Archive for the ‘Ethiopian News’ Category

The Madness of Ethiopia's 2010 "Elections"

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Alemayehu G. Mariam

In part I, we explore whether, given the current circumstances in Ethiopia today, a free and fair election is possible in May 2010. In part II, we aim to explore the necessary preconditions for free and fair elections.

Free and Fair Elections in a Police State

“Is it possible to have a fair and free election in a police state?” That is the inescapable question one must answer after reading former Ethiopian President Dr. Negasso Gidada’s recent reportage on his visit to Dembi Dollo in Qelem Wallaga Zone of Oromia Region [1]. In his recent widely read analysis, Dr. Negasso flatly declared that there is “no level playing field” in Dembi Dollo, and by implication anywhere else in Ethiopia, to have a free and fair election in 2010.

Dr. Negasso’s account of his visit to Dembi Dollo evokes the farcical theatricality of a low budget political horror film: The former president shows up for a visit in Dembi Dollo and is promptly shooed away and stonewalled by local functionaries. He is told he can’t hold mass public meetings or engage in other forms of discussion or dialogue with the public. In disbelief, he hastily arranges individual meetings with local businessmen, community elders, teachers, health workers, church leaders, qa’bale officials, private professionals, university students, NGO employees and members and supporters of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM). He is horrified to learn that the individuals who have met or spoken with him could be abused and victimized by local security operatives. He becomes aware of the a ubiquitous and omnipotent local security apparatus with its tentacles planted firmly into individual households.

To describe Dr. Negasso’s account on the “current situation” in Dembi Dollo as “downright chilling” would be a gross understatement. He depicts a local party organization nestled within an oppressive security apparatus consisting of layered and operationally interlocking committees (which could be best described as “commissariats”), mimicking Stalin’s NKVD (Peoples Commissariat for Internal Affairs) in the 1930s. Households, hamlets, villages, districts, towns and zones are hierarchically integrated into a commissariat for the single purpose of coordinating command and control over perceived “enemies of the people”. There is a network of informants, agents and secret police-type operatives who rely on heavy-handed methods to harass, intimidate, gather intelligence and penetrate opposition elements with the aim of neutralizing them.

The integrated overlay set up of the local security structure with the dominant OPDO/EPDRF party in Dembi Dollo is quite intriguing. According to Dr. Negasso’s reportage, there is no structural or functional separation of political party and public security in Dembi Dollo. The two are morphed into a single political structure which totally controls and dominates the local political and social scene. The special Woreda Town Administration is sub-divided into four large “Ganda” or villages with their own councils, each consisting of 300 members. Each qa’bale has representation in the Woreda Council, which is further sub-divided into zones and even smaller units called “Gare”. There are 30 to 40 households in a “Gare” group, which is overseen by a commissariat consisting of a chairperson, a secretary, a security chief and two other members. There are up to 17 “Gare” in each zone with branches in every village, schools and health institutions. There is also a larger network of 24 qa’bales under a Sayyo Rual Woreda. Public employees, farmers, local youth, women, members of micro-credit associations and others are involuntarily inducted into the security-party structure.

The security network is so sophisticated that it has Stalinesque quasi-directorates consisting of party and security organizations working together to maintain around the clock surveillance and generate and distribute real time intelligence on individual households through an established chain of command. It is clear from Dr. Negasso’s reportage that the local commissariats have expansive powers of investigation, arrest, interrogation and detention. They maintain a network of anonymous informants and agents who provide tips for the identification, investigation and arrest of local individuals suspected of disloyalty to the regime. They control and regulate the flow of information and visitors in and out of the town. Apparently, they have the power to deport anyone considered persona non grata from the town. In general, there is little question that the commissariats and the interlocking quasi-directorates engage in widespread human rights abuses against the local population.

One of the common methods of local control described by Dr. Negasso involves the use of highly intrusive security structures called “shane”, which in Oromo means “the five”. Five households are grouped together under a leader who is responsible for collecting information on the households every day and passing it on to the “Gare” officials. For instance, the “shane leader knows if the members of a household have participated in ‘development work’, if they have contributed to the several fund raising programs, if they have attended Qabale meetings, whether they have registered for election, if they have voted and for whom they have voted.” The “Gare” security chief passes information he has received from the security network to his superiors right up the chain of command.

Here are some excerpts from Dr. Negasso’s reportage:

The OPDO/EPRDF… seems determined not to allow any other political organization which could compete against it in the area. This goes as far as not welcoming individual visitors to the area. Visitors are secretly followed and placed under surveillance to determine where they have been, whom they have visited, and what they have said… Local people who had contact with visitors that are summoned and grilled by security officials. In my case, my brother-in-law, with whom I stayed, … received telephone calls from the Dembi Dollo and Naqamte security offices. He was asked why I came, whether I came for preparation for the coming election or for any other purpose.

[A USAID visiting group received the same treatment.] They were followed from the time it arrived in Naqamte. After the group returned, several security officials interrogated leaders of the Dembi Dollo Bethel-Mekane Yesus Church… One of the church leaders was even summoned to the zonal administrator’s office and asked detailed questions about the visitors from Addis.

[Individuals who came to greet] Dr. Belaynesh (member of the OFDM and an MP) were arrested, interrogated and held in custody for 24 to 48 hours. The houses of some of these individuals were also searched.

OPDO/EPRDF in Dembi Dollo, besides using the police and security offices and personnel, also collects information on each household.

Each household is required to report on guests and visitors, the reasons for their visits, their length of stay, what they said and did and activities they engaged in.

The “Election Code of Conduct” Game

The ruling dictatorship has been peddling the idea of an “election code of conduct” to entice the opposition to field candidates for the 2010 “election”. Foreign embassies have been enlisted to do cheerleading for such a “code”. Medrek, a forum for eight political parties, walked out of “election code” talks sensing a surefire trap down the road as the “election” date nears.

Lately, there has been talk of “boycotting” the “election”. The unjust imprisonment of Birtukan Midekssa and release of all political prisoners has become a central issue. Ato Gizachew Shiferaw, a member of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party and vice-chairman of Medrek stated unambiguously: “Unless we take some sort of remedy toward these political prisoners, it will be difficult to look at the upcoming elections as free and fair.” Medrek is also demanding the establishment of an independent electoral board, an immediate stop to harassment of opposition candidates and supporters; it has also called for the presence of international election observers. Bereket Simon, the Machiavellian demiurge of the dictatorship, dogmatically pontificated: “We invited them to a dialogue in the presence of the British and German embassies. We invited them to join negotiations. They declined. The party who walks away from the negotiating table doesn’t have a moral right to accuse us of closing political space.”

Free and Fair Election: No Need to Re-Invent the Election Wheel

A free and fair election is possible only where the rule of law prevails and fundamental human rights are respected. There is no mystery to having free and fair elections. To be sure, in theory, there is no logical reason why there could not be free and fair elections in Ethiopia in May 2010 or at any other time. Its “constitution” which describes itself as the “supreme law of the land” guarantees voters and candidates (and citizens in general) full freedom of speech and expression; ensures freedom of press, which guarantees the right to publicly disseminate political messages and information in the run up to elections and post-election period; the right to vote and the secret ballot are secured; guarantees of an electoral level playing field accessible to all voters, parties and candidates with an independent, non-partisan electoral organization to administer the process are belabored in the constitution; freedom of association to form political parties and civic organizations are held inviolable; and freedom of assembly to hold political rallies and to campaign freely are upheld as hallowed rights.

Further, there are purported legislative and regulatory safeguards in place to ensure fair access to the public media by opposition candidates and parties, penalize the improper use of the police, the military, the judiciary and civil servants and elections officials. Use of public funds and equipment for partisan political purposes are strictly prohibited. The electoral process is guaranteed to ensure unencumbered voter registration, accessible polling places, dignified treatment of elections officials, open and transparent ballot counting and verification processes, oversight of elections by trained and politically independent election officials and prevent election fraud. Administrative and judicial challenges of election results are guaranteed by law.

Most importantly, it has been established beyond the shadow of doubt that Ethiopian voters are second to none in their understanding of the democratic electoral process. In 2005, an estimated at 90 percent of the 26 million registered voters in the country voted, according to the Carter Center. Ethiopian voters have gained solid experience in the electoral process. What is needed now is to replicate and improve the 2005 electoral process for 2010. There is no need to re-invent the election wheel.

The Fox Guarding the Hen House: Is an Election Code of Conduct Needed?

When the fox is guarding the election hen house, it is rather meaningless to talk about election housekeeping rules, which is what an “election code of conduct” is. Ultimately, the fox rules the henhouse with an iron fist; and though he may agree to “fair” rules of the electoral game, he knows that in the final analysis he holds all the cards and the opposition none. In other words, in a police state the “chief of police” knows that he is guaranteed victory in all of the zero sum games he plays because he owns the game. He also knows that his opposition is powerless to break his perpetual streak of “victory”. In all of the talk about elections, one question relentlessly gnaws the mind of the dictator: How to buy time and cling to power indefinitely while stringing along the opposition by trickery, false promises, double-dealing, double-crossing, shenanigans, razzle-dazzle using foreign embassies as intermediaries, duplicity and whatever gimmicks remain hidden in the dictatorship’s bottomless repository of political dirty tricks.

Towards an Election Code of Conduct?

The idea of an “election code of conduct”, at first blush, is appealing because it points in the direction of a peaceful and civil electoral process. Such “codes” have been used successfully in different countries. In principle, they are useful and facilitate an electoral process that is clean, and free from violence and vote rigging. But we must remain acutely aware of one fact: Those who clamor for an election code of conduct usually champion it to cloak and shroud the dirty political tricks they have concealed up their sleeves.

If such a code is to be had, it must be devised along the same lines as the criminal code. Just as the criminal code is designed with criminals and the criminal classes in mind, an election code should be designed with vote riggers, ballot stuffers, and election thieves in mind. As Dr. Negasso’s reportage plainly indicates, it is the ruling “EPDRF” party that has misused and abused official public resources, equipment, machinery or personnel for improper electioneering work. They are the ones who have improperly used public places to hold partisan political meetings and election rallies and prevented or made inaccessible such places on the same terms and conditions to opposition parties and candidates. It is the party in power that totally and completely dominates the print and electronic media, and misuses it to advance its partisan political agenda. It is the ruling party and its leaders that make illegal and corrupt offers and promises of financial payoffs, grants, fertilizers, roads, projects etc, in exchange for votes, not the opposition. It is the ruling party members who can travel everywhere, distribute pamphlets and posters, hold rallies and meetings at any location of their choice while opposition parties and candidates are at the mercy of the local police authorities who routinely deny them permission to engage in ordinary political activity. It is the ruling party that uses election propaganda that appeals to ethnic prejudices, inflames historical grievances and passions and heightens tension among different communities and groups, not the opposition.

Seeking to offer an answer to the question of whether a code of conduct can be drafted to bring sanity to elections in a police state — or hold the fox guarding the hen house accountable — may appear to be an exercise in futility given the dictatorship’s history of elaborate machinations and shenanigans, total lack of transparency and zero-sum blame games. So, the question needs to be emphatically re-phrased: Will the dictatorship agree to and in good faith abide by an election code of conduct that is based on the principle of respect for the rule of law and human rights, and conforms to its own constitution and election laws?

In part II, we shall explore this question.

[1] http://ethioforum.org/wp/archives/1451

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

EPPF's Nebelbal Commando attacks Woyanne targets

Friday, October 16th, 2009

EPPF’s Nebelbal Commando unit attacks Woyanne targets… and more News. Watch below:

Ethiopia 2010 elections will not be free and fair – Negasso Gidada

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

By Negasso Gidada

I visited Dembi Dollo, in Qelem Wallaga Zone of Oromia Region from September 18-28, 2009. During my visit, I tried to gather as much information as possible on the current political situation. I was unable to hold public meetings because the local administration was unwilling to cooperate. I therefore tried to meet as many individuals as I could. During the 10 days, I talked to over two dozen individuals, including cadres of the OPDO/EPRDF, business leaders, community elders, government workers (teachers and health workers), local qabale officials, vacationing university students, church leaders, private professionals, NGO employees and members and supporters of the OFDM.

This descriptive analysis summarizes and focuses on a few major issues. My general conclusion is that the OPDO/EPRDF totally controls and dominates the local political arena, and therefore, there could be no level playing field for the opposition in the Dembi Dollo area. Unless the situation changes dramatically in the next few months, I do not expect the 2010 election will be fair, free or democratic. The first step in correcting the current situation is by appointing well trained election officers to different levels of the election administration.

Strict Security Control and Surveillance

The OPDO/EPRDF which claims to have won the 2005 and 2008 elections seems determined not to allow any other political organization which could compete against it in the area. This goes as far as not welcoming individual visitors to the area. Visitors are secretly followed and placed under surveillance to determine where they have been, whom they have visited, and what they have said. The visitors would rarely be called for interrogation or approached by the security people. It is the local people who had contact with visitors that are summoned and grilled by security officials. In my case, my brother-in-law, with whom I stayed, made a copy of the letter I brought with me from the parliament and gave it to the security office. He also received telephone calls from the Dembi Dollo and Naqamte security offices. He was asked why I came, whether I came for preparation for the coming election or for any other purpose.

About two months ago Professor Haweitu Simeso of the USAID visited Dembi Dollo with colleagues from the Irish and Canadian embassies. The visiting group was followed from the time it arrived in Naqamte. After the group returned, several security officials interrogated leaders of the Dembi Dollo Bethel-Mekane Yesus Church who had spoken to Haweitu and his colleagues. One of the church leaders was even summoned to the zonal administrator’s office and asked detailed questions about the visitors from Addis. Three weeks before I went to Dembi Dollo, Dr. Belaynesh (member of the OFDM and an MP) was in Dembi Dollo. After she returned to Addis, all the people who went to her father’s house to greet her and others she greeted on the streets in the town were arrested, interrogated and held in custody for 24 to 48 hours. The houses of some of these individuals were also searched. A building contractor who arrived in Dembi Dollo on September 28 to inspect the construction of the new Bethel Church was also followed. He left the next day fearing that he will be summoned to the security office. OPDO/EPRDF in Dembi Dollo, besides using the police and security offices and personnel, also collects information on each household through other means. One of these methods involves the use of organizations or structures called “shane”, which in Oromo means “the five”. Five households are grouped together under a leader who has the job of collecting information on the five households every day and pass it on to a higher administrative organ called “Gare”. There are 30 to 40 households in a “Gare” group which has a chairperson, a secretary, a security chief and two other members. The security chief passes the information he collected to his chief in the higher administrative organs in the Qabale, who in turn informs the Woreda police and security office.

Each household is required to report on guests and visitors, the reasons for their visits, their length of stay, what they said and did and activities they engaged in. The “shane” leader knows if the members of the households have participated in “development work”, if they have contributed to the several fund raising programs, if they have attended Qabale meetings, whether they have registered for election, if they have voted and for whom they have voted. The OPDO/EPRDF runs mass associations (women, youth and micro-credit groups) and party cells (“fathers”, “mothers” and “youth”). The party cells in the schools, health institutions and religious institutions also serve the same purpose.

Organizational Structures

Understanding how the OPDO/EPRDF itself and its Woreda administration are organized is very important. There is the OPDO/EPRDF Qellem Wallagga Zonal office in Dembi Dollo. This office receives information and instruction from the regional office in Addis Ababa. It passes messages to the lower structures and oversees the propaganda and organizational activities of the party. This office has branches in every village, schools and health institutions. These branches are subdivided into basic cells. The branches of these cells are organized into supporter groups, candidate groups and full members groups.

Additionally, the party has organized the people into youth, women and micro-credit associations for tighter control and easy dissemination of its propaganda and to do party activities. Dembi Dollo town is a special Woreda Town Administration. The Administration is sub-divided into four large “Ganda” (villages). The town used to have seven Qabales but was restructured just before the Qabale election in 2008. Each Qabale has 15 in the Woreda Council. It is said that the OPDO/EPRDF presented the names of pre-selected council members to the Qabale Council and had them endorsed. There is also the Sayyo Rual Woreda (24 Qabales). The administration of Sayyo Woreda also has its seat in Dembi Dollo town. These are all appointees of the party and are believed to be “strongly committed” to it. The four “Ganda” (villages or some times called Kifle Ketema) have each their own councils. A council has 300 members. The members were “elected” in 2008. All the people I talked to confirmed to me that the party pre-selected the candidates. The Qabale has its own cabinet and these are also party members. A Qabale is further sub-divided into different zones. The zones are sub-divided into “Gare”. There are up to 17 “Gare” in each zone.

Misuse of Public Property, Finance and Civil Servants

The party’s propaganda and organization committees are located in the Zonal, Woreda and Qabale Administration building. The party does not pay rent for the rooms it uses. The committee members are party cadres but their monthly salaries and per diems are paid by the administration from public treasury. Their secretaries, cleaners and messengers also get their salary from public treasury. All civil servants are also members of the party. Monthly contribution of the members to the party are collected by the Woreda finance office at the time they pay the workers their monthly salaries. The party officials use government office materials, supplies and equipment, including official transport vehicles. The party uses town and qabale halls without paying rent. Meeting halls in health and educational institutions are also used without any payment and at will. This system is practiced from Zonal to “Gare” levels. But opposition to the OPDO/EPRDF are not allowed to rent rooms for offices from private owners or rent public halls in the town for meetings. Plasma televisions supposed to be used for school-net and Woreda-net are used for dissemination of party propaganda.

Dissemination of OPDO/EPRDF thoughts

All adults in the qabales and government employees are forced to participate in different seminars and workshops. The same is true of all school children who are in high schools and vocational training institutions. University students on vacation are also required to participate in such programs. Lessons in “Tarsimo” (Strategy) and “Bulchiinsa Gaarii” (Good Governance) are given to all residents (school children, college and university students, and private and government employees). Workshops on BPR have been held and each government employee is given Birr 25 for participation. The seminar for university students lasted five days. The per diem for this seminar was supposed to be Birr 35 per day for each participant for nine days. Every two weeks on Friday afternoon, all government employees participate in study circles of the party and cell meetings during work hours and in the public meeting rooms. No rent is paid for the use of the rooms. Fund raising programs are organized once in a while for support of the party. It is the administration’s finance officers who deduct the pledged amount from employees and transfer the money to the party.

Elections

During the 2005 election, I have witnessed that civil servants were deployed for two weeks for election campaign for the OPDO/EPRDF and that government vehicles (cars and motor cycles) were used for this purpose. OPDO/EPRDF members and cadres were busy disrupting public meetings I called in the field. One of my observers was bribed with Birr 200 and agreed to give the votes I received to my opponent (OPDO/EPRDF). In one qabale, I was prevented from holding an election campaign meeting 500 meters away from a market place. The qabale officials told me that my meeting will disturb “their market”. My posters were removed from several places and leaflets I distributed were collected and destroyed. I persistently appealed to the election officials to correct the OPDO/EPRDF illegal activities or cancel it from the election in accordance with the election law but no one heeded my appeals.

According to the people I talked to, the chief of an election office during the 2008 election was also a member of the OPDO/EPRDF. There is a rumor that the same person is being appointed to the office by the OPDO/EPRDF for the 2010 election. The OPDO/EPRDF appointed a supporter or a member to each polling station to stand by the voters and tell the voters in which box they should put voting signs or signatures.

Situation of the Opposition

The office of the OFDM has remained closed since 2005. Members and supporters were beaten up and imprisoned several times. They were intimidated or bribed. During the three weeks before my visit to Dembi Dollo, 60 people in Sayyo and 15 people in Dembi Dollo were arrested and kept in police custody for up to 48 hours. They had to pay one hundred Birr as bail before being released. They were reprimanded and warned for the 2010 election. They were told, “Be careful! Don’t support, or join or vote for the opposition as you did in 2005. We shall not give in like then. We defend ourselves even with guns.” OFDM is equated with OLF while the CUD or the “Qindomina” as it is called in Oromia, is equated with the “Nafxagna”. The campaign against the UDJ as a “Nafxagna” organization has already begun.

Media

No private or independent newspapers exist in Dembi Dollo. Alternative news sources to the Federal and Oromia public media are only VOA and Deutche Welle. The Oromia information office and the OPDO send their press media to the area by bus. These are picked up by a government employee and distributed to different institutions and offices. All workers are forced to buy these news papers.

Conclusion

It is plain to anyone who has been to Dembi Dollo and surrounding areas that there is no political level playing field. I can not imagine how the opposition can enter into an election process under such conditions. If the ruling party is serious about having a peaceful, fair and democratic election in 2010 it has much to do, including the release of all political prisoners and putting a stop to new illegal arrests, intimidation, detentions and bribing opposition member, immediate reopening of offices of the opposition, providing immediate equal access to the public media, allowing public meetings organized by the opposition to take place freely, amending the Election Law so that neutral election officials can be appointed and making it possible for international election observers free access to ensure fair elections, and putting into place control mechanisms so that its supporters and members respect the constitution and the election laws. It must also start repaying rent for offices and halls it has used for its party activities over the past several years as well as for use of government office materials and equipment, fuel, telephone and electricity, and return the money it took out of the public treasury and paid as salaries to its members.

(Dr. Negasso Gidada is former figure-head president of Ethiopia from 1995 to 2001.)

Window dressing of Ethiopia's coffee exchange

Monday, October 12th, 2009

By Wondwossen Mezlekia

The next few days are full of activity for the executives of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) and the government as they get ready for the big day — the day they hope will earn the exchange the much needed acceptance by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and favorable media coverage for the government. This confidentially held event is, according to a document that briefly appeared on ECX’s website and removed early last week, currently scheduled for October 20 – 24, 2009. ECX, the government run company that touts transparency, is tightlipped, for no apparent reason, thus this scrutiny of its negotiations with SCAA, the changes it made to address concerns of the specialty coffee trade, and its roles in the corrupt control of the coffee sector.

Early this year, when ECX’s system was hastily utilized by the government to take control of the coffee trade, the problems of the commodity trading mechanism caught the attention of the international media. The government scrambled in vain to contain the unexpected shift in the media’s position from praising ECX to criticizing it. ECX’s leader, Dr. Eleni Gebre-Medhin, even went to as far as risking a futile face-off with the Seattle Times business reporter, Melissa Allison in an attempt to defuse the hostile criticism without realizing the driving forces behind the media frenzy. ECX didn’t comprehend the complexity of the coffee trade and the powers of the international stakeholders until it encountered the Specialty coffee importers at SCAA’s 21st annual exposition held in Atlanta, GA in April, 2009.

The issue with ECX was one of the sideline agenda at the SCAA conference. On April 15, 2009, Ethiopia’s delegation led by Dr. Eleni, Phillip Schluter, and Tadesse Meskela held an information delivery session regarding ECX and the new coffee trading system to a group of importers. A heated engagement erupted between participants and the presenters as soon as they presented the last slides about the implications of the system. The intense dialogue continued next day at a roundtable meeting between the parties. One of the attendees of the discussions described the situation in an email to this writer as:

“The roundtable today was intense. So much complexity. Dr. Eleni is assuring SCAA and buyers [that] she is here to listen and gather information to bring back and devise a way for a “second window”. Currently there is none (except coops). Buyers are very upset. They have so much invested – and so do farmers! This season is pretty much done, very few got the coffee. Next season… maybe. Everyone needs to work together.”

At the end of the exposition, Dr. Eleni wrote an open letter to SCAA and buyers summarizing her experience at the event and a proposal to establish a joint working group formed by SCAA and ECX to resolve the problems. SCAA, the most influential body in the market, had already written a letter to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi expressing its concerns and demanding immediate solutions.

The joint working group was formed and has been at work for the past six months under strict confidentiality. The ECX event scheduled for later this month hints the culmination of the dialogue. ECX is expected to announce some changes to its trading mechanism but the detail is withheld from the public to this day. The only word from ECX is what Dr. Eleni casually mentioned last month during her appearance on Tefera Gedamu’s show Meet ETV on the Ethiopian Television. She stated that SCAA and ECX had reached an agreement and they will publicize late in October the changes that ECX made to its coffee grading system.

SCAA is more transparent and accessible than ECX. In an email response to this writer, Ric Rhinehart, Executive Director of SCAA said, “We have been actively engaged since April of this year with the ECX in addressing the concerns of the specialty market and how the commodity trading mechanism has impacted our access to coffees.” Mr. Rhinehart, along with other members of SCAA, is traveling to Ethiopia to attend the event. He said, he can’t give details of the matter at this time but, “I can say that we have had input from virtually every part of the trade and feel that we have a good grasp on what success will look like… We have assembled a working group from the specialty trade that has defined the objectives from the consumer perspective and that is committed to working with the ECX and the Ethiopian trade to develop viable solutions to meeting those objectives.”

After all, SCAA may get what it wants. Mr. Rhinehart said, “I am very pleased to say that we have had an excellent working relationship with ECX and that together we continue to pursue solutions that will meet the needs of the specialty coffee sector but more importantly deliver the highest and most sustainable value back through the supply chain to the working coffee farmers of Ethiopia.” The details of the said change including whether it satisfies SCAA and its members, and whether it alleviates the burden on the farmers will be known shortly. Regardless, ECX’s gesture in addressing SCAA’s concerns is a step in the right direction.

In the mean time, as we prepare to embrace another wave of media stunt from ECX and the government, it is necessary to be aware of the root causes of the coffee controversy and define what success looks like from Ethiopia’s perspective. If delivering the value to the farmers “through the supply chain” means disenfranchising individual farmers, it is unacceptable. If the new system addresses only one end of the equation (without allowing direct contact between buyers and farmers), such a change is nothing more than window dressing the current coffee exchange. At a larger scale, if the market doesn’t accommodate the needs of all participants in the value chain, including private businesses and benefits only the government and the parastatals, sustainability of the sector will be in jeopardy. This view is shared by many in the coffee sector.

Emebet Taffesse Kidanemariam, Vice President of the Ethiopian Coffee Exporters Association recently told the Ethiopian Reporter that “the sector is not benefiting the country at its current level,” and called up on authorities to work together with the private sector. She said, “Many exporters are returning their licenses. We, the remaining ones, are in trouble too.” Emebet is not opposed to ECX as a market. In fact, she says, “I am [one] of those who strongly appreciate the importance of such a market. … But what I notice here is that when exporters are not able to enjoy a fair benefit, they shift their businesses to some other area.” She added, “Previously, when the New York market fluctuated, our prices also fluctuated. But now, this is history. You are expected to buy on the basis of the daily high selling price.”2

Likewise, coffee farmers say the burden is unbearable. Last month, Addis Fortune quoted Alemayehu Teshome, coffee and tea development team leader at the ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development saying: “farmers in areas that have access to transport are dropping coffee in favour of khat, which is contributing to reducing the total coffee harvest the country expects.” The article also sites Abdulkadir Mohammed, a former coffee farmer who said: “I used to grow coffee previously, [but] when the price declined, I cleared the coffee plantation and substituted khat plants.” Fortune noted, “He [Abdulkadir] is not only making more money from the khat, but he is also a two time winner for best farmer in the Harari regional state. Abdulkadir makes 300 to 500 Br per kilogram of export quality khat, for which the consumers pay up to 1,000 Br. When he grew coffee, he said that export quality coffee only brought him 25 to 35 Br.”

Yet, the government is all about controlling the trade. The state owned Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise (EGTE) is planning to supply 10,000 tons of coffee for local and foreign markets during the current year, according to Birhane Hailu, General Manger and a member of ECX’s Board of Directors. Guna Trading, PLC, a member of the largest conglomerate EFFORT, which is reportedly owned by leaders of the TPLF (Tigrian People Liberation Front), had already announced its plans to export 10,000 tons of coffee and 30,000 tons of sesame this year. Guna is joining the coffee export trade club for the first time after “it stopped the business (coffee export) for five years.”

Ethiopia produces an average of 330,000 tons of coffee per year and about half the amount is exported; the rest consumed locally. During the last fiscal year (July 2008 – June, 2009), the country exported 134,000 tons, sharply down from 170,888 tons exported in the previous year. The government wants to increase the volume of exported coffee but it plans to do so by controlling the marketing chain and forcefully routing coffee stocks to ECX. Any attempt by coffee growers and traders to shop around for better prices outside of the government controlled channel is illegal. Walta Information Center (WIC) recently reported the establishment of 37 coffee trading centers in Jimma zone to control “illegal coffee trading and alleviating wastage of coffee produce.” WIC quoted Nezif Abachebsa, Jimma zone Agriculture and Rural Development Office Deputy Head, saying “individuals found dealing coffee out of the centers will receive a 20 year prison term and up to 50,000 birr fine.”

The total annual production in the country is not commensurate with the needs of the government and the coffee drinking public. Because of the imbalance of supply and demand, local prices are generally higher than export prices. When the government imposes mandatory exports, it never considers the idea of compensating farmers, suppliers, or exporters, for the price differential between domestic and export markets. The government wants to generate foreign exchange without investing a dime to earn it. This practice is perpetuating the vicious cycle of low quality, low productivity, and low production on one hand and low selling prices, insignificant or no profit margins, and shortage of foreign exchange earnings on the other. The root causes of the problems in Ethiopia’s coffee sector are complex but the major ones include: low productivity (less than a quarter of the average productivity in the world), lack of incentives for quality production, inexistent access to capital and infrastructures including roads and coffee washing facilities, and lack of institutional capabilities. These systemic problems cannot be resolved by introducing superficial and cosmetic changes in the marketing platform.

In the short and medium term, the government’s policies and donors’ funds are best directed at increasing productivity by spending on research, and at enticing quality production by compensating farmers and traders for exporting coffee at the petty international prices. The government’s continued engagement in micromanaging the coffee trade will only exasperate the sector. By the same token, ECX also had better focus on building a principled marketing system, and stick to its stated goals of helping eliminate famine and increasing the value of domestic commodity grain trade rather than facilitating for such short-sighted government policies that legalize coffee exploitation.

(The author can be reached at wondwossen.mezlekia@gmail.com)

Teddy Afro rocked Ethiopia's capital Sunday night

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Details are still coming from Ethiopian Review sources in Addis Ababa regarding Teddy Afro’s concert last night. By some estimate, tens of thousands of Addis Ababa residents attended the show. The photo below tells it all.

The concert ended with no major incident, but some wondered if it was an entertainment event or a political rally. Others are heard asking how did Woyanne allow Teddy to organize such a big event right under its nose. Was there some kind of deal between Woyanne and Teddy Afro’s managers for Teddy to stay clear of any thing that may antagonize the vampires in power? We are digging into that.

Until then let’s just say that Teddy did not disappoint the audience with his magnificent performance. Sunday’s night event was the mother of all concerts for Addis Ababa. [read more in Amharic here]

Teddy Afro, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
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Teddy Afro, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Woyanne vs. Woyanne in June 2010

Monday, October 12th, 2009

The stage is now set — it will be Woyanne vs Woyanne in 2010. With the announcement on Saturday by the newly formed “opposition” alliance in Addis Ababa that it will participate in the June 2010 elections, it will be a match between one Woyanne-led group (EPRDF) vs another Woyanne-led group (FDD). EPRDF is a cover for Meles and gang, while FDD is a cover for Seye and gang. Every one else who are giving them cover such as OPDO are useful idiots. The following is a report by Sudan Tribune.

(ST) — With Ethiopia’s national election approaching, some opposition groups have reportedly begun to hint boycott from the upcoming election, accusing Ethiopian government Woyanne of already stepping up harassment against them.

Despite opposition’s growing claims of “harassment” and “undemocratic actions” perpetrated up on them by the ruling EPRDF party Woyanne, Ethiopia’s biggest alliance of opposition political parties on Sunday said that it will contest in the country’s [fake] election scheduled for May 2010.

“Currently the party has no intention to boycott election nor did it yet set any preconditions on to it” Gebru Asrat (Woyanne and former President of Tigray Republic), the person in charge of public relation and vice chairman of the group, Forum for Democratic Dialogue (FDD) told Sudan Tribune.

Gebru Asrat, a former ally of Meles Zenawi, said that his party’s primary efforts are to engage in negotiation with government on key election issues ahead of the election but he said that Meles Zenawi-led government is being reluctant to take his party’s offer.

“We are pushing the ruling party to tolerate negotiations for a binding election rule to be set” Gebru said adding “if a fair and democratic election is to be held in Ethiopia, it will highly depend on whether or not the ruling party is willing to hold talks on the binding law of election.”

FDD is insisting to engage in a pre-election negotiation with the ruling party on 10 key subjects, among which the issues of access to Media for campaigning, supremacy of law, free flow to international observers, establishment of independent electoral board and a stop to harassment on opposition members.

Gebru Asrat further said that the Ethiopian government Woyanne last month hinted a little interest toward the offer but on second thought changed its minds.

The Ethiopian government Woyanne has repeatedly guaranteed its commitment to conduct a fair and democratic election but when asked if this is likely, FDD chairman, Dr. Merara Gudina, told Sudan Tribune that he strongly doubts that promise.

“I can’t be certain on that pledge. But with the reality going on ground, a fair and peaceful election is unlikely to happen.” He said adding “Why don’t you go ask the government? The government knows that answer.”

The opposition official further said that his party, Forum for Democratic Dialogue (FDD) has been appealing to the international community to put pressure on the Ethiopian government to stop harassing opposition parties and also to release political prisoners, including potential candidates jailed in the recent “wave of arrests.”

“Calling to the international community is our daily bread but responds we have are either deaf ears or not satisfactory” Dr. Merara added.

Recently the opposition group has accused the Ethiopian government of arresting as much as 480 opposition members on false allegations and the opposition chairman now says that the mass arrests to opposition members, candidates and supporters are still being carried out but on “on and off bases.

Recently FDD, the coalition of 8 Opposition group and two prominent politicians, including former president, has pulled out of talks on election code of conduct, demanding separate talks with government to negotiate on what they said was election binding law.

In an interview, Bereket Simon, government communication office Minister Woyanne propaganda chief on Thursday said that the opposition group this week has rejected an offer by the government for negotiation.

“We invited the opposition group for a negotiation in the presence of Germany and British Embassies but they declined” Bereket said adding “a party which walks away from a negotiating table doesn’t have a moral right to accuse us for shutting down political space.”

Last month, Ethiopian Prime Minister tribal warlord Meles Zenawi, at a press conference blasted some opposition groups that demanded a release of an opposition leader Birtukan mideksa, as having an intent to discredit the election process from day one. Meles stressed that her re-arrest is a legal matter and has no any political motive.

Since last December, Birtukan mideksa is serving a life term in prison for denying a pardon that let her freed in 2007. She was jailed after the 2005 post-election violence for attempting to overthrow constitutional order.

Mothers of Ethiopia, Mother Ethiopia

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Mother of All Troubles

It is not only Mother Ethiopia that is in deep trouble today but also the millions of mothers in Ethiopia. Hanna Ingber Win, the World Editor of the Huffington Post, was “invited by the U.N. Population Fund to visit its maternal health programs in Ethiopia, which has one of the world’s worst health care systems.” Her investigative findings are shocking to the conscience; her analysis is compelling and convincing, and her conclusions are profoundly distressing but not lacking in cautious optimism. In a five-part series entitled, “Mothers of Ethiopia”, Ms. Win paints a portrait of a country that is the epicenter — the ground zero– of Africa’s maternal and child health crises . Here are snippets from her report[1]:

Zemzem and her husband, a poor farmer, collected 50 birr (US$4) from their neighbors for the trip to a hospital… and traveled 20 hours, while in labor, from her rural village to get to the hospital in the closest big town. By the time she arrived at the hospital, her uterus had partially ruptured. A resident and health officer were able to save her life and that of her baby… If she [had been delayed] two or three hours more, the baby – and even the mother – would have lost her life… No one else in the ‘Septic Room’ can empathize with Zemzem’s joy. The other three patients all had fully ruptured uteri and lost their babies…. When I enter the maternity ward at Jimma Hospital, the stench practically smacks me in the face. The smell, a combination of urine and feces and other bodily fluids, overpowers all my other senses…

Ethiopia ranks among the top 10 countries for child marriage, according to the International Center for Research on Women’s Analysis… Early marriage can cause higher rates of maternal and infant mortality, vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, abuse, isolation and long-term psychological trauma from forced sex, according to UNFPA… Two centers in Addis serve about 600 girls between the ages of 10 and 19, says Habtamu Demele, the project coordinator of the center. Most of them have escaped early marriage. Even though the legal age to marry in Ethiopia is 18, more than 30 percent of girls living in rural parts of the country are married by age 15, according to the Population Council…

The white tile floors in the Ayder Referral Hospital in Mekelle, a large city in northern Ethiopia, look so clean they practically sparkle. Unlike the maternity ward in Jimma that wreaks of human waste and sickness, this hospital smells sterile and clean. Nurses gather at their station writing down their patients’ information in orderly files, and a small handful of visitors wait patiently in the corridors. The multistory hospital with a manicured garden and televisions in the hallways looks so modern and fancy it could easily belong in New York. There’s just one problem: many of its new beds go empty. The hospital, which opened in September 2008, does not have enough doctors or medical equipment for the facility to be fully used. Of the 450 beds in the hospital, only about 65 percent can be filled…

In Ethiopia, the maternal health statistics suggest that the nation’s health care system needs an overhaul. Less than six percent of women have access to a health professional while giving birth, according to Ethiopia’s 2005 Demographic and Health Survey. The maternal mortality rate is one of the worst in the world. For every 100,000 live births, 673 women die giving birth, according to the survey.

In the United States, eight women die during childbirth for every 100,000 live births, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In Ethiopia, 673 women die, making the maternal mortality rate 84 times higher. UNFPA considers every single maternal death preventable. In the U.S., a woman has a 1 in 4,800 chance of dying from complications due to pregnancy or childbirth in her lifetime.

‘This government has failed at the very important task of training the professionals,’ says Dr. Beyene Petros, chairman of the opposition United Ethiopian Democratic Forces party and a member of the Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives. ‘You can put up huge buildings, but if you don’t have a program to properly train and maintain the manpower, what’s the value?’

Win’s Anecdotal Data is Consistent With the Macro Level Health Data

One may be tempted to critique Ms. Win’s report as anecdotal based on episodic observations of a few isolated cases. That would be erroneous because the general statistics on the country’s health system are more frightening than the reports in individual cases. According to World Health Organization (WHO) (2006) data Ethiopia’s population was estimated to be 77 million. To serve this population, there were 1,936 physicians (1doctor for 39,772 persons); 93 dentists (1: 828,000); 15,544 nurses and midwives (1: 4,985), 1,343 pharmacists (1: 57,334) and 18,652 community health workers (1: 4,128). Total expenditure on health as a percentage of gross domestic product was 5.9 per cent. General government expenditure on health as a percentage of total expenditure on health was 58.4 per cent, and private expenditures covered the balance of 41.6 percent. Hospital beds per 10,000 population was less than 25. Per capita expenditure on health was US$3 at an average exchange rate. WHO’s minimum standard is 20 physicians per 100,000 population, and 100 nurses per 100,000 population. What more can be said? The numbers speak for themselves!

Health and the Empty Rhetoric of Economic Development

If empty political rhetoric and grandiose claims of double digit development were medicine, Ethiopia would have been the healthiest country in the world. Addressing the opening session of Ethiopia’s “parliament” recently, Girma Wolde Giorgis, the putative president, repeated the cockamamie fabrication of runaway economic development over the past half dozen years: “The fact that our economy has been able continuously to register growth rates of more than 10 percent annually for the last six consecutive years in such difficult global and domestic circumstances is an attestation of the success of our policies and strategies designed to speed up our development.” But Girma and his confederates seem to be clueless about the singular importance of heath in economic growth and development. In fact, health is considered so important that five of the eight targets of the Millennium Development Goals (adopted by 189 nations and signed by 147 heads of state in September 2000) to be achieved by 2015 are directly related to improvements in health care services and nutrition: eradication of extreme hunger and poverty, reduction in child mortality, improvements in maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, achievement of universal primary education, promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women and development of global partnership for development.

It is a cruel joke to talk about runaway economic development in “one of the world’s worst health care systems”. There can be no economic development in a society that is ravaged by pandemics, suffers from a high incidence of child and maternal mortality from child birth, devastated by preventable and vector-borne diseases and abysmally lacks basic maternal and prenatal services and rational public health policies. To believe in the fantastic blather about a “10 percent plus annual economic development for the last six consecutive years” is to believe in the purple cow that no one has ever seen and the pink elephant that some see too often in the Land of Living Lies.

The empirical data overwhelmingly shows that heath is a fundamental determinant of economic development and poverty reduction. The health status of a population affects economic growth directly through labor productivity and the negative effects of morbidity (i.e. fewer worker illnesses, lower absenteeism rates, diversion of scarce resources for treatment of ill health from other activities, etc.). There is vast scientific evidence to show that improvements in health care services lead to significant increases in per capita income directly as each individual is able to produce more per unit of labor input. Beyond the immediate effects of poor health care services on productivity, the impact of child malnutrition and poor maternal and children health services as evidenced in Ethiopia has a devastating impact on the country’s future. It is well established that malnutrition-related health problems of children have lifetime functionality effects. Simply stated, sick children perform poorly in school and that poor performance negatively impacts on future individual income and overall labor productivity of citizens in society. Without massive investments in health care services, training of health care providers, improved child nutrition and maternal care and establishment of clinics, health centers, hospitals, dispensaries, etc., Ethiopia’s future economic growth, labor productivity, and most importantly, its precious youth, are doomed.

