid of policing the region nor philanthropic. They knew Italy’s military expenditure was overtaxing it and that even sending troops to Ethiopia in order to ease internal social and economic crisis had outrun its usefulness as a propaganda ploy. Italy was a weak enemy, and the Ethiopian warriors were already giving it a hard time. As a strategy of making the weakened enemy fragile ever further, helping the emperor to link with the guerrilla fighters was vital.

To summarize: The historical episodes –the British agents engaging Ethiopians in dialogue and British involvement in the war in Ethiopia – have influenced the turn of some events in Ethiopian history. Indeed the British sentiment of inciting rebellion in Ethiopia was at work when the British Command in Sudan sent its agents to engage the Ethiopian warriors in a dialogue for cooperation. They were talking cross-purpose of what was at stake. The engagement in dialogue underlined the difficulties in what was to be seen as the rivalry between the resistance fighters who had stayed in county and the exiles. Those who fought the guerrilla wars looked down on the returned exiles; the latter of course were said to have the support of the chief exile, the emperor. It was a rivalry that was reflected in the less than harmonious administration of post-war Ethiopia. Sadly, a more profound legacy of British involvement in the war emanated from their subsequent administrative decisions on the basis of their claim that Ethiopia was their occupied territory. Their attempt at forging territorial boundaries left hostilities among people in the neighboring countries of North East Africa, notably Ethiopia and Somalia.

Both historical incidents have been cited also as basis for characterizing Ethiopians as suspicious of one another, and as a people who lack in coordinating their own efforts. Perhaps drawing parallels between the experiences of the resistance fighters had with the British and current generation of Ethiopians with the global community is unfair. However, there are lessons to be learnt from their negative consequences. Those heroic resistance fighters also used their diplomatic skills to dislodge foreign involvement in the name of war. Follow their example in such involvement in the name of contemporary rivalry for investment is entirely up to whether we seek to learn from our history.

(*place names are from the time.)

Tigray president started demolishing 5,000 houses in Mekele

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Ethiopian dictator Meles Zenawi’s puppet in the Tigray Region, Abay Woldu, has sent bulldozers today to demolish 5,000 houses, displacing over 15,000 people, including women, children and the elderly.

Abay did not provide shelter for the people, and they are now homeless. Many of those who protested the demolition have been savagely beaten up and thrown in jail. The fascist regime has also ordered over 40,000 residents in the southern Ethiopian town of Awassa to vacate their homes. Read more about the Mekele demolition in Amharic here.

DC police intercept 300 pounds of khat

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

The Washington Examiner reports that the DC police has found 300 lbs of khat after arresting an Ethiopian cafe owner. Khat is an illegal drug in the U.S., but it is widely consumed by members of the ruling party in Ethiopia, including the head of Woyanne junta Meles Zenawi. Read the report below by Scott McCabe:

Ethopian cafe owner arrested in major khat bust

khatWASHINGTON DC — District police charged the owner of an Ethiopian cafe with the illegal narcotic khat after investigators intercepted hundreds pounds of the leafy substance, which is used as a common stimulant in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Police recovered more than 300 pounds of khat that had a street value of more than $95,000, said Lt. John Haines of the 4th Police District.

The bust “removes a major drug traffic dealer” from the neighborhood north of Sherman Circle, Haines said in a statement.

Etana Shuremu, owner of the Dira Dawa Deli & Cafe, 5333 Georgia Ave. NW, has been charged with unlawful possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. No one answered the phone at the business Tuesday, and Shuremu’s attorney, Sara Kopecki, said she could not comment.

According to court documents, the investigation began in February when a D.C. police officer got a tip from a confidential informant that boxes of khat were being shipped from overseas to the Ethiopian cafe. Khat is a plant cultivated in Kenya and Ethiopia that is typically chewed like tobacco, though it can be smoked and sprinkled on food. In its fresh state, it’s classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under United States law, along with drugs like LSD, PCP and Ecstasy. The khat leaves typically start to break down within 48 hours and become a much lesser stimulant considered a Schedule IV drug.

The leafy substance was shipped in boxes labeled “green tea” from the United Kingdom, police said. The source told police that 15 to 20 boxes were delivered three or four times a week. The informant provided cardboard packaging that contained the “green tea” label with a clear plastic bag containing khat residue that had been found in the trash, documents said.

The officers learned that the business was about to receive a shipment of khat from two overseas locations in March. Investigators obtained a warrant to open five packages addressed to Shuremu at a U.S. postal facility before the boxes were delivered to the Diradawa cafe.

A Drug Enforcement Administration lab confirmed that the packages contained 230 pounds of khat, and that the dealers had devised a method to keep the khat fresh, documents said. Police executed another warrant at the store and recovered an additional 80 pounds.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/crime-punishment/2011/05/ethopian-cafe-owner-arrested-major-khat-bust#ixzz1LSdFteQU

The Nile Dam: Redemption or Deception of the TPLF regime?

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

By Getachew Begashaw

The government of Meles Zenawi has recently declared its plan to build a mega hydroelectric power dam along the Nile despite objections from concerned countries, especially Egypt. This dam will be built in the western part of Ethiopia, Benishangul Zone, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Sudan’s border. The government claims that the project will cost as much as 5 billion US dollars, which is about 85-90 billion Ethiopian birr. According to Zenawi, the construction of this dam can be completed without any foreign aid. In one of his televised interview with Yasin of Al-Hayat London Newspaper, he touted: “… it will not be impossible for 80 million people to contribute 80 billion Birr”. If the claims and estimates of Zenawi’s are to be taken seriously, the projected dam will produce about 5,250 MW of electric power and will be completed in 5 to 10 years. The project is announced amid the recent Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) controversy among the riparian states. According to the Alternative Energy Africa’s report, Egypt and Sudan are in partnership against all the signatories of the Entebbe agreement of the NBI that include Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Burundi.

Many Ethiopians are wondering why Zenawi’s regime decided to embark on this huge project that could have serious impact on peace, stability, and development of the country and the region. The general sentiment is captured in a paragraph of an article by an anonymous writer that appeared on Ethiomedia, May April 26, 2001:

Undoubtedly, given the topography of the Blue Nile valley, constructing a hydroelectric dam on it requires a high-level engineering technology not to speak of the billions of Birr it requires. Has Meles acquired donor funding for it? We know he hasn’t and in the deputy prime minister’s own admission they have not secured any funding; and it is highly unlikely that donors will ever fund it because of political reasons that can trigger the wrath of Egypt thereby affecting the Middle East peace process. Why choosing this risky business at this time? No funding, political risks: why risk it now? Is it really possible to build a dam of such scale without donors’ grants or loans from them but with contributions from the most impoverished people in the world and by selling bonds to them? We can discern from this that the purpose of the millennium project rhetoric is not development as it is neither serious nor feasible. By now, we can see the dominant feature of the political aspect in this project. It is indeed a political project aimed at deceiving the public and diverting their attention from a possible uprising.

In this paper I argue that, in addition to the above astute observation, Zenawi is cunningly using the project to perpetually milk the hard earned money of the Ethiopian people, including those in the Diaspora, for the foreseeable life of the project. The project not only will ensure kickbacks to Zenawi and his cronies from the no-bid contract awarded to Salini Costruttori, it is also conceived to generate a stream of revenue for TPLF through coercion to buy bond and lucrative contracts to the vast TPLF-held business conglomerate.

The implication for the Diaspora is particularly dire, since the naïve investors will be held hostage and be forced to buy more of the bond, to ensure the completion of the project and to redeem the bonds they have already bought. Indeed, this has been the indirect means of control the TPLF has exercised over our compatriots who have gone back to Ethiopia and have made some investments in real-estate and service industries.

Socio-Economic Consequences of Large Dams

Based on experiences with the construction and operation of large dams around the world, the benefits from these projects have been seriously questioned and challenged by numerous interest and focus groups, including locally affected people and global coalitions of environmental and human rights activists. Dorcey, in his book titled, large dams: learning from the past looking at the future, documents that the expected economic benefits of large dams are not realized and that major environmental, economic, and social costs are imposed on societies.1 In a related study, Scudder, a professor in Development Anthropology at California Institute of Technology and a World Bank’s senior environmental advisor, asserts that adverse social impacts of large dam constructions have been underestimated and that they have “unnecessarily lowered the living standards of millions of local people”.2. Further, the 1994 Manibeli Declaration, the 1997 Curitiba Declaration, and the 2002 Posada Declaration, along with several other declarations, called for a moratorium on the World Bank funding and reparations for those affected by the constructions of large dams.

In a rigorous empirical study of a large dam construction that has many similarities with that of Ethiopia’s proposed Nile dam, Lin and Schuster3 studied the problem of hydroelectricity development for the Grand Inga Project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with particular reference to ownership of land and water, policy assumptions behind development of the project, public works construction, socio-economic development, and environmental conservations. They concluded that investment in hydroelectricity fails to stimulate economic development within the Democratic Republic of Congo because of the following reasons:

… [t]he investment in the Inga-Shaba project … did not lead to socio-economic development in DRC due to political instability and mismanagement of public finance and resources, which result from the failure of the political regime to develop institutions and laws that (1) involve stakeholders in the formulation of national natural resources policies, (2) distribute benefits from exploitation of natural resources in ways that are perceived as equitable and legitimate by regional stakeholders, (3) ensures public accountability in public investment, … and (4) use of military in political disputes”.

In a separate study, the International Rivers group reports that Africa’s large dams have consistently been built at the expense of rural communities, who have been forced to sacrifice their lands and livelihoods to them and yet have reaped few benefits. Large dams in Sudan, Senegal, Kenya, Zambia/Zimbabwe and Ghana have brought considerable social, environmental and economic damage to Africa, and have left a trail of “development–induced poverty” in their wake. Project benefits have been consistently overstated and inequitably shared. Large hydropower dams also reinforce centralized power grids, which disproportionately benefit industry and higher income groups, and widen income disparities (and energy inequities) between Africa’s poor and Africa’s elite4.

Similarly, The Economist, in its issue of May 6, 2010, wrote: “…. political instability, graft and incompetence have meant that many African dams, once built, have failed to produce what was promised. The Inga I and II dams on the Congo River have generated a fraction of the power they were meant to. The technology is demanding. Seasonal rains produce muddy rivers, with higher sedimentation than northern countries’ dams filled with melted snow. That means a shorter lifespan and heavier maintenance”.

The Gibe III Project — A Harbinger for the Nile Dam

A look back at the disastrous experience with the Gibe III project may shed light on the impending catastrophe with the ill-conceived mega project on the Nile. The Gibe III dam, whose construction began in 2006, is perhaps Ethiopia’s largest investment project so far. A fact sheet about this dam in Ethiopia, published in May of 2009 by International Rivers, a lobby group that tries to save rivers from dams it considers are destructive, presents solid accounts of the technical, economic, social, and environmental disasters that followed the construction and mismanagement of the project5. According to the report, Zenawi’s government neglected to properly assess economic, technical, environmental and social risks, violating domestic laws and international standards. The government, in its rush to construct the dam, also neglected to study the effects of regional climate change, which could even dramatically affect the dam’s performance over its lifespan. The report further disclosed that the dam could be a development disaster for Ethiopia and the region.

Another human rights group, Survival International, documented that the livelihood and culture of over 200,000 agropastoralists from eight distinct indigenous people in the Omo river basin could be ruined by Gibe III and even asserted that the government of Zenawi has behaved criminally in pushing through the project6. The project will destroy the Omo River’s annual flood that supports riverbank cultivation and grazing lands for livestock.

According to a UNESCO World Heritage Site report, Lake Turkana in Kenya, that is considered an oasis of biodiversity in a harsh desert environment, will be destroyed by the Gibe III project. More than 300,000 people with rich animal life depend on the Lake and the agency warns that hundreds of thousands of fishing families and pastoralists will be adversely affected if the lake’s fragile ecosystem is stressed to the brink of collapse7.

It may be recalled that the government of Zenawi directly awarded a no-bid engineering, procurement and construction contract for Gibe III to the same Italian construction company, Salini Costruttori, in June 2006. According to Transparency International, “large public works projects are one of the world’s most corrupt sectors, and no-bid contracts are an open invitation to corruption”8. The two contracts, worth $1.7 billion for Gibe III and $5 billion for the Nile dam, violate Ethiopia’s Federal Public Procurement Directive, which requires international competitive bidding. The World Bank declined to consider project funding for both projects because the contracts violated the Bank’s own procurement policy.

The Nile Dam – A Tragedy-in-Waiting

According to the report of the government, the proposed Nile dam project will be Africa’s largest and the world’s 10th largest hydroelectric dam, with twice the generating capacity of Hoover Dam in the United States and slightly lower than Robert-Bourassa of Canada. The government claims that it will be the single most important infrastructure project that will take Ethiopia out of poverty. Despite the government’s manufactured exuberance over the projected future benefit of the dam, by all accounts, it is a national tragedy-in-waiting.

The proposed mega dam project on the Nile is fraught with many questions that shed light about the sinister ploy behind its genesis. Is the project serious and genuine? Why is it announced at this particular moment? Why insist on this project while all regional and global indicators and the adverse outcome of our exercise with Gibe III advise against it? More importantly, if it is advertised as the project of the millennium, how come it is not even remotely indicated in the much talked about Ethiopia’s Five Year Development Plan, billed as the Millennium Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP). Nowhere in the document, even in the section of the plans of the Ethiopian Electric and Power Authority, could one see any mention of this mega project. Why is it then that it is proclaimed all of a sudden with so much fanfare? These and other secrets that shrouded the project lead one to surmise the following:

    1. It is just a propaganda ploy manufactured after the release of the GTP document sometime in August to divert attention from the revolutionary surges in the Middle-East and North Africa

    2. A calculated scheme to garner new sources of income for Zenaiw’s repressive regime.

Irrespective of the ulterior motives of Zenawi’s regime, building this mega dam on the Nile is an ill-advised undertaking in terms of feasibility, security, desirability, and sustainability. There will be no benefit to the local people or the country. As evidenced by the negative impacts of such huge dams around the world, there is no economies of scale argument to justify the size and the scope of this project in Ethiopia. It will fail with a hefty cost to the people, and a huge debt for generations to come.

In an article distributed to members of the Ethiopian Development Policy Focus Group (EDPFG), Hurisso Gemechu presents compelling arguments that there are other better alternatives to this highly expensive and unsustainable huge hydroelectric project. More specifically, mini or micro hydroelectric power systems can easily bring up to100 KW of power to villages and towns using local water resources, and that they can also easily be connected to other existing and future electric power networks at low cost. Moreover, these types of hydroelectric projects can be environmentally benign energy conversion options without significantly interfering with river flows, and that they can be more attractive in terms of economic values and environmental considerations. In the context of Ethiopia, these alternatives are well suited for power generation as well as irrigation, recreation, tourism, and fishing much better than what the highly eroded deep escarpments of the Nile can provide.

Bond Issuance through Coercion and Deceit

As acknowledged by Zenaiw’s government, the usual donors and lenders will not fund this project. There are several reasons for this apathy on the part of donor nations and institutions. First, the project is a bad investment decision because it will have a certain negative return. Secondly, any such venture will inevitably have an untoward impact on the entire geo-politics of the Middle East. The West cannot afford to let this happen, especially at this time of so much uncertainty about the region. Even China would be reluctant since the benefit from such an investment is no match for its oil interest.

As a consequence, having declared “it wouldn’t be hard for 80 million people to contribute 80 billion birr”, Zenawi has launched a massive campaign of coercing the Ethiopian people and businesses to buy the “Millennium Bond”.

The features of the bond specify that it is a Corporate Bond, issued by the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO), through Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), and is called EEPCO Millennium Bond. The guarantor of the bond is the government and it is issued in USD, Pound Sterling, Euro and other convertible currencies. The minimum bond issued is USD 500 and the interest rates are 4%, 4.5 % and 5% for 5, 7 and 10 years maturity periods respectively.

The bond has several aspects that are not obvious to understand. It is defined as corporate bond and the government is assigned to be a guarantor. If we accept it as corporate bond, then, it will be a debt security issued by a corporation and sold to investors. According to the internationally accepted practice, the backing for the bond will be the payment ability of the corporation, the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation in this case. The payment ability of the corporation is typically determined by the money to be earned from future operations. That means, the payment ability of EEPCO is determined by the money to be collected in the future from the operations of the Nile hydroelectric power. In some cases, where the future earnings of the corporation are not fully reliable or secured, the corporation’s physical assets may be used as collateral for bonds. At this point, it is not clear what the investors may have as collateral. The physical assets of EEPCO or the Nile hydroelectric power are owned by the government and cannot be disaggregated and disposed. At any rate, corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds. As a result, interest rates are almost always higher than for government bond, even for top-flight credit quality companies.

One argument that one could raise in regards to the bond collateral is that the government is a guarantor. Unfortunately, the government of Meles Zenawi itself has a bond rating of CCC-, which is less than what is called Junk Bond (BBB- rating by Standard & Poor’s). That means, the government’s bond rating is equal to that of corporations in default with little or no prospect for recovery. How such a government with poor rating can be a reliable guarantor of corporate bond is open to question.

Government guaranteed corporate bonds are not customary, and happen rarely. Once such rare instance was when the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) sponsored Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program to afford bank holding companies the opportunity to issue unsecured debt (bond in this case) guaranteed by the US government. The program is part of the government’s overall recovery plan and is intended to facilitate bank holding company recapitalization during the recent recessionary period. The program will now be ended by June 30, 2012. One other country that is much known for using the bond market to raise money for operations other than military functions is Israel. Even then, Israel doesn’t accept responsibility for bonds traded by Israeli corporations.

In all likelihood, this “Millennium Bond” is a government bond because EEPCO is a service agency of the government. Unlike the US government bond, usually called Treasury bond that is regarded as extremely safe in the investment world, the bonds of many developing countries do carry substantial risks. Like private corporations, countries can default on payments. This has happened in Eritrea recently. As reported by Haile Tesfay in awate (Nov 23, 2002), the Eritrean people, especially those in the Diaspora, got shortchanged following their generous response to the financial needs of the Eritrean government during its conflict with the government of Meles Zenawi. Tesfay wrote:

Eritreans dug deep into their pockets, bank accounts, credit cards and even took out second and third mortgages on their homes in order to respond to this call. When the government came out with the ‘dollar a day’ initiative, we dug into our savings. When the government came out with the “first, second and third offensive” initiatives, we emptied out our children’s education funds. When the government screamed we need more money, we went as far as borrowing from our credit cards. Finally, the government came up with bond certificates and we, in good faith, bought them, with the understanding that they would be honored upon their maturity. This year, the first batch of bond certificates matured and many Eritreans are finding out that the Eritrean Government is playing the ‘procrastination’ game; that it is not honoring its legal contract with the Eritrean people.

The “Millennium Bond” is issued in USD, and other convertible hard currencies. This makes it a Sovereign Bond. A Sovereign bond is a debt security issued by a national government denominated in a foreign currency of a country with a stable economy. The foreign currency denomination makes it significantly risky to the bondholder. According to many investment advisors, Sovereign Bonds, especially those issued by a government of a country with an unstable economy, will have significant default risks. This is because that government, beside all other economic problems, will most likely have shortage of foreign exchange reserve to honor the bond up on maturity.

Why do people invest in bonds? Generally, people invest in bonds to begin saving to provide for a secure tomorrow. In a well-functioning economy and stable political system, bondholders can reach their goals with safety, market-based yields, and tax benefits whether they are saving for a new home, car, vacation, education, retirement, or for a rainy day. In the US, for instance, U.S. savings bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government. These bonds can earn market-based rates up to 30 years allowing the individual investment to grow.

There is no basis to suggest that government of Meles Zenawi, with a very poor credit rating (CCC-) in the bonds market, can be trusted for this kind of investment. The promised rates of returns on the “Millennium Bond” in Ethiopia are 4%, 4.5%, and 5% for 5, 7 and 10 years maturity periods, respectively. Ethiopia has been perpetually plagued with inflationary markets ever since the government of Zenawi came to power. It has been experiencing a chronic inflation rate that is more than 25% this current quarter alone, despite the stringent price control recently announced by Zenawi. The ever increasing inflation in the country has significant implication on the above rates of returns on the bond, especially for the domestic investors. Even in the unlikely scenario that the government will honor its obligation, the returns from this bond investment are extremely low. In the situation in which the government is the borrower and the bondholders are the lenders, the current inflation implies that the bondholders are paying the government about 20% of their savings in bonds so that the government could use their money! That is the real rates of returns (the nominal rates minus the inflation rate) will be negative 21%, 20.5%, and 20% respectively.2 In this irrational investment scheme, where lenders (bondholders) are paying the government (the borrower), the clear benefit of this transaction goes to Mr. Zenawi and his cronies at the expense of the Ethiopian people.

