Archive for the ‘Ethiopian News’ Category

Kenyan fund managers turn their backs on Ethiopian bank

Monday, April 6th, 2009

By Emmanuel Were | Business Daily

NAIROBI, KENYA — Local fund managers showed little interest in a private placement by an Ethiopian investment bank for lack of knowledge of investment opportunities in the country.

Access Capital, based in Addis Ababa, sought to raise between Sh800 million and Sh1.2bn to fund investments in real estate and financial services in its home country, according to arranging agency Kestrel Capital.

However, Kenyan fund managers shied away, highlighting the weakening global economy and a preference for other regional markets where they have knowledge of operations.

“Some Kenyan investors may invest on a limited scale but may not commit to any significant amount primarily for regulatory reasons but also due to the conservative nature of Kenyan investment managers and trustees with regard to investing outside Kenya,” said Mr Andre Desimone, the executive director Kestrel Capital which has had a strategic partnership with the Addis Ababa based bank.

With local investors staying away, UK based private equity funds showed a huge appetite for the opportunity, highlighting high risk in the unregulated capital markets which do not yet exist in Ethiopia.

“Major interest is from UK based private equity funds, but smaller interest also from US, and Kenya,” said Mr Desimone, adding that in total they had seven foreign investor groups with the possibility of at least two of them taking up the whole offer.

People familiar with the deal said investors are required to part with a minimum of Sh80 million in the private placement that closed at the end of last month. A private placement involves the sale of shares to a limited number of investors such as pension schemes, insurance firms and mutual funds.

With a Sh1.2 billion funding war chest, Access Capital, which has heavy investments in consumer products and packaging industries, is looking at diversifying into sectors such real estate and financial services.

This marked the first opportunity for local fund managers to invest in Ethiopia, a market that Kenyan investors have given a wide berth as many prefer to invest in Rwanda and Uganda.

Reduced interest

Fund managers interviewed by Business Daily said the fund is likely to receive cold reception from the local investor community. Still, the absence of a functioning stock market in Ethiopia is emerging as a concern to local investors, who foresee difficulties in existing from the investments. Ethiopia at one time had a functioning stock market but was closed down due to civil strife and reduced investor interest.

“We have in the past explored Uganda and Tanzania but Ethiopia is not in the radar of many people because its hard to exit given it does not have a stock exchange,” said John Wakiumu head of fund management and research at Amana Capital in an earlier interview with the Business Daily.

Joint venture Ethio-Dutch horticulture firm established

Monday, April 6th, 2009

By MERGA YONAS | ADDIS FORTUNE

At a time when business in horticulture, particularly flowers, is highly threatened by the global economic downturn, Freesia Ethiopia, a joint venture by Ethiopian and Dutch businesspeople has joined the scene.

The official inauguration of the flower farm with 15hct green in Sululta area of North Shoa Zone, Oromia Regional State was held on March 28, 2009. Its shareholders, Samrawit Moges, Thomas Mattanovich, Ronald Vijverberg, vDijkn Hofland, Alex Barendse and Matthieu Barendse formed the joint venture in July 2007 with an initial capital of 18 million Br.

The new entrant to the horticulture scene secured start up finance from the Private Sector Investment Program (PSIP), a Netherlands government’s programme meant to stimulate investment in emerging economies and developing countries of Africa, South America, Asia and Eastern Europe, Matthieu Barendse, general manager of Freesia Ethiopia, told Fortune.

Though rose growers do not prefer the cold weather of the area where the new flower farm is found, it seems to be ideal for freesia; the 21°C – 22°C day time and the 3°C-5°C night time temperatures are perfect for the plant with fragrant flowers, according to the General Manager. The flat terrain of the area convinced the flower growers that they would succeed in their business.

“We had the feeling that the project will be even more successful when we use better materials,” said Barendse. Thus, Freesia Ethiopia has invested in a modern greenhouse with machinery for cultivation, heating and steaming the soil making their own borehole for fresh water and application of economical and environmental fertilizers and pesticides, the owners claim.

The joint venture, which has more than 80 people who are directly employed on the farm, has also partnered with a local company, Chancho Plc. The partnership is based on an arrangement in which Chancho Plc provides land and utilizes local knowledge of the country, the culture and the government, where as Freesia Ethiopia brings in knowledge of cultivation, labour and techniques.

Freesia Ethiopia envisions that from 2010 onwards, it will expand its flowers and bulbs production by one to two hectares of greenhouse per year, and further to 10hct within the following five years. It will have a yearly investment of four million Br. Production of freesia flowers and bulbs by 2013 will rise to 25 million and 18 million per year, respectively. The company anticipates having more than 200 employees by then.

European retail markets and Middle Eastern consumers are the targeted buyers for the flowers bulbs.

Americans adopted 1,725 Ethiopian children in 2008

Monday, April 6th, 2009

LILONGWE, Malawi (AP) — Madonna’s efforts to adopt two youngsters from Malawi have put her in the media spotlight. But she isn’t alone: a growing number of Americans are bringing home children from Africa as countries like China and Russia cut back on adoptions by foreigners.

Actress Angelina Jolie with her adopted Ethiopian child

The increase — particularly in Ethiopia — comes as the AIDS epidemic ravaging the continent leaves more orphans in impoverished countries without relatives to care for them.

Americans adopted 1,725 Ethiopian children in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, 2008, about 70 percent of all U.S. adoptions from Africa, according to the State Department. The year before, 1,255 Ethiopian children were adopted by Americans.

While experts don’t attribute Africa’s growing popularity among adoptive parents to a celebrity factor, they do say high-profile adoptions by the likes of Madonna and Angelina Jolie have raised awareness of the availability of orphans on the continent.

“One of the good things about the Madonna adoption or Angelina Jolie, those adoptions brought the need to the attention of Europeans or Americans,” said Thomas DiFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services. “And it brought the possibility (of adopting in Africa) to people’s attention.”

Wes Stout, 41, who with his wife Kristin, 37, has adopted two children from Ethiopia agrees.

“I give some of the popularity of Ethiopia to her celebrity influence,” he said of Jolie, whose daughter, Zahara, was adopted from the north African country in 2005, the same year the Stouts adopted their daughter, 3-year-old Kylia.

At that time, the Stouts’ wait was less than a year. When they brought their son, 9-month-old Solomon, home six weeks ago, it was after an adoption process that took two years.

“The popularity soared,” said Stout of Redwood, California.

And, “while in the end the need is great, for most people who adopt, they are not just adopting to save a life,” he said. “They are adopting to start a family and that’s an important point.”

Rich foreigners have been adopting children from poorer nations for decades. Mia Farrow, now the mother of 14, began adopting children from Asia in 1973, with an orphan from the Vietnam War. In addition to her daughter Zahara, Jolie adopted her sons Maddox and Pax from Cambodia and Vietnam.

But critics have slammed Madonna’s efforts to adopt a second child from Malawi this week, accusing her of acting like a rich “bully” and using her money and status to fast-track the adoption process. On Tuesday, Madonna insisted she was following standard procedures.

Many adoption agencies and child rights activists also argue it is preferable for children to be taken care of by relatives or their communities, with foreign adoptions allowed only as a last resort.

Others say that isn’t always realistic. “Ideally more local adoptions would be best, but people aren’t coming forward and if life is better out there then they should take it,” said Zoe Cohen, a private adoption consultant in South Africa.

And while adoptions from Africa have risen, the continent still accounts for only about 14 percent of overseas adoptions by Americans. According to the State Department, 2,399 visas were issued to African children adopted by Americans last year, out of 17,438 adoptions from abroad.

Adoptions overseas have plummeted overall in the U.S., dropping 12 percent last year to the lowest level since 1999. That’s due to developments in China, Russia, Guatemala and other longtime sources of orphans that have reduced the number of foreign adoptions.

China accounted for the biggest decline, dropping out of the top spot last year. It was replaced by Guatemala, which almost certainly will lose that status in 2009 because of a freeze on new adoptions imposed because of fraud allegations.

Elsewhere in the West, adoptions from Africa have grown, notably in France, where the continent accounted for nearly a third of the 3,271 overseas adoptions last year. By comparison, only a handful of African children were adopted in Britain in 2007, the last year statistics were available. Most youngsters came from Ethiopia and Nigeria — seven from Ethiopia and six from Nigeria.

Orphans usually are taken in by their extended families in Africa, but AIDS and other diseases have taken a toll on those who might have traditionally provided support. In villages across the continent, frail elderly grandmothers do their best to care for children, but many end up in orphanages or on the streets.

The United Nations estimates 18 million African children will have lost a parent to AIDS by 2010.

Simon Chisale, the Malawian official handling Madonna’s adoptions, said outsiders are being considered as adoptive parents because traditional family structures have broken down.

“Times have changed,” he said. “It used to be simpler but now it is more difficult. People have the heart (to look after their extended families) but the means are not there.”

Malawi, with a population of 12 million, is among the poorest countries in the world, with rampant disease and hunger, aggravated by periodic droughts and crop failure. The U.N. says 1 million Malawian children have lost one or both parents, about half of them to AIDS.

In the face of such problems, experts say few African countries are going to turn down help from well-meaning rich foreigners. Madonna’s Raising Malawi charity, for example, is building well-equipped schools.

DiFilipo, whose agency works to help shape adoption policy, warns that adoptions by foreigners can have unintended consequences. For instance, wealthy foreigners often make donations to the orphanages where they find their children, leading orphanages to look for foreign placements because they need donations.

But, DiFilipo said, the solution is not to stop foreign adoptions but to strengthen laws and education. He cited Malawi as an example.

Malawian regulations now require prospective parents to be resident in the country for 18 to 24 months, during which time welfare officials assess their suitability — a rule that was bent when Madonna was allowed to take her adopted son, David, to London in 2006 before his adoption was finalized.

A draft children’s law, expected to be enacted later this year, seeks to address shortcomings in the current legislation, including setting limits on how many children an individual can adopt from Malawi and the interval between each adoption.

A clear legal framework making adoption relatively easy is one of the reasons cited for the adoption boom in Ethiopia, where there are 800,000 AIDS orphans. Ethiopia also allows unmarried women to adopt children.

Chisale said there has been a slight increase in interest in adopting children from Malawi, mainly among the many international aid workers there.

He could not provide numbers and was reluctant to attribute this to attention drawn by Madonna’s case, but couldn’t deny the enormous influence the star has had. “Madonna has put Malawi on the map,” he said.

(Associated Press writers Carley Petesch in New York, Donna Bryson and Stuart Moir in Johannesburg, Jill Lawless in London, Katharine Houreld and Anita Powell in Nairobi, Kenya, and Scott Sayare in Paris contributed to this report.)

Social qualities of an Ethiopian coffee ceremony

Monday, April 6th, 2009

By Melissa Allison | Seattle Times

Zelalem Yilma, right, pours coffee during Sunday’s Ethiopian coffee ceremony at The Burke Museum. Yilma and others hosting the event described the Ethiopian coffee ritual as a way for their people to socialize, gossip, discuss news and politics and share culture. [Photo: ERIKA SCHULTZ | THE SEATTLE TIMES]

SEATTLE, USA — The opposite of instant coffee is not a nice, slow French press. It is a centuries-old coffee ritual from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee.

Stepping inside on Seattle’s most gorgeous day so far this year, a few dozen visitors to the Burke Museum participated in the ceremony Sunday. They chatted and sipped Ethiopian coffee roasted before their eyes by three native Ethiopians who enjoy sharing the ritual with fellow Seattleites.

Zelalem Yilma began by roasting green coffee beans over a burner while Yobi Guma gave visitors a snack of roasted barley with peanuts. Grass was spread on the ground to encourage abundance or fertility, and incense burned to drive away bad spirits, or as a religious symbol for Christians.

As the coffee began to crackle and smell good, Yilma added cardamom, cinnamon and cloves to the roast while Menkeli Kanaa talked with visitors who sat in a semicircle facing the women.

Women traditionally lead Ethiopian coffee ceremonies, and these particular women — who have full-time jobs at a university, a school district and a hedge fund — have led them for people at Starbucks, Seattle’s Best Coffee and fundraising auctions.

The slow, socially oriented ritual is a daily part of life in Ethiopia, where families and friends spend the time gossiping, learning and solving problems.

It is such an integral part of Ethiopian life that common turns of phrase are based on it. To say “I don’t have someone to have coffee with” in Ethiopia means you do not have a friend, Kanaa said. “And your mom will say, don’t let your name get noticed at coffee time” as a caution to watch your reputation.

The ritual moves slowly, as people warm to each other and join in the conversation. “Once you get in the spirit of it, you don’t want to leave,” Kanaa said.

On Sunday, the women answered questions and talked about the meaning of coffee rituals in their lives, their sometimes tragic family histories, and the difficulty that the farmer who grew the beans they were drinking has had exporting his coffee because of a new auction system in Ethiopia.

Yilma roasted the coffee to medium brown, which she said gives the best flavor. “In stores they have dark, dark coffee. I don’t like that. I like it when it’s brown.”

She then ground the coffee and brewed it in a jebena, a traditional metal brewing pot. The rich, sweet brew was served in small glass cups without handles, and guests could add their own sugar or salt. In some parts of Ethiopia, coffee drinkers add butter or honey. They also snack on popcorn and a recipe using the red cherry fruit that holds the coffee seeds.

Sunday’s first group of visitors got through two rounds of coffee, the second intentionally weaker than the first, before it was time to let another group participate. In a complete ceremony, a third round would involve even weaker coffee and a blessing.

Gwyn Hinton, who had participated in Ethiopian coffee rituals before, said they always lead to engrossing stories and conversations until suddenly three hours have passed.

“Americans are like, I’ve got to go. And they’re like, so what? It’s been three hours. Let’s sit here another hour,” she said.

The owner of Seattle Coffee Crawl, Vicki Schuman, arrived late after a morning of leading a walking tour of downtown Seattle coffee shops.

“I wanted to see how they did it, and now that I’ve seen it, I want to go to Ethiopia,” she said.

The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture will host another Ethiopian coffee ceremony Sunday, June 7, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

(Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com)

Police detained 26 Ethiopians for entering Yemen 'illegally'

Monday, April 6th, 2009

SANA’A, YEMEN (Saba) – Yemeni police in Hudeidah province has captured 9 Ethiopian people for entering Yemen illegally, Media Center of Interior Ministry has reported.

In the meantime, police also captured 17 Ethiopians when they were heading for Hudeidah province.

Police said that they have seized at al-Safiah district two French people aged between 28-30 who don’t have permits to stay in the Yemen, adding that they were referred to the prosecution.

Meanwhile, around 18 Somali refugees, including 4 women, reached Thubab coast in Taiz province and handed them over to the Yemeni Red Crescent to send them later to the main camp at Kharaz in Lahj province.

Celebrating Easter week in Ethiopia

Monday, April 6th, 2009

BAHIR DAR, ETHIOPIA – In Ethiopia, Easter is one of the most important religious festivals of the whole year, signified by the 53 days of fasting that precedes Easter Day itself. During this time, members of the Coptic Christian Church in Ethiopia refrain from eating meat and dairy products and some also fast from alcohol. So coffee is taken black, toast is eaten dry and main meals are made up of grains, pulses and vegetables. Fortunately, the national dish, injera, which is made from teff, a millet-like substance, can easily be eaten with vegetable sauces.

The Sunday before Easter is of course, Palm Sunday, or Hosanna, the day in which Jesus traditionally is said to have ridden into Jerusalem over a carpet of palm leaves thrown by the people. As in other Catholic churches, palm leaves are given out to the congregation and in Ethiopia some of the more devout Christians fashion these leaves into a crown, which they wear until Easter Sunday, as a symbolic crown of thorns.

On Good Friday, which is a public holiday in Ethiopia, the churches are packed with people, many standing outside listening to the amplified voice of the priest. A few go to church on Thursday, the night of the ‘Last Supper’ and remain there until Sunday, maintaining a vigil over a symbolic tomb of Christ. On Easter eve, the Saturday before Easter Sunday, church services begin at 7.00 p.m. in the evening and continue until three or four in the morning. Then the worshipers go home and break the fast, either starting their feast or, after sleeping for a few hours, beginning their feast on the following day.

In the SOS Children’s Villages in Ethiopia, Easter morning is an exciting time, as sheep or chickens are slaughtered and prepared for the injera feast that will take place that day. After the animal has been skinned and cut up the mothers and aunties cook it slowly over a fire. Once it is cooked each family eats meat, sauces and injera from a communal plate, as is tradition, using hands rather than cutlery. (Because Ethiopians eat with their hands, they are very hygiene conscious and wash their hands before, during and after a meal.) The meat from the slaughtered animal is often enough to ensure that the family continue eating it throughout the week – a well deserved feast after a very long fast.

- SOS Children Village

Ethiopians sweep South Carolina 10k race

Monday, April 6th, 2009

By Jeff Hartsell | The Post and Courier

NORTH CAROLINA – Tilahun Regassa appeared to thoroughly enjoy his Cooper River Bridge Run on Saturday morning. Regassa, a 20-year-old from Ethiopia, runs with an odd gait — his right foot turns in awkwardly on each stride — and likes to look around as he races. Regassa took in the Lowcountry sights under a cloudless blue sky, kept a close eye on his competitors, and gradually wore down his fellow elite runners to claim the men’s overall title in the 32nd annual Cooper River Bridge Run.

Regassa, who won a 10K in Richmond, Va., just last weekend, toyed with the field Saturday, surging ahead and then falling back to the pack time and again before finally racing away from Kenyan veteran Mark Kiptoo to cover the 10 kilometers from Mount Pleasant to downtown Charleston in 28 minutes and 24 seconds.

Regassa is the first non-Keynan to win the Bridge Run since American Jeff Cannada of Carrboro, N.C., took the title in 1991, and he led an Ethiopian sweep of the top prizes. Countrywoman Amane Gobena, 26, took the women’s title in 32:25.

Cool temperatures and a brilliant morning sun greeted the 31,430 walkers and runners and 16 wheelchair athletes who completed Saturday’s Bridge Run. But runners reported a slight wind on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, a breeze that kept times from matching the best in Bridge Run history.

Regassa’s time of 28:24 tied for the 20th-fastest men’s time in the Bridge Run, while Gobena’s 32:25 ranked 13th in Bridge Run history, which dates back to 1978.

Local and state runners competed well, with 28-year-old Sopagna Eap of Johns Island finishing 15th overall among women to win the Marcus Newberry Award for top local finisher in 36:04. Mount Pleasant’s Brian Johnson claimed the men’s Marcus Newberry Award in 32:41. Noted local runner Tom Mather of Mount Pleasant won the men’s grand masters division in 36:03, just three years after suffering serious injuries when he was hit by a car while cycling.

Regassa, a rising star in road racing, ran 28:21 in raw and damp conditions last weekend in Richmond. He could have bettered that time Saturday, but instead chose to run a strategic race, testing his competitors by pulling away and then falling back to the pack several times.

“He used the tactics very well,” said Kiptoo, the 32-year-old Kenyan who finished second in 28:28. “There was no one to really push the pace consistently. He (Regassa) was trying to see who was strong.”

A lead group of six runners, including 2008 Bridge Run champ Robert Letting of Kenya, hung together off the bridge and down onto Meeting Street in Charleston. As the runners turned right onto John Street and then left on King, Regassa and Kiptoo separated from the pack. And by the time he turned off Wentworth and back up Meeting to the finish, Regassa was by himself.

He spoke no English, but his smile said it all.

“He ran a smart race,” Kiptoo said. “I felt like I had to do a lot of the work myself. And at the end, he just sprinted away.”

Regassa and Gobena each collected a winner’s check of $3,500. The total of 31,430 finishers was the second-highest in Bridge Run history, behind only the 33,678 who finished in 2006, the first time the race was run over the Ravenel Bridge.

AU and EU commissioners visit Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital

Monday, April 6th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The Commissioner for Social Affairs of the African Union Commission (AUC), Mrs. Bience Gawanas and the European Union (EU) Commissioner for Health, Ms. Androulla Vassiliou, on Saturday 04 April 2009, paid a visit to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital (AAFH) in Ethiopia.

The visit of the two Commissioners to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital was aimed at raising awareness on the negative effect of early childbirth imposed on the girl child and related injuries. The visit was also an opportunity to suggest possible aid that could be obtained from the European Union to help reinforce the activities of the hospital.

Commissioner Vassiliou noted that the activity of the AAFH is impressive. She expressed the EU willingness to support the hospital’s efforts in strengthening its activities and achieving its goals.

Thus, she said the contribution would be done upon submission of a formal proposal clearly indicating the areas of immediate action.

Dr. Hamlin however informed the two Commissioners that four additional Fistula centers have been opened and are already operational. They are located in the cities of Mekele, Bahirdar, Yirgalem and Harar in Ethiopia. “We are hoping to build the fifth one in Metu soon” she added.

The AAFH is an organization that cares for women with childbirth and related injuries, which was established by Drs. Reginald and Catherin Hamlin in 1974, both Gynecologist-obstetricians to Ethiopia, formerly working at the Princess Tsehai Memorial Hospital from 1959 until the established date of the AAFH. The objective of this hospital is to provide services for those suffering from early childbirth illnesses and related injuries, rehabilitating them to the point where they can be integrated back in to their society in a dignifying manner, while helping them to take care on themselves.

SOURCE : African Union Commission (AUC)

Woyanne bans UDJ's 250-man march

Monday, April 6th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA – The plan by Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) to hold a march in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa this coming Thursday to protest the arrest of their leader Wzr. Birtukan Mideksa has been banned by the Woyanne regime.

Vice-Chairman of UDJ, Dr Hailu Araya, told Awramba Times today that the authorities have denied them permission to march.

The UDJ leaders had taken extraordinary measures to make sure that the march would not be banned by the dictatorial regime. One of the measures they took is to limit the number of participants only to 250 registered members of the party who are in leadership positions. They also requested the Federal Police (the notorious Meles Zenawi’s death squads) to help them make sure that only those who have badges to participate in the march.

Woyanne was not impressed by UDJ’s tail wagging. Under the Meles regime any march by UDJ is going to be a march to Kality.

Click here for more from Awramba Times

Ethiopia's Atsede Bayisa wins Paris Marathon

Monday, April 6th, 2009

The 33rd edition of the Paris Marathon took place Sunday from the Avenue des Champs Elysees. The winner of the 42km run was 21-year-old Kenyan Vincent Kipruto, who came in at a record-breaking 2 hours, 5 minutes, 44 seconds.

The previous record holder for the Paris marathon was another Kenyan, Mike Rotitch, who completed the 2003 marathon in 2 hours, 6 minutes, 33 seconds.

On the women’s side, Ethiopian Atsede Bayisa finished ahead with a time of 2h 24 min 41 sec. Frenchwoman Christelle Daunay came in third in the women’s division, at 2 h 45 min 42 sec.

Marathon de Paris, April 5

THE virtually unknown Vincent Kipruto took an important victory at the Paris Marathon, as he broke away from the Ethiopian debutant Bado Worku just before the 40km point, in a race which produced tremendous depth as six athletes dipped under the 2:07-barrier and eleven under the 2:09-barrier.

Similarly to previous editions of the race, the opening 10km is always fast and today was no exception as a group of approximately 20 athletes braved an opening split of 29:51 and to many people’s surprise, the large phalanx of predominantly East African athletes were still bunched together through halfway in 62:44, which was on schedule for something easily inside the course record of 2:06:33.

After the pacemaker Henry Sugut dropped out at the 30km point, having done a commendable job, the pace slowed in the next kilometre, until Kipruto moved to the front and in the space of two kilometres, the leading group had splintered through 35km (1:44:58), and only seven athletes were in contention for the title and the winning prize of 50,000 euros.

At the 38km point, Kipruto began to markedly accelerate in a similar fashion to last year’s winner Tsegaye Kebede and the 21-year-old, who was only running in his second marathon, set a massive PB of 2:05:47, which improved his debut performance of 2:08:16 when he was third in Reims last October.

Worku, only 20, could not add the Paris Marathon crown to his Paris half-marathon victory but his debut of 2:06:15 was highly laudable.

David Kiyeng, a two-time winner of the Reims Marathon was third in a PB of 2:06:26, whilst the two big improvers were Ethiopia’s Yemane Adhane and Morocco’s Rashid Kisri in fourth and fifth. Adhane, running his fourth marathon in just over five months lowered his PB from 2:10:48 to 2:06:30, whilst Kisri lowered his PB from 2:10:33 to 2:06:48.

David Mandago, second in Chicago last October was sixth in 2:06:53.

In the women’s race, Atsede Bayisa shattered her lifetime best of 2:29:08 by some margin. The 21-year-old pulled away in the final 2km from her compatriot and the pre-race favourite Aselefech Mergia to clock a winning time of 2:24:42, whilst Mergia, the silver medallist from the World Half Marathon Championships made a solid debut (2:25:02.)

There was also a big improvement from the Frenchwoman Christelle Daunay, who improved her national record from 2:28:24 to 2:25:43, courtesy of very even halfway splits of 72:48 and 72:55.

All-time marathon lists
1. Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) – 2:03:59 – Berlin 2008
2. Duncan Kibet (KEN) – 2:04:27 – Rotterdam 2009
= James Kwambai (KEN) – 2:04:27 – Rotterdam 2009
4. Paul Tergat (KEN) – 2:04:55 – Berlin 2003
5. Sammy Korir (KEN) – 2:04:56 – Berlin 2003
6. Abel Kirui (KEN) – 2:05:04 – Rotterdam 2009
7. Martin Lel (KEN) – 2:05:15 – London 2008
8. Sammy Wanjiru (KEN) – 2:05:24 – London 2008
9. Abderrahim Goumri (MAR) – 2:05:30 – London 2008
10. Khalid Khannouchi (USA) – 2:05:38 – London 2002
11. Wilson Kipruto (KEN) – 2:05:47 – Paris 2009
12. William Kipsang (KEN) – 2:05:49 – Rotterdam 2008

Best times for places list
1st – Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) – 2:03:59 – Berlin 2008
2nd – Duncan Kibet (KEN) – 2:04:27 – Rotterdam 2009
3rd – Abel Kirui (KEN) – 2:05:04 – Rotterdam 2009
4th – Patrick Makau (KEN) – 2:06:10 – Rotterdam 2009
5th – Ryan Hall (USA) – 2:06:17 – London 2008
6th – Deriba Merga (ETH) – 2:06:38 – London 2008
7th – Jonathan Kipkorir (KEN) – 2:07:31 – Paris 2009
8th – Shadrack Kiplagat (KEN) – 2:08:11 – Paris 2009
9th – John Kipkorir Komen (KEN) – 2:08:12 – Paris 2009
10th – Daniel Kiptoo (KEN) – 2:08:38 – Paris 2009
11th – Abraham Chelanga (KEN) – 2:08:43 – Paris 2009
12th – Francis Kibiwott (KEN) – 2:09:13 – Paris 2009
13th – James Rotich (KEN) – 2:10:23 – Paris 2008
14th – James Theuri (FRA) – 2:10:39 – Paris 2009
15th – Mikhail Lemaev (RUS) – 2:10:41 – Paris 2009
16th – Deriba Deme (ETH) – 2:10:50 – Paris 2009
17th – Philemon Baaru (KEN) – 2:11:05 – Paris 2009

A writer's encounter with an Ethiopian doctor

Monday, April 6th, 2009

By Leslie Scrivener | Toronto Star

When the writer is Camilla Gibb and the subject is an Ethiopian doctor who inspired the character with “butter-soft dark skin and bright teeth” in her bestseller, the outcome might be the education of a generation of medical students

Here is the fiction:

“He was different, this man, this Dr. Aziz. He made me feel different: stirred, compelled, vaguely anxious.” With this, Gibb, in her novel Sweetness in the Belly, introduces the erudite and idealistic Dr. Aziz Abdulnasser.

Aziz falls in love with Lilly, a white Muslim woman who lives in the gorgeous decrepitude of Harar, the ancient walled city in Ethiopia. As their love deepens, they are caught in the 1974 overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie. Aziz disappears and Lilly flees to London, where she becomes a nurse, lives with Ethiopian refugees, and pines for the handsome doctor.

Here is the reality:

Gibb, who has roots in London and Toronto, did live in Harar in 1994 and 1995, researching her PhD dissertation on religious practices in Islam. Troubled by an intestinal disorder, she paid one birr (about 14 cents) to be treated at the local hospital.

While there, Gibb, then 25, met a tall, “über-educated,” English-speaking young doctor named Abdulaziz Sherif. They share books – Jane Austen, Dostoevsky – meet in berchas, Saturday gatherings where Ethiopians chew khat (a plant used as a stimulant) and discuss the issues of the day.

“There was a level of comprehension, a whole new level of conversation,” Gibb says. “I could be so much more myself.”

Gibb and Sherif have not publicly discussed their literary and real-life connection, and it’s taken an ambitious project to get them to break that silence. Citing a link between literature and medicine, and Ethiopia and Canada, they want to talk about an academic exchange between the University of Toronto and the University of Addis Ababa spurred in part by Gibb’s book.

It seemed natural to expand a collaboration that had been so effective in psychiatry. Under that program, in which University of Toronto academics volunteered to teach in Ethiopia for a month three times a year, the number of psychiatrists grew from nine to 34.

The new proposal would broaden the program to 10 disciplines, including medicine, nursing, pharmacy and library sciences.

“That would likely not have happened without (Gibb’s) book,” says Dr. Eugenia Piliotis, haematology program director at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

With 1,800 doctors and perhaps 200 specialists for a population of 80 million, Ethiopia has the highest brain drain of doctors in Africa. According to a report by Dr. Clare Pain, a Mount Sinai psychiatrist, some 80 per cent of Ethiopian doctors trained abroad don’t return.

It was Gibb, now 41, who suggested that Pain – who had launched the successful U of T supplemental training program for residents in psychiatry at Addis Ababa University in 2003 – meet Sherif and “start a conversation.”

Sherif himself underscores the need for an academic exchange. Though he is one of Ethiopia’s two haematologists (Toronto has about 70), he has had no formal training in the field. “Perhaps my biggest exposure is the time I’ve spent here.”

Which brings us back to the crossroads of fiction and reality. The two recently met for the first time in 15 years in Toronto, where Sherif is a visiting observer in haematology at Sunnybrook.

Gibb is now a celebrated author. Sweetness in the Belly has been translated into eight languages, won the Trillium Book Award and was a finalist for the Giller Prize. Sherif is an assistant professor at Addis Ababa University and will return to Ethiopia this month. His deeply rooted reserve remains. “Some may not even know I am in the room,” he says.

What happens, we wondered, when someone unaccustomed to public attention finds himself not only a character but also a love interest in a novel? “I saw myself in part of it, yes, but I am kind of shy and low profile and not as outspoken as that guy,” Sherif says. “But compassion, and so on, I think I am kind of like that.”

Now 38, he has close-cropped hair, a moustache and the smooth skin and white teeth of his fictional counterpart. Physical resemblance aside, “This is a fiction,” he says. “Somebody should talk about the character in the book, not me.”

Gibb steps in: “People make the assumption that I’m Lilly. They completely conflate the characters to the extent that I have been at lunch with people who ask if I’m a nurse in London… It’s fiction that takes its inspiration from a real place and real people.”

One of the topics that Gibb and Sherif have never discussed is the fact that the novel includes a sex scene, nor has Sherif discussed his similarity to the Sweetness character with his wife. He doesn’t even know if she has read the book.

As for being asked if the friends ever had a more intimate relationship, the question simply wouldn’t come up in Ethiopia, says Sherif.

“Our community in Harar is very closed and everybody knows everybody,” he explains. “The book has not circulated in the country, so I didn’t have to make explanations.”

Israel's #1 hit song features Ethiopian lyric – video

Monday, April 6th, 2009

A hit song in Israel, Mi’Maamakim (Hebrew for “Out of the Depths”), begins to the tune of Nanu Nanu Ney, a traditional Ethiopian folk song. Watch the video below.

Israel's hottest song has Ethiopian flavor

Monday, April 6th, 2009

BY ARON HELLER | Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Israel’s hottest musical export these days is a dreadlocked composer who pioneered a unique blend of Israeli, Ethiopian, Yemenite and Latin music from a makeshift recording studio in his parents’ basement.

Idan Raichel’s musical fusion — catchy melodies mixed with Hebrew and Amharic lyrics sung by artists from Israel’s community of Ethiopian Jewish immigrants — has conquered the charts in Israel and is now making waves abroad.

Raichel has already performed at the Sydney Opera House in Australia as well as in Hong Kong, Mexico City, Moscow and Singapore. He is currently wrapping up a six-city tour of the United States before heading to Europe.

The Idan Raichel Project usually performs with about a dozen people on stage at a time, but the band has some 90 revolving members from various backgrounds, singing primarily in Hebrew, Spanish, Arabic and Swahili and ranging in age from 16 to the 80s.

TRAIN STATION

Besides its singular sound and style, the band is also unique in having, despite its name, no frontman. Raichel calls the project a ”big umbrella,” or a ”train station” for various artists who pass through to collaborate with him. ”I would say it is more a compilation than a band,” he says.

Though Raichel sings some of the project’s biggest hits, on stage he often sits quietly behind his piano. He compares his role to that of a movie director.

”Compare it to Woody Allen,” Raichel says. “Who cares if he is in his own films? You still know if it a movie by Woody Allen. Sometimes he is in it, sometimes not. Every song is a different scene of a film, and you take the lead singer that is the best frontman and actor for every scene.”

Raichel, 31, grew up in the middle-class town of Kfar Saba listening to music and learning to play the accordion. He spent his compulsory military service playing the piano in an army band. Like other soldiers, he was forced to sport a short military haircut. He hasn’t cut his hair since his discharge.

After shedding his uniform, he worked as a counselor at a school for troubled youth where he encountered Ethiopian immigrants for the first time. He immediately connected to their community.

In 2002, the Idan Raichel Project burst onto the Israeli scene. Its self-titled debut album was voted album of the year, and Raichel was selected singer of the year.

One of his biggest hits, Mi’Maamakim (Hebrew for “Out of the Depths”), begins to the tune of Nanu Nanu Ney, a traditional Ethiopian folk song.

Israeli crowds seem to embrace Raichel’s multiethnic, multilingual mix. At a recent concert in Jerusalem, some 3,000 youths cheered wildly through a two-hour performance, jamming against the stage and singing along in various languages.

Raichel’s die-hard international fans include R&B artist India.Arie; Rob Cavallo, the producer of Green Day, and the actress Natalie Portman. He insists his music is distinctly Israeli and calls it the current “music of the streets of Tel Aviv.”

Hebrew music has evolved from earnest paeans to the beauty of the Land of Israel and odes to the military. Today, except for a Mediterranean influence, Israeli popular music is more in tune with contemporary music worldwide.

USES AMHARIC

Raichel has incorporated all of these streams. In many ways, he is a throwback to those early songs — which is why he is regarded by the music establishment as an authentic Israeli voice. He is further distinguished by his use of Amharic — a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia — and other multiethnic influences, an unusual mixture he pioneered.

Music critic Yossi Harsonsky calls Raichel’s work “Israeli music with a universal character.”

”He is one of the Israeli composers most in touch with the history of Israeli music, but it is also very pluralistic, very eclectic,” Harsonsky says. “It has something very poetic, original, unique and rich. There is something very exotic to his music.”

For many Israelis, the Amharic of Raichel’s music is the first they have heard, and his Ethiopian bandmates are the first Ethiopians they have encountered.

In Israel, Ethiopian immigrants have long been neglected, a downtrodden minority plagued by poverty, crime, violence and substance abuse. Raichel is proud that his band has made them cool.

”It is the first time you can listen in the mainstream radio to vocalists from Morocco singing in their own native tongue, to the great vocals of Ethiopia,” he says.

The project includes singers from Sudan, Uruguay, Columbia and Rwanda and also has featured Arab-Israeli singers. One of the songs on Raichel’s recently released third album Within My Walls is in Arabic. He says he hopes to one day perform in Damascus and include Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinians singers in his project.

”Artists in Israel are one of the most important ambassadors,” he says.

Iran has sent a parliamentary delegation to Ethiopia

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Iran has sent a parliamentary delegation to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to attend the 120th assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

The current political, economic and social developments, the role of parliaments in restoring peace and security at times of crisis, climate change, human rights, freedom of speech, sustainable development and energy issues will be discussed at the summit.

At the event, the Iranian parliamentary delegation will also call for parliament action to ensure humanitarian aid for Gaza and bring to trial the war criminals of the latest Israeli offensive in the strip.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union serves as a platform for parliaments to share their experiences and contribute to global defense strategies and the promotion of human rights.

Established in Geneva in 1889, the IPU is comprised of parliaments of sovereign states. 143 national parliaments are IPU members, and seven regional parliamentary assemblies are associate members.

The 120th assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union will host 3,000 delegates in Addis Ababa from April 5 to 10.

- Press TV

How Tahir and I did it

Monday, April 6th, 2009

By Fekade Shewakena

Some people in Ethiopia on the religious fringes are playing with fire. I have received emails of videos and audios circulating over the internet as evidences of Christians being attacked by Muslims and Christians attacking Muslims in Ethiopia. It appears these documents are being sent out by each group to garner sympathy for their cause. I cannot finger point to who started this stupidity as I have no detailed information. But I don’t think it is even important to know who started it. None of it comports with Ethiopia’s history of religious tolerance. I have also heard stories of sporadic attacks by these fringe fanatics in different parts of Ethiopia. The {www:Woyanne} regime of Ethiopia also has issued incoherent statements about it, in some cases blaming it on its political opponents as it often does. Whatever its magnitude, and whoever the culprit instigating it, these developments are downright scary and extremely disturbing and they should stop.

Trying to widen it, parading ugly statements coming out of the mouths of these fringe elements, playing tit for tat and taking it out on the innocent, is plain stupidity and no one is going to benefit from it both spiritually and materially. Forming interfaith groups and having honest and intelligent discussion can help not only stop these fringe elements, but also goes a long way to find the real culprit trying to saw the seeds of discord among the two religions who have uniquely cultivated a long tradition of tolerance and living in peace in Ethiopia. The elders in the leadership of both religions should be reminded that they have a huge responsibility to stop this madness.

Yes, religions have not been treated equally throughout our history in Ethiopia. Christianity has been dominant in Ethiopia for centuries. Yes, there are historical reasons for this inequality. But our Muslim brothers and sisters have every right to demand equality now. It is their country and they deserve no less. We still have to go some length to attain religious equality in Ethiopia but this can only be done by first establishing a system under the rule of law. It has to be clear to all of us that those responsible for the unequal treatment of and inequality between religions were never once the ordinary people of Ethiopia of any faith. It was the rulers who use religion for political ends. Any religious discord in Ethiopia can directly be traced to the manipulative works of the rulers and not to any group of ordinary people. It is undeniable that there is a lot of progress toward religious equality in Ethiopia since the seventies, particularly since the coming of the Derg in 1974. But unfortunately, both Christians and Muslims ended up getting the short end of what we sought.

The dawn of our genuine demand for equality was marked by the 1974 Muslim-Christian historic demonstration in Addis Ababa in support of the demand for the equal treatment of Muslims in Ethiopia. Mengistu and the {www:Derg} answered our question by turning out to be equal opportunity killers and oppressors across religions. The Ethiopian Orthodox church lost most of its land and property and turned destitute overnight. Even the pope and many clergy were guillotined. Muslims and Christians were killed by the Derg at the same rates with equal disregard for our lives. This, of course, was not the kind of equality we wanted. But we can say we suffered equally.

The TPLF/EPRDF made a smarter choice than the Derg when it decided to control the administration and management of religious institutions and use them craftily for its political ends. They even made direct and indirect interference in the appointments of the leadership to lead both the mosque and the church. In cases where both the Christians and Muslims attempted to rebel against this meddling demanding independence, the TPLF never hesitated to desecrate the places of worship of both Islam and Christianity and used military force inside both mosques and churches spilling the blood of innocent believers. Have we forgotten? This happened not a long time ago.

I argue that the most serious problem that stands in the way of religious equality in Ethiopia now is the absence of democracy and rule of law. Religious conflicts are minimal or none existent in democracies. This is the key to forming a lasting equality. I met a Muslim Ethiopian friend who participated in a recent demonstration at the Ethiopian embassy in Washington DC. Among other questions, I asked him what they were doing at the embassy and why they did not call Christians to join them in the demonstration. He said the objective of the demonstration was to demand that the Woyanne government implement the articles in the constitution as regards religious equality. I asked him the responses they got. He told me that the Ambassador and embassy staff sweet-talked them and thanked them for their peaceful demonstration and even told them that their demonstration was a model for other demonstrations. I only hope my Muslim brothers and sisters who sincerely look for the right answers to their questions have not fallen for this cheap patronization. In fact, Ethiopian Muslims have more serious issues to worry about. They may need to be a little more wary of the government’s unnecessary intervention in Muslim countries to fight so called jihadism and the rhetoric Meles and Bereket use borrowing from the West. They should be bothered by the official use of such terms as Islamists, Islamic terrorism, jihadists etc. If I were an Ethiopian Muslim I would worry more about this kind of incendiary, mercenary government literature than what a lunatic Christian monk out from a monastery speaks of Islam. Thanks to the election of President Obama, these languages are now being discarded even in US officialdom.

If our Moslem brothers and sisters think that the statements on religious equality stated in the constitution can be selectively implemented while other parts of the constitution keep being violated by the regime every day, I think they are wasting their time. It is like they are asking the lady to be half pregnant and give birth to a normal child. Either the constitution is respected as a whole or there will be no respect for any part of it. I think both Muslims and Christians should get this clearly. Only the prevalence of the rule of law can guarantee equal treatment.

Ethiopia has enough space to accommodate all religions equally if our rulers do not violate our values and the laws in the books. At different times the regime has used our differences, religious and ethnic, for political purposes. Differences are the nutrition over which the Woyanne thrive, can’t you see it? A Muslim who demands better for himself cannot get it if the Christian is not guaranteed of the same rights and vice versa. Our rulers, including the TPLF are not worried about giving religions equal playing field. Their preoccupation is over how to use them for their political ends.

