Archive for the ‘Ethiopian News’ Category

Ruling tribal junta in Ethiopia arrests opposition party members

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

By Barry Malone

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – A coalition of opposition parties accused the Ethiopian authorities the Woyanne tribal junta on Thursday of arresting some of its members on trumped up charges to stop them running in an election scheduled for next May.

Eight parties have allied under the banner of the Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia (FDDE) to contest the 2010 polls, which analysts say the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) Tigrean People Liberation Front (Woyanne) is likely to win.

Opposition figures say they have been hamstrung by a campaign of arrests and intimidation. The EPRDF Woyanne denies it.

“Ruling party cadres throughout the country are jailing our potential candidates on false charges,” Bulcha Demeksa, leader of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement, one of the parties in the opposition coalition, told reporters in Addis Ababa.

“We want to negotiate with the government and ask them to stop arresting and jailing our potential candidates.”

The parties that make up the alliance hold just 80 of parliament’s 547 seats, but still represent the most significant opposition to a government that is a close ally of Washington.

Bereket Simon, the Ethiopian government’s head of information, told Reuters that since none of the parties had yet named their candidates, the opposition’s claims were baseless. “Nobody is being jailed for being a politician,” he said.

TALKS WALK-OUT

Ethiopia’s last elections in 2005 were hailed as the country’s first fully democratic polls, but they ended in bloodshed after the government declared victory and the opposition said the result had been rigged. Police and soldiers killed about 200 people who took to the streets in protest.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi accused the demonstrators of trying to topple his government, and more than 100 opposition leaders, journalists and aid workers were later jailed.

Those detainees were pardoned and freed in 2007, but rights groups say the government is cracking down on dissent again. One opposition party leader is in jail and a group of former military officers have been convicted of plotting to oust Meles.

Meles has set up talks with the opposition about drawing up a code of conduct for next year. But the FDDE said on Thursday that its members had walked out of discussions.

“The code of conduct assumes a context where there will be independent administration of elections, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, no intervention by security forces,” said Seye Abraha, a former defence minister who is now in the FDDE.

“We want these issues discussed alongside the code of conduct, not assumed.”

Bereket dismissed FDDE claims the code was undemocratic: “This code of conduct is being drawn up by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, not the Ethiopian government … To walk away from it is disastrous and is to walk away from democracy.”

(Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Ethiopia's khat-addict dictator decided to remain in power

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

By ARGAW ASHINE

ADDIS ABABA (NMG) — Ethiopia Prime Minster Head of the brutal tribal junta in Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, will run for a new five-year term, his ruling party announced on Tuesday.

The 54 year-old former [Marxist] guerrilla leader, who has been in power for 18 years, was convinced by party members to stay on. [Don't laugh. This is not a joke!]

The Ethiopian People Democratic Front (EPRDF) council Tigrean People Liberation Front (Woyanne) underlined that the Ethiopian people and his party need Mr Zenawi for one more term at the end of a two day annual gathering.

“Meles is playing a key role in transforming Ethiopia….” EPRDF said in a statement.

In recent months, EPRDF’s chairman Woyanne junta leader Zenawi has said he plans to go in 2010 if his party accept his resignation.

The council extensively debated on the issue and agreed to keep Mr Zenawi in office for one until 2015.

Ethiopia’s next general election is scheduled for June 2010.

The PM has increasingly become a champion of African in international forums.

However, at home he is accused of a poor human rights record and oppression against opposition politicians and the media.

Last week, Mr Zenawi was elected [by his fellow thieves] to represent Africa in the climate change talks in Denmark, Copenhagen.

11 things to know about Swine Flue

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

So how worried should you be about swine flu, and how do you prepare? Here, the mass of information is boiled down into 10 things you should know to be flu-savvy:

1 There’s no cause for panic. So far, swine flu isn’t much more threatening than regular seasonal flu. During the few months of this new flu’s existence, hospitalizations and deaths from it seem to be lower than the average seen for seasonal flu, and the virus hasn’t dramatically mutated. Still, more people are susceptible to swine flu and U.S. health officials are worried because it has hung around here so firmly during the summer.

2 Virus is tougher on some. Swine flu is more of a threat to certain groups — children younger than 2, pregnant women and people with health problems like asthma, diabetes and heart disease. Teens and young adults also are more vulnerable. Seasonal flu hits older people hardest, but not swine flu. Scientists think older people may have some immunity from exposure years earlier to similar viruses.

3 Wash your hands often and long. Like seasonal flu, swine flu spreads through coughs and sneezes of people who are sick. Emphasize to children that they should wash with soap and water long enough to finish singing the alphabet song. Also use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

4 Get the kids vaccinated. People 6 months to 24 years old, pregnant women and health-care workers should be first in line for swine flu shots, especially if vaccine supplies are limited. Also a priority: Parents and caregivers of infants and people with those high-risk medical conditions previously noted.

5 Get your shots early. Millions of swine flu shots should be available by October. If you are in one of the priority groups, try to get your shot as early as possible. Check with your doctor or local or state health department about where to do this. Many children should be able to get vaccinated at school. Permission forms will be sent home in advance.

6 Immunity takes awhile. Even those first in line for shots won’t have immunity until about Thanksgiving. That’s because it’s likely to take two shots, given three weeks apart, to provide protection. And it takes a week or two after the last shot for the vaccine to take full effect.

7 Vaccines are being tested. Health officials presume the swine flu vaccine is safe and effective, but they’re testing it to make sure. The federal government has begun studies in eight cities across the country to assess its effectiveness and figure out the best dose. Vaccinemakers are doing their own tests as well.

8 Surrounded by swine flu? If an outbreak of swine flu hits your area before you’re vaccinated, be extra cautious. Stay away from public gathering places like malls, sports events and churches. Try to keep your distance from people. Keep washing those hands.

9 What if you get sick? If you have other health problems or are pregnant and develop flulike symptoms, call your doctor right away. You may be prescribed Tamiflu or Relenza. If you develop breathing problems (rapid breathing for kids), pain in your chest, constant vomiting or a fever that keeps rising, go to an emergency room. Most people, though, should just stay home and rest.

10 No swine flu from barbecue. You can’t catch swine flu from pork. Swine flu is not spread by handling meat, raw or cooked.

11 It rhymes with Woyanne, but the two diseases are totally different.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Authentic Ethiopian food at Beijing's Ras Restaurant

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

By Jonathan White | The Beijinger

Anyone intrepid enough to venture out to the Lido incarnation of Ras was rewarded with some traditional dancing and tasty, authentic Ethiopian food. Manager Danny had the good fortune to move to Sanlitun Beilu and give more people the good fortune to taste Ethiopia in this central location.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Danny has quickly added a covered outdoor bar to this spot – draft Tsingtaos (RMB 10), gin & tonics (RMB 35) and reggae abound. The relaxed vibe is set to continue when the downstairs of the restaurant becomes a lounge proper and chilling out heats up for the winter.

The half-price happy hour (4-8pm) certainly won’t damage sales of food; you’ll be starving and what better place to find bar snacks than a restaurant? One love.

Ras
Mon-Fri 10.30am-late, Sat-Sun 11am-11pm. 7 Sanlitun Lu (next to the Friendship Supermarket), Chaoyang District (6468 6053)
朝阳区三里屯北路7号(小友谊超市旁)

Search for more Beijing bars by name and neighborhood or share your opinions with the rest of Beijing by adding a user review of any of the bars in our online directory of venues.

Ethiopia's ruling junta shakes down Ethiopians in Minnesota

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

By Douglas McGill | TC Daily Planet

Immigrants to Minnesota from eastern Ethiopia are being forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom payments to support an Ethiopian security force that tortures and kills thousands of innocent Ethiopians.

Under an extortion scheme run by the Ethiopian Woyanne tribal junta, soldiers in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia abduct men, women and teenage boys and girls, holding them without charge in one of scores of military jails in the region, which borders Somalia.

Knowing that many Ogaden families have relatives who live in Minnesota, the Ethiopian army tells the prisoners’ families that their loved ones can be freed upon payment of ransoms ranging from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

Hating to pay the money but having no other choice, the Minnesota refugees empty their personal bank accounts and pass the hat to raise ransoms to release their husbands, wives, sons, daughters and friends from overcrowded jails where torture, rape, beatings and killings are common.

Destruction of Villages

“It is a booming business for the Ethiopian Woyanne army,” said Mohamed, a Minnesota school teacher who immigrated from the Ogaden in 1993. “It happens every day in the Ogaden, and every day someone in Minnesota is sending money.”

Mohamed and other Ogaden immigrants quoted in this story declined to give their full names for fear that their families and friends living in the Ogaden would be jailed, tortured or killed in retribution for their openness.

In recent years, one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises has unfolded silently in the Ogaden region, where a vicious counter-insurgency campaign by the Ethiopian government has wiped out scores of villages, killed thousands of civilians, and displaced tens of thousands or more to refugee camps in Ethiopia and northern Kenya.

About 5,000 Ogaden refugees have found their way to Minnesota, which has one of the largest refugee populations from the Ogaden crisis in the world. They Ogaden refugees in Minnesota are settled mainly in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Willmar, St. Cloud and Faribault.

Frantic Calls

The ransoming of Ogaden refugees in Minnesota is exacting a disastrous economic, psychological and social toll within the Ogaden community and the broader society, Ogaden immigrants here say.

“I cry every night, believe me,” said Abdi, an Ogaden refugee who has sent $600 ransoms on two occasions. “You are forced to do what is not right, you are forced to do the wrong thing. It’s horrible. It lives with us, it lives with us everywhere. No matter where I am, in the bedroom, in the bathroom, in the living room, I cannot hold back my tears.”

Being forced to spend thousands of dollars to free their relatives from jail in Ethiopia slows down the Minnesota Ogadeni refugees’ attempts to learn English, to get an education and to successfully assimilate into U.S. society, they say.

“We get frantic phone calls day and night,” says Mustafe, an Ogaden refugee who works at Minneapolis employment agency. “Friends and family need money to be freed from jail. They say ‘Please send us money, please send us money!’ We send it, of course, but as a result we go into debt ourselves. I don’t even dream of going back to school to improve myself until the situation in Ogaden changes and improves.”

Financial Aid

In 2007, Mustafe sent $1,500 towards a $4,000 ransom collected in Minnesota to release a teenaged cousin who was jailed for three months, and was released after the ransom was paid. As a result of that and other ransoms Mustafe has paid, plus monthly support he sends back home to relatives, he is about $10,000 in debt.

The ransoming of Ogaden refugees is only one facet of an extreme humanitarian crisis involving countless crimes against humanity bordering on a full-scale genocide, that has been building in the Ogaden for more than a decade, but intensified sharply in 2007.

The roots of the Ogaden crisis lie in the fact that eastern Ethiopia is inhabited by ethnic Muslim Somalis at a time when the Ethiopian government has been waging war against Somalia. In December 2006, with financial aid and military training from the U.S., Ethiopia crushed the Islamic Courts Union, an Islamist government that controlled Somalia.

In 2007, the Ethiopia-Somalia war intensified in Ogaden, where the Ethiopian Army launched an all-out counter-insurgency against a separatist militia, the Ogaden National Liberation Front, which it calls a terrorist organization.

Collective Punishment

The ONLF conducts deadly raids against Ethiopian Woyanne military, such as an April 2007 attack against a Chinese-run oil operation in the Ogaden which killed not only Ethiopian soldiers but several dozen Ethiopian citizens and nine Chinese nationals.

In retaliation for that attack, Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian Prime Minister butcher of Addis Ababa, launched a vicious crackdown on the ONLF, targeting not only ONLF fighters but their families, friends and other supporters throughout the region. In 2008, Human Rights Watch published a report, “Collective Punishment: War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in the Ogaden area of Ethiopia’s Somali Region.”

The report documented hundreds of cases of torture, rape, executions and indeed the destruction of entire Ogaden villages on the mere suspicion that someone in the village was harboring an ONLF fighter. Human Rights Watch said the likely scale of the disaster was far larger than they were able to document in the report.

Since 2007 all foreign journalists and many aid organizations, including the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, have been forced by the Ethiopian government Woyanne junta to suspend operations in the Ogaden.

Virtually all of the ransoms paid by Minnesota Ogadeni refugees to the Ethiopian Woyanne military are to release friends and relatives who have been jailed on suspicion of knowing, sheltering, or aiding ONLF fighters.

Clan Elders

But in a region like Ogaden, where almost every village has at least one son or daughter who has joined the ONLF, to declare war on all people with even a slight relationship the ONLF is tantamount to declaring war on the entire Ogadeni people – on their society and culture. From an Ogadeni perspective, that is what has happened.

In Minneapolis over the past two weeks, I interviewed 18 Ogaden refugees. Every one confirmed knowledge of the frequent payment of ransoms by Minnesota Ogadenis to free imprisoned relatives held by the Ethiopian army in the Ogaden.

About half of the refugees I interviewed said they had personally paid ransoms to free relatives from jail, and some had done so many times.

The ransom amounts ranged from $300 to $1,500. In some cases those amounts were contributions to total collected ransoms of more than $10,000, which seems to be a typical amount needed to release Ogadeni clan elders who are held.

Here are four ransom stories I was told:

Abdi #1: “In 2002, in the city of Harare, Ethiopian Woyanne soldiers arrested my brother and beat him badly, tying a rope at the top of his elbows. For five nights they beat him. My Dad had to pay money to get him loose. He came back with marks on his arms above his elbows. Another time, my brother-in-law was arrested. On two occasions, his relatives called me in Minnesota to say he is alive in prison and asked us here to send money. So on two occasions since 2002 we sent $600, but my brother-in-law was never released and we still don’t know if he is alive or dead.”

Mustafe: “In 2007 my brother, who was in high school, was arrested and put in jail. They accused him of being a collaborator of the ONLF. They said he was buying khat [a chewed leaf that is a legal stimulant in Ethiopia and a major cash crop there] to give to the ONLF. But he was only a student with no money and he never did that. We collected $4,000 here in Minnesota to release him which they finally did after three months.”

Mohamed: “In 2005 they put my brother in jail. He is a tea shop owner and the Ethiopian army said he sold some food to the ONLF. My brother’s wife and cousins sold their sheep and goats to get the ransom money and he was released, but five months later they put him back in jail. This time, his wife called me and said ‘Mohamed, our sheep and goats are very thin and weak, it’s the dry season, and none of them can be sold. We need money. They will kill your brother if we don’t pay.’ So I sent what I could afford which was $700. Again he was released, but today, only a few hours ago, I got the bad news from my village that my brother and two others were taken by the Ethiopian army and no one knows their fate. So again I don’t know if my brother and the others are okay or if they are killed. If they aren’t killed, I will once again have to pay ransom, for the third time. They said my brother is a sympathizer of the ONLF, but he is only a tea shop owner. How can he discriminate if a customer who comes in who is ONLF? They don’t wear any uniform, how can he tell?”

Abdi #2: “My friend and cousin is named Hassan Ahmed, from the town of Jijiga. Last year he was jailed and sentenced to death for supposedly helping the ONLF. But he has asthma and was seriously sick and he needed to go to the hospital. So his mother called me here in Minnesota and said, ‘If we pay $500 they say they will take him to the hospital.’ So we managed to raise $500 which we sent to the family, and they gave it to the Ethiopian army. But he was never let out of prison and we don’t think he was taken to the hospital either. Instead, after they got the money they said, ‘This guy is sentenced to death, he will never get out.’”

Cell Phones

Mohamed, the Ogaden school teacher, has collected records of 182 separate instances of extortion and ransoming of Ogadeni civilians by the Ethiopian Woyanne Army. The total amount paid in these cases was $84,500, which Mohamed estimates is less than 1% of the total amount of money extorted and ransomed by the Ethiopian Army in the past two years.

“You cannot imagine how widespread this is,” said Mohamed, who collected the data through cell phone calls to contacts in the Ogaden and the global Ogaden diaspora.

As a result of the humanitarian aid and information blackout imposed by Ethiopia on the Ogaden, accounts given by the Ogaden refugees in Minnesota provide one of the richest sources of information about the crisis there.

Money, Army or Jail

Ogadeni shopkeepers and traders are also frequent targets for Ethiopian Woyanne army threats and shakedowns, Minnesota’s Ogaden refugees say.

“In the town of Gode,” said Mohamed, ‘the Army just last week gathered more than 100 business people recently and told them, ‘You have three choices: you can give us money, you can join the army, or you can go to jail.”

(Douglas McGill has reported for the New York Times and Bloomberg News– and now the Daily Planet. To reach Doug McGill: doug@mcgillreport.org. And visit The McGill Report at www.mcgillreport.org)

Selling citizens, selling children and selling land

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Selling citizens, selling children and selling land – Yilma Bekele

The late Democratic Republic of Germany (GDR) commonly known as East Germany was a very sad country. It was a place where the state elevated the art of coercion into a science. The Stasi (short for Staatssicherheitsdienst, or State Security Service) was the most potent weapon ever devised by a dictatorship.

The Stasi kept a close tab on all its citizens. The collapse of GDR, and the dismantling of the Berlin wall, gave us a clear look into the workings of a totalitarian state. It is said that Stasi had 91,000 employees and 350,000 collaborators in a country of 17 million. The Stasi infiltrated all associations, organizations, and clubs. The Stasi used blackmail to persuade citizens to inform on each other, including their own family. The Stasi was the most evil organization. The familiarity with Ethiopia is not a coincidence. The TPLF Internal Security is the new Stasi.

The TPLF’s security system is modeled after the Stasi. The regime might be clueless regarding the economic system, but it does not spare a penny when it comes to organizing a ruthless internal security system to blackmail, intimidate, and frighten the citizens of the country.

The GDR leaders constructed walls, buried land mines, and erected watchtowers to prevent their people from fleeing to the West. They also devised a clever way to profit from their hostages. They agreed to release political prisoners in exchange for money from their West German cousins. By the 1980’s, the payments we so large, that they became part of the GDR’s economic planning. Overall, 33,755 prisoners were released from the GDR, for a total amount of 3,436,900,755DM or $2.28 billion US dollars. As you can see, it was a very lucrative business.

Today we have the Ethiopian regime playing the same game with a different twist. Instead of political prisoners, the regime generates income by selling our children. We were famous for drought and famine, but now we are famous for the export of our children. It is true that the spread of HIV Aids, and other communicable diseases have decimated our population. Orphans are everywhere. For a poor country, without any safety net, the plight of our children is very sad indeed. On the other hand, the problem cannot be resolved by selling your precious resource. The minority regime has opened the door to unscrupulous individuals and organizations that have set up shop in Ethiopia. Their main concern is turning a profit rather than searching for a lasting solution. Reading ‘The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism’ report is experiencing a nightmarish situation while still awake. It makes you wonder if there is any thing sacred to the TPLF riffraff.

Well-informed sources have told the Schuster Institute that recent trends in Ethiopia’s international adoptions strongly suggest an increase in corruption. In the past, these have been signs that a country’s adoption system is shifting from “white” to “gray”—that is, from a well-regulated humanitarian effort dedicated to the children’s welfare, to a business that is taking children from living families in order to gain profits from Western adoption fees.

Once the regime figured out this is one area where an obscene amount of profit can be made, with little or no investment, there was nothing that would stop our gallant rulers. The Schuster Report goes on to say ‘For Ethiopia, the numbers of children sent in adoption climbed from a total of 262 in 2002 to more than 2520 in 2007—a tenfold expansion in five years.

When you consider that the average cost to adopt in Ethiopia is around twenty thousand US dollars (the cheapest in the world) the government took in over 50 million US dollars in 2007 alone. Based on the trend of the last eight years, the numbers for 2008 and 2009 must be considerably higher. The Woyane government that is passing laws to suppress the independent press, human right work, in addition to curtailing NGO activities, is all of a sudden very receptive to the idea of setting up ‘model orphan centers’ by non-regulated foreign adoption agencies. Schuster Report goes on to say,

· “Homes” for pregnant women that appear to have been created “strictly to provide infants for the adoption trade” (in the words of an observer).
· Fraud on the children’s documents about such facts as their real ages and whether they were abandoned or relinquished by families.

As you can see the TPLF regime in collusion with westerners was using the so-called “homes” as a baby factory designed for export of children who were treated like “another” commodity. Can you imagine the agony of a mother or a father who “gives” up their baby never to see him or her again? What is very alarming is the fact that some of the children who were put up for adoption are not orphans. Woyane agents falsified documents to show the children as orphans, while the birth parents were still alive according to Canadian parents that were swindled in Ethiopia.

As if selling children were not enough, the regime is also involved in signing long-term leases of our fertile land with foreign investors. An article by Michael Chebsi reads:

The Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has promised Saudi Arabia that his country will provide hundreds of thousands of hectares of unutilised agricultural land for growing cereals in the east African country. This is a follow up to an earlier pledge by Ethiopia to grant 5,000 hectares of land to the Djibouti government for large-scale commercial farming.

The Ethiopian agriculture ministry is identifying available land for such foreign investors; so far close to two million hectares of land have been identified in the regions of Oromia and Amhara, where almost all cereals in the country are produced.

Land is state property in Ethiopia. The regime uses its status as the landlord to control the life of the peasant farmer. Seventeen years of experimentation with voodoo economics have left the country unable to feed itself. Over fourteen million Ethiopians are in constant need of food handouts from foreign donors. Instead of changing a failed policy, the regime is trying to solve its balance of payment problem by leasing our land. The consequence of this action is to condemn millions of citizens into perpetual insecurity and forces them to need help from outsiders.

The Ethiopian Stasi strangle hold on our people is visible in every part of our country. The security services are part of the everyday landscape. They make it a point to be seen and felt. The idea is to intimidate and terrorize. They are in every office, in every coffee shop and bar on every street corner including places of worship. They do not try to blend in rather they like to stand out begging for recognition. The aim is to create mistrust and fear. The TPLF regime spends more money on security than education and health combined. Their presence is even felt by the Diaspora. Most of our people are afraid to have their picture taken during a protest, scared to sign their name and contribute money anonymously. I am sure there are a few that report back on the activities of the Diaspora but the fear factor is more than the reality. The TPLF regime is a fear factory.

Dictatorship is not sustainable. Despite all the effort by the leaders of GDR, they were not able to stop the spontaneous uprising by their people. Sooner or later the victims wake up. The East German dictator Erich Honecker fled to the old Soviet Union when his country withered away. Unfortunately for him, the Soviet Union went through some change itself and he was extradited back home. During the trial, he was found to be ill with terminal cancer, and the Germans government unceremoniously deported him to Chile where he died alone. His life was a total waste, but he also caused agony and hardship to his people.

Andenet Party Chairman Judge Bertukan Mideksa has been in jail two hundred and fifty days. Her crime is she stood up against the dictatorship. The regime is using Judge Bertukan to break the will of the people. It is a futile effort by those in power to get respect and recognition. It did not work for Mengistu Haile Mariam. It did not work for Erich Honecker. There is no reason to believe that it is going to work this time. All patriotic Ethiopians know Judge Bertukan is paying the price for our freedom. We know that Judge Bertukan is the reflection our dreams and our hope for our ancient kingdom. We share the sentiments of the late Senator Kennedy when he said ‘the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.’ Hear this .WAV 173K The dream of the righteous and just Ethiopia will never die. We, that is you, and I, we are the future. Never doubt that. Ethiopia will rise up again.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1920779/posts

http://jch.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/39/3/403\

http://www.brandeis.edu/investigate/gender/adoption/ethiopia.html

Numbers from AICAN (Australian Intercountry Adoption Network)’s Statistics page.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2009/03/19/f-ethiopia-adoption.html?ref=rss

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=45100

http://ethio-governance.blogspot.com/

http://romania-forexportonly.blogspot.com/2009/03/solidarity-committee-for-ethiopian.html

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23026719-38200,00.html

Ethiopian Woman Missing in Washington State

Monday, September 7th, 2009

CAMAS, Washington (KPTV) — Camas police are searching for a 27-year-old woman who was reported missing Friday.

Merseret Belay, who worked as a nanny in Camas, was last seen on Northwest 19th Circle at 11 p.m. on Thursday. She was reported missing by her employer at 8:30 a.m. Friday.

Belay, who is from Ethiopia, is in the United States on a temporary visa and was scheduled to leave with her employer for Europe on Friday.

In the past, she has frequented Pioneer Square in downtown Portland and Esther Short Park on 192nd Avenue in Vancouver. Belay does not have any family or friends in the area and police believe she left on her own.

Another Ethiopian implicated in $65 million UK jewel robbery

Monday, September 7th, 2009

LONDON (AP) — British police charged a man with attempted murder Saturday in connection with a $65 million jewelry robbery in London last month.

Aman Kassaye, 24, an immigrant from Ethiopia, faces the most serious charge so far in the Aug. 6 robbery of Graff Diamonds. Six other men have already been charged with conspiracy to rob the prestigious Bond Street jeweler of diamond rings, bracelets, and watches.

Amateur video shot outside the store appeared to capture the aftermath of the robbery and images of screaming shoppers ducking for cover as a shot is fired. No one was hurt in the robbery, one of the biggest in British history.

Security camera footage released by police shortly after the theft showed two men in suits being let into the store, where police say they pulled out guns, briefly took an employee hostage and escaped in a series of getaway cars across central London. Police said at the time they believed others helped the pair escape.

A British newspaper reported last month that the men were wearing stick-on prosthetic faces made from liquid latex. Police have refused to comment on the claim and declined to say whether any jewelry had been recovered.

Besides attempted murder, Kassaye is charged with conspiracy to rob, unlawful imprisonment, and using a handgun to avoid arrest. He was due to appear at a London court Monday.

Meanwhile, London Police say a ninth suspect in one of Britain’s largest robberies ever has been detained.

The 22-year-old is suspected of helping to plot the Aug. 6 theft of $65 million worth of rings, bracelets, necklaces and watches from Graff Diamonds’ flagship store in London.

Police say two men walked into the store, pulled out guns, briefly took an employee hostage and escaped with the jewels in a series of getaway cars.

The newest suspect detained Monday has not been identified pending formal charges. Seven others are charged with conspiracy to rob the Bond Street jeweler.

The eighth has been released on bail and has not been charged.

British National Party attacks Ethiopian asylum seekers

Monday, September 7th, 2009

In a news release issued on Friday, the British National Party (BNP) calls Ethiopian political asylum seeks parasites. BNP is angry at the Ethiopian athletes who have recently defected and sought political asylum in the U.K. The ignorant BNP officials should be angry at their own government for financing the ruling tribal junta in Ethiopia that is terrorizing and brutalizing Ethiopians, forcing tens of thousands of them to flee. Read the idiotic news release by the BNP below:

(BNP News) — Yet another saga in the mad asylum racket which plagues Britain is about to be written with the news that four Ethiopian athletes have absconded from their London hotel and will shortly claim “asylum.”

The four athletes were among a team of 10 due to compete in Scotland. The first scrounger fled his team immediately after he got through border control at Heathrow airport.

The other three vanished from the team hotel before they were due to catch a flight to Edinburgh.

Ethiopian team co-ordinator Dagmawit Amare was quoted in the media as saying, “We are not worried about the safety of the athletes who disappeared because it appears obvious they are seeking asylum.”

The Ethiopian embassy in London is liaising with the Home Office over the missing athletes and their expected claims for asylum.

The incident has been reported to UK authorities, Scottish Athletics said. “It represents our worst scenario in inviting them,” meet manager Ross Cunningham said in a statement.

A Scottish athletics spokesman was quoted as saying that the incident was “disappointing and we will have to think seriously about whether we put ourselves in this position again. The visas were granted in good faith and we did not envisage finding ourselves in this situation.”

Britain’s insane asylum policy states that anyone from anywhere can set foot on Britain, claim asylum, and then must be given shelter until their application is heard — which can take up to two years.

During this time, the scroungers live off the taxpayer and receive preferential treatment in housing and benefits.

Ironically, Ethiopia itself has a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering approximately 201,700. The Ethiopian government forces all refugees to live in tent camps and from time to time, forcibly deports large numbers.

Ethiopia risks pre-election violence in 2010 – study

Monday, September 7th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) — Ethiopia could suffer ethnic violence next year ahead of its first national elections since a 2005 poll triggered street clashes following a disputed victory for the government, a think tank has said.

In a study released over the weekend, the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned of the potential for a violent eruption of conflict ahead of the election scheduled for May 2010 because of rising ethnic tensions and dissent.

“The international community must stop ignoring and downplaying these problems and encourage meaningful democratic governance in the country,” the ICG said in a statement.

Ethiopian government officials were not immediately available to comment.

The 2005 elections were touted as Ethiopia’s first truly democratic poll. But they ended in bloodshed after the government declared victory and the opposition cried foul.

Police and soldiers then killed about 200 people who had taken to the streets in protest. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi accused the demonstrators of trying to topple the government.

Rights groups regularly accuse his administration of cracking down on opponents. One party leader has been jailed and several former and serving military officers have been charged in recent months with plotting to oust Meles.

The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is made up of parties from all major ethnic groups.

It introduced a system of “ethnic federalism” when it took power in 1991, after a communist regime was toppled, with major ethnicities controlling the regions where they dominate.