“What is the Value of…?”

So, we must ask some obvious questions: “Why does Ethiopia have ‘one of the world’s worst health care systems’?” What is the value of “economic development” that completely ignores the heath care needs of the vast majority of its citizens? What is the value of an alleged 10 percent plus economic growth if 85 percent of the population has little or no health care services? What is the value of exporting flowers but not importing basic pharamaceutical drugs and essential medical equipment? What is the value of putting up shiny new buildings that offer little health care services but stand as magnificent political show pieces? Is there anything that has more value than ensuring the good health of a nation’s citizens? Is there even a ghost of a chance that Ethiopia will meet its Millennium Development Goals?

What is Ms. Hanna Ingber Win Really Saying?

Ms. Win’s manifest purpose was to investigate certain projects supported by the U.N. Population Fund and report her findings. Her report sheds considerable light on the fact that the country’s health care system is terminally under-staffed, under-resourced, under-developed, mismanaged, over-bureaucratized and over-politicized, and its few health professionals under-trained. But her findings also focus a laser beam of scrutiny on some stark policy questions: Why are scarce resources being wasted on shiny buildings and not in the recruitment, training and retention of physicians and other health care providers in Ethiopia? Why isn’t there a comprehensive program of retention of Ethiopian doctors and other health professionals fleeing the country? Why is health care dominated and controlled by centralized planning in a country that is allegedly “federalized”? Why isn’t health care planning decentralized to empower local communities? Why is there little investment in health education, prevention and disease control? What happens to all of the aid money given by donor countries earmarked for health?

There are major policy prescriptions that flow Ms. Win’s findings. First, it is clear that something must be done to stave off the exodus of Ethiopian doctors and other health professionals. It is a national tragedy that there should be a pervasive belief among health professionals in Ethiopia that there are “are more Ethiopian doctors practicing medicine in Chicago than in Ethiopia” as Ms. Win reported. But Ethiopian doctors are leaving the country for many compelling reasons: they do not want to practice medicine in unsafe and wretched conditions; they are frustrated by their inability to meet even the most basic needs of their patients; they do not want to work in a health system that lacks basic medical equipment, medications and trained providers; they object to being overworked, underpaid and underappreciated; and they would like to earn fair compensation for their services.

In March 2007, Zenawi, responding to a question on the Ethiopian “doctor drain” shocked health officials and physicians attending a conference by declaring, “We don’t need doctors in Ethiopia… Let the doctors leave for wherever they want. They should get no special treatment.” When the life and well-being of 80 million people hangs in the balance, such callow reaction and arrogant attitude must condemned. No effort must be spared to retain Ethiopian doctors to remain and serve in the country, particularly in the rural areas. It is also an obvious fact that the flight of Ethiopian doctors necessarily means importation of expensive foreign ones; or the vast majority of Ethiopians will continue to die from common preventable diseases and lack of basic health services.

It would be misleading and unfair to leave the impression that Ethiopian doctors who have left the country have been totally disengaged. There are indeed some Ethiopian Diaspora physicians and other health professionals who have done their share to help out. These unsung heroes have organized periodic medical mission trips to Ethiopia with colleagues from other countries. Some have even gone to extraordinary lengths to establish foundations for the principal purpose of acquiring much needed medical equipment and supplies to meet critical medical needs. They are refreshing points of light on the dark sky of “one of the world’s worst health care systems.”

The second area of policy concern underscored in Ms. Win’s report is the need to undertake a broader initiative to establish a more equitable health system between the urban and the vast rural areas where health services are virtually nonexistent. Something has to be done to provide incentives to health care professionals to work in underserved rural areas. Instead wasting scarce resources on state of the art half-empty hospitals that have few doctors and other health professionals, it makes more sense to use those resources to build rural clinics, train health officers and community health workers, attract students from rural areas who are likely to remain in their communities to be engaged in public heath services and supplement the salaries and benefits of other health care providers to go into the rural areas. Donors may be in the best position to help bridge the urban-rural gap and improve the overall quality of rural medicine. What is also implicit in the interview responses of Ethiopian health workers is the need to reassess the roles of nurses, mid-level health workers, and community health workers and explore ways of diversifying their responsibilities through training.

Speaking Truth to Dictatorship

Ms. Win deserves our gratitude and appreciation for calling attention to the massive health care problems plaguing the mothers of Ethiopia. She told her story as she saw it. Her findings may prove embarrassing to the dictatorship which seeks to paint a portrait of a country panting for air from galloping economic development. The fact of the matter is that when the lives of millions of mothers and their children is at risk, there is only one way to tell the story: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That is what Ms. Win has done in her anecdotal report visiting facilities supported by the U.N. Population Fund. Her report will ultimately serve to empower Ethiopian women by forcing the dictatorship to face the fact that it needs to provide resources to protect Ethiopian women’s basic right to maternal and reproductive health — one of the cornerstones of the Millennium Development Goals.

There is another fact that we can not afford to gloss over. Ms. Win’s report showed an apparent gap in the location and sophistication of health infrastructures. For instance, the stark contrast she draws between the state of the art hospital in Mekelle and the deplorable conditions in Jimma could potentially leave a bitter aftertaste in the mouth of a reader who had digested all of the other facts about “one of the world’s worst health care systems.” It would be an egregious mistake to dwell on such distinctions without focusing on the real outcomes of the health system. It is therefore necessary to belabor the obvious: The residents of Jimma and Mekele are in the same boat. Neither one is getting basic medical care. Even with a state of the art modern hospital (with 450 beds, — of which 157 beds could not be used due to staffing shortages — and 14 doctors, (consisting of 1 surgeon, 1 pediatrician, 1 gynecologist, 2 internists and 9 general practitioners), people still do not have access to the most basic clinical procedures!

Save Mother Ethiopia!

It is simply preposterous and irrational to talk about economic growth or development when a country has ‘one of the world’s worst health care systems’. The ultimate question is whether a regime described by the Economist magazine as “one of the most economically illiterate in the modern world” is capable of meeting the dire health challenges facing the Ethiopian people. No need to hold our breaths waiting for an affirmative response to that question. But there is no question on what we need to do: We must work together in unity — with malice towards none and charity for all — to save Mother Ethiopia and the mothers of Ethiopia!

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/hanna-ingber-win

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

Japan provides $18 million for clean water in Tigray

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

The government of Japan said it will provide 180 million Birr support to implement safe water units in Raya Azebo Woreda, Southern Tigray Zone.

Japanese ambassador to Ethiopia, Kinichi Komano and President of Tigray, Tsegay Berhe on Wednesday visited rural areas exposed to safe water shortage in the woreda.

[After 18 years of rule and billions of dollars in foreign aid, the Tigrean People Liberation Front (Woyanne) cannot even provide clean water to Tigray.]

Experts of the woreda mines and energy office on the occasion said safe water service coverage stands at 43 per cent at present in the woreda.

The ambassador on his part said the fund will be used to dig water wells, install water pipelines and construct reservoirs.

Tsegay also said the regional government will work together with the Japanese government in the efforts to curb shortage of safe water. (Source: state-owned ENA)

Ethiopia loses millions from livestock smuggling

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

Ethiopia should take urgent steps to curb animal smuggling that is cutting into export earnings worth tens of millions of dollars to the poor country every year, a senior official said.

Livestock exports are an important source of hard currency for Ethiopia, which boasts 50 million cattle, 50 million sheep and goats and more than half a million camels. It made $53 million from exports last year, but Berhe Gebreigziabher, at a top official at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said smuggling was slashing revenue.

“A significant number of live animals … are being smuggled to neighboring states to be re-exported to Middle Eastern countries,” he told Reuters on Friday.

“Our animal sector resources are being stolen and taken to other nations. The government must adopt strict policies and control mechanism to stop the illegal trade undermining us.”

Berhe, who heads the ministry’s Animal and Plant Regulatory Department, said the authorities should support economic growth by adding value to their exports, not just selling livestock.

The government has converted tens of thousands of acres in the Oromia, Amhara and Somali regions to rangeland for the leather goods sector, which it hopes will earn $200 million from exports in 2009/10 (July-June), up from $100 million in 2008/09.

The country used to export mostly raw hides and skins to markets in Europe and Asia, generating about $30 million a year in the late 1990s. It has since built dozens of tanneries, shoe factories and other leather-working facilities.

Among the major buyers of Ethiopian-made shoes are Germany, Italy, China, India and the United States. (Reuters)

Egypt warns any attempt to irrigate Nile is an act of war

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopia, being the source of 85 percent of the total Nile waters flow, claims that it could self-support its hungry people off foreign food aid if granted to irrigate from the Blue Nile river.

However, a 1929 treaty between Egypt and Britain, the then regional power, awarded most of the Nile’s water to Egypt. Veto power over upstream projects as well.

Despite the fact that Ethiopia generates the lions share to the river, the horn of Africa’s nation uses only less than 1 percent of it because Egypt resists any attempt from Ethiopia to launch any large scale irrigation project and warns that any attempt to adjust the river’s status would be regarded as an act of war.

With devastating drought year-to- year endangering the lives of millions of people in Ethiopia and in the East of African region in general, Ethiopians now strongly argue that it is time that the ’ancient’ treaty must be reviewed.

Binyam Tekle is an Architect and an Environmentalist at a University and a research institute in Ethiopia. He argues that Egypt is a hidden factor to food crises in the east African region.

“Why do we always blame rain short or aid short to food crises in Ethiopia, while next door we have a major contributor to food shortage in Ethiopia-Egypt?” Binyam told Sudan Tribune.

“Unless the old, unfair treaty is soon reviewed by the international community and Egypt accepts to loosen its current rigid stand, once off hand the strain could lead to wrong but dangerous direction,” he added.

In recent years failing rains have constantly made crops in Ethiopia impossible to grow as much as the country needs to outreach the increased food need of its 80 million people, Africa’s second most populous country.

“People in some East African countries entirely depend on Nile water for their annual supply to agriculture when rainfalls luck, so increasing water demand could lead to political tensions in the entire region, unless new compromise is reached for fair distribution” said researcher Endashaw Belay.

“To realize a peace full united Africa, countries must be able to jointly work together to solve own problems and in this case Nile states must have political will to reach comprehensive consensuses despite what past treaties.”

Many analysts say that Egypt is blocking any funds to Ethiopia’s Nile project. Though Ethiopians might be tempted to circumvent the anachronistic arrangement, they can’t. Egyptian officials work behind “closed doors” to block funding for upstream projects, according to David Shinn, former US ambassador to Ethiopia.

Nile states have sought to re-negotiate the old treaty but Egyptian officials have stalled it for years. (Source: Sudan Tribune)

Ethiopian taxi mogul Solomon Bekele defends himself

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

In his column on the Washington D.C. taxi industry, LL mentioned the name of Solomon Bekele—calling him “almost a mythic figure, a bogeyman, in local taxi circles.”

LL was not able to speak to Bekele — a native of Ethiopia — prior to his Tuesday deadline, but he has since gotten in touch.

In the course of interviewing various figures in the taxi industry, Bekele’s name came up repeatedly— not, mind you, as anyone who is directly involved in the ongoing scandal, but as someone who cuts a wide swath in the taxicab world.

Bekele these days is the proprietor of Crown Captive Insurance Co., one of a small handful companies operating in the city that specialize in taxi insurance, which is quite different from the six-month policy you might buy from GEICO or State Farm. Taxi policies are rarely more than two weeks in duration, and are usually sold to drivers through the taxi companies most affiliate with.

But Bekele’s reputation outgrows merely owning an insurance company—time and again, figures in the cab industry, speaking anonymously, mentioned his name with a mixture of awe and suspicion. Much of that can be traced to his history in Atlanta, where Bekele controlled a large share of the taxi market through companies he owned. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called him “Atlanta’s taxi king” in 2001.) Still, Bekele says there’s no basis for any suspicions.

Asked about his involvement in stumping for a Atlanta-like medallion system, he says: “None whatsoever. I’m in the insurance business.”

Bekele, a Potomac resident, explains that some people had approached him to inquire about how medallion systems work in cities like Boston, New York, and Atlanta—that’s it; no contact with elected officials or policymakers on the matter. “I have from time to time, when requested by interested cab drivers or companies, expressed my experience in the matter of medallions,” he would write in an e-mail to LL, referring to his advice as “considered opinion.” (That’s not necessarily at odds with what LL reported—that Bekele is a “strong backer” of such a system, which was based on conversations with several anonymous sources, who recall Bekele advocating for a shift.)

So what accounts for all the mentions of his name? “You call this jealousy,” he says. “These are people from the same hometown….These kind rumors are politically motivated.” To wit, connected to his advocacy for human rights and open elections in Ethiopia, not his involvement in the taxi industry.

And regarding his connection to Yitbarek Syume, indicted as a ringleader in the alleged bribery scheme, Bekele says there’s barely any. Syume bought his insurance, he says, and he went to Syume’s garage on 5th Street NE “maybe three to four times a year” to get his cars fixed. “He knows the cars,” he says.

Bekele called LL again this afternoon, saying his mention in the column was unfair. “It’s almost a riot out there,” he declared, saying that the column had only served to stoke suspicions. “You’re flaring up a lot of emotions here!” (By Mike DeBonis | Washington City paper)

Woyanne crosses into Somalia in pursuit of rebels

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

MOGADISHU — Several hundred Ethiopian soldiers from the Woyanne army in Ethiopia crossed into neighbouring Somalia over the weekend, arresting dozens of villagers suspected of having links with Islamists, elders and residents told AFP.

The Ethiopian Woyanne forces, accompanied by Somali pro-government clan-based militias, entered three villages west of Beledweyn, some 300 kilometres (186 miles) north of Mogadishu, on Saturday afternoon.

“I saw dozens of armed vehicles belonging to the Ethiopian Woyanne army with some Somali militias, they entered Wagada village and detained several people before getting out of the village this morning,” Husein Farah Gomey, an elder near Beledweyn told AFP by phone.

Mohamed Nur Adan, another elder in a nearby village also said that his cousin was among dozens detained for questioning.

“Hundreds of them entered the area late Saturday, they detained 13 people including my cousin but they later released him after questioning him for several hours,” he said.

The residents said that while the Ethiopians Woyannes let some of their detainees go, they took others with them.

Some of the residents told AFP the Ethiopian Woyanne forces crossed from the border town of Ferfer tracing members from the Ogaden rebel group.

Over 100,000 expected to show up for Teddy Afro concert

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — Tens of thousands of people are lined up starting early Sunday morning to buy tickets for Teddy Afro’s concert tonight.

This concert, which will be held at the Addis Ababa Stadium, will be the first one for Teddy since he was released from prison last August.

The popular singer was thrown in jail for 2 years by the Woyanne tribal junta after being falsely accused of hit-and-run accident which claimed the life of a homeless man.

Awramba Times has the following report (Amharic):

አውራምባ ታይምስ (አዲስ አበባ)፡- ከእስር ከተለቀቀ በኋላ የመጀመሪያው የሆነውና ዛሬ ምሽት ከ12፡00 ሰዓት ጀምሮ በአዲስ አበባ ስታዲየም የሚካሄደውን የድምጻዊ ቴዎድሮስ ካሳሁን (ቴዲ አፍሮ) ኮንሰርት ለመታደም ከአዲስ አበባና ከመላው አገሪቱ የተሰባሰበ በመቶ ሺህ የሚቆጠር ህዝብ ከንጋት አንስቶ በአዲስ አበባ ስታዲየም ዙሪያ ተጥለቅልቋል፡፡

በሺህ የሚቆጠሩ የቴዲ አፍሮ አድናቂዎች ከባለፈው ሳምንት ጀምሮ የኮንሰርቱን ትኬት ለማግኘት ብዙ ጥረት ቢያደርጉም አውራምባ ታይምስ ያነጋገራቸው የኮንሰርቱ የፕሮሞሽን ኃላፊ አቶ ምትኩ ግርማ ግን ‹ትኬት አስቀድመን አንሸጥም የትኬት ሽያጩ የሚከናወነው ኮንሰርቱ በሚካሄድበት ዕለት በስታዲየም ነው ይህ የሆነበት ምክንያት ደግሞ ትኬቱ በህገወጥ መንገድ ዋጋው እንዳያሻቅብ ነው› ማለታቸው ይታወሳል፡፡ በዛሬው ዕለት በአዲስ አበባ ከጧት ጀምሮ ከባድ ዝናብ እየጣለ ቢሆንም በመቶ ሺህ የሚቆጠሩ የኮንሰርቱ ታዳሚዎች ግን ለዝናቡ ቦታ ሳይሰጡ በረጃጅም ሰልፎች እየተጠባበቁ ነው፡፡

Symposium honoring Haddis Alemayehu of Ethiopia

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

A symposium is being organized in honor of the great Ethiopian writer, public servant and patriot Haddis Alemayehu in Washington DC, Saturday, October 17, 2009.

Ato Assefa Gebremariam, one of the organizers of the event, informed Ethiopian Review that the event will be held at Howard University’s College of Engineering, 2366 6th Stree NW, Washington DC.

The symposium will also celebrate Ato Haddis Alemayehu’s 100th birthday.

The family and friends of Ato Haddis invite every one in the Washington DC area to join them in celebrating his life and achievements. (For more info write to: assefagmt@gmail.com)

Haddis Alemayehu (15 October 1910 – 6 December 2003), was a Foreign Minister of Ethiopia and novelist. His Amharic novel Fiker Eske Mekaber (Love to the Grave, 1968) is considered a classic of modern Ethiopian literature.

He was born in the Endor Kidane Miheret section of the city of Debre Marqos, Gojjam, the son of an Orthodox priest, Abba Alemayehu Solomon.

As a boy, he began his education within the system of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, including at the monasteries of Debre Elias, Debre Worq, and Dima.

Later, he moved to Addis Ababa where he enrolled at the Swedish Mission and later at the Ras Taffari Makonnen school for further education. He was eventually awarded an honorary doctorate by Addis Ababa University. (Source: Wikipedia)

(For more info write to: assefagmt@gmail.com)

Ethiopia opposition coalition presents joint election platform

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA — A coalition of eight Ethiopian opposition parties presented a common manifesto for the planned June 2010 general elections.

The coalition said it will field candidates in the elections.

The Forum for Democracy and Dialogue, an amalgam of eight parties, unveiled their 65-page manifesto in Addis Ababa on Saturday.

“We have agreed to move this country forward. For the last 150 years, political change has only come through the barrel of the gun. We want to break that tradition and change power through the ballot box,” said one of its leaders, Gezachew Shiferaw.

Ato Gizachew said the manifesto is based on the programs of all eight parties.

“We hope on that basis to be able to lead in unity.”

The coalition chairman Professor Merara Gudina said the new forum mirrored “Ethiopia’s multi-ethnic composition” with representatives from Tigray to the Somali border.

The new coalition has appealed to the government “to negotiate genuinely with us on the modalities of the coming elections” that should be “free, fair and transparent” and monitored by observers from the European union, Merara continued.

The forum, or Medrek as it is known in Amharic, has called for the “release of political prisoners”, notably Birtukan Mideksa, who has been jailed since December 2008, Merara said.

The forum said last month that almost 200 of its supporters had been arrested amid what it called a campaign of government harassment.

The issue currently blocking talks between the government and Medrek is the drawing up of rules governing the conduct of the electoral campaign.

Meles also said last month that international observers would likely be invited for the polls.

At least 200 people were killed when police brutally repressed riots after the opposition refused to accept Meles’ victory in the last elections in 2005. (AFP)

Ethiopia's tyrant express frustration over Eritrea

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopian Prime Minister tribal warlord Meles Zenawi accused Eritrea on Saturday of sowing havoc in the region and reiterated calls for sanctions over Asmara’s alleged support for Somalia’s rebels.

“It is going on and on with its creating havoc agenda. The character of this regime is not changing,” Meles told parliament.

He said that Ethiopia Woyanne has done its best to establish a dialogue with the government of Eritrea.

“We believe in dialogue, we have actually knocked on the door many times and they haven’t responded,” he said.

Ethiopia Woyanne accuses Eritrea of backing Islamist rebels fighting to overthrow the Somali transitional government, which Ethiopia Woyanne is helping to prop up. Eritrea denies the accusations.

The African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a six-nation regional grouping, have also called for sanctions against Asmara in recent months. [These vampires should sanction themselves out of power.]

“The evidence (of Eritrea’s involvement) is definitive, the need (for sanctions) is undeniable,” Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

“Every day the crisis worsens. Neither the region as a whole, nor Somalia in particular, can afford the consequences of failure. Peace and security issues affect domestic as well as regional considerations and all the IGAD states need a solution in Somalia, and quickly.” (Source: AFP)

Ethiopia: Much Ado About An Already Won Election!

Friday, October 9th, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

Déjà Vu: Here We Go Again With the Charade

Last April, we commented that the whole business of elections in Ethiopia is “much ado about nothing”. We offered a catalogue of reasons why the whole election rigmarole and ritual under the current dictatorship was an exercise in futility and absurdity:

The insufferably meaningless [2008] election ritual is now almost over. But for a few more days, we’ll have to put up with the regime’s self-congratulatory blabber and vacuous sloganeering about Ethiopia’s unstoppable march on the road to democracy. Mercifully, in another week or so, no one will even remember there was an ‘election’ in Ethiopia in 2008.

Perhaps we spoke too soon. Here we go again with another election charade!

We are once again being finessed into talking about “the 2010 election” as though it is a real election. It is as real as Mickey Mouse, Pinocchio, Bugs Bunny and Mr. Magoo. It is just crazy: How is it possible that we fall for the same old trick over and over and over…? How can one conceive of contesting an “election” in 2010 that has already been won in 2009? How does any reasonable person believe that the same crooks that rigged the 2005 election will sit in their rocking chairs on the front porch watching a real election being held? Didn’t the same gang of election thieves tell us last April that opposition party members won ONLY 3 seats out of 3.5 million elected seats won by their party? What they call an “election” is the three ring circus where they will be formally announcing their landslide victory in May 2010.

But the charade goes on. It was reported that Ethiopia’s arch dictator “has set up talks with the opposition about drawing up a code of conduct for [elections] next year.” As usual, he tried to pull a fast one by trying to get opposition party leaders to sign it. Ato Seeye Abraha, a former defense minister who is now in the Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia [FDDE] (a coalition of eight opposition parties) said, “The code of conduct assumes a context where there will be independent administration of elections, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, no intervention by security forces.” FDDE members pulled out of the talks. It was a simple case of “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

Jamais Vu: What in the World is Going on in Ethiopia?

When the familiar seems new or bizarre, psychologists call it “jamais vu”. Something strange is going on in the relationship between the pro-democracy opposition parties and the one-man, one-party dictatorship in Ethiopia. They seem to have finally come to a complete agreement on political strategy. They have all become Ghandians. Ethiopia’s arch dictator has threatened to use the collective numerical power of African countries and walk out of the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December if the “rapists” of Africa do not pay up $67 billion a year as “blood money” for their centuries-long abuse of the continent:

If need be we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threatens to be another rape of the continent… While we reason with everyone to achieve our objective we are not prepared to rubber stamp any agreement by the powers… We will use our numbers to delegitimise any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position… Africa will field a single negotiating team empowered to negotiate on behalf of all member states of the African Union…

The FDDE “using its numbers” wants to negotiate with the ruling “Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front” to contest the “2010 elections”. But they walked out of the negotiations when the dictatorship began a campaign of arrest and intimidation against their members. Ato Bulcha Demeksa, leader of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement bitterly complained, “The ruling party cadres throughout the country are jailing our potential candidates on false charges… We want to negotiate with the government and ask them to stop arresting and jailing our potential candidates.” The capo dictator in his polished Orwellian gobbledygook was sarcastically dismissive: “Those parties that apparently are concerned about harassment are not concerned enough to participate in the devising of a code of conduct that is designed to put an end to it, if it exists, or to prevent it if it doesn’t… The intent of these individuals is to discredit the election process from day one, not to participate in it.” The dictator’s reptilian consigliere, Bereket Simon, with his signature condescension, contempt and mockery of the opposition quipped, “Nobody is being jailed for being a politician… To walk away from [the talks] is disastrous and is to walk away from democracy.”

Ghandi Rules!

We are now witnessing an epic Ghandian confrontation over how to use “numbers”. To use or not to use one’s numbers, that is question in Ethiopia and Africa today: Whether African countries or opposition political parties in Ethiopia should “use their numbers” in negotiations for a fair outcome in climate change or election negotiations? Whether a group of countries or political parties should “use” their “numbers” to delegitimize a concocted climate change deal agreement or a bogus code of conduct to facilitate rigged elections? Whether “numbers” should be used to resist and fend off Africa’s and Ethiopia’s “rapists”? Whether African countries should rubberstamp a lopsided climate deal agreement with the West or opposition political parties a one-sided code of conduct with a dictatorship?

In a Ghandian confrontation, there are no losers, only winners. Africans will certainly win if they use their “numbers” in the climate change negotiations. So will Ethiopian opposition political parties if they use their “numbers” to insist on holding an open and free election.

Climate Change and Regime Change

Climate change and regime change are actually two faces of the same coin. Think about it. Climate change affects the ecological well-being and survival of the entire planet; regime change is about the political ecology and welfare of human beings in a small corner of the planet. The mechanism for positively transforming both is the same: Attain moral clarity and act decisively and courageously on sound and unassailable moral grounds. If walking out of negotiations is a good and prudent moral act to save Africa from the “Western rapists”, it is also good and prudent enough to rescue Ethiopia from her rapists. If it is moral and prudent for “Africa to field a single negotiating team empowered to negotiate on behalf of all member states of the African Union,” it is moral and prudent for the FDDE to do the same in Ethiopia. If it is a moral act to “delegitimise any agreement that is not consistent with minimal positions on climate change” using one’s “numbers”, why would it not be an equally compelling moral act to delegitimize any “code of conduct,” “election” or “regime” that does not meet “minimal positions” of universally accepted standards of human rights and democratic practices? Those who point an index finger at the Western predators and “rapists” of Africa for hypocrisy, chicanery and underhandedness should look at their own clenched fists and see that three fingers are pointing directly at them. Regime change before action on climate change!

Just in passing…

What is the “2010 election” about anyway?

Is it about famine that is now voraciously consuming one-fifth of the Ethiopian population? The confinement of hundreds of thousands of political prisoners in prisons and secret detention facilities without trial? Prosecution of torturers, murderers and other human rights abusers? The ecological catastrophes facing Ethiopia? The galloping inflation? The rampant corruption and plunder of the public treasury? The complete lack of legal accountability of Ethiopia’s dictators? The millions of dollars worth of gold bars that walked straight out of the bank in 2007? The lack of access to clean safe water (only 24% of the total Ethiopian population has access to “clean and safe water”)? The reckless intervention in the Somali civil war, the squandered resources and wasted young lives? The massive human rights violations and absence of the rule of law? The establishment of an independent judiciary, freely functioning of civil society organizations and press? Improving one of the worst educational systems in the world (only 33% of boys and less then 20% girls are enrolled in school in Ethiopia)? Improving one of the worst health care systems in the world (only about 20% of Ethiopians have any access to some form of primary care, one physician for every 40,000 people, one nurse for every 14, 000 people)?

Or is it about “None of the Above”?

Remember 2005?

Real elections took place in 2005. Back then there were real opposition parties who campaigned vigorously. There were free and open debates. The private free press challenged the dictators and scrutinized the opposition. Civil society leaders worked tirelessly to inform and educate the voters and citizenry about democracy and elections. Voters openly and fearlessly showed their dissatisfaction with the regime in public meetings. On May 15, 2005, the voters did something that had never been done in recorded Ethiopian history. They used the ballot box to clean house. That was a lesson in real elections!

It is time for all Ethiopian pro-democracy forces to wake up and refuse to be pawns in the dictatorship’s silly little game of “elections”. The dictators want the opposition to participate in their “election” so that they could use the “participation” as a stage prop when they go panhandling Western donors for aid. The key to Ethiopia’s future is based on building coalitions and organizations that strive to create strong bonds and linkages across ethnic, linguistic, political, regional and ideological lines. FDDE holds great promise in this regard. Until pro-democracy forces inside and outside Ethiopia develop a consensus and a plan of action for democratic change, the dictatorship will continue to put up election circuses and make puppets of us all in its freak show.

It is foolish to believe the “2010 election” will make any difference in the lives of Ethiopians. It is an election about NOTHING; and we should condemn it as a travesty and caricature of democracy and a shameless mockery of popular sovereignty. We are entertained by Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Pinocchio and Mr. Magoo, but we do not believe any one of them is real. And so it is with the “2010 elections” circus in Ethiopia….

(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)

Several Ethiopians arrested in Washington DC taxi bribery scandal

Friday, October 9th, 2009

WASHINGTON DC — Investigation of taxi bribery by U.S. federal authorities involving several Ethiopians in the Washington DC area is widening. Authorities have arrested 27 people and indicted 39 so far in a massive bribery case tied to the D.C. taxicab industry.

Two indictments released on October 2 accuse a total of 39 individuals of conspiring to bribe city officials in order to obtain fraudulent taxi licenses between 2007 and 2009.

Taxicab Commission Chairman Leon Swain was the man who first alerted federal authorities to the conspiracy, and the Post reports that Swain was working undercover for the FBI on the case as recently as last month. Mike DeBonis has more on Swain, who so far has not publicly commented on his involvement.

First word of the investigation broke last week, when Ted Loza, chief of staff to Ward 1 D.C. Council member Jim Graham, was arrested and charged with accepting $1,500 in cash and other gifts from taxicab lobbyist Abdulaziz Kamus. Kamus’s name does not appear in today’s indictments, and it’s been previously reported that he was cooperating with the FBI as an informant.

The payments involved on the taxicab commission’s end appear to be much larger: first $14,000 in cash, then $8,000, and even a shopping bag filled with $59,880, plus numerous smaller payments of around $3,000, all totaling up to ultimately hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The apparent ringleaders named in today’s charges are Yitbarek Syume, Berhane Leghese, and Amanuel Ghirmazion, but scores of others are also alleged to be involved, and both indictments refer to co-conspirators “both known and unknown to the Grand Jury.” This case appears poised to grow only larger.

Interview: Ethiopian religious leaders who defected to Asmara (P. 2)

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Interview with Two Ethiopian Religious Leaders that defected to Asmara (Part 2) and more News. Watch video below,

Ethiopian Pianist Girma Yifrashewa to perform at UCLA

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

Girma Yifrashewa will perform at a UCLA-sponsored international symposium and festival under the title of Africa Meets North America (AMNA), October 22-25, 2009.

Girma is Ethiopian pianist and composer of classical music. He is profiled at AfriClassical.com and has been featured on AfriClassical frequently.

The event is being organized by the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, Department of Ethnomusicology, Azusa Pacific University, Music Research Institute (MRI), and the
Center for Intercultural Musicology at Churchill College, Cambridge (CIMACC).

More info: www.amna.ethnomusic.ucla.edu

Drought threatens over 6 million Ethiopians

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA – As many as 6.2 million Ethiopians need emergency humanitarian assistance due to severe drought, an official from the Oxfam charity said Monday.

[Yesterday, the tribal junta in Ethiopia that is led by the Tigrean People Liberation Front (Woyanne) has claimed that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) has grown by 10 percents.]

The Ethiopian government puts the number in need at 5.3 million. Pastoralist communities in the country’s southern Borena area have been particularly hard hit by the lack of rain.

[Borena is one of the most fertile areas in Ethiopia. The problem in Borena is not drought. It is the ethnic-apartheid based agricultural policy of Meles Zenawi’s regime that is causing food shortages in regions of Ethiopia that are fertile.]

“Some 6.2 million Ethiopians hit by two-year recurrent drought are facing starvation and need emergency assistance,” Abera Tola, head of Oxfam America in east Africa, told Reuters.

Oxfam warned last week that severe drought is driving more than 23 million east Africans in seven countries towards severe hunger and destitution.

It said the worst affected nations were Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda, and that the situation was being exacerbated by high food prices and conflict in some areas.

(Reuters: Reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Ethiopia's junta claims 10% GDP growth, Opponents disagree

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (VOA) – Ethiopia’s [tribal junta] says its economic growth rate has topped 10 percent for the sixth year in a row, and could do it again in the current year, despite the global economic turndown. But international economists and Ethiopia’s political opposition are questioning the figures.

President Girma Woldegiorgis says Ethiopia’s economy grew at a 10.1-percent rate during the past year, even though poor rains crippled the dominant agriculture sector and curtailed power generation, forcing a partial shutdown of factories. [Ato Girma is not a real president. He is Meles Zenawi’s puppet.]

Speaking to the opening session of Ethiopia’s [rubber-stamp] parliament, Mr. Girma called the growth “a remarkable achievement.”

“The fact that our economy has been able continuously to register growth rates of more than 10 percent annually for the last six consecutive years in such difficult global and domestic circumstances is an attestation of the success of our policies and strategies designed to speed up our development,” he said.

The Ethiopian president chided economists who had warned that Ethiopia could not achieve double-digit growth without fueling inflation. He suggested, but stopped short of predicting, that government policies would succeed in achieving the same economic feat this year.

“Our objective will be to continue the pace of rapid economic growth by registering a growth rate of 10-percent for the 7th consecutive year, and while controlling inflation at less than 10 percent,” he added.

Mr. Girma’s announcement came just weeks after Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi pegged the growth rate for the past year as low as 9.2 percent. As recently as April, the government had forecast 11.2 percent growth.

Ethiopia’s political opposition immediately rejected Mr. Girma’s figures. Prominent opposition leader Merera Gudina accused the government of ‘cooking’ (changing) the data. He said average Ethiopians would know the figures were false because their standard of living has failed to improve.

International Monetary Fund and World Bank officials were not immediately available for comment, but the IMF earlier estimated an increase of 6.5 percent or less for Ethiopia during the fiscal year that ended in July.

Ethiopia is among the world’s poorest countries. Its agriculture sector, which supports more than 80 percent of the population, has been hit by a third consecutive year of drought.

The government’s latest figures suggest one out of six Ethiopians, or nearly 14 million people, are in need of food aid.

Seize the time: Challenge the dictator

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

The Ethiopian Prime Mister has been a very visible figure lately. If there is such thing as frequent flyer marketing by Ethiopian Airlines Ato Meles is sure to have enough to go to the moon and back. Stop wishing it were a one-way ticket ok? The period after the 2005 general election has not been good to Ato Meles.

The sure win situation was spoiled by the upstart and spoiled brat called Kinijit. Kinijit took the wind out of Ato Meles and his ethnic entourage. TPLF (EPDRF) was shown to be a house built on sand. A little strong wind and the whole thirteen years Hollywood style façade were shattered to pieces. Kinijit victory was total. The Ethiopian people knew it. The foreign observers concurred. The only one denying reality was TPLF.

Ato Meles always keeps something in his back pocket for a rainy day. He was able to whip out the predicted ‘Interhawme’ scenario to overcome the defeat. He used the threat of Interhamwe (conspiracy to kill all Tigreans by Kinijit) to declare state of emergency. Of course one evil deed leads to another and in a panic he ordered the murder of unarmed protesters by his security force, imprisoned over forty thousand fellow citizens and jailed the whole opposition including human right advocates and civic leaders. The charge included ‘attempted genocide’.

It was a return to the yesteryears of African strong man scenario. Sham elections, rejection by the population, the use of force to change the natural outcome and finally hiding to sit out the shame associated with such barbaric and ugly deed against fellow human beings. The illegal acts ushered in a long winter of exile and lock down. Ato Meles went into hibernation. Let alone Europe and America he was not welcome in most parts of the country. He settled for Adwa as a vacation spot. Talk about downgrading. His party used the down time to fine-tune the repressive machine. The ‘kind’ image cultivated for the election was jettisoned to be replaced by the ‘mean’ not forgiving TPLF.

New programs were designed to satisfy the donors and the Diaspora was actively cultivated to bring needed dollar and euro. Elections were held with new safeguards to assure victory. There is nothing better than to run unopposed and win resoundingly. The ferenjis were happy and were able to fill the necessary forms to continue business as usual. TPLF was happy that once again victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat. The Ethiopian people were depressed and started their geography lesson to scan for a quick way out of the Africa.

Ato Meles emerged from his cocoon around 2007. The world was flush with money and the ferenjis were throwing it out as if it grew on trees. The job market was such that new immigrants were working two jobs. It was planet wide party time. The fantastic amount of remittance flowing into the country and the surge in commodity prices were making the TPLF regime delirious. No one was willing to challenge the fantasy of 12% economic growth thrown around by the regime.

The fight against terror came at an opportune time too. Ato Meles jumped on the bandwagon and declared Jihad on ‘Islamists’ wherever they are. In a split second he was re incarnated as defender of the faith and slayer of Al Qaeda and whatever dada. Not bad for an old Marxist whose religion was dialectic materialism. Jesus was in Marx was out. Condoleezza Rice and Jendayi Frazier were happy to declare Ato Meles No. 1 Jihad fighter in Africa. The fearless leader promised the Pentagon Somalia on a silver platter. It was supposed to be a weekend excursion, a quick jaunt with enough time to be home for dinner. Well, the drive to Mogadishu was a freeway. In fact our Somali friends waited at roadsides to wave at the invaders and wished them a quick trip to the Indian Ocean resort.

Something went wrong. After the heroic arrival in Mogadishu those tricky Somalis closed all the exits. The African Union solders dug in and refused to budge out of their camp. The West said ‘you broke it, you fix it.’ The UN said not now we got more pressing problems. There goes your name, your reputation and the little savings in the coffer. Life is not fair.

At least something good came out of this debacle. Ato Meles was out and about. The Chinese turned out to be real friends in times of need. They were willing to forward loans and collaborate with TPLF and World Bank to show economic activity. Remember most are not sustainable enterprises but who is to complain. Ato Meles leveraged Ethiopia’s position as the seat of African Union to get involved in environmental and aid issues.

By hiring advisors and lobbyists in the West he was able to rehabilitate his image. He started by visiting fellow African dictators. Then he moved in to the periphery like China, Russia or the Middle East. He was worming his way. He always made sure that it was a locality with no civil liberties where his people are not allowed to confront him. For a time it was a days visit to Europe. It was never announced and was done fast. Then he ventured to America under the guise of attending the UN. The ice was broken.

The last year we have seen him in London, Rome and now Pittsburgh. He is seating with who is who on this planet. He wants to be admitted into the Major league. Play with the big boys. All attending G8, G20 meetings are legitimately elected heads of states. None have served more than two terms. Except for the Russian and the Chinese all are dependent on the good will of their people to maintain their status as a leader. In all major meetings Ato Meles is the only ‘leader’ that has clung to power for more than ten years. The vast majorities are new to the job. The meetings are a venue where they jockey to score good deals for respective countries. Ato Meles can sit and watch.

Ato Meles was happy to sit on the same table. He can have his picture taken, attend dinners and such but he cannot speak or vote. Sitting with the big boys have its price. There is certain behavior that is not tolerated unless of course one is either strong or rich neither of which Meles can claim to be. Yes there are always exceptions. That is real life. On the other hand a complete disregard of basic decency is not tolerated even for the rich. The Chinese leaders were shunned after the Tienamen affair. They are very careful and conscious about their dark side since that incident. Despite the ugly display before the dinner in Pittsburgh, I am sure he is happy with his performance.

In that case let us take him for his word. Let us agree that he has matured enough as a leader that he can be included in such gathering. I believe deeds should follow the rhetoric regarding the rule of law, the need for a free and fair elections and observance of the declaration of human rights that Ethiopia is a signatory of. That is good enough for starters. Democracy is the price to sit on that table unless of course you got a few nuclear warheads in your back yard. Suffice to say Ato Meles couldn’t even whip a disorganized Somali rag tag police force. He can only bully un armed civilians.

I believe we should seize the time and use this opportunity for the Ethiopian people to take advantage of the many liberties and rights promised by the Constitution. Meetings by political party’s, associations and organization should be automatic and free. Political parties should be free to lobby the system by using such methods as marches, sit ins and public gatherings.

We know that Ato Meles is preparing to position himself as a selfless leader to assume some positions in international organization when he retires. It is to be commended. Surely a leader that sits with the Barrack Obamas, Angela Merkels and Gordon Browns will not allow his solders to shoot and kill citizens demanding justice. It will definitely affect the next G20 meeting or next climate conference. You just don’t wash your hands with people’s blood and expect a seat with the big guys. It is highly unlikely such deed will go unnoticed. It is definitely a conundrum. This is what is called between a rock and a hard place. Leadership sometimes calls for tough solutions.

