Archive for the ‘Ethiopian News’ Category

Teff, a cereal native to Ethiopia, has potential for Nebraska

Monday, August 24th, 2009

SCOTTSBLUFF, Nebraska (AP) — A cereal grain native to Ethiopia could someday be grown in Nebraska and sold back to the African nation.

But experts must first answer questions about growing and marketing the grain, which is called teff.

Dr. Tareke Berhe is an Ethiopian who earned his doctorate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He says Ethiopia can’t grow enough teff to feed its own citizens.

Several years ago the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Panhandle Research and Extension Center at Scottsbluff conducted field trials.

Berhe says yields are low, but he also says that could be corrected through plant breeding and planting at a lower density.

Teff has no gluten, so it could be used in products for people whose bodies can’t tolerate gluten.

On the Net: Panhandle Research and Extension Center: http://www.panhandle.unl.edu

An idea whose time has come – Eleni Gebre-Madhin

Monday, August 24th, 2009

By Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin

Many Ethiopians have been intrigued by the advent of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange and many voices have been heard from around the world in our virtual cyber-community and in private communication, some encouraging, some thrilled, some questioning, some skeptical, some downright opposed. I would like to thank all of those who have taken the time to express their interest, whatever their viewpoint. Open dialogue on important ideas, in a mutually respectful manner, is vital to our ability to grow and evolve as a society and as an economy. As we proceed in our dialogue, I trust that those who organize these forums will enforce the necessary standards of courtesy worthy of our age-old civilization.

To quote Victor Hugo, “there is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” In response to the many thoughtful and sometimes provocative questions that have been raised, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you why we believe that the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange is an idea whose time has come. Here in Ethiopia, over the past two years, we have continuously held open discussions with our stakeholders, in numerous events, engaging with thousands of private market participants from farmers to traders to processors to exporters, from all sides of the market, as well as others. Given the recent interest by those in the Ethiopian Diaspora, we are happy to take the time to respond to concerns raised and to clear up the misinformation and misunderstanding that seem to currently prevail among some. We do so out of respect for our fellow Ethiopians and because we believe that all deserve to get the facts about this important initiative in our country. This is probably a good time to make the appropriate disclaimer that the views presented here are my views and, where relevant, those of the Exchange, and do not represent the government of Ethiopia, any other institution, or any political party. In this essay, I will focus on the core questions related to the need for the Exchange, its ownership and possible control by government, and whether it is a free market or a monopoly. For those who might not appreciate the technical detail provided, please skip to the end where I summarize the key points. For the rest, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

I start with addressing why ECX is needed to begin with, and why we believe it can fulfill its vision of “transforming the Ethiopian economy by becoming a global commodity market of choice.” Like most countries in early stages of development, Ethiopia depends on agriculture as the backbone of its economy. To get out of agriculture and transform into a modern industrial state, Ethiopian agriculture must become increasingly productive so that labor can shift into other sectors. Greater productivity comes through investing more capital into production, through investing in productivity-enhancing technology, such as fertilizer, seeds, better farming tools, mechanization, etc. This investment can only happen if it is profitable. Profitability depends on whether there is a market where the product can be sold reliably and efficiently. Understandably, farmers hate risk. In addition to weather and production risks due to pests, crop disease, and other vagaries of nature, farmers also face the risk that there is no buyer, that they can’t access the market or it is too costly to do so, that prices are unknown or will drop, or that they won’t get paid. These very real market risks and costs prevent them from making the investments they need to make to be more productive. So they are stuck in a vicious cycle, producing at low yields, mostly for themselves, which is why only 25% of total agricultural production reaches the market. Farmers are not the only people whose livelihood is constrained by the market. If they are unable to get the supply of raw commodity delivered to them when they need it or prices fluctuate or the quality is unreliable, industrial processors, such as flour factories or biscuit or oil manufacturers, routinely incur higher costs because they are unable to utilize their machinery at full capacity and are thus discouraged from expanding their production. Similarly, commodity exporters who have contracted with international buyers face the terrible risk of not being able to make their shipment on time if they are unable to get the supply in time or in the right quality. To avoid this risk, they often are forced to tie up their capital holding large inventories, which means they can’t readily expand their business. So there is a real market problem, and it is faced by many actors on all sides of the market. And this problem constrains our economic growth. How does ECX provide a solution? ECX is a neutral third party, providing service to the market in four major ways. First, ECX certifies the quality of the commodity to be sold and holds it in warehouse on behalf of the seller, thus guaranteeing the quality, quantity, and delivery of the commodity to the buyer of that commodity. This solves the problem faced by buyers such as exporters and processors. Second, ECX operates a payment clearing and settlement system which takes payment from the buyer and transfers it to the seller, guaranteeing that the payment will be made in the correct amount and on time. This solves the problem faced by sellers, such as farmers and traders. Third, ECX provides a trading system which enables buyers and sellers to find each other when they need to trade. This trading system is for now a physical Trading Floor where bids and offers are made in person by buyers and sellers (or their agents) but will also have an electronic trading platform which can be accessed remotely. Finally, ECX disseminates information on prices as soon as trades are made to everyone in the market so that no one is at a disadvantage because they are missing market information. This price transparency helps everyone to plan their commercial actions better and thus make better deals. Having a reliable market system helps farmers produce more, expands our industrial base, increases our exports, and enhances our food security because commodities reach the areas where they are most needed faster and at lower cost. That is why commodity exchanges are part and parcel of most advanced and more recently emerging economies around the globe, starting with the best known US commodity exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade, started in 1848 for precisely the same reasons why our farmers and others in Ethiopia and our economy as a whole would benefit from an organized market.

I would now like to address a set of related questions: Who should own the exchange? If the government of Ethiopia owns it, how can it be considered a free market? Is it a monopoly and/or an instrument of control? These are all valid questions and have been asked many times by our stakeholders here in Ethiopia. Let us start with ownership. The historical experience is that exchanges in Western countries were set up by private actors as “mutual organizations” on a non-profit basis, meaning that a group of merchants got together and set up this third party marketing system which sustained itself from fees charged to its mutual owners, or members, at zero profit. Even though the exchange itself was non-profit, the members who owned the exchange on the other hand privately benefited from the system by restricting entry into the mutual organization and charging for-profit brokerage fees to non-members to use the exchange trading system, thus becoming very profitable, large brokerage firms such as Charles Schwab, Merrill Lynch or others. Over time, this system of mutual ownership become problematic because of the inherent conflict of interest in that the owners who were also members tended to put their private interest ahead of the market’s interests. So, traditional exchanges in most of the Western countries and newly established exchanges in the emerging markets have in the last decade evolved to “demutualized” entities, meaning that the owners are separate from the trading members. In the US, this has meant that most of the exchanges have gone public, meaning that they have sold shares to many individuals, who are not members of the trade. In places like India, exchanges have been recently set up owned by a few investors, such as banks or insurance companies (half state owned and half private), again who are not trading members. However, if there are investors or shareholders, it implies that the exchanges no longer have a non-profit orientation, meaning that they charge fees intending to maximize profit, rather than at cost. In the case of Ethiopia, having reviewed these various global experiences, we chose a unique “hybrid” model. Our model adopts the demutualized entity status in keeping with global trends, but retains the traditional system of membership and the non-profit status of the exchange, in order for it to attract maximum participation and not to impose a financial burden on the market users. In effect, this is a Private-Public partnership model in that, as a non-profit, it would only make sense for the state to sponsor the investment since no private actor would be willing to invest large sums on a non-profit basis. At the same time, there is private ownership of a restricted number of permanent and freely tradable membership seats (like shares) which gives incentive to private members to profit from using the exchange system and from charging brokerage fees to non-members. This model essentially marries the social objectives of creating an organized market with private profit incentives. By law, and unlike any other publicly owned enterprise in Ethiopia, our Exchange operates on an at-cost basis and does not pay dividends to the government Treasury and may only re-invest any net earnings into its own scaling up. Initially, in fact, the Exchange is operating at a loss since it charges fees somewhat below cost, in order to encourage participation. Thus, there is no motive to retain ownership by the state and over time, as the Exchange system takes hold, the government has publicly expressed its commitment to passing ownership to private entities. This model is not entirely without precedent. In the US, Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) in the financial sector, the most well known of which are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac corporations which operate multi-trillion dollar markets for home mortgages, were set up under state ownership in 1938 and later went into private shareholding in 1968. Their recent bailout, along with other financial institutions, by the US government following the 2008 financial crisis has restored ownership back to the US government. Many stock exchanges in emerging markets, such as Dubai, Tel-Aviv, Eastern Europe, and others, are established with government ownership, usually for the same reasons as Ethiopia, that the investment costs are too high to encourage private investment and because the exchange is desired for social objectives, as a benefit to the economy. I should mention that the start-up cost of our Exchange is in the order of US$ 24 million which, because of its public ownership and non-profit nature, was able to be financed by donor partners such as the USAID, World Bank, UNDP, WFP, Canada, and others.

And now, for what really matters, what about control? To begin, it is important to understand that, although government-owned, the Exchange is not a part of government. It is not an agency or department of any particular state organ. It is established, by law, as an autonomous commercial enterprise having its own legal status. A parallel example might be Ethiopian Airlines, although the corporate governance of the Exchange is unique. Our establishing law extends the concept of demutualization further to separating ownership, membership, and management. Thus, by law, the Exchange is managed by professionals that cannot be appointed from within government or come from the trading community. The Exchange has its own salary structure and its employees are not part of the civil service. In fact, at present, the Exchange has an internationally recruited management team of 10 professionals, financed by external donors, as a management on loan program, to ensure that the Exchange is run professionally and to transfer needed skills. Again, unlike any other publicly-owned enterprise in Ethiopia, the Board of Directors is composed in almost equal part of representatives of the owner (state) and the private members of the Exchange as well as the CEO as a non-voting director. The Exchange’s CEO is appointed by and reports to this Board of Directors. Thus, without any doubt in the law or in practice, the Exchange is managed independently of any government organ and is a serviceproviding entity to the private market actors. There is no interference or intervention in any aspect of day to day ECX operations, whether it is the warehousing and quality inspection, the dissemination of price information nationally and internationally (which relies mainly on the systems that ECX itself has developed), the financial systems, or the trading sessions. One could say, and many of our private sector members have quickly realized once it was explained, that the ownership-membershipgovernance model described above essentially gives a free pass to our private members, who can gain private profit from the exchange at minimal cost, without investing in the expensive assets, and still have a big say in the management of the entity.

At the same time, like in any country, no market can exist in a vacuum outside the reach of policy or the laws of the land. Thus, our Exchange regularly consults with appropriate line Ministries on the direction of policies, regarding changes to domestic or external trade policies, tax, or macro policies. This is no different than in South Africa, the US, India or elsewhere. For example, in 2008, when domestic inflation got out of hand, the Indian government banned rice and wheat trading on the Exchange and imposed an export ban. This has nothing to do with who owns their exchanges (in fact it is a combination of public and private investors). Similarly, the US has recently initiated a crackdown on excessive speculation in the commodity markets (oil) and imprisoned or fined several market actors such as Bernie Madoff who violated laws in the financial market. In addition to the laws and policies that govern a market in any country, all exchanges also have their own internal Rules that govern how the market is organized and how the market actors must behave. The Rule books of the Chicago and New York commodity exchanges are thick volumes with thousands of pages developed over 160 years with detailed instructions on how to govern their market. We also have our Rules of the Exchange that, like in the US, Argentina, Brazil, India or elsewhere, have to be approved by our regulatory body, the newly established Commodity Exchange Authority. This Authority is a government body which has the mandate of overseeing that our Exchange itself and our Members are in compliance with our law and with the other laws of the country and with our Rules. Having been set up alongside our Exchange, the Authority has been in active partnership to build its capacity through training with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, on which it is modeled. In any country with a serious market, government regulators like SEC and CFTC in the US, or FMC and SEBI in India, have a significant and constant presence. So a market is not a free market because it is operates outside of laws or rules. It is in fact the presence of these laws and rules that ensures that the integrity of the free market, or the principle of market competition, is maintained. For example, one of our rules regarding our Trading Floor is that all prices must be shouted out audibly so that all market actors can hear the bid or offer. This is a rule designed to ensure that everyone has a fair chance to compete for that trade.

So what makes a free market? It is, within the confines of the existing rules and laws in place, the absence of interference by any third party in the actual buying and selling of any good. In a free market, as long as the rules are followed, any seller can sell whatever they want to any buyer at any price, any time, and in any amount, and vice versa. Let us think of a free market like driving on a highway. As long as you have a driver’s license, a registered and insured vehicle, and follow the traffic rules, you can drive in any car you want, anywhere you want, with whomever you like, for as long as you like (gas permitting, of course). The rules are there to ensure that everyone is safe on the highway. In our Exchange market, this is precisely the case today. Our 450 mostly private trading members freely trade at prices and quantities and with whom they like without any interference whatsoever.

Finally, what about a monopoly? Why force all coffee or all sesame trading into the Exchange? Why not let people choose to use the Exchange of their own free will? To extend our above analogy, we might say that this is like forcing all drivers onto a single highway. At first glance, this seems quite unpalatable and rather contrary to the notion of a free market. Here is the catch. Among the four functions of the Exchange that were listed above, its very core role is to provide a central trading system for buyers and sellers to match their trades. This trading system results in what is known as “price discovery” which is the emergence of the competitively bid market price that reflects true supply and demand of a good at a particular moment. However, to be a truly representative market price, the trading system needs a critical mass of sellers and buyers, otherwise the Exchange’s price is meaningless as an indicator of market supply and demand. In other words, if the ECX price represents only a small share of the actual market trading, then this price is not the true market price. For this reason, all of the world’s exchanges essentially force this critical mass of trading in a commodity or stock into a single trading system. That is why there are only two major stock exchanges (NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange) for the entire U.S. economy and most companies are only listed on one of these exchanges. Similarly, for commodities, although there are about 4 active commodity exchanges in the US, each commodity is traded exclusively on only one exchange. For example, Hard Red Spring Wheat is only traded on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange and Soft Winter Wheat is only traded on the Chicago Board of Trade, and so on. By the way, the term “monopoly” is not the correct use of the term in this case since monopoly implies a single buyer or a single seller that sets prices non-competitively and, here, we have hundreds of buyers and sellers freely trading competitively at their own prices. We would hardly say the Chicago Mercantile Exchange has a monopoly on corn trading, no more than we would consider that the CEO of Fannie Mae is part of the US government. So, more appropriately, it can be said that our exchange, like other exchanges elsewhere, is an exclusive platform for trading in particular commodity contracts. Over time, as the market volume and liquidity grow, it might be appropriate to have more than one commodity exchange and our law provides for the Ethiopian regulatory body to recognize other exchanges.

IN SUM, here are the key points. A better functioning market is good for everyone and for the economy, from farmers to domestic traders to processors to exporters and an exchange is a tried and true model to deliver a better market. Though state owned, ECX is an autonomous (non-government) commercial entity set up on a non-profit basis, with private ownership of membership seats, which thus represents a Private-Public partnership model in which private seat owners are able to gain profit from using the exchange system at minimal cost. Our corporate governance structure ensures that ECX is managed independently and professionally with a Board of Directors representing nearly equally both the owner and the private trading members and a separation by law of management from ownership and membership. At the same time, the Exchange operates within the policies and laws of the country, like any exchange in the world. Within these rules and policies, there is no interference by the state in the operational management of the exchange or in the day to day trading by market actors. Finally, ECX cannot be considered a monopoly in the correct sense of the word but rather an exclusive trading place for specific commodities, in order to have a critical mass of buyers and sellers, in keeping with the way exchanges are set up around the globe.

In subsequent essays over the coming days, I will address the human side of ECX, the lives that have been touched and who is really benefitting, particularly among small farmers, and the very important issue of coffee trading and the concern on specialty coffee, as well as our first year performance and the exciting plans ahead as we embark on our second year. Some of these themes are also addressed on our website, www.ecx.com.et, where you can also find our establishing law. Some have questioned why invest the time to engage in this dialogue. It is because we believe that a national institution such as ours must be accountable and transparent to all Ethiopians, wherever they are. Public education is part of our job. We also believe that, through bringing knowledge or investment, anyone can meaningfully engage with ECX. After all, it is your Exchange too.

(Dr Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin is Chief Executive Officer of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange)

Portrait of a Dictator With a Thousand Faces

Monday, August 24th, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

The Masks of Dictatorship

Last week, The Economist magazine painted a chilling journalistic portrait of Ethiopia’s capo dictator. The magazine described the ironfisted ringleader of the dictatorial regime that has “run Ethiopia since 1991” in starkly contrasting terms. “Meles Zenawi, still only 54, has two faces,” proclaimed the Economist. One is the face of a poverty buster, builder of “new roads, clinics, primary schools” and undertaker of “an array of agricultural initiatives.” The other is the face of a rehabilitated “Marxist with a dismal human-rights record who is intolerant of dissent,” whose “police shot dead some 200 civilians” and who jails his opponents on “trumped-up treason charges.”

But the wily dictator wears a thousand faces: He will put on the face of the smooth-talking, silver-tongued bit player with “polished English, full of arcane turns of phrase from his days at a private English school in Addis Ababa” who is always calculating to mystify, manipulate and flimflam Western donors and journalists. There is the face of a mendacious dictator who will embellish facts and claim Ethiopia’s “economy will grow this year by 10%, though the IMF’s figure is about half as big.” There is the cynical and egotistical face of a self-deluding, self-promoting Master of Hype who has managed to extract praises from “Western governments, with Britain to the fore, for improving the miserable conditions in the countryside”, and be knighted by Blair-Clinton as “one of the new breed of African leaders.” There is the poker-faced dictator who has presided over a nation which “on the business front remains very backward, has banking which is rudimentary at best, farms mostly for subsistence, and may have only a few weeks of foreign reserves left.”

There is also the face of a “crime fighting” dictator who, by all objective accounts, presides over a racketeering and corrupt political organization to cling to power. There is the face of a sanctimonious and philosophizing dictator who will wax eloquent on the democratic “process” but “closes down independent newspapers and meddles in aid projects, banning agencies that annoy him.” There is the face of the pretentious intellectual with a “sharp mind and elephantine memory,” but who simultaneously suffers massive selective memory loss and amnesia, and feigns outrage when confronted with unpleasant facts: “He avoids mentioning famine because the specter of it may be looming again… And famine looms once more. At that suggestion, Mr. Meles narrows his eyes and growls, ‘That is a lie, an absolute lie.’” There is the face of the indifferent dictator, who like Marie Antoinette of France who urged her famine-stricken subjects “to eat cake” pleads: “There is more than enough food in government warehouses to feed the people.” The Economist says, “The UN and foreign charities are predicting a large-scale famine in Tigray, Mr Meles’s home region, by November.” (Where the hell is Jonathan Dimbelby [who revealed the Wollo and Tigray famines of 1972-73 to the world] when we need him?)

There is the face of a dictator who is addicted to blaming others for his failures: “The prime minister is quick to talk up threats to his country, whether from malcontents in the army or disgruntled ethnic groups among Ethiopia’s mosaic of peoples… Ethiopia’s relations with Eritrea, his mother’s birthplace, remain lousy.” There is the face of a paranoid dictator who peers through the thick glass of an echo chamber surrounded by sycophants, “sensitive to criticism”, and has enacted “a new catch-all law that could make peaceful opposition liable to the charge of inciting terrorism.” Such is the portrait of a dictator with a thousand faces.

The Psychopathology of Dictatorship

All dictators wear many faces. Psychological studies and analyses of dictators lend insight into the psychodynamics (interplay between unconscious and conscious motivation) of the behavioral syndromes that create the many masks worn by dictators. The data and anecdotal evidence suggest that many of the most ruthless dictators of the past century – Enver Hoxha of Albania, Joseph Stalin, Papa Doc Duvalier of Haiti, Saddam Hussein, Agosto Pinochet of Chile, Francisco Franco of Spain, Idi Amin, Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania, Mengistu Hailemariam, Pol Pot of Cambodia and the current dictator in Ethiopia suffer from deep psychological and emotional trauma.

In his study of dictators, political psychologist Jerrold M. Post employs the concept of “malignant narcissism” to describe the psychological chaos raging in dictators’ minds. Post argues that malignant narcissism in dictators is a manifestation of the “absence of conscience (moral vacuum), insatiable psychological need for power, unconstrained aggression, paranoid outlook and [inflated] sense of self-importance and grandiosity”. These amoral dictators see themselves as great messianic figures transforming society and saving the world. They are driven by fantasies of personal glory. They remain isolated in echo chambers where they nurture their megalomania. They see the world through a thick lens of paranoia while trapped in a permanent siege mentality. They believe they know everything, and know what is best for their country, their nation and their people. In their delusional self-exaltation, they believe they are demigods. They have a low opinion of their supporters and those serving them; they think of them as ignorant, untrustworthy and lazy lackeys and servile opportunists who will dump them at the drop of a hat. They project their failures on others. They trust no one and are ruthless political calculators who will go to any lengths to achieve their goals. They are duplicitous, cunning, calculating and cruel always masking their true nature behind a public mask of civility, sophistication and affability. Ultimately, the dictators’ sense of grandiosity, pomposity, self-absorption and conceit prevents them from being able empathize with the pain and suffering of others. It is this lack of basic human empathy that enables them to commit unspeakable atrocities, appalling brutalities and horrible crimes without so much as blinking an eye. These dictators are “unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts.”

Girma Tassew, M.D., in his psychological profile of the capo dictator in Ethiopia argues :

He [Zenawi] misrepresents facts, opportunistically shifts positions, ignores data that conflicts with his fantasy world, is overly confident and acts as statesman despite commensurate merits and narcissistic life achievements. [He] considers himself above the law, displays false modesty while sublimating aggression and grudges. As a narcissist, he has the emotional maturity of a child, or even an animal, but the intellect of a man. What makes this guy dangerous is his lack of consciousness combined with his high self-serving intelligence and his superb performance that has fooled and outsmarted many. As a malignant narcissist his survival is dependent upon having control or the perception of control. When the control is challenged, he feels threatened and responds as though his very survival is at stake.

From the Great Dictator to the People

In the Great Dictator, the peerless Charlie Chaplin, satirizing Nazism and Adolf Hitler in the role of the misbegotten barber turned absolute ruler of Tomania, delivers a passionate plea to the people to unite and fight dictatorship. The scene represents one of the greatest monologues in the history of motion pictures (See Youtube:

Hope… I’m sorry but I don’t want to be an Emperor – that’s not my business – I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another, human beings are like that.

We all want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful. But we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls – has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in: machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little: More than machinery we need humanity; More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me I say “Do not despair”.

The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress: the hate of men will pass and dictators die and the power they took from the people, will return to the people and so long as men die [now] liberty will never perish.

Soldiers – don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you – who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate – only the unloved hate. Only the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers – don’t fight for slavery, fight for liberty.

In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written “the kingdom of God is within man ” – not one man, nor a group of men – but in all men – in you, the people.

You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy let’s use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security.

By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfill their promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers – in the name of democracy, let us all unite!

Look up! Look up! The clouds are lifting – the sun is breaking through. We are coming out of the darkness into the light. We are coming into a new world. A kind new world where men will rise above their hate and brutality. The soul of man has been given wings – and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow – into the light of hope – into the future, that glorious future that belongs to you, to me and to all of us. Look up. Look up.”

Look up, Ethiopians! Do not despair! We are coming out of the darkness into the light. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. Let us fight for a world of reason. Let’s do away with greed, with hate and intolerance in our motherland!

(The writer, Alemayehu G. Mariam, is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. For comments, he can be reached at almariam@gmail.com)

Kenenisa Bekele's Greatness Hidden in Usain Bolt's Shadow

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

By CHRISTOPHER CLAREY | The New York Times

BERLIN — It is the age of Usain Bolt in track and field, as Bolt reminds us by showing off before and after he blows away world records and fields of fast, muscular men. But there is a more subtle message and athlete equally worthy of our attention at these world championships.

“What more can I do?” Kenenisa Bekele said Wednesday.

On the track, Bolt and Bekele — Jamaica’s finest and Ethiopia’s finest — are polar opposites. Bolt dominates the shortest distance, 100 meters. Bekele dominates the longest, 10,000. Bolt is tall and wired for self-amusement. Bekele is small, not muscular and, despite some recent attempts to summon his inner showman, comfortable keeping his thoughts to himself.

But they are both racking up Olympic and world championship gold medals and thwarting inspired opposition. Bolt did it to Tyson Gay in the 100 meters on Sunday and Bekele did it to Zersenay Tadese in the 10,000 on Monday, when Tadese took the only tactically sound option available and tried to wear out Bekele before the final lap.

Bekele, smooth to the point of hypnotic, continued to glide comfortably along on Tadese’s heels, brutally fast lap after brutally fast lap. And when it was time for the last lap, the 25th, Bekele accelerated on command to win his fourth consecutive world championship in the 10,000.

“When he kicks like that, there’s nothing you can do,” Tadese said.

Many athletes hit the finish and shut down, having timed their effort and measured their reserves to the meter. But Bekele looked capable of continuing to run if some mischievous soul had extended the finish line. It is his hallmark, apparent when I first saw him run and win the world cross-country championships on a converted horse racing track in Dublin in 2002.

“The man has a special talent for someone so young,” said Wilberforce Talel, one of the Kenyans whom Bekele beat that weekend.

More than seven years later, Bekele, who is still only 27, has not squandered that talent. He has never lost at 10,000 meters and holds world records in the 5,000 and the 10,000 that once belonged to his Ethiopian measuring stick, Haile Gebrselassie. In a sign of his versatility, Bekele has won 11 individual gold medals at the world cross-country championships, which matter to Ethiopians.

Like Bolt, Bekele pulled off a rare individual double at last year’s Olympics in Beijing, winning the 5,000 and the 10,000. And like Bolt, who cruised comfortably into the 200 final Wednesday night by winning his semifinal in 20.08 seconds, Bekele will be trying for another double in Berlin. On Wednesday he confirmed that he would try to become the first man to win the 5,000 and the 10,000 at a world championships.

Bekele may make it look easy, but it should not be taken lightly. Consider Tirunesh Dibaba, the Ethiopian woman who doubled in the 5,000 and the 10,000 in Beijing and who was unable to start either race here because of a left foot injury.

“The timing is right; it’s a good challenge for me,” Bekele said. “Nobody’s done this, and I like the chance to be the best in history.”

But Bekele and his camp know that even if he pulls off the double, he will not steal much of Bolt’s thunder.

“It’s a pity, because it’s like a Bolt party,” said Bekele’s manager, Jos Hermens.

Bekele said: “People like the 100 meters more maybe. If you are a successful fast man, you are getting more attention. But I can’t do anything about that. I really don’t know what else I can do.”

Winning the 5,000 on Sunday would help. So would following the Gebrselassie template by enduring, excelling and continuing to test negative. There is more oversight now than in the 1990s when there was no testing for EPO, the performance-boosting drug abused in many endurance sports.

But what separates Bekele, like Gebrselassie, from the pack is not just his medal count. It is his elegant style, which makes you forget just how demanding distance running at this level ought to be.

It has not always been easy for Bekele. In 2005, his fiancée, Alem Techale, collapsed and died during a training run with Bekele in Ethiopia, and Bekele carried her lifeless body in a vain search for help. Bekele is now married to the Ethiopian actress Danawit Gebregziabher.

After his triumph in Beijing, he pushed himself too hard in an attempt to set a 15-kilometer road record, developing a bone bruise in his ankle in November. “It was close to a stress fracture,” Hermens said. “He missed three or four months of proper training.”

But after skipping the world cross-country championships in Jordan, he looks to be back in peak form and may even go after his 5,000 world record, 12 minutes 37.35 seconds, in the one-night meet in Zurich this month.

He and Gebrselassie, friendly but not friends, represent a continuum. Bekele’s plan is to stay on the track through the 2012 Olympics and then move on to the roads and the marathon, where Gebrselassie now makes his living and where he set the world record, 2:03:59, last year.

“It’s good that he has Haile to compare himself with,” said Hermens, the Dutchman who manages them both.

Their paths overlapped early in Bekele’s career, when he beat Gebrselassie in the 10,000 at the 2003 world championships and in the 2004 Olympics, but it is unlikely that they will overlap much on the road.

So Bekele is still looking not just for a challenge but a challenger. “I’m still waiting to see who is beating me,” he said.

For now, fair or unfair, he is losing only to Bolt.

Ethiopian in immigration custody dies in a Florida hospital

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

MIAMI (AP) — Federal immigration authorities on Monday identified an Ethiopian man who died in their custody in Florida last week and 10 other detainees who had been left off the agency’s list of deaths.

Including Huluf Guangle Negusse, 104 detainees have died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement since October 2003.

Negusse died Friday at a Tallahassee hospital. The 24-year-old had attempted suicide, but no other details about his detention or death were available, ICE spokeswoman Gillian Brigham said.

The other 10 deaths were identified during a review of ICE records prompted by a Freedom of Information Act request last month, officials said.

Video: Kenenisa, Lagat outkick each other in a thrilling finish

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

In a thrilling finish, Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele and U.S.’s Bernard Lagat outkick each other in the last few meters of the Berlin World Championship’s 5,000 meters race on Sunday, August 23, 2009.

Ethiopia's dictator in Belgium for medical treatment

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

The Butcher of Addis Ababa, Meles Zenawi, is in a Belgium hospital receiving medical treatment for high blood pressure, according to Ethiopian Review sources. He flew to Belgium a few days ago in the middle of the night.

A few months ago, Meles was in Dubai to get treatment. Sources say his condition is getting worse.

Meanwhile, Meles is also said to be clashing with his wife, Azeb Mesfin, over her aggressive move against Sebhat Nega and other senior members of the Tigrean People Liberation Front (Woyanne).

Azeb, who is a central committee member of Woyanne, has recently pushed out Sebhat Nega and became deputy chairperson of EFFORT, a multi-billion-birr business consortium. Sebhat is also ousted from the Woyanne politburo. Azeb’s power struggle with other Woyannes is causing political problems for Meles within the tribal organization.

Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele wins another gold in Berlin

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Kenenisa Bekele Berlin (CNN) — Kenenisa Bekele once again laid claim to being the greatest distance runner in history by completing the 5000 – 10,000 meters double at the world championships in Berlin.

The Ethiopian star outkicked defending champion Bernard Lagat of the United States to claim gold in the 5000 on the final day of the championships on Sunday in a time of 13 minutes 17.09 seconds.

A slow run race appeared to play into the hands of Lagat, who had taken a bronze medal in the 1500 meters, but the incredible Bekele showed his determination to hold him off in the home straight.

James Kwalia C’Kurui of Qatar took bronze.

Kenenisa Bekele, who holds the world records for the longest distance events on the track, backed up the double he achieved at last year’s Beijing Olympics.

It was his first victory over 5000 at a world championships to back up his four titles over his stronger 10,000 distance.

Bahrain’s 1500m world champion Yusuf Kamel later failed in his bid for double gold, taking a bronze in a scrappy men’s 800m final.

South Africa’s Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, who took silver at the 2004 Olympics, held off a clutch of medal contenders in the home straight to win in one minute 45.29 seconds with Kenya’s Alfred Yego claiming the silver.

Malaudzi’s gold followed the controversial victory of compatriot Caster Semenya in the women’s 800.

The IAAF revealed that Semenya is having to undergo a gender verification test, but with Malaudzi is set to receive a warm welcome on return to South Africa later this week.

There was also a controversial finish to the women’s 1500m as Natalia Rodriguez of Spain was disqualified for tripping favorite Gelete Burka of Ethiopia.

It left defending champion Maryam Jamal of Bahrain with the gold medal.

She edged Lisa Dobriskey of Britain on the line with Shannon Rowbury of the United States taking bronze.

Rodriguez clearly shoved the diminutive Burka with 200m to go, sending her sprawling to the track.

Two Ethiopians in South Dakota terrorize residents with AK-47

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

By Jeff Martin | ArgusLeader.com

SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA — Two men are in custody after police say they terrorized at least two victims, putting a gun inside one man’s mouth, pouring gasoline on him and threatening to set him on fire.

The attacks – which involved a semi-automatic handgun and an AK-47 assault rifle – were the result of a drug deal gone bad, Sioux Falls police said in a news release Friday. The suspects were to have received $18,000 for marijuana sales but never were paid, police said.

Now, police think there are more victims and are hoping to hear from them, or anyone else who has information.

“These victims had guns put to their heads, and they threatened to kill them and their families if they did not receive their money,” Lt. Bruce Bailey said in the release.

The suspects were identified as Amanuel Gebrengus Atsemet, 21, of Sioux Falls and Aklilu Fessehage Kidane, also 21, of Seattle.

Both men face two counts of aggravated assault, one count of second-degree aggravated kidnapping and one count of first-degree robbery for Wednesday’s crime spree.

They were arraigned on the charges Thursday, and are being held on a $500,000 bond. Their next court hearing is set for Sept. 4, according to court records.

The case began when the suspects gave an unidentified man 15 pounds of marijuana to sell, and the drugs changed hands multiple times as the man enlisted the help of other adults and juveniles to help sell it, police said.

But the suspects never were paid their $18,000, so they began tracking down every person involved in the drug sales, police said.

After one victim was pistol-whipped and had gas poured on him, he was forced into the trunk of a car and driven to several ATM machines in the Sioux Falls area to get money for the suspects, police said. That victim, a 21-year-old man, eventually was released near Madison Street and Sycamore Avenue. Police found both suspects a few hours later in the 1600 block of Rock Creek Drive, where they were apprehended.

It’s not clear from the police statement where the crimes took place. However, police said they began investigating after responding to a call of a disorderly person in the 2600 block of South Judy Avenue, near Morningside Park, at 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Shawn Thennis said he saw a couple of police officers drive up Judy Avenue and stop at a nearby house the night of the incident.

“They took one kid with them, but not in cuffs or anything,” he said.

Teza – The Movie premiers in Washington DC, Sept 18

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Official US PREMIERE on Sept 18th at The Avalon Theatre
5612 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20015

Click here for more info.

Description: Set in Ethiopia and Germany, Teza examines the displacement of African intellectuals, both at home and abroad, through the story of a young, idealistic Ethiopian doctor – Anberber. The film chronicles Anberber’s internal struggle to stay true, both to himself and to his homeland, but above all,Tezaexplores the possession of memory – a right humanity mandates that each of us have – the right to own our pasts… [read more]

A UDJ official blasts Ethiopian Review

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Ato Ahmed Abagisa, a high-level official of Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ), unleashes a verbal salvo on the Ethiopian independent press, particularly Ethiopian Review. In his 13-page article, Ato Ahmed calls Ethiopian Review editor “timkehtegna” (chauvinist), among many other things. Click here to read [pdf, Amharic].

Six Ethiopia army officers get 10 to 23 years in prision

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Reporter) — A military court sentenced six senior army officers to prison terms ranging from 10 to 23 years of rigorous imprisonment on July 24, last month after finding them guilty of charges relating mainly to their involvement with the former Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD).

The Second Bench of the Primary Military Court passed the sentence on Colonel Abebe Asrat, Lieutenant-Colonel Gossaye Bogale, Lieutenant- Colonel Tesfaye Hailu, Lieutenant-Colonel Tesfaye Lemma, Lieutenant- Colonel Getnet Admasu and Captain Kassahun Negussie.

According to the first of the six charges, the military prosecutor brought against the defendants on February 16, 2009, in February 2005 and another undetermined date in the same year they withdrew five Kalashnikov rifles with 300 rounds of bullets and 16 B-52 guns and handed them over in May and June 2005 to unauthorized/unknown persons by themselves and through Ato Bedru Adem, a member of the leadership of the CUD. They were thus accused of transferring army firearms to unauthorized persons and causing harm to the national defense forces.

The second charge accuses the defendants of knowingly participating on an unspecified date in 2005 in an illegal meeting organized by the CUD which was inciting members of the defense forces to engage in mutiny with a view to subvert the constitution and constitutional order through violence. It says during the meeting, the chair, Ato Bedru Adem, told them to cause their subordinates to support the CUD’s objectives and explained to them that as the army played a vital role in bringing down the government they should struggle for this purpose and needed to incite army members to rebellion. The charge alleges that the defendants then expressed their intention to do secretly to do whatever was in their power to help achieve the CUD’s objectives and topple the government.

In the third charge, the second, third and fourth defendants were accused of abusing their power by committing gross neglect of their responsibilities with intent to damage and embezzle government property when they were assigned as committee members to head the army’s ordnance maintenance main section. The charge says the second defendant took home 40 pieces of 28-gauge sheet metal, one grinder, one driller and one generator while the third defendant sold various quantities of apparel, cement and other army properties and pocketed the money himself. It also accuses the three defendants of distributing among themselves the government-issued apparel that had been intended for use by all the staff of the main section.

The remaining three charges concern the third defendant accusing him of causing the loss of four guns which had been given to him by different persons at different times (fourth charge) causing the destruction of military documents, namely the property ledger of the ordnance maintenance main section, by ordering a subordinate to burn it in June 2005, (fifth charge), as well as insulting and intimidating subordinate female soldiers on various occasions with the intent to injure their moral (sixth charge).

After considering the arguments of both the prosecution and the defendants as well as their documentary evidence and testimonies of witnesses, the court found the defendants guilty as charged with the exception of the fourth and fifth charges.

Accordingly, it sentenced the 1st defendant (Colonel Abebe Asrat) to 18 years of rigorous imprisonment. The 2nd defendant (Lt Col. Gossaye Bogale), the 3rd defendant (Lt Col. Tesfaye Hailu), the 4th defendant (Lt Col. Tesfaye Lemma), the 5th defendant (Lt Col. Getnet Admasu) and the sixth defendant (Cap Kassahun Negussie) were given prison terms of 23, 21,16, 10 and 15 years of rigorous imprisonment respectively.

All the defendants have appealed the decision to the Military Appellate Court, it has been learnt.

- The Reporter

Seattle Travel agency leaves Ethiopian customers empty-handed

Friday, August 21st, 2009

By Michelle Esteban | Komonews.com

Aster Tarekegn SEATTLE – More victims are surfacing in connection with a local travel agency that suddenly closed its doors earlier this summer – leaving an untold number of customers holding the bag.

Now the agency, Alem Travel, is at the center of a police investigation as detectives try to determine what happened to the business’ owner and thousands of dollars in ticket money that simply vanished.

For years Alem Travel has been the go-to travel agency for the Ethiopian community. But a few weeks ago, travelers bound for Ethiopia were shocked to learn the airline tickets they bought didn’t exist and they were left in the lurch.

In a previous report, KOMO News talked to several victims who said they trusted the 12-year-old business at 1812 East Madison Street and the man who ran it – until he disappeared with their money.

Now even more victims are turning up.

Aster Tareken is one of them. She said she hasn’t seen her daughter Bethlehem in two years. The 17-year-old is supposed to be home right now but instead she’s stuck in Ethiopia. Her airline ticket is canceled.

Aster thinks her Seattle travel agent booked the ticket, canceled it and pocketed the refund.

Now she’s out $1,650 and her daughter is stranded in Africa.

“What am I gonna do now? How am I gonna tell my daughter I feel really sorry for her? How am I gonna explain this to her?” Aster says.

Like the previous victims, Aster bought her ticket from Alem Travel.

KOMO News has tried repeatedly to contact Alem Travel in Seattle. But sources say the owner, Solomon Biruk, may be in Ethiopia.

Seattle police confirm that multiple victims have surfaced since KOMO News aired its original report on the agency and its victims.

Selamneh Ambaw is one of them. He got a confirmation number – and even a printed itinerary – for his planned trip in October to Ethiopia.

The airline said a reservation was made, but says the ticket was then canceled.

Selamneh says, “I said, ‘Ah, this does not sound good.’ I said, ‘I can’t seem to get a hold of this guy ’cause he’s no longer around.’”

He lost $1,383, which he paid in cash.

“It’s just very, very sad,” he says. “Like I said, I just wonder what happened for him to do something like that.”

All the travelers out of money said they’ve worked with Alem before and never had a problem. They and neighboring businesses are stumped.

Bryan Vehrs says, “He was one of the hardest-working people here, from my experience – was incredibly honest and ethical.”

Aster and Selamneh both saved for their trips. Now Aster is borrowing money to get her daughter home.

KOMO News Problem Solvers also were contacted by a ticket consolidator in Washington, D.C., who said they sold Alem Travel 42 airline tickets and never got paid because, they allege, Alem used unauthorized credit cards.

Ethiopian man arrested in $60 million jewelery heist in U.K.

Friday, August 21st, 2009

LONDON, UK — An immigrant from Ethiopia has been charged over the robbery of £40million (USD $60 million) worth of jewels in Britain’s biggest-ever jewelery heist.

Solomun Beyene, 24, has been charged with conspiracy to rob and possession of a firearm.

Another man, Craig Calderwood, of no fixed address, was also charged over the armed raid during which two smartly dressed men took a cab to Graff Jewellers in Mayfair before producing handguns and grabbing 43 jewels.

Both men appear before Wimbledon Magistrates Court today.

A third man has been charged in connection with the £40m raid at Graff jewellers in central London.

