Archive for the ‘Ethiopian News’ Category

Public meeting in Rome on Italy's invasion of Ethiopia

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

PUBLIC MEETING ANNOUNCEMENT

Criminal Colonialism
Ethiopia 1935-1941: Voyage to the shadowy heart of Italy

“Looking back on the war in Ethiopia today means having to deal with the way we are today: with the myth that is the popular saying, “the Italians are good”, always useful whenever there is an aggressive foreign war; with those prejudices that exist against anyone different which are also a product of a colonial past that has never been properly criticised; with the arrogant return of patriarchal ideas and the separation of the roles of the sexes. But if we deal with this, we must deal with it fully, seeking to understand it from the point of view of those Ethiopians, both men and women, who opposed the barbarity that called itself civility.”

Speakers:
* Mulu Ayele (Ethiopian community): Ethiopian women in the resistance to the Fascist colonialism;
* Loredana Baglio (Corrispondenze metropolitane): Colonialism and women;
* Nancy Aluigi Nannini (anthropologist): The colonial origin of prejudices.

Photographic exhibition (photos by A. Imperiali)
Portions of the films “Fascist legacy” and “Tempo di uccidere” will be shown.

DATE: Friday 24 April 2009 – at 5.00pm
PLACE: The Università La Sapienza, Faculty of Physics (old building), Rome

Organized by:
Laboratorio Sociale “La Talpa”
Corrispondenze Metropolitane
Comunità etiopica in Italia
Exodus (Ethiopian Cultural Service)
Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici
Unione Sindacale Italiana

62 Ethiopians arrested in Malawi

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

MALAWI (Nyasa Times) — Just under a month after police arrested over 100 Ethiopians for trying to illegally flee the country, another contingent of 62 Ethiopians has been nabbed in Mwanza district as it attempted to do likewise.

Mwanza Police Station Officer Joel Makomwa confirmed that police arrested the 62 refugees on Sunday as they headed for the Mwanza border.

He said the Ethiopians had fled from Dzaleka Refugee camp in Dowa and were on their way to South Africa via Mozambique.

The station officer explained that police were surprised with the foreigners as they walked towards the boarder.

“When approached they could not speak English so we arrested them and took them to our station,” he said.

The group is believed to be part of the over 100 Ethiopians who were arrested two weeks ago in Dedza as they headed for Dedza Boarder Post on their way to South Africa through Mozambique.

Wives of African dictators meet in Los Angeles, except Azeb

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: The self-proclaimed ‘first lady’ of Ethiopia, Azeb Mesfin, did not attend the meeting even though she is the vice chairwomen of “African First Ladies for Against HIV”. Azeb is worse than the HIV. She and her husband are responsible for more deaths than all the diseases in Ethiopia combined. The evil witch is now busy solidifying her position in EFFORT that will enable her to steal more money.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A group of African first ladies began a two-day meeting in Los Angeles on Monday to forge U.S. partnerships to try to improve health and education of women and girls in African communities afflicted by AIDS.

The wives of the presidents and prime ministers of Kenya, Nigeria, Angola, Zambia, Cameroon and 10 other nations teamed up with U.S. health experts, nonprofit groups and a clutch of celebrities to promote their work.

“Nowhere before in the United States has such a large group of African first ladies come together to talk as one,” Ted Alemayhu, founder of the Los Angeles-based U.S. Doctors for Africa, told a news conference.

Hollywood actresses Diane Lane, Maria Bello, Robin Wright Penn and Camryn Manheim were among the celebrity women who attended an opening day luncheon.

Singer Natalie Cole, daughter of the late Nat King Cole, will perform at a fund-raiser by oil company ExxonMobil, while Sharon Stone is due to moderate a panel aimed at transforming words into action.

The meeting hopes to raise awareness in Hollywood of various projects in Africa to supply clean water, fight malaria and combat AIDS.

The charitable group of 22 first ladies was formed in 2002 and is called African Synergy Against AIDS and Suffering. It was set up to highlight the vital role of women in education and healthcare in the world’s poorest continent.

Women in sub-Saharan Africa account for 57 percent of HIV infections and young African women are three times more likely to become infected than men of comparable age in the region, according to a 2006 United Nations Development Program report.

“As an African woman, this is really exciting and unprecedented,” said “CSI: Miami” actress Megalyn Echikunwoke, whose father is Nigerian. “For me this is really about finding out how we can support the first ladies.”

Oil giant Chevron, one of the meeting sponsors, announced a $5 million contribution to help fight malaria in Angola as part of its outreach programs in Africa.

Sarah Brown, wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, will deliver a keynote address on Tuesday, while former U.S. first lady Laura Bush will make a video address.

(Editing by Mary Milliken)

Atlanta area jury deliberates in Ethiopian man murder trial

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

By Josh Green | Gwinnett Daily Post

ATLANTA – Defense attorneys for Quincy Jackson argued Tuesday that a popular premise of modern-day prosecution is flawed: It’s wrong, they said, to convict a man based on evidence that his cell phone was at the scene of a crime.

“There should be evidence that puts the phone in the man’s hands,” attorney David Fife said in closing arguments.

Jurors are tasked with deciding whether to side with Fife, or with prosecutors who say Jackson – and, by extension, his phone – was the conduit for a wave of robberies that culminated in murder.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Hamil released jurors to deliberate after 5 p.m., capping more than a week of testimony in Jackson’s murder trial. The Riverdale man is accused of participating in a robbing crew that terrorized two Gwinnett (a suburb of Atlanta) families in three robberies leading up to the suffocation death of Tedla Lemma, 51, in March 2008. Tedla is an immigrant from Ethiopia.

Though no physical evidence ties Jackson to the scenes, Assistant District Attorney Christa Kirk said witness testimony, cell phone records and wire-tapped phone conversations between Jackson and a key co-defendant are enough to implicate him.

“In this case, by planning it, getting the muscle and getting in that house, Quincy Jackson is just as responsible as anybody else,” Kirk told the jury.

The state’s star witness, Lorna Araya, an acquaintance of Jackson’s from college, testified this week she masterminded the hits, but only after Jackson had asked her to. Prosecutors have dropped the possibility of a life sentence in exchange for Araya’s cooperation. Lorna is also an immigrant from Ethiopia.

Jackson waived his right to testify earlier Tuesday.

Fife argued that prosecutors could have crafted a plea bargain with Araya prior the trial, but were too “ashamed” that jurors might learn of her potentially forgiving sentence. Her sentence, Fife said, will be contingent on her “performance” in court.

Fife contends that Araya has repeatedly lied to investigators and prosecutors in an attempt to cover for her boyfriend, Gerald Rhines, who Fife said spearheaded one robbery.

“We know that she’s lied many times to protect herself,” Fife said. “Her personal credibility is very low.”

Kirk pointed out that Lemma’s wallet and other items were found at Jackson’s Riverdale home. That home, however, is shared by Marshae Brooks, who Fife said admitted to robbing Lemma and could have possessed the wallet.

Jackson, who worked at home as a Web page designer prior to his arrest, pleaded not guilty to the charges in his 17-count indictment and has never admitted to being involved, Fife said. He faces life in prison.

Jury deliberations are expected to resume this morning.

Sudan's president Al-Bashir taunts ICC while visiting Ethiopia

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (AFP) – Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir yesterday taunted the international community by arguing that an arrest warrant against him for war crimes had earned him more support than ever.

Bashir made his statement after meeting Ethiopian Prime Minister dictator Meles Zenawi (who is also accused by international human rights groups of committing war crimes) in Addis Ababa, on his sixth foreign trip since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued its warrant on March 4.

“For us, the ICC indictment has been positive,” Bashir told reporters.

The veteran leader is accused by the Hague-based court of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, where the UN says six years of conflict has killed 300,000 people.

The arrest warrant was the court’s first against a sitting head of state and was seen as a key step in making world leaders accountable.

But Bashir, who has ruled over Africa’s fractious largest country for two decades, suggested the move had enhanced his domestic and regional standing.

“For the internal front in Sudan, we have all seen how the Sudanese people have come out in a spontaneous way to support the president of Sudan,” he said.

“We have found a very strong stance from the regional organisations like the Arab League and the African Union,” Bashir also said.

No Western representatives were at the airport for Bashir’s arrival yesterday.

A diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity said Western ambassadors and envoys would boycott a state dinner in Bashir’s honour after receiving instructions from their capitals not to attend.
But Meles, whose country has often had tense relations with Sudan, stood by his neighbour and said the ICC’s landmark decision was “totally unacceptable”.

“What was done by the ICC to President Omar al-Bashir is an initiative with great implications not only for the people of Sudan, but also for Africans and for Ethiopia,” he said before going into talks with Bashir.

Meles condemned what he said was the “overpolitisation of the humanitarian issues and the overpolitisation of the international justice.”

Bashir has dismissed the notion that the warrant could restrict his travel.

No attempt has been made to arrest him during any of his recent trips, all to countries — Ethiopia included — that were not signatories to the 2002 international convention that created the ICC. Prior to his Ethiopian visit, Bashir on April 1 travelled to Saudi Arabia, where he performed the Umrah, or minor pilgrimage.

On March 30, he attended the Arab League summit in Doha, where other Arab leaders formally pledged their support for the indicted leader and condemned the court’s actions.

“We stress our solidarity with Sudan and our rejection of the ICC decision against President Omar al-Bashir,” the Arab leaders said in the summit’s final declaration.

Bashir has also travelled to Egypt and Libya since the warrant was issued but reserved his first trip for Eritrea.

A collection of Tilahun Gessesse songs

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009
  1. Min Yilalu Sewoch
  2. Setihed Siketelat
  3. Alchalkum
  4. Tiz Alegene Yetintu
  5. Bemishit Chereka
  6. Yezenbaba Mar Nesh
  7. Engudaye Neshi
  8. Ewedish Nebere
  9. Kifu Anyinkash
  10. Kulun Mankwalat
  11. Yezenbaba Mar Nesh
  12. Akal Aynishin
  13. Fikir Lebechaye
  14. Ene Yalanchi Alnorem
  15. Ouota Ayaskefam
  16. Min largachew
  17. Bemishit chereka
  18. Ere min yishalegneal
  19. Fikir lebechaye
  20. Kifu ayinkash
  21. Yehiwote hiwot
  22. Yezenbaba Mar Nesh
  23. Aykedashem Lebe
  24. Satidwdegn Wedijat
  25. Selamtaye Yedres
  26. Setehed Seketelat
  27. Tezalegn Yetentu
  28. Min Yishalegnal
  29. Ye hiwote hiwote

Ethiopians in Washington DC take on DLA Piper

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

By Kashmir Hill | Above the Law

Some of our DC-based readers may have spotted this anti-DLA Piper (a law firm) ad making its way around town via taxi. A reader sent us this photo, saying: :I saw this cab on Connecticut Ave. in front of the Mayflower yesterday and it caught my attention. Strange.”

Our first response was, “Bad PR for DLA Piper, but doesn’t everybody already know that blood money is the currency of Biglaw?” Our second response was to find out about this legislation and reach out to the firm.

The American Lawyer wrote in 2008 about the Piper’s playing the flute for the Ethiopian government. Partners Dick Armey, a former House majority leader, and Gary Klein lobbied on Capitol Hill on behalf of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who angered human rights advocates in 2005 with violent crackdowns on protesters during the elections there. The American Lawyer reports that the Piper was playing to the tune of over $50,000 a month. That’s a whole lot of injera.

The taxi ad refers to a bill, {www:S.3457}, introduced by Senators Feingold and Leahy “to reaffirm United States objectives in Ethiopia and encourage critical democratic and humanitarian principles and practices.” Or, in other words, a bill to encourage Ethiopia not to inflict violent crackdowns on its citizens. DLA Piper’s lobbying efforts may have paid off. The bill has been languishing with the Committee on Foreign Relations since 2008.

DLA Piper’s spokesman told us that the firm’s representation of the Ethiopian government actually ended in November. A statement from the firm refers indirectly to the protesting taxi driver (and other DLA Piper opponents): “There are some very vocal elements of the Ethiopian Diaspora, particularly in the Washington area, who are opponents of the current administration in Ethiopia and go to great lengths to try to embarrass or demean those who are associated with it.”

See the full statement, after the jump. DLA Piper may no longer have Ethiopia as a client, but the firm is actively helping to churn out new lawyers over in Addis Ababa.

DLA Piper says its representation of the Ethiopians ceased in November, though it’s still involved in pro bono initiative sending its lawyers to Addis Ababa to teach law school to aspiring Ethiopian esquires.

STATEMENT FROM DLA PIPER

For several years, DLA Piper provided advice and counsel to the democratically elected government of Ethiopia on a wide range of public policy, regulatory, legislative and legal matters. Our work focused on strengthening bilateral relations with the US, including humanitarian, economic and development assistance, trade and investment opportunities, and enhancing relationships with Congress and the Administration. In the past, the firm also provided legal support to the Government of Ethiopia at the International Court of Justice at the Hague on the Ethiopia-Eritrean border dispute. Our government affairs teams have worked with them in London and Brussels as well as Washington, DC.

This representation has ended, but we are continuing to assist Ethiopia on pro bono initiatives. In conjunction with the Northwestern University Law School, DLA Piper lawyers are teaching classes for the next generation of aspiring legal professionals at the law school in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. This is in addition to a number of major pro bono projects we are working on across Africa, including a new project to document systematic sexual violence by the Mugabe government against politically active women in Zimbabwe.

Ethiopia is an emerging democracy and an important ally of the United States in a troubled region of the world. The country has made remarkable progress in the last two decades, moving from dictatorship to a system of free elections, and a commitment to prosperity and greater inclusiveness. There are some very vocal elements of the Ethiopian Diaspora, particularly in the Washington area, who are opponents of the current administration in Ethiopia and go to great lengths to try to embarrass or demean those who are associated with it. While we disagree with these individuals and do not believe their views reflect the majority of Ethiopian Americans, we fully support their right to voice their opinions on this matter.

Source: DLA Piper Pleads Ethiopia’s Case Against Human Rights Sanctions [American Lawyer]

Gim Legim Abro Yazgim!

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

A very crude translation will be ‘trash finds its own kind’. That is what went in my mind when I heard the butcher of Darfur met the butcher of Mogashio, Gambella, Ogaden, Awasa and many other sites of atrocity in Ethiopia. ‘Gem legem abro yazem is what my mother used to say when she sees us with unsavory characters. It describes the situation in our capital city.

It is another low point in our current history of degradation. The Ethiopia we knew and the Ethiopia the whole world look at is not the same. The name Ethiopia plays prominent role in the Bible. Ethiopia is revered in the Quoran. The early Greek civilizations wrote about Ethiopia. Our name carried a lot of weight.

Our history is nothing but spectacular. We kept to our selves. We were insulated. We did not desire what was not ours. We defended what belonged to us. Surrounded by our mountainous terrain, cut of by our rift valley and our fierce lowlands we escaped from the world. The world forgot about us.

The League of Nations was the first worldwide organization to try to bring order to a chaotic planet. The year was 1919. There were fifty-eight members and our Ethiopia was one of them. We knew the supremacy of the law was our interest.

Our Emperor went in front of the League of Nations to appeal to the organization to stop Italian aggression. In a speech in Geneva in 1936 he said ‘I pray to Almighty God that He may spare nations the terrible sufferings that have just been inflicted on my people.’ They did not listen to him and suffered the consequences.

When the United Nations was founded in 1945 after World War II on the ruins of the League of Nations, Ethiopia was there.

When Africa was emerging from the yoke of colonialism Ethiopia facilitated the formation of Organization of African Union. Our country was chosen to be the seat of black power because of our independent and proud history. It was not an accident. It was well deserved due to the sacrifice and hard work of our ancestors.

Where do we place the illegal visit by the indicted Sudanese dictator to our country? Where does this shameful act fit in our honorable and righteous history?

The International Criminal Court was created by the United Nations that we are a founding member of. As a small developing country it is our interest to support and uphold the rule of law. In this day and age when a few countries have the power to inflict heavy damage on the small and weak shouldn’t we be clamoring for stricter safeguards and protection?

The ICC indicted General bashir after a lengthy period of investigation and fact finding. No body denies the atrocities committed against the people of Darfur. Darfur is a province of Sudan General Bashir is the de facto President and strong man of Sudan. He controls the army, security force and police of Sudan. By all accounts the General aided and abetted the perpetrators of this crime against the people of Darfur. He has been indicted. He is free to hire lawyers and argue his case in front of a court of justice. The people of Darfur were never given that chance. The General is lucky.

What is perplexing is why is Ethiopia entertaining an indicted criminal? Why is Ethiopia breaking the law that has been set up to protect the weak and poor?

May be the Ethiopian leaders are afraid of ‘neg be ne.’ That is what the Hard Talk interviewer sad to Ato Meles. She said to him are you supporting bashir because you now you are the next inline to be indicted? It seems she was right.

But what a feeble attempt if any. His coming to Addis only exposed the minority government to further humiliation. It is a stupid gesture of solidarity. It is further proof that the regime is neither responsive to International law nor to the sensibilities of its citizens. To expose one’s country to such ridicule in the international arena is madness.

This hollow attempt to show independence and national self-esteem is laughable and very weak. The Ethiopian people laughed about it. The foreign diplomats ignored it. The only ones who paid attention are the criminals themselves. So they wined and dined each other with our money to make the point that around his neighborhood Bashir is safe. Makes you wonder if Bashir will be as generous towards Meles when his time comes. I doubt we will get to see that. His own people will hand him over to ICC within a short time. Meles is on his own.

Fitawrari Amede Lemma passed away

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

(EMF) — Fitawrari Amede Lema, a member of parliament during the {www:HaileSelassie} government, and renowned Ethiopian businessman who owns shopping centers, has passed away yesterday, family source in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa told EMF.

Fitawrari Amede was a member of the {www:Council of Ethiopian Elders} who mediated with the Woyanne regime the release of Kinijit (Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party) leaders in July 2007.

He was also known for the lobbying for the return of Axum Obelisk since 1966 as a member of the National Committee for the Return of the Obelisk.

The funeral will take place today at Muslim’s cemetery at 12:30 PM in Addiss Ababa.

Fitawrari Amede Lemma died at age of 90. He was a father of ten children, 34 grand children and six great grand children.

It is also reported that Wzr Sinidu Gebru, the first Ethiopian woman member of parliament and mother of Dr. Samuel Assefa (the drunkard Woyanne ambassador to USA) passed away yesterday.

An expert opinion on what caused Tilahun's death

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Dear Editor,

I read your piece entitled “Could Tilahun’s death have been prevented.” Thank you very much for your inquisitive mind and thought provocative curiosity!

I would like to pass my deepest condolences to Tilahun’s family and to Ethiopia at large. Indeed, Ethiopia has lost a true son! A legend has passed away! We should celebrate the life of this legend in unison.

Tilahun is blessed in a way that he died in his Ethiopia, the country he loved and adored all his life. May the Lord bless his soul.

Having said that, I would like to put forward a professional opinion regarding your question.

Based on what I learned from the media, my impression of Tilahun’s medical case is the following.

A 68 year old legendary artist patient with past medical history of Diabetes Mellitus (most likely type 2), heart disease, status post right leg amputation likely due to complication of his diabetes or peripheral vascular disease, and history of slitting trauma to his neck. His chronic heart disease appears to have been most likely coronary artery disease as diabetic patients tend to suffer complications affecting blood vessels. Coronary arteries (arteries supplying the heart muscle) are some of the blood vessels which get affected by complication of diabetes. Coronary artery disease can lead to heart attack, heart failure, and arrhythmia (abnormal hear rhythm including ventricular tachycardia, atrial fibrillation).

The acute medical condition that claimed the life of our icon could be heart attack, arrhythmia and or acute heart failure with pulmonary edema (filling of the lung with fluid because if his heart was not able to pump blood properly). The symptoms that I heard he told his wife include “yelibe ametat tikikil ayidelem, liben yazign”. He likely had fast or abnormal heart rhythm. I also heard that he was short of breath. Indeed, Tilahun was acutely and seriously sick and he needed urgent medical help for him to have any chance of surviving the episode.

Certainly, there was a missed window of opportunity to potentially save the life of the legend. He survived long enough to make it to Betezata clinic. Per his wife’s report, he did not seem to have received any medical help other than advice to take him to another hospital. I would not comment on the level of care provided at Betezata clinic other than saying a Basic Life Support care should be available. The physician may have thought the patient would get a better care if he was transferred quicker. The level of care provided at the clinic may be limited. The physician could have limitation in his training. Tilahun’s case would ideally require a care by a heart specialist (cardiologist). But, what could a non-cardiologist physician have done to help him?

Given the limitations of the health care in Ethiopia, I would use the example of what a non cardiologist physician in the US could have done to help Tilahun. At least the following could have been done.

1) Check his vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and his oxygen)
2) Perform a quick and focused history and physical exam.
3) Give him oxygen supplement
4) Give him aspirin, nitroglycerin
5) Check EKG
6) Secure iv access
7) Draw blood samples for laboratory tests.
8) If Tilahun was noted to have no pulse or recordable blood pressure, he could have been given IV fluid. If he had abnormal heart rhythm he would have been given medications to slow the heart rate or electric shock could be given as necessary.

These measures could have stabilized the patient until he gets specialized care. Also, Tilahun would have been transported by an ambulance which would be faster and would be able to provide Basic Life Support (BLS) or possibly Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS).

I will leave the judgment to the reader if the above could have been done at Betezata clinic given the rudimentary nature of the health system in Ethiopia.

I think it is wise and appropriate for Elias Kifle and all concerned Ethiopians to ask if Tilahun’s death could have been prevented. I do not think the government is directly involved in Tilahun’s death. That being said, who is responsible for the precarious health care system in Ethiopia? Who is responsible for the quality of physician training? Who is responsible for the absence of such a basic life support care in clinics in the nation’s capital? Who is responsible for the inaccessibility of health care to the people? Definitely, the government is responsible for the poor health system and its untoward effect. In fact, we may be suffering from the effect of an ill conceived health policy. Prime Minister Meles once said Ethiopia does not need doctors, remember? If he has this feeling towards doctors, do you think he would care for the quality of their training?

The big question is, if Tilahun, as legendary as he is, dies wandering to get to a hospital in Addis Ababa, can you imagine what is happening to the poor millions like Aba Biya in the village of Serbo in Oromia?

May God Bless Tilahun’s soul!

- Wase

28-year-old Ethiopian pulled off an impressive upset in Boston

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

By John Powers | Boston Globe

BOSTON, USA — He had been among the leaders in the middle of the hills in Boston three years ago, but couldn’t finish. He had the Olympic bronze medal in hand coming into the stadium last year, but ended up fourth. This time, Deriba Merga vowed, he would be the last lion.

And so he was yesterday afternoon as the 28-year-old Ethiopian pulled off an impressive upset in the 113th Boston Marathon, ending Robert Cheruiyot’s three-year reign as men’s champion with an easy 50-second victory over Daniel Rono, Cheruiyot’s Kenyan countryman.

It was only the third men’s victory here for the Ethiopians, who would have swept the men’s and women’s races if Kenya’s Salina Kosgei hadn’t nipped defending champion Dire Tune at the tape. But the men’s race was decided 5 miles from the finish.

“I had full confidence to win the race from the beginning,” said Merga, who ran alone from Heartbreak Hill to Copley Square into a stiff headwind and finished in 2 hours 8 minutes 42 seconds, dashing the dreams of both Cheruiyot and Ryan Hall, who had hoped to be the first American victor here in 26 years.

“Would I have liked to win? Yeah,” said the 26-year-old Californian, who finished 8 seconds behind Rono in 2:09:40, the seventh-fastest time by a domestic runner here and the best in 15 years. “Did I think I had a legitimate shot? Of course. But a lot of guys have legitimate shots and don’t win.”

Most notable among them yesterday was Cheruiyot, the four-time champion who was bidding to become the first to win four straight here. But he fell out of sight after leading midway through, dropped out at Cleveland Circle, and was taken to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital to be checked out.

Unlike the women’s race, which could have been mistaken for a holiday fun run until the final few miles, the men had a demanding outing, with the lead pack dashing through the first 9 miles in course-record time. Setting the pace was Hall, who dashed away at the gun and stayed in front for almost the entire first third of the race.

“My plan was to run my own race from the get-go,” he said. “I like to run fast.”

Not since Cheruiyot’s record run (2:07:14) in 2006 had the leaders gone out that aggressively. They were through the opening mile in 4:40, 19 seconds under the old split, in three at 14:05 (50 under), in six at 28:27 (37 under).

“I wanted to make it a full 26-mile race and not let it come down to the final 10K,” Hall said. “I wanted to make it an honest race.”

At the half marathon, even after a persistent and chilly headwind had picked up significantly, there still were a dozen men jockeying in the lead pack, most of them warily glancing sideways at each other.

“I was thinking that the race would start at halfway,” said Rono, who finished third in New York last year.

When it still hadn’t by the time the runners reached Newton Lower Falls, former champ Timothy Cherigat and Stephen Kiogora took off on their own heading up the Route 128 overpass.

That sounded the alarm for Merga, who had planned to make his move during the “Haunted Mile” on the flats after Boston College, but decided he had to do it even before the firehouse turn that leads into the Newton hill country.

“There are a lot of strong athletes with us,” he said. “If I didn’t push, maybe I didn’t have a chance to win.”

So Merga quickly took it up a gear, with countryman Solomon Molla and Rono following. Just that quickly, it was a three-man race. Cheruiyot, who used to chew up his rivals around that point, had vanished.

“At 18K, he is coming from behind,” Merga said. “After that, he did not come. I think this day is not for him.”

Three other men – Clarence DeMar (1925), Bill Rodgers (1981), and Cosmas Ndeti (1996) – tried to win four in a row here and found that it was not their day. Once Merga concluded that Cheruiyot was finished, he made sure that nobody else could stalk him. So he put his head down, charged up the first hill, and dropped Molla. He pounded up the second and rid himself of Rono.

When he reached the crest of Heartbreak, Merga looked over his shoulder and saw nothing but blacktop. Rono was nearly half a minute behind. When Merga glanced backward again at Coolidge Corner, 2 miles from the finish, he realized there were no more lions to deal with.

“I am looking behind,” he said, “and there is nobody behind of me.”

Rono, who was making his Boston debut, was satisfied with second.

“Boston is the toughest of all,” he said. “I was very happy to secure my position.”

And Hall, who had dropped to 11th coming out of Wellesley Hills, was content with the late, if extraordinarily painful charge, that put him on the podium.

“My day will come,” he declared, “and I’ll be back.”

This is a race that rewards persistence. Rodgers dropped out of his first Boston before winning four times.

“I was learning the marathon,” Rodgers said, “and Boston is a cruel place to learn it.”

Merga’s Boston debut in 2006 ended 2 miles short and his experience at Olympus, where countryman Tsegaye Kebede outkicked him, was dispiriting. But after he destroyed the Houston course record in January, Merga sensed it was his year. Yesterday, he knew it was both his and his country’s day.

“Boston is one of the biggest marathons in the world,” said the man from Addis Ababa. “Because of that, our people are very happy.”

Lavish dinner for al-Bashir by a beggar regime

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has received a warm welcome on his arrival in neighboring Ethiopia for a two-day state visit. VOA’s Peter Heinlein in Addis Ababa reports Ethiopian and other African officials greeted Mr. Bashir with full honors, while most western diplomats are boycotting the event.

Reporters were kept away from airport ceremonies where Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi welcomed Mr. Bashir for a meeting of the Ethiopia-Sudan High Level Joint Commission.

Sudan and Ethiopia share a 3,000 kilometer long border, and the two delegations are discussing a variety of political, security and economic issues.

An unofficial count showed about 20 of the more than 50 African ambassadors in Addis Ababa showed up for the welcome ceremonies, along with envoys from China, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela. But the United States, the European Union and most other countries boycotted the event. The boycott extends to a lavish state dinner hosted by Ethiopia’s president… [read more]

Aid money being put to good use?!

Al-Bashir visits Ethiopia despite war-crime warrant

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Sudan’s president made his sixth foreign trip since his indictment on charges of war crimes in Darfur, traveling Tuesday to Ethiopia despite the international warrant for his arrest.

An Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman said President Omar al-Bashir would not face arrest.

He will discuss “political, economic and security matters” issues with Ethiopian officials during a daylong visit and will meet with Prime Minister dictator Meles Zenawi, spokesman Wahide Belay said.

“He is welcome as a guest to Ethiopia,” he said. “As you know, we have opposed the arrest warrant as a country, as a government, within (regional groups) and within the African Union. There is no reason to take any action on the president.” [...read more].

The price of polygamy in Ethiopia

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

The price of polygamy in Ethiopia
OROMIYA, Ethiopia (UNFPA) — If you were to visit 65-year-old Ayatu Nure and his family at their compound in the Oromiya region of Ethiopia, you would probably find eight of Ayatu’s 12 wives harvesting banana roots for dinner, while chasing after their combined 78 children. At first glance, this unlikely family appears carefree — but a closer look reveals that many of Ayatu’s children are hungry, possibly even malnourished. Their main source of food — banana roots — doesn’t provide much nutrition, but unfortunately this is the only thing Ayatu can afford.

In this remote, densely-populated region of Ethiopia, it is common for men to have multiple wives. In Ayatu’s case this tradition has backfired. Years ago, he had enough land and food to satisfy everyone’s needs. This changed when Ayatu had to sell land or cattle to make the dowry payment for each new wife he took, usually a sum of between $500 and $1,000. Now, the family compound is almost bare from overgrazing, two of his wives have moved with cattle in search of greener pastures, and two others died from unknown illnesses in the 1990s. The situation is so desperate that Ayatu cannot afford to send his children to secondary school, and he is marrying off two of his 15-year-old daughters to ensure they are fed. Thirteen others are living with their married siblings.

Living with two wives and eight children in a neighbouring town is Ayatu’s eldest son, Dagne. Dagne said he and his father made a mistake by taking more than one wife and blames it on a lack of education, “Men and women don’t have the knowledge of birth spacing or the desire to seek this information,” said Dagne.

Ayatu’s family is enormous by any standards. In Ethiopia, having at least five children per mother is the norm. “The population is growing at a rate of 2.7 percent annually, said Dr. Monique Rakotomalala, the Ethiopia representative for UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. With the population of the country now at 73 million, she is concerned. “That means two million new people every year.” At this rate, the population could double over the next 24 years, severely stretching existing resources. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ethiopia’s Minister of Health, says the secret is smaller families. “We have to educate our communities and tell them the benefits of smaller families because it will bring a better quality of life to each household.”

To assist families like Ayatu’s, the Government of Ethiopia has launched a network of 29,000 health extension workers to teach both men and women about family planning and provide contraceptives to those who want to delay childbearing. So far, two of Ayatu’s wives are using long-term implants. Many women in remote villages opt for this method because of the distance between their homes and health centres. Yet, health extension workers visiting families in this pastoral landscape also face difficulties as they have to walk long distances to reach one household, and sometimes lack sufficient stock to meet the demands of many communities.

Ayatu admits he failed to acknowledge the consequences of having such a large family, and wants to be a role model for young people so they will not make the same mistake. “I wasn’t educated,” said Ayatua. “Nobody asked me. Nobody told me of the consequences”.

Tilahun's passing away: End of an era

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

By Fekade Shewakena

It is Monday morning after Ethiopian Easter Sunday. I was driving to work in a juicy Washington spring weather. It was raining heavily and I was in a crowded traffic when the ring tone of my cellular phone, a Teddyi Afro’s song that I have set up to use until he gets out of prison, was playing off the hook. One call was from my daughter. “Hi Fekadye it is a sad day in Ethiopia today, have you heard that {www:Tilahun Gesesse} passed away? It is sad. I know you will cry but cry not too much ok” and she hung up. Then a friend and then another confirmed the sad new to me. It was a surreal feeling. Alone, in a far away land on a highway; not an ideal place to hear stunning news of the death of a man that I love, admire and consider my country’s treasure and icon. These are some of the times where you hate “sidet”, a time you hate to live away from the people you want to be in the middle of, and share pain and grief together.

Tilahun has many times made me uncontrollably emotional while listening to his songs and watch him sing. I never imagined he would lead me to uncontrollable tears at the news of his passing away too. I parked on a shoulder and cried profusely. It was a good time and place to cry. Everyone was rushing to work and no one was looking, but who the damn cares even if anybody looks at you. They are passerby and I was crying for something larger than whatever a ferenji passerby may be thinking I was crying about. I felt like I was crying not for Tilahun alone but for an entire era that he takes away with him. From where I was, I saw my country coiling in sadness, so sad as if she doesn’t have enough of sadness already. I even imagined that the mountains of Ethiopia that echoed Tilahun’s songs through the flutes of sheep and goat herders were silent in sadness.

Five full decades of failure to replace one super star, I often joked, is a sign of the slow sociocultural dynamism in Ethiopia. I am probably wrong on this one. Tilahun was simply unsurpassable.

There was everything from Tilahun’s beautiful voices for all times and generations of Ethiopians. His gift straddles the generations of my daughter, me and my father and probably beyond. There was also everything for every humanly feeling in those voices. Just tell me what you need and I will pick a song for you from Tilahun. Whether you are sad, you are in love, happy, or raved up by patriotism, there was something for you in the voices of Tilahun. He was, after all, the soundtrack of all our lives for so many years. It is hard to stop traveling in memory lane back in our lives and remember songs like “engudaye neshi”, “Yegeter Temir nesh” and who would forget that 1974 song “waay Waay silu” about the famine victims which he sang along with a river of tears flooding his face. That was something that tells you that Tilahun not only had a wonderful voice but also a wonderful heart too.

As a member of the generation raised by his songs I have tons of memories of Tilahun. I have not yet had grasped the fact that he died. I know he is mortal, but I looked like a little foolish to think that he will never die. But then again, I may probably am half right. Tilahun may never die. He is going to be physically absent no doubt. But he will continue to live in our households. I have the treasures he left in my library.

There is some lesson for all of us in the life of this great legend. Any one of us making significant contributions to positively affect the lives of our people and country and still die physically can continue to live as Tilahun definitely will. People who do something greater than themselves live forever. Work for our people, fight for their freedom and change their lives. You will live long after you died. That is the moral of Tilahun’s life and story. I am still crying but some half of me tells me the right thing to do now is to celebrate Tilahun’s wonderful life and gift to all of us.

Goodbye Tilahun! Thank you for the wonderful gift you left us behind! It has been such a long time of hard work. Now take a break from singing and rest in peace! Goodbye my dear! Goodbye!!

Could Tilahun's death have been prevented?

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

An interview with Tilahun Gessesse’s wife Wzr. Roman Bezu indicates that his life could have been spared on Sunday had he received timely medical care in Addis Ababa.

{www:Tilahun Gessesse} arrived in Ethiopia from the U.S., where he was receiving treatment, on Sunday, April 19, to celebrate Fasika, the Easter Holiday.

Wzr. Roman said that on Sunday evening when Tilahun started to complain about shortness of breath, she put him in a car and headed for Bete-Zata Clinic to get him an emergency treatment.

Bete-Zata could not even give Tilahun oxygen as he cried out that he could not breath. The doctor on duty told Wzr. Roman that he is not a heart specialist and suggested another clinic. What kind of medical doctor doesn’t know about stabilizing a patient until a specialist arrives?

Wzr. Roman accepted the Bete-Zata doctor’s suggestion and headed to the other clinic without making sure how to get there — and she got lost. By the time she found the clinic, Tilahun was too weak, unable to breath.

Click here [pdf] to read the interview with Roman Bezu.

Tilahun’s inability to get emergency medical treatment in a timely manner exemplifies the extremely poor state of health care in Ethiopia under the {www:Woyanne} tribal junta regime. After all, it is the same regime that murdered the country’s world renowned surgeon Professor Asrat Woldeyes by depriving him of medical treatment.

While mourning Tilahun’s untimely death, let’s also remember the countless other Ethiopians who are dying every day for lack of the most basic health care in Ethiopia, as the parasite regime spends hundreds of millions of dollars to buy weapons that are used to brutalize the people of Ethiopia and Horn of Africa.

The shameless Woyanne regime officials may decide to attend Tilahun’s funeral ceremony Wednesday for their own political reasons. Tilahun’s friends and fans need to use the occasion to demand the release of Teddy Afro, another Ethiopian music icon who has been thrown in a filthy prison cell for singing about justice, peace and unity.

Remembering Tilahun Gessesse

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Tilahun Gessesse, Minneapolis 2006

The dark side of Dubai

Monday, April 20th, 2009

By Johann Hari | The Independent

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

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

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

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

I. An Adult Disneyland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. Tumbleweed

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

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

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

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

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

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

III. Hidden in plain view

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IV. Mauled by the mall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

V. The Dunkin’ Donuts Dissidents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VI. Dubai Pride

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

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

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

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

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

VII. The Lifestyle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIII. The End of The World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IX. Taking on the Desert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

X. Fake Plastic Trees

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

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

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

Ethiopia's Deriba Merga wins Boston Marathon

Monday, April 20th, 2009

BOSTON MARATHON (AP) – Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga overcame the disappointment of his Olympic fade to win the Boston Marathon on Monday, and Kenya’s Salina Kosgei won the closest women’s race in the 113-year history of the event while Americans took third in both races for the best U.S. finish since 1985.

Merga, who was passed in the last quarter-mile and finished fourth in Beijing, pulled away before Heartbreak Hill and won in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 42 seconds — almost a full minute ahead of Kenya’s Daniel Rono and American Ryan Hall.

Kosgei won a sprint with defending champion Dire Tune, trading the lead several times in the final blocks of Boylston Street before hitting the tape less than a stride ahead of the Ethiopian in 2:32:16. American Kara Goucher led the three as they crossed the MassPike into Kenmore Square with one mile to go, but she was outkicked down the stretch and finished 9 seconds back.

The winners will take home $150,000, but Merga had to wait for his traditional laurel wreath: The women’s pace was so slow and the men finished so fast that he crossed the finish line before Kosgei had a chance to climb the champion’s podium.

Kosgei said the weather conditions made for a difficult finish.

“The wind was a bit stronger. … So, it was very hard,” Kosgei said. “I decided I must try. So, I tried.”

No American has won in Boston since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach in 1985, when the U.S. women swept the top three and the men came in second and third. The 2009 race was the slowest since then, a pace that had the men’s leaders passing the female stragglers and approaching the final mile as the women were hitting the tape.

Goucher burst into tears and was consoled by her husband, and Tune fell to the pavement for several minutes after the final sprint. Race spokesman Jack Fleming said Tune would not be available because she was receiving medical attention; he did not elaborate.

Goucher’s voice cracked repeatedly in the postrace news conference.

“I just wanted it for everybody that wanted it for me,” she said. “I’m proud of how I did. I just wanted to be the one that won for everybody.”

Tilahun Gessesse passed away

Monday, April 20th, 2009

News sources in Addis Ababa are reporting that legendary Ethiopian singer {www:Tilahun Gessesse} has passed away at midnight last night.

Tilahun, 69, had been receiving medical treatment in the U.S. for several months and returned to Ethiopia a few days ago to celebrate Easter (Fasika) with family and friends.

He was admitted to a hospital after complaining about heart problem. On Sunday, the VOA had planned to hold an interview with Tilahun, but the interview had to be canceled due to his deteriorating condition.

The following is a video of one of Tilahun’s popular songs:

Brief biography of Tilahun Gessesse

Tilahun Gessesse is a legendary Ethiopian singer whose singing career spans 5 dacades. He was born on September 29, 1940, in Addis Ababa and died on April 19, 2009.

Gessesse was born to Woizero Gete Gurmu, who was Oromo, and Ato Gessesse Negusse, who was Amhara. When he was fourteen years old, he was taken by his grandfather to Waliso where he began attending Ras Gobena Elementary School.

As time went by, his interest in music became increasingly clear, although his grandfather urged him to concentrate on his academic studies. The Ras Gobena School Principal Mr. Shedad (who was from Sudan), encouraged Gessesse’s interest in music and urged him to go to Sudan to pursue his music career. Although Gessesse did not go to Sudan, he took Mr. Shedad’s advice very seriously. When Woizro Negatwa Kelkai, Ato Eyoel Yohanes and others artists from the Hager Fikir Theatre came to his school to perform, Gessesse took the opportunity to discuss his interest in music with Ato Eyoel. He was told to go to Addis Ababa if he wanted to pursue a career in the field.

Gessesse left school to go to Addis Ababa, a journey he began on foot without his grandfather’s consent. When his grandfather realized that Tilahun was no longer in Woliso, he informed Gessesse’s great-aunt in Tulu Bolo. After Gessesse traveled fifteen kilometers on foot, he was caught in Tulu Bolo and stayed overnight with his great-aunt Woizero Temene Bantu. The next day, he was forced to return back to his grandfather in Woliso. Since his interest in music lay deep in his heart, Gessesse chose not to stay at his grandfather’s house in Woliso. After staying only one night at his grandfather’s house, he again began his journey to Addis Ababa, this time hiding himself in the back of a loaded truck.

In Addis Ababa, Gessesse was first hired by the Hager Fikir Association, which is now known as Hager Fikir Theater. After a few years at the Hager Fikir Theater, he joined the Imperial Bodyguard Band where he became a leading star singer. During his time with the band, Gessesse ran afoul of the government after the attempted coup d’état of December 1960 by the Imperial Bodyguard. He was arrested and put in prison for a time.

Gessesse moved to the National Theater where his success continued. He was so famous that he appeared three times in front of Emperor Haile Selassie I. During a visit, the Emperor advised him not to abuse his talent.

The majority of Gessesse’s recordings are in Amharic, though he has recorded a number of songs in Oromo.

He received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Addis Ababa University, in appreciation of his contribution to Ethiopian music. He has also received an award for his lifetime achievements from the Ethiopian Fine Art and Mass Media Prize Trust.

Sources: Wikipedia

EPPF launches a radio program

Monday, April 20th, 2009

The Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) has launched a radio program that is broadcast to Ethiopia 4 times per week. Arbegnoch Voice Radio transmitted its first program successfully on April 14 on both short wave and medium wave frequencies… [read more]

Exhibition on reconstruction of Ethiopia's Aksum obelisk

Monday, April 20th, 2009

(UNESCO) — An exhibition – photographs and a video installation – at UNESCO will celebrate the reinstallation of the Aksum obelisk. The show will give visitors a chance to learn about the history of the Ethiopian site and to view the key stages of reinstalling the monument, 24 metres high and weighing 150 tons.

Open to the public from 4 to 15 May (9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.), the exhibition will be inaugurated on 23 April by Koïchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO, in the presence of the Ethiopian and Italian ambassadors to UNESCO, Adelech Haile Mikael and Giuseppe Moscato.

The artists in the show, who are from Ethiopia, Belgium, France and Italy, were invited by UNESCO to visit Aksum and to express their vision of the restoration of the obelisk, a symbol of Ethiopian culture.

Their works highlight the uniqueness and magnitude of the project. The monument’s history has been eventful: erected in the 4th century then vandalized in the 7th, the obelisk was hauled off to Rome at Mussolini’s orders and set up near the Circus Maximus, finally returning to Aksum in 2005.

The artists – Tito Dupret, Theo Eshetu, Hiwot Gebre Geziabeher, Michael Tsegaye and Paola Viesi – give their personal interpretations of these events. The gigantic, 15-screen video installation by Theo Eshetu benefits from the dual perspective of the artist, born in Ethiopia and living in Rome. Hiwot Gebre Geziabeher, a schoolgirl from Aksum who learned photography from Michael Tsegaye, takes the local inhabitants’ point of view. Included in the show are films and photos depicting the extraordinary reinstallation work and Aksum’s lifestyle and culture. For an even better sense of the project’s scope, a 360°* projection offers visitors a simulated tour of the Aksum archaeological site and works.

With this exhibition, UNESCO is celebrating the successful reinstallation and showing how a cultural project can help bring about reconciliation between two countries with conflict in their past.

This project and this exhibition were made possible thanks to the generous contribution of the Italian Government.

From 4 to 15 May, individuals and school groups may reserve guided visits organized by UNESCO, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

Contact for inauguration accreditation:

Djibril Kébé, tel. + 33 (0)1 45 68 17 41 / d.kebe@unesco.org

Ethiopia's Ministry of Health says health sector needs $2.6 bln

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Andualem Sisay | AfricaNews

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — The Ethiopian Ministry of Health (EMOH) announced that there was a USD$ 2.6 billion financing gap to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the health sector of that country.

At the signing ceremony of a joint financing worth 100 million dollars with six development partners held at the Hilton Addis this week, Dr Nejmudin Kedir, policy planning and finance head with the Ministry, said there was a huge financial gap to address major health problems in Ethiopia.

The finance was required to deal with malaria, HIV AIDS, TB, maternal health, to build hospitals and health centers and for the expansion of universal primary health.

The MDGs target is to halve poverty and deaths with the above major diseases from the developing countries by 2015.