It is a tough choice isn’t it? To do the right thing and live in harmony or commit a transgression that will result in being ostracized once again. The decision to use the iron fist will add a lot of uncertainty in what comes after. The call for the International Criminal Court to act will be loud. Other matters that have been pushed under the rug will start to surface. Do we really want that? There are some forces urging Ato Meles to stay the course, but aren’t they sacrificing him to save their behind?

I hope the real opposition will use this opportunity to call Ato Melese’s bluff regarding democracy and freedom and test how real the promise of Woyane ‘Constitution’ is. I hope Ato Meles realizes his legacy is on line. I hope the nightmare decade will be replaced by a long period of prosperity and real peace. With TPLF in charge there is no such thing as a sure bet. Anything is possible.

Washington Post reporter in Ethiopia escaped to Kenya

Monday, October 5th, 2009

The correspondent for Washington Post and Time Magazine in Ethiopia, Kassahun Addis, has fled to Kenya last week.

Kassahun had told his colleagues that the U.S.-financed tribal dictatorship in Ethiopia was harassing him and that he faced danger.

Patriots and Trying Times

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Trying Times

“These are the times that try men’s souls,” said Thomas Paine, one of the Founders of the American Republic, at the onset of the American Revolution. It could be said equally that these are times that try a nation’s soul. Ethiopia today is stranded in a sea of political, economic and social troubles; and it continues to be strafed by the slings and arrows of wicked villains, thugs and scoundrels, to paraphrase Shakespeare. But before Ethiopia became the playground of outlaws, she was the land of patriot-soldiers who protected her boundaries from foreign invaders, defended her honor and dignity against the insolent and cowardly hordes, and guaranteed her independence and freedom from enemies who sought to slice and dice her. Those patriots were the members of her armed forces of yesteryears who marched the arid lowland deserts in the blistering heat, endured the biting cold of the craggy highland mountains and defended against the aggressor in the bushes, the swamps, the valleys and the once-dense forests. They were underpaid and overworked, under-funded and overburdened. They were under-appreciated. They faced unimaginable hardship in their decades of selfless service. Many suffered hunger, thirst, disease and isolation in their remote outposts. But they marched on, sailed the sea and flew over the glorious skies to make sure Ethiopia kept her independence for another 3,000 years.

A couple of weeks ago, an event was held in Washington, D.C. to honor former members of Ethiopia’s armed forces. The event, dubbed “Evening of Ethiopian Heroes” (Ye Jegnotch Mishet), was organized by the Committee to Honor Ethiopian Heroes. The purpose of the event was to pay homage to the brave patriot-soldiers, to show them the high respect and appreciation they have earned for their sacrifices, and to express to them profound gratitude for their long service. The sample list of named soldiers [1]  was drawn to represent all ranks of the hundreds of thousands of veterans, fallen soldiers and those missing in action. For the occasion two legendary retired generals, Tesfaye Habte Mariam and Kassaye Chemeda, were honored for their exemplary and extraordinary service to their country. Ali Berke, a militia fighter known for his heroism in various theatres of conflict, was honored in absentia. Last year General Legesse Tefera and others were honored by the Committee. Truth be told, these generals and many of their officer colleagues proved to be extraordinary military leaders because the troops they commanded made them so; and the honor goes to their loyal troops as well.

True Courage and True Colors

Ethiopian history offers accounts of mercenaries who took up arms against their country and people dreaming of riches and political power. There were those who betrayed the honor and dignity of their uniforms to advance their political ambitions and to grab power, along the way abusing and misusing professional military institutions as tools of repression of the civilian population. But there were also the true soldiers, the soldiers’ soldiers, like the ones honored in Washington who performed their duties with skill, professionalism, integrity and honor. These were a special breed of soldiers who had mastered not only the art of war and the ways of peace, but also lived the values of country, duty and honor everyday of their lives.

Military skills can be taught and learned, but courage, integrity and humility are the specialty of the patriot-soldier. These honored soldier took up their profession for one purpose only: to defend their people and their homeland. In peace time or at war, in good times or bad, these patriot-soldiers never wore their ethnic stripes, and never displayed their tribal marks. Under fire, they showed only two things: true courage they inherited from their forefathers and their true colors — the Green, Yellow and Red. They put their flag and country above all things, including their own safety and their families’ well being; and they did it all with unquestioning devotion and unconditional love.

Never Was So much Owed By So Many To So Few

History will tell of the great sacrifices and courage of these patriot-soldiers when freedom rings in Ethiopia. But we know a lot from reading the autobiographies and battlefield accounts of the generals honored at this event. We are moved to tears by the horrible toll war exacts on the mind, the soul and body of the soldier, and the unfortunate civilians caught in the tragedy of conflict. We know these patriot-soldiers carry with them the emotional and spiritual burdens and scars of their battlefield experiences; and we can only imagine their great sacrifices from the injuries and disabilities they suffered defending their country.

We are familiar with the efforts that have been made to slander, defame and shame these patriot-soldiers. We know these soldiers were put in jail by criminals who sought to cover up their own crimes. The criminals tried every treacherous means to demoralize, discredit and dishonor them. But the patriot-soldiers marched on; they harbor no grudges and ill will to those who have mistreated and abused them. They stand tall above all as patriot-soldiers, and we can say to them from the depths of our hearts: “Never have so many owed so much to so few.”

What Goes on in the Minds of Old Patriot-Soldiers?

Old patriot-soldiers are good at hiding their pain, heartache and suffering. It is a professional virtue they have developed from experiencing years of hardships few of us can imagine, let alone endure. Those of us who have not walked a mile in their boots — never tasted life in the windswept deserts, never held sentry in desolate mountain outposts, never set eyes on the horrors of war, never heard the “crash of guns, the rattle of musketry and the strange and mournful mutter of the battlefield” — often wonder: “What goes on in the minds of old patriot-soldiers?” What do they think of their legacy of decades of dedicated service and sacrifice to their country? What do they say to each other when they see the land they defended with their blood, sweat and tears cut up like a slab of meat and handed away to the enemy? What do they think when thy see their people forced into ethnic corrals like cattle; and their lifelong sacrifices for the unity, harmony and territorial integrity of their country turn into a faint memory. What do they see in their dreams about the country they loved so much and the people they served so selflessly?

How do old patriot-soldiers survive in these trying times?

Those of us who never answered the call to service, we have learned some very hard lessons. These old patriot-soldiers have taught us that the unity, security and integrity of Ethiopia can never be taken for granted. Our burden is to deliver the lesson we have learned to the new generation: “There is a price to be paid to have a country united under the rule of law. That price is eternal vigilance against enemies foreign and domestic.”

Old Soldiers Never Die, They Live in Our Hearts Forever

It has been said that “men love their country, not because it is great, but because it is their own.” These patriot-soldiers love Ethiopia even though she is very poor and down on her luck; and her skin is covered with ticks that suck her lifeblood away. They love her because she is all they have got.

Most of us spend our lives asking whether we could have done this thing or that for our motherland; we question ourselves in the deep of the night if we could have made this contribution or that sacrifice. These patriot-soldiers do not have to ask themselves any questions. Unlike us, they have answered the call.

It has been said that “old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” Not our patriot-soldiers. They never die, and they never fade away. They just live in our hearts forever. I have no doubts that when these old patriot-soldiers rest their heads for the last time, just before they close their eyes for eternity, in their last breaths will be the words: “God bless Ethiopia, my home, sweet home!”

We owe them an eternal debt of gratitude (Ye Mairesa Wulleta). May God bless them all!!!

[1] http://www.addisvoice.com/article/ethiopian_war_heroes.htm

More on OLF leadership

Monday, October 5th, 2009

By Messay Kebede

I would like to thank Jawar Siraj Mohammed for the civility with which he engaged my article, “The OLF: Ideological or Leadership Bankruptcy?” Some Oromos responded to the article with emotional outcries and personal attacks, thereby displaying not only their alarming deficiency in sound arguments, but also their refusal to even discuss the issue. Some even went to the extent of saying that the Oromo issue is none of my business, as though Oromia had already become a foreign country. The happy contrast is that Jawar argues and wants to show that what failed the Oromo is not the ideology but the leadership. Since his sober and argued reply denotes an opening to dialogue, I reciprocate with an even higher longing for a rapprochement.

Jawar’s arguments are as follows: (1) there is no ideological bankruptcy since the large majority of the Oromo people supports the nationalist agenda of the OLF. (2) It is not true to say that the OLF operates in geographical conditions that are inimical to armed insurgency. (3) The success of the TPLF and EPLF highlights the importance of leadership. (4) The failure of the EPRP was due less to ideology than to strategic mistakes of its leadership.

What we get from these factual arguments is that “ideology does not play much role in determining the failure and success of an insurgency.” Jawar adds that, so long as an insurgency is not strong enough, it cannot consider reformist options, for it is suicidal for an organization to give up its mobilizing ideology. In other words, the Oromo nationalist or secessionist agenda should be preserved until the movement is strong enough to reform itself. Let me examine one by one these arguments.

Who Wants Secession?

Is it true to say that the Oromo people supports the secessionist agenda of the OLF? For that matter, let us extend the issue and ask whether the Eritrean people has supported the secessionist goal of the EPLF and whether the Tigrean people has agreed to the secession of Eritrea and the fragmentation of Ethiopia along ethnic lines. If both movements led to dictatorial regimes, is it not because the so-called popular support was actually imposed on the people they claim to represent? True, both Eritreans and Tigreans wanted self-rule, but it is one thing to fight against centralization and quite another to advocate secession. The latter is none other than a resurgence of the elitism of the 60s when Western-educated Ethiopians usurped the right to speak in the name of the people.

The only way by which Jawar can convince himself and other Ethiopians about the popular support for secession is through the implementation of a free and fair democratic process that begins by making serious reforms. If, after a time of power-sharing and democratic relationships, the Oromo people still expresses the desire to secede, only then can we speak of popular support. But all theoreticians, including ethnonationalists, know that in a truly democratic setup secession is unlikely. Put otherwise, what Jawar presents as a fact is not yet a fact; it is an elitist manipulation that uses past mistreatments to justify partition.
I add that if the Oromo had really wanted to separate from the rest of the country, no force on earth could have stopped them. Then, what is Jawar’s hurry? Let democracy sets in and you will have what you want if the grievances are still real. Incidentally, Jawar accepts that the OLF does not own the monopoly of representing the Oromo people, since he accuses me of “categorizing all Oromos under one ideology and under one organization.” Another mishap is when he calls my position “centrist,” even though all the books and articles I have written on Ethiopia unravel centralization as the main reason for Ethiopia’s failure to modernize.

Comparing Apples with Oranges

I leave out Jawar’s assumption that the OLF operates in conditions conducive for insurgency because it cannot be decided by people who write from America. However, there remains the issue of finding a neighboring country that provides political and military assistances, especially, that can serve as a shelter. In his reply, Jawar completely overlooked a detrimental outcome that he had vigorously and correctly denounced in his first article, to wit, the growing subordination of the OLF to the Eritrean regime. Yet the ideology of secession which, of course, leads to the choice of armed struggle, is responsible for the subordination.

Once it is said that the OLF has appropriate geographical conditions, the question is why it is still failing. Jawar’s answer is unequivocal: the severe shortcomings of the leadership. He uses a comparative approach to prove his point, namely, the military success of the TPLF and EPLF against the Derg. Unfortunately, the comparison is defective from various angels. One cannot compare the secession of Eritrea with that of Oromia. Not only different historical and geographical reasons intervene, but also minority groups, as was the case with Eritrea, have often no other option that the threat of secession.

When it comes to Oromia, we are presented with the unheard case of a group that wants to secede, even though it claims to be the largest ethnic group of the country. It is the unfeasibility of the case that derives me to speak of ideological bankruptcy. In the records of history, majority groups have defended the nation so that secession has always been the ideology of overpowered peoples. That is why I spoke of “self-mutilation” in that a group is degraded into thinking and acting like a desperate minority group. The Oromo need an ideology that is commensurate with their potential. Only then can they emerge victorious.
Who is the Winner?

As to the TPLF, its success should be taken with a grain of salt in light of the fact that Tigray is historically and culturally one of the cornerstones of Ethiopia. As such, any ideology that supports the breakup of Ethiopia is contrary to the historical role and identity of Tigrean people. That is why every time I hear about the victory of the TPLF’s insurgency, I cannot contain my perplexity. If the success of the TPLF depended on the secession of Eritrea, then I do not see where the victory is. Mengistu Haile Mariam could have also stayed in power by letting Eritrea go. Such an outcome would have been considered, not as a victory, but as a defeat. Moreover, how is the fragmentation of Ethiopia along ethnic lines an expression of victory? When Ethiopia is diminished and put in a condition close to disintegration––which is the only way by which an anti-Ethiopian Tigrean clique can dominate the country––I do not shout victory for the Tigrean people.

In place of victory, I see defeat, as no amount of military prowess will remove the bare fact of Ethiopia as a landlocked country. What was the main source of Ethiopia’s weakness and isolation in the past, that is, since the control of the Red Sea by Muslim forces, is back again thanks to the TPLF. Some years ago I posted an article in which I asked Ethiopians to let Assab go because it would only mean continuous war against Eritrea. I argued that the best option is to work toward the return of Eritrea through some form of federal arrangement. The TPLF government is now fully experiencing the huge impediment of being landlocked. The ethnic paradigm and victory at all costs, even by sacrificing Eritrea, combined to bring disaster and despair on Ethiopia. In light of these monstrous costs, is “victory” really a proper term?

Ideology and the Choice of Means

I am confused by Jawar’s statement that “ideology does not determine the failure and success of an insurgency.” How can it be so when we know that strategic choices are dependent on ideological inspirations? The OLF and EPLF opted for guerrilla warfare because of their secessionist ideology. Consequently, they allied with forces opposed to Ethiopia and refused to work with Ethiopia’s progressive forces. Likewise, to associate with the EPLF, the TPLF had to invent the ideology of Tigray as a nation and adopt ethnic references as the highest norms of political struggle. This ideological orientation explains why it could not ally with the EPRP and other progressive forces. Instead, it went in the direction of helping Eritrea to become independent in exchange for military and political support. You cannot explain the TPLF’s “victory” without its alliance with, nay, its subordination to the EPLF. In short, vision commands strategy as well as the degree of commitment.

To explain the defeat of the EPRP by the failure of its leadership is correct, provided it is added that the leadership failed because of ideological extremism. The choice of urban guerrilla struggle, which is believed to be the main blunder of the organization, is not separable from the slogans demanding a people’s government and socialism. If the EPRP had focused on democratic struggles for freedom of association and expression and for the establishment of a national government of reconciliation, etc., it would not have embarked on the wrong path of urban guerrilla. Contrary to Jawar’s statement, at that time, people, including the bureaucratic elites, the peasantry, the workers, and the Amhara population, expressed democratic demands as opposed to the socialist ideology of students and intellectuals. The EPRP and other leftist movements fought for the control of the state in order to impose their vision on the society. The Derg foiled the project and adopted socialism, not because it was forced to do so by the civilian left, as some authors claim, but because socialism exactly fitted its dictatorial interests.

The debate over the primacy of the national question over class interest in the Ethiopian student movement is the typical ideological battle that led to the formation of the TPLF and the OLF. According to the Stalinist vision, the liberation of the ethnic group has precedence over the consideration of unity with other groups. The detrimental consequence of this reasoning fully transpires in today’s Ethiopia, since the vibrant student movement in Ethiopia is now practically dead, undermined as it is by the dividing impact of ethnic ideology. This death is a palpable proof of how deeply ideology can be paralyzing. My message to Jawar is thus clear: what keeps you in chains is the diatribe against Amhara, Abyssinians and the correlated discourse on the Ethiopian colonization of the Oromo, which discourse undermines the gestation of common goals and actions.

Here and there Jawar’s reply seems to suggest that self-determination and secession are used for their mobilizing power rather than their intrinsic merit. He writes: “just because an ideology makes it simple to mobilize support, it does not mean it should be adapted without careful and rational evaluation of its short term and long term impact after liberation.” A merely tactical purpose diminishes the mobilizing power: not only does the secessionist ideology divide people, but also a tactical usage means that the leaders do not really believe in the ideology they are preaching. If that is the case, weigh the for and against, and it becomes clear that the best option is to simply drop the ideology.

But neither Jawar nor the leaders of the OLF are willing to drop the ideology. Why? Because it would allow extremist groups to rise and marginalize the present leadership. This is the inevitable price for cultivating and spreading for such a long time a divisive ideology. At one point a situation is created where it becomes impossible to reverse course. All the more reason for allying now with Ethiopia’s moderate and progressive forces, for only the engagement of the country in the path of resolute democratization can block the rise of extremist groups.

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

Behind Meles Zenwai's obsession with G8/G20 summits

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

By Selam Beyene

Shunned by most of the world for his crimes against humanity, isolated as a despot because of his brutal treatment of peaceful protesters following the May 2005 elections, and reviled as a leader of one of the most corrupt and racist regimes in the world today, Zenawi has incessantly been lobbying unscrupulous African diplomats in Addis and other groups in the West for a sympathy invitation to every summit held by the G8 and G20 economies over the last several years.

Through systematic control of almost all aspects of the economic activities in the land, including the aid intended to alleviate poverty and famine, and brutally suppressing basic freedoms, Zenawi has essentially classed Ethiopia at the bottom of the list of developing countries with respect to every conceivable index of development and human rights.

In total disregard of common morality and decency, he exploits the poverty he inflicted on the people as a justification for an invitation of compassion to G8, G20 and related summits. This is a hypocrisy that in comparison makes sagacious even the proverbial man “who murdered his parents, and then pleaded for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan.”

As outlined below, a closer examination of how the tyrant and his repressive regime operate, however, reveals sinister motives that transcend sheer obsession to be present among world leaders.

1. Zenawi’s Insatiable Appetite for Aid Money

Since the dictator Mengistu Haile-Mariam handed power to Zenawi in 1991, the TPLF regime has received over 30 billion dollars in aid and billions more in loans from donor nations and financial institutions. According to one estimate, Zenawi has been receiving well over $2 billion in foreign assistance alone every year. Apart from the superficial construction projects in the capital and other selected areas — projects that are mostly awarded to TPLF shadow organizations and intended to impress the naïve visitor — the dictator has nothing tangible to show for all the money received.

With no clear accountability, the money has mainly been used, through dubious endowment rules and regulations, to prop up the repressive regime and to enrich the foreign bank accounts of leaders of the minority government as well as their illegal business conglomerates, like EFFORT.

Ensuring the flow of aid money has thus been a major obsession of the tyrannical regime. One obvious platform for accomplishing this is, of course, by securing a backseat, however unglamorous, at G8/20 summits using the famine and poverty of one of the most populous countries in Africa as a sufficient credential for attendance eligibility.

Regrettably, donor nations have repeatedly failed the people of Ethiopia by feeding the dictator with money that he has looted and blatantly used for repressive purposes. As L. Leicht, the EU director for Human Rights Watch, noted earlier this year:

“On 30 January, European Union policymakers sent a clear signal …. no matter how repressive the government becomes, vast sums of aid will continue to flow. This is emerging as a case study in bad donor policy.”

Leicht further declared:

“In January Ethiopia’s government passed a law that is an attempt to muzzle local activists and prevent them from scrutinizing the government’s human-rights record. Among other things, the new law ….. makes it illegal for … Ethiopians to scrutinize the government’s record on human rights, policing, conflict resolution and a range of other issues… It also provides the government with bureaucratic tools to shut down groups the government dislikes.”

Despite the reluctance of certain EU nations, a general awareness of the need to change the “bad donor policy” is noticeable in most parts of the world.

In a well-researched report, B. Bruton, an International Affairs Fellow in Residence of the prestigious foreign policy think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, recently wrote:

“… cooperation with an authoritarian Ethiopia presents looming challenges to U.S. policy objectives. … 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.”

These are important developments that suggest the West has finally recognized the true nature of the dictator, and that the despot is running out of options. Thanks to the vigilance of the Diaspora and the illuminating reports of investigative journalists and human rights activists, the tyrant is now in no position to continue to swindle the donor community, begging for alms, hat in hand, at major summits.

2. Summits: A Last Resort to Gain Recognition and Legitimacy

Following the 2005 elections, Zenawi has been desperate to gain a semblance of legitimacy, having been deserted even by his once ardent supporters like former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. A group picture at the G 8/20 summits, however awkward and embarrassing, was Zenawi’s only avenue to get the attention of leaders of the developed world and the international media.

Paradoxically, every summit that Zenawi attended since the May 2005 debacle has instead further exposed his atrocities and laid bare the apartheid system of government he has instituted.

A case in point is the humiliation Zenawi experienced following the April 2009 G20 meeting in London, as reported by H. Gombya of The Black Star News:

“Although Meles Zenawi the Ethiopian Prime Minister and also current NEPAD chair was here, he abruptly canceled a press conference he was about to give. His people gave no reasons for this. But insiders in the press center said Zenawi was worried about the kind of questions that were going to be put to him concerning human rights violations within Ethiopia and his dealing with his opponents and Ethiopia’s neighbours.”

As “Prime Minister Zenawi cowered in the shadows,” the report indicated, “[t]he African continent really wasn’t heard.” Affirming the lack of legitimacy of Zenawi’s government, the paper expressed alarm: “…, it was rather absurd that no representative of the African continent was at hand to put their case to the world media at such a major global setting.”

Summits as a Magnet for the Gallant Diaspora

Ironically, as an unintended consequence, Zenawi’s obsession with sympathy invitation to the summits, instead of earning him legitimacy, has provided an effective medium to the ever-vigilant Diaspora to expose his crimes and corruption to world leaders and the international media.

From the summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005, to the recent gathering in Pittsburgh, Ethiopians in the Diaspora braved the elements and trekked the terrains to further expose the despot through penetrating slogans and placards.

As Carl Prine of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported, organizers of the recent protest in Pittsburgh declared to the world [11]:

“The U.S. taxpayers are paying money to a regime that is used to terrorize its own citizens …. The people in the G-20 … should not deal with an Ethiopian regime that was not legally elected.”

The damage to the dictator caused by the relentless protests of the Diaspora has been quite significant, both in terms of humiliating the despot and raising awareness globally about the egregious crimes he has committed against his people.

A Call to Action

With the growing realization of the moral, ethical, economic and political difficulties of supporting dictators against the will of the people they brutally suppress, world leaders are seeking alternative means of channeling their material and political support away from the despots.

The Obama administration has at least in principle declared its disassociation with dictators. In his speech in Ghana, Obama sent an unmistakable signal to dictators like Zenaw when he said:

“This is about more than holding elections — it’s also about what happens between them. Repression takes many forms, and too many nations are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves,…. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the Port Authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end.”

Opposition groups and the Diaspora should seize this opportune moment and fight vigorously to deny the despot another fake victory in the 2010 elections. A concerted effort should be made to demand free and fair elections, with systematic and effective measures that include:

i) Mobilization of all resources to stage demonstrations inside and outside the country effective immediately;
ii) Steadfast lobbying of policy-makers in the US and EU to use aid as a leverage for the prompt and unconditional release of all political prisoners;
iii) Persistent campaigns to boycott all Woyanne-controlled business enterprises, including use of the EAL; and
iv) Unswerving support to initiatives that attempt to bring disparate opposition groups under one umbrella.

Having learned a painful lesson from the 2005 elections, Zenawi would undoubtedly take brutal measures to shut out any and all credible opposition. However, history has shown without fail that no force can withstand for long the wrath of a people so viciously impoverished, humiliated, oppressed and looted as the people of Ethiopia have been at the hands of the despot.

(The writer can be reached at Beyene50@gmail.com)

Ethiopia gears up for malaria outbreak

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) — Ethiopia is stockpiling medicine to counter an expected surge in malaria cases due to hotter weather, its health ministry said on Saturday.

In a statement, Kesetebirhan Admasu, head of the disease prevention directorate, said the El Nino effect would raise temperatures, reduce rain and generally aggravate conditions for the spread of malaria.

In response to the threat, he said, “there is sufficient medicine in store that could treat 12 million people,” for which 12.6 million birr (685,000 euros, one million dollars) has been spent.

The government has already purchased malaria diagnosis kits and medicines, insecticides and spraying equipment, and plans to distribute 13 million mosquito nets, he added.

General Demissie Bulto and the coup d'etat of May 1989

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

A new Book by Derege Demissie
“Abate Yachin Se’at”: Major General Demissie Bulto and the coup d’état of May 1989

In “Abate Yachin Se’at,” author Derege Demissie narrates the story of his late father, Major General Demissie Bulto. Derege’s story is about the private and public life of his father as well as a number of other high-ranking officers whose life run in tandem with the rise and fall of the post-WWII Ethiopian military history.

Derege’s book follows the arc of his father’s life and career from this period of Ethiopian history until his fateful death in 1989, by which time General Demissie had reached the pinnacle of his career as a Major general in command of the largest single military unit in Ethiopia. But Derege’s book is more than a son’s narrative of a beloved father’s public life. Throughout the book an intimate portrait of the private life of a father and a husband is threaded expertly on the large canvass of great historical moments that have shaped the attempt to establish and maintain a modern African nation-state. The promising ascent and catastrophic demise of the Ethiopian military under the otherwise inept leadership of the revolutionary Derg regime closely trace the triumphs and failures of the many campaigns of the country’s military, in all of which General Demissie participated.

General Demissie’s career began more or less with the very first attempt by the late Emperor Haileselassie to transform the Ethiopian military into a modern, thoroughly westernized fighting force. Demissie joined the emperor’s own Kibur Zebegna (honor guards) as an officer candidate of the third intake. It was a novel experiment in Ethiopia’s storied martial history, and Demissie’s time as a cadet was perhaps the most formative years of his life.

After a giddy, joy-filled three years as an officer candidate, Demissie and his fellow cadets were hastily shipped to the USS Radford, a United States Navy destroyer, and were unceremoniously commissioned as first lieutenants en route to the Korean peninsula. It was the Korean War, and the Ethiopian emperor, eager to impress western powers, had volunteered four successive reconnaissance battalions to be attached to the U.S. 7th Infantry Division as part of United Nations forces. The Korean War was to be the first of innumerable campaigns in which Demissie participated in his military service of more than three decades.

The story Derege narrates, is at once a story of personal courage and conviction as well as the moral dilemma inherent in war. Fade up with the dictatorial ruler that continually ignored their informed and professional counsel to institute crucial policy changes to end the war in the North and the government’s refusal to seek political solution to the internal problems the country faces, three high-ranking officers decided to design a daring plot to overthrow the government. These officers were: Maj. Gen. Merid Negussie, the Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Fanta Belay, the Minister of Industry and former Commander of the Air force, and Maj. Gen. Demissie Bulto, the Commander of the more than 200, 000 strong Second Revolutionary Army (SRA). They convinced many others to join them and attempted the May 1989 coup d’état against Mengistu Halemariam.

When the attempt organized at the capital city failed in the first day of the coup, Gen. Demissie continued the effort in Asmara, then Ethiopia’s second largest city. For three days, Gen. Demissie continued his call for the end of dictatorship and for the formation of a representative government. The EPLF agreed to a 15-day cease-fire and preparations were underway to send troops to the Capital to crush the Palace Guard that was protecting the dictator. It was a daring plan, but one with increasingly diminishing chance of success. Yet, Gen. Demissie chose to fight to the end instead of boarding one the many planes under his control at the Asmara Air force base and saving his life. At that critical hour, Derege intimately examines the intense challenges his father faced and the personal courage he displayed.

The bloody massacre of the ablest generals and imprisonment of hundreds of officers, during the coup and its after math, became one of the major factors that contributed to the demise of the Ethiopian armed forces. Decapitated off its highly professional and brave leaders and officers, the Ethiopian army was now unable to withstand the continued push of the rebel forces. Engulfed with multifaceted contradictions, and ever alieniated from deeply dissatisfied populace, it took mere two years after the May 1989 aborted coup for Col Mengistu Hailemariam’s regime to finally succumb to the coordinated assault of the EPLF and TPLF. The collapse of the regime was to be followed by another era of tyranny under the dictatorial and ethnocentric TPLF/EPRDF that continues to date.

Other writers have written about General Demissie Bulto in most flattering words extolling his farsighted and brilliant military mind and the decisive leadership he provided. In “The Ethiopian Revolution,” a newly published work of scholarship in English and focused on the modern military history of Ethiopia, Dr. Gebru Tareke, characterized General Demissie’s leadership during the war against Somalia as follows:

“…The operation was directed by Brig General Demissie Bulto, Commander of the First Revolutionary Army and an officer with a well merited reputation for strategic vision, integrity, discipline, and decisiveness. These qualities had earned him the admiration and dedication of his staff and troops, who in turn fought with high motivation and determination. Demisse allowed his field commanders sufficient freedom of action while demanding full accountability. This calibrated responses to a complicated situation proved to be extremely effective.”

General MacArthur, the American general who led the defeat of the Japanese in the pacific front during WW II and under whose command General Demissie served in Korea while still a Lieutenant of the then Royal Guard of Ethiopia, once said “old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” In his book, Derege has brought back to life the legacy of General Demissie and the heroic officers who served Ethiopia with him in vivid detail. It is a testimonial about Ethiopian patriotism, heroism, and professionalism of a generation from whose life the current generation and posterity should draw strength and inspiration.

Like all good works of literature, the book has a quality of keeping one in suspense. It narrates the intricacies of the plot from many angles based on eyewitness accounts, interviews with key individuals who were involved in the coup attempt, and seventeen years of research from various published and unpublished sources, including information obtained from the United States Department of State through the Freedom of Information Act.

The book also contains a daily diary of Gen. Demissie Bulto taken during two of the most successful campaigns waged against the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) in then Northern Ethiopia. Zemecha Bahire Negash and Key Bahir Zemecha were often singled out for the sophistication of their planning and operation. Gen. Demissie, who was temporarily transferred from his position as head of the First Army in Harar, was assigned as a head of The Armed Forces Coordinating Committee that planned and executed the two campaigns. The daily notes the General took provide rich details of the coordination, planning, and execution of the campaign against EPLF forces that were entrenched in the town of Barentu and the mountains of Nakfa. Gen. Demissie’s notes give rare insight into how the ground forces, the Airborne, the Navy, and the Air Force collaborated in these campaigns as well as the many logistical and structural challenges they faced.

Derege Demissie, the author, is an attorney at law and a partner at the law firm of Demissie & Church. He graduated from George Mason University in Political Science in 1994 earned his Juris Doctor Degree from Suffolk University Law School in Boston. He is the fourth child of the late General Demissie Bulto. Married and with a son and daughter, Derege currently lives in Boston, MA.

(Publisher: Neamin Zeleke. “ABATE YACHIN SE’AT” IS AVAILABLE ON-LINE and Washington DC Ethiopian stores. To purchase a copy on-line, go to: www.demissiebulto.com)

Obama appoints an Ethiopian to key administration post

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key administration posts:

* Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer, Millennium Challenge Corporation
* Arun Majumdar, Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, Department of Energy
* Gustavo Aranavat, United States Executive Director to the Inter-American Development Bank

President Obama said, “These individuals have proven that they will bring skill, dedication and expertise in these important areas to my administration, and I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years.”

Daniel W. Yohannes, Nominee for Chief Executive Officer, Millennium Challenge Corporation

daniel-yohannesDaniel W. Yohannes is President and CEO of M&R Investments, LLC, a privately-held investment firm specializing in real estate, financial institutions and the green energy sector. Previously, he served as Vice Chairman of U.S. Bank for the Commercial Banking Group, Consumer Banking Group and as Head of Integration for Community and Public Affairs. In this role, his responsibilities included leading the integration of U.S. Bank and Firstar, which resulted in the 6th largest bank in the country. From 1992 to 1999, Yohannes was President and CEO of U.S. Bank (formerly Colorado National Bank), where he grew the Colorado franchise from $2 billion to $9 billion in assets. From 1977 to 1992, he worked at Security Pacific Bank (now Bank of America), where he held a number of leadership roles. Yohannes is on the Board of the National Jewish Hospital and Research Center, the Denver Art Museum, the University of Colorado Medical School and Project C.U.R.E., which provides medical supplies to 110 countries. Yohannes holds a B.S. in Economics from Claremont McKenna College and a M.B.A. from Pepperdine University.

Arun Majumdar, Nominee for Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, Department of Energy

Arun Majumdar is currently the Associate Laboratory Director for Energy and Environment at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. He has had a highly distinguished research career in the science and engineering of energy conversion, transport, and storage ranging from molecular and nanoscale level to large energy systems. For his pioneering work, he was elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2005. At Berkeley Labs and UC Berkeley, he helped shape several strategic initiatives in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy as well as energy storage, and testified before Congress on how to reduce energy consumption in buildings. He has served on the advisory committee of the National Science Foundation’s engineering directorate, was a member of the advisory council to the materials sciences and engineering division of DOE’s Basic Energy Sciences, and was an advisor on nanotechnology to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Dr. Majumdar has also been an entrepreneur, and has served as an advisor to startup companies and venture capital firms in the silicon valley. He received his Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in 1985 and his PhD in 1989 from the University of California, Berkeley.

Gustavo Aranavat, Nominee for United States Executive Director to the Inter-American Development Bank

Gustavo Arnavat most recently served as Director and Senior Legal Counsel of the Citi Private Bank in New York, where he was Legal Co-Head of the Latin America market region. At Citi, he managed a wide range of legal, regulatory and policy issues in connection with banking, investment management and brokerage services. Arnavat also spent several years as an investment banker, focusing on the origination and execution of public offerings and private placements by Latin American issuers, and provided strategic advice relating to M&A transactions and joint ventures. Prior to attending law school, Arnavat served as a Presidential Management Fellow, working at the National Security Council as the Latin America regional analyst, the State Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration, where he worked on domestic and international law enforcement and anti-money laundering initiatives. He serves on the Boards of the DEA Museum Foundation, the Westchester Community Foundation, and TeatroStageFest. Arnavat received a B.A., cum laude, from Cornell University, an M.P.P. degree from the Harvard Kennedy School, where he was an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow, and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, where he was an editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.

Interview with an Ethiopian Fighter

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Interview with Southern Ethiopia People’s Front for Justice and Equality (SEPFJE) Fighter and more News. Watch video below,

Oldest "Human" Skeleton Found in Ethiopia; Older than Lucy

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

By Jamie Shreeve | National Geographic

ardiScientists today announced the discovery of the oldest fossil skeleton of a human ancestor. The find reveals that our forebears underwent a previously unknown stage of evolution more than a million years before Lucy, the iconic early human ancestor specimen that walked the Earth 3.2 million years ago.

The centerpiece of a treasure trove of new fossils, the skeleton—assigned to a species called Ardipithecus ramidus—belonged to a small-brained, 110-pound (50-kilogram) female nicknamed “Ardi.” (See pictures of Ardipithecus ramidus.)

The fossil puts to rest the notion, popular since Darwin’s time, that a chimpanzee-like missing link—resembling something between humans and today’s apes—would eventually be found at the root of the human family tree. Indeed, the new evidence suggests that the study of chimpanzee anatomy and behavior—long used to infer the nature of the earliest human ancestors—is largely irrelevant to understanding our beginnings.

Ardi instead shows an unexpected mix of advanced characteristics and of primitive traits seen in much older apes that were unlike chimps or gorillas (interactive: Ardi’s key features). As such, the skeleton offers a window on what the last common ancestor of humans and living apes might have been like.

Announced at joint press conferences in Washington, D.C., and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the analysis of the Ardipithecus ramidus bones will be published in a collection of papers tomorrow in a special edition of the journal Science, along with an avalanche of supporting materials published online.

“This find is far more important than Lucy,” said Alan Walker, a paleontologist from Pennsylvania State University who was not part of the research. “It shows that the last common ancestor with chimps didn’t look like a chimp, or a human, or some funny thing in between.” (Related: “Oldest Homo Sapiens Fossils Found, Experts Say” [June 11, 2003].)

Ardi Surrounded by Family

The Ardipithecus ramidus fossils were discovered in Ethiopia’s harsh Afar desert at a site called Aramis in the Middle Awash region, just 46 miles (74 kilometers) from where Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis, was found in 1974. Radiometric dating of two layers of volcanic ash that tightly sandwiched the fossil deposits revealed that Ardi lived 4.4 million years ago.

Older hominid fossils have been uncovered, including a skull from Chad at least six million years old and some more fragmentary, slightly younger remains from Kenya and nearby in the Middle Awash.

While important, however, none of those earlier fossils are nearly as revealing as the newly announced remains, which in addition to Ardi’s partial skeleton include bones representing at least 36 other individuals.

“All of a sudden you’ve got fingers and toes and arms and legs and heads and teeth,” said Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley, who co-directed the work with Berhane Asfaw, a paleoanthropologist and former director of the National Museum of Ethiopia, and Giday WoldeGabriel, a geologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

“That allows you to do something you can’t do with isolated specimens,” White said. “It allows you to do biology.”

Ardi’s Weird Way of Moving

The biggest surprise about Ardipithecus’s biology is its bizarre means of moving about.

All previously known hominids—members of our ancestral lineage—walked upright on two legs, like us. But Ardi’s feet, pelvis, legs, and hands suggest she was a biped on the ground but a quadruped when moving about in the trees.

Her big toe, for instance, splays out from her foot like an ape’s, the better to grasp tree limbs. Unlike a chimpanzee foot, however, Ardipithecus’s contains a special small bone inside a tendon, passed down from more primitive ancestors, that keeps the divergent toe more rigid. Combined with modifications to the other toes, the bone would have helped Ardi walk bipedally on the ground, though less efficiently than later hominids like Lucy. The bone was lost in the lineages of chimps and gorillas.

According to the researchers, the pelvis shows a similar mosaic of traits. The large flaring bones of the upper pelvis were positioned so that Ardi could walk on two legs without lurching from side to side like a chimp. But the lower pelvis was built like an ape’s, to accommodate huge hind limb muscles used in climbing.

Even in the trees, Ardi was nothing like a modern ape, the researchers say.

Modern chimps and gorillas have evolved limb anatomy specialized to climbing vertically up tree trunks, hanging and swinging from branches, and knuckle-walking on the ground.

While these behaviors require very rigid wrist bones, for instance, the wrists and finger joints of Ardipithecus were highly flexible. As a result Ardi would have walked on her palms as she moved about in the trees—more like some primitive fossil apes than like chimps and gorillas.

“What Ardi tells us is there was this vast intermediate stage in our evolution that nobody knew about,” said Owen Lovejoy, an anatomist at Kent State University in Ohio, who analyzed Ardi’s bones below the neck. “It changes everything.”

Against All Odds, Ardi Emerges

The first, fragmentary specimens of Ardipithecus were found at Aramis in 1992 and published in 1994. The skeleton announced today was discovered that same year and excavated with the bones of the other individuals over the next three field seasons. But it took 15 years before the research team could fully analyze and publish the skeleton, because the fossils were in such bad shape.

After Ardi died, her remains apparently were trampled down into mud by hippos and other passing herbivores. Millions of years later, erosion brought the badly crushed and distorted bones back to the surface.

They were so fragile they would turn to dust at a touch. To save the precious fragments, White and colleagues removed the fossils along with their surrounding rock. Then, in a lab in Addis, the researchers carefully tweaked out the bones from the rocky matrix using a needle under a microscope, proceeding “millimeter by submillimeter,” as the team puts it in Science. This process alone took several years.

Pieces of the crushed skull were then CT-scanned and digitally fit back together by Gen Suwa, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Tokyo.

In the end, the research team recovered more than 125 pieces of the skeleton, including much of the feet and virtually all of the hands—an extreme rarity among hominid fossils of any age, let alone one so very ancient.

“Finding this skeleton was more than luck,” said White. “It was against all odds.”

Ardi’s World

western afar rift ethiopiaThe team also found some 6,000 animal fossils and other specimens that offer a picture of the world Ardi inhabited: a moist woodland very different from the region’s current, parched landscape. In addition to antelope and monkey species associated with forests, the deposits contained forest-dwelling birds and seeds from fig and palm trees.

Wear patterns and isotopes in the hominid teeth suggest a diet that included fruits, nuts, and other forest foods.

If White and his team are right that Ardi walked upright as well as climbed trees, the environmental evidence would seem to strike the death knell for the “savanna hypothesis”—a long-standing notion that our ancestors first stood up in response to their move onto an open grassland environment.

Sex for Food

Some researchers, however, are unconvinced that Ardipithecus was quite so versatile.

“This is a fascinating skeleton, but based on what they present, the evidence for bipedality is limited at best,” said William Jungers, an anatomist at Stony Brook University in New York State.

“Divergent big toes are associated with grasping, and this has one of the most divergent big toes you can imagine,” Jungers said. “Why would an animal fully adapted to support its weight on its forelimbs in the trees elect to walk bipedally on the ground?”

