Archive for the ‘Ethiopian News’ Category

Ato Melaku, Dr Berhanu, 3 others sentenced to death

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (BBC) — An Ethiopian court has sentenced five people to death and 33 others to life in prison for planning to assassinate government officials.

Prosecutors had said the convicted were part of the Ginbot 7 (15 May) group led by Berhanu Nega, a US-based dissident.

He was among those sentenced to death, as was opposition leader Melaku Tefera.

Mr Melaku was present in the Addis Ababa courtroom with 27 other accused. Some of the defendants have said they were tortured into confessing.

Convicting the men in November, Judge Adem Ibrahim said the court had not been convinced of the torture allegations.

The authorities have said they found weapons, including land mines, at the men’s homes when they were arrested in April.

Army officers sentenced

“The… five have committed grave offences and four of them have not learnt from their previous sentences,” said Judge Adem passing down the sentences.

“Therefore, we have been been obliged to give the most severe sentences.”

Relatives of the men broke down in the courtroom as the sentences were read out, says the BBC’s Uduak Amimo in Addis Ababa.

The death sentences were reserved for what the court called the political leaders of the plot, while those sentenced to life imprisonment were active or former military officers, AFP news agency said.

Lawyers for the defence said they would appeal.

Andergachew Tsege, secretary general of Ginbot 7 and one of those sentenced to death in absentia, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme the ruling was not unexpected.

“It is not surprising to us and probably to the people of Ethiopia,” he said.

“We know the price of freedom – the preservation of rights always forces us to pay sacrifice and if that sacrifice means to be sentenced to death, so be it.”

‘Ethnic apartheid’

The authorities have long accused Mr Berhanu of spearheading opposition plots.

He was arrested after being elected mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005 and jailed for treason.

He was pardoned in 2007 and left for the United States, where he began teaching economics at a university.

Ginbot 7 was named after the date of the 2005 elections, which Meles Zenawi’s party won, but which the opposition said was rigged.

Mr Berhanu denies engaging in armed struggle against the government, but Mr Andergachew said attempts to engage in peaceful politics had failed to deliver.

“The political space in Ethiopia for peaceful struggle has been killed by Meles, so we have no choice,” Mr Andergachew said.

“As long as they [the government] refuse to listen, we will use any means possible to force them to listen or to force them out of office.”

Rights groups have expressed concern that the government is trying to silence dissent before Ethiopia holds its next national election in June 2010.

Mr Andergachew said Ginbot 7 was angered that political and economic life in Ethiopia was dominated by Mr Meles’s Tigrean ethnic group.

“They are building what we call an ethnic apartheid in Ethiopia,” he said.

Prostitution plagues Ethiopia's capital

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

By Daniel “Skiff” Skiffington | The Mocha Club

(Prostitute on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)

(Prostitute on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)

The streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia bustle with activity during the day. Shoppers crowd markets, taxi cabs dash across busy streets and Arabian-style music booms from office towers. For the most part, Addis seems to be an ordinary city. But as the sun sets, remaining illusions of normalcy disappear. Young girls, some between the ages of 12 and 15, line city streets in hopes of finding a customer or two for the night.

What makes Addis different than cities in the U.S. with prostitution problems? The answer lies in the statistics. More than 150,000 women walk the streets each night. Many charge $1 per trick, making them accessible to both Ethiopians and those on business from the West. In many ways, prostitution here is a result of poverty. Unemployment is over 50 percent. Ask a woman to leave the streets and she might go months, years or even decades without work.

Through a partnership with an organization called Women at Risk, Mocha Club supports those wanting to leave the life of being a prostitute or “sex worker.” The idea is simple: befriend women and encourage them to live a better life. The actual process is much more complicated. Through the dedication of local staff members and volunteers, Women At Risk’s goal is to get these women off the streets, counsel them, and equip them with job training so they are empowered to support themselves and their children in a new way, encouraging them to leave behind the life of prostitution forever. We’ll spend the next week with the organization and the people it helps. Stay tuned.

(The Mocha Club Experience: Starting November 1, 2009, Seattle Pacific University recent graduates Daniel “Skiff” Skiffington and Charlie “Char” Beck visit all of Mocha Club’s current projects in 7 countries and take Mocha Club supporters and friends on a three-month virtual adventure to experience real life in Africa.)

What now for Ethiopia's "Aung San Suu Kyi"?

Monday, December 21st, 2009

By Barry Malone | Reuters

Bertukan-Mikdesa-078908647The first time I interviewed Birtukan Mideksa I was struck by how careful she was not to say the wrong thing. It was 2007 and we were standing in the garden of a community centre in the part of Addis Ababa where she was raised. She had just been released from prison and the locals — many of whom struggle to feed themselves — had each given about a dollar to throw her the party-cum-political rally we had just attended and to buy her an old Toyota Corolla car to help her back on her feet again.

Such was her care when talking to me that, after less than five minutes, I discreetly switched off my recorder knowing the interview would never make a story, and continued the conversation only out of politeness and professional interest in Ethiopian politics.

It seems her caution was well-placed. The 36-year-old opposition leader and mother of one is back behind bars, accused by the government of speaking out of turn. It has been almost exactly one year since a group of policemen snatched her as she walked to her car with political ally Mesfin Woldemariam. Mesfin — a large, grey-haired man in his 70s — was bitten by a police officer in a scuffle when he tried to intervene.

Now her supporters in the Horn of Africa country are calling her “Ethiopia’s Aung San Suu Kyi” in what analysts see as a move aimed at attracting international attention to her detention. Government officials often smirk when what they see as an overblown comparison is made.

Party colleagues say she was jailed because the government feared her heading an opposition coalition in national elections set for May and rights group Amnesty International calls her a “prisoner of conscience”.

To her champions, Birtukan is the great hope for reconciliation in Ethiopia’s often bitter political landscape. To her detractors, she has been made a romantic figure by her jailing and doesn’t have the intellectual muscle or strategic nous to lead the huge country.

Some Ethiopians see sinister shading in the lack of international attention, claiming western powers are happy to see Prime Minister Meles Zenawi — in power for almost 20 years — stay on as long as he liberalises the country’s potentially huge economy and remains a loyal U.S. ally in a volatile neighbourhood that includes shambolic Somalia.

Others say, with some resignation, that yet another jailed politician in Africa just doesn’t make news anymore.

Opposition politicians have even started arguing amongst themselves over her jailing. A split in Birtukan’s Unity for Democracy and Justice party is being blamed by some on accusations that certain UDJ officials had policy disagreements with their leader and so are now not working hard enough for her release.

Birtukan was jailed for the first time after Ethiopia’s last elections in 2005. A coalition of parties, of which she was a leader, claimed a fix when the government declared victory. Police and soldiers then killed about 200 opposition protesters in running street battles when Meles said they were marching on state buildings to overthrow him.

She was released in 2007, along with other opposition leaders, after the government said they had accepted responsibility for orchestrating the violence and asked for a pardon. But Birtukan, a former judge, then made a speech in which she said she never asked for any such pardon.

Her defiant words riled many and ruling party members said she was trying to destablise Ethiopian politics, risking a rerun of 2005’s trouble. Meles himself — who had to fight hardliners in his party to push through the 2007 pardon deal — seemed angry and backroom negotiations aimed at forcing her to withdraw her remarks began. She refused.

Now, a year into her detention, Meles seems reluctant even to speak her name, preferring to call her “the lady” or “that woman”.

When he finally did say the word Birtukan last week at a news conference, he couldn’t have been clearer about her future.

“There will never be an agreement with anybody to release Birtukan,” he said. “Ever. Full stop. That’s a dead issue.”

The words will have chilled her family, friends and political allies.

So what next for Birtukan? Does Meles mean what he says? Or will she be pardoned again after the elections? Is she a future Prime Minister for Ethiopia? Or has she simply become a romanticised figure? Why isn’t the international community pushing harder for her release?

Yemen accused of abusing Ethiopians

Monday, December 21st, 2009

SANA’A, Yemen (UPI) — Yemen systematically arrests and deports Ethiopian asylum seekers, a human rights group charges in a report urging the United Nations to intervene.

Tens of thousands of refugees make the hazardous sea crossing from Africa to Yemen, only to risk being arrested and forced illegally to return home to possible persecution, Human Rights Watch said in a report.

“Illegal immigration is a big problem for Yemen’s government, but hunting asylum seekers down like criminals and sending them back illegally is no way to solve the problem,” Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said.

More than 100,000 people, fleeing war or persecution, have been smuggled by boat to the coast of Yemen in the last two years. They often suffer brutal treatment at the hands of the smugglers, HRW charges, and face being robbed, beaten or even killed.

Once in Yemen, Ethiopians and others are treated as illegal immigrants and often deported even if they are in danger of persecution in their own countries.

Human Rights Watch wants the U.N. refugee agency to pressure the Yemeni government to meet its obligations toward refugees, Gagnon said.

Will the real Meles stand up?

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

I don’t know if you are familiar with it but there used to be an American television show called ‘what is my line?’ It was a guessing game where the panelists try to determine the identity of the contestant by asking leading questions. It was fun to watch a skillful contestant completely baffle the panelists.

Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia was in Europe playing what is my line. Our skilled PM was using the podium to get legitimacy abroad while enhancing his image as a respected states man in front of the Ethiopian people. It was a perfect Kodak moment. I am sure ETV, his private television station back home will play the tape ad nauseam. The Sarkozys and the Obamas were enabling him to hide behind their podium.

Why was he there since Ethiopia cannot be accused of contributing to green house gas? Well he was delegated by NEPAD (New Partnership For African Development.) What is NEPAD? According to their website it ‘is a Vision and Strategic Framework for African Renewal.

NEPAD is setup to address the ‘current challenges facing Africa. Its objective includes eradicating poverty, halt the marginalization of Africa in the globalization process and empowerment of women. The principle NEPAD stands for includes good governance, broad and deep participation of the population in decision-making, acceleration of regional and continental integration.’

The Ethiopian Prime Minster was heading the NEPAD delegation. To start with one gets the feeling NEPAD is trying to convince others to work for the lofty goals mentioned above but it does not want to lead by example. If the challenge faced by Africans is the absence of ‘good governance’ shouldn’t NEPAD appoint some one who exudes those qualities? That is not too much to ask is it?

Let us put the NEPAD thing in perspective. The Copenhagen meeting was about threat to planet Earth. It is man made crisis. It is a problem created by the Northern hemisphere dwellers. The Europeans and the Americans. As time honored tradition dictates we Africans are victim number one. Our usual fellow victims Asia and South America are not with us anymore. They are heating up the planet but they are not in a mood to discuss slowing down. There is a lot of catch up to do.

So what was NEPAD doing there? Since it does not have any green house gas to threaten with it was doing some serious begging. Leading to this great ballyhooed affair our fearless leader was posturing to disrupt the proceedings. He was threatening to walk out. He was demanding 40 billion USD a year for Africa. That was his demand and he is sticking to it! Not. He was just kidding.

With the French President at his side the NEPAD leader agreed to a pittance 10 billion USD for the first year and little guarantee for the future. Africa’s cut will be 40%. Heck of a negotiator wouldn’t you say. The Westerners will heat up the planet and increase the temperature that in turn will create havoc on Africa’s weather forcing us into more deforestation, drying up of lakes and rivers and further starvation.

What do we get for this? Surplus genetically engineered food and deposit in African leaders personal account in European and American banks. To say plenty of African were upset by this unilateral negotiation by NEPAD chief is an under statement. They were fuming. From Algeria to South Africa they all distanced themselves from NEPAD. The Americans and the Europeans used NEPAD as a wedge to divide the third world group.

We Ethiopians are familiar with that playbook. Is it me or do you see some similarity here. Let us see Ato Meles is famous for his unique disruption technique. He leaves a clear MO. (Modus operandi). We can refer to the Ledetu affair, the Chamiso saga or the Hailu opera. The Westerners used NEPAD exactly as the Prime Minster used Hailu to break the solidarity of the opposition. The only difference is NEPAD will be paid thru African Development Bank while Ato Hailu or Ato Ledetu will suffer eternal humiliation. Not that I will waste any tears for them.

To go back to ‘what’s my line’ story the performance of the Prime Mister was enough to baffle the panelists if this was a show. He preached the gospel of compromise. The science of give and take was the heart of his philosophy. Ato Meles scolded the West for marginalizing Africa. He demanded to be included as an equal.

I was flabbergasted. Well that is an under statement. I was floored. I have not seen this side of him. Did the mantra ‘my way or the highway’ get revised? Did the philosophy of ‘some are more equal than others’ get tossed away? Are we going to have the new improved TPLF after Copenhagen?

The old one we knew was different. He has a few political prisoners in the various dungeons scattered all over the country, he likes to be mean and angry when it comes to Chairman Bertukan and jailing, bankrupting, and exiling journalists and intellectuals is his hobby.

Stupid me, I used to think TPLF was all about power and revenge for the past transgressions for perceived injustice. It is sort of surprising and a let down to see it is all about money. The net worth of Ato Meles is jaw dropping. It is difficult to explain. It begs for a tharrow investigation. The information boggles the mind.

Following is from Wikipedia (click here):

This is a list of heads of state and government by their net worth, mostly of their liquid assets in US Dollars. This list should not include crown property and other material goods (although these are sometimes difficult to separate depending on the source) as of August 2008.

Name Title Net Worth Country
Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Sultan $20 billion[1] Brunei
Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Emir $18 billion[1] United Arab Emirates
Abdullah King $17 billion[1] Saudi Arabia
Mohammed Bin Rashid Prime Minister $12 billion[1] United Arab Emirates
Silvio Berlusconi Prime Minister $9.4 billion[2] Italy
Asif Ali Zardari President $4 billion[3] Pakistan
Hans-Adam II Prince $3.5 billion[1] Liechtenstein
Mohammed VI King $2.5 billion[1] Morocco
Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani Emir $2 billion[1] Qatar
Meles Zenawi Prime Minister $1.2 billion[4] Ethiopia
Albert II Prince $1 billion[1] Monaco
Qaboos Sultan $700 million[1] Oman
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo President $600 million[citation needed] Equatorial Guinea

Poor Mr. Obama is not even worth a lousy million and he is going to stay that way till he leaves office. Our Meles can eradicate famine from Ethiopia if he donates some of that stash. Don’t ask me how he amassed such obscene amount of money in such a short time. I did not know we paid our chief executive that kind of money either. Do you get the feeling there is no rational answer to this problem except outright denial. May be Wikidepia’s editors character can be brought to question or a plot can be uncovered that was trying to defame the regime. Hey 1.2 billion in USD is nothing to scoff at.

Ethiopian Review trip to Humera, Ethiopia (video)

Friday, December 18th, 2009

One of the places I had visited last October when I went to the field to attend a meeting by the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) was the town of Humera, Ethiopia. For obvious reasons, I could not actually enter the town, but I was right at the Tekeze River, which serves as the border. It was tempting to grab an AK-47 from one of the EPPF fighters who were accompanying me and unload it on the Woyanne military post that was a few meters away from me.

The trip to Humera was an extremely emotional experience for me — looking at my own country from across a river. Woyanne made millions of Ethiopians like me strangers to their country, while sucking the life blood of the nation. The trip made me more determined than ever to muster every energy and knowledge I have to fight and remove this cancer from Ethiopia. – Elias Kifle

I have produced the following video about my trip to Humera.

Eritreans and Ethiopians: What Next?

Friday, December 18th, 2009

By Amanuel Biedemariam

Historically, in Ethiopia, change of leaders comes abruptly and unexpectedly. These changes are not accidental. They come-about due to undercurrent that builds-up leading up-to it. This was true during the transition periods from Emperor Haile Sellassie to Mengistu Hailemariam and to the current TPLF regime led by Meles Zenawi. These changes have many similarities. They were violent, sudden and brought about systems that were unnatural and unfit for the people of Ethiopia.

In 1974-1975 Ethiopia was surprised by the violent and abrupt nature of the leadership transitions from an open feudal system to Marxist dictatorship. Ethiopians had no say or choice in the process. The mood of the country changed overnight. The rhetoric was based on communist dogma that was threatening and redundant. Land was nationalized and “Land-to-the-Tiller” (መሬት ላራሹ) became the order of the day. The music changed bringing with it a sense of tension and uncertainty. Most of the ministers’ were executed at once taking with them any chance of continuity. It was a surreal environment that turned Orwellian overnight with thousands of youth killed on the streets for mere suspicion of opposing the ruling party and so on…

After the fall of The Derg, Meles Zenawi had a unique opportunity to bring positive change for the good of the country and the region. He came to power at a crucial juncture with a blank slate to a nation hungry for change. He had overwhelming political support from the international community, relatively calmer region with the exception of Somalia and an era of global transition from the Cold War into the new Global-Village. But he squandered that opportunity by becoming a dictator worse than Mengistu Hailemariam. As a result, Ethiopia currently finds herself in worse position without prospects for peaceful transfer of power and perpetuating unfortunate history of violent leadership changes that plague Africa.

Now, it is an established fact that the TPLF is determined to hold on to power however possible. While that on itself is a problem, the main problem is the fact that they don’t represent the interest of the people of Ethiopia. And worse, all that they do is at the expense of the people. They double-time, sell, kill, ethnic-cleans every ethnic group. They destroy and burn villages. There is no moral fiber that governs this group. They are desperate and extremely dangerous. They are loathed by the people of Ethiopia and the region. After 18 years of deceit, lies, torture and particularly after the 2005 election- debacle, Ethiopians have given-up on Meles and his gang altogether. By now Ethiopians know clearly that no matter what, TPLF will never play fair.

Eritrean Take

Conversely, Eritreans know-well the nature of Meles and his gang because Eritreans have experienced tremendous grief due to many crazy TPLF adventures. They are traitors, backstabbers and devoid of any humanity. Soon after Eritrea gained independence, Meles Zenawi stood on a podium in Asmara-Stadium and empathically promised Eritreans that “he will not scratch the wounds” they suffered on the hands of brutal Ethiopian regimes. But soon thereafter however, he ignited unnecessary border war and ethnic-cleansed over 75,000 Eritreans from Ethiopia for reasons that defy logic while boasting “we can kick-out any one even if we don’t like the color of their eyes.” It didn’t end up there. He continued with his mischief and mayhem, thinking that he has the upper hand and assurance from The US and his Western enablers. He denied Eritreans any hope for peace with the people of Ethiopia. Moreover, in order to be the KEY player/ anchor, he destroyed and displaced the lives of millions in Ethiopia and the region with no signs of change of direction.

Possible Hurdles to Relations

Ethiopians can rest assured of one thing; Eritreans harbor no ill will toward them! Eritreans want peace first and foremost. Peace is a prerequisite that Eritrea demands because, as a young nation, Eritrea knows it is difficult to achieve sustainable growth without peace. Eritrea’s long term interest is best-served by peaceful-coexistence with her neighbors in the region and beyond. Therefore, as far as Eritrea is concerned, there is nothing that can stand on the way of peace with our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia.

Moreover, Eritreans understand, the enemies of the region are only interested to see a fractured, destabilized and weak region so they can exploit the resources of the region at will. Coincidentally, that works well with the design of the TPLF that looks to divide and rule Ethiopians because it lacks support from the masses.

Therefore, when Eritrea says we are not threatened by a strong and democratic Ethiopia; it is not hubris or deception; it is only because it is fully convinced that it is a strategic imperative for the peoples of Eritrea to work and live peaceful-coexistence with our neighbors and cousins in Ethiopians! Like Ethiopia, Eritrea knows it can’t partner with Weyane no matter what. That means Eritreans must work with Ethiopians – not only to rid Meles and his gangs – but for many possibilities of mutual interest

Ethiopians on the other hand face unique challenges when it comes to Eritrea. Some reject Eritrea as a nation; some simply hate the idea of working with Eritrea and some obsess about Port-Assab and access to sea. Some are simply ignorant not wanting to accept the situation on the ground and go to their comfort zone; and remain hostage to history and pride they carry from the emperors’ days. Another hurdle Ethiopians face is their willingness to fall for the trick Weyane uses; Eritrea, the border, and Assab as wedge issues in order to divert attention from itself. On top of that the Ethiopian opposition in the Diaspora is heavily infiltrated by virus/TPLF to the point of total paralysis.

However, the main hurdle Ethiopians face is their disunity and susceptibility to be fractured by personalities. On his latest article, “Lacrimosa for Ethiopia,” the self anointed former TPLF King-Maker and ardent enemy of the people of Eritrea Tecola W. Hagos, in order to make the case against his former TPLF clique’s modus operandi of divide and rule; and to show Engineer Hailu Shawel’s “opportunist” nature, inadvertently made this case, succinctly. This is how he put it:

“The Amharas will continue in their present status, disorganized and ineffective, incapable to counter or regain the political clout they presumably had lost if the present fracturing continuous… moreover recent development indicate that AAPO officials in Addis Ababa are working together with the EPRDF undermining the very Amhara movement they were elected to lead and promote.” And, Tecola elaborates further;

“As he has done countless times in the past, Meles Zenawi will try all kinds of trickery dividing the opposition and driving wedges in between opposition leaders. It is no secret that Meles and his group have effectively divided and weakened the opposition in the past; for example, AAPO, OLF, CUD et cetera were all victims of the divisive schemes of launching leaders against each other. Thus, it will not surprise me if Meles Zenawi would offer Hailu Shawel the Presidency of Ethiopia in exchange.”

This shows, at this point, Ethiopians have no representative party. Weyane has clearly WON, this time. They have managed to weaken the opposition and frustrate the Diaspora Ethiopians who at one time rallied with the people in Ethiopia. Moreover, Weyane has brilliantly manipulated majority of those leaders who were the face of the opposition in 2005 who took to the streets by the millions rejecting the criminal TPLF gang and used them to pacify the international community, ala Hailu Shawel. Ethiopians at this point are divided, desperate and increasingly frustrated. They are rendered helpless to the point of almost giving-up entirely due to lack of cohesion and visionary-unifying leadership. In addition Ethiopians in the Diaspora lack the organizational structures that can work as a link with the people in Ethiopia.

Combinations of the factors above are working against the people of Ethiopia in every turn, making it difficult for them to focus on the real issues that plague their nation, Weyane. Unless Ethiopians realize that, it will be impossible for Ethiopians to make any progress towards achieving their main objectives, which is: A) the eradication of Meles-Weyane thugs and, put them to jail and in dirt bin of history. B) To free the people of Ethiopia from perpetual misery C) to help establish regional stability by focusing on people to people relations with the people in the region including the Somalis.

Moving Forward

As history shows and teaches us, it is safe to conclude that, when we fail to make the efforts necessary to control our destiny, our fate will be decided by others who will bring unpredictable and unwanted changes. Historically that has been the case for Africa. The West has always dictated our fate resulting in perpetual disasters which plague our region to-date. They have shown callous disregard to the lives, norms, cultures, religious-beliefs and the future of the peoples in the region. In an effort to further their hegemonic agendas, the West has completely denied the people of the region opportunities to chart their own path. But worse, the practice is more prevalent today than it was in the dark ages of Africa. But how is that possible? It is possible because of people like Meles Zenawi who work as surrogates and have turned their countries into client-sates of the Western Powers. These surrogates give cover to the West as they pursue their agendas with impunity and without questioning by their constituents. It also shields the West from opposition and international scrutiny because these surrogates are considered legitimate leaders and representatives of their countries.

This creates multi faceted challenge for Ethiopians and the people in the region. First, it pacifies the publics because the outcry is muted since the media outlets are primarily controlled by the West. Secondly, since the main actors, behind the curtains are Westerners, the complaints end up falling on deaf ears. The irony is the West uses the banner of freedoms of speech, religion, press, human rights and good governance as a rallying cry.

But over the last ten years, thanks in large part to the brazen-aggressive approach of George W Bush, with EU leaders by his side, Ethiopians have experienced first hand the role of the good-guys the West played was a sham. After demonstrating from Gleneagles to DC and every place on earth to voice their grievances; Ethiopians know that there are no honest brokers they can turn to for justice. The West controls all African related organizations and uses them for their own gain. Africans have suffered mightily as a result. Ethiopians are no different because they are painted with the same brush.

Meles and his cronies are smart enough to know this. Meles is financed, armed, fed and given political cover by the West. Therefore his biggest game is political-PR geared at appeasing and pleasing his Western masters. And as such, the actions he takes are with that audience in mind. He doesn’t care about what Ethiopians say or do because there is no viable organization, party or individual that he fears or respects!

Concluding Remarks

The coming election provides Weyane numerous opportunities to rewrite a bloody 2005 election history using the very people that rallied the people against him. Hailu Shawel has given Meles the best present he has ever gotten from any Ethiopian. He gave Meles cover to say Ethiopians have reconciled because the opposition leaders have joined the government in the upcoming election-process. It also gave him room to alienate legitimate Ethiopian opposition from participating. Those who will not play by Weyane rules are terrorists, coup plotters and agents of Eritrea etc… It basically gave him a blank check to control the process, a shield from international criticisms and PR upper hand.

When in fact, all the individuals that are being paraded as party leaders have no power, represent no party or garner any public support. These are opportunistic sellouts that are simply used as names for the notoriety they acquired after the failed 2005 election.

Therefore it is not passing judgment to say the whole world knows there are no viable political parties that can topple Meles and his gang, peacefully. There are no organized political parties that stand a chance against the TPLF. If one is to play the sham-election political-games Weyane have cooked up, it is to fall on their trap and to validate them.

The problem is if Ethiopia remains on this path it is guaranteed to disintegrate. That is inevitable and gaining momentum as we speak. As Ethiopian history shows Ethiopians have never had the opportunity to choose the direction Ethiopia took. However, they have a slim opportunity to rewrite that history, now. But that requires many things from every Ethiopians. It requires them to think outside the box, asks for their sacrifices, time, money, wit, resilience and unparallel political savvy. It also requires them to rethink their partnership and how they see each other as they pursue a dangerous leadership-core that is Weyane.

At this point it is very clear that Ethiopians have no place to turn to change that course of Ethiopian history. The only place they have is Eritrea and the willing open arms of Eritreans to partner with Ethiopians to make sure the despicable cancer that is Meles and his cronies, pay for their crimes. Eritreans are ready and eager to help in any way. But, one should not make the mistake of believing that Eritrean willingness is based on vengeance or other motives. It is based on a pragmatic approach that intends to establish a foundation for future partnership with Ethiopians. To that end, in his last interview with Ethiopianreview.com, President Isaias Afwerki invited Ethiopians and called for Eritreans and Ethiopians to engage and address their issues regardless of the differences because he believes that is the only way to come together. Therefore, Ethiopians must make that determination based on what they stand to gain or lose by working with Eritrea and come to that conclusion based on their own interest.

Moreover the only thing Weyane fears is Eritreans working with Ethiopians. By visibly working with Eritreans, Ethiopians can set their agendas. Eritrea has the ability, resources and experience to embrace Ethiopians in this critical undertaking. This puts the ball squarely on the court of Ethiopians because Eritreans are ready to engage because they know what they want and how to possibly achieve it.

To that end Ethiopians and Eritreans need to support the efforts of Ato Elias Kifle, Ato Tilahun Sileshi and others that are already engaged by participating on these endeavors. We need to confer with each other for the sake of our people. We need to open the door for understanding by discussing things of importance. We need to do it with a sense of urgency and with a clear understanding that peace is the ultimate goal based on respect for each other and upholding the sovereignty of each country.

The biggest mistake Ethiopians can make is give credence to the sham election by talking about it or posting it on Ethiopian websites. It must be clear for Ethiopians that Weyane has no fear of Ethiopians because they have controlled the situation. But working with Eritreans, especially in the Diaspora will be a game changer. That deserves your at-most attention.

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

EPPF holds meeting in Washington DC with former soldiers

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

eppf-2009-10-142926The Washington DC chapter of Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) held a meeting with former Ethiopian officers on Sunday. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss how to rally former Ethiopian soldiers around EPPF.

The meeting also discussed ways of mobilizing Ethiopians in the Washington DC Metro Area and around the world to support EPPF.

EPPF-DC spokesperson Ato Demis Belete, who moderated the discussion, opened the meeting with brief remarks about current activities of the organization.

Problems facing EPPF in the diaspora and possible solutions were thoroughly discussed.

Former head of the Ethiopian Navy, Commodore Tassew Desta, who was invited as the guest of honor, told the participants that as an organization that stands for the unity of Ethiopia, it is not surprising that EPPF faces numerous obstacles. Commodore Tassew urged EPPF supporters and members to stand firm and march forward instead of getting bogged down with minor issues.

The following is a news release issued by EPPF-DC (click here to enlarge).

eppf-dc-news-12dec2009

There’s light, but it’s not the end of the tunnel yet…

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

The highs and lows continue at Copenhagen. Today we heard rousing speeches from Gordon Brown and from Hilary Clinton on the need for a deal, and for climate financing. All good stuff, but it’s not good enough. Ethiopia led calls yesterday for a compromise deal infuriating other developing countries who are determined to hold out for what they really need. But rich countries have coalesced around the proposed $100 billion figure for climate finance – to be reached by 2020. Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam International said:

“It’s good news that discussions on climate cash have finally got moving after two long years of delay but this needs to be the start of the conversation – not the end. $100bn is half the amount poor countries need to reduce their emissions and adapt to a changing climate. The money must come from public sources – not be subject to the whims of the markets – and it must not be diverted from existing aid promises. Poor countries will still need to build schools and hospitals – as well as flood defences.”

We are calling for rich countries to provide at least $200bn a year in new money to help poor countries adapt to a changing climate and reduce their emissions. Today I saw an incredibly moving presentation by an Oxfam volunteer, Zunaed, who recently went back to his home country of Bangladesh and visited an area badly affected by Cyclone Aila earlier this year. I saw testimony from people whose lives are in tatters, all because of the increased severity of storms and rising sea levels which have swallowed up their villages. We in the rich world have to accept the moral injustice of this situation, and we have to pay our dues. Let us not forget the $40 billion that was found to bail out the Royal Bank of Scotland, and the $2.3 trillion of guarantees provided to the EU financial sector in 2008. Climate financing is the next major bail out package, without which we face global meltdown – can we afford to let this happen?

Today I urge you to read a fantastic blog by an Oxfam volunteer from Bristol who is in Copenhagen. James was at the centre of the action outside the Bella Centre yesterday, in the midst of violent and not so violent action on each side of the fence. His insights are a reminder of how passionately people feel about the need for action inside the conference centre, and how impatient they are becoming with inertia from those in power. Also read the Fossil of the Day site where America has been voted first once again (third day in a row!) for wriggling out of commitments to concrete emissions cuts.

Today’s action is a reminder to email the US Ambassador – but it’s now been made even easier. All you have to do is click here and you can send an instant message to the US. Please do this and get five of your friends to do it so that we can really make an impact.

$100 bn is half the amount poor countries need – Oxfam

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

As the US, Ethiopia and European Union – including France, Germany and the UK – coalesce around a climate finance package of $100bn, Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam International said:

“It’s good news that discussions on climate cash have finally got moving after two long years of delay but this needs to be the start of the conversation – not the end. 

“$100bn is half the amount poor countries need to reduce their emissions and adapt to a changing climate.  The money must come from public sources – not be subject to the whims of the markets – and it must not be diverted from existing aid promises.  Poor countries will still need to build schools and hospitals – as well as flood defences.”

Oxfam is calling for rich countries to provide at least $200bn a year in new money to help poor countries adapt to a changing climate and reduce their emissions.

Somalia threatens to degenerate

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

By FRED OLUOCH | The East African

The insecurity in Somalia is fast threatening regional peace, with calls for international intervention to avert a continental crisis.

Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti are at most risk because of their porous borders, the proliferation of small arms and the ongoing recruitment of young people from these countries into the Al-Shabaab militia.

As the militia group pull off a flurry of takeovers of areas previously controlled by the government, the United Nations-supported African Mission in Somalia (Amisom) are in danger of being overwhelmed.

While Al-Shabaab is getting stronger, the Sheikh Sharif Ahmed-led transitional government currently controls only two of the 16 districts in Mogadishu — Wadajir and Darkabley.

Al-Shabaab’s strongholds are Bakara market, Heliwa, Yaqshid.

Amison controls the airport, the seaport and the area around the presidential palace.

President Sheikh Shariff Ahmed, Speaker of the National Assembly Osman Elmi Boqore and the Prime Minister Omar Abdulrashid Sharmarke are all guarded around the clock by Amisom.

According to the director of communications at State House, Abdulkadir Osman, the crisis in Somalia is getting out of hand and the international community should assist the country with both logistics and finance to save the region from possible anarchy.

“If we fail to contain the Al-Shabaab, it will be hard for the continent and the world to restore peace in the region,” said Mr Osman.

“We need financial support to train our armed forces and the intelligence in order to stand on our own feet,” said Mr Osman

Morale is low among government soldiers as most must go without pay.

Meanwhile, some officials are supplying Al-Shabaab with arms diverted from the government troops.

Recently, Kenyan authorities arrested seven Somali nationals at Kilindini harbour with an assortment of arms including rocket launchers, grenades and AK-47s, clear evidence that small arms from the war-torn Horn of Africa country are already flowing within the region.

Despite the threat, Kenya and Ethiopia, as the frontline states, were barred by the 2004 peace agreement from direct military intervention in Somalia because of conflict of interest.

The Ethiopian intervention in 2006 went against this mutual agreement.

Tell President Obama: Don't turn a blind eye to Ethiopia

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Michael Posner On Wednesday, Mr Michael Posner, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, held a live discussion on Facebook about Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century (see here). Participants of the discussion submitted a number of questions pertaining to global human rights issues, including the abhorrent human rights conditions in Ethiopia. Ethiopian Review Editor Elias Kifle submitted this question to Mr. Posner:

Dear Secretary Posner,

The tribal junta in Ethiopia led by Meles Zenawi is a close ally of the U.S. Government. Meles is being accused of crimes against humanity by all international human rights organizations. He is currently carrying out genocide in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. Meanwhile, the U.S. Gov’t continues to give hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to this genocidal regime. When the U.S. Congress tried to pass a bill restricting U.S. aid to Ethiopia’s regime unless human rights conditions are improved, the U.S. Department of State fought hard to kill the bill, and it succeeded. So my question is, why does the State Department continue to fuel the Meles regime’s violence and repression against the people of Ethiopia with hundreds of millions of dollars, most of which go to buy weapons? – Elias Kifle

Unfortunately, Mr. Posner chose not to address any of the questions regarding Ethiopia.

We want to hear from Ethiopian-Americans and friends of Ethiopia who campaigned for President Obama in the last presidential campaign regarding his administration’s deafening silence on human rights issues in Ethiopia. You worked hard to elect him; urge him to fulfill his campaign promise by putting human rights issue on the forefront. We will submit your comments to the White House and State Department. Please be concise and courteous!

President Obama: Personal Plea from Your Supporter

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

By Meron Agonafer

I am one of the thousands of Ethiopian Americans who toiled to get you elected. For two years, I was a volunteer for your presidential campaign. I made thousands of phone calls, organized precinct walks, recruited volunteers, and contributed funds to send volunteers to Nevada, Colorado and Pennsylvania. I published letters to the editor in my local newspaper in support of your candidacy. I did it all while looking after my then 18 months old son.

I promised my boy that you will be the next President of the United States. I was enthusiastic about my engagement in your campaign because I believed so strongly that your administration would be fundamentally different from your predecessors in dealing with African dictators like Meles Zenawi.

Now you are the President, I am sad to say that your administration is yet to make any meaningful policy changes toward Ethiopia. Of course, Mr. President, you have so much on your plate—two wars, an economic crisis and the ongoing policy debates in Congress.

However, at the expense of sounding alarmist, I want to bring to your attention that if the current dismal political situations in Ethiopia continue unabated, Ethiopia will be a failed-state. Such a real prospect should alarm your administration.

Mr. President, due to its repressive nature, the Zenawi’s regime is widely despised and rejected by the vast majority of Ethiopians. And the United States’ unconditional support to this murderous regime has been greatly resented by Ethiopians. That should be a concern to the United States, because the enormous public opposition to the Zenawi’s regime can make millions of Ethiopians potentially susceptible to recruitment and radicalization by internal and external radical groups.

To avert a colossal failure, Mr. President, now is the time to formulate a new policy toward Ethiopia. Mr. Michael Posner, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, has been surprisingly intimidated to condemn the abhorrent human rights record of the Zenawi’s regime. The U.S. State Department should not have double-standards on human rights in Darfur, Sudan, and Gambella, Gondar and Ogaden, Ethiopia.

You set a high bar for yourself during your presidential campaign to be tough on corrupted dictators and to honor human rights—don’t lower the bar now, Mr. President. Don’t be hoodwinked or deceived by a vicious and notorious dictator like Meles Zenawi. You cannot count on a person like Mr. Zenawi, who has no principles and credibility, to advance U.S. interests in East Africa—it simply cannot be done.

Please advise your State Department to take the issues of human rights violations in Ethiopia seriously, and to set up a Committee to examine political conditions on the ground. A democratic and stable Ethiopia will be a strategic and reliable ally to the United States.

With tremendous respect! Meron Agonafer

U.S. official for human rights ignores questions about Ethiopia

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Mr. Michael Posner, had invited every one who is concerned about human rights to a live discussion on Facebook today. The topic was Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century. Hoping that Mr Posner would answer some questions about the brutal repression in Ethiopia by the tribal junta that is being bankrolled by the U.S. Government, I and other Ethiopians posed some questions. To our dismay — but not surprisingly — Mr. Posner talked about China, Darfur, and a few other places, but completely ignored questions about Ethiopia.

This is just one more proof that the U.S. is using human rights as a political tool to badger governments around the world that are perceived to be against its economic interest. There is no genuine concern on the part of the U.S. Department of State about human rights outside of the U.S. borders. That is why no one pays attention any more when the U.S. Government talks about human rights. See the so-called discussion here. – Elias Kifle

Ethiopian art exhibition in Atlanta

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Hanatzeb Ethiopian Art Gallery is hosting an art exhibition this weekend in Atlanta where artists Eskender Seyoum, Alex Girma, Muluken Asfaw and Yosef Berta will present their works.

The exhibition will start at 6 PM, Saturday.

Place: 49-B Bennett Street NW, Atlanta GA 30309

Hanatzeb Ethiopian Art Gallery celebrated its grand opening on November 1, 2009.

Located in the Buckhead neighborhood, Hanatzeb Gallery is adding to the City of Atlanta’s growing art scene.

Along with paintings, the gallery carries Ethiopian artifacts, such as traditional crosses, masks, books, and household items.

The Gallery also hosts poem reading events and receptions for Ethiopian painters and artists to help them introduce their works.

Ethiopian Art Exhibition in Atlanta

Ethiopian Art Exhibition in Atlanta

Remembering the Anuak Massacre of December 2003

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

On December 13-15, 2009, it will be six years since the massacre of 424 Anuak in Gambella, Ethiopia followed by nearly two more years of widespread extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, imprisonment, disappearances and destruction. By the end of this time, another 1500 Anuak from this very tiny ethnic group, numbering less than 100,000 worldwide and less than .01% of the Ethiopian population, were killed.

In April of 2009, Genocide Watch president, Dr. Gregory Stanton, defined this ethnically-based targeting of the Anuak as genocide and crimes against humanity in his referral of the “case of Ethiopia” to the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights.

Wondering what thoughts were on the minds of the Anuak in Gambella at this anniversary of their darkest of days or what changes they might have seen during these years, we in the Anuak Justice Council contacted some of the Anuak to ask this question. One Anuak man said:

Thank you for asking me what has changed in the six years. The answer is not a lot. We still do not know where the bones of our people are, not one single killer has been brought to justice and we still are not free.

As some might remember, the genocide was linked to gaining access to oil on Anuak land. Drilling for that oil began almost simultaneously to the massacre. There was a prepared list of those to be targeted for death by Meles’ Ethiopian National Defense Forces. Those who were on that list were mostly those who had been the most outspoken opponents to the TPLF government control of every aspect and benefit of this effort, in violation of the Ethiopian constitution which provided regional involvement in such endeavors. International laws also protected the land rights of indigenous people.

