Archive for the ‘Ethiopian News’ Category

Egypt's water needs to surpass resources by 2017

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

CAIRO (Reuters) — Egypt’s water needs will surpass its resources by 2017 because its population, now around 76 million, is still increasing fast, the state-run news agency MENA said yesterday.

The agency cited a recent report by the cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Centre as saying the Arab world’s most populous country would need 86.2 billion cubic metres of water in 2017 while resources would be only 71.4 billion cubic metres. Egypt’s water resources stood at 64 billion cubic metres in 2006, of which the River Nile provided 55.5 billion cubic metres, or 86.7 percent, the report said. By 2017 the Nile is expected to supply only 80.5 percent of Egypt’s resources.

Egypt is heavily dependent on river water as it has little rainfall.

A 1929 agreement between Egypt and Britain, acting on behalf of its then east African colonies, gave Cairo the right to veto projects higher up the Nile that would affect its water share.

A 1959 accord between Egypt and Sudan, supplementing the previous agreement, gave Egypt the right to 55.5 billion cubic metres of Nile water a year.

The agreements have created resentment among other Nile states and calls for changes to the pact, resisted by Egypt.

Ministers from all 10 Nile basin countries are expected to meet in Egypt later in July to discuss water allocation issues.

Egypt’s Water Resources Ministry has said it aims to fight water poverty by tackling wasteful farming practices and looking for alternative sources such as desalination of sea water. Egypt’s water supply is equivalent to an allocation of 860 cubic metres per capita per year, well below the water poverty line of 1,000 cubic metres per capita a year.

Sudan police rob and rape Ethiopian refugees

Monday, July 20th, 2009

By Tizita Belachew | VOA

Police in Khartoum began a crackdown on Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees in the past few days. The Amharic service’s Tizita Belachew interviewed leaders of the refugee community in Khartoum on Thursday and Friday who said the raids began on July 5 and each day since then truckloads of police and other Sudanese government security have raided the homes and business of Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees, confiscating the contents of their restaurants and homes and beating and raping women and children.

All refugees who spoke on the air did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals.

UNHCR protection officer in Khartoum Teresa Ongaro confirmed that there was a series of raids of “refugees and illegal workers over the weekend.” She said she has not heard any reports of police raping women and children.

“There are about 30 thousand refugees in Khartoum and about 100 thousand in Eastern Sudan bordering Eritrea. Many go to Khartoum to find a better life, but are exposed to ill treatment from time to time. She said UNHCR personnel and lawyers have interviewed 314 victims of the recent raid, and determined that 91 fit the UNHCR qualifications for refugees. She said these refugees were freed the next day. The refugees say more than 50 have already been deported.

Live Chat with Aaron Brown and Eleni Gabre-Madhin

Monday, July 20th, 2009

We are currently working on a documentary titled The Market Maker and wanted you to be part of a live web discussion following the premiere of the film this week.

The film follows Eleni Gabre-Madhin, a charismatic Ethiopian economist who, in an effort to end hunger in her famine-plagued country, designs the country’s first commodities exchange, which she hopes will
revolutionalize an ancient market system whose inefficiencies have been partly responsible for the country’s persistent food shortages.

The film premieres on Wednesday, July 22 at 10:00 p.m., but broadcast times vary from region to region, so check your local listings for air times by clicking here:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/wideangle/schedule/

As an additional feature to the film, we will be hosting a live web discussion, during which you can join in a conversation with Gabre-Madhin, Wide Angle host Aaron Brown, and the filmmakers, Eli Cane
and Hugo Berkeley.

The talk will be hosted live on Thursday 23rd July 11:00 am EST at www.pbs.org/wideangle

Given your dedicated interest in raising awareness about the region, we thought you’d be interested in being a part of this interactive chat.

The number you can call to participate live is (718) 506-1351.

We would love to have as many people involved in this discussion. And you can help us spread the word! If you would post the information about this chat, including the date, time, and call-in number, on your blog, we’d be most appreciative.

Please feel free to write or call with any questions:

kunichoffy@thirteen.org
212 560 3073

For more information about Wide Angle and the film go to
www.pbs.org/wideangle

General Tefera Mamo et al case adjourned for August 4

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ENA) — The Federal Prosecutor has completed on Saturday presenting witnesses and evidences against 46 suspects indicted under Brigadier General Tefera Mamo et al Case, who were allegedly collaborated clandestinely with the Ginbot 7 group to undermine the constitutional order.

The Federal Prosecutor presented a total of 89 human witnesses, 1,556-page written documents as well as other evidences in the form of audio-video materials against the 46 suspects, including against 14 ones who were indicted in absentia, before the Second Criminal Bench of the Federal High Court.

The Federal Prosecutor reiterated that both the human witnesses as well as the evidences clearly proved that the suspects had been running clandestine operation in organized manner in order to undermine the constitutional order by sheer force. It also submitted a 53-page analysis of the Case to the Bench, which illustrates the Case of Brigadier General Tefera Mamo et.al in detail.

The Second Criminal Bench of the Federal High Court adjourned the Brigadier General Tefera Mamo et.al Case for 04 Aug. 2009 for verdict.

Now is the Time to End Tyranny!

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Alemayehu G. Mariam

End Tyranny Now!

“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.” Thus spoke President Barack Obama last week to Africa’s tin-pot dictators using the Ghanaian parliament as a sounding board.

During the presidential campaign and over the past seven months, many Ethiopians had expressed uncertainty and apprehension about the future direction of U.S. foreign policy in Ethiopia. Some thought President Obama would continue the knee-jerk terror-centric policies of George Bush; other believed it would be the dawn of a new day in U.S. policy. We offered analyses which foretold the orientation of U.S. foreign policy in Ethiopia and Africa under an Obama administration.

The President’s speech in Accra was both a diagnosis of what ails Africa, particularly Ethiopia, and a set of remedial prescriptions. President Obama spoke disapprovingly of the divisive and outdated politics of tribalism and ethnicity which continues to poison the African body politics. He urged Africans to reconcile around their common humanity and Africanity. He spoke of the corrosive effects of corruption on the soul of Africa and urged good governance to restore hope in the spirit of the African people. He declared Africa’s future is up to Africans, but challenged Africa’s youth to mold and shape it.

The Poison of Tribalism and Ethnic Politics

President Obama blasted identity politics as a canker in the African body politics:

We all have many identities – of tribe and ethnicity; of religion and nationality. But defining oneself in opposition to someone who belongs to a different tribe, or who worships a different prophet, has no place in the 21st century…. In my father’s life, it was partly tribalism and patronage in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career, and we know that this kind of corruption is a daily fact of life for far too many….

Few countries in Africa today are more afflicted and conflicted by the artificially engineered ethno-tribal virus than Ethiopia. Using a completely phony theory of “ethnic (tribal) federalism”, the dictators in Ethiopia have created what amounts to apartheid-style Bantustans or tribal homelands. They have segregated the Ethiopian people by ethno-tribal classification in grotesque regional political units called “kilils”. This sinister perversion of the concept of federalism has enabled a few cunning dictators to oppress, divide and rule some 80 million people for nearly two decades.

We have called them out on their divide-and-rule politics. We have repeatedly called upon them to tear down of the walls of tribalism and ethnicity. Our humanity, we asserted, is more important than our ethnicity, nationality, sovereignty or Africanity! We are not prisoners to be kept behind tribal walls, but free men and women who are captains of our future in one unwalled Ethiopia that belongs to all of us equally. We echo President Obama, and President Reagan from another era, when we call upon those who built the tribal walls to tear them down once again: “Zenawi, tear down the kilil tribal walls behind which you have kept our people locked up! Let them go before you go!”

The Fundamental Truth: Development Depends on Good Governance

President Obama said,

We must first recognize a fundamental truth that you have given life to in Ghana: development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long…

The dictators in Ethiopia have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are clueless about good governance; and their idea of development is ripping off the people to enrich their relatives and friends. “Concentrat[ion] of wealth in the hands of the few [that] leaves people too vulnerable to downturns” is not development.

Good governance is based on a set of objective measures. We subscribe to the 8 benchmark parameters of good governance set by the U.N.: Participation (men and women participate equally in political and civil society institutions); rule of law (an independent judiciary and impartial law enforcement agencies administer the justice system with strict adherence to the law of the land); transparency (public decisions are made and implemented according to established rules and regulations); responsiveness (public needs are met in a timely manner); consensus-building (the different interests of groups in society are harmonized in formulating policy); equity and inclusiveness (individuals and groups feel they have a stake in society and do not feel excluded); effectiveness and efficiency (scarce resources are used for maximum public benefit and service); accountability (leaders and institutions are accountable to the public and under law). In sum, good governance is to development as water is to a bountiful harvest. No water, no harvest!

Good Governance is Sustained by Respect for Human Rights

Just as development is based good governance, we believe respect for human rights is the sustaining force for good governance. Human rights principles provide a set of values to anchor and guide leaders, institutions and processes in serving the common good. Political action and reforms guided by principles enumerated in international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and conventions dealing with the rights of the child, elimination of discrimination based on gender and religion, and protection of economic, social and cultural rights and others, are central to the development of a fair and just society in Ethiopia.

The New Pillar of American Foreign Policy in Africa

President Obama announced that his administration’s policy in Africa will be guided by a simple principle: The U.S will provide support for the establishment of strong democratic governments, enhanced protections for human rights and assistance to victims of human rights violations, and efforts aimed at rooting out corruption in Africa. He said the U.S. will “sanction and stop those who” violate human rights:

First, we must support strong and sustainable democratic governments. Governments that respect the will of their own people are more prosperous, more stable and more successful than governments that do not. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves… In the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success – strong parliaments and honest police forces; independent judges and journalists; a vibrant private sector and civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in peoples’ lives….

In Moscow, I spoke of the need for an international system where the universal rights of human beings are respected, and violations of those rights are opposed. That must include a commitment to support those who resolve conflicts peacefully, to sanction and stop those who don’t, and to help those who have suffered.

The President made it clear that democracy is about outcomes such as “strong parliaments and honest police forces; independent judges and journalists; a vibrant private sector and civil society.” He disagrees with those who claim that “democracy is about process, it’s not about outcome… If the process is clean and you get zero, tough luck.”

“Brutality and bribery” are the engines of tyranny, the President asserted. Economic chaos packaged as a litany of “ten percent annual growth” is not development; and American taxpayers will not provide aid to support such “development”. In short, American support to African regimes will be contingent on the implementation of “concrete solutions to corruption like forensic accounting, automating services, strengthening hot lines and protecting whistle-blowers to advance transparency and accountability, peaceful transfers of power, ending brutal repression, growth of civil society institutions, expansion of political space for civic participation and youth involvement.”

Africa’s Salvation Will Come Through Its Youth

President Obama knows that talking to African tin pot dictators is like pouring water on a slab of granite. There will be no penetration. The dictators will probably sit around in their echo chambers and lament the fact that the President is naïve about African politics and its complexities. The fact is that he is not only well informed on Africa, he is also fully prepared to deal with African dictators. After all, he cut his teeth on Chicago politics. In his eloquent and artful way, the President told the African dictators that they are not only decidedly on the wrong side of history, but also that they are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things:

Make no mistake: history is on the side of these brave Africans and not with those who use coups or change Constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions….

We have learned that it will not be giants like Nkrumah and Kenyatta who will determine Africa’s future. Instead, it will be you – the men and women in Ghana’s Parliament, and the people you represent. Above all, it will be the young people – brimming with talent and energy and hope…

And I am particularly speaking to the young people. In places like Ghana, you make up over half of the population. Here is what you must know: the world will be what you make of it. You have the power to hold your leaders accountable and to build institutions that serve the people. You can serve in your communities and harness your energy and education to create new wealth and build new connections to the world. You can conquer disease, end conflicts and make change from the bottom up. You can do that. Yes you can.”

The role of youth in Ethiopia’s future deserves special attention. It is manifest that the dictators today have little interest in developing Ethiopia’s youth to “hold leaders accountable and build institutions that serve the people.” The dictators aim to mobilize, ideologize and “harness the energy of Ethiopian youth” to create armies of androids that will serve them obsequiously. They understand Hitler’s maxim: “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.” For this reason, it is instructive to watch the video of the recently stage-managed youth conference of the dictators available on ethiotube.net.

While the dictators abuse the youth, the opposition and the older generation has largely ignored them. Truth be told, we have done a poor job of preparing Ethiopian youth for their historic role in rebuilding and reorganizing the new Ethiopian society. We have become less than inspiring role models by our inability to set good examples of tolerance, harmony and collaboration. We have done little to teach the youth of our mistakes so that they will not repeat them. We have offered them little clarity to remove their confusion and uncertainties. We have failed to empower them in defending human rights. The dictators hold “conferences” to steal the souls of Ethiopian youth. What have we done to harness their idealism to serve their country and people? What have we done to inspire their minds, free their spirits and fortify their hearts in the historic task of reconstructing a new Ethiopia unburdened by tribalism, sectarianism, sexism and corruption?

The president is absolutely right. Africa’s, and Ethiopia’s, future will be shaped by its youth. The sooner we, who profess our faith in freedom, democracy and human rights, realize and own up to this irrefutable fact and begin helping them, the sooner will come Africa’s salvation. Young Ethiopians need good role models. Let each one of us strive to be one, for in the end the future belongs to them.

We should not expect quick results from the President’s speech. We must understand that the Obama administration does not have all of its Africa hands on deck; and the President is preoccupied with many domestic issues. Suffice it to say to African dictators that Barack Obama is not George Bush.
________________
[1] http://www.ethiomedia.com/all/6070.html ; http://www.abugidainfo.com/?p=8693
[2] http://www.abugidainfo.com/?p=5513

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

Head of Ethiopia Telecommunication Agency defects

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

In another blow to the fast decaying regime of the Woyanne tribal junta in Ethiopia, the director of Ethiopian Telecommunication Agency, Ato Eshetu Alemu, has defected in the U.S., according to The Reporter.

Eshetu came to the U.S. to attend a 15-day training in executive telecommunication management. He is the second high level Woyanne regime official to defect in the U.S. this month.

In early July, propaganda chief Bereket Simon’s deputy, Ato Ermias Legesse, has disappeared after arriving in the U.S. on a business trip.

More from The Reporter:


የቴሌ ኤጀንሲ ዳይሬክተር አሜሪካ ቀሩ

የኢትዮጵያ ቴሌኮሙኒኬሽን ኤጀንሲ ዳይሬክተር አቶ እሸቱ ዓለሙ ለስብሰባ አሜሪካን ሄደው እንደቀሩ ተጠቆመ፡፡ የፖለቲካ ጥገኝነት መጠየቃቸውም ታውቋል፡፡ አቶ እሸቱ ከሚያዝያ 25 ቀን 2001 ዓ.ም. ጀምሮ ለ15 ቀናት በኤክስኪዩቲቭ ቴሌኮም ማኔጅመንት ስልጠና ለመሳተፍ አሜሪካ እንደሄዱ ምንጮቻችን፣ ተናግረዋል፡፡

ከ1995 ዓ.ም. ጀምሮ አሜሪካ እስከሄዱበት ቀን ድረስ የኤጀንሲው ዳይሬክተር ሆነው ሲሰሩ የነበሩት አቶ እሸቱ፣ በኢሜል በላኩት መልዕክት በአሜሪካ እንደሚቆዩ ማረጋገጣቸውን ለእሳቸው ቅርበት ያላቸው የሥራ ባልደረቦቻቸው አመልክተዋል፡፡

ከኬሚስትሪ በተጨማሪ በኢንፎርሜሽን ሳይንስ የማስትሬት ዲግሪ እንዳላቸው በፕሮፋይላቸው ላይ የጠቀሱት አቶ እሸቱ የቴሌኮሙኒኬሽን ኮርፖሬሽን ቦርድ አባል ሆነው ያገለገሉ ሲሆን ቀደም ሲል በሳይንስና ቴክኖሎጂ ኮሚሽን የተለያዩ ኃላፊነቶች ላለፉት 7 ዓመታት ሰርተዋል፡፡

FIFA readmits Ethiopia federation

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — The Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) has been readmitted to world football after elections for a new leadership were held on Saturday.

A three-man delegation from world football’s governing body, Fifa, said that they were “satisfied with the result”.

In-fighting at the EFF led to Ethiopia being thrown out of the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations last July.

Sahlu Gebrewold Gebremariam was voted in as president of the EFF, replacing Dr Ashebir Woldegiorgis, who resigned in May.

Sahlu was the only candidate for president in Saturday’s elections for a new executive, as the two other contestants pulled out the previous day.

He said that his priority is to heal the rift in the game in the country and to “facilitate a renaissance in Ethiopian football”.

There was a mood of relief at the meeting, and loud clapping when the head of the Fifa delegation handed over a Fifa flag to the newly-elected president of the EFF.

- By Uduak Amimo | BBC

Internal crisis engulfs Ethiopia's UDJ Party

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ), whose leader {www:Birtukan Mideksa} is currently in jail, has been engulfed with internal crisis even before it was officially formed. In the past few weeks, the crisis has reach at a critical level where the party is heading toward a split up, one side headed by the acting chairman, Ato Gizachew Shiferraw, and the other, a dissident group led by Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam. Awramba Times and The Reporter have the following reports:

UDJ to take measures against dissident members

Addis Ababa (The Reporter) — The Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) Party will hold a meeting today to take measures on council members accused of distributing “defamatory document” on executive members of the party. The party has suspended 21 members of the party on Tuesday, and today’s decision by the party expected to be harsher than ever.

Dr. Hailu Araya, vice president and public relations head of the party said that they suspended certain members of the standing committee members of the council, and the party will deliberate on other members, including Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam.

The disagreement in the party was a turning point after a document was distributed among the party members by Prof. Mesfin and other members. The document, entitled “abusing power”, accused members of the executive committee of the party. The authors of the document said that the leadership of the party was abusing the power entrusted to them.

Dr. Hailu said that the content of the distributed document was full of unsubstantiated allegations. If there is a problem within the leadership of the party, they should present their disappointment through the party’s proper channel.

The document was distributed to members last Sunday at a meeting called by the party to brief members about joining the opposition parties’ coalition, Forum, and to discus current affairs within the party.

Prof. Mesfin and other members said in the document that since Birtukan Midekssa, president of the party, was detained, the party under Eng. Gizachew Shiferaw, who is now acting leader, had failed to show effective leadership. Instead, it said, the executive committee does not want to discuss issues with members, was not welcoming criticisms, does not want to acknowledge the efforts of youth members and is not fit to lead the party.

In addition to that, they said, the executive committee is squandering the money collected form members to recruit supporters, harassing members who are challenging them and acting in contravention of the statutes of the party, which is against the principles of the party.

Except for minor differences and disappointments with the executive committee of the party, the distributed document did not reflect major differences of opinion. However, some party members have begun to show disappointment that their party would not stand firm if things are carried out in this manner.

Dr. Hailu said that the basic difference between the party leadership and Prof. Mesfin and others is the issue of collaborating with the Forum. Joining the forum will strength the party to sustain its agenda in Ethiopian politics during and beyond elections, he said, adding that if members were not happy there is a party discipline to discuss issues in appropriate way rather than brewing differences by propagating false allegations.

የስብሰባውን አላማ በመቃወም 10 የአንድነት


አዲስ አበባ (አውራምባ ታይምስ)፡- ‹‹የፓርቲው አባላት ያለህገ ደንብ ይባረራሉ፤ በአመራሮቹ ዘንድ አምባገነንነት ሰፍኗል›› የሚል አቋም አንግበው ተቃውሞአቸውን በማስተጋባት ላይ የሚገኙት ፕ/ር መስፍን ወ/ማሪያም፣ዶ/ር ሽመልስ ተክለጻድቅና አቶ ደበበ እሸቱ ፓርቲው በዛሬው እለት የሚያደርገውን ስብሰባ በመቃወም ሳይሰበሰቡ መቅረታቸውን የአውራምባ ታይምስ ምንጮች ገለጹ፡፡

አንድነት ፓርቲ በእነዚህ አመራሮች ላይ እርምጃ ለመውሰድ በዛሬው ዕለት የብሄራዊ ምክር ቤት ስብሰባ ጠርቶ የነበረ ሲሆን የዚሁ ምክር ቤት አባላት የሆኑትና በዛሬው ዕለት መገኘት የነበረባቸው አስር አባላት ፕ/ር መስፍን፣ዶ/ር ሽመልስ ተክለጻድቅ፣ወ/ሮ ሀና ዋለልኝ፣ወ/ሪት ትዕግስት ተሾመና አቶ ታምራት ታረቀኝን ጨምሮ ሁሉም ሳይገኙ መቅረታቸውንና የኦዲትና ኢንስፔክሽን ሃላፊው አቶ ወረታው ዋሴም ለእነፕሮፌሰር መስፍን ድጋፋቸውን በመስጠት በስብሰባው ላይ ሳይገኙ ቀርተዋል፡፡

በተያያዘ ዜና ፕሮፌሰር መስፍን ወልደማሪያም ‹የአንድነት ስራ አስፈጻሚ ውስጥ አብዮታዊ ጡንቻ ነግሷል› በሚል ርዕስ ዛሬ ይፋ ባደረጉት ጽሁፍ ‹‹… የሰብዓዊ መብቶችን እናስከብራለን ተብሎ የተቋቋመው ፓርቲ ሰብዓዊ መብቶችን እየጣሰ፣የፓርቲው ገንዘብ ለመደለያ ወይም ለማስፈራሪያ እየዋለ ነው›› ሲሉ የገለጹ ሲሆን ስራ አስፈጻሚው በጥቅም በተሳሰሩ ሰዎች አንድ አካል አንድ አምሳል ሆነው የተለየ አስተሳሰብ ያላቸውን ሁሉ እየመነጠረ በማስወጣት ላይ ነው ሲል የፕሮፌሰር ጽሁፍ ያትታል፡፡

Ethiopia's Kenenisa has eyes on one-million-dollar jackpot

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

By Mark Rodden | RFI

Three women – Kerron Stewart in the 100 metres, Sanya Richards in the 400 metres and record-breaking pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva – are also in the running for the prize.

Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele missed the cross-country and indoor seasons through injury but wins at Golden League meetings in Berlin, Oslo and Rome suggest he is nearing his best form again.

At Friday’s event in the French capital though, the Olympic champion and world-record holder over 5,000 and 10,000 metres will be presented with a different challenge. Unlike the previous meetings this year, there is no 5,000 metre race in Paris. Instead Bekele will have to win over 3,000 metres if his pursuit of the jackpot can continue.

This means Bekele should face stiff competition from Kenyan-born US athlete Bernard Lagat at the Stade de France, but the 27-year-old is not too disappointed at having to run over a shorter distance.

“I don’t want to run every week 5,000 metres,” Bekele said on Thursday. “I’m feeling good, I’ve prepared well and my condition is really good. I think I will have a good result tomorrow.”

When it comes to athletes as consistently groundbreaking as Bekele, it’s inevitable that questions about world records will come up. The news that Bekele’s manager, Jos Hermens, requested that a number of fast pacemakers be included in Friday’s line-up suggests his race will be worth watching.

“I will try to break a record,” Bekele said. “If a record is not [possible] maybe I can run my personal best. But to run a personal best, it’s not easy. My personal best is 7:25 so I will see tomorrow.”

After Friday’s race, Bekele will return to Ethiopia to continue his preparations for the World Championships in Berlin next month. Chances are he’ll be leaving Paris with a million other things on his mind as well.

Ethiopia's king of pop Teddy Afro to be released on August 15

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — The Appeals Court in Addis Ababa on Thursday ruled in favor of Teddy Afro (Tewodros Kassahun), according to sources close to the family.

The Court rejected the prosecutor’s appeal to reverse the previous court decision to lower Teddy’s prison sentence from 6 years to 2.

Teddy has already served over 14 months in jail and will be released next month.

Related:

* Woyanne throws Teddy Afro in jail
* Teddy Afro gets a 6-year jail sentence
* Teddy Afro – a victim of ruthless dictatorship
* The celebration of Teddy Afro’s ideals and vision
* VIDEO: Teddy Afro steals Beyone’s show in Addis

A new book by Esayas Lisanu

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Co-host of the Washington DC-based Netsanet LeEthiopia Radio, Ato Esayas Lisanu, has published a new book in Amharic, “Kenahu Bechereka” (I Envy the Moon). There will be a book signing ceremony at the Unification Church in Washington DC on July 24, 2009, starting at 6:00 PM. See the poster below for more information.

Esayas Lisanu

Ato Meles and his interviews – reading between the lines

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

Dear Ato Meles, I have been following your interviews with the foreign media the last few months. I have no idea why you prefer to discuss matters regarding our country with the foreign press. One would think that it would be better to discuss your plans, dreams and musings with the Ethiopian people rather than blabber with foreign journalists who a) are not well informed about the country b) do not give a figs leaf what you a Prime Minister of one of the poorest country have to say and bury the story on page ten beside the obituaries forcing us to dig deep so we the concerned can publish it on page one.

To say I am always baffled after reading or listening to your interviews is putting it mildly. You always seem to have a different take on the situation in the country. The facts on the ground do not seem to support the conclusions you reach. Have you thought of any reason why that is so?

I know it is presumptuous of me to comment on the matter and I humbly ask your Excellency to indulge me in this little exercise to set the record straight. First and foremost I want you to know that I wholly understand that when one is isolated from normal everyday human contact one develops certain ideas and beliefs not grounded in fact or truth. From what I understand you have been residing at your current address since 1991. Shall we just say Arat Kilo is an awe-inspiring location?

I did not have the privilege of visiting the inside but I am sure it is very luxurious. It must have beautiful hardwood floors in the dining rooms, Italian tiles in bath bathrooms, thick Persian or Afghan rugs and carpets in the bed rooms, long Mahogany dining room tables with beautiful chandlers and real crystal lights everywhere, oh let us just say opulent. I hope the previous tenant did not remove some of the expensive items. He left in a little bit of a hurry so may be he did not have time to loot. I know for a fact that you have turned the place into a modern fortress since you moved in. It is highly possible the so-called Green Zone in Iraq was a copy of Arat Kilo.

The move from ‘meda’ to palace must have been most jarring to say the least. Unless handled carefully such a move can cause a lot of anxiety and delusion. Believe me it is normal. Here in the US we witness that all the time. Most athletes from the inner cities are prone to that. The idea of jumping from public housing one bedroom apartment to signing a multi-million-dollar contract has been blamed for plenty of meltdowns.

It is fair to say it has been over eighteen years since you have found yourself in the company of ordinary people discussing ordinary issues as an equal. You have managed to get rid of a majority of the people who know you as Legesse. Some have died under peculiar circumstances, you have jailed quite a few, some have been exiled to far away places and some have resigned before you got to them. That leaves the few that have accepted their location on the bottom of the totem pole. Those are the sycophants. The yes men, the flatters. There is no one in the vicinity that is able to correct you when you are wrong, advise you when you err or set you straight when you digress.

I believe that explains the many false statements you seem to utter to the complete disbelief of your country’s people. As I said before this little note is to help you see the other side of the story. It is an attempt to show you a different perspective so you know that there is another reality outside of Arat Kilo.
I will start with your recent interview with the Financial Times of London on June 23. A lot of UN true stuff was said. I will not bother with most of your answers except the one dealing with the free press.
FT: All these events have contributed to an atmosphere where people do not feel free to speak.
MZ: Have you read the local newspapers? Do they mince their words about government …
You see my problem here? What local newspaper are you talking about? Isn’t it true that after the 2005 elections you have managed to destroy the free press? Didn’t your government enact new legislation to strangle the press? For your information you own the single television transmitter, you won the single short wave radio transmitter and you own the telecommunication department. There is no free press in Ethiopia. There are a few that are struggling with a loaded gun held to their temple. Somehow they manage to publish. You really do not think that we consider ‘The Ethiopian Reporter’ as an example of free press do you? We know it is there to give legitimacy to your regime. Nothing more.

In August of 2008 you told your Parliament “In general, we don’t expect drastic effects on our economy, our financial structure is not as liberalized as those of affected countries and the economy is not intertwined to Western economies to face a crisis” Do you want to revise that assertion? Do you see now that our country is not an island? Why were you unable to see that the single crop Ethiopia has been peddling before you were born is going to be affected by world economy slow down? How come you did not know the double digit economic growth you have been shouting about is the result of misguided and selfish Ethiopians in the Diaspora investing in your real estate ponzi scheme and remittances are going to dry up?

Since the debacle of the 2005 election your National Bank has been printing Bir as if it is going out of style. What made you think this kind of irresponsible economic scheme will not result in inflation? I know you have to increase the money supply to keep up with the ever-increasing demand of the military, Kebele officials, public security personnel and various Kilil dogs you have to appease. Your government is the number one employer in the country. So now we are faced with both devaluation and inflation. Are you aware that you have to devalue the Bir by another 20%? Are we going to do five percent here nine percent there or are we going to swallow the bitter medicine all at once and get it over with? Inflation dipping to single digit…when pigs fly.

You have been titillating us with this talk of quitting why is that? This is what you told Financial Times:

FT: Why is it that Ethiopians don’t really believe you could go?

MZ: Because it has not been done in the past in Ethiopia.

FT: But this is a precedent you would like to set?

MZ: This is a precedent that I would almost kill to set.

Very dramatic indeed. Believe me you can purchase a ticket from your local TPLF kiosk and fly away and no one will care. Killing, beating and maiming is an obsession with you TPLF folks. There is no need to kill anybody, but if you have to kill may we suggest one of your comrades. On the other hand there are a few unsettled businesses between the Ethiopian people in general and you and your TPLF cadres in particular. The massacre in the aftermath of the 2005 elections is in the forefront. I believe Judge Wolde Michael Meshesha would like to interview you about that without the presence of your armed goons. There are also a lot of families that want closure and justice done. There is also the murder of Professor Asrat, Assefa Maru and god knows how many more to be dealt with. You really do not think all will be swept under the rug do you? We don’t care what Ledetu have promised you but it will not work.
When you say your party have to agree what exactly does that mean? Are they asking for blanket forgiveness for all crimes committed the last eighteen years? Are they demanding Parliamentary resolution to that effect? Are they threatening you in anyway, something like we all go together or we stay put? Most of you in the politburo are exposed to criminal charges whereas the rank and file is afraid of economic meltdown. It must be difficult to explain how one becomes a multi millionaire in a mere fifteen years. Is this the discussion inside the TPLF? We know for a fact that those ‘teletafis’ or pretend party’s are unsettled about this talk of you leaving them high and dry to face the music. They never thought the end was coming. Do you stay awake all night thinking about all these unpleasant matters? Do you think you are clever and you will manage to squeeze out of this predicament you find yourself in?
They say hindsight is one hundred percent, do you look back and think may be you should have exited peacefully in 2005? What did all that killing bring you except a few million more and universal condemnation? Are you improvising as you go along or do you really have a plan for what is about to happen tomorrow?

The world has changed a lot since 2005. The hate level of the Ethiopian people against your TPLF cadres has skyrocketed, the economy has tanked and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Creating ethnic tension has become too obvious, terrorism is so yesterday it has been devalued more than your Bir and your loyal dogs are lined up by the exit door (check out your Communications Minister who is getting ready to spill his guts on Addis Voice, VOA or DW radio) If I were you I will assign loyal cadres to watch Addisu, Dula, Kumsa, Azeb and Kasu Ilala. Betrayal is second nature in your sorry outfit.

So you said you want to retire in peace and rest. Well let me tell you what the opposition have in store for the future of our country upon your departure to Kaliti. Here are the top ten:

· Truth and reconciliation committee will be set up. Citizens will be encouraged to file grievances.
· New Constitution will be written after extensive discussion and debate.
· Kilils will be abolished.
· Land belongs to the individual not the government will be the law.
· All confiscated property will be returned to the lawful owners.
· Television, radio, newspaper, Internet and telephone service will be in private hands.
· All bank account, property and assets of former officials will be frozen awaiting certification of how it was amassed.
· All international agreements and deals made by the TPLF government will be subject to review.
· The millions of Ethiopians in the Diaspora will be encouraged to return home and participate in building the motherland. When we say contribute it is not bars or nightclubs but farming, industry and other productive enterprises.
· That ugly symbol you affixed will be removed from our flag never ever to be seen again.
I know all the foreign press has been asking you about the increasing repression, your hasty departure from Somalia, the drying up of foreign reserve and now the lack of electricity in 2009. No one seems to have any thing good to say about your regime. Judge Bertukan’s star is shining bright from behind bars. Your feeble attempts to rub shoulders with democratically elected leaders have only brought you further humiliation. Brave leaders face the consequences of their actions head on and either apologize to their people or take the Japanese way out you know what I mean. Which one would it be? Riding peacefully into the sunset is out of the question!

Ethiopia's fake patriarch send his goons after bishops

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — It is reported that last night several unknown individuals have attacked at least three bishops of the Ethiopian Orthodox church who are thought to be opponents of the fake patriarch of Ethiopia, Aba Gebremedhin (formerly known as Aba Paulos), who was installed by the Woyanne tribal regime.

According to the Amharic online journal, Deje Selam, those who were attacked include Abune Fanuel, Abune Qerlos and Abune Epifanios.

Read more at Deje Selam. Click here.


ዛሬ ረቡዕ ከምሽቱ አራት ሰዓት ጀምሮ በአካባቢው ያለውን የመብራት መጥፋት ተገን ያደረጉ ሰዎች በብፁዓን አባቶች ላይ አደጋ መጣላቸው ተሰማ።

የደጀ ሰላም ምንጮች እንደተናገሩት ከምሽቱ 4 ሰዓት እስከ 5 ሰዓት ባለፈው ጊዜ ማንነታቸው ለጊዜው ያልታወቀ ሰዎች የብፁዓን አባቶችን መኖሪያ በመደብደብ፣ በር ገንጥሎ በመግባት አደጋ ማድረሳቸው ሲታወቅ ይህ ዜና በተጠናቀረበት ወቅት አባቶች ላይ የደረሰው አደጋ ምን እንደሆነ፣ የተጎዱትስ አባቶች ምን እንደገጠማቸው አልታወቀም። ምንጮቻችን እንደተናገሩት ብፁዕ አቡነ ኤጲፋንዮስ ሳይሆኑ አይቀሩም፣ ሲጮሁና “አድኑኝ” ሲሉ ተሰምተዋል ተብሏል።

ፓትርያርኩን በመቃወሙ ዘርፍ ስብሰባዎችን ሲመሩ የሰነበቱት የብፁዕ አቡነ ቄርሎስ መኖሪያ በር ከተሰበረ በሁዋላ ብፁዕነታቸው የመኝታ ቤታቸውን በር ቆልፈው ከአደጋው አምልጠዋል ተብሏል። ማንነታቸውን ለጊዜው ያላወቅነው አንድ አባት ግን ችግር ሳይደርስባቸው አልቀረም። እኚሁ አባት “ብፁዕ አቡነ ኤጲፋንዮስ ናቸው፤ ታፍነው ሳይወሰዱ አልቀሩም” ሲሉ ምንጮቻችን ጥቆማ ሰጥተዋል። ይህንኑ ያወቁ የፌዴራል ፖሊስ አባላት ወደ ጠቅላይ ቤተ ክህነት መግባታቸውም ታውቋል።

በሌላም በኩል ከጠቅላይ ቤተ ክህነቱ ውጪ ቃሊቲ አካባቢ ባለው መኖሪያቸው የሚኖሩት ብፁዕ አቡነ ፋኑኤል የጥቃቱ ኢላማ የነበሩ ሲሆን አደጋ ጣዮቹ በራቸውን በተደጋጋሚ ከደበደቡ በሁዋላ፣ በጥበቃ ሠራተኞቻቸው መኖር ከአደጋው አምልጠዋል ተብሏል። ብፁዕነታቸውም ወደ ፖሊስ ዘንድ በመሄድ ቃላቸውን ሰጥተው ተመልሰዋል።

የዛሬው አደጋ ኢላማ የሆኑት አባቶች የፓትርያርኩ ተቃዋሚዎችና በዛሬው ስብሰባ ላይ ጠንካራ ሐሳብ የሰነዘሩት ናቸው ተብሏል። ነገሩ በርግጥም በተባለው መልኩ ተፈጽሞ ከሆነ ቤተ ክርስቲያን ታላቅ አደጋ ላይ የመሆኗ የመጨረሻ ምልክት ይሆናል ማለት ነው።

አባቶች አካላዊ ጉዳት እንዳልደረሰባቸው ታወቀ

(ደጀ ሰላም፤ ጁላይ 16/2009)

ረቡዕ ከምሽቱ አራት ሰዓት ጀምሮ በአካባቢው ያለውን የመብራት መጥፋት ተገን ያደረጉ ሰዎች በብፁዓን አባቶች ላይ አደጋ ለመጣል በተደረገው ሙከራ ከንብረት ውድመትና አባቶችን ከማጎሳቆል ባለፈ አካላዊ ጉዳት በሚያደርስ መልኩ አደጋ የደረሰበት አባት እንደሌለ ታወቀ።

ብዙ የጥበቃ ሠራተኞች በሚተራመሱበት የቤተ ክህነት ግቢ ውስጥ በሚገኘው የብፁዓን አበው መኖሪያ ሕንጻ ላይ በተሰነዘረው በዚህ አደጋ የቅዱስ ሲኖዶስ መብት አስጠባቂነቱን ስብሰባ በመምራት ላይ የሚገኙት የብፁዕ አቡነ ቄርሎስ ቤት በሮች ከተሰባበሩ በሁዋላ እርሳቸው ግን በእግዚአብሔር ቸርነት ሲተርፉ በተመሳሳይ መልኩም የብፁዕ አቡነ ሳዊሮስ ቤት በር ተሰባብሯል ተብሏል።

ከሌሎቹ በተለየ የብፁዕ አቡነ ቄርሎስ ቤት ለአደጋ የተጋለጠበት ምክንያት የአባቶች ፊርማ ያረፈበት ቃለ ጉባዔ እርሳቸው ዘንድ ስለሚገኝ ሊሆን እንደሚችል ምንጮቻችን አብራርተዋል። ከርሳቸው በተጨማሪ ብፁዕ አቡነ መልከ ጼዴቅ ለተወሰነ ጊዜ “ታፍነው፣ ማስፈራሪያና ዛቻ” ደርሶባቸው ተለቀዋል የተባለ ሲሆን ሌሎች ምንጮች በበኩላቸው ምንም እንዳልደረሰባቸው ይናገራሉ።

ይህ ሁሉ ሲሆን የግቢው የጥበቃ ክፍል ምን ይሠራ እንደነበር፣ የት እንደነበር ገና ምርመራ ያስፈልገዋል። አደጋውና በር- ሰበራው ለጆሮም ለዓይንም የማይሰወር፣ እንኳን የጥበቃ ሠራተኞች ራሳቸው ፓትርያርኩም ሊሰሙት የሚችሉት እንደሆነ ተገልጿል። አባቶች ስለ ቤተ ክርስቲያን ያላቸውን አቋም በመግለጻቸው ብቻ ጥበቃ ሊደረግላቸው ሲገባ ለአደጋ በሚጋለጡበት ሁኔታ መተዋቸው የተደፈረችው ቤተ ክርስቲያን መሆኗን ያሳያል ተብሏል። አደጋው መድረሱን ያወቁ አንድ አባት ለጥበቃ ሰዎች ቢናገሩም የሚደርስ ሰው አለመገኘቱ ሲታወቅ መንግሥት በእምነት ደረጃ የሃይማኖት አባቶች፣ በዜግነት ደረጃ አረጋውያን የሆኑ አቅመ ደካማ ዜጎቹን ለመጠበቅ አለመቻሉ አነጋግሯል።

ዛሬ ጠዋት አባቶች በአካል በተገናኙበት ወቅት ስለ ጤንነታቸውና ስለ አጠቃላዩ ሁኔታ ሲነጋገሩ መታየታቸው ታውቋል። በዚህ የመንፈስ መረበሽና የሴኪዉሪቲ እጦት መንፈስ ምን ዓይነት ስብሰባ ሊያኪያሂዱ እንደሚችሉ ብዙዎችን ግራ አጋብቷል። በዚህ ወንጀል ውስጥ ሊሳተፉና ሊመሩ የሚችሉ እነማን ሊሆኑ ይችላሉ የሚለውን ጥያቄ ለመመለስ የራሳቸውን መላምት የሚሰጡ ምንጮቻችን እንደሚናገሩት በፓትርያርኩ መሪነት እርሳቸውን ተገን አድርገው የሚንቀሳቀሱት ማፊያ ቡድኖች፣ በተለይም የእጅጋየሁ በየነና የቅዱስነታቸው የወንድም ልጅ የሆነው የያሬድ ጋሻ ጃግሬዎች ሳይሆኑ አልቀሩም ይላሉ። ሌሎችም በበኩላቸው መንግሥት የሚጫወተው ድራማ ወይም በቁልቢ ብር የተገዙ የደህንነት ሠራተኞች የሚሰሩት ሕገ ወጥ ድርጊት ይሆናል ሲሉ ግምታቸውን ይናገራሉ።

በትናንት ረቡዕ ስብሰባ ፓትርያርኩ “ሕገ ቤተ ክርስቲያን የምትሉትን አልቀበልም፣ የማንም ዱርዬ የሠራው ነው፣ … ሲኖዶሱ ተጠሪነቱ ለፓትርያርኩ ነው” የሚለው ክርክራቸው ከከሸፈ ወዲህ በትልቅ የተስፋ መቁረጥ ሁኔታ ላይ ይገኛሉ። ነገሩ በዚህ ካለቀ ችግር ውስጥ የሚገባው የፓትርያርኩና የማፊያዉ ቡድን ወደ ጥቃት የተሸጋገረው ለዚህ ሳይሆን አይቀርም ተብሎ ተገምቷል። ሲኖዶሱ በመንግሥት ባለሥልጣናት አሸማጋይነት የጀመረው ስብሰባ ዛሬም ቀጥሎ በአዲስ አበባ ሀ/ስብከት ሊቀ ጳጳስ በብፁዕ አቡነ ሳሙኤል እግድና በሌሎች አጀንዳዎች ዙሪያ ለመነጋገር ቀጠሮ ነበረው።

The first Ethiopian on Mt. Everest

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world, is the ultimate challenge for mountain climbers who dare conquer its feat. Many, amongst the elite in the mountain climbing community, have perished in their attempt to reach the peak.