One provocative answer to that question—originally proposed by Lovejoy in the early 1980s and refined now in light of the Ardipithecus discoveries—attributes the origin of bipedality to another trademark of humankind: monogamous sex.

Virtually all apes and monkeys, especially males, have long upper canine teeth—formidable weapons in fights for mating opportunities.

But Ardipithecus appears to have already embarked on a uniquely human evolutionary path, with canines reduced in size and dramatically “feminized” to a stubby, diamond shape, according to the researchers. Males and female specimens are also close to each other in body size.

Lovejoy sees these changes as part of an epochal shift in social behavior: Instead of fighting for access to females, a male Ardipithecus would supply a “targeted female” and her offspring with gathered foods and gain her sexual loyalty in return.

To keep up his end of the deal, a male needed to have his hands free to carry home the food. Bipedalism may have been a poor way for Ardipithecus to get around, but through its contribution to the “sex for food” contract, it would have been an excellent way to bear more offspring. And in evolution, of course, more offspring is the name of the game (more: “Did Early Humans Start Walking for Sex?”).

Two hundred thousand years after Ardipithecus, another species called Australopithecus anamensis appeared in the region. By most accounts, that species soon evolved into Australopithecus afarensis, with a slightly larger brain and a full commitment to a bipedal way of life. Then came early Homo, with its even bigger brain and budding tool use.

Did primitive Ardipithecus undergo some accelerated change in the 200,000 years between it and Australopithecus—and emerge as the ancestor of all later hominids? Or was Ardipithecus a relict species, carrying its quaint mosaic of primitive and advanced traits with it into extinction?

Study co-leader White sees nothing about the skeleton “that would exclude it from ancestral status.” But he said more fossils would be needed to fully resolve the issue.

Stony Brook’s Jungers added, “These finds are incredibly important, and given the state of preservation of the bones, what they did was nothing short of heroic.

But this is just the beginning of the story.”

Alabama's A&M University gets $13 million for Ethiopia project

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Alabama A&M University’s work to improve basic education in Ethiopia has received a $13 million boost from the federal government.

The grant from the U.S. International Development Agency was one of three federal contracts announced Thursday by the university.

A&M also received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation for research in advanced materials and nanophotonics and a $2.2 million foundation grant to strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

The three-year Ethiopia grant is part of a larger $600 million initiative to pair historically black colleges with African nations. A&M’s grant funds its Textbooks and Learning Materials Program, which puts books and other materials in Ethiopian schools.

“Day to day, African nations confront horrendous obstacles in their quest to properly educate their children,” said A&M President Dr. Andrew Hugine Jr. “The textbook program offers (A&M) an opportunity to appreciatively give back to Ethiopia, a country with an ancient and rich heritage, while furthering our mission on an international scale.”

“The textbooks are used by 100 percent of the children of the country,” said Lamin Drammeh, manager of a similar program for Tanzania based at South Carolina State University. “The learning materials reflect what’s needed for the country’s work force, are culturally relevant, and are published in Africa by local African publishers using African distribution centers.”

A&M has developed English-as-a-second language textbooks for children in grades 1, 6, 7 and 8. The university has also trained teachers.

The science grants will help upgrade A&M research facilities and equipment and develop programs in nanoscience, nanotechnology and other areas of engineering.

Ethiopia's tribal junta stifles information technology growth

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Ethiopia’s regime continues to monopolize telecom services including fixed, mobile, Internet and data communications. This monopolistic control has stifled innovation and retarded expansion.

The U.S. and WorldBank-financed tribal junta led by its genocidal leader Meles Zenawi, tries to encourage foreign investment in a broad range of industries by allowing foreigners up to 100% equity ownership. However, there is no official schedule for the privatisation of the national carrier and the introduction of competition, but once this happens, the potential to satisfy unmet demand in all service sectors is huge.

Ethiopia has the second lowest telephone penetration rate in Africa, but it recently surpassed Egypt to become the second most populous nation on the continent after Nigeria. [This is done on purpose by the U.S.-backed regime to keep the people of Ethiopian in the dark age]. However, it is also one of the poorest countries in the world with approximately 80% of the population supporting themselves through subsistence agriculture, which accounts for more than half of the country’s GDP.

Despite the monopoly situation, subscriber growth in the mobile sector has been excellent at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 90% since its inception in 1999 and more than 100% in the past six years. However, demand has been even stronger, and ETC has been unable to satisfy it. Ethiopia’s mobile market penetration is still one of the lowest in the world at little more than 3%. Fixed-line penetration is even lower, and this has also impacted on the development of the Internet sector. Prices of broadband connections are excessive.

Improvements are beginning to develop following massive investments into fixed-wireless and mobile network infrastructure, including third generation mobile technology, as well as a national fibre optic backbone. Ethiopia is investing an unusually large amount, around 10% of its GDP, into information & communication technology (ICT). However, telecommunications revenue has grown only moderately in comparison, at around 16% per annum. It has remained under 2% of GDP, a low figure in regional comparison.

Are African Dictators Becoming Environmentalists?

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

By Alemayehu Gebremariam

Recently, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi warned that the African delegation he is expected to lead to the climate change talks in Copenhagen in December would walk out of any “negotiations that threaten to be another rape of the continent.”

The Ethiopian dictator, who was speaking in Addis Ababa at a meeting arranged by United Nations Economic Commission for Africa to promote the African negotiating position, demanded that the West pay billions of dollars annually in exchange for Africa’s acquiescence to a global warming agreement. African Union Chairman Jean Ping took an even harder line, threatening to “never accept any global deal that does not limit global warming to the minimum unavoidable level, no matter what levels of compensation.”

It is unprecedented for African dictators to take the moral offensive against the “evil” Western imperialists, who for centuries have exploited Africa and ruptured its social fabric. In the climate change debate, Africa’s leaders – many with blood on their hands – profess to capture the moral high ground and name and shame the West for its abuse of Africa and the planet in general. The strategy is refreshingly Ghandian: Use moral outrage and international civil disobedience to make the West squirm into doing right by Africa. Ghandi taught “Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good.” He exhorted that the only way to get the British to abandon their evil ways in South Africa and India was to actively resist their colonial rule through civil disobedience, particularly through a campaign of non-cooperation. For Zenawi and company, that message translates into a very public act of non-cooperation with the Western overlords on issues of fair play, equity and environmental justice.

But are African leaders genuinely concerned about climate change, or are they motivated by the sheer potential for billions of dollars of annual compensation to line their pockets. Are they engaged in non-cooperation or political extortion?

The answer is obvious. The bluster about “walking out” and “delegitimizing” the Copenhagen talks is nothing more than a cynical appeal to lofty moral virtues in order to guilt-trip and shakedown Western countries into paying billions in “blood money.” That is certainly the conclusion of the Economist magazine, which in its recent issue stated that the wrath of African leaders is aimed at “making the rich world feel guilty about global warming. Meles has made it clear he is seeking blood money—or rather carbon money—that would be quite separate from other aid to the continent.”

In the end, all of the climate change pontification is about African dictators extorting a $67 billion bribe every year to enrich themselves. It has very little to do with remedying the ecological disasters facing Africa.

Consider the case of Ethiopia. While Meles has managed to convince other African leaders to make him the point man at the global warming negotiations, he has ignored the ecological apocalypse facing Ethiopia. Though he speaks with moral fervor and indignation about the negative role of the West in aggravating the environmental consequences of climate change on Africa, he has not made a single statement or offered a single policy initiative on environmental issues in Ethiopia.

The environmental facts on Ethiopia are incontrovertible. Ethiopia is facing ecological collapse caused by deforestation, soil erosion, over-grazing, over-population, desertification and loss of biodiversity and chemical pollution of its rivers and lakes. Even the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute – a government agency – admits that the country “loses up to 200,000 hectares of forest every year.” The Institute has warned that “if the trend continues the country would lose all of its forest resources by the year 2020.” Other studies have also shown that between 1990 and 2005, Ethiopia lost 14 percent of its forest cover and 3.6 percent of its forest and woodland habitat.

Just a few kilometers outside the capital, Lake Koka has attracted considerable international attention and become the iconic image of the country’s environmental decline. A community of 17,000 people is facing severe illnesses and high morbidity from drinking and using the lake’s water. Massive pollution caused by the sugar factories in the country have resulted in illness and deaths of tens of thousands of people. Nothing has been done to hold criminally or civilly accountable the parties responsible for the environmental crimes.

Africa’s knights in shining armor should take care of environmental disasters in their own backyards – lakes, rivers and factories – before mounting their steeds on a crusade to save Africa from global warming. As for Ethiopia’s arch dictator and Africa’s chief climate change negotiator, he is merely trying to rehabilitate his image from the continent’s foremost human rights abuser to its chief environmental redeemer. Before Africa can be rescued from the ill effects of climate change, it needs to save itself from predatory dictators like Zenawi. For Ethiopia and most of Africa the rallying cry should be, “Regime change before action on climate change.”

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

4 soldiers from Ethiopia arrive in Asmara

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

ASMARA — Four soldiers who opposed the tribal junta’s ethnic apartheid policies in Ethiopia, have arrived in Asmara this week, according to Tigist Tesfa, Ethiopian Review’s correspondent in Eritrea.

The four soldiers are:

1. Corporal AbdulWahab AbudlGalf from Northern Command’s 21st Division,

2. Corporal GebreEgzihabher Amare from Northern Command’s  21st Division,

3. Corporal Jemal Mohammed Miruts from Northern Command’s 2oth Division, and

4. Private Abrham Getu Zeleke from Northern Command 21st Division.

Every day about 20 -30 Ethiopians who are brutalized by the Woyanne junta are currently escaping to Eritrean.

The refugees include students, professionals in various fields, soldiers and in recent days priests.

Many of the refugees join Ethiopian freedom fighters, and others live in Eritrea as political asylees or move on to other places such as Europe.

Davis, California police shoot Ethiopian woman

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

DAVIS, CALIFORNIA — A woman was shot during a confrontation with Yolo County Sheriff’s deputies Tuesday morning, but is expected to survive her injuries.

The Davis Police Department says a deputy was enforcing an eviction noticed at an apartment on Hanover Drive in Davis when 46-year-old Eleni Bekele came to the front door with a knife. The deputy, who has not been identified, drew her weapon and shot the Bekele when she didn’t drop the knife, authorities said.

The injured resident refused to drop the knife and hurled it at Davis police officers, striking one in the head. The officer was not injured.

Bekele, an immigrant from Ethiopia, still refused to give up for a short time before surrendering to authorities. Emergency crews rushed her to the UC Davis Medical Center, where she is expected to survive.

Bekele has been arrested for assault with a deadly weapon.

Ethiopian man in Florida sets his apartment on fire

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

getachew awasi tampa apt fireTAMPA, FLORIDA – Terry Heddings awoke about 6 a.m. to the sounds of what he thought were children playing.

But when he went outside his West Waters Avenue apartment, he saw flames and chaos. He tried alerting his neighbors and then tried moving his car out of the way of emergency vehicles. That’s when he was attacked by a man he didn’t know.

“He said he started the fire,” Heddings said.

He said the man told him, “Are you happy now? We’re all gonna burn,” and danced in the street.

The blaze today at Baywater Apartments, 6910 W. Waters Ave., drew 60 firefighters and displaced about 16 families, said Chris Reynolds, shift commander for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

One apartment was destroyed and others had smoke and water damage. No one was injured.

Red Cross officials were expected to help find accommodations for the displaced residents.

The man who told Heddings he started the fire was later identified as Gezaheign Awasi, 44, who was taken from the scene while handcuffed on a stretcher. He faces a charge of first-degree arson of an occupied dwelling; bail has not been set.

Awasi, a native of Ethiopia, set fire to his second-floor apartment, the sheriff’s office said, and told investigators, “I started the fire with a match. I lit the bed on fire.”

Awasi’s daughter said her father had waved goodbye from their apartment window as she left for Leto High School early today.

Mahlet Gemechu, 18, thought it unusual that her unemployed dad was awake so early, so she asked her mother to go back and check on him. Her mother did, but Awasi wouldn’t unlock the apartment door. Soon after, her mother saw the fire – flames were shooting from the apartment building’s windows and roof.

“I thought he was in the house burning,” Gemechu said.

But her father had left the apartment.

Awasi’s wife, Tsehai Zike, said her husband is a good man who reads the Bible but recently lost his job and is being treated for depression.

“I don’t feel sorry for him,” Gemechu said, “but I feel sorry for everyone else.”

More from The Ledger

A man described by his family as “depressed” since he lost his job was detained on suspicion of arson in a three-alarm apartment fire at 6910 W Waters Ave. last week.

Gezaheign Awasi, a 45-year-old Ethiopian immigrant, was taken from the Baywater Apartments handcuffed on a stretcher after firefighters contained the blaze.

Authorities said no one was injured.

Awasi’s wife, Tsehai Zike 39, said the family moved to the area three years ago “to make a better life,” and her husband worked at a credit company until he was laid off in March.

Zike said her husband was on medication for depression, but was a good guy. She said he enjoyed reading the Bible and singing.

“He never smoked. He never drank. He never did nothing except this thing,” she said. “I’m really sad. We came here to get a better opportunity from Africa.”

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Division Chief Chris Reynolds said 16 families were displaced in eight units. When crews arrived, there were 40- to 50-foot flames shooting through the roof.

Despite a malfunctioning hydrant and no sprinklers in the older building, the fire was out in less than an hour.

Zike said she and her 18-year-old daughter, Mahlet Gemechu, left the apartment early this morning for work and school, as usual.

As Gemechu was walking to her bus stop, she noticed her father waving from the window, and she thought it was strange for him to be awake so early. She said she called her mother to have her check on him.

When Zike got the call, she was already outside the home, getting in her car. She went back upstairs but found the door chain-locked.

Zike said her husband wouldn’t let her inside. That’s when she heard the fire alarm and called 911.

Gemechu had already run home and met her mother outside, where they both stood crying and terrified. At that point, they thought Awasi was still inside. “I thought he was in the house burning,” Gemechu said of her dad.

But neighbors said Awasi had been running around the building, screaming and wrestling with a neighbor who was trying to warn other residents of the blaze.

Neighbor Eric Cohn said he heard Awasi yelling, “Everybody’s gonna burn down. How do you like it now? Drink my blood.”

Cohn said Awasi jumped onto the hood of a car a neighbor was moving before fire trucks arrived. The two then fought.

When rescuers arrived, they immediately took Awasi into custody, said another neighbor, Jay Garcia. “I saw like five cops grab him and handcuff him,” Garcia said. He said residents were still running outside and flames were spewing out of the building’s roof.

Gemechu, Awasi’s daughter, said she and her mother didn’t see Awasi screaming or running around. She said the behavior sounded unusual for her dad. “He’s always quiet.”

Tribal junta vows to continue oil exploration amide rebel threat

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

(Sudan Tribune) — Despite Ogaden rebels repeated warnings against foreign oil exploration in Somali region, the Ethiopian Ministry of Mines and Energy vowed to continue the oil project.

Two weeks ago the Ogaden National liberation Front (ONLF) threatened foreign oil firms to refrain from engaging in oil exploration in the region or face harsh consequences.

However Ethiopia’s ministry of mines and energy down plays the threats saying that every empty threat by the Ogaden rebels cannot obstruct the ongoing oil venture.

“There is no any serious security threat in the region that could lead to closure or endanger foreign oil firms” said minister Alemayehu Tegenu.

Ethiopian forces launched an assault against the rebels after the 2007 attack on a Chinese-owned oil exploration field which killed 65 Ethiopians and nine Chinese. Addis Ababa now says the ONLF has been defeated.

“The group, unlike it bluffs, is so weaken at this point and doesn’t have capacity to carry out attacks” he added.

ONLF’s latest warning came after a Malaysian oil firm reportedly resumed drilling at the region.

In a statement it issued on September 16, the rebel group said “No business should be conducted in Ogaden, until there is a political solution to the conflict,”

We “will not be responsible for any collateral damages that occur from its engagements with the Ethiopian army,” it added accusing oil companies of “disinheriting the Ogaden people of their natural resources.”

The rebel group in the past directly threatened Petronas , the Malaysian state-owned company, which is one of more than a dozen international explorers hunting for oil and gas in Ethiopia.

In Contempt of. . . the Truth!

Monday, September 28th, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

In Contempt …

Commenting recently on an International Crisis Group (ICG) study dealing with rising ethnic tensions and dissent in advance of the “May 2010” elections, Ethiopia’s arch dictator wisecracked, “This happens as some people have too many billions of dollars to spend and they feel that dictating how, particularly, the developing countries manage their affairs is their God given right and to use their God given money to that purpose. They are entitled to their opinion as we are entitled to ours.”

The dictator’s opinion of the ICG and its findings was predictably boorish: “The analysis (ICG report) is not worth the price of or the cost of writing it up,” he harangued. “We have only contempt for the ICG. You do not respond to something you only have contempt for.” The dictator boasted that his “ethnic federalism” policy had saved the “country [which] was on the brink of total disintegration.” He marshaled anonymous authorities to support his fabricated claim that he is the redeemer of the nation: “Every analyst worth his salt was suggesting that Ethiopia will go the way of Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union. What we have now is a going-concern.”

Daniela Kroslak, ICG’s Deputy Director of the Africa Program, denied the dictator’s wild and bizarre denunciations. At any rate, the dictator’s criticism was a “tale full of sound and fury signifying nothing,” as Shakespeare might have said. He had not read the report! Why? Because it “was not worthy of [his] time.” The dictator unabashedly criticizes a report he had not even read– a textbook case of argumentum ad ignorantiam (argument to ignorance). In other words, because the report is “not worth the cost of the paper it is written on”, it is not “worthy” of being read; therefore, it is false and contemptible.) Trashing a report completed by a respected international think-tank (ICG provides regular advice to governments, and intergovernmental bodies like the United Nations, the European Union and the World Bank) and heaping contempt on its authors is a poor substitute for a rigorous, reasoned and factually-supported refutation of the report’s findings, analysis and arguments.

Truth be told, contempt is the emotional currency of the dictator. ICG just happens to be the latest object of the dictator’s wrathful contempt. The dictator’s record over the past two decades shows that he has total contempt for truth, the Ethiopian people, the rule of law, human rights, the free press, an independent judiciary, dissenters, opposition leaders and parties, popular sovereignty, the ballot box, clean elections, international human rights organizations, international law, international public opinion, Western donors who demand accountability, and even his own supporters who disagree with him and his flunkeys…

The Evidence: Does the ICG and Its Report Deserve Contempt or Credit?

The ICG report is balanced, judicious, honest and meticulously documented. Entitled, “Ethiopia: Ethnic Federalism and Its Discontents” (29 pages without appendix, and an astonishing 315 scholarly and other original source references for such a short report), the report “applauds” the dictator’s constitution for its “commitment to liberal democracy and respect for political freedoms and human rights.” It credits the dictatorship for “stimulating economic growth and expanding public services”. The study even approvingly notes the “proliferation of political parties” under the dictatorship’s watch.

The report is not a whitewash. It also points out failures. The most glaring failure is the radical political “restructuring” engendered by “ethnic federalism” to “redefine citizenship, politics and identity on ethnic grounds.” The study suggests that the “intent [of “ethnic federalism”] was to create a more prosperous, just and representative state for all its people.” However, the result has been the development of “an asymmetrical federation that combines populous regional states like Oromiya and Amhara in the central highlands with sparsely populated and underdeveloped ones like Gambella and Somali.” Moreover, “ethnic federalism” has created “weak regional states”, “empowered some groups” and failed to resolve the “national question”. Aggravating the underlying situation has been the dictatorship’s failure to promote “dialogue and reconciliation” among groups in Ethiopian society, further fueling “growing discontent with the EPRDF’s ethnically defined state and rigid grip on power and fears of continued inter-ethnic conflict.”

The ICG report implicitly criticizes the opposition as well. It notes that they are “divided and disorganized” and unable to publicly show that they could overcome “EPDRF’s” claim that they are not “qualified to take power via the ballot box.” As a result, the 2010 elections “most probably will be much more contentious, as numerous opposition parties are preparing to challenge the EPRDF, which is likely to continue to use its political machine to retain its position.” The study also addresses the role of the international community, which it claims “has ignored or downplayed all these problems.” The donor community is specifically criticized for lacking objective and balanced perspective as they “appear to consider food security more important than democracy in Ethiopia, but they neglect the increased ethnic awareness and tensions created by the regionalisation policy and their potentially explosive consequences.” The report does not even spare the defunct Derg regime, which historically was responsible for “repression, failed economic policy and forced resettlement and ‘villagisation’.”

Of course, none of the foregoing is known to those who are willfully ignorant of the report, but have chosen to preoccupy their minds with hubris, hypocrisy, arrogance and contempt for the truth.

Opinion versus Facts

The dictator said, “They (ICG) are entitled to their opinion as we are entitled to ours.” That is true. But as the common saying goes, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.” The facts on the dictatorship and “ethnic federalism” are infamous and incontrovertible. It is not a matter of opinion, but hard fact, that after the 2005 elections the dictator unleashed security forces under his personal control to undertake a massive “crackdown on the opposition [that] demonstrated the extent to which the regime is willing to ignore popular protest and foreign criticism to hold on to power.” It is a proven fact by the dictator’s own Inquiry Commission, not opinion, that his “security forces killed almost 200 civilians (the real number is many times that) and arrested an estimated 30,000 opposition supporters”. It is a plain fact that “there is growing discontent with the EPRDF’s ethnically defined state and rigid grip on power and fears of continued inter-ethnic conflict.” It is an undeniable fact that the dictatorship has caused “continuous polarisation of national politics that has sharpened tensions between and within parties and ethnic groups since the mid-1990s. The EPRDF’s ethnic federalism has not dampened conflict, but rather increased competition among groups that vie over land and natural resources, as well as administrative boundaries and government budgets.” It is a fact just as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow that “Without genuine multi-party democracy, the tensions and pressures in Ethiopia’s polities will only grow, greatly increasing the possibility of a violent eruption that would destabilise the country and region.”

It is true the dictator is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts!

The Art of Distraction

What could possibly be “contemptible” about the ICG report? The obvious way to counter a report by a respected international think-tank is by presenting countervailing evidence that undermines confidence in the report’s findings and conclusions. But the dictator opts for something proverbially attributed to the legal profession: “When the law is against you, argue the facts. When the facts are against you, argue the law. When both are against you, pound the table and attack and abuse the plaintiff.” In this case, when you can’t handle the facts and the truth, throw a fit, make a scene, vilify the ICG, demonize the individual authors, demean the report with cheap shots and declare moral victory with irrational outbursts.

But why throw a temper tantrum?

The fact of the matter is that “ethnic federalism” is indefensible in theory or practice. The ICG report hit a raw nerve by exposing the fundamental flaws in the dictatorship’s phony “ethnic federalism” ideology. The report makes it crystal clear that the scheme of “ethnic federalism” is unlikely to keep the nine ethnic-based states in orbit around the dictatorship much longer. The ICG’s reasonable fear is that over time irrepressible centripetal political contradictions deep within Ethiopian society could potentially trigger an implosion of the Ethiopian nation. This argument is logical, factually-supported and convincing. As we have previously suggested, “ethnic federalism” is a glorified nomenclature for apartheid-style Bantustans . By unloading verbal abuse and sarcasm on the ICG, the dictator is trying to divert attention from the central finding of the report: Ethnic federalism is highly likely to lead to the disintegration of the Ethiopian nation. That is what the dictator’s sound and fury is all about!

What Makes for a Strong Federalism?

We believe the ICG report does not go far enough in explicitly suggesting a way out of the “ethnic federalism” morass. It seems implicit in the report that if “ethnic federalism” is dissolved as a result of forceful action by the “states”, the country’s national disintegration could be accelerated. If the dictatorship fails to reform or modify it significantly, ethnic tensions will continue to escalate resulting in an inevitable upheaval. If the dictatorship escalates its use of force to keep itself in power, it could pave the way for the ultimate and inevitable collapse of the country into civil strife. All of these scenarios place the Ethiopian people on the horns of a dilemma.

We believe there are important elements from the Ghanaian Constitution that could be incorporated to produce a strong and functioning federal system in Ethiopia. As we have argued before , Ghana’s 1992 Constitution provides a powerful antidote to the poison of ethnic and tribal politics: “Every political party shall have a national character, and membership shall not be based on ethnic, religious, regional or other sectional divisions.” Membership in a political party is open to “every citizen of Ghana of voting age” and every citizen has the right to “disseminate information on political ideas, social and economic programmes of a national character.” Ghanaian citizens’ political and civic life is protected by the rule of law and an independent judiciary. Citizens freely express their opinions without fear of government retaliation; and the media vociferously criticizes government policies and officials without censorship. Ghana has a strong judiciary with extraordinary constitutional powers to the point of making the failure to obey or carry out the terms of a Supreme Court order a “high crime”. Ghana’s independent electoral commission is responsible for voter registration, demarcation of electoral boundaries, conduct and oversight of all public elections and referenda and electoral education. The Commission’s decisions are respected by all political parties. These are the essential elements missing from the bogus theory of “ethnic federalism” foisted upon the people of Ethiopia.

Ob la di, Ob la da…

It is truly pathetic that after nearly twenty years in power the best the dictators can offer the suffering Ethiopian people is an empty plate and a bellyful of contempt, acrimony and anger. Well, ob la di, ob la da, life goes on forever! So will the Ethiopian Nation, united and strong under the rule of law and the Grace of the Almighty. If South Africa can be delivered from the plague of the Bantustans, have no doubts whatsoever that Ethiopia will also be delivered from the plague of the Kililistans!

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

Interview with Two Ethiopian Religious Leaders from Asmara

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Interview with Two Ethiopian Religious Leaders that defected to Asmara and more News. Watch Video below,

Why do you do this to us Ato Meles?

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

In the good old days it used to be the tradition of dictators to sit at home and never show their face in the capitals of the civilized world or in most parts of their own country. They respected the self-imposed isolation in the grand palace prison they constructed and did not pretend to love of be loved by others. It was a very refreshing condition for their subjects. They listen to the pronouncements of the dictator on the radio, watch the dictator cutting some ribbon surrounded by his security on TV or read about him in the local rag that passes itself as a newspaper.

Our friends Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Kim Jung of Korea, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and others stay put in their prison. They do not venture out in broad daylight and impose themselves on the sensibilities of others. They are civilized enough not to embarrass their hosts and make others uncomfortable with their presence.

Then why is the little dictator from Ethiopia turning this tradition on its head? Why is Ato Meles popping up every place where pressing international matters are discussed? It looks like he has a bag ready to go at a drop of a hat to any and all conferences representing some obscure outfit but not the country he is purported to be leading. Why is he breaking the rule that has been working like a charm?

Ethiopia is one of the most back ward, illiterate, un electrified, un wired and famine stricken country in the entire world thanks to the backward looking voodoo economics practiced by our illustrious and fearless leader. There is no reason why the leader of such a country would want to sit on the same table as leaders of the most industrialized countries. He does not have a robust economy nor a strong military force to bring to the table. He does not have an imposing presence or a charming character to sway others. No logical reason at all. There is no reason why he will be invited to such a meeting either.

Thus in the twisted and unsurpassed cunning brain of his, the TPLF boss was able to insert himself by lobbying to represent Africa. It is a fact most of the African leaders would not dare to leave their capitals or do not have the chutzpah to sit on the same table as other elected leaders. But not our Meles. He is the indispensable, all knowing leader with the sharpest tongue East of the Nile. The word ‘shame’ is not in his vocabulary. ዩሉንታ and ስው ምንዩላል is foreign to Woyane and company. Thus while his people are starving in millions he have no qualms transporting his mafia entourage to far away places all at the expense of the Ethiopian people. You ask for what?

Vanity my friend. The dictator gets his legitimacy by rubbing shoulders with elected leaders. He strains his neck trying to have his picture taken besides powerful heads of state. While the Obamas avoid him like the plague, the Gordon Browns distance them selves away from him our hero keeps showing up again and again. Like a bad dream he does not go away. The interloper knows no boundary. The interloper marches to his own drummer.

The interloper is becoming a strain on the Diasporas budget. It took a lot of organization and finance to confront the dictator in London. The legitimate leaders drove by waving and nodding a knowing glace while our hero sunk in his chair to hide. Then he showed up again in Rome. Well our European cousins were forced to head over to Rome to unfurl the unwelcome sign again. Again hiding was the only option for the dictator.

Yesterday, It was the turn of the free Ethiopians in America to register our displeasure. That they did a good job is the talk of CNN, Al Jazeera and our independent and free websites. Those of us that did not attend owe our everlasting gratitude to you brave Ethiopians for speaking for the silenced in our homeland. Mr. Obama was heard to have said ‘the Ethiopians again, persistent aren’t they?’ Let us just say some of us are. There are many who take credit but secretly feed the monster. The ‘hodams’ among us, but that is another story.

The sad part is he is sticking around for a while. He is not ready to fade away. He is in the process of organizing his fourth ‘sham election’, which he will win. No question about that. Does it mean we have a few more unwelcome marches we have to go to? Is there a way we can convince the dictator to stay away from international conferences? Not a chance. On the other hand we want it to be registered to all conference organizers that unless you hold your meetings in some remote area like Pyongyang or Minsk we promise to be there. We do not enjoy disturbing your meeting but we believe someone have to give voice to the voiceless.

It is not news to us that the dictator and his wife were so unnerved by the protesters that they took the anger on each other. We know the only thing that would have calmed them was the sight of Ethiopian blood on the street and sidewalk. Helene Cooper of the New York Times was kind enough to record the furious arrival of the interlopers as they arrived to this lavish dinner they imposed themselves on. Here is an excerpt. There is no need to elaborate.

Next arrives Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi, who clearly did something in the car to anger his wife because she glares at him, Mr. Obama, Mrs. Obama, and anyone unfortunate enough to cross her line of vision.
The Obamas both look slightly taken aback by her. Wonder what happened in the car? The Ethiopian First Couple are quickly dispatched inside.
(http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/24/obamas-red-carpet-up-close-and-personal/?scp=2&sq=helene%20cooper&st=cse)

Now you know why Parliament members are sure to wear their diapers when in the presence of the Representative from Welkait. Being in her line of vision causes temporary loss of bodily functions, nervousness, twitching, stuttering and absolute cowardice. If you don’t believe me ask Teshome Toga.
Judge Bertukan has been in Woyane dungeon two hundred seventy days. Our protest is her strength. We are sad she is paying the price for our freedom. At the same time her resolve in the face of absolute tyranny empowers the rest of us to emulate our leader and stand firm. We wish Bertukan Medeksa a happy Meskel and promise to double our efforts until we are all free. We love you Bertukan may our god give you the strength to withstand the harsh conditions.

Assistant to DC Council member Jim Graham arrested

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Charges include free trip to Ethiopia

By Del Quentin Wilber and Tim Craig | Washington Post

The chief of staff to D.C. Council member Jim Graham was arrested on bribery charges Thursday, accused of taking trips and $1,500 in payoffs in exchange for pushing legislation that would reward some in the taxicab industry.

Ted G. Loza, 44, was taken into custody at his home on Columbia Road NW a little before 7 a.m., just hours before federal agents descended on his office at city hall to search records and computers.

Federal prosecutors allege that Loza accepted a “stream of things of value,” including cash, the use of vehicles and trips, to help an unnamed informant with a financial interest in the taxicab industry. The trips included one to Ethiopia and free limo rides to airports and other destinations in the D.C. area, two law enforcement sources said.

Graham (D-Ward 1) introduced legislation that would have benefited the informant, authorities said. The council member is not charged in the indictment and denied any wrongdoing. “I have had no engagement whatsoever in any illegal or unethical behaviors,” he said.

As part of the investigation, prosecutors said, the informant wore a hidden microphone. In July, after accepting a $500 bribe from the informant, Loza explained his motives for accepting the cash, prosecutors said. “You know I need it,” Loza said, according to the transcript of the conversation in court papers. “That’s why I take it, you know.”

Loza pleaded not guilty to two counts of receiving a bribe by a public official during a brief appearance Thursday before U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman. Loza, a native of Ecuador who is not a U.S. citizen, was ordered to surrender his passport and was released on personal recognizance. He faces up to 30 years in prison for each count if convicted.

Loza’s attorney, Pleasant S. Brodnax, said the Graham staffer did nothing wrong. “When all the facts come out and the entire context of this is understood, you will see that Mr. Loza is not guilty of bribery,” Brodnax said.

Graham, first elected to the council in 1998 and known for his bow ties, said he was “deeply troubled” by the indictment and will cooperate fully with federal investigators. The council member said he has “never had a conversation with Teddy Loza where he came to me and said, Will ‘you do this or will you do that?’ ”

And, Graham said, “nothing that has been alleged, whether it occurred or didn’t occur, had any influence on any action I took in terms of the legislation on taxicabs, which I introduced.”

Law enforcement sources said the probe is broad. Although the accusations against Loza are fairly recent, law enforcement sources said agents have been conducting a corruption investigation for at least a year. They also obtained wiretaps as part of the probe, said the sources, who, like other sources, spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

On Thursday, federal agents spent most of the day searching Loza’s office. But, according to the search warrant, they were not authorized to go through Graham’s work space. They also seized files from the D.C. Council’s mainframe computer in the basement of the John A. Wilson Building. Graham was leading a meeting of the Metro board when the raids began.

The warrant said agents were searching for documents tied to taxicab legislation, licenses, medallions, a taxi company called United Fleet Management and Fiesta D.C., a nonprofit organization that puts on an annual Hispanic festival in Mount Pleasant.

According to the organization’s Web site, Graham is an honorary board member for the organization. Loza’s wife, Ligia X. Mu?oz, works for the organization and is in charge of its finances and administration. Loza was on the board until recent weeks.

Yitbarek Syume, owner of United Fleet Management, declined to comment.

Agents also were looking for any correspondence and financial information connecting Graham, Loza, the informant and “other Washington D.C. area public officials,” the search warrant says.

According to law enforcement sources and court documents made public Thursday, Loza is accused of taking bribes from an unidentified man with “financial interests in the taxi industry.” In a 10-page indictment, authorities allege that Loza accepted separate $1,000 and $500 cash payments in June and July from a man, identified only as “Individual Number 1″ in the indictment. In exchange for the cash, trips and free car rides, Loza agreed to promote legislation and policies that helped the unnamed individual, the indictment alleges.

The indictment says Individual Number 1 wanted to limit the number of taxicab licenses issued by the District and to create an exception for hybrid vehicles under D.C. law.

Three sources familiar with the investigation identified Individual Number 1 as Abdulaziz Kamus, the executive director of the African Resource Center, a nonprofit organization that assists African immigrants, according to press accounts. Kamus, who hails from Ethiopia, has also been quoted in the media as an advocate for Ethiopian taxi drivers.

Kamus could not be reached Thursday. The number at the African Resource Center was disconnected.

Graham is not identified by name in the indictment but is referred to as “Public Official No. 1.” He is chairman of the council’s Committee on Public Works and Transportation. The committee has oversight of the D.C. Taxicab Commission.

The indictment says federal agents tape-recorded a meeting between Loza and Individual Number 1 on June 19. In that meeting, the individual handed Loza a “Father’s Day” present of an envelope containing $1,000 in cash, according to the indictment.

Individual Number 1 said the money was from him and another person, who apparently also works in the taxi industry.

“What do you want me to do?” Loza asked after receiving the cash, according to a transcript in the indictment. “What do you want me, I’ll talk to [Graham]. And I can call you back later on.”

Ten days later, the indictment alleges, Individual Number 1 met with Graham to discuss taxicab legislation with a hybrid car exemption. The council member “declared that he would introduce that legislation,” the indictment says.

The next day, June 30, Graham introduced a bill that he has said was designed to limit the number of cab operators in the city because he feared the District was being overrun by taxis. The bill would create a medallion system, similar to those in New York and Boston, in which users would buy licenses to operate a taxi. Under the bill, which was co-sponsored by Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), operators of “low emissions,” or hybrid, vehicles would get such medallions for free.

On July 10, Individual Number 1 and Loza met again. During the conversation, Loza handed the individual a copy of Graham’s bill.

“Beautiful, wow, beautiful,” the person said, according to a transcript in the indictment. “Really. I want to thank you very much.”

The person then asked about hybrid vehicles.

“Yeah, that’s the exception,” Loza said. “But, but, read it, and uh, then let me know if there’s something . . . that, that raises your eyebrows.”

Individual Number 1 then said the other unidentified person also “wanted to really thank you as well for this.”

“He does?” Loza asked. “What, didn’t he thank me or didn’t you guys thank me already?”

Individual Number 1 then handed Loza $500 in cash, the indictment says, and the council staffer pocketed the money.

Loza has known about the investigation for some time, said his attorney, Brodnax. Graham said Loza told him that he was under investigation several days ago.

“The fact of the matter is, in the course of a day of council activities, a great many people ask you to do a great number of things,” Graham said. “I would want to see this more specifically, but I know I have engaged in no such activities.”

Australian citizen tortured in Ethiopia

Friday, September 25th, 2009

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (Bartamaha) — A GOODWILL mission has turned into a nightmare for a Melbourne man who has been imprisoned and tortured in Ethiopia, according to his family.

Sadiq Ahmed, 46, a food inspector from Heidelberg who is an Australian citizen, has been detained since May, his brother Abdalla said yesterday.

The father of four has been in Ethiopia for the past two years, helping to build a hospital with $100,000 in funds raised by Abdalla in Australia.

Abdalla and his sister Malyun yesterday made an impassioned plea for the Australian Government to try to secure his release.

Speaking in Melbourne yesterday, Abdalla said his brother was taken off a bus along with 10 other people by government-backed militia in the Somali province where the hospital is being built.

Somali-born Abdalla, 53, featured in The Age in June last year about how he had given up his job and was driving taxis so he could concentrate on raising money for the hospital in Raaso, a destitute town of 80,000 in the Ethiopian Somali province where his father came from.

Abdalla was in Ethiopia’s capital at the time of his brother’s arrest and was tipped off that the militia were looking for him. He contacted the Canadian consul – Australia has no consul in Ethiopia – who advised he go into hiding and to contact him to accompany him when he was ready to go to the airport, which he did a week later.

Abdalla, president of the Raaso project and a board member of Banyule Community Health, said his brother was imprisoned in the regional capital Jijiga and accused of ”creating unrest”. But Abdalla insisted that ”Sadiq spent two years working in the field and never interfered in any politics”.

He believed tribal rivalry may be behind the arrest, with sensitivities touched off by the project’s focus on neglect in Raaso, where ”every morning there is a row of babies waiting to be buried because the women can’t make it to a hospital”.

The family say Mr Ahmed has been shackled, beaten with rifle butts and sentenced to seven years’ jail without trial. Mr Ahmed’s wife Bishar, who is pregnant, managed to visit him recently and saw he was injured.

Malyun, a social worker, is angry that the only ”help” that the Department of Foreign Affairs has been providing is the passing of information that they already know, with no consular visit made to her brother.

In frustration, they wrote three weeks ago to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith. ”I am sure if Australia’s prime minister was to phone Ethiopia’s prime minister, it would take one call for my brother to be released,” Abdalla said. They have not received a reply.

Police disperses Ethiopian protest rally in Pittsburgh

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Obama cannot protect Ethiopian’s right to stage protest rally even in his own country. Watch the video below:

Ethiopia's tyrant and wife fight in Pittsburgh

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Ethiopia’s Bonnie and Clyde embarrass themselves on the red carpet:

Next arrives Ethiopian President the butcher of Addis Ababa Meles Zenawi, who clearly did something in the car to anger his wife because she glares at him, Mr. Obama, Mrs. Obama, and anyone unfortunate enough to cross her line of vision.

By Helene Cooper | New York Times

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama (Doug Mills/The New York Times President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama laughed while they waited for their guests to arrive.)

The Times’s Helene Cooper has an entertaining pool report on tonight’s dinner of world leaders at the Phipps Conservatory:

Well, there was no red carpet lining the walkway to the Phipps Conservatory for the leaders’ dinner tonight hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. But since the First Couple nonetheless spent almost two hours greeting each of their 60 or so guests as they arrived, one by one — or in the case of couples, two by two — and since your pooler’s dream job is actually to work for E Channel covering the Academy Awards Red Carpet, consider this your Red Carpet report.

At 6:15 p.m. Mr. and Mrs. Obama stepped out of the Phipps Conservatory, underneath an awning to greet their first guests. Mr. Obama in a dark blue suit, Mrs. Obama in a taupe, pink and green patterned cocktail dress with straps. Pink patent leather two-inch heels. Hair pulled back in a full, bouffant faux ponytail. Long pearl necklace, pearl earrings. No stockings.

Mr. Obama: “Where’d my First Lady go?”

Mrs. Obama: “Right here,” stepping beside him, as it started to drizzle.

Mr. Obama pokes fun at the pool, whispering something to Reggie Love and Mrs. Obama, then looking at pool and saying: “We’re talking about how you guys are all waiting to write something down.”