Two shots were fired and 43 pieces of jewelery taken during the raid

Clinton Mogg, 42, from Bournemouth, was arrested following the daylight break-in on August 6. He is accused of conspiracy to rob, Scotland Yard said.

Earlier, two men appeared in court in Wimbledon following the raid in New Bond Street. Solomun Beyene, 24, of northwest London, and Craig Calderwood, 26, of no fixed abode, were both charged with conspiracy to rob and possession of a handgun.

Detectives launched a huge manhunt for two men who were captured on CCTV. Footage showed them both on the day of the raid and also visiting the jeweler two days earlier.

A £1 million reward has been offered on behalf of Graff’s insurers for information leading to the prosecution of the robbers.

The pair are accused of undertaking the audacious robbery at the New Bond Street store on August 6. They are also charged with possessing handguns.

The two men appeared in the dock flanked by five prison officers amid heightened security.

Both Beyene and Calderwood spoke only to confirm their names, addresses and dates of birth.

Calderwood, who has short straight red hair combed flat on his head, wore a long-sleeved white T-shirt.

Beyene, who wore a grey short-sleeved T-shirt and has heavily-tattooed forearms, looked briefly at his parents who sat in the public gallery.

Presiding magistrate Anne Packer remanded the two men in custody and ordered them to appear at Kingston Crown Court for a preliminary hearing on September 1.

Solicitors acting on behalf of the two alleged robbers made no representation in court. There was no application for bail.

Speaking after the hearing, defense solicitor Antonie Xavier, who represents Beyene, said his client denies any involvement in the robbery.

He said: “It is totally denied. The CCTV shows quite clearly he could not be the person. He has always denied that he was ever near there.

“This is a shot in the dark.”

A huge manhunt was launched after the audacious raid on the central London jeweler two weeks ago.

CCTV pictures of two men talking their way past security guards before robbing the shop have been beamed around the world.

The gang forced a woman member of staff to fill a bag with 43 pieces of jewellery, including earrings, necklaces and watches, worth almost £40 million.

They used a series of getaway cars and a motorcycle to escape across the capital, firing two shots in the process.

A 50-year-old man who was held last week in Ilford, east London, has been released on bail pending further inquiries.

Sources: Sky News, Telegraph.co.uk

Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele keeps on track for world distance double

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

By Luke Phillips

BERLIN (AFP) — Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele remained on course for an unprecedented distance double at the World Athletics Championships after moving seamlessly into the men’s 5000m final.

The Ethiopian used his trademark last-lap kick to win his semi-final in 13min 19.77sec, far off his own world record of 12:37.35.

Bekele, who has been the fastest in the world over 5000m every year since 2004, won his fourth 10,000m world title on Monday to tie him with former master Haile Gebrselassie’s record over the distance.

His performance in the semi-final here suggests that his rivals in a high-quality field will have their work cut out to prevent him repeating his Beijing Olympics exploits.

In the Chinese capital, Bekele became the first male athlete to claim the 5000/10,000m double since another Ethiopian, Miruts Yifter, achieved the same feat in the widely boycotted 1980 Games in Moscow.

In the race at a packed, sun-kissed Olympic Stadium, Japan’s Yuchiro Ueno set the early pace, Kenyans Vincent Chepkok and Joseph Ebuya at the head of the chasing pack which quickly reeled the Japanese runner back in.

With nine laps to go, the upright figure of Qatar’s Saif Shaheen moved up through the field to second as the field strung out.

Chris Solinksy of the United States, Moroccan Anis Selmouni and Bekele followed Shaheen and the Kenyan duo.

When the bell went for the final lap, Bekele had to go wide to get past Briton Mohammed Farah and American Matthew Tegenkamp but once ahead stayed like that through to the line.

Tegenkamp finished second with Farah third, Chepkok in fourth and Spain’s Jesus Espana in the final automatic qualification spot.

Defending champion Bernard Lagat of the United States got through his semi with ease, a handy last-lap breakaway of five coming across the line in close order.

Ugandan Moses Kipsiro, who won bronze at the last worlds in Osaka in 2007, won the heat in 13:22.98, with Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, defending silver medallist, coming though in second ahead of James C’Kurui of Qatar.

Lagat and Moroccan Chakir Boujattaoui completed the automatic qualifiers.

One runner who did not qualify was Qatar’s two-time world 3000m steeplechase champion Saif Shaheen, who finished well down the field in the opening semi-final.

“I am a steeplechase runner, but this year I could not qualify for the steeple, so I decided to run the 5000m,” said Shaheen, who previously competed as Stephen Cherono for Kenya.

“But I have some health problems: hamstring and the stomach. I just decided to run the race despite my problems.

“This was my last race for this year. I will go to Munich tomorrow and see the doctor. I hope to come back for the indoors season.”

There was good news for Bekele’s compatriot Ali Abdosh, who will compete in Sunday’s final despite finishing in 13th position in his semi-final.

Abdosh was spiked on the second lap and lost 200m as he attempted to put one shoe back on.

Africa's slave-master relationship with industrialized nations

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

By JERRY OKUNGU | NewVision

When did Somalis overthrow Siad Barre? It must be 20 years now or there about. After Siad Barre, came one General Aideed. He is the Somali warlord credited with disorganizing the America humanitarian marines deployed to bring food supplies, law and order into war-torn Somalia in the early days of Bill Clinton’s presidency.

The encounter left the Americans with blood on their noses and a humiliating experience that saw a dead body of one marine dragged along Mogadishu streets as barefoot Somali fighters celebrated America’s humiliation. These horror pictures were so devastating to the American public back home that Bill Clinton ordered the operation stopped and the rest of the marines evacuated.

The only remaining super power had been badly humiliated by a wretched ragtag army in the Third World.

For close to 20 years, successive American administrations have been weary of meddling in Somali conflict. More importantly, America has thought it wise not to engage Somalis directly as they have done with Iraqis, Afghans, Koreans and Vietnamese in recent years. Instead, they have used neighbouring countries like Ethiopia and Uganda to contain the alleged Osama bin Laden influence in that chaotic lawless country.

The American involvement in the current Somali conflict is something that has confused analysts on the scene. More curiously, it has not been the kind of involvement that would be considered humanitarian. It is more to do with arms supplies to one side of the conflict than anything else. One wonders what will happen if the present good boy of Mogadishu turns against the hands that fed him just like Osama bin Laden did after the Russian-Afghan conflict. It is obvious to us that when Ethiopia’s [tribal junta] decided to invade Somalia in support of the ousted Abdulahi Yusuf regime, it was to defeat an Islamic “terrorist” group then led by the current president. The Ethiopian regime’s air power scattered the Islamic courts insurgents forcing their commanders to take refuge in Yemen. Now, hardly a year later, this former Al Qaeda sympathizer has suddenly become the good boy worthy of American arms supply.

America’s involvement in the Horn of Africa’s conflict is not something new. It is as old as our independence. We remember that at one point when Siad Barre’s regime was the darling of the Soviet Union,

Americans were the biggest supporters of Emperor HaileSelassie. However, when Mengitsu HaileMariam’s regime overthrew the monarch and established a communist regime on the model of the Kremlin with full backing from Moscow, Americans quickly filled the vacuum the USSR had left in Mogadishu.

Therefore as the Ogaden war erupted between Ethiopia and Somalia, it was really a war of influence between Moscow and Washington. Yet, both super powers achieved their primary objectives. Their arms industries found ready-made markets in the Horn of Africa. And even after the Ogaden war, other civil wars had to continue in both countries for decades with Ethiopian one being conducted in two phases. The first phase had to do with getting rid of Mengitsu’s regime, while the second phase pitted former allies against one another.

It was Eritrea’s war of cessation. As Ethiopia continued to slide deeper and deeper into protracted civil wars, Somalia never rested after the Ogaden war either. More prolonged conflicts finally threw Siad Barre out in the early 1990s. One would have expected a new regime, more humane to replace Barre and restore sanity into the country. It was not to be. The era of warlords had arrived.

We all know that very few African countries are in the business of manufacturing arms of any kind save for South Africa. We are all net importers of military armaments we deploy in our conflicts. We don’t even manufacture gas masks, teargas, bullet-proof vests and helmets. All we export to industrialized Europe, America and China are raw materials like oil, diamonds, gold, uranium, tea and coffee, most of which they extract themselves and pay us peanuts for! In exchange, our countries have huge and secretive military budgets that we must spend year in year out whether we are at war or not.

This state of affairs has been made worse by our selfish, unfocused and uncaring political leadership from our region for nearly half a century. At the center of it all is deep-seated corruption and insatiable greed for individual wealth. This is the greed that has enslaved our countries to the industrialized nations with occasional belief that we can depend on them in our hour of need when hunger ravages our neighborhoods. It is a slave-master relationship that will take time to break.

(The writer can be reached at Jerryokungu@gmail.com)

On the right to self-determination

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

By Messay Kebede

This article is a public reaction to a long email letter sent to me by an Oromo interlocutor. The email states that unity between Amhara democratic forces and Oromo freedom fighters is necessary both to defeat the undemocratic Woyanne regime and initiate a promising future for Ethiopia. However, the letter blames the lack of unity on the resistance of Amhara democratic forces to concede the right to self-determination to the Oromo people. The imposition of an unconditional unity prevents the Oromo freedom fighters from effecting a serious move toward a rapprochement, while the refusal of some Oromo fighters to even give a chance to unity deeply upsets Amhara democratic forces. The letter suggests a middle ground based on a common goal, namely, a union of independent nations that recognizes the self-determination of each nation, and so provides the condition of a voluntary union. In other words, the pledge to give a chance to the integrity of Ethiopia should satisfy the Amhara democratic forces, just as the recognition of the right to self-determination should suit the Oromo by convincing them to enter into a free union with the Amhara and other peoples.

Though the author claims not to be a representative of the OLF, I am not convinced to what extent his views differ from the official position of the organization. Also, my purpose here is less to respond to my interlocutor than to propose some general reflections concerning the right to self-determination as a condition of union. Let me begin by what amazes most: the defenders of the right to self-determination have rejected everything of Stalin (Lenin and the Soviet Union), except his view of nations and nationalities. It is for me next to impossible to understand how scholars and politicians stop short of being critical of the Stalinist doctrine of self-determination even as they know that Stalin has been entirely wrong in everything. What are the chances for a doctrine whose inherent perversion led to such disastrous consequences to be right on the crucial issue of nation-building?

My contention is that, far from promoting free union, the right to self-determination actually blocks it. It is when union becomes unconditional that it forces peoples to find a form of accommodation that suits them all. Here is an illustrative analogy: if two competing individuals decide to build a house together, their cooperation makes sense if the house becomes their common interest, that is, if both intend to live in the same house. However, if one of the partners is at the same time building another house, whatever partnership they had becomes so suspicious that it comes to an end.

The right to self-determination cannot provide the common goal for a lasting union. Moreover, nobody is inclined to make serious concessions if the outcome is so precarious. It is when we decide to live in the same house, no matter what, that we would be inclined to better the house. While Stalin recognizes the right to secede, Rousseau maintains that a nation means an indivisible unity for only indivisibility creates a common goal. Obviously, a conditional unity is hardly able to produce a serious commitment to the idea of a lasting union.

The Stalinist approach has no historical foundation as nations did not emerge as a result of peoples exercising the right to self-determination. The politics of either lumping people together or splitting them apart according as they want or do not want to stay together is too artificial to be anything more than a manipulation of political elites. Instead, modern nations have come into being through inner movements smashing the oppressive structures of conquests and empires. With the exception of overseas colonial empires––whose difficulties to modernize relate to the absence of organized democratic movements in the pre-independence phase––the resolution to build a common house guaranteeing freedom and equality for all is the cornerstone of modern nation, not the right to secession.

Those who truly care about democracy and freedom must understand that the refusal of self-determination alone can bring about the changes that they hope. What the refusal means is that we make unity unconditional so that everything else becomes negotiable. But if the union is conditional, the blackmail of secession seriously jeopardizes the exercise of democratic rules. What is more, a union is formed without the equal alienation of rights since one of the partners reserves the right to secede. As Rousseau puts it, the condition of modern democracy is “the total alienation of each associate, together with all his rights, to the whole community; for, in the first place, as each gives himself absolutely, the conditions are the same for all; and, this being so, no one has any interest in making them burdensome to others” (The Social Contract).

It is clear that the act by which a people join a political union is also the act by which it ceases to consider itself as a nation. It becomes part of an organic whole and its distinctive characteristics, such as language, religion, customs, etc., become regional expressions of a larger union. How the specificities integrate into the union is negotiable, and various forms of arrangement can ensure their protection. By contrast, union defined as a collection of autonomous nations is a Stalinist aberration and a contradiction in terms. Let us listen to Stalin:

“The right of self-determination means that a nation may arrange its life in the way it wishes. It has the right to arrange its life on the basis of autonomy. It has the right to enter into federal relations with other nations. It has the right to complete secession. Nations are sovereign, and all nations have equal rights” (Marxism and the National Question).

What Stalin says here applies to an entity like the United Nations rather than to real existing nations whose characteristic is precisely to be sovereign in an indivisible way.

What this shows is that political unity among democratic forces has become impossible in Ethiopia because we find ourselves in an ideological muddle inherited from the Soviet Union. No more than Stalin could the Woyanne regime preserve the unity of Ethiopia without the creation of a party based on the rigid and oppressive principle of democratic centralism. The result is a tyrannical government that keeps peoples together by force after telling them that they are indeed nations and nationalities. On the other hand, opposition forces cannot unite because they are faced with the impossible dilemma of uniting elites who claim to represent nations.
It is high time that we understand that the political failure of opposition forces emerge from the fact that they want to solve a problem that is made unsolvable. The divagations of a deranged man (Stalin) on the right to self-determination has put Ethiopia in a political impasse, which if left as is, will lead to a breakup with disastrous consequences for the whole region. The best alternative is to renew the commitment to unconditional unity, thereby creating the conditions of a satisfactory solution for all. If the union is abiding, then serious talks can start on how to build the common house.

That is why I was more than happy to read in the recently released political program of the organization known as Medrek a strong reaffirmation of unity. The program plainly states that members of the organization believe that any challenges to the unity of Ethiopia must be dealt with on the basis of unity and democratic progress, and not through recourse to secession (page 22). This rebuttal of article 39 of the Ethiopian Constitution allowing the right to self-determination, including the right to secession, became necessary as a condition of unity among opposition forces.

The rebuttal is indeed a great step forward, even though it is not bold enough to reject the usage of the terms “nations” and “nationalities.” This lack of boldness exposes the program to the charge of being contradictory, since the term “nation” implies, by definition, the right to self-determination. I recommend the term “ethnic groups,” with the understanding that the Amhara and the Tigreans are no less ethnic groups than the Oromo, the Gurage, the Somali, etc. In so doing, we define Ethiopia as a multicultural nation rather than as a multinational state, a feature that requires a federal arrangement with large autonomy and self-rule. In this way, we avoid the present impasse without, however, sacrificing those rights necessary to realize the full equality of Ethiopia’s ethnic groups.

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

Ethiopian woman found dead in Texas

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

By Andrea Lorenz | Austin-American Statesman

AUSTIN, TEXAS — A woman found dead in a Williamson County apartment Monday has been identified as Senait Worku Abebe, 26, according to the Williamson County sheriff’s office.

Senait, an immigrant from Ethiopia, appears to be the victim of a murder-suicide at the Rattan Creek Luxury Apartment Homes, at Parmer Lane and Dallas Drive, according to sheriff’s reports. The body of a man believed to have killed Senait also was found in the apartment. The sheriff’s office has not released the man’s name pending notification of his family.

Investigators believe Senait and the man were cab drivers.

Eritreans host Horn of Africa panel discussion in California

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

By Elias Kifle

I was invited to participate in a Horn of Africa panel discussion on Saturday, August 15, which was hosted by the Community of Eritreans in the San Francisco Bay Area. The discussion was held at Oakland Tech High School in Oakland, California, in conjunction with the Eritrean Festival Western USA – 2009. The guest speakers included Prof. Ahmed Samatar of Somalia, Dr. Awet Weldemichael of Eritrea, and myself.

I was asked to be the first speaker of the event. My 10-minute presentation evolved around the need to get rid of the Woyanne tribal junta in Ethiopia for peace to prevail in the Horn of Africa region:

As long as Woyanne, the cause and instigator of all of the conflicts in the region, remains in power, there can be no stability in the region. Woyanne’s extremely greedy nature doesn’t allow a win-win situation in any thing it does. It is all-or-nothing, zero-sum game.

For the first time ever, representatives of Ethiopian organizations are attending Eritrean events in the Diaspora. Eritreans are doing likewise. Such interaction and dialogue between Eritreans and Ethiopians could help build a potent alliance for peace and prosperity in the region. Because of the growing alliance with Eritrea, Ethiopian forces are now on the offensive for the first time.

I proposed the creation of a Horn of Africa Alliance that will be capable ending the chaos in the region:

The emerging Ethiopia-Eritrea alliance need to grow and involve the people of Somali and Djibouti. Such a Horn of Africa alliance can play a key role in removing the Woyanne cancer from the region and help bring about peace and stability. It seems that the process of establishing such an alliance has already started from the bottom up…

There is only one independent government in the Horn of Africa that has the vision and leadership quality to help bring such an idea to fruition. I explained as follows:

For this process to be fruitful, it needs a strong backing from the Government of Eritrea. Currently, it is the only government in the region that has the vision and the desire to create economic and political integration among the peoples of the Horn of Africa. As we all know, the junta that is ruling Ethiopia is working to implement its 1976 Greater Tigray Republic Manifesto after dismembering Ethiopia into several small satellite states that are to be ruled from Mekele by the Woyanne masters through puppets. Most of the steps for Woyanne to implement its Greater Tigray manifesto have already been taken. The only reason Woyanne has stopped short of fully implementing its plan so far is because of the Eritrean government’s opposition to such a plan. The government in Djibouti is a fake government. It’s leaders are puppets for Woyanne and France. In Somalia, there is no functioning government. It is therefore necessary for the Government of Eritrea to provide leadership in bringing together the people of the Horn of Africa to work for their mutual benefit, instead of working against each other.

I also talked about what I think should follow the removal of Woyanne:

After removing the Woyanne junta, the next step needs to be to establish a commonwealth of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibout and Somalia and integrate their economies — with their citizens having full rights to live, work and conduct businesses in any place they choose. The economic integration needs to also include common currency backed up by gold, common tax policy, and common working language (English). If we are able to put these ideas to work, our countries and region will be on the path of peace and prosperity.

My observation is that the mostly Eritrean audience was receptive of the ideas I presented.

The following speaker was Dr Awet. His presentation touched many areas, and he forcefully defended Eritrea’s government against the accusation by the U.S. Department of State and the Woyanne junta that Eritrea is arming Al Qaeda-linked groups in Somalia.

The last speaker was Prof. Samatar, who focused on the need to build civil societies in order for peace and stability to prevail in the region. He blamed the chaos in Somalia on the death of civic culture.

During the question and answer session, I was asked how Eritreans can trust future Ethiopian governments. I explained that Ethiopians express the same concern. The solution is for the people of Ethiopia and Eritrea to develop the kind of relation that cannot easily be broken apart by politicians. I gave the relation between people of Canada and the U.S. as an example. It is unimaginable for Canada and the U.S. to go to war. Ethiopia and Eritrea can join in some kind of arrangement, be it confederation or commonwealth, which will further guarantee that the two people will never go to war.

Before the discussion concluded, I implored Eritreans and Somalis to distinguish between Ethiopia and Woyanne. I explained that the Woyanne junta does not represent Ethiopia. It is the Woyanne tribal junta that invaded Somalia and slaughtered its people. It is the Woyanne junta that is in a state of war with Eritrea. The people of Ethiopia have no problem with Somalia and Eritrea. They just want to live in peace and freedom. The audience seemed to agree.

(The writer, who is the editor-in-chief of Ethiopian Review, can be reached at eliaskifle@gmail.com)

EPPF Chicago Chapter formed

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

The Chicago Chapter of Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) has been formed this week after holding a series of meetings. For more information visit EPPF’s official web site, eppfonline.org. Click here.

Kenenisa Bekele wins gold for Ethiopia in Berlin

Monday, August 17th, 2009

By Luke Phillips

BERLIN (AFP) — Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele etched his name in distance running history at the world athletics championships here on Monday when he won his fourth consecutive world 10,000m title.

The 27-year-old Olympic champion ran 26min 46.31sec to add Berlin gold to his previous success in Paris 2003, Helsinki 2005 and Osaka two years ago, to match compatriot Haile Gebrselassie for the most world championship titles won.

“It’s great to win for the fourth time,” he said. “I had already planned to stay behind until the last lap and then kick.”

The victory also meant the five foot four (1.60 metres) running phenomenon from Ethiopia continued his 100 percent record over the 10,000m event.

Once again the Ethiopian relied on his last-lap kick, an incredible ability to change gears when the bell sounds and destroy his rivals in 50 quick, painful metres.

Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese, who led for almost all the second-half of the 25-lap race, claimed silver in 26:50.12 with Kenyan Moses Masai of Kenya winning bronze in 26:57.39.

Qatar’s Nicolas Kemboi and Kenyan Bernard Kipyego kept up the early pace of the race at the Olympic Stadium with the Ethiopians quite happy to sit in the chasing pack.

Just before the halfway stage, Tadese kicked away, with Bekele in second and compatriot Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam in third at a pace that strung the field out.

Masai took up the lead from Tadese briefly before the Eritrean again picked up a punishing pace that saw the pack begin to lap other competitors with 10 laps to go.

A lap later, and a four-runner breakaway had formed, Bekele sitting on the heels of Masai, behind Tadese, with Kenyan Michah Kogo in fourth.

With four laps remaining, the two Kenyans had fallen off Tadese’s unrelenting pace and Bekele was left with a fight on his hands with his great rival from the world cross-country circuit.

Tadese’s hunched running style, shoulders jerking, was at odds with Bekele’s more upright stance, his body more fluid in the Eritrean’s slipstream.

As the bell rang for the final lap, Bekele made his move, seemingly effortless as he ruthlessly motored past Tadese.

When he rounded the bend for the final stretch he raised his finger in the knowledge he had matched his one-time master Haile Gebrselassie’s record.

Kenenisa Bekele’s gold here adds to an unbelievable medal haul from the Olympic Games, worlds and world cross-country championships.

He is also world record holder over both the 5000m and 10,000m, and will now move on to the 5000m in buoyant mood.

UDJ meeting in Nazret disrupted by Woyanne goons

Monday, August 17th, 2009

NAZRET, ETHIOPIA — A town hall meeting organized by the Union for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ) on Saturday, August 15, was disrupted by Woyanne goons posing as “Oromo nationalists.”

Read more in Amharic here.

The disturbance occurred when the Woyanne thugs inside the meeting hall started to raise a “point of order” on how the meeting should be conducted. They protested against the use of Amharic language at the meeting since Adama (the new name Woyanne gave to Nazret) is inside Oromia Killil.

According to the Awramba Times reporter who was at the scene, the Woyanne goons then went on to push, shove and attack UDJ representatives and guests of honor who came from Addis Ababa for the meeting.

The guests of honors included former president Dr Negaso Gidada, Dr Beyene Petros, and former defense minister Ato Siye Abraha.

The thugs physically attacked Dr Negasso Gidada after accusing him of selling out to Amharas. Interestingly, no body touched or accosted Siye Abraha. The thugs moved out of the way as their former boss walked out of the meeting.

Ethiopian St. Mary Church to inaugurate a new building in Atlanta

Monday, August 17th, 2009

On August 29, 2009, His Holiness Abune Merkorios, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, will bless the opening of The Kidist Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Cathedral. The ceremony will be held at the brand new complex, located at 1152 South Stone Mountain Lithonia Rd., Lithonia, GA (a suburb of Atlanta)… [read more]

ESL For Employment Course Offered at NOVA in Virginia

Monday, August 17th, 2009

To assist foreign-born adults to improve their English language skills and advance their career, an ESL for Employment course will be offered in the fall at several campuses of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). Prospective candidates are encouraged to attend a two-hour information session about the course. Such information sessions will be presented on five August and September evenings, beginning August 6, each at a different NOVA campus. There is no charge for the Information Session. In fact, a $25 check towards course tuition will be awarded to people who register at least one week before the session of their choice… [read more]

Ethiopia's tribal junta running out of hard currency reserve

Monday, August 17th, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: A recent Economist article says that Meles Zenawi’s tribal junta has only a few weeks foreign exchange reserves left. A significant re-routing of remittances away from official channels by the Diaspora could wipe this remainder out quickly. Ethiopians in the diaspora can help starve the Woyanne killing machine by not using official money transfer channels. The following articles — which was originally posted in June 2009 — suggests several other methods on how to defeat the genocidal dictatorship in Ethiopia.

The effective use of non-violence in the Ethiopian context

By An American Friend

There are useful lessons that Ethiopia’s non-violent opposition can gain from the last election and by studying other countries’ non-violent democracy campaigns. As is well known, in 2005, the government stole national elections and violently suppressed opposition supporters that took to the streets in protest. This violence by the government had the effect of further de-legitimizing itself and mobilizing popular opinion against it. Subsequent attempts by the opposition to exert leverage through strikes and consumer boycotts fizzled. The government maintained its effective control of violent methods, used them to hold onto its key economic resources and foreign supporters, and succeeded in surviving another five years.

Many interpret these events as proving that the non-violent principles embraced by some opposition groups cannot work in the Ethiopian context. And it is true that, in other countries, violent means have sometimes worked as a direct mechanism of change, and sometimes in parallel with non-violent action. But an analysis of events since 2005 suggests another possible explanation for the failure by the non-violent opposition to enforce its election victory: the failure to exploit fully the complete range of tactics associated with non-violent action.

Perhaps a good place to look for lessons in this experience is with a review of the basic principles of non-violence. Many people misinterpret non-violent action as an attempt to change the hearts and minds of one’s oppressor by meekly and passively accepting the punishments he inflicts. Others perceive non-violence as mainly a matter of large public demonstrations, because these dramatic scenes are the ones most often seen in the media. These are indeed aspects of non-violence, but not always the most powerful ones. Nor are they necessarily the most applicable to Ethiopia’s situation.

Indeed, a survey of non-violence in other countries indicates that the most powerful form of non-violence is choking the dictatorship to death by cutting off its material support.

The regime’s victims themselves often provide much, or even most, of this support without realizing it. There is an old story about a cruel village chief who used to force the inhabitants of his village to bring him all the food. He grew strong while the others weakened. But if anyone rebelled, the chief would beat him into submission. One day, while they were in the fields gathering food for the chief, one villager proposed that everyone withhold the food from the Chief at the same time. So they hid there, where he could not find them, eating the food themselves and withholding it from the Chief. There were too many resisters for the Chief to find and beat them all. By uniting and refusing to cooperate, and staying out of reach, they were able to stop feeding the Chief. He soon weakened and died. Then the villagers could return and eat the food themselves.

This fable illustrates the situation in Ethiopia today.

The government has two main weapons: violence and the division of its opponents. But, to implement its violence, the government needs money, especially foreign exchange, to buy arms, equipment and keep its officials loyal. So, following the illustration of the village chief, it is necessary to cut off the government’s supply of money without presenting an easy target to its soldiers.

This is a very different approach than the public protests and activities that have dominated most opposition activities to date. Massive public gatherings can have powerful psychological, propaganda and recruitment value. But, even if large rallies, also known as methods of concentration, can be organized, they will provide the government, with its advantage in violence, an easy way to hurt protesters. The failure of Kinijit’s street demonstrations, following the 2005 election fraud, to bring down the government and the recent denials of public demonstration permits to UDJ are illustrations of the limitations of such methods at this stage of the revolution.

Sometimes it’s better for resisters to stay out of reach of soldiers by using so-called methods of dispersion instead. With methods of dispersion, people can keep a low profile while simply cutting off the government’s money. They can opt out of, and disrupt, vital government-controlled economic resources until the regime crumbles.

The strikes and boycotts previously attempted by Kinijit were not successful, primarily due to the financial hardship that complying with these actions required. But this doesn’t mean that such methods of economic non-cooperation are useless. There are other tactics waiting to be used.

The opposition stands for, and should be associated with, making the average Ethiopian richer and economic resistance tactics for Ethiopia should channel natural human self-interest. Methods that allow the individual to hold onto more of his money and property may give resisters a greater direct personal stake in the struggle and spread the message that democratization is directly beneficial. These non-cooperation tactics would include tax boycotts and rent boycotts, whereby people can keep more of their own money.

One way to remove the government’s financial support is by stopping its supply of foreign exchange. The government relies on foreign exchange earned from the Diaspora’s foreign remittances to finance its arms purchases. People in the Diaspora can deny this foreign exchange to the government by bypassing official foreign exchange channels when sending money home.

In Ethiopia, citizens can withdraw their money from government-controlled banks, causing the banks to collapse. Such methods avoid open confrontation in the streets with soldiers. In fact, when people see soldiers in the street, they should greet them with friendly gestures.

Because the government relies on coffee exports, develop methods that will disrupt its earning foreign exchange from the export of coffee, such as private smuggling or exploiting vulnerabilities in its transportation. In the Diaspora, organize consumer boycotts or pressure large buyers, such as Japanese importers and Starbucks, not to buy Ethiopian coffee until human rights are implemented.

The government seeks to prevent the best quality coffee from being consumed locally. Therefore, let the preparation and consumption of good quality coffee by the people be a symbol of resistance.

Because economic resistance avoids confrontation, it shifts the advantage to the opposition, because the battlefield is now economic and where the people themselves dominate, instead of military, where the government has the temporary advantage. Such so-called dispersed tactics, by avoiding soldiers, will allow more people to join, thus fostering unified action. Most importantly, dispersed tactics, by not offering a target to the government, can continue longer, thus meeting another key requirement for success—sustainability.

Sustainability means the movement’s ability to continue functioning despite government repression or the arrest of its leaders. A comparative study of non-violence campaigns in other countries reveals that sustainability is the most critical factor in success. Sustainability promotes divisions between the government and its supporters.

Improve sustainability by strengthening organizational infrastructure. At every level, a democracy movement needs redundant leadership and communications structures that can take over if one level or link is severed, thus allowing for continued functioning in the face of repression.

Coordinated action at the national level is also important. For example, tax and rent boycotts should obviously be undertaken by as many people at the same time as possible. But unification should not be interpreted as meaning a single, monolithic movement in which everyone acts in the same way all at once. A nationwide movement should be capable of coordinated action towards the specific goal of cutting off the government’s resources but, at the same time, be composed of sub-groups that each are capable of independent leadership, communications and action. The general movement should be like a swarm of bees that attacks its target as one, but with each bee also fighting in small groups or even as individuals.

Enlist organizations and groups of all types to the movement, not just political ones. These independent groups should send their own delegates to regional and national organizations for coordinating action on a national scale. Especially, students, workers and farmers must form strong links. But they must also be capable of acting independently.

Each sub-group must be aware of the overarching goals, but capable of its own decisions and actions, all the way down to the village, neighborhood and street organization level. Include NGO’s, even those not involved with human rights. Each one has a meeting space, contacts and, sometimes, support services and infrastructure that can be borrowed (trucks, faxes, secretarial staff, etc.). Create youth squads in small, disciplined units that coordinate at the neighborhood or block level.

The government has imposed its own leadership on several important institutions, such as local governments, the military, unions and the Church in order to prevent them from acting independently. But there are many times and places, even within these institutions, when and where the government cannot easily reach. These free spaces should be expanded and developed in order to create opportunities for meeting, education, sharing information, planning and implementing actions beyond the government’s control. This will strengthen the people and weaken the government.

For example, communities can elect their own parallel authorities at the local level, including village, neighborhood and block, simply bypassing government-imposed authority. People can begin to live freely and independently of the government by forming their own election monitoring commission, courts, street and area committees, strike centers, people’s committees, political conferences, democracy salons, posters, and “hit and run” demonstrations (“hit and runs” are unannounced street actions that appear suddenly without warning and dissolve before the police can arrive.).

These free political spaces can begin to assume some functions of government, such as information distribution, dispute resolution, self-help projects (for example, mass clean ups and sanitation projects as a form of protest), marriages, public order and welfare, document recording and so on. Communities can elect their own local land title committees that will give land titles to owners with valid claims.

The creation of such democratically chosen civic space can be gradually expanded over time to assume more and more of the government’s functions, including taxation, law enforcement and the acquisition and distribution of resources.

Within the Church and Islamic hierarchies, religious communities can establish their own autonomous groups that do not consult nor recognize illegitimate, government-appointed religious hierarchies. Congregations can give their church or mosque dues directly to freely chosen religious leaders instead of the government-imposed religious authorities.

Within the military, soldiers can form their own solidarity committees and elect their own committee leaders.

Workers can bypass official union leadership by electing their own leaders to operate in parallel to the government-imposed ones. At the same time, union leadership should mirror the national umbrella movement’s redundant organizational structures by allowing decentralized groups within it to function independently. These must be capable of cooperating with the overall union leadership and with the national movement on grand strategy, but also of operating on their own. Each sub-group should also mirror the national movement in seeking sustainability by avoiding open conflict, adopting a wide range of methods and tactics, having redundant leadership and communications channels and non-hierarchical links with every sort of community group. Turn workplaces into democracy forums. Workers should elect their strike leaders. Establish strike centers. Evaluate the union’s capacity for information flow and devise hidden media sources.

If there are any workers who are hard to replace in businesses critical to the government’s income, especially its foreign exchange earnings, they should strike if feasible. Demands should be practical and local, as workers may not want to take risks for vague concepts like “freedom.” When sufficient leverage is created through these methods, link economic demands to political ones.

However, it is difficult for Ethiopian workers to go on strike because of financial hardship. Before undertaking a strike, they must try to obtain strike funding from outside sources, such as sympathetic foreign countries or foreign unions. If they cannot obtain strike funding, slowdowns and economic sabotage can exert similar economic pressure on a dictatorship without the resisting workers having to reveal themselves or come into open confrontation with the government. Such non-confrontational activities should be focused against businesses owned by government officials and supporters, or which contribute to the government’s income, especially its foreign exchange reserves. These tactics can also be applied to government offices themselves, such as tax or administrative agencies, for example.

Use opportunities for free association within the country’s various institutions to educate the people about the role they play themselves in their own imprisonment. Many people do not realize that they are supporting their own repression, and an important part of a democracy movement is educating them about this. Every time they recognize the dictatorship’s authority, every time they pay taxes to it, every time they help it earn foreign exchange, every time they rely on its political channels instead of creating their own, they strengthen and legitimize the machinery that traps them. The government cannot survive without the unwitting help of its victims. Make the people aware of the opportunities available to them to assert their own independence. When the dictatorship’s victims learn how much power they really have and understand the specific and most critical ways in which they are supporting the government, they can stop their supportive behavior and the government will collapse.

The efficient flow of information to the people is the next critical factor in achieving unified action. The umbrella movement should provide information to the people about the government’s negative actions and inform people how collectively withdrawing their cooperation from it can dissolve an oppressive regime. It is important to liberate people from attitudes of weakness and subservience.

Underground media and the free spaces created by developing parallel political structures and independent associations can serve as good channels for educating people about democracy. Evaluate the movement’s capacity to generate and move information securely and efficiently. Create as many overlapping channels of underground media– printed newspapers, leaflets and posters, published from multiple hidden locations– as possible so they can survive the eventual government crackdown. Encourage people freely to do their own underground publishing. Distribute printed media using “hit and run” methods.

Use such media to inform the people about the goal of shutting off the government’s economic support. Teach the importance of resilient, unified action. Use it to explain how the people are unwittingly supporting the government, how they can stop supporting it and how to create autonomous civic space. Encourage independent initiatives.

Workers should develop similar, hidden media structures within their autonomous organizations, as should the military, religious organizations and students. Pastoral letters and sermons from mid- and lower ranking Church and Moslem leaders and political funerals or memorial services are also good means of mass persuasion.

When educating the people, use simple fables and parables to illustrate the concepts of non-cooperation. Encourage people to think independently and to envision a better system for themselves. Encourage a “revolution of the spirit.” Encourage people to start their own literacy and educational campaigns for their local associations.

When the movement makes any public pronouncements, always do so in the name of “the people.”

In the Diaspora, promote grassroots campaigns among Westerners to end direct support of the government and re-route humanitarian support, emphasizing the issue of genocide. Periods when the international media are likely to be visiting Ethiopia are opportunities for special efforts.

Having a wide range of tactics is also part of sustainability. Each group, even every individual, can decide what’s the best way to stop supporting the government. But all should be aware of the overarching strategy of recruiting more and more people to join in cutting off the government’s resources, especially its money.

Don’t let the pressure ebb or falter, it must persistently and aggressively be kept up. Tactics should always be evolving, increasing and changing. Goals must be specific and easy for everyone to understand. Actions should be overlapping and, although independently led, all aimed at shared goals.

Beware government provocations to violence, which shifts the battle to where the government has the advantage and creates excuses for crackdowns. Promote forms of peer pressure to coerce people into participating in economic non-cooperation, economic sabotage and other methods of non-violent resistance. At the same time, the people should shun the government authorities wherever possible. Informers and collaborators should be socially ostracized.

Don’t fall into the trap of relying on the government’s controlled political channels for action. Don’t participate in elections unless the conditions for a fair contest are truly secured, including pre-election. If a decision is made to participate in elections, use the campaign as an opportunity for additional mobilization. Be both a political party and a social movement. Exploit any opportunities for public education that temporary pre-election liberalization of the media by the government may provide. But do not rely on this. If the opposition does participate in elections, establish your own election monitoring commission.

It is especially important to continue the dispersed methods of resistance described above after the post-election crackdown. This is where sustainability is critical to victory.

After sustainability is well established is the time to re-emphasize efforts to peel business, military and international support away from the dictatorship. The national umbrella organization should establish a parallel government. Only after significant security defections occur, significant splits among key government supporters emerge, sustainable communications capacity is established and a situation of dual sovereignty evolves, should concentration tactics be added to the dispersed ones.

The leverage created by sustainability should be used to force the government to step down and allow the opposition’s parallel government to take over and prepare for free and fair elections. Don’t negotiate with the dictatorship. Don’t ask it for permits and permissions. This only legitimizes it. Instead, focus on dissolving it by cutting off its sources of support.

The {www:Woyanne} dictatorship is weak. Its support is wavering. Its resources are dwindling. And there are many tools of non-violence, especially in the area of dispersed tactics, which have not yet been deployed.

Thus, considering what has worked in other countries, the obvious vulnerabilities of the dictatorship and the multiple tactical possibilities still untried, it is possible to advance a hypothesis that, in 2005, Kinijit should have followed up after the post-election crackdown with a wider range of dispersed and sustainable sanctions on the regime emphasizing individual self-enrichment. This lesson might be tested in 2009 and 2010.

Studious application of non-violent action may be able to end the Woyanne/EPRDF regime while minimizing physical harm to either side.

Remembering Ethiopian Political Prisoners

Monday, August 17th, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

The Actions of Our Enemies, the Silence and Indifference of Our Friends

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends,” said Dr. Martin Luther King. The silence and indifference of our friends could be just as harrowing. Thank you Gasha (Shield) for Ethiopians for remembering the thousands of political prisoners languishing in Ethiopia today. Nothing is more important and uplifting to political prisoners than knowledge of the fact that they are not forgotten, abandoned and forsaken by the outside world. Remembrance gatherings at town hall meetings such as this one serve to remind all of us who live in freedom the divine blessings of liberty and the unimaginable suffering of those trapped in the darkness of dictatorship. Thank you Gasha for organizing this event to remember Ethiopia’s voiceless, but not forgotten, political prisoners. [1]

Birtukan Mideksa as the Symbol of All Political Prisoners in Ethiopia

The symbol of all political prisoners in Ethiopia today is Birtukan Mideksa. It could be said Birtukan is the accidental heroine in our struggle against dictatorship. She is a young woman in her mid-thirties, and a single mother with a four-year old daughter. She is soft spoken, humble and unassuming. She is thoughtful, articulate, witty, analytical and measured in her speech. She studied law and became a judge. She performed her judicial duties with integrity, independence and extraordinary professionalism. Birtukan represents the best of the best generation of Ethiopia – the young women and men who are destined by history to rescue Ethiopia from the darkness of dictatorship and deliver her to the bright sunlight of freedom, democracy and human rights. Birtukan will remain our flickering candle of hope in the withering storm of dictatorship and oppression that has gripped our homeland.

