Archive for the ‘Ethiopian News’ Category

Mozambique police arrests 164 Ethiopian immigrants

Monday, May 4th, 2009

MALAWI (Nyasa Times) — Management of refugees at Dzaleka camp in Dowa is turning into an issue of great concern to Malawi authorities.

Just under a month the country’s law enforcers have intercepted over 300 Ethiopians for successfully running away from the camp and attempting to illegally flee the country.

First were 114 Ethiopians who were arrested in Dedza district as they tried to flee the country for South Africa via Mozambique. They were arrested after a truck they were using got stuck in the mud.

And a week later, another contingent of 62 Ethiopians was caught on time at Mwanza border as it attempted to crossed into Mozambique.

The latest incident occurred last Thursday when again a group of 164 Ethiopian men successfully beat the Malawian security system by sneaking out of the country without the law enforcers’ notice.

The group was apprehended by the neighbouring Mozambican police in Tete Province while on their way to South Africa.

Mwanza Police Station Officer Joel Makomwa confirmed that Mozambique police arrested the 164 refugees, who appeared frail due to lack of food, and repatriated them to Malawi.

“They were intercepted by our counterparts in Mozambique and they immediately brought them here. We have already dispatched some of them to Dzaleka,” he said.

It is strongly believed that the group is the same that has had futile attempts to flee the country before.

Dzaleka camp has about 10,000 refugees who fled from Somali, Ethiopia, DRC, Burundi, and Rwanda due to wars and other disasters.

While most refugees from other countries have opted for raiding the country’s urban and rural areas in search of business ventures, the Ethiopians have appeared to be very stubborn in that every case of refugees fleeing the place for Mozambique and South Africa involves them.

Ruling party tightening grip on Ethiopia ahead of poll

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

By FRED OLUOCH | The East African

Ethiopia will be holding elections next year, but all indications are that the ruling party, the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) [a cover for the tribalist Tigrean People Liberation Front, commonly known as Woyanne] will win, and there could be a repeat of the 2005 post-election violence because of two factors.

One, the government has closed all democratic space and two, the opposition is hugely divided.

Back in 2005, the opposition under the umbrella of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), formed only six months before the May elections, gained massive popularity, especially in Addis Ababa winning all the seats in the capital.

Today, a combination of a seriously splintered and weak opposition, and the perception of Zenawi by the US as an ally in the war against terror in the Horn of Africa, has given EPRDF a head start.

There is also a widespread feeling that the ruling party, has created conditions to ensure its win, resulting in a growing campaign for an election boycott by the opposition.

The government has closed all democratic space by monitoring and intimidating the media and civil society.

It has tightened its control on free speech, forcing observers to question whether it will be possible to hold a free and fair election under the prevailing circumstances.

Some radical opposition leaders are calling for an election boycott.

The government operates and controls mobile telephone and the short messaging service (SMS) can be disabled anytime.

Since the violence of 2005, the EPRDF has not left anything to chance.

The party has tacitly started campaigning, funding youth groups composing about six million members, farmers associations, women groups and any other groups that could vote against it.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has hinted that he might not run in 2010, but the majority of Ethiopians do not take this seriously.

The EastAfrican recently visited the capital, Addis Ababa, where the largely disillusioned populace have resigned to the fact that EPRDF will retain power. But there is simmering discontent.

“The people are withdrawn because they are angry that EPRDF is practising politics of exclusion and it is not ready to share power, despite the realization that a good number of Ethiopians do not support it but are afraid to speak out for fear of persecution. This could create a conducive ground for a repeat of the 2005 post-election violence,” said Mesfin Kebede, a former journalist, who had to abandon the profession due to an increasingly hostile operating environment.

In 2005, the results were delayed from May to September following widespread claims of fraud, which prompted various unrest in which hundreds of people were arrested and at least 200 killed by security forces.

CUD leaders and other prominent opposition politicians were arrested and jailed for life for inciting violence. However they were released after pressure from the international community. Many of them chose to leave the country rather than risk re-arrest.

This was what happened to Birtukan Mideksa, a fiery 34-year old lawyer-cum-politician, and leader of the Union for Democracy and Justice. She was detained after the government revoked her pardon on grounds that she violated the terms of her release.

However, six major Ethiopian opposition parties recently formed a new political alliance — the Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia — to run for election and agitate for the release of jailed opposition leaders.

According to Sammy Fikre, a writer with The Sub-Saharan Informer, Meles is perceived as eloquent and brave. “Western donors believe that he understands them better than many African leaders, and that he has ideas for economic growth and reduction of poverty. But some of it is exaggerated,” he said.

In October 2007, the US House of Representatives passed the Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act, 2007, which proposed withdrawal of “non-essential” assistance to Ethiopia until the federal government meets human rights obligations outlined in the Act.

With the entry of the new US administration, and Obama’s tacit warning to dictators in Africa, Zenawi will be under pressure to allow greater democracy in the second most populous nation in Africa after Nigeria.

But even with the unity of opposition, the EPRDF is still too strong, given that Ethiopian opposition parties routinely accuse the government of harassment and intimidated during elections, as was the case in last April during elections for local authorities.

Even the once formidable CUD is a pale shadow of its former self.

CUD was mainly made of business community, civil society and those who had their education abroad and had never been part of the government.

It was popular and formed only six months before the May 2005 elections.

However, EPRDF was complacent and was taken by surprise by the CUD popularity, in which opposition took all the seats in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Now, EPRDF is aware of the type of opponent they are facing and are not leaving anything to chance.

The party has tacitly started campaigning, funding youth groups numbering about six million, farmers associations, women groups and any other groups that could vote against it.

As a result, there is a difference among the opposition whether to participate or boycott the elections.

Moderates are urging the opposition to participate to further entrench democracy in Ethiopia, but radicals within the opposition believe that participation will mean legitimizing the obvious, that EPRDF will win through manipulation and fear mongering.

Still, anything can happen, with the growing inflation and the continued repression of civil liberties.

The youth are resisting the reservation of some ministries to certain ethnic groups.

It is a practise that certain key ministries can only be held by one ethnic group irrespective of merit.

However, Ethiopians agree that he better than his predecessor, Mengistu Haile Mariam, even though he rules with an iron hand. Unlike the former regime—commonly referred to as the Derg—people are relatively free to speak their mind provided they dot directly challenge the government.

Secondly, EPRDF had provided opportunities for the growth of business under other activities, with Addis Ababa currently experiencing construction boom.

Indeed, some of Meles critics believe that Ethiopia’s invasion in Somalia in 2006 with support from the US was meant to divert attention from domestic problems and the some Western countries who had threatened to cut aid over lack of democracy and civil rights.

An Ethiopian emigre's murder motive still unknown

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

By Neely Tucker | Washington Post

A family photo of Abiy Bezabih

WASHINGTON DC — Sometimes a mystery stays a mystery and then we worry there are things we don’t know about ourselves, dangerous things.

Nothing that happened in D.C. Superior Court yesterday changed that.

Abiy Bezabih and Adane Kebede had been childhood friends in the same village in Ethiopia. Both were in their 50s. Both had emigrated to the United States and worked at low-paying jobs: Kebede as a security guard in Oakland, Calif., Bezabih as a parking-lot attendant in Georgetown. Neither had a criminal record. They had not seen each other in three decades.

Then, on Dec. 15, 2006, Kebede flew from California to D.C. to visit Bezabih, along with a mutual friend. Three days later, the trio met across the street from the Dukem Restaurant in the 1100 block of U Street NW, 3 in the afternoon, the street full of people.

Bezabih, delighted, gave his old friend a hug.

Kebede accepted the embrace, put a 9mm pistol to Bezabih’s jugular, and shot him through the neck. A witness told police he then put his arms around the dying man and eased him to the ground.

“I don’t know what got into me,” Kebede — short, balding, rasping — told Judge Frederick H. Weisberg yesterday, during a sentencing hearing that came a couple of months after his guilty plea to a charge of murder.

Weisberg said he didn’t really know, either, and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

A lot of people kill each other in the District. Weisberg noted that his court calendar alone had about 50 homicide cases at various stages of the legal process. People tend to want to find a reason for these things. It helps give life a certain sense of order, which leads to a certain sense of safety, based on the belief that the title “human being” is a compliment, despite long historical evidence to the contrary.

The fact is, as Weisberg’s calendar attests, that people often kill people, because that is what people do.

Bezabih was, by all accounts, an unlikely victim. He was a former police officer and insurance agent in Ethiopia. He had received asylum in the United States in 2003 and taken a basic job, making $19,000 a year, in order to start life over. Scrimping and saving, he managed to bring his wife and son to the area the summer before he was killed.

Yesterday, underneath the drab fluorescent lighting of the courthouse, almost everyone had some sort of answer for what Kebede did, a little raft of reason to cling to.

“A certain jealousness,” said the dead man’s wife, Tadesu Woldemarium. “I think this friend told Kebede my husband was doing well, he had this nice life, and he became very jealous.”

“A political hit, absolutely,” said Chris Delia, a software developer who had regularly parked his car in Bezabih’s garage and struck up a friendship with him. “He had been a union leader back in Ethiopia. He had political asylum here. He’d told me that friends of his had mentioned, in the weeks before he was killed, that government people had been asking where he was.”

“Dementia,” Kebede’s lawyer, Anna Van Cleve, told Weisberg. She noted Kebede initially had been found mentally incompetent to stand trial by psychiatrists, that he was still on a regimen of antidepressants, and had a history of physical and mental worries.

Weisberg rejected that. He said that while Kebede had medical issues, he had told doctors different stories about what happened. He said Kebede had lied about his mental condition in an attempt to throw off psychiatrists.

“That’s deliberate manipulation . . . not a florid mental illness,” Weisberg said from the bench.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Snyder told the judge that, at first, he had agreed with the assassination theory.

“A mild-mannered man could not have done this on his own,” Snyder said, summing up the initial assessments of police and prosecutors. Kebede, who made about $12,000 per year, had $3,900 with him when arrested. Bezabih had been given asylum. Something didn’t look right.

Snyder said the authorities launched an investigation that stretched from here to Ethiopia. “We thought ‘there has to be something . . .’ but nothing ever came of it. Nothing.” He also noted that Kebede had told a variety of stories about his actions: that the shooting was about an old debt, about an ancient grievance from the homeland, and then there would be another story.

Snyder’s final summation: “It is utterly inexplicable.”

Markos, Bezabih’s 13-year-old son, walked into the well of the court, stood by the microphone and tried to tell the judge about his father.

“He was a pretty cool dad,” he said. He looked down and bit his lip, then turned suddenly. “Mom, could I have a tissue?”

The hearing concluded. About 50 family members and friends filed into the hallway, talking in small huddles, lost in the bustling courthouse. There were more theories and questions. Sometimes life doesn’t give answers. It gives actions, and the answers are our own.

Ethiopia's dictatorship will fall soon – Dr Berhanu Nega

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice and Freedom held a public meeting Sunday afternoon in Washington DC at Marriott Hotel. The speakers included Dr {www:Berhanu Nega}, chairman; Ato Efrem Madebo, an official; and Judge Frehiwot Samuel, a guest speaker.

Ato Efrem Madebo took the stage first and gave a lecture about democracy, work ethic, etc. He turned the political meeting into a history class. It was painfully boring.

The next speaker was Judge Frehiwot Samuel, a member of the inquiry commission that investigated the 2005 post-election massacre of civilians. His speech was a repetition of what we heard 1,000,000,000 times at different Ethiopian political meetings. The over 500 people who were in attendance did not go to hear such a lecture. They wanted to hear progress report. What did Ginbot 7 do since it was established last May? How much time left before Woyanne is dead and buried? How badly is Woyanne’s nose is bleeding from actions taken by Ginbot 7 so far?

The last and featured speaker was Dr Berhanu Nega. He did not disappoint the audience. He went straight to the point — Woyanne will fall soon, he promised. He was articulate, as usual, and went directly to what the audience was waiting for — the recent reports that flooded the media.

Dr Berhanu proclaimed that the Woyanne regime’s conflicting allegations — coup at first, assassination plot, a few days later — is one more sign that the tribal junta is falling apart. It cannot even trust it’s own power base — the military.

Referring to the latest report about the arrest of General Asaminew Tsige and several other military officers, Dr Berhanu said that the tribal regime is carrying out ethnic cleansing against Amhara members of the armed forces.

Using the meeting as an opportunity, Dr Berhanu made a public call to all Ethiopian opposition parties to come together and create a broad-based alliance as soon as possible. He said that there is not time to waste as things are unraveling fast in the country and that all opposition parties have the responsibility to prepare for the inevitable downfall of Woyanne. Dr Berhanu’s call was received with thunderous applause.

During the Question & Answer session, Ethiopian Review representative Tsegaye Shimeles asked what Ginbot 7 leadership thinks about Ethiopian Review’s proposal about creating a transitional government in exile. Dr Berhanu said that he didn’t read the proposal, but the opposition parties must first agree to work together. Then they will decide what mechanism to create that will replace the Woyanne regime.

Following the town hall meeting, Ginbot 7 held a $50-per plate fund raising dinner.

Ethiopian Review’s live broadcast of the meeting was made possible by Addis Dimts Radio, whose host, Ato Abebe Belew, moderated the meeting.

For security reasons cameras were not allowed in the meeting room. This was done to protect meeting participants and their families from Woyanne agents.

Ginbot 7 meeting in Washington DC – announcement

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice and Freedom is holding a public meeting today in Washington DC.

Place: Marriott Hotel, 1221 22nd Street, Washington DC

General Asaminew Tsige is arrested in Ethiopia

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

The rounding up of active and retired military officers by Meles Zenawi’s regime in Ethiopia is continuing in connection with the alleged coup and assassination plots.

It is reported today that the latest arrests include General Asaminew Tsige (Ret.) of the Ethiopian Air Force; Col. Demisew (?), head of the Amhara Region Security Bureau, Col. Fantahun Muhabe, Shambel Azeze (?), Shaleqa Adamu Getinet, and Shaleqa Sisay (?).

Among civilians who are arrested include Engineer Mengistu Abebe, Engineer Asmare Wale, and Health Officer Yeshiwas Mengesha.

The {www:Woyanne} regime is unwilling to release the names of all the prisoners who are being held as suspects in the alleged assassination plot by {www:Ginbot 7} against high level government officials.

Initially, the allegation was a plot to overthrow the regime. A few days later, the Woyanne regime’s propaganda chief, Berket Simon, changed the story to ‘assassination plot.’

Ato Tsige Habtemariam, the 80-year old father of Ginbot 7 secretary general Andargachew Tsige, is still being held in the notorious Maekelawi as a suspect.

So far no family member is allowed to visit the prisoners and their condition is unknown. Some family members are contacting the Red Cross and international human rights organizations to find out the prisoners’ health status and whether they are being tortured… [MORE]

Ethiopian Orthodox Church is growing, slowly but surely

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

By Assta B. Gettu

As the Twin Cities (in Minnesota, USA) have graciously welcomed you to settle among their communities peacefully, and in these blessed localities the Trios -– the St. Luke Lutheran Church, the St. George Ukrainian Church, and the St. Mary Greek Orthodox Church -– have also facilitated you until you are able to stand up on your own feet by establishing your own new Church — the Debre Berhan St. Ourael Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. May God help those who helped you all these days!

Living in a foreign country, supporting one’s own family, competing with a new civilization foreign to most of us Ethiopians, and fighting against new culture, and preserving one’s own tradition, religion, and custom is one of the greatest achievements a person can accomplish in his life time.

You, members of the Debre Berhan St. Ourael Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church, have been waiting patiently until you find your own worshiping place; now the good Lord in heaven has heard your earnest prayers and given you a place and a church where you can praise him together, you must rejoice fully and be comfortable in your new Church.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church is one of the oldest Christian Churches in the world and has triumphantly crossed many deep and turbulent waters in its long Christian history: the time of Gragn Ahmad, Ate Susinios, Judith-Gudit, Lij Iyasu, and of course the Romans who occupied Ethiopia for five years. The Church bravely fought against such foreign and homegrown invaders.

This unique and glorious Church of ours has been one of the best unifying factors for the survival of the Ethiopian people as a whole: it has marched side by side with its Christian kings, encouraging them spiritually to defend Ethiopia from any hostile enemies and administering Holy Communion for the living and the dying.

It has served its members faithfully by baptizing the Ethiopian children and by blessing the weddings of many Ethiopian young boys and young girls. It has trained thousands of clergies throughout the centuries and passed to us the traditional Church education such as the Yared Zema, the Kine, the Liturgy, the Tirgum, the Kebre Negest, the Geez language, and the Doctrine of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church and many other indispensable Christian books and articles.

Most of the defenders of Ethiopia have been the students of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church whom the Church has trained, cultivated from their childhood until their adulthood. One cannot find in the old days any Ethiopian government official that does not read methehafe-dawit (the Book of Psalm) or does not carry this special book with him wherever he goes.

Therefore, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church has been the training center for many Church and government officials for thousands of years, and the result of its hard work has produced great Ethiopian leaders such as Ate Caleb, Ate Zerayakob, Ate Yukono Amlak, Ate Libne Dingle, Ate Lalibela, Ate Menelik II, Ate Haile Selassie, and many other Ethiopian Christian leaders. It is the dynamic teaching of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church that has taught most of the Ethiopian people civility, hospitality, normality, ethics and faith in the Almighty God.

This Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church has been growing inwardly most of the times; it is now, however, expanding outwardly: the Debre Brhan St. Ourael Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church and many other Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Churches in other countries are good examples.

The recent personal conflict between the legitimate Ethiopian Patriarch Abune Merkorios in exile and Aba Paulos, the usurper of power and the fake Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church at home, helps, in disguise, the Church to expand like the Roman Catholic Church after Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the Castle Church Door helped the new Church expand all over the world.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has been one of the participants of the four well-known Church Councils through the Alexandrian Church –- the mother Church: the Council of Nicaea (325), the council of Constantinople (381), the Council of Ephesus (431), and the Council of Chalcedon (451). Each Council discussed on different issues such as Christ is Divine (Council of Nicaea); the Holy Spirit is Divine (Council of Constantinople); Natural Man is totally depraved (Council of Ephesus); and Christ is human and Divine (Council of Chalcedon).

Out of all these time-consuming doctrinal discussions, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church and the Alexandrian Church firmly assert that Christ has one nature while other Churches believe that Christ has two natures: divine and human, but the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church believes that Christ’s humanity and divinity are united; therefore, Christ has only one nature, not two. It seems such doctrinal controversy that has divided the Church for many years has now died out, and no one cares about the nature of Christ as far as one believes that Christ is the Son of God and the only savior of the world.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church has been very active until Aba Paulos usurped the Patriarchate and created two churches: one at home and one in exile in America.

I’m so happy to hear that the Ethiopian Christian communities in Minnesota are dedicating a new Church on May 16 and 17, 2009, and may the Almighty God bless the dedication of this new Church and may He also bless those who pray in this new Church and listen to their prayers and accept their requests as He kindly accepted King Solomon’s prayer during the Dedication of the Great Temple in Jerusalem.

Ethiopian regime's bogus charges and zero sum games

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

By Zeinab Amde

The recent charges Meles and Bereket are fabricating against opponents of their regime in Ethiopia are merely intended to hit two clusters of political opponents with one stone – that is fighting the growing discontent in the patched up army while at the same time using the crackdown to attempt to implicate the {www:Ginbot 7} movement. Although I am not willing to fabricate any evidence as {www:Meles Zenawi} is doing, no one denies that the army and security machinery are becoming assertive and ballooning beyond the control of Meles.

Meles gave too much money and power to the army and the security to silence dissent, but now they are coming back to ask questions and claim their dues. This effect is accentuated by the emergence of different power groups in the government structure that start to ask the big question –“What if?” What if popular movement pulls the ground from under our feet and Meles leaves just as Mengistu did? What if the need arise to sideline Meles to save the EPRDF when Meles becomes a target of charges of Genocide or Crime against Humanity? Well, the Inquiry Commission sanctioned by the Ethiopian parliament had found that Meles, who took effective control of the security apparatus beginning from May 16, 2005, has authorized excessive force that resulted in the deaths of 200 innocent lives and the maiming of 750 people! What about the countless Amharas, Oromos, Anuaks, Sidamas, who were massacred over the years? What about the rest who were killed in Addis Ababa, Awassa, Tepi,…? These questions beg for answers when a dictatorial machinery heads to its eventual cliff and the leadership submerges in decadence and the need for a replacement shrills sharp.

So the recent charges leveled against army officials, and of course the Ginbot Sebat, is symptomatic of a far graver problem for Meles in the army and the security machinery. Meles surly is growingly being surrounded by enemies from within and without. First and foremost, the people affirmed that they are under a tyranny as this status was cemented in the day light robbery of the May 2005 elections. Next, the fact that the EPRDF ({www:Woyanne}) is paranoid is evident in the manner it is forcing the population in party membership. The membership has evolved from the first 15 years of “bastardization” (recruiting members by other members based on kinship) to “blackmail recruitment” (forcing candidates by blackmailing them with grant or denial of jobs, land, security, and other benefits). Now Meles is bragging like Mengistu claiming that membership has skyrocketed by 4 million in a matter of 1 year after 17 years inability to recruit members. Keep the irony in mind — that the 4 million came to be EPRDFits after EPRDF LOST elections. This astronomical blackmail recruitment is reminiscent of Issepa’s (Worker’s Party of Ethiopia) last days and shows how the EPRDF is desperate.

EPRDF’s recent attempt is similar to that of the changes it orchestrated against Professor Asrat Woldeyes, Defence Minister Siye Abraha and Dr. Taye Woldesemayat. But this latest attempt is futile and destined for a crash as the Ethiopian people have grown out of Meles’s shrinking wisdom and baseless tricks. What is more, the international setting has shifted since May 2005 as he is certified to be an illegitimate leader only recognized for filling the vacuum. In the country, Meles has lost his bearing as the times are changing and no one seriously believes that he has the mandate as he seized power by reversing the verdict of the Ethiopian people who told him that they have decided to change his government. Meles’s charges could have held some water if he was a democratically elected leader, but we all know that he is here with blood dripping from his hands, recently from the June and November 2005 brazen killings. Plus, Meles has no credibility as he has shown his contempt to the people of Ethiopia and the Constitution by killing citizens and staying in power after voted out of office. So Meles’s dream that the Ethiopian people would take him seriously by acting like a legitimate government is a futile attempt that is going to fall into pieces.

This completely futile exercise by Meles and Bereket is a zero sum game for the EPRDF. To the contrary, there are two significant outcomes out of this. The first is that Meles and Bereket have planted the seed of mutiny in the army and security machineries opening the door for the army to intervene when dictators hijack and reverse popular will and elections. Although most who read this discount this point as the army is dominated by one ethnicity, no one denies the fact that the declaration of an attempted coup (even a mutiny by army) has erected the notion and possibility that the army can act independently in certain eventualities. When we read the statements of Bereket and Meles backwards, their fear is that the army could and would intervene when street demonstrations begin in the future.

The second outcome of the coup charges lays bare the fragility of the patched up Meles army, which is being held together with favoritism, corruption, and discrimination. The army is not cohesively held by conviction of truth or even an appearance of an ideology. The army is held together by lies, corruption, benefits, which could be affected by changes in the economy, the overpowering of convicting truths and the popular thrust. Thus, when these changes come, this opens the way for re-alignment inside the ranks of the army and to be affected by the views of ordinary people thereby tilting the tyrants to thinks twice before pursing their undemocratic ways.

That is why this whole circus is a zero sum game for Meles and Bereket further isolating them and narrowing the diminishing ground of credibility. This constant shrinking of their ground always leaves them fighting to stay in power – a fight that has been going on for 18 years now. An unelected and illegitimate regime always lives under paranoia and struggling to survive and not out of mandate and legitimacy given by it from the people. Additionally, this absolutely desperate act would expose the lies that Meles endlessly fabricates only to trap opponents whose only crime is fighting for democracy and to change the illegitimate government that clings to power through killings and vote fraud.

All Ethiopians shall prepare and work for the democratization of the country as whatever support Meles had is being extinguished (do not even count as true followers those outwardly EPRDF members who seek temporary benefits as “members”). The inside walls of the regime are rotting and it is not far before Meles and Bereket would pay for the killings and harm they perpetrated against countless innocents before an international or domestic court. The Ethiopian people be it in the army, the security or government apparatus shall understand that their accountability is for their country and their people and not for individuals who shall face the law. Everybody is equal before the law and we shall all perform our legitimate duties and responsibilities.

Ethiopian opposition Ginbot 7 leaders defend their objectives

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

By Douglas Mpuga | VOA

Ethiopian authorities say the 40 people arrested over a week ago had been planning an insurrection and not a coup. All are said to be members of Ginbot 7 (May the 15th), an opposition pressure group based outside Ethiopia.

Andargachew Tsige is the secretary general of Ginbot 7. From London he told VOA’s English to Africa reporter Douglas Mpuga that it was difficult to tell who exactly was arrested. “The only person whose name is mentioned is an army general, and the other is an 80 year-old man who is my father. Other names are not listed so we cannot tell. Also, our operations in the country are {www:clandestine} we don’t even know the names of some of our members”.

He said his sources within Ethiopia say that the government had backed away from charging the arrested people with plotting a coup because it didn’t appear {www:beneficial} to the government politically. “So they turned it (the arrest) into some terrorist activity so that they (government) could get some diplomatic leverage”.

“Our objective is very simple. In fact, we are not, in a traditional sense, a political party that aspires to take political power. We are mainly interested in the political process. We want the Ethiopian political process to be democratic,” he said.

Tsige emphasized that Ginbot 7 wants democratic institutions to be put in place before any election so that there can be a democratic, free, and peaceful election.

He admitted that his organization has people within the country in all sectors of society, including within ‘the status quo’ and all its military and administrative structures. “We have very extended clandestine network covering the entire nation. We don’t even know all the names of our members, and that is alright because revealing their names would put them in danger”.

Tsige dismissed reports that the Ethiopian government was planning to {www:extradite} members of Ginbot 7 who are in exile. “I am not worried at all. I heard (Simon)

Bereket (the Communications Minister) says the government would consider asking for the extradition of Berhanu Nega and other exiled Ginbot 7 leaders. Doesn’t he know that Ethiopia has no extradition treaty with the United States”, he asked.

Tsige added that Nega was fighting for democracy and freedom which are values shared by western society and the Ethiopian people. “The American government knows the status quo is narrowing down the political space, it is accused of the crime of genocide.

They know they killed hundreds of {www:peaceful} protesters after the 2005 elections. It is these guys who are in power that are seen as criminals not those fighting for freedom”.

It's time for Ethiopian transitional government in exile

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

In September 2006, Ethiopian Review had called on the opposition parties to set up a transitional government in exile. Three years later, the parties are still unable to come together and create a viable alternative that can replace the Woyanne tribal regime without engulfing Ethiopia in crisis.

Now, more than ever, conditions are conducive to create a transitional government in exile in order to facilitate a regime change in Ethiopia. There is a new player in the field, Ginbot 7, a legitimate successor to Kinijit, that has a cohesive and dynamic leadership. The Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF), an armed resistance group, is stronger than ever with several thousand well trained fighters. OLF, TPDM, and ONLF have strong military presence inside Ethiopia. The only thing missing is a unified political and military leadership that is able to present itself to the people of Ethiopia and that international community that there is an alternative to the Woyanne regime.

A revised version of what Ethiopian Review proposed in 2006

The government in exile is necessary for the following reasons:

1) highlights the illegitimacy of the dictatorship in power.

2) its presence helps exert increasing international and domestic pressure on the dying regime, expediting its inevitable fall down.

3) serves as a rallying point for the people of Ethiopia.

4) the international community will see that there is a better alternative that will be able to bring democracy, peace and stability in the Horn of Africa region.

5) there will be a planned, smooth transition of power, avoiding potential chaos.

6) defeats the Meles regime’s “divide and conquer” strategy.

Planning the government in exile starting now will give time for thorough discussions among the political parties, scholars, and the public at large. There is nothing to be gained by waiting.

Structure of the proposed Transitional Government

A proposal by Ethiopian Review

The Transitional Government will be headed by a five-member Presidency Council–a president and four vice-presidents.

The Presidency Council (PC) will have a three-year term. At the end of the three-year term, there will be a national election under a new constitution.

The presidency rotates every 12-month.

Decisions in the PC will be made by consensus.

The PC’s decisions will be carried out by a Council of Ministers.

The Council of Ministers (CM) will be composed of a prime minister (PM) and two deputy prime ministers (DPMs).

The PM and DPMs will be appointed by the PC.

Prime Minister -
Deputy Prime Minister -
Deputy Prime Minister -
Minister of Defense -
Minister of Foreign Affairs -
Minister of Justice -
Minister of Interior -
Minister of Finance -
Minister of Agriculture -
Minister of Industry -

The rest of the CM members will be appointed by the PM with the consent of the PC and the DPMs.

The CM will serve during the three-year transition period.

The PC’s primary task will be to prepare the country for elections within three years.

In preparation for the elections, the PC will:

1. create an election committee composed of one representative from each party, including those that are not part of the PC.

2. convene a Constitutional Convention (CC) composed of representatives from each woreda (district) of the country, as well as representatives of civic, religious, labor, and other groups.

Activities while in exile

1. The Transitional Government in exile, upon its formation, will contact all governments around the world and seek recognition as the legitimate government of Ethiopia.

2. Merge the EPPF, OLF, ONLF, TPDM, and SLF fighters under one unified command to be named Ethiopian Armed Forces.

3. Contact each military officer in the army under the Meles regime and persuade him/her to join the legitimate Ethiopian Armed Forces.

4. All the ministers in the Transitional Government in Exile will start to carry out their responsibilities. For example, the Minister of Foreign Affair will mobilize international support for the government in exile; the Minister of Justice will investigate officials of the Meles regime for crimes against humanity and corruption; the Ministers of Finance, Industry and Agriculture will create an economic team that will prepare a plan on how to grow the country’s economy during the transition period; etc

The danger of not setting up a government in exile

1. When the Meles regime collapses, chaos could reign in the country for several days, or weeks. A well executed plan by the transitional government in exile will prevent that.

2. The Meles regime will continue to incite ethnic conflict.

3. An unknown armed force could come to power and install another dictatorship.

4. The unity of Ethiopia will be in grave danger as ethnic-based parties become militarily and politically more powerful and decide to stick to their independence agenda when they see for them no political space under the Ethiopian tent. The Transitional Government will give political space for these ethnic-based parties to address the concerns and grievances of their constituencies under a united Ethiopia using democratic means such as elections, courts, dialogue, etc.

Ginbot 7's Andargachew Tsige on VOA – audio

Friday, May 1st, 2009

{www:Ginbot 7} high ranking official Ato Andargachew Tsige was interviewed by the VOA today to answer the latest allegations by Ethiopia’s dictatorial regime.

In a press conference today, Woyanne regime’s propaganda chief Bereket Simon told reporters that Ginbot 7 did not try to over thrown the government, but it had attempted to assassinate regime officials.

It is to be remembered that earlier this week, the Woyanne regime issued a statement saying that Ginbot 7′s plot to overthrow the government was foiled.

Ato Andargachew’s 80-year-old father, who had a heart bypass surgery recently, is one of the 40 suspects the Woyanne regime has thrown in jail accusing them of plotting to carry out assassinations.

Listen to Ato Andargachew’s interview below:
 

Ethiopians in Minnesota to inaugurate a new church

Friday, May 1st, 2009

ANNOUNCEMENT

We, members of the Debre Berhan St. Ourael Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, are blessed to announce the inaugural ceremony of our new church in St. Paul Minnesota that will be hold on May 16 and 17.

In the last four years we had the privilege to worship every Sunday morning at a different location in St. Paul and Minneapolis at diverse facilities provided by generous God-loving Minnesota communities, including the St. Luke Lutheran Church, St. George Ukrainian Orthodox Church and St. Mary Greek Orthodox Church. Now, we have found our own place to praise our lord located in the center of the Twin Cities.

We cordially invite you to join us on the inaugural celebration in the presence of His holiness Abune Merkorios, Patriarch of Ethiopia, accompanied by archbishops, bishops, priests, deacons, parish council representatives, all coming to the great state of Minnesota from different countries such as Europe, Canada and the United States of America. Please be
part of the celebration and witness with us this historical Ethiopian community event.

God bless you.

The Parish Council
Saint Ourael Ethiopian Orthodox Church

Saturday, May 16, 2009, 4pm-7pm
Sunday, May 17, 2009, 8am-11.30am

Place: 1144 Earl street, St. Paul, MN 55106
Phone (651)771-7129

EPPF hits Woyanne targets in northern Ethiopia

Friday, May 1st, 2009

The Ethiopian People Patriotic Front’s (EPPF) freedom fighters have attacked a {www:Woyanne} regime’s military unit near northern Ethiopian towns of Dansha and Tegede killing 14 soldiers and confiscating several weapons.

According to the {www:EPPF} military communique that was issued this week by the press office, following the attack on Woyanne forces, over 20 residents in the area have joined the EPPF army.

Ethiopian Review sources in northern {www:Gonder} are reporting that the Woyanne regime has sent military reinforcement to the area and house-to-house searches are being conducted in some parts of the region.

For more information, visit EPPF’s official web site: eppfonline.org

Ethiopia's regime says plotters sought to assassinate officials

Friday, May 1st, 2009

By Barry Malone

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s [dictatorial regime] said on Friday a group led by an Ethiopian-American professor had planned to {www:assassinate} officials and blow up public utilities in a plot to topple the government.

Addis Ababa arrested 40 former and current army personnel and members of a disbanded opposition group last week from a “terror network” it said was formed by Berhanu Nega, an opposition leader now living in the United States.

“Several individuals were targeted for assassination,” Bereket Simon, head of information for Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government, told reporters, without saying who were the intended targets.

“They were intending to pave the way for street actions to overthrow the government,” he said, adding that the group had planned to target telecommunications and power sectors.

Some 200 opposition supporters were killed and hundreds arrested following the disputed 2005 parliamentary election.

Berhanu, now residing in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in that poll, but was arrested when the opposition disputed the results. He and other opposition leaders were released in a 2007 pardon.

Meles was initially hailed as part of a new generation of African leaders, but rights groups have increasingly criticized the rebel-turned-leader for cracking down on opposition.

Even though Meles has held power since the early 1990s, the recent arrests show his government is still sensitive to the opposition in the run-up to next year’s parliamentary vote.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s second most populous country has been eyed by foreign investors in agriculture, horticulture and real estate although it has recently suffered from high inflation and a fall in foreign exchange inflows.

SCURRILOUS

Berhanu’s group called the accusations “baseless”.

“No amount of scurrilous accusations, threats or blackmail by the regime will deter us from pursuing the cause of democracy and freedom,” it said on its Web site www.ginbot7.org last week.

Bereket said those arrested included a general.

The government may ask for Berhanu and others from the United States and Britain to be extradited, Bereket said.

“If a court of law adjudicates that they are {www:criminal}, then as with any criminal we would want their extradition,” he said.

Bereket said the group had received money to buy weapons from Berhanu and other diaspora opposition members.

Berhanu’s organisation “May 15th” is named after the date of the 2005 poll. He had made statements in the United States, where he teaches economics at Bucknell University, saying it wants to violently overthrow the government.

Opposition parties routinely accuse the government of {www:harassment} and say their candidates were intimidated during local elections in April of last year. The government denies it. (Editing by Jack Kimball)

Senior Ethiopia military officers "plotted assassinations"

Friday, May 1st, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) — Senior military officers in Ethiopia, including a general, had plotted to assassinate top government officials, Communications Minister Bereket Simon said Friday, adding that 40 people [including 80-year-old father of an opposition party leader] were under arrest.

“While six of the suspects were army officers on active duty, including one general, 34 of the suspects were ex-army men expelled from the army on grounds of misconduct,” he told a press conference.

Bereket said the plotters belonged to the {www:Ginbot 7} (May 15) opposition group, saying it was linked to the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) headed by {www:Berhanu Nega}, currently living in the United States.

He said the government believed that the “desperado” group was not planning to stage a coup, but intended “assassinating individuals, high ranking government officials and destroying some public facilities and utilities … like telecom services and electricity utilities.

“The police have also found evidence implicating some ex-CUD members released on pardon. With the exception of some three or four of the desperado group who are still at large, the police have arrested almost all members of the conspiracy.”

Berekt told AFP the government knew about the plot from its inception, adding, “If there had been laxity from the government, there would have been problems.”

The mass arrests were reported on Sunday by state media, which said the National Security Taskforce had also found weapons including bombs, computers and communications equipment, military uniforms and documents.

The CUD won an unprecedented number of seats in the May 15, 2005 elections, which the European Union and other observers said fell short of international standards.

Around 200 people died in violence that erupted after the CUD accused the party of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of rigging the ballot.

Berhanu, 51, currently a university professor in the United States, was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in the polls. He was subsequently jailed for two years along with other leaders of the CUD, and left the country after his release.

Ethiopia’s next general election is scheduled to be held in June 2010.

In a statement on its website following the initial reports of arrests Ginbot 7 said it “has no desire to engage in a tit-for-tat with the dictators in Addis Ababa, nor the time to waste replying to baseless accusations by a regime that rules Ethiopia by the barrel of the gun.”

“Ginbot 7 remains committed to work for the establishment of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law in Ethiopia. No amount of scurrilous accusations, threats or blackmail by the regime will deter us from pursuing the cause of democracy and freedom,” it added.

Bereket said evidence showed the plotters aimed “to create conducive conditions for large scale chaos and havoc. ”

“Assassinating people was intended as a preliminary measure” to street actions similar to those of 2005, he charged.

“Berhanu Nega is the mastermind, he’s deeply involved in it, and he’s not anyway vehemently denying it. Nega has been saying that anything that can be done to bring down this government is welcome.”

The minister said some of those arrested were “disgruntled” at reforms launched in the army.

“Our army is in a very good shape,” he asserted, saying it was “based on democratic and constitutional values.”

Bereket said preparations were under way to prosecute the “suspected terrorists” and a court hearing was planned for May 11.

Ethiopia: Working together to fight malaria

Friday, May 1st, 2009

By Donald Yamamoto, U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia

For about half the world’s population, malaria remains one of the greatest threats to public health. It is a disease that causes poverty, disrupts the livelihood of families, and far too often, steals the future of Africa’s children. In tropical Africa, the disease kills nearly 3,000 people each day with young children and pregnant women at greatest risk.

World Malaria Day is observed April 25 to call attention to the disease and to mobilize action to combat it. On behalf of the American people, the U.S. government has taken extraordinary steps to curb the spread of this preventable and curable disease.

The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), led and implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) with the assistance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), represents a historic $1.2 billion, five-year expansion of U.S. government resources to fight malaria in Africa.

The strategy is straightforward. First, prevention: PMI supports indoor residual spraying to keep deadly mosquitoes at bay, the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets to provide personal protection from malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and preventive malaria treatment to expectant mothers during pregnancy. Second, treatment: PMI distributes new and highly effective medicines and trains health workers on the proper use of those medicines. Working with national governments, international donors and other stakeholders, PMI has helped to rapidly scale up these malaria prevention and treatment measures across 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

During the third year of PMI implementation, the United States reached more than 32 million people with malaria prevention and treatment measures in Africa. In 2008, PMI procured more than 6.4 million long-lasting mosquito nets for free distribution to populations at risk of malaria and a total of 15.6 million anti-malarial drug treatments. Indoor residual spraying activities covered 6 million houses and protected nearly 25 million people at risk of malaria.

In Rwanda, Zambia, and Tanzania we are beginning to see signs of major reductions in the proportion of people infected with malaria. In Rwanda and Zambia, there has been a striking reduction in deaths among children under the age of five. On the isles of Zanzibar in Tanzania, we have seen malaria infection rates drop to less than 1% throughout the population of 1 million. Malaria prevention and treatment measures are associated with and can contribute to these reductions. Regional and district-level impact has also been reported from Mozambique and Uganda.

Ethiopia was announced as a PMI focus country in December 2006 and started PMI program implementation last year, investing approximately $71 million over three years to help Ethiopia reach its goal of eliminating malaria by 2020. PMI-supported activities, planned in close collaboration with the Government of Ethiopia’s Federal Ministry of Health, are primarily focused on the Oromiya Region which bears the brunt of the country’s malaria burden. With support from the American people, PMI has helped spray over 1.7 million houses with insecticide, protecting 5.9 million Ethiopians from getting malaria. USAID is currently in the process of distributing nearly 590,000 insecticide-treated bed nets. We have also distributed 600,000 anti-malarial drugs to health facilities in the Oromiya Region.