Concluding Remarks

Ethiopia does not need a huge hydroelectric dam that is proven to cause untold human, economic, social, environmental, and natural resource destructions. Many small dams with a mix of various uses, including agricultural irrigation, power generation, fisheries, tourism, and recreation could be built around the country at a much lower cost and guaranteed success. Ethiopians should not allow a government that has continued to embezzle and squander their hard earned money to put its hands on their meager resources again. They should not be fooled by fake nationalism and patriotism of a government that:

* made the country landlocked, without any access to the sea and maritime trade,

* parcels out the fertile agricultural lands to foreigners at almost no cost, and puts out anything Ethiopian for sale,

* cedes fertile farmlands of western Ethiopia, all the way from Gondar to Gambella, to Sudan,

* has no respect or regard for the country’s history or heritage, including its flag,

* is known for corruption, nepotism and lack of transparency,

* divides the people along ethnic lines and homelands, and

* denies its people basic human rights and freedoms.

The ethno-centric government of Meles Zenawi has repeatedly demonstrated that it has no interest in promoting the long-term interest of the country. The affront on Abbay (Nile), which is very close to the hearts of many Ethiopians as a symbol of national pride, is another attempt by Zenawi to reassert his authoritarian control over the people in the guise of patriotism. Ethiopians cannot and should not fall for this manufactured nationalism of a dictator, who has much to account for crimes he has committed during his 20 years of authoritarian rule.

Many scholars believe that if there is another world war, it will be a war over waters. Therefore, the Nile issue requires a sober and deliberated approach where all Ethiopians are consulted and heard through a democratically elected government.

By all accounts, the TPLF government has initiated this mega dam project, not out of its goodwill to catapult Ethiopia out of poverty, but out of its sinister schemes to divert the attention of the people from the revolutionary uprising on the horizon and to swindle money out of the pocket of the hardworking Ethiopians. Therefore, all Ethiopians at home and in the Diaspora, have a historic responsibility to stand in unison and thwart the destructive plan of the dictator.

(Getachew Begashaw, Ph.D., is a Professor of Economics and member of the Ethiopian Development Policy Focus Group (EPDFG). He can be reached at: getachew.begashaw@yahoo.com)

TPLF and the art of reverse engineering

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

By Yilma Bekele

When you take an object apart to see how it works, or take software and disassemble it to locate the source code it is referred to as reverse engineering. Basically what you are doing is inverting the system by going backwards the developmental cycle all the way to conception. Reverse engineering begins with a final product and works backwards.

This is done for various reasons. It could be done for learning purpose to see how it works, to enhance the product to make it function better, to copy it which is mostly illegal or for malicious purpose such as infecting it with virus.

I believe we have been reverse engineered by the TPLF government. You can be sure the purpose was not to learn, enhance or integrate but rather to destroy or disrupt. The pie in the sky idea of the Millennium Dam was the malicious code that was inserted into our operating system.

We woke up one morning and were appalled to discover TPLF was clad in our beautiful tri colored flag and we were left covered in Eritrean and Egyptian clothing. My hats off to our Woyane hackers. Today ladies and gentlemen we have TPLF on this corner proudly dressed in green yellow and red and on the other side is the opposition dressed in Eritrean t-shirt top and Egyptian briefs. Watch Ato Meles bouncing around in his new Chinese made uniform jabbing the air with his beautiful tri colored gloves and raising his fist up high and Ato Bulcha Demeksa getting booed by the spectators.

The Americans call it topsy-turvy situation. In Ethiopia it is called the coming of sementegna shi, the eight-millennium. It is uttered to signify a bizarre, unexplainable and totally weird situation. It is a sign of total resignation. What is there to do when you are witnessing the end of the world? I believe that is what we got here. The real sementegnaw shi is upon us.

The theft of our uniform also managed to put the question in a different perspective. All of a sudden the debate became for and against Abay. Did you notice that? To build a dam or not became the issue. That is the way the regime defined the debate.

Now tell me have you met any Ethiopian opposed to building a dam on Abay or any river? The question is absurd. Why would anybody not wish a dam, a factory, a research university and other beautiful things for his country? Then what is all this false debate about?

Like everything else in Ethiopia, due to its monopoly of the media the TPLF regime defines the issues and presents its side using every available means. The Ethiopian people, those that are able or have conquered fear get bits of information from ESAT (www.ethsat.com) VOA, DW and Internet.

The issue is not about building a freaking dam or not but rather it is all about democracy. Such colossal projects require sober discussion and a national consensus. When governments plan such huge and costly endeavors they usually carry out a consorted effort to include the population in a lively debate to build enthusiasm and good will. Again, like everything else TPLF, they have managed to stand the concept on its head. They have put the cart in front of the horse. I know it is nothing new.

We wanted to discuss intelligently and answer the two vital questions of why and how? They don’t have adequate answers so they resorted into stealing the flag and hiding behind it like a coward. We are saying hold on, before we decide shouldn’t we discuss it? Unfortunately, today we are actually forced to discuss an event that is not going to happen. Why it is not going to happen has been analyzed and dissected by Ethiopian experts in the fields of economics, engineering and politics. No one from the regime has presented a compelling reason to use our limited resources on one gigantic project or answered the simple issue of affording it. It cannot be done because there is no study to justify Ato Meles’s delusion.

The purpose of the Abay dam issue is to deflect attention from the current economic failure and the specter of uprising in the vicinity. They have managed to confuse some people. They have used a very important question to win political point. In their tiny little heads they have won the day. How pathetic. Here is a good timely quotation from FIFA’s (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) Fair play code.
Play fair
Winning is without value if victory has been achieved unfairly or dishonestly. Cheating is easy, but brings no pleasure. Playing fair requires courage and character. It is also more satisfying. Fair play always has its reward, even when the game is lost. Playing fair earns respect, while cheating only brings shame. Remember: it is only a game. And games are pointless unless played fairly.

TPLF plays dishonestly. Winning by cheating is second nature to our Woyane warriors. TPLF refuses to grow up. The Ethiopian regime is infected with toxic philosophy of us against them. They spend a lot of time concocting negative ideas and scenarios to confuse, set one up against the other and survive another day. Since Woyane assumed power our people have not seen a single day of peace.

Today democratic Ethiopia is demanding businesses use a cash register furnished and maintained by the government. The cash register costs over seven thousand Bir and maintenance and upgrades cost over two thousand. It is not open for discussion. Today democratic Ethiopia demands the citizen report to Kebele if he has an overnight visitor in his own house. Today democratic Ethiopia determines how much a private merchant should charge for his goods.

The Abay dam theatre is one more abuse to prop up a dying system. The regime has already started to expropriate money from civil servants and the banks to finance its military and security due to the threat of people’s uprising. The willing Diaspora that was lulled over by promise of appreciating real estate values is now coming face to face with TPLF’s ugly side. Forty percent is the current rate of the rip off billed as tax, but it is just the beginning. The song ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’ comes to mind. I have a feeling some of my Hodam relatives will soon be singing the Ethiopian blues.

The reality on the ground is that the regime has spent the entire budget appropriated to the dam building project. Transporting Ato Meles and his friends to Benishangul Zone, setting up the necessary prop for television cameras bringing a marching band and two worn out caterpillar tractors is all the investment required to stir up this hollow discussion. The rest is all about fleecing the citizen and the Diaspora. Don’t hold your breath about seeing an actual dam on the mighty Abay.

The mighty Abay is not just another river. Abay is special. Abay is born in Ethiopia. Abay nurtured the Pharos and help build the great pyramids. Abay was close when Jesus walked on Earth. The prophet Mohammed sent his relatives and followers on the first Hijra (migration) for safety to Ethiopia by the shores of the mighty Abay. Without Abay there will be no such thing as Egyptian civilization the fore bearer of World civilization. It is not a good idea to toy with Abay. Abay is not a forgiving River.

Everything else Ethiopian has been debased and degraded so it is nothing new Abay is the current victim. When you think the flag is a playground for some infantile scribble Abay stands no chance.

Tigray Region president attacks peaceful protesters

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Abay Woldu, President of Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray, yesterday has ordered the notorious Federal Police to attack peaceful residents of Mekele city who have been protesting an eviction order.

protest in Mekele, northern Ethiopia It’s reported that two weeks ago, on April 20, hundreds of Mekele residents staged a protest march against the order by the city administration to vacate their homes. When the protesters marched toward Abay Woldu’s office to air their grievance, the Federal Police stopped them and instead allowed only their representatives to meet with Abay. The representatives were promised that he will look in to the matter and give them an answer within a week.

Yesterday, government officials, escorted by heavily armed Federal Police troopers wearing gas masks, went to the neighborhood to mark the hundreds of houses to be demolished. When the residents started to resist, the Federal Police attacked them with tear gas. Several children collapsed during the attack.

Today, the residents regrouped and staged a protest. The Federal Police responded by savagely beating them and arresting those who are thought to be organizers, including Andom Araya, who was seen carrying the Ethiopian flag at the April 20 protest march.

The Federal Police also disarmed the local militia who have been sympathizing with the residents.

Abay Wolde is a politburo member of the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (Woyanne) and Meles Zenawi’s yes man.

(Read more in Amharic here)

The bin Laden manhunt: An inside look

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

(New York Times) — For years, the agonizing search for Osama bin Laden kept coming up empty. Then last July, Pakistanis working for the Central Intelligence Agency drove up behind a white Suzuki navigating the bustling streets near Peshawar, Pakistan, and wrote down the car’s license plate. The man in the car was Bin Laden’s most trusted courier, and over the next month C.I.A. operatives would track him throughout central Pakistan.

Ultimately, administration officials said, he led them to a sprawling compound at the end of a long dirt road and surrounded by tall security fences in a wealthy hamlet 35 miles from the Pakistani capital. On a moonless night eight months later, 79 American commandos in four helicopters descended on the compound, the officials said. Shots rang out. A helicopter stalled and would not take off. Pakistani authorities, kept in the dark by their allies in Washington, scrambled forces as the American commandos rushed to finish their mission and leave before a confrontation. Of the five dead, one was a tall, bearded man with a bloodied face and a bullet in his head. A member of the Navy Seals snapped his picture with a camera and uploaded it to analysts who fed it into a facial recognition program. And just like that, history’s most expansive, expensive and exasperating manhunt was over.

The inert frame of Osama bin Laden, America’s enemy No. 1, was placed in a helicopter for burial at sea, never to be seen or feared again. A nation that spent a decade tormented by its failure to catch the man responsible for nearly 3,000 fiery deaths in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, at long last had its sense of finality, at least in this one difficult chapter.

For an intelligence community that had endured searing criticism for a string of intelligence failures over the past decade, Bin Laden’s killing brought a measure of redemption. For a military that has slogged through two, and now three vexing wars in Muslim countries, it provided an unalloyed success. And for a president whose national security leadership has come under question, it proved an affirming moment that will enter the history books.

The raid was the culmination of years of painstaking intelligence work, including the interrogation of C.I.A. detainees in secret prisons in Eastern Europe, where sometimes what was not said was as useful as what was. Intelligence agencies eavesdropped on telephone calls and e-mails of the courier’s Arab family in a Persian Gulf state and pored over satellite images of the compound in Abbottabad to determine a “pattern of life” that might decide whether the operation would be worth the risk. As more than a dozen White House, intelligence and Pentagon officials described the operation on Monday, the past few weeks were a nerve-racking amalgamation of what-ifs and negative scenarios. “There wasn’t a meeting when someone didn’t mention ‘Black Hawk Down,’ ” a senior administration official said, referring to the disastrous 1993 battle in Somalia in which two American helicopters were shot down and some of their crew killed in action. The failed mission to rescue hostages in Iran in 1980 also loomed large.

Administration officials split over whether to launch the operation, whether to wait and continue monitoring until they were more sure that Bin Laden was really there, or whether to go for a less risky bombing assault. In the end, President Obama opted against a bombing that could do so much damage it might be uncertain whether Bin Laden was really hit and chose to send in commandos.

A “fight your way out” option was built into the plan, with two helicopters following the two main assault copters as backup in case of trouble. On Sunday afternoon, as the helicopters raced over Pakistani territory, the president and his advisers gathered in the Situation Room of the White House to monitor the operation as it unfolded. Much of the time was spent in silence. Mr. Obama looked “stone faced,” one aide said. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. fingered his rosary beads.

“The minutes passed like days,” recalled John O. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief. The code name for Bin Laden was “Geronimo.” The president and his advisers watched Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, on a video screen, narrating from his agency’s headquarters across the Potomac River what was happening in faraway Pakistan. “They’ve reached the target,” he said. Minutes passed. “We have a visual on Geronimo,” he said. A few minutes later: “Geronimo EKIA.” Enemy Killed In Action.

There was silence in the Situation Room. Finally, the president spoke up. “We got him.”

Filling in the Gaps Years before the Sept. 11 attacks transformed Bin Laden into the world’s most feared terrorist, the C.I.A. had begun compiling a detailed dossier about the major players inside his global terror network. It wasn’t until after 2002, when the agency began rounding up Qaeda operatives — and subjecting them to hours of brutal interrogation sessions in secret overseas prisons — that they finally began filling in the gaps about the foot soldiers, couriers and money men Bin Laden relied on. Prisoners in American custody told stories of a trusted courier. When the Americans ran the man’s pseudonym past two top-level detainees — the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed; and Al Qaeda’s operational chief, Abu Faraj al-Libi — the men claimed never to have heard his name. That raised suspicions among interrogators that the two detainees were lying and that the courier probably was an important figure. As the hunt for Bin Laden continued, the spy agency was being buffeted on other fronts: the botched intelligence assessments about weapons of mass destruction leading up to the Iraq War, and the intense criticism for using waterboarding and other extreme interrogation methods that critics said amounted to torture.

By 2005, many inside the C.I.A. had reached the conclusion that the Bin Laden hunt had grown cold, and the agency’s top clandestine officer ordered an overhaul of the agency’s counterterrorism operations. The result was Operation Cannonball, a bureaucratic reshuffling that placed more C.I.A. case officers on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

With more agents in the field, the C.I.A. finally got the courier’s family name. With that, they turned to one of their greatest investigative tools — the National Security Agency began intercepting telephone calls and e-mail messages between the man’s family and anyone inside Pakistan. From there they got his full name.

Last July, Pakistani agents working for the C.I.A. spotted him driving his vehicle near Peshawar. When, after weeks of surveillance, he drove to the sprawling compound in Abbottabad, American intelligence operatives felt they were onto something big, perhaps even Bin Laden himself. It was hardly the spartan cave in the mountains that many had envisioned as his hiding place. Rather, it was a three-story house ringed by 12-foot-high concrete walls, topped with barbed wire and protected by two security fences. He was, said Mr. Brennan, the White House official, “hiding in plain sight.”

Back in Washington, Mr. Panetta met with Mr. Obama and his most senior national security aides, including Mr. Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. The meeting was considered so secret that White House officials didn’t even list the topic in their alerts to each other. That day, Mr. Panetta spoke at length about Bin Laden and his presumed hiding place. “It was electric,” an administration official who attended the meeting said. “For so long, we’d been trying to get a handle on this guy. And all of a sudden, it was like, wow, there he is.”

There was guesswork about whether Bin Laden was indeed inside the house. What followed was weeks of tense meetings between Mr. Panetta and his subordinates about what to do next. While Mr. Panetta advocated an aggressive strategy to confirm Bin Laden’s presence, some C.I.A. clandestine officers worried that the most promising lead in years might be blown if bodyguards suspected the compound was being watched and spirited the Qaeda leader out of the area. For weeks last fall, spy satellites took detailed photographs, and the N.S.A. worked to scoop up any communications coming from the house. It wasn’t easy: the compound had neither a phone line nor Internet access. Those inside were so concerned about security that they burned their trash rather than put it on the street for collection.

In February, Mr. Panetta called Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, to C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va., to give him details about the compound and to begin planning a military strike. Admiral McRaven, a veteran of the covert world who had written a book on American Special Operations, spent weeks working with the C.I.A. on the operation, and came up with three options: a helicopter assault using American commandos, a strike with B-2 bombers that would obliterate the compound, or a joint raid with Pakistani intelligence operatives who would be told about the mission hours before the launch.

Weighing the Options On March 14, Mr. Panetta took the options to the White House. C.I.A. officials had been taking satellite photos, establishing what Mr. Panetta described as the habits of people living at the compound.

By now evidence was mounting that Bin Laden was there. The discussions about what to do took place as American relations with Pakistan were severely strained over the arrest of Raymond A. Davis, the C.I.A. contractor imprisoned for shooting two Pakistanis on a crowded street in Lahore in January. Some of Mr. Obama’s top aides worried that any military assault to capture or kill Bin Laden might provoke an angry response from Pakistan’s government, and that Mr. Davis could end up dead in his jail cell. Mr. Davis was ultimately released on March 16, giving a freer hand to his colleagues.

On March 22, the president asked his advisers their opinions on the options. Mr. Gates was skeptical about a helicopter assault, calling it risky, and instructed military officials to look into aerial bombardment using smart bombs. But a few days later, the officials returned with the news that it would take some 32 bombs of 2,000 pounds each. And how could the American officials be certain that they had killed Bin Laden? “It would have created a giant crater, and it wouldn’t have given us a body,” said one American intelligence official.

A helicopter assault emerged as the favored option. The Navy Seals team that would hit the ground began holding dry runs at training facilities on both American coasts, which were made up to resemble the compound. But they were not told who their target might be until later.

Last Thursday, the day after the president released his long-form birth certificate — such “silliness,” he told reporters, was distracting the country from more important things — Mr. Obama met again with his top national security officials. Mr. Panetta told the group that the C.I.A. had “red-teamed” the case — shared their intelligence with other analysts who weren’t involved to see if they agreed that Bin Laden was probably in Abbottabad. They did.

It was time to decide. Around the table, the group went over and over the negative scenarios. There were long periods of silence, one aide said. And then, finally, Mr. Obama spoke: “I’m not going to tell you what my decision is now — I’m going to go back and think about it some more.” But he added, “I’m going to make a decision soon.”

Sixteen hours later, he had made up his mind. Early the next morning, four top aides were summoned to the White House Diplomatic Room. Before they could brief the president, he cut them off. “It’s a go,” he said. The earliest the operation could take place was Saturday, but officials cautioned that cloud cover in the area meant that Sunday was much more likely.

The next day, Mr. Obama took a break from rehearsing for the White House Correspondents Dinner that night to call Admiral McRaven, to wish him luck.

On Sunday, White House officials canceled all West Wing tours so unsuspecting tourists and visiting celebrities wouldn’t accidentally run into all the high-level national security officials holed up in the Situation Room all afternoon monitoring the feeds they were getting from Mr. Panetta. A staffer went to Costco and came back with a mix of provisions — turkey pita wraps, cold shrimp, potato chips, soda.

At 2:05 p.m., Mr. Panetta sketched out the operation to the group for a final time. Within an hour, the C.I.A. director began his narration, via video from Langley. “They’ve crossed into Pakistan,” he said.

Across the Border, The commando team had raced into the Pakistani night from a base in Jalalabad, just across the border in Afghanistan. The goal was to get in and get out before Pakistani authorities detected the breach of their territory by what were to them unknown forces and reacted with possibly violent results.

In Pakistan, it was just past midnight on Monday morning, and the Americans were counting on the element of surprise. As the first of the helicopters swooped in at low altitudes, neighbors heard a loud blast and gunshots. A woman who lives two miles away said she thought it was a terrorist attack on a Pakistani military installation. Her husband said no one had any clue Bin Laden was hiding in the quiet, affluent area. “It’s the closest you can be to Britain,” he said of their neighborhood.

The Seal team stormed into the compound — the raid awakened the group inside, one American intelligence official said — and a firefight broke out. One man held an unidentified woman living there as a shield while firing at the Americans. Both were killed. Two more men died as well, and two women were wounded. American authorities later determined that one of the slain men was Bin Laden’s son, Hamza, and the other two were the courier and his brother.

The commandos found Bin Laden on the third floor, wearing the local loose-fitting tunic and pants known as a shalwar kameez, and officials said he resisted before he was shot above the left eye near the end of the 40-minute raid.

The American government gave few details about his final moments. “Whether or not he got off any rounds, I frankly don’t know,” said Mr. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief. But a senior Pentagon official, briefing on the condition of anonymity, said it was clear Bin Laden “was killed by U.S. bullets.”

American officials insisted they would have taken Bin Laden into custody if he did not resist, although they considered that likelihood remote. “If we had the opportunity to take Bin Laden alive, if he didn’t present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that,” Mr. Brennan said.

One of Bin Laden’s wives identified his body, American officials said. A picture taken by a Seals commando and processed through facial recognition software suggested a 95 percent certainty that it was Bin Laden. Later, DNA tests comparing samples with relatives found a 99.9 percent match.

But the Americans faced other problems. One of their helicopters stalled and could not take off. Rather than let it fall into the wrong hands, the commandos moved the women and children to a secure area and blew up the malfunctioning helicopter.

By that point, though, the Pakistani military was scrambling forces in response to the incursion into Pakistani territory. “They had no idea about who might have been on there,” Mr. Brennan said. “Thankfully, there was no engagement with Pakistani forces.”