The two wells that were drilled proved to be dry; however, the memory of the horror and the impact of the great loss of beloved family and community members continue to be felt throughout the Anuak community in Ethiopia and worldwide. Another Anuak man commented in his interview:

To some who are outside Gambella, today [December 13th] is the day of remembering, but for those of us here, every day is a ‘remembering day;’ we remember by not seeing our neighbors, by seeing someone who lost her husband or her son, by seeing a child without a father or by seeing a demolished home, burned down six years ago, but still not rebuilt. The list could go on and on. That is the reason that to us, each day is a day of remembrance.”

For now, in Gambella, there will be no commemorative services, public recognition of the past, acknowledgment by the government of what they have done or new efforts to hold offenders accountable.

One Anuak woman explains a very different — and difficult — reality for Anuak:

The horror of December 13th is part of our daily life—like a dark cloud hanging over us that has never left. What makes it worse is that the killers are still around us. For example, the chief of police who ordered the killing of the Anuak in 2003, Haile Selassie Tadesse, has been promoted to a higher position. He is now the information desk officer for the regional governor, Omot Obang Olam. (Governor Omot is the one who allegedly compiled the list of Anuak to be targeted for death. Last
year, he was denied entrance into Canada based on his complicity in committing crimes against humanity.) How can we say there is a change with this kind of thing going on around us?”

Instead, life in Gambella is expected to go on as if nothing ever happened. The government, who authorized the targeting of the Anuak and continues to give both impunity and rewards to the perpetrators, is still in power and they “dislike” any “remembering.” It is “not good” for their public image. Instead they promote propaganda regarding progress in the country that the people of Gambella have yet to see.

One Anuak man commented on this:

The government in Addis can preach with their rhetoric that there is peace, development, democracy, the rule of law, good government and justice, but the truth is opposite from what they are saying. As it is said in the Bible, the truth can set you free. It is a light that can never be hidden.

The unhidden truth being revealed right now are the new government plans to again attempt to exploit the significant natural resources and related economic opportunity in the region. The Meles government has leased a large tract of some of the most fertile land in the region to Mohammed Al Amoudi, an Ethiopian/Saudi Arabian billionaire, who has, according to reports, already been “given” a choice parcel
for next to nothing. He is negotiating for more land, saying he wants some 500,000 hectares in Gambella and in the neighboring Benishangul-Gumuz region and in the Amhara region. Al Amoudi has also procured the gold mining rights to extract gold from indigenous Anuak land, a source of income for the Anuak for many years. They will now be totally left out of any of the benefits.

Meles is also making more bargain land deals with India, Saudi Arabia, China and others from 35-year to up to 99-year leases. It is very clear that the TPLF-dominated government does not want the people, but only our resources. As indigenous agricultural land is confiscated, much of the food produced on these
lands will be directed to other countries or the local people may end up buying food grown on their land, at inflated prices, from foreigners and made into slave laborers.

This is going on all over the country. In Gambella, it has raised an uproar of outrage among the Anuak.

One Anuak man interviewed said:

To make the matter worse, Meles is still planning more “indirect” killings that could result in even more lives being lost than were lost in 2003. Meles is now giving away our land to foreigners. This land is covered with virgin forests. The forests to us are our food, our shelter, our nails, our roof, our walls and our medication. The land is not just “nobody’s land” as Meles claims, it is our life! Without this forest, we could have never existed as a people. Meles is really going to the hard extreme and I do not think we will accept it without resisting.”

Another Anuak man stated:

The central government has been bribed by foreign investors and now the regional governor, Omot Obang Olam, is being bribed to give away this land. The Anuak elders are warning him not to gamble with our lives; meaning that our land is our life. These dirty business deals, conducted without consulting the people, are very dangerous. This Anuak land was given to us not by us begging for it or bribing someone, but because God gave it to us. Without it, there is no us. I hope the Meles regime and Omot Obang Olam will listen.”

A young Anuak man added his comments:

In the Abobo area of Gambell, Al Amoudi has already cleared the land of the forests and still plans to transport some 300 tractors, bulldozers, or other large equipment to the area for further clearing of the land. The Anuak people who live there are already being forced from their land. No one knows who will take responsibility for these displaced people or where they should go. There seems to be no plan for them and they may end up not having any land to farm. The Anuak land is being given away to the Chinese, the Indians, the Saudi Arabians and the “so-called Ethiopian” al Amoudi.”

“If they continue with the plan as is, and destroy the forests, even a billion dollars or one hundred years will not restore them. Knowing that, some of us would choose to be cleared away with our forests. The indigenous people will lose their livelihood. We are not against feeding the Ethiopian people or in investing in their future, but investing in outsiders and feeding outsiders with the food from our land when Ethiopian people are starving does not make sense. It would never be tolerated even in those countries now wanting our land. If it is unacceptable for Ethiopians to go to China or India or Saudi Arabia and clear their land without consulting the people, it is unacceptable here. We are human too and we care about the future of our children like everyone else. We would rather remain the way we are or the way our ancestors were instead of losing our livelihood for the greedy few. My message to the investors is, listen to the owners of the land or you will pay the consequences.”

The Anuak will not ignore this attempt to defraud them of their land because the land is who they are. This land-grabbing is in violation of international law and their right to it is protected. This is a very sensitive issue and the Anuak and other Ethiopians throughout the world, are watching, waiting and preparing for what will come next.

In the meantime, on this anniversary of our pain, the Anuak will remember in silence, quietly meeting together or visiting the graves of those who died; that is, if their loved one’s body was ever recovered for many were buried in a mass grave; and some, simply disappeared. Many Anuak who ran to refugee camps in neighboring countries, will remember from there and Anuak in the Diaspora will hold
commemorative services.

Since 2003, the Ethiopian government has only become more abusive, repressive and openly dictatorial as they continue to imprison, torture and kill people all across the country; as they close off any political space in anticipation of rigging the next election and as they deny Ethiopians every basic civil right. It is a morally bankrupt regime that will not willingly give up power unless the victims of their crimes, from
every region of the country, rise up together to demand their freedom.

An Anuak woman eloquently spoke of her hope that Ethiopians would work together. She stated:

What gives us hope and encouragement is when we hear that you in the Diaspora are working together with other Ethiopians. Let everybody work together to create that Ethiopia that will hold us together. As we remember this December 13th, let us remember December 13ths of other Ethiopians that have taken place all over Ethiopia.

As we remember the Anuak who have lost their family members or others who are locked up in prison, let us also remember all Ethiopians whose name or tribe we may not know, but who are part of us because we are all victims of this inhumane government. All of these prisoners are the warriors of justice, committed to bringing justice throughout Ethiopian land. I am confident that God will free these people from their cells so they will be able to rejoin their families. I am also confident that if we
stand together, justice will pour over Ethiopia.”

Can we find justice for these and the many other precious lives lost at the hands of a government who has forgotten their role as protectors of the people? As one of the interviewees stated:

This regime is one of the most hated regimes in Ethiopian history because they kill the people like they are nothing and with no remorse. As a result, even though the people may not talk about it, within themselves they are unified by the terror and horror inflicted on them and others by this government.”

The testimonies given here are just a few, but if we were to go throughout Ethiopia, we would find testimonies like these in every region and among every ethnic group. If these kinds of testimonies cannot unify us as one, what will?

In conclusion, at the time of their crisis six years ago, the Anuak were alone, but today, they are reaching out for the hands of others. This is the time to reach back and clasp hands together—mourning together under one tent covering all of Ethiopia.

May God remind us that whoever is being killed or tortured anywhere in Ethiopia is a cause for our mourning. May God help us see a bigger picture of our shared humanity rather than the ethnicity that Meles uses to incite us to destroy each other. May God open the eyes of Ethiopians to know that whenever the blood of an Ethiopian is spilled, it is the blood of our brother or our sister.

December 13th is a tragic day, but do not forget, God is able to make all things—even those that are horribly evil — work together for good, according to His purposes. He can use all of us who are genuinely determined and committed to work together for something greater beyond only ourselves.

Could the loss of these precious lives create the foundation for a better future for our children and grandchildren? Yes, but only if we are transformed as people who are willing to define our destiny.

Could God bring about the compassion in each of us towards every ethnic group that might lift the pain from the shoulders of those suffering all over the country? Yes, if we soften our hearts.

The final question for us today is if we the people of Ethiopia are willing to become those “watchmen” who call on the LORD day and night, never being silent until God helps us bring justice, freedom, integrity and goodness to Ethiopia?

As the Anuak, the people of Gambella and all other peace-loving Ethiopians remember this day, let us give God “no rest” until He establishes a “New Ethiopia” in our hearts, in our minds and in our land.

(Anuak Justice Council. For information: advocacy@anuakjustice.org)

From Menelik I to Obama

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

By Kim Berryman | ABC News

For many of his erstwhile supporters, President Obama’s image as almost an American savior is a distant memory, overshadowed by health-care battles and troop allocations, unemployment numbers and myriad disappointments. For at least one artist in a struggling community in the nation’s capital, however, the nation’s first black president and his family continue to be a powerful muse.

Painting: Menelik I to Obama

Painting: Menelik I to Obama

Just blocks from the White House at the Gospel Rescue Ministries (GRM) homeless shelter in downtown Washington, a mural featuring a heroic portrait of the First Family is displayed prominently in the lobby, painted last fall by Ethiopian artist Mekbib Gebertasadik and depicting Mr. and Mrs. Obama, Sasha, Malia and even Bo, as a representation of hope and progress.

Titled “From Menelik I to Obama,” the mural draws a connection between Menelik I, son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheeba, and the 44th U.S. President. The two figures are visually linked through numerous depictions of historical icons and civil rights leaders.

“Primarily, the clients we serve are African American and [the mural is] an inspiration to our clients of being able to dream” said Earl Murray, Associate Director for Development and Marketing for Gospel Rescue Ministries.

The faith –based shelter and drug treatment facility where the mural is displayed aims to treat their clients “physically, mentally and spiritually.” When the 103 year old organization approached Gebertasadik about his paintings the artist thought the shelter would be an appropriate venue for his large, two wall mural.

“When you see good people doing hard work you get inspired to be like them so you can concentrate and work instead of abuse yourself with drug or drink” Gebertasadik explained.

In the mural, the President is looking off into the distance Gebertasadik says, as a way of saying “look beyond, look further, look to your future, and make it… stronger.”

To the President’s right, the artist painted First Lady Michelle Obama. In a written description of the piece, Gebertasadik writes, Michelle is “equally determined for the good deed and she is one and the same with [President Obama,] one soul into different bodies.”

The painting is awash with icons, subtle symbols and overt messages from the artist. In Michelle Obama, Gebertasadik, who emigrated from Ethiopia in 2001, portrays his dream.

“My dream, in the country in which I live now…is to see equality between the sexes. I am going to see a woman president and I do not think it will take that long” he said.

Though the electorate looks to the future with looming questions regarding healthcare and job numbers, the sitting leader and his family have not lost their power to inspire.

At the Gospel Rescue Ministries, Murray says the clients have” been on the street and they’re at their last chance of hope.” Now, with the entry way mural of President Obama and others, “when they walk in… they can see that opportunity that they can get well and bring about change.”

Change some still believe in.

Libya deports 160 Ethiopians

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

TRIPOLI — The International Organisation for Migration repatriated on Tuesday 160 Ethiopian migrants who had been stranded in Libya without travel documents.

“The 160 migrants boarded a chartered aircraft in the southern Libyan town of Sebha on Tuesday for a five-hour flight to Addis Abeba,” where they were met and assisted by IOM staff, the organisation said.

“This group of stranded migrants, like so many others, realised they had no future in Libya and wanted to return home but couldn’t because they had no money or documentation,” said the IOM’s Tripoli chief of mission Laurence Hart.

The IOM gave each migrant 400 euros (around 585 dollars) when they landed in Addis Abeba to help them “start income-generating activities” as part of its voluntary repatriation programme, the organisation said.

“The programme, set up in July 2006, has so far helped over 3,800 stranded and often destitute migrants from Africa and Asia to return home in dignity,” the statement said.

Libya, with its porous land and sea borders, is a major starting point for sub-Saharan Africans risking their lives in rickety boats with the hope of asylum or simply a better life in Europe.

The IOM said that many of the Ethiopians it repatriated on Tuesday said they had been in Libya “for years, trying to seek out a living as undocumented migrants, or to save up” money to travel on to Europe.

Some of them said they reached Libya after dangerous treks across the Sahara.

More than one million illegal migrants are in Libya to try to cross the Mediterranean towards Europe, according to the IOM.

– AFP

Ethiopia's tyrant calls U.S. ambassador 'idiot' (audio)

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
U.S. Ambassador Douglas Griffith

U.S. Ambassador Douglas Griffiths

Ethiopia’s tyrant Meles Zenawi has called U.S. Ambassador Douglas Griffiths an ‘idiot’ for claiming that there is no equal representation of all ethnic groups in the government.

Mr Griffith represents the U.S.  at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

Speaking at a council meeting last week, Ambassador Griffiths questioned Ethiopian regime’s contention that there is a fair representation of nationalities in government institutions. He said independent observers note that most senior government positions are represented by one ethnicity.

The dominant role of ethnic Tigrayans in the government, especially in the military, has often been a contentious political issue in Ethiopia. Tigrayans make up about six percent of the population.

Listen below:
[podcast]http://www.ethiopianreview.info/audio/12142009amha1800aMON.mp3[/podcast]
|
VOA reports: Prime Minister Dictator Meles flatly rejected Ambassador Griffiths’ assertions. “I have not heard of such idiocy. But if it has occurred, it proves the idiocy of the person in Geneva,” he said.

Speaking to reporters before traveling to the climate conference in Copenhagen, Meles also dismissed a U.S. critique of Ethiopia’s restrictions on human rights and press freedom.

The U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa last week took the unusual step of urging Ethiopia to review a recently passed law restricting the activities of non-governmental organizations receiving foreign funding. The law goes into effect next month.

The Center for International Human Rights at Chicago’s Northwestern University issued a report last month saying the measure effectively silences human rights defenders and advocates of democratic governance. The center described the Charities and Societies Proclamation, or CSO, as “the most restrictive of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa” and compared it to similarly repressive laws in Zimbabwe and Russia.

But Prime Minister Dictator Meles defended the measure, saying it is in line with democratic norms. “There is no possibility of us changing the CSO law because we believe it is a perfectly legitimate law and consistent, if not with the theory, consistent with the practice in the advanced democracies,” he said.

Meles also rejected U.S. concerns about the closure of a newspaper that had criticized government policies. The U.S. embassy said the closure of the Addis Neger newspaper and charges against other private journalists and publishers might contribute to a perception that space for independent media in Ethiopia is constrained.

The media rights group Reporters Without Borders said the decision of Addis Neger’s editors to close the paper and flee the country was evidence of a climate of fear.

Meles said such criticisms are not based on facts. “We don’t take this institution seriously. Because they have proven to us over again, they take any allegation against the government as the last word in the Bible and they do not try to verify the facts,” he said.

At the same time, Prime Minister Dictator Meles scoffed at reports that suggest Ethiopia’s relationship with the United States is strained. He called bilateral ties “mature.” “It was never off track. People assumed it was off track because of some idiot comment made by this or that particular person in this or that particular place. But the relationship is quite solid, has always been based on things other than passing emotions,” he said.

Meles said he had not seen the U.S. embassy statement or the comments by the U.S. representative at the U.N. Human Rights Council. But he said, “I respect the rights of the United States to express its opinion on any matter under the sun, or if they want to, even on any matter over the sun.”

Editing war over Ethiopian dictator's net worth

Monday, December 14th, 2009

The net worth of Ethiopia’s dictator Meles Zenawi is listed as $1.2 billion in Wikipedia.org, the most referenced encyclopedia in the world. Meles is also listed as the 11th richest head of government in the world. (See here.) This has caused the Adwa Mafia (a clique within the ruling Woyanne junta that is mostly composed of close family members and friends of Meles) to scramble and remove their boss from the list. After several back and forth between those who wanted to keep Meles in the list and members of the Adwa Mafia who are terrified of the exposure, Wikipedia editors stepped in yesterday and “called off” the war until December 20.

One may wonder why Meles Zenawi’s clique is scrambling to suppress such information. First of all, the information is correct. Secondly, the Adwa Mafia has amassed such incredible wealth during the past 18 years while most Woyanne cadres and fighters, particularly those who are not from Adwa Awraja, have gotten only frifari (crumbs). Such disparity in wealth is causing friction within the Woyanne hierarchy.

Currently, the Adwa Mafia (a.k.a. the Meles Crime Family) controls 60 mega corporations through an organization named EFFORT (Endowment Fund For Rehabilitation of Tigray). These companies — doing businesses ranging from mining to transportiaon — are estimated to worth over $15 billion. EFFORT, which is currently headed by Meles Zenawi’s wife Azeb Mesfin, has never been audited, pays no tax, and is shielded from inspection of its books. All the profits from EFFORT go into offshore private bank accounts of Meles, Azeb, Sebhat and the other members of the Adwa Mafia.

Three Woyanne soldiers defect to Asmara

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Three Woyanne soldiers defect to Asmara and more news. Watch below;

White Europeans doing iskista (video)

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

These white Europeans do a better iskista dance than most Ethiopians I know, even me. It is hilarious and really entertaining. The performers are members of the Amsterdam International Dance Theater in The Netherlands.
Watch below. – Elias Kifle

Online chat with U.S. State Department official

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century: Online Chat Wednesday, at 6:30 PM Washington DC Time
With Michael Posner, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Looking for answers about the U.S. foreign policy regarding its human rights agenda? Join an online discussion: “Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century” from 6:30 to 7:00 PM EDT. Ask Your Questions Now. Click here

The cause of Azeb Mesfin's fury

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Meles Zenawi and his wife Azeb Mesfin arrive for the G20 Summit at the Pittsburgh International Airport in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania September 24, 2009. The G20 Summit will take place on September 24 and 25Azeb Mesfin, the wife of Ethiopia’s tyrant Meles Zenawi, had captured the attention of U.S. media last September when she gave her husband an angry stare in Pittsburgh (read here). While in the plane flying from New York and after leaving Pittsburgh, Azeb’s anger did not let up. She was heard calling Meles “shermuta,” and hurling other insults.

The Ethiopian Review Intelligence Unit (IU) has now learned from sources inside Woyanne that Azeb was angry after she heard about a meeting between Meles and Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede in New York.

Meles met Liya Kebede through her husband, Kassy Kebede, who is a hedge-fund manager and investment consultant in New York. Kassy reportedly manages multimillion-dollar investment portfolios for Meles, Azeb and other members of the Woyanne junta. Meles is currently 11th richest head of government in the world with an estimated networth of $1.2 billion.

… more details later.

Meles family's absolute corruption in Ethiopia

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

(ION) – Now that the EPRDF [a front organization for the ruling Tigrean People Liberation Front] has been in power for almost two decades, its leaders have had time to accumulate wealth. We make a roundup — by no means exhaustive — of their activity.

[Meles is now estimated to worth $1.2 billion, according to sources close to his regime.]

Azeb Mesfin, the wife of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, takes no mean interest in the world of business and sometimes has been highly interventionist in defending the commercial interests of those close to her. She recently put the spoke in the wheels of the firm Nyala Motors over the importing of UD Nissan lorries; conversely she has lobbied in favour of Sunshine Construction whose executives Samuel Tadesse and Fetlework Elala are close to her. Moreover, Azeb Mesfin is believed to have a stake in Alfa University College and in property in Addis Ababa.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Seyoum Mesfin, is for his part at the head of a unit producing ceramics for the construction industry. It is winning all of the contracts, to such an extent that it has pushed some of its rivals to close down. Asefaw Yirga, the manager of Ase Marble, is believed to be one of them. He committed suicide on 20 December. Seyoum Mesfin also owns several tens of lorries registered in his name. Addisu Legese, the Deputy Prime Minister currently on the way out, owns a hotel at Bahr Dar, which is the stopping place for all the officials visiting this town. The State Minister for Public Works, Arkebe Oqubay Mitiku, owns two buildings in the capital, while one adviser to the Prime Minister, Bereket Simon, owns a rental building and a fleet of lorries transporting oil products from Djibouti. The Police Commissioner Workineh Gebreyehu is at the head of an import-export company which has no difficulty in getting foreign currency when it needs it. A band of generals is very active in the property market, buying and selling villas and plots of land, beginning with the army chief of staff, General Samora Younis, who owns a building in the smart neighborhood of Bole.

The Ethiopian regime recently attributed plots of land in Addis Ababa together with money for building, to some generals, mainly Tigrayans. Samora Younis, Yohannes Gebre Meskel and a few others are among the lucky beneficiaries of this scheme.

Obama nominates next U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia

Thursday, December 10th, 2009
Donald E. Booth

Donald E. Booth

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday his intent to nominate Donald E. Booth to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia.

In announcing his intention to nominate Ambassador Booth and other key U.S. Administration officials, President Obama said, “The depth of experience these individuals bring to their roles will be valuable to my administration as we work to bring about real change for the American people. I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”

Donald E. Booth is currently the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Zambia. Prior to that, Ambassador Booth served three years as Ambassador to the Republic of Liberia. Ambassador Booth previously served as Director of the Office of Technical and Specialized Agencies at the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs. Prior to this position, he served as Director of the Office of West African Affairs.

During his career in the State Department, Ambassador Booth has also served as the Deputy Director of the Office of Southern African Affairs, the Economic Counselor in Athens, and the Division Chief for Bilateral Trade Affairs; desk officer in the Office of Egyptian Affairs and the Office of East African Affairs; and various roles while stationed at embassies in Bucharest, Brussels and Libreville.

Ambassador Booth earned a B.A. from Georgetown University, an M.A. from Boston University, and an M.A. in National Security Studies from the National War College.

(Source: U.S. Embassy, Addis Ababa)

The Ethiopian journalist: an endangered species

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

Attack on the press in Ethiopia

Attack on the press in Ethiopia

An endangered species is a population of organisms that is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters. The free-press journalists in Ethiopia fit such description. The definition is true on both points. Our journalists are becoming extinct because of the draconian laws passed by the minority government and the predatory nature of the TPLF regime. The number of Independent publications is close to zero whereas the threat from the minority based TPLF regime has grown exponentially.

I was going to mention the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the different articles such as Article 29 of the Ethiopian Woyane Constitution that supposedly protect the citizen from the long arm of the state. But all that really don’t make sense in a totalitarian state. Words are stripped of their meaning in a police environment. The slogan ‘what you see is what you get’ is an attempt to show there is no trickery but in Ethiopia it means the exact opposite. Department of Public Security is the fountain of public insecurity, Ministry of justice is the breeding ground for injustice, Defense Department is where aggression against neighbors is formulated and the Communication Office is where lies and defamation is concocted.

So this last week it was the turn of another independent paper to be hounded out of existence. Addis Neger became the latest victim of the illegal regimes attempt to dim the flow of information. Why we are surprised is very perplexing. Is this an isolated incident is a very good question. Isn’t it another of the many humiliations dished on us? What did we do when we were confronted by the previous injustice? Big fat nothing is the answer. What are we going to do this time around other than having a leisurely conversion while sipping our morning coffee? I see another nothing around the corner.

There are three predictable responses that have become our trademark. One is silent condemnation of Woyane while feigning surprise. The second is blaming the editors of Addis Neger for going too far and angering the power to be. Those in the third category have the chutzpah to condemn the exiled journalists for leaving the country instead of staying and confronting the regime.

Despite our indifference the Woyane policy has real victims. Due to the decisions made by the Prime Minster and those around him real people pay the price. The closure and elimination of Addis Neger is another instance in the life of the independent press in Ethiopia. Moged, Muday, Urgi, Tobia, Maebel, Fiameta, Mebrek, Goh, Ruh, Tomar, Ethiop, Ethiopis, Zegabi, Askual, Tikuret, Admas, Express, Menilik, Satenaw, Aemiro, Feleg, Dink, Agere, Damotra, Hilina, Seyfe Nebelbal etc. etc. etc. are a few of the victims of TPLF injustice. You see these are not just names of News Papers. There were real people behind them. People with families that cared for them, people with dreams of informing their fellow citizens and people that worked hard saved and established a thriving enterprise. The papers were shut down by the regime. Do you wonder what became of the people?

Some were murdered. Some are still in prison. A good many were scattered around the globe. Kenya, Yemen, Egypt, South Africa Europe and USA are where they dislocated. No one enters the news business to make money and get rich. Our journalists are the truest of professionals in every sense of the word. They play hide and seek with Woyane tugs endangering their lives and the lives of those around them because they love the truth and they love their country. So many of them have been imprisoned, abused, beaten and humiliated but they are back on their desk the following working day. It has been said that their terrorizes envy the reporters dedication. All that is being done to them is part of our glorious history. It is written with blood. I will give you a few examples as told by my friend Ato Dawit kebede of Fiameta, himself a victim of TPLF injustice. I thank Dawit for giving me permission to quote extensively from a plea he made regarding the plight of our journalists back in 2007.

There is Ato kifle Mulat, the President of the Ethiopian Free Press who was thrown in jail because his association wrote demanding the release of Urgi editors. The court decided Urgi editors to be sympathizers of OLF that is considered to be a ‘terrorist’ group. Ato Kifle was asked to retract the statement or go to prison. He spent many months in Jail. He is now in exile.

There is Eskinder Nega who was publisher of the successful paper ‘Ethiopis’. Eskinder and his editor in chief, the late Tefera Asmare were jailed with made up charges and the paper was closed. Upon his release Eskinder established ‘Habesha’ in English that became popular among the diplomatic community. Addis voice’s Abebe Gelaw was Habesha’s editor in chief at that time; their biting articles and successful cartoons made them famous. One of Eskinder cartoons that depicted the Eritrean President as a snake did not go well with the TPLF cadres and Eskinder was taken to ‘maekelawi’ jail and confined in the famous room # 7. After a few days without food and water; one late night his jailers took him out and tortured him in a separate room for hours. They beat him up badly including his writing hand. He was released and the case dropped when TPLF went to war with their former friend.

There is Zegeye Haile owner and editor of Genanaw who has the misfortune of reporting on the unsuccessful attempt to kill Mengistu in Zimbabwe. Zegeye report the informed speculation that the attempt was made by Eritrean intelligence. He was prosecuted for defaming the good name of Eritreans; fined ten thousand bir and banned for two years from writing.

There is Dawit Kebede of Fiameta who wrote an investigative piece on a certain police colonel. He was hauled to jail because his publication included a picture of police insignia. That was enough to land him and his brother in jail in wereda 10 where they train police dogs. Being terrorized by dogs trained to kill was the punishment he encountered.

The editor Aklilu Tadesse was brought to court because he wrote regarding the existence of an organized opposition group in northern Shoa. He was charged for fabricating a story and the prosecutor demanded a two years jail term. The same day, in the same courthouse Professor Asrat was being charged for organizing an army in northern Shoa.

There is Abera Wegi of Maebel that reported on the curious covering of Yekatit 12 martyr’s monument. He wrote an investigative piece regarding Woyanes crime of erasing a few key words from the monument.

“ቢነገር፣ ቢወራ፣ ቢተረክ ቢጻፍ፤
ፍጻሜ የለውም፤ የፋሺስቶች ግፍ።”

Those words were removed from our monument. Abera Wegi was right and paid the price in Kerchele Prison.

In the aftermath of the famous 2005 general election several Ethiopian journalists were victims of Woyane terror. We will remember Serkalem Fasil who gave birth in a dirty rat infested jail her husband Eskinder Nega, with Sisay Agena, Dereje Habtewold, Fasil Asefa, Fasil Yenealem, Feleke Tibebu, Nardos Meaza, Mesfin Tesfaye, Andualem Ayalew, Wenag Seged Zeleke, Dawit Kebede and Dawit Fasil.

What is happening is just a continuation of eighteen years of crime against the Ethiopian people. Our journalists are a glaring example of the abuse of power by the minority-based government.
Our journalists did their part to tell the Ethiopian people the truth so they will be able to make an intelligent decision. They did not do it for fame or glory. They saw their friends being killed, hunted like wild animals, tortured to make them deny the truth, their property being confiscated and ultimately exiled from their home and country. It requires a person of strong will and unselfish character to withstand such injustice. It is a testimonial that there are still some left imbued with that heroic Ethiopian character that puts country ahead of personal gain. It is a strong indictment against all of us that dwell on our petty differences instead of our collective strength. Our journalists are holding a mirror forcing us so we can truly see our selves and question our commitment to the truth, justice and a united and free Ethiopia.

This is not an attempt to lament what is lacking but to see what is possible when individuals are held accountable for their actions. When we see the strength and resolve of our journalists shouldn’t we all ask ourselves what is required of me to save my people and country? Shouldn’t the question be what is good for the many instead of what do I gain from this? Those of us outside are truly lucky. We are spared from watching the crimes of ordinary cadres against our people; we are shielded from witnessing the hunger of our elders for one meal a day, the plight of our sisters on their hopeful attempt to go where danger awaits them, the hopelessness of our little brothers reduced to drug consumption to forget.

Addis Neger is our humiliation. Addis Neger is our call to action. Addis Neger should anger all of us. It is time we channel our anger and work collectively to overcome injustice. It is time we wholeheartedly support those who are fighting on our behalf. It is not about what happened yesterday, but rather what is possible tomorrow.

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech Mr. Obama said:

“Make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies.”

Something to think about. May the Ethiopian god safeguard our recent exiles and protect their loved ones left behind.

The Brown Condor Celebration Sets for Takeoff

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

TsehaiNY.com staff

Teddy Fikre, C.E.O. of Brown Condor Productions and Member of Ethiopian Americans for Change, is keeping busy these days. Teddy is planning The Brown Condor Launch Celebration which will take place on December 12th, at Jin Lounge in Washington, D.C.

Perhaps no other story represents the deep and rich history Ethiopians and African Americans share rather than the story of Brown Condor.

Brown Condor is the nickname given to Colonel John C. Robinson, born in 1903 in Carrabelle, Florida. When Ethiopia was invaded by Italy in 1935, Colonel Robinson volunteered his services to Haile Selassie. He flew reconnaissance flights and commanded the Ethiopian Air Force.

Read More

Does the World need another Martyr?

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

The Case of Birtukan Mideksa

In preparation for the upcoming election in Ethiopia next year, a recent Reuter’s article indicates that hundreds of opposition party members have been rounded up and sent to prison. Indeed, the ruling party’s most viable opponent, Birtukan Mideksa has been in prison since December of 2008. Before her arrest she was hailed as the best possibility to beat the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front or, EPRDF. Now the 36yr old judge and mother appears to be gradually elevating to martyrdom status much the same way Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma has.

Joining RUTV in the studio this week is filmmaker, Chris Flaherty who spent two years researching the tragic events of the last election in Ethiopia. “I tried my best to reveal the circumstances Ethiopians face in Migration of Beauty. The film documents in detail the election in 2005, the murders and intimidation; and draws parallels between the present reality inside the country and how it affects the lives of Ethiopians in the Diaspora” states Chris. Working with a community of US based Ethiopians, the film documents how individuals worked together to try and change the political system and protect civil liberties and human rights in their homeland.

Watch on demand or chat live with Chris tonight, December 10, at 7:30pm (ET) at livestream.com

Read more information about Migration of Beauty: click here

Reporters Uncensored (RUTV) is anchored by journalist and senior advisor to Reporters without Borders, Tala Dowlatshahi and features a team of independent local reporters from around the world. Maura Kelly is the Executive Producer.

For more information, go to reportersuncensored.com.


Chris Flaherty
SandyBeagle Productions
sandybeagle.productions@gmail.com

http://www.migrationofbeauty.com

202-714-8152

UN mourns Ethiopian engineer who is killed in Afghanistan

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
Teshome Mandefro Egrete

Teshome Mandefro Egrete

NEW YORK (UNICEF) – The familiar blue flag flew at half mast in front of United Nations headquarters a few weeks ago. Its emblem of peace – a global map cradled by olive branches – flapped in a brisk autumn breeze. The flag had been lowered in memory of the five UN staff and others killed in the 28 October attack on an international guest house in Kabul.

After confirming his identity and notifying his family, UNICEF has now disclosed that one of the fallen was Teshome Mandefro Egrete, 56, an engineer from Ethiopia who was working with the agency on an assignment that began in September.

Mr. Egrete’s funeral was held in Addis Ababa this past weekend. He leaves behind a grieving wife and teenage son, and an extended family in deep shock.

That shock extends to all of Mr. Egrete’s colleagues at UNICEF and other UN agencies, and to the entire humanitarian aid community. Although he had lived and worked in Afghanistan for just a short time, he died there under the banner of peace and human development.

For this, we honour his memory and that of the others who were lost.

A life-saving legacy

Mr. Egrete leaves behind a legacy of saving and improving lives with his grit and intelligence, and the sheer skill of his hands.

He was in the drilling business by trade, starting out as a mechanic in the late 1970s and honing his skills over three busy decades. Trained in his home country and the United Kingdom, he became a drilling instructor and superintendent, and a senior advisor on complex water-supply projects operated by the government and private companies across Ethiopia.

Mr. Egrete had travelled to Afghanistan to assist the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development with the operation and maintenance of drilling rigs used to construct wells for communities in need. It was not a political mission but a practical one: to provide safe water for Afghan families – thereby saving the lives of thousands of children under the age of five who could otherwise die from diarrhoea and other waterborne diseases.

It was a worthy mission that tragically became his last.

‘In service to humanity’

Executive Director Ann M. Veneman expressed outrage and grief over the human toll of the Kabul attack. “UNICEF extends its deepest condolences to Teshome’s family and friends,” she said on 30 November, after his remains had been formally identified through genetic testing. “He died in the service of humanity.”

Despite such attacks, UNICEF and its partners continue that service, not only in Afghanistan but throughout the developing world.

By continuing our work, we carry on the legacies of colleagues like Mr. Egrete and Perseveranda So, the UNICEF educator who died in a bombing in Pakistan six months ago. By looking ahead, we build on the achievements of at least two dozen other UN aid workers who have been killed in violent attacks this year alone. By refusing to yield, we hold high the ideal of peace symbolized by the familiar blue flag flying outside the UN in New York.

Today, in memory of Teshome Mandefro Egrete, we rededicate ourselves to that ideal.

UNICEF

Why has Ethiopia's regime locked Birtukan in jail?

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

By Abiye Teklemariam Megenta

Bertukan Mikdesa

Birtukan Mikdesa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But why her? Why not him?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But are words of affection from diplomats enough to be Birtukan’s ‘La Brea Tar Pits’? In February this year, Meles seemed to lay out the terms. In a characteristic outburst, he contemptuously suggested that Birtukan had thought deliverance would come from “powerful people in powerful positions.” It was a clear finger pointing towards Western diplomats and politicians. “Had we indulged her assumptions, the message that we would have conveyed would be ‘nothing happens to you no matter what you do. If you have friends in higher places, you can ride roughshod with everything. That message I think is a very dangerous political message to convey in an emerging democracy. The rule of law and equality involves everyone.”

Scratch the surface and his statement might not be as significant as it seemed. The Ethiopian prime minister had used explosive accusations against Western nations when he arrested dissidents at home to preempt them from pressuring him to release the jailed. In truth, Meles had given the diplomats an opportunity for that deliverance. Days before her arrest, some asked Birtukan if they could help her escape the country-no doubt on Meles’ nod. Her emphatic “nay” to the offer brought much disappointment. Meles had told them ‘what’ was to come. He had used them as a conduit for communicating his intention to Birtukan, and these actions spoke louder than his calculated outbursts. Birtukan is as far removed from Melesian political values and behavior, but in the understanding of the actions and objectives of the West and its diplomats, they shared the same hemisphere.

“It was never more than ‘she is a decent woman; we like her’ stuff,’ said a political analyst in Addis Ababa, in reference to the statements of the diplomats. “Look, this is about tough-minded realism. No sentiments. While they were blowing kisses to Birtukan, these guys were bedwetting with the thought that Meles was going to resign. Meles knew that. So hopefully did Birtukan. There was no reason for him to arrest her owing to their comments. There must have been other factors. ”

At the beginning of the year, Birtukan’s name was on the lips of many people and the pages of international newspapers. With only days remaining before the first anniversary of her arrest, the outcries have quieted and the ink has dried up. Meanwhile, robbed of Birtukan’s leadership, the opposition coalition is struggling to gain attention and credibility. Western diplomats have also hit the refresh button. The political consequences of her arrest are becoming clearer. The question is: Were they designed?

(Abiye Teklemariam Megenta was the Executive Editor of Addis Neger newspaper which announced its closure owing to harassment last week. He can be reached at abiye.megenta@gtc.ox.ac.uk)

Advocacy for Ethiopia holds press conference on Copenhagen

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Copenhagen Conference WASHINGTON — Advocacy for Ethiopia, an Ethiopian civic group based in the U.S., held a press conference Sunday to air its views on the Copenhagen Climate Conference in Denmark that has started today.

The group’s main message was: “The importance of Human rights, good governance, and poverty reduction for a sustainable protection of our planet”

The panel of experts who participated in the press conference include Dr Seid Hassan, Dr Robsan Itana, Dr Minga Negash, Wz. Meron Ahahu, Ato Neamin Zelleke, Wz. Wassi Tesfa, and Dr Gezahegn Bekele.

The panelists explained, among other things, that Ethiopia’s tyrant Meles Zenawi has no mandate to represent Ethiopia and Africa at the conference. A letter sent to all participants of the conference states:

“… we are disappointed that the African Union has selected and the Climate Summit has given an opportunity to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia to represent the African continent. We believe that Meles Zenawi is the wrong person to represent Africa, since his policies are the causes and drivers for the incalculable environmental degradations currently taking place in Ethiopia.”

Advocacy Ethiopia has released the following statement, which is signed by 21 Ethiopian political and civic groups:

No Blank Checks for African Despots at Copenhagen Climate Conference

From December 6 to 18, 2009, leaders and representatives of nations around the world, international organizations, and prominent individuals will convene in Copenhagen, Denmark at the much anticipated Summit on Climate Change. We look forward to a positive outcome of this gathering and are hopeful that the conference achieves its objectives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to avert the colossal implications of climate change globally. We also recognize that those who would be most affected by ongoing damaging climate change are the people of developing nations, particularly those living in the continent of Africa.

Nevertheless, we are disappointed that the African Union has selected and the Climate Summit has given an opportunity to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia to represent the African continent. We believe that Meles Zenawi is the wrong person to represent Africa, since his policies are the causes and drivers for the incalculable environmental degradations currently taking place in Ethiopia.

Under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s regime, Ethiopia is facing an ecological catastrophe: deforestation, recurrent drought, and desertification. Water pollution, air pollution, soil erosion are becoming alarmingly high due to Zenawi’s regime lacks both sustainable development plans and non-transboundary environmental policies. It is due to this fact that UNDP and other environmental organizations have been reporting about the alarming state of the ecological degradation in Ethiopia. Mr. Meles Zenawi’s colossal failures in environmental policies are highlighted by his regime’s land tenure policy and his relentless suppression of civil and economic rights. Millions of Ethiopians are exposed to periodic hunger and famine in part due to his regime’s land tenure policy. After almost two decades of Zenawi’s rule, in 2009 over ten million Ethiopians are exposed to hunger and malunitrition.

As is customary, Meles Zenawi’s regime has signed numerous international and environmental treaties that it never implements. To add insult to injury, Mr. Meles Zenawi even chairs Ethiopia’s Environmental Council. It is partly due to his control that the existing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lacks the political clout to discharge and enforce the duties and responsibilities vested in it. To those who pay attention to what is going on in Ethiopia, the story of the EPA’s feebleness is a direct byproduct of profuse lip service given by the regime of Zenawi about its concern for the environment– as is the case about good governance, democracy, human rights, etc,. In addition, Mr. Zenawi’s hostile attitude towards Environmental NGOs – and civil society organizations, in general, has created enormous hurdles for those who want to mitigate the colossal environmental crisis facing Ethiopia.