The joint statement issued by the Ethiopian government and the seven development partners stated that the signing of the joint financial agreement marked an important milestone in the purposeful journey jointly embarked on last August, when Ethiopia became the first to sign a country compact within the framework of the International Health Partnership (IHP).

“At the core of the Ethiopian IHP compact is a joint ambition to accelerate progress towards the health related MDGs and improve the health of all Ethiopians,” the statement said.

Dr. Nejmudin said there was only a small increase in funding commitments. He said that there was also a problem with the predictability of the fund coming from donors, adding that politics impacted the fund flow. “This has created a problem in planning different projects,” he said.

The joint financing was signed between the MoH and DFID, Irish Aid, Spanish Cooperation, World Bank, UNFPA, UNICEF, and WHO. On the occasion, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, The Minister of Health, said he was very delighted to sign the joint agreement. “It was just like seeing your child grow,” he said.

Dr Tedros urged the development partners to channel the fund and to keep their commitments.

The MDGs represent a global partnership that has grown from the commitments and targets established at the world summits of the 1990s.

Responding to the world’s main development challenges and to the calls of civil society, the MDGs promote poverty reduction, education, maternal health, gender equality, and aim at combating child mortality, AIDS and other diseases.

Set for the year 2015, the MDGs are an agreed set of goals that can be achieved if all actors work together and do their part. Poor countries have pledged to govern better, and invest in their people through health care and education. Rich countries have pledged to support them, through aid, debt relief, and fairer trade.

Sudan's president al-Bashir to visit Ethiopia

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (AFP) – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was set to visit Ethiopia on his latest foreign trip since an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes was issued against him, diplomats said on Monday.

“President Bashir will arrive here to hold talks on bilateral issues. He’ll arrive either tonight or tomorrow. The trip will last three days,” the Sudanese ambassador to Ethiopia, Akuei Bona Malwal, said.

Another Sudanese diplomat specified that Bashir was expected to arrive in Addis Ababa on Monday while an Ethiopian diplomat also confirmed the date.

“President Bashir is arriving tonight in Addis Ababa for a meeting with Ethiopian authorities,” the Ethiopian official said on condition of anonymity.

Ethiopia's Abebu Gelan wins Vancouver 10k race

Monday, April 20th, 2009

By Gary Kingston | Vancouver Sun

Sun Run women’s race winner Abebu Gelan hits the finish line with a time of 34:05, followed by second-place finisher Chantell Widney of Edmonton (below left; 34:24) and third place New Zealander Fiona Docherty (34:26). [Photo: Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun]

VANCOUVER, CANADA — Paced by an Ethiopian teenager, it was first-timers day for the top three in the women’s division of the annual Sun Run 10K race on Sunday.

Abebu Gelan, 19, who has raced out of West Chester, Pa., for the last month, crossed the finish line in 34 minutes, four seconds to become the third straight winner from the African nation. It was, however, the slowest time for a women’s winner in the race’s 25-year history.

Gelan, who politely waved off an interview request by saying she did not speak English, was followed across the line by Chantell Widney of Edmonton (34:23) and Fiona Docherty, a New Zealand native now living in Boulder, Colo., (34:25). Both were also making their first appearances at the Sun Run and raved about the course and the fact the 10K attracted more than 55,000 participants.

With Kenyan Yegon Kiprotich, who was third in the men’s race and who shares the same North American agent as Gelan trying to translate, the slim teenager said little more than she was happy with the race.

Gelan, who finished third and fourth in 10K races earlier this month in New Orleans and Washington, D.C., is the junior world record holder in the half marathon at 1:07.57. She collected $3,000 for Sunday’s win.

Widney, a 29-year-old mother of a 10-month old child, also earned $3,000 — $1,000 for the second-place finish in the women’s and $2,000 as top Canadian.

A member of Canada’s team at the world cross-country championships in Amman, Jordan, last month — she was 67th, but the second-best Canadian finisher. Widney said she was surprised to find out she had finished second on Sunday.

“I think I was fifth or sixth coming into the last 2K . . . and I came up on three girls and just went past them. It wasn’t until I got here [inside B.C. Place for the award ceremonies] that I found out I finished second. I thought I was third.”

That was Docherty, a 2003 world long-distance duathlon champion who has also competed in several Ironman triathlons.

The 33-year-old, whose brother Bevan won bronze in triathlon at Beijing last summer, is in the process of converting from triathlons to just running and is trying to qualify for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in the marathon.

“The selectors have told me I need to go and get lots of experience and races, so that’s what I’m doing. I’m just going out and racing everything I can get my hands on. I’ve got my first marathon without a swim or a bike at the end of May in Ottawa.”

She said she will return to the triathlon at some point, “but I just needed a break from it. I wanted a life outside sport.” Docherty earned $500.

The Arc of Justice

Monday, April 20th, 2009

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

“We Shall Overcome…”

In 1965, in a commencement address at Oberlin College, Ohio, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke about the ultimate victory of good over evil, justice over injustice, right over might, truth over lies and human rights over government wrongs. “We shall overcome,” he said “because the arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice… No lie can live forever…. Truth crushed to earth will rise again…. ‘Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne, yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the demon known, stands a God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.’”

No Lie Can Live Forever

These past few months have been unkind to global criminals who believed they can commit crimes against humanity with impunity. Recently, former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was found guilty of mass murder and kidnapping by a Peruvian court. Judge Cesar San Martin declared that Fujimori was guilty “beyond all reasonable doubt” for authorizing a secret police death squad (“Colina Group”) he created commit massacres in the Barrios Altos area of Lima in 1991 and at La Cantuta University in 1992 that left 25 dead, and for the kidnap-murders of a journalist and a businessman in 1992. Fujimori’s defense: “I knew nothing about the killings!” He blamed his intelligence service chief for the crimes. After years of evading justice, the truth rose again from the slums of Barrios Altos and the campus of La Cantuta University and crushed Fujimori at age 70! He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He may yet face trial for corruption and misappropriation of public funds.

George W. Bush’s legal bushwhackers in the “war on terror” are under investigation for crimes against humanity. All indications are Spanish prosecutors will soon make a formal announcement to seek criminal charges against six top former officials — Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Assistant Attorney General (and now federal appeals court judge) Jay Bybee, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, Defense Department general counsel William J. Haynes II, Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington, and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith — in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantánamo. With the stroke of the pen, President Obama illuminated Bush’s tapestry of lies and legal sophistry to conduct torture secretly and illegally spy on American citizens.

Sudanese president Omar al-Basir is a fugitive from justice. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court for “masterminding with absolute control” a criminal plan “to destroy in substantial part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups.” He is accused of causing the deaths of 35,000 people “outright” in the Darfur region since 2003. International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampos stands ready to bring al-Bashir to the bar of justice to face the truth.

Issa Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao, top leaders in the Revolutionary United Front, were convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity during Sierra Leone’s civil war. The monstrous brutality of this evil trio included forcibly recruiting child soldiers, amputating hands and arms and carving the initials “RUF” into the bodies of their victims. They will be serving long prison terms. Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, is in the second year of his trial in the Hague for crimes against humanity. Pol Pot’s chief torturer Kaing Guek Eav (Duch) is one of 5 suspects currently on trial in Cambodia for genocide and crimes against humanity. And the list goes on…

The widely-respected human rights organization Genocide Watch recently requested the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to “investigate the brutal massacre of 424 Anuak carried out in Gambella, Ethiopia in December of 2003” and the “extra-judicial killings, rape, disappearances, destruction of livelihood and the displacement of thousands of Anuak [which] continued into late 2005.” Genocide Watch accuses the dictatorial regime and its leader in Ethiopia of “perpetrating crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide” in the name of “counter-insurgency.” The request for investigation concluded: “Despite the violation of international law, not only has no one been held accountable for these crimes which occurred over five years ago, but worse than that, such crimes continue in other places in the country.”

Angels, the Demon Known and Lies

In June and November, 2005, 196 innocent people were massacred by the security forces of the ruling dictatorship in Ethiopia, and 763 wounded. The Angels gunned down in broad daylight include[1]: Tensae Zegeye, age 14. Debela Guta, age 15. Habtamu Tola, age 16. Binyam Degefa, age 18. Behailu Tesfaye, age 20. Kasim Ali Rashid, age 21. ShiBire Desalegn, age 21. Teodros Giday Hailu, age 23. Adissu Belachew, age 25; Milion Kebede Robi, age 32; Desta Umma Birru, age 37; Tiruwork G. Tsadik, age 41. Admasu Abebe, age 45. Elfnesh Tekle, age 45. Abebeth Huletu, age 50. Etenesh Yimam, age 50; Regassa Feyessa, age 55. Teshome Addis Kidane, age 65; Victim No. 21762, age 75, female. Victim No. 21760, male, age unknown, and so on. In December, 2003, 425 Anuaks were massacred in Gambella and thousands more displaced. Tens of thousands were massacred, raped and displaced in the Ogaden region and the rest of the country. Tens of thousands of innocent Ethiopians currently languish in the regime’s dungeons as political prisoners. And on and on…

A spokesman for the “Ethiopian Embassy” in Washington, Woindimu Asamnew, offered the usual dismissive blanket denials: “We don’t take seriously their allegations and fabrications. They are totally unfounded, fabricated lies… We don’t take this kind of idea [outside investigation of genocide] seriously. We have a parliament; they do take care of these kinds of issues. There is no any need of inviting international body for this purpose because of unfounded allegations. An outside investigation is unnecessary and unacceptable. We have investigated the matter and taken corrective measures, otherwise this kind of exaggerated and unfounded lies are not taken seriously by our government. What I’m saying is that any individual can say whatever he wants, but alleging something and the realities on the ground are totally different matter.”

Truth Crushed to Earth Will Rise Again

Those familiar with the criminal law know that the first line of defense among the hardened criminal classes is: “Deny the truth. Deny it Again. Deny it a thousand times. When the evidence (the truth) is overwhelmingly against you, ridicule the charges, call them ‘totally unfounded, fabricated lies’ and blame someone else, or the trees, the moon, the sun and the stars.” But sophisticated criminals do not simply deny the truth, they make it an art form: They weave a dazzling tapestry of lies to evade responsibility for their actions. They dehumanize their victims and profess moral sanctification by condemning their critics. By claiming to “investigate the matter and having taken corrective measures,” they audaciously seek to exonerate themselves from the monstrous crimes they have committed. By trivializing the devastating consequences of their crimes, they continue to dehumanize and brutalize their victims virtually implying that the victims are responsible for causing the criminals to inflict suffering and sorrow upon them. By condemning their critics as falsifiers and spiteful, they hope to draw attention away from themselves and fixate it on the motives, intentions and purposes of their critics. But truth crushed to earth will rise again!

The truth will rise again thunderously from the silent graveyards of the thousands of massacre victims; it will be heard in the agonizing wails of the torture victims; the truth will be told in the plain words of political prisoners; it will be recounted in the graphic testimony of eyewitnesses; the truth will ooze out of the sewer mouths of the murderers and torturers who will tell their dirty secret tales to save their skins; the teardrops of women who were raped and violated will paint the truth on the canvas of justice; reporters and journalists who were muzzled and jailed will write the truth in endless volumes; the truth will come alive in high resolution satellite photographs and amateur videos; it will be depicted in the photographs of the mutilated bodies of victims and it will be scientifically reconstructed in the forensic laboratories. The criminals’ own signatures will rise up from the official documents and orders like the ghosts of Rwanda and scream: “J’accuse!”. It is very true that the “the realties on the ground” are very different for the criminals and their victims. The victims demand justice; the criminals seek to evade it.

Wrong NOT Forever on the Throne!

Human rights will be the crown jewels of human liberty. As Gandhi taught, “There may be tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they may seem invincible, but in the end, they always fail. Think of it: always.” In other words, wrong will not remain on the throne forever. That is why we must learn the right lessons from those who have done humanity so much wrong. The rule of law is on the rise ever so slowly in the world, and dictatorship on a precipitous decline. Neither Fujimori, al-Bashir, Gonzalez or the other criminals ever thought that they would be held accountable for their crimes in a court of law, or even in the court of world opinion. All of them believed they were above the law, and sneered at the rule of law. They perverted justice and subverted the democratic process; they eliminated the normal checks of an independent judiciary and evaded the supervision of a legislature freely elected by the people. They stonewalled the independent media from investigating and reporting their crimes, corruption and abuses. The fact of the matter is that people, even the poorest ones, know their basic human rights. Oppressed people the world over are crying out for justice, and for wrongs committed against them to be righted. In sum, they want and demand the rule of law!

Keeping Watch

Ethiopians shall overcome because “truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again” in our beautiful homeland. With the faith in the truth, to paraphrase Dr. King, “we will be able to hew out of the craggy boulders of crimes against humanity, a shining marble temple of democracy, freedom and human rights. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood, sisterhood and human rights and speed up the day in Ethiopia when, in the words of the prophet Amos, ‘Justice will roll down like waters; and righteousness like a mighty stream.’” No truth, no justice; no democracy, no peace!

[1] http://www.ethiopiangasha.org/tmp/ALM_November172008.html

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

Boston will have to wait for Ethiopia's Haile Gebreselassie

Monday, April 20th, 2009

By Dave Ungrady | Universal Sports

Marathon world record holder Haile Gebreselassie has never competed in the Boston Marathon, the most revered of all 26.2 mile races. But he says he plans in the near future to run the worlds longest running consecutive marathon, which takes place for the 113th time on Monday. He also hopes to add the New York City and Chicago Marathons to his list of conquests, and dreams of someday winning a Marathon Majors title.

In the meantime, the 36-year old Ethiopian will concentrate on running marathons such as Berlin, London and Dubai because he feels his world-record setting days are not over.

“Yes, I would like to run Boston because it’s one of the biggest marathons in the world,” he said by phone from Addis Abba, his hometown in Ethiopia. “And New York is such a wonderful city, the atmosphere is just perfect. I will do them sooner or later. But first I’d like to set more records.”

That means running more marathons now that feature world record friendly courses and do not require travel to the United States.

“It is very difficult, because of the time zone changes and the jet lag,” he says.

Gebreselassie has run only three road races in the United States. He set a world record in the half marathon (58.55) in Phoenix, Az. in 2006. Samuel Wanjiru broke the record in 2007 (58:33).

Gebrselassie ran the first 10 miles of the Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Marathon in October 2007 in a promotional appearance that coincided with attending a fundraising dinner to support the Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association. He also won the New York City Half Marathon in 2007.

For now, Gebrselassie prefers easier courses and more manageable travel conditions on the eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean, including in London, Berlin, Dubai and Amsterdam. He has set his world records at the last two Berlin Marathons, running 2:03:59 in September 2008 and calls Berlin’s course flat and good.

“When you talk about marathons, you need a special place, one you know very easily,” he says. “It is a place where you need to know the difficult parts and the easiest parts. I studied the course in Berlin.”

Gerbrselassie won Olympic gold medals in the 10,000m at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games and won the event four times at the world championships. He did not start running marathons until 2002. In his first 26.2 race, he finished third in London.

Gebrselassie has won six of the nine marathons he has officially entered. He credits his success to smart training and a youthful spirit. He covers up to 150 miles per week but does no track speed work, choosing instead to work on speed on a stationary bicycle.

He also spends much time developing a life away from running. He has built two schools in Ethiopia of 2,000 students at each location from kindergarten to ninth grade.

“Two-thousand students at a school in American is big,” he says. “But not in Ethiopia. “The school is not a business for me. It is for satisfaction. One of my dreams is somebody from one of my schools some day becoming president of Ethiopia. You never know.”

He also is building a hotel in Addis Ababa that he hopes will earn a five star rating and will ideally be operated by the Hilton or Sheraton hotel companies.

“I still have time for my running,” says Gebrselassie, who has three daughters and a son with wife Alem. “What can I do? I cannot just stop some things what I am doing. I have to handle everything. I am happy.”

The major marathons in the United States—New York, Chicago and Boston–have all shown interest in Gebrselassie, with New York the most persistent, according to his agent, Jos Hermens.

They will all have to be patient for marathon’s king to make a much awaited, and seemingly inevitable, debut appearance in a full U.S. marathon, even if it’s in his 40s.

“I never think about when I stop running,” he says. “Let it come by itself. If you are old mentally you are old physically. I feel I’m still young. Age is just a number.”

Legendary Ethiopian singer Tilahun Gessesse passed away

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — News sources in Addis Ababa are reporting that legendary Ethiopian singer {www:Tilahun Gessesse} has passed away at midnight last night.

Tilahun, 69, had been receiving medical treatment in the U.S. for several months and returned to Ethiopia a few days ago to celebrate Easter (Fasika) with family and friends.

He was admitted to a hospital after complaining about heart problem.

Brief biography of Tilahun Gessesse

Tilahun Gessesse is a legendary Ethiopian singer whose singing career spans 5 dacades. He was born on September 29, 1940, in Addis Ababa and died on April 19, 2009.

Gessesse was born to Woizero Gete Gurmu, who was Oromo, and Ato Gessesse Negusse, who was Amhara. When he was fourteen years old, he was taken by his grandfather to Waliso where he began attending Ras Gobena Elementary School.

As time went by, his interest in music became increasingly clear, although his grandfather urged him to concentrate on his academic studies. The Ras Gobena School Principal Mr. Shedad (who was from Sudan), encouraged Gessesse’s interest in music and urged him to go to Sudan to pursue his music career. Although Gessesse did not go to Sudan, he took Mr. Shedad’s advice very seriously. When Woizro Negatwa Kelkai, Ato Eyoel Yohanes and others artists from the Hager Fikir Theatre came to his school to perform, Gessesse took the opportunity to discuss his interest in music with Ato Eyoel. He was told to go to Addis Ababa if he wanted to pursue a career in the field.

Gessesse left school to go to Addis Ababa, a journey he began on foot without his grandfather’s consent. When his grandfather realized that Tilahun was no longer in Woliso, he informed Gessesse’s great-aunt in Tulu Bolo. After Gessesse traveled fifteen kilometers on foot, he was caught in Tulu Bolo and stayed overnight with his great-aunt Woizero Temene Bantu. The next day, he was forced to return back to his grandfather in Woliso. Since his interest in music lay deep in his heart, Gessesse chose not to stay at his grandfather’s house in Woliso. After staying only one night at his grandfather’s house, he again began his journey to Addis Ababa, this time hiding himself in the back of a loaded truck.

In Addis Ababa, Gessesse was first hired by the Hager Fikir Association, which is now known as Hager Fikir Theater. After a few years at the Hager Fikir Theater, he joined the Imperial Bodyguard Band where he became a leading star singer. During his time with the band, Gessesse ran afoul of the government after the attempted coup d’état of December 1960 by the Imperial Bodyguard. He was arrested and put in prison for a time.

Gessesse moved to the National Theater where his success continued. He was so famous that he appeared three times in front of Emperor Haile Selassie I. During a visit, the Emperor advised him not to abuse his talent.

The majority of Gessesse’s recordings are in Amharic, though he has recorded a number of songs in Oromo.

He received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Addis Ababa University, in appreciation of his contribution to Ethiopian music. He has also received an award for his lifetime achievements from the Ethiopian Fine Art and Mass Media Prize Trust.

Sources: Wikipedia

Sebhat Nega clarifies TPLF's stand on Eritrea

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

The following is an interview Woyanne Godfather Sebhat Nega gave to a Woyanne Radio:

Shaebia (EPLF) was… showing signs of compromising on the independence of the Eritrean people. The power-sharing deal EPLF held with the Derg in an East German city and under the mediation of the East German government was evidence of Shaebia kneeling down to Derg. There were also other EPLF-Derg talks after the defection of Dawit Wolde-Giorgis.* Shaebia was also trying to give in to Derg during the foiled 1989 army generals coup led by General Bulti in Asmara and Generals Fanta [Belai] and Merid Negussie in Addis Ababa. The plan was to replace Mengistu with somebody else, and Shaebia would get its share. After the coup, Shaebia sent a message to us [TPLF]. Shaebia told us to make a swift decision and welcome a delegate of the coup leaders that was coming to meet with us via Adi Quala, Eritrea. Our response was clear: TPLF knows no compromise with the Derg. The goal of our struggle is to bring about a total change of the system. TPLF might have considered negotiation had the coup been led by soldiers other than high-ranking army officers. Even at that level, we never believed a coup would change the system. Therefore, we turned down Shaebia’s request to accept the plea of the coup. Our decision was – much to the dismay of Shaebia – announced on our Radio. Therefore, that was another occasion Shaebia had also considered a power-sharing arrangement with the Derg. The danger of this deal was not only aimed at sabotaging the interest of the Eritrean people for independence. It was also a move aimed at destroying the aspirations of the Ethiopian people for a democratic governance… [read more]

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sebhat and his Woyanne gang did not want any negotiated settlement with the Derg regime is not because they stand for the interest of the people of Eritrea, but to advance the “Greater Tigray” agenda. Eritrea under the leadership of Isaias Afwerki is the only obstacle to the Woyanne grand plan. Continue reading the interview here.

Ethiopian children get second chance in Idaho

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

By PAMELA ROBEL – The Olympian

IDAHO, USA — Nesradine Schumaker wears a bright orange helmet while he rides his training-wheeled bike up and down the street. He is sturdy and curious about the world around him, which has changed dramatically over the past few weeks.

One month ago, Nesradine was living in an Ethiopian orphanage, a casualty in the HIV/AIDS epidemic that is sweeping through parts of eastern and sub-Saharan Africa and leave many children as orphans

A 2005 AIDS in Ethiopia report estimated there were 368 AIDS-related deaths a day in Ethiopia, as well as 744,100 orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.

“We knew there were orphans, and we knew there were children who needed homes,” said Nesradine’s adoptive mother, Signe Schumaker.

The Schumakers have seven biological children of their own and decided they wanted to open their home to adopted children as well.

“We had been thinking about how to help other people and this seemed like a natural thing for us to do,” Rick Schumaker said. “Some of the attraction to adoption was watching other families who had adopted. The reason we decided to have kids when we got married was watching other people we knew with their children.”

Nesradine is 4 and still figuring out how to get along with his older brother, Soren, 5, and his younger sister, Helen, 3.

“The dynamic has just started to change with Nesradine and his sister, Helen. She’s used to having her own space in the afternoon, and there are things he doesn’t understand yet, like hide and seek,” Signe said. “Helen tries to play with him and he’s like, ‘Why would I want to hide?’”

Rick and Signe began the process to adopt Nesradine about a year ago, contacting an agency that facilitates adoptions in Ethiopia and other countries around the world.

Nesradine, unlike some other children, was given up by his living mother, who was abandoned by her husband when he found out she was HIV-positive.

“We didn’t know he had a mother going into this,” Rick said. “The paperwork didn’t make that clear.”

The Schumakers are among a growing number of area families adopting orphans from Ethiopia. Matt and Renae Meyer adopted two little girls almost three years ago. The girls’ mother died in childbirth.

Kilkidan Meyer, 5, and her sister, Melat Meyer, 3, bicker and play chess with rules only they understand while their parents describe the process that expanded their seven-child brood to nine.

“We were pretty happy with six kids, then our oldest daughter tore something out of the newspaper about adoption, and we started to pursue it,” Renae said. “The process took about one year. The Ethiopian adoption was straightforward and easy. We moved to Moscow, and I found out I was pregnant again, so our family jumped from eight to 12.”

The Meyers, who initially decided to have four children while living abroad in Brazil and Indonesia, changed their minds and added two more biological children to their family before adopting.

They saw the need for homes for orphaned children during their travels.

The “something” the Meyers’ oldest daughter tore out of the newspaper happened to be a news story about orphaned girls in China. It inspired the Meyers to begin trying to adopt a girl from an Asian country.

“We met the age and financial requirements, but we never thought we’d have too many kids to adopt (from Asia),” Matt said. “Then I thought maybe it was an indication that we shouldn’t adopt, but Renae said, ‘No, we’re doing this.’”

The Meyers began the adoption process in 2005 and were e-mailed an adoption proposal in January 2006 asking if they wanted sibling girls.

“Girls are more sought-after so we didn’t think any would be available,” Renae said. “Our family is boy-heavy and we thought girls would even it out.”

Lisa and Russell Qualls are among other families in the area with children adopted from Ethiopia. They have adopted four children from the African country.

“For us, we had some very good friends from upstate New York who called us on Valentine’s Day three years ago to say they were adopting two little boys from Ethiopia, and we knew there was a crisis, but we didn’t know the magnitude,” Lisa said. “We started investigating it and thought it was something we could do.”

The Qualls’ oldest child is Beza, 10, who was adopted in August 2008. There is also Kalkidan, 7, Ebenezer, 3, and Wogyau, 2.

“We didn’t plan to adopt more, but when we were at the orphanage, we met an 8-year-old little girl, and while we were at the orphanage she stayed beside us and helped us take care of the baby,” Lisa said.

Lisa said she and her husband tried to get other families they know to adopt Beza but could not find a family for her.

“Finally, last January, I was just talking to Russ and said I thought the reason we couldn’t find her a family was because she is part of our family,” Lisa said. “It’s been delightful to watch her become part of the family.

“To watch her learn what it’s like to have a mother, a family. It’s just incredible to watch this happen in her life. Adopting an older child has been a remarkable experience.”

The Quallses have gotten so much from their experiences that they’ve helped inspire other families to do the same.

That was the case with the Schumakers.

“I was thinking maybe this is something we’ll do in a couple of years, but Lisa (Qualls) gets so excited about it and she showed us some pictures,” Signe said. “Once you see a photo of a child, it’s done.”

Ethiopian murder trial in Atlanta continues next week

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

By Josh Green | Gwinnett Daily Post

LAWRENCEVILLE, GEORGIA – Quincy Jackson‘s murder trial will spill into a second week but could end as early as Monday, prosecutors said after a fourth day of testimony Friday.

First on the list of witnesses Monday should be the state’s star witness, Lorna Araya, an Ethiopian immigrant and the alleged mastermind behind three home-invasion robberies that culminated in the March 2008 death of Lilburn (a suburb of Atlanta) resident Tedla Lemma, 51 — also an immigrant from Ethiopia.

Police have said Araya has implicated all her co-defendants since her capture.

Jackson, 29, of Riverdale, is the first of four suspects to be tried who police believe played a role in Lemma’s killing. He faces 17 counts, including felony murder, burglary and kidnapping.

Prosecutors say Lemma’s wallet, Social Security card and other possessions were found in Jackson’s home. His defense team argues prosecutors lack direct evidence linking him to the crime scenes.

In testimony Friday, cell phone experts told jurors that a phone registered as Jackson’s was used near each of the three crime scenes within hours of the robberies.

Jackson’s attorney, Matthew Crosby, pointed out that such records track only when and where the phone was transmitting, not who was using it.

Christa Kirk, Assistant District Attorney, said the state plans to call three or four more witnesses, including investigators and the county’s chief medical examiner. Closing arguments by the state could come Monday afternoon.

Crosby said the defense has six witnesses subpoenaed and prepared to testify, but it remains to be seen how many of them, if any, he’ll call. Much is riding on Araya’s testimony, he said. “As of right now, we’re on the fence,” he said.

Haile Gebreselassie gives advice on how to run marathon fast

Friday, April 17th, 2009

By Roman Mica | Examiner.com

With the Boston marathon just around the corner, I thought you might appreciate a few tips on how to run your fastest marathon ever.

So I asked somebody who should know.

As you may be aware 36-year-old Ethopian superstar Haile Gebrselassie recently broke his own world record when running the Berlin Marathon. His time of 2:03:59 was 27 seconds quicker than his previous best.

So it comes as no surprise that Gebrselassie knows a thing or two about running the 26.2 miles fast—very fast.

And yes, I didn’t actually have a sit down chat with Gebrselassie to ask him how he does it. But I did track down this video of him giving advice just before the up coming London marathon (which he has run three times) to a British reported—which is almost as good I think.

Over 240 Ethiopians entered Yemen illegally last month

Friday, April 17th, 2009

SANA’A, Yeman (Saba News) – Interior Ministry of Yemen has reported that about 247 Ethiopians, including 24 women and children, entered the Yemeni territories illegally last month.

Nearly 190 Ethiopians have arrived to the coasts of Abyan and Taiz governorates through sea coming from the African Horn, according to statistics issued by the Ministry.

The rest of them have been arrested on land by the security authorities in governorates of Mahweet, Marib, Aden, Taiz and Hodeidah, in addition to four persons have been held at the Haradh border outlet trying to sneak to the country via the Saudi borders, the Ministry said.

All arrested Ethiopians have referred to the immigration authorities to be deported to their homeland, as Yemen, hosts over 750,000 Somalis as refugees, can not afford another issue of Ethiopian immigration into its lands.

Ethiopian member of Israeli Parliament to speak in New York

Friday, April 17th, 2009

UNION COLLEGE, NEW YORK — Shlomo Molla, the sole Ethiopian Jewish member of the Israeli Knesset, will speak at Union College on Sunday, April 19, at 11:30 AM in the Nott Memorial.

Molla will discuss his rise to international power against considerable odds, the state of the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel today and his visions for the future of his people.

Molla became a member of the Israeli Parliament affiliated with the Kadima party in February 2008. He retained his seat in the 2009 elections.

One of 11 children, he was born in a small rural Jewish village in Ethiopia’s Gondar province, where neighboring non-Jews believed that the Jews were “devils who had tails” and bullied them. Molla’s father, the village judge, farmed a small plot of land. Their home had no electricity or running water but Molla was religious, studying Torah on a daily basis while yearning to be in Jerusalem.

Molla attended a Jewish high school run by the American Joint Distribution Committee. In 1983, at 16, he learned that Jews from the Tigre province, 700 kilometers away, were being taken, in secret, to Israel via Sudan.

He departed with 15 friends on a terrifying journey to Israel, where he was taken to an absorption center in Tzfat. He attended high school in Haifa and became an officer in the Israeli Defense Forces. He later graduated from the Bar Ilan University School of Social Work and obtained an LLB degree from Ono Academic College.

In 1991, Mossa volunteered with the Jewish Agency during Operation Solomon. He also served as director of the Tiberius Absorption Center, supervisor for the Absorption Centers and Ulpanim in the northern kibbutzim and director for the Unit for Ethiopian Immigration and Absorption for the Jewish Agency.

Mossa is married and has three children. The family lives in Rishon Letzion.

Sunday’s event is sponsored by Hillel, the President’s Office, AEPi and the departments of History, Political Science and Sociology.

Tag: Ethiopian News

One problem, two solutions

Friday, April 17th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

We are all aware that the global economy is in not in good shape. Both rich industrialized countries and dirt-poor subsistence economies are in a free fall. No one knows where the bottom is. Governments that are democratic, autocratic, military dictatorship or royal kingdoms are all trying different medicine to heal the ailing economy. Let us look at two doctors that have written prescriptions to make the sick economy better.

The two doctors are President Barack Obama of the US on one side and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia on the other. Both their countries have been suffering from recession for quite a while now. The unemployment figure in the US is about 7% average, inflation is about 4%, and the budget deficit is in the trillions while in Ethiopia the unemployment is about 60%, inflation 65% and no budget so to speak of since the country relies on welfare.

President Obama who has been in office for less than three months started of by saying ‘To understand how we get there, we first need to understand how we got here.’ Thus he gathered elected official, experts in various fields and ordinary citizens trying to identify the root cause of the problem and recommend different options to fix it.

He had his treasury secretary work with the banks to ease the credit crunch, defense department devise a way to cut the bloated budget and recommend a safe and honorable exit from Iraq, congress pass a stimulus package to put people back to work on government projects, his secretary of state go to major capitals to hold hands and soothe nerves while he himself went to all parts of the country to get support for his plan of attack and rally the people so that they have confidence in his leadership.

It is a multifaceted approach to one of the biggest problems encountered by his nation. There was no silver bullet here. The main focus was to try different medicines but with the emphasis being the involvement of the people in the treatment. Without the cooperation and good will of the patient the medicine will not work. All his speeches and actions made it clear that the citizen was part of the solution. Even when most felt depressed and helpless the president was acting like a national cheerleader exalting the population to rise up and devise new ways and new methods to slay the double dragon of recession and unemployment.

He did not try to shift the blame on others. The previous administration was not made a scapegoat nor bankers and industry heads targeted to deflect the issue. The president said all are responsible and there was no need to point fingers. The banks were seen by many as the primary culprits in this fiasco and some shouted ‘off with their heads! Sacking a few and prosecuting some would have been a populist move. Mr. Obama did none and said ‘we believe that preemptive government takeovers are likely to end up costing taxpayers even more in the end, and because it is more likely to undermine than to create confidence. Governments should practice the same principle as doctors: first do no harm.’

The US economy is showing signs of life. It is not out of the woods yet, but many believe the patient is recovering. The people are impressed by the rational approach of the commander in chief. His ‘no hysteria’ calm disposition and cheery attitude is seen as the best medicine. His supporters are proud and the skeptics are slowly being drawn to believe that the doctor is knowledgeable and may be he deserves some respect.

How is our other doctor doing? The patient is in dire straits. Unlike the US Ethiopia’s economic situation is a little bit simpler. Due to the primitive state of industrialization the economy is not integrated to the wider world. Farming which accounts for all economic activity is subsistence level and export of raw unprocessed coffee is the mainstay. So the question is how did the doctor approach the problem?

First please note that ‘this’ doctor has been treating the patient for the last eighteen years. The patient has been denied the right to consult other experts and get a second opinion. The patient has been on life support with intensive care nurses (security forces) on stand by 24/7. The patient is dying.

The PM’s initial reaction was complete denial of the problem. He told his parliament “In general, we don’t expect drastic effects on our economy, our financial structure is not as liberalized as those of affected countries and the economy is not intertwined to Western economies to face a crisis” This was August of 2008.

When asked by Time magazine regarding the problem of famine Ato Meles said “ It’s a mixed bag. When you have an emergency, there is the urge to do whatever it takes to see people get assistance. [But that can mean] the name of the game is [to] include a bit of hyperbole, and that can convey the message that the situation is hopeless when in fact it is not, and that might do some lasting damage, given the fact that all investors take their information and make their assessments on the basis of the 24-hour news cycle. Famine has wreaked havoc in Ethiopia for so long; it would be stupid not to be sensitive to the risk of such things occurring. But there has not been a famine on our watch – emergencies, but no famines.

When it came to foreign currency shortage he decided to solve the problem by confiscating his citizens property. In March of 2008 by order of the Prime Minister Federal police confiscated over 2 million US dollars and thirteen million Ethiopian bir from traders. They were declared illegal and forfeited their right.

A year later he went after coffee exporters and traders. His government confiscated seventeen thousand tons of coffee and suspended the licenses of over eighty traders. He also said six will be prosecuted.

Do you see a pattern here? It is never about looking at the cause. It is all about finding someone to blame for a failed policy. Ato Meles still blames the Derge for current problems. You would think after seventeen years Mengistu is history. Actually his government goes as far back as Menelik to shift responsibility. Does it makes sense when today those fourteen years or under are 46% of the population?

Mr. Obama looked at the cause and he is in the process of writing a new playbook. He is not about looking back. He is focused on the future. He said ‘There is a parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that tells the story of two men. The first built his house on a pile of sand, and it was destroyed as soon as the storm hit. But the second is known as the wise man, for when “…the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house…it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” How true.

Unfortunate for us our leaders are not interested in constructing on solid foundation. They get drunk with their own lies and propaganda. Because they thought it and said it they think it has happened. Thus there is no chance that the medicine they are prescribing to cure the illness will work. It is more likely to put the patient in a coma. One problem two solutions, which doctor would you trust with your life?

In this week of Easter we should remember our dear sister Judge Birtukan Mediksa. We should admire her courage. Deeply be impressed by her determination to sacrifice for our cause. She is a learned person with a law degree. She was a municipal judge. By any standard she is an achiever. But most important our sister is a person of principle. She is a rare individual at this juncture in our ancient history. We have encountered so many fake usurpers that we get disoriented when we meet people like judge Birtukan. She is in solitary confinement like a common criminal. She has been in confinement for 108 days. We hear that she is in good spirits and is very much inspired by the effort her country folks are putting to gain her release. We will not rest till she is free. We love you Birtukan. Happy Easter.

Further information:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1829842,00.html

http://www.galbeed.com/2009/03/26/ethiopia-revokes-coffee-licences/

http://www.demconwatchblog.com/diary/1334/full-text-of-president-obamas-economic-speech

http://nazret.com/blog/index.php?c=1&more=1&pb=1&tb=1&title=financial_crisis_to_have_little_effect_oand

80 Ethiopian women languish in Lebanon jail

Friday, April 17th, 2009

BEIRUT, LEBANON (IRIN) – Eighty Ethiopian women have been in Tripoli Women’s Prison in north Lebanon for over a year, accused of not having a passport which was either taken from them when they started as domestic workers, or which they never had in the first place. Most were arrested on the street after running away from their employers – usually because of abuses ranging from forced confinement and starvation to physical harm and rape. Some had fled after being accused of stealing.

Having broken their work contracts, which guarantee them a flight home on completion of two years work, and with no passports, the girls are in limbo.

“The reason these women continue to sit in detention is because the employer doesn’t want to pay for the girl’s ticket home, General Security [Lebanese intelligence agency] doesn’t have the money, and often their embassies are unaware of their detention,” said Roula Masri, coordinator for the Collective for Research and Training on Development Action, an NGO campaigning for workers’ rights.

Kholoud, from Sudan, has been in Lebanon for 18 years. She came with her husband and two children to escape conflict and unemployment. But when her husband was deported, she said, he took all the family’s official papers with him. “Now I can’t prove that I am Sudanese to obtain a new passport … so I am stuck here.”

She struggles to pay $110 a month for a one-room apartment with no kitchen, refrigerator or running water, and relies on donations from friends to pay for her children’s education.

Rights groups say an estimated 200,000 domestic workers in Lebanon – most of them women from the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia – are not protected by labor laws.

Last month, after a two-year effort by rights groups working with the ministries of labor and justice as well as General Security, the authorities promised

to enact a new unified contract for migrant domestic workers that would improve their working conditions.

For the first time, workers will be able to read the same contract as their employer in their own language. Work terms have been extended from two to three years and the contract states the women should only work 10 hours a day for six days a week and are entitled to eight hours of continuous rest. Salaries, which Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported can often be withheld as punishment, must now be paid and signed for each month.

The employer, however, will still have the right to break the contract for whatever reason, which means the worker is then responsible for paying for her ticket home or repaying any debts owed.

Workers will still not be guaranteed the right to retain their passports.

Despite this move, activists say a change in the law is needed to ensure the new contracts and the work of placement agencies are regulated.

“Experiences in other countries, such as Jordan, which already have a unified employment contract and a minimum salary for domestic workers, show that a contract is not sufficient in itself and that a law protecting these workers is needed,” said HRW senior researcher in Lebanon, Nadim Houry.

In February, eyewitnesses reported seeing a domestic worker fall from a sixth-floor balcony to her death in Beirut’s central Hamra district.

HRW says domestic workers are dying at the rate of more than one per week in Lebanon, most through suicide or in risky attempts to escape. – IRIN

Ethiopia received $389 million in remittances in 6 months

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (APA) – Ethiopia has received a record of $389 million in remittances over a six months period from September to February 2009, reflecting an increase of 19.4 percent.

According to the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, the increase in remittances is due to the devaluation of birr over other foreign currencies.

Currently, one US dollar is equivalent to 11 birr and 20 cents, up from 9 birr a few months back.

The bank indicated in its six months report that the devaluation encouraged people living outside Ethiopia to send more money to Ethiopia.

The six months remittance exceeds last year’s by 19.4 percent, according to the Bank’s report. Remittances for the same period last year was $313.5 million.

The remittance flow to the country has increased by an average of 44.6 percent in the last six years.

It is estimated that there are over on million Ethiopians and foreign citizens with Ethiopian origins living outside the country.

Ethiopia's Tekeste and Elfenesh added to Boston elite field

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

By John Connolly | Boston Herald

The men’s and women’s elite fields for Monday’s 113th edition of the Boston Marathon were bolstered yesterday with the addition of top respective contenders Tekeste Kebede and Elfenesh Alemu. Both hail from Ethiopia and both have a past association with the fabled Hopkinton-to-Boston trek.

Kebede, a 27-year-old native of Addis Ababa, ran Boston in 2007 and was in third place nearing the 25-mile mark in Brookline before succumbing to dehydration issues. Kebede has finished in the top three at six major marathons with a best time of 2:10:36 at January’s Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon in Tempe, Ariz.

Alemu, 33, of Arsi, has competed in three previous Boston races, finishing third in 2002, and second in both ’04 and ’05. Alemu has won two Japanese marathons, at Nagano (2:24:55 in 2000) and Tokyo (2:24:47 in ’03).

Championing 5K

While the marathon has attracted an official field of 26,400, the inaugural 5K partner race on Sunday will feature 4,000 runners.

Among the scheduled participants are three former Boston champions celebrating anniversaries of their victories: Norway’s Ingrid Kristiansen (20th anniversary, 1989), New Zealand’s Lorraine Moller (25th, 1984) and Ireland’s Neil Cusack (35th, 1974). . . .

Immediately following the 5K event, there will be a new series of four one-mile races for men’s and women’s elite athletes and high schoolers. Ian Dobson, a nine-time All-America and former Stanford University teammate of U.S. marathon hopeful Ryan Hall, has been added to the men’s mile field. Challengers include Rob Myers, a three-time U.S. National 1,500-meter champion, and Ireland’s two-time Olympian Alistair Cragg, a European Indoor Champion at 3,000 meters. Marblehead native Shalane Flanagan, who won a bronze medal at 10,000 meters in the Beijing Games, heads the women’s field with former Villanova star Carrie Tollefson, a prime threat.

Rodgers’ cause

Four-time Boston champion Bill Rodgers, who will be running as a member of Athletes For A Cure to raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer research, is a cancer survivor with a long family history of the disease. One family victim, great grandfather Daniel T. Molloy, was among the first Irishmen to graduate from Yale University in 1902. Molloy later became a Hartford policeman and worked as a gardener for literary great Mark Twain. . . .

Television and radio commentators should have oodles of fun if four-time champion and course record-holder Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot (2:07:14) and Frankfurt course record-holder (2:07:21) Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot – no relation – come running side-by-side down Boylston Street to the finish on Monday.

UDJ holds a fake protest rally in Ethiopia

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: The so-called “opposition” Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ) held a demonstration in Addis Ababa today in which 250 carefully screened individuals participated. The UDJ leaders said that the protest was held to demand the release of their “leader” Birtukan Mideksa, but what they actually did was give legitimacy to the illegitimate regime of Tigrean People Liberation Front (Woyanne) ahead of next year’s general elections. How much political benefit the Woyanne regime has gained by this fake little rally is reflected on the headlines of major international news organizations. Here are some of them:

VOA: “Ethiopia’s Opposition Holds First Rally Since 2005″
AFP: “Ethiopian opposition stages rare protest”
Reuters: “Ethiopians stage first protest since ’05 violence”
BBC: “Ethiopians rally in rare protest”
APA: “Ethiopian opposition demonstrate to demand release of their jailed leader”

CNN and others will no doubt echo the same story. The following is full text of the reports by VOA, BBC and others:

By Peter Heinlein | VOA

Supporters of imprisoned Ethiopian political leader Birtukan Mideksa have marched in the streets of Addis Ababa to demand her release. The march was the first officially sanctioned political demonstration since the violent protests of 2005.

A carefully controlled group of 250 people marched to the offices of Ethiopia’s president and prime minister Thursday to present petitions demanding freedom for opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa.

The 35-year-old former judge was first jailed after the disputed 2005 elections, in which her party claimed victory. She was among dozens of opposition leaders sentenced to life, but later released after a pardon agreement with the government.

Birtukan was re-arrested in December and ordered to serve out her life sentence after rejecting a government demand that she make a public statement acknowledging that she asked for the pardon.

Among those participating in Thursday’s demonstration was former Ethiopian president Negasso Gidada, who left office after a dispute with the ruling party in 2001. Negasso, who is a member of parliament says Birtukan should be freed because her re-arrest was illegal.

“If she was found guilty, she should have been brought in front of a court, they should have accused her and brought her to court and had her sentenced again, but they didn’t do that,” said Gidada. “They just picked her from the street and put her in prison. And that is not the way justice would do.”

Government officials have refused to budge in the face of strong pressure to release Birtukan, who is an unmarried mother of a four-year-old daughter. Communications Minister Bereket Simon told reporters last week the government has no intention of re-opening the case on humanitarian grounds.

“No. Not at all,” said Simon. “It’s a judicially resolved case and the government has no mandate to intervene in implementing the decision.”

A spokesman for the Unity for Democracy and Justice party, Hailu Araya, says opposition leaders plan to make Birtukan’s case a main issue in next year’s national elections. He calls her imprisonment an affront to the rule of law.