The government says that gives all ethnicities equal power.

“Ethnic federalism has not dampened conflict, but rather increased competition among groups fighting for land, natural resources, administrative boundaries and government budgets,” said Francois Grignon, director of the ICG’s Africa Program.

“This concept has powerfully promoted ethnic self-awareness among all groups and failed to accommodate grievances.”

The ICG called on donors who give money to sub-Saharan Africa’s second most populous country — which is one of the world’s biggest recipients of foreign aid — to put pressure on Meles’ government.

(Reporting by Barry Malone; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Africa's dictators and their image cleaners in Washington

Monday, September 7th, 2009

WASHINGTON (Africa Insight) — The Kenyan government has reportedly retained a top Washington public relations firm to improve its image in the United States at a reported cost of Sh129 million ($1.7 million) over the next two years. According to the Paris-based Indian Ocean Newsletter, CLS & Associates have added the Kenyan Government to their list of clients.

By retaining the firm, Kenya has joined a growing list of countries including some in Africa that rely on lobbyists to protect and promote their interests in Washington. This subculture reflects a steady decline and privatisation of diplomacy and has an impact on growth of democracy in Africa.

Power and influence are the trademarks of Washington D.C.’s K Street, a major thoroughfare that is known as a hotbed for over 14,000 lobbyists, advocacy groups and think tanks who, in 2008, cumulatively made an estimated $3.30 billion (Sh251 billion). Lobbying, a multi-billion dollar profession, involves all attempts to influence legislators and officials, whether by other legislators, constituents, or organized groups.

The strongest lobbies promoting foreign interests are driven by cohesive ethnic population groups in the United States such as Armenians, Greeks, Taiwanese and Irish. Arguably, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is the most influential and well connected lobby in America whose work is to defend Israel’s hard line stand on the Palestinians at the same time deflecting criticism of its military operations in the Palestinian territory especially when dealing with Hezbollah.

For Africa, there exists the Africa Action group, which is the oldest organisation in the US working for Africa affairs, lobbying on issues that fit into the broad goal of political, economic and social justice in Africa. The fifty-year old African Studies Association – a vocal conglomerate of people with a scholarly and professional interest in Africa is yet another African lobby. Lastly is the Trans Africa Forum which advocates human rights and social justice in the continent.

John Newhouse in the article ‘Diplomacy Inc’ (Foreign Affairs May/June 2009) argues that advantages of using lobbyists emanate from the fact that they operate within the system in ways that experienced diplomats cannot. This is not to negate the work of foreign embassies, but lobbyists can identify with a domestic ethnic bloc even though the bloc is paid by a foreign government.

Ethnic politics can hence trump corporate interests and, more important, influence what agencies within the US government may see as the national interest. Lobbying firms are also able to put forward arguments in ways that Ambassadors cannot, in part due to the diplomacy rules they operate under.

Compiled fact sheets on Kenya

It has also been argued that even the US government has become so complex that only insiders, such as former members of Congress or congressional staff members turned lobbyists, can navigate its confusing structure. In addition, foreign missions, including those representing African countries, have limited resources and hence are spread thin, with limited access to the people and offices that matter. Thus, it becomes necessary to engage lobbyists who will cover much of the legwork in Congress for the client country.

Nations retain a specific lobbying firm with an eye to extracting maximum advantage in areas such as foreign aid, investments and trade matters. Whatever it is they want, the lobbying firms in Washington help them get it.

In the initial phase of its work, CLS is said to have compiled a series of eight fact sheets on Kenya for distribution to the US media, government officials in Washington and American corporate executives.

These brief releases attempt to put a positive spin on Kenya’s efforts at national reconciliation, its fight against corruption and the country’s security ties with the United States. The strategy appears to be designed to highlight considerations that are already at the forefront of President Barrack Obama administration’s relations with the Kenya’s coalition government.

Lobbying firms are also expected to deflect criticism against their client country, when the US Congress takes note, concerning violations of human rights. Congressional indignation, after all, may lead to partial or total economic and financial sanctions. However, it is this capability of lobbyists to shield its client country from human rights accountability and scrutiny that posses a challenge to Africa’s democracy.

Flipping through the US State Department annual global survey of human rights for the past four years, it is noticeable that many of the African countries known as human rights violators have got significant support from the American government whether military assistance (Egypt), development aid (Nigeria), or expanded trade opportunities (Angola, Cameroon).

It is also worth noting that most of these countries have natural resources that they could have appropriated for American support. Nevertheless, even the best natural resource-endowed regimes need help navigating the bureaucratic seas of Washington, and it is their great fortune that, for the right price, countless lobbyists are willing to captain even the foulest of ships.

During the 2008 US Presidential campaigns, the top adviser to US Senator John McCain, then prospective Republican Party nominee for president, was heavily criticised for his work on behalf of former President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya and other past African leaders accused of human rights abuses.

Repackaged Savimbi

Charles Black Jnr, a longtime Washington power broker, was a well-paid lobbyist for Kenya’s government in the late 1980s and into the 1990s. A report by the non-governmental Centre for Public Integrity documented that Black’s firm, Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly Public Affairs Co., was paid about $1.5 million (Sh114 million) by the Kenyan government from 1990 to 1993. The money was intended to win influence for Kenya with the US Congress, the White House, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and an array of Washington-based NGOs.

Black’s firm also helped orchestrate the widely publicised 1989 burning of $3 million (Sh228 million) worth of poached elephant tusks in Nairobi National Park by the former President. Moi’s private visit to the United States in 1990 was in part organised by Mr Black’s firm and it also handled media relations during the visit, including a press briefing by Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Robert Ouko, who would be assassinated on returning to Kenya. Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly Public Affairs Co. also represented DR Congo (then Zaire) dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, Nigerian military ruler Gen Ibrahim Babangida, Somalia strongman Mohamed Siad Barre, and Angola rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. It greatly helped repackage Savimbi as a valiant anti-communist “freedom fighter.”

In 2004, six former members of Congress served as “election observers” in Cameroon and offered positive assessment of President Paul Biya’s overwhelming reelection victory. However, it was later found out that the so called observers had been financed by the firm of Patton Boggs, which worked for and was paid by the Biya government.

Egypt, historically one of the largest recipients of US foreign aid, has also mounted a large effort to preserve American funding in a case that shows the power of well connected lobbyists. Nevertheless, critics have voiced that American aid has allowed Cairo’s political elite to put off much needed changes especially in democracy and governance that can spur growth.

Killed anti-Ethiopian bill

In June 2006, the Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act was introduced by Rep. Christopher Smith (Republican, New Jersey) proposing to put limits on military aid to Ethiopia — with the exception of peacekeeping and anti-terrorism programs — until the government released all political prisoners and provided fair and speedy trials to other prisoners held without charges. Most of these political prisoners had been arrested during the 2005 post election protests following the re-election of vote stealing by Prime Minister tribal warlord Meles Zenawi, which also left more than 500 people dead.

The bill swiftly passed the House International Relations Committee with bipartisan support with the Ethiopian diaspora in America launching letter and e-mail campaigns to push the legislation in Congress. To counter this effort, the Ethiopian government hired a well-established law and lobbying firm, DLA Piper, to protect its interests in Washington at a cost of $2.3million.

The lobby shop in a memo argued that the bill compromised “the national security interests of both the United States and Ethiopia.” They also raised concerns about Somalia that Addis Ababa and the United States shared. Through numerous meetings and lobbying, eventually the bill never made it to the House floor. It has been argued that lobbying is undesirable because it allows people with particular interests and who represent a minority to gain special access to law-makers and through contributions and favours have controversial relationships with representatives. This is a danger to Africa’s democracy including settling its internal conflicts. A case in point is of Western Sahara which has been fighting for independence from Morocco — and has been the subject of over 34 UN Security Council resolutions since 1999.

In late 2007 and 2008, the desert region was a top priority for Morocco’s hired lobbyists who sought the support of the Congress in the territorial dispute. In 1991, the United Nations had brokered a cease-fire agreement between Morocco and the Polisario Front, a group fighting for Western Sahara’s independence. Part of the terms of that deal included holding a referendum to determine the territory’s final status.

In 2007, Morocco issued a proposal to grant Western Sahara autonomy within sovereign Morocco. The US initially welcomed the proposal, and direct talks began between Morocco and the Polisario with the involvement of Algeria, which supports self-determination for the Sahrawi tribes from the area.

Behind the scenes was the work of lobbyists for both parties. By the end of negotiations according to records released by Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the Algerian government’s lobbyists had 36 contacts with members of Congress and staff promoting self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.

The Algerians paid a modest $416,000 (Sh31.6 million) in lobbying fees. By comparison, lobbyists for the government of Morocco had 305 contacts with members of Congress and their staff. Morocco paid $3.4 million (Sh258 million) in lobbying expenses — putting it among the top foreign government spenders for FARA filings in the period.

The intense campaign resulted in a bipartisan group of some 173 House members signing on to a statement supporting Morocco’s offer of autonomy for the region without formal independence. President Bush also expressed support for Morocco’s plan, a decision that has since been reversed by President Obama who backs a Western Sahara State.

Obama reining in lobbyists

It is due to this power to influence that President Obama made lobbying a key target of his ethics policies, sharply limiting their access to the administration and forbidding appointment of former lobbyists in the government without special waivers. The moves angered many lobbying groups but it is doubtful if it has made any impact on the booming business on K Street.

It is not only in America where the lobbyists are based. There are currently around 15,000 lobbyists in Brussels, the headquarters of European Union, seeking to influence its legislative process. In Britain, the lobbying industry has been steadily growing in recent years and was estimated by the Hansard Society in 2007 to be worth £1.9 billion (Sh234 billion) and employs 14,000 people. The House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee held an investigation into lobbying, and its 2009 report called for “a statutory register of lobbying activity to bring greater transparency to the dealings between Whitehall decision makers and outside interests.”

It is thus clear that lobbyists have gained considerable influence in Washington and their work is affecting how different Africa countries run their affairs. Whereas there are some lobbyists who carry out harmless and good work, others continue to be used by African leaders to stifle the continent’s democracy.

For the growth of the continent and stronger foreign policy ties, Washington needs to assist fragile democracies reform and strengthen their institutions instead of bowing to pressure from lobbyists working for the interests of the political elite.

At the same time, Africans need to elect strong capable leaders who view success as delivering development and reducing poverty rather than siphoning public resources and buying support or rigging elections. This will be an easier route to take than the power of lobby groups which is a short term gain mostly for the minority.

(Africa Insight is an initiative of the Nation Media Group’s Africa Media Network Project)

Ethiopia: Acute Watery Diarrhea reported through out Addis Ababa

Monday, September 7th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (UN) — Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD) cases have been reported from all ten sub-cities in Addis Ababa, with the highest caseload recorded from Akaki/Kaliti, Addis Ketema, Arada and Kolfe, according to official reports from the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH). The outbreak also continues to spread in other regions of the country and new woredas are reportedly affected in Amhara, Oromiya, Dire Dawa and SNNPR. Between 17 and 23 August (34th eepidemiological week), a total of 2,330 new cases of AWD and 22 deaths with 0.9 per cent case fatality rate have been reported from 61 woredas and 10 sub-cities in Addis Ababa, Afar, Amhara, Somali, Oromiya and SNNPR. The ongoing kiremt rains, and the continuous movement of pilgrims and migrant laborers to and from holy water sites and private farms are contributing to the spread of the disease. The re-opening of schools in mid-September also requires a special attention.

Response is ongoing at both federal and regional levels. The central command center continues to provide guidance, meeting twice a day to plan and coordinate response activities. In response to the US$ 500,000 financial request to contain the outbreak in Addis Ababa, WHO committed US$ 30,000 for surveillance, case management and training activities, while UNICEF committed US$ 100,000 for training and operational costs. UNICEF also sent 20,000 bottles of water guards to Addis Ababa health bureau to enable 20,000 households to access clean water for a period of one month. Furthermore, UNICEF is finalizing preparations to establish sanitation facilities at Gishen Mariam, Tsadkane and Wonkshet churches in Amhara in the coming two weeks. UNICEF sent two Case Treatment Center (CTC) kits each to Dire Dawa and South Wollo zone of Amhara Region. For more information contact: who-wro@et.afro.who.int & kmcdonald@unicef.org

Seasonal Update

The latest WFP/FEWSNET food security update indicates that the performance of the kiremt rains in most meher growing areas to date remains below normal, including in some western surplus producing areas where the rains had late onset and erratic performance. The situation could disrupt the food security situation in these areas that managed to sustain normal condition despite various shocks experienced in the past five years. The late onset of the kiremt rains has interrupted timely planting of meher crops including wheat, barley, peas, beans and flax. Consequently, the report indicates that most shortmaturing meher crops are considerably behind their normal phonological stages and are unlikely to reach full maturity unless the rains extend beyond their normal cessation period in September. The prospect for long cycle maize and sorghum crops, which constitute about 50 percent of the total national cereal production, is also not promising in many areas due to poor 2009 belg/gu rains (February to May) and the below normal performance of the current kiremt rains. Meanwhile, food insecurity continues to affect vulnerable populations in northeastern highlands of Amhara, Southern Tigray, Afar, eastern parts of Oromiya and most parts in SNNPR. The report recommends for timely preparation of a comprehensive contingency plan given the poor meher production prospects in the coming months. For more information contact: wfp.addisababa@wfp.org & ethiopia@fews.net

Nutrition Update

UNICEF reports that admissions to Therapeutic Feeding Programmes (TFPs) continues to increase partly due to the improved access and service coverage with the implementation of the government’s Out-patient Therapeutic Programmes (OTP) rollout strategy. The admission reporting rate and information on key performance indicators for TFPs, however, remain very poor, indicating the need for a strategy to improve report completion rates nationwide. In Amhara Region, for instance, the report completion rate for the January to June period is as low as 10.9 per cent. Meanwhile, training of health extension workers for the rollout of TFP in Amhara, Oromiya, Tigray and SNNP is ongoing, with more than 80 per cent of the planned activities completed in Amhara, SNNP and Tigray, while it is only 50 per cent accomplished for Oromiya. Monitoring activities of TFP interventions also continue. In SNNPR, the observations made by monitoring teams on supplies, quality of services and modalities of collaboration between AWD response activities and OTP services have been discussed with the Regional Health Bureau. In Oromiya, delay of fund disbursement by the RHB has hindered the progress of monitoring activities. For more information contact: kmcdonald@unicef.org

Observation Mission Underway in Akobo and Wanthawa, Gambella

A rapid joint observation mission, led by Disaster Risk Management Food Security Sector (DRMFSS), including representatives from the Gambella Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Bureau, UNICEF, OCHA, WFP and FOA, is currently underway in Akobo and Wanthawa woredas. The mission is assessing the impact of the spill-over effect of the recent conflict in Southern Sudan on the humanitarian situation as well as the impact of poor seasonal rains in the general food security situation in the areas. The team will discuss with local authorities and communities to establish a mechanism for distribution of relief items. Due to access constraints, the assessment is being conducted by boat. For more information contact: ocha-eth@un.org

Improvement in Logistics

WFP reports progress in logistics particularly in trucking capacity with actual allocation of 130 trucks per day to transport food from ports to in-country warehouses. Meanwhile, efforts continue to further improve the situation at the ports to facilitate timely in-country arrival of relief items. Between 12 and 20 August, a joint mission to Sudan led by the State Minister of DRMFSS and the Country Director of WFP assessed the port Sudan-Ethiopia corridor and discussed continued use of Port- Sudan to serve the north western part of the country. In addition, WFP also undertook a recent visit to Djibouti to discuss the possibility of allocating additional berth space, review transport capacity progress and introduce the WFP Djibouti office to officials.

For more information contact: wfp.addisababa@wfp.org

Mugged on "K" Street?

Monday, September 7th, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

Remember H.R. 2003?

Do you remember H.R. 2003 (“Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act”)? That was a bill sponsored by Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.) to promote the “advancement of human rights, democracy, independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press, peacekeeping capacity building, and economic development in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.” It passed by a unanimous vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on October 2, 2007. A motley crew of human rights advocates and defenders, grassroots activists, international human rights organizations and others toiled long and hard to help get that bill passed. While we were pounding the pavement on Capitol Hill, guess what the other side was doing?

Getting Fleeced on “K” Street

Dick Armey’s army at DLA Piper was leading the cavalry charge on the Hill against H.R. 2003. Or were they? The evidence from the official lobbying reports show that the “K” Street boys (“K” street is the address of choice for the high powered Washington lobbyists) were on “easy street” lobbying for the dictators in Ethiopia. In the Sharkdom of Lobbying, DLA Piper is BIG, “with 3,500 lawyers located in 29 countries and 67 offices throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the US.” Between 9/01/2007-7/30/2008, DLA Piper was “variously” paid by the “Government of Ethiopia” $1,351,851.25 for fees and expenses. DLA Piper made several hundred “contacts” with U.S. officials, media reps and others for the “Government of Ethiopia.” With the exception of a few face-to-face meetings with members of Congress, all of the other official contacts were with congressional staffers by email. (See fn. 1) The Piper firm made over 114 contacts with U.S. officials on H.R. 2003, almost all of them by email to Congressional staffers.

The Dewey and LeBoeuf (DL) firm was also retained to do additional lobbying. DL is a prominent “white-shoe firm” (a phrase used to describe leading American professional services firms that have been in existence for more than a century) with many Fortune 500 clients. Between 12/26/2007 and 02/01/2008, DL snagged four payments from the “Government of Ethiopia” ($183,307.48; $28,642.50; $73,962.30; $300,000) for professional fees and expenses. DL arranged a total of 17 face-to-face meetings and 13 telephone contacts, principally with officials in the U.S. State Department Office of East African Affairs and the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs. (See fn. 1.)

The “Government of Ethiopia” paid the Mark Saylor public relations firm $328,040.18 for consulting fees and expenses between 3/19/2007 and 9/29/2008. (See fn. 1.) The firm made 78 phone calls, wrote 35 emails and arranged 13 in-person meetings, mostly with representatives of major U.S. media outlets. Saylor claims that its “principals serve as trusted advisors, offering clients strategic and tactical counsel on sensitive matters.” Highlighting its “aggressive” style, Saylor brags: “We find opportunities where others see only disaster. We combine swift action with careful judgment.” Saylor sure knows how to find opportunity in disaster for themselves.

The total payments by the “Government of Ethiopia” to the various lobbying firms in 2007-2008 exceeded $2,265,802.

Inscrutably, between November 2007 and October 2008, “lobbyist payments from Ethiopian People Revolutionary Party” were made in the amount of over $91,418 12 “for membership fee and contribution.” [2] (See fn. 2.)

Paying the Piper of “K” Street?

The gold diggers of “K” Street can spot a sucker a mile away. Dick Armey (who resigned from DLA Piper a couple of weeks ago over the bad publicity caused by his FreedomWorks organization turning out anti-heath care reform protesters to disrupt town hall meetings) was the point man lobbying to defeat H.R. 5680 (later H.R. 2003) because the dictators in Ethiopia believed he could best defend their cause on the Hill. After all, Armey was a former republican majority leader in the House and the second most powerful person in that institution. He was also one of the key leaders of the “Republican Revolution” which enabled Republicans to gain control of Congress in 1994. Armey was more connected to political power on the Hill than Siamese twins to each other. The dictators thought he could walk on water. Indeed, Armey did a pretty good job by making sure that the bill never saw the light of day on the House floor after it passed committee in October, 2007. No doubt, he had Republican speaker Dennis Hastert’s ear on the issue. But Democrats “thumped” the Republicans in November 2007, and the whole game changed.[3]

But what really happened to the dictators of Ethiopia on “K” Street? To say they were taken to the cleaners is to state the obvious. They paid millions to have lobbyists shovel hundreds of emails to Congressional staffers, make a few telephone calls and arrange even fewer in-person meetings with American officials. That is not exactly getting the biggest bang for one’s lobbying buck. What a monumental waste of the scarce resources of one of the poorest countries in the world! What a rip-off! But the old saw must be true: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

To fathom what happened to the dictators on “K” Street, one must appreciate the lobbying industry and its role in the American political process. Lobbyists (a term which came in to use in the late 1800s to describe the wheelers and dealers who hanged out in government building lobbies to chat with law makers before legislative sessions) are a special breed of influence peddlers in the American political system. Even though their activities are fully protected by the expressive freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, lobbyists suffer from a bad public image. In the past few years, lobbyists have been at the center of various high profile political corruption scandals in Washington, and various members of Congress were forced to resign or ended up in jail.

Lobbyists are often hired because of their presumed expertise in the legislative process, their knowledge of certain areas of public policy and special connections with certain influential members of Congress and their staff. As of 2007, there were some 15,000 actively registered lobbyists in Washington, and spending on lobbying exceeded $3.3 billion in 2008. In theory, the principal task of lobbyists in the legislative process is to prepare and present information to members of Congress and their staff, and to set up and attend face-to-face meetings. They also play a critical role in arranging testimony for Congressional hearings. In practice, they do a lot more, including drafting legislation, mobilizing grassroots activists, campaign fund raising and other activities. The most effective lobbyists are those with experience as Congressional insiders, often former members or staffers who use their skills and experience to navigate the circuitous legislative process.

For the dictators, Armey and DLA Piper may have appeared to be winning hands in the Republican-controlled Congress. Armey was at the top of his game. They never thought the Republicans would be dislodged from power, and arrogantly and ill-advisedly put all their eggs in the Republican basket. To add insult to injury, they targeted some powerful members of Congress and made them enemies by vilifying and harshly criticizing them. When the Democrats took control of the House, it was time for the dictators to pay the piper. They had burned their bridges and discredited themselves with Hill Democrats, and now they are facing the music for their arrogant miscalculations.

Banana Republic Running (Buying) Capitol Hill?

“While they are entitled to their own opinion,” quipped the arch dictator in Ethiopia, “this government and this country are incapable, unwilling and unable to be run like some banana republic from Capitol Hill. It is very worrisome that some of these individuals appear to have entertained such views.”

What is “very worrisome”, indeed downright creepy, is the fact that an outlaw dictator could spend millions of dollars to influence (buy) the Government of the United States while berating and castigating it. But that’s one of the great things about America: Even the worst human rights abusers, thugs and criminals in the world are given the opportunity to be heard by the representatives of the American people. This does not mean that there are no reasons to be alarmed over the fact that dictators are spending millions to buy influence and corrupt American democracy. We should all be concerned. These dictators are not accountable to the American people, and could not care less about the requirements of the U.S. Constitution. Hiding behind the silk curtains of the lobbying firms and defended by legions of lobbyists, these dictatorships could inflict serious damage by depriving American citizens of their right to clean government. More troubling is the fact that these dictators could overwhelm the efforts of grassroots efforts of American citizens by spending their millions like a drunken sailor.

But there is something weird about the whole situation. Today sleazy dictators are using lobbyists to do work normally and traditionally done by diplomatic missions. While most governments who uphold the rule of law seek to influence American policy through normal diplomatic channels, dictators are increasingly relying on lobbyists and fat cat influence peddlers to circumvent the regular diplomatic process. This presents an obvious question: What do the fully staffed and resourced diplomatic missions do in their day jobs?

Anyway, under Barack Obama’s watch, the panhandling dictators are being defanged so that they will not spread their venom in the American body politics. No doubt, they will keep trying new tricks to get back in the game. But President Obama has made his position crystal clear to Africa’s tin pot dictators: “Africa’s future is up to Africans,” and “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.”

The Little People United Can Never Be Defeated

Back in late 2007, supporters of Ethiopian human rights were all bent out of shape worrying that Armey’s army would vanquish us on the legislative battlefield on Capitol Hill. But the E-Mail Warriors of DLA Piper, DL and Saylor proved to be no match for the defiant ragtag crew of pavement-pounding, Capitol-Hill-hoofing Ethiopian grassroots advocates. For the millions they paid to lobbyists, the dictators could not get a single vote against H.R. 2003 on the House floor. The bill got stuck in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and failed to make it to the Senate floor because of entangled Senate procedures, unrelated to its merits.

What is the lesson to be learned? The dictators can spend millions on lobbying to buy American politicians to do their bidding. They can spend all the money they want to change their ugly image. But the fact remains that even the mighty Goliath DLA Piper could be defeated if thousands of little Davids band together.[4] If the little people unite, they can kick the rumps of the “K” Street boys and their sleazy paymasters: Exhibit A — H.R. 2003.
——————–
[1] http://foreignlobbying.org/client/Government%20of%20Ethiopia/
[2] http://foreignlobbying.org/client/Ethiopian%20People%20Revolutionary%20Party/
[3] http://almariamforthedefense.blogspot.com/2006/11/farewell-mr-hastert-good-bye-mr-armey.html
[4] http://almariamforthedefense.blogspot.com/2007/09/letter-to-dla-piper.html

Canadian going tribal in Ethiopia

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

By Robin Esrock | Toronto Star

OMO VALLEY, ETHIOPIA –- It’s the traveler’s Catch-22. We want to explore and interact with exotic people from exotic lands, but the fact that we’re interacting changes the dynamics of the encounter. This unfortunate reality is illustrated in southern Ethiopia, one of the most culturally diverse regions on the planet.

Going tribal in Ethiopia
A photo op of this boy, or any other member of most
Ethiopian tribes, involves a cash transaction that can
make a traveller feel sad and empty.
[Photo by ROBIN ESROCK]

Fifty-three tribes inhabit the area, most have unique traditions that range from incredible art to self-inflicted mutilation. Tour operators offer the chance to meet several of the tribes found in or around the southern Omo Valley, and an increasing number of tourists brave horrific roads and long drives in order to go tribal. But the experience comes with challenges.

The root of the problem is popularly known as the “Ferengi (Aramaic for foreigner) Frenzy,” the mob that surrounds tourists in the region wherever they seem to go. Whether it is the result of prolific non-government organizations (NGOs), aid workers or irresponsible tourists, ferengis are heavily associated, by rural people in the south, with free handouts. While it is tradition in Ethiopia to refuse gifts and be generous with what you have, anyone booking a “tribal” tour will find these traditions hard to come by. Instead, ferengis (also the name of an alien race from the Star Trek series) are often mobbed for money, pens, empty water bottles, anything. Especially, and sadly, by children with few clothes.

Our Land Cruiser stopped off the side of the highway to visit a band of Alaba, a Muslim tribe living in dark mud huts with thatch coverings. Immediately, children with their hands out surrounded me as our guide negotiated a price with the leader of the family. An argument ensued, a price was settled, the atmosphere became as welcoming as a doctor’s waiting room. A band of several dozen people stood looking through me, admiring my cheap watch, pulling my shirt with the request of “one birr.” In Ethiopia, it is customary to pay anyone you take a picture of one or two birr for their image; one birr is equivalent to 10 cents Canadian. It’s fair and well-intentioned, but many locals now see it as a quick and easy way to make money.

Like many travellers, I always ask people permission to take their picture, with the aim of capturing a moment, an authentic image, the picture to speak a thousand words about life in that country. An Italian tourist expressed the problem when he told me, “I don’t mind paying for a photo, but I’m finding it hard to find people being natural. They want to pose for me, so I can pay them.”

After entering a dark, smoky hut and asking some casual questions, it was time to leave. Most tourists spend about 15 minutes with the tribe, longer than most exhibits in a zoo, but not by much. As uncomfortable as I felt, it was about to get much worse.

The Mursi Tribe, numbering between 6,000 and 10,000, are nomads in one of the country’s most remote regions. Famous for the clay lip plates worn as a sign of beauty by their women, ritual scarification and stick fighting, the Mursi are embroiled in an unfortunate dispute with the Africa Parks Board, which is creating national parks in the tribe’s roaming area.

As one of the most extreme tribes to be found anywhere on the continent, the Mursi have been visited by tourists for decades. Foreigners are fascinated by a “primitive” culture as alien to the West as whales are to poodles. It’s a three-day drive to the town of Jinko, and takes more than three hours to drive just 27 kilometres on a bulldozed dirt road into the Mago National Park.

My guide warned that visiting the tribe in the afternoon was a bad idea, because of rampant alcohol abuse and the unpredictability of violence within the group. The Mursi are also aggressive in charging for photos: one birr for an adult, one for a child, and three for a mother and child. They only accept crisp, new one-birr notes.

Deep in the bush, the four-by-four pulled up to a small village of a dozen thatch huts. Immediately, we were mobbed by a tribe both frightening, fascinating and thrillingly exotic. With their faces painted, the women made it impossible not to stare at them and their lips that extended inches below their chins.

“Take picture, take picture, take picture!” I was told, then pushed, poked and prodded by half-naked men, women and children, several of whom held semi-automatic rifles that were used in inter-tribe warfare. As more four-by-fours of tourists arrived, the tribe swept themselves into a frenzy, the tourists took photos while their subjects violently grabbed cash notes. More and more people did their best to get into the photo.

It was sickening, yet the photographs are undeniably incredible. “We want people to stay longer, some don’t even get out of the car. They come, take picture and leave,” a Mursi man told me. But how can tourists be expected to stay longer when they’re mobbed with such feverish aggression? When it was nothing less than a human zoo, everyone was exploited.