The last time I checked the list of the 193 people murdered by Meles Zenawi after the ill fated May 2005 election, it contains an equal mix of Muslims and Christians at least as can be seen from their names.

Decrees and constitutional amendments or oral promises from powerful despots cannot guarantee equality and freedom, only a collective decision by people and an absolute guarantee of the rule of law do. Whether we like it or not we have to learn to share the space God gave us without encroaching on each other’s spaces. So the best place to spend our emotions and energy is on seeking and building democracy and the rule of law. That is the ultimate weapon that would make all of us equal. Despotic rulers have a vested interest in our division and inequality. Read history.

Or learn from me, a Christian and Tahir my Muslim childhood friend. We were about six or seven year olds then. Tahir and me, both of us were born in Debre Sina, that beautiful town at the foothills of Tarma Ber in northern Shewa. We were neighbors. Our mothers were friends. Tahir and me always play together and love soccer a lot. We eat in each other’s homes. Our mothers and everybody in our homes cares much not to mix our plates. Living in our neighborhood was also a bully named Negash. Negash is a little older and bigger than both me and Tahir. There was hardly any kid who hasn’t tested Negash’s boots on his butt (the calchio). He sometimes beats you for no reason and calls you any name he wants. Negash also loves to have us fight with one another. He often asks, “Which of you two is stronger?” (“mann yashenifal”), he would say, and goads us to wrestle and fight. Tahir and me have wrestled more than once to show him which one of us are stronger. Negash does this to many kids in the neighborhood. One day, while I and Tahir were playing “goalkeeping” with the rubber ball Tahir’s father gave us from his store that morning, Negash came. Negash grabbed our ball and kicked it hard that after making some bounces it ended up in the compound of people who had a dangerous dog. Both me and Tahir who have not even had fifteen minutes with our new precious ball were mad as hell and demanded that Negash gets our ball back for us. Tahir and I have grown in a community where boys were not allowed to cry and run home to seek help or hide. We had to stand on our feet and fight. Going home crying will result in you getting whipped more. I picked up a few stones and demanded that Negash gets our ball back. Tahir too filled his pockets with stones and held two big ones in both hands. While Negash was taking strides to catch and beat us, we rained our stones on him and knocked him down. We frisked his head and he was full of blood. We did not want to take a chance and wanted to make sure that he doesn’t get up and beat us. Negash was crying in his pool of blood when we were all over him giving him the {www:calcho} he loves to give to others. Some adult passerby stopped us and Tahir and me went home with our heads up but without our precious ball. Negash was taken to the clinic by his family. Our family and Negash’s heard the story of what happened. Tahir and me told our story to our families as is. Negash’s family pressed charges against our families. Finally, other people in the neighborhood intervened and made peace — I hardly remember how they did it. On the day of peace the three of us were made to kiss one another’s chicks and told to never quarrel again. From that day on, Negash became a different person for us. He started respecting not only Tahir and me but also his other victims in the neighborhood.

That, my friends, is how you sometimes get your freedoms back.

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

African Development Bank express commitment to Gibe III

Monday, April 6th, 2009

By Kaleyesus Bekele | The Reporter

Mihret Debebe, general manager of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo), told a press conference on Tuesday that after visiting the giant Gilgel Gibe III hydropower project, officials of the African Development Bank (ADB) expressed firm commitment to finance the project. The officials how visited the site of the project two weeks ago.

Gibe III, which will have an installed capacity of 1,870 MW, is the projected to be the second biggest hydro-electric project in Africa. It is one of the five massive hydro-power projects that EEPCo is undertaking. The total investment cost of Gibe III is estimated at 18 billion birr.

“Several international banks were interested to finance the project had it not been for the global credit crunch,” Mihret said. The government of Ethiopia launched the project with its own resource two years ago and 31 percent of the civil work has been accomplished.

From the beginning, the project had faced fierce criticism from environmentalists who have been crying foul. The environmentalists called on international financers not to finance the project. EEPCo has undertaken a comprehensive environmental impact assessment and posted it on its website for 120 days for the public to comment on.

“The first thing the ADB officials did was to assess our impact assessment report. And they found out that it was a sound report. Just two weeks ago they were here and they expressed their commitment to finance the project,” Mihret said.

Annoyed by the BBC documentary film titled “the Dam That Divides Ethiopians” and televised recently, Alemayehu Tegenu, the Minister of Mines and Energy, told reporters that the government of Ethiopia was comitted to eradicate poverty and part of this strategy was to empower Ethiopia.

“There is no development that harms the people. We have consulted the people who live in the Omo basin. There are people who have a hidden agenda. But whatever motive they have they will not distract us from expediting the speedy development program we have embarked on,” Alemayehu said.

In a related news, EEPCo announced that it had started a power shedding program all over the nation. Unable to meet the growing demand for electric power, EEPCo said there will be power outage six days a month for fourteen hours. The corporation said there will be periodic power interruption from 9:00 up to 10:00 six days a month. The corporation said the power deficit has reached 160 MW at peak hours. The country’s total generation capacity is 814 MW. The corporation attributed the power shortage to the fast growing investment projects in the nation and the delay encountered in two (Gibe II and Tekeze) of the five dams under construction.

Former prime minister of Ethiopia denies charges

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

By Addisu Abebe | VOA

The former Ethiopian Prime Minister, Tamrat Layne, denied involvement in mass killings more than 15 years ago in Dire Dawa, Bedenno, Arbagugu, Aris and other communities, during an exclusive interview with VOA Amharic’s Addisu Abebe. Major excerpts from the interview were aired on March 25 and 26, 2009.

Tamrat,served a 12-year sentence in Ethiopian prisons on charges of corruption. He has been in the United States for two months and attended a Pentecostal church in the Washington, D.C. area where he confessed his sins to God, he said. Tamrat joined the communist party at the age of 18, and is now a born-again Christian. He has also denies taking any money from the government.

Hear Addisu’s full interview with Tamrat below. 

President Obama on 'American exceptionalism'

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

By James Fallows


It’s after midnight in China, but I wanted to mention in real time an oratorical performance that deserves a second look. It’s from Barack Obama’s NATO press conference that just wrapped up, and the part worth studying is the two or three minutes that followed a question by Edward Luce of the Financial Times.

I have nothing against Luce, who wrote a very good recent book about India, but here he asked in what can only be called plummy tones whether Obama still clung to the idea of “American exceptionalism.” The general phrasing of the question held that idea out at arm’s length as a kind of yahoo colonial oddity.

“I believe in American exceptionalism,” Obama said after one beat for thought. “Just as the Brits believe in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks in Greek exceptionalism…” I don’t have a transcript here, but what was impressive was how rapidly he seemed to have figured out the full shape of his answer; how effortlessly the term “the Brits” (and the instant pairing with “the Greeks”) offset the seeming Oxbridge hauteur* of the question; and how he went on to give so balanced a response that no one, Yank or otherwise, could fail to be satisfied.

Of course he was proud of his country, Obama said. But it was also objectively exceptional in several ways: it still had the world’s largest economy; its military power was unmatched; and — with emphasis here — its Constitutional principles enshrined values and ideals that truly were exceptional. Therefore it should be proud of its role in the world, and embrace its responsibilities.

Then came the pivot, introduced as usual with the word “Now…” Of course America’s strength didn’t mean it could do things wholly on its own. And of course Obama’s pride in his country didn’t blind him to the fact that it sometimes could be wrong, nor to the idea that other people from other countries had good ideas that had to be heeded. Indeed, the very fact of American leadership made it all the more important to show respect and listen attentively. He wrapped it all up by saying he saw “no contradiction” between the idea that America was exceptionally strong and had an exceptional leadership role, and the reality that it needed to work with others as part of a team.

When a transcript or YouTube clip comes out, give it a look. The thoughts may seem banal, but I challenge anyone to come up with a clearer explanation of American exceptionalism to an international audience in the same number of words — not to mention doing so on live TV with maybe five seconds to figure out what your answer will be. In a world where evidence mattered, these few minutes would put an end to the “can’t talk without a teleprompter” madness. More important, they’re a way of explaining to Americans the potential and limits of our international role.

And, yes, Obama did end the press conference by ducking a question about Kosovo. But knowing what not to answer is a part of rhetorical effectiveness too. Update: He also appeared to refer to the language of Austria as “Austrian,” thus: “I don’t know how you say it in Austrian, but we call it wheeling-dealing.” If this had been GW Bush, it would have been taken as an obvious gaffe, as in his calling the residents of Greece “Grecians.” Here you can’t be sure whether it’s a plain error or a knowing casualism, as in saying that Australians speak “Australian” — eg, in the ad that says, “Foster’s: Australian for ‘beer.’ “

Ethiopia's orphans face life of hardship

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

By Jonathan Clayton | Times Online

The Ethiopian peasant farmer and his wife shuffled painfully into the orphanage. They were in the last stages of AIDS and had only weeks to live. However, they were happy. They had heard the Franciscan nuns had found a home for their three children and had come to say farewell.

“I am so happy, they are going to stay together,” the father, Solomon, whispered as he embraced a middle-aged Mormon couple from Salt Lake City, Utah. “Now, I can die peacefully. They will go to school in America and have a future. It is good they leave here.” As they embraced their two daughters, aged 8 and 6, for the last time the tears ran freely. Their four-year-old son did not appreciate the significance of the moment and ran off to play with friends.

Sister Luthgarder, a seasoned veteran of such heart-rending adoptions, explained: “It is sad, but it is so rare they are kept together and so I am happy.” Only a week previously a brother and sister were separated: one going to Norway, the other to Canada. “The new parents said they would take them to see each other every year, but inevitably they will grow apart,” she said.

Only a fraction of Ethiopia’s burgeoning population of orphaned children, now put at five million, find their way to Kidane Meheret Children’s Home. Even fewer leave and they are certainly the lucky ones.

A few miles away, dozens of children sleep in drains at night and beg by day at the sprawling central bus station. They face constant dangers.

“Some are forced into prostitution, some are sold by relatives after their parents die, they are kept as maids and often abused,” said Dagmawi Alemayeau who runs an organisation, Forum on Street Children, which tries to fight trafficking. Most of an estimated 50,000 children on the streets of the capital, Addis Ababa, at some stage pass through the bus station where he has his office.

“Traffickers go to the rural areas … there are places where you can even buy a baby for as little as $1,” he told The Times. He always keeps an eye open at the international airport where so-called “uncles” can often be spotted boarded planes to Gulf states with teenage girls.

Across the rest of Africa, a combination of soaring populations, growing poverty and the HIV-Aids epidemic has led to a huge increase in orphans.

A UNICEF report estimates that in sub-Saharan Africa alone there will be more than 20 million by 2010.

Cash-strapped governments on the world’s poorest continent are overwhelmed. They can afford only a handful of government run agencies. Despite an increase in foreign adoptions, some well-publicised like those of Madonna and Angelina Jolie, who has adopted from Ethiopia and Cambodia, only a tiny fraction of these children find new homes overseas.

Organisations like UNICEF and the UK’s Save the Children Fund are opposed to foreign adoptions, advocating instead that the children be placed in extended families or locally adopted so they grow up within his or her own cultural identity.

They encourage would be parents to send money instead to help look after the children in the country of origin. But they are often accused of a head in the sand approach to the abuse the child may face and ignore the fact that by so doing they often condemn the child to a life of grinding poverty and no education.

“Adoption is sad, very sad but the whole issue is sad, a life of neglect, and abandonment, grinding poverty and abuse is sad, adoption is often the lesser evil especially as the people who come here are good and very carefully checked,” added Sister Luthgarder who finds at least one new born baby a week on her doorstep.

This point was made by Malawi’s president Bingu wa Mutharika with disarming frankness earlier this week. “I wish someone had come and taken 10,000 Malawian children because then I would know that 10,000 Malawians would have better education and opportunities,” he told The Times.

663,000 U.S. jobs lost in March; Unemployment reached 8.5%

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

By ALICE GOMSTYN | ABC NEWS

Despite better-than-expected reports on everything from housing to manufacturing this week, recession-wary U.S. companies are still shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs. The government reported that the nation’s employers cut 663,000 workers in March, pushing the unemployment rate up to 8.5 percent, the highest in nearly 26 years.

Since the recession began in December, 2007, 5.1 million jobs have been lost, with almost two-thirds of the decrease — 3.3 million job cuts — occurring in the last five months, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

“The ramifications of the financial crisis have been broadly spread across the whole country, wherever you are, whatever industry, whatever kind of job you have,” said Steve Cochrane, managing director of Moody’s Economy.com.

As widespread as the recession has been, however, its effects on employment have varied widely from region to region. Average state unemployment ranges from 3.9 percent in energy-rich Wyoming to 12 percent in Michigan, which continues to suffer as its auto industry declines (see chart below).

Breathtaking scenes of Ethiopia's Simien Mountain

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Click here for more photos

Video: Interview with EPPF Fighters

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Interview with EPPF Fighters and other news. Watch the video below.

In defense of the Ethiopian coffee exporters

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

By Seid Hassan | Murray State University

The latest reports from Ethiopia indicate that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has revoked the licenses of six of the country’s main coffee exporters, accusing them of hoarding the coffee supplies. Similar threats were passed on by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD) during its meeting with over 90 coffee exporters that was held on March 26, 2009. It is now being reported that the government has confiscated 17,000 tons of stock of coffee involving about 88 other traders and has begun exporting coffee via the state-owned Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise.

Hoarding of Coffee Beans: A True Fallacy

What is hoarding and why do businesses opt to hoarding? In the business sense, firms are tempted to hoarding because of the simple fear that they are throwing away their resources unless they hold on to them for the time being. Assuming that the Ethiopian merchants have been “hoarding” their coffee beans, and there is a big assumption here, it would mean that they want to weather what they believe will be the worst trading conditions they ever have faced. This makes sense since commodity prices, such as coffee have dropped over 30% lower than what they used to be a few months ago. Those who are tempted to hoard also believe that the price of coffee will rise in the future. As a practical matter, if the hoarding effectively takes place, less of the commodity will be available now but also that more of the commodity will be available in the ensuing periods as the coffee merchants try to sell their stockpiles. Assuming that what the coffee merchants expected will be realized, the commodity will garner more revenue and more foreign exchange by the time it is put up on the market. This is a win-win situation for the coffee exporters, coffee growers and the government which will fetch more foreign exchange that it so desperately needs. From this standpoint, and if one has confidence in markets, it is difficult to object to hoarding.

Hoarding also implies that the owners of the coffee beans enjoy some kind of market power just like a cartel. But the realities on the ground indicate that coffee exporting cartel could not and do not exist. First of all, Meles’s total grip on the political and economic system of the country does not allow a cartel to exist in Ethiopia. Second of all, the excess supply of coffee beans would not allow the Ethiopian coffee exporters to enjoy advantages created by collusion and hoarding. The relatively huge number coffee exporters (over 94) and given the diversity of market participants (some of them being fringe players of the “game” and their temptation to “cheat” on the cartel), this fact pretty much rules out the chance of creating a cartel and existence of collusion, tacit or otherwise. Coffee merchants cannot control the supplies at the grower’s level either, for such control totally belongs to the cadres of the ruling party. Since the over 700,000 coffee growing peasants are scattered among many states (regions) of the country, it is impossible for the coffee exporters to control the supplies of coffee beans at the grassroots level. Knowing this to be the fact, the government has not accused the coffee merchants of collusion and cartel creation. It is highly irresponsible to accuse coffee exporters of hoarding without any factual basis. Consequently, there must be something else behind this mysterious accusation. To that end, I present one Ethiopian proverb which roughly goes as: “Dear hyena: I know your intension is to eat me. Go ahead and eat me but please don’t try to camouflage (cover up) your true intentions by creating excuses!” “Aያ ጅቦ ሆይ፡Eባክህ ሳታመኻኝ ብላኝ!”. This proverb pretty much captures how hopeless the merchants feel and this hopelessness is even vividly captured by following statement that one of the coffee business managers responded to the BBC’s reporter: “We haven’t hoarded anything… We have proof that we haven’t been hoarding…”

Meles Does not Believe in Markets

The problem is that Ato Meles Zenawi does not believe in the market system, despite his many attempts in faking it. Lest people would think that I am making this up, I ask them to look into what he wrote in his so-called upcoming book titled: “African Development: Dead Ends and New Beginnings.” In fact, I vividly remember well Mr. Zenawi’s interview with the BBC, describing himself as a proponent of the discredited Albanian communism and an extoller of the then Albanian strongman, Enver Hoxha. Meles’s dismantling of the free press shows that his government does not want the truth to be told. Only dictators and those of communist leanings fear the existence of the free press. It is only those kinds of people who impersonate as adherents of the market system in order to hoodwink foreign donors, but they always revert to what it is at their heart when the going gets tough.

Mr. Zenawi’s distaste of private ownership also reveals his increasing appetite to control the country’s economy using his TPLF-owned conglomerates as conduits to his brinkmanship. It is revealed by his government’s unwillingness, despite being in power for over 18 years, to return city dwellings to their rightful owners which were nationalized by its processor, the Derg. The same distaste is revealed by the government’s full ownership and control of the land which has led the peasants, constituting nearly 84% of the country’s population, to be constant recipients of international food aid, year after year. Thanks to Meles’s “control everything” policy, the peasants are unable to raise their own capital since the land does not belong to them. The government’s land policies have taken away the incentives of the peasants to take-care of the land. Moreover, as the CIA web site puts it, the country’s land tenure system “continues to hamper growth in the industrial sector as entrepreneurs are unable to use land as collateral for loans.” Thanks to this inhumane policy, the country’s agricultural sector is being plagued by periodic drought, soil degradation caused by inappropriate agricultural practices and overgrazing, deforestation, high population density and undeveloped water resources. It is sad to say it but it is the millions of Ethiopian peasants who pay their ultimate price for this inhumane and arrogant land policy. This price is paid by, among other things, their hunger and starvation, dislocation and untimely death.

The rush to the expropriation of the privately owned coffee exporting business would not be any different than ensuring the TPLF’s control of the “commanding heights” of the Ethiopian economy. The control of the “commanding heights” of the economy by the TPLF and its surrogates means that economic activity would be directed, more so from here on than in the past, neither by profit and loss nor by human needs and the satisfaction of those needs (as rationed by the mechanics of supply and demand) but by the directions of the TPLF, Mr. Zenawi being at the helm. Meles’s erratic behavior revealed by his angry responses to questions raised by some parliamentarians and by his expropriation of the privately owned businesses further reveals that the government has come to strongly believe that the pricing system would be unable to rationally allocate the scarce resources. With such a belief system, the economy will be abused by political pressure groups, such as his regional surrogates and political cadres. Unfortunately, markets don’t like coercion, and such interference in the market system will be replete of shortages and increased government controlled rationings. Meles’s actions to revoke the licenses of the coffee exporters and his confiscation of their coffee beans would indeed be cataclysmic.

Meles’s Action Could Abrogate Ethiopia’s Membership to the WTO

In addition to hampering the already malfunctioning economy, this expropriation of the privately owned businesses and the revocation of their licenses will send a chilling signal to those who want to invest in Ethiopia, which may include members of the Diaspora community. It raises what is known in international business as the political risk of investment. This risk covers the potential conflicts (both internal and external) and expropriation risk. The act will indicate to them that the government of Ethiopia interferes in business operations including the chance of the decision-making process being hijacked by special interest groups and angry politicians who always scapegoat others for their own policy failures. Investors will fear that such an irresponsible action will force them to lose money and the potential for political violence. In addition to negatively affecting the business climate, such an action will raise the interest rate charged by potential international lenders. Sadly, this act is also in contradiction to what Dr. Eleni Gabra-Madhin, the head of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange, once said at the time of establishment of the ECX: the establishment of the ECX means that people and business are free to “what to buy, what to sell, from whom, to whom, when and how…”

Moreover, this illegal act against the coffee exporters is in contradiction to international norms of doing business. It is in contradiction to the principles of promoting free trade, competition, nondiscrimination, transparency, and the protection of private property rights that the WTO and other organizations, such as the UN promote. If the expropriation includes foreign-owned interests, the act will be in contradiction to the UN’s 1962 Resolution 1803, which states that, among other things, the owners would have to compensate appropriately. The same Resolution also stipulates that any expropriation or revoking of licenses should fully be debated by the parliament and approved by the courts. Alas, Ato Meles Zenawi making all the shots, not only he did not allow his rubber-stamping parliament and his regional surrogates to debate on the issue, but his ministries, such as the aforementioned MoARD, followed through his threats and “cut the hands of the merchants.”

The Roots of the Problem and the Contradictions

1. The meltdown in the global economy: The reasons behind the confiscations of the coffee beans and revoking of the coffee exporters’ licenses are different than what the regime is trying to tell us: hoarding. One obvious fact is that the regime has been facing foreign exchange shortages, to the point that the shortfall could only cover a mere one-month of imports of goods and services. But the coffee exporters could not be blamed for this, for the shortfall has been taking place over many years and both the IMF and the World Bank have been warning the government about the impending dire consequences of this problem. If coffee is to be blamed for the shortfall, the regime should have designed policies which would have diversified the country’s exporting opportunities. Of course, the global economic meltdown has exacerbated the foreign exchange reserve problem. The meltdown has led, as expected, a fall in commodity prices, which includes coffee, cut flowers and other nonmanufactured products. And this meltdown is not peculiar to Ethiopia either, for coffee farmers all over the world are facing similar difficulties. For example, one report indicated that the “price of Vietnamese export coffee has fallen by 34.7% from its peak last year, making it difficult for small and medium exporters to raise loans for further production and expansion.” But unlike the Ethiopian case, the government of Vietnam government is encouraging coffee growers and merchants “to keep coffee in stock to avoid the price fall!”

2. Mismatch between excess supply and limited demand: One should not disregard the supply factors either. Even before the world-wide economic slump, coffee growing countries and their farmers have been besieged by excess supply of coffee. As one source put it, ‘[C]offee production is consistently outstripping consumption, with the result that excess stocks are driving down prices.” i At the same time, food prices have been rising, thereby putting coffee growers at a greater risk. The same source reports: “The case of Ethiopia, where the first coffee crop originated, illustrates the problem. After years of war and repeated droughts, the country is now among the poorest in the world. Coffee is an integral part of the national economy and society. More than 700,000 households are involved in its production, and the livelihoods of 15 million people depend in part on the coffee economy. The crop accounts for about two thirds of export revenues. However, Ethiopia has lost almost US$300 million in export revenues over the last two years as a consequence of the slump in prices, an amount equivalent to half the country’s annual export earnings… Over the past three years the export price of coffee as a proportion of the retail price has fallen by half, to less than seven per cent.”ii This being the reality, one is forced to ponder if there are indeed some other reasons why the government of Meles Zenawi decided to use the coffee merchants as scapegoats. Let’s look at the some more of them.

3. Government control of coffee trade using Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise (EGTE): Those who know the matter indicate that the government has been planning to nationalize the coffee exporting business and put it under the control of the Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise (EGTE). In addition, the local newspaper, Capital had reported that the TGTE had informed Dr. Eleni Gabra-Madhin its intensions to be involved in the coffee exporting business. The newspaper has quoted her as saying that: “Months earlier the enterprise [that is, TGTE] told us about their intention to be involved in the coffee trading business and last week they came with their coffee trading license, so we allowed them to participate.”iii It is also reported that the government had decided to establish about seven coffee brands, mix the coffee beans from different growers, label and sell them under those brands. These imply that the government had planned to control the coffee trading business as it has done with the other sectors of the economy. Such a lack of transparency – saying something to the unsuspecting public, hiding the truth from them and doing entirely differently have been the trademarks of Meles Zenawi’s government. Moreover, as the BBC and the Bloomberg reporters reported on many occasions, the ECX is unpopular with exporters “as it does not yet allow the separation of specialty and organic coffees. These have to be mixed in with the rest and can no longer be sold to top-end buyers for premium prices.” If this is the case and there is a “free market”, the merchants should have been allowed to take care of their business!

4. Confusion and total chaos: As reported in the Seattle Times and elsewhere, this action is known to have angered the “specialty roasters who prefer beans from certain growers and processors, and sometimes have worked with them to improve quality.”iv Many observers, buyers, and the general public are also reporting that there is a lot of confusion and chaos in the country as a result of the government’s decision. The confusion involving the government authorities emanates from their lack of understanding how the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange system they set up last year works. On the other hand, the confusion involving the coffee importers and some of the unsuspecting public emanates from the fact that the government talks about something else – hoarding- while its real intensions are quite different as I described them above. Sadly, some of the coffee exporters are also talking about winning their case in the courts since they know they have “not hoarded anything!” Unfortunately, the case was settled at the higher ups way before Mr. Zenawi had said he would cut their hands! All of these clearly indicate that half- hearted believes in the market system, coupled with dictatorship are dangerous to the working of an economy.

5. The “hoarded coffee beans” are found: either they don’t exist or are smuggled or both! Moreover, a deeper scrutiny of the whole affair indicates that the coffee merchants are not the cause of the problem. As the Bloomberg reporter noted-quoting Dr. Eleni, the drop in income from coffee is due to “a poor coffee harvest, weak world prices and a ban on Ethiopian beans in Japan…”v This indicates that, if there are any coffee beans that are missing, they are missing at the grassroots level. Other reports also indicate that some of the coffee is being smuggled through the neighboring countries’ borders. Since the EPRDF is in charge of the borders, it is the government that is partly to blame. And since a good portion of the traffickers of “illegal goods” are members of the TPLF, the government of Mr. Meles Zenawi has to look into the mirror, stare at its face and honestly ask itself who is the culprit behind the “missing coffee beans” is. If the government interference does not allow the coffee producers to fetch the market given prices they deem necessary, production will fall and there will be increasing smugglings and further shortages. In particular, this move will anger the coffee farmers, who are being put at greater risk due to the ever increasing food prices, and will create a disincentive for increased production. The TPLF leaders and their cadres, whom I have heard boast coffee being their “black gold” will see less of it in the future if their blotted interference continues. Unfortunately, communists and dictators fail to understand this fact and repeat the same mistakes that their predecessors and their ideological leaders they so extol have committed.

Foreign Exchange Reserves Shortfalls

1. Fundamental reasons for the shortfall – the coffee traders have nothing to do with it! For those of you who may not know what is meant by foreign exchange reserves, in the simplest sense, they are just the foreign currency deposits and bonds held by central banks and monetary authorities of a country. These assets are dollars, euros, yens, gold and other similar currencies that the country owns. Now, everyone knows that the government of Meles Zenawi has been facing a shortfall of hard currency for a long time. The government has been replenishing this same shortfall using the money it receives from its bilateral and multilateral donors and lenders, the influx of remittances, selling everything it has on its hands, and as of last year, invading the black market foreign currency shops and confiscating the assets of private citizens.

The culprits behind the shortfalls of the foreign exchange reserves are many but they emanate from the sustained current account balance (a continuous imbalance between imports and exports), the existing problems exacerbated by the declines in export earnings due to the declines of commodity prices such as coffee, cut flowers, and other commodities that the country depends on for its exports. The meltdown in the global economy has also resulted in the decrease of donor aid and declines in the expected increases of remittances. In the process, the real exchange rate of the birr has been appreciating thereby making the goods and services that the country imports to be artificially cheaper. As long as these other imbalances not mentioned here continue to exist, and all indications are that they will, the country will continue to face shortfalls in its foreign exchange reserves. Given the unsustainable shortfalls of the exchange rate reserves which have existed for a long time, and given that the government has been soaking the economy with an excess supply of the birr, one could legitimately ask why the country had not faced a currency collapse. Fortunately, this has not happened yet, but we are not out of the woods, either. The high inflation rates (the country’s inflation rate being the second highest in the continent, following Zimbabwe) and the recent decline in the value of the birr are reflections of the aforementioned imbalances and the excess supply of money. The excess supply of money is partly due to loans extended to TPLF-owned parastatals at negative real interest rates! To overcome the shortfalls, the government may resort to accommodate the shortfall by further depleting its foreign exchange reserves, but there are almost none to be used. It may accommodate the shortfall by borrowing from the multilateral organizations just like the $50 million loan it obtained from the IMF. Thanks to the G20’s willingness to increase the IMF’s funding, the IMF may extend more loans to Ethiopia as Mr. Meles so begged by traveling to London twice in less than two weeks. [by the way: there two kinds of leaders who attend the G8 and G20 meetings. The first kinds are the ones whose stature has grown since their economies are to be reckoned with. The second kinds are those who go there to beg and/or whose county that they lead are known to give a headache to the world. Meles fits both of the latter and attended the meetings! This being the case, his attendance does not make him a good statesman!] But the assistance coming out of the coffers of the IMF may not be enough. Alternatively, the government may try to minimize the decline of the reserves by following protectionist policies or devaluing the birr. The government is already doing the latter, but it is evident that the devaluation by itself will not do the trick. The former may be difficult since the act would be against the WTO principles and the act may anger the country’s trading partners. Since this will require the curbing of imports, the pain will be on the people who depend on the imported goods and could be unacceptable to those people. [Is this the reason why Mr. Zenawi has been talking about public uprising lately?] The other two more alternatives are rationing the foreign exchange currency the country earns and tightening its foreign exchange controls. The government has been doing both of these. But these last two measures will worsen the shortfalls and increase the dual (black) market activities.

Now, one may be tempted to ask: “What do the coffee exporters have to do with this shortfall?” Good question, but hopefully this short article has helped you find the answers to this good question. In any case, the pain inflicted on the people and the country emanating from these shortfalls will be tremendous, unless some bold and drastic measures are taken to reverse the situation. Unfortunately, it is reported that the shortfall has already “led to rationing and shortages, including cement and medical supplies, because companies can’t import goods or raw materials.”vi God forbid!

2. The expected devaluation of the birr: Every rational person who knows how the exchange rate system works, knows that the birr’s real exchange rate is too high (the birr is overvalued.) The coffee exporters being some of these group of people who know and should anticipate this to take place, it has been reported that they were expecting the government to devalue the birr at least one more time. Their expectation of a further devaluation of the birr is, of course, as expected. And it is their right to act rationally, too! In fact, both Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the trade minister, Ato Girma Biru, after devaluing the birr by 10% last January, had suggested that the government may further devalue the birr. Obviously, as exporters who earn their money in foreign exchange, the coffee traders were trying to minimize their losses due to this anticipated devaluation. The further devaluation of the birr would also allow them to export more coffee since the goods that the country exports would be more attractive to foreign buyers after the birr is devalued. Now, assuming that there are indeed “hoarded coffee beans” and again, there is a big “if” here, who is to be blamed here: the government which has triggered the expectations by telling the world that the birr would be further devalued or the coffee traders who are trying to minimize their losses? You be the judge.

(The writer, Prof. Seid Hassan, can be reached at: seid.hassan@murraystate.edu)

Shocking news to Meles and other African dictators

Saturday, April 4th, 2009


EDITOR’S NOTE: Germany’s leader Angela Merkel had said at the G20 meeting in London that corrupt dictators should not be allowed to hide their money in secret Swiss bank accounts any longer. If Merkel’s proposal is put to work, this could be the most important accomplishment of the G20 meeting. No wonder Ethiopia’s dictator Meles Zenawi was looking desperate and sad at the gathering.

Henry Gombya Reports for BSN From G20 In LONDON — The G20 summit of leaders of industrialized and industrializing countries ended late Thursday evening here with a pledge of a $1 trillion dollars thrown in the financial markets to help ease the global economic crisis.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the summit, the leaders pledged to restore confidence and growth in global finances and also pledged to create more jobs.

In what was seen as an attempt to deal with the causes of the current global financial crisis, the G20 leaders agreed to expand the Financial Stability Forum and re-established it with a stronger institutional basis and enhanced capacity as the Financial Stability Board (FSB).

It will therefore assess the vulnerabilities affecting the financial system, identify and oversee action needed to address them. The FSB will from now on “promote co-ordination and information exchange among authorities responsible for financial stability.”

“The challenge is clear,” U.S. president Barack Obama, said. “The global economy is contracting. Trade is shrinking. Unemployment is rising. The international financial system is nearly frozen.”

Addressing the press at the end of the summit, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the G20 had also pledged to fund and reform international financial institutions, act decisively to kick-start international trade, and build an inclusive, green and sustainable recovery.

Brown said: “We will not hesitate as long as people are losing their jobs and their homes to make the difference that we can by improving their prosperity. Today’s actions of course will not immediately solve the crisis. But we have begun the process by which they will be solved.”

He added that this was not just a single collection of actions. “It is a collective action – people working together at their best,” Brown said.

World leaders who have abused their country’s financial systems by robbing their central banks and banking the proceeds in private numbered Swiss accounts are in for a shock. Germany’s powerful Chancellor, Angela Merkel told journalists, “The days of secret banking are now over.”

From now on, banks will be required to let the FSB look into questionable accounts held in a bank. Many dictators especially in developing countries have used the loophole of secret bank account to amass great wealth. Most of the money banked in such a way often end up being lost when those dictators are either killed or dies from natural causes without anyone knowing what they held in numbered Swiss accounts.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said he was happy with the outcome of the summit. He was also happy that for the first time, the G20 members invited the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) the summit, he said.

“South Africa was invited on its own merit of being an emerging economy,” he said, deflecting a question as to whether he represented the entire African continent. Answering a question put to him by The Black Star News as to whether the US$ 250 billion promised by the G20 to go towards helping Africa deal with the present global financial crisis would not end up buying private planes, palaces and limousines for some of Africa’s corrupt leaders, Motlanthe said this money would not go directly to African leaders but would be used by non-government bodies that would pay for services needed by the people of Africa.

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

In terms of who benefitted and who lost through the outcome of this summit, it is clear that while the West was seen as trying its best to clean up its house after the global financial crisis that has claimed many jobs and foreclosures.

The $1 trillion poured into the Western world’s global finances is likely to go a long way in helping stem the crisis. The African continent really wasn’t heard; Motlanthe said he didn’t speak for the continent and Prime Minister Ethiopia’s dictator Zenawi cowered in the shadows. On the other hand, Germany’s Merkel found time for journalists and spent a good hour explaining why she was here and what they had achieved.

Indeed, it was rather absurd that no representative of the African continent was at hand to put their case to the world media at such a major global setting.

At a press conference at the end of the summit, President Obama added that while the United States was his priority, every one of the world leaders ought to do what it takes to bring to an end the current global financial crisis.

For the British Prime Minister the summit could not have come at a better time. His ratings in polls have of late been falling badly due to accusations that as one who presided over Britain’s economy for a decade during Tony Blair’s premiership, he should have seen this meltdown coming.

The founding of Addis Ababa City

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

By RICHARD K. P. PANKHURST

Visitors to {www:Addis Ababa} at the turn of the century were far from imagining that Menelik’s capital founded a few years earlier was destined within the space of little more than fifty years to become the most populous city between Cairo and Johannesburg. Ethiopia’s dramatic defeat of the Italians at the battle of Adowa in 1896 had not fully dispelled the doubt as to whether an independent African state could survive in the age of the ” scramble for Africa.” Moreover, most European observers believed that the Ethiopian capital was only a temporary headquarters of the monarch and would be abandoned within a few years, as had been the case of earlier Shoan capitals, such as Ankober, Angolala and Entotto.

According to Guebre Selassie’s Chronicle of the Reign of Menelik, the houses at Entotto, though well constructed, were very cold. At the end of the rainy season in 1885 (European calendar), the Emperor and Empress accompanied by their retinue descended the mountain to enjoy the hot springs of Filwoha where a large number of tents were erected. The Empress Taitu admiring the beauty of the scenery from the door of her tent and remarking the softness of the climate, asked the Emperor to give her land to build a house there. He replied, ” Begin by building a house; after that I will give you a country.” ” Where shall I build my house ? ” she inquired. “In this spot,” he replied,” which my father, King Sahle Selassie, surrounded with a fence: go there, and begin your house.” On that spot Sahle Selassie like the prophet Mikias made the following prophecy: One day as he sat under that great tree, not far from Meouat, hydromel was brought to him while he was playing chess, as was his custom. Suddenly he said, ” One day my grandson will build here a house and make of you a city.” ” It was,” the Chronicle declares,” the will of God,” for that very week Taitu decided to construct the house ; her servant received orders to start at once; the work began, and not long afterwards a beautiful edifice was erected. In the following year, again according to the Chronicle, Taitu left Entotto and installed herself in her new house by the hot springs. Then began the building of the town. Every chief was allocated an allotment on which to build his dwellings. ” The country was beautiful. The army loved staying there. And it was Woizero Taitu herself who ordered that the town should be given the name of Addis Ababa.”

The diary of Jules Borelli for 1887 contains a number of interesting allusions to the movement of Menelik’s court ; it suggests that the new site was only slowly gaining favor On June 22 the diarist declares his intention of visiting Menelik who is apparently at Filwoha. On October 13 he reports that the Emperor has again left for the springs. On the following day, however, he says that he went there and found that Menelik and all his retinue except the Abuna had returned to the Ghebbi or Palace at Entotto. The next day he refers to the Abuna camping at the ” prairy of Filwoha.” On October 28 and 30 he relates that he has met several members of the Court at the springs. On November 3 he records a rumor he has heard that Menelik is returning from Filwoha to his Ghebbi at Entotto. On the following day his entry contains a reference to the existence of two royal residences, one at Entotto, the other at Filwoha. ” Menelik,” he goes on, ” has decided that Filwoha shall henceforth bear the name of ‘ Addis Ababa ‘ ” (or ‘New Flower ‘). Borelli’s comment is skeptical in the extreme ; he remarks that Taitu’s ” fantasy,” as he calls it, will soon pass ; the Emperor, he adds, had first gone to Filwoha several years earlier to enjoy the hot springs ; then he had abandoned them, and only returned there on Taitu’s account.

The Ethiopian Chronicle tells that at about this time ” magnificent works ” were commenced, among them a house ” worthy of admiration for the government.”

At the end of 1892 work began on the Palace, the foundation stones of the Elfin or main dwelling, being laid on 13 Hedar, and of the Aderash, or principal reception hall, nine days later. Building proceeded so fast that it has been said no fewer than fifty edifices were erected in three months. The Chronicle declares that by 1894 the Palace was virtually complete ; Menelik ordered that the waters of high Entotto be brought to the Ghebbi by pipe ; the piping system, which cost 7,000 thalers, made available two fully adequate supplies of water, one for drinking, the other for washing purposes. The latter supply, declares the Chronicle, was used to water the Palace gardens, as well as to wash the clothes of the Court and guards. Until that time it had been necessary to go down to the near-by stream on washing day.

The Chronicle subsequently relates that in 1897 Menelik brought European engineers and workers to build in the Palace compound a huge Adarash or reception hall with a three gabled roof. Though it was about 60 meters in length and 30 wide, the Emperor’s army could not all enter at the same time. One man, it appears, jokingly expressed the hope that the whole sky might be a single piece of bread which he could have all for his own, but his friend replied, ” If you had such a piece of bread, God would send you as many table companions as there are stars ! ” As the number of soldiers increased Menelik arranged for the workers to build a new Adarash six times as wide. A number of other houses were also erected for preparing and storing bread, meat and hydromel. The three-gabled Adarash, the Chronicle explains, contained a single huge room, and outside on each roof one saw fifty goullelat each with an ostrich egg. During the rains water poured into the carefully built gutters like a torrent. Inside the building sixteen clusters of electric lights illumined the hall so brightly that it was said one was dazzled as by the rays of the sun. There were also windows with red, green, yellow and blue panes, as well as a stained-glass window depicting the Cross of the Apostles surrounded by vine branches and squares of divers colors The roof was supported within by thirty-four pillars of various colors while the walls were covered with marble on which representations of vine branches had also been painted. The whole presented a most splendid aspect. When the work of construction was finished, a superb throne was placed in position which shone as gold and was surmounted by a crown, stars and other ornaments which gave the ensemble a ” marvelous appearance.” This wonderful edifice, the Chronicle declares, could hold six thousand nine hundred and eighty seven persons ; bread was brought by some hundred and twenty waiters, hydromel by between a hundred and a hundred and thirty and meat by as many again. It was customary for two doors to be used so that one assembly of diners could enter as another left, the banquet being consumed not only by the Emperor’s soldiers, but by peasants who had come to receive justice, as well as by many other visitors. Menelik was ever a town-planner. In the Ethiopian year 1893 (European calendar, September, 1900 to September, 1901) he laid the foundations of a new town at Mietta ; the construction, Guebre Sellassie declares, was superb, above all the Palace which was built in a very unusual style. The new town, according to H. Le Roux, owed its name, like that of Addis Ababa, to Empress Taitu who chose for it Addis Alem, or New World. The title was significant. The Chronicle says it was found ” less beautiful” than Addis Ababa and was only intended as a winter capital to avoid the heavy rains of Addis Ababa and also to obtain a better supply of wood. Foreigners, however, long thought that the forests surrounding Addis Alem would eventually induce Menelik to make that town the capital of the new Ethiopian world. The Italians were so fully convinced of this that they went so far as to start building a legation at Addis Alem.

It is interesting in this connection to examine the writings of contemporary foreign observers who were almost unanimous in proclaiming the impossibility of Addis Ababa remaining the capital of Ethiopia. Lieut.-Colonel Wingate, who accompanied the Rennell Rodd mission to Menelik, reported, as a result of his observations in 1897, that it was widely declared the capital would soon move to Mietta on the west of Entotto. Gradually, he related, all the wood in the vicinity of the capital had been cut down and consumed, and it had been necessary to start using the forest of Mount Menagesha some fifteen miles away : ” When the distance from the forest becomes inconveniently great the capital must be removed elsewhere.” Henry Vivian, writing four years later, declared wood was then being brought a distance of sixteen miles and it “is certain that within a very short space of time Menelik will be obliged to shift his capital once more to the neighborhood of fresh woods.” A. B. Wylde, reporting at about the same time, said that, having revisited the town twice within eighteen months, ” I found it had grown larger . . . perhaps this immense straggling settlement has seen its best days, and some new place will be chosen as headquarters, as it is now nearly impossible to procure firewood for the wants of the inhabitants. … As long as a large standing army at headquarters is kept up, this settlement is shortly doomed.”