As they took off at 1:10 a.m. local time, taking a trove of documents and computer hard drives from the house, the Americans left behind the women and children. A Pakistani official said nine children, from 2 to 12 years old, are now in Pakistani custody.

The Obama administration had already determined it would follow Islamic tradition of burial within 24 hours to avoid offending devout Muslims, yet concluded Bin Laden would have to be buried at sea, since no country would be willing to take the body. Moreover, they did not want to create a shrine for his followers. So the Qaeda leader’s body was washed and placed in a white sheet in keeping with tradition. On the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, it was placed in a weighted bag as an officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker, according to the senior Pentagon official. The body then was placed on a prepared flat board and eased into the sea. Only a small group of people watching from one of the large elevator platforms that move aircraft up to the flight deck were witness to the end of America’s most wanted fugitive.

(Reporting by By MARK MAZZETTI, HELENE COOPER and PETER BAKER WASHINGTON. Contributing to the story: Elisabeth Bumiller, Charlie Savage and Steven Lee Myers from Washington, Adam Ellick from New York, and Ismail Khan from Peshawar, Pakistan.)

Digital censorship is tyrant’s tool in Ethiopia – CPJ

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

The 10 Tools of Online Oppressors

Digital censorship threatens press freedom, new report shows

New York, May 2, 2011—As journalists increasingly use social media to report breaking news and the number of people with Internet access explodes worldwide, governments are employing sophisticated new tactics to suppress information, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, issued today to mark World Press Freedom Day.

CPJ’s assessment of the 10 prevailing strategies for online oppression and the leading countries utilizing such tactics shows that traditional mechanisms of repression have evolved into pervasive digital censorship. The tools utilized include state-supported email designed to take over journalists’ personal computers in China, the shutting down of anti-censorship technology in Iran, monopolistic control of the Net in Ethiopia, as well as synchronized cyber-attacks in Belarus.

“These techniques go well beyond Web censorship,” said Danny O’Brien, CPJ Internet Advocacy Coordinator and author of the report. “The Internet is being used to spy on writers and sabotage independent news sites where press freedom is most threatened. The aim is not only to censor but to block or disrupt the reporting process and the dissemination of news and information.”

The digital offensive is often coupled with physical intimidation of online journalists. In 2010, CPJ research shows that 69 journalists whose work appeared primarily online were jailed as of December 1, constituting nearly half of all those in prison.

“These sophisticated, often invisible, attacks constitute a new front in the fight for press freedom,” said O’Brien. “Bypassing censorship is important but basic protection of source data and identities should take priority as well. Combined, these digital attacks undermine our universal right to seek information.”

 

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CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide

 

Note to Editors: The full report is available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

 

CPJ monitors Internet freedom and online press freedom violations, working to promote tools and techniques for a free press on the Web. In 2008, CPJ joined the Global Network Initiative, a coalition to ensure companies uphold freedom of expression in their policies and operations. Danny O’Brien tracks developments on a dedicated blog called the Internet Channel.

 

Media contacts:

 

Gypsy Guillén Kaiser

Advocacy and Communications Director

Tel. +1.212.300.9029

E-mail: ggkaiser@cpj.org

 

Magnus Ag

Advocacy and Communications Associate

Tel. +1.212.300.9007

E-mail: mag@cpj.org

Details of the operation to kill Osama bin Laden

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

(Reuters) –The operation that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was carried out by a team of about 15 special forces operatives — most, if not all, U.S. Navy Seals, according to U.S. officials familiar with the details. They indicated the team was based in Afghanistan.

“This was a kill operation,” one of the officials said. “If he had waved a white flag of surrender, he would have been taken alive,” the official added. But the operating assumption among the U.S. raiders was that bin Laden would put up a fight — which he did.

Bin Laden “participated” in a firefight between the U.S. commandos and residents of the fortified mansion near the Pakistani capital Islamabad where he had been hiding, the official said.

The official would not explicitly say whether bin Laden fired on the Americans, but confirmed that during the course of the 40-minute operation the U.S. team shot bin Laden in the head.
U.S. officials said the key information that eventually led to bin Laden’s trail came from questioning of militants detained by U.S. forces following the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

Captured militants, including some held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, told intelligence officials of a particular al Qaeda “courier” whom they had heard was close to bin Laden.

They also mentioned two captured al Qaeda operations chiefs, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, widely believed to have masterminded the attacks.

Initially U.S. intelligence did not know either the name or whereabouts of the courier. But officials said that about four years ago, U.S. agencies learned the individual’s name.

Two years ago, U.S. intelligence received credible information indicating that the courier and his brother, another suspected militant operative, were operating somewhere near Islamabad.

Then, last August, the U.S. pinpointed the compound in Abbotabad where intelligence indicated the two brothers, their families, and a third large family were living.

It was located in a ritzy neighborhood at the end of a dirt road, not far from one of Pakistan’s principal military academy. Other residents of the area included retired Pakistani military officers.

Working with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which analyzes pictures from spy satellites and aircraft, and the National Security Agency, which conducts electronic eavesdropping, the CIA concluded that the compound was built with unusual security features — including high-walls topped with barbed-wire — and that its inhabitants appeared to take unusual security precautions.

By earlier this year, the CIA believed that it had “high confidence” that a “high-value” al Qaeda target was at the Abbotabad compound, and a strong probability that this target was bin Laden.

But one official said the agency was never “100 percent certain” that bin Laden was the one who was hiding out.

(ABC News) — The Navy SEAL team of military operatives who killed Osama bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on Sunday night was made up of some of the best-trained troops in the world. SEAL Team Six, the “Naval Special Warfare Development Group,” was the main force involved in Sunday’s firefight.

The daring operation began when two U.S. helicopters flew in low from Afghanistan and swept into the compound where Osama bin Laden was thought to be hiding late Sunday night Pakistan time, or Sunday afternoon Washington time. Twenty to 25 U.S. Navy SEALs disembarked from the helicopters as soon as they were in position and stormed the compound. The White House says they killed bin Laden and at least four others with him. The team was on the ground for only 40 minutes, most of that was time spent scrubbing the compound for information about al Qaeda and its plans.

The Navy SEAL team on this mission was supported by helicopter pilots from the 160th Special Ops Air Regiment, part of the Joint Special Operations Command. The CIA was the operational commander of the mission, but it was tasked to Special Forces.

(Los Angeles Times) — CIA Director Leon Panetta gave the go-order about midday Sunday, after President Obama had signed off on it.

Panetta and other CIA officials monitored the raid via live video on the 7th floor of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. When an operator was overheard confirming that bin Laden was killed, cheers erupted.

An option to bomb the compound was rejected in favor of a surgical raid, in part to make sure there was proof Bin Laden was there, and in part to spare the lives of more than a dozen non-combatants living in the compound.

The CIA and other agencies had been watching the compound since August, so they knew a lot about it, the official said. Mock-ups had been constructed and rehearsals of the raid held while senior officials watched.

The town is not in the area where U.S. Predator drones regularly fly over the tribal areas of Pakistan, so other methods had to be used to gather intelligence on the layout, the official said. The National Security Agency, which has satellites that can eavesdrop on conversations, and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, which can map buildings and terrain via satellite and other technology, were both involved. The technology is such that the CIA was aware of where people were in the compound during the early morning hours when the raid occurred, the official said.

A tense moment during the raid came when one of the helicopters malfunctioned, but no one was injured and the copter was destroyed.

The official would not say where the body was buried at sea, but said, “We treated him with more respect than he treated a lot of Americans.”

(National Journal) — MH-60 helicopters made their way to Abbottabad, about 70 miles from the center of Islamabad, Pakistan. Aboard were Navy SEALs, flown across the border from Afghanistan, along with tactical signals, intelligence collectors, and navigators using highly classified hyperspectral imagers.

After bursts of fire over 40 minutes, 22 people were killed or captured. One of the dead was Osama bin Laden, with gun shots to the left side of his face. His body was aboard the choppers that made the trip back. One had experienced mechanical failure and was destroyed by U.S. forces, military and White House officials tell National Journal.

Were it not for this high-value target, it might have been a routine mission for the specially trained and highly mythologized SEAL Team Six, officially called the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, but known even to the locals at their home base Dam Neck in Virginia as just DevGru.

This HVT was special, and the raids required practice, so they replicated the one-acre compound. Trial runs were held in early April.

How did the helicopters elude the Pakistani air defense network? Did they spoof transponder codes? Were they painted and tricked out with Pakistan Air Force equipment? If so — and we may never know — two other JSOC units, the Technical Application Programs Office and the Aviation Technology Evaluation Group, were responsible. These truly are the silent squirrels — never getting public credit and not caring one whit. Since 9/11, the JSOC units and their task forces have become the U.S. government’s most effective and lethal weapon against terrorists and their networks, drawing plenty of unwanted, and occasionally unflattering, attention to themselves in the process.

Ethiopia: The Silence of Lying Lips

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Lies, Junk and Cut-and-Paste

Meles Zenawi, the dictator-in-chief in Ethiopia, says he does not want to talk about the 2010 U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights [Report] in Ethiopia. But speaking through his parrot Hailemariam Desalegn, Zenawi said the Report is a meaningless “cut and paste” exercise and will be treated with “the contempt it deserves”:

The last two years we have engaged ourselves with the authorities of the United States and discussed several meetings on the human rights situation in Ethiopia. We thought we had convinced each other on many of the issues…  If this is not considered at all, then there is no need to accept this report as something that can help us.  So that’s why we dismissed the report totally because it is based on unfounded allegations which are baseless… We said this is a methodology failure. So if the United States is worried about the human rights challenge, then it should be critically evaluated. So if it is ‘cut and paste,’ then it doesn’t give any meaning to anyone. So we said, if it continues like this, it has nothing to do with changing and improving the human rights situation in Ethiopia.

Desalegn said the Report would not affect the “cordial relationship” between Addis Ababa and Washington. With snooty sarcasm he emphasized, “we dismiss the report, we have not dismissed the United States.” Translation: We will gladly pickpocket  American Joe and Jane Taxpayer to the tune of USD$1 billion a year, but they can take their human rights report and shove it.

Last year Zenawi blasted the 2009 human rights Report as “lies, lies and implausible lies.” He even ridiculed the U.S. State Department for not preparing a report based on true lies:

The least one could expect from this report, even if there are lies is that they would be plausible ones. But that is not the case. It is very easy to ridicule it [report], because it is so full of loopholes (sic). They could very easily have closed the loopholes and still continued to lie.”

Zenawi’s consigliere, Bereket Simon, called the 2009 Report “the same old junk” released “to punish the image (sic) of Ethiopia and try if possible to derail the peaceful and democratic election process.”

Defending against unfavorable or critical reports of international human rights and other organizations by delivering a barrage of scorn, sarcasm and derision is standard operating procedure for Zenawi’s regime. In November 2010, Zenawi blitzkrieged the European Union Election Observer Report on the May 2010 election in Ethiopia as “trash that deserves to be thrown in the garbage“.

The State Department human rights report does not “deserve” condemnation in barnyard language, but diplomatic praise for its rigorous analysis and reporting of human rights abuses. The Report is an important policy instrument  submitted by the U.S. Secretary of State to the Speaker of the House of the U.S. Congress annually pursuant to amended sections 116(d) and 502 B (b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and 504 of the Trade Act of 1974.  Using the Report, Congress aims to hold U.S. aid recipient “governments accountable to their obligations under international human rights instruments” and promote the rule of law, expressive freedoms,  women’s, children’s and minority rights in recipient countries. The U.S. State Department says it uses the findings and conclusions of the Report in “shaping policy, conducting diplomacy, and making assistance, training, and other resource allocations” and in determining “U.S. Government’s cooperation with private groups to promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights.” But the annual Report has broader significance in the global struggle for human rights. As Secretary of State Hilary Clinton explained, the human rights

reports are an essential tool – for activists who courageously struggle to protect rights in communities around the world; for journalists and scholars who document rights violations and who report on the work of those who champion the vulnerable; and for governments, including our own, as they work to craft strategies to encourage protection of human rights of more individuals in more places.

Taking cheap shots at the Report by calling it “lies”, “junk” and “cut and paste” is to put on public display one’s abysmal ignorance of the American policy and legal process. To be sure, submitting any document to Congress containing “any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry” (i.e. “lies, lies and implausible lies”) is a serious crime subject to a five-year prison sentence under Title 18, section 1001 (a) (3) (c) (1) (2). If there are any statements in the Report that fall under the foregoing section of Title 18, it is incumbent upon anyone with evidence of such statements to lodge a complaint and request a formal investigation with the Office of the Speaker of the U.S. House, among other federal law enforcement authorities. Launching a tirade against the U.S. is no defense against the naked truth that Zenawi’s regime is a notorious violator of human rights, nor is it a substitute for substantial and credible evidence to support a claim of false statement.

Failure of Methodology?

Desalegn parrots his boss when he says there is “a methodology failure” that consigns the Report to the ash-heap of “contempt”. Over the years, Zenawi has used similar vague and unsubstantiated accusations of  “methodological” flaws in a futile attempt to discredit unfavorable human rights reports on his regime. In 2008, Zenawi alleged that methodological flaws in a Human Rights Watch report on the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia amounted to manufactured lies. It is a fact that Zenawi’s regime has thwarted and frustrated every effort by human rights organizations to conduct open and independent investigations of human rights abuses in Ethiopia. By labeling the truth a lie, Zenawi seems to believe that he can indeed change the truth into a lie.

There is nothing secret or sinister about the “methodology” and data collection procedures of the U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The Report is based on a compilation of information from a variety of sources. U.S. embassies collect “information throughout the year from a variety of sources across the political spectrum, including government officials, jurists, armed forces sources, journalists, human rights monitors, academics, and labor activists.” U.S. Foreign Service Officers undertake investigations of human rights abuses under difficult and not infrequently under “dangerous conditions”. They “monitor elections, and come to the aid of individuals at risk, such as political dissidents and human rights defenders whose rights are threatened by their governments.” The initial drafts of the Reports are completed at the embassies and submitted for review to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in the State Department. Information collected by other sources including “US and other human rights groups, foreign government officials, representatives from the United Nations and other international and regional organizations and institutions and academic, media experts” and other sources are also evaluated and included to ensure accuracy, balance and corroboration.

The Reports reflect the work of hundreds of highly experienced and knowledgeable employees in the State Department and other branches of the U.S. Government. For the Report to be “lies, lies and implausible lies”, there must be a grand criminal conspiracy of hundreds of officials in the U.S. Government, including Secretary of State Clinton.

What’s in the “Contemptible”  2010 Human Rights Report on Ethiopia?

Here are some of the “lies, lies and implausible lies” in the 56-page Report:

There was no proof that the government and its agents committed any politically motivated killings during the year… [but] there were credible reports of involvement of security forces in the killings…in the Somali region…” (p.2.)

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances; however, there were innumerable reports of local police, militia members, and the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) seizing… opposition political activists. (p.4.)

On September 10, the federal government and Amhara and Oromia regional governments granted pardons to more than 9,000 prisoners, in keeping with a longstanding tradition for celebration of the new year on September 11. (p. 10.)

The UN Committee Against Torture noted in a November 19 report that it was ‘deeply concerned’ about ‘numerous, ongoing, and consistent allegations’ concerning “the routine use of torture” by the police, prison officers and others. (p.4.)

The country has three federal and 120 regional prisons. There also are many unofficial detention centers throughout the country… Most are located at military camps… Prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained harsh and in some cases life threatening. Severe overcrowding was common… Many prisoners had serious health problems in detention but received little treatment.  (p. 6.)

Authorities regularly detained persons without warrants and denied access to counsel and family members, particularly in outlying regions. (p. 8.)

The Ethiopian government and regional governments began to put in place “villagization” plans in the Gambella and Benishangul-Gumuz regions… The plan involves the resettlement of 45,000 households… [T]here were reports of local skepticism and resentment… because much of the land was or was to be leased to foreign companies (pp. 14-15.)

The government used a widespread system of paid informants to report on the activities of particular individuals… Security forces continued to detain family members of persons sought for questioning by the government. (p. 15.)

While the constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and of the press, the government did not respect these rights in practice. The government continued to arrest, harass, and prosecute journalists, publishers, and editors. (p. 19.)

The government restricted academic freedom during the year. Authorities did not permit teachers at any level to deviate from official lesson plans and actively prohibited partisan political activity and association of any kind on university campuses. (p. 25.)

Although the law provides for freedom of association and the right to engage in unrestricted peaceful political activity, the government limited this right in practice. (p. 27.)

The constitution and law provide citizens the right to change their government peacefully. In practice the country has never had a peaceful change of government, and the ruling EPRDF and its allies dominated the government. In May [2010] elections, the EPRDF … won more than 99 percent of all legislative seats…. [T]here was ample evidence that unfair government tactics–including intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters–influenced the extent of that victory. (p.32.)

The constitution provides citizens the right to freely join political organizations of their choice; however, in practice these rights were restricted through bureaucratic obstacles and government and ruling party intimidation, harassment, and arrests, with physical threats and violence used by local officials and EPRDF operatives, local police, and shadowy local militias under the control of local EPRDF operatives. (p. 33.)

The World Bank’s 2009 Worldwide Governance Indicators made it clear that corruption remained a serious problem… [S]ome government officials appeared to manipulate the privatization process, and state- and party-owned businesses received preferential access to land leases and credit. (p. 37.)

The law provides for public access to government information, but access was largely restricted in practice. (p. 38.)

The government harassed individuals who worked for domestic human rights organizations. (p. 40)

The government denied NGOs access to federal prisons, police stations, and political prisoners. There were credible reports that security officials continued to intimidate or detain local individuals to prevent them from meeting with NGOs and foreign government officials investigating allegations of abuse. (p. 41.)

There were no further developments in the July 2009 case of the 444 staff members, including high-ranking officials, fired by the Addis Ababa Police Commission for involvement in serious crimes, including armed robbery, rape, and theft. (p.8.)

Women and girls experienced gender-based violence daily, but it was underreported due to cultural acceptance, shame, fear, or a victim’s ignorance of legal protections… Domestic violence, including spousal abuse, was a pervasive social problem. The 2005 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) found that 81 percent of women believed a husband had a right to beat his wife. (p. 42.)

Sexual harassment was widespread. The penal code prescribes 18 to 24 months’ imprisonment; however, harassment-related laws were not enforced. (p. 43.)

Child abuse was widespread. Unlike in previous years there was no training of police officers on procedures for handling cases of child abuse. (p. 45.)

There were an estimated 5.4 million orphans in the country, according to the report of Central Statistics Authority. Government-run orphanages were overcrowded, and conditions were often unsanitary. Due to severe resource constraints, hospitals and orphanages often overlooked or neglected abandoned infants. (p. 47.)

There were approximately seven million persons with disabilities, according to the Ethiopian Federation of Persons with Disabilities. There was one mental hospital and an estimated 10 psychiatrists in the country [of 80 million people.] (p. 48.)

If the foregoing facts are “lies, lies and implausible lies”, the U.S. State Department must be held accountable for issuing false, misleading and deceptive reports and those involved in its preparation should be prosecuted. But if it is the truth that keeps the human rights abusers in Ethiopia closemouthed, then as Scriptures counsel, “Let the lying lips be put to silence.”

 

 

 

Osama bin Laden is killed

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

President Barack Obama has announced Sunday night that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has been killed, according to U.S. officials.

Information released by White House sources to news agencies, including the Associated Press, suggested that Osama bin Laden, nominal head of the al-Qaida terrorist organization worldwide, has been killed in U.S. military action and his body is in American custody.

It is reported that Bin Laden was killed a week ago in Islamabad, Pakistan.

NATO air strike kills Gaddafi’s son

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim announced that 29-year-old Saif al-Arab Gadhafi and the grandchildren were killed during what he called a direct attempt to assassinate the Libyan leader… [read more]

Beka conference in Toronto

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

A conference will be held in Toronto, Canada, on May 7, to discuss the current situation in Ethiopia, including the struggle to bring an end to the brutal dictatorship.

Guest speakers

Obang Metho (SMNE Director)
Jawar Mohamed (Activist and Political Analyst)
Abebe Belew (Addis Dimts Radio Host)
Mohamed Hassan (Researcher and Founder of Canadian Center for Ogaden Researcher and
Advocacy)
Allo Aydahis (From the Afar community)

Date/Time: Saturday, May 7, at 2:00 PM
Address: 40 Donlands, Toronto

More info: Email beqahaakaanu@gmail.com

Uganda protests intensify; Riots break out in Kampala

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

By David Smith | Guardian.co.uk

Riots have swept across the Ugandan capital, Kampala, as protesters called for an Egyptian-style uprising against their autocratic president.

At least two people were killed and more than 100 wounded after soldiers fired live bullets and tear gas and beat demonstrators with sticks. Civilians fought back, blocking roads with burning tyres and pelting vehicles with rocks.

