Archive for the ‘Ethiopian News’ Category

Free Teddy Afro rally in DC, Monday, April 28

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

Free Teday Afro
Protest rally at the Woyanne occupied Ethiopian embassy in Washington DC
3506 International Drive NW, Washington DC

Click to enlarge the poster

Amnesty urges investigation of Mogadishu mosque executions

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

NAIROBI (AFP) — Amnesty International on Friday called on [the Woyanne regime in] Ethiopia to investigate allegations that its troops killed at least 21 people, including 11 unarmed civilians, in a mosque in the Somali capital.

The rights group cited several sources which said Ethiopian Woyanne troops carried out the killings on April 19. The Ethiopian government Woyanne has rejected the claims.

At least 10 other people were killed by Ethiopian Woyanne forces near the Al-Hidaya mosque in northern Mogadishu, bringing the death toll to 31, an Amnesty statement said.

“Deliberately killing civilians is a war crime,” said Amnesty. “We call on the Ethiopian government Woyanne to ensure an independent investigation is carried out into the raid on the mosque and the subsequent treatment of those detained by its forces.”

“Seven of the 21 killed at the mosque were reported to have had their throats cut, a form of illegal execution practised by Ethiopian Woyanne troops in Somalia,” it said.

Mogadishu residents and witnesses have said Ethiopian Woyanne forces carried out the mosque killings. But the Ethiopia Woyanne foreign ministry has accused Islamist militants of carrying out the killings.

“Amnesty International has accused Ethiopian defense Woyanne invading forces of having been responsible for various atrocities. That is regrettable and would not be in the interest of the promotion of respect for human rights and humanitarian laws,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The cutting of the throats of even enemies and mutilating bodies is not in the tradition of Ethiopian troops. On the other hand, the Al-Shabaab (Islamist) terrorists have never been ashamed of these types of atrocities,” it said.

The government said the Islamists carried out the killings because of the success of the April 19 operation.

“The operation was successful beyond expectation … there was minimal civilian causality. All those who argue to the contrary are either deliberately peddling false information or are being misled by Al-Shabaab (Islamist) propaganda,” it added.

Residents said the Ethiopians Woyannes killed at least nine Mogadishu Islamic clerics, but Ethiopia Woyanne said its troops have never killed a religious leader.

Amnesty said the Ethiopians Woyanne forces also detained at least 40 children and youths aged from nine to 18 during the raid which occurred as Ethiopian Woyanne and Somali forces cracked down on Islamists waging an insurgency in the horn of Africa nation.

The Amnesty statement, citing Somali media and a government spokesman, said 32 children had been freed while 18 were handed over to Somali police.

“Amnesty International calls for the 18 who remain in detention to be charged with a recognized offence and brought before a court, or released,” the statement added.

Government's PR machine hides many brutal truths

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

COMMENTARY

By DULA ABDU, Houston Chronicle

The Houston International Festival and the Lucy exhibition at the Museum of Natural Science highlight the positive aspects of the African nation of Ethiopia. Knowingly or not, however, both iFest and the museum have been complicit with the government of Ethiopia in shunning a large segment of the Ethiopian population in Houston.

The concerns of Ethiopians in diaspora and at home have been marginalized by the PR machine of the regime in Addis Ababa, which denies the existence of human rights violations and record famine.

While the Ethiopian government is spending millions in lobbying, American tax dollars are being used to prop up the regime and to ship weapons. At the same time, almost a quarter of the Ethiopian population is facing starvation. The United States is about to send more grain, but not as much as it once did.

The Ethiopian government response to the recent rise in commodity prices was to use merchants and farmers as scapegoats. But the primary culprit for perennial food deficit and famine in that country is flawed economic policies and abuse of human rights. A dictatorship with no free media and which is not accountable to its people has all the means at hand to use any excuse for its failure. It has taken extraordinary measures to arrest and punish many traders and farmers for rising prices.

Rural poverty and starvation in Ethiopia are directly related to land ownership. The country has a vastly superior land mass, great potential and rainfall not only to feed itself, but also to help feed the rest of Africa. Indeed, it was once referred to as the breadbasket of Africa because of its climate, fertile soil and location.

Unfortunately, that natural endowment has not been used to advantage and has even been thwarted by successive regimes’ desire to own and control land.

The country’s agonizing economic and political conditions are a direct result of government policy. Many starving countries blame weather for their troubles. But the primary reason for famine and starvation in Ethiopia is not the vagaries of nature, greedy merchants or farmers; rather, it is the unsustainable and poor stewardship of economic policy by the state — including faulty land ownership policies, the lack of a free market and good governance, and failure to decentralize and establish clearly defined property rights.

Bondage to communism in Ethiopia is a huge roadblock to economic development. It has failed to allow and promote incentives for market-based institutions to allocate resources in a more efficient and sustainable fashion.

Appropriate policies and use of technologies stemmed the tide of famine in the 1960s in India and Pakistan, and made less endowed countries like Israel exporters of a variety of food products. In Ethiopia, however, the government owns 100 percent of the land, and the citizens are hostage to the party bosses, who have the right to evict, confiscate and threaten any property owner with any punishment.

In Ethiopia, as in North Korea, citizens have no rights to sell or borrow against their own land because they have no title to it. The farmers, consequently, have no incentives to preserve the soil and to introduce more innovative ways to improve their farming techniques. Their incentive to produce more is also constrained by government control of their market through government boards that collect grains from the rural areas and sell it to urban dwellers, sometimes at exorbitant prices.

Despite these facts, Ethiopia’s government-controlled media have portrayed farmers and merchants as scapegoats for the recent price rises in order to assuage consumers and assign blame.

The other underpinning for the rising poverty in Ethiopia is lack of access to technology. The Ethiopian regime controls the Internet, cell phone, telephone and other major tools of communication and economic development inside the country, which makes it easy to watch and control the country’s 80 million primarily poverty-stricken people.

Ethiopia’s biblical suffering will continue unless there is a dramatic shift in current U.S. policy. Bluntly speaking, United States should review its policy toward Ethiopia.

Continuing present policies will only embolden the Ethiopian regime to continue along its disastrous path. Ethiopia will degenerate into a failed state like Somalia, if not worse.
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Dula Abdu, originally from Ethiopia, is a Houston-based writer on foreign policy. He can be e-mailed at dula06@gmail.com

Mugabe adopts Zenawi's tactics: Opposition HQ surrounded

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

Why do the people of Africa tolerate these parasite dictators that keep the continent poor, miserable and backward?

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Zimbabwe Rounds Up Opposition Members

By CELIA W. DUGGER, The New York Times

JOHANNESBURG — Truckloads of heavily armed police officers rounded up scores, if not hundreds, of people at the headquarters of Zimbabwe’s opposition party on Friday as plainclothes investigators descended on independent monitors of the nation’s disputed elections last month, according to opposition officials, witnesses and the police. Friday’s raid on the opposition’s nerve center and the election monitors signaled a sharp and very public escalation of the country’s deepening and increasingly violent political crisis, one that has been concentrated to date in far less visible rural areas. Both raids began around 11 a.m. in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Harvest House, the rundown, six-story headquarters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, was still cordoned off by the police at mid-afternoon. Computers and documents were seized. The opposition’s offices had become an informal refugee camp for party supporters, some visibly wounded, who had fled what human rights groups describe as political repression in the countryside. Witnesses said they had watched as the police herded more than 200 of these bedraggled people, including pregnant women and children, onto buses. At the same time, a smaller contingent of police investigators raided the offices of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, an alliance of civic groups that enraged the government by analyzing polling data and projecting that the opposition had won the March 29 election, perhaps by enough to avoid a runoff in the race for president. Its findings were cited Thursday by the top American diplomat for Africa as the best evidence that the opposition was the clear victor… Continue reading >>

Ethiopian local elections signal hegemonic state

Friday, April 25th, 2008

By Melaku Tegegne

Many Ethiopian politicians are describing the present national drive by the regime as signaling the beginning of the “Developmental State” in Ethiopia as prescribed by the Prime Minister a year ago. The politicians have expressed their fear that the era of dictatorship in Ethiopia will be elongated rather than culminated.

Their fear arose from the fact that all opposition parties were rendered inoperative by systematic harassment, intimidation, and harassment. This has been lucidly stated by leaders of opposition parties who were soft on the dictatorial regime of Meles Zenawi. The main opposition, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party, the leaders of which were incarcerated nearly for two years, has also been rendered inoperative. This party which won the hearts and minds of the majority people of Ethiopia through its democratic and national unity programs as opposed to the parochial or ethnic-based backward programs of the tribalist regime has been severely oppressed and pushed out of the game. The much-hoped party has also faced internal division which also contributed to its further disintegration, present-day politics in Ethiopia doesn’t offer hope or optimism. As in the Derge era the county is sliding back to authoritarian system. In this piece of writing an attempt is made to scan some elections made in some continents vis-à-vis the Ethiopian local elections still underway.

As many national elections were held in many countries of the world, the year 2008 can be dubbed as a year of elections. There was an election in Russia, but President Putin made a slight change in the hierarchy by simply transferring himself from the presidency to the position of the premiership. In this election the opposition was defeated by overt and covert means employed by the government to make them out of the political game.

In a similar vein, a parliamentary election was held in Iran, the now most feared country by the West for its nuclear proliferation program and its strong support to radical Muslims. Again opposition candidates were technically barred from being elected because of their liberal views on radical Islam. As a result, the incumbent president was proclaimed to be the winner thereby closing the door against the opposition party.

In the USA, fierce competition is underway especially between senators Clinton and Obama to become the next president. There will be a winner among the three American presidential contenders after few months but that wouldn’t be through foul means as in the other countries where there is no democracy and rule of law.

When we turn our attention to Africa, in May 2005, in Ethiopia, a national election was held across the country and was described as the best of its kind in the political history of the country. This was because it involved opposition parties, local and international observers. However, the much touted historic election ultimately turned out to be a fiasco when the regime stole the election result, and subsequently committed unparalleled brutality on demonstrators who opposed the rigging of the election. To date, 193 peaceful demonstrators have been gunned down by the snipers of the regime in the streets of Addis Ababa. These victims paid the highest sacrifice for freedom and democratic rights of the people of Ethiopia. As if that were not enough, more than 50,000 supporters of the main opposition party have been incarcerated by the regime in different concentration camps in the countryside. A European journalist described this gross violation of human rights as unparalleled since the end of Apartheid era in South Africa. Dozens of opposition party leaders and private newspaper journalists were imprisoned for nearly two years under trumped up high treason charges. It is an unfortunate fact of life that the judiciary and Election Board are not neutral in Ethiopia.

According to a recent interview of an opposition leader who was released a few months ago from prison, there are still many political prisoners awaiting verdicts by the kangaroo court of the tribalist regime. I shall come later to the issue of election in Ethiopia, but now let me turn your attention to the other recently held elections in Africa where similar situations occurred.

In Africa, recently elections were held in Nigeria, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. Although General Obasanjo did not want to relinquish power, the parliament of the country, however, resolved the problem by denying the General to satisfy his insatiable interest for power. Hence, the election in Nigeria, one of the advanced countries in Africa, was concluded with a peaceful transition.

But in Kenya, a country considered for a long time by the West to be a bearer of democracy in Africa, the election result turned out to be bloody. More than 1,500 people have died and many thousands have been displaced from their residential areas.

Thanks to Mr. Koffi Anan, however, the problem seems to be over. By the way, Mr. Koffi Anan didn’t make a similar negotiation effort to solve the election crisis in Ethiopia at a time when he was Secretary General of the UN. Mr. Koffi Anan was at the economic commission for Africa in Ethiopia before he became Secretary General of the UN. He is very familiar with the residents of Addis Ababa, but unfortunately he didn’t extend help to solve one of their greatest problems. As if adding fuel to the fire, Mr. Koffi Annan ignored the request of Ethiopian-Americans to mediate between the government and the opposition party.

The election crisis in Zimbabwe is unprecedented in the history of present-day Africa. President Mugabe, the founding father of the nation who led the protracted struggle against British colonial rule, is at his peak period in his life (84 years old) for retirement. He ruled the country for twenty eight years which is a very long period by any measure of public service. So what does he want? To be a cause of public unrest, bloodshed, social and economic disaster like the one that occurred in Kenya a few months ago?

Turning attention to the local counties election in Ethiopia the first of which was held on April 13 and the next on April 20, 2008, they are simply orchestrated dramas made by the regime to continue holding onto power by all means possible. The regime is still in shock which it had received as a result of the absolute and determined vote made by the residents of Addis Ababa and other urban areas against the regime two years ago during the national election. According to some political analysts, the shock experienced by the regime began to be felt earlier before the election ballot when the residents of Addis Ababa had shown a strong support to opposition parties in a huge rally at the biggest square in Addis Ababa. That was a water shade in the political history of the country regarding the will to establish a democratic system as opposed to a dictatorship exercised by the regime.

This situation, among others, was the one which led the regime to brutally murder the residents of Addis Ababa, who, for the first time since the downfall of the communist system which reigned for seventeen years, have shown strong struggle in defense of their freedoms and political rights. The regime, instead of turning its attention to a peaceful and normal political activity, has continued its roller coaster move and the overall situation in the country has receded. It is in this gloomy situation, a dark period in the political history of the country, now the drama of the local elections are being held. All opposition parties, which had even tried to be loyal to the regime, have boycotted the election describing the nefarious intimidation activities by the regime. Hence, the election underway, conducted under a single party, signals the emergence of the well-calculated plan by the regime to strengthen dictatorship under the name “Developmental State” described by some scholars as crap.

In my lifetime, I saw such orchestration during the brutal military regime of Mengistu. One time, there were only single candidates, and the people of Addis Ababa were forced to endorse the election drama. This kind of election, both the past and the present, should have been termed not an election but an indirect appointment by the regimes.

In such situations, in the countries mentioned earlier such as Russia, Iran, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, to name just a few, what is the role of the international community, the advanced democratic countries? Can they help out in redressing the imbalance? It is unlikely.

The defence of human rights during the past few years seems to be lukewarm. All the democratic countries are not vocal in their defense against violations of human rights these days. For them, business first, has become the order of the day. They are also facing stiff resistance by the economic giants such as China and other Asian countries. In the past few years, these countries which are oppressive and anti-democratic in both their behaviour and practice, began to defy the voice of democratic countries. As a result, many democratic countries are now turning their strategies from confrontation to a constructive engagement. This is especially true for China, a country known for its continual gross violations of human rights. The current crackdown on Tibetan people by Chinese rulers is a case in point.

In fact, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and my home land, Ethiopia, are weaker in terms of economies. They are poor countries.

Zimbabwe had a glorious past; Kenya has been known for its strong economy and political system, a model in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia has been known for its dependence on the West, especially the USA. Therefore, if western countries have the will or the desire to defend democratic rights, they can put pressure on the government of Ethiopia to bring change. They can withhold financial assistance, put on trade embargos, and curtail cultural exchanges such as sports events.

The one point which is often mentioned in the case of Ethiopia vis avis its relation with the West, especially the US, is strong alliance against radical Muslims. I am not against the alliance. As I stated earlier, in one of my articles, Ethiopia has always been in alliance with the West, both during the Second World War and the Cold War period. There is nothing new with the alliance. But the question is, can’t the USA, the champion, the arch-bearer of democratic rights, make the regime of Meles Zenawi understand and make at least a political and economic reform necessary for the day. The same can be said of the European Union. It seems that policy makers of the US and EU know that both Meles Zenawi and his party, the so called Revolutionary Democratic Front, are not indispensable. They have seen with their own eyes that the opposition parties which have many scholars, many of whom had undergone their education in different universities in the USA, can be alternatives.

So why can’t fighting against radical Muslims and support for democracy go together? Are they anti-thesis to each other? There shouldn’t be a dilemma on this issue which concerns the lives of the seventy million Ethiopians. If the current and the coming US administrations can’t resolve the chronic crisis of democratic rights in Ethiopia, they will lose the friendship of the people of Ethiopia.
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The author can be reached at melaku_tegegne@hotmail.com. Visit his blog, Issues in Focus

Video: Woyanne fake development report exposed

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Interview with Birtukan Mideksa – today

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Former CUD now UDJ Vice Chairperson Wzt Birtukan Mideksa, and executive committee member Ato Temesgen Zewde will be Ethiopian Current Affairs Discussion Forum’s (ECADF) guests on Sunday, April 27, 2008, Time 2:00PM EST, or 20:00 CET. The interview will also be aired live via Ethiopian Review Radio Network (click here to listen).

Eritrea denies Djibouti incursion charge

Friday, April 25th, 2008

NAIROBI (AFP) — Eritrea on Friday denied accusations that its troops had crossed the border into neighbouring Djibouti and begun building defences.

“We are baffled by the accusations from Djibouti,” an official close to Eritrean president told AFP.

“We have no claims on Djibouti territory. The border is clear and does not have any ambiguity and we have not occupied even one inch of Djibouti territory.”

A Djibouti official Monday said Eritrean forces had began digging trenches on both sides of the border, with the Eritreans infringing several hundred metres (yards) on to Djiboutian territory.

Djibouti and Eritrea have clashed twice over the border area situated at the southern end of Red Sea. In April 1996 they almost went to war after a Djibouti official accused Asmara of shelling the town of Ras Doumeira.

In 1999 Eritrea accused Djibouti of siding with Asmara’s arch-foe Ethiopia Woyanne while Djibouti alleged its neighbour was supporting Djiboutian rebels and had designs on the Ras Doumeira region, which Eritrea denied.

ONLF condemn the arrest of two of its top leaders

Friday, April 25th, 2008

(AFP) – Ethiopia’s Ogaden rebels on Thursday condemned the arrest of two of their top leaders by the authorities of Somalia’s northern breakaway Puntland region.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) said its leaders were arrested on Tuesday. “The two ONLF political prisoners were removed by force from their hotel in Garowe in central Somalia by security forces of the Puntland administration,” the rebel movement said in a statement.

The two ONLF leaders were then driven in the personal vehicle of Puntland’s finance minister back to the Ogaden border and handed over to Ethiopian Woyanne security, the rebel group said.

President Girma back on his feet

Friday, April 25th, 2008

He also gets protection from the Agazi death squad.

Ethiopians in Dallas confront Meles Zenawi's agents

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Meles Zenawi’s surrogates were in Dallas today to address a hand picked audience from the Ethiopian Diaspora. The local Woyane/EPDRF operatives have been preparing for this meeting in “secret” for some time now. Tipped by insiders and similar event participants in Houston, a coalition of all opposition supporters in Dallas faced the Woyane cadres and challenges them why a government which claims to be open and democratic plans and holds meetings in secret with a selected few. The reasons for this are of course obvious.

If Woyane wants a discourse with Ethiopians, it should do it at home. We know at home our people are made captive audiences of its propaganda barrage by fiat and control. If not dialogue what is it that then Meles and Co. are looking for from Diaspora? They have seen in the last two years how the Ethiopian Diaspora has become an effective voice for its people. They want to silence that voice by:

1. Influencing some of the Diaspora members to collaborate with Meles in the name of investment. As a dispenser of all rural/city land, Meles is working hard to buy the loyalty of some of us with a promise of land or property in Ethiopia. To this effect, the participants of meetings with government/embassy officials will be identified first and invited to attend privately through personal mail and/or telephone call. There will be no public announcement of the meeting.

2. The attendees of the meeting will be lectured on the democratic and development virtues of the Meles Zenawi’s regime while they are being video taped for repeated propaganda play and replay on Ethiopian TV. This is supposed to embolden its supporters at home and subdue its opponents.

There is no other agenda or goal in these meetings. Knowing this, the supporters of all oppositions groups in Dallas together with other fellow Ethiopians made a decision to make sure that if a meeting is held that the true voices of the Ethiopian Diaspora is heard. If Meles’s proxies can’t swallow that then they have to be forced to cancel the meeting. This is exactly what is attempted and what aborted from happening on April 24, 2008 in Dallas, TX at the Quality Inn & Suites.

Around 5:00 PM, the demonstrators made their way to the meeting hall at Quality Inn with placards and pictures of victims who were murdered by the Woyanne Agazi forces. In the Hall, there were only 15 people; three of whom were aligned with the demonstrators. Out numbered almost 8 to one, the official organizers called security guards — and later the police — to ask the demonstrators to leave the Hall. The protesters continued with their slogans until the police arrived.

The speakers of the meeting were supposed to be Ato Taye and Ato Muluye from the Woyanne consulates in Los Angeles and Washington DC. When they saw that they have no chance to lecture a captive audience and record a video for propaganda display on Ethiopian TV, the speakers chose not to speak. They asked the police to evict the demonstrators out of the Hall. The police recognized the right of the demonstrating Ethiopians to attend the meeting with their placards as long as it is shown in a peaceful manner. The police had to finally ask everybody, including the embassy officials and the surrogates of Meles in Dallas to leave the hall as tension grew. The attempt of the agents of the butcher of Addis Ababa to silence the Diaspora voice in the name of investment opportunities ended in total fiasco.

Fellow Ethiopians everywhere, take lesson from today’s action in Dallas, Texas: Never allow the agents of the butcher of Addis Ababa to silence us through a promise of a piece of land. Who is he to give us back our own land? To those of us who want to invest in Ethiopia, go home quietly and invest in your family and with your family. Please don’t be used to cover the crime of a brutal regime.

Response to May 15 rally

Friday, April 25th, 2008

By Obang Metho

The response to the call for an Ethiopian rally for Freedom and Justice on May 15-18, 2008 has been overwhelming! I have heard from Ethiopians in thirteen countries and in over thirty cities within these countries, all voicing their desire to participate. Just to name a few we heard from Tel Aviv to Toronto, from London to Los Angeles, from Addis Ababa to Amsterdam, from Stockholm to Johannesburg and from Zurich to Sydney.

The responses are not from only one political or ethnic group, but are representative of the diversity within the borders of Ethiopia. This shows me that Ethiopians are beginning to understand that a movement for freedom and justice must welcome all to join in creating a new Ethiopia.

This rally will provide an opportunity not only to demonstrate our solidarity with those in Ethiopia who are greatly suffering under the current Meles regime, but it will also be a “Day of Remembrance” for the thousands of Ethiopians who have died or suffered because of human rights abuses and injustice inflicted against us by the EPRDF. It will be a day to call for a halt to the war waged on civilians in the Ogaden and in Somalia. It will be a day to call for the release of political prisoners like Teddy Afro, a beloved Ethiopian musician whose courageous songs struck to the heart of our problems we are facing in our country.

By coming out to rally on May 15-18th, you, the reader, is saying to the EPRDF government and to the world, that our people did not die or suffer in vain and that you will not rest until justice comes to Ethiopia! By taking action, you demonstrate your protest of the betrayal of democracy in our country. We have seen it in the hijacking of the Ethiopian National election of May 2005, in the suppression of any opposition in the local Ethiopian elections of April 2008, in the manipulation of the Constitution, in the violation of human rights and in the total lack of adherence to the rule of law.

This is a rally where everyone hoping for a better Ethiopia is needed. No political affiliation is necessary, but every political affiliation is invited. All Ethiopians who are unhappy with the worsening crisis in Ethiopia, even those who have never before participated in a rally or attended a meeting, should come. Many of those who have participated before have become weary of politics, but this is not about politics. Neither is this rally about one’s ethnicity, one’s region, one’s religion or any other distinguishing characteristics found within the family of Ethiopians. It is a rally for all Ethiopians who want justice, harmony, freedom and peace for all.

This means that this rally is for the average Ethiopian as well as for those in one of the many organized groups like the Kinijit, the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF), the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) the Ethiopian National United Front (ENUF), the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the Afar Liberation Front, Gambella Liberation Front, the Sidamo Liberation Front, the Gasha for Ethiopia, Solidarity Forum of Ethiopia, the Oromo-American Citizens’ Council, the Ogaden Human Rights Committee, the Coalition for H.R. 2003, Ethiopian Canadian Citizens League (ECCL), Tegbar League, the Beneshangul Human Rights Foundation, Solidarity Committee for Ethiopian Political Prisoners (SOCEPP)… I have already been in touch with representatives from nearly all of these organizations and they are more than willing to march for freedom and justice, side by side with their fellow Ethiopians.

The task ahead now is for individuals and groups to help organize the efforts in your particular areas; however, I (and others) will be offering some general guidance and coordination of the effort in order to make the task easier and the results more powerful as we all come together to show our desire for a new Ethiopia.

First of all, some of us will be meeting this Friday on April 25, 2008 to set up a means for intercommunication with each other. If you want to be part of this meeting, please email:ethiopiansmarchforfreedom@yahoo.ca, for the teleconference number. We hope to plan for future press releases, teleconferences, radio coverage, Paltalk, email communications, YouTube and phone calls in order to share ideas and enhance the efforts of each group. However, keep in mind that every event will vary in some ways from others because they will reflect the creativity, drive, uniqueness and resourceful of those Ethiopians organizing it.

Secondly, we have included this same email address so that we can help coordinate volunteers by area, linking volunteers to organizers. Simply let us know if you are willing to help in some way and try to describe what you would like to do. If you are not sure, that is okay, just contact us and voice your willingness to help. The time is short and we must organize quickly.

We need people to help obtain necessary permits, to invite the press, to invite special guests, to create slogans, to design T-shirts (if so desired), to make signs, to recruit volunteers, to reach out to other groups and individuals in your area, to organize prayer, to decide on locations, to contribute financially, to organize child care for volunteers or to arrange transportation to the event. There is something for everyone to do.

Various side events or even alternative events may be explored, all of which could also raise awareness of the lack of justice and freedom in Ethiopia. Such events might include a 10K/5K run/walk, dinners, music events, special prayer services in churches, mosques or synagogues and other such events. Funds could be raised for the Movement for a New Ethiopia through selling T-shirts, refreshments or beverages or by holding various events like dinners, auctions, raffles or other such events.

This rally marks the start of the Movement for a New Ethiopia. This is only the beginning. After we march, get ready for more work ahead. It is time to combine our resources and efforts. No freedom will be sustainable until all Ethiopians are free. Say no to ethnic politics and to divisiveness that has been defeating us for years.

The Western donor countries cannot free us and will continue to work with Meles and the EPRDF until there is a second choice that is stronger and better. You, the reader, are that second choice if you and others do their part.

For you, the readers, who are women, do not leave it up to only the men. You are our mothers, the backbone of our society. It is you who are always trying to piece together the remnants of a society, torn apart by corruption, ethnic hatred, division and greed. Stand up for a different kind of Ethiopia. I believe you can help nurture this movement as you nurture your children. These children are our future.

Now, I also want to especially address the youth of Ethiopia. You must become engaged if we are to find a new and better Ethiopia where we can live together rather than fighting each other to survive. Whether that future is bleak or bright can be affected by what you do right now.

I repeat, I am calling on all men, women, young and old to join the family of Ethiopians wanting a new and better Ethiopia by calling or emailing now! Then convince your family and friends to do the same!

Together we are better than separate. Together, the garden of God’s precious children of Ethiopia will then be filled with the dark, light, short, tall, thin and heavy varieties of humankind, the beauty and complexity of which, reflects the greatness of our Almighty Creator. May God guide and help us!

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For more information please contact me by email at: Obang@anuakjustice.org

Why is the TPLF regime picking on Qatar?

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

By Yilma Bekele

This expression normally refers to clumsy or reckless people who should not be allowed near expensive and delicate items or to insensitive individuals. That saying came to mind when I read the big headline “Ethiopia severs ties with Qatar’. I know that Qatar is located by the Arabian/Persian Gulf, and that it is miles away from Ethiopia. How or why did we clash with the good people of Qatar?

Qatar has a population of slightly less than a million people and has been ruled by the al-Thani family since the mid-1800s. Oil and Gas have made Qatar one of the richest countries in the world. Revenues from these natural resources account for 85% of their export earnings. In 2007 their GDP was $57.69 Billion dollars (Ethiopia has a population of 80 million people and a GDP of $55.07 Billion) Qatar has one of the highest GDP per capita in the world.

Qatar is not resting on it laurels due to the high income it enjoys from its resources. A far-sighted move by the government Qatar can be illustrated by its investment in developing a ‘knowledge economy’. In 2004 Qatar established the Qatar Science & Technology Park to attract and serve technology-based companies and entrepreneurs, from overseas and from within Qatar. Qatar also established Education City, which consists of international colleges.

There are over 800,000 guest workers in Qatar, 12,000 of them are Ethiopians. Our brothers and sisters are mainly employed in the domestic service industry, with a small minority working in white-collar jobs.

According to the TPLF government their conflict with Qatar began because of a TV news program presented by the famous Al-jazeera network and something about financing Eritrea. As you know there is no such thing as free press in Ethiopia. The regime decides what is news and how the news should be presented. Al-jazeera, by presenting the news from Ogaden and Somalia without going thru the normal censorship process somehow offended the sensibilities of our esteemed leaders. The Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying that “Qatar’s attempts to destabilize the sub-region and is hostile towards Ethiopia itself”.

I have no idea why Qatar will do that. It is sitting in the middle of a powder keg in the Gulf and no one has accused it of being such a force. It is enjoying a good neighborly relationship with all parties. It is not at war with anyone. Its celebrated financial center is giving a world-class service and is growing at a great pace.

You cannot say that about the accuser. The TPLF regime in Ethiopia is celebrating its 2nd year of invasion of a neighboring sovereign state without provocation, over six years of no war no peace situation with a former province which has resulted in the death of thousands of citizens and is facing civil disturbance in most of the country. Is this the case of the pot calling the kettle black?

What is also odd about the announcement is the reaction of the unfortunate Ethiopian guest workers living in Qatar. Apparently they were as surprised as the rest of the Ethiopian people not to mention the government of Qatar by this reckless act. We are not even going to ask if the Ethiopian Parliament was told about it. No we do not want to go there. It is too important to trust the people’s representatives about such an issue. They can watch the evening news and find out. Of course it will be approved unanimously after the customary two minutes discussion.

Now regarding the consequences of this moronic decision. The twelve thousand Ethiopians are economic migrants. They left in search of work to be able to help their family back home. If there were jobs available in Ethiopia, they wouldn’t get caught dead in Qatar. But they are there. If we assume about 80 percent love their family and send about $200 a month back home, it will be a net income of $1.9 million or Eth.$19 million Bir. Thus when our fearless leaders go around accusing a country of being a negative force, with no regard to the welfare of their own citizens that are bearing so much hardship, abuse and disrespect it makes you sick. It is not just the twelve thousand compatriots but the more than thirty to forty thousand back home who depend on their largesse. But on the other hand when you consider the minority regime has made habit of tormenting its own citizens at will, this just another chapter in this sordid story.