Birtukan’s Reimprisonment

Following the 2005 elections, Birtukan was jailed for nearly two years with other opposition leaders, human rights advocates, journalists and civic society activists. She was released by a “pardon” in July, 2007. In December, 2008, her “pardon” was revoked because “she failed to annul her denial” of receiving it in 2007. Birtukan told a different story:

On December 10, 2008 the Federal Police commissioner sent two officers of the District 12 Police to ask me to go to his office, I went to his office thinking that he probably wanted to talk to me about our Unity Party. However, when he told me the reason I was summoned to his office was related to the pardon, the first question I asked him was what authority the police have in relation to this issue. But his response was accompanied with a smile of surprise and said this is not an academic discussion and it is better for you to stop this kind of question. But what they found to be funny and perplexing is something great that I will forever live for, stand for, and sometimes get jailed and released for – it is the rule of law and abiding by the constitution…

On December 24, 2008 he summoned me to his office again through a messenger but without a legal warrant. But when I received a legal warrant in the afternoon of the same day, I did not waste a minute to go to his office. What awaited me at the Commissioner’s office and what was stated in the warrant were very different. Instead of asking me questions as stated in the warrant, what the Commissioner did was to give me a warning that sounded like an order. He said that unless I retract the statement I made in Sweden within three days, the government will remove the pardon and lock me in jail.” [1]

Of course, Birtukan has never denied receiving a “pardon”. Even if she had made a denial, the fact that she received one is a matter of public record. Her opinion on the subject has no legal significance; it is certainly not a crime. For allegedly “denying” her “pardon”, she is now doing a life sentence. She was held in solitary confinement for the first six months, a punishment reserved for the most violent criminals inside any prison. But her re-imprisonment is instructive on the brutal and outrageous nature of the dictatorship in Ethiopia today.

Typology of Ethiopian Political Prisoners

The phrase “political prisoners” may be overbroad in accurately describing the ordinary citizens from all walks of life who are held captive by the dictatorship. The discrete categories of political prisoners in Ethiopia are numerous. There are “no political prisoners” who are “political prisoners.” The capo dictator in 2006 declared, “There are no political prisoners in Ethiopia at the moment. So it is difficult to explain a situation of political prisoners because there are none. However, insurgents and militants have been imprisoned because of their militant and violent acts.”
There are political prisoners who have committed “state” crimes by exercising their guaranteed “human and democratic rights” in the “Ethiopian constitution”. Dissenters, critical journalists, civic society leaders and members are jailed arbitrarily despite the fact that they have unrestricted constitutional “freedom of expression and information and ideas of all kinds without interference,” press censorship is prohibited and “freedom of association and peaceably assembly” guaranteed. The are those who, like Birtukan, are made political prisoners because they “will forever live for, stand for, and sometimes get jailed and released for [upholding] the rule of law and abide by the constitution.”
There are political prisoners who were once members of the dictatorship but fell out of grace when they opposed the cabal leadership (that is the “government within the government”). Among these include individuals with strong nationalists leanings, advocates of Ethiopian unity and critics of endemic corruption.

There are those who are imprisoned as “desperado-terrorists”. They are accused of attempting to overthrow the “government” and its “leaders” at the bidding of alleged international masterminds who manipulate them by remote control. Members of certain organizations are automatically presumed to be “militants,” “insurgents” and “terrorists” and jailed.

There are guilty-by-association political prisoners, often family members and friends of those accused of “state” crimes or deemed to be opponents of the “government”. There are scapegoat political prisoners, innocent individuals who become the fall guys for the corruption and wrongdoing of those in power. There are individuals who became political prisoners because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are even entertainers who became political prisoners because they did not sing praises of the dictatorship.

Then there are the inmates of Prison Nation Ethiopia, Inc., some 80 million political prisoners who live each day under relentless oppression.

All of these political prisoners have their own stories to tell, but they can not because they have been rendered voiceless. We must stand in for them and tell their stories to the world.

Campaigning for the Release of Political Prisoners in Ethiopia

We need to undertake a campaign for the release of political prisoners in Ethiopia. By its very nature, this campaign is a moral undertaking. It is a campaign to bring about external pressure on the ruthless dictators to improve the prison conditions for these prisoners and to gain their eventual release.

Such a campaign will not be easy, and we should not expect quick results. Most importantly, we must begin the effort with a clear and realistic understanding of certain fundamental facts about the dictators who maintain Prison Nation. We must incorporate in our operational assumptions that the dictators 1) are concerned only with clinging to power as long as possible and at any cost; 2) operate in a complete moral vacuum; 3) view all Ethiopian Diasporic human rights efforts with contempt and derision; 5) believe that the Diaspora is in a state of disarray, dissension, disagreement and division and without a unifying leadership and therefore incapable of concerted action in any endeavor; 6) know they can sneer at the international community in much the same way as Robert Mugabe and the Burmese military junta; 7) will conform their conduct to international human rights standards only when their personal, financial and monetary interests are at stake, namely when they believe there is a risk of sanctions or loss of international aid and loans which they skim to line their pockets.

In light of the foregoing, how can we best advance the cause of political prisoners in Ethiopia? How can we ensure that political prisoners are not tortured, mistreated, abused and dehumanized? How can we get them released? I believe these objectives can be achieved in a multiphasic process. The first phase is the creation of massive international public awareness of the plight of political prisoners.

Phase 1: Increasing International Awareness of Ethiopian Political Prisoners

Fact Gathering and Documentation. To be effective advocates of Ethiopian political prisoners, we must be well informed on prison conditions and the techniques used by the dictators to transform ordinary citizens into political prisoners. Currently, we have limited empirical data on the number of political prisoners, their distribution throughout the country and prison conditions. It is essential that we collect qualitative and quantitative data. Anecdotal evidence shows that there are 3 “federal” prisons and 117 “regional” ones. It is well established that there are numerous secret prisons and detentions facilities throughout the country. According to a 2008 report by Col. Michael Dewars, an internationally recognized riot expert hired by the dictatorship, “conditions inside Ethiopian prisons are appalling,” possibly the worst in the world. The 2008 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report described prison conditions as follows:

Prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Severe overcrowding was a problem. Prisoners often had less than 22 square feet of sleeping space in a room that could contain up to 200 persons, and sleeping in rotations was not uncommon in regional prisons… Prison conditions were unsanitary and there was no budget for prison maintenance. Medical care was unreliable in federal prisons and almost nonexistent in regional prisons. In detention centers, police often physically abused detainees. Authorities generally permitted visitors but sometimes arbitrarily denied them access to detainees. In some cases, family visits to political prisoners were restricted to a few per year. While statistics were unavailable, there were some deaths in prison due to illness and poor health care. Prison officials were not forthcoming with reports of such deaths.

Organize Conferences, Town Hall Meetings and Other Discussion Forums. To be effective advocates for Ethiopian political prisoners we must come together and discuss strategy and tactics in a common forum. Today’s forum organized by Gasha for Ethiopians is an excellent first effort. Other meetings and conferences should actively seek the participation of former Ethiopian political prisoners, scholars, human rights advocates, policy makers and others to brainstorm strategies.

Condemnations and Legislative Resolutions. Following the Iranian election and the kangaroo trial of Aung San Suu Kuy, there has been an extraordinary demonstration of moral outrage by various leaders. President Barack Obama, Prime Ministers Stephen Harper and Gordon Brown have condemned the illegal detention of Iranian demonstrators and the kangaroo court conviction of Ms. Kuy. The EU tightened sanctions on Burma. India, Indonesia and a number of the ASEAN countries have condemned Burma’s military dictators. There is no reason why we can not get such action taken on behalf of Birtukan and the thousands of political prisoners if we put our resources together. It should be recalled that Ethiopians living in the states of Massachusetts, Washington, Oregon and Oklahoma managed to get legislative resolutions passed over the past couple of years. We need to undertake such an effort on an international scale.

Securing Support From Former Political Prisoners and Other Human Rights Defenders. The cause of Ethiopian political prisoners could be advanced significantly if we could get the support and endorsement of individuals who have earned universal respect for their moral courage and personal integrity. Recently, President Nelson Mandela called for the release of Ms. Kuy. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has condemned political repression in Africa and called for release of political prisoners. President Vaclav Havel (imprisoned for 5 years by the Czechoslovak Communist regime for his leadership of the dissident group Charter 77 and later president), the Dalai Lama, Paul Rusesabagina (the Rwandan hotel manager who saved thousands from Hutu massacres), Walesa (a former political prisoner, later President of Poland and recently spearheaded efforts for release of Cuban political prisoners), Mary Robinson (former president of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) could be enlisted in this effort. We can confidently say that Shirin Ebadi, (first Iranian woman Nobel Luareate for peace pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights) and Dr. Wangari Maathai (first Kenyan woman Nobel laureate for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace) and many others could be persuaded to champion the cause of Birtukan and the thousands of other political prisoners in Ethiopia if they are approached.

Join and Support the Work of International Human Rights Organizations. We can’t do it alone. Collaboration with international human rights organizations must be a critical component of everything we do to campaign for Ethiopian political prisoners. We owe a debt of gratitude to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Genocide Watch and many other organizations for much of the documentation and analysis we have today on human rights violations in Ethiopia. We need to join these organization in large numbers and work with them to bring pressure on the dictators. We need to engage the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has previously visited “regional” prisons, to investigate prison conditions now.

Think Global, Act Local: Using Local Media and Resources. Those of us who live in exile in the democratic countries should make use of local media resources available in our communities to raise public awareness for Ethiopian political prisoners. We should write in local newspapers, give radio and television interviews and speak at civic association meetings. Though such efforts may seem somewhat challenging, they could be done relatively easily by anyone who is willing to inform him/herself and is committed to stand up and speak up for the voiceless political prisoners.

We should also make use of resources available at the law schools, universities, high schools, churches and other community organizations to create broad public awareness of Ethiopian political prisoners. For instance, if American students could be mobilized to champion the cause of Darfur, young Ethiopian college students could also mobilize them to support Ethiopian political prisoners. Similar mobilization efforts could be undertaken with religious institutions and civic associations.

Free those who are wrongly imprisoned…

In Isaiah 58:6 is written: “Free those who are wrongly imprisoned… Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.” The essence of this message is present in the teachings of all of the world’s great religions. The cause of freeing Ethiopian political prisoners is divinely ordained, and all of us in exile must shoulder our responsibility, if not for man’s sake, to fulfill the will of the Almighty. We must labor for the cause of Ethiopian political prisoners not because it is easy or fashionable, but because it right and just. In the end, what will make the difference is not the brutality, ruthlessness and inhumanity of the dictators but our humanity, empathy and compassion for the wrongly imprisoned. Let us join hands and do our divine mission: “Free those who are wrongly imprisoned…”

[1] Commentary based on a presentation given at a town hall meeting in Washington, D.C. sponsored by Gasha (Shield) for Ethiopians, a civic organization dedicated to promoting the rule of law, democracy and human rights in Ethiopia, on August 16, 2009.

Ethiopian woman gang raped and beaten to death in UAE

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

By Ali Al-Shouk

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — Police have arrested four men on suspicion of the gang rape and murder of a young housemaid from Ethiopia.

The suspects were arrested following the discovery of a woman’s body last week on farmland in the Al-Daid region of Sharjah. The victim, an Ethiopian aged in her 20s, had suffered extensive wounds to her head.

Police believe she had been repeatedly struck with rocks until she died.

Sources at Sharjah Police said the woman had been working as a maid at a house in Khor Fakan in Sharjah and disappeared at the beginning of this month.

“She had been working for the three months before she disappeared from the house,” the source said. “She had no reason to disappear and no friends in the area.”

The source added: “Our investigations led us to the main suspect who is an Emirati and who has had a previous conviction for carrying out such a crime.”

During investigations the man confessed to the murder and said he had carried out the attack with three other men.

The source said the main suspect had previously been jailed for the rape and murder of a Pakistani teenage girl and had been sentenced to death for the crime.

However, after serving a number of years in jail he was then released and pardoned after paying blood money to his 13-year-old victim’s family.

According to the preliminary police investigations, the gang watched the housemaid for a number of days before kidnapping her. She was gagged and then repeatedly gang-raped.

Despite escaping from her attackers, the men hunted her down, raped her again and then killed her to prevent her identifying them to police, according to the source.

The men are being held in custody while the investigations continue.

Confusion and defeat for Team Ethiopia in Berlin

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Berlin (DPA) – Top star Tirunesh Dibaba could not run due to injury and as a result confusion reigned for Ethiopia in the 10,000 metres. Meselech Melkamu thought she had won and started celebrating, unaware that she was pipped for the world title on Saturday by Kenya’s Linet Masai on the finish line.

If that wasn’t enough, organizers first listed Meseret Defar as bronze medallist, realizing only half an hour later after a review that countrywoman Wude Ayalew was in fact third. Defar had to settle for fifth after tiring dramatically on the home stretch.

In addition, Dibaba, who was declared injured on Friday, would have most probably run at a much faster pace with her team-mates than the race turned out to be, with Masai making the most of it.

As a result of all of this, Ethiopia failed to get a sixth straight gold in the race as Kenya moved back on top for the first time since Sally Barsosio won in 1997.

“I can’t believe it! I’m so grateful for the win. I didn’t give up until the end,” said the 19-year-old Masai.

The Ethiopians had only themselves to blame in the end (and will hope that Dibaba is fit to run the 5,000m next week).

The absence of Dibaba, the two-time Olympic champion and four-time world champion, was a blow, but the season-leader Melkamu and former 5,000m world champ Defar seemingly classy enough to see the race home.

Ayalew readily admitted that the slow pace, which was eventually picked up by Masai, was a mistake.

“If we had taken the pace earlier we would have finished on top,” she said, with Malkamu adding “there was no plan to push the pace.”

Things looked fine until the end when Defar kicked going into the home stretch. However, she tired in the end and faded to fifth.

Melkamu took over but was ambushed at the finish line by Masai, just like Ejegayehu Dibaba was stunned in similar fashion by China’s Xin Huina in the Olympic 10,000m race in 2004.

“I never saw the Kenyan … I thought I had won,” said Melkamu.

“I am very, very disappointed that we lost the gold. For myself personally, I am pleased because this is my first time running this event at the world championships, so I’m happy I got a medal.”

Ayalew, meanwhile, was awarded with the bronze after an agonizing wait.

“I thought I might be third. I was disappointed when I heard I was fifth. Now I am happy,” she said shortly after learning of the medal.

The two sides of Ethiopia's dictator

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

… But then there is the harsher side of Mr Meles, the Marxist fighter turned political strongman with a dismal human-rights record who is intolerant of dissent. In 2005, after a disputed general election, his police shot dead some 200 civilians. An independent inquiry ended up with several of its judges fleeing the country. Mr Meles sprinkles spies through the universities to intimidate and control the students; he was once a student agitator himself. He closes down independent newspapers and meddles in aid projects, banning agencies that annoy him. Last month he suspended the activities of about 40 of them from the Somali-populated parts of the country… [READ MORE]

Secrets of the Hieroglyphs revealed in Tigrigna and Amarigna

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

New book reveals the dual languages of the hieroglyphs

Until now, it has not been possible to accurately speak the language written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. What we have known up to now about the meanings, spellings, and pronunciations of the ancient words have merely been estimates, arrived through the best attempts of 19th and 20th century Egyptologists.

But now, with the release of the new book, “Amarigna & Tigrigna Qal Hieroglyphs for Beginners,” we can learn how to accurately read, understand, and speak the language most often regarded as the world’s first written language, the way they spoke it 5100 years ago. And for the over 30 million Amarigna and Tigrigna speakers worldwide, it is just a matter of learning to read hieroglyphs.

“Amarigna & Tigrigna Qal Hieroglyphs for Beginners” was written after 20 years of meticulous research, attempting to match the ancient Egyptian words to various languages around the world. Unexpectedly, as it turns out, the hieroglyphs record not one but two related languages, Amarigna and Tigrigna, still spoken in today’s Ethiopia and Eritrea. The reason for this, as the book explains in the brief introduction, the founders of ancient Egypt were from today’s neighboring regions of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The words of Amarigna and Tigrigna match those of the hieroglyphs precisely, letter-for-letter, even long, complicated spellings and phrases. And “Amarigna & Tigrigna Qal Hieroglyphs for Beginners” reveals the ancient name of Egypt, as “Gebts” (“Egypt” is the Greek equivalent of “Gebts”).

“If his discovery is real, it is phenomenal and revolutionary,” states Fikre Tolossa, Ph.D. Literature and Ethiopian poet/playwright, in the book’s preface. “Its impact on the study of hieroglyphs, Amharic and Tigrigna languages, as well as on the history of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, is tremendous. Even the skeptics will have to examine it before they decide to reject or accept it.”

“If I were an Egyptologist (or even an Ethiopist),” Dr. Tolossa goes on to state in the preface of the book, “I would grab this book immediately and read it frantically. I would also be prompted to study right away Ethiopian and Eritrean languages, such as Amharic and Tigrigna, to delve into the world Mr. Legesse Allyn asserts his research has uncovered.”

Look for the book in bookstores and at online retailers. For more information or to buy the book direct, go to http://books.ancientgebts.org

Ye Eyasu Generation Inaugural Award

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

WASHINGTON DC — On Friday, September 25th 2009, Ethiopian-Americans for Change will be hosting the Inaugural Ethiopian-American Appreciation Day. This momentous occasion will mark a time to recognize the contributions that Ethiopian-Americans have and continue to make to the United States and the impact we have in revitalizing Ethiopia from abroad. One of the central events of Ethiopian-American Appreciation Day will be the recognition of 10 Ethiopians 30 or younger who have made significant contributions through their innovative thinking and unending determination… [READ MORE]

Ethiopia's pop music star Teddy Afro released

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopia’s most famous singer Tewodros Kassahun (popularly known as Teddy Afro) has been released today after spending 16 months in jail.

Teddy was sent to jail on trumped-up charges of hit-and-run accident and manslaughter, but the real reason for his arrest is that Meles Zenawi’s Woyanne tribal junta in Ethiopia did not like his songs that promote Ethiopian unity.

Teddy was sentenced to 6 years in jail, but the high court reduced his sentence to 2 years.

The Woyanne security released Teddy one day earlier from the scheduled date of August 14 so that there will not be any crowd awaiting him outside the Kality prison.

The Woyanne-controlled ETV greeted him outside and interviewed him. The interview was aired tonight on ETV.

Related:
* Ethiopia’s king of pop Teddy Afro to be released on August 15
* Woyanne throws Teddy Afro in jail
* Teddy Afro gets a 6-year jail sentence
* Teddy Afro – a victim of ruthless dictatorship
* The celebration of Teddy Afro’s ideals and vision
* VIDEO: Teddy Afro steals Beyone’s show in Addis

Eritrean Community hosts panel discussion on Horn of Africa

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

The Challenges and Prospects of Peace in the Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa is at crucial crossroads between domestic governance failures and localization of the “global war on terror.” But the opportunities to cultivate a common understanding and inform the pursuit of regional peace are greater than the challenges. We hereby invite you to a grassroots, people-to-people panel discussion with scholars and activists from the Horn of Africa in order to increase awareness of what is unfolding within and among the countries of our region and what we, as responsible citizens, can do to alleviate the suffering of our peoples.

The Eritrean Festival Western USA – 2009
August 15, 2009 at 1:00PM
Oakland Tech High School, 4351 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611

Dr. Ahmed I. Samatar (Macalester College) earned BA degree from University of Wisconsin la Crosse, and MA and PhD from Denver University.

Professor Samatar teaches International Studies and he is Dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship. He is expert of global political economy, political and social theory, and African development. He has taught in many reputable universities around the world.

Dr. Lako Tongun (Pitzer Collge) studied at St. Mary’s College, and earned MA and PhD from UC Davis.

At the Department of Political Science, Professor Tongun teaches International and Intercultural Studies, including past and current conflicts in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. He is expert of African and Third-World politics, political economy and development economics.

Mr. Elias Kifle (Editor-in-Chief, Ethiopian Review) studied Political Science and Management at California State University. Elias is an Addis Ababa born political activist and journalist. He works – since the early 1990s – as editor-in-chief of the most-visited Ethiopian news and analysis on-line journal. Ethiopian Review recently launched his lengthy interview with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and can be access on the web.

Dr. Awet T. Weldemichael (Researcher) attended Addis Ababa University and University of Asmara, and earned MA and PhD from UCLA. He currently researches Northeast African political and security issues. He has taught history at the University of Asmara and UCLA, and international studies at Trinity College. He has also worked as a political affairs officer for the UN peacekeeping mission in East Timor.

Every one is invited.

Let's be like the market – Eleni Gebre-Medhin

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

By Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin

Eleni Gebre-Medhin Much has recently been made of my ethnic identity although this is a matter of no relevance whatsoever to a reasoned discourse on the existence of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange. However, when the unnecessary gets in the way of the important, however unpleasant it may be, it must be faced.

I am Ethiopian, as truly and wonderfully as that is, and no one has the right to define, reduce, or otherwise dismiss my identity. I do not apologize for or defend who I am, as each one of us, whoever we are, has a God-given set of circumstances that uniquely defines us.

My reality is that, born in Addis Ababa, I first left Ethiopia with my family at the age of four to live in New York city, accompanying my father, Zaude Gabre-Madhin, who was a senior United Nations official, prior to which he served in the Imperial government. Upon returning a few years later, my family then left Ethiopia again, escaping the chaos of the new Derg regime, this time to Rwanda and later Togo, Malawi, and Kenya. I thus grew up in six different countries, going to school in French as well as English, and learning Swahili along the way. Throughout this time, my parents, to whom I owe everything, instilled in me and my sisters the deepest love and pride for our country Ethiopia. As I grew up in different cultures, grappling to understand my adolescent identity, I drew on the stories my parents told me of my heritage and of those who came before me. My mother, Bizuwork Bekele, who never missed a chance to boast about her beloved Harar, shared stories of my incredible great-grandmother, Imahoy Saba Yifat, from Menz and Gondar by origin, who lived in rural Hararghe as a widow after the Italian invasion and was one of the few women fighters of her time standing up to the invaders to defend the land and her six children. I heard about her son, my grandfather, Ato Bekele Haile, a respected magistrate serving as a judge in Harar town, himself of Gurage and Amhara ancestry, and of my mother’s birth in the historical site today known as the House of Rimbaud. As a young child, I loved to sit for hours with my maternal grandmother, Imahoy Beletshachew Habte-Giorgis, a witty, intelligent, and extremely strong-willed woman who would often exclaim in Afan Oromo which she and her children, including my mother, spoke fluently, as she laughed recalling how she managed her coffee farms in the areas around Jijiga, Fedis, and Deder, where many of my relatives still live today.

My father, for his part, mostly to amuse his daughters, named the water tank in our UN provided house in Kigali, Rwanda, “Bulga Springs” to recall his father’s birthplace in northern Shewa. He would proudly speak of my grandfather, Fitawrari Gebremedhin, a noble and highly disciplined official in Emperor Menelik’s time, who later settled in Wolaita Soddo in the late nineteenth century, marrying my grandmother, Woizero Ayalech Alaye, niece of the great Wolaita King Tona. At the age of seven, I remember visiting Soddo where my father was born and where many of my relatives still live, to spend time in his last years with my grandfather who was then nearly a century old. A tall, dignified, and handsome man, deeply religious, my grandfather showed me and my sister his coffee farm and I remember him speaking of my much loved late grandmother, and of his childhood and the family still in Bulga, and his laughing politely, not understanding, as I chattered to him in English with children’s jokes I had learned in New York.

Thus I grew, within and outside Ethiopia, celebrating all the different identities and cultures that are woven beautifully into the tapestry of my identity as an Ethiopian. To my parents, always, we were Ethiopian and that was something to be deeply proud of, recognizing and cherishing all of our different ethnic strands. I never knew until much later, nor did it matter, which particular ethnic group I should claim. In my extended family, my aunt married a man from Wollega and my uncle married a woman from Asmara, my great aunt married into the Abba Jifar clan in Jimma, and the list goes on. So the Ethiopia I knew growing up with my cousins was a kaleidoscope of identities bound together in one Ethiopia.

This is my Ethiopian story, and it is unique to me, as each Ethiopian would similarly have. It is the story of my Ethiopia, the Ethiopia for which I have enduring love and to which I have returned after thirty years to contribute in the best way I know how. This is my Ethiopia to which I bring all the global experiences which have shaped me, as I have lived my adult years in Mali, Switzerland, and the United States, trained and worked in some of the best institutions, and traveled and explored dozens of countries around the world. This is my Ethiopia that represents all of my heritage, the strong and courageous women and men in my family through the ages whose blood flows in me. This is my Ethiopia for which I am willing to work, fight, and believe all things are possible. This is my Ethiopia to which I have brought my US-born sons, to instill in them the pride and love of all that we are as Ethiopians. I would like to teach them that in our increasingly inter-connected world, they are Ethiopians but also global citizens.

Ethiopia is ours, to claim, to build and to restore. Rather than engage in destructive ethnic bigotry, far better to embrace all of what we are and to build together a better future for our children. My personal identity is irrelevant to my choice or ability to lead an initiative to bring a better marketing system for all Ethiopians, regardless of their ethnic roots or which corner of the country they claim. A market is above all a connection between humans, an exchange of goods and money that links two sides. The market is neutral as to who is on either side, it is the connection that counts. I have always found traders to be the most pragmatic people in the world. Let us too live by this market principle: we are far richer and far stronger if we build on our connectivity to each other in meaningful ways, and that much weaker if we seek isolation and succumb to narrow divisiveness. Let us be like the market. I believe it is our only hope.

(Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin, Ph.D., is chief operating officer of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange.)

How this Happened

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

A new book by Dereje Befekadu Tessema

How this Happened is a “creative non-fiction” book written with the intention of making it palatable to a wide audience including the many millions who avidly followed the 2008 US presidential election as well as professionals, and scholars who may be interested in looking at how Barack Obama run a successful campaign by looking at it from the perspective of three theoretical frameworks. The author is engaged in the study of the Emotional Intelligence, Transformational Leadership and Project Management frameworks. He has used his research findings together with his personal experience as a first-generation immigrant and his observations while volunteering for the Obama campaign to produce this compelling yet very pleasurable book… [read more]

Ethio-Scandinavian Beauty and Fashion Expo in Addis Ababa

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

The Miss Scandinavia Organization is planning to host a special Ethio-Scandinavian Beauty and fashion expo in Addis Ababa Ethiopia next month, the Expo will coincide with the celebration of Ethiopia’s new year celebrations and feature 24 contestants from the Miss Scandinavia 2009 beauty contest and the contestants from the Miss Ethiopia 2009 contest.

Local Ethiopian business man Intl Pageant organizer and Ezana Entertainment & Model agency owner Aklilu Tewelde, who organized miss tourism of the Millennium in 2007 and who is also organizing Miss Ethiopia 2009 in September has been contacted and put in charge of coordinating the event in Ethiopia, and he has apparently succeeded in getting various to Ethiopian Ministers and officials from the Ethiopian Ministry of Tourism to support the project… [read more]

Aiga Forum's 'teachable moment' on hate

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

Last Monday Aiga Forum, the website reflecting the views and opinions of Tigray Peoples Liberation Front, the party in power in Ethiopia that is led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi posted a racial slur directed at the president of the USA. It said:

“The misguided extremist Diasporas have been cheering up for the last couple of days. You know why? Hillary
Clinton will not visit Ethiopia during her trip to Africa. Hmm! Who cares if the N**** administration ignores Ethiopia?!” Aigaforum.com

This posting was viewed by thousands of people as far away as in Germany and as close as San Francisco, CA. You can read Ato Abebe Gellaw’s investigative reporting on the subject here.

The fact that Aiga Forum posted the racial slur is undeniable. Aiga Forum used an ugly racial epithet to describe the administration of President Obama is a fact that will not disappear by the simple rearrangement of a web site posting. Once on the Internet it stays on the Internet. What is published on the web will stay there no matter what, unless of course a nuclear explosion obliterates the thousands of servers diligently saving all that is put in cyber space.

The way a person or an organization reacts to incidents is a reflection of their mindset, philosophy, or their general outlook in life. The way that Aiga Forum, as the mouthpiece of the TPLF regime, decided to respond to this shameful incident is a window into their standard operating procedure.

If I might digress a little bit, let’s compare two situations that happened within the last month. On July 16 a black Harvard professor was arrested by a white police officer in Cambridge, MA. The incident received wide coverage. During a press conference, Mr. Obama responded to a question and said the Cambridge police ‘acted stupidly’. He spoke too soon. Plenty of folks, both black and white, were hasty in their conclusion.

Our dear professor President, Barrack Obama, realized he was wrong. Upon further reflection, he later admitted that, “I could have calibrated those words differently.” He did not leave it at that. He decided to use the incident as a ‘teachable moment’ for all Americans. He opened the door for citizens and law enforcement people to discuss racial sensitivity, racial profiling, and the issue of race in today’s America. A positive outcome was created out of a bad situation.

Now, let us look at how Aiga Forum and the TPLF regime handled the ugly incident that they created. They wanted to shift responsibility away from their despicable act. They denied that what many people saw, did not exist. They attempted to make the story about me because I wrote an article pointing out their shameful insult against President Obama, and our African American brethren. That is not fair. The story is about Aiga/TPLF’s defamation of the first African American President.

The following is their response to their dirty deed:

Take for example a certain Yilma Bekele article that appeared on abbay media and ethio forum websites about Aigaforum. For the record Aigaforum did not write or post the comments attributed to us in the article! Yilma must be idle or hurt by the ongoing saga with UDJ! Else what was he smoking when he wrote such white lie about Aigaforum? Shame to those websites who posted the article without checking! The two websites could not even agree how to present the article to their readers. One is trying to cheat readers to make it more believable!

Yilma, ethioforum and abbay media you are wrong! When we want to say something we do not hide or speak /write in ‘qene’ we are straight. Next time quote us properly! And we ask you to apologize to your readers for misinforming them.

You see what I mean. The highlighted color is theirs, and the emphasis is theirs. What brought about idleness, smoking, and UDJ into the picture is not clear. After publishing this, they have the chutzpah to ask for an apology. Two Amharic sayings come to mind. The first one is ‘ye leba aynederek melso lib yaderq’ and the second one is ‘ke detu wede matu’. The explanation and the usual insult was posted on Wednesday, August 5th. The next day they came up with a whole new clarification. They claimed that their ‘nemesis’ used ‘disposablewebpage.com’ to defame their image. Of course, this new spin on the story is not true either. We have IT professionals that can prove the so-called disposablewebpage.com that they claim created the insulting posting, was made after the fact. This is just another feeble attempt to white wash the original blunder.

Aiga Forum/TPLF editors could have used this incident to reflect on their destructive behavior. They could have dug deep into their psyche and try to understand what we have been pointing out about their ethnic based mentality, and its negative effects on our country. They could have used this ugly uttering as a ‘teachable moment’ about the pearls of narrow ethnicity, racially motivated hatred, and using insults to demean a fellow human being.

That is not the style of the minority-based government in Ethiopia, the bankroller of Aiga forum. Aiga Forum has made it a habit to insult and demean fellow Ethiopians. Its web page sole reason for existence is to inflame inter ethnic animosity between our people. It is a cheerleader for the inhuman acts of its sponsors that are directed at the citizens of Ethiopia and neighboring countries. It is a factory of lies, innuendos, and half-truths used to split opposition parties and to pit one group against another to later enjoy the fireworks sitting on a high chair.

It has insulted our tireless and successful community organizer Ato Obang Metho as a ‘phony’ leader, it has led the charge against Kinijit, and the massacre of peaceful demonstrators in the aftermath of the 2005 election. It is currently salivating at the prospect of a civilized argument inside Andenet turning into a full-blown war. Aiga Forum is adding fuel to the family discussion trying to turn it into a conflagration.

If Aiga Forum can prove that they are not responsible for that which was posted on their website, I will be the first one to apologize. I will go to great length to ask for forgiveness from Aiga Forum for defaming them. I am sure our independent web sites will not hesitate to print a retraction.

On the other hand, there is definitely no chance that this will happen. It is because we stand by our story that upon opening Aiga Forum site people saw the ugly post right on their front page. Unless Aiga Forum can prove that someone hacked into their site, and planted the ugly degenerate statement, the statement I made continues to be a verifiable fact.

What to do about it a good question. Thanks to the freedom we enjoy in the USA Aiga Forum is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Many people died to uphold that right we take for granted. The right to use the N word Aiga Forum is throwing at the President did not come cheap. Many of our African American brothers and sisters paid a heavy price, in order for us to live and enjoy life to the fullest. We Ethiopians should know better. When our country was attacked by Fascist Italy, our African American friends were the first ones to volunteer to help us stand up against a European aggressor. The great African American poet journalist Langston Hughes wrote the ‘Ballad of Ethiopia’ that included the words:

All you colored peoples
Be a man at last
Say to Mussolini
No! You shall not pass

We definitely owe quite a lot to many people, specially our natural allies, the Africans in the Diaspora. Aiga Forum wrote ‘we put a quick disclaimer and moved on’. It is not that easy my friends. A disclaimer cannot erase a deliberate insult and a shameful act. President Obama has been insulted in a vicious manner. I have been defamed by being called a liar, and the Ethiopian people have been included in this shameful act. The only way out is for the alleged Administrator of Aiga Forum, a certain Isayas Abay, to acknowledge this transgression, and to ask for forgiveness from all the injured parties, including the people of Ethiopia. I believe that Aiga Forum should have its own ‘teachable moment’ and refrain from becoming such a divider and a negative force in our country’s strive to attain democracy, respect for human rights, and the ushering of the rule of law into our ancient kingdom. There is no other way out.

If on the other hand, the Aiga Forum/TPLF owners persist on this fiction of blaming others for their hate crimes, they leave us no choice but pursue all legal means to stop them from hurting us again. We are in the process of finalizing a petition drive to ask Ethiopians, and all peace loving people to condemn the actions of Aiga Forum/TPLF and to make our feelings known in no uncertain terms. We are not afraid any more. We refuse to be bullied. We refuse to be victimized by the narrow ethnic based regime. We refuse to be insulted, degraded, and dehumanized when our country is crying out for justice and progress. We demand the removal of the unjust system that is keeping our country backward, illiterate, and center of starvation in the twenty first century. Enough is enough. We say to Aiga Forum/ TPLF camp, you can run but you cannot hide from the truth.

Guzo, a smash hit in New York City!

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

NEW YORK — The critically acclaimed and winner of the 3rd annual Addis Film festival Guzo screened at Helen Mills Theater in New York city Saturday August 8th taking theatergoers for one emotional rollercoaster ride.  Organized by Abshiro Kids & Tsehainy.com it was a very successful screening.

Guzo tells a story of two young adults (Lidya and Robera) who are taken from their city life of Addis Ababa to live in the country side of Ethiopia. Both are firm believers that they are able to handle this shift. For twenty days we witness their ordeal of tackling farm life duties while formulating a bond with the families they stayed with.  … [read more]

OLF activity in southern Ethiopia – Parts 1-3

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Part 1 documentary of the rarely mentioned rebel activity in southern Ethiopia. For the first time ever, rag-tag fighters of the shadowy Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) under the maverick leadership of Generals Kemal Gelchu and Haile Gonfa have been filmed in their bases in southern Ethiopia following an epic journey into the rebel territory by NTV reporter Yassin Juma and cameraman Eric Okoth. The OLF has been fighting a low key guerrilla war whose effects have occasionally been felt in the remote villages along the common border. The NTV exclusive inside rebel territory began with the drive up north for our crew.
PART 1

PART 2

PART 3

Ethiopia: Several factories shut down due to power shortage

Monday, August 10th, 2009

By Eskinder Ferew | VOA

During the past three months of power shedding by the Ethiopian Electric Power corporation, more than half of the factories in Akaki and other industrial areas near Addis Ababa have shut down.

The executive director of the Addis Municipal Trade and Security office told VOA’s Eskinder Firew that more than 50 percent of the factories in the region stopped operations, let their employees go and closed their doors.

EEPCo began the power shedding three months ago. Many of the factories quit operations two and a half months ago. One cement company resumed operations recently with special government permission, but government officials have extended the rotation of power outages through the end of August.

Ethiopian Israeli filmmaker tells his people's story

Monday, August 10th, 2009

By Edmund Sanders | The Los Angeles Times

Shmuel Beru, who arrived in Israel in 1984 in the first wave of Ethiopian Jewish immigrants, tells his people’s story in the award-winning ‘Zrubavel.’ But not that many white Israelis are listening.

Reporting from Tel Aviv — Growing up, they called him the “chocolate boy” and worse. Shmuel Beru arrived in Israel at age 8 with the first wave of Ethiopian immigrants in 1984. Classmates, who’d never seen a black person before, rubbed his skin to see if the color would come off.

“I was like the new animal at a zoo,” recalled Beru, now 33.

Today the actor-writer has turned his childhood struggle for acceptance into the first Ethiopian-made feature film exploring what it’s like to grow up black in Israel. Drawing inspiration from filmmaker Spike Lee’s stories about racial conflict in the United States, Beru examines an Ethiopian family’s dreams of building a new life in a white-dominated and sometimes-racist Israeli society.

“I love my country,” Beru said of Israel, “but I don’t want to lie.”

In a nation with so many competing well-documented narratives — Jewish, Palestinian, Christian — Beru’s “Zrubavel,” which opened in cinemas here in June, offers yet another perspective from one of the Holy Land’s newer arrivals.

Since the 1980s, more than 80,000 Ethiopians have immigrated to Israel, many escaping famine and poverty in the Horn of Africa nation.

Known as Beta Israel, many of the Ethiopians were considered by some to be a lost tribe of Israel. Though living isolated in northern Ethiopian villages for centuries, they preserved customs remarkably similar to Judaism, which sometimes led them to be ostracized by other Africans.

They became the first large-scale immigration of black Africans to Israel and their adjustment to Israeli society has not been easy. For every success story about an Ethiopian Israeli being elected to parliament or becoming the latest singing sensation on Israel’s TV version of “American Idol,” there are a dozen more about Ethiopian gangs, domestic violence and the high rates of suicide and joblessness among Ethiopian youths.

Hebrew University expert Steven Kaplan, who has studied the Beta Israel, said that despite the government spending more money and energy trying to assimilate Ethiopians than it has for other immigrant groups, Ethiopians remain among the poorest groups in Israel.

“The most disturbing thing is that even after 30 years, if you ask me if we’ve turned the corner for the second and third generations of Ethiopians, I can’t say we have with any real confidence,” he said.

Beru said he hoped his film would counter negative stereotypes about Ethiopian immigrants.

“I wanted to show that no matter what your culture or color is, we all have the same stories,” said Beru, interviewed recently at a Tel Aviv cafe. “We cry in the same language. We hurt in the same language.”

For him, making the film was a deeply personal journey, enabling him to reconnect with his African roots and ultimately strengthen his appreciation for his adopted country.

“Zrubavel” is a classic immigrant saga, showing a younger generation fighting for acceptance and an older generation striving to keep its children rooted in the traditions of home.

The film follows the hard-working grandfather, a former Ethiopian army colonel reduced to sweeping streets in his new life; the son-in-law whose embrace of ultra-Orthodox Judaism alienates his family; the ponytailed college dropout, trapped between his father’s dream that he become Israel’s first black fighter pilot and a society pushing him toward more “suitable” work as a restaurant cook.

Beru’s is a gritty, largely segregated world. White Israelis are bit players here, mostly one-dimensional authority figures, such as the police officers who taunt, beat and even kill Ethiopians with little remorse.

But Beru pulls no punches when portraying his own community’s faults and responsibilities. His characters often wallow in self-pity, drink and use drugs, steal and beat their wives. In one scene, the troubled dropout robs and beats an innocent white senior citizen, before he is caught and beaten by police.

“My commitment was to tell the whole story,” Beru said.

The film is based partly on Beru’s personal experiences. He still hears the occasional racial epithet or is prevented from entering a Tel Aviv nightclub on the excuse that a “private party” is taking place.

As an actor, Beru often found himself typecast as a bodyguard, bad guy or pauper, despite his small build and easy smile. That was if he found roles at all. “It’s hard to be a black actor in Israel because everything on TV is about white people,” he said.

When he complained of the scarcity of good parts, he said, producers told him that white Israelis wouldn’t “relate” to black characters.

But Beru said it’s the artist’s duty to provoke audiences and explore new territory. That’s why he decided to write his own movie and hire Ethiopian actors for most of the roles.

The project provided him with the chance for a brief homecoming when he visited Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, for a screening this year, his first trip there since his family made the two-month trek to a Sudanese refugee camp 26 years ago.

“It was a shock to see a country of so many black people like me.”

He said he was heartened by the public support he received in Ethiopia, but was troubled by the poverty from which he narrowly escaped.

Though his movie won an award at the Haifa International Film Festival last year and he visited Los Angeles this spring for a screening, Israeli moviegoers have given the film a lukewarm response.

At a recent screening in Tel Aviv, one white viewer attributed the low turnout to Israelis’ preoccupation with the country’s political strife.

“I guess we are people with so many of our own problems that we don’t want to hear about other people’s,” said Ronit Avronin, a Tel Aviv office worker.

Some anonymous Israeli critics have attacked Beru and the film on the Internet, calling him a “monkey” and accusing him of being ungrateful for being rescued from a life “living in the trees.”

Beru said he remains unfazed. Because so many Israelis have endured their own struggle, persecution and trauma, he said, they sometimes come across as less sympathetic to others facing a similar ordeal.

Overcoming the struggle and surviving on your own, he said, is part of the Jewish experience.

“Israelis appreciate strength. If you’re nice, they’ll think you’re weak. But if you fight [for yourself], that’s when they respect you.”