Still many developed nations and some developing, have had the pleasure and pride to have their nationals hoist their flag with all its glory up held high. Upon the triumphant return of Vilane, the first South African, an ecstatic President Thabo Mbeki declared, “Today all Africans stand 8,848m tall. Vilane has made all of us stick our chest out in justifiable pride and wonder” (2003). This time, it will be our own Sirak, with our beloved Green, Yellow and Red on top of the world.

You can help Sirak place an Ethiopian flag on Mt. Everest for the first time in history by making a contribution to, The First Ethiopian on Mt. Everest Mission… [read more]

Ethiopia's regime expels 13 American and British tourists

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (ST) — Ethiopian authorities expelled at least 13 American and British nationals who had entered the horn of Africa’s nation on a tourist visa.

The tourists were expelled after local authorities caught them traveling in troubled eastern part of Ethiopia where the tourists were not allowed by government body to travel to, reliable sources indicated.

“They had a tourist visa but unlike other arrivals they were traveling to non-tourist sites on their own” reached by phone a government official on a condition of anonymity told Sudan tribune from Addis Ababa.

“No foreign visitor is allowed to travel as its wishes without the knowledge of government,” he said, adding “Such an attempt is off a tourist duty, irresponsible and could be dangerous.”

“Ethiopia can’t guarantee the safety of such travelers, but expel them back,” he concluded.

The official didn’t say if they were involved in local politics or if they are of Somali origin.

There is no a clear confirmation at this point on the specific area they traveled to, why and their numbers on separate citizen.

But there are some unconfirmed sources that the foreign tourists were caught up on travel to the volatile Ogaden region where government and ONLF rebels frequently battle.

A US diplomat in Addis Ababa, Kevin Oconer confirmed the incident but decline to give any further details.

The diplomat said that it is the US state department responsible for comments not Addis Embassy.

The Ogaden National liberation Front (ONLF) who seeks autonomy for the ethnically eastern Somali Ogaden region claimed in a statement released last week killing 80 Ethiopian soldiers. But Ethiopian communications Minister, Bereket Simon played it down saying the reverse is rather true.

Ethiopian forces launched an assault against the rebels after fighters of the On April, 2007 attack a Chinese-run oil field in Abole, Somali region, killing approximately 65 Ethiopians and 9 Chinese nationals.

Ethiopian man convicted of killing U.S. diplomat

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — A 23-year-old man who was arraigned before the Ethiopian High Court, on homicide charges, has been sentenced to a 17-year prison term over the murder of an American diplomat in Addis Ababa.

The 25-year-old American diplomat, Brian Adkins was found dead in his Addis Ababa home in February this year. According to official sources, the U.S. diplomat’s corpse was covered in wounds when it was discovered.

The discovery, which suggested foul play at first sight, prompted the country’s Federal Police to embark on an intensive investigation and later an extensive search.

The 23-year-old Ethiopian suspect was arrested in a remote area of the country a week after a nationwide search launched.

During his trial, shortly after the arrest, the suspect defended himself claiming self defence. According to him, “The diplomat violently tried to rape me … that is what pushed me to react in self defence”.

His argument, however, did little to help his case. The victim’s numerous wounds, it is argued, suggests more than a simple case of self defence. The court on July 9 found him guilty on murder charges and sentenced him the next day to a 17 year prison term.

Brian Adkins was a Foreign Service officer who worked in the consular section of US embassy in Addis Ababa. A graduate of George Washington University in Washington, Ethiopia was his first foreign assignment for the State Department.

- By Desalegn Sisay | AFRIK

Bereket Simon's assistant defected in the U.S.

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (AFP) – Ethiopia’s state minister for communication affairs [who works under the propaganda chief Bereket Simon] has refused to return home from the United Sates after an official visit, a top government official told AFP Wednesday.

Ermias Legesse was issued with an 11-day visa and left for the US in the second week of June, but has not returned.

“He didn’t report back, but there is nothing political in that,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“He has chosen to stay there. It seems he has dreamt about going to the US,” he added. “Sometimes strange things happen.”

Ermias, who is in his thirties, was appointed to the position earlier this year.

The US embassy in Addis Ababa declined to comment on the matter, but a diplomatic source said Ermias “has not been reachable for several days.”

Eight Ethiopian women killed in the UAE

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

By Benjamin Joffe-Walt | The Media Line

Sources at the Ethiopian embassy in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) told the Gulf News that eight female maids had been poisoned by a compatriot maid last Wednesday in an apartment in Sharjah, the largest city in the third largest emirate of the country.

The woman accused of killing the eight domestic workers is said to be held in the emirate’s central jail, but Sharjah police have publicly denied reports of the multiple murders, calling them “just rumors.”

The embassy sources said the police had reported the incident to them, but were still investigating the motive behind the killings.

The sources claimed the bodies of the eight murdered women had been transferred to the morgues at two local hospitals. Officials at both hospitals reported that no bodies had been brought to the morgue, but that it was possible the bodies had been sent for forensic examinations.

The women are understood to have been living together in an apartment in the Abu Shagara neighborhood of the city.

The UAE has received extensive criticism over the years from human rights and labor organizations over the conditions for foreign workers in the country.

Domestic workers, which make up a significant proportion of the UAE’s predominately foreign population, have complained of sub-standard housing, lack of medical care, abuse and non-payment of wages.

The average Emirati household had 10 members in 2008, including domestic workers and drivers. The average monthly wage last year for such a household was the equivalent of about U.S. $12,800.

The government announced new regulations two years ago requiring holiday, medical care and registered salaries for all foreign domestic workers in the country. A conflict resolution unit was also set up to resolve disputes between employees and workers.

“This is a category of workers that are extremely vulnerable because there are no labor laws that apply to them,” Ibrahim Awad, Director of the International Migration Program at the International Labor Organization, told The Media Line. “In most countries migrant domestic workers are not covered by domestic labor laws because their workplace is a household. This presents a very big challenge.”

“International instruments of human rights apply to domestic workers and there are regulations in the UAE that ensure that domestic workers are paid their wages,” Awad continued. “By law, passports and documents cannot be withheld from migrant workers, for example, but the degree of enforcement varies. This presents a particular problem for domestic workers because labor inspectors cannot get access to their workplaces as they work in private homes.”

The International Labor Organization plans to push international standards or labor recommendations for domestic laborers in their annual conference next year.

The United States recently placed the country on a watch list of countries with poor human trafficking records.

Ethiopian women are regularly trafficked via Djibouti, Egypt and Somalia for domestic servitude, particularly to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

The Ethiopian government banned its citizens from traveling to Lebanon in May last year following the deaths of a number of Ethiopian domestic workers in the country. The ban remains in effect.

Worldwide teleconference with EPPF officials – Audio

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

The following is an audio record of Ethiopian Review’s worldwide teleconference that was held on Sunday, July 12, 2009, with:

1. Ato Melkie Mengiste, Secretary General of EPPF International Committee
2. Ato Sileshi Tilahun, Organizational Head of EPPF International Committee
3. Ato Demis Belete, Head of EPPF’s Press Office and representative of the EPPF Washington Metropolitan Chapter

Click below to listen:
 

Johannesburg's Little Ethiopia

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

By Laurice Taitz

More than 25 years ago I watched the Johannesburg Sun being built from the window of my orthodontist’s office in Lister Building, then the home of some of Joburg’s top medical specialists. There must be hundreds of now-adults who share this memory, straight teeth, and the image of Dr Chertkow and Lazerson’s shared consulting rooms with those purple and orange vinyl chairs.

Today that part of town bustles with clothing and blanket wholesalers, fruit vendors and minibus taxicabs. The Joburg Sun is now the KwaDukuzu Egoli Hotel and nearby is Blessed Miracle Wholesalers. The walls are plastered with adverts for abortions and for consultations with miracle prophets who hail from Zimbabwe. Finding a parking space is for the brave as the city planning in that part of town was – I am reliably told – shared by two different firms who drew their own street maps and then matched them up after the streets were built resulting in a weird glitch that causes traffic to have to bob and weave to make it across the street.

Just opposite the hotel and one block down on Delvers Street is a building with an entrance that spills onto the pavement, the home of a number of clothing wholesalers, dressmakers and Ethiopian coffee shops. Usptairs above the hustle of the streets in a coffee shop that had no name we ate injera – a traditional Ethiopian bread with a sourdough taste and spongy texture – with a range of small portions of beetroot, cooked spinach, a sweet potato and carrot mix, and some stewed beef.

The patrons all looked local to the place — mini Addis Ababa — and our host couldn’t have been more welcoming or gracious. No doubt he was curious about what had drawn white faces to that part of town, but was too polite to inquire. Having feasted we walked across the way past a restaurant where two men, on noticing us looking at their hot-pot of beef pieces, beckoned us to share it with them. We stopped for a taste and found enough reason to make a return visit.

It’s a perfect way to describe this city – full of unexpected tastes and encounters.

Sudan warns Uganda over violating AU decision on ICC

Monday, July 13th, 2009

KHARTOUM — The Sudanese government warned Uganda that it must honor the African Union (AU) decision not to cooperate International Criminal Court (ICC) in the apprehension of the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

Al-Bashir is wanted by the ICC on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Last week the ICC prosecutor filed an appeal for the inclusion of genocide charges that were dropped by the judges for lack of evidence.

Last week the African Union (AU) summit in Sirte, Libya adopted a resolution instructing its ICC members not to cooperate in arresting Al-Bashir despite their legal obligations to do so.

Botswana is the only country to publicly dissent from the AU decision saying it will nab Bashir if he reaches its territory.

But on Friday Uganda issued a statement appearing to backtrack from the AU resolution it endorsed.

“As a signatory to the Rome Statute, Uganda Government re-iterates its commitment to the Statute and support to the ICC. This position is shared by the other African States Parties to the Statute who clearly expressed it during the Assembly meeting in Sirte, Libya,” the foreign ministry statement read.

“Uganda Government supports the African Union Assembly Decision….of February 2009 requesting the UN Security Council to defer the ICC indictment for twelve (12) months, in accordance with Article 16 of the Rome Statute”.

The statement made no reference to the AU decision taken in Sirte or whether Uganda will adhere to it.

The independent Al-Sahafa newspaper quoted an unidentified Sudanese official who said that any Uganda’s stance will negatively impact the latter more than it affects Sudan.

The official said that all African countries must adhere to AU decisions and any state that doesn’t do that is breaking the African consensus.

The ‘Ultimate Media’ website quoted Ugandan foreign minister Sam Kutesa as telling reporters in Kampala that the decision is viewed by many as “a manifestation of lack of respect and support for the ICC Rome Statute by African leaders”.

Kuteesa said that the AU simply wants an AU deferral to allow African countries “to investigate further on Bashir’s case such that they can give their recommendations on his indictment”.

The independent Sudanese Al-Sahafa newspaper reported that Bashir is scheduled to visit Uganda on July 26 to take part in the Ugandan-Turkish forum.

The Ugandan State Minister for International Affairs Henry Oryem Okello told Daily Monitor newspaper that Bashir will not be arrested during his visit.

Uganda’s stance on Bashir’s arrest warrant has been ambiguous despite backing AU decision criticizing it.

The Ugandan president Yoweri Musievini said last March that he wants neither to “condemn Bashir” nor “condone his actions”.

- Sudan Tribune

Korahubish, Emebet lead Ethiopian squad in Bressanone, Italy

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Bressanone, Italy — The Reporter — World Youth Steeplechase best holder Korahubish Itaa and junior runner Emebet Anteneh will lead Ethiopia’s strong team of fifteen athletes for the 6th IAAF World Youth Championships in Bressanone, Italy (8-12 July 2009).

Ita’a, who improved the World 3000m steeplechase youth best in Huleva, Spain last month, is the star of a large Ethiopian. In addition to her 9:29.52 performance in the Spanish city, Ita’a has enjoyed a much improved season since her fourth place finish in the World Juniors last year with a second place finish behind African champion Zemzem Ahmed in the Ethiopian national championships.

Her performance in Huelva also headed the national lists for the longer event until Sofia Assefa’s 9:19.91 second place finish in Oslo last Friday.

She will be joined in the girls’ 2000m steeplechase by Halima Hassen who has a personal best of 9:35.89 for the 3000m SC.

Ethiopia also boasts strong medal hopes in the girls’ 3000m, where Emebet Anteneh, seventh in the junior race at the 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan in March this year, is expected to be one of the top contenders. The 16-year old’s surprise third place at the national cross country trials behind established names likes Genzebe Dibaba and Sule Utura was the biggest surprise of the trials and earned her a first trip outside the country for competition.

Anteneh was surprisingly beaten to second place by Genet Yalew as the duo took the top two places at the East African Youth Championships held in Addis Ababa in April this year. Yalew, the Ethiopian 10,000m regional record holder and former champion, is also expected to be among the top contenders.

The top entrant in the boys’ team is steeplechaser Desta Alemu, who hopes to follow on from Legesse Lemiso, the first Ethiopian to win a global title over the steeplechase when he emerged victorious in Ostrava two years ago. (Elshadai Negash for the IAAF)

Ethiopian Team
Boys
800m: Fekadu Dejene
1500m: Girma Bekele, Zebene Alemayehu
2000m SC: Desta Alemu, Berhanu Sheferaw
3000m: Fekru Feyisa

Girls
800m: Tizita Bogale, Tenaye Lemi
1500m: Gete Dima, Merima Mohammed
2000m SC: Korahubish Itaa, Halima Hassen
3000m: Genet Yalew, Emebet Anteneh

The amorphous relationship between EPLF and TPLF

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Former chairman of the Tigran People Liberation Front (TPLF, aka Woyanne), Ato Aregawi Berhe, has just published a new book, “A Political History of the TPLF.” The book is important in understanding how the Woyanne tribal junta came to power, and its historical anti-Ethiopia stand. The chapter about the relationship between the Eritrean People Liberation Front (EPLF) and Woyanne is particularly revealing. (The book is available at Tsehai Publishers.) The following are some excerpts from the book.

The TPLF and the EPLF: Cupboard-Love Relationship

Excerpts from A Political History of the TPLF

By Aregawi Berhe

From the beginning, the relationship between the Tigray People Liberation Front and the Eritrean People Liberation Front was an amorphous connection, but on the side of the militant Tigraians, who counted on historical, cultural and kinship ties, it was believed the new relationship with the EPLF would work. There was the perception among TPLF members that the TPLF elite was well-educated and could articulate and extend the long-standing relationship between the two peoples beyond what Italian colonialists had created in the 1880s. However, considering the attitude of the EPLF that transpired in due course, it was by and large external circumstances, i.e., the pressure of a common enemy that propelled the relationship to work. Yet unlike the larger section of the ELF that was from the outset influenced by Islamist lowlanders, the EPLF had a clearer picture about cultural and political developments in Ethiopia in general and in Tigrai in particular, largely because of their affinity and exposure to kin across the Mereb River. Contacts between EPLF activists and militant Tigraians had started much earlier, during the Ethiopian student movement of the early 1970s.

When the militant Tigraians were confronted in 1974 by an aggressive military force, the Derg, that sought total obedience from everybody, they were in outright defiance and searched for support in order to launch armed insurgency. It was imperative for them to look for such support from the EPLF. But EPLF leaders, on the other hand, were hoping to find an ally in Ethiopia that could cooperate in expanding their theatre of operations. It was a time when the EPLF was badly in need of support from Ethiopian sympathizers in its efforts to dislodge the remaining government forces concentrated in a few towns in Eritrea. The well-publicized news of ELF-TLF joint operations inside Ethiopia in early 1975 must have motivated them to quickly link up with a Tigraian front. These circumstances led the TPLF-EPLF relationship to start before it had had time to conduct formal discussion or agreements. There seemed to be enthusiasm in the EPLF camp for supporting a Tigraian movement at this juncture, which led the forging of working relations between the two fronts.

After the initial connection was established, modalities of cooperation were expected to be set and political positions discussed and agreed upon, but the EPLF instead offered in advance to train as many recruits as the TPLF could mobilize. It was an attractive offer the TPLF could not afford to waste. It focused on seizing the opportunity and on finding recruits to be engaged in fighting the enemy. The formalities that would define the relationship between the two organizations were therefore ignored and informal contact became the defining aspect of the relationship.

Initially the cooperation appeared to go smoothly, but the EPLF’s support for the TPLF did not match the latter’s expectations. Many reasons could be attributed to this shift of attitude on the part of the EPLF: perhaps because the relationship was not based on a formal agreement, or existing relations between the EPLF and EPRP might have created reluctance of the EPLF towards the TPLF, or perhpas supporting a struggle for the self-determination of Tigrai might have set an unwanted precedent for Eritrea.

The EPRP was then considered the strongest revolutionary party and indeed had huge numbers of followers all over Ethiopia. It was also widely believed to assume power sooner or later. The EPLF too seemed to believe this. For the EPLF, its relationship with the EPRP was thus much more important, as the latter claimed to represent the whole Ethiopia. And when compared with the EPRP at that time (1975-76), the TPLF was just a small ethno-nationalist movement with fewer followers. However, there were some sticky political problems for both the TPLF and EPRP regarding Eritrea. While they recognized the struggle for the Eritrean independence as genuine, they had differences as to whether the case was a ‘colonial issue’ or not. Without conducting the necessary study or having appropriate discussions, the TPLF held the view that the Eritrean case was a ‘colonial question.’ as the EPLF wanted it to be. It was probably an opportunistic stand, designed to outflank the EPRP from the privileged position the EPLF offering it. Without understanding the consequences that were to haunt it in the discourse of Ethiopian political history, this position continued to be the stand of the TPLF for years to come.

Another concern of the TPLF was what the removal of the TLF from the scene, which took place as early as November 1975, would mean for the EPLF. The ELF’s wider mobility, supported by the a proxy organization in Tigrai, might have prompted the EPLF to initially look for its own proxy organizations in Tigrai to counter its rival. But once the TLF had been dissolved, the EPLF had less need to worry about the ELF’s activities gaining ground in Tigrai and beyond. That situation appeared to reduce the TPLF’s importance for the EPLF’s and gave more weight to its relations with the EPRP.

Towards the end of 1975, differences between the EPRP and the TPLF surfaced when they were operating in the same territory and trying to mobilize and organize the same people. News of rivalry between the two was also coming from the towns. On the initiative of the TPLF. leaders of both fronts met in Marwa in January 1976 to look into these encounters and consider possible remedies. The TPLF presented a suggestion that it thought would benefit both organizations and avoid them overlapping and clashing. The TPLF requested that the EPRP operate in regions of the country that the TPLF could not reach. By implication, the suggestion was recognition of the TPLF as the viable front that could take care of the struggle in Tigrai against the common enemy, the Derg. As we saw earlier, the demand infuriated EPRP delegates and they broke off the meeting and enmity was created. This was a concern fro EPLF leaders, but their main worry was that a fragmented or ethnically based movement in Ethiopia might weaken a viable future ally — the EPRP. Eventually, TPLF military action, like that launched against the TLF, would deprive the EPLF of an ally expected to seize power in Ethiopia and the anticipated acquiescence to handle the Eritran question would evaporate. The EPLF continued to exert pressure on the TPLF to come to terms with the EPRP and in a letter to the TPLF, the concerns of the EPLF were clearly stated, with an underlying warning note. For strategic purposes, the EPLF stood beside the EPRP and influenced by their leader’s desire to work with the EPRP, EPLF top cadres urged Ethiopians, and especially Tigraians in Eritrea, to join the EPRP and not the TPLF.

In the first half of 1976, the TPLF unexpectedly had released its controversial manifesto, better known as Manifesto 68. In this handwritten document, the TPLF declared that its struggle was for Tigrai’s independence from Ethiopia, which was basically the same claim the Eritrean fronts had put forward for their region. Earlier, this position had been entertained by the TLF, but it was vehemently rejected by the TPLF on the grounds that there was no historical or political justification for it. It was a surprise to many fighters to see their organization come up with such an unwarranted claim. The EPLF also opposed the TPLF manifesto for independence on the grounds that Tigrai was an inegral part of Ethiopia and there was no justification for secession from Ethiopia. At this time, the EPLF was reluctant to support separatist movements in Ethiopia, not just as a matter of princople but for various other motives as well… [more excerpts will be posted later]

Ethiopia: Cities plunge into darkness

Monday, July 13th, 2009

By Eden Habtamu | Ezega News

Addis Ababa — In Ethiopia, the rainy season starts sometime in June. This year, Ethiopian cities are starting the season dark and cold. Many people are spending their after work times at various places: cafeterias, bars, restaurants, cinema halls, religious centers, and so on. They don’t have power in their homes to do whatever they used to do.

Even worse, people are spending their daytimes idle – unless they have generators to work on, or they are lucky to be on day’s ration. Many large-scale industries were forced to stop operating by order from Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo) because they consumed large amount of electric power, which the EEPCo cannot afford. Many of them indicate that they are heading straight into bankruptcy which may lead into layoffs of thousands of employees.

Small-scale factories and businesses are facing a very challenging time as well. Due to the power shortage, many have cut their payroll. Some pay their employees according to the days and times their employees work, which can be about 50% of their normal salary or less. Elias Garment is among those terribly affected private companies that pay its employees according to power availability and times worked.

There are companies that gave their employee a forced leave as well. This may lead into unpaid leave if the scenario continues this way.

People are immensely affected by the power shedding which is supposed to be at 50% blackout nationwide. This is extremely bad in itself. However, in reality, the real power outage is greater than 50% – a real scandal by any measure.

Bekele Tekelu works at a barber shop. He earns 300 birr per month. Due to the power rationing, the shop could not even pay the increasing house rent because the shop income decreased by more than 50%. Bekele believes he is still employed because the shop belongs to his uncle. Bekele supports his two sisters and himself with his 300 birr salary, but now he is afraid that, if the power cut continues, he may lose his job very soon.

A well-known construction and consulting company co-owner expressed his dismay this way: “I cannot even start and comment on it. It is so clear we cannot perform according to plan. The construction sector is already burdened with various problems from different directions. On the top of that, we don’t have power that can meet our minimum needs. We may use generator as an alternative power for those areas that demand small amount of electric power, but for the rest, we cannot sustain the cost of fuel. We cannot work without cement, but how can we afford to buy 400 Br per quintal? If the power shortage continues this way, I am afraid we will have to cut our human resources as we are going into bankruptcy ourselves.”

Ezega.com tried to reach officials from the public sector and the EEPCo. One person we reached was Tadele Yimer, President of Employers Federation. Tadele said, “We did not hear much of layoffs related to power cut since March 2009. However, the power shortage is terribly affecting various industries and the service sector. As a result, the country will lose enormous amount of income which could have been obtained from taxes.”

Kassahun Follo, President of the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions, told Ezega.com, “We do not have much information about employee layoffs so far. We heard that Nas Foods Plc did layoff temporary workers. We really hope the dams will be filled with sufficient water soon and the power shedding adjusted for the better.”

Ezega.com reached EEPCo public relation officer, Ato Misker Negash, through the phone. Here follows excerpts from that interview:

Ezega.com: EEPCo told the mass media that it knew of the power demand and supply incompatibility. Did you inform the public?

EEPCO: First we should be aware of the cause of the problem, which is the power supply and demand gap. These days electric power is more than a basic consumption – it has social, economic and political implications. Due to the rapid growth of the economy, our consumption increased highly. In addition to this growth, the adverse effect of climate also contributed its part. The increased temperature of the climate that causes evaporation of the water is also a global phenomenon that played a role for the current power shortage.

We brought a generator with a 60 MW capacity that cost EEPCo $20,000/month for rent and another four million ETB/day for fuel to run the generator. Along with the generator, we brought 4.6 million bulbs with a cost of 45 million birr which we assumed will save 87MW. EEPCo expected demand to increase by 21% in 2001E.C. In reality, it grew by 24%. This was not what we expected.

Ezega.com: In addition to these measures, have you informed the public that they could face power shortage, so they can look for alternatives? Was it not your responsibility to warn the public and especially the various industries, which may touch on peoples’ lives directly and indirectly?

EEPCo: I am afraid I cannot say we provided sufficient information for our clients adequately. But we tried to inform them in different sessions. I can’t say we provided enough information.

Ezega.com: If the power shortage continues this way companies may end up in bankruptcy and layoff their employees? What is the plan to avoid such chaos?

EEPCo: I believe we are currently fighting with nature. The rainfall appears to be promising so far. If it keeps on raining like it is right now, we are optimistic that the problem will be solved soon. Gilgel Gebi II hydro-power with a 420MW and Tekeze hydro-power with 300MW installed capacity are finalized with around 98% of their construction and expected to come to production late this year, or early in 2002 E.C. These are expected to meet the growing demand of electric power in the country.

Ezega.com: EEPCo announced the current power shedding months ago which should have expired by now. Many expect better power rationing, but power rationing nonetheless. What is your plan going forward, and when are you going to announce it to the public?

EEPCo: I am afraid that this is not something that we can talk about now. As I said earlier, if we get adequate rainfall, we will surely improve the supply and bring in Gilgel Gibe II and Tekeze projects to full operation to meet the growing demand. We don’t have tangible information on hand at the moment to predict what we will be capable of in the near future.

In his recent address to parliament, Prime Minster Meles attributed the responsibility for the power rationing to “Poverty”. EEPCo assured the rationing will remain until July 7, 2009. However, there is no solid promise unless the rainfall meets expectations to fill the dams.

Although public representative say there is no significant layoff due to this years power rationing, employers are suffering from unplanned expenses and various losses. Many businesses are on the verge of cutting back employees. No one can seriously believe that such massive power failure will have no impact.

If what happened in Ethiopia this year were to happen in almost any country, the consequences would have been very severe indeed, with repercussions to those in positions of authority who allowed this to happen willy-nilly. Many heads would roll at the very minimum, but not in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia's fake patriarch Aba Gebremedhin suspended

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Addis Ababa — Aba Gebremedhin (formerly known as Aba Paulos), the Woyanne cadre who is installed as the patriarch of Ethiopia’s Orthodox Tewahdo Church, has been stripped of most of his administrative duties by the Synod, the Church’s executive body, according to the Addis Ababa-based newspaper Awramba Times.

The Synod decided to take such measures against Aba Gebremedhin in an emergency meeting after he arbitrarily suspended Addis Ababa bishop Abune Samuel.

No rest for the wicked!

Monday, July 13th, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

Bored?

There has been much talk recently about the possible “retirement” of the über-boss in Ethiopia. Reuters reported that “… Meles Zenawi wants to step down after 18 years running sub-Saharan Africa’s second most populous country.” Apparently, the dictator is “bored” with the racket he has been running for the past 18 years, or at least nagging questions about when he will be calling it quits. The dictator says he needs the permission of La Famiglia, “his ruling party before he can leave.” Reuters rhetorically asked: “So when might he go? And what will happen if he does?”

According to Reuters’ guessing game, the dictator could “get permission to leave” at the party congress in September, but that is unlikely “a year before Ethiopia has its next national election due in June 2010.” He could be ousted as a result of an opposition win, but that “would be a shock. The 2005 elections ended in violence when Meles claimed victory, the opposition shouted fraud and about 200 protestors were killed by police and soldiers.” He “wins in 2010 and the opposition cries foul… But despite Ethiopia’s close relations with the West, allegations of fraud or violence would be more difficult for the international community to take a second time and the country could see its aid slashed, plunging it deeper into poverty.” The dictator’s party “wins the election, there is no violence and Meles will probably resign within two years and be replaced by a party loyalist who will continue his domestic, economic and foreign policies.” Or the dictator “serves another 5-year term and runs again.”

The dictator is dismissive of these speculations. He says he wants to relinquish power, go into retirement and “have a long good rest.”

To Chuckle or to Guffaw?

We have listened to the amusing blather about staying or leaving office for the past several years. We are never sure whether to chuckle or guffaw every time we hear it recycled through the propaganda machine: “I will resign. I will leave office at the end of my term, but only if my party allows me to. I will stay in office as long as my party demands it of me. I will leave office, but I won’t tell you when. I will leave office when I leave office. Oh! Questions about when I will leave office bore me.” Indeed, the whole affair has become a recurrent farcical comic opera. International journalists ask the dictator when he plans to leave, and he feeds them the same crock of ambiguous, opaque and enigmatic answers in his usual doublespeak and pretentious phraseology. The journalists draw up their own fanciful speculations about what he will do, and the charade goes on and on. But the climax of this bizarre jabber is always the same: “May be I will go. May be I won’t. It’s for me to know, and for the rest of you to speculate about and play guessing games.”

The Solipsistic Logic of Dictators

The question is never whether any dictator will stay or go. We know from Gandhi’s axiom that all dictators eventually go: “There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, ALWAYS.” The question about when a tyrant will fall is solipsistic (has special meaning only to the tyrant) and reveals much about the tyrant’s egoistic self-absorption and self-indulgence with power. The tyrant’s choice of the word “boring” to dismissively respond to questions about the timing of his departure is quite curious. Boredom and anxiety are states of mind on a psychological continuum. Could it be that giving a date certain for leaving office creates in the mind of the tyrant deep angst about unclinging from power and the potential consequences that could follow?

For the critical observer, the question of when the tyrant will leave office is a rhetorical tautology (that is, the question is incapable of producing a truthful answer that can be verified or falsified). In other words, any response by the dictator to the question is unlikely to produce or convey truthful or useful information regardless of how many times it is asked. The response will always be hedged and interwoven in a fabric of deceit and absurd contingencies such as obtaining permission from the party, new leaders taking over, democracy being institutionalized and so on. Consider the following muddled and transparently evasive response:

My personal position is that I have had enough. I am arguing my case and the others are also arguing their case. I hope we will come up with some common understanding on the way forward that would not require me to resign from my party that I have fought for all my life. We are not talking about Meles only. We are talking about the old generation. The party needs to have new leadership that does not have the experience of the armed struggle…. It would be very important for everybody, particularly for the fledgling democratic institutions of this country…. The party is in the process of dialogue, and sooner or later it will make its decision, and that will be it… We have a large leadership pool, any one of whom could take the mantle… [The ethnic background of his replacement] is not a prime consideration. The party has gone beyond that…”

It is not clear from the foregoing statement why the dictator can not leave office immediately or on a date certain, or what argument he is presenting for or against leaving office. But the dictator’s uncompromising conclusory statement “I have had enough.” objectively indicates that he has reached a final and irreversible psychological state on his tenure in office. Simply stated, the dictator is completely disgusted and bored with what he is doing. He does not want to do the job anymore. But he quickly qualifies his expression of disgust by pleading to stay in power so that he “would not [be] require[d] to resign from my party that I have fought for all my life”. He feigns humility by claiming that his staying or leaving office is not about him at all. It is really about the old guards passing the baton to the new generation of leaders and so on. He hedges by implying that he can not leave office until the generational transfer of power is complete. The whole self-contradictory response reflects the solipsistic narcissism of a megalomaniacal dictator who seeks to tether not only the fate of his party to himself, but also the country’s destiny.

But the dictator’s definitive statement invites further query: He has “had enough” of what exactly? Massive violations of human rights? Kangaroo court justice? Systemic corruption? Lies? Perhaps, he has had enough of THE TRUTH!?

All of this farcical talk about leaving office does have a not-so-hidden strategic purpose. It is intended as a trial balloon to divert attention from the already-won 2010 election. The dictator hopes to fool, confuse and confound the opposition and international donors by titillating them with the possibility of his leaving office. We will predict that the dictator and his gang will be shoveling loads of propaganda between now and the already-won election of 2010 in a futile effort to distract public attention and convince donors that they are the only viable democratic alternative.

We should refrain from playing a guessing game of who will replace the dictator. We know for a fact that replacing Tweedledee with Tweedledum from another ethnic group (or replacing the old guard from the days of the armed struggle with a newer generation of their clones) will not amount to a hill of beans. The problems that have been festering in Ethiopia for the past two decades can not be cured by the departure of a bored, jaded, dispirited and weary dictator, or by his replacement clone. The problems are structural and viral in the system of dictatorial mis-governance over the past 18 years. Let’s be crystal clear: The dictator’s “retirement”, “resignation” or whatever nonsense he is talking about will not mean the beginning of the rule of law and it will not mean the end of massive human rights violations. His retirement will not end arbitrary arrests and imprisonments; the independent media will not function freely because he goes; the bantustans of ethnic federalism he created to divide and rule will not vanish immediately, and corruption will not stop. There is only one way to bring about fundamental change: Replace the one-man, one-party dictatorship with a genuine multiparty system.

No Rest for the Wicked!

There is not a single instance in the history of modern dictatorships where dictators voluntarily packed up and left power one fine morning. Dictators are to power as bloodsucking ticks are to a cow. Neither can survive without its life-giving force. There are many reasons why dictators will not leave power voluntarily. In Ethiopia, the reason is that the dictators will never outplay themselves at their own zero sum game. For them leaving power means losing everything. EVERYTHING! It means being held accountable for their monstrous crimes; losing their privileged positions in society; giving up their ill- gotten gains and the absolute power they wielded for nearly two decades.

Old dictators never fade away; they just cling to power like bloodsucking tics on a cow, until they inevitably fall. Sometimes they do run, but they can never hide. As for a “long good rest,” it is written in the Book of Isaiah (57:20, 21), that “the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”

Ethiopia's capital plunges into darkness

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

By Jalene Gemeda | VOA

Addis Ababa — The power shortage in Ethiopia is affecting many areas of service. Addis Ababa and large urban centers experience blackouts for three or four nights a week.

Mehret Debebe, the CEO of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation says the outages will continue through July. Urban neighborhoods are without water, health facilities are without light and water, factories have shut down, shelves in many stores are empty and a growing number of people are without jobs.

The price of candles, lanterns and kerosene are rising every day, according to some residents.In some communities, residents complain that they are being billed for the electric power they haven’t used. The power outages frequently interrupt classes in schools, colleges and universities in many regions in Ethiopia where students follow lessons on large-screen plasma television monitors and perform research on computers. Evening classes are often plunged into darkness and cancelled.

“Because the country is going through a transforming economic growth, we are experiencing power shortages,” Mehret said. “Industries are booming, trade and the rate we are bringing electricity to rural towns created the shortage.

“We saw a 24 percent increase in demand. The problem persisted because our planned commissioning of two hydro-electric generating projects was postponed.

Minister of Energy and Mines Alemayehu Tegenu says upon completion of projects, Ethiopia not only will cover its electricity demand, but also, plans are already in place to export power to neighboring countries. “We are completing the construction of power cables that connect our hydro-electric power stations to neighboring countries,” he said.

Prime Minister Ethiopia’s tribal junta leader Meles Zenawi said, “The country is unable to curb the problem of power shortage on time, because our development partners didn’t provide us the support they had promised earlier. The shortage and the untimeliness of rain in Ethiopia is also another major factor that contributed to the problem.”

Ethiopia's tribal junta and ONLF rebels clash

Friday, July 10th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) – The Ethiopian government Woyanne tribal junta and the Ogaden rebel group both claimed victory after weekend clashes in the east of the country, but there was no way to verify either side’s claims because of severe restrictions on reporting from the region.

Ethiopian Communication Minister Woyanne propaganda chief Bereket Simon said Monday the government had captured 60 men he described as «terrorists» trying to cross the border with Somalia, which is being riven apart by an Islamic insurgency. Simon said there were two clashes and the rebels were defeated. He declined to provide details of the fighting.

In e-mails purportedly from the Ogaden National Liberation Front, the group said they had killed 90 government troops and injured 100 others. The e-mails described battles over three days, including a number of wounded and injured in each encounter and the equipment captured. They also accused the government of executing a girl and five teenagers in the village of Kebridehar.

The e-mails also said the rebels had killed several army officers near Shilabo, 400 miles (650 kilometers) east of the capital of Addis Ababa. They said fighting was ongoing.

The rebels have been fighting for over a decade for greater autonomy for eastern Ethiopia, which is ethnically Somali. The government accuses the rebels of being terrorists funded by its archenemy Eritrea.

Verifying information from the Ogaden region is extremely difficult. The area is large, remote, difficult to navigate and certain areas, including the area in which the attack allegedly occurred, are under military occupation.

Aba Gebremedhin's Synod in Ethiopia rebels against him

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Addis Journal — The Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is set to hold an emergency meeting Monday, Addis Neger reported.

[ER sources say that Azeb Mesfin, Meles Zenawi's wife, is backing the move by the Synod to strip most of Aba Gebremedhin's authority (formerly known as Aba Paulos).]