My suggestion to the Qatar government is to ask the IMF and World Bank to justify the loans and grants going to this police state and also publish all audited findings regarding previous dealings. Qatr as the contributing member to these international organizations can do that. That ism what I call most destabilizing to the TPLF.

To come back to my earlier impression, thus letting the TPLF government loose in the International arena is the same as letting a bull in a china shop. You don’t know what is coming next.
——————
The writer can be reached at yilma@pacbell.net

Berhanu, Andargachew and others resign from Kinijit

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Four prominent leaders of Kinijit have issued a joint statement today announcing their resignation from the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (Kinijit). Read their joint press release here >> Press release [pdf, Amharic]

This is a necessary and important step by Dr Berhanu Nega, Ato Andargachew Tsige and colleagues. Now they can focus on building a new movement with people who share similar views on how to get rid of the fascist Woyanne regime using any and every means available.

Continued on page 2 >>

Berhanu Nega in Vancouver, May 10

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

On May 10, 2008, Dr Berhanu Nega will be in Vancouver, Canada, for a town hall meeting. The meeting is organized by former students of Dr Berhanu who are now students of University of British Colombia (UBC).

Project "Yechalal" Indiana

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

ethiopiansforbarackobama.com

The phone-banking effort we completed in Pennsylvania last month made a difference in Pennsylvania. Although our numbers in Pennsylvania was not significant enough to deliver a victory to Senator Obama, our collective efforts to collect a database of Ethiopian-American phone numbers did not go unnoticed. We were able to reach a multitude of Ethiopian-American voters in Pennsylvania, our efforts contributed to galvanizing the Ethiopian-American community as they voted overwhelmingly for Senator Obama.

Now that we have concluded our effort in Pennsylvania, it is time to duplicate the effort in Indiana. There is a large Ethiopian community in Indiana, so we will conduct another phone-banking effort. Because the Indiana primary is less than two weeks away, we have to quickly collect the phone numbers and start making phone calls by Monday, April 29th.

Please email me at theodorefikre@yahoo.com if you plan on volunteering to collect phone numbers and contact information from the Ethiopian community in the state of Indiana.

I cannot tell you how heartening it is to hear an Ethiopian-American on the other end of the line and how happy they are to be called by a fellow Ethiopian. It is a special feeling for both parties involved. Please forward this to your friends and family, we have a tight knit and committed core of E4O volunteers, but we need to expand our numbers in order to be more effective at what we are doing.

Woyanne kidnaps 40 children after mosque attack (BBC)

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

The rights group condemned the killing of more than 20 people, including some religious scholars, during the raid.

It quoted witnesses as saying that many of the dead were unarmed civilians, and that some had had their throats cut.

Ethiopia Woyanne denied its troops were involved in the killings, which came during fierce clashes with insurgents.

“The safety and welfare of the children must be paramount for all parties,” said Amnesty’s UK Director Kate Allen.

“The UN Security Council must endeavour to investigate human rights violations committed during the armed conflict.”

Throats cut

Somalia’s Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein said his government was defending itself, with the support of Ethiopian Woyanne troops, during the weekend’s clashes in the capital.

But Amnesty said the throat-cuttings were a form of extra-judicial execution practised by Ethiopian Woyanne forces in Somalia.

The Ethiopian Woyanne forces said they would only release the children from their military base in north Mogadishu “once they had been investigated” and “if they were not terrorists”, witnesses told Amnesty.

Some 80 people were killed during the weekend, local residents say, including at least six religious leaders from the Tabliq Sufi sect, which is not involved in the conflict.

Ghanim Alnajjar, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Somalia, denounced the killing of civilians and called for an immediate ceasefire.

Locals have accused the Ethiopian Woyanne troops of shelling residential areas of the capital.

“The use of heavy weaponry in areas where civilians are concentrated left reportedly 81 civilians dead and more than 100 wounded,” said Mr Alnajjar.

The UN says more than half of Mogadishu’s population has fled recent fighting in the city, and has warned that Somalia faces the possible twin catastrophes of war and famine.

Egyptian police arrest 14 Ethiopian migrants

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

(ASSOCIATED PRESS) – Egyptian police have arrested 109 African migrants hoping to cross illegally into Israel from Egypt, an Egyptian security official said Wednesday.

95 migrants from Eritrea and 14 from Ethiopia were caught Wednesday in the city of Aswan, 685 kilometers (425 miles) south of Cairo, after crossing the border from Sudan on foot, said the official. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

During questioning, the arrested said they wanted to go to Israel for jobs and a better life. Before sneaking into Aswan, they said they had lived briefly in refugee camps in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.

Other migrants have said they pay about US$500 to human traffickers for shelter in the Egyptian desert and a ride to the Israeli border.

Woyanne troops slit throats in Somali mosque (Reuters)

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

By Andrew Cawthorne

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Amnesty International accused Ethiopian Woyanne soldiers on Wednesday of killing 21 people, including an imam and several Islamic scholars, at a Mogadishu mosque and said seven of the victims had their throats slit.

The rights group said the soldiers had also captured dozens of children during the raid on the Al Hidaaya mosque in the north of the Somali capital earlier this week during operations against Islamist insurgents.

Ethiopia Woyanne has thousands of soldiers in neighbouring Somalia to bolster a Western-backed government against rebels fighting an Iraq-style insurgency in the Horn of Africa nation.

The Ethiopian Woyanne and Somali governments have not responded publicly to accusations of atrocities at the mosque. But they have frequently denied abusing human rights in the fight against groups they call al Qaeda-backed terrorists.

Amnesty said those killed at the mosque included imam Sheikh Saiid Yaha and several scholars of the moderate Tabligh group that operated there.

“Eye-witnesses report that those killed inside the mosque were unarmed civilians taking no active part in hostilities,” Amnesty said. “Seven of the 21 were reported to have died after their throats were cut — a form of extra-judicial execution practiced by Ethiopian forces in Somalia.”

Some moderate Islamist leaders have reacted to the mosque incident, and a recent upsurge of fighting in Mogadishu, by postponing plans to join U.N.-sponsored peace talks.

More than 100 people have been killed since the weekend in clashes in the coastal capital, and the takeover of several small towns by the Islamists’ militant al Shabaab wing.

MORE CORPSES

Amnesty urged the Ethiopian Woyanne military to release all 41 children it said were held after the mosque raid.

“Witnesses have told Amnesty International that Ethiopian Woyanne forces would only release the children from their military base in north Mogadishu ‘once they had been investigated’ and ‘if they were not terrorists’,” it said.

Some of the children — whose ages were as low as nine — were reported to have been freed, though the majority were still in custody, Amnesty’s statement added.

Various witnesses told Reuters they had seen beheaded bodies lying outside the mosque after the fighting.

Another four corpses showed up in Mogadishu on Thursday, at the compound of the SOS children’s hospital that had also been occupied by Ethiopian Woyanne troops during clashes at the weekend.

“The Ethiopian Woyanne troops who occupied SOS hospital since the weekend left last night taking the hospital’s food and cooking oil with them and they also damaged the properties of the hospital,” SOS security officer Abey Saney Osman told Reuters.

“There are four dead bodies, one inside and three others outside the gate of the compound. We are now inside the hospital and trying to sort all the mess,” he said by phone.

An SOS employee, laboratory technician Mohammed Faagte, told Reuters a colleague died and four others were wounded while trying to flee the hospital when the fighting began.

Civilians have borne the burnt of Somalia’s near-incessant violence since the 1991 toppling of a dictator.

About one million of the nation’s 9 million population live as refugees in their own land.

(Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Aweys Yusuf in Mogadishu)

Ethiopians in Qatar worried over diplomatic row

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

By K T Chacko

(Gulf Times) — Members of the Ethiopian community in Qatar yesterday said they hoped that political relations between Doha and Addis Ababa Woyanne would improve and ties return to normal as early as possible.

“We are here to earn our livelihood and were shocked to hear the announcement of Ethiopia Woyanne severing diplomatic ties with Qatar. Most of us learnt of it from the Ethiopian TV channel and it came as a big surprise to us,” they said.

Ethiopia’s government Woyanne had cited Qatar’s “strong ties” with Eritrea for the move. It also accused Doha of meddling in the affairs of the Horn of Africa region.

Qatar has termed Ethiopian Woyanne allegations as frivolous and baseless.

In Doha, a Qatari official dismissed Ethiopia’s Woyanne’s charges, saying it had always done its utmost to combat terrorism. “The Ethiopian charges do not deserve a reaction from us. Qatar’s foreign policy is clear. Qatar underlines the importance of peaceful settlement of all disputes between nations.”

There are an estimated 12,000 Ethiopian nationals in Qatar. Most of them are housemaids while the majority of the men are employed in private companies in different positions, ranging from drivers to technicians and executives. There is a big demand for Ethiopian housemaids in Qatar.

Some of them said they were worried about the turn of events. Joseph, who works in a premium Doha store said he was only interested in his job and not bothered about international or domestic politics. “Some of my friends called to ask about the latest news and the possible consequences of the Ethiopian government’s Woyanne’s decision. Everybody seemed to be worried,” he said.

The absence of an embassy in Doha has added to the confusion and worry. “In such situations, people generally turn to their diplomatic missions for guidance but we don’t know what is happening. I tried to contact our embassy in Kuwait (which looks after Qatar), but the number on their website turned out to be wrong,” a community member said.

“In the absence of a direct air link between Qatar and Ethiopia, we mostly depend on Emirates which operates direct flights between Dubai and Addis Ababa. We hope Qatar Airways begins a flight to our capital soon,” one of them said.

About half of the people of Ethiopia, a country located in the Horn of Africa, are Muslims, the remaining being Christians and animists. All the Ethiopians Gulf Times spoke to said there was absolute communal harmony in their country and Christians and Muslims lived in perfect peace.

The Horn of Africa is a peninsula of East Africa that juts for hundreds of kilometres into the Arabian Sea, and lies along the southern side of the Gulf of Aden. It is the easternmost projection of the African continent. The term also refers to the greater region containing the countries of Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia.

An Ethiopian expatriate who has been working at a power project said the recent row was between two governments and not between the peoples. “It is a political development and we have nothing to do with it. We only want to focus on our jobs and make the best out of our stay in Qatar,” he said.
Nebiyou Gezhagne, a community leader, said Ethiopians were happy in Qatar and they wanted to live and work in this country. He said he came to know about the “development” from Gulf Times and later received some calls from community members who wanted to know the “consequences” of the Ethiopian decision.

While most of the Ethiopians in Qatar have been here for less than four years, Nebiyou is a veteran, having completed 10 years in this country. He said he had no clue as to what led his government to take such a decision nor about its consequences on Ethiopians living in Qatar. “This country is home to people from almost all countries in the world. Foreign workers are treated well here. Qatar has been very kind and considerate to expatriates. We hope the present difficult phase will pass and bilateral relations will bloom. We hope Ethiopians will continue to be welcome here,” Nebiyou, who works for a trading company said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Eritrean embassy termed the Ethiopian Woyanne action a bilateral issue between Qatar and Ethiopia. The deputy head of the Eritrean mission told Gulf Times that he would not like to comment. The US embassy also declined comment.

Protests in Addis Ababa over Teddy Afro's arrest

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

bbc

By Elizabeth Blunt

(BBC) Addis Ababa — Ethiopia’s most popular pop singer, Teddy Afro, has pleaded not guilty to causing the death of a young man in a hit and run incident 18 months ago.

Thousands of young people mounted an impromptu protest after the High Court hearing, running through the streets, shouting, “Teddy is innocent”.

Unauthorised demonstrations are almost unheard of in Ethiopia and there was a heavy paramilitary police presence.

At a previous hearing, the noise of his fans almost drowned out proceedings.

This time the case was moved to a building at the back of the court area, well away from the crowd.

The singer appeared under close police guard, dressed in a pink t-shirt and looking subdued.

He spoke only to plead not guilty to negligent driving, driving without a licence, and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

The incident in question took place in November 2006 and since then the singer, whose real name is Tewodros Kassahun, has been free on bail.

It is not clear why he was rearrested last week and has now been charged.

He was remanded in custody until next Tuesday.

As the news spread in the street that Teddy was going back to jail, the crowd erupted and a large group of youths started jogging past waving and shouting that the singer was not guilty.

The police chased them with batons until they finally dispersed into the surrounding streets.

This kind of demonstration has not been seen in Addis Ababa since the period after the elections in 2005 when Teddy Afro’s songs were playing everywhere and his music was the anthem of the anti-government protesters.

Woyanne assassinates prominent Somali religious leader

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

By Alisha Ryu

(VOA) – Residents in the Somali capital Mogadishu are expressing outrage and anger against Ethiopian Woyanne troops in the capital, whom they say massacred at least 10 people, including a senior religious leader, inside a mosque on Sunday. Human rights groups say they fear the incident could dramatically strengthen the 15-month-old anti-Ethiopian Woyanne insurgency and ignite more violence in a country that the United Nations calls the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu has the story from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi.

According to eyewitness reports, the victims inside al-Hidaya Mosque in Mogadishu’s Huriwa district were killed by Ethiopian Woyanne troops on the second day of intense fighting, which left more than 80 people dead in the war-ravaged capital.

The witnesses allege that Ethiopian Woyanne troops stormed the mosque on Sunday, shooting and killing Sheik Said Yahya, the mosque’s most senior religious leader. Eyewitnesses say several others were also shot and killed, and a handful had their throats slit, after the Ethiopians Woyannes accused them of supporting and training Islamist insurgents.

Mogadishu resident Mohamed Ali, 35, says the mosque killings have convinced him and many others that they must join the insurgency to end Ethiopia’s Woyanne’s occupation of Somalia. Ali says people now feel they must help in the fight against Ethiopian Woyanne troops no matter the cost. He says there is also rising anger at Somalia’s Ethiopia Woyanne-backed secular transitional government for doing nothing to protect the country and its people.

The director of the London office of U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, Tom Porteous, says even if Ethiopian Woyanne troops had nothing to do with the killings in the mosque, they have committed human rights violations in the past and that has destroyed Ethiopia’s Woyanne’s credibility with Somalia’s people.

“Certainly, we have documented in the past extrajudicial execution by both the TFG [transitional federal government] and Ethiopian Woyanne forces,” he said. “We have documented the aerial bombardment of parts of Mogadishu by Ethiopian Woyanne forces. All this, of course, simply increases the anger of residents of Mogadishu, and the impact of these abuses is that it has actually made the problem of the insurgency much worse.”

Ethiopia Woyanne denies its troops have committed atrocities. The Somali government says military operations are conducted in self-defense, noting that Islamist-led insurgents often cause numerous civilian casualties by launching attacks at Ethiopian Woyanne and government troops in heavily-populated areas.

Sources in Mogadishu say the Hidaya mosque, one of the largest in Mogadishu, may have been targeted by the Ethiopians Woyannes because it had long served as a base for different Islamic groups, including al-Ittihad al-Islami, a militant Somali group the United States has labeled as a terror organization.

But the sources say in recent years, the Hidaya Mosque has been a place of worship for adherents of a mystical branch of Sunni Islam called Sufism. Most Somalis belong to the Sufi order, which has no ties to the ultra-fundamentalist Wahhabi movement embraced by members of al-Ittihad and its successor, the Shabab.

A child dies on a Lufthansa flight from Addis Ababa to NY

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

(AFP) – A transatlantic flight from Germany to the United States was diverted to Ireland after a two-year-old girl died on board, police said late on Tuesday.

The Lufthansa flight was en route from Frankfurt to JFK airport in New York when it declared a medical emergency and landed at Shannon Airport in the southwest of the country.

The passengers were taken off the plane to be interviewed by Gardai (Irish police) in an effort to establish how the child died.

A police spokesman said the flight had originated in Addis Ababa and had arrived in Ireland via Germany but he refused to comment on reports that the child was Ethiopian.

“We always have to make the necessary inquiries to ensure there was nothing suspicious about the death. We are still trying to establish what the circumstances are,” the spokesman said.

UNHCR to resume repatriation of Sudanese from Ethiopia's Bonga camp

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

UN News Service

The UN refugee agency and its partners expect to resume the repatriation of Sudanese refugees from Ethiopia on 15 December with a first group of 613 leaving Bonga camp in western Ethiopia for their homeland.

Organized repatriation of Sudanese refugees from Ethiopia started in March 2006 and more than 21,000 have been assisted to go home before the operation was temporarily halted in May this year due to the rainy season and swampy road conditions.

With the mud fully dried up and the roads becoming fairly passable at least on the route to the Kurmuk corridor, UNHCR, together with the government of Ethiopia, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Food Programme (WFP), has finalized preparations to send home a total of 1,800 refugees from Bonga camp to the Blue Nile State of south Sudan before the end of 2007.

Sherkole camp, which uses the same Kurmuk corridor, will soon restart the return operation. Repatriation from Fugnido and Dimma camps through the Pagak exit point is expected to resume at the beginning of 2008.

“With the resumption of the return movement at this point in time, we, together with our partners, expect to assist the return of approximately 30,000 Sudanese refugees between now and the whole of 2008,” said Mr. Ilunga Ngandu, UNHCR’s Regional Liaison Representative for Africa.

Mr. Ngandu added that this would enable UNHCR to close at least two of the four camps sheltering Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia before end of 2008.

Tomorrow’s convoy of 11 buses and four trucks is scheduled to cross into Sudan’s Blue Nile state, after an 820-kilometre-long journey. The returning refugees will have to spend three nights on UNHCR-built transit points on the road before reaching home.

Before leaving Bonga, a camp of more than 7,000 Sudanese refugees, the returnees will receive a reintegration package of blankets, jerry cans, sleeping mats, a water filter and a sanitary kit for girls and women.

They will receive more supplies at Kurmuk, including plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, plastic buckets, kitchen utensils and soap. Upon arrival in Sudan, a reintegration package comprising three months of food, seeds and agricultural tools will be provided by the World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization.

Close to 400 of tomorrow’s returnees are aged under 18 years, which indicates that most were probably born and raised in Ethiopia. The main influx of southern Sudanese to Ethiopia came in 1987.
Since January 2005, after the ex-rebel force SPLM and the government of Sudan signed an accord ending a two-decade war, the UNHCR has supported the return of some 70,000 to South Sudan from neighboring countries, including some 21,000 from Ethiopia. More than 90,000 are believed to have returned on their own.
At the moment Ethiopia hosts 36,850 Sudanese refugees in four camps. Some 20,000 Eritrean and more than 23,000 Somali refugees also reside in the country.

Video: A week in the life of a loser

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Who does this guy remind you of?

Yemeni community in Ethiopia: A history of integration

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

By Mahmoud Assamiee

(Yemeni Times) — Yemeni-Ethiopian relations date back to ancient times. References such as wall inscriptions confirm that the kingdom of Saba extended throughout Yemen to Ethiopia, known at that time as the kingdom of Axum, which later ruled Ethiopia (also called Abyssinia) and the southern Arabian Peninsula.

The Axumite kingdom’s rule continued until Himyarite King Saif Bin Dhi Yazan drove the Axumites out of southern Arabia. However, despite this upheaval, some relations remained between the two kingdoms.

Because of the two civilizations’ integration over the years, intermarriage resulted in Yemeni and Ethiopian mixed blood.

Yemen and Ethiopia enjoyed extensive trade relations during medieval times. Yemeni merchants exported incense, luban (natural frankincense), gemstones and animal skins to Ethiopia, while Ethiopians exported clothing, farm equipment, weapons, spices and cattle to Yemen. Trade relations between Yemen and the African Horn at that time were stronger than those between Yemen and other Gulf countries.

In times of crisis, Yemen provided a safe haven for Ethiopian refugees and Ethiopia in turn accepted Yemeni immigrants during times of political upheaval.

Dr. Hussein Fouly, an Ethiopian researcher specializing in Yemeni-Ethiopian relations, noted at a lecture this past February in Sana’a that there is a rich but under-explored history between the two countries.

Because he had a difficult time obtaining information about Yemeni-Ethiopian relations, Fouly did his own research based on a few fragments of information and much personal effort.

He explained that Yemenis and Ethiopians intermixed for two main reasons: first, because of Yemenis’ ability to integrate and second, because of the Ethiopian civilization’s welcoming attitude toward foreigners in their land throughout the 20th century.

Yemenis became the largest Arab community in Ethiopia, boasting the most speakers of Ethiopian languages such as Amharic. Yemenis rooted themselves in the country during the 1920s by becoming shopkeepers, sweet sellers, launderers and butchers. Additionally, the Yemeni community founded Arab schools that graduated scholars like Sheikh Abdullah Taher, who later was appointed governor of Jijiga and eventually led a military coup in eastern Ethiopia in the 1930s.

Fouly also mentioned those Yemenis who had a role in spreading Islam in Ethiopia, like Abdulrahman Ba-Wazir, who financed building Addis Ababa’s oldest mosque, Al-Noor Mosque.

During Italy’s 1936 invasion of Ethiopia, the Italians brought in numerous Yemenis to work as builders. Yemenis became rich through trade during this time. One of them, Sheikh Hussein Al-Amoudi, was the first to bring the qat trade to Ethiopia.

Yemeni people’s departure from Ethiopia is attributable to two specific incidents, the first of which occurred in 1969 when a bomb was discovered on an Ethiopian plane, which had been placed there by Ethiopian liberation forces in Syria. Arab communities were blamed for the bomb, which led to a wave of anti-Arab sentiment.

The second incident was the 1974 Ethiopian revolution, which implemented a program of nationalization that seized private assets and companies, turning them into state-owned enterprises. Because of this, Yemenis were forced to exit the country, leaving their possessions to the Ethiopian regime.

Despite this, Yemeni immigrants who have returned from Ethiopia still have positive memories of the nation where they were treated as citizens.

Sana’a University history professor Abdullah Fadhl says the Yemeni community was forced out of Ethiopia in the 1970s for political reasons because they were spreading Islam among the Ethiopians against the wishes of the new regime.

However, these Yemeni-Ethiopian mixed peoples who returned to Yemen face discrimination, either because of their Arabic or their skin color, and locals of both countries treat them as outsiders. For example, Yemenis call them Ahbush, the plural of the Arabic word Habashi or Ethiopian, while they are called Arabco, or Arabs, in Ethiopia.

These mixed Yemeni-Ethiopians sometimes are denied identity cards because of their darker skin and imperfect Arabic, a matter that causes them many problems.

Because Yemen’s history is intertwined with that of Ethiopia’s, these so-called Yemeni-Ethiopian ‘newcomers’ actually aren’t new at all; rather, they share our lineage and they deserve to be recognized as such.

Ethiopian refugees chased out of a South Africa town

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

The night mob violence tore lives apart

(The Sunday Independent) – Thomas Chamiso, 32, an Ethiopian refugee, ran the Thembikosi Trading Store in Zwelethemba township, Worcester, South Africa.

A month ago, he was one of 50 foreigners who were chased out of town by local residents.

Chamiso and his four cousins fled Zwelethemba with only their wallets and cellphones. They lost their refugee permits, business papers, financial records, identity documents and driver’s licences.

They slept on a municipal lawn for three nights before finding temporary lodgings in Bellville. The Cape Town Refugee Center, which is funded by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), gave the men a month’s rent and food money. After that, they were on their own.

“Maybe we will sleep on the street. What will we eat? We have nothing. How can I start a business again? I have nothing left, nothing. Who will give us money?” Chamiso said.

“We have lost our humanity in Worcester.”

As one drives from the bustling town of Worcester, where hundreds of street vendors clog the pavements selling cheap Chinese imports, through the industrial area and into the peaceful township by the only access road — a bridge over a waterless, pebbled river bed — it is hard to imagine that this place, where the shacks have neat gardens and children play in the streets, could have been the scene of violent all-night looting of 23 foreign-owned shops.

Foreigners, about 20 from Somalia, 15 from Ethiopia and a handful from Zimbabwe, the Congo, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh, were driven away on the night of March 7.

The violence is said to have erupted after two shooting incidents in which a teenager was killed and a woman was injured. Two Somalis were arrested in connection with the shootings, one on a charge of murder and one on a charge of attempted murder. Both were released on bail and are to appear in the Worcester magistrate’s court on April 25.

In the aftermath of the shootings, locals looted all the foreign-owned shops in the township.

Abdi Nur Abdi, who owns the now-flattened shop where the teenager was killed, said the same group of youngsters had robbed the shop three times.

He said he had reported the cases to the police, but that the police had done nothing to protect his shop.

Joyce Tlou, the co-ordinator of the Human Rights Commission, lamented: “What if next time it is women, or old people, or the disabled? Why are there double standards when foreigners are involved?”

Tlou said it was important to teach police officers across the country about their duty to protect refugees — who had the same rights as citizens — apart from the right to vote or run for office. One of the first organisations to offer aid to the affected refugees was Islamic Relief.

Abdi and a large group of fellow Somalis also asked the University of Cape Town’s Law Clinic to take up their case.

Fatima Khan, the refugee rights project co-ordinator at the law clinic, appointed a team of lawyers and researchers to investigate the case.

She said the refugees’ case would be taken to the Equality Court.

“Our intention is to seek compensation for our clients as well as force police to be informed that it is unconstitutional to refuse protection to a person on the basis of nationality.

“Furthermore, it is true that the police did not arrest anyone even though they knew of and witnessed the theft or looting. Items as big as fridges and counters were stolen, and police have made no attempt to investigate or recover stolen goods.”

Worcester municipal representatives, local community leaders, NGOs, lawyers and religious leaders have met refugees and the community to discuss how the situation can be resolved.

But those ejected from Worcester seem to be stuck in a political quagmire while they wait for answers and aid.

Sifiso Mbuyisa, the director of social dialogue and human rights in Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool’s office, said it was difficult to resolve the situation because the refugees and migrants were not homogeneous, and even the Somali community was divided.

Since all those affected were not sticking together, the government and the NGO sector did not have a single forum to communicate with and to provide assistance to.

Mbuyisa, who is a trained conflict mediator, said that he had encouraged the Zwelethemba Somalis and the Islamic Relief representatives, whom he had met on Friday, to get together all those who were affected to lobby the government.

Similarly, different departments in the national government and the various levels of government were also acting separately and, therefore, their efforts were also not co-ordinated, he said.

South African shopkeeper “Lani” Rasi, whose parents own Vukuzenzele spaza shop, said that it was as though the community “were just hungry for violence”.

He believed it would be safe for the foreigners to return, because the mayor and local pastors had told the community to reconcile with them.

At one of two community meetings held since the attacks, community members said the foreign shop owners could come back on condition that they did not open shops next to South African shops, that they employed South Africans “for the sake of communication” and that they involved themselves in community affairs by attending community meetings, Worcester police spokesperson Mzikayise Moloi said.

Moloi said the Somalis would be given an opportunity at the next community meeting to explain their needs and side of the story.

Members of the local community policing forum and religious leaders had offered to act as mediators.

Moloi said the perception of many locals that Somalis were murderous and intent on “killing our children” was an issue that needed to be dealt with.

“Locals don’t acknowledge how many people their children have killed,” he said.

Problems with troubled and unemployed youths were dealt with at a provincial government meeting in Worcester last week. Unemployment is rife in the township, which is home to about two thirds of the town’s population. Many foreigners said the police had failed to protect them, incited violence and had refused to take their statements or follow up on initial affidavits about what they had lost, even after they had told the police where to find their stolen belongings.

Moloi said he had heard of complaints about the police, but he said that no one had provided any proof of incitement by a police officer.

“If there was such a police officer, people must come forward with information. We must remove any bad apples. If they (the community) are not happy with how the police dealt with the situation, they must not just complain, they must come and speak to the station commissioner. Many are blaming the police, but they don’t understand South African law,” said Moloi.

Worcester mayor Charles Ntsomi said he was aware of complaints about the government and the police’s inadequate response to the situation.

He said he had encouraged the police to recover “at least one fridge to restore some trust in the police”.

Ntsomi, of the ANC, said if councillors who had failed to assist the foreigners were to be disciplined and suspended, by-elections would have to be held that could tip the delicate political power balance in the council, as had happened in Stellenbosch.

Also, the allegedly xenophobic community was a valued part of the electorate, he said.

“We are close to election time now.”

Ntsomi said many organisations had come to assess the situation, but none had offered any help.

“They (the ejected foreigners) must register their cases with social development. They can also come to me and apply for emergency relief, because we have some funds, although these are very limited and intended for shack fires, floods and so on.

“Winter is around the corner.”

Ntsomi said assistance for the foreigners was the responsibility of the national government.

Hector Yebo, of the Breede Valley Youth Desk, said anti-xenophobia workshops might be hosted in Zwelethemba before the end of the month. The municipality would provide a venue and funds. From there, the initiative would be branched out to Roodewal, the traditionally coloured area, he said.

The Cape Town Refugee Centre and the Human Rights Commission were also planning to hold workshops in Worcester.

“We would like to see that all the NGOs working in Worcester are supported. We also need to start advocating human rights and talk to South Africans about foreigners’ rights,” said the refugee centre’s director, Christina Henda.

She said the refugees were “highly traumatised, angry, irritable, distrustful and confused”, and needed urgent debriefing.

UNHCR protection officer Monique Ekoko has conducted interviews, the Cape Town Refugee Centre and the Scalabrini Centre have visited Worcester a few times to assess the situation, Africa Unite has made a proposal to the municipality that anti-xenophobia and empowerment workshops be held for township youth, and the UCT Law Clinic has taken statements from several witnesses to draw up a list of affected foreigners and their losses, among others.

The clinic is also investigating claims that the police have been negligent in protecting the foreigners’ property or have been actively involved in inciting violence.

Duncan Breen, of the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa, said the Worcester attacks seemed to fall into the same pattern as other recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

“There appears to have been tension building for a while, and it just took a trigger to ignite into mob violence,” Breen said.

“One of the common challenges we see is that many foreign nationals and South Africans have very little interaction, which allows negative stereotypes of foreign nationals to remain unchallenged.”

One Somali man said all he wanted was to see someone taking action, instead of just asking a number of questions.

“Please take pictures of my shop for me,” Chamiso asked last week. “I am too scared to go back there.”

A press photographer duly obliged and visited the shop, but all that remained was a small brick back office and the facade, sporting the name of the shop, starkly silhouetted against the bright blue sky.

The space where the shop had once been was being used as a messy open-air storage area for building materials.

The property owner, known in the neighbourhood only as Bacingele, sells shack-building materials. He had a deal with Chamiso to rent him the space for eight years.

When the looters tore down the structure that had been built by some Ethiopian cousins, Bacingele also suffered damage of about R5 000 to his property.

“I was fighting to keep my stuff. They took my zincs (sheets of corrugated metal). They just took everything… a mob of more than 100.”

He asked how his former tenants were doing in Cape Town and took a R20 note from his pocket.