(The writer can be reached at edmund.sanders@latimes.com)

Historic meeting in Washington DC

Monday, August 10th, 2009

WASHINGTON DC — The Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) held its first official meeting in Washington DC on Sunday, August 9, 2009. The meeting was organizing by the Washington EPPF Chapter. (Photos and video will be posted shortly)

Head of EPPF’s press office, Ato Demis Belete, opened the meeting with a one-minute silent prayer for martyrs of the struggle and welcoming remarks. Representatives of the Washington Chapter also welcomed the guests and participants.

Ato Melke Mengiste, secretary general of the EPPF International Committee, then took the stage. He spoke about the founding mission of EPPF, how it was created 10 years ago, and made a call to the participants to volunteer their time and resources for the struggle to liberate Ethiopia from the Woyanne tribal junta.

Following Ato Melke’s speech, Wzr. Sophia Tesfamariam and Dr Berhe Habtegiorgis from the Eritrean community made brief remarks in a show of solidarity with Ethiopians who are fighting against the anti-Ethiopia Woyanne junta. Dr Berhe’s speech, which was based on his first-hand experience as a one-time resident of Addis Ababa and a member of the Ethiopian armed forces under HaileSeliassie’s government, had captivated the audience.

The next speaker was Ethiopian Review’s editor-in-chief Elias Kifle who briefly talked about Ethiopia-Eritrea relationships and Eritrean government’s role in preventing the Woyanne tribal junta from dismembering Ethiopia and implementing its Greater Tigray Republic manifesto.

Several prominent Ethiopians such as Cmd. Tassew Desta, former head of Ethiopian Navy, Dr Daniel Kindie, Professor of History at Herderson State University in Arkansas, Ato Fekade Shewakena, an Ethiopian political analyst, Lij Seifu Zawdie of Medhin Party, Ato Abebe Belew of Addis Dimts Radio, Abakia, a writer and videographer, Ato Billilign Woldesenbet, human rights advocate, and Wzr. Meseret Agonafer, chairperson of Ethiopian Review’s Board of Trustees, graced the meeting with their presence.

Dr Daniel Kindie briefly talked about the need for some kind of federation between Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Djibiouti.

The keynote speaker of the meeting was Ato Sileshi Tilahun, EPPF’s head of organizational affairs for the International Committee. He spoke about how EPPF was created, its mission, organizational structure and current activities.

Ato Sileshi is playing a key role in reorganizing the EPPF structure around the world. He is responsible for the creation of EPPF chapters, the recent launching of its radio program that is being broadcast to Ethiopia, a new web site, eppfonline.org, and the opening of a large headquarters in Asmara that is currently housing EPPF Radio’s studio. Sileshi’s remarkable achievement in a span of short time in transforming EPPF’s political and external operations has caused him to be a primary target of various groups.

The last segment of the August 9 public meeting was a Question and Answer session in which a lively discussion took place.

The meeting was concluded in a strong note by Ato Melkie Mengiste who repeated his call to all the participants to join him in going to the field and support EPPF.

The EPPF August 9 meeting in Washington DC has for the first time in decades brought together Ethiopians and Eritreans under one roof as allies. It is a fast growing alliance that is capable of building a foundation for peace and prosperity in the Horn of Africa region.

Similar events are being held around the world that involve interactions between Ethiopians and Eritreans. On Sunday, a delegation of Ethiopians led by Ato Melkie Mengiste and Ato Sileshi Tilahun attended the Eritrea Festival at the Washington Convention Center. Next week, Ethiopian Review editor will take part in a panel discussion that is organized by Community of Eritreans in the Bay Area (Click here for more info).

Loan Sharking Ethiopia's Future!

Monday, August 10th, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

Ministry of Education or Ministry of Loan Sharking?

Ethiopia’s “Ministry of Education”, (or more appropriately, the Ministry of Loan Sharking) has adopted a “new scheme” (new scam) of official extortion to professionally incapacitate young Ethiopian college graduates. According to a report by Addis Fortune, “Students graduating in the year 2008-2009 from all governmental higher learning institutions have been prohibited from collecting their academic credentials including the student copy until they find jobs which enable them to refund the cost sharing expenses utilized at the universities.” The ministry’s public relations officer, Derese Kitila, explained: “Students pledged to pay back the expenses for any of the services they consumed either in the form of cash or recourses. However this has never been effective from the way it had been projected. But with this new scheme the government might be able to raise back those expenses and handle human resources going abroad.”

The “new scheme” does not apply equally to all graduates: “Since the country has human labour deficits in the sectors of education and health, the new directives will not affect students from education faculty, medical, pharmacy and other health related schools.” Under the “directive”, any university graduate in the non-preferred disciplines would be virtually unemployable because, according to Adey Abraham, human resource manager for the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) International Service, “employers will also face difficulty in the selection process of potential employees from among the new graduates since they have no access to any students’ grade reports to measure the talents of candidates. If the breakdown is not available it is hardly useful to find the right person for the right position.”

Payday Loan Sharking

The “new scheme” from the “Ministry of Education” is what is commonly known in the criminal underworld as “payday loan sharking.” It is a simple trick: The loan shark (almost always a member of the criminal underworld) extends an unsecured high interest loan to low wage employees facing extreme economic hardship for repayment on payday. The basic idea is to create an ongoing relationship between the loan shark and the needy borrower so that the borrower is permanently trapped in a vicious loan cycle. The re-payments will drag on for years as the borrower makes payments on payday only to have very little money left to cover his ongoing expenses. The borrower is extended more loans as he digs deeper in debt without the realistic ability to ever pay back the loan. The loan shark eventually “owns” the needy borrower.

What the “Ministry of Education” is doing through its “directive” and its “new scheme” (scam) is a variation on the classic underworld payday loan sharking. Hapless, helpless, choiceless and disadvantaged students who seek higher education are snagged into the “new scheme” and forced to sign an adhesion contract (a contract in which one side has all the bargaining power and uses it to write the contract primarily to his or her advantage) and give up their rights to their personal academic records until they find a job. When the graduates find employment, the official loan sharks will be right there to obtain a monthly payday wage assignment or garnishment from the new employer. Like the criminal loan sharks who secure repayment by intimidation and violence, the ministry holds for ransom the graduates’ “academic credentials” to extort repayment. The preposterous notion that this scam will “enable the graduates to refund the cost sharing expenses utilized at the universities” is as convincing as the underworld crime boss’ defense of his loan sharking operation as a micro-financing program for poor borrowers.

Discrimination Among University Graduates is Illegal

The “directive” and the official “new scheme” are patently discriminatory and in violation of Article 25 of the dictators’ constitution which provides: “All persons shall be equal before the law and shall be entitled to equal protection of the law without any discrimination whatsoever. All persons shall be entitled to equal and adequate guarantees without distinction of any kind…” The meaning of this sweeping article is self-evident. The clause “All persons shall be equal before the law and shall be entitled to equal protection of the law without any discrimination whatsoever” means officials CAN NOT ENGAGE IN ANY DISCRIMINATION WHATSOEVER! There is no exception for discrimination against “persons” based on the “the country’s human labour deficits in the sectors of education and health,” affiliation with the ruling dictatorship, ethnicity, wealth, profession, religion or any other classification. Thus, if “all persons are equal before the law” and must be treated “without any discrimination whatsoever”, how is it that “educators, doctors, pharmacists and other health” care providers are given complete preferential treatment by an official “directive”, which by its very purpose professionally incapacitates, imposes extreme hardships and arbitrarily penalizes graduates in the non-preferred disciplines? Where in the equal protection clause of Article 25 are “educators, doctors, pharmacists and other health” care providers”, “EPDRF” party loyalists and political hacks made more equal than engineers, lawyers, accountants, architects, chemists or economists? But in the Orwellian Animal Farm that Ethiopia has become, “All animals are created equal, but some animals are created more equal than others.”

The fact of the matter is that the official discrimination will work extreme hardship and inconvenience on graduates in the non-preferred disciplines as they seek employment. Adey Abraham’s statement confirms this fact: “Employers will also face difficulty in the selection process of potential employees from among the new graduates since they have no access to any students’ grade reports to measure the talents of candidates…” Simply stated, before these graduates can be hired by an employer, they have to take their offers of employment to the ministry and get authorization for the release of their “academic credentials”. Given the well known and rampant bureaucratic caprice and corruption of the dictatorship’s so-called ministries, it is reasonable to infer that the education ministry could impose any condition whatsoever for the release of the academic records for payday wage assignments. The prospective graduate employee would have no choice but to agree to any terms and conditions imposed by the ministry to obtain the academic records so that s/he could get the job, not unlike what the street loan shark will do to squeeze the deeply indebted borrower for repayment terms.

There is another thing that is completely nuts — just downright crazy — about the “new scheme” which “will not affect students from education faculty, medical, pharmacy and other health related schools.” These graduates can simply pick up their official academic credentials and disappear without a trace, or even leave the country permanently. How does this “directive” save on “human labour deficits” in these critical service areas? On second thought, the “directive” makes perfect sense and is in line with official policy as it has been authoritatively stated: “Ethiopia does not need medical doctors.” Obviously, today in Ethiopia not only is there no need for doctors but also educators and other health professionals. Such is the opera buffa (comic opera) of dictatorship!

The official “directive” also violates the graduates’ constitutional right to “freedom of movement” under Article 32: “Every Ethiopian or any other person lawfully within Ethiopia shall have the freedom to freely move and establish his residence within Ethiopia as well as to travel abroad.” Graduates who wish to travel within the country or abroad in search of employment will effectively be prevented from doing so because their “academic credentials” certifying their educational performance and achievements to prospective employers are held hostage by the ministry. Since these graduates will not be able to prove their university education, they are inevitably limited geographically in their job search. Could a ministry abrogate by a half-baked and ill-conceived “directive” a citizen’s constitutional “freedom to freely move and establish his residence within Ethiopia as well as to travel abroad?”

The indisputable fact of the matter is that young educated Ethiopians do not want to leave their country. They would rather stay and serve their people. They want to go abroad because their human rights are not respected and their professionalism is subordinated to nepotism, cronyism and favoritism. If the rule of law reigned, not only will educated Ethiopians stay in their country, hundreds of thousands of others who live and work abroad will stampede back to their homeland just for the privilege of serving their people. Educated Ethiopians leave their country because they see no hope and no future living under a tyrannical dictatorship. If you want them to stay, support them, embrace them, respect them and assure them that Ethiopia’s future sits secure in the palms of their strong and able hands. Let their creative powers develop freely so that they can freely develop their country. As President Obama said, “We’ve learned that it will not be giants like Nkrumah and Kenyatta who will determine Africa’s future. It will be the young people brimming with talent and energy and hope who can claim the future that so many in previous generations never realized.”

Pact With the Devil

In the classic German legend, Dr. Faust agreed to surrender his body and soul to the Devil after twenty-four years in exchange for the Devil’s promise to give him all knowledge and wisdom. Dr. Faust signed the agreement in his own blood. Faust got all the knowledge and wisdom in the universe as he wanted. In the end, the Devil got Dr. Faust’s soul and body. The obvious but hard lesson for Ethiopia’s youth is: “When you make a pact with the Devil who plays a zero sum game, you always lose, and he will own your soul and body!” As to the “new scheme”, it is an old scam from the criminal underworld.

————
The writer, Alemayehu G. Mariam, is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. For comments, he can be reached at almariam@gmail.com

TV series on OLF sparks diplomatic row

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

By PETER LEFTIE | Nation

Ethiopia’s [ruling tribal junta] sent a stiff protest to Kenya on Thursday, seeking to stop the Nation Media Group from airing a television programme on a rebel movement fighting the Addis Ababa Government Meles Zenawi’s tribal junta in Ethiopia.

Kenya’s ambassador was summoned to the Ethiopian Woyanne Foreign ministry as the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s tribal junta launched a diplomatic offensive to block NTV’s four-part investigative report on the Oromo Liberation Front, which went on air last night.

It was the climax of a dramatic week in which Ethiopia’s Woyanne ambassador to Kenya, Mr Disasa Dirribsa, first sent a protest letter to the Nation Media Group after NTV began promoting its exclusive series on the secretive guerrilla group based in southern Ethiopia.

Ethiopia Woyanne accused NTV of lending support to an unlawful organisation and warned that airing the programme could undermine relations with Kenya.

Appeals to cancel the series were backed by Kenya’s Foreign ministry, which argued that Kenya’s national interests were at stake in the diplomatic row.

The Ethiopian Woyanne embassy wrote to the Nation Media Group dismissing the OLF as “a terrorist group whose activities have been known to be anti-democratic and anti-peace”.

Mr Dirribsa wrote: “It is a minority group whose agenda runs parallel to the aspirations of the Oromo people. Indeed, OLF has been totally rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Oromo population, who are exercising and enjoying their democratic rights.”

He said airing the programme confirmed suspicion of a larger conspiracy to “speak for these terrorist elements in our sub-region, leading us to question NTV’s covert or overt political agenda”.

In the programme, NTV ventures into the OLF infested territory in south western Ethiopia to demystify a guerrilla outfit that has fought successive Ethiopian governments for over three decades.

The NTV crew spent five days travelling through the rough and dusty terrain cutting through Isiolo and Marsabit to Moyale at the Kenya-Ethiopia border, where an OLF linkman smuggled them into the rebels’ bases on the Ethiopian side.

So shadowy is the OLF leadership that it took the NTV crew three years to make contact with the rebels.

For three days, journalists witnessed first-hand the punishing training the OLF recruits undergo in the rough terrain.

U.S. Policy Shift Needed in Ethiopia – Bronwyn E. Bruton

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

By Bronwyn E. Bruton | Council on Foreign Relations

U.S. strategic interests in the Horn of Africa center on preventing Somalia from becoming a safe haven for al-Qaeda or other transnational jihadist groups. In pursuing its counterterror strategy, the United States has found common cause with Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government has long feared the renewal of Somali irredentist claims on its eastern border, or that a powerful Islamist movement may stoke unrest among its own large Muslim population, and feels beset both by a powerful indigenous separatist movement in its Ogaden region and an unresolved border dispute with its northern neighbor, Eritrea.

But the [ruling] Ethiopian government’s tribal junta’s behavior in recent years, both domestically and in bordering states, poses mounting difficulties for the United States and its long-term goals in the region. Washington must be prepared to press its partner to alter its strong-handed approach to political dissent and counterterrorism or consider ending the relationship.

Ethiopia has struggled with internal reforms since the collapse of the communist Derg regime in 1991. The country’s economy has grown, but attempts to institutionalize a system of multiparty democracy have stumbled.

In 2005, Ethiopia held largely free and fair democratic elections. Prior to the polls, there was an unprecedented opening of political space. Opposition political parties were able to hold rallies, the press was able to publish critical political analysis, and international and local civil society organizations assisted in election monitoring. But the government’s tentative efforts to increase political space were not rewarded: After a series of irregularities in the vote closing and tallying processes were discovered, a variety of political parties contested the election results. The Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency and responded brutally to a series of apparently peaceful protests. The country was plunged into a period of violent civil disturbance, during which the Ethiopian government detained thousands of protesters and arrested hundreds of opposition figures, including arguably nonpolitical actors from civil society and the press. Many of these emergency measures have been institutionalized, resulting in legislation that has criminalized social advocacy by “foreigners” (including Ethiopian civil society organizations that receive foreign charitable funds), and imposed harsh criminal penalties on broadly defined “terrorist” acts, including disruptive public protests.

Impact on U.S. Policy Objectives

For the United States, cooperation with an authoritarian Ethiopia presents looming challenges to U.S. policy objectives. First, the Ethiopian government’s attempts to minimize political competition in the run-up to the 2010 elections are likely to fan ethnic tensions in the country. The government’s ruling party, the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), is perceived by many Ethiopians to be dominated by a single minority ethnic faction, the Tigre, and its consolidation of political power may be read as an assault on the majority ethnic Amharic and Oromo populations. Public dissatisfaction with the government is high in the wake of the 2005 elections and a violent explosion is not out of the question.

Second, Ethiopia’s the Woyanne tribal junta’s conflicts with Eritrea and Somalia, and with the powerful separatist movement in the Ogaden, have a jihadist impact. While the U.S.-Ethiopia Woyanne alliance has had short-term tactical advantages, it may be undermining broader US counterterror goals.

Arguably, U.S. reliance on Ethiopian Woyanne military might and intelligence has served to exacerbate instability in Somalia. Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, and the extended presence of Ethiopian Woyanne troops in Mogadishu, instead of quelling conflict, has triggered a local backlash that has served as a rallying point for local extremists. It was the development of a complex insurgency against the Ethiopian Woyanne occupation that effectively catapulted a fringe jihadist youth militia, the Shabaab, to power. International jihadists have now capitalized on the local insurgency, and on U.S. support of the Ethiopian Woyanne invasion, as an opportunity to globalize Somalia’s conflict. The presence of foreign expertise, fighters, and funding has helped to tip the balance of power in favor of Somalia’s extremist groups. Additionally, there is growing concern that the conflict in the Ogaden may give birth to indigenous jihadist movements.

Anti-American sentiment in Somalia is pervasive, and stems in large part from U.S. complicity with the Ethiopian Woyanne invasion and reported Ethiopian Woyanne human rights abuses in Somalia. Ethiopia Woyanne has also reportedly engaged in human rights abuses within the Ogaden region, which borders Somalia, where the government Woyanne tribal junta is engaged in a counterinsurgency effort against an ethnic Somali separatist movement. Though Ethiopia Woyanne has denied these charges, human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have documented atrocities committed by both sides in that conflict. The U.S. decision to withdraw its military personnel from the Ogaden in April 2006, and the subsequent failure of the international community to seek accountability for these atrocities, has cemented a widespread public perception in Ethiopia and Somalia that the United States is willing to turn a blind eye on human rights abuses in exchange for cooperation in the counterterror effort.

Further complicating U.S. efforts to bolster Somalia’s central government is the unresolved border dispute between Ethiopia Woyanne and Eritrea. Eritrea complains that Ethiopia Woyanne has refused to honor the ruling of an independent border commission on the demarcation of the common boundary and has demanded intervention from the international community. Ethiopia Woyanne charges that Eritrea has retaliated by funneling weapons and funding to radical groups in Somalia, some of which oppose Ethiopian Woyanne forces there. Eritrea has denied these charges, and some specific accusations leveled by the United Nations and the African Union against Eritrea have been disproven. The demand for sanctions on Eritrea is nevertheless growing, and comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a visit to Kenya on Aug. 6, in which she linked Eritrea to Somali militants suggests efforts by the Obama administration to engage in a constructive political dialogue with Asmara may be dimming.

These factors suggest that U.S. ability to influence events in Somalia will depend in some measure on diplomatic efforts to resolve the border dispute and to address Ethiopian Woyanne human rights abuses. But perhaps even more important than either is what the United States decides to do in response to the shrinking democratic space in Ethiopia.

Obstacles to U.S. Action

The United States has been unwilling to overtly pressure Ethiopia Meles Zenawi and his Woyanne tribal junta to adopt major democratic reforms for a number of reasons. Many experts and policymakers already fear that the regime is vulnerable to collapse. Some diplomats fear that aggressive–or even public–pressure on Ethiopia Woyanne may inadvertently undermine or destabilize the regime. The United States cannot afford to unsettle a country that has served as a rock of stability its puppet in an otherwise troubled region.

Another major hurdle for the United States is the lack of an international consensus on one fundamental question: Is Ethiopia still a democratic country, or is the regime of President warlord Meles Zenawi regime headed towards dictatorship? The perception that Ethiopia is a fundamentally democratic country remains strong, particularly among European nations. The lack of any consensus would require the United States to take a lead and potentially isolated role in pressuring [the tribal junta in] Ethiopia for reform.

Finally, U.S. efforts to promote democratic reform in Ethiopia are impeded by a lack of willing partners on the ground. Democratic civil society groups generally fear for their safety and are not willing to mobilize in a public advocacy effort. This means that U.S. efforts to counteract repressive measures by the government will not be supported–or legitimized–by a corresponding local effort. International organizations that might have engaged with opposition political voices have already been expelled from the country.

Policy Recommendations

Change is needed to ensure the sustainability of the U.S.-Ethiopia partnership and U.S. counterterrorism goals in the region at a time when Somalia continues to flounder as a failed state. The United States should consider adopting a more assertive approach that makes use of two primary points of leverage:

First, the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) should refuse direct funding to the many known “GONGOS” (governmental nongovernmental organizations) that pose as legitimate civil society development organizations, but are in practice political and social agents of the ruling party. The recognition of GONGOs as legitimate civil society organizations abets the Ethiopian Woyanne strategy of marginalizing nongovernmental actors, and allows the government to continue a “business as usual” approach to the delivery of international support.

Second, the United States should publicly express its concern over the shrinking democratic space, the crisis in the Ogaden, and Ethiopia’s Woyanne’s refusal to uphold the findings of the independent border commission. Ethiopian Woyanne officials are extremely sensitive to public opinion and likely to respond to threats to their country’s international standing and participation in international fora such as the African Union and the United Nations.

Relations with Ethiopia are likely to become strained, and the United States can expect, at least initially, to receive very limited support from its European partner nations. These countries, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom, lack the political leverage necessary to lead a collective shift in donor policy and have been hesitant to alienate the Ethiopian government. This reluctance may require a diplomatic version of the “good cop/bad cop” approach, in which the United States agrees to take an isolated, leadership role in demanding change, while European donor nations persist in a strategy of quiet diplomacy. This has the advantage of ensuring that some constructive dialogue will continue.

In a worst-case scenario, the United States may have to threaten to suspend foreign and military aid to Ethiopia Woyanne. U.S. humanitarian and development assistance to Ethiopia the Woyanne regime was upwards of $650 million in 2008, and the U.S. has contributed significant, though less transparent, financial and tactical support to Ethiopia’s Woyanne’s attempts to modernize its armed forces. Such an action has rightly been perceived as unthinkable in the past, as the cessation of aid would certainly risk destabilizing the Ethiopian government Woyanne tribal junta and may precipitate widespread public disorder. At the same time, Ethiopian Woyanne’s certainty that U.S. aid is inviolate has allowed the Ethiopian government tribal junta to effectively tune out demands for reform. Ethiopian Woyanne dependence on U.S. assistance is a card that policymakers must learn to play to provoke meaningful change. This is another reason to consider developing a good cop/bad cop arrangement with the European donors–if the United States is forced to suspend aid, other donors may mitigate the shortfall while quietly reinforcing demands for democratic reform.

The prospect of strained relations with [the Woyanne regime in] Ethiopia at a time of regional crisis is not desirable. If the United States ultimately wishes to sustain its partnership with Ethiopia, however, inaction is the more dangerous option. Democratic space in Ethiopia will continue to erode, while human rights abuses in the Ogaden and ongoing Ethiopian Woyanne military incursions in Somalia will continue to stroke anti-American sentiment in the Horn. U.S. efforts to mitigate the conflict in Somalia, and to support Somalia’s struggling Transitional Federal Government (TFG), will be fatally undermined by this dynamic. The visible reentry of Ethiopian Woyanne troops into Somalia already threatens to extinguish the last embers of popular support for the TFG, and may rekindle the insurgency dynamic that brought the Shabaab to power throughout southern Somalia. At the same time, Ethiopian Woyanne and Eritrean intransigence over the border dispute will ensure a continued flow of arms into the hands of various Somali factions.

The United States has recently taken positive steps to disaggregate its Somalia policy from that of Ethiopia. These steps include diplomatic outreach to Eritrea and public attempts to restrain Ethiopian Woyanne military action in response to the escalating violence in Mogadishu. These constructive efforts need to be coupled with more assertive diplomacy in Addis Ababa. Until Ethiopia becomes a credible democracy, the U.S.-Ethiopia partnership will do more harm to U.S. regional standing than good.

(Bronwyn E. Bruton is International Affairs Fellow in Residence at the Council on Foreign Relations, Washington DC)

The Ogaden genocide discussion – Riz Khan

Friday, August 7th, 2009

The ruling tribal junta convicts 13 Ethiopian opposition leaders

Friday, August 7th, 2009

By Barry Malone

ADDIS ABABA 7 (Reuters) – A U.S.-based university professor is among 13 men convicted in absentia by [a kangaroo court in] Ethiopia for plotting to overthrow the government, the state news agency said on Friday.

Berhanu Nega, who is Ethiopian-born with U.S. nationality and teaches economics at Philadelphia’s Bucknell University, was accused of masterminding a plan to topple Prime Minister warlord Meles Zenawi.

The Ethiopian News Agency said the Federal High Court had issued the guilty verdicts late on Thursday. Government officials did not immediately comment.

The 13 are mostly based in the United States and Britain. Another 32 men in Ethiopia — mainly former and current army personnel, including two generals — have been charged. Three have been bailed and 29 are in custody.

The prosecution has presented its case and the defence will begin on August 26, relatives told Reuters.

Addis Ababa says the group had planned to kill senior government ministers and blow up power and telecommunications facilities to provoke protesters who would then march on government buildings and try to topple the government.

The arrests have worried rights groups, who say the Ethiopian government Woyanne regime has become increasingly authoritarian.

Berhanu has publicly said he wants to overthrow the government but calls the accusations baseless.

Opposition parties say the charges have been trumped up in order to round up opponents ahead of a national election due next year.

Security forces killed about 200 protesters after a poll in 2005 when the opposition disputed the government’s victory.

Berhanu was elected mayor of the capital Addis Ababa in that ballot, but was arrested along with other opposition leaders and accused of orchestrating the street protests.

He was pardoned in 2007 and went to the United States, where he set up his “May 15″ opposition group, named after the date of the 2005 election.

(Editing by Daniel Wallis)

10 benefits of drinking green tea

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

By Rodallega

There has been much talk recently about the health benefits of green tea. I’ve researched and discovered some sources about losing weight, diets and obesity. I used many medicines which are completely made up of chemicals. At the end, I turned back to the traditional treatment since I thought that those chemicals damage my liver. During my researches I discovered the benefits of green tea. Please do not confuse green tea with black tea which everyone drinks daily.

Ancient Chinese people knew the benefits of green tea for health. They have always used it for medical purposes. However, in Ancient China, it was used especially against the headaches and depression. Green tea has a great importance in China history. It is produced from the leaves of Camellia Sinensis by some special processes. Unlike black tea, it has little amount of caffeine which causes to insomnia, nausea and frequent urination.

This is the list of benefits of green tea which I’ve found during my research.

1. It is used to treat multiple sclerosis.
2. It is used for treatment and prevention of cancer.
3. It is used to stop Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
4. It is used to raise the metabolism and increase fat oxidation.
5. It reduces the risk of heart diseases and heart attacks by reducing the risk of trombosis.
6. It reduces the risk of esophageal cancer.
7. Drinking green tea inhibits the growth of certain cancer cells, reduces the level of cholesterol in blood, improves the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol.
8. It is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular diseases
9. It is used to treat impaired immune function. .
10. Some researches show that, drinking green tea regularly may help prevent tooth decay by killing the bacteria which causes the dental plaque.

China deports 2 Ethiopian asylum seekers

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Daily Monitor) — TWO Ethiopian stowaways have been repatriated from China on Monday, 62 days after they secretly boarded a ship for illegal immigration, according to reports from China.

Frontier police said it was the seventh time one of the stowaways had failed to immigrate illegally, ShanghaiDaily reported citing Oriental Morning Post.

The two men boarded the Belize-registered ship Arbit in Djibouti on June 3, the daily quoted the report as having said. The ship arrived in Shanghai on July 18.

They originally planned to sneak into a European country, but the ship traveled along the Indian Ocean eastward into the Pacific Ocean to transport its shipment of goods, police told the Oriental Morning Post.

Members of Arbit’s crew found the pair five days into the voyage when they left their hiding place to look for food, according to the report. Singapore, India, Yemen and Sri Lanka all refused to repatriate the stowaways, the report said.

“Arbit’s crew treated the Ethiopians well and allowed the pair to watch TV some nights, they told police with the help of a translator.” Police sent the pair to Beijing on August 1 to catch a flight that departed for Ethiopia.

Traffic accident a major public health hazard in Ethiopia

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

By Yonas Abiye | Daily Monitor

Addis Abeba — Traffic accident is becoming a major public health hazard in Ethiopia, research findings indicated.

Addis Continental Institute of Public Health (ACIPH) organized a half day panel in connection with the latest traffic report on the theme ‘The magnitude of Traffic injury and the role of public heath in reducing the consequences’.

Speaking on the occasion, Director of ACIPH, Professor Yimane Birhan, said the road traffic accidents are among the top ten causes of death in Ethiopia as it is the case in other parts of the world.

The Director stressed that prevention measures against such accidents are largely uncoordinated and unplanned. There is a great need for stakeholders to handle the issue in a comprehensive manner so as to take effective action against the problem rather than acting in isolation, he said and went on to add, “the result has been more deaths and enormous economic burdens on nations, especially in developing countries.” “As in other major public health problems such as HIV/AIDS, the efforts of just one sector cannot produce the desired outcome in traffic accident prevention,” the Director said urging concerned governmental and non-governmental agencies on the need to work together.

According to him the question of traffic accident is one of the major public issues that remained largely unaddressed by the public health community in Ethiopia.

He called upon academic institutions and research organizations to do much more to measure the magnitude and impact of the problem on the highways as well as to come up with appropriate and cost affective intervention recommendations.

Commander Akillu seife from the Federal Police, presenting a paper on the occasion, said about 85,842 traffic accidents have been recorded covering the period from 2004-2008. Over 2,800 people died while about 8,696 suffered permanent injuries, he added.

The Commander indicated that the ratio of people dying in traffic accidents in Ethiopia is 80 out of 10,000 cars and compared it with that of Japan where only one individual dies out of 10,000 cars.

According to Commander Aklilu, 85% of the traffic accidents that occurred in the country in the five years reported happened on new asphalt roads. And Addis Ababa, with the highest traffic flow, claims the lion’s share of these accidents.

Some 68 per cent of the accidents occurred in urban areas while rural areas claim about 19 per cent of it.

Behavioral problems by drivers, luck of efficiency, low level of driving experience, lack of awareness about security, lack of technical fitness of vehicles are mentioned as major causes behind the traffic accidents.

Although traffic accidents are becoming one of the major problems faced by nations across the world, studies indicated that the problem is worse particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Accordingly, by 2020 traffic accident is expected to be the third major killer after HIV/AIDs and TB.

Ethiopia: A women group elects First Witch as chairperson

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Addis Ababa (ENA — The two day founding meeting of Federation for Women Associations of Ethiopia concluded later on Monday after electing seven executive members and three members of audit commission.The First Lady Witch Azeb Mesfin elected as Chairperson of the federation.

[Azeb, the wife of warlord Meles Zenawi, is the most hated woman in Ethiopia because of her direct involvement, as a member of the central committee of the ruling Tigrean People’s Liberation Front, in the making of policies that brutalize the people of Ethiopia.)

The federation executive committee will have a chairperson, four vice chairpersons, a secretary and a deputy secretary; and the audit commission comprised three members.

The meeting elected Shekuria Ahmed, Gifti Abaseya, Halema Ibrahim, and Abebech Shemeta as vice chairpersons.

Kiros Asebeha and Afeta Umud elected as Secretary and Assistant Secretary of the federation, respectively.

The Federation elected Kedja Ali Audit commission chairperson, Etalemahu Tilahun as vice chairperson and Lemlem Shekuri as member of the commission.

The meeting provided responsibility of approving logo of the federation to the executive committee.The meeting yesterday approved statute of the federation after a thorough discussion on it.

EPPF town hall meeting in Washington DC

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

The Washington DC chapter of Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) is organizing a town hall meeting with the organization’s senior officials and distinguished guests in Washington DC, Sunday, August 9.

Time: 2:30 PM
Place: 1610 Columbia Road, Washington DC

For more information, write to the EPPF Washington DC chapter at eppfwashington@gmail.com. See also the poster below.

The story of the International Criminal Court – must watch

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

A PBS documentary film “The Reckoning” follows International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and his team for three years as he issues arrest warrants in Uganda, puts Congolese warlords on trial, shakes up the Colombian justice system and charges Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir with genocide in Darfur. Will the prosecutor succeed? Will justice prevail?

Click below to watch
The story of the International Criminal Court

OLF army making stride against Woyanne

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

The Oromo Liberation Front-Change (also known as OLF-C) under the leadership of Generals Kemal Gelchu and Hailu Gonfa is making a stride in its military operation against the Woyanne tribal junta. NTV airs a special documentary about OLF operations inside Ethiopia this month. The following video is a promo of the documentary.

Ethiopia's tribal junta deports 15 U.S. students

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

By David Arnold | VOA

The federal government of fascist tribal junta in Ethiopia deported 15 American students who were teaching English in small, rural communities in eastern Hararghe region of Oromiya for several weeks.

They had been volunteering in several communities not far from the Ogaden and an off-limits region of Ethiopia where government Woyanne junta forces are battling Ogaden National Liberation Front rebel forces. The trip was organized by Learning Enterprises International in Stanford, California. This was the third year the project had been in operation.

Police performed a synchronized dawn raid of homes in HaraMaya, Awwadaay, Gobboo and Dadar on July 9, questioned them for the day, confiscating their cell phones and cameras and taking them to Addis. According to sources, at various times police accused the students of taking photographs, of asking questions about the disputed 2005 national elections and the coming 2010 elections, and of being in the country with improper visas. Community residents asking about the reason for the detentions were later told the students had the H1N1 virus.

The students were detained for two days and were not allowed to contact their families or the U.S. embassy. Embassy officials were unable to see them until shortly before federal officials put them on a plane and deported them on July 11.One of the students was held several extra days. An embassy spokesman said they have raised serious concerns about the handling of this case with the Government of Ethiopia, specifically regarding the refusal by Ethiopian security forces to permit these American citizens to contact the embassy. The embassy will continue discussions with the Ethiopian Government on the exact nature of the events.

State Minister for Government Communications Shimelis Kemal told VOA’s Eskinder Firew only that the students were involved in inappropriate activity “contrary to their mission.” None were charged with any violations of the law.

60 million birr stolen from Ethiopian Orthodox church account

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Jimma Times reports that at least 60 million birr is missing from Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church’s bank accounts. A member of the Church’s governing body, the Holy Synod, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, told local journalists the missing money is one of the sources of recent disputes inside the church’s top leadership… [read more]

Beyond shame – the madness of Aiga Forum

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

“The misguided extremist Diasporas have been cheering up for the last couple of days. You know why? Hillary Clinton will not visit Ethiopia during her trip to Africa. Hmm! Who cares if the N**** administration ignores Ethiopia?!” Aigaforum.com

U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is visiting Africa. She is on a seven-nation tour that includes Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde. If you notice Ethiopia is not included. Why isn’t Ethiopia included is a good question.

Ethiopia is the seat of African Union. Ethiopia is the second most populated country in Africa. Ethiopia is one of the oldest Nation State in the world. Ethiopia is known for staying independent while most of the planet was colonized by European powers.

We Ethiopians were sad when President Obama choose Ghana as his first stop to showcase his commitment to democracy and the rule of law on our continent. We were happy for Ghana; nevertheless we were disappointed we were not accorded such honor. His Secretary of State bypassed our old kingdom and choose Kenya as the first leg of her African tour.

It is not just another humiliation to be shrugged off. We feel slighted. In diplomatic circles it is seen as a major put down. It is a loud and clear statement by President Obama’s administration that our country is not worthy of positive attention.

The reason Ethiopia is totally ignored is not because our country is not important in both continental and international affairs. It is not because we are poor and backward. It is not because we are not strong. The only reason we are considered not worthy of attention is because we have a government structure that is undemocratic, illegal and seen as a pariah in civilized circles.

The TPLF regime is the reason for our humiliation. Both President Obama and his Secretary of State were not willing to be seen associating with a dictatorial regime. They were not willing to bestow such honor on a regime that views it s citizens as sub humans to be bullied and abused.

How did the regime responded to such a loud statement by the US government? Did the TPLF regime saw the slight as an opportunity to question their policy on human rights and good governance? Did it make them pause and see the wrong road they are traveling? Was it a cause of discussion among the ruling party to see what can be done to remedy the ugly situation?

None of the above is the answer. The mouth piece of the TPLF regime choose to sink so law that it is even shameful to repeat what was said and written. It is unspeakable. TPLF is Aiga Forum. Aiga Forum is TPLF. What Aiga Forum published on it website is beyond reprehensible. It is ugly and it is not Ethiopian. I repeat it with sadness and a very heavy heart. I quote Aiga Forum because all civilized people should see TPLF’s ugliness. The Ethiopian people have been the recipient of such verbal and physical humiliation by the TPLF regime for the last eighteen years. Following is what Aiga Forum published on its web site.

“The misguided extremist Diasporas have been cheering up for the last couple of days. You know why? Hillary Clinton will not visit Ethiopia during her trip to Africa. Hmm! Who cares if the N**** administration ignores Ethiopia?!” Aigaforum.com

To use such ugly and despicable term to describe the President of the United States is madness in its extreme state. To describe a universally loved, respected administration as such is beyond insanity. To use that word on a fellow black person is incomprehensible. Even to think in such terms about the leader of the free world is very sick. It is a loaded word that has been used as a putdown on our African American brethren.

We Ethiopians are not cheering Mrs. Clinton’s non-visit to our homeland. We are saddened. We know how to differentiate between our dear nation and the government. We are torn between our love for our homeland and the ramifications of a visit that will bestow legitimacy on an illegal regime.

The publishers of Aiga Forum and their cousins in Ethiopia are so used to insulting us, putting us down and humiliating us that they thought nothing of it when they heaped their insult on our brother. We might be cruel with each other, we might have gone astray the last few years and done some shameful things to each other but we want the world to know that we are god fearing, neighbor loving and loyal people. We are saddened, ashamed and deeply disturbed by the sick statement uttered by our fellow Ethiopians. We wish it was never said, but we want the world to understand what our country is going thru at this very moment under the tyranny of the TPLF regime. We ask for forgiveness.

EPPF makes a call on Ethiopians in DC

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

The executive committee of Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) issued a statement from its field office today urging Ethiopians in the Washington DC area to attend the town hall meeting organized for this coming Sunday, August 9. (Click here for more info.)

According to the EPPF Washington DC Chapter, the August 9 meeting will discuss the organization’s objectives, current activities, cooperation with other opposition parties, and the developing relationship between Ethiopians and Eritreans.

The EPPF statement, which is posted on its official web site, www.eppfOnline.org, also clarifies some issues such its organizational structure abroad.

How to Break the Silence on Genocide and Tyranny in Ethiopia

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

By Obang Metho

On July 26, 2009 the SMNE held a forum in Washington D.C. on the topic: Breaking the Silence on Genocide, Tyranny and Dictatorship in Ethiopia. In Ethiopia today, the people have been silenced by the government, but the atrocities, the repression and the harsh authoritarian rule continue despite the many efforts of Ethiopians in the Diaspora.

Admittedly, we Ethiopians in the Diaspora have not been as effective as we could be in collaborating with each other, but the problem is worsened due to the foreign policies of some western countries who have aligned themselves with “our” dictator rather than with “our” people. Additionally, the media has not covered this story as closely as similar cases in other countries who are “out of favor” like Zimbabwe, Iran and Venezuela.

The question that was at the heart of the presentation by each speaker was:

“How can we expose the true nature of the Meles regime to such excruciating public scrutiny that the public and our government becomes outraged enough to demand that any previous support for this regime transfers to the people?”

Ethiopia can be compared to a patient from the past who is going through surgery with just enough anesthetic to make them unable to communicate, but not enough to stop the pain. Those who are in a position to help, do not, because they are unaware of the acute pain of the patient.
Just like the patient, the people in Ethiopia have no voice; yet, they are in acute distress and no one seems to recognize the severity of their pain. If they speak up, they end up in jail, so many will not take the risk. The purpose of this forum was to bring some experts together to guide us in finding more effective ways to “break the silence!”

On the other hand, the Meles regime understands the power of information and is doing all they can think of to suppress information.  A video was shown regarding such efforts by the current government. We know that they bribe, threaten and intimidate people to remain silent. They underhandedly attempt to divide groups; infiltrating organizations, ethnic communities, political parties and religious groups in order to stir up inner conflicts resulting in limiting the  effectiveness of these groups.

Unfortunately this tactic has found far too fertile ground in which to plant the seeds of destruction—a serious problem of ours. They have also blocked the media and communication system; even cell phone usage and the Internet. They repeatedly produce propaganda; lying, deceiving and purposefully misleading the people and outsiders as well. They have denied committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, but at the forum, a video clip of the Anuak genocide gave visual evidence.

Dr. Stanton: Perpetrators of Genocide are Serial Killers Who Will Kill More if Not Stopped
Dr. Greg Stanton spoke on why the massacre of the Anuak met the definition of genocide. Along with a number of other reasons, he explained that in the case of the Anuak genocide, only one ethnic group, the Anuak, were targeted.  He elaborated by saying that there are those who commit genocide and also incite others to do so; leading these others to believe they can get away with it. These instigators are serial killers who will go on to kill again because they basically have no remorse or respect for human life. He explained that the characteristics of these genocidal perpetrators are the same whether you look at those implicated in the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, in Yugoslavia, Cambodia or in Rwanda.