“There must be a way out. Just because government officials say there is no way out doesn’t mean there is no way out,” said Hailu. “We have to, through persistence, through pressure, we want the rule of law to be respected. If the rule of law is respected, there is a way of having her released.”

Unity for Democracy and Justice party officials say the permit allowing 250 people to march Thursday was the first of its kind granted by the government since the violent post-2005 election protests that led to Birtukan’s arrest. Those protests claimed the lives of nearly 200 opposition supporters killed in clashes with government forces.

Among those joining this latest demonstration was Birtukan’s 72-year-old mother, Almaz Gebregziabhere, who has been one of the few visitors allowed to see her daughter in prison.

Birtukan served seven years on the federal bench, one of Ethiopia’s youngest judges, before resigning in 2000 to run for parliament. She said at the time she was resigning her judgeship because of government interference in the judiciary.

Reuters: ADDIS ABABA, April 16 (Reuters) – Ethiopians marched on Thursday to demand the release of a jailed opposition leader in the first political protests since a disputed 2005 election ended in street violence that killed 199 people.

Birtukan Mideksa, the 34-year-old leader of the Unity for Democracy and Justice party (UDJ), was first jailed with other opposition leaders after the 2005 poll. She was pardoned in 2007 but then re-arrested last year.

The former judge has been in solitary confinement since December and went on hunger strike for 13 days in January.

“We are marching today to tell the government that the imprisonment of our leader is illegal,” said Debebe Eshetu, a senior UDJ official who was also jailed in 2005.

“She has been put in jail to weaken our party and to warn politicians who are outside the same thing may happen to us.”

Birtukan is seen by regional analysts as the country’s foremost opposition politician and critics of the government say she has been jailed because of the threat she could pose at next year’s parliamentary elections.

Experts expect Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government to win that poll since the opposition was weakened by the imprisonment of many its top figures in 2005.

Ethiopian opposition parties routinely accuse the government of harassment and say their candidates were intimidated when Ethiopians went to the polls last April for local elections.

The Meles government denies it.

Former Ethiopian President, Negaso Gidada, who is now an independent member of parliament, took part in Thursday’s march. He told Reuters there was no democracy in Ethiopia.

“I am convinced that our democratic rights and human rights are being abused,” he said as the demonstrators marched on the prime minister’s office and the palace of President Girma Woldegiorgis.

Guards barred them from entering the palace, but they were allowed to deliver a protest letter.

The demonstrators were given a letter in return that said Birtukan had broken the law and so could not be released.

The protest, which was approved by the authorities, was limited to 250 participants who all had to wear a government-issued identity badge. Security was low-key with only a small number of plainclothes police mingling with the crowd and almost no uniformed officers present.

Protesters waved placards, played music and shouted slogans but drew little visible support from passers-by.

“The government have killed people who protest so I would not shout like this,” one onlooker who declined to be named told Reuters. “These people are very brave.”

BBC: The main opposition parties in Ethiopia have held a march in Addis Ababa to call for the release of their imprisoned leader, Birtukan Medeksa.

The demonstrators handed in a petition to the authorities about Ms Birtukan.

She is serving a life sentence, after officials revoked a pardon which had previously seen her set free.

Ethiopia has very little tradition of public protest, the BBC’s Elizabeth Blunt in Addis Ababa says, and passers-by stopped and stared in amazement.

Almaz GebreEgziabher, Ms Birtukan’s mother, hopes the demonstration may help her daughter be released in time for the Ethiopian Easter this weekend.

“I am happy. I saw her last Saturday, and she is quite well. But I am praying that, with the help of God, she might be released tomorrow or the day after so that she can spend Easter with me and her daughter,” she said.

Ms Birtukan’s five-year-old daughter and mother are the only people who are being allowed to visit her in jail.

She was among more than 100 people jailed for political offences after Ethiopia’s election in 2005, most of whom have since been pardoned.

At the time of her re-arrest her colleague Berhanu Nega, who was also pardoned and now lives in exile, told the BBC it showed the government “was hell-bent on staying in power”.

Ms Birtukan is a former judge and was one of the younger and more charismatic leaders of the coalition which did well against the ruling party in the 2005 elections.

Our correspondent says that while in jail facing charges of treason, she became even more of a heroine, attracting widespread sympathy as a single mother separated from her baby daughter.

After the opposition leaders were pardoned and released last year, she emerged as the leader of a new coalition, the Union for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), painstakingly stitched together from various opposition groupings to contest elections in 2010.

The government news agency, quoting the ministry of justice, said her pardon had been revoked because she had denied requesting her pardon.

Ms Birtukan’s problems started when she spoke to journalists abroad about the way the opposition leaders were released, our correspondent says.

She talked about negotiations which had taken place between the opposition and government, with the help of a panel of elders, before their pardon was granted.

The government prefers to lay emphasis on a document signed by the prisoners, regretting any mistakes they had committed and asking for pardon.

This implies that their release was part of a normal judicial process, rather than in any way part of a negotiated political deal.

AFP: — Opposition protesters staged a rare demonstration in the Ethiopian capital Thursday, demanding the release of an official jailed for life in January.

Some 300 people massed outside the presidential palace and then marched towards Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s office in Addis Ababa in the first such protests since 2005, when disputed poll results sparked violence.

The group called for the release of Birtukan Midekssa, an opposition leader sentenced to life in prison after she reportedly denied ever expressing remorse to obtain a pardon in 2007 for treason and outrage against the constitution among other offences.

Birtukan, the head of the Unity for Democracy Justice (UDJ) party, had been detained with dozens of opposition figures and supporters following the 2005 elections.

“Our aim is to publicise the illegality of her detention, and to demand her immediate release. We demand the restoration of her pardon,” Yacob Hailemariam, UDJ’s deputy chief, told AFP.

Birtukan was only granted visiting rights by an Ethiopian court on Wednesday, but her release now depends on a government pardon board, which in turn will submit its decision to President Girme Wolde Giorgis.

“It was one big step in the whole process to have her family and lawyer allowed to visit the prison. We will resume our struggle to reach the next stage, which is to have her released,” party spokesman Hailu Araya told AFP.

The UDJ made its most spectacular electoral gains ever in the 2005 polls but cried foul over reported fraud, claiming it was robbed of victory by Meles’ ruling party.

The United States, a staunch Ethiopian ally and the country’s top aid contributor, has expressed concern over the 36-year-old’s re-arrest and called for more political freedom in the Horn of Africa nation.

Ethiopia’s next general elections are to be held in June 2010.

Meles, whose security forces were blamed for using excessive force four years ago, has vowed to prepare law enforcement agencies to avoid bloodshed in time for next year.

Ethiopia, USA, Somali pirates' cover-up

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

By Thomas C. Mountain | Online Journal

One of the best kept secrets in the international media these days is the link between the USA, Ethiopia and the Somali pirates. First, a little reliable background from someone on the ground in the Horn of Africa.

The Somali pirates operate out of the Ethiopian and USA created enclaves in Somalia calling themselves Somaliland and Puntland. These Ethiopian and USA backed warlord controlled territories have for many years hosted Ethiopian military bases, which have been greatly expanded recently by the addition of thousands of Ethiopian troops who were driven out of southern and central Somali by the Somali resistance to the Ethiopian invasion.

After securing their ransom for the hijacked ships the Somali pirates head directly to their local safe havens, in this case, the Ethiopian military bases, where they make a sizeable contribution to the retirement accounts of the Ethiopian regime headed by Meles Zenawi.

Of course, the international naval forces who are patrolling the Horn of Africa know all too well what is going on for they have at their disposal all sorts of high tech observation platforms, ranging from satellites to unmanned drones with high resolution video cameras that report back in real time.

The French commandos started to pursue the Somali pirates into their lairs last year until the pirates got the word that for the right amount of cash they were more than welcome in the Ethiopian military bases in their local neighborhoods. Ethiopia being the western, mainly USA, Cop on the Beat in East Africa put these bases off limits to the frustrated navies of the world, who are no doubt growling in anger to their USA counterparts about why this is all going on.

Now that the pirates have started attacking USA flagged shipping, something that was until now off limits, it remains to be seen what the Obama administration will do. One thing we in the Horn of Africa have learned all too well, when it comes to Ethiopia, don’t expect anything resembling accurate coverage by the media, especially those who operate under the cloak of ‘freedom of the press.’

Stay tuned for more on this from the Onlinejournal.com, the only site willing to expose the truth on matters no one else will touch.

Japan donates $6 million to UNICEF Ethiopia

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (UNICEF) – The Government of Japan today announced a $6 million donation to UNICEF Ethiopia for reducing the vulnerability of children to the impact of rising food prices.

This contribution, one of the largest from the Government of Japan to UNICEF Ethiopia, comes as Ethiopia confronts the impact of the global economic crisis. The food price inflation particularly affected the poorest people who do not have enough land to grow all the food they need in this subsistence agriculture dominated economy.

“Rising prices have added to the daily survival challenges faced by vulnerable communities in Ethiopia,” said Kinichi Komano, Ambassador of Japan to Ethiopia. “The Government of Japan recognizes these pressures and is providing this support through UNICEF to help mitigate the effects on the most vulnerable victims, the children.”

The Japanese donation will support:
• 870,000 children living in food insecure districts of Oromia and Amhara Regions through the Ethiopian Ministry of Health’s community-based nutrition interventions.
• Families of eight thousand particularly vulnerable children living in the food insecure districts through social protection programmes providing cash grants and revolving credit to set up small businesses.
• Delivery of basic health services to over half-a-million children through the roll-out of urban health extension programme in Addis Ababa.

“The global economic crisis need to be confronted to maintain the child survival gains achieved in Ethiopia over the past decade,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “This support from the Government of Japan will help the country address the risks and ensure that it consolidates and sustains its achievements on behalf of Ethiopia’s children.”

Under-five mortality rate in Ethiopia have gone down over 40 per cent since 1990 and the roll-out of the Government of Ethiopia’s health extension programme, which provides basic preventative health, nutrition and sanitation interventions at the community level, holds promise for continued improvement in child health, provided it is adequately supported.

“UNICEF applauds the Government of Ethiopia for its commitment to improving child health and nutrition, and the Government of Japan for its continued support to this sector in Ethiopia,” said Chaiban. “Children should not be further disadvantaged by the global recession. This donation sets a positive precedent for substantive investments in Ethiopia’s development, particularly during this difficult period of economic crisis which is also affecting Japan.”

The Japanese donation to UNICEF is part of a larger $13 million allocation for Ethiopia by the Government of Japan to tackle the impact of food price increases and climate change on children.

About UNICEF
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information please contact:
Yoshinori Kitamura, Embassy of Japan, yoshinori.kitamura@mofa.go.jp 0115 511088
Dr. Kerida Mcdonald, UNICEF Ethiopia, kmcdonald@unicef.org, tel: 0115 184018
Indrias Getachew, UNICEF Ethiopia, igetachew@unicef.org, tel: 0115 184026

Woyanne regime arrests 100 businessmen in Addis Ababa

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (APA) – The Tigray People Liberation Front (Woyanne)-led Ethiopian regime’s revenue authorities have arrested about 100 business owners in connection with Value Added Tax (VAT) fraud in Addis Ababa, APA learns here on Wednesday.

The Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (RCA) has this week launched a crack dawn on businesses in Addis Ababa after getting information that some businesses were not properly implementing the VAT law, which Ethiopia introduced some three years ago.

The authority announced on Wednesday that so far 46 businesses have been identified for “illegally” using the VAT law and cash registration methods in their business in Addis Ababa.

APA observed a number of shops shut down in Piazza and Merkato business areas of Addis Ababa.

According to the authority, those arrested will be charged.

Hotels, jewelers, cafés and restaurants are among the businesses that have been shut down by the crack down.

The authority used its own intelligence officers to arrest those involved in the fraud. Many of the businesses were accused of not issuing VAT invoices to the authority.

TPLF crimes in Tigray as told by a survivor

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

According to many of your request, here is the English translation of the Tigringa/Amharic version interview of Fitawrari Gezai Reda, a resident of Tigray region, northern Ethiopia.

Let me start my view by quoting from an article I read a few years back from Ethiopian Register magazine, under the topic: “Understanding the Machine of {www:Woyanne} Politics and How It Works.” In that commentary, the writer tried to show how the Ethiopian people were trying to identify the regime of Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) [or commonly known as Woyanne] and the nature of it.

The writer says, “As critics and opponents of Meles Zenawi’s regime, we often look like those fabled individuals who try to identify a large animal blindfolded. One character touches the animal’s head, another its back, still another its legs, each one giving an account of the whole beast by the part of the beast it has felt.”

Similarly, opposition parties and groups describe the Woyanne political creature in various limited ways. Some say TPLF rules are similar to an Apartheid-like ethnic tyranny. Others draw parallels with a Marxist-Leninist clique. Still others equate TPLF with a shifta (banditry), two-faced par communist, par capitalist, political entity. We also mark the regime as a worari (occupying) force, clever at operating behind tribal lines, reminiscent of colonialism, yet quick to resort to frontal assault on dissidents, citizens, and communities to bolster its monopoly of power.”

Each of these outlines of TPLF rules is right, but only partially. Each depiction highlights a particular feature or element of the Meles dictatorship in Ethiopia.

Indeed, as the writer above tried to show the different features of TPLF, each one of these taken separately, or as a mere sum, the depictions do not, however, yield an adequate picture of the gangsters of Woyane Tigray. Even as mercenary as it is, stating Meles and his groups as group of “Banda”, still we can’t describe the nature of the political beast! The nature of the gangs should be interpreted in ways worse than what has been said for years. Can I simply say, “These are beasts dispatched from hell?

Many of us may not have the detail understanding and information how Tigrian farmers and citizens were the subject of these beasts for solid seventeen years. Because of our frustration, many of us blame the Tigrians for harboring the beasts for seventeen years, but in reality the Tigrian farmers and people have suffered more than all of us can imagine.

Leaving the weakness and the failure of the flamboyant members and sympathizers of the beasts, and leaving aside for a moment, the ugly record of the Tigrian intellectuals and all walks of Tigrians who defended and supported the cruel nature of TPLF leaders and their Bado Shidushte (06) (the notorious security apparatus of TPLF) for many years, without any doubt, the majority of the Tigrian people, particularly “farmers,” were the direct victims of TPLF savagery more than any society in Ethiopia.

In this report you will read a very shocking history from an elderly man from Tigray. Ato Gezai Reda was tortured and released after paying Birr 15,000 ($7,500.00), after he was captured by TPLF guerrilla fighters in 1969 EC (about 1976/1978), and recently exposed the cruelty and injustice done to the Tigrian farmers and citizens by the so called leaders of Woyane Tigray in his interview with Dejen radio, produced by my friend, Hailemariam Abebe. I am working on the full translation of the interview in Amharic, to be published in one of the national papers. Till then, take the idea home, weigh the gruesome and utterly despicable nature of TPLF, the mass murders and tortures it inflicted on thousands of Tigrians. As usual, please bear with me when it comes to my “proficiency” of the English language.

Here is the short summary of the interview:

Ato Gezai Reda is originally from Enderta (around {www:Mekelle}), but worked and spent most of his life in Shire Awraja (Enda-Selassie). He was an employee of the Ministry of Interior before his ordeal. Ato Gezai expresses his thanks to Dejen radio for having him as a guest, and for getting the opportunity to expose the crimes of TPLF to the Ethiopian people, after keeping them with him for many years for lack of a free forum.

Ato Gezai Reda, after briefly explaining about his life history, directly goes to his narration. In the mid-’70s, he was a member of “Teranafit” (a group established in shire district before it merged with Prince Mengesha Seyoum’s armed rebel group – the Ethiopian Democratic Union – EDU). He said TERANAFIT at first had no intention of fighting against TPLF. Teranafit was established to fight against then military Junta in power – the “Derg.” But TPLF accused members of Teranafit of being “rivals” in recruiting the Tigrian youth. Because of this, he said he and other Teranafit members came under the focus of TPLF hostility.

Ato Gezai Reda was captured in March 1969 (1977/78) when he and others were traveling by bus to Axum to celebrate the religious holiday of Hidar Tsion. TPLF fighters threw hand grenades and ambushed the bus in the vicinity of “Af Gah-gah”. Held at gunpoint, the rebels ordered three passengers to get down, and those were: Ato Gezai, Ato Feseha, and Ato GebreTsadik Woldu.

The three “captives” were taken to a locality called Mai Demas, where they were thrown into a closure, and spent a bitter cold night along with livestock.

The next day, says Ato Gezai, “we were taken to Badme. Along the way, every village we passed by, there were many young farmers and elders who were being rounded up by TPLF as Teranafit accomplices.”

Ato Gezai and other 50 prisoners were taken to a place called Ginbot (near Badme). Ginbot was lush green, and had several springs that watered the site. “Upon our arrival,” says Ato Gezai, “all of us were ordered to roll over a field covered with ash which was so thick and over a feet or two high. We did as ordered, but fell to severe coughing, sneezing, itching. Once our introductory lesson was over, we were thrown into a tiny cell, joining other prisoners who had lost their hairs due to inhuman conditions. Those who were imprisoned before us were seriously emaciated, like they have been starving for a long time. Parts of their bodies were burned with fire, and their skins had turned yellow. With their sunken eyes, they looked like skeletons. Their legs were swollen, and their voices coarse.”

Some of the young men whom Ato Gezai saw in that prison cell were students from Adi-Awala, Adi Dairo in Shirre. The other victims included individuals who suffered from “manic depression,” and had already lost their minds, understandably from the complication of constant exposure to cruel torture and loss of hope in life.

The next morning Ato Gezai was interrogated as an accomplice of the Teranafit rebel group which TPLF saw as a sworn enemy. On the second day, they woke Ato Gezai up, took him out, and tied his hands behind his back against a tree, and set a pile of firewood between his legs. He was fixed to a tree trunk as the TPLF guys used tight ropes and wires to wrap him by.

They started the fire between his legs, and Gezai Reda’s long journey into the world of hell controlled by TPLF starts in earnest. As a thick smoke chokes Ato Gezai, the fire has already created blisters all over his body. Out of desperation, he shouted “Kidus Michael! Kidus Michael…” His torturers heard what he said, and started to make fun of him. The torturers picked up two small rocks and rubbed the stones against each other and, mockingly, asked their victim: “Can you see your St. Michael in these stones?”

(At this moment on the Radio, Ato Gezai is overwhelmed with emotions of grief, and slips into silence)

He comes back on air, and continues his narration. “The fire was too much painful,” and I cried out: “The fire Is Hell!”, and said, “My brothers and sisters! I can’t move left or right. I am being eaten up by the fire. You bet Hell is better than enduring this cruelty!”

My hands were tied behind me to a tree; there is no way one can escape from the chocking smoke and the flames of the burning wood. My body started to swell like a balloon. My body was covered with blisters, containing water under the swollen skin. And at one time, my skin burst and gushed out water from my entire body. Then my torturers ordered a break, using the military code “erefti!” (Recess/ break!).

After this unbelievable torture of burning and roasting my body with fire, they took me away from the fire, and untied my hands. I was lying on the ground, from where I slipped into unconsciousness. I can’t remember how long I was in a state of shock. I only knew when they woke me up again, and ordered me to stand, walk, and sit back to the burning fire. I couldn’t move my body! I was burned, numb, and roasted; my throat and lungs were coarse like burned; I couldn’t talk either. Practically, my body was turned into the size of a monster; my eyes were hanging out of their sockets. My tormentors also knew I that I couldn’t move. They looked for other means. They burned a bunch of figs, and threw the fire onto my body.

After a few days, I woke up, and tried to make sense of where I was (mind you I was still in severe pain and mentally devastated). But once more, they took me out in that bad shape, when I was looking just like an invalid. I was asked if I’d learned anything from my being tortured. The interrogator asked me if there was something I could make as a confession. I said: “Other than being a member of Teranafit, I have nothing to confess; I did nothing wrong that harmed TPLF; if there is anything, please show me any evidence of wrongdoing than torturing me for a crime I know nothing about.” I begged them to tell me if I’d done anything wrong to them.

Ato Gezai went on to say, “The interrogator didn’t whet his thirst of cruelty, and told me, ‘You still didn’t learn a lesson after all that?!” He then ordered the torturers to take me back to the torture chamber, where I was hung upside down, and the interrogators started to beat my bare feet with a rubber stick. My body started to burn like I caught fire: I shivered, vomited, moaned with unbearable pain. By the way, I still have difficulty walking, and I often feel pain in my feet.”

“Those are not Tigrians, those are not Ethiopians; those are some evil creatures from hell! They have no respect for even the old. They were educated by us, by the Tigrian parents; they were schooled by the farmers’ and tax-payers’ money, they were armed by Tigrians but turned their back on us, and humiliated us in a way difficult to express in words.”

Dejen radio – Other victims?

Ato Gezai – There were many of them. At least eight people were being executed every day. Every morning, many young ones from among the prisoners would be called out by their names. The prisoners knew they were being taken to be murdered. The young ones would cry, scream, saying, “tell my parents and families that I am executed…goodbye Tigray! Good bye folks!”

Mass murder was routine. I can tell you a few more agonizing stories as to what extent TPLF’s cruelty stretches. The crimes of TPLF that I saw with my own eyes are chilling.”

“There was this elder who was highly respected in Shirre Endaselassie. His name was Gebrelibanos Mezgebo. He was a chief accountant employee of the Ministry of Internal revenue. He and a few other respected individuals like him were selected by the people of Shire and surroundings to go to TPLF bases, and meet with TPLF officials over how to peacefully resolve the war with the Derg. The idea was proposed by the Derg officials. The Derg explained to the elders of Shirre that war was killing the nation, and such peaceful plan was also being executed in Eritrea. Eritrean elders were also elected by residents to go to the mountains to meet the rebels over a possible dialogue with the Derg. The Derg proposed they can solve their differences with EPLF-ELF for the sake of peace to the war-torn country. Likewise, the elders from around Shirre went to TPLF-held areas so as to meet and discuss the issue with them.

“Mind you!” says Ato Gezai Reda “…these are respected elders, who know nothing about politics, or who have never been members of any political group. But since the Derg officials ordered them to do something to resolve the conflict, they went out as peace envoys, shouldering responsibilities both by the people and the Derg. The residents also gladly agreed to try the strategy if that would work out for the sake of peace. The elders met TPLF leaders, but they were unlucky: they were thrown into prison immediately.”

Dejen radio – And then?

Ato Gebrelibanos and the other elders were murdered.

Dejen radio : How come?

Ato Gezai – Well, it is a very sad and shocking scene to witness such tragedy taking place in ones presence. One night EDU rebels came to the vicinity with their full military might. Subsequently, TPLF “firing squads” rushed to where we were being held. And we heard the interrogators saying loudly, “Let us Kill them! Let us finish them!” Immediately, they opened the door and ordered us to line up. They wanted to carry out the execution there and then but they changed their mind, and rushed us to a gorge covered with thick forest. However, they delayed the execution for reasons we did not know.

“Let me take you back for a second, to the question of what happened to Ato Gebrelibnos Mezgebos. As I said earlier, we were told EDU rebels were encircling the area. At that moment they tried to kill all prisoners. But later on, they decided to rush us somewhere else. However, Ato Gebrelibanos was badly burned and tortured like myself. He was a sad sight to the eye. He had open wounds on his back and his legs. He was almost crippled from torture. The TPLF decided he should be put to death. THEY FIRED THREE SHOTS INTO HIS BODY AND MURDERED HIM where he was lying!”

“With him, there was also a very handsome young man who was their member, a “guerilla fighter,” who fell sick with severe malaria. He was shivering with high fever, was unable to walk. He was lying under a shade from the outside of the prison cell that housed us. He was there just to rest and get some medication. He too was shot to death by the firing squad in his sleep. They executed him on the spot because he was unable to walk with the rest of us. This young fighter was from a village called Enticho (Adwa). They pumped three shots into each of the two victims in a cold-blooded murder.

Dejen radio – Why did they do that?

Ato Gezai – They didn’t want to carry them.

Dejen radio – They shot and killed their own fighter too?

Ato Gezai – Yes, they were cold-blooded murderers who had no value for human life. I have no idea how such youngsters came out from the womb of Tigrians and turned into some despicable monsters!

Dejen radio – And then?

Ato Gezai – We left the two murdered gentlemen behind us as we were rushed to a place called Maay Lam (Mereb). It was very hot, humid, and sand. Many of the prisoners had a difficult time dragging themselves along a very hostile terrain. Many of us never had any exercise, let alone overcome long journeys atop our tortured bodies. We had no power at all. Many of us had headaches, dizziness, and were thirsty and exhausted. Those who were limping and had fallen behind, the rebels pulled them like they were animal carcasses to be disposed of. Rebel harassments were rampant against those who staggered on the way. Among the weak prisoners, I remember there was a respected elder, Balambaras Tilahun. He was from Deki Awuaala. They wanted to riddle his body with bullets. Fortunately, when they were ready to do just that, some higher official of the organization came to the scene, and the firing squad asked the official if they could kill the man whom they saw as a burden. The official asked them if his interrogation was finalized. They said “no.” He told them to first get over the investigation. The old man was spared, and was suggested they somewhat carry him. However, they tied him tight to a single long stick (It was supposed to be a stretcher). They went away rocking the old man left and right his body tied/hooked with that single stick. Finally we reached a place called “La’e-Lai Barka (may be close to Eritrea border), and it was time to spend the night there. On the same night, they told us there would be assignments, and they split us in two: Group A and Group B (the reason was one of the groups would go to the Red Cross for check-ups, while the other would take other assignments. That was what they said). We formed long columns, but we were worn out. Immediately everyone was asleep. But again in the same night, they woke us up, and called the names of 25 individuals. They took them to a nearby ravine, and in an outburst of gunfire, the 25 were murdered en masse. That day was Ethiopian Easter holiday.

The way how the gentlemen were killed was really frightening to human mind. They told the victims to line up like soldiers but they machine-gunned them down all at once. The killers didn’t even bother to bury the victims. Their bodies were later found by Eritrean cattle herders. When the cattle came closer to the sight, they began to retreat as if they had seen predators. This alerted the herders who became curious why their cattle were frightened, and suddenly saw the bodies of 25 Ethiopians murdered at one go. “It is really heart-wrenching to recall such tragedies despite the passage of a long time,” says Ato Gezai.

He mentioned some of the executed individuals by name. Among them:
Ato Tewolde Gebresilassie (a town council official from Endaselassie – Shire)
Ato Abebe Gebre-Mariam (an old man from Adi Beiray, Deki-Awala)
Wodi Goshim, a 16-year-old from Endaselassie.
Mohammed, a 12-year-old boy from Adua who came to the Selekleka to visit his aunt. In prison, the boy always cried, saying he wanted to go to his mother and his Aunt and would often ask them “what am I doing here? I want to go to mom”. Altogether with the kid, 25 people were slaughtered.

By the way, after the herders discovered the mass murder, they immediately notified ELF fighters. The ELF men were shocked, and held an official meeting, and expressed their disappointments by the gruesome murders TPLF committed. ELF told TPLF to move out of their territory. TPLF fighters who were guarding us shared the secret with us. Some of the fighters were very close to us and sympathized with our condition. It was their closeness and sympathy that helped us to get the information that TPLF had differences with ELF with that incident. Unfortunately, many of the prisoners were murdered, (even after the ELF ordered TPLF, move out itself and its prisoners from their area). Those murdered, were murdered in the same fashion: “summary execution!”

After they relocated us, there were killings as well. There were prisoners like Haleka Tilahun (Adi Hagerai?) , Yigzaw Hailu (I think if I am not mistaken he was the son of Kegnazmach or Dejach Hailu Aduwa). Yigzaw was unique than the rest. He was a strong man. He killed one of the executioners, and stabbed another with the executioner’s own knife, and fled on foot. They pursued him with a barrage of machinegun fire. They shot him, but could not find him, dead or alive. After a week, however, his death was confirmed when vultures were spotted, and they were scavenging on the corpse.

Dejen radio – What happened to you finally?

Ato Gezai – I was told I could bail myself out by paying them Birr 15,000 (then the equivalent of $7,500 U.S. dollars). They ordered me to write a letter to my wife to make the payment. I pleaded for lesser settlement. They told me “TPLF is not a market place for bargaining.” Finally, I wrote a letter to my wife and they took the letter to her, and she sold our hotel (the only source of income we had to support my children and my wife at that time while I was under TPLF custody). My wife had no other choice, and she sold our property, met one of the agents, and paid him 15,000 Birr. I was released but there was a string to it: If I talked about TPLF brutality, I would be hunted down. No mercy. And they had these so-called fedayeen, (disguised TPLF snipers who infiltrate towns either to kidnap victims, or else, murder them.)

Dejen radio – We have heard many people lost their finger-nails, and fingers and limps were being pulled off the bodies of victims during torture. And we heard TPLF was forcing its victims to dig their own graves before they were shot dead. It that true?

Ato Gezai – Many despicable things have befallen too many innocent people. One day, they decided to kill me. My hands were tied, and I was watching when they were digging my grave. They dug it themselves because I was too weak to do anything. I was tied very tight, and asked them: “My hands are tied and it is hurting me badly. Can you please loosen the rope?” One of my guards got upset and said: “This is your grave; in our law, you were supposed to dig your own grave. But because you have no muscle to do that, we are doing you a favor. Therefore, you better shut up and get ready to enter your warm grave!”

I was put down in the grave. Then, the firing squad gathered and started to lower down their heads to the ground with their formal whispers (prayers par communist zealots), called “zikri sema’atat” (in memory of our martyrs). When they prayed their version, I was also praying loudly: “ABUNE ZEBESEMAYAT… (Oh, our Heavenly Father…) at that moment, one of them by the name “Mesele” asked me, “what are you chanting for?”

When he was asking me this very question, another messenger called Alemseged came running and screaming so loud towards us. They said, “who is that guy?” He screamed so loud from a distance, and told them, “wait, wait! Don’t do anything! Don’t kill him!” Alemseged told them higher officials were saying that the prisoner had more interrogations and should be spared of the execution. The amazing thing was a member of the firing squad was my neighbor’s son by the name “Nuguse Lilai”. This young man was a promising soccer player in Shire Enda-Selassie, back in the good old days. At that time, I used to encourage him and his friends to pursue their sports. Occasionally, I used to support them financially. I also used to take their pictures, extending some form of fatherly help. He was the first one who jumped into the grave, and pulled me out, by cutting the rope that had tied my hands. I saw him and his friends beaming with joy in the presence of the executioners who were suddenly ordered to delay my death.

However, I felt like they were playing with me like a toy. I begged them to finish me off. I asked them why they were playing with my soul, and asked them to fire a single shot, and get over with me, instead of taking me back and forth to the same hellish life. They replied, “We have orders that you have more interrogations.” So to answer your question, “Yes, they used to make us dig our graves before they killed us. Indeed, they were evil, anti-Tigray, anti humanity, anti their own family, anti Ethiopia, generally they were demons from devil knows where.”

Dejen radio – Ato Gezai, you have seen and witnessed all these nightmares, and the unbelievable evilness of TPLF. I think to my understanding hearing this shocking story, do you think you considered them as Tigrians? This is barbaric. Their action is even worse than Fascist Mussolini’s atrocities. How were you judging them at that time?

Ato Gezai — Oh! We took them as the disciples of Satan. Given their lack of humanity, I could only say I was saved by the power of God! They were cruel. They fed us very salty food so that we would feel thirsty, and they would punish us by denying us water. They added gasoline to the injera and soup so that we would suffer with hunger. It is hard to explain their cruelty. They kept prisoners in dungeons; there were dungeons in Kalema (Jihanem) near Gondar, another one in one of the Tekeze River hills, and another in Tembien. Those underground prisons were dug beneath the hills. I heard it was very hard for strangers to tell if there were underground prison chambers or not.

Dejen radio – Have you had children at the time? Did they ever know where you were?

Ato Gezai – I had young children, all of them under seven. They didn’t know where I was till my release.

Dejen radio – After your wife sold the hotel and paid TPLF the money they had asked, how did you end up going back to EDU? What forced you to leave town?

Ato Gezai – Let me tell you, whether I like it or not, they could have taken the money anyway.

Dejen radio – How is that?

Ato Gezai – What they did to many innocent families, they could have done to my wife too. There are more and more sad stories. For instance, they execute their victim. By the way, they cover the heads of their victims with some sort of garment. Then they execute them. After that, the TPLF prepares a letter as if it were written and signed by the victim. TPLF would write as though the victim was alive, and was a dedicated fighter. In the letter, they would write as if their victim would tell his family that he would never abandon TPLF, and for his cause, he was dedicating the family property to his organization – TPLF. So when the family gets the letter, given the reign of TPLF terror in the area, would be forced to hand over the property. Don’t forget TPLF has already killed the individual. Many families were robbed of their children and property by such sordid TPLF crimes. They never cared that their victimized family had kids, and would perish to hunger.

Let me tell you about the fate of one promising businessman in Adi Hagerai, Adiabo. His name was GebreTsadik Tsige, the son of Haneta Tsige. They were of Eritrean origin that lived as good Ethiopians. The young businessman had heavy-duty trucks and over a thousand heads of cattle. They killed him. On top of that, they ordered his wife to pay Birr 12,000. She said she had 6,000 Birr to pay right away, and not the entire sum of money. She asked them to give her more time. They demanded she had better paid the full amount right away. When she could not find the money, they took the trucks, 500 heads of cattle from the family ranch.

Now, let me go back to your question and answer what happened to me after I was released. I gave my hand to Colonel Kale-Kristos Abai, then regional governor of Tigrai province.

I visited the colonel’s office, where I was interviewed by the governor himself and other attending senior officials. Upon hearing my harrowing stories of tortures and mass killings, they were heart-broken, shocked and truly disoriented. On my part, I begged them to keep the stories to themselves. “If the stories leaked and reached TPLF,” I told them, “they will kill me. No doubt about that.” But the officials were overwhelmed with the gruesome murders TPLF was carrying out against innocent people. They immediately called for public meeting with the residents of the town. They began to tell the people the crimes being committed by TPLF. At that moment, they wanted an eye-witness, and called my name to testify. I heard them calling my name, but I kept quiet. I did not want to risk my life for I knew TPLF would murder me. In the first place, I didn’t want to disclose TPLF crimes to the Derg. But the Derg was also another problem, and I had no choice but to tell them what I went through. Immediately on the third day, TPLF sent me a “death warrant.” They sent one old man relative of my family. The letter told me to get prepared for my death any time. I prepared myself in a few days, kissed my kids and my wife good-bye, and after a long trek through the jungle, I joined EDU combatants.

Dejen radio – Dear Ato Gezai: You have seen TPLF in detail. TPLF is anti Tigray, anti Ethiopian culture. They changed everything, even the names of villages and hamlets. They devalued the honor of our mothers, they chopped away our territories, and ports preserved by our forefathers. Would you share your views with us on these points?

“TPLF is insane; they are evil, anti Christian, anti religion and anti our culture. They went against Tigrian culture. They desecrated churches. They smoked cigarettes inside churches. They turned churches into dancing halls. They tore down holy church garments and used them as sacks for stolen goodies. They used Medhani-Alem churches in Sheraro as their dancing floor for their “artistic troupe.” They forced elderly priests to lead their dances. They forced priests to throw their crosses, and made them carry guns and forced them to shoot. This was the most disturbing time in the history of our country. After having been an EDU combatant, I was forced into the world of exile, and I will never be able to visit my country until I make sure TPLF is removed and gone forever.”

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:

Who is Ato Gebrelibanos Mezgebo? I am his son in law. Ato Gebrelibnos Mezgebo is from Yeha, near Adwa. His wife, Woizero Yeshi, is from Adwa, Yeha. Woizero Yeshi, an elderly mother is still alive with her 7 children and many grand children. Justice will reveal, murderers who killed elders and young children as old as 12 years would one day face the wrath of justice.

The cold-blooded murderers can fool the fools pretending like they are peaceful individuals and peaceful leaders. Regardless of their camouflage, their blood-soaked life would one day end up in front of the court of justice. I thank Ato Gezai Reda from my heart, and Dejen radio in behalf of the family. The family may not question TPLF currently for fear of persecution. We the family are many and we are everywhere to challenge the thugs and murderers. Justice will prevail! There will no more be a mystery. The curtain that had covered the criminal and murderous nature of TPLF is uncovered for all to see, and for all to add their voices they had up to day kept for themselves for fear of being added to the long list of the thousands of men and women TPLF firing squads murdered in the quiet fields of northern Ethiopia. In Recent interview, Fitawrari Gezaie Reda exposed his torturers and prison chiefs who sent many young kids and elders to their death chamber as Abebe Teklehaymanot (filed name Usman) he was the ETPLF/EPRDF Air force chief. Awalom Weldu (real name Tiku Weldu- the brother of Abay Weldu currently Abay Weldu is TPLF’s CC) – he was the first TPLF/EPRDF Ethiopian Ambassador to Eritrea. (Currently, Ass/chair and CC of Gebru Asrat’s “Arena” party). Mesele was also the x-Derg Lieutenant Officer, who later fled to TPLF and became one of the executioners. The story will be published in book version for history to document it. Any one who is interested or have any question to contact Fitawrary or about our family already executed in the field by TPLF while in his asleep (or about other TPLF victims),- contact me on the following address.

By Getachew Reda

Ethiopian World Bank director pledges $35 billion for Africa

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

By Desalegn Sisay | Afrik.com

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — World Bank is set to triple its reconstruction and development lending geared towards developing countries to mitigate the harsh impact of the global economic downturn. The bank’s US$12 billion loan projection has been raised to US$ 35 billion to help achieve the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) goals.

{www:Ken Ohashi} country director of Ethiopia and Sudan elucidated the bank’s crisis response and the revised growth forecast for the 2009 fiscal year. According to him, the revised forecast GDP growth of Sub Saharan African countries will be marked by a 2.4 per cent decline, indicating a 1.8 cutback from their initial projection.

In a roundtable discussion with journalists last week in Addis Ababa, Mr. Ohashi said that IBRD, faced with the impact of the crisis in Africa, plans to triple its lending to 35 billion USD for the 2009 fiscal year to enable developing countries cope with the situation. Over the next three weeks IBRD will lend an amount of 100 billion USD through its fast disbursing development policy (DPL).

Meanwhile, the International Financial Corporation (IFC) of the bank is also planning to lend an investment volume of 12 billion USD per year for the next three years, the banks crisis response document reads. According to the document, the IFC has launched new crisis response initiatives in both investment and advisory services. Financing for the new initiatives is expected to total about 30 billion USD over the next three years.

Streamlining food crisis support

Vulnerability Financing Response (VFR) a facility launched by the bank in order to streamline crisis support to poor and vulnerable countries has so far facilitated 1.2 billion USD in response to the global food crisis while trying to launch a multi-donor country loan trust fund to provide rapid social responses that will prioritize the agriculture sector as well as employment.

The United Kingdom has announced its intention to contribute to this fund, the document reads.

According to the banks revised growth forecast Nigeria will register 2.9% GDP growth a 2.9 % cutback from its earlier projection. Similarly South Africa’s GDP growth will only be 1% a 1.2% difference from its earlier forecast.

Genocide and New Speak

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

BSN Editor’s Introduction: Ordinarily, we don’t write introductions to articles or essays published in The Black Star News but the following column by Keith Harmon Snow warrants it.

Snow has been at the forefront, as has this newspaper, in exposing Western duplicity in Africa and how U.S. and U.K. corporate and government interests have caused the deaths of millions of Africans; all for the love of money.

In the end, the African actors, the bit players really, are the ones who are blamed; wars of blood money and profits are referred to euphemistically by major newspapers, including The New York Times as “tribal wars,” so that Americans can nod their heads and continue on with their lives without bothering to ask any further questions.

After all, “tribal wars” are endemic to Africa; they always happen. Africans just wake up one day, grab machetes and start chopping off their neighbors’ heads to satisfy “blood lust;” a term actually once used by Time magazine to explain what the magazine contended was the reason for the Rwanda massacres of 1994.

Meanwhile, no one writes about the Western companies that somehow just always happen to be around digging the gold and the diamonds and ferrying off the timber and the young Congolese girls, even as the chopping off of heads and limbs occur.

But Keith Harmon Snow, whose long report follows, is not with the program. He is the anti-New York Times kind of reporter; and the anti-New Yorker magazine; and, anti-BBC and anti-Washington Post kind of journalist.

In fact, he is beyond being a mere journalist. He is the type of forthright individual that corporate media would refer to as “radical,” in order to impugn his reputation, without having to challenge him on a single fact. He salvages a little respectability for the profession of journalism, which has been corrupted by corporate media.

He is a crusader with a mission; his goal is to expose United States’ and Britain’s roles in the genocide in Uganda and in the Congo; with characters like Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri K. Museveni and Sudan’s Omar Hassan al-Bashir all playing the bit roles.

Snow writes long; he cannot help it because he feels the pain of the Congolese and the Ugandans and he wants someone somewhere –here in the United States and Britain– to pay a price. He might be accused of being overly passionate; one has to be, when one feels the kind of indignation that Snow feels. When it is a matter of genocide no article can be too long. Readers that bear with Snow and read all his words will learn information not found in the corporate media.

Corporate media are often accomplices to crimes against humanity. Sometimes in a most perverted manner. Take The New York Times’ resident Sudanese genocide expert, Nicholas Kristoff. If Kristoff really cares about the suffering of Africans, and not just about winning a Pulitzer Prize as he did for his Sudanese crusade, don’t you think he would lend his big pen to expose with equal passion the suffering of Congolese and Ugandan civilians; or might that lead to the indictment of Kagame and Museveni, “friends” of United States interests? Why would a humanitarian be selective in fighting against genocide unless there was a hidden agenda?

Thank the creator for the Internet. In the past, the world was held hostage to the tyranny of selective coverage and cover-ups by newspapers such as The New York Times and writers like Kristoff. He is a hero to Africans in his own mind. The Internet era has broken the monopoly of disinformation and misinformation once enjoyed by elite media.

Many years ago, George Orwell had warned against the dangers of propaganda, or what he called “New Speak.” We hear New Speak every day; where everything is turned upside down, killers are praised, while innocents are marched off to shallow graves in the forests. New Speak celebrates murderers as heroes and denounces victims.

Although successive generations have always declared “never again;” and “not on our watch,” as surely as the sun rises, humanity never fails and genocide always occurs. New Speak always exonerates the killers. New Speak is public relations disinformation; black becomes white; red is yellow; and bad is good.

As one of the characters in Orwell’s 1984 puts it: “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

Ah, yes; New Speak has helped send millions of Africans six feet under or to the crocodiles in the Kagera river, the Nile, and Lake Victoria.

Take Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni as an example; he is a master New Speaker. He has single-handedly, with the assistance of U.K. and U.S. financing and military hardware, caused the deaths of more than eight million Africans –half a million or more in Uganda; one million in Rwanda; seven million in Congo. Please see http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/116/10455.pdf

Yet, at least up until the time President George W. Bush left office, he was treated like some respected elder statesman of politics in the West.

He is such a smooth New Speaker that he attends the funerals of people whom he has reportedly eliminated in Uganda. He is such a smooth operator that he even secured an audience with President Bush in the White House in 2007 even though The Wall Street Journal had already reported on June 8, 2006, that he is being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes committed by his troops and militia in Congo between 1998-2003 and conceivably, like Liberia’s former president Charles Taylor, and like Sudan’s president al-Bashir, he too may be indicted by the ICC.

While President Bush could ignore the inconvenient truth and entertain Museveni in the White House, praising him for fighting HIV/Aids, even as he used his other hand to eliminate millions of Africans, it is difficult to imagine how President Barack Obama, a constitutional law professor, could ignore the smell of blood emanating from the Ugandan. Then again, on this earth, anything is possible.

Rwanda’s Kagame is another master New Speaker.

Earlier this week, he presided over memorial ceremonies for the victims of the 1994 massacres. Kagame indulges in this macabre exercise each year even though he was instrumental in the very genocide which he now “mourns”: he commanded the invasion of Rwanda from Uganda in 1990 and a French court has concluded that he ordered the missile downing of the presidential plane carrying Presidents Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntayamira of Burundi, sparking the 100 days of mass murders.

Western media had also prepared the global community for the eventual demonization and criminalization of all Hutus –even the ones who never participated in the mass murders of 1994– with a racist campaign against them in major magazines such as The New York Times magazine and The New Yorker, both with circulation in the millions. One of the first media volleys against the Hutus was an article by Alex Shoumatoff, published on June 20, 1992 in The New Yorker, where he described people he had observed while travelling in Burundi, which has the same ethnic combustibility between the majority Hutus and minority Tutsis; at that time Burundi’s army and government were controlled by the Tutsi minority.

“There were three obvious Tutsis,” Shoumatoff wrote, of the people he saw in a taxi cab, “Tall, slender with high foreheads, prominent cheekbones, and narrow features.” He added: “They were a different physical type from the five passengers who were short and stocky and had the flat noses and thick lips typical of Hutus.”