Sustainability of malaria control programs is a critical goal of U.S. efforts. We are focusing on building capacity within host countries by training people to manage, deliver, and support the delivery of health services, which will be critical for sustained successes against infectious diseases such as malaria.

As a result of the support and progress in these critical areas, national malaria control programs are becoming more effective and accountable.

Partnerships with host country governments, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Bank Booster Program for Malaria Control, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and others have made these successes possible.

Successful partnerships with faith-based and community organizations are bringing tremendous value to malaria control efforts because of the credibility these groups have within their communities, their ability to reach the grassroots level, and their capacity to mobilize significant numbers of volunteers. PMI has supported more than 150 nonprofit organizations, over 40 of which are faith based.

Across Africa, children and their families are sleeping under bed nets; local groups are teaching mothers to take anti-malarial drugs when they are pregnant and seek proper treatment for their sick children. In schools and villages, community centers and places of worship, clinics and hospitals, optimism is growing that we can and will succeed in controlling malaria. We share that optimism. On World Malaria Day, the United States will continue to galvanize action and spur grassroots and private sector efforts to control the disease.

Ginbot 7 chairman travels to Europe

Friday, May 1st, 2009

EMF reports that Dr. {www:Berhanu Nega}, Chairman of {www:Ginbot 7} Movement for Justice Freedom and Democracy, an Ethiopian opposition party, will be traveling to Europe at the end May for talks with officials of European governments about the ongoing political turmoil in Ethiopia.

Meetings have been scheduled in France, Norway, Brussels, Sweden, Germany and The Netherlands.

Dr Berhanu will also meet Ethiopians in European cities to discuss on current issue. Details of the tour will be posted soon on Ginbot 7′s web site.

The worsening political crisis in Ethiopia is creating a serious concern among the governments of Western countries. According to EMF sources, the US state department has contacted Dr. Berhanu Nega last week for discussion. The British authorities have contacted Ato Andargachew Tsege, Ginbot 7 high ranking officials, for talks.

Meanwhile, the Woyanne tribal regime in Ethiopia continues its witch-hunt against non-Tigrean members of the armed forces. Several officers with different ranks are being rounded up suspected of supporting Ginbot 7.

This coming Sunday, May 3, Ginbot 7 will hold a town hall meeting in Washington DC. Visit ginbot7.org for more information.

Chance to roll back AIDS is real

Friday, May 1st, 2009

By MICHAEL GERSON | Washington Post

As I was waiting for the results of my AIDS test, the health lecture from my counselor, Anthony, was calm, explicit and informative. The five bodily fluids that can transmit the HIV virus. The proper way to open a condom package to avoid rips.

An AIDS clinic in Washington, D.C., a new ground zero in the American AIDS crisis, is no place for the squeamish.

The test itself looks like a pregnancy test, in its small, white, plastic momentousness. The swab at the end is run across the gum line; no blood is drawn. The results take about 20 minutes and are 99.1 percent accurate.

I was visiting Unity Health Care in Ward 7, an outpost of tidy medical professionalism in a poor section of the city. Here the talk of epidemics has nothing to do with swine flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes a health epidemic as “severe” when more than 1 percent of people in a geographic area are infected. The HIV infection rate in Ward 7 is at least 2.4 percent — higher than in Ethiopia, Ghana or Burundi. Among 40- to 49-year-olds in the District of Columbia, 7.2 percent are HIV-positive.

If 7.2 percent of all 40-somethings in America were infected with anything, there would be no other topic of national discussion — every alarm would ring, every clock would stop. In this case, the victims are geographically isolated, often poor, and thus largely invisible.

Unity Health Care provides services from dermatology to ophthalmology. Because of the stigma, few would come to a clinic that dealt exclusively with HIV/AIDS. Gebeyehu Teferi, the medical director of HIV services, sees the AIDS crisis in every form — intravenous drug users, prostitutes, men who have sex with men, and middle-aged women shocked by their diagnosis and the infidelity of their partners. “There are late, full-blown cases coming into the emergency room,” says Teferi. “People who say, ‘I don’t use drugs, or even drink.’ They forget about the sexual part of it.”

The staff at Unity recommends three changes to confront the epidemic. First, AIDS needs to be discussed at home. In prevention, there is no substitute for uncomfortable frankness. Neither self-interest nor morality is aided by ignorance.

Second, they argue for treating AIDS more routinely as an infectious disease. A positive syphilis test, for example, is reported directly from the medical lab to the local Department of Health. “If it is syphilis,” says Teferi, “there is a knock on their door to get them into treatment. If it is HIV, no one talks to them.”

Third, testing needs to be broader. People who know their positive status are more likely to change their behavior and get treatment for opportunistic infections. Early treatment also can reduce the virus to a nearly undetectable level in the body, drastically lowering transmission from mothers to children during childbirth and between couples in which only one partner is HIV-positive.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says an AIDS vaccine remains unlikely in the short term. But what if we were to begin treatment with AIDS drugs as soon as someone is diagnosed with HIV instead of waiting, as we now do, until later stages? Lower viral loads would inhibit transmission. “Treatment,” he says, “would be prevention.” According to the mathematical model Fauci has reviewed, the testing and treatment of 90 percent of those at risk could eventually eradicate — not just control, but eradicate — the disease in a geographic area.

The obstacles are immense. Would people take AIDS drugs when they are still feeling well? Would any community help promote testing on such a massive scale? Would it be cost-effective?

But even the attempt would have many good effects. It would encourage early care and effective prevention. And if everyone were tested, the stigma surrounding AIDS testing might decrease. It takes only 20 minutes.

First 100 Days – Obama African Report Card: D

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

By Oromsis Adula

November 4th, 2008, marked a great milestone in American history and the history of people of African descent. For the first time in the history of mankind, a junior senator of African heritage got elected to the office of the President of the United States of America. It was a moment of jubilation and thrill…the euphoria was felt around the world. Millions wept out of happiness and for witnessing the unimagined prospect of an African-American president in a once the most racist nation on earth.

That great ecstasy was deeply felt in Africa more than any other place outside the United States. A young senator, whom many in Africa referred to as a native son, won the highest trophy ever imaginable. From the streets of Kogelo – Obama’s ancestral village, to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and anywhere in between, the jubilation was rampant.

Just like the triumph, expectations for a favorable American policy towards Africa were high in the air. Even African dictators, ironically the very people who have denied freedom to Africans and condemned them to a miserable life by failing to tackle or exacerbating the issues of corruption, mismanagement, environmental degradation, mal-governance, abuse of power, conflict, poverty and what not, praised Obama’s historic victory one after another. The worst of African dictators jumped on the bandwagon glorifying and praising Obama’s victory as historic and momentous. Here are few such praises from African leaders:

Mr. Moi Kibaki, President of Kenya described Obama´s victory as a “momentous occasion for Kenya…it is our own victory because of his roots here in Kenya… as a country, we are full of pride for his success…your victory is not only an inspiration to millions of people all over the world, but it has special resonance with us here in Kenya.”

Nigerian President Oumaru Yar´Adua…”the election of Barack Obama … has finally broken the greatest barrier of prejudice in human history. I believe for us in Nigeria, we have a lesson to draw from this historic event…that the election of Obama had “created a totally and completely new era.”

Denis Sassou Nguesso described Obama´s victory as a “…moving historic moment…we see how visionaries like Martin Luther King saw coming events. His dream has come true.”

Chad’s National Assembly Leader; Nasser Guelindoksia agreed that Obama´s victory “…is an example to follow, especially by Africans as Americans show that democracy knows no color, religion or origin.”

Somalia’s former President of the Transitional Somali Government, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed defined Obama´s victory as “…a great moment for America and for Africa…I am hopeful that he (President Obama) will help end the major crisis in the world, particularly the endless conflict in my country.”

Sudanese President Omer Hassan Al-Beshir noted “…we would hope that the slogan of President Obama – change – would be reflected in the foreign policy of the United States…we would like to see some real change between Sudan and the United States.”

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe expressed “…your election…carries with it hopes for millions of your country men and women as much as it is for millions of people of … African descent.”

Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe wrote “…as the government and people of Zimbabwe join you in celebrating this event in the history of the U.S.A, I take this opportunity to assure you Mr. President-elect that the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe remains ready to engage your government in any desirable endeavor to improve our bilateral relations”.

During his rigorous campaign season, Obama vowed to change American policy towards Africa. Among other things, Obama called on “Ethiopia and Eritrea to walk back from the brink of war which seemed unavoidable at the time…called for an increased pressure on Robert Mugabe to follow through with power-sharing agreement…promised to end the genocide in Darfur… pledged to formulate a new approach to the deteriorating situation in Somalia…strengthen Africom to promote peace, security, and stability on the continent.”

Obama raised the bar even higher in his inaugural speech when he declared “to those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist…to all those watching tonight (January 20, 2009) from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces …huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand…those who seek peace and security – we support you.”

Today, after 100 full days in office, Obama got an A or B on most of the things he has accomplished so far and for keeping most of his campaign promises. In his own words Obama acknowledged that he is “pleased with what has been accomplished so far, but we have got a lot of work to do”. Most commentators/journalists based their grading on wide range of issues but notably on the economy, transition into power, hiring scrambles, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Environment, Women Rights, Health care, Transparency and Accountability, Bipartisanship, the Closure of Guantanamo Prison and etc.

I wanted to look at what Obama folks have accomplished the African policy conundrum in their first hundred days in office. Practically, nothing. I am not aware of any major campaigns by the African Diaspora or African interest groups with the exception of Save Darfur Coalition that had an agenda for the President in an effort to hit the ground running. Rather a whole host of expectations that the Obama people would be favorable in their approach towards African issues; Hunger, Poverty, HIV, corruption, democracy, regional Peace and Stability etc that are not addressed. There is no doubt that the financial meltdown and the many challenges Obama has inherited from his predecessor has overshadowed his African and other policy initiatives [IV]. But it seems to me that the no-drama Obama team could have done a lot better if they moved “swiftly and quickly” as they have promised us – the enthusiastic supporters.

The visit of Senator John Kerry to Sudan and U.S. Rep. Donald Payne – chairman of the Africa subcommittee on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to Mogadishu and the dramatic saga of Somali Pirates were among the few major African news makers involving the current U.S Administration.

John Kerry’s visit to Khartoum pushed the Sudanese government to agree to allow some of the expelled humanitarian and aid agencies back to Darfur. The piracy incident was hailed by many as Obama’s first national security test that he proficiently passed. There were also reports that the Obama administration is rethinking its Somalia strategy and Defense Secretary Robert Gates went as far as stating “…the ultimate solution for piracy is on land… there is no purely military solution to it…” and the instability and lawlessness in Somalia is key to the problem.

Whereas the insurgents fired mortar at Representative Payne’s plane, there was little coverage of the purpose and result of the visit. But the congressman stated that “…the policy of constructive engagement [is] where you deal with the government, and let them deal with their internal problem” is essential to curbing piracy off the Somali coast. He added “…the Somali government doesn’t want Americans to come run any nation-building programs…they want technical assistance… they need financial support, and they’ll take care of it for themselves.”

Very few journalists/pundits considered African Policy in their grade report/card. Bruce A. Dixon for the Black Agenda Report, one of the few people I have seen grading the President on African policy, gave him one out of five [vii]. I do not know if there are major initiatives in the works for Obama’s African policy. I sincerely hope so. But based on the selection of Ambassador Jonny Carson, a career diplomat noted for a track record of working in Africa, as Assistant Secretary State for African Affairs, I give the President a passing grade with an optimism that the administration will soon move “swiftly” to act on some of the pressing African issues and fulfill Obama’s campaign promises. It should also be noted here that Obama has followed through with his campaign promise to double overseas USAID which will be valuable in achieving the so called “Millennium Development Goals”. Of course only if African leaders can use it for intended, and most of the time unintended, purposes [viii].

American foreign policy on Africa usually focused disproportionately on short-term stability by embracing dictators. The Bush administration went even farther by subordinating the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law to terrorism concerns, a practice very much reminiscent of cold-war tactics, and thereby alienated the vast majority of freedom seeking Africans. In a recent article Jason McLure of the Newsweek detailed how cunning and enterprising African leaders like Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia used US concerns about terrorism not only to silence his domestic political opposition but also wage a costly war on another already battered and failed African state, Somalia, with huge humanitarian, financial and political cost. After 100 days in office Obama did not even indicate if he would make a departure from this approach that failed both Africans and Americans or continue with it with a slight twist by default.

In short, it remains to be seen if the Obama Administration’s policies will match the rhetoric, the great expectations and the universal goodwill that the President enjoys! Africans of all walks of life are looking up to him to deliver them from repression, war, poverty and HIV/Aids.

Ultimately it is up to Africans not Obama, to fix Africa’s mess. But a just, foresighted and generous hand of a powerful President of the powerful country won’t hurt.

Senate Committee Reviews U.S.-Africa Relationship

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

By Charles W. Corey | America.org

Washington — Piracy and maritime security, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ethiopia, corruption, and freedom of the press — all important issues in the U.S.-Africa relationship — were addressed April 29 by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs-designate Johnnie Carson before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

As part of his confirmation hearing, Carson engaged in a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with senators on various aspects of the U.S.-Africa relationship. Carson is a career diplomat, former Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania and a lifelong friend of Africa. He served as the U.S. ambassador to Kenya (1999–2003), Zimbabwe (1995–1997) and Uganda (1991–1994) and in diplomatic posts in Portugal, Botswana, Mozambique and Nigeria.

Asked about ongoing piracy off the coast of Somalia, Carson said the problem is directly related to the absence of any government or law enforcement there and a breakdown of the formal and informal economy. The United States, he said, “needs to be positioned wherever we can with diplomatic representation in the region to help facilitate the efforts to find solutions … in Somalia.”

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, who chaired the hearing for the full committee, Democrat Russ Feingold, told Carson the United States needs “a full-court diplomatic push to engage a wide range of actors within Somalia and stakeholders in the wider region, both in the Horn of Africa and also in the Middle East.”

Carson said much of that push is already under way. “The United States is a part of a Contact Group of largely Western European and maritime powers working to devise rules and regulations that will improve the security of shipping through the Red Sea and the northern part of the Indian Ocean,” he told the lawmakers. The Contact Group has had a number of meetings “to work out details on how they can help address this issue.”

Carson cited “an unprecedented level of cooperation among navies of the world to deal with this issue,” and said the United States government has been very active in working with maritime shipping companies in the United States, encouraging them to adopt policies that will make it harder for pirates to capture or to attack their ships as they move through the region.

Asked about the appointment of President Obama’s new special envoy for Sudan, retired Air Force Major General Scott Gration, Carson termed that selection “a wonderful choice.” Carson described Gration as “a man who is very much dedicated to the job and the assignment that he has been given and a man who has an enormous amount of experience in Africa as well.”

Turning to Zimbabwe, Carson called it an “extraordinarily tragic” case. “We have seen Robert Mugabe take Zimbabwe, a once very successful, economically strong country, down to the lowest level. It is a country that has extraordinary agricultural and mineral potential. It has a citizenship that is broadly well educated for Africa. But under Robert Mugabe’s dictatorial, authoritarian leadership he has basically destroyed the country in order to maintain himself and a small group of leaders in power.”

Carson said the United States has “worked very hard” for change there and that effort has resulted in some progress. “We now have a transition government in place with the leader of the opposition, Morgan Tsvangirai, serving as the prime minister, but Mugabe and the key leadership of [Mugabe’s political party] continue to control the instruments of power in that country … the intelligence services, the police and the military. They also have enormous control over the central bank and the reserve bank. Until we see changes in those areas, it is unlikely we will see any real change in the governance of that country.”

Looking at the political situation in Kenya, Carson called Kenya the “strongest partner” of the United States in the Horn of Africa. “We have our greatest economic ties there. We have our strongest military ties there as well, and it has been an important partner with the United States.” Carson added that the United States is “deeply concerned” over the stalemated political situation there and pledged that, if confirmed, he would do everything he could to help address the political impasse.

Asked to comment on reports of arbitrary arrests in Ethiopia, Carson acknowledged that “Ethiopia has, in fact, been a strong partner in the effort to combat extremism emanating from Somalia.” He added, however, that the United States “needs to have a broad and balanced relationship with Ethiopia — one that is based on a common set of shared ideals and principles based on democratic values.” He said it is “extremely important that Ethiopia … try not to close down its democratic space, that it allows its political opposition, its civil society to participate broadly in the political life of that country.” He also called for Ethiopia to allow a free press and trade unions to operate there.

On the broader issue of press freedom across the continent, Carson underlined the importance of a free press as a major pillar of democracy. He said press freedom has improved on the continent over the past 20 years, aided by the introduction of electronic media, telephones and Internet and radio broadcasts both local and international. A free press, he said, provides information and “a check on government excesses. It allows individuals to make their governments and organizations more accountable and is the backbone of good democracies.”

Carson said that, if confirmed, he will speak out against corruption, which he called a cancer on the economy of any country. Corruption is “particularly devastating on the African economies,” he said, “because they tend to be weak and small.” In too many places around the continent, Carson said, there is a misuse of resources that undermines the integrity of government budgets and development objectives.

Carson’s nomination must be confirmed by the full Senate.

Today's problem yesterday's solution

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

Barack Obama told the American people that you couldn’t solve a 21st. century problem using a 19th. Century mind set. The old prescription by Bush and company weren’t working. He promised that he would look at the issues from a different perspective and introduce new rules and regulations appropriate to the times. He is doing just that. That is what is called leadership.

Our country Ethiopia is faced with the same old problems. Absence of participatory democracy is number one. The lack of democracy and the absence of respect for human rights have a cascading effect on all other national affairs. If the foundation is shaky the house will fall. A nation built on the whim of one man is no different. It is constantly teetering on the verge of catastrophe.

It is obvious that we do have lots of problems in Ethiopia. It is out there for all to see. There is no hiding it. The treasury is empty. The famine is relentless. Unemployment among the youth is double digits. The migration of the young and able goes unabated.

What are we doing about it? That is the shame of it all. The government in power is doing nothing or rather doing the wrong thing to solve the problems. The regime spends more time explaining why things went wrong instead of making things right. Famine is blamed on the weather, unemployment is blamed on international economy and lack of democracy is blamed on the opposition.

Hardly a week goes by without the regime uncovering some kind of nefarious plan to overthrow the ‘constitutional order’ what ever that means. You would think seventeen years is long enough for the cadre’s government to take roots. Seventeen years is time enough for a baby to be born, finish primary and secondary education and enter college. Seventeen years, and one is considered an adult. TPLF suffers from mental deficiency of the highest magnitude.

Judging from the activities of the regime it is easy to conclude that staying in power consumes more time than growing the economy and working for the welfare of the nation. The police state spends more resources in trying to root out perceived enemies. It is like so many enemies so little time.

Because we are constantly inundated by new charges, accusations and drama that we are forced to shrug it off. What now! is our question in unison? What now indeed? Just think of the last four or five months in the life of the TPLF regime.

· The Ethiopian Army was unceremoniously kicked out of Somalia.
· Somali Ethiopians were rounded up and thrown in jail.
· Judge Birtukan was taken back to Kaliti.
· Moneychangers were declared national enemy.
· Coffee merchants were accused of sabotage.
· Indicted criminal Bashir was thrown on our face.
· Ginbot 7 was charged with attempted coup.

Where do they find the time to govern? Managing the affairs of eighty million people is not a part time job. Managing a sick and backward nation is a very serious task. It seems like the TPLF regime has vowed not to let a week go by without finding new enemies. It looks like the flavor of the week is Ginbot 7.

It was with great fanfare that the regime displayed a few guns, explosive devices and an old computer that was allegedly seized by the security forces. Thirty-five people were hauled in front of good old Judge Adil or some one like him and thrown in jail. As usual the police asked for additional time to manufacture more evidence. Ato andargachew Tsgie’s father who is eighty years old is one of the alleged conspirators. Ato Muluneh Eyoel reminds us that this is the second encounter Ato Tsgie Hatemariam had with the Ethiopian government. Thirty years ago the Derge gunned down his young son and he was made to search for the body in a pile of victims and was charged $100 for the bullet. But soon after Derg cadres removed the body from the casket claiming the government is unwilling to release it to the family (http://ethioforum.org/wp/archives/987) It is so sad we have to witness such inhuman act against our father.

It is also an indication of the mindset of those in charge. It is a sure sign that their brain how ever small has frozen in time. It is unable, unwilling or refusing to move to a higher level of looking at the big picture. It is still set to function as a liberation front bent on fighting to liberate a village instead of governing a country. The fact that the war is over and now it is time to build and grow is refusing to sink in. TPLF is still fighting EPRP.

Using yesterday’s method to tackle today’s problem. That is TPLF in a nutshell. They are preparing for one of their show trials just like their mentor Stalin. They of course assume that those opposed to them are operating using the same old principle. How wrong they are. The Ginbot7 and Andenet we know seem to approach the problem from a completely different angle. They do not subscribe to palace coup, conspiracy, backroom deals or power at all cost. They believe in the slow deliberative process of teaching the people, working with the people and trusting the people. They are not into shortcuts. They do not convince the population by pointing out how rotten Woyane is but rather by what good they have to offer. They are not into setting out one tribe against the other but they are into including all under one tent. They are not about selling our sovereignty to the highest bidder but safeguarding our national integrity. They are the future Ethiopia.

The new way we fight oppression is completely different. It is not all about going into the bush and raising an army. It is not about coming from the countryside alone. That is an old and tired method. It is but a small component of the re liberation of our country. The new weapon of choice is empowering the people. It is about making people realize their collective power. It is about waking up that old Ethiopian spirit of pride and fierce nationalism. The Derge did a lot of damage to our national psych. Woyane has been trying to extinguish the flame of Ethiopiawenet.

The 2005 general elections woke up the sleeping giant. We in the Diaspora like our brethren at home have been infected with democratic fever. You cannot put the genie back in the bottle. We have built a lethal force that is growing by the day. There are patriotic groups organized in all continents. The new US Congress is getting ready to pick up the Ethiopian Human Rights bill, there are groups working on classifying Ethiopian coffee as ‘blood coffee’ just like ‘blood diamond’, there are Ethiopians working to teach World Bank and IMF about Woyane’s habit of confiscation of private property and there are citizens gathering evidence for International Court of Justice. We have become good at rallying our forces to petition your bankers to see the monster they have created. Sooner or later we will force them to do what is right. We mean to cut Woyane’s oxygen supply and suffocate the varmint. We can do it. We will do it. London was a show of force. There will be many London’s to come.

We understand all this noise coming out of Arat Kilo is to confuse the issue and cover up the utter failure of seventeen years of mismanagement. It is an attempt to get us out of focus. Do we fight for Judge Birtukan’s release; do we concentrate on the coffee debacle, publicize the lack of basic freedom before the coming elections or wonder about the so-called coup? TPLF is throwing all kinds of issues to distract us. TPLF would like to be a moving target. Too bad we are familiar with that game. We know the regime is the ultimate drama queen. The quintessential cry baby always blaming others for its own failures. The OLF is trying to destabilize me, the Eritreans are invading me, the jihadists are threatening me, Andenet does not exist and now Ginbot7 is using the army to overthrow the constitutional order.

Unfortunate for TPLF it is not just thirty-five people but more like thirty five million. It should be clear by now that there is no jail big enough to hold the opposition. We are all Ginbot7.

Canadian detained in Ethiopia to defend against charges

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) — A Canadian man facing terrorism-related charges in Ethiopia and in detention since 2006 will take the defence stand next month, a judge said on Thursday.

Bashir Makhtal, an Ethiopian-born Canadian citizen, is accused of inciting rebellion by aiding and abetting armed opposition groups in Ethiopia and being a senior member of a rebel group.

“The accused should now prepare his defence for next hearing on May 26,” said Adam Ibrahim.

The 40-year-old, who has denied the charges, is also accused of supporting Somalia’s Islamist movement ousted by Ethiopian forces in early 2007 when they intervened in the neighbouring country to prop up its embattled government.

Mukhtal was among some 150 people detained by Kenyan forces in 2006 on the border with Somalia as they fled the Ethiopian onslaught on the Islamists.

The trial has been postponed several times this year due to prosecutors’ failure to provide witnesses.

Home-cooked Ethiopian food in Maryland

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

By Richard Gorelick | The Baltimore Sun

Owner Emu Kidanewolde displays some of the entrees on the menu. [Baltimore Sun photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor]

Elfegne Ethiopian Cafe is a peach. Owned and operated, pretty much single-handedly, by former mortgage broker Emu Kidanewolde, this small and tidy 20-seat storefront cafe is more than just a great place to feast on inexpensive home-cooked Ethiopian food. Elfegne also acts as a de facto community center for the residents of Washington Village (aka Pigtown). It opens at 7 in the morning for breakfast (Kidanewolde will have been there for hours already, making homemade injera, the fermented Ethiopian bread staple) and stays open through dinner. When we visited, a few neighbors had dropped in for a bite to eat but also to keep Kidanewolde company and even lend a hand. This was the day when the Susan Boyle video went viral, and all of us in the restaurant ended up watching it together on one of the neighbor’s laptops.

This was actually the second time we had tried to eat at Elfegne. The first time we came, the restaurant had been commandeered by a single group for a party. That was discouraging, but it suggested this scenario: A few people had fallen in love with Elfegne, had told a few other people about it, and then felt strongly enough about it to invite more people there for a celebratory dinner. It was worth coming back for.

The menu here is simple and streamlined, with only about a dozen or so entrees. The most familiar Ethiopian menu items here are beef and lamb tibs (sauteed cubed meat), wot (stew) and kitfo (raw or rare beef), but only in their most typical versions. So, where another restaurant might have five or six versions of tibs, Elfegne has two. This is actually a kind of relief. Ordering from an Ethiopian menu can be arduous, but here it was easy. It was even simpler because some items are only available on certain days. Kidanewolde only makes the elaborate dulet, with lamb tripe, on Saturday and doro wot, a chicken stew, on Monday. Lamb wasn’t being served on the Thursday when we visited. This system made sense to us – it both eases the burden on the kitchen and lets customers know that their food is being made from fresh meat and poultry.

The thing to get here is the half and half, which gives you a choice of two half-sized dishes, which will be presented together on a platter-sized sheet of injera. One of these choices could be the vegetable combination – gently spiced lentils, yellow peas, collard greens – and the other a meat-based dish. The beef tibs is a fine choice. This is a deceptively simple dish, just cubes of beef sauteed with onions and green pepper in an awaze, the paste made from the berbere pepper. But Elfegne’s version really looked and tasted fresh and homemade.

Kitfo is a little more challenging in that it’s made, usually, from raw beef. Blended with herbed butter and garnished with a dried red-pepper powder, this makes for a tremendously rich and satisfying meal. Kidanewolde also offers a cooked version of kitfo, but if you can handle raw food, order it that way.

We liked our other dishes, too; the bozena shiro, a nourishing and savory meat stew made typically from a powder made of chick peas, but at Elfegne with fava beans; and the quanta fitfit, which tosses dried, jerkylike strips of beef with strips of injera, vegetables and seasoned butter. We enjoyed a refreshing lettuce and tomato salad before the main meal but made the mistake of filling up on too much fermented bread. Elfegne also serves smoothies, homemade ginger iced tea and the best cup of coffee I’ve had in a restaurant in months.

We want to go back to Elfegne for breakfast someday, for an omelet or a bowl of steamed cracked wheat, or the bowl of mashed beans and vegetables that our friend with the laptop says sustains him throughout the day.

Elfegne ethiopian cafe

Where: 821 Washington Blvd.
Call: 410-637-3207
Open: 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, AMEX, Discover

Entrees: $7-$12
Appetizers/sides: $1.75-$5

On the menu
• Half and half – $11.50
• Beef tibs – $10.50
• Kitfo – $11
• Doro wot – $12
• Vegetarian platter – $10.50
• Tuna firfir – $10
• Elfegne Bozena Shiro – $8

More officers are being arrested in Ethiopia

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

The Woyanne regime in Ethiopia is currently on a witch-hunt, arresting several military officers whom it is suspecting of supporting {www:Ginbot 7}.

Shocked by the level of infiltration in the military by Ginbot 7, Meles Zenawi’s tribal junta seems to be considering all non-Tigran officer as possible opposition supporters.

The highest ranking officer to be arrested so far is Gen. Teferra Mammo. But Woyanne officials says that several lower ranking officers, including colonels, have been arrested and more are expected to be rounded up… [more in Amharic]

Ethiopian student in Maryland charged with murder plot

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

By Dan Morse and Aaron C. Davis | Washington Post

Yonatan Getachew, 18, was arrested Tuesday, April 28. Charges against him include attempted first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree arson.

WASHINGTON DC — Two Montgomery County teenagers have been charged with arson and conspiracy to commit murder in an alleged plot to kill the principal at their White Oak high school in Maryland with a nail-filled bomb and then trigger a major explosion inside the school, authorities said yesterday.

The Springbrook High School students — juniors ages 18 and 17 — are suspected of having set three fires at the school, including one Tuesday before the discovery of the plot that led to their arrests, police said.

According to police, the students planned “in the near future” to throw the bomb into the principal’s office, and then puncture a gas pipe in the school’s auditorium and use an incendiary device to set off an explosion.

Montgomery Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said investigators think the students “really had an intention of doing this.”

“They were surely doing things that made one believe they were going to try,” he said.

Over the past month, the students “constructed and experimented with several different incendiary devices,” said Lt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman. They had also attempted to puncture pipes in the boys’ locker room to determine whether they were gas lines, he said.

Police identified the teens as Yonata Getachew, 18, of the 11500 block of Sutherland Hill Way in White Oak (a native of Ethiopia) and Anthony N. Torrence, 17, of the 13500 block of Greencastle Ridge Terrace in the Burtonsville area. Torrence has been charged as an adult.

Each is charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, three counts of first-degree arson and other offenses. They are scheduled to appear in court for bond hearings today.

Acting on search warrants obtained Tuesday night, investigators searched both students’ homes. They found flammable liquids and materials used to make “chemical reaction bombs,” police said in a statement. They also found “notes and plans written by Getachew and Torrence about preparations and the physical design of the school building.”

Other students at Springbrook, just north of Silver Spring, said in interviews that Getachew and Torrence kept a low profile.

“He’s a quiet boy,” senior Jared Mohammed, 18, said of Torrence.

Another 18-year-old senior, Yomi Kolawole, said of Torrence, “I didn’t think he would do something like this.”

In a letter to parents, Principal Michael Durso described the situation as serious.

“We learned yesterday of plans being made that could have resulted in damage to the building as well as potential harm to students and staff,” he wrote.

Officials said they knew of no motive.

“There doesn’t seem to be any precipitating event,” said Jerry D. Weast, the county’s school superintendent. “That is one of the mysteries that we want to solve.”

He praised a police officer assigned to the school for knowing one of the suspects well enough that the student ultimately confided in him. “It’s truly about relationships,” Weast said.

The alleged plans came to light Tuesday when the two were stopped while leaving the school, allegedly after setting a fire in a hallway near an ROTC room. Torrence gave the school police officer extensive information about the plans, police said.

According to police, Torrence said the two planned to beat a female guidance counselor with a bag containing rocks and nails. They also planned to maximize harm from a fire they would start by stuffing paper into air vents and disabling the school’s sprinkler system, Torrence allegedly said.

In an interview, Torrence’s mother said her son has a learning disorder and was manipulated by Getachew into doing things he would not have done otherwise.

“He’s a sheltered child,” Andrea Torrence, 48, said of her son. “He has his problems when it comes to understanding things, but he’s never been in any trouble before in his life.”

No one answered the door yesterday at the red-brick townhouse in White Oak where Getachew lives.

Andrea Torrence said her son told her that Getachew was teaching him to shoplift and had forced him to type a threatening letter to a school staff member. At the school Tuesday, she said, Getachew showed her son how to spray lighter fluid onto the ceiling. At one point, she said, Getachew set fire to lighter fluid on the floor, and her son stomped the fire out.

In the past month, the two students twice set fires in bathrooms at the school, police said.

About 2 a.m. yesterday, Andrea Torrence said, seven or eight officers in SWAT gear arrived at her two-bedroom apartment. Police searched her son’s room and took his computer, cellphone and a letter addressed to him from a hobby store, Torrence said.

At the school yesterday, several students spoke highly of Durso, the principal, and Camille Basoco, the guidance counselor.

“The targets are very surprising . . . seeing as though Ms. Basoco is known for her kindness and personality, as well as Mr. Durso,” said junior Ebony Turner, 16.

(Staff writer Daniel de Vise and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.)

An epidemic of waterborne diseases in Addis Ababa

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

By Desalegn Sisay | Afrik.com

A new consultancy firm that recently took administrative control of the Ethiopian capital, {www:Addis Ababa}, has expressed concern over a looming water related epidemic. The outbreak, which is expected between now and 2013, could hinder the achievement of the capital’s five-year strategic plan put together by the new consultancy firm. Meanwhile, {www:Kuma Demeksa} has outlined a 40 billion {www:birr} plan to address the city’s main problems during his tenure as the city’s mayor.

One of the major financial concerns of the draft strategy is to alleviate the housing and employment challenges facing the city’s 2.7 million residents. The plan includes the construction of 200,000 condominiums as well as the creation of 69,077 new jobs between 2011 and 2012. About a third of the city’s residents are currently unemployed.

The draft outlines a strategy to reduce unemployment by at least 51 per cent through a further development and encouragement of micro and small business enterprises. To achieve this set goal, the city intends to set aside 1.9 billion birr geared towards the creation of a lending mechanism in which small businesses could easily access financial support.

Waterborne diseases

Though the draft outlines a strategy to curb some of the major challenges affecting the development of the city, it also foresees the high improbability of reaching set targets owing to financial constraints and a possible outbreak of waterborne diseases.

According to their recent assessment, 25 per cent of Addis Ababa’s solid waste is not properly discharged while 25 per cent of the overall residential houses lack adequate lavatories. Out of the 800,000 cubic meters of the city’s daily waste only 10 per cent (that is, 8,024 cubic meters) was properly discharged last year, the document indicated.

Cases of contamination

The most alarming part of the findings indicate that the city’s poor sewerage system is bedded close to one of the main fresh water systems that supplies 37 percent of Addis Ababa’s water needs. There have been cases where residents were reportedly exposed to polluted water supply.

Meanwhile, the city is noted as lacking health institutions with only 10 hospitals. The federal government owns six of them. According to a World Health Organization requirement, a medical doctor is expected to treat a 10,000 patients while one nurse is to serve up to 1,000, however, a medical doctor in Addis Ababa treats 29,470 patients against 4,356 for a nurse.

Woyanne: A Government that deserves a coup

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

By Utubo

I think the count down to Woyanne’s demise has just started if the coup attempt, that, they claimed has occurred is to be believed, and that should be something that we Ethiopians have to be proud of and should be supported by the international community, rather than being averted.

What options has {www:Woyanne} left for Ethiopians to exercise their right of electing their leaders, except by coup? It has stolen the 2005 election, vowed to remain in power on the ground of building a developmental state, is stage-playing to conduct a sham election for 2010, and has already started jailing prominent opposition leaders in the country.

Woyanne is a government without a constituency in Ethiopia, just clinging to power by sheer force. Its confidence on its sheer force has reached such an arrogant proportion that it considers itself that it cannot be challenged and can rule with impunity. On their own account, we are now witnessing that they had an inflated perception of themselves. That they are weak and vulnerable.

For a people that has been demanding its freedom, and that has been denied all options of exercising its right, a coup could be an alternative route. Thus the effort of the Ethiopian military to stage a coup is the right step that has to be encouraged and facilitated, not averted by the international community.

The Ethiopian people, the horn of Africa region and the wider intentional community would be better off if the Woyanne regime is deposed from power by all means. This is a regime willing to play all the cards to spread terror in the country and the region if it sees any threat to its power.

As evidenced, after the alleged coup incident, the Woyanne regime has been calling the US government to hand him over, the leader of {www:Ginbot 7} as the culprit, and is threatening to destabilize the region if its question is not answered. They shamelessly reveal their desire to hold America hostage to their sinister motive of staying in power.

It is high time for America and the democratic world to draw the red line. It is time to encourage the military to harness the benefit out of a coup. There is no sovereignty to be lost by doing so. Woyanne is an illegitimate and unpopular regime that deserves to be deposed by a strategic coup, before the country is engulfed by a more costly civil war where the international community pays even more price.

Kenyan govt investigates OLF militia claims

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Kenya (KBC) – The government has launched investigations into reports that heavily armed militias from Ethiopia have been sighted in Merti division of Isiolo district.

District Commissioner Waweru Kimani confirmed claims that some 60 members of the {www:Oromo Liberation Front} (OLF) militia from Ethiopia had pitched tent within Nyachise strategic grazing reserve for the last two days.

Kimani, however, assured residents that there was no cause for alarm because appropriate measures have been taken to ensure their safety.

Kimani who is also the chairman of the district security and intelligence committee said a security team had been dispatched to the area to join another one headed by Merti District Officer.

The presence of the suspected militias has created tension among hundreds of herders who now want the government to intervene and have the heavily armed OLF militias removed.

Residents say the militias comprising of 10 women and 50 men who are in their late twenties accessed the remote Merti area after sneaking into the country through Moyale district.

Herders are reportedly leaving Nyachise grazing fields in droves with their livestock for fear of an attack.

Local OCPD Marius Tum said investigations were on into the motive of the militias, how they made their way into the country and also arrest them and confiscate their weapons.

Last week militias from Somalia threatened to invade the country and annex the North Eastern Province, putting security personnel along the borders of Kenya and her neighbours on high alert.

Swine flu main topic at Ethiopia health conference

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, (Reuters) – Health officials from seven African countries are discussing a response to swine flu at a conference in Ethiopia, organisers said on Wednesday.

The conference, involving Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania, was planned six months ago to talk about Africa’s poor response to pandemics.

“It’s really fortuitous that this is going on in the context of an international emergency,” Gregory Pappas, pandemic coordinator for U.S. charity Interaction, told Reuters.

“Most African countries haven’t done extensive planning, and this meeting is about helping those countries.”

No cases have been reported on the continent.

Germany and Austria became the eighth and ninth countries to confirm cases of the virus on Wednesday and the United States reported the first death outside Mexico.

Health experts have expressed concern about sub-Saharan Africa’s capacity to deal with a pandemic, given the poor state of health infrastructure on the world’s neediest continent.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appealed for assistance for poorer countries vulnerable to the crisis which may need drugs, diagnostic tools and other help.

South Africa's election: An example for the rest of Africa

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Since 1994, South Africa underwent three national elections with remarkable success free from incidents that often mar elections in much of Africa.

In spite of the fact that the country was under a peculiar form of racialist tyrannical rule before the coming to power of the democratically elected Government in 1994, it has managed to surprise the rest of the world by the way the citizens continue to express peacefully and with strong civic engagement and expression their democratic rights by going to the polls by standing for long hours in long lines with discipline and calm decency to express their voices, make choices and to cast their secret ballots to vote with record numbers.

On April 22, 2009, for the third time, they did it again! They expressed their voices. They made their choices. Finally they cast their ballot papers and voted after hearing spirited campaign debates, discussions and even heated exchanges that would lead in other places to diversionary cantankerous personalized quarrels including possibly leading to bouts of violence… [MORE]

Dubai: Defending the indefensible

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ethiopian Review is interested in this topic because it relates to the thousands of Ethiopian immigrants in Dubai who report of horrible abuses at the hands of their employers.

By Surat S.

A response to journalist Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi:

First thing first. I find your attitude (in the opinion piece you wrote) about Mr. Hari’s article is kind of a tit-for-tat and coming from a self-described journalist totally childish. Mr. Hari wrote about his experience in Dubai and his piece was just that. The people he interviewed and the places he visited are not made up, but that was his experience. If you can refute any part of his writing, you can do so based on facts. But if your line of argument is London is much worse than Dubai, then you miss the whole point of the article because Mr. Hari was not comparing Dubai with any other place but documenting his experience. If you feel that you have something to write about London, you can do that but you need not compare it with any other place unless you are doing a comparative piece.