In the case of the Anuak, they were killed by the same Ethiopian government that had repeatedly been killing since 1991. If you look at the list of incidents, it shows a pattern of serial killing, not only in Gambella, which may be one of the best documented cases, but also in the Ogaden, in Awassa, Oromia, Tepi, Addis Ababa and a series of other locales and people. When looked at as a whole, it is easy to see the pattern emerge of incidents that fit the definition of genocide and crimes against humanity.

What needs to be done now is to expose them and to continue to gather the evidence of what was done.   Once documented, we should expose the evidence; identifying who was involved, who gave the orders, who was behind it and who committed the crimes because once you have the information, it is only a matter of time before the perpetrator will be brought to justice. They might be brought to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or if the government changes, to an Ethiopian tribunal, but Stanton said, these people will someday stand before a court of law and find themselves accountable for these people they killed, as long as others document it and know who the perpetrators are that were involved.  For example, if Meles is proven to be one of them who ordered these killings, he will be prosecuted along with the rest of them within his regime.

Video Clip: The Unchanging Harvest of Dictatorship
A video clip of starving Ethiopians, including children, was shown. The children in the short film could hardly move due to being so weak and emaciated from obvious starvation. It was heart-breaking to watch. When the video ended, I asked the audience about these suffering children before revealing to them that this was a clip from 1985 of starving Tigrayan children. At the time, Meles had accused Mengistu of starving his Tigrayan ethnic group; but now, Meles is accused of intentionally starving the Ogadenis and other Ethiopians! Who will be next?  How can this cycle be broken? Yesterday it was the Tigrayans; but today, the Meles loyalists from the TPLF are in power and doing the same to others. This clip came from Bob Geldorf’s website and can be viewed there. See what you think!

Ahmed Hussein: The SMNE was Formed to Stop This Cycle!
Ato Hussein, a member of the SMNE, explained what the SMNE was and why it was formed; elaborating that if we are to break this cycle of abuse and killing of each other, we have to start by changing ourselves.

He talked about the importance of living by the principles of putting humanity before ethnicity or any other difference and of realizing that no one will be free until all are free. He said that if there was an institution or government that put humanity first in 1985, the Tigrayans would never have starved like they did, preparing them to do the same today to Ethiopians within other ethnic groups. If these principles would have been carried out over the years of the last regimes, there would never have been a TPLF, an EPLF, an OLF,  an ONLF, a GPLF, an BPLF, ALF or any other liberation front that emerged out of the injustices perpetrated against them.  They were all created as a result of a broken, feudal-based system that devalued and abused others.

In other words, we have been living under a belief that leads to our own mutual destruction and it is this belief that is threatening our survival. When we say that only “I” and my ethnic group or region can be free, we are in trouble. Liberation fronts were formed because no one else cared about “others,” but can only an Oromo free another Oromo? Can only an Amhara free other Amhara or an Anuak free an Anuak?  Can’t a Tigrayan help free an Afar and the people of Benishangul-Gumuz free a Southerner?

This broken system is why the SMNE was created to say: “Until all of us are free, none of us are free!” This is why Ato Hussein said he joined the SMNE—because he believed if these principles were lived out in the lives of our leaders and citizenry, Ethiopia could become a healthy society and find a lasting solution to breaking this cycle. To him, as an Oromo, he said he felt that until all Ethiopians are free, none will be free; until justice come to all Ethiopian, justice will never come to the Oromo or anyone else. The survival of everybody depends on all of us, like the way it is basically done in America. He explained that this was why he believes in this movement and felt it was his duty to share these principles with others.

Lemlem Tsegaw: Corruption is just as bad as human rights abuses!
Ms Lemlem Tsegaw stimulated much thought when she said, “Corruption is just as bad as human rights abuse. It is killing the country.” She went on to explain that when a few dominate over everyone else through corruption, it is about survival!  She analyzed this statement based on the MO Ibrahim Index.

She said, “If you don’t have food to eat, you won’t have energy to fight for your rights—good governance does not even come into your mind. Corruption leads the people to struggle for food, clean water, shelter and basic ways to live. Corruption shows a lack of sympathy for other people and a lack of morality. It allows a few to take all they want, robbing the country of its resources; thriving and living high, while the rest of the people are dying at the bottom. In order to save peoples’ lives, it is ‘a must’ to fight this battle against corruption. A few take everything and most get nothing. Without having any resources and struggling for daily survival, there is no way to fight back.

“Corruption in Ethiopia is a microcosm of what it is going on all over Africa. If there were good governance, the rule of law, safety and security, sustainable development, transparency and accountability in Ethiopia instead of pervasive corruption, the Ethiopian people would be able to feed themselves. The reason why Africa is not moving forward is corruption!

Following her talk, a PowerPoint presentation with four different pictures was shown. The first picture was of a young woman, Neda Soltani, killed in Iran during the election protests.

She was born in 1982 and died in 2009. The story was all over the media, who were all outraged over the incident. Even the president talked about her death and coverage continued for the next 24 hours. Almost all in the audience had seen her picture.

The next slide was of a young Ethiopian woman, Shibire Desalegne, born in 1984 and was killed in 2005 in Addis Ababa during the election protests.

I asked how many present had seen her picture in the western media. No one in the room raised their hand even though the cause of her death was the same—a repressive government who killed someone for peacefully protesting.

The next person shown was imprisoned BurmesedemocracyleaderAung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader who has been imprisoned for years. Many in the audience had seen her picture in the media a number of times. Then a picture of Birtukan Mideksa was shown and I asked the same question as to how many had seen her picture in the western media, but none in the audience had.

These women all had something in common, but the way they have been covered in the world is totally different. We Ethiopians have to take some responsibility for this because in order to free us and our people, we have to break silence. Africa must want to break the silence and take action for we have had enough of genocide, tyranny and dictatorship!

Dr. George Ayittey:  Freeing Ethiopia and Africa!
Dr. Ayittey gave a stimulating and inspiring talk on how Africa can be freed, emphasizing that Ethiopians must free Ethiopia and Africans must free Africa! Ayittey gave reasons for our “chains.” He said the reason was “failed leadership.” He explained that it was the leaders of Africa who were killing the continent. He spoke of the corruption and the way that western governments have sided with the dictators instead of with the people.

He stated that Ethiopians can learn from what worked in Ghana. He emphasized that the problem of Ethiopia cannot be solved by the political parties or the political leaders. Instead, he said, Ethiopians have to create a non-political alliance; explaining that it had to be non-political because when organizations were political in their intent, they would start to fight over becoming popular and being the next to lead the country. This infighting falls right in the open hands of a dictator who only stands to benefit from it.

Ayittey then advised that in the case of Ethiopia, the tribal issues must be dealt with as a priority, saying, “It’s not about one group, but it must be about all of the people standing together for the joint survival of their country. This is the supreme task.” He went on to say that right now, what is happening in Ethiopia is a tribal apartheid system. He warned, “If thee tribal problems are not dealt with effectively and some seek revenge for the past 18 years, the outcome could be terrible.”

He gave a famous and sobering quote regarding the Holocaust referring to a similar time when many did not stand up for their fellow humans.  He adapted it to Ethiopia saying, “When ‘they’ came for the Anuak, I did not do anything because they were Anuak. When they came for the Oromo, I did nothing because I was not Oromo. When they came for the Ogadeni, I did nothing because I was not an Ogadeni.  When they came for me, there was no one left.”

He concluded by saying, “Right now, Ethiopians have to work in solidarity, not for a political party, but instead should create an alliance, in the Diaspora as well as within Ethiopia. This is how the Ghanaians did it and Ethiopians can learn from this model.” He then said he would help in any way he could and re-emphasized that there must be unity for the sake of the country and to find a lasting peace. People have to put their nation above their ethnic group or political party. It must be something like this that can break the silence, expose the truth and revive the country through a peaceful transition to a new and healthier system for everybody.

Next Steps:
In conclusion, from what we learned from this meeting, there is more work to be done and this is the beginning. Some of those steps include finding experts who will work in five different areas:

  1. Safety and security
  2. Transparency and accountability
  3. Reconciliation
  4. Human Rights
  5. Economy
  6. Human Development

The SMNE is urging Ethiopians to send us a proposal or your CV (resume’) indicating in which areas you would like to get involved.

September 13th March to Stop Genocide and Dictatorship in Ethiopia/Africa in Washington DC:
Also, we urge every Ethiopian to join and contribute to this September 13th March so it is more than successful.

Overall Lesson to Learn:
If we want real change in Ethiopia, every Ethiopian must not look for others to do it for them, but instead, it comes to the need for every person to commit and sacrifice. You do not need an invitation, you have to step up and do your share.  Can we count on you?

(Mr. Obang Metho, Executive Director of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, can be reached at: Obang@solidaritymovement.org)

Ethiopia's kangaroo court sentences Makhtal to life in prision

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

PRESS RELEASE by Ogaden Human Rights Committee

Background

In June 1963, the Ogaden Liberation Front was founded by Garad Makhtal Garad Dahir, who is Mr Bashir’s grandfather.

According to his family Mr Bashir was born, in Dagah-bour, the capital of Jarar region.

In his childhood his town was burned and razed to the ground and he witnessed the death of many of his close relatives and clansmen at that time.

After the destruction of his hometown, his family like many other Somali-Ogaden families fled to the neighbouring Somalia seeking safe shelter.

In 1991, Somalia plunged into bloody civil war. Warring militias in Somalia carried out horrendous massacres, which claimed many innocent lives in the refugee camps, in northern and southern Somalia.

Mr Bashir arrived in Canada, in 1991, as a refugee. He studied, worked and then became a Canadian citizen in 1994.

In 2001, he established his own business and returned to East Africa, where he ran a used-clothing enterprise.

TWO-AND-A-HALF YEARS OF ILLEGAL IMPRISONMENT AND TORTURE

On December 31st 2006, Mr Bashir Ahmed Makhtal, a prominent Canadian businessman, who originates from the Ogaden region, was arrested by the Kenyan authorities while he was crossing the border between Kenya and Somalia with a valid Canadian passport. No reason was given for his illegal detention. (See OHRC’s press release Kenya: Illegally arrests and renders Ogaden Somalis to Ethiopian military in Somalia ref: OHRC/PRO/0207).

On January 21st 2007, Mr Makhtal and three other Somalis from the Ogaden region were airlifted secretly to Mogadishu airport and then handed over to the Ethiopian Woyanne authorities against their will. They were beaten up, blindfolded and then transferred to secret military detention center in Ethiopia. (See OHRC’s press release Kenya: Illegally arrests and renders Ogaden Somalis to Ethiopian military in Somalia ref: OHRC/PRO/0207).

According to his co-detainees who were released lately, they have been constantly interrogated under torture and did not get any medical treatment for their injuries.

Mr Bashir was accused of being a member of the Ogaden National Liberation Front. He has been brought before an Ethiopian Woyanne court several times. Each time, he was taken back to his cell for lack of evidence.

On July 27th 2009, an Ethiopian Woyanne court in Addis Ababa convicted him of being a member of the ONLF and supporting terrorism in the Ogaden.

Today Mr Bashir was given a life sentence by the same kangaroo court.

Throughout his appearances in the court he pleaded not guilty. But as usual in Ethiopian justice system, the court’s verdict was fait accompli.

He was not informed the particulars of the charges and reasons for his arrest, has not had access to any evidence presented against him and was not represented by a proper legal counsel and his trial was marred by many problems and irregularities. The court proceedings were in Amharic; a language which he could not understand and he was not provided with an accurate account of it in his mother tongue or in English.

Hence, he did not receive fair trial in accordance with recognized international standards.
On the basis of available information about his case, the OHRC believes that there was not credible evidence for his conviction, and his trial was a travesty of justice, and considers him prisoner of conscience and a victim of political vendetta.

To the best of OHRC’s knowledge, Mr Bashir Ahmed Makhtal was not involved in any illegal activities, and has no political affiliation whatsoever.

The Ogaden Human Rights Committee is concerned about his safety and well-being and condemns the sentence of the Ethiopian Court, which is gross miscarriage of justice, and demands his unconditional and immediate release.

The Ogaden Human Rights Committee urges the Canadian Government to seek the immediate and unconditional release of its citizen as well as his family members who are being held without charge or trial in notorious Ethiopian Woyanne jails.

A march to stop genocide in Ethiopia

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

A March to Stop Genocide and Dictatorship in Ethiopia/Africa will be held on Sunday, September 13, 2009 in Washington… [click here to read more]

Is Ethiopian Commodity Exchange good for coffee growers?

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

By Wondwossen Mezlekia

The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) was established with an ambitious goal of eliminating food shortages and hunger in Ethiopia by creating an efficient marketing system for agricultural commodities. Barely two months after its launch, the highly praised exchange platform found itself caught in the midst of the complex global coffee trade, an undertaking that is entirely different and farther from its original vision of “revolutionizing” the inefficient domestic commodity market.

In August 2008, the government enacted a new law that forces the trading of all of the country’s coffees through ECX and ECX welcomed the decision. Since then, the government confiscated stocks of coffee from exporters and revoked licenses, filled in the vacuum with the Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise (EGTE), and sold Specialty coffees at commodity grade coffee prices.

Following its first rough encounter, ECX is now engaged in talks with Specialty coffee buyers and faced with challenges of wining the hearts and minds of traders locally. But, the effect of ECX on coffee growers is yet to be noticed. This piece attempts to reveal the pitfalls of trading coffee through ECX and its impact on small-scale farmers.

Learning coffee on the fly

As it has now become apparent, ECX was not ready to accommodate trading operations of a complex global commodity when it embarked on coffee export. This partly explains why ECX has had to run into problems as soon as it started its coffee trade.

ECX was initially established to create a trading platform for domestic agricultural commodities, mainly grain. The ECX was created with primary purposes of eliminating the archaic marketing system whose inefficiency, according to ECX’s founder, Eleni Gebre-Medhin, are in part responsible for the recurring food shortages and hunger in parts of Ethiopia, and increasing the value of the domestic grain. Dr. Eleni described her vision in June 2007 at TED Talk as:

“Ethiopia’s domestic market is about $1 billion of value and we feel over the next five years, if Ethiopia can capture even 40%, just 40% of the domestic market and add jut 25% value to that market, the value of the market doubles. ECX, moreover, can become a trading platform for the Pan-African market in agricultural commodity. Ethiopia’s agricultural market is 30% higher than South Africa’s grain production; and, in fact, Ethiopia is the second largest maize producer in Africa.”

This ambition is founded on plausible assumptions about domestic grain trade but it did not take into consideration the state of coffee trade. Because the market system was designed to bring about changes in the grains trade – not in the coffee sector – ECX ended up further complicating the problems facing coffee growers when it suddenly decided to take on coffee trade.

Mandatory exchange

By requiring 100% of coffee trade be conducted through ECX, the government eliminated direct trades. The government says that was necessary in order to improve the sector and prices. This is frivolous.

Unlike grains, coffee trade is characterized by unregulated supply, market monopoly by a few multinationals companies, and stiff competitions among producing countries. Coffee is a global commodity. It is the world’s second most traded commodity next to oil with its prices determined at the New York exchange market. The trade is largely controlled by the world’s biggest coffee buyers. Five multinational companies, Nestlé, Philip Morris, Procter and Gamble, Sara Lee, and Kraft Foods buy about 70% of the world’s coffee and play pivotal roles in setting world coffee prices. Coffee growing nations do not have a say in this unregulated global market.

To mitigate the burden, other coffee growing countries are resorting to creating differentiations and to find a place in the Specialty niche market. The direct trade relationship with Specialty coffee buyers gives these nations a relative stability, premium prices, and incentives to increasing quality standards.

ECX, on the other hand, adopted a strategy of forced bulk trading through a warehouse receipt system and eliminated direct trade. Still, it hopes to improve prices and the sector.

Underestimating Specialty coffee

The global coffee industry is increasingly moving towards greater transparency of coffee origins and differentiation but the ECX system is heading in the opposite direction. Ethiopia is naturally endowed with the variety of coffees demanded by the Specialty coffee buyers. The fine quality of its coffees and the distinctive features of the sector, including its genetic resources, abundance of wild coffee trees, and the organic coffee production, earned Ethiopia a unique place in the global coffee marketplace. Ironically, instead of capitalizing on these unique attributes, ECX aims at bundling all of the coffees into commodity grades.

One possible explanation for this absurd strategy is ECX’s underestimation of the importance of Specialty grade coffees. “The “specialty-plus” market segment is only 3.7% of the total coffees exported, with the remainder to be considered as commodity coffee,” says ECX in its whitepaper titled What is in a Bean?

This unsubstantiated analysis has led ECX to a mistaken conclusion, thus its decision to neglect the Specialty market and focus on aggregate coffee production. ECX’s estimation is flawed and can be proved wrong by the following cursory appraisal of empirical evidences.

In 2008, Starbucks, the world’s largest Specialty coffee buyer, bought 192,500 tons of Specialty coffee, of which 5-10% (the company’s official numbers always fall within this range) was directly sourced from East Africa. (The major coffee growers in East Africa are Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda.) Since Ethiopia is the largest exporter of Specialty coffee in Africa, and, given Starbucks’ long history of close relationship with coffee growers in the country, it is reasonable to assume around 3% of Starbucks’ purchase (or about 60% of its East African purchase) comes from Ethiopia. Meaning, around 5,775 tons of Starbucks’ 2008 purchases is practically from Ethiopia. Since Ethiopia’s export during that year was 170,888 tons, Starbucks’ purchase only represents 3.4% of Ethiopia’s export.

So, if at least 3.4% of Ethiopia’s Specialty grade was directly sold to Starbucks, one can imagine how the number can easily jump to a range of upper teens to twenties when the quantity that Starbucks bought through Germany (Starbucks buys most of its coffee from Germany which is also one of Ethiopia’s major export markets) and the coffees directly sold to other small buyers through direct trade.

It is thus extraordinary that ECX diminishes the roles of Specialty coffee in Ethiopia. Furthermore, it is unbelievable that ECX failed to see the fact that Specialty coffees drive the global coffee trade.

Marketing experts agree that the prestigious coffees such as Sidama, Yirgacheffe, and Harar serve marketers as ingredient brands. The prominent Oxford Professor Douglas Holt defines ingredient brands as: “brands that are used as one component “ingredient” of another branded product or service. Gore waterproof fabric and Intel computer chips are classic examples.”

Dr. Holt argues, “Consumers view the ingredient’s inclusion as a distinctive and valuable addition to the offer. The ingredient is revealed to end-consumers through some sort of distinctive mark (name, logo, etc.) so that the inclusion of the ingredient increases the perceived value of the offering.”

By undermining the roles played by Specialty coffees to promote the sale of Ethiopia’s aggregate coffee export, ECX’s bulk trading system poses a threat to commoditizing some of the distinct coffees in the world. Farmers that grow some these finest beans expect their produce to fetch them a price better than that of the run-of-the-mill beans. The lack of incentive for their hard work may have adverse effect on the country’s Specialty coffee production. As quality deteriorates, the country’s prestigious brands water down as well.

Unfair competition

When responding to criticisms about its position on direct trade, ECX cites as an example the cooperatives and commercial farms that are directly selling Specialty coffee outside of the ECX system. This is true but the problem is, by allowing selected group of growers to have access to the Specialty market, ECX leaves out the smallholder families that are not organized in cooperatives. This practice deprives farmers of the privilege of establishing business relationship with external buyers.

In addition, the current ECX system also subjects small-scale farmers to a potential market monopoly by a few exporters. Farmers are not represented in the ECX Board of Directors, a body that currently comprises three major coffee exporters, including Berhane Hailu, General Manager of EGTE, and seven government officials. This degree of power imbalance puts farmers at a disadvantage.

Coffee trade under current ECX system is far from being a level playing field. It is difficult to imagine a marketplace that is fair to farmers in a setting where the government owned enterprise, EGTE, working to maximize profit and ensure uninterrupted inflow of foreign exchange also directs ECX. As far as small-scale coffee growers are concerned, ECX has so far not been “fair, independent, and free.”

If ECX were to be of any benefit to the poor farmers, it should create an environment where the bulk trading system functions alongside a direct trading system for Specialty coffees and other certifications such as Bird Friendly, forest, and organic coffees. This is a lifeline for many smallholder farmers and that is where they have comparative advantage over competitors.

(The writer can be reached at wondwossen.mezlekia@symetra.com)

Ethiopia's popular singer may be jailed because of music

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Teddy Afro is one of Ethiopia’s most popular singers. Afro, whom fans call Ethiopia’s Bob Marley, is in prison. Many are convinced that his legal troubles are related to his music. Some of Afro’s songs seem critical of Ethiopia’s government… [more]

Experts say Nile Basin countries may fight over water

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

By Muhammad Yamany, Wael Naguib

CAIRO (Xinhua) — Some Egyptian experts accused the United States and Israel of raising differences among Nile Basin countries to affect Egypt and Sudan, warning that Nile Basin countries may fight for water in the future.

They referred that Egypt, with a population of about 77 million people, would never give up its historic rights in the Nile water.

There are foreign hands pushing some of Nile Basin countries to amend the 1929 agreement, which organizes the relations among these nations and the proportion of water to each country, so as to put pressure on Egypt and Sudan, said Dr. Abed al-Monem al-Mashet, Director of Search and Studies Center in the prestigious Cairo University.

Al-Mashet told Xinhua late on Wednesday that these hands are Israel, which has some old projects to affect Egypt’s quota in the Nile water especially in Ethiopia, and the United States which has an influence in southern Sudan.

He added that differences among the Nile Basin countries could be normal if there was not an agreement organizing the relations among them signed in 1929 and so no country can change the water quota for each country.

Earlier this week, Egypt’s Minister of Public Works and Water Resources Mahmoud Abdel Halim Abu Zeid said that Egypt is suffering from a serious shortage of water.

“Egypt has already entered the cycle of water poverty,” said Allam.

On the other hand, Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Egypt’s need of water is a red line that no one can come across and Nile Basin countries should consult Egypt before carrying out any projects that could affect Egypt’s share of water.

Asked about the outbreak of war due to differences among Nile Basin countries, al-Mashet said that Nile water is a matter of national security to Egypt and in the past Egypt’s former president Mohamed Anwar Sadat threatened to use military power if any of the Nile Basin countries tried to amend the 1929 agreement.

However, al-Mashet said that he does not think it could reach war at the time being as there is no big water projects in the Nile Basin countries, but it would happen in the future.

He called for negotiation in good intentions among the countries, expressing his belief that negotiation needs a summit for presidents instead of water ministers.

Meanwhile, Dr. Eglal Rafat, professor of political science at Cairo University, warned that differences in this issue could lead to war in the future if countries did not reach an agreement about sharing water.

She told Xinhua that Egypt sees that the past agreements about sharing Nile water are legal and the international law is in its side, so it is impossible that Egypt would compromise any of its historical rights as it is already suffering from water poverty.

Egypt reiterated that it would not recognize any agreement or any organization for the Nile basin countries unless it admits clearly the Egyptian rights in Nile water and that Egypt should be consulted before carrying out any project on the Nile which could affect the water quota of Egypt.

Egypt’s water needs will surpass its resources by 2017 because of its population. A recent report by the cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center said that Egypt would need 86.2 billion cubic meters of water in 2017 while its resources would only be 71.4 billion cubic meters.

Egypt’s water resources stood at 64 billion cubic meters in 2006, of which the River Nile provided 55.5 billion cubic meters, or 86.7 percent, the report said.

Egypt says that the Nile water is enough for every country if these countries concentrated on how to mange and use it.

On Tuesday, Nile Basin countries delayed signing a water-sharing agreement rejected by Egypt and Sudan, which opposed any reduction in their quotas.

“Wars could break out for water in the future unless an agreement is reached on how to share the river’s water,” said Rafat.

Deserting a Sinking Ship or Doing the Right Thing?

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

Escapees of Conscience or Deserters From a Sinking Ship?

Over the past month, there has been a spate of reported official “defections” from Ethiopia. The alleged “defectors” said to be seeking asylum in the U.S. include a high level official attached to the “State Minister of Government Communications Affairs”, an individual identified as the “Director of Ethiopian Telecommunication Agency” and another person said to be a member of Ethiopia’s rubber-stamp parliament. A well-known Ethiopian novelist is also reported to be seeking asylum in the U.S. Three officially sponsored Ethiopian “exchange students” sent to England for a three-month program “vanished during a trip to the Houses of Parliament” and are believed to be seeking asylum there. The grapevine in certain circles is abuzz with rumors that a number of the head honcho’s ambassadors in various countries have either refused to return to Ethiopia or are forestalling their return. Over the past few years, dozens of diplomatic officials are reported to have deserted the crippled ship of state of the dictators in Ethiopia.[1]

The question is whether the recent defections signify the proverbial desertion of a sinking ship, or are simply episodic instances of individual “escapees of conscience”.

Why Defect?

There is a long tradition of individuals fleeing tyranny and despotism in their homelands. Over the past three decades, thousands of Ethiopians have escaped oppression, persecution and dictatorial rule in their homeland and obtained political asylum in various countries. Receiving asylum in a host country does not necessarily make an individual a “defector”. There is no formally cognizable status of “defector” under international law. Such persons are generally treated as “refugees” under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The U.S. Government in its administrative manuals defines a “defector” as a “person who repudiates his or her country when beyond its jurisdiction or control.” When the Soviet Union existed, a “defector” was an individual who “committed treason by cooperating with a hostile foreign intelligence service”.

There is no single prototype of a defector. Defectors from the former communist countries have included generals, diplomats, scientists, artists, musicians, atheletes, and even children of supreme dictators. For instance, among well-known Russian defectors to the U.S. include KGB general Oleg Kalugin; pianist Dmitry Shostakovich, Olga Korbut, the four gold and two silver medal winning gymnast and chess grandmasters Viktor Korchnoy and Boris Spassky. In 1967, Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, defected to the U.S. In 1993, Fidel Castro’s daughter, Alina Fernandez Revuelta, did the same after entering the U.S. disguised as a Spanish tourist. Far fewer numbers of Americans have defected to the Soviet Union, mostly for ideological reasons.

Individuals defect for a variety of reasons. Some do so for purely personal reasons; and others for moral, philosophical, political, intellectual or ideological ones. Soviet defector interview data and autobiographies suggest that among the major factors motivating defections included strong beliefs and perceptions that: 1) the Soviet regime lacked popular legitimacy and mandate and rules by means of lies, intimidation and violence; 2) communism as an ideology is bankrupt and that the Soviet regime uses it to justify its monopoly on power; 3) basic human rights and the rule of law are disregarded and violated routinely by communist officials, and 4) since no legal opposition to the Soviet regime is allowed or tolerated, defection is one of the few ways for individuals to show their opposition and rejection of the communist system. Others have described Soviet defectors as “cynical people who understood the corruption of the Soviet system, used it to their advantage and turned against it only when it failed them in their self-centered pursuits or somehow victimized them.”

Life as an Official of the Ruling Dictatorship

Anecdotal evidence obtained from some Ethiopian defectors paints a portrait of the inhumanity, depravity, cruelty and decay of the dictatorial regime there, and the existential trap in which the defectors found themselves. These defectors reported facing a variation on the excruciating question: “How could I serve in good conscience a brutal, corrupt and ruthless dictatorship?” Witnessing injustice, abuse of power, unfairness, exploitation and outright criminality everyday, yet being part of a system that perpetrates and perpetuates it, created a hellish situation for many of these defectors. They reported being tormented by the proverbial little voice in their consciences telling them: “This is so wrong. Don’t do it. Don’t be a part of it!” They described facing an endless struggle between their consciences and the harsh reality they faced servicing the dictatorship. They lived each day overwhelmed by a sense of powerlessness and helplessness. They felt they had sold out their consciences to make a daily living and put food on the table for their families. Dependent on the dictatorship for their daily bread, a number of these defectors reported living a life of self-loathing, duplicity and quiet desperation: They were afraid to speak up against the injustices they witnessed for fear of retribution; they were tormented by guilt because they felt completely powerless to change their circumstances; they felt they had to live a life of pretension just to survive and not to arouse suspicion of disloyalty; they were overcome by unrelenting anxiety and insecurity about possible official retaliation for something they had done on not done; and they seethed with anger for being bossed around by a herd of ignoramuses.

These defectors also reported seeking escape from a daily existence of humiliation, shame and self-loathing before defecting. Many withdrew into the world of alcohol and self-indulgence to escape their misery and contain their moral outrage. Some waited and schemed in secrecy for that one opportunity to travel to the West for some training program or a diplomatic assignment. When they got that chance, they quietly slipped away from their delegations to seek political asylum. Others not fortunate enough to travel and not drowning themselves in alcohol are said to seek alternative relief by consorting with opposition elements, or seeking solace in prayer and other spiritual pursuits. Those who could not take it anymore treaded the risky waters of opposition politics, and soon find out there is a huge price to pay for standing up against the dictatorship. They found themselves out of a job or worse. Some are said to be so overcome by fear and anxiety about their personal well-being that they simply want to drop out the officialdom and be left alone. But dictatorships are like the devil; and as the old saying goes, once the devil catches you by a single strand of hair, you are his forever until you save yourself or are redeemed.

Defection as a Moral Act of Outrage and Redemption

Defection made for the right reasons could be a supreme act of moral redemption for the defector. Those who have been involuntary agents of oppression and criminality have the ability to morally purify themselves by openly and publicly repudiating their previous official life. But the moral duty of defectors transcends self-atonement; it includes a collateral duty to help those who suffer under the yoke of dictatorship. As Victor Kravchenko, one of the early Soviet defectors observed, it is the duty of a defector to speak his mind once in freedom because “an understanding of the Russian reality by the democratic world is the precondition for my country’s liberation from within.” It is because of the work of Soviet defectors who exposed the brutality and depravity of the Soviet system that an underground dissident and human rights movement in the Soviet Union was able to take root in the 1980s.

Defectors, Duties and the Diaspora: Doing the Right Thing

Foreign officials who defect in most Western countries have legal rights to seek political asylum. It is the duty of all Ethiopians in the Diaspora who believe in freedom, democracy and human rights to help those escaping oppression and persecution as victims of human rights abuses. It is commendable that many Ethiopian legal professionals in the U.S. particularly, and other charitable institutions, have offered or extended assistance to those who have sought asylum in the U.S. as defectors or otherwise. Many individuals and American civic organizations deserve gratitude for their efforts in facilitating the social integration of those fleeing persecution in Ethiopia.

Until we walk a mile in the defectors’ shoes, we have little moral basis to prejudge them for taking the courageous act of defecting from a ruthless dictatorship. Fundamental fairness requires that we give them the benefit of the doubt: They shall all deemed escapees of conscience doing the right thing until proven otherwise!

We do not know if we are witnessing the tip of a defection iceberg from the reports of this past month. Perhaps these defections will open the floodgates for an exodus of officials escaping oppression and persecution, or such defections will continue to trickle. Regardless, we must be careful not to malign these official defectors, or arbitrarily impugn their motives as some may be inclined to do. It may be that these individuals are abandoning a slowly sinking ship, or just doing the right thing and cleansing themselves. It does not matter. In the struggle for the hearts and minds of Ethiopians, it is the duty of those in the Diaspora to lend aid to such individuals as victims of human rights abuses. It is the moral duty of all well-intentioned defectors to name and shame their former masters and tormentors. Above all, it is their supreme moral duty to speak their minds once they find themselves in freedom; and, to paraphrase Victor Kravchenko, bear witness against injustice and human rights violations because “an understanding of the Ethiopian reality by the democratic world is the precondition for our country’s liberation from within.”

[1] http://www.addisvoice.com/PR/defections.htm

(The writer, Alemayehu G. Mariam, is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. For comments, he can be reached at almariam@gmail.com)

Dinner with Hillary Clinton

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

By George Ayittey

Next week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be visiting 7 African countries in 11 days: Cape Verde Islands, Liberia, Nigeria, Congo DR (Goma, in particular), Kenya, South Africa and Angola. Part of the purpose of the trip is to smooth over ruffled feathers. Recall that Kenyans were miffed over the fact that President Obama skipped his fatherland and visited Ghana instead. And Nigerians felt his trip to Ghana was an insidious plot to destabilize their country. So Hillary is being dispatched to soothe frayed nerves and douse the flames. There are also genuine concerns in the Obama administration about Nigeria’s stability and China’s forays into Africa.

The purpose of our dinner at the State Department was an effort by the Secretary of State, Hillary, to reach out of the bureaucratic cocoon to independent “gurus” and seek alternative viewpoints before her trip to Africa. We were given a set of questions to respond to in order to frame the discussion at the dinner forum and help prepare her for the trip. What she should be looking for, what she should say, how she could be helpful, etc.

The dinner was quite extraordinary. The protocol was stultifying; everything was planned to the minutest detail. Yet the atmosphere was relaxed. There were 26 of us at the dinner table with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the center. Half of the guests were State Dept. operatives — speech writer, policy planner, and a retinue of deputies and assistants — assistant this, assistant that, deputy assistant this, if you know what I mean. The remaining 13 of us where the “experts.” There were only 5 blacks there, including Asst. Sec. of State for Africa, Ambassador Johnnie Carson. I was the only African but, at least, it was a start.

The reason why I was invited was because Brian Phipps, Clinton’s policy planner, had read my book, Africa Unchained, two years ago and said it had “a profound influence” on his thinking about Africa. So I asked him if it would be OK to bring two copies of my book — one for Hillary and the other for Obama. He said who would refuse such a gracious act of generosity.

So I took two copies along. One for Hillary which I autographed as: “I am a big fan of yours. Africans are grateful for your concern for the continent.” Hey, a little fawning adulation never hurt nobody. My students do that to me all the time to get good grades: “I learned a lot from your class,” “You are my greatest teacher,” they often tell me. A quick check of the grades of those praise-singers tell a different story. Rascals.

The other book was for President Obama. I autographed it as: “This wont’ get me a BEER at the White House but we are proud of you as a son of Africa. Don’t mind what the Americans say.”

I hope Obama has a sense of humor but don’t try this with President Musugu Babazonga, President-For-Life of the Coconut Republic of Tonga somewhere in the Gulf of Guinea. He is the author of the “Green Book,” which everybody must read. All other books are banned.

I told the group that there was no need to re-invent the wheel and that the West should deal with Africa the way it dealt with the former Soviet Union. There it didn’t form partnerships with communist regimes and hand over money to them on promises of reform. It helped solidarity movements and established Radio Free Europe. Why not Radio Free Africa? Sec. of State Hillary Clinton said it is a great idea and she likes it.

To the consternation of everyone, I commended Hillary highly and told her I was humbled by her invitation and I wish African governments would reach out and seek alternative viewpoints. Instead, they tossed me into jail, raided my hotel room and even fire-bombed my office in Washington, DC. Hillary was listening attentively.

She is very sharp, witty and a good sport. She is quite warm and open. The dinner lasted for two hours and at the end, I gave her the book and posed for a photo.

(The writer can be reached at ayittey@american.edu)

'Guzo' arrives in New York

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Guzo, The Journey NEW YORK — The critically acclaimed and winner of the 3rd annual Addis International Film Festival, Guzo (The Journey) will make its New York City debut at the renowned state-of the- art Helen Mills Theater on Saturday, August 8th… click here for more info

Interview with EPPF fighters – video

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) International Committee’s head of Organizational Affairs Ato Sileshi Tilahun interviews leaders and fighters of the Front. Watch the video below.

Reminder: EPPF high-level officials will hold a town hall meeting in Washington DC on Sunday, August 9 at 2:30 PM. Place: Unification Church, 1610 Columbia Road NW, Washington DC.

Ethiopia: Evander Holyfield vs. Sammy Retta

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

By Gwen Thompkins | NPR

The boxing world has an unusual fight coming up. Former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield is expected to meet Ethiopian boxer Sammy Retta next month in Addis Ababa.

The boxing match in Africa — which will reportedly raise money for charity — is being cast by the promoter as another “Rumble in the Jungle,” recalling the Muhammad Ali-George Foreman fight more than 30 years ago, in what was then Zaire.

Ali made history in that 1974 title fight, reclaiming the crown as heavyweight champion of the world.

But before Ethiopia can make its own history by hosting this non-title match, Retta and Holyfield will have to get into the ring first. So far, they’re running late.

You can always tell a little something about a person when they mention who their favorite boxer is. Anybody who says Jack Johnson or Joe Louis is probably on Social Security right now. Joe Frazier? That fan is stubborn beyond belief — and not afraid to tell the whole world to take a hike. Sugar Ray Leonard? Oscar De La Hoya? A sucker for a pretty boy with a nice punch.

Maj. Shiferaw Teklu is a former officer in the Imperial Guard in Ethiopia; his boss was the former emperor. So it would follow that his favorite boxer is considered a king.

“Cassius Clay. I still love him. All his talks, all his bluffings. That’s what I love about him,” Teklu says.

Muhammad Ali hasn’t been Cassius Clay for more than 40 years. But Teklu and others in Addis Ababa are still calling him Clay more often than Ali.

“I’ll definitely support Sammy. He’s my countryman. But I would be happy also to support both because the aim of this boxing match is for a charity,” Teklu says.

Making History?

Evander Holyfield, aka “The Real Deal,” is 46 years old and a four-time heavyweight champion of the world. He wants another shot at the title.

Sammy Retta, aka “The Knockout Artist,” is 35. He has been nowhere near a title fight, either in Ethiopia or in the Washington, D.C., area where he now lives. Holyfield may be the guy who can put Retta on the map. Not surprisingly, Retta’s favorite boxer is Evander Holyfield.

“He’s a good fighter, one of the greatest boxers. He beat everybody, almost,” Retta says.

But whether anybody remembers Retta’s name will depend on how good his bout with Holyfield is — and, more importantly, if it happens.

The fight was supposed to take place on July 26. Then there was talk about Aug. 19. And now, promoter Everton Boland says the authorities have committed to Sept. 11 — the Ethiopian New Year. By the way, Boland’s favorite boxers are Jamaican, like he is. But he says his hero is the legendary promoter, Don King.

“King do it all — heavyweights, lightweight, middleweight — he did it all. Come on, he went to Africa, he goes everywhere in the world. I’m doing the same thing now. I’m trying,” Boland says.

But pulling off an event like this in Ethiopia isn’t exactly like calling up Madison Square Garden and fixing a date on the calendar. There is no such thing as professional boxing in the country. The amateur boxing federation seems, well, amateurish. The phones don’t work so well. Power outages are frequent. And this is, of all times, the rainy season, when everybody slows down to the speed of mud.

But Boland says he’s optimistic.

“I think I’ll get it done. This is going to be good. This is a history fight, a heavyweight fight. This is the first time that a legend is going to fight an African. This is making history,” he says.

‘David Versus David’

But anyone who plans to climb into the ring in Addis Ababa on Sept. 11 needs to come quick. The city is at an altitude of 8,300 feet, more than a mile and a half high. A flight of stairs knocks out many a foreigner. And some say that even at sea level, Holyfield is too worn out to be near a ring.

Until recently, Retta was a super middleweight fighter. The Holyfield match will be his first as a heavyweight. And at 230 pounds, he is heavier than Holyfield.

Sisay Wolde, a former amateur boxing star in Ethiopia, says his advice to Retta is not to count Holyfield out yet: Keep your distance, dance and tire the old man out.

“Holyfield should never get closer to Sammy, because if he gets closer, he knows how to attack him and Sammy will not have a chance to win,” Wolde says.

Boland says this fight won’t be so much David vs. Goliath, as much as it will be David against another David.

“You don’t know who can beat who at any time. But a Holyfield-Sammy Retta fight, this is going to be interesting because [it's] an older man against a younger guy, who might just be peaking. I just don’t know,” Boland says.

It’s looking like the real winner will be the man who gets both fighters in the ring on time. The history books can tell the rest. Boland is calling the match “African Affairs.”

Ethiopian Orthodox Church Day celebrated in DC

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Ethiopian Orthodox Church Day celebrated in DC

A special event celebrating “The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Day” was held on Saturday and Sunday (Aug. 1 and 2) in Washington DC.

The event was organized by Ethiopian churches in the Washington DC Metro Area. Some 1,500 people attended the two-day celebration, which included a discussion on the history of Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

“The highlight of the event was to see the initiative young Ethiopian Americans who took part in explaining the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church’s history, sacred objects and its Abenet Schools (Kes Temeheret bet) to the non-Amharic speakers,” according to Wz. Amaretch Tademe, one of the organizers.

Ethiopian Orthodox Church Day in DC – August 1

Friday, July 31st, 2009

A presentation of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Come and learn about the rich history and tradition of the church which has held on to the faith of the apostles for over 2000 years.

Exhibition in Amharic and English featuring:

* Presentation on the contributions of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church to Ethiopia and the world
* The Ecclesiastical Melodies of Saint Yared
* Audiovisual presentation of the Monasteries and Churches in Ethiopia
* A display of sacred objects
* A special area for children
* Sermons on unity
* Information about charitable organizations that works closely with the church
* Testimonials of miracles that are being seen in today’s Ethiopia
* Hymns, poems, plays, and much more.