Almost three months later, an even more insidious article by Shoumatoff, “Rwanda’s Aristocratic Guerrillas,” was published on December 13, 1992, in The New York Times magazine. By this time, the invasion of Rwanda was in its second year and the RPF had already committed numerous massacres against Hutu civilians, as a lexis-nexus search of news reports will reveal. These crimes were glossed over or ignored in Shoumatoff’s article and all contemporary and subsequent accounts in major newspapers such as the Times.

Moreover, Shoumatoff was married to a Tutsi woman who was the first cousin of the RPF’s spokesperson and he was met at Entebbe airport in Uganda by RPF officials who guided him to the zones they controlled. So, The New York Times knowingly participated in the demonization campaign against the Hutus, who make up 85% of the population in both Rwanda and Burundi.

“In the late 19th Century,” Shoumatoff, acting as an unofficial propagandist for the invading army wrote in The New York Times magazine, describing Tutsis, “early ethnologists were fascinated by these ‘languidly haughty’ pastoral aristocrats whose high foreheads, aquiline noses and thin lips seemed more Caucasian than Negroid, and they classified them as ‘false negroes.’ In a popular theory of the day, the Tutsis were thought to be highly civilized people, the race of fallen Europeans, whose existence in Central Africa had been rumored for centuries.”

Shoumatoff added, of the Tutsis: “They are not a race or a tribe, as often described, but a population, a stratum, a mystical, warrior-priest elite, like the Druids in Celtic society.” As for the Hutus, they were far from resembling warrior priests: as Shoumatoff revealed, they were “short, stocky local Bantu agriculturalists.” [To read more critique of Western media demonization of Africans, please see "The Hearts Of Darkness, How White Writers Created The Racist Image of Africa," (Black Star Books, 2005)]

Yes, henious crimes against humanity and war crimes occurred in Rwanda, not only in 1994, but right from the time of the Uganda-sponsored invasion in 1990. Yet, the account here shows, many people would rather pretend that the atrocities started in 1994.

Some of the people who participated in the crimes have been caught and tried; many who have been tried and convicted did not even participate; those prosecuted so far have been only Hutus.

The story can never be complete when others involved in the same crime are exonerated through New Speak–some are outside Rwanda, including Museveni, for sponsoring the invasion and reportedly for supplying the missile used to down Habyarimana’s jet; others, indicted and unindicted criminals now govern Rwanda.

But ours is a mere introduction. Let Keith Harmon Snow tell the sordid story. — Milton Allimadi, BlackStar News

False Narrative: Whitewashing Rwanda Genocide

By Keith Harmon Snow

On 12 February 2009, Alison Des Forges, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch (HRW) for more than 20 years, was killed when Continental Airlines Flight 3407 crashed on route to Buffalo, New York. Des Forges was widely cited as a staunch critic of the Rwandan military government controlled by Paul Kagame and the victors of the war in Rwanda, 1990-1994.

In the ongoing life-and-death struggle to reveal the truth about war crimes and genocide in Central Africa, competing factions on all sides have posthumously embraced Alison Des Forges as an activist challenging power and a purveyor of truth and justice against all odds. Meanwhile, in March, 2009, based on false accusations of genocide issued by the Kagame regime—and given the close relations between Rwanda and the Barack Obama Administration’s former Clintonite officials—the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began the process of revisiting all immigration cases of Rwandan asylum seekers and criminalizing innocent refugees.

“In May of 1994, a few weeks into the killings of Tutsis in Rwanda,” reported Amy Goodman, posthumously, on Democracy Now, Alison Des Forges “was among the first voices calling for the killings to be declared a genocide.” Added Goodman: “She later became very critical of the Tutsi-led Rwandan government headed by Paul Kagame and its role in the mass killings in both Rwanda and neighboring Congo after 1994. Last year, she was barred from entering Rwanda.”

To say that Des Forges was “amongst the first voices calling for the killings to be declared genocide” in 1994 is an Orwellian ruse. The genocide label applied by Alison Des Forges and certain human rights bodies in May of 1994 was misdirected, used to accuse and criminalize only the majority Hutu people and the remnants of the decapitated Habyarimana government; much as the genocide and war crimes accusations have been selectively applied against President Omar al-Bashir in Sudan.

The Clinton Administration refused to apply the genocide label: to do so might have compromised an ongoing U.S.-backed covert operation: the invasion of Rwanda by the Pentagon’s proxy force, the Rwandan Patriotic Front/Army (RPF/A).

According to U.S. intelligence insider Wayne Madsen, Des Forges’ criticisms of the U.S.-brokered pact between Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila in December 2008 “earned her some powerful enemies ranging from the murderous Kagame, who will not think twice about sending his agents to silence critics abroad, and international interests who want nothing to prevent them from looting the DRC’s vast mineral and energy resources.”

“With U.S. military forces of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) now backing a joint Ugandan-DRC offensive in the northeastern DRC to wipe out the Lord’s Resistance Army,” wrote Madsen on 16 February 2009, “with hundreds of civilian casualties in the DRC and Uganda, and a secret pact worked out between Kabila and Kagame to permit Rwandan troops to occupy the eastern DRC, the target of both operations is securing the vast territory that is rich in commodities that the United States, Britain and Israel—all allies of Uganda and Rwanda—want badly.

Those commodities are gold, diamonds, columbium-tantalite (coltan), platinum and natural gas.” Massive oil reserves are also at stake, with major concessions bifurcated by the international border. Ongoing petroleum sector investment (exploration and exploitation) in the region involves numerous western extraction companies—many being so-called petroleum “minors” likely fronting for larger corporations—including Hardman Resources, Heritage Oil and Gas, H Oil & Minerals, PetroSA, Tullow Oil, Vangold Resources, ContourGlobal Group, Tower Resources, Reservoir Capital Group, and Nexant (a Bechtel Corporation subsidiary).

Billed as a “tireless champion” and “leading light in African human rights,” there is much more to this story than the western propaganda system has revealed: Alison Des Forges and Human Rights Watch (HRW) provided intelligence to the U.S. government at the time of the 1994 crises, and they have continued in this role to the present. Des Forges also supported the show trials at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), institutionalizing victor’s justice and shielding the Kagame regime.

Alison Des Forges came across to many people as a wonderful human being with great compassion and impeccable integrity. Indeed, this was my impression upon meeting her as well. She is said to have helped people who were being persecuted—no matter that they were Hutus or Tutsis—by the Rwandan regime that has for more than 19 years operated with impunity behind the misplaced and misappropriated moral currency of victimhood. In the recent past, Alison Des Forges spoke—to some limited degree—against the war crimes of the Kagame regime.

In life she did not speak about the deeper realities of “genocide in Rwanda”, and she had plenty of chances. In fact, she is the primary purveyor of the inversion of truth that covered up the deeper U.S. role in the Rwanda “genocide”, and she spent the past 10 years of her life explaining away the inconsistencies, covering up the facts, revising her own story when necessary, and manipulating public opinion about war crimes in the Great Lakes of Africa—in service to the U.S. government and powerful corporations involved in the plunder and depopulation of the region.

“Alison des Forges is a liar,” Cameroonian journalist Charles Onana told me, in Paris, France, several years ago. Onana is the author of numerous exposés on war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity in Central Africa, and he is the author of the book “The Secrets of the Rwandan Genocide, Investigations on the Mysteries of a President,” published in French in 2001.

Kagame, Rwanda’s one-party president “elected” through rigged elections, sued Charles Onana for defamation in a French court in 2002; Kagame lost the original trial and the appeal. Kagame was the commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Front/Army (RPF/A) and a leading agent—with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and their U.S., U.K., Belgian and Israeli backers—behind the massive bloodshed and ongoing terrorism in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Congo, Sudan and Somalia.

In his book, Onana accused Kagame of being the principle instigator of the missile attack of April 6, 1994 that brought down the plane carrying Rwanda’s President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundi’s Cyprien Ntaryamira. Unlike the U.N.’s ongoing high-profile investigation of the murder of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafik Hariri, no major power has pushed for a similar probe into the murder of the two African presidents.

Des Forges own death in a plane crash garnered major coverage.

“Leading light in African Human Rights killed in Buffalo Crash,” reported the Pentagon’s mouthpiece, CNN. “Human Rights Watch, which is based in New York, said she was ‘best known for her award-winning account of the genocide, Leave None to Tell the Story.’ She was truly wonderful, the epitome of the human rights activist—principled, dispassionate, committed to the truth and to using that truth to protect ordinary people.”

Alison Des Forges first worked as a HRW agent in Rwanda in 1992; in 1993 she helped produce a major international document highly biased against the Rwandan Government and protective of the RPF/A invaders: “Report of the International Commission of Investigation on Human Rights Violations in Rwanda since October 1, 1990.”

In late 1992, the International Federation of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, the Inter-African Union for Human Rights and the Rights of Peoples, and the International Center for the Rights of the Individual and the Development of Democracy created the International Commission of Investigation on Human Rights Violations in Rwanda since October 1, 1990. With 10 members from eight countries, the commission reported its findings in March 1993: Des Forges was co chairperson, one of the three principal writers, and translator of the French to English version.

The report noted that “hundreds of thousands” of Rwandans were made homeless and forced to flee, prior to January 1993, but these casualties of the RPF/A invasion were not attributed to international crimes of peace against a sovereign government committed by an invading army—the RPF/A guerrillas covertly backed by the U.S., Britain, Belgium and Israel—but instead merely to “war”.

In other words, the initial act of aggression, the RPA/F invasion, was institutionally protected and the war crimes that set the stage for the conflagrations in Rwanda and Congo went unpunished.

Later in 1993, Rwandans Ferdinan d Nanimana and Joseph Mushyandi, representing four Rwandan organizations under the Rwanda Associations for the Defense of Human Rights, challenged the DesForges commission in their 26-page document, “A Commentary on the Report of the International Commission’s Inquiry on the Violation of Human Rights in Rwanda since October 1990.”

“How can an international commission be taken seriously when its members spent only two weeks extracting verbal and written evidence on human rights violations for a period of two years?” the authors wrote. They also pointed out that the commission spent less than two hours in areas controlled by the RPF/A rebels and that they could not visit all the 11 prefectures in the country because of demonstrations that blocked the roads. “Can there be any objective and credible conclusions in their report?”

Ferdinand Nanimana was later sentenced to life imprisonment for genocide. Many members of the Rwandan human rights organizations he worked with prior to April 1994 were subsequently killed. The rights and due process of Rwandan Hutus are systematically violated due to victor’s justice secured by the U.S., Europe, Israel and the proxy states Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. Bernard Ntuyahaga, a Major of the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) accused of killing 10 Belgian soldiers and Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, surrendered to the ICTR to avoid extradition to Rwanda; he was tried in Belgium and sentenced to 20 years in prison on July 4, 2007.

Like other researchers who have endlessly perpetuated the disinformation, Des Forges made no attempts to correct the record. In 1992, human rights researchers Rakiya Omaar and Alex de Waal established the London-based NGO African Rights. In August 1995, African Rights published Rwanda: Death, Despair and Defiance, another pivotal “human rights” report that manufactured the “genocide” fabrications, set the stage for victor’s justice at the ICTR, and began the process of dehumanizing millions of Hutu people and protecting the true terrorists. In 1995, Omaar and de Waal recycled the disinformation in the left-leaning Covert Action Quarterly under the title “U.S. Complicity by Silence: Genocide in Rwanda.”

Since 2003, Alex de Waal has been one of the primary disinformation conduits on Darfur, Sudan. “An intensive back and forth activity between this so-called British human rights organization, African Rights, and the intelligence services of the [Kagame] President’s office and the Rwandan military, has been observed,” wrote Paul Rusesabagina, whose heroics was immortalized in the film Hotel Rwanda. “Her investigators are very close to the [RPF/A] military intelligence apparatus, and the modus operandi of both appears to be similar.”

Alison Des Forges years-long “investigations” into the bloodshed of 1994 resulted in the fat treatise on genocide in Rwanda, “Leave None to Tell the Story,” a book co-researched and co-written by Timothy Longman, now Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Political Science at Vassar College. Longman and Des Forges produced numerous documents—based on field investigations in Congo (then Zaire), Rwanda and Burundi, from 1995 to 2008—touted as independent and unbiased human rights documents, all skewed by hidden interests.

According to a recent PBS Frontline eulogy, less than two weeks into the killing in April 1994 Des Forges met with officials in the U.S. State Department and National Security Council (NSC) and lobbied for their help. “We were not asking for U.S. troops,” Frontline quotes her saying, “it was clear to us that there was no way that the U.S. was going to commit troops to Rwanda.”

But the U.S. military was heavily backing the RPF/A tactically and strategically already. Key to the operation were “former” Special Operations Forces (Ronco Company) providing military equipment and ferrying RPA troops from Uganda to Rwanda; the Pentagon’s logistical and communications support; Defense Intelligence Agency and CIA operatives. Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR), was also collaborating with the RPF/A, serving the Pentagon interest.

Genocide in Rwanda became a massive psychological operation directed against media consumers using ghastly images—produced by RPA-embedded photographers like James Nachtwey and Gilles Peres—to infer that all cadavers were Tutsi victims of an orchestrated Hutu genocide; meanwhile the text was racist disinformation produced by Joshua Hammer. Newsweek, June 20, 1994.

ICTR defense attorney Christopher Black reports that reliable sources confirm that US Special forces were with the RPF all the way through the war. “My client testified in June that U.S. Hercules [C-130 military aircraft] were seen dropping troops in support of the RPF…”

Further, on 9 April 1994, three days after the so-called “mysterious plane crash” where Burundi’s President Cyprien Ntaryamira and President Habyarimana were assassinated, some 330 U.S. marines landed at Bujumbura’s airport in Burundi, ostensibly to “rescue Americans” in Rwanda.

More centrally however, Uganda—with U.S. trained forces and U.S. supplied weaponry—launched its war against Rwanda as a proxy force for the United States of America on October 1, 1990.

The result was a coup d’état: we won. The 2003 Frontline interview with Alison Des Forges exemplifies her continuing role in whitewashing U.S. involvement in war crimes and genocide in Central Africa. “Kagame received his military education under the Pentagon’s Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) at the Command and General Staff College of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, beginning in 1990,” wrote John E. Peck of the Association of African Scholars (2002). “His sidekick, Lt. Col.

Frank Rusagara, got his JCET schooling at the U.S. Naval Academy in Monterey, California. Both were dispatched to Rwanda in time to oversee the RPF’s takeover in 1994. Far from being an innocent bystander, the Washington Post revealed on July 12, 1998 that the United States not only gave Kagame $75 million in military assistance, but also  sent Green Berets to train Kagame’s forces (as well as their Ugandan rebel allies) in low intensity conflict (LIC) tactics. Pentagon subcontractor Ronco, masquerading as a de-mining company, also smuggled more weapons to RPF fighters in flagrant violation of UN sanctions. All of this U.S. largesse was put to lethal effect in the ethnic bloodbath that is still going on.”

“This genocide resulted from the deliberate choice of a modern elite to foster hatred and fear to keep itself in power,” Des Forges wrote, blaming “Hutu Power”. However, her assertions about a “planned” Hutu genocide—”They seized control of the state and used its machinery and its authority to carry out the slaughter”—collapse under scrutiny.

From 1990 to 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), comprised most heavily of Ugandan soldiers led by Ugandan citizens like Paul Kagame, committed atrocity after atrocity as they forced their way to power in Kigali, always falsely accusing their enemies—the power-sharing government of then President Juvenal Habyarimana—of genocide.

“Kagame assigned some people to work with Alison Des Forges,” says Ugandan Human Rights activist Remigius Kintu, “and also to assist her in fabricating and distorting stories to suit Tutsi propaganda plans.”

According to the International Forum for Truth and Justice in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, whose discoveries resulted in the high courts of Spain issuing international indictments against 40 top RPF/A officials: “Between 1990 and 1994, the RPA waged a systematic, pre-planned, secretive but highly organized terrorist war aimed at eliminating the largest number of Rwandan people possible—bodies were hacked to pieces and incinerated en masse.

From 1994, once the RPA violently seized power, a terror regime was created, and developed, and a criminal structure parallel to the state was set up to pursue pre-determined kidnappings; torturing and raping of women and young girls; terrorist attacks (both directly and by simulating that the same had been perpetrated by the enemy); illegal detention of thousands of civilians; selective murdering; systematic elimination of corpses either by mass incineration or by throwing them into lakes and rivers; indiscriminate attacks against civilians based on pre-determined ethnic categories for the elimination of the predominant ethnic group; and also to carry out acts of war in Rwanda and Congo.”

Before former President Habyarimana’s assassination on 6 April 1994, Des Forges, and the organizations she worked with, blamed the whole war crimes show on President Habyarimana and his government, they dismissed the illegal invasion and atrocities of the RPF/A, and they began calling it genocide against the Tutsis as early as 1992.

“In the Military II case Alison Des Forges admitted that she was funded by USAID when she was part of that so-called International Commission condemning the Rwandan Government [under Habyarimana] for human rights violations,” reports Canadian Chris Black, a defense attorney at the ICTR, “and she admitted that she just took the word of the RPF and pro-RPF groups and that she did not deal with RPF atrocities, as she did not have the time.”

Chris Black notes that Des Forges presented reports to the ICTR in certain legal cases that were decidedly doctored from the original reports presented in previous cases against other accused Hutu genocidaires, and that it was necessary to cross-examine Des Forges “very forcefully” to get her to agree that changes had been made to the reports presented as evidence in the case being tried.

“In her expert report in the 2006 Military II trial against General Ndindiliyimana,” Chris Black adds, “she removed all the positive things she had said about him in her book and in her previous expert report in the [Colonel Théoneste] Bagasora case. When asked by me why she deleted the positive view of him at his own trial, and why she tried to hide the fact that he saved a lot of Tutsis, among other things, she had no explanation. It was a cheap, low thing to do and I can tell you even the judges here at the ICTR were not too happy about it.”

On December 18, 2008, after the protracted ‘Military I’ trial, the judges at the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda ruled that there was no conspiracy to commit genocide by former Rwandan military leaders affiliated with the former Habyarimana government. It was war, and the actions—far from a calculated genocide—were found by ICTR judges to be “war-time conditions”.

“The media reports of the December 18 judgment [Military I] at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda focused primarily on the convictions of three of four former top military leaders, who were the supposed ‘masterminds’ of the Rwandan genocide,” wrote ICTR defense lawyer Peter Erlinder. “But, as those who have followed the ICTR closely know, convictions of members of the former Rwandan government and military are scarcely newsworthy.”

Since the inception of the ICTR its decisions have been decisively biased—victor’s justice—in  favor  of protecting the Kagame regime and its backers. Thus it is no surprise that the former top military leaders of the Habyarimana government—Colonel Théoneste Bagosora and Major Aloys Ntabakuze—were sentenced to life imprisonment for acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“The real news was that all of the top Rwandan military officers, including the supposedly infamous Colonel Bagosora, were found not guilty of conspiracy or planning to commit genocide,” writes Erlinder. “And General Gratien Kabiligi, a senior member of the general staff, was acquitted of all charges! The others were found guilty of specific acts committed by subordinates, in specific places, at specific times—not an overall conspiracy to kill civilians, much less Tutsi civilians.”

Now, after more than 15 years of massive western propaganda proclaiming an organized, systematic elimination of the Tutsi people by the Hutu leaders of the former Rwandan government, the official Rwanda genocide story has finally collapsed.

In contradistinction to the establishment narrative accusing the “Hutu leadership” of an “organized” and “planned” genocide were the countless acts of genocide committed through a spontaneous uprising of the Hutu masses—people who had been brutalized, disenfranchised, uprooted and forced from homes; people who had witnessed massacres and rapes of family members; people who were themselves the victims of brutal atrocities.

These were more than a million internally displaced Rwandan Hutus, people who had been terrorized by the Rwandan Patriotic Army from October 1990 to April 1994, as it butchered its way into Rwanda; and possibly a million Burundian refugees, Hutus who suffered massive reprisals in Burundi after the first civilian President, Melchior Ndadaye, a democratically elected Hutu, was assassinated by the Tutsi military in October 1993.

There is evidence that the RPA/F pursued “pseudo-operations”—death squads committing atrocities disguised as government soldiers—and evidence that at least some of the infamous Interahamwe militias pursued their campaigns of terror in the pay of the Rwandan Patriotic Front/Army.

“She concealed the fact that from 1990 the war caused an unprecedented economic poverty and that the one million internally displaced people tore the social fabric apart!” wrote Dr. Helmut Strizek, a former German official who had called for Des Forges’ resignation from HRW.

“And these people knew that Tutsi rebels caused their misery. They did not wait for ‘instructions’ in order to revenge, once no one was able to maintain public order after the April 6 assassination and resumption of hostilities by the RPF.”

“Alison Des Forges is no longer,” writes Charles Onana. “Peace be with her soul! She nonetheless leaves behind her many victims of injustice, who she painstakingly accused, using false testimony, before the International Criminal Tribunal Court for Rwanda (ICTR).” Alison Des Forges provided expert testimony in 11 genocide trials before the ICTR, including the ‘Military I’ trials that condemned Col. Theoneste Bagosora and two others on December 18. Des Forges also testified in genocide trials in Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Canada.

Charles Onana continues: “Among her victims there is Jean-Paul Akayesu, the first to be condemned to life imprisonment for genocide. This man, who Alison Des Forges had accused without any proof against him, was even defended by a Tutsi from the Patriotic Rwandan Army [RPA] who had been party to the fabrication of the ‘incriminating’ evidence against him in Rwanda. The Tribunal never listened to this witness, but they did listen to Alison Des Forges.”

“I have also discovered during the course of my investigations into the ICTR that, at the start of the trial in 1997, she introduced a forged fax that was purported to be written by General Dallaire in 1994. This fax, maintained Des Forges, concerned the ‘planning of genocide’.”

New Yorker staff writer Philip Gourevitch spread the mythology of “The Genocide Fax” far and wide. Gourevitch’s first pro-RPF/A disinformation piece appeared in the New Yorker in December 1995; in May 1998 the New Yorker published Gourevitch’s “The Genocide Fax,” a charade fed to him by Madeleine Albright’s undersecretary of state James Rubin.

Gourevitch’s fictional book “We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families” was funded by the euphemistically named U.S. Institute for Peace and written in league with the Kagame regime.

It is certainly possible that Alison Des Forges was unaware of the original fabrication, but she and Human Rights Watch never changed their tune, and they never denounced the fabrication.

Charles Onana continues: “It was on the basis of this false document that she called for the condemnation of Jean-Paul Akaseyu. To lend credibility to this first trial process, the ICTR, with astonishing lightness and irresponsibility, condemned this man to life. The Tribunal had no proof. The judicial dossier is slapdash and skimpy, but that has no importance. This was Alison Des Forges first great victory.”

“She then decided to pursue a Rwandan refugee living in Canada: an ideal target,” Onana adds, referring to Leon Mugesera. “He had the misfortune to be Hutu. For her, this man was a ‘planner of genocide’. But where is the proof? Alison Des Forges has none, but she wants to see this man in prison. Having deciphered or seen through Alison Des Forge’s arguments, the Judge of the Canadian Federal Tribunal concluded witheringly and without pity: ‘I note above all the relentlessness with which Mme Des Forges launched her diatribe against M. [Leon]Mugesera, and am astonished by the lack of care she has demonstrated in drawing up the report for the International Commission of Enquiry and in her Expert Assessment.’”

“The Canadian judge did not hesitate to qualify Mme. Des Forges as partisan, demonstrating ‘a prejudice or preconceived position against Léon Mugesera’. He concluded that she could not be considered an objective witness, adding that no correctly informed tribunal could take her allegations seriously. Nevertheless it was on the basis of the same arguments, and of the same fantasy report published in 1999, that she accused numerous Rwandans, all Hutu.”

“CONTINENTAL SHIFT,” one of Philip Gourevitch’s pivotal disinformation essays that appeared in the New Yorker, outlined the “new brand of African leader” exemplified by Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame: it is a whitewash of U.S.-backed terrorism. “It was thus that she devoted the penultimate day of her examination, during the process against the military, to presenting Colonel Bagosora, Hutu, as the king pin in the genocide.

The Tribunal in the long-running ‘Military I’ trial did not accept the ‘planning of genocide’ that Alison Des Forges never ceased to hammer on about by means of her pseudo-fax of 11 January 1994. She lied, lied and lied again. She tried a come-back or to recover her credibility by criticizing her ‘hero’ Paul Kagame, the organizer of the 6 April 1994 assassination of two presidents.”

“Alison Des Forges finally dared to speak of the crimes committed by the Tutsi rebels of the RPF/A: the great taboo. It was a bit late but it assuaged her conscience. For those who were condemned by the ICTR, deliberately and unjustly recorded by her, there will be no justice for them. Can Alison Des Forges still hear their suffering and their pain? She who has done them so much harm—along with their families? She who claimed to defend the Rights of Man has without doubt violated the rights of many Rwandans, who will undoubtedly never forget her. Their homage to Mme. Des Forges would have been different, very different, to what her many friends in the media have to say.”

Timothy Longman and Des Forges, the co-authors of the HRW treatise, “Leave None To Tell The Story,” both worked with USAID, the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon. Des Forges was a member of the HRW board from 1988 and was “principal researcher” on Rwanda and Burundi, 1991-1994.

In this period Des Forges also consulted for USAID, and collaborated with the State Department, Pentagon, and National Security Council. Simultaneously, Des Forges worked with, informed and influenced U.S. Congress-people, Permanent Representatives at the United Nations, the U.N. Under-Secretary General, and U.N. Special Rapporteur for Rwanda and Special Rapporteur for Summary and Arbitrary Executions. Des Forges also pumped the disinformation into the academic world through her high-level ties to human rights committees, African and Africana Studies departments and the elite African Studies Association.

In the same period, Des Forges constantly influenced the U.S. media through special briefings to the editorial boards and reporters of the New York Times, Washington Post, National Public Radio, and Associated Press, and she was frequently presented as an “expert” on genocide in Rwanda for CNN, 60 Minutes, Nightline, All Things Considered, BBC, Radio France Internationale, and the Canadian Broadcasting Company.

Such relations explain the mass media’s consistency in producing the monolithic disinformation about Rwanda that shielded the illegal U.S.-backed and covert RPF/A- Ugandan guerrilla insurgency. The blanket media coverage falsely situated the “Rwanda genocide” as it is now widely misunderstood: 100 days of genocide, 800,000 to 1.2 million Tutsis killed with machetes; the “highly disciplined” RPF/A stopping the genocide.

Such is the disinformation that indoctrinated the English-speaking media consumers and created a mass psychological hysteria about Rwanda that persists to this day. Timothy Longman worked with Des Forges in Rwanda in 1994 and has worked regularly with both USAID and HRW on contracts in Congo, Burundi and Rwanda, throughout the late 1990’s and into the present; Longman worked in Rwanda on one USAID contract for Management Systems Incorporated, a firm whose clients include the Pentagon. Longman also worked as a consultant for HRW in the spring of 2000 conducting field research in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and producing “a detailed report on human rights conditions in rebel-controlled areas.”

The Des Forges and Longman position vis-à-vis their whitewashing of the Tutsi-led RPF/A organized genocide in Rwanda certainly explains the sanitation of HRW reports, and it raises questions, for example, about how Human Rights Watch “researchers” navigate their “work” in rebel (read: Rwandan and Ugandan) controlled areas in DRC.

It also raises questions about how, why and when HRW does or doesn’t expose the western operatives, non-government organizations and multinational corporations: a singular example is the Human Rights Watch report that mildly exposes the criminal operations of Anglo-Gold Ashanti—a company partnered with the George H.W. Bush connected Barrick Gold Corporation—in eastern DRC.

HRW says nothing about Moto Gold, Mwana Africa, Banro Resources, Hardmann Oil, Tullow Oil, De Beers, H Oil & Minerals, OM Group, Metalurg, Kotecha, International Rescue Committee—and the many proxy armies, militias, gun-runners and other organized white collar war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Congo.

The role of HRW as an intelligence conduit to the U.S. Government is incidentally confirmed by Samantha Power in her book “A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide”—a whitewash of U.S. and allied war crimes for which she was rewarded with a Pulitzer Prize.

While Power’s “bystanders to genocide” thesis about Rwanda is a total inversion of the facts, she notes in passing that “Human Rights Watch supplied exemplary intelligence to the U.S. Government and lobbied in one-on-one meetings” in April and May 1994, and that Alison Des Forges and other HRW staff visited the White House on April 21, 1994. Samantha Power is currently a member of the National Security Council in the Obama Administration.

The mass media was flooded with “Rwanda genocide” disinformation between April and July of 1994, and advertising that served up subliminal seduction and white supremacy often surrounded these “news” clips.

Alison Des Forges continued to remain silent about Western corporate and military interests in the Great Lakes region to her death. A perfect example of this silence is the very unrevealing March 2008 interview by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum titled “Alison Des Forges: The Impact of Rwandan Genocide in Congo.”

Timothy Longman also produces significant pro-US propaganda about Sudan. Thus it is important to note that amongst the key USAID conduits for disinformation and covert operations in Sudan today is Roger Winter, one of the primary architects of the RPF/A guerrilla war, organized from Washington in 1989, that led to the loss of millions of lives in the Great Lakes of Africa since October 1990.

Alison Des Forges, of course, never mentioned Roger Winter or his colleague in covert operations, Susan Rice, the Obama Administration’s Ambassador to the U.N. Of Roger Winter, Remigius Kintu, the Ugandan Human Rights activist says “he was the chief logistics boss for the RPF until their victory in 1994….”

“Roger Winter was with the RPA on the front lines in Rwanda and he regularly briefed the Clinton Administration of the RPA’s military achievements,” says Jean Marie Vianney Higiro, former Rwandan official. “Alison Des Forges contributed to the RPF/A takeover of Rwanda. I have no doubt about that… I met her three times, first in 1995, and in 2004 she encouraged me to testify at the ICTR. I said ‘no way: I will only testify if RPF officials are arrested.’ She insisted I should testify, she was confident that the RPF were going to be arrested. I think she did not realize that the U.S. government would never accept that. She was something of an opportunist.”

The zeal displayed by Alison Des Forges and Human Rights Watch in the pursuit of justice and human rights appears in sharp contradistinction to their absence of zeal in pursuing the architects of the criminal invasion of Rwanda on October 1, 1990, by Uganda, the double presidential assassinations of April 6, 1994, and all kinds of other murderous corporate conspiracies in Central Africa where foreign-financed wars are used as cover for illegal extraction of resources, particularly in the Congo.

Ironically, as the world this week commemorated the 15th Anniversary of the terrible mass murders that followed the assassination of the presidents, Rwandan asylum seekers that are critics of the Kagame regime live under perpetual fear of being hunted down, branded as genocide perpetrators, ostracized, and persecuted by an illegitimate dictatorship. Forty of the regime’s military officials have been indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by two international courts.

Kagame’s ruthless Directorate of Military Intelligence has dispatched agents to Europe to eliminate RPF opponents; some of these agents are operating under cover as bogus asylum-seekers in Europe and North America.

As of January 20, 2009 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began reopening all cases of Rwandan asylum seekers, and is criminalizing and threatening to deport legitimate refugees to Rwanda, actions that violate the 1951 United Nations High Commission for Refugees Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

(Keith Harmon Snow is the 2009 Regent’s Lecturer in Law & Society at the University of California Santa Barbara, recognized for over a decade of work, outside of academia, contesting official narratives on war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide while also working as a genocide investigator for the United Nations and other bodies.)

Ethiopia's Dire Tune seeks solace in Boston return

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

BOSTON MARATHON SPECIAL

By Elshadai Negash

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Universal Sports) – It has never been an easy feat to win selection to the Ethiopian Olympic marathon squad. Ethiopian marathon runner Dire Tune, the 2008 Boston Marathon champion, found out last July just how competitive things can get when she tried to win a place on the country’s marathon team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Ethiopia uses a complex selection system to pick its squad for major championships. Five runners are first selected based on finishing times in marathons across the globe. The runners then enter a training camp where selectors put them through multiple time trials and drills over a three-month period.

After winning Boston and running a personal best at the Houston Marathon, Tune entered training camp last year fourth fastest among five ladies vying for three coveted spots. But selectors picked her ahead of the faster Bezunesh Bekele (2nd in the 2008 Dubai Marathon). Tension started to grip the Ethiopian camp until it boiled over four weeks before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games.

“We were in the team bus returning from training when the others [Bekele, Gete Wami, and Berhane Adere] started talking about how I did not deserve to compete in Beijing,” she said in an interview earlier this week at a hotel near her home in Ethiopia’s capital. “Bezunesh [Bekele] started to confront me and we started fighting on the bus. At the end, other people came over and separated us.”

But the problems continued. A few days later, Tune was returning to the team hotel in the center of Addis Ababa with her husband Kelil Aman and training partner Deriba Merga when they were confronted by fellow Ethiopian national team marathoner Tessema Abshiro, the husband of Bekele. After an angry exchange of words between Merga and Abshiro, the latter pointed a pistol at Merga. Abshiro was later detained by authorities and spent the night at a police station. He was released on bail a few days later after Merga chose not to press charges.

Tune did not comment on her current relationship with Bekele. The two plus Merga are scheduled to compete in the Boston Marathon on April 20 while Abshiro is scheduled to run in the London Marathon on April 26.

“The whole situation was really bad,” Tune recalled painfully. “It disturbed the team morale and affected our results very badly in Beijing. I finished 15th, but I missed almost a week of crucial training due to the problems.”

Before the incident, everything was going according to plan for Tune in a ground-breaking year. She had started the year by successfully defending her Houston Marathon title in Texas in a personal best to 2:24.40.

And in April, she surprised many observers by winning in Boston, becoming only the second Ethiopian to win the event. Fatuma Roba is the other.

“I was told that the course would very difficult, but I was confident of finishing in the top three because I trained well,” she says. “I run side-by-side to Russian [Aleventine Biktimirova] for a long time and when I saw the finishing tape, I just raced for the finish. I did not really look at the time. My main focus was to win the race. I was really happy to be winning in Boston.”

Two months later, Tune was selected by organizers of the Golden Spike meet in Ostrava, Czech Republic to attempt to better Kenyan Tegla Laroupe’s world one-hour record, a seldom run event that initially puzzled Tune.

“I talked with my coach on how to prepare for it,” she says. “We decided that we should continue training for it at marathon pace. As I prepared, my confidence grew and went to Ostrava happy with myself.”

Helped by four compatriots who worked tirelessly to keep Tune on course, the 25-year old salvaged the attempt in the last 30 minutes. By the end of the hour, Tune had run 18.517kms, 176m further than Laroupe’s mark.

“The Ostrava spectators were very helpful and great,” she said after smashing her first ever world record. “I am indebted to my coach who helped me with the splits. The crowd gave me the power to run so fast and I could even accelerate in the finish.”

Buoyed by her triumph, Tune prepared for her Olympic debut before she says, “everything went wrong. It had a negative influence on my results in Beijing. We were five athletes in the beginning [of the training camp] hoping to be selected, there was a worry as to who the selectors would pick. We spent much of our energy in training to try and prove ourselves. I did not have much energy left when I run in Beijing because I had exhausted almost everything in training. I am not happy about my performance in Beijing. It was really bad. I did not get what I expected.”

In her bid to win an Olympic place, Tune changed her normal training regimen to meet the demands of the selectors at the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF). She said the training with the national program focused mainly on endurance and did not include other training aspects she is used to such as running in the forest, on the track, on grass, and on gravel roads.

She says the consequences were far reaching beyond Beijing. “I tried to change back to my own training style after Beijing,” she says. “But it was difficult. When I was prepared for the New York Marathon after Beijing, I suffered an injury because I was trying to change training in a short time. I tried to follow the leaders until 30km, but I started experiencing pain. I finished fifth in New York, but the damage was already done.”

It took Tune three months to resume her previous form. She returned to winning ways in February this year with victory in Ras Al Khamiah Half Marathon. Her 1:07:18 time smashed the two-year old Ethiopian half marathon record previously held by Bezunesh Bekele.

“I was looking for the world record there,” she says. “I am happy that I run an Ethiopian record but I would have loved to go under 1:07.10. It is good preparation for a full marathon.”

Boston is normally lower on the priority list of a runner like Tune who is eager to improve her personal best. So why is she returning to such a difficult course when she has ambitions of breaking into the Ethiopian team for the World Championships in Berlin? The selection process for Berlin is similar to the one used for Beijing.

“The organizers really wanted me to run there and my manager thinks it is also good for me,” she says. “I also think that I will go there happy because I won last year.”

Tune says she is confident of running faster than her winning time last year. “Something like 2:23,” she predicts.

Tune’s main aim is to erase nightmare performances in previous major championships for the Ethiopian team. In her last two world championships, she did not finish the race in Helsinki in 2005 and struggled to 37th in Osaka two years ago.

“Like every athlete, I want to compete at the world championships,” she says. “I know this will be difficult as there are runners who have done 2:21 this season. If it was up to me, I want to line up for my country in Berlin and revenge my Olympic failure. It will be difficult, but not impossible.”

If she does not make the Ethiopian team for the world championships, Tune’s focus will shift back to chasing fast times on the circuit. “Until now, I have been running difficult courses,” she says. “If I do not make the world championship team, I want to run the Berlin Marathon. I want to run under 2:20.”

(Elshadai Negash is a freelance athletics journalist based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.)

Exclusive photo of Ethiopian Princes Kemeria Abajobir

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Kemeria Abajobir Abajifar

(EthioPlanet) — Last week, EthioPlanet.com revealed the name of the mysterious woman who until then was only known as the “Ethiopian Woman” Count Alexandre de Lesseps had apparently fallen for.

There were some disputes in the blogosphere as to the veracity of what EthioPlanet revealed. To avoid unnecessary defamation, we’ve now released a picture to go along with the name.

The featured photograph was taken in a limousine during a recent trip to Addis Ababa (capital of the AU), Ethiopia.

A source, close to the couple, Count Alexandre de Lesseps and Princess Kemeria Abajobir Abajifar told EthioPlanet.com they were traveling in Ethiopia to promote micro-finance for Ethiopian women.

“They also have plans to open an orphanage in her hometown of Jimma, and to create in Addis Ababa, a museum of African history,” the source added.

Alexandre de Lesseps, 59, was raised in Khartoum, Sudan and in Tangiers, Morocco.

Microfinancing is, of course, nothing new to the Count. He is, among other things, an entrepreneur, investment banker, and has pioneered microfinancing in developing nations.

He is President of London based Coral Capital Ltd and Pandaw Investment Hldgs in Hong Kong. He is also co-founder and President of Blue Orchard Finance S.A., a leading micro finance management company based in Geneva.

More pictures will be released in the coming days featuring the couple together on their trip to Ethiopia.

Woyanne dismisses calls to investigate rights abuses

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

By James Butty | VOA

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission [that is set up by the {www:Woyanne} tribal junta to produce fake reports] says Meles Zenawi’s government has designed good governance programs aimed at respect and protection for human rights. Commissioner Kassa Gebrehiwot [a Woyanne cadre] reportedly said the commission has been striving to raise public awareness about human rights through the use of the mass media.

He spoke Monday in Addis Ababa during a seminar on the role of members of parliament in the respect and protection of human rights.

Meanwhile, Meles Zenawi’s government is denying allegations it committed human rights abuses against the Anuaks in the Gambella region of western Ethiopia and ethic Somalis in the Ogaden. In a letter, the organization “Genocide Watch” has asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to investigate the alleged crimes which it said fit the definition of genocide.

Woindimu Asamnew, spokesman for the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington told VOA his government considers the allegations as lies.

“We don’t take seriously their allegations and fabrications. They are totally unfounded, fabricated lies,” he said.

In his letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Genocide Watch President Gregory Stanton said Ethiopian Prime Minister dictator {www:Meles Zenawi} and others in his government were probably aware that they too could one day be brought before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Asamnew said the Ethiopian government does not take such comments seriously. He also said there was no need for an independent outside investigation as was being requested by Genocide Watch.

“We don’t take this kind of idea seriously. We have a parliament; they do take care of these kinds of issues. There is no any need of inviting international body for this purpose because of unfounded allegations. An outside investigation is unnecessary and unacceptable,” Asamnew said.

Genocide Watch said the atrocities allegedly committed in Gambella against the Anuaks in 2005 fit the definitions of genocide and crimes against humanity. But Asamnew said the allegations are false.

“We have investigated the matter and taken corrective measures, otherwise this kind of exaggerated and unfounded lies are not taken seriously by our government,” he said.

He also denied Genocide Watch’s claims of a “culture of impunity” within the Ethiopian government.

“What I’m saying is that any individual can say whatever he wants, but alleging something and the realities on the ground are totally different matter,” Asamnew said.

Atlanta: Ethiopian businessman's killer on trial

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

By ANDRIA SIMMONS | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

GWINNETT COUNTRY, GA — Tedla Lemma came to this country seeking a better life and political asylum from the former communist government in Ethiopia.

But for Lemma at least, America was not a land of safety or opportunity. It was a country where he would toil as a cashier for up to 17 hours a day. He saved nearly every penny, only to fall prey three times to violent robbers and die at their hands on March 25, 2008.

That was testimony given on Tuesday by Lemma’s brother, Sirak Lemma, in the Gwinnett County trial for one of the alleged killers, Quincy Marcel Jackson.

Jackson, 27, of Riverdale, and four other suspects are accused of committing three home invasion robberies between late 2007 and early 2008.

Lemma had been robbed and shot in the head during an unrelated robbery in 1993, while working as a convenience store cashier in downtown Atlanta. The injury left him paralyzed on the left side of his body and unable to work.

Two of the robberies Jackson and his cronies allegedly committed were at the house that Tedla Lemma shared with his brother’s family in Lilburn, a suburb of Atlanta. A third home invasion occurred in nearby Stone Mountain.

With each new robbery, the violence escalated from home invasion to kidnapping and finally to murder, according to Gwinnett prosecutor Christa Kirk. The intruders bound Lemma’s hands and gagged him so tightly that he suffocated.

Defense attorney Matt Crosby said police “rushed to judgement” when they arrested Jackson. There is no forensic evidence linking him to the robberies. Crosby said a codefendant, Lorna Araya, 25, actually orchestrated the crimes.

Woyanne regime in Ethiopia to boost weapons production

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AFP) — Ethiopia’s dictatorial regime will boost arms production to cut weapons imports and save its dwindling foreign exchange, the tribalist junta leader Meles Zenawi has said.

“Our main objective is to reduce our defence expenditure and its pressure on availability of foreign exchange,” Meles told reporters late Monday, without giving details.

“In order to do that, we have to reduce our imports and improve our exports. The objective is to take care of our defence requirements, primarily in terms of ammunition and partly in terms of armaments.”

Ethiopia currently produces assault rifles, rocket propelled grenades, small arms and hosts an assembly plant to manufacture tanks.

The country’s foreign reserves this month stood at 800 million dollars (598 million euros), down from two billion dollars last year.

The Horn of Africa country has one of the largest armies in Africa and last year increased its defence budget by 50 million dollars to 400 million for “stability reasons.”

Ethiopia’s army is estimated to comprise around 200,000 soldiers and imports arms mainly from China and eastern European countries.

Nkrumah At 100 – Lessons for African Leadership

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

By Yao Graham | The Ghanaian Journal

Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie and Ghana’s founder and first President Kwame Nkrumah during the formation of the Organization of African Unity in Addis Ababa. [Getty Images]

While many African leaders have aspired to inherit Nkrumah’s mantle as the visionary and driver of Pan-Africanism and continental unity, writes Yao Graham, a gaping political leadership vacuum remains at the heart of the continent’s collective expression. From an age when there were a number of outstanding African leaders, among whom Nkrumah was preeminent, Graham argues that the African Union’s election of Gaddafi as its leader is a statement of a collective failure of leadership and underlines the crisis in which the Pan-African project is currently mired at the inter-state level. Where, asks Graham, are the African leaders who see opportunities for change in the current crisis, and who are ‘ready to dare and look beyond guaranteeing the sanctity of aid flows?’

In February Ghana’s new President John Atta-Mills announced that Nkrumah’s birthday in September will be observed as Founder’s Day and a national holiday. The long and tortuous national rehabilitation of the man who led the country to independence and remains an inspiration to Africans all over the world had taken yet another important step in the centenary year of his birth.

In the years after Ghana gained independence, Nkrumah’s life and work was dominated by two primary concerns, one international, the other domestic. Internationally Pan-Africanism as a project of political and economic freedom, unity and structural transformation linked to the issue of Africa’s place and voice on the world stage was dominant. Inside Ghana the main issue was the structural transformation of the mono-crop dependent colonial economy bequeathed by the British into a balanced and internally linked one that offered improved and secure livelihoods to Ghanaians. The domestic and international concerns were of course closely linked in Nkrumah’s pronouncements and practice. He hoped that any achievements in Ghana would serve as a model as well as a unit in the economy of a united Africa. Nkrumah was ready to incur the wrath of the major imperialist powers of the day in pursuit of what he believed was in the interest of the African people.