You did not mention any specifics in Mr. Haris’ article that you find objectionable but condemned it in its totality because sometimes that is the best of course of action when you are short of credible argument. I can go over every example that you mentioned about London and give you a comparison with Dubai but I will give you a glimpse of what you failed to comprehend in Mr. Haris’ piece. For your information, I have lived in Dubai for more than a year and visited the place several times over the span of two decades; and I have been in London many times for a very short period of time.

Your first negative example about London is the number of homeless people and let me take the figure at its face value because it is not even relevant. I live in America and I know first hand that almost every major city has a problem with homeless people. And among the homeless, a good percentage of them are mentally sick and need immediate care. The government and welfare agencies are constantly trying to address the problem so far with little success. But the point I am trying to make is you don’t even have the right to be homeless in a city such as Dubai or all of the Gulf States because they will ship anyone who is staying in the land if they are unemployed. This is not like comparing apples to oranges; this is something like comparing apples to a rotten, insect infested orange. The sad fact of the matter is human rights violations are rampant across the region and if you really need to write about anything, do not be offended because someone find the will to write about the land of your ancestors, but try to tell us about a great deal of injustice that Mr. Hari did not find the time to document.

And then you mentioned about the awful nature of women prisoners in Britain (I thought we were talking about London) and by implication you tried to tell us that any journalist who comes from a nation of such atrocity should have no business writing about other places. Again, it all comes down to the issue of human rights and the places where it is respected. Not only in London or England, but almost all industrialized countries have their share of social problems be it in the form of drug and alcohol problems, ethnic issues, gender issues, economic hardship, gang problems, homelessness, lack of medical care, etc. But unlike any of the Gulf States or Middle Eastern countries, these and many others societal problems are constantly debated among the population and the lawmakers to find a solution. Some countries are getting better in managing the problems and others are having a difficult time dealing with them. But the point is, unlike much of the Arab states, the problems are not shunned or ignored but are discussed openly in an effort to find a solution. Because of the system of governance, sometimes governments are changed because of these issues. I wish I could say the same about the city you tried to defend needlessly.

In your zeal to defend the honor of your region, you dug deeper to find examples of injustices that Britain did against other than its own people and you brought us the example of the millions of Indians who served the Queen during World War II. I agree with you that we should learn a great deal from the history of injustices and suffering that Britain, America or the western world had brought against the third world countries. Thousandths of books have been written about the unjust nature of colonialism and its aftermath. And I am quite confident that many more will be written by future historians to enlighten us and guide us not to repeat those mistakes. But Mr. Qassemi, I am sure that you will be the first one to admit that Britain of today is not the place you knew a decade or two ago. And I have to admit that America of today is the not the nation that I saw when I landed the first time more than two decades ago. America is not proud of the way it treated the native Indians, African Americans and many other ethnic groups throughout the centuries. We have also to admit that nothing is static; we are all witnesses to the dynamic changes that is taking places all around us which is also changing us as result. No one is immune and everything is changing. We are living in an interesting time that let us see changes immediately. But unfortunately, all of the Gulf States are intentionally missing this dynamic human revolution. They are good at importing and adopting the western technology while at the same time ignoring the suffering of the immigrant population who are doing all the work to bring material modernity to the region.

The point is human rights group can raise the issue of the suffering of army conscript of Indian origin and demand just compensation for their suffering; I have seen first hand America discussed and addressed, thought not adequately, the issue of Japanese-American prisoners during World War II after a number of decades. The same could happen in Britain and all the colonial powers. Can we say the same thing about millions of slave labor conscripts who are suffering in the desert heat of Gulf States right at this moment? Most of the Arab states have forgotten that these are human being after all, with the same blood running through their veins as those who employ them. Mr. Qassemi, it is not only Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Pilipino, etc, but many of my fellow Ethiopians are suffering because of slave labor conditions throughout the Gulf States. I personally heard numerous examples of abuse of domestic workers who work from the time they wake up early in the morning until they go to bed late at night without any rest in between. Sometimes, the wages of these “slaves” are held for months and at times it is totally forfeited when the employer gets rid of them or if and when they escape from their captivity.

Mr. Qassemi, we are all thankful that we are living in a democracy and have the right to address any wrong that is done to us. Sometimes, we get the short end of the law and we do not get everything that should be ours by right. But no one can doubt that we live in a much better condition that our immigrant brothers and sisters in the Gulf States. Granted, we have so many social issues that we need to address to become a fair and just community, but don’t you dare to compare us with the unfortunate human beings in the deserts of Arabia who have no way out. I think you should be ashamed of yourself in trying to defend the indefensible just because someone wrote not so nice things about your region. You are no better than the people who are putting these people under such terrible conditions because you are trying to tell the world that it is no worse than Britain. You know that is not true and that is a shame.

Ethiopian immigrants follow a new epic route to the U.S.

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Jailed repeatedly for his political views, Ethiopian immigrant Sharew paid smugglers around $10,000 to move him through a dozen countries and leave him a year later in the grubby southern Mexican city of Tapachula.

Once on Mexico’s southern border, which has grown into a major stepping-stone for hundreds of migrants fleeing conflicts in the Horn of Africa, he was still 2,000 miles away from his destination: the United States.

The immigrants, mainly from Ethiopia and Somalia are increasingly following a new, epic route down the continent to South Africa, across the Atlantic by boat or plane and then a trek overland though South and Central America… [MORE]

A tribute to Tilahun Gessesse, a cultural asset

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

By Maru Gubena
Some of my readers may think that my tribute upon the untimely death of the phenomenal, the irreplaceable asset of Ethiopia, the unchallenged cultural and musical symbol and the undisputed role model for Ethiopian musicians of my generation, Tilahun Gessese, whom I, as a political economist and organization strategist have characterized not as a “King of Ethiopian Music,” but as “Edilegnaw Niguse,” is too late and perhaps too little as well. But I know it is neither too late nor too little. Because in our Ethiopian culture, families who have lost a loved one and who are grieving and weeping uncontrollably over the sudden loss of their family member, or someone well loved and highly respected by Ethiopians of all ages and sexes, can be extremely happy to receive any condolence at any time, whether written or in person. Yes, all Ethiopian families experiencing such sorrow, always feel tremendously comfortable and happy with the presence of those who come to share their grief and those who come while shading their tears. This is a part of our Ethiopian culture – a culture implanted deep inside our minds and our bodies.

Also, I know I did not write this text early this morning or yesterday evening but last Friday, the 24th of April 2009, intending to present it in person in my own personal capacity and in my own way, to express my grief and deep sadness at the abrupt disappearance – the death of the Edilegnaw Niguse, Tilahun Gessese, who unquestionably will remain in the hearts and minds of all Ethiopians of all generations. Yes, I wrote this text with the full intention of presenting it in the form of a memorial speech at the memorial service organized for artist Tilahun Gessese by the Association of Ethiopians in the Netherlands, held on Saturday, the 25th of April 2009. But due to the organizational style, the objectives, and the atmosphere of the event itself, which seemed, at least to me, not to correspond with my objective in presenting my talk, I thought it would be wiser to find other means to express and share my grieve with my Ethiopian compatriots in other ways.

Yes, the highly loved, highly respected icon and cultural asset of our country – Ethiopia – was and is indeed Edilegna Niguse, the Lucky King, and the Extraordinary King of the land of Ethiopia. Artist Tilahun is also Edilegna, because, completely different from our previous Kings and Emperors, Princes and Princesses, he was and is a Niguse of every Ethiopian, with no a single social or political enemy. Not even a single person. Artist Tilahun himself and his images will therefore live and sleep so comfortably and so widely in the hearts and minds of all Ethiopians, including the coming generations. Yes, indeed, he is absolutely different from Ethiopians who have had the highest socio-cultural and political positions within Ethiopian society.

It is also undeniably true that, at least as far as my recollections are concerned, in the past fifty or more years there has never been such an extensive, well organized and most memorable state and people’s funeral service as the one we all saw and witnessed last Thursday, the 23rd of April 2009 in Addis Ababa. Again, as far as I can recall, Ethiopians have never witnessed such a hugely attended, unforgettable funeral service for any member of Ethiopian society, not for Emperor Haile Selassie, or for his ministers, who had had the highest political positions in the country. Artist Tilahun is just an extraordinary, very special and unique social animal and far more. Not just a musician or singer, but a son, a patriot, a brother, a husband, a father and above all, a loving friend to everyone, all Ethiopians, not just those who live in cities, towns, or villages, but also those who reside deep inside the most complicated Ethiopian forests or its low and high mountains.

(Dr Maru Gobena can be reached at info@pada.nl)

Ginbot 7 will hold public meeting on May 3, Sunday

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

ANNOUNCEMENT

Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice, Freedom and Democracy will hold a town hall meeting in Washington DC next Sunday, May 3, 2009. Click here for more information.

I'm Woyanne's worst nightmare

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

By Netsanet Habtu

This commentary concerns a recent article written by the “Ethiopian” Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) under the name Adal Isaw, and was published on Aigaforum. In the article, MoFA calls for the extradition of {www:Berhanu Nega}, leader of {www:Ginbot 7}, on the basis that he is a “terrorist”. Never mind the legal definition of a terrorist or what a legitimate government is, we are more interested in the fact that the article is an epitome of the mindset of leaders of the regime.

Of course we don’t expect it to be anything else but that. However, we would still like to point out to them that, even looking at the matter from their point of view, they are engaged in a futile exercise.

The piece is a perfect portrayal of the regime’s continued refusal to acknowledge Ethiopians as citizens to whom it ought to be accountable, and whose interests it should serve above all. It also reflects perfectly what has for a long time been the defining character of the ruling party, which is inability to understand the fundamental ideas associated with the struggle for freedom and democracy.

Although the overriding theme appears to be the call for Dr. Berhanu’s deportation, equally important is MoFA’s plea of rescue to America. In fact, it goes further than a plea; it is a warning for America that unless the latter acts upon MoFA’s request, their “counter-terrorism” alliance may be broken.

The article draws a background of a country located in “one of the roughest neighborhoods in the world”. It emphasizes the fact that this happened not by choice, as if that is not apparent already. It appears as if the regime is trying to hide that it actually loves that exact location our country is at. After all, it has been receiving the support that has so far contributed to its survival from the US in the name of fighting terrorism in this “rough neighborhood”.

That is why, in going further to endear itself to the US, the regime portrays itself as an entity whose very existence is to serve the interests of the US. Nowhere does it mention Ethiopians’ interests. Of course one cannot blame it for not acknowledging Ethiopians as its constituents, because they are not. Since that became glaringly obvious especially after the 2005 elections, the regime had to come up with the “developmental state” rhetoric to justify its existence. But in this article, even that fake development talk was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps it is an implicit admission that it has not worked either.

Considering all that, it may be fair for MoFA to direct its appeal for rescue at America. After all, according to the regime’s own press release, the recent challenge on its illegitimate seat came from the military. Considering how it has used the armed and security forces to repress dissent in the past and had confidence to rely on them for the future, for the challenge to come from the military is a sign that its ground is shaking.

In the past several years, there have been widespread politically motivated layoffs within the army. The regime has weeded out those it believed supported opposition. The upper level positions within the army were given to those the regime can trust, and are of the same ethnic group as the ruling clique. Despite all these “precautions”, a few people found a way to organize a challenge. So, for a regime that does not have the backing of its citizens, whose attempts to justify its existence have been futile, and whose own army challenges it, it doesn’t come as a surprise for it to totally ignore its own citizens and prostrate itself before a foreign power and beg for rescue. It has to ask some one for help.

The manner in which the request to deport Berhanu Nega is being made to the US government is also worthy of attention. As if there are no laws or procedures in America, the Department of Defense is supposed to take Berhanu’s name because he is challenging an illegitimate government, pass it on to DHS, who will ask no questions about the rights of an individual.

The different agencies of the US government will not take a person as a terrorist just because some rogue government with a habit of labeling all of its opposition a terrorist labels him too. This reflects on the part of MoFA a crucial misunderstanding of the values upon which America was built, in addition to the tenets of basic human rights. It is also a reflection of how business is conducted in Ethiopia, where the judiciary and other branches of government have repeatedly proven themselves to be no more than the executioners of the ruling party’s repression.

MoFA explains that the deportation of Berhanu Nega to Ethiopia will make Ethiopia’s “counter-terrorism” efforts more “effective”. What it really means is that the regime hopes to slow down or destroy the struggle for democracy and justice in Ethiopia. We know this because it has been the story of our country for the last eighteen years. This belief that going after individuals will stop opposition has been the defining character of the regime.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the US government deports Dr. Berhanu Nega to Ethiopia. He may be put in the same prison he has repeatedly been put in before, or he may even get executed. Is that supposed to be success? Absolutely not.

The problem with the regime has always been its failure to understand that the question of democracy and justice is one that is shared by millions of Ethiopians. If it wasn’t, the question would have died the day they tortured and killed the first Oromo boy they suspected of being a member of an illegal opposition group a couple of years after they took power. The question would have stopped coming throughout the years the lives of countless Ethiopian citizens were unjustly taken because they stood up for what they believed in. It would have stopped some months ago when they put {www:Birtukan Mideksa} in solitary confinement.

Dr. Berhanu is our brother in the struggle. He, just like the rest of us, understands the sacrifices attached to waging a struggle against repressive regimes. Prison or not, death or not, deportation or not, we will fight the TPLF. And we will remove the illegitimate and repressive government.

The regime needs to understand that killing or imprisoning a person never amounts to killing his or her values. The values are location and time transcendent, and are shared by millions. Just a few weeks ago, the regime’s mouthpieces were questioning just how exactly Berhanu Nega was going to sit in exile and remove the government in Ethiopia. “Is he going to use a remote control?” they mocked. Little do they understand that Berhanu connected with millions of Ethiopians back home through shared values. And this week, they have found themselves claiming that he was the mastermind of a coup attempt locally led by an active military general. The contradictions could not be more glaring. Ginbot 7 denies involvement, but that is beside the point.

Since the claim is coming from the regime itself and they believe it to be the case, what exactly does that teach them? Berhanu Nega could not have used a remote control to direct human beings to make such risky moves and put their lives in danger. These are adults who must have given this a serious thought and chose to go ahead with their plan because they have conviction for it.

Clearly, these men aren’t the ordinary robotic generals (the likes of Gen. Kasa Deme) the ruling party loves to keep close to itself. These are men who have their own brains, and who chose to do what they believed in regardless of the danger their actions entailed. They did what they did while THINKING. And it is perfectly within reason to think that there are more of these people within the army and elsewhere. So, how exactly is going after a few individuals supposed to destroy the movement?

The answer is really clear and short. Leaders of the dictatorship have never understood the concept of individual choice and of principles. That should be self evident because if they did, they wouldn’t be dictators; assuming they are sane and all. They could never understand why a person would turn down their bribes, and their open door policy towards corruption, in order to go do something he/she “believes in”.

They never seem to wake up to the lesson either. They have arrested this man, Berhanu, several times before and each time, he seems to come at them stronger. They thought their attack on {www:Kinijit} has destroyed the movement that humiliated them and showed their nakedness to the eyes of all Ethiopians and the international community. But it seems to get more sophisticated and keep coming at them.

The struggle for justice and democracy keeps getting bigger and bigger. That is so because the organizations are nothing more than the reflections of our beliefs. Each time they and their leadership are attacked, more of us are awakened to injustice. The harsher the attacks get, the closer they get to most of us. So we come to find it in our advantage to join in the chorus and demand justice.

One cannot “foil” Ginbot 7. Because I am Ginbot 7, and I am as alive and free as ever. When you arrest me in Addis Ababa, I will be free in Gambella. When you kill me in Gondar, I will be alive in Wollega. I am whispering the message of freedom in the ears of young people in Welqitte; while you toil to find me in Adama. That is the same whisper that wakes you up abruptly at night. You may rape my sisters and burn our village in the Ogaden, but I am eating at what you claim to be the basis of your existence in Tigray. I speak several languages, and I send your faxes and take the minutes at your meetings. You will be defeated by me. I am Ginbot 7, and I stand for unity, justice and freedom. And I am everywhere.

If you think Dubai is bad, just look at U.K.

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Dear Ethiopian Review, I was interviewed for the “Dark Side of Dubai” article from Britain’s The Independent newspaper that you have posted on the Ethiopian Review and would like to submit my rebuttal that also appeared in The Independent to be published in the Ethiopian Review as well to even it out as it would only be fair. Kind regards, Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi

If you think Dubai is bad, just look at your own country

By Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi

I recently figured that if British journalists such as Johann Hari who come to Dubai don’t send back something sensationalist it won’t get printed and they won’t get paid. After all, sleaze sells.

I called a British journalist friend of mine and said: “I’m going to write an article about London, the same way your compatriots write about Dubai.” By the time I was back at home I had come to my senses, it’s not fair to London, a city so dear to my heart, or Londoners to be judged by the actions of a few. It’s easy to generalize about a country when figures are manipulated to sensationalize and sell papers.

Homeless man in the streets of London

Say for example that I had written an article that states that, in wealthy first world Britain there are 380,000 homeless people, many of them mentally ill, starving and abandoned in sub-zero temperatures to live on the streets.

Say then that I wrote an article that states that Britain, the so called “jail capital of Western Europe” sentenced in 2006 alone a staggering additional 12,000 women to prison and that up to seven babies a month are born in jail where they spend their crucial first months.

I could have written an article that stated Britain, victor in the Second World War, had given refuge to 400 Nazi war criminals, with all but one of them getting away with it. Or one stating that the number of Indians who died while serving the British Empire, to build your Tube and grow your tea, is so large it is simply unquantifiable by any historian.

Or say I write an article about the 2.5 million-strong Indian volunteer army who served Britain during the Second World War, where 87,000 of them died for their occupiers’ freedom and yet until recently those who survived continued to be discriminated against in pay and pension.

I could have written an article that stated that, in civilized Britain, one in every 23 teenage girls had an abortion and in 2006 more than 17,000 of the 194,000 abortions carried out in England and Wales involved girls below the age of 18.

I could have written an article stating that Britain, the human rights champion, not wanting to get its hands dirty, had resorted to secretly outsourcing torture to Third World states under the guise of rendition by allowing up to 170 so called CIA torture flights to use its bases. Or that Britain’s MI5 unlawfully shared with the CIA secret material to interrogate suspects and “facilitate interviews” including cases where the suspects were later proven to be innocent.

I could have written an article that stated that the Britain of family values is the only country in the EU that recruits child soldiers as young as 16 into its Army and ships them off battlegrounds in Iraq and Afghanistan, putting it in the same league as African dictatorships and Burma.

I could have written an article that states that Britain either recently did or has yet to sign the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict or the UN’s International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families .

I could have highlighted the fact that liberal Britain is responsible for the physical and racial abuse of hundreds of failed asylum-seekers at the hands of private security guards during their forced removal from the country .

I could have written about the countless cases of slave-like working conditions of immigrant labors such as the 23 Chinese workers who lost their lives in 2004 as they harvested cockles in the dangerous rising tides in Morecambe Bay.

I could have written about how mortality rates from liver diseases due to alcohol abuse have declined in Europe in recent decades but in Britain the rate trebled in the same period reflecting deep societal failures.

I could have written about how in “Big Brother” Britain maltreatment of minors is so serious that one in 10, or an estimated one million children a year, suffer physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect.

Or that according to Oxfam 13.2 million people in the UK live in poverty – a staggering 20 per cent of the population in the sixth richest nation in the world.

I could have written all that, but out of respect for Britain, I decided not to. Because when you stitch together a collection of unconnected facts taken out of context, you end up with a distorted and inaccurate picture: something that Britain’s Dubai-bashers would do well to learn.

(The writer is a journalist based in Dubai.)

The life-and-death struggle for freedom in Ethiopia

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

(The Daily Item) Berhanu Nega’s story is a frightening testament that in some parts of the world, people are still enmeshed in life-and-death struggles for freedom.

Ethiopia’s regime recently announced that {www:Berhanu Nega} and other opposition leaders had been plotting a coup. Thirty-five opposition party members were arrested in Ethiopia, and a government official said if Berhanu ever returns, he will be jailed, too. It is not the first time Berhanu, a Bucknell University economics professor, has been targeted by the government in his native country.

Berhanu was elected mayor of Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, in 2005 but was arrested afterward along with more than 100 other opposition politicians and stood trial for treason. He and the others were freed in 2007 in a pardon deal. He left Ethiopia after the trial.

Berhanu’s crime? Leading protests in response to alleged election fraud. Demonstrations started peacefully, but led to turmoil that culminated in a slaughter by government soldiers that left 193 people dead and another 765 wounded. The Ethiopian government pinned the blame for the deaths on the opposition leaders, and 38 people, including Berhanu, were arrested and placed on trial, originally facing possible execution.

Berhanu offers heroic evidence that those who experience democracy in action will risk everything to spread freedom.Through its history, Ethiopia was mostly governed by monarchy or dictatorship. The African nation has been struggling to live up to its formal name of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

Berhanu’s efforts to encourage the growth of democracy in Africa deserve the full support of the American government. The United States just completed an historic election that led to a transformational shift in power. The triumph of American democracy provided that the results of the election were accepted without a hint of civil unrest. The United States provides the model for sustainable democracy. This country should also foster the growth of freedom around the globe, including in places such as Ethiopia.

Ethiopia coup leader identified as Gen. Teferra Mammo

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — The state-controlled Ethiopian Television (ETV) reported that the military leader of the alleged coup plot by Ginbot 7 is General Teferra Mammo.

It is alleged that a military committee that is headed by General Teferra, who is an active duty officer, included several other active and retired military personnel.

The civilian coordinator of the coup is Ato Melaku Teferra, a local organizer of the Union for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ), ETV has reported quoting Woyanne security officials.

Ato Melaku had spent 21 months in Kality prison along with Dr Berhanu Nega and other Kinijit leaders before he was released in July 2007.

ETV program tonight has showed several automatic weapons, bombs, communications gears and documents belonging to the alleged coup plotters.

Watch the ETV report below:

Message in a Bottle

Monday, April 27th, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

Patriots and Tyrants

Dr. Hailu Araya: Ethiopian patriot. Political prisoner. Educator. Poet. I am not writing to talk about Dr. Hailu, the Ethiopian patriot, the man who gave the brutal former military dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam a passionate six-minute discourse on democracy, freedom and human rights 18 years ago to the month.[1] Who would forget that historic showdown between the patriot and the tyrant. Thus spoke Dr. Hailu [2]:

First because I am an intellectual, second because I am a people’s representative in the Shengo, and third because I am an educator, I have to speak the truth. Truth even if it may lead to death has to be uttered … Before we even discussed the merits of professor Mesfin’s peace formula [3], you went into a vitriolic attack … We cannot accept this kind of behavior any more because Ethiopian problems are our own problems, not only yours!… Why is it that you [President Mengistu] are always under the impression that you are the only one who can analyze and solve Ethiopia’s problems? Ethiopia’s intractable problems cannot be solved through your uncontrolled tirade and shouting!… You cannot solve problems by ignoring other people’s opinion. You have time and again hinted at the idea that your officials should gather courage and swallow the quinine [tablet] of self-criticism; Why is it that you are the only one who is immune to it?… Why do you put us under terror? Why do you gag us?

Dr. Hailu did not stop there; he also gave Mengistu a sermon on citizenship and patriotism (love of country). “A country is not just the mountains, the fields and the rivers,” he counseled the pitiful dictator. “A country is also about the rule of law and justice.” Mengistu squirmed and wiggled in his seat as though he had ants in his pants; and he pivoted his neck sharply to the left to hide his anger and shame. He had been paralyzed by Dr Hailu’s sheer audacity. In apparent despair and resignation, Mengistu tried to mask his face with the palm of his right hand as Dr. Hailu rained down a torrent of truth-darts on his granite-clad conscience. That day Mengistu was forced to swallow the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth: “It is not that the people and the government are not connecting heart to heart,” Dr. Hailu reminded the smug dictator. The fact “is that the people and the government have become belly and back (hode-na-jerba).”

Like all true patriots, Dr. Hailu was not interested in quibbling with a petty dictator glory-bound to oblivion and the dustbin of history. No, his concern was the future well-being of his people and his country; and of that he spoke prophetically to the craven dictator:

“The only way we can defeat our enemies is when we are all of the same heart and mind. It is only when we create a united front that we can stand up to our enemies, and never by beating around the bush. But we seem to be having difficulty accepting this simple fact. We have to strengthen our unity. That is what I want. To achieve that, I am not going to do it with only one eye open. I will do it with both eyes open and a clear and open mind. That is how we will be assured of a lasting victory.”

He summed it all up for Mengistu: “We have to find the solutions to our problems together, collectively, concertedly.”

I will say just a few words about Dr. Hailu the political prisoner who was illegally jailed along with dozens of other patriotic and courageous opposition and civic society leaders, journalists and human rights advocates by the current dictator. Dr. Hailu is not the kind of patriot who will bow down to any tyrant or dictator, even if one is called Tweedle Dee and the other Tweedle Dum. For him, dictatorship has no ethnicity, no religion and no language. It has only one face painted in the bloody colors of cruelty, barbarity and depravity. So when the current dictator jailed him and his brothers and sisters in Kality prison, he knew they had committed no crime, but courageously, all of them endured the hard time. True to himself, to this day Dr. Hailu preaches the same message even as he gasps for air, his neck crushed to the ground under the heavy boots of a wicked dictator: “We have to find the solutions to our problems together, collectively, concertedly!”

Patriot and Poet

I do want to talk about Dr. Hailu the patriot-poet, the man driven to tell the truth in verse; the man condemned by his own conscience to stand up and speak out for his country and people: “First because I am an intellectual, second because I am a people’s representative in the Shengo, and third because I am an educator, I have to speak the truth.” I want to talk about the man who bared the innermost “sickness in his soul” — that he could never leave his country, only love it. Who can forget his expression of lonely despair and anguish in his poem “Yager Fikir Likift” [4] (roughly translated below, begging forgiveness for being unable to do justice to the original)? In the last verse, he wrote:

When the young leave their country because life had become sheer misery,
When the old leave their country because life had become intolerable,
When the educated go into exile because life had become so harsh,
When ordinary citizens are unable to live in the land of their birth,
When everyone is talking about leaving and going away (never to return),
I remain a prisoner of a voice in my soul that commands me:
“Don’t even think about leaving!”

To be sure, I want to talk about a poem Dr. Hailu recently read in Amharic entitled (roughly translated) “Don’t Be Like the Billowing the Smoke”[5]. I took that poem personally. Very personally. I read it dozens of times. I set it aside. I ignored it. I tried to forget it. But the words kept on echoing in my mind: “Educated. Teacher. Light. Hope. Smoke.” It kept me awake at night. In the end, I gave up; and I picked up my pen hesitantly to try and unlock the conscience-gnawing message bottled up in that verse.

Don’t Be Like the Billowing Smoke!

You educated citizen,
Your country’s wealth, your country’s honor,
Your people’s hope,
Your people’s teacher.
Stand up and be counted.
Demonstrate your knowledge
Illuminate, give light.
Don’t be like the billowing smoke.

“What is the meaning — the message — of this verse?” I pondered. Is Dr. Hailu ringing an alarm bell to wake up “educated” Ethiopians? Or is he despairing over the melancholic state of “educated” Ethiopians who have taken the vow of silence in the face of injustice? Is he accusing his brothers and sisters who claim to be educated of moral indifference and cowardice? Perhaps he is pleading for help. I dug deeper: Could it be that he sees us as a swarm of self-centered, self-aggrandizing and self-indulgent hypocrites? And as to some of us in exile, could it be that he thinks of us as the prodigal sons and daughters who ran off to distant lands and wasted our lives “in riotous living” while our people suffered under tyranny? Is it possible that he is challenging us to rise above our pettiness and do right by our people and country? Why does he insist that we “stand up and counted”? Are we that invisible? Have we been so waterlogged by “education” that he thinks we have no fire in our bellies, and must be cautioned not to be like the billowing smoke? Why is he holding our feet to the fire?

Where There is Smoke, There is Fire, and Firefighters Not Far Behind

There is no point scrutinizing the verse. We all know what he is talking about. Some of us who claim to be “educated” have already been convicted in the court of our individual consciences. There is no need for a defense to the caustic message bottled in velvety verse. No doubt, some of us will continue to wallow in our mucky lakes of moral relativism: “I am a scientist, a businessman, a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer… I can not get involved.” Some of us will circle the wagons around our personal interests: “No, we can’t get involved. We have houses, bank accounts, businesses, relatives… in Ethiopia.” Others will seek moral remission: “I really want to get involved, help out. But I just don’t have time. I am busy. I have family responsibilities. I have professional obligations…” Then there are the perennial excuse-mongers: “I will be happy to help out. But not today because it is sunny. Not tomorrow, it will be raining; and the day after it will be windy. But I will get involved.” And there are a few who are brutally honest enough to tell you: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn about your cause or you!”

But Dr. Hailu is not asking for much from his “educated” brothers and sisters. His message is not condemnatory; it is redemptive. When he says “stand up and be counted”, he means to remind us to use our knowledge and education to speak out against tyranny and injustice. He wants us to stand up and be counted on the side of the uneducated masses, political prisoners, dissidents, human rights advocates, and the millions muzzled and condemned to suffer oppression in silence. He wants us to stand up for free elections, free political parties, a free and independent media and an independent judiciary in Ethiopia. There is no hidden meaning in his message.

When he is asking us to “demonstrate our knowledge”, he is reminding us to put our education, technical skills and specialized experience to help out our people. When he says, “illuminate, give light”, he is asking us to share our knowledge with our less fortunate brothers and sisters, to teach and to educate them. He understands that our people are victimized not only by the tyranny of a wicked dictator, but also by the tyranny of ignorance. He is asking us to fight the forces of darkness with the light of truth. As the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” We can be, if we choose, the forces of light and love, and drive out darkness permanently from our homeland.

It is never too late to stand up and be counted; never too late to shine the light of hope on the darkness of despair. It is never wrong to do the right thing. It is always the right time to stand up and speak out against tyranny and injustice. It is always right to right a wrong.

Perhaps many of us will never be able to experience the blazing fire of love of Ethiopia burning deep in Dr. Hailu’s soul. Whenever I read his poem “Yager Fikir Likift”, I am moved to tears by the image of a man on fire, burning in the flames of love of his country. But he knows there are armies of arsonists that have spread out through our homeland to stoke up the wildfires of ethnic and religious hatred, division and antagonism just to cling to power. That is why we, the “educated”, can not afford to watch idly from the sidelines and armchairs the billowing smoke. We must become firefighters.

So, I say to Dr. Hailu, “Thank you for holding our feet to the fire; for putting us, the “educated” Ethiopians, on trial in the court of our individual consciences.” I want you to know that where there is smoke, there is fire; and where there is fire, firefighters will not be far behind. We’ll fight the fire wherever it is sparked, but we will not be like the billowing smoke! Let others tell fairy tales about goblins, unicorns and coups d’etat; let them fantasize fire-breathing dragons, vampires and conspiracies to overthrow the state. You keep on blowing your trumpet of truth, brother! “We have to find the solutions to our problems together, collectively, concertedly.” We hear your sweet lyrics and melodies and notes of harmony, LOUD AND CLEAR!!

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuweGoV10Os&mode=related&search (move clip to 3:30 seconds)
[2] http://www.gadaa.com/mengistuCriminal.html
[3] http://www.mesfinwoldemariam.com/docs/MWM_EthiopianStudies_1991.pdf
[4] http://www.ethiopolitics.com/Poems/poemDrHailu.html
[5] http://addisvoice.com/amh/bogbel.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

Ethiopia opposition leader's father arrested

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — The father of Ginbot 7 high ranking official Andargachew Tsige has been roughed up and taken to Maekelawi prison by Meles Zenawi’s gunmen, according to Ethiopian Review sources.

On Friday, April 24, several gunmen surrounded Ato Tsige Habtemariam’s house in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. The gunmen then roughed up the 80-year-old Ato Tsige and took him to Maekelawi the same day.

Ato Tsige continues to languish in jail. He is diabetic and recently had a heart bypass surgery.

Attacking elderly parents of opposition party officials — which did not occur even during the brutal Derg regime –shows how far Meles Zenawi’s traibalist dictatorship would go to silence dissent. Such inhumane attacks, uncharacteristic of Ethiopian tradition, also indicates the regime’s desperation and paranoia.

Earlier today, Ethiopian Review and EMF have reported that Ginbot 7 chairman Berhanu Nega’s family home has been surrounded by Meles Zenawi’s gunmen. Dr Berhanu’s father, Ato Nega Bonger was roughed up and mobile phones belonging to both Ato Nega and his wife, Wzr. Abebech Woldegiorgis were confiscated. Family members have been beaten up, at least on person was taken to jail.

The {www:Woyanne} regime alleges that Dr Berhanu Nega and Ato Andargachew Tsige, leaders of Ginbot 7 Movement for Democracy and Justice, are behind a coup plot that it claims to have foiled.

A Colorado library honors Ethiopia's Yohannes Gebregiorgis

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

By Christin Fynewever | Examiner.com

Ethiopia — What do you get when you cross a donkey and a book? A mobile library! Yes, thanks to Liberian Yohannes Gebregeorgis, tens of thousands of Ethiopian children have learned to read.

Gebregiorgis, a native of Ethiopia, was taught to read by Peace Corps volunteers in his village. He was inspired to create the program Ethiopia reads while working as a children’s librarian in the San Francisco Public Library.

Gebergiorgis became cognizant of the importance of a good education after securing an education himself, and wanted the children in his native country to embrace the love of reading. He came up with the idea of a mobile library, that would deliver books to the different villages throughout Ethiopia. His program would help many Ethiopian children gain access to literature.

Together with author Jane Kurtz, they established the Shola Children’s Library, which has served thousands of children, connecting them to a wide range of educational programs like art, dance, sanitation and more.

In honor of literacy and Yohannes Gebregiorgis’s remarkable program, the Aurora Central Library will host a celebration on May 9th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be dancing, and you guessed it donkeys! So come celebrate a noble program and get down with the donkeys

Leading Kenyan law scholar dies in Ethiopia

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

By By DAVE OPIYOP | Sunday Nation

One of Kenya’s most respected law scholars, Prof Hastings Winston Opinya Okoth-Ogendo, is dead.

Prof Ogendo, a former vice-chairman of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission, died on Friday night in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he had gone on an assignment for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

He had left the country last Saturday. According to Ed Rege, a close family friend, Prof Ogendo fell ill last Monday.

“And for the next three days, his illness got worse,” said Mr Rege while briefing the media at the deceased’s {www:residence} in Karen.

“He was, on Wednesday, joined by his wife, Mrs Ruth Okoth. We understand that he was taken to hospital on Thursday to seek treatment but, unfortunately, he did not make it.

He died on Friday night while under intensive care,” Mr Rege said.

He told the Sunday Nation plans were already in place to bring the body back home by Tuesday this week.

He said an autopsy would be done before the release of the body.

A tentative burial date has been set for May 9 at Gem Rae in Nyando district. This is subject to approval from the family.

On receiving the news of Prof Ogendo’s death, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said it was a “blow to the pro-reform movement in the country”.

“I have received the news with disbelief. In Prof Ogendo, the country has lost a top brain. He was an undisputed authority on land law,” said the Prime Minister in a statement.

Mr Odinga said the don had hugely contributed to the National Constitutional Conference at the Bomas of Kenya and the search for a new constitution.

He added that the country had lost a patriot, a fighter and a high-calibre scholar.

Similar messages of condolences were sent by Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi and former Nyakach MP Peter Odoyo.

Dr Ben Sihanya, the dean of University of Nairobi Law School, said Kenya had lost a distinguished scholar, who participated in the {www:establishment} of the school.

“It’s a big shock to us. He is indeed irreplaceable. His expertise in land law was unrivalled on the continent. He has advised many governments on these issues. We shall miss him,” the dean said.

Born in 1944, Prof Ogendo attended Maseno and Alliance high schools before proceeding to the University of East Africa in Dar es Salaam and the Oxford University for his bachelor’s degree in civil law.

He then attended University of Yale between 1973 and 1978, where he earned a Doctorate of Science of Law.

Yemen security forces arrest 101 Ethiopians

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Yemen police arrest 101 migrants from Ethiopia SANA’A, YEMEN (Saba) – Interior Ministry of Yemen has given orders to close sea outlets to Ethiopian migrants, al-motamar.net reported on Saturday.

The minister asked the security forces in coastline area to close sea regions in front of the Ethiopians who tried to enter Yemeni territories.

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry’s media center reported that Yemeni security forces have arrested 101 Ethiopians who reached coastline of Shabwa governorate.

According to official statistics, around 300 Ethiopians reached Yemeni territories by boats last month.

Wzr. Sinedu Gebru's legacy

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Woyanne ambassador to Washington DC Samuel Assefa at his mother’s funeral in Addis Ababa (Photo: Addis Journal)

The funeral of Ethiopia’s first woman parliamentarian Wzr. Sinedu Gebru took place two days ago at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Church in Addis Ababa in the presence of family, friends and {www:Woyanne} regime officials.

Wzr. Sinedu is an amazing Ethiopian who severed her country throughout her life as this brief biography shows (click here to read). Unfortunately, her legacy also includes having Woyanne ambassador Samuel Assefa as a son whose consciousness level is lower than that of a donkey. It is indeed sad that such a patriotic woman who fought for and diligently served her country had managed to raise a useless drunkard who is at the service of an anti-Ethiopia fascist regime.

Addis Journal reports Wzr. Sinedu Gebru’s funeral as follows:

The funeral for author, activist, patriot, and Ethiopia’s first woman parliamentarian, Sinedu Gebru has taken place at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Church on Wednesday, April 22, 2009, in the presence of Abune Paulos Aba Tagay Gebremedhin, the Woyanne-installed fake patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

President Girma Wolde Giorgis [Meles Zenawi's puppet] paid his respect to the late Sinedu by sending flowers to her funeral. Mourners included the Ethiopian parliament’s woman representative, Netsanet Asfaw and other Woyanne officials.

The late Sinedu’s son, Ethiopia’s Woyanne’s current ambassador to the United States, Dr. Samuel Assefa, arrived in Addis Ababa on Tuesday to attend the funeral service. He was visibly shaken as prayers and blessings were chanted during the ceremony.

The Honorable Sindeu Gebru, who had been in a frail condition recently, died on Easter night at the age of 94.

Rita Pankurst, who has known Sinedu for many years, described her as a very independent-minded and formidable woman. “I have always been a great admirer of her. She was the heroine of my life.” Rita told Addis Journal.

Rita said she always went to see her on holidays with some flowers, including this past Easter morning where she was awake, but died that evening. Rita says Sindu, who has been the first Ethiopian school director of Etege Menen school, had done tremendous amount of job in promoting girls education. She was “a great believer in the importance of education, in general, and girls in a particular” according to Mrs. Pankurst.

Another former student of Etege Menen School said, “The loss of Woizero Sinedu is enormous but she leaves a legacy of accomplishment, hope and commitment for the community and her country.”

Pennsylvania prof. denies leading alleged Ethiopia coup plot

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

By MARK SCOLFORO

Pennsylvania, USA (AP). – An economics professor at a Pennsylvania university said Saturday he supports efforts to spread democracy in his native Ethiopia, but denied backing an alleged coup attempt there that led to the arrests of 35 people by the government.

“I’m very suspicious that there was an attempt at all,” said Berhanu Nega during an interview at his home outside of Lewisburg in north-central Pennsylvania. “This is not a government that has any credibility whatsoever in terms of telling the truth.”

He said he did not know who may have been arrested, and said it could have easily been some sort of overreaction.

“The government, every time, it panics,” he said. “It’s always treason, always acting against the government.”

Berhanu, 51, said he came to the U.S. as a young man in 1980, is married to an American citizen and has two sons. He is an associate professor of {www:economics} at nearby Bucknell University, a private liberal-arts school that enrolls about 3,400 undergraduates.

He previously taught at the university from 1990 until 1994, when he returned to Ethiopia to work at Addis Ababa University, according to a profile on the university’s Web site.

In 2005, he became the country’s first elected mayor when he won the mayoral race in Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital. But post-election violence over the election results led the Ethiopian government to shoot 193 protesters and to later jail Berhanu, other opposition leaders and thousands of supporters. Berhanu said the party was not responsible for the violent demonstrations.