Perhaps the solution is organized structure, such as what I found with the Konzo. Tourists pay the government-run central office a fee to visit the tribe in the southern Omo Valley and are assigned a local guide.

While kids initially surrounded me with familiar pleas for money, the guide kept them at check, explaining fascinating traditions and customs. I was told that half the tourist fee is distributed to the tribe, and, although it might not be enough, it benefits all parties.

It is, of course, heartbreaking to turn down children, but aid organizations and charities say giving money, clothes or coveted empty water bottles in Ethiopia only breeds a culture of begging.

A nutritionist for a local NGO told me Ethiopia has moved on from the famine of the 1980s. Kids just want things as a sign of prestige. Better to donate to groups that know local traditions and how best to help.

(Robin Esrock is a Vancouver-based travel writer and TV host.)

Kenenisa Bekele shares $1 million with 2 other athletes in Brussels

Sunday, September 6th, 2009
Sanya Richards, Russian Jelena Isinbayeva and Ethiopian Kenenanisa Bekele
Sanya Richards, Russian Jelena Isinbayeva and
Ethiopian Kenenanisa Bekele in Brussels

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (DPA) — American Sanya Richards, Russian Jelena Isinbayeva and Ethiopian Kenenanisa Bekele Friday shared the one million dollar jackpot on offer at the Golden League series.

The jackpot is shared by the athletes who manage to win the same events at all six Golden League meets in one season.

Bekele looked beatable at one stage in his 5,000m race as he seemingly held back, but on the final straight he proved too strong for compatriot Imane Merga, who finished 0.35 seconds behind.

Bekele’s winning time was 12:55.31 seconds, while Vincent Chepkok took third place.

World record holder Jelena Isinbayeva failed at breaking her own world record of 5.07 metres, but as she managed to clear 4.70 with her first jump, she won the competition and $333,333.

Richards won the women’s 400m race – as she has in all five previous Golden League meets this season – and thus was the first athlete to be assured at least a share of the jackpot.

Richards, who also won the gold at the world championships last month, took first place in a world-best time this year of 48.83 seconds, beating Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu into second place by more than a second.

Ohuruogu finished in 50.43. Jamaican Shericka Williams was third.

Jamaican sprint sensation Usain Bolt again showed that he is currently unbeatable as he comfortably took the 200m in a time of 19.57.

A capacity crowd of 50,000 spectators, who braved moist conditions in the King Baudouin stadium, celebrated yet another display of complete dominance by Bolt, who last month won the sprint double at the world championships in Berlin.

American Wallace Spearman was second in 20.19.

Although Bolt did not run the 100m, it was still a Jamaican double as the bronze medal winner from Berlin took first place in 9.90 seconds, beating Americans Tyson Gay (10.00) and Darvis Patton (10.88) into second and third place.

In the women’s 100m race Carmelita Jeter won in a time of 10.88.

The Kenyan 4×1,500m relay team set a new world record, beating the 32-year-old previous best mark set by Germany in 1977. William Biwott, Gideon Gathimba, Geoffrey Rono and Augustine Choge won in a time of 14:36.23 minutes, to beat the oldest world record on book of the sport’s governing body International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Another impressive performance belonged to Kenya’s Paul Koech, who won the 3,000 steple chase in 8:04.05 minutes, beating his compatriot Richard Mateelong (8:06.92).

Third place went to Finland’s Jukka Keskisalo (8:13.34).

Investigation into U.S. State Dept Bureau of African Affairs

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

By Scott A Morgan

While Most Advocates for African Issues and Pundits were focused on other things such as the Visit to Africa by Secretary Clinton and the Comprehensive Policy Review towards Sudan,an Internal Investigation by the State Department into the Bureau of African Affairs revealed some unique and chilling remarks.

What did this report reveal about what the Bureau that will be dealing with what will be the next test in US Foreign Policy? This Department is underfunded, facing staffing shortfalls, burdened with demands, has a public diplomacy program that in the words of the report is “failed”, and has questions regarding the priorites of long term planning. Despite these shortcomings the report by the State Department Inspector General Praised the Work of the Bureau.

The evaluation into the Bureau took place between April 20th and June 9th of this year. It should be noted that Johnnie Carson who was nominated by President Obama to this post assumed this position while review was underway. Before Mr. Carson took over Philip Carter III was the acting Undersecretary. The review viewed that the time under the stewardship of Mr. Carter was a time of “renewal”. The report sees Mr. Carson as a Strong Leader for this position.

Some of the lowlights that were also revealed in this report were that Several Unnamed Embassies have significant morale, staffing and leadership issues. There was also a lack of communication from the regional desks to the front office and disinterest in all posts but those that deal with Crisis Situations. All in all this does not bode well for the Secretary of State but could adversely affect decisions made by the President as well.

The Lack of foresight in planning affects several aspects of US African Policy. One glaring example was in Food Aid. Quoting the report” The United States feeds Africa,it is not focusing as it might (should) on helping Africans feed themselves.” Another example was in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The US funds programs that focus more on medication than on prevention of the Spread of this Deadly Disease. The Main function of most humanitarian programs centered around PEPFAR and little if any resources were allocated for education and combating HIV/AIDS.

Another point of controversy is AFRICOM. This newest command of the US Military was resented by members of the Bureau. More often than not the reason was that the Military was getting More Money allocated to it then their State Department Counterparts. For Example A Military Information Support Team dealing with Somalia received $ 600,000 while the State Department got $ 30,000. It should be noted that the Military has resources that State either dreams about or resents. The IG also suggested that the Peacekeeping Training and Support Programs be transferred to AFRICOM if the funding does not increase.

The IG report found that AGOA (Africa Growth and Opportunity Act) has had margainal success due to several factors including poor infrastructure, lack of credit and not meeting the goal imposed by Washington. It also found that within the Bureau that Somalia is the hot button issue but in the grassroots here in the US the Militia Activites are a rising concern as well.

This report is a good news/bad news for the Administration. Africa does have high hopes and expectations of the President. The Military Command is better funded for some missions. Morale is low but the job is increasingly become more and more crucial on a daily basis. Nothing changes poor morale like having some successes. Clearly the State Department needs some when it comes to Africa.

(The author can be reached at confusedeagleusa@yahoo.com)

No such thing as ethnic groups, researchers say

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

This study may also apply to Ethiopia.

(ScienceDaily) — Central Asian ethnic groups are more defined by societal rules than ancestry. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Genetics found that overall there are more genetic differences within ethnic groups than between them, indicating that separate ‘ethnic groups’ exist in the mind more than the blood.

Evelyne Heyer, from the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, France, led an international team of researchers who studied mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome data from several populations of two major language ethnic groups of Central Asia, the Turkic and Indo-Iranian groups.

She said: “Our results indicate that, for at least two of the Turkic groups in Central Asia, ethnicity is a constructed social system maintaining genetic boundaries with other groups, rather than being the outcome of common genetic ancestry.”

The boundaries used by individuals to distinguish themselves from members of other ethnic groups are generally cultural, linguistic, economic, religious and political. Heyer and her colleagues confirm the absence of common ancestry in a specific ethnic group; there were on average more differences between members of the same ethnic group than there were between groups.

Speaking about these findings, Heyer said: “Analysis of genetic data, such as in this study, is an important tool for investigating ethnological issues.”

Ethiopia: Ethnic Federalism and Its Discontents

Friday, September 4th, 2009

The following is a 45-page report that is issued today by International Crisis Group on ethnic politics in Ethiopia

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) [a cover organization for tribalist Tigrean People Liberation Front ({www:Woyanne})], led by its chairman and prime minister, Meles Zenawi, has radically reformed Ethiopia’s political system. The regime transformed the hitherto centralised state into the Federal Democratic Republic and also redefined citizenship, politics and identity on ethnic grounds. The intent was to create a more prosperous, just and representative state for all its people. Yet, despite continued economic growth and promised democratization, there is growing discontent with the EPRDF’s ethnically defined state and rigid grip on power and fears of continued inter-ethnic conflict. The international community should take Ethiopia’s governance problems much more seriously and adopt a more principled position towards the government. Without genuine multi-party democracy, the tensions and pressures in Ethiopia’s polities will only grow, greatly increasing the possibility of a violent eruption that would destabilise the country and region.

The endeavour to transform Ethiopia into a federal state is led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has dominated the coalition of ethno-nationalist parties that is the EPRDF since the removal in 1991 of the Derg, the security services committee that overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974. The EPRDF quickly institutionalised the TPLF’s policy of people’s rights to self-determination and self-rule. The federal constitution ratified in 1994 defined the country’s structure as a multicultural federation based on ethno-national representation.

The government has created nine ethnic-based regional states and two federally administered city-states. The result is an asymmetrical federation that combines populous regional states like Oromiya and Amhara in the central highlands with sparsely populated and underdeveloped ones like Gambella and Somali. Although the constitution vests all powers not attributed to the federal government in them, the regional states are in fact weak.

The constitution was applauded for its commitment to liberal democracy and respect for political freedoms and human rights. But while the EPRDF promises democracy, it has not accepted that the opposition is qualified to take power via the ballot box and tends to regard the expression of differing views and interests as a form of betrayal. Before 2005, its electoral superiority was ensured by the limited national appeal and outreach of the predominantly ethnically based opposition parties. Divided and disorganised, the reach of those parties rarely went beyond Addis Ababa. When the opposition was able to challenge at local, regional or federal levels, it faced threats, harassment and arrest. With the opportunity in 2005 to take over the Addis Ababa city council in what would have been the first democratic change of a major administration in the country’s history, the opposition withdrew from the political process to protest flaws in the overall election.

The EPRDF did not feel threatened until the 2005 federal and regional elections. The crackdown that year on the opposition demonstrated the extent to which the regime is willing to ignore popular protest and foreign criticism to hold on to power. The 2008 local and by-elections went much more smoothly, in large part because the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) was absorbed with internal and legal squabbles, and several other parties withdrew after their candidates experienced severe registration problems. The next federal and regional elections, scheduled for June 2010, most probably will be much more contentious, as numerous opposition parties are preparing to challenge the EPRDF, which is likely to continue to use its political machine to retain its position.

Despite the EPRDF’s authoritarianism and reluctance to accept genuine multi-party competition, political positions and parties have proliferated in recent years. This process, however, is not driven by democratisation or the inclusion of opposition parties in representative institutions. Rather it is the result of a continuous polarisation of national politics that has sharpened tensions between and within parties and ethnic groups since the mid-1990s. The EPRDF’s ethnic federalism has not dampened conflict, but rather increased competition among groups that vie over land and natural resources, as well as administrative boundaries and government budgets.

Furthermore, ethnic federalism has failed to resolve the “national question”. The EPRDF’s ethnic policy has empowered some groups but has not been accompanied by dialogue and reconciliation. For Amhara and national elites, ethnic federalism impedes a strong, unitary nation-state. For ethno-national rebel groups like the ONLF (Ogaden National Liberation Front; Somalis in the Oga den) and OLF (Oromo Liberation Front; the Oromo), ethnic federalism remains artificial. While the concept has failed to accommodate grievances, it has powerfully promoted ethnic self-awareness among all groups. The international community has ignored or downplayed all these problems. Some donors appear to consider food security more important than democracy in Ethiopia, but they neglect the increased ethnic awareness and tensions created by the regionalisation policy and their potentially explosive consequences. [… click here to read the full report]

Bolt vs. Bekele possible match

Friday, September 4th, 2009

BRUSSELS (AP) — Who is track’s greatest runner? Long-distance star Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia wonders what it would be like to race sprinting great Usain Bolt.

“If Usain agrees, if someone wants to organize this, I am ready,” Bekele said Thursday, a day before the Memorial Van Damme Golden League meet.

Bolt, of Jamaica, is the reigning world and Olympic champion and world record-holder over 100 and 200 meters. Bekele, of Ethiopia, is the reigning world and Olympic champion and world record-holder over 5,000 and 10,000 meters.

The idea would be to find a middle ground — between 600 and 800 meters.

“I think I am pretty good at 600 meters,” Bolt said last week. Above 800 meters, he said, “I have no chance.”

Bekele also thinks the two could meet at about that distance.

“Six-hundred meters is a good chance for him,” said Bekele, considering he would lose too much over the first lap. “I need some 800 meters, maybe 700 meters.”

A Bolt-Bekele showdown would be the biggest match race since 200 and 400 Olympic champion Michael Johnson raced 100 champion Donovan Bailey over 150 meters in Toronto after the 1996 Atlanta Games. Johnson pulled up lame halfway through that race and the legacy of the event is more a joke than anything else.

Bekele’s manager, Jos Hermens, realizes that Bolt dominates the sport to such an extent that even a superlative performance like Bekele’s 5,000-10,000 double at the Olympics and worlds became merely a footnote.

“I will have to think about it this winter,” Hermens said, referring to a potential matchup. He added that he will be in touch with Bolt’s manager, Ricky Simms.

Bekele is often overshadowed and he is still chasing the worldwide acclaim enjoyed by compatriot Haile Gebrselassie. Bolt’s showmanship and stunning performances have made him one of the most marketable athletes in any sport.

When it comes to official performances, the two get no closer than the 400 for Bolt and the 1,500 for Bekele.

Bekele set a personal best of 3 minutes, 32.35 over 1,500 two years ago, a time that would make him the 13th best performer of 2009. Bolt’s top mark over 400 is 45.28 in 2007, which would be the 28th fastest time of this year.

Human rights abuse causing displacement of people in Ethiopia

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Reported by Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre

For decades, Ethiopia has been affected by famine and conflict. In 2009, there have been various reports of internal displacement resulting from conflicts and human rights violations perpetrated by the army and groups opposed to the government. It is difficult to establish the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) as neither the government nor any international organisation has undertaken a profiling exercise. The access of humanitarian and human rights organisations and the media to some areas of the country has been restricted.

The ongoing conflicts in Somali Region between the army and the Ogaden National Liberation Front, and in the south and south-west of the country with the Oromo Liberation Front, both pose serious security, humanitarian and protection challenges. The impact on civilians of the conflict in Somali Region has been likened to that of Darfur. Meanwhile, there are also conflicts in at least five of the country’s nine regions with causes ranging from competition over scarce water and pasture resources to disputes over administrative boundaries. In February 2009 alone, some 160,000 people were driven from their homes by conflict between the Garre of the Somali region and the Boran of the Oromiya region over a contested piece of land.

Displacement in Ethiopia is well documented but there is no evidence of durable solutions for IDPs. There is no agency or ministry mandated to respond to issues of forced internal displacement. Even though Ethiopia is actively involved in the drafting of the African Union convention on internally displaced people, there is growing evidence to suggest that conflicts in the country have far-reaching implications for protection and humanitarian assistance for internally displaced people. In a context of widespread impunity, no-one sanctioning violence that leads to displacement has been prosecuted.

The absence of political efforts to resolve internal conflicts and the continuing border dispute with Eritrea presents an ongoing serious risk of renewed conflict and displacement in the Horn of Africa. If the government does not improve humanitarian access, affected IDPs and other vulnerable people will continue to face a protection and humanitarian crisis.

Background: locations and causes of conflict and displacement

For decades, Ethiopia has faced severe famines and regional and international conflicts. From 1977 to 1978 it waged a war with Somalia in which the USA and USSR were involved, it fought a border war with Eritrea between 1998 and 2000, and from 2007 to early 2009 its army was pitted against insurgents (supported by Eritrea) and other nationalist groups in Somalia (The Enough Project, 9 February 2009).

Ethiopia was transformed from a unitary state to an ethnic federal state in 1994 by the new government led by the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which seized power from the Dergue government of Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991. This new constitutional order was intended to redress the ethno-national grievances among the many ethnic groups in the country (International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, 2008).

However, despite this system of ethnic federalism under which the country is divided into ethnically-defined regions and zones, in almost all cases, displacement was triggered by conflict between different ethnic groups over access to political power or scarce resources such as water and pastoral or agricultural land. There are several conflict-induced displacement situations in Ethiopia, the largest occurring in the administrative regions of Somali, Oromiya, Gambella and Tigray. In addition to these, the government’s counter-insurgency activities in regions such as Oromiya, Somali, and Gambella have led to serious human rights violations which have also led to displacement of civilians (HRW, June 2008; ISS, May 2007).

In November 2008, a study undertaken by the Ethiopian NGO African Rally for Peace and Development (ARPD) showed internal armed conflicts in most of the regions of Ethiopia, including Oromiya, Tigray, Somali, Southern Nationalities and Peoples Republic (SNNPR), Afar, Gambella, and Benishangul-Gumuz (ARPD, November 2008). The US State Department’s 2008 Human Rights Report on Ethiopia reported that ethnically-based conflicts in western, eastern and southern areas had resulted in an increase in killings and injuries since 2007 and the displacement of tens of thousands of people (USDoS, 25 February 2009).

According to ARPD, the major causes of conflicts within Ethiopia’s regions are ethnicity, disputed border and administrative arrangements, the impact on the distribution of resources and power, large-scale spontaneous and planned migration, religious differences, and mineral extraction.

The Borena zone of Oromiya Region, Gambella Region and SNNPR have witnessed recent intra-ethnic and inter-ethnic conflicts (ARPD, November 2008; ISS, 1 May 2007). In August 2008, inter-clan conflict displaced almost 13,000 people in Gambella Region (interview with OCHA, 5 June 2009).

Even though numbers of people displaced by conflict and human rights violations are not easy to establish due to the restrictions that are placed on the activities of media reporters and humanitarian organisations wishing to profile populations in need, the UN and other international organisations estimate that over 300,000 people are displaced by conflict or violence in Ethiopia in 2009 (interviews in Addis Ababa, June 2009).

Somali Region

The conflict between the government and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) in Somali Region has continued into 2009 (BBC, 9 March 2009; Garoweonline, 8 March 2009). In an August 2009 Al-Jazeera interview, Genocide Watch founder and president Gregory Stanton and the human rights activist Fowsia Abdulkadir described a “genocide-like” situation comparable to Darfur, with reports of killings and burning of villages despite the army’s severe access restrictions on the media and humanitarian organisations (Al-Jazeera, 9 August 2009).

These restrictions make it impossible to establish the number or situation of people displaced by the conflict in Somali region (The Christian Science Monitor, 26 February 2008; Reuters, 27 February 2008; VOA, 25 February 2009). However, many analysts talk of displacements of hundreds of thousands of people (interviews in 2009 in Addis Ababa, Geneva, and Nairobi).

According to a 2008 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, the government’s counter-insurgency campaign against the ONLF, designed to cut off civilian support to the ONLF and concentrate its rural support base in designated larger villages and towns, had caused widespread forced displacement, particularly between June and August 2007. The government had ordered civilians to relocate from small villages and pastoralist settlements to designated towns throughout the conflict-affected zones, typically ordering the villagers and nomads to move within two to seven days. To secure compliance with the evacuation orders, the army had repeatedly implemented a phased system of terror involving the confiscation and killing of livestock, public executions, and the destruction of villages by burning (HRW, June 2008; p.33).

Oromiya Region

Another rebel group operates in southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya and claims to be fighting for the autonomy of the Oromo people. The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) has fought the Ethiopian army since 1973. Little information is available on how this conflict has caused displacement due to government restrictions. In August 2009, the government summoned the Ambassador of Kenya, demanding that his government stop a private media company in Kenya airing an investigation on the OLF (Daily Nation, 6 August 2009).

Conflicts over disputed administrative borders

In October 2008, approximately 100,000 people were displaced as a result of conflict in the Filtu and Hudet areas over a disputed border between the ethnically-defined Oromiya and Somali Regions (IDMC interview, Addis Ababa, 9 June 2009). In the majority of cases, people sought shelter with host communities, while others scattered in the surrounding bush.

In early 2009, ethnic clashes between Somali and Oromo ethnic groups displaced tens of thousands of people. The conflict was triggered when the Oromiya regional authorities started drilling a borehole on contested land close to the dividing line between the Oromiya and Somali Regions, which has never been properly demarcated. When the Garre Somalis destroyed the rig, members of the Borana clan mobilised to take revenge, angry at what they saw as years of Somali encroachment. Some 300 people lost their lives during the conflict (BBC, 26 February 2009). Initial reports suggested 70,000 people were displaced (BBC, 13 March 2009), but regional government officials later put the figure at over 150,000 (interview with Somali and Oromiya officials in Moyale, 17 June 2008).

In October 2008, almost 18,000 people were displaced in Alaba district of SNNPR as a result of inter-ethnic conflict between the Arsi and the Alaba over a disputed administrative boundary (IDMC interview, Addis Ababa, 9 June 2009).

Physical security

HRW has reported that serious human rights violations have taken place in areas affected by conflict and displacement, and that the government has not investigated or brought to account the perpetrators (HRW, January 2009). A June 2008 HRW report on Somali region was very critical of the human rights records of both the Ethiopian government and army and the ONLF. According to HRW, violations included military attacks on civilians and their villages, while continuing abuses by both rebels and Ethiopian troops were posing a direct threat to the survival of people remaining in war-affected areas, and creating a pervasive culture of fear (HRW, June 2008).

HRW also reported a military campaign of forced relocations and destruction of villages in 2007 (HRW, June 2008). Villagers told HRW how the army killed herders and other fleeing civilians, and burned homes, property and food stocks (HRW, 3 October 2007). Reuters also reported that the burning of villages was forcing locals to flee to the bush where their basic needs were unmet (Reuters, 4 September 2007).

Similar allegations of the army committing human rights violations against the civilian population in the Somali Region were also documented by Amnesty International, the US Department of State and Genocide Watch (AI, 28 May 2009; USDoS, 25 February 2009; Al-Jazeera, 9 August 2009).

Satellite images have backed up reports that the Ethiopian army has burnt towns and villages in Somali Region. The American Association for the Advancement of Science says the images confirm the HRW report and show the army systematically ill-treating civilians in their counter-insurgency campaign (BBC, 12 June 2008).

Gender-based violence is also said to be widespread in Somali region, which is reportedly openly countenanced by the army. Several witnesses have reported that they were gang-raped to the point of unconsciousness by soldiers (Al-Jazeera, 9 August 2009; HRW, June 2008; Reuters, 27 February 2008).

In the February 2009 conflict between the Garre-Somali and the Oromiya-Boran, 300 lives were lost. The BBC reported that many of the displaced had had their villages destroyed and their property stolen (BBC, 13 March 2009).

Landmines continue to hamper the free movement of people in conflict areas. Ethiopia is one of the most heavily-mined countries in Africa. A Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) survey found that 1.9 million people were at risk and identified almost 1,500 communities affected by landmines (Afrol News, 15 April 2009).

Humanitarian access

The activities of aid workers have been severely restricted in regions such as Somali. Humanitarian agencies have since 2008 been granted permission to deliver food but the military escorts still hinder full access (Daily Telegraph, 17 October 2008; BBC News, 19 September 2008; The Times, 18 September 2008). The army has maintained control over humanitarian aid by accompanying convoys, and determining whether it is safe for a delivery to go ahead. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been denied access to Somali Region, and has called on the government to immediately allow its teams to provide assistance to people in the region who are facing an increasingly desperate situation (MSF, 4 September 2007). In July 2008, the Swiss arm of MSF halted its operations in the Region, due to the obstacles put in its way. According to the organisation’s statement: “The authorities’ attitude towards humanitarian organisations has translated into recurrent arrests of MSF Switzerland staff without charge or explanation… Despite continuous attempts to improve the working relations with authorities, our organisation can only regret the absence of any room to bring independent and impartial assistance.” (IRIN, 10 July 2008)

Insecurity in some parts of the country has also hindered aid delivery. In September 2008, two aid workers working for an international organisation were kidnapped by gunmen in Somali Region (BBC, 23 September 2008).

National and international responses

The absence of political effort to resolve internal conflicts and the continuing border dispute with Eritrea presents an ongoing serious risk of renewed conflict in the Horn of Africa, with potential for large-scale displacement and severe humanitarian consequences. At a recent joint meeting between the House of the Federation and representatives of all nine regional governments in Benishangul-Gumuz Region, regional governments accused the federal authorities of not doing enough to help them contain conflicts in the regions (The Reporter, 15 August 2009).

The government’s strong control of humanitarian response mechanisms has left many of the disasters either unreported or played down. Responses have been fragmented, inadequate, late, and have left affected populations in an even worse situation (interview in Geneva, November 2008). For example, government food distribution policies have reportedly prevented assistance reaching people in need (AI, 2009); The Telegraph, 17 October 2008; BBC News, 19 September 2008; The Times, 18 September 2008, IRIN, 10 July 2008).

If the government does not improve humanitarian access, affected IDPs and other vulnerable people will continue to face a protection and humanitarian crisis (ICG, 17 June 2008). USAID reported in March 2008 that “literally hundreds of areas… have neither been assessed nor received any food assistance”, with “populations terrorised by the inability to access food” (The Times, 18 September 2008). The British Channel 4 reported that the army had withheld food from villages in Somali Region as part of a “scorched earth” policy against the ONLF (BBC, 19 September 2008; The Times, 18 September 2008). Before the British Minister for International Development toured a hospital in the town of Kebri Dehar during a visit to Somali Region in October 2008, local officials forced starving infants out of the emergency ward and on to the street (The Telegraph, 17 October 2008).

There is no dedicated government agency or office or a focal point that is known to be dealing with conflict-induced displacement. In August 2008, the government disbanded the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency (DPPA) whose responsibilities were to be to anticipate and prevent disasters and build local capacities to do so as well and transferred its mandate to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Ministry officials now charged with disaster risk management (DRM) anticipate the increased decentralisation of these DRM responsibilities. A proposed policy has called for the mainstreaming of disaster risk management throughout government and greatly strengthened disaster management capacity at the highest levels of government. Debates continue within the government regarding the policy and it is unclear if or when it will be adopted and to what degree this will deal with conflict-induced displacement (ODI, June 2009).

Government line ministries normally help UN agencies disburse food and sanitation assistance (OCHA Humanitarian Bulletin, 10 August 2009). In July 2009, the UN disbursed some $6 million towards helping the Ethiopian government help contain the rising challenges of food insecurity, malnutrition, and ensure health care and water and sanitation support, mostly in displacement-affected areas of Somali, Oromiya, and SNNPR (IRIN, 27 July 2009).

In August 2009, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) recommended to the government “to ensure that refugees and other vulnerable persons, such as internally displaced persons, enjoy their rights under national law as well as various international legal instruments to which it is a party…” The Committee further requested the State Party to “provide, in its next periodic report, detailed information on the human rights situation of refugees and internally displaced persons on its territory…” (CERD, 31 August 2009).

Ethiopia's Kenenisa may attempt to break the 3,000m record

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

BRUSSELS (Reuters) — World and Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele is driven by the prospect of breaking his 10,000 and 5,000 meters records and is also is considering an attempt at the 3,000 world best set 13 years ago.

The 27-year-old Ethiopian told reporters on the eve of the Brussels Golden League meeting he felt there was no particular part of his racing he needed to improve.

“Really it’s perfect,” Bekele said on Thursday with a broad smile. “The only thing is I want to run faster than my records. I also want to attack the 3,000 meters. It has stayed for a long time.”

Bekele’s 5,000 and 10,000 meter records date back to 2004 and 2005 respectively. The 3,000 record of seven minutes 20.67 was run by Kenyan Daniel Komen in 1996.

Coach Jos Hermens said Bekele would aim to be selective in 2010, a year with no major championships, in a bid to better his times.

“The 3,000 meters is a longer dream… then he would need to put in a few 1,500 meters for pace,” Hermens said.

Bekele also said he would like to run the marathon, but was not willing to be drawn on when that would happen.

He is one of three athletes still in the hunt for at least a share of the $1 million Golden League jackpot going into the final meeting in Brussels.

To earn the jackpot, competitors must win their events at all six Golden League meetings.

“Those races are not easy… To win six is very tough. For many, four or five is tough. It’s very good to win all six,” said Bekele, who spent four days recuperating in Ethiopia after last week’s Zurich meeting.

Olympic pole vault gold medalist Yelena Isinbayeva and 400 meters world champion Sanya Richards are the other two athletes with 100 percent Golden League records so far.

Bekele argued he faced the most difficult challenge of the three given the strength of the 5,000 meters field on Friday and the chance of a new athlete breaking through.

“In the 400 meters or the pole vault you can’t really get strong new athletes,” he said.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Alison Wildey)

Ethiopia's khat-addict dictator threatens to boycott Copenhagen

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (AFP) — African nations dictators will walk out of climate change talks in Copenhagen if their demands, including hefty compensations from the West, are not met, Ethiopian Prime Minister warlord Meles Zenawi said Thursday.

[Meles, who has just returned from Belgium where he received medical treatment, must be hallucinating.]

One of the key demands that the world’s poorest most looted continent is making is billions of dollars in compensation to help it cope with the effects of climate change to line up the pockets of Africa’s thieves, rapists and genocidal killers like Meles.

However a panel representing the continent at the talks is yet to come up with a figure. [Meles and Azeb must have come up with the figure after an afternoon of khat chewing.]

“If need be we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threatens to be another rape of the continent,” said Meles, who leads the panel.

