Archive for the ‘Ethiopian News’ Category

Ethiopian hip-hop band in Israel entertains, educates young fans

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

While many of their peers are wiling away their hours playing video games and chatting on MySpace, Eli Ezra and his band are holed up in a recording studio in Kiryat Nordo in Netanya, Israel. There, amid the sound-mixing boards and microphones, they sing about racism, poverty and violence, for what they hope will become their first album.

Ezra, 18, is the lead singer of Café Shachor Hazak, a teenage hip-hop band that has been turning heads in Israel. Since forming in 2006, the group has toured around the country and appeared on “A Star Is Born,” Israel’s version of “American Idol.”

The band is currently touring the United States, and had a stopover for performances in the Bay Area in early May.

All members of Café Shachor Hazak (Strong Black Coffee in English) are Ethiopian Jews either born in Israel or brought there during one of the three airlifts Israel made between 1984 and 1991. Ezra, who was 2 years old when he immigrated with his family, grew up in Netanya and turned to music at an early age.

Spending time at a local community center, Ezra and his friends Moshe, Elak, Uri and Aviram, who today make up the band, started taking classes in music.

There, they learned how not only to write songs, but also to record them on professional studio equipment, much of it donated by Israeli cell phone company Cellcom.

That led to gigs around the country and collaborations with Israeli musicians such as Hadag Nahash and Eli Luzon.

“I hope that our music will be spread all over,” Ezra said in a recent telephone interview.

“We want to pass our message to people who can listen to us and make changes in themselves and the world.”

The promoters hope that Café Shachor Hazak’s Bay Area visit inspires and educates local teens about Israel and breaks down stereotypes about the country’s music and people.

“We want to talk about Israel not as a myth, but as a place that is real and struggling with important issues,” said Ilan Vitemberg, director of the Israel Education Initiative, which helped to sponsor the band’s Bay Area visit.

“We’re facing an uphill battle as Israel runs the risk of becoming less and less relevant to young Jews in the U.S.”

Because members of Café Shachor Hazak are all 17 and 18 years old, they are the perfect cultural ambassadors to carry this message to American youth. Clad in baggy jeans and baseball caps turned backward, they sing about going to school, the mall, fitting in — issues other teens can relate to.

Singing in Hebrew, English and Amharic, an Ethiopian language, the group also tackles adult themes, such as in “A Moment of Quiet,” a song about suicide bombers, poverty and unemployment.

Another is a version of famous Israeli singer Ofra Haza’s “Hand in Hand” that expresses hope for peace and coexistence between Jews and Palestinians.

“They write about issues that are an integral part of their life,” said Yarden Schneider, co-founder of Taste of Israel, another organization behind the band’s Bay Area visit. “They sing about difficulties, but each of their songs encourages hope, love and understanding. Their appeal is that they can see beyond the conflict and stick to their dreams.”

Another topic the group sings about is growing up straddling two cultures. There are more than 90,000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel, a community that, as a whole, has had a difficult time assimilating into Israeli society. Most adults lacked an education — many were illiterate upon arriving in Israel — and have struggled with learning Hebrew, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics. They also have lower incomes than most other immigrants and are more likely to live in impoverished communities where they are segregated from other Israelis.

Despite the problems, the young generation — a whopping 40 percent of Ethiopians in Israel are under 15 years old — is imbued by a sense of hope. Many, like Ezra, have opted to do Nahal, a yearlong community service project, instead of going to the army, and are more prepared for jobs in a modern economy than their parents.

Their Bay Area hosts hope that American audiences will be inspired by the group’s optimism and energy and make more of an effort to connect to their Israeli counterparts.

Says Schneider: “They love their home, and are true leaders in the sense that they have the courage and talent to address difficult issues in order to better their environment in service of their community … And that is a great force.”

By Karina Ioffee, Jewish News Weekly

Ethiopia to re-erect Axum obelisk in June

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Ethiopia’s famed Axum obelisk is to be reinstalled at its original site next month, 70 years after the 1,700-year-old treasure was removed by Italian troops, UNESCO said on Thursday.

The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has overseen a multi-million-dollar operation to restore the obelisk to Axum in northern Ethiopia, where it once stood alongside around 100 other stelae.

Work will finally begin on June 4 to resurrect the 150-tonne stela — returned to Ethiopia in three pieces in 2005 — at Axum, a listed World Heritage Site, with an inauguration planned for September 10.

“This is an operation carried out under the sign of peace,” the head of UNESCO’s world heritage centre Francesco Bandarin told a news conference, insisting on the event’s “major importance for Ethiopia and for Italy.”

Italian soldiers carted away the 24-meter (78-foot), third-century AD granite funeral stela on the orders of then-dictator Benito Mussolini in 1937 during his attempt to colonise Ethiopia.

Despite a 1947 agreement to return the obelisk, it remained in Italy until 2005, standing outside the Rome headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

“It is a symbol of Ethiopian identity. We say, ‘hawult’, which means this is an eternal monument,” Ethiopia’s ambassador to France Tadelech Haile Michael told reporters.

“Our relations with the Italian government are good, but this operation has allowed us to fill the void that existed between the two countries.”

Axum was the capital of the Axumite kingdom that flourished as a major trading center from the fifth century BC to the 10th century AD.

At its height, the kingdom extended across areas in what are today Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen.

Israeli professor killed in Addis Ababa minibus explosion

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008
Professor Jeheskel Shoshani
Professor Jeheskel Shoshani [Photo: Haaretz

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Israeli Professor Jeheskel Shoshani, a world-renowned researcher of elephants at Addis Ababa University, was among the victims of Tuesday’s minibus explosion in the Ethiopian capital’s downtown area.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it remains unclear whether the explosion was terror-related and if Shoshani was aboard the minibus when it exploded.

The transfer of Shoshani’s body is being handled by the US consul general in Addis Ababa, as the professor also holds American citizenship.

Minibus after blast
Minibus after blast [Photo: AFP

Three people were killed and nine others were injured in the explosion, which occurred as the minibus was traveling on the road which runs between the Hilton Hotel and the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry.

Source: Ynet

Heavy explosion hits Woyanne soldiers

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Mogadishu – At least two Ethiopian Woyanne soldiers were killed and five others wounded on Thursday in a roadside bomb explosion in southern Mogadishu, witnesses said.

“A heavy explosion hit the Ethiopian Woyanne soldiers as they were inspecting suspected mines off Maka Al Mukarama road,” eyewitness Mohamed Farah said.

“I saw two dead soldiers and five others wounded. The soldiers then sealed off the area and civilian movement was restricted,” he added.

“One of the soldiers was inspecting the roadside with a stick when the explosion went off. He was torn to shreds and several other soldiers were wounded by the shrapnel,” said Ali Yare, another witness.

On Wednesday, three aid workers — a Somali and two Italians — were kidnapped by gunmen south of Mogadishu, the latest in a spate of attacks and kidnappings targeting humanitarian workers.

In an interview to Britain’s The Guardian published on Thursday, Eritrea-based Islamist leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys vowed to continue the armed struggle until Ethiopian Woyanne troops leave Somali territory.

Talks between the Islamist-dominated political opposition and the Western-backed transitional government were launched in Djibouti earlier this month, under the aegis of the United Nations. But Sheikh Aweys dismissed the UN as a partial mediator, leaving opposition ranks divided ahead of the resumption of talks later in May.

Source: AFP

Somali parliament building raided

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Somali rebels attack the parliament building in the southwestern town of Baidoa, killing five guards amid more blasts in the town.

Somali lawmakers were shocked as they found anti-government militias shooting mortars at parliament compound, also known as ADC Building, Press TV correspondent said.

Five parliamentary guards were killed in the crossfire that followed and continued for less than an hour.

Meanwhile, many civilians have left their homes to go to safe places outside Baidoa since hundreds of insurgents entered the town and targeted the parliament premises.

The attack marked a rare incident among the usual hit-and-run skirmishes between the Ethiopian Woyanne-backed Somali soldiers and anti-government gunmen.

The clashes are still going on in Baidoa while the insurgents have vowed to drive the foreign troops and their ‘puppets’ out of Somalia.

Source: Press TV

Int'l Red Cross appoints Bekele Geleta as its new head

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has this afternoon announced the appointment of Mr Bekele Geleta as its new Secretary General. Mr Geleta will replace the current Secretary General, Mr Markku Niskala, who is retiring after a long and successful Red Cross Red Crescent career.

“It is my pleasure to inform you that today, 21 May 2008, during its 17th session, the Governing Board of the IFRC appointed Mr Bekele Geleta as the new Secretary General,” said Juan Manuel Suàrez del Toro, president of the IFRC, in a letter to all Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, and to all IFRC delegations and staff.

Mr Geleta was born in Ethiopia on 1 July 1944 and has a Masters degree in economics from Leeds University in the United Kingdom.

He has worked as general manager of the Franco-Ethiopian Railway Company, as urban development officer for Irish Concern International, and as a programme manager for Kenya and Somalia for Care Canada. He was Ethiopia’s ambassador to Japan, and its vice-minister of transport and communications.

From 1984 to 1988, during one of the most challenging times in recent African history, he served as Secretary General of the Ethiopian Red Cross. From 1996 to 2007, Mr Geleta was head of the Africa department at the IFRC secretariat in Geneva, deputy head of the IFRC’s delegation to the United Nations in New York and head of the IFRC’s regional delegation in Bangkok, Thailand.

His appointment came while he was General Manager of International Operations for the Canadian Red Cross at its headquarters in Ottawa.

“I wish the new Secretary General of the IFRC success in his new position,” said Mr Suàrez Del Toro.

“I also want to express my thanks and appreciation for the solid work done by Markku Niskala, now Secretary General Emeritus, for his commitment and leadership in guiding the IFRC secretariat through some of the most challenging times in humanitarian history.”

Ethiopia to import 150,000 tonnes wheat

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia will import 150,000 tonnes of wheat to stabilise grain prices amid rising world commodity costs, the prime minister said on Wednesday.

Higher prices for staple foods and fuel have hit developing nations hard as government of some food-growing countries impose export curbs because of worries about domestic shortages.