The opposition leaders stood trial for nearly two years on charges of challenging the constitutional order — the charge was lessened from treason. The main clique of 38 opposition leaders pleaded guilty and were pardoned in 2007 after appealing to the government.

Berhanu and several other party leaders then left for the U.S., returning to the country in August 2007. He rejoined Bucknell as a visiting international scholar in economics in Spring 2008.

“It became very clear immediately after our release that they will not at all tolerate any opposition, meaningful opposition,” he said.

Berhanu also urged President Obama’s administration to “carefully revisit its policy toward Ethiopia.”

“It is just unseemly for any democratic government such as the United States to have any relationship with it,” he said.

(Associated Press writer Anita Powell in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.)

Ethiopian and Somali refugees received asylum in Norway

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

NORWAY (Epoch Times) — Droves of African families recently received asylum status from the Norwegian quasi-judicial Appeals Board (UNE), which handles appeals of rejections by the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI).

If these families were not allowed to {www:remain} in Norway, their daughters risk circumcision—a brutal practice that can leave women crippled. Most of these African applicants come from Somalia and Ethiopia, while a few of them are from Nigeria, Sudan, and Mali.

New data from Norway this year shows that 91 percent of Somalian applications have been approved and only seven have been rejected. Last year 84 percent of applicants were accepted into Norway.

The {www:percentage} for Ethiopian applicants are even higher. This year, 436 out of 467 applicants from Ethiopia have had their cases approved by the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI).

Ethiopia's regime arrests 35 for coup plot

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

By ANITA POWELL | The Associated Press

The Woyanne-led Ethiopian government has arrested 35 people suspected of a coup {www:attempt} allegedly backed by an Ethiopian economist now teaching at a Pennsylvania university, a government spokesman said Saturday.

Government spokesman Ermias Legesse said the group, which calls itself “Ginbot 7″ (May 15) after the date of {www:controversial} 2005 elections in Ethiopia, was led from the U.S. by former opposition leader Berhanu Nega, who is an assistant professor of economics at Bucknell University.

“It is the party led by Berhanu Nega,” said Ermias. “If he comes to Ethiopia, we’ll arrest him.”

He said the alleged plotters were arrested Friday.

Interviewed in Lewisburg, Berhanu, 51, said he had no role in organizing any coup attempt.

“I’m very suspicious that were was an attempt at all,” he said. “This is not a government that has any credibility whatsoever in terms of telling the truth.”

Berhanu was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005 but was arrested afterward along with more than 100 other opposition politicians and stood trial for {www:treason}. He and the others were freed in 2007 in a pardon deal. He left Ethiopia after the trial.

“It became very clear immediately after our release that they will not at all tolerate any opposition, meaningful opposition,” he said Friday.

Ermias said the group of suspects arrested Friday was comprised of two cliques, one of former soldiers, another of civilians.

“They were caught with weapons, uniforms, even plans,” he said. “I don’t want to give details about the plans; it’s for the court case.”

Ermias said the charges have not been set and court proceedings will begin soon.

“They decided to change the government in an unconstitutional way,” he said.

Asked if he considered violent regime change inevitable, Berhanu said he was still pushing for a peaceful, negotiated solution, but the Ethiopian government was showing “absolute intransigence.”

“When the option becomes freedom (or) living in some sort of slavery, I have no doubt that people will fight for freedom,” he said.

He did not deny raising money in the U.S. for Ethiopian opposition groups.

“All opposition groups raise money in the U.S.,” he said.

He said he hoped the administration of President Barack Obama would realize it is “unseemly” for the U.S. to have any relationship with the Ethiopian regime.

The opposition won an unprecedented number of parliamentary seats in the 2005 vote, but not enough to topple Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. The opposition claimed the voting was rigged, and European Union observers said it was marred by irregularities. The election was followed by violent protests. Ethiopia acknowledged that its security forces killed 193 civilians protesting alleged election fraud.

Since 2005, there has been only one opposition-led political protest in Ethiopia, held this month in Addis Ababa.

Berhanu said he believed the government is wracked by internal {www:turmoil}, perhaps even within the military.

“The government is becoming increasingly unstable and is lashing out at anyone it thinks is even mildly popular inside the country,” he said.

Berhanu Nega family's home in Ethiopia surrounded

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — The family home of Dr {www:Berhanu Nega}, leader of the Ethiopian opposition, Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice and Democracy (Ginbot 7), has been surrounded and his parents have been roughed up by {www:Woyanne} gunmen, according to Ethiopian Review sources.

Dr Berhanu’s 80-year-old father, Ato Nega Bonger, was inside the house when the gunmen forced their way into the house and started beating up family members, including Ato Getu Worku, who was later taken away and his whereabouts right now is unknown.

Meles Zenawi’s armed thugs also confiscated mobile phones belonging to Ato Nega and Dr Berhanu’s mother, Wzr. Abebech Woldegiorgis.

The extended family was gathered at Ato Nega’s house in Addis Ababa to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the death of Wzr. Abebech Woldegiorgis’ brother when the lawless regime’s security forces suddenly descended on them earlier today.

The Woyanne regime today also announced that it has foiled a coup attempt by Ginbot 7 and that it has arrested over 30 suspects who were found with a variety of weapons.

Woyanne claims it has foiled Ginbot 7 activities in Ethiopia

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Ginbot 7 has issued its own press released regarding the Woyanne cliam. Click here the statement. Below is a report by the Woyanne-controlled Ethiopian News Agency (ENA).

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ENA) – Terrorist operation being advanced by a terrorist group calling itself “Ginbot 7” was foiled, the National Intelligence, Security Service and Federal Police Joint Anti-Terrorist Taskforce, disclosed.

In a press statement it sent to ENA on Saturday, the taskforce said the subversive activities of the terrorist group, which was established by Dr. Berhanu Nega, has declared an armed struggle to dismantle the national constitutional system through force saying that there is no more peaceful struggle.

However, the taskforce said, the activities of the terrorist group was foiled by the security force.

It said the operation of the anti-peace group has organized a military and civilian sub-team in the country with millions of Birr which it said has been foiled.

The military sub-team embraced some members of the army and a lot of x-army members who were dismissed from duty for disciplinary reasons, according to the Taskforce.

It further said the civilian sub-team comprised employees working in various private and government organizations.

The taskforce, which has been closely following up the activities of this terrorist network for a longer period, detained 35 suspects on Friday based on the country’s law.

In addition to this, the taskforce through a search warrant issued by the court has caught different arms, bombs, satellite, computers, radio communications, military uniforms and planning documents, among others.

The taskforce said it is investigating the cases on the suspects and will disclose the details soon.

It expressed appreciation to the cooperation shown by the public and the active participation of members of the army in foiling the conspiracy against the national constitution.

Clarification from the EPPF leadership

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

The top leadership of Ethiopian People Patriotic Front (EPPF) has issued a statement regarding accusations that was posted on an anti-EPPF web site against Ato Sileshi Tilahun, head of EPPF International Committee’s organizational affairs.

The statement, which is signed by the EPPF chairman and posted on the official EPPF web site, clarifies that only the top leadership has the authority to issue statements about the organization and that internal disagreements, if they occur, are resolved based on the organization’s bylaws and rules.

The EPPF fighters and leaders in the field continue to express confidence in Ato Sileshi’s ability to perform his task of organizing EPPF support chapters around the world and appreciate his tireless work on behalf of the organization.

Click here to read the full text.

EPPF is making advances both inside the country and worldwide. For more information watch the following videos that were recently released by the EPPF Press Office.
Below is Part I (Watch Part 2, 3 and 4 here)

Watch Eri-Tv live

Friday, April 24th, 2009

EastAfro.com has started to carry Eri-Tv live. Eri-Tv’s Amharic program is being watched by more people than the Woyanne-controlled ETV in Ethiopia. Click here to watch.

Who the hell is Tilahun?

Friday, April 24th, 2009

By Kiflu Hussain

Lately, in the past four years, I learned the hard way how deep pain and grief can penetrate due to the loss of someone you love or admire. Although I’ve always felt sad when someone I know very well or someone close to me dies, the grief I used to experience has never been all consuming; not until 28 October 2005.

That fateful day was the day I was bundled to the notorious detention center called “Maekelawie”whereupon I got transferred after a few days to Kaliti concentration camp to rot for one solid year. While I was there I learned the death of three people I cherished dearly. Two were prominent Ethiopians who had been distinguished in their own respective career. They were the late Poet Laureate Tsegaye Gebremedhin and the renowned former NASA scientist Kitaw Ejigu. Of course, Kitaw died in America and was buried there. Nonetheless, to learn of their loss in a highly congested place not even fit for animals which is mostly inhabited with all sorts of weirdos interspersed with guys like me and some other decent fellows was really devastating. But that’s what happens in a repressive system where your incarceration would surely be protracted indefinitely. And, so I learned about the third person’s death who had been a senior colleague and whose unsung integrity and patriotism I used to admire. Ato Aseffa Taye — a lawyer who worked for Ethiopian Insurance Corporation for nearly 30 years, before and after the nationalization of insurance companies by the military regime.

I thought that kind of ordeal would be over once I get released. But, no Sir! I had to come to exile in January 2007 and learn about three more deaths that really shook me up. Again, I had to learn about the death of a friend who was also another lawyer but much younger, even some three years younger than me. Apart from being known as a symbol of generosity in our circle, he was a genial man always with an exploding infectious laughter. Most of us beer drinkers in our office used to enjoy our nectar with him after a long hard day. Though Betre Dawit –that’s his name — had been terminally ill for some time due to the inefficiency of health care — no care really — system that was unable to diagnose his problem on time, his death still came as a shock. I witnessed before I sneaked out of my country that his positive mentality and cheerfulness never deserted him despite being bedridden for long. You go to cheer him up but you get back being cheered up. And, there was this friend of mine with whom I grew up in a neighborhood at Bole and whose bohemian lifestyle never failed to give me a kick despite his background from a stiff “petit bourgeois” family. Unfortunately, unlike Sebhat Gebregziabiher’s generation when one can afford to be a bohemian without running any fatal risk, this bohemian friend of mine called Abiy Gudeta bought the farm with his untimely death a couple of months ago. I was unable to bid him farewell except grieve in a distance as had never grieved before, while reminiscing all his mischief, witty remarks, sarcastic humor and his total disdain for the uptight society in which he grew up.

And, now came the passing away of the greatest Ethiopian celebrity to whom I became a fan just like any child in any modern Ethiopian family through inheritance. My love for Tilahun’s music, my perception of that great artist is no different than any other modern Ethiopian. I cannot tell a different story about how I passionately became his fan. Like Fekade Shewakena said in his piece titled “Tilahun’s passing away: End of an era,” once again I also felt bitter about “Sidet.” Yet, this time my bitterness emanated not only due to the frustration of not being there to salute this great Ethiopian artist for the last time. Rather, it’s due to the inability of transferring the legacy of Tilahun to my kids as had been transferred to me by my parents, especially by my father who was absolutely crazy about Tilahun’s music.

My father used to tell us how they used to waltz to their hearts content after inviting the Orchestra of the Imperial Bodyguard at Army Aviation where he served during the good old days before he joined Ethiopian Airlines in May 1974. At home we had loads of reel and later cassette tapes of Tilahun and his contemporaries. Perhaps, they would hook up again, up there in the heavens and waltz in the after-life for my father too became no more in August 2000. At any rate, the day I learned of Tilahun’s death was just like any other day. Expecting nothing out of the ordinary, I went out in the morning of April 20 to check my email. Before I settled down at the Café, a friend of mine and a fellow refugee in Kampala called me to break the sad news about Tilahun. Considering his declining health for some time, I wasn’t that much jolted. However, a creeping void began to overwhelm me as the enormity of it hit me. He was the first, the best and unparalleled vocalist in the modern Ethiopian music. He dominated the scene for over five decades. So, like everyone agrees, his death entails the closing of a big chapter in the formidable continuing Ethiopian saga. Anyway,to confirm the news, I went directly to ethiomedia.com. But no mention about Tilahun. Then to Addisvoice, nothing. Finally EMF confirmed my worst fear on which I scribbled some words about the loss I felt.

While leaving the café and still reflecting about Tilahun, I called my wife and broke the news to her which she naturally found shocking. Around lunchtime, I went to my kid’s school to pick my second daughter who only spends half a day there. She is eight years old. Though, normally I don’t discuss death or about dead people with her, this time I couldn’t resist.

I said “Sophie, Tilahun Gessese died.”

Her response: “who the hell is he?”

Now that shocked me more than Tilahun’s death. It’s only been two years since we sought refuge in Uganda, a tiny country not very far from Ethiopia. Though there are many Ethiopian exiles here, because of absence of economic opportunities, the Ethiopian community is weak to address its basic needs let alone to pass on Ethiopian history and culture to children born in exile or who came to exile in their infancy.

The other factor is the majority of Ethiopian exiles here are waiting for resettlement to a third country which is an impediment to strengthen the community with people who can dedicate themselves with long term commitment. Thus, it’s impossible to even find a story book in Amharic. Consequently, many Ethiopian kids are finding it more and more difficult to speak in their own mother tongue. Reading in Ge’ez script, a truly indigenous and sole African script, has become a luxury to contemplate here. Personally, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s easier for an Ethiopian kid in Northern America to learn Amharic than an Ethiopian kid who is unfortunate enough to be exiled with his family in another African country such as Uganda.

In any case, to provide answer to my kid’s question, I asked her and her elder sister, who’s 12 years old, to listen to VOA Amharic service with me so that she will know or remember who Tilahun Gessese was. They both snubbed me for a fool who expected them to trade off their favorite program from the many channels of Ugandan TV. I was forced to listen to VOA alone through my headset. I didn’t give up hope. I just decided to bid my time and when the right time comes, I deluge them with the power of Tilahun’s music. After all, it’s the hallmark of Tilahun’s music to galvanize anyone without even paying attention to the lyrics.

Apart from being the first and the best in modern Ethiopian music, I think that is one of the factors that made Tilahun’s music abiding from generation to generation. The other factor was Tilahun’s ability to consummate a message in his music without appearing an activist for this or that cause. Also, despite the absence of his overt activism for any high sounding “lofty” cause, he never engaged in any scandal that compromised the sovereignty of Ethiopia nor the unity of its people. On the contrary, he moved heaven and earth with his shattering performance during the peak of the fight in 1977 with Ethiopia’s archenemy, TPLF and the then invading army of Siad Barre. The title of that song was “Atintem Yikeskes” which made him an object of hateful propaganda along with Neway Debebe, Tsehaye Yohannes and Tamegn Beyene by the current rulers of Ethiopia in the early 1990s.

So then, does the sending of letter of condolence on his funeral by Meles Zenawi, the number one enemy of Ethiopia and anything Ethiopian, mean that he has repented or modified his anti-Ethiopian stance? Or does it mean that he finally acknowledged the talent as well as the patriotism of Tilahun Gessese?

The answer is a resounding no! What forced Meles & Co. to put on a public charade was first, the universal appeal of Tilahun’s music, which even wooed tycoons and financiers of TPLF such as Al Moudi to the extent of becoming an unconditional patron for his past and current artistic works. Second, TPLF’s fall out with its erstwhile comrade-in-arms, EPLF, over a tiny barren land in1998-2000.

Woyanne realized then that its Eyassu Berhe et al weren’t enough to summon the public for that senseless war in the name of “sovereignty.” Hence, it had to dust off from ETV’s sound archive and play “Atintem Yikeskes” grudgingly. Later, it had even enlisted Tilahun in person as it had never detested him before so that he goes to the front and boost the morale of the army. When the war was concluded with the Woyanne side gaining the upper hand, Tilahun’s patriotic songs were sidelined. It’s also public knowledge that the current rulers of Ethiopia aren’t keen to hear any of Tilahun’s song that praises Ethiopia and Ethiopianess in the media they monopolized. The only time you get to hear these songs with ample opportunity is when the opposition political parties campaign once in every five year for farcical elections as the one that ended in bloodshed in 2005. Otherwise, it’s in your own private place. As the Ethiopian renaissance is in the horizon, to which Woyanne’s reluctant accession to Tilahun’s state funeral is a clear sign out of many, I will also find “Atintem Yikeskes” and play it again on a blaring gramophone to listen and make others listen to the following verses which is roughly translated.

Let my bone be crushed
Let my blood be spilled
Than to see my country
Be defiled by the enemy.

In the meantime, I say goodbye to the Ethiopian Star for the last time as the British bade farewell to their beloved Princess Diana to whom they dedicated a song titled “Goodbye England’s Rose.” Also all the dead I mentioned above: May they rest in peace, except Tilahun for he has an obligation there too to entertain his fans.

(The writer can be reached at kiflukam@yahoo.com)

Scientists find a new species of tree in Ethiopia

Friday, April 24th, 2009

By Alister Doyle

OSLO (Reuters) – A tree that covers a large area of eastern Ethiopia but has only recently been categorized by botanists raises hope for finding new {www:species} elsewhere, experts said.

The acacia fumosa tree, which grows in an area the size of the island of Crete, was not “found” for scientific purposes until 2006-7, mostly likely because its main habitat is a war zone.

“I have spent a lifetime looking at plants and describing species — it knocked me sideways when I heard about this tree,” David Mabberley of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England, told Reuters.

“The total numbers must be in the millions,” he said of the pink-flowered, 6-m (20-ft) tall tree that covers hillsides in an {www:inaccessible} area of 8,000 sq kms (3,100 sq miles) near the border with Somalia.

In an article in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, he wrote that the tree had been overlooked by generations of botanists, apparently because of few visits to the area where the Ogaden National Liberation Front is fighting for autonomy.

The discovery was an encouraging sign that other overlooked large species might still be found, from rainforests to the ocean depths. Still, he said, scientists were “highly unlikely” to find another tree dominating such a large area.

The discovery contrasts with gloom about destruction of habitats and global warming threatening more extinctions. Environment Ministers of the Group of Eight are meeting in Italy from April 22-24 discussing ways to slow a loss of biodiversity.

“It’s an upbeat story for a change,” Mabberley said. The tree was found by Swedish botanist Mats Thulin and previously described in a Nordic journal.

People in the sparsely populated region did not exploit the tree except for firewood but it might have commercial uses, for instance in gum used for foodstuffs or glues.

About 10,000 new species of plants or creatures are described worldwide every year, most of them tiny, he said.

COELACANTH

Among exceptions, a coelacanth fish known only from fossils was caught off South Africa in 1938. The wollemi pine, also known from fossils, was found in Australia in 1994. And the saola antelope in Vietnam and Laos was identified in 1992.

“I suspect there are still large species out there to be discovered,” Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of endangered species, told Reuters.

He said that countries that have suffered conflicts — such as Democratic Republic of Congo, Cambodia or Colombia — were likely places to find overlooked species.

And some types of beaked whales that dive to great depths were only known from washed up corpses. “There are probably still a few things in the deep ocean we haven’t found,” he said.

More by Susan Milius of Sciencenews.com

An acacia in northern Africa that grows six meters tall and dominates the {www:landscape} across an area almost three times the size of Rhode Island is new to science.

“It’s astounding,” says David Mabberley of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England. He summarizes the findings in the April 24 Science, though the tree was officially named Acacia fumosa online in the Nordic Journal of Botany in September 2008.

Finding a new species in itself isn’t such a surprise, he says. Scientists describe and give Latin names to some 10,000 new organisms a year. About 2,350 of these are flowering plants, with a new one from Africa appearing on average every weekday. Many of these new names go to plants that have been languishing misidentified or unidentified in collections, Mabberley says, and the complete surprises are typically uncommon plants or those that have tiny ranges.

But no herbarium specimens or botanical mentions of the new acacia existed, even though it’s widespread in its homeland, says Mats Thulin of Uppsala University in Sweden, who named the plant. He has named several hundred plants but never seen a case like this.

Science got such a shock from the tree because the acacia grows in Ethiopia’s Somali National Regional State, or Ogaden. Though politically part of Ethiopia, the sparse population of the region is mostly ethnic Somali, Thulin says. The Ogaden National Liberation Front is fighting for independence and has made traveling to the region perilous.

Thulin, who spent 18 years as editor of Flora of Somalia, had never visited Ogaden until 2006, when he joined a German zoologist who had arranged to study antelopes there.

“What happened to us several times both in 2006 and 2007 was that a group of rebels was suddenly standing on the road with machine guns directed toward us,” Thulin says. The scientists carried no weapons and had put a sign on their car saying so. Each time, after an hour or two of questioning, the armed party let them go. “An American, an Ethiopian or someone working for the Ethiopian government would have been in big trouble,” he says.

Almost immediately on seeing the acacia, Thulin says, he recognized it as an unknown species. It had unusual, smooth, gray bark, for example. On a later trip, he discovered that it burst into pink, sweet-smelling blooms during the dry {www:season}, when no leaves were on the trees. Its relatives bloom in yellow or creamy flowers during the wet season.

With a bit of travel and some help form Google Earth, Thulin realized how widespread the acacia is in its arid habitat. The tree provides vegetation in a landscape too dry for perennial grasses. And, like other acacias, has glands where ants sip nectar, so there may be a tree-insect mutualism.

Finding another such surprise may not be too likely, according to Tom Daniel, botany curator at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. New species, yes. Plenty to name. But something this widespread that scientists haven’t seen — “This is pretty unusual,” he says.

Ottawa city donates used ambulance to Ethiopia

Friday, April 24th, 2009

By Louisa Taylor, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA, CANADA -A decommissioned ambulance dedicated to former Ottawa mayor Marion Dewar will soon be in service in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

At a handover ceremony outside City Hall yesterday, Councillor Diane Deans gave the keys to the ambulance to Samuel Getachew of Friends of Ethiopia, which organized the project and raised the money to ship the ambulance to Ethiopia. The group will also be shipping medical and educational supplies, along with computers donated by Algonquin College.

“It’s nice for citizens of Ottawa to give a second life to a decommissioned ambulance,” says Deans, who lobbied her fellow councilors to donate the vehicle. “That ambulance probably saved a lot of lives in Ottawa and now it will save a lot more in its new home in Ethiopia.”

Getachew has dedicated the ambulance in memory of Dewar, a “dear friend” who gave him advice in the early stages of this project. Her son, Ottawa Center MP Paul Dewar, was also at the City Hall ceremony yesterday.

“We wanted to send something useful, and Africans need something that can help them be self-sufficient, and we believe an ambulance is a good start,” says Getachew, who has worked on the project for almost two years.

The ambulance will be donated to the foundation run by Abebch Gobena, a well-known children’s activist in Addis Ababa. “She has raised 5,000 orphans, and she has a small hospital in her compound and branches all over Ethiopia.”

The dark side of Dubai, UAE

Friday, April 24th, 2009

By Johann Hari | The Independent

Dubai was meant to be a Middle-Eastern Shangri-La, a glittering monument to Arab enterprise and western capitalism. But as hard times arrive in the city state that rose from the desert sands, an uglier story is emerging.

The wide, smiling face of Sheikh Mohammed – the absolute ruler of Dubai – beams down on his creation. His image is displayed on every other building, sandwiched between the more familiar corporate rictuses of Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders. This man has sold Dubai to the world as the city of One Thousand and One Arabian Lights, a Shangri-La in the Middle East insulated from the dust-storms blasting across the region. He dominates the Manhattan-manqué skyline, beaming out from row after row of glass pyramids and hotels smelted into the shape of piles of golden coins. And there he stands on the tallest building in the world – a skinny spike, jabbing farther into the sky than any other human construction in history.

But something has flickered in Sheikh Mohammed’s smile. The ubiquitous cranes have paused on the skyline, as if stuck in time. There are countless buildings half-finished, seemingly abandoned. In the swankiest new constructions – like the vast Atlantis hotel, a giant pink castle built in 1,000 days for $1.5bn on its own artificial island – where rainwater is leaking from the ceilings and the tiles are falling off the roof. This Neverland was built on the Never-Never – and now the cracks are beginning to show. Suddenly it looks less like Manhattan in the sun than Iceland in the desert.

Once the manic burst of building has stopped and the whirlwind has slowed, the secrets of Dubai are slowly seeping out. This is a city built from nothing in just a few wild decades on credit and ecocide, suppression and slavery. Dubai is a living metal metaphor for the neo-liberal globalised world that may be crashing – at last – into history.

I. An Adult Disneyland

Karen Andrews can’t speak. Every time she starts to tell her story, she puts her head down and crumples. She is slim and angular and has the faded radiance of the once-rich, even though her clothes are as creased as her forehead. I find her in the car park of one of Dubai’s finest international hotels, where she is living, in her Range Rover. She has been sleeping here for months, thanks to the kindness of the Bangladeshi car park attendants who don’t have the heart to move her on. This is not where she thought her Dubai dream would end.

Her story comes out in stutters, over four hours. At times, her old voice – witty and warm – breaks through. Karen came here from Canada when her husband was offered a job in the senior division of a famous multinational. “When he said Dubai, I said – if you want me to wear black and quit booze, baby, you’ve got the wrong girl. But he asked me to give it a chance. And I loved him.”

All her worries melted when she touched down in Dubai in 2005. “It was an adult Disneyland, where Sheikh Mohammed is the mouse,” she says. “Life was fantastic. You had these amazing big apartments, you had a whole army of your own staff, you pay no taxes at all. It seemed like everyone was a CEO. We were partying the whole time.”

Her husband, Daniel, bought two properties. “We were drunk on Dubai,” she says. But for the first time in his life, he was beginning to mismanage their finances. “We’re not talking huge sums, but he was getting confused. It was so unlike Daniel, I was surprised. We got into a little bit of debt.” After a year, she found out why: Daniel was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

One doctor told him he had a year to live; another said it was benign and he’d be okay. But the debts were growing. “Before I came here, I didn’t know anything about Dubai law. I assumed if all these big companies come here, it must be pretty like Canada’s or any other liberal democracy’s,” she says. Nobody told her there is no concept of bankruptcy. If you get into debt and you can’t pay, you go to prison.

“When we realised that, I sat Daniel down and told him: listen, we need to get out of here. He knew he was guaranteed a pay-off when he resigned, so we said – right, let’s take the pay-off, clear the debt, and go.” So Daniel resigned – but he was given a lower pay-off than his contract suggested. The debt remaIfined. As soon as you quit your job in Dubai, your employer has to inform your bank. you have any outstanding debts that aren’t covered by your savings, then all your accounts are frozen, and you are forbidden to leave the country.

“Suddenly our cards stopped working. We had nothing. We were thrown out of our apartment.” Karen can’t speak about what happened next for a long time; she is shaking.

Daniel was arrested and taken away on the day of their eviction. It was six days before she could talk to him. “He told me he was put in a cell with another debtor, a Sri Lankan guy who was only 27, who said he couldn’t face the shame to his family. Daniel woke up and the boy had swallowed razor-blades. He banged for help, but nobody came, and the boy died in front of him.”

Karen managed to beg from her friends for a few weeks, “but it was so humiliating. I’ve never lived like this. I worked in the fashion industry. I had my own shops. I’ve never…” She peters out.

Daniel was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment at a trial he couldn’t understand. It was in Arabic, and there was no translation. “Now I’m here illegally, too,” Karen says. “I’ve got no money, nothing. I have to last nine months until he’s out, somehow.” Looking away, almost paralysed with embarrassment, she asks if I could buy her a meal.

She is not alone. All over the city, there are maxed-out expats sleeping secretly in the sand-dunes or the airport or in their cars.

“The thing you have to understand about Dubai is – nothing is what it seems,” Karen says at last. “Nothing. This isn’t a city, it’s a con-job. They lure you in telling you it’s one thing – a modern kind of place – but beneath the surface it’s a medieval dictatorship.”

II. Tumbleweed

Thirty years ago, almost all of contemporary Dubai was desert, inhabited only by cactuses and tumbleweed and scorpions. But downtown there are traces of the town that once was, buried amidst the metal and glass. In the dusty fort of the Dubai Museum, a sanitised version of this story is told.

In the mid-18th century, a small village was built here, in the lower Persian Gulf, where people would dive for pearls off the coast. It soon began to accumulate a cosmopolitan population washing up from Persia, the Indian subcontinent, and other Arab countries, all hoping to make their fortune. They named it after a local locust, the daba, who consumed everything before it. The town was soon seized by the gunships of the British Empire, who held it by the throat as late as 1971. As they scuttled away, Dubai decided to ally with the six surrounding states and make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The British quit, exhausted, just as oil was being discovered, and the sheikhs who suddenly found themselves in charge faced a remarkable dilemma. They were largely illiterate nomads who spent their lives driving camels through the desert – yet now they had a vast pot of gold. What should they do with it?

Dubai only had a dribble of oil compared to neighbouring Abu Dhabi – so Sheikh Maktoum decided to use the revenues to build something that would last. Israel used to boast it made the desert bloom; Sheikh Maktoum resolved to make the desert boom. He would build a city to be a centre of tourism and financial services, sucking up cash and talent from across the globe. He invited the world to come tax-free – and they came in their millions, swamping the local population, who now make up just 5 per cent of Dubai. A city seemed to fall from the sky in just three decades, whole and complete and swelling. They fast-forwarded from the 18th century to the 21st in a single generation.

If you take the Big Bus Tour of Dubai – the passport to a pre-processed experience of every major city on earth – you are fed the propaganda-vision of how this happened. “Dubai’s motto is ‘Open doors, open minds’,” the tour guide tells you in clipped tones, before depositing you at the souks to buy camel tea-cosies. “Here you are free. To purchase fabrics,” he adds. As you pass each new monumental building, he tells you: “The World Trade Centre was built by His Highness…”

But this is a lie. The sheikh did not build this city. It was built by slaves. They are building it now.

III. Hidden in plain view

There are three different Dubais, all swirling around each other. There are the expats, like Karen; there are the Emiratis, headed by Sheikh Mohammed; and then there is the foreign underclass who built the city, and are trapped here. They are hidden in plain view. You see them everywhere, in dirt-caked blue uniforms, being shouted at by their superiors, like a chain gang – but you are trained not to look. It is like a mantra: the Sheikh built the city. The Sheikh built the city. Workers? What workers?

Every evening, the hundreds of thousands of young men who build Dubai are bussed from their sites to a vast concrete wasteland an hour out of town, where they are quarantined away. Until a few years ago they were shuttled back and forth on cattle trucks, but the expats complained this was unsightly, so now they are shunted on small metal buses that function like greenhouses in the desert heat. They sweat like sponges being slowly wrung out.

Sonapur is a rubble-strewn patchwork of miles and miles of identical concrete buildings. Some 300,000 men live piled up here, in a place whose name in Hindi means “City of Gold”. In the first camp I stop at – riven with the smell of sewage and sweat – the men huddle around, eager to tell someone, anyone, what is happening to them.

Sahinal Monir, a slim 24-year-old from the deltas of Bangladesh. “To get you here, they tell you Dubai is heaven. Then you get here and realise it is hell,” he says. Four years ago, an employment agent arrived in Sahinal’s village in Southern Bangladesh. He told the men of the village that there was a place where they could earn 40,000 takka a month (£400) just for working nine-to-five on construction projects. It was a place where they would be given great accommodation, great food, and treated well. All they had to do was pay an up-front fee of 220,000 takka (£2,300) for the work visa – a fee they’d pay off in the first six months, easy. So Sahinal sold his family land, and took out a loan from the local lender, to head to this paradise.

As soon as he arrived at Dubai airport, his passport was taken from him by his construction company. He has not seen it since. He was told brusquely that from now on he would be working 14-hour days in the desert heat – where western tourists are advised not to stay outside for even five minutes in summer, when it hits 55 degrees – for 500 dirhams a month (£90), less than a quarter of the wage he was promised. If you don’t like it, the company told him, go home. “But how can I go home? You have my passport, and I have no money for the ticket,” he said. “Well, then you’d better get to work,” they replied.

Sahinal was in a panic. His family back home – his son, daughter, wife and parents – were waiting for money, excited that their boy had finally made it. But he was going to have to work for more than two years just to pay for the cost of getting here – and all to earn less than he did in Bangladesh.

He shows me his room. It is a tiny, poky, concrete cell with triple-decker bunk-beds, where he lives with 11 other men. All his belongings are piled onto his bunk: three shirts, a spare pair of trousers, and a cellphone. The room stinks, because the lavatories in the corner of the camp – holes in the ground – are backed up with excrement and clouds of black flies. There is no air conditioning or fans, so the heat is “unbearable. You cannot sleep. All you do is sweat and scratch all night.” At the height of summer, people sleep on the floor, on the roof, anywhere where they can pray for a moment of breeze.

The water delivered to the camp in huge white containers isn’t properly desalinated: it tastes of salt. “It makes us sick, but we have nothing else to drink,” he says.

The work is “the worst in the world,” he says. “You have to carry 50kg bricks and blocks of cement in the worst heat imaginable … This heat – it is like nothing else. You sweat so much you can’t pee, not for days or weeks. It’s like all the liquid comes out through your skin and you stink. You become dizzy and sick but you aren’t allowed to stop, except for an hour in the afternoon. You know if you drop anything or slip, you could die. If you take time off sick, your wages are docked, and you are trapped here even longer.”

He is currently working on the 67th floor of a shiny new tower, where he builds upwards, into the sky, into the heat. He doesn’t know its name. In his four years here, he has never seen the Dubai of tourist-fame, except as he constructs it floor-by-floor.

Is he angry? He is quiet for a long time. “Here, nobody shows their anger. You can’t. You get put in jail for a long time, then deported.” Last year, some workers went on strike after they were not given their wages for four months. The Dubai police surrounded their camps with razor-wire and water-cannons and blasted them out and back to work.

The “ringleaders” were imprisoned. I try a different question: does Sohinal regret coming? All the men look down, awkwardly. “How can we think about that? We are trapped. If we start to think about regrets…” He lets the sentence trail off. Eventually, another worker breaks the silence by adding: “I miss my country, my family and my land. We can grow food in Bangladesh. Here, nothing grows. Just oil and buildings.”

Since the recession hit, they say, the electricity has been cut off in dozens of the camps, and the men have not been paid for months. Their companies have disappeared with their passports and their pay. “We have been robbed of everything. Even if somehow we get back to Bangladesh, the loan sharks will demand we repay our loans immediately, and when we can’t, we’ll be sent to prison.”

This is all supposed to be illegal. Employers are meant to pay on time, never take your passport, give you breaks in the heat – but I met nobody who said it happens. Not one. These men are conned into coming and trapped into staying, with the complicity of the Dubai authorities.

Sahinal could well die out here. A British man who used to work on construction projects told me: “There’s a huge number of suicides in the camps and on the construction sites, but they’re not reported. They’re described as ‘accidents’.” Even then, their families aren’t free: they simply inherit the debts. A Human Rights Watch study found there is a “cover-up of the true extent” of deaths from heat exhaustion, overwork and suicide, but the Indian consulate registered 971 deaths of their nationals in 2005 alone. After this figure was leaked, the consulates were told to stop counting.

At night, in the dusk, I sit in the camp with Sohinal and his friends as they scrape together what they have left to buy a cheap bottle of spirits. They down it in one ferocious gulp. “It helps you to feel numb”, Sohinal says through a stinging throat. In the distance, the glistening Dubai skyline he built stands, oblivious.

IV. Mauled by the mall

I find myself stumbling in a daze from the camps into the sprawling marble malls that seem to stand on every street in Dubai. It is so hot there is no point building pavements; people gather in these cathedrals of consumerism to bask in the air conditioning. So within a ten minute taxi-ride, I have left Sohinal and I am standing in the middle of Harvey Nichols, being shown a £20,000 taffeta dress by a bored salesgirl. “As you can see, it is cut on the bias…” she says, and I stop writing.

Time doesn’t seem to pass in the malls. Days blur with the same electric light, the same shined floors, the same brands I know from home. Here, Dubai is reduced to its component sounds: do-buy. In the most expensive malls I am almost alone, the shops empty and echoing. On the record, everybody tells me business is going fine. Off the record, they look panicky. There is a hat exhibition ahead of the Dubai races, selling elaborate headgear for £1,000 a pop. “Last year, we were packed. Now look,” a hat designer tells me. She swoops her arm over a vacant space.

I approach a blonde 17-year-old Dutch girl wandering around in hotpants, oblivious to the swarms of men gaping at her. “I love it here!” she says. “The heat, the malls, the beach!” Does it ever bother you that it’s a slave society? She puts her head down, just as Sohinal did. “I try not to see,” she says. Even at 17, she has learned not to look, and not to ask; that, she senses, is a transgression too far.

Between the malls, there is nothing but the connecting tissue of asphalt. Every road has at least four lanes; Dubai feels like a motorway punctuated by shopping centres. You only walk anywhere if you are suicidal. The residents of Dubai flit from mall to mall by car or taxis.

How does it feel if this is your country, filled with foreigners? Unlike the expats and the slave class, I can’t just approach the native Emiratis to ask questions when I see them wandering around – the men in cool white robes, the women in sweltering black. If you try, the women blank you, and the men look affronted, and tell you brusquely that Dubai is “fine”. So I browse through the Emirati blog-scene and found some typical-sounding young Emiratis. We meet – where else? – in the mall.

Ahmed al-Atar is a handsome 23-year-old with a neat, trimmed beard, tailored white robes, and rectangular wire-glasses. He speaks perfect American-English, and quickly shows that he knows London, Los Angeles and Paris better than most westerners. Sitting back in his chair in an identikit Starbucks, he announces: “This is the best place in the world to be young! The government pays for your education up to PhD level. You get given a free house when you get married. You get free healthcare, and if it’s not good enough here, they pay for you to go abroad. You don’t even have to pay for your phone calls. Almost everyone has a maid, a nanny, and a driver. And we never pay any taxes. Don’t you wish you were Emirati?”

I try to raise potential objections to this Panglossian summary, but he leans forward and says: “Look – my grandfather woke up every day and he would have to fight to get to the well first to get water. When the wells ran dry, they had to have water delivered by camel. They were always hungry and thirsty and desperate for jobs. He limped all his life, because he there was no medical treatment available when he broke his leg. Now look at us!”

For Emiratis, this is a Santa Claus state, handing out goodies while it makes its money elsewhere: through renting out land to foreigners, soft taxes on them like business and airport charges, and the remaining dribble of oil. Most Emiratis, like Ahmed, work for the government, so they’re cushioned from the credit crunch. “I haven’t felt any effect at all, and nor have my friends,” he says. “Your employment is secure. You will only be fired if you do something incredibly bad.” The laws are currently being tightened, to make it even more impossible to sack an Emirati.

Sure, the flooding-in of expats can sometimes be “an eyesore”, Ahmed says. “But we see the expats as the price we had to pay for this development. How else could we do it? Nobody wants to go back to the days of the desert, the days before everyone came. We went from being like an African country to having an average income per head of $120,000 a year. And we’re supposed to complain?”

He says the lack of political freedom is fine by him. “You’ll find it very hard to find an Emirati who doesn’t support Sheikh Mohammed.” Because they’re scared? “No, because we really all support him. He’s a great leader. Just look!” He smiles and says: “I’m sure my life is very much like yours. We hang out, have a coffee, go to the movies. You’ll be in a Pizza Hut or Nando’s in London, and at the same time I’ll be in one in Dubai,” he says, ordering another latte.

But do all young Emiratis see it this way? Can it really be so sunny in the political sands? In the sleek Emirates Tower Hotel, I meet Sultan al-Qassemi. He’s a 31-year-old Emirati columnist for the Dubai press and private art collector, with a reputation for being a contrarian liberal, advocating gradual reform. He is wearing Western clothes – blue jeans and a Ralph Lauren shirt – and speaks incredibly fast, turning himself into a manic whirr of arguments.

“People here are turning into lazy, overweight babies!” he exclaims. “The nanny state has gone too far. We don’t do anything for ourselves! Why don’t any of us work for the private sector? Why can’t a mother and father look after their own child?” And yet, when I try to bring up the system of slavery that built Dubai, he looks angry. “People should give us credit,” he insists. “We are the most tolerant people in the world. Dubai is the only truly international city in the world. Everyone who comes here is treated with respect.”

I pause, and think of the vast camps in Sonapur, just a few miles away. Does he even know they exist? He looks irritated. “You know, if there are 30 or 40 cases [of worker abuse] a year, that sounds like a lot but when you think about how many people are here…” Thirty or 40? This abuse is endemic to the system, I say. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands.