The Synod is expected to look at recent actions taken by Patriarch, Abune Pauols such as ‘disbanding the recently formed executive committee, suspending the bishop the Addis Ababa Dioceses and other unlawful hiring and dismissal of church leaders’.

Chair of the Executive Committee, Abune Timoties was said to have written letter to the Federal Police asking special protection and safety to the session.

In the last Holy Synod session from May 14 -21, a landmark resolution affecting the administration of the Church endowment was passed. It was decided that the hitherto administrator, Abune Paulos, was to hand over administrative power to the committee made up of seven bishops. But the committee was disbanded by the Patriarch weeks later.

Barack Obama's visit to Ghana is snub to Kenya

Friday, July 10th, 2009

By Jonathan Clayton and Tristan McConnell | Times Online

Barack Obama, Kenya’s most famous son, may have a deep attachment to his ancestral homeland but he is not letting emotions rule his head. On his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since his election, he has snubbed his father’s birthplace by choosing to go to Ghana.

The Kenyan Government and its notoriously corrupt and quarrelsome ministers are not happy. On the other side of the continent in West Africa, however, Ghanaians are jubilant that America’s first black President has chosen their country for what they see as his first real visit to Africa, dismissing his recent speech in Cairo as a staged event for the Middle East.

When President Obama touches down in Accra, the capital, today the country will erupt in one party. Posters of the President and his wife, Michelle, hang from every lamppost and advertising hoarding, and street vendors are doing a brisk trade in wristbands, T-shirts, flags and posters.

“Everyone is very proud,” said Joseph Agyiri, an IT specialist. “The streets will be packed and our best drummers and dancing groups will be there. We will give him a welcome like nowhere else in the world has done.”

Kenya has been left to ponder what might have been. In the heady days of Mr Obama’s ascent to the White House, politicians — particularly those from the Luo tribe of his late father — had envisioned an African-style “special relationship”.

Kenya’s elite whispered of preferential trade and investment deals, increased business opportunities and an image-boosting first visit to their country by an incumbent US president. Instead, relations have deteriorated, with Kenya receiving regular dressing-downs for its failure to follow reforms recommended by an international inquiry into a flawed poll in 2007, which led to the deaths of about 1,500 people in post-election violence.

In May, Jakaya Kikwete, the President of Tanzania, Kenya’s neighbour and regional competitor, had the honour of becoming the first African head of state to be received in the Oval Office. Raila Odinga, the Kenyan Prime Minister, who once joked that if a Luo failed to make “State House, we will still get White House”, was received only by Administration officials. Yesterday Kofi Annan, the former UN SecretaryGeneral and the mediator of Kenya’s poll crisis, handed over a list of key suspects in the post-election violence to the International Criminal Court. It is known to include several top politicians and allies of the President and Prime Minister.

Last week President Obama spoke of his worries about recent developments in Kenya. “I’m concerned about how the political parties do not seem to be moving into a permanent reconciliation that would allow the country to move forward,” he said.

He will be the third consecutive US President to visit Ghana, which has just had a peaceful transfer of power after a close presidential election. In contrast, the Kenyan crisis has its roots in decades of high-level graft, mismanagement and exploitation of tribal tensions. President Obama has made it clear that historical ties count for little compared with his aim of encouraging political reform and rewarding good governance, democracy and accountability.

Not all Kenyans are put out by his decision. In Nairobi, Charles Analo, a 53-year-old chef, said: “Here, what the common people chose was not what we got. Everyone expected him to come to Kenya first. Now our politicians are feeling ashamed that he is not coming.”

Robbers kill Ethiopian national in South Africa

Friday, July 10th, 2009

A resident from Ethiopia was shot and killed by two men as they tried to hijack his car in Esigubudu in Nongoma on Wednesday, KwaZulu-Natal police said.

“The man was attacked by two men who tried to hijack him. When they failed to move his car, they shot him and he died on the scene,” said Captain Vusi Mbatha.

A second Ethiopian managed to escape. The Ethiopian men were selling clothes in the area when they were attacked, he said.

“No arrests have been made. Police are working hard to track down the criminals,” Mbatha said.

- SAPA

Amharic translation of Isaias Afwerki's Interview (Part 5)

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Part 1 and 2 of President Isaias Afwerki’s interview with Ethiopian Review and eppfOnline.org

Part 1

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Rread Interview with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki in Amharic. Click here (pdf)

Watch EriTv live here:

http://www.eastafro.com/Post/2009/04/24/eri-tv-live

Ghana fixation

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

I was listening to National Public Radio and they were reporting about President Obama’s coming visit to Ghana. Of course I turned the volume up. I did not want to miss anything. My Ghanaian cousins were delirious. The reporter was interviewing a hotel owner that has named his establishment Hotel Obama. He was describing the big portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Obama in the corridor near the special suite named for them. They even spared a wall for VP Bidden. Let us just say the Ghanaians are gloating.

May be they do have every right to gloat. It is not every day that a US president drops by Africa. And when the US President is a fellow African it makes the visit extra special. Just because they were able to hold three consecutive elections without bloodshed and turmoil do they think they are God’s gift to Africa? The fact that the visit by President Obama will give them the opportunity to showcase democracy working on the African continent is no reason to be filled with pride.

They claim this is not just a visit by Mr. Obama but an investment that will pay dividends for a long time to come. It is true that investors are going to look at Ghana in a different light. We know that the self-esteem of the Ghanaian people is entering a new phase.

I don’t mean to rain on their parade but excuse me how about us Ethiopians? Hello we are still around. Thank you very much for asking but we are not just sitting idle either. We have a few accomplishments to crow about.

First thing first, where is the President flying from to visit Ghana? That is right he was attending the G8 meeting in Italy (richest industrialized countries that include USA, UK, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and Canada) Officially invited were China, Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa. It is a very important conference. Who do you think was claiming to represent Africa? That is right it was no other than the King sorry Prime Minter of Ethiopia. Don’t ask me what Ethiopia was doing there. We were invited by no other than our friend Senor Berlusconi ok? Let us just leave it at that.

This year G8 meeting was primarily concerning the global warming trend and reduction of green house gas emissions. I know for a fact the Ghanaians are not cooperating. From what I hear they are marching fast to industrialize their country. Their power consumption is one of the highest in Africa and they are in the process of developing their offshore oil deposits. Due to their ridiculous insistence on development and raising the standard of living of their people they were not invited to the meeting. That should serve them right.

On the other hand look at Ethiopia. A true citizen of this planet. A country that should be held in high regard by humanity. We are on the forefront of those that are concerned about the fate of planet earth. With no probing by anybody our country has decreased its carbon emission by more than eighty percent. We want the world to know that electricity is something you can do with out. We have voluntarily curtailed our generating capacity. Three days a week is more than adequate.

The few industries that were generating some pollution have been idle. The net reward is less commute for our people so they spend more time with their families huddled around kerosene lamps. We have also realized savings by abolishing the Ministry of Industry. As it was just a drain on our budget but the new policy of no electricity has made it obsolete.

Ethiopia has also been the pioneer in population control. We have elevated the science of food shortage crisis into a higher level. The current government is building on the important far-reaching work laid by the military regime. We are happy to say that food begging has been made into an art form. In accordance with our commitment to reduce world population Ethiopia has been sacrificing between ten to fifteen million citizens yearly. We are in the process of clearing more virgin forest to use it for subsistence level farming. We assure the world that the yield is so low that it will have no impact on our goal of creating further famine.

Our education policy is the envy of the continent. The whole planet is a net beneficiary. In the 1970 we dabbled in what is referred to as the ‘red’ and ‘white’ terror. The policy was able to eliminate most of the educated community. In the last twenty years we have perfected the system. Simply put we practice what is known as the ‘educate, train and exile’ principle. To attain that goal we have exported most of our university teachers and doctors. The government is in the process of abandoning the field of education to be filled by unscrupulous individuals and organizations with profit as the main motive. We believe an ignorant population will help us meet our self-imposed goal of one hundred percent green house gas reduction. We will also realize gains by less expenditure on munitions since an ignorant population is a docile population.

We have a lot to crow about. You don’t see us gloating about all this, may be except the folks at Aiga. You know how they are. It don’t take much to excite them. I mean they put up a computer generated freeway system on top of a picture of Addis and get super delirious. Reality challenged is their other name. It would have been a lot better if Mr. Obama would have come to Addis and experienced total darkness. No light. No TV. No Internet. No cold soda. No hot water. If he is so lucky he can also enjoy the double whammy of no electricity and no water. Give us two more months and we can foresee the possibility of triple a hit. With the country’s foreign reserve dwindling there will be no petrol for civilian use. Need I add no Automobile. In your face Ghana!

Thomas Staal sworn in as new USAID director for Ethiopia

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Agency for International Development announced today the swearing in of Thomas H. Staal as its new Mission Director for Ethiopia. Counselor to the Agency Lisa Chiles presided at the event and administered the oath to Staal.

As director for USAID’s mission in Ethiopia, Staal will oversee a program totaling $800 million annually to help Ethiopians strengthen their democratic institutions, promote economic growth and improve education and health services, including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Ethiopia is one of the largest USAID missions worldwide.

Staal has spent most of his career working overseas in international development. He has worked for USAID since 1988, beginning in Sudan as an emergency program officer. In the early 1990s, he worked in USAID’s regional office in Kenya, managing food aid and doing project development throughout eastern and southern Africa. From 1996 to 2002, he worked in USAID’s West Bank and Gaza program, providing assistance to the Palestinians, focusing on water supply projects, as well as local community development. He worked in Iraq from 2003-2004, serving as USAID’s regional representative for Southern Iraq, overseeing all USAID projects in that part of the country. He also served a year as the deputy director of the Food For Peace Office in Washington, D.C., and spent a year studying at the National War College. Most recently, Staal was the director of the Iraq Reconstruction Office in Washington, D.C.

Before joining USAID, Staal worked for World Vision International as their representative in Sudan in the mid-1980s. He also worked for ARAMCO in Saudi Arabia in the late 1970′s and the early 1980′s in their government relations department.

Staal has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Politics (Middle East focus) from Columbia University, and a M.Sc. in National Strategic Security Studies from the National Defense University. Born to missionary parents, Staal grew up in Iraq and Kuwait and attended boarding school in India.

SOURCE U.S. Agency for International Development

Andargachew Tsige in Chicago talks about Eritrea trip – Audio

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Ginbot 7 Secretary General Ato Andargachew Tsige talks about his recent trip to Eritrea, among other things, at a recent public meeting in Chicago. Click below to listen.

 

AI warns Ethiopia the 'anti-terrorism' is law anti-civil rights

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

(Amnesty International) — Reacting to the news that the Ethiopian [rubber-stamp] Parliament has today passed an Anti-Terror Proclamation in Ethiopia, Amnesty International warns that the law could restrict freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and the right to fair trial, with serious implications in the run up to Ethiopia’s 2010 parliamentary election.

Although the Ethiopian government tribal junta in Ethiopia faces legitimate security concerns, any anti-terror legislation must be in accordance with international human rights standards. [To most Ethiopians there is no worse terrorist than Woyanne.]

The Government of Ethiopia {www:Woyanne} has a history of stifling dissent and it is worrying that this law now risks further violating Ethiopia’s obligations under international human rights law,” said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International’s Africa programme director. “The Anti-Terror Proclamation is expected to provide Ethiopian authorities with unnecessarily far reaching powers which could lead to further arbitrary arrests”.

Based on earlier drafts of the law previously made available to Amnesty International, “acts of terrorism” are vaguely defined and could encompass the legitimate expression of political dissent.

The law defines “acts of terrorism” as including damage to property and disruption to any public service, for which an individual could be sentenced to 15 years in prison or even the death penalty. Thousands of protesters, political party leaders, journalists and human rights defenders were arrested and detained following the disputed November 2005 elections in which the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) Tigrean People Liberation Front (Woyanne) retained political power.

Ghana's democracy dividends

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Akwaaba, President Obama: But what will he say to Ghanaians?

By Edward Kutsoati

Last year, in the midst of the “Obama fever,” another event – by no means as historic as President Barack Obama’s election victory, but remarkable nonetheless – was shaping up in Ghana. In December 2008, Ghanaians went to the polls, for the fifth successive time since the country returned to constitutional rule in 1992, to elect a new president. The outcome: the closest election ever. About 9.5 million votes were cast in a runoff that saw John Atta-Mills beat out Nana Akuffo-Addo by only 41,000 votes. Yes, only 41,000 – less than one-half of a percent.

Even more striking is that the elections resulted in a peaceful transfer of power from the incumbent New Patriotic Party (NPP) to the National Democratic Congress (NDC), without a single loss of life. It is the second time in 8 years that such a transfer of power has occurred in Ghana; the first in January 2001 when the NDC lost to the NPP. And in case you were wondering, Ghana is in sub-Sahara Africa, where election results are expected to be disputed and often trigger violence.

For Ghana, this a testament of the progress made in a relatively short span of two decades, and a powerful signal to the world that a new and stable political climate is finally emerging. There are already some dividends: There is now a more open society which, with the help of an increased coverage of mobile phones, is becoming more engaged in social, political and economic issues; a freer press is helping to put a check on government excesses; and an increase in investor confidence is stimulating direct investments. And all that is expected to receive a further boost when President Obama pays a 2-day visit on July 10 – 11, 2009, his first to sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) since assuming the office of the President of the USA. Given Obama’s iconic status, his visit will be seen as an endorsement of the progress in Ghana.

From Ghana, President Obama is likely to implore other African nations, such as Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Kenya, his ancestral country, to follow Ghana’s trail. That is fine, but this is not the time for gloating. Let’s make no mistake about this: Although encouraging, the economic condition in Ghana is pretty far from what’s needed to, first, achieve all of the MDGs, and provide a robust economic environment that will unleash individuals’ “entrepreneurial spirits.” The basic growth-promoting infrastructures (quality education, safe health care, clean portable water, affordable and reliable energy) remains beyond the reach of many Ghanaians; annual per capita GDP is at US$550 – not that much different from the average income at independence in 1957 – yet incomes are much more unequal today. To get an idea of how unequal incomes are becoming, consider this: Daily Graphic, on June 17, carried a story of squatters at Agblogbloshie, a slum just outside downtown Accra, digging themselves deep into filthy waters to collect, for re-sale, diesel oil leaking out of a nearby factory plant. That same week, Villaggio Vista, the luxury residential complex at the Tetteh Quarshie Circle, Accra, showcased their 3- and 4-bedroom condos: asking prices start from $525,000, with the high-end units priced in the mid-$800,000. Such inequities make it difficult to sustain economic development.

So what should Mr. Obama say to Ghanaians, Africans and their leaders? Whatever is Mr. Obama’s policy agenda for sub-Saharan Africa, or the purpose for this visit (there is talk of the “pot” of oil that Ghana recently struck), most observers will agree that it is in the interest of Africa and the world that “success stories,” such as Ghana’s, do not lose the momentum and the gains made so far. Each time progress is derailed in any part of the continent, the consequences have always been tragic. What Africa really needs now is a “develop and hold strategy”: Simply put, the progress in Ghana must be complete and sustainable. That means it must be underpinned by strong institutions that not only protect civil and property rights, but also hold the government to account. The deals made with multinational firms in its extractive industries (e.g., gold, timber, and now oil), must be fair, transparent, and have a chance to stimulate the economy. A positive message from Mr. Obama on these issues will energize civil society groups, think tanks and NGOs (such as the CJA, CDD and WACAM) who have been calling for reforms that promote better opportunities for all.

More power to the people!

With so many land-locked nations, rugged landscapes, weak institutions and some harmful cultural practices, there is no question that sub-Saharan Africa faces huge developmental challenges. In many places, these constraints were compounded by colonial policies that not only deprived the continent of some of its able young men and women, but also nurtured the worst extractive institutions, and drew artificial lines of boundaries that, if not caused, certainly reinforced mistrust among nations and neighbors. Mr. Obama will see, perhaps for the first time, some of the legacy of the slave trade when he visits the Cape Coast Slave castle. I have no doubt in my mind that he will categorically condemn the slave trade and colonialism.

But we need to move on. Ghana may have been pushed to ground, but we must find smart ways to get up. No amount of foreign aid can achieve as much as our own initiatives. These must start with reforms that empowers and inform citizens to make the right choices; and one of the most needed now is a constitutional amendment that gives individuals the right to choose their own District Chief Executives (DCEs), the equivalent of city mayors, and regional ministers. Back in 1992, the framers of our constitution thought that, for a relatively young democracy, it was necessary to have the president appoint all city mayors so as to promote a cohesive national development agenda. Furthermore, it was argued that direct elections will divide, rather than unite, communities since too many were uninformed to make the right decisions. Hogwash!

Ghanaians know that the real reason for this flawed decentralization set-up is so that the President can have 167 DCE- and 10 regional ministerial-posts as “jobs for the boys.” But this is a bane of our development. Direct elections of DCEs will not only promote competition of ideas, but also ensure that our local governments become more accountable to the people. More importantly, the elected DCE will refuse to take the fall for any policy failures of the central government, creating an automatic checks and balance within the governing hierarchy. Cognizant of the impact of their decisions on their communities, people will seek the information needed to make the right choices; without blaming anyone for their own their mistakes. When individuals are marginalized from the most important decision-making processes, they blame others for what goes wrong, and often resort to violence. This is, arguably, the most powerful case for direct elections of DCEs.

However, alone, it cannot be the panacea. Elsewhere, I have argued that by leveraging the expanding coverage of mobile phone networks, the central government can create an efficient accounting and auditing systems to promote transparent local and central governments.

Fair deals and equitable distribution of resource rents

At the start of Ghana’s economic reform programs, the path to growth was expected to be paved with the rents from the extractive industry (gold, timber, and now oil). Foreign direct investment responded to powerful incentives that were packed into the new Mining Act of 1986. But two decades later, the hope for mining to become a catalyst for economic growth has been more or less unfulfilled. Yes, there have been some gains, but they seem to be outweighed by large negative consequences. For example, inadequate protection of property rights has led to paltry sums of compensation to farmers who lose their cocoa lands to mining concessions. Consider this: it is estimated that a cocoa tree yields about half-bag of beans each year, a GHc50 (Ghana cedis) value, and a tree can last for about 40 – 50 years. Yet, average compensation is about GHc10 per tree.

And this is just the beginning. Mining firms continue to pay one of the lowest royalty rates in the world: 3% of profits; with very little going to the mining communities who have to deal with huge negative externalities of mining activities – frequent cyanide spillage into water bodies; lost of farmlands with little, or no, alternatives, etc. Interestingly, a decent portion of the royalty is given to local chiefs and their traditional councils “to maintain the dignity of their stools.” Huh? It is time to get serious and build the capacity to negotiate for fair deals. In an increasingly competitive global economy, Ghana’s only edge may lie in its natural resources, and we better make the best out of it.

God’s messengers

Finally, if President Mr. Obama feels emboldened enough to be politically incorrect, he could take a swipe at the growing number “men and women of God” promising better economic outcomes to innocent Ghanaians. Collectively, these “crooks masquerading as prophets,” have succeeded in instilling so much fear into Ghanaians such that they have nowhere to turn to except give their next dollar to a pastor. Along the way, pastors continue to sow and nourish seeds of mistrust among family members and neighbors. You lost a job? Blame that witch of an aunt. Recently got denied a visa by the US Embassy? The neighbor’s ‘voodoo’ was responsibly for that too.

With so much fear and little trust among neighbors, how can the nation build the social capital to enhance economic relations and growth? 75 years ago, Franklin Roosevelt recognized the devastating effect of fear at the height of the depression when he told Americans that “the only thing they had to fear was fear itself.” Religion can be a powerful tool for good. Unfortunately, it has become a weapon of mental enslavement of millions of Ghanaians, and it is time Ghanaians themselves of these chains, completely.

Ghana is great nation with lovely people, rich culture and so much potential. It needs good and honest leaders. In his inaugural speech, President Obama admonished Americans “to set aside childish things …. .; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.” No group of people needs this poignant message more than the political, traditional and spiritual leaders of Ghana and the continent of Africa.

(Edward Kutsoati is Associate Professor of Economics at Tufts University and a regular columnist for www.AfricanLiberty.org. He can be reached at edward.kutsoati@tufts.edu)

Ethiopia rubber-stamp parliament adopts 'anti-terrorism' bill

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) — Ethiopia’s [rubber-stamp] parliament on Tuesday adopted a new anti-terrorism bill despite criticism by rights groups that the legislation violates civil liberties.

The law, proposed last year after a string of bomb attacks in the capital, comprises 38 sections and paves the way for arrests and searches without court warrants.

The legislation championed by Prime Minister tribal dictator Meles Zenawi [who is accused by international human rights groups of committing war crimes] was voted for by 286 lawmakers in Ethiopia’s 547-seat parliament, 91 against and one abstention, an AFP correspondent reported.

“Whosoever writes, edits, prints, publishes, publicizes, disseminates, shows, makes to be heard any promotional statements encouraging… terrorist acts is punishable with rigorous imprisonment from 10 to 20 years,” it says.

Several opposition members, while insisting they were committed to the fight against terrorism, also criticized the law for being prone to abuse by security forces.

“The law itself terrorizes citizens. We are strictly against it,” former president and now opposition MP, Negaso Gidada, told AFP.

Last week, the US-based Human Rights Watch said the law broadly defined terrorism, risked muzzling political speech and encouraging unfair trials.

The law is also meant to counter the activities of some separatist groups, who have been blamed by Addis Ababa for carrying out “terror attacks” throughout the Horn of Africa nation.

In recent months, Ethiopia’s parliament has passed a series of laws tightening up on the activities of non-governmental organizations, associations and the local media, while most political opponents are in prison or living in exile.

Elections are due in June 2010, five years after disputed polls led to the death of nearly 200 people.

Lufthansa plane en route to Ethiopia catches fire

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Sana’a, Yemen (NewsYemen) — Yemeni families gathered at the Sana’a Airport Friday night over news that a Lufthansa plane caught fire due to emergency landing at Frankfurt International Airport few minutes after taking off from the same airport.

The incident resulted in the flight delay from 09:00 pm on Friday until 01:00 am on Saturday (local time), said sources at the Sana’a Airport.

A Lufthansa plane, A330, which was en route to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, had to abruptly land again due to a technical fault, some passengers who arrived on board another plane told NewsYemen.

The front tries of the plane exploded and the plane started sliding on the ground and then a small fire caught the plane, but firemen could put it out, said a passenger.

Frequent Airbus incidents raise more questions on the level of safety of the Airbus planes as four similar emergency landing incidents occurred last month in Russia and Australia and one Air France crashed on June 1 with 228 on board and finally the Yemenia airliner A310 crash on June 30.

Botswana faults African Union decision over Bashir

Monday, July 6th, 2009

By Wene Owino

GABORONE (Nation) — Botswana has said that it does not agree with the African Union (AU) decision to denounce the International Criminal Court (ICC) and to refuse to extradite Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to stand trial for genocide.

The ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir over genocide in the strife-torn Sudanese region of Darfur but the AU has snubbed the court on the matter.

“The government of Botswana does not agree with this (AU) decision and wishes to reaffirm its position that as a State Party to the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court (ICC) it has treaty obligations to fully cooperate with the ICC in the arrest and transfer of the President of Sudan to the ICC,” a statement from the Botswana Foreign Affairs Ministry said on Sunday.

The statement said the ICC was established specifically to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community by prosecuting those suspected of committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

“The people of Africa and Sudan in particular have been victims of these crimes. Botswana strongly holds the view that the people of Africa, including the people of Sudan, deserve to be protected from the perpetrators of such crimes. This is why a majority of African countries, numbering thirty (30) are State Parties to the Rome Statute,” the statement added.

Even before the AU made its decision, Botswana President Ian Khama has previously indicated that when he gets the opportunity, he would arrest Al-Bashir and hand him over to the ICC. Khama said he will arrest Al-Bashir during a visit by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete early this year.

Botswana vice-president, Lt-Gen. Mompati Merafhe and Foreign Minister Mr. Phandu Skelemani are expected to hold a press in Gaborone today (Monday 6, July 2009) on the AU decision to rebuff the ICC. Lt-Gen Merafhe and Mr Skelemani attended the AU summit in Sirte Libya.

The Disquieting Silence of Our Sisters

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Profiles in Courage 2009: Power to the Women of Iran!

Even President Obama could not contain his admiration for Iranian women who marched shoulder to shoulder alongside Iranian men armed with rocks to protest the recent fraud-riddled elections. After seeing Iranian women deflect militiamen batons and dodge tear gas canisters, the President observed: “We have seen courageous women stand up to brutality and threats, and we have experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets.” Many others who observed the extraordinary courage of Iranian women in the protests openly wondered if the world was witnessing “the first female led revolution in modern history.” Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s first woman and only Nobel laureate, explained that Iranian women were so intensely engaged in the protests “because [they] are the most dissatisfied people in society, that is why their presence is more prominent.” Undaunted, Iran’s theocratic regime viciously clamped down on the defiant women protesters by jailing hundreds of them.

But could the ayatollahs permanently silence Iranian women?

Flashback 2005

Watching the grainy cell phone videos of the Iranian protests online, I had a flashback of the bloody massacres following the 2005 Ethiopian elections. Troops loyal to the current dictatorship shot and killed, by official Inquiry Commission account, 193 men, women and children in the streets, and wounded 763. Over 30,000 were documented to have been imprisoned because of election-related issues. (The real figures of the dead and wounded by non-official accounts exceeded sixfold the documented numbers.) Like young Neda Agha-Soltan whose murder by an Iranian militiaman was captured on a cellphone video, ShiBre Desalegn, a young woman barely in her twenties, was executed in broad daylight by a member of the dictators’ death squad to the horror of her friends. Like Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, a lawyer and a judge who was imprisoned for her human rights work, Birtukan Midekssa was literally scooped off the street by armed thugs to serve out a life sentence.

But did the dictators succeed in silencing Ethiopian women by locking up Birtukan in solitary confinement?

The Silence of Our Sister Birtukan

Birtukan Mideksa has been caged in solitary confinement at Kality prison for over six months now. The dictators have imprisoned her body, but not her voice. She is officially prohibited from having any human contact, except her aging mother and four year old daughter. It is part of the dictators’ crude method of torture by extreme isolation and oppressive silence. Though Birtukan’s captors think (and wish) that they have forever silenced her, they have not. Birtukan speaks louder today than she has ever spoken. Her illegal imprisonment speaks thunderously of the absence of the rule of law in Ethiopia and the arbitrary rule of a hardened human rights outlaw. Her solitary confinement speaks loudly of the forgotten hundreds of thousands of innocent people rotting in the dictators’ prisons and secret jails. Her courage to stand up to the most cunning, calculating, vicious and ruthless dictators in modern times speaks volumes of one woman’s steely determination to bring democracy to a land sweltering under corruption and abuse of power. Her rise from a modest background to national leadership speaks of the dawn of a new day in Ethiopia where women can stand up against dictatorship on their own in defense of democracy, freedom and human rights. Birtukan’s commitment to Ethiopian unity and the oneness of its people speaks of her unwaivering patriotism and love of all her people. Her calm temperament and thoughtful words speak of a leader who is centered and has peace of mind. Her tenacity never to stand down in a male-dominated society speaks of the infinite potential of Ethiopian women to change and lead Ethiopia into a new day. Her testimony (Q’ale) before her street abduction by official thugs transcends mere speech. It is the sublime poetry of innocence and truth.

Our sister Birtukan is not silent, even while she is caged in solitary confinement. The question is whether we have been rendered deaf-mute to her voice and message by our indifference, apathy and timidity.

The Deafening Silence of Birtukan’s Sisters

I must, with the greatest reluctance, point a finger at many our sisters who are living in the West for maintaining what appears to be a vow of silence concerning Birtukan’s imprisonment in solitary confinement. I don’t mean this as an accusation because I do not doubt for a second that the overwhelming majority of women in Ethiopia and outside sympathize deeply with Birtukan’s plight. I believe they feel and share her pain more deeply because, unlike most men, they have a keen understanding and appreciation of her sacrifices. They understand the agony and heartbreak of a single mother languishing in prison for her beliefs while leaving her four year-old daughter with an aging mother to raise. They understand how a woman who has achieved great professional distinction could be driven to sacrifice everything so that her four year old daughter could have a better future in Ethiopia. I believe Ethiopian women have a deeper understanding of the frustrations of living in a male-dominated society that affords little opportunity for leadership to women, a subject that has been critically examined by various scholars.[1]

There are also many things that I find difficult to understand: Why is it that in the last one hundred years Ethiopia has not had a female leader of national significance? What is it about the Ethiopian political culture that discourages and holds back women from active and equal participation in politics? “Why is it that educated Ethiopian women cannot break the chains of ancient subordination and exclusion?” Frankly, I am puzzled by the disquieting silence of Ethiopian women. I keep asking the same questions over and over. Whey aren’t Ethiopian women championing the virtuous cause of Ethiopia’s foremost political prisoner? Why aren’t the young women mobilizing to free one of their own from the dungeons of Kality prison? Why is it that Ethiopian women seem unable to forge alliances with women throughout the world to work in the cause of Birtukan and political prisoners?

The Untapped Power of Ethiopian Women

Birtukan’s debut following the 2005 elections is historic in its magnitude. Following two years of imprisonment, Birtukan emerged as the symbol of the new Ethiopian woman who is willing, able and ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ethiopian men and suffer the withering blows of dictatorship (including a life sentence) to defend democracy and the rule of law. By doing so, Birtukan transcended the politics of her time and brought forth the audacity of the new Ethiopian woman. She is really about the future of Ethiopian society where women in large numbers will work in full equality with men to build a new society based on the rule of law and free of ethnic hatred. The greatest threat the dictators see in Birtukan is not that she can lead a political party to victory. They know that will never happen because she can never win their rigged elections. What they fear and dread them most is that Birtukan’s success as a national leader, even symbolically, means the end of the dictator’s ethnic politics, ethnic division and ethnic federalism. Birtukan symbolizes the oneness of the Ethiopian people, their unity and collective destiny of greatness. She has the capacity, tenacity and proven ability to rise above ethnicity and bring all of the people in the bond of common unity.

As I saw cell phone video footage of Iranian women clashing with police, being tear gassed and beaten, and witnessed the horrific murder of Neda, I could visualize the untapped power of Ethiopian women not only to help free Birtukan and all political prisoners in Ethiopia, but also to become unstoppable agents of social change. I was inspired by the fact that leading Iranian women launched A Campaign for One Million Signatures to change the discriminatory legal codes of Iran. I was energized by the fact that the theocratic rulers of Iran were unable to silence Iranian women by beating and jailing them, shutting down newspapers and websites that publicized their activism, protests and small acts of rebellion. The Iranian women could not be silenced. I felt that if Iranian women by the hundreds of thousands could stand up for their rights and openly demand reform, Ethiopian women could, at a minimum, organize and demand the release of Birtukan and all other political prisoners in Ethiopia.

This is the Time!

This is the time for all good Ethiopian women (and men) to come to the aid of Birtukan and all political prisoners in Ethiopia. This is the time to speak up on behalf of Birtukan and against her ruthless captors. This is the time to launch a Million Signature Campaign throughout the world to free Birtukan and all political prisoners in Ethiopia, and to deploy the worldwide power of women to the cause of freedom, democracy, human rights: Women legislators, governors, judges, lawyers and law students, college and high school students, human rights advocates, corporate and civic society leaders, teachers and university professors, religious leaders, journalists, physicians, scientists, engineers, service workers and others.

This is the time for Ethiopian women to lead and for the men to follow. This is the time to say, “Behind every great Ethiopian woman is a good man.” It took one woman, Birtukan, to strike fear in the hearts of the ruthless dictators who sought to silence her by solitary confinement. One can only imagine what millions of Ethiopian women could do to shatter the corrupt and barbarous dictatorship. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” What say YOU, my sisters?

[1] http://jds.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/24/2/125.pdf
_______________
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

No final word for Ethiopia's pop star Teddy Afro

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Addis Journal) — The popular Ethiopian singer Teddy Afro has appeared before Court of Cassation this morning to hear a decision on an appeal filed by the prosecutor protesting the reduction of his prison terms from six to two years.

But Teddy left the courtroom without hearing a final word and his case was adjourned for July 16, 2009. The presiding judge said the document was presented to them only today and they need extra days to examine.

The singer who was convicted on charges of hit and run incident began serving a six-year prison term on December 5, 2008, but the term was later cut to two years.

Prosecutors filed an appeal saying the review resulting in the sentence imposed by the judge was inappropriate and the two-year term was too lenient for the offense.

If the two year term decision is upended, Teddy is expected to leave the Kaliti jail on September 2009.

Israeli prison is filled with Ethiopians – Cynthia McKinney

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Cynthia McKinney Letter from an Israeli Jail

This is Cynthia McKinney and I’m speaking from an Israeli prison cellblock in Ramle. [I am one of] the Free Gaza 21, human rights activists currently imprisoned for trying to take medical supplies to Gaza, building supplies – and even crayons for children; I had a suitcase full of crayons for children.

While we were on our way to Gaza the Israelis threatened to fire on our boat, but we did not turn around. The Israelis highjacked and arrested us because we wanted to give crayons to the children in Gaza. We have been detained, and we want the people of the world to see how we have been treated just because we wanted to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.

At the outbreak of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead [in December 2008], I boarded a Free Gaza boat with one day’s notice and tried, as the US representative in a multi-national delegation, to deliver three tons of medical supplies to an already besieged and ravaged Gaza.

During Operation Cast Lead, US-supplied F-16s rained hellfire on a trapped people. Ethnic cleansing became full-scale, outright genocide. US-supplied white phosphorus, depleted uranium, robotic technology, DIME weapons, and cluster bombs – new weapons creating injuries never treated before by Jordanian and Norwegian doctors. I was later told by doctors who were there in Gaza during Israel’s onslaught that Gaza had become Israel’s veritable weapons testing laboratory, people used to test and improve the kill ratio of their weapons.

The world saw Israel’s despicable violence thanks to Al-Jazeera Arabic and Press TV that broadcast in English. I saw those broadcasts live and around the clock, not from the USA but from Lebanon, where my first attempt to get into Gaza had ended because the Israeli military rammed the boat I was on in international water… It’s a miracle that I’m even here to write about my second encounter with the Israeli military, again a humanitarian mission aborted by the Israeli military.

The Israeli authorities have tried to get us to confess that we committed a crime… I am now known as Israeli prisoner number 88794. How can I be in prison for collecting crayons to kids?

Zionism has surely run out of its last legitimacy if this is what it does to people who believe so deeply in human rights for all that they put their own lives on the line for someone else’s children. Israel is the fullest expression of Zionism, but if Israel fears for its security because Gaza’s children have crayons then not only has Israel lost its last shred of legitimacy, but Israel must be declared a failed state.

I am facing deportation from the state that brought me here at gunpoint after commandeering our boat. I was brought to Israel against my will. I am being held in this prison because I had a dream that Gaza’s children could color and paint, that Gaza’s wounded could be healed, and that Gaza’s bombed-out houses could be rebuilt.

But I’ve learned an interesting thing by being inside this prison. First of all, it’s incredibly black: populated mostly by Ethiopians who also had a dream… like my cellmates, one who is pregnant. They are all are in their twenties. They thought they were coming to the Holy Land. They had a dream that their lives would be better… The once proud, never-colonized Ethiopia [has been thrown into] the back pocket of the United States, and become a place of torture, rendition, and occupation. Ethiopians must free their country because superpower politics [have] become more important than human rights and self-determination.

My cellmates came to the Holy Land so they could be free from the exigencies of superpower politics. They committed no crime except to have a dream. They came to Israel because they thought that Israel held promise for them. Their journey to Israel through Sudan and Egypt was arduous. I can only imagine what it must have been like for them. And it wasn’t cheap. Many of them represent their family’s best collective efforts for self-fulfilment. They made their way to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. They got their yellow paper of identification. They got their certificate for police protection. They are refugees from tragedy, and they made it to Israel, only after they arrived Israel told them, “There is no UN in Israel.”

The police here have license to pick them up and suck them into the black hole of a farce for a justice system. These beautiful, industrious and proud women represent the hopes of entire families. The idea of Israel tricked them and the rest of us. In a widely propagandized slick marketing campaign, Israel represented itself as a place of refuge and safety for the world’s first Jews and Christians. I too believed that marketing and failed to look deeper.

The truth is that Israel lied to the world. Israel lied to the families of these young women. Israel lied to the women themselves who are now trapped in Ramle’s detention facility. And what are we to do? One of my cellmates cried today. She has been here for six months. As an American, crying with them is not enough. The policy of the United States must be better, and while we watch President Obama give 12.8 trillion dollars to the financial elite of the United States it ought now be clear that hope, change, and “yes we can” were powerfully presented images of dignity and self-fulfilment, individually and nationally, that besieged people everywhere truly believed in.

It was a slick marketing campaign as slickly put to the world and to the voters of America as was Israel’s marketing to the world. It tricked all of us but, more tragically, these young women.

We must cast an informed vote about better candidates seeking to represent us. I have read and re-read Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s letter from a Birmingham jail. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined that I too would one day have to [write one]. It is clear that taxpayers in Europe and the US have a lot to atone for, for what they’ve done to others around the world.

What an irony! My son begins his law school program without me because I am in prison, in my own way trying to do my best, again, for other people’s children. Forgive me, my son. I guess I’m experiencing the harsh reality which is why people need dreams. [But] I’m lucky. I will leave this place. Has Israel become the place where dreams die?

Ask the people of Palestine. Ask the stream of black and Asian men whom I see being processed at Ramle. Ask the women on my cellblock. [Ask yourself:] What are you willing to do?

Let’s change the world together and reclaim what we all need as human beings: Dignity. I appeal to the United Nations to get these women of Ramle, who have done nothing wrong other than to believe in Israel as the guardian of the Holy Land, resettled in safe homes. I appeal to the United State’s Department of State to include the plight of detained UNHCR-certified refugees in the Israel country report in its annual human rights report. I appeal once again to President Obama to go to Gaza: send your special envoy, George Mitchell there, and to engage Hamas as the elected choice of the Palestinian people.

I dedicate this message to those who struggle to achieve a free Palestine, and to the women I’ve met at Ramle.

This is Cynthia McKinney, July 2nd 2009, also known as Ramle prisoner number 88794.

(Cynthia McKinney is a former Democratic US congresswoman, Green Party presidential candidate, and an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice. The first African-American woman to represent the state of Georgia, McKinney served six terms in the US House of Representatives, from 1993-2003, and from 2005-2007. McKinney’s remarks are transcribed here from a telephone call received by WBAIX.org.)

Head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Dessie arrested

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Addis Ababa (Addis Journal) – Head of the Dessie Ethiopian Orthodox Church Diocese, Aba GebreSelassie, was arrested on charges of ‘inciting violence’ that caused the death of three people in the town last week, according to Addis Neger.

Police in Dessie town have shot and killed two young people who were among the crowd demonstrating to demand authorization to rebuild St. Arsema church, five kms away from the town. Another elderly woman reportedly fell off from a cliff.

Around ten thousand Orthodox Christian followers have been walking to the mayor’s office when the police started firing.Several other people were hurt in the violence.

Michael Jackson memorial gets 1.6 million ticket requests

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Los Angeles (AP) — The more than 1.6 million fans who registered for tickets to Michael Jackson’s memorial service will wait until Monday to learn if they received one of the 11,000 tickets for Tuesday’s ceremony.

The two-day registration period for the service at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles ended Saturday. Another 6,500 tickets will be given away for the Nokia Theater overflow section next door.