“Give this to Thomas (Chamiso) and tell him to buy a cooldrink. Tell him they must come back. We miss them,” he said.

An elderly neighbour, who leaned over the garden fence, said that he also wanted the shopkeepers to return.

“They were good people and their prices were good. We bought on credit. Where must I buy my bread and airtime now?”

Woyanne cuts diplomatic ties with Qatar

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Ethiopian rebels denied on Tuesday government allegations that Qatar was supporting them, after Addis Ababa Woyanne cut diplomatic ties with the Gulf State and accused it of backing terrorism and destabilising the region.

Ethiopia Woyanne, a U.S. ally and the biggest military power in the Horn of Africa, said on Monday it had earlier expressed concern in private about Qatar’s “hostile behaviour” several times.

It said Qatar was backing its arch-foe Eritrea, as well as helping Islamist insurgents in Somalia and Ethiopian freedom fighters like the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).

But the ONLF said that the charges were designed only to divert attention from what it called an “unfolding African genocide” by government forces in its remote eastern region.

“Qatar has played a constructive role in Africa , the Arab world in general and the Horn of Africa in particular,” the rebel group said in a statement.

“If there has been a destabilising factor in the Horn of Africa, it has been the regime currently in power in Ethiopia.”

The statement from Addis Ababa on Monday said Qatar’s hostile behaviour “included the output of its media outlets”, a presumed reference to the Al Jazeera Arab satellite TV network.

Al Jazeera has in recent days been broadcasting reports on the conflict in the Ogaden region that have been critical of the military’s role against local rebels.

Qatar, a member of the OPEC group of major oil producers and the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, is also an important American ally and hosts a large U.S. military base.

On Monday, a Qatari government official in Doha dismissed the Ethiopian Woyanne accusations as “frivolous and irresponsible” and said the emirate had always done its utmost to fight terrorism.

———————-
ER expresses heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to the government of Qatar for standing with the oppressed people of Ethiopia.

More from AFP >>

Ethiopia Woyanne announced Monday it was severing diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing the Gulf Arab state of supporting armed opposition groups across the Horn of Africa region.

It cited Qatar’s “strong ties” with Ethiopia’s Woyanne’s arch-foe Eritrea, and alleged Qatari support to armed opposition groups within Ethiopia as well as to Islamist insurgents in Somalia, where Addis Ababa Woyanne sent troops in 2006 to prop up a weak government.

The Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Woyanne has decided to break diplomatic relations with the State of Qatar,” said a government statement received by AFP.

Ethiopia has displayed considerable patience towards Qatar’s attempts to destabilise our sub-region and, in particular, its hostile behaviour towards Ethiopia,” the statement said.

“Qatar has now, however, become a major source of instability in the Horn of Africa and more widely,” it added.

“All those who are prepared to foment instability in Ethiopia and undermine the country’s security have been given support and encouragement by Qatar.”

It went on: “This has gone beyond Qatar’s strong ties with Eritrea. It has indeed provided direct and indirect assistance to terrorist organisations in Somalia and other areas.”

“Whether in Somalia and in other parts of the Horn of Africa — including within Ethiopia — Qatar has been one of the most important supporters of terrorism and extremism in our sub-region.”

The statement also accused Qatar of using its “media outlets” to undermine Ethiopia.

On April 11, the Ethiopian Woyanne foreign ministry had already sharply criticised the Qatar-based news network Al-Jazeera for airing a series of TV reports on Ethiopia’s restive Ogaden region.

The Ethiopian Woyanne authorities have imposed a news blackout on the vast area populated by Somali-ethnic Muslims and slapped touch restrictions on humanitarian work.

The foreign ministry had been particularly upset by a report on the activities of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).

“Al-Jazeera is using inaccurate and misleading information, fabricated by opposition elements backed by a state which makes no secret of its efforts to destabilise not only Ethiopia but also the entire sub region,” it had said.

“It is hard to ignore the fact that Al-Jazeera broadcasts out of Doha, the capital of Qatar. Qatar is a close ally of Eritrea. It would be totally unrealistic to imagine that any Al-Jazeera program on Ethiopia could be anything other than seriously biased.”

Ethiopian, Kenyan are victorious in Boston Marathon

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

By JIMMY GOLEN
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

BOSTON — Dire Tune outkicked Alevtina Biktimirova after a back-and-forth last mile to win by 2 seconds in the closest finish in the history of the women’s race. Robert Cheruiyot, of Kenya, and Tune, of Ethiopia, each earned $150,000, the biggest in marathon history.

Robert Cheruiyot is well-versed in the Boston Marathon course, with four victories in five attempts.

Abderrahime Bouramdane visited for the first time on Monday, learning what thousands before him have learned at Heartbreak Hill, 20 miles in.

“Up,” he said, “is the problem.”

Cheruiyot pulled away from Bouramdane as they entered the Newton Hills, reaching the crest of Heartbreak Hill with a 27-second lead and coasting to the sixth-fastest time in Boston Marathon history.

Cheruiyot won in 2 hours, 7 minutes, 46 seconds to become the fourth man to win the race four times.

“This was the hardest,” he said. “Boston is not a very easy course, it’s very difficult. I enjoy running the hills.”

Although he repeatedly checked his watch as he ran alone, Cheruiyot did not challenge the course record of 2:07:14 he set two years ago.

His problem: No one to race with.

Tune finished in 2:25:25. She ran side-by-side with Biktimirova into Kenmore Square, and appeared to give up an edge when she nearly missed one of the final turns.

Tune quickly composed herself and took the lead before the last turn, but Biktimirova caught her and regained the lead briefly. Tune pulled ahead for good in the last few city blocks and beat the Russian to the line.

“I was fighting until the end,” Biktimirova said. “And in the end I just didn’t have enough speed.”

The previous closest women’s finish came two years ago, when Rita Jeptoo beat Jelena Prokopcuka by 10 seconds. Jeptoo finished third this year, 69 second behind Tune.

Cheruiyot’s third straight victory gave Kenya its 15th men’s title in 17 years; Kenyans also finished sixth through ninth. But Cheruiyot’s countrymen struggled more than usual overall, with just the one man in the top five – the fewest since 1992 – and one woman in the top 10.

Cheruiyot couldn’t say whether the performance was related to the postelection violence back home, in which some of his country’s top runners have been killed and threatened. Cheruiyot missed two months of training because of the unrest before his coach moved their camp to Namibia.

“My training has been going well despite the problems in Kenya,” he said. “When something happens, you have to forget and train.”

Bouramdane finished 1:18 back and fellow Moroccan Khalid El Boumlili came in third, another 1:31 back. Nicholas Arciniaga, of Rochester Hills, Mich., was 10th to give the Americans a top-10 finish for the fourth straight year.

Cheruiyot pulled away from a pack of four at the base of the Newton Hills, running the 19th mile in 4:37. He passed defending women’s champion Lidiya Grigoryeva, with the two No. 1 bibs running side-by-side, just before the 24-mile mark.

Cheruiyot remained on a record pace as he approached Kenmore Square before slowing over the last mile. Although his course record remained intact, he still beat his winning time of 2:14:13 in last year’s monsoon-like conditions.

“Myself, I tried to push,” he said. “Last year, I wanted the race to be faster.”

The race came a day after the U.S. trials featured the top American women running for a berth in the Olympics. Deena Kastor, Magdalena Lewy Boulet and Blake Russell finished in the top three to make the U.S. team that will go to Beijing.

With the three new Olympians serving as grand marshals, more than 25,000 runners left Hopkinton under a cloudy but calm sky and temperatures in the 50s – a major improvement over last year’s rain and wind that threatened to scuttle the race.

Among those in the event’s second-largest field: cyclist Lance Armstrong and astronaut Sunita Williams, who ran a simulated Boston Marathon last year while in orbit on the International Space Station.

Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times on the strength of his work in the mountains. When he started preparing for Boston, his third marathon, some race veterans told him the hills weren’t as difficult as their reputation made them out to be.

“They were wrong,” said Armstrong, who finished 496th in 2:50:58. “They are harder, and they do come at a difficult time in the race.”

Top finishers
The top five men and women at Monday’s Boston Marathon:

Men

1. Robert Cheruiyot, Kenya, 2:07:46.

2. Abderrahime Bouramdane, Morocco, 2:09:04.

3. Khalid El Boumlili, Morocco, 2:10:35.

4. Gashaw Asfaw, Ethiopia, 2:10:47.

5. Kasime Adillo, Ethiopia, 2:12:24.

Women

1. Dire Tune Ethiopia, 2:25:25.

2. Alevtina Biktimirova, Russia, 2:25:27.

3. Rita Jeptoo, Kenya, 2:26:34.

4. Jelena Prokopcuka, Latvia, 2:28:12.

5. Askale Tafa Magarsa, Ethiopia, 2:29:48.

Former World Bank employee sentenced for taking kickbacks

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

U.S. Department of Justice
Press Release

WASHINGTON – On April 22, 2008, former World Bank employee, Ramendra Basu, a national of
India and a permanent legal resident alien of the United States, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for conspiring to steer World Bank contracts to consultants in exchange for kickbacks and assisting a
contractor in bribing a foreign official in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, announced
Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division.

In addition to the 15 month prison sentence, Judge Richard Roberts of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sentenced the defendant to two years supervised release and 50 hours of community service. Basu pleaded guilty on Dec. 17, 2002.

Basu previously cooperated with U.S. and Swedish authorities and then moved unsuccessfully to withdraw his guilty plea. Basu admitted that between 1997 and 2000, while a World Bank Trust Funds Manager, he conspired with a Swedish consultant and others to steer World Bank contracts for business in Ethiopia and Kenya to certain Swedish companies in exchange for kickbacks amounting to $127,000.

Basu also assisted the Swedish consultants in bribing an official of the government of Kenya by, among other things, arranging for $50,000 to be wire transferred to an account outside the United States for the benefit of the Kenyan official.

In a related case, co-conspirator and former World Bank Task Manager Gautam Sengupta, a national of India and a permanent legal resident alien of the United States, pleaded guilty in February 2002 to the same charges and was sentenced in February 2006. In addition, the Swedish consultants were prosecuted and convicted by the government of Sweden.

The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney David Bybee and former Trial Attorney Thomas McCann Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, with substantial investigatory assistance provided by the World Bank.

Bodies lie in Mogadishu streets

Monday, April 21st, 2008

(SA) Mogadishu – Nine more bodies have been found in Somalia’s war-riven capital after a weekend of clashes. Eight decomposing corpses lay near Al-Hidaya Mosque in northern Mogadishu and another was spotted near a stadium in the south of the capital, bringing the toll from the two days of fighting to 56.

Local resident Asad Mohamoud Moalim said that “no one dares go closer, let alone (conduct) burials”.

“We prayed to Allah to get us out of this hell. We were trapped in the battle area, but this morning we got a chance to flee,” said Fortun Mohamoud Iro, a mother of three, adding that she saw several bodies near the mosque.

No clashes were reported on Monday in the capital. Mogadishu’s heaviest fighting in two months erupted on Saturday between Ethiopian Woyanne forces and Somali insurgents.

Death-toll in Somalia battles rises to 85

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – The death-toll from battles between Somali insurgents and allied Ethiopian-Somali Woyanne troops rose to 85 on Monday, leaving corpses on the streets and deepening the Horn of Africa nation’s humanitarian crisis.

After mortars and machine-gun fire rocked Mogadishu over the weekend in the worst fighting for months, the insurgents seized the southern coastal town of Guda, killing four Somali [puppet] soldiers and wounding at least seven more, locals said.

“The town is under their control at the moment,” politician Omar Abdullahi Farole told Reuters from the area.

That attack at dawn on Monday added to at least 81 people dead in Mogadishu over the weekend.

The rebels have in the last few months launched an increasing number of hit-and-run raids on small towns — seizing control from local government-allied militias, only to melt away before reinforcements arrive.

Insurgents took another town, Dinsor, in south-central Somalia, on Monday. And they imposed sharia law on another locality, Wajid, taken in the same area at the weekend.

“They warned the public against erecting illegal checkpoints, smoking cigarettes, chewing (the narcotic leaf) khat and watching movies,” Wajid resident Aden Abdirahman said.

TRAPPED IN MOSQUE

Once again in the city’s violent history, bodies lay on the streets uncollected.

“This morning as I was trying to escape the fighting which I feared might restart, I saw four dead men I knew lying in the neighbourhood,” resident Hussein Abdulle said by telephone.

Another resident, Abdulahi Mohamud, said at least 20 people — mostly women and children — were trapped in a mosque where Ethiopian tank crews had dug deep defensive trenches.

“Two Somalis who have been beheaded are also lying there,” Mohamud said from the northern district of Huruwa.

Meanwhile, police on Monday arrested an editor with the Shabelle radio station accusing him of airing false information regarding the fighting.

“He reported that insurgents attacked and seized Gulwade compound where police are staying. It was a lie since no fighting took place there. We will put him on trial for airing false reports to the public,” police commander Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdullahi told Reuters.

Colleagues gave the editor’s name as Abdi Mohamed Ismail and said he was arrested on his way to the office early on Monday.

The Elman Peace and Human Rights Organisation, a local group which tracks the violence, says at least 81 people were killed and 119 wounded in the clashes on Saturday and Sunday.

Its researchers estimate that some 6,500 residents were killed last year by fighting in the capital alone, while 1.5 million were uprooted from their homes.

Aid workers say 250,000 civilians sheltering in squalid conditions just outside Mogadishu represent the biggest group of internally displaced people in the world.

Video: Hailu Shawel supporters in Toronto protest

Monday, April 21st, 2008

About ten supporters of the disgraced former opposition leader Hailu Shawel held a protest rally outside a hall where Dr Berhanu Nega was meeting with Ethiopians in Toronto, Canada. A bunch of dumb asses. Why don’t they protest against Woyanne thugs?

Lest we forget how shameless banda Woyannes are

Monday, April 21st, 2008

“We fought for Eritrean independence from the colonial rule of Ethiopia. Even now, if Eritrea is attacked, EPRDF would jump into Eritrea, join the Eritrean people and engage the enemy.”
- TPLF boss Sebhat Nega on Radio Woyane (May 28, 2007)

Ethiopian-Americans campaign for Obama in Philadelphia

Monday, April 21st, 2008

By Teddy Fikre

(ethiopiansforbarackobama.com) — Ethiopians for Barack Obama concluded our trip to Philadelphia to support the Barack Obama campaign. Eight of our fellow Ethiopian-Americans took it upon ourselves to be a part of the change and drove from Washington, DC to Philadelphia. While in Philadelphia, we made phone calls to residents of the great state of Pennsylvania to encourage them to vote for Barack Obama as well as calling our fellow Ethiopian-Americans to remind them to vote on April 22nd.

Ethiopians for Barack Obama concluded our trip to Philadelphia to support the Barack Obama campaign. Eight of our fellow Ethiopian-Americans took it upon ourselves to be a part of the change and drove from Washington, DC to Philadelphia. While in Philadelphia, we made phone calls to residents of the great state of Pennsylvania to encourage them to vote for Barack Obama as well as calling our fellow Ethiopian-Americans to remind them to vote on April 22nd.

On Sunday, we drove to Kidus Ammanual church in Philadelphia and took part in the Hosea mass. Afterwords, we set up a table across the street from the church and encouraged more of our fellow Ethiopian-Americans to vote for Barack Obama and raised a significant amount of campaign contributions. Due to the hard work and dedication of our fellow Ethiopian-Americans, we have raised over $1,200 thus far for the Barack Obama campaign. The enthusiasm for Senator Obama’s campaign within our community is awe-inspiring. We met Ethiopian-Americans in restaurants, markets, and on the street who could not contain their enthusiasm for Senator Obama. It is truly inspiring to see the amount of energy and willingness to get involved in our political process.

Check out tomorrow’s edition of ethiopiansforbarackobama.com to see a picture and a brief write-up about this week’s “Persons of the Week”. Let’s keep up the great work and keep getting fired up!!

The root cause of the food crises in Ethiopia

Monday, April 21st, 2008

By Mammo Muchie
Network of Ethiopian Scholars (NES)

In Ethiopia food aid/dependency continues to persist for over three decades now since the 1974 famine! Food security and independence continue to recede. Schemes like the food security strategy by the regime in power (1996) has not made any difference to change the food dependency situation of the country running now for over a generation with no clear way yet in place to get the country out of this unacceptable predicament. Since the great famine of 1974- it is 34 years now! – Every year, whether there is rain, harvest or drought something between 5 to 10 million people have always relied on food aid from outside. It has been reported that the number of hungry people have not grown less over time since this regime came to power in May 1991.This situation has prompted the country to be diminished and condemned by the following type of unflattering commentaries: On February 2, 2006 BBC reporter Peter Greste wrote from Mekele, northern Ethiopia: “Like a patient addicted to pain killers, Ethiopia seems hooked on aid. “ He added: “For most of the past three decades, it has survived on millions tonnes of donated food and millions of dollars in cash. It has received more emergency support than any other African nation in that time.”

At present a reported 9 million people in Ethiopia need food aid under conditions when food prices have been pushed up by inflation and food supply difficulties preoccupy the managers of the world economy. The cost of living has been rising and the hardship ordinary people are facing is beyond forbearance in Ethiopia. It is hard times now in Ethiopia for the people, though the elite continue to live a life of opulence with cold and cruel indifference to the plight of ordinary people’s lives.

Endemic governance crisis at the root of Ethiopia’s food aid addiction

Any country that has been in the situation Ethiopia has been for a generation, that is to say, not being in a position to feed oneself-is invariably a country that suffers from endemic governance crises. Any Government that has not developed a comprehensive and integrated system of agricultural production to assure a sustainable food security framework in a country fails to command respect and legitimacy for extending its tenure. The regime in Ethiopia has been full of contrivance and deception in playing ‘democracy’ more as a game of deception rather than as a principle of governance to find workable arrangements with moral, intellectual and political integrity to solve the age-old governance problems of the country.

Democracy played more as a game rather than principle

Very often and invariably, this is what the regime does to the people when it plays the so- called democracy game: the regime invites the people for an election charade only to disabuse them when they vote for the candidates or parties of their choice by harassing those not toeing the official line backed by the military and police might at its disposal. Why the regime prefers to go through the motion of an election, when it has literally zero interest or commitment to honour the choices and voices of the people particularly when they vote for opposition party candidates, strikes any impartial observer as nothing else but activities that are supremely diversionary, opportunistic, cynical and immoral. It is the regime’s indulgence which appears to be a cruel joke on the people. It would have been more honest not to play the multi-party game when in reality the regime knows that it has neither the intention nor the courage to afford to relinquish power through the verdict of the people based on their free votes, voices and choices.

It would have been honest not to disabuse the people by dishing out voting cards and calling them out to vote when the regime has no intention to honour the results especially when the votes goes against the candidates it fielded to continue and prolong its tenure.

The recent boycott of the local elections by even the loyal opposition shows, if it proves anything that the regime has regressed far beyond anything one expected to happen away from the democratic gains that appeared during the May 2005 election. The regime is far from solving the governance crises with democracy. It does not seem interested in solving the governance crises in the country in general.

If it has no principled commitment to solve the governance crisis, invariably it shows that it has no strategy to break out of the vicious cycle of food aid dependency.

To be sure, Ethiopia is one of the few countries that should benefit from creating a system where political transitions come through competing parties that must also have the culture and maturity to consult each other by privileging the higher good for solving such intractable difficulties such as establishing sustainable food security and fresh water provisions for the population as a whole. It is far too late for Ethiopia to be in a situation where it is not able to create a political culture where political transition can take place without deception and violence by mounting proper discussion, conversation, debate, policy distillation and finally by means of votes and elections that are conducted with rules, norms and procedures that are open and accountable, as they are free and fair both in reality and perception.

What is even more alarming is how the existing ethnic-vernacular pattern of political arrangement has been manipulated by the ruling group in the country since 1991 by creating a double problem to the country.

The first is fear that those who rule have to remain in power since they cannot imagine what may happen to them, if they are voted out by fair democratic means. They invoke scenarios of ‘Rwanda type genocide in Ethiopia,’ should they lose and they spread fear amongst their core supporters that any opposition win means ‘death and killing’ to them! This fear-mongering was invoked in the pre- and post- May 2005 election leading to the shooting that got hundreds of innocent people killed in the end and finally many elected opposition MPs and civil society activists to land in jail.

The second is the proliferation of opposition parties, fronts and armed groups that seem to be recreating the same pattern of political fighting that existed in the pre-1991 period. Those opposition groups that demand self-rule paradoxically from a regime that claims whatever record one thinks it has, the one it continues to broadcast as success is its ‘contribution’ to have created a ‘system of self-rule’ encapsulated in the 1995 Constitution that has parcelled governance according to the division of the national framework of Ethiopian citizenship according to the description of Ethiopia as ‘peoples, nations and nationalities.’

Together from these two actions of current regime politics emerge the inevitable consequences: the blackmail of genocide is invoked to limit the full democratisation of the country for an indefinite time, and the claim that it has created self-rule is belied by the proliferation of parties and fronts fighting for self- government. If ‘self-rule’ have been established, as claimed by the regime, why would all these forces proliferate then to fight for’ self-rule’? The fact that self- governance is not recognised at the local level, in reality has embroiled the country into a theatre for various types of contradictory military actions producing the hazard that at stake has become nothing else but the very survival of Ethiopia itself!

What the regime’s parcelling of the nation and the national citizen by erecting vernacular-ethnic political boundaries did was not to create trust but mistrust, not to consolidate the national framework, but to divide and rule by fragmenting and weakening national citizenship, not to unify and mobilise the nation but to create miscommunication and suspicion, not to satisfy the demand for self-rule on the bases of shared rule, but to exacerbate past and present conflicts and force many groups to even resort into armed fight against the regime. The regime is confronted with all these consequence in spite of its claims of recognising the self-determination of ’peoples, nations and nationalities’ ostensibly according to its now discarded Stalinist canon to forge national unity. This is the abstract story. The reality is that the national idea and framework for citizenship engagement and expression that is capable of imparting equal treatment of diverse groups has been undermined and protesters have not gone to sleep. At the moment, there is increasingly and alarmingly more inter-group mistrust and barriers of communication between the people now than an attained and renewed culture of national civic engagement to unite the people and the nation to address the most important problem that any Government must be able to address itself and not contract out to donors- that is, to feed and nourish the people without making it a habit to beg others.

All those that have developed and those developing countries like China and India have first and foremost addressed the food problem before they addressed their major development problems. In India food security has been the major concern of all the political parties. The country plans and expects within the next four years to provide not only food but also fresh water 100 % to the over 1 billion Indians!

There can be no credible sustained national development project without first and foremost feeding ones people. Not to organise ones agricultural system with an integrated approach combining irrigation, innovation, seed varieties, biotechnology, farming technology, multi-seasonal cultivation, spreading and diffusing education and scientific culture so that the farmers become responsive and forward looking, shows a failure of governance. There can be no systematic agriculture without an organised approach to stem the deforestation, erosion, desertification, water shortages, improved cultivation methods and techniques, sustainable land management practices, clearing of woodlands and so on. “The direct costs of loss of soil and essential nutrients due to unsustainable land management is estimated to be about three percent of agricultural GDP or $106 million (1994 $). Other modelling work suggests that the loss of agricultural value between 2000-2010 will be a huge $7 billion”3 The signs are that unless the situation is reversed by creating a national mobilisation by fostering legitimacy, the road is likely to be rough. Improving the governance situation of the country therefore brooks no delay for all those who wish to see a well- fed Ethiopian population sooner than later.

Therefore at the core of the food crises lies a much deeper governance crisis that is endemic as it is anti-democratic, indifferent, cynical, immoral and unjust to the plight of those vulnerable sections of Ethiopian society.

Ethiopia cannot go on living on food charity for ever!

To give may be easier, but to receive is harder. There is so much one loses when one is a recipient of foreign aid. The latter is often doled out in ways that make it recurrent and essential very often to the detriment of the recipient. It is not always the case that foreign aid solves such critical problems such as feeding ones nation. Feeding a nation must be the responsibility of the Government and citizens of a country. It cannot be contracted out to outsiders to help feed a nation. One off help may be necessary and unavoidable when vulnerabilities strike and foreign aid may be useful sometimes depending on how it is given. But if the help continues year in and year out, it comes at the expense of a nation’s necessary confidence to take its own development chances by itself. It can cripple a country’s agency. Loss of confidence that is often purchased by being aid addicted invariably undermines the national will and effort to build capacities, capabilities and innovative competence to deal with ones own problems by using ones own ingenuities, resources, imagination and the mobilisation of talent, tolerance, technology, knowledge, human and institutional efforts.

Some analysts say: “Just as it is hard to show aid has beneficial results, it is difficult to prove it has negative ones.”4

Whether aid has beneficial or negative results, the sovereign matter of feeding ones own country must be a matter of national concern and effort where food dependency is firmly displaced by a national food security framework that works.

Food aid dependency saps national self- confidence

What kind of confidence can the nation have, if Ethiopia continues to suffer from headline news such as the following year in and year out over a generation now: “Ethiopia food aid ‘habit’ worsens locked into a vicious downward spiral of food aid dependency” (BBC News Nov 1, 2006)? After nearly a year the Herald Tribune confirms the same story line: by its reporter Jeffery Gettleman:”Ethiopia (is) thwarting food aid to rebel region in East” (July 22, 2007.). Similar allegations abound where the people who need help are reported to be abused by those who are meant to help them in the Ogden areas now!

This type of projection of the country’s situation not only destroys its image but also saps its confidence. This situation has been taken to an extreme length by some to comment wryly and metaphorically that: “It is not rains in Ethiopia you need to worry about, but whether it rains in America or Canada’” What this means is that if there is food shortage in the food aid giving or supplying countries, then it means that the people who depend on the charity of these countries will have no where to return.

Now that time seems to have come. The world food economy is in crises. The World Bank says ’food price crisis imperils 100 million in poor countries” (R.Zoellick, April 14, 2008). Lo and behold! Long-term food aid addicted countries will have to deal with limited food supply that may or may not be available even by paying exorbitant inflationary prices. When such dire situation imposes itself, hunger and starvation follow. Together they lead to chronic famine. Governments that continue to beg food cannot get what they used to, if more countries need food aid. Invariably the preference will probably go to the countries that have not been food dependency addicted and those that fell to the misfortune because of the vagaries of climate, weather or the shrinkage of arable land due to the misguided utilisation of such land for bio-fuels and other water-thirsty and land hungry flower-rose production that our country at the moment has been exposed too as well.

From food aid dependency to food security independence

For over a generation Ethiopia has been living on food aid charity. That it went into this unacceptable situation in the first place may be understandable given the historic problems, threats and internal governance crises it has confronted for thousands of years. But that, in the present time, with a regime that tirelessly broadcast its ’democratic credentials willy-nilly’ and claims it has ’governance’ under control, how come the country is still described as food-aid -addicted?

That there is a failure to evolve a strategy to get out of the vicious cycle of food aid dependency is not condonable. The regime has now been in power for nearly 20 years. If one thing that it should have done well is to provide a national food security framework that tackles at the root the food problem in the country. Nobody can take responsibility for this except the regime in power for the way the country has not been able to come out of hunger and starvation. That regime acolytes would like to blame the world food economy and excuse the regime’s responsibility will not wash or stick.

If this regime had been serious in solving the food dependency problem, it will have started by trying to create synergies that combine and interlink the national political and economic system in order to make it infinitely productive to address critical problems with efficiency and strategy. The regime would have brought into systemic connection national policies, institutions, knowledge and research, incentives to come to bear and address the vital matter of agricultural transformation. It will have a methodology of learning from implementing both from specific sector -specific national strategies as well as micro- foundational local-level mobilisations and actions. Both mistakes and successes will be sources of learning and constant iterative feedback will be used to inform policy to make the system as a whole responsive to the needs and wellbeing of the people for whom Governance is meant to serve and support.

Analysts at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research claim that the agricultural sector accounts for 40 % of GDP, 90 % of exports, 85 % of employment, and 90 % of the poor in the country. They say that largely due to land shortage, per capita land area has fallen from 0.5 ha in the 1960s to only 0.2 ha by 2005. If land per hectare is shrinking, how are the farmers to introduce new technology that is costly to improve the yield per hectare and build agricultural- based wealth? How can they benefit from a biotechnology revolution that may require they share the costs to harvest the gains with economies of scale and economies of scope?

Add to this even a more alarming matter that can seriously undermine a nation to forge ahead. Ethiopia has something like 3 % of the population of tertiary age enrolled in higher education. It has 21 researchers per 1 million inhabitants. Its expenditure on R %& D as a percentage of GDP is 0.2 %. Over 30 % of the research funding comes from donors! It produces less patents and scientific publications than Kenya with Ethiopia boasting more than twice the number of people Kenya has!

For Ethiopia to move from food dependency to food security, it requires to build a national research, knowledge and training system capable of feeding into a national system of production and innovation to provide a strong framework for establishing food security on a sustainable pedigree. This requires that Ethiopia builds a knowledge- infrastructure and R & D support that can stimulate a radical revision of the agrarian system by systematically creating a comprehensive biotechnological revolution using modern information technology systems and diffusing them across the breadth and depth of the land. This requires a new national imagination, where Ethiopia is upgraded into an Ethiopia-Africa nation combining its diversities and managing it rather than degrading into many vernacular ethnic nations, nationalities and peoples!

The national framework is a necessary condition for providing the food security framework. Without a national framework, Ethiopia will find it very difficult to break out of the food aid dependency situation it is in- a problem that has afflicted it for over a generation since the famine of 1974 that ended the traditional imperial order.

Conflating Ethiopian hunger with American poverty!

Some regime acolytes outrageously defend the prevalence of food aid dependency and hunger and poverty by conflating and equating poverty in the USA with that in Ethiopia. This is like comparing oranges and apples. The USA is not a food addicted and dependent country. It is a country that has a welfare system. There is no comparison between the poverty and extreme deprivation in Ethiopia and the USA. If such regime acolytes can go to such extreme of defending their bankrupt policies, that have not changed the hunger situation in the country, by allusions that falsely equate and create symmetry with the poverty in the USA, how can anyone believe such intellectually weak and fragile persons will ever help Ethiopia to get out of its cursed and humiliating food dependency situation? They resort to sophistry and blackmail rather than addressing seriously what has gone wrong and how remedies that the people can own may be forged together by creating the climate of tolerance for the best ideas to guide the country out of the morass it is in.

What is required is to create the conditions that all that have the desire and commitment to contribute can enter into a national united effort for the singular and focused purpose of accomplishing the mission of getting Ethiopia out of its hunger predilection.

By accomplishing a shared mission together, the achievement creates a historic feeling victory just like that of Adwa or any other major success the country had in coming out from food aid dependency to the era of food security for national development.