First to arrive is an Allegheny County official who’s name your pooler didn’t get. (There’ll be a lot of that to come).

Then the mayor of Pittsburgh, Luke Ravenstahl and his wife.

Mr. Obama: “Hey Luke, sorry about those Steelers, man.”

Mr. Ravenstahl: “So am I.”

There’s a pause for a while between arrivals, and the First Couple turns to the pool for entertainment.

Mrs. Obama: “You guys are so quiet. Somebody should sing.”

Mr. Obama: “We should have music. Where’s the music?”

Then, “I’m teasing, Emmett, don’t freak out,” looking back at, presumably, the first Music Supplier.

Then, to Mrs. Obama: “No, don’t stress these guys out.”

Long interval, then more arrivals, the director general of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, the chairman of the Financial Stability Board, Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Doyle.

Mr. Obama is teasing Mrs. Obama. “You’re standing on the wrong side of me.” She moves to his other side. He says, “I’m just teasing.” She stares straight ahead with a smile.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives with his wife. They get a warm welcome from both Obamas, the warmest so far. There’s a lot of familiarity. Hugs, chats about daughters.

Meles Zenawi and his wife Azeb Mesfin arrive for the G20 Summit at the Pittsburgh International Airport in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania September 24, 2009. The G20 Summit will take place on September 24 and 25 Next is Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, stag. He gets familiarity, but not so much warmth.

Robert Zoellick, World Bank president, in a royal blue suit.

Ooh, next is South African President Jacob Zuma! Which wife did he bring? The youngest of course, Nompumelelo Ntuli, who puts her arm around Mrs. Obama and holds her hand during the photo op. Mrs. Obama tells Mr. Zuma that she expects him to solve the global economic mess “by Friday.”

Next arrives Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi, who clearly did something in the car to anger his wife because she glares at him, Mr. Obama, Mrs. Obama, and anyone unfortunate enough to cross her line of vision.

The Obamas both look slightly taken aback by her. Wonder what happened in the car? The Ethiopian First Couple are quickly dispatched inside.

Thankfully, Angela Merkel of Germany, arriving stag, comes down the non-red carpet next, exuding warmth, familiarity, and chattiness. She’s wearing a pantsuit.

It’s 7:07, the Obamas have been greeting for almost an hour.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon gets cordiality.

Australian head Kevin Rudd gets familiarity and warmth, and brings with him his wife, who brings with her the first cleavage of the evening, in a black suit with low low-cut top. Five-inch stilettos. “Kevin, you finally brought your better half,” says Mr. Obama.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is next, with his wife, Ermine, wearing the first hijab of the evening.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Mrs. Brown get hugs, kisses, more hugs, more kisses, handholding, you name it. Mrs. Brown holds Mr. Obama’s hand during the photo op. She’s the first woman to bring a handbag, a really cute black patent leather number with gold chain strap.

Prince Saud al Faisal of Saudi Arabia arrives stag.

President of Korea gets a mention because his wife is fabulous in a long dress that comes dangerously close to formal when everyone else is in cocktail attire.

Mr. Obama greets the Korean interpreter, then says to Mrs. Obama: “he’s the best-dressed interpreter.”

It’s 7:15 and here comes a fashion plate walking down the non-red carpet. It’s Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, resplendent in lavender silk suit with matching shoes and hair.

The Indonesian leader is next. Mr. Obama says “Selamat Malam.” Hah! Didn’t know your pooler could speak Indonesian, huh? The Indonesian First Lady is in a long silk tunic with a floor-length under skirt.

7:20 — Carla Bruni!!!!

Carla Bruni Sarkozy and Nicholas Sarkozy arrive. Sarko is wearing a suit. Carla Bruni is in a stunning black silk sheath dress, stops just below the knee. She’s holding a green wool scarf, and is wearing Christian Louboutins black evening shoes.

Mr. Obama kisses her four times. “I’m not going to get a chance to see you much.”

Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Sarkozy chat warmly. A lot of touching there too.

Hu Jintao comes stag.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell appears not to know that these days people kiss on both cheeks, not one, withdrawing from Mrs. Obama as she is leaning in to kiss his other cheek, so he has to come back in as she’s pulling back. Sigh.

Then he tells Mrs. Obama that Mr. Obama “inspired me when he made fun of me over cheesesteaks so I decided to lose weight.”

Mr. Obama says, “He just lost like 20 pounds.”

Russian President Dimitri Medvedev is next, with his wife, who is in an ultra bright peach cocktail suit with frills around the collar with matching earrings and taupe pumps.

Mr. Obama says to Mr. Medvedev: “Dimitri, come, we don’t have enough pictures together.”

Mrs. Obama tells Mr. Medvedev to “figure it out tonight.”

Then it’s Brazilian President Lula da Silva, with his wife, and, finally, at 7:50 p.m., Japan’s new Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, and his wife, Miyuki, back from Venus. She is in an elegant black suit with a bubble skirt and carries a burgundy shawl.

Mr. Obama hugs her.

“I’m sorry we were late,” she says.

ONLF Fighters Attack Woyanne Convoy

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

ONLF Fighters Attack Woyanne Convoy and other News. Watch below,

Ethiopia may offer the world next great grain, Teff

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

By SCOTT CANON | Kansas City Star

teff1NICODEMUS — A new “it” grain is blooming in the fields of northwestern Kansas. Teff has a ready-made market of Ethiopian expatriates hungering for a taste of home with virtually no supply of the grain for their beloved injera bread. Teff packs more protein per pound than wheat. And because it produces gluten-free flour, it could open a buffet line of breads and pastas to people with celiac disease.

It also can withstand drought and floods and, so far, it hasn’t fallen prey to pests that bedevil other Midwestern crops.

Ethiopians have long adored the grain, raising it by hand in their highlands and making it the country’s staple cereal.

“People will definitely buy it,” said 52-year-old Gillan Alexander, a Graham County farmer who is among those experimenting with a crop that is ancient in Africa but new to Kansas.

But can America reap its harvest?

A tiny grain

A grain of teff is only slightly larger than the period at the end of this sentence. Walk through a field that Gary Alexander — a cousin of Gillan’s — has planted in wheat, and all the challenges of mechanizing teff production begin to show.

Start with the ground. Squint closely enough and you see that some of the tiny reddish seeds have fallen to the dirt, lost for any chance of harvest. In fact, the word “teff” translates to “loss” in the Ethiopian language of Amarigna.

The grass has begun to shed its seeds partly because the plants have matured at dramatically different rates. Some are bright green shoots just starting out, while others are browning in retreat.

No sooner does it reach maturity than the soft stem bends over. Modern farmers call it lodging, and they don’t like it. They prefer crops with good posture that stand up for vacuum-like harvest machinery.

Teff has proved all the more troublesome because even at full growth, it can vary in height by a foot or more. When teff is harvested, far too much chaff ends up with the Lilliputian grain.

“You can tell how the Ethiopians get the seed by whacking at this stuff by hand,” 62-year-old Gary Alexander said. “I don’t think my hands will last that long.”

He has pieced together two-by-fours and window screen to devise a sieve, and it works well enough. So it’s possible, but not yet practical, to harvest teff commercially.

Efficiency lacking

Ethiopian farming of teff only supports a national per capita income of $800 a year. To make the payments on Kansas farmland, to cover the cost of 21st-century farm equipment and to leave a little profit at the end will require something more efficient.

“So far, it’s been too labor-intensive,” said Josh Coltrain of Cloud County Community College.

Coltrain has been hired by the Kansas Black Farmers Association to oversee a project paid for by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine whether teff has potential in America’s breadbasket.

Just a few hundred acres have been planted so far, scattered among several farmers in an area where one person sometimes tends more than 1,000 acres. Grants issued through the Solomon Valley Resource Conservation Development Area since the test plots were first planted in 2005 add up to less than $200,000.

The grain’s promise, Coltrain said, doesn’t come in its yields. Farmers can get perhaps three times as many bushels per acre from wheat. But the premium paid for teff — at a few health food stores and groceries that cater to African immigrants and to Ethiopian restaurants — could quickly make up for the smaller bounty.

“I get calls all the time from people wanting to buy it from us, mainly for Ethiopian restaurants and bakeries,” he said. “I have to tell them we haven’t got everything figured out yet.”

Coltrain thinks it ultimately will be a good Great Plains crop. It can withstand wild weather springs, and in many ways the dry spells common to western Kansas are similar to those in Ethiopia. The trick, he said, will be cross-breeding varieties that bring more uniformity to the plants and increase the amount of grain a teff plant produces.

‘Cotton candy for horses’

Teff’s cultivation dates at least to the 13th century B.C., and the grain today hasn’t changed much. By comparison, wheat, grain sorghum, corn and the other grains popular in this part of the world are finely tuned, sometimes genetically modified hybrids.

In the meantime, farmers and agricultural economists say teff looks worthwhile as a forage crop — cut for hay without bothering to harvest the seed.

“That’s a decent fallback,” said Bruce Anderson, a professor of agronomy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Teff tends to grow quickly enough to cut up to four times in a year and pack into bales. And for Kansas fields planted in fall for winter wheat, plant scientists said it makes a good rotation crop.

What’s more, the softer leaves and stems make it ideal for pampered livestock such as alpacas or llamas that sometimes have difficulty digesting hay, or end up with bloody snouts from eating rougher products.

“I call it cotton candy for horses,” Gary Alexander said. “They just love it.”

The push to bring the grain to Kansas began with Edgar Hicks, an official at the Nebraska State Grange who works with minority farmers. He hopes Nicodemus will be to American teff what the Champagne region of France is to sparkling wine.

Ethiopia: University of Wisconsin and AAU launch joint project

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

By Amy Bahr | UW

MADISON, WISCONSIN — The University of Wisconsin and Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia publicly launched their twinning project Wednesday, partnering to cooperatively confront the emergency medical services crisis in Ethiopia.

The partnership is facilitated by the Twinning Center, an organization that helps create relationships between institutions, and aims to improve the lives of people with HIV and AIDS.

According to Girma Tefera, associate professor of the UW department of surgery, the project is training four physicians and four nurse leaders this year to become the first emergency medicine faculty at Black Lion Hospital in Ethiopia, which works closely with Addis Ababa University.

“It’s a unique opportunity for the University of Wisconsin,” Tefera said.

He added the partnership is also working with People to People, an organization made of mostly health professionals and founded out of Ethiopia.

Donna Katen-Bahensky, president and CEO of the UW Hospital and Clinics, said the university has made a donation of $10,000 to the project.

According to Milliard Derbew, dean and medical faculty member at Addis Ababa University, the medical faculty at Addis Ababa was established in 1964 and now has 1,670 students enrolled in medical programs.

He said the university houses one of only eight medical programs in Ethiopia and it has recently increased its intake of medical students to meet the country’s growing needs.

“In Black Lion, we see 1,400 to 1,500 people a day. We’re trying our best with the limited resources we have.” Derbew said.

He went on to say the mission of the school’s research is not to establish scientific fulfillment, but rather wellness of the country.

Ethiopia has a projected population of 80 million, according to Derbew, and 84 percent of people live in rural areas. He said the country has a poor overall health status, with the life expectancy standing at 54 years.

He added young people make up almost half of the population, with 44 percent of people being under the age of 15.

Derbew’s proposed solution to the health crisis is to partner with universities like UW, as there are benefits for both sides.

He said the development of medicine is dependent on knowledge and one way to get knowledge is to work with others. For this reason, Addis Ababa University is currently working to establish partnerships with many universities.

He added he thinks the relationship with the UW will last a long time.

“The world is becoming very small,” Derbew said. “Whatever happens in Africa or Asia or anywhere will be a problem for the world.”

A daunting task lies ahead, but university leaders are willing to give it the best shot they can considering the drastic changes that are needed, Tefera said, adding he thinks they are off to a great start.

Savage Egypt police shoot another Ethiopian refugee

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Egyptian border guards shot and wounded a refugee from Ethiopia as he tried to cross illegally into Israel, police said Saturday.

The 20-year-old was trying to cross the border with a group of other migrants from several African countries when [the blood thirsty] border guards ordered them to stop. When the group failed to do so, police said, a border guard shot the Ethiopian man in the foot.

The man was taken to hospital in al-Arish, on Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip.

The rest of the Ethiopian’s party escaped into the Sinai desert, police said, adding that the wounded man had told them that he and the others in his group had paid $1,000 each to smugglers in exchange for help crossing the border into Israel.

Residents of towns near Egypt’s border with Israel, which stretches along 250 kilometers of desert, said they had noticed tighter security and heavier police presence along the border in recent days.

The shootings on the border have repeatedly drawn condemnation from international human rights groups.

“Attempted border crossings are not a capital offense,” said Joe Stork, associate Mideast director at the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch, after border guards killed four migrants on the border on September 9.

The London-based watchdog Amnesty International says nearly 40 migrants have been killed trying to cross into Israel from Egypt since 2008. Israeli groups say thousands more have succeeded in crossing illegally.

Dutch agency stops adoption from Ethiopia pending investigation

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

(UAI News) — A large adoption agency in the Netherlands, Wereldkinderen, has temporarily stopped adoptions from Ethiopia as a result recent reports about abuse of the system by the government in Ethiopia and local adoption agencies.

Research done by the adoption agency, shows that the information about the children on file does not match with their actual back ground. In several cases the mothers of the children were still alive, while being listed as deceased.

Last month Wereldkinderen’s executive director Ina Hut, resigned because of intimidation by the Dutch Ministry of Justice in relation to corrupt adoption practices in China.

Euradopt partner Wereldkinderen was alerted of this news and started their own investigation, a task which the Dutch government should have done as member of the Hague Treaty for Adoption.

The Dutch government said it has nothing to do with this situation. At least not before Wereldkinderen finalised their investigation regarding the adoptions from Ethiopia. This is a remarkable comment from the Dutch authorities since they prohibited the proposal for investigation in China recently, which is one of the reasons why former director of this agency decided to resign. It might be, that the interest for trade and diplomatic relationships with Ethiopia is less important for the Dutch government as with China.

This weekend 3-5 couples where preparing to depart to Ethiopia but have been informed not to go.

Ethiopia: Many women's lives defined by the need to fetch water

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

By Don Cayo | The Vancouver Sun

ethiopian woman carry waterThe theory is simple: If you provide easier access to water, the scarce and essential resource that demands so much of women’s time in a dry country like Ethiopia, you loosen the bonds of drudgery that hold them down.

It doesn’t always work out quite that simply, or that quickly, as is made plainin a two-page Vancouver Sun story by Joshua Hergesheimer. He looks unblinkingly at the challenge that remains — affecting meaningful social change, despite a Canadian NGO’s great success in bringing clean, accessible water to villages whose women’s lives have been defined by the need to fetch and carry, and whose children have often died from water-borne disease.

Hergesheimer’s story, accessible here and well worth the read, interests me for another reason, too. He traveled to Ethiopia and wrote the story on a scholarship grant available to students of the Langara College journalism program in Vancouver.

Aside from its principle funder, the Canadian International Development Agency, this grant program has nothing to do with the Seeing the World Through New Eyes fellowship program for young working journalists that I help to run. But it does share a common goal — exposing young Canadian writers to the gripping issues of mass poverty around the world, and bringing home compelling stories for Canadian readers.

At a time when newsroom resources in Canada are stretched thin and travel budgets have shrivelled, I think this kind of program takes on even more importance than in past. So I’m delighted to see Langara take on the challenge of providing this kind of opportunity to its students, and delighted that Hergesheimer was able to use it so well.

To link to some posts and columns on the Jack Webster Foundation fellowship I work with and our pending trip to Africa, and to some of the stories done by the young working journalists on our last trip to Latin America, click here.

Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie wins Berlin Marathon for the 4th time

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

BERLIN (CBS Sports) — World-record holder Haile Gebrselassie has won the Berlin Marathon for the fourth straight time despite struggling in the last third of a race run in sunny, warm weather.

The Ethiopian was on a pace to break his record for the first 18 miles on Sunday but slowed once his last pacemaker dropped out. Gebrselassie was gritting his teeth by the time he finished under the Brandenburg Gate in 2 hours, 6 minutes, 8 seconds.

Last year, Gebrselassie became the first man to run under 2 hours, 4 minutes, finishing in 2:03:59 to slash 27 seconds off his previous mark.

Francis Kiprop of Kenya was second in 2:07.03 and Negari Therfa of Ethiopia was third in 2:07.41.

Atsede Besuye of Ethiopia won the women’s race in 2:24.47.

Ethiopians to represent Bahrain in Arab Athletics Championships

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

By PATRICK SALOMON | Gulf Daily News

BAHRAIN have named an 18-member team to compete at the 16th Arab Athletics Championships, which is set to take place from October 6 to 9 in Damascus.

The Bahrain Athletics Association (BAA) confirmed the squad last night after finalising the roster during a board meeting on Saturday.

The nationals will be bannered by several elite athletes who had also represented the kingdom at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin last month. They include Belal Mansoor Ali, Tareq Mubarak Taher, Mohammed Yousef Al Shehabi, Stephen Kamar, Khaled Kamal Yaseen and Mimi Belete (a native of Ethiopia).

World champions Maryam Yusuf Jamal and Youssef Saad Kamel were among the top names not included on the team.

Belal will be contesting the men’s 800 metres and 1,500m; Taher the men’s 3,000m steeplechase; Al Shehabi the men’s triple jump and 4x100m relay; Kamar and Yaseen the men’s half-marathon; and Mimi the women’s 800m and 1,500m events.

Each of the leading Bahraini talents could not claim a medal at the world championships, although Belal and Taher came close as finalists in their respective events.

The team’s other athletes among the men include Mohammed Sanad (100m and 4x100m relay), Mohammed Farhan (100m and 4x100m relay), Salem Nasser (high jump and 4x100m relay), Hassan Mahboob (5,000m) and promising youngster Alemu Bekele (a native of Ethiopia) (1,500m and 5,000m).

Alemu Bekele is being widely tipped to be the next Kenenisa Bekele, having a similar running style as his multi-titled world record-holding namesake of Ethiopia. They also both originate from the same hometown.

On the distaff, Mimi is among eight women on the Bahrain team. The others include Faten Abdulnabi (100m, 200m, 4x100m relay), Fatima Fufallah (100m hurdles, 4x100m relay), Sabrine Yousef (4x100m relay), Fatima Aamer (100m, 200m and 4x100m relay), Gladys Cherotich Kibiwot (10,000m), Tejitu Daba Chalchissa (5,000m) and Shitaye Eshete Habtegebrel (5,000m).

“We have quite a strong team, and we hope our athletes’ potential can translate into victories,” BAA technical manager Lounes Madene told the GDN.

“All the top Arab nations in athletics will be competing, so it will be a heated competition even for our best athletes. But we are confident in their abilities and we look forward to them winning medals for Bahrain.”

Bahrain’s stiffest challenges are expected to come from the likes of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Jordan, Yemen, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to name a few.

The previous edition of the championships took place in Amman in 2007, when star sprinter Ruqaya Al Ghasra was the leading figure on the Bahrain team. The nationals went on to win five gold medals from a total of 16, as they finished third overall behind Morocco who had 16 golds and Saudi who had six.

Ethiopian book ignites scorn, outrage among Egyptologists

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Egyptologists Debate Book’s Claims of Amara and Akele-Gezai Founding Ancient Gebts

After the release of the new book, “Amarigna & Tigrigna Qal Hieroglyphs for Beginners,” Egyptologists at the HallofMaat.com Egyptology forum have begun debating the book’s revolutionary claims that ancient Amara and Akele-Gezai merchants founded ancient Gebts. The book, available on Amazon.com and at the publisher’s site (books.ancientgebts.org), is an introduction to Amarigna and Tigrigna written in hieroglyphs dating as far back as 5100 years ago. Its claims go against nearly everything that has been written about Amarigna, Tigrigna, as well as ancient Gebts.

“The ancient Gebts language is generally considered to be a ‘dead’ language by Egyptologists,” says Legesse Allyn, the book’s author, “so I can see how they couldn’t quite understand why I would claim it to be surviving in two living languages, Amarigna and Tigrigna, spoken by over 30 million people today. Even Ethiopians and Eritreans believe Amarigna and Tigrigna to be only several thousand years old,” he says. “It just must have been a real surprise for everybody to read that the founding languages of ancient Gebts came from ancient merchants traveling to Gebts from today’s regions of Ethiopia and Eritrea.”

Legesse goes on to say how interesting the debate at the HallofMaat.com forum is. “The Egyptologists there, more than anything, sound outraged and even personally insulted that the ancient Gebts language could be attributed to ancestors of today’s Eritreans and Ethiopians,” he states. “They kept telling me I had to prove to them this or that, when by learning Amarigna and Tigrigna for themselves, they can prove to themselves the validity of my research findings.”

According to Legesse, the purpose of the book is not for everyone just to simply say, “Okay, he’s right.” The book is meant to lead Ethiopians and Eritreans to learning to read hieroglyphs and for Egyptologists to learn the Amarigna and Tigrigna languages — to help understand what happened
5100 years ago in ancient Gebts. And reading the postings in the forum, at least one of the forum’s Egyptologists posts that she is now, in fact, learning Amarigna for that very purpose.

“Not only are Egyptologists learning Amarigna and Tigrigna,” Legesse says, “but it seems that everyday I receive e-mails from enthusiastic Ethiopians and Eritreans who tell me they have bought the book and are now learning to read hieroglyphs. Nobody, it seems, wants to be left behind, especially Eritreans and Ethiopians who are snapping up the book in both its print and instant downloadable version.”

(For more information or to buy the book visit ancientgebts.com)

Ethiopia: ONLF denied it is helping Somalia's Al Shaabab

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – An Ethiopian rebel group, Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), denied on Tuesday it is helping Islamist militants in neighbouring Somalia who are waging a violent rebellion against the country’s U.N.-backed government.

Al Shaabab, the main rebel group that Washington says is al Qaeda’s proxy in Somalia, on Sunday seized control of Yeed town on the border with Ethiopia from Somali government forces in fighting that killed at least 14 people.

A local governor said militiamen from the Ethiopian Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) helped al Shaabab drive out government forces in the attack.

But the ONLF denied the reports of cooperation.

“The Ogaden National Liberation Front has no relationship whatsoever with al Shaabab, which on several occasions has assassinated ONLF members,” it said in a statement.

“ONLF does not interfere in the internal affairs of Somalia and in fact has so far supported the new transitional government, although aware of the deep involvement of Ethiopia with some warlords working with the current government.”

Ethiopia entered Somalia in late 2006 to topple an Islamist movement in the capital Mogadishu. The intervention sparked an insurgency that is still raging despite the fact Ethiopian troops pulled out in January. ONLF said the report linking it with al Shaabab was a plot by Addis Ababa to discredit it.

Regional analysts say the ONLF and al Shaabab gunmen have clashed on the border several times in recent years.

Ethiopia denounces the ONLF — which demands independence for the ethnic Somali eastern Ogaden region — as a terrorist group supported by long-time archrival Eritrea.

Ethiopia and Somalia have a long history of hostilities over Ogaden and fought a war over the region in the 1907s.

Foreign oil and gas companies have long eyed the Ogaden which they believe may be rich in mineral deposits.

The rebels warned companies last week against exploring the region. In 2007, the ONLF attacked an oil exploration field owned by a subsidiary of Sinopec, China’s biggest petrochemicals producer.

The separatist cause has been fuelled by the region’s low level of development. Until Chinese engineers arrived in the remote region in 2007, the entire area had only 30 km (20 miles) of tarmac road. (Editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura and Jon Hemming)

Ethiopians in Ohio to confront Meles Zenawi in Pittsburgh

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Ethiopians in Columbus, Ohio, are preparing to join Ethiopian brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh to confront Ethiopia’s brutal tyrant Meles Zenawi during the G-20 Summit this week.

The G-20 Summit is scheduled to be held from September 24-25 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The organizers, March 4 Freedom, Democracy and Justice in Ethiopia, are calling on all Ethiopians to join them in a bus trip to Pittsburgh.

The organizers also call on all Ethiopians in the Washington DC area, Philadelphia and other nearby states and cities to join them in Pittsburgh.

For more info, call 614 432 2414 or 614 209 5228

What's wrong with Ethiopia's exchange

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

By Wondwossen Mezlekia

The Economist magazine describes the Ethiopian government as “one of the most economically illiterate in the modern world.”i This portrayal, albeit contentious, is not without truth. But, the government’s recent meddling in the coffee trade has to do more with the government’s socialist-inspired economic policies than economics per se. As if to prove this, Venezuela’s Chavez, another diehard socialist, just took actions similar to what Prime Minister Meles Zenawi did earlier this year. Last week, President Hugo Chavez accused the country’s largest coffee producers, Fama de America and Cafe Madrid, of smuggling coffee out of Venezuela to circumvent government coffee controls and vowed to nationalize they refuse to heed. Chavez was quoted as saying “if they give me an excuse, I’ll nationalize them.”ii

This must be why some critics questioned the viability of a free commodity exchange in Ethiopia. But, technically, commodity exchanges can exist as viable institutions even under tyrannical governments. In fact, the only successful cash commodity exchange with spot delivery in Africa was the one in Zimbabwe. Studies show, Zimbabwe Agricultural Commodity Exchange (ZACE) was a viable exchange, until it closed in 2003 due to monetary instability, and operated successfully with its total costs covered by member subscriptions of brokers. The former coffee auction system in Ethiopia is another example. So, what went wrong with the USAID funded Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX)?

Dr. Eleni Gebre-Medhin says the exchange is a response to the paradox of “bumper harvest one year and severe shortages the next, or surpluses in one region and famine in another.” If so, what’s coffee got to do with famine? Is ECX delivering on its promises?

The bumper harvest-famine paradigm

Ethiopians who watched the state owned Ethiopian Television programs in years 1995 through 1997 vividly recall the infomercials about Sasakawa Global 2000 (SG2000) and the video clips of Meles Zenawi and the former US President, Jimmy Carter visiting certain corn fields.

SG 2000, a joint program of Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) and the Carter Center’s Global 2000, is an agricultural growth program that promotes the potential of improved food crop technologies through field demonstration. SG2000’s success stories in other countries were so appealing that the government adopted it right away. Increasing food production was a top priority for the government, so it was anxious to see SG2000 do its magic. The massive campaign to convince farmers to use fertilizers and improved seeds paid off pretty quickly and many farmers were provided with the inputs on a credit basis to be repaid at the first harvest. During the following season (1996/97), food growing regions saw a record high production due to the favorable rains and use of improved farm inputs. But, the excitement lasted for barely a few weeks as prices plummeted with supply surpassing domestic demand. Many farmers, deep in debt, defaulted on their credits. On the other hand, the rest of the country was in dire need of food and millions of people starved during the same year.

It turns out, ones bumper harvest won’t mean food to the other if the people cannot afford to pay for it. In Ethiopia, millions die of hunger not because they didn’t know where to buy food, but because they didn’t have the means to buy with. In any case, these are the historical events that Dr. Eleni talks about when selling the idea of a commodity exchange.

According to her, ECX will help eradicate famine by facilitating the distribution of commodities in an efficient manner. She argues, event at times like during 1996/1997, grain traders are unwilling to transport stocks to drought stricken regions because of lack of price information and/or the inherent high risk of doing so; those traders who braved to defy all the odds have realized net losses. In brief, by reducing marketing risks and providing merchants with real time price information, ECX can help facilitate ease of transaction and enhance competition. By so doing, commodities can be distributed across regions, reaching a larger consumer base at competitive prices. Further, says Dr. Eleni, ECX can double the value of the domestic market over five years assuming it captures 40% of the domestic market that is estimated at $l billion in value and adds a mere 25% value to it.

ECX came into existence in May, 2008 with able experts in the field and an aim to trade more than 25 agricultural commodities, mainly grain and pulse. The exchange was off to a rough start, as its commencement coincided with an unexpected sharp rise in domestic and global prices for commodities. There was a shortage of grains flowing through the exchange. The shortage persists to date.

After a series of interesting events, in December 2008, ECX evolved into a coffee exchange, no explanation given. Today, the most traded commodity at ECX is coffee, not grain. ECX has replaced the old coffee auction center, not to conduct a forward trade which would have been an improvement, but to do the same old spot auction with an electronic warehouse receipt system.

ECX, there’s a slave in my coffee bag!

With ECX taking over the coffee auction, the government emerged out as the main player in the market for the first time in the history of the coffee sector. All of the successive governments (the imperial, the military regime, and the current one) depended on coffee for export but only the current government dared to control the marketing system for coffee. This arbitrary move exposes the dark side of coffee trade in Ethiopia and ECX’s role as a facilitator.

For so long, the government has been oblivious to the fact that coffee farmers are hurting because of the mandatory export. In Ethiopia, it is illegal to sell export grade coffee beans in local markets; only second and third grade coffees are sold locally. Global prices for export grade coffee are determined at the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and are generally less than domestic prices. For example, last week (Sept 19), a pound of coffee was sold at Merkato Buna Tera, the central coffee market in Addis Ababa, for 27 Birr or roughly $2.20 whereas the same volume of export grade coffee was traded at ECX for an average of 18 Birr or roughly $1.47. Coffee farmers and traders would better off selling their coffee stocks in domestic markets. The difference between local and export prices (in the above example, a difference of 15 Birr or $.73 per pound) is an obligatory duty imposed on participants. The governments (past and present) have never felt obliged to compensate farmers or traders for the benefit they forgo due to this export regulation.

In one of her interview on Voice of America’s Amharic Service, Dr. Eleni said, a market is deemed free if people can sell their produce whenever, where ever, and to whomever they want at whatever price they please. In that sense, she said, the coffee trade in Ethiopia is free. If so, since it is now known that the government is actually dictating the coffee trade, shouldn’t it compensate exporters and farmers for the money they lost due to the mandatory export? That is exactly what the governments of Colombia and Brazil did in 2007iii. These governments subsidized coffee growers for the price differential when the rally in the local currency eroded export profits. After all, why should citizens be responsible for the government’s inability to create favorable sources of foreign exchange or limit its needs for it? This legal exploitation of poor farmers is exacerbated by ECX’s new system because the system eliminates direct trade – the only system that pays farmers extra pennies for their hard work – and gives the government more power and means to control the value chain.

In recent years, the increased demand for Specialty coffee opened up opportunities for farmers that grow the finest coffees. Importers sourcing single origin coffee often pay farmers premium prices over NYMEX prices for the highest quality. Specialty coffee importers make direct contacts with growers to ensure the highest possible level of quality and integrity for the coffee beans they want to buy. The introduction of ECX’s hasty coffee trade system, however all but eliminates this direct trade between importers and farmers. The only farmers that are allowed to bypass the exchange are cooperatives and commercial farms. Since only less than 10% of the farmers are organized in cooperatives, the new system subjects the individual farmers to adverse competition. These farmers are now allowed to sell their produce at the NYMEX commodity prices only.

On top of this, the government commands the majority sit in ECX’s Board of Directors. Currently, only 18% (2 out of 11) of the directors are private business owners; the rest represent government interests. The parastatals, Guna Trading and Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise, are now the most influential forces in the market as they enjoy preferential policy treatment over their competitors. Granted, these parastatals will use their leverage to lower their purchasing prices in order to maximize their profits.

Under these circumstances, it is difficult to see how ECX maintains synergy and serve as a fair and free marketplace to all.
Commodity exchange for coffee

The former coffee auction system has been functioning very well and successfully operated in three successive governments. It would have been wise to enhance the existing system rather than starting one from the scratch. For that matter, the auction was prepared to make gradual upgrades to an electronic warehouse receipt system and eventually to a forward trade. The decision to replace the auction by ECX was completely political and not in the best interest of the sector. The government’s allegation that some of the suppliers and exporters had diverted coffee beans meant for export to local markets or that they hoarded coffee stocks in search of better prices is an excuse. Smuggling will continue to be a problem as long as there exists price disparity between local and export markets. Replacing the auction centers by ECX won’t solve the root causes of the problem.

In countries where coffee is traded in a commodity exchange, coffee trade is conducted separate from other agricultural commodities. In Uganda, the operation of electronic warehouse receipt system and coffee exchange are supported by a two independent institutions: the Uganda Commodity Exchange (UCE) and Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA). These institutions work together to promote a fair and transparent exchange. In Kenya, the coffee exchange is an independent operation that is managed by an association of direct stakeholders. The Kenya Coffee Producers and Traders Association (KCPTA) owns and manages the Nairobi Coffee Exchange (NCE). Another unique feature of the NCE is that it has a separate and smooth direct sale operation for Specialty coffee where marketing agents directly negotiate with foreign buyers. This system, also known as the “Second Window” is separate from bulk commodity trading.

To fix the problems with ECX, first, the coffee exchange needs to be separated from ECX’s broader functions as an agricultural commodity exchange and it should allow full participation of the stakeholders (from farmers to exporters.) Second, to take advantage of the price differential for Specialty coffees, and until most of the farmers are organized in cooperatives, the exchange ought to allow individual farmers to transact freely and directly with ultimate buyers who will enter into agreements with farmers and limit ECX’s role as a third-party certifier to coffee stocks that are not associated with such a direct buyer. Lastly, to do away with the problems associated with coffee smuggling and to encourage the production of high quality coffee, the government ban on domestic trade that requires selling export grade coffee at a loss should be lifted or accompanied by monetary incentives from the government.

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

'Ethnic Federalism' Could Lead to Election Violence in Ethiopia

Monday, September 21st, 2009

By Omer Redi

ADDIS ABABA (IPS) – Criticised as system of dividing and ruling people according to their ethnic groups, Ethiopia’s federalism has become a bone of contention.

A recent international report warns if this system, and the resultant lack of governance, continues the entire Horn of Africa could be destabilised.

The report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned that unless the ruling coalition, Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), Tigrean People’s Liberation Front improved governance it would risk ethnic conflict from the over 70 different ethnic groups in the country during the 2010 federal and regional elections. The ICG also cautioned the entire Horn of Africa could be destabilised because of the expected conflict.

But Ethiopia’s Prime Minster ethnic warlord, who has been in power for 18 years and who is expected to stand for another five-year term of office, has dismissed the report. “The report is not worth the price of writing it up,” Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said.

But not everyone is in agreement. The opposition have denounced the system of ethnic federalism as a way for the EPRDF to stay in power, while academics have said that it is a system that remains impossible to implement.

The opposition has agreed with the report saying that there is a high probability for ethnic conflict in the upcoming elections.

“The system (of rule) has not satisfied neither those who supported federalism nor the ones who opposed it,” Dr. Merera Gudina told IPS. Merera is Co-Chair of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC). The Oromo ethnic group is the country’s largest. “This unfair and undemocratic system dominated by one (Tigrayan) ethnic group (the strong base of the ruling part) will lead to crisis. That is why I think ICG’s report is prepared with superior understanding of the realities in Ethiopia.”

Ethnic federalism is a system of administration where regional states – formed based on geographical settlement of ethnic groups – share part of their power with a central government to run their collective affairs on their behalf.

The EPRDF introduced the federal administrative system over 14 years ago when it established the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. This was three years after it ousted the Derg, the dictatorial communist government, concluding 17 years of civil war.

The report stated that despite the structure crafted for decentralised administration, because the EPRDF has power in all the regions, it controls all matters. In effect the regions do not have actual power and they don’t actually govern themselves, the report noted.

The ICG alleges the system has increased ethnic polarisation in Ethiopia. “Ethnic federalism has not dampened conflict, but rather increased competition among groups fighting for land, natural resources, administrative boundaries and government budgets”, says François Grignon, ICG’s Africa Program Director. “This concept has powerfully promoted ethnic self-awareness among all groups and failed to accommodate grievances,” he said.

The report stated that while ethnic federalism was initially greeted with enthusiasm by Ethiopia’s people, it has failed to resolve the country’s national issue – “a democratic country free of any dominance by any ethnic group”.

“Instead it generates greater conflict at local level, as ethnic groups fight over political influence. That policy has empowered some groups but has not been accompanied by dialogue and reconciliation on grievances over past misdeeds,” the report stated.

But government denies this and believes that Ethiopia is now a more united state than before. It boasts that previously marginalised communities now enjoy self governance and control their own resources and have better access to public services.

According to the new constitution the country is divided into 9 regions based on the geographical settlement of ethnic groups, and two chartered administrations (Addis Ababa city and Diredawa town) both with mixed-ethnic population.

The Federal Government is responsible for national defence, foreign relations, and general policies of common interests and benefits. Regional States are vested with legislative, executive and judicial powers for self-administration.

However, the regional governments have serious constraints from lack of adequate financial and human resources to effectively carry out the management of decentralised administration and development.

Some opposition politicians criticise the system as a “divide-and-rule” approach the EPRDF devised to ensure it will not be challenged.

“The only thing EPRDF’s federalism has achieved is that it helped the party hold tight grip on the people through divide-and-rule system,” said Merera, who is also a professor of Political Science and International Relations at the Addis Ababa University. Though Merera says OFC supports genuine federalism, he strongly opposes Ethiopia’s current system saying it is neither negotiated by the people nor does it have a democratic content.

“It is a system EPRDF redrew Ethiopia the way it wanted simply because it came to power,” he told IPS.

Political analysts including the current Dean and professor at the Addis Ababa University, Department of Political Science and International Relations, Dr. Yaekob Arsano, critically opposed the federal system when it was tabled for discussion almost 16 years ago.

“Ethnic federalism is neither politically correct nor technically possible to apply in Ethiopia’s context,” he had said.

A core argument against ethnic federalism is that considering the intermarriage among most ethnic groups in Ethiopia, “it is impossible to clearly define and demarcate regional boundaries”.

The ICG report concluded that economic growth and the expansion of public services are to the EPRDF’s credit, but they increasingly fail to translate into popular support from the people.

As opposition parties gear up to challenge the EPRDF in the June 2010 elections, many fear a violent crackdown by the government, similar to the intimidation, harassment and violence experienced by opposition parties during the 2005 elections, ICG alleges.

In the aftermath of the May 2005 elections, a wave of violence between opposition protestors and government forces erupted and more than 200 people were killed. Following that some opposition accused the government of harassing some people for belonging to a certain ethnic group.

But Degife Bula, Speaker of Ethiopia’s House of Federation has said the “report has not considered the actual context in Ethiopia at all”.

The House of Federation is the highest institution on matters of the federal system and was formed with at least one representative from each ethnic group.

But Degife blames the ICG for not seeking comments from the House of Federation while compiling a report on issue that is completely under its jurisdiction. “They [ICG] have prepared the report with information collected from researches of smaller scopes by such institutions like NGOs and media organisations here and there,” Degife told IPS.

The House of Federation is formally mandated to deal with nationality issues and federal-regional relations, but it meets only twice a year and lacks the authority to effectively mitigate ethnic conflicts; it has been reluctant to approve referendums to decide the status of disputed localities, according to ICG.

In conclusion ICG suggests that the current federal system may need to be modified, but it is unlikely Ethiopia can return to the old unitary state system.

“The international community has ignored or downplayed the problems. Some donors consider food security more important than democracy in Ethiopia. In view of the mounting ethnic awareness and political tensions created by the regionalisation policy, however, external actors would be well advised to take the governance problems more seriously and adopt a more principled position towards the Meles Zenawi government,” ICG says.

Ethiopia rebels denounce "silence" on violation of rights

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Against the “silence” of the world and regional organizations that offer aid “without reacting to the suffering and human rights violations of the rights of local populations” the National front for the liberation of Ogaden (ONLF) has threatened to resume attacks against the facilities of international oil majors in the area.

Although presumably they would be the ones to cause the damage, the ONLF is hedging suggesting that it “will not be responsible for the collateral damage caused to existing infrastructure” in a communiqué issued by the movement which reminds all concerned that “Ogaden is a war zone where no business activities should be carried out”.

The ONLF uses harsh tones toward the UN and the Security Council in particular, which is described as “lackadaisical is looking after the local people’s right to self determination” and “deaf” toward calls to defend the rights violated by the Ethiopian government tribal junta in Ethiopia. – MISNA

Ethiopia's dictator is outraged at ethnic violence cliam

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

By Barry Malone

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s prime minister tribal junta leader has denounced a think-tank report that warned his country could descend into ethnic violence ahead of its first national election since a 2005 poll triggered deadly street clashes.

In a study last week, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said there was a risk of conflict ahead of the ballot scheduled for May 2010 because of rising ethnic tensions and dissent.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi rejected that.

“Some people have too many billions of dollars to spend and they feel that dictating how developing countries manage their affairs is their God-given right,” he said late on Wednesday.

“We have only contempt for the ICG.”

The Horn of Africa nation’s last elections four years ago were touted as its first truly democratic polls. But they ended in protests and bloodshed after the government declared victory and the opposition accused it of rigging the result.

Police and soldiers killed about 200 people who had taken to the streets to demonstrate. At the time, Meles accused the protesters of trying to topple his government.