Foreign commentators who foretold the demise of Addis Ababa had in mind the fate of Entotto which had been almost completely abandoned though Menelik and his Court still paid occasional visits to the Church of St. Raguel there. Gleichen reported that at Entotto he had only seen a handful of huts, the ruin of ” an exceedingly strong fortress ” and the two churches of St. Raguel and St. Mariam, while Vivian declared ” only two churches and a few brown ruins ” remained of a town ” which must have comprised fifty thousand souls.” Menelik decided, however, to save Addis Ababa, which was probably essential if his plans for the modernization and development of Ethiopia were to be carried to fruition. The Chronicle relates an incident which occurred during the rainy season of 1902. Menelik had left Addis Ababa on account of the rains, but on arriving at Addis Alem he ordered the edifice which had been begun for the use of the Court should be converted into a church. ” The kingdom of heaven,” he declared, ” is worth more than the kingdom of earth.” By thus offering to heaven the new church, fashioned as the Chronicle says in a new style which had never before been seen in Ethiopia, Menelik retained Addis Ababa as the capital of his kingdom on earth. Immediately after the rains the Emperor gave orders to construct a road from Addis Alem to the capital which the Chronicle likens to those of the Ferengi (Europeans), observing that it made possible for Addis Ababa to obtain an adequate supply of wood and other necessities. The permanence of the capital was thus assured.

Later a more prolific source of timber was discovered in the swift growing eucalyptus imported from Australia. When felled to the ground this remarkable tree quickly pushes up new stems as strong and virile as the original. The decision to hold fast to Addis Ababa marked a new era in Ethiopian history. In the old days it had been extremely difficult to administer a large empire from a single center because the mountainous nature of the terrain made speedy and efficient communications extremely difficult and because the relatively large army, accompanied by its camp followers, proved a heavy drain on the available supplies of fuel and foodstuffs. It had therefore been customary to have a series of temporary capitals, though this necessarily militated against the development of a more scientific system of administration. To develop a modern state Menelik had to have a fixed capital.

Addis Ababa was all the while evolving, reflecting the progress and development of the country as a whole. It was thus the scene of daring innovation which went hand in hand with ceaseless expansion. The Chronicle tells us that at the turn of the century talk began of constructing a railway. The telephone between the capital and Harar, which had been begun by French engineers in 1897, was working by 1899. P. H. G. Powell-Cotton, in a book published in 1902, has left a description of the first telegraph office, which, he says, was under the supervision of a Swiss engineer, M. Muhle. Situated in a large circular building it contained ” the latest inventions in telegraphic and telephonic apparatus” lying side by side with ” a few amole or salts and a pile of cartridge cases (both empty and full), which have been received in payment for messages sent. Beside the instruments in use, materials of all sorts are scattered about—cells, insulators, receivers, call-bells, and so on ; for here are kept the supplies for the smaller stations between this and Ha The Ethiopian year 1896 (September, 1903 to September, 1904) was another milestone in the progress of the Ethiopian State. In that year, according to the Ethiopian Chronicle, the capital saw a steam-engine for the first time. It was actually a small locomotive which ran between Dire Dawa and Addis Ababa. Before the year was out Menelik had constructed a mint for the production the new Ethiopian currency which had appeared in 1893 to replace the old Maria Theresa dollar, but had hitherto been minted in Paris.

Menelik was successfully laying the foundations of the future in both an administrative and an urban sense.

Vivian noted, for example, that Addis Ababa already covered ” some fifty square miles ” and contained “a very large population which has never been number.” By mule ” three-quarters of an hour at least are necessary for a pilgrimage from the British Agency to the Palace and as much again to the market,” though ” in either of these journeys you must cross three or four deep ravines with stony, precipitous banks and a torrent bed full of slippery boulders.” Vivian’s account is revealing also in that it depicts something approaching a fervor of constructional work. He declares with surprise that he had seen a newly erected rail which ” had been laid for the purpose of conveying goods and building material to and fro.” The Emperor, he relates, had also introduced wheelbarrows to speed up progress, though often the laborers ” only made use of them when they were under their master’s eye. Directly they were left to their own devices, they hastened to return to their accustomed method of carrying things on their backs Wylde describes the capital’s stone quarry where laborers were at work blasting lime-stone rock while Arab and Indian masons were dressing stone. ” These men, ” he declared, ” had come from Aden and were getting much higher wages than they could procure there. They told me they also received rations from the king, and that they were saving nearly all their pay. The blocks of stone they were dressing were intended for the construction of the king’s private dwelling, and this work and the road-making were the first examples of what the present ruler is doing to improve his surroundings.” The chief stores and artillery depot were also built of stone. A more significant influence on Addis Ababa architecture was Alfred Ilg, whom Menelik had appointed Conseiller d’Etat. Ilg popularized wooden balconies, reminiscent of the chalets of his native Switzerland, there by creating a style of wood and stone building which was to remain for a generation to come, thus giving the Ethiopian capital a very distinctive appearance.

By examining the contemporary descriptions of the new town it is possible to build up a fairly comprehensive picture of it. Wylde, for example, recognized that its site was well chosen, from the point of view of its water supply. He observed that two streams, which descended from the highlands to the north and west and met in a valley about three miles to the south east of the Ghibbi, always contained ” a plentiful supply of water” which enabled the Palace to be supplied by pipe, ” the stream utilized being tapped at a higher elevation, so it requires no pumping.” Count Gleichen was equally impressed by the climate ; he declared it was ” perfect,” and far superior to bleak and hilly Entotto which was only reached by a very hilly road and tended to be far too cold at night, as well as being from time to time the scene of thunderstorms, perhaps attracted by neighboring ridges of ironstone.

All the travelers agreed that the most conspicuous sight on approaching the capital, and the one which first caught the eye, was the Emperor’s enclosure built at the end and on the highest part of an out-jutting lower spur of the Entotto mountains. There they caught their first glimpse of Menelik’s red-tiled Palace, surrounded by a plantation of sycamore trees. Captain M. S. Wellby, who arrived just when Menelik was about to set forth on one of his campaigns, declares that ” on all sides ” he saw ” extraordinary numbers of mules, ponies and donkeys grazing on the excellent pasturage, and in the most suitable spots villages of canvas had been pitched, all indicative of the king’s impending march into the Tigre.”

Wylde’s account, which is complementary to that of Wellby, declares that ” at the foot of the Ghibbi there is lower land in which are situated the hot springs of Filwoha, generally with a thin cloud of steam hanging over them, and quite close to these a small pond and water meadow belonging to the king . . . We could see groups of soldiers’ tents dotted over the landscapes belonging to the men of the numerous military leaders of other districts that had come to pay their respects to the king, and through my glasses I could see a constant stream of people both mounted and on foot going to and from the king’s palace, which seemed densely crowded with a mass of specks like the smallest of ants, in fact the hill might be likened to an ant-heap with its busy workers going backwards and forwards.”

Lieut-Colonel Reginald Wingate has left a detailed account of the Ghibbi at this time :—

” The dwelling-house is called the Elfin, a two-storeyed white-washed building about forty-five feet high ; the roof is red-tiled, and the various windows and balconies are painted in several colors—green, yellow, red and blue. Besides this building there are : the aderash, or principal hall of reception, a large oblong construction capable of accommodating six hundred or seven hundred persons ; the saganet or clock-tower, where the Emperor dispenses justice on two days during the week, and the gouda, or depot, a white building which serves as the Emperor’s storehouse.

” In addition to these buildings there are, within the royal enclosure, the workshops, arsenal, carpenters’ shop, etc., and a private chapel.

” All around the Ghibbi are grouped the enclosures of the principal men of State, officers, and others, the importance of the individual being measured by the size of the enclosure and the number of the smaller huts grouped around it.

” All the huts in the town are of the same form, circular or elliptical, with thatched conical roofs ; there are very few two-storied buildings ; but some of the houses, more notably those of the Europeans, are oblong in shape, and the roofs are of the ordinary shape, with three or four small peaks capped with circular moulds, serving the double purpose of keeping the thatch in position, and of ornament. Almost every Ras or Governor of a province, has his compound in Addis Ababa, and the hut accommodating generally an insufficient number of followers, it is supplemented by tents of all shapes and sizes.

” The capital therefore presents the appearance of a gigantic camp, and this is actually what it is.”

Nevertheless Addis Ababa was never conceived in the military terms of previous Ethiopian capitals. Gleichen, for example, was careful to note that the old fortress at Entotto had possessed two parapets and had been surrounded by a ditch which ” formed a complete defence in itself” ; the Addis Ababa Ghibbi, on the other hand, presented no such marked features of defence : ” all it has consists of a palisade about fifteen feet high—not particularly strong—and two internal stone walls. Perhaps it is because Menelik wisely desires to rule by love and not by fear.”

Gleichen has given us a glimpse of the old St. George’s Cathedral which was later replaced by the one which stands in Addis Ababa today. ” The Church,” he tells us, ” was of the ordinary circular shape, on a hill about a mile from the Palace and close by the market-place.” It possessed an elaborate episcopal gilt cross on the top, and inside ” pictures of all sorts of sacred subjects.” Beside the work of Ethiopians depicting the lives of notable saints there was ” a representation of the Day of Judgment, the Emperor (an excellent portrait) occupying a prominent position amid the prophets, saints and other worthies.” There were in addition four or five pictures presented by the Russian Red Cross Mission as gifts from the Tsar : ” good modern ecclesiastical oil paintings of the Greek Church.”

Another important church described by foreign travelers was the Sellassie, or Trinity, Church. This P. H. G. Powell-Cotton found, was a thatched circular building surmounted by an elaborate gilt cross. ” A raised, open verandah surrounded the sacred edifice, the wall of which was hung with colored chintz. Several large doors led into the interior, the center of which was occupied by a square structure reaching to the roof, thus leaving but a narrow space outside it for worshipers This is the holy of holies, in which the ark containing the holy books is kept, and may only be entered by one of the officiating priests. The whole exterior of this shrine was covered with highly colored religious prints, pinned on to the wall. Among these were two or three European paintings on canvas and a few specimens of Ethiopian art. The most interesting portion of the church was the vestry, situated in a sort of crypt. Here were piled in open chests, hung on nails or cords, or stacked in corners, the most extraordinary collection of gorgeous-colored vestments, mitres, crutches, umbrellas, sacred books, sistrums, drums, incense-burners, processional crosses, and all the properties used in the elaborate ritual of the Ethiopian Church, in fact a perfect museum of curiosities . . . How I should have liked to spend a week turning over and examining these treasures ! but no such luck : the priests hustled us out, after permitting us only a hurried glimpse at them.”

Foreign observers were always keen on visiting the market which was held on a slope of the hill going down toward the Palace. The market conducted business every day except Sunday ; the busiest day was Saturday, when from the early morning villagers came from all quarters and might be seen driving their donkeys and mules laden with goods for sale. Powell-Cotton who knew many of the most famous markets of the East, declared that of Addis Ababa ” the most interesting. There one obtains a truer notion of the productive powers of the country in both raw materials and manufactured articles, and can learn better what foreign goods find a ready sale among the people than in any of the many markets I have seen in the four continents. To the market-place at Addis Ababa come grains and spices, peppers and condiments from every corner of the kingdom, coffee from Harar and Lake Tsana, cotton from the banks of the Blue Nile, gold from Beni Shangul, and civet from the Oromo country, while salt from the far north of Tigre is the current change for a dollar. Fine cotton shammas, heavy burnooses of black, blanket-like cloth, jewelery and arms, saddlery and ploughs, all are here.” Vivian was ” amazed by the density of the mob ” who seemed to allow ” scarcely a square foot to spare anywhere.” The vast concourse was made up of a multitude of persons sitting in the open air in rows according to the materials they had to sell, their goods either displayed on the ground, or in shallow baskets in front of them. ” Purchasers and loafers,” Powell-Cotton relates ” wander about between the rows, and a noisy hum of voices goes on all day. Up aloft in a straw sentry-box sits the Nagadi Ras, or head of the merchants, whose business it is to superintend the market, put a stop to quarrels and settle all disputes that are brought before him.” The greater part of the market was devoted to the sale of the commonest articles and provisions, grain, grass, sheepskins, fuel, cottons from America, Manchester or India, and German and Italian hardware.

Captain Wellby considered one of the most interesting corners was where hundreds of ponies were assembled. Their finer points being discussed by vendors and experts. He also had something to say of the woodsellers who often had to carry their ” turbs ” or long pieces of wood from a distance of fifteen miles,” the sellers of honey who sold their wares at a dollar for 8 lbs., and the various vendors of grain who brought in principally barley and tieff, but also peas, oats, rice and linseed. ” There are also for sale,” he added, ” silver trinkets, cloth, beads, cartridge-belts, files, skins, leather straps (machanya), saddles, inferior knives, various articles made of iron, hardware, and so forth, and lastly fowls, sheep and cattle. One is much struck by the appearance of the women who throng the market, for many of them are exceedingly pretty.”

Power-Cotton’s description of the market is perhaps the most exhaustive. The jewelery section, he declares contained ” thick silver-rings, which are threaded and worn round the neck, women’s ear-rings in the form of highly ornamented solitaire studs, generally gilt, and curious ear-rings worn only by men who have killed an elephant, which are fashioned like elaborate finger-rings, sometimes with little chains pendant to them. There are also hairpins with filigree heads, like those used for women’s hats at home, tiny ear-picks in the form of spoons with handles of variegated shapes and patterns, bracelets and rings, necklets of fine chain, and little charm-boxes as pendants, as well as crosses, plain or of filigree-work. . . .

” Next to the raw-hide market, where you may usually find some leopard skins and occasionally a lion’s pelt, are established the vendors of imported dressed and dyed leather, colored to bright reds and greens for the decoration of saddles, bridles, and cartridge belts. There also are for sale the large, soft sleeping-skins which every Ethiopian loves to possess, and leather sacks for holding personal luggage while traveling by mule. In the crowded corner devoted to the sword-sellers you may see a petty chief, with one or two trusty followers, testing the blade of the big, straight sword taken from the Dervishes, which will fetch as much as ten to fifteen dollars. Close by, other purchasers are examining the curve of an Ethiopian sword in its bright red scabbard, or perhaps choosing one from a pile of French blades made for the Ethiopian market. . . .

” Nearby at another stall, are exposed for sale circular convex shields of black buffalo hide, those for the populace ornamented by geometrical figures stamped on the leather, while those borne by officers are decorated with strips and bosses of silver, or of silver-gilt for the higher ranks. . . .

” Near the top of the hill one long alley is devoted to cotton goods from America, India and Manchester. Lancashire, I regret to say, supplies by far the smallest quantity, for the English manufacturer will neither make the quality nor supply the lengths required in Ethiopia. ” The money-changers’ quarter,” he continues, ” is perhaps one of the most striking, for instead of piles of copper, coin and cowries, as in India, one sees stacks of amole—the Ethiopian currency. These are bars of crystallized salt, some ten inches long by rather more than two inches wide in the center, with slightly tapering ends bound round by a band of rush. In the capital four of them are equivalent to the dollar, but their value varies in different parts of the country. . . .

” The red pepper and the butter bazaars were not places in which to linger, the former on account of the particles getting into one’s eyes and nostrils and acting like pungent snuff, and the latter on account of the strong, rancid smell. . . .

” Beside all the commodities I have named there were to be found, each in its own market, coffee-beans, sugar, wax and honey, tej and tella (mead and beer), stored in great jars called gombos, large shawls called shammas, iron ploughshares, knives and spears, rhinoceros-hide whips, bamboos for tent-poles, bundles of split wood ten feet long for building huts, little bundles of long, tough grass for thatching or larger ones for fodder, overgrown faggots for fuel, tobacco for chewing and in the form of snuff (for the Ethiopian does not smoke), every kind of grain for bread, and divers condiments for flavoring”

” On a flat stretch of ground on the southern side of the market is the mule and horse fair ; here may be seen horses galloped by wild-looking men, with their shammas streaming behind them and the rhinoceros-hide whip in full play. Presently the owner espies a likely purchaser, and instantly the horse is stopped and thrown back on its haunches. Mules are being examined for traces of old sore backs, and the air is filled with the shouting, wrangling, and bargaining inseparable from the buying and selling of a horse. The Ethiopians have an excellent rule, that before a bargain is complete, the vendor and the purchaser must together lead their beast before an official, who registers their names, witnesses the paying over of the money, and exacts a fee from both parties to the contract. No horse may be sold for more than fifty dollars, but a mule may go up to three hundred.” The author of the above catalogue elsewhere discusses the foreign traders who had found their way to the new capital. There were already, he declares, four or five French merchants, the most important being M. Savore who had just opened a new house and shop, ” a good many Greeks,” who dealt largely in liquors and scents, a few Armenians, one of whom was a baker, and a Swiss watchmaker. The premises of the Greek and Indian merchants were mainly situated to the south-east of the town, just below the market. ” The latest arrivals ” were several new Indian firms. The proprietors owing to their thrifty habits were ” rapidly taking the trade from both French and Greeks, and finding a ready sale for goods in respect of which it was thought there would be no demand. Instead of sending cash to the coast they lay it out in ivory, civet and gold, and so obtain a double profit.” One of the most interesting Greeks was Balambaras Giorgis, a curio dealer, who had served in Menelik’s victorious army at Adowa, the only European to do so. Another Ethiopianised foreigner was an Irishman, McKelvie who had remained in the country since the time of Theodore, had married an Ethiopian wife and dressed in a shamma.

Vivian corroborated this account of the success of the Indians ; he declared they were ” completely cutting out the French merchants who have already begun to complain bitterly about the competition. The fact is that an Indian can travel about with one servant and a minimum of baggage, whereas a French merchant travels like a prince, with a great retinue and every conceivable luxury. Moreover, the Frenchmen give themselves ridiculous airs. One of their shopkeepers, who had been summoned to the Palace, sent in after ten minutes to say that he could not wait any longer. The Indians also derive considerable assistance from the weekly post, which any British subject is allowed to use, while the French postal service is unsafe and irregular.” ” The French,” he added, ” expect too much too quickly ” and were not unknown to adopt ” sharp practice, which may pay for the moment, but cannot answer permanently. … I had occasion to visit the store of one of the leading French traders. … He showed me several bottles, and I noticed on the lower ones some very elaborate labels : ‘ Grande Marque Extra Fine,’ and all the rest of it. Moreover, many bottles were done up in wire-netting, like the very choicest and oldest brands in Europe. My curiosity was pricked as to the market which the man could hope to find, but he said with a smile, ‘ I don’t recommend those. They are intended for the natives, and contain the filthiest muck you ever imagined.’ This struck me as a very eloquent, as well as a very frank summary of French colonial trade.”

Powell-Cotton noted that Menelik’s new Custom House was near the market, its entrance being next to the horse and mule fair. ” A strong wooden gate,” he records, ” gives access to a yard, with a large building in the center where the officials sit in an open verandah, receiving dues and granting receipts. Opposite them lies a long range of buildings, in which the merchandise is stored until it has been valued and the Customs are paid. Lying about in odd corners are elephant tusks, some whole, others sawn in half, while outside the verandah are piles of forty or fifty each, among them some splendid specimens.”

Foreign writers also naturally paid considerable attention to the residences of the diplomatic missions, which, as Vivian observed, were then divided into two camps, French and Russian against English and Italian, all concerning themselves with ” little else than political intrigue.” Menelik was always generous in granting land to foreign legations so they were invariably surrounded by extensive property. The British Residency, as it was called, was situated on a kind of terrace, at the foot of a steep hill, a narrow but steep ravine separating it from the Russian a quarter of a mile off. Wellby noted that it was ” close to Ras Makonnen’s own important-looking dwelling” and ” well-fitted for a cricket or polo ground.” He seemed slightly disappointed however that because ” almost every tree had been cut up for firewood and the supply had to be carried on men’s heads from a greater distance day by day ” it had not yet been possible to build anything more pretentious than a round wattle hut. Powell-Cotton elaborated this account. ” A turf wall some four feet high,” he noted, ” encloses about ten acres of land, which space is again divided by another turf wall into two unequal portions. In the upper part of the larger enclosure were two tukuls of the usual Ethiopian pattern, but with European doors and windows. These were the private dwellings of Captain Harrington (the British representative) and Mr. Baird, his secretary. Slightly nearer the entrance, and to the left, were the two reception-tents, side by side. The first was luxuriously furnished with arm-chairs and lounges, the tables piled with the latest papers and periodicals from home, and with files of Reuter’s telegrams, which are forwarded by camel-post from Zeila to Harar, and thence by telephone. The second and larger served as the mess-tent, where, when seated at a perfectly appointed meal, it was hard to realize you were in Ethiopia. On the further side of the large tents were other tukuls for Mr. Beru, the interpreter, Mr. Wakeman, the doctor, Bradley, the groom, and the cook-house, while behind these were yet others which contained stores and the treasure and ammunition, guarded by Sudanese police. The smaller half of the compound was divided into four sections—one a narrow strip at the back, where the Sudanese with their households lived in little huts, next to this a large grass field, in which the ponies were tethered and where the dhobie spread his washing. Adjoining this came the stable-yard, which contained a long, pent-roofed building, supported down the center by poles, and capable of holding thirty horses ; in front of this structure were other tukuls, comprising a harness-room and fodder stores. The last enclosure, lying nearest the city, was filled with yukuls for the Ethiopian servants and their wives, in the largest of which grinding corn and making the native bread was continuously going on.”

Somewhat more imposing was the Russian Residency which Wellby describes as ” a white-washed and suitable house, commanding cheery views of all the neighboring country.” Guarded by a tame ostrich which nevertheless sometimes occasioned the visitor some fright, the Russians kept up considerable state and sported a Cossack guard. Vivian declared it was no uncommon sight to see a long procession of Russian soldiers, ” fair men rigged out in the regular Russian uniform with peaked caps.” There were also five Russian doctors in gorgeous uniform who ran a Red Cross hospital where people were attended free at an annual cost of £7,000 to the Tsar, and much to the disgust of English writers who looked on the whole affair with considerable jealousy and made many cynical remarks about the ” white Tsar’s love ” for Ethiopia. Addis Ababa’s European community was at that time also discussing the marriage to a Russian officer to an Ethiopian lady, this being, as Powell-Cotton said, ” the first time one of their number had gone through the religious ceremony with an Ethiopian. . . . When the bridegroom, an officer in the Imperial Russian Guard, asked Menelik’s permission to marry her and take her to Russia, the reply was, ‘ Certainly, if you have your Emperor’s leave to do so.’ ”

Captain Ciccodicola’s Italian Residency was in the opinion of Powell-Cotton ” the most luxurious dwelling in Addis Ababa.” The Italian being anxious to regain for his country some at least of the prestige lost at Adowa was determined to make a show. ” As he was anxious to have a suitable place for the Italian Residency as soon as possible, and the collection of timber for a large house in Addis Ababa is a matter of much time and difficulty, he decided to buy an existing compound with two houses. These he converted into dining and drawing rooms, connected by passages with a circular reception hall, from which the sleeping apartments and offices opened out. The whole formed one of the most picturesque yet comfortable dwellings I have ever seen. Entering through a gatehouse into a courtyard, we left our mules and attendants, and then proceeded through a second gate ; on either side was a raised open tukul, in one of which the sentry on guard beat a gong to announce our approach. We then found ourselves in a second courtyard encircled by a covered way and with beautifully laid out flower-beds in the center At the further end was the reception hall, hung with leopard skins and trophies of arms. . . . This apartment, with its Persian carpets, couches covered with polar-bear skins, statuary, pictures, precious curios and works of art, its shaded lamps and candles, was pervaded by an atmosphere of luxury and refinement.” Ciccodicola, Vivian observes, had moreover been empowered to spend Italian secret service funds on an extremely lavish scale and was availing himself of the opportunity.

Mr. Legarde, the French representative, whom Menelik had created Duke of Entotto, also had an important residence, for France at this time was the country with which Menelik had greatest contact. Wellby describes the residence as being surrounded by a cage-like stockade which ” not only shut out most effectively hyena and jackal, but also most of the sun’s life-giving rays,” while Powell-Cotton describes the Legation as ” a large, oblong tukul, with no visible windows.” Inside, he declares, ” it was so dark that at first we could hardly see the chairs we were invited to take. As our eyes became accustomed to the gloom, we found we were seated in an apartment draped throughout in red and blue, and decorated at intervals with gilt stars and shields which displayed the tricolour of France. In the center of the straight wall, facing the semi-circle in which we sat, stood a gilt throne, raised on a kind of platform and surmounted by a canopy flanked by curtains. On either side, on the lower level of the floor, a small chair was set. The whole effect—added to the dim, religious light—was distinctly weird.” Such, Vivian commented, was the state kept up by ” the representative of republican France.”

The Ethiopian Chronicle relates that in 1905 the Bank of Ethiopia was chartered, and in the same year a fire which destroyed many of the Court buildings enabled the replacement of wooden edifices by stone. Soon afterwards St. George’s Cathedral was rebuilt in a new octagonal style. The architect in charge was the Greek Orphanies, and the engineer, an Italian, Castagna ; Greek workers were also employed. A steam-engine arrived from Europe to transport the stones required for this and other new edifices. A year or so later the Itieguie hotel was built near the new Cathedral, ” a large house for strangers,” as the Chronicle calls it, where the finest foods of both Europe and Ethiopia were served. In 1907-8 the first Ethiopian cabinet was formed, for as the Chronicle says, Menelik wished to implant into the country European customs. The new Menelik II School opened its doors in October, 1907, and reached a hundred students in the following year. In December, 1907, the first motor-car was driven into the capital by two Englishmen, Bentley and Halle, who were soon followed by other drivers.

Clifford Halle, who penned an account of his arrival in what would be today considered a very primitive car, has something to say of the Ethiopian capital at this time. He refers to several Ethiopian churches built in stone ” and saw in the distance the larger houses of the European merchants.” Menelik, he goes on, ” had evidently made good use of his steam-rollers, for the macadamized roads were excellent.” The Emperor impressed him as extremely alive to modern needs. ” He was quite enlightened,” Halle notes, ” to the advantages of a railway up to his capital, and the consequent increase of trade and of the wealth that would follow ; but he was equally well aware that foreign capital meant foreign interests, and sooner or later foreign soldiers following those interests. He questioned Bentley as to the impressions he had gained of the Japanese people, and let it be seen that he had closely followed the marvelous ascent of that great nation into a world power.” As soon as the two Englishmen had presented the car Menelik was not content merely to inspect the new arrival ; he was almost at once in the front seat with the driver proceeding at top speed, ” the old Emperor laughing and puffing for breath, with his goggleless eyes streaming, as happy as a schoolboy, while the now galloping escort was left somewhere on the horizon.” Though there is no record of the Empress joining the expedition, she spoke kindly to the driver and expressed satisfaction that he differed from so many ferenge who talked big and did little.

The face of the capital was changing. At the turn of the century Wylde had complained that Addis Ababa was little more than ” a conglomeration of hamlets and huts with hardly a decent house to be seen anywhere.” ” The whole settlement,” he added ” seems to have been built in a hurry.” Robert Skinner, who led the first American mission to the Court of Menelik and reported only a few years later in 1906, saw a city already transformed. The approach, he declared was ” grand ; high mountains were on both sides and ahead of us, and we marched between fields of waving grain. . . . Having entered the city we found ourselves traveling over one of the smooth and well-built roads with which Menelik is introducing modern civilization.”

USAID/OFDA Ethiopia update – April 2009

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

SECTOR OVERVIEW

USAID/OFDA supports a variety of emergency and preventive nutrition interventions in disasters and complex emergencies. USAID/OFDA nutrition programs include treatment for severe and moderate acute malnutrition; infant and young child feeding; nutrition education; and support for nutrition systems, including operational research to advance best practices and build local system and humanitarian community capacity. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 and to date in FY 2009, USAID/OFDA has provided more than $55 million in nutrition assistance in 15 countries as well as on a regional basis in West Africa. During this period, USAID/OFDA introduced guidance for the U.S. Government (USG) on the use of breast milk substitutes (BMS) in emergencies, commenced new research on milk use in pastoralist communities, and supported emergency nutritional interventions.

ENCOURAGING BREASTFEEDING TO IMPROVE INFANT HEALTH AND NUTRITION

During a humanitarian emergency, breast milk is the safest form of food for infants and young children, according to nutrition experts. Disaster-affected and displaced mothers frequently lack access to safe drinking water necessary for preparing BMS and cleaning implements. In addition, non-breastfed infants are more vulnerable to infection, diarrhea, dehydration, and malnutrition. Field studies indicate that nonbreastfed infants face diarrheal disease mortality rates 14 times greater and acute respiratory infection mortality rates four times greater than breastfed infants.

In FY 2009, USAID/OFDA issued new internal policy guidance explaining the benefits of breastfeeding and detailing the limited circumstances when BMS is acceptable for use in USAID/OFDA-funded projects. The new guidance is intended to help USG emergency response personnel, including USAID Mission, U.S. Embassy, and U.S. Military staff, learn and employ breastfeeding best practices, including determining if BMS are acceptable and recognizing the proper methods for distributing and using BMS. In support of internationally-recognized best practices, USAID/OFDA encourages breastfeeding. In addition, USAID/OFDA policy adheres to standards in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion, and Support of Breastfeeding, and the World Health Assembly’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. The new USAID/OFDA guidelines promote infant and young child health and nutrition by expanding knowledge of breastfeeding benefits.

RESEARCHING MILK’S ROLE IN PASTORALIST COMMUNITIES

Recurrent droughts and associated livelihood disruptions, combined with livestock disease and violent conflict, severely affect pastoralist communities in the Horn of Africa. As a result, family livestock holdings have noticeably decreased compared to 40 to 50 years ago, increasing pastoralist dependency on cereals. Due to the staple food status of milk in pastoralist children’s diets, the availability of milk is directly linked to child health and nutrition. In response to economic shocks and livelihood disruptions, coping mechanisms, such as the sale of livestock, further deplete already reduced livestock holdings, particularly negatively affecting children. SC/US notes a peak in child malnutrition when milk becomes less accessible, before the onset of the cereal shortage hunger season, demonstrating a link between livestock production and child nutrition. USAID/OFDA supports emergency nutrition programs in affected pastoralist communities as an immediate humanitarian response. In addition, USAID/OFDA supports nutritional research activities to enhance understanding of the impact of pastoralist livelihood disruption on child health and nutrition in order to improve emergency and long-term responses.

For example, in 2008, and with USAID/OFDA support, Tufts University and SC/US launched a knowledge and practices study on milk in pastoralist communities in Somali Region, Ethiopia, to examine the impact of milk production and consumption on infant and child nutrition. Building on past research, the Tufts University-SC/US study focuses on the quantity and quality of human and animal milk production, as well as milk access for different socio-economic groups. In addition, the study seeks to evaluate milk interventions with the goal of designing food assistance that reflects the importance of milk. The study aims to improve the understanding of the causes of chronically high malnutrition rates in pastoralist areas in order to prioritize interventions to improve child health and nutrition.

FIGHTING MALNUTRITION IN ETHIOPIA

Chronic food insecurity in Ethiopia, resulting from consecutive seasons of failed rains, a rapidly growing population, increased inflation, endemic poverty, and limited government capacity, has necessitated USAID/OFDA nutrition interventions in FY 2008 and FY 2009. During the 2008 hunger season, the U.N. World Food Program identified malnutrition rates among adults and children above the emergency threshold, requiring additional targeted nutrition interventions.

With USAID/OFDA support, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) implemented therapeutic feeding programs (TFPs) benefiting approximately 100,000 people affected by chronic food insecurity. As part of the program, beneficiaries received ready-to-use therapeutic food from UNICEF implementing partners. In FY 2008 and to date in FY 2009, USAID/OFDA has provided more than $12 million to support nutrition activities in Ethiopia, including health interventions designed to prevent the deterioration of nutritional levels among populations in Amhara, Oromiya, Somali, Tigray, and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples regions. USAID/OFDA and partner organizations continue to monitor the nutritional situation in vulnerable areas and provide assistance to mitigate drought effects.

ONGOING USAID/OFDA ACTIVITIES TO STRENGTHEN NUTRITION INTERVENTIONS:

- Facilitating best practices in Supplementary Feeding Program (SFP) reporting: SFPs often fail to meet humanitarian standards and the overall impact of SFPs has been difficult to assess as a result of incomplete reporting, according to a USAID/OFDA-funded Emergency Nutrition Network (ENN) and SC/US review. In a follow-up USAID/OFDA-supported effort to improve SFP accountability and effectiveness, ENN currently facilitates two working groups to draft comprehensive SFP reporting standards and better understand reasons for beneficiary drop out. Through both SFP working groups, the ENN aims to maximize the impact of nutrition programs for affected populations during emergencies.

- Supporting the U.N. Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN): With USAID/OFDA support, SCN is performing a Web site upgrade to enhance practitioner access to nutrition tools, including a resource database and SCN publications. In addition, USAID/OFDA provides funding for SCN News, a biannual journal for nutrition experts.

- Facilitating nutrition practitioner communication through a new interactive forum: ENN, a USAID/OFDA partner, is creating a new online forum for field nutritionists to rapidly seek and offer technical advice.

SOURCE: Government of the United States of America; United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Yemen to take part in 120th assembly of IPU in Ethiopia

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

SANA’A (Saba) – Yemen is to take part in the 120th assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union which will be held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa from next Sunday to 10 April.

To represent Yemen in the 120th assembly of the IPU, Speaker of the Parliament Yahya Ali al-Ra’ei headed on Friday for Addis Ababa, leading his country’ delegation to the meeting of the IPU.

Speaking to Saba, al-Ra’ei said that Yemen’s participation in the 120th assembly of the IPU would contribute to addressing a number of the issues of common concern of all parliamentarians and representatives of the peoples of the world associated with the strengthening of their roles in maintaining the continuity and consistency of security and stability in the World.

“The 120th assembly of the IPU will review the political, economic and social developments in general and the set-up of a just and lasting peace, democracy and development, particularly in the times of crisis”, said the Yemeni official, noting that the reduction of nuclear proliferation and disarmament would be discussed in the meeting.

“The delegates will also discuss the situation and the latest developments in the Middle East, particularly the Palestinian situation and the risk of the Israeli occupation which threats security, stability and peace in the region”.

The meeting will discuss basic human rights and democracy issues. Nearly 3,000 delegates are expected at the Addis summit.

The assembly will also discuss the proposed comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty and issues related to freedom of expression in various parts of the world. Climate change and energy issues are also lined up for discussion.

The 154-member states union was established in 1889. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

A child in Ethiopia, so close to starving to death

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Ibro Bekeri Yusef feeds therapeutic milk to his severely malnourished five-year-old daughter Khesna, at the UNICEF-supported feeding unit of Bissidimo Hospital in East Harerghe Zone of Oromia Region. [UNICEF/KENA00397/Shehzad Noorani]

(UNICEF) – When five-year-old Khesna Ibro arrived in her father’s arms at Bissidimo Hospital in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region, she was weak and glassy-eyed from acute malnutrition. Her father, Ibro Bekeri Yusef, had carried the young girl for a full day to get from his small farm to the UNICEF-supported feeding unit at the hospital. As soon as they arrived, nutrition workers started Khesna on a feeding program to help her body recover from the shock of malnutrition.

Soon, Mr. Ibro and Khesna were sitting in the hospital’s courtyard, where he gently gave her small sips of therapeutic milk from a bright orange cup. This nutrient-rich milk is often the first food given to children as severely malnourished as Khesna (in small doses, eight times a day) because it helps condition their bodies to digest food again. At first, Khesna’s system was unable to cope with even a little milk, and she threw it back up. Slowly but surely, though, her body would begin to adjust.

As I’ve written before, the global food crisis has hit Ethiopia incredibly hard. UNICEF estimates that over 100,000 of the country’s children are severely malnourished. Khesna’s father, Ibro Bekeri Yusef, was deeply worried about his six other children. “My other children are also suffering,” he said. “I used to live well with the income I earned. But now the price of grain has gone up. We can’t afford to buy sorghum… We have no water.”

Packages of Plumpy’nut—high-protein therapeutic food.

In Ethiopia, UNICEF is the main provider of ready-to-use therapeutic foods like Plumpy’nut, the high-protein peanut paste we write a lot about here on Fieldnotes. UNICEF and its partners—including other UN agencies and non-governmental organizations—are working closely with the Government of Ethiopia to continue to respond to the emergency.

But the problem is huge: UNICEF estimates it will require as much as 1,100 tons of ready-to-use therapeutic food per month to stave off Ethiopia’s nutrition crisis. That means Khesna is one of the lucky ones. At Bissidimo Hospital she received treatment that would return her to health in a few weeks. As the food shortage continues, however, UNICEF will need a lot of help from donors to save the lives of tens of thousands of children like Khesna.

Less than $23 can buy nearly 50 liters of therapeutic milk to save children like Khesna. 50 liters! That’s many, many children pulled back from the brink of starvation. You can buy therapeutic milk and other emergency nutritional foods for kids right here.

Somali refugees in Ethiopia being moved to a new camp

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

(UNHCR) – We are starting today the relocation of Somali refugees from a transit centre in Dolo Ado, Ethiopia, near the Ethiopian-Somali border, to the newly opened Bokolmanyo camp some 90 kms inside Ethiopia. The first convoy, consisting of 10 buses, is transporting 157 Somali refugees who fled the renewed fighting in central and southern Somalia over the past few months. They are part of a group of 5,000 Somalis who have recently been recognized as refugees by the Ethiopian government with the expert support of UNHCR.

In addition, some 5,000 Somalis are staying with the local community in Dolo Ado and waiting to be screened. They claim to have fled the fighting and general insecurity in Somalia, most of them leaving the country after withdrawal of Ethiopian troops last December.

In February, we reported the presence of an estimated 10,000 Somali asylum seekers in Dolo Ado, most of whom have been enjoying the hospitality of Ethiopians who are also ethnic Somalis. The opening of the new camp and subsequent extension of international protection and assistance might encourage thousands of others living with the community to apply for asylum.

The land at Bokolmanyo on which we constructed the new camp site north-west of Dolo Ado, has been provided by the local authorities. The new camp can accommodate up to 20,000 refugees and we and our partners are intensifying the work of expanding basic infrastructure, including water and sanitation services, a health center, relevant basic communal facilities and a children’s center. Establishment of schools and other facilities and services is also planned.

After arriving at Bokolmanyo, the refugees will spend about three days in a reception area where they will be allocated plots of land and given building materials to construct their huts. Refugees will also be provided with food as well as tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen sets, jerry cans, family tents and mosquito nets.

The Somali Region of Ethiopia already hosts more than 33,000 Somali refugees in three camps – Kebribeyah, Sheder and Au-Barre. With the new arrivals, the total is expected to pass the 40,000 mark very soon.

At the peak of the Somali refugee crisis in the early 90s, the region hosted 628,000 refugees in eight camps. The overwhelming majority of those refugees returned to their homes between 1997 and 2005. However, by mid 2005, we had closed all camps but the Kebribeyah site. Unfortunately, due to renewed conflicts and general violence in southern and central parts of Somalia, two new camps had to be opened in Ethiopia in 2007 and 2008 to accommodate new refugees fleeing Somalia.

More photos of Ethiopian rally at the G20 meeting

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Click here for more photos.

Lawyer for jailed Canadian asks court to block aid to Ethiopia

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

By Jim Brown | THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA, CANADA – The lawyer for a Canadian jailed in Ethiopia has gone to court trying to block foreign aid payments to the Ethiopian regime in protest over his client’s treatment.

Lorne Waldman filed papers in Federal Court on Thursday on behalf of Bashir Makhtal, who has been held in prison in Addis Ababa for two years.

Ethiopian authorities claim he is a member of an outlawed separatist group known as the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a charge he denies.

Two federal cabinet members, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Transport Minister John Baird, have expressed public support for Makhtal and vowed to work for his release and return to Canada.

Baird, who took an interest in the affair at the urging of constituents in his Ottawa riding, has said he’s ready to travel to Ethiopia to met with officials there.

“I hope to go in the coming weeks,” he repeated today.

“My role in this case has been to push due process and fairness. That is the message I want to take to the Ethiopian government”.

He voiced reservations, however, about the legal action taken by Waldman, saying he’s “not optimistic” that putting pressure on Ethiopia through the Canadian courts will further Makhtal’s interests.

The action filed by Waldman notes that Canada currently provides $89 million a year in aid to Ethiopia, some of which is earmarked to fund improvements to the country’s legal system.

The court documents contend that, given the treatment of Makhtal, the payments violate provisions in Canadian law that call for foreign aid to be “consistent with Canadian values” and with international human rights standards.

Waldman said in an interview he’s not interested in cutting off aid for clean water projects, agricultural development or other worthy goals. But he does want an end to aid for a legal system he characterizes as corrupt, lacking in transparency and subject to political interference.

“The purpose of this lawsuit is to prevent Canada from continuing to send aid to what we believe is an unfair legal system which is subjecting a Canadian citizen to an unfair process,” said Waldman.

The suit was filed as Makhtal appeared in court in Addis Ababa to hear a parade of prosecution witnesses offer evidence against him.

Cousin Said Maktal – a Hamilton, Ont. resident who spells the family name slightly differently – said he was told by relatives who attended the hearing that the witnesses offered mainly hearsay testimony rather than first-hand accounts of Bashir’s activities.

A spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Department said staff of the Canadian embassy also attended the proceedings but had yet to file a report to Ottawa. No judgment has been delivered and it’s unclear when the next hearing will be.