David Rooney concluded his critical biography of Nkrumah with the acknowledgement that ‘His hopes were encapsulated in his ultimate goal of a United Africa in which its rich natural resources would be used for the benefit of all its people and would not be filched from them by foreign financiers and other exploiters. It may take centuries for Nkrumah’s goal to be achieved, but when it is, he will be revered as the leader with the dynamism and intelligent imagination to take the first brave steps’.

From an age when there were a number of outstanding African leaders, among whom Nkrumah was preeminent, the continent currently confronts the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and a host of other challenges such as the situation in and international political play around Darfur without a rallying figure.

Nkrumah’s leadership and rallying role in African affairs went well beyond his vision and theorising. Importantly it included support for national liberation movements. This support embodied a unity of his Pan-Africanism and commitment to anti-colonial independence as a necessary precondition for the continent’s unity and progress. The activities of the Bureau of African Affairs which oversaw support for national liberation movements and the training of their cadre in Ghana with support from the Soviet bloc and China led to Cold War accusation that Ghana was a base for communist subversion in Africa. Two events however stand out in Nkrumah’s readiness to support the national liberation struggle as well as defend its unity with the Pan-African cause, even when face to face with much more powerful countries. These are the financial aid Ghana gave to newly independent Guinea in 1958 and Ghana’s stance and action in support of Patrice Lumumba’s government during the Congo (DRC) crisis of the early sixties. Developments in the two countries soon after independence offer credence to Cabral’s argument that ’so long as imperialism is in existence an independent African state must be a liberation movement in power, or it will not be independent’.

As France stared defeat in the face in Algeria at the hands of the National Liberation Front (FLN) – a prospect made all the more difficult to countenance because of the humiliation inflicted by the Vietnamese in 1954 – it sought to re-package its colonial control by offering its African colonies membership of a French community. All French African colonies, except Guinea under Sekou Toure, agreed to the new colonial package. In an unforgettable act of vindictiveness, the departing French stripped Guinea of anything they could carry, leaving the country on the brink of collapse. Nkrumah stepped in with a £10m loan to help the newly independent country avoid collapse. This was a considerable sum in those days and big sacrifice by a small country like Ghana.

Nkrumah’s brave and sustained but ultimately doomed support for Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, the unity of Congo and his faith in the UN in the face Western plotting and intrigue marked a high point of his willingness to assume international leadership on African causes. The outcome was also a stark statement of what could not be achieved without a concerted African engagement in the face of powerful external forces. Nkrumah maintained a consistent line during the Congo crisis. He insisted that the country should solve its problems with the support of other African countries within the framework of the UN without the meddling of global powers, especially the NATO bloc. He assumed that the UN framework would give international legitimacy to the African led process. Nkrumah sent troops to support Lumumba using Soviet planes much to the anger of the USA. On 23 September 1960 Nkrumah used the platform of the UN General Assembly to make the case for Congo’s unity, Lumumba’s leadership and for an African solution under UN auspices to the crisis in the Congo. The appeal failed to gain traction, mainly because the UN auspices also provided perfect cover for the US and its NATO allies to carry out their plans in the Congo.

It is now a public fact that even before Congo’s independence on 1 July 1960, the American CIA was getting ready to put its puppets in power. President Dwight Eisenhower issued a national security order for the killing of Prime Minister Lumumba within six weeks of Congo becoming independent. Congo’s fate as a Western plaything in the Cold War was sealed and its long and tragic descent into what it has become today had begun. The gulf between Nkrumah’s intentions and his weakness in the situation was tragically highlighted by how Ghana’s contingent in the UN military force became detached from Nkrumah’s political objectives and acted as accessories to actions against Lumumba.

Nkrumah’s lonely and heroic but ultimately futile stance on the Congo crisis contrasts sharply with the flabby collective African approach on Somalia and Darfur. The former process has lurched from crisis to crisis with ever diminishing credibility and capacity of the transitional government. The situation was further compounded by the readiness of Ethiopia, the host country of the African Union, to act in concert with the Bush administration in pursuit of their particular national interests that converged in Somalia. Old Ethiopian imperial pretensions meshed with Bush’s war on terror. All these fuelled the discrediting, resistance to and delegitimation of the AU’s role in that country.

The Darfur crisis and its escalation around the indictment of Sudan’s President Bashir by the International Criminal Court has provided a grave test for Africa’s collective ability to deal with African issues which are heavily intermeshed with international dimensions and interests. The UN/AU hybrid peacekeeping operation in Darfur (UNAMID) continues to face various difficulties. Joint UN-AU as well as Arab League mediation and peace initiatives do not appear to be making much progress. The indictment of Bashir and the issuing of a warrant for his arrest has further complicated the situation. Having failed to exert a decisive influence on the course of events in Darfur, including on the behaviour of the Sudanese government and the evolution of the ICC’s pursuit of Bashir, the African Union has taken a critical stance towards the implementation of the arrest warrant. As the internationalisation of the Darfur conflict widens, the purchase of the African Union on how it is likely to be resolved shrinks.

In recent years Pan-African structures, institutions and processes have proliferated. The mechanisms of the AU have been undergoing refinement since it took over from the OAU as the premier continental institution. Alongside these phenomena, many African leaders have aspired to inherit Nkrumah’s mantle as the visionary and driver of Pan-Africanism and continental unity. A gaping political leadership vacuum however remains at the heart of the continent’s collective expression.

Earlier this year the AU elected Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi as chair of the Union. In recent years, he has emerged as the most forthright spokesman for the urgency of creating a United States of Africa. How best and how quickly to move forward to a union of African states was the main item on the agenda of the 2007 AU summit, fittingly held in Accra during Ghana’s 50th year of independence. The debate was inconclusive but the exercise underlined Gaddafi’s stature as a leader of the Unity Now! camp.

The African Union’s election of the unpredictable Gaddafi at this grave moment in history is more a negative than a positive. It is a statement of a collective failure of leadership and underlines the crisis in which the Pan-African project is mired at the inter-state level. His seemingly radical stance on African Unity notwithstanding, the sad truth is that Gaddafi is not the successor to Nkrumah that the continent currently and urgently needs. He does not offer a coherent vision or leadership practice of pan-Africanism in keeping with the needs of the age. These shortcomings are compounded by his unpredictability and histrionics. Some of his views and pronouncements show him up as a man deeply marked by his years as an authoritarian leader. Among his many bizarre acts is his current self-designation as king of Africa’s kings, a reactionary assertion out of tune with the democratic logic on the continent’s national liberation struggles.

The African people want democracy not monarchs. If there is one element of Africa’s post-colonial history that the masses want behind them it is the years of despotism. In Black Star, his deeply sympathetic study of Nkrumah’s life and times, Basil Davidson, who devoted his life to supporting Africa’s national liberation struggles, pointed to the decay of internal party democracy and the gradual ascent of authoritarian use of power in Nkrumah’s Ghana as a key contributor to the erosion of mass support for Nkrumah’s efforts to transform the economy for the benefit of ordinary people. ‘The view for tomorrow is that Nkrumah’s aims were the right ones and their realisation will become increasingly possible as conditions ripen and as other strategists take up further struggles for liberation. These strategists will succeed… in the measure that they undertake and carry through the work of building democratic organisations which become the vehicles of mass participation as well as mass support: movements in which the mass of ordinary people really make, enshrine and uphold the fundamental law of the land’.

The African delegation to the London G20 summit was led not by Gaddafi the chair of the AU but by Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi, who is chair of NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) and a good friend of the West. NEPAD is at best a substructure of the AU and Zenawi’s presence is illustrative of the ease with which many outside Africa are able to pick and choose how to deal with the continent. During the Beijing China Africa Forum the Chinese were able to deal with African countries as individuals while the AU was treated as observer.

Processes of restructuring of global leadership are underway in the international level responses to the unfolding economic crisis. One strand of these is the emergence of the G20 as a key site of global economic leadership, the effective downgrading of the G8. This process mirrors the way in which the old wholly Western quartet of leading powers in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has been replaced by a new quad of the US, EU, Brazil and India. The seating around the G20 table reflects the power of individual Asian and Latin American economies with South Africa the only African country there as an individual member country. Realistically the most effective way African countries could have optimised their voice would have been through effective prior preparation and definition of positions and South-South diplomacy ahead of the meeting, as well as having a collective representative of their own choosing.

The continent’s response to the global crisis has so far lacked urgency and the sense that this is an opportunity to make a break with some of the discredited policies which have failed to deliver transformative growth over the past couple of decades. The main line in the global fora has been to plead for Africa to be remembered and for the security of aid budgets. As African leaders traipse around international fora, the glaring absence of leaders who see opportunities for change in the current crisis stands in sharp relief.

The current global crisis has validated what critics of neoliberalism have been saying for years. In the last few years the annual Economic Report on Africa (ERA) published by the UN Economic Commission for Africa has been gently putting out its critique of the experience of the neoliberal agenda in Africa. Years of growth had failed to effect either transformation or the much touted poverty reduction. The current crisis had again brought to the fore the fundamental structural problems of Africa’s economies which the recent years of growth had masked, especially in countries exporting oil or benefiting from the commodities boom.

Nkrumah reportedly broke down in tears when confronted with the news that the collapse of cocoa prices had cut the ground from under his plans for the economic transformation of Ghana. In the years since Nkrumah’s overthrow, the cyclical movement of cocoa and gold prices have been the determinant factors in the health of the Ghanaian economy, tempered in recent years by the substantial aid that the country receives. For some years now Ghana has been a model of the type of economy and economic policy that has been proclaimed as the way forward for Africa but which has failed to deliver over a generation and has been exposed as bankrupt by the global crisis.

During the last six or so years of his rule Nkrumah attempted to transform the colonial economy he inherited. Many leaders of his generation – Nyerere in Tanzania, Kaunda in Zambia, and many others – recognised this to be a primary task of post-colonial economic policy. Despite the claims that Nkrumah’s difficulties were because of his socialist policies, the truth is that for a long time he was a good pupil of the dominant economic theories and ideas of his day as purveyed by leading thinkers in the West. His later attempt to learn from the development strategies of the Soviet Union as well as China and Yugoslavia showed a readiness to take risks and try uncharted paths. In retrospect it clear that many mistakes were made and offer rich lessons for today, but he dared.

In the 15 years Nkrumah was in power a leading role for the state in the economy was the norm in both communist countries and the West where Keynesian economics prevailed. The experience of the Soviet Union offered lessons in rapid industrialisation, which India had started learning before Ghana came along. The relative success of import substituting industrialisation in Latin America had made that strategy a respectable one by the time of Ghana’s independence. The Labour party was undertaking extensive nationalisations in Britain when Nkrumah first came to power. Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanism was powered by a grander vision and ambition than the modest European Coal and Steel community, which has flowered into the European Union, but they were united by a recognition of the benefits of regional integration.

Using existing resources, Nkrumah rapidly expanded education, health and infrastructure and aided other newly independent countries such as Guinea. With additional borrowing, industrial and agricultural investments were made. Many of the agro-industrial projects, not all well conceived, were in their infancy when he was overthrown. He inaugurated the Akosombo hydroelectricity dam, the centre piece of the Volta River project, which he saw as powering Ghana’s industrialisation a month before his overthrow. The creation of a local raw material base was not properly scheduled with the new factories that were built in the period before the 1966 coup. By that time the crisis in the international price of cocoa had wrought considerable damage to revenue and growth projections, putting pressure on imports and consumption.

The turn towards the Soviet Union and China was an economic as well as political act. Nkrumah’s anti-imperialism meant that he did not believe he could rely on the West for full support for his transformational project especially given the centrality of African unity with its implication for existing colonial spheres of influence as well as US intrusions into the continent.

One of the key lessons from Ghana’s development experience under Nkrumah is linked directly to his commitment to a pan-African solution to the challenges of under development. Nkrumah’s works are replete with warnings about the limits of what small ‘balkanised’ African countries can do on their own. Faced with the absence of a larger political economic unit he sought to transform the small economy and market of Ghana into an industrialised economy at a fast pace. The post-Cold War global economic framework has made the regional and continental even more key in any serious African project of economic transformation.

Sadly even in the face of the global crisis many African governments are looking only outwards towards their ‘development partners’ rather than exploring the opportunities for deepening regional and continental cooperation and integration. The IMF is offering its pernicious advice that not much needs to change and there seem to be many in African leadership ready to listen. Meantime in the global North, pages are being torn from the rulebooks by which African economies have been run from Washington. The norms which have driven the negotiating positions of the West in fora such as the WTO have been called into question by domestic policies in those countries.

All these offer important opportunities for a new agenda for economic transformation in Africa. Where are the African leaders ready to dare and look beyond guaranteeing the sanctity of aid flows? Wanted: an African ‘leader with the dynamism and intelligent imagination to take the first brave steps’.

(Yao Graham, an activist and writer, is the head of Third World Network Africa, a pan-African research and advocacy organization based in Accra, Ghana.)

U.S. plans to reinstate program that reunites refugee families

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Befakadu Moreda, a 45-year-old Ethiopian refugee settled in Houston, applied last month to bring an adopted son to the U.S., though not through the P-3 program. Moreda has no documentation to prove 19-year-old Ashenafi Endale was abandoned as a baby. Still, he said, he believes U.S. immigration officials will reunite him with Endale, a math whiz with an affinity for poetry. Moreda said he understands some people have abused U.S. immigration programs, but he said he has faith that U.S. immigration officials will sort out fraud from cases like his. Even without a blood relation, “He is my son,” Moreda said. “There is no doubt. No doubt.” [...Houston Chronicle">read more]

Ethiopia's dictator may prosecute coffee exporters

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

By Jason McLure | Bloomberg

Ethiopia’s dictatorial regime may prosecute six of the country’s largest coffee exporters after the government said they have been hoarding beans bound for export, Prime Minister dictator Meles Zenawi said.

The government shut the exporters’ warehouses last month and suspended their licenses after accusing them of illegally stockpiling coffee and selling export-grade coffee on domestic markets. Some exporters were holding beans in anticipation of a currency devaluation, Eleni Gabre-Madhin, chief executive officer of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange, said last month.

“I would not be surprised if some of them were to be taken to court,” Meles said in a press conference yesterday in Addis Ababa.

Coffee is Ethiopia’s largest export, accounting for 35 percent of the country’s export earnings last year. Stockpiling by exporters has “put pressure on the country’s foreign currency reserves,” the agriculture ministry said in a statement March 30.

Ethiopia’s agriculture ministry warned on March 30 that it had also taken unspecified “similar measures” against 88 other coffee exporters, of about 120 in the country involved in the business.

The prime minister said the 88 exporters wouldn’t face prosecution “whatever shortcomings they have had” in the past and that he expected they would learn from the crackdown on the other six exporters.

State-Owned Enterprise

Following the seizures, state-owned Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise said earlier this month it would begin exporting coffee from the country, Africa’s largest producer of the beans.

Meles said yesterday that the state-run grain importer had entered the market because the remaining private coffee exporters might not have the capacity to export Ethiopia’s coffee crop.

“The preference will be to the private sector actors,” he said. “There is no intention to establish a public monopoly in any of the agricultural markets.”

Ethiopia’s coffee exports have declined more than 10 percent to 76,674 metric tons in the first eight months of the fiscal year that began in July, compared with the same period a year earlier, according to trade ministry statistics.

The nation’s coffee export income has fallen to half the government’s target amid a decline in world prices and a ban on Ethiopian beans in Japan. Japan, which purchased about 20 percent of Ethiopia’s coffee shipments in 2007, banned imports last year after finding elevated residues of pesticide in a shipment of the beans.

Auction System

Ethiopia’s trade minister said the residues probably came from bagging coffee in sacks that had previously held chemicals and that the government has corrected the problem. Gabre-Madhin also said a change this year from a state-run auction system to an open-pit commodity exchange for trading beans temporarily interrupted supplies.

The government devalued the birr against the dollar in January in an attempt to build foreign currency reserves. One dollar buys 11.18 birr, compared with about 9.5 a year ago.

40 shops shut down for tax violations in Addis Ababa

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

By Hilina Alemu And Addisu Deresse | Addis Fortune

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — More than 40 businesses, mainly in Merkato and Piazza areas, have been shut down over the last nine days after intelligence officers of the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (RCuA) allegedly caught them red-handed violating the Value Added Tax (VAT) Law, officials of the authority disclosed.

Over 100 individuals operating in these businesses (shops) were arrested under the surprise secret operation the authority started on April 4, 2009; close to 21 of them appeared before the Real Time Dispatch – the Authority’s own judiciary system for those caught red-handed – within 48 hours and the cases have been adjourned for this week (within 10 days of their arrest).

By the time Fortune went to press late last Friday afternoon, big names in the jewellery business around Piazza, near Cinema Empire area of the Arada District, along Hailesellassie Street, such as Africa, Lion, Tana, Eyerusalem and Gebremariam were some of those shops still closed as a result of the shut downs that began on April 4, 2009.

For instance, in Merkato, the largest open-air market in Africa, shops remained closed by press time after the secret investigators had paid them a visit.

“First, four people [intelligence officers] got into the shop,” an eyewitness said describing what happened in one of the shops that was closed and the people who run it arrested. “Then, one [of the officers] asked for jewellery, while the others looked around. The deal on the price went good till the [disguised] buyer asked for a receipt.”

To the surprise of the intelligence officers, the shopkeeper refused to give the undercover buyer a receipt because the price would include VAT; the “buyer” then went out, called the police and pressed charges against the shop, according to the eyewitness who insisted on remaining anonymous.

That was the climax of situation in the shops visited by the investigators that were in breach of the VAT Law; those that allegedly violated the VAT Law by not issuing VAT invoices landed in the authorities detention centre in Lagar customs facility.

“Three individuals who went into the shop together with the buyer served as witnesses,” the person who had observed the situation told Fortune.

Prior to this operation, the RCuA had initiated another tax move which the tax authorities tagged “desk audits.” For the past few weeks, these are some of the major tasks that kept RCuA’s Law Enforcement Department busy.

The desk audit is a form of review and appraisal of accounting books of private and share companies under the federal/large taxpayers category. It has targeted more than 1,000 companies for three years revision and appraisal of their accounting books on transactions from 2006 to 2008, and crosschecking these with the authority’s books, especially documents at its customs branch. There are six audit teams the RCuA has formed to conduct the desk audits.

The audits they conduct are to reconcile documents companies have self-declared during the three years (2006, 2007, and 2008), reports they have obtained from fiscal printers, and data collected from customs.

In yet another move, the authority is dealing with those it alleges are VAT registered entities but do not duly collect the tax as they sell goods without issuing a receipt, thereby prejudicing the government of the due to it.

This VAT proclamation breach issue has been something the authority planned to have dealt with long ago; now it is started and will continue with the operation, a source in the Law Enforcement Department of the Authority told Fortune.

“This is a daily routine task,” the source said. “The authority has been vested with the power and responsibility to collect tax and it has to do so, whatever it takes.”

The law enforcement intelligence team is under the supervision of Gebrewahed Weldegiorgis, former deputy head of Customs Authority, who has now become one of the four deputy directors of the RCuA.

The department has more than 100 intelligence officers. Verifying the expenditure and revenue of the targeted tax payers is part of the main duties of the intelligence team. They are responsible for following up targeted taxpayers suspected of declaring income much less than what their businesses are actually worth, or not registering at all, denying the government the taxes due to it.

There are two aspects of VAT included in Proclamation 609/2008, a law that amended the proclamation for VAT. One deals with the failure to register for VAT, while the other focuses on the failure to use VAT invoices, although registered.

“Any taxpayer who is required to register for VAT commits an offence if found not complying with such obligation and shall, upon conviction, be punished with a fine of not less than 10,000 Br and not more than 50,000 Br and imprisonment for a term of not less than one year and not more than two years,” states Article 50 (a) of the law.

Sub-Article (b) of the article reads, “Any person who is registered for VAT commits an offence if carries out transactions without VAT invoice and shall, upon conviction, be punished with a fine of not less than 10,000 Br and not more than 100,000 Br and imprisonment for a term of not less than two years and not more than five years.”

Nevertheless, if the tax due to the government computed based on the amount shown on the illegal invoice is in excess of 100,000 Br, then the fine shall be equal to the tax amount.

Contrary to these articles, which also state the penalties for breaching them, Tigist Abebe (not real name) a jewellery shopkeeper around Merkato, Werk Tera (a market place for gold jewellery), strongly believes that the sales volume on gold (jewellery) is diminishing as life gets costly. She believes that inclusion of VAT in the price would mean pushing the buyers away from the shop.

“If, for instance, we sell a 21 karat golden ring that weighs 1.15g for 225 Br without VAT and 258.75 Br with VAT, for such a society where paying tax is not much understood, the additional 33.75 Br is a waste,” Tigist told Fortune.

Most people do not buy jewellery for luxury these days. Rather, they consider it a way of saving money; therefore, the buyers think that paying additional money (VAT in this case) is like throwing the money away, she said.

“They can save the money in cash without incurring the cost equivalent to the VAT amount,” the shopkeeper said.

But that is not something tax authorities consider.

“We have no intention of making people lose their businesses and money,” Gebrewahed, the intelligence team leader told Fortune. “We only want to give lessons on the need to pay VAT.”

Saudi suspends Ethiopian livestock and meat imports

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

By Abiy Wendifraw | Addis Fortune

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has suspended imports of Ethiopian livestock and meat products from entering its market, sources disclosed.

Though the Embassy of the Kingdom in Addis Ababa said that the action by pertinent organs of the oil-rich gulf state cannot be considered a ban, it nonetheless confirmed, in a written reply to Fortune’s queries, that meat imports from Ethiopia have been stopped and will only resume after making sure that certain requirements are met by Ethiopia.

The issue came to light after the area manager of Ethiopian Air Lines (Ethiopian) in Jeddah received the decision on the suspension by the Ministry of Commerce of Saudi Arabia through Saudi Cargo Import Section, according to sources at Ethiopian.

The written communication Ethiopian’s Area Manager in Jeddah sent to his bosses in Addis Abeba on March 4, 2009, states that the Airlines’ cargo fleet had been allowed to transport a last consignment of meat exports from Ethiopia to Saudi on flight number ET412 of March 6, 2009. That marked the start of the suspension of Ethiopia’s meat export to Saudi, until further notice, and subsequently led to a supply surplus at home.

The next day (March 5, 2009), the responsible department at Ethiopian, in turn, sent a message to Ethiopian Meat Producers, Exporters Association (EMPEA) stating that meat exports to Saudi had been suspended, and they could only export their products on the following day, according to Tamrat Ejigu, secretary general of EMPEA.

“Due to their [the Saudis] decision without warning us earlier, we were forced to sell our products at cheaper prices because we already had prepared large consignments to send to the Kingdom,” Tamrat told Fortune

Though the Kingdom’s reason for suspending Ethiopian meat imports were not clearly stated, the paper from the Embassy says that it is because of some conditions which were contrary to the regulations as regards the sanitation of the slaughtered meat.

However, insect control, refrigerator temperature levels and the quality of roads to slaughterhouses are also factors people involved cite as additional reasons, although the main reason seems beyond these factors, sources told Fortune.

A committee from the pertinent organs in the Kingdom had found some problems while visiting the abattoirs of those that export meat to the Kingdom, and have informed these abattoirs to address these problems.

“Failing to export to our biggest meat importer, Saudi Arabia, for almost the last three weeks means a big loss for us,” an official of the meat exporting enterprise said.

All exporters have been trying to do what is expected from them since the suspension began.

“We are told that the case is being handled by both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD), and we are now waiting for any development on it,” the official told Fortune.

Beyond affecting the earnings of exporters, the workforce in the sector and even the Ethiopian, the suspension of meat exports to Saudi is likely to be among the factors that could worsen the current foreign exchange crunch in the country, the manager added.

After Saudi’s decision to suspend the imports, Ethiopian government officials have been negotiating with those of the Kingdom on possible solutions, according to knowledgeable sources.

For instance, MoFA has sent a report on the matter to the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Addis, following which diplomats at the embassy notified the officials in their homeland about the report, according to the written response sent to Fortune. The report states that the abattoirs identified have since addressed the problems which Saudi officials said were contrary to the regulations.

As the embassy confirmed, the Saudi committee is expected to visit Ethiopia to re-inspect these abattoirs.

“If the committee assures that all the shortcomings have been fixed, then meat imports will be permitted again,” the letter sent to Fortune reads.

These are actions necessary to make sure of the sanitation and safety of the food items that reach the Saudi market.

From the meat and meat products Ethiopia has exported to the world market in the first half the current Ethiopian fiscal year, exports to the Kingdom’s accounted for about 1.6 million kilograms or around 39pc of the total figure.

Ethiopian Meat and Dairy Institute (EMDI) disclosed last week that the country plans to increase the supply of meat and meat products from the current 6,000tn annually to 30,000tn.

Last year, Ethiopia earned over 56 million dollars from the export of more than 295,000 livestock and 6,000tn of meat products. In addition, from livestock and meat exports, the country earned 48.2 million dollars in the first half of the current Ethiopian financial year, according to Amaha Sebsibe (PhD), director general of EMDI.

Currently, Ethiopia has 44 million cattle, 46 million sheep and goats and three million camels.

The bulk of the total meat Ethiopia exported in 2006/07 went to Saudi Arabia and UAE. The two Gulf states accounted for slightly over 2.8 million kilograms (48.11pc) and 2.6 million kilograms (45.5pc), respectively, of the total over 5.8 million kilograms of meat exported, according to data from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Years back, Ethiopia’s livestock and meat exports to Saudi had been banned because of the spread of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) in the supplier’s land; the ban was lifted on August 23, 2003.

Largest gathering of coffee professionals in the world

Monday, April 13th, 2009

ATLANTA, GA — April 16th-19th, Ethiopia will welcome the world of coffee to Atlanta, Georgia, as a Platinum sponsor of Specialty Coffee Association of America’s 21st Annual Exposition.

The Place Where It All Began

Representatives from the Ethiopia coffee industry say that due to their success as the first African Portrait Country at the SCAA Exposition in Minneapolis in 2008, and a widely recognized trademarking and licensing initiative, Ethiopia’s annual coffee export earnings increased by more than 100 million US dollars in 2008. Inspired by this accomplishment, the Ethiopian coffee industry is coming to Atlanta to share their fine coffee story—a story that for centuries has been so intertwined with Ethiopia’s unique culture and society.

Ethiopia, the birthplace of the cherished bean, boasts a genetic pool of more than 6,000 varieties, including its natural decaffeinated coffee, and still keeps secrets in its rainforests for future generations. After sitting on the sidelines of the global economy for decades, Ethiopia’s coffee industry is emerging as a force to be reckoned with. And the rewards are starting to trickle down to the people who deserve them the most, the farmers who toil from dawn to dusk growing the beans that make their country proud. With this objective in mind, the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange was established in March 2008 to modernize the trading system. The ECX, based on standard coffee contracts, establishes standard parameters for coffee grades, transaction size, payment and delivery, and trading order matching while, at the same time, preserving the distinctiveness of the different coffees.
The new Ethiopian Fine Coffee umbrella logo, a glowing sun with rays of light emanating from an Ethiopian coffee bean, heralds the renaissance of the Ethiopian coffee industry and the bright future ahead. Ethiopia invites attendees and press to visit booth and enjoy a traditional coffee ceremony where you will experience the heavenly aromatic scents and distinct flavors of fine Ethiopian coffees.

For information about the SCAA Exposition click here:

About the SCAA

The SCAA is the world’s largest coffee trade association dedicated to creating a vibrant specialty coffee community. Celebrating 26 years of success, our members represent more than forty countries and every segment of the Specialty Coffee industry.

Contacts:
on behalf of SCAAMike Ferguson, 562-624-4192press@scaa.org

U.S. court allows apartheid claims

Monday, April 13th, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a warning to those who do business with Ethiopia’s tribalist dictatorship that is terrorizing the people of Ethiopia.

(BBC) — A United States judge has ruled that lawsuits can go ahead against several companies accused of helping South Africa’s apartheid-era government.

IBM, Ford and General Motors are among those corporations now expected to face demands for damages from thousands of apartheid’s victims.

They argue that the firms supplied equipment used by the South African security forces to suppress dissent.

The companies affected have not yet responded to the judge’s ruling.

‘Wilful blindness’

US District Judge Shira Scheindlin in New York dismissed complaints against several companies but said plaintiffs could proceed with lawsuits against IBM, Daimler, Ford, General Motors and Rheinmetall Group, the German parent of an armaments maker.

“Corporate defendants accused of merely doing business with the apartheid government of South Africa have been dismissed,” she said.

The plaintiffs argue that the car manufacturers knew their vehicles would be used by South African forces to suppress dissent. They also say that computer companies knew their products were being used to help strip black South Africans of their rights.

The judge disagreed with IBM’s argument that it was not the company’s place to tell clients how to use its products.

“That level of wilful blindness in the face of crimes in violation of the law of nations cannot defeat an otherwise clear showing of knowledge that the assistance IBM provided would directly and substantially support apartheid,” she said.

More than 50 companies were initially sued, but after a court demanded more specific details, the plaintiffs decided to target fewer companies.

The US and South African governments supported the companies’ efforts to get the complaints dismissed.

They argue that the legal action is damaging to international relations and may threaten South Africa’s economic development.

6 secrets of self-made millionaires

Monday, April 13th, 2009

By Kristyn Kusek Lewis | Reader’s Digest

When you think “millionaire,” what image comes to mind? For many of us, it’s a flashy Wall Street banker type who flies a private jet, collects cars and lives the kind of decadent lifestyle that would make Donald Trump proud.

But many modern millionaires live in middle-class neighborhoods, work full-time and shop in discount stores like the rest of us. What motivates them isn’t material possessions but the choices that money can bring: “For the rich, it’s not about getting more stuff. It’s about having the freedom to make almost any decision you want,” says T. Harv Eker, author of Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. Wealth means you can send your child to any school or quit a job you don’t like.

According to the Spectrem Wealth Study, an annual survey of America’s wealthy, there are more people living the good life than ever before—the number of millionaires nearly doubled in the last decade. And the rich are getting richer. To make it onto the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, a mere billionaire no longer makes the cut. This year you needed a net worth of at least $1.3 billion.

If more people are getting richer than ever, why shouldn’t you be one of them? Here, five people who have at least a million dollars in liquid assets share the secrets that helped them get there.

1. Set your sights on where you’re going

Twenty years ago, Jeff Harris hardly seemed on the road to wealth. He was a college dropout who struggled to support his wife, DeAnn, and three kids, working as a grocery store clerk and at a junkyard where he melted scrap metal alongside convicts. “At times we were so broke that we washed our clothes in the bathtub because we couldn’t afford the Laundromat.” Now he’s a 49-year-old investment advisor and multimillionaire in York, South Carolina.

There was one big reason Jeff pulled ahead of the pack: He always knew he’d be rich. The reality is that 80 percent of Americans worth at least $5 million grew up in middle-class or lesser households, just like Jeff.

Wanting to be wealthy is a crucial first step. Says Eker, “The biggest obstacle to wealth is fear. People are afraid to think big, but if you think small, you’ll only achieve small things.”

It all started for Jeff when he met a stockbroker at a Christmas party. “Talking to him, it felt like discovering fire,” he says. “I started reading books about investing during my breaks at the grocery store, and I began putting $25 a month in a mutual fund.” Next he taught a class at a local community college on investing. His students became his first clients, which led to his investment practice. “There were lots of struggles,” says Jeff, “but what got me through it was believing with all my heart that I would succeed.”

2. Educate yourself

When Steve Maxwell graduated from college, he had an engineering degree and a high-tech job—but he couldn’t balance his checkbook. “I took one finance class in college but dropped it to go on a ski trip,” says the 45-year-old father of three, who lives in Windsor, Colorado. “I actually had to go to my bank and ask them to teach me how to read my statement.”

One of the biggest obstacles to making money is not understanding it: Thousands of us avoid investing because we just don’t get it. But to make money, you must be financially literate. “It bothered me that I didn’t understand this stuff,” says Steve, “so I read books and magazines about money management and investing, and I asked every financial whiz I knew to explain things to me.”

He and his wife started applying the lessons: They made a point to live below their means. They never bought on impulse, always negotiated better deals (on their cars, cable bills, furniture) and stayed in their home long after they could afford a more expensive one. They also put 20 percent of their annual salary into investments.

Within ten years, they were millionaires, and people were coming to Steve for advice. “Someone would say, ‘I need to refinance my house—what should I do?’ A lot of times, I wouldn’t know the answer, but I’d go find it and learn something in the process,” he says.

In 2003, Steve quit his job to become part owner of a company that holds personal finance seminars for employees of corporations like Wal-Mart. He also started going to real estate investment seminars, and it’s paid off: He now owns $30 million worth of investment properties, including apartment complexes, a shopping mall and a quarry.

“I was an engineer who never thought this life was possible, but all it truly takes is a little self-education,” says Steve. “You can do anything once you understand the basics.”

3. Passion pays off

In 1995, Jill Blashack Strahan and her husband were barely making ends meet. Like so many of us, Jill was eager to discover her purpose, so she splurged on a session with a life coach. “When I told her my goal was to make $30,000 a year, she said I was setting the bar too low. I needed to focus on my passion, not on the paycheck.”

Jill, who lives with her son in Alexandria, Minnesota, owned a gift basket company and earned just $15,000 a year. She noticed when she let potential buyers taste the food items, the baskets sold like crazy. Jill thought, Why not sell the food directly to customers in a fun setting?
With $6,000 in savings, a bank loan and a friend’s investment, Jill started packaging gourmet foods in a backyard shed and selling them at taste-testing parties. It wasn’t easy. “I remember sitting outside one day, thinking we were three months behind on our house payment, I had two employees I couldn’t pay, and I ought to get a real job. But then I thought, No, this is your dream. Recommit and get to work.”

She stuck with it, even after her husband died three years later. “I live by the law of abundance, meaning that even when there are challenges in life, I look for the win-win,” she says.

The positive attitude worked: Jill’s backyard company, Tastefully Simple, is now a direct-sales business, with $120 million in sales last year. And Jill was named one of the top 25 female business owners in North America by Fast Company magazine.

According to research by Thomas J. Stanley, author of The Millionaire Mind, over 80 percent of millionaires say they never would have been successful if their vocation wasn’t something they cared about.

4. Grow your money

Most of us know the never-ending cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. “The fastest way to get out of that pattern is to make extra money for the specific purpose of reinvesting in yourself,” says Loral Langemeier, author of The Millionaire Maker. In other words, earmark some money for the sole purpose of investing it in a place where it will grow dramatically—like a business or real estate.

There are endless ways to make extra money for investing—you just have to be willing to do the work. “Everyone has a marketable skill,” says Langemeier. “When I started out, I had a tutoring business, seeing clients in the morning before work and on my lunch break.”

A little moonlighting cash really can grow into a million. Twenty-five years ago, Rick Sikorski dreamed of owning a personal training business. “I rented a tiny studio where I charged $15 an hour,” he says. When money started trickling in, he squirreled it away instead of spending it, putting it all back into the business. Rick’s 400-square-foot studio is now Fitness Together, a franchise based in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, with more than 360 locations worldwide. And he’s worth over $40 million.

When extra money rolls in, it’s easy to think, Now I can buy that new TV. But if you want to get rich, you need to pay yourself first, by putting money where it will work hard for you—whether that’s in your retirement fund, a side business or investments like real estate.

5. No guts, no glory

Last summer, Dave Lindahl footed the bill for 18 relatives at a fancy mansion in the Adirondacks. One night, his dad looked out at the scenery and joked, “I can’t believe we used to call you the black sheep!”

At 29, Dave was broke, living in a small apartment near Boston and wondering what to do after ten years in a local rock band. “I looked around and thought, If I don’t do something, I’ll be stuck here forever.”

He started a landscape company, buying his equipment on credit. When business literally froze over that winter, a banker friend asked if he’d like to renovate a foreclosed home. “I’m a terrible carpenter, but I needed the money, so I went to some free seminars at Home Depot and figured it out as I went,” he says.

After a few more renovations, it occurred to him: Why not buy the homes and sell them for profit? He took a risk and bought his first property. Using the proceeds, he bought another, and another. Twelve years later, he owns apartment buildings, worth $143 million, in eight states.

6. The Biggest Secret? Stop spending.

Every millionaire we spoke to has one thing in common: Not a single one spends needlessly. Real estate investor Dave Lindahl drives a Ford Explorer and says his middle-class neighbors would be shocked to learn how much he’s worth. Fitness mogul Rick Sikorski can’t fathom why anyone would buy bottled water. Steve Maxwell, the finance teacher, looked at a $1.5 million home but decided to buy one for half the price because “a house with double the cost wouldn’t give me double the enjoyment.”

It’s not a fluke: According to the 2007 Annual Survey of Affluence & Wealth in America, some of the richest people “spend their money with a middle-class mind-set.” They clip coupons, wait for sales and buy luxury items at a discount.

No kidding! Talk show host Tyra Banks calls herself the Queen of Cheap and keeps perfume samples from magazine ads in her purse for quick touch-ups.

Sara Blakely, founder of the $100 million shapewear company Spanx, gets her hair trimmed at Supercuts.

And Warren Buffett, the third richest person in the world, according to Forbes, lives in the same Omaha, Nebraska, home he bought four decades ago for $31,500.

A consortium of Saudi businesses invest $629 mln in Ethiopia

Monday, April 13th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – A consortium of Saudi businesses have invested $629 million in 85 different projects from agriculture to mining in Ethiopia, the investment authority said on Monday.

The Horn of Africa nation attracted $10 billion in local and foreign investment in 2007/08 in agriculture, flowers, textiles and tourism, according to the government.

“Of the total 85 projects, 65 have started production while the remaining 20 are in the implementation phase,” said Aklilu Woldemariam, spokesman for the Ethiopian Investment Authority.

Aklilu told Reuters that projects that have already begun in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, real estate, hotels, mining, health and education.

The projects are expected to employ 17,000 people, he said.

Government officials say Saudi Arabia buys Ethiopian agricultural commodities worth about $1 billion annually. Addis Ababa imports oil and other petroleum products from the Gulf state worth some $1.5 billion a year.

Reading the Tea Leaves

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Pax Obama

President Obama made a historic speech to Turkish lawmakers last week, but his message was global in scope and contained nuggets of his foreign policy yet to unfold. The first chords of Pax Obama (Obama’s offer of peace to the world) restore not only much needed sanity to U.S. foreign policy, but also erect new pillars that will support America’s future engagement with the rest of the world: Respect for American democratic values, respect for Muslims and the Islamic faith, respect for human rights and the rule of law, mutually shared respect among friends, and even respectful agreement to disagree with foes.

The speech was vintage Obama– sincere, uplifting, full of symbolism, hope and promise. It was particularly inspiring to defenders of freedom, democracy and human rights. The President charted the general course of U.S. foreign policy and framed the contemporary global challenges and humankind’s options in stark terms: “The choices that we make in the coming years will determine whether the future will be shaped by fear or by freedom; by poverty or by prosperity; by strife or by a just, secure and lasting peace.” The Turks, he said, have made the right choices because they have “pursued difficult political reforms” which have resulted in the “abolition of state-security courts and expanded the right to counsel, reformed the penal code, and strengthened laws that govern the freedom of the press and assembly.” He urged them to maintain their momentum: “For democracies cannot be static – they must move forward. Freedom of religion and expression lead to a strong and vibrant civil society…. An enduring commitment to the rule of law is the only way to achieve the security that comes from justice for all people.”

The President Against “All Genocides” and For Human Rights

Obama could not have made his stand on human rights more clear. He said there is no justification for human rights violations. He declared it is un-American to engage in torture, denial of fundamental due process to those accused of crimes, or to engage in arbitrary actions that defy international law and human rights conventions. “Every challenge that we face is more easily met if we tend to our own democratic foundation. This work is never over. That is why, in the United States, we recently ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed, and prohibited – without exception or equivocation – any use of torture.” He openly acknowledged America’s own burdensome legacy of slavery and injustice: “The United States is still working through some of our own darker periods… And our country still struggles with the legacy of our past treatment of Native Americans [and slavery]”. Earlier in his campaign, he had promised to be a steadfast voice against genocide: “The Armenian genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that president.”

Obama’s vision — his dream — of the future is based on giving a higher priority to human need than slavishly promoting corporate greed: “We want to help more children get the education that they need to succeed. We want to promote health care in places where people are vulnerable. We want to expand the trade and investment that can bring prosperity for all people.” He said, “In the months ahead, I will present specific programs to advance these goals. Our focus will be on what we can do, in partnership with people across the Muslim world, to advance our common hopes, and our common dreams. And when people look back on this time, let it be said of America that we extended the hand of friendship.”

Clenched Fist of Dictatorship and the Open Hand of Friendship

Last Summer, we announced the imminent arrival of a new “sheriff” in town[1]. We offered the following admonition:

Petty Dictators: America Stands for the Ideals of Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights! When Barack talks about ‘where and what America stands for’, he is talking about the American ideals of democracy, freedom and human rights guiding American foreign policy in a world menaced by a motley crew of nasty tin-pot dictators, petty tyrants and bloodthirsty thugs.
It seems we read the tea leaves just right.

The days of “If you’re not with us, you’re our enemy; if you’re with us, even if you have blood on your hands, you’re our friend” are gone. Obama’s message is: “We will offer you a hand of friendship; but if you clench your fist to hide the blood that soaks your hands, you are not America’s friend.” Obama aims to put America front and center in leading a global human rights revolution. It promises to be a new day — a new era– for freedom, democracy and human rights throughout the world.
What is Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander!

Will a president who emphatically opposes torture, arbitrary denial of due process and reaches back in history to criticize the injustices inflicted on the slaves and Native Americans lend a hand of friendship to support torture, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Ethiopia?

Will a president who zealously condemned genocide committed nearly a century ago in Armenia condone the genocide committed in Gambella, the Ogaden and Amhara regions in Ethiopia just a few years ago?

Will a president who shutdown Guantanamo and a network of CIA “security” prisons supply hard-earned American tax dollars to keep open the stinking dungeons (which the U.S. State Department in 2008 described as “harsh, life-threatening and overcrowded”) that warehouse hundreds of thousands of political prisoners in Ethiopia?

Will a president who benchmarks democratic progress in terms of the “abolition of state-security courts and expanded the right to counsel, reformation of the penal code, and strengthening laws that govern the freedom of the press and assembly” coddle outlaws who have managed to criminalize civic society institutions and NGO’s, and jail, persecute and exile journalists?

Will a president – a former civil rights lawyer and constitutional scholar – who declares his “enduring commitment to the rule of law” embrace a malignant dictatorship that uses “courts” and the “law” as weapons of persecution and oppression? We say, “HELL, NO!”

It all boils down to a simple proposition: What is good for the goose is good for the gander. If the rule of law and protection of human rights are good for America, Turkey and the rest of the world, we say they are good for Ethiopia too. If genocide, torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions, secret security courts and prisons are bad for America, Turkey and the rest of the world, we say they are bad for Ethiopia too. We ask for nothing more or less than what all civilized societies are entitled to have: A government that is freely elected by the people (and elections are not stolen) and governs by respecting the human rights and liberties of its citizens; a government that is accountable to the people for all of its official actions and omissions; a government free of corruption and jealously guards the public treasury from fraud, abuse and waste; a government that respects the sovereignty of its neighbors and refrains from naked aggression, displacement of the civilian population and commission of war crimes; a society that is founded on the rule of law where no man or woman has the right or opportunity to seize the law for political and/or private economic advantage; a society where courts serve the interests of justice and not the interests of crooked and corrupt official profiteers; a justice system that relentlessly pursues known and suspected human rights violators, war criminals and others who have committed crimes against humanity, and leaves no stones unturned to free innocent individuals, opposition leaders and dissidents who have been locked up for years because they oppose dictatorship.

Putting Out Fires With Flames

President Obama hearkened to an old Turkish proverb in his speech: “You cannot put out fire with flames.” Of course, the President knows only too well that you can put out the fire when you let “justice rush down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream”. But when your house is on fire, you don’t need flames to put it out. You need firefighters. In Ethiopia we need strong firemen and firewomen to put out the wildfires of ethnic divisions, and now stoked-up and smoldering religious antagonisms. President Obama is right. These fires can not be put out with flames of anger, hatred, and revenge. But they can be put out by flames of justice that sear the consciences of good men and women; they can be doused by the righteous indignation of patriotic men and women who commit to the defense of their motherland against mercenary soldiers of fortune. To paraphrase the lyrics of Billy Joel: “We didn’t start the fire/ No we didn’t light it/ But we got to fight it.” That is exactly what we said two years ago[2]:

There are fire brigades rising up all over the Diaspora. Everyday we see courageous firefighters coming to the frontlines. They no longer want to be frightened spectators jabbering about what somebody else should do, could do or needs to do. They have decided to act, and you see them flying around carrying their droplets of water to put out the fire. These Diaspora firefighters do not fight fire with fire; no, they fight fire with water. Like water on fire, these firefighters spray hope and optimism over the despair and misery inflicted upon our brothers and sisters; they sweep the wreckage of repression and tyranny with the broom of democracy and human rights; they plant the seeds of freedom and liberty on a land charred and ravaged by political violence, corruption, savagery and lawlessness.