This transformation will change the status and reputation of the country for good and will be recorded as probably the most significant achievement of the country in the 21st century.

These same acolytes, who may have self- interest in the growing flower business, allege that much arable land that is dedicated to the flower business has no impact on the struggle of Ethiopians to emerge from food aid dependency. Given how much land owned by farmers has shrunk, any arable land leased to the flower business is land lost for growing much needed food. There is an opportunity cost that no matter how much one lies to oneself and be in denial, land dedicated to land –hungry and water thirsty flower-rose farming comes at the expense of land for food production in the context of severe shrinkage of hectare of land per person in the country. Ethiopia has now 10-12 % arable land and with a commitment more land can be redeveloped with modern scientific techniques to rescue it from its current diminishing trajectories.

Given the prevalence of food aid dependency and the limited arable land the country enjoys currently, any leasing of significant portion of arable land for the land hungry and thirsty flower business can only come at the expense of securing a national framework to create food security. It shows a misplaced priority by the regime which does not seem to feel shame as we all do that the country is unacceptably in a food aid dependency predicament for so long. We all say the country must come out of this prolonged food dependency situation sooner than later using its arable land to create food self-sufficiency. This will make the few business persons who benefit from the flower growing and selling industry and their Dutch suppliers of flower seeds irate, but it will make Ethiopia proud to attain national food security.

The world food economy will continue to fluctuate, but those countries that have systematically aligned their policy systems with their national framework for establishing and sustaining food security can both engage and protect themselves from the vagaries of the world economy. It is absolutely stupid to give up and say a nation’s fate is to continue begging for food because of the fluctuations of world food market in the world economy. That attitude again shows an unbelievable intellectual weakness of those who seem not to bother if people continue to starve. The acolytes want to blame the country’s bad reputation as food aid addicted nation on all those who suggest a strong national food security framework is long overdue. How can those who are trying to find ways to address this critical problem be to blame, when, in reality, what imparts bad reputation is the fact that the country has not been able to break out of food aid dependency dilemma it has been in for such a long time?

What is very worrying is how intellectually weak and bankrupt are all those who try to defend the regime’s unacceptable policies of maintaining food aid dependency. Instead of working to help bring food security, they resort to all sorts of subterfuges to defend the status quo of food aid dependency. They even resort to blackmail and criminal allegations against those who genuinely are searching to find ways that can bring all those involved to contribute the best to help their country attain comprehensive national framework for food security and development.

Concluding Remark: The call for this generation

It will be a big shame to pass the twin crises: governance and food – to the next generations. That will be very selfish. It will create inter-generational tyranny rather than freedom and opportunity. It will be highly irresponsible. This generation of Ethiopians must strive and be resourceful and tolerant enough to engage with a culture of democratic debate to make sure that the over–generation old food crises and governance crises come to an end for good that have been hounding the country for far too long time now.

A new chapter of policy debate and proper ventilation and distillation of ideas is necessary to make sure this country modernises, unifies, democratises and creates justice. Food dependency is tied to lack of democratic governance. An endemic crisis of governance undermines the very capacity, capability and innovation to create a sustainable food security framework for the nation. Instead of imposing a state of intolerance and irresponsibility by blackmailing and threatening democrats such as our NES with preposterous accusations of alleged links to’ terrorist organisations’, the thing to do is to admit that there is a serious problem of democracy, justice, unification and modernisation deficits with this regime that feed into distorting government’s role in solving the real challenges and problems of food, water, bread and butter that the people deserve to have as a matter of right and not privilege.

In the final analyses, this generation has to make a choice- fulfil the dream a food self-sufficient nation that is capable of launching its own development path with courage and knowledge or remain static on the beaten path of food dependency by failing to confront head on this vital problem due to lack of courage, knowledge and will. We can either cross the bridge by using our creative powers and imagination or remain like the shameless and self- centred, boastful and lying regime acolytes by claiming the regime is doing great when it keeps getting slaps on the face for not getting both governance and food security right. There can be no excuse to allow food aid dependency to continue unchallenged. Neither criminalising nor blackmailing us will work to deter us from highlighting the situation that the least able amongst us find them trapped in Ethiopia.

We will do all we can to articulate what is keeping the people, whose voice is often ignored by arrogant power, in a state of food aid dependent situation, and what things must change to change their condition. We must imagine, dream and work hard to realise our images of a well- fed country by improving both governance and food security to get all fed more as a principle of entitlement rather than privilege. That is the true challenge of this generation, never to leave this task of governance and food crises to the next generation.

We say from food aid dependency to national food security now!!! This is a generational call to all to stand up and not give up the fight because food is a right to life and liberty for all Ethiopians.
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Mammo Muchie, Ph.D., Chairperson of NES, Coordinator of DIIPER (Research Centre on Development Innovation) and IPER and NRF/DST SARCHI chairholder, TUT, South Africa, Aalborg University, Fibigertraede 2, 9220-Aalborg East, Aalborg, Denmark, Tel.no. 00-45 9940 9813; fax.no. 00-45 9815 3298; www.diiper.ihis.aau.dk; www.ccis.aau.dk/

81 killed in Mogadishu violence

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Clashes between insurgents and allied Ethiopian Woyanne troops have killed 81 people in Mogadishu since Saturday, a prominent local human rights group said on Sunday.

“Eighty-one people were killed and 119 more were wounded in the violence in Mogadishu since Saturday,” the chairman of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Organisation, Sudan Ali Ahmed, told Reuters by telephone. (Reporting by Aweys Yusuf)

4 dead Woyannes dragged through Mogadishu streets (AP)

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

These coward Woyanne mercenaries abandon their comrades and run. They are brave only when it comes to shooting down unarmed Ethiopian civilians.

More from AP >>
By Mohamed Sheikh Nor (ASSOCIATED PRESS), MOGADISHU, Somalia – Islamic insurgents clashed with Ethiopian Woyanne troops in Somalia’s capital Saturday in battles that killed 12 people and wounded 10 others, witnesses said.

Jubilant supporters of the insurgents dragged the bodies of four dead Ethiopian Woyanne soldiers through the streets, said one witness, Mudey Ga’al.

Eight civilians were also killed. People used wheelbarrows to cart off the handful of wounded – including two children – and the bodies of the dead, said Mohamed Jala, a resident of the area.

Sacido Sheikh said three of his stepbrothers were among those killed. A mortar shell hit their house in a different part of the neighborhood.

Dr. Dahir Dhere at Medina hospital said they admitted four wounded civilians, including two infant boys.

The clashes began early in the morning when Ethiopian troops allied to the shaky transitional government entered the Suqa-hola neighborhood in the northeast of the city, said another resident, Rage Ahmed.

Thousands of Somalis have died in fighting between Islamic insurgents and Ethiopian troops supporting the Somali government. The war is complicated by clan loyalties, corruption and the involvement of archenemies Eritrea and Ethiopia. Torn between heavily armed squabbling warlords, Somalia has not had a functioning government in 17 years.
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More from VOA >>

VOA News — Witnesses in Somalia say fighting between Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian Woyanne troops has killed at least eight people in the capital, Mogadishu.

Residents say Ethiopian Woyanne troops allied to Somalia’s transitional government entered a neighborhood in the north of the city early Saturday, sparking fierce clashes with insurgents. They say at least two Ethiopian Woyanne soldiers are among those killed.

Witnesses say at least five civilians were killed when a stray artillery shell struck a small restaurant in the city’s Fagah neighborhood.

More good news: Mogadishu blasts kill 12 Woyannes

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

(Press TV) — Heavy explosions strike Ethiopian Woyanne soldiers in southern Mogadishu, leaving at least a dozen people killed and some 24 others injured.

The blasts targeted Ethiopian Woyanne military convoys as they were heading for Radar district of Deynile in the south of the Somali capital, Press TV correspondent reported.

Eye witnesses said the incident left more than 12 foreign soldiers killed and some 24 wounded, while an Islamic Court Union spokesman put the Ethiopian Woyanne death toll at 22, which could not be independently confirmed.

Elsewhere, armed Somali groups clashed in Afgooye, some 30 km from Mogadishu, as both sides tried to take control of a building.

The fighting took the lives of four people while two more suffered serious injuries.

Heavy clashes between insurgents and Somali government soldiers continue in Harayale district, but no reliable report on the casualties has been as yet released.

Ethiopian iFest performers go AWOL on opening day in Houston

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

By LESLIE CASIMIR, Houston Chronicle — This year’s theme for Houston International Festival is “Out of Africa: The Three Journeys” and apparently a couple of the Ethiopian performers headed here this week decided to do just that: They went missing and may be seeking asylum or have gone under the radar, organizers and government officials said amid iFest’s opening day activities Friday… Continue reading >>

Meles is arrested in New York

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

This may be a satire, but it is also a wish of every Ethiopian. The day will come when the butcher of East Africa Meles Zenawi will be dragged to justice like this.

Meles arrested

Elections and designated losers

Friday, April 18th, 2008

The Epidemic of Election Stealing in Africa

By Fekade Shewakena

There is an epidemic of election rigging and stealing in Africa but the most virulent form of the disease appears to be sitting in Ethiopia. The current sick regional and local “elections” being held in Ethiopia is only a case in the pattern. The concept and ideals of election are completely put upside down. Linguists should come out with some word to name this crap the Meles Zenawi’s of Africa call election and do some justice both to the literal meaning of the word “election” and the value civilized humanity attach to it. What do you call this kind of elections where the losers are first designated? I have seen people in democratic countries as they walk out of election booths with their heads held high and walking majestically knowing full well that their votes count towards the ownership of their governments. For Gods sakes, how can you have elections when you don’t have choices to make and even if you choose you are not sure what the authorities do with your vote? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Paradoxically, Bereket Simon, Ethiopia’s Comical Ali, is in full gear telling everyone left and right that all problems of the elections are caused by the opposition, the designated losers. I am always flabbergasted by the density of this man’s head and the boldness with which he speaks. It is like a rapist accusing his victim of making noise.

If you still have difficulty understanding what passes for a democratic election in Ethiopia these days, take this soccer analogy. Then you will know what the TPLF dictators mean by election. Say we are going to play soccer – my team and yours. I will prepare the rules of the game A to Z. I will choose the ref. you will have to agree to my right to choose some of your players or I will have the right to break the legs of some of your good players. If your players miss a near goal during the game, scaring my team, I will be given a penalty kick. You also have to agree that I have a right to order the chopping of the hands of your supporters in the stadium who clap too much and annoy me and my team. Just in case you happen to win or we come out a draw, we will have to kick 5 penalties each. Isn’t that fair? But I will kick mine from the standard spot but you will have to kick yours from the opposite end of the goal. In the end, you are required to declare to the world that the game was fair. Monday morning quarterbacking is not allowed. If you complain, I will accuse you of trying to destroy soccer as we know it and take you before a panel of judges that I chose for the purpose. If anybody asks questions about the fairness of the game or attempts to laugh at us, we all have to agree to tell them that we are living in a backward country where soccer has not yet developed and promise them we will be there in a few years. Now let’s play the game.

Those of you who know how soccer is played may be laughing at this but if you substitute democratic election in place of the soccer game, that is exactly what you have going on in Ethiopia in the name of elections. It is hardly a surprise that even the small opposition groups who make a living by deferring every rule making to the regime could not take it anymore and decided to boycott the election. But I am not sure if the boycotters understood the consequences of their actions. They seem to have forgotten they are in the game already. I am sure they will pay for it dearly. Meles Zenawi is angry that he is accusing them of working against democracy and the “constitutional order”. Bereket is coming out swinging. The TPLF tribalists are angry and are already claiming, believe it or not, that these poor opposition groups are helping Shabia and terrorists. Boycotting election or refusing to vote are not rights in Ethiopic wonderland. If you think I am exaggerating this, read what the TPLF ethnic website Aiga wrote on its editorial this week. It is the preamble of the charges to be made. They wrote the following:

“It looks more and more like “the loyal opposition” is going to take on being a front to anti-government forces as a full time job. Together with Shabia and the terrorist ONLF, these forces are forming a constellation in attempt to reach a self-fulfilling prophesy”

The National Election Board, which is an arm of Meles Zenawi’s party, has already issued a thunderous statement intimidating the boycotters. The report by Peter Heinlein of the Voice of America filed from Addis Ababa contains the following ominous report.

National Election Board Chairman Merga Bekana Wednesday accused the leader one of the country’s largest regional parties of illegally ordering an election boycott, and suggested the party could lose its legal status. He said the boycott call by Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement, or OFDM, chief Bulcha Demeksa, violated Ethiopia’s election code”…..”It is unhealthy, it is illegal, because in the middle of the game it is unfair to boycott the process of elections generally,” Merga Bekana said. “The board will take to the attention of …the issue, and the board will assess thoroughly within the legal frame and eventually declare the decision.”

Professors Beyene Petros and Merera Gudina and the good gentleman Mr. Bulcha Demeksa may have to quickly declare that they have made a mistake and find some clown who would serve as a Shimagille to go between them and Meles and peddle reconciliation before they are thrown into Kaliti. If they think there is an international community that will listen to their voices, it means they have not taken lessons from the 2005 election. The lords of poverty don’t listen to such voices.

Folks, why is it that we see a pattern of Africa’s dictators robbing their peoples’ votes in broad daylight and declare themselves winners with little exercise of shame and accountability? I see a demonstrable reason for this pattern. Deep inside their minds, all these dictators hate democratic elections like the plague. Election is a post Cold War burden, a curse if you like, on these dictators that the lords of poverty in the West demand of them to legitimize their loan, aid and the rest of the poverty industry. There are no lines the Meles Zenawi’s of Africa hesitate to cross to protect their stranglehold on power. When they tell you they are for democracy and waste your time lecturing you about it, they are simply lying though their teeth. They hate it actually. Only the most honest of Africa’s dictators do what Jean-Bédel Bokassa did in Central Africa — declare themselves emperor and lifelong rulers of their countries.

Don’t you admire this guy for his honesty? Believe me, if you scratch Meles Zenawi a little deeper, you will definitely find some form of Bokassa minus the honesty. On that scale, I also believe Isayas Afeworki of Eritrea is more honest than some of these thugs who hold elections only to spill the blood of innocent people who think their vote meant something and come back to their thrones. Afeworki should be given credit for not wasting public resources on sham elections and not spilling election related blood. Any time the goons in Addis Ababa call Isayas Afeworki a dictator I feel like puking. It is as funny as the pot calling the kettle black.

Africa’s dictators gnash their teeth at the first sight of individuals or groups who dare to challenge them on democratic elections or try to publicly criticize them. In the first place, for an opposition to say you are an equal or a better alternative than the dictators is a huge affront to their sense of entitlement. Africa’s dictators talk about democracy because they have to pretend they embrace it. In many cases they are also encouraged to pretend they do by their donors. Were you amazed when US officials could not wait until sun set to congratulate Kenya’s Kibaki the day he hastily announced his stolen victory, only to backtrack it after the people became mad and drew their machetes? One would believe that, with all the information machine at their disposal, they would be the first to know that the goon stole the votes. Please don’t tell me you are happy to see the intensity of interest and condemnations of the elections in Zimbabwe? That is not for democracy. Are you surprised as to why they hold Mugabe to a different standard and that no one even credited him for conceding defeat in the parliamentary elections, at least? The man is obviously another African shame that drove his country into the ditches, but he is a Mother Theresa compared to dictators like Meles Zenawi who butcher and imprison their opponents in mass. The amount of Western hypocrisy is simply staggering. And this is the very reason why Africans should stop looking to the West for help in building their democracies. We have to fight and earn it ourselves. I often scramble to close my ears when President Bush speaks about spreading democracy in the world. It sounds like screechy broken record to me.

There is a dangerous antidemocratic trend in Africa developing in the name of democracy and prolonging the misery of the people. The dictators are adjusting and refining their systems of tyranny. They are fine tuning their administrative and legal systems to facilitate their repressive stranglehold on power. They legislate tyranny into laws. They craft them to fit their needs and get them rubber stamped in their parliaments. Musaveni of Uganda had no problem justifying changing the constitution when he felt like extending his term limit. Parliament is like a barn for the herd of cattle and the courts operate like their kitchen.

Unlike the dictators of the seventies and the sixties, the current ones are fast learners. There is a saying in Ethiopia about comparing the previous Dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam and that of Meles Zenawi. The Dergue, it is said, would kill you and parade your body for everyone to see. The Woyanes (the TPLF) would kill you in the dark and come to the funeral to make people believe that they are not the killers.

I see Ethiopia heading for darker days. It appears that Meles Zenawi has settled on his one party state proposal, that so called “developmentalist state” theory, an old crap in a new package hatched up to legitimize one party rule – a proxy for his unrepentant Albanian type of communism. There is nothing developmental in it. The goon thinks he can develop Ethiopia though government efforts, a dying notion of development. It is a kind of hallucination. Development is not as easy as dishing out concocted statistics and empty hopes. The way to develop Ethiopia is to cherish freedom and democracy. This is the only way for poor countries to break with their pasts. The way it is, Ethiopia is not attractive to its own citizens let alone to foreign investors. The only way out of our obscene poverty and institutionalized beggary is through democracy alone. There is no other way out from our conditions. None. With this stranglehold on Democracy our humiliation and grinding poverty are guaranteed to continue.

It appears Meles Zenawi has made his choice. I think the Ethiopian political elite in the opposition and the Ethiopian people have not. The flicker of light at the end of the tunnel that we hoped would be opened and bring the country together is gone. If Meles Zenawi cannot tolerate such small and weak oppositions and plays Zero-sum game with them, I don’t see how he would tolerate the existence of the larger ones. Already there are bills in parliament that are meant to decapitate potential viable opposition groups. The bills are either awaiting rubber stamping or are passed already.

I want to be wrong, but I see Ethiopia sitting on a ticking explosive. It is time for tough thinking on the part of the forces of democracy. I think the first thing we need to convince ourselves of is on the need for a comprehensive approach to the solutions. Somebody needs to pull the country’s resources and forces together to solve these problems. This is the age of information and networking. All serious opposition groups and individuals across the spectrum of ideology and ethnicity should stop this stupidity of living in their cocoons and think and debate and work and strategize together. If the problem looks complex to you, it is simply because there are as many puzzles that we as a people failed to put together. Only when we put some pieces of this puzzle together can the picture of the future become a little clearer. The tyrants in Addis Ababa must be made to think they have a problem and they will have to pay some price for their actions to bring them to their senses. They are driving the bus with their face towards the passengers.
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The writer can be reached at fekadeshewakena@yahoo.com

Malawi authorities frustrated by illegal Ethiopian immigrants

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Gud naw. Tewaredin eko. Even the stupid little poor Malawi doesn’t want us.

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By Shalom Mkandawire

Nayasa Times — Malawi’s Department of Immigration says some Malawians are frustrating its efforts to contain the influx of illegal immigrants into the country.

Assistant Chief Immigration Officer, Selwin Simfukwe, who is also Regional Immigration Officer for the north said this Thursday in an interview with Nyasa Times in Mzuzu.

This follows reports of an existing syndicate in the northern region that is said to be aiding illegal entries of foreigners into the country through unchartered before hiding them within local neighbourhoods.

“We are concerned with the conduct of some Malawians who have a tendency to harbour illegal foreigners in the country,” said Simfukwe adding immigration officer’s were doing all it could to curb the problem.

He bemoaned this tendency, saying it negatively affects the department’s operations and that it undermines all efforts to repatriate as many illegal immigrants as possible to their countries.

The immigration officer however said inadequate machinery and human resource are also crippling the department’s operations.

“Of course we have a shortage of resources at our offices but we are doing all what we can to arrest the problem,” he said.

The Regional Immigration Officer therefore warned Malawians against providing unauthorised refuge to aliens and appealed to all northerners to report those suspected to be behind the malpractice to his office.

Early this year, Immigration officers in Rumphi nabbed seven Ethiopians in the district after entering Malawi illegally through Hewe border post.

According to Nyasa Times sources, the syndicate aiding unlawful immigrants comprises Malawians, Tanzanians and Zambians and it operates along the Songwe border area in Karonga and Mbeya in neighbouring Tanzania.

Last year, former Home Affairs minister Bob Khamisa, confirmed reports that Malawi was at a huge security risk following continued influx of illegal aliens entering the country using uncharted routes.

The butcher of East Africa is in New York

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Meles Zenawi, the butcher of East Africa, is currently in New York to attend a United Nations meeting.

Ethiopia inflation accelerates to 29.6% in march

Friday, April 18th, 2008

By Jason McLure

(Bloomberg) — Ethiopia’s annual inflation rate increased to 29.6 percent in March, the highest in over a decade, as rising food costs continued to push up consumer prices.

Inflation expanded from 22.9 percent in February, the Addis Ababa-based Central Statistical Agency said in a report today. Food prices climbed 39.4 percent on an annual basis, from 30.2 percent in February, according to the report.
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To contact the reporter on this story: Jason McLure in Addis Ababa via the Johannesburg bureau at abolleurs@bloomberg.net.

Interview: Zenaneh Mekonnen on Addis Dimts

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Listen to Addis Dimts Radio’s host Abebe Belew interview with renowned Ethiopian journalist Zenaneh Mekonnen who is currently residing in Israel >> click here to listen

Woyanne soldiers killed in Somalia rocket fire

Friday, April 18th, 2008

MOGADISHU (Garowe Online) – Ethiopian Woyanne troops bolstering Somalia’s weak interim government were targeted in a rocket attack Thursday in the capital Mogadishu, witnesses said.

An insurgent rocket propelled grenade hit a convoy of Ethiopian Woyanne army trucks transporting water to a military base in north Mogadishu located near the ex-pasta factory.

Three Ethiopian Woyanne soldiers on board one of two water trucks were killed immediately after the truck exploded, according to eyewitness accounts.

Ethiopian Woyanne army reinforcements rushed to the scene from their base at the former pasta factory.

A 20-minute skirmish ensued, pitting the Ethiopian Woyanne troops against suspected insurgents.

One of the insurgents was shot and killed by the soldiers, a witness told Garowe Online by telephone.

The remaining group of attackers was forced to flee the scene after the Ethiopian Woyanne soldiers outgunned them.

The exploded water truck was towed away while the second water truck, which was unharmed, was escorted back to base under heavy guard.

Minister’s car bombed

In a separate incident, the personal car of Somali Information Minister Ahmed Abdisalan was targeted in a landmine explosion that wounded the driver and a bodyguard, witnesses said.

Mr. Abdisalan, who also holds the post of Deputy Prime Minister, was not in the car when the landmine exploded. But his personal driver and a bodyguard were wounded, according to the driver who spoke to local media afterwards.

No group has claimed responsibility for planting the landmine, but security sources linked the attack to insurgents fighting to topple the country’s secular government.

Mogadishu police spokesman Abdullahi Shasha told reporters today that no government soldier was hurt in an overnight insurgent attack.

Locals reported that heavy fighting erupted overnight Wednesday along the Maka-al-Mukarama Road. But the situation was calm as of Thursday morning, with hundreds of Ethiopian Woyanne and Somali soldiers patrolling the street.

Ethiopian models on their way to IFest in Houston defected

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Among the 25 Ethiopian fashion models who were sent to Houston, Texas, to participate in International Festival 2008 (IFest), three have defected yesterday and are seeking asylum, according to ER sources in Houston. The rest of them are held up in their hotel rooms under tight security… more details later.

Tedy Afro's new song 'Haleluya'

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Recently released beautiful religious song by Teddy. Click here to play >> Haleluya

Or watch the video below:

The ameliorating and deteriorating aspects of Addis Ababa

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

A Personal Memoir

By Getachew Belaineh

According to historians, in November 1886, while Menelik was away in a distant corner of the country, his wife, Taytu, decided to move the encampment from Entoto down onto the current site of Addis Ababa. Taytu left the Entoto mountain camp because of the unlikable cool temperature and was drawn to the site of Addis Ababa by the Fil Wiha hot springs. More important than the comfort of the Addis Ababa site was its potential for expansion. The Entoto site could only offer little room for development due to its rugged topography. Because of Menelik’s vision and Taytu’s farsightedness and the decision she made more 120 years ago, Addis Ababa is now developing and expanding offering the city a new look and personality.

I returned from Addis after a short visit in February 2008, which gave me the opportunity to observe a great contrast that extends from the booming of attractive modern buildings and upgrade of the road systems to the alarmingly deteriorating environmental conditions of the city. In what follows, I will try to recount from my perspective the highlights of both the ameliorating and deteriorating aspects of the city, and few comments about the city administration.

Development

One does not have to spend a long time in Addis Ababa to realize how much the city is changing in terms of roads and new buildings. In the blink of an eye almost, a new construction site emerges somewhere in the city. Private investors and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) are in rush-mood to grab every available piece of land for building modern buildings. The government is solely busy upgrading the major roads using loans secured from international banks and organizations. Speaking of loans, according to the World Bank, Ethiopia has earmarked nearly $1.0 billion of which $0.6 billion is loan from World Bank in the last 15 years for road maintenance and upgrading. The fundamental question is: Is the loan real national economic driven or is it the result of an economic-hit-man shackling the country in debt for generations to come? The answer to this question is not within the scope of this article.

Let’s look at the road upgrading activities in Addis Ababa. By the way, the road upgrading is not limited to the city. There are also major activities outside of Addis. In Addis Ababa, the most notable road upgrades are Tele Medhane Alem-ST. Ourael road, Adwa Ring Road Square-Adwa Bridge Road, Gotera Interchange Roads, and the expansion of the road connecting Arat Killo and Yeka Michael and the multi-Lane Ring Road. The Ring Road, which is approximately 75% complete, is intended to connect all five main gates (Debre Birhan, Debre Zeit, Sebetta, Ambo, and Sululta) in and out of Addis. Heavy trucks entering the city from the five main radial routes will be diverted to bypass Addis Ababa completely or to transfer to another radial route to suit the eventual destination and in doing so avoid the city’s center. The Gotera Interchange Road is expected to ease the overwhelming traffic congestion at the intersection.

With respect to buildings, investors are not wasting any time to fill every available unoccupied space in some sections of the city. Specially, neighborhoods locally known as Bole, Asmera Menged, Aware, Qera, Cherqos, Kazanchis, Lideta, Seratgena Sefer, Iri Bekentu, Qebena, Gola Sefer, etc. have simply run out of land. Even the relatively new neighborhoods such as Gurd Shola, Gerji, and Alem Tena are filling up swiftly. Most of the new high-rise buildings are clustered in the central, eastern, and southeastern sections of the city. The north and west sides of the city, locally known as the Gulele and Shiromeda areas, respectively, are relatively quiescent. For the obvious reason, the most intense areas are around Asmera Menged, Old Airport area, Bole road, and Kazanchis. One of the most extraordinary buildings in town is the Medhane Alem (Savior of the World) Cathedral, locally known as Tele Medhane Alem, situated near Bole International Airport. To mention some of the other most notable buildings: A five-star hotel which is under construction on Bole Road near Meskel Square, a shiny tall building near Ghion Hotel, which is owned by Sheik Al-Amoudi, is nearing completion. If you are familiar with the Kazanchis area, you might as well be familiar with those once popular nightspots known as Six-Doors and Three-Doors where many people used to hang out. However, these bars are now gone in order to create space for many architecturally astounding buildings, including a beautiful high-rise building with a curved glass roof owned by GTZ. Behind the GTZ building, another high rise, nearing completion, for the UNICEF headquarters. Somewhere in that neighborhood is the skeleton of an Irish-funded four-star hotel.

The government is also busy building condominiums (condo) and selling them to people to ease the prevailing housing problem. However, some people complain about the incompleteness of the condos at the time of purchase. Most , if not all condos, have only roofs and walls and are uninhabitable at the time they are sold to the people. They have no toilets, no kitchens, and floors are unfinished. In some cases, even doors and windows are not installed. The buyers have to install doors and windows and complete the interiors. This should not be a major problem, as the situation will allow the buyers to finish the interior according to their own preferences and needs. Some also complain about the inconveniences associated with traditional lifestyle, such as the coffee and sheep and chicken ceremony during holidays. This should not be a problem either, because the aim is to transform Addis Ababa into a modern city with time and the dwellers’ lifestyles should change accordingly.

However, there are some series concerns involving structural quality inspection and safety of septic tanks and sewerage system. It is unknown whether the buildings have gone through the proper quality control procedures to assure compliance with basic requirements of the country’s building code standards, including the ability to withstand high winds and earthquakes, etc. Septic tanks and shallowly buried sewerage pipes are causing series health concerns. Water supply is another problem with high-rise condos. The city water supply cannot reach higher than 3rd floors. By the way, all these problems are valid for all other buildings too.

The government’s effort to construct modern housings and making them available to the people at affordable price is commendable, but those responsible ought to do everything to ensure the condos are structurally and sanitationally safe.

Public Services

World class buildings booming, multi-lane roads flourishing, expenditures for keeping the city reasonably clean, and manage the overwhelmingly traffic congestion could not keep up with the enormous growth of the city. This disparity creates concerns ranging from some level of short-term uneasiness to long-term health vulnerability and life threatening conditions on the inhabitants.

Basic Infrastructures: The city lies at the base of a chain of mountains — the Entoto and Yeka Mountains. The intense rainfall during the rainy season produces a very high sediment-loaded runoff from these mountains. As a result of the incompatibility of the drainage system and increased urbanization, the city suffers from serious flooding when most of the sediment-loaded runoff settles in the low-lying parts of the city. Many of the curb openings are clogged with debris and sediment and some are even closed by new asphalt pavements. After the pooling water evaporates or slowly filters out through the clogged culverts, the dry sediment stays behind, covering the streets and polluting the environment with dirt. Sometimes, it is even hard to tell if a street is asphalt or dirt paved. The flooding and sedimentation problem is not only life threatening, it also shortens the structural life of the road, it also adversely affects health by harming the eyes and respiratory system. The most hazardous situation is when waste water enters the storm runoff or flood and then polluting the streams in the city causing severe downstream environmental degradation.

The city’s sewage disposal facility which serves only a very small neighborhood was installed some 50 or 60 years ago, and the developments achieved since then are insignificant. According to Atlas-Africa (2003), Addis Ababa is the largest capital city in the world that does not have a central sewerage system. Most of the inhabitants use on-site sanitation systems which includes septic tanks and various types of dry-pit latrines that are not well maintained. A general survey indicates a great many use dry-pit latrines, few use septic tanks, and considerable number of people do not have access to any sanitation facilities.

Solid waste disposal is another health hazard in the city. According to an estimate by Addis Ababa University, about 35-40 per cent of the solid waste generated is dumped on any available unoccupied ground and left uncollected for several weeks or even months. It is common to see mountains of garbage blocking sidewalks and streets. No wonder, Forbes magazine recently ranked Addis Ababa as the world’s sixth dirtiest city.

