Archive for the ‘Ethiopian News’ Category

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.

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

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

By Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How this Happened

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

A new book by Dereje Befekadu Tessema

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

Ethio-Scandinavian Beauty and Fashion Expo in Addis Ababa

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

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

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

Aiga Forum's 'teachable moment' on hate

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following is their response to their dirty deed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guzo, a smash hit in New York City!

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

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

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

OLF activity in southern Ethiopia – Parts 1-3

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

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

PART 2

PART 3

Ethiopia: Several factories shut down due to power shortage

Monday, August 10th, 2009

By Eskinder Ferew | VOA

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

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

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

Ethiopian Israeli filmmaker tells his people's story

Monday, August 10th, 2009

By Edmund Sanders | The Los Angeles Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historic meeting in Washington DC

Monday, August 10th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loan Sharking Ethiopia's Future!

Monday, August 10th, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

Ministry of Education or Ministry of Loan Sharking?

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

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

Payday Loan Sharking

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

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

Discrimination Among University Graduates is Illegal

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

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

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

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

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

Pact With the Devil

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

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

TV series on OLF sparks diplomatic row

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

By PETER LEFTIE | Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

By Bronwyn E. Bruton | Council on Foreign Relations

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

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

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

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

Impact on U.S. Policy Objectives

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obstacles to U.S. Action

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

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

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

Policy Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ogaden genocide discussion – Riz Khan

Friday, August 7th, 2009

The ruling tribal junta convicts 13 Ethiopian opposition leaders

Friday, August 7th, 2009

By Barry Malone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Editing by Daniel Wallis)

10 benefits of drinking green tea

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

By Rodallega

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

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

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

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

China deports 2 Ethiopian asylum seekers

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traffic accident a major public health hazard in Ethiopia

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

By Yonas Abiye | Daily Monitor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ethiopia: A women group elects First Witch as chairperson

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EPPF town hall meeting in Washington DC

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

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

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

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

The story of the International Criminal Court – must watch

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

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

Click below to watch
The story of the International Criminal Court

OLF army making stride against Woyanne

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

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

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

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

By David Arnold | VOA

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

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

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

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

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

60 million birr stolen from Ethiopian Orthodox church account

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

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

Beyond shame – the madness of Aiga Forum

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EPPF makes a call on Ethiopians in DC

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

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

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

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

How to Break the Silence on Genocide and Tyranny in Ethiopia

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

By Obang Metho

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ethiopia's kangaroo court sentences Makhtal to life in prision

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

PRESS RELEASE by Ogaden Human Rights Committee

Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A march to stop genocide in Ethiopia

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

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

Is Ethiopian Commodity Exchange good for coffee growers?

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

By Wondwossen Mezlekia

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

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

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

Learning coffee on the fly

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

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

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

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

Mandatory exchange

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

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

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

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

Underestimating Specialty coffee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unfair competition

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

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

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

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

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

Ethiopia's popular singer may be jailed because of music

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

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

Experts say Nile Basin countries may fight over water

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

By Muhammad Yamany, Wael Naguib

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deserting a Sinking Ship or Doing the Right Thing?

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

Escapees of Conscience or Deserters From a Sinking Ship?

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

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

Why Defect?

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

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

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

Life as an Official of the Ruling Dictatorship

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

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

Defection as a Moral Act of Outrage and Redemption

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

Defectors, Duties and the Diaspora: Doing the Right Thing

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

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

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

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

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

Dinner with Hillary Clinton

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

By George Ayittey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Guzo' arrives in New York

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

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