“While we reason with everyone to achieve our objective we are not prepared to rubber stamp any agreement by the powers,” he told African officials and experts from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development at a meeting in Addis Ababa.

“We will use our numbers to delegitimise any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position.”

According to a study by the UK-based Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, global warming could cost the continent around 30 billion dollars a year by 2015.

That figure could rise to between 50 billion and 100 billion dollars by 2020 due to increasing costs to cope with climate change effects such as frequent and more severe floods, droughts and storms, as well as extreme changes in rainfall patterns, the group said.

African Union chairman Jean Ping urged rich nations not to renege on their financial commitments.

“It is my expectation that such financial resources must be from public funds and must be additional to the usual overseas development assistance,” he told the gathering.

African countries will also demand that industrialised nations take measures to limit global warming to two degrees celsius and cut emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020.

“What we are not prepared to live with is global warming above minimum unavoidable levels,” Meles said.

“We will therefore never accept any global deal that does not limit global warming to the minimum unavoidable level, no matter what levels of compensation and assistance are promised to us.”

A kangaroo court in Ethiopia sentences six people to death

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters ) – An Ethiopian [kangaroo] court has sentenced six members of the Benishangule-Gumuz community ethnic group to death and another 97 to prison terms for the massacre of Oromo villagers last year, a state agency reported on Thursday. [The Woyanne tribal junta that is in charge of the kangaroo court massacres Oromos every day. It is likely that the massacre was carried out by Meles Zenawi's death squads and is being blamed on innocent people.]

The 103 had been charged with genocide for killings that took place in May 2008. They gunned down or speared to death 93 members of the Oromo tribe, the state Woyanne-run Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) reported.

The two groups have for centuries lived side by side in western Ethiopia.

“The court found guilty the 103 members of the Benishangule-Gumuz after examining documents, pictures and video tape evidence presented by the prosecution and after the accused failed to exercise their right to defence,” ENA said.

Those that escaped the death sentence were handed prison terms ranging between six years to life imprisonment with hard labour.

(Reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse, editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura)

MSF responds to diarrhea outbreak in Ethiopia

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (MSF) — Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health has also reported patients suffering from acute watery diarrhea in several other regions of the country.

Since August 19, joint Ministry of Health and MSF teams have been providing medical care to patients with acute watery diarrhea in and around the capital city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In collaboration with Ethiopian health authorities, MSF has set up a total of eight treatment facilities within Ministry of Health structures in the city. These treatment facilities are located in Yekatit 12 hospital, Ras Desta hospital, Zewditu hospital, Sint Petros hospital, Akaki health centre, Kaliti health centre, Bole and Kotebe Youth centre.

In total 5,178 patients have been cared for by medical teams from August 19 to 31 in Addis Ababa, of whom five have died. This very low mortality rate has been achieved thanks to the quick mobilisation of the Ethiopian health authorities and MSF. Over the last few days, the number of daily admissions to these treatment facilities has been decreasing.

People suffering from acute watery diarrhea have contracted the disease mostly by drinking unclean water. If left untreated, they run a risk to become dehydrated. While most severe cases need to be hospitalised and receive intravenous therapy, people who are moderately sick can be treated with oral rehydration salts only.

Since the beginning of July, MSF has also been responding to a watery diarrhea outbreak in the northeastern region of Afar. In two months, the team, in collaboration with the health authorities, has provided care to 570 patients in two treatment facilities.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health has also reported patients suffering from acute watery diarrhea in several other regions of the country.

Additional staff have been sent to Ethiopia to augment the MSF teams on the ground.

Ethiopian students in Israel still waiting for a school

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

By Abe Selig , THE JERUSALEM POST

More than a dozen pupils of Ethiopian origin had yet to be accepted by any school in Petah Tikva on Wednesday, despite a widely praised, last-minute agreement between the Education Ministry and the city regarding the placement of over 100 such pupils in a number of schools.

Ministry officials said they might not have the problems sorted out until the start of next week.

Additionally, the ministry and municipality had conflicting information as to the number of pupils still in need of placement. While the ministry said that 16 first graders were facing “admission difficulties,” the Petah Tikva Municipality put the number at 20.

Ministry officials also said that the problem was not that the schools were refusing to admit the pupils, but that there were discrepancies between the municipality, the schools and the ministry, regarding the lists of pupils and where they were supposed to be enrolled.

On Tuesday, Education Ministry Director-General Shimshon Shoshani, along with municipality officials, said that some children had been sent to the wrong school by mistake, while some of pupils’ families complained of language difficulties.

Under the agreement, which was reached during a meeting between Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Petah Tikva Mayor Yitzhak Ohayon, and Shoshani, 30 of the 108 Ethiopian pupils in question were supposed to begin their studies on Tuesday at the three “recognized but unofficial” religious schools that had been reluctant to admit them – Lamerhav, Da’at Mevinim and Darkei Noam.

An additional 18 pupils are set to begin studying in those semi-private institutions as well when they arrive in Petah Tikva in the coming weeks.

The remaining 60 pupils, who are expected to arrive in the city throughout the school year, will be admitted to semi-private schools in accordance with Education Ministry assignments.

Additionally, the city and the Education Ministry said they were to appoint a joint task force to examine the implementation of the pupils’ enrollment and the general integration of Ethiopian pupils in the city’s schools.

It was unclear what role, if any, that task force was playing in helping sort through Wednesday’s confusion.

Kenenisa Bekele aims for $1 million prize in Belgium

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

(AP Photo/Keystone Dominique Favre)

Kenenisa Bekele may receive a huge check this Friday at the sixth and final meet of the IAAF Golden League. Bekele will be racing the 5000 meters at the Memorial Van Damme meet in Brussels. Should he win the race, he may be pocketing up to $1 million dollars.

The IAAF Golden League, which includes six meets over the course of the summer, offers one of the largest cash prizes in athletics. In order to claim the million-dollar purse, an athlete must win their event in all six Golden League meets.

Kenenisa Bekele is one of three athletes still in the running for the jackpot. Sanya Richards and Yelena Isinbayeva have also won their respective events. If all three athletes win in Brussels, they will split the million-dollar jackpot, which is still a pretty hefty payday.

Bekele has attracted a great deal of attention over the summer for his dominating performances. He won both the 10000 and 5000 meters at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin, and many have called him the greatest distance runner of all time. Just yesterday, Ian Chadband at the Telegraph said, ”Bekele is the Bolt of distance running, a record breaker, a ground breaker, a supreme champion who is well nigh unbeatable when he chooses.” Most believe that Bekele will move up to the marathon, where he could very likely be a contender to break Haile Gebrselassie’s world record.

So will Bekele win his share of the jackpot on Friday? It’s not smart to bet against him. On Friday, you can watch the action in Brussels on the live feed at UniversalSports.com, which starts at 12:50 p.m. in Dallas.

(By Tanya Menoni | Examiner)

Ethiopian doctors tour facilities in Pennsylvania

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

By BRAD RHEN

LEBANNON, PA (LDNews) — Two Ethiopian doctors visited several local medical facilities as part of an ongoing partnership with a Lebanon-based charity.

Since arriving in the United States on Monday, Dr. Abraham Asnake and Dr. Abiye Mulugeta visited the Hershey Medical Center, Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon and Physicians Surgical Center in North Cornwall Township.

“We are really fascinated by the facilities,” Mulugeta said Wednesday during a visit to the Alley Center for the Blind in North Lebanon Township.

Asnake said there are no facilities in Ethiopia like the ones they toured here.

“It’s very hard in our country,” he said. “Hopefully one day.”

Asnake, a general surgeon and administrator of Ras Desta Hospital in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, and Mulugeta, an ophthalmologist and chairman of the ophthalmology department at Ras Desta, arrived in the area Monday. They are scheduled to spend six days in the area as guests of the World Blindness Outreach and Sunrise Rotary Club of Lancaster.

The WBO, which is based in Lebanon, is a humanitarian organization that supports eye missions to treat correctable blindness and preventable eye diseases among indigent peoples throughout the world. Since 1990, the WBO has performed more than 5,000 eye surgeries on 50 missions to 20 countries.

Dr. Robert Alley, a Lebanon ophthalmologist and founder and president of WBO, said he invited Asnake and Mulugeta to come to this country for several reasons.

“I wanted to extend our
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hospitality to them because we have been there three times, and they have extended their hospitality to us, and they made us feel so much at home, and I feel very close to both these gentlemen, so I invited them here as friends,” said Alley, the namesake of the Alley Center for the Blind.

Alley said the goal of the visit was to give the doctors an overview of medicine in this country.

“I would hope they see some things they can apply when they get back home,” he said.

The Lancaster Sunrise Rotary Club has partnered with WBO on three surgical eye missions to Ethiopia in the past six years, during which 600 successful eye surgeries were performed on patients at Ras Desta. Another mission is scheduled for April 2010.

Asnake and Mulugeta were also guests at Monday’s WBO banquet in Hershey. At the banquet, they received awards in recognition of their support for three WBO surgical eye missions to their hospital.

Congo deports 2 more Ethiopians

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

By FRANK NAMANGALE | Nation Online

Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Immigration Department has deported two remaining Ethiopians whose arrest caused controversy after a defense lawyer was allegedly beaten up and thrown into custody by police over the weekend.

The deportation of the two Ethiopians early this week follows another deportation of a DRC national on Sunday, in what their lawyer Innocent Kalua said is a violation of a court order the High Court in Blantyre granted last week.

The foreigners’ lawyer said in an interview Thursday that the Immigration’s action to deport the two gives him more grounds to pursue committal to prison proceedings against chief immigration officer Elvis Thodi.

“The Immigration’s action is clear contempt of court. They have gone against a High Court order,” said Kalua.

The deported DRC national is Johan Mitterand and the two Ethiopians are Bashir Abute and Tego Lubako.

Kalua said there was a bail application at the High Court in Blantyre which was set for Wednesday, but it had been overtaken by events following the deportation of the remaining two Ethiopians.

“Now we are just waiting for the date from the High Court to commence the committal to prison proceedings,” Kalua said.

Thodi was not available for comment and the Immigration spokesperson Prudenciana Makalamba said he was in Mozambique and was expected back Thursday.

U.K. Border Agency searches for missing Ethiopians

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

By Mark Thompson | HartelpoolMail

HARTLEPOOL, UK — IMMIGRATION officials are set to join the search for three Africans who went missing during an exchange trip.

The Ethiopian trio disappeared while visiting Hartlepool as part of the Global Xchange programme, which ended on Monday.

The Mail reported how Hartlepool Police joined forces with London’s Metroplitan Police in searching for three men who went missing during a short trip to the capital.

One later got back in touch with trip organisers and was deported before a female Ethiopian guest went missing last week.

Now the UK Border Agency says it will become involved once the missing visitors’ visas run out next Wednesday, September 9.

A spokeswoman for the UK Border Agency said: “We expect anyone coming to the UK to play by the rules and comply with the terms of their visa allowing them to stay here.

“We will seek to remove anyone with no right to be here. In 2008 nearly 68,000 people were removed from the UK or voluntarily departed.”

The Mail previously reported how three Ethiopian men went missing following a tour of the Houses of Parliament on July 15.

Zerihun Weldeyohans Alaro, 24, later contacted organisers after staying with family in London, but was deported.Exchange visitors Habtamu Debella, 27, and Muluneh Tilahun, 21, are still missing.

Konjit Assefa, 22, who was staying on the Headland, was the latest to go missing and has not been seen since Tuesday, August 25.

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

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

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

Several Ethiopian kids miss first day of school in Israel

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

By Or Kashti | Haaretz

ISRAEL — Dozens of children of Ethiopian origin in Petah Tikva did not begin studies Tuesday as schools appeared to take pains to accept as few such students as possible. Education officials, however, said the latest problems were merely bureaucratic, after the deal Monday night to take all the students in.

Parents and children – many with school backpacks – crowded a narrow corridor on the fifth floor of the municipality’s education department, some waiting 12 hours to hear where their children would be enrolled. Many children arrived in schools throughout the city but were not placed in classes. Instead, they were sent to the library or the teachers’ lounge where they waited two or three hours until they were told to return to the municipality.

“I don’t believe anybody anymore – not the Education Ministry, not the city and not the school. Nobody wants us,” said Nena Balai, whose son was supposed to start first grade.

In the small offices of the municipality’s education department, city officials and the schools seemed to be bargaining over the placement of the children of Ethiopian origin. “Some principals said they would not accept the children until they saw how many were in another school,” said one person close to the situation.

Many parents had stories about children being sent home from school. On Monday night, Balai said that “they called from the city and said we should go to Morasha [a state religious school]. We got there at 8 A.M., but we did not go into the classroom. The boy sat in the teachers’ lounge and was given a piece of paper to draw on. At 11 A.M. they told us to go back to the municipality. The school said it could not accept us.”

According to David Maharat, the head of the Education Ministry’s advisory body on integrating Ethiopian schoolchildren, “this is one humiliation too many. Schools are competing with each other over who will have fewer students of Ethiopian origin.”

The Education Ministry, the municipality, the state religious schools and the private schools all had various explanations for what had happened. The Education Ministry said about 16 “new” students remained to be enrolled.

Tuesday afternoon, Education Ministry director general Shimshon Shoshani said at the Petah Tikva municipality that children had been mistakenly sent to the wrong school, or that student data was unclear. The city said students had gone to schools to which they were not enrolled. The families said there were language difficulties.

Many of the children who did not begin school Tuesday were turned away by state religious schools. These have been at the forefront in recent weeks in the fight against the three private religious schools that had refused to fully comply with Education Ministry directives on enrollment. The head of the parents’ committee of the state religious schools, Nir Orbach, said that “we agreed to accept 40 students [out of 100]. We will not accept more.”

Spokesmen for the three private religious schools said they had accepted all 30 students sent to them, but that the names and ages of the children did not always match those on their lists.

U.K.-based company to explore gold in Ethiopia's Tigray region

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Stratex International PLC (AIM: STI) announced a move into Ethiopia via acquiring a stake in a PLUS-listed company that holds an exclusive exploration license (EEL) in the north of the country and entering a joint venture with its new partner to explore new {www:prospective} targets and licence areas.

So far, Stratex has been focusing on exploring, developing and then joint venturing projects in central and Western Turkey, and is now planning on repeating this in Ethiopia.

Stratex has put up £40,000 to take a 5.6 percent stake in Sheba Exploration (UK) PLC and has signed a binding letter of intent with Sheba to earn-in to an initial 60 percent of the prospective Shehagne project near the northern Ethiopian town of Adwa.

Additionally Stratex and Sheba have agreed a joint venture on a respective 70:30 basis to explore new prospective targets and license areas in northern Ethiopia. The company believes that potential license areas, which currently are under review, have excellent potential for gold and/or copper and massive sulfide occurrences. Under the terms of the new JV, Sheba may earn up to 50 percent of the JV by reimbursing Stratex a further 20 percent of the total exploration costs.

Stratex chairman David Hall said: “The Arabian Nubian Shield, which encompasses areas of Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Yemen as well as Ethiopia, is a region with high discovery potential as shown by Centamin’s Sukari gold mine in Egypt, and Nevsun’s Bisha gold-rich volcanogenic massive sulphide deposit in Eritrea.

“We believe that Ethiopia offers similar exciting opportunities for rapid low cost {www:discovery} and is not subject to many of the economic and political constraints that neighbouring countries are exposed to, such as product sharing agreements and security issues. Ethiopia is both logistically and financially an easy and cost effective place to explore,” he added.

The company can earn 60 percent in the 50 square kilometre Shehagne EEL by expending £100,000 in the initial three months and a further £250,000 over the subsequent 18 months. It may also earn a further 20 percent by taking the project to completion of a feasibility study.

The Shehagne EEL has already been explored by Sheba and extensive gold anomalism in soil has been identified. The main target to date is the Tsemmetti prospect in the south-eastern part of the EEL where Sheba has defined a large – 100 parts per billion – gold-in-soil anomaly over a three kilometre strike.

Stratex intends to undertake regional sediment sampling of the entire concession and complete systematic exploration of prospects already defined.

Ethiopia’s mineral resources’ potential is high – gold copper zinc and potash are the major minerals mined in Ethiopia, the company said.

(By Andre Lamberti | Proactive Investors)

Egypt police gun down Ethiopian migrant at Israeli border

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Egyptian government must be held accountable for such savage act. They keep shooting at poor Ethiopians seeking refugees as stray dogs. It is immoral and also against international rules on protecting the rights of refugees.

ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters) – Egyptian police shot and killed an Ethiopian migrant near the border with Israel on Tuesday, seriously wounded a women he was traveling with and arrested eleven others, medical and security sources said.

A security source said an Egyptian patrol spotted 13 migrants attempting to cross the barbed wire border with Israel. When ordered to stop they fled towards Israeli territory and police opened fire, the source said.

The man who died was shot in the head. He did not have identification documents on him. An 18-year-old Eritrean women was shot in the chest and was transferred to a hospital in Egyptian Rafah, where her condition was reported as critical.

The other migrants, ten Ethiopians and one Eritrean, were detained. Egypt has arrested scores of African migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Ethiopia, in recent months and has killed at least eight this year.

Analysts and aid workers say the flow of migrants from the Horn of Africa through Egypt to Israel has increased as it has become more difficult to travel on other routes, such as via Libya to Europe. [ID:nLS359973] (Reporting by Yusri Mohamed; writing by Alastair Sharp; editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Ethiopian man in Canada pleads guilty to smuggling khat

Monday, August 31st, 2009

WINDSOR, CANADA (Windsor Star) — A former Windsor truck driver has pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggle 165 kilograms of khat into Canada but received a suspended sentence Thursday because he was trying to raise money to visit and help his ill father in Ethiopia.

Daniel Kassa, 45, was given a suspended sentence by Superior Court Justice Steven Rogin Thursday and was also given three years’ probation.

In May 2007 Kassa, an immigrant from Ethiopia, was driving a tractor-trailer into Canada at the Ambassador Bridge and was stopped by Canada Border Services Agency officers even though at the time he had a FAST pass.

Inspectors uncovered the khat, with an estimated street value of $82,000, hidden on the trailer.

Khat is a schedule IV narcotic under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. It can be possessed for personal use, but cannot be imported or sold.

Khat is a green-leafed plant native to east Africa which, when chewed, releases the chemicals cathine and cathinone, which produce an effect similar to amphetamine.

It creates a euphoric and excited state in users.

Khat is not banned in many European countries including the United Kingdom.

Kassa’s lawyer Andrew Bradie told court that Kassa was born in Ethiopia and lived there until the age of 14, when he was pressured to join the military and was later forced to flee with family members to Rome.

Kassa eventually made his way to Canada but he now has family members scattered across the globe.

Bradie said Kassa’s ethnicity is a source of friction in his homeland.

Kassa has no criminal record and since his FAST pass was voided upon his arrest he has been employed in West Lorne.

“He has had no further difficulties with the law,” said Bradie, adding that Kassa lives with a common-law wife and a child.

In dispensing sentence Rogin rationalized the profit-making motive for the smuggling.

“I accept the profit motive is an aggravating factor,” said Rogin.

“That is somewhat diluted by the fact that rather than a sense of greed, it was motivated by a desire to visit his father, who had a stroke.”

The maximum sentence for importing khat under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act is three years.

Rogin said the fact that Kassa was using a FAST pass to smuggle a controlled substance across the border was an extremely aggravating factor.

Rogin gave Kassa an opportunity to speak.

“I’m very sorry,” said Kassa. “This will never happen again.”

Ethiopia's tribal junta defends land giveaway

Monday, August 31st, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (Daily Nation) — Ethiopia’s government ruling tribal junta has defended its plan to offer 2.7 million hectares of farmland to foreign companies despite millions of citizens who need food aid from the international community.

According to Ethiopia’s Agriculture Ministry officials, the country delineated around 2.7 million hectares of land, available for foreign companies from Middle East and East Asia countries.

The government will hand over 1.7 million hectares of arable land to the foreign investors before the coming harvest season.

World’s top oil producing countries including United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and giant economies like India, China and South Korea are queuing in Addis Ababa to start big commercial farming to feed their own people.

The competition among “land grabber” states has become fierce, with the overall number of companies applying for land in Ethiopia reaching 8,000. However, only 2,000 foreign companies, including medium size agricultural projects, have already secured farmland.

India leads the “land grabbing” race and so far Indian agricultural investment has been more than $2.5 billion. India’s total investment in Ethiopia was $300 million three years ago and has now grown to $ 4.3 billion. It is double the amount of Western aid offered to Ethiopia.

Departing Indian Ambassador to Ethiopia, Gurjit Singh, believes Indian investment will reach eight to 10 billion dollars in the coming few years.

“I don’t think this is the end of the story, but just the beginning,” he added.

Currently, more than 5.2 million people need emergency food aid from the international community in the southern and eastern parts of the country. Another eight million rural poor are being supported through a regular productive safety net aid scheme.

Esayas Kebede, Director of Agriculture Investment Support office argued that large scale foreign commercial farming is a way to end poverty and hunger.

“We have abundant land and labour but we don’t have a finance and technology to feed our people” Esayas said.

Pennsylvania resident seeks to build school in native Ethiopia

Monday, August 31st, 2009

West Bethlehem, PA (mcall.com) — When he fled his native Ethiopia with images of dead bodies in the streets burned into his mind, Abraham Zegeye thought he’d never return.

But nearly 30 years later, the Lehigh Valley businessman has rekindled his connection to his homeland. He built a well two years ago to bring fresh water to farmers and cattle herders in his father’s native village. And his latest effort is to raise $80,000 to build a new school to replace the windowless stick-and-mud shack where about 150 children now learn.

”This country gave me a second chance to make something of myself,” Zegeye said, recalling how he was fortunate to find opportunity in America. ”A lot of people don’t get that second chanceÂ…Now it’s time for me to return and give something back. It’s about other people and how I can make their lives a little bit easier.”

Zegeye, who owns Abe’s Six Pack Shop in West Bethlehem, was raised in Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa. His father worked as a hospital administrator, so they had food and schooling and other comforts of city life, but civil war and strife ravaged his homeland.

He recalls going to the bus stop to find friends and neighbors dead in the streets. They were victims of the Derg regime that ruled the country in the 1970s and ’80s and abducted, imprisoned and executed those suspected of resistance. The dead were put on public display, with banners stating why they were killed to frighten the group’s opposition.

Like several of his siblings before him, Zegeye fled the country in 1982, at age 18, for the stability of the United States. He finished high school, attended college, became a businessman and had a family. Zegeye and his family members contributed $5,000 to build a well for the roughly 2,000 villagers. Clean water now flows from spigots atop concrete bases instead of bubbling up through a muddy ditch.

And now he wants to bring them a new schoolhouse to accommodate more children.

He will run a half-marathon in Philadelphia next month to raise money, and is seeking pledges as well.

Tales of a hidden Ethiopian war

Monday, August 31st, 2009

By Doug McGill | TC Daily Planet

The first time I heard Fatima tell her story, I answered in the natural way.

“They killed my husband,” she said.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” I said.
“And they killed my son,” she said.
“Oh, I’m so sorry for your losses,” I said.

“And they killed my brothers and some of my brothers’ children,” she said, staring at me with eyes that seemed quite without hope and yet that also seemed to ask me, with astonishing tenacity, ‘Are you really listening, do you really understand?’”

I didn’t know what to say to Fatima at this point, as my repeated condolences seemed pointless. So instead I stood up a bit straighter, I took a deep breath, and felt my feet on the ground. I looked back at Fatima with eyes that said that I was willing to stand there and to listen for as long as she wanted.

“And they have killed many of my uncles,” Fatima said.

The Ogaden War

At the Village Market in Minneapolis, the major social hub for Somali-speaking Ethiopian refugees living in the Twin Cities, endless stories like Fatima’s are being urgently swapped every day. They are tales of evil that is so profound it would be unkind of me to suddenly start describing those crimes in detail right now.

You might well not believe the stories anyway. And even if you believed them, you might not believe that such unimaginable crimes could be happening in the world right now, in a little-known corner of Africa called the Ogaden of Ethiopia.

Where are the TV news teams parachuting into refugee camps? Where is the definitive account of the Ethiopian government’s mass destruction of the people and culture of the Ogaden?

Bare Feet

Here is more of Fatima’s story (she like the other witnesses in this story offered only their first names, fearing reprisal against their relatives in Ethiopia if they are identified):

“One day the soldiers came and started shooting, they killed my husband in front of me. Then they tortured and beat me in the same place they killed my husband. On that same day the soldiers also confiscated my home and all of my property and all of my money, leaving me homeless and destitute.”

Fatima is a devout Muslim woman who wears a veil and will not shake a man’s hand except through the cloth of her robe. But after telling me this story she stretched out her legs and took off her shoes, to show me her bare feet which are twisted and deformed, from the beatings she said. Today, she limps with a cane.

We in Minnesota have a special role in telling about the Ogaden crisis, because Minnesota is home to the largest diaspora population of Ogaden refugees in the world. Some 5,000 Somali Ethiopians have fled to Minnesota in recent years, fleeing precisely the crimes against humanity that Fatima and others describe.

Matching Details

Last week, I walked through the Village Market and spoke with a dozen Somali-speaking immigrants from the Ogaden region. This is what is happening in the Ogaden today, they said:

• People are thrown alive into bonfires by Ethiopian soldiers;

• Men and women are strangled to death by soldiers who wrap a wire around their necks and pull the wire on either side;

• Innocent goat herders are rounded up by Ethiopian soldiers and lynched from trees;

• Young girls are snatched from their homes by Ethiopian soldiers, put in prisons and gang-raped day after day, their dead bodies finally tossed like garbage on the street.

One Ogadeni Minnesotan said to me: “We could tell you stories like this all day and night for a week, and at the end we still would not have told you all the stories of all the killing and suffering that is happening in the Ogaden today.”

A single crazy person, or a small group of organized zealots, could orchestrate lies and propaganda about such horrors being committed on a genocidal scale. But how could it happen that the first 12 people that you meet at the Village Mall all tell the same types of stories over and over, with the details matching perfectly?

An American Ally

All of these horrific crimes and tortures are, the Minnesota Ogadenis say, committed by uniformed Ethiopian soldiers. Ethiopia is an official ally of the U.S. and receives millions of dollars in U.S. tax-funded military aid every year.

The Ogaden is a Texas-sized patch of land in Ethiopia that is inhabited by some four million Muslim, Somali-speaking citizens, most of them nomadic pastoralists.

The sparse grassland and shrubland of the Ogaden has been a battlefield for years between Ethiopia and Somalia, with each of those two nations often acting as proxies for global superpowers including Britain, the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

In 1956, when Britain left the Horn of Africa, it set up decades of conflict by handing over the Ogaden, which is populated by ethnic Somalis who are Muslims, to Ethiopia which is mainly ethnic Amhara and Christian. A war was fought over control of the Ogaden between Ethiopia and Somalia in 1977-1978.

In 1984, a separatist militia, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), was formed to pursue autonomy or independence for the Ogaden by violence if necessary. In 2007, the ONLF attacked a Chinese-run oil facility in the Ogaden, killing Ethiopian soldiers as well as more than 70 Chinese and Ethiopian civilians.

Sealed Off

In response, Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, launched a brutal counter-insurgency against the “terrorist” ONLF in the Ogaden. The recent atrocities against ethnic Somalis in the Ogaden have been a part of that campaign, with entire villages being wiped out on the mere suspicion of harboring ONLF fighters. Families and friends of ONLF soldiers are often killed or terrorized and family members tortured to give up information on their relatives.

Here is the testimony of a man named Hassan at the Village Market:

“I was in my home. One night Ethiopian soldiers broke down the door and took me to a military camp in Dhagahbur and beat me. I didn’t commit any crime and none of my family members are in the ONLF. They used the butt of their guns to hit me anywhere on my body where they thought it would hurt the most. I was put in jail just like this on three different occasions and placed in a tiny, dirty cell. I spent ten months in prison without ever being charged, without any explanation. Every day I was beaten and I suffered many cuts, sores and infections, but there was no hospital and I got no care.”

There has been virtually no major media coverage of the Ogaden crisis, and the U.S. and other governments have taken virtually no action. This is partly because the Ogaden has been sealed off to journalists and aid organizations, with the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders forced to abandon operations there in 2007.

But the Internet is teeming with detailed accounts of specific atrocities much like those described at the Village Market, and many YouTube videos graphically show the results of beatings, torture, killings, looting and rape.

“Still in Prison”

Based on interviews with refugees, thousands of whom have gathered in camps in northern Kenya, and other sources, some human rights groups have also been warning about the Ogaden crisis for several years. In 2008, Human Rights Watch published a 139-page report called “Collective Punishment” that documented “widespread and systematic atrocities” and “war crimes and crimes against humanity” committed by the Ethiopian military against Ogadeni citizens.

The report detailed “routine mass detentions,” “extrajudicial executions,” “rape of women in military custody,” and documented the destruction (sometimes by satellite photographs) of at least a dozen Ogaden villages. Yet the scale of village burnings and other crimes described in the report “is believed to be significantly larger” than those officially documented in the report, its authors warned.