Although Waldman maintained his suit is based on sound legal principles, he frankly acknowledged it’s also intended to put political pressure on the Ethiopian government.

“The whole process in this case is political, it’s obvious, so the only solution is political,” said Waldman. “There’s no way Bashir Makhtal will ever get a fair trial in Ethiopia.”

He drew a parallel with the case of Maher Arar, whom he also represented and who was released by Syrian authorities only after then-prime minister Jean Chrétien intervened on his behalf.

A public inquiry later found Arar had been wrongly accused of terrorist links by the RCMP, but there have been no similar allegations against Makhtal by Canadian authorities and no suggestion that Ottawa played any role in his detention.

Makhtal, though born in Ethiopia, grew up in neighboring Somalia and came to Canada in 1991. He studied computer programming, became a Canadian citizen and held jobs at two banks over the next 10 years, before deciding to return to East Africa to start a used-clothing business.

He was in Somalia travelling on a Canadian passport when Ethiopian troops invaded in 2006, and was detained by Kenyan police in December of that year as he tried to cross the border into their country.

He was held at first in Nairobi, then transferred to Somalia and eventually to Ethiopia, apparently as part of a multi-country roundup of suspects linked to the U.S.-led war on terror.

Jailed Canadian in Ethiopia is brought before court

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

By DAVID MCDOUGALL | Globe and Mail Update

NAIROBI — A Canadian citizen imprisoned in Ethiopia for more than two years has been brought before a court in Addis Ababa unannounced and presented with the testimony of six witnesses who prosecutors had previously been unable to produce.

Ethiopian-born Bashir Makhtal, who was scheduled to appear later this month, was hauled into a courtroom yesterday for the second consecutive day, where he heard the testimony of six witnesses, who failed to appear last month during a public session.

Mr. Makhtal’s Ethiopian lawyer, Gerebe Amiak Tekle, confirmed that six people testified regarding Mr. Makhtal’s alleged involvement in an Ethiopian separatist movement.

But according to Mr. Makhtal’s family, the judge expressed frustration with the strength of the witnesses’ testimonies.

Family members said – information that could not be corroborated – that the witnesses did not know Mr. Makhtal and may have been paid to appear in court.

Mr. Makhtal was arrested by Kenyan authorities in late 2006 while attempting to flee fighting in neighbouring Somalia.

He was later sent to Ethiopia, where he was held without charges and in solitary confinement for more than two years. For most of his detention, he was denied consular access.

Though Mr. Makhtal has recently been allowed consular access and his case has been brought before a civilian court, the trial has so far drawn criticism from legal and human-rights experts.

They believe he is unlikely to receive a fair trial under existing circumstances.

In an apparent indication that he was no longer receiving consular services, the judge cautioned prison wardens last month that Mr. Makhtal was entitled to them.

Meanwhile, Mr. Makhtal’s Toronto-based lawyer, Lorne Waldman, has filed a lawsuit in Canada challenging the provision of non-humanitarian Canadian aid to Ethiopia as inconsistent with the federal Accountability Act.

“I am just not optimistic that an attempt to pressure the Ethiopians in Canadian courts will benefit Bashir,” said Canadian Transport Minister John Baird, who has taken an interest in the case.

“His case is taking place in Ethiopia, and that needs to be where we focus our efforts.”

Obama assists the London police

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

During his trip to the U.K. to participate in the G20 meeting, U.S. President Barack Obama took time out to assist the London police in apprehending Ethiopia’s genocidal dictator Meles Zenawi (Satire).

Ignored and isolated

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

By Yilma Bekele


When they said “a picture speaks a thousand words” they could have been thinking about this one. The setting definitely is a reception. The people sitting around the table appear very important since there appear to be as many servers as guests. In addition to this we see many photographers documenting the event. It is difficult to determine if this is the beginning or the end of the event. Whatever it is, it is a very lavish and formal affair.

A person sitting right around the center is the only one wearing some kind of head covering, which would lead us to assume that he is from the Middle East. Further down you can see the lone woman. Other than that, it is a mainly a men’s affair. One can also assume that it is a formal event since the men are wearing dark suits. The majority of them seem to be white.

Let’s examine the person on the bottom left. He seems lonely, left out, or sad? He is definitely brooding about something. If you look around, you will notice that those in front of him as well as those on his right are engaged in deep conversation. The man on his left has given him his shoulder.

Who is he? What is he doing here? How come he is not engaged with anyone? Why is everyone ignoring him? If they did not want him there, why was he invited?

He definitely does not appear comfortable. You can tell that from his stiff shoulders and his general posture. His hands are clasped in a prayer position. He is probably not praying, but he is definitely in deep thought. It is difficult to tell how long he has been sitting ignored and isolated. Why didn’t the host find him a partner? He is not smiling, and his somber look conveys he is not enjoying the moment.

Why is he there if he is not comfortable; and why was he invited if he is not part of the group? Could there have been some mix up? Could he have been drafted at the last moment? Was he warned about the cold shoulder he might encounter? Did he send a scouting party to assess the situation? Did they lie to him to embarrass him? Was this calculated risk that blew up in his face? Could it be that he is not able to engage with the others as an equal?

It does not look like a good situation for our friend sitting at the bottom left. It can be considered a form of psychological torture to invite someone to such a dinner and ignore him. At the same time, it is not a good idea to crash a party where one is not welcome. Maybe our friend is praying for the party to be over. Maybe there is nothing here. Yeah right the picture is lying.

Obama scolded Ethiopia's dictator Meles Zenawi

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama scolded Ethiopia’s dictator Meles Zenawi during a brief one-to-one encounter at the G20 meeting in London on April 2. Obama reportedly told Meles that the human rights condition in Ethiopia is deplorable and unacceptable.

Following a meeting with Obama, Meles Zenawi, who was invited to represent New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) at the G20 meeting, abruptly canceled a press conference he was about to give.

“His people gave no reasons for this. But insiders in the press center said Zenawi was worried about the kind of questions that were going to be put to him concerning human rights violations within Ethiopia and his dealing with his opponents and Ethiopia’s neighbors,” Henry Gombya of BSN reported.

“The African continent really wasn’t heard; South African President Motlanthe said he didn’t speak for the continent and Meles Zenawi cowered in the shadows,” Gombya writes.

UNHCR helping meet water needs of refugees in Ethiopia

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (UNHCR) – Over the past two decades, UNHCR has helped more than 600,000 Somali refugees in the eastern lowlands of Ethiopia. Providing them with enough water has always been a problem, with the UN refugee agency facing funding shortfalls, meager and difficult to access underground reserves, and competition from locals for the scarce resource.

That’s as true today as it was in 1991, when Somalia started disintegrating after the fall of the Siad Barre regime and people began fleeing. Most of the refugees eventually returned home, with just 16,000 remaining in Kebribeyah camp. But renewed conflict in Somalia has led to fresh influxes, prompting UNHCR to open the Aw Barre and Shedder camps in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

Under UNHCR’s emergency guidelines, a person needs at least seven liters a day to survive and 20 liters a day to ensure their well-being and good health. Currently, that minimum standard of 20 liters is not being met in any of the three camps, but UNHCR believes that projects now under way should ensure that this target is reached and that access to water outlets is improved.

To meet the needs of Kebribeyah, the former Hartisheik camp and local communities, UNHCR in 2004 opened a pipeline to transport water from the well watered Jarar Valley, some 20 kilometers away.

But, as UNHCR Representative in Ethiopia Moses Okello noted, “Even this huge project does not guarantee an adequate supply of water to every family in the camp. Technical problems, and the high cost of managing the system, mean occasional failure to meet the minimum daily standard of water.”

To resolve this problem, the UN refugee agency and the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation have been working to connect the Jara Valley water supply system to the national electricity grid, which will make it cheaper to power the system than using fuel-guzzling generators. Okello believes this will solve many of the problems related to running the facility.

Meanwhile, to meet daily needs in the Aw Barre and Shedder camps, UNHCR had to truck large quantities of water from a nearby town, drill boreholes and construct a distribution network to ensure that refugees did not have to go far to get access to water.

Okello said that thanks to special funds made available for water and sanitation projects by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, “We have been drilling and interconnecting half a dozen boreholes in the two camps. So far we have managed to provide a daily average of 12 litres per person in the two camps.”

It is a work in progress. But Okello said he was optimistic that the minimum standard per person of 20 litres a day would be achieved in all three camps once the various water projects had been completed.

Somali refugee Rahma Mohammed Jamale, who fled to Ethiopia to escape conflict in Mogadishu, was one of the first residents of Shedder camp when it opened in May last year. She said it was initially tough finding enough water for herself and her six children.

“We had only two water points for a whole zone and that meant queuing up for hours to get a jerry can of water,” she said, adding that the situation was much better but more work was still needed to increase the water supply for the camp’s 6,600 refugees and Ethiopians living nearby.

Jamale said the improved water situation meant that children in the camp were spending more time in school and less time lining up for water. “But for this positive development to be sustained, it is up to us refugees to guard the system against misuse,” she added.

By Kisut Gebre Egziabher

Ethiopia's Maregu Zewdie returns to California to defend Carlsbad 5k title

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Carlsbad, CALIFORNIA – The Carlsbad 5000, home of the current 5km World Bests, has announced the professional field for the elite invitational on Sunday, 5 April. Defending men’s champion Maregu Zewdie of Ethiopia will attempt to win back-to-back titles after a thrilling finish in last year’s race, in which only two seconds separated the top five finishing times. Zewdie, owner of two team Gold Medals from the World Cross Country Championships, will be challenged by a group of American runners led by Californian Scott Bauhs.

Bauhs, a two-time national champion and a participant in last summer’s U.S. Olympic Trials, won his pro racing debut at the Synaptics Elite Athlete 5-K in San Jose with an unofficial time of 13:37, the fastest for an American on the roads last year. He also finished sixth at the 2007 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon in 1:03:04, the top U.S. finisher in the race by over a minute.

“To say I’m fired up about running Carlsbad would be an understatement,” said Bauhs, who will wear an Adidas uniform for the first time at Carlsbad. “My training partners will tell you that I won’t quit talking about the event and I got even more excited when I found out who was running. Between the blazing fast Ethiopians, ‘Fam’ (Anthony Famiglietti) and the Aussies, it is going to be a great race and a perfect way to start the season.”

The men’s field features two Carlsbad champions including 2006 winner Abreham Cherkos of Ethiopia. Cherkos, the former world junior champion over 3000m, finished 5th in the Olympic 5000m final at Beijing last summer and owns a PR of 12:54 for the distance. Fellow Ethiopian Ali Abdosh comes to Carlsbad with PR of 13:01:44 and a successful 2008 season, including a 5000m victory at the Adidas Track Classic. Also expected to contend for the title is Shedrack Korir of Kenya, the 2007 world championship 1500m bronze medalist in Osaka. He has a PR of 13:09 over 5000m and was the 2006 Kenyan national 1500m champion.

The non-African international challenge will likely be led by former University of Arkansas star Alistair Cragg of Ireland. At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Cragg competed in the 1500m and 5000m track events, his second Olympic 5000m final.

Australian Collis Birmingham comes to Carlsbad having set a 5000m PR of 13:16 in Melbourne earlier this year, which is the world’s fastest outdoor time in 2009. These athletes join previously announced U.S. Olympians Anthony Famiglietti and triathlete Jarrod Shoemaker in the stellar lineup of runners including 8 Americans.

Kiros leads the women’s field

The women’s field for Carlsbad is equally impressive. The international competition challenging U.S. Olympians Christin Wurth-Thomas and Shannon Rowbury will be led by Aheza Kiros of Ethiopia. Kiros was part of the Ethiopian national team who went to the 2007 World Championships in Osaka. She has a PR of 15:09 for 5000m and finished 3rd at Carlsbad in 2007.

U.S. 10,000m Champion Katie McGregor looks to be in good form after recently finishing second at the USA 15k Championships. A five-time qualifier for the U.S. World Cross Country team, McGregor is a national champion in the 25k, 10k road and 10,000m. She spent the second half of 2008 training for the ING New York City Marathon, recording a top-10 finish and personal best time of 2:31:14. Marisol Romero, the Mexican national champion over 1500m, rounds out the favorites in the international field.

- Dan Cruz | IAAF

Ethiopia's Woyanne regime starts exporting coffee itself

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

By Jason McLure | Bloomberg

Ethiopia, Africa’s largest coffee producer, will start exporting beans itself after closing the warehouses of six of the country’s largest exporters, which it claims are stockpiling coffee and contributing to a shortage of foreign currency.

A drop in export income, because of a poor coffee harvest, weak world prices and a ban on Ethiopian beans in Japan, is being exacerbated by stockpiling, Eleni Gabre-Madhin, chief executive officer of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange, said on March 27.

Today, the Horn of Africa nation said it would start exporting coffee via the state-owned Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise in a bid to improve the situation.

“Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise knows that it has the capacity to do this and it has a very good opportunity to fill this export gap,” said Berhane Hailu, the company’s general manager, by phone from Addis Ababa today.

The company has started trading coffee on the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange and is in talks with foreign buyers about exports, he said.

Ethiopia suspended the licenses of six of the country’s largest exporters last week after accusing them of hoarding coffee and illegally selling export-grade beans on the country’s domestic market.

The country has experienced shortages of hard currency over the past year, with the nation’s reserves falling to as little as $850 million, enough to cover just one month of imports, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on March 19. The shortfall has led to rationing and shortages, including cement and medical supplies, because companies can’t import goods or raw materials.

Foreign Currency

Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise may use the foreign currency from coffee exports to purchase and deliver wheat to Ethiopia’s urban poor as part of a government program to subsidize food prices, Hailu said.

Ethiopian coffee shipments have dropped more than 10 percent to 76,674 tons during the first eight months of the country’s fiscal year, compared with the same period a year earlier, according to the Trade Ministry.

The country has earned $221.7 million from coffee exports over the period, short of a government target of $446.7 million. Last year, the government also blamed rising food prices on hoarding by traders.

Ethiopians in London held protest at the G-20 meeting

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Hundreds of Ethiopians held a protest rally in London today (April 2) at the site of the G-20 meeting.

The protesters opposed the appearance of Ethiopia’s dictator Meles Zenawi at the meeting. They demanded the G-20 countries to stop financing the brutal dictatorship in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian peaceful protesters are the biggest and most visible outside the G20, according to Rajiv Joshi, a coordinator for Global Call to Action Against Poverty .

Fleecing the G-20

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

The Sky is Falling!

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown wants the G-20 (or Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of the world’s largest economies) to help cash-strapped African countries manage their balance of payments (money going from one country to all others) as their incomes from foreign investments and aid, remittances and commodities prices vanish with the collapsing global economy. In mid-March, Brown invited a number of African leaders to meet with him in anticipation of the scheduled G-20 meeting in London on April 2. The hype preceding the G-20 meeting was full of hectoring moralism by the designated panhandler-for-Africa, the dictator in Ethiopia:

“Africa was beginning to stand up and now it is being knocked down again by this crisis, which is not of Africa’s making. That is one of the biggest tragedies. They [G-20] should care about Africa because it is in their interests. Some African countries could go under and that would mean total chaos and violence. In the end the cost of violence is going to be much higher than the cost of supporting Africa… We are talking about the range of money that is being spent on the mid-sized banks [in the U.S.]. Consider Africa as one of those banks… Any stimulus money spent in developed countries is going to have less global impact than if the same amount of money were to be spent in Africa… One of the problems at the moment is that the situation is so volatile… It keeps changing every week. It destabilises everything, including one’s thinking. If we knew where the bottom was we could start thinking as to how to get out of it….”

Not long ago the same dictator triumphantly proclaimed a 12.8 per cent annual growth rate in Ethiopia, and casually dismissed the effect of the global economic turmoil: “The crisis will more or less have little effect on the [Ethiopian] economy since our financial sector is not attached to the global system. Had it been the case, we would have suffered much.”

Others were parroting the same theme of impending African gloom and doom. Egyptian finance minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali mournfully warned, “In the case of Africa, people are going to die. We are talking about lives, not just somebody who will have to drive a smaller car.” Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete was quick to shift the blame: “This is a very unprecedented problem. Africa is a victim. We are not responsible for its genesis but all of us are suffering.” Even the sober Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga joined the verbal joust by invoking the specter of marching African hordes: “When there are problems in Africa, Africans will vote with their feet by coming to Europe.” It was like a chorus of African Chicken Littles clucking: “The sky is falling! The sky is falling! We must go and tell the king!”

Will Accept Cash, Check, Credit Card or Gold to Bailout Africa!

The G-20 claims to be “an informal forum that promotes open and constructive discussion between industrial and emerging-market countries on key issues related to global economic stability.” The G-20 money men and the chiefs of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank will be discussing ways of helping the poorest counties in the world, while coordinating strategies to alleviate their own deepening economic crises. Pleading the African case for more money will be the dictator in Ethiopia. His message is a simple one: Africa needs more money. That money is readily available in the form of gold bars stashed at the IMF. Sell the gold stash and hand over the cash to African governments to cushion the effects of the global economic downturn. As of this past January, the IMF held 3,217 metric tons of gold (valued in excess of $43 billion), according to the World Gold Council. “Gold prices are doing well now so a slight correction to mobilise resources for Africa would not be that difficult,” suggested the dictator in Ethiopia. If the G-20 takes the bait, Africa’s “leaders” will be standing ready with pick and shovel in hand to dig into the IMF pot of gold and dig themselves out of economic trouble.

But in Ethiopia’s case there is something creepy — a weird feeling of de ja vu — about all of the gold talk and bailout metaphor of “considering Africa as one of the mid-sized banks”. Exactly a year ago we were shocked by the revelation that gold bars worth over 16 million dollars had simply walked out of the bank vaults in Ethiopia in broad daylight.[1] The official story was that unsuspecting Ethiopian bank “officials” were bamboozled by a gang of crooked international gold dealers who literally sold them spray-painted lumps of iron as 24-carat gold bars. The bank “officials” got ripped off because they made the common mistake of believing “all that glitters is gold.” According to the “Anti-Corruption Commission” of the ruling regime, some 26 suspects are in custody. No one has been prosecuted for this spectacular crime (and the matter has been quietly swept under the rug for the past year). Now they are talking about “mid-sized banks”, selling billions of dollars worth of IMF gold and sharing the loot among African dictators. It feels like a set up for another bank job.

In the Hole and on the Dole

African governments have been in the hole and on the dole for years. Since the 1970s, they have been sucking up massive amounts of economic aid and loans from the West and the international lending institutions. Much of that money has been lost to corruption. According to a 2008 World Bank study, it is estimated that “25 percent of GDP of African states is lost to corruption every year [in excess of one-half trillion dollars], with corrupt actions encompassing petty bribe taking done by low level government officials to inflated public procurement contracts, kickbacks, and raiding the public treasury as part of public asset theft by political leaders. Some $20 billion to $40 billion in assets acquired by corrupt leaders of poor countries, mostly in Africa, are kept overseas.” [2] Massive corruption has given rise to a parasitical ruling class in Africa – a “pluto-kleptocracy” (government of rich thieves). The World Bank and the IMF complain in their so-called confidential reports that specific African countries have used loans made available to them as “mechanisms for regime maintenance,” allowing the ruling parties to set up “slush funds” to pay for patronage and a military buildup. By 2005, Africa had a debt of $295 billion after repayments of $550 billion for loans it had received over the preceding three decades. Under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, thirty-three African countries were eligible for debt relief of about $80 billion by 2006.

But the corruption situation in Ethiopia is more acute. In 2007, when Ethiopia’s auditor general, Lema Aregaw, reported $600 million in public funds missing form regional coffers, the dictator fired Aregaw and publicly defended the regional administrations’ “right to burn money.” When Gebru Asrat, a former top official and party member of the ruling regime made the accusation that “the people are sick of the corruption, about the lack of government services, and they only support Meles out of fear,” he was swiftly excommunicated from the regime’s officialdom. When the IMF, the World Bank and other donors demanded privatization, the regime leaders sold off some of the most profitable state enterprises to their friends, relatives, henchmen and cronies.

Bailing Out the People of Africa v. Bailing Out Toxic African Dictators

The basic argument African dictators are making for a G-20 bailout package is a moral one: Unless G-20 taxpayers assume the responsibility for Africa’s economic problems by selling IMF gold and increasing aid, Africans will die by the millions and violence will consume African societies. This is a manifestly false and self-serving moral dilemma manufactured by African dictators to save their own skins. They know that economic problems often trigger social upheavals which result in the sweeping away of corrupt dictatorships.

The G-20 have a superior moral counter-argument to make: It is immoral for G-20 taxpayers to finance African dictators who persecute their people, trample on their human rights and mismanage their economies while keeping themselves and their cronies filthy rich from stolen loan and aid money. If African governments want aid and loans from the G-20, they must agree to be held accountable for their acts and omissions in upholding the rule of law, protecting the human rights of their people, institutionalizing democratic practices and processes, releasing all political prisoners, allowing the free functioning of civic institutions and the independent media and ensuring judicial independence. Giving more money to morally, economically and politically bankrupt African dictators without the strings of democratization, human rights and accountability attached is like giving blood transfusions to a corpse whose blood has been sucked dry by vampiric brutes. African economies will remain on life support so long as the G-20 member countries blindly support African dictators and remain willful accomplices to their crimes and corruption.

Can’t Do Structural Adjustment When You are Shackled to Debt and Poverty

Multilateral lending institutions and Western donor governments providing aid need to re-think the way they do business in Africa. The IMF and World Bank must be transparent themselves in their loan programs. They must provide honest accounting of the success and failure of the programs they support in Africa. It is reprehensible for them to praise African dictatorships in public for their economic policies, and in their confidential reports rip these same governments for massive corruption, mismanagement, fraud, waste and abuse of “development funds”. The fact of the matter is that for many African dictatorships piling up billions in debt is like walking to the neighborhood kiosk and getting cigarettes on credit from the store keeper. They will pay it back in nickels and dimes if they get the money; if not, the store keeper will be stiffed. Their mentality is that IMF and World Bank loans are “free money”. Get as much free money as possible, and let someone else in the future worry about paying it back.

The G-20 and the multilateral lending institutions need to reform and fix what is a manifestly callous lending system. They need to re-examine the devastating consequences of their misguided policies that elevate organized greed over individual need. For decades, they have been preaching the gospel of “structural adjustment” (requiring loan recipients to privatize, deregulate, reduce trade barriers and adopt one-size-fits-all free market policies) which places a much higher premium on constructing shiny glass buildings, fancy urban highways and export-oriented industries than meeting the survival needs of ordinary people (food, medicine, clean drinking water, etc.). Millions of Africans die from starvation, preventable diseases, environmental contamination and abysmally poor governance as the international money lenders tether African economies to their structural adjustment policies.

Fleecing the Golden Twenty?

The whole IMF gold sale thing may be a touchy affair for Gordon “Golden” Brown, who as Chancellor of the Exchequer a decade ago sold well over 60 per cent of U.K.’s gold reserves at fire sale prices and earned his nickname. At the time, his actions were roundly criticized as a “disastrous foray into international asset management”. The simple message for Golden Brown and the G-20 financiers should be: “Give Africans a strong hand in establishing democracy and getting rid of dictatorships, and you will never have to worry about giving them handouts!”

The proposed quick sale of IMF gold as a magic elixir to fix Africa’s current economic troubles is snake oil gimmickry. Any such sale requires approval of 85 percent of the 185 IMF member countries. The U.S. alone has 17 percent of these voting rights (enough to veto any decision), and there is no realistic chance that President Obama or Congress will approve a daylight fleecing of the IMF to support dictatorships in Africa. As the U.S. faces a budget deficit forecast of $1.8 trillion in 2009 and $1.4 trillion in 2010, it is unlikely that the U.S. will provide significant direct bailout money (not even in the “range of money that is being spent on the mid-sized U.S. banks”) to African dictators. There are proposals currently floating around the G-20 to infuse the IMF with bailout money for developing economies in the range of one-half trillion dollars, but that may be a pipedream as the world’s largest economies struggle to manage their own problems. Against this background, the plea for deliverance on the G-20 stage, to paraphrase Shakespeare in King Lear, is a farcical demonstration of the excellent foppery of dictators who after plundering the riches of their nations, make guilty of their disasters the sun, the moon, and stars.

____________________
[1] http://www.ethiomedia.com/abai/all_that_glitters_is_gold.html
[2] http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTPROSPECTS/Resources/334934-1110315015165/wps4609_BeyondAid.pdf

American Jewish group installed fresh water taps Ethiopia

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

GONDAR, ETHIOPIA (JDC) – Azanaw Musaw Tegegne, an eighth grader, says that before JDC (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) installed the fresh water tap in his village in Gondar, Ethiopia, most people drank water from a nearby stream. Like hundreds of villages around rural Ethiopia, Gondar’s Gabriel kebele (area similar to a neighborhood) had no access to potable water for drinking, bathing, or cooking during the region’s extended dry seasons and droughts.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. In rural parts of country, only 11 percent of the population has access to clean water while just 7 percent has access to adequate sanitation facilities. During the rainy season, the population’s water supply is procured from nearby springs, streams, and shallow wells. When the dry season comes, these water sources dry up, forcing villagers to collect water from sub-standard, often polluted, wells and streams.

The health hazards are enormous: 90 percent of all preventable diseases such as malaria, cholera, yellow fever, hepatitis, typhoid and diarrhea can be attributed to underdeveloped and ill-protected water supplies. Waterborne diseases claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians each year.

Limited access to safe drinking water not only results in poor health, but also causes serious developmental problems. Collecting water is back-breaking work that drains precious energy and restricts involvement in productive activities and community affairs for many women and children in every village. On average, rural villagers spend four to six hours per day collecting water from sources that can be as far as 10 kilometers from their homes.

Over the last 25 years, JDC has built dozens of potable water wells throughout Gondar and the surrounding countryside with guidance from the Ethiopian Water Works Construction Authority and the local government in Gondar. Funding for this effort has come from international NGOs, as well as private donors and foundations. The Ground Water Development program has produced hand dug wells, protected springs, taps, micro-dams, and latrines.

JDC originally built wells in areas that served large numbers of Jews (the Felas Mura population awaiting immigration to Israel) but also supplied water to the non-Jewish villagers. By 2008, as JDC constructed a dozen wells across Gondar through its International Development Program (JDC-IDP), new water projects served 100 percent non-Jewish populations.

As JDC-IDP’s larger goal is to provide assistance that will leave communities stronger and self-sustaining in the long run, each project engages and is facilitated by local village water committees, who solicit local manpower for some labor and materials used in the construction process. JDC-IDP also provides the villagers with training on the importance of drinking the clean water and encourages behavioral change to improve overall health. Whenever possible, in addition to building the wells, JDC-IDP constructs communal latrines to facilitate a safe, sanitary human waste disposal system (as open air toilets are widely known to contaminate the town’s clean drinking water). Community education and involvement contributes tremendously to the success and long-term sustainability of these projects.

With safe, fresh, local water sources for drinking, cooking and sanitation available in his village for the first time, Azanaw Musaw Tegegne no longer needs to travel great distances to collect water. Freed of this chore, he will now be able to finish eighth grade at the newly built JDC-IDP school in his hometown of Gabriel, Gondar—one of 10 schools JDC-IDP has built in the region in the past 18 months.

That last fact is important, as Ethiopia has an adult literacy rate of barely 36 percent. Azanaw will be one of the just 23 percent of teenage boys and 13 percent of teenage girls enrolled in secondary schools. (Only 55 percent of all boys and 47 percent of all girls are enrolled in primary schools; 38 percent will not reach the fifth grade.)

Committed to making a difference in the development of Ethiopia’s educational system and securing a future for some of the most vulnerable people on the globe, JDC-IDP has been repairing and building schools for some of the poorest Ethiopian children across the Northern Gondar region since 2000.

At a celebration in appreciation for JDC-IDP’s donation of a hand water pump to one local village, the Chairman of the Gondar City Council, Asmamaw Yosuf, said, “Really, you have reached at the [root] of the problem. The people have no words to appreciate your donation. [We have] seen the enthusiastic dances praising to your organization.”

Eleni Gabre-Madhin threatens a U.S. newspaper reporter

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Who’s getting coffee from Ethiopia right now?

By Melissa Allison

The Ethiopia Commodity Exchange wants people to know that the country is still exporting coffee. When I declined to correct this blog post from last week, because it accurately says that the country’s six largest exporters — not all of its exporters — have been shut down, here’s the e-mail I got in return:

Eleni Gabre-Madhin, CEO, Ethiopian Commodity Exchange

Dear Melissa,

I find it difficult to believe that a title that starts “Ethiopia halts coffee exports..” can be in any way conceived as factually acceptable since it is blatantly false. Ethiopia has continued to export coffee every day since the legal actions taken by the regulators. There are more than 120 registered coffee exporters and this is an action concerning 6 companies. I also find it incredible that [another reporter] finds this to be a correct title since he knows firsthand that a statement that Ethiopia has halted coffee exports is patently untrue and extremely damaging to our industry. Unfortunately, neither you nor [the other reporter] are holding yourselves to the standards of truth that we hold you to as what should be responsible members of internationally recognized media. Please be assured that unless appropriate retractions and corrections are made, we will hold you accountable and pursue this matter in a more formal manner.

Best regards,

Eleni Gabre-Madhin
CEO
Ethiopia Commodity Exchange

The other reporter is from another news organization and for some reason was copied on the original request for a correction from me. He responded that he didn’t think my post needed a correction, saying “If a newspaper writes a headline: ‘Police Arrest Bank Robbers,’ it’s understood that the police may not necessarily have arrested all bank robbers, everywhere.”

The New York Times corrected a post I had linked to that incorrectly said no coffee is leaving Ethiopia.

Ethiopian agribusiness expert Bruck Fikru, who appears to work for Fintrac, correctly points out that I should do more research.

For example, Fikru wrote, I was wrong in saying that “U.S. importers can’t buy directly from the growers they prefer.”

Yet I’ve heard from Seattle roasters who say they got beans out of Ethiopia just in the nick of time.

So who’s getting coffee from Ethiopia these days, and how’s it going?

Liya Kebede's LemLem Collection

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

By Elisa Lipsky-Karasz | WWD.com

Liya Kebede at her desk in the LemLem studio. [Photo by Talaya Centeno]

Liya Kebede is almost annoyingly PERFECT. Pretty, classic looks? Check. Handsome hedge-fund-manager husband and two adorable children? Check. Still in demand to open fashion shows despite being 15 years older than most other models? Check. And she spends a significant portion of her time doing good works? Come on.

But it’s true. These days, the Ethiopian native acts as Goodwill Ambassador for the World Health Organization and heads an eponymous foundation to benefit her home country, all while tending to a nascent acting career and a fledgling children’s line, LemLem.

The collection, whose name means “flourish,” or “bloom,” in Amharic, is no vanity project. Kebede started the line in order to provide employment for traditional Ethiopian weavers. “They don’t have a market anymore. I wanted to give them a way to showcase their art and get money from it,” explains the 31-year-old, who decided to design for kids because she is an avid shopper for her own young son and daughter. The results — cotton bloomers, shirts, onesies and dresses — have proved irresistible to mums, so much so that shirts and scarves are now being made in adult sizes.

Though production is very small-scale (indeed, a cardboard box of clothes arrives direct from Addis Ababa to LemLem’s Chelsea studio as Kebede explains the line), six pieces are exclusive to J. Crew in a first-time collaboration, and others will be sold online and at retailers in Paris and London. The extra business gels with Kebede’s plan to encourage industry rather than simply dole out handouts.

“I thought this [collaboration] was the right fit because it brings the Western market to them,” she says.

Of course, the male weavers are not accustomed to working at the intense pace of the New York City fashion industry. “They think we are nutcases,” she laughs. “They don’t understand why we want [something] done two millimeters differently. We’re like, ‘No, trust us.’”

Liya is incredibly invested in having this project work and having it be viable,” says J. Crew’s creative director Jenna Lyons.

Kebede put an equal amount of diligence into her turn on the big screen in the upcoming “Desert Flower,” a biopic of Somalian model-turned-activist Waris Dirie — so much so that cast and crew took to calling her Waris during the shoot. Kebede, who made her film debut in 2005’s “Lord of War” and appeared in “The Good Shepherd,” won the role out of 500 hopefuls based on her audition tape. “Only afterwards did we learn that she is a top model,” says the movie’s German director, Peter Hermann. To test her mettle, he threw her in with professional actors from Munich’s Bavarian Staatstheater for a second audition. “We didn’t make it easy for her,” he says.

As for modeling, Kebede still enjoys it. “I take pleasure in the process,” she explains. But, she says, discrimination persists in the industry despite all the recent attention to race, including Italian Vogue’s famous “Black Issue,” in which she appeared. “I’ve had clients saying, ‘We can’t use her because she’s black,’ ” she says. “You say, ‘OK, fine,’ and you move on. I’ve been lucky about it, but even today it will happen and I won’t be shocked.”

“The fact that there has been all this talk about it has helped. And I really think that Michelle and Barack Obama have helped,” continues Kebede, who met the President at a campaign fund-raiser. “I’m a bit more optimistic this time around.” And should her daughter want to model, Kebede says she would be supportive. “I wouldn’t want her to start early. But if she is around 18 or 19, I wouldn’t mind. It’s a tough industry, but I’ve done it and it’s been quite OK with me.”

Questions for President Issayas Afeworki

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Click here for pdf

የኤርትራ ፕሬዝደንት ኢሳያስ አፈወርቂ የኤርትራንና የኢትዮጵያን ግንኙነት በሚመለከት

1. በኢትዮጵያ ጉዳይ ላይ የኤርትራ አቋም ምንድን ነው?
2. በኢትዮጵያ አንድነት ላይ የኤርትራ አመለካከት ምን ይመስላል?
3. ለወደፊቱ የኤርትራና የኢትዮጵያ ህዝቦች ግንኙነት እንዴት እንዲሆን ይፈለጋል?

ለሚሉትና ሌሎችም በኢትዮጵያውያን ዘንድ ለሚነሱ ጥያቄዎች ሁሉ መልስ ለመስጥት ፈቃደኛ ስለሆኑ ጥያቄዎቻችሁን በአማርኛ በመጻፍ በሚከተሉት የኢሜይል አድራሻዎች ብትልኩልን ጥያቄዎቻችሁን በድህረ-ገጹ ላይ በማውጣት ለህዝብ በግልጽ እንዲነበቡ እንደምናድርግ በአክብሮት እንገልጻልን::

ኢሜይል:
info@eppfonline.org
eliaskifle@gmail.com

You can type Amharic by clicking here.

Tamrat Layne visits Alcatraz Prison, San Francisco

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Tamrat Layne and family the notorious Alcatraz Prison in California – March 2009

It is interesting to see that former {www:Woyanne} Prime Minister Tamrat Layne has now joined the ranks of some of the people he chased out of their country. Tamrat, who threw distinguished Ethiopian surgeon Prof. Asrat Woldeyes in jail and eventual death, is back as new person — as a Pentecostal minster — right here in the U.S. among us. It is ironic that the guy who denied freedom to millions of Ethiopians and took away the lives of so many of our compatriots is here amongst us visiting American cities and historical places such as the notorious Alcatraz Prison in northern California.

Many of our brothers and sisters under Tamrat’s orders were thrown out into the Alcatrazs of Ethiopia, or their bodies thrown to the sides of the road. Amhara peasants were massacred by angry mobs who were agitated by his ‘Tut Koreta’ (breast-cutting) Memorial Day celebrations in such places as Bedeno. The memorials were imaginary celebrations that were held to enrage the local Oromo Ethiopians and rise up against the Amara peasants who were identified as perpetrators of the imagined crime that alleged to have had occurred over 100 years ago. The agitation had worked and resulted in the slayings of hundreds of Amharas in Arsi and Harrar regions. It is these massacres that forced Prof. Asrat Woldeyes to establish an organization that would speak out against the killings and sufferings of Amhara Ethiopians.

Tamrat Layne and family at Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco – March 2009

Now, as a “family-man,” Tamrat is walking happily on Fisherman Wharf in San Francisco, visiting the famous Golden Gate Bridge, as if he has not denied the happiness of many families and violently took away the lives of many innocent loved ones.

Although Tamrat himself may have been thrown in jail after disagreement with his puppet-master Meles Zenawi, he had equally participated with other Woyane officials in ordering killings and unleashing sufferings against countless innocent Ethiopians. He remains a criminal at large that many Ethiopians would like bring to justice — no matter how religious he looks and sounds now.

WB launches education improvement program in Ethiopia

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (World Bank) – The Ethiopian Government and the World Bank on March 14 officially launched the General Education Quality Improvement Program (GEQIP).

The project aims to support Ethiopia’s effort to improve the quality of general education through, among other things, improvements in teaching and learning conditions in primary and secondary institutions as well as management planning and budget capacity of the Ministry of Education and Regional Education Bureaus. Specific activities include a Teacher Development Program; curriculum, textbooks and assessment; education management information systems; and a school improvement program.

The program is supported by an International Development Association credit of US$50 million which is the first part of a two-phased Adaptable Program Loan, a loan that provides the borrower phased support for a long-term development program, and will leverage an estimated collective investment of US$417 million in additional resources from the Government and other development partners.

Around 16 million students in primary and secondary schools as well as 225,000 teachers are expected to benefit from the GEQIP.

Speaking at the launching ceremony, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi stated that in addition to leveraging additional support, the program will also contribute to effectively achieving the education quality improvement goal. He reaffirmed the governments’ commitment to not only expanding education across the country, but to improving the quality of education.

During the launch event, the World Bank’s Country Director for Ethiopia Kenichi Ohashi indicated that Ethiopia is on the right track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in the education sector and expressed appreciation for the efforts being made by the Ethiopian government to ensure quality education for all.

Reflections on Tesfaye Gebreab's "The Journalists Memoir"

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

By Neamin Zelleke

I have been following like many the great interests generated by “የጋዜጠኛው ማስታወሻ” (The Journalists Memoir), a book written by Tesfaye Gebreab. While many have raised legitimate points regarding the Tesfaye Gebreab’s past and his role as a press/propaganda official within the TPLF dominated ethnocentric regime, others have hammered on his book Ye Burka Zimeta, an apparently “inflammatory” work written by Tesfaye Gebreab more than a decade ago. As argued by few with an intent to incite the Oromo ethnic group against the Amhara, as part of the grand conspiracy of the TPLF to perpetuate its rule by pitting one ethnic group against the other. I have not read “Ye Burka Zimeta”. Therefore, I will limit myself to commenting on the relevance and importance of “የጋዜጠኛው ማስታወሻ”, the very book he wrote recently and the cause for continued interest and heated debate in countless circles in Ethiopia and outside.

Pundits of propaganda and public relations often argue that the power of a literary piece is measured by the level of noise it creates in the enemy’s camp. If we gauge the value of Tesfaye’s book by such yardsticks, i.e., by the degree with which it has created much anger, significant discontent, and much wailing and yelling that we hear from the quarters of the ruling Tigrayan elite and its supporters worldwide, it could well be compared to a surprise military blitzkrieg by a guerrilla force right at the heart of TPLF’s power center and its leaders, somehow caught by surprise as they slumber due to their blotted hubris. The TPLF ruling gang and their cronies everywhere are indeed fuming left and right, both inside and outside of Ethiopia. Why in deed are they raving and ranting everywhere?

Although his language and style are very powerful and enticing, the power of Tesfaye Gebreab’s book stems from its vivid and picturesque storytelling with a Chekhovian streak, realistic assessment, and expositions of the nature and culture of the ruling TPLF and its leaders. It gives an insight in to what has come to dominate the nature and character of the Ethiopian state. It tells stories about the personalities, the culture and mentality of the leaders of the ruling TPLF/EPRDF and their cadres. These features of the book give us the clue as regard to the reasons for the TPLF gang and their supporters raving and ranting.

They are furious because he unveiled them. They are now naked more than ever. Much of their pretensions have been debunked, shown for what they are. Some make believe stories, others delusions and illusions. As the saying goes in Amharic “Ye mayinega meslwat bequat”. They are exposed for what they are — noting but a bunch of crooks that have no vision that goes beyond their nose. Their only agenda and vision if that is worthy of being called a “vision” is the hegemony of the TPLF/Tigrayan elite in perpetuity by all means at the expense of any and all things in and of Ethiopia. This too has come out loud and clear in the book.

Their dirty laundry is out there for Ethiopians to see. The degree of deceit and treachery that infests the ruling cadres of TPLF, all their banality, all their crooked and vindictive personalities are laid bare. Think of characters like Bereket Simon and others who emerge from the book. Top it all with a glimpse of the deeply hidden plethora secrets of crimes committed against the Ethiopian people. Recall OPDO’s General Abadula Gemeda’s conspiracy and the operation he lead, ending up to the tragic assassination of a respected Oromo elder named Ato Derara in Ambo. We now have the tip of the ice berg as to who committed what crimes during the last seventeen years of TPLF’s tenure.

A small thank you is due to Tesfaye Gebreab just for bringing to the fore such vital pieces of information and clues to their criminality and massive corruption. I would argue that Tesfaye has done us a favor compared to others who defected from the TPLF camp in the past. That the TPLF and its cronies are wasting oceans of inks and tons of paper in a futile attempt to kill the message by attempting to kill the messenger should not be surprising. An all out rampage to paint him with all sorts of narrow and broad brushes should not deter from his expose’. Hence, great care should be taken by all those within the opposition camp not to follow suit by endlessly harping on blunders of those who were once working for the enemy camp like Tesfaye.

We find in Tesfaye’s book what we otherwise knew at rumor and hearsay levels. There is also much that he has told us we did not know. Aside from the hilarious incidents and episodes scattered all over his book, the book has given us an additional knowledge as regard to the inner working of the regime, the mind set of leading cadres, how they think and what they think behind the appearance of their public persona.