Fans had to register for free at between 10 a.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday for the random drawing of 8,750 names.

Each person selected will receive two tickets and will be notified by e-mail after 11 a.m. Sunday.

Before the drawing, officials at AEG, the owner and operator of the Staples Center, will “scrub” the entries to eliminate duplicates and any suspected of being made by automated systems or “go-bots,” said Jackson family spokesman Ken Sunshine in a statement.

Winners will receive a unique code and instructions on how to pick up their tickets at an off-site distribution center on Monday.

At the distribution center, they will receive the ticket and a wristband that will be placed on their wrists at that time.

Fans must have both the ticket and the wristband to enter Staples Center on Tuesday.

Wristbands that have been ripped, taped or tampered with will be voided.

Sunshine said those steps are being taken to prevent ticket-scalping.

City officials are preparing for massive crowds. Assistant Police Chief Earl Paysinger says anywhere from a quarter-million to 700,000 people may try to reach the arena, even though a wide area around Staples Center will be sealed off to those without tickets.

City Councilwoman Jan Perry strongly urged people to stay home and watch the memorial on TV.

The ceremony will not be shown on Staples’ giant outdoor TV screen and there will be no funeral procession through the city.

No details were given about the actual memorial events, which come as the nation’s second-largest city struggles with a $530 million budget deficit. Perry said the cost of police protection for “extraordinary” events like the memorial is built into the Police Department’s budget, but she still solicited help for “incremental costs.”

Last month, donations covered about $850,000 of the city’s $1 million cost for the Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA championship parade.

Critics had blasted the idea of using city money when it is considering layoffs to close its budget gap.

Ethiopia's tribal junta slams Human Rights Watch's report

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Addis Ababa (AFP) – Ethiopia’s tribal junta has criticized the Human Rights Watch (HRW) over its report that the country’s draft anti-terrorism law would violate human rights.

“HRW’s so-called analysis is replete with harsh generalisations,” Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said in a statement Friday.

“It cannot be considered a credible commentary on compatibility of the draft law with Ethiopia’s human rights obligations.”

The US-based watchdog on Tuesday said the law, currently before parliament, broadly defined terrorism, risked muzzling political speech and encouraging unfair trials.

The law presented by the government of [warlord] Meles Zenawi is to counter the activities of some separatist groups.

In recent months, Ethiopia’s [rubber stamp] parliament has passed a series of laws tightening up on the activities of non-governmental organizations, associations and the local media, while most political opponents are in prison or living in exile.

African Union move on Sudan's al-Bashir dismissed

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

The African Union’s (AU) decision not to help arrest Sudan’s president will not affect the International Criminal Court’s work, its prosecutor says.

Luis Moreno Ocampo told the BBC Omar al-Bashir was still a wanted man and that it was up to each African state to decide whether to arrest him.

Mr Bashir was indicted over alleged atrocities in Darfur in March.

But on Friday an AU meeting in Libya agreed a resolution saying they would not co-operate in his arrest.

In a statement, the AU pointed out that its request to the UN Security Council to delay Mr Bashir’s indictment had been ignored.

Mr Ocampo told the BBC that the AU decision was no victory for Sudan or Mr Bashir. “No-one is saying he’s innocent,” he said.

He said each of the 30 African states that signed up to the Rome treaty establishing the court would have to decide for themselves whether to arrest the Sudanese leader.

And he added that only the Security Council could suspend or lift the indictment against Mr Bashir, not the ICC.

The court has indicted the Sudanese president on two counts of war crimes – intentionally directing attacks on civilians and pillage – as well as five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and torture, all related to the conflict in the Darfur region.

He denies the allegations, saying the state has a responsibility to fight rebels.

Botswana has confirmed it will not abide by the AU’s decision to ignore the arrest warrant.

Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani told the BBC the AU decision had been rushed through without a vote, and countries could not be expected to renege on treaties “because of a sulk”.

- BBC

U.S. encourages Ethiopia to stay out of Somalia

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

NAIROBI, July 4 (Reuters) – The United States will encourage [the Woyanne tribal junta in] Ethiopia not to return to Somalia as it would be against the interests of both Horn of African nations, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson said on Saturday.

Ethiopia Woyanne invaded Somalia in late 2006 to topple an Islamist movement in the capital Mogadishu. The intervention sparked an Islamist insurgency which is still raging despite the fact Ethiopian troops pulled out in January.

“The Ethiopian government continues to look very closely at developments in Somalia,” Carson told Reuters in Kenya ahead of a visit to Ethiopia on Monday.

“Given the long-standing enmity between Somalis and Ethiopians Woyannes I will encourage the Ethiopians not to re-engage in Somalia. It is not in their interest to do so and their efforts might in fact prove counterproductive to the government,” he said in an interview.

Neighbours and Western governments fear that if the Somali administration is overthrown, the lawless nation will become a safe haven for al Qaeda to train militants to destabilise the region and attack developed nations.

Residents in several regions of Somalia have reported seeing Ethiopian Woyanne soldiers in the past two months. Addis Ababa initially denied this but later acknowledged it had made “reconnaissance” missions. It still insists no combat troops are in Somalia.

“Ethiopia has a right to defend its borders, should do so vigorously if individuals cross into their territory, and their efforts should be directed at defense of their territory and not necessarily involvement inside of Somalia,” Carson said.

NO DECISION ON TOUGHER MANDATE

Carson held talks with senior officials from all Horn of Africa countries, including the Eritrean foreign minister, during an African Union summit in Libya this week.

Washington has accused Eritrea of supporting the hardline al Shabaab insurgents who are fighting to oust Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. It says Eritrea has aided the movement of weapons and foreign fighters into Somalia.

Carson said Eritrea strongly denied the accusations.

The rebels, who have links to al Qaeda and want to impose their own harsh version of sharia law throughout the country, control much of southern Somalia and parts of the capital Mogadishu close to the president’s palace.

A 4,300-strong African Union peacekeeping force (AMISOM) from Uganda and Burundi is protecting key sites in Mogadishu but appeals for more troops and a stronger mandate allowing them to go on the offensive have yet to bear fruit.

Carson said a battalion of soldiers from Burundi, about 800 troops, was ready to deploy as soon as an airlift is provided and that Djibouti had pledged to help with military force.

“They are a small country with a small military but they have indicated that they believe the situation is serious enough to warrant their support,” Carson told Reuters.

“They believe that it is important to support Sheikh Sharif and to prevent his government from falling and they are prepared to provide more support than they have in the past, including manpower,” he said.

Carson said Washington had yet to decide whether the AMISOM mandate should be beefed up. There had been hopes African leaders would agree to this in Libya but wording to that effect in a draft resolution was dropped.

“We will study it closely in Washington and make a determination as to whether it is in our interests to encourage an expanded mandate as this goes forward,” he said.

Washington helps fund the AMISOM force and has sent weapons to the Somali government to support its fight against the rebels. Carson told reporters it would send more.

“The United States will continue to look for ways to provide support,” he said. “This will include military support in terms of arms and munitions and material resources, but not manpower.”

Ambassador Johnnie Carson speaks on U.S.-Eritrea relation

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

PRESS CONFERENCE: Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and former US Ambassador to Kenya Johnnie Carson

Mr Carson: We have actively sought to engage the Eritreans to encourage them not to support al-Shabaab, not to send money or ammunition to al-Shabaab, not to allow their country to be a conduit for resources to al-Shabaab. We have encouraged them not to allow foreign fighters to pass through their country. All of these things are on the diplomatic side. We have provided arms and munitions to allow the TFG to push back al-Shabaab in order to gain the stability which is absolutely essential for that country to be able to begin to deliver services to people. I would love nothing better than to be able to say to you that the situation on the ground in southern Somalia is such that we have been able to put money into schools, into educational material, into the re-establishment of clinics and hospitals and to the training of nurses and to the re-establishment of electricity and water services. This is what the goal is. Our goal is to find a way to stabilize the situation and then encourage the TFG to begin that process of state building and delivery of services to its population.

Q: Corruption is an issue closely tied to the effectiveness of development assistance. What can the United States do to help eradicate corruption and promote transparency?

A: Corruption undermines the ability of governments to deliver services, and it siphons off resources into private pockets. We have to make it a topic of conversation with government officials. We have to work with civil society to give them the courage to speak out about it. We have to work with the local media so that they will expose it. We have to work with prosecutors so that they have the courage to prosecute and with judges to have the conviction to convict.

And if we see mega-corruption going on and individuals who are profiting from it, and we have evidence that they are not being prosecuted, we should look at new methods to identify and to stigmatise and to punish, to the extent that we can, those individuals who are engaged in corruption.

Q: Where do you see governments tackling corruption in a serious way?

I think that there are some countries that are exemplars and will remain exemplars. The government of Botswana does an excellent job. Mauritius does an excellent job. The Tanzania government does an excellent job. I recall that within the last year, a senior government official in Tanzania was removed from office because of serious allegations of corruption.

Q: Let’s talk about Somalia. Why has the administration decided to engage in a new way with the Transitional Federal Government, including the supply of arms and ammunition?

A: The instability that has prevailed in Somalia for the last 20 years has become a cancer. We now have a war-torn society where probably 60 to 70 per cent of the people are dependent upon food aid from the outside. We see the population of Mogadishu having declined by some two-thirds as a result of the fighting in and around the city, and we see unemployment among youth at astronomical levels. Southern Somalia is a humanitarian problem of enormous proportions.

But it’s not just Somalia itself. The cancer has started to metastasise, spreading across the border into Kenya. Today the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya has some 270,000 refugees. That camp, which was established about a decade and a half ago, was built to handle 90,000.

It is estimated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that some six to seven thousand Somalis are crossing the border into northeast Kenya every day. Eastleigh, a suburb in the northern part of Nairobi, [has become] the largest Somali city. There is enormous pressure on the Kenyan government to handle the refugees and provide the infrastructure needed to cater to them.

Moreover, the problem of Somalia has contributed to the tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is clear that the Eritrean government is supporting the al-Shabaab militia. It is not because they are in support of Islamist or extremist [elements]. They are doing this largely as a way to undermine and to pressure the Ethiopian government.

Q: How effective are arms going to be in addressing that issue? Why military as opposed to development aid?

A: We have tried to make it very, very clear that diplomacy is primary and that support for stability inside of Somalia is what we are doing. We support the ‘Djibouti process’, which helped to create the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and we support the TFG, the government of Sheikh Sharif. The Djibouti process has been endorsed by Kenya, and by the AU.

We have actively sought to engage the Eritreans to encourage them not to support al-Shabaab, not to send money or ammunition to al-Shabaab, not to allow their country to be a conduit for resources to al-Shabaab. We have encouraged them not to allow foreign fighters to pass through their country. All of these things are on the diplomatic side.

We have provided arms and munitions to allow the TFG to push back al-Shabaab in order to gain the stability which is absolutely essential for that country to be able to begin to deliver services to people. I would love nothing better than to be able to say to you that the situation on the ground in southern Somalia is such that we have been able to put money into schools, into educational material, into the re-establishment of clinics and hospitals and to the training of nurses and to the re-establishment of electricity and water services. This is what the goal is. Our goal is to find a way to stabilise the situation and then encourage the TFG to begin that process of state building and delivery of services to its population.

Q: You have said that you are willing to engage Eritrea in a dialogue. Is that happening?

A: Absolutely. After I took over as the assistant secretary, the Eritrean ambassador came to my office and indicated to me that it was the first time he had been into the office of the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs since he had come to Washington.

I told him that the United States clearly wanted to see if we could return to a more normal relationship and that I was prepared to go out to speak with [Eritrean] President Isaias to begin such a dialogue. But I also made it very clear that, in order to move forward, there would have to be some understanding and some cooperation on key issues that affect the Horn of Africa today.

Q: On Sudan, following the multi-party talks in Washington, convened by President Obama’s special envoy for Sudan, Scott Gration, how has the administration decided to engage with the government headed by President Omar al-Bashir, who faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) – but also is key to resolving the crisis in Darfur and the north-south conflict?

A: I look at it as engaging with the government broadly to achieve important objectives that we share with many in Sudan, both north and south, and with many across Africa and the international community. We think that it is absolutely critical that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in January 2005, be fully implemented, and that the people of southern Sudan have a right, in 2011, to hold a referendum which will determine their future.

We think it is also important that the issues of the boundary between the north and south be resolved. One of the more positive things to come out of this very successful conference is a commitment on both sides to accept the arbitration ruling on the border of Abyei.

Gen. Gration has been trying to stop the humanitarian nightmare that has existed in Darfur for far too long and to help to bring about a long-term political settlement in the Darfur crisis. We should use our diplomatic power as effectively as we can to help bring a solution to each of these problems.

Notwithstanding all of this, an arrest warrant has been issued for Bashir by the ICC for war crimes in Darfur. He should do the right thing and face those charges.

- Daily Nation

African 'Union' thieves vote not to back al-Bashir's indictment

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

IRTE, Libya (Reuters) – African Union heads of state voted yesterday not to cooperate with the International Criminal Court in its indictment of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

“(The African Union) decides that in view of the fact that a request of the African Union (to defer al Bashir’s indictment) has never been acted upon, the AU member states shall not cooperate pursuant to the provisions of Article 98 of the Rome Statute of the ICC relating to … the arrest and surrender of Sudanese President Omar al Bashir to the ICC,” a text of the resolution obtained by Reuters said.

Two delegates told Reuters the resolution had been adopted by the AU heads of state summit.

War crimes

The 53-member organisation wants a deferment of the indictment over war crimes carried out during fighting in Sudan’s Darfur region, saying the warrant for Bashir’s arrest compromises peace efforts in Darfur.

Reed Brody, legal counsel for New-York based Human Rights Watch, told reporters at the summit: “This is going to give … comfort to a man who is accused of some of the worst crimes of our time.

However, he said it was not clear what practical effect the resolution would have because 30 African countries have signed up to the ICC and remain legally obliged to arrest Bashir if he visits.

Sudan said today its president was now free to travel across Africa.

“The president is free to travel anywhere in Africa, including those countries that have ratified the ICC’s Rome statute,” said Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig.

Bashir did not attend the inauguration of South African President Jacob Zuma in May, amid reports Pretoria had warned Khartoum that the Sudanese leader could be arrested.

The spokesman said he thought the African Union’s decisions were immediately binding on members, so Bashir would not have to wait for further approval from the parliaments of each state.

Rights group Amnesty International criticised the AU vote, saying it undermined the credibility of the 53-member body.

“This decision by the African Union member states shows a disdain for those in Darfur who suffered gross human rights violation and makes a mockery of the AU as an international body,” said Amnesty Africa director Erwin van der Borght.

UK Parliamentarians' Advice Regarding Ethiopia

Saturday, July 4th, 2009
By Obang MethoOn June 16, 2009 something significant happened. For the first time, the Parliament of the United Kingdom opened up the doors to the House of Commons and gave the stage to Ethiopians in order to learn more from them about the grave human rights violations, including genocide, the pervasive injustice and the rampant corruption going on in Ethiopia under the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

This is a sign of progress for which we can be thankful. In the past, Ethiopians have rallied in front of the U.K Parliament building; delivering letters to public officials who may or may not have responded, but this time, Ethiopians themselves have been given the opportunity to give details about what is going on back home.

Thanks to Third World Solidarity, an organization made up of parliamentary members interested in issues affecting the Third World, we were given this opportunity. A special thanks to Mr. Mushtaq Lasharie, Honorable David Anderson and   for being “fighters for justice” whose focus goes beyond their borders to those who have little political clout in this increasingly complex, and sometimes exploitive, world.

I give much appreciation to my fellow Ethiopians in the UK who organized this event, preparing far in advance by making the strategic contacts that made this event possible. Many worked very hard to make this as successful as it turned out to be. I thank those Ethiopians who invited me, those of you who attended the event and those Ethiopians who did their share by contributing money for most of my air ticket—friends in Canada, Denmark, Norway, England and the US—making it possible to participate in this strategic opportunity.

It had an impact which can be seen from the quick reaction from the EPRDF government’s Ethiopian Ambassador to Britain who was heard on Voice of America denying that any such meeting took place; later explaining that it was simply a fundraising banquet with no parliament members present; and still later, admitting that there were some members present. However, I am not worried about what the ambassador says as such disclaimers are predictable from a government grounded on lies and immorality.

The main highlights of the meeting

Let me quickly summarize some of the main highlights of the meeting followed later by personal comments from elected officials in the UK, Canada and the US. The meeting was opened by Chairman of the Third World Solidarity, MP David Anderson, who greeted the people with graciousness and warmth.
He said he hoped that by the end of the meeting, we all could come up with a concrete plan to ease the suffering of the Ethiopian people. For me, as he spoke in his deep voice about his passion for the common good and justice, it fed my hope that Ethiopians are not alone.

After he finished his talk, Third World Solidarity Councilor Mr. Lasharie, explained their mission and the role they might take in working with Ethiopians. He said that their organization was formed to work on these kinds of issues—like human rights, injustice, equality, democracy and fair elections—and that this House of Commons was now being opened to Ethiopians in order for to tell the Parliament what was going on in their country. He finished his talk with the same warm appeal to Ethiopians. He addressed Ethiopians, “We are here to work with you and don’t think this is the end. It is just the beginning!”

He was followed up by Mr. Satterlee, the same person who had produced a documentary on the Ethiopian drought of 1984. Mr. Satterlee’s main point emphasized that many of the problems facing Ethiopians would be corrected were there good government in the country. He stated, “The Ethiopia of today is the same place it was in 1980, but with good governance, the very hardworking and capable people of Ethiopia could feed themselves. The lack of good leaders and government today is the reason why Ethiopians are still starving today.”

Mr. Kefale Alemu, an Ethiopian and a member of Third World Solidarity, spoke next. He gave an eloquent introduction to the presentation from Ethiopians, sharing the purpose of the meeting and explaining that the things people take for granted in the UK, do not exist in Ethiopia—like good government, equality under the rule of law, the opportunity to vote and the most basic of civil rights such as freedom to express oneself. He said he hoped that the meeting would expose the kinds of oppressive conditions under which Ethiopians are currently living.

I spoke next on the agenda and then showed the video that provided documentation of the genocide and other gross human rights crimes going on in Ethiopia that is now available online.

After me, a wonderful Ethiopian man presented, Mr. Zelalem Tessema. This is my first time meeting with him, but as he spoke, his sense of humor and the way he expressed himself, grabbed everyone’s attention.  He spoke of the lack of democratic rights, giving specific examples from the past Ethiopian National Election of 2005 and documentation of the efforts being made by the current regime to close off any political space before the next election in May of 2010.

He utilized an illustration of a child’s game where “the elephant always won” because he kept changing the rules to fit his interests. This man really exposed the regime, citing many examples of its aggressive attacks against democracy. I was so proud of him. He spoke about why the previous election did not work and why the next one will not work either. Despite all of these negative things, he ended up giving a message of hope by saying, “If Ethiopians can really stand and work together and if the UK and other donor countries can stand on the side of the people, things can be changed.”

He was inspiring as he gave hope to all of us that if we could work together, Ethiopia could be lifted up to become a more prosperous nation. I learned that he has multiple language, speaking Oromo, Amharic and English. He is also a humble man who during the middle of the rally in the UK, called on the people to pray to God for divine help. He told them that God would not forget them. He is a true Ethiopian.

Mr. Wondmu Mekonnen spoke next about the misuse of aid money to Ethiopia and about the rampant corruption going on in the country under this regime. I already knew Wondmu. He is one of the wonderful people I have met through working on this struggle and I count him as an example of one of the many Ethiopians who has enriched my life. To me, he is a brother, a mentor, a friend and a fellow countryman. People like brother Wondmu are the reason why I strongly believe that a new Ethiopia is not only probable, but very possible.

People like him have the intellect, the compassion for others, the generosity and the love of their country that is necessary for Ethiopia to be transformed from a country of pain to one of peace and from one of misery to one of prosperity.

Mr. Wondmu has worked with the SMNE from the very beginning and he has become one of the key leaders of the SMNE in London.  He does not belong to any one group, but to the whole of Ethiopia. His love for his people and his country is something you can see through his talk, his voice, his smile and his body language. He used to be a professor of economics at Addis Ababa University and now that he is in London, he is a professor at the University of Birmingham—as he says, going from “A” to “B.” Yet, he said that were peace to come to Ethiopia peace, he would be in Ethiopia because there is much greater need there, but that the lack of security, hope and good government is the reason he is in London.

He knew his material, exposing the corruption in Ethiopia from the inside out. Using projectors and documentation uncovered in extensive research, he showed extensive financial information regarding aid and what happened to it. He visually showed in detail how this regime “is sucking the resources and depleting the country.” Mr. Wondmu ended up encouraging both Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians to never turn their backs on this country and to not lose hope. As a good professor always does, he had control of the room and some of the parliamentarians later commented on the impact of his presentation.

The last person to speak was Ms. Sabra Mohammed. Her topic was human rights violations against women and children. She is not Ethiopian born, but was born in Russia; however, when she had gone to Ethiopia many years ago as a music teacher, she was so won over by the hospitality of the Ethiopian people, that she fell in love not only with the people but also the country. She now calls herself a proud Ethiopian. Her love of Ethiopia was the reason she was deported out of Ethiopia not one time, but five times.

In her presentation, she described in detail how horribly the TPLF had treated her; dehumanizing her and separating her from her children and family and treating her like a criminal despite not being guilty of anything except loving Ethiopia. She said the TPLF government has violated many women’s rights; an recent example being that of imprisoned opposition leader, Birtukan Mideksa. She ended her presentation by fervently calling all Ethiopian people to join together, regardless of ethnicity, skin color or religion, to fight this “terrorist regime” and “to free the Ethiopian people from the prison they are now in.”

She called on the British parliament to stand together with the Ethiopian people and to stop funding the regime that was acting in opposite ways to all those principles on which Britain had been founded. She affirmed that she would always be wherever Ethiopians were fighting for justice and she hoped that Ethiopians would know that they could always count on her to be with them.

We Ethiopians are more than capable—with God’s help—of transforming Ethiopia from being a “beggar nation” to a “better nation.”

I was so proud of the Ethiopian presenters who delivered their message with such articulation and professionalism; giving me reason for believing that we Ethiopians are more than capable—with God’s help—of transforming Ethiopia from being a “beggar nation” to a “better nation.” If these kinds of people would be in Ethiopia, running the country, instead of in exile throughout the world, most of us would go back home and those in Ethiopia, would not be searching for ways to leave.

The room was packed with Ethiopians who came, showing their concern and support. All these things are sources of hope. Beyond that, a brother from the Ogaden stood up during the question and answer period and said, “We are all being killed the same; we need each other and we must united and stand together against this regime!” This audience gave him a standing ovation and enthusiastically applauded the acknowledgement that we Ethiopians have more in common with each other than what separates us.

This is a beautiful vision of what a “New Ethiopia” might be like; that is, if increasingly more Ethiopians decide to value “humanity before ethnicity!” This part is up to us, but there is more we need to do as well. Outsiders can help us, but they will not and should not be expected “to do it for us.” In other words, we cannot sit back and wait for someone else to free us. Too many Africans go to free countries and plead, “…please free us,” but fail to recognize their own responsibility. Let us not make that same mistake!

UK MP George Bruce ended the meeting by saying, “Africa is a wonderful place but failed to produce good leaders who were cared for the people.  The root cause could be blamed on the colonizers, but in the case of Ethiopia, you were not colonized so you cannot blame the British, like others who were colonized in Africa can do.  I know that Ethiopians are good people and from what I learned today, I can see that you are ready to create a good government and to determine your own destiny. I will advocate for you. This means I will go to all of the elected parliament members I know to educate them to be on the side of the Ethiopian people.”

This ended a highly successful meeting, marking the beginning of a shared effort between these elected officials, representatives from Third World Solidarity and the people of Ethiopia. In a companion article, Part Two, I will share what I learned in my follow-up with some of these MP’s, as well as with other elected officials and key people in Canada and the US.  They have some very good advice for us to further our partnership and our effectiveness.

May God bring new partners together in effective ways!

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

Obama's Africa visit prompts disappointments in Nigeria, Kenya

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

By Nick Tattersall

LAGOS (Reuters) — U.S. President Barack Obama’s choice of Ghana for his first official trip to Africa next week has triggered a bout of self-questioning in Nigeria and Kenya, where many see his itinerary as a deliberate snub.

The first black U.S. president is keen to hold Ghana up as a democratic model for Africa, where polls are too often marred by vote-rigging and violence, denting the pride of states which consider themselves equally important and worthy of a visit.

“Part of the reason is because Ghana has now undergone a couple of successful elections in which power was transferred peacefully,” Obama told the AllAfrica news website, when asked why he had chosen to visit Ghana (allafrica.com).

“Countries that are governed well, that are stable, where leadership recognizes that they are accountable to the people and that institutions are stronger than any one person, have a track record of producing results for the people. And we want to highlight that,” he said.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and a major supplier of oil to the United States, was already sensitive to the growing clout of its regional rival, particularly since Ghana is itself due to become an oil producer by the end of next year.

Endemic corruption, shambolic infrastructure and weak regulation in the so-called “Giant of Africa” — or “Sleeping Giant” as some weary Nigerians call it — have already pushed some international companies to relocate.

In contrast to Ghana, which in January held a closely contested election that brought former opposition leader John Atta Mills peacefully to power, Nigeria has an appalling record on organizing transparent polls.

The April 2007 vote which brought President Umaru Yar’Adua to power was so marred by ballot-stuffing and intimidation that local and foreign observers said it was not credible.

Critics of Yar’Adua — who have dubbed him “Baba Go-Slow” for lack of progress on everything from the fight against corruption to providing reliable power supply — say Obama’s snub should make his administration sit up and think.

“If Obama decides to grace Nigeria with his presence, I will stone him,” Nigerian Nobel prize-winning writer Wole Soyinka was quoted by Nigerian newspapers as saying.

“The message he is sending by going to Ghana is so obvious, is so brilliant, that he must not render it flawed by coming to Nigeria any time soon,” he said.

BACKSLIDING

In Kenya, those trying to put a positive spin on the planned itinerary said it would have been seen as favoritism for Obama, whose father was born in Kenya, to visit his ancestral homeland.

But it is seen as a deliberate snub by others, especially critics of President Mwai Kibaki’s coalition government, formed after deadly post-election violence in 2008. They see it as a sign of U.S. disapproval of nepotism in Kenya’s political elite.

“We have seen progress over the last several years in some cases, though we’re also seeing some backsliding,” Obama said in the AllAfrica interview, broadcast on YouTube.

“In my father’s own country of Kenya, I’m concerned about how the political parties do not seem to be moving into a permanent reconciliation,” he said.

The coalition government, formed after mediation by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, has failed to make much progress on political reforms. Kenya still ranks as the most corrupt country in east Africa, according to watchdog Transparency International.

Renowned cartoonist Gado, of the Daily Nation newspaper, depicted Air Force One jetting over Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga with a note spiraling down from the plane:

“Get your act together -B. Obama,” it said.

Odinga, who comes from the Luo ethnic group like Obama’s father, said it was wrong to read too much into the president’s itinerary, pointing out that he was also not visiting influential nations such as South Africa and Nigeria.

“Ghana is symbolic. It was the first African country to gain independence from Britain in 1957. Ghana is very advanced in its transition to democratic form of governance. So it’s perfectly logical,” he told Reuters.

Not all see it the same way.

“It’s like him visiting (the Welsh capital) Cardiff but not London,” said one disgruntled Nigerian resident.

The Ethiopia-Tucson-Boise Love Triangle

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

By Rachael Daigle | Boise Weekly

Tucson, Arizona — Ethiopian. That’s my new restaurant request to all you potential restaurateurs out there. Don’t worry, I’m not holding my breath.

Six years ago, former BW staffer Cynthia Sewell, who’s now a reporter for the Idaho Statesman, handed me a list of things to do while I was in Tucson, Ariz., for a weekend. On the list was a recommendation for an Ethiopian restaurant. I never made it on that trip, but for six years, I’ve managed to remember that there’s a fabulous Ethiopian restaurant somewhere in Tucson.

Last week, BW Publisher Sally Freeman, Art Director Leila Ramella-Rader, News Editor Nathaniel Hoffman and I were in Tucson for our trade association’s annual convention, and from deep within the recesses of my memory, I pulled out Sewell’s Ethiopian suggestion. I didn’t remember the name, but a quick search–thanks to the wonders of Google and iPhone–led us to Zemam’s Ethiopian Cuisine.

I’ll be honest. From the outside, Zemam’s ain’t much of a looker. Housed in one of those stucco boxes that passes for a building throughout the southwest, Zemam’s doesn’t have much curb appeal. But, as most foodies know, some of the best restaurants are those that aren’t going to win any architectural awards.

We each ordered a three-dish combo, all of which came served on one giant metal platter with 12 modest piles of food and sheets of spongy injera not only between the platter and the food, but also on the side. Silverware is not part of the Ethiopian table setting, and the family style meal is not for those afraid of finger food or their tablemates’ germs. If you can get over your American predisposition to flatware and antibacterial hand sanitizer, you’ll be glad you did.

Without an Ethiopian option in Boise, why am I telling you about it? Because believe it or not, there’s an Idaho connection. Owner Amanuel Gebremariam lived in Moscow before moving to the Sonoran Desert, but more importantly, the teff Gebremariam uses to make Zemam’s injera is Idaho-grown by the Teff Company in Caldwell.

I called them first thing Monday morning to ask a couple of questions, but as of press time, I hadn’t heard back. According to the company’s Web site, the Teff Company “has been supplying the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities for nearly 20 years with American-grown Maskal Teff.”

Hell, you just never know what’s growing in Idaho and for that matter, just where in the world you’ll find yourself eating a little closer to home than you expected.

Family Wine and Dine of the Week

Rather than get all dolled up for an expensive night of wining and dining, keep it low key with the kids this holiday weekend.

Zoo Boise hosts its second Zoofari event of the summer with dinner for the family in addition to zoo wandering, storytelling and animal feedings. Cost includes admission to the zoo as well as a hot dog, chips, a drink and an ice cream treat.

Ethiopian man in Indianapolis arrested as robbery suspect

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS (UPI) — Indianapolis police say a 54-year-old mailman was shot in the face when he attempted to stop a bank robber fleeing the scene of the crime.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Lt. Jeffrey Duhamell said letter carrier Robert Norman was in stable condition after his attempt to capture the bank robber ended with a gunshot wound, The Indianapolis Star said Friday.

“He knew a robbery was taking place,” Duhamell said of the brave citizen. “He came around the corner as the robber came out of the bank.”

Police arrested a 42-year-old suspect, identified as Brook Abebe, an immigrant from Ethiopia, following a short police chase.

Abebe, who is in custody at an area hospital, faces charges of attempted murder, robbery and carrying a handgun without a license.

Kim Yates, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service in Indianapolis, expressed support for the injured Norman.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family,” Yates told the Star. “We’re wishing for his speedy recovery.”

The wonderful act of empowerment

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

It is celebration time for Ethiopians outside their homeland especially for those in the democratic West. The recession has been brutal on immigrants more so on those that are in the service sector. We have learned to be resilient. We bend but we do not break. Most of all we are emboldened when we see success. We are made to believe that with hard work, determination and a free democratic system anything is possible. And when our brethren excel in life we are filled with such pride that it becomes the talk of the town.

I am talking about our pride Alfa Demmellash. Weizero Alfa Demmellash and her husband run “the Community Business Academy, an intensive training session coupled with year-round coaching and mentorship to help individuals “really work on the hands-on management side of their business,” Weizero Alfa and her organization Rising Tide Capital were highlighted by the White Hose as an non profit program that are making a difference.

President Obama was gracious enough to single out Alfa and recognize her. The reporter wrote “Mr. Obama pointed out Demmelash to the crowd with his trademark self-deprecating humor: “We’ve got Alfa Demmellash from Rising Tide Capital … where’s Alfa … right over there. Did I pronounce your name right? Good. When your name’s Barack Obama, you’re sensitive to these things.”

Then there is Meheret Mandefro. Dr. Meheret was appointed as a White House Fellows for 2009-2010. The program was set to “give promising American leaders first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the Federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs. The Fellows also take part in an education program designed to broaden their knowledge of leadership, policy formulation, military, and current affairs.” My friend Missy Dr. Meheret’s cousin said the whole family is beyond happy and proud. We are all proud.

There is also the Ethiopian scientist Dr.Gebisa Ejeta who won the 2009 World Food Prize given by the U.S. Department of State. Dr. Gebisa is a product of Jimma Agricultural and Technical School and beautiful Alemya Agricultural College.

When you include the thousands of Graduates all over the world you can say June is a beautiful month. Our achievers shone bright in a sky full of stars. To be recognized for your best efforts is the ultimate reward. Our heroes displayed our Ethiopia in all its glory. I am so tired of the adjectives that accompany the mention of our country. It is always the poorest, the hungriest, the civil war addicted, democracy challenged or such putdown. Alfa, Dr Mehret and Dr. Gebisa are showing us what is possible when you are allowed to soar like an Eagle.

Now contrast that from what is coming out of our homeland and you know why we despair. Nothing good has come out of there for a long time. It is famine time again. The ‘US Famine Early Warning Systems Network’ (FEWS NET) is ringing the warning bell loud for all to hear. They wrote ‘Ethiopia continues to face high levels of food insecurity. A total of 7.5 million chronically food insecure people receive assistance through employment in public works under the productive safety-Net Program (PSNP. An additional 4.9 million people require emergency food assistance through June 2009.’

“The rainy season will start late particularly in the northeastern part of our country. That means the cropping season for some types of crops may not be appropriate this year.” So declared the Prime Minster from his palace. I always thought he fancied himself as an economist, I guess he is a meteorologist too. Dare I say ‘knows everything about nothing’ is an apt description.

As for the alarm regarding the food shortage Ato Meles said “We have hundreds of thousands of tons of wheat in our store houses here in Ethiopia.” Both World Food Program (WFP) and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) agree the situation is cause for alarm. They have asked the government to release 11,000 tons. The government denies the existence of the problem. The question is who is not telling the truth? Who benefits from spreading false hood? The two organizations have no reason to lie. Food is an expensive commodity and it is in short supply and they are doing their best to get a fair share for our people. They are doing the government’s job. Suffice to say if we were self-sufficient they wouldn’t be there.

Due to congestion at Djibouti Port the food they have begged on our behalf will not reach those in need. The Ethiopian Government has given priority to transport fertilizer instead of food. In his own words Ato Meles said “We have given priority to the transportation of fertilizers because we need fertilizers now. If [WFP] is facing any problem in terms of transport… go to these [strategic reserve] warehouses and take out loans to be replenished later when their food in the port is transported to the country.” So WFP borrows from Ethiopian reserves to feed Ethiopians and they will pay it back when “their” food arrives. The key word here is “their food”. The Ethiopian government takes no responsibility for its own people. On the other hand would you say it is a better choice to use military trucks to ferry needed food or ferry solders to invade a neighbor?

There is more. Instead of dealing with famine, high inflation, drying up of capital and dwindling remittance the fearless regime wastes its precious time in drafting draconian laws to muzzle the right of its citizens. They have what is called ‘draft counter terrorism law’ ready to be rubber-stamped by the kangaroo parliament. The terrorist regime is concerned about terrorism. The mighty TPLF with all its Generals, Internal Security, Federal Police, Agazi special Force, and paid informer around every corner is afraid of terrorism. Meles has created a perfect catch-22.

Catch-22 is a satirical novel by Joseph Heller. It has entered everyday usage to mean a ‘no-win’ situation. It is like you are damned if you do and you are damned if you don’t. In Heller’s book the main protagonist named Yossarian an Air Force pilot is trying to get discharged by claiming insanity. Unfortunate for him he there is a little rule called Catch-22. Yossarian, by claiming he is insane, he is proving that he is sane. Catch-22 specifies that a concern for one’s safety is the work of a rational mind. Catch-22 has come to mean ‘any paradoxical, circular reasoning that catches its victim in its illogic and serves those who have made the law.’ That is Ethiopian law in a nutshell.

Ato Meles’s currently proposed so-called ‘counter terrorism law’ is a perfect example of catch-22. It is heads Meles wins and tails Ethiopia loses. No matter how the coin lands the outcome is the same for Meles and company. On one hand the ‘Constitution’ gives the citizen the right to peaceful assembly, peaceful protest and peaceful gathering (Article 30) on the other hand the new law criminalizes public gatherings or public protest as ‘disruption or interference of a public service’ to be a terrorist act. A peaceful protest that will ‘hinder the normal flow of traffic’ can be defined as a terrorist act by the authorities. The TPLF state will be the prosecutor, the jury and the judge all at the same time.

It is time we empower ourselves. Up to now we have been acting as enablers. Victim forever is not cool. Alfa, Dr Mehret and Dr. Gebisa have empowered themselves. They are showing us by example that hard work, dedication, resolve and empathy for fellow human does wonders. True empowerment is developing confidence in ones own capacity. It is not whether the US government will withhold support from the apartheid government or not, it is not whether Ato Meles will retire or not. It is about what you do to empower yourself. For a change it is all about you. Step forward and take responsibility.

Ato Meles is caught in his own catch-22. He can’t leave nor can he stay. He has created his own paradox. All this bravado regarding two more years, pointing out future heirs, and dumping it on phantom EPDRF is nothing but the last gasps of an expiring model. It did not work for Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos, Mobutu sese Seko, Nicolae Ceausescu, Augusto Pinochet or Alberto Fujimori. There is no reason to think it is going to work in 2009. There are several ways to get out of a predicament or self-inflicted wound. But it is not by passing useless laws that can be overturned before the ink dries or by imprisoning and exiling opponents. That is a dead end street.

Judge Bertukan Mideksa has been in TPLF prison for one hundred eighty five days. She is in a dark cold room because we are silent here. We are a well-informed people thanks to our free websites. They are doing an excellent job of exposing the illegal acts of our UN elected leaders. Knowledge should be translated into action. Alfa, Dr Mehret and Dr. Gebisa did not acquire all that knowledge for heck of it. They are using their knowledge to make a difference. Shouldn’t we follow the example of these Ethiopian giants and double our efforts to liberate our country? Please do not lament about yesterday’s inaction. Today is what matters. What we do today lays the foundation for a better tomorrow. We can do it!

Ethiopian spice of life in Boston

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

By Denise Taylor | Boston.com

BOSTON — Incense perfumes Habesha Restaurant as we’re seated near the large, dark wood bar that anchors the dimly lighted dining room. The musk scented smoke is so strong that it’s dizzying, but soon another more intoxicating aroma takes over.

A large shared platter of Ethiopian stews, spiced meats, and slow-cooked vegetables is set before a group of Ethiopians sitting near us. We greedily inhale the cloud of exotic spices that wafts over as they tear squares of thin injera bread, use it to gracefully pinch bites of food, and pop the mini bundles into their mouths, all while chattering in a pretty, sing-song language that must be Amharic.

With the help of two partners, Abeba Golum opened this Ethiopian restaurant in Malden in December. A native of Addis Ababa, she is a lifelong hobby cook and prefers to create from scratch. Really. She churns her own butter to “keep it Ethiopian style.” And her bread – oh, the bread.

Every bite of a traditional Ethiopian meal is eaten not with a fork but with injera bread, a spongy, crepe-thin sourdough bread. So the better the bread, the better the meal, and Golum’s injera is superb.