The growing unrest – sparked by rising food and fuel prices – gained fresh impetus after the brutal arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye on Thursday.

But President Yoweri Museveni, who was been in control for a quarter of a century, has met the protests with a show of force.

His military police were accused of attacking innocent spectators on Friday. One victim could be seen lying in a pool of blood, apparently after being shot in the head at a local market.

In the Karwerwe neighbourhood, police chased a teenager, Andrew Kibwka, with heavy wooden sticks and rained blows on him.

“I thought the police were going to kill me,” he said minutes later, his arm bruised and a finger bleeding. “I was telling them I’m harmless, but they just carried on. I did nothing to provoke them. They beat me because I was running away.”

The 18-year-old added: “I’m in pain all over my body. The police are being too brutal. I think Uganda will get worse if the president does not resign.”

A minibus, a taxi and other vehicles that tried to travel up the street were pelted with stones. Then soldiers in armoured vehicles appeared and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, and people ran away in panic.

Standing at a market, Robert Mayanja, who described himself as an activist, said: “What they are doing now shows that Museveni rigged the last election.

“If you look at Uganda, why should we vote for him after 25 years? We have high prices, we have hospitals without medicine. Is there anything to vote for?”

Mayanja, 31, said a repeat of the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia was “definitely” possible. “What we are seeing here are people who are not armed but are taking a stand against armed forces,” he added. “People are ready. It’s just a question of time.

“We know they are going to arrest many people and put them in torture chambers. We know this regime has expired. These are the signs.”

Eric Mbiro, a 20-year-old student, agreed: “We are tired of this government because of the price of commodities,” he said. “There is no presidency in Uganda. The president rules the country like his own home. He is a dictator. We need change.”

But he was more sceptical about the prospects for an uprising, saying: “We will not manage to do what they did in Egypt because people here are poor. There is too much poverty in Uganda.”

Military police fired live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas at numerous burning barricades blocking the main road out of Kampala to the international airport in Entebbe and sprayed adjacent residential areas with bullets.

Shell casings littered the main road, tear gas hung in the air and security forces beat local residents.

In Ntinda, angry youths shouted and hurled stones and chunks of concrete at passing cars. On one corner, a man ran up to a council vehicle as it drove by and smashed the driver’s window with a rock, raising cheers from onlookers.

A coded sign language is already in place. Motorists who hold two fingers aloft in a “v for victory” symbol, showing they support the rebellion, are allowed to pass unharmed, but a single raised thumb is interpreted as a pro-Museveni gesture.

Roads were blocked by rocks, cones, debris and burning tyres. A bare-chested man lay face down on the grass, his head being bandaged by Red Cross medics.

An eyewitness said the man had been the victim of an unprovoked attack. “The military police were making people clear the road, and this boy worked for 30 minutes,” Timothy Ssenfuma, a 35-year-old electrical engineer, said. “He said he wanted to go, but they beat him on the head and back until he collapsed. They were also beating up even women and young ladies just to clear the road.

“They are killing innocent Ugandans who are not even involved in the uprising. We appeal to the rest of the world to help Ugandans as they have in Libya and elsewhere.”

A teacher, who gave his name only as Nixon, claimed the security forces had launched an indiscriminate attack, saying: “The military police came and started beating up people.

“Some had to run away and others had to fight back to defend their friends. People have terrible anger at the way they were treated.”

The 32-year-old said he could not imagine an Egypt-like revolt in the short term. “But in the long term, I believe it can happen,” he added. “The military is still strong and many of the soldiers are unwilling to turn to the side of the people. But, in time, they might get tired of beating the people.

“I really look forward to it. As your friends are beaten and arrested, the professionals need to come out and organise the people.”

Red Cross official Richard Nataka said more than 100 injured people had been taken to five centres, including 78 , of whom 10 had gunshot wounds, at the Mulago Hospital.

He said one person had died and a pickup truck brought in a second body shortly afterwards. Red Cross vehicles were arriving at the Mulago Hospital every few minutes with more casualties.

Besigye has held five “walk to work” demonstrations against rising prices and what he calls a corrupt government. On Friday, demonstrators carried posters praising Besigye, and asked why police needed to use violence to arrest him.

Besigye has been released on bail, but is said to be in poor health and still unable to see after pepper spray was fired into his eyes.

Meles Zenawi fails to attend Ali Mirah’s funeral

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Funeral services for Biwoded Sultan Ali Mirah Hanfere, one of the most prominent Ethiopians, was held on Tuesday in the eastern Ethiopian town of Assaita in the presence of family members, friends and supporters from different parts of the country, religious figures, and political leaders, including the prime minister of Djibouti.

Conspicuously, but not surprisingly, absent from the funeral was the khat-addicted tin-pot dictator Meles Zenawi.

Although Ali Mirah, 95, is a bitter opponent of Meles Zenawi’s politics, he is more than a politician. He is a spiritual leader of Ethiopia’s Afar community, and held in high esteem by millions of Ethiopians as a great patriot. His influence extends beyond Ethiopia’s borders. That’s why Djibouti’s prime minister came to Assaita to pay his respect.

A senior Ethiopian church leader endorses “beka” (interview)

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Abune Mekarios, one of the most senior leaders of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, has called on Ethiopians to unite and say “BEKA” (enough) to Meles Zenawi’s dictatorship. Abune Mekarios sent out his message during an interview with ESAT. Watch parts 1-3 below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 4

Sultan Ali Mirah Hanfere passed away

Monday, April 25th, 2011

sultan ali mirahEthiopia has lost one of its best sons, Sultan Ali Mirah Hanfere, yesterday. Sultan Ali Mirah, 95, is a great Ethiopian patriot, a staunch advocate of Ethiopia’s unity, and a leader of the Afar ethnic community in eastern Ethiopia.

The Sultan is remembered and honored among patriotic Ethiopians for his famous quote: “Even our camels salute the Ethiopian flag.” He reportedly made that comment in response to Meles Zenawi’s description of Ethiopia’s flag as “just a piece of rag.”

In a 1992 interview with Dr Fikre Tolossa, Ali Mirah said:

The people of Afar like other Ethiopians are proud of their heritage and history. We are one with all Ethiopians. No one can make excuses and take this identity from the Afar people. Only the forces who are anti-Afar people will make claims of separation. We will not hesitate to expose them for what they are. This must be done for the unity of our Ethiopian people.”

Sultan Ali Mirah’s political activities have been brutally suppressed for that past 20 years by the anti-Ethiopia ethnic apartheid junta that is currently ruling the country.

Ali Mirah will be buried in the town of Assaita tomorrow.

Will US and UK help Zenawi to supress popular uprising?

Monday, April 25th, 2011

By Shannon Filed | The New Age

Ethiopia is one of the largest recipients of development aid, receiving over US$3.3bn (R22.6bn) annually. Ethiopia is perceived by Western leaders as a largely Christian country bordering two unstable Islamic states, Sudan and Somalia, and viewed as a crucial ally in the “war on terror”.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister dictator Meles Zenawi has charmed Western leaders so successfully that he has seen foreign aid more than double in the past six years, while his regime has become increasingly repressive.

Zenawi presided over what were regarded as fraudulent elections in both 2005 and 2010, and in an attempt to maintain his regime’s grip on power, detained tens of thousands of opposition supporters, imprisoned opposition leaders and executed demonstrators. The US State Department acknowledged in its human rights reports the “numerous credible reports of unlawful detention of opposition candidates in Ethiopia, and the politically motivated killings committed by the security forces”. Despite this, Ethiopia remains a top US client state in the East African region and has not been subjected to official public criticism for the ruthlessness with which it deals with its detractors.

Ethiopia’s geo-strategic importance to the US has become the overriding issue, eclipsing the government’s growing political repression. With escalating calls from within Ethiopian society for a people’s uprising, the US finds itself again propping up a dictatorial regime, at US$1bn (R6.8bn) a year, in addition to the provision of military training and weaponry.

The collaborative relationship between the US and Ethiopia has been developing for years, with the common purpose being the rooting out of Islamic radicalism, particularly inside Somalia. The Pentagon has trained Ethiopian troops for counterterrorism operations in camps near the Somali border, and the US believes these efforts have disrupted terrorist networks in Somalia.

The US backed the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006, and has shared its intelligence on the positions of Islamic militants with the Ethiopian military. The US has gone as far as using a base in Ethiopia to capture al-Qaeda leaders, and to use an airstrip in eastern Ethiopia to launch air strikes against Islamic militants in Somalia. Ethiopia’s geo-strategic importance is not only its proximity to Somalia, a known breeding ground for al-Qaeda, but as a backdoor to the Middle East.

This close relationship with Ethiopia is coming under the spotlight as the wave of people power in North Africa and the Middle East has inspired Ethiopian opposition movements to follow suit. In March, the Ethiopian Americans Council wrote to US President Barak Obama about the political situation in Ethiopia and the growing political suppression by the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). They claim the punitive legislation such as the Civil Society Law, Anti-Terror Law and Press Law hamper the ability to organise public meetings and rallies, and to raise funds. They have warned that Ethiopians are organising strikes and demonstrations for the coming months, and claim that an uprising has already begun in the southern region. It is alleged that security forces used deadly force against peaceful protestors on March 7 and 9 in the Gamgofa zone. The Council is seeking US support for the opposition’s campaign.

The Ethiopian regime is concerned about the power and influence of its massive diaspora, and their ability to stage demonstrations in cities around the world. This concern is well placed given that the diaspora is becoming more mobilised and determined to expose the draconian nature of the regime.

The regime is so concerned about the inevitability of a mass uprising at home that any gathering of more than three people in all urban centres has been banned, and there is a heavy military presence in the capital Addis Ababa. Prime Minister Zenawi has articulated his concern about the political turmoil in Yemen, just 150km from Ethiopia’s northern border, and has claimed that some domestic opposition groups are trying to incite a similar uprising.

The regime has taken immediate measures to counter any potential uprising by arresting more than 200 members of the opposition during March to prevent the organisation of demonstrations. The regime has also resumed its jamming of the US-financed Voice of America (VOA) language service broadcasts to Ethiopia. The VOA is the only international radio service broadcasting in the three main Ethiopian languages – Amharic, Afan Oromo and Tigrayan. Any political broadcasts by the VOA are now disrupted, as they provide the opposition with a voice.

An immediate mass uprising may not materialise given the collective memory of the harsh crackdown following public demonstrations in 2005, where 200 peaceful demonstrators were killed by security forces, 765 were wounded, and 30000 detained. At the time the opposition had protested against what they termed fraudulent elections, where the manipulation of election results gave the opposition far fewer seats than they believe they won. Thousands were arrested, the independent media silenced and 131 opposition politicians and journalists were put on trial for treason, outrages against the constitution and genocide. While the Ethiopian Parliamentary Commission report said the security forces did not use excessive force, the commission leaders claim their findings were altered by the government prior to the report’s release.

The 2010 elections were arguably worse, with higher levels of intimidation and coercion used. In the 2005 elections the opposition had won all the national and regional council seats of Addis Ababa, but in 2010 the government claimed to have won them all back. The regime claims to have won an overall 99.6% in the poll.

Prior to the 2010 elections, the government also denied food aid to opposition supporters, using it to reward its political allies – a tactic employed in successive elections. In a country where 3 million people experience hunger every year, this was a gross politicisation of humanitarian assistance. Human Rights Watch has painstakingly documented the regime’s multilayered oppressive strategies in its 105-page report Development Without Freedom: How Aid Underwrites Repression in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian public know any uprising would be dealt a swift and brutal response by the regime. Unless there is reason to believe that segments of the Ethiopian military and Western powers would support their calls for regime change, it may be too much of a calculated risk.

Compared to Egypt and Tunisia, Ethiopia has a much smaller, less educated middle class, with less access to the internet. Internet connection in Ethiopia is 0.5% compared to 21.2% in Egypt. Somalia, which has not had a stable government for more than 20 years, has a higher internet connection rate than Ethiopia.

For any uprising to succeed in Ethiopia a critical mass of support is needed , particularly among the youth, with clear objectives, a well-defined strategy, determination and at least some support from the armed forces. Nationally no political organisation has the influence or credibility to lead a popular revolt, but as in Egypt, a cohesive political leadership is not necessary for an uprising to succeed.

What would be pivotal is the support of the US to opposition forces in the face of a brutal government crackdown.

It is this solidarity with democratic forces that cannot be relied upon given the close relations with the Zenawi government nurtured over time to ensure a virtual US proxy in the region.

(Shannon Field is a independent political analyst)

We Went, We Saw, We Got Chased Out…

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Following the Battle of Zela in 47 B.C. (present day Zile, Turkey), Julius Caesar claimed victory by declaring: “I came; I saw; I conquered.” In 2011, Caesar Meles Zenawi, the dictator-in-chief in Ethiopia, scattered his top henchmen throughout the U.S. and Europe to declare victory in the propaganda war on Diaspora Ethiopians. But there was no victory to be had, only ignominious defeat at the hands of Zenawi’s tenacious, resolute and dogged opponents. No victory dances; only a speedy shuffle back to the capo di tutti capi (boss of all bosses) to deliver the message: “We went; We saw; We got chased the hell out of Dodge!”

The purpose of the recent official travelling circus was to introduce and generate support among Diaspora Ethiopians for Zenawi’s five-year economic program pretentiously labeled “Growth and Transformation Plan”. In city after city in North America and Europe, Zenawi’s crew received defiant and pugnacious reception. Ethiopians made the various meeting venues and sites virtual mini-Tahrir Squares (Egypt). Ethiopian men and women, Christians and Muslims, young and old, professionals and service workers, students and teachers and members of various political groups and parties showed up in a united front to confront and challenge Zenawi’s henchmen. One need only view any one of the numerous videotapes online to appreciate the intensity, depth and strength of Diaspora Ethiopian opposition to Zenawi’s regime.

In Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle, New York, Toronto, London and various other cities, Ethiopians came out in full force and tried to gain admission into the meetings.  Many were singled out and turned back. In a widely-disseminated and cogently argued “open letter”,Fekade Shewakena, a former professor at Addis Ababa University, wrote Girma Birru, Zenawi’s official representative in the U.S., complaining about his discriminatory treatment in being refused admission at the meeting held on the campus of Howard University:

I was formally invited by an [Ethiopian] embassy staffer… I faced the wrath of the protestors as I was crossing their picket lines [to attend the meeting]. Then I met the people who were deployed by the [Ethiopian] embassy to man the gate, and do the sad job of screening participants and deciding what type of Ethiopian should be let in and what type should be kept out. I was told I was ineligible to enter and saw many people being returned from entering. One screener told me… “ante Tigre titela yelem ende min litisera metah” [Tr. Do you not hate Tigreans? What business do you have here?...]

The ethnic stripe test was the last straw for many of the protesters who denounced Zenawi and his crew as “murderers”, “thieves” (leba) and “opportunists” (hodams). Inside the meeting halls, those who asked tough questions were singled out and ejected by the organizers, often violently. Some were physically assaulted requiring emergency medical assistance. Nearly all of the meetings were disrupted, cancelled, stopped or delayed. To sum it up, those who made peaceful dialogue impossible, made angry verbal exchanges inevitable.

Zenawi in September, His Troops in April?

It will be recalled that in September 2010 when Zenawi came to the U.S. to speak at the World Leader’s Conference at Columbia University, he set off a firestorm of opposition among Ethiopians in the U.S. Busloads of Ethiopian activists descended on New York City to confront Zenawi, but they were kept away from the campus. A massive campaign (reminiscent of the anti-war protest days at Columbia in the late 1960s) was undertaken to mobilize Columbia students, faculty and staff to put pressure on the university administration to disinvite Zenawi.

Zenawi’s invitation also provoked strong reaction among non-Ethiopians. Prof. Ted Vestal, the distinguished and respected scholar on Ethiopia, outraged by Zenawi’s invitation wrote Columbia President Lee Bollinger: “The only way you can redeem the damaged reputation of the World Leaders Forum is by publicly making known the shortcomings of Prime Minister Meles and his government in your introductory remarks–a refutation similar to what you did in introducing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran in 2007.”

World-renowned Columbia economist Prof. Jagdish Bagwati wrote in disgust: “It seems probable that the President’s [Bollinger] office was merely reproducing uncritically the rubbish that was supplied by one of these Columbia entrepreneurs [Columbia Professors Joseph Stiglitz (Zenawi’s sponsor) and  Jeffrey Sachs] whose objective is to ingratiate himself with influential African leaders regardless of their democratic and human-rights record, to get PR and ‘goodies’ for themselves at African summits, at the UN where these leaders have a vote, etc.”

I vigorously defended Zenawi’s right to speak at Columbia because I believed the opportunity could offer him a teachable moment in the ways of free people:

I realize that this may not be a popular view to hold, but I am reminded of the painful truth in Prof. Noam Chomsky’s admonition: ‘If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.’ On a personal level, it would be hypocritical of me to argue for free speech and press freedoms in Ethiopia and justify censorship or muzzling of Zenawi stateside. If censorship is bad for the good citizens of Ethiopia, it is also bad for the dictators of Ethiopia.

Following the Columbia episode, one has to wonder why Zenawi would send hordes of his top officials to the U.S. and elsewhere to evangelize on behalf of his regime. It is logical to assume that Zenawi conducted a “vulnerability analysis” of Diaspora Ethiopians before sending out his crew. It is likely that he studied Diaspora attitudes and perceptions toward his regime and the current situation in the country, the ethnic and political divisions and tensions in the Diaspora, the strength of Diaspora elite cooperation and intensity of conflict among them, etc. and decided to make his move. He likely concluded that any potential opposition to the meetings could be handled by utilizing an “ethnic filter” at the door of the meeting halls.

But what are Zenawi’s real reasons for sending his top cadre of officials to North America and Europe? There could be several answers to this deceptively simple question.

Zenawi’s Arsenal of Weapons of Mass Distraction

Careful evaluation of Zenawi’s propaganda strategy shows that the dispatch of officials to the to the U.S. and Europe is part of a broader integrated campaign to undermine opposition in the Diaspora, energize supporters and reinforce favorable perception and action by  foreign donors and banks. Manifestly, the mission of the crew sent to “dialogue” with the Ethiopian Diaspora was to divert attention from the extreme domestic economic, political and social problems in the country and to exude public confidence in the fact that the upheavals in North Africa are of no consequence in Ethiopia. The other elements in this propaganda campaign of mass distraction include belligerent talk of regime change in Eritrea, inflammatory water war-talk with Egypt, wild allegations of terrorist attacks, wholesale jailing and intimidation of opponents, proposals for the construction of an imaginary dam, attacks on international human rights organizations that have published critical reports on the regime (just a day ago, Zenawi’s deputy said he “dismisses” the 2010 U.S. Human Rights Report as “baseless”) and so on.  The hope is that the more Diasporans talk about the manufactured issues, the less they will talk about the real issues of stratospheric inflation, food shortages, skyrocketing fuel costs, massive repression, information and media suppression, etc. in Ethiopia.

By alternating propaganda topics from day today, Zenawi hopes to keep his opponents and critics talking reflexively about his issues and off-balance. The more outrageous his claims, the more reaction he is likely to elicit from his opponents and critics, and be able to better control the debate and the minds of those engaged in it. To be sure, by sending his travelling circus to the U.S., Zenawi has succeeded in angering, inflaming and riling up his Diaspora opponents. He knows just how to “get their goat”. He manipulates that outpouring of anger, rage and frustration to keep his opponents’ eyes off the prize.

The Propaganda Value of “In-Yo’-Diaspora-Face” Confrontation

By sending a large delegation into the Ethiopian Diaspora, Zenawi is also sending an unmistakable message: “In yo’ face, Ethiopian Diaspora! I can do what I am doing in Ethiopia just as easily in your neck of the woods.” It is a confrontational propaganda strategy tinged with a tad of arrogance. Zenawi seems to believe that the Ethiopian Diaspora is so divided against itself and inherently dysfunctional that it is incapable of mounting an effective opposition to his regime or even his crew’s visit. By unleashing swarms of regime officials in the Diaspora, Zenawi likely intended to further degrade the Diaspora’s ability to conduct or sustain opposition activities, demoralize and disconcert them and confuse their leadership. On the other hand, if he can muster a successful foray with his crew, he could establish his invincibility and spread pessimism and despair in the Diaspora. But the whole affair proved to be a total failure as have all previous efforts to stage “in yo’ face” confrontation with Diaspora Ethiopians. The Diaspora may be divided but not when it comes to Zenawi’s regime.