According to the government’s own Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute, Ethiopia has been losing up to 200,000 hectares of forest every year. In a very recent statement, the head of the same Institute, stated: “deforestation has continued at an alarming rate in several parts of Ethiopia as a result of illegal logging, deforestation and other human induced activities”. Forty percent of the land covered by forest by the turn of the 20th century had gone down to 5.5% in 1987 and only 0.2% in 2003. If the current trend continues, Ethiopian forest covers would be extinct along with the loss of the country’s uniquely rich wildlife, fauna, flora, and a broad and general loss of its biological diversity.

The governance problem is one of the main causes of the environmental distress taking place in Ethiopia Soil erosion, which is linked with deforestation and Meles Zenawi’s land tenure system, continues to contribute to the drying up of the country’s lakes. Major Ethiopian Lakes such as Haro Maya (Alemaya), Adele, Awasa, and others have dried out totally. Acute shortages of water afflict major towns such as the city of Harrar and the capital city, Addis Ababa. As a result of the shortage of water resources, thousands of Ethiopians are affected by water born diseases.

The use of pesticides, untested and unfitting fertilizers, other toxic chemicals, some of them long abandoned by the industrialized countries, are now common in Ethiopia. The excess chemicals that are being washed off from the farms to rivers, streams, and lakes, are causing a plethora of problems including the poisoning of inhabitants, increasing algae blooms, and excessive plant growth leading to eutrophication, thereby making the water bodies and vegetation harmful to humans, wild and aquatic life and polluting the underground water. The level of environmental destruction caused by the chemicals used by foreign and party owned commercial flower farms and the leather industry is among the worst in the world. The environmental destruction and its hazardous impacts on human life and other inhabitants at and around Lake Koka, for instance, are captured by a few investigative reports and were televised recently by the members of the International media such as the Al-Jazeera Television Network and detailed by an eminent British Scientist.

Vehicular emissions in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, are alarmingly high. The presence of lead and sulfur in imported fuels, despite a ban since 2002, and the absence of emission inspection clearly indicate that the laws Zenawi passes only give lip service to clear and present dangers to the lives of Ethiopians.

Ethiopia’s government human right abuses and suppression of press freedom are well-documented, by Human Rights Watch; The US State Department Annual Report on Human Rights, Amnesty International, the New York based Center to Protect Journalist (CPJ), Journalists without Borders, and many other creditable international and regional human rights and press freedom organizations. The organization–Genocide Watch– has called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to initiate an investigation against the atrocities committed by the government of Meles Zenawi. Wide spread corruption also adds to the malaise of ordinary Ethiopians. Transparency International’s most recent report has ranked Ethiopia as 126th most corrupt country in the world.
Periodic ethnic conflicts in the country are destroying and weakening the institutions and these in turn are prohibiting the citizens and the NGOs to make informed decisions about the environment. The governance problem is one of the main causes of the environmental distress taking place in Ethiopia.

We believe that in an age of Globalization humanity’s interest, wellbeing, and destiny are directly intertwined. In view of this, we urge you to take tangible steps that include the following concerns of ours:

1.Mr. Meles Zenawi must be held accountable to the massive environmental degradtion in Ethiopia. We urge you not to ignore the environmental damages that the Zenawi’s regime has committed inside Ethiopia. For doing so sends a very bad message to all of us who care about the environment. Zenawi should not be rewarded for the seemingly non-transboundary environmental degradation he has brought to Ethiopia.

2.Emphasize the crucial roles of a representative’s records in environmental protection, social justice, good governance, human rights, and the rule of law that are important in shaping and averting Global crisis in climate change.
3.Ensure the appropriate use of any climate change financing package to nations with non representative leaders with bad track records on environment, human rights, good governance, and social justice by binding conditions tied to strict measures that would ensure that the funds would not be siphoned off by corrupt leaders such as Mr. Meles Zenawi and others in Africa.
4.Refrain from giving funds to a corrupt regime such as Zenawi as doing so would be a waste of resources and tantamount to committing the same mistakes that the world community has made during the 1983/4 Ethiopian famine when., as recently revealed by Zenawi’s rebel comrades, the food aid and money was used to build his Red Army. Mr. Zenawi will use the same international funds, as in the past, to keep political and ethnic cronies to continue suppressing the Ethiopian people.
5.Do not undermine the importance of social justice, good governance, human rights, and the empowerment of citizens, and their civil societies in shaping and in averting Global warming

We urge countries of the industrialized world attending the conference not to write a blank check and reward dictators, such as the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, who have abysmal records of human rights and the environment.

(More information: AdvocacyEthiopia.org)

Historic EPPF meeting in Washington DC

Monday, December 7th, 2009

The Washington DC Metro Chapter of Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) is hosting a meeting for former members of the Ethiopian armed forces to discuss current political developments in Ethiopia.

This is the first meeting of its kind. For several years most former Ethiopian soldiers have been demoralized and were staying out of politics. Currently, the soldiers are increasingly rallying in support of EPPF. It is a big boost to the resistance group as their experience is needed to instill discipline and professionalism in the organization.

Let’s not forget that the Ethiopian soldier did not lose the fight against Woyanne. The corrupt and incompetent leadership at the top is squarely responsible for the loss.

The Saturday meeting is organized in collaboration with Former Members of the Ethiopian Armed Forces Committee to Support EPPF.

EPPF’s mission and its current activities, as well as how former soldiers can join the movement, will also be discussed at the meeting, according to Ato Demis Belete, EPPF-DC spokesperson.

The meeting is scheduled for Saturday, December 12, starting at 4 PM in Washington DC at the Unification Church.

EPPF-DC and Armed Forces Committee are inviting all members of the Ethiopian armed forces to come to the meeting.

In a related story, representatives of EPPF chapters in the U.S. and Europe held a meeting on Sunday, Nov 29, to brief members on the recent conference that was held in the field. The October 17-18 conference passed a 7-point resolution that rearranged EPPF’s activities in the Diaspora. Accordingly, EPPF’s International Committee has been disbanded and all chapters have been instructed to report directly to the EPPF main office.

(For more information write to: eppfwashington@gmail.com)

Testimony of a former Woyanne on abuse of U.S. aid to Ethiopia

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

The following is a testimonial letter from Amare Mammo — a former cadre of the ruling TPLF/EPRDF regime — who used to work for the Ethiopian Agricultural and Food Organization.

Letter addressed to: Dr. Seid Hassan – Murray State University
Received: November 23, 2009.

ከውጭ በርዳታ የሚገኘው በሙስና የተዘፈቀው ድጎማ (Safety Net) በኢትዮጵያ ምን ይምስላል?

ጤና ይስጥልኝ ዶ/ር ስይድ።

ኢትዮጵያን እያሽመደመደ የሚገኘውን ሙስና በሚመለከት ትኩረት ሰጥተው በመያዘዎ አመሰግናለሁ። በድጎማ መልክ ለገበሬው የሚሰጠውን ገንዘብ በሚመለከት ግንዛቤ እንዲኖረዎትና፤ መረጃ እንዲሆንዎት የግሌን ለማበርከት/ለመወጣት ይህችን ደብድዳቤ ጽፌአለሁ። ስለ እኔ ትንሽ ለማለት ያህል፤ ወደ አሜርካ ከመጣሁ ይኸውና ሁለተኛ አመቴ ነው። በግብርና እና የምግብ ድርጅት የገበሬዎች የእርሻ አማከሪ ሆኘ በተለያዩ የደቡብ ኢትዮጵያ ወረዳዎች ሠርቻለሁ።

ከላይ በተገለፀው አርዕስት ያለውን ሁኔታ ከመግለፄ በፊት፤ ከ1997 ዓ/ም ምርጫ በኋል፤ የገጠሩ ሕዝብ ኢሕአደግን የመረጠው ለማስመስልና ከተሜውን ለማሸበር ይነገሩ በነበሩት ግጥሞች መካክል ልጀምር፤

መራቡን ይራበው – የከተማ ሕዝብ፤
የዋህ ገጠሬ ሕዝብ – ይብላ ይደልብ።
ንብ ትነድፋለች አለ – የከተማ ሰው?
በልቶ ይመርቃል – ድሀ ገበሬው።

እንደሚታወቀው በብዙ ሚሊዮን የሚቆጠር የኢትዮጵያ ገበሬ በርሀብ ተጠቅቶ እንዳይሞት ከውጭ አገር በሚደርግ ድጎማ ሳያሰልስ “እየተረዳ” ነው። ይህ ድጎማ በእንግሊዝኛው ሴፍቲ ኔት (Safety Net) የሚባለው ተቋም ነው። ፕሮጀክቱ በአብዛኛው የሚመራውም በመንግሥት ካድሬዎች ሲሆን የድርጅታዊ አወቃቀሩና አከፋፈሉም እንደዚህ ነው።

ሀ) ሴፍቲ ኔት (Safety Net) ከ7 ተኩል እስከ 14 ሚሊዮን የሚሆነውን የገጠር ሕዝብን ያቀፈ ፕሮግራም (ተቋም) ነው። ፕሮግራሙ ከ1997 እስከ 2002 ዓ/ም ለአምስት ዓመት የሚቆይ ነው። [ለአንባቢያን ማሳወቂያ፡ – የዚህ ድጎማ ለጋሾች በአብዛኛው የዓለም ባንክና የአሜሪካ መንግሥት ሲሆኑ፤ በቅርቡ የዓለም ባንክ ያደርግ የነበረውን ድጎማ አሁን እንደገና አዲሷል። በድጎማው 292 ወረዳዎች እነደሚረዱም ገልጿል።] ድጎማው የሚያተኩርባቸው አካባቢዎች ድርቅ ያጠቃቸው ቢሆኑም በየክፍለ ግዛቱ ለሚጋኙት ሁሉ ነው። ለዚህ ድጎማ ተጠቃሚ የሚሆነውን አርሶ አደር የመመልመያ መለኪያዎች እነዚህ ናቸው፤

1. ብዙ ልጅች ያለው ቤተሰብ፤
2. ኑሮው ዝቅተኛ የሆነ -ድህነት ያጠቃው – ለምሳሌ ክብቶችና የቤት እንስሳት የሌለው፤
3. ቤቱ የተቃጠለበት፤
4. አባት ወይም እናት የሌላቸው ልጆች፤
5. በእድሜ የገፉ አዣውንቶች፤
6. አካለ-ስንኩላን የሆኑና መሥራት የማይችሉ።

ለ) በድጎማው ተጠቃሚ ከሚሆነው አርሶ አደር የሚጠበቅበት ሥራ፤ አንድ የድጎማ (ሴፍቲ ኔት) ተጠቃሚ አርሶ አደር በወር ስድስት (6) ቀን ፤ በቀን 8 ሰዓት በራሱ ስም መሥራት አለበት። ባለቤቱም እንደዚሁ 6 ቀናት በቀን 8 ሰዓት መሥራት አለባት። እሷ መሥራት ካልቻለች፤ ባሏ በወር 12 ቀናት መሥራት አለበት።

ሐ) የሥራው ዓይነት፤ አብዛኛው ሰው የሚሠራው ለመኪና መሄጃ የሚሆን የመንገድ ሥራ ነው። የሚሠራ መንገድ ከሌለ የድርጅት ጽሕፈት ቤትን መሥራት፤ ይህ ካልሆነ ለአርሶ አደሩ መሰብሰቢያ የሚሆን የፖለቲካ ድርጅት ጽ/ቤትን በመሥራት በተለይም የዉሃ ማቆር ጉድጓድን በመቆፈር ይከናወናል።

መ) የአከፋፈል ዘዴ- ፓኬጅ ይባላል። በሰው (ነፍስወከፍ) 30 ብር፤ ለምሳሌ አንድ አባዎራ 5 ቤተሰብ ካለው 150 ብር በወር ይከፈለዋል። ክፍያው ለአንድ ዙር ለ6 ወራት ይቆያል።

ሌላው ደግሞ፤ የመጀመሪያው ፓኬጅ ተብሎ የሚጠራው 1,600 ብር ለአንድ አርሶ አደር በሁልት ዓመት የሚመለስ ተብሎ በብድር የሚሰጠው ነው። ነገር ግን ይህንን ብድር የሚያገኙት ገበሬዎች ሁሉም ሳይሆኑ ለሌላው አርዓያ ይሆናሉ ተብለው የተመረጡት ናቸው። የዚህ ብድር ተጠቃሚዎች አብዛኞቹ እርዳታው የማያስፈልጋቸው ከሌላው ገበሬ ጋር ሲወዳደሩ “ሀብታም” ናቸው ሊባሉ የሚበቁ ናቸው። በሁለተኛው ፓኬጅ 4,000 (አራት ሽህ) ብር ይሰጣል — ከላይ እንደተጠቀሰው በብድር ነክ ሆኖ አርዓያ ይሆናሉ ተብለው ለተመረጡት ነው የሚሰጠው።

ለዚህ ገንዝብ አከፋፈል እንደ መመሪያ ሆኖ የሚያገለግል ተጠርዞ የሚታደል “መጽሀፍም” አለ። እንግዲህ ከላይ እንደተገለጸው፤ ለአንድ ሰው የሚሰጠው ክፍያ በቤተሰብ ልክ ስለሆነ፤ አንድ አባወራ በፕሮጀክቱ የሚሰጠውን ብር ለማበርከት በርከት ያሉ ልጆችን እንዲያፈራ ይጋብዘዋል ማለት ነው። ልጅ የሌለውም አንዳንድ ጊዜ ብሩን ለማግኘት ሲል ከጎርቤት ልጅ ይዋሳል/ያሳድጋል። እርዳታው የሚሰጠው “ከብት ለሌለው” ነው ስለሚልም፤ አንዳንድ ገበሬዎች እርዳታውን ለማግኘት ከብቶቻቸውን ይሸጣሉ። ቤቶቻቸውን አቃጥለውም ተጠቃሚ የሆኑም አልጠፉ።

ለሚሠራው የመንገድ፤ የዉሀ ማቆር፤ የፓርቲና የገበሬ ጽ/ቤት ሥራ አስተባባሪዎቹና አዛዦቹ ካድሬዎች ናቸው። እነዚህም ካድሬዎች በተለይ የግብርናን ሥራ አስመልክቶ ችሎታ የሌላቸው ስለሆኑ፤ ይጥቀምም ይጉዳ እነሱ ከመሰላቸው ገበሬውን በማዘዝ ማስቆፈር ነው። ገንዘቡ የግድ ለገበሬው እየተሰጠ ነው መባል ስላለበትም ገበሬዎች መቆፈር አለባቸው። በሀላፊነት የተሾሙት ከሚያስቆፍሩትም አንዱ የውሀ ማቆር (ጉድጓድ) ስለሆነ የሚቆፈሩት ጉድጓዶች እንዳው ይብዙ እንጂ ዉሀ የማይቆጥሩ ናቸው። እንዳውም “መሠራት አለበት” ተብሎ የሚቆፈሩት የውሃ ማቆሪያዎች ከመብዛታቸውም በላይ ስለማይታጠሩ ባልታጠሩት ጉድጓዶች ውስጥ ከብቶች እየገቡ በመሠበራቸውና በመሞታቸው የተነሳ ገብሬዎቹ በጣም ይማረራሉ። ገበሬውችም “ጉዷዶቹ ይደፈኑልን” ብለው ለካድሬዎቹ ጥያቄዎች ሲያቀርቡ በአብነት እኔ እመሰክራለሁ።

ለውሀ ማቆር መገንቢያ ተብሎ አንድ ጊዜ እኔ በነበርኩበት ቦታ በ8 የአይሱዙ (Isuzu) መኪናዎች 250 ኩንታል ሲሚንቶ ተልኮ ነበር። ሲሚንቶውን ፈርሞ የተረከበውም እንደኔ የግብርና ባለሙያ የተባለው እኔ የማውቀው ግለሰብ ነበር። ነገር ግን ተከምሮ የነበረው አብዛኛው ሲሚንቶ የካብኔ አባላት ቤቶችን ማደሻና ማስጨረሻ ነው የሆነው። [ካብኔ ማለት በኢሕአደግ (በየወረዳው) የሚሾም ሥራ አስፈጻሚ ሰው ነው።] አብዛኛውን ሲሚንቶ የግብርና ባለሙያው ለካድሬዎቹ (ለካብኔ አባላቱ) በርካሽ ሸጠላቸው። የቀረው ለሙከራ ተብሎ ወደ የውሀ ማቆር ቦታ ተወስዶ ተከምሮ ለብዙ ጊዜ ስለቆየ ደርቆ ተበላሸ። በአጠቃላይ ሲታይ፤ በሀላፊነት ሲሚንቶውን የተረከበውም ሆነ የካብኔ አባላት ተጠቃሚ ስልሆኑ “ለጥፋቱ ተጠያቂ ማነው?” ብሎ የሚጠይቅ ማንም የለም ማለት ነው።

ከላይ እንደገለጽኩት አንዱና ዋናው ሥራ በየቀበሌው የሚገነባው የፖለቲካ ጽሕፈት ቤት ነው። ገበሬውን በነዚህ መሰብሰቢያ ቤቶች እያጎርን እንጨቀጭቀዋለን። እኛ ወደ ገጠር የተላክነው ዋናው ሥራችን ይህ ነው። እንዳውም አንድ ጊዜ አንዱ ፀሀፊያችን ይህንን አስመለክቶ በቀልድ አስመስሎ እውነቱን ለመናገር ሲነግረን “ኢትዮጵያ ሥብሰባ ማድረግን ስለምትችልበት ይህን ችሎታችንን አሽገን (“ስብሰባን ፓክ” አድርገን) ለውጭ ገበያ ብናቀርብ ብዙ ትርፋማ እንሆናለን እና ይታሰብበት” ብሎ ተናገረና በጣም አሳቀን።

በሴፍቲ ኔት ተጠቃሚ የሆኑትም የኢሕአደግ አባላት እንዲሆኑ በምርጫም ጊዜ ለዚሁ ፓርቲ ድጋፋቸውን እንዲሰጡ (እንዲመርጡ) ይጠየቃሉ፤ ይነገራቸዋል፤ ማስጠንቀቂያም ይሰጣቸዋል። ባይጠየቁም እራሱ ጥቅሙ ይገዛቸዋል ብየ አስባለሁ። ይህንንም በከፊል ተገንዝቤአለሁ። ድጎማውን አስመልክቶ ዋና ተጠቃሚና የከበሩ የካብኔ አባላት ለገበሬው ድጎማውን ሰጥተው እያባበሉም ገና የምርጫ ጊዜው ሳይደርስ እነሱንና የእነሱን ፓርቲ ተዎካዮች እንዲመርጥም ያዋክቡታል። እነሱን ከመምረጥ ሌላ ምርጫ የለውም፤ በቃ!

ሌላው መረሳት የሌለበት ደግም እንደኔ ላሉት ወደ ገጠር ለሚላኩት “ሙያተኞች” የሚሰጠው የቀን አበል (per dime) ነው። የዚህ አበል እኔም ተጠቃሚ ነበርኩ። ይህንን በሚመለከት እስቲ አንድ ጊዜ የሆነውን ላጫውተዎ። አንድ ጊዜ ለሥራ ወደ ገጠር ተላክን። የተላክነው ለሁለት ቀናት ብቻ ነበር። ነገር ግን ተጽፎ የወሰድነው አበል ለ10 ቀናት ሆኖ አገኘነው። ከ5 ቀናት በኋላም (የመጀመሪያውን ሳንጨርስ) ወደ ሌላ ቀበሌ ለተመሳሳይ ሥራ የ12 ቀናት አበል ተፃፈልን። እንደገናም ወደ ሌላ ቀበሌ ተልከን የ8 ቀን አበል ወሰድን። በአጠቃላይ ሣንሠራ ሠርታችኋል፤ ባልሄድንበት ቦታ ሄዳችኋል ተብለን የ30 ቀናት አበለ ወሰድን ማለት ነው። በጋምቤላ አካባቢ አንድ የካብኔ አባል በአንድ ዓመት ውስጥ የ458 የቀን አበል፤ ሁለተኛው ደግሞ የ378 የቀን አበል በመውሰዳቸው ሁለቱም ከሥራ እንደተባረሩ አውቃለሁ። እንደዚህ አይኑን ያፈጠጠ የሙስና ተግባር ላይ በግልጽ የተሠማሩትና የታወቀባቸው “ሙያተኞች” “ከሥራቸው ተባረዋል” ቢባልም ነገር ግን አብዛኞቹ ቅጣት ሳይሆን ወደ ሌላ ወረዳ እንዲዛወሩ ነው የሚደረገው።

ረ) ሌሎችንም ልጨምርልዎ፤

1. አንዳንድ ገበሬዎች ምርጥ የዘር በጎች፤ የወተት ላሞች፤ የመሳሰሉትን ተገዝተው ይሰጣቸዋል። እነዚህን የቤት እንሥሳዎች ገበሬው ፈርሞ ሲወስድ ከተገዙበት በላይ ተጨምሮበት ነው። አንዳንድ ጊዜ ገበሬው የተገዙበትን ዋጋ ቢያውቅም አፉን ሸብቦ ከመቀበል ሌላ አማራጭ የለውም። ካጉረመረመ ሊያገኛቸው የሚችላቸውን እንሰሳዎች ከናካቴው ማጣት ስለሚሆንበት።

2. ሌላው ደግሞ ለድጎማው (ሴፍቲ ኔት) ተብሎ የተመደበውንና የሚላከውን ገንዘብ አስከትሎ ለፕሮጀክቶች (የፕሮግራሞች መጠቀሚያ) ተብሎ የሚከፍለው/የሚፈሰው የገንዝብ መባከን ነው። ይህን ለማስረዳት አንድ ምሳሌ ልጠቀማም፤ አንድ ጊዜ በርከት ያሉ ለገበሬዎች የሚሰጡ ምርጥ የዘር በጎች ተገዝተው ወደተፈለገበት ቦታ ጭኖ ለመውሰድ አንድ የግል የጭነት መኪና (Isuzu) ተከራየን። መክፈል የሚገባን የገበያ ዋጋ 1,800 (አንድ ሺህ ስምንት መቶ) ብር መሆን ሲገባው፤ ለነጋዴው 6,000 (ስድስት ሺህ) ብር ተሰጠው። ታዲያ ይህን ያህል ገንዘብ የተከፈለው የመኪና ነጋዴ በተዘዋዋሪ ለአለቆቻችን ያካፍል ይሆን፤ ወይስ ገንዘቡ የግል ስላልሆነ ነው እንደዚያ የሚረጨው? ድርጊቱ ሁለቱም ሊሆን ይችላል። ነገር ግን ሁለቱም ጥፋት ነው። የመጀመሪያው ሙስናውና ከሱም ጋር ተያይዘው የሚመጡት የፖለቲካ፤ የኤኮኖሚና የባሕል የተወሳሰቡ አባዜዎች ሲሆኑ፤ ሁለተኛው ድርጊት በተናጠል ሲታይ ደግሞ ሀገሪቱን ወጥሮ ለያዛት ግሽበት ችግር አባባሽ ነው። ይህንን ጉድ በአርባ ምንጭ ዞን በኮምባ ወረዳ ከታዘብኩ በኋላ ወደ ሌላ ቦታ ለተመሳሳይ ሥራ ተዘዋወርኩ። ቦታው ወደ አዋሳ ቀረብ ያለ፤ በሲዳማ ዞን ቦርቻ ወረዳ ይባላል። እዚህም ሆኘ እያየሁት ያለው ተመሳሳይ ጉድ ነው። በተጨማሪም፤ በዚህ አካባቢ አንድ ጊዜ የአህያና የፈረስ ጋሪዎች ከአዋሳ ከተማ ተሠርተውና ተገዝተው ለገበሬዎች እንዲሰጡ የሚያደርግና በተግባር ላይ የዋለ ፕሮጀክት ነበር። ነገር ግን ገበሬው እነዚህን ጋሪዎች ሲረከብ፤ ከተገዙበት ዋጋ ከ400 እስከ 500 ብር ድረስ ተጨምሮበት ነው። 500 ጋሪዎች ተገዝተው ሲታደሉ በዓይኔ አይቻለሁ። ይህንን ፕሮጀክት የቀረፀውም፤ በሥራ ላይ ያዋለውም ገንዘብ ያዡ ነው። ገበሬው ጋሪ ባያስፈልገውም፤ ወይም የጋሪው ብዛት ጥቅሙን ዋጋ-ቢስ ቢያደርገውም፤ የከብኔ አባላት ችግራቸው አይደለም። ለገበሬው ችግር አዋቂውች እነሱ ብቻ ስለሆኑ የገብሬው ሃሳብ ወይም ፍላጎት ከቁጥር አይገቡም። ቁም ነገሩ ግን በዚህ የጋሪ ማደል ፕሮጀክት ቢያንስ ወደ 200,000 (ሁለት መቶ ሽህ) ብር ለግል ጥቅም ስለሚሰበሰብ፤ በዚህ አንድ ፕሮጀክት ብቻ 16 የሚሆኑት ተባባሪ የካብኔ አባላት መካፈላቸው ነው። ከሥር ያሉት ደግሞ የሚካሄድውን ሙስና እንዳያጋልጡ ከ20 እስክ 30 የሚሆን የቀን አበል ይጻፍላቸውና አፋቸው ይሸበባል። በነገራችን ላይ እኔ የአንድ አምስት የካብኔ አባላት መኖሪያ ቤቶችን ጎብኝቸ ነበር። የቤቶቻቸው ውበት ምን ልበለዎ! አንዳንዶቹም እስከ አምስት ቤት ድረስ እንዳላቸውም ተገንዝቤአለሁ። ብዙና ትርፍ ቤቶች አላችሁ እንዳይባሉም ትርፍ ቤቶቻቸውን በልጆቻቸው ስም እንዲመዘገቡ ያደርጋሉ።

3. በሄድኩበት ወረዳ ሁሉ በግብርናው ጽ/ቤት ሆነው የሚሠሩት አብዛኞቹ (ሁሉም ማለት ይቻላል) የአንደኛ ደረጃ ት/ቤት አስተማሪዎች ከሌሎቹ የሥራ ባለድረቦቻቸው ጋር ሲመጣጠኑም ብቃት ያነሳቸው፤ ይህንኑም ችሎታ/ብቃት ማነስ የተገነዘቡ፤ ነገር ግን በጋለ ምጣድ ላይ ሆኖ እንደሚቆላ ነገር ምላሳቸው የሚንጣጣ አፈኞች ናቸው። አንዳቸውም የግብርና ሙያ የላቸውም። እኔ እንደሚመስለኝ፤ አሁን ለተፈጠረው የእህል ዋጋ መናር እንደነዚህ ያሉት በደሎች ሁሉ ተጨማምረው ነው። ፖለቲካውም እንደዚህ አላግባብ በሆነ መልክ በከበሩ ጥቂት ነቀርሳዎች ተወጥሮ ነው የተያዘው።

4. የገጠሩን ጉዳይ በዚህ ላይ ላቁምና በከተማው፤ በተለይ በአዲስ አበባ እያጋጠመን ያለውን ችግር በጥቂቱ ላካፍለዎ። እኔ እኖርበት በነበረው አካባቢ በሳምንት እስከ 5 ቀናት ድረስ መብራት ይቋረጣል። እንዳው ችግሩን ዘርዝሮ መግለጽ ስለማይቻል፤ እስቲ አንዳንዱን ልበል። በርካታ የቤተሰብ አባላት ያሏቸው ሰዎች ሥጋ ገዝተው ቤተሰቦቻቸውን በአንድ ሙሉ ኪሎ ሥጋ መመገብ ስለማይችሉ አንዱን ኪሎ ሥጋ ለ3 ሲቃረጡ ይታያል። ሁለት ጊዜ በልቶ ማደር ብርቅ እየሆነብን ነው ብለው የነገሩኝ ብዙ ናቸው። አንድ ጊዜ ብቻ በልቶ የሚያድረውን የሕብረተሰብ ክፍል ፈጣሪ ይወቀው። የጤፍ እንጀራን በዓመት አንድ ጊዜ እንኳ ያልቀመሰ ሰው እየበረከተ መምጣቱንም ተግንዝቤአለሁ። ከጥቂት አመታት በፊት አንድ “ደረቅ እንጀራ ይሸጣል?” ተብሎ ይጠየቅ የነበረው አሁን ያ ቋንቋ ተለውጦ “ደረቅ ምሳ ይሸጣል?” በሚል ተቀይሯል። ወጥ ከተጨመረበት ከአቅም በላይ ሰለሚሆን! በአንፃሩ ግን፤ ቡና ቤት ገብተው ውስኪያቸውን የሚያንቆረቁሩ፤ ምግብ ቤት ገብተው ጮማቸውን የሚቆርጡም አሉ። እንደነዚህ ያሉትን ጥጋበኞች የትካሻ/ጫንቃ ማበጥ የተመለከተ ሰው፤ የተራቡትን 5 ሰዎች ሊሸከም ይችላል ብሎ ማሰብ ይችላል።

እንግዲህ ሕዝባችን እንደዚህ ባለ የርሀብ ቸነፈር እየተቆላ ነው “ጀግናው መሪያችን” ጠቅላይ ሚኒስቴር መለስ አይናቸውን ፍጥጥ እያደረጉ “ኢኮኖሚአችን በ 11.8% አድጓል” ብለው ሲናገሩ በሰሙትም ሆነ ባልሰሙት ጉዳይ ላይ ሁለት እጃቸውን በጣም ከፍ አድርገው አውጥተው (ማጨብጨባቸው እንዲታወቅላቸም ይሆናል) የፓርላማ አባላት ሲያጨበጭቡላቸው፤ አቶ መለስ መነጽራቸውን ከፊታቸው ወረድ-ቀና፤ በእጃቸው ከፍ-ዝቅ እያደረጉ በጋለ መልክ ሲናገሩ ይታያሉ። ይህ እየሆነ እያለ፤ በአንፃሩ ደግሞ በርሀብ የተቆላው ሕዝብ አንጀቱ እርር ይላል! በነገራችን ላይ የ97ቱን ምርጫ አስገድፎ የተመረጡት የተቃዋሚ ፓርቲ አባላትም የጭብጨባው ውድድር ተካፋይ ስለሆኑ በጭብጨባው ያላቸው ፉክክርና ትብብር አሳፋሪ እንዳይሆን ማስጠንቀቂያ ተሰጥቷቸዋል ተብሎ በሰፊው ይነገራል። ማስጠንቀቂያውም፤ “ማጨብጨባችሁን ቀጥሉበት ነገር ግን እንደበፊቱ ሳይሆን ትንሽ የሚባለውንም እያዳመጣችሁ አድርጉት” ተብለዋል ነው የሚባለው።

እንግዲህ በአዲስ አበባ (እኔ እዚያ እንደነበርኩም ሆነ አሁን) በከተማው ሕዝብ የሚባለውን፤ ከእርሰዎ ሙያ ጋር የሚስማማውን ትንሽ ብየ ልጨረስ። ኢኮኖሚያቸውን በ11.8% ያሳደጉት የ”ጀግናው መሪያችን” መለስ ዘናዊ እውቅና በጣም እየናረና እየገነነ መጥቷል። በዚህም የተነሳ ተፈላጊነታቸው በዝቶ “ጀግናው መሪያችን” ግን የሚያናግሯቸውን ሰዎች ለመምረጥ ተገደዋል። የኢትዮጵያን ኤኮኖሚ 11.8% ያሳደጉት፤ ይህንንም በድፍረትና በመደጋገም የተናገሩትን “ጀግና” ለማናገር ተሠልፈው ከየሚገኙት መካከልም፤ የሀገራቸው ኤኮኖሚ ያሽቆለቆለው፤ የምዕራብ አገሮች ታላላቅ መሪዎች — አቶ ኦባንም ጨምሮ እንዲሚገኝ እየተነገረ ነው ያለው። እነዚህም የታላላቅ አገሮች መሪዎች እንደዚህ የደቀቀውን ኤኮኖሚያቸውን ለማቅናት ደፋ-ቀና እያሉ ከሚኳትኑ፤ እልቁንስ በ12% የሀገሩን ኢኮኖሚ እያሳደገ ያለውን “ጀግናውን የኢትዮጵያ” መሪ ጥቂት ደቂቃዎች ባልሞላ ጊዜ አማከረው መፍትሄ ቢያገኙ አይሻላቸውም? ይባልና፤ እንዳውም አንዳንዶቹ፤ ታወቅን የሚሉ የኤኮኖሚ ጠበብቶችም፤ የኤኮኖሚ እድገት ትምህርታቸውን ከልሰው እውቀታቸውን ለማዳበር “ከጀግናውና ከታላቁ የኢኮኖሚ ምሁር” ከአቶ መለስ ለመውሰድ ቦታው ሳይሞላ ተራቸውን ቢይዙ/ቢመዘገቡ ይሻላቸዋል! ብለው በድፍረት የሚናገሩም አልጠፉ።

አዎ፤ ይገባኛል! “የኢትዮጵያ የኢኮኖሚ እድገት ቀመሩ ተዥሞልሙሎ የተሠራው በነ አቶ መለስ መኝታ ቤት ስለሆነ የእነዚህ የታላላቅ አገሮች መሪዎች ሕዝብ ይህንን ሲያውቅ እንደሚቆጣባቸው፤ ከሥልጣን አሽቀንጥሮም እንደሚጥላቸው የአዲስ አበባ ሕዝብ እንዴት ይህንን ማሰታዎስ አቃተው?” ብለው ይጠይቁኝ ይሆናል። ቁጣን ካነሱማ፤ ከኛስ ሕዝብ ምን ቀርቶ። በወያኔ ካድሬ እየተገረፈ፤ እየተቃጠለ ያለ የኢትዮጵያ ሕዝብ፤ አንድ ቀን መገንፈሉ ይቀራል ብለው አያስቡም? በአገራችን አነጋገር፤ “ቡና እንኳ እሳት ላይ ብዙ ከቆየ መገንፈሉ አይቀርም” ይባል የለ?! ፈጣሪ ይርዳን።

በሌላ ርዕስ በሌላ ጊዜ እስከምንገናኝ እስከዚያው ቸር ይገጠመን።

አማረ ማሞ።

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አንባቢ ሆይ፤

ከሚደርሱኝ ደብዳቤዎች መካከል ይቺ የአቶ አማረ ማሞ ደብዳቤ በገጠሩ አንሠራፍቶ ያለውን የፖለቲካና የኢኮኖሚ እውነታ ያንፀባረቀች ስለሆነች አቶ አማረ በፋክስ የላከልኝን በእጅ የተጻፈ የስምንት ገጽ ደብደቤ እንደገና በኮምፑተር ጽፌ (ታይፕ አድርጌ) ለማካፈል ወስንኩ። የዚህ ፀሀፊ ደብዳቤ ወደ ገጠሩ ወሰድ አድርጎን፤ እየሆነ ያለውን ለሌሎቻችን ከማቅረቡም በላይ ለምሳሌ “ድጎማ” ተብሎ የሚሠጠው “እርዳታ” ምን እንደሚመስልና የሚያደርሰውን የለማኝነትና የጥገኝነት ስሜት አባዜ፤ አሁን የተቃዋሚ ፓርቲ መሪዎች እንደሚነግሩንም፤ “ድጎማው” የፖለቲካ መጠቀሚያ መሆኑን፤ በገለማው ሙስና የከበሩና እየከበሩ ያሉ ግለስቦች እንዳሉ፤ በሕዝብ ሕይዎት የሚጫወት የአውሬነት/አረመኔነት ጠባይ ያለው የሕበረተሰብ ክፍል (ክላስ) እንደተፈጠረ፤ ለ”ድጎማ” ተብሎ የሚሰጠው ገንዘብ ለግሽበቱ አንዱ ምክንያት እንደሆነ፤ ወ.ዘ.ተ. ያሳያል።

ምስጋና ለአቶ አማረ ማሞና ኢትዮጵያን ወጥሮ እያብጠለጠላት ስላለው ሙስና መረጃን ለምትልኩልኝ ሁሉ!

(I can be reached at africanstudies@murraystate.edu or Seid.hassan@murraystate.edu)

Environmental destruction in Ethiopia (video)

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

For the next few days the eye of the world will be focused on the City of Copenhagen, Denmark. Leaders from 192 counties will gather to discuss how to protect the earth’s climate from heating up. African leaders thieves and murderers have appointed one of their own, Meles Zenawi, to represent them at the Conference. The minute he was named to represent African despots, Meles has started to accuse developed countries of producing climate-warming pollutions and demanded billions of dollars in compensation. Transferring blame is second nature to Ethiopia’s genocidal tyrant. In 2005, after he ordered his death squads to gun down pro-democracy protesters, he blamed the massacre on the opposition party leaders and put them in jail. The following 2-part film shows the environmental disaster that is being caused by Meles Zenawi’s regime at one of Ethiopia’s many lakes. It is a must watch documentary for all the participants of the Copenhagen Climate Conference.
Part 1 (see Part 2 below)

Part 2

Over 1,000 Ethiopians entered Yemen in November

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Yemen’s Ministry of Interior said today that 1,048 Ethiopians have illegally entered the country by smuggling boats last November. Many of the refugees are women and children.

The Ethiopians were fleeing from the U.S.- and World Bank-financed brutal dictatorship in Ethiopia.

The regime in Ethiopia, led by Meles Zenawi, is currently waging a genocidal war in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region where entire villages are being burned down.

Interior ministry voiced its concerns about the escalating flow of refugees from Ethiopia, ordering the security authorities in coastal provinces to close of inlets the Ethiopians used to enter the country.

Ethiopia's tyrant faces opposition in Copenhagen (video)

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Opposition grows against the participation of Ethiopia’s brutal tyrant Meles Zenawi at the Copenhagen Climate Conference this month. Some are suggesting that his place should be rerouted to The Hague for trial at the International Criminal Court.

Freelance journalist Doug McGill, a former New York Times reporter, argues that Meles Zenawi should not be allowed to represent Africa at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15). Also interviewed in the video below: Ethiopian immigrant Magn Nyang, PhD, who speaks of the genocide in his native Anuak region of Ethiopia in 2003.

Filmed at the Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, 4 December 2009 by Chuck Olsen for The UpTake: theuptake.org.

Tsegaye Kebede lives up to expectations in Japan

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

By Brett Larner | Japan Running News

Tsegaye Kebede Fukuoka Japan 06dec2009Beijing Olympics and Berlin World Championships double bronze medalist, defending champion and Japanese all-comers record holder Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia lived up to expectations and more with a history-making 2:05:18 win at the 2009 Fukuoka International Marathon. Kebede’s time was a PB by two seconds and a new course and new Japanese all-comers record, no doubt pleasing race organizers and his accountant by keeping Fukuoka among the world’s very best courses. Most significantly, though, Kebede’s performance was the 10th of the year to break 2:06, the first time the top ten fastest times of the year have cleared this former barrier. Coming in the last first-rate marathon of the year worldwide, it seals 2009 as the start of a new era in men’s marathoning.

Kebede breaks the sound barrier. Click photo for more great pictures, detailed splits and more from race broadcaster TV Asahi’s Fukuoka website.

Japanese ace Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu), acting as pacemaker, took the pack through 5 km right on 3:00/km pace. Shortly afterwards fellow pacemakers Samson Ramadhani (Tanzania) and John Kales (Kenya) picked things up to 2:57, leading away a pack of six: Kebede, Ethiopians Tekeste Kebede and Dereje Tesfaye, 2005 Fukuoka winner Dmytro Baranovskyy (Ukraine), 2008 Chicago Marathon winner Evans Cheruiyot (Kenya) and Japan-resident marathon debutant Mekubo Mogusu (Team Aidem). Mitsuya held on at a credible 3:00 pace leading a pack of five: Japanese runners Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei) and Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama T&F Assoc.), Russian Oleg Kulkov, Korean Kyo-Jick Lee, and Kenyan first-timer Joseph Gitau (Team JFE Steel).