Here is the testimony of a man named Abdulrahman at the Village Market:

“We talk to our friends and family back home, but we never feel safe, because we know that they could be captured, tortured or killed just for talking to us on the telephone. It is a kind of psychological torture we all still suffer in Minnesota. Also there are Ethiopian government collaborators who live here in Minneapolis, who tell the Ethiopian army if we criticize the government, and our family and friends in Ethiopia could be jailed or killed as a result. America is a free country but in this way we are not psychologically free. It is as if we were suffocating and still in prison.”

The atrocities in the Ogaden have even reached the U.S. Congress where Rep. Donald Payne (D-New Jersey), the chairman of the House Subcommitte on Africa, has repeatedly criticized Ethiopia for “deliberating targeting civilians” with “routine raping and hanging” innocent citizens in the Ogaden region. He says the Ogaden crisis is “by far one of the worst” human rights tragedies he has witnessed in his life.

New Intelligence

In October last year, Britain balked at committing foreign aid to Ethiopia after Douglas Alexander, the British international development secretary, discovered on a visit to the Ogaden that the crisis was far more severe than he had thought.

In the U.S., various think tanks and social justice groups have called for the U.S. government to similarly pressure Ethiopia. But the U.S., which regards Ethiopia as an ally in the Horn of Africa which helps to rout Islamist terrorists in neighboring Sudan and Somalia, has so far ignored these warnings and calls to action.

The Minnesota Ogadenis, through their constant cell phone conversations with relatives back home, are unearthing troves of new intelligence about the nature and extent of the Ogaden crisis. For example they report:

• A network of political prisons throughout the Ogaden. An enormous prison in the Ogaden capital city, Jijiga, has been known for years to house thousands of innocent civilians rounded up by the Ethiopian military on suspicion of knowing or harboring ONLF fighters. But the Minnesota Ogadenis say that prison quarters are attached to every military garrison throughout the occupied territory of Ogaden including in the cities of Dhagahbur, Aware, Kabridahar, Fiiq, Wardere, Gode, and Garbo. Many Minnesota Ogadenis have spent months or years in these prisons, or have relatives currently suffering there. They offer details about conditions in the prisons, the crimes routinely committed by the authorities against the prisoners, and the names of those who run the prisons.

• Burning people alive in Garbo, Ethiopia. The torture and killing methods used by the Ethiopian military against the Ogadenis changes over time, with new methods evolving that are ever-more cruel and perverse. For a time, strangling people with rope or wire, with two soldiers pulling on either side, was widely reported. Burying children alive has been reported, as has the sodomization of young boys. Sources in the Ogaden told the Minnesota Ogadenis that this past July, Ethiopian soldiers killed six Ogadenis by throwing them alive into a bonfire.

• Attacking nomads outside of town markets. Most Ogadeni towns have markets where nomads bring their livestock to sell, after which they buy food and clothing before returning to their grazing lands. According to Minnesota Ogadenis, these nomads frequently are attacked by Ethiopian soldiers who lie in wait for them outside of town where they steal their food, clothing and provisions and often kill the nomads while doing so.

Comfort Enough

At one point during my day at the Village Market, a few of us gathered in an office space at the market. Fatima was there along with four other women in veils, and a half-dozen Ogadeni men as well who told me their stories.

We sat on chairs in a circle. As I was listening to another person in the group, I saw Fatima suddenly cover her face with her hands and put her head down towards her lap. Everyone stopped talking.

No one in the group made a move towards Fatima to comfort her. Rather, they allowed her the dignity of her own suffering. Anyway the comfort was simply the supportive presence of the group itself, and everyone knew that was enough.

If was not enough, it was in any case all the comfort there was.

Within a few seconds, Fatima straightened up, daubed her eyes, and everyone continued telling their inconceivable, impossible, true stories of the Ogaden.

(Douglas McGill has reported for the New York Times and Bloomberg News–and now the Daily Planet. To reach Doug McGill: doug@mcgillreport.org. And visit The McGill Report at www.mcgillreport.org.)

Ethiopia flower exporter declares bankruptcy

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Capital) — Starlight Roses Flower Farm was the last surviving subsidiary of the troubled Star Business Group, set up by three Addis Ababa businessmen. Despite its resilience, it has not been able to survive the financial collapse of the parent company and is now set to close. Worku Megra, general manager of the flower firm, is currently negotiating to return the 36 hectares flower farm to Sher Ethiopia. In the same week the Federal High Court authorized the liquidation of Ethio Investment Group (EIG) another of Star’s debt ridden subsidiaries.

Menwyelet Atenafu, Abebaw Desta and Worku Megra, business partners and shareholders of Star Business Group, Ethio Investment Group and many other well-known companies, established Starlight Roses Flower Farm two years ago. Like other flower exporters, Starlight also leased four green houses from Sher Ethiopia Plc, a flower grower and green house company based in Zeway town in the Oromia Regional State, 165km south of Addis Ababa.

Starlight had been exporting flower stems collected from the 36 hectares farm for the last two years, paying 0.51 Euro per square meter for the green houses each week. But as profits from flower farming have plummeted, due to a massive drop in export demand, the business venture became unsustainable.

“Forget about its near 1,000 employees salary, the company’s export revenue this days become unable to cover the weekly rental fees of the green house” one of the Starlight employees told Capital.

The owners have apparently tried to inject funds to cover the last two months of employee salary, said the source, but bankruptcy has forced the owners to return the farms and its employees to Sher. Gervit Barnhoovn founder and manager of Sher Ethiopia was unwilling to disclose the details of the transfer, saying negotiations are currently in the early stages. Worku Megra general manager and shareholder of Starlight confirmed the company would closed but refused to give any further details.

Employees of the farm are currently signing a 45 day contract with Sher Ethiopia stating the company will try to keep the farm functioning until another investor can be found. But, if there are issues unsettled, it would be the company’s unpaid arrears the source told Capital.

Star Business Group has now declared bankruptcy on all of its subsidiaries including Tis Abay Transport, Tana Transport, and Mina Trading. Other co-partners are currently in the hands of the country’s commercial banks, seized as collateral for unpaid debts.

This week, the Federal High Court has also authorized the liquidation of Ethio Investment Group (EIG) which was established in 1999 an importer of vehicles. EIG was the sole importer of BMW, Land Rover, Scania and others vehicles for more than seven years, but the company suffered losses of over 255.2 million birr which dwarfed its 31.9 million birr paid up capital.

This latest court ruling is a positive response to Selam Bus S.C. that had sued EIG for its failure to keep a contract signed between them. EIG agreed a contract in 2007 to deliver 15 Scanias to Selam Bus, a deal worth 23.9 million birr. The transport company, Selam Bus paid 7.1 million birr as an advance but, the vehicles are not delivered causing Selam to take legal action.

This is the latest in a series of legal problems for EIG. Since early this year they have been embroiled in court proceedings, over a disputed deal with Nile Insurance S.C. The Insurance company claim to have lost over 40 million birr from a guarantee bond issued to different companies owned by EIG’s founding business partners, according to the federal prosecutor accusation. The men are accused of misusing their position as board members at Nile Insurance to issue guarantee bonds to companies they were involved in.

Nuclear Egypt poses a real danger to Ethiopia

Monday, August 31st, 2009

By Ayenew Haileselassie

Addis Ababa, ETHIOPIA — North Korea keeps shooting its long range missiles now and then. These missiles do not just reach all important targets; they can also deliver a nuclear message. Its leaders, or rather leader, has effectively made the world believe that he is unpredictable, that one day he could really strike American or South Korean targets.

Japan, Russia and China are all concerned, but not as badly as the other two countries. He has the gun; he seems to have the will to use it. The missing element is the excuse. (Of course, the other side of the argument is that he is already using them and reaping the benefits at least from the immediate south.) Now there are many of us who think that we are too far away or too detached to be concerned about this issue.

But suppose it was not North Korea, but Egypt. Suppose it tried a missile in its vast deserts. Suppose it stood its ground and kept trying them even at a great cost to its international relations. It would of course regain its old stature in the Arab world, Israel would not leave a stone unturned to destroy the country’s missile capabilities, and we in Ethiopia would at last live in constant fear of the consequences of a grave transboundary issue that followed the currents of the river Nile.

It all begins like a love affair. Abay (the Blue Nile) flees its home meets his lover, the White Nile in Khartoum, and the two disappear into the Egyptian Desert. For all the basin countries, except Sudan and Egypt, this trip is not a honeymoon, but an elopement. Everybody loved them, but they chose the desert.

These figures may clarify this point. A study indicated that Sudan has an irrigation potential of 4,434,000 hectares of which it has so far irrigated 3,266,000 hectares, which is 73.7% of the potential. Egypt is utilizing 53.5% of its irrigation potential by irrigating 1,946,000 hectares out of a total 3,637,000.

Ethiopia and Egypt have the same potential, but Ethiopia has achieved a mere 5.2% (190,000 hectares) compared to Egypt’s 53.5%. Tanzania has achieved only 23% (190,000 hectares) of its 828,000 hectares potential, and Uganda, slightly worse than Ethiopia, has achieved only 4.5% (9,000 hectares) of its 202,000 hectares potential.

The reality behind such numbers is that Ethiopia, for example, has never been able to feed itself, despite the fact that a very large majority of its people are kept in the shackles of poverty ever engaged in the losing struggle to grow enough food for themselves and for the market. Had it not been for the perennial drought which has always effectively wiped out years’ of growth and then put the country in recovery mode for more years, Ethiopia could have been a better country economically.

Traditionally Ethiopian agriculture has been low-input, low-output, always dependent on unreliable rainfall, and, even at the best of times, never fed the nation. According to the Famine Early Warning System Network report for June 2009, 7.5 million Ethiopians were indicated as chronically food insecure. “An additional 4.9 million people require emergency food assistance through June 2009. In addition, about 200,000 people have been displaced in the southern parts of the country due to clan conflict and are receiving humanitarian assistance. However, the official size of the food insecure population will most likely increase following poor performance of the belg/gu season this year,” it said.

Ethiopia’s agriculture had, in 1996, delivered a record harvest, following which the government proudly announced that it had finally achieved the long sought after food self-sufficiency. Three years of drought led to an emergency situation in 2000 and a sober assessment of the situation.

It was the following year the Nile Basin Initiative was launched, with its head office in Entebe, Uganda, and seven project offices in seven other places. Since then it has been negotiating. Its purpose was “equitable and reasonable use of the water system” by up and down stream countries “without causing significant harm to down stream countries.” With this initiative Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as other Nile basin countries will work to narrow the gap they have with Sudan and Egypt in exploiting the waters of the Blue and White Nile rivers for their maximum benefit. Ethiopia, for example, wants dams for electricity and irrigation. Such is the issue worldwide wherever there are transboundary rivers.

Asfaw Dingamo, Ethiopia’s water minister, returned recently from a Nile Basin Initiative meeting in Cairo apparently proud that Ethiopia’s interests had not been given away in the negotiations. In an interview with Addis Zemen, the state newspaper, he put the situation in a nutshell saying that Egypt had no rainwater at all, that Sudan was only slightly better than Egypt in that respect, and that the population of the Nile basin was growing very fast.

That was no recipe for war, he said, for studies had indicated that there was enough water for all in the basin. His argument in the negotiations is that extensive developments in the basin area in Ethiopia would avert flooding in Sudan and loss of water due to evaporation in Sudan and Egypt. The water flow would be regulated by the dams in Ethiopia for the best benefit of all three countries. Well, the two countries, who have always wanted to be the solitary users of the water, are negotiating for the next best thing, instead of taking Asfaw Dingamo’s words.

The doomsayers that predict war not just in north eastern Africa but wherever there are transboundary waters have a strong case in their favour.

In the 20th century, only seven minor skirmishes took place between nations over shared water resources, while over 300 treaties were signed during the same period of time to avert similar or worse incidents, according to statistics made available during the World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, this month. Examine the following related data: · There are 263 transboundary river and lake basins and around 300 transboundary aquifers worldwide.

* Transboundary lake and river basins account for an estimated 60 per cent of global freshwater flow and is home to 40 % of the world’s population.

* Over 75 percent of all countries, 145 in total, have shared river basins within their boundaries. And 33 nations have over 95 percent of their territory within international river basins.

* 158 of the world’s 263 international river basins, plus transboundary aquifer systems, lack any type of cooperative management framework.

The following figures give a hint of the human factor involved in this situation.

* About 1.4 billion people, mostly impoverished, live in river basins where all the blue water is already committed or overcommitted.

* Water withdrawals are predicted to increase by 50 percent by 2025 in developing countries.

* In 2030, 47% of world population will be living in areas of high water stress.

* By 2075, the number of people in regions with chronic water shortage is estimated to be between 3 and 7 billion.

When we bring this closer to home, Egypt recently announced that eight years from now, 2017, the water need of its growing population would surpass what available resources could provide. In 2006 the Nile water provided Egypt 55.5 billion cubic metres of water, out of the total 64 billion it consumed. The 55.5 billion was the figure that Egypt and Sudan negotiated in 1959 without considering other basin countries.

Soon that generous allotment will no longer be enough. Egypt’s consumption is already well below the water poverty line. So how easy will it be to find a negotiated usage agreement? How long will that agreement hold before increasing population demands for more water from dwindling resources?

According to a recent paper by Fasil Amdetsion, an Ethiopian lawyer in America, those parties that believe that there will not be water war either in the Nile Basin or others, give a number of reasons to support their position. They say that communities afflicted by scarcity are likely to alter lifestyles, make a more efficient use of water, and cope with a dearth of resources. There are also who say that there will not be any water war, because there has never been any. [The last one was fought 4,500 years ago.] Amdetsion repudiates these and other arguments claiming that Egypt has always had interest inn destabilizing Ethiopia. He mentions Egypt’s alleged support the Eritrea during the war with Ethiopia and its support to Somalia during the war with Ethiopia in the 1970′s. He believes that Egypt deliberately foiled the peace talks in Addis Ababa among Somali rebels. He believes that Egypt will do all it could to have the upper hand in Nile negotiations.

Meanwhile natural resources worldwide will continue falling. Population continues to boom against natural expectations. Egypt, a desert country that ought to be sparsely populated, has 76 million people living in it, and as Ethiopia, it is gripped by the concerns of providing for a very fast growing population. So doomsayers say that animal instincts will take over to survive, and those instincts will be the war mongering, blood thirsty type.

May be one day, if that war comes, with Sudan serving as a corridor and a fighter supporting Egypt (or Ethiopia???), that may be nature’s way decreasing our populations enough to fit available resources.

Cholera outbreak kills 34 people in Ethiopia

Monday, August 31st, 2009

By Jason McLure

ADDIS ABABA (Bloomberg) — At least 34 people died in Ethiopia following a suspected cholera outbreak, with more than 4,000 sickened in the capital, Addis Ababa, in the past two weeks.

The disease has infected as many as 1,000 people a day in the past week, Dadi Jima, deputy director of the state-owned Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute, said in an interview today. He declined to say the disease is cholera.

The government has not “fully confirmed” the type of illness, Dadi said. “We usually report it as acute watery diarrhea.” The spread of the disease has been exacerbated by heavy rains in the Horn of Africa country, he said.

Cholera, mainly spread through contaminated water and food and poor sanitation, causes acute diarrhea and vomiting that can lead to death. The illness is considered to be endemic in “many countries” and the pathogen that causes the disease can’t currently be eliminated from the environment, according to the Web site of the World Health Organization.

The United Nations humanitarian agency said six cholera- treatment centers capable of treating 180 people a day have been dispatched to the country. The UN has also sent drugs for the treatment of more than 1,500 severe cases and 600 mild cases of acute water diarrhea, as well as water-purification tablets, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in an e-mailed statement.

Of the 34 who have died in Ethiopia, seven fatalities were in Addis Ababa, Dadi said. He didn’t provide figures for the number of people affected nationwide, adding only that the disease had been reported in 31 districts.

If untreated, cholera can kill a healthy adult in as little as five hours, according to the WHO.

(Jason McLure in Addis Ababa via Johannesburg at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.)

7.5 millon Ethiopians face death from starvation

Monday, August 31st, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (The Independent) — International aid agencies fear that the levels of death and starvation last seen 24 years ago, are set to return to the Horn of Africa. Paul Rodgers reports

The spectre of famine has returned to the Horn of Africa nearly a quarter of a century after the world’s pop stars gathered to banish it at Live Aid, raising £150m for relief efforts in 1985. Millions of impoverished Ethiopians face the threat of malnutrition and possibly starvation this winter in what is shaping up to be the country’s worst food crisis for decades.

Estimates of the number of people who need emergency food aid have risen steadily this year from 4.9 million in January to 5.3 million in May and 6.2 million in June. Another 7.5 million are getting aid in return for work on community projects, as part of the National Productive Safety Net Program for people whose food supplies are chronically insecure, bringing the total being fed to 13.7 million.

Donor countries provided sustenance to 12 million Ethiopians last year, more than half of it through the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP). Having passed that total only eight months into this year, and with the main harvest already in doubt, aid agencies fear the worst is still to come. “We’re extremely worried,” said Howard Taylor, who heads the Department for International Development’s office in Ethiopia. DfID has given £54m in aid to the country this year, and Britain has also contributed through the EU. “This is exactly the time when we shouldn’t turn away from the people in need,” he said.

“Critical water shortages” were reported in some areas by the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs last week with water-borne diseases such as acute diarrhoea spreading as communities resort to drinking from insanitary wells and ponds. Unicef said that the outbreaks are putting extra pressure on its Out-Patient Therapeutic Programme, which provides healthcare in some of the most needy areas.

In Somali, the hardest hit region with a third of the humanitarian caseload and complications caused by a low-intensity insurgency, the mortality rate for infants has risen above two per 10,000 per day according to a regional nutrition survey, which gives newborns roughly a one-third chance of dying before their fifth birthdays. While there is no clear definition, one widely used threshold for famine is four infant deaths per 10,000 per day.

Declaring a famine is a political decision. While it can galvanise public opinion and bring millions into aid programmes, it is widely seen as a political failure. President George Bush challenged his officials to avoid the word, a policy known as “No famine on my watch”. Ethiopia’s Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission is charged with preventing famines of the 1984-85 type, the sort that bring down governments, argued Tufts University academics Sue Lautze and Angela Raven-Roberts in a 2004 paper.

Dismissing the warning signals, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister genocidal dictator, Meles Zenawi, said earlier this month that there was no danger of famine this year. And Berhanu Kebede, Ethiopia’s ambassador to Britain, said at the weekend: “We are addressing the problem. Food is in the pipeline.”

The main practical difference between a food crisis and a famine is whether enough aid arrives to keep the starving alive. So while the scope of the problem can be measured in the number of hungry people, the severity depends on the generosity of those in the rich world. And this year they have been miserly. Despite the promise of G8 leaders at their summit in L’Aquila, Italy, last month to provide $20bn (£12bn) to improve food security in poor countries, contributions have slumped dramatically this year as donor states have shifted priorities to supporting banks and stimulating their own economies. “The international community is not living up to its promise to the World Food Programme,” Mr Kebede said.

The WFP had little trouble raising its $6bn budget last year, but in 2009 it has collected less than half of that. Its Ethiopian operation, which had $500m in 2008, is short $127m this year, equivalent to 167,000 tonnes of food. The Famine Early Warning Network forecast this month that the shortfall would reach 300,000 tonnes by December. Rations for the 6.2 million people receiving emergency food aid have, as a result, been slashed by a third from a meagre 15kg of cereals, beans and oil a month to just 10kg. Even if the shortfall were made up today, it would take three months for supplies to be loaded on to ships bound for Djibouti, then transferred to trucks for the arduous overland journey to land-locked Ethiopia.

Aid agencies are worried about the main harvest this autumn, arguing that the time for action is now, not when the food runs out in November – usually the driest month – let alone when starving children with distended bellies capture the attention of the West’s television viewing public. Despite its good intentions, Bob Geldof’s Live Aid came towards the end of the 1984-85 famine, which killed more than a million people. Since then, Ethiopia’s population has doubled to 80 million.

Mr Zenawi’s government has set up a strategic food reserve which has at times reached 500,000 tonnes – though it is currently thought to be just 200,000 tonnes – which it uses to speed up delivery. As soon as they get funds, aid agencies can borrow food from this reserve, replacing it with supplies from abroad when they arrive. Although the government could release this food without promises of replenishment, it would soon run out; after covering the WFP’s 167,000 tonne shortfall, the stockpile would be barely enough to feed a million people for three months.

The underlying problem for Ethiopia is the erratic behaviour of the country’s climate, or rather its regional micro-climates. [The problem is the regime's Marxist policies, not climate or lack of rain.] Moisture-bearing clouds scudding in from the Indian Ocean can pass over the parched eastern lowlands to dump generous amounts of rain on the fertile western highlands. The famine of 1984-85, revealed by BBC reporter Michael Buerk, was actually two separate famines, one in Tigray, in the north, the other in Somali, in the south-east.

Two main rains sustain the people of Ethiopia, the belg in spring and the kiremt, which usually start in July. Both are influenced by variations in sea-surface temperature. The El Niño phenomena in the eastern Pacific usually bring droughts to Ethiopia, and America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that the current El Niño will strengthen over the next six months. The belg has failed for two years running now, while the kiremt started three weeks late this summer and the amount of rainfall when they did come was below normal. Aid agencies fear that the season could end early, or, equally bad, produce delayed downpours just when farmers need dry weather for the harvest. Even if the kiremt ends on time in October, some crops may not reach maturity because of the late planting.

Ethiopia is overwhelmingly dependent on agriculture, and some 90 per cent of its crops are watered by nature rather than by man-made irrigation systems. During droughts, farmers and nomadic herders tend to sell off their assets to buy food, leaving them with nothing when the next growing season begins. It can take three to five years for pastoral tribes to rebuild their herds.

Although Ethiopia is particularly hard hit, drought has also affected neighbouring countries. Resources in Somali are under additional strain because nomadic tribesmen from Somalia and Kenya have driven unusually large numbers of cattle across the border in search of water and pasture. Estimates of the number of cattle coming into the country range from 95,000 to 200,000.

The spike in global food prices in 2008 exacerbated a worsening situation, hitting the urban poor particularly hard. While they have fallen back this year, the price for grains in the markets of Adis Ababa are still some 50 per cent higher than their average in the four years to 2007.

The Ethiopian government is acutely aware of the danger of famine, not least to itself. Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed a year after the 1973 famine and the Derg military junta led by Lt Col Mengistu Haile Mariam was overthrown in 1991 after a civil war driven in part by the 1984-85 famine. While most other countries with food shortages allow charities to distribute food, Ethiopia’s government insists that the bulk of food aid must pass through its hands.

The irony is that the Zenawi regime has done a reasonable job of boosting food production, achieving self-sufficiency in the late 1990s. One agency described it as the “bread basket” of Africa, harvesting more grain in a good year than South Africa. The government promotes best practices and distributes fertiliser to farmers. It also has an ambitious scheme to relocate 2.2 million people to more fertile areas. But even it can’t control the rains.

Many Africans blame climate change for the erratic weather patterns and resulting food shortages. Jean Ping, the chairman of the African Union, said last week in Addis Ababa: “Although Africa is least responsible for global warming, it suffers most from a problem it didn’t create.”

Thugs Gone Wild in Kilil-istan!

Monday, August 31st, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

Rent-a-Thug Against Democracy

In a recent piece entitled “Mob Disrupts Political Meeting in Adama,” former Ethiopian President Dr. Negasso Gidada described how “an organized mob disturbed a public political meeting of the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) in Adama, Oromia, and forced the discontinuation of the meeting.” Dr. Negasso explained:

Around 50 people started to disturb the meeting while Eng. Gizachew Shiferraw, Vice Chairperson of the UDJ was addressing the meeting. The disturbers were shouting, clutching and whistling from the rear of the hall. This mob came up running to the front and damaged a microphone while trying to grab it. They continued to shout: ‘This is Oromia’, ‘Oromo is our Language’, ‘You have to start the meeting by a blessing ceremony in accordance with Oromo culture’, ‘You can hold the meeting in Oromo language’, ‘If you do not speak in Oromo language, and you can not hold meetings in our country’. Several people tried to cool down the mob by promising that what is said would be translated in Oromo. But the mob would not heed the appeal. It even threatened to beat us up. Eng. Gizachew could not continue his speech. He was forced to announce that the meeting is adjourned because of the disturbance… The mob was not a spontaneous disturbing group. There were some OPDO/EPRDF cadres among the mob. I myself could recognize at least two OPDO cadres with whom I worked in the organization before I resigned from it in June 2001. It is obvious that the disturbance was an organized one.

In a separate Amharic piece on the subject, Seeye Abraha (the former defense minister and currently a member of Medrek (Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia) who attended the Adama town hall meeting pointed to a discernable emerging pattern in the use of thugs and hooligans by the “EPDRF” to disrupt opposition meetings. He identified two other similar disruptions a few weeks earlier, one at a UDJ meeting in Debre Markos and another at an Arena Tigray meeting in Mekele. Seeye suggested that a dual strategy is being used to prevent opposition elements from having public meetings: 1) Deny meeting permits on the basis of absurd excuses; or 2) Issue permits but disrupt the meetings using hired thugs and hooligans. Seeye declared that opposition elements will not be intimidated by thugs and “vigilantes” and their outreach efforts to the people will continue. He also put the dictators and the Ethiopian people on notice that should they be victims of thug violence at such meetings, the “EPDRF” should be held responsible.

Thugs and the Triumph of Kilil-istan Chavinism (Tribal-based Ethnic Federalism)

This is Oromia… Oromo is our Language… You have to start the meeting by a blessing ceremony in accordance with Oromo culture… You can hold the meeting in Oromo language… If you do not speak in Oromo language, and you can not hold meetings in our country….

The sounds of such atavistic lyrics of ethnic chauvinism must make sweet music to the ears of Ethiopia’s dictators. It must bring them everlasting joy and ecstasy to have these divisive and truculent words become part of the lexicon of Kilil-istan chauvinism, which is the highest stage of ethnic federalism. No doubt, these words represent the purest expression of the capo dictator’s dream: An Ethiopia blinded, deafened and muted by ethnic, linguistic, tribal and cultural chauvinism. BRAVO!

For nearly two decades, the dictators in Ethiopia toiled ceaselessly to shred the very fabric of that ancient civilization and society, and sculpt a landscape balkanized into tribal, ethnic, linguistic and regional enclaves to establish their own version of a Thousand Year Reich (Reign). They crafted a constitution based entirely on ethnicity and tribal affiliation as the basis for political organization. Article 46 (2) of their constitution provides: “States shall be structured on the basis of settlement patterns, language, identity and consent of the people.” In other words, “states”, (and the people who live in them) shall be organized as homogenous tribal homelands in much the same way as the 10 Bantustans (black homelands) of apartheid South Africa were organized to create ethnically homogeneous and “autonomous” nation states for South Africa’s different black ethnic groups, effectively wiping out their South African national citizenship.

The tribal homelands in Ethiopia are officially called “kilils” (enclaves or distinct enclosed and effectively isolated geographic areas within a seemingly integrated national territory). Like the Bantustans, the Killilistans represent territory set aside for the purpose of concentrating members of designated ethnic/tribal/linguistic/cultural groups in nominally autonomous geographic areas. Ethiopia’s dictators have used a completely fictitious and ridiculous theory of “ethnic (tribal) federalism)”, unknown in the annals of political science or political theory, to justify and glorify these Kililistans, impose their atrocious policy of divide and rule against 80 million people and scrub out any meaningful notion of Ethiopian citizenship.

Big Thugs, Small Thugs and the Rule of Law

Article 9 of the dictators’ constitution provides that the “Constitution is the supreme law of the land…. All citizens, state organs, political organizations, other associations and their officials, have the duty to comply with this Constitution and abide by it.” Article 29 of this “supreme law” guarantees that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression without interference. This right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers,…” Article 30 further ensures, “Everyone shall have the freedom, in association with others, to peaceably assemble without arms, engage in public demonstration and the right to petition.”

In Thugland, no one seems to be particularly concerned about constitutional rights. Dr. Negasso, Ato Seeye, UDJ members and the other community attendees were peaceably assembled at an authorized meeting to engage in important political discussions. They have an absolute right to conduct their meeting peaceably without being molested by thugs, hooligans, criminals, gangsters, hoodlums, delinquents and hustlers. It is the supreme and solemn duty of those in authority to guarantee that the constitutional rights of those peaceably assembled is protected from “interference” by anyone. To be sure, the authorities had a legal duty to arrest the disruptive thugs and “vigilantes” and prosecute them for their egregious violation of the constitutional rights of all those in attendance at the town hall meeting. But as we have seen time and time again, the “supreme law” of the land does not apply to thugs because thugs are above the law of the land; indeed, thugs are the law of the land!

Thugs Here, Thugs There, Thugs Everywhere!