While some Ethiopian restaurants here make do with wheat flour, Golum uses traditional teff, a slightly nutty-tasting grain. She does add a touch of self-rising flour, but the key is that she ferments the dough long enough to develop a pleasing tanginess (a step some restaurants skip). The result is just the right sourness and earthy flavor to liven up every bite of the meal.

Injera is especially good wrapped around beef awaze tibs, chewy but flavor-rich bits of beef glistening in a savory sauce that is red with berbere spice blend (Ethiopia’s answer to curry). Doro wat ($10) is also a standout. This chicken stew is so complex you could spend a whole meal trying to guess the many spices that perfume this delicious, intense, brown sauce: nutmeg, cardamom, paprika, clove? And the kifto, steak tartar ($10) drizzled with the house’s fresh butter, is pure carnivorous joy.

Other standards like lamb tibs ($10) or chicken tibs ($8) and some of the vegetables are less interesting than versions elsewhere. But, again, the bread elevates them. Every meal should include the vegetarian combo ($12), a rainbow of mild to fiery sides, including addictive fried green beans.

The menu is brief: 11 entrees and a kid’s meal. In fact, the drink list, which includes Ethiopian pilsners, stouts, and many wines, is longer. But with injera this good, even one dish would be enough.

The Ethiopian 'Spike Lee'

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

By Laure Wybie | The Jerusalem Post

Thirty years – officially – after the first Ethiopian Jews set foot on Israeli soil, the first Israeli film about the Ethiopian community of the Holy Land is being released in theaters on Thursday.

Filmmaker Shmuel Beru, who made aliya from Ethiopia at the age of eight, hopes to show Israeli audiences the richness of his community with Zrubavel, his first full-length feature film.

Even after three decades, all that most Israelis know about this population of more than 110,000 is what they read in newspaper reports: problems of integration, juvenile delinquency, domestic violence – or, more rarely, one successful Ethiopian immigrant who becomes a doctor, a pilot or a famous singer or actor. But what do we really know about the Ethiopian Jews of Israel – their values, their traditions, their language, their music, their food, their dreams, their problems and how they deal with them, their feelings?

These are the questions that Beru, 33, who started as an actor, wanted to answer by getting behind the camera.

In Tel-Aviv’s Kerem Hateimanim neighborhood, a two-minute walk from Rehov Zrubavel, where he lives, Beru agreed to talk to The Jerusalem Post about this original project.

The idea came to him two years ago, he says. “I thought that in my community, there were a lot of stories to tell that others are not exposed to. So I decided to make a movie to relate them, thinking that if I don’t do it, nobody will do it for me.”

BERU PRESENTS a picture, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, of a group of residents in an entirely Ethiopian neighborhood. All the generations are represented, from the patriarch of the Zrubavel family – a colonel in Ethiopia, now a street sweeper in Israel – to his eight-year-old, Israeli-born grandson Yitzhak – alias “Spike Lee” – whose dream is to make movies.

Through the eyes of the latter, Beru – who arrived from Ethiopia via Sudan one year before Operation Moses in 1984 – tells the story of Yitzhak’s aunt, Almaz, the “most beautiful girl in the neighborhood.” A talented singer, Almaz wants to marry a distant cousin, despite her father’s injunction to respect the traditional rule of not marrying a relative within seven generations. Meanwhile, Almaz’s brother Gili, pushed by his father, tries despite racism to enter a selective school to become an IAF pilot, as Yitzhak’s parents fight over whether their son will enter a yeshiva or become a soccer player.

“My goal was to show that behind color and culture, there are human beings,” says Beru. “I wanted to create an opportunity to see us [Israeli Ethiopians] in a different way than people are used to, to go further than what the news released about us, to make people realize that we are not different from others.

“‘It doesn’t matter where you come from, you are just a person’ – this is the main point of my movie, and it is not only true for Ethiopians. Zrubavel tries to talk about integration in general, and its message can be applied to every other community.”

Although he had never directed before, Beru was undeterred.

“My theory is, if you want to do it, just do it. I need a script? So I wrote a script. I need actors? So I found actors. I need money? Okay, I don’t have money. I need to raise it. I presented my project to a few producers. I got only negative answers. So I invest my own money to direct a pilot. And I win the support of the Israel Film Fund and the Gesher Foundation. And I started.”

DESPITE LIVING in Israel for 25 years, Beru says he still feels “different.”

“I still feel I am not judged just as a person, but regarding my origins, my color,” he explains. “People like to divide other people into groups. I don’t know why, maybe it’s easier for them to say, ‘You, you are from outside, you are a foreigner, you just came to visit.’ And this is what is exposed in the movie. This neighborhood [in the film] is like a ghetto, not connected to the other groups of society, to the rest of the world, and it affects its residents.”

One of the issues Beru addresses in the movie is the gap between the older and younger generations in the community.

“For the youth, it’s hard because they feel half-half – on the one hand, they want to be like Israelis, and on the other, they want to be like Ethiopians. And it is difficult for them to find a good balance, to mix. Especially when they have to face the reaction of their parents, themselves in a struggle to deal with a new culture and lifestyle very different from their old one,” he says.

Beru also shows “a typical Israeli family” trying to contribute to their country.

“The father is very Zionist. [He] wants his son, Gili, to defend his country, even though he already lost another son in the army. He wants him to be a pilot and to be recognized as a part of society,” he says.

Beru admits that the character of Yitzhak, the young filmmaker, could be a reflection of himself, although he hadn’t planned it that way.

“Yitzhak is just a naïve little boy who wants to do a movie, very simple, with his handmade camera,” he explains, adding, “In this business, everyone wants to be Spike Lee and wants to be a voice for their own community.”

Beru’s next film project is a personal account of his own experiences coming to Israel.

“It will talk about my life, about my journey from Ethiopia to Israel via Sudan. I already have a script,” he says. “Now I look for funds to start; it will be huge production.”

Volcano eruption in the Afar region of Ethiopia reported

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

By Dr Ralph Harrington | The Volcanism Blog

Thermal anomalies and dense sulphur dioxide plumes in Ethiopia appear to indicate that a significant effusive eruption has taken place in the Manda Hararo area of the western Afar region. There is as yet no visual confirmation of the eruption from the ground.

There was a VEI=2 eruption at the Manda Hararo volcanic complex in August 2007, and a larger (possibly VEI=3) eruption in the Alu-Dalaffilla region in November 2008. In terms of size, volcanic SO2 expert Prof Simon Carn of Michigan Technical University reports that the current Manda Hararo event seems to lie somewhere between the two.

The MODIS thermal alerts service at the University of Hawaii has shown hotspots of varying intensity over a considerable area of the Manda Hararo region since 27 June, while the OMI Sulfur Dioxide Group has mapped considerable SO2 emissions on 29 and 30 June:

Volcano eruption in the Afar region of Ethiopia reported

Aura/OMI - 06/30/2009 11:04-11:08 UT (NASA/KNMI/NIVR/FMI)

[Thanks to Volcanism Blog reader Gijs de Reijke for information received.]

For other Ethiopian volcanism coverage: Ethiopia « The Volcanism Blog.

Awramba Times editor-in-chief, reporter arrested in Ethiopia

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Meles Zenawi’s gunmen today have arrested the editor-in-chief of the Addis Ababa-based weekly Awramba Times, Fitsum Mamo, and senior reporter Elias Gebru, in connection with news coverage on Tuesday’s edition about Ginbot 7 suspects.

Five days ago, Judge Assefa Abraha, the central judge who is conducting the trial of Ginbot 7 suspects, had warned Elias Gebru about the newspapers reports on the case.

Awramba Times staff doesn’t know where Elias and Fitsum are being detained.

What next for Ethiopia's dictatorship? – Possible scenarios

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister dictator Meles Zenawi says he wants to step down after 18 years running sub-Saharan Africa’s second most populous country. Meles says he is “bored” of questions about this, and will only repeat he needs the permission of his ruling party before he can leave.

So when might he go? And what will happen if he does? Here are some possible scenarios:

MELES GOES AT SEPTEMBER PARTY CONGRESS?

*Unlikely. The 54-year-old needs the permission of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party’s annual September congress before he can move aside. But it is doubtful he will ask for its blessing this year, analysts say. And, even if he did, they probably would not accept it a year before Ethiopia has its next national election due in June 2010.

OPPOSITION WIN 2010 ELECTIONS, MELES LOSES POWER?

* This would be a shock. The 2005 elections — touted as Ethiopia’s first truly democratic poll — ended in violence when Meles claimed victory, the opposition shouted fraud and about 200 protestors were killed by police and soldiers. Meles said they were trying to march on state buildings and topple him.

* More than 100 opposition leaders, journalists and aid workers were jailed after the government blamed them for orchestrating the violence. Despite the prisoners’ release in a 2007 pardon deal, the opposition has remained weak ever since.

* They say that is because the government harasses them. Meles denies that and says the opposition criticises the government to ruin its image and provoke the rich world into cutting the aid on which the desperately poor country relies.

* A ruling party triumph would probably please Western powers and investors who are used to doing business with Meles and his ministers.

* If the opposition wins, the future will be uncertain for one of Africa’s biggest potential markets. With no obvious alternative prime minister, potential investors might play wait-and-see. Foreign powers and international lenders like the IMF and the World Bank would jostle for policy influence.

MELES WINS IN 2010, OPPOSITION CRY FOUL?

* There are fears of a repeat of violence if Meles wins the next election and the opposition protest again. If the opposition parties go into the election as weak as they are now, they may find it difficult to convince Ethiopians and the world to support their claims.

* If the opposition was to strengthen before 2010 and credibly claim fraud, people would listen. After the violence of 2005, some countries withdrew aid. But — worried about hurting some of the world’s most vulnerable people — they quickly reinstated it. Ethiopia is the key U.S. ally in the volatile Horn of Africa region and sent troops into neighbouring Somalia in 2006 to oust an Islamist group who controlled the country.

* But despite Ethiopia’s close relations with the West, allegations of fraud or violence would be more difficult for the international community to take a second time and the country could see its aid slashed, plunging it deeper into poverty.

EPRDF WINS ELECTION, NO VIOLENCE, MELES RESIGNS?

* This is the most likely scenario. The weakened opposition will not be a serious threat at the next polls, most people believe. Meles will probably resign within two years and be replaced by a party loyalist who will continue his domestic, economic and foreign policies.

* Stepping down mid-term would raise interesting questions. The EPRDF is made up of four parties, each representing one of Ethiopia’s biggest ethnicities. The Tigryan ethnic group — of which Meles is a member — make up only 6 percent of the population but dominate the country’s political and military establishment. With Meles gone, the ethnic Amharas — who have traditionally made up the Ethiopian elite — will argue one of their party members should take over. The country’s most populous ethnic group, the Oromos, who have never held power, will offer a compromise candidate.

* Bearing this ethnic tension in mind, the most important task for whoever takes over will be maintaining party unity. If the ruling party broke up, Ethiopia’s future would become uncertain and investors and the international community may worry.

MELES SERVES ANOTHER 5-YEAR TERM, RUNS AGAIN?

* Some Ethiopians are claiming Meles saying he wants to resign is a ruse to make him appear more democratic than he is. If he vacates the top chair, he would be the first Ethiopian leader in modern history not to have been violently overthrown.

* But most analysts say the much-repeated intention is probably genuine. Meles is unlikely to serve another five years and even less likely to ever run again beyond that. If he were to continue indefinitely, opposition would grow and some may seek to overthrow the EPRDF.

A group of 32 mostly former and serving military officers are on trial in Addis Ababa accused of attempting to oust Meles.

* If he gives up power soon, analysts say he will leave a legacy of economic progress and improved relations with the West, marred by accusations of human rights abuses.

- Reuters

Ethiopia's Tirunesh and Meseret to duel over 5000m in Norway

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Tirunesh Dibaba Oslo, Norway – The world’s greatest women’s distance runners Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar, the ‘Duelling D’s’ of Ethiopia will clash over 5000m at the ExxonMobil Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway, on Friday 3 July, the second leg of the six meeting ÅF Golden League.

These two great Ethiopians rivals have agreed to compete against each other in the stadium where both have tasted victory and broken the World record for 5000m.

Bislett Backdrop

15 June 2007: Meseret Defar demolishes the previous World record by nearly 8 seconds with a time of 14.16.63

6 June 2008: Tirunesh Dibaba destroys Defar’s World record by 5 seconds with a time of 14.11.15, a time which stands as the existing World standard.

In the meantime Defar has lowered her personal best to 14.12.88 (22 July 2008 Stockholm).

Defar holds the 5000m ‘head to head’ edge

Over 5000m these two athletes have raced 23 times (finals only) since their first meeting in the World Junior Championships of 2002 when Defar became champion ahead of Dibaba. Defar holds the edge over Dibaba finishing ahead on 12 occasions to her compatriots 11 successes.

In the 2004 Olympic 5000m final, Defar won the title with Dibaba in bronze, but these positions were reversed in Beijing last summer when Dibaba completed an historic Olympic distance running double by also taking the 10,000m title. Dibaba took the World 5000m title in 2003 and 2005 on the latter occasion with Defar in silver medal position, who in turn took the gold in Osaka.

Cheruiyot and Melkamu to challenge

This year’s Bislett 5000m could be the best women’s 5000m race ever assembled with a new World record again a possibility as Defar and Dibaba will not be racing alone.

A huge challenge will be offered by Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot, the World silver medallist and the third fastest 5000m runner in history behind these two Ethiopians. Incidentally her national record of 14:22.51 was set when she finished second behind Defar in Oslo in 2007.

Meselech Melkamu of Ethiopia, who set the African record over 10,000m on 27 May this year in Utrecht, will also offer the highest calibre of opposition. Melkamu’s time of 29:53.80 now makes her the second quickest over 10,000m in history, and on this form her 5000m PB of 14:33.83 (2007) is certainly set for revision in Bislett.

(Chris Turner for the IAAF)

Grief-stricken Michael Jackson fans commit suicide

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

London (SkyNews) — The man behind the world’s biggest online Michael Jackson fan club has said heartbroken followers of the star have committed suicide because of his death.

Gary Taylor, president and owner of MJJcommunity.com, said he understood the tragedies had mostly taken place outside of the UK but he believed one may have been British.

“I know there has been an increase, I now believe the figure is 12. I believe there may have been one Briton who has taken his life,” he said.

“It is a serious situation that these people are going through but Michael Jackson would never want this. He would want them to live.”

Jesse Jackson, a friend of the singer, has recorded a YouTube film on the site urging fans not to “self destruct”.

He said: “This is a time when hearts are heavy. There is great pain but great cause to celebrate Michael’s life.

“It made Michael happy saying ‘We Are The World’. Don’t self destruct.

“We fall down sometimes, we get back up. That’s the right thing to do. In Michael’s name let’s live together as brothers and sisters and not die apart as fools.”

MJJcommunity.com was formed 10 years ago by Mr Taylor, a London office manager, and has more than 14,000 online users and 30 staff worldwide.

He said the singer’s death had left his fans on the forum “in a surreal place”.

“They can’t accept it, they feel in some sort of different reality,” he said.

“I’m stunned that he’s dead. One minute he is coming here for concerts and the next he is gone.

“I think the funeral will be where the reality kicks in that he is gone and won’t be coming back, there will be a huge depression in the fan community when that happens.”

Thousands of Michael Jackson fans are expected to gather for a vigil on July 13 at the O2 Arena where the star was due to perform.

They will assemble at Canary Wharf from 1pm before moving on to the 02 from 6pm.

President Obama recognizes CNN Hero from Ethiopia

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Alfa Demmellash WASHINGTON (CNN) — A woman saluted as a CNN Hero was among a group of creative philanthropists honored Tuesday by President Obama.

Video Watch Obama call attention to Demmellash’s program »

The White House event highlighted nonprofit programs that are making a difference. Alfa Demmellash was invited after White House staffers saw her being profiled on CNN.

Demmellash runs Rising Tide Capital, a company in New Jersey that helps low-income entrepreneurs start or grow their businesses.

Her organization “helps struggling mom-and-pop entrepreneurs get loans, run their businesses and improve their profit margins,” Obama told the gathering at the East Room of the White House.

“Seventy percent of their clients are single moms. All of them rely on their businesses to support their families. And so far, Rising Tide has helped 250 business owners in the state of New Jersey.

“Imagine if they could help 500 or 1,000 or more … all across America. If we empower organizations like these, think about the number of young people … whose lives we can change, the number of families whose livelihoods we can boost.”

Obama pointed out Demmelash to the crowd with his trademark self-deprecating humor: “We’ve got Alfa Demmellash from Rising Tide Capital … where’s Alfa … right over there. Did I pronounce your name right? Good. When your name’s Barack Obama, you’re sensitive to these things.”

Demmellash, who was born in Ethiopia, started Rising Tide in 2004 with Harvard University classmate Alex Forrester — now her husband — to help those who had ideas and abilities but needed the education and support to launch or grow their businesses.

The group runs the Community Business Academy, an intensive training session coupled with year-round coaching and mentorship to help individuals “really work on the hands-on management side of their business,” Demmellash said.

The organization supports underserved populations, including women, the formerly incarcerated, minorities, the unemployed and working poor, and immigrants and refugees.

Rising Tide Capital raises money from corporations and works with local governments for funding in order to provide classes and support its participants at affordable costs.

Participants pay a small materials and registration fee based on their income range: either $100 or $225 for the course that Demmellash says would cost thousands of dollars otherwise.

The organization has also built partnerships with micro-lenders, so when students are ready, the lenders provide financing.

Many of the students use the increased earnings from their new businesses to supplement their wages, allowing them to better provide for their families and transform the face of their communities, according to Demmellash.

“I am personally blown away that our work as a small grass-roots organization made it onto [the president's] radar,” Demmellash wrote in an e-mail after the White House event. “But the validation and meaning his recognition gives to the efforts of the many struggling entrepreneurs in this country working to achieve self sufficiency and create jobs as well as those hundreds in this field working to support them is immeasurable.

Video Watch Demmellash react to being invited to the White House »

“I am grateful for his support and for CNN Heroes for bringing our story of economic hope, perseverance and self-reliance that is central to the American dream to the ears of our president.”

Want to get involved? Check out Rising Tide Capital’s Web site and see how to help.

Malawi Police arrest 169 refugees from Ethiopia

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

LILONGWE (Nyasatimes) — Malawi Police at Lumbadzi in Lilongwe have arrested 169 Ethiopian refugees who were attempting to escape from Dzaleka refugee camp in Dowa.

This is the fourth time in three months police have arrested such a huge number of Ethiopians trying to flee the country using unlawful means. Most of these Ethiopians enter the country using unchartered routes in Northern districts of Malawi.

Lumbadzi Police Officer-in-Charge Effie Sato said the Ethiopians were arrested on Tuesday after getting a tip from the public who became suspicious with huge group of strange people.

“The refugees were taking a rest at a Chinese shop and some people got fishy with them and reported to our office,” said the Lumbadzi police boss.

The refugees are said to have carried maize and water and were reportedly heading for Zimbabwe.

“We are currently facilitating to take them back to the camp. We arrested them because they had no travel documents,” said the Officer-in-Charge.

According to Sato, one of the refugees, who was the only one who could communicate in English, said they decided to flee the camp because they are encountering myriad hitches at the camp like poor diet and sanitation.

The refugee also explained that five of their countrymen have died this year due to poor diet and healthy facilities and were buried right there.

Over 600 Ethiopian Refugees have been arrested this year alone for attempting to escape the camp for greener pastures in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Two weeks ago, group and village headmen surrounding Dzaleka Refugee camp asked government to urgently find means of instilling discipline among the Ethiopian asylum seekers.

The development came after the foreigners invaded Mengwe village in the area of T/A Chikukula where they stole maize while the owners were busy attending a funeral.

Group Village Headman Mengwe warned that if government does not do anything they would take law into their own hands because they were tired with the rotten behaviour of the Ethiopians.

The Ethiopians are said to be fighting indigenous Malawians, raping girls and old women and stealing from the surrounding villages, among others.

“We want government to take action urgently because we have been patient enough with these foreigners and the situation is now getting out of hand.

“People are living in fear in their own country because the Ethiopians are not only invading the villages during the day but also night, a situation that poses danger to their lives and property. If government is not assisting us we have the means to deal with the situation ourselves,” said the angry village, whose area is well known for gule wankulu cult.

There are currently over 8000 asylum seekers at Dzaleka camp from various countries like Somalia, Burundi, DRC, Rwanda, Djibouti but the Ethiopians are said to be the most nuisance.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is indeed the darkest period in Ethiopia’s history where Ethiopians are humiliated inside their own country and around the world.

Woyanne police gun down 2 Ethiopians at a church site

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Bereket Simon Dessie, Ethiopia (BBC) — Ethiopian Woyanne police have shot and killed two people who were helping to build a Christian church at a site which is also claimed by Muslims, officials say.

Violence broke out when police tried to stop the construction in Dessie, 250km (155 miles) north-east of Addis Ababa.

The police say they were responding to an attack on them by the Christians, but campaign groups say the police ambushed the workers.

The population of Dessie is about two-thirds Christian, one-third Muslim.

Information Minister Woyanne propaganda chief Bereket Simon told reporters that the Christians had “stormed the place” and tried to continue building the church “unlawfully”.

“Unfortunately three lives have been claimed. Two of them were killed by bullets, one of them fell off a cliff,” he said.

Several other people were also hurt in the violence.

EPPF Worldwide Conference – July 12, 2009

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Ethiopian Review will hold a worldwide teleconference on Sunday, July 12, 2009, at 3:00 PM, with:

1. Ato Melkie Mengiste, Secretary General of EPPF International Committee
2. Ato Sileshi Tilahun, Organizational Head of EPPF International Committee
3. Ato Demis Belete, Head of EPPF’s Press Office and representative of the EPPF Washington Metropolitan Chapter

The purpose of the conference is to provide a forum for EPPF supporters around the world to get first hand information from the organization’s officials on their effort to rally Ethiopians in support of the freedom fighters.

To participate in the conference, register now by sending email to:

eliaskifle@gmail.com

US looks to expand development aid to Ethiopia's dictatorship

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thank you very very much, Obama!

By Peter Heinlein | VOA

The Obama administration is signaling its intention to keep Ethiopia as a key strategic partner, despite concerns about the country’s slide toward authoritarianism. The United States is seeking to expand development assistance to the Ethiopian government.

Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew is making his first trip to East Africa at a time of increasing regional instability.

The United States last week announced it had sent a $10-million shipment of weapons to help shore up the besieged government of Somalia, while accusing neighboring Eritrea of being behind violence aimed at undermining the Somali peace process.

Regional power Ethiopia sent troops in 2006 to prop up the fragile government in Mogadishu, but pulled them out earlier this year, and has expressed a reluctance to return without strong backing from the international community.

Secretary Lew’s stop in Addis Ababa included an hour-long talk with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Afterward, he told reporters the United States sees Ethiopia as an important strategic ally.

“The deep relationship between the United States and Ethiopia is based on a number of shared values, shared concerns,” said Lew. “The strategic relationship remains a very important one, and we value it. I think it is mutually valued by the government of Ethiopia and the government of the United States.”

“So I think we look to a future where we will be able to continue to work together not on just fighting common forces in the world that we think are a threat to each of us, but on a broader agenda where we can make a lasting difference in the quality of life in the life of the Ethiopian people, and by analogy people in many other countries to which we provide foreign assistance,” he added.

The United States last year gave more than $1 billion in aid to Ethiopia, most of it in emergency food assistance, and practically all the rest in programs to fight HIV/AIDS and Malaria. Lew says the Obama administration is looking to broaden the program to include development aid.

“The form assistance that has become the predominant form of assistance is provision of emergency food supplies,” he said. “We think there need to be increased resources available and an increased share of resources going into sustainable development.”

While maintaining the deep bilateral relationship, Secretary Lew says the Obama administration is worried about what is seen as a “closing of political space” in Ethiopia since the controversial 2005 elections. During his talk with Prime Minister Meles, Lew says he made a point of raising the issue of imprisoned Ethiopian opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa.

“I reinforced our concern that the matter be resolved quickly and finally,” he said.

Lew says he also expressed concern about two laws recently passed by Ethiopia’s parliament, one restricting activities of foreign-funded non-governmental organizations, the other limiting press freedom.

“The concerns we raised were the issues of openness that relate to NGOs and freedom of expression remain concerns to us,” he said. “We made that point clear again.”

Lew said his discussions with Prime Minister Meles also touched on a proposed new anti-terrorism law. The group Human Rights Watch issued a statement Tuesday saying the draft law could define criticism of the government as a “terrorist act” and be used to crack down on the opposition.

Former defense minister Siye Abraha to join UDJ

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Former defense minister of Ethiopia’s tribal junta, Ato Siye Abrha, has reportedly disclosed his intention to join the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ), according to Ethiopian Review sources in Addis Ababa.

According to the sources, Ato Siye is waiting to make a formal request to be a member of UDJ until the party finalizes its discussion with the other opposition parties that are in the process of forming a coalition.

Ato Siye was the guest of honor at a UDJ event at Addis Ababa’s Imperial Hotel on Saturday that was held to light candles for Birtukan Mideksa, the jailed leader of the party.

This week marks the 6th month since the Woyanne tribal junta threw Birtukan in jail.

Siye himself was jailed for 6 years after he had a fallout with his former comrade Meles Zenawi.

Ethiopian Review considers Siye an unrepentant Woyanne, but if he is able to peel away Tigrean support from the Meles mafia, his involvement in UDJ could be a plus for the opposition, as long as he doesn’t start to attack Ethiopian freedom fighters such as EPPF and our best ally, the Government of Eritrea.

Ethiopia: The fake patriarch backs off on the Ark

Monday, June 29th, 2009

(WorldNetDaily) –The [fake patriarch] leader of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on Friday backed off on a much-anticipated announcement about the Ark of the Covenant — the ancient container holding the Ten Commandment — which he claims to have seen. But no other evidence or, indeed, even any announcement, was made public today when word had been expected.

Ark hunters and Bible enthusiasts have been buzzing for two days on the report from the Italian news agency Adnkronos that Patriarch Abuna Pauolos Mr. Gebremedhin, in Italy for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI last week, said, “Soon the world will be able to admire the Ark of the Covenant described in the Bible as the container of the tablets of the law that God delivered to Moses and the center of searches and studies for centuries.”

He had suggested the possibility the artifact might be viewable in a planned museum.

“I repeat (the Ark of the Covenant) is in Ethiopia and nobody … knows for how much time. Only God knows,” he said in the Adnkronos report available online.

The report said Pauolos Gebremedhin reported the artifact “is described perfectly in the Bible” and is in good condition.

“The state of conservation is good because it is not made from man’s hand, but is something that God has made,” Pauolos Gebremedhin said, according to the report.

The agency had reported an announcement would be made at the Hotel Aldrovandi in Rome, and a hotel spokeswoman told WND Pauolos Gebremedhin had been in residence there, but no news conference or event was scheduled.

“The Ark of the Covenant is in Ethiopia for many centuries,” said Pauolos Gebremedhin in the report. “As a patriarch I have seen it with my own eyes and only few highly qualified persons could do the same, until now.”

Bob Cornuke, biblical investigator, international explorer and best-selling author, has participated in more than 27 expeditions around the world searching for lost locations described in the Bible. A man some consider a real-life Indiana Jones, he has written a book titled “Relic Quest” about the Ark of the Covenant and participated in History Channel production called “Digging for Truth.”

Next week, Cornuke will travel to Ethiopia for the 13th time since he began his search for the Ark. He told WND he believes it is possible Ethiopia could have the real artifact.

“They either have the Ark of the Covenant or they have a replica that they have believed to be the Ark of the Covenant for 2,000 years,” he said.

Cornuke said, if it is genuine, there’s a plausible explanation of how the Ark may have come to the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Ethiopia.

“The Ark could have been taken out of the temple during the time of the atrocities of Manasseh,” he said. “We have kind of a bread crumb trail that appears to go to Egypt, and it stayed on an island there for a couple hundred years called Elephantine Island. The Ark then was transferred over to Lake Tana in Ethiopia where it stayed on Tana Qirqos Island for 800 years. Then it was taken to Axum, where it is enshrined in a temple today where they don’t let anybody see it.”

Cornuke said he traveled to Tana Qirqos Island and lived with monks who remain there even today.

“They unlocked this big, four-inch thick wood door,” he said. “It opened up to a treasure room, and they showed me meat forks and bowls and things that they say are from Solomon’s temple. When the History Channel did this show, they said it was one of the largest viewed shows. People were fascinated.”

He said Ethiopians consider the Ark to be the ultimate holy object, and the church guards the suspected artifact from the “eyes and pollution of man.”

“In Ethiopia, their whole culture is centered around worshipping this object,” Cornuke said. “Could they have the actual Ark? I think I could make a case that they actually could.”

But according to a statement delivered to WND by the webmaster for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, there is no chance that the religious leaders and people in the nation will give up their custody of what they believe is the Ark.

“I think Abba Pauolos Gebremedhin must be out of his mind. … An (artifact) should not be shown or touched other than the clergies but to put it on display is a reckless comment let alone doing it,” the statement said. “Not only the local clergies but the people of Ethiopia won’t allow it and it is not going to happen.”

The webmaster noted there were artifacts moved from Ethiopia to Britain over the years, and even those are not allowed to be displayed.

Pauolos Gebremedhin in the Adnkronos report said any display would need the approval of the supreme court of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

A spokesman for a U.S. branch of the church, Mehereto Belete of Los Angeles, told WND he had been given no word of any major change in the status of the Ark.

“It is news for us just as it is for you,” he said.

Cornuke explained that a special guardian lives inside the church which reportedly holds the Ark and never leaves. Once a guardian is appointed, he stays until he dies and another man replaces him.

“We know for a fact that there have been 30 guardians in history who have never left that enclosure,” Cornuke said. “I know the guardian. When CNN and BBC went over there, he wouldn’t see anybody but me. So I went and talked to him, and he’s getting very aged. He told me they have the real Ark and he worships 13 hours a day in front of it. When he gets through, he is covered in sweat and he’s exhausted.”

He said he met a 105-year-old man who claimed to have seen the Ark 50 years ago when he was training a replacement guardian.

“It frightened him to death when he got a glimpse of it.”

Cornuke said he also met with the president of Ethiopia nearly nine years ago and had a one-on-one conversation with him in his palace. He asked if Ethiopia had the Ark of the Covenant.

According to Cornuke, the president responded: “Yes, we do. I am the president, and I know. It’s not a copy. It’s the real thing.”

However, Grant Jeffrey, host of TBN’s Bible Prophecy Revealed and well-known author of “Armageddon: Appointment With Destiny,” does not believe claims that the Ark is in Ethiopia. He told WND he spoke extensively with Robert Thompson, former adviser to former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.

Jeffrey said Thompson told him the Ark of the Covenant had been taken to Ethiopia by Menelik, purported son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. When Menelik became emperor, he claims royal priests entrusted him with the Ark of the Covenant because King Solomon was slipping into apostasy. A replica was then left behind in Israel.

“The Ethiopian royal chronicles suggest that for 3,000 years, they had been guarding the ark, knowing that it had to go back to Israel eventually,” Jeffrey said.

He claims that after the Ethiopian civil war, Israel sent in a group of commandos from the tribe of Levi and the carried the Ark onto a plane and back to Israel in 1991.

“It is being held there secretly, waiting in the eyes of the religious leaders of Israel, for a supernatural signal from God to rebuild the temple,” he said. “They are not going to do it before that. When that happens, they will bring the Ark into that temple.”

But author and Bible teacher Chuck Missler, founder of Koinonia House, told WND the theory of Menelik obtaining the Ark is not biblical, though he believes there is a possibility that the Ethiopians may have the real deal.

“The fact that the Ethiopians may have been guarding the Ark of the Bible is very possible,” he said. “They cling to a belief that is clearly not biblical in terms of how the Ark got down there. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have it.”

Missler said there is no biblical basis for the Menelik account, and he believes there was a reason for that version of events.

“What everybody overlooks is that there’s a reason that particular story was cooked up in early times,” he said. “It was to give their kings Solomonic descent. There’s reason why they would try to sell that. But just because the official belief in how it got down there is not biblical, doesn’t mean they don’t have it.”

Tennessee historian and “Time is the Ally of Deceit” author Richard Rives, searched for the Ark and participated in excavations beneath Mount Moriah outside the walls of ancient Jerusalem. His group was trying to verify claims by relic hunter Ron Wyatt that he actually saw the Ark there several decades ago after tunneling through a small passageway.

While they found Roman ruins from the first century, Rives told WND they were unsuccessful in confirming Wyatt’s account. Nonetheless, Rives does not believe the story of Menelik obtaining the artifact or that Ethiopia ever had the real Ark.

“God’s presence was on the mercy seat. That was the throne of God,” he said.

If the account were accurate, Rives said God would have been dwelling on an Ark replica in Jerusalem.

“I just don’t believe they could have persuaded him to sit on a fake Ark of the Covenant,” he said.

Many theories exist about the ultimate fate of the Ark, including that it has been hidden in a still unknown location, it was destroyed by enemies of the Israelites, taken by Egyptian invaders to Egypt or removed by divine intervention.

The quest for the artifact received additional publicity in 1981 when actor Harrison Ford searched for it in Steven Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Cornuke said Ethiopians claim their purported Ark is kept in a large stone sarcophagus lined in ornately hammered silver. The Ark itself is made of acacia wood and laminated with a thin veneer of gold. The mercy seat sits atop the Ark and is made of pure, hammered gold and includes two cherubim facing one another.

Whether the artifact is real or simply a copy, Cornuke said an unveiling might leave the world with more questions than answers.

“We have only typology to go on,” he said. “We could probably have some people analyze the wood samples and come up with some kind of dating protocol on it because it is acacia wood to see if that is it.”

Rives said a close inspection of the Ten Commandments would be necessary to ensure they are in accordance with true text and not later versions of the Ten Commandments.

Cornuke said experts would also need to determine whether the artifact itself fits biblical description and trace its path to Ethiopia.

“We are peeking behind the veil of history,” he said. “We’re taking a glimpse of an artifact that could be a very holy object.”

Welcome to a dying lake!

Monday, June 29th, 2009

By Wondirad Seifu | The Reporter

Lake Abijata is dying, although the Ministry of Culture and Tourism is boasting that it is the country’s sanctuary for a colony of exciting birds. Oddly enough, the Environmental Protection Authority has indexed the lake in its recently published green book, presenting it to parliament as a proof its effort in environmental protection when Abijata Soda Ash Enterprise (ASAE) is diligently harvesting sodium carbonate (soda ash), destroying plants, chasing away birds and depleting the volume of water.

The situation is encouraging NGOs to draw big funds. But they spend the funds mainly for publicity. As usual, the Prime Minister is turning a blind eye to the grave problem facing the lake.

A few years ago, I had participated in a training course on “Environmental Impact Assessment” organized by the Heinrich Boll Foundation. The training was “cooked with fluidly program”, as it was graphically described by its energetic organizers.

In fact, it was generous with stipend, and, since then, I was veritably exposed to the “art of wandering.” Among others, the program constituted a visit to Lake Abijata and its bug, ASAE. Welcome to the dying lake!

Lake Abijata is found in southern Ethiopia along with other Rift Valley lakes: Zeway, Langano and Shalla. It had covered an area of 204 sq. km. in 1984, at 1,578 m. above sea level. It had hosted a variety of colorful birds, which I had never seen in Kenya. It was said that when the training group arrived at the lake, a significant number of bird species migrated abroad for good, probably to Kenya.

As several studies have shown, the birds’ colony continued to diminish day by day as the bio-chemistry of the lake and its holdings continued to be obliterated by ASAE. The factory is using heavy water pumps to suck the lake’s water and spray it on PVC plastic lined ponds with a total area of 150 ha at a depth 25 centimeters. They are like a hot pan in an area where the temperature is over 300 C. The water can be seen with the naked eye as it changes into vapor, leaving its sediments in the ponds.

But each liter of the waste is yielding only about 15 grams on half a spoonful of crude soda ash (trona). Considering the annual capacity of ASAE, 20-30 thousand tonnes, its corresponding quantity of soda ash water demand might be on a par with the content of the controversial would-be hydroelectric dam – Gibe III. Therefore, it must be with God’s grace that the life of the lake is extended to this date. Thanks be, indeed, to God!

Evidently, as you approach the lake, you can trace a layer of water marks circumscribing the lake, formed as the water recedes to the center of the lake. I was probably moving as far as the 10th or 11th chapter of the trajectory. According to the studies, the lake was reduced to 108 sq. km in the 1990s, down from its previous size of 204 sq. km. in 1984. And it keeps shrinking probably to a quarter of the latter because ASAE continues to supply its ill-produced output to the local factories.

Of these, the major one is Caustic Soda Factory (CSF), operating near ASAE. Incidentally, before both factories were installed, caustic soda, chemically known as sodium hydroxide, was produced at the household level in various parts of the country. I saw a number of households using it to boil soda ash with lime powder to yield caustic soda for the purpose of making soaps from animal fat and vegetable oil.

It was this same public technology that scaled itself up to create CSF. Unlike ASAE, CSF has a discharge known as calcium carbonate. It had been idly piled up forming a white mountain in front of CSF’s main gate, though it would have some useful application. Does it have any environmental impact?

The visit was winding up by exploring ASAE’s processing complex, which consists of mainly crushers and packing units, segregated from the ponds. And, under the sunlight, I was forced to hide my head in my coat while following the group like a shepherd. It was then that I discovered blue colored crystals spreading at the doorsteps of the plant’s store.

I was stunned because the same crystal, known as copper sulfate, is used for impregnating wooden poles to protect them from being damaged by termites. To satiate my curiosity I had asked one of the factory’s employees, “What is that blue crystal supposed to do?” He laughed and said, ‘It is used to clean the water pumps.”

This possibly put copper sulfate under the pump’s legs to prevent their blockage by planktons or minced fish. However, in water there is no such local action and hence any soluble matter should lend itself to the law of dissolving. Therefore, the blue crystal must be uniformly distributed in the lake. That is why, as many had claimed, the birds are disappearing. Copper sulfate is harmful to any form of genetic material. Hence, if there is no plankton, there is no fish; if there is no fish, there are no fishing birds. Of course, depletion of the water is the main problem of the lake.

Apparently, ASAE is a living proof of a problem of ignoring environmental impact assessment of a certain economic activity, and it costs an irreversibly damaged environment, perhaps like Lake Abijata.

However, possibilities are not yet exhausted in that the same products of the factories could be produced with a number of alternative technologies, and our chalk and talk chemists would recount them to the fantasy of their counterparts: the timid chemical engineers. Or our trade experts could smartly exploit opportunities in the comparative advantage region.

This might cause inconvenience for the factories’ employees and stakeholders. But, the notorious BPR, which is extravagantly orchestrated by the seemingly parasite institutes, the Capacity Building and Ethiopian Management Institute, would help to generate a host of solutions perhaps in converting the factories into tourist lodges. Just an idea!

In spite of such pros and cons, some have attributed the lake’s problem to be beyond the bounds of human control. They attempt to advance a theory that assumes that the water of the lake seeps into the earth once and for all. It seems a subverting act or taming the shrew to deny this reality. Is really the lake sinking?

Indian EXIM bank to open office in Ethiopia's capital

Monday, June 29th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA — The Export and Import (EXIM) Bank of India is in negotiations with Ethiopian officials about the opening of an East African office in Addis Ababa.