Effective Propaganda Tool Against the “Extreme Diaspora”

The other less apparent side of “in yo’ face” confrontation is to make a record of the “extreme Diaspora”. Zenawi will no doubt use this episode to show American and European  policy makers that he is reasonable and statesman-like while the opposition, particularly in the Diaspora, consist of an assortment of wild-eyed, hysterical, fanatical, intolerant, irrational, hateful and mean-spirited extremists. He will argue to American policy makers that he sent his top leaders to engage Diasporan Ethiopians in civil dialogue only to be attacked, insulted and berated. He will hand them copies of  well-edited videotapes of agitated protesters titled: “Behold the Ethiopian Diaspora!” In short, Zenawi will use the protest videos as Exhibit A to demonize, discredit, dehumanize, marginalize, categorize and sermonize about the Evil Extreme Ethiopian Diaspora. At the end, he will offer American policy makers a simple choice: “I am your man! It’s me or these raving lunatics.” Based on historical experience and empirical observations, some American policy makers may actually buy his argument.

Pandering to the U.S., IMF, E.U.

A third objective of the dog and pony show about the “Growth and Transformational Plan” is to please (hoodwink) the U.S., the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and others. It is an elaborately staged drama for this audience to show that Zenawi has a real economic plan for Ethiopia that exceeds the “Millennium Goals” (e.g. eradicate extreme poverty, reduce child mortality, fight AIDS, form global partnership, etc. by 2015). By making gestures of engagement with the Ethiopian Diaspora, Zenawi is trying to build credibility for his “economic plan” and that it has broad support within and outside the country. He deserves billions more in in loans and economic aid. Zenawi knows exactly what buttons to push to get the attention and approval of donors and loaners.

The “economic plan” itself floats on a sea of catchphrases, clichés, slogans, buzzwords, platitudes, truisms and bombast. Zenawi says his plan will produce “food sufficiency in five years.” But he cautions it is a “high-case scenario which is clearly very, very ambitious.” He says  the “base-case” scenario of “11 percent average economic growth over the next five years is  doable” and the “high-case” scenario of 14.9 percent is “not unimaginable”. The hype of super economic growth rate is manifestly detached from reality. The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative Multidimensional Poverty Index 2010 (formerly annual U.N.D.P. Human Poverty Index) ranks Ethiopia as second poorest (ahead of famine-ravaged Mali) country on the planet. Six million Ethiopians needed emergency food aid last year and many millions will need food aid this year. An annual growth rate of 15 percent for the second poorest country on the planet for the next five years goes beyond the realm of imagination to pure fantasy. The IMF predicts a growth rate of 7 percent for 2011, but talking about economic statistics on Ethiopia is like talking about the art of voodoo.

Dialogue, Like Charity, Begins at Home

Like charity, dialogue begins at home. Zenawi should allow free and unfettered discussion of his economic plan as well as human rights record within Ethiopia first before sending his troupe into the Diaspora.  Conversation is a two-way street. If Zenawi wants to talk about his economic plan to Diaspora Ethiopians, he must be prepared to listen to their human rights concerns.

There is not a single Ethiopian who will oppose food sufficiency in that hungry country by 2015 or decline to contribute to the prosperity and development of Ethiopia. Reasonable people could disagree on Zenawi’s “growth and transformation plan”. History shows that similar schemes based on foreign agricultural investments in Latin America have produced Banana Republics. Whether Zenawi’s economic plan will produce a Barley or Rice Republic in Ethiopia is an arguable question. But there can be no development without freedom. There can be no development in a climate of fear, loathing and intimidation, and one-party, one-man domination. Most certainly, there can be no development without respect for fundamental human rights and the rule of law. Though it is very possible to pull the wool over the eyes of people who have very little access to information, it is impossible to fool a politically conscious, active and energized Ethiopian Diaspora community by putting on a dog and pony show.

 

 

Uganda police killed five protesters

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

(Amnesty International) — The Ugandan government must immediately end the excessive use of force against protesters, Amnesty International said today, after police fired live rounds at crowds of protesters in different parts of the country reportedly killing a child.

Five people have been killed in Uganda since the protests, sparked by a rise in fuel prices and the cost of living, began on 11 April.

“The police have a duty to protect themselves and uphold the law, but it is completely unacceptable to fire live ammunition at peaceful protesters,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Africa Deputy Director.

“They must now investigate these deaths immediately in a thorough, independent and effective manner.”

One child was killed and two protesters injured by bullets during protests in the town of Masaka today, a local journalist told Amnesty International. Two police officers were reportedly badly beaten by protesters during the disturbances.

Kizza Besigye, leader of the opposition party, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), was today arrested for the third time since the protests began. He has been charged with unlawful assembly and will appear in court on 27 April.

Two men were shot dead by security forces in the northern town of Gulu on 14 April. Adoni Mugisu, a market vendor, and Charles Otula, a mechanic died after police fired into crowds of unarmed protesters. The government expressed regret over the deaths and blamed the deaths on the opposition leaders and protesters.

During the protests in Gulu one other person was reportedly lynched by protesters for wearing a T-shirt with a photograph of President Museveni.

On Monday 18 April, dozens of people were arrested and charged with offences ranging from inciting violence to participating in unlawful assemblies. Among them was Democratic Party leader Norbert Mao, who refused to apply for bail and is scheduled to appear in court next month.

“Uganda must immediately drop all charges against Kizza Besigye and all other opposition politicians, activists and supporters,” said Michelle Kagari.

“Criminal charges must not be used against those taking part in peaceful protests and those detained must be released.

“The government must also launch an independent investigation into all human rights violations alleged to have been committed during the recent events. All those suspected of carrying out acts of unlawful violence must be held to account,” she said.

Since the conclusion of the February 2011 general elections, the Ugandan police have maintained a blanket ban against all forms of public assemblies and demonstrations, on grounds of ensuring public security.

“The ban on public rallies violates the right to freedom of expression provided for under Uganda’s Constitution and international law. It must be lifted immediately, “said Michelle Kagari.

“The Ugandan government argues that the ban is in the interest of public security. But in fact it is having the opposite effect, causing widespread disruption,” she said.

“The Lion of Judah in the New World” – Book Review

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

By Messay Kebede

The latest book of Professor Theodore M. Vestal, The Lion of Judah in the New World: Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and the Shaping of Americans’ Attitudes toward Africa (Praeger, 2011) presents an insightful, focused, and scholarly portrait of HaileSelassie. Revolving around the central issue of knowing how Haile Selassie became the subject of a wide American adulation, this book of a great friend of Ethiopia gives fresh insights into US policy in Africa since World War II and a penetrating analysis of the emperor’s rise and fall.

To begin with, Vestal avoids the too common path of a one-sided portrait of Haile Selassie. He does not describe the emperor as “a demoniac despot administering large doses of cruelty” (xiii). Nor does he follow the path of mystification, of “lofty, lyrical language of praise” (xiii). Instead, Vestal presents a balanced account in which merits and flaws are spelled out. More importantly, the account is such that it forces us to face the enigmatic disjunction of HaileSelassie’s reign, namely, his international fame and importance and his disappointing internal performances and final disgrace. As Vestal aptly puts it: “it is perhaps difficult to understand how a ruler so reviled in his homeland for more than 35 years by successor governments could have been such an international celebrity and be so royally received abroad” (xi).

In his analysis of the rise of Haile Selassie to absolute power, Vestal gives a proper place to his consummate political skills, notably his shrewdness, which helped him “outsmart, outmaneuver, and outwait the xenophobic, isolationist conservatives who stood in his way” (21). Yet to reduce his triumph to shrewdness would be one-sided: the full impact of his personality appears only when shrewdness is coupled with charismatic traits. HaileSelassie shrouded his political skills with a thick cover of charm that seduced not only many Ethiopians for a long time, but also the international audience, in particular the American public.

Vestal speaks of “a perplexing figure,” of “elusive” character (190) and provides pertinent examples of the complexity of Haile Selassie’s personality. The purpose of this psychological analysis is obvious: the question why this shrewd politician missed the necessity of reforms cannot be answered without some access into his deeper soul. Likewise, Ethiopia became a major beneficiary of US aid thanks to the impressive personality of Haile Selassie over and above its strategic interest, which was essentially confined to the American policy of Soviet containment and the use of the Kagnew communication facilities in Eritrea. Americans were fascinated with the dignity and august figure of the emperor. For instance, Time magazine named Haile Selassie “Man of the Year” twice.

In light of the limited interest of Ethiopia to the US, Haile Selassie’s offensive of charm, Vestal convincingly argues, was instrumental in the forging of close ties. Ethiopia’s participation in the Korean War and several state visits to the US further strengthened the ties. In addition to appreciable economic and military aids, the combination of diplomacy with charm secured US support for the federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia.

The domestic usage of external policy is another facet of Haile Selassie’s political acumen. His attempt to gain international fame through an offensive of charm was a component part of his strategy to overshadow and defeat his internal opponents. Doubtless, Haile Selassie succeeded in imposing his absolute rule on Ethiopia by means of fame gained abroad. His internal opponents looked mean and petty in the face of his international grandeur.

Among the insightful contributions of Vestal’s book is a realistic analysis of US policy in Ethiopia. Though ties were close enough for Ethiopia to become a major beneficiary of American economic and military aid, they were fraught with ambiguity and constant misunderstandings. In particular, unable to understand how democratic governments work, Haile Selassie was constantly unhappy with the amount of US military and economic aids. From his exchanges with American presidents, he expected immediate and generous assistance, and so overlooked the fact that they are limited by “congressional control of spending” (101) and other domestic factors.

The US government, in its turn, was dealing with an outdated regime and an obstinate monarch whose ambition exceeded by far the status of the country he was representing. To make matters worse, in the face of mounting domestic dissatisfaction, Haile Selassie proved reluctant to effect reforms, convinced as he was that his regime “would continue as it had for almost 40 years under his enlightened rule” (160). At a time when growing Somali threat and insurgency in Eritrea compelled Haile Selassie to ask for more military aid, the prevailing view in the American government was that Ethiopia needed “faster paced change and reform” (173) rather than more arms. To crown it all, the operations at Kagnew Station ceased in 1974, depriving Ethiopia of its strategic interest (183). In other words, “at the advent of the 1970s the relationship between the United States and Ethiopia was in decline” (173).

We all know what happened next and Vestal’s book goes a long way in showing the premises of the little effort of the US government to intervene and save the imperial regime from the assault of revolutionary forces. Together with the dissatisfaction and rebellious mood of an increasing number of Ethiopians, the international opinion and the American public were liberated from the spell of Haile Selassie’s myth. Thus, Haile Selassie’s obsession with absolute power had finally defeated his uncommon political acumen.

Unfortunately, Ethiopia’s tragedy will not end with Haile Selassie, since the same obsession for absolute power defines his successors to the point of obstructing their political acuity, to which they owe their ascent to power. Blinded by his early victories, his first successor, Mengistu Hailemariam, lost power because he could not reverse the infirmities induced by his dictatorial rule. The second successor, Meles, is stuck with the same fixation, which leads him to pursue the destructive policy of “after me the deluge” characteristic of all dictators.

Prof. Messay Kebede can be reached at Messay.Kebede@notes.udayton.edu
Prof. Theodore Vestal can be reached at vestal65@hotmail.com

Exporting Kilil to America

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

By Yilma Bekele

Being an Ethiopian has always been difficult. The bad news is, it is not going to get any easier. Two weeks ago I found out it can be taken away too. It has come to a point where names and looks plus attitude can determine who is and who is not an Ethiopian. Welcome to Kilil in America.

The Ethiopian government reps. held a town hall meeting in a city not far from where I live. There were over a hundred of us protesting outside and two hundred plus were inside listening to the marketing. It was an out of this world experience. San Jose and other cities where the salesmen went were transformed in a new and positive manner. The intervention was definitely divine. Ethiopia stretched her hands to God and it was answered.

They came with their ethnic baggage in hand; we waited for them as one. They came to divide, we ended up together. They came to saw hate and discord but they made us see how beautiful our diversity is. They are programmed to think as one while we celebrate the many voices that enrich our discussion. It was obvious we were like oil and water. Woyane and Ethiopia don’t mix. Mengistu and Ethiopia did not mesh either. Too bad we ended up where we started.

The government is perfectly aware that there was no chance of holding a fund raising or any event in any western city. None. Why do it then? Why does a snake bite? It is embedded in its DNA. Hate and violence are imbedded in Woyane’s nature. They came specifically to stir the pot of hate and ethnic division. They knew they were going to set up a single ethnic group against all others. If it serves their purpose and they did not care for the consequences. They are cold blooded.

San Jose was one such place where this tragic theatre was played. It was financed by all but directed, stared by and played by a single ethnic group. It started late, sound and video were not set up and things never got any better. When it did start the presentation made you wonder why a meeting was called for. The presenter who later on the program introduced himself as Minster of Internet just read the power point presentation word for word. That was the whole shpeel. The question and answer were a wholesale situation where nothing of significance was asked or answered. It was a depressing display of weakness.

Looking at the officials made me think how much we all contributed to this madness. I thought of my cousins starving, their children not learning, the graduates not working and the mothers and fathers watching their kids wasting their productive years. Here we have a 35 people strong delegation visiting 10 US cites to stir trouble. It is not a cheap trip. Here is a very conservative budget for building a bridge to nowhere.

Round trip ticket 35*4500 157,500.00
Hotel 35*15*350 183,750.00
Per Diem 35*15*250 131,250.00
Hall rental 10*4500 45,000.00
Security 10*2500 25,000.00
US transportation 35*1500 52,500.00
Auto rental 15*750 11,250.00
Entertainment 10*5000 50,000.00

Total in US dollars $656,250.00
Total in Eth. Bir $11,812,500.00

Do you think the investment is worth the return? Or should the question be what exactly was the regime expecting from such an investment. I believe it was meant to deflect attention away from the current peoples uprisings in North Africa. It is also to cover up the ongoing economic melt down. As far as the regime is concerned both are very troubling issues currently eating up scarce resources to safeguard the status quo. The whole country is employee of the Ethiopian government. There is no branch of activity the government either directly or thru its proxies such as EFFORT is not involved in. Land, Communication, banking, insurance, import export, are all under the control of the TPLF party. It requires a lot of resources to run an illegal enterprise.

It requires constant injection of new capital. The economic downturn in the west and the Middle East is having a negative impact on the regime. The remittance cash is drying up. Expenses are going up. As usual the government is throwing up all kinds of solutions hoping one works. We have seen this before. You remember when growing for bio-fuels was the salvation or was it flowers? How does that compare to railway line to Port Sudan or was it to Mombassa? I believe even Hargessa was in the running. I do not think it was as dramatic as fiber optics wiring for good old Ethiopia and that was five years ago. A few weeks ago the PM was speculating about streetcars for Addis, hope he was dreaming of solar powered, you don’t want all those trolleys stuck in the middle of the road for lack of electricity do you? Menged be fereka.

The new scam to expropriate cash from the citizen is the millennium dam on the mighty Nile. The idea is so beautiful it takes your breath away. It is a very bold proposition that stirs the soul. Imagine a big dam holding our water just for us. As usual as far as TPLF is concerned the dam is done. The computer-generated design is awe-inspiring. You can almost touch it. That is all it is, pie in the sky. They will collect a few dollars and let it die a natural death. Just like the railway line to Kenya, the great highway to Sudan, broadband Internet all over Ethiopia the Millennium Dam will be allowed to evaporate. But, what a warm feeling it created in all of us. Thank you for the wonderful trip Woyane.

While the regime is in such a generous mood to modernize Ethiopia we have a few suggestions if we are allowed. It does not require a single penny from the government. Let us start with education. It is the key. Knowledge is what makes the world go round. Knowledge is what is needed in Ethiopia. Can we allow the privatization of the communication sector and unleash the power of the Internet to spread knowledge free of charge? The rewards are beyond our dreams. It will create thousands of jobs (service providers, web designers, programmers, sales and advertising) not to mention a smarter generation.

Let us also allow the private press to flourish. Private television, radio, newspaper and magazines inform and nurture our people. The government will collect revenues from all this enterprises while the citizen creates jobs and wealth. The San Jose participants were freely given beautifully printed brochures full of pictures, graphs and marketing all done by government-confiscated presses. How sad due to the artificial price of paper, ink and Communications department sanctioned use of violence, threat and other illegal acts the free press in Ethiopia is withering away as we watch. Today our country is the last in Africa in newspaper distribution, variety and freedom scale. Darkness is the friend of the totalitarian system. Knowledge and freedom go hand in hand.

The Ethiopian government means to keep the population in ignorance. Our country is the worst wired and the least digitized on the planet. The government is afraid of the citizen getting unbiased opinion. Independent Web sites are blocked, our satellite TV transmission is jammed (www.esat.com) even VOA and Deutsche Welle are victims of TPLF madness. How could such a government be trusted to do anything good? Why would such a system that degrades human beings be allowed to exist?

It exists because we allow it. It exists because we feed it. It exists because some of us have decided our personal interest is bigger than our love for country and fellow human being. It exists because we have knowingly decided to turn our face away. There are no two sides to dying of hunger. There is nothing to be said about being exiled from your homeland and finding yourself wondering in the deserts of Libya, the Jungles of Malawi, the ghettos of Rome or Frankfort the projects of America. But our silence makes all this happen. If not for us telling the world the trials and tribulations of our people who else?

Since the uprisings in the Moslem world the Ethiopian government has been experimenting with various responses to hold this tsunami of freedom at bay. I believe we are on response #5. It is good to notice that there has never been this flurry of activity in past crisis situations. This one is different. It seems to have a life of its own. No one has found the right combination of response. The one that has come close is Ben Ali of Tunisia. He left early, he left clean. The others, like patients on AID medicine are trying different combinations.

Ato Meles is trying hard. There is no margin for error here. If history is any indication his neck is on line. To his credit he sent Berket, gave a press conference, used the speech at the kangaroo Parliament, sent his delegates to Europe and America and created the Millennium Dam fiction. That is five different responses in two months time. For a person whose contract specifies eight hours a day this uprising business is creating over time situation. It is lonely at the top. He does not have any good will left with anybody. His old friends are more than happy to be called as witnesses for the prosecution, his Kilil servants will even the score at a drop of a hat, his foreign benefactors will send Ambassadors to meet the new guys in town and the reliability of family and close friends is not certain. This is not a happy Easter.

Protest march in Mekele (photos)

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

MEKELE, ETHIOPIA — Hundreds of residents in the northern Ethiopian city of Mekele (Tigray Province) held a protest march yesterday, April 20, to voice their opposition to the order by the city administration to vacate their homes, according to Ethiopian Review Intelligence Unit sources.
protest in Mekele, northern Ethiopia
The residents built their homes on the land that the City allocated to them four years ago. Now the City wants the land back.

As the residents peacefully marched to the office of Abay Wolde, President of Tigray, they were intercepted by the Federal Police who ordered them to disperse. After a brief standoff, the police asked the protesters to send their representatives to meet with Abay Woldu. They dispersed after Abay told the representatives that he will let them know his decision on Friday.
protest in Mekele, northern Ethiopia

Ethiopia ranks at the bottom in technology growth

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Ethiopian under the Woyanne junta continues to rank at the bottom among other nations in every development scale. After 20 years of Meles Zenawi’s dictatorship, most Ethiopians live under obscene poverty where children in some areas scavenge for food in trash dumps. In this information age, only 1 percent of Ethiopians have access to computer, and Ethiopia ranks 135th out of 138 countries in Internet usage, 129th in freedom of the press, 138th in mobile phone subscription, 132nd in electricity production, and 133rd in adult literacy rate, according to a recent report by the World Economic Forum (read the report here). That is why Ethiopians are saying Beka (enough) to Meles Zenawi’s 20 years of misrule, repression, and corruption.

ESAT meeting in Ottawa

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Ethiopian Satellite TV (ESAT) will hold a public meeting and fund raising in Ottawa, Canada, on Saturday, April 30, 2011 at 1:00 PM.

Guest speakers: Dr Berhanu Nega and Artist Tamagne Beyene
Address: Ottawa Public Library, 120 Metcalf, Ottawa

For more info: Tel 613 600 6616 or 613 762 2934
Email: esatottawa@yahoo.ca

Confrontation breaks out among Woyanne delegates

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Two weeks ago, Ethiopia’s khat-addicted tyrant Meles Zenawi sent a 35-member high level delegation to North America to promote his new gimmick, “Growth and Transformation Plan” “Grand Theft Plan” (GTP). The dictator who cannot stay one week in power without foreign aid has spent close to a million dollars for the 14-city tour in the U.S. and Canada involving 35 government officials and the 10 “journalists” who accompanied. In every city they visited, the delegates were confronted by protesters, and in Washington DC and Los Angeles, they were forced to cancel their meetings. The tour was a major public relations disaster for the decayed regime.

The two senior TPLF members, Berhane Gebrekirstos and Arkebe Equbai, who led the delegation were particularly shaken by the intensity of the protests and accused Girma Birru and other non-TPLF diplomats of not doing enough preparations. It is now rumored that Girma’s days as Woyanne ambassador to the U.S. are numbered.

Girma and the other puppet diplomats are in a quandary since they have little say to begin with. It is the TPLF cadres at the embassies who are the decision makers. In Girma’s case, he reports to Wahde Belay, a TPLF cadre whose official position is head of public relations, but in reality he is the real ambassador who gives orders to Girma and every one at the embassy.