Paraphrasing Mark Twain, one could wonder out loud: “Suppose you were a thug. And suppose you were a member of a dictatorship. But I repeat myself.” The use of rented thugs to disrupt public meetings is the oldest trick in the Book of Dictators and Corrupt Politicians. Not long ago, Robert Mugabe’s (ZANU – Patriotic Front) thugs in Zimbabwe disrupted the Constitutional All-Stakeholders’ Conference (organized to write a new constitution) at the Harare International Conference Centre by lambasting and unleashing a torrent of profanity and vulgarity against the Speaker of Parliament. They also attacked delegates and officials with plastic water bottles. In the early 1990s, organized thugs, galvanized by the political ideology of “Majimboism”, (a Kiswahili concept for “ethnic regionalism”, or “ethno-federalism”) instigated ethnic hatred against the Kikuyu. Recently, Prof. Maurice Iwu, Nigeria’s Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, reported to the Nigeria House of Representatives that the “sporadic outbreak of violence in several parts of the country [in the last election] was a fall-out of political thuggery.” The ultimate African thugs are represented by a militia known as the “Janjawid” – bloodthirsty packs of roving criminals armed and supported by the Sudanese government that have caused widespread atrocities including village destruction, massacres and rapes in the Darfur region.

Thugging it Out!

Seeye Abraha has noticed the Ethiopian people that should they be victims of thug violence, the “EPDRF” is to be held responsible. It may be overly optimistic to expect reason and respect for the law from thugs. The fact of the matter is that thugs will always be thugs; but law abiding citizens can fight back — thug it out, so to speak — by doing the right thing: Always tell the people the truth, and speak truth to thugs. Unite the people where thugs try to put them asunder. Promote harmony wherever thugs sow hatred, division and enmity. Fight to win the hearts and minds of the people wherever thugs seek to crush their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Never lower yourself to the gutter world of thugs, but capture, preserve, protect and defend the moral high ground. Never, never, never abandon the cause of freedom, democracy and human rights in Ethiopia. Always do the right thing, the fair thing, the just thing. As Churchill said, “Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Never yield to thugs! Never forget the truth that if we don’t stand up for the Land of Thirteen Months of Sunshine, thugs will gladly transform it into the Land of Eternal Darkness.

Inherit the Wind

In Proverbs 11 is written, “He who brings trouble on his family will inherit only wind.” Those who have wrought trouble on the Ethiopian family for the last two decades will in the end inherit a tornadic wind. That is foreordained! Their wicked efforts to destroy, dismember, deface and disfigure Ethiopia through the politics of hate and ethnic division will fail just as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow. Their diabolical plan will amount to nothing! Like East Germany, ethnic federalism will be there one day and the next day it will be gone forever. Ethiopia’s best days are yet to come because her destiny rests securely in the palms of her bright, patriotic, industrious, conscientious, humble, forward-looking and God-fearing young people.

Is it not ironic that those of us who profess to champion the cause of justice, truth and morality far outnumber those engaged in the practice of evil, yet the few evil doers seem to outdo us nearly every time. As Dr. Negasso pleaded following his confrontation with the Adama thugs: “I call on all those who stand for the respect of democratic and human rights, for peace and stability of this country and for economic development of this country do something TODAY and not TOMORROW!!” That is why we should take to heart the aphorism, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil (thugs) is that good Ethiopian men and women do nothing” TODAY.

Israeli PM Netanyahu slams school ban on Ethiopia Jews

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday condemned three Jewish religious schools for what he termed their immoral refusal to admit 100 Ethiopian Jewish students.

Spokesmen for Israel’s 100,000-strong Ethiopian community described the schools’ decision as discriminatory. Black Jews have long complained of prejudice in Israel.

The private ultra-Orthodox institutions, which also receive money from the government, denied the ban was racially motivated, saying the children required special funding and classes to raise their academic standards.

But Netanyahu called the ban “intolerable”.

“Rejecting Ethiopian students is simply an attack on our morals, contradicting our ethos as a country, as a society, as Jews and as Israelis,” Netanyahu said in an interview conducted jointly by Israel Radio and Army Radio.

“A school that continues along this line will suffer the consequences,” he said. “I have told (the education minister) to act as forcefully as possible.”

Education ministry officials have been quoted by the Israeli media as saying government funding for the schools, in the central city of Petah Tikva, would be withheld unless they admitted the students.

President Shimon Peres said last week the schools’ policy was a “disgrace” no Israeli could accept. Most Ethiopian Jewish children attend state schools, many of them religious institutions.

Israel’s chief rabbis determined formally in 1973 that Ethiopian Jews were descendants of the Jewish biblical tribe of Dan and were entitled to immigrate to Israel. Tens of thousands arrived in airlifts in the 1980s and 1990s.

Deal reached on Ethiopian students in Israel

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL — Two days before the opening of the school year, a compromise reached between Petah Tikvah Mayor Itzik Ohayoun and principals of the city’s schools will enable 109 students of Ethiopian origin will to enroll in religious schools.

On Sunday, the three schools which set off a public storm with their initial refusal to enroll the students – Lamerhav, Da’at Mevinim and Darkei Noam – also agreed to accept some 30 children who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia with their parents in recent years and are required to attend religious schools as part of their conversion process.

According to the deal, all of the pupils will be accepted to regular classes throughout the city without having to take preliminary tests.

To ease the move into the normal classes, the Ministry of Education will provide each child with an enrichment program tailored to his or her personal needs.

Briefly after word of the compromise was let out, however, Petah Tikva’s parent council announced that it rejected the deal, as only 30 of the pupils will be integrated in the city’s private schools, and reiterated its threat for a strike on September 1.

“The compromise offers no true equality, neither in the numbers nor in the way the pupils are to be integrated,” said chairman of the council Gadi Yaffe. The council called for an emergency meeting with Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar.

Before the deal was reached, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday called the schools’ refusal to accept the Ethiopian students a “moral terror attack.”

In a joint interview with Army Radio and Israel Radio, on a special day of broadcasts dedicated to battling violence, Netanyahu said that schools that refuse to enroll Ethiopians will be punished, and vowed there would be no racial discrimination against Ethiopians in Israel.

Also on Sunday, President Shimon Peres slammed the three schools that had refused to enroll Ethiopian students.

“Is this a way to accept olim? Humiliating treatment of this kind offends and hurts all of us,” Peres, who was attending the opening of the Nofey Habsor School in the Eshkol region, said during a meeting with teenagers.

The president called on the students to do whatever they can to eliminate racial discrimination.

The story has been drawing increased attention as the school year approaches.

It intensified earlier this week when the Parent-Teacher Association in Petah Tikva threatened a strike if the principals of the schools in question continued to refuse to enroll the pupils, while the Education Ministry’s director-general, Dr. Shimshon Shoshani, threatened to pull significant funding from the schools if the pupils were not enrolled by the first day of school.

On Wednesday principals of the three schools, along with representatives from the Petah Tikva Municipality and the Education Ministry, held a meeting over the matter.

At the meeting, the ministry official delivered letters containing the names of pupils the principal’s were expected to enroll.

A source speaking on behalf of the schools told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that during the meeting the principals had inquired as to their requests that the students should be on a par as regards Hebrew and basic math skills and should match the schools’ ministry-approved requirements for aptitude, behavior and religious practice.

When told that the pupils did not match the said requirements, the principals again expressed their reservations about enrolling them and, according to the source, were then asked by the Education Ministry official to attend a meeting with Shoshani on Thursday.

(THE JERUSALEM POST, Abe Selig and Ron Friedman contributed to this report.)

Kidist Mariam Church in Atlanta inaugurates new building

Sunday, August 30th, 2009
Ethiopian Kidist Mariam Church in Atlanta inaugurated new building Kidist Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church’s new building in Lithonia, a suburb of Atlanta [Photo: Ethiopian Review]

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Kidist Mariam (St. Mary) Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Atlanta inaugurated a new building on Saturday, August 29, 2009, in the presence of His Holiness Abune Merkorios, Patriarch of Ethiopia, and other dignitaries.

Ethiopian Kidist Mariam Church in Atlanta inaugurated new building
EOTC Patriarch Abune Merkorios and DeKalby County Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis at the ribbon cutting ceremony of Kidist Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church’s new building in Atlanta [Photo: Ethiopian Review]
Ethiopian Kidist Mariam Church in Atlanta inaugurated new building
EOTC Patriarch Abune Merkorios, EOTC Holy Synod Secretary Abune Melketsedik and other church leaders at the inauguration of Kidist Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church’s new building in Atlanta
[Photo: Ethiopian Review]
Ethiopian Kidist Mariam Church in Atlanta inaugurated new building
The new Kidist Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Church building located at 1152 South Stone Mountain Lithonia Rd., Lithonia, GA [Photo: Ethiopian Review]

(News Release by Kidist Mariam Church) — The Atlanta Kidist Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Cathedral was founded and established in 1987. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s deep tradition goes back to the fourth century A.D. at which time the Church was formed when the Christian church broke off into its two main branches: Orthodox and Roman Catholic.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has been a source of spiritual and cultural education to the people of Ethiopia. The church’s heritage goes back almost two thousand years and has been a major contributor to the development of modern Christianity.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church is one of the oldest churches in the world. As a result Ethiopia is considered one of the longest lived Christian countries in the world.

Initially, Kidist Mariam Church was serving its congregation in a chapel rented from Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta. Since that time, the church has taken the lead in providing services to meet the spiritual, cultural, and economic needs of the Ethiopian immigrant population in the Greater Atlanta area. As the size of the congregation grew faster than expected, members of the church, encouraged by their strong conviction and deep religious dedication, purchased the current church located at 266 Robin Street Decatur, Georgia, in 1995. However, the Church was still unable to provide essential services for many hundreds of Ethiopians. Again, with members and all Christians’ fulfillment of their spiritual obligations, the church acquired and fully paid for 5.5 acres of land, to build bigger facilities.

Now that this complex is completed, the largest and most traditionally built Ethiopian Orthodox Church ever constructed outside of Ethiopia will provide adequate space for both worship and community outreach activities for many Ethiopians. The church plans to offer classes in health promotion and disease prevention, anti-crime meetings, social and youth activities, and English language training, educational and employment referrals and senior citizens activities. These services will be available to the entire Ethiopian community and other interested individuals, regardless of faith commitment. Members of our congregation continuously pray that God grants them guidance, unity, and vision in order to utilize the facilities of the new cathedral for the glory of His Holy Name.

Remittances decline by 9.6% in Ethiopia

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

By Muluken Yewondwossen | Capital Ethiopia

The global financial crisis, originating from economically empowered countries, is hammering the economy of developing countries like Ethiopia due to a drop in exports and remittances.

According to a Ministry of Trade and Industry Report, the country has taken home around 1.4 billion US dollars from export, which has dropped from last year’s revenue of 1.5 billion US dollars. The Ethiopian government was hoping to collect 2.5 billion US dollars from the past fiscal year’s exports.
Making matters worse is that international remittances, transfers from Ethiopian and foreign nationals to Ethiopia, has declined by 9.6 per cent from last year, according to a National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) report.

In the previous budget year (2007/08) the Central Bank reported that the country earned around 800 million dollar from remittances. A figure that falls 200 million US dollars short of the number reported by Ethiopia’s ruling party, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) who stated that it was around one billion US dollars.

According to Capital’s source, in the past budget year (2008/09) that ended in July, the country earned about 723 million US dollars from international remittances transferred by the Diaspora and foreigners.

Since the financial crisis hit Europe and the US, giant companies and organizations have been shedding jobs. Many of those falling victim to the job cuts are low paid, low skill workers, many of whom are immigrants to these countries, working to support families in their country of origin.
“The number of remittance service providers has increased in the past year but the transfer rate has not been like the previous year because of the crisis,” a source said.

In the fiscal year spanning 2006-07 remittances were only 633 million US dollars. Still a year before the crisis, Ethiopia generated 2.5 billion US dollars in foreign exchange. Sector experts say this increase was the result of an NBE’s directive issued in 2006, allowing various mode of money transfers. The 2006 Remittance Service Providers (RSPs) directive stated that users of this system can obtain information from access points such as bank branches, post offices and related organizations.

The directive aimed to improve the operations of the formal remittance service in Ethiopia, to reduce the costs of remittance transfers and to increase access to international remittance service for nationals all to make the service quick and reliable.

Most types of remittances are from personal funds, investments, international cash donations, deposit and service payments and temporary and permanent migrant transfers.

Ethiopian Israelis protest school discrimination

Friday, August 28th, 2009

(JTA) — The Ethiopian-Israeli community is protesting discrimination by three Orthodox schools in Petach Tikvah.

The Israeli Association for Ethiopian Jews called Thursday for action against three private religious schools in the Tel Aviv suburb that have refused to admit several Ethiopian-Israeli children for the coming school year, the Jerusalem Post reported.

“To our great sorrow, the children of the Ethiopian olim are not allowed to enter the gates of some of the religious educational institutions in Petach Tikvah,” the organization wrote in a letter addressed to the Chief Rabbinate. “We would ask the honorable chief rabbis: Are these children, whose parents underwent a stringent process of conversion for two or more years, not good enough to study in all the religious and haredi schools in Petach Tikvah?”

Israeli President Shimon Peres said the schools’ decision to deny admission to children from the Ethiopian community was a “disgrace no Israeli can accept,” according to Ha’aretz.

Government officials have been debating ways of cutting off funding for the schools — which despite being private rely on support from the government — unless they reverse their decision.

The three schools have responded by claiming children from the Ethiopian community require more time and funds than other children to bring them up to academic standards.

Moti Zaft, the acting mayor of Petach Tikvah, told Army Radio that he believes separate classes should be held for Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian children so that each can student can receive education that best serves their needs.

Another Ethiopian student missing in U.K.

Friday, August 28th, 2009

UK (BBC) — A fourth member of an Ethiopian exchange programme has gone missing from Hartlepool, UK.

Police have launched a missing persons inquiry following the disappearance of Konjit Assefa, 22, who was last seen in the town centre on Tuesday.

Three other members of the nine-strong group, all men in their 20s, vanished while visiting London, though one later made contact and has since left the UK.

Organisers Global Xchange said the incidents were damaging to its work.

The programme is designed to give young people from different countries an opportunity to work on community development projects and promote cross cultural understanding.

A team of 18 young people, nine from Hartlepool and nine from Ethiopia, have been working together for three months in each country.

Phil Hudson, head of Global Xchange, said: “Our primary concern is for the safety of Konjit and we are helping the police with their inquiries.

Others ‘distressed’

“However, we take very seriously any actions that damage the reputation of the programme, which over the past 10 years has had a significant impact on community development and enhanced the skills and perspectives of thousands of young people.”

The organisation will review its security procedures, and give “serious consideration” to which countries it works with in the future, he added.

The remainder of the Ethiopian group are due to fly home on Monday, and are said to be distressed and disappointed.

Those still missing are not yet being treated as illegal immigrants, as they still have visas until mid-September.

Anyone who knows the whereabouts of Ms Assefa should contact Cleveland Police.

2 Ethiopian religious leaders arrive in Eritrea

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Aba Abiy Yohannes and Kes Tibebu Assfaw Asmara, Eritrea — Two Ethiopian religious leaders arrived in Eritrea opposing the ongoing conflict and anarchy within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (EOC) that is being instigated by Ato GebreMedhin (formerly Abune Paulos).

The two religious leaders are Aba Abiy Yohannes, who used to serve at the Lideta Church in Addis Ababa, and Kes Tibebu Assfaw, who used to serve at the Selassie Monastery administered by the Addis Ababa Synod.

Both pointed out that Ato Gebremedhin is fomenting tribalism within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. They also accused Ato Gebremedhin of corruption and causing anarchy inside the Church.

The religious leaders disclosed that photos of Ato Gebremedhin is being displayed churches and monasteries through out the country, more than images of saints.

Source: Shabait.com

Ethiopian model Anna Getaneh at Arise Africa Fashion Week

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

South Africa’s SABC interviews Ethiopia’s ex-fashion model Anna Getaneh on her recent showing at Arise Africa Fashion Week. In the video, Anna discusses her label African Mosaique, making an impact on Ethiopia, relocating from abroad to South Africa and her passion for fashion.

(Source: LadyBrilleMag)

IMF comes to the rescue of Ethiopia's tribal junta once again

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: IMF keeps the dying genocidal dictatorship in Ethiopia alive by an infusion of a quarter of a billion dollars. The junta had just a few days of hard currency reserve left as remittances from abroad declined. This blood money will be used by the Woyanne junta to continue brutalizing and terrorizing the people of Ethiopia and the whole Horn of Africa region. The following is a press release from the IMF:

IMF Executive Board Scumbags Approve US$240.6 Million Arrangement for the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Under the Exogenous Shocks Facility ruling tribal junta in Ethiopia

Press Release No. 09/289

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved a 14-month, SDR 153.755 million (about US$240.6 million) arrangement under the Exogenous Shocks Facility (ESF) to help Ethiopia cope with the effects of the global recession on its balance of payments. The arrangement (115 percent of Ethiopia’s quota) was approved under the high access component of the ESF, a facility designed to provide policy support and financial assistance on concessional terms to eligible low-income countries facing temporary exogenous shocks. A disbursement of SDR 73.535 million (about US$115.1 million) will become available following the Board’s decision.

Following the Executive Board discussion, Mr Takatoshi Kato, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, issued the following statement:

“Ethiopia’s economy has been adversely affected by a series of shocks, first from surging commodity prices in 2008, and most recently from the global recession. While the authorities have been successfully implementing a macroeconomic adjustment package since late 2008 to help lower inflation and build up international reserves, the global recession is now putting renewed pressure on the external position as export receipts and remittances weaken and inward direct investment slows.

“The authorities have adopted an appropriate program for 2009/10 to address the strains on the balance of payments and to keep inflation low. Seeking a balance among conflicting objectives—limiting inflation, rebuilding reserves, accommodating higher capital outlays, unwinding recent real exchange rate appreciation—their program calls for a continued tight fiscal stance (though eased somewhat from 2008/09), a slowing of the pace of monetary growth, and gradual real exchange rate adjustment, aided by a step depreciation of the birr on July 10, 2009.

“The general government budget for 2009/10 envisages some easing of the tight limits on public spending instituted last year, financed by a mix of external and domestic borrowing. Public sector domestic borrowing will be contained to 3 percent of GDP, with the government acting to improve controls over borrowing by public enterprises and monitoring carefully external debt levels to ensure debt sustainability. The authorities are committed to crafting a tax reform strategy, aimed at reversing the decline in the tax-to-GDP ratio recorded in recent years.

“Monetary policy focuses on entrenching single-digit inflation by providing a strong nominal anchor. The monetary program seeks to limit broad money growth to 17 percent for 2009/10, with the National Bank of Ethiopia seeking to enhance its control over reserve money by systematic use of the regular Treasury-bill auctions to manage liquidity.

“Prudent implementation of this program, accompanied by planned reform measures, will provide a sound macroeconomic environment for economic growth. The financial support being provided under the Exogenous Shocks Facility, coupled with the new allocation of SDRs, will further boost foreign reserves, thereby enhancing confidence in the sustainability of the government’s economic program.”

Recent Economic Developments

Ethiopia has faced a turbulent external economic environment in the past two years, stemming from sharp movements in import prices and then the global slowdown. Surging import prices helped push reserves down to some US$900 million (1.2 months of imports) by mid-2008 and contributed to an exceptional jump in consumer price inflation. The global recession is now putting renewed pressure on the external position via weaker export receipts and remittances and slowing inward direct investment.

The authorities implemented a macroeconomic adjustment package from late-2008, which was supported by the IMF’s January 2009 disbursement of SDR 33.425 million (about US$52.3 million) to Ethiopia under the rapid-access component (RAC) of the ESF (see Press Release No. 09/13). The adjustment program has met key policy targets. Inflation in the 12 months to June declined to 3 percent, aided by falling food price levels, while foreign reserves, helped by increased donor assistance, reached some US$1.5 billion (1.8 months of import cover) by end-June 2009.

Key Program Policies and Objectives

The authorities’ program for 2009/10 includes:

• Limits on domestic borrowing by the public sector, although the limits are eased slightly from 2008/09 levels

• Some easing of the fiscal stance, tightened sharply under the 2008/09 adjustment program

• Further slowing of the pace of monetary expansion

• Judicious exchange rate adjustment in a manner that does not destabilize expectations or fuel consumer price inflation.

• Supporting structural measures, focusing on tax reform, the control of public enterprise borrowing, and the control of liquidity through indirect instruments.

The policies supported under the arrangement, coupled with the Fund’s financial support and Ethiopia’s increased allocation of Special Drawing Rights (see Press Release No. 09/283), are expected to contribute to the rebuilding of international reserves to 2½ months of imports by 2010/11, while maintaining a sound macroeconomic environment for growth and poverty reduction.

Yemen police arrest 80 Ethiopians

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

SANA’A, (Saba News) — Police have arrested 80 Ethiopian refugees from African Horn since beginning of current month in different governorates of the country, Media Center of Interior Minister reported on Wednesday.

All of them are Ethiopians handed over to the passport and immigration authority to take legal measures, the ministry said.

Last Monday the center said that about 114 Somali refugees have reached the coast of Thubab district in Taiz province. The security authorities mentioned that the 114 Somali refugees included 64 women arrived on Sunday to the district’s coastline.

The authorities in cooperation with the branch of Yemen Red Crescent gathered the refugees and sent them to the main camp of Kharaz for Somali refugees in Lahj province.

Barnes & Noble Bookfair Supporting Ethiopia Reads

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Please join Ethiopia Reads to show your support for literacy in Ethiopia by participating at this Bookfair in Oakland, CA… read more

Ethiopia's regime jails two editors under obsolete law

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

New York (CPJ) — Two Ethiopian journalists were thrown in prison on Monday after a judge convicted them under an obsolete press law in connection with coverage of sensitive topics dating back several years, according to local journalists and news reports.

Ibrahim Mohamed Ali, editor of the weekly, Muslim-oriented newspaper Salafiyya, and Asrat Wedajo, former editor of Seife Nebelbal, a now-defunct weekly that was banned amid the 2005 government crackdown on the press, have begun serving one-year sentences at Kality Prison, outside the capital, Addis Ababa. Wedajo did not have a lawyer, but Ali’s lawyer, Temam Ababulgu, told CPJ he would appeal the verdict.

Federal High Court Judge Zewdinesh Asres convicted Ali and Wedajo on several charges under Ethiopia’s criminal code and its now-obsolete Press Proclamation of 1992, according to Ababulgu. The 1992 media law was reformed as the Freedom of the Mass Media and Access to Information Proclamation, which officially took effect in December 2008, according to CPJ research.

“Prime Minister Meles Zenawi assured CPJ in 2006 that his government would end the practice of sending journalists to prison on charges dating back several years,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes. “But independent journalists continue to be charged and intimidated using obsolete media laws.”

Wedajo was charged in connection with a 2004 story alleging human rights violations against the ethnic Oromos, the largest ethnic group in the country.

Ali was charged in connection with a piece written by a guest columnist and published in 2007, criticizing the Ministry of Education‘s proposal to restrict headscarves for female Muslim students at public education institutions, according to Ababulgu. In 2008, the editor spent nearly two weeks behind bars, along with Al-Quds Publisher Maria Kadim and Editor Ezedin Mohamed for reprinting postings from the Web site EthiopianMuslims that criticized the ministry’s proposal to restrict religious practices in public schools. A magistrate acquitted Kadim but fined Mohamed 10,000 birrs (US$800) in July, according to local journalists. Mohamed told CPJ he is returning to court in September to face more charges over coverage of religious issues.

The Ethiopian government has had a longstanding practice of reviving years-old criminal cases, some of them seemingly dormant, as a way to silence critical journalists. The practice has persisted despite Zenawi‘s pledge, made to a visiting CPJ delegation in March 2006, that the government would reconsider the practice. Pending criminal charges or the possibility of criminal prosecutions now hang over at least eight more editors of Amharic-language newspapers for their coverage of political and public affairs, according to CPJ research.

Ethiopia is one of the world’s worst backsliders of press freedom, a steady decline made worse by a recent draconian anti-terror legislation.

Ethiopian village takes pride in Purdue University professor

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Gebisa Ejeta Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (AP) — An Ethiopian village is taking pride in a Purdue University professor who won this year’s World Food Prize for his efforts to feed hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa.

Gebisa Ejeta says hundreds of people lined up to see him during a recent visit to his childhood village.

The distinguished professor of agronomy developed drought- and disease-resistant forms of sorghum, which is an African diet staple.

The food prize is considered the Nobel Prize of the food and agricultural world. Ejeta will receive the $250,000 award Oct. 15 from the Iowa-based World Food Prize Foundation in Des Moines.

The prize was created by Iowa native Norman Borlaug to honor efforts to solve global hunger problems.

Ethiopia's ambassador to the US ordered to return home

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Addis Ababa (EthioPolitics) — The business English weekly, Fortune, disclosed that Ethiopia’s Woyanne ambassador to the United States, Dr. Samuel Assefa, has been ordered to return home, after only serving one term.

The paper in its Gossip column wrote that the office in Washington D.C will soon be vacant and awaiting new replacement. The Ambassador was seen in Addis Ababa two weeks ago, perhaps on his way from the AGO summit held in Nairobi, according to Fortune.

The paper hinted that the increasingly tough lines adopted by the Obama administration towards the Ethiopian government Woyanne might have forced it to think of another “well-groomed and highly experienced diplomat.” The paper didn’t say who that might be.

Dr. Samuel, who became ambassador in early 2006, was the former vice president of the University of Addis Ababa.

An American student's nightmare in Ethiopia

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

A University of Wisconsin sophomore recounts her experience being detained and deported from her host country of Ethiopia.

By Rory Linnane | The Daily Cardinal

Rory Linnane, University of Wisconsin MADISON, WISCONSIN — A strong hand planted stiffly on my shoulder and sent shivers through my body, freezing every muscle as I stood on my host family’s front lawn in Ethiopia. I slowly turned as my eyes traveled up a large arm and over to the other arm, which was grasping an AK-47. I looked up at his face as he glanced back at two other armed men and his lips parted into a grin.

At this point I was halfway through a two-month summer trip to teach English in Haramaya, Ethiopia, through Learning Enterprises, a nonprofit student-run organization. Fourteen volunteers and a student program coordinator were staying with host families in eastern Ethiopia.

Capture

I was on my way to school with two other volunteers July 9 when I was stopped by the three armed men on my lawn. We later learned they worked for the Ethiopian National Intelligence Agency.

“You need to come with me to the police station for questioning, all of you,” the man who stopped me said.

“Why?” I demanded.

No response. Oh, right, I thought, authorities in Ethiopia don’t respond to that question. I learned it was dangerous to question their government. Any time I tried to discuss politics in a public place I was quickly hushed. As an American citizen on Ethiopian soil, I had no more rights than the Ethiopian people. A couple minutes after my foolish “why” question, we were flailing and yelling for help while the men shoved us into the back of a car.

Not knowing who was taking me or where I was going, the tears came abruptly like a kid in a grocery store who suddenly looks up to find she has lost her mother. My remaining dignity left with the breath stuttering out through my quivering mouth. I cried tears heavy with the universal fear felt by humans deprived of basic human rights. At that moment I felt perhaps the greatest connection with the Ethiopian people as I was forced to face what they struggle against every day.

In the next town over, we pulled into the police station where more volunteers from our program were waiting. We sat in the police office where we were watched fidgeting for hours before they told us that we were missing “a document” required for teaching in Ethiopia—a document to be discussed with officials in the capital 10 hours west, Addis Ababa. Commanded to pack all of our things for the trip to Addis, we concluded we probably wouldn’t be coming back to the town we had grown to call home.

Back at my host family’s house, trying to keep my eyes dry enough to pack my bags, I avoided looking anyone in the eyes. My efforts became futile when I opened the front pocket of my pack and found all the gifts I had planned to give my host family.

“Why are you crying?” the men asked me, laughing from behind their AK-47s.

“This is my family,” I whispered. “You are taking me from my family.”

Giving words to my emotions solidified them into a burning anger that replaced my fear and sadness. I thought of my students who waited hours on end for the chance to get into 50 minutes of class, before going home to help their family scrape up a living. They were certainly waiting at school for us now. And here was their government, ignorant and self-important, carting away free teachers and guarding us with 10 armed men in case we tried anything.

Detention

We drove all day toward Addis Ababa. In the morning we began requests for lunch that went unsatisfied, and in the afternoon we tried for dinner. Finally they gave in and we pulled over to a roadside shop. An official went to the shop and came back with a small pack of crackers for us all to split.

We kept driving into the night until we stopped at a hotel, still hours out of Addis. We were in a malaria zone. We asked to get our bug nets but were denied access to our bags. You’re not supposed to take malaria medication on an empty stomach, but I was getting bitten. I took my pill and just minutes later was keeling over. I spent the night without sleep, weak and dehydrated in the sticky lowland heat, dry-heaving over a hole in the ground overflowing with sewage, guarded by armed men with unknown objectives. The next morning we made it to the capital.

In Addis they took us straight to immigration. Again we were kept hungry, though this time we were advised to enjoy the “mental food” offered by the view from our holding room. Despite our waning energy, we kept our spirits up with songs, games and stories. Immigration officials interviewed us each individually. The officials gave each of us a different reason about what we were doing wrong in the country. My favorite was that we were “overknowledging” our students by challenging them in the classroom.