“The government has signed an agreement to import 1.5 million quintals (150,000 tonnes) of wheat within the next one and half months to stabilise food grain prices,” Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told parliament.

“Food grain price stability was not achieved in some communities due to illegal practices by traders operating outside the law,” he said.

The leader of sub-Saharan Africa’s second most populous country did not say where the grain would come from nor how much it would cost.

The Ministry of Finance says inflation stands at 19 percent, mostly due to high petrol prices.

Meles said the government will take action against black market operators. Last week, police arrested 45 traders.

Food shortages are worse in sub-Saharan Africa because per capita production has fallen in recent years. Drought-prone Ethiopia was one of the most-affected African countries.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Monday that Ethiopia should tap low-interest loans or grants to help it deal with rising food prices.

A U.S.-funded early warning system, FEWSNET, has said that up to nine million Ethiopians may need food assistance in 2008 due to drought.

(Reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse, editing by Jack Kimball and Peter Blackburn)

(For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit http://africa.reuters.com/). (nairobi.newsroom@reuters.com; +254 20 2224 717)

Kangaroo court sentences 8 residents of Ogaden to death

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – An Ethiopian [kangaroo] court sentenced eight people to death for a grenade attack that killed five people last year in the Horn of Africa nation’s restive Somali region, local media reported on Thursday.

The assault at a packed ceremony in 2007 was blamed on the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a separatist movement in the remote eastern area. A stampede after police fired over the crowd killed another six people.

“The Somali state high court sentenced to death the eight people after evidence presented by the prosecution proved that the accused killed and wounded civilians,” the state-run Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) quoted the court as saying.

The eight have a right to appeal to higher courts under Ethiopian law. Death sentences must also be approved by the state president.

The ONLF says it is fighting for autonomy of the ethnic-Somali region. Both the government and the rebels accuse each other of human rights abuses.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told parliament that the rebel group has been largely “neutralised” by a military offensive going on for the past year.

The ONLF denies this, saying it still has operations in the countryside. Addis Ababa says its neighbour Eritrea is training and supplying the ONLF, but Asmara denies that.

Etete named among the '100 Best Restaurants' in DC Metro

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

The Washingtonian ranks Etete Ethiopian Restaurant 77th in its ’100 Best Restaurants’ list for 2008.

100 Best Restaurants 2008


The Washingtonian

#77 Etete

Reviewed by Todd Kliman , Cynthia Hacinli , Ann Limpert , Dave McIntyre

Cuisine: Ethiopian cooking, homey and assured—prepared and sometimes ladled out tableside by Tiwaltengus Shenegelgn, the gentle-souled etete (“mama” in Amharic) of the restaurant’s name.

Mood: The dark, incense-filled Ethiopian restaurants of a generation ago have given way here to an almost slick space—polished wood floors, dangling lights—that could pass for a wine bar.

Best for: Diners who can appreciate the sensual experience of an Ethiopian repast—you eat with your hands—and who like to linger. Westerners may find the service slow, but a leisurely style is not the prerogative of the French alone.

Best dishes: Sambusas, crispy, three-cornered pockets stuffed with lentils; lega tibs (lamb) and doro wat (chicken and egg), swimming in a complex red sauce that derives its heat from the Ethiopian compound spice berbere; the cool, mustard-spiked green-lentil dish called azifa, a necessary cooling agent; dark-roasted coffee.

Insider tips: Ordering a fasting platter—an assortment of vegetarian dishes—is a smart way to counteract the heaviness of the meat-based stews and to experience the full range of the cooking. In your choice of seven, include the gomen, or buttery collards, and the creamy yekik alicha, or yellow lentils.


SUSPENDED: Pastor Diphapang Potsane

Criticised fellow clerics for sinning
A pastor of the Ethiopian Catholic Church in Zion has been suspended for what he says was his outspokenness against sin.

“I spoke against fellow clerics who smoked, drank, stole, had extra-marital affairs and engaged in sex with members of the congregation,” he said.

Pastor Diphapang Potsane of the church’s Soshanguve, Pretoria, congregation told Sowetan that his six-month suspension came four days after he demanded that action be taken against errant deacons and bishops.

He claimed they stole from the church coffers and had extra-marital affairs with members of the church.

Potsane said he raised his concerns during the church’s provincial synod and convention at Voeteen near Bela-Bela, Limpopo, this month.

“I was summoned to an urgently convened hearing and found guilty of gross insubordination and violation of the church’s constitution.

“Leaders who are supposed to lead by example have sexual relationships with youths in the church,” Potsane said.

“ They drink and smoke publicly. I know was suspended because I wanted to bring order in the house of the Lord.”

He said he feared for his life because a priest in his branch was gunned down in September 2001 after complaining about the misconduct of the church’s provincial registrar.

“The registrar wanted to meet the priest to discuss the matter but the priest refused. Later that afternoon he was gunned down in a hijack attempt but nothing was stolen,” Potsane said.

Leader of the church Archbishop Simon Moloisane said: “Potsane wants to do things his way and with total disregard for authority and that is why he was charged with violating the oath of canons which require respect.”

Moloisane threatened to sue Sowetan if it published the story.

Attacker of an Ethiopian immigrant gets 8 years in prison

Friday, May 16th, 2008

The New Zealand Herald

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND — The mother of a security guard stabbed outside a Wellington bottle store last year dropped dead when he phoned her in Ethiopia to tell her, the High Court at Wellington was told today.

Justice Denis Clifford sentenced Gordon John Tui, 46, to eight years in jail for wounding Mukter Kadir Wadow with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

The judge said Tui had become enraged after a young associate was turned away from The Mill liquor store in Victoria Street for not having identification.

Tui went to the store and stabbed Mr Wadow once in the stomach and once in the back.

Justice Clifford said Wadow was lucky to be alive after the first wound missed his heart by 1cm.

Mr Wadow, a 37-year-old Ethiopian, emigrated to New Zealand in 2001.

When his mother in Ethiopia heard he had been attacked she reportedly fainted and could not be revived, Justice Clifford said.

“This was a severe and serious assault, it was…gratuitous and premeditated.”

Justice Clifford adopted a starting point of 10 years’ imprisonment but mitigating factors, including a guilty plea, reduced the sentence.

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Crown prosecutor Kate Feltham acknowledged the plea as a mitigating factor but said it came very late – 14 months after the attack.

Defence attorney Tony Rickard-Simms said the plea was late because Tui’s understanding on the night of the attack was impaired by alcohol and uncontrolled diabetes.

“When his health improved it soon became apparent that he was responsible and there was no excuse for his behaviour,” Mr Rickard-Simms said.

Tui was sentenced to eight years’ jail with a non-parole period of four years.

He had two previous assault offences.

VIDEO: Teddy Afro steals Beyone's show in Addis

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

VOA coverage of Ginbot 7's formation

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

The Voice of America (VOA) gave a wide coverage of the formation of the Ginbot 7 Movement on its afternoon broadcast. Yesterday, Dr Berhanu Nega and colleagues had announced that Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice and Democracy will be officially created today, May 15, to coincide with the 3rd anniversary of the May 2005 elections that were overturned by Meles Zenawi’s dictatorship. Click here to listen VOA’s report

Ethiopian immigrants found in a truck at U.K.-France border

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

By Matt Wilkinson, Oxford Mail

OXFORD, U.K. — Seven suspected illegal immigrants have been found in a truck at Oxford logistics firm.

The six men and one woman were discovered in a truck at Unipart in Oxford Business Park, Cowley, at around 1.30pm today.

They were detained by police and due to be interviewed by immigration officers.
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Police spokesman Vicky Brandon said it is believed all the detainees are from Ethiopia.

The driver was spoken to and his details were taken but he was not arrested, Mrs Brandon added.

The truck had arrived in Oxford from France.

Car crash claims the life of Ethiopian mother in Texas

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Police Searching For Driver In Deadly Hit & Run

By Seema Mathur

GARLAND, TEXAS (CBS 11 News) ― Police have released new information today about a deadly hit and run case that killed a Garland mother.

Juan Pedro Tobias, 30, is wanted for crashing into Tsigereda Kassaye’s car last week at the intersection of Jupiter and Buckingham. Kassaye later died at a local hospital from her injuries.

Police say Tobias fled the scene on foot.

Berhane Hagos, describes his wife as an angel. Without her, he said his life “looks like hell.”

Berhane fell in love with Kassaye in Ethiopia. But he was forced to move to the U.S. without her to seek political asylum. Ten years later, he went back to get and marry the love of his life.

Together they had 9-year-old Esrom, who finds it too painful to speak of his mom. He expressed his love in a Mother’s Day card he can only hope she will see from Heaven.

“He’s never been away from his mom,” Hagos said.

The family recently learned Tobias’s license was suspended for a list of previous offenses.

In 2004 he was sentenced and served two years for a DWI. In 2001 he was arrested for driving with a suspended license. In 2000, he was arrested for another DWI.

“I pray for him, and I forgive him,” said Hagos. “I believe in the system in this country, and I believe the system will take its course.”

Hagos said he has to forgive for the sake of himself and his son. It’s also the type of faith his wife had.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Juan Pedro Tobias, you are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 972-272-8477. You can remain anonymous, and police say you may be eligible for a reward.

DW radio on the formation of Ginbot 7

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

DW’s (German Radio) Amharic Program gave a prominent coverage to the formation of Ginbot 7 on its broadcast today. DW has millions of listeners as VOA and Eritrean Radio in Ethiopia. Click here to listen.

Meseret joins Kenenisa at Oregon's Prefontaine Classic

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

The Associated Press

EUGENE, Oregon: A second Ethiopian will try to break a world record June 8 at the Nike Prefontaine Classic.

Meseret Defar will attempt to break her world 5,000-meter mark in a race to be held immediately after countryman Kenenisa Bekele goes after his world 10,000 record, meet officials said Wednesday.

Both races will be held in the morning before the official start of the meet.

Meseret, 24, broke her own world record with a time of 14 minutes, 16.63 seconds last June 15 in Oslo, Norway. She was just 20 when she won the gold medal in the event at the Athens Olympics four years ago.