More evidence that Nile dam is a propaganda stunt

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Just a few months ago and for 20 years before that, Meles Zenawi and his ethnic apartheid junta have been taking the side of Egypt when it comes to Abay (Nile River). In fact, shortly after Meles came to power in 1991 with the help of Egypt, he flew to Cairo to sign a secret agreement with Mubarak (see here) that strips Ethiopia’s claim.

(Updated with some corrections)

1) As of August 22, 2010, 7 months ago, EEPCO’s 5-year-plan did not include Nile River, according to an EEPCO official (read here).

2) When the north Africa and Middle East popular uprisings broke out, the state-run Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPC) revised its 5-year plan to include Nile basin projects as part of the Woyanne so-called “Growth and Transformation Plan” (GTP). (see here)

This is one more proof that Meles and his propaganda chief Bereket Simon concocted the Abay dam idea in a desperate attempt to divert the public attention from saying BEKA (enough) to 20 years of dictatorship and misrule. The people of Ethiopia have had enough of Meles-Bereket’s lies for the past 20 years. What we Ethiopians need is freedom, not fake plans by a gang of proven thieves, rapists and murderers. For Ethiopians trusting the Nile issue with Meles is like some one trusting his daughter with a rapist. (see EEPC’s five-year-plan here. It doesn’t mention Abay.)

Joint Ginbot 7, OLF, and Ogaden public meeting in Atlanta

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Ginbot 7 chairman Dr Berhanu Nega, OLF Atlanta representative Jemal Gelchu, and Ogaden Atlanta community representative Abdul Hakim will hold a public meeting in Atlanta to discuss current Ethiopian issues.

Date: Saturday, April 23, 2011
Time: 1:30 PM
Place: Dekalb County Library, 215 Sycamore Street, Decatur GA 30030

For more info: Tel 770 880 1757

Countering Woyanne Abay propaganda onslaught

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

In a debate with a Woyanne cadre on VOA, Tamagne Beyene does an effective job of countering Meles Zenawi’s new propaganda campaign that is centered around a plan to build a massive dam along the Nile River. Except for some gullible individuals and fence-sitters, most Ethiopians understand that Meles is talking about building a dam not for the good of Ethiopia, but in order to divert the public’s attention from his regime’s 20 years of disastrous rule. Listen the debate below:

Lawlessness in Ethiopia under Woyanne rule – one man’s story

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

The following is a story of one Ethiopian man who went to Ethiopia from Canada to visit his family and ended up in jail. This is one of the many horror stories we hear ever day about the lawlessness in Ethiopia under the Woyanne rule.

By Carol Sanders

(Winnipeg Free Press) — A Winnipeg man who has helped rescue hundreds of people from violence in Ethiopia fears he can’t save his own son, who was jailed there shortly after arriving from Canada two weeks ago.

“I’m very worried,” Juhar Hargaaya said Monday.

His 26-year-old son, Fewaz, left their home in Transcona to visit family in Ethiopia, but was arrested for carrying walkie-talkies and jailed at Dire Dawa in the notorious Ethiopian prison system.

“It’s very bad,” said his father, who arrived in Canada as a refugee in 1990.

Hargaaya, a forklift driver who works seven days a week with a part-time job on weekends, has helped to sponsor hundreds of refugees from Ethiopia over the last 20 years, said Tom Denton at Hospitality House.

Sponsorship documents from the Winnipeg refugee ministry were found among Fewaz’s things after he was arrested in Ethiopia. The forms, critical of the Ethiopian government’s treatment of its people, were for four Ethiopians who’d fled to neighbouring Djibouti, waiting to come to Canada.

Now, Fewaz is in trouble for criticizing the government, said his younger sister, Iftu.

“The conditions in Ethiopian prisons aren’t the best,” said the 24-year-old University of Manitoba student.

“We don’t know if he has access to food and water.”

Her brother hasn’t been able to contact his family or get a lawyer, Iftu said, adding “there’s a guard working in the prison letting our family know.”

What they know so far isn’t good.

“He got sick, so they took him to a hospital,” his sister said. “They said he should undergo an operation.”

Terrified at the prospect of being given anesthetics in an Ethiopian prison hospital, Fewaz refused and asked to go home to Canada for treatment.

“They brought him back to the prison,” Iftu said.

Desperate, he climbed onto a roof to yell for help and was shot at by prison guards. Though he wasn’t hit, he was grabbed, beaten and hauled down to an underground cell, she said.

The Hargaaya family contacted the Canadian government to have someone at the Embassy there check on Fewaz in Dire Dawa, she said.

Iftu fears her brother was jailed because he was trying to help people get out of the country and because their family is Oromo, a community struggling for self-determination in Ethiopia.

Fewaz was arrested after he refused to sell electronics he brought from Canada to a man, said Iftu. The irate buyer was angry and called the police, who found Fewaz with his Canadian “walkie-talkies.”

Police searched the home he was staying at and found sponsorship documents from Hospitality House for two more adults and kids Fewaz’s father in Winnipeg was trying to help come to Canada.

Hargaaya is one of Hospitality House’s most supportive clients, said Denton.

“It’s remarkable what he’s accomplished,” said Denton.

Hargaaya works two jobs and enlists the assistance of people he’s helped settle in Canada over the years. He’s got them paying it forward with financial support for more new refugees, said Denton.

“An organization like ours has the legal capacity to sponsor but doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to support these people when they get here so we enter into arrangements with family links who look after them when the people get here,” Denton said

“He has a network of people across the country and it’s probably people he brought here with our assistance. We’re very supportive of him and what he does.”

Now, his son is stuck in an Ethiopian jail and Denton hopes Canadian diplomats will check on his well-being and help him get home safely.

“I think anyone who is confined to a prison in the Horn of Africa is in serious danger,” Denton said.

Woyanne Desperate Measures

Monday, April 18th, 2011

By Yohannes Kifle

For the past 13 years, the Woyanes have become so predictable when they are in a political quagmire. The recent political uprising in the Middle East and in the Northern part of Africa has Zenawi’s regime so concerned creating political diversion that is further from the reality was crucial in an attempt to engross mainly the people of Ethiopia and, if anyone is listening, the rest of the world.

Of course, Zenawi’s regime has no respect for what his own citizens think. The latest political stint is pretty much staged for the donors he can’t afford to upset since his survival is depending on what these donors think of him. One must keep in mind that the regime is so terrified of the potential up rise and measures to squash it must be justified ahead of time. One must also keep in mind that the regime is pretty good at taking survival measures since it has no principle of fundamental politics to lean on. It is that lack of core of principle the regime is suffering from that will ultimately facilitate its demise. The lack of principle of fundamental politics is a recipe for disaster as it has been witnessed in the past. The regime in Ethiopia is no different than the others with same deficiencies; however, what makes this regime unique is the fact that it receives unwavering support from the West for its unique ability of providing what the West needs. Perhaps, the West deserves share of the blame. In addition, the West needs to evaluate its policy towards the regime in Ethiopia and be on the right side of history, which ultimately benefits the West.

As mentioned above, the latest political stints by the regime were targeting two main elements: national security and economic growth. These two elements were brought to the surface with the assumption that they would create the type of political distraction the regime was hoping for. Unfortunately for the regime, any political stint comes with its own price.

National security:

In the name of national security, the regime was forced to bring Eritrea in this equation with the assumption that any mention of “a threat from Eritrea” will galvanize the nation. This may be true in 1998 -2000. Today, Ethiopians are more educated of what had transpired since the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea broke out. Moreover, Ethiopians are aware of the fact that legally, Eritrea had won the border issue fair and square. The 2002 decision by Hague took the air out of those who were beating the war drum to recover access to the sea. Though the regime in Ethiopia is not officially advocating the return of Assab, the thought process is that by creating the possibility of waging war with Eritrea, potential political capital could be gained, and will ultimately conciliate the anticipated potential threat from civil disobedience that is similar to what had transpired in the Middle East and North Africa. To the regime’s disappointment, the reaction from the vast majority of Ethiopians, including those in Diaspora was extremely negative of the war monger attitude of the regime.

Every time the regime in Ethiopia chooses to show its arrogance about its military superiority it admits its weakness ignorantly. Back in 2000 after the war was over and crowning itself as a winner, the regime couldn’t manage to hide how terrified it was of the strength of Eritrea’s military capacity. It was for that valid reason the regime asked guarantee from the West and the institutions that were involved in bringing peace between these two countries. The latest military bravado, from the regime’s Prime Minister, to invade Eritrea was also a message to the opposition groups who are currently waging internal war with the regime. This message was spawned out of fear.

The Grand Millennium Dam:

The regime’s infatuation to building a dam has been a discussion for quite a while. However, the magnitude of this project is so humongous some doubt the project would be feasible anytime soon due to financial reasons. The regime is banking on the west to assume the bulk of the financial responsibility. In addition, the regime is also taking advantage of this thrill-seeking project as way of communicating with the Diaspora and enticing them with potential investment opportunity hoping to gain political capital. Again, this also failed miserably as it became evident all over the United States where the regime tried to hold these meetings with the Diaspora this past weekend.

Given the regime’s past record, major projects such as the grand millennium dam were used to divert the political attention of the people of Ethiopia from war, economic and political crisis. In 1999, the regime boasted that “merkato” was supposedly to be bought by a Malaysian company for Six billion dollars. During that period of time, the regime also bragged about a 1.7 billion dollars investment on gas pipeline project connecting Ethiopia and Sudan. Of course, no one forgets the empty promises the regime was making about exporting power to Africa while the city of Addis Ababa was suffering from power shortage just about every other day.

Last,

As mentioned above, the political reverberation the regime in Ethiopia has created in the name of “national security” and “Economic growth” has produced no political dividend. Oddly, the regime bankrupted politically on both elements. The war drum against Eritrea was rejected by Ethiopians, which exposed the regime’s vulnerability should these two countries confront each other militarily. Furthermore, the regime credibility in front of the International community (those who matter) will further be damaged. The “economic growth” fiasco that was supposedly to be used as a conduit to establish a relationship with Diaspora with the hope to capitalize politically proved to be a disaster. If anything, this political miscalculation by the regime gives the Diaspora the energy it was looking for. One doesn’t anticipate the regime to try to coddling again with the Diaspora any time soon; however, one will not rule out this regime’s possible war adventure against Eritrea as desperate times call for desperate measures. The Weyanes are indeed desperate.

(The writer can be reached at ycry98@yahoo.com)

Aba Diabilos orders churches to buy government bond

Monday, April 18th, 2011

The Woyanne-installed fake patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Aba Gebremedhin (formerly Abune Paulos) has sent out a directive to 200 churches in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa ordering them to buy 200,000 birr worth of government bonds each to help pay for the recently announced Nile River dam project. Most of the church refused to comply. Read more in the Amharic section here.

Except for some gullible individuals, most Ethiopians believe that Meles Zenawi came up with the plan to build dam along the Nile River in order to divert attention from the mounting domestic problems. Another politically motivated project, the Tekeze River dam, was built at the cost of over $350 million, and inaugurated almost 2 years ago, but it has not yet started producing power.

Langano says BEKA!

Monday, April 18th, 2011

BEKA has now spread to outside of Addis Ababa. Ethiopian Review has received the following photo that was taken at the Langano Wabishebele Hotel today (see below). The slogan is also written on hotel room and bathroom walls at multiple locaitons. BEKA (enough) is a slogan that calls for the end of Meles Zenawi’s 20 years of dictatorship and misrule. Langano is a resort Ethiopian town about 200 km south of Addis Ababa.

The End Game of African Dictators

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Alemayehu G. Mariam

End Game

Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire arrested! Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in intensive care! Moamar Gadhafi of Libya under siege! Omar al-Bashir of the Sudan, a fugitive from justice. Ben Ali of Tunisia out of Africa! Meles Zenawi, sleepless in Ethiopia.

These are heady days on the African continent. These are days of joy. Africa’s thugdoms are crumbling like clumps of dirt underfoot. These are days of grief and tribulation. After one-half century of independence, Africa continues to sink deeper into a quagmire of dictatorship, corruption and extreme violence.

It was a crying shame to see the video footages of Laurent Gbagbo, the leader of one of Africa’s economic powerhouses, being collared, manhandled and dragged away with his wife like a common criminal thug. The last such shocking video came out of Africa in 1990  showing the gruesome torture and execution of Samuel Doe, the president of Liberia. (Doe had himself staged a televised torture and execution of his predecessor William Tolbert.)

Gbagbo’s arrest footage played straight into the stereotypical cartoonish image of the defiantly erratic African dictator often crudely portrayed in the media. Gbagbo looked pathetic as his captors surrounded him and barked out orders. He looked so helpless, defenseless, friendless and hopeless.  His forlorn eyes told the whole story. The man who had thumbed his nose at the world for the past 5 months while his country burned was visibly hyperventilating and drenched in sweat. He could hardly put on his shirt. It was a totally humiliating experience for Gbagbo. It was devastating, depressing and dispiriting to any African who values self-dignity.

Gbagbo was not a run-of-the-mill African dictator. He did not bulldoze or shoot his way to power. For decades, he used the democratic process to struggle for change in his country. Unlike other African dictators who graduated with high honors from the university of intrigue, corruption, human rights violation, double-dealing, deception and skullduggery, Gbagbo graduated with a doctorate from the University of Paris at the Sorbonne, one of the greatest higher learning institutions in Europe. He was a learned and energetic professor and researcher at the University of Abidjan who used his knowledge to become the leading voice of resistance and dissent against dictatorship in his country. He was a union activist who organized teachers’ strikes and ardently worked to establish multiparty democracy. He was a lawmaker in the Ivorian National Assembly. He founded the Ivorian Popular Front, a center-left socialist party. He was a bold dissident who suffered imprisonment on various occasions for his political views and activities. He spent the 1980s in exile in France.

By all measures, Gbagbo was among the best and brightest of Africa’s democratically-leaning leaders.  But as he completed his first term of office, he was afflicted by “cling-to-power-at-any-cost syndrome”, a political disease more commonly known as “I want to be president-for-life (PFL)” syndrome. Every African civilian or military leader since Kwame Nkrumah in the early 1960s has suffered from PFL. Gbagbo sacrificed the lives of thousands of his compatriots so that he could become president-for-life.

In the end, none of it mattered. Gbagbo proved to be no different or better than any of the other  benighted and villainous African dictators who cling to power by killing, jailing, torturing and stealing from their citizens. He may now end up serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity.

The Ivorian president-turned-power-fiend could have had a dignified exit from power. He could have left office with the respect and appreciation of his people, and honored by the international community as an elder African statesman. He could have found different ways of remaining active in Ivorian politics. Many wanted to facilitate a dignified exit for him. Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said, “I gave him [Gbagbo] an offer which had been given by the United States that he had an option to come into exile in the United States and that he would be allowed to be a lecturer at the University of Boston.” He could have cut a deal for a”golden exile” right after the November elections and lived out his life without fear of prosecution. He had been offered asylum in Angola, South Africa, Malawi, Nigeria and the U.S., but he turned down all of them. Like many of his predecessors, Gbagbo chose the path of self-humiliation and ignominy.

Gbagbo’s End Game

Gbagbo’s end game is to face justice for his crimes in an Ivorian court, a special court for Cote d’Ivoire or before the International Criminal Court (ICC). There is substantial evidence to show that as a direct result of Gbagbo’s refusal to concede the presidential election in November 2010, thousands of people lost their lives in officially sanctioned extra-judicial killings. In excess of one million Ivorians have been forced to leave the country to avoid the violence. Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, took the extraordinary step of notifying Gbagbo and his henchmen that they will be held personally responsible and accountable for human rights violations in connection with the discovery of two mass graves. But there is also substantial evidence of extra-judicial or arbitrary executions, sexual violence, enforced or involuntary disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture against Gbagbo and his regime dating back several years.

Allasane Ouattara, the new president, says Gbagbo will be brought to justice and a truth and reconciliation-style process instituted to address the causes and effects of the decade-long political crises in the country. ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he would like ECOWAS to request an ICC investigation into the massive human rights violations in Cote d’Ivoire, a preliminary step to Gbagbo’s prosecution. It is unlikely that any African organization will cooperate in such an investigation.  In July 2009, the African Union refused to cooperate in the prosecution of al-Bashir of the Sudan: “The AU member states shall not co-operate… relating to immunities for the arrest and surrender of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to the ICC.”

There is no question Gbagbo must be put on trial.  If there are concerns about his prosecution in Cote d’Ivoire, his trial could be moved to The Hague as was done for former Liberian president Charles Taylor. Gbagbo’s trial will likely involve a protracted legal process. (Taylor’s trial concluded a few weeks ago after three and one-half years of litigation in the ICC, and a verdict is expected in the foreseeable future.)

Gbagbo is entitled to full due process and given ample opportunity to vigorously contest every allegation brought against him. His right to a fair trial must be observed meticulously. Prosecution must not be limited to Gbagbo and members of his regime. All suspects, including Ouattra’s supporters allegedly involved in human rights violations, must be investigated and brought to justice. There is compelling evidence that forces loyal to Ouattara have been involved in gross human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings, rapes and burning of villages.

Lessons of a Gbagbo Prosecution

Most African dictators will pretend a Gbagbo prosecution will have no effect on them. They will convince themselves and try to convince others that what happened to Gbagbo could not happen to them because they are smarter, shrewder, cleverer and more iron-fisted than anybody else. They will laugh until their belly aches at anyone who suggests that they too will one day stand dazed and with forlorn eyes before the bars of justice and held accountable for their crimes against humanity. Once upon a time, Mubarak, Bashir, Gbagbo, Ben Ali and Gadhafi also laughed at the very suggestion of being held accountable in a court of law. Are they laughing now?

We must all say no to dictatorship and human rights violations anywhere in Africa, in the world.    On the question of human rights, we must take sides. When thousands are massacred and dumped in mass graves in Cote d’Ivoire, we cannot turn a blind eye.  When we have proof that thousands of innocent demonstrators have been killed, wounded and imprisoned in Ethiopia, we must never cease to demand justice.

Human rights abusers learn from each other. When one dictator gets away with crimes against humanity, the others get emboldened to commit atrocities on humanity. If the international community had taken vigorous action in Ethiopia and brought to justice those who massacred   hundreds of innocent demonstrators following the 2005 elections, the bloodbath and carnage in Cote d’Ivoire might have been avoided altogether.

Albert Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” It could be equally said that Africa has been made a dangerous place to live not because of the evil dictators alone, but more importantly because not enough good African people (and friends of Africa) are willing to stand up, speak out and do something about gross human rights violations on the continent. It has been said that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Laurent Gbagbo is now wholly within the radius of that arc.  The other African dictators need only contemplate a paraphrased question from a popular song: “Bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do when the ICC comes for you?” GAME OVER!

More BEKA slogans in Addis Ababa (photos)

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Tinsae Ethiopia and various other groups are intensifying preparations for anti-Woyanne actions next month, May 2011, with Beka (Enough) as their lead slogan. On Sunday morning, more BEKA slogans appeared in Addis Ababa around Abune Petros Statue and Teklehaimanot area. Meles Zenawi’s Woyanne junta is also preparing to throw lavish parties to celebrate their 20th year in power next months.

London remains Woyanne-free zone (photos)

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Update:

* Ethiopian patriots chased Woyannes out of the Imperial College in London
* London Police arrested one Woyanne thug who attacked ESAT cameraman

Brave Ethiopians in London deliver big time today. They turned out in large numbers and stopped the Woyanne meeting that was planned to be held at the Imperial College. The police had no choice but to tell the Woyanne thugs to leave. They went to their hiding place, the embassy, humiliated and defeated. London is indeed a Woyanne Free Zone.

The police seem to outnumber the meeting participants.

Below: A Woyanne thug is arrested after he attacked ESAT cameraman.

Below: Woyanne thugs argue with the police for allowing the protesters to get close to them

London police surround the Woyanne-occupied Ethiopian embassy where Meles Zenawi’s thugs and cadres came after being chased away from the Imperial College

BEKA! message in Addis Ababa (updated)

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Youth groups who are organized by Tinsae Ethiopia continue to spread BEKA! message through out Addis Ababa. BEKA! slogans have been painted on walls and fences, and pamphlets have been distributed at several locations in Addis Ababa. We have also received reports that BEKA! slogans are appearing in Ambo and Dessie. See more photos at Tinsae.org

Ethiopians vs. Woyanne confrontation in Las Vegas (video)

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Brave Ethiopians in Las Vegas confronted Woyanne delegates on Wednesday, shouting Leboch! (thieves!) Beka! (Enough!). Watch the video below:

Uganda opposition to continue protests

Friday, April 15th, 2011

By Joshua Kyalimpa

Opposition leader Kizza Besigye is led away from protest in Kampala. / IPS

Opposition leader Kizza Besigye is led away from protest in Kampala. / IPS

KAMPALA, Apr 15 (IPS) – The Ugandan opposition has announced it will continue protests against rising prices for fuel, food and other essential commodities, undeterred by violent police repression of the previous two days of action.