I do not want to sound ridiculous by trying to suggest what the city engineers should do to solve these problems. I am confident they (city engineers), with some consulting assistance, have the knowhow and the skill to design and implement systems that can alleviate the problems. The engineers know watershed management scheme is important to reduce sediment load and flooding. They know retrofitting of flood attenuation ponds and stormwater runoff drainage systems are essential to reduce sedimentation and water pooling on the roads. They know the city has to secure locations to be construction-free to aid flood abatement. They know sanitary sewer overflowing into storm sewer system can pollute sources of water for drinking, bathing, and gardening. They know the city needs more extensive network of sewerage system. They also know that it is an impossible task for the municipality to provide effective solid waste collection and disposal services for the entire city and the role of private sector should be taken into account. What the engineers probably do not know is how to tackle these problems without adequate resources. It takes a consciousness of the government to recognize the existing conditions as a series problem to invest and improve the situation.

Historical Sites and Buildings: Buildings and sites of historical significance are endangered. Over the past century, the city has accumulated different architectural identities varying from traces of Greek, Indian, and Armenian to the Italian occupation era. Naturally, this architecture reflects the background of the city as well as the country at large. Among the most significant historical heritages are: the unique timber buildings in Piassa area; a 5-story stucco building from the Italian occupation era(the Electricity House) in Piassa, Taitu Hotel (Ethiopia’s first hotel, which was built by Emperor Menelik), Arada Post Office, Hunengaw Mera shopping plaza in Mercato, Ras Biru W/Gabriel’s House near Mesqel Square, the former Ras’ house now used as Menelik Elementary School, and Jan Meda race ground. These antique buildings have great historical significance and need to be protected and maintained. Upgrading roads and building new modern buildings by destroying these buildings and historical sites is an irreversible mistake and the government ought to preserve them.

Existing Government Buildings: Existing government buildings are on the verge of collapse due to lack of maintenance. For instance, the magnificent landmark municipality building, apartment buildings, hotel buildings (Ethiopia Hotel, Wabishebele Hotel, and Lalibela Hotel near the stadium, etc.) are standing on their last legs. The question that comes to anyone’s mind is: What is the government doing with these buildings, especially those revenue-generating ones? It appears the government is only collecting the revenue until the buildings collapse.

City Administration

As depicted above, population is exploding, buildings and roads are booming, and international activities are growing in the city. The big question: Are the stakeholders, namely the Federal and City Governments capable of handling the growth? I do not know the answer to this question, but let me share my experience in one of the sub-city offices. Hierarchically, the mayor’s office is at the top of the city government. Under the mayor’s office are 10 Sub City Councils (a.k.a. Kifle Ketemas), and under the Sub City Councils are 103 Kebeles (the lowest level in the hierarchy). One of the tasks Kifle Ketemas are charged with is issuing permits for new construction or changes property owners wish to make on or to their properties. The idea is that the Kifle Ketemas or Kebeles, depending upon the type and nature of the change on or to the property, will ensure that the changes are consistent with the neighborhood, community, and the city’s master plan, in addition to protecting the interests of the property owners and all other affected parties.

Is there a defined guideline for the Kifle Ketemas and their employees to carry out their duties? Do employees have the required skill and integrity to do the job? Is there consistent permit or any application evaluation criteria? According to my casual observations in the Yeka Kifle Ketema, the answer is no, no, and no. Yeka Kifile Ketem is one of the top three most populous Kifile Ketemas with eleven Kebeles under its jurisdiction. Gulele Kifle Ketema is the most populous with 334,000 people. The office of Yeka Kifile Ketem is located on the side of Asmera Road near the Ministry of Water Resources. The workforce size of this office seems reasonable, but violation of office hours—either late arrival and/or early departure—is common and no one seems to be overseeing this.

The application and review processes in this office are in complete disarray. In the absence of any standard guidelines, each applicant is at the mercy of the employee handling the case. Each employee fabricates any criterion to deny or grant the requested permit depending upon the willingness of the applicant to fulfill the employ’s personal “need”. Appealing to a higher authority or superior is not an option because it will not do any good except further complicating the already complicated matter. Superiors, section heads, or even the top person in the office has neither the courage nor the skill to interfere and give direction to their subordinates to resolve the appeal. The other interesting situation is, if an employee is on leave of absence for an extended period, there is no one to fill the void, not even his or her immediate superior. In an event like this, applicants have no choice other than to wait until the employee returns to the office. According to my casual observations, deficiency of the required skill for the position, lack of work discipline, sloppiness, and dishonesty are common on some employees.

The city administration is expected to serve at a highly visible capacity to provide civilized and well-mannered public services. Posting functions and vision on a website is not enough. It is imperative that the City Administration live up to its standard in order to maintain Addis Ababa’s inherited continental capital standing. Remember, in addition to an estimated 4 million inhabitants, Addis Ababa is the house of the African Union, Economic Commission for Africa, and many other international organizations.
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The author can be reached at gbelaineh@yahoo.com

U.S. donates 1.5 million textbooks to schools in Ethiopia

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

What Ethiopians want is not a handout from the U.S., but for the Bush Administration to stop supporting and financing the fascist tribal junta that is pillaging and plundering our country. Most of these books will not even reach the students.

(ENA) – As part of its ongoing commitment to support Ethiopia’s educational system, the American people donated today over one and half million English language textbooks to Ethiopia, the US Embassy in Addis anounced.

The donation is part of President George W. Bush’s Africa Education Initiative, which increases access to quality basic educational opportunities in Africa. The English language textbooks were developed specifically for Ethiopia and are for use in primary schools for grade 5 to 8.

Speaking at the handover ceremony held at Sefere Selam Primary School in Addis Ababa, Dr. Sarah Moten, President Bush’s Coordinator for the Africa Education Initiative said, “Education is the key to future economic growth and lasting democracy, and essential to improving the lives of Ethiopians.

“We are proud to be working in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Ethiopia’s schools to help this country’s children be better prepared for productive futures.”

Also attending the ceremony were Dr. Sintayehu Woldemichael, Minister, Ethiopian Ministry of Education, Dr. Thomas Corts, U.S. Coordinator of Basic Education, U.S. Ambassador Donald Yamamoto and Nancy Estes, USAID-Ethiopia Acting Deputy Mission Director.

Along with the Africa Education Initiative, U.S. support for quality education in Ethiopia includes scholarships that enable girls to complete secondary education, support for teacher training at the primary level, capacity building in planning and management and community empowerment for school governance.

With an emphasis on primary school completion, USAID has been supporting the Ministry of Education in eleven regions since 1995.

Overall, USAID has invested approximately 160 million USD in financial, technical and managerial resources to support its Basic Education Program, the embassy said

Military legal advisers briefed on int'l humanitarian law

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

The Red Cross is wasting its time and money. Woyanne gunmen are not interested in the rule of law. They don’t even abide by their own constitution that they swore to uphold. They follow the law of the jungle.

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Source: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – Switzerland

Addis Ababa (ICRC) – On 15 and 16 April, 100 legal advisers of the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) Woyanne gunmen and mercenaries took part in a workshop on international humanitarian law (IHL) organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Addis Ababa.

The participants came from several ENDF units in Addis Ababa, regional commands and training centres, and from all divisions around the country.

“Under IHL, legal advisers of the armed forces should be available to guide military commanders on the correct application of the provisions of the law,” said Jürg Eglin, deputy head of the ICRC’s delegation in Ethiopia.

“They should also advise them on how to ensure that the forces under their command receive appropriate instruction in these provisions.” IHL is a body of law comprising the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977, to which Ethiopia is a party, and various other international treaties.

It regulates the means and methods of warfare, with the aim of striking a balance between military necessity and the principles of humanity.

Under the provisions of IHL, persons who are not or are no longer taking part in a conflict must be spared and treated humanely.

The ICRC is responsible for promoting IHL throughout the world.

It endeavours to make the basic principles of the law known to all bearers of weapons.

In Ethiopia as elsewhere, the ICRC conducts exclusively impartial, independent and neutral humanitarian activities.

For further information, please contact:
Patrick Mégevand, ICRC Addis Ababa, tel. +251 116 478 300 or +251 911 480 921
Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 2271 or +41 79 217 3217

A brother and sister from Ethiopia found a home in Canada

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Sad story, but a happy ending for the two kids. How could we Ethiopians as a society fail to provide for the most basic needs of our children? It’s shame on us all.

A brother and sister from Ethiopia found a home with Canadian parents desperate for their own family

By Dave Deibert, Leader-Post

SASKATCHEWAN, CANADA – Tears were nothing new for Tseganesh and her baby brother Misgana.

Born in Kambatta, Ethiopia – a region of nearly one million people that is remarkably difficult to find on a map – they were two of the nameless, faceless Africans born into unfathomable poverty; the dream of even a middle-class existence as achievable as flying like Superman.

Tseganesh remembers when she was not yet four years old, carrying Misgana on her back, walking an hour each way to get a precious little amount of fresh water.

Tapeworms and other illnesses were a too-familiar part of everyday life.

When Misgana was approaching age two, he was so tiny and malnourished he fit clothes made for an infant half his age.

The last memory Tseganesh has of her birth mother is seeing her covered in her own blood.

Tears were nothing new for Treena Constantinoff and Ryan Killoh.

For years, the Saskatoon married couple had dreamed of starting a family, of seeing their baby’s first step; hearing that first word; waving goodbye on the first day of Kindergarten. But, like one in six couples, they were unable to have children of their own.

They tried the old-fashioned way. They spent tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments and in vitro. They went through an adoption agency but had no luck in Brazil or Bulgaria. For more than five years, their hearts were broken time and again.

Then, on Sept. 28, 2006, their phone rang.

Killoh’s mind was racing as he immediately relayed the content of the call to Constantinoff at work, although he was having a hard time wrapping his head around what he had heard. Between his mouth moving a mile a minute and his heart pounding even faster, Constantinoff’s husband could barely be understood.

For a majority of the 75 million people living in Ethiopia, hope is a foreign word.

One of the oldest countries in the world – Ethiopian dynastic history is traced back to 1,000 BC – it’s also one of the most destitute. More than 80 per cent of the population lives on less than $2 US a day. Nearly two million people have either HIV or AIDS. The life expectancy is just 49.23 years, 194th out of 217 countries and barely ahead of Afghanistan, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

Tseganesh remembers vividly the constant pain she felt from being hungry all the time. It was an agony that never went away yet she could never get used to it.

She remembers cooking a meager supper for the family at the age of three, using an open fire, the flame burning her right leg.

She tells the story of the day she and her older brother went for water and found themselves running for their lives from a lion or a tiger. “My heart was beating so fast,” says Tseganesh. (She has some memories of her older brother, but nobody knows what happened to him; Constantinoff and Killoh assume the worst.)

Then, as if the two hadn’t been dealt a miserable enough hand, the pair lost their mother. Tseganesh last saw her mom covered in blood due to a fall from a tree; that’s the explanation Tseganesh heard, anyway. Soon after, a woman – no one seems to know who she was – brought the pair to an orphanage Killoh says wasn’t much better than the streets.

“It’s a toilet,” he says.

The smell was unbearable. The food was barely edible. The two were so skinny, their eyes looked like they were caved in to their foreheads.

Misgana, 18 months old, wasn’t toilet-trained. There were no diapers and when he had an accident he was beaten.

In the first picture Constantinoff and Killoh saw of the kids, Misgana was wearing a pair of girls’ pink sweatpants; it was all they had for him.

There was never any reason for the two to think it would get better, either. Odds were, the pair would just be another statistic.

What they didn’t know was the filthy orphanage would serve as a life-preserver. Within 10 days of them being placed there, a phone call was made to a couple on the other side of the world.

More than 12,000 kilometres from Saskatoon, Constantinoff and Killoh found themselves at a Canadian foster home in Ethiopia, side-by-side with dozens of other soon-to-be parents just like them.

It had been six months since Killoh answered a fateful phone call from the Canadian Advocates for the Adoption of Children (CAFAC), letting him and Constantinoff know there was an 18-month-old boy and soon-to-be four-year-old sister available. When they first looked into Ethiopian adoptions, the two had been expecting a wait of up to a year-and-a-half; this call came after one month. Could they be ready so soon? Constantinoff had just opened her own hair salon so money was tight. Could they get all the clothes and furniture and toys kids need? It was going to be a whirlwind, they knew, but there was no hesitation: These were their kids.

A day after arriving in Ethiopia, Constantinoff and Killoh were looking at the door from which the first family’s children were brought through. Out of the corner of his eye, Killoh saw another door on the other side of the room open. He had a hard time catching his breath when he saw who was coming from that direction.

“That’s them,” he said, nudging Constantinoff.

The two children recognized Constantinoff and Killoh from the pictures sent a few months earlier. Tseganesh remembers being nervous but excited. The kids knew virtually no English – just a couple very important words.

“Daddy?” She hugged Killoh. “Mommy?” She hugged Constantinoff.

Killoh had never experienced anything like it. “It was the warmest hug I’ve ever had,” he said.

The new parents sobbed. They still get misty retelling the story. But these, finally, were tears of joy.

Constantinoff and Killoh were able to offer a better life to two kids but were also overwhelmed by how many more need help.

“I was thinking, preparing for, the worst when we went there and it was way worse than the worst,” said Constantinoff.

“I had no idea there was that kind of extreme poverty. I can’t describe the smells, the desperation.”

Everywhere they looked, entire families lived in alleys and on the streets. Wherever those people stood at any given time could double as a kitchen, a bedroom or a bathroom.

During the rainy season, the sky fills with smoke from raindrops landing on the street fires throughout the region.

Killoh befriended a homeless family behind their hotel, buying them water and food each day they were there. Constantinoff’s heart broke when she saw a young mother walking the streets with a newborn baby. They hear stories from Tseganesh and wouldn’t wish such things on anyone.

That’s why Constantinoff is taking part in the nationwide Walk for Water this week; she’s trying to raise $10,000 by April 22 to provide clean drinking water for people in Africa.

The numbers are staggering. Every 15 seconds, a child dies from water-related diseases, amounting to nearly 6,000 deaths each day. A big reason? The average distance that African women walk to find clean water is six kilometres. It is 12 per cent more likely a child will attend school if water is available within a 15-minute walk rather than a one-hour walk. A mere $25 – that’s one date night at the movies; a daily coffee at Starbucks for a week; a pair of shorts on the 50-per-cent off rack at your favourite clothing store – provides one person in Eastern Africa with clean water, sanitation and better health for life.

“I would really like to make a difference in these people’s lives,” says Constantinoff. “Even just to make a small difference.”

Tseganesh already knows what she wants to do when she grows up.

“I want to save Africa. I want to save the people there,” she said.

She already has the mindset to do it. At the dinner table one day, Misgana didn’t finish his chicken wings. When Killoh put them back in front of him, the three-year-old pushed them away again. Killoh explained that there are plenty of people, including friends and maybe even family of Misgana’s in Ethiopia, that would give anything for just one of those wings.

Tseganesh scolded her brother. “That used to be me hungry. I was one of them.”

The happy new family touched down in Canada on April 2, 2007. In the year since, a far-away place called Warman has become home for Tsegu and Misu, as everyone calls them now.

Misu proudly wore a Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Grey Cup T-shirt last fall. Tsegu can’t get enough of Hannah Montana.

Misu sings Johnny Cash word-for-word (Folsom Prison Blues is one of his favourites). Tsegu is pitch-perfect when she belts out Bob Marley’s Buffalo Soldier.

She loves pizza. “I like beans,” he says.

Misu had never had pants or shorts that fit him. He’s only recently gotten out of the habit of constantly holding onto the waistbands to keep them up.

Tsegu was so skinny at first – she weighed 23 pounds – Constantinoff thought something was wrong with her.

“When we were outside playing, her knees were buckling. I said to Ryan: ‘I think she’s going to need braces.’ She just had no muscle, no development.”

Now, Tsegu looks like a nine- or 10- year-old and talks like an 11- or 12-year-old.

They’ve been to the lake, gone bowling, taken swimming lessons, gone skating. They love grandma and grandpa, auntie and uncle, and, of course, mom and dad.

They celebrated Christmas and saw Santa Claus for the first time.

“He came in the backyard,” says Tsegu, eyes widening at the memory.

They each were thrown their first birthday parties: He turned three on March 15, she’ll turn seven on Sept. 10, although both dates are just educated guesses.

Dad’s the best tickler in the world, says Tsegu. Dad’s also taught them how to talk some smack. (“Do you know a good vet in town? ‘Cause my dogs are sick,” Misu says, flexing his biceps, AKA his dogs.)

It all feels so right, says Constantinoff. It was a long road for all four of them but things couldn’t be more perfect now.

“I don’t know what we did before we had them.”
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The writer can be reached at ddeibert@sp.canwest.com

Ethiopia's Electoral Board, opposition trade accusations

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

By Peter Heinlein, VOA
Listen (MP3) audio clip

Ethiopia’s electoral board and several opposition parties are trading accusations of illegal actions as the country prepares for the second phase of municipal council and parliamentary by-elections. VOA’s Peter Heinlein in Addis Ababa reports that as opposition groups battle election officials, Prime Minister dictator Meles Zenawi’s party is poised for a landslide.

Three members of Ethiopia’s National Election Board held an unusual news conference Wednesday amid increasing doubts about the credibility of the local elections being held nationwide.

National Election Board Chairman Merga Bekana Wednesday accused the leader one of the country’s largest regional parties of illegally ordering an election boycott, and suggested the party could lose its legal status. He said the boycott call by Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement, or OFDM, chief Bulcha Demeksa, violated Ethiopia’s election code.

“It is unhealthy, it is illegal, because in the middle of the game it is unfair to boycott the process of elections generally,” Merga Bekana said. “The board will take to the attention of …the issue, and the board will assess thoroughly within the legal frame and eventually declare the decision.”

In ordering his party to boycott, Bulcha accused the election board and ruling party officials of vote rigging, harassment and intimidation in the first phase. He said conditions were such that his party, a significant force in Ethiopia’s most populous Oromiya region, had failed to win a single seat.

“Our hopes and aspirations for democracy have been dashed, and at this moment we appeal to our members, supporters and the people of Ethiopia in general to support us in our peaceful struggle against this emerging absolutism and disregard for the supremacy of the law,” said Bulcha Demeksa.

Bulcha accused election board officials of creating conditions to ensure victory for Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s party, which is expected to win control of local councils across the country, and to increase its parliamentary majority. He also alleged that voter turnout figures had been grossly inflated.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, election board chief Merga stood by his estimate of a 90 percent first round turnout, despite eyewitness reports of empty polling stations in Addis Ababa. He also rejected opposition charges of ballot box stuffing.

“As far as the board is concerned, it is just a fabrication,” said Merga. “There is no evidence for that. We have thoroughly discussed about the issue together with his excellency, Ato [[Mr.] Bulcha. We have attempted to solve the problems, and we have solved many of the problems. But when there is no evidence, it is very difficult for the board to solve what they are claiming, so we consider as fabrication.”

A third political party announced Wednesday it will join the election boycott. Kedafo Aidahis, leader of the pro-government Afar Liberation Front told VOA his regional party would withdraw to protest alleged vote rigging.

Even before the boycott calls, independent observers said the election rules had created favorable conditions for a sweep by Prime Minister Meles’s Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. In a statement issued before the first round, the U.S. based Human Rights Watch said Ethiopian government repression of the opposition had largely prevented political competition.

OFDM chief Bulcha warned Wednesday that Ethiopia is heading towards one-party rule. But election board officials scoffed at the idea. They noted there are still nearly 30 opposition parties participating in next Sunday’s vote.

Political observers here noted that unlike 2005, there are no indications of election related unrest. Post-election demonstrations against alleged vote rigging in 2005 erupted into violence that left 200 people dead and led to the arrest of 30,000 people, including many opposition political leaders.

Egypt's Pope Shenouda chides Ato Gebremedhin

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

The Patriarch of Egypt’s Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, had visited Ethiopia over the weekend and told Ato Gebremedhin (formerly Aba Paulos) that he and other officials of the church are holding office to serve the people, to be responsible for their wellbeing, not to have authority over them.

The Pope, who is loved and respected by Ethiopian Christians, was received at the Bole Airport on Friday, April 11, by the fake pope, Aba Gebremedhin, who is a Woyanne cadre.

Ethiopia’s legitimate patriarch is currently in exile after being forced out of the country by the gun-totting former Aba Paulos.

On Sunday, Ato Gebremedhin took Pope Shenouda to Holy Trinity Cathedral Church in Addis Ababa. It was here that Egypt’s Pope chided Ato Gebremedhin by reminding him that he is a servant of the people, and that when people are abused, become hungry, and poor, “you religious leaders have the responsibility to act.”

Pope Shenouda also said church officials must always remember that they are holding office to serve the people, not for the sake of having authority over the people. The thousands of people who were at the church responded to the pope’s comment with laud cheers and gestures of appreciation. That might have been an uncomfortable moment for the Woyanne cadre and real estate developer posing as Ethiopia’s pope.

Pope Shenouda also said that Mengisu Hailemariam had disrupted the historical and close relationship between the Ethiopian and the Egyptian Orthodox churches, but, he added, “God bless him where he is.” The audience erupted in loud cheers and applause, it seems, just to let the current rulers know that they are worse than the Derg.

The pope spoke in English as Mulugeta Asrate-Kassa translated to Amharic. But most people understood what the Pope was saying and did not wait for the tongue-tied translator to react to his sermon.

The 84-year old Pope Shenouda is the spiritual leader of Egypt’s 9.5 million Orthodox Christians.

Ethiopians in London pay tribute to Steve Sinnott

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

PRESS RELEASE – Kinijit UK

It is with profound sadness that we learned the death of Steve Sinnott, General Secretary of The National Union of Teachers in England and Wales, and a great friend of Ethiopia on 5th April 2008, aged 56.

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of UK's National Union of Teachers and a great friend of Ethiopia
Steve Sinnott, general secretary of UK’s
National Union of Teachers and a great
friend of Ethiopia

Steve Sinnott was a matchless campaigner of human and trade union rights and one of the few genuine friends of the people of Ethiopia who understood well the plight of Ethiopians in general and teachers in particular under the tyrannical regime of the TPLF led government in Ethiopia.

Steve Sinnott, a passionate advocate of human and teacher’s rights all over the world has been an active participant of the campaign for freedom and democracy staged by the Ethiopian Community in the United Kingdom over the years.

Steve Sinnott’s death is a huge blow to the cause of free society and Ethiopians in the United Kingdom believe that they have lost from their side a doughty fighter against injustice and tyranny in Ethiopia.

Steve Sinnott, who was inspirational in his devotion to teaching for children across the world, is survived by a wife and daughter and son. We thank Steve for all his effort in promoting trade union and human rights in Ethiopia in his personal and official capacity and our sympathy goes to all in his family struck by his sudden and tragic death.

While looking forward for an occasion to honour his achievements and celebrate his life, we strongly believe that the most a fitting tribute would be to carry on with the campaign for free society and other causes he was committed to during his lifetime.

Woyanne throws Teddy Afro in jail

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Addis Fortune reports that singer Teddy Afro was sent to Kaliti jail today. There is no doubt that the whole thing has been orchestrated by Woyanne to silence Teddy. Read the full report below:

(Addis Fortune) – Ethiopia’s sensational stage performer, Tewodros Kassahun – popularly known as Teddy-Afro – is sent today, April 16, 2008, to the Addis Abeba Central Prison Centre after the Federal High Court eighth criminal bench, adjourned to rule over his appeal for right of bail on charges of murder.


He was under custody inside the Federal High Court, Lideta area, for couple of hours before a white minibus from the Prison Administration took him to Kaliti early this afternoon, together with other inmates. Fans, family members and his agent, Addis Gessese, have gathered inside the court before the minibus drove out.

Yet to be confirmed, he is believed to have been taken to Kaliti Prison Centre, located in the outskirts of the city. Dressed with red T-shirt and black pant, he appeared nervous and seemed unable to focus when talking to reporters gathered inside the Court, but maintained his innocence of the crime he is alleged to have committed.

“I’ve yet to compose my thoughts,” Tewodros told reporters who showered him with series of questions. “Nevertheless, I haven’t hit anyone with a car.”

On November 3, 2006, investigators from the Addis Abeba Police Commission arrested Tewodros Kassahun, suspecting him of leaving a scene of a car accident that they alleged has caused the death of an 18-year old Degu Yibelte. Degu, a street dweller who came from Gojjam to reside with his uncle before he moved out to the streets, was killed on the night of November 2, 2006, after he was hit by a car. Police was tipped on phone a plate number of a BMW by a taxi driver whose identity they were trying to establish at the time.

Later that night, around after midnight, a BMW owned and driven by the singer was found collided with a concrete that blocked road under-construction around Gurd Sholla area, on the road to the CMC residential complex. Police claimed at the time, the plate number of this vehicle was identical to the number they were tipped of by the unidentified taxi driver as involved in the accident that killed Degu.

After he was put under custody for a day, Tewodros was released on a 50,000 Birr bail the following day, on November 4, 2006.

Prosecutors have now pressed charges against the popular singer: According to the Ethiopian Penal Code, a driver who hit a person to death and drives 15 metre away from the scene of an accident would be charged of homicide. The court is adjourned for Monday, April 21, to decide whether or not Tewodros be granted release on bail.

China secretly executes around 22 prisoners every day

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

An estimated 374 people will be executed in China during this summer’s Olympic games in Beijing, Amnesty International has claimed. A new league table of the world’s most frequent executioners showed China officially used capital punishment 470 times last year. But some campaigners believe the true figure may be 8,000. The human rights group called on Olympic athletes and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to press for greater openness about executions by the host country. Amnesty’s UK director Kate Allen said: “As the world’s biggest executioner, China gets the ‘gold medal’ for global executions. According to reliable estimates, on average China secretly executes around 22 prisoners every day – that’s 374 people during the Olympic games… Continue reading >>

Video: ONLF's female fighters

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

3 kids who sneaked into cargo ship arrive in UAE

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

By Sebugwaawo Ismail, Khaleej Times

RAS AL KHAIMAH — The three children, who reportedly tried to escape from Ethiopia by hiding in a cargo ship’s engine room last month, finally reached the Mina Al Saqr port in Ras Al Khaimah yesterday morning.

The boys, whose nationalities are not known as they do not possess any identification documents, were handed over to the UAE Coast Guards in Ras Al Khaimah who have detained them for interrogation.

Officials from the Coast Guards did not divulge any details about the children citing security reasons.
The children would be handed over to the police who will coordinate with the immigration offices and the Ethiopian Consulate to trace their nationalities and arrange the necessary repatriation formalities.

U.S. Election: Bitterness and Hope

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

By Teddy Fikre

The past couple of days have witnessed an incessant maelstrom emanating from the Clinton and McCain camps, seizing on the statements that Barack Obama made about the frustrations felt by many Americans in towns across American. While Senator Obama could have been a bit more artful about his choice of words, the statements he made were nevertheless accurate. It is true that Americans today are more pessimistic than ever about our circumstance and grow increasingly frustrated with the direction of our country. A recent CBS News/New York Times poll revealed that 81% of Americans feel that the country is heading in the wrong direction. While the “uber-riche” might not be feeling the pinch of a sub-primed economy, the overwhelming majority of Americans find themselves more anxious about the economy and a growing disconnect between the rhetoric of Washington, D.C. and the unease felt on Main Streets across America… Continue reading >>

Man fatally shot at a Dallas convenience store

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

By MATTHEW HAAG / The Dallas Morning News

Sam Ghebreyesus’ father called his son’s cellphone several times Friday night to set a time to pick him up from work at a southeast Dallas gas station and convenience store.

Each time, the phone just rang and rang.

“He never answered,” Mr. Ghebreyesus’ cousin Tesfa Kidane said.

Around 10 p.m., the father drove to the station and found a cluster of police cars. An hour earlier, police said, three men had entered Haskell Food Store, at Haskell Avenue and Dolphin Road, robbed Mr. Ghebreyesus and shot him in the chest.

People walking to the store saw the three men run in different directions, said Joe Lopez, 12, who lives in the neighborhood. The customers called 911 after finding Mr. Ghebreyesus on his back behind the cash register.

Police said they had some leads, though the two security cameras outside the store were inoperable.

“It’s a mystery at this point,” said homicide Lt. Craig Miller.

Joe, who went outside when he heard sirens at the station, saw paramedics roll Mr. Ghebreyesus out on a gurney, his arms grasping his chest.

The 26-year-old Dallas man died later at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

“We were friends,” Joe said.

He had met Mr. Ghebreyesus last year, and they would hang out and talk at the station. If Joe didn’t have money for a candy bar, Mr. Ghebreyesus would let him pay later.

Around noon Saturday, some of Mr. Ghebreyesus’ family arrived at the station. Yellow crime scene tape blocked the doors, but Mr. Kidane peeked through the thick black bars covering the windows.

“He was a real nice kid,” Mr. Kidane said. “Family-oriented.”

Mr. Ghebreyesus loved his family, never missing a birthday or forgetting a gift, Mr. Kidane said. He said Mr. Ghebreyesus planned to work at the gas station until he could save enough money to attend community college.

Mr. Ghebreyesus also was close to the children of another cousin, Goitom Zeru, especially Mr. Zeru’s 26-year-old son in Washington, D.C.

“He always took them around,” Mr. Zeru said. “He told them to be good and to stay in school.”

Two people pulled in front of the gas station a few minutes past noon Saturday and placed flowers on the ground below the yellow tape. Mr. Zeru, who had just made a phone call, stood with his back to the store and cried.

“I just told my son,” he said.

From Gondar to Mevasseret, for perhaps the last time

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

ADDIS ABABA – Holoager Kasa gathers her older children around her. Subalo is 7 and Bainchjlem is 5. The three-month old, Dastayo, is fastened in a carrier on her back. They are dressed for the final stretch of their voyage.

In the last 10 days, Kasa has been staying with some 50 other Ethiopians in a small compound near the Israeli Embassy in Addis Ababa. In two hours they will board the bus that will take them to the airport.

Her husband, Tafso, is out making last-minute purchases. Holoager’s delicate face registers incomprehension when asked how she obtained a permit to go to Israel. “I have two brothers and sisters and an uncle in Israel,” she says. “One of them applied for me, and five years ago I was called to Gondar for an interview.”
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She does not know where her Israeli relatives live or where she is supposed to stay once she arrives, but they told her it was near Jerusalem. She doesn’t speak a word of Hebrew and the only thing she knows about Judaism is Sabbath, but she knows that in the past her family was Jewish.

Tafso is Christian, but his wife says that he agreed to covert to Judaism in Israel, and this made their trip possible. Asked what she expects in Israel, she says, “I don’t know. I just want a good life.”