Location:
Washington Monument Grounds, 15th and Constitution Ave, NW

Date/Time:
Saturday, August 1st, 2009, 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Sunday, August 2nd, 2009, 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM

For more info: EOTCDAYDC@gmail.com
Coordinator: Nibure’ed GebreHiwot Melissie
Yohannes Teklu, Tel 301 899 6521
Shewakena Habteyes, Tel 301 404 7582
Amarech Tademe, Tel 202 297 0610

Canada to seek clemency for its citizen convicted in Ethiopia

Friday, July 31st, 2009

OTTAWA (CP) — The Conservative government of Canada says it will seek clemency for Bashir Makhtal if the Ethiopian government sentences him to death next week.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says Canada has asked Ethiopia that Makhtal not face the death penalty. Makhtal is to be sentenced next week after being found guilty this week in Addis Ababa on terrorism-related charges.

Makhtal, born in Ethiopia, settled in Canada as a refugee and later moved to Kenya, opening a used-clothing business.

He was working in Somalia when Ethiopian troops invaded in late 2006 and fled back to Kenya, but he was detained along with several others at the Kenya-Somalia border.

He was charged with being a member of the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front – an allegation he denies.

An Islamic history is a vital part of Ethiopia's richness

Friday, July 31st, 2009

By HA Hellyer

“We are sorry if you get woken up by the Muslim call to prayer in the morning.” Those were some of the first words I heard at my hotel when I arrived in Addis Ababa, on my first trip to Ethiopia. I confess – I was a bit confused. Call to prayer? In the capital of a “Christian country in a sea of Muslims”, as Ethiopia is sometimes called? Perhaps I was in a Muslim quarter of Addis Ababa that had been recently established?

No, the situation was far more complicated than that, and one about which I had a surprisingly limited awareness. Most non-Ethiopians, including the immediate neighbours of Ethiopia, also believe that Ethiopia is predominantly Christian. The more sophisticated might believe that there is a Muslim minority – and it was to learn about that population that drew me to Ethiopia in the first place. But it is not a minority. About 55 per cent of Ethiopia’s parliament is Muslim and representatives from the country’s Islamic community insist they are at least 50 per cent of the population. While the US State Department estimates that this number is a bit lower, Islam might actually be the religion with the most adherents in Ethiopia.

If there is any “Muslim quarter” in Addis, it must be an old one. Christianity was the first religion to arrive in Ethiopia – but only in the north of the country. Where the capital, Addis Ababa, is located, the area of Shawa, was the domain of a Muslim sultanate in the early 8th century. Most historical narratives portray Ethiopia’s as a Christian story. If Islam is even mentioned, it is associated with disconnected tribesman in the lowlands who battled Christian kingdoms in the highlands. But history is written by the powerful and now academics are rediscovering the Muslim history of this country of such noble heritage.

As I met people from Ethiopia’s Muslim community, I was struck by their diversity. Most Ethiopian Muslims are influenced by Sufism, and follow the same Sunni rites as their neighbours in Yemen, Somalia and Djibouti (the Shafi’i rite) – but there are also adherents of other Sunni rites, and a significant Salafi movement within Ethiopia. There are dozens of ethnic and linguistic groups among Muslim Ethiopians, from all areas of the country.

But what they share is a long history of discrimination against them. Early Christian-Muslims relations in Ethiopia were very good – the Prophet of Islam sent several Muslim refugees to live among Christians in Ethiopia, who had a very high opinion of the king at that time, who later became Muslim. In the medieval era, Christian Ethiopians under the Zagwes refused to be drawn into the European crusades against the Muslim world, which led to Saladin giving the Ethiopian Orthodox Church a monastery in Jerusalem. In the same era, Muslims and Christians lived in separate kingdoms and sultanates in Ethiopia, but in peaceful coexistence – and their example proves that deeply religious and pious people of different religions need not be at war with one another.

But with the rise of the Solomonic dynasty in 1270 that came to an end. That dynasty, like many others of its age, was expansionist and aggressive, leading to a great number of conflicts with Muslim sultanates over a period of hundreds of years in Ethiopia. The length of the Solomonic dynasty is staggering – Haile Selassie was its last Emperor, and his reign ended in 1974. He saw the establishment of a modern Ethiopia, but not a modern educational system – at least, not for Muslim Ethiopians. The historians and educators I interviewed in Ethiopia bemoaned the standard of education among Muslim Ethiopians, explaining to me that during Haile Selassie’s tenure, Muslim regions did not receive the same attention as Christian regions and few modern educational institutions were established. Haile Selassie had a formula for Ethiopia: one country, one people, one religion. Muslims were not part of that equation. The revolutionary regime that overthrew Haile Selassie, the Derg, introduced education for all, but as a communist movement, Muslim communities still suffered discrimination.

Many of those whom I met were from that generation – a generation that had access to education, and began to learn about their religion in a modern sense. With the establishment of a more democratic constitution in 1994, Muslim Ethiopians began to try to build more institutions for themselves.

Much of the contemporary analysis surrounding Ethiopia’s relationship with the Muslim world revolves around Somalia, and Ethiopia’s invasion of that country in 2006. I saw quite a different face, however, to the nation. I saw a huge number of Muslims speaking excellent Arabic (perhaps more than any non-Arabic speaking country I had ever been to), proud of the history of this ancient land that had never been conquered. On the other hand, I also saw the sadness of many Muslim Ethiopians, who were frustrated that while rich Muslim countries might provide funds to build mosques, or provide food during Ramadan, they would not contribute to provide for the institutions needed to improve the capacity of this thriving community. And it’s not hard to see why – many simply do not believe there is a community there to support in the first place.

But there is an Ethiopian Muslim community there: a community that has learnt to thrive against the odds, and one that teaches lessons about identity in a diverse society and the role of religion in the modern world. It is a community that deserves to be known.

(H A Hellyer is a Fellow of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at the University of Warwick, UK, and director of the Visionary Consultants Group)

Egypt blocks Nile water deal

Friday, July 31st, 2009

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (UPI) — Hopes that the 10 Nile Basin countries would sign a water-sharing agreement at a meeting in Alexandria to settle one of the planet’s most contentious water issues have been dashed — for now at least — after Egypt and Sudan rejected any cuts in their traditional quotas.

But the prospects of a long-term accord on an equitable share-out of the waters of the 3,470-mile Nile, the world’s longest river, remain dim, largely because Egypt, the largest user, refuses to surrender its veto powers and its historic rights over the river that has been its lifeblood since time immemorial.

The Nile and its tributaries flow through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.

The water ministers of these states put off finalizing a treaty for six months when they wrapped up their four-day Alexandria meeting on Tuesday.

In May, the riparian states had drafted a Cooperative Framework Agreement at a summit in the Congo, but Egypt and Sudan refused to sign because it made no mention of their historic claims on Nile water that date back to the colonial era.

Cairo and Khartoum, which do not see eye-to-eye on most things, hailed Tuesday’s postponement. “It’s a big victory,” a senior Sudanese official declared. “They were going to sign the agreement beginning Aug. 1 regardless of Egypt and Sudan.”

The dispute over the Nile’s life-giving waters has stirred resentment and tension for years now. But now the feuding over water appears to be intensifying.

Some international law experts have gone so far as to suggest that if political and diplomatic efforts fail to settle the issue, the use of military force would be the only option.

Others say it is unlikely that any of these states would resort to such extreme action. But the U.N. Development Program recently voiced concern that conflict over shrinking water resources could trigger “water wars” — as has happened before in the arid Middle East.

Climate change in recent years has reduced rainfall, leading to lower water flows in the Nile and jeopardizing hydraulic projects in several states.

Egypt and neighboring Sudan are the Nile’s largest consumers. Egypt, which lies at the end of the river as it flows into the Mediterranean, does not contribute any water to the Nile system.

But it has the largest population — 80.24 million — and the greatest military power among the riparian states and thus the highest demand for water. For Cairo, safeguarding the Nile water is a strategic objective.

The problem stems in large part from the absence of multilateral agreements concerning water-sharing. This is because Egypt has refused to sign any documents that do not recognize its insistence that its needs are paramount.

The only agreement that does exist lies at the heart of the dispute — the 1929 accord between Egypt and Britain, then the predominant colonial power in Africa.

It gave Cairo veto power over upstream projects that could impede the Nile’s flow levels — as Turkey’s current ambitious dam-building program is cutting off the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates to Syria and Iraq.

Britain claimed it had acted on behalf of its African colonies, but its motivation undoubtedly had a lot to do with maintaining strategic control over the Suez Canal to hold its empire together.

A bilateral treaty between Egypt and Sudan in 1959 allocated Egypt 55.5 billion cubic meters of water annually — 87 percent of the Nile’s flow — with Sudan getting 18.5 billion cubic meters.

The other riparian states say this is grossly unfair and demand an equitable water-sharing pact that would allow for much wider irrigation for crop-growing (an increasingly vital issue because of global food shortages) and hydraulic power projects.

Egypt argues that the upstream countries have far greater rainfall than Egypt — which has hardly any — and other sources of water than the Nile.

The river provides 87 percent of Egypt’s water resources. An Egyptian government report in July warned that the country’s water requirements would exceed its resources by 2017.

The dangerous hype behind Ethiopian Commodity Exchange

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

By Seid Hassan

It is our hope that many Ethiopians have watched the PBS/WNET documentary film under the title of The Market Maker/Wide Angle, which was broadcast beginning on July 23, 2009. This documentary followed the Ethiopian economist, Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, who is the CEO of the newly established Ethiopian Commodity Exchange. Many of us were waiting for the documentary to show us how the ECX could “… transform the Ethiopian economy by becoming a global commodity market of choice,” as claimed in the ECX’s main web page. That was not to be.

We were disappointed (but not surprised) by the failure of the documentary film which failed to show us the difficulties that the ECX has and would face, let alone Dr. Eleni’s failure to explain to us how the ECX could “transform the Ethiopian economy.” The anchor of the documentary, a renowned journalist Mr. Aaron Brown, opened the discussion by asking how the commodity exchange would lift the millions of Ethiopian poor farmers out of poverty. We were anxiously expecting Dr. Eleni to explain to us how many millions illiterate peasants would read the coded commodity prices and use them to their advantage; how the ECX could function and survive in a country where free markets are non-existent; explain to us the mechanisms whereby the peasants would be able to obtain the necessary information about markets in a country where the independent media is slummed shut by the government, a country where the limited media outlets (one of the poorest and lowest penetration rates in the world), such as the telephone, internet, radio, TV, newspapers are controlled by the government. For those who don’t know the Ethiopian situation, we would like to inform them that even those who have access to the limited electronic and print media are so fed up with the government’s endless lies and false propaganda that they only pay attention to those foreign-owned and operated media such as the BBC, VOA, Deutsche Welle, al-jezeera and the Eritrean TV.

Moreover, those of us of Ethiopian origin were expecting the documentary to show us the difficulties and lack of coordination between market participants. In particular, we were expecting the producers of the documentary to have gone deep into the rural areas of Ethiopia and show us the daily lives of the peasants, their unbearable poverty, the meager outputs they produce, and how they “dump”, which is true to this day, their small products to any price they could fetch during harvest times, how they would be able to know what the ECX is (let alone their lack of understanding how it works). It was not to be.

As Thomas Paul aptly put it, the documentary failed to show the criteria for success, the market inefficiencies before the implementation of the ECX, how one could measure the benefits of an efficient trading system. The same observer also noted that Dr. Eleni failed to show any raw data supporting the ripple effects of market efficiencies that she talked about, the impacts of the price variances, the challenges, and implementation strategies. Most importantly, both the documentary and Dr. Eleni failed to show us what kind of regulatory schemes exist to build trust, which is a paramount currency in a (newly formed) commodity exchange system. The initiative is a start, assuming that all the necessary ingredients are in place (which is not the case), but it is far from the success story the documentary tried to portray. The same astute observer also noted:

The benefits and theoretical advantages of making trading easy is a function of trust which in turn is a function of independence from the hands of the government. … [W]hat was glaringly evident was that the system has so far failed to win the trust of stakeholders, as evidenced by the governments’ abrupt shut down of an efficient auction system by which coffee was traded previously. As soon as stakeholders, farmers and merchants alike, were forced to transact through the ECX, they went underground. Some were accused of ‘hoarding’ and thrown in jail…

Let us briefly delve into some of the characteristics of a commodity exchange system and relate those characteristics to the ECX. In this particular article (our first installment on the issue), we show that the ECX is neither a Free Market based transparency and a level-playing field, nor it is intended to be, at least from the government’s stand point.

Since its establishment, which began its operation in April of 2008, the ECX has never been a free exchange market. The description “free commodity exchange market” was and still is just a PR stunt and a pretext to hoodwink donors and unsuspecting public. We know free markets galvanize private resources by bringing those who are willing and able to buy and sell when they try to maximize their own individual utility. We also know and understand that commodity exchange mechanisms could play vital roles provided that they are set up properly and allowed to function with minimal interference by the authorities. By the same taken, the ECX could alleviate, but not transform, some of the problems that the Ethiopian economy is in, again, provided that all the necessary conditions that will make a “free” commodity exchange to function properly. But there are a number of both conceptual and practical problems with the EXC.

A. Transparency: For more than a year, we have been looking for the identity of the officers and regulators of the ECX. As everyone knows, such a disclosure of the identity, background and financial interest of the individuals and the businesses involved in the exchange is paramount to the well-functioning and transparency of any commodity and financial exchange institution. We are happy to see, after more than a year of not doing so, the ECX putting out the identity of the officers, the regulators and trading members on the official website, but a detailed public record of those individuals and companies is necessary.

B. Market Information (lack of): The ECX on its only official website claims information being delivered all over the country through Radio, Television, and SMS. But it failed to inform us that there is no privately owned media infrastructure in the country. It failed to honestly inform the reader and the observer that not only the government owned and operated media outlets are biased but their usefulness to market participants is almost non-existent (for example, the internet penetration rates as compared to the rest of the world is only 0.02%!) The claim that market information is transmitted all over the country is, therefore, misleading and false.

C. Credit: Transparency of financing is a critical component of commodity trade. However, in addition to the listing of some of the ‘private’ banks, it is important to fully disclose the role of the government and the involvement of the ruling party owned credit establishments, particularly their relations to the private banks.

D. Storage: As a government agency, the ECX owns and operates the largest storage facilities. In so doing, it enjoys complete dominance in the storage of commodities throughout the country, thereby making this same government agency the price-maker. Everyone involved knows that impartiality to the private traders does not exist and the government is crowding out private storage operators. Moreover, another government agency, the Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise (EGTE), which is the largest grain purchaser in the country, is a member-trader of the exchange, owns major storage, transportation facilities throughout the country and directly competes against private traders. It has been recently disclosed that the EGTE destabilized the commodity market, due to its market dominance and the preference it gets from the government, and yet, no mention of this fact is made by the CEO of the ECX.

E. Transportation: As mentioned earlier, the dominance of the Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise and the ruling party owned transportation operators are equally mentioned as private operators but they actually dominate its control. Such unequal relationship and favoritism is not only contrary to the normal operations of a market but the lack of disclosure their dominance, favoritism party owned parastatals, and their unfettered access to government regulators exacerbates the lack of trust on the part of the ECX.

F. Regulation: The government officials who are listed as regulators, including the Prime Minister’s involvement in the ECX’s affairs are the major causes of market destabilization and the failure of the exchange as a market institution.

In addition, the ruling party affiliated traders, financers, transporters, and exporters should have been banned from the exchange. The Prime Minster as the leader of his party must disclosed his party owned enterprises and their financial interests to the public before they are permitted in the exchange. Moreover, the ECX should have disclosed the names of the donor countries and international institutions that are financing the establishment of the exchange, including their financial interests and how they would be accountable for any improprieties that either their agents or those whom they support could commit. They should have demanded the disclosure of the financial interests of the officers as well. Unfortunately, none of the above disclosures are made so far, thereby creating an appearance of conflict of interest.

In conclusion, based on the problems listed above and other issues, there is a lack of market information, lack of contract enforcement, and a lack of trust on the ECX. In particular, the asymmetric information (those who are close to the government possessing all the information and outright favoritism) has been damaging to the ECX and will continue to be so.

Furthermore, let it be known that no commodity exchange will work (let alone function and assist the 82 million Ethiopians) without transparency and accountability. Let it be known that there are no commodity exchange markets that have flourished under repressive, parasitic, nepotistic and oligarchic regimes as it exists in Ethiopia. Let it be known that there is no “free commodity exchange” where repression is the order of the day, where the Ethiopian people are so petrified by the repression of Meles Zenawi’s regime that they are leaving their country in drones. We believe there are better ways to feed starving Ethiopians, currently over ten million of them being dependent international food aid. Let it be known that a commodity exchange, no matter how glittery it may seem, will not work in a malaise economy and with people under increasingly grinding poverty.

Let it be known that there is no true commodity exchange in a country where group of people who claim to represent a minority ethnic group, who have illegally transferred the means of production to themselves and the parastatals they fully control. Let it be known that the ECX adventure has been an exercise in futility, in part because the circumstances for a true commodity exchange system to function do not exist and in part because, as it became evident by Meles Zenawi’s “cutting of the hands” of the Ethiopian coffee exporters, the entire exercise is designed to have full control of the commanding heights of the Ethiopian economy.

It is also about time for those renowned journalists to speak on behalf of their colleagues, members of the Ethiopian independent media whose businesses have been closed, who have languished in the prisons of Meles Zenawi with concocted up charges and who have been forced into exile. There is no and cannot be a free commodity exchange market under such repressive circumstances.
It is about time to recognize that millions of Ethiopians get hurt with such gimmickry and uncalled for hypes. … Let it be known that the ECX is another well orchestrated gimmick, one of those government set up mega projects which are designed to control both the outputs and prices of the Ethiopian farmers, particularly the commodities which are the source of foreign exchange. Let be known that, as the saying goes: “all that glitters is not really gold!”

Let there be no more hypes, no more deceptions. Most importantly, it is time for those enablers of Meles’s greedy and kleptocratic regime that the creation of hypes real consequences. As a gimmickry mega project, the ECX has been and will be used to both squander the meager resources of the country and as means of controlling the outputs of the Ethiopian peasants. Let it be known that those who are a part of this process, including those at the helm of the ECX will be accountable for what they have done to Ethiopia and its people.

(The author, Dr. Seid Hassan, is a professor at Murray State University. He can be reached at Seid.hassan@murraystate.edu)

South Africa: Ethiopian refugees in peril

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

By Tizita Belachew | VOA

Johannesburg — Yilma Shoa Taye, a representative of 94 Ethiopians, reports they have been evicted from the Ebenezer Care Center where they have been sheltered for two months.

He says Sister Shelley expelled them from the care center when their UNCHR funding ran out and a tribal leader in the community said neighbors would slaughter the more than 119 refugees in her compound.

The day after VOA reported 94 Ethiopian refugees found homeless and defenseless outside the gates of the Ebenezer Care Center, help arrived.

Amnesty International called the South African police, who provided 24-hour protection for the 94 Ethiopian refugees and a dozen others who had been expelled from the center. A member of the city council sought renewal of UNCHR funding and requested they be readmitted to the center. Yilma reports that President Jacob Zuma has been on the radio denouncing threats of violence against refugees.

Bekele Geleta's mission to make the world a less dangerous place

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

By Sarah Freeman | Yorkshire Post

The life story of Bekele Geleta could easily be turned into a bestselling novel. Born in Ethiopia to a poor family, he worked his way out of poverty to secure a job in charge of a railway company. Determined to fight for workers rights,his inability to turn a blind eye to injustice saw him imprisoned for five years. When released, he left Ethiopia – arriving in Canada with his wife and four children as refugees. Two decades later, he found himself named as general secretary of the Red Cross.

“Yes I suppose my life has been quite eventful,” he says, shortly after collecting an honorary degree from Leeds University, where he studied for a Masters in economics 35 years before. “I have known vulnerability first hand and I have always felt very strongly that as human beings we need to help those less fortunate.”

While Bekele may be quietly spoken, his modesty belies his lifelong determination to make the world a better place. The five years he spent as a political prisoner from 1978 to 1982 taught him that good can come out of even the most dire situations and when he was finally released he never looked back.

“If you ask me why I was imprisoned, the honest answer is I don’t know. I was just doing my job, but the authorities didn’t like it,” he says. “Prison was a big shock, but you have to make the best of it. There were a lot of intelligent people in there and we started our own school. It was a way of keeping ourselves busy, but it was also about
giving those who hadn’t had access to education a better chance on the outside.

“Teaching others was our own way of coping.”

After being released, Bekele decided to make a new life for himself in Canada. After being granted leave to stay, he quickly became involved in humanitarian work, eventually securing a position with the Red Cross. Having now found himself at the top of the organisation after seeing first-hand the impact of natural and man-made disasters, he knows his aims have to be realistic.

“The world is not getting any better, but you know what, it’s not getting worse either,” he says. “There will always be disasters and hopefully organisations like the Red Cross will always be there to help. We are lucky in that we have a special relationship not just with the communities in which we work, but with world governments. No other civil society has a presence in every country. The Red Cross is known everywhere by everybody, it’s an organisation people feel they can rely on and that’s as it should be.”

In his previous position, Bekele oversaw the rebuilding of thousands of homes wiped out by the devastating Boxing Day tsunami. The project in Indonesia was, he says, one of his proudest achievements, but with no one knowing what fresh disaster will be wrought as climate change takes its grip on the world, Red Cross resources could soon be even more stretched. In 2007, 200 million people were affected by natural disaster, an increase of 40 per cent on the previous year and the effect of flooding in countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh has already shown the chaos and human misery caused by severe weather systems.

“Globally, we all need to think about the increasing number of natural disasters,” says Bekele. “We are all contributing to climate change and we all need to take responsibility.

“When disasters happen the first hours are crucial, that’s when most lives can be saved. In the Red Cross we are lucky in that we have a huge amount of volunteers all across the world and over the years we have worked hard to build up resources in the most vulnerable places.

“Disasters never stop, conflicts will not end and people’s differences will always divide us, but despite all of that there is an overwhelming impulse of human beings to help others in need.

“At the Red Cross we may not always make the right decisions, but every life saved and every livelihood improved is an achievement and together we can all make a big difference.”

Ethiopian man indicted in Indianapolis bank robbery shooting

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indianapolis man has been indicted on federal charges that he shot a postal carrier in the face during a bank robbery.

The U.S. attorney’s office says 43-year-old Brook Abebe, an immigrant from Ethiopia, was charged Tuesday with armed bank robbery and firearm violations. If convicted on all counts, he could face 10 years to life in prison, although Assistant U.S Attorney James M. Warden says life sentences are rare.

A phone message seeking comment was left with Abebe’s attorney.

Abebe is accused of shooting Robert Norman of Franklin on July 2 when the postman following him outside after the robbery on the city’s southeast side.

Norman was released from the hospital July 10 after surgery on his eye socket and shattered cheekbone.

Ethiopia under siege

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

Siege is a strong term. It is normally used to describe a war situation. The invading army resorts to siege when it encounters a fortress or robust defense it cannot overcome easily. When a siege occurs the enemy surrounds the city or fortification and does not allow reinforcements to come in or permit those inside to escape.

The most famous modern day siege is that of the ‘Siege of Leningrad’ by Nazi troops during World War II. It lasted twenty-nine months. The Soviet Union lost over a million and half people. We are witnessing ‘Gaza under siege’ by Israel as you are reading this article. Human history is full of atrocities as such.

Our country Ethiopia is under siege. We are not under invasion by a foreign force. Who needs enemies when you have friends so they say. We are under siege by a homegrown enemy. We find ourselves in the most unenviable situation of crying wolf but the wolf is us. We are in a strange predicament and it is very confusing to outsiders and ourselves.

You can rally people around a foreign enemy. The enemy is identifiable. The enemy is easy to target. The brain is more willing to accept the definition of ‘enemy’. What we got in Ethiopia is blurred vision. The enemy has watered down the definition. The enemy is also relentless. The whole country is one battleground. No one is immune from being incorporated or made into a subsidiary.

Why would anybody want to destroy Ethiopia is a good question. What a diabolical thing to say or think is a rational reaction. Are you sure Ethiopia is the target is a common response. On the other hand we could be victims of what is known as the ‘law of unintended consequences’. This is how Wikipedia defines the law.

The “law of unintended consequences” (also called the “law of unforeseen consequences”) states that any purposeful action will produce some unintended consequences…

Stated in other words, each cause more than one effect and these effects will invariably include at least one unforeseen side effect. The unintended side effect can potentially be more significant than any of the intended effects.

This is a good point as any trying to understand our current crisis. What exactly was Ato Meles fighting for? How did he go about to attain that goal?

He started as an ethnic study group and formed an ethnic liberation organization. Although all those before him and around him were organized as a multi-national he choose the ethnic road.

There lies the fork on the road. His organization took the easy path. They choose to fight injustice by rallying around primitive ethnicity rather than nationality. It was a short cut.

Our current dilemma has been brewing for eighteen years or so but the seeds were planted over forty years ago. The late sixties and seventies were a time of turmoil. There were two super powers and two contending ideologies. The West was vilified due to its history of colonialism and the then war in Vietnam. Marxism was getting acceptance in the new emerging nations. Our country’s intellectuals were drawn into this philosophy to solve the many problems facing our country. The two questions of land ownership and good governance were the main issues.

We gave birth to the military junta. It was a miscarriage. Despite the Derge lasting seventeen years it was an utter failure in bringing about a positive change. We were caught between the East and the West and we were not ready or able to play that game. Everything our forefathers taught us was turned upside down. All that we learned in thousands of years were discarded in a matter of days. All that which made us Ethiopian was declared old, backward, reactionary and other not favorable adjectives. We know for a fact that most of our core beliefs were challenged and ruled unfit for the new Ethiopia.

Our current leaders are the children of that era. Meles and company built their new psudo ideology on that premise. They also took the then ascending theory of socialism as a dogma instead of a scientific philosophy to be interpreted and reinterpreted as situations change. As Lenin bastardized scientific Marxism to suit his notion of the petty bourgeois seizing power in the name of the proletariat, as Mao Tse Tung reinterpreted Lenin and substituted the peasantry for the petty bourgeois our own TPLF came up with the notion of ethnic based organization to seize and hold power.

We are all products of our environment despite what some US Senators tried to claim otherwise during the recent hearing during Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation. Ato Meles and his mentor Aboy Sebhat are perfect specimens of this assertion. Ato Meles and his comrade’s tunnel vision came from their insular upbringing in the little Village of Adwa. For Meles and company someone born in Hawzen down street from Adwa is an outsider. The rest of Ethiopia is a foreign land. It will not be farfetched to claim that it was during his trip to Addis to attend high school that Ato Meles even met an Oromo, a Gurage or a Sidama.

The many years they spent fighting the Derge was not spent in devising solutions to bring about change but rather sharpening the skills necessary to control and subjugate others. The many writings by ex TPLF members show that disproportionate amount of resources were allocated to eliminating internal dissent rather than building a democratic institution. It is not far fetched to assert that TPLF killed or exiled more Tigrean than the Derge.

What exactly did they bring with them when they marched into Addis as victors on that fateful day in 1991? They brought with them the concept of Kilil, a new revised ethnic map and a new flag. All these years fighting and this is all they have to show for it? Unfortunately this is it! No new agenda to improve agriculture, no new program to encourage rebuilding of industries or learning centers or no new idea to return our old nation on the path of reclaiming our eminence place in Africa.

It was the Derge dressed up in civilian uniform. They were happy to inherit all Derge institutions that were set up for coercion. They took ‘Kebele’ organizations and replaced the heads not the function, they appropriated internal security intact and installed their trained killers and psychos as people in charge. They inherited all land and property as state asset. They transferred state owned industries to EFFORT and called it privatization. They changed the name of their ideology from Marxism-Leninism and Enver Hoxha thought to Revolutionary Democracy.

The last eighteen years they went about looting everything that is of any value. In the words of Aboy Sebhat they built EFFORT as the premier corporation in the country. That claim is incorrect. They robed from Ethiopia. To think TPLF leaders who have never worked for a living, never paid bills from their hard earned income, never even have a simple bank account in their name but were able to build such an enterprise is absurd. It is not an exaggeration to claim EFFORT is bigger than Ethiopia. TPLF is one gigantic wealth sucking vacuum devise with tentacles in all aspect of the life of our people.

Transportation is owned by the Foreign Minister, Sugar is owned by the Military Generals, Brewery is owned by advisors, building and engineering is owned by party hacks, telecommunications and media is owned by the first lady, banking is owned by the party, coffee and other commodities are under the new exchange (TPLF subsidiary) and so on so forth. There isn’t a single aspect of movement of capital in the country without the involvement of TPLF or its subsidiaries.

This is where the ‘law of unintended consequences come in.’ Ato Meles and company organized this huge machine to loot and pillage. Think of TPLF as the parasite and Ethiopia the host. The parasite has been feeding wantonly for the last eighteen years. The host is dying. The well being of the parasite has the exact opposite effect on the host. The parasite is fat and flabby. The host is just skin and bones. The natural outcome is for both host and parasite to perish. It is possible the parasite can move on and find another host. But the host is too weak to survive. Other parasites are hovering to devour what is left of it.

On the other hand the host can wake up from its long slumber and develop an anti biotic to save it self. In this scenario the host did develop a vaccine to protect itself. Kinijit was the vaccine. It was not a fully developed vaccine. The parasite was able to adapt. It was mimicking the HIV virus. It became a moving target. What is required is what is known as a ‘cocktail’ drug. Scientists found out that HIV develops resistance to every antiviral drug and once one drug fails the whole combination is not effective anymore. The trick was finding the right combination of drugs. Kinijit was stuck on the concept of working within the system. A single drug solution. But TPLF was like our HIV lentivirus. One drug alone is not enough. Like the HIV scientists we have to come up with a ‘cocktail’ of resistance combinations. Some call it ‘hulegeb tigil’.

Now TPLF have come to another crossroads. This unquenchable thirst they have to amass wealth is creating its own contradictions. The well is in the process of drying up. What to do? Of course there is always the option of skipping town in the cover of darkness. But that will be admitting guilt thus hunting them down becomes a simple process. There is always the possibility of fanning civil war. But the ensuing chaos might consume them too. Except for a few million stashed away in foreign banks most of the wealth is still sitting in Ethiopia. With modern forensic accounting every penny deposited outside can be traced and any way what is the point of having it if you can’t enjoy it. Their unabashed greed is becoming their undoing.

In an attempt to understand their destructive polices we ascribe such explanations as their hate towards our country, being Eritrean (good old Eritrea always there) their vow to destroy our old kingdom or their grand plan to liberate Tigre as a nation. I have never been comfortable looking into people’s motives. I am more interested in their action. The action of the TPLF mafia group is that of a petty thief but on a national scale.

The issue in front of us is that the cadres are in the process of destroying our homeland. The question put to each and every one of us is what are you going to do about it? Yes, you what is your next move. You can sit in a coffee house or a family gathering and recount the many horror stories of TPLF and company. You can even blame the opposition for not uniting or for splitting into factions at a drop of a hat. Unfortunately that would not absolve you of your responsibilities. Why you want to shift responsibility unto others is strange. You still have not answered the question what are you doing about it? Fighting injustice takes many forms. We all are not cut out to be solders. What is asked of us is to contribute positively to liberate our homeland so we have some place to go at the end of the day.
What is universally clear is no masters have voluntarily let his slaves go, no colonialist have granted freedom without a fight, no dictator have vacated power without struggle. Ato Meles and his inner group have to be forced to see the dead end road they are traveling. It is not about rational discussion with irrational people. Their greed is their Achilles heel. Their perceived economic strength is their vulnerability. That is where we should concentrate our fire. We don’t have to bring them down. We just have to make them stagger and they will fall.

As Henry Thoreau said ‘there are thousands hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the roots…’ don’t tell me you are still hacking at the branches!

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unintended_consequence

A mysterious disease kills 18 in Ethiopia

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) – A mysterious disease has killed 18 people and affected around 150 others in central Ethiopia, the UN humanitarian office said Monday.

“Although the signs and symptoms of the disease include headache, fever, neck stiffness, diarrhea and vomitting — all related to meningitis, the specific disease has not yet been confirmed,” it said in a statement.

The Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the disease erupted on July 4.

Meanwhile, an outbreak of typhoid fever has killed one person and affected more than 100 in the northern Tigray region, OCHA said, adding that 11 others have also died of acute watery diarrhea across the country.

The Horn of Africa nation is also facing food shortages in some parts with over six million of its people needing food aid due to poor rains, according to the UN.

Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous country after Nigeria with around 77 million inhabitants.

Holyfield Ethiopia boxing match postponed

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) — Former world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield’s exhibition match in Ethiopia has been postponed for September, his opponent Sammy Retta told AFP on Monday.

The fight, to raise funds for AIDS, was set to take place in Addis Ababa on July 26, but organisers had to reschedule after a request from the government.

“The government wanted the match to correspond with Ethiopia’s new year celebrations on September 11, so we both agreed,” Retta said in a phone interview.

Retta, an Ethiopian-born American, is a 35-year-old with a record of 18 wins and three losses in super-middleweight bouts.

At 230 pounds, he now outweighs his more illustrious rival.

The bout was also meant to serve as a warm-up for four-time world champion Holyfield, who targeted another crack at the world title in September.

Retta however, claimed that the 46-year-old’s managers had also postponed that match for an undisclosed date in December.

Holyfield failed to clinch a fifth title during his last attempt late last year when he lost to Russian Valuev.

Valuev, the tallest and heaviest champion of all-time according to experts, is currently the holder of the World Boxing Association title.

The September fight will rank as one of the highest-profile all-American boxing bouts on African soil since the legendary 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” that pitted Muhammad Ali against George Foreman in the former Zaire.

A member of Ethiopia's fake parliament defects to the U.S.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Ethiopian Review Intelligence Unit has learned that a member of the Woyanne rubber-stamp parliament, Ato Mesfin Ayalew, has applied for political asylum a few days ago after arriving in the U.S. for a visit.

Ato Mesfin was elected to the parliament from Woreda 11 of Addis Ababa as a Kinijit candidate. When the Meles tribal junta rounded up Kinijit leaders sent them to jail following its defeat, Mesfin joined other opportunists in entering the fake parliament as a member of Lidetu Ayalew’s EDP.

Ethiopia Commodity Exchange and its effect on the coffee sector

Monday, July 27th, 2009

By Wondwossen Mezlekia

In the past few weeks, too many readers asked me to share my views on the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) and wanted to know what I think about its effects on the Ethiopian coffee sector in general, and the Specialty coffee industry in particular. I was also asked similar questions by producers of the PBS Wide Angle program that released this documentary program featuring Eleni Gebre-Medhin, founder of the ECX.

While I continue to respond to as many of your emails as I can, I also thought it might be useful to post my comments here on the blog for everyone else to see. So, in the coming couple of days, I will post my views on the most frequently asked questions: What’s your view on the ECX in general; What do you think are the effect of trading through the ECX on specialty coffee exporters and buyers; Is ECX good for coffee growers?

Today, I share my views on the ECX in general as an introduction and to clarify my stance before I raise issues that may easily confuse readers although, to my knowledge, none of the problems I will discuss here are related to or the makings of ECX or Eleni – the person that I admire most and is being celebrated by the PBS documentary on July 22, 2009.

My views on the ECX in general

I think the establishment of the ECX is significant and of a historic proportion.

As I jokingly tell friends, in Ethiopia, major development breakthroughs happen on a periodic cycle of time spanning either 20 or 100 years on average. For example, I listed below a non-exhaustive timeline for Ethiopia’s introduction of the major communication technologies and platforms:

1894 – Postal service started on March 9, 1984 (In 1908, Ethiopia became member of the Universal Postal Union and the first Ethiopian stamps were also printed and sold around this time; in 1936, the General Post Office and two branch offices were established in Addis Ababa as well as thirty-six post offices throughout the country.)

1917 – The first train services from the coast to the capital were inaugurated only in 1917 (A concession for the construction of a railway from the Ethiopian capital to the French Somali port of Djibouti was granted by Menelik as early as March 1894)

1984 – The first extensive open-wire line telecommunication system laid out linking the capital with all the important administrative cities of the country (the Imperial Telecommunications Board of Ethiopia was established by Proclamation 131/53 in 1953)

2008 – The first commodity exchange market established. The person credited for this triumph, Eleni Gebre-Medhin, is featured on this documentary film.

Based on this snapshot of historic timeline, some historians may be tempted to draw conclusions that the establishment of the ECX was overdue by about 4 years because the latest major breakthrough was recorded in 1984 – 24 years prior to the ECX’ formation. I lean towards supporting the argument that it was overdue by over a hundred years.

So, it is my belief and hope that Ethiopians will be grateful for and appreciative of the work done by Eleni and her colleagues for the next many years.

The ECX can play important roles in elevating the agricultural sector’s efficiency, the country’s competitiveness in the global market, and thereby helping the people dig themselves out of the vicious circle of poverty that we are shamefully plagued in.

A transparent and efficient exchange market system nurtures competition and benefits everyone in the value chain. The ECX can help Ethiopia by:

• modernizing the way people do business and improving the marketing channels,
• disseminating market and price information, and
• providing a marketplace where buyers and sellers can come together to trade and be assured of quality, delivery, and payment.

These will have a ripple effect of benefiting everyone in the value chain. Obviously, this cannot be achieved overnight. Transforming a century old gloomy trading system takes time.

I think, the first year of trading coffee through ECX was marred by problems and confusion. While the efforts made by ECX to take on a crop of global importance shortly after its launch is admirable, the strategies it went by to integrate the trade were far from being flawless. From the outset, ECX declared that it aims at creating a national standard commodity coffee classification system; it eliminated direct trade and traceability; and enticed the government to controlling the value chain from farm gate to the border. These changes have had remarkable effects on coffee exporters, buyers, growers, and the coffee sector at large.

I. Homogeneous National Coffee Brand

For a country with millions of poor people, the temptation of utilizing the high paying fewer coffee brands to drive sales and increase the value of the country’s overall coffee production is high. That very thought has played a role in ECX’ decision to homogenize all coffees grown in the same region through a standard commodity classification system.

This is clearly stated in the whitepaper released in April 2009 by the ECX titled: What is in a Bean? ECX and the Specialty Coffee Market. It reads, “We take the strong view that a significant majority of Ethiopian coffees have the potential to be considered fine coffees, and can be sold in the domestic market as such, with appropriate certification. The ECX model not only promotes the specialty coffee segment but also do so in such a way as to benefit the small farmer as well.”

The document does not indicate how ECX’ new system will benefit the small farmers but it stands firm by the assumptions and subsequent conclusions.

“The recent policy decision to include trading of all coffees within the Exchange is based on the strategic thinking that the [following] set of assumptions [is] correct:

1) A significant majority of washed Sidama and Yirgachefe and unwashed Harar could be considered specialty-plus in that they are branded and trademarked and have the potential to meet the fine coffee standards;
2) A significant majority of all Ethiopian coffees have the potential to be considered organic and obtain certification;
3) A significant portion of unwashed coffee can be promoted as forest coffee and/or bird friendly.”

Although these assumptions are based on indisputable facts, they are not exhaustive enough to justify the conclusions drawn by the ECX. The fact that Ethiopia has the potential to increase its coffee qualities to the standards preferred by the global Specialty coffee industry does not give good reason for an immediate homogenization and an automatic upgrade of the classes of the whole coffee production. Ethiopia’s coffee cannot be sold as Specialty coffees only because the country wanted or decided to. In a buyers’ market, such as in the global Specialty coffee trade, unfortunately, the final say is not that of producers’ but the buyers’. Specialty coffee buyers and roasters decide which plot to invest in and which crop to buy.

The alternative is for the country to invest in quality, branding, and slick marketing of its products to set itself apart from the competition and convince buyers. That way, Ethiopia could create the demand and subsequently the market for the coffee brands it wishes to create. This is, however, a daunting task and an expensive venture for Ethiopia, the poorest country in the world. In the absence of these endeavors, countries like Ethiopia are bound to the terms of the global coffee trade, at least for the foreseeable future.

The measures taken by the government to force sell all coffees through the ECX platform and ECX’ decision to standardize the coffee grades into a national brand while, in ECX’ estimation, only about 3.7% of the country’s coffee production qualifies to be branded as a Specialty coffee, may cost the nation dearly. The farmers that are already producing the finest coffees will be the immediate victims of the new system as they are forced to give up the premium prices they are paid by buyers for their exceptional produce. Because, as soon as their coffees are blended with other coffees grown in the same region (in order to boost up the wholesale price for good of the country), these farmers lose their entitlement to the premium status their produce commands. This is unfair to the poor farmers.

Unless the ECX system of trading coffee as a commodity is corrected promptly, in the long term, the strategy risks watering-down the nation’s coffee brands. Such a strategy undermines the superior standards some of the brands earned over the years and the result will be commoditizing the country’s valuable crop.

II. No Direct Trade, No Traceability

Specialty coffee buyers and roasters are puzzled and in panic over the ECX system. The biggest issue for these buyers is the loss of transparency and traceability. They need assurances that the bundle they want is the bundle they will get. The new system does not allow direct trade for single-origin coffee because it promotes the traditional trade relations model where commodity coffee sales is brokered in bulk, thus no traceability. The new system basically lumps together bundles of coffees into a generic class-type-grade combo.