Sultan is furious. He splutters: “You don’t think Mexicans are treated badly in New York City? And how long did it take Britain to treat people well? I could come to London and write about the homeless people on Oxford Street and make your city sound like a terrible place, too! The workers here can leave any time they want! Any Indian can leave, any Asian can leave!”

But they can’t, I point out. Their passports are taken away, and their wages are withheld. “Well, I feel bad if that happens, and anybody who does that should be punished. But their embassies should help them.” They try. But why do you forbid the workers – with force – from going on strike against lousy employers? “Thank God we don’t allow that!” he exclaims. “Strikes are in-convenient! They go on the street – we’re not having that. We won’t be like France. Imagine a country where they the workers can just stop whenever they want!” So what should the workers do when they are cheated and lied to? “Quit. Leave the country.”

I sigh. Sultan is seething now. “People in the West are always complaining about us,” he says. Suddenly, he adopts a mock-whiny voice and says, in imitation of these disgusting critics: “Why don’t you treat animals better? Why don’t you have better shampoo advertising? Why don’t you treat labourers better?” It’s a revealing order: animals, shampoo, then workers. He becomes more heated, shifting in his seat, jabbing his finger at me. “I gave workers who worked for me safety goggles and special boots, and they didn’t want to wear them! It slows them down!”

And then he smiles, coming up with what he sees as his killer argument. “When I see Western journalists criticise us – don’t you realise you’re shooting yourself in the foot? The Middle East will be far more dangerous if Dubai fails. Our export isn’t oil, it’s hope. Poor Egyptians or Libyans or Iranians grow up saying – I want to go to Dubai. We’re very important to the region. We are showing how to be a modern Muslim country. We don’t have any fundamentalists here. Europeans shouldn’t gloat at our demise. You should be very worried…. Do you know what will happen if this model fails? Dubai will go down the Iranian path, the Islamist path.“

Sultan sits back. My arguments have clearly disturbed him; he says in a softer, conciliatory tone, almost pleading: “Listen. My mother used to go to the well and get a bucket of water every morning. On her wedding day, she was given an orange as a gift because she had never eaten one. Two of my brothers died when they were babies because the healthcare system hadn’t developed yet. Don’t judge us.” He says it again, his eyes filled with intensity: “Don’t judge us.”

V. The Dunkin’ Donuts Dissidents

But there is another face to the Emirati minority – a small huddle of dissidents, trying to shake the Sheikhs out of abusive laws. Next to a Virgin Megastore and a Dunkin’ Donuts, with James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” blaring behind me, I meet the Dubai dictatorship’s Public Enemy Number One. By way of introduction, Mohammed al-Mansoori says from within his white robes and sinewy face: “Westerners come her and see the malls and the tall buildings and they think that means we are free. But these businesses, these buildings – who are they for? This is a dictatorship. The royal family think they own the country, and the people are their servants. There is no freedom here.“

We snuffle out the only Arabic restaurant in this mall, and he says everything you are banned – under threat of prison – from saying in Dubai. Mohammed tells me he was born in Dubai to a fisherman father who taught him one enduring lesson: Never follow the herd. Think for yourself. In the sudden surge of development, Mohammed trained as a lawyer. By the Noughties, he had climbed to the head of the Jurists’ Association, an organisation set up to press for Dubai’s laws to be consistent with international human rights legislation.

And then – suddenly – Mohammed thwacked into the limits of Sheikh Mohammed’s tolerance. Horrified by the “system of slavery” his country was being built on, he spoke out to Human Rights Watch and the BBC. “So I was hauled in by the secret police and told: shut up, or you will lose you job, and your children will be unemployable,” he says. “But how could I be silent?”

He was stripped of his lawyer’s licence and his passport – becoming yet another person imprisoned in this country. “I have been blacklisted and so have my children. The newspapers are not allowed to write about me.”

Why is the state so keen to defend this system of slavery? He offers a prosaic explanation. “Most companies are owned by the government, so they oppose human rights laws because it will reduce their profit margins. It’s in their interests that the workers are slaves.”

Last time there was a depression, there was a starbust of democracy in Dubai, seized by force from the sheikhs. In the 1930s, the city’s merchants banded together against Sheikh Said bin Maktum al-Maktum – the absolute ruler of his day – and insisted they be given control over the state finances. It lasted only a few years, before the Sheikh – with the enthusiastic support of the British – snuffed them out.

And today? Sheikh Mohammed turned Dubai into Creditopolis, a city built entirely on debt. Dubai owes 107 percent of its entire GDP. It would be bust already, if the neighbouring oil-soaked state of Abu Dhabi hadn’t pulled out its chequebook. Mohammed says this will constrict freedom even further. “Now Abu Dhabi calls the tunes – and they are much more conservative and restrictive than even Dubai. Freedom here will diminish every day.” Already, new media laws have been drafted forbidding the press to report on anything that could “damage” Dubai or “its economy”. Is this why the newspapers are giving away glossy supplements talking about “encouraging economic indicators”?

Everybody here waves Islamism as the threat somewhere over the horizon, sure to swell if their advice is not followed. Today, every imam is appointed by the government, and every sermon is tightly controlled to keep it moderate. But Mohammed says anxiously: “We don’t have Islamism here now, but I think that if you control people and give them no way to express anger, it could rise. People who are told to shut up all the time can just explode.”

Later that day, against another identikit-corporate backdrop, I meet another dissident – Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, Professor of Political Science at Emirates University. His anger focuses not on political reform, but the erosion of Emirati identity. He is famous among the locals, a rare outspoken conductor for their anger. He says somberly: “There has been a rupture here. This is a totally different city to the one I was born in 50 years ago.”

He looks around at the shiny floors and Western tourists and says: “What we see now didn’t occur in our wildest dreams. We never thought we could be such a success, a trendsetter, a model for other Arab countries. The people of Dubai are mighty proud of their city, and rightly so. And yet…” He shakes his head. “In our hearts, we fear we have built a modern city but we are losing it to all these expats.”

Adbulkhaleq says every Emirati of his generation lives with a “psychological trauma.” Their hearts are divided – “between pride on one side, and fear on the other.” Just after he says this, a smiling waitress approaches, and asks us what we would like to drink. He orders a Coke.

VI. Dubai Pride

There is one group in Dubai for whom the rhetoric of sudden freedom and liberation rings true – but it is the very group the government wanted to liberate least: gays.

Beneath a famous international hotel, I clamber down into possibly the only gay club on the Saudi Arabian peninsula. I find a United Nations of tank-tops and bulging biceps, dancing to Kylie, dropping ecstasy, and partying like it’s Soho. “Dubai is the best place in the Muslim world for gays!” a 25-year old Emirati with spiked hair says, his arms wrapped around his 31-year old “husband”. “We are alive. We can meet. That is more than most Arab gays.”

It is illegal to be gay in Dubai, and punishable by 10 years in prison. But the locations of the latest unofficial gay clubs circulate online, and men flock there, seemingly unafraid of the police. “They might bust the club, but they will just disperse us,” one of them says. “The police have other things to do.”

In every large city, gay people find a way to find each other – but Dubai has become the clearing-house for the region’s homosexuals, a place where they can live in relative safety. Saleh, a lean private in the Saudi Arabian army, has come here for the Coldplay concert, and tells me Dubai is “great” for gays: “In Saudi, it’s hard to be straight when you’re young. The women are shut away so everyone has gay sex. But they only want to have sex with boys – 15- to 21-year-olds. I’m 27, so I’m too old now. I need to find real gays, so this is the best place. All Arab gays want to live in Dubai.”

With that, Saleh dances off across the dancefloor, towards a Dutch guy with big biceps and a big smile.

VII. The Lifestyle

All the guidebooks call Dubai a “melting pot”, but as I trawl across the city, I find that every group here huddles together in its own little ethnic enclave – and becomes a caricature of itself. One night – in the heart of this homesick city, tired of the malls and the camps – I go to Double Decker, a hang-out for British expats. At the entrance there is a red telephone box, and London bus-stop signs. Its wooden interior looks like a cross between a colonial clubhouse in the Raj and an Eighties school disco, with blinking coloured lights and cheese blaring out. As I enter, a girl in a short skirt collapses out of the door onto her back. A guy wearing a pirate hat helps her to her feet, dropping his beer bottle with a paralytic laugh.

I start to talk to two sun-dried women in their sixties who have been getting gently sozzled since midday. “You stay here for The Lifestyle,” they say, telling me to take a seat and order some more drinks. All the expats talk about The Lifestyle, but when you ask what it is, they become vague. Ann Wark tries to summarise it: “Here, you go out every night. You’d never do that back home. You see people all the time. It’s great. You have lots of free time. You have maids and staff so you don’t have to do all that stuff. You party!”

They have been in Dubai for 20 years, and they are happy to explain how the city works. “You’ve got a hierarchy, haven’t you?” Ann says. “It’s the Emiratis at the top, then I’d say the British and other Westerners. Then I suppose it’s the Filipinos, because they’ve got a bit more brains than the Indians. Then at the bottom you’ve got the Indians and all them lot.”

They admit, however, they have “never” spoken to an Emirati. Never? “No. They keep themselves to themselves.” Yet Dubai has disappointed them. Jules Taylor tells me: “If you have an accident here it’s a nightmare. There was a British woman we knew who ran over an Indian guy, and she was locked up for four days! If you have a tiny bit of alcohol on your breath they’re all over you. These Indians throw themselves in front of cars, because then their family has to be given blood money – you know, compensation. But the police just blame us. That poor woman.”

A 24-year-old British woman called Hannah Gamble takes a break from the dancefloor to talk to me. “I love the sun and the beach! It’s great out here!” she says. Is there anything bad? “Oh yes!” she says. Ah: one of them has noticed, I think with relief. “The banks! When you want to make a transfer you have to fax them. You can’t do it online.” Anything else? She thinks hard. “The traffic’s not very good.”

When I ask the British expats how they feel to not be in a democracy, their reaction is always the same. First, they look bemused. Then they look affronted. “It’s the Arab way!” an Essex boy shouts at me in response, as he tries to put a pair of comedy antlers on his head while pouring some beer into the mouth of his friend, who is lying on his back on the floor, gurning.

Later, in a hotel bar, I start chatting to a dyspeptic expat American who works in the cosmetics industry and is desperate to get away from these people. She says: “All the people who couldn’t succeed in their own countries end up here, and suddenly they’re rich and promoted way above their abilities and bragging about how great they are. I’ve never met so many incompetent people in such senior positions anywhere in the world.” She adds: “It’s absolutely racist. I had Filipino girls working for me doing the same job as a European girl, and she’s paid a quarter of the wages. The people who do the real work are paid next to nothing, while these incompetent managers pay themselves £40,000 a month.“

With the exception of her, one theme unites every expat I speak to: their joy at having staff to do the work that would clog their lives up Back Home. Everyone, it seems, has a maid. The maids used to be predominantly Filipino, but with the recession, Filipinos have been judged to be too expensive, so a nice Ethiopian servant girl is the latest fashionable accessory.

It is an open secret that once you hire a maid, you have absolute power over her. You take her passport – everyone does; you decide when to pay her, and when – if ever – she can take a break; and you decide who she talks to. She speaks no Arabic. She cannot escape.

In a Burger King, a Filipino girl tells me it is “terrifying” for her to wander the malls in Dubai because Filipino maids or nannies always sneak away from the family they are with and beg her for help. “They say – ‘Please, I am being held prisoner, they don’t let me call home, they make me work every waking hour seven days a week.’ At first I would say – my God, I will tell the consulate, where are you staying? But they never know their address, and the consulate isn’t interested. I avoid them now. I keep thinking about a woman who told me she hadn’t eaten any fruit in four years. They think I have power because I can walk around on my own, but I’m powerless.”

The only hostel for women in Dubai – a filthy private villa on the brink of being repossessed – is filled with escaped maids. Mela Matari, a 25-year-old Ethiopian woman with a drooping smile, tells me what happened to her – and thousands like her. She was promised a paradise in the sands by an agency, so she left her four year-old daughter at home and headed here to earn money for a better future. “But they paid me half what they promised. I was put with an Australian family – four children – and Madam made me work from 6am to 1am every day, with no day off. I was exhausted and pleaded for a break, but they just shouted: ‘You came here to work, not sleep!’ Then one day I just couldn’t go on, and Madam beat me. She beat me with her fists and kicked me. My ear still hurts. They wouldn’t give me my wages: they said they’d pay me at the end of the two years. What could I do? I didn’t know anybody here. I was terrified.”

One day, after yet another beating, Mela ran out onto the streets, and asked – in broken English – how to find the Ethiopian consulate. After walking for two days, she found it, but they told her she had to get her passport back from Madam. “Well, how could I?” she asks. She has been in this hostel for six months. She has spoken to her daughter twice. “I lost my country, I lost my daughter, I lost everything,” she says.

As she says this, I remember a stray sentence I heard back at Double Decker. I asked a British woman called Hermione Frayling what the best thing about Dubai was. “Oh, the servant class!” she trilled. “You do nothing. They’ll do anything!”

VIII. The End of The World

The World is empty. It has been abandoned, its continents unfinished. Through binoculars, I think I can glimpse Britain; this sceptred isle barren in the salt-breeze.

Here, off the coast of Dubai, developers have been rebuilding the world. They have constructed artificial islands in the shape of all planet Earth’s land masses, and they plan to sell each continent off to be built on. There were rumours that the Beckhams would bid for Britain. But the people who work at the nearby coast say they haven’t seen anybody there for months now. “The World is over,” a South African suggests.

All over Dubai, crazy projects that were Under Construction are now Under Collapse. They were building an air-conditioned beach here, with cooling pipes running below the sand, so the super-rich didn’t singe their toes on their way from towel to sea.

The projects completed just before the global economy crashed look empty and tattered. The Atlantis Hotel was launched last winter in a $20m fin-de-siecle party attended by Robert De Niro, Lindsay Lohan and Lily Allen. Sitting on its own fake island – shaped, of course, like a palm tree – it looks like an immense upturned tooth in a faintly decaying mouth. It is pink and turreted – the architecture of the pharaohs, as reimagined by Zsa-Zsa Gabor. Its Grand Lobby is a monumental dome covered in glitterballs, held up by eight monumental concrete palm trees. Standing in the middle, there is a giant shining glass structure that looks like the intestines of every guest who has ever stayed at the Atlantis. It is unexpectedly raining; water is leaking from the roof, and tiles are falling off.

A South African PR girl shows me around its most coveted rooms, explaining that this is “the greatest luxury offered in the world”. We stroll past shops selling £24m diamond rings around a hotel themed on the lost and sunken continent of, yes, Atlantis. There are huge water tanks filled with sharks, which poke around mock-abandoned castles and dumped submarines. There are more than 1,500 rooms here, each with a sea view. The Neptune suite has three floors, and – I gasp as I see it – it looks out directly on to the vast shark tank. You lie on the bed, and the sharks stare in at you. In Dubai, you can sleep with the fishes, and survive.

But even the luxury – reminiscent of a Bond villain’s lair – is also being abandoned. I check myself in for a few nights to the classiest hotel in town, the Park Hyatt. It is the fashionistas’ favourite hotel, where Elle Macpherson and Tommy Hilfiger stay, a gorgeous, understated palace. It feels empty. Whenever I eat, I am one of the only people in the restaurant. A staff member tells me in a whisper: “It used to be full here. Now there’s hardly anyone.” Rattling around, I feel like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, the last man in an abandoned, haunted home.

The most famous hotel in Dubai – the proud icon of the city – is the Burj al Arab hotel, sitting on the shore, shaped like a giant glass sailing boat. In the lobby, I start chatting to a couple from London who work in the City. They have been coming to Dubai for 10 years now, and they say they love it. “You never know what you’ll find here,” he says. “On our last trip, at the beginning of the holiday, our window looked out on the sea. By the end, they’d built an entire island there.”

My patience frayed by all this excess, I find myself snapping: doesn’t the omnipresent slave class bother you? I hope they misunderstood me, because the woman replied: “That’s what we come for! It’s great, you can’t do anything for yourself!” Her husband chimes in: “When you go to the toilet, they open the door, they turn on the tap – the only thing they don’t do is take it out for you when you have a piss!” And they both fall about laughing.

IX. Taking on the Desert

Dubai is not just a city living beyond its financial means; it is living beyond its ecological means. You stand on a manicured Dubai lawn and watch the sprinklers spray water all around you. You see tourists flocking to swim with dolphins. You wander into a mountain-sized freezer where they have built a ski slope with real snow. And a voice at the back of your head squeaks: this is the desert. This is the most water-stressed place on the planet. How can this be happening? How is it possible?

The very earth is trying to repel Dubai, to dry it up and blow it away. The new Tiger Woods Gold Course needs four million gallons of water to be pumped on to its grounds every day, or it would simply shrivel and disappear on the winds. The city is regularly washed over with dust-storms that fog up the skies and turn the skyline into a blur. When the dust parts, heat burns through. It cooks anything that is not kept constantly, artificially wet.

Dr Mohammed Raouf, the environmental director of the Gulf Research Centre, sounds sombre as he sits in his Dubai office and warns: “This is a desert area, and we are trying to defy its environment. It is very unwise. If you take on the desert, you will lose.”

Sheikh Maktoum built his showcase city in a place with no useable water. None. There is no surface water, very little acquifer, and among the lowest rainfall in the world. So Dubai drinks the sea. The Emirates’ water is stripped of salt in vast desalination plants around the Gulf – making it the most expensive water on earth. It costs more than petrol to produce, and belches vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as it goes. It’s the main reason why a resident of Dubai has the biggest average carbon footprint of any human being – more than double that of an American.

If a recession turns into depression, Dr Raouf believes Dubai could run out of water. “At the moment, we have financial reserves that cover bringing so much water to the middle of the desert. But if we had lower revenues – if, say, the world shifts to a source of energy other than oil…” he shakes his head. “We will have a very big problem. Water is the main source of life. It would be a catastrophe. Dubai only has enough water to last us a week. There’s almost no storage. We don’t know what will happen if our supplies falter. It would be hard to survive.”

Global warming, he adds, makes the problem even worse. “We are building all these artificial islands, but if the sea level rises, they will be gone, and we will lose a lot. Developers keep saying it’s all fine, they’ve taken it into consideration, but I’m not so sure.”

Is the Dubai government concerned about any of this? “There isn’t much interest in these problems,” he says sadly. But just to stand still, the average resident of Dubai needs three times more water than the average human. In the looming century of water stresses and a transition away from fossil fuels, Dubai is uniquely vulnerable.

I wanted to understand how the government of Dubai will react, so I decided to look at how it has dealt with an environmental problem that already exists – the pollution of its beaches. One woman – an American, working at one of the big hotels – had written in a lot of online forums arguing that it was bad and getting worse, so I called her to arrange a meeting. “I can’t talk to you,” she said sternly. Not even if it’s off the record? “I can’t talk to you.” But I don’t have to disclose your name… “You’re not listening. This phone is bugged. I can’t talk to you,” she snapped, and hung up.

The next day I turned up at her office. “If you reveal my identity, I’ll be sent on the first plane out of this city,” she said, before beginning to nervously pace the shore with me. “It started like this. We began to get complaints from people using the beach. The water looked and smelled odd, and they were starting to get sick after going into it. So I wrote to the ministers of health and tourism and expected to hear back immediately – but there was nothing. Silence. I hand-delivered the letters. Still nothing.”

The water quality got worse and worse. The guests started to spot raw sewage, condoms, and used sanitary towels floating in the sea. So the hotel ordered its own water analyses from a professional company. “They told us it was full of fecal matter and bacteria ‘too numerous to count’. I had to start telling guests not to go in the water, and since they’d come on a beach holiday, as you can imagine, they were pretty pissed off.” She began to make angry posts on the expat discussion forums – and people began to figure out what was happening. Dubai had expanded so fast its sewage treatment facilities couldn’t keep up. The sewage disposal trucks had to queue for three or four days at the treatment plants – so instead, they were simply drilling open the manholes and dumping the untreated sewage down them, so it flowed straight to the sea.

Suddenly, it was an open secret – and the municipal authorities finally acknowledged the problem. They said they would fine the truckers. But the water quality didn’t improve: it became black and stank. “It’s got chemicals in it. I don’t know what they are. But this stuff is toxic.”

She continued to complain – and started to receive anonymous phone calls. “Stop embarassing Dubai, or your visa will be cancelled and you’re out,” they said. She says: “The expats are terrified to talk about anything. One critical comment in the newspapers and they deport you. So what am I supposed to do? Now the water is worse than ever. People are getting really sick. Eye infections, ear infections, stomach infections, rashes. Look at it!” There is faeces floating on the beach, in the shadow of one of Dubai’s most famous hotels.

“What I learnt about Dubai is that the authorities don’t give a toss about the environment,” she says, standing in the stench. “They’re pumping toxins into the sea, their main tourist attraction, for God’s sake. If there are environmental problems in the future, I can tell you now how they will deal with them – deny it’s happening, cover it up, and carry on until it’s a total disaster.” As she speaks, a dust-storm blows around us, as the desert tries, slowly, insistently, to take back its land.

X. Fake Plastic Trees

On my final night in the Dubai Disneyland, I stop off on my way to the airport, at a Pizza Hut that sits at the side of one of the city’s endless, wide, gaping roads. It is identical to the one near my apartment in London in every respect, even the vomit-coloured decor. My mind is whirring and distracted. Perhaps Dubai disturbed me so much, I am thinking, because here, the entire global supply chain is condensed. Many of my goods are made by semi-enslaved populations desperate for a chance 2,000 miles away; is the only difference that here, they are merely two miles away, and you sometimes get to glimpse their faces? Dubai is Market Fundamentalist Globalisation in One City.

I ask the Filipino girl behind the counter if she likes it here. “It’s OK,” she says cautiously. Really? I say. I can’t stand it. She sighs with relief and says: “This is the most terrible place! I hate it! I was here for months before I realised – everything in Dubai is fake. Everything you see. The trees are fake, the workers’ contracts are fake, the islands are fake, the smiles are fake – even the water is fake!” But she is trapped, she says. She got into debt to come here, and she is stuck for three years: an old story now. “I think Dubai is like an oasis. It is an illusion, not real. You think you have seen water in the distance, but you get close and you only get a mouthful of sand.”

As she says this, another customer enters. She forces her face into the broad, empty Dubai smile and says: “And how may I help you tonight, sir?”

Ethiopia mourns legendary singer at state funeral

Friday, April 24th, 2009

By Peter Heinlein | VOA

Tens of thousands of Ethiopians have attended a state funeral for legendary singer Tilahun Gessesse, considered a symbol of national unity since the time of Emperor Haile Selassie. Many of Tilahun’s songs were considered anthems, binding together a country through war and famine, monarchy and dictatorship.

Mourners wailed in the streets and security forces struggled to control massive crowds as a nation said farewell to a man many call ‘the father of Ethiopian music’. Radio stations interrupted regular programming for a live broadcast of the memorial service.

Hours before the service began, tens of thousands of fans, many with tear streaked faces, gathered under a blazing sun in Addis Ababa’s main square, chanting and singing along with Tilahun Gessesse’s songs.

Fifty-year-old Antene Gizachew said nobody will replace him in Ethiopia’s heart.

“He’s a legend for Africa,” said Antene Gizachew. “He was motivator, humanitarian, so the United States has legends, as a young man I remember Elvis was a legend. He’s like our Elvis. He lives in each Ethiopians hearts and minds forever.”

Tilahun’s golden voice captivated a struggling nation, transcending politics and time. He was a favorite of Emperor Haile Selassie, and served in the Imperial Guards.

His fame grew through the years of Marxist dictatorship known as the Dergue, under Mengistu Haile Mariam. His songs about starvation raised millions of dollars for a famine-stricken nation. He traveled abroad, thanking the world for its support during the famed “We are the world” campaign.

But unlike many who fled the terror of the Dergue, he overlooked politics and kept on singing to his adoring public.

He won over the current government a decade ago during Ethiopia’s war with Eritrea when he went to the front to entertain the troops.

The front row of seats at the memorial service was dotted with the faces of top government officials.

Also prominent at the service was a massive floral bouquet sent by the young singing sensation Teddy Afro, whose songs were adopted by the opposition during the violent anti-government protests following the 2005 elections. Afro is currently serving a prison sentence for a fatal hit-and-run traffic accident.

Famed artist Sileshi Demisse says even though Tilahun’s music sometimes had a political edge, politicians of all stripes embraced him.

“He was not anti any government personally, but through his music he expressed his feelings during all these three regimes, and all these governments were going to give him a hard time,” said Sileshi Demisse. “But he wasn’t that politically hard, but he was saying what he wants to say.”

Prominent actor Abdullah Balcha, who also served as Tilahun’s personal attorney, says the singer not only had a knack for expressing the people’s feelings, but could do it in several languages.

“There was some operation in every form at the time of the emperor, at the time of the dergue, there was that feeling of expressing, and he was always the voice of the people,” said Abdullah Balcha. “He used to sing perfectly and eloquently in Amharic and Oromifa and in Sudanese, Arabic as well.”

Tilahun had been in poor health in recent years, suffering from diabetes. He died Sunday, hours after returning to Ethiopia from the United States. He was 68-years-old.

Speaking of our Artists

Friday, April 24th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

We are very lucky here in the Bay Area. We have an Avenue dedicated to Ethiopian cuisine. There are groceries, boutiques and convenient stores. Injera, refined butter, berbere and mitimita cost less here than in Addis.

Most of all we got what is locally known as ‘The Bay Area Ethiopian Arts forum.’ We got culture. The dedicated artists have been feeding us honey coated cultural experience that is Ethiopian grown and US enhanced extravaganza.

They had one of their presentations the other day. It was a memorable experience. It was a reminder of how rich our culture is. It was a statement how talented our artists are. It was a very bright light shining on our heritage despite the doom and gloom surrounding our homeland.

The program included a theatre presentation. It was headlined by no other than our own diva Alemtsehai Wedajo and Oakland’s own Tesfaye Sima. The cast included the talented Abebayehu Tadesse, Tewodros Legesse and Tigist Negatu. The guest artist was no other than the king of comedy Meskerem Bekele.

Watching Alemtsehai perform is a treat to the soul. She is so good at it that she makes acting look easy. A true sign of a professional. You can tell that she is the glue that binds the performance. In her presences they all rise to the occasion beautifully.

Tesfaye Sima is a young national treasure. He is an actor, a director and community activist. His movie “Sewer Galabe’ is a must see. Tesfaye showcased his talent as a director, producer and actor and was received to great acclaim by the Ethiopian community. Abebayehu, Tewodros and Tigist’s performance makes you fall in love with live theatre. Tigist is an inspiring actress to watch.

Meskerem is a joy. His contemporary humor is close to our experience. His comedy is cerebral and his delivery is impeccable. Meskerem was born to be on the stage. Meskerem morphs seamlessly between the Ethiopian mother, the Spanish co-worker, the black American neighbor or fellow African immigrant.

Who needs TV when you can refresh your cultural experience with such dedicated and talented artists? The show is a family affair. It is where you can take your mother, wife and kids and leave with pride and joy.

Our artists deserve our support. Their talent and hard work enhances our culture. For a price of three cappuccinos at Starbucks we get to enjoy an afternoon with such professionals. They are on US tour. Beginning of May they are scheduled to be in Texas. Go get a taste of Ethiopia and recharge your culture.

U.S. Govt reports on human rights and its implication

Friday, April 24th, 2009

By Habtamu Girma

Since the release of the 2008 U.S. Department of State Annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices on February 2009, it has been a critical agenda in the local media and newspapers regarding its content and implications, particularly on Ethio-U.S. relations given the new U.S. administration. The objective of this short article is also to add some insights into the discussion by looking at historical and political perspectives and answer if in did the report have any significant implications on the relations between the two countries.

Historical Perspective of the Report

For much of the past half century, the United States was often a driving force behind the strengthening of the human rights law. It took the lead in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, building the international human rights system and lending its voice and influence on behalf of human rights in many parts of the world.

The responsibility of the U.S. to speak out on behalf of international human rights standards was formalized in the early 1970s. Congress has also written formal requirements that U.S. foreign and trade policy take into account countries human rights records. Since 1977, the State Department has been publishing the annual country reports on human rights practices. The assessment contained human rights situation in countries that received aid from the U.S. government. Congress has decreed that the cut of aid to any country that by its actions reveals a consistent patterns of violating human rights. The annual human rights report is also a resource for shaping policy, conducting diplomacy, and making assistance, training and other resource allocations.

In 1974, amendment to a Foreign Assistance Act built the foundation for a system of monitoring and reporting human rights situations in countries receiving U.S. aid. The amendment required the President to reduce or to terminate aid to any government, which is engaged in a consistent pattern of human rights violations of internationally recognized human rights. This legislation was later broadened to the extent of no assistance. In addition to this, the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 authorizes a variety of aid including Foreign Military Sales (FMS), and International Military and Education Training (IMET). Section 502B of this act forbids the transfer of assistance to governments that engage in a consistent pattern of gross violations of human rights (Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, U.S. code, Vol. 22, se. 2151-2430(2), 1994).

On the other hand, the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, passed in response to escalating arms sales in the 1970s, sets up clear procedures to regulate FMS and Direct Commercial Sales (DCS). It limits the use of U.S. made weapons to self-defense, internal security, and U.N sanctioned actions (Arms Export control Act of 1976, U.S. code, Vol. 22, Secs. 2751-99 (aa-2), 1994). It prohibits the transfer of funds authorized by the act to any foreign security unit of the state has credible evidence that such unit has committed gross violations of human rights. It also prohibits the training of security units that have committed gross violations of human rights (U.S. statutes at large 114 (2001):1900A-b).

Implication from International Perspective in the aftermath of September 11

The U.S. government’s mode of operations since September 11 has not been in line with the above laws mentioned. The response of the U.S. government to the September 11 attacks has had profound implications for the promotion and implementation of human rights standards around the world. A significant number of governments have attempted to cooperate with the war on terrorism, expressing support for U.S. measures while simultaneously labeling domestic opponents members of al-Qaeda or terrorist groups. Leaders who were once criticized and marginalized in the global community for human rights abuses have been embraced as key U.S. allies in the war against terrorism.

In the aftermath of September 11, the nations surrounding Afghanistan soon assumed new significance, and the U.S. moved quickly to improve existing relationships. American aid flowed into the region, mainly to countries such as Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, despite widespread criticism of their individual human rights records.

Uzbekistan emerged as one of America’s most important new allies given its southern border with Afghanistan. On October 12, 2004, the two countries jointly announced their decision of establishing a new relationship based on a long-term commitment to advance security and regional stability. Accordingly, Uzbekistan allowed the U.S. to use its military bases and deploy troops with in its territory and in return, the U.S. tripled its aid to Uzbekistan. The United States decided to increase military and economic aid to Uzbekistan notwithstanding its longstanding criticism of the government’s human rights record. The U.S. Department of State has been critical of the use of torture in Uzbek prisons as well the repression of its independent Muslim population.

The United States has also developed relationships with Algeria. The U.S. renewed weapons sales and security assistance to Algeria and lifted a ban on U.S. aid that had been in effect since 1992, as a direct consequence of the government’s human rights abuse. During much of this period, the Algerian government has been engaged in violent conflict against militant Islamist groups and more than 100,000 people have been killed since the government canceled the parliamentary elections in 1992. (Human Rights Watch World Report 2006:13-14).
In relation to this, among the most pressing human rights violations recorded in 2005, according to the Human Rights Watch World Report (2006) and even U.S. Department of State Annual Human Rights Report during this period were; the Uzbekistan government’s massacre of hundreds of demonstrators in Andijan in May, Sudanese government’s consolidation of ethnic cleansing in Darfur, in Western Sudan, continued severe repression in Burma, North Korea, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and Tibet and Xingiang in China; tight restrictions on civil society in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Vietnam; persistent atrocities in the democratic Republic of Congo and the Russian republic of Chechnya are the most notable once. US government response to several of these atrocities was very insignificant often nothing, more than the state department’s once a year pronouncements in its global human rights report. The administration showed little inclination to confront with front line partner countries that used the fight against terrorism to intensify repression at separatists, dissidents and nationalist movements (Human Rights Watch World Report 2006).

Implication on Ethiopia

U.S. Department of State Annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices released on February 2004 and 2005 respectively stipulated the human right situations that occurred in Ethiopia during the two years as follows:

…the Government’s human rights record remained poor… serious problems remained. Security forces committed a number of unlawful killings and at times beat, tortured, and mistreated detainees. The Government continued to arrest and detain persons arbitrarily, particularly those suspected of sympathizing with or being members of the OLF. Thousands of suspects remained in detention without charge, and lengthy pretrial detention continued to be a problem…the Government restricted freedom of the press and continued to detain or imprison members of the press. Journalists continued to practice self-censorship. The Government at times restricted freedom of assembly, particularly of opposition party members; security forces at times used excessive force to disperse demonstrations. The Government limited freedom of association… on occasion, local authorities infringed on freedom of religion. The Government restricted freedom of movement…

Similarly, The U.S. Department of State Annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices released on March 2006 manifested the number of human rights violations that occurred following the May 2005 elections as follows:

After the May elections, serious human rights abuses occurred, when the opposition parties refused to accept the announced results, and in November after the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) called for civil disobedience, which resulted in widespread riots and excessive use of force by the police and military…., the government’s human rights record remained poor…. in the period following the elections, authorities arbitrarily detained, beat, and killed opposition members, ethnic minorities, NGO workers, and members of the press. Authorities also imposed additional restrictions on civil liberties, including freedom of the press and freedom of assembly.

U.S. Department of State Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released on February 25, 2009 (2008 Annual Report), is also not different from the report of the previous five years. It reported the following human right deficiencies’:

“Human rights abuses reported during the year included limitations on citizens’ right to change their government in local and by-elections; unlawful killings, torture, beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees and opposition supporters by security forces, usually with impunity; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly of suspected sympathizers or members of opposition or insurgent groups; police and judicial corruption; detention without charge and lengthy pretrial detention; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights including illegal searches; use of excessive force by security services in an internal conflict and counterinsurgency operations; restrictions on freedom of the press; arrest, detention, and harassment of journalists; restrictions on freedom of assembly and association…”

The continuously challenging human rights situation of Ethiopia has been clearly manifested by the State Departments annual human rights assessment reports mentioned above. However, no matter the restrictions mentioned above, the U.S. government has been determined to strengthen its relationship and provide aid to the Ethiopian government in continuous bases as a result of geopolitical and strategic objectives.

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, Ethiopia’s international standing grew as a strategic location and become a “front line state” in the U.S.-led war against terrorism. As a result, Ethiopia is considered an essential partner of the United States in its war on terrorism, and Washington has generally been unwilling to apply meaningful pressure on the Ethiopian government over its human rights records. The U.S. suspects Islamic extremist groups are hiding in bordering areas of Somalia, and sometimes inside Ethiopia itself. The U.S. military, operating primarily out of a base in Djibouti, cooperates closely with the Ethiopian armed forces in counterterrorism efforts and capacity building work (Human Rights Watch, 2006: 108).
In this regard, the record of U.S. administration aid to Ethiopia shows a marked increase since 2001. Among other things, Ethiopia has been a beneficiary of International Military Education and Training Program, a program which are given to foreign governments to pay for professional education in military management and technical training on the U.S. weapons system. From 1995-2000, the U.S. provided some $1,835,000 in International Military and Education Training (IMET) deliveries to Ethiopia. Some 115 Ethiopian officers were trained under the IMET program from 1991-2001. For 2002 and 2003, Ethiopia received some $2,817,000 through the IMET and Foreign Military Sales and Deliveries programs. Since 2003 however, despite some increases, it shows some stability. Ethiopia has remained a participant of the IMET program from until the end of 2006 and is expected to increase.

Ethiopia is also a beneficiary of U.S. Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and Economic Support Fund (ESF) programs. FMF program is a congressionally appropriated grant given to governments to finance the purchase of American made weapons, services and training. On the other hand, ESF is an economic support fund established to promote economic and political stability in strategically important regions where the U.S. has a special security interest. ESF aid is also helping strategic partners in the war on terrorism, through cooperation on border control, freezing terrorist assets, and other activities. In both regards, Ethiopia is getting an increasing support from the U.S.

As a result, since September 11, 2001, U.S. Governments attentions about human rights and determination to act against Ethiopia has been very rare, often nothing, more than the State Departments once a year pronouncement in its human right reports. But the question is will this picture change with the change in the US new administration. Off course, there is a high determination in the new US administration to take human right issues as a fare front agenda in the foreign policy discussion with poor countries like Ethiopia. But, Ethiopia’s critical geopolitical role in the horn of Africa, the continued war against terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan and the global economic crisis will still reduce the foreign policy implication of the State Department’s annual human rights report. It will be therefore difficult to see any significant change in policy, conducting of diplomacy, and making assistance, training and other resource allocations and in general relationship between Ethiopia and the US in the coming several months.

(The writer can be reached at habtamugirma@yahoo.com)

MSF finds 35 Ethiopians, Somalis dead on Yemen coast

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Awhar, Yemen (MSF) A Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) mobile team found 35 Somalis and Ethiopians dead on the Yemen coast on the night of April 22. The dead were among a group who had departed two days prior from the port of Bosasso, Somalia, fleeing insecurity or extreme poverty on a smuggler’s boat. They were travelling in extremely harsh conditions across the Gulf of Aden to reach Yemen.

Survivors who arrived on the coast in Abyan province told the MSF team that, for reasons that remain unclear, the boat capsized as it began to approach the shore during the night. Many refugees were travelling in the dark, airless hull of the boat, which was designed to store fish.

When the MSF team arrived at the scene, they found the capsized boat, and with the help of local people, they managed to free three women from the hull. Unfortunately the others trapped in the hull had drowned; still more had drowned when the vessel capsized.

The death toll from this landing is 35 people so far, but others may be missing.

Survivors told MSF that during their journey, they had been stopped by armed Somali pirates who threatened to rob them and throw them into the sea, but they managed to escape after the smugglers negotiated with the pirates.

On April 10, an estimated 76 people were forced to jump into deep waters off the coast of Yemen by the smugglers who were transporting them. The following day, 16 bodies washed ashore at Melha, about 18 miles from Ahwar town, where the UNHCR has a reception center for such refugees and where MSF provides medical and mental health care for them. Many passengers are still missing; MSF assisted 48 survivors.

Such stories are common in this area. Somalis and Ethiopians fleeing war or extreme poverty say they have no choice but to risk everything by taking this dangerous journey. People travel for two days in 26- to 32-foot boats transporting 100 to 120 passengers. During the journey they are usually not given any food or water and are not allowed to move. People are put in the hulls of the boats and sometimes suffocate to death. The death toll from these journeys is high: since September 2008 at least 338 people have been found dead on the coast of Abyan province, not including the unknown number of dead buried by fishermen or fellow refugees.

MSF has been working in Ahwar since September 2007. Since then, MSF has provided emergency medical and psychosocial care, water, food, and relief items to more than 17,600 survivors of human smuggling there. In June 2008, MSF released a report, titled “No Choice,” which documents the conditions of the perilous journey to Yemen and calls for increased assistance for the thousands of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants fleeing their home countries.

Ethiopia's Kenenisa to begin comeback in The Netherlands

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Hengelo, The Netherlands (IAAF)- Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia will make his come back on the track on 1 June during the FBK-Games in Hengelo.

The Fanny Blankers-Koen Games is a Grand Prix status {www:meeting} as part of the IAAF World Athletics Tour 2009.

The announcement follows the meetings news in March that Haile Gebrselassie will be attempting to better his own World record for the One Hour Run at the meeting.

As such the Hengelo meeting has secured two of the greatest names in world let alone Ethiopian long distance running history, runners who carved out their track reputations in this Holland’s premier annual meeting.

Bekele, the 2008 Olympic champion for 5000 and 10,000 metres will race the 1500 metres in Hengelo with his season’s goal the 10,000 metres at the 12th IAAF World Athletics Championships in Athletics, Berlin, Germany (15 to 23 Aug 2009) and the $1 Million Jackpot at the ÅF Golden League. In Hengelo, Bekele’s aim will be to improve his speed and final sprint.

The Ethiopian ace did not run at all this winter season. Due to a {www:severe} ankle injury which occurred during the Seven Hills Run (Zevenheuvelenloop) in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, on 16 November 2008, Bekele was not able to start last month’s World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan, or race at all on the indoor circuit.