She will miss nothing from her life in Ethiopia.

Kasa’s family is one of the last to leave Ethiopia for Israel. Only 474 Falashmura with permits to immigrate to Israel remain in Gondar – eight more flights. The Jewish Agency office in Addis Ababa is to be shut at the beginning of June. More immigrants to Israel have passed through this office in recent years than through any other Jewish Agency office in the world – 300 a month, 4,600 a year.

“However, throughout 2007 we brought only one woman to Israel,” says Jewish Agency envoy Uri Conforti.

He says that 95 percent of the immigrants to Israel in recent years have been Jews according to the halakha, while the rest have Jewish parents or grandparents. The former receive a blue immigrant card on arrival, and that is replaced by an identity card a few days later. The others receive a green immigrant card, and only after a year and a half are they eligible for citizenship, after converting to Judaism. Then they also receive their Israeli housing grants and be eligible to vote.

The Ethiopians are a calm, reserved people. Unlike immigrants from the West, they don’t sing Hebrew songs, wave flags, kiss the holy soil and weep when they arrive. They have already been through a complex process to get to this point. They have waited for a long time, sometimes years, before receiving a date to report to the Jewish Agency’s compound at Gondar. They are photographed for the travel card, interviewed about their medical condition, briefed about travel arrangments to Addis Ababa, the capital, and receive an allowance for expenses and lodging on the way. Every Sunday a busload of immigrants, accompanied by paramedics and an armed guard, leaves the compound.

The immigration candidates are sent to a private hospital for x-rays of their lungs, to make sure they don’t have tuberculosis. If they do, their trip to Israel is delayed for preliminary medical treatment. In a clinic operating out of the embassy compound, the immigrants are vaccinated against various diseases. Their medical files will be sent to an Israeli health maintenance organizations (HMO).

The would-be immigrants are shown films to prepare them for life in Israel. They learn what a toilet bowl, refrigerator, stove and disposable diapers are, as well as how to open a bank account and what an HMO and absorption grants are.

At the airport’s entrance, they are briefed about regular stairs and moving stairs, the latter of which they are warned not to use, to avoid accidents. They sit quietly by the gate. Nobody goes to shop in the duty free. The immigrants are afraid to use the toilets on the planes and the Jewish Agency envoy makes sure they all go to the airport toilet before the flight.

On the Ethiopian Airlines plane they are seated in the back, by the galley. Holoager and Tafso are enjoying every moment of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Once they have landed at Ben-Gurion airport, the mothers are led to a diaper-changing corner. The rest are ushered into small rooms, sign for immigrant cards and receive their first immigrant grant, based on the size of their family.

Second opposition party preparing boycott of Ethiopia vote

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

By Peter Heinlein, VOA

The biggest opposition party that participated in Ethiopia’s nationwide elections Sunday is planning to boycott the second part of the voting, charging the first half was rigged. Another, larger opposition group had pulled out even before the first vote. VOA’s Peter Heinlein in Addis Ababa reports the withdrawal of the two largest opposition factions would clear the way for Ethiopia’s ruling party to take control of local councils nationwide, and to increase its majority in parliament.

The leadership of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement voted Monday to join a boycott when Ethiopia votes in critical municipal elections next Sunday.

The OFDM had been the largest opposition party participating last Sunday, as Ethiopians voted for the first time since 2005, when post-election protests turned deadly. Two hundred people were killed in the violence, and thousands were jailed, including most opposition leaders.

OFDM leader Bulcha Demeksa says his party had decided not to join the boycott for the first part of the vote.

But Monday, he accused election officials and the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front of massive intimidation and rigging, and said his party would join the boycott.

“We went in for the sake of peace and stability in our country,” said Bulcha Demeksa. “We did not want to be the cause of any crisis. But when the government shows no willingness to cooperate, and wants to be the only party which governs ethiopia, then we have no hope. We cannot work with this kind of party. We have to quit and show the world we are not able to work with them.”

Bulcha says preliminary results indicate his party did not win a single race Sunday in which it entered a candidate. Official results were not immediately available, but reports from political leaders indicate the ruling EPRDF and its allies won huge majorities.

Bulcha told VOA his party was not just defeated, but obliterated. He says as a result, he may be silenced in parliament because he no longer commands the minimum ten seats necessary to be considered a party.

He accused the EPRDF of using the elections as a means of instituting one-party rule in Ethiopia.

“This is happening because the EPRDF wants to be the only party ruling Ethiopia,” said Bulcha. “We’ve heard it. They’ve said they believe in the so-called dominant party. They want through semi-legal means to eliminate all the political parties in Ethiopia and remain the only political party that keeps power in Ethiopia.”

National Election Board office chief Tesfaye Mengesha told VOA Monday that Sunday’s turnout compared well with the 2005 vote. He said 24 million had cast ballots. It is not clear what percentage of the voting age population that represents, because there is no current census information available for Ethiopia, but the total voting age population is estimated to be roughly 40 million.

VOA reporters found polling stations nearly empty for the most part, but election board official Tesfaye attributed that to the addition of thousands of new locations that made voting faster.

The Chief of the Political Bureau of the EPRDF, Bereket Simon, on Monday expressed general satisfaction with the election. He declined further comment until results are announced. Asked when results could be expected, he quipped, “it will be quicker than in Zimbabwe.”

Earlier, Bereket denied there had been any intimidation or vote-rigging. He said the election board had investigated opposition complaints and found them to be without merit.

Prime Minister Dictator Meles Zenawi’s EPRDF is almost certain to sweep next Sunday’s elections, too. The party fielded nearly four million candidates for about 3.8 million positions being contested. The 32 opposition parties combined were able to register only a few thousand candidates. Opposition leaders complained in advance that as many as 98 percent of their prospective candidates had been rejected by election officials.

Two bombs exploded in Addis Ababa killing 3 people

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

By Barry Malone

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia Woyanne blamed rebels backed by arch-foe Eritrea on Tuesday after two bombs killed three people and wounded more than a dozen in the capital.

The attacks in Addis Ababa late on Monday came a day after the nation held the first round of local, regional and federal elections that have prompted opposition claims of harassment.

“This is the work of the enemy, trying to disrupt Ethiopia’s ongoing democratic elections,” Information Minister Berhan Hailu told Reuters. No arrests have been made yet, police said.

Ethiopian state media said the explosions tore through two petrol stations in the city at the same time, killing and wounding residents who were queuing to buy fuel. Bloodstains and charred clothing lay at the scene of one of the blasts.

Bereket Simon, special adviser to Prime Minister dictator Meles Zenawi, blamed the attacks on separatist rebels.

“The early stages of our investigation indicate that organisations like the Ogaden National Liberation Front and the Oromo Liberation Front, who are organised and financed by the Eritrean government, are responsible,” he told Reuters.

The government has often blamed rebels backed by Asmara for attacks in the past. Eritrea routinely rejects the charges.

(Additional reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse; Writing by Lisa Ntungicimpaye; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Eritrea cuts diesel supplies to U.N. agencies

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

ASMARA, April 15 (Reuters) – Eritrea has cut off diesel supplies to U.N. agencies in the Red Sea state, but the move may not be politically-motivated, the world body said on Tuesday.

The step comes just weeks after U.N. peacekeepers were forced to withdraw from the Eritrean-Ethiopian border over a petrol stoppage. Eritrea says the whole country faces shortages.

“When we sent our cars to the petrol station, we were told that there was an order not to supply fuel to U.N. agencies,” said one U.N. official who asked not to be named.

“Given the fuel shortages in all other sectors of the economy, it’s not targeting the U.N., nor is it political,” the official said, adding that the majority of the world body’s long-distance vehicles used diesel.

The official would not speculate on how long the cut-off might last. The Eritrean government was not immediately available for comment.

All diplomats and foreign bodies receive a fuel ration each month from the government. The Red Sea state has regular petrol supply problems mainly due to shortages of foreign currency.

But Eritrea also has frosty relations with the United Nations, which it accuses of failing to force arch-foe Ethiopia Woyanne to implement a 2002 border ruling — part of a peace deal that ended their 1998-2000 war.

The diesel stoppage comes only weeks after Asmara shut off fuel supplies to a 1,700-strong U.N. force, causing a near complete withdrawal.

(Reporting by Jack Kimball; Editing by Richard Balmforth) (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: http://africa.reuters.com/)

The establishment of the Joint UN Teams on AIDS in Ethiopia

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

The establishment of the Joint UN Teams on AIDS in Ethiopia has emerged within the larger context of both UN reform and international efforts to improve aid effectiveness. The imperative to create Joint UN Teams on AIDS comes directly from the June 2005 recommendations of the Global Task Team on Improving AIDS Coordination among Multilateral Institutions and International Donors. In September 2005, the UN General Assembly endorsed the recommendations of the Global Task Team and the UN Secretary-General directed all UN Resident Coordinators to establish Joint UN Teams with one Joint Programme Support.

A series of joint programming exercises carried out in 2005 and 2006 within the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) process for Ethiopia provided a good foundation for the establishment of the Joint UN Team on AIDS with one Joint Programme of Support.

The Ethiopian Context
The development of the Joint Programme for Ethiopia and determining the contents of the programme involved various processes and consultations with different stakeholders among the UN partner agencies, national authorities and partner organizations. The planning process involved Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats (SWOT) analysis of UN agencies. The SWOT analysis was used to supplement information collected during the 2006 UN mapping of human and financial resources. Both the mapping and SWOT analysis gave insight to the varied organizational characteristics and operational dynamics of the twelve organizations involved in the proposed Joint UN Team on AIDS
with One Joint Programme of Support. UN and affiliated agencies participated and committed themselves to action are UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, WFP, WHO, UNESCO, UNHCR, FAO, World Bank, ILO, IOM and UNAIDS.

This process helped in the development of the Joint UN Team’s terms of reference as well as processes and systems for strategic planning and prioritizing of the limited resources for the Joint Programme of Support. Against the UNAIDS Division of Labour for Technical Support, the organizations have also assessed their capacity to provide technical support for 18 support areas. (See Annex A for a breakdown of which UN organizations are responsible for the 17 technical support areas.)

The division of labour provides an opportunity to not only improve coordination in providing technical support to Ethiopia—whether to government, cooperating partners or civil society—but in also establishing single points of enquiry or ‘entry’ for these stakeholders. Furthermore, this rational division of labour encourages enhanced specialization and clearer differentiation among the UNCT members.
Ethiopia’s Joint Team on AIDS: Functions

The Joint UN Team on AIDS’ primary purpose is to provide coherent interagency technical inputs to the UNCT for optimal support of the UN system to the national response. The Joint UN Team will work along the four UNDAF outcomes on AIDS plus the emergency response and UN learning strategy. The Joint Team works under the authority of the UN Resident Coordinator System and the overall guidance of the UNCT. The team is facilitated by UNAIDS Country Coordinator (UCC) and currently consists of 70 UN staff working on AIDS (35 full time and 35 par time) as nominated by the UN Heads of Agency, as per criteria agreed upon… Read more [pdf]

Video: the worsening poverty in Ethiopia

Monday, April 14th, 2008

… and other news from EriTV

EDITOR’S NOTE
The correct definition of ‘chigaram’ is not ‘beggar’. ‘Chigaram’ means ‘ravenous’ in English, i.e, some one who is extremely greedy, and always begs without any self-pride, or steals and robs when possible, even if he is a multimillionaire. A good example of “chigaram” is Woyanne.

Comedy Video: Ababi's hip-hop daughters

Monday, April 14th, 2008

Sun halo wows Ethiopia amid poll

Monday, April 14th, 2008

BBC NEWS

A halo around the sun startled people in Ethiopia during Sunday’s local elections, with many seeing it as a miracle or a sign from God.

The ring of light caused by sunlight refracted by ice crystals hung in the sky for almost an hour before it finally faded and disappeared.

Some Ethiopians say it last appeared in 1991 before a military regime fell.

But the BBC’s Elizabeth Blunt in Addis Ababa says there is little chance it could augur change this time.

She says the overwhelming majority of candidates are from the government party.

Churchgoers who had flocked to see the visiting Patriarch of Alexandria, Pope Shenouda, acclaimed the phenomenon as a miracle, or at least a sign of a blessing from God.

Pope Shenouda himself believed it was a signal from above.

“We accept any sign from God to encourage us in our way,” he said, “and confirm that we are going right in our way.”

Abuna Paulos Ato Gebremedhin, the Patriarch of Ethiopia Woyanne cadre, added his voice to those who believe in signs from God.

“If God reveals himself from the sky,” he told a press conference, “we believers do not get surprised. We only rejoice and double our efforts to thank God. Thank you, God, for revealing a sign.”

Dictatorship

But others looked for more secular implications.

Older people in Addis Ababa remember seeing the ring around the sun once before – in the last days of the Derg, the despised military dictatorship, just before its leader Mengistu Haile Mariam fled to Zimbabwe.

But there is little prospect of the government falling in these elections.

The opposition winners of the controversial elections in 2005 in urban areas never took their seats and did not stand again.

The most successful of the other opposition parties pulled out, complaining of intimidation and our correspondent says the results are almost certain to consolidate the ruling party’s hold on power.

Results have not been published yet but an election official said turnout had been massive.

'Ethiopians for Obama' launch a web site

Monday, April 14th, 2008

PRESS RELEASE: Ethiopians for Obama

We have set up a new website where Ethiopian-Americans can go to a central location to find out about events that we are planning, efforts that you can take part in, and also learn a bit about your fellow Ethiopian-American compatriots.

ethiopiansforbarackobama.com has four main areas:

* The main story: The main story is the event that is planned that you can take part in. If you are wondering what event is planned, whether its a volunteer effort, a fundraising drive, or a phone banking effort, you can go to ethiopiansforbarackobama.com and find out about any event that is in the works. The main story can also be a story that is relevant to the Ethiopian-American community from a political or a socio-economic perspective

* Fund-raising goal: People have mentioned in the past that the link to our group fundraising goal did not work. That issue has been resolved. As of now, we have raised $105.00 as a group. Our goal is to raise $10,000 on line between now and the end of May. Whether you want to contribute $10.00 a month or $50.00 once, you can do so by going to the donation link at ethiopiansforbarackobama.com

* Person of the Week: Each week, a person of the week will be highlighted to show that person’s efforts to elect Senator Obama our next president as well as a bio about him/her. This week’s person of the week is Samuel Getachew. Find out his story at ethiopiansforbarackobama.com Additionally, if you would like to tell your story and why you are inspired by Barack Obama, please submit a brief bio and why you support Senator Obama–along with a picture–to theodorefikre@yahoo.com

* Hot of the Press: You will find relevant campaign information about the political process at the right side of the website. This section is updated on an hourly basis, so you will be able to find out about breaking news, news about Barack Obama, HIllary Clinton, or John McCain

* Comments: You can leave your comments at the bottom of each main story. You also have an option of forwarding the news stories to others.

As Ethiopian-Americans, it is incumbent upon us to get involved in our democratic process. Debating political issues is not enough; without voting, we will remain an inaudible noise in the land of many voices. We sacrificed to become United States citizens, we have to do our part by voting and taking part in the beautiful democracy of our country.

Public meeting with Berhanu Nega in Toronto, April 19

Monday, April 14th, 2008

Dr Berhanu Nega will discuss the current situation in Ethiopia with Ethiopians in Toronto on April 19, 2008.
Place: 40 Donald Ave., Toronto
Time: 2:00 PM
More info: 416 422 2962

Rights group says it is 'too late to salvage' upcoming Ethiopian elections

Monday, April 14th, 2008

The Associated Press

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: A human rights group said Friday that attacks on opposition candidates in Ethiopia had doomed hopes for fair elections this month and it was now “too late to salvage” the vote.

Human Rights Watch said it found that candidates and prospective voters had been threatened, attacked and arrested in the lead-up to the elections. Ethiopia will hold local, regional and some federal elections on April 13 and 20. The main opposition party said this week it will boycott the polls.

“It is too late to salvage these elections, which will simply be a rubber stamp on the (the ruling party’s) near-monopoly on power at the local level,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Still, officials must at least allow the voters to decide how and whether to cast their ballots without intimidation.”

Findings from a two-week field study by the group in western Ethiopia support allegations made by the main opposition party, which says that 14,000 of its candidates have been forced to drop out of the race in western and southern Ethiopia because of intimidation, arrest and attempted murder.

Another opposition group says around 3,000 of its candidates have also had to drop out in similar circumstances.

The main opposition party announced Thursday it would boycott the elections. Opposition leader Bulcha Demeksa told The Associated Press that democracy has gotten worse since a 1991 coup brought Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to power.

“Democracy in Ethiopia is stillborn. It is not active now,” he said.

Officials from the National Election Board of Ethiopia denied allegations of irregularities, saying reports of threats and intimidation could not be proven.

“We have a vision as a board, and this vision is to see a valid democratic order in our country,” said deputy board chairman Addisu Gebreigzabhier.

Ethiopians will go to the polls over the next two Sundays, choosing among 4.5 million candidates for about 4 million seats at the local, regional and federal level. Nearly every open seat has a candidate from the ruling party, election officials said.

Election officials say there are 26 million registered voters, about a third of Ethiopia’s estimated population of 80 million.

Ethiopia has struggled with free elections and human rights issues in the past. In 2005, police shot 193 protesters in the aftermath of a hotly contested general election that was condemned for its irregularities by international observers. Zenawi, who was re-elected for his third five-year term, said he believed police were too forceful in controlling protesters but maintains the results were valid.

The gold brick scam: conning the conman

Monday, April 14th, 2008

By Yilma bekele

The news regarding the Gold brick scam from Ethiopia is both comical and sad. It is not desirable to be held up for shame and ridicule by the whole freaking planet. It is just another insult to our fragile ego. Go ahead and pile it on. Can we do something right for a change? The only positive news coming out of our homeland is ‘Lucy’. That does not count. It is just too old. In a two weeks time span the UN declared over 9 million Ethiopians are in need of food aid, there is going to be a power shortage for the next 3 months or more, there is water shortage, we are facing grain and beef shortage, the invasion of Somalia is turning ugly, inflation is hitting double digits and the repression is hitting a brick wall of indifference. Nation gone wild!

When you think you have seen it all, out of the blue the minority regime strikes again. The latest incident is humiliating to the maximum. Apparently the TPLF cadre led Régime ruling over Ethiopia has found itself to be at the other end of its natural state. It had been in the giving end up until now. This time TPLF was the receiver. Therefore condolences are in order. In 2006 and 2007 the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) bought 529 KG of gold from some dummy company and transferred $200,000,000.00 Bir (two point two million USD) into the scammers account in Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, which was transferred to a foreign account legally. Unfortunate for NBE out of the 529 KG only 30 KG was gold the rest being lead!

After you get over your initial shock you start to ask. How did this happen? It is conceivable that individuals are sometimes victims of con artists. But how in the world do you con a government? According to Wiki ‘Confidence tricksters often rely on the greed and dishonesty of the mark, who may attempt to out-cheat the con artist, only to discover that he or she has been manipulated into losing from the very beginning. This is such a general principle in confidence tricks that there is a saying among con men that “you can’t cheat an honest man.

It makes sense. Greed and dishonesty are the hallmark of TPLF administration. In today’s Ethiopia there is no rule of law and there is no place for honesty and service. Life has become one big scam. As the Nation became one big killing field during the Derg era, scam and con are a national virtue these days. The gap between the haves and the have not is very wide. The rich have an appetite that cannot be satisfied. The poor have lost all faith. The government is orchestrating all this with zeal.

There is a price tag on everything. Think of Ikea on a national scale. Everything has a price, and anything is possible. Woyane started by handing our Port to a two-bit dictator as a payment for cadre training. Since then fixing a price tag on Ethiopia has become routine. Even our National Army is for hire (Darfur & Somalia). Our daughters are for rent to Arab degenerates. There is nothing sacred anymore. Even the Abuna is a fan of Beyonce and some hip-hop group from the US was the headline performer during Woyane/Sheik Millennium celebration. Lord has mercy.

A one million Bir house is no big deal; a cow costs five thousand Bir, sheep is three hundred and Chicken is bargain at one hundred fifty. A working class lunch is four Bir while the unemployment is over 40% among the youth, a kilo of coffee goes for 40 Bir, butter costs 75 a kilo and berbere will set you back 90 Bir per kilo. With inflation nearing 40% life is a constant struggle.

Conning their ferenji benefactors is a full time job with the TPLF (ferenji is not fooled, it serves its interest). The Ethiopian people are immune to this. They know their TPLF is one uncultured, uncouth wanna be dictator which should be kept at arms length if at all possible. The less you deal with them the better of you are. Last time the TPLF tried conning the people was the general election of 2005. Oh yes the people said, hold an election and of course we will be there for you. Stupid Woyane bought this. Illiterate peasants out coned them. They were forced to reveal their ugly side. Even their loudest supporters were shamed into silence.

The ‘Diaspora’ is the only victim of Woyane con. Greed is its undoing. Woyane dangles the gift of free land for lease and a very low cost as a come on. Once the initial deposit is made and ‘service quarters’ built the real con starts. Cost overruns, material shortage and inflation doubling the cost of construction is normal. And after all this hurdles are overcome then starts the real problem. A monster of a house with shoddy and sub-par construction using inferior material is ready and waiting. Not so fast my dear ‘Diaspora’ we have this little situation of no water and no electricity here. Of course we are an emerging democracy, you just have to be patience with us, could we have the property tax please, dollars will be fine and please use Wogagen Bank.

So, when I came across the Gold brick scam I did not know what to make of it. On one hand it was a national treasure being looted. On the other hand Woyane has been doing that for the last seventeen years so what is new? And when you consider the very cheap nature of the ruling class the whole thing feels like a setup. It could be a new way of scamming the ferenji for a few more dollars.

No matter, I would love to believe TPLF has been had. Due to the culture of greed and dishonesty they planted and nurtured, even the national treasure is fair game. It is a shame everyone talks as if it is Woyane’s gold. Well sort of true since NBE and everything else flows outward from the Prime Minster’s office. In Ethiopia micro management is taken to an insane level. One head is better than two is the guiding principle. The NBE director reports directly to the PM. The PM is ultimately responsible for the actions of NBE. Is this a leadership failure or not? In most Parliamentary Democracies the leader of the party is accountable to such colossal disaster. As they say in any system based on accountability, heads will roll. The only head rolling in Ethiopia is some hapless low-level operators left as sacrificial lamb.

TPLF is shell-shocked. They are discussing which enemy to pin it on. Is it the Opposition or Shabia, OLF or the Diaspora? They can always blame it on one of their inner circle that is in disfavor. My advice to TPLF is get used to it. We are entering an un-chartered territory now. With the Somali invasion a disaster, hyperinflation around the corner, HR2003 marching forward the balance is shifting. We saw Kenya. Zimbabwe is another lesson in the making. We are sure of one thing. The last days are always full of drama. Get used to being on the receiving end my dear Woyane.
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The writer can be reached at yilma@pacbell.net

Even Djibiout is deporting Ethiopian immigrants

Monday, April 14th, 2008

What a shame. We as a society are rotting alive.

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Djibouti cracks down on illegal immigrants

DJIBOUTI (Reuters) – Djibouti has arrested and repatriated nearly 7,000 immigrants this year, mostly Somalis and Ethiopians, in a crackdown on illegal migration to the Red Sea state, police said on Friday.

Thousands of people in the impoverished Horn of Africa risk death every year trying to cross the shark-invested Red Sea in rickety boats from Djibouti to Yemen, seen as a gateway to wealthier parts of the Middle East and Europe.

Djibouti is one of the closest African countries to Yemen, and is safer than lawless Somalia for migrants from landlocked Ethiopia and the northern parts of Somalia.

“This period is the season to pass through the border because it is the cooler November-to-May season. Otherwise in the summer many immigrants die in the desert from thirst,” Police Lieutenant Abdourahim Ali told Reuters.

The police said 6,723 immigrants mainly from Ethiopia and Somalia have been arrested and sent home this year. Djibouti caught and repatriated 16,091 people in 2007, and 12,579 in 2006.

Earlier this month, at least 53 Somalis drowned off the coast of Yemen while trying to cross from Somalia to the Arabian peninsula.

Near-daily violence in southern Somalia from an Islamist-led insurgency against the Somali government and its Ethiopian allies has displaced hundreds of thousands.

Djiboutian police said a recent surge in violence in Mogadishu had caused increased numbers of would-be migrants to come into Djibouti.

(Reporting by Omar Hassan; Writing by Jack Kimball; Editing by Bryson Hull and Caroline Drees)

Woyanne chigarams beg for $67 million to buy food

Monday, April 14th, 2008

The chigaram (beggar) regime in Ethiopia and its poverty-monger partners request $67.7 million for food. Is the money really to buy food? Didn’t Meles last week say his agricultural policy has been successful?

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Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

NEW YORK — The Ethiopian government and its humanitarian partners yesterday announced that a total of $67,737,459 is required to fund the country’s humanitarian response to the effects of the prevailing drought.

An estimated 2.2 million people are in need of emergency food assistance following inadequate rainfall in some parts of the country during the 2007 meher rainy season, which runs from June to October. In addition, about 947,000 vulnerable people will continue to receive assistance under the country’s Productive Safety Nets Programme – a relief-to-development project initiated by the government in 2005 in an attempt to end dependency on food aid.

Most of those affected by the effects of the dry weather conditions live in the Somali, the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s State (SNNP), Tigray and Oromia Regions.

‘Conditions in Ethiopia have improved since the beginning of the year. Nevertheless humanitarian situations of various kinds remain of great concern to all of us,’ said Vincent Lelei, head of OCHA, Ethiopia, speaking in Addis Ababa the launch of the Joint Government and Humanitarian Partners’ 2008 Humanitarian Requirement Plan.

‘The continued collaboration by all humanitarian actors in Ethiopia for the benefit of the most vulnerable in the country is highly appreciated, and we look forward to strengthening this collaboration,’ Mr. Lelei added.

The total food aid requirement for those in need is estimated at about 171,646 metric tonnes. Particular attention will also be paid to health and nutrition, water and sanitation, and agriculture to help address the adverse impact of the drought.

Drought in the Horn of Africa is also expected to lead to reduced crop harvests Djibouti, Eritrea, Djibouti, northern parts of Kenya and south-central Somalia.

For further information, please call:
Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 917 892 1679;
John Nyaga, OCHA-NY, + 1 917 367 9262;
Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, +41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570.
OCHA press releases are available at http://ochaonline.un.org or www.reliefweb.int.

Contemporary African artists respond to social injustice

Monday, April 14th, 2008

By JODY FEINBERG, The Patriot Ledger

From a distance, the white bed is inviting, with its turned-down covers sprinkled with flower petals. Look closer, though, and you see that South African artist Ilona Anderson has embroidered the pillow case with a gun and floral holster and even pierced one with a bullet hole.

The intrusion of violence into daily life is a theme that connects the works in the exhibit”Reflections in Exile: Five Contemporary African Artists Respond to Social Injustice,” which runs through May 11 at South Shore Art Center in Cohasset.

“This very common domestic object juxtaposes life and death and recalls the high level of violence in South African society,” said co-curator Edmund Barry Gaither of Anderson’s “Forced Removal.” “In every society that has been repressed, there is violence.”

The show also features painting, installation art, graphic design and video by Khalid Kodi of Sudan, Chaz Maviyane-Davies of Zimbabwe and Salem Mekuria and Ezra Wube, both of Ethiopia. In each work of art, the artists are responding to the poverty, displacement, political repression, fighting and, in the worst cases, rape and genocide of people in their homelands.

“The artists humanize these places,” said Abington artist Candice Smith Corby, who is co-curator of the exhibit.

“We hear horrible stories, but they seem abstract. When you see the art, you have an experience that links you to the actual place.”

By using universal objects like the bed and clothing, the artists seem to emphasize the connection between the viewer and the victims.

In “Violence Inscribed,” Khalid Kodi, an internationally known artist from Sudan, turns an ordinary clothesline strung with crusty, dirty clothes into an image of the torture and murder of his countrymen and women. Behind a torn colorful woman’s dress and a child’s T-shirt hangs an undamaged patterned shawl, an image of the vibrancy that has been lost.

On the wall commentary, Kodi wrote, “Violence and sadness are etched onto these garments forever. Will life ever be the same again? … For violence has been inscribed into our collective consciousness and memory.”

The installment is dedicated to a woman from Darfur whose six children were killed by the Janjawid militias.

Chaz Maviyane-Davies, a professor of design at Massachusetts College of Art who left Zimbabwe eight years ago, has created a series of ink jet print bold posters that are overtly political. The abuse of power is expressed by a military jacket festooned with medals of tiny skulls in “Medals of Dishonor.” In “Our Fear,” intense eyes look out beneath a red beret emblazoned with two guns. The black text reads: “Use your vote and be counted. Our fear is their best weapon.”

“They’re alarming images and you can’t deny what he’s trying to say,” said Corby, who also directs the Cushing-Martin Gallery at Stonehill College.

“Any time you use a human face it’s like looking into a mirror. He’s urging you to take a stand. The artists can’t sit quietly and let these things happen without people finding out about them.”

In his oil painting “Exodus,” Ezra Wube depicts masses of people moving back and forth, facing in different directions, as though they are searching for safety. Wube, who came from Ethiopia to study at Mass College of Art, paints with warm reds, oranges and golds and conveys a vitality and beauty despite the suffering.

Filmmaker Salem Mekuria of Ethiopia presents “Ruptures: A Many Sided Story” as a triptych, a reference to the Ethiopian Orthodox religion. Through old footage and recent images that run simultaneously on three screens, you sense the complexity of history and society in Ethiopia. After escaping colonialism, Ethiopia experienced the overthrow of an emperor, famine, imposition of a Marxist-Leninist state, and war with a separatist movement.

“There’s an endless variety of themes. … It’s a comment on urbanization in every big capital in the developing world,” said Gaither, who also is director of The Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists in Boston, where the exhibit will run June 1 to July 27.

In Mekuria’s most recent images, women dig through clothing in a mass grave, looking for their disappeared loved ones, and women dig again through a massive dump, looking for anything to sell or eat. A single woman, with her face turned away from the camera, talks about the devastation and shame of AIDS; another woman speaks of looking for her murdered son. “Ruptures’ is a portrait that is both intimate and disturbing.

An associate professor of art at Wellesley College who has received many fellowships and awards, Mekuria returns to Ethiopia twice a year to continue documenting the lives of fellow Ethiopians.

“I don’t want to tell people what to think,” she said. “I present images so that they will respond and want to find out more.”

Reflections in Exile: Five Contemporary African Artists Respond to Social Injustice at the South Shore Art Center, 119 Ripley Road, Cohasset, through May 11. Admission is free. Artists will participate in a free panel discussion at 2 p.m. April 13. For information, call 781-383-2787 or go to www.ssac.org.