The dictators in Ethiopia know the GAME IS OVER! They are out of lies, out of cash, out of gas, out of ideas, out of hope, out of order, out of control, out of the shadows, out of luck and out of time! They are out of their freaking minds because they are OUT OF BUSINESS! A verse of advice:

Saddle up tin-pot dictators,
‘Tis time to ride out before the big roundup.
The new sheriff and posse are in town,
You better scram before sundown!

[1] http://www.ethiomedia.com/all/6070.html
[2]http://almariamforthedefense.blogspot.com/2007/03/hummingbird-and-forest-fire-diaspora.html

At least 7 Ethiopians and Somalis die off Yemen coast

Monday, April 13th, 2009

SANAA (Reuters) – Seven African migrants drowned and a further seven are missing and presumed dead after smugglers forced passengers off a boat in deep sea off Yemen, the U.N. refugee agency said.

Survivors told the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees that the boat, carrying 72 Somalis and Ethiopians, was far from the Yemeni coast when smugglers started to force them off, the agency said in a statement dated Saturday.

“I owe my life to my brother who helped me swim ashore,” one of the 58 survivors told UNHCR staff at a transit camp.

Last year 50,000 people, mostly from Somalia and Ethiopia, took rickety smugglers’ ships across the Gulf of Aden, which is on the sea route from Europe to the Middle East and Asia via the Suez Canal.

Most are thought to be seeking jobs in the Middle East, or fleeing political turmoil in Somalia or drought and food shortages in Ethiopia.

UNHCR said 350 boats and 17,936 people have arrived in Yemen this year after crossing the Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa. To date, 116 people have been reported dead and 66 are missing at sea.

Survivors of the latest incident said their boat had left on Wednesday from near the Somali town of Bossasso.

A Yemeni partner of the refugee agency buried the 7 bodies which were washed ashore and gave survivors food and water on arrival before transporting them to Ahwar reception camp, where they would be registered.

(Reporting by Mohammed Sudam, writing by Sam Cage; editing by Thomas Atkins)

Ethiopian man confesses to the murder U.S. official

Monday, April 13th, 2009

By Carly Lagrotteria and Eric Roper | The GW Hatchet

An Ethiopian man has pleaded guilty to the murder of 2007 alumnus Brian Adkins, a Foreign Service officer found dead in his Ethiopia home this February, according to Adkins’ family.

State Department officials told family members that a man named “Sammy” had admitted to beating Adkins to death with a baseball bat in the Ohio native’s African home. Sammy, a local man whose full name was not available, had met Adkins through mutual friends who frequently played video games at the house.

At a preliminary hearing on March 27, Sammy pleaded guilty to second degree murder and stealing Adkins’ possessions, said Dan Adkins, Brian’s father, in an interview. Dan Adkins added that prosecutors are seeking to convict the man of first degree murder, which could result in the death penalty.

Court proceedings are happening in the African country’s capital city, Addis Ababa, because the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Ethiopia. State Department officials did not return requests for comment.

Family members wrote in an e-mail to Brian’s friends and acquaintances that Sammy stayed overnight at the house after he and Adkins played video games late into the night. The house was adjacent to a series of Foreign Service Officers’ homes, and the compound was watched over by a guard and surrounded by concrete walls and razor wire, Dan Adkins said.

Sammy and Adkins began arguing the next morning and Sammy later told investigators he was afraid that the loud noises would alert the guard. He said he tried to quiet Adkins using a baseball bat, which was usually kept by the door for protection, and repeatedly hit him in the head and face as Adkins fell to the ground. The cause of the argument is unknown.

“I really need some closure on what caused the argument,” Dan Adkins said.

A funeral director in Cleveland later told Dan Adkins that the body was so damaged it could not possibly be restored for an open-casket funeral.

Upon fleeing Adkins’ house, Sammy took some of the 25-year-old’s belongings, which included a cell phone, a laptop computer and a camera. He left his own cell phone at the house, which investigators used as their primary lead in the case. Sammy was later apprehended in a village six hours from Adkins’ home with the belongings.

“So, in all, our son was killed for a few lousy bucks for his belongings on the street of Addis Ababa,” the family’s e-mail said. “What a terrible waste of a man, son, brother and a true friend to many.”

The family learned about the details of the case after State Department officials visited them at their home in late February. They have also been communicating with the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto. The State Department told them they did not consider the murder to be connected with terrorism or political opposition to the Ethiopian government.

Adkins earned two degrees from GW – a bachelor’s degree from in 2005 and a master’s degree in 2007. While in Foggy Bottom he was active in the GW Knights of Columbus and the Newman Catholic Center.

On Friday, May 1, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to preside over a ceremony honoring Adkins and three other Foreign Service officers who have died on duty. The four officers’ names will be inscribed on a memorial plaque in the State Department’s main lobby at their building adjacent to campus.

Adkins was in his first year of duty in the country, performing consular work including helping Americans in distress and handling visas and passports. He was scheduled to travel to Rwanda for several weeks on the day of his death to work in the U.S. Embassy there, Dan Adkins said.

Obama authorizes military action to rescue hostages

Monday, April 13th, 2009

By Michael D. Shear | Washington Post

It was one of the earliest tests of the new American president — a small military operation off the coast of a Third World nation. But as President Bill Clinton found out in October 1993, even minor failures can have long-lasting consequences.

Clinton’s efforts to land a small contingent of troops in Haiti were rebuffed, for the world to see, by a few hundred gun-toting Haitians. As the USS Harlan County retreated, so did the president’s reputation.

For President Obama, last week’s confrontation with Somali pirates posed similar political risks to a young commander in chief who had yet to prove himself to his generals or his public.

But the result — a dramatic and successful rescue operation by U.S. Special Operations forces — left Obama with an early victory that could help build confidence in his ability to direct military actions abroad.

Throughout the past four days, White House officials played down Obama’s role in the hostage drama. Until yesterday, he made no public statements about the pirates.

In fact, aides said yesterday, Obama had been briefed 17 times since he returned from his trip abroad, including several times from the White House Situation Room. And without giving too many details, senior White House officials made it clear that Obama had provided the authority for the rescue.

“The president’s focus was on saving and protecting the life of the captain,” one adviser said. Friday evening, after a National Security Council telephone update, Obama granted U.S. forces what aides called “the authority to use appropriate force to save the life of the captain.” On Saturday at 9:20 a.m., Obama went further, giving authority to an “additional set of U.S. forces to engage in potential emergency actions.”

A top military official, Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, commander of the Fifth Fleet, explained that Obama issued a standing order that the military was to act if the captain’s life was in immediate danger.

“Our authorities came directly from the president,” he said. “And the number one authority for incidents if we were going to respond was if the captain’s life was in immediate danger. And that is the situation in which our sailors acted.”

After the rescue ended, White House officials immediately offered expanded information about Obama’s role, though the president simply released a statement praising the troops and expressing pride in the captain’s bravery.

The operation pales in scope and complexity to the wars underway in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Obama’s adversaries are unlikely to be mollified by his performance in a four-day hostage drama.

Nonetheless, it may help to quell criticism leveled at Obama that he came to office as a Democratic antiwar candidate who could prove unwilling or unable to harness military might when necessary.

And as Obama’s Democratic predecessors can attest, a victory — no matter how small — is better than a failure.

Clinton’s decision to send the USS Harlan County to Haiti loaded with troops was seen as a half-measure taken by a president spooked by the earlier downing of a Black Hawk helicopter in Somalia.

After the Harlan’s failure to get ashore, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote in a column that year that the incident “makes the administration look feckless and the country look weak.”

Thirteen years earlier, Democratic President Jimmy Carter authorized a military rescue of the 52 hostages being held by Iranians in Tehran. The 1980 attempt, called Operation Eagle Claw, ended when two helicopters crashed in the desert, killing eight servicemen.

The incident was a permanent blemish on Carter’s reputation.

Had yesterday’s rescue at sea gone badly, the political damage for Obama might have been severe. But aides said the outcome should be seen as a success.

“This is the latest indication that the national security team is working well together,” a senior White House official said last night. “These folks have spent a lot of time together, including with the president, in the first couple months, and they have a good working relationship. ”

Somali pirates vow revenge on US – Al Jazeera

A Somali pirate chief has vowed to target Americans in revenge for the death of three pirates killed during a US raid to free an American hostage held by the pirates.

Abdi Garad said on Monday that the US forces had shot and killed the men, even after they had agreed to free the hostage.

“The American liars have killed our friends after they agreed to free the hostage without ransom,” Garad was reported by the AFP news agency as saying.

“But I tell you that this matter will lead to retaliation and we will hunt down particularly American citizens travelling our waters.”

The news agency reported that Garad was speaking by phone from Eyl, a pirate base on Somalia’s eastern coast.

Sniper attack

Navy snipers on the USS Bainbridge shot and killed three of the four pirates holding hostage Richard Phillips, the captain of a ship the pirates had attacked.

The pirates had attacked the US-flagged container ship the Maersk Alabama and while the crew seized back the ship, the pirates kept hold of Phillips, the ship’s captain, on a lifeboat.

He reportedly jumped from the vessel in an attempt to escape, but was quickly re-captured.

The Bainbridge was one of two US navy warships sent to the scene to monitor the situation and rescue Phillips, a plan approved by Barack Obama, the US president.

The US navy said the snipers opened fire when Phillips’ life appeared to be in danger.

“They were pointing the AK-47s at the captain,” Vice Admiral William Gortney, head of the US naval central command, said in a Pentagon briefing from Bahrain.

“The on-scene commander took it as the captain was in imminent danger and then made that decision and he had the authorities to make that decision and he had seconds to make that decision,” he said.

Hostage situation

Before the raid, the pirates, who demanded a $2m ransom for Phillips, warned the US government not to use force.

Meanwhile, the Maersk Alabama arrived in the Kenyan port of Mobassa on Saturday.

Abdulkadir Walayo, a Somali government spokesman, hailed the operation.

“I hope this operation will be a lesson for other pirates holding the hostages on the ships they hijacked,” he said.

The raid occurred only two days after French commandos stormed a yacht to rescue two French couples and a child being held by Somali pirates in a separate incident.

Hijackings are an ongoing problem in the busy shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia.

At least a dozen ships have been seized in the Indian Ocean and more than 200 crew members are being held hostage.

How Captain Phillips was rescued – BBC

US Navy snipers made a split-second decision to shoot dead three Somali pirates holding a cargo ship captain hostage on a lifeboat, officials say.

US Navy spokesman Vice-Adm William Gortney said the pirates were shot because Capt Richard Phillips’ life appeared in “imminent danger”.

Snipers on a US warship towing the lifeboat fired after seeing a pirate pointing a gun at him, the navy said.

Capt Phillips was not hurt, and a fourth pirate surrendered.

The US Navy had had contact with the pirates as the stand-off continued, attaching a tow rope and taking one pirate on board for medical help.

Negotiations involving Somali elders had been going on throughout Sunday to secure the captain’s release, with the fourth pirate still on board the USS Bainbridge.

He was taken into military custody.

The lifeboat, which had no power, was attached on a tow line about 100 ft (27 metres) behind the warship after the pirates had accepted an offer to be moved out of rough seas.

One pirate was seen through a window pointing an AK-47 at the back of Capt Phillips, who was tied up.

The commander ordered the shooting, with snipers aiming at the pirates’ heads and shoulders when two of them appeared at the rear hatch, Vice Admiral Gortney said.

It was unclear how long the shooting lasted, with some reports saying it was several minutes, while the New York Times reported that three single shots were all that were needed.

Navy sailors then sailed to the lifeboat in a small inflatable craft and rescued Capt Philips.

He was unhurt despite being just a few metres away from his captors during the shooting.

He was then taken on board the Bainbridge, and later moved to the USS Boxer where he underwent a medical examination.

Tied up

Capt Phillips had been held hostage in the lifeboat since Wednesday, when pirates attacked his ship, the Maersk Alabama.

He had agreed to become a hostage so that his crew could go free, the crew said.

Vice-Adm Gortney said the pirates were armed with AK-47 assault rifles and small-calibre pistols.

US President Barack Obama had given clear orders to shoot if Capt Phillips’ life was in danger, he said.

Specialty coffee roasters object to Ethiopia's new system

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

WASHINGTON (Seattle) — U.S. coffee importers and roasters are worried that a new auction system in Ethiopia makes it almost impossible for them to buy coffee from the particular farmers whose beans they want.

The system, overseen by the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, mixes coffee beans from different growers before selling them for export.

That’s a big deal to specialty roasters who prefer beans from certain growers and processors, and sometimes have worked with them to improve quality.

During a visit to the Ethiopian exchange in February, one Seattle coffee importer became concerned about how the new system would work.

“We spent a whole day going through the phases of grief — anger, denial and acceptance — just trying to get our arms around what’s going on,” said Craig Holt, owner of Atlas Coffee Importers.

Last month, Ethiopia closed the warehouses of six of its largest exporters, accusing them of hoarding coffee and contributing to a shortage of foreign currency.

Bloomberg reported that the government plans to start exporting beans itself.

The changes haven’t affected Starbucks, a spokeswoman said. The company buys coffee through the exchange and from cooperative unions and estates, which are allowed to sell directly.

The U.S. imports 12 to 15 million pounds of Ethiopian coffee annually, less than 5 percent of that nation’s total coffee exports. Japan is the largest importer of Ethiopian coffee, taking about 66 million pounds a year, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

Ethiopia coffee feud drowns out voices

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

By Wondwossen Mezlekia

An internal feud between Ethiopian private exporters and the government caught the media spotlight recently but, as usual, limited journalism coverage derailed the attention off the fundamental issues.

On March 25, 2009, the government seized 17,000 tons of coffee beans from six exporters, and revoked their licenses. The government is now considering selling the seized stocks itself on the international market. The licenses of additional 88 independent traders had also been cancelled for failing to heed the authorities.

This happened after Prime Minister Meles Zenawi accused some coffee exporters in January of having been reluctant to sell stocks through the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX). He warned them of conspiring and disturbing the integrity of the ECX system by supplying and then buying back their own coffees to sell coffee meant for export on the domestic market, threatening to “cut off one of their hands” if they did not behave.

The exporters deny these accusations.

When the media picked and wagged a thread, the news spilled over to global markets and sent a shockwave across the specialty coffee community. Some importers of specialty coffees got worried that the new coffee law may put an end to direct sourcing of beans and severely impacted the already scant traceability of Ethiopia’s coffee beans.

In all this, the farmers’ voice is drowned out and their concerns left unnoticed.

As it happens, the recent development in Ethiopia’s coffee sector has more ramifications to the national economy than on the specialty coffee industry. Importers and roasters interviewed for this report confirmed that their sourcing is unaffected while the feud continues.

To understand the underlying reasons for the private exporters’ frustrations and the government’s heavy-handed actions, one needs to look at the history of coffee in Ethiopia and what changed in recent years.

Political Crop

Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, is the sixth largest coffee producer and the seventh largest exporter worldwide. It is the largest coffee producer and exporter in Africa. Exports between March 2008 and February 2009 were 2,679,155 bags of coffee beans, a share of 2.73 percent in global coffee trade.

The fine quality of its coffees and the distinctive features of the sector, including its genetic resources, abundance of wild coffee trees, and the organic coffee production, earned Ethiopia a unique place in the global coffee marketplace.

Coffee is the backbone of Ethiopia’s economy. In the 2007/2008, coffee export fetched more than 525 million dollars, accounting for about 60 percent of the country’s hard currency earnings. Moreover, coffee provides an important source of income for a large portion of the population and is an important source of tax revenue to the government.

Coffee holds a strong political significance in Ethiopia because of its tremendous importance in the economy and its political purposes for the regime. The ruling party ensures the centralized collection and controlling of foreign currency in order to stay in power.

Currently, the government is strapped; its foreign currency reserve is at its lowest level of $850 million, enough to cover only a month’s imports. The foreign exchange shortage was exacerbated by declines in global coffee prices, poor harvest, and contraction of sales following the loss of Japan’s market due to the ban imposed in May 2008 by Japan after finding “abnormally high” pesticide residues in a shipment of the beans.

Under these circumstances, coffee can be extremely appealing to the government.

The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX)

The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX), a government owned central trading system, meant primarily for grains, began trading coffee in December 2008. Launched in May 2008, the trading platform was set up to replace the murky auction system often abused by market participants.

During the ECX rollout, which happened to coincide with the global economic turmoil where domestic and global prices were sharply rising, there was severe shortage of grains flowing through the exchange.

Although it is authorized to trade in both spot and futures contracts, ECX announced in April 2008 that it intends to start off with only spot contracts for immediate delivery (as a strategic driver of the ultimate futures trading) and impose compulsory delivery of grains.

In August 2008, the government swiftly enacted a new coffee law in order to provide ECX with the necessary legal framework that would enable it, among others, to impose compulsory delivery of coffees. This law requires all coffees to be traded through the ECX – the only outlet to international markets.

The New Coffee Law

The new coffee law, as some call it, is believed to be what sparked the outcry among private exporters in Ethiopia and the specialty coffee community. Outside Ethiopia, there is confusion on whether or not the law prohibits direct sourcing of single origin coffees.

The law, formally known as the Coffee Quality Control and Marketing Proclamation (No. 602/2008*, declares all coffee trade “shall take place in lawful coffee transaction centers.”

More specifically, Article 10(1) reads:

“Any person involved in the roasting and grinding of coffee for selling shall purchase the coffee for such purpose only from auction centers, the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange or wholesalers.”

But Article 11 appears to be leaving room for direct sourcing:

“Any coffee producer shall: 1/ without prejudice to Article 6(1) of this Proclamation, have the right to directly export coffee from his own farm, only after submitting the same to the coffee quality liquoring and inspection center for grading before and after processing for export; and 2/ sell coffee by product in auction centers or the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange only upon examination and approval of the coffee quality liquoring and inspection center.”

This provision makes it easier for coffee farmers’ cooperatives and marketing unions to transact with importers directly. Some of the cooperatives and unions that are reasonably equipped and well positioned to handle export orders will hopefully reap the benefits of direct marketing.

Meanwhile, farmers that are not organized in cooperatives, which constitute the majority of the farming community, are disadvantaged, as dealing with importers from thousands of miles away would be challenging, if not impossible. However, importers do have the option and abilities to initiate and enter into contracts with all producers and access their favorite coffee origins by establishing direct relationships with producers. This approach helps the poor farmers dig themselves out of the traps of poverty and eternal exploitation.

The law abolishes the old practices by some exporters of handholding coffee bags from farm gate to export. Now, they will have to compete with other exporters if they need to buy specific bag of cherries supplied by suppliers or “akrabis.”

In this respect, the Coffee Quality Control and Marketing Proclamation and ECX call for segregation of duty at all levels of the value chain. It appears, though, the government is now in violation of this noble code of ethics.

Conflict of Interest

The present-day domestic marketing chain in Ethiopia is as old as the export trade itself. The bean passes through numerous market participants before arriving at the central auction centers: collectors or “sebsabis” collect the beans at local stations from rural merchants or farmers and sell it to suppliers or “akrabis”; akrabis deliver the coffee en masse to the auction centers; private exporters or local distributors buy from auction centers. Suppliers and exporters are not allowed to bypass the auctions and exchange directly.

With the introduction of the new exchange system the auction centers are replaced by the ECX, while all other participants continue to function as is, but with one fundamental change: transparency. The previous auction system was marred with loopholes that seem to have allowed some exporters holding dual licenses to purchase back their own coffee in the auctions, thereby enjoying too much control over coffee prices. Supposedly, ECX’ introduction of rules of trading, warehousing, payments and delivery, and business conduct principles will seal off those loopholes. This seems to have upset a few exporters and fired back at by the government accusing them of engaging in conflict of interest.

But the government’s reactions were even more troubling. It not only confiscated coffee beans from the exporters but also tasked the state owned Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise (EGTE) with exporting of coffee.

This measure throws privatization and domestic market liberalization out in the window.

Ethiopia’s coffee market has always been a relatively private business, with the exception of limited government interventions to enforce quality standards, etc. This was true even during the days of the communist regime that “nationalized” almost every sector in the nation.

EGTE’s slated assignment marks a detrimental precedence in the nation’s history. The government’s engagement in exporting beans produced by smallholder families while it controls almost all means of production in the country, including the distribution of farm inputs, capital, and the land, is inconsistent with principles of a free market system.

Drowned Out Voices

As usual, when those up in the value chain fight, in this case the government and private exporters, it is the farmers that suffer most. In Ethiopia, smallholder farmers produce about 95 per cent of the nation’s total coffee production and these farmers rely on the sale of their cherries for their families’ mere survival.

For generations, Ethiopian coffee farmers have been at the mercy of their marauders. In the long and inefficient marketing chain, each participant marks up their prices weighing down the burden on the farmers’ shoulders. Ethiopian farmers receive barely a small fraction of the value their produce is worth, currently around 40 percent of export prices, much less than the 70 percent that their counterparts in Central and South America receive.

A transparent and efficient exchange market system nurtures competition and benefits everyone in the value chain, from bean to cup. Farmers producing the finest quality coffee can get rewarded for their hard work as well as suppliers and exporters whose innovation and smart marketing skills pay off.

But, if given the choice, farmers in Ethiopia would choose direct marketing over a chain of licensees that add little value to the product. To that effect, ECX would be more beneficial to the farmers if its processes support and facilitate for more farmer-importer relationships.

Looking Ahead

The role of a centralized modern commodity exchange is indispensable for developing economies, such as Ethiopia.

The country’s coffee sector is highly dependent on international prices and the export is affected by the structure and workings of the world coffee market. The market participants need to understand that Ethiopia is competing with countries that have the abilities and the will to easily adopt innovative low-cost production and marketing systems.

The current bickering and prejudice will only affect coffee quality, weaken the country’s brands, deter potential importers, and put the sector at risk. The government needs to exercise restraint, listen to and address the concerns of all participants, from farmers to importers. Its obligation to protect the farmers from exploitation includes itself as well. Replacing private exporters by EGTE won’t lessen the burden on poor farmers.

The interests of all participants can be better served if the market functions, in the words from ECX’ mission statement, “based on continuous learning, fairness, and commitment to excellence.”

Texas doctors and adoption agency team up in Ethiopia

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

By ANNA M. TINSLEY | Forth Worth Star-Telegram

FORT WORTH, TEXAS — Scott Brown traveled to Ethiopia in 2006 to watch over the adoption of Enoch, a 3-month-old, 5-pound boy with big brown eyes.

It was the first adoption the Gladney Center for Adoption would oversee in Ethiopia, and Brown, its executive vice president, wanted to make sure it went smoothly

And it did — until the couple preparing to adopt Enoch realized that something was wrong with his head. Tests showed a condition that is fatal about half of the time in Ethiopia: craniosynostosis, when a soft spot in the skull closes too quickly and prevents the brain from growing.

The couple, not sure they could handle a baby with such medical needs, backed out of the adoption. When Brown learned Enoch could die without treatment, he persuaded doctors and medical personnel at Cook Children’s Medical Center to operate to save Enoch.

Three years later, Enoch is healthy and happy. He is now Brown’s grandson, having been adopted by Brown’s son and daughter-in-law, Ryan and Abby Brown.

“We feel so blessed and fortunate that God chose to place him in our lives,” Abby Brown said on a Gladney video. “We call him our little miracle.”

But there are more babies and children in Ethiopia whom Scott Brown and doctors at Cook Children’s — some who belong to Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth — want to help.

That’s why they are in Enoch’s homeland now on a medical mission.

There, more than half a dozen local medical personnel are visiting hospitals and clinics in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, and in the remote village of Gunchire.

They are giving lectures, making rounds, performing surgeries and sharing thousands of dollars of donated medicine and supplies, hoping to help save and improve the lives of Ethiopians.

“These are genuine people who are doing the very best with what they have,” Brown wrote in an e-mail from Ethiopia. “My vision for this trip is that it is the first of many.”

Living out their faith

For many, this trip is a way to serve their church, help others and share their faith.

For several years, Christ Chapel and its members, which include Brown, have worked to help orphans in Ethiopia, even building an orphanage in Gunchire.

Now they are evaluating the medical situation there, to see how they can be the most effective.

“A key vision of our church is to be ‘a church without walls,’ ” said Dr. Michael Stevener, this mission team’s leader and a neonatologist at Cook Children’s. “Members are encouraged to be the ‘hands and feet of Christ’ in service to the needy both locally and around the world.

“For me personally, the trip is part of a spiritual calling to live out my faith using my abilities and resources to help others.”

He and others say there are more Ethiopian doctors in Washington, D.C., than in all of Ethiopia. Many move to the United States after getting their training. Those who stay, Stevener said, truly love their country and want to make a difference.

Christ Chapel Executive Pastor Bill Egner said the impact that local doctors have on their Ethiopian counterparts could create a ripple effect for years to come.

“It’s about empowering those good doctors to become more of what they would like to become,” said Egner, who led a pastoral trip to Ethiopia in January.

“There are techniques or tools our doctors can teach that will make substantial impacts — and make a difference in people’s lives from Day One.”

Tour of duty

Brown and local medical personnel — including two neonatologists and the pediatric neurosurgeon who operated on Enoch — arrived in Ethiopia last week and plan to return home next Sunday.

During the trip, they will talk about topics ranging from newborn resuscitation to allergic reactions to drugs. They’ll visit medical facilities, including Kidmia Transitional Care Home, Guchire Regional Health Clinic, the Black Lion Hospital, Korean Medical Center and the Mother Teresa HIV orphanage/clinic.

And they’ll be sharing suitcases full of medicine and medical supplies donated by Cook Children’s, Texas Health Fort Worth hospital, Christ Chapel and others. Some of the doctors are also donating medicine and medical supplies from their offices.

Ethiopian pediatric physician Dr. Etsegenet Gedlu said she believes the doctors from Fort Worth can help her and her colleagues.

“The lectures and workshops will definitely give . . . our students, interns [and] residents a new insight and sharing experience from other perspectives,” she wrote in an e-mail. “We all are hoping . . . we may find a common ground for future collaboration.

“I hope our colleagues will find this visit beneficial in terms of … experiencing medical practice in a different setup and quite different disease epidemiology.”

Humanitarian adoptions

Adoptions of Ethiopian children have sharply risen in recent years. In the U.S. last year, 1,725 Ethiopian children were adopted, 470 more than in 2005, U.S. State Department records show.

Local adoptions have risen as well.

Gladney facilitated four adoptions from Ethiopia in 2006, its first year doing so. In 2007, there were 47, and last year, there were 99. This year, there have been 67, but officials believe they may place 125 Ethiopia children in U.S. homes by Aug. 31, said Jennifer Lanter, public information officer for Gladney.

“In Ethiopia — with extreme poverty, the AIDS virus — there are so many horrific things happening, and the people there don’t want their children suffering,” Lanter said. “They want their children to have a home.”

More than that, adoption officials say they see a new trend emerging.

“Before, families adopted to grow their families,” Lanter said. “With Ethiopia, a lot of churches have gotten involved, and many feel called to adopt through this country to help these people.

“People are now adopting for a new reason — for a humanitarian reason.”

Working in Ethiopia The team includes medical personnel from Cook Children’s Medical Center:

Dr. Michael Stevener, a neonatologist, and his wife, Beth Stevener
Dr. Michael Stanley, a neonatologist
Dr. David Donahue, a pediatric neurosurgeon
Ben Donahue, an anesthesia technician and pre-med student
Dr. Robin Roberts, an adult dermatologist
Amy Schubert, a pediatric ward nurse
Dr. Jeff McGlothlin, a pediatric neurologist
Dr. Benjamin Sui, a pediatric cardiologist

Scott Brown, executive vice president and director of the Ethiopia program for the Gladney Center for Adoption (and father of a girl adopted from Ethiopia)

Source: Gladney Center for Adoption

Tedla Lemma murder trial starts in Atlanta

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

By Josh Green

Loran Zemedu Araya is one of the three suspects in the killing of Ethiopian businessman Tedla Lemma in a suburb of Atlanta

LAWRENCEVILLE (GDP) – A Riverdale man is to stand trial this week in the killing of a disabled Lilburn business owner last year.

Quincy Marcel Jackson joins three co-defendants implicated in the killing of Tedla Lemma, 51, in his upscale Kenion Forest Drive home March 25, 2008.

Police believe Jackson and his accomplices first pillaged Lemma’s home in November 2007 for cash and valuables. On the return trip, Lemma was reportedly hog-tied, beaten and gagged so tightly he suffocated.

A grand jury indicted Jackson in September on 18 counts, including murder and kidnapping. He has remained in jail since his July arrest.

Jackson’s former roommate in Riverdale, Marshae Brooks, was arrested and charged with murder in February after the third suspect, Loran Araya, told prosecutors of his involvement. Cell phone records helped tie all three to the scene, police said.

Police believe the crew perpetrated four home-invasion robberies in the months prior to Lemma’s death, including the kidnapping of two Buckhead jewelry store owners living in Stone Mountain.

Police say Araya, a former Lilburn resident, knew most of the victims. Her parents once sold a package store to Lemma’s family.

At the time of his death, Lemma, an affluent convenience store owner from Ethiopia, was paralyzed from a robbery when he was shot in the head several years ago. Detectives have testified the suspects never intended to kill Lemma and only learned of his death via broadcast news reports hours later.

Detectives are searching for a fourth suspect in the murder known on the streets as “Money Mark,” an investigator testified last month.

Related:
* 4th suspect sought in the murder of Ethiopian businessman

Ethiopia's Habte Dibaba wins Jordan's Ultra Marathon

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

By Roufan Nahhas

AMMAN (Jordan Times) – Ethiopia’s Habte Dibaba Robele was crowned champion of the men’s Ultra Marathon (48.7km) after clocking 3h05m leaving second place to Iraq’s Nouri Jaber with 3h05m39s and Jordan’s Salameh Al Aqra’ came in third place with 3h06m27s.

Robele, who took part for the first time in the event, was not able to break last year’s record registered by American Mark Werner, who clocked 2h58m36s.

Jordanian runners excelled in the 16th annual run of the LG Dead Sea Ultra Marathon (LG DSUM) held on Friday.

In the 42km race, Suleiman Zboun took first place with a new record of 2h11m14s, and left second place to Mithqal Abadi, who also registered a new record in this category with 2h12m33s, and third place to Hayel Rawahneh with 2h18m58s.

In the women’s category, Jordan’s Kholoud Atieh won first place with 2h51m39s, followed by Americans Maya Buchanan, 3h28m41s and Krysten Koehn, 3h55m56s.

In the men’s Half marathon (21km) Jordanians Ra’fat Qasem won with a time of 1h05m14s, followed by Hussein Momani (1h07m24s) and Ayman Ahmad (1h08m19s).

In the women’s race Canada’s Katherine Muckle won in a time of 1h01m52s, followed by Americans Tracey Villano (1h29m16s) and Erica Dueger (1h34m28s).

Jordanian’s also swept the men’s Fun Run 10km with Mohammad Abu Rizeq (35m1s) coming in first, followed by Majd Suleiman (35m5s) and Abdullah Saleh (356s).

Iraqi Ola Jasem (45m58s) won the women’s Fun Run. Jordanian’s Laura Diaz (51m41s) and Hoson Akeel (52m23s) came in second and third respectively.

In the women’s category, UK’s Sara Connor took the first spot, with 4h05m39s, followed by Naomi Ferguson, 4h06m33s, and German’s Anita Ehrhardt, 4h13m37s.

In the boy’s Junior Marathon (4.2km), for 6-15 year olds, Basel Riyad won followed by Basel Awad and Mohammad Abu Shileh. The girl’s Junior Marathon was won by Lyan Al Saheb, followed by Areej Al Saheb and Eman Audeh.

The LG DSUM, held under the patronage of HRH Prince Raad, the Chief Chamberlain, was organised by the Society for Care of Neurological Patients (SCNP) and had a record number of 4,500 runners.

Prince Raad, HRH Prince Mired and HRH Princess Majeda watched the annual marathon and expressed their satisfaction with the event which promotes the Kingdom globally.

The event ran from Amman International Motor Show at the Airport Road to Amman Beach at the Dead Sea, 400m below sea level, the lowest point on earth.

The sponsers were LG Electronics, the Greater Amman Municipality, Public Security, Civil Defence Department, Aquafina, Emirates Airlines, MEC, Jordan Television, Picasso, Kassab, Scholl, Moonlight for Tourism and Travel, Sawt Al Ghad radio station, Sunny FM, Grand Hyatt Amman, Layalina magazine, Cozmo, National Paints, AdDustour newspaper, Jordan Today magazine and Movenpick.

Woman linked to de Lesseps split up is an Ethiopian royalty

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Ababiya Abajobir, the uncle of Kemeria Abajobir Abajifar

The mysterious Ethiopian woman identified as the cause for the divorce between the reality TV show star LuAnn from The Real Houswives of New York and her husband Count Alexandre de Lesseps has been identified as Princess Kemeria Abajobir Abajifar. She is the granddaughter of King Abajifar, the last King from the Gibe Kingdom of Jimmaa, located in current day Ethiopia.

An inside source close to the Count, wishing to remain anonymous, confirmed the details in an email correspondence.

The Ethiopian princess, and granddaughter of the King, is the niece of Ababiya Abajobir, another prominent man in the Oromo-Ethiopian community. He was one of the founding members of the OLF (Oromo Liberation Front), an armed Ethiopian opposition group, and served in various positions in the organization throughout its 35 year history.

The source told EthioPlanet that it was the wish of both the Princess and Count Alexandre de Lesseps that she no longer be identified as “‘the Ethiopian woman’ but with her real identity.”

- EthioPlanet.com

Washington's relationship with Ethiopia – Newsweek

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

By Jonathan Tepperman | NEWSWEEK

Few people outside Ethiopia have ever heard of Birtukan Mideksa. And that’s just how the government wants it. Since December, Birtukan has been kept in solitary confinement, one of hundreds of political prisoners there. Her apparent crime? Organizing a democratic challenge to the increasingly iron-fisted rule of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

In the past year alone, Meles’s ruling party has rigged elections, effectively banned independent human-rights groups, passed a draconian press law and shrugged off calls for an investigation into alleged atrocities in the restive Ogaden region. Yet in the same period, his country has become one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid in sub-Saharan Africa, getting a cool $1 billion in 2008. The Bush administration claimed that Ethiopia was the linch-pin of its regional counterterrorism strategy and a vital beacon of stability. But the evidence increasingly suggests Washington isn’t getting what it pays for, and is supporting a brutal dictator in the process. Candidate Obama pledged to strengthen democracy in Africa; if he’s serious, this is a good place to start.

America’s warm relations with Ethiopia date to the days after 9/11, when the country’s Christian-dominated government came to be seen as a natural U.S. ally in a region targeted by Islamic extremists. After disputed elections in 2005, however, Meles—once hailed by President Bill Clinton as part of a promising “new generation” of African leaders—began clamping down on dissent.
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Yet Washington tolerated his lapses because it needed his help fighting Qaeda-linked Islamists in next-door Somalia. In December 2006, Ethiopia’s U.S.-trained Army duly invaded its neighbor, ousting the radical Islamic Courts Union government there. But the adventure hasn’t worked out as planned. No sooner had the ICU been toppled than an even more radical group, Al-Shabab, sprang up to fight the invaders. And although Seyoum Mesfin, Ethiopia’s foreign minister, recently told NEWSWEEK that the Islamists have been militarily “shattered,” they now control much of the country’s south and have tightened links with Al Qaeda. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian troops have pulled out, and the country they left behind has been thoroughly devastated. Two years of fighting forced about 3.4 million Somalis, some 40 percent of the population, from their homes. Yet only a few high-ranking terrorists were eliminated, and Russell Howard, a retired general and senior fellow at the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations University, says the occupation only “empowered” the radicals.

Such failures—and Ethiopia’s growing repression—suggest Washington should rethink the relationship. Just what Ethiopia offers the United States today is unclear. Addis Ababa has contributed troops to U.N. peacekeeping forces in Darfur and Burundi and plays a large role in shaping the policies of the African Union. But this shouldn’t earn it unquestioning U.S. support.

To reset ties, the United States should push Ethiopia to democratize. And it must urge it to reconcile with its archnemesis, Eritrea. Resolving the conflict between the two states is key to addressing a whole range of threats to U.S. interests. Tiny Eritrea won independence from Addis Ababa in 1993, but the two countries fought a 1998–2000 border war and relations have remained hostile ever since, in part because Ethiopia, with tacit U.S. support, has ignored an international ruling that redrew their border. Too weak to challenge Ethiopia directly, Eritrea has funneled support to its enemy’s enemies—including Al-Shabab and its America-hating foreign fighters. Eritrea also recently instigated a border conflict with Djibouti, home to an important U.S. military base.

Washington should thus push Ethiopia and Eritrea to make amends; better relations would mean an end to their proxy war in Somalia, which has helped turn that state into a Qaeda haven. Should it choose to use it, the United States has plenty of leverage. Most U.S. spending on Ethiopia goes for health and food aid, which aren’t easy to cut. But the Obama administration could make military aid and weapons sales contingent on Meles’s improving his behavior. The House of Representatives passed a bill in 2007 to do just that, but the measure died in the Senate without White House support.

Much will now depend on the man Obama has nominated for the State Department’s top Africa job, Johnnie Carson. Carson’s record is promising: while ambassador to Kenya from 1999 to 2003, he helped persuade longtime President Daniel Arap Moi to step down, clearing the way for multiparty elections. Should he bring similar pressure to bear on Washington’s new African ally, Birtukan, Ethiopia’s other political prisoners, Africans throughout the Horn and America itself would all benefit.

(With Jason Mclure in Addis Ababa)

Ethiopian woman in the middle of French royal divorce

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

BY Marie Mcgovern and Nancy Dillon | The Daily News

The fairy-tale marriage of Countess LuAnn de Lesseps is crumbling over a princess.

The mysterious Ethiopian beauty at the center of the divorce between Bravo TV’s “The Real Housewives of New York” star and her husband, Count Alexandre de Lesseps, has been unmasked as Princess Kemeria Abajobir Abajifar, reports Ethioplanet.com.

She is the descendant of King Abajifar, the last ruler of a powerful kingdom in the Gibe region of Ethiopia, the Ethiopian news Web site said.

An unnamed source said it was the wish of both the princess and Count Lesseps, 59, that she no longer be identified as “the Ethiopian woman” but rather with her royal credentials.

It was last month that de Lesseps, 43, discovered her husband of 16 years was serious with another woman in Geneva. She said she was “blindsided” by the news and added that she found out after the count sent her an e-mail.

“I just think some people aren’t good at confrontation,” she said.

The former model, who has a book due out next week titled “Class with the Countess,” told People magazine that she quietly separated from her husband more than three months ago but felt “ashamed” when news of his infidelity broke.

“It’s been like a death,” she told People. “You go through anger, bereavement. It’s really an end to a part of your life.”

She and the count have two children: Noel, 12, and Victoria, 14.

Horn of Africa beset by a rare set of disadvantages

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

By ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The pirate standoff with the U.S. Navy has burned Somalia into the West’s consciousness as a base for lawlessness and terror, but the hostage crisis illuminates a potentially dangerous picture confronting a far greater area.

Much of the Horn of Africa, which is made up of six countries covering roughly half the area of the United States, is beset by a rare set of disadvantages that makes it ripe for chaos. Poverty, hunger, corruption and lawlessness has made the region a haven not only for pirates, but for arms smugglers and Islamic insurgents.

“The situation in the Horn is the most explosive on the continent,” said Francois Grignon, head of the Africa program for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank.

Home to about 165 million people, the six countries that make up the Horn — Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya and Djibouti — are seen by many as the next possible front in the war on terrorism.

The footpaths, rutted roads and steamy coastal dens along the Horn may seem a world away to many in the West — but the conflicts that fester here have hit home before.

Americans have been targeted in the region in the past, although it is not clear if the pirates who launched a failed effort to capture the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama on Wednesday knew they were attacking an American ship. The U.S. was negotiating with the pirates Friday for the ship’s American captain, the only hostage after the crew overpowered the bandits.

U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, were the targets of deadly twin bombings by al-Qaida in 1998. An Israeli airliner and hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, were targeted by terrorists in 2002.

The attacks emanated from neighboring Somalia, which has had no effective central government since 1992 and has a growing Islamic fundamentalist movement. And in 2006, Kenyan police caught a smuggler trying to bring in an anti-aircraft missile.

The United States worries that Somalia could be a terrorist breeding ground, particularly since Osama bin Laden declared his support for Islamic radicals there. Bin Laden himself has ties to the Horn, having once lived in Sudan.

The U.S. has stationed 1,800 troops in Djibouti to keep terror networks in the Horn of Africa in check. The country, which has close ties to the West, is located at a strategic point where the Red Sea opens into the Indian Ocean.

The Horn of Africa is notorious for corrupt governments, porous borders, widespread poverty and discontented populations, creating a region ripe for Islamic fundamentalism.

When hijackings spiked off the coast of Somalia last year, counterterrorism officials pressed for any evidence that the country’s extremist factions, or even al-Qaida militants operating in East Africa, might be using piracy to fund their violence. But the complicated clan structure and Somalia’s ungoverned black market — there is no functioning banking system — have made it difficult to trace the cash transactions.

U.S. officials have found no direct ties between East African pirates and terrorist groups. But piracy is believed to be backed by an international network that runs from the Horn of Africa to as far as North America. It is made up primarily of Somali expatriates who offer funds, equipment and information in exchange for a cut of the ransoms, according to researchers, officials and members of the racket. With help from the network, Somali pirates brought in at least $80 million last year.

Ethnic Somalis are the common denominator in the Horn of Africa, and their large presence in neighboring countries has long been a source of conflict. In the mid-1970s, then Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre advocated expanding the country’s borders to unite all Somali-speaking people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Despite Somalia’s disastrous and short-lived invasion of Ethiopia in 1977 and political anarchy since 1992, Somali nationalists and Islamic fundamentalists still advocate this Greater Somalia. An ethnic-Somali insurgency continues in eastern Ethiopia. And many Somalis were angered when Ethiopia sent troops at the request of Somalia’s weak transitional government to oust Islamists who controlled the capital at the end of 2006 and were expanding their influence.

The Islamists’ ascent was marked by a dramatic decline in piracy. The Ethiopians withdrew in January as part of an intricate U.N.-mediated peace deal.

Analysts are warning that the increasingly brazen piracy and its toll on shipping companies is going to lead to higher prices for commodities headed to the West. In addition, more than 10 percent of the world’s petroleum supply is shipped past Somalia and into Gulf of Aden, the shortest route between Asia and Europe.

Pottengal Mukundan, director of the International Maritime Bureau in London, said piracy is now becoming a global issue because the pirates are targeting foreign ships further afield from Somalia, in part to avoid international naval forces stationed in the Gulf of Aden.

“The worrying issue is that what was originally a Somali problem has spilled over,” Mukundan said. “If you look at what is available, in Somalia itself, nothing can be done. There is no government. It is a failed state.”

As for help from nearby, he said: “The neighboring countries don’t have the resources.”

Elizabeth Kennedy has covered East Africa since 2006.

Ethiopia's tribalist junta urges UN to act against Eritrea

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AFP) — Ethiopia’s dictatorial regime on Saturday criticized the UN for not taking strong measures against arch-foe Eritrea over its failure to withdraw troops from disputed territories along its border with Djibouti.

A UN resolution adopted last January gave Asmara five weeks to pull out, and the Security Council earlier this week concluded that Eritrea had not fulfilled its obligations 10 weeks after the request.

“Unless the international community is prepared to hold Eritrea accountable for such open and reckless defiance of international norms and decisions, there is the real danger Eritrea will be encouraged to continue its regional destabilization,” the Ethiopian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The UN resolution had welcomed the fact that Djibouti withdrew its forces from the disputed areas as requested by the council last June and condemned Eritrea’s refusal to do so.

Eritrea is also involved in a bitter border dispute with Ethiopia’s regime led by Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (Woyanne), whom it fought in a 1998-2000 war that killed some 70,000 people.

The long-running border row between Djibouti and Eritrea over the disputed Ras Doumeira promontory on the shores of the Red Sea flared up last June after previous clashes in 1996 and 1999.

The clashes have assumed a greater strategic significance because both France and the United States have bases in Djibouti, a former French colony.

The United States has more than 1,200 troops stationed in Djibouti, which hosts an anti-terrorism task force in the Horn of Africa.