In the Nijmegen race Bekele had tried to {www:improve} the World record for 15kms, and although for much of the time it looked like Bekele was on his way to bettering the record he got problems and finished third.

Bekele’s manager Jos Hermens said, “Kenenisa is {www:training} well but the problems cost him two months of training. Hengelo will be his first race this year. For the Golden League and the World Championships he needs a good finish. He has to work on his {www:speed} and therefore he will run the 1500 metres in Hengelo.”

By Wim van Hemert

Three Woyanne regime soldiers defect to Eritrea

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

ASMARA — Three {www:Woyanne} regime soldiers in Ethiopia have defected and arrived in Eritrea. Upon arriving in Asmara, the soldiers said that that the Woyanne regime’s divisive ploys and atrocities against members of the armed forces is intensifying.

The defecting soldiers are Alelo Waj, Mohammed Merhale Chama and Abdelkadir Mohammed Saleh.

They explained that in the event that any army member puts forth opinions and questions as regards his rights and social issues, he is thrown to jail and face inhumane treatment under the allegation that he is ‘collaborator of opposition organizations.’

Private Alelo Waj said that the Woyanne regime falsely claims that it is increasing the salary of soldiers. He disclosed that members of the armed forces are unable to sustain themselves and their families with the kind of salaries the are paid.

Ethiopians and Somalis drown as boat capsizes

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

GENEVA (AFP) — Thirty-five Ethiopian and Somali migrants have drowned after a smugglers’ boat crossing the Gulf of Aden from Somalia capsized, the United Nations {www:refugee} agency said in a statement Thursday.

“By midday Thursday, 35 bodies had been recovered by UNHCR?s partner agency, the Society of Human Solidarity. The remaining passengers are believed to have made it to shore,” said the UNHCR.

The ill-fated boat, which was carrying about 117 people, had departed Monday from Somalia.

Some 387 boats and 19,622 people have arrived in Yemen this year after making the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa, fleeing civil war, {www:poverty} and famine.

“A total of 131 people have died and at least 66 others are presumed missing at sea,” said the UNHCR.

Teddy Afro's mother places flower on Tilahun's coffin

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Tilahun Gessesse funeral in Addis Ababa. The photo below shows Teddy Afro’s mother Wzr. Tilaye Arage placing a flower wreath near Tilahun’s coffin during the funeral procession Thursday at Mesqel Square. Click here to see more photos. [Exclusive photos by Awramba Times]

Ethiopia's Tsegaye will take on London Marathon next Sunday

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

London, UK (IAAF) – Olympic bronze medallist Tsegaye Kebede is hoping to bring Ethiopia its second major marathon victory in the space of a week when he takes on one of the best marathon fields ever assembled in the Flora London Marathon this Sunday (26 April).

The Flora London Marathon is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.

Kebede is still buzzing from his compatriot Deriba Merga’s {www:triumph} in the Boston Marathon on Monday (20), describing it as “wonderful to see” and “an inspiration” coming just seven days before he toes the London start line for the first time in his career.

But Kebede almost didn’t see the race at all thanks to a power cut at his home near Addis Ababa which had him running miles to find an internet café where he could follow his lifelong friend and training partner’s victory in the first World Marathon Majors race of 2009.

“We literally had to run to find an internet café to see the race,” says Kebede with a laugh. “I only got there in time to catch the end, and then I was very happy because I could see Deriba was going to win.

“We grew up together in Ethiopia and we often train together so it was great to see him win. It has inspired me to do well here.”

Last gasp battle for Beijing bronze

It’s not the first time the pair have been thrown together by marathon drama, of course. The two provided one of the most {www:dramatic} moments of an altogether extraordinary Olympic marathon on the last day of the athletics programme in Beijing last summer.

Then, in 30-degree heat and under {www:stifling} humidity, Kebede came from sixth place and more than a minute down on the leaders over the last few kilometres to snatch the bronze medal from Merga’s grasp with just 200m to go in the Bird’s Nest stadium.

It was devastating for Merga, of course, but for Kebede it was a triumph of will in the most trying of conditions.

“Beijing was a very hard race for me, very difficult,” he says. “But I came from behind and when I got to the stadium I could see Deriba ahead of me. He was very tired so it was possible to pass him and become number three.”

Kebede returned home to huge celebrations in a country where marathon running has been a matter national pride ever since the barefoot runner Abebe Bikila shocked the world to win the Olympic marathon title in 1960. Even for a runner as young as Kebede – born in January 1987, 23 years after Bikila’s second Olympic victory in 1964 – the grandfather of Ethiopian distance running is still regarded as an iconic figure.

“I love the marathon because of Bikila and the national pride he brought to our country,” says Kebede. “He showed a positive side to Ethiopia when we needed it.”

Running his family out from poverty

With his Olympic medal in Beijing, and big city victories in Paris and Fukuoka last year, Kebede has done a fair bit for national pride himself. More importantly, perhaps, he’s helped to raise his large family out of the stifling rural poverty he grew up with.

The fifth born of five brothers and eight sisters, the young Kebede was often forced to miss school to collect wood with his mother and helped his father sell wood to make the family living, earning less than 20 Birr (about US$3) a day.

“When I think back to how we used to survive it brings a tear to my eye,” he says. “Now it’s like a dream to be able to help my family out of poverty.”

Now commanding the high earnings of an international marathon star, Kebede has been able to build a new house for the whole family and buy his parents some cattle so they can start to become self-sufficient.

I want to get faster

If he wins on Sunday (26) it will complete quite a journey for the 22-year-old who won his first ever marathon in Addis Ababa in 2007 in 2:15:53. With the likes of reigning champion Martin Lel, Olympic gold and silver medallists Sammy Wanjiru and Jaouad Gharib, and perennial minor medallist Abderrahim Goumri in the line-up, it could be the toughest test yet of his short marathon career.

Coached by Gete Wami’s husband, Geteneh Tessema, Kebede certainly has the pedigree. His victory in Paris last year, in 2:06:40, made him the second quickest Ethiopian of all time behind Haile Gebrselassie, and his course record win in Fukuoka last December, in 2:06:10, was a new Japanese all-comers’ record, eclipsing Wanjiru’s time from the previous year.

As to his chances, Kebede is playing it cagey. “I don’t want to guess,” he says. “Everyone comes here wanting to win, but we will have to see what happens in the race.”

“This is my first time in London so I don’t know the course or what to expect from the weather. But I have done some good training in Ethiopia and will show on the day what I can do.”

“Actually, the most important thing for me is not my position but my time. I can’t guess what that will be but I want to get faster.”

There is every chance he will. With the weather set to be fair, organisers are planning to set a World record pace on Sunday and have asked the pacemakers to take the racers through 20 miles.

It’s always possible Kebede may not be with the leaders by then. Judging by the Olympic race, however, we can expect him to finish strongly and, who knows, when he gets back to Ethiopia he may even have reason to meet up with his friend Deriba Merga for a double celebration.

Matthew Brown for the IAAF

U.S. Govt takes new look at Somalia strategy

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Piracy off its shores has made Somalia an early {www:challenge} for the Obama administration, which is grappling to devise a new strategy that will not replicate past failed U.S. policies in the Horn of Africa.

The immediate goal, say U.S. officials, is to bolster Somalia’s new government and its moderate Islamist president, seen by many as the best hope of bringing {www:stability} to the lawless country after 18 years of turmoil.

As a starting point, the United States plans to help fund the country’s nascent {www:security} force. An overall review of U.S. {www:strategy} is looking at what else Washington could do to stabilize the capital Mogadishu and surrounding areas while at the same time tackling the piracy scourge.

But if the United States is too public in its support of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, it could backfire and embolden hardliners, with the new leader being branded as Washington’s puppet.

“When the United States embraces a government in Somalia, we de-legitimize it. It is this awful sort of double-edged sword,” a senior U.S. defense official told Reuters.

The State Department’s key Africa diplomat, acting Assistant Secretary of State Phillip Carter, said Washington had learned from its mistakes of the 1990s when a peacekeeping {www:mission} ended in shambles and U.S. forces withdrew.

The United States had no desire to “drive this process” and would let the Somalis push their own peace process forward.

“It can’t be a made in the USA kind of thing,” said Carter, who will be the U.S. envoy at a donors conference for Somalia in Brussels later this week.

SECURITY THREAT

The Obama administration is deciding how to balance U.S. security interests with Somalia’s own political future.

Somalia is seen as a poster child for security threats emanating from Africa, but following the “retributive military strikes” of the Bush administration is not the answer, said Somalia expert John Prendergast.

“Airstrikes during the Bush administration occasionally took out one or two targets on the ground but inspired hundreds more Somalis to join the jihadist insurgency,” Prendergast said.

The Bush administration tacitly approved a 2006 invasion by Somalia’s regional rival Ethiopia to crush supposed al Qaeda activity and this boosted local suspicion of the U.S. role.

“Absent a state-building strategy, muscle-flexing military approaches are counter-productive for counter-terrorism,” added Prendergast, chair of the advocacy group, the Enough Project.

A brazen attack this month on a U.S.-flagged carrier has re-focused attention on fighting piracy off Somalia, with some in the military weighing up hitting pirate camps on land. [nN20517909]

But U.S. air strikes or land raids in Puntland, where most of the pirates are based, were very unlikely, said the defense official, because of the high risk of civilian deaths and the fallout that would follow.

The pirates would then seek common cause with Islamist militants such as Somalia’s al Shabaab group, a powerful al Qaeda-aligned group who control large swathes of territory.

However, the United States is looking for cooperation from the new government in tracking down al Qaeda operatives in Somalia, including those suspected of the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

“There are still a couple of really bad guys out there that we would not mind seeing depart from the planet,” said the defense official.

POLITICAL SPACE

Somalia’s new government is trying to {www:reconcile} warring factions, possibly bringing in militants like Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a former chairman of the Islamic Courts Union that ruled Mogadishu in 2006

Somali expert Ken Menkhaus said the United States needed to provide “political space” for individuals like Aweys, who is on Washington’s list of foreign terrorists, to make public commitments to {www:renounce} terrorism.

“We need to provide a certain amount of flexibility in these negotiations,” said Menkhaus, a professor at Davidson College and former special advisor to the U.N. operation in Somalia.

The State Department’s Carter said it was unclear what kind of role Aweys wanted to play. “He has been a spoiler and he is a person of concern for us,” he said.

Carter said the United States was banking on a “lot of disillusionment” on behalf of Somalis, both toward groups like al Shabaab as well as spoilers in political reconciliation.

“This is probably the best {www:opportunity} that Somalia has had in a long time to develop a sustainable peace and get the country on some kind of a development path. But it is very risky.” (Additional reporting by Andrew Gray; Editing by Patricia Wilson and Paul Simao)

Ethiopian Airlines cuts fare

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Ethiopian Airlines has announced a promotional drive to make travel cheaper in the current global economic {www:distress}.

Ermajechew Regassa, the Airline’s Uganda manager, announced recently that the promotional drive that started on April 4 would last up to May 31 and would have major international routes on special discount rates.

One of the cheapest routes will be a return trip from Entebbe to New Delhi which has a current {www:market} rate of $850 but will now go for $500 in economy class. The other routes on {www:promotion} are Entebbe-Addis Ababa, going from $480 to $400.

The journey to two of China’s key trade cities (Guangzhou and Beijing) has also been made cheaper from $870 and $1000 to $700 and $800 respectively.

The other destinations with discounts are Entebbe to Dubai, Hong Kong and Mumbai.

“The current season is a low season. We feel there is need to offer promotional fares and due to the current economic crunch, we want to make travel less expensive,” said Regassa.

One of the biggest casualties of the current economic meltdown is the aviation industry. It has not only seen profits nosedive but also the drop in the number of passenger.

The situation in Uganda has been aggravated by the falling Uganda shilling, which has affected imports. In recent weeks, the dollar traded as high as sh2,200.

“The Ethiopian market segment is importing traders. Once importers are threatened because of the Uganda shilling versus the dollar exchange regime, things get worse,” said Regassa.

Regassa says despite tough economic times, Ethiopian Airlines is encouraging people to travel.

- The New Vision

Tilahun Gessesse funeral procession – Video

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

A massive funeral procession was held for Ethiopia’s legendary artist Tilahun Gessesse today in Addis Ababa, a city where he died unable to get the most basic emergency medical care. Tens of thousands of people participated in the procession as the video below shows. (Sorry for the quality of the video. It was recorded by the incompetent staff of the Woyanne-controlled ETV)
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Somali leader returns, completing Woyanne defeat

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys returned to Somalia on Thursday in his first known trip back to the Horn of Africa nation since being ousted two years ago, an Islamist group said.

Aweys, who is on the U.S. list of terrorism suspects for alleged links to al Qaeda, has been an important opposition lightening rod and is believed to have much {www:influence} over some of the Islamist insurgents battling the Somali government.

“(Aweys) will be staying with us, and we shall be having discussions on the current political situation in Somalia,” said Omar Abubukar, leader of Hizbul Islam.

Aweys landed at a small airstrip 50 km (30 miles) from the capital Mogadishu, witnesses said. Abubukar did not say how long Aweys would stay in Somalia. Hizbul Islam is an umbrella group of four organisations including the one that Aweys heads.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Aweys — who has been living in Eritrea — denies any terrorism links. The cleric heads the Asmara-based Alliance for the Re-Liberation (ARS) of Somalia, which he took over from current Somali president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

Aweys and Ahmed had worked alongside one another in the Islamic Courts Union that ruled Somalia’s capital and much of the south before being forced out by Ethiopia in late 2006.

The two {www:split} after Ahmed, a {www:moderate} Islamist, went to Djibouti for U.N.-backed talks that saw him elected president.

Islamist-led rebels have continued to {www:battle} the interim government, waging hit-and-run attacks on Somali troops and African Union (AU) peacekeepers in fighting that has displaced one million people and killed thousands.

Donors are meeting in Brussels on Thursday to pledge funds to boost Somali forces and say more than $250 million is needed over the next year to improve {www:security} in a state that has been wrecked by civil conflict since 1991. (Writing by Jack Kimball)

Reported U.S. threat against Eritrea was fabricated news

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

The “U.S. threatens Eritrea over support for al-Qaeda-linked terrorists” article is obviously based on a catchy tittle with no substance of truth. The thought of America invading Eritrea is really poor journalism at it’s best. The reason why other major news sites like BBC, NYT and CNN have not covered this story is because it’s a hoax. The thought of an Obama adminstration invading or even mentioning that they will invade an African country, for something insignificant as supporting a rag-tag rebel group in Somalia, that was invaded by another regime Eritrea is at odds with is really a bad joke. The source of the article is the London Telegraph newspaper, and from reading the article, one can see this is trash. As a journalist, you need to cover both sides of the story and with that article the reporter published, one can see she covers a side created by her imagination. Had the Obama administration suggested war on any nation, it would be breaking news on all the major networks and we’d have a constant bombardment of television news coverage, not to mention Fox News would give Obama an ear full of, “i told u so”… [Read More. Click here]

Ethiopian man arrested in San Diego on suspicion of assault

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

SAN DIEGO (San Diego Union-Tribune) – Police detectives on Wednesday arrested a 24-year-old man as a {www:suspect} in an attack Saturday on a 38-year-old woman in Linda Vista.

Detectives from the sex-crimes unit arrested Mulugeta Hagos, an {www:immigrant} from Ethiopia, as he was walking on Fulton Street near Hyatt Street in Linda Vista, said police spokeswoman Monica Muñoz.

Earlier Wednesday, Hagos was identified as the suspect in the assault, Munoz said.

The incident occurred about 6:15 a.m. Saturday as the woman was walking toward a bus bench on Linda Vista Road near Fulton Street. A man got out of his car, grabbed her from behind, aimed a pistol at her head and tried to force her into the vehicle, Muñoz said.

When the woman fought back, the attacker struck her at least once on the head with the gun, Muñoz said. The gun went off during the struggle, but the woman wasn’t hit.

Hagos will be booked into central jail on suspicion of attempted sexual assault, assault with a deadly {www:weapon} and kidnapping for sexual assault, Muñoz said.

The woman was treated for injuries at a hospital Saturday and released.

Western diplomats boycott Bashir state dinner in Ethiopia

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

By ARGAW ASHINE | The Daily Nation NATION

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Western diplomats based in one of the world’s largest diplomatic hubs, Addis Ababa boycotted a dinner party organized by the Ethiopian government to honor Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.

President al-Bashir had received a warm welcome from his Ethiopian hosts on his {www:arrival} in Addis Ababa on Tuesday morning for his two-day official visit.

Al-Bashir was welcomed by Ethiopian Prime Minister dictator Meles Zenawi and many other African diplomats at Bole international airport but no Western diplomat or representative showed up.

China, Venezuela Cuba and North Korean ambassadors joined their African counterparts at the airport to welcome President al-Bashir.

Hundreds of Sudanese living in Ethiopia warmly welcomed the president both at the airport and at a separate party.

The Ethiopian regime hosted a lavish state dinner in honor of President al-Bashir on Tuesday evening.

Though invited, US and many European diplomats boycotted the state dinner in {www:protest} against ad-Bashir whose arrest is sought by the International Criminal court over alleged abuse in Sudan’s Western Darfur region.

One Western diplomat told the Nation in Addis Ababa: “It’s not fair to sit for a dinner with a criminal”.

During a joint press conference with Mr Meles, President Bashir dismissed the notion that the {www:arrest} warrant could restrict him from traveling.

“We came to this meeting to show those who said we could not travel outside Sudan that we can travel outside Sudan,” President al-Bashir told journalists.

The Sudanese {www:leader} has visited Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia since the ICC issued an arrest warrant on March 4.

Tilahun Gessesse's funeral services program released

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ENA) – Funeral procession program for Ethiopia’s renowned artiste Tilahun Gesesse has been issued. The funeral is due to be conducted on Thursday.

Accordingly, a requiem service would be held overnight at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.

The remains of the departed is to be taken home. Then it is to be carried to Meskel Square on a carriage at 11:00 am.

Until 2:00 at Meskel Square, his obituary would be read out and messages by Prime Minister dictator Meles Zenawi (aka ‘The Butcher of Addis’) and his puppet President Girma Woldegiorgis is to be delivered.

Between 3:30 pm to 4:00 pm. the funeral is to be conducted at the cemetery of the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

West Virginia State University hosts 'Taste of Ethopia'

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

The Ethiopian Student Association at West Virginia State University will host its third annual “Taste of Ethiopia” from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday in the Student Union Grand Hall.

Community will have the opportunity to taste injera (Ethiopian bread), doro wat (chicken stew), siga wat (beef stew), teqele gomen (cabbage) and other dishes, while enjoying fashion, music and other elements of Ethiopian culture.

Proceeds from the dinner will assist university students in Ethiopia, and allow the ESA to continue supporting two orphan children in their homeland. This is the ESA’s major fundraising event for the year.

Admission is $15 for adults, $5 for children and $10 for students.

- WV Gazette

How Somalia's Fishermen Became Pirates

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

By Ishaan Tharoor | Time Magazine

Amid the current media frenzy about Somali pirates, it’s hard not to imagine them as characters in some dystopian Horn of Africa version of Waterworld. We see wily corsairs in ragged clothing swarming out of their elusive mother ships, chewing narcotic khat while thumbing GPS phones and grappling hooks. They are not desperate bandits, experts say, rather savvy opportunists in the most lawless corner of the planet. But the pirates have never been the only ones exploiting the vulnerabilities of this troubled failed state — and are, in part, a product of the rest of the world’s neglect.

Ever since a civil war brought down Somalia’s last functional government in 1991, the country’s 3,330 km (2,000 miles) of coastline — the longest in continental Africa — has been pillaged by foreign vessels. A United Nations report in 2006 said that, in the absence of the country’s at one time serviceable coastguard, Somali waters have become the site of an international “free for all,” with fishing fleets from around the world illegally plundering Somali stocks and freezing out the country’s own rudimentarily-equipped fishermen. According to another U.N. report, an estimated $300 million worth of seafood is stolen from the country’s coastline each year. “In any context,” says Gustavo Carvalho, a London-based researcher with Global Witness, an environmental NGO, “that is a staggering sum.”

In the face of this, impoverished Somalis living by the sea have been forced over the years to defend their own fishing expeditions out of ports such as Eyl, Kismayo and Harardhere — all now considered to be pirate dens. Somali fishermen, whose industry was always small-scale, lacked the advanced boats and technologies of their interloping competitors, and also complained of being shot at by foreign fishermen with water cannons and firearms. “The first pirate gangs emerged in the ’90s to protect against foreign trawlers,” says Peter Lehr, lecturer in terrorism studies at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews and editor of Violence at Sea: Piracy in the Age of Global Terrorism. The names of existing pirate fleets, such as the National Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia or Somali Marines, are testament to the pirates’ initial motivations.

The waters they sought to protect, says Lehr, were “an El Dorado for fishing fleets of many nations.” A 2006 study published in the journal Science predicted that the current rate of commercial fishing would virtually empty the world’s oceanic stocks by 2050. Yet, Somalia’s seas still offer a particularly fertile patch for tuna, sardines and mackerel, and other lucrative species of seafood, including lobsters and sharks. In other parts of the Indian Ocean region, such as the Persian Gulf, fishermen resort to dynamite and other extreme measures to pull in the kinds of catches that are still in abundance off the Horn of Africa.

High-seas trawlers from countries as far flung as South Korea, Japan and Spain have operated down the Somali coast, often illegally and without licenses, for the better part of two decades, the U.N. says. They often fly flags of convenience from sea-faring friendly nations like Belize and Bahrain, which further helps the ships skirt international regulations and evade censure from their home countries. Tsuma Charo of the Nairobi-based East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, which monitors Somali pirate attacks and liaises with the hostage takers and the captured crews, says “illegal trawling has fed the piracy problem.” In the early days of Somali piracy, those who seized trawlers without licenses could count on a quick ransom payment, since the boat owners and companies backing those vessels didn’t want to draw attention to their violation of international maritime law. This, Charo reckons, allowed the pirates to build up their tactical networks and whetted their appetite for bigger spoils.

Beyond illegal fishing, foreign ships have also long been accused by local fishermen of dumping toxic and nuclear waste off Somalia’s shores. A 2005 United Nations Environmental Program report cited uranium radioactive and other hazardous deposits leading to a rash of respiratory ailments and skin diseases breaking out in villages along the Somali coast. According to the U.N., at the time of the report, it cost $2.50 per ton for a European company to dump these types of materials off the Horn of Africa, as opposed to $250 per ton to dispose of them cleanly in Europe.

Monitoring and combating any of these misdeeds is next to impossible — Somalia’s current government can barely find its feet in the wake of the 2006 U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion. And many Somalis, along with outside observers, suspect local officials in Mogadishu and in ports in semi-autonomous Puntland further north of accepting bribes from foreign fishermen as well as from pirate elders. U.N. monitors in 2005 and 2006 suggested an embargo on fish taken from Somali waters, but their proposals were shot down by members of the Security Council.

In the meantime, Somali piracy has metastasized into the country’s only boom industry. Most of the pirates, observers say, are not former fishermen, but just poor folk seeking their fortune. Right now, they hold 18 cargo ships and some 300 sailors hostage — the work of a sophisticated and well-funded operation. A few pirates have offered testimony to the international press — a headline in Thursday’s Times of London read, “They stole our lobsters: A Somali pirate tells his side of the story” — but Lehr and other Somali experts express their doubts. “Nowadays,” Lehr says, “this sort of thing is just a cheap excuse.” The legacy of nearly twenty years of inaction and abuse, though, is far more costly.

Public meeting in Rome on Italy's invasion of Ethiopia

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

PUBLIC MEETING ANNOUNCEMENT

Criminal Colonialism
Ethiopia 1935-1941: Voyage to the shadowy heart of Italy

“Looking back on the war in Ethiopia today means having to deal with the way we are today: with the myth that is the popular saying, “the Italians are good”, always useful whenever there is an aggressive foreign war; with those prejudices that exist against anyone different which are also a product of a colonial past that has never been properly criticised; with the arrogant return of patriarchal ideas and the separation of the roles of the sexes. But if we deal with this, we must deal with it fully, seeking to understand it from the point of view of those Ethiopians, both men and women, who opposed the barbarity that called itself civility.”

Speakers:
* Mulu Ayele (Ethiopian community): Ethiopian women in the resistance to the Fascist colonialism;
* Loredana Baglio (Corrispondenze metropolitane): Colonialism and women;
* Nancy Aluigi Nannini (anthropologist): The colonial origin of prejudices.

Photographic exhibition (photos by A. Imperiali)
Portions of the films “Fascist legacy” and “Tempo di uccidere” will be shown.

DATE: Friday 24 April 2009 – at 5.00pm
PLACE: The Università La Sapienza, Faculty of Physics (old building), Rome

Organized by:
Laboratorio Sociale “La Talpa”
Corrispondenze Metropolitane
Comunità etiopica in Italia
Exodus (Ethiopian Cultural Service)
Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici
Unione Sindacale Italiana

62 Ethiopians arrested in Malawi

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

MALAWI (Nyasa Times) — Just under a month after police arrested over 100 Ethiopians for trying to illegally flee the country, another contingent of 62 Ethiopians has been nabbed in Mwanza district as it attempted to do likewise.

Mwanza Police Station Officer Joel Makomwa confirmed that police arrested the 62 refugees on Sunday as they headed for the Mwanza border.

He said the Ethiopians had fled from Dzaleka Refugee camp in Dowa and were on their way to South Africa via Mozambique.

The station officer explained that police were surprised with the foreigners as they walked towards the boarder.

“When approached they could not speak English so we arrested them and took them to our station,” he said.

The group is believed to be part of the over 100 Ethiopians who were arrested two weeks ago in Dedza as they headed for Dedza Boarder Post on their way to South Africa through Mozambique.

Wives of African dictators meet in Los Angeles, except Azeb

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: The self-proclaimed ‘first lady’ of Ethiopia, Azeb Mesfin, did not attend the meeting even though she is the vice chairwomen of “African First Ladies for Against HIV”. Azeb is worse than the HIV. She and her husband are responsible for more deaths than all the diseases in Ethiopia combined. The evil witch is now busy solidifying her position in EFFORT that will enable her to steal more money.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A group of African first ladies began a two-day meeting in Los Angeles on Monday to forge U.S. partnerships to try to improve health and education of women and girls in African communities afflicted by AIDS.

The wives of the presidents and prime ministers of Kenya, Nigeria, Angola, Zambia, Cameroon and 10 other nations teamed up with U.S. health experts, nonprofit groups and a clutch of celebrities to promote their work.

“Nowhere before in the United States has such a large group of African first ladies come together to talk as one,” Ted Alemayhu, founder of the Los Angeles-based U.S. Doctors for Africa, told a news conference.

Hollywood actresses Diane Lane, Maria Bello, Robin Wright Penn and Camryn Manheim were among the celebrity women who attended an opening day luncheon.

Singer Natalie Cole, daughter of the late Nat King Cole, will perform at a fund-raiser by oil company ExxonMobil, while Sharon Stone is due to moderate a panel aimed at transforming words into action.

The meeting hopes to raise awareness in Hollywood of various projects in Africa to supply clean water, fight malaria and combat AIDS.

The charitable group of 22 first ladies was formed in 2002 and is called African Synergy Against AIDS and Suffering. It was set up to highlight the vital role of women in education and healthcare in the world’s poorest continent.

Women in sub-Saharan Africa account for 57 percent of HIV infections and young African women are three times more likely to become infected than men of comparable age in the region, according to a 2006 United Nations Development Program report.

“As an African woman, this is really exciting and unprecedented,” said “CSI: Miami” actress Megalyn Echikunwoke, whose father is Nigerian. “For me this is really about finding out how we can support the first ladies.”

Oil giant Chevron, one of the meeting sponsors, announced a $5 million contribution to help fight malaria in Angola as part of its outreach programs in Africa.

Sarah Brown, wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, will deliver a keynote address on Tuesday, while former U.S. first lady Laura Bush will make a video address.

(Editing by Mary Milliken)

Atlanta area jury deliberates in Ethiopian man murder trial

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

By Josh Green | Gwinnett Daily Post

ATLANTA – Defense attorneys for Quincy Jackson argued Tuesday that a popular premise of modern-day prosecution is flawed: It’s wrong, they said, to convict a man based on evidence that his cell phone was at the scene of a crime.

“There should be evidence that puts the phone in the man’s hands,” attorney David Fife said in closing arguments.

Jurors are tasked with deciding whether to side with Fife, or with prosecutors who say Jackson – and, by extension, his phone – was the conduit for a wave of robberies that culminated in murder.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Hamil released jurors to deliberate after 5 p.m., capping more than a week of testimony in Jackson’s murder trial. The Riverdale man is accused of participating in a robbing crew that terrorized two Gwinnett (a suburb of Atlanta) families in three robberies leading up to the suffocation death of Tedla Lemma, 51, in March 2008. Tedla is an immigrant from Ethiopia.

Though no physical evidence ties Jackson to the scenes, Assistant District Attorney Christa Kirk said witness testimony, cell phone records and wire-tapped phone conversations between Jackson and a key co-defendant are enough to implicate him.

“In this case, by planning it, getting the muscle and getting in that house, Quincy Jackson is just as responsible as anybody else,” Kirk told the jury.

The state’s star witness, Lorna Araya, an acquaintance of Jackson’s from college, testified this week she masterminded the hits, but only after Jackson had asked her to. Prosecutors have dropped the possibility of a life sentence in exchange for Araya’s cooperation. Lorna is also an immigrant from Ethiopia.

Jackson waived his right to testify earlier Tuesday.

Fife argued that prosecutors could have crafted a plea bargain with Araya prior the trial, but were too “ashamed” that jurors might learn of her potentially forgiving sentence. Her sentence, Fife said, will be contingent on her “performance” in court.

Fife contends that Araya has repeatedly lied to investigators and prosecutors in an attempt to cover for her boyfriend, Gerald Rhines, who Fife said spearheaded one robbery.

“We know that she’s lied many times to protect herself,” Fife said. “Her personal credibility is very low.”

Kirk pointed out that Lemma’s wallet and other items were found at Jackson’s Riverdale home. That home, however, is shared by Marshae Brooks, who Fife said admitted to robbing Lemma and could have possessed the wallet.

Jackson, who worked at home as a Web page designer prior to his arrest, pleaded not guilty to the charges in his 17-count indictment and has never admitted to being involved, Fife said. He faces life in prison.

Jury deliberations are expected to resume this morning.

Sudan's president Al-Bashir taunts ICC while visiting Ethiopia

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (AFP) – Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir yesterday taunted the international community by arguing that an arrest warrant against him for war crimes had earned him more support than ever.

Bashir made his statement after meeting Ethiopian Prime Minister dictator Meles Zenawi (who is also accused by international human rights groups of committing war crimes) in Addis Ababa, on his sixth foreign trip since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued its warrant on March 4.

“For us, the ICC indictment has been positive,” Bashir told reporters.

The veteran leader is accused by the Hague-based court of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, where the UN says six years of conflict has killed 300,000 people.

The arrest warrant was the court’s first against a sitting head of state and was seen as a key step in making world leaders accountable.

But Bashir, who has ruled over Africa’s fractious largest country for two decades, suggested the move had enhanced his domestic and regional standing.

“For the internal front in Sudan, we have all seen how the Sudanese people have come out in a spontaneous way to support the president of Sudan,” he said.

“We have found a very strong stance from the regional organisations like the Arab League and the African Union,” Bashir also said.

No Western representatives were at the airport for Bashir’s arrival yesterday.

A diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity said Western ambassadors and envoys would boycott a state dinner in Bashir’s honour after receiving instructions from their capitals not to attend.
But Meles, whose country has often had tense relations with Sudan, stood by his neighbour and said the ICC’s landmark decision was “totally unacceptable”.

“What was done by the ICC to President Omar al-Bashir is an initiative with great implications not only for the people of Sudan, but also for Africans and for Ethiopia,” he said before going into talks with Bashir.

Meles condemned what he said was the “overpolitisation of the humanitarian issues and the overpolitisation of the international justice.”

Bashir has dismissed the notion that the warrant could restrict his travel.

No attempt has been made to arrest him during any of his recent trips, all to countries — Ethiopia included — that were not signatories to the 2002 international convention that created the ICC. Prior to his Ethiopian visit, Bashir on April 1 travelled to Saudi Arabia, where he performed the Umrah, or minor pilgrimage.

On March 30, he attended the Arab League summit in Doha, where other Arab leaders formally pledged their support for the indicted leader and condemned the court’s actions.

“We stress our solidarity with Sudan and our rejection of the ICC decision against President Omar al-Bashir,” the Arab leaders said in the summit’s final declaration.

Bashir has also travelled to Egypt and Libya since the warrant was issued but reserved his first trip for Eritrea.

A collection of Tilahun Gessesse songs

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009
  1. Min Yilalu Sewoch
  2. Setihed Siketelat
  3. Alchalkum
  4. Tiz Alegene Yetintu
  5. Bemishit Chereka
  6. Yezenbaba Mar Nesh
  7. Engudaye Neshi
  8. Ewedish Nebere
  9. Kifu Anyinkash
  10. Kulun Mankwalat
  11. Yezenbaba Mar Nesh
  12. Akal Aynishin
  13. Fikir Lebechaye
  14. Ene Yalanchi Alnorem
  15. Ouota Ayaskefam
  16. Min largachew
  17. Bemishit chereka
  18. Ere min yishalegneal
  19. Fikir lebechaye
  20. Kifu ayinkash
  21. Yehiwote hiwot
  22. Yezenbaba Mar Nesh
  23. Aykedashem Lebe
  24. Satidwdegn Wedijat
  25. Selamtaye Yedres
  26. Setehed Seketelat
  27. Tezalegn Yetentu
  28. Min Yishalegnal
  29. Ye hiwote hiwote

Ethiopians in Washington DC take on DLA Piper

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

By Kashmir Hill | Above the Law

Some of our DC-based readers may have spotted this anti-DLA Piper (a law firm) ad making its way around town via taxi. A reader sent us this photo, saying: :I saw this cab on Connecticut Ave. in front of the Mayflower yesterday and it caught my attention. Strange.”

Our first response was, “Bad PR for DLA Piper, but doesn’t everybody already know that blood money is the currency of Biglaw?” Our second response was to find out about this legislation and reach out to the firm.

The American Lawyer wrote in 2008 about the Piper’s playing the flute for the Ethiopian government. Partners Dick Armey, a former House majority leader, and Gary Klein lobbied on Capitol Hill on behalf of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who angered human rights advocates in 2005 with violent crackdowns on protesters during the elections there. The American Lawyer reports that the Piper was playing to the tune of over $50,000 a month. That’s a whole lot of injera.

The taxi ad refers to a bill, {www:S.3457}, introduced by Senators Feingold and Leahy “to reaffirm United States objectives in Ethiopia and encourage critical democratic and humanitarian principles and practices.” Or, in other words, a bill to encourage Ethiopia not to inflict violent crackdowns on its citizens. DLA Piper’s lobbying efforts may have paid off. The bill has been languishing with the Committee on Foreign Relations since 2008.

DLA Piper’s spokesman told us that the firm’s representation of the Ethiopian government actually ended in November. A statement from the firm refers indirectly to the protesting taxi driver (and other DLA Piper opponents): “There are some very vocal elements of the Ethiopian Diaspora, particularly in the Washington area, who are opponents of the current administration in Ethiopia and go to great lengths to try to embarrass or demean those who are associated with it.”

See the full statement, after the jump. DLA Piper may no longer have Ethiopia as a client, but the firm is actively helping to churn out new lawyers over in Addis Ababa.

DLA Piper says its representation of the Ethiopians ceased in November, though it’s still involved in pro bono initiative sending its lawyers to Addis Ababa to teach law school to aspiring Ethiopian esquires.

STATEMENT FROM DLA PIPER

For several years, DLA Piper provided advice and counsel to the democratically elected government of Ethiopia on a wide range of public policy, regulatory, legislative and legal matters. Our work focused on strengthening bilateral relations with the US, including humanitarian, economic and development assistance, trade and investment opportunities, and enhancing relationships with Congress and the Administration. In the past, the firm also provided legal support to the Government of Ethiopia at the International Court of Justice at the Hague on the Ethiopia-Eritrean border dispute. Our government affairs teams have worked with them in London and Brussels as well as Washington, DC.

This representation has ended, but we are continuing to assist Ethiopia on pro bono initiatives. In conjunction with the Northwestern University Law School, DLA Piper lawyers are teaching classes for the next generation of aspiring legal professionals at the law school in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. This is in addition to a number of major pro bono projects we are working on across Africa, including a new project to document systematic sexual violence by the Mugabe government against politically active women in Zimbabwe.

Ethiopia is an emerging democracy and an important ally of the United States in a troubled region of the world. The country has made remarkable progress in the last two decades, moving from dictatorship to a system of free elections, and a commitment to prosperity and greater inclusiveness. There are some very vocal elements of the Ethiopian Diaspora, particularly in the Washington area, who are opponents of the current administration in Ethiopia and go to great lengths to try to embarrass or demean those who are associated with it. While we disagree with these individuals and do not believe their views reflect the majority of Ethiopian Americans, we fully support their right to voice their opinions on this matter.

Source: DLA Piper Pleads Ethiopia’s Case Against Human Rights Sanctions [American Lawyer]

Gim Legim Abro Yazgim!

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

A very crude translation will be ‘trash finds its own kind’. That is what went in my mind when I heard the butcher of Darfur met the butcher of Mogashio, Gambella, Ogaden, Awasa and many other sites of atrocity in Ethiopia. ‘Gem legem abro yazem is what my mother used to say when she sees us with unsavory characters. It describes the situation in our capital city.

It is another low point in our current history of degradation. The Ethiopia we knew and the Ethiopia the whole world look at is not the same. The name Ethiopia plays prominent role in the Bible. Ethiopia is revered in the Quoran. The early Greek civilizations wrote about Ethiopia. Our name carried a lot of weight.

Our history is nothing but spectacular. We kept to our selves. We were insulated. We did not desire what was not ours. We defended what belonged to us. Surrounded by our mountainous terrain, cut of by our rift valley and our fierce lowlands we escaped from the world. The world forgot about us.

The League of Nations was the first worldwide organization to try to bring order to a chaotic planet. The year was 1919. There were fifty-eight members and our Ethiopia was one of them. We knew the supremacy of the law was our interest.

Our Emperor went in front of the League of Nations to appeal to the organization to stop Italian aggression. In a speech in Geneva in 1936 he said ‘I pray to Almighty God that He may spare nations the terrible sufferings that have just been inflicted on my people.’ They did not listen to him and suffered the consequences.

When the United Nations was founded in 1945 after World War II on the ruins of the League of Nations, Ethiopia was there.

When Africa was emerging from the yoke of colonialism Ethiopia facilitated the formation of Organization of African Union. Our country was chosen to be the seat of black power because of our independent and proud history. It was not an accident. It was well deserved due to the sacrifice and hard work of our ancestors.

Where do we place the illegal visit by the indicted Sudanese dictator to our country? Where does this shameful act fit in our honorable and righteous history?

The International Criminal Court was created by the United Nations that we are a founding member of. As a small developing country it is our interest to support and uphold the rule of law. In this day and age when a few countries have the power to inflict heavy damage on the small and weak shouldn’t we be clamoring for stricter safeguards and protection?

The ICC indicted General bashir after a lengthy period of investigation and fact finding. No body denies the atrocities committed against the people of Darfur. Darfur is a province of Sudan General Bashir is the de facto President and strong man of Sudan. He controls the army, security force and police of Sudan. By all accounts the General aided and abetted the perpetrators of this crime against the people of Darfur. He has been indicted. He is free to hire lawyers and argue his case in front of a court of justice. The people of Darfur were never given that chance. The General is lucky.

What is perplexing is why is Ethiopia entertaining an indicted criminal? Why is Ethiopia breaking the law that has been set up to protect the weak and poor?

May be the Ethiopian leaders are afraid of ‘neg be ne.’ That is what the Hard Talk interviewer sad to Ato Meles. She said to him are you supporting bashir because you now you are the next inline to be indicted? It seems she was right.