As with the previously announced race by Kenenisa Bekele, the women’s 5,000 will have a pace-setter, Russian Olga Komyagina, fifth in the 3,000 at the world indoors this year, a race Meseret won. Meseret also won the 5,000 at last year’s world outdoor championships in Osaka, Japan.

Woyanne to assign one police officer for every NGO

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

The Ethiopian government Woyanne is proposing a new law to restrict activities of the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the country. The law would allow a government agency to assign a police officer or an official to attend any NGO’s internal meetings without a court order.

By Argaw Ashine, Business Daily (Kenya)

It will also authorise the seizing of property, conducting searches and removing NGO staff if their activities are believed to be unlawful. The law excludes international and non-Ethiopian organisations from democracy, human rights, good governance, and conflict resolution activities. Known as Charities and Societies Proclamation, the law restricts local NGOs to source more than 90 per cent of their funding from within the country.

Observers have protested the development, saying the funding clause was unrealistic for a country dependent on high amount of foreign aid.

Most NGOs depend on foreign aid, and local financing is negligible. Western diplomats and donor groups are preparing to request Meles Zenawi, one of the architects and chairman of African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) forum, to reconsider this move which they believe is another attempt at crippling the country’s democracy. After the 2005 post-election crisis, Meles was seen defiant of Western pressure and he described their aid cut as “a shameful act”.

The government has alleged some NGOs affiliated to international organisations operating in Ethiopia have a hidden agenda. Last year, the government expelled the International Red Cross Society from eastern Ethiopia claiming it was involved in “illegal” activities. The charity dismissed the allegations. In the attempts to have the law reviewed, local and international NGOs have appealed to the government for further discussions.

Minas Hiruy, the head and founder of Hope — a local orphanage — has asked the authorities to reconsider the move. “It’s death penalty against us and we are appealing and crying to the government for dialogue before the law is sent to Parliament,” Minas said.

Getnet Assefa, a consultant with the European Union, said a government that receives the highest percentage of international aid lacks the moral stand to disqualify NGOs based on how they get the funds.

Executive director of Poverty Action Network in Ethiopian (PANE), Eshetu Bekele, asked the government to appreciate the role of NGOs towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals. “The government must respect its commitment in various international conventions including NEPAD and African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM),” Eshetu said.

Five religious groups have aslo indicated they will be seeking audience with the authorities, saying the development would not only be limiting participation in development activities, but will also threaten religious rights.

Assefa Kesito, Minister of Justice, however, said the law would first be sent to the Cabinet before it goes to Parliament within a “short period of time.”

“We are running out of time to send out the law and they [NGOs] can forward their inputs in the coming days” Assafa added. Assefa said Parliament had until the end of June this year to approve the law.

There are more than 3,000 NGOs covering various sectors in the country. They are estimated to be controlling more than $1 billion.

Some points on the Ethio-Sudan boarder flap

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

By Fekade Shewakena

News of boundary demarcation between Sudan and Ethiopia that unfairly favored Sudan and reports of harm done to Ethiopian farmers along the border is a subject of intense debate among many Diaspora Ethiopians. The blockage of the internet, the curtailment on the independent media and jamming of radio broadcast from outside, coupled with the raging fear of government seem to have blackened out the news and discussion inside the country. Diaspora Ethiopian community airwaves and cyber media are saturated with the news. Emotions are flaring high at the news that not only was land ceded to Sudan, but also by stories of local villages along the border that were burnt by Sudanese soldiers and that even some workers on farms have been taken prisoners by these soldiers while the Ethiopian government is looking the other way. The government’s response to the demands for explanation is a dismissive and emotional denial and has not been helpful. The press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed the whole flap as anti-government rumor and rant against people who spread these “rumors”. On the other hand, the evidences trickling out from farmers particularly from western Gondar, that include witness interviews on credible news outlets such as the Voice of America, where investors in the area confirmed their workers have been taken prisoner by the Sudanese, and wide coverage on German Radio, statements from Sudanese officials, and publications on the Sudanese side, do not comport with the denials of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Add to this the low believability credit of Zenawi’s regime. It hasn’t gone far in cooling the rage. The Ethiopian officials seem to be in a position of a thief who stole a camel and wants to hide. There seems to be some fire to this smoke and there is no doubt that the news I just heard as I write this, Siyum Mesfin travelling to Sudan, has something to do with it. But amid the emotional exchange, the substantive issue surrounding the boundary is getting lost and an opportunity for useful public discussion on such an important issue is completely missed. Ethiopia is a country where most of the national boundary is not properly demarcated and whatever the kind of government we have, it has to deal with this issue one way or the other.

The rulers in power in Ethiopia should understand that boundaries are not simple mechanical drawings. They are also mental constructs that develop in culture and history and they are uniquely so in Ethiopia’s case. The fact that this is an emotional subject should not have been a surprise for Meles Zenawi and his officials and to anyone who is familiar with Ethiopia’s history. Ethiopians have fought more than thirty international wars within the last one hundred fifty years alone to secure the country’s territorial integrity. The boundaries and the epic wars that our fathers fought against foreign invaders are part of our folklore and the exhibition of our pride in repulsing aggressive invaders and living in independence throughout the ages. Most Ethiopians have this in their bones. This pride is a good thing that needs to be cultivated. Our parents tell us about these stories when we are yet small kids. For an Ethiopian a map of Ethiopia that doesn’t include Eritrea, even after the separation became real 15 years ago, looks ridiculously ugly because it contradicts that mental construct. Anytime I see Ethiopia and the Red Sea, and look at the strip of land that separated 80 million of us from the Red Sea only 15 kilometers away, I feel a sense of humiliation and shame, not because I am a lunatic “neftegna” land lover as some silly people would want to call me, but because I know a history of Ethiopia that was a big maritime civilization where the red see was at the center. A look at this map lessens our pride in our great Axumite civilization. Even for anyone who doesn’t know the history, the strip of land that appears to be so deliberately carved out of the edge of Ethiopia to look like a fence and to deliberately bar us from the Red Sea, does not appear right. It may look fine for the TPLF leaders who see everything from the point of view of their stranglehold on power, but it affects the psyche of entire generations with serious consequences for our nation building. Pride dignity, and senses of historical achievement are good things in nation building and all countries use it. That is partly why we study our history, is it not? I am happy people are angry and enraged about a boundary issue. Any sane government should be proud of such citizens. It is patriotism in display, it is a national asset and it is good.

What is stunningly surprising is the insensitivity of the Meles Zenawi’s regime and its blind supporters to this aspect of our history and the demand of citizens for transparency of the actions of the government on the Ethio-Sudanese boundary. I know sensitivity is not any of the virtues of Meles Zenawi. But even dictators have a limit to the contempt they have for their subjects. Granted that all governments have to deal with neighbors and boundaries, but I cannot understand why Meles chose to do it in secret, behind the back of the Ethiopian people, if his intentions were good.

Some basics about boundaries:

  1. The boundaries of every nation are inseparable from the evolution of the nation in question. Like the country, the boundaries also evolve and pass through stages of development. In fact, if you look at their history, you will see marked stages in the evolution of all boundaries. At their first stage all boundaries are horizons, zones of land, separating countries or regions. It is only an initial claim to a mass of land whose extent is only an estimate. At later times, and when interaction between the neighbors gets more intense, political forces on two sides of this horizon come into conflict and are forced to make political agreements to delineate the boundary. This is the first political decision in the making of boundaries. This is followed by demarcation, the identification of geographic coordinates and the actual marking on the ground of the boundary mark. In cases where a combination of both history and political decisions are carefully considered and weighed to the benefit of each side, demarcation will be successful and is always good. Where boundaries are made with these considerations, there are little boundary conflicts. The lucky countries that have no boundary conflicts with their neighbors have made it this way.
  1. The highest and last stage in the evolution of boundaries is administration. Administration is the confirmation of your authority within the land bound by the boundary. In fact, administration supersedes every factor of decision making regarding boundaries. Nobody in their right mind, except those who need military conflict for its own sake would dare to demand a boundary mark within the boundary that a sovereign nation is known to have administered without risking war. That is why many countries argue the “administration” argument rather than any cartographic mark when a boundary contest based on colonial cartography threatened their territories. No unilaterally made or superimposed colonial boundary can, for example, be acceptable on a territory that has been administered under the authority of the country, or its regional and local governments. You only have to prove that you always administered it and you can be justified to militarily defend it. The Badame historic mistake occurred because of this egregious mistake on the part of the TPLF. It could have argued it on grounds of administration rather than allowing the admission of defunct colonial boundary treaties that were null and void when the Italians abrogated it and invaded Ethiopia. (This poor student of Ethiopian geography was among those who cried at the top of their lungs to stop the admission of colonial maps in the Algiers Agreement with Eritrea).
  1. Boundaries are of three types and the boundaries of nations are made of one or any combination of them. The first types are natural boundaries that are marked by rivers, mountain chains or escarpments and other physical features. The second types are known as geometric boundaries, where boundaries are marked by drawing lines connecting dots (geographic coordinates) on maps. The straight line boundaries that separate Egypt and Libya or the boundaries that separate many of the states of the United States are examples of geometric boundaries. The third are ethnic boundaries which follow settlements inhabited by ethnic groups. Ethnic boundaries are mostly undefined and often geographic continuum becoming perennially disputed. Inside Ethiopia, such ethnic boundaries have always been zones of conflict between adjacent tribes. Nonetheless, the people often have mechanisms of resolving these conflicts without outside intervention. When outsiders and central governments get involved and do it with little input from local populations, their history and cultures, the conflicts often intensify. If you have heard ethnic warfare and conflicts in Ethiopia recently on a scale unheard of before, the reason is the hasty zoning and regionalization made by the current regime. This ethnic regionalization of the country by central authority was done with complete disregard for history, sociology and local knowledge. That is what the TPLF/EPRDF did in Ethiopia. That is the reason of continuous bloodletting between ethnic groups in parts of Southern Ethiopia. I hear that there are several hundred thousand internally displaced people in southern Ethiopia currently living in tragic conditions. Look at the Guji-Sidama conflict. There are similar situations along the national borders. In some of the cases the boundary lines run right in the middle of tribes and even extended families and make it complicated. This is also a serious factor that makes boundary demarcation with neighbors a difficult exercise.