After a moderate 1:03:05 first half, exactly on pace to match his 2:06:10 course and Japanese all-comers record from last year’s Fukuoka, Tsegaye Kebede broke away with a slowly building surge from 27 km. To the disappointment of Japanese fans, the popular Mogusu was the first to falter, dropping back at 26 km and eventually out at 31 km. Cheruiyot and Baranovskyy were the next to lose touch, leaving the three Ethiopians up front. In the second pack things strung out after halfway, Lee dropping out at 25 km and Gitau and talented amateur Kawauchi losing contact. As the only elite Japanese runner in the field, stalwart 2:09 man Sato pressed ahead on track for a sizeable PB.

After 30 km only his training partner Dereje Tesfaye could keep up with Tsegaye Kebede’s continuous acceleration, pacing him through 32 km before losing touch. You could almost see the checklist going through his mind as Kebede ran on over the final 10 km: “First 2:05 in Japan, check. PB, check. 2:04: question mark.” In the end the PB was as far as he went, and barely. He had to run the final lap of the track in 66 seconds to get there, but he made it. In his post-race interview Kebede was elated, animated and charismatic, pointing first to the clock and then to himself as he posed for pictures.

Tesfaye faded to 4th but ran a solid PB of 2:08:36. Overtaking him were Tekeste Kebede, creating no end of headaches for broadcasters by running a 2-minute PB of 2:07:52 for 2nd (A Kebede 1-2 finish!), and 2005 winner Baranovskyy, who ecstatically beat his Fukuoka-winning time with his 2nd-best-ever mark of 2:08:19. Cheruiyot came in slow for 5th in an unremarkable 2:09:46, failing again to capitalize on the promise of his 2:06:25 in the heat of the 2008 Chicago Marathon.

In the second pack things got ugly. Sato did his best to live up to the pressure of being the top Japanese man in the field but couldn’t sustain the strain of his 1:03:35 first half, staggering in to an agonizing 2:23:59 31st-place finish back among the amateurs. The little-known Tadashi Shitamori (Team Yasukawa Denki) came up through the pack after a modest 1:04:52 first half to take the top Japanese spot, 9th overall in 2:14:42. Whether he is selected for next year’s Asian Games national team on such a performance remains to be seen. Takayuki Ota (Team Fujitsu) was the 2nd Japanese runner, 11th in 2:15:23.

More notable, perhaps, were the 3rd and 4th Japanese runners, amateurs Kawauchi, 13th in 2:17:33, and Nobuaki Takata (Hirakata Masters AC), 14th in 2:19:00. Kawauchi was clearly in trouble at 25 km after a screaming (for an amateur) 1:03:44 first half just 31 seconds off his half-marathon PB, but gutted out a 45 second PB in his third marathon of the year. Takata, aka the Tokyo Marathon Man in the Wig, ran with seriousness and focus through a 1:08:10 first half en route to a 31 second PB. 60+ world record holder Yoshihisa Hosaka (Natural Foods), dealing with seasonal asthma, banged out a 1:15:48 first half before struggling in to a 2:40:39.

Sitting on the sidelines, Mogusu was a sad figure. An undeniably talented runner with his own drive and motivations, Mogusu seemed to lack the fire that made him so popular as a Hakone Ekiden star. His predecessor at Yamanashi Gakuin University, Ombeche Mokamba (Kenya), went on to train solo at the non-ekiden-oriented Team Aidem but never acheived any marathon results worthy of his name. Mogusu’s throroughly lackluster debut raises the depressing spectre that he may follow Mokamba down the same road.

2009 Fukuoka International Marathon – Top Finishers
click here for complete results in English
1. Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) – 2:05:18 – PB, CR, Japanese all-comers record
2. Tekeste Kebede (Ethiopia) – 2:07:52 – PB
3. Dmytro Baranovskyy (Ukraine) – 2:08:19
4. Dereje Tesfaye (Ethiopia) – 2:08:36 – PB
5. Evans Cheruiyot (Kenya) – 2:09:46
6. Luis Feiteira (Portugal) – 2:13:07
7. Oleg Kulkov (Russia) – 2:13:49
8. Harun Njoroge (Team Komori Corp.) – 2:14:17 – debut
9. Tadashi Shitamori (Team Yasukawa Denki) – 2:14:42
10. Vitaliy Shafar (Ukraine) – 2:15:07
11. Takayuki Ota (Team Fujitsu) – 2:15:23 – PB
12. Thomas Payn (U.K.) – 2:17:29
13. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama T&F Assoc.) – 2:17:33 – PB
14. Nobuaki Takata (Hirakata Masters AC) – 2:19:00 – PB

Ethiopian soccer great Italo Vassalo speaks out

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Italo Vassalo is one of the most beloved Ethiopians of this century, on a par with Tilahun Gessesse, Abebe Bikila and others. From Emperor HaileSelassie on down, every Ethiopian loved him and his elder brother Lucciano, the captain of Ethiopia’s National Team in 1960s. Italo helped win Ethiopia’s first African Cup in 1962 by scoring against then powerful Egyptian team.

In 1991, the anti-Ethiopia tribal junta led by Meles Zenawi came to power. A few years later, using its war with Eritrea as an excuse, the junta stripped off Italo Vassalo’s citizenship and kicked him out of Ethiopia, along with tens of thousands of other Ethiopians of Eritrean origin.

In the interview below, Italo expresses his affection for the people of Ethiopia and Emperor HaileSelassie, while indicting Meles Zenawi’s regime for committing a campaign of ethnic cleansing, which is a crime against humanity, against Eritrean-Ethiopians.

Foreigners are buying stolen Ethiopian land

Friday, December 4th, 2009

By Fekade Shewakena

southern ethiopia farm land 2008If you are wondering why the government of Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia is doing the secretive land deals with Arab and Asian tycoons and agribusiness corporations without any public discussion and scrutiny, and why the officials are handling it in much the same way like thieves who sell their stolen stuff on street corners and dark alleys, you have asked a serious question and probably have almost gotten some of your answers. This is pure theft and burglary sugarcoated as investment — only in this case that the burglar has someone to open the door from inside. It is a dangerous venture that has little to do with solving Ethiopia’s economic problems but bound to negatively impact the country’s most strategic resources, land and water, and its posterity. It appears that we have reached a point where we are selling out our last belongings just like the desperate peasants I once saw in 1984 sell their last belongings for scrape as they fled their villages to escape an impending famine.

This land deal, now popularly known as “land grab” among other names, and becoming epidemic in desperately poor, irresponsible and corrupt African countries, is a neocolonial venture where land is being sold to foreigners at bargain prices. The “investors” are salivating over the cheap access to agricultural land, water and cheap labor which would definitely make them even richer in the lucrative food markets whose growing trends they are very aware of. This is in addition to helping them find a solution to the problem of serious food insecurity in their own countries. The Meles Zenawis of Africa are salivating over the quick cash that will go to temporarily solve their hard currency crunch and the opportunity of swelling their individual bank accounts. Those who likened these secret deals to the colonial scramble for African land, where some local chiefs signed and sold off tract after tract of land to colonialists under the influence of alcohol supplied by the colonialist and some glittering gifts, are not very far from an accurate description of these transactions.

The Ethiopian land grab, as we are gradually learning now, is such a huge undertaking, which according to various sources, involves millions of acres of fertile land, nearly the size of the former province of Arsi. The land for sale is spread across all regions of the country except Tigrai and the Somali region. Interestingly, this is being done in the dark, without a minimal of discussion, even a symbolic one, at least in that rubberstamp parliament, or on any national media. It is very ironic that an English newspaper in Addis Ababa named Addis Fortune, which also has an online version and hardly an opponent of the government, has to raise the more suspicious aspects of the land deal on its gossip column while also reporting on the same day about the activities of Shiek Mohammed Al Amoudi who is serving as a salesman to his wealthy Saudi friends that are heavily backed by Saudi Royal officials. I also saw an Amharic editorial on the Reporter the contents of which speak volumes about how the authors feared to directly talk about the land deal than the deal itself. But these papers should be commended at least for raising the issue.

I am sure the Ethiopian officials will sugarcoat this venture with such jargons as development needs, poverty alleviation, generating capital, and all the language of development they seem to have mastered. I am also sure many members and supporters of the ruling clique and its ethnic associates who are following the regime blindfolded would call me or any critic of this deal as anti-investment, anti-development or extremist, Tigre hater, as they often do when challenged with serious and substantive questions and criticisms. I know the drill. I am all for investment and opening the country to foreign capital. Our poverty is so real and tragic that I am not even romanticizing that my country, once a place where foreigners were asked to shake of their feet before they leave the country lest they take our sacred soil on their shoes, has come to this level of disgrace; nor am I troubled by the morally reprehensible thought that some of these investors are planning to grow barley to feed their camels when at the same time the children of the Ethiopia are dying of hunger. I believe this venture is distasteful on basic economic grounds and the long term problems it is bound to create.

I am one Ethiopian who feels deeply humiliated by the kind of poverty our people live under and the worsening spread of unmitigated hunger and famine. More importantly, I see the indicators and worry that the worst may be yet to come. So, I am not against investment in Ethiopia. But this secret deal is not an investment in Ethiopia’s interest by any stretch of imagination. For a starter, name me a country that has ever developed or solved a single major problem by selling itself to the highest bidder and I will buy you a pig that can fly.

Granted, some of the money may raise hard currency to buy fuel oil for the country for a year or two. Even some economy may trickle down to make a handful of people wealthy. But it may not also be worth the cost to be paid for the security of the farms which are likely to be targets of angry people that are being fenced off of their ancestral land. It is not difficult to predict that these people will organize and fight back or feed into some of the insurgencies that already vow to fight. In Madagascar, where the regime sold nearly half the country’s arable land for $12 an acre to a Korean agribusiness company, much more than what Meles is said to be ready to sell ours for, it did not take a long time before the people saw both their fortunes and their country going down the drain and rose in resistance, overthrew their government out of power and nullified the shoddy agreements. Responsible, intelligent, and patriotic citizens of that country saw the deal was incompatible with and dangerous to their fragile ecology and environment as well as the country’s posterity. I hate to see our problems solved though violence but I will be one Ethiopian who will not speak against any which may arise as a result of this theft.

A report cited here states that Shiek Mohammed Al-Amoudi is charged by the Saudi King to spearhead and facilitate the venture in Ethiopia and that the shiek has gained the support of Meles Zenawi. His agribusiness company has recently sponsored some 50 Saudi companies to attend an expensive promotional exhibition and party in Addis Ababa though his company, Saudi Star Agricultural Development Plc. which is already producing rice for the Saudis. I have seen many people who hated the Shiek for being a supporter of the TPLF regime, for corrupting officials with generous gift, and giving extravagant parties. To be frank, I argued in his favor and considered all of those his rights. As a wealthy person he has every right whatever he wants to do with his money. But buying and selling our country is not one of them. Now this Shiek has crossed the line by turning himself into a salesman of our land to his fellow rich petrodollar swollen sheiks. It appears that he has crossed the Rubicon.

Who are this wealthy individuals and corporations and what drives them into this dangerous scramble on our land? These are basically people and entities from the oil rich Middle East and from rapidly industrializing East and South Asia. Most of the Asians are from countries heavily populated. They have virtually little land for extensive agriculture and a huge and growing population to feed. Most have chemicalized their soil to perdition over three decades of green revolution but have fortunately helped themselves to industrialization. The others are from wealthy oil rich Middle East and Arab Sheikdoms that are alarmed by the dwindling ground water in their own countries to support agriculture and a growing population to feed. More importantly they are attracted by the lucrative market and the rising trend of the cost of food products. Over the last several years, they have made their studies and consulted economists who delivered this “innovative” idea of land grab. That is when they began roaming the continent of Africa looking for corrupt and desperate governments that would sell agricultural land along with scarce water and cheap labor to meet their consumption needs. That is how they met the Meles Zenawi’s of Africa. Mr. David Hallam, deputy director at FAO, who I believe is privy to these transactions is quoted on a Washington Post Article as saying that the contracts being signed “ are thin” and “have no safeguards” adding that he sees “ statements from ministers where they’re basically promising (to the wealthy foreign companies) everything with no controls, no conditions”. This is from the mouth of an expert of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization.

What is happening in Ethiopia is sad on another very important level. Ethiopia has an economic geographic advantage it potentially enjoys in the part of the world it is located. With its huge agricultural potential it is strategically located in close proximity to reap the benefits of exporting food to these oil rich but agriculturally poor customers most of which survive by importing their food. Their demand and Ethiopia’s potential for supply was a perfect match. In the past, Ethiopia had not had the opportunity to harvest this potential. It is a failure of all past governments including this one. Had Ethiopian rulers were wise and thinkers beyond their political shelf lives, they could have already exploited it. But this potential can be maximized only if we Ethiopians are the producers and sellers of our own agricultural products. What Meles Zenawi is doing now is putting this upside down. He, in effect, made our potential buyers the sellers of our commodity. He is helping them sit on both the demand and supply side of the equation. Have you heard of a saying in Amharic- “kemogn dej Mofer Yikoretal”. This is an economic suicide that no country with rational people living inside it should even think of doing. I think Ethiopians need to seriously discuss impending problem and create public awareness before it is too late and too costly.

Some points we need to understand clearly:

1.The idea of unused land, idle land or virgin land is a complete misnomer. True, there is a lot of uncultivated arable land in Ethiopia. That doesn’t make it unused or idle. Land must not necessarily be cultivated to be classified as utilized. The term I am comfortable with is underused or underutilized. Anybody who has seen these areas identified as unused understands that there is no land in Ethiopia that has no owners and users. In areas where we have more land relative to the inhabitants in the area, it is often that the way of life of the population requires more land per person. Nomadic areas and food gatherers in west and southwest Ethiopia need more land per person to survive for the type of economy they practice. But even in situations where land is least economically utilized, if often helps keep the ecological balance in the area and the region. I should add that these lands are not used to their maximum potential mostly because of the wrong or misguided government policies and interventions and that seems to be where the central problem is located.

2.Second, for agriculture to prosper, it is not necessary that we have large scale commercial farms. Small holder farms of reasonable size can be economically as effective. If we are, for example, able to produce organic food products by small holder farmers, it is possible to get as much money or even better money than large scale plantations that use chemical fertilizers. In other words, you don’t need billionaire investors to cultivate the underutilized land. It is not difficult to find some 50 Ethiopians that will amount to one Arab millionaire investor. The problem is that the government policies are faulty and unattractive to Ethiopians. There was a time in the early seventies where fresh graduates from Haramaya University were able to start farms in the Awash valley with loans from government banks who did it with brilliant success. Does anybody remember AMBASH, a farm operated by a group of young graduates of Agriculture from Haramaya College? If it was possible thirty five years ago, it should be more possible today.

3.The land currently under intensive cultivation which is mostly overused and becoming unproductive, as in northern and north central Ethiopia, needs to rest and remain fallow for many years if we want the soil to regenerate and become supportive again. We also currently farm a lot of marginal lands that should not be cultivated at all. Farm lands are running uphill in most parts of Ethiopia as farmers try to bring more and more land to cultivation in response to population pressure. This is a big rational for resettlement programs and developing underused arable lands. Selling more existing underused land apparently means more pressure on existing peasant farms which are already being pressure. So the impact of selling this land to foreigners reverberates throughout the agricultural system and is not limited to the areas where the farms for sell are located.

4.Water is increasingly becoming a scarce resource and global trends are that it will get more and more scarce and expensive. When we are selling land to these so called investors we are also selling water that comes in the form of precipitation, overland flow and ground water. In some cases the water is more expensive than the land. Allowing foreign investors to engage cultivating water intensive crops such as rice is a bound to create a disaster.

5.Economic prosperity, even in poor countries like Ethiopia, does not necessarily have to depend on farming land alone. Only stupid minds think that the region of Gambella is more useful when cultivated than left for the tropical forest that it is. Rich people in the west who live in concrete jungles and monotonously humanized landscapes would pay a lot of money to pass weekends in that beautiful wilderness if we do some investment. If we do the thinking as to what we can do with the forest without destroying it, I am sure we can come up with something to generate the hard currency that being worshipped in Ethiopia. If we develop a good hospitality industry and promote it, it is possible to make much more hard currency than what Al Amoudi pays us for his rice farms.

Conclusion:

The ultimate solution to the country’s economic woes, to this grinding poverty, to the hunger and famine that is eating down into our humanity, must begin with an honest reexamination of the failed agrarian and all economic policies in the country. It has to be a reexamination that is dispassionate and free of politics. We are a people that have gone though enough hardships to learn from our past. We are a textbook case of how bad governance and misguided policies can crush a country with rich agricultural potential. Unfortunately, we live under a dictatorship that is willing to believe its own lies than learn from these experiences. That we are the original home of some of the worlds cultivated crops and still beg to feed our people should be unconscionable to all decent Ethiopians irrespective of their politics. Meles Zenawi and Bereket Simon do not seem to have any sense of humiliation. Their narcissism is over their head. That we are selling out our land to others to produce their food while parading our own famine stricken bodies is downright shameful but more importantly economically senseless. Yes, there is a need for hard currency and there is a need to plug into the globalizing economy. As others, including the aspiring new colonizers are showing us, financial and capital strength can be achieved in various ways. Some did it by educating their people for the future. If Meles, for example, folds down these jokes he calls universities and chooses to work on having one or two good institutions where you teach good math and science and finds some way of retaining the educated people in the country, we can do much to generate foreign currency than sell our last belonging.

The most crucial policy is one that makes the country attractive first and foremost to its own citizens. This means freedom and the rule of law. The scary regulations being issued by the TPLF and the ethnicization of politics may have served TPLF’s success in staying in power for long, but it is not helping the country and the people a bit.

If we have a government that works extra time to resolve internal conflicts, potential investors would come in droves and will be willing to pay large sums of money. We see them do it on a daily basis in other countries where that is the case. Capital moves to where it gets a higher rate of profit and safe and secure operation zone. Unfortunately, the TPLF is the biggest manufacturer of conflicts in the country and the source of all potential instability.

By providing incentives for Ethiopians at home and abroad to engage in agriculture it is possible to transform the country’s food production and the general economy. Many returnee Ethiopians who open go-go clubs in Addis would not hesitate to take their money to agriculture if they are given appropriate incentives. It is not necessarily expensive to engage in farming at least as compared to engaging in extractive industries such as mining.

When Meles Zenawi landlocked the country and told us that losing direct access to the sea “is not going to affect us 5 cents worth” with a straight face, we sat back and listened and perhaps laughed. Now we are told we are paying a billion dollars a year for the port to Djibouti. The cost is rising every year.

We have seen our beautiful sisters travelling to the Middle East as domestic workers. We are sitting and watching as our sisters are abused and dehumanized in these countries and the government that eats their remittance refuses to say a pip or anything on their behalf. We are watching this unfold under our eyes helplessly.

Now the rich guys from the Middle East themselves are coming to buy our land at bargain prices, suck up our water, fence off our children from the land of their forefathers, in order to produce food for themselves and their camels using our cheap slave labor. All of this while we beg food for 13 million destitute people!

These deals are like dragging your mother by her hair to give her to a rapist for scrape money. I don’t know how many of you would contemplate doing this and for what amount of money. Yet this is what is happening to Ethiopia right now. I was once a kid who was crying “land to the tiller” on the streets of Addis fighting to make life better to exploited peasants. Some of the TPLF people now in power were there singing the same song. How regressive is it that our children are to sing the same song three and half decades letter?

How did we come to this? When is this going to end? And, by the way, what kind of people are we?

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

What is Khat?

Friday, December 4th, 2009

(USDOJ) — Khat, Catha edulis, is a flowering shrub native to Ethiopia, East Africa and the Arabian-Peninsula. Khat refers to the leaves and young shoot of Catha edulis. It has been widely used since the thirteenth century as a recreational drug by the indigenous people of East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and throughout the Middle East. There is no legitimate medical use for khat in the United States.

Chemistry and Pharmacology:

Khat contains two central nervous system (CNS) stimulants, namely cathinone and cathine. Cathinone (alpha-aminopriopiophenone), which is the principal active stimulant, is structurally similar to d-amphetamine and almost as potent as a CNS stimulant. Cathine, also called d-norpseudoephedrine, is about 10 times less potent than cathinone as a CNS stimulant. Cathinone levels are highest in the freshly cut khat plant. Once cut, levels of cathinone start declining. Cooling the plant material will reduce the rate of decline in cathinone levels such that detectable levels may be found at least out to 10 days post cutting. Over the last few years, exhibits of dried or dehydrated khat have been encountered. In these samples, cathinone may be detected for many months or even years. Cathine remains stable in khat after the plant has been cut.

Khat produces amphetamine-like effects. They include: euphoria, a feeling of increased alertness and energy, hyperactivity, anorexia, and lack of fatigue. The users also feel relaxed and talkative. Sympathomimetic effects may include elevated blood pressure, dilated pupils, hyperthermia, arrhythmias, and increased respiration. The effects of khat usually last between 90 minutes and 3 hours. After-effects of khat use have been reported as lack of concentration, numbness and insomnia.

Khat abuse leads to psychological dependence. Chronic abuse of khat can lead to behavioral changes and impairment of mental health. Clinical manifestations include manic behavior with grandiose delusions, violence, suicidal depression, or schizophreniform psychosis characterized by paranoid delusions. Chronic abuse can also produce physical exhaustion, anorexia, periodontal disease and disturbances of the gastrointestinal system.

Illicit Uses:

Khat is abused for its stimulant and euphoric effects. Most often the fresh leaves and shoots of the khat shrub are chewed, and then retained in the cheek and chewed intermittently until all the juices are extracted. To counter the bitter taste of the plant, copious amounts of water or sweet soda are drank. Dried khat can be made into tea or a chewable paste. Rarely other modes of self-administration include smoking or sprinkling on food.

User Population:

Abuse of khat in the United States is most prevalent among immigrants from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Yemen. Abuse of khat is highest in cities with a substantial population of these immigrants. These cities include Boston (MA), Columbus (OH), Dallas (TX), Detroit (MI), Kansas City (MO), Los Angeles (CA), Minneapolis (MN), Nashville (TN), New York (NY), and Washington D.C.

Illicit Distribution:

Individuals of Somali, Ethiopian, and Yemeni descent are the primary transporters and distributors of khat in the United States. The khat is transported from Somali into the United States and distributed in the Midwest, West and Southeast (Nashville, Tennessee) regions of the United States. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, Somali and Yemen independent dealers are distributing khat in Arbor Ann, Detroit, Lansing and Ypsilanti, Michigan; Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City, Missouri; and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. Due to a limited shelf life, the khat needs to be transported quickly to the intended market. Thus shipment by air is the most common method of transport. The khat is often transported through the United Kingdom and Canada primarily via package delivery services and to a lesser extent by couriers aboard commercial aircraft. Khat is typically shipped package into bundles that are wrapped in plastic bags or banana leaves to retain moisture and freshness.

Khat has been widely available in the United States since 1995. According to recent Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS) data, law enforcement seized 40,244 kilograms of khat in 2006 and 33,384 kilograms in 2007. In 2008, the amount increased to 74,672 kilograms.

The National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) data indicate that 40 drug items submitted to DEA laboratories in 2007 were identified as cathine and 49 items submitted in 2008 were identified as cathine. DEA laboratories also identified 49 cathinone items submitted in 2007 and 51 cathinone items submitted in 2008. According to NFLIS, state and local laboratories received 58 cathine items in 2007 and 71 cathine items in 2008. There were 157 cathinone items submitted to state and local laboratories in 2007. In 2008, state and local laboratories received 143 items of cathinone.

In 2004, Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) reported the emergence of a new form of khat within the Somali community. Graba, a dried form of khat that is similar in appearance to marijuana, has been seized by KCPD. Graba is produced in Ethiopia and is commonly dried before it is transported into the United States. In two separate incidents in January 2004, KCPD officers seized 13.2 pounds of graba from an Ethiopian national and 38 grams from a Somali national.

Control Status:

Cathinone and cathine are in Schedules I and IV, respectively, of the Controlled Substances Act. Missouri placed khat in schedule I of state law. California placed khat in schedule II of state law.

(Comments and additional information are welcomed by the Office of Diversion Control, Drug and Chemical Evaluation Section. Fax 202-353-1263, telephone 202-307-7183, or Email ODE@usdoj.gov.)

Haile Gebreselassie to build new training center in Ethiopia

Friday, December 4th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA — Yaya Africa Athletics Village PLC, a new company established in 2009, has begun the construction of a modern athletics village in Sululta, 11 KM outside Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.

The project is worth an estimated 80 million birr and will be constructed in three phases.

The shareholders of the company include two prominent athletes — Haile Gebrselassie and Belay Welasha, as well as an Ethiopian born Canadian businessman and former athlete Joseph Kibur.

The facility will include a running track, hotel, restaurant, gymnasium and sports clinic. It is to be built on 50,000 sq. meters of land and the first phase of the project is expected to be operational by September 2010.

“Haile, who has been making athletics history for the better part of two decades is about to make a new history by building the first private athletics village in the country. I am happy and excited to be
part of this history”, says Joseph Kibur, President and major shareholder of the company.

“our aim is to have the facility ready well before the London Olympics so that there will be enough time to produce new talent and continue Ethiopia’s winning tradition”.

Once the facility is fully operational, selected individuals will be provided with the range of services required for world class athletes.

This would include proper diet created by professional nutritionists, psychological training, climate controlled training rooms to simulate high humidity and hot conditions, and physical therapists for injury prevention and treatment.

In addition to providing services for local athletes, the hotel in the facility will also be used to house foreign athletes interested in high altitude training. By making the facility a tourist destination it will earn the country foreign currency.

(For more information please contact: Joseph@kibur.com or mobile +251911-570432)

A major newspaper in Ethiopia shuts down due to harassment

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Addis Neger Publishing today announced that its major publication, Addis Neger Newspaper, ceased circulation due to constant harassment and intimidation by the ruling Woyanne junta in Ethiopia. Saturday November 28, 2009 saw the final edition of the paper.

“Addis Neger, one of the few leading independent voices in Ethiopia, became the victim of yet another crackdown on free speech and the freedom of the press in Ethiopia,” said Mesfin Negash, Managing Editor of the Paper. “Our newspaper was one of the country’s best examples of what independent journalists can accomplish in being the platform of public opinion. Unfortunately, the regime had made our task impossible.”

Three of Addis Neger’s editors left the country this week after the paper learned that the regime was preparing criminal charges against its top editors, reporters and owners based on the new anti-terror law and the criminal code. The decision of the publishing company to close down the newspaper was made to protect its owners and journalists from this onslaught by the regime government.

“This is the culmination of months of persecution and harassment” by the regime in Ethiopia, said Abiye Teklemariam, the paper’s Executive Editor. “The preparation to use the new anti-terror law against our journalists and editors was just throwing the last wood in the chimney.”

Addis Neger was established in September 2007. Its twin editorial plans had been “the Idea of Public Reason” and “Integrity and Independence.” In the last two years, these pillars served as the backbones of the paper’s interaction with the public, helping it to register phenomenal growth in its circulation, influence and investment.

Addis Neger also introduced a new model of media ownership. Founded by six former journalists who were victims of the media crackdown following post election crisis in 2005, it was expanding its ownership base to other journalistic members of the paper. It was hoped that the model would bring sustainability to the press as an institution.

Addis Neger Publishing Company promised to be back to the media scene in the future. According to Mesfin Negash, the company would venture into a new multimedia format whenever is possible. “We hope that things will change and we will be back to our country. But our immediate plan is to ensure the physical security of our staff members. Let’s keep the spirit of freedom alive.”

Ethiopia's tyrant threatens to walk out of Copenhagen

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

By Douglas McGill | The McGill Report

A mind-boggling usurpation of moral authority at the highest global level is set to unfold at the United Nations Climate Change Conference that begins in Copenhagen next Monday.

Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and one of the world’s worst dictators, is preparing to use that global platform to scold other nations for their irresponsible energy policies – and to demand hundreds of billions of dollars for African nations to compensate for global warming damage done to the continent.

The hypocrisy of Meles playing a role in Copenhagen – indeed a leadership role where he could potentially block a global agreement – is outrageous.

As Africa’s top negotiator in Copenhagen, Meles in recent weeks has already begun posturing as the moral environmental voice of Africa by criticizing industrialized countries for their “lack of seriousness” on global climate policy, and by threatening to lead a walk-out of the 52 African countries at the conference (out of 190 total participating nations) if their demands for compensation aren’t met.

Gulag Prisons

This theft-in-plain-sight of a critical global role is being carried out by a man who runs his own country by a “divide and conquer” strategy – hardly the best model for global collaborative decision-making.

Not to mention the specific tools that Meles has used for 18 years to maintain his grip on power, namely genocide, ethnic cleansing, gulag prisons, a sham court system, medieval property laws and the jailing, torture and lawless execution of civilians and political opponents.

Why would Denmark even allow this man to step foot in their country?

Directly to the point of the hypocrisy of Meles’ role as Africa’s chief climate change negotiator, Ethiopia is now facing one of the worst famines in its history as a consequence of his own environmentally disastrous laws and policies.

These include property laws that prevent farmers from owning their own land; that forbid foreign research and aid groups from entering the country; and a governing system that prevents any orderly agriculture and environmentalism, because Meles stays in power by keeping his country mired in a permanent state of war.

Ethnic Cleansing

By now the evidence for Mele’s crimes is far too extensive, public, and exhaustively well-documented to summarize in detail here.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Genocide Watch, the International Crisis Group, Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, countless other aid groups and even the U.S. State Department have all for years now published report after detailed report on Meles’ crimes – reports stuffed with details of collective punishmentprison torture, slaughter of street protestors, on and on.

The picture collectively painted is a tyrant who stays in power through total control of the political, economic, legal, media and military systems.

Here in Minnesota, where thousands of Ethiopians refugees have fled Meles’ brutality, tales of personal witness to all of these crimes, and many more, abound.

Minnesota, and other centers of the global Ethiopia diaspora, are often the best  sources of close-to-firsthand information about Meles’ savage rule, because refugees stay in constant contact with friends and family at home while foreign journalists, aid workers and human rights workers are banned from the country.

Unstoppable Hatred

By no means least in the way of evidence against Meles is the Ethiopian blogosphere which is a bitter veil of tears, a deeply wounded cry of the heart.

In this global forum thousands of Ethiopians every day figuratively rend their garments, cry out to God, offer first-person testimonials of beatings and torture, and maintain online records of Meles’ crimes against humanity. Sometimes, overflowing with unstoppable hatred, they violently attack each other with words.

The only mystery that remains is why the world appears simply not to notice, to respond, or even to care in the least about the Ethiopia’s abysmal suffering.

It’s Rwanda and Darfur all over again. And it has been that way, although getting progressively worse, since 1991, the year that Meles took power in a coup and immediately began ethnic cleansing as a central tactic of his governing style.

And now the world’s leaders at Copenhagen have embraced this man into their highest deliberative council, and given him voice. What are they thinking?

Absolute Power

Meles’ 18-year rule of terror in Ethiopia has easily earned him a place alongside dictators such as Kim Jong-Il, Slobodan Milosevich, Muammar Qaddafi, Robert Mugabe, Omar al-Bashir, Than Swhe, and Ali Khamenei.

Would any of these despots be welcomed in Copenhagen?

Would any be given the chance to potentially veto a global climate accord?

Of course, Meles won’t do that. What he will do, though, is maximize his leverage through every means possible to further secure what for 18 years he has ruthlessly sought and won in Ethiopia, which is absolute power.

He’d let the world burn to a crisp before he relinquished that.

2 Colorado women travel to Ethiopia on medical mission

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

By Alicia Gossman-Steemes | MetroWest Daily News

COLORADO — In the developing world, a person born with cleft palate, cleft lip or other facial deformities will suffer not only from medical issues but also from social censure. That’s why organizations like Operation Smile exist — to bring a smile and to give life to people who otherwise would not be able to have one.

“The problem is no worse in developing countries than in developed countries, said Carol Lockhart, a teacher at Swink High School in Swink, Colo. “In a developed country the problem is taken care of soon after birth. A developed country can give the needed surgery because of the strength of its finances.”

Lockhart and Swink junior Jolysa Gallegos recently traveled to Jimma, Ethiopia, on a 14-day medical mission with Operation Smile to help entertain children and adults who were awaiting the longed-for surgery. Children and adults who are eligible for the free surgery must sit for hours in hospital waiting rooms, so volunteers play games with them and draw pictures. They even share personal pictures and a little about their lives.

“Many of the people they helped are poor and can’t go home so they hang around the hospital waiting,” Lockhart said.

“Some traveled 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) to get there and that was a big shock,” Gallegos said. “Some came from Somalia. One little girl had an abscess on her cheek and had to be given antibiotics so that it would go down before she had the surgery. We were just cheering for her because she had come so far.”

Cleft palate and cleft lip cause problems with breathing, talking and eating. Also, because the deformities are so prominent, they have a “huge psychological effect.”

“One little boy wouldn’t let me take a picture of him until he was in pre-op,” Gallegos said. Another 15-year-old boy was eager to receive an education after his surgery. He had never been denied education, Lockhart said, but he had been made to feel “uncomfortable and remorseful about his appearance.”

In Ethiopia, education is free to the public.

“The people are obsessed with education,” Lockhart said. “They want to be engineers, architects and doctors to make their country better.”

The cause of cleft palate and cleft lip is unknown. Some believe that the deformity may be caused by a lack of folic acid during pregnancy or because the mother smoked during pregnancy. Mothers of children receiving surgery are asked about their pregnancies. They are also asked why they believe their children were born with the deformity.

“The vast majority of people responded that it was the will of the true God or they believed that when the mother was pregnant, she saw someone with a cleft lip or palate,” Lockhart said.

During their mission, Gallegos said that she played a lot of volleyball with the kids, using beach balls that they had brought.

“The Ethiopian children are natural volleyball players,” Lockhart said. “They also play soccer, so they never catch the ball.”

Funds to purchase toys, including bubbles, funny sunglasss and beach balls, were donated by local chapters of Operation Smile’s Student Youth Programs. Both Swink School and Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colo. have chapters.

Gallegos and her partner Nicky from Colorado Springs had fun painting finger nails, an activity that the women from Somalia especially enjoyed. The people also enjoyed wearing paper crowns from Burger King.

“Nicky asked Burger King for donations and they gave her 80 crowns,” Gallegos said. “Both parents and kids wanted the crowns.”

“I also learned that the teddy bear is not a universal thing,” Gallegos said. “We had brought stuffed animals and we wanted to give one to a little girl. When I gave it to the father he and the other men in the room started laughing at me. They didn’t know what it was.”

Gallegos got to watch a surgery. She and her partner also made presentations at local schools about hygiene and dental care. The children, Gallegos said, were very excited to receive toothbrushes and kept getting back in line to get more. The small group also toured a Missionaries of Charity Home for the Sick and Dying Destitutes, an organization founded by Mother Theresa.

“They said no pictures,” Gallegos said. “The sicknesses were so bad. It was a very tough situation and hard to accept the fact that the people were there because they were dying and they didn’t have money.”

Although there was not much chance for tourism, Lockhart and Gallegos learned much about the people and their surroundings. They found that wherever they went, the people “swarmed” them, some just wanting to touch them. One little boy, a street child in the marketplace, wouldn’t let go of Gallegos’ hand.

“It’s hard to walk away from that,” she said.

“The people are very proud of their country,” Lockhart said. “Normal, everyday people are printed on their money because they believe that the future of the country lies in its people. They were very interested in us because we are blessed beyond measure. We didn’t see any obvious discrimination. The parents loved their children and there was lots of love and acceptance in the hospital.”

“They are a quiet and beautiful people,” Gallegos said.

A British journalist relives his kidnapping in Ethiopian desert

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

By Jon Swain | Times Online

I last saw Aregawi Berhe in the summer of 1976. The big news gripping Britain was the heatwave — back then, the hottest since records began — and the dramatic Israeli commando raid on Entebbe airport in Uganda to rescue 100 hostages held by pro-Palestinian hijackers.

My mind was focused on neither. Aregawi Berhe had kidnapped me, and I was concentrating on survival.

At the time, Aregawi was a fierce young guerrilla leader in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray province. I was a young reporter on assignment for The Sunday Times, covering Ethiopia’s separatist wars.

On June 1, 1976, I was on a local bus on a winding mountain road between the towns of Axum and Mkele when Aregawi’s men ambushed it. Finding me on board, they seized me on suspicion of being an “imperialist spy”. My protestations that I was a journalist came to nothing.

For three seemingly interminable months, from June to September, they held my life in their hands as they marched me under guard through the rugged hills and barren deserts of Tigray and through the breakaway province of Eritrea.

We trudged at night under the stars to escape the unforgiving sun and to avoid being spotted and fired on by patrols of the Ethiopian army. In moonlight, we panted up steep, bare, eroded hills, scrabbled over rocks, pushed our way through thorn bushes.

On one occasion, worn out and parched in an area of desert, I had to suck water from cactuses to keep going. My 500-mile forced march under armed guard was the toughest thing I had ever done.

I was not alone. They had also kidnapped an entire British family, the Tylers. Lindsey Tyler was a veterinary surgeon working in Ethiopia on an aid project, vaccinating cattle against rinderpest. He was on a trip with his wife, Stephanie, and children, Robert, 8, and Sally, 5, when the guerrillas fired on their Land Rover. “We have children, for God’s sake … we have little children,” Stephanie shouted as bullets ricocheted off the stones.

Ultimately, we were freed unharmed. But being kidnapped was a jarring experience — physically exhausting, mentally dispiriting and, above all, lonely.

After my release, I buried Aregawi in my memory. I wanted to forget the whole sorry experience. My life was the future, not the past. But some things one does not ever quite forget. Being kidnapped is one of them.

The tangled memories have come and gone over the years, sometimes so vivid that they hurt. Those three months as a prisoner in Ethiopia taunted and haunted me — until last week, when I met Aregawi again for the first time in more than three decades.

I had considered sometimes going back to Ethiopia to find and confront my captors; but in that vast land, I thought, I would never find them. In any case, I suspected most of them had been killed in their long struggle against the Derg, the Soviet-armed military committee that ruled Ethiopia after it overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974.

One of Africa’s worst military dictatorships, the Derg held onto power until it was itself toppled in 1991 by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the guerrilla organisation that had kidnapped me.

Back in 1976 the TPLF was still a ragtag group of about 130 fighters whose goal was autonomy for Tigray province. Over the years it grew in strength, numbers and ambition, until it became the backbone of a revolutionary movement that took over the country with between 60,000 and 70,000 fighters. Aregawi, a founder member who rose to army commander, played no small part in its success. Then he vanished.

In 2004 the Ethiopian driver of a taxi I hailed in Washington DC revealed that not only was Aregawi alive; he was living in exile somewhere in Europe, after losing out in an internal TPLF power struggle. Perhaps I could find him after all.

A few weeks ago a chance discussion with Martin Plaut, the BBC’s Africa editor, put me onto my quarry. Plaut had met Aregawi recently in Holland and said that he wanted to meet me to say sorry.

I did not hesitate. After all these years I wanted to meet Aregawi again and discover what made him tick. I wanted to believe that, somewhere, there was an honourable man. I think it is a basic instinct that one does not want one’s suffering to be in vain. I wanted there to be some purpose to the hardships he had put me through.

When I telephoned Aregawi, I recognised his voice immediately. But I was surprised by his next words: “Come and stay.”

We laughed at the absurdity of it. While I bore him no grudge now, I would have liked to choose whether to be his guest or not 33 years ago.