CRITICISES OPPOSITION

Rights groups regularly accuse Ethiopia’s government of cracking down on political opponents. One party leader has been jailed and several former and serving military officers have been charged in recent months with plotting a coup.

In a news conference on Wednesday, Meles defended the country’s system of “ethnic federalism”, under which major ethnic groups control the regions where they are the majority. He said it had saved the giant nation from splitting apart.

“The country was on the brink of total disintegration,” the prime minister said. “Every analyst worth his salt was suggesting that Ethiopia will go the way of Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union. What we have now is a going-concern.”

Meles has started talks with the opposition about a code of conduct for the next poll. But the main coalition of opposition parties said last week it had walked out of the discussions and that its potential candidates were being jailed and harassed.

“Those parties that apparently are concerned about harassment are not concerned enough to participate in the devising of a code of conduct that is designed to put an end to it, if it exists, or to prevent it if it doesn’t,” Meles said.

“The intent of these individuals is to discredit the election process from day one, not to participate in it.”

(Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Ethiopia's Haile Gebreselassie eyes Olympic marathon gold in 2012

Friday, September 18th, 2009

BERLIN (AFP) — Ethiopian world record holder Haile Gebreselassie said on Friday that he is aiming for Olympic gold in the marathon at the 2012 London Games.

“I have two plans,” said the 36-year-old. “Breaking the world record is one thing and to win the Olympic title (in 2012). This is a very important thing for me. I have no other distance, only marathon.”

The Ethiopian missed out on both the marathon at the Beijing Olympics last summer, because of his fears over pollution in the Chinese capital, and the race in last month’s World Athletics Championships in Berlin, in order to rest up for Saturday’s Berlin marathon.

The two-time Olympic champion at 10,000m — in 1996 and 2000 — is eyeing a fourth consecutive victory in the race around the streets of the German capital and insisted he was not overly concerned by his rivals, namely Duncan Kibet of Kenya.

“I am fit, I cannot say anything on what will happen during the race or if a new world record will be set,” he said of the marathon that ends under the Brandenburg Gate.

“I don’t think just about Kibet. Others competitors are one thing in marathon, but the most important thing is the distance.”

Kibet has set a season’s best of 2hr 04min 27sec, just off Gebreselassie’s own world record of 2:03:59 set at last year’s Berlin marathon.

Kenenisa Bekele vs. Usain Bolt: Who wins?

Friday, September 18th, 2009

By Jimson Lee

(SpeedEndurance.com) — Why on earth would Kenenisa Bekele and Usain Bolt race each other at 600 meters is beyond me.  If anything, it would help promote Bekele as he is not a household name as compared to Bolt, despite his amazing accomplishments.  If you don’t believe me, just go to your office and ask around if they know who “Usain Bolt” is.  Then ask about Kenenisa Bekele..

To me, Kenenisa Bekele is the modern day Miruts Yifter “the Shifter”.  (Google his name if  you do not recognize it)

But let’s look at the facts.

Bekele is known to finish the last lap in 52 or 53 seconds in a 5K or 10K race.  Bekele even recorded a 200 m segment during the last lap in 24 seconds, so a sub 50 400m PB is possible once he got his legs going.

One thing is certain… Kenenisa Bekele’s PB for 1500m is 3:32.35 (2007), and Usain Bolt’s PB is 19.19 for 200m (2009) and 45.28 (2007) as a 20 year old when main focus was the 200 that year.

I believe these 2 great runners can run as low as 1:16 (don’t worry, the WR is 1:12)

Of course, these are just my theoretical numbers on how they could split:

Kenenisa Bekele:  52 + 24 = 76 (1:16)

Usain Bolt:  24 + 25 + 26 = 75 (1:15)

I once ran a 600m indoor PB of 1:21.91 with splits of 25, 26, 30 when my PB was 23 and 50 indoors for the 200/400 respectively.

According to the study High-speed running performance: a new approach to assessment and prediction by Matthew Bundle, Reed Hoyt, and Peter Weyand, 80 seconds is the approximately the intersection where sprinters and distance runners meet based on a model to predict your performance based on speed reserve.

You can download the PDF file here.

What is Heck is Speed Reserve?

I touched on the topic of speed reserve in 2 articles (speed reserve Part 1 and speed reserve Part 2)

Speed Reserve, or Anaerobic Speed Reserve (ASR), is simply the difference between your maximum speed and your maximum aerobic speed.

The concept is simple:

The faster your top end speed, the faster your sub-max speed (or aerobic speed).

In the study, they were trying to find a correlation between your maximum speed and your maximum aerobic speed.

The basis of the study was to come up with a theoretical framework in predicting performance based on speed reserve using 2 simple tests of 3 second (maximum speed) and up to 240 second run (maximum aerobic speed). In summary, without reading the entire article and falling asleep, or requiring a Masters degree in Statistics, the authors came up with a mathematical model to predict your performance based on speed reserve.

To test their theory, they used known PRs from Michael Johnson and Sebastian Coe. What is interesting is another “what if” scenario: that is, “what if” Johnson ran an 800 meters? If you followed the T&FN forums in the past, there was so much “fantasy league” message boards postings about Jeremy Wariner moving up to the 800 meters, and possibly smashing the 1:40 minute barrier (the magical 100 second barrier for the 800 meters)

The example below shows the lines intersecting at around 80 seconds, with Coe having the slight edge in the 800 meters (at around 100 seconds).

Now, Usain Bolt is no MJ, and Kenenisa Bekele is certainly no Sebastian Coe (in terms of middle distance), but the PB times are relatively “close” given the statistical nature of the plotted results.

And again, all this is just plain theory.  Once they lace their spikes and toe the line, only then we will be certain who will win unless one gets injured (** cough cough Michael Johnson cough cough **).

In theory, Bolt (or the sprinter) would have a very slight edge.  650 meters would be a fairer distance.

As far as the winner goes, well, both are going to be winners in their wallets.  Bekele will benefit with the extra publicity.  And this event will take us one step closer for Track and Field becoming an entertainment rather than a sport.

Ethiopia: Possible epic battle Berlin between Haile and Duncan

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

BERLIN, GERMANY -Berlin Marathon will mark the start of a series of great races at the classic distance this autumn and it should open the season in style on Sunday, September 20.

Haile Gebreselassie One of the prestigious World Marathon Majors (WMM) races the marathon in the German capital will see a highly anticipated duel: World record holder Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia/2:03:59) will be up against Duncan Kibet (Kenya), who holds the fastest time this year with 2:04:27. In the women’s race Askale Tafa Magarsa (Ethiopia) is regarded as the favourite after her second place in Berlin in 2008.

The real, Berlin Marathon is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.

A record number of 40,923 runners from 122 nations have entered the 36th edition of the race. Around one million people are expected to line the course. Due to the German general elections on Sunday 27 September the marathon had to be moved forward one week. This could result in warmer weather conditions than usual. And the present weather forecasts suggest temperatures of up to 25° Celsius on Sunday.

Men’s Race: Haile Gebrselassie targets World record

So far three runners have achieved times of sub 2:04:30 in the marathon. Two of them will be at the start on Sunday. World record holder Haile Gebrselassie will line up as the defending champion in this race. The Ethiopian improved his own personal best to 2:03:59 last year. His strongest competitors will be Kenya’s Duncan Kibet (2:04:27).

So it could well be a top-class competition for victory in the men’s race. 36-year old Gebrselassie will once again be chasing superlatives at the 36th edition of the marathon in the German capital: for the third consecutive time he wants to set a World record. In 2007 he had crossed the line in 2:04:26, then he was 27 seconds faster in 2008. Already after last year’s race Berlin crowd favourite Gebrselassie had said that he thinks an improvement of at least half a minute is possible for him. Another Berlin victory would also be his fourth in a row at this race. This would be another record as no other runner has ever won Germany’s most spectacular road race more than three times.

But on Sunday it will probably be Gebrselassie’s hardest marathon race in Berlin so far. When Paul Tergat was here in May for the 25k race and was asked in an interview who of his fellow Kenyans might be able to break Gebrselassie’s World record he named four: Olympic Champion Sammy Wanjiru, Martin Lel, James Kwambai and – Duncan Kibet.

The 31-year-old Kibet has come as close as anyone else to Gebrselassie’s world record when he took the Rotterdam Marathon in a Kenyan record of 2:04:27 this April. So Kibet might also be able to run sub 2:04 in Berlin if conditions are good, he is in top form and we must hope a fast non-tactical duel with Gebrselassie develops.

“I feel honoured to be able to run against Haile Gebrselassie,” said Duncan Kibet during Thursday’s press conference in Berlin. My training went very well and I think it is a very good sign that my training partner James Kwambai ran 59:09 minutes last Sunday at the Rotterdam Half Marathon.”

Kibet did not want to comment on a possible world record attack, but said that he intends to break his personal best. For this he must of course run in the region of the World record. “After Rotterdam I though that I might be able to run even faster in Berlin. So this is why I decided to go for this race.”

Looking ahead to a duel with Gebrselassie, the Kenyan record holder said: “I don’t know about Haile’s training. And he does not know about my training. So we will have to wait and see how it develops. But I will try to run his pace.”

There are two more Kenyans and one Ethiopian in the race, who want to take advantage of the Berlin course, which is renowned for producing super fast times. Francis Kiprop came fourth at the Seoul Marathon in 2008 in 2:08:30 and Mariko Kiplagat (both Kenya) had taken fourth at last year’s race in Berlin in 2:09:04. Coming third in Dubai this year was the Ethiopian Eshetu Wondimu, who was able to improve to 2:08:41 there despite bad weather conditions.

The strongest non-African runner could be Atsushi Fujita (Japan) who has a personal best of 2:06:51. This however is already nine years old. A debutant to be watched is Cuthbert Nyasango (Zimbabwe), who had been 10th at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in 2007 with a personal best of 60:26 minutes.

Women’s race: Magarsa heading for a sub 2:20 time?

Askale Tafa Magarsa will be the favourite in the women’s race on Sunday. A year ago the 24-year-old Ethiopian finished second behind Irina Mikitenko (Germany), clocking a great personal best of 2:21:31. With that she remained the second fastest woman worldwide in 2008. Now Askale Tafa Magarsa returns to Berlin and will be eager to further improve. She may well be able to establish a world season’s best, which currently stands at 2:22:11. Irina Mikitenko clocked this time when winning in London in April. But the 2:20 barrier could be Magarsa’s main goal on Sunday. Last year she had made the mistake to start the race far too fast for which she paid in the final stages.

Askale Tafa Magarsa’s strongest rival probably will be a fellow Ethiopian: Atsede Habtamu clocked 2:25:17 in torrential rain in January’s Dubai Marathon, where the 21 year-old took second place. So it could well be an Ethiopian battle for victory, which will be rewarded with a 50,000 Euro first prize.

And there is a third Ethiopian to be watched on Sunday: 23 year-old Genet Getaneh will also be in with a chance. The 23-year-old Ethiopian finished fifth in 2:26:37 at the Dubai Marathon this year.

The strongest Kenyan should be Leah Malot. She has a very good long distance track record and improved to 2:30:29 at the Paris Marathon this April. Silvia Skvortsova (Russia/PB: 2:27:07), Rosaria Console (Italy/2:27:48) or Britain’s Hayley Haining (2:29:18) could be the fastest non-Africans in the field.

Jörg Wenig | IAAF

Ethiopian student in Virginia enters The White House as intern

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA (Fairfax County Times) — Anna Devine and Taylor Lavender, both of McLean, and Dabash Negash of Chantilly are interning at The White House this fall, according to a Sept. 4 press release.

Dabash Negash is a native of Ethiopia.

Overall, 112 college students were chosen to serve as interns. Devine is a student at Brown University, Lavender attends the University of Virginia and Negash is enrolled at the University of Mary Washington. The internship program is designed to make the “People’s House” accessible to future leaders and to cultivate those devoted to public service for leadership opportunities, the release said.

“I applaud and thank these young men and women for answering the call to service,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “I look forward to working with them, and commend all those who applied for their desire to build a brighter future for our country.”

Interns work in one of many White House departments, including the Office of Cabinet Affairs, the Office of the Chief of Staff, the Office of Scheduling and Advance, the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, the Office of Health Reform, the Office of Legislative Affairs, the Office of Management and Administration, the Office of the White House Counsel, the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Energy and Climate Change, the National Economic Council, the Office of Presidential Correspondence, the Office of Presidential Personnel, the Communications Department, the Domestic Policy Council, the Office of the First Lady and the Office of the Vice President.

For more, visit www.whitehouse.gov/about/internships/. The application for the spring 2010 program is now on the Web site; the deadline is Sunday.

Military honors

Army National Guard Pfc. Andrew R. Reilly, son of Suk Reilly of Burke, has graduated from nine weeks of basic infantry training at Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga. Reilly is a 2008 graduate of Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke.

Air Force Airman Joshua D. Gamble, son of Kelly-Anne Gamble of Springfield, has graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Airmen who complete the eight weeks of basic training earn four credits toward an associate in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force.

Holmes chosen to investigate legal field

Marissa Holmes of Vienna, a sophomore at McLean High School, has been selected to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum on Law and Crime Scene Investigation, which will run Nov. 3-8 in Washington, D.C. The 15-year-old will be one of 400 students representing high schools across the country.

Marissa will have the chance to explore her interest in forensics by learning directly from partners at law firms, criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors, professors and other legal experts. She and fellow forum participants will visit area law schools, as well as local and federal courtrooms, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ethiopian owned furniture business featured on Fox

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

BY MELANIE ALNWICK | FOX 5

ELKRIDGE, MARYLAND – It costs hundreds of dollars to stay just one night in a hotel room in the DC area. But you can bring home designer hotel furnishings at bargain prices, if you know where to shop.

Upholstered sofas, executive desks, big gilded mirrors and fancy light fixtures, even office chairs as low as five dollars.

Watch video:

“With the economy the way it is, a lot of people are cutting down on their expenses,” says Medie Ephrem of Solo Furniture Liquidators in Elkridge, Maryland. “People are discovering this place… they’re looking for a bargain.”

Solo Furniture is owned by Solomon Ephrem, a native of Ethiopia.

When hotels redecorate, liquidators like Solo buy the old furnishings and sell them to the public.
Ephrem says a lot of their pieces come from four and five star properties.

“Our inventory changes sometimes every week, sometimes every month… You just never know what we’re going to have.”

TV’s ($25) and armoires (up to $250) are plentiful as big chains change over to plasma screens.

Jean Hassan of Overstock Outlet in Suitland, Maryland says her regular customers are usually seniors on fixed incomes. That’s changed lately.

“We have college kids, they’re students. Young people just starting out and trying to budget a bit.”

Hassan says she tries to pull room sets together to make customers’ dollars stretch. She also has a soft spot for families just trying to get by.

“You have a family of say, eight, and they’re coming in and saying ‘well, we’re on a stiff budget plan and we’re working with just a little bit of money’ and I say ‘well, let’s walk through and see what we can do for what you do have’.”

Sean Hill walked in the store to browse — and walked out with a dresser.

“We actually just moved in and we were looking for furniture, it caught my eye, just checked it out and liked what I see.” said Hill as he worked to fit the dresser into the trunk of his car.

Shoppers need to know there are no refunds, and no returns. You should also think about how you’re going to transport your treasures. The stores can deliver, but it will cost you extra.

With prices like these, chances are you’re not going to walk out empty handed.

LINKS:

Solo Furniture Liquidators
www.solofurnitureliquidators.com

A Message from EPPF senior leader Shambel Zewde Ayalew

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Interview with a senior leader of the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF), Shambel Zewde Ayalew… and other news. Watch below:

Ethiopian heroes honored in Washington DC

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Special Report by the North America organizing Committee to honor Ethiopian Heroes

WASHINGTON DC – On Sept 14, 2009, several hundred Ethiopians over packed the hall of Trinity Church located at 6000 Georgia Ave, NW, Washington, DC. They were anxiously awaiting the arrival of the 2009 honorees of the event, Brig General Tesfaye Habte Mariam and Brig General Kassaye Chemeda of Ethiopia.

Inside of the hall, at the top of the stage, hangs a ten feet banner. It reads: Ye Jegnotch Mishit, (Evening of Ethiopian Heroes). Large poster size colorful photos of the heroic Generals, Tesfaye Habte Mariam on the left side and that of Gen Kassaye Chemeda at the right hand side, in full military uniform, are embossed on the banner. At the entrance, two large posters are placed on the wall. The writings are in gold on a black background. They are tribute to and representative list of Ethiopian Heroes who gave the ablest leadership to the former armed forces, those who died while heroically fighting in the eastern and northern fronts in defense of Ethiopian unity and territorial integrity. Among those listed, there are names of those members of the armed forces who are still alive. These are representative names from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and the Police commando forces of the former Ethiopian armed forces.

In the entrance area too, members of the former armed forces and members of the organizing committee dressed in jet black suits, white shirts and red tie were greeting and sitting Ethiopians coming to attend the event. Other members of the committee were displaying on a table of items prepared for the occasion, including books written by both generals, Ye Tor Meda Wullo (Reminiscences of the Battlefield) among others.

At 9:00 P.M, as General Tesfaye Habte Mariam and General Kassaye Chemda arrived and entered the hall; they were given salute by three members of the former Army, Navy, and Air force, dressed in their respective uniforms with a military marsh in the background. General Tesfaye and General Kassaye walked through the hallway while members of the former Ethiopian military were standing at both the right and left side, forming in straight line. The hundreds of Ethiopians present expressed their warm welcome with standing ovation until the guests of honor reached the reserved table where they were sited along with disinguised guests of the event Brig. Gen Wubetu Tsegaye, for the former Army, Brig. General Tsegaye Habtiyimer of the former Air force, and other members of the former armed forces.

Artist Tamagne Beyene, the master of ceremony for the occasion, formally announced the arrival of the two heroes amidst rounds and rounds of applause of Ethiopians who came for the occasion. Dinner was followed by a speech by Ato Brehanu Wolde Selassie, the chairman of the Association of the former Ethiopian Air force (AMFEA) and the chairman of the North America organizing committee to honor Ethiopian Heroes. He welcomed General Tesfaye Habte Mariam, and General Kassaye Chemeda, the honorees of 2009. He then explained about the aim and purpose of the non-profit and non-political committee composed of the Association Former members of the Ethiopian Air force (AMFEA), Ethiopian Veterans Association (EVA), and prominent artists and Ethiopians. He stated the importance and the need for nurturing and further developing the culture of recognizing and honoring Ethiopians who give much for their county and people while still alive, especially all those who put their life in line of great danger to defend the unity and territorial integrity of Ethiopia. He recalled the successful event organized by the committee in 2008 to honor Brig. General Legesse Tefera, the air force pilot who fought heroically during the Ethio-Somali war of the 70s, earning him the highest medal for his heroism.

Ato Brehanu continued that the committee’ selection of the three honorees for this year, which includes Militia Ali Berke along with Gen Tesfaye and Gen Kassaye, was due to their superior contributions in line of duty and in defense of Ethiopia’s unity and territorial integrity in both northern ad eastern fronts during the 70s and 80s . That they were selected for this years’ event among thousands of others with equally superior heroic deeds in line of duty. He mentioned the fact that the two generals have made significant contributions to tell the Ethiopian people about the stories of heroic sacrifices made by the former armed forces in order to defend Ethiopia from both external and eternal challenges posed to the country’s unity and territorial integrity.

The chairman of the committee also mentioned the unsuccessful but much effort exerted by the committee to locate the whereabouts of the third honoree, Militia Ali Berke and facilitate his travel to the USA for the occasion. Ato Berhanu said that the committee would work hard to encourage historians and others to write about the exemplary gallantry of the former armed forces so that they are recorded in the annals of history and passed on to generations of Ethiopians yet to come. He concluded by announcing the committee’s grand and long term plan, at an appropriate time, to erect a monument in Ethiopia in memory of the tens of thousands of Ethiopians who laid their precious life while heroically fighting in defense of Ethiopian unity and territorial integrity from challenges posed by external and internal forces.

Following a moving poem read by Maj. Kifle Abocher, among the ablest artists who served in the former armed forces, Ato Ayalkibet Teshome, a member of the organizing committee read the biographies and contributions of General Tesfaye Habte Mariam, Gen Kassaye Chemeda, and Millitia Ali Berke. Artist Tamagne read a brief biography and introduced Brig. General Wubetu Tsegaye to present the special award to both General Tesfaye and General Kassaye, both of whom served under his command. Brig General Wubetu Tsegaye is a decorated war hero and one of the ablest leaders of the former armed forces and an officer who rose from Battalion commander as a Major to a Brig General and the commander of what was then known as the second revolutionary army (SRA) in the northern front during the 80s for close to fifteen years. While members of organizing committee lined up in straight lines at both the left and right sides of General Wubetu, General Kassaye and then General Tesfaye came forward, gave military salute and received their awards from Brig Gen Wubetu Tsegaye. The awards presented to both are embossed with the letters “Le Mayiresa Wulleta, “For a great deed that shall never be forgotten”.

That rare and emotionally touching moment brought tears to many who were present. It continued when Gen Kassaye Chemeda took the stage. Gen Kassaye stated that he willingly joined the then Ethiopian army during the time of the Emperor to serve and for love of the symbol of our nation, pointing towards the standing Ethiopian flag next to him. He told the audience that he never expected that he and the rest of the former Ethiopian armed forces, who served the country through thick and thin as professional soldiers and officers, would get the chance to be remembered and given such recognition and honor during his life time. He related the suffering he had to endure since his two years of imprisonment after the aborted attempt to oust Col Mengistu in 1989. Gen Kassaye was also a victim of the current regime which put him in prison for another eight months after the fall of the Derg regime.

Gen Kassaye concluded his brief speech by telling the crowd that all the demoralizing stigma and labels he carried along with the rest of the former Ethiopian armed forces for the past so many years has been completely washed in that historic day organized to honor and cerebrate Ethiopian heroes. Thus, expressing his deeply felt gratitude for the committee and the hundreds of Ethiopians present at the occasion. Then Brig General Tesfaye took the stage. He too spoke briefly emphasizing that he is a soldier through and through and whenever he was called upon, he has served the Ethiopian people as a professional soldier. He then recounted three stories, among many other stories yet to be told, as illustrations of the former Ethiopian army’s heroism which defied the known and practiced military science all around the world. After expressing his enormous joy for being able to be present in an occasion of such honor , General Tesfaye recalled that it was exactly on Sept 12, thirty years ago that he was awarded the highest medal for heroism, Ye Hibretsebawit Ethiopia Woder Ye Lelew Jegna Medaliya. He stressed that he considers the current award given to him one that is beyond any expression, calling it Ye Woder Woder Yelesh moment for him.

Dressed in uniform and the Red Hat of the Airborne, Artist Tamagne Beyene took the stage again, announcing to an applauding and amused audience the next program of showing two special documentaries he produced for the occasion. The two films showed among the most dramatic moments in the lives of the two generals, including the tragic story of a successful but enormously costly breakthrough led by General Tesfaye at Nakfa, in one of the most difficult rugged terrain and stronghold of the then Eritrean rebels. Against all odds, General Tesfaye, then a Captain and his airborne battalion, undertook one of the rarest heroic missions by volunteering to be sent in response to the 15th battalion’s telegram of appeal for support and dropping from an airplane at more than 2000 meter height. A heroic feat that defied the normal practice and unheard of in modern history of Airborne missions anywhere around the world. That mission was undertaken in order to support and save the encircled and embattled 15th battalion at Nakfa led by Maj. Mamo Temtime. The film also depicted the tremendous heroism and determination of post humus Lt. Colonel Mamo Temtime, the commander of the heroic 15th battalion, who led his men to withstand and put up the toughest resistance in the face of the bloodiest encirclement and onslaught by a much superior enemy force at Nakfa for several months, until he was wounded and while fighting to the last bullet. The short documentary prepared to honor General Kassaye showed his enormous contributions starting with his heroic role as a commander of a Tank Battalion that made significant contribution of crushing and ousting the Somali invading forces out of Ethiopia’s territory.

Upon the conclusion of this part of the evening program, an applause and hurray filled the hall, an expression of approval for work well done as tribute to the heroes by Artist Tamagne. Artists Desalgen and Aregahen Worash continued entertaining the huge number of Ethiopians in the hall with patriotic songs until about 2:00 AM in the morning.

Saturday night event got coverage by the Voice of America. Many members of the media in the Washington DC area were also present. Also present were members of various civic groups such as Gasha for Ethiopia and many others. Ethiopians from all walks of life, young and old, woman and men, were present. Many young Ethiopians as far away as Minnesota, Cincinnati, Ohio, New York and other states came to be part of this great event as well.

The following list of names is prepared to serve as a symbol of hundreds of thousands unnamed others, who died in line of duty and as well as alive. These are outstanding leaders and heroes, both alive and dead, from the former Army, Navy, Air force, and the police forces. This is just representative list of heroes from Generals to line officers, from NCOs to privates of the former Ethiopian armed forces

Maj. General Fanta Belay
Maj. General Merid Negussie
Maj. General Demisse Bultto
Maj. General Amha Desta
Maj. General Abera Abebe
Maj. General Mesfin Gebre Kal
Maj. General Syoum Mekonnen
Maj. General Kinfe Michael Dinku
Maj. General Kumlachew Dejene
Maj. General Hailu Gebre Mickael
Maj. General Regassa Jimma

Brig. General Teshome Tessema
Brig. General Legesse Abeje
Brig. General Yilma Gizaw
Brig. General Woubetu Tsegaye
Brig. General Temesgen Gemechu
Brig General Tesfaye Habte Mariam
Brig. General Kassaye Chemeda
Brig General Behailu Kinde

Commodor Belege Belete
Commodor Getachew Siyoum

Brig. General Merdera Lelisa
Brig. General Berta Gomoraw
Brig. General Araya Zerai
Brig. General Gennanaw Mengistu
Brig. General Desalegn Abebe
Brig. General Taye Balaker
Brig. General Lemesa Bedase
Brig. General Solomon Begashsaw
Brig. General Ashenafi Gebre Tsadiq
Brig. General Afework Wolde Michael
Brig. General Negussie Zergaw
Brig. General Kebede Mehari
Brig. Geneal Hailu Kebede
Brig. General Addis Aglachew
Brig. General Negash Woldeyes
Brig. General Hailu Beraworq
Brig. General Legese Haile
Brig. General Mesfin Haile
Brig. General Erkyihun Bayyisa
Brig. General Kebede Wolde Tsadiq
Brig. General Yemata Miskir
Brig. General Engda Wolde Amlak
Brig. General Techane Mesfin
Brig. General Tadesse Tesema
Brig. General Samson Haile
Brig General Berhanu Demissie
Brig General Tesfaye Terefe
Brig. General Tariku Aiyne
Brig General Tsegaye Habityimer

Col. Kassa Gebere Mariam
Col. Belay Ashenaki
Col. Girum Abebe
Col. Shibabaw Zeleke
Col. Aytenw Belay
Col. Mersha Admassu
Col. Kifetew Merine
Col. Beshu Gebre Tekle
Col. Sereke Brehan

Col Tadesse Gebre
Col Kassaye Tadesse
Col . Dr. Gaga Oljo
Col. Girma Teferi
Col. Tilhaun Bogale
Col. Gethanun Wolde Girogis
Col. Sifu Wolde
Col. Estifanos Gebre Meskel
Col. Luel Seged
Col. Gizaw Tefera
Col. Bezabeh Petros
Col. Reta Menkir
Col. Shimelis
Col. Worku Tefera
Col. Tilahun Nebro
Col. Berhnu Wubneh
Col. Getahun Demissie
Col. Dr. Tadesse Melka
Col. Fekade Engeda
Col Admassu Mekonnen
Col Negussie Adugna
Col Gezagen Tarekegen
Col Girma Tadesse
Col. Solomon Kassa
Col. Alemayhu Admau
Col. Ayele Gebeyhu
Col. Mekonnen Bekele
Col Desalagen Meberate
Col Dr. Desta Moges

Captain Mersha Girma
Commander Fiseha Tilahun
Commander Hailu Lemma
Commander Ashalew Jemaneh
Commander Matthew Mekonnen

Lt. Colonel Mamo Temtime
Lt. Col. Alemayehu Haile
Lt. Col. Shewataye Alemu Habte
Lt Col Genanaw Ejigou
Lt Col. Tilahun Mamo

Lt Commander Fantu Abraham

Major Mamo Lemma
Major Getachew Mihirete
Major Tadesse Mengesha
Major Getahun Demissie
Major Getachew Tessema
Major Mersa Redda
Major Ethan Mekonnen
Major Asfaw Tewolde
Maj Tafesse Kebede
Maj Kebede Yimer
Maj Wegaheyu Degentu

Capt. Solomon Mekebib
Capt. Hailu Kebede
Capt. Abraham Sinke
Capt. Afewerk Tariku
Capt. Wondimu Beyene
Cap. Gedele Giorigs Abat
Cap. Shewatatek Alemu
Cap Rorisa Dadi
Cap. Asmare Gebre Selassie

Lt. Merid Dachew
Lt. Afework Mengesha
Lt. Tilahun Hailu Gebre
Lt. Yekono Tadesse
Lt. Girma Aynalem
Lt. Girma Kebede
Lt. Shibeshi Haile
Lt Mekuria Dedema
Jr. Lt. Shewalem Negash
Sub Lt. Dagne
Lt Nura Yasin
Lt Aytenfisu Damtew
Lt. Darsiso Tessema
Sub Lt. Ledatu Nure
Sub. Lt. Beze Workneh
Sub.Lt. Tesfaye Workenh

Seniour Technician Ewunetu Genta
Chief Gezagehn Gezmu
Warrant Officer Kassa Merine
PO Fresenay Kebede
Sgt. Woldu Baikedagne
Srg. Abebaw Asfaw
Srg. Wolde Gabriel Hagos

Corporal Abdissa
Corporal Andarge Belay
Corporal Adinew Reta
Corporal Tigneh Belew
Private Kebede Koricho
Priavate Zelelew Dibaba
Priavate Simeret Ayele
Private Milita Ali Berke
Private Kebede Belda.
Private Iyayu Shegaw
Private Worku Abay
Private Shimelis
Private Tigabu
Private Alemitu Chaqile

World Bank gives $65 million more blood money to Ethiopia

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: The World Bank continues to fuel the brutal tribal junta’s machine of repression in Ethiopia by giving more money under the pretext of expanding tourism and agriculture. We all know that the money goes to pay the salaries of Meles Zenawi’s death squads. The following is a report by the Woyanne junta-controlled Ethiopian News Agency.

ADDIS ABABA (ENA) – Ethiopia’s [tribal junta] and the World Bank on Wednesday have signed two financing agreements amounting to 65 million USD for tourism development and enhance agricultural productivity.

Finance and Economic Development Destruction State Minister (MoFED) Ahmed Shide and World Bank Country Director for Ethiopia and Sudan, Kenichi Ohashi signed the agreements.

Accordingly, the first agreement amounting to 35 million USD will be used to finance implementation of sustainable tourism development project that aims at enhancing the quality and variety of tourism products and services to pay for the Agazi special forces, the Federal Gestapo Police and the spy agencies.

The amount enables to increase the volume of tourism foreign exchange earnings and jobs in targeted destinations that include Axum, Lalibella, Addis Ababa and its surroundings. Lie

The second agreement amounting to 30 million USD will also be used to finance implementation of agricultural productivity project. More lie.

Ahmed on the occasion said the 35 million USD will be used to strengthen infrastructure development in the stated tourist destinations. Another lie.

The minister said the second agreement aims to enhance specialization in agricultural research and collaboration in agricultural training, among others. Liar!

The director on his part said Ethiopia has been undertaking encouraging activities to become self-sufficient in food production. Liar

He said WB will assist Ethiopia to tap its rich resources in the agriculture sector. World Bank is not helping Ethiopia. It is financing the Woyanne vampire regime that is sucking the life blood of Ethiopia.

Video: Ethiopians in Washington DC honor 3 patriots

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Ethiopian War Heroes honored in Washington DC,

Committee announces plan to erect a monument in memory of the tens of thousands of the former armed forces who gave the ultimate in defense of Ethiopia’s unity

Special Report by the North America organizing Committee to honor Ethiopian Heroes

Washington D.C., Sept 14, 2009

Several hundred Ethiopians over packed the hall of Trinity Church located at 6000 Georgia Ave, NW, Washington, DC. They were anxiously awaiting the arrival of the 2009 honorees of the event, Brig General Tesfaye Habte Mariam and Brig General Kassaye Chemeda.

Inside of the hall, at the top of the stage, hangs a ten feet banner. It reads: Ye Jegnotch Mishit, (Evening of Ethiopian Heroes). Large poster size colorful photos of the heroic Generals, Tesfaye Habte Mariam on the left side and that of Gen Kassaye Chemeda at the right hand side, in full military uniform, are embossed on the banner. At the entrance, two large posters are placed on the wall. The writings are in gold on a black background. They are tribute to and representative list of Ethiopian Heroes who gave the ablest leadership to the former armed forces, those who died while heroically fighting in the eastern and northern fronts in defense of Ethiopian unity and territorial integrity. Among those listed, there are names of those members of the armed forces who are still alive. These are representative names from the Army, Airforce, Navy, and the Police commando forces of the former Ethiopian armed forces.

In the entrance area too, members of the former armed forces and members of the organizing committee dressed in jet black suits, white shirts and red tie were greeting and sitting Ethiopians coming to attend the event. Other members of the committee were displaying on a table of items prepared for the occasion, including books written by both generals, Ye Tor Meda Wullo (Reminiscences of the Battlefield) among others.

At 9:00 P.M, as General Tesfaye Habte Mariam and General Kassaye Chemda arrived and entered the hall; they were given salute by three members of the former Army, Navy, and Air force, dressed in their respective uniforms with a military marsh in the background. General Tesfaye and General Kassaye walked through the hallway while members of the former Ethiopian military were standing at both the right and left side, forming in straight line. The hundreds of Ethiopians present expressed their warm welcome with standing ovation until the guests of honor reached the reserved table where they were sited along with disinguised guests of the event Brig. Gen Wubetu Tsegaye, for the former Army, Brig. General Tsegaye Habtiyimer of the former Air force, and other members of the former armed forces.

Artist Tamagne Beyene, the master of ceremony for the occasion, formally announced the arrival of the two heroes amidst rounds and rounds of applause of Ethiopians who came for the occasion. Dinner was followed by a speech by Ato Brehanu Wolde Selassie, the chairman of the Association of the former Ethiopian Air force (AMFEA) and the chairman of the North America organizing committee to honor Ethiopian Heroes. He welcomed General Tesfaye Habte Mariam, and General Kassaye Chemeda, the honorees of 2009. He then explained about the aim and purpose of the non-profit and non-political committee composed of the Association Former members of the Ethiopian Air force (AMFEA), Ethiopian Veterans Association (EVA), and prominent artists and Ethiopians. He stated the importance and the need for nurturing and further developing the culture of recognizing and honoring Ethiopians who give much for their county and people while still alive, especially all those who put their life in line of great danger to defend the unity and territorial integrity of Ethiopia. He recalled the successful event organized by the committee in 2008 to honor Brig. General Legesse Tefera, the air force pilot who fought heroically during the Ethio-Somali war of the 70s, earning him the highest medal for his heroism.

Ato Brehanu continued that the committee’ selection of the three honorees for this year, which includes Militia Ali Berke along with Gen Tesfaye and Gen Kassaye, was due to their superior contributions in line of duty and in defense of Ethiopia’s unity and territorial integrity in both northern ad eastern fronts during the 70s and 80s . That they were selected for this years’ event among thousands of others with equally superior heroic deeds in line of duty. He mentioned the fact that the two generals have made significant contributions to tell the Ethiopian people about the stories of heroic sacrifices made by the former armed forces in order to defend Ethiopia from both external and eternal challenges posed to the country’s unity and territorial integrity.

The chairman of the committee also mentioned the unsuccessful but much effort exerted by the committee to locate the whereabouts of the third honoree, Militia Ali Berke and facilitate his travel to the USA for the occasion. Ato Berhanu said that the committee would work hard to encourage historians and others to write about the exemplary gallantry of the former armed forces so that they are recorded in the annals of history and passed on to generations of Ethiopians yet to come. He concluded by announcing the committee’s grand and long term plan, at an appropriate time, to erect a monument in Ethiopia in memory of the tens of thousands of Ethiopians who laid their precious life while heroically fighting in defense of Ethiopian unity and territorial integrity from challenges posed by external and internal forces.

Following a moving poem read by Maj. Kifle Abocher, among the ablest artists who served in the former armed forces, Ato Ayalkibet Teshome, a member of the organizing committee read the biographies and contributions of General Tesfaye Habte Mariam, Gen Kassaye Chemeda, and Millitia Ali Berke. Artist Tamagne read a brief biography and introduced Brig. General Wubetu Tsegaye to present the special award to both General Tesfaye and General Kassaye, both of whom served under his command. Brig General Wubetu Tsegaye is a decorated war hero and one of the ablest leaders of the former armed forces and an officer who rose from Battalion commander as a Major to a Brig General and the commander of what was then known as the second revolutionary army (SRA) in the northern front during the 80s for close to fifteen years. While members of organizing committee lined up in straight lines at both the left and right sides of General Wubetu, General Kassaye and then General Tesfaye came forward, gave military salute and received their awards from Brig Gen Wubetu Tsegaye. The awards presented to both are embossed with the letters “Le Mayiresa Wulleta, “For a great deed that shall never be forgotten”.

That rare and emotionally touching moment brought tears to many who were present. It continued when Gen Kassaye Chemeda took the stage. Gen Kassaye stated that he willingly joined the then Ethiopian army during the time of the Emperor to serve and for love of the symbol of our nation, pointing towards the standing Ethiopian flag next to him. He told the audience that he never expected that he and the rest of the former Ethiopian armed forces, who served the country through thick and thin as professional soldiers and officers, would get the chance to be remembered and given such recognition and honor during his life time. He related the suffering he had to endure since his two years of imprisonment after the aborted attempt to oust Col Mengistu in 1989. Gen Kassaye was also a victim of the current regime which put him in prison for another eight months after the fall of the Derg regime.

Gen Kassaye concluded his brief speech by telling the crowd that all the demoralizing stigma and labels he carried along with the rest of the former Ethiopian armed forces for the past so many years has been completely washed in that historic day organized to honor and cerebrate Ethiopian heroes. Thus, expressing his deeply felt gratitude for the committee and the hundreds of Ethiopians present at the occasion. Then Brig General Tesfaye took the stage. He too spoke briefly emphasizing that he is a soldier through and through and whenever he was called upon, he has served the Ethiopian people as a professional soldier. He then recounted three stories, among many other stories yet to be told, as illustrations of the former Ethiopian army’s heroism which defied the known and practiced military science all around the world. After expressing his enormous joy for being able to be present in an occasion of such honor , General Tesfaye recalled that it was exactly on Sept 12, thirty years ago that he was awarded the highest medal for heroism, Ye Hibretsebawit Ethiopia Woder Ye Lelew Jegna Medaliya. He stressed that he considers the current award given to him one that is beyond any expression, calling it Ye Woder Woder Yelesh moment for him.

Dressed in uniform and the Red Hat of the Airborne, Artist Tamagne Beyene took the stage again, announcing to an applauding and amused audience the next program of showing two special documentaries he produced for the occasion. The two films showed among the most dramatic moments in the lives of the two generals, including the tragic story of a successful but enormously costly breakthrough led by General Tesfaye at Nakfa, in one of the most difficult rugged terrain and stronghold of the then Eritrean rebels. Against all odds, General Tesfaye, then a Captain and his airborne battalion, undertook one of the rarest heroic missions by volunteering to be sent in response to the 15th battalion’s telegram of appeal for support and dropping from an airplane at more than 2000 meter height. A heroic feat that defied the normal practice and unheard of in modern history of Airborne missions anywhere around the world. That mission was undertaken in order to support and save the encircled and embattled 15th battalion at Nakfa led by Maj. Mamo Temtime. The film also depicted the tremendous heroism and determination of post humus Lt. Colonel Mamo Temtime, the commander of the heroic 15th battalion, who led his men to withstand and put up the toughest resistance in the face of the bloodiest encirclement and onslaught by a much superior enemy force at Nakfa for several months, until he was wounded and while fighting to the last bullet. The short documentary prepared to honor General Kassaye showed his enormous contributions starting with his heroic role as a commander of a Tank Battalion that made significant contribution of crushing and ousting the Somali invading forces out of Ethiopia’s territory.

Upon the conclusion of this part of the evening program, an applause and hurray filled the hall, an expression of approval for work well done as tribute to the heroes by Artist Tamagne. Artists Desalgen and Aregahen Worash continued entertaining the huge number of Ethiopians in the hall with patriotic songs until about 2:00 AM in the morning.

Saturday night event got coverage by the Voice of America. Many members of the media in the Washington DC area were also present. Also present were members of various civic groups such as Gasha for Ethiopia and many others. Ethiopians from all walks of life, young and old, woman and men, were present. Many young Ethiopians as far away as Minnesota, Cincinnati, Ohio, New York and other states came to be part of this great event as well.