When viewed from these perspectives, and as a matter of fact, Ethiopia’s national boundaries have not completed their evolution over most of their extents. Most of the boundary of Ethiopia with its five neighbors still remains unmarked. A good part of this is because of the unique history of Ethiopia. Unlike most of the countries of Africa where colonial powers made the decisions sitting on both sides of the border, decisions on Ethiopia’s side have been made by sovereign Ethiopian rulers. In many cases, the decisions have been made unilaterally by the colonial power sitting on the other side. Ethiopian rulers were often pressured and threatened to accept super imposed boundary decisions by colonial forces.

The Ethio-Sudan Case: The boundary between Sudan and Ethiopia is largely unmarked. There have been some agreements on some parts of the boundary, (clique here to read a 1902 Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement written in both Amharic and English). You will see that the British were more concerned about their control of the Nile and its tributaries than the boundaries.

It is true that both Haile Sillassie and the dergue wanted to resolve the boundary between Sudan and Ethiopia but could not succeed simply because it was hard. A lot of time has gone by since the agreements with the British and there have been changes on the ground since then. The Sudanese know that the boundaries lined by their colonial masters, particularly by one British army major, the so called Gwen Line, are useful to them. It gives them a fertile chunk of land that the Ethiopians in the surrounding area have always claimed as theirs and used. Our fathers love land and there is no logical reason they would ever cede to conquer that fertile piece of land full of alluvial soils on the edge of intensively cultivated western highlands, save their fear of seasonal Malaria and other tropical diseases.

Since the TPLF/EPRDF government does its negotiations in secret, I don’t know what they plan to make their agreements on and what actually is going on. I have suspicion that they are going to repeat what they have done in the Badme case, using crude colonial agreements instead of the more plausible “administration” argument. If that is what they are doing they are doing it at Ethiopia’s expense. Yes, there are international laws regarding boundary demarcations that must be accepted. But one has to be so stupid to think that these laws can be applied mechanically without considerations of local circumstances and history and the socio-economy of the area.

Had the TPLF/EPRDF argued the administration argument instead of allowing nullified Italian maps, Badame would not have been given to Eritrea and we should not have been in this shameful position now of rejecting a binding agreement after the fact. Siyum Mesfin and Meles would have saved themselves from that shameful press release calling us to dance on the streets after the arbitration court’s decision. I am ashamed of what they did as an Ethiopian but more than anything else this shame will follow this “tenured” Foreign Minister of 18 years to his grave. If this is the same principle being applied in the Ethio-Sudanese case, there is no doubt that it will be another disaster for Ethiopia. It means loss of a huge chunk of fertile alluvial farmland that would feed a good part of the population.

One sad aspect of the current discourse is that the TPLF and its supporters are twisting the public outrage and demand for clarification as something that has to do with the people of Tigrai. It now has become a pattern that anytime you oppose Meles Zenawi and his actions, it is construed as if you are against the Tigrean people. Any sane human being understands that the Tigrean people are in the dark as the rest of their fellow Ethiopians and have nothing to do with this boundary decision. I am sure, and I personally know that there are many Tigreans who are angry that this is being done behind their backs. I am not sure how the equation of equivalence is made between the people of Tigrai and the handful of TPLF rulers who keep messing the country. This twist being pursued by pro-TPLF media outlets is getting absolutely ridiculous and devoid of responsibility. An editorial on Aigaforum, a TPLF outlet, has gone to an extent of using language that makes the Nazis less vitriolic against the Jews when it insulted the critics as “Zerebisoch” (people with trash origin) before it tries to tell us the role of Tigreans in our history, which no one denies. I only hope this kind of language is coming out from among the most ignorant of the TPLF operatives and not condoned by the leadership. In many places I know in Ethiopia, anyone would feel justified to blow your head off if you call him a “Zerebis.” Another pattern in the blame game is attributing every bad thing on Shabia, OLF or ONLF and attributing this so called rumor on them. This stupid argument is based on the assumption that we are all stupid and cannot find the truth on our own.

I suggest that we all need to take a step back and deliberate on the issue as one people with calm and reason and well founded evidence. I hope the TPLF/EPRDF officials would let us know what actually transpired regarding the boundary issue rather than rant at us. If they choose to keep denying and close us out, we will get the information from somewhere else. Hey, this is the information age. The TPLF supporters should also understand that they are not helping any cause by blindly touting the official line and should instead stand for transparency. On the side of the opponents, I urge calm and the need to build informed and substantive argument. At the end of the day, the Ethiopian people and history will have to give their verdict. Sooner or later there will be someone to account for any misdeed, if not for us as a people, at least for history.
———————-
The writer can be reached at fekadeshewakena@yahoo.com

Big event in Alexandria, Virginia

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Press Release from Ethiopians for Obama

On Saturday, May 17th, Teddy Fikre will be running to represent the 8th Congressional District for the Democratic National Convention supporting Senator Obama. The 8th Congressional District is home to Alexandria–otherwise known as the Addis Abeba of America. There are more Ethiopians in the Northern Virginia area than anywhere else outside of Ethiopia. Alexandria is our home, and our moment is now.

Teddy’s election represents more than one man’s aspiration, it represents our continuing involvement in the democratic process of our adopted home and our collective interests. So the moment is now for us to come together and turn out in mass on Saturday, May 17th to make our voices heard. This could be a significant moment for the Ethiopian-American community; Teddy could be the first Ethiopian delegate to represent a state at a National Convention. Teddy is not the only Ethiopian-American embarking on a historical moment, Shakespeare is also in the running to represent the great state of Washington supporting Senator Obama. Teddy and Shakespeare are members of Ethiopians for Obama, an amazing group of Ethiopian-Americans who have come together to work for a noble effort.

Virginia is a “battle-ground” state during the fall election. The election of our next President could literally come down to a couple of thousand votes. With over 80,000 Ethiopians living in the state of Virginia, we hold in our hands the possibility of electing the next President and determining the direction of this country and of the world. Regardless of whom one supports, it is a sacred responsibility for Ethiopian-Americans to vote in this historic election. We cannot take for granted the democracy we are blessed to have; there are millions in Ethiopia who would trade all their possessions to have the opportunity we have here in the United States.

So take a couple of hours out of your weekend to go out to Hammond Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia to support our fellow Ethiopian—Teddy Fikre—as he makes his case to be a delegate for the 8th Congressional District. Our moment is now, go out and be a part of our great political process.

Event Details:

Place: Francis Hammond Middle School
Address: 4646 Seminary Rd. Alexandria, VA
Date: Saturday, May 17th 2008
Time: 9:00 AM

Show up early so that you are guaranteed seating.

The Annual retreat of the UN Country Team opens in Mekelle, Tigray Region in Ethiopia

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

The UN country Team composed of 25 agencies opened its first annual retreat today May 14, 2008 in Mekelle in the Tigray region in Ethiopia in presence of the Mr. Tsegaye Berhe, President of Tigray Regional State. In his opening remarks, Mr. Fidele Sarassoro, the UN Resident Coordination indicated that the overall objective of the meeting was to bring the UN system together to take stock of the activities of the agencies, document lessons learnt and agree on a roadmap for the continuous cooperation with the Government of Ethiopia. The agencies will also address strategic elements of the UN Reforms with the view of improving effectiveness in the UN programs in Ethiopia work in a more coordinated manner.
During the two day meeting the heads of the UN agencies in Ethiopia will discuss such important issues as the global food crisis, climate change, the current drought situation and their implications for Ethiopia.

On May 13, 2008 the Representatives of the UN agencies visited Axum the site of a major initiative undertaken by the Government of Ethiopia to restore and erect an obelisk that was returned by at its original site. This project that is supported technically by UNESCO will be completed in September 2008 according to Mr.Nurleldin Satti, the UNESCO representative in Ethiopia.

Ginbot 7, a Movement for Justice and Democracy is formed

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

May 14, 2008
Press Release

Ethiopians’ long quest and struggle for justice and freedom is continuing today. The march, though torturous, towards democracy is on. The millions that participated in the May 15, 2005, general election have vowed that no amount treachery and oppression shall break their will to live in a just, free, prosperous and united Ethiopia.

In 2005, 25 million Ethiopians, trusting the words of the ruling party and its western backers and hoping that the election of 2005 will be different from previous elections, went out and registered to vote. The people, along with opposition, were led to believe that for the first time in the country’s history will have the right to elect those who should assume power and put an end to the chaos and misery associated with the thorny issue of power struggle.

Even though there were tough challenges, both to the electorate and the opposition, in contrast to the 2005 election process before voting day was remarkably fair and free.
On May 15, 2005, over 96% of the 25 million registered voters, went to the polling stations, and voted despite the long wait of eight to twelve hours. In unparalleled dignity and orderliness rarely displayed, Ethiopians proved to the world that they had been ready for democracy long before their rulers allowed them to taste it.

Upon learning that the public had voted for the opposition groups, especially in the major cities across the country, on May 16, 2005 the Prime Minister went on Television at 9:00 P.M. and declared a “State of Emergency”. In the Capital Addis Ababa peaceful gatherings and demonstrations were banned. The Prime Minister personally took a direct command of the Police and security forces. In the rural areas, where international observers were absent and it was easy to apply coercion, the ruling party forcibly removed the opposition poll watchers and began counting votes. On May 17 2005, when less that 20% of the total votes were counted, the incumbent declared the election victory. By blatantly rigging the votes of millions it made its intent how it will cling to power. On June 8 2005, protesters who were outraged by the stolen election went out to peacefully protest in the streets of Addis Ababa. In response over 50 innocent civilian were shot and murdered in cold blood.

All offers of negotiations to placate the wounded ruling tyrants were ineffective. The proposal put by the opposition to allow the ruling party stay in power with votes it has misappropriated, provided it agrees to lay the foundation of democratic institutions necessary to curb the abuse of power by ruling parties and make elections fair, free and meaningful met outright rejection by the government. Further repression ensued.