18 Ethiopians and Somalis drown off Yemen coast

Monday, April 14th, 2008

These Ethiopians and Somalis perished trying to escape the hell created by Woyanne in their countries.

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(DPA) Sana’a, Yemen – Eighteen African migrants died after smugglers forced them to jump off a boat at gunpoint Saturday as they neared the end of a trip across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia to Yemen, Yemeni officials said.

The officials told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) that the boat was carrying 120 refuge-seekers, most of them Somalis, and that 102 of them managed to swim to the coast of Ahwar in the southern Yemen province of Abyan.

A local official in Abyan, some 450 kilometres from Sana’a, said the survivors were 82 Somalis and 20 Ethiopians.

A breakdown for the nationalities of the dead was not available, he said.

The official, who requested anonymity, said local fishermen in the area rescued the survivors and recovered the bodies of the dead.

“Bodies of the victims are being buried by locals in the Malha area of Ahwar district,” he said.

'Loyal' opposition alleges intimidation at polls

Monday, April 14th, 2008

By Barry Malone and Tsegaye Tadesse

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s [fake] opposition accused the government Woyanne of intimidation on Sunday as voters went to the polls for the first time since deadly post-election protests three years ago.

State radio said voters lined up peacefully from dawn to cast ballots. Prime Minister Dictator Meles Zenawi’s government is expecting a big win, having fielded 4 million candidates for some 3.8 million local council and parliamentary seats on offer.

All Ethiopia’s 32 opposition parties fools combined managed only to put forward a few thousand hopefuls.

Bulcha Demeksa, leader of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDP), said most of his party’s candidates had been threatened and forced to pull out of the race.

“We could only run 2 percent of the 6,000 candidates we wanted to,” he said. “And there is a very low turnout today, there is no interest. This is very far from democracy.”

The biggest parliamentary opposition party, the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF), had already withdrawn its 20,000 candidates before election day, saying many had been prevented from registering by the authorities.

Meles’ special adviser, Bereket Simon, denied there had been any political intimidation or harassment.

“The opposition’s complaints have been investigated by the National Electoral Board and none of them were valid,” he said.

“Despite what happened in 2005, Ethiopians have shown a high commitment to the democratization process,” he told Reuters.

Demonstrators took to the streets after polls in May 2005 that the opposition alleged were rigged. A parliamentary inquiry said 199 civilians and police were killed and 30,000 people arrested. The government denied rigging the ballot.

This week, a report on the current polls by U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said its researchers noted “systemic patterns of repression and abuse that have rendered the elections meaningless in many areas”.

Election officials said 26 million people — about a third of Ethiopia’s 77 million population — were eligible to vote.

Casting her ballot in the capital Addis Ababa, 27-year-old secretary Senait Yoseph said she was voting for the government.

“This government is the best we have ever had for development,” she said. “We’ll have no more violence.”

But Eshetu Tsegaye, a 58-year-old shop owner sat smoking outside a school being used as a polling centre, said he would not be venturing inside.

“I don’t support the government and we have no real opposition running this year,” he said. “Who can I vote for?”

(Editing by Daniel Wallis and Mary Gabriel)

Insurgents ambush Woyanne troops in central Somalia

Monday, April 14th, 2008

BELETWEIN, Somalia Apr 13 (Garowe Online) – Heavily armed insurgent fighters ambushed an Ethiopian a Woyanne army convoy as it drove its way through central Somalia Sunday, sparking a 30-minute gunfight, sources said.

Local sources in Halgan village in the central region of Hiran reported that rebels loyal to the Islamic Courts launched a surprise attack on Ethiopian Woyanne troops, who left the provincial capital of Beletwein earlier Sunday.

The Ethiopian Woyanne army contingent was on its way to Bulo Burte, a town in Hiran region that fell to the control of Islamists last week.

It was very difficult to ascertain casualty numbers during’s today’s battle, but local sources reported that the fighting included a fierce infantry battle between the two sides.

An Islamist guerrilla commander who identified himself as Gagale contacted Garowe Online to confirm the battle, stating that the fighting had stopped by midday.

He claimed that the Ethiopian Woyanne soldiers suffered heavy casualties, although his claim could not be independently confirmed.

This is not the first time Ethiopian Woyanne troops have been attacked in Hiran region. Islamist guerrillas have raided two towns in Hiran over the past month and launched a deadly ambush against Hiran Governor Yusuf Daboged.

Somalia’s interim government, backed by Ethiopian Woyanne troops, is struggling to reassert central authority after more than 17 years of civil war.

The Islamists have vowed to continue their bloody insurgency until Ethiopian Woyanne troops are forced to withdraw from Somalia and Islamic rule is reinstituted as the law of the land.

Power politics trumps democracy in U.S.-backed Ethiopia

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

By Alex Stonehill and Sarah Stuteville
The Indypendent

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Dawn in the Merkato breaks over a tangle of streets jammed with shouting hawkers and towering pyramids of ripe produce from Ethiopia’s fertile countryside. Today it is a popular destination for sunburnt foreign tourists, expensive cameras poised to capture lively scenes from one of Africa’s largest open-air markets.

Few of them, unloading from tour buses today, know that less then three years ago these bustling streets were stained with the blood of murdered citizens who had flooded into the center of Ethiopia’s capital city to protest the contested re-election of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

“People were pissed off,” says Eskinder Nega, who was a columnist and publisher for several Ethiopian newspapers during the 2005 protests. “It was the first time we really had hope, and when the elections were stolen, people were angry. … It wasn’t planned — people just started pouring into the streets,” Nega said.

The government reaction was swift. According to Amnesty International, 187 civilians were killed during those demonstrations and thousands of others arrested.

Protesters, mostly young people and students, fell in the streets of the Merkato with bullets through their hearts and foreheads, a detail that led many to believe they were purposefully killed by specially trained military snipers, not regular riot police.

Ethiopian publications and journalists that covered these events, especially those that focused on mounting human rights abuses, didn’t escape the wrath of the government either. At least 14 journalists, editors and publishers were arrested and all private newspapers that criticized government actions during or after the elections were shut down.

When they first saw their photos on the news, Nega and his wife, Serkalem Fasil, went underground. They were in hiding for almost a month until the authorities finally caught up with them in the fall of 2005. For Fasil, who was one month pregnant at the time, it was her first trip to jail for journalism deemed seditious by the Ethiopian government. It would be Nega’s seventh.

THE TORTURE CHAMBER

The police were angry when they first captured the couple, explains Nega, sitting in an airy cafe in Addis Ababa nine months after their acquittal and release. Both of them were roughed up during their
capture.

Nega recalls even harsher treatment during previous stints as a political prisoner in Ethiopia. “I was in an isolation cell at that time. They came for me in the middle of the night,” Nega recalls, calmly explaining how one night he was blindfolded and dragged by his armpits into another room he can only refer to as the “torture chamber.” “They flip you over onto your back with your feet in the air, and then hit you on the bottom of your feet, and everywhere with an electrical cord. I couldn’t move for weeks afterward.”

Nega’s story echoes accounts of intimidation, arrests and beatings recounted by journalists in many parts of the world. Alarmingly, these accounts of iron-fisted censorship emerge not only from the notoriously repressive regimes that often make the news such as North Korea, Burma or Iran. Just as often they come from the political darlings of the United States’ foreign policy; places like Pakistan, Egypt and more recently Ethiopia.

The “War on Terror” has allowed U.S. leaders to re-introduce a Cold War-style paradigm, in which countries slip simply into the categories of democratic and undemocratic. But most of the world eludes these dogmatic categorizations — with many countries caught in a web of geopolitical forces and troubled histories manipulated by authoritarian leaders who are tolerated, if not supported by the “democratic world.”

These countries linger in the great swath of gray ignored by the black and white rhetoric of the “War on Terror”; leaders here are often seen as strategic to the Western world in ways that allow for a blurring of democratic expectations. A kind of collective squinting obscures some of the brutal realities that threaten to muddy the path on the way to larger strategic goals.

DEMOCRATIC DREAMS DASHED

“I want a democratic country for Ethiopia, I want to contribute to that. I am a child of the First Amendment,” says Nega, who spent his formative years in Washington, D.C., after his parents fled the communist Derg regime that ruled Ethiopia during the 1970s and 1980s.

When the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), led by current Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, drove out the Derg in 1991, Nega returned armed with democratic values he says he picked up in the United States, and began a career in journalism. But the end of communisim, it turned out, did not automatically signal the beginning of democracy.

“[Before the 2005 elections] we had press freedom not because the ruling party wanted it, but because we paid the sacrifice” says Nega, referencing his previous stints in prison as well as those served by scores of fellow Ethiopian journalists. Those who dared to ask for more from their government, using the press to push for reforms, representation and accountability, or even tried to amuse readers by poking fun of their leaders in political cartoons, would often receive a late-night visit from the police.

Over the course of seven years Faisal and Nega owned three different Amharic-language papers all of which were criticized for having an “anti-government bias” and later even inciting violence. Nega rebuffs these claims, saying their papers were independent, having no association with specific opposition parties, and that they attacked the government primarily for its human rights record, which he insists is a nonpartisan issue.

But any illusions Nega might have still held that his country was on a rocky but progressive march toward democracy were shattered after the 2005 elections.

With political alliances and development aid from Western countries on the rise, the Ethiopian government was under pressure to produce internationally-endorsed election results. Ninety percent of registered voters in the country showed up eagerly at the polls in May 2005 — but how they actually voted is still a matter of contention.

When early returns indicated a surprising amount of support for the opposition, the vote counting was disrupted and eventually the ruling party declared itself the victor. Angry voters responded in two waves of protests that shook Addis Ababa over the course of the next six months.

As the blood of protesters was spilled in the streets of Addis, and many of their colleagues were swept up in mass arrests, Nega and Fasil knew this wasn’t just another routine round of political intimidation.

They hid, watching their photographs flash on the government TV station as charges of genocide and high treason were leveled against them. In fear for their lives, they tried to flee to Kenya, but their location was given away before the proper travel plans could be made.

As horrified as Nega was with the actions of his own government, his disillusionment was only deepened by the reinforcement the EPRDF received from the leaders of a country he’d admired for so long. While the European Union decried widespread irregularities in the 2005 elections and condemned violence and arrests, The Carter Center (officially representing the United States) expressed concerns over alleged irregularities but supported the National Election Board’s declared results.

As Nega and Fasil sat in prison over the next 17 months, Ethiopia’s relationship with the United States was only strengthened. Today, a year after their release, the ties that bind the two governments are as strong as ever.

PROXY WAR IN SOMALIA

The rise of the “War on Terror” has turned a nation of 77 million people defined in the West by poverty and famine into a powerful military force strategically situated in the tumultuous Horn of Africa. While Ethiopia received only $928,00 in military aid from the United States from 1999 to 2001, it received $16.8 million in assistance from 2002 to 2004, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

When Islamist judges in neighboring Somalia emerged from a decade of warlord driven chaos as a unified force in the summer of 2006, the United States and Ethiopia found themselves with a common enemy.

For the United Sates, still smarting from its military misadventure in Somalia in 1993, the idea of an Islamist government in the Horn of Africa, and a possible safe haven for terrorists, was unacceptable. For Ethiopia, looking to solidify its regional hegemony, and already battling an insurgency by its own Somali population in the Ogaden region, the reunification of Somalia under the banner of Islam was equally unpalatable.

Even with alleged support from Egypt, Eritrea and foreign Islamist fighters, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) government was easily driven out of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, within a matter of weeks by thousands of Ethiopian troops trained and supported by the U.S. military to an extent that neither government has disclosed to date. But in the year since, Ethiopia’s military dominance has proven susceptible to guerilla tactics in the same way American forces have in Iraq, and a continuing series of suicide bombings and insurgent attacks have led Mogadishu to be dubbed “Baghdad by the sea.”

Meanwhile, Ethiopian troops have also had their hands full on the other side of the border in the Somali region of their own country. Last April rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front attacked Chinese oil workers who were doing exploratory drilling in the region. In the ensuing military crackdown, Ethiopian forces have been accused of war crimes, including killing and raping civilians and burning villages thought to sympathize with the rebels.

But on the streets of Addis, it’s hard to imagine you’re in a country in the midst of two wars (and possibly on the verge of a third with neighboring Eritrea). Since the crackdown in 2005, the independent press has all but disappeared. The private newspapers that are left are careful to vet news of Ethiopia’s engagements in Somalia or Ogaden. Expatriate websites are blocked on the government controlled Internet server, so they can’t be accessed from inside the country without use of proxy servers.

A COUNTRY GRIPPED BY FEAR

But if Prime Minister Zenawi has been able to hide the realities of Ethiopia’s military entanglements, there is no mistaking that his is a country gripped by fear. In Addis Ababa, politics are spoken of in whispers, and many Ethiopians say they’d prefer to abstain from the topic entirely, at least for now.

Most attempts to engage Ethiopians in political conversations are rebuffed. The few willing to talk, such as a taxi driver who had been arrested during the 2005 protests or a young businessman trying to make enough money to start a family, did so only on repeated promises of complete anonymity.

Even once anonymity was guaranteed, their trepidation was palpable. In one case a young man reached for this reporter’s camera with shaking hands asking for reassurance that his picture had not been taken.

One of the elements most confounding to reporting on, or even just talking about, political issues in Ethiopia is determining how far the government’s reach really is into the private lives of citizens who disagree with its actions.

It’s unlikely that the government actually has the capacity to check up on random dissenting opinions, but, regardless, the effect is the same. Images of students shot dead in the streets and mass arrests have stifled political opposition in the population.

As one frustrated citizen admitted, “I don’t care for politics, politics is for only a few people in Ethiopia; 98 or 99 percent don’t have any say, so why should I extend my hand to politics?”

For Nega’s part, he says he still believes the United States could become a positive force in democratizing Ethiopia, and his unwavering faith in the democratic process strengthens his conclusion that he will see the pendulum swing back from the Bush administration’s hard-line “War on Terror” policies.

Still, he comes across as calmly disappointed with the political maneuvering that resulted in the double betrayal of being imprisoned by the country of his birth and overlooked by the country that nurtured his belief in democracy.

“The U.S. policy is a calculated complicity with tyranny because of the ‘War on Terror,’” he says. “Nothing matters except for the war. The democratic cause here is expendable.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa claims that the U.S. government is advocating press freedoms in Ethiopia through “ongoing human rights discussions with senior leaders.”

In the meantime Nega remains hopeful and sees signs that suggest the tide may be turning in America’s policy toward Ethiopia. A resolution calling for limited sanctions on Ethiopian officials involved in the 2005 killings has passed through the House, and is now under debate in the Senate.

Nega and Fasil’s tenacity stand in stark contrast to the disillusionment that hangs in the cool air of Addis Ababa. Following their eventual release from prison, they filed for a license to start two new papers, which was rejected by the government. Other Ethiopian newspapers won’t risk publishing their work. Fasil’s baby was born in jail in the summer of 2006, and their blacklisting has forced them to support the family on savings, as they refuse to be forced into exile.

To hear Nega tell it, speaking loudly in a café on Addis’ busy Bole Road, the struggle may be difficult, but the goal is inevitable: The people of Ethiopia will eventually win their freedom.

“Democracy is the destiny of all humans,” he smiles “That’s why I’m still here.”

Funding for this article provided by the Pulitzer Center On Crisis Reporting, (pulitzercenter.org).

Photo by Alex Stonehill

Escape routes from the dechasa trap

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

By Mulumebet Asfaw

It was extremely gratifying for me to stir a lot of controversy with my last article on dechasa (welfare) addiction and its consequences. The issue at stake, being a thorny one that pricked the sensitivities of many especially those who have been deliberately caught by the benefit trap indefinitely, all the uproar and furore was understandable. As far as I am concerned, I have achieved my goal and set the agenda for sincere discussion on such an issue which has long been consigned as a taboo that nobody dares to talk about.

Let me make it clear from the outset once again that my criticism is by no means directed towards those who legitimately claim benefits as a result of some misfortunes. My criticism has targeted only those who have been deliberately avoiding opportunities so that they would stay on welfare for the rest of their lives without contributing anything valuable to make a real difference to themselves and others. Throughout this article, it must be noted that I have used the quantifier “some” to avoid the risk of making gross generalizations.

I have heard so many great sermons and moral teachings in Ethiopian churches in the Diaspora but I have never heard a preacher challenging the moral decadence attributable to welfare swindling, the resultant lack of work ethics, loss of direction and the distorted purpose of living in exile seeking a “better” life. If someone from your church catches you eating chicken on a Friday, your sin quickly becomes the talk of the whole congregation, some of whom even dare to share their benefit swindling techniques to others including conning benefit officers into believing that they are disabled or mentally retarded so that they would be guaranteed a place on the benefit system for life. Unfortunately, there are some who feel that their pathetic way of existence is a badge of honour to brag about. Surprisingly there are even those who earnestly believe that God is helping them in their dubious endeavours despite the widely known biblical adage which goes like: “He who doesn’t work does not eat.”

In spite of the fact that some supported my initiative to bring up the issue, there were equally resentful and suspicious views. Some even thought that I might be a Weyane cadre who is out to destroy the reputation of my fellow countrymen who are tactfully stuck in the welfare system. As a matter of fact, those who concocted such a conspiracy theory didn’t know the fact that I hold Weyane cadres and spies who are also artful benefit swindles with utmost contempt. This is because of the fact that they are the ones who are bankrolling the Meles regime with their money laundering businesses that stretch from Europe to North America. They spy on innocent Ethiopians, get paid by Weyane, drive their minibuses and run their businesses and yet you find them living rent free and claiming all sorts of benefits as expert freeloaders and free riders. Some of them are children and close relatives of high ranking officials of the Meles regime and its business associates who bogus refugees milking the nation at the detriment of the hunger stricken people of Ethiopia. Even Meles Zenawi’s London-based relatives, including his sister, are said to be expert benefit swindlers in spite of the fact that their man has been robbing Ethiopia for nearly three decades, as leader of a criminal ethnic syndicate called the Tigray Peope’s Liberation Front. This very ethnic front is an expert welfare cheat as it created a repressive kleptocracy propped up with foreign aid as the whole aid economy, which is said to grow by tenfold every year, survives on beggary.

Contrary to the suspicions of the conspiracy theorists who have gone as further as theorizing that I was motivated by envy, God knows what for, the main reason why I ventured out to speak loudly against deliberate welfare cheating is due to its long term impact among Ethiopians who have lost their sense of pride, purpose, direction and self-confidence. Let us assume that Ethiopia is liberated and the Diaspora is needed to reconstruct Ethiopia. Can the large army of benefit swindlers who have preferred to dodge work and education contribute anything valuable with their corrupt experience? Doubtful!

Before wading deeper into murky waters, let me praise those who have changed their lives through hard work and determination. Unlike the artful dodgers, there are a large number of Ethiopians who have started from the bottom to fulfil their dreams and made their way up the ladder of success. These are the kind of Ethiopians that can take home their valuable skills, experience and know-how to build a new Ethiopia that we will all be proud to call a country. They are well prepared to be trusted and make a difference as they know the value of independence that must be earned through hard work.

Though it is undeniable that immigrants face discrimination, compared to the natives, it cannot be a justification to swindle benefits forever as a way of tackling adversities. For the majority of able bodied Ethiopians caught up deliberately in the welfare system, there are some simple escape routes that can help many get out of the terrible dependency syndrome and declare independence as well as dignity.

Right attitude

Many Ethiopians in exile suffer from attitudinal problems that they imported from our backward culture. The worst attitudinal problem is lack of respect for all kinds of work. It is a shame for some Ethiopians to be seen in public doing blue collar and less privileged jobs. But these compatriots never feel ashamed to live at the expense others. There are even those who choose jobs without having the necessary skills and qualifications to their dream jobs. How can they fulfil their dreams without studying and working as hard as they possibly can?

Another misconception widely held among benefit cheats is that they feel certain that they would remain better off on welfare benefits than working legally, pay bills and taxes. To some extent that may be true, but this can go wrong in the long term. This is due to the fact that those who do not get qualifications and job experience become more and more marginalized from mainstream society. That would in turn make them disadvantaged as they cannot compete well in the job market without work experience and qualifications. So having the right attitude is the first step to escape from the welfare trap that kills the inner energy of any able bodied fellow Ethiopians who have deliberately surrendered their self-confidence to dependency syndrome.

It is ridiculous to see some Ethiopians engaged in hard fought fashion, furniture and car shows as well as wedding and birthday extravaganza while they are intently trapped in the welfare system, the prerequisite of which is supposed to be their claims of being poor and dispossessed.

Self-belief

As mentioned above, self-belief and self-confidence cannot be guaranteed when people adopt a self-defeatist attitude. Those who have lost their self-belief never believe that they have untapped potential that must be unlocked to their own good and the society at large. Therefore, self-confidence is an important asset that should not be compromised and sold out to welfare dependency that saps out one’s self-beliefs and inner strength.

Hard work

From Japan to Taiwan, from Singapore to Israel, from America to Europe, there is one dominant factor that has created a wider gap between affluent and poor nations. The level of hard work in the most affluent nations is incredible. While some of us spend hours making rounds of coffee smelling aromatic smokes of incense and backbiting our neighbours and friends, there are many around the world that have their coffee rushing to work or inventing something new. One can imagine how anyone with a lot of time to waste loses out because they are on welfare benefits with no significant experience and skills. Can they truly believe in hard work even if they work in the black labour market without securing their rights and dignity? The answer is a resounding no as such a belief entails the drive for success and the sweetness of honest gains.

Education

It would be stating the obvious to declare that education is a key to unlock our potentials. That being a universally accepted fact every society invests heavily on education. Every able bodied Ethiopian who lives in the Diaspora must aspire to get a qualification and skills. Those who are unable to be successful academically can do vocational qualifications. Professionals qualified in vocational skills like plumbing, electrical installations, vehicle maintenance, beauty therapy, hairdressing, social care, child care etc. are high in demand in many countries. The majority of Ethiopians who have completed secondary schools are able to gain vocational qualifications provided they have the determination to succeed. Why is it that some have never been to schools and colleges in their countries of refuge while they have been sitting comfortably on welfare? Can they legitimately complain about discrimination and other forms of disadvantages? Not at all!

Language

For the majority of Ethiopians language is a barrier that holds them back from being successful in exile. Those who live in Anglophone countries, like the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, have a relative advantage. But one should not discount the fact that in the majority of schools in Ethiopia, English is not taught properly. The majority of students, who even graduate from universities, may not have conversed in English until they “finish” their studies even if the medium of instruction in post-primary schools is said to be English. It is therefore imperative to learn languages seriously so as to integrate and succeed in foreign countries. There are some Ethiopians who think that it much better to speak in broken English and miscommunicate with native speakers rather than being seen around language schools.

Morality

The bases of morality, whether religious or not, are values and actions which have been widely accepted and endorsed as rightful and righteous. Being on welfare benefits with intent to cheat cannot be accepted as righteous by any moral or legal standards. Unless those who have been intently swindling benefits are making efforts to rectify their mistakes by working harder and earning their living in stead of being dependent on those who work hard and pay taxes, they find no moral excuse to challenge a burglar or a pickpocket. This may appear outrageous but the burglar or the pickpocket may also say it is difficult to work hard, pay tax and bills. “Why can’t I seek a shortcut to get better off?”

Success comes with pain

Unless one wins a lottery or inherits wealth that someone else has made, prospering in the right way has always been difficult. As the saying goes, success usually comes with pain. In stead of fending off criticism against welfare cheats and swindlers, we have to convince ourselves and children that working hard is the most important escape route from dependency and despondency, not only in exile but also back home where the regime seems to be helplessly addicted to foreign aid. If such a comment appears to be offensive, let it be. After all this is a legitimate discussion based on legitimate observation.

As a final note, I would like to conclude by calling on my fellow Ethiopians to continue the debate. I firmly believe that we need to have honest discussions on many thorny issues. I rest my case on welfare swindling and make a promise to come back with another upfront comment on some thorny issues. In the meantime, so long!
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The writer can be reached at mulumebet@googlemail.com

Music Video: YeHarer Konjo

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

Ruling party headed for election sweep (VOA)

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

By Peter Heinlein, VOA

Listen (MP3) audio clip

Ethiopia’s ruling party [Woyanne] appears headed for a massive victory in local and parliamentary by-elections being held across the country over the next two Sundays. VOA’s Peter Heinlein in Addis Ababa reports the opposition is crying foul, and the largest opposition party is boycotting.

Days before the voting is set to begin, the main opposition United Ethiopian Democratic Force (UEDF) said it was withdrawing, and urged voters to stay away from the polls. That sets the stage for the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) to win big majorities on local councils, giving them significant influence in crucial parliamentary elections two years from now.

In a VOA interview, UEDF Party chairman Beyene Petros said his party decided to boycott after determining the vote was rigged in the ruling party’s favor.

“This is not an election,” he said. “This is a farce drama. OK, if it is an election, democratic multi-party election, who are they competing against?”

Beyene says the ruling EPRDF has registered nearly four million candidates for local councils, while the electoral board disqualified the vast majority of opposition candidates. He says the disqualifications create the conditions for establishment of one-party rule in Ethiopia.

“This is a single party dominant system,” he added. “That’s what they want to put in place. We have to struggle to change the system along the way, but this time around, let them have it alone.”

The head of the EPRDF Organization and Political Bureau, Bereket Simon, scoffed at the idea that there is any attempt to rig the elections, or to intimidate the opposition. Bereket told VOA the electoral board had registered everyone who had come with the proper credentials. He said the failure of some opposition parties to register candidates was an indication of what he called ‘an unhealthy attitude’ toward the local election process.

Another senior opposition figure Bulcha Demeksa, leader of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement, said his party had decided to stay in the election, but only because dropping out would fuel separatist forces in Ethiopia’s heavily-populated Oromo region. He says opposition parties are facing extinction in the face of a determined ruling party onslaught.

“I also see opposition is going to maybe die at the end,” he said. “I cannot see how opposition parties can survive with this extremely determined strike by the government and the National Election Board. They cannot survive. No funds. They are completely surrounded by extremely anti-democratic forces.”

Bulcha charged that Ethiopian democracy had taken many steps backward since 2005, when 200 people, mostly opposition activists, were killed in post-election clashes with security forces. Tens of thousands of others were jailed.

Ruling party chief Bereket called the allegation ‘baseless’, and said it is unfortunate that Beyene Petros’s UEDF is boycotting this month’s vote.

Human Rights Watch, however, said Ethiopian government repression of the opposition had largely prevented political competition. The U.S.-based rights group issued a statement Friday saying it is too late to salvage the elections, which it called a “rubber stamp on the EPRDF’s near-monopoly on power at the local level.

An Ethiopian in Utah pleads guilty to illegal narcotic charges

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

By Geoffrey Fattah, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – The second of two Ethiopian refugees charged with conspiring to import more than 400 pounds of an exotic plant used as a drug has pleaded guilty to federal charges.

During a plea hearing on Thursday Sherif Kadir Sirage, also known as Sherif Sherif, pleaded guilty to conspiring to import a controlled substance into the United States.

Prosecutors claim Sirage and Patrick Bahati arranged to have 400 pounds of a plant called khat flown into Salt Lake City from Ethiopia. Khat is a flowering evergreen shrub that is chewed like tobacco in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It is considered a narcotic and is illegal in the United States as well as parts of Europe, East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The plant’s effect on the human body is similar to that of ephedra.

Sirage admitted that he and Bahati planned to sell the khat to people in the Salt Lake area who come from the Ethiopian region.

Last month, Bahati pleaded guilty to the same charge. Sirage is scheduled to be sentenced May 21.
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The writer can be reached at gfattah@desnews.com

The Ethiopian Jewish history is not a 'Romeo and Juliet'

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

By Assta B. Gettu

The Ethiopian Jewish history is not a romantic history like the history of Romeo and Juliet; it is a religious history – a divine message, a revelation from the Almighty God, who purposely brought these children of God from his earthly city – Jerusalem – to Ethiopia almost thousands years ago.

The Ethiopian Jewish history is a well known fact that one does not have to dig deeper to find out the validity of this glorious Ethiopian Jewish history. The history of Ethiopia is the history of the Ethiopian Jewish people. If someone wants to know more about the reality of the Ethiopian Jewish history, one must read the Ethiopian prayer books among many others; one cannot read these prayer books without coming across, many times, these sweet words: “Amlake-Israel” (the God of Israel); also, one should read especially “saatat” the hourly or nightly prayer of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and one can see how many times “the God of Israel” has been mentioned there.

The writer of the article — Digging deeper in Ethiopia for the Jewish story — was dumbfounded when he descried among the “dirty and time-eaten prayer books” a collection of shehita whom he thought that someone had unknowingly “checked in the shehita book” and shipped it to Ethiopia. Could the same thing also be said about the Ark of the Covenant that when King Solomon ordered thousands of Jews to accompany his first Son, Menelik I, to Ethiopia, some of these Jews who were in a hurry because the King’s order was urgent, unknowingly chucked in the Ark of the Covenant and brought it with them to Ethiopia? It is possible it could have happened this way instead of saying that they had stolen the Ark.

I don’t think, according to Anshel Pefeffen, 24 hours is enough to understand and comprehend the over thousands years of Jewish history in Ethiopia; it may take, instead of 24 hours, 24 years to cover this religious message. Of course, it would take less than 24 hours if it were a romantic message, but it is a religious message that can be examined and written by religious people – God’s people only – people inspired by the spirit of God because they are writing about the history of the holy people of the Holy God – the Ethiopian Jews.

One does not need an evidence to connect the Ethiopian Jews to the scattered and cursed branches of the white people of the Israeli Jews; rather, the scattered white Israeli Jews must find evidence that connects them to the true Ethiopian Jews; these white Israeli Jews are the ones who have been contaminated with the gentile world, but the Ethiopian Jews have never been defiled; God has kept them holy, undefiled, and sacred for himself in Ethiopia, a religious country, thanks to the Ethiopian Jews.

The Ethiopian Jews have always been the Ethiopian Jews; they are not a sect, as the author of the article assumes they are; they did not come out of Christianity; in fact, Christianity came out of their religion – Judaism. They have been a big religious Jewish organization with their Ark of the Covenant, the Bible, the Sabbath, and with all the Jewish rituals for thousands of years, and God kept them that way for his own divine purpose.

The author of the article is wrong again when he believes that the Ethiopian Bible is the Kebre Negest; the Kebre Negest is not a holy book; it is a book about the achievements or successes of the Ethiopian kings, and it can be changed or amended whenever a new evidence pops up about a certain king; however, the Ethiopian holy Bible (81of them) cannot be changed; because it is a God-inspired book, written by Godly people and “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training.”