The books also tells much about the relentless quest for power and hegemony, the TPLF/Tigrayan elite enjoy in all aspects of the Ethiopian state machinery and the public sphere at large–economy, politics, military, foreign affairs, security; and the list goes on and on. It was Voltaire, the French thinker and political satirist of the Enlightenment era, who once said that the Holy Roman Empire is neither Holy nor Roman nor Empire, quipping as regard to the impotence of the byzantine edifice that once stretched across the Mediterranean. By the same token, no political piece of work coming from a once time insider of the TPLF regime has affirmed without a shadow of doubt–with so many incidents and data found in the book– to the fact that the so-called EPRDF claiming to be the ruling “Front” is nothing but a zombie that is used by the TPLF at will and whim. In short, the so-called EPRDF is none other than a bunch of stooges and a Trojan horse under the mercy of their creator, The TPLF, the Tigrayan organization ruling over Ethiopia under the guise of being a member of a front of other “Ethiopain organizations” constituting the “EPRDF”. Here too their stale and utterly cruel joke has been busted once again and big time.

All the information, personal experiences, daily encounters , observations packed and recounted in Tesfay’s book, are first hand accounts coming from a person who was a one time insider and official of the TPLF/EPRDF regime. That is the difference and the reasons for its vital relevance. Even the higher ups like Gebru Asrat, Seye Abraha, and many higher or mid level officials who dismounted the TPLF horse–for one reason or another and at one time or another–have not given us the kind of insight, information, into the inner working and relationship that exist among the leading cadres and officials of the TPLF and so called EPRDF. They did not provide us with what exactly went on within the TPLF and its satellite organizations like the ANDM, OPDO at various sages during the course of the past decades. But Tesfaye Gebereab has filled in many blanks for us.

He has confirmed what many in the opposition have been saying all along buttressed by hitherto unavailable data and valuable information. It is for sure and by all means, not a complete picture and information. But it is a very good and promising start where others like him coming from the Intelligence, the foreign affairs, the military and others sectors of the TPLF regime can fill in the gaps.

Prudence dictates that one should encourage such individuals who choose to leave the ruling ethnic party and its coterie of appendages parties to write and expose what they know like Tesfaye Gebreab did in his work. We should accord them due welcome while urging them to also apologize if they indeed engaged in acts that were once harmful to the people of Ethiopia.

I find it utterly disagreeable; both from tactical and strategic considerations, the urge by some of our compatriots in engaging to demonize and pound on ad infintum against individuals like to Tesfaye who dared to write a piece of themselves, availing their historical memory and recounting their personal encounters. Perhaps, we may expect more that they did not tell us, but we should welcome their writing forays as a good start for more to come. In the past, there we have witnessed many who defected from, or had a fall out with the TPLF and the so-called EPRDF, but have not heard nor read what went on while they were part of the political system. Save for few exceptions that left at very early stages.

We should therefore give credit where it is due. For Tesfaye has opened at least one door among the gates of the flood. If managed wisely the discontented and disconcerted middle and lower echelons of the TPLF/EPRDF regime may defect in droves. Such happenings will further expose and bankrupt the decaying and ethnocentric Tigrayan gang ruling over Ethiopia.

On the flip side of the coin, the path of endless demonization for what one did once as part of an oppressive system does not give incentive for others to follow suit. Such acts do not encourage many discontented individuals in the enemy’s camp to leave the TPLF regime, and leave it for once and for all, followed by publicly exposing it for its many crimes of human rights abuse stemming from the ethno-terrorist features and political culture of the Tigrayan dominated ethnocentric gang. Such a trend is surely not a strategically wise move if viewed from our political objectives of exposing, weakening, and further exacerbating the contradictions and bankruptcy of an already decaying regime at the brink of collapse. It suffices to recall that the Derg regime was further weakened and the moral of the then Ethiopian army declined when heavy weight officials and functionaries such as Col Goshu Wolde, the then Foreign Minster Maj. Dawit Wolde Girogis, the then Commissioner of Relief and Rehabilitation, and scores of others to abandon and expose much of Col. Mengistu’s and his regime’s misguided policies, human rights abuse, and other excesses.

However legitimate the criticism leveled against Tesfaye for being a willing participant of TPLF’s ploy to pit one ethnic group against the other by writing the book under the title “Ye Burka Zimita”, I find his current book infused with a very good vision for Ethiopia and the Ethiopain people. Foremost, the recognition of lack of freedom and justice. Freedom for the writer, the journalist, the civil servant, businessman, peasant, etc to realize their potential. For self expression unhindered and unburdened by either the custom of the land or the powers that be ruling/miruling the land.

Indeed “የጋዜጠኛው ማስታወሻ” is pervaded by a deep recognition the lack of freedom and an arrested and stultified development the human mind and spirit, and in this case the Ethiopian personality. The glaring lack of it in Ethiopia during the successive regimes, including the TPLF, the very regime the author served close to a decade even from the authors early ordeals of life starting from his inability to find a work as a journalist, his passion, despite his demonstrated talent and abilities as a writer.

Contrary to what many impute to him, we also see the author’ s deep love for Ethiopia and an umbilical love and attachment to Bishoftu/Debrezeit, his place of birth and coming of age. His love of people and places extends to far away place like Gondar and other regions too. Writers and poets are artists after all, they have a unique angle with which they see and envision humanity, nature, and the world. Tesfaye has shared a piece of himself, including deeply personal matters with the world in his own attractive use of language and poetic style. One can argue that as far as what is expected of writers and poets; he has fulfilled his role of literary creativity in a work meant as a true story, a journal cum memoir. This argument does not mean that we have to agree with all his ideas and assertions, including characterization of individuals who have established a long and consistent track record in the struggle fro Human rights and democracy in Ethiopia, like for instance, Ato Abraha Belay of Ethiomedia. We take what we think are important when it comes to such assertions and “revelations” about personalities as well as events.

(The writer can be reached at Neaminz@aol.com)

British Embassy announces new student immigration system

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – The British Embassy in Addis Ababa announced that Ethiopian students looking to study in the UK will be able to apply for their visa through Tier 4 of the new streamlined Points Based System beginning today.

According to a press release issued by the embassy, Ethiopian students will need to prove that they have been accepted onto a course run by an education institution which is a UK Border Agency (UKBA) licensed Tier 4 sponsor, proves that they have the means to support themselves, and supply their biometric details at their local visa application center.

If granted a visa, the new Tier 4 regulations allow international students to undertake part-time work of up to 20 hours per week during term time, full time work during the holidays and undertake any course related work placements, the release said. “The UK has a lot to offer international students. Now they see whether they are eligible for a visa before they even apply- making the system much clearer and easier to understand,” Susannah Susannah Richmond, Entry Clearance Manager of the British Embassy commented:, Entry Clearance Manager of the British Embassy commented.

The aim is to make the application process more transparent and straightforward, Richmond said.

For the first time, all independent fee-paying schools, colleges and universities that want to accept international students to study with them now need to a license to do so, the release indicated.

This will help the UK government crack down on bogus colleges, something which will be welcome news to many Ethiopian students, who can now be sure that the language school, college or university they intend to study at is an approved educational institution, it said.

According to the release, over a thousand UK institutions have signed up to sponsor international students.

Further information on visa products are posted on http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/studyingintheuk/,the release says.

Egyptian team heads to Ethiopia to implement water projects

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Dr. Mohamed Nasr Eddin, said on Monday, March 30, that a high level delegation will head for Ethiopia to probe means of boosting cooperation on technical studies needed to carry out some water projects there.

In statements, the Minister said he entrusted a team comprising experts of the Ministry along with university professors to do an assessment for Toshka and As-Salam waterway projects through making field visits in order to have a preconception of these projects.

Moreover, he added that the Ministry will study the possibility of restructuring the Ministry’s sectors and drawing up new legislations to eradicate centralism.

U.S. to join U.N. Human Rights Council, reversing Bush policy

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

By Colum Lynch | Washington Post

UNITED NATIONS — The Obama administration decided Tuesday to seek a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, reversing a decision by the Bush administration to shun the United Nations’ premier rights body to protest the influence of repressive states.

“Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement. “With others, we will engage in the work of improving the U.N. human rights system. . . . We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies.”

The United States announced it would participate in elections in May for one of three seats on the 47-member council, joining a slate that includes Belgium and Norway.

New Zealand, which had also been on the ballot, supports the U.S. decision and withdrew its name to make room for the United States, Foreign Minister Murray McCully announced. “Frankly, by any objective measure, membership of the Council by the U.S. is more likely to create positive changes more quickly than we could have hoped to achieve them,” he said.

The decision was welcomed by U.N. officials and rights advocates, who had been briefed on the decision. Human rights activists have been advocating U.S. membership in the council since its creation in March 2006.

“This is a welcome step that gives the United States and other defenders of human rights a fighting chance to make the institution more effective,” said a human rights advocate familiar with the decision. “I think everybody is just desperate to have the United States and Barack Obama run for the human rights council, and countries are willing to bend over backward to make that happen.”

The Geneva-based Human Rights Council was established in March 2006 to replace the 60-year-old Human Rights Commission, which lost international credibility after countries with abysmal rights records, such as Sudan and Zimbabwe, were allowed to join and thwart criticism of their actions.

The Bush administration refused to join the new rights body, saying it was not convinced that it represented much of an improvement over its predecessor. John R. Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations when the council was created, said at the time that the United States would have more “leverage in terms of the performance of the new council” by not participating in it and thus signaling a rejection of “business as usual.”

Reached Tuesday, Bolton denounced the Obama administration’s decision. “This is like getting on board the Titanic after it’s hit the iceberg,” he said. “This is the theology of engagement at work. There is no concrete American interest served by this, and it legitimizes something that doesn’t deserve legitimacy.”

The Obama administration and rights advocates concede that the Human Rights Council has failed to emerge as a powerful champion of human rights, saying it has devoted excessive attention to alleged abuses by Israel and too little to abuses in places such as Darfur, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.

Last week, the rights council adopted a resolution sponsored by Pakistan and other Islamic states that condemns the “defamation of religion” as a violation of human rights, arguing that abuses against Muslims have mounted in the years following the 911 terror attacks. But European states criticized the Islamic resolution, saying it posed a threat to the right of free speech. However, the decision to seek a seat on the council is in keeping with what President Obama has called a “new era of engagement” with other nations to advance U.S. security interests and meet the global challenges of the 21st century.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said: “Those who suffer from abuse and oppression around the world, as well as those who dedicate their lives to advancing human rights, need the council to be balanced and credible.” She said the United States seeks election to the body “because we believe that working from within, we can make the council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights.”

The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the U.N. system made up of 47 elected members whose mission is to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights globally. The next round of elections to the council will be held May 15 in the U.N. General Assembly in New York, with members elected to three-year terms. The council is scheduled to undergo a formal review of its structure and procedures in 2011, offering an opportunity for reform.

Ethiopia has agreed to end dispute with FIFA

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Reuters) – Ethiopia has agreed to end a long-running row with world governing body FIFA over leadership of the country’s football federation, giving the national team the chance to play in international competitions again.

Ethiopia were thrown out of the World Cup qualifying competition last year after refusing to honor an agreement reached with FIFA over restoring the local federations officially recognized leaders.

The Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) held an emergency meeting on Friday and decided to comply with FIFAs requirements, including holding a meeting to elect a new executive committee, state television and local media said.

Teddy Afro escapes from jail, arrives in Kenya

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Ethiopian man convicted of killing his Canadian girlfriend

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Witness Brady Allen describes how Arssei Hindessa pulled victim Natalie Novak’s hair and hit her in the temple, during Hindessa’s trial Tuesday, Feb. 10. 2009, in Toronto. (Sun Media/Pam Davies)

TORONTO, CANADA (NP) – The former boyfriend of a 20-year-old Ryerson University student was convicted this afternoon of her second-degree murder, to the shocked gasps of the victim’s family.

The jury acquitted Arssei Hindessa, 32-year-old immigrant from Ethiopia, of first-degree murder in the May, 2006, death of Natalie Novak.

“No. No,” Novak’s relatives cried out as the jury foreman read the verdict in a Toronto courtroom.

Hindessa had slit Novak’s throat, and stabbed her nine times. The jury deliberated for nearly six days.

Toronto police Detective Stacy Gallant read a statement from Novak’s family, which called on Premier Dalton McGuinty to do more to protect victims of domestic violence. The statement noted that more than 120 women were killed by their male partners between 2002 and 2006, according to provincial data.

“The war is not only in Afghanistan but in the homes of our friends and neighbours. Poisoned dogs generate more press and sympathy than women and children murdered by violent men,” said the Novak family.

Hindessa, an Ethiopian refugee, admitted to killing Ms. Novak, who is from Bracebridge, during his testimony this month. He claimed he was “drunk and paranoid” that night. As well he suggested to the Ontario Superior Court jury that Ms. Novak provoked an argument. “She tried to guilt-trip me,” said Hindessa, who was already under a restraining order because of previous assaults against Ms. Novak.

Crown attorney Mary Humphrey told the jury last week in her closing submission that the killing was “planned and deliberate” by Hindessa.

“Mr. Hindessa is a liar and a manipulator. Please don’t be conned by him,” said Ms. Humphrey, who suggested jealousy was the
motive.

Defence lawyer Aston Hall urged the jury to come back with a manslaughter verdict, suggesting his client had a diminished mental state the evening he killed Ms. Novak.

The jury heard medical evidence Hindessa was delusional and paranoid and may sufferer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of being tortured while imprisoned in Ethiopia.

“This is a tragedy all over,” said Mr. Hall outside court after the verdict. “A young woman lost her life. Clearly her family is in pain.”

The verdict was delivered by 11 jurors. The twelfth juror was dismissed yesterday morning after court staff observed her acting erratically. A family member informed the court she had a history of mental illness.

A second-degree murder conviction results in an automatic life sentence, with parole eligibility set between 10 and 25 years.

Six jurors recommended parole ineligibility be set at 25 years. Four others recommended 20 years. The other juror said 15 years.

The recommendations are not binding on Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy.

She will hold a sentencing hearing in May to determine how much time in prison Hindessa must serve before he can apply for parole.

- By Shannon Kari | National Post

Air Ethiopia looking to acquire two more planes

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Air Ethiopia, the newly established local private airline company, is seeking to acquire two additional Beech 1900s in three to four weeks’ time, Capital learnt.

After obtaining an operational license from the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) a month ago, it has already started conducting flights to different parts of the country.
Founded by Captain Abera Lemi, a former employee of Ethiopian Airlines, Air Ethiopia is currently operating one Beech 1900 after acquiring it on a lease-purchase basis from its US manufacturing company.

“Our aircraft, Beech 1900, has a special feature to suit the Ethiopian topography. The 19 seat capacity aircraft can also fly as high as 33000ft and 2625 rate of climb per minute,” the company said. “It also has a 17,500 ft single engine service ceiling. With this excellent performance in the case of emergency, we will be able to fly our destination safely.” The new entrant is now aiming to acquire two more aircrafts to expand its operation to different destinations in Ethiopia. The airline sees enormous untapped potential in the sector as it believes the demand is too big to be filled only by the current operators.

While the maintenance of the aircraft and training of the flight crew of Air Ethiopia is governed by the Ministry of Transport and Communication and ECAA, the company also claims it has set up high security standards and insurance coverage for all its passengers that put it on par with other airlines throughout the world.

Currently, the airline is providing charter, air safari, humanitarian and relief, mission and air ambulance flight services to and from Addis Ababa. It seeks to increase its regional scheduled flight service in the future when its fleet capacity is enhanced and once operational arrangements are made.

The company has already started flight services to Mekele and Bahir Dar using the aircraft that can cruise up to the speed of 600 kilometres per hour. The company’s schedule shows it fly Tuesdays and Fridays to Mekele and Mondays and Thursdays to Bahir Dar.

Following the enactment of the Investment Proclamation No. 280/2002, providing air transport services using aircrafts with a seating capacity of not more than 20 passengers is allowed. While only Ethiopian nationals can engage in the passengers service, the proclamation opens the air cargo services for foreigners without any restrictions.

Other than Ethiopian Airlines, there are currently four private aviation companies operating in the country. Abyssinia Flight Services, Trans Nation Airways and Suhura Cargo Services and Air Ethiopia have received Air Operator Certificate (AOC) from the ECAA.

Libya's Gadhafi hurls insults at Saudi king

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

DOHA (AFP) – Maverick Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi stole the show at Monday’s Arab summit, insulting Saudi King Abdullah before storming out to visit a museum.

But the flamboyant Gaddafi also left the door open for reconciliation with Abdullah, whose Western-backed kingdom is a regional heavyweight and the world’s largest oil exporter.

“It has been six years since you have been avoiding a confrontation with me,” Kadhafi snapped, just as summit host Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was ending his speech.

“You are always lying and you’re facing the grave and you were made by Britain and protected by the United States,” Gaddafi told Abdullah in front of 15 other leaders attending the annual gathering.

Tensions have run high between the two countries since articles in US and Saudi newspapers in June 2004 accused Gaddafi of allegedly plotting to assassinate Abdullah, then crown prince.

“I am the leader of the Arab leaders, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of the Muslims,” proclaimed Gaddafi, the Arab world’s longest serving leader who has been in power since 1969.

Gaddafi, recently elected as African Union chairman, was bestowed with the title “king of kings” by African tribal dignitaries in September 2008.

State-run Qatari television interrupted the feed to the press room, but when the broadcast was restored, Gaddafi was heard telling Abdullah: “I am ready to visit you and for you to visit me.”

Libyan state television aired excerpts of Gaddafi’s diatribe, and the official JANA news agency published the full text of his vitriolic attack.

“I tell my brother Abdullah, that you have avoided me for six years and you are afraid to confront me,” Gaddafi said, according to the Libyan media. “I want to reassure you: there is no need to be afraid.

“I tell you that after six years, it has been proven whose past is a pack of lies and who is facing death,” he said, echoing similar remarks by Abdullah at a 2003 Arab summit.

“You are a product of Great Britain and protected by the United States,” Gaddafi said, again quoting from Abdullah’s 2003 attack on him at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

“Out of respect for the (Arab) nation, I consider the personal problem between us over and I am ready to visit you and to welcome you” to Libya, Gaddafi said, the Libyan state media reported.

The flamboyant Gaddafi, dressed in an ochre robe and cap and wearing black sunglasses, then rose and swept out of the conference center, with aides saying he was off to visit a museum.

Abdullah also left the conference hall briefly, diplomats said.

The Qatari emir later hosted a meeting to reconcile the two.

“The misunderstanding between Saudi Arabia and Libya has been ended during this summit,” Libyan official Ahmad Kadaf al-Dam told reporters.

Gaddafi has a history of unpredictability at such gatherings.

At an Arab summit in 1988 he wore a white glove on his right hand to avoid shaking “bloodstained hands,” and the following year he blew smoke from a fat cigar into the face of the late king Fahd of Saudi Arabia.

At the 2005 Arab summit in Algiers he upstaged the final session with an unscheduled address in which he described Israel and the Palestinians as “idiots,” leaving his audience in fits of laughter.

One aim of the Doha summit was to reunite Arab ranks divided over Israel’s 22-day onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

Genocide Watch calls for action against Ethiopia's dictator

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Genocide Watch, the international campaign to end genocide, has called on United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Justice Navanathem, to initiate an investigation against the government of Meles Zenawi. Genocide Watch cited the atrocities committed in Gambela against the Anuaks and ethnic Somalis in the Ogaden as examples of the crimes that have not been seriously investigated by the UN body.

In an open letter Genocide Watch President Dr Gregory Stanton wrote to the Commissioner, he commended the International Criminal Court for indicting the Sudanese President, Omar Hassan Al Bashir, but noted that “one of the first leaders to defend Omar al-Bashir and condemn the warrant was Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, whose government has also been implicated in a pattern of widespread perpetration of serious human rights atrocities in Ethiopia and in Somalia.”

“He and those within his government may be keenly aware of their own vulnerability to similar actions by the ICC in the future that could upend a deeply entrenched system of government-supported impunity that has protected perpetrators from any accountability,” Dr Stanton noted.

The Genocide Watch President asserted that a UN investigation was justified due to the culture of impunity that existed within Ethiopia and underlined that “extensive documentation is available to examine the violations, most of which has been compiled in independent investigative reports completed by international human rights organizations.”

“We also believe that the Ethiopian people have been waiting long enough for genuine justice and relief from the harsh oppression and brutal tactics committed by a government that purports to be a partner in the War on Terror, while terrorizing their own people,” the letter noted.

Dr Stanton said that Genocide Watch and Survivors International confirmed that the atrocities committed in Gambela against the Anuaks in 2003 “fit the definitions of genocide and crimes against humanity. Human Rights Watch also conducted two investigations of their own and determined that the crimes against the Anuak meet the stringent definition of crimes against humanity.” He also indicated that Genocide Watch was willing in providing assistance to the Commission in carrying out the investigation.

“We in Genocide Watch, and other human rights organizations are determined to pursue justice, even long after violations have occurred, as part of our mission. Investigative reports, contacts and other information can be provided should you need them,” he said.

Let's talk about toilets

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

By Jenny Higgins

Seriously, the toilet perils of traveling don’t get talked about enough – maybe because so many of the Africa travelogues I’ve read are written by men and, I don’t care what anyone says about gender equality, men simply don’t have the same issues when it comes to toilets. They can generally whip it out and pee anywhere (and they do… every time I turn a corner there’s an Ethiopian man peeing up a fence or a lamppost or on a parked car) but for women it’s not so easy.

For a start, sometimes a toilet, however rudimentary, doesn’t actually exist. At our school there are no toilet facilities (they are being built) and very little cover to enable you to pee behind a tree. Consequently, if I’m at the school from early morning until the evening I have to either drive back to the town to pee (which makes me feel utterly ridiculous) or just hold it. So I try and plan to only stay for a few hours at a time, and ration the amount I drink (not so easy when it’s really hot!).

So wherever you’re going and whatever you’re doing, you try and make sure there are toilets. The first time my three male colleagues and I were going to drive from Lalibela to Addis Ababa, I made sure I said to Abiy, the driver, ‘look, you guys are men, you can pee anywhere, but we have to make sure we find me a proper toilet sometimes’.

I don’t mean I have to have a western style toilet, I’m quite happy with a hole in the ground – in fact, sometimes these can be a more pleasant experience. Toilet wise, I have done things I never would have done in the UK. I have peed while a goats watched, peed in a group, behind a tree (okay, I’ve done that one before!), in the most disgusting and smelly shed, and – most memorably – I have peed in a hat (don’t ask. Really, don’t ask).

I’m not asking for 5 star toilet facilities, I’m relatively unfussy. The one thing I do ask for is some kind of privacy – it amazes me that in most of Ethiopia they don’t feel that a door is an essential part of the toilet experience. I really do. In one café where we stopped for breakfast, people eating had a perfect (I’m talking cinema-scope) view of anyone using the toilet as there was no door. Of course, this is fine for men, but for women it’s not ideal. Can you imagine what would have happened if I’d used the toilet? A faranji? I suspect they would have been talking about it for days.

Even when there is a toilet door, it’s rare that the door closes properly. A newly built, beautiful hotel in Lalibela has toilet doors that have to be held shut whilst you are peeing, which requires quite a lot of balance and freakishly long arms. Worse than that, the toilet doors are half glass! Half glass!! What’s that all about? Yes, it’s ‘smoked glass’ so you can’t see detail, but you can still see the shape of someone sitting on the toilet, and quite frankly, that’s not a silhouette I want anyone to see.

Once you’ve worried about showing your big (well, in my case) white bottom to the watching world, you need to worry about quite where you’re putting that bottom. Toilets in Ethiopia run the full gauntlet from ‘nice’ right down to ‘oh my God, that’s disgusting’, but it’s amazing what you can ignore when needed. I have peed (and worse) in the smelliest and most repulsive excuses for toilets I have ever seen. I can’t understand why they just don’t clean them, especially when they’re in hotels and restaurants. When I was in the South of Ethiopia, there was a particularly revolting toilet in a hotel (I’d name and shame, but I can’t remember exactly what it was called). The floor was covered with something that definitely wasn’t mud and as I gingerly tiptoed my way through it, I dropped my wrap. Argh! I could have cried. In fact, I was ready to throw it in the bin – it’s bad enough having to deal with horrible toilets, let alone carry the contents around on your clothes – but luckily there was a big sink outside and a lovely woman who managed to clean it in minutes.

So, cleanliness is not always a given, and you don’t get much privacy, even in the 3 star hotels. You don’t always get toilet paper either. When you first travel in Ethiopia this comes a bit of a surprise and you get caught short sometimes, but soon you get used to it and you learn to steal any toilet paper you come across, stockpiling it in your bag for future emergencies.

Of course, all these issues triple their impact when you start factoring in dodgy stomachs or periods – I know, I know, but nobody talks about this stuff, and it’s an important consideration. How can I go and work at the school when I might need a toilet at a moments notice, and just popping behind a tree won’t cut it? When you’re doing a 9 hour drive and the only place to pee is behind a tree – it’s not the best feeling in the world when you are fighting a heavy period. And if you’re travelling with someone, well, let’s just say that amoebic dysentery really deepens the intimacy between you. That or it ensures that you never speak again after the trip has finished.

So there are definitely lessons to be learnt from this. When traveling in Ethiopia: be prepared for some variations in toilet standards; build up those thigh muscles for the squatting you will have to do; invest in some kind of stick to hold doors closed when you need to; and always, always, always carry your own toilet paper.

The monastic community of Ethiopia

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

By Robert Van de Weyer

The following is a description of the life of the Ethiopian monastic community (nefru gedam), based on visits to 18 major monasteries and lengthy interviews with the monks. It is remarkable that from one end of Ethiopia to the other the life of the monasteries is essentially the same, varying only in degrees of strictness. It is possible therefore to typify that life.

Fortunately monasticism also spread southwards to the Land of Sheba. Ethiopians coming to be ordained by the Coptic Patriarch would often stop at the desert monasteries on their way to Alexandria, and on their return imitated what they had seen. Over the centuries the monks of Ethiopia have jealously guarded the primitive traditions, and they claim that even today their monastic communities are identical to those of the early desert fathers.

The Monastic Village

Like the first convents of Egypt the monasteries of Ethiopia are built like ordinary villages, using the same materials as the poor people. In Eritrea and Tigre it is rough, dry stone, and in the southern provinces mud and eucalyptus. Most have between 50 and a 100 monks, usually with about half as many boys studying in the monastery school. Each monk has his own hut, perhaps eight or 10 feet square, in which he has a skin to sleep on, a drinking gourd, a bowl for food and a prayer book. An older monk may have a few luxuries such as a metal bed and a torch. The students, on the other hand, have no privacy, three or four sharing one hut, and are allowed no extra possessions. There is a common kitchen where the food is cooked over an open fire, a granary and an assembly hall. Dominating the whole is the church, and this alone is built in expensive materials, such as cut stone and mortar or, in modern times, brick and concrete. Next to it is the sacristy where the vestments and sacred objects are kept.

The monasteries are mostly situated on mountains or cliffs since many of the founders were hermits living in mountain caves, and the original communities grew up around them. Debre Libanos of Ham, for example, is on a narrow ledge in a sheer rock face where Abba Libanos used to meditate in the fifth century; monks and visitors climb down to it by the hand and foot holes which Libanos’s disciples are said to have cut into the cliff. Debre Damo and Debre Salam are both reached by rope up a perpendicular wail of rock, and legends abound on how their founders made the first ascent. Some monasteries are at the bottom of a steep valley or ravine, such as Gunda-Gundet which takes five hours to reach from where it is first visible from above. Few are easily accessible.

Prayers

The center of the monks’ life is prayer. The monks rise on most mornings at around four o’clock and assemble in the church to chant the morning office (Sa’atat) which last about two hours. On Sundays and major feast days they start the office at midnight and then perform the Mass (Kiddase), finishing at dawn. Unlike the large secular churches few monasteries have trained singers and the monks do not dance as the secular priests do. Some of the more ascetical monasteries do not even chant the office and the Mass, but prefer simply to say them. In mid-afternoon the monks gather once again, usually in the assembly hall, for a short office of about 15 minutes. Apart from these common prayers the monk is expected to pray frequently in private. Each monk is free to choose his own method of private prayer, though certain ways are common. Many retire to their huts every one or two hours and say the Lord’s Prayer and the Canticle of St. Mary. Others repeat ” Jesus Christ, please save me ” or ” Through Blessed Mary, have mercy on me ” 41 times. Most monks also spend long hours at night in silent contemplation.

Livelihood

The monasteries all own sufficient land for the monks, needs. Although manual work is not considered essential in the monk’s life, as it is in the contemplative communities of Europe, the stricter monasteries such as Debre Libanos of Ham and Waldebba regard it as important that the members plough the land themselves. At harvest time all able-bodied monks and students are working in the fields, and only the old and lame remain behind. However in most monasteries a proportion of the land is rented to peasant farmers in return for a share of the crop. At Abba Gerema, where almost all the land is rented out, the monks explain that at the foundation of their monastery in the sixth century the Emperor dispossessed all the peasants living nearby to give their land to the monks; since the peasants then starved the monks in their mercy gave back the land in return for a third of the crop, an arrangement persisting to this day. The domestic work – cooking, cleaning, carrying water and the like – is mostly done by the students. Nevertheless some monks want a daily occupation and volunteer to do some particular chore: at Sequar, for example, two venerable monks have been the wood­cutters for the past half century and, as one of them said, death alone will make him lay down his axe.
Almost all monasteries trade with the local people, and every week on market-day a group of monks go to the nearest town with mules carrying produce from the monastery lands. In exchange they buy soap and candles and any other small luxuries. Some monasteries purposely grow fruit and vegetables which they never eat themselves to sell at the market; at one community they even grow cha’at, a drug forbidden to Christians, for the local Muslim population, and they have become so proficient that their cha’at is reckoned the best in the province. Most monasteries, however, simply sell their surplus grain. Apart from the obligations of prayer and work, the monk is free to use his time as he thinks fit. The monks spend many of their leisure hours chatting with each other, and it is not uncommon to hear a heated discussion coming from one of the huts. On Sundays and feast days many visit nearby villages, and they are invited into the peasants’ homes to drink barley beer (talla). Some go regularly to teach in the village schools: even today most children are educated by the clergy, and monks are usually preferred as teachers to secular priests. For spiritual guidance also people prefer to come to a monk since he can listen to their problems with detachment. Once a year on the feast of the founder the village people are invited to the monastery, and the monks entertain them with bread and beer.

Eating

In contrast to the Western monastery where the monks always eat in common, in Ethiopia they eat separately. After mid-afternoon prayers in the assembly hall the daily food is brought from the kitchens by students and distributed. The monks take it to their huts and eat it as and when they please. The food is generally bread and boiled beans, with a cup of barley beer or, for sick monks, a cup of milk. In stricter monasteries the bread and beans are served on alternate days. A few monasteries, such as Assabot and Zuquala, allow the monks to grow their own vegetables near their huts which they can cook themselves to supplement the diet. The monks keep all the normal fasts of the Church, and add many private fasts of their own. On major festivals the monks have stewed meat, and on these occasions they eat together in the assembly hall. The students receive the same food as the monks, though occasionally an older monk or one undergoing a private fast may give some of his food to a favourite boy.

Old Age and Death

As in every other part of the world, be it Buddhist, Christian or whatever, Ethiopian monks have a reputation for longevity. Yet in most monasteries no special provision is made for the decrepit and helpless old monk; his food is brought to him each day in his hut where he lies waiting for death. A few monasteries, however, have an infirmary. At Dalshiha, for instance, they have a long hut with bamboo beds on either side: the old monks chat to each other, those still able to see read the prayers and psalms for those who cannot, and students are always on hand to serve them. In Debre Libanos of Shoa old monks are taken to a nunnery two kilometres away where the nuns look after them. The normal funeral service for a monk is the same as for an ordinary lay person. A few monasteries, however, such as Abrentant profess such contempt for the human body that the monk is buried without ceremony.

Abbe Minet

The Chief Monk Each monastery is entirely independent in administration, both of other monasteries and of the local bishop. The head of the monastery in all temporal matters is the Abbe Minet. He does not directly order the monks as the abbot in the West does, but he appoints three senior officers to govern each area of the community’s life (see next section). In most monasteries the Abbe Minet makes these appointments alone, but in some he calls a meeting of all the monks to hear their views. For example at Enda Abuna Booroch after the harvest the monks meet to review the work of the previous year, and if necessary to advise on the replacement of senior officers. Sometimes an officer asks to be dismissed, and it is not uncommon for a newly-appointed officer to have disappeared by next morning.

The main job of the Abbe Minet is not in the monastery at all, but is as ambassador to the outside world. He usually has a house in the nearest large town where he spends most of his time, dealing with disputes over monastic lands – in a country where the monasteries are major landowners the Abbe Minet can be no stranger to the law courts – and employing men to ensure that the tenants pay a fair share of the crop. He also has much influence in local church affairs. In Eritrea, for instance, the bishop calls a council one or two times a year of the Abbe Minets of the 18 major monasteries to discuss major decisions of policy in the diocese.

The Abbe Minet is elected by the monks of his monastery for life or until he desires to leave the post. On the whole he is an untypical monk since he is chosen for his worldly wisdom, and many are quite young, some apparently in their early thirties. There is no special ceremony for the installation of a new Abbe Minet, but prayers for his guidance are added to the morning office, and at midday there is a feast in his honour. Occasionally an Abbe Minet is promoted to the episcopate, but more often he retires to pass his declining years as an ordinary monk.

Senior Officers

The Abbe Minet’s deputy is the Afe Memhir, and he has charge of the monastery when the Abbe Minet is away. The Afe Memhir keeps the general discipline of the community, and he has the authority to judge and to punish. Students who fight or who are insolent or disobedient, the Afr Memhir orders to be beaten, appointing a junior monk to administer the punishment. This happens quite frequently, and no shame attaches to the offending student. Monks, on the other hand, he rarely needs to punish, and it is considered a terrible disgrace. For such offences as persistent disobedience or physical violence the Afe Memhir sentences the monk to be put in the stocks: the offender’s legs are put through two holes in a rough log, his feet are tied together, and he sits on a flat stone. For extreme crimes, particularly any kind of sexual immorality, the monk is expelled.

As far as the ordinary monks and students are concerned, the most important officer is the Magabi. He governs the whole livelihood of the community and assigns each person to his task. He decides when the seed should be sown and the grain harvested, and he ensures that the food is distributed fairly each afternoon. He does not have his own hut, but generally sleeps in the granary to guard against thieves. Above the granary door at Enda Bona hangs a fading sign, supposedly inscribed 700 years ago by the monastery’s founder, which reads: ” No one may enter without the Magabi’s permission.” The Magabi’s job is so hard that, although only young and able-bodied men are chosen, after two or throe years he usually retires and a replacement is found. The church and sacristy tire maintained by the Gabaz. Apart from students who clean the buildings, the Gabaz has under his direct charge an Ackabeit who guards the sacristy, sleeping there at night, and a bell-ringer who calls the monks to prayers. In large monasteries, such as Debre Bizen and Debre Libanos of Shoa, the Abbe Minet also appoints two or three older monks as advisers. They have no authority of their own, but they often accompany the Abbe Minet to meetings in town, and help to keep him informed of events within the monastery. Most monasteries, however, are sufficiently small and intimate to make such advisers unnecessary.

Komas – The Spiritual Father

The spiritual head of the monastery is the Komas. He is appointed by the bishop as his representative, and is often an older monk known for his exceptional sanctity. He does not guide the individual monk’s inner life, as the Spiritual Director in the West does, but he gives advice when it is asked for, arbitrating in any conflicts in the community. As one monk described it: ” While the Afe Memhir punishes by the rod, the Komas punishes by prayer.” Large monasteries may have more than one Komas, and new bishops are appointed from the Komases.

The School

The monastery school is intended to prepare the students for ordination, either as secular priests or as monks, and its syllabus is the same as that of the normal seminary attached to a large church. The type of student, however, is quite different. The pupils of the normal seminary are mostly the sons of priests, and boys who have no relatives in the priesthood are often refused entry or charged a large fee. The monastery schools, on the other hand, are bound by tradition to welcome all comers. No fee is charged and the students are given free food and lodging, since the menial work they do is considered sufficient payment. Thus most of the monastery students are from peasant families. In many cases they come from villages hundreds of miles away to avoid parental opposition, since by entering the monastery they are depriving their families of their labour.

Two or three of the most learned monks are appointed by the Abbe Minet as teachers. During the day when they have finished their chores the students are taught to read Geez and to memorize large portions of the religious books. Their raucous voices reciting in unison what they have just learnt frequently breaks the calm of the monastery. After dark they learn the liturgical chants. The school has no classroom, but generally there is a small courtyard where the students squat on the ground while the teacher sits on a low stool in their midst.

Over half the students drop out after one or two years and return to their villages. After about three years the promising student is sent to the local bishop to be ordained deacon which allows him to assist at the Mass. After several more years when they consider him fit the senior monks give the student a test of his reading ability and his knowledge of the holy books. A failed student can re-take the test indefinitely, and almost everyone passes eventually. The majority then want to become secular priests, and so they go to serve as deacons in a village church for a year or two before being ordained into the priesthood by the local bishop. A minority decide to become monks.

Profession

Most of those who profess as monks are graduates from the monastery school. The rest are widowers with no family ties; of these most are laymen with little or no education, though a few are secular priests or lay scholars. The intending monk firstly has a long interview with the Abbe Minet. The Abbe Minet does all he can to discourage him from his vocation, explaining the rigours of the monastery compared to life in the world. At the end of the interview the Abbe Minet asks: “Are you prepared to serve God as a monk, according to the ancient traditions governing the monk’s conduct?” The candidate simply replies: ” Yes, I am.”

The ceremony of profession is held a few weeks later in the church, usually on a feast day. Traditionally the candidate is wrapped in palm leaves, the funeral dress of the poor, and the monks sing the funeral requiem to signify his death to the world. He then rises up and the Komas places on his head a cotton cap (kob) which he must always wear in future as the sign of his profession, and gives him a new name. For the next 40 days the new monk often chooses to confine himself to his hut, in imitation of Christ in the wilderness, to prepare for his future life.

About a year after profession the young monk who previously graduated from the monastery school goes to the local bishop to be ordained priest. The uneducated widower, however, is considered unfit for ordination.

Scholarship

The monks do not have a reputation for scholarship, and few receive a higher education. Rather it is the lay scholars (debteras) who devote themselves to study. The monks, however, have traditionally patronised the lay scholars, inviting distinguished teachers and their students to live at the monasteries and giving them food and lodging. With the general decline in recent decades in the higher learning of the Church this patronage is becoming less common, though still in the large monasteries such as Debre Libanos of Shoa lay teachers and students live side by side with the monks.

Many monasteries, however, retain great numbers of manuscripts which were mostly donated by kings and noblemen in the past for the use of the lay scholars. Some libraries, such as those at Waldebba and Gunda-Gundet, remain justly famous for their collections of rare works. The manuscripts are generally kept in the sacristy, and though so few monks can appreciate them, they are greatly treasured.

Leaving the Monastery

The majority of monks spend their whole lives in the community where they professed. Nevertheless a monk is free to leave his community at any time, and he will be welcomed at any monastery in the country. The small number of monks who desire a higher education leave in search of a suitable teacher unless there is already one in their monastery. Generally they do not return, but either settle permanently where they find a teacher, or become perpetual wandering scholars moving from one teacher to another. A few leave to seek a more or less strict life than that of their present community. At Abrentant, for example, which is reputed to be one of the most ascetical monasteries in the country, hundreds of monks come each year to try the life, though few stay. Abba Gerema, on the other hand, where the monks do no manual work has a number of monks from other monasteries who have come to enjoy a more leisured life. A sick monk may move to a monastery with a healthier climate, as did one of the present teachers at Enda Sellassie in Adua who came to escape the heat of Hallelu, his original monastery. Occasionally a monk leaves because of a bitter feud with another monk.

Hermits

Though it has long since disappeared in the West, the eremitical life is still widespread in Ethiopia. The cenobitical monks and indeed the ordinary people regard the hermitage as Man’s highest abode on earth, and often monks seem fearful at the possibility of God calling them to it. In almost every monastery there are a number of monks – perhaps one tenth of the total-who confine themselves to their cells. They are described as ” the monks who never see the sun.” They have no responsibilities within the community and do not attend the daily common prayers. Food is brought to their huts each day by a single monk permanently designated to the task, and the hermit only emerges for the Mass in church on Sundays and feast days. Usually their cells are within the monastery compound, though sometimes they are a short distance away: at Debre Damo, for instance, hermits can be seen in apparently inaccessible caves in the sheer cliff beneath the monastery. Other monks or lay people can visit them (if they can reach their cell), and even today many of the rulers of Ethiopia, including the Emperor himself, frequently seek the advice of these hermits on both spiritual and temporal matters.

Besides these monastic hermits, there are countless holy men (ba’atawi) living in remote forests and caves throughout Ethiopia. These men have totally rejected human contact, and if they ever visit a church they “come by night, crawling through the undergrowth so as not to be seen.” as an admiring priest described it. They live only on the wild fruits and herbs which Nature provides. A few of these holy men are ordained monks who have left their communities, but mostly they are lay people – as another monk put it, ” God has called them to holiness from nothing, as Christ called Peter and Paul.”

Conclusion

The Benedictine monastery of Europe, in the words of the founder, is” a school of perfection”: the monk’s daily life is a continuous lesson within a rigidly ordered institution, prescribed in detail in a written rule. By the same analogy the Ethiopian monastery is a university: each monk studies perfection in his own way within a loosely-knit community, governed by traditional rules and customs. Ethiopian monasticism has retained the flexibility and freedom of the first desert convents of Egypt. The monk is within broad limits his own master, both spiritually and physically. He can participate in the community life as much or as little as he chooses, from being a hard worker who enjoys the company of his fellows in his leisure hours, to being a hermit.
St. Benedict in the sixth century purposely moved away from this kind of monasticism, but in recent years the pendulum has begun to swing back in the West. The Western monks may now be reverting to the primitive traditions which Ethiopia has preserved for 15 centuries. (The research on which this article is based was done jointly by the author, his wife Sarah, Father Thomas Conway and Miss Jocelyn Grigg).