In October 22 2006, the entire leadership of the main opposition party were rounded up and thrown in to Jail. Many more, journalists, civil rights advocates and human rights activists were added to the prison list. A trumped up charge of treason and genocide was prepared and an 18 month illegal incarceration followed. In the same fateful October day of 2005, the prime minister dispatched the heavily armed and equipped special force of the Agazi brigade and murdered over 193 citizens in the Capital Addis Ababa. The carnage in the rest of the country, away from the prying eyes of international media, was brutal and in mass.

The government unleashed a house to house search and hand picked the supporters of the opposition that it has come to identify through their participation and support for the opposition in the 2005 election. In two weeks alone nearly 100,000 innocent citizens were sent to camps and prisons, and were subjected to in human and degrading treatment. The whole country was turned into a mass concentration camp.

In its own perverse sense of justice, the ruling party wanted to pin the mayhem and the killing that took place after the election onto the opposition. The incarcerated CUD leaders became perfect scapegoats. In unimaginable shamelessness and using treachery, deceit and manipulating mediators, the government coerced CUD leaders into signing a document stating: “…taking responsibility or an admission of guilt and plea for clemency” in exchange for their release from prison.

Since the shock the ruling party suffered in an election it called with the certainty of wining it, its sole occupation has become to terrorize, weaken all opposition forces and remain unchallenged in power. Using the cover of legality of the laws that are designed in its favor, the government destroyed all major political parties, thereby destroying the fledgling pluralism in the country.

Upon denying recognition and legal status to CUDP, and after merely three years it had suffered a crashing defeat at the polls by the opposition, the government now claims that it has won back all seats it lost to CUDP in a recent election conducted to replace the parliamentary seats rejected by CUDP. The CUD refusal to take the seats was to protest against the government refusal to negotiate on future election and parliamentary procedures. Ironically, in the recent election, it was only the ruling party that filed candidates making it clear that the claimed victory is hollow.

The giving away of the land from Quara region, a birth place of Ethiopia’s greatest hero Emperor Tewodros to the Sudan, and detaining and abusing Teddy Afro, an artist whose songs of love, unity, hope and tolerance has inspired millions of Ethiopians at home and abroad has no other intent but to cause pain to the public. It is clearly a demonstration of an utter lack of respect and insult to the people of Ethiopia.

It is, therefore, the continuance of these and similar litany of repression, degradation, trampling on individual and national pride and heritage that resulted in the formation of the Movement, Ginbot 7. As proud Ethiopians whose ancestors have paid untold sacrifice to save us from the type of humiliating treatment by others we say no to life without freedom and honor. No to the home made tyrants whose appetite for blood, treachery, embezzlement and betrayal has surpassed all records.

We are continuing what we began on May 15th 2005 and October of 2006 in which we promised to make the people of Ethiopia the sole source of political power, and that is why we decided to form the “Ginbot 7 Movement.”

The primary objective of our movement is to stir our country towards a stable democratic process and transition. We recognize that this effort or task will not be achieved by one political party alone, or by few political parties who share similar ideologies. It needs a willing coalition of and collective effort of all parties who feel or claim to have a stake in Ethiopia’s political future. We see the need that all stakeholders need to discuss and reach a mutual agreement on how to achieve the stated objective. Our movement is fully committed and dedicated in bringing all parties together to begin dialogue. To that end, we are already seeing promising signs.

The government that is subjecting our people to misery and humiliation is being aided and abated by Western governments’ money, material, training, and other benefits as a reward for its questionable services. Thus, we ought to organize and work tirelessly throughout the world to have Western countries support democracy and correct their misguided policies and challenge the tyrants in Addis Ababa. To illicit the support and camaraderie of citizens of Western Nations, in opposing and pressuring their governments to change their misguided policies on Ethiopia, Ginbot 7 will work tirelessly with Ethiopians in the Diaspora. We are certain that with an intense campaign of “Know Ethiopia” we will put the struggle for justice, freedom and democracy in Ethiopia in frame.

Our Movement would like to make it clear, to foes and friends, that in order to avert the current humiliation and disgrace to our country and ourselves the Movement will cooperate, assist, and form alliance with others who believe in the principle of democracy and human rights. The Movement shall not seek the consent or permission of the tyrannical regime of Ethiopia in any of its future undertakings.

While the EPRDF is invading Somalia, ceding land to the Sudan, making our country landlocked, and remaining in power through treason as it has ascended to power trough similar means, we hereby declare that we shall not sit idle only for the sake of holding the moral high ground and watch the dismantling of our beloved country. We will engage in any action the movement deems proper in advancing our struggle for freedom and democracy. Along this line, the Movement has a plan to forge relationships, immediately, with neighboring countries and others based on mutual benefit and in an effort to rid Meles Zenawi’s destructive practices in the region.

Our Movement shall employ all kinds and means of struggle to reach its stated goal. If there is an opportunity to negotiate with EPRDF in implementing basic democratic principles, the Movement remains open to accommodate such discussions or negotiations. In fact, the Movement full-heartedly gives priority and prefers this method of resolving disputes than all others. However this should not be construed as groveling. This is simply a call stemming from calm and rational thinking that dialogue is beneficial for all involved. Still, our call to negotiate and our willingness to talk will not, under any circumstances, delay, derail, or hinder our zeal and passionate determination of our pursuit of liberty, justice, and democracy.

To Ethiopians, who have had enough of atrocity, who can no longer take humiliation, who yearn for freedom/liberty, we are confident that you will join us, and we are certain that our united struggle shall prevail in the shortest possible time.

We will forever remember May 15!!

The Spirit of Ginbot 7 will prevail!!

'There is a limit to people's patience' – Dr Berhanu Nega

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008
Kinijit leaders arrive in Seattle
Dr Berhanu Nega and Ato Daniel Assefa at a press
conference today in Virginia [photo: Dereje Getachew, Clear Photo]

Addis Ababa Mayor-Elect Dr Berhanu Nega and colleagues gave a press conference on Wednesday at the Ethiopian Television Network’s studio in Virginia where they announced the formation of a new Ethiopian political organization named “Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice, Liberty and Democracy.” The group’s web site, ginbot7.org, was also introduced at the press conference.

Dr Berhanu Nega said at the press conference that “there is a limit to people’s patience.”

“We are not going to beg Meles and Sebhat anymore. We are going to push back.”

Representatives of several media, including the VOA, DW, EriTV, Oromo Community Radio, Addis Dimts, Ethiopian Review, EMF, and Hibret Radio, were present to ask questions.

In a stern tone, Dr Berhanu said the people of Ethiopia will never allow an unelected government to rule over them any more. He repeated this message several times through out the press conference.

As far as elaborating Ginbot 7′s methods of struggle, Dr Berhanu said it’s not going to be wise to discuss the details, but all means that are available will be used by the people of Ethiopia to protect themselves from the Meles regime’s brutal rule.

This coming weekend, Ethiopian Review, in collaboration with the other media, will try to interview Ato Andargachew Tsige and other members of Ginbot 7 Movement who were unable to participate in today’s press conference due to technical proglems.

Press conference with Dr Berhanu Nega today at 4:00 PM EDT

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Press conference with Dr Berhanu Nega today at 4:00 PM EDT. Click here to listen

Berhanu Nega aims to lead a movement for change

Addis Ababa Mayor-Elect Dr Berhanu Nega and colleagues will give a press conference today, Wednesday, to announce the formation of a new political movement. The press conference will be held in the afternoon (4:00 PM Washington DC time) at the Ethiopian Television Network’s studio in Alexandria, Virginia — a suburb of Washington DC.

The announcement — which is planned to coincide with the 3rd anniversary of the May 15, 2005 elections — has created a great deal of interest in Ethiopian communities around the world. It is currently a subject of much discussion by almost every Ethiopian who follows Ethiopian politics closely. It is not without a reason. Since he was released from prison last July, Dr Berhanu has become the most articulate and forceful voice in demanding the end of Woyanne’s illigitimate rule. His uncompromising stand on respecting the choice the people of Ethiopia made on May 15, 2005, has positioned him as a leading opposition figure. While his colleagues in the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (Kinijit) chose to continue working within the system inside the country, Dr Berhanu has reached a different conclusion: we have seen the extreme savagery and lawlessness of the Woyanne regime and that the people of Ethiopia have the right to use any means necessary and available to them to protect themselves from the regime’s atrocities.

Dr Berhanu is joined by some highly experienced and smart individuals such as Ato Andargachew Tsige, Ato Mesfin Aman, Ato Daniel Assefa and others who are expected to make up the core of the new movement’s leadership.

According to sources close to the group, talks have already started with the Oromo Liberation Front and other major Ethiopian opposition forces to establish a politico-military alliance against the Woyanne junta. The talks could and is hopped to lead to a transitional government in exile.

The press conference will be carried live via Ethiopian Review Radio Network, Current Affairs Discussion Forum, and other media tomorrow, Wednesday, starting at 4:00 PM.

Mahmoud Ahmed performs at the Minnesota Music Festival

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

(jazzpolice.com) — The fourth installment of the Minnesota sur Seine music festival is coming to various Twin Cities locations from May 15 through May 25, 2008. Festival organizers announced the confirmed shows on a lineup that features collaborations between Twin Cities and international musicians performing improvisational jazz, Celtic, hip hop, World Music, spoken word, rock and more. A hip hop show (with La Rumeur and Ursus Minor), a roots show (with the Jacky Molard Quartet and Roma di Luna), an Ethiopian master (Mahmoud Ahmed), two St. Paul Music Crawls, a CD release party for Francois Corneloup’s “Next”, and a celebration of Federico Garcia Lorca (featuring Tony Hymas) are among the events on the 2008 schedule (full schedule follows). Minnesota sur Seine, which debuted in the Fall of 2004, has grown in scope from its Twin Cities-meets-Paris jazz beginnings to become a sweeping showcase of musical styles from around the world.