Last week I drove in a taxi through the tranquil streets of the Hague to confront him. I never dreamt I would find my old kidnapper in this lawabiding city where the international criminal courts are trying Radovan Karadzic and Charles Taylor, the former leader of Liberia, for crimes against humanity.

I felt a twinge of apprehension as the taxi approached Aregawi’s flat in a working-class district. I need not have worried. In 1976 Aregawi was a strange, taciturn man. A political science graduate at Addis Ababa University, he had become a fanatical Marxist. Tall and thin with a wispy beard, he spouted wooden communist jargon and fiercely defended kidnapping as a legitimate political weapon. He gave me the impression that the sacrifice of an innocent life was less important than his own political ideals. His opinion of Britain seemed to have been fashioned by the day he stood in a line of Boy Scouts and welcomed the Queen, opening Axum cathedral during her royal visit to Ethiopia.

Now, instead of the rabid revolutionary I remembered, an avuncular figure stood before me, his hand held out in friendship. He said he was genuinely sorry for the hardship and trouble he had put me through.

We talked in his flat. On the wall was a small reproduction of that famous portrait of Che Guevara in his beret. It was clear Aregawi could not quite bring himself to turn his back on the revolutionary hero of his youth, even if he had ditched communism and no longer believed in armed struggle as the way to change Ethiopia.

“If I calculate the cost benefit, I would say gradual change would have been better than revolutionary change when I look back,” he said. “Revolutionary change was meant to transform society quickly, abruptly. But we were naive. You cannot switch on change like electricity; it has its own dynamics. We were not mature enough to see these things.”

Later, as we walked on a windy Dutch beach — I used to dream wistfully of the sea while I was being held in the hot Ethiopian desert — I asked Aregawi to give me his side of the kidnapping story. He was anxious not to be put in the same league as the vicious kidnappers who behead their hostages today. These vile killings horrified him.

“These days kidnapping has been given a religious dimension. There is no reasoning at all,” he said. “Today’s kidnappers are broken, blinded by hatred, not even merciful for their own life. You cannot compare their kidnappings with ours, which were for publicity, for a bit of money.”

Aregawi was adamant that he wished no harm to me or the Tylers. Of course I did not see it like that at the time. I was concentrating on surviving from one day to the next, on building the sort of relationship with my captors that would make it harder for them to kill me if I outlived my purpose.

As we talked, he seemed mildly hurt at having read in a book I wrote after my release that being his prisoner had been a low point in my life. “Nothing bad happened except taking you against your will,” he said, with a plea in his voice. “I had rough words for you. We had a cause. We had certain objectives. But I felt we were handling you as best we could.”

He still did not see that there were moments when, as a prisoner, I had feared circumstances might arise, as the unexpected tends to do in guerrilla struggles, that meant I might not survive. I don’t think Aregawi realised how difficult it sometimes was to feel I could be struck from the book of life and nobody would ever know what had happened to me.

After that interminable march through the mountains, I ended up in a guerrilla encampment in the northern desert of Eritrea, living under a bush, still under guard, while Aregawi decided what to do with me.

There followed more weeks of despair, during which I exchanged hardly more than three sentences a day with my captors. But on that long march I had begun to appreciate the misery and injustices that had driven Aregawi to rise up in armed rebellion at great personal cost to himself.

One in three children born in the villages we passed through died in infancy from disease or malnutrition. The nearest health and educational services were at least two days’ walk away, the nearest well three miles.

As the son of a district judge, Aregawi had been brought up with a sense of right and wrong. His social conscience made him aware of these glaring inequalities, and he wanted to change them. The pity of it, as he now recognises himself, was that he chose to do it by armed struggle. Despite thousands of deaths and regime change, that part of Ethiopia is about as backward and impoverished now as it was then.

My captivity went on and on until one day, after a long camel ride through a sandstorm, I was finally freed into Sudan. Soon the Tylers were released too, after being held even longer than I was. The guerrillas did not collect the $1m ransom they had demanded from the British government.

So, after all these years, what is Aregawi’s story? In exile, unable to go back to Ethiopia for fear of losing his life at the hands of his former comrades, he wonders whether the huge sacrifices he and other young idealists made were worthwhile.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country, is still confronted by extreme poverty and massive rural starvation. Its leader is one of Aregawi’s old revolutionary comrades, Meles Zenawi. This former medical student has turned into a virtual dictator — little better, said Aregawi, than those he replaced.

The need to strive for a brighter future for his people still dominates Aregawi’s life, although the reasons “are not the same”. He is driven by the memory of those countrymen whom he brought into the struggle and who “paid with their lives” for something good to come. “I must not betray these people,” he said.

He and his comrades shared a fine, idealistic vision, but, he admitted, none had a clue how to implement it. For a while their politics was inspired by Enver Hoxha and his mad Albanian “road to socialism”. Soon there came years of infighting within the TPLF, and disillusionment set in.

In the mid-1980s, during one of those terrible famines that have gripped Ethiopia in the past 30 years, millions of dollars flowed from western donors into Rest, the so-called Relief Society of Tigray, which was purportedly the humanitarian wing of the TPLF.

Aregawi told me that, instead of using the money to save lives, Rest gave it to the TPLF. He remembers sitting with central committee members preparing a budget; they agreed that 95% of the Rest money should be used for the cause.

“It bought weapons, ammunition and clothes for the fighters and paid for TPLF propaganda work,” he said. “It was very depressing. It made me very angry. The leadership literally had no sympathy for the people.”

Aregawi noted that western aid organisations had allowed their money to be misappropriated and that massive armaments flowing into Ethiopia from outside made the conflict more deadly. No power had offered the help that, in Aregawi’s view, they really needed to “give them the correct orientation to help themselves to establish a stable government”.

When, after building up a secret power base of loyalists within the TPLF, Meles Zenawi seized control of it in an internal coup, Aregawi finally split from the movement he had helped to build. He had enough friends to be able to escape with his life, first to Sudan and then to Holland.

Others were not so fortunate. Shawit, the handsome young fighter who in 1976 had led the attack on my bus and made me a prisoner, was imprisoned and killed by Zenawi for opposing his control, Aregawi said.

The TPLF developed into the mighty military machine that took over Ethiopia, and now “again we are in a situation where another dictator is in power. Getting rid of one dictator does not mean bringing justice, fairness and democracy. In fact we ended up changing the face of the dictator only. That is a tragedy”.

By kidnapping me, Aregawi caught me up for a very short time in his struggle for Ethiopia. If I feel personally disappointed that the struggle has not led to something better, how much stronger must the feelings be of a man who has devoted his life to this cause?

He confessed he had no real family life as such. He had had a fiancée when he was fighting in the bush, “but we couldn’t agree on many things so we separated”. He married much later in life, but the woman he calls the “mother of my kids” lives separately in Geneva with his two children. He visits regularly, but it is clear that family takes second place to Ethiopia.

He still harbours a strong vision for his country and a driving sense of duty to see this vision through.

The last time Aregawi and I parted — in 1976 — neither of us knew what the future held, but both of us had hope. Mine was immediate and selfish: I wanted to be free to get back to my own life. His was generous: he wanted democracy for his people and was prepared to make tremendous personal sacrifices for them.

Our parting this time was different. I am glad to have met him again. Hearing his side of the story helped to lay my old ghosts to rest. At the same time there was something sad about this goodbye.

He hopes his dream of a better future for the Ethiopian people can still be realized, and as I walked away I hoped so too. But the world, I felt, had let him down. It has, over the years, backed wrong-minded rulers in Ethiopia, set on repression and dictatorship, instead of supporting those who reject violence.

It is my strong wish that this aging revolutionary, who once held my life in his hands, should be able eventually to go back to Ethiopia in peace. That would be a clear sign that one of Africa’s many shameful scars had begun to heal.

Some private schools in Israel still refuse to accept Ethiopians

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

By Or Kashti | Haaretz

Eleven new immigrants from Ethiopia have yet to be placed in Petah Tikva schools, and some have been waiting as long as three weeks for an assignment.

Municipal officials claim that the city’s private religious schools – which sparked a nationwide outcry when they refused to accept Ethiopian students at the start of the school year – are also refusing to accept these new students. However, the schools rejected this charge.

A few hours after Haaretz submitted inquiries to the relevant agencies, the municipality announced that all the children would be sent to a school today, and “we hope they’ll be admitted.”

However, the problem is unlikely to go away: Later this year the city is expected to get another group of 15 to 30 school-age immigrants from Ethiopia, and it is not clear where they will study.

“We get up in the morning, drink tea and watch television. There’s nothing else to do,” said Temasgen Mola, 12, who came to Petah Tikva with his parents and older brother two weeks ago from the Mevasseret Zion absorption center. On Wednesday, like many of the other immigrants, he was once again sitting in the municipality’s offices, hoping for a school placement.

Arega Gaton was also there, hoping to receive a placement for his 7-year-old daughter. “They keep telling us there’s no school for the girl,” he said. “We thought everything would be good here – that there would be a school and work. But she sits at home, and I can’t go to work because I need to take care of her.”

Under an Education Ministry decision that stemmed from an agreement reached before the start of the school year, most of the new immigrants were supposed to be absorbed by the town’s three private religious schools. But according to the municipality, all three have evaded this commitment using various pretexts.

“One principal said the last open slot in the class had just been filled, and afterward it turned out that this was inaccurate,” a municipal official said. “Another agreed to accept only 4th-grade boys, but there aren’t any in this group. The third simply refused to return phone calls.”

Only the mayor has the legal power to order the private schools to accept students. But Petah Tikva educators said that Mayor Yitzhak Ohayon has political obligations to certain National Religious Party activists who are also involved in the three schools, and has therefore refused to exercise this power.

The schools, however, deny that they are to blame.

“We’ve been absorbing [Ethiopian immigrants] for three years now, and will continue to do so,” said Hagai Unger, principal of the Darchei No’am school. “We will gladly accept anyone the city sends us.”

Another school, Merhav, said it had been asked to accept only one student, and did so.

An official at Da’at Mevinim, the third school, said it has already accepted 20 Ethiopian immigrants this year and will continue to comply with any “reasonable” request. “But so far, we haven’t received the financial support the Education Ministry promised us,” he charged.

President Isaias urges Ethiopian opposition to get serious

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

By Elias Kifle

isaias afewerki 26320When it comes to the ruling tribal junta in Ethiopia, there is no one who has as much clarity as President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea. He knows their real nature, what and how they think, their weaknesses, strength, and modus operandi. This is hardly surprising since he is the one who guided them all the way to Menelik’s palace in Addis Ababa. A few years later they turned around and stabbed him in the back and waged a war of attrition against Eritreans. Simply put, to Isaias and the Eritrean leadership, Woyanne is an experiment that went terribly wrong. To Ethiopians, it is a long nightmare. This monster must be eliminated soon in order for peace to prevail in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and whole Horn of Africa region.

Meles Zenawi and members of his Woyanne junta know full well Isaias Afwerki’s intention and what he is capable of. They live in constant fear with the realization that their treachery, as well as the ethnic cleansing they perpetrated against Eritreans will not go unpunished. That is why mere mention of the name Isaias, and discussions about cooperation between Ethiopian opposition groups and the Eritrean government send chills through their spine.

To protect themselves from Eritrea’s wrath, Woyannes have stationed over 80,000 troops right at the border in Tigray and moved most of their air force from central Ethiopia closer to Eritrea. They are also laboring day and night to have the U.S. Government and European Union to label Eritrea as a terrorism sponsoring state, to no avail so far.

Meles and gang, however, need not worry too much about Eritrea, because when the time comes, they will face fire not just from the north. Even the Agazi, Meles and Azeb’s Praetorian Guards, could turn against them. A few months ago the Deputy Commander of Agazi, Col. Alebel, has defected and he is now advising EPPF and Ginbot 7. We all remember what happened to Romanian dictators Nicolae and Elena Ceauşescu in not too distant past. They appeared invincible, protecting themselves with layers of secret and intelligence services, while perpetrating horrible crimes against their people. The two monsters were later executed by their own special forces after a hasty trial and conviction on genocide and corruption charges when the people of Romania finally said enough.

Meles and Azeb are similarly responsible for genocide and massive corruption. They have committed mass murder against the peoples of Ogaden and Gambela where they burned entire villages, and in Somalia where Meles Zenawi’s soldiers raped Somali women, slit the throats of religious leaders, slaughtered over 20,000 Somali civilians and made 2 million Somalis homeless. Woyanne crimes in Addis Ababa, Gonder, Gojjam, Wollo, Ambo, Beninshangul, and other cities and regions of Ethiopia are too numerous to list. A time will come to account for all of them.

Discussion with Isaias Afwerki

It is with all this in mind that I met with President Isaias for the second time last month at his office in Eritrea’s capital Asmara. I went to Asmara on my way to visit leaders and fighters of the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) and attend their 2-day conference. The President invited my colleague Sileshi Tilahun and I for tea, which turned into a long conversation that took almost 3 hours. A few months earlier, in May this year, he gave us a 4-hour interview that has created a political wave in both the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities.

What I found striking when I met with Isaias Afwerki on both occasions was how humble, casual, and approachable he is. In describing President Isaias, the Woyanne propaganda machine tries to draw a picture of a power crazed madman, some one like Stalin or Idi Amin — chest full of medals, protected by a battalion of heavily armed, bulking bodyguards, living in huge palaces. I have seen none of that. There is no pomp and circumstance around Isaias Afwerki, and I did not see a horde of assistants circling him. I saw only one secretary who let us into his office. There is a spartan simplicity to the office itself — little decoration and some very uncomfortable chairs. I was told later that he made the chairs himself in his workshop.

The president received us warmly, with a broad smile and genuine sense of friendship. Sipping tea, we began our conversation. Sileshi and I started out by discussing the effect of his May 2009 historical interview. We delved into specific examples of the impact it is having. We summed it up by saying that there is now a much more improved atmosphere between Ethiopians and Eritreans as a result of what the president said in the interview. For many Ethiopians, the president’s words had a transformational effect on their view of Eritrea and its current leadership.

As some one who keeps himself well informed (some say he is an information addict), President Isaias is well aware of what is being said and discussed in the Ethiopian community. And he seems to be encouraged by the numerous positive comments he has heard and read, many of which were coming from some of his harshest critics in the Ethiopian community. He said that awareness of the need to come together “is now better than a year ago.”

The president is eager to build on the success of his outreach to Ethiopians. He urged us to help organize dialogue — similar to the public meeting that was held in Washington DC on August 9, 2009, by the EPPF chapter — between Ethiopians and Eritreans around the world.

On Ethiopian opposition parties

In this our second meeting with Isaias Afeworki, the other main topic of discussion was the current state of the Ethiopian opposition movement. The President is straightforward about it. He said that “the leadership is detached from the people.”

Indeed, the only reason Woyanne continues to cause havoc in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa is that there is no viable opposition party that is prepared to take over power from Woyanne. Most of the Ethiopian opposition leaders are halfhearted about the struggle. As the president put it, “there has to be an effective leadership in the field. The country is vast. You can lead an opposition group from right outside of Addis Ababa. There needs to be action on the ground.”

President Isaias told us that “Ethiopian political leaders continue to fail their people.” He recommends that the opposition leaders need to leave their comfortable homes in Europe and the U.S. and relocate to Ethiopia’s mountains and jungles, if they are serious about bringing change. Any opposition leader who is not willing to do that cannot and should not be taken seriously.

“Woyanne will collapse through evolution. Let’s revolutionize the process,” the president said. To that end,  Ethiopian opposition groups need to come together and craft a “common political platform, which is lacking today.”

He expressed his hope that such a common political agenda and an inclusive united front of Ethiopian opposition parties will be formed before the end of this year (European calendar).

President Isaias says that his government is not shy about supporting Ethiopian freedom fighters. But the actual struggle must be waged by Ethiopia’s opposition groups themselves. What Eritrea wants to get in return  is a “safe neighborhood,” a peaceful region, according to the president. He also envisions the creation of an economic integration among Horn of African nations. That is not possible as long Ethiopia continues to be ruled by a ravenous tyranny that attacks any thing it cannot control and leach on.

Even though currently there are some encouraging signs — such as an increased effort to form a united front — the foot-dragging by many of the leaders of the opposition parties continue, unfortunately. If they don’t come together and form an effective united front before Woyanne’s fake elections in May 2010, there needs to be a revolution in the opposition camp itself — all the leaders of these parties must resign and give a chance to the younger generation to take the lead.

What kind of music do you like, Fuhrer?

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Would a Jewish, Russian, or Polish journalist ask Hitler such a question? Unthinkable.

It is what EthiopiaFirst.com editor recently asked Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s Hitler, who is currently carrying out a campaign of genocide against our people in the Ogaden region, not to mention the countless crimes he has perpetrated against all Ethiopians. A more apt question would be, “How many babies did you kill today?”

Ben 164344Ethiopia is being ruled by thugs and murderers because our so-called elite, those who are educated and fare better in life, have a conscience comparable to that of a pig — i.e., purely selfish, no sense of justice, no moral compass.

Meles, arrogant as ever, did not want to answer the idiotic question, but when Ben pressed him if he likes Tilahun, he said “yes, and foreign songs, too.”

The hate Meles has for any thing Ethiopian would not allow him to call out Ethiopian singers.

But what is new? We all know that Meles is thoroughly anti-Ethiopia. What irks many Ethiopians is the blase attitude of individuals like Ben — those who claim to care about their country — toward an individual who is systematically destroying Ethiopia and commits gruesome crimes against Ethiopians (watch these photos).

The interview serves only to  expose Meles Zenawi’s contempt for Ethiopia. But it is also an indictment against the likes of Ben who are trying to humanize a monster and give legitimacy to his murderous regime.

Angry readers asked me to remove the interview from the comment section some one posted yesterday (click here to see). I feel differently. Let every one watch the monster and get angry enough to take action — such as starting to support those resistance groups that are fighting to overthrow him. – Elias Kifle

Ethiopia's national team pushed out by Zambia

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

By Kalumiana Kalumiana | The Post

Zambia edged closer to the quarterfinals of the Orange CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup after a 1-0 win over Ethiopia at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi this afternoon.

Herve Renard’s side now lead Group A with a maximum six points from their opening two matches after beating hosts Kenya 2-0 in their opening game last Saturday at the same venue.

Chipolopolo took the lead in the 30th minute through striker James Chamanga who finished off an effort after Ethiopian goalkeeper Assefa Dawit fumbled with the ball.

The goal was Chamanga’s third of the tournament following his brace against Kenya over the weekend as Chipolopolo head into their final Group A match against Djibouti tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the first half hour of the opening half against Ethiopia was an even affair.

Sebastian Mwansa also wasted a chance with a poorly taken free-kick in the 10th minutes from the edge of the penalty area.

Ethiopia had a chance to level scores five minutes before the break after an Emmanuel Mbola handball but goalkeeper Jacob Banda saved the resultant penalty.

And Kenya were by press time in action against Djibouti at the same venue in the second kickoff in Group A.

Both Kenya and Djibouti were on zero points after losing 2-0 and 5-0 to Chipolopolo and Ethiopia respectively in their opening Group A matches.

Silent Cry

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

A documentary film The Silent Cry, produced by a team of young passionate British students, in partnership with African Rights Monitor, hosted a special screening in Toronto, on Saturday November 28, 2009. Over four hundred people from the Greater Toronto area attended the screening.

The Silent Cry is based on stories depicting the shattered lives of Somali refugees from the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. These stories were discovered by the Silent Cry producers when they visited Nairobi, Kenya, during their last Spring break. This group of students’ initial purpose to vacation in Kenya was fundamentally altered after they had met, “Omar” a local taxi driver, who shared with them his personal tragic story. Omar fled the Ogaden after losing his children and wife to the brutalities of the Woyanne regime soldiers in the Ogaden. This team of students then made a trip to Ifo Refugee Camp, in Northern Kenya, which is a destination for many survivors fleeing the devastating circumstances in the Somali region of Ethiopia.

A picture conveys thousand words, thanks to this team of students. We now can see images of the hidden truth about the suffering of the people of Ogaden shown through this powerful documentary, Silent Cry. The atrocities in the Ogaden have been compared to the atrocities in Darfur, with zero media attention due to the total lack of access by international media and NGOs, and as such been termed the “Hidden Darfur” of the Horn of Africa.

Three members of the Silent Cry team, Abdallah Abdi, Ahmed Abdalle, and Abdi-Shukri Omar who is the narrator of the documentary, were present in Toronto for the screening of the documentary. After a warm welcome by the a member of the Greater Toronto Community, Huda Yusuf, the Executive Director of the African Rights Monitor (ARM), a non profit group, presented a brief presentation on rights and responsibilities of citizens in democratic societies and some of the responsibilities and obligations on the part of governments to protect their citizen.

Then the Silent Cry team delivered passionate presentations before the screening, sharing with audience the impact filming this documentary had on them and how it changed their lives. Then when the audience watched Silent Cry, they were moved to tears by the stories of these refugees.

Followed by the Silent Cry team, highlighting some next steps, and emphasizing their commitment now to raising awareness and breaking the silence around the suffering of the people of Ogaden, and have asked the audience to join in this journey. The team have challenged the participants to join this campaign of advocacy and assist in bringing the attention of the international community to the plight of the people of this region. To drive the point home, Fowsia Abdulkadir, an independent researcher and human rights activist, put the Silent Cry stories in a historical context, underlining the fact that Somalis have historically been marginalized in Ethiopia. Somalis have been oppressed and discriminated against by successive Ethiopian regimes; however, under the current regime led by Meles Zenawi, human rights abuses and the suffering of Somalis in Ethiopia have reached a level it has never reached before.

The evening was concluded with poetry reading by young Somalis, who recited poems dedicated to some of the refugee children in the documentary. The screening of Silent Cry in Toronto was overwhelmingly successful, and the event was positively received by the Toronto community.

(Further information: info@silentcry.co.uk)

Enraged father kills son over child rape admission

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

MICHIGAN (AP) — A 15-year-old Michigan boy admitted raping a 3-year-old girl, so enraging his father that the man couldn’t control himself when witnesses say he forced the teen to strip, marched him to an empty lot and shot him through the head, a defense lawyer said Tuesday.

jamar pinkneyThe lawyer for Jamar Pinkney Sr., 37, said he will pursue an insanity defense as a judge in the Detroit enclave of Highland Park ruled Pinkney should stand trial on first-degree murder, assault and firearms charges in his son’s Nov. 16 death.

Defense attorney Corbett O’Meara said Pinkney’s son’s confession would have driven anyone crazy.

“There is no rational response to the rape of a child,” O’Meara said after the hearing. “He was immediately remorseful and didn’t seek to hide. He turned himself in to the police.”

Pinkney acted “under heat of passion,” O’Meara said, and should be found “not guilty by reason of insanity” or found guilty of manslaughter.

During questioning of witnesses, Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Christine Kowal tried to establish that Pinkney had time to think about what he was going to do as he forced his son out of the boy’s mother’s home on North Street before killing him.

No evidence of sexual penetration was introduced at the hearing, despite testimony about the girl being taken to Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit a day before the shooting.

O’Meara said the defense would introduce medical reports that indicate the girl had evidence of vaginal tearing. He said Jamar Jr. had at first denied he molested the girl, then later said he only lay on top of her but they had their clothes on.

O’Meara said after the hearing that the teen finally admitted to his father that he had sex with the girl, causing his father to snap.

He said his client is now devastated and under the care of a psychiatrist at the Wayne County Jail, where he is being held without bond.

“He doesn’t understand how any of this could have happened,” O’Meara said.

Authorities haven’t said if they believe the teen raped the girl, his half-sister, and police have said the matter is not part of their investigation. Wayne County prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Maria Miller declined to comment Tuesday on the nature of the sexual contact.

Pinkney’s confrontation with his son came a day after the 3-year-old underwent an examination at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Results of the exam haven’t been released, but the teen’s mother said they indicated her son “had molested” the girl. The Associated Press is not naming the girl or detailing her relationship to the teen to avoid identifying a victim of sexual assault.

Lazette Cherry testified Tuesday that her son talked to her about his contact with the girl after her exam. Cherry said her son called his father about 3 a.m.

“Daddy, can you please forgive me in your heart, forgive what I did?” she quoted Jamar Pinkney Jr. as asking his father.

The mother said the elder Pinkney agreed to come to the house later to talk further. Cherry’s sister, Yolanda Cherry, testified that Jamar Pinkney Sr. arrived about 10 a.m.

Yolanda Cherry said she and her sister talked about getting help for the teen, while Pinkney Sr. said he spoke with the 3-year-old’s mother and she wanted to press charges.

“Jamar, is there something you want to tell me?” Yolanda Cherry quoted Pinkney Sr. as asking his son.

“He got on his knees in front of his dad and said, ‘I’m sorry,'” the aunt said.

“What did you do?” she quoted the father as asking.

“I humped (the girl),” the teen replied. “I need counseling.”

Pinkney Sr. didn’t immediately respond, Yolanda Cherry said, and she left to visit her mother’s upstairs apartment. She later heard screaming and banging and rushed down to find Pinkney Sr. holding a handgun and beating his son.

Both sisters testified Pinkney Sr. ordered his son to undress and marched him outside. The teen’s mother said Pinkney Sr. ordered the boy to kneel in the grass, ignoring his pleas for mercy.

“I said, ‘Jamar, stop. Don’t do this. Think about what you’re doing,'” Lazette Cherry testified.

She said Pinkney Sr. stood behind the boy and shot him in the head, then walked around still grasping the gun.

“He didn’t want anybody to go back and help him,” the mother said. After Pinkney Sr. left, she rushed to her son’s side.

“He’s bleeding, blood coming out of his mouth,” she said. “Somebody said, ‘Get some covers, cover him up, keep him warm.’ So that’s what we did.”

Jamar Pinkney Sr. is being held in the Wayne County Jail without bond, charged with first-degree murder in the Nov. 16 shooting. If convicted, he faces life in prison without parole.

Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital needs doctors

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital (AAFH) in Ethiopia is in the process of building 5 new centers around the country to extend the work to those unable to get to the city. To do this the Hospital seeks increase the number of available trained doctors.

The Hospital was started over thirty years ago by Drs Reg and Catherine Hamlin. It was the first hospital of its kind and is a world leader in the treatment of Obstetric Fistula. AAFH has greatly expanded over the past 5 years, treating over 1300 patients per year at the hospital and at other sites around the country.

Currently in Ethiopia there are only 104 registered OB/Gyn doctors for a population of 80 million.

The Hospital’s strategy is to attract doctors from overseas who will train at the AAFH for 3-4 months, and then spend time in one of the regional centers, assisting to ensure that there is quality care and systems in place, while AAFH sponsors the training of local people to take up these roles.

All patients are treated completely free of any charge and the hospital is dependent for its finance on the generosity of its donors and Partner Trusts.

(Further information: hamlinfistula.org)

Using teff for bread

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

By Susan | Wild Yeast

Here’s what we did six or seven weeks ago: We raised bread with sourdough starters made from several ancient grains: amaranth, sorghum, quinoa, millet, and teff.

My favorite of these was teff. It’s best known for the Ethiopian staple flatbreadinjera, but it makes a wonderful addition to loaf breads as well (although it contains little or no gluten, so a 100%-teff bread would require some of that gluten-free expertise that I don’t have yet). I’ve heard the flavor variously described as chocolate-y coffee-y, nutty, earthy. You could just call it tasty and leave it at that. And it imparts a lovely reddish crust color in the bargain.

teff poolish baguettes

So, enamored of this tasty and cute grain (Did I say cute? Well, yes, I think any grain whose diameter is less than 1 mm qualifies as cute, don’t you?), I was inspired to give it a whirl in my own kitchen. I picked up a 1.5-pound bag of teff flour for about $7. Add expensive to teff’s personality profile.

My first attempt was a teff sourdough. I took a portion of my starter, fed it with teff flour for a few days and proceeded to mix up a simple bread dough with it. The dough was too dry. I added water. It was still too dry. I added more water. It was the perfect consistency. Then in the next breath, it was soup.

This was when I remembered that teff is not only cute and tasty and expensive, buttemperamental. It drinks and drinks up water, and suddenly lets it go (kind of like having an infant in the house again). I decided to try to work with the soup; this was a bad idea. I wound up with flat boards that could serve as cricket bats in a pinch:

I’ll do teff sourdough again some day, but in the meantime I took another tack — with a teff poolish this time. This was also one we had made in class. Determined not to overhydrate again, I held back quite a bit of water (more than I usually do) when mixing the final dough — and realized as I was cleaning up that I had not added any of it back in. I weighed it and it turned out to be a whopping 70 grams — about 10% of the total water in the formula. So instead of 68% hydration, this one came in at about 62%. On paper, practically a bagel.

And yet, the crumb was not super dense and dry. Not the most open I’ve ever done, for sure, but not terrible either. Go figure.

teff bread crumb

My final analysis: teff is tasty, cute, expensive, temperamental, and enigmatic. Now I dare you to try it.

This enigmatic bread goes to IDania (El Aroma de IDania) and Zorra (1x umrühren bitte) for BreadBakingDay #24, Mixed Breads, along with my appreciation for creating and hosting this wonderful monthly event.

Teff Poolish Bread
(adapted from SFBI)

Yield: 1930 – 2000 g. I made two baguettes and two boules with my 1930 g of dough.

Time:

  • Ferment teff poolish: 12 hours
  • Mix final dough: 10 minutes
  • First fermentation : 1.5 hours with a fold, if needed, at 45 minutes
  • Preshape, rest, and shape: 30 minutes
  • Proof: 45 minutes – 1.25 hours
  • Bake: 20 minutes or more (depending on size and shape of loaves)

Desired dough temperature: 75F

Teff Poolish Ingredients:

  • 273 g flour
  • 82 g teff flour
  • 355 g water
  • 0.4 g (1/8 t.) instant yeast

Final Dough Ingredients:

  • 818 g flour
  • 373 – 443 g water (I used the smaller amount; the original formula calls for the larger. You figure it out.)
  • 6.7 g (2-1/8 t.) instant yeast
  • 23.5 g (scant 4 t.) salt
  • All of the teff poolish

Method:

  1. In a bowl, combine the poolish ingredients. Cover and ferment for 12 hours at room temperature.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, combine all of the final dough ingredients. Mix on low speed until incorporated.
  3. Continue mixing in low or medium speed to a medium level of gluten development.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and ferment for 1.5 hours, with a fold after the first 45 minutes if the dough seems very slack.
  5. Turn the dough into a lightly floured counter. Divide into 250 – 350 g for baguettes, 500 – 700 g for boules or batards. Preshape  into cylinders (for baguettes) or balls and let rest, covered, for 20 minutes.
  6. Shape the dough into its final shapes and place it, seam-side-up, on a very well-floured couche or linen-lined baskets.
  7. Proof, covered, for 45 minutes or longer, until the indentation left by a fingertip springs back very slowly. Baguettes will take less time to proof than boules or batards, so bake them first.
  8. Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 475F. You will also needsteam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
  9. Just before baking, slash the loaves as you like.
  10. Once the loaves are in the oven, reduce the temperature to 450. Bake for 8 minutes with steam, and another 12 – 25 minutes or so without steam. Then turn off the oven and leave the loaves in for another 5 – 10 minutes, with the door ajar.
  11. Cool on a wire rack.

(Susan is currently a student in the professional bread and pastry program at SFBI)

Top 10 electronic gadgets of the past ten years (ABC News)

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

ABC News released its top 10 electronic gadgets of the past ten years.

By Ki Mae Heussner | ABC News

Maps. Compact disk players. Film. Paperback books. Ten years ago, we couldn’t live without them. Today, they’re inching closer and closer to obsolescence. The past decade has delivered a bounty of consumer electronics that make our lives easier, keep us connected and ensure that we’re endlessly entertained.

But a few have gone above and beyond, altering the way we organize, experience and share our daily lives.

Here are 10 of the gadget world’s greatest hits from the past 10 years.

The iPod

The digital music player was already on the scene when Apple introduced the iPod in 2001. But it wasn’t exactly hyperbole when Apple CEO Steve Jobs said, “Listening to music will never be the same again.”

The iPod — and its signature white earbuds — quickly became a cultural icon. But its impact was hardly cosmetic. Along with iTunes, the iPod popularized the mp3 player and changed the music industry forever.

Stacks of CDs? Gone. Trips to the record store? Gone.

Apple made buying music, TV shows and videos as easy as logging on to your home computer and clicking your mouse a few times.

In 2007, the company announced that it sold its 100 millionth iPod unit, making it the bestselling digital music player of all time.

And the iPod has come a long way. Since the original iPod that could hold 1,000 songs, Apple has updated the model nearly every year, expanding the line to tiny workout-friendly Shuffles and Nanos and, of course, the iPhone-like iPod Touch. The current iPod classic (the model closest to the original) can hold 40,000 songs.

GPS Devices

Oh, those folding maps. For a time, they were a staple car accessory, not to mention a road trip necessity. But now, they’re almost quaint reminders of a bygone era.

In 2000, the United States discontinued a feature that deliberately degraded GPS signals available to the public.

Overnight, civilian users of GPS devices could pinpoint locations up to 10 times more accurately than before. And in the years that followed, led by Garmin, GPS devices found their way on to dashboards across the country.

Drivers retired their maps, letting voice-enabled GPS devices (or in-car navigation systems) lead them to their destinations.

Now, turn-by-turn directions and information about the nearest gas station and other points of interest are available on car dashboards, iPhones and more.

The BlackBerry

They’re known to be so addictive that they’re often called “CrackBerries.”

Research in Motion’s highly popular BlackBerry mobile device was first introduced as a two-way pager in 1999, but the now-common BlackBerry smart phone was introduced in 2002.

The handheld devices, which were initially the gadget of choice for executives and jetsetters, let users send and receive e-mail, access the Internet, take pictures, make phone calls and more.

As the price dropped, their popularity surged, and BlackBerrys found their way into the hands of everyone from urbanites to college students to stay-at-home moms.

When President Barack Obama ascended to the White House, he famously fought to keep his precious BlackBerry, despite national security concerns and a tradition of e-mail-free presidents.

Though the launch of the touchscreen iPhone challenged its share of the smart phone market, BlackBerry has held its own with an easy-to-use keyboard and sophisticated office applications and security features.

Digital cameras

Think back to 10 years ago. Did you get married? Graduate from college? Welcome a new child into the world?

Chances are, you didn’t get to see images of those major milestones until at least a few days later. Now, thanks to the proliferation of the affordable digital camera, memories are captured — and in many cases, shared — nearly instantaneously.

Though the digital camera was introduced in the 1990s, it really came into its own in the 2000s, finding its way into the hands of millions around the world. Even little kids have their own digital cameras.

Unfortunately, the downside of digital photography’s expansion is that your most embarrassing moments might live on the hard drives and Facebook accounts of countless family members and friends.

But the upside is that if you’re fast enough, you can delete those pictures before they ever see the light of day.

TiVo Digital Video Recorder

Remember when you had to make appointments with your living room television? If you wanted to watch “Friends,” “Lost” or “Monday Night Football,” you had to adjust your schedule accordingly.

The TiVo Digital Video Recorder and its more recent competitors now let you record those programs and watch them at your leisure — commercial-free

TiVo pioneered the device in 1997, but it was in the 2000s that the ad-skipping DVR really took off, sending advertisers and television programmers back to their drawing boards.

LG now offers a DVR-integrated television and some cable providers also provide DVR services.

Nintendo’s Wii

When Nintendo launched the Wii and Wii Sports in 2006, it pulled gamers off the couch and into the action, revolutionizing video game play in the process.

Using a wireless controller, players actually simulate actions such as playing tennis, baseball and boxing.

But the game has had successes beyond gaming, including teaching school children music and helping people lose weight.

The USB Flash Drive

The memory disk, the jump drive, the pendrive — or the USB.

It goes by many names but always serves the same crucial function: storing mountains of information on a miniscule device.

More durable and with more memory than its predecessor the floppy disk, flash drives help us carry documents, photos and more between work and home and school. They may be among the more humble items on this list, but simple can also be significant.

The iPhone

In June 2007, diehard Apple fans camped out on city sidewalks for days to be among the first to score the hotly anticipated iPhone. The first iPhones dropped on June 29, and within 74 days Apple had sold 1 million of its new devices.

Now it’s said that the number of iPhone and iPod touch units sold has climbed to 40 million.

Whether it’s with iPhones, BlackBerries, Android-powered phones or Palm devices, consumers increasingly send and receive e-mail, play games, watch video and access the Internet from mobile phones.

Thanks to the advent of the mobile application, like those in Apple’s App Store and the Android Marketplace, consumers also look to their handheld devices for a host of other practical — and frivolous — functions.

Whatever our desire, be it finding the closest public toilet, tracking stocks or starting a car remotely, we now know that “there’s an app for that.”

What’s behind the growth of the ever-smarter phone? Technologists say the answer is easy: the iPhone.

E-Book Reader

Bye bye, books? Maybe not quite yet, but as e-readers, such as Sony’s Reader and Amazon’s Kindle, gain in popularity, printed novels, textbooks and even newspapers and magazines are slowly retreating into the background.

Sony was the first this decade to offer an e-book reader in 2006 and Amazon’s Kindle quickly followed in 2007. But since then, as prices fall and content options rise, the market has continued to grow.

This month, research firm Forrester said 2009 has been a “breakout year” for eReaders and eBooks. By the end of the year, sales will have more than tripled with content sales up 176 percent for the year.

Netbooks

Earlier this year, some analysts predicted that the PC industry would experience its sharpest shipment decline in history. But the industry’s fate was changed largely because of one key new computing species: the netbook.

Smaller and cheaper than its cousins the laptop and desktop, the netbook has emerged as an increasingly popular PC option.

The netbooks, or mini-notebooks, can’t compete with fully-functional laptops and desktops when it comes to memory, power and battery life. But they can be had for below $300, a price closer to that of some smart phones than traditional computers.

In addition to the price, their compact size and mobility make them attractive options for consumers.

Taiwan-based Asus introduced the first netbook of the decade in 2007 when it launched the Asus Eee PC (the three “Es” stand for “Easy to learn, Easy to work, Easy to play).

But its competitor, Acer Inc. (also from Taiwan), popularized the category with its 2008 launch of the Acer Aspire One. Analysts say Acer’s version was the first to do well among retail customers, as its operating system and overall look more closely resembled traditional PCs.

In March, research firm Garter predicted that PC shipments would fall in 2009 by 11.9 percent. Now, boosted by netbook sales, the firm expects shipments to actually grow by 2.8 percent this year.

Israeli school directors head to Ethiopia

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

By Israel Moskovitch | YNet

Dozens of youth village directors have organized a joint trip to Ethiopia in which they will travel through various cities,villages, immigrant camps and Jewish centers.

The trip is not for recreation, nor is it being sponsored by the Ministry of education – these leaders will pay for their own visit to Ethiopia in the upcoming Hanukkah holiday, in hopes to better understand their students who emigrated from the African country.

“It’s the initiative of the youth village directors,” said David Elboim, director of Tom Herev Le’et, a youth village in the central Hefer Valley Regional Council, who was behind the initiative.

“The route will pass through all the areas from which students arrived: from Addis Ababa to Axum and all the way to Gondar,” Elboim added.

As part of the trip, which is filled with domestic flights and long commutes, the directors will visit the villages, immigration camps and Jewish schools where their students hail from.

“Over 50 Ethiopian students attend the Wizo Nir HaEmek youth village. This trip will allow us to better understand where these kids come from and help satisfy their needs,” explained Esti Choen, the Manager of the Wizo Nir HaEmek village, which is located near the northern city of Afula.

“We will meet with students that will study with us after making aliyah. Our current students already gave us addresses of family members, synagogues and cemeteries where their family members are buried. They are very excited about our trip,” said Cohen.

Tanzania police detains 28 Ethiopians

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Dar es Salaam (ThisDay) — Police in the east African nation of Tanzania has arrested 28 immigrants from Ethiopia yesterday. The Ethiopians were heading to  an unknown destination, probably South Africa.