Board directors of the bank have already decided to open their East African office in Addis Ababa so as to support Indian companies’ growing investment in eastern Africa, Indian embassy officials told IANS..

It will be the third office of EXIM Bank in Africa, if it goes ahead.

The bank has two offices in Johannesburg and Dakar, responsible for southern and western Africa respectively.

Water shortage affecting humans, livestock in Somali Region

Monday, June 29th, 2009

By Melaku Demissie | The Reporter

This week’s humanitarian situation update by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that standard nutrition surveys are needed in the affected areas in different regions to assess the scope of the situation.

Reports from some zones in Amhara Region revealed that the nutritional condition of children shows signs of decline. Water shortages in Somali Region are affecting both humans and livestock. The mid-year joint belg/pastoral area national needs assessment began on June 8 in belg-cropping areas and is scheduled to begin on June 22 in pastoral areas. The finding of the assessment will be used to revise identified needs in the humanitarian requirements document.

The food and nutritional security situation remains a source of concern in parts of Amhara, Oromia, Afar, SNNP, Somali and Tigray regions in the wake of the poor performance of belg rains. In Amhara Region, initial reports indicate that the nutritional condition of children in North Wollo and Waghemra zones shows signs of decline.

Standard nutrition surveys are needed in the affected areas to assess the scope of the situation. Meanwhile, Save the Children UK in Bugna and Delanta woredas in North Wollo zone, CONCERN in Werababo and Dessie Zuria woredas in South Wollo zone and World Vision in Efrata and Geramider woredas in North Shoa zone are implementing community-based therapeutic centers (CTC), with support from the Humanitarian Response Fund.

In Somali Region, the approaching close of the gu rains and their poor performance as well as early cessation in several areas raises the potential for water shortages affecting both livestock and humans in pastoralist and agro pastoralist communities, which could exacerbate food insecurity in the region.

In Afar Region, Afar Pastoralist Development Association reports that a number of woredas, including Erebti, Kori and Bidu, Northern, Eli Dar, Afdera, Awra, Gawwaani, Dubti and parts of Mille are experiencing extreme dry conditions, indicating that continued water tankering will be needed.

According to the latest Ethiopia Market Watch issued by the World Food Programme (WFP), general inflation based on the monthly moving average stood at 44.3 percent in April 2009, with food inflation at 57.2 percent and non-food inflation at 24.6 percent. This represents a slight decrease since March 2009, when the general inflation rate stood at 45.2 percent.

While the April 2009 rate remains 24.4 percent higher than in April 2008, the overall trend for the past year has been declining.

Food aid pipeline

With WFP reporting that its relief food pipeline is facing shortages, the prioritization committee comprising government, donor, and UN and NGO representatives working on delivery of relief food met to review the availability of relief food in the country and recommend a course of action for further distributions given limited stocks.

WFP reports that it has approximately 29,000 MT of cereals left in its relief pipeline, while the NGOs’ Joint Emergency Operation Programme has about 70,000 MT arriving in July. The targeted supplementary food pipeline dedicated for addressing moderate malnutrition cases will break in July 2009.

National needs assessment

The mid-year joint belg/pastoral area national needs assessment began on June 8 in belg-cropping areas and is scheduled to begin on June 22 in pastoral areas. The finding of the assessment will be used to revise identified needs in the humanitarian requirements document.

AWD update

According to official reports from the Ministry of Health (MoH), 90 new cases of Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) were reported in 14 woredas of Oromia, SNNP and Harari regions from May 18 to 24. Risk factors including poor hygiene and sanitation practices impede complete containment of the disease.

In response, the Oromia Regional Health Bureau, with technical support from UNICEF and WHO, conducted training on AWD response for 48 health and water personnel from the 12 woredas of West Arsi zone at which a preparedness and response action plan was prepared and presented for discussion.

UNICEF will provide a CTC kit to West Arsi in the coming days, in addition to the three CTC kits and drugs provided in the beginning of May. UNICEF has also provided five CTC kits to SNNPR and dispatched 21,400 bottles of Water-Guard water treatment chemicals, (enough to some 31,860 people for one month) to Konso special woreda.

Meanwhile, WHO continues to provide technical support to affected regions, including Somali, through provision of emergency drug kits, support for assessments and strengthening of surveillance activities.

Hero vs Zero

Monday, June 29th, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

Doublethink, Doublespeak

George Orwell may have understated the situation in the Big Brother totalitarian state of Nineteen Eighty Four: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” He would be amused to learn that in the police state of Two Thousand and Nine Ethiopia, Big Brother has been unceremoniously replaced by THE P-R-O-C-E-S-S!

Jason McClure of Bloomberg News reported last week the capo dictator in Ethiopia had declared that “there is ‘zero’ chance that opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa will be released from prison in time to compete in the elections scheduled for next May. He also said Birtukan’s jailing is not a pretext to eliminate political opposition… The prime minister also defended local elections last year, in which opposition candidates won just three of 3.6 million seats, saying that ‘democracy is about process, it’s not about outcome… If the process is clean and you get zero, tough luck.’” (Italics added.)

Aha! “It’s About Process, Not Outcome!”

It is about process, not outcome. In other words, it is about smoke and mirrors, window dressing. It’s about putting on a show, going through the motions. Democratic elections have nothing to do with the outcome of legitimately elected leaders. They are about the process of putting on a three-ring elections circus so that people can go through the motions of voting for “leaders” who have already been pre-selected and elected for them. By the same token, courts are not about the outcome of impartial administration of justice. They are about manipulating the legal process to serve Just Us. Trials have nothing to do with the outcome of due process, which is truth-finding based on established legal principles, vindicating the innocent and convicting the guilty, or serving the ends of justice. They are about the process of putting on a kangaroo court show to convict the innocent, exonerate the guilty and exalt criminals. Governance is not about the outcome of informed decision-making, practicing the rule of law, effective delivery of public services, accountability, transparency, legitimacy and the rest of it. It is about the exquisite process of clinging to power like blood-sucking ticks on a cow. A constitution is not about the outcome of establishing and permanently securing the rule of law so that citizens are protected from arbitrary and abusive use of government power. It is about the process of ensuring the rule of an outlaw who trashes every known human rights law. Parliaments are not about the outcome of formulating sound laws and public policies in a deliberative legislative forum. They are about the process of rubberstamping the delusions and fantasies of a dictator. Federalism is not about the outcome of a clear division of constitutional power between a national government and constituent political units. It is about setting up a fictitious process called “ethnic federalism” for the purpose of creating deep ethnic, cultural, linguistic and regional cleavages to facilitate dictatorial rule.
It is all about The P-R-O-C-E-S-S, stupid! If you haven’t got it by now “tough luck!”

From Doublethink, Doublespeak to Zerothink, Zerospeak

The age of Big Brother and the dark Orwellian future has been replaced in the brave new Ethiopia of the 21st Century by the age of the Big Processor who communicates through zerothink and zerospeak. It is no longer that “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” For zerothinkers and zerospeakers, the outcome of war that people die or suffer and entire communities are laid to waste is unimportant. What is important is the process of using war to extort economic and military aid from donors to cling to power indefinitely (in zerothink, that would be “forever and ever”). In zerothink, it is not about freedom or slavery. It is certainly not about the outcome of human freedom, which is free thought, free expression, free association, free press, free elections and so on. It is about the process of using the idea of freedom to justify tyranny and brutality, and to hoodwink the rest of the world into believing that dictatorship is the only path to freedom. In zerothink, it is not that ignorance is strength; it is about the planned process of creating and maintaining a nation of ignoramuses by denying them free expression, sound education and a forum for a free exchange of ideas. It is about keeping the population weak, confused, divided and domesticated. It is about the process of locking up the population in the proverbial Tower of Babel where no one speaks the same language or understands each other. In the brave new Ethiopia of zerothink and zero speak, it is all about processing: Central processing of lies; micro-processing of corruption, digital processing of propaganda; physical processing of opponents into torture chambers; network processing among nouveau riche supporters; co-processing of fear and loathing and re-processing of rigged and stolen elections. It is all about using The P-R-O-C-E-S-S to control, pacify and subjugate the population.

But one day, it will all be about service of process!

Zerothink and the Zero Sum Game Process

In the social sciences, scholars use “game theory” to understand the behavior of individuals in strategic situations in which one individual’s success in making choices depends on the choices and actions of others. In a zero-sum game, one person will lose and one person will win. The win (+1) added to the loss (-1) equals zero.

The capo dictator’s statement on the primacy of process over outcome provides a unique window into a particular zero sum game player mindset. The game strategy for the dictators is to ensure that opposition or rival elements always lose while they always win. The dictators have been playing such a zero sum political game in Ethiopia for nearly two decades. As the dictator glibly quipped, “democracy is about process, it’s not about outcome…If the process is clean and you get zero, tough luck.” For two decades, the people of Ethiopia have been forced to play a zero sum game of “process democracy” (or make-believe democracy) and have accumulated a grand total score of zero. The winning formula for the zero sum “elections process” has been finely tuned: Announce a date for “elections” with great fanfare. Set up a process for make- believe elections. Hand select and pre-elect your candidates. Scandalize and demonize your political opponents and rivals. Let people think their votes count. Declare victory before the votes are counted. Announce to the world that “opposition candidates won just three of 3.6 million seats.”

There is a better way. It is a non zero sum game based on a “win-win” strategy in which each side can gain and minimize losses through a process of bargaining, negotiation, compromise and conciliation. The dictators seem to be incapable of understanding or playing a non zero sum game. That is because they perceive the larger society as their enemy while sitting and fretting in their echo chamber of intrigue. They see any one else winning in any matter small or big (political or economic) as a devastating loss to them. They have a mindset of losers. So the real problem is the zero-sum mindset of the dictators. They must undergo a change in mindset and overcome the belief and conviction deeply ingrained in their collective psyche that political opponents committed to democratic principles are not mortal enemies, merely competitors for votes.

In a real democracy, winning and losing for political parties and candidates is the natural order of things. You win some, you lose some. The winners and losers are determined by the people who cast their votes freely, without intimidation, extortion, threats, vote rigging or other fraudulent electoral practices. Losing an election the old fashioned way (through free and fair elections) is not the end of the world in a real democracy; it is merely the stepping stone to the next round of electoral contests. The fact remains that as long as the dictators remain prisoners in their echo chambers of intrigue chained to a zero sum mindset of fear and loathing, there can be no real political change; only missed opportunities. It is conceivable that a few in the dictator’s inner circle understand that the only way they can find the peace of mind and accord with others that has eluded them for nearly two decades is by embracing a multi-party democratic system where rivals are not perceived as enemies but potential partners in a dynamically evolving and shifting competitive political process.

On the other hand, even the most skilled strategic zero sum game players expect perpetual losers to win one day, and win big. What happens then? What happens when the tables are turned and the dictators find themselves on the receiving end? (Admittedly, this question sounds silly to anyone sitting in an invincible echo chamber fortress, but suppose that were so, for the sake of argument.) Indeed, in a zero sum game, the short-term loser may be the winner in the long term by learning to develop skills useful in creating “win-win” situations where through compromise, negotiation and conciliation higher level political and social objectives could be attained. Real democracy is not a zero sum game process. It is a political outcome based on a non zero sum game model. It is not necessary for all to lose and one party to win all the time. It is possible to pursue strategies that produce “win-win” results for everyone. But that is the strategy of the hero.

Hero vs Zero

We are told there is “zero” chance that our heroine, Birtukan Mideksa, “will be released from prison in time to compete in the elections scheduled for next May.” (Translation in zerospeak: “Birtukan is enjoying herself at the exotic, all-inclusive vacation club known as the Kality Resorts, and is unavailable for the mundane business of running for office.” But the fact of the matter is that Birtukan is not interested in participating in an election P-R-O-C-E-S-S. She is not interested in an election process in which the outcome is predetermined now, a year before it is held. She wants no part of an election process where 3 (three) opposition candidates win from among 3.6 million candidates fielded by the dictator’s party. She would rather tough it out with her “tough luck”. Our hero does not want to be part of a zero-sum election process. Truth be told, even in a zero sum game, zero plus zeros equal to zero, not hero!

—–
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

The way forward for Ethiopia and Eritrea

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

By Dawit WoldeGiorgis

I read Neamin Zeleke’s recent article, The Imperative of Ethiopians Dealing with Eritrea, about his reflection and opinions on the future of Ethiopian and Eritrean relationship. I would like to compliment his very wise observation on this very important issue of our times. I believe that not relating with the Eritrean government is a misguided position. Let me explain why based on my own personal experience.

After a rigorous three-year military training in the Haile Selassie I Military Academy I spent my entire military career in Eritrea. I was there as an infantry training and operation officer in the 2nd infantry division for six years. Even after I left Eritrea to attend university, I went back to Eritrea every summer to proudly serve in the army.

I was in Eritrea during and after the federation. During the last day of the federation I was there in Asmara on security mission watching the Eritrean Assembly when they were voting. It was unanimous vote. The Eritrean elites were the first to express their joy. There was in fact a competition within the Eritrean elites to send telegrams and messages to Emperor HaileSelassie expressing their joy and congratulating him.

There were some disgruntled elements that felt excluded from the new dispensation and therefore expressed dissatisfaction for personal reasons — the loss of power and influence. I was there celebrating with the Eritreans the long awaited unity of Eritrea with the mother land. It was an unforgettable moment. There was spontaneous and almost universal rejoicing by the entire Eritrean population. Undoubtedly, the response was genuine. I have gone across the length and breadth of Eritrea and experienced the outpouring of joy over the decision to unite with Ethiopia. Throughout Eritrea, and I have been to every big and small village, there was a sense of exuberance for the few years after the union. Whatever happened after that is completely inconsistent with what the people felt at the time. It suggests that there was a serious mishandling of the federal arrangement and the union that followed. If it had been handled with caution and without haste, things might have been different today.

I was there with my troops at the door step of the police headquarters when the first dissent had its first causality, General Tedla Ekubit, the Eritrean police commander. I was there during the most critical times in the development of the Eritrean rebel forces. I was there as troop commander when the first conflict started between the government troops and the rebel forces (then they were just bandits) because they did not have any political agenda. They were just a band of people headed by Idris Awate, a notorious shifta imprisoned by the British and then escaped to continue banditry act. He was again pardoned and was living peacefully when the newly established ELF recruited him and he went back to do what he had been doing all his life. I was there when he was captured and killed.

I was also there when in September 1956 (Eth. Cal.) our troops suffered their first causality at a place called Haikota, close to Agordat. The ELF took out peaceful soldiers on leave from a public bus and executed them. Until then Eritrea was peaceful. Even after that until the coming of the Derg and its draconian military and security polices, the EPLF did not control a single village or area in Eritrea except the rugged mountains of Nakfa. The EPLF did not enjoy any meaningful support from the population. Despite the fact that the process of uniting Eritrea with Ethiopia was flawed with technical and strategic errors, the people of Eritrea believed sincerely and sometimes manifested in extreme ways that I have not seen anywhere else in Ethiopia. (Refer to my book Kihdet be Dem Meret).

As a soldier, I have been involved in military operations. We were seven young officers, the first of the kind, in those times to come to Eritrea to train the troops. We used to be called Para Commandos, airborne and special force. (After three years in the military academy, few months airborne and a year in advanced infantry school in USA. That was a lot of military training.) All my six colleagues died in the service of the country. I am the only survivor from this pioneer group. For us the sanctity of the flag, the unity of Ethiopia was paramount. It was not questioned and dying for it was a cause to be celebrated. That is how most of the people I worked with in Eritrea and most of the soldiers I knew much later in life lived and died. They were in hundreds of thousands and all died with a smile on their face: because the cause was the flag and the unity of Ethiopia.

I came to the USA for my graduate studies and after the overthrow of Emperor HaileSelassie I returned to Ethiopia. I was an active part of the revolution which I sincerely supported until a certain time. But throughout the times I worked under the Derg I was very close to Eritrea. I followed the situation very closely until I was finally appointed as its governor (the party’s representative) for three years, 1980 to 1983.

When I was governor for three years, my task was to pacify the rebellion and stop people from supporting the EPLF. And indeed, as many who were there at the time would testify, we succeeded to the extent that the EPLF leadership later admitted to me and my colleagues that it was one of the toughest times in their war against Ethiopia. Suddenly young people stopped joining the rebels and many started deserting from the EPLF and joined their families. It was not a miracle nor was it a complicated task. The wisdom is simply treating the Eritrean community as citizens with certain inalienable rights. When we stopped arresting people at random, established the rule of law and treated people on equal terms, people stayed in the country and once again Asmara became bustling metropolitan and other major cities returned to their former status. What we proved was the eternal truth that the major cause of the rebellion was the oppression of the population by successive governments in Addis Ababa. The EPLF and the ELF grew out of the atrocities committed by the Derg and to a certain extent during the Emperor’s era. It became clear to us that the reason why many joined the rebels was not because they really believed that they were not part of Ethiopia but because they were denied their right to live without fear of being persecuted, arrested and tortured and executed. At some point in the history of the Derg this happened routinely. (for more detail refer to Red Tears)

During my tenure as governor, I was convinced that the Eritrean situation could be reversed if we could do less of military and more of governance and rule of law. I also suggested that we recognize the EPLF and engage with it. This created an outrage. Even after I left my country I have been condemned by my closest colleagues of suggesting that Ethiopian government recognize the EPLF and engage it in dialogue. My proposal for dialogue put me in trouble with the military establishment. As the records would show, I had serious confrontations with the then military leadership over this. Key Kokeb was not about war. Key Kokeb was about multifaceted approach for the Eritrean issue. HULEGEB ZEMETCHA. It was hijacked by the military and it launched an all out war which ended disgracefully and my showdown with the military ended with me leaving Eritrea and being assigned as the Commissioner of Relief and Rehabilitation Commission.

After I left the Derg at the end of 1985, I became actively involved in the effort to overthrow the regime through the movement we had established, The Free Ethiopian Soldiers Movement. The first attempt was the failed coup of the generals. I and my colleagues did the external arrangement for the coup. During those times I went into the area controlled by the EPLF in Nakfa. We discussed the role of the EPLF and suggested to EPLF leaders to participate in a transitional government in the post Derg period. EPLF agreed that it will unilaterally implement a cease fire and participate in the transitional government to negotiate the future of Eritrea. After this attempt failed, I was again involved in another similar effort. The EPLF’s position was unchanged. The EPLF was willing to participate in a transitional government of Ethiopia. And this was only a few months before TPLF marched into Addis Ababa. We were about to try once again, but the TPLF rejected the proposal and the attempt was aborted. Throughout these activities against the Derg, my colleagues and I worked very closely with the EPLF leadership. Despite the fact that I was an ardent supporter of unity, an officer who fought them, a governor who condemned them at every available opportunity, my relationship with the EPLF leadership was cordial and constructive.

Sometimes when we talk about the heroism of our forefathers in defending the motherland, we forget that a significant number of Eritreans sacrificed their lives for the defense of our independence against colonialists. How can we talk about the heroic struggle of our ancestors without acknowledging the key role that Eritreans played? For me it is ridiculous to say, We Ethiopians, in the context of history, without including Eritreans.

When, for example, we write and talk about Ras Alula and the battles he fought and won, we must remember that the bulk of his troops were Eritreans and their sacrifice was enormous. As well documented, almost all our external wars came through the Red Sea. Eritrea had always been the frontline for almost all the wars fought against the invaders. Eritrean patriots and Tigreans were part and parcel of these wars against foreign aggressors. Eritreans have always been at the forefront of the wars fought to preserve the independence of and unity of Ethiopia. During the war of resistance against Italian invasion, thousands of Eritrean patriots fought alongside mehal ager arbegnotch. The head of the military of the Black Lion was an Eritrean Colonel Haileab. Eritrean patriots shaped the foreign and military policies and structures after liberation. The first and second foreign ministers were Eritreans. The first ambassador to the UN was an Eritrean. Eritreans played key roles in organizing and modernizing the Ethiopian Armed Forces. There were more than 20 senior Eritrean generals at some point in the Ethiopian armed forces ranging from chief of staff, ground force commanders, air force commanders and division commanders. General Aman Andom was the most prominent among these senior commanders of Eritrean origin. It must also be remembered that considerable percentages of the soldiers in the Army were Eritreans.

During the war fought between the Ethiopian troops and the EPLF/ELF, there was a special Eritrean commando force which proved to be one of the hardest and in fact most brutal of all the forces of the times. The Eritrean militia, like the most wonderful people of Kohayne, fought to the bitter end until the country was taken over by the EPLF. (Refer Khidet be Dem Meret)

It is hard to understand how this center broke from the whole. Perhaps it was because the Eritreans have been exposed to many kinds of propaganda and external interests. Unlike the rest of Ethiopia which was ruled by successive kings and kingdoms, in the Eritrean coast land and at a later phase in its history, in the highlands, the Turks, the Egyptians, the Italians and the British have played some roles in shaping the minds of people. These experiences have left some imprints which influenced the growth of different kinds of political thoughts and alliances.

Throughout my stay in Eritrea as a soldier, and later as Deputy Foreign Minister and then governor of Eritrea, I have delivered many speeches on the unity of Ethiopia, that Eritrea was part of Ethiopia and asking the question if Eritreans are not Ethiopians then who else is? Eritrea is Mehal Ager. It is the center of our civilization and faith, the source of our culture and literature, the place where Ethiopiwinet began. I believed in this and every Eritrean I spoke to at the time believed in this ultimate truth. For me, it was my passion. I grew up taking the unity of Ethiopia and the inviolability of its frontiers as sacred oath not to be broken or questioned. But this oath, this timeless sacred alliance between us and the spirits of our ancestors, hundreds of thousands who died defending this cause, has been brutally ravaged by a bunch of arrogant self-righteous ethno centric individuals who are at the helm of leadership to destroy this unique legacy.

It must also be understood that the cause of Eritrean independence was supported by the student movement for years. I remember I was in New York’s Colombia University in early 1972-74 and I used to participate in student movement meetings. It was fashionable to talk about self determination up to and including secession. Anybody that did not support the cause of the Eritrean struggle was labeled as reactionary. I tried to explain in some meetings why our soldiers are fighting in Eritrea and why it is wrong to condemn them for protecting the unity of Ethiopia. As usual, I was labeled as a reactionary soldier who has been serving the interest of the feudal regime and my concern was dismissed. There is some credence to the claim that the student movement unwittingly allowed itself to be used by forces that had inimical agenda to Ethiopia’s interest.

When I was in the foreign office and later governor, and even when I was the Commissioner for Relief and Rehabilitation, I had meetings with the EPLF in some European countries organized by some NGOs, usually the Red Cross and Scandinavian human rights activists. The main purpose was to negotiate the opening of peace corridor in the conflict areas to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilian population trapped by the conflict. These meetings were not sanctioned by the government because it would be considered treason for anybody to have this kind of communication without the knowledge of the government. The once that were done with government’s knowledge had heavy pre-conditions. It was almost demanding the surrender of the EPLF. It therefore did not go anywhere. Ours was an effort by groups of concerned people who were trying to explore options to this endless war. When I and my colleagues met with the EPLF in very informal settings, they were and have always been very open to options besides full independence. There was no doubt in my mind then that EPLF would have accepted some sort of federation. But the Derg/WPE regime was never prepared to discuss this. I was even more certain about the position of the EPLF after my latter encounters.

After I left Ethiopia the first thing that I and my colleagues did was to establish a movement to overthrow the Derg. In this Eritrea was a key factor. I met the leadership of the EPLF and current President Isaias Afwerki several times in Europe and America and ultimately in Nakfa , through the back door into those parts of Eritrea controlled by the EPLF and meeting the leaders , the very people I have been fighting and condemning for years felt weird to me. That was the time when we were trying to coordinate the external factors with internal preparations for a coup. In an official agreement the EPLF stated that when and if the coup takes place, it will immediately cease fire and be part of the transitional government to discuss the future of Eritrea. True to their words, at the time the coup attempt was taking place, they did a unilateral cease fire and asked us if there is anything that they can do to make the coup successful. They could have taken advantage of the confusion in Eritrea when the commanders were killed and government troops were in disarray, but they did not. They were in constant touch with me and they were very disappointed by the failure of the coup.

A few years later, we tried to make another change from the inside before TPLF went too far. Again, we had discussions with EPLF and TPLF several times. We had completed preparations from the inside and what was needed was for the fighting forces to agree to implement a cease fire and be part of the transitional government. Until April 1991, two months before the TPLF entered Addis and EPLF Asmara, the EPLF supported the idea of making the change from the inside. They agreed after several meetings that they will be willing to stop fighting and participate in the transitional government and discuss the future of Eritrea. As the war continued, it became difficult to get the same kind of agreement from the TPLF. We had several meetings but eventually they sent us a long letter stating that they are heading to Addis Ababa and they asked us to be part of the EPRDF. Of course, we refused. That is when they established their own Free Ethiopian Officers Movement in order to confuse our followers in the military establishment.

The EPLF until the last days believed that the best option was to negotiate with the transitional government that would be established after a successful coup. And they know that the negotiation would not be about independence. I was aware that they were ready for some sort of federal arrangement. I was sure about that.

Besides the misguided policies of successive governments in Ethiopia, and the failure of the military to defend against the breakup of the nation, the overriding factor that eventually led to the independence of Eritrea was the policy of Woyanne. It gave away independence in a silver platter.
Now, if from early on the student movement had supported the secession and made it possible for the EPLF to be a strong internationally acknowledged liberation movement, if the Derg in the name of national unity committed atrocities that alienated a big portion of the Eritrean population, and if Woyanne regime eventually gave away the independence without consulting the Ethiopian people, why should the Eritreans be blamed for it? Why should we create animosity with the Eritrean people?

We have to remember that throughout the period of war between the government troops and EPLF and ELF, there had never been a war amongst the people. It never reached a level of civil war like in other parts of Africa. It was a war that went on for several years between the EPLF/ELF forces and government troops but never a war between the people. I am a living witness and can clearly testify that the war had never affected the relationship between the people. While the war was going on in the mountains, Amharas, Oromos, Tigres, and other ethnic groups lived together in peace, intermarried, helped each other, shared whatever they had and lived nothing less than a harmonious life. Over most Ethiopian troops in Eritrea were married to Eritreans. There are hundreds of thousands of their off springs today all over Ethiopia. Internal conflicts in Ethiopia have always been about power and not ethnicity. To my best recollection, the Tigreans in Gondar used to call themselves first Gonderes and vice versa. It is amazing that after years of war in Eritrea, the relationship between the people was never seriously damaged. It never went to a level of civil war. That is the greatness of the Ethiopian people. It demonstrates how deep our culture, our understanding and levels of tolerance have evolved over the centuries. This bonding between the people was broken by Woyanne. The Woaynne incited hate. It started sawing the seeds of ethnicity not only between the people of Eritrea and the rest of Ethiopia but amongst the Ethiopian people, too. This is indeed the saddest moment in Ethiopian history.

Eritrea is now independent. That reality cannot be reversed by force. There are two things that need to be done.

1. The national security and interest of Ethiopia have been and will continue revolving around three man issues. The Nile, the Red Sea (Eritrea) and Somalia (the Ogaden). Since they are very much interrelated, they could be considered as one. I have explained this in my book Kihdet be Dem Meret. There is no need to do that here. In all this, Eritrea plays a vital role. Ethiopia and Eritrea have a common destiny. Whatever happens in Eritrea will affect Ethiopia and vice versa. Whoever wants to hurt Ethiopia uses Eritrea as stepping stone. Arab Chauvinism (expansionism) and Islamic Fundamentalism have always been real threats to Ethiopia, and Eritrea can possibly turn out to be the main conduit. Therefore, any responsible Ethiopian government will have to develop a policy of peaceful co-existence with Eritrea and go even further and ensure that Eritrea remains a stable, peaceful and independent ally of Ethiopia. And this can only be done through diplomacy and not confrontation.

2. Whatever the policies of current governments may be, the people of Ethiopia and Eritrea are one people. We cannot and need not live apart. Our genes, our culture, language and history are identical. There are no people on earth that are closer to Ethiopians than the Eritreans and vice versa. We are destined to live together. Therefore the effort should be not to allow politics to change our historical oneness but to work towards integration. The will and conviction of people is mightier than the sword and we will beat the ethno- centricity and be once again one people. There needs to be a conscious effort by civil society groups to bring the two people together despite the politics in their respective countries.

The national interest of Ethiopia can be packed into three major issues.

1. The inviolability of state frontiers (territorial integrity)
2. The unity of the Ethiopian people
3. Freedom of its people

Our relationship with Eritrea should be based on these three fundamentals. If the Eritrean government respects the above fundamental principles and is willing to agree on polices that promote peace and development in order to create the necessary conditions for the union of the two people, then there would be no reason why Ethiopians of any group should not establish relationship with the government of Eritrea. Likewise, Ethiopians of all groups should recognize the sovereignty of Eritrea and work towards the fulfillment of our common aspirations.

After what I have done and spoken for most of my life, it has been difficult to swallow the reality that Eritrea is now an independent country. But I have to face the reality like many of us and look beyond. The reality of today and tomorrow should be on how we can advance the interests of our people in the context of this new reality. We might or might not agree with the policies of the current government in Eritrea. The relationship of the people outlasts leaders and their polices. We should therefore strengthen the foundations of our historical relationship and be careful not to be the victims of the poisonous propaganda by Woyanne. Meles Zenawi has attempted to define what Ethiopiawinet is and what Eritreayawinet is in his own terms and based on his own interests. The truth is: there is no drawing line. His own identity and that of his trusted advisers are testimonies of this reality and truth. It is only the governments that are two. The people have been one and are one. All responsible Ethiopians and Eritreans should endeavor to up hold this truth and reinforce it by focusing on what binds us together rather than what divides us.

As a neighbor with vested interest in Eritrean affairs, Ethiopians can only take hard positions when the steps being taken by the Eritrean government violates the fundamental principles of our relationship and endangers our peace and security. The current government has emphatically stated that it will not violate these principles and, in fact, it will be willing to work toward the building of a stable Ethiopia. I believed earlier that Eritrea was trying to strengthen its economy and its standing in the region at the expense of Ethiopia. It was my impression that Eritrea wanted a weak Ethiopia that is divided and not capable of posing any threat to Eritrea. This might have been true at some point in its existence. But I believe that Eritrean government realizes now that destabilizing Ethiopia will only bound to hurt it more and will not be in the best interest of the people and the government of Eritrea. Ethiopians are already angry that Eritrea seceded, and for it to go beyond that and try to destabilize Ethiopia will evoke greater anger that could justify conflict. It is wise for Eritrea to adjust to realities and work hard for peaceful co- existence which acknowledges mutual interests. Neither side should try to destabilize the other. Eritrea and Ethiopia can prosper in a peaceful co-existence with each other. Eritrea’s security can be guaranteed through a good relationship with a much stronger Ethiopia. The free movement between the two countries will further strengthen the unity of its people possibly leading to some sort of political union. Eritreans and Ethiopians can’t hide from the truth. No matter what is being written and being told, we are one people with common history, common enemies, common threats and interests.
Today, the issue is Woynne and not Eritrea. For Ethiopians as well as for Eritreans, Woyanne is a threat. Remove Woyanne and Ethiopians and Eritreans can breathe a sigh of relief and begin a new relationship based on mutual respect and working towards unifying the people. Assab is negotiable. Badme is negotiable. As President Isaias stated, “the sky is the limit.” Knowing how the Eritreans are straightforward and consistent in their words and deeds, there is no reason to suspect that his statement is one of a political gimmicks.

A friend of mine sent me the following e-mail on the issue:

I did not say that we should not engage — what I said is that our assessment of Eritrea’s intention should not be based on the assumption that the current leadership would like to see “a strong, united and democratic Ethiopia.” Their own history has evolved to the extent that an apparent state of paranoia has set in, and by all indications of their regional engagement in the region, we cannot escape this conclusion. However, it does not, by any means suggest that we should not engage them.

Why do we believe them? We don’t have to. Relationship with the Government of Eritrea for a common cause needs to be built, of course, in the framework of our fundamental interests outlined above. If they cannot translate their words in to deeds, they will be the losers, too. Ethiopians sooner or later will get rid of Woyanne and will come out stronger from this tragic political impasse. I am inclined to believe Eritreans because there is simply no option at this time except peaceful coexistence. The initial problem with the Eritrean elites was recognition. It seems now that most Ethiopians have taken this bitter pill and accepted that Eritrea is an independent state.

Woyanne cooperated in the drive for the independence Eritrea. But it now wants to manipulate Eritrea and make it surrender to its will. Woyanne cannot dupe the Ethiopians by false sense of patriotism over peripheral issues like Badme. Today, the issue is the survival of Ethiopia as we have known it and as it should be. Woyanne is destroying the fabrics of the Ethiopian society by bringing back a Bantustanisation policy from the junk yards of African history, by introducing ethnic politics and dividing people along ethnic lines, slicing our land and giving it away, unleashing poverty the kind that has not been seen in our history, arresting and torturing political opponents, perpetuating a dictatorship by a few Tigrean elite people from Adwa, Axum and Shire, facilitating the spread of fundamentalism and creating hostility with the Muslim world with whom we had a carefully crafted cordial relationship for decades. Woyanne has made Ethiopia technologically the most backward country in the world. Certainly and unequivocally Ethiopia is in grave danger.

The history of Ethiopia has been about winners and leaders. It was so during the times of the monarchies, was so during the time of the Derg, and has been so now. Our genuine historians had to dig a lot to bring the truth out and popularize it. It has not been an easy task. Once again, Woyanne is rewriting history. Great weight must be given to the damage that will be caused on the younger generation if we allow this distortion to continue unabated. At some point, it might have served a purpose, but now that we are talking about the two people living and working together, we have to design a relationship between the people that will facilitate the truth to be told. The two people have been one and need to be one for more than one reason. With truth there will be no losers but winners. Our destinies are inextricably tied to each other. Those of us who have lived long enough know and understand the truth but the new generation is exposed to the history of denial. The truth will only make us stronger in pursuing our common interest. Emotions must subside and give way to pragmatism. We have to work very closely with our Eritrean brothers and sisters to get rid of Woyanne and establish a new era of peaceful co existence, common prosperity that will lead to a reunion of our people. And this must start from the streets, the restaurants, the clubs, churches and various forums in Ethiopia, Eritrea, America, USA and Africa.

At one point, I was discussing with the leader of the EPLF, the current President of Eritrea, Isaias Afewerki. I asked him why instead of partitioning Ethiopia, he does not become the President of Ethiopia. He gave me some reason why this would not be possible but assured me: “You can be certain, Mr. Dawit, that if and when we get our independence, our priority will be to unite the people under some sort of federal arrangement.”

Former Ethiopian Navy Association annual conference

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

The annual conference of Former Ethiopian Navy Association will be held in Chicago, Thursday, July 2, 2009.

Place:The Westin O’Hare Hotel, Madison Room
Address: 6100 North River Road · Rosemont, Illinois
Date/Time: Thursday, July 2, at 2:00 PM

Free Birtukan Taskforce formed

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

The Free Birtukan and all Political Prisoners taskforce announces a major milestone in its effort to free Ms. Birtukan Mideksa and all political prisoners. The taskforce will officially launch its operations on Sunday, June 28, 2009 in a major public event to be hosted at the Washington Marriott in Washington DC. In addition to the residents of the Washington metro area, the event will be attended by various civic organizations, human rights advocacy groups, women’s organizations, and humanitarian support groups. Among the scheduled activities for the event are speeches and discussions by invited guests as well as a documentary film about the treatment of political prisoners in Ethiopia in general and that of Ms Birtukan Mideksa in particular.

On this day, the taskforce will also officially launch its website, freebirtukan.org. The taskforce recognizes that the web site will be instrumental in bringing people together for common action against the unjust incarceration of prisoner of conscience Birtukan Mideksa and all political prisoners in Ethiopia. In addition, the web site will provide information about Birtukan Mideksa, her legal status, the facts surrounding her re-imprisonment, and the Ethiopian government’s record on human rights and the abuse of political prisoners.

The website will be an indispensible tool to mobilize a grassroots campaign for the immediate and unconditional release of UDJ Chairwoman Birtukan Mideksa and other political prisoners who are currently suffering at the hands of the tyrant regime. This website is also designed to play a key role in communicating urgent and crucial information, align resources with all pro-democracy opposition parties and civic organizations, Link/Connect our resources globally, and organize worldwide rallies to bring about the release of all political prisoners who are currently incarcerated by the tyrant regime.

We are sharing the new website link, freebirtukan.org, so that you could post the link on your website, distribute it to your email list, or announce it on the radio to your readers or listeners.

Your assistance, feedback, and contribution to this cause are greatly appreciated.

Date: Sunday, June 28, 2009
Time: 2:30 PM
Location: Washington Marriott, 1221 22nd St NW, Washington, DC 20037

Free Birtukan Mideksa and All Political Prisoners Taskforce
www.freebirtukan.org

Repercussions of power cuts in Ethiopia

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

By Hayal Alemayehu | The Reporter

When the Ethiopian Electric and Power Corporation (EEPCo) instituted nationwide power shedding in March and consequently ordered high-power consuming plants not to use power a month later, Mugher Cement Enterprise did not consider the power cut as a threat because it was notified by the corporation that the power cut will last for a month.

The corporation has, however, literally blocked some 100 high-power consuming factories, including Mugher cement, from production since May for about two months now, which may translate to a significant loss of revenue (and even bankruptcy at its worst) for the enterprises, according to industry observers.

“We did not consider the one-month power cut because we usually suspend production for about a month in a year in order to run maintenance and overhaul activities,” Elias Kifle, project manager of Mugher Cement Enterprises, told The Reporter. “But if the power blockage exceeds the one-month period, we will definitely register loss.”

In fact, the power cut has extended beyond schedule and the country’s cement producing giant and the other big enterprises are set to lose hundreds of millions of birr in lost revenue, with some of them expected to go bankrupt, according to economic observers.

The power cut will cost Mugher cement alone over 150 million birr in lost revenue for just a period of one month. The factory produces 900,000 Qt of cement a month on average and sells a quintal for 167 birr. Now that it has completely halted production for about two months, things may get even worse, according to inside sources.

Some 900 km away from Mugher, Messebo Cement Factory, the second biggest cement maker in the country, has been suffering from the same problem since May. Being one of the 100 high-power consuming enterprises in the country, the power cut has slashed some 60 percent of its production.

“The power interruption has affected our production,” Asam Eziz, the general manger of Messebo cement says. “It has made us lose some 60 percent of our production.” The manager is, however, reserved from mentioning whether or not the situation will lead it to bankruptcy or lose or how much the power cut will cost him in lost revenues.

Mugher’s and Messebo’s product constitutes over 95 percent of the local production, and the fact that the two cement makers have literally stopped production is now dearly affecting the construction industry.

While the local demand for cement is expected to be 3.5 to five million tonnes, the domestic production is less than 1.7 million tonnes, leaving a huge supply/demand gap.

And the fact that the two cement factories stopped or highly reduced production has exacerbated the cement shortage and skyrocketed its prices.

Days after Mugher stopped production, the price of cement had shot up by some 15 percent to hit 340 birr a quintal. That price has now reached 390 birr.

Some of the construction activities undertaken in Addis Ababa and the regions outside have been either suspended or slowed down partly owing to the shortage of cement or its exorbitant prices.

The power cut, which has mainly been adversely affecting the manufacturing industry as well as the service sector, is now proving its might in undermining the general economy, and this has received better attention than the social impact the blackout entails, at least for now.