A NIGHT IN ETHIOPIA
Mahmoud Ahmed and his ensemble
Mahmoud Ahmed: vocals, Moges Habte: sax, Tekle Gebremedhin: sax, Araya Wolde Michael: keyboards, Tamre W. Agede: guitar, Yenesew Tefera: bass, Mikias Abebayehu: drums
Yohannes Tona / Michael Bland / Jef Lee Johnson
Yohannes Tona: bass, Michael Bland: drums, Jef Lee Johnson: guitar
18+ $25 advance, $30 at the door
Doors at 8:00 PM
The Fine Line Music Café
318 First Ave., No.
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Read more >>

Obang Metho on VOA's Straight Talk Africa

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Obang Metho will be the guest on VOA’s Straight Talk Africa live starting at 2:30 PM Eastern Time USA time today May 14th 2008 to discuss tomorrow’s 3rd anniversary of the May 2005 elections.

VOA veteran journalist Shaka Ssali hosts this live, one-hour call in program, heard and seen on the Voice of America and affiliated stations.

Please note that the show will be streaming live on the internet here, and Ethiopian Review Radio Network. Callers can call and join in.

Two Ethiopians in Dubai fined for illegal status

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

(Dubai Today) — People who use maids and cleaners who have no official sponsor run the risk of incurring huge fines, the head of the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department warned yesterday. Brigadier Mohammad Ahmad Al-Mur said that these people will face penalties – just like the illegal housemaids. “The problem is that some families recruit housemaids that have run away from their original sponsors. These families often leave them on the old sponsor so they don’t have to pay for another visa,” Al-Mur said.

“These housemaids are cheaper and so more appealing. They know that they can get work quicker, even if it is illegal,” he added. The issue came to light after two families were fined dhs50,000 each by the Dubai Immigration Court for using housemaids they were not sponsoring. One of the two Ethiopian housemaids involved was sentenced to one month in jail and fined dhs10,000 for illegally staying in the country and the second maid was sentenced to two months. They will both be deported after serving their jail terms.

The second housemaid was working for an Arabic family when the owner discovered that somebody had stolen her jewellery. She immediately informed the police. “The owners weren’t to know that the housemaid was a thief, but the family were still fined for accepting the housemaid into their villa without changing the sponsor,” the head of Nationality and Residence Prosecution, Ali bin Khatem said.

“The situation, with no documentation that can link the maid to the house, encouraged the maid to steal, thinking that she would be leaving no evidence behind that could lead to her.”

Bin Khatem claimed that they are pursuing the people involved in such cases. “We are tough with such cases and I ask families not to recruit workers not on their own sponsorship, and also to inform us of anyone who runs away from a sponsor,” he said. The penalty for anyone recruiting a worker not on their sponsorship is dhs50,000. The penalty for illegally working is a maximum of three months in jail and dhs10,000 fine and deportation.

“The families don’t know the backgrounds of these housemaids. What if the housemaid has a criminal record?” Al Mur added.

VIDEO: Britain's got talent (funny)

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

VIDEO: Meles's wife helped police chief to extort money

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Berhanu Nega aims to lead a movement for change

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Addis Ababa Mayor-Elect Dr Berhanu Nega and colleagues will give a press conference tomorrow, Wednesday, to announce the formation of a new political movement. The press conference will be held in the afternoon (4:00 PM) at the Ethiopian Television Network’s studio in Alexandria, Virginia — a suburb of Washington DC.

The announcement — which is planned to coincide with the 3rd anniversary of the May 15, 2005 elections — has created a great deal of interest in Ethiopian communities around the world. It is currently a subject of much discussion by almost every Ethiopian who follows Ethiopian politics closely. It is not without a reason. Since he was released from prison last July, Dr Berhanu has become the most articulate and forceful voice in demanding the end of Woyanne’s illigitimate rule. His uncompromising stand on respecting the choice the people of Ethiopia made on May 15, 2005, has positioned him as a leading opposition figure. While his colleagues in the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (Kinijit) chose to continue working within the system inside the country, Dr Berhanu has reached a different conclusion: we have seen the extreme savagery and lawlessness of the Woyanne regime and that the people of Ethiopia have the right to use any means necessary and available to them to protect themselves from the regime’s atrocities.

Dr Berhanu is joined by some highly experienced and smart individuals such as Ato Andargachew Tsige, Ato Mesfin Aman, Ato Daniel Assefa and others who are expected to make up the core of the new movement’s leadership.

According to sources close to the group, talks have already started with the Oromo Liberation Front and other major Ethiopian opposition forces to establish a politico-military alliance against the Woyanne junta. The talks could and is hopped to lead to a transitional government in exile.

The press conference will be carried live via Ethiopian Review Radio Network tomorrow, Wednesday, starting at 4:00 PM.

Worldwide Ethiopian march for freedom and justice

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Click here for the Washington DC event
The third anniversary of the failed Ethiopian National Election is almost here. As the time approaches, the Worldwide March Committee members are working hard to plan events in cities across North America, Europe, Australia, Africa and Israel.

These events will publicly demonstrate that the Ethiopian peoples’ thirst for freedom, human rights, justice and democracy will not die despite the hijacking of the last election and the increasing repression within the country. This has been a huge organizational task and will not be perfect, but it is the beginning. Let the sleeping giant—the freedom loving people of Ethiopia—awaken and rise up for truth and right!

EPRDF or Woyane reportedly are asking, “Why do these people want to embarrass their government and their country by coming out for this rally?

The real question is, who is embarrassing Ethiopia—those who repress their fellow Ethiopians or those who tell the truth about it? In other words, stop the human rights abuses, injustices and electoral manipulations and we will not have anything to rally about.

Just look at two recent examples, Ethiopian children have the lowest access (83%) to health care in the world!1 Secondly, Ethiopia received another world distinction—the dishonor of being the most backslidden country in the world in regards to freedom of the press!2

Should we admit this? Why not? Are these correctable problems? Of course! Denial of real problems will not do anything to solve them. In all fairness, health care is an enormous problem throughout the world, but Ethiopia is the worst—why? The repression of the press is directly linked to a repressive government. Why should we not rally against this?

We would be happy and proud of our government that was doing its best for the people despite limitations. This is the kind of government for which we are rallying—not a perfect government, but a government that serves the people, not themselves! Anyone who agrees with us should come out this week and not stop working until justice comes to Ethiopia!

This is not about political choices. It is about the basic right to make “a political choice”—whichever choice that might be! If you want a choice, you need to come out from May 15 to 18th and stand up for that right!

One of the greatest joys over these last three to four weeks of planning has been to see so many previous “fighters for liberty” re-emerge to work alongside new Ethiopians at the grass roots level after the deep discouragement among Ethiopians over the last months. There has been a tremendous amount of work accomplished in a very short time—with much more to do—but the highlight has been in seeing new groups and new people joining together to accomplish a shared goal—a free Ethiopia where the rights of all of the people will be respected.

As Ethiopians remember those who have died, let us come together in unity for we have all suffered losses either during this regime or at the hands of earlier ones in our history. These events are meant to remind us that one of the chief roles of government is to protect and uphold the lives of its citizens. How can we do a better job of this as a people and as a nation? These events over these four days are ways to raise the expectations for what we expect as people of Ethiopia, the Horn, Africa and as members of human kind.

Groups will differ in how they accomplish this. The format of these events will take on the creativity, diversity and ownership of the local organizers. In some cities, events will be combined into one or two events. Others will change the dates to accommodate the needs and preferences of various groups.

For instance, Muslims will be having a Day of Marching on Thursday, a Day of Prayer on Friday and a Day of Reaching Out will remain the same, Saturday. For some, celebrating a Day of Reaching Out will mean small gatherings in homes for dinner, tea or coffee while others are organizing community gatherings in town halls or in their places of faith. Prayer gatherings Friday or Sunday might include five earnest people or fifty.

Remember, this is only the beginning. It is an opportunity to reject the worst parts of tribalistic thinking that leave so many out. We can be proud of our own ethnicity while at the same time; we can still embrace others from other backgrounds.

We are hopeful that all these events and suggestions will begin to connect us together in new ways so that the human rights of all Ethiopians will be upheld and valued and so that people will reach out in unity, tolerance, respect, love and care for one another to create a better future for our children.

We still expect more and more people to join by the end of the week, contributing in their own ways to this effort. Some of these efforts will be very simple, but meaningful. Here is one inspiring example of two families from Denmark. We hope many of you will follow this example.

It began with a Tigrayan woman who read about the upcoming events, particularly the suggestion about reaching out on Day Three to your neighbors and those from different groups around you. She immediately thought of an Ethiopian family she regularly met at the grocery store. She said that early on, she had asked the woman, Abasha Neach? the woman replied in English, “I’m an Oromo.”

After that, both of them had merely passed each other in the community for five years. She admitted that she was friendlier with the Danes in the country than with one of her own fellow Ethiopians. She said that after reading about reaching out to others, she had started to feel guilty and knew she had been wrong. She decided she was going to do change.

The next time she saw the woman in the store, she asked her if she could come with her family to her home so she could cook for them and have supper together. The woman asked her why. She explained that it was because those organizing the Worldwide March events had asked people to do simple things such as reaching out to invite someone to your home for supper, not to talk about politics, but to learn about each other. She said she had been passing her in the community for five years and that she wanted to know her better.

At first, the woman told her that she would get back to her, but by the time she had gotten through the store, she went up to the other woman who had invited her and said, “We will come to your home.”

We will not know the end of this story until after next Saturday, but what if more people did this all over the Diaspora and throughout Ethiopia? What would Ethiopia be like if this became common? Changes like this are up to many average Ethiopians, not politicians who sometimes use their hidden agendas or ethnicity to divide average Ethiopians. If many average Ethiopians would extend love and caring actions to others, imagine what could happen!

This is what it means to be human. This is what our complaint is about our government— they have forgotten how to be human. Let us start this week to show each other what it will mean to Ethiopia if each of us is simply “human”, one person at a time!

Let us persist in our struggle for such a society. Come out of your homes and join this week in any way you can to bring about a new Ethiopia! It is up to Ethiopians like you and like me!