The immigrants were traveling aboard a bus with registration number T245 BDD and were being escorted by two officials from the immigration department, one from the headquarters and the other from an immigration office in Temeke.

According to sources, human trafficking is now a lucrative business in border towns.

Officials from the immigration department who were escorting the Ethiopian immigrants told the police that the immigrants had just finished a one-year-term in jail at Babati Prison after being arrested living in the country illegally.

“This is a business for some officials within the immigration department who are earning money by trafficking Ethiopians and Somali people to South Africa,” sources said. After the bus had been held at Urafiki Police Post for some hours, directives from the immigration office were given to allow the bus to continue with the trip and there were no more explanations.

One of the officials escorting the immigrants said the immigrants were to take another vehicle to the border with Malawi where they will be escorted again by other officials.

Illegal immigrants from Ethiopia and Somalia are coming into Tanzania in droves taking advantage of the country’s porous borders.

Hardly does a month pass without the police and Immigration officers nabbing scores of illegal immigrants not only at border posts but deep in the inner towns of Tanzania.

British singer and humanitarian Bob Geldof opens school in Ethiopia

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

LONDON — Sir Bob Geldof fought back tears as he visited Ethiopia on a recent trip to open a school funded by the profits of his 2004 Band Aid 20 record.

Do They Know It’s Christmas? was re-recorded to raise funds five years ago, with stars including Chris Martin, Robbie Williams and Will Young participating on the record. The money raised has gone to the poorest parts of Africa, and Geldof was delighted to return to the country to open an education facility in Hagere Salaam, southern Ethiopia, which was paid for with some of the proceeds from the track.

Ethiopia visit ... Bob Geldof and Birhan Woldu with Oliver Harvey (Bob Geldof reunites with Birhan Woldu)

He reunited with Birhan Woldu, who featured in the video for the original 1984 release, and the rocker admits she has had an overwhelming affect on him since they first met. Geldof tells Britain’s The Sun newspaper, “Many people here, like beautiful Birhan, wouldn’t have been around but for the massive outpouring of generosity by the British public.”

“Birhan is the daughter of Band Aid. I feel like her stepfather. You do stupid things like a record and a concert and it really does save lives. I saw people here 25 years ago starving and on the brink of being wiped out – but now their kids are playing rock ‘n’ roll and going to school. This is a different country now. The economy is growing at seven per cent and it needs an educated workforce.”

Haile Gebreselassie invited as guest of honor at the World Cup

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

haile gebreselassie berlin marahon 2009 photo by victah sailerBy Marleen Rennings | IAAF

World marathon record holder and Ethiopia’s famous athlete Haile Gebrselassie travels this week to South Africa’s Cape Town to assist at the FIFA World Cup draw on 4 December.

In acknowledgment that Haile Gebrselassie is one of the African continent’s most celebrated and decorated athletes of all time, the multiple Olympic and World champion and world record breaker has been invited to assist Secretary General Jérôme Valcke on this important night for the 32 countries competing at the football World Cup next year.

Gebrselassie will be joined on stage by sport celebrities such as David Beckham, Makhaya Ntini who was the first black player in the South African cricket team, John Smit who is the captain of Rugby World Champions, South Africa, and Bafana Bafana defender Matthew Booth.

The Final Draw will be beamed live to an estimated audience of more than 350 million people in more than 200 territories.

Little Addis in South Africa (video)

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

A visit to Little Addis, Johannesburg, South Africa

The Ethiopian district in town is affectionally known as Little Addis. Amazing cheap food can be enjoyed. But we’re talking amazing, and amazingly cheap. We’re slowly starting to explore the area more. One place to start is Joburg Mall accessible on Jeppe Street. The first place we recommend you hit is a cute little spot called cafe Addis. Just down the passage is a spot to get dam near the finest coffee in the world. Now Im not talking Italian espresso nonsense. This stuff is roasted in front of you over a pile of burning coals, and then placed in large traditional pots that brew the coffee till it reaches amazingness. (JoBusy.com)

Ethiopia: 6 high ranking officers defected

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Six high ranking military officers of the Woyanne regime in Ethiopia have defected, Ogaden Online reports.

Recent attacks by the Ogaden National Liberation Front’s (ONLF) army may have played a role in the defection of these high ranking officers, the report adds.

All six officers who were based in a military garrison around Addis Ababa from where they had been scheduled to be deployed in Ogaden.

The names and the ranks of the officers who defected are 1. Col. Tadesse, 2. Cap. Abraha, 3. Cap. Haylo, 4. Lt. Daud, 5. Lt. Gebre, 6. Lt. Yohannes

Aside from the defections, Ogaden Online reports that there is an increased infighting within Woyanne militias “following the spectacular losses” in the hands of the ONLF fighters in the many parts of Ogaden in recent fights.

Seye Abraha's trademark arrogance endures

Monday, November 30th, 2009

The following Amharic article by editor-in-chief of Awramba Times analyzes recent political developments in Ethiopia involving the Addis Ababa-based opposition parties, particularly the joining of UDJ by two former high level Woyanne officials — Defense Minister Seye Abraha and President Negasso Gidada. The writer hammers Seye Abraha as incurably arrogant.

ስዬ ወደ አንድነት፤
የገነቡትን ለማፍረስ ወይስ ያልዘሩትን ለማጨድ

በዳዊት ከበደ

[pdf]

የቀድሞው የኢህአዴግ ፕሬዚዳንት ዶ/ር ነጋሶ ጊዳዳና የቀድሞው መከላከያ ሚኒስትር ስዬ አብርሃ አንድነት ፓርቲን በይፋ መቀላቀለቸው የሰሞኑ ዋነኛ መነጋገሪያ አጀንዳ ሆኗል፡፡ ባለፈው ሐሙስ አቶ ስዬና ዶ/ር ነጋሶ አንድነት ፓርቲን በይፋ የመቀላቀላቸውን ዜና በውጭ ድረገጾች ሲቀርብ ኢትዮጵያዊያን በዜናው ላይ የተለያዩ አስተያየቶች ሰጥተዋል፡፡ በኤሊያስ ክፍሌ የሚመራው ‹ኢትዮጵያን ሪቪው› ድረገጽ ለምርጫ እየተዘጋጁ ያሉ የኢትዮጵያ ፓርቲዎች በሁለት ጎራ ይከፍላቸዋል፡፡ በሁለቱም ጎራ ያሉ ተፋላሚዎችም ኢህአዴግ መሆናቸውን ገልጾ መጪው ምርጫ በሁለት ኢህአዴጎች መካከል የሚደረግ ምርጫ ነው ብሎታል፡፡ እሱም በአንድ በኩል መኢአድን ያቀፈውና በስልጣን ላይ ያለው ቡድን ሲሆን በሌላ በኩል ደግሞ የቀድሞ ኢህአዴግ አመራሮችን ያቀፈው አንድነት/መድረክ ነው ይላል፡፡

‹ናዝሬት› ድረገጽ በኩሉ በመላው አለም የሚገኙ ኢትዮጵያውያን በዚህ ዙሪያ አስተያየት እንዲሰጡ ባቀረበው ጥሪ መሰረት በመቶዎች የሚቆጠሩ ኢትዮጵያውያን አሰተያየታቸውን ሰጥተዋል፡፡ ከጥቂቶቹ በስተቀር የበርካቶቹ አስተያየትም አሉታዊ ነበር፡፡ በተለይ አንድ አስተያየት ሰጪ ‹እነ ስዬ የአዲስ አበባ ዩኒቨርስቲ ጓደኞቼን ያስጨፈጨፉና ለበደኖና አርባጉጉ እልቂት ተጠያቂ ናቸው፡፡ እነሱ አንድነት ፓርቲ ሳይሆን ዘ ሄግ ፍርድ ቤት ውስጥ መግባት አለባቸው የሚል አስተያየት አስፍሯል፡፡ በአንፃሩ ደግሞ ደሳለኝ አስፋው የተባሉ ፀሐፊ በ‹ኢትዮፖለቲክስ› ድረገጽ ላይ እርምጃውን በጎ ጅምር ሲሉ አድንቀዋል፡፡ በእለቱ ‹ኢትዮፎረም› ላይ አስተያየት ከሰጡ ኢትዮጵያውያን መካከልም ብዙዎች ለግለሰቦቹ ድጋፋቸውን ሰጥተዋል፡፡

ምርጫው እንደመቃረቡ መድረክ በአንድ የመወዳደሪያ ምልክት ግለሰቦቹን አቅፎ ምርጫ ውስጥ ለመግባት ሰዎቹ ከመድረክ አባል ፓርቲዎች ውስጥ ወደ አንዱ መቀላቀላቸው የግድ ነበር፡፡ በብዙዎች ዘንድ የነበረው ግምት ዶ/ር ነጋሶ ኦፌዴንን አሊያም ኦብኮን አቶ ስዬ ደግሞ ከህዋሀት የተሰናበቱ ጓዶቻቸው በመሰረቱት አረና ፓርቲ ውስጥ ይቀላቀላሉ የሚል ሰፊ መላምት ነበር፡፡ ምክንያቱም ሁለቱም ከቀድሞ ጓዶቻቸው ጋር የዘር ፖለቲካ በሀገሪቱ ስር እንዲሰድ አይነተኛ ሚና የተጫወቱ እንደመሆናቸው ከዚህ ማዕቀፍ ወጥተው አገር አቀፍ ፓርቲ ውስጥ በመግባት ደጋፊን ለማሰባሰብ መሞከር ‹ያልዘሩትን እንደማጨድ› ስለሚቆጠር ነው፡፡ እንደውም ቀላል በማይባሉ አክራሪ ደጋፊዎቻቸው ዘንድ እንደ ክህደት ሊያስቆጥርባቸው እንደሚችል ብዙዎች ግምታቸውን ይሰጣሉ፡፡ ስለሁለቱም ይህን ያህል ካልኩኝ ወደ ዋናው ርዕሰ ጉዳይ ልግባ፡፡

ከበርካታ ወራት በፊት፥ ሚያዝያ 15 ቀን 2000 ዓ.ም ረፋዱ ላይ አቶ ስዬ ስልክ ደወሉልኝና ‹ጊዜ ካለህ እቤት መጥተህ በአንዳንድ ጉዳዮች ላይ እንዲሁ በግል እንድንወያይ ፈልጌ ነበር› አሉኝ እኔም ደስተኛ መሆኔን ገልጬ ወደ አቶ ስዬ መኖሪያ ቤት አቀናሁ። ስለ አገራችን ወቅታዊ የፖለቲካ ሁኔታ፣ በወቅቱ ስለነበረው የተቃዋሚዎች እንቅስቃሴ፥ እንዲሁም ስለገዢው ፓርቲ አንዳንድ ሀሳቦች አንስተን ተወያየን። ዛሬ ስለ ያኔው ውይይታችን ሳስብ የአሁኑ የአቶ ስዬ ውሳኔ ግራ አጋብቶኛል፡፡ በወቅቱ የነበረው የተቃዋሚዎች እንቅስቃሴ የጠራ መስመር አልያዘም ነበር፡፡ እነ ወ/ት ብርቱካን አንድነትን አልመሰረቱም። እነ ኢንጅነር ኃይሉም በይፋ ወደ መኢአድ አልተመለሱም፡፡ ዶ/ር ብርሃኑም በሰላማዊ ትግል ተስፋ መቁረጣቸው ይገለጽ እንጂ ግንቦት 7 ንቅናቄን አልመሰረቱም ነበር፡፡ ሁሉም ግን በየፊናቸው በሚያደርጉት እንቅስቃሴ (ስማቸው በኢህአዴግ ቢነጠቅም) የቅንጅት አመራሮች እየተባሉ ነበር የሚጠሩት፡፡ ከአቶ ስዬ ጋር በነዚህና ሌሎች ጉዳዮች ዙሪያ ሀሳብ ከተለዋወጥን በኋላ አቶ ስዬ ‹ምናልባት ከዶ/ር ብርሃኑ ጋር መግባባት ይቻል ይሆናል፤ ከሌሎች ጋር ግን አብሮ መስራት የማይታሰብ ነው፡፡› አሉኝ፡፡ ለዚህም ሁለት ምክንያቶችን አስረግጠው ነገሩኝ፡፡ አንዱ ምክንያታቸው ይደግፈኛል ብለው የሚተማመኑበት የትግራይ ህዝብ በ1997 ምርጫ ሙሉ ድጋፉን ለህወሓት የሰጠ ከመሆኑም በላይ ገዥው ፓርቲ ቅንጅትን ከ‹ኢንተርሃምዌ› ጋር በማያያዝ ትግራይ ውስጥ ሰፊ ቅስቀሳ ማካሄዱን አስታውሰው ዛሬ ከቅንጅት አመራሮች ጋር ጥምረት ፈጥሮ ትግራይ ውስጥ ድጋፍ ለማሰባሰብ መሞከር ከባድ እንደሚሆን ስጋታቸውን ገለፁልኝ፡፡ ከዚህ ጋርም አያይዘው አሜሪካ ውስጥ ከዶ/ር ብርሃኑ ጋር ፖለቲካዊ ውይይት ስለማካሄዳቸው ኢህአዴግ ሆን ብሎ የነዛው እና ስዬ ቅንጅት ሆነ ብሎ በትግራይ ህዝብ ዘንድ እንዲጠሉ ለማድረግ የሸረበው ሴራ መሆኑን አጫወቱኝ፡፡ በውይይታችን መሀል ያነሳነው ሁለተኛው ነጥብ የተቀዋሚዎች መንደር ‹የንትርክ አውድማ› የመሆኑ ጉዳይ ነበር፡፡ በዚህ ዙሪያ አቶ ስዬ እስከ ቅርብ ጊዜ ድረስ ተመሳሳይ አቋም እንደነበራቸው ግልፅ ነው፡፡ በዚህ አመት መጀመሪያ ላይ ከአንድነት ወጣቶች አባል እንዲሆኑ ለቀረበላቸው ጥሪ ‹አንድነት ያልተሰራ ቤት ነው፡፡› በማለት ጥያቄውን ውድቅ ማድረጋቸው አይዘነጋም፡፡ ታዲያ ያ ያልተሰራ ቤት ከመቼው ተሰርቶ ዛሬ ለአቶ ስዬ ዝግጁ ሆነ? መልስ የሌለው ጥያቄ ነው፡፡

እንደ አንድ ኢትዮጵያዊ ዜጋ ሁለቱም አንድነት ፓርቲ ውስጥ መግባታቸው አልቃወምም፡፡ ከዛ ባሻገር ግን ዶ/ር ነጋሶ በይፋ የሰሩት ስዬ ግን ‹በመቃበሬ ላይ› የሚሉት አንድ ወሳኝ የቤት ስራ መኖሩን ግን መጠቆም እፈልጋለሁ፡፡ አቶ መለስ ባለፈው አመት የተከሰተውና መጠነ ሰፊ ኢኮኖሚያዊ ምስቅልቅል ያስከተለውን የኤሌትሪክ መቋረጥ አስመልቶ የኢትዮጵያን ህዝብ ይቅርታ እንዲጠይቁ ከተቃዋሚ የፓርላማ አባላት ጥያቄ ሲቀርብላቸው ‹ድህነት ይቅርታ ይጠይቃችሁ እንጂ እኔ አላደርገውም› ማለታቸውን እናስታውስ፡፡ በመሰረቱ የምትመራውን ህዝብ ይቅርታ መጠየቅ የአክብሮት እንጂ የሽንፈት መገለጫ አይደለም፡፡ ለኢህአዴግ መሪዎች ግን ይቅርታ መጠየቅ የአለም ፍጻሜ ነው፡፡ አቶ ስዬም በይቅርታ ላይ ያላቸው አቋም ተመሳሳይ ነው፡፡ ይህ ደግሞ የህወሓት አክራሪነት ባህሪ እስካሁን እንዳልለቀቃቸው ከማሳየት ውጪ ሌላ መልዕክት የለውም፡፡ አቶ ስዬ ከ1968 ዓ/ም ጀምሮ እስከ 1993 ዓ/ም ድረስ በከፍተኛ ወታደራዊ አመራርነት ደረጃ ጥሩ አዋጊና ተዋጊ እንደነበሩ ይነገርላቸዋል፡፡ ከ1983 ዓ/ም እስከ ተሰናበቱበት 1993 ዓ/ም ድረስ በተለያዩ የመንግስትና የፓርቲ ኃላፊነት ላይ አገልግለዋል፡፡ መከላከያ ሚኒስትር፣ የኢትዮጵያ አየር መንገድ የቦርድ ሊቀመንበር፣ በአሁኑ ወቅት በአዜብ መስፍን የሚመራው ኤፌርት ዳይሬክተር፣ የፓርላማ አባል፣ የህወሓት ፖሊት ቢሮ አባል እንዲሁም የሌሎች በርካታ ሹመቶች ባለቤት ሆነው ‹ጦርነትን መፍጠር እንችላለን› እስከማለት የደረሱት ሰውዬ ‹ንፁህ ሰው ነኝ ይቅርታ አልጠይቅም› ሲሉ አሳማኝ አይደለም፡፡

በሌላ በኩል ዶ/ር ነጋሶ ባለፈው ሀሙስ የኢትዮጵያን ህዝብ በይፋ ይቅርታ ጠይቀዋል፡፡ በርግጥ ከዛም በፊት በተደጋጋሚ ‹ሳላውቅ ተታልዬ መጠቀሚያ ሆንኩ› ሲሉ ብዙ ጊዜ ተደምጠዋል፡፡ ብዙ ሰዎች የዶክተሩን አባባል ‹የመለስ መጠቀሚያ ነበርኩ› የሚል አንድምታ እንዳለው አድርገው ይመለከታሉ፡፡ በኔ እምነት ይህ የዋህነት ነው፡፡ ነጋሶ ኢህአዴግ ውስጥ በነበሩበት ወቅት ስዬ ከመለስ ባልተናነሰ ሁኔታ የህወሓት አድራጊ ፈጣሪ እንደነበሩ መዘንጋት የለብንም፡፡ እናም ነጋሶን መጠቀሚያ በማድረጉ ሴራ ውስጥ ስዬ ጭራሽ የሉበትም ማለት ዘበት ነው፡፡ ነገር ግን ነጋሶ ይቅርታ ሲጠይቁ ስዬ ግን እምቢተኛ የሚሆኑበት ምክንያት ግልጽ አይደለም፡፡ በ2000 ዓ/ም መጀመሪያ ወራት አቶ ስዬ ወደ አሜሪካ አቅንተው ኢትዮጵያዊያንን ባነጋገሩበት ወቅት ይቅርታ ይጠይቁ ዘንድ ሀሳብ ቀርቦላቸው ነበር፡፡ ስዬ ግን አስቂኝ ምላሽ ነበር የሰጡት፡፡ እንዲህም አሉ ‹እዚህ አዳራሽ ውስጥ የኢህአፓ አባላት የነበራችሁ፣ ደርግ ውስጥ ያገለገላችሁ፣ መኢሶን የነበራችሁ ልትኖሩ ትችላላችሁ፡፡ ሁሉም በየፊናው ስህተት ሰርቷል፡፡ ነገር ግን ሁላችንም የይቅርታን ሂሳብ በማወራረድ ጊዜ ከምናጠፋ ለወደፊት ምን ማድረግ እንዳለብን ብንወያይ ይሻላል፡፡› ነበር ያሉት፡፡ ይህ አባባል ለኔ አሳማኝ አልመሰለኝም፡፡ የራስን ጥፋት የደርግ አባላት ከሰሩት ጥፋት ጋር እያነፃፀሩ እናንተ ካልጠየቃችሁ አልጠይቅም ማለት በትጥቅ ትግል ከተፋለሟቸው ሰዎች ጋር ራስን ማወዳደር ብቻውን ይቅርታ ያስጠይቃል፡፡

አንድ ነገር ግልጽ መሆን ያለበት ይመስለኛል፡፡ ጉዳዩ የስዬ ይቅርታ የመጠየቅ ያለመጠየቅ ግለሰባዊ ጉዳይ ብቻ ሆኖ መታየት የለበትም፡፡ የኢትዮጵያን ህዝብ አመኔታን አግኝቶ ወደ ፊት ለመራመድ ምርጫው ይሄ ብቻ ስለሆነ እንጂ፡፡ አለበለዚያ ግን ‹ቂም ይዞ ፀሎት› ይሆናል፡፡ ይቅርታ የመጠየቅ ክቡር ስብዕና የተመካው ለኢትዮጵያ ህዝብ ከሚኖረው አክብሮትና እንዲፈጠር ከሚፈለገው የመቻቻል ሰርዓት አንፃር እንጂ በተለያየ ተሳትፎ ውስጥ ያለፉ ሌሎች ወገኖች ለጉዳዩ በሚሰጡት ምላሽ የሚሆንበት ምንም ስነ አመክንዮ የለም፡፡ ሌሎች አካላት ይቅርታ አለመጠየቃቸው ከደሙ ንፁህ የመሆንን ዋስትናም አያጎናጽፍም፡፡

ሰሞኑን አንዳንድ የተቃዋሚ ፓርቲ አባላት የሚጠበቅብንን ያህል አልሰራንም ብለው ይቅርታ እየጠየቁ ባሉበት ሁኔታ የገዥ ፓርቲ ከፍተኛ አመራር የነበረ ሰው ‹ድሮም አሁንም ትክክል ነኝ› ብሎ የተቃዋሚዎችን መንደር በነፃነት ሲቀላቀል አንድም የተቃውሞ ጎራውን ከልቡ አላመነበትም አሊያም ደግሞ እራስን በሰማየ ሰማያት ላይ ከማስቀመጥ የመነጨ ግለሰባዊ ጀብደኝነት ነው፡፡

አንድነት ፓርቲም ህዝብን የሚያከብር ከሆነ እንዲህ አይነቱን ውዥንብር አጥርቶ መሄድ ያለበት ይመስለኛል፡፡ ፕሬስ የህግ የበላይነት እንዲሰፍን፣ ተጠያቂነት እንዲኖር፣ አምባገነኖች የሚያራምዱትን ኢዴሞክራሲያዊ አሰራር እንደሚኮንን ሁሉ ተቃዋሚዎች ውስጥም ችግር ሲኖር ፕሬሱ ችግሩን ማጋለጥ አለበት፡፡ በግሌ አንድነት ውስጥ አንድ መሰረታዊ ችግር ይታየኛል፡፡ ፕሬስ ገዥውን ፓርቲ ብቻ እንዲኮንን፣ እንዲያጋልጥ አንድነት ውስጥ ያለውን ድክመት ግን አይቶ እንዳላየ አድበስብሶት ብቻ እንዲያልፍ ግዴታ ያለበት አድርጎ እንዲገነዘብ የማድረግ ችግር ይታየኛል፡፡ የውስጥ ችግራችንን ማንም አይስማው፤ የፕሮፌሰር እከሌን መጣጥፍ ለምን አተማችሁ ብሎ ፕሬስን ማሳቀቅ ፓርቲው ከቅንጅት ይልቅ ‹የኢህአዴግ ሞራላዊ ወራሽ› እየሆነ መሄዱን ያሳያል፡፡

ለዚም ይመስላል አቶ ስዬ ከባህሪያቸው ጋር የሚጣጣም ፓርቲ መርጠው የተቀላቀሉት፡፡ በጥር ወር 2000 ዓ/ም ፕሮፌሰር መስፍን ወ/ማርያም የስዬን ቃለምልልስ መነሻ በማድረግ በፃፉት መጣጥፍ ‹ስዬ ተለውጧል› ብለው ነበር፡፡ እኔ ግን በፕሮፌሰሩ አባባል አልስማማም፡፡ ስዬ በጭራሽ አልተለወጡም፤ አሁንም አምባገነን ናቸው፡፡

በሚያዝያ እና ግንቦት 2000 ዓ/ም ከአውራምባ ታይምስ ጋር ሁለት ጊዜ ሰፋፊ ቃለምልልስ አካሂደው ነበር፡፡ በወቅቱ የአንባቢ አስተያየት ምን እንደሚመስል በየሰዓቱ እየደወሉ ይጠይቁኝ ነበር፡፡ ነገር ግን የተስፋዬ ገ/አብ የጋዜጠኛው ማስታወሻ መፅሐፍ የካቲት 10 ቀን 2001 ዓ/ም ዳሰሳው በአውራምባ ታይምስ ጋዜጣ ላይ ሲሰራ ስዬን በተመለከተ ደራሲው ያሰፈረውን ፅሁፍ በጋዜጣው ላይ በከፊል መጠቀሱ ክፉኛ አበሳጭቷቸዋል፡፡ አጋጣሚ ሆኖ ደራሲው አቶ ስዬን በመልካም ሁኔታ አልጠቀሳቸውምና ጋዜጣው ዳሰሳውን ሲሰራ ምን ማድረግ እንደነበረበት ባይገባኝም፤ አውራምባ የሳቸውን ‹መልካም ገፅታ› ብቻ የመፃፍ ግዴታ የተጣለበት ይመስል መበሳጨታቸው እጅግ አስገርሞኛል፡፡ በርግጥ አቶ ስዬ ለረጅም አመታት ካካበቱት ‹ነገሮችን በጉልበት የመፍታት ልምድ› አንፃር ለሰላማዊ ትግል አዲስ ስለሆኑ ለእርሳቸው የሚቀርብ የትግል ስልት ከሚከተሉ ወገኖች ጋር መቀላቀል ነበረባቸው፡፡ ነገር ግን በሰላማዊ ትግል ቆርበናል ከሚሉት ጋር እስከቀጠሉ ድረስ ትእግስት የግድ ነውና በተለይ ሀሳብን በነፃ የመግለጽ መብትን ሊያከብሩ ይገባል፡፡ የትግል ስልትም ቢቀይሩ ይህንን መሰረታዊ መብት ማክበር ግድ ይላልና::

(ዳዊት ከበደ የአውራምባ ታይምስ ጋዜጣ ማኔጂንግ ኤዲተር ነው)

Human rights defenders under siege in Ethiopia

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Soon to be Implemented, Ethiopia’s Civil Society Law is the Most Restrictive of its Kind in Sub-Saharan Africa; Law Draws Inspiration from Similarly Repressive Laws in Zimbabwe, Russia and Singapore

Chicago, Ill. – The Northwestern University School of Law’s Center for International Human Rights, in a report released today and available at northwestern.edu, has found that Ethiopia’s new Civil Society Law violates Ethiopia’s human rights obligations by effectively silencing independent civil society organizations, particularly human rights defenders and advocates of democratic governance that provide critical services to Ethiopia’s most vulnerable citizens.

The report, entitled Sounding the Horn: Ethiopia’s Civil Society Law Threatens Human Rights Defenders, concludes that the new CSO law violates Ethiopia’s human rights obligations as well as the Ethiopian Constitution and thus should be rescinded immediately. Upon implementation of the new law in January 2010, all foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will be prohibited from engaging in activities pertaining to human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, disability rights, citizenship rights, conflict resolution or democratic governance. Even local NGOs that receive more than ten percent of their funding from foreign sources are considered “foreign” under this law. The report finds that: “Since the vast majority of domestic NGOs in Ethiopia receive the bulk of their funds from foreign sources, the new CSO law will force them to either close their doors or drastically alter the scope of their work.”

The Ethiopian government has long been hostile to human rights defenders. For decades the government has harassed civil society organizations and their leaders. In fact, the director of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers’ Association (EWLA) recently fled the country after the government retaliated against the EWLA for its description of the government’s human rights record.

Unless the Ethiopian government repeals the CSO law, it will be implemented one year after its enactment, on January 6, 2010. The report calls upon the Ethiopian government to rescind the law as soon as possible.

(The Center for International Human Rights is part of the Northwestern University School of Law’s Bluhm Legal Clinic. The Center provides a comprehensive range of classroom courses on the norms and mechanisms of international human rights law, international criminal law, and international humanitarian law, provides valuable clinical experiences for students interested in the protection of human rights on a global scale, and engages in research and other projects regarding emerging human right norms and related issues. Contacts: Sandra Babcock, s-babcock@law.northwestern.edu; Nicolas Martinez, n-martinez@law.northwestern.edu)

More on Col. Mengistu and Prof. Mesfin

Monday, November 30th, 2009

The Addis Ababa-based weekly Awramba Times has more details on former President of Ethiopia Col. Mengistu Hailemariam’s soon-to-be-released book in its latest issue that came out today.

Quoting inside sources, Awramba writes that the book touches many unanswered questions and controversial issues, such as who killed Atse HaileSelassie, and the circumstances under which he left Ethiopia.

Awramba also reports about the political circus at Addis Ababa’s Imperial Hotel Saturday where Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam’s supporters forced the cancellation of UDJ’s general assembly meeting by blocking the entrance to the meeting hall. The general assembly was expected to elect former defense minister Seye Abraha and president Negasso Gidada to the party’s executive committee. Click here to read.

Prof. Mesfin and followers disrupt UDJ meeting (video)

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

A general assembly meeting called today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ) was canceled when supporters of Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam, who recently resigned from the leadership, blocked entrance to the meeting hall. Watch the video below:

Ethiopians sweep Obudu

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

LAGOS, NIGERIA (APA) — Ethiopia’s Habtamu Awash was the winnner of Nigeria’s 5th Obudu Ranch Mountain race, beating 2008 champion, Ababe Dinkesa, also of Ethiopia to the fifth position on Saturday.

With a time of 42.03 minutes, Awash beat more than 160 mountain runners in the 11km race from Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Cameroon, Rwanda, Holland and the host country Nigeria to clinch the first position and a cash prize of US$50,000.

The second position in the male category was won by Geoffry Kusuro of Uganda with a time of 42.11 minutes and received US$20,000, while the third position went to MacDonald Ondara with a time of 42.14 minutes and received US$9,000.

In the female category dominated by the Ethiopians, Manilu Daska of Ethiopia won the race with a time of 49.12 minutes and a cash prize of US$50,000.

The second position was won by another Ethiopian Mastawet Tufa with a time of 49.31 minutes and she received US$20,000, while the third position went to Meselech Hileyesus, also an Ethiopian, with a time of 49.54 minutes.

In local runners category, Danjuma Gyang of Nigeria won the first position in the male race with a time of 48.57 minutes and Janet Dung came first in the female group with 59.56 minutes.

U.K. police renews appeal to find missing Ethiopian woman

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

Konjit AssefaHARTLEPOOL, UK (Hartlepool Mail) — POLICE have renewed their appeals to find a missing Ethiopian woman who vanished three months ago during an exchange programme.

Konjit Assefa, 22, was visiting Hartlepool as part of a nine-strong group of Africans when she went missing at around noon on Tuesday, August 25.

Three other Ethiopian members of the Global Exchange programme, all men in their 20s, also disappeared during a trip to London, though one later made contact and was deported.

A Cleveland Police spokesman said: “We are appealing for information regarding a missing Ethiopian woman.

“She had been living in the Headland area of the town as part of an exchange programme.

“At the time of her disappearance she is believed to have been wearing stone washed jeans with a black and grey hooded top and was carrying a small black and red rucksack.”

The Mail reported how Hartlepool Police joined forces with London’s Metropolitan Police in searching for the missing men who disappeared during a tour of the Houses of Parliament on July 15.

Zerihun Weldeyohans Alaro, 24, later contacted organisers after staying with family in London, but was deported.

Exchange visitors Habtamu Debella, 27, and Muluneh Tilahun, 21, are still missing with the UK Border Agency saying they are now as all of the group’s visas ran out on September 9.

The Global Exchange programme involves 18 volunteers, nine from the UK and nine from Ethiopia, living in Hartlepool while working for community organisations.

The team had just finished the second part of the exchange, having already spent three months in Africa.

Programme leaders told the Mail in the summer that they will seriously think about which countries they work with in the light of the disappearances.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Hartlepool Police on (01642) 302126.

Saudi military detains 75 Ethiopians

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

JEDDAH (Arab News) — Prince Khaled ibn Sultan, Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Minister of Defense, announced that 75 Ethiopians and 70 Somalis were caught during military operations along the country’s southern borders.

He did not provide details about where and when the Ethiopians and Somalis were arrested but said they would be interrogated and added that the Kingdom deals with prisoners of war according to Islamic teachings.

Prince Khaled ibn Sultan also cast doubts on the veracity of news reports on several Yemeni websites that six wounded Saudi soldiers are currently undergoing medical treatment in Yemen.

“These reports are not confirmed. I do not think they are correct. We only consider authentic reports. The only true thing so far is that nine Saudi military men are missing. We have announced them by name and we cannot say where they are now,” he told reporters after a tour of the Saudi southern borders Saturday.

A number of Yemeni websites said Yemeni forces came across six wounded Saudi soldiers in Yemeni territory and took them to hospital for treatment. The Yemeni authorities have not confirmed or denied these reports.

“These reports have not been confirmed. I do not think they are truthful,” Prince Khaled said confirming that the Saudi forces are in complete control of the Al-Dood Mountain and its strategically important peak.

Asked when the purging operations would end, Prince Khaled said: “We are not in a hurry. The fighting situation is good. Our objective, set by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, is to minimize human losses and inflict maximum damage possible on the enemy.”

Prince Khaled on Sunday visited the injured Saudi soldiers at the Armed Forces Hospital in Jazan wishing them quick recovery and congratulating them on the Eid Al-Adha.

Mengistu Hailemariam writes a memoir

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

0000159391-001Former president of Ethiopia Mengistu Hailemariam writes a new book — a memoir — that is expected to be released in a few weeks.

Woyanne journalist and publisher Amare Aregawi is also releasing a new book soon, according to Tesfaye Gebreab. It would be interesting to read what he says about his arch nemesis Al Amoudi.

Mengistu’s books is a tell-all account of his 17 years of bloody rule, Ethiopian Review has learned. However, Tesfaye, in his report below, expresses doubt as to how much Mengistu will reveal. We will find out soon.

No matter what, it is a good thing that books and memoirs are being written by Ethiopians who have played a role in shaping the country’s history — whether their role was good or bad.

Aregawi Berhe’s recently released book, A Political History of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, is one such book.

I recently met with Tesfaye Gebreab in Asmara where he is currently doing research for his new book. It happens that Woyanne has a lot of secrets burried in Eritrea.  Tesfaye hopes to release his book, “Ye Derasiw Mastawesha,” in January 2010. If you think “Ye Gazetegnaw Mastawesha” was a shocker, wait until you read the new book. It lays bare some of Woyanne’s most closely guarded secrets. – Elias Kifle

ዜና መፃህፍት – ከተስፋዬ ገብረአብ

ሁለት ዜናዎች ሰማሁ።

መንግስቱ ሃይለማርያምና እና አማረ አረጋዊ መፃህፍት ፅፈዋል። እንደሰማሁት የሁለቱም መፃህፍት ማተሚያ ቤት ገብተዋል። ድንቅ ነው!

ምን ፅፈው ይሆን?

ኮሎኔል መንግስቱ እንዲያው የአበሻ ነገር ካለሆነበት፤ ያበጠው ይፈንዳ፤ ያላበጠው ይበጥ! ብሎ ሁሉን እንደወረደ ቢነግረን አዲስ የግልፅነት አብዮት ማፈንዳት ይችል ነበር። እንደሰማሁት ከሆነ ግን መንጌ ቴክሱ አሁንም በጥቁር አንሶላ ራሱን ለመሸፋፈን ሞክሮአል። ረቂቅ ፅሁፉን ያነበቡ ሰዎች እንደሚሉት ኮሎኔሉ ከበፊቱ በተሻለ ሁኔታ ግልፅ ለመሆን ቢሞክርም ገና ልቡን ከፍቶ ሁሉን ሊነግረን ዝግጁ አይደለም። የሆነው ሆኖ መፅሃፉ ታትሞ እሳከነበው ቸኩያለሁ።

የቀድሞ ወዳጄ አማረ አረጋዊም እንዲሁ፤ “አደገኛ መፅሃፍ ፅፌያለሁ” ብሎ ለጋራ ወዳጃችን ነግሮታል። አማረ እንደተናገረው ሁሉን ፍርጥርጥ አድርጎ ፅፎ ከሆነ፣ ሊደብቀን ካልፈለገ በቀር፤ ብዙ ምስጢርና አዲስ ነገር ሊነግረን እንደሚችል ተስፋ አለኝ። ምክንያቱም አማረ ከህወሃት ነባር ታጋዮች አንዱ የነበረ፤ በፕሮፓጋንዳው ክፍል ከመለስ ዜናዊና ከአለምሰገድ ገብረአምላክ ጋር በተመጣጣኝ አቅምና ስልጣን ላይ የነበረ፤ አሁንም ከህወሃት ያሻውን መረጃ ማግኘት የሚችል በመሆኑ ብዙ ያውቃል ብቻ ሳይሆን ሁሉን ያውቃል! ጥሩ የስነፅሁፍ ችሎታ እንዳለውም አውቃለሁ። በአናቱ ደግሞ ፈሪ አይደለም።

የሆነው ሆኖ በቅርቡ ሁለት መፃህፍት የምናገኝ ከሆነ ጠቃሚ ነው። መልካም ንባብ ለሁላችን!

Girma WoldeGiorgis hosts dinner for Hailu Sheweden

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

hailu shawel lidetu ayalew and bereket simon nov 2009_145323.jpg-145749Woyanne puppet and fake president of Ethiopia, Girma WoldeGiorgis, hosts a dinner party for Hailu Shawel, Lidetu Ayalew and other traitors and hodams at the Menelik palace.

It seemed from the video that Girma, the 400-pound fat pig, could not wait to finish his short speech and start stuffing his face with all the food piled on his table.

During the dinner, while sharing a bottle of Whiskey with Bereket Simon, Hailu Sheweden may have been dreaming about taking over Girma’s place as another fake president.

The photo above shows Hailu, Lidetu and Bereket sharing a table at the dinner, feasting on the blood of those innocent Ethiopians that Bereket and Meles slaughtered. Watch also a video of the reception at EthioTube.net (click here).

A big loss to DC area bars and night clubs

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Woyanne ambassador to Washington, Dr (Drunkard) Samuel Assefa, departs. However, it is rumored that he may not return to Ethiopia. He is contacting some colleges in the U.S. for a teaching position.

Samuel AssefaWASHINGTON DC (VOA) — Ethiopia’s [Woyanne] ambassador to the United States, Samuel Assefa, said his goodbyes last week at a reception at the Ethiopian embassy. Today is his last official day in Washington.

“Farewell,” said the former professor of philosophy and Addis Ababa University vice president, who took the hot seat when Ethiopia was suffering the aftermath of the 2005 election crisis. The diaspora was carrying the green-yellow-red national flag to protest the government arrest of members of the opposition in Addis.

The former academic also had to face Congress on a bill that would strong-arm his government into sweeping democratic reforms. “I thought it would be difficult, I had no idea what difficult meant,” he recalls. Speakers at his reception said the ambassador did a good job in a tough situation, but reports are that a replacement is not coming anytime soon.

Five months after Yamamoto left Addis to become principal deputy assistant secretary in the State Department Bureau of African Affairs, there is no new ambassador in Addis.

“It is a mistake,” says former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn, “that Washington has not assigned a full-time ambassador to Ethiopia. “The administration should have named someone several months ago.

“They are behind the curve already and the longer this drags out, the more difficult it is going to be for the United States to play the role it should be playing in Addis Ababa in the run-up to the election,” said Shinn. The embassy is currently headed by Ambassador Roger Meece, who is retired from a lengthy career as a foreign service officer in embassies in central and western Africa. He is on temporary assignment to Addis as charge’ d’affaires.

Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, who is now deputy assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon, served as charge’ in Addis in the aftermath of the 2005 elections. She said Meece has the confident of the State Department. “So, I think he can do whatever a full-time ambassador can do.”

Shinn said unless the White House names a candidate in the coming two weeks, the process of Senate confirmation will not come in time to place a new ambassador in Addis before the May 2010 elections.