Only this week, Prime Minister Meles has told a foreign press that the power shedding has trimmed the country’s GDP forecast for this fiscal year ending July by close to one percentage point to 10.1 percent. (Despite the IMF’s 6.5 percent GDP growth projection for the country, the government had earlier on announced an 11.2 GDP forecast.)

Scores of manufacturing companies have suspended production while many of them are expected to declare loss and/or bankruptcy for this fiscal year, according to industry observers.

Of the major sector dearly affected by the outages, the plastic manufacturing industry is at the forefront. This sector, which almost entirely relies on raw materials imports, has been suffering from the shortage of foreign currency. And the power cut is almost crippling the industry, according to observers.

“We have stopped production since June 8 while the employees of the companies are on a forced leave,” a higher official of Geo-synthetic Industrial Works (GIW), one of the biggest and the first of its type plastic factory (producing geo-synthetic products) in the country, told The Reporter on the condition of anonymity. If the power problem persists for the coming weeks as is currently expected, GIW, an Ethio-America join venture establishment, and similar companies are most likely to go out of the market or go bankrupt, according to industry observers.

Many in the manufacturing sector, which currently accounts for a small portion of the GDP compared to the agricultural and service sectors, are more than clearly suffering from the power blackout. However, a few seem to overcome the challenge. While most companies in the beverage sector find it difficult to cope with the power shedding, beer maker BGI seem to be doing fine by substituting the shedding with power from diesel generators and running its business us usual. “The power cut did not as such affect the volume of our production because we are substituting the shedding with generator power,” according to Surafel Allen, the company’s sales manager. “In fact, we have this year raised our production by 10,000 hecto liters and have program to launch an expansion project next year.”

Aside from losses in revenues, taxes and profits, the outages are expected to result in job cuts as manufacturing companies and enterprises stop production.

Fortunately, not much layoff associated with the power cut has been observed, at least so far. “One of the biggest fear was there will be more and more job cuts,” Kassahun Follo, president of the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Union (CETU), told The Reporter. “But there is not much layoff observed in connection with the power shedding.”

“There are 562 companies and enterprises that are members of CETU, including state-owned organizations,” Kassan said. “Of these, only two (Super Chain and Country Development Plc) are reported to have cut jobs while a few construction companies have sacked temporary workers due to shortage of cement emanating from the power cut.”

All the same, if the power crisis is not resolved in time, things may get worse, the president said.

Owing to the steadily rising investment particularly in the manufacturing sector, the power demand has been increasing over the past decade, thereby further widening the power supply/demand gap significantly, according to officials of EEPCo.

EEPCo’s electrification program and the inefficient bulbs widely in use in the country currently are the other elements for the increasing power demand, according EEPCo’s officials. Lack of funding for hydropower projects from donor countries and the World Bank is the other major factor that gave way to the current power crises, according to the officials of EEPCO and Prime Minster Meles’s recent statement to the Financial Times.

Critics, however, say that the corporation could have helped to mitigate the power crises by employing various power resources like geothermal and the costly wind power and by strictly following up the ongoing hydropower projects to avoid “the redundantly” observed in project delays.

The power supply/demand gap is currently growing by some 24 percent while the current total power output stands at 870 MW.

With the power shortage reaching 200 MW this month, the power challenge is expected to stay for the coming months, until the much talked about and delayed GibeII hydro project (with an installed capacity of 460 MW) and the other much delayed Tekeze hydro-power project (with an installed capacity of 300 MW) comes to life, perhaps in the coming months.

The Ark is not going to be revealed, says Gebremedhin

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Yesterday, millions were waiting to watch eagerly the Ark of the Covenant revealed. A day passed but it was not made public. “No, the ark is not going to be revealed. Nobody could touch it. If you do so, God will smite you.” Abune Paulos Aba Gebremedhin said.

Paulos puts the blame on the Adnkronos journal, which originally posted the news, and rectification later on.

“…I am here to say what I saw, what I know and I can testify. I did not say that the Ark will be shown to the world.” Paulos is quoted to say on Adnkronos web site site.

Paulos also talked of building a museum in Axum, a structure that will receive and retain the treasures built for centuries and centuries to Axum, the news posted on Adnkronos site revealed.

The museum, funded by the foundation of the prince and that should be built within two years, could also be placed the Ark of the Covenant, but this needs to be decided by the Holy Synod, the supreme body of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, according to Aba Gebremedhin.

- EMF

The sad but funny aspects of Ethiopia's parliament

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (EthioPolitics.com) — Reporter – Most of the time, MPs or journalists attending parliamentary sessions are accustomed to witnessing MPs belonging to the ruling party EPRDF raising their hands, almost without exception, in favour of passing any motion tolled on the floor. But on Thursday out of a habit of raising their hands for the Yal, they practically voted nae against the wishes of the leaders of their party.

Parliament was discussing a bill amending the National Flag Proclamation, and at the last moment, yielding to comments made by the opposition MPs, EPRDF’s deputy whip proposed to postpose the draft amendment from being referred to one of the standing committees. So EPRDF MPs should have voted against referring the bill to the standing committee.

But out of habit, they raised their hands for referring it to the committees, and they had to lower their hands when they saw the disapproval look from senior members of the party who were sitting in the front row which caused laughter among attendees.

Somali navy chief: World's worst job?

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

By Will Ross | BBC

If you think you face an uphill challenge at work today, spare a thought for Farah Ahmed Omar, the man in charge of Somalia’s navy.

He has neither boats nor equipment and admits he has not been to sea for 23 years.

The interim government does not control much of the 3,000-km (1,860-mile) Somali coastline and then there is the headache of plentiful pirates.

Mr Omar said he was first put in charge of the navy in 1982, but speaking to the BBC by phone from the capital, Mogadishu, he did not sound too daunted by the task ahead.

“Today there is a big piracy problem and we are ashamed. But we think they [the pirates] don’t have sophisticated equipment as they just have fishing boats and small arms which are easy to get in Somalia,” he said.

See map of how piracy is affecting the region and countries around the world

Somalia’s navy chief said 500 new recruits had recently joined after adverts were aired through radio stations and the men would be paid $60 (£36) per month.

Presumably the training will be classroom-based, given the situation at sea.

The country has been without an effective central government for the best part of two decades, since the ousting of Siad Barre.

And this power vacuum has allowed the pirates to flourish as they demand multimillion dollar ransoms from passing ships.

More than 20 international vessels – operating under US, EU and Nato commands – patrol the seas off Somalia in an attempt to protect the vital shipping route.

The interim government seems to think it could do a better job, provided it was given a helping hand.

Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke said on a recent trip to Nairobi: “If 5% of the money being spent on the warships guarding those waters could be spent on building a security force that deals with the piracy, this could be much more effective because these guys have bases on the land and the best way to deal with them is to deny them a safe haven there.”

It is widely accepted that patrols at sea are not enough and the key to ending piracy is on land by targeting the pirates’ bases.

The prime minister appeared to be ignoring the fact that government troops are far from welcome at those bases, such as Harardhere, to the north of Mogadishu.

Another notorious pirates’ lair, Eyl, is in Puntland, which has broken away from Somalia altogether.

Coastguard ‘turncoats’

But the international community may be smarting from previous mistakes and reluctant to turn on the funding taps.

File pic of Puntland police guarding captured Somali pirates in Bossasso, Somalia

“Previous efforts at security sector reform have seen money disappear into a black hole as there was no accountability,” says Rashid Abdi, a Somalia analyst for the International Crisis Group.

“Plus there is evidence that some of the people trained to tackle piracy as coastguards in Puntland ended up working as pirates themselves.”

Once upon a time Somalia had a proud navy which the Soviet Union had helped establish in the 1960s, with bases at Mogadishu and Kismayo.

During the Cold War the Soviets turned the port of Berbera into an important base that included a missile storage facility for the Soviet navy to counter United States military activities in the region.

But it was not just Russian assistance that helped build the Somali navy back then.

‘Give us one year’

When Somalia cut ties with the Soviet Union in 1977 (because of Russian support for Somalia’s arch rival Ethiopia), Mogadishu signed a deal with Washington three years later.

It gave the US access to Somali ports and airfields in exchange for tens of millions of dollars in military equipment and aid in subsequent years.

“We used to be among the top navies in Africa. We had ships that carried deadly missiles and we had 10 battalions covering the whole coast,” said Mr Omar.

The navy has not been operational since the country descended into violence in 1991, but its commander predicts a Somali naval renaissance.

“The international community should give us one year and let them see what we are going to do,” he said.

“I can promise on behalf of the government that I will eradicate piracy within that period if only they give us the resources and support in terms equipment.

“That way the international community could be relieved of the burden.”

Mr Omar has certainly had time on his hands whilst the navy has been boat-less and sailor-less.

He set up his own university and has also been a professor of economics.

Perhaps a lecture on the economic cost of choosing to be a sailor on $60 a month, rather than a potentially rich pirate will be part of the training.

New Ethiopia bill violates international human rights treaties

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

By Kirubel Tadesse | Ethiopolitics.com

Capital – A new anti-terrorism bill endorsed by cabinet recently will allow hearsay evidence on terrorism suspects’ trials, if accepted by parliament, the Government announced last Monday.

Law scholars say the move would violate international human rights treaties the nation ratified and made part of its constitution.

Prepared by the National Intelligence and Security Service, the anti-terrorism bill was endorsed by the Council of Ministers on May 27.

Ermias Legesse, State Minister at the Government Communication Affairs Office, told journalists last Monday, the bill will establish a national anti-terrorism committee to be set up by the Intelligence, Security Service, Justice Ministry and Federal Police, who are each to set up a special division in their own institutions too.

Government said the bill would not only allow better cooperation with allies to fight terrorism, but would also create an effective system for law enforcing agencies and the judiciary to best protect the nation from the threats and attacks it has repeatedly endured during the past years.

Ermias explained the bill followed similar laws in a number of countries and is based upon up to 12 international treaties.

Parliament is the body that has been given the power to label an organisation as a terrorist group. Ermias said this was done since terrorism acts may involve some political groups and therefore parliament, rather than the executive, should make the decision.

In England, the Prime Minister determines if a group is a terrorist organisation or not, while in the US it is the State Department that has full authority on the matter. Ethiopian parliament will use the bill’s definition to determine if a group should be labeled as a terrorist. The new bill, according to Ermias, defines terrorism as activities that try to impose political, religious or ideological beliefs into the public, or the Government, by force.

While the bill would hold everyone legally accountable for failing to report terrorism acts in progress, it puts a condition on house and car rental services to notify police of the identity of their clients within 24 hours.

Changing the 14 day period police now have to investigate criminal case after putting suspects in custody, the new bill will allow police not only to ask courts an extension period of a minimum of 28 days and a maximum total additional time of four months investigation periods, but empowers it to make arrests without a court warrant.

The most contentious article is the one that allows hearsay evidence in trials of terrorism suspects. Shimeles Kemal, State Minister at the Government Communication Affairs Office, who was also a federal prosecutor, says existing laws don’t ban hearsay evidences: “There are different approaches internationally on hearsay evidence. For example, in the United States there are exceptions where hearsay evidence becomes admissible,” Shimeles explained, adding that the bill complies with existing laws and allows hearsay evidence, taking the very complicated nature of terrorism acts and operations in to consideration.

One law of evidence lecturer agrees. “The existing stipulation that says witnesses can testify their direct and indirect knowledge rather opens door for argument that in fact the law allows hearsay evidence since these evidences are naturally not direct knowledge which is allowed by law.

“However, the practice has been that some courts regard hearsay evidence inadmissible, while others either accept it fully, or consider it as collaborative evidence, but the latter practice was always opposed since it violates the constitutional right of suspects, a right to confront, where suspects can cross examine the testimony, which is impossible in hearsay evidence, since the witness is explaining what they heard other people saying,” the scholar explained to Capital.

The scholar added that to allow hearsay evidence would violate a number of human rights treaties Ethiopia has made part of its constitution.

“The UN led treaties say member states can not deny terrorism suspects’ fair trial as such kind of rights are non-derogable rights, which can not be suspended even in time of war, public danger, or emergency. Fair trial is the one that lets the suspect exercise guaranteed rights those by Ethiopian constitution which stipulates accused persons have the right to full access to any evidence presented against them, to examine witnesses testifying against them,” another scholar with same view argues, adding that hearsay evidence violates constitutional rights.

After the cabinet’s amendments are adopted, parliament will vote on the proclamation. The house has a record of endorsing cabinet approved bills without major amendments.

First English FM Radio On Air in Ethiopia's capital

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

(Addis Fortune) — Ehiopia’s first FM radio station broadcasting in the English language began pre-test broadcasting approximately a week ago.

The station, run by Paconet Media Plc, incorporated in January 2008 with an initial capital of about 3 million Br, originally planned to turn on its transmitters September 1, 2008. However it experienced delay and began the six-day test broadcast May 29, 2009.

Paconet is owned by Addis Alemayehou and his wife, Martha Wondimu. Addis is the chief of party of VEGA Ethiopia, a USAID programme that assists private companies in Ethiopia in effectively exploiting AGOA opportunities.

The family owned company was licensed by the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority in March 2008 to start the radio station on FM band 105.3. AfroFM plans to officially inaugurate its radio station within the coming 60 days, Addis told Fortune.

The station now airs mainly infotainment content with a mix of local and international news from 6:00am up to midnight. The station plans to work with other local media organizations for content development.

“Obviously this type of business is not something that we are going to do alone,” Addis, major shareholder and managing director of Paconet, said. “So we need other media and individuals to work with us in terms if sharing ideas and content development for the new local radio station.”

Though, at the moment, Paconet’s station broadcasts for 18 hours a day, the company plans to eventually broadcast 24 hours seven days a week.

The air time expansion will depend on the availability of content; the content will also be accessible on the station’s yet to be developed website, according to Addis.

The transmitter and other studio equipment were imported from Britain and Italy four weeks ago, the Managing Director said.

The foundation of this radio station is based on the owner’s belief that the international community in Addis Abeba has no way of knowing what is happening in the city because there is no media providing them continuous information in a language they can understand.

The target audience is made up of emerging foreign investors and the Diaspora in Addis Ababa – the seat of the African Union (AU), United Nation Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and other international organizations that make the city the world’s largest diplomatic community out side of New York, with over 100 diplomatic missions. Addis states that he is not only trying to target foreign nationals, but the news coverage of AfroFM will focus on local business, politics, entertainment and other socio-cultural affairs as well.

Addis claims that he has been trying to start the English language FM for eight years but could not get the green light from authorities until last year.

Addis Alemayehou, who grew up in Kenya and moved to Canada before he came back home to Ethiopia, says the foreign community has so far been neglected by the media in Ethiopia. Though AfroFM is the first ever English private broadcasting service in Ethiopia, the Amharic commercial broadcasting in Addis Abeba has been dominated by prior stations like FanaFM, ShegerFM, ZamiFM and AddisFM in the past few years. There are also four community broadcasting services in Ethiopia – Kore, Kambata, Bonga and Jimma. Public broadcasting services have been awarded only to federal and regional government running , radio stations .

The full operation of the new radio station is expected to create 15 to 30 job opportunities, according to its owners.

Africa alone could feed the world

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

DOOM-MONGERS have got it wrong – there is enough space in the world to produce the extra food needed to feed a growing population. And contrary to expectation, most of it can be grown in Africa, say two international reports published this week.

The first, projecting 10 years into the future from last year’s food crisis, which saw the price of food soar, says that there is plenty of unused, fertile land available to grow more crops.

“Some 1.6 billion hectares could be added to the current 1.4 billion hectares of crop land [in the world], and over half of the additionally available land is found in Africa and Latin America,” concludes the report, compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

If further evidence were needed, it comes in a second report, launched jointly by the FAO and the World Bank. It concludes that 400 million hectares, straddling 25 African countries, are suitable for farming.

Models for producing new crop land already exist in Thailand, where land originally deemed agriculturally unpromising, due to irrigation problems and infertile soil, has been transformed into a cornucopia by smallholder farmers.

As in Thailand, future success will come by using agriculture to lift Africa’s smallholder farmers out of poverty, aided by strong government measures to guarantee their rights to land, say both reports.

Power rationing forces shutting down of Ethiopian businesses

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Ethiopolitics.com) — Many businesses in Ethiopia have been forced to close temporarily because of power rationing which began in April.

Cement, metal and other big factories suspended their activities last month due to the power shortage that has hit the country due to the poor rains in the last year rainy season.

Due to the power rationing program, many businesses and residential houses are with out electricity for three days in a week for 16 hours each time.

Small business like internet cafés, restaurants and supermarkets have been affected seriously since the past two months.

“It is really challenging to continue my business with such situation. I am paying rent without getting any income since the past two months,” said Meseret Tesema who runs a café in Addis Ababa.

Those who can afford are running their businesses using diesel generators, which is also challenging due to the high price of diesel.

“I was trying to run my beauty salon with generator service. But it became very expensive to charge my customers with all my expenses. I stopped using generator,” said Almaz Mekibib, a beauty salon owner.

Ethiopian Electric and Power Corporation has said the situation will return to normal next month.

Features of a fully blown tyranny before its demise

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

By Kiflu Hussain

“There are no good dictators. But some are better than others. The best dictators permit freedom of expression, rule of law and economic growth, creating a democratic minded middle class that eventually pushes them aside. The worst dictators, by contrast, grind down civil society, breeding poverty and sectarian hatred and pulverizing all the institutions from which liberalism might grow. The worst dictators eventually leave too, but when they do, all hell breaks loose.”

So said one called Peter Beinart on 6 August 2007 in a piece he wrote to Time Magazine under the title “How to deal with dictators.” At the time, he was outlining his ideas for the US administration on what is the best course to deal with one of Washington’s friendliest dictator, Pervez Musharraf, by drawing historical parallels between South Korea which evolved from a benevolent dictatorship into a democracy and Iraq which degenerated from a fully blown dictatorship into a killing field for sectarian violence to the point of abdicating its sovereignty to a superpower. After having read the writings on the wall, Musharraf, as we know it today, has left from the political landscape of Pakistan gracefully thereby prompting the ever prolific pen of Prof. Alemayehu G.Mariam to wonder as to whether dictators somehow become statesmen; also whether Musharraf had been a closet statesman all these years? (Read “Gotta know when to fold’em” 25 August 2008)

In Africa too, we have seen these kinds of dictators who got transformed from a military dictatorship into a statesmanship ranging from Lt. Jerry Rawlings of Ghana to General Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria. Others currently in power in most African nations too, manifest this positive signs of transforming themselves into statesmanship whenever their respective country requires it. They show the wisdom on how to blow with the wind of governance by consent. That’s why right after the Kenyan election debacle, the incumbent led by Mwai Kibaki got back to its senses and sat down with the opposition to form the coalition government for the good of Kenya. Even that octogenarian dictator of Zimbabwe who has been the object of unabashed vilification by the western media didn’t mess that much with the independence of the judiciary, nor the press.

On the contrary, where so-called judges and prosecutors in Ethiopia take blind orders from Meles Zenawi, Judges in Harare grant bail and also turn in a not guilty verdict for the adversaries of the Mugabe government. While you see gruesome pictures of Zimbabwean victims of “cholera” on CNN, you’ll be told in a hushed tone by a BBC Correspondent in Addis that the Ethiopian government/regime in my lexicon/prevented them from taking pictures and the matter rests at that.

In Uganda, where this writer has taken refuge since 2007, people complain vociferously that their president is a dictator.Indeed, according to my observation; he has the inclinations of a dictator. Unlike Ethiopia, though, let alone Ugandans, I the refugee suffer no consequence for saying so. People in Kampala get away everyday with obnoxious expressions on the numerous FM Stations and TV channels on any topic. Of course, abuses take place but not with impunity.And, when they do, those behind them will be made answerable for it.Recently, for instance, Human Rights Watch grilled the Ugandan government for the disappearance and torture of a couple guys in a secret detention centre run by the army. The American lady who did the research presented her findings right here in Kampala. Later, she was put on a talk show on FM and TV with the army spokesperson. The spokesperson, Major Felix Kulaigye was humble when defending the position of his government. I can go citing incidents like this from the Ugandan political landscape. The bottom line is; can any Ethiopian imagine such a scenario under the regime of Meles Zenawi?

The bare fact is, the Ethiopian regime even by African standards, is a relic of history belonging to barbarism. Being barbaric with zero tolerance for dialogue, rule of law or any civility, it views the whole world through its archaic lens.Thus,because of some exchange of diplomatic niceties between Meles Zenawi and Yoweri Museveni,TPLF’s lieutenants such as Girma T/sion here in Kampala expect their counterparts to hand them over some Ethiopian exiles. Little did their dense ‘intelligence’ allow them to understand how strong the political will in Uganda is when it comes to respecting human rights, including the sacred rights of refugees. Just because their bribery worked in the highly corrupted Kenyan society, they think they can do the same with Ugandan officials.However, it’s not the first time, nor would it be the last for Meles Zenawi’s regime to behave in this sort of asinine manner. During the height of its incursion in Somalia where it received a humiliating defeat, Aljazeera exposed the brutality committed by Zenawi’s henchmen on Somali civilians. Unable to stifle Aljazeera by invoking its partnership in the fight against terrorism to the White House so that it bears upon the Kuwaiti sheikdom, it broke diplomatic relationship with the Kuwaiti government with a manifestation of egregious infantile politics.

And, now accompanied by his new found lackey, Bereket Simon reportedly went to the United States to request for the umpteenth time so that VOA Amharic service is taken off the air. Probably too, to ask for the extradition of that “terrorist”Dr.Berhanu Nega.”All these farcical and frantic effort to stifle dissent not only reminds you of that age old saying “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It also shows you how a fully blown dictatorship inching by the day towards its demise becomes so out of touch with reality. Due to the highest level of intoxication that the Meles-Bereket clique suffers from controlling and undermining everything in Ethiopia ranging from SMS to the airwaves, they think it easy to do the same with Aljazeera and VOA. Because,they managed to bribe some Kenyan officials for the abduction of Ethiopian exiles or because of their previous success with Sudan and Djibouti in having Ethiopian asylum seekers extradited in a scratch-my-back-I-will-scratch-yours understanding of barbaric regimes, they assume that this is how things are done in international relations.Well,I’ve news for them. Uganda is different with many strong institutions notable among them is the judiciary. The police and the army too is not a force that panders to the whim of officials like its counterpart in Ethiopia.

Therefore, TPLF’s current effort to paint Ginbot 7 as a terrorist group thereby attempting to link Ethiopian exiles in Uganda with terrorism is in vain. Ugandans are too informed to be tricked by this sort of deviousness. They know very well to what extent the Meles-Bereket clique have narrowed the political space in Ethiopia and that no recourse is left to a people under such a tyranny except rebellion as laid down in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights/UDHR/.Encouraged by their understanding, we on our part tell to our Ugandan friends in the intelligence service to take any bribe offered to them by Zenawi’s agents here in Kampala.Though, it’s sad that the Meles-Bereket clique squanders the country’s meager resource in this way too, we should be consoled that our African brothers and sisters would benefit something, even if it’s not anything like the hefty payment made to the already rich American lobbyist DLA Piper. As the Meles-Bereket clique is a company of fools that says history repeats itself instead of learning from history not to repeat the same folly, it’s proper to throw some platitudes before parting as platitudes are befitting to people who try to turn the clock back.

Looted cross of St Yared returned to Ethiopia after 2 decades

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

By Hailu T. | Reporter

The Cross of Saint Yared, the famed father of Ethiopian church music, was returned to Ethiopia after it was looted from the church of Tana Tcherkos at gun point in the early 1990s.

The cross which has belonged to the treasury of the church was identified by Jaques Mercier, art historian and researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research, in a private collection.

Recognizing the cross, Mercier informed the collector of the holiness and importance of the cross. The latter agreed to return the cross upon reimbursement of cost and provision of an indemnity from a British Charity, the Committee for the Preservation and Promotion of Ethiopian Heritage which raised the funds necessary for the return.

During a ceremony held to celebrate the return of the cross, a book entitled Ethiopian Church, Treasures and Faith. The book describes the history and devotional practices of six large monasteries and details the symbolism of the liturgical objects.

The book aims at identifying and publishing the most liturgical objects still extant in Ethiopian churches.

Study criticises laptops for children scheme

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ( Reporter ) — The “One Laptop per Child” (OLPC) scheme, which has sent over a million US$100 laptops to children in the developing world, has been criticised by researchers who found that, unless they are introduced with care, they become little more than distracting toys in the classroom.

The study, conducted in Ethiopia, revealed that students wanted more content on the laptops and teachers were not adequately trained on how to make use of them.

The OLPC scheme was launched in 2005 to provide each child in the developing world with a low-cost laptop to encourage “self-empowered” learning. More than one million laptops have been distributed.

David Hollow of the UK-based ICT4D Collective at Royal Holloway, University of London, and his team evaluated the OLPC initiative in Ethiopia by observing classroom sessions and interviewing students and teachers.

They told Africa Gathering – an information and communication technology and social networking conference organised by the London International Development Centre in April – that students tended to play with the machines, largely for taking pictures with the built-in digital camera.

Teachers were left frustrated because the students were better at using the laptops and played on them during lessons instead of listening to the teachers, Hollow told the conference.

“If I had the money, I would not spend it on laptops,” Hollow told SciDev.Net. “It will cost about US$3 billion dollars to give every [Ethiopian] child a laptop. And as a proportion of the national budget for education, that’s just ridiculous.”

The approach “doesn’t actually empower people in the way that we’d like. It just undermines the teacher … It’s impossible to integrate it”.

The ICT4D team worked with Swiss educational software provider BlankPage to develop Akili, a textbook reader that was used to download books and increase the educational content on the laptops.

“We felt that Akili was something of a bridge because it enabled the children to explore and engage with their own learning but, at the same time, they were still based within the national curriculum and the teacher’s authority was not undermined.”

Hollow said that in Ethiopia many children only attend school for a year or two so the priority is to give them good basic literacy and numeracy skills.

He suggested that introducing laptops in secondary schools would be more appropriate “because you’ve got a smaller group of people, which is far cheaper, and you’ve got a group of people who are actually more likely to be the decision-makers of the future”.

But Matt Keller, OLPC’s director of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, rejects the criticisms. He says that when children take the laptops home they extend the school day. “When a child uses a laptop, he constructs and engages with it in a way that is far more dynamic and interactive than anything that he does at school.”
Relevant Links

He disputed Hollow’s recommendation to focus on secondary schools: “By the time most kids [are older], they’ve lost complete interest in school … And that’s partly because school is rote, you sit there and you’re taught to memorise what [you ought] to know”.

“What technology can do is pique a child’s curiosity and engage them at an interest level that’s far greater than what a bricks and mortar school can do.”

With regards to integration, Keller said that teachers in Ethiopia had been a “little bit slow to come around” in comparison to other countries. “But from what I’ve seen already, after a few months they’ve adapted quite nicely.”

Hollow told the meeting that, for ICT4D projects to work, it is essential to take a long-term view and assess the impact of the project afterwards. This should involving talking to beneficiaries to discover their perceived needs. (Naomi Antony, SciDev.net)

Ethiopia: British Council opened new building in Addis Ababa

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Addis Fortune) — British Council Ethiopia’s new two story building on Comoros Street around the British Embassy has been officially opened in the presence of over 300 invited guests and members, on June 4, 2009.

This year marks the 75th year of the council’s work in cultural relations. The move in to the new building, within the premise of the Embassy, is being made to expand the service of the council and to commemorate the anniversary.

To celebrate the opening of the building along with the 75th anniversary, it organized a series of events from last Friday May 29, 2009 to next Saturday June 6, 2009, according to a press release the council sent to Fortune. The council has been in Ethiopia since 1943.

To celebrate UK’s contribution to modern education, a workshop was organized on higher education. Participants included members of the Ministry of Education, Educational institutions and civil society organizations. From May 30, 2009 to June 2, 2009, the council planned to broadcast a prize winning quiz on UK-Ethiopia relations on Radio Fana (May 30 and 31, 2009), nationally and on Sheger 102.1 on June 1 and 2, 2009.

The British Council National Archives and Library Agency (NALA) Partnership Library, located in the new NALA building, is expected to be officially opened on June 1, 2009, while on Tuesday June 2, 2009, the council plans to hold professional development sessions on leadership and communication skills expected to be attended by over a 100 people.

A panel discussion on the current status of English language instruction in Ethiopia, on June 6, 2009, will be broadcasted nationally on Radio Fana.

Global economic crisis exacerbating human rights abuses

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

(BBC) — The global economic crisis is exacerbating human rights abuses, Amnesty International has warned.

In its annual report, the group said the downturn had distracted attention from abuses and created new problems.

Rising prices meant millions were struggling to meet basic needs in Africa and Asia, it said, and protests were being met with repression.

Political conflict meant people were suffering in DR Congo, North Korea, Gaza and Darfur, among others, it said.

‘Time-bomb’

The 400-page report, compiled in 157 countries, said that human rights were being relegated to the back seat in pursuit of global economic recovery.

The world’s poorest people were bearing the brunt of the economic downturn, Amnesty said, and millions of people were facing insecurity and indignity.

Migrant workers in China, indigenous groups in Latin America and those who struggled to meet basic needs in Africa had all been hit hard, it said.

Where people had tried to protest, their actions had in many cases been met with repression and violence.

The group warned that rising poverty could lead to instability and mass violence.

“The underlying global economic crisis is an explosive human rights crisis: a combination of social, economic and political problems has created a time-bomb of human rights abuses,” said Amnesty’s Secretary General, Irene Khan.

The group is launching a new campaign called Demand Dignity aimed at tackling the marginalisation of millions through poverty.

World leaders should set an example and invest in human rights as purposefully as they invest in economic growth, Ms Khan said.

“Economic recovery will be neither sustainable nor equitable if governments fail to tackle abuses that drive and deepen poverty, or armed conflicts that generate new violations,” she said.

See below for highlights of the report by region

AFRICA

Amnesty says the economic crisis has had a direct impact on human rights abuses on the continent.

“People came into the streets to protest against the high cost of living,” Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty’s Africa programme director, told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.

“The reaction we saw from the authorities was very repressive. For example, in Cameroon about 100 people were killed in February last year.”

But the bulk of Amnesty’s report concentrated on the continent’s three main conflict zones: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sudan.

In DR Congo, the focus was on the east where it said civilians had suffered terribly at the hands of government soldiers and rebel groups. The Hutu FDLR movement, for example, was accused of raping women and burning people alive in their homes.

Amnesty said it was also the civilians in Somalia who bore the brunt of conflict, with tens of thousands fleeing violence and hundreds killed by ferocious fighting in the capital, Mogadishu. It also highlighted the killing and abduction of journalists and aid workers.

In Sudan, Amnesty catalogued a series of abuses including the sentencing to death of members of a rebel group, a clampdown on human rights activists and the expulsion of several aid groups following the issuing of an international arrest warrant against President Omar al-Bashir.

A number of countries, including Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, were criticised for intimidating and imprisoning members of the opposition.

And Nigeria came under fire for the forced evictions of thousands of people in the eastern city of Port Harcourt.

ASIA

Across the region, millions fell further into poverty as the cost of basic necessities rose, Amnesty said.

In Burma, the military government rejected international aid in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis and punished those who tried to help victims of the disaster. It continued campaigns against minority groups which involved forced labour, torture and murder, Amnesty said.

In North Korea, millions are said to have experienced hunger not seen in a decade and thousands tried to flee, only to be caught and returned to detention, forced labour and torture. In both North Korea and Burma, freedom of expression was non-existent.

In China, the run-up to the Beijing Olympic Games was marred by a clamp-down on activists and journalists, and the forcible evictions of thousands from their homes, the report said. Ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet continued to suffer from systematic discrimination, witnessing unrest followed by government suppression.

Millions of Afghans faced persistent insecurity at the hands of Taliban militants. The Afghan government failed to maintain the rule of law or to provide basic services to many. Girls and women particularly suffered a lack of access to health and education services.

In Sri Lanka, the government prevented international aid workers or journalists from reaching the conflict zone to assist or witness the plight of those caught up in fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Israel’s military operation in Gaza in December 2008 caused a disproportionate number of civilian casualties, Amnesty said. Its blockade of the territory “exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation, health and sanitation problems, poverty and malnutrition for the 1.5 million residents”, according to the report.

On the Palestinian side, both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority were accused of repressing dissent and detaining political opponents.

The death penalty was used extensively in Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Across the region, women faced discrimination both under the law and in practice, Amnesty said, and many faced violence at the hands of spouses or male relatives.

Governments that included Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen are said to have used often sweeping counter-terrorism laws to clamp down on their political opponents and to stifle legitimate criticism.

AMERICAS

Indigenous communities across Central and South America were disproportionately affected by poverty while their land rights are ignored, Amnesty said. Development projects on indigenous land were often accompanied by harassment and violence.

Women and girls faced violence and sexual abuse, particularly in Haiti and Nicaragua. The stigma associated with the abuse condemned many to silence, the report said, while laws in some nations meant that abortion was not available to those who became pregnant as a result of abuse or assault.

Gang violence worsened in some nations; in Guatemala and Brazil evidence emerged of police involvement in the killings of suspected criminals, the report found.

America continued to employ the death penalty, the report noted, and concern persisted over foreign nationals held at America’s Guantanamo Bay detention centre, although the report acknowledged the commitment by US President Barack Obama to close it down.

EUROPE AND CENTRAL ASIA

Civilians paid a high price for last year’s conflict between Russia and Georgia, Amnesty said. Hundreds of people died and 200,000 were displaced. In many cases, civilians’ homes and lives were devastated.

Many nations continued to deny fair treatment to asylum seekers, with some deporting individuals or groups to countries where they faced the possibility of harm.

Roma (gypsies) faced systematic discrimination across the region and were largely excluded from public life in all countries.

Freedom of expression remained poor in countries such as Belarus, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and other Central Asian nations.

US sent 40 tons of munitions to aid Somali's puppet regime

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

By Mary Beth Sheridan | Washington Post

The U.S. government has provided about 40 tons of weapons and ammunition to shore up the besieged government of Somalia in the past six weeks and has sent funding to train Somali soldiers, a senior State Department official said yesterday, in the most complete accounting to date of the new American efforts in the strife-torn country.

The official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, said the military aid was worth less than $10 million and had been approved by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the National Security Council.

“We do not want to see Somalia become a safe haven for foreign terrorists,” the official said.

Hard-line Islamist rebels allegedly linked to al-Qaeda have launched an offensive to topple Somalia’s relatively moderate government, which has appealed to the United States and other African countries for help. The fighting has killed 250 civilians and forced more than 160,000 people out of their homes in the past month, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

In an indication of the rebels’ growing power, they held a ceremony Thursday in the capital, Mogadishu, in which they chopped off a hand and foot from each of four men convicted of stealing cellphones and other items, according to news reports from the region. The punishment was in line with the rebels’ harsh version of Islam. The United States considers the rebel group, al-Shabab, a terrorist organization.

Somalia has been racked by violence since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. U.S. officials say the bloodshed and lawlessness in the country have caused a massive outflow of refugees and contributed to an upsurge in piracy in the Gulf of Aden. The country has also become a haven for al-Qaeda operatives alleged to have carried out attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, U.S. officials say.

The African Union has sent troops from Uganda and Burundi to help Somalia’s fragile government keep order.

The U.S. aid does not involve the deployment of any troops to Somalia, where 18 American soldiers were killed in the 1993 raid depicted in the movie “Black Hawk Down.”

In order to strengthen Somalia’s military, the U.S. government is providing cash to its government to buy weapons, and has asked Ugandan military forces there to give Somali soldiers small arms and ammunition, the official said. The U.S. government is then resupplying the Ugandans, he said.

The U.S. government will also help pay for the Kenyan, Burundi and Ugandan militaries to train Somali soldiers, and is providing logistical support for the African Union troops, the official said.

Clinton called Somalia’s president, Sharif Ahmed, in recent weeks to consult on the crisis, according to another U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment.

He said the U.S. aid would likely encourage other African countries to do more to help Somalia’s government.

U.S. officials accuse Eritrea of supporting the Somali rebels as part of a proxy war with its rival, Ethiopia’s [tribal junta]. But efforts by State Department officials to meet with the Eritrean government have been fruitless so far, the official said.

An Analysis of the Draft Ethiopian Anti-Terrorism Law

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

By Human Rights Watch

This paper analyses Ethiopia’s draft Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (the draft Proclamation) and assesses to what extent the proposed law on its face conforms to international human rights standards. The draft law has been submitted to Parliament by the Council of Ministers and may be passed into law before the end of the current legislative session in July 2009.

A first unofficial draft of the law obtained by Human Rights Watch earlier in the year contained numerous provisions that fundamentally contravened human rights guaranteed by Ethiopia’s constitution and international law. Only one of those provisions has been substantively revised, leaving the current draft law dangerously broad and inimical to fundamental human rights. The draft law is premised on an extremely broad and ambiguous definition of terrorist activity that could permit the government to repress a wide range of internationally protected freedoms, and contains provisions that undermine fundamental due process rights.

If implemented as currently drafted, this law could provide the Ethiopian government with a potent instrument to crack down on political dissent, including peaceful political demonstrations and public criticisms of government policy that are deemed supportive of armed opposition activity. It would permit long-term imprisonment and even the death penalty for “crimes” that bear no resemblance, under any credible definition, to terrorism. It would in certain cases deprive defendants of the right to be presumed innocent, and of protections against use of evidence obtained through torture.

The draft Proclamation is even more alarming when placed in the context of concerns over political repression, suppression of free speech and independent civil society, the impunity conferred on security forces, and the potential for consolidation of ruling party power in the run-up to national elections in 2010.

Human Rights Watch takes no position as to whether anti-terrorism legislation is needed to fill gaps in Ethiopia’s existing criminal code. But even if that need exists, the draft Proclamation requires more than a substantial revision. Given the ways in which its provisions on their face violate fundamental due process rights of individuals and unlawfully restrict basic freedoms due all Ethiopians, the law’s drafters should revise the legislation so that the protection of human rights is recognized as essential for the prosecution of genuine acts of terrorism, not as an obstacle.

Background

In recent years, armed groups have committed a number of bombings and other attacks in Ethiopia or on Ethiopia’s diplomatic missions. A May 2008 explosion on a minibus in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, for which a little known group called the Islamic Guerrillas claimed responsibility, killed three people on the eve of national celebrations.[1] In October 2008 the Ethiopian trade mission in Hargeisa, Somaliland, was one of the targets of multiple suicide bombings that killed at least 20 people; the attacks were blamed on al-Shabaab, a Somali armed group with alleged links to al Qaeda.[2]

Ethiopia reportedly considered adopting anti-terror legislation in 2006,[3] and a law was said to be in preparation in 2008.[4] In June 2009 Human Rights Watch obtained an English-language translation of the draft as submitted to parliament by the Council of Ministers. This analysis is based on that draft. An earlier version of this analysis was based on an unofficial draft of the Proclamation dated January 2009. To date the draft anti-terrorism legislation does not appear to have been publicly circulated or discussed, including with civil society, although a public debate took place in parliament on June 25, 2009.

Analysis of the Draft Anti-Terrorism Legislation

The provisions of Ethiopia’s draft Anti-Terrorism Proclamation can be broadly grouped under the following categories:

1. defining terrorism and terrorist acts and imposing penalties (parts I and II);
2. expanding police powers, including powers of arrest and detention (part III);
3. modifying trial procedures and evidentiary rules (part IV);
4. designating terrorist organizations and freezing assets (part V);
5. designating institutional and judicial jurisdiction over terrorism crimes (part VI); and
6. miscellaneous provisions (part VII).