IPU Assembly adopts resolution on financial crisis

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (Xinhua) — The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) concluded its 120th Assembly here on Friday, adopting resolutions on mitigating effects of the global financial crisis and on boosting its role in issues of freedom of expression, climate change, peace and global security.

More than 1,000 legislators from around the world attended the Addis Ababa meeting to discuss political, economic and social situation in the world under the overall theme of “Parliaments: Building Peace, Democracy and Development in times of crisis”.

Delegates agreed in a resolution that parliaments should play an important role in mitigating the social and political impact of the international economic and financial crisis on the most vulnerable sectors of the global community, especially in Africa.

The document said the global financial crisis has its origins in developed countries, and its solution requires a broad international dialogue with the active participation of all countries under UN auspices to facilitate the thorough reconstruction of the global financial architecture, including the setting up of early warning systems.

Delegates agreed that the crisis necessitates the redesign of current development models to place the value of human life at the center of their concerns.

They voiced support to the communique issued at the G20 London Summit, in which the G20 leaders pledged to take measures to restore confidence, repair the financial system, promote global trade and investment, and build an inclusive, green and sustainable recovery.

According to the IPU resolution, some of the most vulnerable sectors of society are located in Africa, home to more than 920 million people, 60 percent of whom are aged under 25. About two fifths of this population live on less than one U.S. dollar a day. It called for special attention to these countries in times of the crisis.

The document said the greatest challenge facing the world today is poverty eradication and this challenge is all the greater as a result of the ongoing economic and financial crisis.

It expected a global recovery to be delayed until 2010 even if countries adopt the correct policies to fight the recession. While most low-income countries escaped the early phases of the crisis, they are now being hit hard, it warned.

The IPU resolution underlined the importance of parliaments’ role, its cooperation with national governments in trying to reduce the negative impacts of the global crisis on the world’s most vulnerable, and in achieving the development goals set by the international community.

The IPU Assembly also adopted resolutions on freedom of expression, sharing of information, climate change, sustainable development models, renewable energies, peace and international security.

Other issues discussed during the April 5-10 meeting include gender equality, human trafficking, the protection of adolescent girls and nuclear non-proliferation.

Established in 1889, the IPU is the international organization of parliaments of sovereign States. The union, which is the focal point for world-wide parliamentary dialogue, works for peace and cooperation among peoples and for the establishment of democracy.

With over 150 members, the IPU’s main areas of activities include representative democracy, international peace and security, sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian law, women in politics, as well as education, science and culture.

The international body holds two Assemblies a year. The 121st IPU Assembly will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, in October 2009.

Ethiopian firm signs $300 million tea deal witth Dubai company

Friday, April 10th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, April 10 (Reuters) – An Ethiopian firm has signed a $300 million joint venture deal with a Dubai company to develop a 5,000 hectare (12,360 acre) tea plantation, a government official said on Friday.

“The joint venture agreement to develop tea on 5,000 hectares of land in Illubabor, at a cost of nearly $300 million, was signed between East Africa Agri-business and Dubai World Trading Company early this week,” said Berhanu Tesfaye, a senior agronomist in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“They plan to produce 421,348 kg of black tea annually within three years’ time,” he told Reuters.

Ethiopia’s current annual tea production from three private estates is around 7,000 tonnes, he said.

The country, Africa’s biggest coffee producer, expects to export over 1,300 tonnes of tea in 2009, for about $2 million, according to government statistics. The remainder will be consumed locally.

“Tea plantations in Ethiopia have failed to expand as expected due to lack of investors with money and the patience to wait for three years to get returns,” Berhanu said.

“The country’s investment code is also inviting. But the initial investment for tea is high and the fact that it requires three years to mature has discouraged investors.”

Ethiopia has identified up to 500,000 hectares suitable for tea production.

Two state-owned estates covering 2,109 hectares were privatized in 2000 for $27 million but there as been little or no expansion of the plantations since, Berhanu said.

The 1,249-hectare Wish Wish plantation and Gumero farm on 860 hectares were first set up nearly 70 years ago. A third estate, owned by East African Agri-business and covering 600 hectares, was established 10 years ago, he said.

Tea growing was introduced in Ethiopia in the early 1900s, but the initiative failed because of lack of official support in a nation of heavy coffee drinkers, economists say.

Coffee is Ethiopia’s main cash crop and about half of the country’s annual production of about 330,000 tones is consumed locally.

(Editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura and Anthony Barker)

Dead man walking

Friday, April 10th, 2009

By Yilma Bekele

“Why, O my friends, did ye so often puff me up, telling me that I was fortunate? For he that is fallen low did never firmly stand. – Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy

When the prison guard shouts: Dead man walking! You step aside. The guard is warning people that the inmate walking by is on death row and he has nothing to lose by killing you. You just step out of the way and let the dead man keep his date with destiny.

The President of Sudan General Bashir is a dead man walking. He has a date with the International Criminal Court (ICC). A year ago ICC warned the General that his actions in Darfur were a cause for concern. Human Right watch put him on notice. Amnesty international said Al bashir was abusing his authority.

General Bashir was intoxicated with power. The General with the brain of a foot solder was not in any mood to listen to reason. He told his army full speed ahead. Scorched-earth policy of raping, killing and destroying villages was in effect. Why would he listen to a bunch of ‘liars’ bent in tarnishing his image?

He has friends. He is famous. He is the president of Sudan. He doesn’t have to listen to anybody. He has always said the western colonialists are out to get him. So what if they complain? General bashir is smart. Now that he has oil, he is rich too. They want his oil and those greedy westerners will not lift a finger against him. Especially since his newfound friends the Chinese are not concerned with such trivia as Darfur or human right he is safe. That is right he will play his Chinese hand no one will touch him. Not to mention that he is also surrounded with good honorable friends. No one can ask for better criminal neighbors than Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt and Libya.

So ICC in its slow and deliberative process went ahead gathering information, interviewing victims and buttressing the case. There was no hysteria here. ICC knew this process couldn’t be hurried. Accusing someone of genocide, torture, and human rights abuse is a grave matter. Warning shots were fired for those who can hear. Close friends of the tyrant were briefed. The media was kept in the loop. Al Bashir due to his unsurpassed ability to bully the Sudanese people was not to be bothered by some prosecutor in far away Europe.

The African Union and fellow tyrants were recruited to warn the ICC of the dire consequences if an indictment was returned. Delegates were sent to European capitals to explain how democracy works in Africa. The Ethiopian Foreign Minster appealed to Turkey to stop this process. It was said that Africans have their own solution and it cannot be hurried. In the mean time Al Bashir kept busy by denying the scope of his crimes, accusing the court of lack of jurisdiction and insulting the prosecutor as unrepentant colonialist hell bent on interfering in the internal affairs of Sudan.

Thus, on march 4th. 2009 ICC issued an arrest warrant for Al Bashir. The charges against the tyrant include:
1. five counts of crimes against humanity: murder; extermination, forcible transfer, torture, and rape;
2. two counts of war crimes: intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities, and pillaging.
So where do things stand today? Al Bashir is squirming like a cornered rat. He has showed his defiance by visiting fellow tyrants in the neighborhood. He has expelled NGO’s and aid workers from Sudan. The indictment still stands. The ICC has threatened to add new charges regarding his expulsion of aid workers. Al Bashir is vainly trying to show the support he has in Sudan by ordering, bribing, threatening the people to come out and march in his support. Too little too late.
In an interview with the BBC this is what fellow tyrant Meles Zenawi has to say:
Question: Why are African Union leaders turning a blind eye to the suffering going on in Darfur?
Zenawi: Well clearly there is in justice in Darfur and the AU recognizes that. But there are different methods of addressing injustice. There is the type that we saw in South Africa and everybody aggress that the apartheid system in South Africa committed crimes against humanity. Nobody I know of had opposed the African method of restorative justice and I do not see any reason why similar approach cannot be followed in Darfur. The thing is the crisis in Darfur is primarily a political crisis it is not a humanitarian crisis.
Question: You talk about the reconciliation process of what happened in South Africa but Darfur is a war crime and the war crimes trial suggested by the Sudanese government is a bit late in the day isn’t it?
Zenawi: Well the African Union is suggesting the indictment be differed for a year so that an already complicated peace process does not get more complicated….
You see what I mean. This is a perfect example of mixing apples and oranges to cloud the issue. The reconciliation process in South Africa took place after the Apartheid regime gave up power and authority. The De Klerk regime saw the writing on the wall and moved aside. The reconciliation process was put in place by the newly democratically elected government. Thus, to suggest such a process in Sudan while Al Bashir is in power with his army and security intact is bizarre and self-serving. Even in the South African process there were those that mentioned the weakness by pointing out that justice should have been a prerequisite for reconciliation rather than the alternative to it. Ato Melese’s so called ‘African method of restorative justice’ is another version of ‘revolutionary democracy’. It sounds cute but it is hollow inside.
Another proposal floated by the AU is to ‘differ’ the indictment for one year. I guess this is what you call not ‘unclear on the concept’. You just do not indict and un-indict at will. The indictment took place because there were irrefutable facts that showed a pattern of criminal behavior by the individual. You cannot put the genie back in the bottle. People have died, some have been maimed for life, villages have been burned and lives have been disrupted. You cannot undo the damage. What the Africans are saying is the tyrant has killed half a million so let us not upset him further so he does not kill more. It does not work like that.
This sort of suggestion arises due to the practice of using the courts for political ends in most of Africa. If memory serves us right that is the game the Ethiopian regime plays. Kinijit leaders were indicted for attempted genocide, attempt to forcefully overthrow of the regime and other charges. There was no proof, no witnesses and no case but it did not stop the regime to carry out the judicial theatre for two years while the opposition leaders were kept in jail. The two years gave the regime time to disrupt the party, exile it opponents and murder elected leaders. Ato Meles is asking a ‘deferral’ for a year so Al Bashir can do some more house cleaning.
Genocide Watch is calling on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate Meles Zenawi regarding atrocities committed in Gambella, Awassa and Ogaden. The massacre that took place after the 2005 election is still waiting for resolution. As was the case with Al Bashir the ball has started rolling.
The recent confiscation of coffee in collusion with the so-called ECX is further crime against our people. I see dark clouds hovering over the TPLF Empire. The danger of indictment, the inflation, the economic meltdown, lack of foreign currency reserves and general lawlessness in the country is a clear indication of a crumbling system on its last legs. The criminals are watching each other closely. There are those prone to panic and abandon ship. There are those who are unwilling to take the rap for crimes of the politburo. There are those ‘teletafe’ organizations nervous that they will be the first ones to be thrown to the hyenas at the first indication of trouble. That is the problem with criminal enterprises. It is each to his own. We are familiar with the actions of TPLF. No one is indispensable. As sure as the sun will rise up from the East tomorrow morning, Ato Meles will join Al Bashir in The Hague soon. I believe he is a dead man walking.

Turning the tide on female genital mutilation in Ethiopia

Friday, April 10th, 2009

By Deirdre Mulrooney

The rather gruesome topic of female genital mutilation (FGM) came up at a dinner-party I was at last weekend, thanks to the Pamela Izevbekhai coverage lately (she’s applying for asylum in Ireland on the basis that her daughters will be subjected to FGM if she returns to Nigeria, and that another daughter of hers died as a result of FGM), and in particular Ruadhan Mac Cormac’s feature in last Saturday’s Irish Times. It’s simply unthinkable for us here in the West, but in Africa, they really need some extreme feminism to tackle this horrific manifestation of misogyny (hatred of women), and, of course, with that, immense fear of women. Right, see some photographs I took of Ethiopians in {www:Lalibela}, and Tigray, Northern Ethiopia. When I was in {www:Addis Ababa}, I had the extreme good fortune to meet an amazing Ethiopian woman who is succeeding in turning the tide on FGM. Bogalech Gebre’s Kembata Women’s Self-Help Group is a heartening story, of change from within (the only kind that will work in this culturally sensitive area, in my opinion).

The one thing that struck me on my 12 day trip Ethiopia was the plight of women. It just left me feeling a little uneasy. There they were, doubled over, lugging firewood, water, foodstuffs for miles and miles to the market and back. Something was just not quite right, and I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was. One Irish Aid worker told me how ten years ago she was trying to convince rural village men to invest in donkeys to carry things for them. One asked ‘why would I buy a donkey when I have a wife?’ She says things have improved since then, but still Ethiopia is 142nd out of 146 countries in the UNDP gender-related index.

It wasn’t until the day I was leaving though, that I discovered the real story behind my uneasy feeling, when I visited Addis Ababa’s Fistula Hostpital, and Bougalech Gebre, who unusually was in the Addis Ababa Kembatta Women’s Self-Help Centre, which she founded in 2000.

This was when I heard about the things you don’t see, such as the fact that 9 out of 10 Ethiopian women are circumcised between the ages of 6 and 12, so they will be considered ‘marriageable’. I didn’t hear about it, because it’s taboo, and the women perpetrate it upon themselves. But there is hope, and change afoot.

Visionary women’s health activist Bogalech Gebre has ignited a cultural revolution 350 km south of Addis Ababa with her Kembatta Women’s Self Help Group. Not only has she broken the taboo on this sometimes fatal widespread practice known locally as ‘removing the dirt’; but she has also created consensus within her community that it is harmful, and must be stopped. The first girl in her village to get beyond grade four at school, she went on to be a Fulbright Scholar in the States where she became a Public Health expert, before eventually returning to her home community on a mission.

Flanked by Kembatta Women’s Self Help Group, the first marriage of an uncut girl took place on Ethiopian Television in 2002. The bridegroom wore a placard announcing ‘I am happy to be marrying a whole woman’. The bride’s read ‘I am happy to be married uncut’. During October, traditionally ‘harvest time’ when the communities celebrate the newly circumcised girls, instead men and women in their 100,000’s are now celebrating ‘the whole body’. Ready to upscale her mission, this tide is set now to sweep the country,

How did she do it? Exposing the myth that this harmful practice is condoned nowhere in the Bible or in the Koran, Gebre’s approach is to let the community build consensus themselves. ‘Those who practice female genital mutilation do so believing it is in the best interests of girls’, she says, as only someone who grew up in that community, and went through the procedure herself could. She was 6 years old, and her mother had to leave the room, as all mothers do. ‘This belief must be stopped’. But how?

Movies were shown in rural areas on the back of a pick-up truck on a generator-run video recorder showing an actual cutting. Men in the audience fainted. Schools were built for the education of boys and girls, incorporating awareness of FGM, alongside their regular education. Thus bit by bit, accessing the deep psychic life of the region, and letting them take ownership of their decisions themselves, Gebre worked, and works on the basis that what is good for women is good for everyone.

Aside from its monetary problems, if Ethiopia is to have half a chance at achieving its full potential, the whole empowered woman must be re-introduced to the equation. Thanks to Gebre, this is a process that is already underway.

Formalizing Ethiopia's waste management informal economy

Friday, April 10th, 2009

By Mahelet Guoshe

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (UNEP) — Waste disposal is one of the major challenges to cities and other human settlements. One person’s garbage may be another’s gold, at least where waste is concerned to “scavengers” and others who do business from recycling and re-use, thus reducing the permanent “wasting” of resources. This was the underlying purpose of a recent workshop in Addis Ababa. The workshop on “Formalizing the Informal Economy in Addis Ababa Waste Management” held on 18 March 2009 at Ras Hotel brought together city and federal level government officials and experts, representatives of private companies, cooperatives, non-governmental organizations and individuals who are engaged in solid waste management. The International Labor Organization (ILO) Sub-Regional Office, which is based in the city, collaborated with the Addis Ababa City Administration’s Sanitation, Beautification and Park Development Agency to organize the workshop.

In his welcoming remarks to workshop participants, Mr. Hailu Dinku (Head of the Sanitation, Beautification and Park Development Agency), explained that the city is currently experiencing serious challenges in solid waste management. He said the city administration is giving priority to improving the situation, pointing out that currently there are favorable conditions for improving solid waste management because of the restructuring and reorganizing of the city’s executive agencies in the light of on-going Business Process Reengineering (BPR). He said that BPR has been a key agenda of the city administration, such that government offices are building their working systems that can make them responsive, flexible and customer focused.

Key players in the waste management sector in Addis Ababa are classified as formal and informal operators. Formal operators are those registered and licensed to work and perform within the regulation of tax, space, etc. like Government operators, Municipal employees, street cleaning, and private operators. On the other hand, informal operators are those who are not registered and have no legal base for the existence of their business.

This category includes scavengers at a place called Koshe (a dumping site), unregistered recyclers, reusable article sellers at a place called Minalesh Tera. These facts emerged from a situation analysis of informal economy operators in Addis Ababa solid waste management by Mr. Fikre Yifru (engineer), an employee of Africa Business Development.

According to the above study, the primary collectors are, in the majority, people who live in families. Nearly 50% are above grade 8, which shows that primary collectors are largely stable and heads of families. 63% of the respondents wear protective equipment. These are mainly the street sweepers employed by Addis Ababa City Administration (AACA). The remaining 37% do not use protective gear and are members of cooperatives and private companies. About 46% of the respondents get Birr 150 or less per month. Nearly 1/3 of respondents get salaries in the range Birr 150-250, whereas 50% obtain a salary of Birr 250-400. Nearly 50% have served 4-10 years, whereas 44% have worked for the last 3 years only. The recyclers are re-users of items that have been put to service before. It is defined as returning to the economy of items or materials that someone else has thrown away. Scavengers are part of the recycling process related to wastes. They take discarded items and try to find some one to use it.

Large-scale shops in “Minealesh Terra” in Addis Ababa market the products or previously discarded items retrieved by artisans and other recyclers to urban and rural residents of the country. The research also refers to other country experiences concerning waste management, including South Africa, Argentina, India, Mexico, and Colombia.

In some of these countries, government supports these enterprises financially. In others like Brazil government consider tax incentives. Experience from India suggests that informal waste management workers should formalize their business while the government and the public should support them by providing training, technical and material support.

Following the presentation both informal and formal solid waste management workers shared their experiences, leading to a lively discussion among the participants.

Women in Ethiopia: A White Woman's perspective

Friday, April 10th, 2009

By Jenny Higgins

All things considered, I’ve always thought Ethiopia ranks reasonably well for the position of women in society. I don’t have all the statistics or information, and I would never presume to speak for Ethiopian women so this is my own personal opinion, but women can work, they don’t have to cover themselves and at first glance, they are treated very respectfully.

But look a bit closer and the traditional roles and restrictions are still there. For instance, men don’t cook in Ethiopia – and it’s definitely not for lack of skill! I know many Ethiopian men in the UK who are fabulous cooks, much better than me! Admittedly, most middle class Ethiopians here have housemaids to prepare food, but still it is all down to the women – the men come home expecting their meals on the table.

As a white women, I escape a lot of the expectations of an Ethiopian woman (although obviously I have my own hassles such as small children following me down the road calling ‘you, you, you, you, you’ incessantly). However, it was only recently that an Ethiopian explained that the reason I often wait ages for someone to serve me in a café is not that Ethiopian service is slow (far from it, in fact!) but that as a woman on my own, I must be waiting for a man, so I can’t possibly be ready to order yet!

When you drive around, you do notice that the cafés and restaurants are full of men, even in the middle of the morning. When I mentioned this to Daniel, my cab driver, he said that it was changing slowly, but that still most women stayed in the house. The house is for women and the outside is for men!

He’s right, though, things are changing – albeit slowly. There are lots of twenty-something Ethiopians who have studied or lived in Europe or America, and have returned with different ideas about women and their place in the world. Previously, an Ethiopian women would never have gone to a bar unless she was a prostitute, and although bars are still full of prostitutes or ‘bar girls’, you now see groups of women going to clubs or having a drink together which is apparently something you did not see as recently as 8 years ago.

I still get jealous of male travelers, though, who can easily do things that are difficult for me, purely because they are men. For instance, when N was here, Daniel took us both to have some lunch at a tiny café on Ethio-China Road. It was barely a café, just a set of benches in an alley way, but the food was fantastic and very cheap. However, the place was full of Ethiopian men who spent their lunch staring at us, and both N and I acknowledged that we would not have felt comfortable coming in here on our own. A man, though, probably would have had no problem.

It was a similar situation when Ute and I went to Harlem Jazz one Saturday night. Although it’s a jazz club, on a Saturday night it has a fantastic reggae band from Shashmene playing. I really wanted to dance, so we decided we would go for a drink, then head to the club.

The minute we arrived, we were surrounded by Ethiopian men. We weren’t the only faranji’s in there, but we were the only women there on our own, and we were considered easy pickings. Okay, so it’s not unlike going out in London (well, for some people … I don’t generally have to bat away male attention!) but at least in the UK men generally take no for an answer, and they certainly don’t attempt to grope you before even speaking to you! One man came and sat with us, and I had to move his hand from my upper thigh THREE TIMES before I finally had to tell him to go away.

Going on the dance floor had the same problem. There was a white guy in the middle of the dance floor, surrounded by Ethiopians, really getting into the music and properly dancing. That’s what I wanted to do, but the minute I moved from the edge of the room, I was pushing away groping hands and fighting to be allowed to dance on my own, without some Ethiopian man grinding behind me. It was exhausting.

The men I spoke to saw no problem with their actions – we were girls having a drink in a club on our own (never mind we were only drinking coke!), which meant we were ‘available’, not to mention the fact that we were white so therefore they consider us much easier to get than Ethiopian women. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that many faranji’s do indeed come to Ethiopia and have a fling with a local – some men even leaving local girls with a baby as a leaving present …

I wasn’t dressed provocatively (I had jeans on!), I wasn’t drinking alcohol and I wasn’t trying to pick anybody up. I simply wanted to dance and enjoy the music. However, my evening was completely different to the experience of the white guy dancing in the middle of the floor, purely because of my gender. And that makes me frustrated!

Liya Kebede debuts her "Lemlem" collection for J.Crew

Friday, April 10th, 2009

NEW YORK (Fashion Week Daily) – J.Crew is a brand of many muses, but Liya Kebede is currently occupying the top spot. The model, designer and philanthropist was on hand at the brand’s Collection boutique on Madison Avenue last night to toast her collection of children’s clothing, LemLem, which debuted last week at the retailer. “I buy a lot of CrewCuts,” declared one tireless shopper, doggedly perusing the wares even as the cocktail party picked up speed. “I like this stuff, but my only complaint is that there is nothing for my little boys!”

But in fact, there was. “The scarves are unisex,” Kebede piped up after embracing her pal Jenna Lyons, J.Crew’s creative director. “I have boys, too. I promise to do more next season!” And the Lemlem collection, which formally launched in 2007, is already selling speedily, confirmed a sales associate: “It’s flying out of here.” Kebede expects to expand the collection next season, including a few adult-sized pieces to the mix.

The supermodel is literally ubiquitous in J.Crew land, as she is the exclusive face of the brand’s current catalog. “It was the fourth day, and we had done about 10 shots,” Lyons recalled of the shoot held at Milk Studios. “Liya had a migrane but she kept working, and now we have this great catalog! The timing was perfect, because so many women have been interested in our clothes due to Michelle Obama.”

And the interest extends to the fashion community. “I’ve got the Liya special,” Amy Astley told Lyons, brandishing the catalog. “She’s going to be selling me a cardigan, big time!” [See more photos here]

Conference in Ethiopia addresses adolescent girls' rights

Friday, April 10th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (UNICEF) – More than 600 parliamentarians from over 100 countries came together this week in Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa to discuss the role of parliaments in promoting global peace and security, democracy and development. Among the issues high on their agenda was the importance of investing in adolescent girls – a critical strategy in the response to the impact of the global financial crisis on developing economies.

‘A matter of urgency’

The parliamentarians were attending the 120th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which brings together 155 parliaments. The IPU is a critical UNICEF partner in mobilizing MPs on behalf of the world’s children.

“Addressing discrimination and promoting the well-being and empowerment of adolescent girls is not only a question of human rights and gender equality, it is also at the core of development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” said IPU President Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, who is also Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Namibia.

Parliamentarians are briefed at the Kersa Malima Woreda Health Office in Addis Ababa, on a field visit organized by UNICEF. [UNICEF Ethiopia/2009/Fassil]

“Gender-based discrimination permeates all of our societies, with no exception, and we need to address that as a matter of urgency. Among those most affected, though often forgotten and invisible, are adolescent girls. We need to make their plight visible,” added Dr. Gurirab.

Disproportionate harm

In many parts of the world, girls comprise the largest percentage of children out of school – and the highest number of victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and economic exploitation.

Girls are also more likely to be trafficked, to disappear or to die unknown.

Programmes that promote schooling, livelihood skills, social assets, freedom from violence, positive health-seeking behaviors and better access to sexual and reproductive health services for adolescent girls will have ripple effects across different development goals – from reducing maternal mortality, poverty and HIV infection to advancing gender equality.

Growing up empowered

During the meeting in Ethiopia, MPs visited UNICEF-supported initiatives for vulnerable children and teenagers to see firsthand how securing the rights of adolescent girls can make a dramatic difference in achieving these goals.

At a primary school that boasts girl-friendly facilities and addresses critical issues for adolescent girls, such as HIV/AIDS and reproductive heath, the parliamentarians met with the principal and visited student participants in various extra-curricular activities.

The MPs also went to a community health and nutrition centre that teaches adolescent girls about preventing communicable diseases and malnutrition, and about the importance of sanitation and hygiene. And they saw how social cash-transfer programmes – which provide educational support and counselling as well as cash – are giving vulnerable adolescent girls a chance to grow up empowered.

The head of the Kersa Malima Woreda Health Office speaks during the international parliamentarians’ visit. [UNICEF Ethiopia/2009/Fassil]

With support such as this, girls can become adult citizens who contribute to the progress of their countries and fulfil their own aspirations.

Joint UNICEF-IPU panel

During a panel discussion organized by the IPU and UNICEF, which was chaired by Ethiopia’s First Lady, Azeb Mesfin, MPs were reminded of their collective responsibility to change things for the more than 600 million adolescent girls who live in the developing world today.

At the panel, UNICEF Director of Programmes Dr. Nicholas Alipui noted that an “economically empowered girl can meet the challenges of poverty and ignite progress. An educated and empowered girl will be better able to take care of herself and to contribute to her community and country, both economically as an individual and as a potential mother.

“Investing in adolescent girls will not only benefit girls themselves, but society as a whole,” he said.

The parliamentarians focused on three key ways to improve the lives of adolescent girls: investing in girls’ education; promoting an end to violence against girls in all settings, including homes and schools; and working with governments and the private sector to build life skills for girls, thereby ensuring that they can make successful transitions from school to work.

Adolescent girls in developing countries are the world’s greatest untapped resource for stability and growth. As economic actors and future mothers, safe, healthy, educated, economically empowered girls have the means to escape poverty and ignite progress.

With the right opportunities, an adolescent girl will marry later, have fewer children and invest almost 90 percent of her income back into her family. Yet today, less than half a cent of every international development dollar is spent on adolescent girls.

Educated immigrants in Canada stuck in survival jobs

Friday, April 10th, 2009

By Travis Lupick

For some of Metro Vancouver’s most intelligent citizens, life is fraught with disappointment and frustration. Take Newman Kusina, for example. Since moving to Canada in January 2008, the Zimbabwean-born academic has spent his nights awake at his computer, unable to sleep.

“When I came here, I had all the zeal and expectations of when you arrive in a new country,” Kusina said. “But it is an absolute nightmare.”

Three evenings a week, Kusina works as a guard for Paladin Security in downtown Vancouver. Speaking to the Georgia Straight at his modest home in Surrey, he said that he usually works alone and busies himself by moving smokers away from doorways. He walks the streets and daydreams about classrooms of university students and debates with colleagues.

Kusina’s story is not unique. Talk to educated immigrants from across the region and a consensus quickly emerges: unemployment is a serious problem. Newcomers looking for work face a host of challenges. There is discrimination, complications around accreditation of foreign degrees, and an isolation that leaves many out of the loop on job openings. The recession is now making things worse.

Kusina’s experience in Canada epitomizes the difficulties that this demographic struggles with. He is a certified physiologist with degrees from the University of Zimbabwe and the University of Minnesota. And he has teaching experience in Zimbabwe and at the University of Illinois and the University of Minnesota. But none of this has translated into a teaching position in British Columbia.

And so Kusina patrols the streets of downtown Vancouver. He said that his security shifts usually end around 10 p.m., at which point he takes the SkyTrain back to Surrey. After a short cab ride from the station, he finally arrives home after 11 p.m., often to find his wife and son already asleep.

“The first thing I do is check my e-mail,” Kusina continued. At any given time, he is waiting for responses to dozens of résumés left with postsecondary institutions. “I don’t go to bed until around 2 or 3; my mind is always busy,” he said. “I find it very difficult to go to sleep because I do not know what I am going to do the next day. It is terrifying to think of.”

Kusina and his family landed in Montreal in January 2008. His inability to speak French contributed to his rejection by many postsecondary institutes in Quebec, so the family moved west. But after working as a professor of physiology for 15 years, Kusina found himself rejected by literally every university and college in B.C.

“I had this collection of applications and I just threw them away,” he lamented. “They were an insult to look at.”

So at the age of 46, Kusina went back to school to write English essays and learn about “Canadian culture”. “It was very frustrating, and the quality, as far as I’m concerned, was not worth my time sitting in a classroom,” he said. “But I had to do it.”

One thing that Kusina said he did take from these classes is an appreciation for how employment in British Columbia works, or at least how many newcomers experience it.

“So many jobs are not advertised,” he said. “And when they [employers] advertise, they often already have somebody already. So you have to know somebody. It’s not corruption, but you have to know somebody.”

Statistics Canada data has recently shone a light on the circumstances in which Kusina and so many others find themselves.

According to a July 2008 report, the majority (54 percent) of immigrants to Canada since 2002 have been university-educated. In 2007, the unemployment rate for these immigrants was four times that of similarly educated Canadian-born residents.

More concerning, there is a correlation between one’s country of origin and the odds of finding a job in Canada. The report states that in B.C. in 2007, 85 percent of university-educated, very recent immigrants from Europe were employed while only 60.7 percent of those from Asia had found employment in B.C. (Data for other regions was not available.)

And that’s only half the story. Statistics Canada’s definition of “employment” doesn’t differentiate between a PhD from India who works at McDonald’s and a Canadian-educated Norwegian who works as a nurse at Vancouver General Hospital. For new families in Canada, the difference is very real.

Krishna Pendakur, an SFU economist whose family emigrated from India, recently coauthored a working paper that examines wage disparities among immigrants and minority workers. His research found that skilled immigrants of visible minorities often face a series of barriers on their way to a job in their preferred field.

When visible-minority men first arrive in Canada, they are crowded into low-paying “survival jobs”, Pendakur told the Straight. This “sticky floor” does erode over time, but only to leave immigrants to contend with “glass doors” and “glass ceilings”.

The report describes a glass door as a “barrier that limits disadvantaged workers’ access to employment at high-wage firms” and a glass ceiling as a “barrier that limits access to high-wage jobs”.

According to Pendakur’s research, the combination of these hurdles leaves many visible-minority immigrants locked out of high-wage jobs in B.C., despite the fact that a majority are trained for such positions.

Since 1976, the colourful neighbourhood adjacent to Commercial Drive has hosted MOSAIC, a multilingual, nonprofit organization that offers services for immigrants.

Binders of job openings hang from the walls of the reception area. Nearby, people sit and fill out applications for every kind of position in the city. Down the hall, computer labs wait for new immigrants to begin their job searches in B.C. or write e-mails to family members back in their birth country.

Sitting in his second-storey office, Eyob Naizghi, MOSAIC’s executive director, described an immigrant’s landing in Vancouver as “overwhelming”.

“You cannot talk about employment before one settles the mind,” he said. “You have to find a neighbourhood you like, you have to find a school for your children, you have to know where you are going to shop, you have to know where you are going to do your banking.”

And then, according to Naizghi, it is often time for a “reality check”.

Naizghi, who came to Canada as a refugee from Eritrea in 1981, explained that many skilled immigrants arrive in Canada unprepared for the challenges they will face.

“They come here with a dream of practising their own profession,” he said. “Some of them have practised their profession for 20 or more years in their own country, as doctors, as nurses, as engineers, as managers, as IT people. And then they come here and we have a hurdle that we describe as ‘recognizing qualifications’.”

In B.C., professional accreditation is regulated at the provincial level, but rarely by the province itself. A multitude of acts give professional organizations the powers to regulate their own industries and set standards for accreditation.

For example, an immigrant trained as an engineer in Asia usually has to spend years retraining to continue as an engineer in Canada. Who is qualified to be an engineer in B.C. is decided by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. in accordance with the B.C. Engineers and Geoscientists Act.

Miu Yan, an associate professor at UBC’s school of social work, told the Straight that many immigrants end up in low-paying jobs because of prohibitive accreditation processes. “For certain professions…like medical professionals and lawyers, they are almost undoable and can take years to get,” he said.

As a result, Yan continued, many skilled immigrants—especially those with families to support—find themselves caught in a Catch-22 situation. Immigrants arrive eager to use their skills and enter the Canadian work force. But their degrees are not recognized and they must go back to school. But if they return to school, they run the risk of burning through their savings and letting their family go hungry. The “solution” is to work in low-paying “survival jobs” that provide little money and even less time to attend school and study.

Yan described the whole immigration process in Canada as a “broken contract”. He noted that many prospective immigrants are only eligible to come to Canada if they have a postsecondary education. Furthermore, they are often recruited by the federal government because of their education and skills. In turn, Yan continued, immigrants arrive in Canada eager to contribute to society. But when they get here, provincial regulations often reject the very skills for which they were recruited.

“To a certain extent, Canada and the Canadian government or Canadian society is breaking a contract,” Yan charged. “You can imagine that people can be very, very bitter and unhappy about this situation.”

Yan argued that it is not only immigrants who are being deceived. He said that the federal government seems to believe that it is recruiting skilled immigrants for the improvement of the country. But as Statistics Canada’s unemployment figures for skilled immigrants to Canada show, the system is failing.

Jackie Ochieng was once an accredited social worker in Kenya. In 2003, she immigrated to Canada to attend UBC and start a new life. After graduating, she found herself in a variety of survival jobs and struggling to make ends meet. Ochieng said that she worked as a telemarketer, dishwasher, cleaner, and babysitter before she decided to go back to school and retrain to become an employment consultant.

Today, she holds that position as manager of SUCCESS employment services, a multiservice agency for immigrants to Metro Vancouver. Ochieng said that although immigrants were once largely ignorant of accreditation problems in Canada, the situation has changed.

“It has become common knowledge to know that if you move to a western country, chances are that you are not going to get a job in the same area [as you are educated in],” she said.

Ochieng described the situation as a spin on the “brain drain” concept. Western countries recruit developing nations’ professionals, which can result in a depletion of those countries’ most intelligent citizens. Then, when these immigrants arrive in places like B.C., their brains go unused and “down the drain”.

B.C.’s minister of advanced education and labour market development told the Straight that accreditation is an issue that his office is working to address.

“I think there has been a real change across the country in views to immigration,” Murray Coell said from Victoria. He noted that the entire country is experiencing demographic changes that will inevitably leave many employers looking to immigrants to fill positions in professions and trades.

Coell said that the ministry is working with 38 separate regulatory bodies to speed up processes of accreditation recognition and is also involved in a series of pilot projects that are “looking at a standardized accreditation process for professions or skilled trades”.

In 2007, 14,761 skilled immigrants arrived in B.C., down 1,927 from 2006 and the lowest level since 1995, according to an April 2008 report published by the Ministry Responsible for Multiculturalism.

Streamlining foreign-credential accreditation will help immigrants get back into the fields they left in their home countries. But it will not ensure they do. Ochieng said that another significant barrier to skilled immigrants finding work in B.C. is a lack of established networks.

“You have to know someone who knows someone who is hiring out there but who has not advertised the job in the newspaper or on the Internet,” Ochieng explained. “Although they [immigrants] might have all the skills, they don’t know how to access hidden markets and jobs that are not advertised.”

Immigrants to Metro Vancouver have noticed this problem and some have worked to correct it.

In 1990, Paul Mulangu and his wife were separated in a government crackdown in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Fearing for the lives of his children, Mulangu set off with his son and daughter for neighbouring Zambia. They walked for two days without food and water until they arrived at a refugee camp across the border. After “six very long years”, Mulangu told the Straight, his refugee claim to Canada was accepted.

But Mulangu’s life wasn’t given a happy ending just yet. A metallurgical engineer trained in Congo and Belgium, he found that his university degrees weren’t enough in B.C.

“When I came here, I couldn’t find a job in my field, which is why I ended up cleaning washrooms,” he said. “It is not about qualifications, it’s about who you know.”

For six months in 1996, Mulangu sat at home waiting for the phone to ring. When it did—usually no more than a few times a week—it meant that he had a shift cleaning bathrooms at Vancouver International Airport. He worked graveyard shifts and, without money for a baby sitter, often had to leave his children unattended at home. “It was a very terrible situation,” he said. “There was nobody there and no daycare.”

Desperate to improve his family’s situation, Mulangu enrolled in English classes at BCIT. (At the time, he spoke only French, having arrived in Canada believing that the country was bilingual.) His next step was computer classes at Vancouver Community College and then a program to train as an employment counsellor.

Mulangu said that in looking for employment in B.C., he recognized a need among new immigrants for equal access to job networks. His experience led him to found the Centre of Integration for African Immigrants. Today, the centre helps immigrants from any background with their first steps in Canada. Services range from helping newcomers find a home and school for their children to language training and, of course, employment assistance.

At the end of February 2009, the centre moved into a newly renovated, 8,500-square-foot facility at the corner of Carnarvon and Blackie streets in New Westminster.

Walking through unfinished walls and around electrical wire that remained exposed at the time of his interview, Mulangu excitedly explained everything the new facility will be able to offer immigrants to B.C. “We give people information,” he said. “With my experience, I know I can help people find a job.”

For more than 15 years, Zool Suleman has worked as a lawyer specializing in citizenship, immigration, and refugees. Suleman told the Straight that unemployment numbers for skilled immigrants of visible minorities are evidence that discrimination persists in B.C.

He argued that discrimination manifests itself in the exclusion of new immigrants from the “networks of entry” that Canadian-born, generally Caucasian workers enjoy.

All too often, Suleman explained, high-paying positions are quickly filled by applicants who have inside information on the opening and know someone within the company who can vouch for them or speak to their expertise.

“If you find that your social circle does not have people who are in good occupations or are in good jobs, it’s harder to get that informal information about what is going on in a job marketplace,” Suleman said. “For immigrants from visible-minority communities that are not well-represented in the workplace, this is a real issue.”

The result of all this? “Immigrants come here for themselves but they stay for their children.”

In 2005, the City of Vancouver established the Mayor’s Task Force on Immigration. Suleman served as a chair for the group. He said that one suggestion that came out of the task force was to create a council to focus on labour-market integration of immigrants.

On February 3, 2009, the Immigrant Employment Council of B.C. held its inaugural meeting at the Vancouver Foundation. Baldwin Wong, social planner for the city and former task force secretary, told the Straight that the council is now establishing working groups to address specific challenges that immigrants face.

Newcomers are looking for ways to take matters into their own hands, make their skills known, and penetrate exclusionary job networks.

Through internship programs, Wong explained, immigrants can get their feet in the door and gain local, on-site experience in the industry for which they were trained. Meanwhile, employers get an opportunity to observe skills taught at a foreign, possibly unfamiliar institution and can give someone a chance without making a long-term commitment.

Similarly, Wong continued, mentorship programs or volunteer work can supply qualified candidates with local experience and an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of local institutions while, again, minimizing risk for the employer.

Of course, Wong cautioned, finding time to volunteer can be very challenging when one must provide for a family. “Many people I know have to work more than one job to make ends meet,” he noted.

Speaking from SUCCESS’s employment office, Ochieng said that it was volunteering that got her where she is today. After arriving in Canada without references, she said, volunteering was a way for her to overcome a credibility gap.

Ochieng emphasized the need for new immigrants to break down doors that separate them from industry networks. The best way to do that: knocking.

“You have to go knock and find where someone is going on leave or retiring or going on maternity leave and where there are positions where managers are thinking of hiring but have not posted the job yet,” she said. “The government of Canada is great about having community events. Find them out. Attend them. This is free networking. This is where you meet people.”

In addition to collecting job postings, SUCCESS, MOSAIC, and the Centre of Integration for African Immigrants all help newcomers find interning and mentorship opportunities.

Kusina went so far as to describe volunteer service as a “prerequisite” to meaningful employment in Canada. He suggested that with the odds stacked against them, immigrants must make time.

Talking to the Straight in his living room, Kusina motioned to his 12-year-old son sitting nearby at a computer. “My son asks, ‘Dad, why are you not working?’” Kusina said. “He always used to come to my work at the university and look at all the books.”

Kusina took the job with Paladin because it offered a two-week first-aid course to new hires. He said that he wanted anything related to biology and Paladin’s training was as close as he could get.

“Despite the minimum challenges in my current job, I have begun to like and respect it,” he said. “It teaches me to be calm, considerate, and humbling when you are confronted by the day-to-day misfortunes of so many who need help.”

Kusina has worked as a security guard for Paladin since October 2008 and continues to attend job fairs and drop résumés off all over the city.

“I can teach, I like to do research, I like to work with communities. But they say I don’t have enough Canadian experience,” Kusina said. “I know what I want. It is going to take time, but I am going to get there. It is painful, it is ridiculous, but I am here and I am not going anywhere.”

Ethiopian found Israel wasn't heaven on Earth she imagined

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

By Stuart Laidlaw | Toronto Star

When Yuvi Tashome was a little girl in Ethiopia, Jerusalem was a mystical place known to her only through the Torah and the tales children tell one another.

“I grew up with stories about how, in Jerusalem, everybody takes care of one another and keeps the Shabbat,” Tashome, 32, says in a phone interview from Gedera, Israel. She will be telling her story next week in Toronto as part of Passover,

“I thought there is no death in Jerusalem. It was like heaven. There was candy on the trees.”

That it could be real, and that she could go there, seemed impossible.

The story of how she and more than 120,000 other Ethiopian Jews eventually made it to Jerusalem will be told by Tashome Monday evening at Beth Tzedec Synagogue at the New Israel Fund’s Liberation Seder for Passover, which begins today and celebrates the escape of Jewish slaves from ancient Egypt.

“The parallels (in Tashome’s story) to the Exodus story are just amazing,” says Rabbi Lawrence Englander of Mississauga’s Solel Synagogue.

Englander will give the Seder address Monday, calling all worshippers to consider themselves to have escaped Egypt and found freedom.

“The idea is to connect with people like Tashome still going through that journey,” he says.

As civil war ravaged her homeland in the mid-1980s, Tashome’s widowed mother decided the family (which included Yuvi’s little brother and grandmother) had to leave for Jerusalem, part of a massive migration of Ethiopia’s Jewish minority to Israel in what came to be known as Operation Moses.

Just like Moses, Tashome and her family wandered the desert in search of refuge, which they found after about two months in a refugee camp in Sudan.

“I don’t remember a lot about Sudan, just the deaths and that everybody was hungry,” Tashome says. “I was hungry all the time.”

At age 5, she had also been separated from her mother and brother, and travelled with her grandmother instead. They were eventually airlifted out of the camps. Tashome’s most vivid memory was the flight crew.

“We were up in the sky, and they were all wearing white. I thought they were angels,” she says, the sight seeming to prove that Jerusalem was heaven. “When we arrived, I remember the grown-ups all getting down on the floor and praying.”

Cut off from European Judaism for almost 2,000 years, the Jews of Ethiopia shared little with others of their faith in terms of tradition or ceremony. Tashome’s mystical ideas about Jerusalem are a reflection of that disconnect.

But the idyllic image of Jerusalem – which, for Ethiopian Jews in the 1980s, meant all of Israel – soon started to tarnish as unemployment, limited acceptance by Israeli society and the accompanying crime among the Ethiopian community began to take its toll.

Growing up, Tashome tried to be a “good Israeli girl,” in her words, going to a kibbutz for high school and serving in the army. But when it came time to get a civilian job, she found prospects dried up.

“All they could see was an Ethiopian girl,” she says.

Tashome turned her attention, instead, to working with troubled Ethiopian youth. Four years ago, she founded Friends by Nature, a grass-roots organization that helps young people stay in school and out of trouble. Her group is partly funded by the New Israel Fund, which supports such community-based organizations in hopes of building a civic society within Israel, says Jay Brodbar, executive director of the New Israel Fund of Canada.

Such efforts, Tashome says, help Ethiopian youths stay in school and even go to university. And along the way, she says, they are building the next generation of Ethiopian Jewish leaders.

World Bank rejects growth forecast by Ethiopia's dictator

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (The Daily Monitor) — The recently made growth forecast for the year’s economic growth of the country by the International Money Fund (IMF) was more realistic than the forecast made by the Ethiopian government, the World Bank said on Tuesday.