For information on events or if you want to participate in some of the planned groups, you should email us at ethiopiansmarchforfreedom@yahoo.ca for details. Events are planned in many different cities in 23 cities and in 17 countries throughout the world.

If you want to join, it is still not too late! If you are already organizing something, email the details to us of the date, the time and the location so we can put it all together with other information. Also, for ideas of possible slogans that are being used throughout the world, contact us.

—————–

For more information please contact
The Worldwide March for Ethiopian Freedom, Human Rights and Justice Organizing Committee
By E-mail at: ethiopiansmarchforfreedom@yahoo.ca

'Children of the Revolution' by Dinaw Mengestu

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Los Angeles Times Book Review: Dinaw Mengestu belongs to that special group of American voices produced by global upheavals and intentional, if sometimes forced, migrations. These are the writer-immigrants coming here from Africa, East India, Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Their struggles for identity mark a new turn within the ranks of American writers I like to call ‘the in-betweeners.’ The most interesting work in American literature has often been done by such writers, their liminality and luminosity in American culture produced by changing national definitions (Twain, Kerouac, Ginsberg), by being the children of immigrants themselves (Bellow, Singer), by voluntary exile (Baldwin, Hemingway) and by trauma (Bambara, Morrison).

Dinaw Mengestu was born in Ethiopia in 1978 and is a graduate of Georgetown and Columbia universities. He works as a journalist and reviewer and is researching a book tracing his extended family’s exile from Ethiopia following the 1974 revolution. Children of the Revolution won the Guardian First Book Award in 2007… Continue reading >>

Addis Ababa faces lengthy power outage

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) — The Ethiopian capital faces a lengthy power outage until next month because of reduced water levels in the country’s hydro- electric plants, a state-owned generator said Monday.

Addis Ababa, a city of 5 million, will have no power for up to three days a week, the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation said in a statement.

“Power rationing will continue until June. Climate change, which is inflicting a great damage worldwide, is the main cause of the poor performance of seasonal rains in Ethiopia,” state media quoted Water Minister Asfaw Dingamo as saying.

Ethiopia lagging behind in telecom due to state monopoly

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Africa mobile subscribers grow 33%… the clear laggard in Africa was Ethiopia which retained a monopoly both on fixed-line and mobile telephone services.

(Reuters) — African mobile operators added 70-million users in the past year, a growth rate of 33 percent, and expanded cell phone coverage by an area the size of France, industry organisation GSMA said on Tuesday.

Africa now has 282-million mobile phone users out of a population of around 960-million, but more than 300-million people living in rural areas still have no cell phone coverage, the GSM Association (GSMA) said.

Around 66 percent of the population are reached by a mobile phone signal, up from 62 percent in 2007.

Some African countries, such as Egypt, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, already have a coverage well above 90 percent, the GSMA said.

The industry is committed to spending more than $50 billion over five years in sub-Saharan Africa to boost the coverage to 90 percent of the population, the GSMA said, adding investment could even be higher if the regulatory environment was right.

Gabriel Solomon, a senior vice-president for public policy at the GSMA, told Reuters a study for the industry group concluded last year that an additional 25 percent could have been invested in Africa under ideal circumstances.

“If you look at our $50 billion, that could lead to an incremental $12,5-billion over the next five years invested,” he said at the sidelines of the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Telecom Africa conference.

An ITU report prepared for the conference also argued that further privatisation, moves to increase competition and more independent regulators could give Africa’s telecoms industry, whose fast growth has attracted interest from buyers in Europe, the Middle East, India and China, a fresh boost.

Solomon said the clear laggard in Africa was Ethiopia which retained a monopoly both on fixed-line and mobile telephone services.

“I know that our members would be ready to invest in Ethiopia tomorrow if they got a licence,” he said.

In other countries, competition is heating up.

“If you look at Kenya for example, this time last year there were two operators, today there are four… Uganda now has six licences. So you have to ask yourself are these sustainable, will some of these guys drop out, will it lead to consolidation?” Solomon said.

Africa on the move, but challenges remain

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Ethiopia is the only country which still maintains a monopoly for both mobile and fixed voice.

(By Skrevet av Mikael Ricknäs, IDG News Service) — There is a lot of good news in Africa, especially in the mobile space, but regulatory and technical challenges remain for both mobile phones and broadband, industry organization the GSM Association (GSMA) said Tuesday.

The number of mobile connections has risen to 282 million, an increase of 70 million, in the last 12 months. Improved coverage has added another 46 million potential customers, according to GSMA.

Currently an average of 66 percent of the continent is covered, but the industry has set the bar higher: in five years that figure should be 90 percent. There are still about 300 million users, in rural areas, not covered.

“Reaching that goal, and serving those communities will be a great challenge”, said Tom Phillips, the GSMA’s chief government and regulatory affairs officer.

Key to growth on the continent has been increased competition, going from a monopoly to a duopoly, and even more operators battling for market share. But more can be done, Phillips said.

For example, Ethiopia is the only country which still maintains a monopoly for both mobile and fixed voice.

But Phillips’ pet peeve is luxury tax — which is added after regular value-added tax (VAT) — for both mobile phones and usage in many countries.

Removing the tax will actually increase revenue, since phone sales increase, and usage goes up, the GSMA said, after conducting a survey on the subject.

The ones which have the best feel for the African market are the local carriers. High on Emirates Telecommunications Corp. (Etisalat) Chairman Mohammad Hassan Omran’s list is a more stable regulatory environment.

It is common in certain areas for a regulator to accept something one day, only to alter the rules the next, and when there is a change of government there is a change of rules. “Money will not come unless there is confidence,” he said.

Omran also said there is a need to relax rules for the use of foreign workers, which is not always allowed, and would ease the roll-out of networks.

Being able to make calls using is a mobile phone an important step, but getting data access at broadband speeds is as important. Only five African countries had broadband penetration of more than 1 percent at the end of last year, according to the ITU (International Telecommunication Union).

Currently the fundamentals to get broadband moving on a larger scale are broken, according to Sanjiv Ahuja, former CEO of Orange SA, who is starting a new company to roll out broadband in developing markets.

International bandwidth is a big challenge. “People are trying to tackle it, several submarine cables are being built, but it will not fix the problem. Inter-country connections are almost nonexistent. That means you still have to use satellite, which is both slow and expensive. As a continent there needs to a significant focus on connecting countries,” he said.

The problem is exaggerated by the fact that international gateways, which connect local operators to international bandwidth, are still a monopoly in many countries.

“The impact is two-fold, there is no strategic long-term planning, and secondly the prices are very high. Sometimes availability is not high, as well,” said Phillips.

Key to broadband growth will also be the use of frequencies in the lower bands, which become available when analog TV is turned off. The use of 800 MHz will cut the capital expenditure for building networks in half, which will greatly help the roll-out of mobile broadband in rural areas, since base stations can be widely spaced, Phillips said.

“In Africa they have to say that rural wireless communications are an absolute priority, not wait for the backwards and forwards negotiations that will happen with broadcasters,” he said.

Food prices in Ethiopia continue to soar

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

(Panapress) — Food prices in Ethiopia have continued to soar with reports of an alarming hike of the cost of the cheapest grain, maize, in some markets of the drought-hit Somali Region reaching 700 birr (about US$70) per 100-kg bag, up from about 350 birr (US$35).

Meanwhile, poor performance of the short rains (belg) season in the first half of the year has forced farmers to switch to planting early maturing crops, according to reports by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

In a weekly update on the food situation in the east African country, the two agencies Tuesday said that the impact of the rains had been limited in Somali, Oromiya, Amhara, Tigray and Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) regions.

Approximately 80 percent of farmers were switching to plantation of early maturing crops after missing the chance to plant long cycle crops due to the delay and poor performance of the ‘belg’ rains, the UN agencies reported.

There was also concern among farmers that the soaring price of fertilizer, from 400 birr to 800 birr per 50-kg bag in SNNP regions, would further affect production.

Already, Ethiopia’s Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Agency (DPPA) has allocated one-month emergency food for 1.06 million beneficiaries in the region.

According to the report, the food situation in SNNP regions was becoming critical, as disease has affected the only root crop available for consumption (enset).

Cases of severe malnutrition have been reported in Siraro district of West Arsi zone of neighbouring Oromiya Region, where therapeutic feeding centres have provided treatment for 1,800 severely malnourished children.

Severe water and pasture shortages persist in Warder and Korahe zones of Somali Region, where a recent assessment by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicated increased livestock mortality among goats, camels and cattle.

High concentration of livestock was also reported in areas that received some rain, contributing to over-grazing of the limited browse and pasture.

Lost Ark of the Covenant 'traced to Ethiopia'

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

(Telegraph.co.uk) — German archaeologists have claimed to have found one of the fabled resting places of the Ark of the Covenant, the chest holding the Ten Commandments which gave the ancient Israelites their power.

The University of Hamburg say its researchers have found the remains of the 10th century BC palace of the Queen of Sheba in Axum, Ethiopia, and an altar which at one time reputedly held the precious treasure.

Archaeologist Helmut Ziegert, who is leading the dig said: “From the dating, its position and the details that we have found, I am sure that this is the palace.”

Ethiopian legends holds that the Ark was taken to the palace of the Queen of Sheba by King Solomon, the king of the Jews, after they fell in love.

After the Queen’s death her son, Menelek, rebuilt the palace and dedicated it to the cult of Sirius, but kept the Ark in its resting place there.

The team said evidence at the site included Sirius symbols, the debris of sacrifices and the alignment of sacred buildings to the rising-point of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.

“The results we have suggest that a Cult of Sothis developed in Ethiopia with the arrival of Judaism and the Ark of the Covenant and continued until 600 AD,” the university said. Sothis is the ancient Greek name for Sirius.

The German research, which began in 1999, is aimed at documenting the origins of the Ethiopian state and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

The hunt for the Ark, which featured in the Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost Ark, has become almost as legendary as the artefact itself.

The 1981 film has the artefact recovered by the Nazis from a resting place in the “Well of Souls” in Tanis, Egypt – not to be confused with the Well of Souls on Temple Mount, Jerusalem.