Independent millers who used to buy coffee from farmers, mill it, escort it through the former auction systems, and export it are no longer allowed to do so. They are now required to sell the beans to the ECX, where its origin is lost. The possibility of tracing a bag of coffee to its origins is eliminated in this process. The ECX promises a secure inventory management and a guaranteed warehouse receipts system that ensures “zero delivery default and reduces mixing of coffee origins” during the marketing process. But, as far as buyers are concerned, traceability is lost because there is no way of proving whether the plot they will receive is the one they wanted.

This is remarkable because while the global coffee industry is increasingly moving towards greater transparency of coffee origins, tracing back all the way to individual plots of land, the Ethiopian system is heading in the opposite direction.

III. Government’s Hands in the Bag

The third effect on the exporters and farmers has to do with the government’s intervention.

While it is good that the new exchange system replaced the murky auction centers, unfortunately, it also tempted the government to enter into the market as a major player. Some private businesses are now effectively locked out of the market and, in an unprecedented move, the government has emerged with a strong control over the coffee sector.

In what played out early this year as a reaction to some of the major exporters’ hesitance to sell their coffee stocks at the prevailing prices if sold through the ECX, the government confiscated coffee beans from the exporters and also tasked the state owned profit-making enterprise called Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise (EGTE) with exporting coffee. This crack down on the exporters had a devastating impact on some roasters and their relationship with the country as the country failed to fulfill its contractual agreements during the last harvest season. Also, it raised the question of what else would the government do in the future.

The ECX is currently negotiating with representatives of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and others to resolve this one problem. In the mean time, as the next harvest season approaches, the EGTE appears to be very well positioned to claim the biggest market share in the country’s coffee export.

Domestically, this level of engagement by the government in exporting beans produced by smallholder families is alarming because of the imbalance of power and the obvious conflicts of interest. The government has its influences in almost everything from policy making, distribution of farm inputs, capital, to the land. This is the farthest one can get away from a free market system.

All these affect farmers as their sales volume is directly dependent on the volume sold by exporters.

(The writer can be reached at poorfarmer@gmail.com)

Canadian citizen faces death penalty in Ethiopia

Monday, July 27th, 2009

By David McDougall | Globe and Mail

A Canadian citizen imprisoned in Ethiopia for two-and-a-half years, has been convicted by a civilian [kangaroo] court in Addis Ababa on three charges relating to his alleged involvement in an Ethiopian separatist movement.

Bashir Makhtal, a former Toronto resident now in his 40s, is the grandson of one of the founding members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, though he claims he has no connection with the movement.

“He was prepared for it. He was not surprised at all,” said Mr. Makhtal’s lawyer in Ethiopia, Gebreamlak Tekele .

Mr. Makhtal is due to be sentenced on Monday and could face life imprisonment or death, though his lawyer says they plan to appeal the conviction.

Mr. Makhtal was arrested by Kenyan authorities in December, 2006, as he attempted to cross the border from Somalia on a Canadian passport in an effort to escape fighting between Ethiopia and Somalia’s Union of Islamic Courts, an Islamist militia.

Mr. Makhtal claims he was in Mogadishu on a business trip, preparing to receive a shipment of used clothing from Dubai.

He was never charged in Kenya. Instead, after several weeks in custody, he was sent to Ethiopia where he essentially disappeared, held incommunicado in solitary confinement and denied consular access for nearly two years.

Pressure from the Canadian government is believed to have helped persuade Ethiopia to give Mr. Makhtal some semblance of a judicial process. But today’s conviction brings to an end a trial that both human rights groups and Mr Makhtal warned would be unfair.

“It’s been a foregone conclusion,” said Lorne Waldman, the Toronto lawyer retained by Mr. Makhtal’s family to represent his case in Canada. “Any independent observer knows that the judicial system in Ethiopia is not independent.”

“The key issue for us now is whether the Canadian government will take appropriate steps to ensure that he is repatriated.”

Malaysian oil and gas giant Petronas to drill in Ogaden

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Addis Ababa (The Reporter) — The Malaysian oil and gas giant, Petronas, is to start drilling the first exploration well in the Ogaden basin.

Petronas will soon start drilling two wells in its concession area in the Genele block. The company has hired a Dubai based company, Weather Ford, which will conduct seismic survey and drill the exploration wells. Recently, Weather Ford started mobilizing its drilling crew, drilling rigs and machines for conducting seismic surveys in the region.

Reliable sources told The Reporter that Weather Ford has agreed to drill exploration wells in the Genale block, block 11 and 15. Sources said Weather Ford is mobilizing its crew and drilling rigs. Weather Ford is engaged in oil and gas exploration work in the Middle East. Petronas conducted various surveys in the Ogaden. However, it did not drill wells.

In 2004 Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau (ZPEB), a Chinese company, was contracted by Petronas to do seismic survey and drill exploration wells in the Gambella block owned by Petronas. Petronas acquired the Gambella block, covering about 16,000 sq. km of land, in June 2003. ZPEB collected seismic data on 1500 km. Accordingly, in 2005 ZPEB drilled the first wild cat well in Jikaw locality, only 175 km from the Ethio-Sudan border. The company drilled the second well in Jakaranda locality in 2006. Both wells were dry. Petronas spent 32 million dollars for the drillings and testing. ZPEB withdrew from Gambella after it finalized its work in 2006.

However, the same year, Petronas hired ZPEB to conduct seismic survey in the Ogaden basin. In July 2005, Petronas acquired three blocks in the Ogaden basin – Genale block (24,420 Sq km, Kallafo 30,612 sq.km and Welwel-Warder 36,796 sq.km). In 2006, ZPEB started collecting seismic data in the three blocks.

In October 2006 South West Energy hired ZPEB to do seismic survey in the Ogaden basin. In December 2005, South West Energy, a company owned by an Ethiopian businessman, acquired a Degehabur block covering 21,187 sq. km of land. In January 2007, ZPEB commenced collecting seismic data in the Degehabur block. On 24 Apil 2007 the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) attacked the Abole exploration site in the Degehabur zone of the Somali Regional State. Seventy-four civilians, including nine Chinese, were killed in the attack. Seven Chinese workers were abducted by ONLF fighters. However, they were released after two weeks. Following the attack in May 2007, ZPEB evacuated all its employees working in Ethiopia. Although the Ethiopian government tried hard to convince officials of ZPEB and SINOPEC to resume operations the companies declined to send their technicians back to Ogaden. ZPEB had terminated all the projects in Ethiopia.

It is to be recalled that Petronas agreed to develop the Callub and Hillala gas fields and paid the Ethiopian government 80 million dollars. The agreement was signed in 2007. However, the company has not started work on the project. Sources told The Reporter that it was related to security issues. Petronas had a plan to build a gas treatment plant. The company planned to construct a gas pipeline that stareches from the gas fields all the way to Djibouti. The total investment cost is estimated at 1.9 billion dollars.

A senior company official said the natural gas reserve in Calub and Hilala was estimated at 118 billion cu.m. adding that it was a small reserve compared to other reserves. It requires a lot of money to develop the natural gas. So the company is saying that it must discover additional reserves and build a gas treatment plant,” the official said.

In a related news, Pexco, a company based in Malaysia, started seismic survey in its concession in the Ogaden. White Nile, Lundin, South West Energy, and Afar Explorations are in the process of starting seismic survey in their concession areas. Pexco has conducted airborne magnetic and gravity survey in the Ogaden basin. The results of the magnetic and gravity survey were evaluated by the ministry.

Ethiopian scientist Dereje Agonafer to receive award

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Ethiopian-American professor Dereje Agonafer is due to receive award for excellence in research and development related to electronic packaging (Science and Engineering).

Prof. Dereje Agonafer will receive the 2009 InterPACK Excellence Award in San Francisco this July, 2009. Such award and recognition in the areas of science and engineering will motivate young Ethiopians and Ethiopian-American students.

Awardees are selected because they have demonstrated excellence and international recognition in the area of research and development related to electronic packaging, as well as service to the technical community at large.

Previous winners of this award are Dr. Alan Kraus, Dr. Wataru Nakayama, Dr. Richard Chu, and Prof. Avi Bar-Cohen. Dr. William T. Chen, President of IEEE CPMT Society; and Senior Technical Advisor for ASE will also receive the award.

InterPACK ’09 is an international forum for exchange of state-of-the art knowledge in research, development, manufacturing, and application on the packaging and integration of Electronic and Photonic Systems, MEMS (Micro Electo-Mechanical Systems), and NEMS(Nano-electro Mechanical Systems). This conference will be the 10th in the InterPACK series that began in 1993. It is the flagship technical meeting of the ASME Electronic and Photonic Packaging Division (EPPD), with the participation of JSME, IEEE-CPMT, and iNEMI.

Biography

Professor Dereje Agonafer has always been very active in professional society programs. He has been Guest Editor of special issues of The Journal of Electronic Packaging, The Journal of Heat Transfer, and IEEE’s Transactions on Components, Packaging, and Manufacturing Technology. He has published extensively both journals and conference papers and has 8 issued patents. Since 2002, he has been a member of the “ASME Technical Executive Committee.” He was Editor in Chief, “Gordon and Breach Book Series in Electronic Packaging (1997-2000),” and has and continues to serve as an Associate Technical Editor, “ASME Journal of Electronic Packaging (2001-2007).” He is currently the Editor in Chief of ASME Press Book Series in Electronic Packaging and the first book in that series was published in September 2002. From July 1997 – July 2000, he served as Chair of the ASME K-16 Committee in the Heat Transfer Division. He was Chair of the ASME Electrical and Photonic Packaging Division in 2000, and currently chairs the “Computer Aided Design in Electronic Packaging Committee” in the same division. Professor Agonafer has participated in numerous professional society meetings as session chair, panel moderator/panelist and conference leader. He has been involved very actively in ITHERM (Intersociety Conference on Thermal and Thermo Mechanical Phenomena in Electronic Systems) since the inception of the conference in 1988 and served as the Program Chair for 1994 ITHERM IV, and was the General Chair for 1996 ITHERM V held in Orlando, Fl. In 1995, at Semi-Therm in San Jose, Professor Agonafer teamed with Professor Sammakia, Professor Joshi and Dr. Sathe to teach a course entitled “Thermal Design of Electronic Systems: From Portables to Mainframes.” Since then, the four have teamed up and have taught the course a number of times at ITHERM and Interpack. Also, Professor Sammakia and Professor Agonafer offered a tutorial on “Fundamentals of Electronic Packaging” at IMECE 2003 (Washington, DC), IMECE 2004 (Anaheim, CA), Interpak 2005 and presented a similar workshop at IMECE 2005 in Orlando. He has also been actively involved with InterPACK Conference (The Pacific Rim/ASME International, Intersociety Electronic and Photonic Packaging Conference). Professor Agonafer was the General Chair of InterPACK ‘99, which was held in Maui, Hawaii, June 1999. In 1994, he led US delegates to the World Congress on Computational Mechanics in Chiba, Japan, to give an invited lecture. In September 1997, he gave an invited lecture at Therminc Workshop in Cannes, France, and a keynote lecture at the 10th International Heat Pipe Conference in Stuggart, Germany. In Summer 2000, he offered a number of courses in Japan, and in Summer 2001, he offered short courses in Singapore, Panang, Seoul, Taipei, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Osaka. In January 2005, he presented an invited seminar at the US/Africa Materials Workshop in Capetown, South Africa. In September 2006, he gave the opening keynote seminar at the “17th International Symposium on Transport Phenomena (ISTP-17)” in Toyama, Japan. In academic year 2007-2008, he gave invited seminars at Tufts University, North Eastern University, MIT and Harvard University. This past August, he was the luncheon speaker at the Summer Cooling Zone Summit held in Natick, Ma and will again do so at the upcoming cooling zone summit.

Professor Agonafer has been servin on the Scientific Advisory Board of an NSF Center, Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE) at Princeton University since 2007. He also serves on the Deans Engineering Advisory Committee at both University of Colorado and Howard University. Professor Agonafer is a Fellow of The American Society of Mechanical Engineers International (ASME) and Fellow of The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He is also a member of IEEE, AIAA, ASEE and NSBE. In March 1996, he received the “The National Society of Black Engineers Alumni Extension Technologist of the Year” award. In April 1998, Professor Agonafer was the recipient of the “The University of Colorado School of Engineering Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award (DEAA) in the category of Research and Invention.” The award “represents the most significant honor the College gives and acknowledges the highest professional achievements. In November 1998, he received “The Howard University Distinguished PhD Alumni Award.” Also, in November 1998, he received “ASME K-16/EEPD Clock Award for Outstanding Contribution in Computer Aided Thermal Management of Electronic Packages.” In 2002, he received ASME International Electronic and Photonic Packaging Division Highest Division Award for “Outstanding Contributions to the Area of the Application of the Science and Engineering of Heat Transfer to Electronic and Photonic Packaging (http://secure.asme.org/honors_sup/hdetails.cfm?id=569). ” For the last 5 consecutive years, Professor Agonafer received an award from University of Texas at Arlington for having “A strong record of external funding and scholarly achievement.”

Each year since 1991 the IEEE SEMI-THERM Symposia honors a person as a Significant Contributor to the field of semiconductor thermal management. The THERMI award is intended to recognize a recipient’s history of contributions to important thermal issues affecting the performance of semiconductor devices, optoelectronics, MEMS or related systems. Nominees are typically leaders in the field of heat transfer in the disciplines of measurement, modeling and testing of microelectronic, optoelectronic and other technology devices and equipment. Professor Agonafer received the Thermi Award at the 24th Annual Semi-Therm, March 2008, in San Jose, California (http://www.semi-therm.org/thermi.html). In July 2009, he will deliver a keynote seminar in San Francisco as a recipient of the 2009 InterPACK Excellence Award as cited “A seal of Dereje’s excellence in research, standing and recognition in electronic packaging and a reflection of UTA’s rise within the international community.”

Professor Agonafer was at MIT as a MLK visiting scholar September 1, 2007 – August 31, 2008.

What is it the Ghanaians got, We ain't got?

Monday, July 27th, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

The Triumph of Multiparty Democracy in Ghana

Ghana has become the poster country for the triumph of multiparty democracy, stability and economic growth in Africa; and sadly, Ethiopia has been rendered the iconic failed African state ruled by a one-man, one-party dictatorship with widespread human rights violation. President Obama traveled to Accra recently to pay homage to Ghanaian democracy; but he did not miss the opportunity to be brutally frank with Africa’s brutal dictators: “History is on the side of these brave Africans and not with those who use coups or change Constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.”

It is an obvious question, but one that must be asked and answered: Why is democracy in motion in Ghana, and on life-support in Ethiopia? More bluntly, what do Ghanaians got, we ain’t got?

Two African Countries in Parallel Universes

Ethiopia and Ghana are a study in contrast. Both are unique among African countries. With the exception of a short-lived Italian occupation between 1936-41, Ethiopia has always maintained its freedom from colonial rule. Ghana was the first sub-Sahara African country to gain its independence from colonial rule in 1957. Both countries had leaders who were dedicated to African unity. Kwame Nkrumah was arguably the greatest advocate of pan-Africanism and African unity. Emperor Haile Selassie was arguably the most central figure in the formation of the Organization of African Unity, which he managed to headquarter in Ethiopia. Both Ethiopia and Ghana have suffered greatly at the hands of military strongmen. Mengistu Haile Mariam’s disastrous experiment in socialism between 1975-91 plunged Ethiopia into the abyss of economic and political chaos; and massive human rights violations were the hallmarks of that dictatorship. Mengistu fled to Zimbabwe in 1991 paving the way for the current dictators to cakewalk straight into political power. Since 1991, the current dictators have ruled Ethiopia by ethnically dividing the people and imposing their will with appalling brutality.

Between 1966-81, Ghana had successive military coups. Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings came to power in 1981 (and remained in power for two decades), suspended the constitution and banned political parties. In 1992, he engineered the promulgation of a new Ghanaian Constitution which restored basic freedoms and multiparty politics to Ghana. He served two terms as president and voluntarily stepped down as required by the Constitution.

In December 2008, 8.2 million Ghanaians went to the polls to elect a president and members of parliament. The four major political parties contested the elections vigorously through massive grassroots efforts and voter registration campaigns. The candidate of the National Democratic Congress, Professor John Atta-Mills, defeated the outgoing President John Kufuor by a razor thin margin in a run-off election. President Kufuor not only conceded defeat gracefully, he also cordially congratulated the president-elect. Ghanaian voters also threw out of office well-known incumbent parliamentarians from the four major parties who had taken them for granted. In the end, all of the opposition parties accepted the results of the election as determined by Ghana’s Electoral Commission, legitimizing once again the principle that the only pathway to legitimate power in Ghana is free and fair elections.

In May 2005, for the very first time in millennia, the seeds of democracy germinated in Ethiopia’s arid political landscape pockmarked by royal absolutism, military socialism and pluto-kleptocratic dictatorship (rule by rich thieves). But those elections gave birth to a stillborn democracy. The ruling dictatorship declared victory before the votes were fully counted and declared a state of emergency. In the wake of the elections, the dictatorship made a killing field of the country. By official account, 193 men, women and children were massacred, and 763 severely wounded in two separate incidents of police violence. (The actual post-election casualties far exceed the numbers officially reported.) Nearly all of the leading opposition leaders and other civil society representatives and journalists were jailed, along with more than 30,000 ordinary citizens. In the 2008 local elections, opposition candidates won just 3 (three) of 3.6 million seats! Make-believe parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held in May 2010.

Ethnicity and tribal allegiances are potent forces in Ghana and Ethiopia. Both countries are multi-ethnic societies with ethnic inequalities and historical rivalries. Ethnic tensions in Ghana are occasionally heightened by social and economic inequality. Although some Ghanaian politicians have resorted to ethnic appeals to garner votes, there have been very few instances of ethnic violence triggered by political party rivalries. Amazingly, the Ghanaian Constitution prohibits tribal or ethnic-based political parties: “Every political party shall have a national character, and membership shall not be based on ethnic, religious, regional or other sectional divisions.” (Article 55 (4).)

In Ethiopia, ethnicity and tribal affiliation are the foundation and the lifeline of the of the current dictatorial regime. Article 46 (2) of the ruling dictatorship’s constitution provides: “States shall be structured on the basis of settlement patterns, language, identity and consent of the people.” In other words, “states” shall be structured as homogenous tribal homelands based on four criteria, in much the same way as the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa. The tribal homelands in Ethiopia are officially called “kilils”. We believe they could be more accurately described as “Killilistans” since the “kilils”, like the Bantustans, represent territory set aside for the purpose of concentrating the members of designated ethnic/tribal groups in a nominally autonomous geographic area. Ethiopia’s dictators have used a completely fictitious theory of “ethnic (tribal) federalism)”, unknown in the annals of political science or political theory, to glorify these “Kililistans”, and to impose their atrocious policy of divide and rule against 80 million people for nearly two decades.

Ghana has maintained friendly relations with its neighbors, and has followed a foreign policy that has contributed to regional cooperation, peacekeeping and tension reduction. As an active member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ghana has been able to substantially increase its exports and serve regional markets. Ghana has also contributed troops for peacekeeping missions in Liberia and other African countries. President Rawlings played a critical peace-making role when he arranged the signing of the Akosombo Accord of September 12, 1994, which accelerated the implementation of the Cotonou Agreement of July 1, 1993, effectively ending the civil war in Liberia.

Ethiopia’s dictators have poured fuel on the volatile politics of the Horn by invading Somalia in January 2007, a country which has suffered greatly under the scourge of “warlordism” since the early 1990s. They justified their invasion as an “invitation” by the Somali transitional government, and as a defense of Ethiopian sovereignty. They boasted that they will be out in a couple of months after they drive out the “terrorists”. Two years later, they were the ones who were chased out of Somalia with their tails between their legs leaving behind a colossal mess of death and destruction. In its 2008 report entitled “So Much to Fear: War Crimes and the Devastation of Somalia”, Human Rights Watch documented war crimes, civilian deaths and the destruction wreaked on Somalia as a result of invasion: “Since January 2007 at least 870,000 civilians have fled the chaos in Mogadishu alone— two-thirds of the city’s population. Across south-central Somalia, 1.1 million Somalis are displaced from their homes.” Recently, there has been growing tension with Kenya over the issue of adverse environmental impact on the ecosystem of Kenya’s Lake Turkana from a hydro-electric power plant under construction on the Omo River in Ethiopia. The dictatorship’s military adventurism has been principally responsible for escalating tensions in the region.

The “Magic” of Ghana’s Nascent Democracy?

Is there “magic” to Ghanaian multiparty democracy? No! Whatever success Ghana has achieved in institutionalizing democracy, the Ghanaian people and their leaders have earned by offering their blood, toil sweat and tears. President Obama offered the best explanation when he attributed Ghana’s democratic success to respect for and institutionalization of the rule of law:

Now, time and again, Ghanaians have chosen constitutional rule over autocracy and shown a democratic spirit that allows the energy of your people to break through. We see that in leaders who accept defeat graciously — the fact that President Mills’ opponents were standing beside him last night to greet me when I came off the plane spoke volumes about Ghana; victors who resist calls to wield power against the opposition in unfair ways. We see that spirit in courageous journalists like Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who risked his life to report the truth. We see it in police like Patience Quaye, who helped prosecute the first human trafficker in Ghana. We see it in the young people who are speaking up against patronage and participating in the political process.

Although Ghana’s democracy is still in its infancy, the evidence on critical measures of democracy demonstrates that Ghana has a great and promising future.

Respect for Rule of Law and Civil Liberties

There is little doubt that Ghanaians enjoy a relatively high degree of political freedom; and the rule of law is largely respected by Ghanaian leaders. The 1992 Ghanaian Constitution guarantees a panoply of political civil, economic, social and cultural rights to citizens. Press freedom in Ghana best illustrates the liberties enjoyed by Ghanaians. In 2008, Ghana (population 23 million) ranked 31 out of 173 countries worldwide on World Press Freedom Index (Ethiopia ranks 142/173). There are more than 133 private newspapers and 2 state-owned dailies. There are some 110 FM radio stations broadcasting in all parts of the country. Foreign media operate freely and internet access is uncensored by the government. Citizens express their opinions without fear of government retaliation, and the media vociferously criticizes government policies and officials without censorship.

The rule of law is largely observed in Ghana. The government follows and respects the Constitution. It abides by the rulings and decisions of the courts and other fact-finding inquiry commissions. The government has undertaken actions to conform its laws to the standards of international human rights conventions. The Ghanaian Supreme Court serves as the ultimate guardian of the rule of law. It maintains its institutional independence, and is not timid about overruling unconstitutional government policies and decisions. Amazingly, under Article 2 (4) of the Ghanaian Constitution, failure to obey or carry out the terms of a Supreme Court order is a “a high crime”, which in “the case of the President or the Vice-President, constitutes a ground for removal from office under this Constitution.” Under Article 2 (1), “a person” can seek declaratory relief against an alleged unconstitutional law or act of any person by petitioning the Supreme Court. Amazingly, under Article 64, any Ghanaian citizen has the right to “challenge the validity of the election of the President in the Supreme Court within twenty-one days after the declaration of the result of the election.”

Independent Judiciary

An independent judiciary is vital to the observance of the rule of law and protection of civil liberties. Article 125 provides that the Ghanaian “Judiciary shall be independent and subject only to the Constitution.” Article 127(2) further provides that “neither the President nor the Parliament nor any person whatsoever shall interfere with judges and judicial officers or other persons exercising judicial power, in the exercise of their judicial functions”. All state organs are constitutionally required to comply with judicial orders. Most importantly, the Supreme Court has judicial review powers (that is, the power to determine the constitutionality of the actions of the presidency and parliament). Various surveys have shown that the majority of Ghanaians have confidence in their judicial system even though they also believe that some underpaid and under-trained judges are likely to fall prey to bribery and other corrupt practices.

Competitive Political Parties

Ghana has a competitive multi-party political system. Article 55 of the Constitution guarantees “Every citizen of Ghana of voting age has the right to join a political party.” Political parties are free to organize and “disseminate information on political ideas, social and economic programmes of a national character.” Tribal and ethnic parties are illegal in Ghana under Article 55 (4) cited above. There are some eight registered political parties. The two dominant parties, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) are said to represent an estimated 80 per cent of the Ghanaian voters. There are few ideological differences among the parties. In the highly contested December 2008 elections, a run off was ordered by the Ghana Electoral Commission since neither of the two majority party candidates won more than 50 per cent of the vote.

Independent Electoral Commission

The Ghanaian Electoral Commission is the institution created in the Constitution to ensure Ghanaians’ right to self-government and clean elections. The Commission is responsible for voter registration, demarcation of electoral boundaries, conduct and oversight of all public elections and referenda and electoral education. Under Article 46, the Commission is guaranteed independence: With certain exceptions, “the Electoral Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority…” The presidential run-off election in 2008 was managed by the Electoral Commission with extraordinary impartiality and professionalism, despite political pressure, threats and intimidations. The Commission is widely credited in Ghana and internationally for sustaining democracy, political pluralism and constitutional rule.

Civil Society Institutions

Civil society institutions in Ghana are gradually emerging as vital social forces. They are mostly concentrated in the urban areas. The major ones include unions, international NGOs, professional media, legal, educational and research organizations and faith-based service groups and associations. Civil society institutions are becoming increasingly important in legal and legislative reforms and in playing vigorous advocacy roles for under-represented groups. Many of these institutions have made significant contributions by working with the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice in securing civil rights for disabled persons, prevention of domestic violence, and strengthening the rights of women and children. Private research organizations (think tanks) in Ghana have done some extraordinary work, and their contributions to public policy analysis, empirical data collection and innovative policy proposals should be the envy of other African countries.

Transparency and Accountability

Corruption is a problem in Ghana, but less so than in many other African countries. Ghana was ranked 67 out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index. Ethiopia ranked 126/180. Corruption in Ghana is considered “opportunistic” instead of systemic (that is, where major institutions and processes of the state are routinely and extensively used by corrupt officials and others connected to them for their own advantage). Various surveys have shown that underpaid and under-trained judges were likely to succumb to bribery and other forms of corruption. Small time corruption is said to be rampant among the police and customs officials. The independent constitutional Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, mentioned above, was established to “to investigate complaints of violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms, injustice and corruption; abuse of power and unfair treatment of persons by public officers in the exercise of their duties, with power to seek remedy in respect of such acts or omissions and to provide for other related purposes” and “bring an action before any court in Ghana and may seek any remedy which may be available from that court”. Even though there is a difference of opinion on the efficacy of the Commission, there is evidence to show that it has made gains in anti-corruption efforts over the past decade. In 2005-06, the Commission undertook corruption and conflict of interest investigation against incumbent President John Kufuor and other top public officials, resulting in the resignation of certain ministers. But there are also encouraging examples of public integrity and personal sacrifices for the common good. For instance, the current President, John Mills, has refused compensation for his official services, directing that his salary and allowances be used for charity.

Threats to Ghanaian Democracy

Ghana’s multiparty democracy is still in its infancy and faces many threats. Some argue that the recently discovered “resource curse” of oil could derail democracy in Ghana as it has in other oil-rich West African countries. Inability of the government to improve the economic status of the rural and urban poor and provide better health care services to citizens could pose serious challenges. Lack of effective local governments in the rural areas could result in widespread dissatisfaction and instability. Failure to remedy the gross under-representation of women in leadership positions could retard Ghana’s democratic progress. Lack of investments in the educational sector could undermine Ghana’s long-term economic growth. The resurgence of ethnic politics aggravated by socio-economic problems could pose a grave threat to Ghana’s infant democracy. Numerous other challenges loom in the horizon, but Ghanaians appear prepared to meet them, and never to return to the days of tyrannical military strongmen.

The “X-Factor” in Ghanaian Democracy

Ghanaians have shown Africa’s tin pot dictators that multiparty democracy is not some fanciful Western ritual that is unworkable in the continent. They have shown that a non-ethnic, non-tribal multiparty democracy is the only viable option that could guarantee stability, equity and economic development in Africa. That is the secret, the “X” factor, in Ghana’s success. By constitutionally requiring that political parties NOT be ethnic- or tribal-based, Ghanaians laid a solid foundation for a single Ghanaian nation under the rule of law. They succeeded in creating a multiparty democracy that has the capacity to overcome the petty politics of ethnicity and tribalism. Amazingly, along the way they managed to create a political culture that integrates their humanity into a framework of national unity to forge a single Ghanaian identity.

Ghanaians have come to understand that they can do no nation-building by erecting impregnable walls of tribalism and ethnicity among themselves. They have also learned that democracy can not grow on the barren fields of tyranny where human rights are trampled upon and flagrantly disregarded. Even Ghana’s military leaders appreciated this fact when they bowed to the rule of law and returned to the barracks. Ghana today has become a beacon of hope to Africa. Ethiopia, as a collection of “Killilistans”, is a sad reminder of the darkest chapters of African history. We can all be very proud (and perhaps a bit jealous) of our Ghanaian brothers and sisters as they march united and confidently into the 21st Century secure in the knowledge that their rights are protected by the rule of law and their collective destiny rests sheltered in the palms of their hands.

Now, that’s what the amazing Ghanaians got, we ain’t got!

(The writer, Alemayehu G. Mariam, is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. For comments, he can be reached at almariam@gmail.com)

Canada: Ethiopian man gets 18 years for murder

Monday, July 27th, 2009

By Shannon Kari | National Post

TORONTO, CANADA — An Ethiopian refugee who stabbed his girlfriend to death in her Toronto apartment will have to spend at least 18 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.

Arssei Hindessa, 33, convicted this spring of second-degree murder in the May, 2006, death of 20-year-old Natalie Novak, looked straight ahead and showed no emotion as he was sentenced Monday morning by Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy.

“The murder was the final installment in the history of violence against Ms. Novak,” noted the judge. “She stood up to him. She told him it was over. He killed her,” the judge observed, with several family members and friends of Ms. Novak in court.

Hindessa had already been convicted twice of assaulting Ms. Novak, a student at Ryerson University in Toronto, when he stabbed her to death after she explained she wanted to end their two-year-long relationship.

Ms. Novak was attacked in her bedroom. She was stabbed at least nine times in the chest area and there were many defensive wounds. “Natalie Novak fought for her life,” observed Judge Molloy.

Hindessa also slashed the throat of his girlfriend before he fled her apartment and threatened to commit suicide a few hours later by jumping off a bridge, when arrested by police.

The Ontario Court of Appeal has concluded that the normal range for someone convicted of second-degree murder in a domestic situation is a life sentence with no parole for at least 12 to 15 years.

There were several aggravating factors in the death of Ms. Novak, which is why Judge Molloy said she was imposing a longer prison term before Hindessa can apply for parole.

Hindessa arrived in Canada as a refugee at the age of 25. The judge accepted that he had been imprisoned and tortured in Ethiopia, but she was skeptical about his claims of paranoia and mental illness.

Judge Molloy pointed out that the jury flatly rejected the testimony of Hindessa and his assertion that he was drunk and hallucinating and saw a “seven-headed beast” when he stabbed Ms. Novak. The judge added that she found Hindessa’s expressions of remorse at the sentencing hearing to be “hollow words” aimed at reducing the time he has to spend in prison.

Crown attorney Mary Humphrey had asked for Hindessa to serve between 18 to 25 years in prison before he can apply for parole.

Judge Molloy noted that she must apply “parity” in sentencing, as she explained why she was not imposing parole ineligibility of more than 18 years.

“Natalie was adored, nurtured and treasured by her family and friends. I am aware of the utter devastation caused by her death, said the judge.

When imposing a sentence though, “we do not differentiate between a lovely young woman and the killing of any other human being,” said Judge Molloy.

Ethiopian Novelist Fikremarkos Desta seeks asylum in the U.S.

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Fikremarkos Desta, an author of six ethnographic and historiography novels and four documentary films, is reportedly seeking political asylum in the United States.

The author traveled to the U.S. on July 9, 2009, with his family to attend his brother-in-law’s graduation.

He told friends that his main reason for seeking asylum in the U.S. is that because of his opposition to the Omo-Gibe Hydroelectric Project, which could devastate Lower Omo Valley affecting the entire population of the region, he is being harassed and persecuted by Woyanne thugs.

The {www:Woyanne} tribal junta is also suspecting him of being associated with opposition parties.

Ato Fikremarkos’ works include: “Land of the Yellow Bull,” a novel about the Hammer, Kio, Ebore, and other ethnic groups in the south-western Ethiopia.

EriTv interview with EPPF and Ethiopian Review – Part 1-3

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

EriTv Amharic Service interviews EPPF official Ato Sileshi Tilahun and Ethiopian Review editor Elias Kifle. Watch the interview below [Forward to 32:00].

Part I

Part II

Part III

Purdue University sends professors, students to Ethiopia

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

WEST LAFAYETTE, INDIANA — Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine celebrated its 50th anniversary by sending 19 faculty members, students and alumni to Ethiopia to assist in improving livestock production and continue its ongoing relationship with the Ethiopian veterinary school.

The group worked with Project Mercy, a U.S.-based, non-profit relief and development agency that seeks to improve cattle and human nutrition through breeding practices. The project is breeding Ethiopian cattle breeds with American and European breeds such as Jerseys, a U.S. dairy breed.

Breeding Ethiopian cattle with Jerseys is a good fit because Jerseys are small, have a high fertility rate and produce a lot of milk, said Mark Hilton, a Purdue veterinarian and clinical professor of food and animal production medicine.

“The thing that surprised me most was the lack of adequate animal nutrition and growth,” he said. “The heifers were only 250 to 350 pounds at a year old. Because of the lack of nutrition, animal reproduction is a luxury in Ethiopia. We saw 5-year-old heifers that had never been in heat. We really want to improve reproduction and show the Ethiopian people they can do it, too.”

Source: Purdue University News

A Toronto company donates $100,000 to an Ethiopian orphanage

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

By Robin Summerfield | Calgary Herald

CALGARY, CANADA — A Toronto-based mining company has donated $100,000 to care for 43 Ethiopian children whose adoptions to Canadians were jeopardized following the bankruptcy of an Ontario-based agency.

The money will keep the Addis Ababa orphanage afloat until those children come to Canada to live with their new families, authorities said.

When contacted Saturday in Toronto, Yamana Gold Inc.’s CEO Peter Marrone said his company made the $100,000 donation after its vice-president of communications Jodi Peake, who adopted an Ethiopian boy last year, told him of the bankruptcy and plight of the children in the Addis Ababa orphanage.

“My immediate reaction was the protection of the children, that the children were taken care of,” Marrone said.

That bit of good news came as 40 adopting parents met Saturday in Calgary during an emotional meeting to get answers and plead with Alberta’s head of adoptions to help complete their adoptions with Cambridge, Ont.-based Imagine Adoption, which was placed into bankruptcy July 13.

“We cannot be pushing through paperwork faster than normal because then it could appear that we might be kidnapping children that should be staying in Ethiopia,” Anne Scully, who oversees all domestic and international adoptions for Alberta Children and Youth Service, told the crowd who was emotional, heated and tearful at times during the two-and-a-half hour meeting.

Scully said the province is working closely with Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, as well as Canadian Citizenship and Immigration, to get answers and move adoptions forward as efficiently and quickly as possible.

“I wish we had better answers, more answers,” Scully said.

In a news release, bankruptcy trustee BDO Dunwoody promised — if all regulations had been followed — to manage all 400 outstanding Canadian adoptions regardless of their state of completion.

“It’s really about being effective. These (parents) have a serious problem and they need to advocate,” said Michael Greene, an immigration lawyer offering advice at the meeting.

He said the government, the bankruptcy trustee and other agencies clearly want to help their families and that’s in their favour.

“I think there’s hope for them,” Greene said.

Of the 64 Alberta families who were clients of the agency, six had been matched with overseas children. Of those, five adoptions have been finalized through the courts.

Those families must now wait for passports or visas to be issued by the High Commission in Nairobi.

“I would like them to do more for the families but I just don’t know what that ‘more’ is,” said Shawn Bertin, 37, said after the meeting. He and his wife Dolores, hoped to adopt an Ethiopian child.

Dolores took some comfort in connecting with the other local families who’ve also been effected.

“We’ve been feeling isolated. It’s good to know we’re not alone,” she said.

Other families were just happy to have Scully addressing their concerns in person.

“We still have a little bit of hope and we’ll continue on until someone tells us not to,” said 35-year-old Alison Bruha, whose was expecting to be matched with an baby boy from Ethiopia imminently when the agency went under.

“The bottom line is we want our families completed,” added Tammy Vlieg, 36, who started the process with her husband to adopt an Ethiopian infant or two siblings 20 months ago.

The couple are also in the midst of finalizing the domestic adoption of their five-month-old daughter Josina, who they received two days after she was born.

“If I didn’t have my daughter I would be a basket case,” Vlieg said.

Waterloo Regional Police launched a fraud investigation last week into Kids Link International, which operated as Imagine Adoption.

The agency has a nearly $400,000 operating shortfall and an additional $800,000 expected claim by families, according to bankruptcy documents.

Col. Kassaye Kifle passed away

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

Colonel Kassaye Kifle Colonel Kassaye Kifle has passed away on July 14, 2009, after receiving medical treatment at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.

Friends and family held a memorial service for him at the Debre Keranio Medhanialem Church in Nashville on July 17.

His funeral services will be held at the Debre Libanos Monastery in Ethiopia on July 25, 2009.

Many who had served as officers in the Ethiopian armed forces remember Col. Kassaye as a leader who served his country honorably.

Over during his career he was trained as an aviator in the United States, and aviation commander in the Soviet Union and the Ethiopian Air Force Command Staff College.

As a member of the Ethiopian Army Aviation Unit, he led Assault Helicopter Teams and received medals for bravery.

His contribution to Ethiopia continued as a pilot trainer at Ethiopian Airlines.

Col. Kassaye Kifle is survived by his wife, two children, and two grand children.

(Messages of condolence to the family can be sent to ethiopia_love@yahoo.com)

የኮሎኔል ካሣዬ ክፍሌ አጭር የህይወት ታሪክ

ኮሎኔል ካሣዬ ክፍሌ ከእናታቸው ከወይዘሮ ደመቀች አስፋውና ከአባታቸው ከአቶ ክፍሌ ደስታ እንደ ኢትዮጵያ አቆጣጠር በ 1935 ዓ∙ም∙ በአዲስ አበባ ከተማ ተወለዱ::

እድሜያቸው ለትምህርት ሲደርስ የ 1ኛና የ2ኛ ደረጃ ትምህርታቸውን በአዲስ አበባ ኮከበ ፅባህ ቀዳማዊ ኃይለ ሥላሴ ዩኒቨርስቲ ከገቡ በኋላ አገራቸውን ለማገልገል በፅኑ ወዳመኑበት ሀረር ጦር አካዳሚ በመግባት ከፍተኛ የውትድርና ትምህርት ቀስመዋል::

ኮሎኔል ካሣዬ ክፍሌ ከሀረር ጦር አካዳሚ ከተመረቁ በኋላ በአርሚ አቪዬሽንና በኢትዮጵያ አየር ኃይል በአውሮፕላን አብራሪነት ለረጅም አመታት አገልግለዋል::

ኮሎኔል ካሣዬ ክፍሌ በስራ ባልደረቦቻቸው ክብርና ከፍተኛ አድናቆትን ያተረፉ ከመሆናቸው ሌላ በሀገር ፍቅር ስሜታቸውና በቆራጥነታቸው እጅግ ተወዳጅ ነበሩ::

ኮሎኔል ካሣዬ ክፍሌ ከባለቤታቸው ከወይዘሮ ዘሪቱ ዘውገ በሰላምና በፍቅር ለ 27 ዓመታት በጋብቻ ፀንተው የኖሩ ሲሆን ሁለት ልጆች አፍርተዋል::

ኮሎኔል ካሣዬ ክፍሌ ባደረባቸው ፅኑ ህመም በህክምና ሲረዱ ከቆዩ በኋላ በናሽቪል ከተማ ሴንት ቶማስ ሆስፒታል እንደ ኢትዮጵያ አቆጣጠር ሐምሌ 7 ቀን 2001 ዓ∙ም∙ ከዚህ አለም በሞት ተለይተዋል:: አስከሬናቸው ወደ ውድ አገራቸው የተላከ ሲሆን በዛሬው እለት እንደ ኢትዮጵያ አቆጣጠር ሐምሌ 18 ቀን 2001 ዓ∙ም∙ የቀብር ስነስርዓታቸው በኢትዮጵያ የደብረ ሊባኖስ ገዳም ይፈፀማል::

ቸሩ ኣምላክ የኚህን ጀግና የኢትዮጵያ ልጅ ነብስ ከፃድቃን መካከል እንዲያኖራት የሁላችንም ፀሎት ነው::

Berhanu Dinka appointed to Kenya Reconciliation Comm.

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

Addis Ababa (Awramba Times) – Former UN Secretary General and Kenya’s peace negotiator Kofi Annan has appointed Ethiopian high profile diplomat Ato Berhanu Dinka for Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).