Across Kampala on Thursday, the air was filled with tear gas and the sharp crackling of volleys of rubber bullets as police broke up demonstrations. The city was braced for a repeat today, with protests against a tuition hike also breaking out at Makerere University.

The “Walk to Work” protests against inflation are an ingenious twist on the protest march: the leaders of Ugandan opposition parties and civil society, united in a loose coalition called “Action 4 Change” announced they would be walking to work on Tuesday and Thursday, joining the hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens who must already walk to work – unable to afford other transport in an economy in the grip of fierce inflation. The pump price for petrol has risen by 50 percent since January, to 4,000 Uganda shillings per litre – about two U.S. dollars.

Protesters – who came out across the capital Kampala, as well as in the towns of Jinja, Mukono, Gulu and beyond – want the state to step in to control rising prices, but the government argues that the inflation are due to a global crisis beyond its control.

“How much are they spending on buying tear gas?” cried demonstrator Isa Kirunda a who bakes pans at a road side kiosk near Kampala and supporter of the opposition Democratic Party “Can’t that money be used to subsidise fuel? This government must go. We are fed up.”

Clashes with police

“We are fed up by this government,” shouted youth walking with the Forum for Democratic Change leader, just before they were confronted by police at Kasangati, not far from the residence of opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye, who finished as runner up to long-standing incumbent Yoweri Museveni in presidential elections in February.

Forty eight people were injured in clashes with police deployed against the protest, according to Uganda Red Cross spokesperson Catherine Ntabadde. Media reports said a four-month-old baby died after being exposed to tear gas,and an unidentified woman was badly wounded when she was hit directly by a tear gas canister, tearing her stomach open.

Besigye, who lost presidential elections to the long-standing incumbent, Yoweri Museveni in February, was told by stone-faced officers that orders from above were that he would not be allowed to proceed. He refused to yield, and sat down on the edge of the gutter by the roadside.

The opposition leader enjoys passionate support in his home district, and he was quickly surrounded by supporters to prevent his arrest. An eight-hour standoff began, which ended only with when police fired rubber bullets to break up the crowd; Besigye was among those injured, taken to the hospital after a shot struck him on his right hand.

Police spokeswoman Judith Nabakoba denied police were responsible for the opposition leader’s injury. “Besigye could have been injured him self with a sharp object during the confusion.”

Doctors who attended Besigye at Kololo hospital said the third finger of his right hand was shattered by a rubber bullet.

The protest and heavy police response shut down the city, with vehicles arriving from upcountry unable to enter the city for much of the day. The army was called in to reinforce police as large numbers of people joined the protests.

Activists critical

Human rights activist Dr Livingstone Sewanyana told IPS that government action against peaceful demonstrators was illegal and in contravention of the constitution.

“What is wrong with people walking to work? Does it call for army deployment and the mayhem that has wrecked the city?” asked Sewanyana, executive director of the Kampala-based Foundation for Human Rights Initiatives.

Lieutenant Dennis Omara, spokesperson for the military police a battle hardened army unit usually deployed to quell riots if the police are over powered says regular police asked them for reinforcements after rowdy protesters began barricading roads and lighting fires.

“We were only a backup for police because the security situation was running out of hands. The roads are now clear and people can move in and out of the city the situation is under control,” Omara told a press conference Thursday afternoon.

Dr Aaron Mukwaya, a lecturer in the social sciences department at Makerere University, says the demonstrations show a growing determination to push for change, and even larger protests should be expected.

He cautioned that the Ugandan government is most likely to respond with an iron hand to break the protests, with the recent events in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere in mind.

(END/2011)

Azeb Mesfin partners facing hard times

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Addis Ababa is abuzz with rumor that Samuel Tafesse, construction mogul and the multimillionaire business partners of Meles Zenawi’s wife Azeb Mesfin, has been arrested in Ethiopia. The rumor started when he disappeared for several days starting early this month and his colleagues began to ask questions.

After transferring the day-to-day operations of his company to his deputy Yitbarek Getahun in February, Samuel quietly came to the U.S. where he recently confided to his friends that Azeb — who is commonly known us “the mother of corruption” — is giving him a hard time and that he might close every thing down in Ethiopia and move to the U.S.

Samuel recently finished building a $5 million house for himself in Alexandria, Virginia, a suburb of Washington DC.

The reason he is having troubles with the ravenous Azeb Mesfin is not clear, but Samuel is not the only business partner of Azeb Mesfin who is facing hard times. Almost every major business in Ethiopia, from flower export to real estate, must make Azeb a partner in order to have any chance of making profit. One of these businessmen who have fallen hard times recently is founder of Zemen Bank, Ermias Amelga who has been forced out of the bank’s chairmanship for an unknown reason, as reported here.

Ethiopians in London, we are counting on you

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

After suffering a humiliating defeat in N. America, the Woyanne thugs are now heading to London licking their wounds. Fortunately, London is full of brave Ethiopians who consistently fought back and scored victories against Woyanne. As a result, London is a Woyanne-free zone. This coming Saturday there is another opportunity for London Ethiopians to shine, although they will have a hard time to outshine DC and Los Angeles Ethiopians.

Place: Imperial College, Sherfield Building, South Kensington Campus
Address: Exhibition Road, London Sw7 2AZ
Time 1:00 PM

Watch the following video for inspiration:

The debilitating effect of silence in Ethiopia

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

By Natnael F. Alemayehu

Silence in the face of evil is a venomous, traitorous, debilitating disease to which we Ethiopians have fallen. The battle for the sovereignty of a nation is between those who oppress free men and those who seek to set free those same men. In Ethiopia’s case, one side has been missing for years. Our recent history has been convenient for those who choose a weapon rather than those who seek knowledge, for those with the genuine knowledge and understanding of democratic process have been silent.

To be educated is to ask and question. It is to speak for the oppressed and the weak. It is not to side with the oppressor for momentary gain or selfish interests. Silence is deadly, like all internal disease; it eats you slowly, eventually leading to an emotionally dreadful and psychologically agonizing death. Silence mutes all your senses until you can no longer even think of the intellectual slavery to which you have become a victim. This is Ethiopia’s great plague, particularly amongst the educated and those who live outside the country: a plague of silence.

“Evil prevails when good men fail to act.” – Edmund Burke

In times of great oppression, we must pick sides; indecision will only help the oppressors while silencing the victims. Ethiopia is not short of intellectuals, thinkers or patriots; our predicament is silence. We have chosen not to see the atrocities being committed against the poor and helpless of our nation by our own brothers and sisters. We have chosen not to listen to the call of our brother and sister farmers as multinational corporations, invited by our own government and in cooperation are evicting them from their ancestral homes. The minority of Ethiopians in power have been successful at destroying the sovereignty of this nation because the majority chooses to do nothing.

o Before we shout down the treacherous dealings of dictators …
o Prior to condemning the current regime for total failure…
o Ahead of the inevitable revolution…
o Prior to questioning other Ethiopians’ true grit and patriotism…
o Before going back to the over-debated history and indictment of our ancestors for their flaws…

We must first question ourselves and ask, “What have I done for my country lately?” The silence of those who are good and understand freedom is what has kept us oppressed and trapped in a downward social spiral. When a person’s birthright to be free is taken by the barrel of a gun, it is those who understand the injustice who must stand up and be heard. When an act of evil is done, against the will of the innocent and the sovereignty of the nation, we must not only question those who committed the crime but also those who did nothing and remained silent. They have chosen to put their individual wealth and greed above the lives of millions of homeless children and hungry majority of the nation. All this poverty exists despite the country’s wealth, a country we all call home. So, what have you done for your country lately?

“Do not hesitate or you will be left in between doing something, having something and being nothing”. Ethiopian Proverb

Our ancestors were brilliant, beyond our imagination. They defended what was theirs not for reasons of pride, but National identity. They understood the strength of a sovereign state and they defended her resources. They stood and fought for the country, not for a tribe, group or individual. Those who choose not to see the atrocities and travesties of our nation through foreign influence. I ask you to look no farther than or ancestors. Why didn’t they ever trust foreigners? Why is it they died defending the nation? They not only understood patriotism but also believed they were Ethiopia, with out sovereignty and national values a country cannot prosper or function as a state.

In their “sayings” our ancestors left us coded message of wisdom and understanding of life, community and Nation. Their understanding of state and the individual was far more advanced than that of Europeans. While Europe evolved and adapted with the time and affecting changes, we chose to stand still. All the saying of the past on the wisdom of silence, do not apply when silence becomes the venom to our agonizing downfall. Silence is harmful, when those who see the injustice continue to ignore, what they see and understand to be inhumane. More often than not the voices of the poor and oppressed do not make it in to the history books. History will not record your silence in history, but they will tell of the atrocities of those currently in power, while we watched.

“When money speaks, the truth is silent.” – Russian Proverb

Freedom is expensive and painful. Taking into consideration the true future awaiting this country, my brothers and sisters, the time to take action is now. We must stop using Western models of development, as they are designed to benefit Western nations and corporations. When it comes to the West’s efforts in helping to develop Africa, words like “White Guilt” are used as a double standard to distract us from the atrocities and theft that continue to take place in Ethiopia and the continent.

The partnership of Ethiopian politicians and Western corporations is an international crime ring. Western politicians continue to preach, “Africa is not ready for democracy.” This quote is the mantra behind the looting of the continent for the benefit of the West. For capitalism and consumerism to benefit the West, they must rob the resources from the weak and innocent. Ethiopia is at the center of a global fight between the powerful and the powerless. We must not let this opportunity pass us by without leaving a mark on history and changing the course of our nation.

Democracy Is Taken, Not Given!

I say, “Freedom is taken, not given!” Change must resonate within each individual before the community, city, and nation can ignite to form a blazing resistance, capable of standing any opposition. Ethiopians must first be free before applying democracy to social and political structures. Regardless of background, education, profession, occupation, or gender, this is the time to be heard. Stand up! Be heard. Live with dignity.

“The sin by silence, when they should protest makes cowards of men.” – Abraham Lincoln

Education is a tool to protect the innocent from the flaws of the past and to help them create an appropriate future. Have we become so selfish and self-indulgent that we have forgotten the good in our hearts and are willing to sell out our own brothers and sisters?

“Eat when the food is ready. Speak when the time is right.” – Ethiopian Proverb

Sadly, we are heading towards the phase of governance that every oppressive government goes through: the people’s revolt. The sadness comes not from the act but from the innocent lives that must be lost and the destruction the nation must incur because a few individuals choose not to adapt and evolve with the changing world.

“Unless you call out, who will open the door?” – Ethiopian Proverb

What is it we are leaving for the next generation, politically and socially? A centralized ethnic government with undemocratically elected bureaucrats who stole elections and traded political offices? The small minority of political and social elitists owned the country’s economy and wealth while looting the central bank. They saved their money overseas in the banks of the same institutions that they begged for handouts in the name of Ethiopia. We divided the nation into tribal states and then used ethnic tension as a tool of oppression and control. What is the legacy of this generation?

The central government—the perfect blend of totalitarian and socialist rule—loaned out fertile land to foreign entities, thereby loaning a big portion of the economy. The rulers sided with multilateral corporations for momentary gain and political protection.

A leader who was jack-of-all-trades, master of none. A man who knighted himself a man of the people, an expert on the need of the average person, while investing in Western organizations and selling out national interests for political gain.

The heartbreaking truth is MOST OF US STOOD AND WATCHED.

“The cruelest lies are told trough silence.” – Robert L. Stevenson

(The writer can be reached at mail@eskemeche.com)

Woyanne dogs left N. America with their tails between their legs

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

By Yonas G. Mideksa

The unity of Ethiopians from all walks of life, has once again, demonstrated its discipline and determination to face off delegates of one of the most brutal regimes in Africa. The politically motivated and hastily organized trip and meeting by the delegates with the Ethiopian Diaspora community in Washington DC, Howard University, woke up a sleeping giant – and indeed the giant gave them what they deserved.

Boston anti-Woyanne protest

This is not the first time the brave and gallant Ethiopian protesters have stood for justice, human rights, and respect for the rule of law. Something special about yesterday’s demonstration was that the unity among its diverse ethnic groups, the zeal and the unwavering determination of the Ethiopian youth for social justice, and the shock and awe that it gave to the delegates.

The Woyanne regime’s rent-a-crowd, and rent-a-thug policy did not work to deter the voices of the demonstrators, who were chanting and shouting in unison that reverberated over “Howard Square”. At the end of the day, the auditorium inside Howard University, the delegates, and their selfish opportunists were not able to sustain the thunderous voices and rants of justices that were echoing. Well, the result was that the officials of Howard and Police had to cancel the meeting.

During the last few weeks, the Woyanne regime has been giving us agenda after agenda in such a short period of time. At one time they engaged everybody by raising the issue of Eritrea. Meles was openly discussing about the overthrowing of his onetime patrons in Eritrea, and then he shifted gears and came up with building a Mega Dam over the Nile River – and to facilitate the construction, the brutal regime came up with fund raising through issuance of government bonds.

It is no-brainer why the regime in Addis is doing all these things at this crucial moment, and in a very hasty way. Ethiopians, especially the youth, have been following the political tsunami that has engulfed North Africa and the Middle East with interest and enthusiasm. The conditions that forced the youth in Tunisia and Egypt to overthrow their dictatorial leaders were not worst compared to what Ethiopians are facing day in and day out. The unemployment rate is beyond description; the inflation rate could not be controlled; the religious and inter and intra-ethnic conflicts due to the regime’s policy of divide and rule is endangering the very existence of the country; the corruption and nepotism are unprecedented; the economic condition of the country is driven by charity and western aid donors, despite Ethiopia’s abundant natural resources; the people get beaten and thrown to jail for voicing their concern; the massacre of innocent citizens of Gambela, Oromo, Ogadeni, Amhara, and etc by the Agazi kill squad continues as we speak.

It is because of all these injustices that the Ethiopian people are saying enough is enough – BEKA! GAYE! YIAKEL! BASS! and have been preparing for a grand demonstrations in Ethiopia. The regime knows full well that there is no stopping in the concerted voices of the people who have suffered for the last twenty years under its brutal yoke.

The first shock and awe of the Woyanne regime was in the election of 2005. The interahamwe rhetoric and the regime’s rent-a-crowd moment, before the eve of the election, gave it a false hope of winning Addis. Well, everybody knows what the results were in Addis – the false crowds did not vote for the regime, and the whole parliamentarian seats went to the opposition. To frustrate the otherwise peaceful election, the regime unleashed its notorious rent-a-thug policy to create chaos and blame the opposition party.

I would like to congratulate all the organizers of the peaceful protesters all over the US and Canada for a job well done. There is no doubt in my mind that Woyanne came to our turf to test us and we will show them again in our beloved Ethiopia.

Ethnic-apartheid meeting in Las Vegas

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

On Wednesday, Woyanne delegation headed by Arkebe Ekubay held another meeting, this time in Las Vegas where mostly Tigreans were allowed to attend the meeting. The meeting organizers, with the help of the police, removed Ethiopians from other ethnic groups. It short, it was an ethnic apartheid meeting.

Many of the 300 people who in attendance appear to be family members of the Woyanne top leadership, a large number of whom have settled in Las Vegas, Denver, and San Diego, buying expensive homes with the money they looted from Ethiopia. If these Woyannes think that their ruling party is doing a good job of running the country, what are they doing in the U.S.?

(We will try to post videos and photos of the Las Vegas meeting shortly. Until then, watch the following video of Ethiopians confronting Woyanne thugs in Toronto.)

Woyane Dallas meeting ended in fiasco

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

PRESS RELEASE

The net result of Woyane’s attempt to meet with the Ethiopian Diaspora in Dallas can be summed up as having two fold results. Firstly, the meeting confirmed and highlighted one more time that Woyane is nothing but a minority ethnic-based regime masquerading as Ethiopian. Secondly, the Woyane attempt to divide the Diaspora galvanized the opposition so much that the newly broad-based unified opposition to TPLF now includes political groups who until now were operating in their own political domain. Here is how these realities materialized in yesterday’ meeting.

Believing that Meles’s rule in Ethiopia is secured through vote rigging that culminated in a 99.6% parliamentary power; believing the free-loaders propaganda that the Diaspora is susceptible to support TPLF in exchange for individual economic enticement; most of all believing that the weaknesses of the opposition were permanent and fatal; this week-end, the Meles regime fired its opening salvo against the Ethiopian Diaspora after almost a full year and multi-million dollar preparation. As part of this fiasco, Meles’s handpicked messengers were sent to Dallas, Texas to talk to the community about the phantom five year “transformation” plan of Ethiopia. This was supposed to be a meeting where Ethiopians in Dallas were to pack the Marriott Quorum Hotel near the Galleria; be mesmerized by the dazzling economic performance of the TPLF regime and in the end align their politics with the “transformation” plan and even fund it with their hard earned dollar by buying the $500 bonds on spot. Instead what transpired is basically the reverse.

Here is how the process leading to the April 9th meeting was played by a handful of free-loaders under the guidance and funding of the Woyane Embassy in DC and their local and regional Tigrean masters on one hand and the newly unified opposition activists on the other. The free-loaders started out handing out invitation letters from the Embassy and announced on the local radio that this will be a meeting open for all Ethiopians. They even boasted that all Ethiopians in the DFW area will be welcome to challenge Meles’s stooges with Q&A sessions. Based on this announcement and the information and invitation letters they received from inside the free loaders camp, the opposition activists were ready to challenge them. (Remember getting such info from this camp is not hard. Free-loaders by definition work for the highest bidder: this character of the free-loaders is personified by non-other than their head in Dallas, the phony “captain” and empty-pocket “investor” Abey Mekonnon. Everybody knows Abey is a 24/7 hassler who struggles to feed himself and his family let alone invest).

If the meeting was open to all Ethiopians the activists planned to participate in the meeting, be civil and ask very hard questions on behalf of the Ethiopian people, who have been denied their God given right to gather, demonstrate or make peaceful protest. The peaceful activists were ready to challenge the so called “delegation “about the smokescreen Ethiopian “transformation” and “investment” plan, and have a civilized discussion about the burning issues of the Ethiopian people: litigate the 20 years of TPLF`s dictatorial rule and its failed policy towards democratization of the country.

Instead of allowing everyone who came to attend the meeting, the activists were met with a brute force from the local police and were pinpointed by the local servants of the regime and were not allowed to attend the meeting. These group of servants, who are serving the TPLF regime are Abiye Mekonnen (Main Organizer), Zeraye G. Berhe, Tadesse Tsehaye, Tekola Mekonnen, Tsehaye-Tsidik Bete-Mariam (Former Derg criminal), Mulaw(Mulugeta) Worash, Daniel Bayu (Mamush), Shimeles Gena,Abdulhamid, Halay Woldu, Melaku Abozene ,Abebe and many others who were not resident of the Dallas metro area. Most of the people who were deprived of attending the meeting were law abiding citizens, prodemocracy supporters and local respected elders. The presence of about sixty police officers outside and inside the hotel with drug snuffing dogs makes the event like there was already an explosion. Generally the area resembles like a war zone in the Middle East. It is very sad to see the amount of money spent for such bogus program for propaganda purposes. Most of all, it was unfortunate that the Addison Police was misinformed about the opposition and the peaceful activists in general and used unnecessary force and intimidation to arrest one of our activist Ato Betru Geberegziabher. Ato Betru was later released posting a Bail. The patriotic Ethiopians, who were excluded from their meeting, came all the way from Houston, Austin and Oklahoma State. Our warm-hearted appreciation goes to those true sons and daughters of Ethiopia.

The opposition activists knew very well that the criminal gangs can`t afford a free and open discussion with Ethiopians neither at home nor abroad. The so called “Growth and Transformation” organizers failed miserably, because the meeting was not to discuss with the Ethiopian Diaspora at large, but for selected TDA members and other innocent people, who attend the meeting simply to ask, challenge them and also to express their anger, frustration and grievances about the bureaucratic nature of the regime. Secondly this meeting helped the opposition to identify who our enemies are, and solidify different opposition groups to come together and fight our number one enemy TPLF/EPRDF under Meles. Please visit the Dallas Radio Program for an audio report about the fiasco in detail at www.maaecdallas.org broadcasted on April, 10, 2011.

In a parallel tack, the activists also moved to contact the Marriott hotel management and probe it for action by educating the management personnel through independent and documented accounts of the crimes committed by the regime on the Ethiopian people and by creating parallels with ousted rulers in North African and Middle East. We believe, the hotel management would have canceled the meeting had it not been for the legal advice it received on the consequences of contract breach.