The Nazi treasure hunters are later killed when the Ark is opened.

The Old Testament recounts that Moses, on leading the Israelites from Egypt, received the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai.

These Commandments, written on stone tablets, were later placed in a chest made from acacia wood, plated with gold and topped with two golden angels. This was the Ark of the Covenant.

The Ark was then kept in the Temple of Solomon Jerusalem for centuries, according to the Old Testament.

After Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians in the 6th century BC, the Bible and it entered the realm of legend.

Ethiopian tradition claims that the Ark was moved to Axum from Jerusalem in 10th century BC.

A sect in Ethiopia maintains that the Ark is kept at the church of St Mary of Zion, but the site is defended by monks and only one guardian is allowed to see it, making the claim impossible to verify.
Story from Telegraph News:

U.N. High Commissioner mission to Yemen

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Source: UNHCR

High Commissioner António Guterres leaves for Yemen tomorrow (Wednesday) for a five-day visit that will include a first-hand look at UNHCR’s efforts there on behalf of refugees and internally displaced people and the opening of a regional conference on refugee protection and migration in the Gulf of Aden. The two-day Regional Conference on Refugee Protection and International Migration will be held in Sana’a on 19-20 May.

Prior to the conference, Mr. Guterres is scheduled to visit UNHCR’s offices in Sana’a and Aden, as well the Kharaz refugee camp. He will also meet with urban refugees in Basateen in Aden, and visit UNHCR’s reception centres along the southern coastline of Yemen.

At each stop, the High Commissioner will meet with Yemeni officials as well as with some of the Somalis and Ethiopians who have recently made the perilous voyage across the Gulf of Aden in search of protection or a better life. So far this year, more than 15,300 people have made the dangerous crossing aboard smugglers’ boats, double the number for the same period a year ago. More than 360 people died making the voyage during the first four months of 2008.

The regional conference is being convened by UNHCR in cooperation with the Mixed Migration Task Force for Somalia, composed of international agencies working in Somalia and funded by the European Commission. The objectives of the conference include establishing a regional mechanism and longer-term plan of action on refugee protection and mixed migration in the Gulf of Aden region. The mixed flow of people across the Gulf of Yemen includes a significant number of refugees. Yemen has carried a major burden in dealing with irregular migratory movements in the region, yet has maintained an open-door policy to refugees. But it has been calling for more support from the international community. UNHCR and other international agencies have stepped up their efforts to assist Yemen and other countries in the region, and are jointly calling for global action to better address the challenges.

At the regional conference, participants will review the challenges in the main countries of departure, transit and arrival in the region and develop appropriate responses. The resulting action plan will in part be based on aTen-Point Plan developed by UNHCR in 2006 to assist governments in developing protection-sensitive migration strategies. The conference will bring together senior level government authorities from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia (including Somaliland and Puntland), Yemen and the Gulf Cooperation countries, as well as representatives from the African Union, the European Commission, various UN agencies, NGOs and members of the civil society.

Neha International to acquire floriculture units in Ethiopia

Monday, May 12th, 2008

India’s Neha International Ltd. has informed that its board of Directors at its meeting held on May 12, 2008, inter alias, has considered the acquisition of two floriculture units in Ethiopia.

These units have 56 hectares of land with 12 hectares growing under green houses. The acquisition will be made through its wholly owned subsidiary in Mauritius.

Neha International Ltd. engages in the production and export of cut flowers in India.

The board expects the deal to be completed by the end of June, 2008.

The stock of the company closed today at Rs 79, up 1% compared with previous close of Rs 78. The stock touched an intraday high of Rs 82 and low of Rs 75.

MN doctors offer Ethiopian woman a chance at a new life

Monday, May 12th, 2008

By Lorna Benson, Minnesota Public Radio

Listen to feature audio

A 20-year-old Ethiopian woman is recovering at a St. Paul hospital after having a massive tumor removed from the base of her brain and face. Her case is remarkable because of the disfigurement the tumor caused. As the mass slowly grew over many years, it forced its way out of the woman’s head through her right eye socket. Numerous doctors declined to treat her because her case was so severe and complicated. But a fortuitous meeting between two doctors at a Twin Cities synagogue last fall changed her fortunes.

St. Paul, Minnesota — Dr. Rick Hodes first met Merdya Abdisa a year ago, when she wandered in to the Catholic Mission where he works on behalf of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Addis Ababa. Hodes is an internal medicine doctor who has lived in Ethiopia for 20 years.

His practice is filled with patients suffering from ailments that have gone untreated for far too long. But he had never seen anything like Merdya’s tumor.

“It’s deformed her face. She has to cover half of her face. Her eye is popped all the way out. It’s really quite unnerving to see it,” said Hodes. “And for the last three years she’s basically been inside, because she doesn’t want to walk on the street because people are afraid if they see her.”

Even Hodes’ description doesn’t quite capture the way Merdya’s face was deformed. A cone-shaped mass of skin protruded from her right eye socket. Her eyeball rested at the tip of the cone. She was unable to close the eye because her eyelid was too stretched out.

Hodes was deeply moved by Merdya’s plight. He immediately began sending photos of her to brain specialists, asking if they could help. He contacted at least six world-renowned neurosurgeons without success.

“They all throw up their hands and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve never seen anything like it.’ And that’s it. That’s like the end of the story,” sayd Hodes. “It was very frustrating for me, knowing we could potentially save her life. But it was a great challenge because nobody was interested in helping her.”

During a fundraising trip to Minneapolis last November, Hodes said God led him to a doctor who could help Merdya.

An observant Jew, Hodes intended to wake up early and attend morning prayers before his fundraising meeting. But his alarm clock didn’t go off. So he delayed his prayers and went to the synagogue after his meeting.

It was so cold outside that he brought his laptop with him into the synagogue. That’s where he ran into Dr. Eric Nussbaum, who was studying with a rabbi.

“When I heard this guy’s a neurosurgeon I said, ‘Oh, let me show you the type of neurosurgery that I deal with. These are my challenges.’ And I opened up the computer and I showed him these pictures of Merdya,” Hodes recalled. “And he said, ‘Oh my gosh. I’ve never seen anything like this.’ But then he said one sentence that nobody else has said. He said, ‘I’d love to try to help this lady.’”

Nussbaum directs the National Brain Aneurysm Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital in downtown St. Paul. Merdya’s case is exciting for doctors in the U.S. because they never see this kind of extreme deformity, Nussbaum says. That’s because even patients with no money would have access to care long before a tumor could inflict this kind of damage.

Nussbaum was willing to attempt what many other doctors had declined to do, because he knew he could assemble a top-notch team of specialists to help him with the surgery — including some doctors who are competitors from other hospitals.

It’s doubtful that one neurosurgeon alone could have handled a tough case like Merdya’s because her tumor formed in a tricky area at the base of her brain, Nussbaum says.

“Problems with the tumors in that location, or any abnormality in that location, is that it tends to cross disciplines between physicians of different sub-specialties,” said Nussbaum.

For Merdya’s surgery, Nussbaum recruited a cranial-facial plastic surgeon from nearby Region’s Hospital, and a neuro-opthamologist from the University of Minnesota to reconstruct the area around her right eye.

All of the surgeons agreed to do the work for free and St. Joseph’s Hospital didn’t charge for time in the operating room.

Money never factored into the decision of whether or not to help Merdya, Nussbaum says. She would have died without the surgery as the tumor put more pressure on her brain.

“In addition to the potential medical issues, you just look at a young woman who is so disfigured and have to kind of feel for her, and what it must have been like growing up with that,” he said.

Merdya Abdisa’s life has not been easy. She is an orphan with no job. She depends on the good will of others to survive.

Her trip to America has been exciting, but also overwhelming at times. She took her first plane ride, stepped on an escalator for the first time, and is now recovering in a hospital where almost no one but the interpreter speaks her native Oromo language.

The day before her surgery, Merdya sat quietly in a chair in her hospital room. The soft-spoken woman hid half her face with a scarf as hospital workers filtered in and out of her room. She cooperated and even smiled, but tears would occasionally fill her good eye.

She wanted the surgery and was grateful to get it, Merdya explained. But she also felt alone being so far away from home. It’s a feeling she has felt many times even in Ethiopia because of her deformity.

She spoke through Oromo language translator, Fowzi Hassan, before her surgery.

“(I was) unable to go to school because of this problem; shame and not going out in public without me covering (my head), a lot of questions.”

She wasn’t able to marry because of her tumor, Merdya says. She will leave it in God’s hands to determine what her life will be like once she returns home, she says.

From her surgeon’s perspective, her life should be much better. The tumor turned out to be cancer-free and the reconstruction went “spectacularly well,” Dr. Nussbaum said the day after the procedure.

“It was very dramatic. The people who were working in the recovery room, the interpreter who was working with her immediately before surgery and then was back with her after surgery, people were really just shocked, which was great,” said Nussbaum.

Merdya’s result should not only alter the way others perceive her, Nussbaum predicts it will change the way she perceives herself.

Merdya will spend several more weeks in Minnesota recovering from her operation. She will stay with an Oromo family until she is well enough to return home to Ethiopia.

Kenenisa Bekele to attempt 10k record in Oregon

Monday, May 12th, 2008

(Reuters) –Ethiopian Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele will attempt to break his 10,000m world record at next month’s Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, organisers said today.

The race will take place at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field on June 8. The stadium is also the site of the June 27-July 6 US Olympic trials. Bekele set his current record of 26 minutes 17.53 seconds on August 26, 2005 in Brussels.

“The record is not easy,” Bekele’s manager Jos Hermens said in a statement. “But this is an absolutely serious attempt. His training is going well, and he is 100% ‘go’ for the record.” It will be the 25-year-old Bekele’s first outdoor appearance in the United States.

Bekele, who also holds the world 5 000m record, will run in the morning ahead of other events at the 34th annual grand prix meeting to take advantage of what should be more favourable wind conditions.

“We compiled 20 years of data about wind conditions, humidity, temperature – you name it,” meet director Tom Jordan said. “The conditions are slightly better during the morning than the evening.”