Senterej – Ethiopian chess

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

By René Gralla

Historians and experts in cultural studies always look towards India, Persia and Arabia – and some even turn to China, more recently – when they search for the origins of chess. But with regard to Africa it is a sobering fact that up to now the science of chess has stubbornly ignored that continent which is the cradle of mankind.

Africa remains a white spot in the relevant publications so far. That is deplorable since Africa has contributed its own creative and very entertaining version to the universe of chess: the Ethiopian variant “Senterej” that has emerged parallel to the hitherto well-known lines of development.

It is thanks to the British historian Professor Richard Pankhurst that the web community can now learn a little bit more about this thrilling game, on the Tezeta web site. The following survey on history and rules of Senterej is mainly based on the findings of this expert from the UK. Born in London in 1927, Professor Pankhurst today lives and works in Ethiopia where he has founded the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at the University of Addis Ababa.

One of the endearing aspects of Senterej is the fact that beginners do not have to face any major problem to find their way in the scenario of African chess. It is the familiar battleground of 64 squares where the two armies clash. You have only to get used to a different colour scheme: instead of “White” versus “Black”, it is the “Green” King who wants to defeat the “Golden” Monarch. Moreover the board is not checkered, but uniformly red with fine blue lines marking the squares.

Apart from the somewhat different visual impression in Senterej, the majority of pieces move the same way their counterparts do in Chess, i.e. they actually conform to the rules of FIDE. The foregoing is valid with regard to the “castle” (in Ethiopian “der”), that rumbles along like the modern rook, with regard to the “horse” (in Ethiopian: “ferese”), which is the equivalent of our knight, and more or less with regard to the “king”, or the “negus”, as the Ethiopians call him, and which has the same power as his European colleague, except for one difference: there is no privilege of castling in Senterej.

The student of Senterej has to make himself familiar with two special pieces, though. Whereas the Western Ruler can count on a powerful Amazon standing by his side, namely the queen, the Ethiopian king must get along with a weak “Fers” or “Minister”. This counsellor moves diagonally, but only one square at a time; therefore the “Fers” is the same as the “Vizier” in the Arabic game of Shatranj. This is a clear indication of the fact that the Ethiopians adopted Shatranj and transformed it into the African brand of chess they call Senterej.

The Arab connection becomes manifest if we analyse the move of the Ethiopian “Elephant”. The “Fil” or “Saba” corresponds to the bishop in western chess. The African Elephant moves diagonally by either trotting or jumping to the second square; as a result the “Fil” of Senterej corresponds to the Elephant of Arabic Shatranj.

The heritage from the Golden Age of Arab Chess at the Court of the Caliphs at Baghdad finds expression in the pawn of Senterej as well. The Ethiopian “Medeq” is modelled on the pawn of Shatranj and marches forward one square per move, no matter if it is the starting position or not. Both in the Arab Shatranj and in Ethiopian Seneterj, there is no initial two-step pawn move, consequently there is no “en passant” capture option. An Ethiopian “Medeq” that reaches the base line of the opposing force can be replaced either by a Minister, the “Fers”, or by a Castle, a Horse or an Elephant, provided the piece has already been captured by the enemy.

The starting-out position of Senterej is the same as in western chess, but with three modifications: Elephants replace the Bishops; the green Negus, which corresponds to the white king, stands on e1, while the golden Negus is placed on d8; and the green Minister occupies d1, whereas the golden Minister stands on e8.

So far, so good. But there is one unique feature of Senterej that contrasts strongly with all known variants of our eternal game: a match of Ethiopian Chess starts with the “Werera” (pronounced “way-ray-ruh”), the “mobilization phase”, during which the players move as fast as they wish without waiting for their opponent to move. Thus both players may operate simultaneously. As Richard Pankhurst points out, in a brief study: Werera simulates “the marshalling of troops and advance, or, as one might put it, the deployment of forces for an attack in progress” on the chessboard (see: “History and Principles of Ethiopian Chess”, in: Journal of Ethiopian Studies, 1971, XI, no. 2, p. 149 pp., p. 163).

After Werera has started the opponents move as many pieces as they can lay their hands on. Though at this stage a stranger might suppose that there is great confusion on the board, Pankhurst reports that the duellists in fact keenly watch the moves of their adversary and change their tactics accordingly, frequently withdrawing the moves they have already made and substituting others so as to be in the most favourable position at the moment of the first capture.

The mobilization phase ends when the first capture occurs. After that the players move alternately as in the modern game. The big advantage of Werera is that it creates randomized initial positions, which is why it makes no sense to memorize long sequences of openings. Senterej gives ample scope for creativity at the beginning of the game, unlike western chess, where a deep study of openings theory is a prerequisite to tournament success. There is no advantage to be gained from that in Senterej.

Traditionally Senterej has been the favourite pastime of the Ethiopian nobility. Hence it is not surprising that there is a relentless code of honour with regard to checkmate. Pankhurst explains that all form of checkmates are not considered equally honourable (see: “History and Principles of Ethiopian Chess”, in: Journal of Ethiopian Studies, 1971, XI, no. 2, p. 149 pp., p. 168 p). He cites Walter Plowden, British envoy to Ethiopia, in the middle of the 19th century and author of the book “Travels in Abyssinia and the Galla Country”, who has observed that “for instance, a checkmate with the rooks or the knights is considered of the merest tyro”, that is to say, these pieces, “though assisting in throwing the net round the enemy, must not deal the fatal stroke”. The use of the Horse “is just endurable”.

Checkmate with a single Elephant “is tolerably good”, the chess traveller on Her Majesty’s Service state, but checkmating with two Elephants is “applauded – that is, so entangling the king that he has but two squares free”, which, being commanded by the Elephants, “you check with one, and mate with the other”. Plowden adds: “Mating with one, two, three or four pawns, the latter two particularly, is considered the non plus ultra of the game.”

Once more Professor Pankhurst refers to Plowden who unveiled one more “peculiarity” in Senterej: Checkmate is considered “more meritorious” if the adversary had not been denuded of all his major pieces. The foregoing is a matter of etiquette, but that is not all. There is a special trap the unsuspecting beginner can stumble into: it is almost necessary to leave the enemy King two of his “capital pieces”, because, if you reduce him to one, say, an Elephant or a Horse, the opponent commences counting his moves, and you must checkmate him before he has made seven moves with that given piece, otherwise the match will be drawn. Pankhurst underlines that there is one more way out for the adversary in a desperate situation: the lonely Elephant or Horse, cannot be taken, as the game is considered drawn as soon as one side has lost all its capital pieces without having been checkmated.

Emperor Dawit II., better known by his birth name Lebna Dengel (1501-1540), has gone down in history as one of the early stars of Senterej. We learn from Pankhurst that the Negus Negest is said to have played chess with the Venetian artist Gregorio Bicini who worked at the Ethiopian court back then. Other big names in the history of Ethiopian Chess are Ras Michael Sehul of Tigre (ca. 1691-1779), his grandson Ras Wolde Sellassie (ca. 1745-1816) and Sahle Sellassie, King of Shewa (ca. 1795-1847).

And there was even a strong female player who taught her male challengers many bitter lessons at the board of Senterej: Taytu Betul (ca. 1851-1918), the third of four children in an aristocratic Ethiopian family that was related to the Solomonic Dynasty – the traditional Imperial House of Ethiopia, claiming descent from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Taytu Betul married King Menelik of Shewa, later Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia.

The decendent of the Queen of Sheba has lived up to her name by answering the Italian envoy, Count Antonelli, who tried to bully the hesitant Menelik II into accepting the establishment of a protectorate over Ethiopia: “I am a woman. I do not like war. However, I would rather die than accepting your deal. We have our dignity to preserve.” The outspoken and courageous Empress took part in the campaign of 1895-96 against the Italian expeditionary corps that invaded Ethiopia after the breakdown of the negotiations with Rome. She joined forces with Emperor Menelik II and the Imperial Army, commanding 3000 cannoneers at the Battle of Adowa, which resulted in a humiliating defeat for Italy on March 1st, 1896.

Senterej was still being played at the Imperial Palace in Addis Ababa at the time of the second Italian invasion 1935-1936. During the second half of the 20th century, however, Senterej has increasingly been superseded by modern chess. One of the last old masters of Senterej, Miikael Imru, sadly passed away in 2008.

But more recently there have been plans to start a revival of Senterej. Richard Pankhurst has proposed staging a tournament of Senterej, and there are plans to organize it on the occasion of Ethiopias National Holiday, the Day of Adowa on March 2nd, 2010. It could be a festive affair: the audience at a Senterej game is not compelled to be silent. On the contrary: provided that is not an official tournament every onlooker can participate and has a voice in the game. The spectators are even allowed to touch the pieces in order to suggest advisable moves. That is the cheerful African spirit in chess – just the way Empress Taytu Betul loved it.

In a nutshell

In Senterej both sides start playing at the same time without waiting for turns. They only start to take turns after the First Capture. The phase before first capture is called the Mobilization Phase or werera. Both opposing sides start at the same time, and may move their pieces as many times as they like without concern for the number of moves the opponent makes.

The pieces move in the regular fashion, as under FIDE rules, which all apply, except in Senterej:

1. Pawn cannot capture en passant.
2. The two-square first move by a pawn is prohibited. Since a player can move the pawn an unlimited number of times during mobilization, the two-step rule is irrelevant. However, the two-square first move for pawns – if it were legal – would become relevant once the mobilization phase ends after first capture.

Etiquette and protocol in Senterej also differs from other kinds of chess. It is considered better to defeat one’s opponent while they still have strong pieces on the board. [Source: Wikipedia]

- Chessbase News

A new Ethiopian social bookmarking web site launched

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

The management team of Ethioindex.net is pleased to announce the launching of a new Ethiopian social bookmarking web site with the focus on sharing the latest news and information about Ethiopia. EthioIndex is inspired by a popular American social bookmarking site, digg.com.

Ethioindex.net is a user-driven web site so its growth and the value it provides to our society depends on the participation of our community. Any person can register and become a writer, contributor or editor.

The EthioIndex management has opened its door to any one who is interested about Ethiopia to be part of the team. Our ultimate objective is to make information about Ethiopia easily accessible to every one.

American embassy in Ethiopia issues security alert

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Security Alert – Dire Dawa, Harar, Jijiga and the Somali Region

The American Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, reminds American citizens to avoid travel to the cities of Dire Dawa, Harar, and Jijiga, including the areas surrounding these cities, and to the Somali Region of Ethiopia. American citizens who do travel to or reside in these areas are advised to avoid public gatherings and public places, including hotels, and should avoid using public transportation and transportation hubs. The Embassy reminds Americans that there is still a heightened state of alert for these areas, as was noted in the warden message and security alert of June 6, 2008. U.S. Embassy employees are prohibited from traveling to these areas except for essential travel, which is reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis only.

American citizens are reminded to review their personal safety and security posture and to remain vigilant especially at public events and venues. Beware of unattended baggage or packages left in any location, including in minibuses and taxis. American citizens are strongly urged to review all the Department of State’s cautions about travel in Ethiopia, contained in the Country Specific Information for Ethiopia on the Department’s website. The Embassy’s recent warden messages are available here.

For the latest security information, American citizens living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs internet website, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8 AM to 8 PM Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. Federal Holidays.)

The U.S. Embassy is located at Entoto Avenue, P.O. Box 1014, in Addis Ababa

San Francisco area Ethiopians join London on April 2

Monday, March 30th, 2009

A massive protest rally is being organized in London on April 2 to oppose the invitation by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to Ethiopia’s dictator Meles Zenawi to attend the G-20 meeting. Ethiopians through out Europe are preparing head to London to confront the butcher of Addis Ababa and Mogadishu. The Somali community in London is also joining Ethiopians in the protest rally.

Ethiopians in the San Francisco Bay Area have organized a similar demonstration in front of the British Consulate on April 2.

Place: 1 Sansome Street, #850, San Francisco (Take the San Francisco Bart, get off at Montgomery St. and walk toward Sansome Street). The rally in San Francisco is being organized by Andinet Oakland & San Francisco Support Chapters

Ethiopians Living in the U.S., Listen Up!

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Ethiopians Living in the U.S., Listen Up!

A study is being conducted on Ethiopians living in the United States and Health Care Utilization. To be part of the survey, just answer 5 questions at:  http://tsehainy.com/survey.html.

In order to participate in this survey you must:

Be over the age of 18;
Have lived in America for the past year; and
If female, not have been pregnant during the past year.

Survey coordinator: Tiberah Tsehai

Azeb Mesfin pushes out TPLF boss Sebhat Nega

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Azeb Mesfin, the wife of Ethiopia’s dictator Meles Zenawi (also known as “The Wicked Witch of Ethiopia”), has become deputy head of the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), which owns several multimillion-dollar companies. She will serve under Abadi Zemu, the chief executive officer (CEO) of EFFORT, replacing Sebhat Nega, the most senior leader of the TPLF.

[There has been an intense behind the scene power struggle between Azeb and Sebhat as she moved to take total control of Woyanne's assets.]

This appointment is yet another public role Azeb assumes following the split within the leadership of the TPLF in early 2000. Not only was Azeb elected to the Federal Parliament in 2005 by a constituency in Welkait, she is also a chairperson of its Standing Committee on Social Affairs. She was also elected as a member of the Central Committee of the TPLF, a place she first got four years ago.

Azeb is not new to EFFORT; she has been in charge of one of its subsidiaries, Mega Publishing, whose office and printing facility is inside Mega Building, on Africa Avenue (Bole Road). It is the printing arm of Mega Net Corporation, an umbrella of several subsidiaries, which was first registered in March 1993 as Mega Net Printing & Distribution Share Company, with an initial capital of one million Birr. It was restructured to Mega Net Corporation and increased its capital to 10 million Br, with EFFORT controlling the largest share.

EEFORT was first established in 1995 as a non-governmental foundation. Its leaders often argue that it got its seed money from the TPLF that acquired assets during the period of armed struggle against the Derg. Although this argument has been directed to fierce criticisms from those opposing the administration of the Revolutionary Democrats, its supporters claim EFFORT was created to invest in areas where the public or private sectors are not interested or capable of involvement.

Its first Board of Directors of seven were all senior leaders of the TPLF/EPRDF; EFFORT’s first Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer was Seyee Abraha, a politburo member of the TPLF from the late 1970s, until he was flushed out of the party in early 2000. His chairmanship position was filled by Seyoum Mesfin, who is also minister of Foreign Affairs.

Sebhat took over the chief executive position and served up until this year, before he handed over to Abadi, who has always served as a director of the council. The latter transferred to the board and head of the industrial wing of EFFORT.

The conglomerate has over 25 companies that it controls in the industry, finance, trade, mining, construction, transport and agricultural sectors.

By PAWLOS BELETE | ADDIS FORTUNE

Saudi firm plans $40 farm investments in Ethiopia and Sudan

Monday, March 30th, 2009

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (Reuters) – A consortium of Saudi agricultural companies is looking to invest 150 million riyals ($40 million) into food production in Ethiopia and Sudan, the Agriculture Ministry said on Sunday.

Food security has topped the policy agenda in the Gulf Arab region following rampant inflation in 2008 that underscored the peninsula’s dependence on imports and forced countries to invest abroad to ensure supplies of staples like rice and wheat.

The consortium, called Jenat, was set up to lead farm investments abroad for a group of local companies, the ministry said in a newsletter published on Sunday.

The firms include Tabuk Agricultural Development Co (Tadco), dairy firm Almarai, Food Products Co and Aljouf Agricultural Development Co, the newsletter said.

Jenat has already launched a 70 million riyals project to plant barley, wheat and livestock feed in a 10,000 hectares of farm land in Egypt, the newsletter quoted as saying Jenat’s board chairman Mohammed Al-Rajhi.

“Our future aim … is to go to Sudan and Ethiopia,” he said. Jenat plans to invest 80 million riyals in the two countries, he added without elaborating.

“We expect to start this (Sudan and Ethiopia) project this year,” Rajhi said.

Saudi Arabia has urged companies to invest in farm projects abroad after deciding last year to reduce wheat production by 12.5 percent per year, abandoning a 30-year-old programme to grow its own, which achieved self-sufficiency but depleted the desert kingdom’s scarce water supplies.

The decision has forced many local agricultural companies, which has been growing wheat for the domestic market, to explore alternatives to compensate the resulting drop in their revenues.
State-owned Saudi Industrial Development Fund is granting financing facilities to firms exploring agricultural investments abroad.

A food security panel, affiliated to Riyadh’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has identified wheat, barley, corn, soybean, maize, rice and sugar among strategic crops that should constitute priorities for foreign investments, a spokesman said.

Saudi investors have launched agricultural projects in Indonesia worth $1.3 billion last year, Mohamed Abdulkader al-Fadel, who chairs Saudi Arabia’s Commerce and Industry Chambers Council, said earlier this month.

Tadco said earlier this month that it was “looking into joint-venture proposals from firms abroad and mulls relocating some of its activities to countries offering comparative incentives for investment”.
The world’s largest oil exporter said in January it had received the first batch of rice to be produced abroad by local investors as part of the King Abdullah Initiative for Saudi Agricultural Investment Abroad.

(Reporting by Souhail Karam, Editing by Thomas Atkins and Rupert Winchester)

Ethiopians welcomes their athletic heroes

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Addis Ababa (APA) – Ethiopia welcomed on Monday its athletes who brought home three gold and one bronze medals from World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan.

Fans and families of the athletes warmly welcomed the athletes at the Bole International air port where they were decorated with flowers.

“We really did good group work, which helped us to get good results in the championships,” said GebreEgziabher Gebremariam who brought gold in the 12 km race.

“What we were told before we traveled to Jordan was that the weather was hot. But it was a little bit cold. But we succeeded,” said Genzebe Dibaba who won gold in the women’s junior six km. race.

Genzebe is a younger sister of Tirunesh Dibaba known for her unforgettable achievements in international athletics.

Ethiopia had sent 24 athletes to Jordan and won three gold medals.

Ethiopian coffee exporters awaiting currency devaluation

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Coffee exporters in Ethiopia, Africa’s biggest producer, are stockpiling beans in anticipation of a further devaluation of the national currency, the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange said.

The stockpiling has contributed to a decline in export revenue that has been exacerbated by a poor harvest, falling world prices and a ban on Ethiopian beans in Japan, Eleni GabreMedhin, chief executive officer of the exchange, said in an interview on March 27 from the capital, Addis Ababa.

“There is the expectation that the currency will be further devalued,” she said. “That and other factors are contributing to a decline in exports.”

Ethiopia’s government closed warehouses and suspended the business licenses of six of the country’s largest coffee exporters last week after accusing them of “hoarding” coffee and illegally selling export-grade coffee on the domestic market. The government is considering selling the brokers’ coffee itself, according to the Agriculture Ministry.

The Horn of Africa country devalued the birr by 10 percent in January. Both Prime Minister dictator Meles Zenawi and Trade Minister Girma Birru have said the government may further devalue the currency, which traded at 11.1025 per dollar on March 27, according to the National Bank of Ethiopia.

Alemayehu Kebede, a spokesman for the central bank, said he was unaware of any discussions taking place about a possible devaluation of the currency.

“These are simply expectations and rumors,” he said by phone today from Addis Ababa.

Hard Currency Shortage

Ethiopia has experienced shortages of hard currency over the past year, with the country’s reserves falling to as little as $850 million, enough to cover just one month of imports, Meles said in a speech to parliament March 19.

Japan banned coffee imports from Ethiopia last year after finding high-levels of pesticide residue in a shipment. Japan was Ethiopia’s third-largest coffee export market, accounting for 20 percent of shipments, according to the Trade Ministry.

Coffee production in the country also fell about 15 percent last year due to drought and disease, GabreMedhin said.

The global recession has cut world coffee prices and slowed demand for Ethiopia’s arabica beans, which command a premium at Starbucks and other retailers because of their quality, she said. Arabica-coffee futures for May delivery fell 1.5 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $1.1585 a pound on ICE Futures U.S. in New York on March 27. The price has dropped 19 percent over the past 12 months.

Ethiopian shipments have dropped more than 10 percent to 76,674 metric tons in the first eight months of the country’s fiscal year, compared with the same period a year earlier, according to the Trade Ministry.

The country has earned $221.7 million from coffee exports over the period, short of a government target of $446.7 million. Last year, the government also blamed rising food prices on hoarding by traders.

- By Jason McLure | Bloomberg

Ethiopian Airlines to launch new flights to Equatorial Guinea

Monday, March 30th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (Sudan Tribune) -The national airline of Ethiopia will launch new flight to Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea in central Africa within three months, a press released said today.

Ethiopian Airlines is the fourth largest airline in Africa by passengers and destinations. However since 2005 the airline implements a plan aiming to strengthen its position in Africa and world by becoming the Africa’s World Class Airline.

The firm said it would launch three weekly fights to Malabo on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, starting for the next June. The fights will connect the Equatorial Guinea with most major cities in Middle East and Asia.

“This new service is being launched in line with Ethiopian firm commitment to connect Africa with the rest of the world” said Ethiopian Airline Vice President Commercial, Busera Awel.

In line with its growth strategy, the Ethiopian Airline announced also it will increase its flights to Riyadh the capital of Saudi Arabia. Starting with incoming June, the airline will launch three fights weekly to the Riyadh.

For these fights to Riyadh the airline plans to attract passengers from the different African countries including Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania.

Japan's military says ready to shoot down North Korea missile

Monday, March 30th, 2009

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan gave its military the green light on Friday to shoot down any incoming North Korean rocket, with tensions high ahead of a planned launch that the US and allies say will be an illegal missile test.

Japanese and US warships have already deployed ahead of the April 4-8 window, when the secretive North has said it will launch a communications satellite.

Pyongyang has said any move to shoot it down would be an act of war.

But South Korea, Japan and the United States have all warned the North that any launch would be unacceptable, amid fears the regime is actually intending to test a long-range missile that could reach North America.

The security council in Japan, where pacificism has been official policy since the end of World War II, decided ahead of time to shoot down any incoming missile that could hit its territory rather than wait until a launch.

“The security council this morning decided to issue a destruction order in advance,” said Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada.

“We will do our best to handle any flying object from North Korea.”

The North said Thursday that even referring a launch to the United Nations would ruin the long-running and erratic six-nation nuclear disarmament talks, during which North Korea has already tested one missile and an atomic bomb.

US National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair said the North wanted to show it had the technology to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The North is believed to be preparing to test a Taepodong-2 that could hit Alaska.

“North Korea is attempting to demonstrate an ICBM capability through a space launch,” Blair said. “That’s what they are up to.”

Pyongyang has reportedly already put a rocket onto one of its launch pads, raising the stakes in a delicate diplomatic stand-off that has come just two months into the new US administration of President Barack Obama.

Enigmatic North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il was reported to have suffered a stroke in August, and some analysts speculate he is trying to demonstrate he remains firmly in control of the country.

Though a recent photo showed him looking thin, the North’s official media have reported more than three times as many public appearances by Kim so far this year than over the same period in the previous year.

The six-nation talks — grouping North and South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan — have offered the North aid and security guarantees in exchange for dismantling its nuclear programme.

North Korea said Thursday that bringing any launch to the United Nations would be a “hostile action” that would end the negotiations.

The United States, which says the launch would violate a UN Security Council resolution, has vowed to do so.

“The six-party talks will become non-existent,” a spokesman for the North’s foreign ministry told official media.

Senior US, Japanese and South Korean negotiators were to meet in Washington later Friday to discuss the situation. Japan’s order for a shoot-down is the first since the nation revised its defence law in 2005.

Asked whether Japan was capable of such an intercept, Defence Minister Hamada said: “We have obviously prepared to be able to do it. I have no doubt we can do it.”

Ethiopia's dam project could kill Kenya's Lake Turkana

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Lake Turkana’s clear waters emerge like a glassy screen, breaking through the rugged rocks and dry earth that precede its approach.

This most northerly of Kenya’s lakes, on the border with Ethiopia, formerly known as Lake Rudolf and referred to as the ‘Jade Sea’, brings life to its dry surroundings like an oasis in the desert.

But Lake Turkana, slightly salty and alkaline and abounding in 40 fish species, faces a severe threat from across the border in Ethiopia.

The row with Uganda over the tiny Migingo Island in Lake Victoria is nothing compared to the environmental catastrophe staring at Lake Turkana.

Ethiopia is midway through construction of a dam upstream on River Omo, which is Lake Turkana’s main tributary, giving it 80 per cent of its water. The other rivers, Turkwel and Kerio are seasonal and can barely sustain the lake’s water level.

Local and international impact reports have indicated the Turkana could start drying up once the huge dam, owned by Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO), cuts off the river to fill up a capacity of 11 billion cubic meters of water.

Big danger

The giant project poses a greater danger to 300,000 people around the lake in Turkana Central and Turkana North.

Its aquatic life, including the Nile perch, which they largely depend on for food and cash, could die out as salinity increases with the lowering of water level.

Similarly, a lake-dependent forest, one of the last pristine dry land forests in Africa, would also be in grave danger.

The tragedy looks real as the Gilgel Gibe III hydroelectric dam project is being built with the knowledge of the Kenya Government, which hopes to benefit from surplus power projected to be generated.

Irked by government indifference to the looming danger, residents, led by an NGO, Friends of Lake Turkana (FLT), recently demonstrated at Kalokol in Turkana North to drive their point home.

Ms Ikal Angelei, FLT chairperson, explained the realities of the endangered lake, saying it would never be the same again once the dam closes off its main water source.

“Nobody can touch the Nile from Alexandria (Egypt) down to its source at Jinja (Uganda). Egypt can even go to war if the river is interrupted. Why is our Government allowing this violation to our right,” Angelei said.

Turkana politicians led by Mr Christopher Nakuleu, an East African Legislative Assembly MP, said in a joint statement that the Turkana, Rendile, Dassanch, Elmolo and Gabbra, who depend on the lake for food and water, would be affected.

“It is recognised that any interference with the Lake Turkana ecosystem could be catastrophic, but no effort has been made to avert disaster,” says Pius Ewoton, the Executive Director of Arid Lands Integrated Programme.

He says since the start of the dam project on River Omo in 2006, the water levels have dropped by eight metres.

Mr Ewoton says Kenyan and Ethiopia’s governments approved the programme in total disregard of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports.

Since August 2006, Kenya has been negotiating with Ethiopia for a power supply deal.

Ethiopia has a total power demand of about 400 MW against a production capacity of more than 1,875 MW.

Already, a memorandum of understanding, which also involves KenGen, has been signed with the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation.

Feasibility studies

While the African Development Bank has provided Sh68 million for the project’s feasibility study, EEPCO needs Sh51 billion to export power to Kenya. Djibouti and Sudan will also benefit. Project designing is under way. It will take another three years to complete interconnection.

The Turkana leaders said while a power purchase agreement outlining the terms of electricity sale was reportedly signed between Ethiopia and Kenya in 2006, there are no bilateral agreements on the use of the Omo-Turkana waterway and the dam’s downstream effects to Kenya.

The leaders claim that an EIA submitted to donors for funding of the damming project was ‘incredibly sloppy’.

“Shockingly, it does not even mention that RiverOmo supplies 80 per cent of Lake Turkana waters. It suggests that the dam will regulate the natural flooding cycle of the Omo, eliminating the seasonal floods critical to downstream farmers,” said Nakuleu.

The leaders are now urging President Kibaki to intervene and save the Turkana ecosystem and way of life.

During a visit to the area two weeks ago, Fisheries Minister Paul Otuoma said the Government was holding talks with Ethiopia on the matter. He said a Kenyan delegation had visited the neighbouring country and held negotiations.

The Ethiopian authorities, quoted by the BBC, maintain they are building the Gilgel Gibe III hydroelectricity dam — the second largest in sub-Saharan Africa — to solve a regional energy crisis.

(By Osinde Obare, Isaiah Lucheli and Vincent Bartoo | The Standard)

Putting the cart in font of the horse

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

Commodity is one of those terms open to many interpretations. The Marxist have their own definition of what a commodity is. To the Marxist using the labor theory of value ‘a commodity is any good or service produced by human labor and offered as a product for general sale on the market.’ In today’ economy a ‘commodity exchange is where farm products (coffee, wheat, cocoa) or raw materials (oil, metals) are traded.

Commodities exchange trading is where they trade on future products on commodities. A Sidamo coffee farmer can sell a future contract on his coffee beans that will not be ripe for a few months more or an Ada teff farmer can sell a future on his harvest next season. This sort of contract protects the farmer from price drops and the merchant from price rise.

A few of the World famous exchanges are Chicago Mercantile Exchange (agriculture, metals, energy) Kansas City Board of Trade (agriculture) Dalian (China) Commodity Exchange (agriculture) and Brazilian Mercantile and futures Exchange (agriculture, biofuels)

A stock exchange is where a ‘corporation or mutual organization provides a trading facility for stockbrokers and traders to trade stocks and securities. A stock exchange is used by corporations and companies to raise capital by selling shares, grow by acquiring other companies and generally make money circulate instead of sitting in a saving account or under a mattress.

The Chicago Board of Trade was established in 1848. Up until then most future contracts were not always honored both by the buyer or seller. The new Board was designed to minimize credit risk. The members of the Board set up the rules and run their organization independent of the long arm of the State.

Please not that the common theme in the above story is the founding of the exchange was purely a voluntary act by the traders. It was created to facilitate trade and protect both the farmer and the merchant from unscrupulous individuals.

Now we come to our infamous ‘commodity exchange’ that appeared out of the blue with much fanfare in 2008. Major wire services wrote gushing reports about it, Bloomberg quoted the new director, Reuters sent out alerts and even VOA commented about it. They all agreed it was a giant step for Ethiopian farmers. They dutifully reported what was handed to them.

As usual ‘Donor’ countries poured in money (ten million in two weeks were pledged) to help set it up. Building was erected to mimic the Chicago exchange. Electronic system was put in place and warehouses were built. Thus for all practical purpose the physical structure was in place.

I am glad you can see what I am leading to. We Ethiopians are most familiar with this scenario unfolding in front of our eyes. We know it is not going to work. We have seen this ‘theatre’ before.

The question is did those that set up the system really thought that it would work? When you consider that there are no free farmers in the country, that there is absolutely no trust in the government or its institutions, that there is no law other than the word of the Prime Minister and no free media to exchange information how in the world could you have such a purely capitalist enterprise function in a closed society.

If it does not work why set it up? Simply put the intention was never to help farmers or merchants. It was just another TPLF mechanism for more control of what is left of the independent business. They said it themselves. The Newsweek reporter Jason McClure quotes the director ‘Traders other than large growers and co-operatives that sell directly to international buyers will be forced to use the bourse, exchange director Eleni Gabre-Madhin said today.

So the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) was inaugurated with lots of fanfare. Peter Heinlein of VOA wrote again quoting the director “The opening of the new exchange has unleashed a torrent of entrepreneurial spirit. Gabre-Madhin says”. So what happened? Let us just say they gave a party and no one showed up!

They passed a law in August to regulate the coffee industry. In other words to nudge the independent merchants to submit to the authority ECX. The Prime Minister went to parliament and threatened to ‘cut the hands’ of the merchants that refused to deal with ECX. Again The PM threatened to confiscate all coffee that is not under the control of ECX. Hording was the reason given for this draconian action.

Coffee is Ethiopia. Coffee was our number one export during the Emperor’s reign. Coffee sustained the brutal Derg. Coffee is Woyane government’s lifeline. Control of the trade of coffee is a must for the minority regime. ECX was a vehicle to take control of the independent merchants and drive them out of the coffee business.

Our merchants and farmers were too smart for that. They refused to be led to the slaughterhouse willingly. No amount of threat and coercion was effective against those that have survived numerous trials and tribulations the last thirty years. TPLF was forced to show its ugly face in broad daylight. The Ethiopian people are not new to government confiscation of property, wealth and their children. It is just another criminal action by a government against its own citizens.

So as usual we heard the news and we sighed. We are so used to TPLF abuse and disrespect it did not raise an eyebrow let alone indignation. When they killed Assefa Maru we were quiet. When they murdered Professor Asrat we shrugged it off. When they arrested Bekele Jirata we were silent. The arrest of Judge Birtukan did not bother most of us. Thus confiscation of tons of coffee from private warehouses is just another chapter in our saga of humiliation by the illegal regime.

Starting an exchange without the good will and participation of the people affected is not rational. Imposing from above is a recipe for failure. Merchants are in business to make money. They buy low and sell high. Selling for less than the cost is suicide. Now the government has the coffee what comes next. International coffee price is depressed due to the market melt down. What is TPLF’s next move? Of course they can sell it for any price since they did not pay for it. How about next season? The smart merchant is pushed out of the business what is left is cadre merchants. Good luck Ethiopia.

Ethiopia's Tilahun and Amane win Richmond 10K in Virginia

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) – Ethiopians Tilahun Regassa and Amane Gemeda have won the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K race in Richmond.

The 19-year-old Regassa won the men’s race Saturday in 28:21. He finished 13 seconds ahead of Alene Reta of Ethiopia.

The 26-year-old Gemeda won the women’s event in 32:37, finishing nearly a minute ahead of former Virginia Commonwealth University runner Maria-Elene Calle.

More than 32,000 runners signed up for the 10th anniversary running of the Monument Avenue 10K.

Video: IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Amman

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Fighter jets may guard al-Bashir's flight to Qatar

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

KHARTOUM (Sudan Tribune) — Sudan said it is undertaking extraordinary measures for president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir’s trip to the Arab Gulf state of Qatar later this month as France voiced support to any attempt to apprehend the Sudanese leader.

Sudan has confirmed that Al-Bashir will attend the Arab League annual summit and the Arab Latin summit that will be held in Doha on March 30th.

One of Bashir’s advisers Abdallah Massar told the London based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that it is likely that the government “will have special arrangements” in place for the flight.

Massar said that having Sudanese fighter jets accompany the presidential plane “is something to be determined by concerned agencies in the government”.

But another security official speaking to Al-Sharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity confirmed that military fighters will guard Bashir’s flight in Sudanese airspace.

The official also said that there may be “camouflage” tactics deployed “in light of threats by rebels to shoot down the plane” before expressing doubt about the ability of them to do so.

“We can say that we will not have the slightest trouble in flying the president safely to Qatar god willing to attend the Arab summit” he added.

The ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said last week that Bashir risks apprehension once he leaves Sudan.

The ICC spokeswoman Laurence Blairon in an interview with Agence France Presse (AFP) yesterday urged Qatar to cooperate with the court in apprehending Bashir.

“The court counts on the cooperation of states and therefore of Qatar, but it does not have its own police force,” she said.

“Qatar is not a state member of the Rome Statute, the founding text of the ICC, but it is a member of the United Nations” Blairon added.

The Sudanese state minister for foreign affairs Al-Samani Al-Wasila downplayed chances of attempts to apprehend Bashir.

“They will not be able to do anything because intercepting a plane is a criminal act of piracy punishable by law unless they decide to down the plane” Al-Wasila said.

But Eric Chevallier, spokesman of the French foreign said that Paris “strongly” supports any operation aimed at arresting the Sudanese president.

“France as many other countries are members of the Rome Statute. There are clear obligations on executing arrest warrant for Bashir” Chevallier told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat in an interview.

The French official said that the majority of the European Union (EU) countries “are pushing towards having ICC members and non-members to assist the court in executing the arrest warrant for Sudanese president especially if he flies to Qatar”.

France has military bases in the African state of Djibouti and Arab Gulf State of United Arab Emirates (UAE). It remains to be seen whether Paris will utilize its air force to bring Bashir’s plane down en route to Qatar.

In December 2006, the ICC arranged an operation along with a number of countries including a neighbor of Sudan to divert a plan carrying Sudanese state minister for humanitarian affairs Ahmed Haroun who wanted to perform the annual Islamic pilgrimage on a forged passport.

Saudi Arabia was notified of the plan, the ICC prosecutor told Sudan Tribune at the time. Khartoum said it was “infuriated” that some countries were willing to take part in the operation.

Haroun, who is also wanted by the ICC, ended up canceling his travel plans thwarting the plot to nab him.

The Sudanese security official said that it is “unlikely” that Bashir’s plane will be prevented from landing in Doha international airport.

“This is not possible and will not happen. We have our own arrangements but will not talk about it in international media” he said. Furthermore he said that the time of Bashir’s flight will not be made public.

Sudan rejects the jurisdiction of the ICC saying it has not ratified its founding Rome Statute treaty. The UN Security Council (UNSC) invoked its power under the Statute to refer Darfur case to the Hague-based court despite Sudan not being an ICC member.

Catch me if you can – Sudan's president

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

(Economist.com) — OMAR AL-BASHIR certainly gets around. In defiance of the arrest warrant for war crimes issued against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on March 4th, the Sudanese president has spent the past week jetting about northern Africa. He visited Eritrea, Egypt and Libya and was planning a trip to Ethiopia. Having called on some of his neighbours, he is making up his mind whether to attend a summit of the Arab League in Qatar on Monday March 30th.

Mr Bashir is scathing about the allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes that are levelled against him. As he travelled, a spokesman for the Sudanese foreign ministry said that the president considers the warrant for his arrest “not worth the ink it is written with—and this is the message of this trip.”

For now the ICC is putting on a brave face. Speaking to al-Jazeera television the court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, retorted that Mr Bashir’s trip is “a sign of desperation rather than a challenge to the ICC”. In fact the trip demonstrates the enormous difficulty faced by the court in getting those indicted into the dock.

Within Sudan Mr Bashir faces no threat of arrest. In Khartoum, the capital, people prefer to avoid talking in public about the indictment of the president. When pressed, a typical response is no more than a resigned shrug of the shoulders. A few dissidents explain that after two decades of military rule, it is time for Mr Bashir to go. Those more sympathetic to Mr Bashir, notably in government and business, suggest that the warrant is part of a broad American conspiracy to steal resources (mainly oil) from Sudan. For them, the president’s wanderings are welcome evidence of his thumbing his nose at the court.

Beyond Sudan Mr Bashir is slightly more at risk, but he has designed his tour with care. Eritrea, Egypt, Ethiopia and Libya have all failed to sign up to the ICC and thus they have no direct obligation to nab Mr Bashir (although any member of the United Nations is expected to co-operate with the court). The African Union and the Arab League, of which they are variously members, have both called for the arrest warrant to be deferred, arguing that it will destabilise Sudan.

It might grow trickier for Mr Bashir if he decides to go to Qatar, which would involve travelling through international airspace. The president’s supporters worry that his plane could somehow be diverted to a third country which might be more willing to enforce the ICC’s arrest warrant, sending Sudan’s president to The Hague.

In Qatar Mr Bashir could have pause for thought. The host country itself has not signed the Rome treaty which set up the court, so is not obliged to detain Mr Bashir. But Jordan, Djibouti and the Comoros—all members of the Arab League—have signed up to the court and should in theory lend a hand in bringing the indicted president to book. In practice, with the Arab League rejecting the validity of the warrant, this is most unlikely.

Yet Mr Bashir might yet hesitate. Various former heads of state—from Liberia’s Charles Taylor to Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic—were eventually delivered to international tribunals, despite widespread belief that the courts were toothless because they lacked the direct means to conduct arrests. The Committee of Muslim Scholars, Sudan’s highest religious authority, has issued a fatwa advising Mr Bashir to avoid the Arab League summit because “the enemies of the nation are creeping round”. Should Mr Bashir decide to stay home, he has a convenient excuse to do so.

Gebreegziabher of Ethiopia won World Cross Country run

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) — Gebreegziabher Gebremariam kept the men’s individual title at the world cross country championships in Ethiopia after winning a sprint finish to Saturday’s championship in Jordan. Gebremariam crosses the line first to claim gold in the world cross country championships.

Gebremariam crosses the line first to claim gold in the world cross country championships.

Gebremariam took gold ahead of Ugandan Moses Kipsiro and Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea after a testing 12 kilometers over a course at the Bisharat Golf Course in Amman.

He crossed the finishing line in 35 minutes and two seconds, two seconds clear of Kipsiro and 2007 champion Tadese who had the same time, putting daylight between himself and the other medal winners on a sharp rise before the run in to the finish.

Gebremariam succeeds compatriot Kenenisa Bekele as the winner of what is rated as the most competitive race in distance running.

Six-time champion Bekele, the world record holder for 5,000 and 10,000 meters, was forced to sit out the race through injury.

Kenya’s main hopes for the individual title faded in the closing stages but they still retained the coveted team title from Ethiopia.

Earlier, Kenya’s Florence Kiplagat sprinted past compatriot Linet Masai in the closing straight to win the women’s title over eight kilometers.

Masai, who also finished runner-up last year in Edinburgh, could not hold off Kiplagat in the race for the line.

Ethiopian Meselech Melkamu took the bronze medal behind the Kenyan pair.

Last year’s winner Tirunesh Dibaba did not race through injury as Kenya took the team title. Dibaba’s sister Genzebe won the women’s junior race which was held over six kilometers and is a recognized breeding ground for future world and Olympic champions with Britain’s Paula Radcliffe a past winner.

Ayele Abshero of Ethiopia won the junior men’s race as African runners enjoyed a clean sweep of the major titles.

Ethiopia, Kenya share spoils at world cross-country

AMMAN (AFP) — Athletics powerhouses Ethiopia and Kenya shared the spoils at the World Cross-Country Championships here on Saturday as African runners swept the medals board.

Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam made up for the absence of compatriot Kenenisa Bekele, the defending champion and multi-medal winner, to win the senior men’s event.

With Ethiopia’s defending champion Tirunesh Dibaba also absent in the women’s race, Florence Kiplagat claimed the first victory for Kenya since Hellen Chepngeno in 1994.