The following list of names is prepared to serve as a symbol of hundreds of thousands unnamed others, who died in line of duty and as well as alive. These are outstanding leaders and heroes, both alive and dead, from the former Army, Navy, Air force, and the police forces. This is just representative list of heroes from Generals to line officers, from NCOs to privates of the former Ethiopian armed forces
 
Maj. General Fanta Belay
Maj. General Merid Negussie
Maj. General Demisse Bultto
Maj. General Amha Desta
Maj. General Abera Abebe
Maj. General Mesfin Gebre Kal
Maj. General Syoum Mekonnen
Maj. General Kinfe Michael Dinku
Maj. General Kumlachew Dejene
Maj. General Hailu Gebre Mickael
Maj. General Regassa Jimma

Brig. General Teshome Tessema
Brig. General Legesse Abeje
Brig. General Yilma Gizaw
Brig. General Woubetu Tsegaye
Brig. General Temesgen Gemechu
Brig General Tesfaye Habte Mariam
Brig. General Kassaye Chemeda
Brig General Behailu Kinde

Commodor Belege Belete
Commodor Getachew Siyoum

Brig. General Merdera Lelisa
Brig. General Berta Gomoraw
Brig. General Araya Zerai
Brig. General Gennanaw Mengistu
Brig. General Desalegn Abebe
Brig. General Taye Balaker
Brig. General  Lemesa Bedase
Brig. General Solomon Begashsaw
Brig. General Ashenafi Gebre Tsadiq
Brig. General Afework Wolde Michael
Brig. General Negussie Zergaw
Brig. General Kebede Mehari
Brig. Geneal Hailu Kebede                     
Brig. General Addis Aglachew
Brig. General Negash Woldeyes
Brig. General Hailu Beraworq
Brig. General Legese Haile
Brig. General Mesfin Haile
Brig. General Erkyihun Bayyisa
Brig. General Kebede Wolde Tsadiq
Brig. General Yemata Miskir
Brig. General Engda Wolde Amlak
Brig. General Techane Mesfin
Brig. General Tadesse Tesema
Brig. General Samson Haile
Brig General Berhanu Demissie
Brig General Tesfaye Terefe
Brig. General Tariku Aiyne
Brig General Tsegaye Habityimer

Col.  Kassa Gebere Mariam
Col.  Belay Ashenaki
Col. Girum Abebe
Col. Shibabaw Zeleke
Col. Aytenw Belay
Col. Mersha Admassu
Col. Kifetew Merine
Col. Beshu Gebre Tekle
Col. Sereke Brehan

Col Tadesse Gebre
Col Kassaye Tadesse
Col . Dr. Gaga Oljo
Col. Girma Teferi
Col. Tilhaun Bogale
Col. Gethanun Wolde Girogis
Col. Sifu Wolde
Col. Estifanos  Gebre Meskel
Col. Luel Seged
Col. Gizaw Tefera
Col. Bezabeh Petros
Col. Reta Menkir
Col. Shimelis
Col. Worku Tefera
Col. Tilahun Nebro
Col. Berhnu Wubneh
Col. Getahun Demissie
Col. Dr. Tadesse Melka
Col. Fekade Engeda
Col Admassu Mekonnen
Col Negussie Adugna
Col Gezagen Tarekegen
Col Girma Tadesse
Col. Solomon Kassa
Col. Alemayhu Admau
Col. Ayele Gebeyhu
Col. Mekonnen Bekele
Col Desalagen Meberate
Col Dr. Desta Moges

Captain Mersha Girma
Commander Fiseha Tilahun
Commander Hailu Lemma
Commander Ashalew Jemaneh
Commander Matthew Mekonnen

Lt. Colonel Mamo Temtime
Lt. Col. Alemayehu Haile
Lt. Col.  Shewataye Alemu Habte
Lt Col Genanaw Ejigou
Lt Col. Tilahun Mamo

Lt Commander Fantu Abraham

Major Mamo Lemma
Major Getachew Mihirete
Major Tadesse Mengesha
Major Getahun Demissie
Major Getachew Tessema
Major Mersa Redda
Major Ethan Mekonnen
Major Asfaw Tewolde
Maj Tafesse Kebede
Maj Kebede Yimer
Maj Wegaheyu Degentu

Capt. Solomon Mekebib
Capt. Hailu Kebede
Capt. Abraham Sinke
Capt. Afewerk Tariku
Capt. Wondimu Beyene
Cap. Gedele Giorigs Abat
Cap. Shewatatek Alemu
Cap Rorisa Dadi
Cap. Asmare Gebre Selassie

Lt. Merid Dachew
Lt. Afework Mengesha
Lt. Tilahun Hailu Gebre
Lt. Yekono Tadesse
Lt. Girma Aynalem
Lt. Girma Kebede
Lt. Shibeshi Haile
Lt Mekuria Dedema
Jr. Lt. Shewalem Negash
Sub Lt. Dagne
Lt Nura Yasin
Lt Aytenfisu Damtew
Lt. Darsiso Tessema
Sub Lt. Ledatu Nure
Sub. Lt. Beze Workneh
Sub.Lt. Tesfaye Workenh

Seniour Technician Ewunetu Genta
Chief Gezagehn Gezmu
Warrant Officer Kassa Merine
PO Fresenay Kebede
Sgt. Woldu Baikedagne
Srg. Abebaw Asfaw
Srg. Wolde Gabriel Hagos

Corporal Abdissa
Corporal Andarge Belay
Corporal Adinew Reta
Corporal Tigneh Belew
Private Kebede Koricho
Priavate Zelelew Dibaba
Priavate Simeret Ayele
Private Milita Ali Berke
Private Kebede Belda.
Private Iyayu Shegaw
Private Worku Abay
Private Shimelis
Private Tigabu
Private Alemitu Chaqile

New photo of Ethiopian Princess Kemeria and Count de Lesseps

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Ethiopian Review has obtained an exclusive photo of Ethiopian Princess Kemeria Abajobir and Count de Lesseps that was taken recently on the Count’s yacht.

click photo to enlarge
In April, EthioPlanet.com has reported that the Kemeria was identified as the cause for the divorce between the reality TV show star LuAnn from The Real Houswives of New York and her husband Count Alexandre de Lesseps has been identified as Princess Kemeria Abajobir Abajifar.

Kemeria is the granddaughter of King Abajifar, the last King from the Gibe Kingdom of Jimmaa, located in current day Ethiopia.

EthioPlanet’s inside source close to the Count confirmed the details in an email correspondence.

The Ethiopian princess, and granddaughter of the King, is the niece of Ababiya Abajobir, another prominent man in the Oromo-Ethiopian community. He was one of the founding members of the OLF (Oromo Liberation Front), an armed Ethiopian opposition group, and served in various positions in the organization throughout its 35 year history.

Ethiopia's ruling junta lowers economic growth forecast

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

By Jason McLure

(Bloomberg) — The rate of growth in Ethiopia was probably as low as 9.2 percent in the year to July 7 as electricity shortages closed factories, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said.

The economy grew “somewhere between 9.2 percent and 10.2 percent” and will increase “at least as fast, if not faster,” in the coming year and inflation will remain in single digits, Meles said at a press conference yesterday in the capital, Addis Ababa. The government forecast growth of 11.2 percent in April and lowered that figure to 10.1 percent in June, while the International Monetary Fund estimated an increase of 6.5 percent or lower for Ethiopia during the same period.

Power shortages due to rising demand and a lack of water in the country’s dams led the state-run Ethiopian Electric Power Corp. to begin nationwide blackouts of at least twice a week in March. Outages were increased to every second day from June until last week.

Electricity cuts will end in mid-October and “won’t be a major impediment” in the coming year, said Meles. Services have increased, and while “not all factories have 24-hour service,” Meles said he was “sure every factory has a minimum” of eight hours’ supply.

Ethiopia’s trade imbalance, which led to rationing of foreign currency and shortages of imported goods like machinery parts and medical supplies last year, will ease, he said, without providing more detail.

Agricultural output will be “significantly higher” this year because of good rains during the main June to September rainy season, he said.

The Famine Early Warning System Network on July 28 said poor rains earlier this year would hinder crop production with a large swathe of the Ethiopian highlands experiencing drought.

An estimated 13.7 million Ethiopians are dependent on foreign food aid this year.

Human Rights Watch warns Britain about torture in Ethiopia

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) — Human Rights Watch on Thursday warned Britain against relying on Ethiopian guarantees that it will not torture suspects deported to the African country.

The two countries signed an agreement in December allowing Ethiopia to obtain custody of its citizens detained in Britain after giving “diplomatic assurances” that they will not be mistreated.

“The UK government should not rely on unreliable ‘diplomatic assurances’ against torture to deport national security suspects to Ethiopia,” the group said in a letter to the British government.

“Ethiopia’s record of torture of security suspects is all too clear. The agreement is itself a tacit admission that torture continues to be a major problem in Ethiopia,” said Tom Porteous, the US-based watchdog’s director in London.

HRW said concerns are “at their gravest” when individuals are detained on suspicion of affiliation with armed opposition, insurgent or terrorist group.

It said it had documented cases in which suspects were subject to repeated kicking and beating with electric cables, rifle butts, and other materials, as well as having bottles tied to their testicles.

It added that it had evidence that women and girls have been raped while being detained in military barracks in Ethiopia’s Somali region, where a secessionist group has waged an armed struggle.

The deal, similar to those signed by Britain with Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, represents an “effort to circumvent the strict ‘no return’ obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights,” it said.

Ethiopian rejected the claims.

“Torture is forbidden by law here. Ethiopia is a country where human rights are respected,” government spokesman Bereket Simon told AFP in Addis Ababa.

“The report is nothing but a political gimmick. It has nothing to do with human rights.”

Egypt defends its cold blood murder of Ethiopian migrants

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

By Daniel Williams | Bloomberg

In the face of international human rights criticism of recent killings, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said the deaths of Ethiopian and other African migrants trying to cross from the Sinai peninsula into Israel are justified for security reasons.

Four migrants were killed trying to enter Israel July 9, bringing the death toll in the Sinai to 12 since May.

“Dealing with these migrants is for Egyptian national security and the safety of its forces and Egypt’s international commitment to fight smuggling,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said in a statement today. “Egyptian guards only fire in the direction of the migrants when they refuse to stop in this sensitive area of the borders.”

On Sept. 10, Human Rights Watch, the New York-based monitoring group, called on Egypt to “bring an immediate end to the unlawful killings of migrants and asylum seekers.”

“Egypt has every right to manage its borders, but using routine lethal force against unarmed migrants — and potential asylum-seekers — would be a serious violation of the right to life,” Joe Stork, deputy HRW Middle East director, said in a statement. “These individuals appeared to pose no threat to the lives of border guards or anyone else. Attempted border crossings are not a capital offense.”

Migrant traffic through Egypt to Israel largely originates in Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, all beset by warfare in recent years, said Gasser Abdel Razek, Egypt country director for Africa and Middle East Refugee Assistance, a U.K.-based legal aid group. “They are heading to Israel because they think they can get better consideration for political asylum than in Egypt,” he said in an interview in Cairo.

Israel Criticized

Human Rights Watch said that Egyptian security forces killed 33 migrants at the border between July 2007 and October 2008. HRW also criticized Israel, saying it was “forcibly returning to Egypt, in violation of international refugee law, some migrants who do make it across the border.”

Since February 2008, Israel has deported thousands of African migrants to Egypt on grounds they are economic and not political refugees, according to media reports from Israel.

Last month, smugglers ferrying migrants to Israel killed an Egyptian policeman at the border, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said. On Sept. 9, the independent Cairo newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm quoted North Sinai Governor Muhammed Shousha as saying of the refugees, “Firing at them is only normal. When an infiltrator is spotted, he has to be fired at. If the soldier asks the infiltrator to stop, he normally won’t be obeyed. That’s why there has to be the use of force by those responsible.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Williams in Cairo at dwilliams41@bloomberg.net.

Angelina Jolie visits Ethiopia

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

(MarieClaire) – Angelina Jolie flew to Ethopia with adopted daughter Zahara as part of her latest UN Goodwill Ambassador tour to Africa, visiting the country for the first time since Zahara’s adoption.

Brad and Angelina were on a goodwill mission in Kenya with their children when Angelina, her Ethiopian-born four-year-old and biological daughter Shiloh took a second flight across to Ethiopia.

According to a friend who spoke to People magazine, the girly trip was ‘the first time Zahara had been back home since her adoption. The trip was about keeping up that culture for her.’

Angelina plans to front the plans to build a TB and AIDS clinic in the country, to be set up in Zahara’s name.

Back in Kenya the UN Goodwill Ambassador visited the largest refugee camp in the world in Dabaab on the Kenya/Somalia border, where she witnessed the condition in which 285,000 Kenyans live.

Angelina Jolie - Celebrity News - Marie Claire

The camp has been open since 1991 and was originally intended to house 90,000 refugees, but has ballooned to accommodate the growing population which sees 7,000 new arrivals each month.

Jolie described the camp as ‘one of the most dire’ she had ever seen in her eight years working for the UN.

Ethiopia: Holyfield vs Retta rescheduled

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

By Mark Vester | BoxingScene.com

The charity bout between former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield and Sammy Retta has been rescheduled to October 30 in Ethiopia. The event was set for to take place in Addis Ababa on July 26 and then set to September 11 and then moved per the request of the Ethiopian government tribal junta regime. The event will benefit AIDS charities. Retta is a blown-up super middleweight who now walks around at 230-pounds. Former champion Ray Mercer and fighters from all over the world are taking part in the event.

“The promoters are working hard to make a real and spectacular event,” Motuma Temesgen, an official from Ethiopia’s government communication affairs office, told AFP. “Holyfield and Sammy Retta will fight in Addis Ababa on October 30 while five other fights will also take place on the same day.”

Ethiopia's Fly Away Children

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

By Andrew Geoghegan | ABC

Since Angelina Jolie adopted her daughter Zahara in 2005, the number of Americans adopting Ethiopian children has quadrupled.

A pop-media obsession with celebrities adopting children in Africa has resulted in a queue of adopting foreigners dealing with opportunistic adoption agents in operating in a regulatory vaccuum. In Ethiopia – and beyond – its creating a heartbreaking mess.

International adoptions may seem like an ideal solution to the dreadful deprivation among the young in Ethiopia and the often impossible circumstances confronting parents trying to feed and raise their children.

The reality though, is far from ideal.

Some adopting parents suspect or discover the new child they’ve taken in is not an orphan as they’d been assured. The child may also have a litany of health problems that has been covered up by corrupt officials.

Also many ‘relinquishing’ Ethiopian parents or carers may have been duped into giving up their children through a heartless process called ‘harvesting’ and can’t hope to re-establish contact with them.

Ethiopia has 5 million orphans needing homes and the United States has millions of homes needing babies. Africa Correspondent Andrew Geoghegan and producer Mary Ann Jolley, discover it’s not a simple mathematical equation or zero sum game. There are virtually no government regulations or policing of the process. Many international adoption agencies flashing Christian credentials are taking advantage of the situation. Corruption, fraud and deception are rife.

Foreign Correspondent follows a Florida couple in their mid fifties as they travel to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to pick up their three adopted children, aged three, four and six. It’s a gut wrenching moment when they meet the birth mother who has come to the orphanage to say a final goodbye to her children. This transaction appears above board but it’s all too common for Ethiopian parents to give up their children for international adoption after being coerced by adoption agencies.

Foreign Correspondent investigates the activities of one of the biggest American agencies operating in Ethiopia. In a remote village in the country’s south, the agency openly recruits children with parents. Each child offered for adoption is then filmed for a DVD catalogue which in turn is shipped out to potential adoptive parents.

A world away in California a mother of one – looking for a brother for her son – chooses from a CWA DVD catalogue. The agency’s sales pitch promised a healthy, abandoned child, but that could not have been further from the truth. Her story is tragic and disturbing and exposes the callousness of the profit oriented international adoption business

A group of grieving mothers who have given up their children for international adoption gather at an orphanage to tell their stories. All claim they were told by adoption agencies they would receive regular information about the whereabouts and wellbeing of their children, but have heard nothing.

It’s a thought-provoking edition of Foreign Correspondent and a must watch for anyone considering adopting a child from another country or who has celebrated the apparent social consciousness of Hollywood A-listers.


Click here to watch the documentary
.

Transcript

GEOGHEGAN: Palm Beach Florida is home to Christian couple Tim and Joni Gooley. He’s a pastor, she’s a school guidance counsellor. They’re empty nesters in their mid-50’s, looking to do some good in the world.

JONI GOOLEY: “We kept looking around our house saying we’re not Bill Gates or someone like that where we can contribute a large amount of money, but what we have is a home and we have bedrooms.”

TIM GOOLEY: “Right. We’ve been blessed with a lot and especially … compared to the rest of the world.”

GEOGHEGAN: The Gooley’s have four adult sons, the youngest Taylor is home from college on holidays, but they’re not done with child rearing just yet. They’re getting ready to welcome not one but three new children.

TIM GOOLEY: “It did go from one to two to three. It was never one but in people’s eyes around, our friends, they went oh two are you kidding? Three are you nuts? And so it progressed.”

JONI GOOLEY: “But you certainly couldn’t imagine breaking the three kids up.”

TIM GOOLEY: “No.”

GEOGHEGAN: Behailu, Meskeren and Endale are siblings aged three, four and six and live in an orphanage in Ethiopia.

JONI GOOLEY: [Looking at picture] “This is Meskeren. Now look at her. She looks like a little movie star.”

TIM GOOLEY: “Yes, she does.”

GEOGHEGAN: They’re expecting challenges but the Gooleys believe their faith will bridge any cultural divide.

JONI GOOLEY: “Our culture is our family culture. Our culture is the Gooley culture. You know we’ve raised four boys, we have a culture within our home that has to do with loving God, respecting each other, caring for each other – that kind of stuff.”

GEOGHEGAN: After a year of paperwork, the Gooleys are finally on their way to collect their new children. It’s a sixteen hour flight to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa but a universe away from the family’s life in the US. Gabriel Gooley, their eldest son, has flown in from Europe and is on hand to meet his parents. There’s no time to digest the dramatic differences. The family is off to the orphanage, an hour outside the city.

(AT THE ORPHANAGE)
As the family gets to know the children, a woman watches on. This is the children’s birth mother. The Gooley’s were told by their Florida based adoption agency that she’s very sick with HIV but today, even with the emotional turmoil, she looks remarkably strong.

ORPHANAGE: “She said I can’t take care of them anymore. I don’t have anything to feed them so I don’t want to see them die so that’s how she gave them to us.”

GEOGHEGAN: The orphanage claims it normally only accepts orphans but in the case of these three children, it says it made an exception because the mother couldn’t look after them and begged the orphanage to take them. The children are now legally the Gooley’s. The mother’s compensation – a photograph to remember them by.

ORPHANAGE: “So we have a picture for her framed and we’re going to give her as a gift.”

JONI GOOLEY: [To birth mother] “And also we consider it a privilege for her to share her children.
That was one of the most dramatic things I’ve ever been part of, but I know how much she must love them and I respect that [hugging and crying with birth mother].”

TIM GOOLEY: “God is a huge God. He wants to care for his people and his children and he has given us that task – the world that task. Whether you’re Madonna or whether you’re Joni Gooley, it is there for the doing.”

GEOGHEGAN: Ethiopia has become a fertile ground for international adoptions. It’s estimated thirty children leave the country a week. Across the city, hotel foyers have become clearing houses, departure lounges for many families and their adopted children. This is the scene in just one hotel in Addis Ababa. And the website You Tube is plastered with new parents’ home movies.

The crude reality is that children have become a big Ethiopian export. A child welfare agency here estimates international adoptions are generating revenue for the government of around one hundred million dollars a year, and the government is showing now sign that it is going to jeopardise that income for the sake of the children.

Ethiopia is not a signatory to the Hague Convention which requires international adoption be used only as a last resort. So as a result, a completely unregulated industry has grown up. More than 70 agencies operate here, almost half are unregistered. Corruption, fraud and deception are rife. The unscrupulous practices of this industry alarm one of the country’s top human rights lawyers, Mehari Maru.

MEHARI MURU: “I have heard several words which I don’t accept in these adoption processes, ‘harvesting’ is one of them is…. completely wrong, that you harvest the child for adoptive parents.”

CWA WOMAN: “If you want your family to be adopted by a family in America, you may stay. If you do not want your child to go to America, you should take your child away.”

GEOGHEGAN: This active drafting of children from families for the international adoption market is harvesting.

CWA WOMAN: “We know that you love your children.”

GEOGHEGAN: The American agency, Christian World Adoptions or CWA is one of the most active. Here a CWA staffer is seen recruiting children in a remote village in Ethiopia’s south, where evangelical Christianity prevails.

CWA WOMAN: “These are two cute brothers.”

GEOGHEGAN: There are five million orphans in this country, but few here. Most of these children have parents.

CWA WOMAN: Meragene has some kind of infection on his face. The Mum says it should clear up somewhat…

GEOGHEGAN: Child by child, family by family, they roll up for their photo opportunity and what amounts to a sales pitch by the CWA staffer.

CWA STAFFER: [On video tape] “This is Tegegne Bekere, he’s a little abandoned child and this kind man and his wife have taken him in and are helping him out but he needs a family. We think he’s about three years old.”

GEOGHEGAN: CWA’s sale pitch is mailed across the United States to families inquiring about Ethiopian adoptions. Californian couple, Lisa Boe and her husband Frank, chose Tegegne Bekere from CWA’s January 2007 DVD catalogue.

LISA BOE: “They run about six to eight hours and I sat and watched every child but there was one little boy and he was introduced as an abandoned child who was looking and needed a mummy and he was just this tiny, beautiful little boy. Big eyes and he looked just horrified and I just fell in love with him.”

GEOGHEGAN: Lisa Boe was assured – guaranteed – that the little boy was an orphan, but it didn’t take long before she had doubts.

LISA BOE: “There was a picture of the people that had found him and there’s a man and a woman in the picture, I point to the woman and he calls her ‘mamma’.
I would have never…. never brought home a child that has a mum…. never.”

EYOB KOLCHA: [Kingdom Vision International Orphanage] “I didn’t understand clearly what was happening then because I was an employee and I was there to obey and to do what I was told to do and when I see today, it is completely unacceptable because you cannot go to the community and announce, ‘oh we are here today to talk about adoption’. The children are in their community…. they need to be supported there first.”

GEOGHEGAN: Eyob Kolcha quit his job at Christian World Adoptions in December 2007 after more than a year with them. He’s still in the Internet and adoption business and runs an orphanage in Addis Ababa.

EYOB KOLCHA: “It was considered good for the children in the community and that people. So they were informed that they would go to America and they would live with families. There was no information before that time. There was no information after that.”

GEOGHEGAN: “Did their parents realise that they were now legally someone else’s children?”

EYOB KOLCHA: “They didn’t understand that. Even I don’t think most people, most parents understand even elsewhere in Ethiopia right now.”

GEOGHEGAN: “It’s the commercialisation of children isn’t it? At what point does that then become trafficking?”

MEHARI MARU: “If a parent or a guardian gives this consent without supplied information to them, then there is a problem it will fall under trafficking.”

GEOGHEGAN: Foreign Correspondent contacted CWA’s United States headquarters many times during the course of filming this story, seeking a response to claims it harvests children and is involved in corrupt practices, but the agency did not respond. We had little choice but to go underground.

[Hidden camera] When we visited CWA’s office in Addis Ababa posing as potential adoptive parents, case worker Aster Hiruye denied the agency harvests children.

“You know you don’t go to communities and say, do you want to give up your child for instance?”

ASTER HIRUYE: “No, we never do that, never. And we can’t do that.”

GEOGHEGAN: “That’s illegal is it?”

ASTER HIRUYE: “That’s illegal. That’s against the law.”

GEOGHEGAN: Across the city, the Gooley’s have custody of their three children and are staying at a guesthouse with several other American families who have also adopted Ethiopian children through various agencies.
The families offer one another support but the guesthouse also offers a discreet location. The Gooley’s Florida based adoption agency had warned the family that international adoptions are a sensitive issue for ordinary Ethiopians.
Most agencies discourage adoptive parents from spending too much time in Ethiopia, just a few days to arrange visas through their embassies. Some adoptive parents don’t even bother to make the trip. They have their children delivered by an escort service.

At an orphanage in the town of Nazret a couple of hundred kilometres west of the capital, mothers have come to tell their stories.

WOUBALEM WORKU: “My name is Woubalem Worku. I gave one son for adoption and I have two children left. I was not able to raise him, that’s why I gave him up, but I wish him all the best wherever he is. I want to see him in person, or at least a photo.”

MOTHER #2: “I do not regret. But when the lady took him away she said she would let me know his address. She said she’d assist me and my other kids when she took him away. At that time I was homeless [crying]. Until now, I’ve heard nothing. It’s almost 3 years.”

MUNERA AHMED: “I have no words to express my feelings and my anguish about what happened to my children, and what I did. As a mother, not to be able to know my kids’ situation hurts me so much. I have no words, no words, to express my emotions. I even regret the day I gave up my children for adoption. That’s how I feel.

GEOGHEGAN: Munera Ahmed gave up two sons, one twelve months old and the other five after her husband left. When her family found out, they took her remaining daughter, leaving her alone and filled with regret. She has no idea what’s happened to her adopted children, despite assurances from the agency that she’d be kept informed.

MUNERA AHMED: “I was told I’d have up to date information about my kids every 3 months. They also said they would educate my little daughter. It was on this basis and belief that I gave up my children to the organisation.”

GEOGHEGAN: Minara Armid has made the three hour journey to Addis Ababa her children were adopted through the Canadian Agency, Kids Link, and she’s come to the office today because she wants information about where and how her children are.

[To man at agency] “She had two children, adopted out and she was promised information about what had happened to them, where they’d gone and how they are, but she has been given nothing.”

MAN AT AGENCY: “They just left the office”.

MUNERA AHMED: “But they were here just now. I saw them from over there.”

GEOGHEGAN: Since our visit, the agency has gone bankrupt and closed its doors. Minara Armid may never trace her children.

MUNERA AHMED: “The manager is not a bird. She cannot fly. She cannot fly out of the building.”

MAN AT AGENCY: “Come back tomorrow at 3pm. Goodbye.”

GEOGHEGAN: Janesville, Northern California is remote and quiet. It’s home to just a few thousand people including now Tegegne Bekere, the little boy we met earlier. He started his new life with a new name, Zane Boe. Lisa Boe and her husband Frank have a son of their own, but they wanted a brother for Zach. A heart problem ruled out any plans for another pregnancy and a foster child they’d taken in died of SIDS. Lisa Boe met Zane for the first time at the Christian World Adoption home in Addis Ababa in April 2008.

LISA BOE: “All of a sudden they brought this beautiful little boy, they’d got him in their arms. I could tell that he’d been you know… kind of ruffled up, and she was carrying him tight and she came and she stood him before me and I kneeled down to meet him and I was just surprised when he couldn’t stand.”

GEOGHEGAN: The healthy child she’d been promised by CWA was not. Far from it.

LISA BOE: “Okay in the morning he takes Trileptal which is for his seizures…. anti-seizure medication. His problems are he has cerebral palsy. He has microcephaly… he has a cyst in his left lobe of his brain that’s very large and takes up a greater portion of his left lobe. He has seizures…. He’s better with medication but he has food aversion….. he has tremors from head to toe…. His eye bounces non-stop. He is going blind in his left eye. His legs and feet are crippled and turn inward and they’re tightening due to the cerebral palsy.
[With court documents] Look at this, the medicals that went through court… says that he’s perfectly healthy. There’s no deformities, no problems, no apparent neurological deficits.”

GEOGHEGAN: When Lisa Boe confronted the CWA doctor in Ethiopia about the false information, he showed her his notes referring Zane for specialist medical tests for his eyes and his legs.

LISA BOE: “Here is the eye referral that they say doesn’t exist.”

GEOGHEGAN: These are erased from Zane’s official medical records.

LISA BOE: “And here’s the paper where they even used white-out over somebody else’s name…. put his name over it.”

GEOGHEGAN: [Hidden camera] “Well there are some serious allegations.”

When we tracked down the doctor at a hospital in Addis Ababa he told us he couldn’t remember the case, but claims that CWA had pressured him on a number of occasions to change records, most notably the age of the children. He no longer works for the agency.

Lisa Boe is now struggling with a seriously ill child and mounting medical bills.

LISA BOE: “His three medications alone per month is over $749 per month.
I would say that they need to drop Christian from their name. They are not being honest. They are doing things for profit.”

GEOGHEGAN: Had she known the extent of Zane’s medical problems, Lisa Boe admits she probably wouldn’t have gone ahead with the adoption.

LISA BOE: “We had actually discussed getting a disabled child when we were adopting and we had decided because our prior son that we were trying to adopt passed away and it would have been well beyond what we could take. We had already had a huge heartbreak. The prognosis for Zane shortens his life and the thought of burying another child is well beyond what I can do…. [very upset] I’m sorry.”

GEOGHEGAN: The Gooley’s eight day stay in Ethiopia is almost over and the orphanage’s church is giving them and the children a send off.

TIM GOOLEY: “They’re our children. They’re all our children.”

ORPHANAGE: “I would say it’s a sad moment and a happy moment. It’s a kind of a bitter- sweet experience for us. We believe that you are a good family and we are happy about that. The Lord is good.”

GEOGHEGAN: It’s a sobering moment for the Gooley’s, but there are no second thoughts. They’re convinced that they’re doing the right thing by the children.

TIM GOOLEY: “This is really an act of God that we were placed in this place at this time with these kids and that he’s working from both sides of the Atlantic on caring for these kids.”

JONI GOOLEY: “We’re our brother’s keeper and it really hit me when I talked to the mum for a while, just myself, and tried to tell her that you’re still their mother and I’m their mother, that we’re all helping each other in this world. She’s going through some tough times. Maybe when they’re nineteen I hope I would have the courage to say if you want to go back and move to Ethiopia, let’s go back.”

GEOGHEGAN: For now though the children must adapt to a new family and a new world. And their mother has to deal with the loss and the choice she made.

Interview with Ethiopian freedom fighters: video

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

News and interview with Ethiopian freedom fighters and other. Watch below:

8 Ethiopia opposition parties form new alliance

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (ST) — Eight major Ethiopian opposition political parties, in an unexpected move, announced a new coalition on Thursday to challenge the ruling party, most expected to win, in the upcoming national election.

The new coalition is announced two days after the ruling, Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (Woyanne), party’s council decided its chairman and the Prime minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi to stay in power for one more term.

As its primary plan of action, the opposition umbrella named as Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia (FDDE) in a joint statement said that it will enter into negotiation with government for expansion of democratic space and transparency ahead of the elections.

Ethiopian Prime Minister dictator convoying Ethiopia’s New Year wishes yesterday reaffirmed that his government is dedicated to conduct democratic and fair election. But some opposition leaders who spoke recently to Sudan Tribune said that they are already being harassed by government cadres, which they said is making it impossible for them to conduct election campaigns.

Other opposition members allege that their potential candidates are being intimidated or arrested on false charges; their regional offices are being closed. Government officials reject the claims as “an empty allegation with no single concrete proof”.

Recently Ethiopia’s former president and opposition MP accused government of being behind disruption of a public political meeting in Adama town of the Oromiya region.

“Continuously endorsed new laws like the press laws, the passing of the civil society law and anti terror laws are leaving no democratic space to opposition political parties but arrest of political figures and journalists” the new coalition said in a joint statement

The FDDE also said that it will soon organize a public demonstration in Addis Ababa to push for the release of detained opposition leaders.

The new alliance comprises the Ethiopian Democratic Unity Movement, the Ethiopian and Oromo Federalist Movement, the Somali Democratic Alliance Forces, UDJ, the Arena Tigray Democratic and Sovereignty Party and the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF).

Gebru Asrat, the former northern Tigray region’s president is elected to lead the new alliance. He is also the leader of the Arena Tigray party. His party strongly believes that the Eritrea’s port of Assab should be returned back to Ethiopia.

The parties under the new alliance make up 80 of the nation’s parliament’s total 547 seats.

Drought stricken Ethiopia tries to get rid of eucalyptus tree

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

By Kristin Underwood | TreeHugger.com

eucalyptus tree

Today Ethiopia is classified as having over 70% severe desertification, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). While there are several reasons, one major one is thanks (or no thanks) to eucalyptus brought over from Australia. But, the folks over at the Entoto National Park project, want to see that eucalyptus is replaced with indigenous plants in an effort to restore the soil and save water, as reported in Selamta.

The Entoto National Park project is not actually a national park, so tourists coming to see the hyena and lammergeyers are often disappointed as no such park exists. But the area is a 1300 hectare spot north of the capital Addis Ababa, which was decimated thanks to poor planning almost 150 years ago. The Emperor at the time, Menelik, ordered construction of the “new” city which meant the need for a lot of fuel and fast. The solution: import eucalyptus from Australia. 120 years later: Houston, we have a problem.

What’s Wrong with Eucalyptus?

Koalas love it and we’re losing tons of it through the drought in Australia. So why would the Entoto National Park project want to out and out destroy it? Eucalyptus needs water, and a lot of it. For a plant that is taking over to also be so demanding, kind of makes it hard to justify the cost of keeping it around, particularly in developing countries where the soil could be put to better use.

Which brings us to our next problem: erosion. The eucalyptus plants are thriving but also destroying the soil, which doesn’t help in an area that already suffers from “high gradients, heavy rainfall and…clay [soil].” Thus, restoring the landscape to more native species will also reduce flooding and soil loss.

How to Replace Eucalyptus

First, workers on the project have been planting trees native to Ethiopia, such as “Juniperus excelsa, Acacia abyssinica, Olea europaea cuspidata and Hagenia abyssinica. To stop the erosion, project workers are creating terraces and check dams along the hillsides. Neighbors to the park who allow their animals to roam free (and eat the new saplings) will be fined, thus the park has hired guards to monitor and protect the park.

The eucalyptus plants themselves can be “debarked” to prevent regrowth, but this takes a large amount of time and money. The eucalyptus stalks can also be sold for use as telephone poles and fence posts. The restoration plan is estimated to cost one Birr one million per year for the next five years.

In the short time since the program began, there have already been nice results. Areas that are already undergoing reforestation are thriving and animals like dik diks and jackals are starting to return to the area, along with birds. Workers at the Entoto National Park just hope that the good work keeps up and that they can afford to keep going.

Ethiopia: The Ex et Getatchew Mekuria – La rencontre des antipodes

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
Getatchew Mekuria Mots clés : Getatchew Mekuria, The Ex, Musique, Pays-Bas (Hollande) (pays), Éthiopie (pays)Difficile d’imaginer une rencontre aussi singulière. The Ex, un groupe hollandais de free punk accompagnera ce soir et mercredi soir, à la Sala Rossa, le saxophoniste Getatchew Mekuria, une des icônes de l’éthio-jazz, cette formidable musique révélée depuis plus d’une décennie par la série discographique culte Éthiopiques.

An extraordinary journey from Ethiopia to Israel

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

By ILLANAH RESPES | Jewish Community Voice

Speaking fluent Hebrew with an English translator by her side, Hadar Sahalo recalled her journey from Ethiopia to Israel 25 years ago. For Ethiopian Jews, making this pilgrimage is taught at an early age and returning to the homeland is a dream waiting to be fulfilled.

At age 15, Hadar and several others, including her brother and cousin, secretly organized a group to depart for Israel. After trusting a guide to take them through the Sudan desert in the direction of Israel, the guide disappeared, stealing some of their money and leaving the group lost.

Fearing robbers who were known to attack wanderers, they sewed what money they had left into their clothes. When robbers attacked, Hadar managed to escape, leaving her cousin behind. Hadar thanked God for allowing her to make it through, but felt guilty thinking of the dreadful fate of her cousin.

Hadar eventually made it to safety; however, she had lost the group, including her brother. Arriving in Israel, she resided at an absorption center, run by the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), an overseas partner of the Jewish Federation. Two years later, she reunited with her brother in Israel.

Five years after Hadar successfully was absorbed, she was asked by JAFI to serve as an ambassador to new Ethiopian Jews making aliyah. On her first day, Hadar received a list of people intending to make aliyah. On that list was her cousin’s name with the name of a son.

“My heart sank at that moment. I never thought in my mind I would absorb her. It took time to rebuild my soul again and recover from the shock,” said Hadar.

Hadar learned that her cousin also had a daughter who was left behind in Ethiopia. She informed the Jewish Agency. Israeli intelligence got involved. A year later, the girl was reunited with her family.

“It was a complete circle and gave me power to continue,” said Hadar.

Hadar is still employed by JAFI and is now a “house mother” for 350 families at the Mevasseret Zion Absorption Center outside of Jerusalem. It is the largest absorption center in the country, housing over 1,200 Ethiopian Jews. Here, adults learn Hebrew, attend enrichment workshops on topics such as hygiene, employment, childcare and Israeli society. The children attend school and become involved in after-school programs.

Ethiopian Jews come from a country where people live in huts made of sticks and straw. Hadar helps to furnish their new apartments, teaches them how to clean, how to use a washing machine, how to read a bill and leads them into the transition to their new lives.

Funds raised by the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey Annual Campaign play an important role in bringing Jews from throughout the world to Israel and helping them become part of the Israeli mainstream. You can help ensure that the life-enriching programs and services provided by the Jewish Agency continue to help Jews worldwide by making a contribution to the 2009 Jewish Federation Annual Campaign. Donate online at www.jewishsouthjersey.org or call 751-9500, ext. 214. .

Las Vegas Queen of Sheba features traditional Ethiopian food

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

By Corey Levitan

LAS VEGAS (ReviewJournal.com) — Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant teaches you what your mother wouldn’t: How to eat with your fingers. Its place-settings feature no silverware — unless you ask.

“If you are unfamiliar with the cuisine, we’ll show you how to eat it,” says Semeneh Meshesha, who purchased the restaurant with a partner from its previous owners in May. (It opened last November in the corner of a Food 4 Less strip mall at 4001 S. Decatur Blvd.)

“For Ethiopian food, using your hand is the best way,” he says.

Queen of Sheba’s traditional dishes — meant to be shared — are evenly split between vegetarian and meat. They’re mostly butter-sauteed and spicy, and all served on 16-inch round injera, a pizzalike bread made from an ancient grain called teff.

“You will have never tasted this before, because it’s special,” promises Meshesha, who hails from the Ethiopian city of Addis Ababa. “We do it in our own traditional way, which makes the food very tasty.”

According to Meshesha, 95 percent of his American customers either have eaten Ethiopian food before or acclimate immediately. Some of them, however, “will ask for a fork.”

The restaurant — decorated, surprisingly, in a modern American style — seats 125. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. daily. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, Ethiopian music is performed live. On Fridays, it’s reggae; on Saturdays, Caribbean. Reservations are recommended but not required.

Signature dish: Doro wet (chicken), $9

Starters: Lamb stew, $9; tibs (sauteed beef), $9; kitfo (beef), $8.99

Salad: Ethiopian salad, $4

Entrees: Vegi combo, $10; meat combo, $14

Desserts: Baklava, $2

Information: 489-8300

Ethiopian woman in Israel denied any formal status

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

By RUTH EGLASH | Jerusalem Post

A non-Jewish Ethiopian woman, who was brought to Israel by force as a child and raped by her captor for more than a year, is being denied any formal residency status even though she has lived here for more than 16 years, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Aregash Gudina Terfassa, whose lawyers have petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court to accept her claim, first applied for permanent residency status in 2006, when the Interior Ministry announced it would recognize children of foreign workers either born here or who had spent the vast majority of their lives here.

Even though Terfassa fit most of the criteria – she had arrived before the age of 14, grew up here and speaks fluent Hebrew – her application was denied because she had never attended an Israeli school.

She has been living here without any formal status ever since.

“It’s like being in jail,” the 28-year-old told the Post Wednesday. “I was working as a cleaner two days a week but after being arrested twice [by immigration police] and spending a month in jail, I’m too afraid to go out to work or even leave my house.”

“I would have loved to have had the opportunity to go to school,” continued Terfassa, who, ironically, spent much of her teenage years cleaning an Israeli school, but never actually learning in one. “But I had no parents to help me with that and I did not have the chance.”

Attorney Michael Decker from the Jerusalem-based Yehuda Raveh & Co. Law Offices, which is representing Terfassa, said the Interior Ministry’s decision not to grant her permanent residency was unfair.

He pointed out to the Post that under the country’s laws of compulsory education it is the responsibility of parents and/or the authorities to ensure that every child attends school. In the case of Terfassa, however, because she had no parents or official legal guardian, that criteria should not apply.

“She was cleaning schools while other kids got to study there, but never had the chance to study herself,” said Decker, adding that a court hearing was supposed to take place on Sunday but that the Interior Ministry has asked for an additional extension to further analyze the situation.