While we waited as a group during the interviews, we decided that no matter what happened, our primary goals were to stick together and to contact the U.S. embassy. We wrote the embassy’s number on skin covered by clothes and on small pieces of paper that we hoped we would be able to pass off to someone.

By the last few interviews, the officials became consistent in telling us that we had the wrong type of visa. Although airport staff told us to get tourist visas, these officials thought we needed business visas. That night they told us we had to leave the country the following day. If we had the cash on us to change our flights, we could do so; otherwise it was Ethiopian jail until our original flights left, which was a month later for me. We did not believe we had enough cash for all of us, but our goal to stick together remained intact.

Rescue

We spent that night under tight guard at a government hotel where we were still unable to contact the embassy, and the next day they drove us to the airport where we were held in a back room. After waiting all day, later that evening my blank stare at the wall was interrupted when a team of men entered the room and stated, “We are from the U.S. embassy. We are here to help you.” I bolted from my chair and smothered them in hugs and tears. The next hour was a flurry of phone calls home, information release forms and random expressions of glee.

A few hours later we were all on flights home, lessons learned. When traveling abroad it is important to be knowledgeable about the country and its government. While we were never given an official reason for our deportation, many of us believe it had to do with the ethnicity of the students we were teaching: Oromo.

Every Oromo person I talked to felt that the government actively oppresses the Oromo ethnic group as a means of maintaining power. The ruling party of Ethiopia, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front Tigrean People Liberation Front ({www:Woyanne}), has proven it will go to great lengths to protect its power. After the 2005 national elections threatened the party’s majority in parliament, Ethiopians accused the party of intimidation at the polls and forging ballots. Hundreds were injured, killed or arrested.

In a country with such a paranoid and forceful government, we could have foreseen some trouble with serving the Oromo people without any sort of clearance from higher up. We also should have gone to the U.S. embassy as a group for information about risks and instruction on safety.

When you go to another country, you don’t take your rights with you. As romantic and adventurous as it sounds to spontaneously pack up and travel the globe, when you don’t do your homework, reality can be harsh.

The summer of our discontent

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

It is the right season to demand justice. It is the right time to demand respect for human rights and the rule of law. After the long drought of hopelessness and apathy, we are ready to flex our muscle and deliver a powerful punch. Why the optimism you might ask?

It is a good question. The answer is both simple and straightforward. Both internal and external conditions are favorable to us. Internally the economic hardship is taking a toll. Inflation is still in double digits, devaluation is rendering the birr (Ethiopia’s currency) a useless currency and remittances that have been propping up the dying system have dried up. The illegal regime is forced into picking pockets of returnees to supplement its meager foreign currency reserves.

Externally the defeat of the republican administration in the US has dealt a heavy blow to ‘terrorist’ traders like the TPLF regime. The advent of Mr. Obama has become a game changer event. Democracy is in dictatorship is out, real verifiable election is in sham election is out in short reality is in vogue while fantasy and make believe is nothing but a pipe dream.

There is a Russian saying ‘A fish rots from the head’. It is Ethiopia in a nutshell. Any organization is a reflection of its leader. The TPLF type of leadership has run its course. It functioned when there was plenty to go around. The thieves did not have the time to fight over the loot. It worked when terror was deployed as a tool to intimidate and silence. Well there is no more to steal. The till is empty. Agazi militia, Federal Police or Kebele tugs have lost their aura of invincibility. Remember the last years of the Derg when the accusers walked with their head down in shame? It is déjà vu time again. It is the law of physics, what goes up must come down. It is independent of our will.

What happened in Adama last week was a reflection of a dying system. The last gasps of a disease ridden rotten fish flailing one last time. The eighteen years old society built on the concept of equality of nationalities was laid bare. Like we suspected Woyane was not building the future Ethiopian nation but rather a bunch of weak Bantustans ruled by mobs and zombies. This is the new improved Ethiopia, you stay on your side and I stay on my side. We thought Woyane wants to control what we say but now we also know they want to control in what language not to say it. Woyane never ceases to amaze. So in Adama you only speak Oromyea, in Tigrai conversation is allowed only in Tigregna, Amharic only in Gondar, Wolaita in Sodo and so forth. Can you watch Amharic News on TV in Sidamo? Can you think in Guragegna in Mekele? Where does all this madness stop?

Some body got to say it stops right here and right now! A lot have started to say enough is enough. But it takes time. Especially with us Ethiopians, time is a very fluid commodity. We are lackadaisical when it comes to time. Our philosophy could be summed up as ‘why do it today when it could be done tomorrow’. Some say it is good old responsibility avoidance. We also have a tendency to dump it on a higher power to shift blame. It is a good escape mechanism. It has not served us well. Indifference in the face of injustice is not a winning strategy.

No matter people are making noise. As our good brother Malcolm X said we are slowly but surely resolving to attain our dignity ‘by any means necessary’. It is about time all those that abhor injustice stand up and be counted. We in the Diaspora are the lucky ones that can say no. We speak because those at home are muzzled. For the vast majority life has become intolerable. Eating once a day has become a luxury. It is always surprising to hear our visitors talk upon their return from a trip back home. It is clear we see what we want to see. But on the other hand isn’t it true a hunger even by one is one too many hunger? How about by fourteen million? Does changing the description to malnutrition relive us of the responsibility?

Our people back home are fighting the injustice in many different ways. Silence, non-cooperation, sabotage, and exodus are some of the methods. None of them are healthy for a human being. It is not easy. Fighting a state organized for coercion is a formidable task. The Soviet Union lasted sixty-nine years. Eastern Europeans suffered for over forty years while the North Koreans are celebrating fifty-six years of misery.

We are on our thirty fifth year. Thirty-five years of destruction of the body and the spirit. Every household in Ethiopia has been negatively affected. No one escaped from this calamity. It is a miracle we survived intact. The Derg and the TPLF regime have done incalculable damage to our country. The TPLF regime is in league with the likes of Stalin, Pol Pot, Erich Honecker and Nicolae Ceauşescu. The hallmarks of a dictatorship include dividing people on tribal basis and encouraging difference, setting up a very lethal security apparatus that uses terror to create fear, pitting one group against another, state sponsored extortion and blackmail and hit squads that kill in broad day light. The TPLF regime in Ethiopia displays all these characteristics.

All the above dictators were forced out. Not one of them walked away peacefully. They all have an inglorious end. That is the way of dictatorship. It has to be nudged away.

That is the reason for the Washington DC march on Sunday, September 13. It is to nudge the Ethiopian dictator. It is a show of force. It is to remind President Obama the invaluable help he got from the Ethiopian community. We are pleased by the new emphasis on democracy, free elections and respect for basic human rights. We are hopeful the US will not turn a blind eye to the abuse of our people. We don’t expect the US, Western Europe or anyone else to do our battle. What we want them to do is stop enabling the minority government by granting aid, easy loans from IMF and World Bank and any kind of military assistance. We will do the rest.

The Washington DC march on September 13 is one aspect of our resistance to dictatorship. Attending the march is a civic responsibility. It is transforming word into action. It is showing love for ones country in a concrete way. Dress green yellow and red and carry green yellow and red. Turn Washington DC into a sea of green, yellow and red. Show the dictator that we will never ever submit to terror.

(The writer can be reached at yilma@pacbell.net)

Senator Ted Kennedy passed away

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Ted Kennedy Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., 77, died from a brain tumor on Tuesday night. The brother of President John F. Kennedy, he was elected to the Senate in 1962.

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the quiet of a Capitol elevator, one of Edward M. Kennedy’s fellow lawmakers asked whether he had plans for a family Thanksgiving away from the nation’s capital. No, the Massachusetts senator said with a shake of his head, and mentioned something about visiting his brothers’ gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery.

In his half-century in the public glare, Kennedy was, above all, heir to a legacy — as well as a hero to liberals, a foil to conservatives, a legislator with few peers.

Alone of the Kennedy men of his generation, he lived to comb gray hair, as the Irish poet had it. It was a blessing and a curse, as he surely knew, and assured that his defeats and human foibles as well as many triumphs played out in public at greater length than his brothers ever experienced.

He was the only Kennedy brother to run for the White House and lose. His brother John was president when he was assassinated in 1963 a few days before Thanksgiving; Robert fell to a gunman in mid-campaign five years later. An older brother, Joseph Jr., was killed piloting a plane in World War II.

Runner-up in a two-man race for the Democratic nomination in 1980, this Kennedy closed out his failed candidacy with a speech that brought tears to the eyes of many in a packed Madison Square Garden.

“For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end,” he said. “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

He was 48, older than any of his brothers at the time of their deaths. He lived nearly three more decades, before succumbing to a brain tumor late Tuesday at age 77.

___

That convention speech was a political summons, for sure. But to what?

Kennedy made plans to run for president again in 1984 before deciding against it. By 1988, his moment had passed and he knew it.

He turned his public energies toward his congressional career, now judged one of the most accomplished in the history of the Senate.

“I’m a Senate man and a leader of the institution,” he said more than a year ago in an Associated Press interview. He left his imprint on every major piece of social legislation to pass Congress over a span of decades. Health care, immigration, civil rights, education and more. Republicans and Democrats alike lamented his absence as they struggled inconclusively in recent months with President Barack Obama’s health care legislation.

He was in the front ranks of Democrats in 1987 who torpedoed one of President Ronald Reagan’s Supreme Court nominees. “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, children could not be taught about evolution,” he said at the time.

It was a single sentence that catalogued many of the issues he — and Democrats — devoted their careers to over the second half of the 20th century.

A postscript: More than a decade later, President Clinton nominated a former Kennedy aide, Stephen Breyer, to the high court. He was confirmed easily.

___

There were humiliations along the way, drinking and womanizing, coupled with the triumphs that the Kennedy image-makers were always polishing. After the 1980 presidential campaign, Camelot took another hit when he divorced. He later remarried, happily.

In later years came grumbling from fellow Democrats that his political touch had failed him, and that he was too eager to strike a deal with President George W. Bush on education and Medicare.

“I believe a president can make a difference,” he said over and over in that campaign of 1980, at a time the country was suffering from crushing combination of high interest rates, inflation and unemployment.

But it wasn’t necessary to be a president to make a difference, or to try.

He once startled a Republican senator’s aide, tracking her down by phone in Poland, part of an attempt to complete a bipartisan compromise.

For years, he left the Capitol once a week to read to a student at a nearby public school as part of a literacy program.

When a longtime Senate reporter fell terminally ill, Kennedy dispatched one of his watercolors to her room in a nursing home, and cheered her with chatty phone calls.

___

Kennedy took up painting in earnest after a plane crash that broke his back in the mid-1960s and led to a lengthy convalescence. Much of his work hangs in his Senate office, several seascapes or images of sailboats of the type he piloted in the waters off Cape Cod.

The walls of other rooms are filled with political and personal memorabilia, family photographs or letters or some combination of the two that hint at the passage of time and power.

In one room hangs a photo showing Kennedy and his siblings and parents in a family portrait taken in the 1930s, at a time their father, Joseph P. Kennedy, was U.S. ambassador to England.

In another hangs a plaque from the USS John F. Kennedy, the Navy vessel commissioned in 1968 and named for the slain president.

In another, the letter he wrote his mother, Rose, teasingly accusing her of having covered up a deficiency in math. No, she wrote back firmly in pencil, she always got an A.

Elsewhere, this:

“To Dad. Thank you for helping me get ahold of that first rung,” wrote his son, Patrick, after winning a seat in the Rhode Island Legislature in 1990. The parent had dispatched aides to Providence to help assure victory for the child, now an eighth-term member of Congress.

___

There were other, far more public ways that Kennedy became the family standard bearer.

Robert Kennedy had spoken of the assassinated president at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Four years later, he, too, was dead, and this time the last surviving brother delivered the eulogy.

“My brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life,” his voice trembled at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. “He should be remembered simply as a good and decent man who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”

A generation later, John Kennedy Jr., who had been a toddler when his father was in the White House, died in a small plane crash off Martha’s Vineyard. This eulogy invoked the words of William Butler Yeats, the poet: “We dared to think, in that other Irish phrase, that this John Kennedy would live to comb gray hair. But like his father, he had every gift but the gift of years.”

___

“Thank you my friend for your many courtesies. If the world only knew,” reads a letter hanging on one wall of the office. It came from Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, once the Senate’s top Republican.

As the most prominent liberal of his day, Kennedy was long an easy and popular target for Republicans. The automobile accident that resulted in the death of a young Pennsylvania woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, drew snickers both before and after it shadowed his presidential campaign in 1980. Kennedy was driving the car in the accident at Chappaquiddick.

It is a cliche, yet true, that if his name was invaluable in Democratic fundraising, conservatives long ago discovered they could generate cash simply by telling donors they were doing battle with Kennedy.

Kennedy understood that, and knew how to turn it to his own advantage.

When a Moral Majority fundraising appeal somehow arrived at his office one day in the early 1980s, word leaked to the public, and the conservative group issued an invitation for him to come to Liberty Baptist College if he was ever in the neighborhood.

Pleased to accept, was the word from Kennedy.

“So I told Jerry (Falwell) and he almost turned white as a sheet,” said Cal Thomas, then an aide to the conservative leader.

Dinner at the Falwell home was described as friendly.

Dessert was a political sermon on tolerance, delivered by the liberal from Massachusetts.

“I believe there surely is such a thing as truth, but who among us can claim a monopoly?” Kennedy said from the podium that night. “There are those who do, and their own words testify to their intolerance.”

___

More than a quarter-century later, he was still eager to make a difference. At a critical point in the 2008 presidential race, he endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination, then embarked on an ambitious schedule of campaign appearances.

He cast his endorsement in terms that linked Obama to the Kennedys.

“There was another time, when another young candidate was running for president and challenging America to cross a new frontier,” he said.

“He faced criticism from the preceding Democratic president, who was widely respected in the party,” Kennedy said.

“And John Kennedy replied: ‘The world is changing. The old ways will not do. … It is time for a new generation of leadership.’”

___

That endorsement came a few months before the seizure that signaled the presence of a deadly brain tumor. There were memorable public moments ahead, a surprise visit to the Senate to cast the decisive vote on a Medicare bill and, before that, a turn at the podium at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

“As I look ahead, I am strengthened by family and friendship,” he said there last summer. “So many of you have been with me in the happiest days and the hardest days. Together we have known success and seen setbacks, victory and defeat.

“But we have never lost our belief that we are all called to a better country and a newer world,” he said. “And I pledge to you, I pledge to you that I will be there next January on the floor of the United States Senate when we begin the great test.”

His time in the Senate was growing short, though. He smiled broadly as he took his seat outdoors at Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20, then suffered a seizure a few hours later at a luncheon inside the capitol.

“He was there when the Voting Rights Act passed” in the mid-1960s, the nation’s first black president said moments later in his remarks. “And so I would be lying to you if I did not say that right now a part of me is with him. And I think that’s true for all of us.”

___

Generations of aides recall Kennedy telling them the biggest mistake of his career was turning down a deal that President Richard M. Nixon offered for universal health care. It seemed not generous enough at the time. Having missed the opportunity then, Kennedy spent the rest of his career hoping for an elusive second chance.

Now, some Democrats wonder privately if the party can learn from that lesson, and take what is achievable rather than risk everything by reaching for what it uncertain. Republicans and Democrats alike say Kennedy’s absence has affected the debate on Obama’s signature issue, with unknown consequences.

It was the issue that motivated him even after he was no longer able to travel to the Capitol to cast a vote. He called it “the cause of my life.”

And in July, in a reflection on his own mortality, he worried that his precarious health might mean Massachusetts would have only one senator for a brief while, and Democrats would be handicapped as they tried to pass health care legislation.

After 47 years in the Senate — in a seat held by his brother before him — Kennedy urged a change in state law so the governor could appoint a temporary replacement “should a vacancy occur.”

Republicans join Democrats in mourning Kennedy

BOSTON – Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was a Democrat’s Democrat, so much so that he became a rallying point for those in his party and an object of derision for Republican opponents.

Yet his affability and capability to span the partisan divide on an array of legislative matters prompted an outpouring of condolences from those in the GOP as well as the Democratic Party following his death Tuesday at age 77 from brain cancer.

President Barack Obama led the Democrats, saying in a statement: “For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well-being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.”

Former President George H.W. Bush spoke for his son, former President George W. Bush, in expressing sympathies from members of the Republican Party.

“While we didn’t see eye to eye on many political issues through the years, I always respected his steadfast public service,” said a statement issued by the elder Bush.

“Ted Kennedy was a seminal figure in the U.S. Senate – a leader who answered the call to duty for some 47 years, and whose death closes a remarkable chapter in that body’s history,” he said.

The widow of another Republican president, Ronald Reagan, echoed those sentiments.

“Ronnie and Ted could always find common ground, and they had great respect for one another,” Nancy Reagan said in a statement from Los Angeles. “In recent years, Ted and I found our common ground in stem cell research, and I considered him an ally and a dear friend.”

Her husband died in June 2004 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

For the governor of her home state, the loss was personal.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose wife, Maria Shriver, was Kennedy’s niece, came to politics after careers as a bodybuilder and actor and credited Kennedy with helping him in his current role.

“I have personally benefited and grown from his experience and advice, and I know countless others have as well,” the governor said in a statement. “Teddy taught us all that public service isn’t a hobby or even an occupation, but a way of life and his legacy will live on.”

Kennedy’s death came just two weeks after that of Shriver’s mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, one of the senator’s siblings.

Vice President Joe Biden fought tears as he spoke about his friend and colleague of many decades in the Senate.

“I truly, truly am distressed by his passing,” Biden said. “You know, Teddy spent a lifetime working for a fair and more just America. For 36 years, I had the privilege of going to work every day and sitting next to him and being witness to history. … He restored my sense of idealism.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a 2008 GOP presidential contender, recalled losing to Kennedy in a Senate race. Nonetheless, the two joined forces in 2006 to help pass a universal health insurance law in Massachusetts.

“He was the kind of man you could like even if he was your adversary,” Romney said.

The Senate’s top Democrat, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., promised that Congress, while mourning Kennedy’s loss, would renew the push for the cause of Kennedy’s life – health care reform.

“Ted Kennedy’s dream was the one for which the founding fathers fought and for which his brothers sought to realize,” Reid said in a statement. “The liberal lion’s mighty roar may now fall silent, but his dream shall never die.”

Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat who heads the committee working on the health care bill, made a similar vow, saying, “We will continue to advance the ideals and issues that were so close to his heart and such a part of his remarkable life.”

Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat who visited Kennedy on Cape Cod this summer to discuss strategy on the health care overhaul, said he would miss his friend for the rest of his time in Congress.

“I’m not sure America has ever had a greater senator, but I know for certain that no one has had a greater friend than I and so many others did in Ted Kennedy,” Dodd said.

Former President Jimmy Carter, who beat out Kennedy for the 1980 Democratic presidential nomination, called him “an unwavering advocate for the millions of less fortunate in our country.”

Speaking during a visit to the West Bank town of Ramallah on Wednesday, Carter said Kennedy’s life was “devoted to the improvement of the status of life of those who are poor and deprived and persecuted and ignored and in need in our country.”

Kennedy’s junior colleague, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., lauded him for his cancer fight.

“He taught us how to fight, how to laugh, how to treat each other, and how to turn idealism into action, and in these last 14 months, he taught us much more about how to live life, sailing into the wind one last time,” Kerry said.

“No words can ever do justice to this irrepressible, larger-than-life presence who was simply the best – the best senator, the best advocate you could ever hope for, the best colleague and the best person to stand by your side in the toughest of times.”

09.25.09. Where Will You Be?

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

TsehaiNY.com Staff
Published August 26,  2009

Numbers are important and Ethiopian-Americans for Change, formerly Ethiopians for Obama, is taking the initial steps of making the Ethiopian community within the United States ‘count’.

During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, the diligent work of Ethiopian-Americans for Change (then Ethiopians for Obama) earned a great deal of attention.  Newspapers and online publications such as The Washington Post and The Huffington Post wrote about the group’s effort in working to elect Barack Obama.  Obama’s campaign also acknowledged the work of the group in the form of a first letter ever written by a presidential candidate directly to the Ethiopian community… Read More

4 Ethiopian athletes missing in Scotland

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

FALKIRK, Scotland (AP)— Two runners and two hurdlers from Ethiopia were reported missing Tuesday after leaving their hotel before a track and field meet in Scotland.

The four are Betelhem Shewatatek (women’s 200 meters), Feleke Bekele (400 hurdles), Hagos Tadesse (men’s 400) and Tirehas Haileselassie (hurdles).

Scottish Athletics chief executive Geoff Wightman said his organization reported their disappearance to the police.

The Ethiopians were to compete Wednesday in the Falkirk Cup, a meet also featuring England, Ireland and Scotland. The four athletes are not regulars at major meets.

“My colleague actually tried to restrain two of them but they ran off,” said Dagmawit Amare, who is part of Ethiopia’s team management in Scotland and has been working with Scottish Athletics. “This is such a sad thing to happen for my country and the sport.”

South Sudan At Risk from Blindness

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

JUBA, Sudan (IPS) – In the war-devastated South Sudan, a region with a population of over eight million people, Yeneneh Mulugeta is the only permanent ophthalmologist.

Dozens visit the eye clinic in the semi-autonomous region’s capital every day from across the South trying to have their sight restored, mostly old and silent, waiting their turn with a helper. The Ethiopian doctor has performed hundreds of cataract operations – removing the protein build-up that covers the eye – that miraculously bring back sight.

Reversible cataract is probably responsible for half the cases of blindness in the South, but Mulugeta and government officials in the health sector know there are thousands who have no access to treatment. They also know – although no comprehensive studies have been done – that many thousands are at risk from two of the world’s leading blindness-causing infectious diseases; river-blindness and trachoma.

“South Sudan looks to be the worst. Maybe two percent of the population is blind,” Mulugeta, who works with the Christian Blind Mission, said. This estimate is an extrapolation of numbers from neighbouring Ethiopia where 1.6 percent of the population is visually impaired but where there are far more public health services and infrastructure.

The Director of Eye Health at South Sudan’s health ministry, Ali Yousif Ngor, oversees the South Sudan part of an Africa-wide attempt to combat river blindness, also known as onchocerciasis (O.V). It is a disease spread by the black fly that carries larval forms of a worm parasite. These worms grow and breed, releasing thousands of larvae that move all over the body causing intense itching and blindness.

River blindness is prevented by widely dosing communities in affected areas with a drug called ivermectin. For the last two decades ivermectin has been provided free of charge by a U.S. pharmaceutical company in an attempt to eradicate the disease in endemic countries, mostly in Africa.

It was only at the end of the 22-year civil war in Sudan in 2005 that international health organisations and government officials were given a chance to reach many rural communities. “It is so hard to get everyone to take the drug at the same time, twice a year. That would really hit the transmission of the disease,” Ngor said.

Part of the problem is that officials like Ngor simply do not know how widespread the disease is. Ngor said that the government does not even know if O.V is more or less common than trachoma, another major cause of blindness in the South. Trachoma occurs when untreated, repeated infections of the eye by bacteria eventually causes scarring so extensive the eyelid partially turns in on itself. The lashes scratch the cornea causing intense pain and often first reversible and then irreversible blindness.

Ngor described one small village where the arrival of a mobile ophthalmologic team prompted 400 blind or partially sighted people to turn up in the hope of treatment. “But it was too late for many of them,” he said.

Even within Juba city, lack of knowledge about diseases mean patients often do not go to the clinic early enough to save their sight. But outside the city the situation is far worse; there are no ophthalmologists or even an optometrist to fix disabling short or long sight with a pair of spectacles. Glasses were desperately rare even in the capital until last year. During the 22 years of Sudan’s bloody north-south war the only way to get glasses was to travel to Khartoum, North Sudan, or to the neighbouring countries of Kenya or Uganda.

Levi Sunday is thin, smartly dressed and blind. As his stick tip-taps the ground uneven with tree roots and rain gullies, he moves faster than the average Juba citizen in the hot and small town.

He is Chair of the Equatorian Union of the Blind that has some 800 members. It is a comparatively large organisation by the South’s standards but Sunday said they are finding it hard to draw attention to the problems the blind and partially-sighted experience, including issues of poverty and stigmatisation.

“The union was formed in 1984 … to combat begging, train the blind in handcrafts like basket weaving so they can depend on themselves,” Sunday explained. Classes in other income-generating skills have also been put in place but in reality, Sunday said, many blind are begging.

The union also organises classes to help the blind learn to use a stick and has close connections to the blind school where Braille is taught. “Many of the blind are not educated because of the poor quality of education in the South, there is nothing for the blind – except here in Juba. Now we have Braille machines here so they can type their notes in Braille and read books in it,” Levi said.

Five former students are now enrolled at Juba University, a cause of some pride. The union is also responsible for dozens of marriages between Juba’s blind. Macho South Sudanese society is still too narrow-minded for blind men to easily marry girls with sight, Sunday said.

“There is great ignorance in the south. People do not consider the blind as human. They are seen as powerless. Sometimes they are not helped, even with food. The blind in the south can die because of a lack of support. Blind children are undermined,” Sunday said.

His chairmanship got off to a rough start earlier this year. The union spilt into those supporting Sunday and those supporting his predecessor (who established the union in 1984) over differences over the constitution and personal politics. Feelings ran so high a policeman was put outside the run down union building after someone punctured the wheels of the body’s ancient Suzuki (they have a volunteer part-time sighted driver).

Too much politics everywhere seems like a curse of the South. Even in peacetime life in the region is fraught for many. Southerners are still holding their breath for a 2011 referendum promised under the peace deal that will give them a long-awaited chance to vote for separation from north Sudan. But many worry that tense North-South Sudan relations will worsen in the run up to elections next year and the referendum vote. In the meantime tribal violence has intensified this year, with hundreds killed including women and children.

With these problems perhaps it is not surprising that the blind are side-lined. The four-year-old government has not yet met the poor standards of garrison times when the blind were provided free transport and educational support. Experienced blind teachers were recently threatened with dismissal, because they were deemed unfit to teach, a deep blow to the union’s confidence, although the threat was later retracted.

“Since the peace, I myself have not seen a change in the lives of the blind. People now (in power) are not cooperating with blind people… before the peace when Juba was under Khartoum at least we had free transport cards. Now there is nothing like that,” Sunday said.

For experts in the sector the problem is extremely worrying. The Carter Centre, an American non-profit that has trained surgeons to do trachoma surgery in rural areas, says that in Sudan some 5 million people could be at risk from river blindness.

“Early blindness is early mortality in South Sudan,” Dante Vasquez from the Carter Centre said. The blind tend to have poorer nutrition and are isolated so they die younger.

The Carter Centre has performed well over 4,000 trachoma surgeries, a procedure which involves cutting and re-sewing the eyelid in a way that turns the eyelashes back outwards, in the South and has treated hundreds of thousands of earlier-stage cases with antibiotics. Though Vasquez believes the true scope of the disease is unknown; and the centre could be just scratching the surface. In Ayod county the Carter Centre found 15 percent of the population affected, and three percent of children. Trachoma infection in more than one percent of the population is usually considered a serious health risk.

Children with the disease are stigmatised, not least by the pain that renders them unable to perform everyday duties. They also become a burden; as Ngor pointed out. He explained that every blind person also needs another to help them, thus creating a drain on family resources.

Children blinded by the disease are especially worrying as loss of sight follows repeated infection, normally only occurring by the time they are adults. “We’re seeing it in younger and younger populations. This is an indicator of how acute the problem is,” Vasquez said.

Ethiopia's business climate worsening

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

By Jason McLure | Bloomberg

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Power outages, shortages of foreign exchange and limits on bank lending resulted in Ethiopia’s business climate deteriorating over the past four months, the chairman of the country’s largest business association said.

The Horn of Africa nation’s manufacturing industry has probably contracted during the past year and profit at banks and insurance companies has been hampered by inflation and government restrictions on lending, said Eyessus Work Zafu, president of the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association.

“The private sector definitely is in a very sad state,” Work Zafu, said in an interview today at his office in the capital, Addis Ababa. “Manufacturing is already on its knees. Small as it may be I would say it would have shrunk because of the power outages.”

Manufacturing accounts for about 5 percent of Ethiopia’s output, according to the World Bank.

Supply shortages led the state-run Ethiopian Electric Power Co. to begin blackouts in February and since June, the utility has provided power to customers only every second day. At the same time, Ethiopia’s central bank has been rationing foreign exchange in an effort to defend its currency, the birr. The resulting shortage of foreign currency has cause delays in imports of raw materials and consumer goods.

The government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has also capped lending and increased reserve requirements for banks in an effort to slow inflation, which peaked at 64.2 percent in July 2008. Consumer prices declined by 3.7 percent last month, the country’s Central Statistical Agency said Aug. 11.

Tax Collections

A government initiative in the past year to collect more tax from the business community has also hurt growth of the country’s private industry, Work Zafu said.

While government and business leaders had initially believed the global financial crisis would have little impact on Ethiopia’s “relatively isolated” economy, “experience has shown that we were not entirely correct in that,” he said.

Remittances from Ethiopians living abroad and aid from foreign donors has been affected by the economic crisis, he said.