But what a feeble attempt if any. His coming to Addis only exposed the minority government to further humiliation. It is a stupid gesture of solidarity. It is further proof that the regime is neither responsive to International law nor to the sensibilities of its citizens. To expose one’s country to such ridicule in the international arena is madness.

This hollow attempt to show independence and national self-esteem is laughable and very weak. The Ethiopian people laughed about it. The foreign diplomats ignored it. The only ones who paid attention are the criminals themselves. So they wined and dined each other with our money to make the point that around his neighborhood Bashir is safe. Makes you wonder if Bashir will be as generous towards Meles when his time comes. I doubt we will get to see that. His own people will hand him over to ICC within a short time. Meles is on his own.

Fitawrari Amede Lemma passed away

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

(EMF) — Fitawrari Amede Lema, a member of parliament during the {www:HaileSelassie} government, and renowned Ethiopian businessman who owns shopping centers, has passed away yesterday, family source in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa told EMF.

Fitawrari Amede was a member of the {www:Council of Ethiopian Elders} who mediated with the Woyanne regime the release of Kinijit (Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party) leaders in July 2007.

He was also known for the lobbying for the return of Axum Obelisk since 1966 as a member of the National Committee for the Return of the Obelisk.

The funeral will take place today at Muslim’s cemetery at 12:30 PM in Addiss Ababa.

Fitawrari Amede Lemma died at age of 90. He was a father of ten children, 34 grand children and six great grand children.

It is also reported that Wzr Sinidu Gebru, the first Ethiopian woman member of parliament and mother of Dr. Samuel Assefa (the drunkard Woyanne ambassador to USA) passed away yesterday.

An expert opinion on what caused Tilahun's death

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Dear Editor,

I read your piece entitled “Could Tilahun’s death have been prevented.” Thank you very much for your inquisitive mind and thought provocative curiosity!

I would like to pass my deepest condolences to Tilahun’s family and to Ethiopia at large. Indeed, Ethiopia has lost a true son! A legend has passed away! We should celebrate the life of this legend in unison.

Tilahun is blessed in a way that he died in his Ethiopia, the country he loved and adored all his life. May the Lord bless his soul.

Having said that, I would like to put forward a professional opinion regarding your question.

Based on what I learned from the media, my impression of Tilahun’s medical case is the following.

A 68 year old legendary artist patient with past medical history of Diabetes Mellitus (most likely type 2), heart disease, status post right leg amputation likely due to complication of his diabetes or peripheral vascular disease, and history of slitting trauma to his neck. His chronic heart disease appears to have been most likely coronary artery disease as diabetic patients tend to suffer complications affecting blood vessels. Coronary arteries (arteries supplying the heart muscle) are some of the blood vessels which get affected by complication of diabetes. Coronary artery disease can lead to heart attack, heart failure, and arrhythmia (abnormal hear rhythm including ventricular tachycardia, atrial fibrillation).

The acute medical condition that claimed the life of our icon could be heart attack, arrhythmia and or acute heart failure with pulmonary edema (filling of the lung with fluid because if his heart was not able to pump blood properly). The symptoms that I heard he told his wife include “yelibe ametat tikikil ayidelem, liben yazign”. He likely had fast or abnormal heart rhythm. I also heard that he was short of breath. Indeed, Tilahun was acutely and seriously sick and he needed urgent medical help for him to have any chance of surviving the episode.

Certainly, there was a missed window of opportunity to potentially save the life of the legend. He survived long enough to make it to Betezata clinic. Per his wife’s report, he did not seem to have received any medical help other than advice to take him to another hospital. I would not comment on the level of care provided at Betezata clinic other than saying a Basic Life Support care should be available. The physician may have thought the patient would get a better care if he was transferred quicker. The level of care provided at the clinic may be limited. The physician could have limitation in his training. Tilahun’s case would ideally require a care by a heart specialist (cardiologist). But, what could a non-cardiologist physician have done to help him?

Given the limitations of the health care in Ethiopia, I would use the example of what a non cardiologist physician in the US could have done to help Tilahun. At least the following could have been done.

1) Check his vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and his oxygen)
2) Perform a quick and focused history and physical exam.
3) Give him oxygen supplement
4) Give him aspirin, nitroglycerin
5) Check EKG
6) Secure iv access
7) Draw blood samples for laboratory tests.
8) If Tilahun was noted to have no pulse or recordable blood pressure, he could have been given IV fluid. If he had abnormal heart rhythm he would have been given medications to slow the heart rate or electric shock could be given as necessary.

These measures could have stabilized the patient until he gets specialized care. Also, Tilahun would have been transported by an ambulance which would be faster and would be able to provide Basic Life Support (BLS) or possibly Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS).

I will leave the judgment to the reader if the above could have been done at Betezata clinic given the rudimentary nature of the health system in Ethiopia.

I think it is wise and appropriate for Elias Kifle and all concerned Ethiopians to ask if Tilahun’s death could have been prevented. I do not think the government is directly involved in Tilahun’s death. That being said, who is responsible for the precarious health care system in Ethiopia? Who is responsible for the quality of physician training? Who is responsible for the absence of such a basic life support care in clinics in the nation’s capital? Who is responsible for the inaccessibility of health care to the people? Definitely, the government is responsible for the poor health system and its untoward effect. In fact, we may be suffering from the effect of an ill conceived health policy. Prime Minister Meles once said Ethiopia does not need doctors, remember? If he has this feeling towards doctors, do you think he would care for the quality of their training?

The big question is, if Tilahun, as legendary as he is, dies wandering to get to a hospital in Addis Ababa, can you imagine what is happening to the poor millions like Aba Biya in the village of Serbo in Oromia?

May God Bless Tilahun’s soul!

- Wase

28-year-old Ethiopian pulled off an impressive upset in Boston

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

By John Powers | Boston Globe

BOSTON, USA — He had been among the leaders in the middle of the hills in Boston three years ago, but couldn’t finish. He had the Olympic bronze medal in hand coming into the stadium last year, but ended up fourth. This time, Deriba Merga vowed, he would be the last lion.

And so he was yesterday afternoon as the 28-year-old Ethiopian pulled off an impressive upset in the 113th Boston Marathon, ending Robert Cheruiyot’s three-year reign as men’s champion with an easy 50-second victory over Daniel Rono, Cheruiyot’s Kenyan countryman.

It was only the third men’s victory here for the Ethiopians, who would have swept the men’s and women’s races if Kenya’s Salina Kosgei hadn’t nipped defending champion Dire Tune at the tape. But the men’s race was decided 5 miles from the finish.

“I had full confidence to win the race from the beginning,” said Merga, who ran alone from Heartbreak Hill to Copley Square into a stiff headwind and finished in 2 hours 8 minutes 42 seconds, dashing the dreams of both Cheruiyot and Ryan Hall, who had hoped to be the first American victor here in 26 years.

“Would I have liked to win? Yeah,” said the 26-year-old Californian, who finished 8 seconds behind Rono in 2:09:40, the seventh-fastest time by a domestic runner here and the best in 15 years. “Did I think I had a legitimate shot? Of course. But a lot of guys have legitimate shots and don’t win.”

Most notable among them yesterday was Cheruiyot, the four-time champion who was bidding to become the first to win four straight here. But he fell out of sight after leading midway through, dropped out at Cleveland Circle, and was taken to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital to be checked out.

Unlike the women’s race, which could have been mistaken for a holiday fun run until the final few miles, the men had a demanding outing, with the lead pack dashing through the first 9 miles in course-record time. Setting the pace was Hall, who dashed away at the gun and stayed in front for almost the entire first third of the race.

“My plan was to run my own race from the get-go,” he said. “I like to run fast.”

Not since Cheruiyot’s record run (2:07:14) in 2006 had the leaders gone out that aggressively. They were through the opening mile in 4:40, 19 seconds under the old split, in three at 14:05 (50 under), in six at 28:27 (37 under).

“I wanted to make it a full 26-mile race and not let it come down to the final 10K,” Hall said. “I wanted to make it an honest race.”

At the half marathon, even after a persistent and chilly headwind had picked up significantly, there still were a dozen men jockeying in the lead pack, most of them warily glancing sideways at each other.

“I was thinking that the race would start at halfway,” said Rono, who finished third in New York last year.

When it still hadn’t by the time the runners reached Newton Lower Falls, former champ Timothy Cherigat and Stephen Kiogora took off on their own heading up the Route 128 overpass.

That sounded the alarm for Merga, who had planned to make his move during the “Haunted Mile” on the flats after Boston College, but decided he had to do it even before the firehouse turn that leads into the Newton hill country.

“There are a lot of strong athletes with us,” he said. “If I didn’t push, maybe I didn’t have a chance to win.”

So Merga quickly took it up a gear, with countryman Solomon Molla and Rono following. Just that quickly, it was a three-man race. Cheruiyot, who used to chew up his rivals around that point, had vanished.

“At 18K, he is coming from behind,” Merga said. “After that, he did not come. I think this day is not for him.”

Three other men – Clarence DeMar (1925), Bill Rodgers (1981), and Cosmas Ndeti (1996) – tried to win four in a row here and found that it was not their day. Once Merga concluded that Cheruiyot was finished, he made sure that nobody else could stalk him. So he put his head down, charged up the first hill, and dropped Molla. He pounded up the second and rid himself of Rono.

When he reached the crest of Heartbreak, Merga looked over his shoulder and saw nothing but blacktop. Rono was nearly half a minute behind. When Merga glanced backward again at Coolidge Corner, 2 miles from the finish, he realized there were no more lions to deal with.

“I am looking behind,” he said, “and there is nobody behind of me.”

Rono, who was making his Boston debut, was satisfied with second.

“Boston is the toughest of all,” he said. “I was very happy to secure my position.”

And Hall, who had dropped to 11th coming out of Wellesley Hills, was content with the late, if extraordinarily painful charge, that put him on the podium.

“My day will come,” he declared, “and I’ll be back.”

This is a race that rewards persistence. Rodgers dropped out of his first Boston before winning four times.

“I was learning the marathon,” Rodgers said, “and Boston is a cruel place to learn it.”

Merga’s Boston debut in 2006 ended 2 miles short and his experience at Olympus, where countryman Tsegaye Kebede outkicked him, was dispiriting. But after he destroyed the Houston course record in January, Merga sensed it was his year. Yesterday, he knew it was both his and his country’s day.

“Boston is one of the biggest marathons in the world,” said the man from Addis Ababa. “Because of that, our people are very happy.”

Lavish dinner for al-Bashir by a beggar regime

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has received a warm welcome on his arrival in neighboring Ethiopia for a two-day state visit. VOA’s Peter Heinlein in Addis Ababa reports Ethiopian and other African officials greeted Mr. Bashir with full honors, while most western diplomats are boycotting the event.

Reporters were kept away from airport ceremonies where Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi welcomed Mr. Bashir for a meeting of the Ethiopia-Sudan High Level Joint Commission.

Sudan and Ethiopia share a 3,000 kilometer long border, and the two delegations are discussing a variety of political, security and economic issues.

An unofficial count showed about 20 of the more than 50 African ambassadors in Addis Ababa showed up for the welcome ceremonies, along with envoys from China, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela. But the United States, the European Union and most other countries boycotted the event. The boycott extends to a lavish state dinner hosted by Ethiopia’s president… [read more]

Aid money being put to good use?!

Al-Bashir visits Ethiopia despite war-crime warrant

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Sudan’s president made his sixth foreign trip since his indictment on charges of war crimes in Darfur, traveling Tuesday to Ethiopia despite the international warrant for his arrest.

An Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman said President Omar al-Bashir would not face arrest.

He will discuss “political, economic and security matters” issues with Ethiopian officials during a daylong visit and will meet with Prime Minister dictator Meles Zenawi, spokesman Wahide Belay said.

“He is welcome as a guest to Ethiopia,” he said. “As you know, we have opposed the arrest warrant as a country, as a government, within (regional groups) and within the African Union. There is no reason to take any action on the president.” [...read more].

The price of polygamy in Ethiopia

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

The price of polygamy in Ethiopia
OROMIYA, Ethiopia (UNFPA) — If you were to visit 65-year-old Ayatu Nure and his family at their compound in the Oromiya region of Ethiopia, you would probably find eight of Ayatu’s 12 wives harvesting banana roots for dinner, while chasing after their combined 78 children. At first glance, this unlikely family appears carefree — but a closer look reveals that many of Ayatu’s children are hungry, possibly even malnourished. Their main source of food — banana roots — doesn’t provide much nutrition, but unfortunately this is the only thing Ayatu can afford.

In this remote, densely-populated region of Ethiopia, it is common for men to have multiple wives. In Ayatu’s case this tradition has backfired. Years ago, he had enough land and food to satisfy everyone’s needs. This changed when Ayatu had to sell land or cattle to make the dowry payment for each new wife he took, usually a sum of between $500 and $1,000. Now, the family compound is almost bare from overgrazing, two of his wives have moved with cattle in search of greener pastures, and two others died from unknown illnesses in the 1990s. The situation is so desperate that Ayatu cannot afford to send his children to secondary school, and he is marrying off two of his 15-year-old daughters to ensure they are fed. Thirteen others are living with their married siblings.

Living with two wives and eight children in a neighbouring town is Ayatu’s eldest son, Dagne. Dagne said he and his father made a mistake by taking more than one wife and blames it on a lack of education, “Men and women don’t have the knowledge of birth spacing or the desire to seek this information,” said Dagne.

Ayatu’s family is enormous by any standards. In Ethiopia, having at least five children per mother is the norm. “The population is growing at a rate of 2.7 percent annually, said Dr. Monique Rakotomalala, the Ethiopia representative for UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. With the population of the country now at 73 million, she is concerned. “That means two million new people every year.” At this rate, the population could double over the next 24 years, severely stretching existing resources. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ethiopia’s Minister of Health, says the secret is smaller families. “We have to educate our communities and tell them the benefits of smaller families because it will bring a better quality of life to each household.”

To assist families like Ayatu’s, the Government of Ethiopia has launched a network of 29,000 health extension workers to teach both men and women about family planning and provide contraceptives to those who want to delay childbearing. So far, two of Ayatu’s wives are using long-term implants. Many women in remote villages opt for this method because of the distance between their homes and health centres. Yet, health extension workers visiting families in this pastoral landscape also face difficulties as they have to walk long distances to reach one household, and sometimes lack sufficient stock to meet the demands of many communities.

Ayatu admits he failed to acknowledge the consequences of having such a large family, and wants to be a role model for young people so they will not make the same mistake. “I wasn’t educated,” said Ayatua. “Nobody asked me. Nobody told me of the consequences”.

Tilahun's passing away: End of an era

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

By Fekade Shewakena

It is Monday morning after Ethiopian Easter Sunday. I was driving to work in a juicy Washington spring weather. It was raining heavily and I was in a crowded traffic when the ring tone of my cellular phone, a Teddyi Afro’s song that I have set up to use until he gets out of prison, was playing off the hook. One call was from my daughter. “Hi Fekadye it is a sad day in Ethiopia today, have you heard that {www:Tilahun Gesesse} passed away? It is sad. I know you will cry but cry not too much ok” and she hung up. Then a friend and then another confirmed the sad new to me. It was a surreal feeling. Alone, in a far away land on a highway; not an ideal place to hear stunning news of the death of a man that I love, admire and consider my country’s treasure and icon. These are some of the times where you hate “sidet”, a time you hate to live away from the people you want to be in the middle of, and share pain and grief together.

Tilahun has many times made me uncontrollably emotional while listening to his songs and watch him sing. I never imagined he would lead me to uncontrollable tears at the news of his passing away too. I parked on a shoulder and cried profusely. It was a good time and place to cry. Everyone was rushing to work and no one was looking, but who the damn cares even if anybody looks at you. They are passerby and I was crying for something larger than whatever a ferenji passerby may be thinking I was crying about. I felt like I was crying not for Tilahun alone but for an entire era that he takes away with him. From where I was, I saw my country coiling in sadness, so sad as if she doesn’t have enough of sadness already. I even imagined that the mountains of Ethiopia that echoed Tilahun’s songs through the flutes of sheep and goat herders were silent in sadness.

Five full decades of failure to replace one super star, I often joked, is a sign of the slow sociocultural dynamism in Ethiopia. I am probably wrong on this one. Tilahun was simply unsurpassable.

There was everything from Tilahun’s beautiful voices for all times and generations of Ethiopians. His gift straddles the generations of my daughter, me and my father and probably beyond. There was also everything for every humanly feeling in those voices. Just tell me what you need and I will pick a song for you from Tilahun. Whether you are sad, you are in love, happy, or raved up by patriotism, there was something for you in the voices of Tilahun. He was, after all, the soundtrack of all our lives for so many years. It is hard to stop traveling in memory lane back in our lives and remember songs like “engudaye neshi”, “Yegeter Temir nesh” and who would forget that 1974 song “waay Waay silu” about the famine victims which he sang along with a river of tears flooding his face. That was something that tells you that Tilahun not only had a wonderful voice but also a wonderful heart too.

As a member of the generation raised by his songs I have tons of memories of Tilahun. I have not yet had grasped the fact that he died. I know he is mortal, but I looked like a little foolish to think that he will never die. But then again, I may probably am half right. Tilahun may never die. He is going to be physically absent no doubt. But he will continue to live in our households. I have the treasures he left in my library.

There is some lesson for all of us in the life of this great legend. Any one of us making significant contributions to positively affect the lives of our people and country and still die physically can continue to live as Tilahun definitely will. People who do something greater than themselves live forever. Work for our people, fight for their freedom and change their lives. You will live long after you died. That is the moral of Tilahun’s life and story. I am still crying but some half of me tells me the right thing to do now is to celebrate Tilahun’s wonderful life and gift to all of us.

Goodbye Tilahun! Thank you for the wonderful gift you left us behind! It has been such a long time of hard work. Now take a break from singing and rest in peace! Goodbye my dear! Goodbye!!

Could Tilahun's death have been prevented?

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

An interview with Tilahun Gessesse’s wife Wzr. Roman Bezu indicates that his life could have been spared on Sunday had he received timely medical care in Addis Ababa.

{www:Tilahun Gessesse} arrived in Ethiopia from the U.S., where he was receiving treatment, on Sunday, April 19, to celebrate Fasika, the Easter Holiday.

Wzr. Roman said that on Sunday evening when Tilahun started to complain about shortness of breath, she put him in a car and headed for Bete-Zata Clinic to get him an emergency treatment.

Bete-Zata could not even give Tilahun oxygen as he cried out that he could not breath. The doctor on duty told Wzr. Roman that he is not a heart specialist and suggested another clinic. What kind of medical doctor doesn’t know about stabilizing a patient until a specialist arrives?

Wzr. Roman accepted the Bete-Zata doctor’s suggestion and headed to the other clinic without making sure how to get there — and she got lost. By the time she found the clinic, Tilahun was too weak, unable to breath.

Click here [pdf] to read the interview with Roman Bezu.

Tilahun’s inability to get emergency medical treatment in a timely manner exemplifies the extremely poor state of health care in Ethiopia under the {www:Woyanne} tribal junta regime. After all, it is the same regime that murdered the country’s world renowned surgeon Professor Asrat Woldeyes by depriving him of medical treatment.

While mourning Tilahun’s untimely death, let’s also remember the countless other Ethiopians who are dying every day for lack of the most basic health care in Ethiopia, as the parasite regime spends hundreds of millions of dollars to buy weapons that are used to brutalize the people of Ethiopia and Horn of Africa.

The shameless Woyanne regime officials may decide to attend Tilahun’s funeral ceremony Wednesday for their own political reasons. Tilahun’s friends and fans need to use the occasion to demand the release of Teddy Afro, another Ethiopian music icon who has been thrown in a filthy prison cell for singing about justice, peace and unity.

Remembering Tilahun Gessesse

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Tilahun Gessesse, Minneapolis 2006

The dark side of Dubai

Monday, April 20th, 2009

By Johann Hari | The Independent

Dubai was meant to be a Middle-Eastern Shangri-La, a glittering monument to Arab enterprise and western capitalism. But as hard times arrive in the city state that rose from the desert sands, an uglier story is emerging.

The wide, smiling face of Sheikh Mohammed – the absolute ruler of Dubai – beams down on his creation. His image is displayed on every other building, sandwiched between the more familiar corporate rictuses of Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders. This man has sold Dubai to the world as the city of One Thousand and One Arabian Lights, a Shangri-La in the Middle East insulated from the dust-storms blasting across the region. He dominates the Manhattan-manqué skyline, beaming out from row after row of {www:glass} pyramids and hotels smelted into the shape of piles of golden coins. And there he stands on the tallest building in the world – a skinny spike, jabbing farther into the sky than any other human construction in history.

But something has flickered in Sheikh Mohammed’s smile. The ubiquitous cranes have paused on the skyline, as if stuck in time. There are countless buildings half-finished, seemingly abandoned. In the swankiest new constructions – like the vast Atlantis hotel, a giant pink castle built in 1,000 days for $1.5bn on its own artificial island – where rainwater is leaking from the ceilings and the tiles are falling off the roof. This Neverland was built on the Never-Never – and now the cracks are beginning to show. Suddenly it looks less like Manhattan in the sun than Iceland in the desert.

Once the manic burst of building has stopped and the whirlwind has slowed, the secrets of Dubai are slowly seeping out. This is a city built from nothing in just a few wild decades on credit and ecocide, suppression and slavery. Dubai is a living metal metaphor for the neo-liberal globalised world that may be crashing – at last – into history.

I. An Adult Disneyland

Karen Andrews can’t speak. Every time she starts to tell her story, she puts her head down and crumples. She is slim and angular and has the faded radiance of the once-rich, even though her clothes are as creased as her {www:forehead}. I find her in the car park of one of Dubai’s finest international hotels, where she is living, in her Range Rover. She has been sleeping here for months, thanks to the kindness of the Bangladeshi car park attendants who don’t have the heart to move her on. This is not where she thought her Dubai dream would end.

Her story comes out in stutters, over four hours. At times, her old voice – witty and warm – breaks through. Karen came here from Canada when her husband was offered a job in the senior division of a famous multinational. “When he said Dubai, I said – if you want me to wear black and quit booze, baby, you’ve got the wrong girl. But he asked me to give it a chance. And I loved him.”

All her worries melted when she touched down in Dubai in 2005. “It was an adult Disneyland, where Sheikh Mohammed is the mouse,” she says. “Life was fantastic. You had these amazing big apartments, you had a whole army of your own staff, you pay no taxes at all. It seemed like everyone was a CEO. We were partying the whole time.”

Her husband, Daniel, bought two properties. “We were drunk on Dubai,” she says. But for the first time in his life, he was beginning to mismanage their finances. “We’re not talking huge sums, but he was getting confused. It was so unlike Daniel, I was surprised. We got into a little bit of debt.” After a year, she found out why: Daniel was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

One doctor told him he had a year to live; another said it was benign and he’d be okay. But the debts were growing. “Before I came here, I didn’t know anything about Dubai law. I assumed if all these big companies come here, it must be pretty like Canada’s or any other liberal democracy’s,” she says. Nobody told her there is no concept of bankruptcy. If you get into debt and you can’t pay, you go to prison.

“When we realised that, I sat Daniel down and told him: listen, we need to get out of here. He knew he was guaranteed a pay-off when he resigned, so we said – right, let’s take the pay-off, clear the debt, and go.” So Daniel resigned – but he was given a lower pay-off than his contract suggested. The debt remaIfined. As soon as you quit your job in Dubai, your employer has to inform your bank. you have any outstanding debts that aren’t covered by your savings, then all your accounts are frozen, and you are forbidden to leave the country.

“Suddenly our cards stopped working. We had nothing. We were thrown out of our apartment.” Karen can’t speak about what happened next for a long time; she is shaking.

Daniel was arrested and taken away on the day of their eviction. It was six days before she could talk to him. “He told me he was put in a cell with another debtor, a Sri Lankan guy who was only 27, who said he couldn’t face the shame to his family. Daniel woke up and the boy had swallowed razor-blades. He banged for help, but nobody came, and the boy died in front of him.”

Karen managed to beg from her friends for a few weeks, “but it was so humiliating. I’ve never lived like this. I worked in the fashion industry. I had my own shops. I’ve never…” She peters out.

Daniel was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment at a trial he couldn’t understand. It was in Arabic, and there was no translation. “Now I’m here illegally, too,” Karen says. “I’ve got no money, nothing. I have to last nine months until he’s out, somehow.” Looking away, almost paralysed with embarrassment, she asks if I could buy her a meal.

She is not alone. All over the city, there are maxed-out expats sleeping secretly in the sand-dunes or the airport or in their cars.

“The thing you have to understand about Dubai is – nothing is what it seems,” Karen says at last. “Nothing. This isn’t a city, it’s a con-job. They lure you in telling you it’s one thing – a modern kind of place – but beneath the surface it’s a medieval dictatorship.”

II. Tumbleweed

Thirty years ago, almost all of contemporary Dubai was desert, inhabited only by cactuses and tumbleweed and scorpions. But downtown there are traces of the town that once was, buried amidst the metal and glass. In the dusty fort of the Dubai Museum, a sanitised version of this story is told.

In the mid-18th century, a small village was built here, in the lower Persian Gulf, where people would dive for pearls off the coast. It soon began to accumulate a cosmopolitan population washing up from Persia, the Indian subcontinent, and other Arab countries, all hoping to make their fortune. They named it after a local locust, the daba, who consumed everything before it. The town was soon seized by the gunships of the British Empire, who held it by the throat as late as 1971. As they scuttled away, Dubai decided to ally with the six surrounding states and make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The British quit, exhausted, just as oil was being discovered, and the sheikhs who suddenly found themselves in charge faced a remarkable dilemma. They were largely illiterate nomads who spent their lives driving camels through the desert – yet now they had a vast pot of gold. What should they do with it?

Dubai only had a dribble of oil compared to neighbouring Abu Dhabi – so Sheikh Maktoum decided to use the revenues to build something that would last. Israel used to boast it made the desert bloom; Sheikh Maktoum resolved to make the desert boom. He would build a city to be a centre of tourism and financial services, sucking up cash and talent from across the globe. He invited the world to come tax-free – and they came in their millions, swamping the {www:local} population, who now make up just 5 per cent of Dubai. A city seemed to fall from the sky in just three decades, whole and complete and swelling. They fast-forwarded from the 18th century to the 21st in a single generation.

If you take the Big Bus Tour of Dubai – the passport to a pre-processed experience of every major city on earth – you are fed the propaganda-vision of how this happened. “Dubai’s motto is ‘Open doors, open minds’,” the tour guide tells you in clipped tones, before depositing you at the souks to buy camel tea-cosies. “Here you are free. To purchase fabrics,” he adds. As you pass each new monumental building, he tells you: “The World Trade Centre was built by His Highness…”

But this is a lie. The sheikh did not build this city. It was built by slaves. They are building it now.

III. Hidden in plain view

There are three different Dubais, all swirling around each other. There are the expats, like Karen; there are the Emiratis, headed by Sheikh Mohammed; and then there is the foreign underclass who built the city, and are trapped here. They are hidden in plain view. You see them everywhere, in dirt-caked blue uniforms, being shouted at by their superiors, like a chain gang – but you are trained not to look. It is like a mantra: the Sheikh built the city. The Sheikh built the city. Workers? What workers?

Every evening, the hundreds of thousands of young men who build Dubai are bussed from their sites to a vast concrete wasteland an hour out of town, where they are quarantined away. Until a few years ago they were shuttled back and forth on cattle trucks, but the expats complained this was unsightly, so now they are shunted on small metal buses that function like greenhouses in the desert heat. They sweat like sponges being slowly wrung out.

Sonapur is a rubble-strewn patchwork of miles and miles of identical concrete buildings. Some 300,000 men live piled up here, in a place whose name in Hindi means “City of Gold”. In the first camp I stop at – riven with the smell of sewage and sweat – the men huddle around, eager to tell someone, anyone, what is happening to them.

Sahinal Monir, a slim 24-year-old from the deltas of Bangladesh. “To get you here, they tell you Dubai is heaven. Then you get here and realise it is hell,” he says. Four years ago, an employment agent arrived in Sahinal’s village in Southern Bangladesh. He told the men of the village that there was a place where they could earn 40,000 takka a month (£400) just for working nine-to-five on construction projects. It was a place where they would be given great accommodation, great food, and treated well. All they had to do was pay an up-front fee of 220,000 takka (£2,300) for the work visa – a fee they’d pay off in the first six months, easy. So Sahinal sold his family land, and took out a loan from the local lender, to head to this {www:paradise}.

As soon as he arrived at Dubai airport, his passport was taken from him by his construction company. He has not seen it since. He was told brusquely that from now on he would be working 14-hour days in the desert heat – where western tourists are advised not to stay outside for even five minutes in summer, when it hits 55 degrees – for 500 dirhams a month (£90), less than a quarter of the wage he was promised. If you don’t like it, the company told him, go home. “But how can I go home? You have my passport, and I have no money for the ticket,” he said. “Well, then you’d better get to work,” they replied.

Sahinal was in a panic. His family back home – his son, daughter, wife and parents – were waiting for money, excited that their boy had finally made it. But he was going to have to work for more than two years just to pay for the cost of getting here – and all to earn less than he did in Bangladesh.

He shows me his room. It is a tiny, poky, concrete cell with triple-decker bunk-beds, where he lives with 11 other men. All his belongings are piled onto his bunk: three shirts, a spare pair of trousers, and a cellphone. The room stinks, because the lavatories in the corner of the camp – holes in the ground – are backed up with excrement and clouds of black flies. There is no air conditioning or fans, so the heat is “unbearable. You cannot sleep. All you do is sweat and scratch all night.” At the height of summer, people sleep on the floor, on the roof, anywhere where they can pray for a moment of breeze.

The water delivered to the camp in huge white containers isn’t properly desalinated: it tastes of salt. “It makes us sick, but we have nothing else to drink,” he says.

The work is “the worst in the world,” he says. “You have to carry 50kg bricks and blocks of cement in the worst heat imaginable … This heat – it is like nothing else. You sweat so much you can’t pee, not for days or weeks. It’s like all the liquid comes out through your skin and you stink. You become dizzy and sick but you aren’t allowed to stop, except for an hour in the afternoon. You know if you drop anything or slip, you could die. If you take time off sick, your wages are docked, and you are trapped here even longer.”

He is currently working on the 67th floor of a shiny new tower, where he builds upwards, into the sky, into the heat. He doesn’t know its name. In his four years here, he has never seen the Dubai of tourist-fame, except as he constructs it floor-by-floor.

Is he angry? He is quiet for a long time. “Here, nobody shows their anger. You can’t. You get put in jail for a long time, then deported.” Last year, some workers went on strike after they were not given their wages for four months. The Dubai police surrounded their camps with razor-wire and water-cannons and blasted them out and back to work.

The “ringleaders” were imprisoned. I try a different question: does Sohinal regret coming? All the men look down, awkwardly. “How can we think about that? We are trapped. If we start to think about regrets…” He lets the sentence trail off. Eventually, another worker breaks the silence by adding: “I miss my country, my family and my land. We can grow food in Bangladesh. Here, nothing grows. Just oil and buildings.”

Since the recession hit, they say, the electricity has been cut off in dozens of the camps, and the men have not been paid for months. Their companies have disappeared with their passports and their pay. “We have been robbed of everything. Even if somehow we get back to Bangladesh, the loan sharks will demand we repay our loans immediately, and when we can’t, we’ll be sent to prison.”

This is all supposed to be illegal. Employers are meant to pay on time, never take your passport, give you breaks in the heat – but I met nobody who said it happens. Not one. These men are conned into coming and trapped into staying, with the complicity of the Dubai authorities.

Sahinal could well die out here. A British man who used to work on construction projects told me: “There’s a huge number of suicides in the camps and on the construction sites, but they’re not reported. They’re described as ‘accidents’.” Even then, their families aren’t free: they simply inherit the debts. A Human Rights Watch study found there is a “cover-up of the true extent” of deaths from heat exhaustion, overwork and suicide, but the Indian consulate registered 971 deaths of their nationals in 2005 alone. After this figure was leaked, the consulates were told to stop counting.

At night, in the dusk, I sit in the camp with Sohinal and his friends as they scrape together what they have left to buy a cheap bottle of spirits. They down it in one ferocious gulp. “It helps you to feel numb”, Sohinal says through a stinging throat. In the distance, the glistening Dubai skyline he built stands, oblivious.

IV. Mauled by the mall

I find myself stumbling in a daze from the camps into the sprawling marble malls that seem to stand on every street in Dubai. It is so hot there is no point building pavements; people gather in these cathedrals of consumerism to bask in the air conditioning. So within a ten minute taxi-ride, I have left Sohinal and I am standing in the middle of Harvey Nichols, being shown a £20,000 taffeta dress by a bored salesgirl. “As you can see, it is cut on the bias…” she says, and I stop writing.

Time doesn’t seem to pass in the malls. Days blur with the same electric light, the same shined floors, the same brands I know from home. Here, Dubai is reduced to its component sounds: do-buy. In the most expensive malls I am almost alone, the shops empty and echoing. On the record, everybody tells me business is going fine. Off the record, they look panicky. There is a hat exhibition ahead of the Dubai races, selling elaborate headgear for £1,000 a pop. “Last year, we were packed. Now look,” a hat designer tells me. She swoops her arm over a vacant space.

I approach a blonde 17-year-old Dutch girl wandering around in hotpants, oblivious to the swarms of men gaping at her. “I love it here!” she says. “The heat, the malls, the beach!” Does it ever bother you that it’s a slave society? She puts her head down, just as Sohinal did. “I try not to see,” she says. Even at 17, she has learned not to look, and not to ask; that, she senses, is a transgression too far.

Between the malls, there is nothing but the connecting tissue of asphalt. Every road has at least four lanes; Dubai feels like a motorway punctuated by shopping centres. You only walk anywhere if you are suicidal. The residents of Dubai flit from mall to mall by car or taxis.

How does it feel if this is your country, filled with foreigners? Unlike the expats and the slave class, I can’t just approach the native Emiratis to ask questions when I see them wandering around – the men in cool white robes, the women in sweltering black. If you try, the women blank you, and the men look affronted, and tell you brusquely that Dubai is “fine”. So I browse through the Emirati blog-scene and found some typical-sounding young Emiratis. We meet – where else? – in the mall.

Ahmed al-Atar is a handsome 23-year-old with a neat, trimmed beard, tailored white robes, and rectangular wire-glasses. He speaks perfect American-English, and quickly shows that he knows London, Los Angeles and Paris better than most westerners. Sitting back in his chair in an identikit Starbucks, he announces: “This is the best place in the world to be young! The government pays for your education up to PhD level. You get given a free house when you get married. You get free healthcare, and if it’s not good enough here, they pay for you to go abroad. You don’t even have to pay for your phone calls. Almost everyone has a maid, a nanny, and a driver. And we never pay any taxes. Don’t you wish you were Emirati?”

I try to raise potential objections to this Panglossian summary, but he leans forward and says: “Look – my grandfather woke up every day and he would have to fight to get to the well first to get water. When the wells ran dry, they had to have water delivered by camel. They were always hungry and thirsty and desperate for jobs. He limped all his life, because he there was no medical treatment available when he broke his leg. Now look at us!”

For Emiratis, this is a Santa Claus state, handing out goodies while it makes its money elsewhere: through renting out land to foreigners, soft taxes on them like business and airport charges, and the remaining dribble of oil. Most Emiratis, like Ahmed, work for the government, so they’re cushioned from the credit crunch. “I haven’t felt any effect at all, and nor have my friends,” he says. “Your employment is secure. You will only be fired if you do something incredibly bad.” The laws are currently being tightened, to make it even more impossible to sack an Emirati.

Sure, the flooding-in of expats can sometimes be “an eyesore”, Ahmed says. “But we see the expats as the price we had to pay for this development. How else could we do it? Nobody wants to go back to the days of the desert, the days before everyone came. We went from being like an African country to having an average income per head of $120,000 a year. And we’re supposed to complain?”

He says the lack of political freedom is fine by him. “You’ll find it very hard to find an Emirati who doesn’t support Sheikh Mohammed.” Because they’re scared? “No, because we really all support him. He’s a great leader. Just look!” He smiles and says: “I’m sure my life is very much like yours. We hang out, have a coffee, go to the movies. You’ll be in a Pizza Hut or Nando’s in London, and at the same time I’ll be in one in Dubai,” he says, ordering another latte.

But do all young Emiratis see it this way? Can it really be so sunny in the political sands? In the sleek Emirates Tower Hotel, I meet Sultan al-Qassemi. He’s a 31-year-old Emirati columnist for the Dubai press and private art collector, with a reputation for being a contrarian liberal, advocating gradual reform. He is wearing Western clothes – blue jeans and a Ralph Lauren shirt – and speaks incredibly fast, turning himself into a manic whirr of arguments.

“People here are turning into lazy, overweight babies!” he exclaims. “The nanny state has gone too far. We don’t do anything for ourselves! Why don’t any of us work for the private sector? Why can’t a mother and father look after their own child?” And yet, when I try to bring up the system of slavery that built Dubai, he looks angry. “People should give us credit,” he insists. “We are the most tolerant people in the world. Dubai is the only truly international city in the world. Everyone who comes here is treated with respect.”

I pause, and think of the vast camps in Sonapur, just a few miles away. Does he even know they exist? He looks irritated. “You know, if there are 30 or 40 cases [of worker abuse] a year, that sounds like a lot but when you think about how many people are here…” Thirty or 40? This abuse is endemic to the system, I say. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands.

Sultan is furious. He splutters: “You don’t think Mexicans are treated badly in New York City? And how long did it take Britain to treat people well? I could come to London and write about the homeless people on Oxford Street and make your city sound like a terrible place, too! The workers here can leave any time they want! Any Indian can leave, any Asian can leave!”

But they can’t, I point out. Their passports are taken away, and their wages are withheld. “Well, I feel bad if that happens, and anybody who does that should be punished. But their embassies should help them.” They try. But why do you forbid the workers – with force – from going on strike against lousy employers? “Thank God we don’t allow that!” he exclaims. “Strikes are in-convenient! They go on the street – we’re not having that. We won’t be like France. Imagine a country where they the workers can just stop whenever they want!” So what should the workers do when they are cheated and lied to? “Quit. Leave the country.”

I sigh. Sultan is seething now. “People in the West are always complaining about us,” he says. Suddenly, he adopts a mock-whiny voice and says, in imitation of these disgusting critics: “Why don’t you treat animals better? Why don’t you have better shampoo advertising? Why don’t you treat labourers better?” It’s a revealing order: animals, shampoo, then workers. He becomes more heated, shifting in his seat, jabbing his finger at me. “I gave workers who worked for me safety goggles and special boots, and they didn’t want to wear them! It slows them down!”

And then he smiles, coming up with what he sees as his killer argument. “When I see Western journalists criticise us – don’t you realise you’re shooting yourself in the foot? The Middle East will be far more dangerous if Dubai fails. Our export isn’t oil, it’s hope. Poor Egyptians or Libyans or Iranians grow up saying – I want to go to Dubai. We’re very important to the region. We are showing how to be a modern Muslim country. We don’t have any fundamentalists here. Europeans shouldn’t gloat at our demise. You should be very worried…. Do you know what will happen if this model fails? Dubai will go down the Iranian path, the Islamist path.“

Sultan sits back. My arguments have clearly disturbed him; he says in a softer, conciliatory tone, almost pleading: “Listen. My mother used to go to the well and get a bucket of water every morning. On her wedding day, she was given an orange as a gift because she had never eaten one. Two of my brothers died when they were babies because the healthcare system hadn’t developed yet. Don’t judge us.” He says it again, his eyes filled with intensity: “Don’t judge us.”

V. The Dunkin’ Donuts Dissidents

But there is another face to the Emirati minority – a small huddle of dissidents, trying to shake the Sheikhs out of abusive laws. Next to a Virgin Megastore and a Dunkin’ Donuts, with James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” blaring behind me, I meet the Dubai dictatorship’s Public Enemy Number One. By way of introduction, Mohammed al-Mansoori says from within his white robes and sinewy face: “Westerners come her and see the malls and the tall buildings and they think that means we are free. But these businesses, these buildings – who are they for? This is a dictatorship. The royal family think they own the country, and the people are their servants. There is no freedom here.“

We snuffle out the only Arabic restaurant in this mall, and he says everything you are banned – under threat of prison – from saying in Dubai. Mohammed tells me he was born in Dubai to a fisherman father who taught him one enduring lesson: Never follow the herd. Think for yourself. In the sudden surge of development, Mohammed trained as a lawyer. By the Noughties, he had climbed to the head of the Jurists’ Association, an organisation set up to press for Dubai’s laws to be consistent with international human rights legislation.