Sure enough, the Saturday April 9th meeting was unlike any other meeting in the history of Ethiopian Diaspora in Dallas. Nobody in Dallas would fail to compare this meeting with that of Kinijit leaders when they came to Dallas. Kinjit leaders were welcomed at DFW Airport with masses of Ethiopians who dominated the airport with the Ethiopian flag and traditional welcome songs. The leaders were paraded on the roads of the city with Limousines as their arrival was broadcast in real time across the Internet. Last but not least, the crowed size and the festive atmosphere in the Kinijit meeting were there to show, that the gathering involved a real Ethiopian event. In contrast, the Woyane emissaries of April 9th entered and exited the city in secret, the organizers of the meeting were forced to open the meeting only to invited guests and the meeting had to be conducted in an environment of security siege. The overwhelming presence of the police, private security personnel, and the hotel staff from A-Z makes April 9 the meeting like a circus with a lot of alarm and disappointment for the organizers. Most of all, it is obvious even to the speakers and the meeting participants themselves that the audience in the auditorium was staffed with the majority of Tigreans from and around Texas.

The final message from Dallas to Woyanes and Meles is clear: you can’t buy our allegiance by showing off roads and buildings. Remember, we are sons and daughters of people who never give up the fight for freedom against Italian fascists who constructed longer and better quality roads in the first half of the past century in five years than you do in 20 years in this century. To some extent, the Italians used money from their own pocket as down payment unlike you who used the after-corruption borrowed and begged money in our name. Most of all, you and us know very well, in every US and European cities you go, Ethiopia has more people who are better educated and more experienced than the political cadres you send who can construct and transform Ethiopia. Freedom, democracy and end of minority Tigrean domination are our issues with you. Leave the Nile, the construction and the transformation for all Ethiopians.

Beka! Gaye
Freedom and Democracy now!

Ethiopian pro-democracy activists in Dallas

Lessons Ethiopians can draw from Tunisia and Egypt uprisings

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

The following excerpts are taken from Dr Aklog Birara’s upcoming new book.

The Egyptian revolt showed that there is no script for avoiding the reengineering tactics of a repressive regime. The opposition must be flexible and far superior in its tactics and strategy than the regime. Resolve, persistence, organization and a common national purpose are fundamental. Ability to imagine that the future will be better than the past was most helpful. Egyptian protesters proved their ability to change a repressive system through unity of purpose. How did they do it? Activists figured out a new way of changing repressive regimes. They used information technology and raised social networking to a new level. These tools empowered ordinary people and took away the power of the regime and its media. Activists focused on police brutality. They exposed atrocities that galvanized people. Individual activists such as Wael Ghonim, the Google executive, broke the conventional way of communication through traditional media that is always government controlled. Social media became prominent. Some call these depictions and mobilization techniques “the Internet revolution.” Such a revolution is, however, immaterial unless it injects fresh thinking and organization that permeates the entire society. In Egypt this is exactly what happened. Ordinary people owned the revolution and changed a regime.

In Ethiopia and other countries, we saw that regime changes were never peaceful and never led to democracy. In 2005, Ethiopia came close; but did not gain support from the outside world. Democratization was not sustained internally either. [...] The West repeated policy blunders by not defending the people‟s demands for fundamental political freedoms, civil liberties, human rights and the rule of law; and by not supporting the notion that Ethiopians can choose the form of government that will address their social and economic problems. Given this pattern, democratic activists and opposition groups in Ethiopia face a monumental task ahead of them.

For Ethiopian democrats to earn the respect and empathy of the international community, they must prove that they are capable of stimulating a paradigm shift in political culture and in establishing democratic institutions. First, they need to practice what they preach and then produce capable and respected leaders who empower youth and civil society. Blaming foreign governments for internal weaknesses makes no sense. Opposition groups must accept responsibility for their own mistakes and failures. Singular focus on regime change without solid organization and leadership undermines credibility.

Egypt has alternative leaders in the wings ready to take responsibility. In the transition, they possess a nationalist and capable military establishment that will ensure security and stability. In contrast to Ethiopia, the country is not sitting on an ethnic time bomb or plots from terrorist groups. The country is endowed with a talent pool from which it can draw. It has an established tradition of embracing new civic and professional leaders. These potential leaders have organic links to the population. It is the people and not individuals who seem to be at the center of the shift in political thinking. It is this organic link that makes the Egyptian uprising formidable and potentially enduring.

I often find myself arguing with compatriots concerning the distinction between a single leader such as Meles Zenawi–the Ethiopian Prime Minster for close to 21 years–and the institutions his party built from scratch. These new institutions are not national. They are largely ethnic-based. By and large, they replaced national entities including the armed forces. Post Emperor HaileSelassie, regimes did not attach value to enduring national institutions. The Military Dictatorship institutionalized socialism and the current one ethnicity. In the event of a popular revolt in Ethiopia, opposition groups ought to learn from past mistakes and manage transitions more effectively and prudently. They need to do this far in advance. Reaction is never a substitute for planning. Change must have the popular support of all ethnic and religious groups who want freedom. Otherwise, it will fail.

There are two things that those who support the current Ethiopian regime fear most. First is ethnic revenge. Opposition groups must diffuse this fear.

Second, those who benefited from the current regime must know that their properties and assets will be guaranteed. They must know that corruption, nepotism and cronyism will be investigated and persecuted through the legal system or through neutral and independent commissions.

The world witnesses that transitions to a democratic order are always messy. Members and supporters of the old regime fear the future and resist it. Those who want change are not always sure what the future will be like. Most Ethiopians are apathetic. In the Diaspora, those who are detached from the political process constitute the “silent majority.” It is here where wise and flexible leadership that can attract this middle can play a vital role. In a country like Egypt, “An urgent priority is to rewrite the rules so that free and fair elections are possible.” The Egyptian Supreme Military Command vowed that this will be done. In the third week of March, 2011, Egyptians went to the polls; and 77 percent voted in favor of constitutional and other reforms. Among the major changes is term limit of four years for presidents, renewable only once. The task of institution building has begun in Egypt. The same prioritization applies to Ethiopia. What would be the ground rules? Who will provide oversight? Will the military play a constructive and bridging role or will it side with the regime?

Regime change in Ethiopia would require the rewriting of the current constitution. Here, the South African process model will be appropriate. Studies must begin now. A quick fix won‟t do. “In 1997, South Africa enacted an interim constitution to govern the country while it undertook an ambitious constitution-writing process with wide popular consultation–which is the ideal arrangement.”

Unlike Egypt and Tunisia, Ethiopia faces the hurdle of ethnic federalism in general and Article 39 in particular. The article permits secession. The speculation of civil uprising that may lead to Ethiopia‟s disintegration may be far fetched but should not be dismissed. Will any democratic transition retain this provision or will it put the matter to a national referendum for all Ethiopians to consider and decide. My view is that all of the Ethiopian people and not ethnic elites should voice their views and decide. It is in part this provision that makes foreign governments weary of regime change. The current regime believes that transition to democracy will lead to further fragmentation. For this reason, ethnic-based liberation movements harm the democratization process for the people they claim to represent. The best contribution they can make is to renounce secession and work for democratic unity firmed on unfettered equality. Secessionist tendencies strengthen the regime and weaken unified struggle. Even those who prefer democracy over tyranny feel obliged to defend the current regime. They contend that at least, it provides stability and keeps the country intact.

Political elites in Ethiopia are hardly the country‟s greatest assets. Their dysfunctional behaviors and actions are among the reasons why the country is still in a mess. Power must reside in the Ethiopian people, especially youth.

Democracy emanates from the people. We see this to be the case in the United States where civic associations led by ordinary people impact the political process each and every day. “Government of the people; by the people and for the people” is not an empty phrase. The American Revolution benefitted from social networking. At the time, publications proved effective. Unlike democratization of the past, today‟s revolutions will be instigated and led by youth. Traditional politicians must grasp this phenomenal change and work within it. This social group is the most idealistic and boldest in shaping the future. The young people who changed history in Egypt and Tunisia and are now fighting in almost every country in the Middle East and North Africa lived under one leader. They only knew one form of governance. The same is true in Ethiopia. Combine the duration of two successive repressive and oppressive regimes; you find that the country‟s youth knows either one or two dictators. Repressive conditions in Ethiopia disallow participation in the political process. This does not mean that youth is totally apathetic and detached from the plight of the society. In light of this, the Ethiopian Diaspora can‟t assume that it will serve as a substitute for internally generated and led popular uprising. In my assessment, its role should be to provide tools, intellectual guidance, direction, policy options, knowledge and funding. It can fill a void in communication by strengthening social media. It can educate the public to disavow violence against any group. It can diffuse ethnic animosity and tensions. It can stop opportunistic signals that say that secession is acceptable. It can raise awareness that uprising does not mean revenge or destruction of private or public property. It can vow to uphold decency, civility, commitment for the sanctity of life and protection of property. Modeling democratic behavior is one of the most powerful weapons in pursuing a democratic path.

“In Egypt and Tunisia, the young people who planned, organized and implemented the protests were educated, Internet-savvy activists with no political affiliation.” They rejected suffocating and corrupt systems. “They were enthusiastically joined by secular as much as by Islamist voices. After watching the fervor unleashed in the in January, 2011, young Syrians, Bahrainis, Algerians and even the quiescent Libyans are turning to Facebook and Twitter to call for their own “day of rage.” The “outrage” that beamed in Tunisia spread to Egypt. No one knows where the ripple effect will spread next and how soon. It is always critical that we connect outrage to social, economic and political causes and not to personalities. The Gallop Poll and other organizations show similar patterns in the region as well as the rest of the Middle East. These include denial of “political rights and civil liberties, high incidence of corruption, low levels of well being and high unemployment. “Social change in the Middle East, particularly the growing number of educated youth who struggle to find jobs and are determined to live in dignity, is not unique to Tunisia and Egypt. Across the region, leaders are finding out that economic liberalization in political systems that lack accountability cannot protect against popular upheaval.” I would add endemic corruption to the list. “Unlike Tunisia where power and corruption were tightly centralized in the ruling family, the tentacles of the of Egypt‟s regime stretch from the army to the internal security forces and the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). Every element of the regime, including a military with significant business interests, has too much at stake to relinquish power easily.”

The spread of corruption and exclusion comes close to Ethiopia‟s. The Egyptian situation was like the TPLF/EPRDF‟s in terms of repression and brutality but different in terms of merger of ethnicity, party and state. Ethiopia is more like Libya and Yemen than Tunisia or Egypt. Ethiopia and Libya are among the least urbanized countries in Africa. Colonel Gaddafi ruled Libya with an iron fist for more than 42 years. Mr. Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia did the same thing for almost 21 years. It won‟t surprise me if he wishes to match Colonel Gaddafi in terms of reacting to a popular revolt. Remember, his party vowed to govern Ethiopia for 100 years. Both deny fundamental freedoms and are brutal in dealing with dissent. Both restrict press and civic freedoms. They control and rely on state owned media in propagating their ideologies and in conveying to the outside world that their peoples are doing well. Both preach revolutionary democracy through decentralization. In reality, it is they who dictate policies and investments. Power emanates and ends with them and not with ordinary citizens. Libya does better in dealing with its restive population because of immense oil wealth. Ethiopia does not have the same luxury and flexibility. In contrast, Libya does not face a serious prospect of ethnic-based disintegration in the event of regime change. Ethiopia does. Libya‟s military is national and Ethiopia‟s is not. Despite some of these differences, Libyans and Ethiopians suffer from similar oppressive systems.

In Egypt, military institutions permeate and dominate life. Business interests and military officers have cordial relationships. Some experts estimate that 60 percent of the Egyptian economy is dominated by or affiliated with military folks. Close to 60 years of domination by military leaders and institutions incentivized high officers to defend the system. Parallel to this and by design the Ethiopian regime strengthened the stakes of key officials and institutions including the military by vesting them with political and economic powers. Wealth and asset concentration in a small group provides strong incentives in maintaining the status quo. Not only does narrow group interest thrive on corruption; it has high tolerance for inequality and high unemployment. Khalaf quotes recent Gallop research findings on Tunisia and Egypt that show that the population does not feel that it is thriving. “The percentage of people who felt they were “thriving” has been on the decline even as gross domestic product has increased.” At the same time, the rich get richer. A recent estimate puts Mubarak‟s personal assets at $7.2 billion. Il-gotten wealth from the system is estimated at more than $70 billion. Three ministers were barred from traveling out of the country. The US government froze assets of Colonel Gaddafi and his family. The same is true in Ethiopia. Global Financial Integrity estimated that in 2010 illicit outflow of funds amounted to $11 billion and is rising. The bizarre story of 10 thousand tons of Ethiopian coffee–amounting to 25,000 truckloads, “disappearing” without a trace is telling. On February, 2011, Ethiopian Review posted a piece under the appropriate title “Who stole ten thousand tons of Ethiopian coffee?” It is a symptom of corruption and erosion of ethics in the society. Prime Minister Meles called business people and announced the incident. He said two things that I found remarkable. Someone must be “held accountable.” Fair enough. How does a regime hold anyone else accountable when it is the source of the problem? The second thing he said was “All of us are implicated in this incident. We know but pay a blind eye.” There is a wise Chinese saying that “fish rots from the head.” Corruption begins from the top and spreads like cancer. Thousands of truckloads can‟t just disappear from a warehouse without facilitators and partners. Those with connections to the regime have a better chance of making this kind of heist. He did not mention that the regime will go after the thieves. It may be a family affair. No matter the growth rate, a regime with a high tolerance for corruption can‟s claim that its development policy is pro-poor. Similar to Ethiopia, gains from growth and increase in the domestic product did not filter down to the poor and youth in Egypt or Tunisia. This condition demystifies the Ethiopian regime‟s argument that growth improved the lives of people. Forty-six percent of Ethiopians want to leave their country. This preference is due to lack of opportunities at home. Same thing happens in Egypt. In the case of Egypt, “Only 20 percent of Egyptians surveyed said their well being has improved since 2009.” Even in oil revenue rich Saudi Arabia, its “young population has not felt the benefits of oil wealth.” The facades of democracy apparent in these countries and in Ethiopia are simply a joke. In 2010, the governing party won 99.6 percent of the votes. Just think of it. This is the reason why the façade of democracy is a joke. “It is in Arab countries that have erected facades of democracy that citizens are most likely to rise up against their rulers.”

Whether the façade of democracy refers to Arab countries or Ethiopia, the fact remains that fundamental political freedoms, civil liberties and human rights have been squashed.

The world can no longer afford to ignore this condition. The human and economic costs are too high. We saw in Tunisia and Egypt that it is for compelling reasons that youth and poor people rose and sacrificed their lives. In both cases, they won. I do not believe that hatred drove youth to rebel and take matters into their own hands. It is passion and commitment for justice, freedom, the rule of law and a better future that did. Those of us on the outside should recognize that the struggle was about them and not about elites or foreign powers. It wasn’t about the military. Because it is internally generated and led, no one but those on the ground controlled events. This is why popular revolutions are unstoppable. They happened in France, the United States, Eastern Europe , Indonesia and other places.“This is certainly the view in Cairo, where protesters and analysts say the uprising is not about the United States, not about Israel and not about Egyptian foreign policy. There are 80 million Egyptians.” The struggle is “about them.”

The above diagnosis leads me to one major conclusion concerning Ethiopia. Future struggle of the Ethiopian people is about them and their country. It is not about the Diaspora or about political elites who seek power. It is not about the West or the East. Ethiopian elites of all persuasions must grasp the importance of this paradigm shift from elites to ordinary citizens. When millions of people rise in unison, no regime can stop them. Ethiopians can‟t rely solely on the small middle class to sustain change; or on the peasantry that has to work hard to survive. Elites can‟t self select and dictate democracy to ordinary citizens. If they do, they will continue to be perceived as being part of the problem. For this reason, I would argue that the Diaspora must play a catalytic role that is anchored in an organic link with the Ethiopian people, especially youth. The most important tools they could provide youth and others in Ethiopia are to break regime control of the media and financial aid. They could do this by promoting widespread and strategic use of the information revolution. They can provide the tools and strengthen social-network users such as Face book and information enablers such as Twitter to circumvent state media and to incapacitate it. The internet revolution, satellite television and social media proved that repressive regimes can no longer rely on traditional media to dictate the future. Tunisians and Egyptians taught us that the future belongs to those who share Wael Ghonim‟s thesis that “Freedom is a bless that deserves fighting for.”

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

Woyanne-style economic growth in Ethiopia (video)

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

The chigaram (beggar) dictator in Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, and his regime led by Woyanne thugs have taken the country’s economy down to a new level of poverty where Ethiopians are forced to rent newspapers to get information, as the video by CNN below shows. That’s why Ethiopians are rising up to say BEKA! (enough) to the 20-year-old vampire regime.

CPJ calls on Ethiopia’s dictator to stop jamming radio broadcasts

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

The New York-based press right group, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Ethiopia’s dictator Meles Zenawi to stop jamming German Radio broadcasts. Read the CPJ statement below:

New York (CPJ) — New York, April 11, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling on authorities in Ethiopia to ensure that broadcasts of the German state-funded station Deutsche Welle, which had been jammed, be allowed to air freely. Local journalists confirmed a report by the Berlin-based international broadcaster that its programs were inaudible in Ethiopia last week until Friday.

The management of Deutsche Welle told CPJ that the International Broadcasting Bureau, which provides non-military broadcasters with transmission and technical support, confirmed interference on the station’s shortwave signal to Ethiopia on April 3, 6 and 7. In a press statement, the station’s management accused Ethiopian authorities of involvement in the jamming in response to Amharic-language news and coverage critical of the government. No other foreign broadcasters were believed to have been disrupted.

On April 3, for instance, the station aired a popular discussion program in which participants claimed the Ethiopian government feared a popular uprising similar to those witnessed in North Africa, the station’s management said. The station also covered a Human Rights Watch statement criticizing the government for the arrests of more than 200 ethnic Oromo opposition members. Local journalists told CPJ that they believed Deutsche Welle signals would be blocked again during a planned civil society protest on May 28 called Beka, meaning “enough.” 

Government spokesman Bereket Simon told Reuters that the government had not jammed the Deutsche Welle service. The station had a very low listenership, Simon said, and would not be worth jamming. The management of Deutche Welle disputed this and cited a 2009 study that said the station has the highest foreign radio listenership in the country, reaching 3 million to 4 million people a day.

“Ethiopian authorities have jammed international broadcasters in the past during politically sensitive moments,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “We call on them now to ensure that all foreign broadcasts can be heard.”

Individual broadcasters were jammed in Ethiopia during the May 2010 elections, according to CPJ research. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi ordered the jamming of the U.S.-backed broadcaster Voice of America two months before the elections last year.

TPLF’s Propaganda Tour in North America Foiled by Ethiopians

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Global Civic Movement for Change in Ethiopia
PRESS RELEASE

The Ethiopian Diaspora protected its home turf by successfully foiling TPLF’s disinformation campaign to divert the attention of the people of Ethiopia from the impending uprising that is brewing against tyranny at home.

Boston anti-Woyanne protest

The April 9th and 10th road show of the so-called Growth and Transformation Plan of Meles Zenawi, has just ended up in a total failure. In almost all of the 13 cities the delegations were received with noisy protest rallies.

The actual meetings had a number of difficulties. There were cancellations, disruptions and interruptions. On the average, the meetings started about 2 hours late. Less than one percent of the Ethiopian Diaspora in North America attended these sham meetings. The auditoriums were not filled to their capacities. Even though it was billed as a public meeting, it turned out more like a private meeting with the apparatchiks of the Tigrai People’s Liberation Front.

Community leaders, scholars, activists and supporters of Ethiopian pro-democracy opposition forces were refused entrance to the meeting halls on account of not having an “invitation paper.” Even those who presented the “invitation letter” were refused entrance. Those who managed to get in and ask questions were verbally abused and in the case of Washington D.C and Los Angeles physically assaulted by Meles Zenawi’s thugs.

In every city security was very tight. The organizers were confrontational and nervous. Those who requested meeting orders were thrown out of the halls by hired security agents. The propaganda video that was shown contained no new information. The PowerPoint presentations were boring, contained voodoo statistics, and the presenters were incompetent to speak on the contents of the PowerPoint documents. The question and answer sessions were carefully controlled and stager-managed. The responses given were embarrassing even to the TPLF’s supporters.

Nevertheless, some individuals who got the opportunity to ask questions managed to raise the hot button political, economic and human rights issues. The rosy picture the delegates tried to paint was, of course, a direct opposite of the reality on the ground.

The amount of money spent on this propaganda tour is outrageous while millions of our people are starving. We have learned today that the price of petrol increased by 3.00 Birr just yesterday. Ethiopians are now paying 21.00 Birr for a liter of benzene causing unbearable economic hardship on the society.

The TPLF propaganda tour has backfired as the Ethiopian Diaspora is now more determined to work in unison for regime change in Ethiopia. All in all, the amazing performance of courageous Ethiopians in all the 13 cities has been Beka’s rehearsal for the Ethiopian Diaspora uprising!

Beka!Geye! Yeakel! Bass! Aloni! Diiteh! Gides! Wetandem! Enough to TPLF tyranny!
Freedom, justice, equality for the People of Ethiopia! Victory to the people of Ethiopia!

For more information contact: Ethiopians.say.beka@gmail.com