Ethiopia's Tekeze Dam fiasco

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

The recently completed Tekeze hydroelectric dam in Ethiopia is said to be the largest public works project in Africa. It also could turn in to the biggest blunder with disastrous environmental impact, as the investigative report below tries to illustrate. There is so much secrecy surrounding the project that it is not even clear who really paid for it, although the ruling Woyanne junta claims that it has provided all the funding.

By Brady Yauch | Probe International

The vastly over-budget and long-delayed Tekeze hydro-electric in Ethiopia is finally finished. The project, which was first proposed seven years ago and was scheduled to be competed in 2008, in the end cost $360-million—$136-million over budget.

At 185 metres, the dam—developed and built by the state-owned Chinese National Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Corporation, now known as Sinohydro—is the largest of its kind in Africa and is expected to produce 300 MW of electricity.

Who financed the dam, is not entirely clear.

According to the World Bank, in 2002, China’s state-owned Export-Import (Exim) Bank provided $50 million in concessional financing for this US$224 million dam. But a Taiwanese news source said the China National Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Corporation that built the dam, financed it entirely.  Nor is it clear yet, who will pay for the cost overruns, delays, and lost revenue: according to one report, the Ethiopian government is demanding compensation from the consortium for these losses.

The secrecy surrounding the financing of the Tekeze dam is not unusual. World Bank researchers had to comb Chinese language sources to scrape together enough information to conclude that relatively little is known about the value of Chinese finance for African infrastructure projects in general. They did manage to conclude, however, that most of the financing goes through China’s Ex-Im bank on concessional terms which are better than private sector terms, but not as heavily subsidized as official development assistance from old-time aid agencies like the World Bank. China often gives infrastructure financing in return for natural resources, such as oil, to feed its booming domestic economy.

Though it isn’t exactly clear whose taxpayers—Ethiopia’s or China’s—are paying for this dam, it is clear that the problems Chinese dam builders are having with their dams at home are being visited on their Ethiopian customers: plans to raise the reservoir of the massive Three Gorges dam to its maximum height are on hold because of fears of massive landslides caused by rising and falling reservoir levels. Experts are now beginning to question whether the Three Gorges dam will ever be able to reach its maximum power generating capacity.

At the Tekeze dam, dubbed with the unfortunate moniker the “Three Gorges of Africa,” the same problem is occurring: a massive landslide in April 2008 forced developers to spend an additional $42 million on retaining walls to keep the slopes from eroding.

The Tekeze dam is just the first of many more hydro-electric projects that the Chinese want to build in Ethiopia. The state-run Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo) is building, or has plans to build, at least six other hydro electric projects in the country and the Gezhouba Group Company and Sinohydro Corporation have agreed to build two of the six hydro electric projects: the $408-million Genale Dawa 3 hydropower project and the $555-million Chemoga Yeda hydropower project, respectively. Ethiopian officials expect that once all the hydro electric projects are completed, the excess power will be exported to neighboring countries.

Patricia Adams, Executive Director of Probe International, and a long time critic of foreign aid and export credit says Ethiopia should beware of free lunches, whether in the form of heavily subsidized foreign aid from the West or subsidized export credit from China.

“Subsidized project financing is usually given for political reasons, not because an investment is economically viable,” she says. “It usually distorts decisions and locks governments and consumers into ongoing costs. African governments would do better to let the discipline of the market choose projects that will truly generate enough wealth to pay investors back.”

India commits $4.2 billion to buy farm land from Ethiopia

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Didn’t the dumb regime in Ethiopia say that 6 million people are currently facing starvation because of rain shortage? If so, how are the Indians and Saudis going to grow crops on the land they are buying from the regime — the same land that we are told cannot produce food for Ethiopians?

How about the question of sovereignty? These land leases and international agreements that are signed by the illegitimate regime in Ethiopia that has no mandate to govern are serious threats to Ethiopia’s long term interest. In early last century, the British signed away the Nile River to Egypt without Ethiopia’s knowledge and now if Ethiopia tries to adjust or cancel the treaty, it will face war, as the government of Egypt warned recently. When the Woyanne regime goes away, if a new regime tries to adjust or terminate all these ill-advised land lease treaties, Ethiopia may face war from the 1-billion-strong India, not to mention Saudi Arabia, Korea and the other countries that are taking over Ethiopia’s land at “bargain-basement prices.” Woyanne’s land giveaway in such a manner is the worst kind of treason.

Washington Post reports the following on the scramble for Ethiopia’s land.

Ethiopia — In recent months, the Ethiopian regime began marketing abroad one of the hottest commodities in an increasingly crowded and hungry world: farmland.

”Why attractive?” reads one glossy poster with photos of green fields and a map outlining swathes of the country available at bargain-basement prices. ”Vast, fertile, irrigable land at low rent. Abundant water resources. Cheap labour. Warmest hospitality.”

This impoverished and chronically food-insecure nation is fast becoming one of the world’s leading destinations for the booming business of land leasing, by which relatively rich countries and investment firms are securing 40-to-99-year contracts to farm vast tracts of land.

Governments across South-East Asia, Latin America and especially Africa are trying to attract this new breed of investors, creating land-leasing agencies and land catalogues to display their offerings of earth.

In Africa alone, experts estimate more than 20 million hectares have been leased in the past two years.

The trend is driven in part by last year’s global food crisis. Wealthy countries are shoring up their food supplies by growing staple crops abroad. The desert kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for instance, is shifting wheat production to Africa. The government of India, where land is crowded and overfarmed, is offering incentives to companies to carve out mega-farms across the continent.

Increasingly, though, purely profit-seeking companies are snatching up land, making a simple, grim, calculation. As one Saudi-backed businessman here put it: ”The population of the world is increasing dramatically, so land and food supplies will be short, demand will be higher and prices will rise.”

The scale and pace of the land scramble have alarmed policymakers and others concerned about the implications for food security in countries such as Ethiopia, where officials recently appealed for food aid for about 6 million people as drought devastates East Africa.

A code of conduct to govern land deals was discussed on the sidelines of last week’s UN Food and Agriculture Organisation food security summit in Rome. ”These contracts are pretty thin; no safeguards are being introduced,” David Hallam, a deputy director at the FAO, said. ”You see statements from ministers where they’re basically promising everything with no controls, no conditions.”

The harshest critics conjure images of poor Africans starving as food is hauled off to rich countries. Some express concern that decades of industrial farming will leave good land spoiled even as local populations surge. And sceptics also say the political contexts cannot be ignored.

”We don’t trust this government,” said Merera Gudina, a leading opposition figure who accuses the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, of using the land policy to hold on to power. ”We are afraid this government is buying diplomatic support by giving away land.”

But many experts are hopeful, saying that big agribusiness could feed millions by industrialising agriculture in countries such as Ethiopia, where about 80 per cent of its 75 million people are farmers who plow their fields with oxen.

”If these deals are negotiated well, I tell you, it will change the dynamics of the food economy in this country,” said Mafa Chipeta, the FAO’s representative in Ethiopia, dismissing the worst-case scenarios. ”I can’t believe Ethiopia or any other government would allow their country to be used like an empty womb. The human spirit would not allow it.”

Few countries have embraced the trend as zealously as Ethiopia, where hard-baked eastern deserts fade into spectacularly lush and green western valleys fed by the Blue Nile. Only a quarter of the country’s estimated 70 million fertile hectares is being farmed.

Desperate for foreign currency, the government of former Marxist rebels who once proclaimed ”land to the tiller!” has set aside more than 2.5 million hectares for agribusiness. Lured with 40-year leases and tax holidays, investors are going on farm shopping sprees, crisscrossing the country to pick out swathes of Ethiopian soil.

”There’s no crop that doesn’t grow in Ethiopia,” said Esayas Kebede, who works for a government agribusiness agency, adding that too many requirements on investors might scare them off. ”Everybody is coming.”

Especially Indian companies, which have committed $US4.2 billion ($4.6 billion).

Anand Seth, director general of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations, described Africa as ”the next big thing” in investment opportunities and markets.

As he stood on a hill overlooking 12,000 hectares of rich, black soil, Hanumantha Rao, chief general manager of the Indian company Karuturi Agro Products, agreed. So far, he said, the Ethiopian Government has imposed few requirements on his company. ”From here, you can see the past and the future of Ethiopian agriculture.”

From there – a farm just west of Addis Ababa – it was possible to see a river designated for irrigating cornfields and rice paddies; it is no longer open for locals to water their cows.

Several shiny green tractors bounced across the field where teff, the local grain, once grew. Hundreds of Ethiopian workers, overseen by Indian supervisors, were bent over rows of corn stalks, cutting weeds tangled around them with small blades. Many of the workers were children.

The day rate: 8 birr – about 70 cents.

”The people are very happy,” Rao said. ”We have no problems with them.”

As a worker spoke to one of his supervisors, he whispered that the company had refused to sign a wage contract and had failed to deliver promised water and power to nearby villages.

Supervisors treat them cruelly, he said, and most workers were just biding time until they could go work for a Chinese construction company rumoured to pay $2 to $4 a day.

”We are not happy,” said the man, a farmer-turned-tractor driver who did not give his name because he feared being fired.

”I’m a machine operator and I make 800 birr [about $65] a month. This is the most terrible pay.”

Rao said he had trained about 60 Ethiopians to drive tractors; others would learn to run shellers and how to fertilise and irrigate land. If things work as they should, he said, Ethiopians will adopt the modern techniques in their own farms.

Along a muddy road leading to Karuturi farm, people said they were hopeful that might happen. But they were not sure how. Ethiopians cannot own land, instead holding ”use certificates” for their tiny plots, making it difficult to get loans, or to sell or increase holdings.

”We think they might be beneficial to us in the future,” said Yadeta Fininsa, referring to the new companies coming to town. ”But so far we have not benefited anything.”

(Souce: The Washington Post)

Wither Ethiopia?

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

The Russians and East Europeans have definitely made their opinions known. They would rather forget about it. The Cubans have always experimented with it and continue to craft their own version. The Chinese are fine tuning it or trying to bend it to their will. You can feel the Chairman shaking in his grave. The Vietnamese do not want to talk about it. Only the North Koreans are forging full steam ahead. What I am talking about is dictatorship and the absence of the rule of law. The questions for us is why is poor Ethiopia flirting for the umpteenth time that one-man rule is the way forward?

All indications are our country is withering away as we speak. How could a country with over three thousand years of history decay and shrivel? Well, it is not unheard of. It has happened before. We have no idea where the early Egyptians went nor do we know what happened to the Mayan civilization. The Roman Empire is no more and the Greeks are a shadow of their former self. Ethiopia as we know it is on its way out if this trend continues.

It is not good to dwell so much on the negative is a good saying. On the other hand pretending life is good and everything is dandy is postponing the inevitable clash with reality. Speaking from experience, if I might be presumptuous enough to generalize about us in the Diaspora we have learnt that reality is unforgiving. No amount of pretension, glossing over problems or side steeping over issues will make it go away. Life forces each one of us to grow and accept responsibility. We learn not to panic when faced with failure or shortcoming. Our strength comes from getting up and forging a new path. There is no recipe for success as failure.

The problem is our current Ethiopia does not seem to have the capacity to learn from the past. We are the poster country for repeating failure. We change the language but not the action. We think renaming the problem is like coming up with a new solution. We have a saying ‘gulechawen bekeyayerut wotun ayattafetem.’ How true, the secret is in changing the recipe or the cook.

We are at it again. I mean repeating what does not work. Suffice to say we brave Ethiopians expect a different result. We seem to say ‘why not it did not work last time, we will just pray and leave it to fate and it will work this time.’ After over thirty years of the same solution to the same problem we find ourselves where we started. The problem is getting bigger while our solution stays constant.

What brought about this rumination is the constant unceasing jabber regarding the so-called general elections scheduled in our country. Even the term ‘election is a misnomer; it should be referred to as a ‘coronation’. I have no idea where everyone has been the last four years but the preparations by the ruling TPLF party not to repeat the ‘calculated risk’ taken in 2005 started the same day as the voting ended. The following laws were enacted to unlevel the playing field of free and democratic elections.

1. The free independent media was crushed. Methods used were killing of editors, jailing and intimidation of journalists, forced exile, increase the price of paper and ink and using the judiciary to bankrupt news organizations by forceful seizure of property.
2. Enact new ‘laws’ to make the news business expensive and the process lengthy to start a newspaper or any independent journal.
3. Enact new laws to restrict the role of NGO’s.
4. Jail and intimidate the opposition. Use all government resources to create disarray in the opposition by means of blackmail, bribery and character assassination.
5. Enact new laws under the cover of fighting ‘terrorism’ to restrict political activity.
6. Come up with a so-called ‘code of conduct’ to further confuse intimidate the opposition.
7. Use the judiciary to imprison opposition leaders and party members.
8. Use foreign diplomats to meddle in our internal affairs and water down our demands while keeping our country in a state of perpetual poverty and welfare.

For those who are willing to listen, brave enough to accept reality the TPLF regime has made it abundantly clear that the idea of free and democratic election in Ethiopia is not acceptable. The Prime Minister has made it crystal clear that the only way he will vacate the palace is by force and on several occasions he has invited his countrymen to go ahead and try it. So much for participatory democracy.

The current TPLF regime in power has shown that it is not capable of solving the many problems facing our country. It is not for lack of trying; rather it is about lack of basic practical knowledge and know-how. It was not long ago when the regime declared ‘agriculture will drive modernization’. You would think that they will revisit the infantile idea of the state ownership of land and change the policy. No they were referring to ‘leasing land’ to grow flowers for the European market. Poor farmers were evicted from their ancestral land and a generous tax benefit was given to the foreign investors and their local agents. The theory was the income in foreign currency would be used to buy food items to feed the country or something like that.

What was the net effect of this adventure? The poor peasant farmers joined the unemployed migration to the city, the use of banned chemicals was a disaster on the eco system and the few young women workers in this hazardous environment were poisoned for life. The melt down of the European economy rendered the project useless while the long-term negative effect on our country and people is immeasurable. Future generations will pay the price. You don’t hear the regime-touting flower as a savior anymore.

Now the talk is all about ‘leasing’ agricultural land to foreigners. We are in the process of clear-cutting our national resource so the Saudis can harvest wheat and barley. A Reuters report said:

‘The three investors met Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi late last month, Mohamed al-Musallam, who chairs Dar Misc Economic and Administrative Consultancy firm, “They approved to lease us the farm land. They will exempt us from paying taxes and lease fees in the first years of production and they will allow us to export all our production,” Musallam told Reuters.

Our ancestors escaped the scrooge of colonialism our generations is selling our land to the new breed of colonialists. What they could not do with weapons they are doing it with dollars and Euros.
Both solutions prescribed by the regime have something in common. The need for dollars is what drives the TPLF machine. The Ethiopian government is a very expensive venture. Remember the regime is the number one employer in the country. Loyalty is paid for. Like a drug addict needs his fix and will do anything to acquire drug, so will the TPLF regime sell land, sell children, sell sovereignty to acquire dollars and Euros.

Do we have to sell our land and our children to build a better Ethiopia? There is no precedent where countries have traded sovereignty to improve the life of their people. The lesson for us is to follow the example of India where investment was made in education and the Diaspora was encouraged to invest in knowledge based ventures. The example by South Korea where the government systematically nurtured the big conglomerates (Chaebols) like Hyundai-Kia, Samsung, LG and others to grow big and strong to be able to compete in the international scene. Both India and South Korea are ancient country like us. Both value nationalism and sovereignty very much. Unlike us, both are blessed with forward looking, people and culture loving leaders.

How come our solutions do not require our involvement? Why are we relying on foreign benefactors to develop our country? Why are we allergic to crafting our own solution to our problem? Again we in the Diaspora are familiar with such mentality. There are those who work hard and build a prosperous business a successful carrier and energize their people. We are also aware of the welfare bums, the short cut artists, the fast talkers and flimflam swindlers. The Ethiopian regime falls in the second category. Intoxicated by its own lies and always stretching its hands for a spare change from the foreigners.

All we need is one example to show the bankruptcy of the TPLF regime and the hopelessness of counting on the clueless regime to get us out of the hole we are in. Let us take the Internet. It is only twenty years old. The new technology is what is driving the economies of the advanced countries.

Here in California the new technology of computer hardware, World Wide Web and its many application software with the venture capitalists have been driving the economy at a very fast pace. Is this something our Ethiopia can emulate? The answer is a resounding YES we can! The proof is the many Diaspora Web sites populating cyber space. They are the result of our people’s capacity to master the new technology and the fertile ground of freedom that allows us to soar like an eagle. You open any one of our Web sites and you are bound to find hundreds of destinations to go to.
How does this compare with Woyane land? Like day and night. We got Walta for the cadres and Aiga for their children in the Diaspora, nothing else! They are not willing to innovate and they block our people from learning.

If the Ethiopian people are free to learn and experiment with the new technology where would our country be? How many jobs will be created? All this can be accomplished with no cost to the regime. But that is not what they want. Information and knowledge is the number one enemy of a totalitarian system. They would rather invest in purchasing Internet traffic filtering technology to block knowledge.

Our fearless leader is going to Copenhagen representing African dictators. He is going to blame the world for the impoverished state the Africans are in. He is going to demand reparations to be paid over many years. The people of Africa will not see a cent. The money will be used to buy weapons and useless trinkets. What is left will be deposited in the West. The developed countries will laugh all the way to the bank while the poor impoverished Africans will cry all the way to the grave.

World Food Program looks for more delivery routes to Ethiopia

Friday, November 27th, 2009

wfp food supply rout in to ethiopiaADDIS ABABA (WFP) — Every day dozens of World Food Program (WFP) chartered vessels ply the oceans of the world en route to distant ports. Laden with food the vessels steer their course towards the continents of Asia, South America and Africa where the need is often greatest. The beautiful highlands of Ethiopia have long struggled to support that proud nation’s burgeoning population but have often been unable to meet the demand. As a result WFP has been asked to step in and establish a vital food lifeline from countries around the world whose grain surpluses can meet the needs of the Ethiopian people.

For years the Port of Djibouti served as the main port of call for all food flowing into landlocked Ethiopia. Following the separation of Eritrea from Ethiopia in 1993, Ethiopia, which once had the privilege of using the ports of Asab and Massawa along the Red Sea coast, suddenly found itself reliant upon the tiny nation of Djibouti for access to the Gulf Of Aden, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. An increase in commercial cargo, humanitarian cargo and government cargo led to congestion in the Port of Djibouti and strained the overland transport capacity to Ethiopia.

While some years were worse than others, the past two years have presented additional challenges. The Ethiopian government’s request for support of over 11 million people has suddenly pushed the supply chain to its limit. (The amount of food WFP estimates it will need to move into Ethiopia is nearly 800,000 metric tonnes.) As a result of this request, WFP undertook an assessment to determine the feasibility of using the ports of Sudan and Berbera, located to the north and south respectively, as alternate supply routes into the landlocked nation. Early test shipments proved successful so additional shipments of bulk grain were sent into the two alternate ports.

We have been lucky enough to receive images from these early shipments to the remote port of Berbera and of the overland convoys moving into Ethiopia from Sudan. We took the liberty of compiling the images into a multi-image show complete with a custom audio track. It highlights the process involved with moving food into some of the world’s most remote regions. Hopefully, the new routes will prove to sustainable new passages into the heart of Ethiopia.

ECA workshop discusses 'dry ports' for Ethiopia

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ECA) – The expansion of existing and the creation of new dry ports in Ethiopia was the subject of a day-long workshop held at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) this week.

With no direct access to the sea, landlocked Ethiopia appears to be at a disadvantage when it comes to efficiency of transportation of goods. However, dry ports could be a solution to this problem. ECA, on behalf of the Ethiopian Dry Ports Services Enterprise, has undertaken a feasibility study for dry ports in the country. The meeting was to review the feasibility study with a variety of stakeholders from across the country.

With a dry port, goods being transported to a landlocked country, rather than undergoing customs procedures at the seaport, would instead be transported directly to the country’s dry port, where customs clearance would take place.

Mr. Stephen Karingi, Chief of Trade and International Negotiations at ECA, said the importance of dry ports for landlocked countries could not be overstated. ECA studies have shown that, keeping distance constant, transport costs for landlocked countries are on average $2000 USD higher than those for non-landlocked countries owing to delays at seaports and border posts. Efficient dry ports could help reduce these transport costs and make them better able to compete commercially.

“The ability of landlocked countries to trade does rely on the existence of efficient and easily accessible transit corridors of which dry ports constitute a vital component,” he said. “The benefits of efficient dry ports could be enormous for Ethiopia.”

Ethiopia currently has two dry ports – one in Mojo, the other in Samera. In addition to the review and input into the final report, participants discussed the feasibility of expanding these two dry ports as well as possible locations for others.

Tesfa making things happen for kids in Ethiopia

Friday, November 27th, 2009

This is a really inspirational story. It is about Tesfa Foundation. Tesfa has founded five schools serving 800 children in Ethiopia and has recently established a program in Addis Ababa for at risk teenage girls.

Dana Roskey founded the Tesfa Foundation in 2004 with inspiration from his fiance Leeza Woubshet. A Minnesotan Ethiopian, Leeza died in 2003 in an auto accident before she could realize her dream of going back to Ethiopia to open a school for children. Because Ethiopia has no publicly funded options for pre-school or kindergarten, Tesfa has specialized in early childhood education. As the organization develops, they hope to continue offering education and opportunity to children throughout Ethiopia and spread to its neighboring countries.

Ethiopia's junta not ready to liberalize economy – Trade Minister

Friday, November 27th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s regime is not ready to bow to pressure to liberalize its telecoms and banking sectors while negotiating terms to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO), its trade minister said on Wednesday.

Analysts say the giant Horn of Africa country’s hopes for WTO membership hinge on calls for the authorities in Addis Ababa to open those areas to international competition.

“There is a demand from some WTO member countries for Ethiopia to liberalise some of our service sectors and it will be subject to discussion in future negotiations,” Trade Minister Girma Birru told Reuters in an interview.

“But from what we see now, we are not convinced it will be appropriate for our own economic policies to liberalise at this stage.”

[In this information age, the stupid minister has no reason for trying to keep Ethiopia in the 19th century. His boss, Meles Zenawi, wants to control the flow of information. That is the only reason.]

Girma said his ministry was answering questions about the Ethiopian economy from WTO members. U.S. officials have publicly said the nation should liberalise those sectors.

The country is one of Africa’s largest potential markets — with a population of about 80 million — and most of its people have no telephones or bank accounts.

It is attracting growing interest from foreign investors in agriculture, hydropower, and oil and gas exploration, and has recorded growth of more than 10 percent for the last five years.

Opposition parties, however, dispute those statistics.

The country remains one of the world’s poorest and it has suffered high inflation, power cuts and a shortage of foreign currency this year.

Girma said Ethiopia’s economic growth rate was the best argument against liberalisation.

“The policies we have in place prove themselves. They mean sustainable growth,” he said. “If liberalisation is not done in the right way and at the right time it will harm us.”

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, a former Marxist rebel, told Reuters in an interview in July that he hoped negotiations to join the WTO will be finished within three years and admitted that competition may be inevitable.

Ethiopia's patriarch to inaugurate a new church building in NY

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Saint Mary of Zion Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church New York Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (EOTC), His Holiness Abune Merkorios, will officially open the St. Mary of Zion Church’s new building in New York Saturday, Nov. 28.

The inauguration program will start at 6 AM tomorrow in the presence of His Holiness as well as Abune Melketsedik, Abune Elias, Abune Samuel, Abune Baslios, and other religious leaders and guests from all over the United States.

Location: 77 High Street Yonkers, New York, 10703 (Click here for map)

The event will also celebrate the annual Saint Mary’s Day, according to Melakegenet Gezahegn G. Kirstos, the Church’s administrator.

New York’s St. Mary of Zion Church was first established in 1991 by the late Abune Yesehaq, Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Western Hemisphere. It is the first Ethiopian church that took a stand against the illegal take over of the EOTC by a cadre of the ruling Woyanne junta, Ato Gebremedhin (formerly Aba Paulos).

(For further info call (917) 837-8245, (203) 645-0275, (631) 671-6090. Also visit stmaryofzion.com)

11 companies receive oil exploration licenses in Ethiopia

Friday, November 27th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s [tribal junta] will offer up to 14 licenses for oil and gas exploration over the next three years despite threats from rebels who say they will attack oilfields run by foreigners, the government said on Tuesday.

“We have 11 companies exploring in Ethiopia now,” said [Woyanne] Minister for Mines and Energy Alemayehu Tegenu.

“We are still inviting companies to come talk to us about licensing and we hope to have a total of 25 in three years time, and that will be enough,” he told Reuters in an interview.

The 11 foreign companies exploring the Horn of Africa nation include Africa Oil Corporation, South West Energy and Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas .

Apart from a small discovery of natural gas, which Petronas has signed a $1.9 million deal to extract, Ethiopia has not uncovered significant oil or gas deposits.

The government says, however, that the Ogaden basin may contain gas reserves of 4 trillion cubic feet and points to nearby countries such as Sudan and Yemen as evidence there could be major oil deposits under Ethiopia’s deserts.

The minister said Ethiopia would offer incentive packages to companies on a case-by-case basis, depending on the size of their investment.

“Incentives that we can discuss include duty-free imports of machinery and refunds of exploration costs should oil or gas be discovered,” Alemayehu said.

NO REBEL THREAT

Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebels in 2007 attacked an oil exploration field owned by a subsidiary of Sinopec, Asia’s biggest refiner and China’s second-largest oil and gas producer.

Sinopec then pulled out of the Ogaden region. Most of Ethiopia’s exploration activities have centred on the vast province, which borders unstable Somalia.

Insurgents this month said they had seized seven small towns in Ogaden and again warned foreign firms not to invest.

Alemayehu dismissed the rebel threat and said Ethiopia was also offering companies the chance to explore in five basins outside of Ogaden.

“There was an attack in 2007 but companies exploring Ogaden are now secured by our military,” he said. “We don’t see any problems near our camps and exploration areas. The rebels make claims that aren’t reflected on the ground.”

The ONLF wants autonomy for the region, whose population is ethnic Somali, and the group has been waging an on-and-off campaign for more than 25 years.

Addis Ababa says the ONLF does not have the support of the local population and is being funded by arch enemy Eritrea to try to overthrow the government.

Amhara region Ground Zero for trachoma in Ethiopia

Friday, November 27th, 2009

trachoma in Ethiopia 231652Ethiopia has the highest proportion of people at risk of getting trachoma (85% of its population, about 65 million people), according to a report by The Carter Center. Ethiopia has also the greatest number of people in the final, blinding stage of trachoma (more than 1 million). It has the greatest number of people who have gone blind from trachoma (138,000).

The predeterminants of trachoma are poverty, which manifests as poor access to sanitation, poor access to hygiene, high density living conditions, and a general poor health. All of those go together, then trachoma gets laid on top of it. It used to be the slums of London, now it’s the rural areas of populous countries, like Ethiopia. – Dr. Paul Emerson, director of The Carter Center Trachoma Control Program

The Carter Center has launched trachoma control programs in Ghana, Mali, Niger, Sudan and Nigeria, but its most challenging location is Ethiopia. The Ethiopia program began in 2001, in partnership with the federal Ministry of Health and the Lions Clubs of Ethiopia. It has focused its efforts on the country’s most affected region: the northwestern state of Amhara. Two thirds of its work there has been funded by money raised by the Lions Clubs of Ethiopia, through the Lions Clubs International Foundation. The antibiotic it has distributed, Zithromax, has all been donated by Pfizer. The Center aims to effectively control trachoma in the region by 2012.

Trachoma affects the lining of the eyelid, causing it to form granule-like bumps, and to appear red and irritated.  Repeated infections over the years cause the underside of the eyelid to scar. The scar tissue pulls the eyelid inward, so that the eyelashes scratch against the cornea, a condition known as trichiasis.  The constant rubbing against the globe of the eye is painful, and causes sensitivity to light and particulate matter, like dust and smoke.  Within just 18 months, it can begin to cause irreversible visual impairment.  If not surgically corrected, it causes blindness.

Amhara region: Ground Zero

Amhara region, which accounts for roughly 20% of Ethiopia’s population, carries 45% of the country’s trachoma burden.

More than 85% of Amhara’s 17 million people live in rural areas, situated in the mountainous highlands. They are overwhelmingly subsistence farmers, growing teff, a grain that is used to make injera, a spongy, flat bread typically served with Ethiopian meals.

In Ethiopia, Amhara region has the highest rate of active trachoma in children aged 1-9 (62%), and the highest rate of adults who have reached the final, blinding stage of trachoma (5.2%). The prevalence is attributed mainly to the area’s poverty, poor access to water, and poor sanitation. Families live in small huts, crowding a small space in which it’s easy for disease to spread from children to the parents. And in some areas of the rural mountains, mothers or children have to walk hours to get water, and then lug it back home. After cooking, drinking, and feeding the animals, there often isn’t enough left to wash hands, or children’s faces. This contributes to the spread of trachoma.

The other major contributing factor in Amhara is the presence of swarming flies, Musca sorbens, that thrive in places of poor sanitation. The flies like to breed in outdoor human stool, and they feed off of discharge around the eyes and nose. As they feed, they transmit the microorganism that infects they eyes with trachoma, from one person to the next. Sanitation facilities have historically been lacking in Amhara — another effect of the region’s poverty. Since 2003, however, hundreds of thousands of household latrines have been built with the help of The Carter Center and other development groups.

The World Health Organization endorses a four-pronged approach to trachoma control, known as the S.A.F.E. strategy.

S – Surgery to correct inverted eyelids, which occur in the most advanced stage of trachoma.
A – Antibiotics, namely azythromicin, to treat trachoma infection.
F – Facial cleanliness, particularly important for children, to clear off infectious ocular and nasal discharge that attracts eye-seeking flies, and which they spread to other people.
E – Environmental improvements, such as the building of latrines and access to water. Latrines help to reduce the population of flies that spread trachoma, and access to water promotes cleanliness.

Marcus Samuelsson on Thanks Giving

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

By Steve Inskeep

(NPR) – Marcus Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden and now is a world-renowned chef in New York City. His cooking style is as international as his life story.

He sat down with NPR’s Steve Inskeep to discuss his multicultural Thanksgiving traditions.

“Like most immigrants, we roast turkey — we have turkey on the table,” said Samuelsson. “But our table is filled with people from all over the world that are Americans like us, new Americans … [So] there’s also the dishes from our [home] country.”

“I have Swedish potatoes au gratin,” said Samuelsson. “I have gravlax on the table. Then my wife makes a mean doro wat, which is this chicken stew from Ethiopia. She will always have some injera bread there.

“I think Thanksgiving is this incredible, great example where we as immigrants, we as Americans, bring in the culture or the history of where we come from,” said Samuelsson. “And then we serve it to our family, and I just think it’s a perfect marriage where you can show your identity, and you’re really proud to be an American.”

“Cooking for me is also a way of looking back,” said Samuelsson. “When I make the apple cake, I see my mother.

“So much of cooking and eating is about, ‘Where do we want to go in our memories?’ ” said Samuelsson. “We want to revisit the vacation. We want to revisit our college years. We want to revisit our childhood years.”

Growing up, he’d help his mother make her classic apple cake. “My job was always to sort of make the clock,” Samuelsson said, in describing the way the apples were arranged on top of the dessert. “My mom always cut 12 pieces.

“I always wanted to mess it up — I wanted to put apples all over,” he said. But his mother made sure the apples were adorned properly, because each person should get a slice of apple on their slice of cake.

Samuelsson feels everyone has a food story like his apple cake one.

“We all have food stories,” he said. “We all come from incredible backgrounds. And we can … share those memories … through food. And that’s the reason I love living in this country.”

Marcus Samuelsson’s Apple Cake Recipe

“I always joke about how bad my mom’s cooking was, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that a lot of what I know about cooking came from her. I can’t even count how many times she made this honest, simple apple cake — it seems as if we always had one in the refrigerator and another in the freezer, just in case we had unexpected company. Even now, when we are all out of the house, she always has apples on hand, just in case she needs to whip up a quick dessert for visitors.”

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

2 Granny Smith apples

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan

1 large egg

1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2/3 cup half-and-half

2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and coat with the bread crumbs.

2. Toss together the granulated sugar and brown sugar. Set aside.

3. Peel and core the apples, then slice one apple into 16 wedges. Combine the cinnamon and 1/3 cup of the sugar mixture in a medium bowl. Add the apple wedges and toss to coat. Roughly dice the remaining apple.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and the remaining sugar mixture on medium speed until light, fluffy, and lemon colored, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and mix until combined. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour and baking powder. Slowly add the half-and-half, and mix until combined. Fold the diced apple into the batter.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Arrange 14 of the apple wedges fanned along the outer edge of the pan and place the 2 remaining wedges in the center. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the center is golden brown.

6. Remove from the oven to a wire rack to cool completely. Run a small offset spatula around the edges to release the cake from the pan and remove the springform. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, then cut into 12 wedges.

Seye Abraha, Negasso Gidada join UDJ

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

seye abraha 21115 Ethiopian Review had reported 6 months ago that former Woyanne defense minister in Ethiopia, Ato Seye Abraha, was planning to join the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ). He and former figurehead president Negasso Gidada today have announced that they are now members of UDJ whose head, Wz. Birtukan Mideksa, is currently in jail as a political prisoner.

Before joining UDJ, Seye had already become an influencial figure behind the party. He has brought with him his supporters and disgruntled members of the ruling Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) to UDJ. Now that he is officially a member, he is the de facto leader of the party. Thus the stage is set for a face off between Woyanne + AEUP vs. Woyanne + UDJ/Medrek. This is not a real choice for the people of Ethiopia.

No one takes former fake president Negasso Gidada seriously, despite BBC’s report that he is a popular figure. He is popular only among comedians. BBC and Reuters reported the following:

Ethiopia’s former President Negasso Gidada has joined an opposition party, as the country builds up to a [fake] election scheduled for next May.

Mr Negasso, in power [what power?] between 1995 and 2001, said he had joined the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ) to try to unite Ethiopia.

Analysts say his defection and that of ex-Defence Minister Seye Abraha are likely to boost the UDJ’s popularity.

Its leader Birtukan Medeksa is in jail over protests after the last poll, in 2005.

She was arrested after violence broke out when opposition parties organized protests, citing election fraud.

Some rights groups have accused Prime Crime Minister Meles Zenawi of trying to ensure election victory by suppressing opposition — allegations he denies.

Pardons

The BBC’s Uduak Amimo in Addis Ababa says the two defections are a significant symbol of opposition to the government.

But she says the UDJ and its allies are unlikely to overhaul (?) the governing party in next year’s election.

Mr Negasso, whose role as president was largely symbolic, is said to be a popular politician. [According to who?]

He told Reuters news agency: “Our joining the UDJ sends a signal that we have to work hard for the unity of the country and the Ethiopian people.”

Some 200 people were killed after security forces opened fire during the protests which followed the 2005 elections. More than 100 opposition leaders, activists and journalists were convicted and jailed but most have since been pardoned.

Ethiopian ex-president, ex-minister join opposition

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – A former Ethiopian president and a former defense minister have joined the same opposition party, strengthening it against a government accused of suppressing critics before national elections in May.

Negaso Gidada, president from 1997 to 2001, and Seye Abraha a former rebel leader who became defense minister for four years from 1991, joined the Unity for Democracy and Justice party (UDJ) on Thursday.

The UDJ is part of an eight-party coalition called Medrek, or the Forum, that most Ethiopians view as the most significant threat to the government at the ballot box. The UDJ’s leader Birtukan Mideksa, 36, has been in prison since last December.

“Our joining the UDJ sends a signal that we have to work hard for the unity of the country and the Ethiopian people,” Negaso told Reuters, adding that if Ethiopian political parties were not ethnically diverse then the country could split.

Ethiopia has about 80 ethnicities and parties have traditionally been formed along ethnic lines. UDJ leaders now come from the three most prominent groups.

Seye was jailed for corruption in 2001 after falling out with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and, after his release in 2007, he became a vocal opponent of the government, which has been in power for nearly 20 years.

“POLITICAL PRISONERS”

Meles and Seye come from the Tigrayan ethnic group, who make up just 6 percent of the population but dominate politics.

Most analysts agree Meles’ Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) will win easily at the ballot box, despite growing allegations of squashing political criticism.

“They say that because the landscape is unfavourable for free and fair elections,” Seye told Reuters. “There are laws that can be used against voices of dissent. We will be making the release of political prisoners a campaign priority.”

Meles says the opposition is trying to discredit an election that it has no chance of winning and therefore provoke the West into stopping the aid which the poor country relies on.

Opposition leaders told Reuters this month that their members were being refused food aid to force them to join the ruling party. The government denied it.

Ethiopia’s last national elections in 2005 ended violently when security forces killed about 200 protesters in the capital Addis Ababa after the opposition said the government rigged the poll. Seven policemen were also killed.

Birtukan was jailed after a 2005 poll, pardoned in 2007 and sent back to prison for violating the terms of that pardon.

The country has never seen a peaceful change of government. Meles took power in 1991 after rebels led by him, Seye and others overthrew a Soviet-backed regime.

California: 2 men plead not guilty to killing Ethiopian immigrant

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA (Mercury News) — Two San Jose men suspected in the shooting death of a 25-year-old immigrant from Ethiopia, whose body was found in South San Jose, pleaded not guilty on Nov 23 to murder charges, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.

Samuel Rose, 20, and Ronald Correa, 20 , have been charged with the murder of Fisseha Isaac Gebremichael, 25, of San Jose, whose body was found Feb. 9 on the curb in the 600 block of Braxton Drive, located south of Hellyer Avenue.

Prosecutors allege Rose and Correa were armed with a .22 caliber handgun at the time of the murder, according to the charging documents.

Ashley Phelps, 20, of San Jose, pleaded not guilty to charges of accessory, according to the district attorney’s office. Prosecutors allege that Phelps harbored and concealed Rose after the murder, according to the charging documents.

Gebremichael died of a gunshot wound and was found by a resident early in the morning, according to San Jose police. Court documents that would provide more details surrounding the crime have been sealed by the court at the request of the district attorney’s office.

Rose, Correa and Phelps have a preliminary hearing scheduled for Jan. 25, a process in which a judge will determine if there is sufficient evidence to force the defendants to stand trial.

Isaias Afwerki on how to bring change in Ethiopia

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

In our second meeting with President Isaias Afework last month, the other main topic of discussion was the current state of the Ethiopian opposition. … “Woyanne will collapse through evolution. Let’s revolutionize the process,” the president said. To that end, all the opposition groups need to come together and craft a “common political platform, which is lacking today.” He expressed his hope that such a common political agenda and an inclusive united front of Ethiopian opposition parties will be formed before the end of this year. … the full article will be posted shortly

New DVD teaches Woyannes to eat less

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

A British film-maker and an Ethiopian doctor are producing a film that teaches Ethiopians to eat less so that they can avoid becoming obese, the report below explains. What the report fails to mention is that these fat Ethiopians are very few and belong to the ruling class, and they are commonly known as Woyannes. And the stupid doctor, Dawit Mengistu, who is involved in making the film, is best described as aggasses. The report is full of factual errors written by a lazy reporter named Dave Himelfield. Click here to see some photos of Woyanne kids for a glimps into their obscene lifestyle. The photo below is Meles Zenawi’s daughter and Sebhat Nega’s son partying and getting drunk.

HUDDERSFIED, UK (The Huddersfield Daily) — TWO Huddersfield men are out to save the lives of Ethiopians – from gorging, drinking and smoking themselves to death.

In a total U-turn from the haunting images of the 1984 famine which sparked Live Aid, parts of Ethiopia are now becoming affluent and some of its wealthier people are falling victim to Western-style excesses – including obesity.

Film-maker John Edmonds and public health expert Dr Dawit Mengistu – who was born in Ethiopia – have realised there is a growing health problem in the African country due to growing wealth and fast food restaurants opening.

Now the Examiner can exclusively reveal their move to tackle a problem no-one could have dreamed would ever exist in Ethiopia.