Ethiopia’s economy may be strengthened if the government negotiates a financing deal with the IMF, Work Zafu said. The IMF and Meles’ government are currently discussing a package to help the country cope with the global economic crisis.

A deal would improve Ethiopia’s foreign currency reserves and encourage other international lenders to provide financing to the country, Work Zafu said.

The IMF projected Ethiopia’s economy would grow by 6.5 percent or less in the fiscal year ending July 7, 2009.

Climate Change meeting ignores atrocities in Ethiopia

Monday, August 24th, 2009

By Roger Bate | American.com

Ethiopia’s [dictator] Meles Zenawi has always been shrewd in his courting of world leaders and deflection of his own failings. By talking tough over Somalia and terrorism he has won over many hawkish conservatives, who have been happy to gloss over his oppressive domestic record in order to have an ally in the Horn of Africa. He has done little to improve property right ownership in his country and so kept the likelihood of famine ever-present and himself in power, while managing to blame others for the poverty of his people. And now his regime is hosting a meeting on climate change in order to further his Western and African credentials.

Regardless of the stated aims of this meeting—to provide an African coordinated position on climate change—it is more of the same; deflection of the causes of famine and poverty and holding out a begging bowl to the West, which will be further used to undermine Ethiopian democracy. He and his African Union colleagues will once again use our largess to suppress their masses—and all in the name of climate change.

And of course Western leaders will love pressure from Africa on why they need to reduce their greenhouse emissions. Expect more of this tragic drivel in the run up to Copenhagen’s December climate jamboree.

Ministers from 10 African states meet in Ethiopia to discuss climate

Monday, August 24th, 2009

BBC (Addis Ababa) — Ministers from 10 African countries are meeting in Ethiopia to try to agree a common position on climate change, months before a crucial UN meeting.

They are expected to renew demands for billions of dollars in compensation for Africa because of damage caused by global warming.

And they are likely to ask rich nations to cut emissions by 40% by 2012.

African nations are among the lightest polluters but analysts say they will suffer the most from climate change.

BBC science reporter Matt McGrath says the move to agree a common negotiating platform for Africa recognises the continent’s failure to make its voice heard on the debate.

‘Dismal co-ordination’

Kenya’s environment secretary, Alice Kaudia, told the BBC that the continent had to learn from other countries’ mistakes.

“One single country will not solve its environmental problems on its own, it will need partners, and that’s why it’s very important that there’s that unified common position,” she said.

“The development of Africa should not go alongside the same mistakes that the developed world already made – to have these high emissions that are now affecting the whole world.”

One of the documents prepared for the meeting refers to the “dismal co-ordination” of the African negotiation process.

So far, delegations from individual countries have had limited success in making the case that Africa needs special help to cope with climate change.

The “representatives and experts” of African Union (AU) leaders – who include environment and agriculture ministers from the 10 countries – are meeting in Addis Ababa under Libyan chairmanship in an attempt to change this.

Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said all African leaders should support the AU’s efforts to form a clear message.

But she said Africa too had its responsibilities.

“We are all hoping we will develop and attain a higher quality of life, so there has to be a very serious commitment on the part of Africa that we will not be opting for development patterns that will reverse whatever other countries are trying to do,” she said.

Kyoto replacement

Delegates from powerhouses South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya are among those attending the AU conference.

They will discuss a suggestion that developed countries should cut emissions by at least 40% by 2020, and that richer nations should provide $67bn (£40bn) a year to help the least well-off cope with rising temperatures.

They will also attempt to agree a set of key ideas in order to help national delegations to the UN negotiations in Copenhagen this December to present a co-ordinated position.

The Copenhagen conference will try to negotiate a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, elements of which expire in 2012.

Correspondents say the US, China, India and the EU will have the greatest sway at the UN conference.

But African leaders will be hoping that by speaking with one voice at Copenhagen, their negotiating position can be significantly enhanced.

The ICC should arrest Meles in Belgium

Monday, August 24th, 2009

… for crimes against humanity, including those shown in this video. The International Criminal Court (ICCE) should apply justice equally. Meles Zenawi and his tribal gang that are currently ruling Ethiopia are far wrose genocidal criminals than al-Bashir. Watch this video:

EPA makes it difficult to grow teff in the U.S.

Monday, August 24th, 2009

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has banned pesticides from being used on teff in the U.S. making it difficult for farmers in Oregon and other states to grow it. Teff, a cereal that is native to Ethiopia, is becoming popular in the U.S., because it is glutton free and rich in nutrients.

The following is an EPA regulation that is posted on Oregon’s Department of Agriculture’s web site.

Pesticide Use on Teff

Teff is a relatively new crop in Oregon and in the USA. Teff is an animal feed and human food crop that is grown for forage, hay and grain.

For any pesticide product to be legally applied to a food or feed crop, a tolerance for the pesticide active ingredient on a specific crop must be established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prior to authorizing its use. A tolerance is the maximum amount of a pesticide allowed to remain in or on foods at harvest.

Only EPA has the authority to establish the classification of a crop and to establish pesticide tolerances. Currently, the ONLY tolerance on teff is for glyphosate (found in products such as Round-up Power Max and Buccaneer Plus) and uses are limited.

There are no broadleaf herbicides, fungicides or insecticides labeled for use on teff. Specifically, there are no pesticide tolerances, or labeled uses, for 2,4-D, dicamba, or other broadleaf weed control products on teff. Therefore, any use of products containing 2,4-D or dicamba on teff is not legal. (Weedmaster and Latigo are examples of products that are combinations of 2,4-D and dicamba). This situation is likely to change in the next one or two years when EPA plans to include
teff in one or more of the crop groups indicated below.

Teff is currently classified by the EPA as a MISCELLANEOUS COMMODITY. At this time, it is NOT classified by EPA in Crop Group 15 (Cereal Grains); Crop Group 16 (Forage, Fodder and Straw of Cereal Grains); or Crop Group 17 (Grass Forage, Fodder, and Hay Group).

Unless there is a tolerance for a particular chemical on a specific food or feed crop, use of that pesticide on that specific crop is not legal. When tolerances are granted for teff, it does not automatically mean that it is legal to use any product that may have cereal grain or hay on the label. The crop teff must still appear on the label. If you do not see use directions for a specific crop on a pesticide label, then that use is NOT allowed.

Questions: Call Janet Fults or Rose Kachadoorian at (503) 986-4635.

The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Jeff Sharlet on “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power”

A secretive group known as The Fellowship, or “The Family,” is one of the most powerful Christian fundamentalist movements in the United States. The Family’s devoted membership includes congressmen, corporate leaders, generals and foreign heads of state. Author Jeff Sharlet profiles the group in his book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

Guest:

Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. He is a contributing editor for Harper’s and Rolling Stone and a visiting research scholar at the New York University Center for Religion and Media.

Click here to listen.

AMY GOODMAN: We move on now closer to home. Senator John Ensign of Nevada, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and former Mississippi Congress member Chip Pickering—what do they all have in common? Yes, all three are Republican. All three have been embroiled in recent sex scandals.

Senator Ensign, a member of a male evangelical group that promotes marital fidelity, recently admitted to having an affair with a campaign staffer. He later disclosed that his parents gave almost $100,000 to the staffer and her family. Governor Sanford’s wife recently moved out of the governor’s mansion, weeks after Sanford admitted to visiting a woman in Argentina and committing infidelities with several other women. And last month, Congressman Pickering’s estranged wife filed suit against his alleged mistress, claiming the woman had ruined their marriage.

But these Republicans’ ties extend beyond their marital woes. All three have, at one time, lived in a former convent on Capitol Hill known as the C Street house, and all three are connected to a secretive group known as the Fellowship, or the Family. It’s probably an organization you’ve never heard of, but it’s one of the most powerful Christian fundamentalist movements in this country.

The Family’s devoted membership includes Congress members, corporate leaders, generals, foreign heads of state, dictators. The longtime leader, Doug Coe, was included in Time Magazine’s 2004 list of the twenty-five most influential evangelicals in America.

Well, Jeff Sharlet is the author of the bestseller, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. In 2002, he joined the Family’s home for young men at an estate in Virginia, becoming a member of the Family’s so-called “new chosen.” He first wrote an article about his research in Harpers magazine.

Jeff Sharlet joins me today in our firehouse studio, contributing editor at Harper’s and Rolling Stone and a visiting research scholar at the New York University Center for Religion and Media.

Jeff, welcome to Democracy Now!

JEFF SHARLET: Hi, Amy. Thanks for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about these latest men in the news and exactly what it is they belong to.

JEFF SHARLET: Well, the three politicians that we’re talking about, two of them lived at this C Street house, where this group provides below-market housing for congressmen. It’s essentially like a lobby, working like a lobby, trying to influence these politicians.

What’s really disturbing about this is not the sex scandals, but the agenda that they’re pursuing beyond that. The Family, unlike most Christian right groups, is not so concerned with domestic issues as international affairs, foreign affairs, and a kind of approach to economics they call “biblical capitalism,” an extreme deregulation, laissez-faire. They take the invisible hand very literally.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about how you discovered the Family.

JEFF SHARLET: You know, I just kind of stumbled upon the group. I was working on my first book, which is about religious communities around the United States, unusual religious communities. And a friend said she was worried that her brother had joined a cult. And would I speak with him? He had come to New York at the time, he said, “to survey the ruins of secularism.” That caught my attention. And he said, “To understand what I’m involved in, you need to come and see it for yourself.” So I went and I lived with these guys for about a month.

AMY GOODMAN: But what do you mean you lived with these guys? Where did you go? Explain how you got there.

JEFF SHARLET: Sure. Down in—the C Street house has been in the news. There’s only one other property that the organization owns. The main headquarters is this beautiful mansion overlooking the Potomac River called the Cedars. It’s worth about $5 million. They bought it with money supplied for them in part by the former CEO of the defense contractor Raytheon,—

AMY GOODMAN: Who is that?

JEFF SHARLET: —oil executives. A guy named Tom Phillips. And around that house, there’s a number of houses that are sort of support houses. One of those was called Ivanwald. That was where young men were being sort of groomed for leadership, men in their twenties. I was sort of pushing it at around thirty at the time. And so, I went and lived with these guys for about a month. And in that capacity, I got to visit the C Street house, I met Senator Ensign.

AMY GOODMAN: You met Senator Ensign.

JEFF SHARLET: Met Senator Ensign.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain your meeting.

JEFF SHARLET: I was at the C Street house for the day, and a pretty innocuous meeting. Senator Ensign had just come in from a run, and he was sort of boasting to everybody about his time. And the only thing that I remember being struck by was he’s a very flirty man. And what was interesting about Senator Ensign was, within the Family, he wasn’t taken very seriously. He was considered a guy with a sort of a bright future. He looks very presidential and so on. He wasn’t considered a brilliant guy.

The Family always has a certain number of politicians who are associated with it who can go on to higher things. And then there are the guys who are really doing the political work, like Congressman Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. These are the more ideological guys within the organization.

AMY GOODMAN: So Senator Ensign came on to be a powerful figure in the Senate. I mean—

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —as he’s been forced to resign from the Republican Policy Committee of the Senate.

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, indeed, and, you know, had already visited Iowa as a possible presidential candidate. Governor Sanford was certainly, I think, a frontrunner for the GOP. And I think that’s a sort of—there are sort of three levels of politicians that the Family is cultivating.

AMY GOODMAN: How do the affairs link with affairs of state within the house?

JEFF SHARLET: Well, I think we’re going to find out more about that, because in Congressman Pickering’s divorce proceedings, apparently he was keeping a diary of all his goings-on at the C Street house, and we’re waiting for that to come out.

But what links this is the common sort of theological view of this organization. Unlike other Christian right groups, they don’t really believe that you’re in power because you’re a good person. They have no illusions about these guys. They believe that they are, as you said in the beginning, the “new chosen,” that you’re chosen for power by God. You’re not so much elected by the people as selected from above. And when you’re in that position, it doesn’t matter what you do. You shouldn’t do these things. They don’t want you to do these things. But it doesn’t matter what you do. Ensign is a powerful man, not because he’s of good character, but because he’s been chosen by God. In a similar vein, the foreign leaders with whom they work, the dictators, about whom they have no illusions, are chosen by God for their countries, regardless of how brutal they are.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does it mean to say they live at the C Street house? These are senators and congressmen.

JEFF SHARLET: They have rooms in the C Street house, maid service provided by a group of Christian college women. There’s a cook. There’s a nice kitchen with a prayer calendar in it that gives you guidance on how you’re supposed to live your spiritual life. When I was visiting, the prayer issues at hand were to “pray down the demonic strongholds of Buddhism and Hinduism.” I’m quoting, of course. It really is a very fundamentalist ministry, but doesn’t look like the fundamentalists we’re—I think we’re used to seeing on TV, the Pat Robertsons and the Jerry Falwells.

AMY GOODMAN: But you’re Jewish. How did you fit in?

JEFF SHARLET: In fact, that was part of what was interesting about me to them. They do believe only in sort of recruiting an elite. They’re not interested the masses. They think that Christianity has been misunderstood, that Jesus only wanted to select a few key people. You can only get in by invitation. I was invited. But they also liked the idea of having Jews, of having Muslims around, because they believe that inasmuch as a Jew or a Muslim is willing to bow before Jesus, he is proving what they call the “universal inevitable” of Jesus’ power.

AMY GOODMAN: You talked about foreign leaders, too. You have a fascinating section in your book, The Family, about Suharto—

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —the long-reigning dictator of Indonesia, presided over I don’t know how many deaths, both of his own people in Indonesia, up to a million people, and the people of East Timor, hundreds of thousands.

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: What does he have to do with C Street?

JEFF SHARLET: The Family began as this domestic organization way back in the 1930s, a union-busting organization. But by the ’50s, they—

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, union-busting organization?

JEFF SHARLET: Oh, they—it’s part of that invisible hand of the market. They believe that organized labor is ungodly, to put it mildly, perhaps Satanic. It began with this vision in 1935 that the New Deal and organized labor were literally a Satanic conspiracy they had to fight back.

In the 1950s, in the Cold War, they started moving overseas and identifying strongmen, dictators, who they thought were effective in the fight against communism, who they thought were effective in the fight for free markets. And Suharto was one of those men. You know, Suharto, who—even the CIA, which helped him orchestrate his coup, later said it was one of the worst mass killings of the twentieth century.

The Family leaders called it a spiritual revolution and began sending delegations of congressmen, oil executives, over to meet with Suharto. They then hosted Suharto, actually, in the United States Senate for a Senate prayer breakfast with their members, to which they invited the then-Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They have that kind of access. And they were able to arrange that kind of reach for Suharto. And they effectively became his most persuasive champions within the US Congress, as the United States funneled, as we know, just billions of dollars toward his military regime.

AMY GOODMAN: And Siad Barre of Somalia?

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, dictator of Somalia. It’s, to me, one of the scariest stories that I found in their archives. I was able to recreate this, because they dumped 600 boxes of papers in the Billy Graham archives. Siad Barre was a—not a likely candidate for Christian right recruitment, called himself a Koranic Marxist. But in the early ’80s, the Soviets had abandoned him. There had been a power shift between Somalia and Ethiopia. He was in the market for a new patron. And working through Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, of course still in office—

AMY GOODMAN: Talk more about Chuck Grassley, who certainly is in the news now, who, together with Max Baucus, heads the Senate Finance Committee.

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Baucus, Democrat; Grassley, Republican. Very powerful figure, especially around healthcare right now.

JEFF SHARLET: Indeed. And Grassley has been involved with the organization for quite some time, since the ’80s, when he traveled to Somalia to join Barre, Siad Barre, in prayer to Jesus. And he brought with him a defense contractor named Bill Brehm.

And Barre was a kind of a cynical character, as you might expect for a dictator. He was very clear. He says, “I’m willing to pray to Jesus, and here’s what I want in return.” He says, “I want my defense budget doubled.” He says, “I want meetings for my officials with the Reagan White House. And I want a sort of a hands-off policy while I crack down on some rebels.” Doug Coe, the leader of the group, wrote back, in essence, “Done, done and done.”

And when we look at history, so it was. And Barre used those weapons, supplied to him in part by the US, to wage a war of almost biblical proportion on his own people, from which Somalia has not recovered to this day. The Family doesn’t consider that a failure; they consider that God’s will for Somalia.

AMY GOODMAN: And more about Grassley? And again, we should say, this is not just a Republican organization. Democrats are also a part. In fact, you talk about Hillary Clinton—

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —praying with them.

JEFF SHARLET: I think that’s one of the most important aspects of this. I think, too often, progressives tend to see the Christian right as simply an auxiliary of the Republican Party, whereas the movement, especially through the Family, has recognized that you stay in power not by aligning yourself too closely with one faction, but by having lots of friends. So, Hillary Clinton, Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who was, of course, instrumental in fighting against the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made unionization much, much easier. He explained to me the Family’s approach to Democratic bipartisanship. He said, “Jesus didn’t come to take sides; He came to take over.” That’s a Democrat speaking. So, Republicans and Democrats working together.

Chuck Grassley, a guy who’s been involved for such a long time. Grassley was involved with the Somalia project throughout the 1980s. They recognize that Somalia, of course, is a nation of great strategic importance, right there on the Horn of Africa. So, even as they are pursuing what they say is a religious agenda, it’s also meshing very neatly with a certain kind of agenda of American expansionist power and oil, frankly.

AMY GOODMAN: And rarely is the devastation of the failed state of Somalia talked about in terms of its history, that the US, for decades, supported this dictator, Siad Barre.

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, yeah, exactly. The story, for most Americans, begins with George Bush very nobly sending over these troops to fight the warlords. It begins with Black Hawk Down. And we don’t recognize that it was really—I mean, Somalia almost—is almost a purest case possible of US support for an absolutely murderous regime.

In the face of all odds, too. I mean, there’s nothing, it seemed, that Barre could do to dissuade the Family that he was worthy of support, even to the point of insulting Doug Coe, the leader of the group, who used a sad case, the death of his son, wrote to Barre and said, “My son has died today. And as he was dying, he was speaking of you and how important you are.” It was a strange, crass move. Barre didn’t play along. He said, “I never knew your son. But keep the money flowing.” And they did.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Jeff Sharlet. He’s author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. We’ll come back to talk about more of the members of this secretive group that some have called one of the most powerful organizations in America. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We’re continuing our discussion of the Family. Jeff Sharlet, I guess you could say, infiltrated or went undercover, or, actually, you said you were a writer—is that right?—as you were investigating the Family and wrote the book by that title, with the subtitle The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. I want to just go on, Congress member after senator after Congress member. I want to ask you about Congress member Tiahrt and his significance right now in Kansas, and then his relationship with the Family.

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, Congressman Tiahrt is a very right-wing Republican from the Wichita area in Kansas. Senator Sam Brownback, who’s a member of the Family, also lived in the C Street house, is hoping to move on to governor’s office, and Tiahrt is the strong frontrunner to replace him.

Tiahrt, of course, was in the news a little while ago for speculating on the floor of the House what would have happened if Obama’s mother had aborted him. And a lot of people thought this was over-the-top language. I think what they didn’t recognize was that this was Todd Tiahrt’s—that’s his version of the soft approach. When I met him at the C Street house several years ago, he had gone there for a spiritual counseling session with Doug Coe, the leader of the group, and he had gone in, although he frames himself as a great foe of abortion, what he was really concerned about was the fact that, he said, the Muslims are having too many babies, and the Christians are killing too many of theirs, and how can we win the race with the Muslims? So, abortion, for him, is relative; probably, in his mind, good for Muslim nations.

Coe, the leader of the group, said, “I want you to think bigger.” He says, “I agree with all that. That’s fine. I want you to think bigger. We need to think not just about issues like abortion, but what does Jesus have to say about Social Security? What does Jesus have to say about building roads? What does Jesus have to say about every aspect of governance?” The answer for them, by the way, is almost always the same, is privatize, put things in God’s hands.

He then goes on to say to Tiahrt, he says, “We need to have something called ‘Jesus plus nothing.’” The Family, at other times, has called it “the totalitarianism for Christ.” What they mean is that they believe that the New Testament is primarily about power, and he illustrates this by giving Congressman Tiahrt a list of historical figures he can look to for modeling power—this is a direct quote—“Hitler, Pol Pot, Osama bin Laden and Lenin.” And it just makes your jaw sort of drop. But—

AMY GOODMAN: I want to read the full quote of Doug Coe—

JEFF SHARLET: Please, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —counseling Congressman Tiahrt, which you quote. “You know Jesus said ‘You got to put Him before mother-father-brother sister’? Hitler, Lenin, Mao, that’s what they taught the kids. Mao even had the kids killing their own mother and father. But it wasn’t murder. It was for building the new nation. The new kingdom.” That’s Doug Coe. And where did you get this?

JEFF SHARLET: That is actually available on an audio sermon that you can find on the website of another Christian right group called the Navigators, with which the Family has always worked for decades.

You can also find online video of Coe talking about the model of fellowship that he wants politicians to follow. He says, “Look at Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler, these three nobodies who get together, and look at all they were able to accomplish.” Now, he’ll be quick to say they’re evil men. This is not some neo-Nazi, you know, kind of conspiracy. It’s a sort of a fetish for power and strength. That’s the model. That’s why he says Hitler, Lenin, Mao.

He’s also fond of saying to congressmen, “Who were the three men in the twentieth century who best understood the New Testament?” And it’s sort of a trick question, because maybe you say Martin Luther King, or maybe, if you’re conservative, you say Billy Graham. And again, it’s Hitler, Stalin and Mao. These are not aberrations in his speech. This is the core of his teaching, that the New Testament is about power and strength.

AMY GOODMAN: He talks about Pol Pot—

JEFF SHARLET: Pol Pot.

AMY GOODMAN: —and talks about Osama bin Laden.

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, yeah. There’s nobody who is—you know, there is no sort of strongman killer that they’re not interested in. Going back to the group’s early roots, they began with the idea that democracy was done, that democracy couldn’t compete with fascism or communism. They didn’t want to be communists. Fascism was OK, except that it had this cult of personality: where Jesus was supposed to be, you’d find a Hitler, a Mussolini. And so, they came up with this idea of totalitarianism for Christ, but they illustrate it with these awful models from history.

AMY GOODMAN: Just talk about how significant this group is, for those who are saying, what, are you taking this little group, and you’re making a bigger deal of it than you should. According to David Kuo, former special assistant to President George W. Bush and deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, he said, “The Fellowship’s reach into governments around the world is almost impossible to overstate or even grasp.”

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah. Kuo, who is a supporter of the group, admirer of the group, talks in his book about the group basically getting him to the White House, making his career, also says it’s the most powerful group in Washington that nobody knows. And that’s actually been quantified by a sort of conservative-leaning sociologist at Rice University, who—

AMY GOODMAN: Who is that?

JEFF SHARLET: A man named Michael David Lindsay—I’m sorry, D. Michael Lindsay. And he surveyed about 360 evangelical politicians and wanted to ask them which religious groups were really influential in Washington. The group that came out with more votes than any other, one in three, was the Family. And this is astonishing for a group that says it doesn’t exist.

When you call—you know, when a reporter is trying to report on them, they’ll say, “Ah, there’s nothing here. It’s just a group of friends.” Well, it’s a group of friends with 990s, with tax forms, with millions of dollars flowing through every year. It’s a group of friends that organizes the National Prayer Breakfast, at which the President of the United States speaks every year, that has the money to bring over foreign heads of state, and they can get those people into the White House.

It’s really on a scale that’s, I think, unparalleled by the better-known groups like Focus on the Family or Family Research Council, those kind of more visible Christian right groups, which are, frankly, more democratic in nature. They’re making their case in the public square. The Family believes in doing things behind closed doors.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeff, we last had you on when you did your Harper’s Magazine piece called “Jesus Killed Mohammed: The Crusade for a Christian Military.” Can you talk about any connections?

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah. In fact, working with Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, his researcher Chris Rodda, since the C Street scandal has come out, we’ve been able to track down—to use that new information to track down some startling connections. First of all, that the men at C Street—Senator Ensign, Senator James Inhofe—have been traveling around the world on the Family’s dime, so the group is acting like a lobby. What’s more—

AMY GOODMAN: Traveling where?

JEFF SHARLET: Sudan, Belarus, Albania, great bastions of democracy. Lebanon, where Senator Tom Coburn went to try and set up Christian prayer cells in that country that’s so long had religious strife. One of the things that they’ve been doing, though, is they’ve been traveling officially as representatives of the United States Senate, but then championing a group called Christian Embassy, which is a Pentagon ministry that I wrote about in that other article, focuses on the military. But the Family is paying for it. And so, what we’ve discovered is—

AMY GOODMAN: Do they have to list this, who pays for their trips?

JEFF SHARLET: Yes, yeah. I think there’s some big questions that they’re going to need to answer about whether this is legal or not.

What’s most disturbing about it, though, is that we see that the sort of fundamentalist front within the military and the Family, in fact, are not two separate tracks, but very closely linked. Even the biggest and sort of most militant group within the military, called Officers’ Christian Fellowship, 15,000 officers, when we traced it back and looked at their history, we discovered that some of their seed money, some of their early ideas, the organizing initiatives, all come from the Family. So you see, in effect, that the Family is working in all fronts, not just in Congress and in business and overseas, but also in the military. So you take those ideas, and you put guns next to them, and it becomes very frightening.

AMY GOODMAN: How does Erik Prince, or does he, fit into this picture? I mean, we’ve just had a major story with Jeremy Scahill, independent reporter, Democracy Now! correspondent, about this lawsuit against Prince by these two men who worked for what’s formerly known as Blackwater, now called Xe, one of them alleging that Prince, quote, “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe.”

JEFF SHARLET: Well, I think that’s something that we need to look more closely into. The Prince family has given money to Family initiatives in the past. The links aren’t terribly strong. I think what you’re really looking at there is almost sort of two different power bases within the American Christian right. The interesting thing about Prince is Prince is a certain kind of zealot. The Family doesn’t want to eliminate Muslims; it wants to do business with Muslims. It wants to—you know, they’ve always cultivated the leaders of oil-rich nations. That’s the kind of connection that they’re interested in.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk more about the founder, Abraham Vereide.

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, fascinating, a fascinating character. Vereide was a Norwegian immigrant, came to the United States because he saw it as the land of the Bible unchained. He was an early fundamentalist and sort of rose to influence, even met with FDR in 1932.

And it was at that meeting—it was Vereide, FDR and James Farrell, who was then head of US Steel—that Farrell, he claims, introduces to him this idea that all of America’s economic problems are in direct correspondence to our failure to obey God’s law and that the approach to the Great Depression should not be the New Deal, but through this sort of moral code imposed from on high by God’s chosen men.

He then goes on to have this vision that God actually comes to him one night and says, “Christianity has gotten it wrong for 2,000 years—all this talk about the poor, the suffering, the down and out. I want you to focus on the up and out. I want you to be a missionary to and for the powerful. I will work through a few key men—Senator Ensign, Governor Sanford—and, through them, will help everybody else.” The Family believes that they’re helping the poor through a kind of trickle-down religion.

AMY GOODMAN: And his sympathy, the founder’s sympathy, for European fascism?

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, they were great admirers of European fascism. They were critical of the ways in which Hitler and Mussolini, in their minds, displaced the centrality of Jesus. But after the war, actually working with the US State Department, Vereide was given a charge to go into the Allied prisons for war criminals and interview men to determine who he felt could be used for the new German government. And really, the main question was, are you willing to switch out the Fuhrer for the Father?

Some of those guys—one, in particular, was a man named Hermann J. Abs, became the vice president of the Family’s German organization, became known as “the wizard of the West German miracle,” until the Simon Wiesenthal Center discovered that before he had been known as Germany’s banker, he had been known as Hitler’s banker, and he was forced to exit public life.

AMY GOODMAN: So, jumping forward to today, all of these men who are involved with this group, like Senator Sam Brownback, whose seat is being vied for by Congressman Tiahrt—

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —and his opponent is also—

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —living at C Street house.

JEFF SHARLET: Yes, yes. I think, you know, the Family—when we look at this, we start to have a different picture of Christian right group, is not, you know, picking candidates in an election. In that race for that Senate, you have two conservative Republicans: Jerry Moran, lives in the C Street House, representative from Kansas; and Todd Tiahrt, who also has these ties, which he’s now denying. But these guys are both trying to work through this very powerful network, which is, essentially, as one religious right leader, a guy named Rob Schenck, sort of doing—mixing his metaphors, he says, “Doug Coe is the kosher seal, if you’re going to do religion and politics in Washington.”

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush calling Doug Coe “the quiet diplomat.” In our last thirty seconds, what is most important to understand about Doug Coe and, ultimately, the Family?

JEFF SHARLET: This is a group that is explicitly opposed to democracy, explicitly opposed to doing things in public. They believe “the more invisible you can make your organization, the more influence you can have.” That’s a direct quote from Doug Coe. They’re acting like a lobby; they’re not registering like a lobby. There needs to be a way to hold them accountable, if they want do those—pursue those kinds of basic [inaudible]—

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us. Jeff Sharlet is author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, contributing editor for Harper’s and Rolling Stone, a visiting research scholar at NYU Center for Religion and Media.

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.