The presiding judge has not yet ruled whether next week’s hearing will be delayed.

“It’s a unique case,” commented a ministry spokeswoman. “The courts will now have to decide what should be done in this matter.”

Asked about the Interior Ministry’s approach to her case, Terfassa replied sadly: “All my life has been filled with hardships; it’s all I know. I have no parents, no family, except for my [non-Jewish] husband now. I have been here for 16 years and still have achieved nothing.”

Terfassa, who hails from rural Ethiopia, said that her parents died when she was a young child and that she was sent to live in a church. In 1993, the church’s priest was posted to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem and Terfassa accompanied him, entering the country initially on a tourist visa.

“He was like a father to me,” said Terfassa of the man who first brought her here and later beat and raped her. “I was only a child then, I did not speak Hebrew and the officials in the church told me not to report it to the police.”

Terfassa recalled, however, that the priest was later deported by the Israeli authorities.

At the age of 14, Terfassa, who was left barren by her ordeal, managed to escape the church and found refuge with another Ethiopian Christian family in Jerusalem and worked for them caring for the family’s young children. She was later hired by a manpower agency and sent to work as a cleaner, which she has done ever since.

“I know that she would love to have a formal status so that she could at least improve her work situation,” said Becker. “She has expressed to me that she would love to work in a store, folding clothes. She is just devastated that next week’s hearing might be postponed.”

Californian helps women in Ethiopia start new lives

Monday, September 14th, 2009

By Sabrina Rodriquez | BakersfieldNow.com

Taft woman helps women in Ethiopia start new lives

BAKERSFIELD, CA — Sometimes it doesn’t take much to change someone’s life.

Drussilla Rofkahr lives in Taft but says her heart is in Ethiopia, because the women there live a hard life.

“No hope. Destitute,” is how Rofkahr describes the lives of many Ethiopian women. “(The women are) afraid, because they can be raped, and their children can be taken away and sold into slavery.”

According to Rofkahr, many women will resort to prostitution and giving away their children in order to have enough money to get by.

Because of that hardship, Rofkahr and the group she works with, Joshua Campaign International, go to Ethiopia with one simple goal: “Helping women get off the streets.”

But the group does more than just give the women and children a better place to sleep.

For one to two years, the women are taught how to sew, how to cook, and they also run a café. It may not seem like much but Rofkahr says that by doing these jobs the women, “Learn how to serve and run a business. We teach them a trade where they can do it themselves.”

She adds that by helping these women become self-sufficient, “That gives them security, they feel good about themselves.”

These seemly simple tasks become the beginning of a whole new life for these women.

Rofkahr is getting ready to head back to Ethiopia to help even more women, but she says she needs help, and is hoping the public will donate.

Rofkahr says a little bit can go a long way.

“$20 to $30 a month would bring (the women and children) off the streets and give them a place to live and food in their stomachs, and that would be a great thing.”

If you would like to donate you can send it to:

Joshua Campaign International
c/o “Ethiopian Women’s Project”
PO BOX 8700
Fresno, CA 93747

Or you can call 1-800-745-1332.

WorldBank says Ethiopia's atmosphere for business improved!

Monday, September 14th, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: World Bank crooks must be chewing khat with Meles.

ADDIS ABABA (Fortune) — A new report on ease of doing business around the world has been published by the World Bank and it shows that Ethiopia has improved its environment for doing business with the country moving up nine places on the index table from position 116 to 107. Wow! Incredible!

[The truth of the matter is that Ethiopia’s economy under the Woyanne tribal junta is growing down like a carrot.]

The development comes barely a month after another World Bank report on competitiveness where Ethiopia’s business environment was found wanting in many areas.

“Ethiopia reduced court delays through a combination of better case management and internal training, as well as an expanded role for enforcement judges. The government has simplified property transfers by decentralizing administrative tasks to sub-cities and merging procedures performed by the land registry and municipalities,” said World Bank in a report released in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, September 9, 2009.

Reforms at the company registry and the streamlining of procedures have also made it easier to start a business in Ethiopia over the past year, says the report compiled by the Bank’s branch, the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Ethiopia has over the past year ranked poorly on the index as it moved from 109 in 2008 to 116 in this year, 2009.

“Major areas of reform [in 2008/2009] have been in areas of starting a business, registering property, and enforcing contracts,” the Bank notes in the report.

Ethiopia is also named to have lowered taxes on domestic firms in 2008/2009.

This new report vindicates State Minister of Trade and Industry Tedesse Hailu, who on August 20, 2009, doubted the findings of the first World Bank report titled Ethiopia Investment Climate: Towards the Competitive Frontier which showed that government preferences, access to capital, coupled with low productivity, low wages, land allocation and inefficiency in allocation of resources were some factors that were slowing down Ethiopia’s competitiveness to attract business and investment on the world market.

The Trade and Industry Minister indicated that Ethiopia was improving in many areas like making resources such as land available to investors and reforming some of its trade rules.

“This is good development for Ethiopia as 2009 was difficult year for many countries,” an economist told Fortune on Wednesday, September 9, 2009.

The Bank dubbed 2009 as a year of fast-paced reform with 67 regulatory reforms recorded in 29 of 46 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Doing Business 2010: ‘Reforming through Difficult Times’, as the report is named, is the seventh in a series of Doing Business annual reports published by IFC and the World Bank.

For the first time a Sub-Saharan African country-Rwanda-was the world’s top reformer, based on the number and impact of reforms implemented between June 2008 and May 2009. Rwanda, a repeat reformer, reformed in seven of the 10 business regulation areas measured by Doing Business.

It now takes a Rwandan entrepreneur just two procedures and three days to start a business. Imports and exports are more efficient, and transferring property takes less time thanks to reorganized registries and statutory time limits. Investors have more protection, insolvency reorganization has been streamlined, and a wider range of assets can be used as collateral to access credit.

Mauritius, ranked 17 of the 183 economies covered by the report, is the top Sub-Saharan economy for the second year in a row in terms of the overall regulatory ease of doing business. It adopted a new insolvency law, established a specialized commercial division within the court, eased property transfers and expedited trade processes.

“In times overshadowed by the global financial and economic crisis, business regulation can make an important difference for how easy it is to reorganize troubled firms to help them survive, to rebuild when demand rebounds, and to get new businesses started,” said Penelope Brook, acting vice president for Financial and Private Sector Development at the World Bank Group in a statement made available to Fortune on Wednesday.

Doing Business analyzes regulations that apply to an economy’s businesses during their life cycles, including start-up and operations, trading across borders, paying taxes, and closing a business. Doing Business does not measure all aspects of the business environment that matter to firms and investors.

For example, it does not measure security, macroeconomic stability, corruption, skill level, or the strength of financial systems.

“The report shows that some post conflict economies [like Ethiopia and Rwanda] in the region are actively improving the regulatory framework for private sector-led development,” said Brooks.

U.S. adoption agencies exploit Ethiopian children – documentary

Monday, September 14th, 2009

This transcript is a record of the Radio National broadcast. – ABC.net

TONY EASTLEY: In Australia, international adoptions are handled by the Government and are highly regulated, but that’s not the case elsewhere in the world.

In the United States international adoptions are a big business, where a large number of private international adoption agencies are paid on average $30,000 a time to find a child for hopeful parents.

The number of Americans adopting Ethiopian children has quadrupled, especially since American celebrities adopted African children.

A Foreign Correspondent team has been investigating American adoption agencies operating in Ethiopia and has uncovered some alarming practices.

Africa correspondent Andrew Geoghegan reports.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Famine, disease and war have orphaned around five million Ethiopian children. It’s not surprising then that the business of international adoptions is thriving here and Americans in particular are queuing up to adopt a child.

EXCERPT FROM DVD: This is Yabets. He’s five years old and both of his parents died; it says they died of tuberculosis. Can you smile? Oh, nice smile.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: This is the sales pitch from an American agency Christian World Adoption. In a remote village in Ethiopia’s south the agency has compiled a DVD catalogue of children for its clients in the United States.

EXCERPT FROM DVD: Father has died. I’m not certain what he died of and this is the mother. Hoping for a family who can provide for them, they’re just really desperate for people to take care of their children.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Incredibly though, many of the children being advertised are not orphans at all. American Lisa Boe was told by Christian World Adoption that the little boy she’d adopted was an orphan, but she soon had doubts.

LISA BOE: There was a picture of the people that had found him, and there’s a man and a woman in the picture. I point to the woman and he calls her mamma. I would never, never have brought home a child that has a mum. Never.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: At least 70 adoption agencies have set up business in Ethiopia. Almost half are unregistered, but there’s scant regulation anyway and fraud and deception are rife. Some agencies actively recruit children in a process known as harvesting.

EXCERPT FROM DVD: If you want your child to be adopted by a family in America, you may stay. If you do not want your child to go to America, you should take your child away.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Parents give up their children in the belief they’ll have better lives overseas. But many have little understanding of the process or that that they may never see their children again.

EYOB KOLCHA: It was considered good for the children in the community and the people came.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Eyob Kolcha worked for Christian World Adoption before quitting in December 2007.

EYOB KOLCHA: There was no information before that time, there was no information after that.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Did their parents realise that they were now legally someone else’s children?

EYOB KOLCHA: They didn’t understand that. I don’t think most people, most parents understand even elsewhere in Ethiopia right now.

MUNERA AHMED (translated): I have no words to express my feelings and my anguish about what happened to my children and what I did.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: After her husband left, Munera Ahmed gave up two sons – one 12 months old and the other five through another adoption agency.

She has had no word about her children since she handed them over; that’s despite guarantees that she’d be kept informed. The agency has now closed.

MUNERA AHMED (translated): As a mother not to be able to know my kids’ situation hurts me so much, I have no words, no words to express my emotions (crying).

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: About 30 Ethiopian children are leaving the country every week, bound for a new home, new parents and an uncertain future.

This is Andrew Geoghegan in Addis Ababa for AM.

TONY EASTLEY: And you can watch the full story tonight on Foreign Correspondent at 8pm.

Paranoia grips the ruling tribal junta in Ethiopia

Monday, September 14th, 2009

By Kevin J. Kelley

NAIROBI (The East African) — The government’s emphasis on ethnic identity could trigger a “violent eruption” in the run-up to Ethiopia’s scheduled elections in June, an international conflict-prevention group warned in a report last week.

“Paranoia” on the part of the former guerrilla fighters who now lead the country is cited as an impediment to a democratic system.

The ruling party’s “obsession with controlling political processes from the federal to the local level” is inciting opposition groups to consider taking up arms, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group says.

“Without genuine multiparty democracy,” the report suggests, “the tensions and pressures in Ethiopia’s polities will only grow, greatly increasing the possibility of a violent eruption that would destabilize the country and region.”

The report is intended to pressure Ethiopia’s leading benefactors to tie development aid more closely to political reform.

“Some donors appear to consider food security more important than democracy in Ethiopia, but they neglect the increased ethnic awareness and tensions created by the regionalisation policy and their potentially explosive consequences,” the Crisis Group says.

Ethiopia ranks as one of the United States’ chief allies in Africa. Washington annually provides Addis Ababa with hundreds of millions of dollars in aid while defending the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front from charges such as those levelled by the Crisis Group.

The Crisis Group’s report acknowledges that Ethiopia has made economic progress under the rule of the party that overthrew a repressive Marxist-Leninist regime 18 years ago. The report also refrains from questioning the government’s motives in promoting a system of ethnic federalism.

“But while the ruling EPRDF Tigrean People Liberation Front promises democracy,” the 40-page analysis continues, “it has not accepted that the opposition is qualified to take power via the ballot box and tends to regard the expression of differing views and interests as a form of betrayal.”

Feeling threatened by the emergence of a significant opposition, the ruling party resorted to repressive measures prior to the 2005 national elections.One paradoxical aspect of the report is its finding that the ruling party’s authoritarian actions have not prevented opposition groups from proliferating in recent years.

This broadening of the political spectrum, coupled with the promotion of ethnic awareness and the government’s unwillingness to share power, are identified by the Crisis Group as the factors that could push Ethiopia to a break point.

Ethiopia: African women parliamentarians condemn female genital mutilation

Monday, September 14th, 2009

By Tezeta Tulloch

Aregash Agegnehu, shown here with her daughter, is a former practitioner of female genital mutilation/cutting who has renounced it. [© UNICEF Ethiopia/2009/Zeleman]

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (UNICEF) — In a room filled with visiting dignitaries and members of the Ethiopian National Assembly, Tadeletch Shanko’s voice was whisper-quiet as she talked about the difficult subject of female genital mutilation/cutting, or FGM/C.

VIDEO: Watch now

Ms. Shanko had performed FGM/C on girls for the last 15 years and underwent the procedure herself as a girl, with devastating consequences.

“I lost seven of my nine children in childbirth,” she said. “Because of the scarring I sustained, I was not elastic enough. All seven of them suffocated inside my womb.”

Raising awareness

Ms. Shanko is no longer a supporter of FGM/C, as a result of a series of community dialogues on the physical and psychological harm caused by the practice.

She shared her story with the members of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) Women’s Caucus, which convened in Addis Ababa late last month to assess the state of FGM/C across Africa – and to learn from the strategies that Ethiopia and other countries have put in place to eliminate it.

A key objective of the visit was to mobilize parliamentarian and state support for the elimination of harmful traditional practices, with a particular emphasis on female genital mutilation. Also on the agenda were ways to raise public awareness of FGM/C through the media; customary laws to introduce sanctions against the practice; and potential avenues for collaboration among various stakeholders in society.

Powerful testimony

The parliamentarians heard powerful testimony from women and men whose lives had been tragically affected by FGM/C.

For Aregash Agegnehu, female circumcision – as the practice is also known – had never been a question of choice. “I was circumcised when I was a child. My daughter had to be cut as well,” she said. “It was inevitable.”

But since participating in in-depth community dialogues on the subject, Ms. Agegnehu no longer believes that FGM/C is a requisite part of being a woman.

“When I started engaging in community dialogue, I came to understand the harm of FGM, and now I have changed,” she said.

Hon. Anab Abdulkadir, Pan-African Parliament Acting Chairperson and a member of the Ethiopian Parliament, underwent FGM/C as a child. She is now an outspoken opponent of the practice. [© UNICEF Ethiopia/2009/Zeleman]

Cultural beliefs

Female genital mutilation is widely practiced by Muslims and Christians alike in Ethiopia, and official statistics suggest that almost three-quarters of women here have undergone the procedure. Forms vary widely by region but generally entail either a partial or total removal of the clitoris.

In the most severe form, infibulation, the labia are removed and the genitals sewn shut – barring a small hole for the release of urine and menstrual blood.

The predominant cultural belief is that circumcision is an essential pre-condition of marriage and motherhood. In many communities, an uncircumcised female cannot be recognized as a woman. Some feel that circumcision is a safeguard against promiscuity. Another common belief is that uncircumcised women tend to be inept at carrying out common household duties.

According to the World Health Organization, women who have undergone FGM/C are more likely to suffer from infertility, develop vaginal cysts and have recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections. FGM/C also increases the risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths. It has no proven health benefits.

Worldwide, between 100 and 140 million girls and women are living with the consequences of FGM/C. In Africa, an estimated 92 million girls aged 10 and over have undergone some form of genital cutting.

Changed attitudes

Many mothers fear that, without circumcision, their daughters will not fulfil the criteria for marriage or gain full acceptance in the community. Indeed, supporters of FGM/C often cite the fact that it is a long-held social norm. But such attitudes are changing. By the end of 2008, four of Ethiopia’s districts had publicly pledged to abandon FGM/C.

Mergieta Temesgen Ashebir, a religious leader who uses his influence to speak out against the practice, also spoke at the PAP conference. “According to the bible,” he said, “circumcision is only for boys, not for girls. There is no verse that states otherwise.”

Hon. Anab Abdulkadir, PAP Acting Chairperson and a member of the Ethiopian Parliament, pointed out the importance of understanding the root causes of FGM/C

“The demand is coming from where?” she asked. “It is coming from men. If there wasn’t a demand, there wouldn’t have been any supply. We have to … outlaw that demand.”

‘Not cast in stone’

UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia Ted Chaiban voiced the need to accelerate and harmonize efforts to abolish FGM/C in Africa.

“There are encouraging signs that the practice of FGM in Ethiopia is declining,” he noted. “We see this mission of the Pan-African Parliament Women’s Caucus as a major opportunity to catalyze and synergize efforts in Ethiopia, and across Africa, towards an intensified and coordinated affront on FGM.”

Added Hon. Fatima Hajaig, a South African parliamentarian: “Cultural norms are not cast in stone. They develop from day to day. Our cultural value system changes as we go along. This business of ‘in the name of culture’ – I can’t accept that.”

UNICEF Ethiopia has been collaborating with partners on a number of advocacy efforts toward abandonment of FGM/C, including training community-dialogue facilitators and disseminating educational materials in various media. The parliamentary mission is the most recent effort in this direction.

Ethiopia's U.S.-backed tribal junta releases 9,600 political prisoners

Monday, September 14th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (Sudan Tribune) — While Ethiopians mark a new year of 2002, Ethiopia’s regional states of Oromiya and Amhara officials on Friday said that they have freed 9,612 prisoners, including 391 women on amnesty in connection with the New Year.

Among the total prisoners freed 6611 of them were released from the Oromiya region and the rest 2901 are from the Amhara region.

The prisoners were pardoned based on the deep regret they showed, the good behavior they displayed while in prison and also considering their length of stay and old ages. They have all served at least half of their prison terms. But the amnesty grant does not include to those who are jailed on rape, murder or other serious crimes.

Regional officials have called on the freed prisoners to stay away from any criminal acts and to rather payback their community by actively engaging themselves in the economic and developmental endeavors of the country.

Ethiopians are today celebrating the Ethiopian New Year (Enkutatash). The New Year’s Day is celebrated on September 11 towards the end of the big rains.

Yemen police arrest over 90 immigrants from Ethiopia

Monday, September 14th, 2009

SANA’A, YEMEN (SABA) – Security Authorities in Thubab coast of Taiz governorate have arrested about 94 Ethiopians entered the country illegally, the Interior Ministry has reported.

The Ministry said that the Ethiopians, including 38 women, have been all sent to the competent authorities to take the required legal procedures against them.

In a related context, the security authorities said that 100 Ethiopian citizens have arrived to Thubab coat of Taiz in the first week of September.

The authorities voiced high concerns of the incessant flow of the Ethiopians to the Yemeni coasts.

On the other hand, about 138 Somali refugees have arrived in Taiz coasts. The refugees included 47 women and three children.

The necessary procedures have been taken to send them to the main camp of Kharaz in Lahj governorate.

Deteriorating the security situation in Somalia makes thousands of Somalis are ready to risk their lives on a perilous journey via Gulf of Aden to be smuggled into Yemen.

Yemen is considered to be a gateway for Somalis to the Middle East. It recognizes all Somalis as refugees on a “prima facie basis,” meaning they are automatically granted the right to stay. But many of those who cross the Gulf of Aden move on to Yemen’s neighbours Saudi Arabia and Oman in pursuit of jobs.

The escalating numbers of refugees place increasing strain on Yemen’s limited resources and pose more challenges to the government’s efforts to balance its obligations under international law with the need to protect the country from illegal entry.

Savage Egypt police shoot another Ethiopian woman

Monday, September 14th, 2009

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Ethiopian woman was shot and at least 14 people were arrested in Egypt while trying to enter Israel illegally.

The Egyptian guards fired warning shots in the air early Sunday morning, but then shot a woman in the arm when she did not stop, according to reports. The migrants were from Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The incident comes less than a week after Egyptian police shot dead four African migrants trying to infiltrate into Israel at its border with Egypt’s Sinai Desert.

The migrants usually are looking for work or asylum in Israel. Egypt has been under pressure to prevent the migrants from slipping into Israel, Reuters reported.

Ohio: Ethiopian man, 6 others charged in $75,000 robbery

Monday, September 14th, 2009

By Stan Donaldson | Plain Dealer Reporter

SOLON — Seven men have been arrested in connection with the armed robbery of $75,000 in cash and property from a private high-stakes poker game in Solon, officials said.

Randall Barnes, 25, of Euclid, Solomon Berhane, 31, of Cleveland who immigrated from Ethiopia, Andres Arzola, 18, and William Masters, 37, both of Lorain, will be arraigned Sept. 15 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court on charges including kidnapping and aggravated robbery.

The men — who were part of a seven-man crew — helped rob a dozen card players who organized the poker game April 17 at the Allied Lighting warehouse in the 5300 block of Naiman Parkway, said Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office spokesman Ryan Miday.

The three other men involved in the incident have already been arraigned by Judge Brian J. Corrigan.

They are Jose Arzola-Torres, 20, of Lorain, the older brother of Andres Arzola; Dominic Berlingeri, 24, also of Lorain; and Wayne Bunkin, 31, of Cleveland. All seven men were in the Cuyahoga County Jail.

Miday said Barnes, Berlingeri and the Arzola brothers wore masks when they approached a card player smoking a cigarette outside of the warehouse. The men then entered the room with an AK-47 assault rifle, an SKS rifle, a pistol grip shotgun and an automatic pistol and demanded money from the players.

Miday said the men took $50,000 in cash and $25,000 in jewelry and other property, then fled. He said Bunkin, Berhane and Masters helped set up the robbery.

“The defendants knew this was a high-stakes poker game where there was going to be a lot of money on the table,” Miday said.

About a week after the incident, Berlingeri, who served four years for a 2003 aggravated robbery, was arrested in Sheffield after a traffic stop.

Authorities said he purchased the car he was driving with the stolen money. Police also found credit cards and other items that belonged to the victims.

Miday said police contacted Solon police detectives, who conducted the investigation.

If convicted, the men face up to 20 years in prison.

Usain Bolt wants to race against Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele

Monday, September 14th, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: Usain needs to meet Kenenisa half way, such as 1500 meters. Be fair!!

Thessaloniki, Greece (DPA/CNN) – Usain Bolt concluded what has been a phenomenal season with another breathtaking display over his favourite 200 meters distance at the World Athletics Final in Thessalonika.

Bolt said tiredness towards the end of the race, which has prompted him to call his memorable year to an immediate halt, slowed him, although he still roared to another fantastic time of 19.68 seconds at the Greek venue.

Bolt, 23, won a world title treble last month in Berlin and bettered his world records in the 100m (9.58 seconds) and 200m (19.19) there.

On Friday, he participated in a street event for local children and allowed the five-year-old boy finish first. “It was really fun with the kids,” said Bolt.

While Bolt can’t wait for his post-season break, he did look ahead when he suggested a race over 600m or longer against Ethiopia’s track star Kenenisa Bekele in 2010.

“To me running a 600 would be really interesting. It’s been a while since I have done it but I think it would be fun. So if my coach decides to let me do it, then I would definitely do it,” said Bolt.

“It would be really interesting. I think a lot of people would definitely want to see that.”

Bekele is the world and Olympic champion and world record holder in the 5,000m and 10,000m, Bolt has the same merits in the sprints.

Bolt and Bekele are two top names among 28 world champions from Berlin to compete in Thessaloniki Saturday and Sunday. Each win is worth 30,000 dollars and a world record 100,000 dollars.

Russian Yelena Isinbayeva, who flopped at the worlds when she cleared no heights, could further raise the pole vault record bar to 5.07m.

Ethiopian Airlines and Rwandair sign code share agreement

Monday, September 14th, 2009

By BOSCO HITIMANA | BusinessWeek

KIGALI, RWANDA — Rwandair and Ethiopian Airlines have entered into a code share agreement to boost their visibility.

Under two national flag carriers’partnership, Rwandair will serve as the marketing carrier while Ethiopian Airlines will be the operating carrier.

Ethiopian Airlines Vice President Commercial, Mr. Tadesse Adane and Rwandair Chairman, Mr. Gerald Zirimwabagabo recently signed the agreement in Kigali, Rwanda.

“This is a major milestone in the development of Rwandair and the airline industry in our country,” Zirimwabagabo said after signing.

He said the small airline is looking for partnerships that will allow its clients fly beyond its destinations.

The Ethiopian carrier, according to Tadesse, seeks partners to develop and increase its market share in southern Africa, particularly the Rwandan market.

Tadesse said the airline has embarked on helping African small airlines to be competitive and boost the African airline industry. He said currently the carrier flies daily to and from Kigali and that he hopes the new partnership will ‘greatly’ double the flights.

The two airlines are incomparable in both resources and market share but the airlines’ bosses believe they will reap from the partnership.

Rwandair’s code share with Ethiopian Airlines came following similar partnerships with other major airlines including Brussels Airlines, and the USA- based Virgin Atlantic Airlines to boost its visibility.

The airline is also pursuing an ambitious plan to purchase two used CRJ aircraft from Lufthansa, a Germany based carrier, with ambitions to reposition in the regional aviation industry.

Currently Rwandair operates three aircraft on lease while Ethiopian Airlines commands 35 aircraft. Ethiopian Airlines has been crowned the African Airline of Year 2009.

Save Lake Koka Before Saving the Continent of Africa!

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Bluster of the Con Artists

Last week Ethiopia’s arch dictator was in tears, crocodile tears that is, over the unfair and shameful treatment of Africa by the heartless Western imperialists on the issue of global warming and climate change. Frothing at the mouth and brimming with moral indignation, the dictator threatened to go all out Ghandi on the West at the December climate change talks in Copenhagen. With sanctimonious and self-righteous rebuke, he railed:

If need be we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threatens to be another rape of the continent… While we reason with everyone to achieve our objective we are not prepared to rubber stamp any agreement by the powers… We will use our numbers to delegitimise any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position… Africa will field a single negotiating team empowered to negotiate on behalf of all member states of the African Union… The key thing for me is that Africa be compensated for the damage caused by global warming. Many institutions have tried to quantify that and they have come up with different figures. The sort of median figure would be in the range of 40 billion USD a year.

The dictator’s sidekick on climate change, African Union chairman Jean Ping, (the longtime and one of the closest advisers of Omar Bongo, Gabon’s 42-year dictator who died recently) took an even harder line:

It is my expectation that such financial resources must be from public funds and must be additional to the usual overseas development assistance… What we are not prepared to live with is global warming above minimum unavoidable levels… We will therefore never accept any global deal that does not limit global warming to the minimum unavoidable level, no matter what levels of compensation and assistance are promised to us.

The Moral Profundity of Tyrants: Hope Springs Eternal!

It is truly refreshing to hear words and phrases that signal latent moral awakening in the “conscience” of tyrants. Use of such phrases and words as “not prepared to rubberstamp” (in contrast to a rubberstamp parliament), “rape of a continent” (in contrast to the rape of Ethiopia), “delegitimise” (in contrast to delgitimizing rigged elections), “walk out of negotiations” (in contrast to walking opposition parties through make-believe negotiations), “compensation for damages” (in contrast to compensation for damages to families of victims of extrajudicial killings, victims of excessive and unreasonable use of deadly force under color of law and victims of illegal arrests and detentions) give new meaning to the expression, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” Mahatama Ghandi could not have been more proud of such resolute declarations of profound moral outrage against the wily Westerners who have been exploiting Africa for centuries.

Indeed as Ghandi taught, “Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good.” Therefore, never cooperate with the malevolent Western overlords on issues of fair play, equity, and certainly environmental justice! That is the essence of the bluster of a “walk out” and “delegitimization” of the Copenhagen climate talks. Ghandi argued that the only way to get the British to abandon their evil ways in South Africa and India was to actively resist their colonial rule through civil disobedience, particularly through a campaign of non-cooperation. He encouraged Indian workers, policemen, soldiers and civil servants to go on strike. He called for massive boycotts of public transportation and English-manufactured goods. Ghandi used the moral weapon of Satyagraha (satya, meaning “truth” and agraha, meaning “holding firm to”) to campaign against the myriad crimes and abuses committed by the British colonial masters. His aim was to use “satyagraha to convert the wrongdoer, to awaken a sense of justice in him, to show him also that without the cooperation direct or indirect of the wronged, the wrongdoer cannot do the wrong intended by him.”

Remarkably and commendably, that is the intrinsic logic of the arch dictator’s outburst of moral outrage. By exposing the hypocritical West on climate change to the light of Truth and by threatening to visit moral condemnation upon them, they could be persuaded to change their evil ways. Indeed, by a resolute act of non-cooperation, the West could be held to account for its reckless abuse of nature and make Africans whole by paying them monetary damages. In short, the West could be named and shamed into doing right by Africa. But is the dictator’s pronouncement of moral outrage sincere and made in good faith? Or is it a veiled threat of naked political extortion?

Blood Money, Carbon Money and the Devil Who Can Cite Scripture

Shakespeare wrote, “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. An evil soul producing holy witness is like a villain with a smiling cheek.” Or a villain shedding crocodile tears? The bluster about “walking out” and “delegitimizing” the Copenhagen talks, etc., is nothing more than a cynical and beguiling appeal to lofty moral virtues to guilt-trip and shakedown Western countries into paying billions of dollars every year as “blood money”. That is certainly the conclusion of the Economist Magazine, which in its recent issue stated that the wrath of the African “leaders” is aimed at making the rich world feel guilty about global warming. Mr Meles has made it clear he is seeking blood money—or rather carbon money—that would be quite separate from other aid to the continent. If the cash were not forthcoming, the African Union (AU) might take a case to a court of arbitration and ask it to judge overall culpability for climate change. In a rare fit of African unity, it was decided at a recent flurry of leaders’ meetings that the United States, the European Union, Japan and others should pay the continent the tidy sum of $67 billion a year, though it was unclear for how long.

In the end, all of the climate change pontification is about African dictators extorting a $67 billion payola (hush money) every year to line their pockets. It has absolutely nothing to do with remedying the environmental degradation of Africa. It has everything to do with Africa’s tin pot dictators striking gold in a modern day El Dorado (also known as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, Western donors, etc.,). They know there is a huge pot of glittering gold at the end of the climate change/global warming rainbow. Africa’s dictators are drooling — literally slobbering at the mouth and licking their chops — at the prospect of putting their grubby hands on that $67 billion delicious golden pie and sinking their teeth into it.

Save Lake Koka First Before Saving the Continent of Africa

Let’s face hard facts: Ethiopia is facing an ecological disaster! Not from catastrophic climate change (that is macro-climatic changes resulting from variations in solar radiation, deviations in the Earth’s orbit, changes in greenhouse concentrations, etc.,) but from man-made causes. Ethiopia is facing an ecological catastrophe caused by deforestation, soil erosion, over-grazing, over-population, desertification and loss of biodiversity, and chemical pollution of its rivers and lakes. Hundreds of square miles of forest land and farmland are lost every year. According to the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute [1], “Ethiopia loses up to 200,000 hectares of forest every year and warned that if the trend continues the country would lose all of its forest resources by the year1 2020.” Other data show that “Between 1990 and 2005, Ethiopia lost 14.0% of its forest cover (2,114,000 hectares) and 3.6% of its forest and woodland habitat. If the trend continues, it is expected that Ethiopia could lose all of its forest resources in 11 years, by the year 2020.” [2] The wild animal population is disappearing at an alarming rate due to deforestation and loss of natural habitat, and hundreds of plant and animal species are facing imminent extinction.

Dr Gedion Getahun, Research Scientist at the Environmental Radioanalytical Chemistry in Mainz, Germany writes [3],

According to the UN, Ethiopia’s forests are depleted, at present less than three percent of the entire country is covered with trees… In Ethiopia, biodiversity is treated in very awful manner. The destruction of natural habitat as well as a threat to the flora and fauna and other biological resources diminish the economy of the country. This affects the country’s wealth and with it, the existence and the well being of the nation.

The Lake Koka environmental disaster — a topic of special coverage by the Al Jazeera Network [4] — a few kilometers outside Ethiopia’s capital is only the tip of the iceberg of Ethiopia’s environmental nightmare. As one resident of the Lake Koka community put it [5]:

The main problem here is the water. People are getting sick. Everyone around here uses this water. There is no other water. Almost 17,000 people… come from 10 kilometers away and use this water. The water smells even if you boil it; it does not change the color. It is hard to drink it. The people here have great potential and we are losing them, especially the children. I am upset but I don’t have the ability to do anything. I would if I could, but I can’t do anything.

Another local resident lamented the polluted Lake Koka water in apocalyptic terms:

It is better to die thirsty than to drink this [Koka] water. We are drinking a disease. We told the local authorities our cattle and goats died due to this water, but nobody helped. We are tired of complaining.

Nothing has been done to hold criminally accountable the polluters of Lake Koka, or “compensate for damages” the people living in that community for the devastating health problems they continue to face from using the toxic water of the lake.

Almaz Mequanint, who has struggled for years to bring attention to the devastating environmental pollution caused by the Wonji/Shoa and Metehara sugar factories, wrote six years ago:

I feel helpless and in despair when I think of my whole family and the 100,000 voiceless residents who have been living around the sugar factories of Ethiopia…. I now suffer from asthma because of the air pollution at that time. My teeth are decayed and I have knee and other joint problems. My kids are suffering from tooth decay, cavities and staining.” [6]

Nothing has been done over the past six years to improve the health conditions of the tens of thousands of people who worked in the sugar factories or community residents, nor has any action been taken to “compensate them for the damages” they suffered as a result of industrial pollution of criminal magnitude. Just this past week, a website was set up to call attention to the plight of these victims. [7]

Africa’s knights in shining armor should take care of business in their own backyards — lakes, rivers and factories — before mounting their steeds on a crusade to save Africa from global warming.

What is Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander!

If truth force (Satyagrha) could be used against nasty Western rapists of Africa, there is no reason why it could not be used against the rapists of Ethiopia. Does it not logically follow that Ethiopians should “use their numbers to delegitimise” any regime “that is not consistent with minimal positions” under universally accepted standards of justice and international law such as protection of basic human rights, respect for the rule of law, free elections, free press, etc.? Aren’t Ethiopians entitled to resist anyone who “threatens to (perpetuate) the rape of” their country? Are they not entitled to “field a single negotiating team empowered to negotiate on behalf of all” the people against a one-man, one-party dictatorship? Is it not true that what is good for the goose is good for the gander?

Doesn’t it make more sense to save Lake Koka FIRST before saving the whole continent of Africa?

[1] http://www.geocities.com/akababi/ethiopia_loses_200.htm
[2] http://rainforests.mongabay.com/deforestation/2000/Ethiopia.htm
[3] http://www.geocities.com/akababi/gedion.htm
[4] http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/peopleandpower/2009/02/200922114211921697.html
[5] http://www.ecadforum.com/content/137.html
[6] http://www.newint.org/issue363/dirty.htm
[7] http://wsmppa.com/www.wsmppa.com/Welcome.html

Ethiopian Airlines receives its new Boeing 737-8AS

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Ethiopian Airlines' "new" Boeing 737-8AS ET-ANB (msn 29935, ex EI-CSW) is pictured at Lasham before it departed on September 13.  Copyright Photo: Antony J. Best.Ethiopian Airlines’ “new” Boeing 737-8AS ET-ANB (msn 29935, ex EI-CSW) is pictured at Lasham before it departed on September 13. [Photo: Antony J. Best]

Ethiopian Airlines operates an all-Boeing fleet of 737 and 767 aircraft.

Last week, Ethiopian Airlines, it acquired its second MD-11 freighter aircraft from the Chicago-based Boeing Corporation.

The airline Management told Business Times that the newly leased aircraft with a payload capacity of 95 tons, 32 pallets and a volume of 513 cubic meters will increase capacity 23 percent following the Airlines code share agreement with Rwandair.

Management said the aircraft will help them serve the newly established markets of Europe and South-East Asia. Currently, Ethiopian airline has a total a fleet of six aircrafts consisting of two, B757-200, two, B747-200 and two MD-11F.

Ethiopia's star athlete Kenenisa Bekele wins 3000m in Greece

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

THESSALONIKI, GREECE (DPA) — Double world and Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele outsprinted Bernard Lagat of the United States with victory over 3,000 metres at the world athletics final in Thessaloniki, Greece on Saturday.

The 27-year-old Ethiopian, who won over 5,000 and 10,000 metres at the world championships in Berlin, clocked 8 minutes 3.79 seconds to beat Lagat again into second place.

Lagat, beaten by Bekele in the 5,000m final in Berlin 20 days ago, posted 8:04.00, with Kenya’s Sammy Mutahi (8:04.64) third.

“I ran pretty well but it was not an easy race after a very long season. I am very tired and so I will not run tomorrow’s 5,000 metres,” said Bekele, who since Berlin had won a share of the Golden League jackpot.

Elsewhere world champion LaShawn Merritt of the United States won the 400m in 44.93 seconds, ahead of Chris Brown of Bahamas (45.49).

Kerron Clement of the United States took the 400m hurdles in 48.11 seconds, while world champion Brigitte Foster-Hylton of Jamaica won the women’s 100m hurdles in 12.58, edging Olympic champion Dawn Harper of the United States (12.61).

World champion Brittney Reese of the United States captured the long jump in 7.08 metres, while Berlin silver medallist Betty Heidler of Germany threw a best of 72.03m to win the hammer throw.

Seattle resident who attacked Ethiopian man gets 10 years

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

By Martha Kang

SEATTLE (Komo News) — Just one day before Dawit Alemu, an immigrant from Ethiopia, was set to graduate from Seattle Central Community College, he was beaten unconscious by a group of men outside his home.

Prosecutors say Alemu, 25, sustained brain damage and may never recover his sight.

One of the men accused of the assault, Justin L. Phillips, faced a judge on Friday. But before King County Judge Michael Fox handed down his sentence, he wanted to know why the men had attacked.

“What was the motivating fact? Was there anything?” he asked. “Is there something about Mr. Alemu? Is it the fact that he’s of African descent? Is it the fact that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time?”

Phillips, 20, had no excuses in court.

“This was a senseless act of violence,” he said. “I had no right to do the things I did. I was under the influence of alcohol, and that’s no excuse. I take full responsibility for my actions.”

Reiterating the lack of provocation on the victim’s part, the judge sentenced Phillips to 10 years and forbid him from having contact with Alemu and his family members.

According to the statement of probable cause, a group of men jumped Alemu outside his home near 13th Avenue South and South Holgate Street in broad daylight just one day before his college graduation. A witness managed to take photographs of the incident.

Witnesses told detectives Alemu was walking when the men began following him. Alemu tried to elude the men by running around a parked car, witnesses said, but one of the men tripped him, knocking him to the ground.

All four men then began punching and kicking the victim even after he lost consciousness, investigators said. Two of the men – Phillips and Fisher – were seen digging through the victim’s pockets and taking his belongings before the group fled.

Both Fisher and Phillips were found near the scene of the beating and arrested. Speed was identified in photographs and arrested at a later time.

Police said it appears the victim did not know his attackers. A witness reported having seen a group of men drinking at Beacon Hill Playfield prior to the incident — a claim corroborated by Phillips’ admission of being a “violent drunk.”

Alemu never regained consciousness after the attack. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center with life-threatening injuries. He has been in stable condition since early July, but nursing staff told detectives Alemu had a tear in the brain, an injury similar to shaken baby syndrome.

In court on Friday, Alemu’s mother, with the help of a translator, lamented over her son’s condition.

“He was a very good student he was a good worker. He was working and studying,” she said.

Two other men are accused of the June beating. Kenneth Fischer, 19, and Jaynus Speed, 22, have both been charged with first-degree assault and first-degree attempted robbery.

Fischer and Speed are due in court on Sept. 21 for a pretrial hearing. A fourth suspect has not been arrested.

Ethiopia exported $376 million worth of coffee 2008/09

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia, Africa’s biggest coffee producer, expects a bumper harvest in 2009/10 thanks to good rains after export revenues fell 28 percent in June/July 2008/09 due to drought and the global economic slowdown.

“Preliminary assessment indicated the country would produce much more than the estimated annual production of 330,000 tonnes in 2009/10,” Tarekgne Tisgie, a spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, told Reuters on Wednesday.

The Horn of Africa nation exported 133,992 tonnes of beans worth $376 million in 2008/09, down sharply from 170,888 tonnes that earned $525.2 million the previous season, officials say.

“The volume exported and income generated was markedly less than last year due to the global economic crisis and drought which affected some parts of the country,” Tarekgne said.

Ethiopia’s coffee sector got a major boost last week when Japan said it was willing to resume importing large quantities as long as the authorities in Addis Ababa guaranteed the quality and safety of the beans.

Tokyo stopped buying Ethiopian coffee in 2006/07 after beans were found to contain harmful chemicals. Japan had bought more than 29,000 tonnes worth $84 million during that 2006/07 season.

“The problems that we had with Japan are nearly over,” Tarekgne said, adding the Ethiopian government hoped to export as much as 30,000 tonnes to Japanese buyers in 2009/10.

Ethiopia prides itself as the birthplace of coffee. Some 15 million smallholder farmers grow the beans, mostly in the misty forested highlands of its western and southwestern regions.