Old images of starving Ethiopian children – which prompted the 1985 Live Aid appeal spearheaded by pop star Bob Geldof – still haunt many people’s perception of that country.

But 24 years later Ethiopia has a growing affluent population which is gorging on western-style fast food, smoking and drinking.

‘White-collar’ sit down jobs are on the increase in urban areas – as is car ownership.

Mr Edmonds said: “Urban areas in Ethiopia teeter on the edge of yet another new crisis – diseases of affluence. Sadly, the western diet and lifestyle are becoming more and more popular with everyone who can afford them.

“Cars are in demand, western-style high-fat fast food outlets are multiplying, the use of tobacco and alcohol is increasing and, with all these changes, so is the incidence of diseases.”

“The average Ethiopian knows little of the dangers of fast food, lack of exercise, high-fat food and the like and the amount of public information on these issues in the Ethiopian language is rare.

“As the result, low-income countries such as Ethiopia are seeing shocking increase in obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Ethiopian art gallery opens in Atlanta

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Hanatzeb Ethiopian Art GalleryHanatzeb Ethiopian Art Gallery, the first of its kind in Atlanta, celebrated its grand opening on November 1. The Gallery also hosted a 2-day art and litrature event this past weekend, Nov. 20 – 22, where Ethiopian traditional bread and coffee were served.

Located in the Buckhead neighborhood, Hanatzeb Gallery adds to the City of Atlanta’s growing art scene.

Along with paintings, the gallery carries Ethiopian artifacts, such as traditional crosses,  masks, books, and household items.

The Gallery also hosts poem reading events and receptions for Ethiopian painters and artists to help them introduce their works.

The owner, Anteneh Girma, says that one of the objectives of the gallery is to introduce Ethiopia’s still undiscovered, but incredibly talented artists to the world.

Indeed many of the paintings currently on display in the gallery are stunningly beautiful. Most of them are brought from Ethiopia. Some have been produced by Ethiopian artists who are residing in the U.S.

The gallery is open from 10 AM – 6 PM from Monday through Saturday. It is located at 49 B Bennett Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30309.

(More information: Tel 404-352-4373 or visit Hanatzeb Gallery’s web site: hanatazeb.com)

USAID helps a Woyanne company win $30m contract

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has brokered a $30 million contract between a U.S.-based business and a company owned by Ethiopia’s tribal junta, according to a report by Jason McLure of Bloomberg News. This should not be a surprise since USAID and the World Bank, poverty mongering organizations, are as corrupt as the 3rd world vampires such as Meles Zenawi they support. These “development” organizations are the worst perpetuators of corruption and bad governance in Africa. Read the full report below.

(Bloomberg) — An Ethiopian opposition party has criticized a U.S. aid program for helping a textile plant with ties to the country’s ruling party win a multimillion dollar contract from an American company.

The program, known as the AGOA Plus project, is designed to help link African manufacturers to American buyers in order to take advantage of preferential tariff treatment under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The so-called AGOA program, started by the U.S. government in 2000, allows about 6,500 products from Africa to enter the U.S. free of duties or quotas.

On Nov. 19, the U.S. Agency for International Development- (USAID) funded AGOA Plus said it brokered a contract worth as much as $30 million annually between Jackson, Mississippi-based Atlas Manufacturing Group and Almeda Textile. Almeda is part of a group of companies that was founded and is controlled by members of Ethiopia’s ruling party, [the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)].

[Alameda and 60 other mega-million-dollar companies are under the direct control of Meles Zenawi’s wife Azeb Mesfin through a conglomerate named EFFORT.]

“The American government is using public money to support a dictatorial government,” Beyene Petros, an opposition lawmaker from the Forum for Democratic Dialogue, said in a phone interview on Nov. 23. “This is simply crazy. I don’t know who is advising them or why they are doing this.”

As part of the deal, Almeda will produce restaurant uniforms and other garments for Atlas, which specializes in importing textiles to the U.S. from African countries eligible under AGOA. Ethiopian textile exports under AGOA were $18 million in 2008, lagging countries such as Lesotho, which exported $340 million in goods under the trade pact.

Economic Development

Michael Gonzales, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia, said the goal of the project was to foster economic development, not help political parties. In matching U.S. buyers with Ethiopian manufacturers, it didn’t provide American companies with information about the ownership of Ethiopian factories, Gonzales said in a phone interview yesterday.

The U.S. works with the Ethiopian Textile and Garment Manufacturers Association, Gonzales said.

“Almeda is a member of this association,” he said. “Almeda is one of relatively few Ethiopian factories with the capacity to fill an order of this volume.”

Razvan Ionele, general manager of Almeda, said in an e- mailed response to questions that the deal would consolidate the image that Ethiopia is a possible sourcing location for producing textiles. He declined to comment on the company’s ties to Ethiopia’s ruling party.

James Langford, chairman of Atlas Manufacturing, declined to comment, when contacted via e-mail yesterday.

Elections

Foreign aid to Ethiopia has emerged as an issue ahead of national elections scheduled for May, which the opposition has warned may not be free and fair. Earlier this month, the Forum for Democratic Dialogue said its members had been denied access to a food aid program funded by the U.S., the U.K. and the World Bank as well as Ethiopian government jobs funded by foreign donors. The government has denied the allegations, and the American and British governments have said they are probing the claims.

Almeda, located in the northern city of Adwa, the birthplace of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, is owned by the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray, or Effort, one of Ethiopia’s largest business groups. It comprises more than a dozen companies established by former guerrillas from Meles’s Tigray Peoples Liberation Front that seized power from the Communist Derg government in 1991.

Effort’s CEO, Abadi Zemu, is a senior official in the TPLF, which has ruled Ethiopia for the past 18-years in an alliance of pro-Meles parties known as the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front. Effort’s deputy chief executive, Azeb Mesfin, is Meles’s wife.

Opaque

Last year, the World Bank’s Ethiopia country director said the finances of Ethiopia’s endowment businesses were opaque and a bank report this year called on policy makers to ensure that endowment firms are managed at arms-length to the government.

Effort is using the profit from Almeda and its other businesses for economic development and projects like schools and housing in Ethiopia’s ethnic Tigray region and not for political purposes, said Abadi.

“The initial money of course was from the TPLF,” he said in phone interview yesterday from the northern city of Mekelle. “But since then the ruling party cannot make any claim on its resources.”

Addis Alemayehu, the director of the AGOA Plus project, said his organization had been working on the deal for 18 months and said its intent was to create jobs.

“For me, you go to the factory and you look at the 2,000 to 3,000 Ethiopians working, that’s all I care about,” he said in a phone interview on Nov. 23 in Addis Ababa. “There’s always going to be a negative side when it comes to deals like this.” [Wushetam. How much commission did you, Addis Alemayehu, receive from the deal?]

Moral bankruptcy in Ethiopia's opposition leadership

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Currently there exists a moral bankruptcy of opposition political leadership in Ethiopia. Hailu Shawel is the embodiment of such bankruptcy.

By Neamin Zeleke

“In our time, political speech and writings are largely the defense of the indefensible.” So wrote George Orwell, one of the great public intellectuals of the 20th century who spoke truth to both left and rights powers. No matter all the posturing and attempts to justify it with so much and contradictory statements and interviews by the actors and supporters alike, the recent act of singing the so-called “code of conduct” remains nothing but a grand betrayal. A betrayal is the name that could aptly characterize the document that does not meet the criteria to hold free, fair and credible elections in Ethiopia.

Chairman of All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP) Ato Hailu Shawl’s recent action is nothing less than reneging on the loftiest goals of the democratic movement, under whose banner thousands paid the ultimate price, including those who followed him and believed in him during the 2005 national elections that was rigged by the ruling party and the bloody aftermath. As a result of such betrayal, the movement to liberate Ethiopia from Woyanne has been forced to take a step backwards as the ruling party is using him — and that of the so-called “third way” “critical supporters” like Ato Lidetu and Ato Ayele Chamiso, the very men who betrayed Ato Hailu and the rest of Knijit leaders when they were thrown in prison — to tell the international community that now it has made an agreement with opposition forces.

By signing on this lame “code of conduct,” Ato Hailu has compromised the strategic objective of even those who struggle via peaceful means, i.e., the widening of the political space in order to hold free and fair elections by forcing the ruling party to compromise and given in to serious concessions. If Hailu Shawel can make an agreement with the Woyanne with whom he has an ocean of differences, as he made it clear in the public declarations of AEUP objectives, why can’t he agree with other opposition groups in order to increase their bargaining power? Doing so would enable him and the other groups to attain the bargaining muscle and political clout. At the end of the day, the more the political space and real democratic political order materialize, the more all players benefit to compete freely once the playing field is leveled.

What is also sad, as others have pointed out, is the fact that he did not put on the table even half of the 8 point preconditions that the Kinjit presented to the Woyane during the massive fraud committed by the ruling party following election 2005. The damage goes even further: The agreement he entered into with the regime and the two parties has blunted the attempt by Medrek to get at least better concessions as they have made known that a free and fair election cannot be held while the ruling TPLF/EPRDF controls the Election Board and appoints the 200,000 election workers at nearly 40,000 polling stations. They have also demanded the release of all political prisoners.

In addition, the absences of these demands, the lack of even the gesture to negotiate about the release of all political prisoners is a tragic, callous and immoral act. One cannot talk of struggling against dictatorship when he or she clearly knows that political prisoners, irrespective of their affiliation, are political prisoners including his former colleague, Judge Birtukan Midekesa, who is currently languishing in Meles Zenawi’s prison.

Ato Hailu Shawel has found it better to come to an agreement with the ruling party in the hope of carving his own little political space and concerned only about his political future — a breathing space for his organization at the expense of the overwhelming majority of Ethiopians hungry for rule of law, democracy, respect for human rights, their empowerment in the political and economic affairs of their country.

Let us recall that Ethiopians supported Kinjit and its leaders during the 2005 elections due to its forceful demands and clear alternatives to Woyanne and its promise to deliver democracy and rule of law for the people of Ethiopia. It was not the persona of Hailu, Lidetu, Berhanu… that did the magic of what was then called “Sunami”. It was their unified and unifying message and the vision that did the magic. It was not even the details of the program that people rallied behind. I doubt if the majority of Ethiopians even read much of it. Instead, it was Kinjit’s clear and simple message of change and alternative to the ruling party that won it a widespread support throughout Ethiopia. As observers aptly said, it was a “protest” support and vote by an electorate that wanted real change and saw Kinjit at its rightful agent.

Where then is the moral leadership that is expected of opposition leaders under conditions of dictatorship? Is opposition political leadership, under the context of a dictatorship, simply about making calculated moves to benefit single organizations or few organizations? Ato Hailu discussed only about AEUP’s political prisoners. Even then, I am not sure how many of them are released, if ever the harassment has stopped. But we would not even know as he said that the “EPRDF does not like it when we make too much noise; we find it better to write letters and follow up their case” (his interview on the Reporter).

Tomorrow the TPLF/EPRDF will tell him to stop writing the letters and then he would do so, if we take his logic. Where does it stop? What then can we call such an organization that abandons its own methods of exposing human rights abuses, even those enshrined in the so-called constitution under whose ambit it claims to operate?

This last point brings us to the heart of the matter. The constitution is said to be the supreme law of the land. But the TPLF/EPRDF has trampled on it time and again, violating each and every article for the past 16 years since its adoption. There is no reason to expect that, the agreement, a mini version along with few purported benefit to a “privileged” opposition groups, could not be violated by the TPLF.

Nothing better should have been expected from Hailu Shawel, considering his track record of throwing a monkey wrench amidst the democratic movement since 2003. This was the time when he decided to leave UEDF (coalition of 15 political parties formed in 2003) without solid reasons. He left just ten days after his delegates Major Getachew Mengistie, and the late Dr. Mekonnen Bishaw made a public statement that they would play a great role in strengthening UEDF. Hailu Shawel lied in a statement made public while the real issue was that he was unhappy due to the fact that the conference held for seven days did not elect him as the chairman in his absence. Had he been at the all party conference he would have been elected. But he gave the lame excuse that he was sick, to show up in DC in just about a week to start dismantling UEDF and pull AEUP out. The other causality in that incident was Ato Wondayehu Kassa, AEUP North America representative who was found to be an obstacle to the devious act of Ato Hailu’s decision of withdrawing AEUP from UEDF.

For anyone involved in the details of what was going on then, one can safely reach to a conclusion that the man is not amenable to political compromise among opposition forces and one who is incapable of handling contradictions in a farsighted and statesmanlike manner as our struggle demands from those who claim to be leaders of the struggle of our people for democracy and freedom.

The root of Kiniji’s split and its collapse has much to do with such a character, if not the only reason. When the problem of Kinjit surfaced, several elder groups genuinely tired to reconcile the minor differences between him and the rest of the Knijit leadership. It is a very well known fact that he was the one who obdurately refused to make peace. He even refused to respond to messages and phone calls from those who tried to reach and talk to him about reconciliation to save Kinjit from the impending collapse. As well known, the split of Kinjit took a heavy toll on the hope and aspiration of several millions of Ethiopians for change and freedom.

Tragic, indeed, that he has the heart sit, negotiate, and agree on a non-essential document that cannot add an iota to bring about a positive change in Ethiopia. Indeed, he had the stomach to shake hands with a dictator whose hands are drenched with the blood of thousands without getting substantial concessions to hold free and fair elections in Ethiopia.

If our struggle is for raw political power and under a condition where there is a democratic system, I can understand and go along with the view that some have argued in recent days that each party acts and calculates its steps to maximize its position in relative to other players on the political landscape. But when it is done under a dictatorship such as our ever miserable people are, and when our central quest is to win our freedom denied to us Ethiopians by successive dictatorships including the TPLF/EPRDF, it becomes a cynical pursuit at the expense of the broader struggle of the Ethiopian people for genuinely democratic and free Ethiopia.

Let us leave all the past evil and wrongs that the TPLF has wrought on Ethiopia and our people. Just think for a single moment of all those teenagers, mothers, elders, and men and women, who were savagely gunned down after the May 2005 elections by Agazi forces under Meles Zenawi’s direct command. Why did they die? Why did mothers lose their loved ones? Sons and daughters, children and the new born lost their loved ones. Why and why indeed? All the bloody massacre against unarmed protesters and non-protesters alike and whose innocence was proved by the report made public thanks to the courageous move of the Inquiry Commission Meles himself appointed.

Think of all those tens of thousands who were tortured and subjected to inhumane treatment following the May 2005 elections. Recall all the brutalities, humiliation, and debasement tens of thousands of Ethiopians had to endure. Was it for individuals and political organizations to calculate as to how to maximize their individual and organizational power, increase their sits in an impotent rubber stamp parliament? Was it for a being “privileged” than other opposition groups?

The brutal reality remains that one should not have any illusion that a minority dictatorship like the TPLF will ever give up political power through peaceful means only. Even if defeated at the polls, it will not give up all its economic, political, and military domination of Ethiopia that it has amassed during the past 18 years. There are too much at stake for the TPLF, its ethnic supporters and their cronies from other ethnic groups.

Having said that, I do not have any objections towards those organizations waging their struggle through peaceful method of struggle so long as they genuinely promote the establishment of real multi-party democracy and the rule of law, and equality of all citizens and ethnic groups in our country by replacing the dictatorship of the TPLF/ERPDF and the hegemony and domination of an elite of a minority ethnic group and their surrogates from other ethnic groups in all realms of Ethiopia’s national life at the expense of the rest of the Ethiopian people. In other words, as long as these opposition forces struggle peacefully and legally with a view of democratizing Ethiopia, as opposed to having a limited end to shilly-shally in order just to get crumbs and increase their seats in the lame duck parliament by the “good will” of the ruling party and serve it as junior partners of the status quo.

In view of what has transpired in recent weeks, it is safe to argue that there exists a moral bankruptcy of opposition political leadership under the current Ethiopian condition. Ato Hailu is the embodiment of such moral bankruptcy. In the meantime, our people are under the yoke of a corrupt ethnic dictatorship that will leave no stone unturned, no tactic unused, no cleaver games from being played out to perpetuate its hold on to state power by all and any means.

(The writer can be reached at neaminz@aol.com)

Ethiopia's Gebre-Egziabher Gebremariam victorious in Portugal

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Gebre-Egziabher Gebremariam Portugal Nov 21 2009Lisbon, Portugal (IAAF) – Reigning World Cross Country champion Gebregziabher Gebremariam opened the IAAF Cross Country Permit season with a victory at the Oeiras Cross Country on Saturday.

The 25-year-old Ethiopian proved his power in Oeiras over the elements – strong winds and hard rains – as well as his opponents. From the outset a group of six ran together at the front and followed a strong pace: Gebremariam, his countryman Tariku Bekele who won in Oeiras in 2004 (and was second in 2005), the Kenyans Edwin Kuambai and Kiprono Menjo (third in Oeiras in 2006), Italian cross country champion Andrea Lalli, and the surprise in the field, the Portuguese Eduardo Mbengani.

Lap after lap, the lead group grew smaller and in the last of the five laps we saw a strong finish sprint between the young Portuguese and the world champion. At the line, Gebremariam take the victory, just one second ahead of Mbengani.

“This wasn´t as easy as some may think,” Gebremariam said. “I’m pleased with the course, it was very good. But the weather was not so good – too much wind and rain – but I’m training to achieve my goals and this event was wonderful for my preparation». He also said that he was pleased to pull off the win over a long sustained sprint against Mbengani. “I’m happy to see that are good runners in Portugal. I tried to help him, but in the final I made my move.”

“This was a surprise,” said Mbengani. “I didn’t expect to be second in this cross, but this was the mirror of my preparation, which wasn’t so good at all because of some injury problems. I’m very happy to achieve my first goal: to make a good showing to get on the national team for the European Cross Country Championships.”

Finishing in third place was Kiprono Menjo, repeating his finish from 2006, followed by the European hope, Italy’s Andrea Lalli, who was fourth ahead of Edwin Kuambai. In fifth place was the Portuguese veteran (41 years old) José Ramos, one second ahead of José Rocha, the winner of last weekend’s contest in Torres Vedras. Bekele was a distant eighth, more than 50 seconds behind the winner.

Portuguese podium sweep – women’s race

In the women’s event, as with predicted, the Portuguese women lived up to their billing as the favourites. Jessica Augusto, who failed to start last weekend in Torres Vedras, moved herself to the lead and showed everybody why she was last year’s European championships runner-up. With a solid pace she moved ahead a created a strong advantage between the following group, which included Inês Monteiro, the European bronze medallist last year, and Anália Rosa. Upping the tempo, they left Kenyan Milka Jerotich more than 90 metres behind.

After them Ana Dias, fifth here the last two years, repeated this place and prove her candidature to the national team.

”The win wasn’t easy,” Augusto said. “It’s never easy win in Oeiras, because this is a tough course. I’m very happy to win today, I expect to get to the national team and I’m doing my best to go there and try to get another medal.”

António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF

Leading Results –

MEN (9000m):
1. Gebre Gebrmariam ETH 24.41
2. Eduardo Mbengani POR 24.42
3. Kiprono Menjo KEN 24.45
4. Andrea Lalli ITA 24.56
5. Edwin Kuambai KEN 25.19
6. José Rocha POR 25.24
7. José Ramos POR 25.25
8. Tariku Bekele ETH 25.30

WOMEN (5000m):
1. Jessica Augusto POR 15.39
2. Inês Monteiro POR 15.49
3. Anália Rosa POR 15.51
4. Milka Jerotich KEN 16.11
5. Ana Dias POR 16.14
6. Sara Moreira POR 16.17
7. Leonor Carneiro POR 16.23
8. Mónica Rosa POR 16.28

277 Ethiopians arrested in Yemen's Abyan and Hajjah provinces

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

SANA’A, (Saba) — Yemen Ministry of Interior reported that police arrested 277 Ethiopians on Monday, including 18 women, as they tried to illegally to enter the country.

The Ministry quoted security sources as saying that that 202 Ethiopians disembarked at the coast of Abyan Province in south Yemen from a smuggling boat.

In Medi city of the Hajjah Province, additional 72 Ethiopians, including five women, were arrested.

In the City of Mahweet, Yemeni authorities have arrested three Ethiopians aged 18-20 who reached Yemen by smuggling boats.

Woyanne seeks to execute recently convicted 'coup plotters'

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Spokesman for the inJustice Ministry in Ethiopia, Ato Mekonnen Bezabih, said today that his regime is seeking death penalty against most of the 46 individuals who are accused of plotting coup d’etat and convicted by the Woyanne kangaroo court last week.

VOA’s Peter Heinlein reported the following:

ADDIS ABABA — Prosecutors in Ethiopia are seeking the death penalty for 40 people found guilty of conspiring to overthrow the government. Twenty-seven of the defendants were tried and convicted last week. Thirteen others, most of them living in exile, were earlier found guilty in absentia. This VOA correspondent was in the courtroom as the 27 in custody pleaded for reduced sentences.

One by one, the 27 convicted conspirators were given a chance to explain to a three-judge panel why they should not be executed for planning a campaign of violence aimed at bringing down Meles Zenawi’s government.

The group was convicted of five charges. Among them were trying to incite rebellion within the army, plotting to kill senior government officials and destroy strategic facilities.

All were said to be members of the outlawed Ginbot 7 Movement led by exiled political leader Berhanu Nega.

Berhanu, now a university professor in the United States, was among the 13 convicted in absentia. He has denied the existence of a plot, but has repeatedly called Meles’s government ‘illegitimate’ and said it should be removed by any means.

Many of 27 convicted last week are current or former military officers. Speaking to the court, they pointed to their decades of decorated service. Some spoke of fighting with the forces that overthrew the previous Marxist regime. Several listed the medals they had won and the wounds they suffered fighting for Ethiopia in its Woyanne’s war against Eritrea a decade ago, or serving in Somalia, or in the counterinsurgency campaign against rebels in the independence-minded Ogaden region.

Two defendants, both former army majors, admitted their guilt and threw themselves on the mercy of the court.

Ethiopia’s inJustice Ministry spokesman Mekonnen Bezabeh says while the death penalty is being sought for all 40, the two who pleaded guilty would get special consideration.

“We asked the court for the death penalty, but we also asked the court to minimize the penalty for two persons who told to the court their activities,” Bezabeh said.

The other defendants, including the lone woman among the 40, maintained their innocence throughout the trial, though some said they respect the court’s decision.

Several defendants, including the few represented by attorneys, questioned whether the death penalty is appropriate in a case where the charge is simply planning a coup, not carrying it out. Presiding judge Adem Ibrahim was silent on the matter, but Justice Ministry spokesman Mekonnen said the cumulative weight of all the charges calls for the maximum punishment.

“According to our procedure law, if there are so many charges, each penalty will be added and they will be penalized the sum of the penalties, so when we see their convictions, by acting contradiction with the constitution, and also they conspired to make a crisis between army forces, the penalty would be the highest penalty point, which is the death penalty,” Bezabeh said.

Those facing the maximum penalty include Melaku Teferra, a senior member of Ethiopia’s opposition UDJ, or Unity for Democracy and Justice Party. Melaku was among the scores of political leaders convicted of inciting post-election violence in 2005, then later pardoned.

In outlining the charges Tuesday, Chief Prosecutor Berihun Tewoldeberhan singled out Melaku, saying he should have learned from his past mistakes.

Melaku is one of two top UDJ officials in prison as next May’s elections approach. The party’s main leader, Birtukan Mideksa, was also among those jailed after the 2005 election and then pardoned. But she was sent back to prison last December and ordered to finish serving a life sentence after denying that she had asked for the pardon.

Ethiopian farmers substitute coffee for khat and corn

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

A museum is being erected in Bonga, Ethiopia — the birthplace of coffee. But because small-scale farmers are fragmented and disorganized, they are not reaching the potential of the coffee crop.

Worldfocus correspondent Martin Seemungal reports from Ethiopia’s coffee country, where farmers are deciding to plant corn and khat, a leafy drug that is chewed with stimulating effects somewhere between caffeine and cocaine. Watch the report below:

What is an ethnic Jew?

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Ethiopians face racism in Israel Non-violent demonstrations in Israel by once warmly welcomed Jewish Ethiopian immigrants were shut down by police while political leaders sought an 11th hour deal to allow black students into schools, reminding many of the anti-segregation struggles in the U.S. in the 1950s and 60s. Ethiopians were brought into the country in celebrated covert operations during the 1980s and 90s, but now find that racism trumps the shared religion that brought the to Israel in the first place. The root of the problem is made evident in a recent book’s title, One People, One Blood: Ethiopian-Israelis and the Return to Judaism.

“We came here because we thought Israel was our country. We didn’t expect this,” said Demelash Belay, a 36-year-old English teacher who moved to Israel in 2006 in a CSM interview. “We heard in Ethiopia that Israel is a democratic country. We found discrimination. And because of it Ethiopians are suffering.” Protest leader Uri Kabadeh wore a T-shirt reading “We want equality, we’re all Jewish” as he led a crowd chanting in both their native Amharric and adopted Hebrew. “Down with racism, down with discrimination.” 100,000 Ethiopians now live in Israel , with more arriving each year. Non-violent demonstrations an police responses are nothing new.

Some say the difference between this situation and U.S. segregation is that the latter was state-supported and this one comes from institutions like schools and the native ethnic Jewish population. But wait a second. “Native ethnic Jewish population”? That’s a term deserving of a bit of deconstruction: the Jews in Israel came and come from every nation in Europe and the Americas, as well as different parts of Asia. What is an ethnic Jew? Is not the identity of Jews based in religion not race, a dangerous conflation that often repeated events of the 20th century make clear? Not for Ethiopian immigrants there.

The Apartheid-like treatment of Palestinian based on Arab ethnicity and religious affiliations (mostly Muslim, also Christian), the actual “native” population, is explicitly supported by the Israeli state. Is the feigned “acceptance” of Ethiopians meant as a palliative or a smokescreen? Israel’s sole Ethiopian parliamentarian rushed to the state’s defense, forgetting that what is happening to his constituents is but a pale reflection of ongoing, racist and religionist current events creating the future of Palestinians, the Middle East region and the world their grandchildren will inherit.

Ethiopia on sale: children, land, gold, oil…

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Last week we heard from a U.S. official, Assistant Secretary of State Michele Bond, that this year 2,200 Ethiopian children were imported to the U.S. on adoption. They were sold by the adoption agencies in Ethiopia that are affiliated with Meles Zenawi’s wife Jezebel Mesfin at $30,000 each. Yesterday, it was reported that Meles Zenawi’s regime sold an Indian company 765,000 hectares of fertile land in Ethiopia to grow crops and export them to India. All the while, millions of people in Ethiopia have nothing to eat.  Today, it is reported that the Meles junta has sold gold mines in western Ethiopia that contain 40 tonnes of gold deposit to a Saudi company that is owned by Ethiopian billionaire Al Amoudi. In order to extract the gold, they had to wipe out the population in the area first. Ethiopian women are being sold into slavery in Arab countries. Meles and Jezebel are selling every thing in Ethiopia and when they run out of things to sell, they will implement article 39 and take off for the Republic of Tigray.

The following is a report by Reuters about Woyanne-Saudi gold extraction deal.

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia signed a deal on Tuesday for a Saudi firm to extract an estimated 20 tonnes of recoverable gold found in the Horn of African country last month, the mines and energy minister said.

Two firms — Saudi Arabia’s Midroc Gold Co. and Britain’s Golden Prospecting Mining Co. — discovered deposits estimated to contain more than 40 tonnes of gold last month and applied for extraction licences.

“We will sign an extraction agreement with the Saudi company today,” Minister for Mines and Energy, Alemayehu Tegenu, told Reuters in an interview, adding it would be mined over 11 years.

“We hope to sign an agreement with the British company next year,” he said.

The minister said Sakaro, a mining company wholly-owned by Midroc Gold Co., discovered an estimated 20 tonnes in the Lege-Dembi gold belt. Midroc is owned by Ethiopian-born Saudi business tycoon Sheik Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi.

Golden Prospecting Mining’s find of about 23 tonnes is in western Ethiopia.

Under the terms of the deal, Ethiopia gets 5 percent of royalties, takes 2 percent equity and will charge 35 percent tax. The extraction licence expires once 20 tonnes of gold has been extracted.

The Ethiopian government says it has identified possible reserves of up to 500 tonnes in different regions.

The country now makes $105 million a year from gold exports and that could double when Midroc starts its extraction, Alemayehu said.

The Horn of Africa nation has made $450.5 million from about 48 tonnes of gold exports in the last 10 years, according to the National Bank of Ethiopia.

Ethiopia: Our shame cannot be covered up

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

We, the current generation of Ethiopians, as a society should be ashamed of our inability to provide food for millions of our children. The latest estimate is that over 6 million Ethiopians are facing starvation and millions of children are malnourished, while the so-called “government” of Ethiopia is selling the country’s fertile land to Saudi Arabia and India so that they can secure food for their people. And yet a group of Ethiopian tour companies, 25 of them, are currently up in arms against BBC’s coverage of the food shortage in Ethiopia (see below a report by Ash Smyth). These companies could be owned by Ethiopia’s vampire regime that is sucking the life blood of our country. BBC is doing a good job in exposing the starvation in Ethiopia that the regime and its opportunist friends try to hide. The ongoing starvation in Ethiopia should put the regime, and every Ethiopian, to shame.

Ethiopian tour operators attack BBC’s doom-laden coverage

By Ash Smyth (The First Post): Ethiopian tour operators, in London for this month’s World Travel Market, have addressed a furious open letter to the BBC’s Director General, concerning the Corporation’s recent coverage of the drought in Ethiopia. The letter, signed by some 25 companies, accuses the BBC of casually dramatising its broadcasts with footage from the infamous 1984 famine.

“Ethiopia,” they wrote, “has changed beyond all recognition since 1984, yet the BBC insists on showing images from that time. They are very intrusive and are deeply upsetting to many millions of Ethiopians.”

[Ethiopia has changed only for the few Woyannes and their collaborators.]

But beyond the matter of stung pride, the tour operators insist that the “doom-laden scenario” implied by the BBC’s use of old newsreel damages the national image, deterring foreign investment and scaring off tourists. “Investment, trade and tourism are key to Ethiopia’s development,” they claim ­ “more so than aid.”

[BBC runs old newsreel because the regime does not allow reporters to videotape the current famine.]

Which is true. The tourism industry currently accounts for approximately five per cent of Ethiopia’s GDP and tourism is a “featured component” of the government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. With about 400,000 tourists a year, the country is still not exactly a hotspot, but adroit marketing of events like the 2007 ‘millennium’ and the annual Addis ‘Marathon’ (10km) have seen visitor numbers increase steadily over the last five years (visitors, incidentally, who invariably comment on how green the country is).

[It is true, the country is green and fertile. So do not say the starvation in Ethiopia is due to rain shortage and drought. That is a lie told by the regime and repeated by poverty-mongers like the World Bank. The problem is that the regime is busy stealing the country’s wealth, instead of governing.]

The Ethiopians are not hiding the scale of the current problem, either – ­ they can’t afford to. Poor rains in the first six months of this year, above-average food prices, and shrinking levels of routine foreign aid, have resulted, by the government’s own figures, in 6.2 million empty mouths. [This is a lie. poor rain is not the cause of food shortage in Ethiopia. If so, why do Saudi and Indian companies come, grow wheat and corn in Ethiopia and export them to their countries?]

Just to see out the rest of 2009, Ethiopia will need some 350,000 metric tonnes of additional foodstuffs: $120m worth.

But “there will not be famine again in Ethiopia,” promises Prime Crime Minister Meles Zenawi. The state has built (with Chinese assistance, of course) more than 100,000km of new roads to facilitate distribution, shelled out for more food, arranged for the berthing of extra supply ships in Djibouti, and increased trucking capacity. “The government has an efficient early warning system and keeps stores of food for times of shortfall.”

[Is that why millions of children are malnourished in Ethiopia?]

Unfortunately, though, Ethiopia’s shortfall policies can still only cater for a couple of million people in a good year. Moreover, these are all emergency measures, addressing the results of food crises, not the causes.

Ethiopia’s constant need for aid stems largely from increasingly frequent droughts, wars both internal and external, and a population (thanks, ironically, to all the improvements of the last quarter-century) expanding by two million a year. But it is also the result of bad agricultural policies.

[There is no drought in Ethiopia. The problem is mismanagement and only mismanagement of the country by the regime that is run by village idiots.]

Chief among these is the fact that all land is state-owned (a hangover, perhaps tellingly, from previous famine-struck eras). This stifles growth, since farmers can’t take out loans against the land, and fosters inefficient subdivision as plots are endlessly divided through the generations.

The result is that, in one of the fastest-growing economies in the world (according to Economist [false] predictions), the agricultural sector employs 80 per cent of the workforce and yet 40 per cent of the country lives below the poverty line; agriculture accounts for half of Ethiopia’s GDP ­ and one of her chief imports is food.

Ethiopians, meanwhile, tend to blame donor nations for dumping grain on them, rather than giving them cash to buy it locally. My enquiries also met with a reminder that more than 12m Britons receive government subsidy of some kind (which would have been a neat comeback if, given the circumstances, the correspondence hadn’t also sported the line: “Ethiopia, the water tower of Africa”).

But whatever the immediate cause of the current crisis, the BBC’s lazy Geldof-ite coverage certainly isn’t helping its effect. Worse, it is not the first time this has happened. In 2004, Michael Buerk’s ’20th anniversary’ broadcasts prompted a raft of cancellations from prospective visitors under the impression that famine was once again rife. Again, Ethiopian tour operators complained.

To date, neither letter has had a response. The BBC well deserves the rap on the knuckles ­ and the Ethiopians deserve an apology.

Kenyans head to Ethiopia to discuss investment in hydropower

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

hydroelectric power planBloomberg reports that the Government of Kenya wants to invest in hydroelectric plants in its northern neighbor, Ethiopia, to ensure the country secures enough energy imports to cover a domestic supply shortfall.

Kenya Electricity Generating Corporation’s CEO Eddy Njoroge and Kenyan Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi will hold meetings with government officials in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, next week to discuss the proposal, according to the report.

“We want to be equity holders,” said Njoroge. “Ethiopia has good hydropower potential and it’s very cheap.”

Kenya is also turning its attention to renewable energy, with backing from the World Bank. Speaking during a tour of the Olkaria Geothermal Power Plant on Tuesday, World Bank Vice President for Africa Obiageli Ezekwesili said as the world shifts focus on mitigating effects of climate change, renewable sources of energy such as geothermal was the way of future power production.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has already indicated that Kenya has the capacity to produce its entire electricity requirements from clean energy sources.

The UN agency puts the potential wind energy at 2,000MW and 7,000MW from geothermal and substantial biomass resources.

Ms Ezekwesili revealed that geothermal development was one of the key energy projects the bank would be ready to finance to help boost power production.

“Over a period of 10 years the government would need to invest $4.5 billion in up-scaling the contribution of geothermal energy to 49 percent of its energy mix which we would be willing to partner with the government to make it possible,” she said.

Ms Ezekwesili was however quick to add that the government should not rely on direct foreign investments to finance energy projects adding they should be in the forefront of generating its own funds.

“I am therefore pleased when I hear that KenGen recently had a public infrastructure bond offer to raise its own capital for infrastructure development.”

Also speaking during the tour, Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) Managing Director Eddy Njoroge pointed out they were keenly looking towards Solar Thermal energy to further strengthen power production capacity that is also environmentally friendly.

“I will be going to Spain with a team from KenGen to learn from them since they are a world leader when it comes to harnessing solar and thermal energy,” he revealed.

The government has also revealed it was keen on importing hydropower from Ethiopia to stabilise power supply and demand. Mr Njoroge welcomed the move saying it would offer Kenya cheap hydro energy (pegged at four US cents per kilowatt-hour) which could be added on to the national grid.

Ms Ezekwesili further stressed this point adding that Kenya had the potential to solve its energy crisis, which she noted was a major constraint to economic development.

“I have had the opportunity to look at your economic blue print and see that energy is one of the key areas the government is addressing the energy situation,” she said in reference to Vision 2030.

She however urged the government to focus on enhancing its distribution capacity, to make power more accessible to Kenyans as they seek to improve their social status.

Woyanne shops for anti-riot gear ahead of election

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Woyanne shops for anti-riot gear ahead of election and more news. Watch below:

Indian company acquires 765,000 hectares of land in Ethiopia

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Ethiopian farm wheatEthiopia’s autocratic leader Meles Zenawi has embarked on a controversial policy of leasing huge amount of land to foreign private investors in an attempt to boost agricultural production for the local market and for export. However, environmentalists and agricultural policy planners fear the leasing of huge tracts of land to private developers in some countries could harm the environment. They are concerned that land which is already under strain from years of degradation will suffer more. They say the loss of trees in particular has caused an imbalance in the eco-system, resulting in regular drought and famine.

By Billie O’Kadameri

(RFI) — Indian businessman Ramakrishna Karuturi, managing Director of Karuturi Global Ltd, one of the world’s top agribusiness transnational corporations, has acquired nearly 765,000 hectares of land in Ethiopia. His company is involved in flower and food production.

Karuturi told Radio France International (RFI) that the world should applaud instead of vilifying efforts by people like him. “When you look at the last ten years of world food production vis-à-vis consumption, I think over six of those ten years, we in the world have eaten more than we produced, and world food stocks are at a debilitatingly low 67-day stock. 67 days of food is disastrous and I don’t think in the history of mankind, the world has ever come this close.”

With very low per capita electricity coverage, nearly 85 percent of Ethiopia’s rural population relies on wood fuel for domestic energy for cooking, according to Dr Gemedo Dalle, Head of Forest Genetic Resources Department at the Ethiopian Institute for Biodiversity and Conservation in Addis Ababa.

This already constitutes an emerging crisis for the government and policy planners. Yet more land tree cover will be under pressure as large-scale land investors flock to Ethiopia taking advantage of the country’s land policy that makes it easy to acquire huge land areas.

Professor Kwadwo Asenso-Okyere, Director of the Addis Ababa-based Knowledge, Capacity and Innovation Division of the International Food Policy Research Institute opposes the leasing of huge tracts of land to foreign investors:

If you are acquiring say hundreds of thousands of hectares of land and you clear all of this land, the impact on the environment is very severe, because you are going to cut all the trees. […] Sometimes they don’t grow food, sometimes it is for bio-fuel plants and other things so it is not going to improve the food security of the people. Sometimes they even cultivate food but the food is shipped completely out.

But 43-year old Karuturi rejects the claims that his investment will not address food security problems in Africa. “Africa is the world’s largest market for food. Africa imports 16 billion dollars worth of food every year. Out of 25 million tonnes of rice that is traded globally per year, 10 million tonnes is imported by Africa. Of course I will sell my food in Africa because Africa is the best place to sell food […] people are acutely short of food here.”

The Ethiopian government insists that its policy will seek to balance investment in agriculture, with a strict regime for protecting the environment.

Abera Deressa is Ethiopia’s Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development. “They cannot harm the environment. We are very clear on this. We in the Ministry of Agriculture are developing an environmental code of practice for the private sector. […] We are also advising them not to cut trees, they have to manage soil erosion.”

“As you know very well the global climate change crisis is because of poor management of the environment in developing countries; the other is by emission of carbon dioxide into the air by developed countries through industrialisation process.”

“But but here in Africa, in our country pollution of the environment is by poor management of agricultural practices; deforestation, degradation, improper land management; these are the factors that we have to control”.

Yemen police arrest 25 Ethiopians

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

ABYAN, YEMEN (Saba) — Yemen police arrested 25 Ethiopians, including 2 women, who had arrived in Ahwar District in Abyan Province, Interior Ministry has reported.

The refugees, who entered Yemen illegally, were sent to a refugee camp where currently hundreds of other Ethiopians are housed.

Furthermore, 45 Somali refugees, including 4 women and 4 children, have arrived in Ahwar Coast.