Kenya topped Ethiopia in the overall team podiums for both events, Eritrea taking third in the men’s and Portugal in the women’s.

In testing conditions around a largely clay course at the Bisharat Golf Course that featured a range of differing gradients and a strong headwind in places, both senior races came down to dramatic sprint finishes.

Gebremariam clocked 35min 02sec over the men’s 12km course, with Ugandan Moses Kipsiro and 2007 champion Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea both timed at 2sec off the pace.

Up until the half-hour mark, there had been a leading group of 12 runners, but that was cut to six as the pace was upped, Qatar’s Saif Saaeed Shaheen and Kenyan Moses Mosop two notable casualties.

Gebremariam made his mark in the final 50 metres of the gruelling ascent that led to the run-in to the finish line, keeping enough in reserve to out-pace the chasing pack.

“I didn’t know until I crossed the finish line that I had won. But the pace of the race was easy for me and I knew I had a good finish in me,” Gebremariam said, adding that the Ethiopia team had been confident despite Bekele’s absence.

“We won gold when he competed last year and we won gold today. We, as a team, have full confidence and we are afraid of no-one. We fight and we’re happy to have got some medals.”

Earlier in the day, Kiplagat also showed the value of keeping something in reserve when she surged past compatriot Linet Masai over the final strength-sapping 150 metres.

Masai, the silver medallist at the worlds in Edinburgh last year, had taken the lead after 16 minutes of the race and held onto it up through the final punishing ascent of the 8km course to the flat run-in to the finish line.

Cruelly, Masai had left herself too much to do and she faded as Kiplagat sprinted past her in a dramatic finale, clocking a winning time of 26min 13sec.

Ethiopian Meselech Melkamu claimed bronze to prevent a clean sweep by Kenya.

“I did not expect to win,” said Kiplagat. “Kenya have not won since Hellen Chepngeno in 1994.

“The course was hilly and tough and I had to battle all the way.

“I hope the gold remains with us next year even if Tirunesh returns.”

Masai said she had been disappointed at burning out in the final stretch but acknowledged that it was good the Kenyan team had got the monkey off their back by winning the event.

“I was certain I had won and then I was second,” she said of her meltdown in the run-in.

“But as long as Kenya win then I’m happy. We’ve been hoping to break through in this event.”

There was Ethiopian joy in the junior races: defending champion Genzebe Dibaba retained her title while compatriot Ayele Abshero took the junior men’s crown.

Dibaba, 18, timed 20:14 over a 6km course, finishing ahead of Kenyan Mercy Cherono and her compatriot Jackline Chepgnego.

“I am extremely happy that I won, even without my sister Tirunesh here to watch,” Dibaba said of her sister’s absence.

“I am happier with my win this year than last year because this race was extremely difficult with the competitors and the course was more than we could handle.”

In the men’s race, Abshero went one better than the worlds in Edinburgh last year – when he won silver – this time claiming gold in a time of 23:26.

Kenyan Titus Mbishei was second and Uganda’s Moses Tibet won a sprint finish for third.

Genzebe Dibaba defends World Cross title in Amman

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

AMMAN, JORDAN (RaceResultsWeekly.com) — Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba, a younger sister of Olympic medalists Tirunesh and Ejegayehu Dibaba, defended her junior title today as the IAAF World Cross Country Championships kicked off in Amman, Jordan.

Dibaba, who turned 18 last month, was running in a huge lead pack after the first lap of the 6 km race, surrounded by her Ethiopian teammates and her challengers from Kenya, including Mercy Cherono, last year’s world junior 3000m champion. But by the 4 km mark, Dibaba had a four second lead on Cherono, while the rest of the pack was another nine seconds back. Cherono was able to stay within striking distance, but could not get the best of Dibaba who came home first in 20:14. Cherono got the silver in 20:17, while her Kenyan teammate Jackline Chepngeno took the bronze in 20:27.

With athletes from Ethiopia and Kenya taking the top ten spots, there was a very close battle between those nations for the team title. Both Ethiopia and Kenya scored 18 points, but Ethiopia was given the gold medal for the second consecutive year because their last scoring athlete, Emebet Anteneh, finished seventh to Kenya’s top scoring athlete, Hilda Chepkemoi Tanui, who finished eighth. Japan got the bronze with 76 points.

The top non-African finisher was Australian Emily Brichacek who finished 11th; the top European was Britain’s Lauren Howarth who finished 13th, while the top North American was Neely Spence of the United States who finished 19th.

Ethnicity and the tilting balance of Ethiopian politics

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

By Messay Kebede

We know that the genesis of ethnic conflicts and mobilization in Ethiopia sprung from HaileSelassie’s policy of nation-building. Not only did the policy mean centralization and authoritarianism, but also the integration of different ethnic groups through the imposition of the dominant Amhara culture. However, the lack of necessary reforms, notably, the maintenance of a system of land ownership reducing the southern peoples of Ethiopia to tenants, and the failure of the private sector, together with the proliferation of obstacles to economic progress, mostly due to corruption and nepotism, created an acute scarcity of resources. Access to these scarce resources depended on the control of state power, which was then used to include some groups and exclude others. The outcome was that the Amhara elite group, especially of Showan origin, by far benefited from the protection of the imperial state.

Though the sense of exclusion increasingly invited elites of excluded ethnic groups to mobilize around ethnic criteria, the prevailing tendency became the search for a solution through the revolutionary ideology of Marxism-Leninism. Leaders of the Ethiopian student movement and intellectuals felt that enough revolutionary force could be gathered through the mobilization of class solidarity rather than through ethnic alignment. The establishment of socialism would consequently lead to the dissolution of ethnic dominance and to the equal treatment of all ethnic groups. Because the struggle opposed an alliance of various classes to the imperial state and the nobility, the Ethiopian Revolution became a multiethnic uprising expressing class interest rather than ethnicity.
The intrusion of the Derg with its dictatorial and violent methods of ruling alienated many revolutionaries. Above all, far from decentralizing power, the Derg significantly increased the power of the center to the detriment of regional entities, thereby failing to bring down the dominance of Amhara elite and culture. What is more, the Derg’s socialist policy brought all resources, including land, under state ownership and control, while further intensifying scarcity by the application of a flawed economic policy. The result was enhanced ethnic mobilizations by all those who felt excluded or marginalized.

By stirring up dormant or suppressed identities involving ascriptive criteria, such as common ancestry and language, the ethnicization of politics mobilized the powerful sentiment of solidarity, thereby becoming an effective tool of political mobilization for all those who longed for access to state power as the only means of controlling the distribution of scarce resources. That was indeed one advantageously mobilizing force to fight against the Derg, given the fact that the Derg had appropriated the language of class struggle and had effectively leveled class disparity through a generalization of poverty.

Ethnic mobilization proved efficient by granting victory to the TPLF and EPLF over the Derg. It brought about the secession of Eritrea and the establishment of ethnic federalism under the control of the TPLF. The irony, however, is that this very victory of ethnic politics calls for multiethnic mobilization because of the inherent drawbacks of ethnicization flowing from its gregarious nature. This is what opposition parties and their leaders understood when they speak of the imperative need of unity.

The ethnic paradigm gave birth to ethnic parties that do not allow any competition. It created a situation of dependent parties controlling the various regions under the close supervision and assistance of the central state dominated by the TPLF. The defeat of the TPLF means the demise of these dependent parties and their regional control. A struggle confined to the regional political scene is thus unable to counter the alliance between the central state and the dependent parties: the struggle must go national.
Moreover, political mobilization over ethnic issues has come to an end with the acquired rights, such as the rights to use and develop local languages, to be administered by one’s kin, even to secede. Whether we like it or not, just as class struggle had ceased to be rallying under the Derg, so too ethnicity has lost much of its mobilizing power in Ethiopia, with the exception, of course, of those parties still targeting secession. This is so true that the only ideological defense of the EPRDF is to say that its removal would entail the cancelation of the acquired ethnic rights, and hence the danger of extended ethnic confrontations.

The crucial issue that remains, however, is the huge task of democratizing the ethnic state, as shown by the dictatorial outcome of the Eritrean secession and the hegemonic practice of the TPLF. To move toward democratization means to raise issues of individual freedom and liberty, of economic development and its equitable distribution; it also means the promotion of national sovereignty and unity on which depend the prosperity and safety of all ethnic groups. All these themes are associated with individual freedom, and so are essentially cross-ethnic. For instance, the right of individuals to elect representatives of their choice is not concerned with the fact of being Amhara, Tigrean, Oromo, Gurage, Christian or Muslim: any multiparty competition within the ethnic regions requires the liberation of freedom as an individual characteristic.

Such was the profound meaning of the rise of Kinijit: it was the return of individual freedom back to prominence, the resurgence of individual rights after the primacy given to group rights or solidarity. It springs to mind that the struggle for individual rights can intensify and unit opposition forces only if the acquired ethnic rights are not questioned. Any attempt to return to unitary state––as opposed to federal structure––will only bring back mobilizations around group rights.

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

Indian bank releases finance for sugar projects in Ethiopia

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (Addis Fortune) — A high-level Ethiopian government delegation led by Girma Birru, minister of Trade and Industry (MoTI) left for India last Friday to discuss sugar development projects the latter finances after the Indian financer released the fund for the project, knowledgeable sources disclosed.

The delegation will meet senior officials of the Indian government and authorities at the Export and Import (Exim) Bank of India about the commencement of the construction of the Tendaho Sugar Factory in Tendaho area of the Afar Regional State, and the expansion works on Fincha and Wenji – two of the three existing sugar factories in Ethiopia.

Progress on both the expansion and the brand new sugar development projects has, for a long time, been stalled due to controversy between Indian companies that competed to be contractors for the construction and machineries installation of the projects.

Girma led the delegation to India following an invitation from the Indian government, the sources said.

The frequently delayed sugar development projects are expected to takeoff as Exim Bank has agreed to release the funds.

The long delay besieged the projects as Uttam, the Delhi-based sugar plant machinery manufacturing company, which has a subcontract for Tendaho Sugar Factory, has been in dispute with Overseas Infrastructure Alliance (OIA), an Indian private company that had won the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) for it, and subsequently took the case to the Bombay High Court.

The dispute arose because OIA requested a 15pc administration cost from the subcontract winners, and wanted to receive all the incentives the Indian government provides to its export companies.

Finally, through the intervention of the Indian Government, the conflict between the two companies was resolved.

The state-owned Exim Bank of India provided 640 million dollars in soft loan at an interest rate of 1.75pc, in accordance with the agreement signed by the two governments, which requires that 85pc of the construction work be done by Indian firms.

Tendaho and Fincha Sugar factories signed an EPC contract with OIA on January 10, 2008. Overseas should have begun construction within 36 days of the agreement. Even after a year, however, nothing has yet been started on.

Girma had become well known among the interested Indian firms, the media and authorities and business who closely observed the issue, for the frequent warnings he has given the Indian companies that the project should commence as per the terms of agreement signed. However, the warnings did not seem to achieve much until such time that the dispute between the two Indian companies was resolved following the intervention of the Indian government.

The Ethiopian government floated an international tender in October 2006 for the construction of the new Tendaho Sugar Factory in Tendaho area of Afar and for the expansion works on Fincha and Wenji.

These projects require about 15 billion Br, though that figure has climbed to 17 billion Br due to inflation, of which the amount to be spent on factory construction and machineries installation was secured from the government of India.

More than 20 Indian companies had contended in the October 2006 tender and OIA was awarded the EPC for Tendaho and Fincha, while Uttam won that for Wenji’s.

Separate parts of the factories (four to six packages) were listed for companies specializing in the specific parts to contend for each, and those who won two or more of the tenders would be awarded the EPC contract. The EPC contractors were expected to then sign sub-contract agreements with them.

Though Uttam’s accusation is only in relation to the Tendaho project, the Wenji and Fincha projects were also stuck because the charge led to the suspension of funding of the projects by Exim.

Tendaho, which cultivates 64,000hct of land alone, shares eight billion Birr of the total projected cost.

The Tendaho dam, the largest dam constructed by the state-owned Ethiopian Water Workers Enterprise (WWCE), has a capacity to hold 1.8 billion cubic metres of water. When completed, the Tendaho factory will have the capacity to crush 26,000tn of sugar cane, the largest capacity in Africa.

Fincha also envisages upgrading its production capacity from one million to 2.7 million quintals a year. The difference is what the three sugar factories under expansion are currently producing.

Fincha would undertake the expansion on Fincha River and on Amertineshi Dam, which is under construction by the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo). It is expected to develop 5,000hct of land.

(By Amanyehun Redda, Addis Fortune)

Experts say the human lifespan can reach 1,000 years

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

(The Daily Galaxy) — Immortality_3 Cambridge University geneticist Aubrey de Grey has famously stated, “The first person to live to be 1,000 years old is certainly alive today …whether they realize it or not, barring accidents and suicide, most people now 40 years or younger can expect to live for centuries.”

Perhaps de Gray is way too optimistic, but plenty of others have joined the search for a virtual fountain of youth. In fact, a growing number of scientists, doctors, geneticists and nanotech experts—many with impeccable academic credentials—are insisting that there is no hard reason why ageing can’t be dramatically slowed or prevented altogether. Not only is it theoretically possible, they argue, but a scientifically achievable goal that can and should be reached in time to benefit those alive today.

“I am working on immortality,” says Michael Rose, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of California, Irvine, who has achieved breakthrough results extending the lives of fruit flies. “Twenty years ago the idea of postponing aging, let alone reversing it, was weird and off-the-wall. Today there are good reasons for thinking it is fundamentally possible.”

Even the US government finds the field sufficiently promising to fund some of the research. Federal funding for “the biology of ageing”, excluding work on ageing-specific diseases like heart failure and cancer – has been running at about $2.4 billion a year, according to the National Institute of Ageing, part of the National Institutes of Health.

So far, the most intriguing results have been spawned by the genetics labs of bigger universities, where anti-ageing scientists have found ways to extend live spans of a range of organisms—including mammals. But genetic research is not the only field that may hold the key to eternity.

“There are many, many different components of ageing and we are chipping away at all of them,” said Robert Freitas at the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, a non-profit, nanotech group in Palo Alto, California. “It will take time and, if you put it in terms of the big developments of modern technology, say the telephone, we are still about 10 years off from Alexander Graham Bell shouting to his assistant through that first device. Still, in the near future, say the next two to four decades, the disease of ageing will be cured.”

But not everyone thinks ageing can or should be cured. Some say that humans weren’t meant to live forever, regardless of whether or not we actually can.

“I just don’t think [immortality] is possible,” says Sherwin Nuland, a professor of surgery at the Yale School of Medicine. “Aubrey and the others who talk of greatly extending lifespan are oversimplifying the science and just don’t understand the magnitude of the task. His plan will not succeed. Were it to do so, it would undermine what it means to be human.”

It’s interesting that Nuland first says he doesn’t think it will work but then adds that if it does, it will undermine humanity. So, which is it? Is it impossible, or are the skeptics just hoping it is?

After all, we already have overpopulation, global warming, limited resources and other issues to deal with, so why compound the problem by adding immortality into the mix.

But anti-ageing enthusiasts argue that as our perspectives change and science and technology advance exponentially, new solutions will emerge. Space colonization, for example, along with dramatically improved resource management, could resolve the concerns associated with long life. They reason that if the Universe goes on seemingly forever—much of it presumably unused—why not populate it?

However, anti-ageing crusaders are coming up against an increasingly influential alliance of bioconservatives who want to restrict research seeking to “unnaturally” prolong life. Some of these individuals were influential in persuading President Bush in 2001 to restrict federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. They oppose the idea of life extension and anti-ageing research on ethical, moral and ecological grounds.

Leon Kass, the former head of Bush’s Council on Bioethics, insists that “the finitude of human life is a blessing for every human individual”. Bioethicist Daniel Callahan of the Garrison, New York-based Hastings Centre, agrees: “There is no known social good coming from the conquest of death.”

Maybe they’re right, but then why do we as humans strive so hard to prolong our lives in the first place? Maybe growing old, getting sick and dying is just a natural, inevitable part of the circle of life, and we may as well accept it.

“But it’s not inevitable, that’s the point,” de Grey says. “At the moment, we’re stuck with this awful fatalism that we’re all going to get old and sick and die painful deaths. There are a 100,000 people dying each day from age-related diseases. We can stop this carnage. It’s simply a matter of deciding that’s what we should be doing.”

One wonders what Methuselah would say about all this.

Ethiopian student in Tennessee makes big impact at his school

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

By David Carroll | WRCB

TENNESSEE – Desta Bume’s 11th grade classmates at Signal Mountain High School listen when he speaks. Occasionally he helps teach them Pre Calculus. The 17-year-old Ethiopian exchange student is attending the school thanks to host parents Jock and Megan Dunbar, who found Desta through the Cherokee Gives Back student exchange program.

Desta says, “Day to day, I help students in class, if there’s something they don’t understand, I try to help them.”

Desta’s help is much appreciated by junior classmates. He has earned their respect with his knowledge, his kindess and his work ethic. In addition to excelling in the classroom, he has emerged as the star of the school’s cross-country team. He says the classroom facilities are similar in Ethiopia, but while his largest class at Signal Mountain is 28 students, his smallest in his home country is about 150…in the same size classroom. His high school in Ethiopia has about seven thousand students.

Wouter Dewet, a fellow junior says, “You can’t help but be inspired, because he has so little, and has managed to do so much.”

What Desta has done is rise to the top of his class in Ethiopia, at a school with 7,000 students, far removed from the luxurious surroundings of Signal Mountain. He had to work hard to support his family, walking several miles each day with no shoes until he was 14.

Classmate Tim Hatch said, When i heard his story, I felt like a complete jerk. I take everything for granted, and the things he went through, i can’t even imagine.”

His host family says Desta is enjoying the U.S. but it’s their lives that are enriched. They smile when remembering his first visit to a pizza restaurant (his favorite food), a drive-through car wash, the beach, Atlanta, Nashville and the top of the Empire State Building in New York. Megan Dunbar says the family didn’t expect to learn so much from an Ethiopian exchange student.

She says, “When you get into the program, you think about how much we can give this Third World student. But it’s the exact opposite. It’s how much we have learned from him.

Desta is completing his junior year at Signal Mountain, and must return to Ethiopia for his senior year. What happens after that?

Classmate Aaron Pierce says, “Well actually, I’d like to see him to go a really good college and become a surgeon.”

Desta may do just that, hoping to earn a scholarship in the US, and then returning to Ethiopia, where medical care is almost non-existent. But during his remaining days in the US, there’s still some work to do.

Desta says, “I want them to learn something from me here. I made something from nothing, and here you have everything.”

For more information on the student exchange program, go to www.cherokeegivesback.org

Here is Desta’s life story in his own words. To hear him tell it in person, go to Signal Mountain Middle High School Theater on Monday April 6 at 7:00 pm. Donations will be accepted for the Water for Wotera project, to dig a well in Desta’s home village.

My name is Desta Bume. I am 17 years old. I was born in 1991 in a small village called Wotera that is located in southern Ethiopia. I have 2 sisters and one brother. I am the oldest. I came to the United States as an exchange student and I am attending classes at Signal Mountain High School. I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to tell my story.

First, I would like to tell you a little bit about my country, Ethiopia

Ethiopia is one of the oldest countries with 2,100 years of history. It has 77 different ethnic groups, each having their own language, culture and way of life. Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia that connects us all. The Amharic language has its own alphabet and number system. Amharic letters and numbers are not the same as the letters and numbers you use here.

Most Ethiopians live in rural areas and are totally dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, but the farming there is not advanced. There are no man-made irrigation systems; farmers depend totally on rainwater for their crops. Many farmers farm just to save their family from starvation. Families have 5-8 children on average to support the work required by their farms. Many do not have enough food to eat, clean water to drink, or clean water for hygiene, access to education, health care or adequate clothes to wear. In Ethiopia, nearly 80% of the total population lives below the poverty line. This is equivalent to $2 dollars per a day or $730 a year. Included in this 80% are the 3-4 million people who have nothing to eat at all. There are many people who live on the street begging for food. Correspondingly, the death rate is very high. Each year, thousands of children die due to poor sanitation, lack of a balanced diet, exposure to polluted food and lack of clean drinking water. Additionally, HIV/AIDS is killing tens of thousands of people each year and leaving many orphans.

Now let me put a face on the place I have just described to you. I was born on a farm and lived there until I was 14. My dad is a subsistence farmer and my mom helps my dad with the farm and takes care of my siblings. We have three small areas that we farm in order to support the family. To have enough grass for our cattle, we move from one farm to another four to five times a year. The distance between the farms is between 2 – 6 miles. The Town of Wotera is nearby. I grew up in round shaped house which made of rattan and juniper plant. It is nearly 32ft in diameter and has about 803 square feet. My family with 5 cows and 4 sheep live in this house. It is divided in half, 1/2 for the animals and the other 112 for ourselves. We bring our cows and sheep into the house at night because we fear the hyenas who roam in packs will eat them if we leave them outside. My village does not have electricity or running water. To get water, we use buckets and go down to a valley which is 0.6 miles away. Because there is no running water to bathe ourselves, we also use this same creek. Most people in the rural areas take a bath once every two weeks. But still there are some people who may take a bath once or twice a year. To brush our teeth, we use small sticks made which we get from tree branches. In rural area, many Ethiopians do not have restrooms. They go outside on the farm to use the restroom. The result of this practice is that when it rains, the rain water takes the waste directly into the streams we depend on for water and for bathing.

I started my education in 1997 in first grade with 130 kids in the one class room. When I started school, my dad didn’t want me to go school because of the work that needed to be done on the farm. This caused tension between my father and me as I continued to go to school. Once, when I was in 3rd grade, my father was so upset with me because I was still going to school, he took an axe and cut my books into pieces. I never stopped going to school because my mom always encouraged me to complete my education. Along with my mom, I was also getting advice from my teachers, which helped me to stay motivated and not drop out the school.

When I was 12, my father’s health started to fail due to an eye disease. At this point, while I was in 6th grade, I started helping out with the family farm and going to school at the same time. The burden of my family situation began to put its weight on me. Also at this time, I began to sell sugarcane in the local market to earn money to buy clothes and school supplies. The way I started to sell sugarcane is pretty amazing. Would any of you consider doing this? As a young entrepreneur, I gathered up some wood around my farm and sold it to a neighbor for 2 1/2 cents. Along with my first sale and another 2 1/2 cents from my mom, I bought one piece of sugar cane for 5 cents that I sold to a neighbor. From that sale, my profit was 2 cents. My goal was to buy one bundle of sugarcane which included 11-12 sticks. This amount I could sell for 50 cents. Slowly over time, I earned my first 50 cents and I started to buy the full bundles of sugarcane which I used to buy school books, clothes, pens, kerosene, and soap for myself all during my 6th and 7th grade years. Oh, by the way, to get the sugar cane, I had to walk 3 and a half miles twice a week. I was also walking to school 5-6 miles each way depending upon which of our three farms I was staying in at the time. At the time, I had only one pair of pants, one sweater and NO shoes. I was walking to do all of these things on my bare feet. I didn’t end up getting my first pair of my shoes until 7th grade.

Let’s talk about when it rains. I didn’t have an umbrella. Like other rural Ethiopian students, I had to use the leaf of the Inset plant to cover myself on my way to and from school. The Inset plant looks like a banana plant and it is a major crop that southern Ethiopians use to feed their families. Even though times were tough, I never gave up because my teachers always supported me.

In my home village of Wotera, the school only goes up to the 8th grade. This presented a problem because to continue my education, I had to go to the nearest high school. This High school is in the town Hawassa. Even though the high school is just 26 miles away from Wotera, it takes 2 hours to get there by car because the road is gravel and washed out. Knowing I was going to this high school in one year, I had to start preparing for my future. Because my parents didn’t have money to send me there, I needed to start earning money in order to rent an apartment, to buy school books and supplies and food. However, my family needed me in Wotera to help work on the farm. They could not help me with my school expenses. I then was moved up from selling sugarcane to selling kerosene in local market while also working on the farm and attending school. To get the kerosene, I needed to go a town called Guguma, 7 miles away from Wotera. The only time in my schedule that allowed me to do this was a 2 hour window during lunch. I had to go 7 miles to Guguma, purchase a 12 liter container of kerosene that weighed 25 pounds, and return the 7 miles while carrying the kerosene on my shoulder, all of this before classes resumed. I did this twice a week. While juggling school, the family farm and selling kerosene in the market, I still managed to pass the 8th grade National exam with a 99.6%.

Even with making it all the way through the eighth grade and doing very well on the national exam my father still did not want me to further my education. He needed me to stay home and help my family on the farm. Remember, this is what is expected of most Ethiopians. For example, when I started school my first grade year there were 130 children in my class. By the time I took the national exam after 8th grade there were only 4 kids from my village who took it with me. I had a tough decision to make. Being only 14 years old I truly wanted to go on to high school but I also wanted the blessings of my father to do this. So I went to some older people in my village to tell them my wishes. It was these people that spoke with him to convince him that he should let me leave Wotera for Hawassa for my high school education.

The high school that I attend is dominated by the students who come from the rural areas. 7000 students attend my school. When I went to Hawassa, there was no student housing so I had to rent an apartment with three other students. The four of us shared one small room which was 12ft by 14ft with one mattress that was had on the floor. The mattress was 7 feet long by 6 feet wide, we all shared this mattress every night. The apartment had one 40 watt light in the ceiling. The four of us lived in this apartment and took care of ourselves without the help of adults. We cooked our own food and had our own rules. In order to pass we had to work hard and there was little time to sleep. We imposed rules on ourselves so that we would do well in school. For example, if anyone slept more than __ hours, we would make that person pay the equivalent of $1 ( a lot of money).

I used the money that I had earned from selling kerosene to pay the rent as well as to buy my food. Soon I didn’t have enough money to buy all my basic needs such as clothes, school materials, and other personal items. During this time I also had to learn to speak the Ethiopian national language known as Amharic because my first language is Sidamgma. During my 9th grade year I had to share text books from the school with about 7 students. We would pass the book from person to person. I would have the book one night, and then pass it on to the next person. With all of these distractions and hardships I worked very hard my first year and got first place out of 2000 students in the 9th grade. All of this without any snow days do get some extra work done! After passing on my grades to my parents they were finally excited for me and encouraged me to focus on my education, but still they didn’t have enough money to help me. After passing 10th grade I started earning money by tutoring some kids in my apartment. I used the money from tutoring to support me with some of my basic needs.

After my 10th grade year it was time for the second of three national exams. Me and one other student from Wotera out of the original 130 that started first grade with me took the national exam. In Ethiopia, we take three national exams one after our 8th grade year, one after 10th, and finally one after our 12th grade year. The eighth grade exam is not that difficult and many students pass that exam. It is the exam after our l0th Grade year that is a big obstacle for many of the Ethiopian students. Most of the time, only 50% percent of the students pass the l0th grade national exam to move on to 11th and 12th grade. Most of them are just not smart enough to pass this exam. It is at this point many of them loose their hope and return back to their families just to become another burden for them. These high percentages of drop outs really concerned me and some friends of mine and we started talking about what we could do to help. We decided to help these kids who are in trouble by tutoring them. We asked the director of the school if we could use the classrooms, chalk, and duster after hours to tutor some kids that needed” help. Eventually, the school director said yes and me and my friend began to teach 420 students in two classrooms at night. Besides teaching them we wanted to fire them up to study harder and focus more on their education. There were almost 210 in each classroom. Many students had to stand up or sit on the floor. The hard work paid off because nearly 400 of the 420 we had been tutoring passed the national exam. That was a great satisfaction for me and my friend.

Last year, before I came to the United States, we asked another eight of the smartest students at the high school and two from a local college in Hawassa to come together to form a nonprofit organization. ‘Affini Development Initiative Forum’ or (ADIF) to help students who are in need by offering tutorial classes to further them in their education; to initiate and encourage people to overcome poverty and to make people more aware of HIV/AIDS. We received a license from the state government to become a legal entity. We now started tutoring over 1000 high school students in the city Monday through Friday 6:00PM-8:00 PM and another 1000 students on Saturday and Sunday. Last summer, we encouraged many university students to help other students from 7th through 10th grade at different locations both in the towns and the rural community.

Last year people from a program called Cherokee Gives Back Education came to our school to bring some Ethiopian students to the United States for a cultural and an educational exchange. After a long process of testing and interviewing, me and one other student from Hawassa were selected to make the trip abroad. It was a fascinating and unexpected chance to come to the USA.

Your country is a miracle, a country of freedom and opportunity, a country full of hope, a place where happiness and success surrounds people; it is the most unique country in the world. After arriving here in September, my eyes have been opened to see all of your countries gorgeous things. My way of thinking is changing each and every second that I am here. I am familiarizing my self with technology. I am learning how to use a computer. Now I know the meaning of “GOOGLE”! I have become quite handy with the dish-washer, I need one of these things back in Hawassa. And there is nothing like Game Day on a 46″ plasma! All of these things you are around every day were foreign to me. Before I came here, technology was just something I had read about, now I am living it. Since September I have had a chance to see a few places in the US: Disney World, Washington D.C, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, Atlanta and of course my favorite. New York. There was nothing like standing on top of the Empire State building, especially when the tallest building in Hawassa is 10 stories. These places totally have changed my way of thinking. Day to day I am learning countless new things as my mind is ready to accept and interpret them for tomorrow’s change in Ethiopia. I am sharing my culture, thought, and way of life with blessed and open minded people of the United States. I am so overjoyed to be with you because my blind eye is opening to see these incredible things here in the US. Because of this experience, Cherokee wants to bring more students to the US to live and learn your culture, and then to return to Ethiopia and start the implementation of change.

Coca-Cola returns in Ethiopia

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (VOA) — The American soft drink Coca-Cola has become a symbol of Ethiopia’s deepening financial troubles. The beverage is flowing again after a brief pause, even though it drains the country’s precious foreign exchange reserves.

Truckloads of Coca-Cola began rolling out of the bottling plant in Addis Ababa Friday, ending a nearly two-week Coke-drought. The local bottler had to shut down this month when it became impossible to obtain the hard currency needed for imports such as bottle caps.

With its foreign exchange reserves at a critical low, Ethiopian authorities have been giving priority to necessities like wheat and fuel.

But Coke bottling company spokesman Solomon Shiferaw says government bureaucrats have granted approvals to get the beverage flowing again.

“The flow of foreign currency was not as it was before. We have to wait some time to get the approval but yes we are getting the approvals, we’re being supported so we’re back in business,” Shiferaw said.

Coca-Cola had become a rare commodity in shops across Ethiopia as supplies dried up.

Hotels and restaurants where the soft drink was available suddenly found business booming. One restaurant manager, who asked for anonymity due to fear of reprisal, said drinking Coke is seen by many as a political statement, because the rival Pepsi bottler is owned by a conglomerate with close government ties.

“The people prefer Coca-Cola because of political cases. I observe this. There was election here, and after that the people are diverted to Coca-Cola. Because Coca-Cola is a private company, but the owner of the Pepsi company is very familiar and supporter of the government, and after that people are drinking Coca-Cola,” the manager said.

The Coca-Cola shortage is only one symptom of Ethiopia’s economic malaise.

The government this week suspended the licenses of the country’s six largest coffee exporters and confiscated 17-thousand tons of coffee beans. The action came days after Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said exporters were stockpiling coffee at a time when prices are low. He called the practice ‘illegal’, and said the government would sell the beans.

Coffee is one of Ethiopia’s biggest foreign exchange earners, bringing in half a billion dollars a year, nearly one-third of the country export earnings. Government figures show coffee exports declined 10% over the past eight months.

The International Monetary Fund predicts Ethiopia’s economic growth will decline from an estimated 11.6% last year to about 6.5% this year.

Many western economists and lending institutions say one of Ethiopia’s biggest problems is its reluctance to abandon government controls and accept free market reforms. Banking and telecommunications are cited as areas where Ethiopia lags far behind.

The World Bank’s lead economist for Ethiopia, Deepak Mishra, expresses confidence the old attitudes are changing.

“In some sense I do see some Marxist Leninist rhetoric, but I think on the whole there is a change in the mindset,” Mishra said. “To give you an example, there’s a group of government officials who recently went to Malaysia and Vietnam to look at the export process, and they came back and submitted a report to the cabinet, and the first thing they said is, without private sectors, we just can’t grow.”

Mishra says reforming the banking and telecoms sectors could sustain the high growth rates Ethiopia wants, while keeping inflation down, and breaking the country’s dependence on foreign assistance. He says most Ethiopian policymakers agree in principle.

The only question is whether to reform now, as westerners advocate, or over a period of years, as the policymakers prefer.

- By Peter Heinlein, VOA

With Ethiopia's Kenenisa and Tirunesh missing, field wide open

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

AMMAN, Jordan — With defending champions Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba out with injuries, the field is wide open for Saturday’s World Cross Country Championships.

The Ethiopian pair have dominated the event, with Bekele winning six of the last seven men’s championships and Dibaba taking three women’s titles in 2005, 2006 and 2008.

The two also completed 5,000-10,000 sweeps at last year’s Beijing Olympics.

But Bekele is recovering from an ankle stress fracture, while Dibaba is sidelined with a leg injury.

Despite their absence, Ethiopians and Kenyans are still expected to battle for the medals as the championships take place in the Middle East for the first time.

More than 500 athletes from 63 countries are competing in the $300,000 championships, which feature senior men’s and women’s races and junior men’s and women’s events.

The Ethiopian senior team is led by Gebregziabher Gebremariam, who won the junior title in 2002, finished third in the long race in 2003 and took two silvers behind Bekele in 2004.

“We have a very strong and determined team and although Bekele will not be around, we are ready to keep the title another year,” Gebremariam said.

Bekele posted a record six victories over the classic 12-kilometer distance since 2001, with his streak interrupted only by Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese in 2007.

Although Kenya has continued to dominate the team event, it has not had a long-course champion since Paul Tergat won the last of his five successive titles in 1999.

Ethiopia swept the individual titles and both women’s team titles last year in Scotland, leaving Kenya only the senior and junior men’s team gold.

Kenya’s Mark Kiptoo, who finished second in 2007, said his country is poised for victory this year.

“We’re extremely confident and well prepared for the event and we want to regain what we lost 10 years ago,” Kiptoo said. “We have the will to win.”

Among the women, Ethiopia is led by world indoor 1,500-meter champion Gelete Burka, a former world junior and world short course champion, and two-time bronze medalist Meselech Melkamu.

Kenya has 19-year-old Linet Masai, who won the junior race in 2007, took bronze in the senior event last year and was fourth in the Olympic 10,000-meter final in Beijing.

Kenyan-born Hilda Kebet, who was fifth last year, is now competing for the Netherlands.

“Last year, I was surprised to be in fifth place, so tomorrow I am very happy to be part of the event and I believe that all the hard work will eventually be rewarded,” she said.

The U.S. team includes 18-year-old German Fernandez, who last month set a junior world indoor record for the mile of 3:55.02. Fernandez hopes to help the U.S. improve on its sixth-place team finish from last year. ___

(By Jamal Halaby, Associated Press. Rofan Nahhas contributed to this report.)

Ethiopian refugee in Malta re-arrested on way to the U.S.

Friday, March 27th, 2009

VALLETTA, MALTA (Times of Malta) – An Ethiopian migrant who was granted refugee status and the possibility of starting a new life in the United States has been remanded in custody after he allegedly tried to leave Malta in violation of bail conditions.

A court was told today that Daniel Haile TesfaMihret, who is facing charges of causing grievous bodily harm, had tried to leave Malta for the United States last Tuesday but was stopped by the police at the airport when his luggage had already been loaded on the plane. His wife and children continued on their way.

Police Inspector Martin Sammut said he had previously warned the refuge, who is from Sudan, that he could not leave Malta until his court case was heard. He had suggested the filing of an application to the magistrate for the case to be brought forward. However, when Mr TesfaMihret was arrested, it resulted that no such application had been made. The migrant pleaded not guilty to breaching bail conditions.

Gulf states look to break African cross-country dominance

Friday, March 27th, 2009

By Luke Phillips | Middle East Online

AMMAN, Jordan — Gulf states Bahrain and Qatar, each boasting a raft of African-born runners, will attempt to break the stranglehold Ethiopia and Kenya enjoy in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships here on Saturday.

The absence of reigning champions and multiple title-winning Ethiopian duo, Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba, means that a host of other runners will have a chance to snatch victory in the two senior races.

More than 500 athletes from 70 countries will compete in the championships which comprise a men’s and female’s long course race over 12km and 8km respectively, for a total purse of 280,000 dollars, with 30,000 dollars going to the winner. There are also junior events for both sexes.

The only previous individual senior champions who will be racing for further honours in the Jordanian capital, hosting a major international athletics event for the first time, are Eritrean Zersenay Tadese and Ethiopian Gelete Burka.

Tadese, the bronze medallist at the worlds in Edinburgh last year, famously beat a heat-stroked Bekele in Mombasa in 2007, while Burka was the last champion of the now discontinued senior women’s short course race in 2006.

The Eritrean will face stiff competition from a raft of able rivals, not least Qatar’s world 3000m steeplechase champion in 2003 and 2005, Saif Saaeed Shaheen, and compatriot Ahmed Hassan Abdullah, Asian 10,000m record holder and cross-country champion.

Shaheen, who has spent most of the last two seasons out of competitive action due to injury, has finished in the top 10 at the World Cross Country Championships on four occasions, including a fourth place finish in 2005.

Aside from Abdullah, Qatar have also entered the reigning world marathon silver medallist Mubarak Hassan Shami for what has been described as a testing course over Amman’s hilly nine-hole Bisharat Golf Course.

Shami, who like Shaheen and Abdullah was once a Kenyan, has competed in each of the last three editions of the World Cross Country Championships and will be part of a Qatari effort to break African dominance over the event.

The Kenyan bid to nail a first individual long-course title since Paul Tergat in 1999 will be launched by 2009 Kenyan champion Moses Mosop, who won silver in Mombasa behind Tadese, and Leonard Komon, the runner-up in Edinburgh 12 months ago.

“I feel in top form,” said Mosop, nicknamed the ‘big engine’ for his heavy breathing while running.

“I’m relishing the challenge in Jordan. The weather and humidity in Amman is just like it was in Mombasa. I missed the gold medal two years ago and this is my time.”

There is a similar story in the women’s race, with Bahrain naming Asian cross-country champion and world 1500m title holder Maryam Yusuf Jamal for the first time since 2006.

The Ethiopian-born runner, who finished fifth in the Beijing Olympic 1500m final, comes to Amman on the back of a five-race winning streak that includes her fourth World Athletics Final 1500m victory in Stuttgart last September and a solo victory in her only indoor appearance in 2009 in Birmingham over the 1500m.

She will be joined in Amman by former Ethiopian Mimi Belete, who finished second behind Jamal in the senior Asian women’s 8km race.

Competition will come from Burka, the Netherlands’ Kenyan-born European champion Hilda Kibet and former world junior cross-country champions Meselech Melkamu of Ethiopia (2004) and Kenya’s Linet Masai (2007), who was the senior bronze medallist last year.

Schedule (all times GMT)

1130 – Women’s Junior Race, 6km; 1200 – Men’s Junior Race, 8km; 1240 – Women’s Senior Race, 8km; 1330 – Men’s Senior Race, 12km.

Flower exporters urge Ethiopia's dictator to intervene

Friday, March 27th, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: The flower farms in Ethiopia are destroying the land by using chemical fertilizers that are destroying the land.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Afrik.com) — Ethiopian flower producers and exporters have used their exhibition, which opened Wednesday, to call on Ethiopia’s dictator Meles Zenawi to urge state owned development bank to reschedule installments of their due balance as well as a cutback on freight tariffs.

This is the very first time exhibitors have met with the Prime Minister, who opened the second international exhibition organized by the growers and exporters association of Ethiopia. The massive involvement of some 130 exhibitors, including foreign buyers, companies involved in flower seed and chemical supplies have contributed to the opening success of the exhibition.

Tsegaye Abebe, Chairman of the Ethiopian Horticulture Producers Exporters Association (EHPEA), lauds the proposal for rescheduling of debts. “It is unfeasible to service our debts with the current economic downturn unless banks become willing to reschedule our obligation and freighters cutback their tariff” Tsegaye addressed attendants.

Though he did not categorically specify banks and freighters in his speech, he was seen busy deliberating with the Prime Minister who finally commended stockholders operating in the sub-sector to synchronize efforts toward ensuring the sustainable development of the flower sector since it is an important foreign currency earner for the country.

The state owned Development Bank of Ethiopia which has lent over 800 million birr since the flower sector boom have been met with heavy setbacks in a backdrop of growing economic strains on the flower industry that has hampered the honouring of debts from the borrowers. This situation led the bank to issue public foreclosures a few months ago, but again they are faced with another hurdle: finding buyers.

The global economic downturn coupled with a severe winter season in Europe, which has affected the transportation and preservation of exported flowers, has greatly affected the flower producing eastern African region, known to be among the oldest flower producing regions in the world.

Ethiopia announced last February that it had registered a 40 per cent slump in its set target from the last 18 months.

The slump is, however, largely blamed on the weakened currencies of export destinations, which have impacted prices. The United Kingdom Pound Sterling has weakened by nearly 30 per cent in the last year alone, while the Russian currency, the Rubble, has also, reportedly, lost about 35 per cent of its value. The Euro Zone, which is yet to experience a currency pitfall, is said to have resorted to auctions, an action that is open to unexpected results, due to oversupply.

Meanwhile, dismayed Ethiopian exporters and growers who addressed their complaints to top government officials have still not received any positive feedback to date. This, according to the association, is what pushed them to use the exhibition as a platform to address this growing concern. According to them, the Prime Minister’s intervention has sparked renewed optimism among some exporters.