And then – suddenly – Mohammed thwacked into the limits of Sheikh Mohammed’s tolerance. Horrified by the “system of slavery” his country was being built on, he spoke out to Human Rights Watch and the BBC. “So I was hauled in by the secret police and told: shut up, or you will lose you job, and your children will be unemployable,” he says. “But how could I be silent?”

He was stripped of his lawyer’s licence and his passport – becoming yet another person imprisoned in this country. “I have been blacklisted and so have my children. The newspapers are not allowed to write about me.”

Why is the state so keen to defend this system of slavery? He offers a prosaic explanation. “Most companies are owned by the government, so they oppose human rights laws because it will reduce their profit margins. It’s in their interests that the workers are slaves.”

Last time there was a depression, there was a starbust of democracy in Dubai, seized by force from the sheikhs. In the 1930s, the city’s merchants banded together against Sheikh Said bin Maktum al-Maktum – the absolute ruler of his day – and insisted they be given control over the state finances. It lasted only a few years, before the Sheikh – with the enthusiastic support of the British – snuffed them out.

And today? Sheikh Mohammed turned Dubai into Creditopolis, a city built entirely on debt. Dubai owes 107 percent of its entire GDP. It would be bust already, if the neighbouring oil-soaked state of Abu Dhabi hadn’t pulled out its chequebook. Mohammed says this will constrict freedom even further. “Now Abu Dhabi calls the tunes – and they are much more conservative and restrictive than even Dubai. Freedom here will diminish every day.” Already, new media laws have been drafted forbidding the press to report on anything that could “damage” Dubai or “its economy”. Is this why the newspapers are giving away glossy supplements talking about “encouraging economic indicators”?

Everybody here waves Islamism as the threat somewhere over the horizon, sure to swell if their advice is not followed. Today, every imam is appointed by the government, and every sermon is tightly controlled to keep it moderate. But Mohammed says anxiously: “We don’t have Islamism here now, but I think that if you control people and give them no way to express anger, it could rise. People who are told to shut up all the time can just explode.”

Later that day, against another identikit-corporate backdrop, I meet another dissident – Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, Professor of Political Science at Emirates University. His anger focuses not on political reform, but the erosion of Emirati identity. He is famous among the locals, a rare outspoken conductor for their anger. He says somberly: “There has been a rupture here. This is a totally different city to the one I was born in 50 years ago.”

He looks around at the shiny floors and Western tourists and says: “What we see now didn’t occur in our wildest dreams. We never thought we could be such a success, a trendsetter, a model for other Arab countries. The people of Dubai are mighty proud of their city, and rightly so. And yet…” He shakes his head. “In our hearts, we fear we have built a modern city but we are losing it to all these expats.”

Adbulkhaleq says every Emirati of his generation lives with a “psychological trauma.” Their hearts are divided – “between pride on one side, and fear on the other.” Just after he says this, a smiling waitress approaches, and asks us what we would like to drink. He orders a Coke.

VI. Dubai Pride

There is one group in Dubai for whom the rhetoric of sudden freedom and liberation rings true – but it is the very group the government wanted to liberate least: gays.

Beneath a famous international hotel, I clamber down into possibly the only gay club on the Saudi Arabian peninsula. I find a United Nations of tank-tops and bulging biceps, dancing to Kylie, dropping ecstasy, and partying like it’s Soho. “Dubai is the best place in the Muslim world for gays!” a 25-year old Emirati with spiked hair says, his arms wrapped around his 31-year old “husband”. “We are alive. We can meet. That is more than most Arab gays.”

It is illegal to be gay in Dubai, and punishable by 10 years in prison. But the locations of the latest unofficial gay clubs circulate online, and men flock there, seemingly unafraid of the police. “They might bust the club, but they will just disperse us,” one of them says. “The police have other things to do.”

In every large city, gay people find a way to find each other – but Dubai has become the clearing-house for the region’s homosexuals, a place where they can live in relative safety. Saleh, a lean private in the Saudi Arabian army, has come here for the Coldplay concert, and tells me Dubai is “great” for gays: “In Saudi, it’s hard to be straight when you’re young. The women are shut away so everyone has gay sex. But they only want to have sex with boys – 15- to 21-year-olds. I’m 27, so I’m too old now. I need to find real gays, so this is the best place. All Arab gays want to live in Dubai.”

With that, Saleh dances off across the dancefloor, towards a Dutch guy with big biceps and a big smile.

VII. The Lifestyle

All the guidebooks call Dubai a “melting pot”, but as I trawl across the city, I find that every group here huddles together in its own little ethnic enclave – and becomes a caricature of itself. One night – in the heart of this homesick city, tired of the malls and the camps – I go to Double Decker, a hang-out for British expats. At the entrance there is a red telephone box, and London bus-stop signs. Its wooden interior looks like a cross between a colonial clubhouse in the Raj and an Eighties school disco, with blinking coloured lights and cheese blaring out. As I enter, a girl in a short skirt collapses out of the door onto her back. A guy wearing a pirate hat helps her to her feet, dropping his beer bottle with a paralytic laugh.

I start to talk to two sun-dried women in their sixties who have been getting gently sozzled since midday. “You stay here for The Lifestyle,” they say, telling me to take a seat and order some more drinks. All the expats talk about The Lifestyle, but when you ask what it is, they become vague. Ann Wark tries to summarise it: “Here, you go out every night. You’d never do that back home. You see people all the time. It’s great. You have lots of free time. You have maids and staff so you don’t have to do all that stuff. You party!”

They have been in Dubai for 20 years, and they are happy to explain how the city works. “You’ve got a hierarchy, haven’t you?” Ann says. “It’s the Emiratis at the top, then I’d say the British and other Westerners. Then I suppose it’s the Filipinos, because they’ve got a bit more brains than the Indians. Then at the bottom you’ve got the Indians and all them lot.”

They admit, however, they have “never” spoken to an Emirati. Never? “No. They keep themselves to themselves.” Yet Dubai has disappointed them. Jules Taylor tells me: “If you have an accident here it’s a nightmare. There was a British woman we knew who ran over an Indian guy, and she was locked up for four days! If you have a tiny bit of alcohol on your breath they’re all over you. These Indians throw themselves in front of cars, because then their family has to be given blood money – you know, compensation. But the police just blame us. That poor woman.”

A 24-year-old British woman called Hannah Gamble takes a break from the dancefloor to talk to me. “I love the sun and the beach! It’s great out here!” she says. Is there anything bad? “Oh yes!” she says. Ah: one of them has noticed, I think with relief. “The banks! When you want to make a transfer you have to fax them. You can’t do it online.” Anything else? She thinks hard. “The traffic’s not very good.”

When I ask the British expats how they feel to not be in a democracy, their reaction is always the same. First, they look bemused. Then they look affronted. “It’s the Arab way!” an Essex boy shouts at me in response, as he tries to put a pair of comedy antlers on his head while pouring some beer into the mouth of his friend, who is lying on his back on the floor, gurning.

Later, in a hotel bar, I start chatting to a dyspeptic expat American who works in the cosmetics industry and is desperate to get away from these people. She says: “All the people who couldn’t succeed in their own countries end up here, and suddenly they’re rich and promoted way above their abilities and bragging about how great they are. I’ve never met so many incompetent people in such senior positions anywhere in the world.” She adds: “It’s absolutely racist. I had Filipino girls working for me doing the same job as a European girl, and she’s paid a quarter of the wages. The people who do the real work are paid next to nothing, while these incompetent managers pay themselves £40,000 a month.“

With the exception of her, one theme unites every expat I speak to: their joy at having staff to do the work that would clog their lives up Back Home. Everyone, it seems, has a maid. The maids used to be predominantly Filipino, but with the recession, Filipinos have been judged to be too expensive, so a nice Ethiopian servant girl is the latest fashionable accessory.

It is an open secret that once you hire a maid, you have absolute power over her. You take her passport – everyone does; you decide when to pay her, and when – if ever – she can take a break; and you decide who she talks to. She speaks no Arabic. She cannot escape.

In a Burger King, a Filipino girl tells me it is “terrifying” for her to wander the malls in Dubai because Filipino maids or nannies always sneak away from the family they are with and beg her for help. “They say – ‘Please, I am being held prisoner, they don’t let me call home, they make me work every waking hour seven days a week.’ At first I would say – my God, I will tell the consulate, where are you staying? But they never know their address, and the consulate isn’t interested. I avoid them now. I keep thinking about a woman who told me she hadn’t eaten any fruit in four years. They think I have power because I can walk around on my own, but I’m powerless.”

The only hostel for women in Dubai – a filthy private villa on the brink of being repossessed – is filled with escaped maids. Mela Matari, a 25-year-old Ethiopian woman with a drooping smile, tells me what happened to her – and thousands like her. She was promised a paradise in the sands by an agency, so she left her four year-old daughter at home and headed here to earn money for a better future. “But they paid me half what they promised. I was put with an Australian family – four children – and Madam made me work from 6am to 1am every day, with no day off. I was exhausted and pleaded for a break, but they just shouted: ‘You came here to work, not sleep!’ Then one day I just couldn’t go on, and Madam beat me. She beat me with her fists and kicked me. My ear still hurts. They wouldn’t give me my wages: they said they’d pay me at the end of the two years. What could I do? I didn’t know anybody here. I was terrified.”

One day, after yet another beating, Mela ran out onto the streets, and asked – in broken English – how to find the Ethiopian consulate. After walking for two days, she found it, but they told her she had to get her passport back from Madam. “Well, how could I?” she asks. She has been in this hostel for six months. She has spoken to her daughter twice. “I lost my country, I lost my daughter, I lost everything,” she says.

As she says this, I remember a stray sentence I heard back at Double Decker. I asked a British woman called Hermione Frayling what the best thing about Dubai was. “Oh, the servant class!” she trilled. “You do nothing. They’ll do anything!”

VIII. The End of The World

The World is empty. It has been abandoned, its continents unfinished. Through binoculars, I think I can glimpse Britain; this sceptred isle barren in the salt-breeze.

Here, off the coast of Dubai, developers have been rebuilding the world. They have constructed artificial islands in the shape of all planet Earth’s land masses, and they plan to sell each continent off to be built on. There were rumours that the Beckhams would bid for Britain. But the people who work at the nearby coast say they haven’t seen anybody there for months now. “The World is over,” a South African suggests.

All over Dubai, crazy projects that were Under Construction are now Under Collapse. They were building an air-conditioned beach here, with cooling pipes running below the sand, so the super-rich didn’t singe their toes on their way from towel to sea.

The projects completed just before the global economy crashed look empty and tattered. The Atlantis Hotel was launched last winter in a $20m fin-de-siecle party attended by Robert De Niro, Lindsay Lohan and Lily Allen. Sitting on its own fake island – shaped, of course, like a palm tree – it looks like an immense upturned tooth in a faintly decaying mouth. It is pink and turreted – the architecture of the pharaohs, as reimagined by Zsa-Zsa Gabor. Its Grand Lobby is a monumental dome covered in glitterballs, held up by eight monumental concrete palm trees. Standing in the middle, there is a giant shining glass structure that looks like the intestines of every guest who has ever stayed at the Atlantis. It is unexpectedly raining; water is leaking from the roof, and tiles are falling off.

A South African PR girl shows me around its most coveted rooms, explaining that this is “the greatest luxury offered in the world”. We stroll past shops selling £24m diamond rings around a hotel themed on the lost and sunken continent of, yes, Atlantis. There are huge water tanks filled with sharks, which poke around mock-abandoned castles and dumped submarines. There are more than 1,500 rooms here, each with a sea view. The Neptune suite has three floors, and – I gasp as I see it – it looks out directly on to the vast shark tank. You lie on the bed, and the sharks stare in at you. In Dubai, you can sleep with the fishes, and survive.

But even the luxury – reminiscent of a Bond villain’s lair – is also being abandoned. I check myself in for a few nights to the classiest hotel in town, the Park Hyatt. It is the fashionistas’ favourite hotel, where Elle Macpherson and Tommy Hilfiger stay, a gorgeous, understated palace. It feels empty. Whenever I eat, I am one of the only people in the restaurant. A staff member tells me in a whisper: “It used to be full here. Now there’s hardly anyone.” Rattling around, I feel like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, the last man in an abandoned, haunted home.

The most famous hotel in Dubai – the proud icon of the city – is the Burj al Arab hotel, sitting on the shore, shaped like a giant glass sailing boat. In the lobby, I start chatting to a couple from London who work in the City. They have been coming to Dubai for 10 years now, and they say they love it. “You never know what you’ll find here,” he says. “On our last trip, at the beginning of the holiday, our window looked out on the sea. By the end, they’d built an entire island there.”

My patience frayed by all this excess, I find myself snapping: doesn’t the omnipresent slave class bother you? I hope they misunderstood me, because the woman replied: “That’s what we come for! It’s great, you can’t do anything for yourself!” Her husband chimes in: “When you go to the toilet, they open the door, they turn on the tap – the only thing they don’t do is take it out for you when you have a piss!” And they both fall about laughing.

IX. Taking on the Desert

Dubai is not just a city living beyond its financial means; it is living beyond its ecological means. You stand on a manicured Dubai lawn and watch the sprinklers spray water all around you. You see tourists flocking to swim with dolphins. You wander into a mountain-sized freezer where they have built a ski slope with real snow. And a voice at the back of your head squeaks: this is the desert. This is the most water-stressed place on the planet. How can this be happening? How is it possible?

The very earth is trying to repel Dubai, to dry it up and blow it away. The new Tiger Woods Gold Course needs four million gallons of water to be pumped on to its grounds every day, or it would simply shrivel and disappear on the winds. The city is regularly washed over with dust-storms that fog up the skies and turn the skyline into a blur. When the dust parts, heat burns through. It cooks anything that is not kept constantly, artificially wet.

Dr Mohammed Raouf, the environmental director of the Gulf Research Centre, sounds sombre as he sits in his Dubai office and warns: “This is a desert area, and we are trying to defy its environment. It is very unwise. If you take on the desert, you will lose.”

Sheikh Maktoum built his showcase city in a place with no useable water. None. There is no surface water, very little acquifer, and among the lowest rainfall in the world. So Dubai drinks the sea. The Emirates’ water is stripped of salt in vast desalination plants around the Gulf – making it the most expensive water on earth. It costs more than petrol to produce, and belches vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as it goes. It’s the main reason why a resident of Dubai has the biggest average carbon footprint of any human being – more than double that of an American.

If a recession turns into depression, Dr Raouf believes Dubai could run out of water. “At the moment, we have financial reserves that cover bringing so much water to the middle of the desert. But if we had lower revenues – if, say, the world shifts to a source of energy other than oil…” he shakes his head. “We will have a very big problem. Water is the main source of life. It would be a catastrophe. Dubai only has enough water to last us a week. There’s almost no storage. We don’t know what will happen if our supplies falter. It would be hard to survive.”

Global warming, he adds, makes the problem even worse. “We are building all these artificial islands, but if the sea level rises, they will be gone, and we will lose a lot. Developers keep saying it’s all fine, they’ve taken it into consideration, but I’m not so sure.”

Is the Dubai government concerned about any of this? “There isn’t much interest in these problems,” he says sadly. But just to stand still, the average resident of Dubai needs three times more water than the average human. In the looming century of water stresses and a transition away from fossil fuels, Dubai is uniquely vulnerable.

I wanted to understand how the government of Dubai will react, so I decided to look at how it has dealt with an environmental problem that already exists – the pollution of its beaches. One woman – an American, working at one of the big hotels – had written in a lot of online forums arguing that it was bad and getting worse, so I called her to arrange a meeting. “I can’t talk to you,” she said sternly. Not even if it’s off the record? “I can’t talk to you.” But I don’t have to disclose your name… “You’re not listening. This phone is bugged. I can’t talk to you,” she snapped, and hung up.

The next day I turned up at her office. “If you reveal my identity, I’ll be sent on the first plane out of this city,” she said, before beginning to nervously pace the shore with me. “It started like this. We began to get complaints from people using the beach. The water looked and smelled odd, and they were starting to get sick after going into it. So I wrote to the ministers of health and tourism and expected to hear back immediately – but there was nothing. Silence. I hand-delivered the letters. Still nothing.”

The water quality got worse and worse. The guests started to spot raw sewage, condoms, and used sanitary towels floating in the sea. So the hotel ordered its own water analyses from a professional company. “They told us it was full of fecal matter and bacteria ‘too numerous to count’. I had to start telling guests not to go in the water, and since they’d come on a beach holiday, as you can imagine, they were pretty pissed off.” She began to make angry posts on the expat discussion forums – and people began to figure out what was happening. Dubai had expanded so fast its sewage treatment facilities couldn’t keep up. The sewage disposal trucks had to queue for three or four days at the treatment plants – so instead, they were simply drilling open the manholes and dumping the untreated sewage down them, so it flowed straight to the sea.

Suddenly, it was an open secret – and the municipal authorities finally acknowledged the problem. They said they would fine the truckers. But the water quality didn’t improve: it became black and stank. “It’s got chemicals in it. I don’t know what they are. But this stuff is toxic.”

She continued to complain – and started to receive anonymous phone calls. “Stop embarassing Dubai, or your visa will be cancelled and you’re out,” they said. She says: “The expats are terrified to talk about anything. One critical comment in the newspapers and they deport you. So what am I supposed to do? Now the water is worse than ever. People are getting really sick. Eye infections, ear infections, stomach infections, rashes. Look at it!” There is faeces floating on the beach, in the shadow of one of Dubai’s most famous hotels.

“What I learnt about Dubai is that the authorities don’t give a toss about the environment,” she says, standing in the stench. “They’re pumping toxins into the sea, their main tourist attraction, for God’s sake. If there are environmental problems in the future, I can tell you now how they will deal with them – deny it’s happening, cover it up, and carry on until it’s a total disaster.” As she speaks, a dust-storm blows around us, as the desert tries, slowly, insistently, to take back its land.

X. Fake Plastic Trees

On my final night in the Dubai Disneyland, I stop off on my way to the airport, at a Pizza Hut that sits at the side of one of the city’s endless, wide, gaping roads. It is identical to the one near my apartment in London in every respect, even the vomit-coloured decor. My mind is whirring and distracted. Perhaps Dubai disturbed me so much, I am thinking, because here, the entire global supply chain is condensed. Many of my goods are made by semi-enslaved populations desperate for a chance 2,000 miles away; is the only difference that here, they are merely two miles away, and you sometimes get to glimpse their faces? Dubai is Market Fundamentalist Globalisation in One City.

I ask the Filipino girl behind the counter if she likes it here. “It’s OK,” she says cautiously. Really? I say. I can’t stand it. She sighs with relief and says: “This is the most terrible place! I hate it! I was here for months before I realised – everything in Dubai is fake. Everything you see. The trees are fake, the workers’ contracts are fake, the islands are fake, the smiles are fake – even the water is fake!” But she is trapped, she says. She got into debt to come here, and she is stuck for three years: an old story now. “I think Dubai is like an oasis. It is an illusion, not real. You think you have seen water in the distance, but you get close and you only get a mouthful of sand.”

As she says this, another customer enters. She forces her face into the broad, empty Dubai smile and says: “And how may I help you tonight, sir?”

Ethiopia's Deriba Merga wins Boston Marathon

Monday, April 20th, 2009

BOSTON MARATHON (AP) – Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga overcame the disappointment of his Olympic fade to win the Boston Marathon on Monday, and Kenya’s Salina Kosgei won the closest women’s race in the 113-year history of the event while Americans took third in both races for the best U.S. finish since 1985.

Merga, who was passed in the last quarter-mile and finished fourth in Beijing, pulled away before Heartbreak Hill and won in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 42 seconds — almost a full minute ahead of Kenya’s Daniel Rono and American Ryan Hall.

Kosgei won a sprint with defending champion Dire Tune, trading the lead several times in the final blocks of Boylston Street before hitting the tape less than a stride ahead of the Ethiopian in 2:32:16. American Kara Goucher led the three as they crossed the MassPike into Kenmore Square with one mile to go, but she was outkicked down the stretch and finished 9 seconds back.

The winners will take home $150,000, but Merga had to wait for his traditional laurel wreath: The women’s pace was so slow and the men finished so fast that he crossed the finish line before Kosgei had a chance to climb the champion’s podium.

Kosgei said the weather conditions made for a difficult finish.

“The wind was a bit stronger. … So, it was very hard,” Kosgei said. “I decided I must try. So, I tried.”

No American has won in Boston since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach in 1985, when the U.S. women swept the top three and the men came in second and third. The 2009 race was the slowest since then, a pace that had the men’s leaders passing the female stragglers and approaching the final mile as the women were hitting the tape.

Goucher burst into tears and was consoled by her husband, and Tune fell to the pavement for several minutes after the final sprint. Race spokesman Jack Fleming said Tune would not be available because she was receiving medical attention; he did not elaborate.

Goucher’s voice cracked repeatedly in the postrace news conference.

“I just wanted it for everybody that wanted it for me,” she said. “I’m proud of how I did. I just wanted to be the one that won for everybody.”

Tilahun Gessesse passed away

Monday, April 20th, 2009

News sources in Addis Ababa are reporting that legendary Ethiopian singer {www:Tilahun Gessesse} has passed away at midnight last night.

Tilahun, 69, had been receiving medical treatment in the U.S. for several months and returned to Ethiopia a few days ago to celebrate Easter (Fasika) with family and friends.

He was admitted to a hospital after complaining about heart problem. On Sunday, the VOA had planned to hold an interview with Tilahun, but the interview had to be canceled due to his deteriorating condition.

The following is a video of one of Tilahun’s popular songs:

Brief biography of Tilahun Gessesse

Tilahun Gessesse is a legendary Ethiopian singer whose singing career spans 5 dacades. He was born on September 29, 1940, in Addis Ababa and died on April 19, 2009.

Gessesse was born to Woizero Gete Gurmu, who was Oromo, and Ato Gessesse Negusse, who was Amhara. When he was fourteen years old, he was taken by his grandfather to Waliso where he began attending Ras Gobena Elementary School.

As time went by, his interest in music became increasingly clear, although his grandfather urged him to concentrate on his academic studies. The Ras Gobena School Principal Mr. Shedad (who was from Sudan), encouraged Gessesse’s interest in music and urged him to go to Sudan to pursue his music career. Although Gessesse did not go to Sudan, he took Mr. Shedad’s advice very seriously. When Woizro Negatwa Kelkai, Ato Eyoel Yohanes and others artists from the Hager Fikir Theatre came to his school to perform, Gessesse took the opportunity to discuss his interest in music with Ato Eyoel. He was told to go to Addis Ababa if he wanted to pursue a career in the field.

Gessesse left school to go to Addis Ababa, a journey he began on foot without his grandfather’s consent. When his grandfather realized that Tilahun was no longer in Woliso, he informed Gessesse’s great-aunt in Tulu Bolo. After Gessesse traveled fifteen kilometers on foot, he was caught in Tulu Bolo and stayed overnight with his great-aunt Woizero Temene Bantu. The next day, he was forced to return back to his grandfather in Woliso. Since his interest in music lay deep in his heart, Gessesse chose not to stay at his grandfather’s house in Woliso. After staying only one night at his grandfather’s house, he again began his journey to Addis Ababa, this time hiding himself in the back of a loaded truck.

In Addis Ababa, Gessesse was first hired by the Hager Fikir Association, which is now known as Hager Fikir Theater. After a few years at the Hager Fikir Theater, he joined the Imperial Bodyguard Band where he became a leading star singer. During his time with the band, Gessesse ran afoul of the government after the attempted coup d’état of December 1960 by the Imperial Bodyguard. He was arrested and put in prison for a time.

Gessesse moved to the National Theater where his success continued. He was so famous that he appeared three times in front of Emperor Haile Selassie I. During a visit, the Emperor advised him not to abuse his talent.

The majority of Gessesse’s recordings are in Amharic, though he has recorded a number of songs in Oromo.

He received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Addis Ababa University, in appreciation of his contribution to Ethiopian music. He has also received an award for his lifetime achievements from the Ethiopian Fine Art and Mass Media Prize Trust.

Sources: Wikipedia

EPPF launches a radio program

Monday, April 20th, 2009

The Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) has launched a radio program that is broadcast to Ethiopia 4 times per week. Arbegnoch Voice Radio transmitted its first program successfully on April 14 on both short wave and medium wave frequencies… [read more]

Exhibition on reconstruction of Ethiopia's Aksum obelisk

Monday, April 20th, 2009

(UNESCO) — An exhibition – photographs and a video installation – at UNESCO will celebrate the reinstallation of the Aksum obelisk. The show will give visitors a chance to learn about the history of the Ethiopian site and to view the key stages of reinstalling the monument, 24 metres high and weighing 150 tons.

Open to the public from 4 to 15 May (9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.), the exhibition will be inaugurated on 23 April by Koïchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO, in the presence of the Ethiopian and Italian ambassadors to UNESCO, Adelech Haile Mikael and Giuseppe Moscato.

The artists in the show, who are from Ethiopia, Belgium, France and Italy, were invited by UNESCO to visit Aksum and to express their vision of the restoration of the obelisk, a symbol of Ethiopian culture.

Their works highlight the uniqueness and magnitude of the project. The monument’s history has been eventful: erected in the 4th century then vandalized in the 7th, the obelisk was hauled off to Rome at Mussolini’s orders and set up near the Circus Maximus, finally returning to Aksum in 2005.

The artists – Tito Dupret, Theo Eshetu, Hiwot Gebre Geziabeher, Michael Tsegaye and Paola Viesi – give their personal interpretations of these events. The gigantic, 15-screen video installation by Theo Eshetu benefits from the dual perspective of the artist, born in Ethiopia and living in Rome. Hiwot Gebre Geziabeher, a schoolgirl from Aksum who learned photography from Michael Tsegaye, takes the local inhabitants’ point of view. Included in the show are films and photos depicting the extraordinary reinstallation work and Aksum’s lifestyle and culture. For an even better sense of the project’s scope, a 360°* projection offers visitors a simulated tour of the Aksum archaeological site and works.

With this exhibition, UNESCO is celebrating the successful reinstallation and showing how a cultural project can help bring about reconciliation between two countries with conflict in their past.

This project and this exhibition were made possible thanks to the generous contribution of the Italian Government.

From 4 to 15 May, individuals and school groups may reserve guided visits organized by UNESCO, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

Contact for inauguration accreditation:

Djibril Kébé, tel. + 33 (0)1 45 68 17 41 / d.kebe@unesco.org

Ethiopia's Ministry of Health says health sector needs $2.6 bln

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Andualem Sisay | AfricaNews

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — The Ethiopian Ministry of Health (EMOH) announced that there was a USD$ 2.6 billion financing gap to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the health sector of that country.

At the signing ceremony of a joint financing worth 100 million dollars with six development partners held at the Hilton Addis this week, Dr Nejmudin Kedir, policy planning and finance head with the Ministry, said there was a huge financial gap to address major health problems in Ethiopia.

The finance was required to deal with malaria, HIV AIDS, TB, maternal health, to build hospitals and health centers and for the expansion of universal primary health.

The MDGs target is to halve poverty and deaths with the above major diseases from the developing countries by 2015.

The joint statement issued by the Ethiopian government and the seven development partners stated that the signing of the joint financial agreement marked an important milestone in the purposeful journey jointly embarked on last August, when Ethiopia became the first to sign a country compact within the framework of the International Health Partnership (IHP).

“At the core of the Ethiopian IHP compact is a joint ambition to accelerate progress towards the health related MDGs and improve the health of all Ethiopians,” the statement said.

Dr. Nejmudin said there was only a small increase in funding commitments. He said that there was also a problem with the predictability of the fund coming from donors, adding that politics impacted the fund flow. “This has created a problem in planning different projects,” he said.

The joint financing was signed between the MoH and DFID, Irish Aid, Spanish Cooperation, World Bank, UNFPA, UNICEF, and WHO. On the occasion, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, The Minister of Health, said he was very delighted to sign the joint agreement. “It was just like seeing your child grow,” he said.

Dr Tedros urged the development partners to channel the fund and to keep their commitments.

The MDGs represent a global partnership that has grown from the commitments and targets established at the world summits of the 1990s.

Responding to the world’s main development challenges and to the calls of civil society, the MDGs promote poverty reduction, education, maternal health, gender equality, and aim at combating child mortality, AIDS and other diseases.

Set for the year 2015, the MDGs are an agreed set of goals that can be achieved if all actors work together and do their part. Poor countries have pledged to govern better, and invest in their people through health care and education. Rich countries have pledged to support them, through aid, debt relief, and fairer trade.

Sudan's president al-Bashir to visit Ethiopia

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (AFP) – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was set to visit Ethiopia on his latest foreign trip since an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes was issued against him, diplomats said on Monday.

“President Bashir will arrive here to hold talks on bilateral issues. He’ll arrive either tonight or tomorrow. The trip will last three days,” the Sudanese ambassador to Ethiopia, Akuei Bona Malwal, said.

Another Sudanese diplomat specified that Bashir was expected to arrive in Addis Ababa on Monday while an Ethiopian diplomat also confirmed the date.

“President Bashir is arriving tonight in Addis Ababa for a meeting with Ethiopian authorities,” the Ethiopian official said on condition of anonymity.

Ethiopia's Abebu Gelan wins Vancouver 10k race

Monday, April 20th, 2009

By Gary Kingston | Vancouver Sun

Sun Run women’s race winner Abebu Gelan hits the finish line with a time of 34:05, followed by second-place finisher Chantell Widney of Edmonton (below left; 34:24) and third place New Zealander Fiona Docherty (34:26). [Photo: Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun]

VANCOUVER, CANADA — Paced by an Ethiopian teenager, it was first-timers day for the top three in the women’s division of the annual Sun Run 10K race on Sunday.

Abebu Gelan, 19, who has raced out of West Chester, Pa., for the last month, crossed the finish line in 34 minutes, four seconds to become the third straight winner from the African nation. It was, however, the slowest time for a women’s winner in the race’s 25-year history.

Gelan, who politely waved off an interview request by saying she did not speak English, was followed across the line by Chantell Widney of Edmonton (34:23) and Fiona Docherty, a New Zealand native now living in Boulder, Colo., (34:25). Both were also making their first appearances at the Sun Run and raved about the course and the fact the 10K attracted more than 55,000 participants.

With Kenyan Yegon Kiprotich, who was third in the men’s race and who shares the same North American agent as Gelan trying to translate, the slim teenager said little more than she was happy with the race.

Gelan, who finished third and fourth in 10K races earlier this month in New Orleans and Washington, D.C., is the junior world record holder in the half marathon at 1:07.57. She collected $3,000 for Sunday’s win.

Widney, a 29-year-old mother of a 10-month old child, also earned $3,000 — $1,000 for the second-place finish in the women’s and $2,000 as top Canadian.

A member of Canada’s team at the world cross-country championships in Amman, Jordan, last month — she was 67th, but the second-best Canadian finisher. Widney said she was surprised to find out she had finished second on Sunday.

“I think I was fifth or sixth coming into the last 2K . . . and I came up on three girls and just went past them. It wasn’t until I got here [inside B.C. Place for the award ceremonies] that I found out I finished second. I thought I was third.”

That was Docherty, a 2003 world long-distance duathlon champion who has also competed in several Ironman triathlons.

The 33-year-old, whose brother Bevan won bronze in triathlon at Beijing last summer, is in the process of converting from triathlons to just running and is trying to qualify for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in the marathon.

“The selectors have told me I need to go and get lots of experience and races, so that’s what I’m doing. I’m just going out and racing everything I can get my hands on. I’ve got my first marathon without a swim or a bike at the end of May in Ottawa.”

She said she will return to the triathlon at some point, “but I just needed a break from it. I wanted a life outside sport.” Docherty earned $500.

The Arc of Justice

Monday, April 20th, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

“We Shall Overcome…”

In 1965, in a commencement address at Oberlin College, Ohio, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke about the ultimate victory of good over evil, justice over injustice, right over might, truth over lies and human rights over government wrongs. “We shall overcome,” he said “because the arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice… No lie can live forever…. Truth crushed to earth will rise again…. ‘Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne, yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the demon known, stands a God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.’”

No Lie Can Live Forever

These past few months have been unkind to global criminals who believed they can commit crimes against humanity with impunity. Recently, former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was found guilty of mass murder and kidnapping by a Peruvian court. Judge Cesar San Martin declared that Fujimori was guilty “beyond all reasonable doubt” for authorizing a secret police death squad (“Colina Group”) he created commit massacres in the Barrios Altos area of Lima in 1991 and at La Cantuta University in 1992 that left 25 dead, and for the kidnap-murders of a journalist and a businessman in 1992. Fujimori’s defense: “I knew nothing about the killings!” He blamed his intelligence service chief for the crimes. After years of evading justice, the truth rose again from the slums of Barrios Altos and the campus of La Cantuta University and crushed Fujimori at age 70! He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He may yet face trial for corruption and misappropriation of public funds.

George W. Bush’s legal bushwhackers in the “war on terror” are under investigation for crimes against humanity. All indications are Spanish prosecutors will soon make a formal announcement to seek criminal charges against six top former officials — Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Assistant Attorney General (and now federal appeals court judge) Jay Bybee, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, Defense Department general counsel William J. Haynes II, Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington, and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith — in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantánamo. With the stroke of the pen, President Obama illuminated Bush’s tapestry of lies and legal sophistry to conduct torture secretly and illegally spy on American citizens.

Sudanese president Omar al-Basir is a fugitive from justice. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court for “masterminding with absolute control” a criminal plan “to destroy in substantial part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups.” He is accused of causing the deaths of 35,000 people “outright” in the Darfur region since 2003. International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampos stands ready to bring al-Bashir to the bar of justice to face the truth.

Issa Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao, top leaders in the Revolutionary United Front, were convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity during Sierra Leone’s civil war. The monstrous brutality of this evil trio included forcibly recruiting child soldiers, amputating hands and arms and carving the initials “RUF” into the bodies of their victims. They will be serving long prison terms. Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, is in the second year of his trial in the Hague for crimes against humanity. Pol Pot’s chief torturer Kaing Guek Eav (Duch) is one of 5 suspects currently on trial in Cambodia for genocide and crimes against humanity. And the list goes on…

The widely-respected human rights organization Genocide Watch recently requested the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to “investigate the brutal massacre of 424 Anuak carried out in Gambella, Ethiopia in December of 2003” and the “extra-judicial killings, rape, disappearances, destruction of livelihood and the displacement of thousands of Anuak [which] continued into late 2005.” Genocide Watch accuses the dictatorial regime and its leader in Ethiopia of “perpetrating crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide” in the name of “counter-insurgency.” The request for investigation concluded: “Despite the violation of international law, not only has no one been held accountable for these crimes which occurred over five years ago, but worse than that, such crimes continue in other places in the country.”

Angels, the Demon Known and Lies

In June and November, 2005, 196 innocent people were massacred by the security forces of the ruling dictatorship in Ethiopia, and 763 wounded. The Angels gunned down in broad daylight include[1]: Tensae Zegeye, age 14. Debela Guta, age 15. Habtamu Tola, age 16. Binyam Degefa, age 18. Behailu Tesfaye, age 20. Kasim Ali Rashid, age 21. ShiBire Desalegn, age 21. Teodros Giday Hailu, age 23. Adissu Belachew, age 25; Milion Kebede Robi, age 32; Desta Umma Birru, age 37; Tiruwork G. Tsadik, age 41. Admasu Abebe, age 45. Elfnesh Tekle, age 45. Abebeth Huletu, age 50. Etenesh Yimam, age 50; Regassa Feyessa, age 55. Teshome Addis Kidane, age 65; Victim No. 21762, age 75, female. Victim No. 21760, male, age unknown, and so on. In December, 2003, 425 Anuaks were massacred in Gambella and thousands more displaced. Tens of thousands were massacred, raped and displaced in the Ogaden region and the rest of the country. Tens of thousands of innocent Ethiopians currently languish in the regime’s dungeons as political prisoners. And on and on…

A spokesman for the “Ethiopian Embassy” in Washington, Woindimu Asamnew, offered the usual dismissive blanket denials: “We don’t take seriously their allegations and fabrications. They are totally unfounded, fabricated lies… We don’t take this kind of idea [outside investigation of genocide] seriously. We have a parliament; they do take care of these kinds of issues. There is no any need of inviting international body for this purpose because of unfounded allegations. An outside investigation is unnecessary and unacceptable. We have investigated the matter and taken corrective measures, otherwise this kind of exaggerated and unfounded lies are not taken seriously by our government. What I’m saying is that any individual can say whatever he wants, but alleging something and the realities on the ground are totally different matter.”

Truth Crushed to Earth Will Rise Again

Those familiar with the criminal law know that the first line of defense among the hardened criminal classes is: “Deny the truth. Deny it Again. Deny it a thousand times. When the evidence (the truth) is overwhelmingly against you, ridicule the charges, call them ‘totally unfounded, fabricated lies’ and blame someone else, or the trees, the moon, the sun and the stars.” But sophisticated criminals do not simply deny the truth, they make it an art form: They weave a dazzling tapestry of lies to evade responsibility for their actions. They dehumanize their victims and profess moral sanctification by condemning their critics. By claiming to “investigate the matter and having taken corrective measures,” they audaciously seek to exonerate themselves from the monstrous crimes they have committed. By trivializing the devastating consequences of their crimes, they continue to dehumanize and brutalize their victims virtually implying that the victims are responsible for causing the criminals to inflict suffering and sorrow upon them. By condemning their critics as falsifiers and spiteful, they hope to draw attention away from themselves and fixate it on the motives, intentions and purposes of their critics. But truth crushed to earth will rise again!

The truth will rise again thunderously from the silent graveyards of the thousands of massacre victims; it will be heard in the agonizing wails of the torture victims; the truth will be told in the plain words of political prisoners; it will be recounted in the graphic testimony of eyewitnesses; the truth will ooze out of the sewer mouths of the murderers and torturers who will tell their dirty secret tales to save their skins; the teardrops of women who were raped and violated will paint the truth on the canvas of justice; reporters and journalists who were muzzled and jailed will write the truth in endless volumes; the truth will come alive in high resolution satellite photographs and amateur videos; it will be depicted in the photographs of the mutilated bodies of victims and it will be scientifically reconstructed in the forensic laboratories. The criminals’ own signatures will rise up from the official documents and orders like the ghosts of Rwanda and scream: “J’accuse!”. It is very true that the “the realties on the ground” are very different for the criminals and their victims. The victims demand justice; the criminals seek to evade it.

Wrong NOT Forever on the Throne!

Human rights will be the crown jewels of human liberty. As Gandhi taught, “There may be tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they may seem invincible, but in the end, they always fail. Think of it: always.” In other words, wrong will not remain on the throne forever. That is why we must learn the right lessons from those who have done humanity so much wrong. The rule of law is on the rise ever so slowly in the world, and dictatorship on a precipitous decline. Neither Fujimori, al-Bashir, Gonzalez or the other criminals ever thought that they would be held accountable for their crimes in a court of law, or even in the court of world opinion. All of them believed they were above the law, and sneered at the rule of law. They perverted justice and subverted the democratic process; they eliminated the normal checks of an independent judiciary and evaded the supervision of a legislature freely elected by the people. They stonewalled the independent media from investigating and reporting their crimes, corruption and abuses. The fact of the matter is that people, even the poorest ones, know their basic human rights. Oppressed people the world over are crying out for justice, and for wrongs committed against them to be righted. In sum, they want and demand the rule of law!

Keeping Watch

Ethiopians shall overcome because “truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again” in our beautiful homeland. With the faith in the truth, to paraphrase Dr. King, “we will be able to hew out of the craggy boulders of crimes against humanity, a shining marble temple of democracy, freedom and human rights. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood, sisterhood and human rights and speed up the day in Ethiopia when, in the words of the prophet Amos, ‘Justice will roll down like waters; and righteousness like a mighty stream.’” No truth, no justice; no democracy, no peace!

[1] http://www.ethiopiangasha.org/tmp/ALM_November172008.html

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