“The World Bank team here believes that the IMF’s is more realistic than the government’s forecast for the reason that investment in the country seems to be slowing” the Bank’s Country Director for Ethiopia Kenichi Ohashi told journalists at a round table discussion attended by visiting World Bank Director for International Affairs, Grace Ssempala.

He said it would be difficult for the country to sustain the economy growth it has been recording through the years because of the challenges in government spending. The Ethiopian government claims that over the past five years the country has registered an average economic growth of 11.8 percent. Just last week, it said it will be 11.2 percent this fiscal year, despite the challenges in inflation and crunches in balance of payment.

Nevertheless, forecasts by the IMF for the year indicated that the growth may decline by almost a half, to 6.5 percent as the world slowdown is likely to hit the country’s coffee export, tourism and transportation.

Ethiopia’s dictator Meles Zenawi recently said that the world economic downturn was not to be considered significant compared to the economic achievements the country is registering, “in the face of global financial crisis.” “It is projected that the global crisis will continue to prevail for the next two or three years, on our side there is a hope that our economy will continue to grow at the same pace,” he said.

But the IMF has said that the country is one of the vulnerable countries to the unfolding crisis.

No rush by U.S. employers for visas for foreign workers

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

By DIANE STAFFORD | The Kansas City Star

U.S. employers have yet to ask for as many H-1B work visas as authorized for the federal fiscal year beginning in October.

For the first time in several years, applications for the employer-sponsored temporary work visas for foreign workers did not reach the cap within a few days after the filing period opened.

Applications for the 65,000 visas authorized by Congress opened April 1. As of Wednesday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had received only about half that number, said Marilu Cabrera, regional spokesman for the federal agency.

Immigration watchers said the unusual decline probably reflected U.S. job losses from the recession and a political climate that would make it unpopular for companies to import workers when Americans have been laid off.

The visa program for fiscal 2010 also authorizes 20,000 H-1B work visas for foreign-born workers who have earned U.S. master’s degrees or higher. Those graduates are exempted from the 65,000 cap.

Cabrera said those applications still were short of the total allowed.

Last year, the limit for both kinds of visas was reached within five days, and a computerized draw determined which employers received the visa permits.

Gizie Bekele, an immigration law specialist at Lathrop & Gage, noted this week at a Kansas City legal seminar that companies receiving federal bailout funding have an additional roadblock this year in applying for H-1B visas. They must show proof that H-1B workers would not displace American workers and that American workers are not available to do the job.

Ethiopia: Slamming the door on specialty coffee buyers

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

By Michaele Weissman

In late 2007 and early 2008 as I was writing “God in a Cup,” the Ethiopian coffee industry experienced what amounted to a market collapse. Vast amounts of coffee that had been purchased by buyers in the US, Europe and Asia were never shipped out of Ethiopia or were shipped many months late after the beans had lost much of their lovely fragrance, taste and freshness. These events are dramatically described in my book.

In 2008 sellers and buyers scrambled to put the broken market back together.

Now the Ethiopian government is in effect re-nationalizing its coffee industry–coffee is Ethiopia’s most important export. The re-nationalization appears to be slamming the door on specialty buyers who in recent years have roamed Ethiopia in search of small lots of super high quality coffee from small Ethiopian farms and cooperatives for which they have paid $3 a pound and up.

Under the new system private sellers are banned. These “privates” have had their licenses to operate taken from them. They are no longer legally allowed to buy, process and market small lots of super expensive coffee.

Instead, the government has created a controlled commodities market on which virtually all Ethiopian coffee will be sold. (Some large, government-friendly cooperatives will apparently continue to have some autonomy.) Under the new rules, coffees from 24 different geographic areas will be aggregated, cupped and graded together. All coffees from, say, Yirgacheffe Area A, Yirgacheffe Area B, Harar and so forth will be slotted into one of nine different quality grades and sold together. Which means that the farmers working in particular cooperatives will no longer be able to increase their earnings by adopting improved agricultural practices and growing better coffee.

This notion–that farmers who work harder and produce better coffee ought to be paid more is the core notion of the specialty coffee industry. Everything else that specialty buyers and roasters are attempting to accomplish flows from this basic premise.

Instead of super high prices for a small number of coffee farmers, the Ethiopian government has decided to focus on gaining higher prices for all its coffee. A similar strategy was adopted some years ago by the Colombians: coffee buyers tell me this strategy resulted in the lowering of standards at the very top of Colombian coffee quality pyramid, but it has significantly raised the price of the mass of Colombian coffee. Since Ethiopia has something like one million coffee farmers, this strategy makes a certain sense. But it it fails to address the most fundamental issue besetting Ethiopian coffee farmers: low productivity. When coffee is aggregated and sold in mass lots, it is hard to identify factors that will motivate farmers and cooperatives to improve agricultural practices –thereby increasing productivity. Perhaps this will come.

Ogaden rebels counter claims by Ethiopia's dictatorship

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

By Peter Heinlein | VOA

Rebels fighting for independence in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region say they are stronger than ever, a day after the government said the insurgency is in tatters.

A statement e-mailed to news organizations Wednesday says the operational capacity of the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front is higher than at any point since its anti-Ethiopia insurgency began.

The e-mail, apparently sent from ONLF offices in Europe, says rebels in the arid stretch of eastern Ethiopia along the Somalia border have defeated every major Ethiopian military campaign in the past two years.

The statement was in response to comments from Ethiopia’s Communications Minister Bereket Simon, who told reporters that government troops are on the verge of crushing the rebels.

“The situation in Ogaden has developed in such a way that when the ONLF has lost too much ground. And at this point we can say the ONLF is very weakened and in a state of crisis,” he said.

Bereket said government political and counterinsurgency operations have undermined the ONLF’s popular support.

“The situation in Ogaden is improving by the day,” he said. “People are interested in developmental activities and taking matters into their own hands. The government assessment is that the ONLF will find itself in a very difficult situation.”

The ONLF statement described Bereket’s comments as “wishful thinking,” aimed at instilling a false sense of confidence in oil exploration companies the government is trying to lure back to the Ogaden region.

Ethiopia stepped up counterinsurgency operations in the Ogaden nearly two years ago, after the rebels attacked a Chinese-run oil exploration facility, killing 65 Ethiopians and several Chinese nationals.

Industry analysts say no oil has been discovered in the Ogaden.

The government restricts journalists access to the region, and there is little verifiable information about the strength of the rebels or the level of fighting.

The U.S. group Human Rights Watch last year issued a report accusing government troops of staging public executions and burning villages in their counterinsurgency campaign. The report was based on eyewitness accounts.

Ethiopia responded with its own report charging the Human Rights group with using flawed methods that resulted in unsubstantiated and inflammatory allegations. The government rebuttal noted that Human Rights Watch investigators had not visited the Ogaden, and that some of the people listed as dead in the report had later been found alive.

Independent verification of the ONLF’s strength on the ground is impossible, but the group is known to have strong backing among Ogadenis living overseas, many of whom are refugees. Hundreds of sign-carrying ONLF supporters staged noisy demonstrations outside the G20 summit site in London last week to protest the presence of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

Conversation Ethiopian jazz legend Mulatu Astatke

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

By Jeff Weiss in weiss | LA Weekly

Rivaling Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Franco, Tabu Ley Rochereau, and a handful of others, Mulatu Astatke ranks among the most influential African musicians of all-time.

The father of Ethio-Jazz, the Berklee-trained Mulatu was the first of his countryman to fuse American jazz and funk, with native folk and Coptic Chuch melodies. The leading light of the “Swingin’ Addis-”era, Astatke is often acknowledged as the star of the epic Ethiopiques Series, At least, according to filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, who included songs from the Mulatu-arranged and composed, Vol. 4, in his ode to midlife melancholia, Broken Flowers.

His latest album, Mulatu Astatke & The Heliocentrics-Inspiration Information 3, finds him collaborating with the titular UK-based jazz-funk eight-piece. Born out of a serendipitous turn that led to the band backing Mulatu’s first UK gig in 15 years, Mulatu and the Stones Throw-signed outfit decided to record a new album composed of originals and re-worked older compositions. Released yesterday on Strut, the finished product ranks among the year’s finest, and adds another succesful chapter to Mulatu’s unimpeachable legacy.

How did you and Heliocentrics decide to collaborate the first place?

I was in Boston, lecturing for the music academy [from 2007-08, Astatke had the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship at Harvard University, where he worked on modernizations of traditional Ethiopian instruments and unveiled an opera, "The Yared Opera."] Karen P invited me to play a show on London, so I did There wasn’t much time to meet with Heliocentrics. We only had one day of rehearsal, but after the show was over, we felt we should collaborate. The album was very hard work. It was recorded in just 10 days, in the Heliocentrics studio in London.

How would you compare the chemistry you had with the Heliocentrics, with Either/Or Orchestra?

It’s not clear. They’re a different band, one who I’d been with for a long time. It’s a different groove, different passion. I like both, and that’s why I felt connected, and it came off authentic. The music reflects the connection.

During the 1970s, Ethiopia was ruled by a fairly repressive government. How did the political situation affect your music?

It didn’t. I’ve always said, ‘leave the politics to the politicians.’ It takes all kinds of professional people to build a country–my role is to develop the culture and introduce the whole world to Ethio-jazz.

You’ve spoken in the past about meeting Duke Ellington in the early 1970s. What was the experience like? Did you play together? Talk about music? Exchange tips?

I was assigned by the Embassy to be Ellington’s escort while he was in Addis. We both stayed at the Hilton in Addis and, whatever he needs or wants to know about Ethiopia, I was his guide. I had always admired him as an arranger, composer and bandleader. During my music studies, I had analyzed his work in detail. During his visit, I showed him some of the cultural musical instruments, which he found really interesting. Some of our cultural musical players jammed with Ellington’s guys – we went to the U.S. Information Centre in Addis and played together. I then took him to the King’s palace and he was given a medal by Emperor Heile Selassie. It was a big ceremony.

We were due to play an evening concert so I discussed with him if he would consider playing one of my arrangements. I wrote an arrangement of ‘Dewel’ for his band, a different version which included some beautiful voicings on the horns. He found the structures so interesting and I remember him saying, ‘This is good. I never expected this from an African’. He made my day. His visit to Ethiopia remains one of the greatest moments in my life.

What was the inspiration to create Ethio-jazz. In addition to your American counterparts’ jazz fusion styles, what native influences and past Ethiopian composers helped inspire the new sound?

During the mid-’60s, no one was really fusing Ethiopian music with jazz. There was Heile Selassie’s First National Theatre Orchestra and the police and the army had orchestras. Then there were bands like the Echoes and the Ras Band. The musicians at the time were playing melodies around the four Ethiopian modes using techniques like ‘cannon’ forms, with melody lines echoing each other. With Ethio jazz, I consciously wanted to expand and explore the modes. My music brought in quite different harmonic structures and a different kind of soloing.

You’ve amassed an incredibly rich discography, but do any records or songs stand out as personal favorites?

‘Dewel’ would definitely be one. ‘Mulatu’s Hideaway’ and ‘Yekermo Sew’ of course. I’m always really happy that these older compositions stand the test of time. At my recent European gigs with the Heliocentrics and in L.A. at the recent ‘Timeless’ concert, the reaction is still so great when I play these.

Does it feel rewarding that American culture has finally discovered the music from Ethopia in recent years. If so, why do you think it took so long?

It’s been so nice, yes. America is a country of privileges for people. To have access to that privilege and have the opportunity to record Ethio-jazz all those years ago is something I always appreciate. I’m not sure why it took so long. I personally was never discouraged, I always just kept on playing. It needed people to find the original music and make it available in the right way. The ‘Ethiopiques’ series and film director Jim Jarmusch (‘Broken Flowers’) gave it a great chance to be heard and Karen P, Strut Records and the Heliocentrics are carrying the flame forward. The live shows I do now have shown me how this music is now accepted all over the world. It gives me great encouragement and I love to do this for Ethiopia and for Ethiopian culture. Ethiopia itself is slowly waking up to the music too. Africa is emerging and Ethio-jazz is in the best position to fly the flag for the future of Africa. I really believe that.

Are there any young and notable Ethiopian musicians that you’ve worked with, whom you think may not have yet crossed over but should?

I play with a number of different musicians at my club in Addis, the African Jazz Village. There’s one kid who plays there on Saturdays called Bebesha, a guitarist. He has a good future and he is a great fan of Ethio-jazz.

You recently completed a Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard. Can you talk about what led you to pursue that, and your work on the project?

This has been great for Ethio jazz. The idea was to write a book of what Ethiopia has contributed to development of music and arts. During my time there, I made a lot of talks to 30 fellows of Harvard, with three other composers, some from Japan. We had great researchers and professors. As a team we gave presentations and discussed at length the development of classical music and jazz and the music, customs and instrumentations happening in Ethiopia that pre-date all of this by many centuries. I had written an opera based on music from the Ethiopian Coptic church, which was analyzed. My time there finished with a great evening of Ethio-jazz and a performance of the opera with Either/Orchestra.

After Harvard, I later won an Abrowsie Grant to go to M.I.T. We did a lot of experimental work there. Most Ethio musicians tend to pick up the guitar as a starting point and, at M.I.T., I was looking to upgrade the krar (Ethiopian stringed instrument) to be able to play Western 12-tone music. For me, this is an essential step in encouraging Ethiopian musicians to stick to our culture.

Are you working on any new music currently? If so, what sorts of things?

Yes, I have recorded a group of tracks for a new album, which I have called ‘Mulatu Steps Ahead’. It’s more reflective and jazz-based than the album with Heliocentrics but I’m really pleased with it. It takes Ethio-jazz into another new direction.

How has the creative process evolved for you as you’ve gotten older?

I suppose I have learned to place Ethio-jazz into different situations. From essentially experimenting with the first recordings during the ’60s, I have since adapted the music to write operas and soundtracks for a lot of Ethiopian plays, including a major piece for the National Black Arts Festival in Nigeria. I have tried to keep an open mind with my music and have been lucky enough to play with a lot of wonderful artists in many different situations. It has all helped to keep the music fresh, I hope.

What achievements are you most proud of?

The Ellington visit to Ethiopia and accompanying concert will always be a highlight. For my own music, just to see the interest today and the way it still excites people all over the world is very special.

You’ve worked tirelessly to teach younger generations between your work at the African Jazz Village and Harvard. What do you think it is that draws you to teaching?

I do try and be a kind of ambassador for Ethiopian music and culture and to dispel the myths that have become accepted as fact in the West. In my research around Ethiopian music, I have found people like the Darasha tribespeople who have used a diminishing scale in their music for centuries. In Western music history, this is a technique attributed to Be Bop, to the music of Charlie Parker. It has made me determined to tell the facts as they are to the wider world. We have to find out who came first, how things really happened.

Are there any goals that you feel you have left to accomplish? What do you hope for in the future?

I have a goal to ‘upgrade’ all Ethiopian musical instruments. All of them are based on the 5-tone scale and, over time, I want to re-model them to be able to play the 12-tone scale so we can use them to play Ethio-jazz. I also want to write more music for films and TV and to contribute to documentary programs so more people can view Ethio-jazz and learn about my country’s music heritage.

The challenge of being an Ethiopian Jew in America

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

NEW YORK (jewkey.com) – When Avishai Mekonen, 35, an Israeli photographer who has lived for the past seven years in New York City, lectured before American high-school students in Savannah, GA, one of them asked him to roll up his sleeve.

“Where is the number?” the student asked. Mekonen didn’t get it at first.

“I thought Jews are Holocausts survivors. Aren’t you a Holocaust survivor?” explained the teenager. With experiences of this kind, admits Mekonen, it’s not always easy to be the Ethiopian Jew in America. As if it is anywhere else.

In his new exhibition, “Seven Generations”, he wishes to return to his community the pride of its authentic tradition. Then irony in his quest for shards of his traditional identity is that his work is being displayed in New York, and not in Israel.

It is customary for Ethiopians, before getting married, to have the community elders account for seven generations of each family, in order to ensure that no accidental cases of incest can occur. This tradition also became one of the foundations of the elders’ authority. One who is able to count seven generations back would receive the respect of the community. Those who can count 14 generations are perceived as geniuses.

“Once an Israeli cab driver who took me to an Ethiopian funeral cursed and said: ‘Those Ethiopians! Only one died, yet hundreds are coming!’” recalls Mekonen. “But in our tradition, you must invite all your extended relatives, 7 generations back, both to the weddings and to funerals. It’s like one big family.”

Some of the youngsters he interviewed for the film accompanying the exhibition have no idea what all of this means, or they don’t really care. When Mekonen married his wife Shari, a Jewish American filmmaker, he didn’t really need the elders’ services to count generations of his bride’s family. His parents, who flew all the way from Israel to the U.S. for the wedding, were quite shocked to see the small number of guests. “This is the whole family?” his mother asked, a bit disappointed.

We eat hummus in a small Manhattan restaurant as Mekonen tells me that many years ago he had this idea to make a documentary about the painful generation gap of the Ethiopian community, but dawdled, and his move to the U.S. to join his wife further complicated the matter.

“But one day it struck me, when I met a young Ethiopian in Israel who is able to count generations. This tradition will just disappear, and nothing will be left of it.”

He says that Israeli bureaucrats unknowingly contributed to the destruction of the custom: when Mekonen made Aliya to Israel in 1984, instead of taking on his father’s family name, according to tradition, he was instead registered under his great-grandfather’s name, along with the rest of his family. Born Agegnehu (”gift” in Amharic), he became Avraham upon his arrival. Later, he changed his name to Avishai, to return some semblance of his original name.

“But I’m still Mekonen, and the elders get confused when they try to count generations – it doesn’t seem logical to them, this jump from my great-grandfather to me. Mekonen is supposed to belong to another generation.”

The entire family in Israel was recruited to work on the project. His father made phone calls to community elders, arranging meetings; his mother baked injera, the traditional bread, to honor the hosts; the younger brother was appointed to contact Israeli-Ethiopian hip-hop bands and rebellious teenage girls with tattoos.

“The parents’ generation understood the importance of this project, dressed nicely and fully cooperated. The youngsters neglected it until I talked to them, when they admitted that because of their detachment from tradition they have had serious identity problems. They said they feel “empty and humiliated” when some policeman tells them: “You are Ethiopian, you understand nothing.”

The tears within the Ethiopian community seem so distant from the noisy lobby at the Jewish Community Center building in Manhattan, where his exhibition is presented. In the afternoon, African-American nannies bring children for activities at the Center. 30-year old Jolly is taking care of two active Jewish toddlers, and she seems quite surprised when she sees the pictures: “I never thought there were black Jews!”

Some of the Ethiopians sought comfort in Harlem, so they wouldn’t be forced to deal with the perceptions that “Jews are white”. But Mekonen says “it’s complicated”. In his documentary-in-progress, “400 Miles to freedom”, he explores his personal story and identity, and through this exploration he meets a variety of diverse Jews both in Israel and in America, including Rabbi Capers Funnye, a leader of the African American Jewish community and second cousin of First Lady Michelle Obama, who shares his own historical roots and path to Judaism. He says that although Ethiopians, unlike African-Americans, weren’t enslaved and detached from their history, he feels that the conversations with the community present a strong opportunity to learn about the history of slavery in the U.S.

“There are obvious advantages to being part of a big and influential community,” he admits. “The first time I saw a giant poster featuring a black model, I was stunned and excited that here people actually think that black sells. I wanted it to happen in Israel too. Then in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina where the blacks were neglected, I said, ‘thank God I’m Israeli.’ But when Obama won the election and all our neighbors ran down the street yelling and dancing and singing – I shouted something in Hebrew as well, something like: ‘The good guys won!’ It was perhaps the first time that I felt I belong to this fest, and I said I’m so grateful to be here to witness this historical moment.”

Like almost every Israeli living in New York and hoping “to return one day”, Mekonen dreams of going back to Israel and buying a house in Rosh Pina. He recalls with nostalgia his service in the Israel Defense Forces’ combat engineering unit, the day he was wounded in Hebron by a Molotov cocktail and his time in Lebanon.

“I was a Zionist,” he says. “After I finished my studies I made some documentaries, and one of the films was screened on Channel 1. Even so, I hated headlines like ‘The first Ethiopian filmmaker’ – it made me feel as though they don’t expect anything more from me – you’ve already done your duty, you’re free to go. But I felt that my career had just begun.”

“And then I suddenly found myself organizing the shelves of an N.Y. supermarket, and I didn’t even have a name – I was a ‘garbage boy’. I didn’t come ‘to conquer America’. Frankly, I was horrified at the thought of a second immigration, after we walked from Ethiopia to Sudan.

“I had all kinds of weird phobias, like that being a black Jew might even get me killed over here. Every day I cursed the American food – it seemed so tasteless. For two months, I ate only hot dogs – it was the only thing I could name in English. When I was working at the moving company, like so many other Israelis, one sofa slipped out of my hands and rolled down the stairs, so I had to quit.

“I thought I would have to give up art. I would bring my CV to production companies, but who has heard of Tel-Hai college? Who knows what Channel 1 is here? They were a bit curious about the black guy coming from Israel, but they always finished with: ‘We’ll call you back,’ and you know exactly what that means. The only thing that kept me strong was that I put a small table in the corner, and started writing scripts.”

Eventually, Mekonen started to exhibit his work, got some grants for his projects and was able to go back to filmmaking. But he still feels like a guest in America.

“From the Jewish community I sometimes hear: ‘Did you come with Operation Moshe? I donated to it!’ The thing is my mother lives it every day. Each morning she says: ‘Thank God, thanks to America’. But I start telling people that we were not only sitting there and waiting for someone to rescue us. We walked for months, and thousands died on the way. But they don’t get it, and some even become angry because it doesn’t fit their stereotypes of the naive Africans that are supposed to be grateful until their last day. It’s pretty difficult for me to see sometimes the fundraising campaigns for the Ethiopian community in Israel, they look so miserable. I want people to see my culture as a rich and happy one. But then probably no one would donate money, and it really helps many people.”

In Israel he misses many things that the native Israelis would rather escape.

“I adore those moments, when you come off the plane and the cab driver starts to haggle over each shekel, things like that,” he laughs. “And of course, I ask myself where I would be today if I had stayed there.”

He doubts that his 4-year-old son Ariel will speak Amharic. “But I want him at least to know Hebrew.” At this moment, he would be glad if his exhibition will finally reach Israel. “I want the elders to see it. They deserve it.”

Slightly more than a thousand Ethiopian Jews have settled in North America since the beginning of the 1990s, and about 500 live in New York City. The Israeli Consulate, which used to ignore the trend, nowadays prefers to keep in touch with the Israelis living in the city.

The new New Yorkers themselves hate when one defines it as a “phenomenon”. They are fed up with questions about the racism in Israel and America, and they reject any question that smells of arrogance and an effort to distinguish them from any other young Israelis who head to seek themselves “in the big world.”

Bizu Rikki Mulu, one of the Ethiopian-Israeli-American community veterans, founded an organization aimed at facilitating absorption of the newcomers. She called it Chassida Shmella (”Shmella” means stork in Amharic, she took it from the song people in her village would sing while seeing the migrating birds: “Stork, stork, how is our Holy Land?”). She thinks that the stream of the newcomers will increase now that Obama is president.

“You have here in N.Y.C. maybe one hundred thousand Yemenite Jews, maybe half a million Russian Jews, and now we have the Ethiopian Jews,” she says. “It’s a normal thing. It is better to keep them attached to the community, instead of saying: ‘We’ve spent so much money to bring them to Israel, they should go back there. If someone succeeds, it’s a success for all of us.’”

Mulu, native of a small village in Gondar, came to Israel in 1978 with a group of 150 Jews as part of Operation Begin. She arrived in New York for the first time in 1991, and although she managed to get a green card, she warns that for most young Ethiopians, the absorption is not so simple.

“It looks easy from Israel, but then they come here and work illegally in all kinds of odd jobs, and no one really cares about them,” she says. “A few fared better, some have their own businesses, and one woman works at the local hospital because her profession facilitates the immigration process. And there are plenty of guys who didn’t really succeed, but they don’t want to go back home with empty hands. I think it’s quite healthy to be able to say: ‘I failed and I’m going to try to make it at home.’ Not everyone is like Obama. In many places in America still, the blacks are here and the whites are there. Only in the 60s, segregation was abolished formally. The young Ethiopians coming here don’t think about these things.”

Chassida Shmella organizes cultural and educational events, but most of the newcomers ask for material assistance. “They ask directly: ‘What can you do for me?’ At first, they are less interested in preserving their religious and cultural identity. But most of them come from religious families, and here there are no parents to prepare the Shabbat meal. They are trying to find their place. At first, people at synagogue might stare at them, but eventually they get used to it, and the rabbi is excited. Only upon coming here I discovered how much the American Jews did for the Ethiopian Jews. But there are also a lot of prejudices and stereotypes. Many still want to see us as the guys dressed in white coming off the plane, because that’s how they remember this Aliyah.”

“The Ethiopian Jews sobered later,” declares one fresh arrival. “In Israel, dog eats dog. Here you have plenty of problems as well, but I personally prefer to be stabbed in the back by a gentile, and not my own brother Jew. Here the Ethiopians tend to succeed more, because people don’t look at your origin and family name, they look at what you have to offer them. With God’s help, we’ll get back to Israel empowered, economically and mentally, to Jerusalem and not to the state-sponsored trailers.”

Ethiopians finish 1st and 2nd in Carlsbad 5k

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Carlsbad, CALIFORNIA (IAAF) – On a day featuring warm temperatures, blue skies and a slight breeze, Daba Bekana won the Carlsbad 5000 on Sunday, April 6, as Ethiopian men finished 1-2-3 in the 5k road race. Aheza Kiros of Ethiopia won the women’s race, edging out U.S. Olympian Shannon Rowbury.

Bekana made his move with 300m remaining, out-sprinting his countryman Abreham Cherkos, but it was very tight with both finishing in 13:19. Defending champion Margue Zewdie clocked at 13:24 to complete the Ethiopian sweep. Cherkos competed in last year’s Olympic Games in Beijing, finishing fifth in the 5000m.

“The race was good today and I’m happy I won,” said Bekana. “This is my first 5k road race, I was just trying to compete and stay with the leaders.”

American Anthony Famigletti just missed Marc Davis’ 13-year-old American record, finishing in sixth place overall in a time of 13:28.

“It was just too little too late over the last 600 metres,” said Famigletti, competing for the first time in Carlsbad. “This is a fun place to race and the aggressive world class field was one of a kind. Now that I know the course I’ll have a better shot at the record next year. It was a good experience overall and a good start to the outdoor track season.”

In the women’s race, Kiros used a final kick to earn first place over American Shannon Rowbury, by a mere 3 seconds with a time of 15:38. The Ethiopian started to make her move at the final turn and was able to keep a slim lead to the finish line on Carlsbad Village Drive.

“I was confident I could hold her off,” said Kiros, 25, on the final sprint to the finish line.

Kiros and Rowbury were stride for stride over the last 200 meters, but Kiros had more speed in the end.

“It was a sunny day and the crowd was awesome,” said Rowbury, who will race next in Berkley, CA on 25 April.

The Carlsbad 5000 will celebrate its 25th anniversary on 11 April 2010.

Dan Cruz (organisers) for the IAAF

Elite Men – MEN

1. Daba Bekana, Ethiopia, 13:19
2. Abreham Cherkos, Ethiopia, 13:19
3. Maregu Zewdie, Ethiopia, 13:24
4. Ali Abdosh, Ethiopia, 13:25
5. Collis Birmingham, Australia, 13:27

Elite Women – WOMEN

1. Aheza Kiros, Ethiopia, 15:38
2. Shannon Rowbury, United States, 15:41
3. Lara Tamsett, Australia, 15:42
4. Katie McGregor, United States, 15:58
5. Jane Kibii, Kenya, 16:04

Ethiopian cooking class at Roblar Winery in California

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

An exquisite evening awaits you at the Roblar Winery Cooking School for classes full of wonderful food and excellent wine. Guest Chef Saba Tewolde will start her class with a cooking demonstration and appetizers paired with Roblar wines. After the class, everyone is seated in the beautiful Roblar barrel room for a 4 to 5 course dinner paired with more Roblar wines. Each class is limited to 24 seats and reservations are required. Reserve your seat today.

Saba Tewolde, Ethiopian chef, shares the dishes of her homeland as a private chef, caterer and instructor. Her love of cooking began at an early age. Raised by her grandmother, Saba learned how to prepare traditional dishes as a young girl and loved cooking for her family. At the age of ten, Saba would bake bread in an outdoor wood-burning oven and sell it in the local village. With the proceeds, she would purchase ingredients to prepare traditional family meals.

Saba was born, at home in Ethiopia, the eighth of twelve children. The exact year and date of her birth are not known. She was approximately five years old during the drought of 1984-85, when a million Ethiopians died during what is referred to as “Ethiopia’s Holocaust”.

Saba moved to Saudi Arabia when she was 13 or 14 years old and worked 24 hours a day for a family as a maid before escaping the middle eastern country with a combination of bribes, a false French passport and travels through Romania, Italy and France. Upon her arrival in San Francisco, Saba immediately went to the American Embassy and was admitted to the United States under political asylum five years ago.

Since then, Saba has established herself as a much in demand private chef and caterer in Santa Barbara, preparing Ethiopian cuisine to enthusiastic reactions and rave reviews.

Saba plans to continue her private chef and catering business (she buys only the best organic ingredients; her mother sends spices from Ethiopia) so that she can help her family members financially; but her dream is to open an Ethiopian restaurant in Santa Barbara where she can share her food and culture with others.

“The most rewarding part about cooking is when you see hungry people full and satisfied,” says Saba, “You don’t see it in their tummy, you see it in their eyes!”

Israeli delegation walks out of Ethiopia conference

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

The Israeli delegation at an inter-parliamentary conference in Addis Ababa walked out of the event Tuesday in protest of the presence of Hamas officials in the Palestinian team.

The delegation was lead by Likud’s Silvan Shalom and Kadima’s Shlomo Molla.

Shalom said that he could not sit in a conference with a terror group and that Hamas’s participation was no different to the attendance of Taliban or al-Qaida representatives.

During the conference, the Palestinian and Iranian delegations held up photos of Palestinians killed during the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead and scenes of destruction from the Gaza Strip.

In a related development, Arab, Iranian MPs walk out of meeting during a speech by the delegate from Israel

[Ma'anImages]

(Ma’an) — Palestinian, Arab, and Iranian members of parliament walked out of a meeting of the Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) during a speech by an Israeli politician on Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Acting Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Ahmad Bahar, claimed to have announced his departure from the hall during a speech by the Israeli. Representatives of Morocco, Libya, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen also walked out of the meeting hall raising pictures of Gazan children killed during Israeli offensive in December and January.

Israeli Knesset member Silvan Shalom responded to the walk-out by denouncing Hamas and its parliament members as “terrorists.” Syria’s representative replied to Shalom’s comments by telling that Hamas is a Palestinian resistance movement elected by the Palestinian people, and accusing Israel of terrorism.

Shalom told Israeli media a different version of events, in which he blocked an Iranian effort to raise a critical discussion of the Israeli war on Gaza during the meeting.

New president reduced Ghana ministries from 27 to 23

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

By Franklin Cudjoe

Ghanaians recently went to the polls to elect a new President to succeed outgoing president Kufuor. This was the second time under the country’s nascent democracy, that one political party was handing over to another without violent dispute. Ghana can be said to have redeemed Africa’s electoral image after the carnage the world witnessed during the Kenyan and Zimbabwean elections.

However, barely three weeks into his adminstatration, Ghana’s new President, Prof. John Atta Mills is setting the pace for another rare political commodity on the continent- small government.

Unlike his predecessor John Kufuor who suggested that the complexity of running a government, (the African way of course), demanded an expansion in the size of government, Ghana’s new President, John Atta Mills is demonstrating that it is possible to have a leaner administration.

The President has reduced the number of ministries from 27 to 23, not a significant feat, but relative to his predecessor’s penchant for extravagance and in keeping with one of many campaign pledges, the good old Professor President appears to be serious.

Even if it was for scoring political points, such a reduction in government is necessary because it saves the ordinary tax payer expense on thousands of free fuel, hundreds of expensive corporate and luxury cars and millions of dollars which otherwise would be spent on salaries, allowances, per diem and pensions and ridiculous end of service benefits. It is estimated that 40 per cent of fuel usage in Ghana is freely taken up by government ministries, departments and agencies.

It was not surprising to learn that government spending under the immediate past administration was in a deficit to the tune of 14 per cent of our GDP, with spending exceeding 670 per cent of budgeted expenditure for 2008 alone. It is important not to continue on the path to wastefulness, else we risk accelerating our poverty to the post-independence days.

Even though it is an over used example, it is important to be reminded that in 1957 Ghana and South Korea had about the same GDP per capita, but fifty years on South Korea grew and Ghana stagnated. The difference in the political destinies of the two countries is that, they had separate brands of governance. South Korea may have had some form of benevolent dictatorship, but it was no match for Ghana’s occasional experimentation with military adventurism that toyed with the economy.

The Ghanaian economy has started to grow in recent years and may be on the right track. But it is about good institutions and government that is relatively small and allows the private sector to grow.

While we acknowledge this rare achievement on a continent where government is the largest employer, it is possible to effectively rule Ghana with only fifteen ministries if politicians recognize the need to appoint professionals who can multi-task and efficiently delegate functions within their respective jurisdictions. Mere political party loyalty without requisite skills should not be the yardstick for appointment to a high office.

Economy in government is one element in that story, and President Mills has taken a small but significant step in that direction.

Franklin Cudjoe is editor of African Liberty and Executive Director of IMANI, a policy think tank in Ghana.

(Franklin Cudjoe is editor of African Liberty and Executive Director of IMANI, a policy think tank in Ghana.)

Madagascar's ousted president in Ethiopia for AU meetings

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA – Madagascar’s ousted president Marc Ravalomanna was in Addis Ababa for talks with Ethiopian authorities and African Union officials, an Ethiopian official told AFP Tuesday.

“Mr Ravalomanana arrived on Monday evening in Addis Ababa for talks with Ethiopia’s dictator Meles Zenawi and the AU commission president Jean Ping,” a senior foreign ministry official told AFP on condition on anonymity.

“The prime minister has met him. He should be leaving Addis Ababa on Wednesday after the talks,” added the official.

Ravalomanana was forced to resign on March 17 after months of protest by then opposition chief Andry Rajoelina who was backed by the army.

His whereabouts had been unknown after he fled the country to Swaziland.

Senator Jim Inhofe visits Ethiopia this week

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

WASHINGTON — Senator Jim Inhofe is scheduled to visit five African countries this week, including ones he’s been to numerous times in the past 10 years.

Inhofe, Republican from the State of Oklahoma, was in Afghanistan earlier this week and is scheduled to go to Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Djibouti and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Inhofe has been to Africa at least 20 times in the past 10 years.

He has described his trips to Africa as “a Jesus thing,” in which he meets with African leaders in a spiritual context, although he told The Oklahoman he also pursues humanitarian and national security causes on his taxpayer-funded visits. He last went to Africa in December. That trip also included a stop in Ethiopia.

Inhofe spokesman Matt Dempsey said Inhofe “is once again focused on his work as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Senator Inhofe is in the pockets of DLP Piper lobbyists who receive $50,000 per month from Ethiopia’s dictator to lobby U.S. congressmen. Last year, he was instrumental in blocking the “Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights Advancement Act” in the Senate after it unanimously passed in the House.

U.S. knew about Rwanda before, during and after

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: The U.S. also knows about, and is in fact an accomplice in, the current slow-pace, systematic genocide in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia by its client regime.

By Scott Baldauf | The Christian Science Monitor

Johannesburg, South Africa – The Clinton administration and Congress watched the unfolding events in Rwanda in April 1994 in a kind of stupefied horror.

The US had just pulled American troops out of a disastrous peacekeeping mission in Somalia – later made famous in the book “Black Hawk Down” – the year before. It had vowed never to return to a conflict it couldn’t understand, between clans and tribes it didn’t know, in a country where the US had no national interests.

From embassies and hotels in Kigali, diplomats and humanitarian workers gave daily tolls of the dead, mainly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus who had called for tribal peace. The information came in real time, and many experts say that the US and the Western world in general failed to respond.

‘We knew before, during, and after’

“During World War II, much of the full horror of the Holocaust was known after the fact. But in Rwanda, we knew before, during, and after,” says Ted Dagne, a researcher at the Congressional Research Service in Washington, who has traveled to Rwanda on fact-finding missions. “We knew, but we didn’t want to respond.”

In an official letter written as late as June 19, 1994, the then-UN-Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali showed exasperation at the numbers of peacekeepers that member nations were willing to provide.

“It is evident that, with the failure of member states to promptly provide the resources necessary for the implementation of its expanded mandate, UNAMIR (the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda) may not be in a position, for about three months, to fully undertake the tasks entrusted to it,” Mr. Boutros-Ghali wrote. Within a month of the writing of this letter, the genocide ended, as Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front took full effective control of Rwanda.

US support for a rapid-action force

Mr. Dagne, a Congressional aide at the time, says that if the Clinton administration had called for a rapid-action force to stop the killings in Rwanda, Congress would have supported him. Letters from bipartisan panels of Congress back this up.

“We are writing to express our strong support for an active United States role in helping to resolve the crisis in Rwanda,” wrote Rep. Bob Torricelli (D) of New Jersey, in a letter of April 20, 1994, signed by Republicans and Democrats alike. “Given the fact that approximately 20,000 people have died thus far in the tragic conflict, it is important that the United States endeavor to end the bloodshed and to bring the parties to the negotiating table.”

But time and again in that spring and summer, President Clinton replied with more pleas for the government and the rebels to stop the violence themselves, and suggested that the underarmed, overstretched UN peacekeeping mission on the ground was the right group to lead the way.

“On April 22 … the White House issued a strong public statement calling for the Rwandan Army and the Rwandan Patriotic Front to do everything in their power to end the violence immediately,” President Clinton wrote on May 25, 1994, to Rep. Harry Johnston (D) of Florida. “This followed an earlier statement by me calling for a cease-fire and the cessation of the killings.”

With Congress looking toward the president, and the White House looking toward the UN, nothing was done, and the genocide ran its course.

“At the end of an administration, they write a report, and Rwanda was at the top of the failures list for the Clinton administration, so this is something that they acknowledge themselves,” says Dagne.

If there is a lesson learned from Rwanda, Dagne says, it is that the international community needs to avoid giving the impression that it is willing or capable of rescuing civilians in a conflict. “It’s important to build the capacity of people to do the job themselves [of protecting themselves],” Dagne says. “We must not give the expectation that people will be saved.”

US influence not uniquely critical to Ethiopia – Shinn

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

By Ambassador David Shinn

I participated in a panel hosted by the Oromo Studies Association at Howard University in Washington on April 4 and gave a subsequent interview to the Oromo language service of the Voice of America. The theme of the conference was “U.S. Policy in the Horn of Africa: Opportunities and Prospects for Change under the Obama Administration.” Other members of the panel were Terrence Lyons, associate professor at George Mason University, and Ezekiel Gebissa, associate professor at Kettering University.

I emphasized during the panel and in the VOA interview that it is important to treat the Horn of Africa as a region as conflicts in any one country inevitably have important implications for one or more neighboring countries. It is also essential that the United States work cooperatively with traditional allies and some of the new non-African countries that have growing influence in the region. I urged the mostly Ethiopian-American audience of Oromo heritage not to accept the commonly-held view that the United States wields enormous control over the Ethiopian government through its assistance program, which consists mostly of funding to combat HIV/AIDS and humanitarian assistance. U.S. influence is important but not uniquely critical to the Ethiopian government.

Although the 2005 national elections in Ethiopia ended badly and the 2008 local elections were a missed opportunity to restart a competitive electoral process, I noted that the Eritrean-based Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) also missed an opportunity when it boycotted the 2005 elections. It is difficult to be optimistic about competitive national elections in 2010, but if discussions between the Ethiopian government and the OLF suggest the possibility of good elections on a relatively-level playing field, the OLF should engage politically. Its long-standing armed struggle against the government has not been successful and shows no sign that it will be successful.

As for the Obama Administration and the concerns of the Oromo in Ethiopia, I doubted that the new administration will focus on any particular ethnic group in Ethiopia. Although the Oromo constitute by far the largest group in the country, there are some 85 ethnic groups in Ethiopia. It is not realistic to expect the American government to single out the grievances of any particular group. On the other hand, I believe the Obama administration will give greater attention generally to the process of democratization and human rights issues in Ethiopia. This should work to the advantage of the Oromo.

Saudi private investors to put $100 million into Ethiopia farm

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

DAMMAM, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) – A group of private Saudi investors plans to invest 375 million riyals ($100 million) to plant wheat, barley and rice in Ethiopia, one of the investors said.

The three investors met Ethiopia’s dictator Meles Zenawi late last month, Mohamed al-Musallam, who chairs Dar Misc Economic and Administrative Consultancy firm, told Reuters.

“They approved to lease us the farm land. They will exempt us from paying taxes and lease fees in the first years of production and they will allow us to export all our production,” Musallam told Reuters.

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 three investors are setting up a company that will lead the investment. “We have opted for rice, barley and wheat because they are among the crops covered by the (Saudi) government’s strategic food security programme,” he said.

“We plan to start within one year. We are in the process of assessing best areas and ratios for each crop,” Musallam added.

The other investors involved in the project are Yassine al-Jafri and Khaled Zeiny.

“Some of the financing will come from us and … we can secure some of the financing from private financial institutions or from the Islamic Development Bank,” he added.

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.

State-owned Saudi Industrial Development Fund is granting financing facilities to firms exploring agricultural investments abroad.

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.

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.

A Night of Jazz and Ethiopian music in Philadelphia

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Crossroads Music books veteran Philadelphia vibraphonist Khan Jamal and the Debo Band, the first American-based band ever to be invited to play at the Ethiopian Music Festival in Addis Ababa–and for putting them on the same bill. It’s the kind of bold programming that should be much more common.

The vibraphone seems to be an instrument that lots of listeners are drawn to, and Jamal plays with a rare combination of technique and creativity. He’ll be joined on Saturday by drummer Lenny Belasco and a bassist, probably Fahir Kendall.

The Boston-based Debo Band was founded by Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen in 2006 as a way of exploring the unique funk- and jazz-influenced sounds that filled the dance clubs of “Swinging Addis” in the 1960s and ‘70s. Its a unique and catchy style of music that has become more well-known to American audiences in recent years, due in part to the Ehtiopiques series of CD reissues.

Belasco/Jamal Trio and the Debo Band at Crossroads Music
Saturday, April 11, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $10-20

Crossroads Music @ Calvary United Methodist Church
801 S. 48th St, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 729-1028
www.crossroadsconcerts.org

Shaleka Yoseph Yazew drops defamation lawsuit

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Former chairman of Kinijit North America chairman Shaleka Yosef Yazew has abruptly dropped his defamation lawsuit against Kinijit NA auditor and other individuals following a conference with the defendant’s lawyer.

Kinijit North America is a U.S.-based support group of Ethiopia’s major opposition party, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (Kinijit) during the 2005 elections in Ethiopia.

Last week, Shaleka Yosef Yazew and his wife went to Ato Tesfai Asamaw attorney’s office accompanied by their attorney to take a deposition under oath. When it was time to do so, he surprised everyone including his attorney refusing to proceed. Instead, he chose to drop the case and walked away pretending to be sick.

The Shaleka knows that the auditor is a Certified Public Accountant who has done his homework in preparing all the necessary evidences to not only defeat him in court and make him pay for his legal expenses, but also further expose him to the public. It seems that the shaleka’s intention was to settle the case in a face saving way for himself, not to punish the auditor for his alleged defamation.

Ato Tesfai told Ethiopian Review that had the shaleka “continued with the proceeding, it could have put himself in a series legal trouble.”

Shaleka Yoseph had included Ethiopian Review as as accomplice in his initial complaint. He and his blind defenders had repeatedly threatened Ethiopian Review publisher with a lawsuit.

As part of his retreat, the shaleka was asked by Ato Tesfai to go public and ask for forgiveness of his community via any available media.

Ethiopian Review had previously reported that Shaleka Yosef and his cronies had pocked several hundred thousand dollars that belonged to the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (Kinijit). Under his watch, over 2 million dollars that have been collected from Kinijit supporters in the United Sates have been squandered.

When Kinijit chairman Hailu Shawel was released from jail in Ethiopia, he had received a complete report about the corruption of Shaleqa Yoseph. Instead of taking appropriate measures to recover the stolen funds, Ato Hailu chose to try to cover up the massive corruption, which soiled his own name as well. Shaleqa Yoseph’s corruption, and Ato Hailu Shawel’s attempt to cover it up, was the main reason for the split up of the Kinijit top leadership and later the party itself. These two corrupt politicians and their cohorts should never be allowed to hold any public office.