Ethiopian Airlines resumes flights to Berbera, Somaliland

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Hargeisa, SOMALILAND (Somalilandpress) — Ethiopian Airlines will bring back scheduled flights to Somaliland soon, Somaliland Aviation Minister Mr Ali Waran Adde told local media on Thursday.

The route to the capital of Somaliland was scheduled to re-open in January 2009, after it was suspended in November 2008 following the five suicide bomb attacks on buildings occupied by the government and international agencies.

However, Ethiopia’s national carrier will resume it’s flights from the Somaliland port city of Berbera rather than the capital, Hargeisa. This is due to the airport under going security upgrade and expansion to it’s runways to accommodate 747, 767 jets and the new A380.

Western aid to Africa made the poor poorer

Friday, March 27th, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a must read article to understand how aid by Western countries to dictatorial regime’s is devastating Ethiopia and the whole of Africa.

By DAMBISA MOYO

A month ago I visited Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. This suburb of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is home to more than one million people, who eke out a living in an area of about one square mile — roughly 75% the size of New York’s Central Park. It is a sea of aluminum and cardboard shacks that forgotten families call home. The idea of a slum conjures up an image of children playing amidst piles of garbage, with no running water and the rank, rife stench of sewage. Kibera does not disappoint.

What is incredibly disappointing is the fact that just a few yards from Kibera stands the headquarters of the United Nations’ agency for human settlements which, with an annual budget of millions of dollars, is mandated to “promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all.” Kibera festers in Kenya, a country that has one of the highest ratios of development workers per capita. This is also the country where in 2004, British envoy Sir Edward Clay apologized for underestimating the scale of government corruption and failing to speak out earlier.

Giving alms to Africa remains one of the biggest ideas of our time — millions march for it, governments are judged by it, celebrities proselytize the need for it. Calls for more aid to Africa are growing louder, with advocates pushing for doubling the roughly $50 billion of international assistance that already goes to Africa each year.

Yet evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that aid to Africa has made the poor poorer, and the growth slower. The insidious aid culture has left African countries more debt-laden, more inflation-prone, more vulnerable to the vagaries of the currency markets and more unattractive to higher-quality investment. It’s increased the risk of civil conflict and unrest (the fact that over 60% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population is under the age of 24 with few economic prospects is a cause for worry). Aid is an unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster.

Few will deny that there is a clear moral imperative for humanitarian and charity-based aid to step in when necessary, such as during the 2004 tsunami in Asia. Nevertheless, it’s worth reminding ourselves what emergency and charity-based aid can and cannot do. Aid-supported scholarships have certainly helped send African girls to school (never mind that they won’t be able to find a job in their own countries once they have graduated). This kind of aid can provide band-aid solutions to alleviate immediate suffering, but by its very nature cannot be the platform for long-term sustainable growth.

Whatever its strengths and weaknesses, such charity-based aid is relatively small beer when compared to the sea of money that floods Africa each year in government-to-government aid or aid from large development institutions such as the World Bank.

Over the past 60 years at least $1 trillion of development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Yet real per-capita income today is lower than it was in the 1970s, and more than 50% of the population — over 350 million people — live on less than a dollar a day, a figure that has nearly doubled in two decades.

Even after the very aggressive debt-relief campaigns in the 1990s, African countries still pay close to $20 billion in debt repayments per annum, a stark reminder that aid is not free. In order to keep the system going, debt is repaid at the expense of African education and health care. Well-meaning calls to cancel debt mean little when the cancellation is met with the fresh infusion of aid, and the vicious cycle starts up once again.

In 2005, just weeks ahead of a G8 conference that had Africa at the top of its agenda, the International Monetary Fund published a report entitled “Aid Will Not Lift Growth in Africa.” The report cautioned that governments, donors and campaigners should be more modest in their claims that increased aid will solve Africa’s problems. Despite such comments, no serious efforts have been made to wean Africa off this debilitating drug.

The most obvious criticism of aid is its links to rampant corruption. Aid flows destined to help the average African end up supporting bloated bureaucracies in the form of the poor-country governments and donor-funded non-governmental organizations. In a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in May 2004, Jeffrey Winters, a professor at Northwestern University, argued that the World Bank had participated in the corruption of roughly $100 billion of its loan funds intended for development.

As recently as 2002, the African Union, an organization of African nations, estimated that corruption was costing the continent $150 billion a year, as international donors were apparently turning a blind eye to the simple fact that aid money was inadvertently fueling graft. With few or no strings attached, it has been all too easy for the funds to be used for anything, save the developmental purpose for which they were intended.

In Zaire — known today as the Democratic Republic of Congo — Irwin Blumenthal (whom the IMF had appointed to a post in the country’s central bank) warned in 1978 that the system was so corrupt that there was “no (repeat, no) prospect for Zaire’s creditors to get their money back.” Still, the IMF soon gave the country the largest loan it had ever given an African nation. According to corruption watchdog agency Transparency International, Mobutu Sese Seko, Zaire’s president from 1965 to 1997, is reputed to have stolen at least $5 billion from the country.

It’s scarcely better today. A month ago, Malawi’s former President Bakili Muluzi was charged with embezzling aid money worth $12 million. Zambia’s former President Frederick Chiluba (a development darling during his 1991 to 2001 tenure) remains embroiled in a court case that has revealed millions of dollars frittered away from health, education and infrastructure toward his personal cash dispenser. Yet the aid keeps on coming.

A nascent economy needs a transparent and accountable government and an efficient civil service to help meet social needs. Its people need jobs and a belief in their country’s future. A surfeit of aid has been shown to be unable to help achieve these goals.

A constant stream of “free” money is a perfect way to keep an inefficient or simply bad government in power. As aid flows in, there is nothing more for the government to do — it doesn’t need to raise taxes, and as long as it pays the army, it doesn’t have to take account of its disgruntled citizens. No matter that its citizens are disenfranchised (as with no taxation there can be no representation). All the government really needs to do is to court and cater to its foreign donors to stay in power.

Stuck in an aid world of no incentives, there is no reason for governments to seek other, better, more transparent ways of raising development finance (such as accessing the bond market, despite how hard that might be). The aid system encourages poor-country governments to pick up the phone and ask the donor agencies for next capital infusion. It is no wonder that across Africa, over 70% of the public purse comes from foreign aid.

In Ethiopia, where aid constitutes more than 90% of the government budget, a mere 2% of the country’s population has access to mobile phones. (The African country average is around 30%.) Might it not be preferable for the government to earn money by selling its mobile phone license, thereby generating much-needed development income and also providing its citizens with telephone service that could, in turn, spur economic activity?

Look what has happened in Ghana, a country where after decades of military rule brought about by a coup, a pro-market government has yielded encouraging developments. Farmers and fishermen now use mobile phones to communicate with their agents and customers across the country to find out where prices are most competitive. This translates into numerous opportunities for self-sustainability and income generation — which, with encouragement, could be easily replicated across the continent.

To advance a country’s economic prospects, governments need efficient civil service. But civil service is naturally prone to bureaucracy, and there is always the incipient danger of self-serving cronyism and the desire to bind citizens in endless, time-consuming red tape. What aid does is to make that danger a grim reality. This helps to explain why doing business across much of Africa is a nightmare. In Cameroon, it takes a potential investor around 426 days to perform 15 procedures to gain a business license. What entrepreneur wants to spend 119 days filling out forms to start a business in Angola? He’s much more likely to consider the U.S. (40 days and 19 procedures) or South Korea (17 days and 10 procedures).

Even what may appear as a benign intervention on the surface can have damning consequences. Say there is a mosquito-net maker in small-town Africa. Say he employs 10 people who together manufacture 500 nets a week. Typically, these 10 employees support upward of 15 relatives each. A Western government-inspired program generously supplies the affected region with 100,000 free mosquito nets. This promptly puts the mosquito net manufacturer out of business, and now his 10 employees can no longer support their 150 dependents. In a couple of years, most of the donated nets will be torn and useless, but now there is no mosquito net maker to go to. They’ll have to get more aid. And African governments once again get to abdicate their responsibilities.

In a similar vein has been the approach to food aid, which historically has done little to support African farmers. Under the auspices of the U.S. Food for Peace program, each year millions of dollars are used to buy American-grown food that has to then be shipped across oceans. One wonders how a system of flooding foreign markets with American food, which puts local farmers out of business, actually helps better Africa. A better strategy would be to use aid money to buy food from farmers within the country, and then distribute that food to the local citizens in need.

Then there is the issue of “Dutch disease,” a term that describes how large inflows of money can kill off a country’s export sector, by driving up home prices and thus making their goods too expensive for export. Aid has the same effect. Large dollar-denominated aid windfalls that envelop fragile developing economies cause the domestic currency to strengthen against foreign currencies. This is catastrophic for jobs in the poor country where people’s livelihoods depend on being relatively competitive in the global market.

To fight aid-induced inflation, countries have to issue bonds to soak up the subsequent glut of money swamping the economy. In 2005, for example, Uganda was forced to issue such bonds to mop up excess liquidity to the tune of $700 million. The interest payments alone on this were a staggering $110 million, to be paid annually.

The stigma associated with countries relying on aid should also not be underestimated or ignored. It is the rare investor that wants to risk money in a country that is unable to stand on its own feet and manage its own affairs in a sustainable way.

Africa remains the most unstable continent in the world, beset by civil strife and war. Since 1996, 11 countries have been embroiled in civil wars. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in the 1990s, Africa had more wars than the rest of the world combined. Although my country, Zambia, has not had the unfortunate experience of an outright civil war, growing up I experienced first-hand the discomfort of living under curfew (where everyone had to be in their homes between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., which meant racing from work and school) and faced the fear of the uncertain outcomes of an attempted coup in 1991 — sadly, experiences not uncommon to many Africans.

Civil clashes are often motivated by the knowledge that by seizing the seat of power, the victor gains virtually unfettered access to the package of aid that comes with it. In the last few months alone, there have been at least three political upheavals across the continent, in Mauritania, Guinea and Guinea Bissau (each of which remains reliant on foreign aid). Madagascar’s government was just overthrown in a coup this past week. The ongoing political volatility across the continent serves as a reminder that aid-financed efforts to force-feed democracy to economies facing ever-growing poverty and difficult economic prospects remain, at best, precariously vulnerable. Long-term political success can only be achieved once a solid economic trajectory has been established.

Proponents of aid are quick to argue that the $13 billion ($100 billion in today’s terms) aid of the post-World War II Marshall Plan helped pull back a broken Europe from the brink of an economic abyss, and that aid could work, and would work, if Africa had a good policy environment.

The aid advocates skirt over the point that the Marshall Plan interventions were short, sharp and finite, unlike the open-ended commitments which imbue governments with a sense of entitlement rather than encouraging innovation. And aid supporters spend little time addressing the mystery of why a country in good working order would seek aid rather than other, better forms of financing. No country has ever achieved economic success by depending on aid to the degree that many African countries do.

The good news is we know what works; what delivers growth and reduces poverty. We know that economies that rely on open-ended commitments of aid almost universally fail, and those that do not depend on aid succeed. The latter is true for economically successful countries such as China and India, and even closer to home, in South Africa and Botswana. Their strategy of development finance emphasizes the important role of entrepreneurship and markets over a staid aid-system of development that preaches hand-outs.

African countries could start by issuing bonds to raise cash. To be sure, the traditional capital markets of the U.S. and Europe remain challenging. However, African countries could explore opportunities to raise capital in more non-traditional markets such as the Middle East and China (whose foreign exchange reserves are more than $4 trillion). Moreover, the current market malaise provides an opening for African countries to focus on acquiring credit ratings (a prerequisite to accessing the bond markets), and preparing themselves for the time when the capital markets return to some semblance of normalcy.

Governments need to attract more foreign direct investment by creating attractive tax structures and reducing the red tape and complex regulations for businesses. African nations should also focus on increasing trade; China is one promising partner. And Western countries can help by cutting off the cycle of giving something for nothing. It’s time for a change.

(Dambisa Moyo, a former economist at Goldman Sachs, is the author of “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa.”)

Israel's first Ethiopian battalion commander

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Next week, Lieutenant Colonel Tzion Shenkor will become the first Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) battalion commander from Israel’s Ethiopian community. He will command a Shimshon battalion in the Kfir Brigade.

On Sunday, Major Shenkor was promoted to lieutenant colonel in a ceremony in the army’s Central Command in the presence of the commander of the Central District, Major-General Gadi Shamni. Next week, he will assume command of the battalion.

Shenkor began his military career as a paratrooper, assigned to Kfir after completing officers training. He has served as a platoon commander, company commander and deputy battalion commander. His last assignment was operations officer for the northern Gaza battalion, carrying heaving responsibilities during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza’s northern area.

(Yechiel Spira, YWN Israel)

Head of China's central bank proposes new world currency

Friday, March 27th, 2009

By Stephen C. Webster | Raw Story

In an essay published Monday, the head of China’s central bank proposed a plan to displace the American dollar as the world’s standard and replace it with a global reserve currency operated from the International Monetary Fund.

“Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, argued that what he called a super-sovereign reserve currency would not only eliminate the risks inherent in currencies such as the dollar, which are backed only by the credit of the issuing country and not by gold or silver, but would also make it possible to manage global liquidity,” reported the Times Online.

“But that’s unlikely to happen, says Robert Scott, senior international economist with the Economic Policy Institute,” reported Forbes. “‘It’s partly posturing, it’s partly buyer’s remorse,’ he said, noting China, at some point, is going to have to let its yuan currency rise in value relative to the dollar’s current price – likely by upwards of 30.0%. That means China’s investments in U.S. dollars, via Treasuries, would lose a third of their value in yuan terms.

“‘hey’re getting hammered,’ Scott said. Chinese leaders’ heavy investment in the U.S. economy has exposed them to domestic criticism.”

“Zhou made his call in an essay that appeared on the website of People’s Bank of China, China’s central bank, on Monday,” reported the Washington Post. “It was clearly timed to make a splash in the run-up to the G20 meeting that starts in London on April 2.

“Calling the use of the dollar as the world’s benchmark currency ‘a rare special case in history,’ Zhou urged the ‘creative reform of the existing international monetary system towards an international reserve currency.’ Zhou said the reserve currency, managed by the IMF, should be ‘disconnected from individual nations and is able to remain stable in the long run.’”

The IMF would operate such a currency via its “Special Drawing Right,” created in 1969 with “the potential to act as a super-sovereign reserve currency,” reported Times Online.

“The role of the SDR has not been put into full play due to limitations on its allocation and the scope of its uses. However, it serves as the light in the tunnel for the reform of the international monetary system,” Zhou wrote in his essay.

He also emphasized his hope for the IMF currency’s supremacy over other dominant world benchmarks, such as the euro and the yen.

The technical and political hurdles to implementing the proposal are enormous, so even if backed by other nations, the proposal is unlikely to change the dollar’s role in the short term.

“‘The re-establishment of a new and widely accepted reserve currency with a stable valuation benchmark may take a long time,’ Mr. Zhou said” in a report by the Wall St. Journal. “In remarks earlier Monday, one of Mr. Zhou’s deputies, Hu Xiaolian, also said that the dollar’s dominant position in international trade and investment is unlikely to change in the near future. Ms. Hu is in charge of reserve management as the head of China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange.

“A spokeswoman for the U.S. Treasury declined to comment on Mr. Zhou’s views.”

UPDATE: Moscow supports IMF currency

In a little-circulated March 16 statement, the Kremlin said it will propose the IMF-based currency at April’s G20 meeting in London.

“The International Monetary Fund should investigate the possible creation of a new reserve currency, widening the list of reserve currencies or using its already existing Special Drawing Rights, or SDRs, as a ‘superreserve currency accepted by the whole of the international community,’ the Kremlin said in a statement issued on its web site,” reported the Moscow Times.

“Russia also called for countries whose currencies currently have reserve status to adopt international rules on fiscal and macroeconomic discipline,” noted Reuters.

Wayna Wondwossen arrested in Houston Airport

Friday, March 27th, 2009

UPDATE:

Houston judge dismisses charge against singer Wayna

(Houston Chronicle) — A judge this morning dismissed the charge against rhythm-and-blues singer Wayna, who was arrested Wednesday at a Houston airport for carrying a collapsible police baton.

Prosecutors asked state District Judge Jeannine Barr to dismiss the third-degree felony during a brief hearing at the downtown Harris County Criminal Justice Center.

No details were available on why the dismissal was requested and at which airport the arrest took place.

The Grammy-nominated singer, whose legal name is Wayna Wondwossen, was charged with carrying a weapon in an airport after she tried to board a plane while carrying the baton, authorities said.

She uses the baton as a prop while singing Billie Club, a song about police brutality.

She did not attend this morning’s hearing.

Wayna Wondwossen arrested in Houston Airport

HOUSTON (AP) – Ethiopian-born Grammy-nominated singer {www:Wayna Wondwossen} has been arrested at a Houston airport after trying to get on a plane with a collapsible police baton that she uses while performing.

Wayna, whose full name is Woyneab Miraf Wondwossen, was charged with possession of a prohibited weapon Wednesday.

Houston police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said Thursday that security guards at the checkpoint at Bush International Airport discovered the 24-inch baton in her carry-on bag.

Wondwossen, 35, was transported to the Houston jail and posted $5,000 bond.

Wayna released her second album, “Higher Ground,” in 2008. One of the songs on the album is “Billy Club,” a ballad about police abuse, and Wondwossen twirls and points the baton when she performs the song live.

[More from dcist.com]- According to a statement released by her management team, Wayna was attempting to go through security when she was questioned about a stage prop found in her carry-on bag. The item, which is being described as a 24-inch baton, is used during the performance of her song, “Billy Club,” off of her album, Higher Ground. The song, which also features Three Stars artist Muhsinah, is an eerie ballad that protests police brutality. She explained that she was a performer and had inadvertently packed the item in her carry-on as opposed to checked luggage. Even though she insisted that she had no intent to use the prop as a weapon, Wayna was arrested and charged. Early this morning, she was released from jail on $5,000 bail, according to the statement.

“She’s very shook up but she’s had encouragement and love from family and friends around the world,” said Fiona Bloom, Wayna’s publicist.

Just last month, Wayna was up for a Grammy award in the “Best Urban/Alternative Performance” category for her song, “Loving You (Music).”

An arraignment hearing is set for Friday in Houston.

A beggar who is loved by the West

Friday, March 27th, 2009

By Seifu Tsegaye Demmissie

The participation of Ethiopia’s dictator {www:Meles Zenawi} in the summit of the group of 20 or G-20 does not have any significance other than validating his status as an accredited International beggar. Zenawi is the name most familiar in the door steps and corridors of western donors and their financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. Hence, the designation International beggar is quite befitting to describe his role in his warm relationship with the west.

European leaders and their favorite beggar Meles Zenawi at the EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon

Various sources indicate that the west have spent between 36 and 40 billion dollars on the regime of Meles Zenawi via budget and other support mechanisms. This is a big sum which could have had a significant positive impact on the country if a legal Ethiopian government had been in place to use it. In fact, he does not deserve any kind of western assistance given his dismal human rights records. Commandeering a bloated, expensive but an inefficient bureaucracy whose primary function is to serve as a pillar of his reign of repression and terror, Meles Zenawi is in constant need of foreign aid and financing. Besides, he owns and operates an extensive and permeating network of a repressive security apparatus which requires a substantial amount of resources. Thus, it is not difficult to see where the lion`s share of the budget support he receives from the west ends up. He has to constantly refine and sharpen his begging skills and tools.

The group of 20 or G-20 includes the so called industrial democracies and emerging new economies and was formed after the financial crises of the 90`s. The crisis had mainly hit the emerging Asian and Latin American economies which applied the economic prescriptions of the western financial institutions like the World Bank. However, the current crisis is global in nature and is not restricted to certain geographic areas of the world. Foreign aid dependent regimes can not be immune to the crisis.

The invitation of Meles Zenawi to the summit of the so called group of 20 or G-20 demonstrates his increasing reliance on foreign aid and vanguard role as an International beggar. Thus, the participation of Meles Zenawi in the preliminary and the annual summit of the group of 20 does not raise his status as a statesman as his cadres and beneficiaries would like us to believe. This is not something to brag about but Meles Zenawi and his zombies are devoid of any feeling of qualm and shame and count it as one of their greatest achievements. Rejected by the vast majority of Ethiopians but loved by the west, Meles Zenawi has no legal or moral ground to represent Ethiopia neither at national nor International level.

Considering the criteria for eligibility for western aid, development aid can best be described as a political partnership between western politicians and their client dictators or lackeys in the so called third world. It is well known that developing countries which would like to take their destinies into their own hands and exercise their universally accepted rights of independence and sovereignty, do not qualify for western aid and favours. In general, it is through this partnership (development aid) that the western powers get clout and trample upon the recipient countries. Thus one can not fail to grasp the big influence donors have on the decision making in the recipient countries. The other characteristic feature of this unholy partnership is that it is riddled with corruption and graft which account for the siphoning off and wastage of considerable resources. Though claiming to combat poverty, the partnership is perpetuating dictatorship and preventing the population from taking part in the vital decision making organs and processes. A conducive system built on a broad and free public participation ensuring accountability and transparency, is the prerequisite for combating poverty and attaining economic growth.

The enduring damage this partnership is inflicting on the causes and forces of democracy, freedom and social justice, is visible in Ethiopian at the moment. The regime is escalating its widespread human rights violations and economic deprivations. We have a living memory of the scandalous role of some western diplomats or envoys in bailing out the brutal regime of Meles Zenawi from the strong storm caused by his rigging and daylight robbery of public votes in the aftermath of the May 2005 elections. It is also regrettable to witness that the storm lost its sweeping force in part due to the indecisive and vacillating opposition who failed to seize the moment and go ahead. The cost of removing Meles Zenawi from power is much lower than letting him to stay in power even for few months. After having survived the potentially destructive storm, Meles Zenawi has simply accelerated his paces of killings, imprisonments and secret dealings to give away our legal land to neighbours. Despite the survival of the regime of Meles Zenawi, an increasing number of Ethiopians are convinced of the fact that the era of ballots is over. Emboldened by the unconditional support he gets from the west and lack of domestic resistance, he is determined more than ever before to consolidate and perpetuate his dictatorial rule in the country.

Despite the repeated denials and dismissals, the regime of Meles Zenawi is encountering a chronic shortage of hard currency which is forcing the few foreign material dependent domestic manufacturing factories to halt production. The reality on the ground in Ethiopia shows that the acclaimed economic boom of Zenawi is actually a simple flattery of his cadres and beneficiaries. It is a bust which is causing a drastic fall in the standard of living of the vast majority of the population of the country. As one author has rightly noted, development aid has become Africa`s debilitating drug trapping the continent in its vicious cycle of corruption and poverty. Thus, the aid addicted Economy of the regime of Meles Zenawi is very vulnerable to the current global financial crisis and can collapse in a short span of time in the absence of the badly needed financial injections by his donors.

The Gibe III Dam must be stopped

Friday, March 27th, 2009

By Richard Leakey

You may have heard about the raging controversy regarding a massive dam that is under construction on the Omo River in Ethiopia. It is called the Gilgel Gibe III dam and it has a wall that will soar 240 metres high – this is the tallest of its type anywhere in the world. It will hold back a reservoir 150 kilometres long.

The Ethiopians say that they need this dam as it will provide 1800 megawatts of electricity. That will more than double the country’s current generating capacity in one hit, and according to their Prime Minister Ethiopia’s dictator, Meles Zenawi, it will solve a national energy crisis.He says they can’t afford not to have Gilgel Gibe III. He also claims that it will enable the country to store water and regulate the flooding downstream in the Omo River.

This new dam will produce far more electricity than the country is capable of consuming, most will be exported to neighbours like Sudan and Kenya.

I think that this project is fatally flawed in terms of its logic, in terms of its thoroughness, in terms of its conclusions.

It looks to me like the Environmental Impact Assessment was an inside job that has come up with the results that they were looking for to get the initial funding for this dam.

I and the Environmental Resources Group believe that rather than being beneficial to the river valley as the Ethiopian government say, the dam will produce a broad range of negative effects, some of which would be catastrophic to both the environment and the indigenous communities living downstream.

Even if the science is in dispute – this is reason enough to invoke the precautionary principle and stop the project before it is too late because if the Ethiopian government is wrong, those communities living along the lower Omo River Valley all the way down into neighboring Kenya will pay a heavy price. I believe that one immediate consequence will be the aggravation of armed conflict in a war over the shrinking natural resources.

What do you think, should Ethiopia be allowed to go ahead despite the concerns of down stream environmental and social impacts affecting over 500,000 people and Lake Turkana in Kenya?

(Richard Leakey established WildlifeDirect to create a direct relationship between those at the front line of conservation and those who care anywhere in the world. He is the chairman of WildlifeDirect. All donations made on this blog will contribute towards the training and technical support to blogging members on wildlifedirect.org)

African Film Festival in Maryland draws large crowd

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

SILVER SPRING, MARYLAND (Gazette.net) — Opening night of the New African Films Festival brought more than 400 people to the lobby of the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center March 19, but it wasn’t a typical night at the movies.

While awaiting the first movie, “13 Months of Sunshine,” attendees of the opening night cocktail hour could bypass the usual movie popcorn and candy, and opt for a buffet featuring ye’abesha gomen (collard greens) and tikil gomen (cabbage) as well as beets and Ethiopian bread, compliments of nearby Abol Ethiopian Restaurant.

The film festival, which celebrates African culture and aims to give a better feel for life in African countries, had seven successful days at AFI, its third year at the theater on Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring. Now in its fifth season, this year’s festival featured about 30 films.

Susan Bluttman, AFI’s media and public relations manager, was thrilled with the opening night turnout, noting that while only 195 tickets had been sold in advance, the first movie was sold out, and the standby line was still growing with only a few minutes to go before the 7:30 p.m. showing.

The festival tries to present a greater understanding of life in Africa “instead of just having your understanding from a single shot on CNN,” said Mwiza Munthali, director of public outreach for TransAfrica, a foreign policy advocacy organization and one of the event’s sponsors. AFI and afrikafe, a networking group for Africans and friends of Africa, also were sponsors.

“Our goal each time is to offer the Washington community African films and to give Africa a chance to show off its films,” said Kishere Mbuya, CEO and founder of afrikafe, and a Silver Spring resident, adding that many of the films are award winners.

Todd Hitchcock, film programmer at AFI, said while there is no theme, the goal was to offer newer films as well as a few classic ones.

“We strive for representation across the Diaspora,” said Lori Donnelly, an associate film programmer.

Alfia Johnson of Washington, D.C., attended because, “I’m a lover of films, a lover of culture. I support all African culture.”

Candace Mickens of Takoma Park also was excited to attend. “Africa is part of our life, being an African-American,” she said.

Another moviegoer, Rike Ojediran of Washington, D.C., echoed her sentiments. “I’m fascinated by this concept. It’s something I want to support. I’m going to try and come most of the weekend.”

Bluttman said attendance over the weekend was good. “We had more people in the African films than we did in any of the first-run movies,” she said, referring to the currently running “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Class.”

Silver Spring resident Yvonne Captain, a film professor and self-proclaimed film buff, praised the festival for not just showing good films but also for “giving people a chance to be proud.”

Ethiopia's Tariku Bekele pulls out of Amman 2009 due to injury

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Amman, Jordan – World Indoor 3000m champion Tariku Bekele has pulled out of the Ethiopian squad for the 37th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan, Saturday 28 March, after sustaining a training ground injury.

The 22-year-old, who had finished fourth in the trials last month and was a junior bronze medallist in 2006 dropped out of training last week with an ankle injury. He had hoped to recover in time to compete for the championships in Amman. But after presenting medical evidence to selectors this week, he was relieved of his duties with the national team to focus on rehabilitation.

Dino Sefer, who won the European XC Permit meeting in Hannut, Belgium earlier in the year and finished seventh in the trials, replaces T. Bekele in the squad which flew to Amman in Tuesday evening.

Tariku’s absence is the latest blow for Ethiopia’s hopes of challenging Kenya for both individual and team honours in Amman. The green-vested East Africans are already without Tariku’s elder brother and eleven-time world cross country champion Kenenisa, 2006 silver medallist Sileshi Sihine, and three-time women’s champion Tirunesh Dibaba, who are all nursing long-term injuries.

Without their established stars competing, Ethiopia will be looking to a young squad in a bid to repeat their domination of last year’s edition where they won all four individual and two of the four team titles in Edinburgh, Scotland.

There are big hopes for names like Feyissa Lelisa, 14th in the junior race last year, to make the step up to senior ranks after his dominating performances in the domestic cross country circuit this season. All- African Games 10000m silver medallist Tadesse Tola and the experienced Gebregziabher Gebremariam should also provide experience to the young squad.

Elshadai Negash for the IAAF

Rugby makes inroads in Ethiopia

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (Reuters) — Ethiopians strolling on Jan Meda playing pitches have been shocked for the past few months by what many of them believe to be a group of foreign men locked in a violent brawl.

“‘What kind of people are doing this?’ I thought when I first saw it,” said Dawit Tekle Beyene, a 31-year-old who works at a donkey sanctuary. “They are fighting each other.”

Watchful Welshman David Thomas takes care to approach Ethiopians who stumble across the spectacle to tell them that it is not a fight. The men are playing rugby.

Still viewed with suspicion by many locals — and once moved on by the police for causing a disturbance — the Addis Nyalas Rugby Club have now attracted Beyene and other Ethiopians into their ranks.

The ultimate ambition for Ethiopians — famous for their athletics prowess — is international seven-a-side competition.

“Seven-a-side rugby is a form of rugby which is a lot more accessible to smaller nations and nations which lack the necessary mass of rugby players to play 15-a-side rugby,” said Thomas, a 25-year-old microfinance consultant and president of the club.

The team are using membership fees from foreigners and money raised from an exhibition tournament to water and seed the dilapidated Jan Meda — a public amenity — and pay for health insurance for their Ethiopian players in a country that is still desperately poor.

The Sevens World Cup is taking place in Dubai from tomorrow, but Thomas said international competition was years away for the Ethiopians.

However, he believes, with more young people joining the team’s ranks all the time, the Nyalas — the only rugby team in Ethiopia — are paving the way.

“Realistically for Ethiopian rugby, especially considering the speed and athleticism of some of our players, seven-a-side rugby is a much more feasible form of rugby for us to try and work towards and specialize in,” he said.

The club have now invited teams from Kenya and Ivory Coast to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

An Orthodox Christian church stands in the middle of the playing fields in the hills overlooking the city where, every Saturday, the small band of men scrummaging, rucking and mauling are surrounded by eight or nine soccer matches played by football-mad Ethiopians in fake Premier League jerseys. Street children spin rugby balls from their hands as Ethiopian teenagers learn how to tackle.

The team that started as a hobby for the expatriate community of aid staff and diplomats supplement their growing number of Ethiopian members with players from rugby-loving countries such as Britain, France, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

“Allez! Allez!” comes the cry from one side of the pitch as attacking techniques are taught. “C’mon! Tackle him!” is the shout from the other side of the field, where defensive plays are practised. More languages ring out as a game begins.

“There was a problem with language when we started,” said Daniel Tegene, an 18-year-old student. “But now we are learning the words involved with rugby and so we’ve learned how to communicate with the foreigners and can learn the game.”

The team played in the grounds of a private school for two years and the decision to move to a public playing pitch was made to recruit more Ethiopians. “We’re turning ourselves into an Ethiopian rugby club and not an expats’ rugby club,” said Thomas.

Demes Mamo, a taxi driver, parks his cab at the side of the pitch every week and pulls on one of the new jerseys the team imported from Britain. Each one has an Ethiopian flag on the arm and a crest featuring Ethiopia’s nyala antelope.

“Other taxi drivers think I’m crazy to play rugby,” said Demes, 31. “But I love this game.

“Maybe one day there will be an Ethiopian team. That is my dream,” he said.

Police detain 10 Ethiopian immigrants in Tanzania

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

By Ashton Balaigwa

MOROGORO, TANZANIA (Guardian) — The Police Force in {www:Morogoro Region} of Tanzania, in collaboration with Immigration officers, have apprehended 10 foreigners believed to be Ethiopians. They said they were on transit to South Africa.

Speaking to journalists at his office yesterday, the Acting Regional Police Commander, Samuel Mpasa, said the aliens were arrested on Tuesday evening after police was tipped off by one of the passengers in the bus they were travelling in. The bus, belonging to Hood company with registration number T903 ARM was Mbeya bound from Arusha.

He said they arrested them immediately after the bus arrived at Msamvu Bus Station in Morogoro municipality.

The RPC mentioned the arrested as Beyene Wasoro (35), Demeke Abebe (29), Gizachew Bekele (22), Tekele Shinde (30) and Girma Otole (35).

Others were Tesfaye Anulo (32), Tafera Eyiso (32), Yaikob Kelbiso (31), Zewude Tumso (29) and Teka Haile (36).

He said after police officers entered the bus, three of them hid under their seats.

The RPC said that during interrogations they said that their aim was to go to South Africa and that they would have just spent a few days in Mbeya.

Mpasa called on the community, especially passengers to inform the police presence of illegal aliens whenever they suspect them.

Sudan's president al-Bashir goes to Libya, defying ICC

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir defied an international arrest warrant by traveling to Libya on Thursday to hold talks with leader Muammar Gaddafi, a Libyan official said.

Bashir arrived in the Libyan city of Sirte to have lunch with Gaddafi, who is also the current president of the African Union, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The visit is a show of defiance to the arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes in Darfur in western Sudan.

Gaddafi said last month that “foreign forces” including Israel were stoking the Darfur conflict and urged the International Criminal Court to stop proceedings against Bashir.

The veteran Libyan leader says Africa can solve its own problems without outside meddling and has made a number of attempts to broker peace between Darfur rebels and the Khartoum government.

A Sudanese presidential palace source and a foreign ministry official had earlier said Bashir, who risks arrest any time he travels abroad, was on his way to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

The trip is Bashir’s third abroad since the ICC issued the arrest warrant on March 4. He also visited neighbors Egypt and Eritrea this week following invitations from those countries for talks on the ICC move.

Experts say at least 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2.7 million driven from their homes in almost six years of ethnic and political fighting in Darfur in western Sudan. Khartoum says 10,000 people have died.

The Sudanese government said shortly after the ICC decision that Bashir would defy the warrant by traveling further afield to an Arab summit in Qatar next week.

But Sudanese officials have released statements raising questions over the wisdom of the trip, prompting speculation Sudan may send another representative.

Qatar’s prime minister has said the Gulf state was coming under pressure not to receive Bashir, though he did not say from whom.

(Reporting by Andrew Heavens; Writing by Cynthia Johnston and Tom Pfeiffer; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Woyanne action cheapens Ethiopian coffee brand – experts

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: Is there any thing Ethiopia’s dictator Meles Zenawi and his tribal juna that are in charge of the Ethiopian regime can do right? What does the dumb dictator, whose only expertise is killing people to stay in power, know about the coffee market?

By Oliver Schwaner-Albright | The New York Times

In the latest scrimmage in the battle to control Ethiopia’s coffee trade, the government has suspended the licenses of the country’s largest coffee exporters, it is reported today. Until things get sorted out, no coffee is leaving Ethiopia.

The government accuses the exporters of keeping coffee off the international market until prices rise. Coffee is Ethiopia’s number one export and the beleaguered country’s primary source of foreign currency.

This is the latest twist in a saga being watched closely by both the specialty coffee community and those concerned about alleviating poverty in the developing world.

In 2006 the Ethiopian government trademarked “Yirgacheffe,” the name of the country’s most celebrated coffee-growing region, hoping to use its cachet to help all their coffee exports. Then in December, the government mandated that all coffee growers sell their crops through the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange, to insure that all beans fetched an adequate price. Some antipoverty groups thought this would help all Ethiopiain coffee growers.

It meant, though, that coffee roasters in the United States and other coffee importing nations would not be able to buy from specific growers whose beans they prize the most. It effectively ends direct trade for single-origin and microlot coffee.

George Howell of Terroir Coffee, a respected roasting company near Boston, Also points out that the government’s efforts might cheapen the brand. He wrote in his newsletter:

“What scares me is that the trademark route in no way guarantees that the coffee even comes from the particular ‘designated’ region (ironically while Yirgacheffe now becomes a trademark, any coffee lover thinks of it immediately as a region). It is merely a trademark, without any guarantee of origin or traceability.”

Shocked and disillusioned

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

By Jenny Higgins

Lalibela, Ethiopia – On the afternoon Feb. 21, I was catching up on some work in the office, when I was distracted by a man dressed in white rushing past the window, closely followed by Hafte, the guard’s son. I thought he was coming into the office, but when he didn’t, I didn’t think anything of it and simply carried on with my work.

A few minutes later he did come into the office – a tall Ethiopian man wrapped in a gabi, wearing a hat, and carrying a ‘cow tail’ stick which people swish around to get rid of the flies. He came over, shook my hand and said a lot of things to me in Amharic, while Hafte sniggered behind him. I’m used to random people coming up and speaking to me as if I am fluent in Amharic, so I went along with it, shaking his hand, saying hello etc. A totally normal part of my day!

Then he grabbed me and tried to pull me out of my chair, which is not so normal. I managed to rip my tee shirt out of his grip, and I pushed him away, more shocked that anything, while Hafte tried to guide him out of the office, telling me he’s got mental health problems (I believe the phrase was ‘he’s crazy’). Okay, I can deal with mental health stuff, no problem. So when he refused to leave the office and instead sat down at the desk opposite me, chattering all the while, I just got on with my work and left Hafte to deal with him.

Then he started to grab things – my bottle of water, my roll of tissue paper, and then my bag …

This is when it started getting a little silly. Hafte was holding my bag, stopping him from running off with it, and the man had stuck the bottle of water between his legs so we couldn’t get it (well, we could, but this man has thighs like a vice!). Hafte had stopped him running off with my bag, but the man was now refusing to leave the office, just sitting at the desk causing as much havoc as he could considering Hafte was pinning him to the chair.

Now, this was a bit of an inconvenience for me, in the sense that I wanted to get on with my work and the mad man sitting opposite me wasn’t helping, but I didn’t fear for my life or my things. He’d hurt me a bit when he grabbed me, but I guessed Hafte would stop him from disappearing with all my stuff, and other than that he was just annoying. I managed to move my laptop out of his reach and take my passport, money and phone out of my bag, though, just in case.

However, he didn’t leave (with or without my bag) and he started to get more and more aggressive, throwing a punch at Hafte and screaming about ‘faranjis’ – I didn’t ask for translation. So I went to get some help from my project manager’s house, thinking a few men would be able to lift him out of the office. Unfortunately, only H, his girlfriend was there. She went to get the police, while a merry band of people gathered around my office – the female teachers from our school, who had just come back from market, Yeshimembit, the woman who bakes injera for me, and a little girl who simply appeared from nowhere.

A little while later, as Hafte continued to hold this man and stop him from stealing my things, one of A’s friends arrived, closely followed by a policeman. Okay, I thought, they’ll get him out. I mean, all they have to do is lift him out of the office – there are two of them and one of him, right?

I moved out of the way, while the policeman asked the man to move out of the office. He obviously didn’t particularly want to go, and a few minutes later I saw him thrown out of the office by the two of them.I thought it was over, then the policeman smacked him round the head and pushed him so hard he fell to the floor. In a split second before it happened, I saw what was coming – the policeman kicked the man, hard, in the head. Then he did it again. I cried out – the man was out of the office, he was lying on the floor, he wasn’t doing anything. Stop it!

Nobody else thought this was a problem. They all stood there and watched as the policeman kicked and beat the man who was lying on the floor, posing no threat to anyone. I tried to stop the policeman myself, but Aman’s friend pulled me back, telling me to leave it. The policeman took two seconds to tell me ‘it’s no problem’, then pulled the man to his feet and started to push him down the stone stairs.

What could I do? I didn’t want the man hurt, I just wanted him out of the office and to stop trying to hurt me and Hafte, or trying to take my stuff. The man is sick, not bad. Instead, I stood by, helpless (apart from the noise I made), while he was beaten and then dragged off to a prison, where he is likely to be beaten again.

As everyone stood around, totally unconcerned, telling me ‘it’s normal in Ethiopia’ and ‘it’s no problem’, I shut myself in my office and sobbed.

It’s not seeing the physical violence that upsets me; I’ve seen dead children lying in the road in Addis Ababa, and I was there as a man drowned in front of his devastated daughter in Blackpool. What really affects me is the casual cruelty that Ethiopians are capable of inflicting on anyone who doesn’t conform.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen this here. I now refuse to go to John Café in Lalibela (which is a considerable sacrifice considering the size of this town!) after I saw the way the owner treated another mentally disabled man. My loud protests stopped her from hitting him in this instance, but she humiliated and treated him worse than a dog, and I refuse to give my money to someone who does that.

Objectively, these are isolated instances where two people have been cruel and violent towards someone they see is worth less than them. It’s not unusual in any country. The thing that distresses me, though, is how ‘mainstream’ this attitude is. This afternoon, educated people who would tell you that they believe everyone is equal, and human rights apply to all, stood around and watched as a policeman kicked a man in the head simply for being mentally ill — and more than that, thought it was the right thing to do. In the café, a crowd of people which included the town’s bank manager and members of local government, sat around and laughed at the spectacle. All of these people call themselves committed Christians. Didn’t Jesus say ‘what you do to the least of my people, you do to me‘?

‘He’s not normal’ is often offered by way of explanation. Anyone who is different is not considered a human being and not worthy of the protection everyone else expects. To be honest, it’s not usual here to argue against a policeman – I can get away with it, because they know I’m protected by my British Passport in ways the average Ethiopian is not. But even after the policeman had gone, my tears were seen as something bewildering. He’s not normal, you see, the policeman did what anyone would have done.

I know I am tired and shocked, but it is afternoons like these that make me want to pack up and head home. Why on earth should I have given up all my home comforts, my friends, my life and my job to come and help people who treat others this way?

(Click here for more on Jenny Higgins work in Ethiopia)