Defining Terrorism

The draft Proclamation provides an extremely broad and ambiguous definition of terrorism that could be used to criminalize non-violent political dissent and various other activities that should not be deemed as terrorism.

The draft Proclamation states that anyone who-with the purpose of “advancing a political, religious or ideological cause” and intending to “influence the government;”[5] “intimidate the public or section of the public;” [or] “to destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social institutions of the country”-commits: an act that causes death or serious injury; an act that creates risk to the safety or health of the public; kidnapping or hostage taking; serious damage to property; damage to natural resources, the environment, or the historical or cultural heritage; or “endangers, seizes or puts under control, causes interference or disruption of any public service”-is subject to punishment by “rigorous imprisonment from 15 years to life or with death.”[6]

This definition of terrorism includes acts that do not involve violence or injury to people, such as property crimes and disruption of public services.[7] The United Nations special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights has stated that the concept of terrorism should be limited to acts committed with the intention of causing death or serious bodily injury, or the taking of hostages, and should not include property crimes. In addition, permitting the death penalty for property crimes would violate the requirement under international law that the death penalty only be imposed for the “most serious crimes.”[8]

The broad and ambiguous definition of terrorist acts under the draft Proclamation could readily be used to criminalize acts of peaceful political dissent that result in “disruption of public services”-as public demonstrations sometimes do. A non-violent march that blocked traffic could qualify as a terrorist act, subjecting protestors to 15 years to life in prison, or possibly even the death penalty. The law might also permit prosecutions on terrorism charges for minor acts of violence committed in the context of political activism: thus a political protestor who damages a police car or breaks the window of a government building could conceivably be prosecuted as a terrorist. Furthermore, an individual need only “threaten to commit” any of the relevant acts, including property crimes and “disruption of public service,” to be prosecuted as a terrorist and punished with a minimum 15 years’ imprisonment, or death.[9]

The overly broad definition of terrorist acts has implications for other parts of the Proclamation. For instance a “terrorist organization” is defined as “a.) a group, association or organization which is composed of not less than two members with the objective of committing acts of terrorism or plans, prepares, executes acts of terrorism or assists or incites others in any way to commit acts of terrorism, [or] b.) an organization proscribed in accordance with this proclamation.”[10] As noted above, the definition of “acts of terrorism” could include acts of political dissent. Therefore a group of two or more individuals who engage in peaceful political protest could be deemed a “terrorist organization,”[11] and membership deemed a crime, subject to five to 20 years’ “rigorous imprisonment.”[12]

The draft Proclamation also contains broad and ambiguous language prohibiting material support for terrorism. Those providing “moral support or … advice” or “provid[ing] or mak[ing] available any property in any manner” to an individual accused of a terrorist act could be deemed a terrorist supporter under the law.[13] Someone who advised, or even just offered water and food to a political protester might find themselves charged with terrorism under this provision.

Infringement of Freedoms of Speech and Expression

Many national counterterrorism laws contain provisions criminalizing speech that incites or supports terrorism. But important international standards on freedom of speech require that such restrictions be limited to speech that directly incites-or is likely to result in-an imminent crime.[16] The draft Proclamation states that “whosoever writes, edits, prints, publishes, publicizes, disseminates, shows, makes to be heard any promotional statements encouraging, supporting or advancing terrorist acts stipulated under … this Proclamation, or the objectives of [a] terrorist organization; [...] is punishable with rigorous imprisonment from 10 years to 20 years.”[17] Such a provision would violate the right to freedom of expression under international law even if the definition of “terrorist act” were in conformity with international standards.[18]

In addition to relying on the overly broad definition of “terrorist acts,” this provision is problematic because the provision criminalizes speech ambiguously “encouraging,” “advancing,” or “in support” of terrorist acts even if there is no direct incitement to violence. Individuals who merely speak in favor of any of the “terrorist acts” could be convicted for encouraging terrorism, and sentenced to 10 to 20 years of “rigorous imprisonment.” For example, students participating in a peaceful demonstration seeking to influence government policy-or even someone merely voicing support for such a demonstration without participating-could be subjected to a 10- to 20-year prison term.

Human Rights Watch is also concerned that the inclusion of the references to writing and editing may be aimed at the nation’s media. If the government were to place longstanding armed opposition groups such as the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) (which have already been banned) on the list of proscribed terrorist organizations, even a mundane newspaper article describing an Oromo student protest could be deemed “encouragement of terrorism.” This scenario is quite likely given that the Ethiopian government has repeatedly sought to characterize the attacks of the ONLF and other insurgent groups as “terrorist” activities. The government already imprisons government critics and opposition figures and accuses them of supporting the OLF, ONLF, and other opposition groups. Ethiopia has sought-so far unsuccessfully-to place the ONLF and other Ethiopian armed opposition movements on the US and UN sanctions lists for supporting terrorism. A journalist interviewing an opposition politician or a supporter of an armed opposition group could be deemed to be “encouraging” terrorism merely by publicizing the views of the interviewee.

Expansion of Police Powers without Due Process Guarantees

The draft Anti-Terrorism Proclamation expands police powers in significant ways. Despite Ethiopian constitutional protections, the police and armed forces have long been implicated in arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, and torture and other mistreatment of persons in custody.[19] Thus, the expansion of police powers without a serious effort to improve protections for those detained raises serious concerns that the law may facilitate further abuses.

Powers of Arrest, Search, and Seizure

The draft Proclamation distinguishes between a “sudden search” and a “covert search.”[20] A covert search requires a court-approved search warrant if an officer “has reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorist act has been or is likely to be committed.”[21] However a “sudden search” of “body and property” can be authorized by the director general of the Federal Police or his designee, without judicial oversight, if a police officer has “reasonable suspicion that a terrorist act will be committed and deems it necessary to make a sudden search.”[22]

This gives the police and other security services almost unlimited power to conduct body searches, and search or seize property based solely on the belief that terrorist activity “will be” or has been committed. The provision contains no warrant requirement or any requirement of exigent circumstances that would make a warrantless search or seizure justified.

The National Intelligence and Security Services is also provided authority to “intercept or conduct surveillance on the telephone, fax, radio, internet, electronic, postal, and similar communications of a person suspected of terrorism,” and to enter any premise to install and intercept communications after obtaining a court warrant.[23]

Should a police officer believe a terrorist act “will be” committed in a particular place, he has the power to destroy property or restrict movement, even without any requirement of exigency.[24] Those who fail to cooperate with the police are subject to three to 10 years’ imprisonment.[25]

The police also have the power to order “any government institution, official, bank, or a private organization or an individual” to provide information or evidence “which [the police officer] reasonably believes could assist to prevent or investigate terrorism cases,” without any warrant.[26]

Detention without Charge

The draft Proclamation grants the police the power to make arrests without a warrant, so long as the officer “reasonably suspects” that the person is committing or has committed a terrorist act.[27] The Ethiopian constitution requires that a person taken into custody must be brought before a court within 48 hours and informed of the reasons for their arrest-a protection that is already systematically violated.[28]

The draft Proclamation reiterates the constitutional protection to be brought before a court within 48 hours of arrest, but then permits the police to request additional investigation periods of 28 days each from a court before filing charges, up to a maximum of four months.[29] Currently, Ethiopian police routinely detain people without charge for months, and sometimes ignore judicial orders for release.[30] Providing a statutorily-permitted period of four months whereby individuals may be detained without charge is likely to lead to even further abuses.[31]

International law requires that anyone arrested shall be promptly brought before a judicial authority and criminally charged.[32]

Violation of the Right to Bodily Integrity

The draft Proclamation gives the police the power-without a warrant-to order a suspect in their custody to provide samples of blood and other body fluids, handwriting, hair, fingerprints, and undergo medical tests, and states that “if the suspect is not willing for the test, the police may use force.”[33]

Evidentiary Rules and Use of Evidence Obtained by Torture

The draft Proclamation sets new evidentiary standards for terrorism cases under the legislation that are far more permissive than the rules covering ordinary cases. Under these new rules, hearsay or “indirect evidences” can be admitted in court without any limitation.[34] Official intelligence reports can also be admitted “even if the report does not disclose the source or the method it was gathered.”[35] By making intelligence reports admissible in court even if the sources and methods are not disclosed, the law effectively allows evidence obtained under torture (if defense counsel cannot ascertain the methods by which intelligence was collected, they cannot show that it was collected in an abusive way). The draft Proclamation deems confessions admissible without a restriction on the use of statements made under torture.[36]

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment explicitly prohibits the use of any statement made as a result of torture as evidence in legal proceedings.[37] The Ethiopian constitution also bars the use of statements obtained through coercion.[38]

Additional Provisions of Concern

The draft Proclamation makes the failure to disclose information or evidence that may assist to “prevent terrorist act before its commission” or may contribute to “arrest, prosecute or punish a suspect” a crime that carries a sentence of three to 10 years’ “rigorous imprisonment.”[39] Also, any person who knowingly provides false information about a terrorist act, or “believing that the information is false” (a standard that falls short of actual knowledge) also faces punishment of three to 10 years’ imprisonment.[40] Such provisions could put citizens in an impossible position: On the one hand they could be charged with a crime for providing information that turns out to be false. On the other hand, they could be convicted of a crime for failing to provide information.

The law also imposes an obligation to notify police within 24 hours if a foreigner is living in one’s house, and to provide the police a copy of the foreigner’s passport.[41] This violates the right under international law not to be subjected to arbitrary interference with privacy, family, or home.[42]

Changes from the January 2009 Draft of the Proclamation

There were very few substantive changes from a January 2009 draft of the law and the version that was ultimately submitted to parliament. Those worth noting here are as follows:

The only major positive change to the current draft is that a provision in the January 2009 draft that allowed for shifting the burden of proof onto suspects who confess has been eliminated altogether. This was one of the worst provisions of the first draft, as it could have led to confessions extracted under torture being used to shift the burden of proof onto criminal defendants.

The draft Proclamation’s definition of “terrorist acts”-one of the most alarming aspects of the first draft of the law-is even broader than it was in the January 2009 draft. The new draft expands the intent element of the crime. The first draft provided that carrying out one of the enumerated acts “with the intention of coercing or intimidating the government” was an act of terrorism.[43] The new draft changes this to “intending to influence the government.”[44] There is some uncertainty as to whether this was a deliberate change or an issue of translation from the Amharic version of the draft law, which is not currently available to Human Rights Watch.

Section 14 of the draft Proclamation now requires that surveillance and interception of communications requires a court warrant; the first draft did not. However as noted above most of the other search and seizure provisions in the draft remain without any kind of warrant requirement.

[1] Anita Powell, “Somali Islamist group claims responsibility for deadly bomb attack in Ethiopia,” Associated Press, May 29, 2008, http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/05/29/africa/AF-GEN-Ethiopia-Somalia… (accessed March 4, 2009).

[2] Mohammed Ibrahim and Jeffrey Gettleman, “5 Suicide Bomb Attacks Hit Somalia,” The New York Times, October 29, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/30/world/africa/30somalia.html?n=Top/Refe… (accessed March 4, 2009).

[3] In 2006 the US government’s Country Report on Terrorism noted that “draft counterterrorism legislation is currently before [the Ethiopian] Parliament for approval.” See US Country Reports on Terrorism, Africa Overview, April 28, 2006, http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2005/64335.htm (accessed March 4, 2009).

[4] “Speech by President Girma Wolde-Giorgis of Ethiopia,” October 9, 2006, http://www.ethioembassy.org.uk/Archive/Speech%20by%20President%20Girma%2… (accessed March 4, 2009); see also “Ethiopian Parliament to discuss anti-terrorism legislation,” Agence France-Presse, http://icpat.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=144&Itemid=81 (accessed March 4, 2009).

[5] An earlier draft of the law, dated January 2009, used the words “coercing or intimidating” in place of “influence.” As of the time of writing it is not clear if the change represents a government attempt to make the definition of terrorism broader still, or whether this is primarily a translation issue.

[6] Draft Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, art. 3.

[7] Although there is no single internationally accepted definition of terrorism, the term generally refers to the use of violence against civilians for political ends.

[8] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), G.A. res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force March 23, 1976, article 6(2). Ethiopia ratified the ICCPR in 1993. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty and finality.

[9] Draft Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, art. 3.

[10] Ibid., art. 2.4(a) and (b).

[11] Ibid., art. 2.4.

[12] Ibid., art. 7.1.

[13] Draft Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, arts. 5.1(b) and (c).

[14] Ibid., art. 8.

[15] Ibid., art. 9.

[16] See Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom, of Expression and Access to Information, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/1996/39 (1996), principle 6 (expression may be punished as a threat to national security only if a government can demonstrate that the expression is intended and likely to incite imminent violence); European Court of Human Rights, Erdogdu and Ince v Turkey, Nos. 25067/94 and 25068/94 (1999) [finding that Turkish authorities acted disproportionately and violated freedom of expression, as guaranteed by article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, by convicting Umit Erdogdu for the offense of "disseminating propaganda" under the Prevention of Terrorism Law after his monthly review published an interview with a Turkish sociologist].

[17] Draft Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, art. 6.

[18] See UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, and the OAS Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, “Joint Declaration on International Mechanisms for Promoting Freedom of Expression,” December 21, 2005 (criticizing the use of vague terms such as “promoting” terrorism).

[19] See Human Rights Watch report, Ethiopia – Collective Punishment: War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in the Ogaden area of Ethiopia’s Somali Region, ISBN: 1-56432-322-6, June 2008, http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/06/12/collective-punishment; Ethiopia – Suppressing Dissent: Human Rights Abuses and Political Repression in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region, vol. 17, no. 7(A), May 2005, http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2005/05/09/suppressing-dissent-0; and Ethiopia – Targeting the Anuak: Human Rights Violations and Crimes against Humanity in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region, vol. 17, no. 3(A), March 2005, http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2005/03/23/targeting-anuak-0; and other documents at https://webmail.hrw.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.hrw.org. See also Amnesty International, “Human Rights in Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,” https://webmail.hrw.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/ethiopia; and the US State Department, 2008 Human Rights Reports: Ethiopia, February 25, 2009, https://webmail.hrw.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/af/119001.htm.

[20] Draft Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, arts. 16 and 17.

[21] Ibid., art. 17.1.

[22] Ibid., art. 16.

[23] Ibid., art. 14.1.

[24] Ibid., art. 13.1.

[25] Ibid., art. 35.

[26] Ibid., art. 22.

[27] Ibid., art. 19.

[28] Article 19 of the Ethiopian constitution states, “Persons arrested have the right to be brought before a court within 48 hours of their arrest. Such time shall not include the time reasonably required for the journey from the place of arrest to the court. On appearing before a court, they have the right to be given prompt and specific explanation of the reasons for their arrest due to the alleged crime committed.”

[29] Draft Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, art. 20.

[30] Article 19 of the Ethiopian constitution provides that “Where the interest of justice requires, the court may order the arrested person to remain in custody or, when requested remand him for a time strictly required to carry out the necessary investigation. In determining the additional time necessary for investigation, the court shall ensure that the responsible law enforcement authorities carry out the investigation respecting the arrested person’s right to a speedy trial.”

[31] Draft Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, art. 20.

[32] ICCPR, art. 9.

[33] Draft Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, art. 21.

[34] Ibid., art. 23.2.

[35] Ibid., art. 23.1.

[36] Ibid., art. 23.5.

[37] Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, G.A. res. 39/46, annex, 39 U.N. GAOR Supp. (no. 51) at 197, U.N. Doc. A/39/51 (1984), entered into force June 26, 1987. Ethiopia ratified the convention in 1994.

[38] Article 19 of the Ethiopian constitution states, “Persons arrested shall not be compelled to make confessions or admissions which could be used in evidence against them. Any evidence obtained under coercion shall not be admissible.”

[39] Draft Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, art. 12.

[40] Ibid., art. 11.

[41] Ibid., art. 15.2.

[42] ICCPR, art. 17.

[43] Draft Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (January 2009 draft), art. 3.

[44] Draft Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, art. 3.

World reacts to Michael Jackson death

Friday, June 26th, 2009

BBC — With the death of pop star Michael Jackson at the age of 50, BBC correspondents report on the reaction around the world.

By MAGGIE SHIELS, LOS ANGELES

Throughout the day camera crews and media from around the world staked out the coroner’s office which sits at a busy junction across from a gas station and a fast food restaurant.

Rumours that Jackson family members would come to the coroners office kept reporters on alert but were soon dispelled early in the day. Captain Paul Villaneuva of the LAPD revealed instead that the coroner had visited the Jackson family “at an undisclosed location”

Cars driving by tooted their horns and shouted cries of support for the family. “Michael lives on,” hollered one drive-by fan.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Michelle Rindels from Associated Press.

“It’s really crazy. It’s been a complete circus since early this morning.”

Dedrich McClure of TV News Guide who has covered Michael Jackson for several years said: “The king of Pop was one of the last true icons. Who else is there to cry over?”

The coroner’s office might not seem like an obvious place for fans to flock to but it made perfect sense for Maria Cervantes.

“We wanted to show our respects to the family. I know how hard it is for the family and what they are going through

“My kids loved his music and dancing. He was a hero to them and he will live on.”

Her 13-year old nephew Cristin Pineda told BBC News: “I was a big fan and when I heard he had died I thought it was a tragedy.

“I wanted to come here to say goodbye.”

NKEM IFEJIKA, NEW YORK

Above the entrance of the Apollo Theater in Harlem the neon sign reads: “In Memory of Michael Jackson, a true Apollo Legend, 1958 – 2009.”

At least 2,000 people have gathered outside spontaneously, blocking the pavement in front and opposite the famous venue. The overwhelming spirit in the crowd is of jubilation, dancing, singing, blaring out hit after Michael Jackson hit.

But there are sombre pockets of people carrying lit candles. One mourner fighting back the tears, and failing, says: “I just wish he could come back.”

This is Harlem, after all, often described as the heart of African-American culture. This was where, aged nine, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 got their first real break, winning Amateur Night in 1969. He returned several times over the years to perform.

The crowd transcended national barriers. One Frenchwoman says: “I know back home in Paris, my grandparents will be upset.”

A Hungarian reporter spoke about what Michael Jackson meant in the 1970s and 80s in Communist Eastern Europe: “It was part of our lives behind the Iron Curtain, a symbol of freedom for us, creativity, unlimited success.”

Occasional chants of “Michael, Michael, Michael” would erupt, after which another loudspeaker would play another song, pulling the crowd with it. Some wannabe moonwalkers entertained onlookers, complete with Jackson’s trademark white shirt, black trousers and hat from his Billie Jean days.

STEVE ROSENBERG, BERLIN

I’m standing in the waxwork museum Madame Tussauds in Berlin where the Michael Jackson waxwork has been moved into the foyer. There is a special book of condolences which visitors can sign after coming into the museum.

The waxwork museum is almost directly opposite the Adlon hotel. This is where Michael Jackson stayed in 2002 when he came to Berlin to pick up a music award.

And it’s where he very controversially dangled his own baby out of a top floor window, showing off the child to fans down below.

At the time, German police considered launching an investigation into the affair. They never did and despite the incident Michael Jackson remains supremely popular in Germany.

Reacting to the news of Michael Jackson’s death the German economy minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, said the pop star had been a truly great artist who met a tragic end.

ZUBAIR AHMED, MUMBAI

Television networks in India abandoned normal programmes to run news of Michael Jackson’s death.

Popular news websites and portals have wall-to-wall coverage of the pop star’s death. Mourners have been posting condolence messages on their favourite websites.

The singer, who was a huge name in India, had come to Mumbai 13 years ago when he performed at a packed concert.

He was invited by a right-wing Hindu nationalist party and his visit had become controversial, with some questioning how his music was connected to Hindu culture.

Regardless of the controversy, a whole generation of Bollywood music directors have been influenced by his music.

Some have been accused of plagiarizing his tunes. His dance sequences have also left a deep impression on Bollywood stars of the 70s and 80s.

NICK BRYANT, SYDNEY

On the east coast of Australia people awoke to the news that Michael Jackson had suffered a cardiac arrest, and heard that he’d died by the time they reached work.

The main television networks have been interrupting their schedules to carry special programmes, radio stations are playing some of his most popular hits, and fans are leaving tributes on web and social networking sites.

Walking through the streets of Sydney this morning, his signature song Thriller could be heard coming from passing cars.

People here are likening his death to the passing of other musical greats, such as Elvis Presley and John Lennon.

There’s been a conflicted response. There’s enormous respect here for his musical talent and his extraordinary stagecraft.

ROLAND BUERK, TOKYO

Japanese television networks broke into normal breakfast programmes to carry coverage of Michael Jackson’s death, and a text alert was sent early in the morning to people who subscribe to mobile phone news services.

The singer was a huge star in Japan – a country he visited often over the years. It was here in 2006 that he made his first official public appearance, at an awards ceremony, after being acquitted at his trial.

He came again a year later and a screaming mob of fans greeted him at the airport. There were more crowds outside a downtown electronics store where he went on a shopping spree.

And hundreds of people paid more than $3,000 for a ticket for what was known as a fan appreciation event.

It featured a buffet dinner, Michael Jackson impersonators, and a chance to be in the same room as the singer himself — but not to see him to perform.

Michael Jackson’s popularity was perhaps knocked less here by the scandals that surrounded him later in life.

People in Japan seemed more willing to overlook his much-publicised troubles and see him just as a great performer, and that’s how he’ll be remembered.

JONAH FISHER, JOHANNESBURG

Michael Jackson first visited Africa at the age of 14, as the lead singer of the Jackson Five.

Emerging from the plane in Senegal, he responded to a welcome of drummers and dancers by screaming: ”This is where I come from”.

Returning for an African tour 19 years later, the king of pop was crowned chief of several African villages.

Michael Jackson’s most tangible contribution to Africa came at the peak of his career in the mid-80s, when he co-wrote the charity song We Are The World with Lionel Ritchie.

U.S. Congressional Hearing examines situation in Somalia

Friday, June 26th, 2009

By Dan Robinson | VOA News

The violent and unstable situation in Somalia was the subject of a U.S. congressional hearing on Thursday. Testimony by officials from Somalia, the United Nations and the African Union, and experts came as the Obama administration confirmed it has decided to bolster Somalia’s embattled Transitional Federal Government against Islamist forces.

With each day bringing further deterioration in Somalia, including among other things the recent bomb attack that killed the Somali transitional government security minister, Thursday’s hearing was timely.

Coinciding with the hearing, the State Department confirmed that the U.S. is providing urgent shipments of weapons and ammunition to Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, the TFG, to help it avoid a complete takeover by Islamist rebels the U.S. suspects has ties to al-Qaida.

Ted Dagne, African Affairs Specialist with the Congressional Research Service, predicted that violence is likely to increase in coming months as the Islamist group al-Shabaab, backed by foreign fighters, attempts to oust the transitional government. “The primary objective of this offensive is to force the collapse of the TFG (Transitional Federal Government), and to force AMISOM (African Union Mission to Somalia) to leave Somalia,” he said.

Al-Shabaab has taken over much of Mogadishu and southern Somalia, and is on a U.S. government list of international terrorist groups.

Dagne says highly de-centralized and mobile al-Shabaab forces threaten the Transitional Federal Government, and noted that African Union forces are constrained because they are not authorized to take offensive action. He said al-Shabaab is supported by more than 400 foreign fighters, and is funded by al-Qaida and certain foreign governments.

Peter Pham, Associate Professor of Justice Studies, Political Science and Africana Studies at James Madison University, says conditions in Somalia threaten security and stability of the Horn of Africa:

“Even without toppling the TFG, al-Shabaab has already achieved a major objective by securing a territorial base from which like-minded militants and terrorists can carry out attacks elsewhere, especially against targets in the Arabian Peninsula as well as participating in the current violence against Somalis,” he said.

Representative Donald Payne, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, said further violence can be avoided only if Somalis from all three regions of the country come together: “As we gather today many Somalis continue to be displaced, maimed and killed. The dream and aspirations of millions of Somalis are on hold or crushed,” he said.

Of Somalia transitional government and regional officials invited to the hearing, the foreign minister of the Republic of Somaliland declined to attend.

But the President of the Puntland State of Somalia, Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, appealed for foreign assistance to stable areas of the country, saying this would be the best way to prevent extremist groups from expanding areas they control:

“There are limited options for dealing with extremists and terrorist threats in Somalia. The international community must support stable regions, for example Puntland, and offer long-awaited development incentives in order to attract the attention of other Somali regions that see the benefits as counter-weight to joining extremists,” he said.

Speaking for the Transitional Federal Government, Idd BedelMohamed,Deputy Permanent Minister of Somalia at the United Nations, read a statement accusing al-Shabaab and some hardliners of rejecting reconciliation, and acknowledged that the transitional government faces intensified attacks:

“Insurgent groups continue to attack [the] Somali government and AMISOM forces with a new influx of foreign fighters allied and in support of al-Shabaab and its radical agenda. Attacks by radical groups against the combined forces of TFG and AMISOM are becoming more sophisticated, coordinated and lethal,” he said.

Ugandan Minister of Defense, Crispus Kiyonga, said the African Union force, composed of 2,590 Ugandan troops 1,600 from Burundi, has so far been able to defend the transitional government’s state house, Mogadishu port and airport, but said reinforcements to al-Shabaab have created a difficult situation.

“What we have in Somalia is an extraordinary situation that requires extraordinary means. For the U.N. to keep urging that peace be created first before a U.N. peacekeeping force can be sent continues to deny the Somali people badly-needed international forces to assist in the stabilization of that country,” he said.

Ngoga Gateretse, Senior Advisor to the African Union Special Envoy for Somalia, called the situation in Mogadishu grave and said al-Shabaab is trying to force an extreme form of Islam on the Somali people, “This is completely new and shocking to the majority of the Somalis. It is unfortunate that some would use the religious zeal of sincere Somalis to prosecute what amounts to terrorism and the promotion of their agenda,” he said.

A State Department official did not provide details of military aid going to the U.N.-backed transitional government. However, news reports quoting U.S. officials said it consisted of small arms as well as training which would be conducted outside the country.

Ethiopia artists, fans mourn Michael Jackson's death

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia EthioPolitics.com — Ethiopian artists and music fans on Friday mourned the death of Michael Jackson which occurred late on Thursday with heart related health problems.

The news was received here with surprise and shock for the majority of his fans in Addis Ababa.

“I was really shocked by the news about the death of Michael Jackson who proved to the world that people of African descent can make great contribution to music in the world. I cannot say that Michael Jackson is dead, he will be with us for the coming so many years with his best works,” said Ethiopian artist, Solomon Tefera.

Tefera added that Michael Jackson, as a “king of Pop” remains as the best ever musical artiste in the world.

“We Africans should be proud of him and his works. His works are a legacy for the world artists and his fans,”added Tefera.

Michael Jackson who died at age 50 started to get recognition in the 1970s with his music that is still being played throughout the world in radio and TV stations.

“Michael Jackson’s death was unexpected. I did not believe when I heard the news from my friend. He was everything to the music. No musician will replace him in my age or beyond,” said artist Tigist Mesfin.

She added that she was looking forward Michael Jackson’s scheduled concerts in London. “We are unlucky that he died just before that. Michael Jackson will remain with us through his works, even in the next generation,” added Mesfin.

Ethiopian radio and television as well as local FM stations in Addis Ababa are playing his music since Friday morning.

A majority of the taxi drivers are also playing his music in their car stereos since the news of his death was announced here.

His fans are mostly in the ages of 30s and 40s here in Ethiopia..

His tracks like ’Thriller’ and ’Bad’ are among Michael Jackson’s best selling albums that are still popular throughout the world.

Michael Jackson was the first black artist whose video music was played on MTV in the early 1980s.

Michael Jackson is survived by his three children: Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince “Blanket” Michael Jackson II.

HIV/AIDS causes lower population growth in Amhara region

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Lower birth rate and high death rate especially from HIV/AIDS are the factors causing lower population increase rate in the Amhara regional state, a controversial study by the Population Census Commission revealed this week.

The head of the census office, Samia Zekaria, told parliament on Thursday that her office had been re-examing the data collected during the 2007 census for the past several months and found out that there was no visible mistake made by data collectors.

She said that experts at the office have tried to identify the reasons why the population growth in the Amhara region only was lower than the others.

Due to HIV/AIDS and other reasons, life expectancy in Amhara region is lower than in other regions.

In addition, Amhara region witnessed a lower birth rate – the second lowest next to Tigray – which according to Samia, contributed to lower population growth rate in the region.

The population census released a few months ago puts population growth rate at 1.7 percent while in most other regions it is close to 3 percent.

The 2007 population census whose result was released months back put the population at 17.2 million while the projection was 19.6 million showing a difference of 2.4 million people.

The report drew criticism mainly from the Amhara Natinal Democratic Movement (ANDM) members. AMDM is one of the four parties which constitute the ruling coalition EPRDF.

One MP from EPRDF/AMDM, Tadesse Meskelu, said that it was ironic that HIV/AIDS should particularly kill most in Amhara region than in others.

Abdurahman Amedin of the Ethiopia Democratic Party (EDP) criticized the commission for not coming up with a satisfactory explanation and lamented the loss of time and money spent on re-evaluation. He said that it would have been less costly if another census was held in the region.

Samia, on her part, said that the commission had found no reason at all to conduct a population census again in the region.

She said that the problem lay in the projection rather than the actual count.

While voting was conducted to adopt the report, one EPRDF member, in a rare defiance observed in the ruling party, refrained from supporting the motion and abstained.

- By Bruck Shewareged | Ethiopian Reporter

A tribute to Commander Zeleke Bogale

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Ethiopia's tribal junta arrests suspected OLF rebels

Friday, June 26th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) — Ethiopia’s [tribal junta] (the Woyanne regime) said on Friday it arrested three Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) rebels who beat up Chinese technicians in a raid on a dam construction site in the west.

State TV said three Chinese were in hospital after being badly beaten by the OLF gang during the attack this week at the Neshie Dam. The statement said they were planning “terrorist activities” there, and were later caught by security forces.

“The culprits beat Chinese technicians working at the site, robbed laptops, printers, digital surveying machines and other equipment at the site,” it said.

The three were paraded on TV, together with guns, communications equipment and bomb-making materials.

Prime Minister Warlord Meles Zenawi’s government blames the OLF, which has fought for autonomy for its southern homeland since 1993, for various explosions in the capital Addis Ababa.

[The Woyanne regime in] Addis Ababa accuses arch-enemy Eritrea of training and funding the OLF and other small rebel groups in Ethiopia’s remote, outlying areas. Asmara says that is an excuse to mask popular unrest with Meles’ government.

(Reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse, Writing by Andrew Cawthorne)

Ark of the Covenant Being Unveiled? – update

Friday, June 26th, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following update was posted today by New Wineskins blog:

It should have happened an hour ago. Not clear yet what’s going on, but I’ll update this post as often as I can throughout the day. Nothing scheduled on Vatican TV.

WND, at least, is picking up the story, beginning Wednesday as well as in this extensive top-story article they posted last night. It quotes Bob Cornuke at length, along with other scholars and investigators:

Bob Cornuke, biblical investigator, international explorer and best-selling author, has participated in more than 27 expeditions around the world searching for lost locations described in the Bible… Next week, Cornuke will travel to Ethiopia for the 13th time since he began his search for the Ark. He told WND he believes this artifact may be authentic.

“They either have the Ark of the Covenant or they have a replica that they have believed to be the Ark of the Covenant for 2,000 years,” he said.

“The Ark could have been taken out of the temple during the time of the atrocities of Manasseh,” he said. [link added] “We have kind of a bread crumb trail that appears to go to Egypt, and it stayed on an island there for a couple hundred years called Elephantine Island. The Ark then was transferred over to Lake Tana in Ethiopia where it stayed on Tana Qirqos Island for 800 years. Then it was taken to Axum, where it is enshrined in a temple today where they don’t let anybody see it.”

Cornuke said he traveled to Tana Qirqos Island and lived with monks who remain there today.

“They unlocked this big, four-inch thick wood door,” he said. “It opened up to a treasure room, and they showed me meat forks and bowls and things that they say are from Solomon’s temple. When the History Channel did this show, they said it was one of the largest viewed shows. People were fascinated.”

He said Ethiopians consider the Ark to be the ultimate holy object, and the church guards the suspected artifact from the “eyes and pollution of man.”

“In Ethiopia, their whole culture is centered around worshipping this object,” Cornuke said. “Could they have the actual Ark? I think I could make a case that they actually could.”

However, he said reports about Friday’s unveiling are somewhat perplexing because Ethiopia has traditionally shielded it from public view.

“That’s the surprise for me,” Cornuke said. “I have always thought that they would keep it under wraps.”

He explained that a special guardian lives inside the church [Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Ethiopia] and never leaves. Once a guardian is appointed, he stays until he dies and another man replaces him.

“We know for a fact that there have been 30 guardians in history who have never left that enclosure,” Cornuke said. “I know the guardian. When CNN and BBC went over there, he wouldn’t see anybody but me. So I went and talked to him, and he’s getting very aged. He told me they have the real Ark and he worships 13 hours a day in front of it. When he gets through, he is covered in sweat and he’s exhausted.”

He said he met a 105-year-old man who claimed to have seen the Ark 50 years ago when he was training a replacement guardian.

“It frightened him to death when he got a glimpse of it.”

Cornuke is also featured on the Koinonia House podcast series I linked on Tuesday. Although he doesn’t say a lot more in it than is outlined above in terms of the evidence itself, the podcast provides more Biblical context. I found it useful.

As several of our Ethiopian brothers have pointed out here, the unveiling is not without controversy, skepticism, disgust and fears of cascading consequences as a result of its unveiling. The Ethiopian Review writes, in a Thursday article that:

Abuna Pauolos Aba Gebremedhin (aka Aba Diabilos), the illegitimate Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, was in Rome this week to meet with Pope Benedict XVI.

The claim that the Biblical Holy Ark has been kept at the Church, in the city of Axum, is an old one, but this is the first time that the Church plans to actually reveal the actual container, or news of it. It is not known whether the Church claims that the actual Tablets of the Law are inside it.

Copies of the alleged Ark are kept in many other churches in Ethiopia.

This clip, out of Belgium, translated from the Dutch by Google doesn’t break any new ground, however it does give a glimpse as to how the world is likely to view this. In perhaps one of the greatest understatements of all time, they write: “the relic has major cultural-historical value”. And that’s all, in their view. The secular world insists on putting God (and His box) in their box. He won’t fit.

Best of Michael Jackson – videos

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Rest in Peace

Billie Jean

Beat It

Thriller

You Rock My World

The way you make me feel

Bad

Smooth Criminal

Black or White

Jam

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

In the Closet

After Minneapolis, FBI Eyes Atlanta's Somalis

Friday, June 26th, 2009

By Maggie Lee

CLARKSON, GA — In this small town on the edge of Atlanta, the FBI and local law enforcement are looking out for an alarming kind of crime: radical Islamist terrorists potentially trying to recruit the town’s young Somali-Americans to fight a war in Africa.

There is terrorist recruitment taking place already in Minnesota, said Clarkston police chief Tony J. Scipio. That’s why his department and the FBI are looking for anything similar in the Somali-American community here in Clarkston.

In Minneapolis, as many as 20 young men have been reported missing from their homes since last fall. They are thought to have been lured into the ranks of al-Shabaab in Somalia. That group got a terrorist designation from the U.S. State Department, which ties it to al-Qaeda, bombings, assassinations and attacks on peacekeepers. A powerful faction fighting Somalia’s transitional government, al-Shabaab’s agenda is extremely strict Sharia law.

To fight potential recruiters, the Atlanta FBI has spent the last several months in what the agent-in-charge called an “outreach” program to Clarkston Somali-Americans, including mosque visits and community meetings.

Supervisory special agent Andrew Young said radical violent Islamist recruiters use the same strategy as a street gang recruiter, or even a little league coach.

“From what we know about recruiters, whether they’re Islamic, drug gangs or the coach, they’re looking for those kids who are looking for something deeper inside. To one it could be geopolitics. To one it could be a friendship. They’re all looking for something,” he explained.

And terror recruiters are quickly becoming adept at online tactics, noted Young.

“That’s what we see as a trend hitting home,” he said. “We see a lot more Internet recruiting being targeted to our youth.”

If young people go to Somalia, the FBI’s biggest worry is that they may return with dangerous souvenirs, like bomb-making or demolition skills and a radical anti-U.S. agenda.

Atlanta’s Somali-American community mushroomed after 1991 with arrivals of war refugees. Between 2000 and 2007 alone, the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement sent some 3,000 Somalis to Atlanta.

Because so many suffered in the war, they’re unlikely to see much appeal in returning to war, say Somali-American leaders in Clarkston.

But the alleged Minneapolis recruits spent little or no time in war-ravaged Somalia or in refugee camps. That may make young people vulnerable to a dramatic, nationalistic appeal, according to one Georgia leader.

“If al-Shabaab says, ‘We’re fighting Ethiopians,’ then they’ll have sympathy,” declared Omar Shekhey, president of the Somali-American Community Center, a statewide umbrella group.

Somalia’s transitional government is supported in part by the army of Somalia’s number one enemy, Ethiopia. The two countries have fought two formal wars in 40 years.

Al-Shabaab has no sympathizers in Clarkston, Shekhey insisted, but suggested that the other side -– the transitional government –- is frustrating, ineffective and unpopular. He jumped to criticize the transitional government’s power-sharing formula that he says reduces some Somalis to half-citizens, or non-citizens because it fixes quotas for parliamentary seats by clan.

U.S. support for that interim government rouses ire in some, Shekhey said, especially young people who reject the costs of that U.S. strategy.

“They can be angry,” he said. “‘Why is the U.S. doing this?’ they ask.”

Sharmarke Yonis, of the Georgia Somali Community, a non-profit headquartered in Clarkston, says that anger doesn’t always translate into a violent act.

“We might have some people who have sympathy, but not anyone who will commit a hate crime,” he said.

There’s sympathy because every religion spawns radicals who commit hate crimes, such as a person who would bomb an abortion clinic in the name of Christianity, he suggested, but emphasized that he sees no danger in Atlanta.

“In Georgia, we don’t have many, just a few listening,” Yonis said. He believes the threat is bigger in Columbus, Ohio, or Minneapolis, where the Somali-American populations measure in the tens of thousands.

No Somali-Americans are reported missing in the Clarkston area. A four-month police and FBI joint operation of surveillance and confidential informants turned up nothing, according to the police chief.

But “the word ‘FBI’ scares people,” said Hussien Mohammed, the director of Sagal Radio, a Clarkston-based station that broadcasts in English plus four languages spoken in east Africa: Somali, Afaan-Oromo, Amharic and Swahili.

“They’re coming from a country that has no law. They’ve been beaten, abused, harassed by security forces in their country … Some have been taken away in the middle of the night. People fear the same here.”

Mohammed seemed conflicted about the level of FBI involvement.

“Too many visits from the FBI have been seen in our community,” he said, but later added, “It’s their job. It’s why we’re safe.”

He’s very adamant on one point, which is backed up by other Somali-Americans and law enforcement: “These people are very peaceful like any other community. They’ve been terrorized at home enough. They want to be Somali-Americans, not just Somalis.”

(Maggie Lee (www.bottleofink.com) is a freelance writer in Atlanta.)