The commission includes six Kenyans and three foreigners. Its members are Betty Murungi (vice chairman), Margaret Shava, Tom Ojienda, Ahmed Sheikh Farah and Tecla Namachanja. The foreign appointees are Ambassador Berhanu Dinka from Ethiopia, Judge Getrude Chawatama from Zambia, and Prof Ronald Slye from the United States… [MORE]

Pope Benedict makes new appointments in Ethiopia

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Vatican — Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Fr. Theodorus van Ruijven C.M., apostolic prefect of Jimma-Bonga, Ethiopia, and apostolic administrator of Nekemte, Ethiopia, as apostolic vicar of Nekemte.

The Vicariate of Nekemte has 6.5 million people of whom 45,000 are Catholics, served by 32priests and 48 religious. The bishop-elect was born in Rijswijk, Holland in 1938 and ordained a priest in 1964.

At the same time the pope appointed Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, apostolic nuncio to Angola and to Sao Tome and Principe, as apostolic nuncio to Cuba.

Source: Catholic Information Service for Africa (Nairobi)

Atse Haile-Selassie's 117th Birthday – July 23, 2009

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Haile-Selassie I

Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” – HIM Haile-Selassie

Haile-Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia (July 23, 1892 – August 27, 1975) was de jure Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974 and de facto from 1916 to 1936 and 1941 to 1974. To Ethiopians he has been known by many names, including Janhoy, Talaqu Meri, Abba Tekel, amongst others.

Early life

Haile-Selassie I was born Tafari Makonnen on July 23, 1892, in the village of Ejersa Goro, in the Harar province of Ethiopia, as Lij (literally “child”, usually bestowed upon nobility). His father was Ras Makonnen Woldemikael Gudessa, the governor of Harar, and his mother was Weyziro (Lady) Yeshimebet Ali Abajifar. He inherited his imperial blood through his paternal grandmother, Princess Tenagnework Sahle Selassie, who was an aunt of Emperor Menelik II, and as such, claimed to be a direct descendant of Makeda, the queen of Sheba, and King Solomon of ancient Israel. Emperor Haile-Selassie had an elder half-brother, Dejazmach Yilma Makonnen, who preceded him as governor of Harar, but died not long after taking office.

Tafari became Dejazmach at the age of thirteen. Shortly thereafter, his father Ras Makonnen died at Kulibi. Although it seems that his father had wanted him to inherit his position of governor of Harar, Emperor Menelik found it imprudent to appoint such a young boy to such an important position. Dejazmach Tafari’s older half-brother, Dejazmach Yilma Makonnen was made governor of Harar instead.

Governor of Harar

Tafari was given the titular governorship of Sellale, although he did not administer the district directly. In 1907, he was appointed governor over part of the province of Sidamo. Following the death of his brother Dejazmach Yilma, Harar was granted to Menelik’s loyal general, Dejazmach Balcha Saffo. However, the Dejazmach’s time in Harar was not successful, and so during the last illness of Menelik II, and the brief tenure in power of Empress Taitu Bitul, Tafari Makonnen was made governor of Harar, and entered the city 11 April 1911. On 3 August of that year, he married Menen Asfaw of Ambassel, the niece of the heir to the throne, Lij Iyasu.

Regent

Although Dejazmach Tafari played only a minor role in the movement that deposed Lij Iyasu on 27 September 1916, he was its ultimate beneficiary. The primary powers behind the move were the conservatives led by Fitawrari Habte Giorgis Dinagde, Menelik II’s long time war minister. Dejazmach Tafari was included in order to get the progressive elements of the nobility behind the movement, as Lij Iyasu was no longer regarded as the progressives’ best hope for change. However, Iyasu’s increasing flirtation with Islam, his disrespectful attitude to the nobles of his grandfather Menelik II, as well as his scandalous behavior in general, not only outraged the conservative power-brokers of the Empire, but alienated the progressive elements as well. This led to the deposition of Iyasu on grounds of conversion to Islam, and the proclamation of Menelik II’s daughter (Iyasu’s aunt) as Empress Zewditu. Dejazmach Tafari Makonnen was elevated to the rank of Ras, and was made heir apparent. In the power arrangement that followed, Tafari accepted the role of Regent (Inderase), and became the de facto ruler of the Ethiopian Empire.

As regent, the new Crown Prince developed the policy of careful modernisation initiated by Menelik II, securing Ethiopia’s admission to the League of Nations in 1923, re-abolishing slavery in the empire in 1924 (it had already been declared illegal several times by all the Emperors beginning with Tewodros, but with little practical result). He engaged in a tour of Europe that same year, inspecting schools, hospitals, factories, and churches; this left such an impression on the future emperor that he devoted over forty pages of his autobiography to the details of his European journey. Also on this trip, while visiting the Armenian monastery in Jerusalem, the Crown Prince met 40 Armenian orphans (Arba Lijoch, “forty children”) who had escaped from the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Empire. They impressed him so much that he received permission from the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem to adopt and bring them to Ethiopia, where he arranged for them to receive musical instruction, and they formed the Imperial brass band. The 40 teenagers arrived in Addis Ababa on September 6, 1924, and along with their bandleader Kevork Nalbandian became the first official orchestra of the nation. Nalbandian composed the music for the Imperial National Anthem, Marsh Teferi (words by Yoftahé Negusé), which was official in Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974.

King and Emperor

Empress Zewditu crowned him as negus (“king”, in Amharic) in 1928, under pressure from the progressive party, following a failed attempt to remove him from power by the conservative elements. The crowning of Tafari Makonnen was very controversial, as he occupied the same immediate territory as the Empress, rather than going off to one of the regional areas traditionally known as Kingdoms within the Empire. Two monarchs, even with one being the vassal and the other the Emperor (in this case Empress), had never occupied the same location as their seat in Ethiopian history. Attempts to redress this “insult” to the dignity of the Empress’ crown were attempted by conservatives including Dejazmach Balcha and others. The rebellion of Ras Gugsa Wele, husband of the Empress, was also in this spirit. He marched from his governorate at Gondar towards Addis Ababa but was defeated and killed at the Battle of Anchiem on March 31, 1930. News of Ras Gugsa’s defeat and death had hardly spread through Addis Ababa, when the Empress died suddenly on April 2, 1930. Although it was long rumored that the Empress was poisoned upon the defeat of her husband, or alternately, that she collapsed upon hearing of his death and died herself, it has since been documented that the Empress had succumbed to an intense flu-like fever and complications from diabetes.

Following the Empress Zewditu’s sudden death, Tafari Makonnen was made Emperor and proclaimed Neguse Negest ze-’Ityopp’ya (“King of Kings of Ethiopia”). He was crowned on November 2 as Emperor Haile-Selassie I at Addis Ababa’s Cathedral of St. George, in front of representatives from 12 countries. (Haile-Selassie had been the baptismal name given to Tafari at his christening as an infant meaning “Power of the Holy Trinity.”) The representatives included Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (son of British King George V, and brother to Kings Edward VIII, and George VI), Marshal Franchet d’Esperey of France, and the Prince of Udine representing Italy. Evelyn Waugh was also present and wrote a contemporary report about the coronation and the events leading up to it (Remote People, 1931).

Upon his coronation as emperor and in keeping with the traditions of the Solomonic dynasty that had reigned in highland Ethiopia since 1297, Haile-Selassie’s throne name and title were joined to the imperial motto, so that all court documents and seals bore the inscription: “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah has conquered! Haile-Selassie I, Elect of God King of Kings of Ethiopia”. The use of this formula dates to the dynasty’s Solomonic origins, as well as to the Christianized throne from the period of Ezana; all monarchs being required to trace their lineage back to Menelik I, who in the Ethiopian tradition was the offspring of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

By Empress Menen, the Emperor had six children: Princess Tenagnework, Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen, Princess Tsehai, Princess Zenebework, Prince Makonnen and Prince Sahle Selassie.

Emperor Haile-Selassie I also had an older daughter, Princess Romanework Haile-Selassie, who was born from an earlier alleged union to Woizero Altayech. Little is known about his relationship with Altayech beyond that it allegedly occurred when the Emperor was in his late teens. His Majesty never once mentioned any previous marriage, either in his Autobiography or in any other writings. The Princess is listed among the Emperor’s children in the official Imperial Family Tree published after his coronation, and in every version since. She was granted the title of Princess and given the dignity of “Imperial Highness” upon the Emperor’s coronation along with his other children, not something that would have been granted an illegitimate or adopted child.

The Emperor introduced Ethiopia’s first written constitution on July 16, 1931, providing for an appointed bicameral legislature. It was the first time that non-noble subjects had any role in official government policy. However, the League’s failure to stop Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 led him to five years in exile. The constitution also limited the succession to the throne to the descendants of Emperor Haile-Selassie — a detail that caused considerable unhappiness with other dynastic princes, such as the princes of Tigrai, and even his loyal cousin Ras Kassa Hailu.

Haile-Selassie in 1942

Haile-Selassie in 1942

Following the 1935 Italian invasion of Ethiopia, Emperor Haile-Selassie I made an attempt at fighting back the invaders personally. He joined the northern front by setting up headquarters at Desse in Wollo province. He issued his famous mobilization order on 3 October 1935:

On 19 October 1935 he gave more precise orders for his army to his Commander-in-Chief, Ras Kassa:

  1. When you set up tents, it is to be in caves and by trees and in a wood, if the place happens to be adjoining to these―and separated in the various platoons. Tents are to be set up at a distance of 30 cubits from each other.
  2. When an aeroplane is sighted, one should leave large open roads and wide meadows and march in valleys and trenches and by zigzag routes, along places which have trees and woods.
  3. When an aeroplane comes to drop bombs, it will not suit it to do so unless it comes down to about 100 metres; hence when it flies low for such action, one should fire a volley with a good and very long gun and then quickly disperse. When three or four bullets have hit it, the aeroplane is bound to fall down. But let only those fire who have been ordered to shoot with a weapon that has been selected for such firing, for if everyone shoots who possesses a gun, there is no advantage in this except to waste bullets and to disclose the men’s whereabouts.
  4. Lest the aeroplane, when rising again, should detect the whereabouts of those who are dispersed, it is well to remain cautiously scattered as long as it is still fairly close. In time of war it suits the enemy to aim his guns at adorned shields, ornaments, silver and gold cloaks, silk shirts and all similar things. Whether one possesses a jacket or not, it is best to wear a narrow-sleeved shirt with faded colours. When we return, with God’s help, you can wear your gold and silver decorations then. Now it is time to go and fight. We offer you all these words of advice in the hope that no great harm should befall you through lack of caution. At the same time, We are glad to assure you that in time of war We are ready to shed Our blood in your midst for the sake of Ethiopia’s freedom…”

The Italians had the advantage of much better and a larger number of modern weapons, including a large airforce. The Italians also extensively used chemical warfare and bombed Red Cross tent hospitals, in violation of the Geneva Convention. Following the defeat of the northern armies of Ras Seyoum Mengesha and Ras Imru Haile-Selassie I in Tigray, the Emperor made a stand against them himself at Maychew in southern Tigray. Although giving Italian pilots quite a scare, his army was defeated and retreated in disarray, and he found himself being attacked by rebellious Raya and Azebu tribesmen as well.

The Emperor made a solitary pilgrimage to the churches at Lalibela, at considerable risk of capture, before returning to his capital. After a stormy session of the council of state, it was agreed that because Addis Ababa could not be defended, the government would relocate to the southern town of Gore, and that in the interests of preserving the Imperial house, the Empress and the Imperial family should leave immediately by train for Djibouti and from there to Jerusalem. After further debate over whether the Emperor would also go to Gore or he should take his family into exile, it was agreed that the Emperor should leave Ethiopia with his family, and present the case of Ethiopia to the League of Nations at Geneva. The decision was not unanimous, and several participants angrily objected to the idea that an Ethiopian monarch should flee before an invading force. Some, like the progressive noble, Blatta Takele, an erstwhile ally of the Emperor, were to permanently hold a grudge against him for agreeing to leave the country. The Emperor appointed his cousin Ras Imru Haile-Selassie as Prince Regent in his absence, departing with his family for Djibouti on May 2, 1936.

Marshal Pietro Badoglio led the Italian troops into Addis Ababa on May 5, and Mussolini declared King Victor Emanuel III Emperor of Ethiopia, and Ethiopia an Italian province. On this occasion Badoglio, declared the first Viceroy of Ethiopia and made “Duke of Addis Ababa,” returned to Rome and took with him Haile-Selassie’s throne as a “war trophy,” converting it into his dog’s couch. At Djibouti, the Emperor boarded a British ship bound for Palestine. The Imperial family disembarked at Haifa, and then went on to Jerusalem, where the Emperor and his officials prepared for their presentation at Geneva.

Emperor Haile-Selassie I was the only head of state to address the General Assembly of the League of Nations. When he entered the hall, and the President of the Assembly announced “Sa Majesté Imperiale, l’Empereur d’Ethiopie,” the large number of Italian journalists in the galleries erupted in loud shouts, whistles and catcalls, stamping their feet and clapping their hands. As it turned out, they had earlier been issued whistles by the Italian foreign minister (and Mussolini’s son-in-law) Count Galeazzo Ciano. The Emperor stood in quiet dignity.

The Emperor waited quietly for security to clear the Italian press out of the gallery, before commencing his speech. Although fluent in French, the working language of the League, the Emperor chose to deliver his historic speech in his native Amharic. The Emperor asked the League to live up to its promise of collective security. He spoke eloquently of the need to protect weak nations against the strong. He detailed the death and destruction rained down upon his people by the use of Mussolini’s chemical agents. He reminded the League that “God and History would remember… [their] judgement.” He pleaded for help and asked “What answer am I to take back to my people?”. His eloquent address moved all who heard it, and turned him into an instant world celebrity. He became Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” and an icon for anti-Fascists around the world. He failed, however, in getting what he requested to help his people fight the invasion: the League agreed to only partial and ineffective sanctions on Italy, and several members recognized the Italian conquest.

Emperor Haile-Selassie I spent his five years of exile (1936–1941) mainly in Bath, United Kingdom, in Fairfield House, which he bought. After his return to Ethiopia, he donated it to the city of Bath as a residence for the aged, and it remains so to this day. There are numerous accounts of “Haile-Selassie was my next-door neighbour” among people who were children in the Bath area during his residence, and he attended Holy Trinity Church in Malvern (with the same dedication as Trinity Cathedral back in Ethiopia). The Emperor also spent extended periods in Jerusalem.

During this period, Emperor Haile-Selassie I suffered several personal tragedies. His two sons-in-law, Ras Desta Damtew and Dejazmach Beyene Merid, were both executed by the Italians. His daughter Princess Romanework, along with her children, was taken in captivity to Italy, where she died in 1941. His grandson Lij Amha Desta died in Britain just before the restoration, and his daughter Princess Tsehai died shortly after.

Haile-Selassie I returned to Ethiopia in 1941, after Italy’s defeat in Ethiopia by United Kingdom and Ethiopian patriot forces. After the war, Ethiopia became a charter member of the United Nations (UN). In 1951, after a lengthy fact-finding inquiry by the allied powers and then the UN, the former Italian colony of Eritrea was federated to Ethiopia as a compromise between the sizable factions that wanted complete Union with the Empire, and those who wanted complete independence from it.

Despite his centralization policies that had been made before WWII, he still found himself unable to push for all the programs he wanted. In 1942, Haile-Selassie attempted to institute a progressive tax scheme, but this failed due to opposition from the nobility, and only a flat tax was passed; in 1951 he agreed to reduce this as well. In addition, the land tax was generally passed by the land owners to the peasants. Despite his wishes, the tax burden remained primarily on the peasants.

Between 1948 and 1956, Haile-Selassie took steps to establish the autocephaly of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. This was accomplished by obtaining permission from the native Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa Cyril VI in 1959, to appoint the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, instead of the traditional system, where the head could only be appointed by the patriarch of Alexandria. The Ethiopian Church remained affiliated, however, with the Alexandrian Church. Selassie also created enough new bishoprics so that Ethiopians could elect their own patriarch. In addition to this, he changed the Ethiopian church-state relationship by introducing taxation of church lands, and by taking away the privilege of clergy to be tried in their own courts for civil offenses.

In keeping with the principle of collective security, for which he was an outspoken proponent, he sent a contingent under General Mulugueta Bulli, known as the Kagnew Battalion, to take part in the UN Conflict in Korea. It was attached to the American 7th Infantry Division, and fought in a number of engagements including the Battle of Pork Chop Hill.

During the celebrations of his Silver Jubilee in November 1955, Haile-Selassie I introduced a revised constitution, whereby he retained effective power, while extending political participation to the people by allowing the lower house of parliament to become an elected body. Party politics were not provided for. Modern educational methods were more widely spread throughout the Empire, and the country embarked on a development scheme and plans for modernization, tempered by Ethiopian traditions, and within the framework of the ancient monarchical structure of the state.

Haile-Selassie compromised when practical with the traditionalists in the nobility and church. He also tried to improve relations between the state and ethnic groups, and granted autonomy to Afar lands that were difficult to control. Still, his reforms to end feudalism were slow and weakened by the compromises he made with the entrenched aristocracy. This would be a key factor in the downfall of his regime.

His international fame and acceptance also grew. In 1954, he visited the then West Germany to become the first head of state to do so after the end of the second world war. Many elderly Germans still vividly remember and are inspired by this visit by an African king as it signalled their acceptance back to the world, as a peaceful nation. He donated blankets produced by the Debre Birhan Blanket Factory, in Ethiopia, to the then war torn Germany.

Later years

Haile-Selassie on a state visit to Washington, 1963

Haile-Selassie on a state visit to Washington, 1963

On December 13, 1960, while the emperor was on a state visit to Brazil, his Imperial Guard forces staged an unsuccessful coup attempt, briefly proclaiming Haile-Selassie I’s eldest son Asfa Wossen as the new Emperor. The coup d’état was crushed by the regular Army and police forces. The coup attempt (although lacking wide popular support, denounced by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and crushed by the Army, Air and Police forces) gained support among students of the University and elements of the young educated technocrats in the country. It marked the beginning of an increased radicalization of Ethiopia’s student population, and the University was in an almost constant state of protest against the regime for the next decade.

After the coup, Haile-Selassie attempted to increase reform, especially in the form of land grants to military and police officials, however there was little organization to this effort.

Following this, he continued to be a staunch ally of the West, while pursuing a firm policy of decolonisation in Africa, which was still largely under European colonial rule at this time. The United Nations conducted a lengthy inquiry regarding the status of Eritrea, with the superpowers each vying for a stake in the state’s future. Britain the last administrator at the time put forth the suggestion to partition Eritrea between Sudan and Ethiopia, separating christians and moslems. It was instantly rejected by Eritrean political parties as well as the UN. The United States point of view was expressed by its then chief foreign policy advisor John Foster Dulles who said:

“From the point of view of justice, the opinions of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless, the strategic interests of the United States in the Red Sea Basin and considerations of security and world peace make it necessary that the country [Eritrea] has to be linked with our ally, Ethiopia,” — John Foster Dulles, 1952.

A UN plebiscite voted 46 to 10 to have Eritrea be federated with Ethiopia which was later stipulated on December 2 of 1950 in resolution 390 (V). Eritrea would have its own parliament and administration and would be represented in what had been the Ethiopian parliament and was now the federal parliament.[20] In 1961 the 30-year Eritrean Struggle for Independence, began after years of peaceful student protests against Ethiopian violation of Eritrean democratic rights and autonomy had culminated in violent repression and the Emperor of Ethiopia Haile-Selassie I’s dissolution of the federation in 1961 followed by shutting down the parliament and declaring Eritrea the 14th province of Ethiopia in 1962.

In 1963, the Emperor presided over the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity, with the new organisation setting up its headquarters in Addis Ababa. As more and more African states won their independence, he played a pivotal role as a Pan-Africanist, and along with Modibo Keïta of Mali, was successful in negotiating the Bamako Accords, which brought an end to a border conflict between Morocco and Algeria.

In 1966, the Emperor attempted to create a more modern, progressive tax that included registration of land that would significantly weaken the nobility. Even with alterations, this law led to a revolt in Gojam which was repressed although enforcement of the tax was abandoned. This encouraged other landowners to defy the emperor, though on a lesser scale.

As in other countries, the increasingly radical student movement took hold in Haile-Selassie University and high school campuses in the late 60s and early 70s, and student unrest became a regular feature of Ethiopian life. Marxism took root in large segments of the Ethiopian intelligentsia, particularly among those who had studied abroad and had been exposed to radical and left-wing sentiments that were becoming fashionable in other parts of the globe. Resistance by conservative elements at the Imperial Court and Parliament, in addition to within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, made the Emperor’s proposals of widespread land reform policies difficult to implement, and also damaged the standing of the government. This bred resentment among the peasant population. Efforts to weaken unions also hurt his image. As these issues began to pile up, Haile-Selassie left much of domestic governance to his Prime Minister, Aklilu Habte Wold, and concentrated more on foreign affairs.

Outside of Ethiopia, however, the Emperor continued to enjoy enormous prestige and respect. As the longest serving Head of State then in power, the Emperor was usually given precedence over all other leaders at most international state events, such as the celebration of the 2500 years of the Persian Empire, the summits of the Non-aligned movement, and the state funerals of John F. Kennedy and Charles de Gaulle. His frequent travels around the world raised Ethiopia’s international image.

Wollo Famine

Famine mostly in Wollo, northeastern Ethiopia, as well as in some parts of Tigray is estimated to have killed up to 200,000 Ethiopians between 1972-73. Even though this region is famous for having recurrent crop failures with continuous food shortage and risk of starvation, the death of around 200,000 people in 1973 became one of the worst famines in African history. It led to the 1973 production of a BBC programme labeled “The Unknown Famine” by Jonathan Dimbleby, along with a team of ITV broadcasters. It was dubbed the world’s first “television catastrophe” of a famine. Some studies showed that the small food produced in the famine-stricken Wollo area was moved out, thus strengthening the argument of a government attempt to use food as a weapon against pro-rebel regions. In addition to a backward social system, the attempt to cover-up the famine by the imperial government contributed to the popular uprising that led to its down fall and the rise of Mengistu Haile Mariam to power.

Last of the Monarch

A devastating drought in the Province of Wollo in 1972–73 that caused a large famine, which was covered up by the officials and correlated with Haile-Selassie’s 80th birthday with much pomp and ceremony, led to more dissent in the country. When a BBC documentary narrated by British journalist Jonathan Dimbleby exposed the existence and scope of the famine, the government was seriously undermined, and the Emperor’s once unassailable personal popularity fell. Simultaneously, economic hardship caused by high oil prices and widespread military mutinies in the country further weakened him. Enlisted men began to seize their senior officers and held them hostage, demanding higher pay, better living conditions, and investigation of alleged widespread corruption in the higher ranks of the military. The Derg, a committee of low ranking military officers and enlisted men, set up to investigate the military’s demands, took advantage of the government’s disarray to depose Emperor Haile-Selassie I on September 12, 1974. General Aman Michael Andom served briefly as provisional head of state pending the return of the Crown Prince from abroad where he was receiving medical treatment. The Emperor was placed under house arrest briefly at the 4th Army Division in Addis Ababa, while most of his family were detained at the late Duke of Harrar‘s residence in the north of the capital. The Emperor was then moved to a house on the grounds of the old Imperial Palace where the new government set up its headquarters. Later, most of the Imperial family were imprisoned in the Central prison in Addis Ababa known as “Alem Bekagn”, or “I am finished with the world”. On November 23, 1974, 61 former high officials of the Imperial government known as “the Sixty”, were executed without trial. The executed included the Emperor’s grandson, Rear Admiral Iskinder Desta, two former Prime Ministers, Lij Endelkachew Makonnen and Tsehafi Taezaz Aklilu Haptewold, former provisional Head of State, General Aman Michael Andom and others.

On August 28, 1975, the state media reported that the “ex-monarch” Haile-Selassie I had died on August 27, of “respiratory failure” following complications from a prostate operation. His doctor, Professor Asrat Woldeyes denied that complications had occurred and rejected the government version of his death. Some believe that he was suffocated in his sleep. Witnesses came forward after the fall of the Marxist government in 1991, to reveal that the Emperor’s remains had been buried beneath the president’s personal office. On November 5, 2000 Emperor Haile-Selassie I was given an Imperial funeral by the Ethiopian Orthodox church. The current post-communist government refused to give it the status of a state funeral. Although such prominent Rastafari figures such as Rita Marley and others participated in the grand funeral, most Rastafari rejected the event, and refused to accept that the bones unearthed from under Mengistu Haile Mariam‘s office were the remains of the Emperor.

Cover of Time Magazine, November 3, 1930

incarnate among followers of the Rastafari movement, which emerged in Jamaica during the 1930s under the influence of Marcus Garvey‘s “Back to Africa” movement, and as the Black Messiah who will lead the peoples of Africa and the African diaspora to freedom. He has been greatly popularised through reggae music and also the distinctive dreadlocks of the Rastafari, along with their worship of him using cannabis as a sacred herb which they believe brings them closer to him and has become the basis for claims of religious persecution against the Rastafari movement. His official titles, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings and Elect of God, and his traditional lineage from Solomon and Sheba, are seen to be confirmation of the titles of the returned Messiah in the prophetic Book of Revelation in the New Testament: King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah and Root of David. The faith in the incarnate divinity of Emperor Haile-Selassie I began after news reports of his coronation reached Jamaica, particularly via the two Time magazine articles about the coronation the week before and the week after the event. He is considered to be the King and God before whom no other shall stand. Selassie’s own spiritual teachings permeate the philosophy of the movement.

When Haile-Selassie I visited Jamaica on April 21, 1966, somewhere between one and two hundred thousand Rastafari from all over Jamaica descended on Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, having heard that the man whom they considered to be God was coming to visit them. Cannabis was widely and openly smoked. When Haile-Selassie I arrived at the airport he refused to get off the aeroplane for an hour until Mortimer Planner, a well known Rasta, persuaded him that it was safe to do so. From then on the visit was a success. Rita Marley, Bob Marley‘s wife, converted to the Rastafarian faith after seeing Haile-Selassie I. She claimed, in interviews, that she saw scars on the palms of Selassie’s hands (as he waved to the crowd) that resembled the envisioned markings on Christ’s hands from being nailed to the cross — a claim that was never supported by other sources, but nonetheless, a claim that was used as evidence for her and other Rastafarians to suggest that Selassie I was indeed their Messiah.

Haile-Selassie I’s attitude to the Rastafarians

Haile-Selassie I had no role in organising or promoting the Rastafari movement, which for many Rastas is seen as proof of his divinity, in that he was no false prophet claiming to be God in order to enjoy the benefits of being a cult leader. He was a devout member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as demanded by his political role in Ethiopia, and it was to his role as Emperor of Ethiopia that he devoted his life. His publicly known views towards the Rastafarians varied from sympathy to polite interest reinforced by the fact that his political inclinations, including African emancipation, were those of the Rastafari movement.

Yet in his speeches and writings there is substantial material about the spiritual life, and he often addressed his audience in the tone of a spiritual teacher. For instance, he wrote “Knowing that material and spiritual progress are essential to man, we must work ceaselessly for the attainment of both… No one should question the faith of others, for no human can judge the ways of God”. During the Emperor’s visit to Jamaica, he told Rastafari community leaders that they should not emigrate to Ethiopia until they had liberated the people of Jamaica. On another occasion Selassie said “We have been a child, a boy, a youth, an adult, and finally an old man. Like everyone else. Our Lord the Creator made us like everyone else,” (in an interview with Oriana Fallaci, Chicago Tribune, June 24, 1973) and the Rastafarians do see Selassie as man or flesh incarnate. On numerous occasions Selassie expressed his belief in his faith, stating that one is doomed apart from faith in Christ, who in the Tewahido faith is considered both man and God: “A rudderless ship is at the mercy of the waves and the wind, drifts wherever they take it and if there arises a whirlwind it is smashed against the rocks and becomes as if it has never existed. It is our firm belief that a soul without Christ is bound to meet with no better fate.” (One Race, One Gospel, One Task, address to the World Evangelical Congress, Berlin, October 28, 1966). He also encouraged religious freedom and tolerance. “Since nobody can interfere in the realm of God we should tolerate and live side by side with those of other faiths… We wish to recall here the spirit of tolerance shown by Our Lord Jesus Christ when He gave forgiveness to all including those that crucified Him.”

In order to help the Rastas and their aspirations of returning to Africa the Emperor donated a piece of land at Shashamane, 250 km south of Addis Ababa, for the use of Jamaican Rastafarians and there is a community there to this day.

The Rastafarians’ attitude towards Haile-Selassie I

Rastas say that they know Haile-Selassie I is God, and therefore do not need to believe it; belief to them implies doubt, and they state they have no doubts about his divinity. He is a central theme and presence within the life of Rastafarians. He is seen as a symbol of black pride, and as a king for African people. The Rastafarians use his full name, Haile-Selassie I, pronouncing the Roman numeral that indicates “the first” as the word “I”, that being the first person pronoun, thus emphasising both the personal relationship they have with him and also that God is to be found within the human being; he is also called “Jah Rastafari Selassie I,” and affectionately “Jah Jah”. They are very proud of knowing and declaring that he is their God. They have never been worried by Haile-Selassie never claiming to be God, arguing that the real God would never claim to be so just to get worldly acclaim and power. Roots reggae is full of thanks and praises towards “Selassie I”. The Rastas say that Haile-Selassie I will one day call the day of judgement, calling the righteous and the faithful to live with him forever on a new Earth ruled from Holy Mount Zion, said to be a place in Africa. Some Rastas state that “Zion is a state of mind”, emphasising that Zion is a current earth reality and not some place in the sky only to be experienced after one has died.

The first Rastafari to appear in front of a court was Leonard Howell, who was charged with sedition against the state and its King George V of the United Kingdom. Howell declared himself a loyal subject not of the King of the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth, but of Haile-Selassie I and of his country Ethiopia. When Emperor Haile-Selassie I came before the League of Nations to plead his case, and having it rejected by the League, this event confirmed their belief because the nations of Babylon, in reference to the ancient biblical place, will turn their backs to messiah on his return. They see their own rejection within the societies in which they live as being because they worship Selassie I. Many equated the Second Italo-Abyssinian War with the fight in the Book of Revelation between the returned messiah and the antichrist. The Emperor’s restoration to power in 1941 strengthened the Rastafari faith that he was Almighty God.

Rastas say that Haile-Selassie I is still alive, and that his purported death was part of a conspiracy to discredit their spiritual movement, and Selassie himself. In addition to being a political and historical figure, Haile-Selassie I has become a popular culture symbol for God through the Rastafari movement. Many Rastas are concerned that the world does not see Haile-Selassie I in a positive light due to negative and unproven rumours about large bank accounts that the Marxist government in Ethiopia claimed he had used to salt away the wealth of the country.

Haile-Selassie’s core beliefs of ethnic integration, a united Africa and the following of a moral path are at the heart of Rasta philosophy and vision as are Selassie I’s own teachings on morality and spirituality.

Source: wikipedia.org

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Some Ethiopians' obsession with title

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

By Lisanu Tesema

Educated or uneducated, some Ethiopians have little understanding of the relevance of titles and honorific. We have, for instance, Meles Zenawi’s former Ambassador to Kenya. His proper title is Ato, as far as I know. He is currently Zenawi’s speaker of the rubber stamp parliament. On TV, in “parliament”, in private, in public and even in kitchens the man uses “ambassador” as his title and the cumbersome honorific, His Excellency.

This man is none other than Teshome Toga. A recent documentary, a kind of lamentable self-promotion shown on ETV, was even entitled “Ambassador Teshome Toga’s routines in parliament” despite the fact that he is currently serving Meles as a “house speaker.”

If at all, “ambassador” is a title that should never kept for life, it should be correctly used as “former ambassador” as he is no longer servicing as head of a diplomatic mission. But to be fair to the man, he is not alone. Former ambassadors of the imperial regime, Derg and the current ethnocratic [tribal] clan are still stuck in such titles as ambassador, minister, commissioner and the like and some demand to be exalted as such.

Long after their jobs were over, either through defection and retirement, they use this cumbersome “titles” and others meekly call them “Ambassador Teshome”, “Minister Hagos”, “Commissioner Bereket” etc, and the title-obsessed former officials get puffed up. But what the mis-users of personal titles don’t know, or pretend not to notice, is the fact that job titles are not for life.

Honorific, though quite traditional that originated in ancient royal courts, is a recognizable legal title such as His Excellency, Your Excellency, Your Honour, His Royal Highness etc. Even honorific is not title for life but is used in reference to a political office.

Why is it then that people who have left their offices long ago, or defected for that matter, think that they are still holding on to their jobs… still ambassadors, generals or ministers in Ethiopia?

Why are we required to use titles to refer to people who no longer hold their “beloved” offices, however wrong and confusing they are, for no apparent reasons than just to boost the ego of these former appointees of succeeding bad, dictatorial and unpopular governments that have never served their people well? If they must use these titles and old honors, they should remind us that they are not currently holding the political offices by adding the adjective former or the prefix ex. That would clear the confusion as well as save the ego of the former diplomats, ministers, generals, commanders, commissioners… who love misusing useless titles and honorific.

There are also others, engineers for life. Normally, engineer is not also an honorific but a job title. However, our older generation still think that it is a title and demand us to call an engineer with his job title. Former or ancient engineers use “engineer” as their life time title.

In Ethiopia, time doesn’t go fast. It is slow and change is hard to come by as there is resistance to change. The world is moving faster while we are stuck in tradition. Whoever starts a wrong tradition or a popular mistake, knowingly and unknowingly, is often immortalized when others repeat the mistake forever. But at some point, we need to realize that correction is needed.

Though unrelated to the main point I have raised, I would like to touch upon two examples of perennial mistakes we never tried to correct. It may be a foreigner who misspelt our capital city as “Addis Ababa”, which is not only wrong but changes the flower into an old man. Children use “ababa” to refer to an older person. The correct spelling should have been abeba, which is the Amharic equivalent for flower. So which one is Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa [sic] or Addis Abeba? A new old man or a new flower? The choice is ours as the foreigners who made the mistake did not know the difference.
Anyway, titles should not be kept for life but need to be used correctly as mistakes should also be corrected at one point. Students who never correct their mistakes learn little and may even repeat their mistakes again and again.

(The writer can be reached at lisanute@gmail.com)

3 Ethiopian visitors disappeared in U.K.

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

By Richard Mennear | Hartlepool Mail

THREE Ethiopian exchange visitors who had been staying in Hartlepool have vanished during a trip to the Houses of Parliament.

The three men were among a group of nine visitors who were staying with families in the town as part of a three-month visit to the UK.

They went to the capital to visit the corridors of power in a tour which Hartlepool MP Iain Wright was asked to help arrange.

But at the end of the day’s tour, the men failed to meet up with the rest of the group and organisers Global Xchange were forced to contact the police to report them missing.

Police and Home Office chiefs are now investigating their disappearance.

Organizers say their main concern is for the safety of the men, who have been named as Zerihun Weldeyohans, 24, Habtamu Debela, 27, and 21-year-old Muluneh Tilahun Abera.

It was at around 6pm when they separated from the rest of the group to buy telephone calling cards.

Programme supervisor Georgina Richards reported the men missing to the Metropolitan Police at 10pm when they failed to show up at their London hotel, where they were due to stay overnight before returning to Hartlepool.

Concerns grew further when the trio didn’t turn up for the 11am journey to Hartlepool the following day.

All three men have valid visas which do not run out until September 9.

Their families in Ethiopia have been informed.

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

Zerihun is based at Cafe 177 and Headline Futures, Habtamu at the West View Project, while Muluneh has been working at Hartlepool United’s study support centre.

A statement released by the organisers said: “The British Council and VSO can confirm that three Ethiopian participants in the current Ethiopia Hartlepool Global Xchange have been reported missing.

“All three are male and aged between 21 and 24. The group had been on a trip to London to visit the Houses of Parliament. After the visit some of the group were socialising at the South Bank Centre but the three young men went their separate ways to purchase some telephone calling cards.

“They later failed to arrive at the homes where they were due to stay on the evening of Wednesday, July 15. They did not meet their colleagues for their return journey to Hartlepool.

“The young men have not made any contact with British Council, VSO or their project supervisors in Hartlepool and the primary concern is for their safety as they were on their first visit to London.

“The police have been informed and are treating this as a missing persons case. The police have undertaken standard inquiries to establish the location and safety of the young men.

“The programme is due to run until August 31, and the young people had not indicated that they intended to resign from the group. All three are in possession of valid visas and return flights.”

Mr Wright, who didn’t meet up with the group due to parliamentary business, said: “The purpose of the visit was to show visitors to this country the Houses of Parliament.

“It was organised by Global Xchange, and I hope that the three missing people are found as quickly as possible.”

A spokesman for the Home Office said they would only become involved if those involved stayed in the country longer than their visa allowed.

Who might replace Ethiopia's dictator?

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Addis Ababa (Reuters) — Ethiopia’s long-serving Prime Minister tribal dictator Meles Zenawi said early this month he was looking forward to relaxing after a retirement from power that he hopes will be agreed soon with his ruling party.

So who might replace him? Following are the three names most widely touted, and a summary of main opposition figures:

SEYOUM MESFIN

Physicist Seyoum has been Ethiopia’s foreign minister since Meles came to power in 1991. Fiercely loyal to the prime minister, he used his weight as a well-regarded former rebel fighter to help Meles purge their Tigryan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of dissidents in 2001.

Respected for his skill as an international negotiator, he is considered a contender by the Addis Ababa diplomatic community. [Seyoum's negotiating skill has so far resulted in turning the Horn of Africa region into a war zone.]

GIRMA BIRRU

Trade Minister Girma may prove the perfect compromise candidate. Despite making up only 6 percent of the population, the Tigryan ethnic group, of which Meles is a member, dominate Ethiopia’s political establishment.

The Amhara ethnic group have traditionally ruled the country and are likely to lobby for one of their ruling party members to take over should Meles resign.

Girma is an Oromo — an ethnic group which, though Ethiopia’s largest in number, have never held power. [This is false. Reuters need to get its fact straight. Also Girma is not an Oromo. He is just Hodam.]

TEWODROS ADHANOM

Educated in Britain, Tewodros has been health minister since 2005 and has a string of achievements under his belt — including a significant reduction in Ethiopia’s child mortality rate — that have won him international respect. [Ethiopia currently has no functioning health care system. Hospitals are short of basic drugs such as antibiotics.]

The opposition is unlikely to win elections due for 2010. Its leaders were jailed after Meles blamed them for street violence after a disputed 2005 poll and they have made little impact since their release in a 2007 pardon deal.

They say that is because of government harassment but Meles denies that. Some of their key figures are:

BIRTUKAN MIDEKSA

The charismatic former judge leads the Unity for Democracy and Justice party. She was imprisoned in December after the government said she violated the terms of the 2007 pardon. Meles says there is no chance she will be freed before the 2010 poll.

SEYE ABRAHA

Once nicknamed the “TPLF’s Strongman”, Seye was defence minister from 1991 to 1995. He fell out with Meles in 2000 and was jailed for corruption. He insists his imprisonment was politically motivated. Recently released, he is involved in a coalition of opposition groups going up against the government in 2010.

BERHANU NEGA

Berhanu is an economist who was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in the 2005 election then jailed shortly after. He fled to the United States after his release where he formed “May 15th”, an organisation named after the date of that poll. The government says Berhanu planned a recent plot to overthrow it and has charged 32 men it says were receiving money from him to buy weapons and bombs. He says the accusations are fabricated.

(Reporting by Barry Malone, Editing by Andrew Cawthorne [a 6th grader can write a better, more truthful report than these two.])

East Africa gets high-speed web

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Nairobi (BBC NEWS) — The first undersea cable to bring high-speed internet access to East Africa has gone live.

The fibre-optic cable, operated by African-owned firm Seacom, connects South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique to Europe and Asia.

The firm says the cable will help to boost the prospects of the region’s industry and commerce.

The cable – which is 17,000km long – took two years to lay and cost more than $650m.

Seacom said in a statement the launch of the cable marked the “dawn of a new era for communications” between Africa and the rest of the world.

The services were unveiled in ceremonies in the Kenyan port of Mombasa and the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam.

School benefits

The cable was due to be launched in June but was delayed by pirate activity off the coast of Somalia.

The BBC’s Ben Mwangunda in Dar es Salaam says five institutions are already benefiting from the faster speeds — national electricity company Tanesco, communications company, TTCL, Tanzania Railways and the Universities of Dar es Salaam and Dodoma.

The BBC’s Will Ross in Nairobi says the internet revolution trumpeted by Seacom largely depends on how well the service is rolled out across the region.

To the disappointment of many consumers, our correspondent says some ISPs (internet service providers) are not planning to lower the cost of the internet, but instead will offer increased bandwidth.

But businesses, which have been paying around $3,000 a month for 1MB through a satellite link, will now pay considerably less – about $600 a month.

The Kenyan government has been laying a network of cables to all of the country’s major towns and says the fibre-optic links will also enable schools nationwide to link into high quality educational resources.

But our correspondent says it is not clear whether the internet revolution will reach the villages, many of which still struggle to access reliable electricity.