As some people say, including the writer of the article, we cannot say for sure that the Ethiopian Jews as a lost tribe; they have never been lost; they have been living in Ethiopia for thousands of years: they were sent to Ethiopia by the Almighty God for a mission – to bring Judaism, belief in one God – to Ethiopia. While they are living in Ethiopia, they have never forgotten their origin – Jerusalem – and they have always been looking, instead of to Axum Zion, to Jerusalem, and, I hope, those Ethiopian Jews who are now in Jerusalem, are at present looking to the real Jerusalem where St. John in the book of the Revelation describes as the Holy city, the new Jerusalem (21:2). Such hope of the Ethiopian Jews has a religious appeal, not a romantic effect.

To some of us who do not know much about the history of the Ethiopian Jews, the Bete Israel or Ambober in Gondar may seem a very small place, almost insignificant, but we must remember that it is not the smallness of a place that matters but the history of that small place that matters the most. For example, for us Christians, what happened 2,000 years ago in a small place, less significant than any other places in Judea, called Bethlehem is more important than what happened in Germany in World War II. It was for such a small place that the Jewish Prophet Micah prophesied: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (5:2). So, Ambober or Bete Israel is very significant in the history of the Ethiopian Jews, even though what we find today at Ambober, a Jewish village, is only tuckul and old buildings, but one day, I will predict, this abandoned Ethiopian Jewish village will be a Mecca of the Ethiopian Jews.

Eldad Hadani or Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has nothing to do with the Ethiopian Jews whom the Almighty God brought them to Ethiopia from Jerusalem for his won purpose, and no one cares whether these Ethiopian Jews belong to Dan or to Joseph or to Ephraim tribe. We know they are the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and more than that they are the chosen children of God, and that is what it matters. Let the white Israeli Jews find their Dans, Benjimines, Josephs, Calebs, etc. The Ethiopian Jews belong to God only, not to any tribe or sect. Right now, if the white Israeli Jews say to God: “Dear God, we are the only true Jews left on this earth,” and God would tell them: “You are wrong; I have thousands of Jews who have never bowed down to Baal, and these Jews are the Ethiopian Jews.”

I agree with Rabbi Shlomo Amar that many Jews might have been converted to Christianity, and these present Ethiopian Christians may be the descendants of the ancient Jews, and that is why God brought the original Jews from Jerusalem for his divine purpose – Christianity -, and left the other Jews for his other divine purpose to go to Jerusalem and reclaim it as their own old city.

I hope with so many ups and downs, the Operation Moses will continue its religious, not its romantic, duties until all Ethiopian Jews left Ethiopia for Jerusalem, and this divine operation should not be hindered by man-made politics in Israel. It had a good beginning, and I hope it will have a positive ending – all the Ethiopian Jews should be there in Jerusalem, and perhaps after many years may come back to their motherland – Ethiopia – and build a second Jerusalem at Ambober, Gondar.

The Ethiopian Jewish history is not a romantic history like the history of Romeo and Juliet; it is a religious history – a divine message, a revelation from the Almighty God, who purposely brought these children of God from his earthly city – Jerusalem – to Ethiopia almost thousands years ago.

The Ethiopian Jewish history is a well known fact that one does not have to dig deeper to find out the validity of this glorious Ethiopian Jewish history. The history of Ethiopia is the history of the Ethiopian Jewish people. If someone wants to know more about the reality of the Ethiopian Jewish history, one must read the Ethiopian prayer books among many others; one cannot read these prayer books without coming across, many times, these sweet words: “Amlake-Israel” (the God of Israel); also, one should read especially “saatat” the hourly or nightly prayer of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and one can see how many times “the God of Israel” has been mentioned there.

The writer of the article was dumbfounded when he descried among the “dirty and time-eaten prayer books” a collection of shehita whom he thought that someone had unknowingly “checked in the shehita book” and shipped it to Ethiopia. Could the same thing also be said about the Ark of the Covenant that when King Solomon ordered thousands of Jews to accompany his first Son, Menelik I, to Ethiopia, some of these Jews who were in a hurry because the King’s order was urgent, unknowingly chucked in the Ark of the Covenant and brought it with them to Ethiopia? It is possible it could have happened this way instead of saying that they had stolen the Ark.

I don’t think, according to Anshel Pefeffen, 24 hours is enough to understand and comprehend the over thousands years of Jewish history in Ethiopia; it may take, instead of 24 hours, 24 years to cover this religious message. Of course, it would take less than 24 hours if it were a romantic message, but it is a religious message that can be examined and written by religious people – God’s people only – people inspired by the spirit of God because they are writing about the history of the holy people of the Holy God – the Ethiopian Jews.

One does not need an evidence to connect the Ethiopian Jews to the scattered and cursed branches of the white people of the Israeli Jews; rather, the scattered white Israeli Jews must find evidence that connects them to the true Ethiopian Jews; these white Israeli Jews are the ones who have been contaminated with the gentile world, but the Ethiopian Jews have never been defiled; God has kept them holy, undefiled, and sacred for himself in Ethiopia, a religious country, thanks to the Ethiopian Jews.

The Ethiopian Jews have always been the Ethiopian Jews; they are not a sect, as the author of the article assumes they are; they did not come out of Christianity; in fact, Christianity came out of their religion – Judaism. They have been a big religious Jewish organization with their Ark of the Covenant, the Bible, the Sabbath, and with all the Jewish rituals for thousands of years, and God kept them that way for his own divine purpose.

The author of the article is wrong again when he believes that the Ethiopian Bible is the Kebre Negest; the Kebre Negest is not a holy book; it is a book about the achievements or successes of the Ethiopian kings, and it can be changed or amended whenever a new evidence pops up about a certain king; however, the Ethiopian holy Bible (81of them) cannot be changed; because it is a God-inspired book, written by Godly people and “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training.”

As some people say, including the writer of the article, we cannot say for sure that the Ethiopian Jews as a lost tribe; they have never been lost; they have been living in Ethiopia for thousands of years: they were sent to Ethiopia by the Almighty God for a mission – to bring Judaism, belief in one God – to Ethiopia. While they are living in Ethiopia, they have never forgotten their origin – Jerusalem – and they have always been looking, instead of to Axum Zion, to Jerusalem, and, I hope, those Ethiopian Jews who are now in Jerusalem, are at present looking to the real Jerusalem where St. John in the book of the Revelation describes as the Holy city, the new Jerusalem (21:2). Such hope of the Ethiopian Jews has a religious appeal, not a romantic effect.

To some of us who do not know much about the history of the Ethiopian Jews, the Bete Israel or Ambober in Gondar may seem a very small place, almost insignificant, but we must remember that it is not the smallness of a place that matters but the history of that small place that matters the most. For example, for us Christians, what happened 2,000 years ago in a small place, less significant than any other places in Judea, called Bethlehem is more important than what happened in Germany in World War II. It was for such a small place that the Jewish Prophet Micah prophesied: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (5:2). So, Ambober or Bete Israel is very significant in the history of the Ethiopian Jews, even though what we find today at Ambober, a Jewish village, is only tuckul and old buildings, but one day, I will predict, this abandoned Ethiopian Jewish village will be a Mecca of the Ethiopian Jews.

Eldad Hadani or Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has nothing to do with the Ethiopian Jews whom the Almighty God brought them to Ethiopia from Jerusalem for his won purpose, and no one cares whether these Ethiopian Jews belong to Dan or to Joseph or to Ephraim tribe. We know they are the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and more than that they are the chosen children of God, and that is what it matters. Let the white Israeli Jews find their Dans, Benjimines, Josephs, Calebs, etc. The Ethiopian Jews belong to God only, not to any tribe or sect. Right now, if the white Israeli Jews say to God: “Dear God, we are the only true Jews left on this earth,” and God would tell them: “You are wrong; I have thousands of Jews who have never bowed down to Baal, and these Jews are the Ethiopian Jews.”

I agree with Rabbi Shlomo Amar that many Jews might have been converted to Christianity, and these present Ethiopian Christians may be the descendants of the ancient Jews, and that is why God brought the original Jews from Jerusalem for his divine purpose – Christianity -, and left the other Jews for his other divine purpose to go to Jerusalem and reclaim it as their own old city.

I hope with so many ups and downs, the Operation Moses will continue its religious, not its romantic, duties until all Ethiopian Jews left Ethiopia for Jerusalem, and this divine operation should not be hindered by man-made politics in Israel. It had a good beginning, and I hope it will have a positive ending – all the Ethiopian Jews should be there in Jerusalem, and perhaps after many years may come back to their motherland – Ethiopia – and build a second Jerusalem at Ambober, Gondar.

U.N. says humanitarian situation in Somalia is deteriorating

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

This is all caused by the U.S.-backed invasion of Somalia by the butcher of east Africa, Meles Zenawi.

(The Associated Press) UNITED NATIONS: The humanitarian situation in Somalia is deteriorating faster than expected with the number of people in need of emergency aid increasing from 315,000 to 425,000, the U.N. humanitarian office said Friday, quoting two U.S.-funded groups that monitor food security.

The Nairobi-based Food Security Analysis Unit, which focuses on Somalia and is managed by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, a lead organization in predicting food security problems in sub-Saharan Africa, also reported that the number of newly displaced people in Somalia increased from 705,000 to 745,000, the U.N. office said.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, known as OCHA, said three key factors contributed to the deterioration: an extremely harsh dry season from January to March with higher temperatures than normal and unusually dry winds, the growing lack of security, and the increasingly high inflation rate.

The most severely affected areas are Galgaduud and Mudug in central Somalia, Hiraan and coastal Shabelle in the south, and pockets in Sool, Nugal and Hawd in the north, OCHA said.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since clan-based warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other, sinking the poverty-stricken nation of 7 million into chaos. Its weak U.N.-backed transitional government, supported by Ethiopian Woyanne troops, is struggling to quash an Islamic insurgency, resulting in the deaths of thousands of civilians.

OCHA said the deteriorating security situation all over the country is slowing the delivery of humanitarian aid and affecting the ability of aid agencies to help people in need. It cited clashes between Ethiopian Woyanne-backed government troops and anti-government forces in the past week in many parts of south central Somalia.

In the south central region, it said, the price of locally produced maize and sorghum has increased by 300-400 percent in the last 12 months and the price of imported food including rice and vegetable oil has gone up 150 percent. At the same time the value of the Somali shilling has depreciated by an average of 65 percent.

OCHA reported an outbreak of acute diarrhea in the Dhahar district of Sanaag in northern Somalia caused by contaminated underground water, resulting in 300 cases and 7 deaths since March 10. Diarrhea is now spreading to rural settlements in the district and health authorities are not able to deal with the caseload because of limited staff, it said.

“The situation in Somalia is part of the continuation of unusually dry conditions in the Horn of Africa in general, including Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and parts of Kenya which are further aggravating food insecurity, water and pasture shortages and outbreaks of drought associated diseases,” OCHA said.

Djibouti has declared a state of emergency due to high rates of malnutrition which exceed the critical threshold of 15 percent, it said.

But OCHA said the “full-blown impact of a drought” will only be felt in certain areas of the greater Horn of Africa in July and August, according to food security analysts and weather forecasters.

Crackdown in Zimbabwe Intensifies

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

Mugabe, like Meles, is just another ravenous African vampire who is sucking the life blood of his country. At the same time, the comment by U.S. State Department’s spokesman regarding Mugabe’s action is steep in obscene hypocrisy and double-standard. While condemning Mugabe, the State Department is creating havoc in eastern African by supporting Meles Zenawi’s murderous regime that had lost the 2005 elections in Ethiopia.

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(New York Times) JOHANNESBURG — A day before southern Africa’s leaders hold an emergency session on Zimbabwe’s disputed election, the government of the beleaguered nation appeared to tighten its control on Friday, banning political rallies, continuing its crackdown on the opposition and arresting the lawyer of its chief rival, Morgan Tsvangirai. The Movement for Democratic Change, Mr. Tsvangirai’s party, said Friday that more than 1,000 of its supporters had been attacked or arrested since the voting took place on March 29, fueling a growing chorus of international criticism of President Robert Mugabe’s handling of the elections… Continue reading >>

Quote of the Day – Shimelis, ER reader

Friday, April 11th, 2008

“Yes, we shall stand with our Eritrean neighbors to squash the rodents of the Horn until the whole Horn is officially Woyanne-free.” – Shimelis, ER reader

Repression Sets Stage for Non-Competitive Elections in Ethiopia

Friday, April 11th, 2008

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

Opposition Candidates, Voters Silenced Ahead of Local Polls

(New York, April 11, 2008) – The Ethiopian government’s repression of registered opposition parties and ordinary voters has largely prevented political competition ahead of local elections that begin on April 13, Human Rights Watch said today. These widespread acts of violence, arbitrary detention and intimidation mirror long-term patterns of abuse designed to suppress political dissent in Ethiopia.
“It is too late to salvage these elections, which will simply be a rubber stamp on the EPRDF’s near-monopoly on power at the local level,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Still, officials must at least allow the voters to decide how and whether to cast their ballots without intimidation.”

Human Rights Watch carried out two weeks of field research during the run-up to the polls and documented systemic patterns of repression and abuse that have rendered the elections meaningless in many areas. That research focused primarily on Oromia, Ethiopia’s most populous region and one long troubled by heavy-handed government repression.

The nationwide elections for the kebele (village or neighborhood councils), and wereda (districts made up of several kebeles administrations), are crucially important. It is local officials who are responsible for much of the day-to-day repression that characterizes governance in Ethiopia. Many local officials in Oromia have made a routine practice of justifying their abuses by accusing law-abiding government critics of belonging to the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which is waging a low-level insurrection against the government.

Candidates allied with the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) will run unopposed in the vast majority of constituencies across Ethiopia. On April 10, one of Ethiopia’s two major opposition coalitions, the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF), pulled out of the process altogether. UEDF officials complained that intimidation and procedural irregularities limited registration to only 6,000 of the 20,000 candidates they attempted to put forward for various seats. By contrast, state-controlled media reports that the EPRDF will field more than 4 million candidates across the country.

Violence, Arbitrary Detention, and Intimidation

Local ruling party officials have systematically targeted opposition candidates for violence, intimidation, and other human rights abuses since the registration period began three months ago. Particularly in areas with established opposition support, local officials have arbitrarily detained opposition candidates, searched their property without warrant, and in some cases physically assaulted them.

Credible reports collected by Human Rights Watch indicate a pattern of cooperation among officials across all three tiers of local government – zone, wereda, and kebele administrations – in carrying out these abuses. Victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch across different locations in Oromia recounted a consistent narrative. Some were arbitrarily detained and then interrogated or threatened by wereda administration officials in the presence of zonal officials. Others were arbitrarily detained by wereda police and then transferred to the custody to zonal security officials or federal soldiers.

One 31-year-old school teacher in western Oromia was detained by police and then interrogated by wereda and zonal security officials when he sought to register as an opposition candidate. “I was afraid,” he told Human Rights Watch. “They accused me of being on OLF member and said I would be shot… They put a gun in my mouth, and then made me swear that I wouldn’t go back to the opposition.” He was released nine days later, after the deadline for candidate registration had passed. Human Rights Watch interviewed other OPC candidates who had also been detained after trying to register in other constituencies.

Prospective voters who might support the opposition have been similarly targeted by the government. Secondary school students in Oromia’s Cheliya wereda, many of whom are of voting age, reported to Human Rights Watch that they have been compelled to provide a letter from representatives of their gott/garee – unofficial groupings of households into cells that are used to monitor political speech and intimidate perceived government critics – attesting that they did not belong to any opposition party. Local officials said that unless they produced those letters, they would not be allowed to register to vote. One civil servant in Gedo town was warned by a superior that he would lose his job if he supported the opposition.

“The same local level officials who are directly responsible for much of the day-to-day political repression that occurs in Ethiopia have their jobs at stake in these elections,” Gagnon said. “As such, their efforts to intimidate ordinary people into returning them to office are especially intense.”

Local authorities have also prevented the registration of opposition candidates in many constituencies where the opposition’s success in 2005 parliamentary polls appeared to give them a chance at winning. In Fincha in western Oromia, for example, the opposition Oromo People’s Congress (OPC) made three attempts to register a candidate for an open parliamentary seat. The seat had been vacated by an OPC candidate who won 81 percent of the vote in 2005 but was later forced into exile after local authorities accused him of being an OLF supporter. The OPC tried to replace him on the ballot with three different candidates but each was prevented from registering. All three candidates were physically threatened by members of the wereda administration and police and one was detained for more than a week when he tried to register.

The opposition Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) has encountered similar problems in western Oromia, with 10 of its 14 candidates resigning in response to pressure from local officials. In February, police in Dembi Dollo arrested 16 OFDM members and accused them of belonging to the OLF. Although a court ordered them all released two weeks later when police could provide no evidence to support their allegations, they were subsequently threatened with physical harm by local officials.

The home and crops of one OFDM member in the same area were burned. He reported this to the police with the aid of OFDM officials but alleged to Human Rights Watch that the police then failed to investigate the incident.

Such repression has been widespread in Oromia. The OPC gave Human Rights Watch the names of more than 300 party members it claims have been detained since November 2007. Investigations carried out by the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO), Ethiopia’s preeminent human rights monitoring organization, corroborate claims that many opposition supporters in Oromia have been arrested or illegally detained for periods ranging from days to months, often on the basis of alleged links to the OLF.

Procedural and Other Bars to Opposition Participation

In many cases, acts of intimidation have gone hand-in-hand with unjustifiable bureaucratic and procedural bars on free opposition participation in the polls. Some representatives of the NEB responsible for the registration of candidates at the constituency level have worked with local officials to block opposition registration. In some cases NEB agents have cancelled the registration of opposition candidates either without explanation or based on age and residency criteria despite clear evidence to the contrary. In other instances, NEB representatives provided the names of opposition candidates to local officials and to the police. Police in some of those constituencies then cordoned off access to NEB offices and physically prevented suspected opposition candidates from entering.

Across western Oromia, the country’s largest state, local officials have refused to allow candidates of the two main opposition parties there, the OPC and OFDM, to register more than a token share of candidates. In some constituencies, authorities have closed down OPC and OFDM offices and threatened their candidates with arrest if they persisted in competing.

In some cases, local authorities offered bribes to opposition candidates to withdraw. One OFDM candidate interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that local ruling party leaders offered to pay his college tuition and guaranteed him a job in the local administration if he withdrew from the election.

“The run-up to these elections illustrates how meaningless the process of voting can be in an environment of intimidation and fear,” Gagnon said. “The Ethiopian government must publicly commit itself to ending the systemic human rights abuses that have become part of the foundation of its hold on power.”

Background

The patterns of repression and procedural manipulation that surround the upcoming polls are motivated in part by the increased importance that control of wereda and kebele administration has taken on since 2001. Financed in part by the World Bank and other donors, the Ethiopian government has decentralized the provision of basic services such as health and education. This has effectively empowered wereda administrators, who are appointed by the elected councils, with greater discretion in the allocation of budget expenditures.

The kebele system in particular is also a central part of the ruling party’s elaborate system of surveillance, intimidation, and coercion of ordinary people who are perceived as being unsympathetic to the government. The kebele were originally created by the dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam for precisely this purpose and have been put to the same use by the current government since Mengistu’s ouster in 1991. Because of the kebele system’s importance in this regard, the EPRDF is particularly loathe to contemplate losing control over them.

A dominant theme in the EPRDF’s political discourse on Oromia is the need to combat the activities of the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which has been fighting a low-level insurrection against the government for years with Eritrean backing. Across much of Oromia, local officials have routinely and for many years used unproven allegations of links to the OLF as a pretext to subject law-abiding government critics to arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial killing, and other forms of human rights abuse.

Local officials in Oromia have also made extensive use of the kebele system, along with smaller cells called gott and garee, to keep residents under constant surveillance for signs of government criticism. The overwhelming majority of local and regional authorities in Oromia belong to the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), which is the regional arm of the EPRDF.

Ethiopia’s last elections were parliamentary polls in 2005. The run-up to the elections saw signs of openness in some areas, though in most constituencies the same patterns of repression documented above prevailed. Following the elections, opposition efforts to contest the results sparked a heavy-handed government crackdown that saw several hundred people gunned down in the streets of Addis Ababa, mass arrests of perceived opposition supporters, and several prominent opposition leaders jailed on charges of treason that were ultimately dropped.

Elections for city councils, kebele councils, and vacated parliamentary seats will be held on Sunday, April 13, 2008. Elections for the wereda councils will follow on April 20. The exercise is a vast one – Ethiopia is made up of 547 weredas, and each of those is broken up into numerous kebeles whose governing councils each seat 300 representatives. The weredas are grouped into zones, whose administrations are not at stake in these elections, and the zones are grouped into nine ethnically-based regions.

Ethiopia’s government is highly dependent on donor assistance but donor governments, including the United States and United Kingdom, have largely refused to criticize repression in Ethiopia or to demand improvements in the country’s human rights record. The United States in particular views Ethiopia as a key ally in the “war on terror,” and donor governments in general often express fear that Ethiopia’s government will react poorly to human rights-related criticisms. The Ethiopian government has refused to allow any foreign observers to monitor the upcoming elections.

Woyanne is Stuck in Somalia (Newsweek)

Friday, April 11th, 2008

ER had predicted at the start of the Somalia invasion in December 2006 that Mogadishu will be Woyanne’s grave yard. It is happening. The following is a Newsweek interview with Woyanne chief Meles Zenawi, the butcher of East Africa.

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Ethiopia’s prime minister discusses how the U.S. helped his country oust the Islamists from Mogadishu.

Jason McLure
Newsweek Web Exclusive

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is easily Washington’s most important African ally in its war on terrorism. In 2006, the United States quietly helped Zenawi’s forces invade neighboring Somalia after a U.S.-financed coalition of warlords lost the capital of Mogadishu to an Islamist alliance known as the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). The Ethiopian forces ousted the UIC but have been bogged down since then fighting an Iraq-style insurgency by Somali Islamist and clan militias. The current round of violence has driven 750,000 from their homes, and Ethiopia’s allies in the United Nations-backed transitional federal government [TFG] have been unable to control Mogadishu, much less the rest of the country.

Only a quarter of the 8,000 peacekeeping troops promised by the African Union last year have shown up to relieve the Ethiopians. Meanwhile Zenawi has resuscitated Ethiopia’s economy, but he faces criticism over his government’s record on democracy and human rights. Following disputed elections in 2005, security forces killed at least 193 civilians and jailed most of the major opposition leaders (though they were later pardoned). This week the Ethiopian prime minister spoke to NEWSWEEK’s Jason McLure about Ethiopia’s archenemy, Eritrea; its exit plan from Somalia, and its alliance with the United States. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: What is Ethiopia’s plan to withdraw from Somalia?

Meles Zenawi: There are two issues here. First is the threat that was posed by the Shabaab [the radical wing of the Union of Islamic Courts] to Ethiopia, when they threatened to take control of the whole of Somalia and at the same time declared jihad against Ethiopia. That threat had to be neutralized and we believe we did that the first weeks of our intervention … We were told by the African Union [AU] and others that in our withdrawal we shouldn’t create a vacuum, at which point we indicated we could wait a bit longer so long as the African Union was in a position to replace our troops. That has taken an inordinate amount of time.

So withdrawing unilaterally without AU peacekeepers is an option that you’re looking at now?

Well that’s an option. It’s an option we will not take lightly. But it’s an option.

How long will you wait for the African Union or the United Nations or outside peacekeepers to intervene?
We are most certainly not going to wait another year. It’s my hope that a number of things will happen that will make it possible for us to withdraw. First is the full deployment of African Union troops. Second is the continued consolidation of the TFG security forces. Thirdly we hope that the local process of reconciliation that is going on, particularly in Mogadishu but also some other places in Somalia, will make progress.

Does Ethiopia have a contingency plan should the TFG collapse or be unable to extend its power over Mogadishu?
As I said earlier on, we could have withdrawn weeks after our intervention. But that would not create a stable situation in Somalia. And creating a stable situation in Somalia is in the long-term interest of everybody. I have no reason to believe the TFG will fail. It may not make spectacular progress, but I have no reason to believe that it will simply collapse.

A number of analysts believe Ethiopian troops have had a positive effect short term on the TFG by providing security assistance, but in the long term are undermining the TFG by fomenting nationalist and Islamist sentiments in Somalia.
An oversupply of national sentiment is not the problem in Somalia. The problem in Somalia is a lack of it. The problem in Somalia is an oversupply of sub-sub-clannish attitude. Our efforts together with the TFG have been focused on bridging the gaps of the sub-sub-sub-clans of Somalia. As far as Islamist fervor is concerned. Ethiopia was not in Somalia when the Shabaab took control of Mogadishu and threatened to take control of the whole of Somalia. Ethiopia was not in Somalia when the Shabaab declared jihad on Ethiopia. What Ethiopia did through its intervention is take the bubble out of this Shabaab phenomenon.

How many Ethiopian troops have died in Somalia since December 2006? How many injured?
Quite a few.

Do you have more precise numbers? Hundreds? Thousands?
In the hundreds.

How many troops are in Somalia right now?
A few thousand. Two, three thousand. [He is lying. At least 20,000.]

How much has the invasion cost Ethiopia in money terms?
Substantial amounts.

A hundred million dollars?
No. It’s a low-tech, low-cost intervention on the part of Ethiopia. That doesn’t mean that every cent we spent on Somalia couldn’t have been better spent in Ethiopia. But on the whole, we have managed without breaking our back economically, to sustain our presence in Somalia.

How much direct financial support has Ethiopia received from the United States to help pay for this intervention?
Zero.

Has Ethiopia been disappointed in the level of assistance by Western nations to the TFG and Ethiopia?
The response of the international community and the United Nations in general has been less than stellar. We understand why the U.N. could not send a peacekeeping mission. But we do not understand why the U.N., through the Security Council, could not provide some funding to the African Union to carry out the peacekeeping responsibilities. The United Nations insisted that the AU mission in Darfur should be taken over by the U.N. and funded by the U.N., [but] they refused to provide budgeted support to the AU peacekeeping operations in Somalia.

The U.S. has been a bit more forthcoming. They have provided support, for example, to the Ugandans [peacekeepers], to deploy their troops in Mogadishu. They have diplomatically been broadly supportive of the TFG and stabilization in Somalia. But that does not mean the Security Council–and the United States is an important part of the Security Council–has not delivered as many of us in the region would have expected.

Some say the U.S. government is working at cross purposes in that U.S. intelligence agencies are supporting elements nominally within the TFG but that aren’t helpful to the reconciliation process– particularly the mayor of Mogadishu, Mohammed Dheere, a former warlord.
Well before the Shabaab took over in Mogadishu [in 2006], some in the intelligence community in the United States were playing a very negative role through their support of all sorts of warlords who were brought together in the vain hope that they could stem the tide of the Shabaab. That policy failed miserably. I believe since then it has not been pursued in the manner it was pursued before. Since then the main efforts of the United States are through the African Union and the TFG. There is still the focus on individual terrorists harbored in Somalia, particularly among some intelligence entities and some of them tend to look at this issue in isolation. But the overall U.S. policy has changed since those days.

When you say that some in the U.S. government tend to look at the terrorism issue in isolation, what effect does that have on broader policy?
Not much. There have been operations to try to kill some of these terrorists. That’s OK, because neutralizing these terrorists has to be part of the solution. But when a disproportionate amount of resources and time is spent on hunting them down, as opposed to creating the right context [for nation-building], it can be counterproductive. So there is that risk. There are some institutions in the U.S. that put too much accent on that aspect of the operations.

Because in total there may be at most a dozen high-value targets there that the U.S. would really like to get.
Yes.

And so in pursuit of those dozen or so targets, maybe there are other things the U.S. could be giving resources or attention to.
Yes, there’s a question of balancing the deployment of your time and resources.

The U.S. State Department recently listed the Al-Shabaab militia as a terrorist group. What effect does that have on the reconciliation process?
I am at a loss to understand why it took the United States so long to put Al-Shabaab in the terrorist list. If one believes that one can reconcile with Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists whose sole agenda is to establish a caliphate in the Horn of Africa centered on Somalia, then of course characterizing this institution as a terrorist organization hinders that type of reconciliation. If one however recognizes that that type of reconciliation is a code word for surrender, then characterizing this organization as a terrorist organization doesn’t make any difference. There are many in the opposition in the so-called Islamic Courts movement who are not Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab is a very small kernel of hard-core terrorists. Apart from that small kernel, everybody else could be talked to, and even individuals within the Al-Shabaab core movement could be won over.

With regard to the counterinsurgency in the Ogaden, what’s the status of the fight against rebels in eastern Ethiopia and what sort of links are there between the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and the insurgency in Somalia?
There was a broad front organized by the Eritreans involving all sorts of Ethiopian rebels and the Islamic Courts movement in Somalia. The ONLF constituted a very important part of that broad front. We believe the back of the ONLF insurgency in the region has now been broken.

Ethiopia Woyanne has faced a number of accusations of atrocities in the Ogaden during the counterinsurgency. U.S. satellites have identified some burned villages in the region. Are there atrocities happening now?
No. There are no atrocities happening in the Ogaden. Naturally, when there is fighting, there is death, and sometimes death of civilians. But in this case because it was low-tech, labor-based type of fighting, collateral damage was minimal. I am not aware of any U.S. intelligence assessment that shows there was widespread violation of human rights or killing of civilians or burning of villages.

With regard to Eritrea, the U.N. peacekeepers are mostly gone from the border area. What’s keeping the two countries from going to war again?
We’re not going to war with Eritrea because we don’t want to. One stupid war is enough. On the Eritrean side, I think what’s keeping them from going to war is the recognition that if they were to do so they would not profit from it. [Yes, a stupid war that resulted in the death of 150,000 young Ethiopians who were made cannon fodders. You and Seye Abraha will be brought to justice for waging this 'stupid' war.]

Will you stay as prime minister after your term expires in 2010?
This is likely to be my last term.

Local elections are approaching and a number of major leaders of the opposition who were jailed after 2005 aren’t participating. Some of the remaining opposition parties say they’ve faced intimidation, harassment. What can you tell us about the status of Ethiopia’s democracy efforts?
We are consolidating democracy with every step. After 2005 we discussed with the opposition who were in Parliament to address some of their concerns. We changed the way the national election board was organized. We have changed the bylaws of Parliament to make it possible for the minority to set the agenda for debate on specific dates. We are now processing a new press law that we very much hope will put our legislation on par with the best in the world. So we have continuously been addressing any shortcomings with the institutions in our country. Now, every time there is an election here, somebody cries foul. That unfortunately appears to be the normal practice in the continent, whether there is substantial evidence to back it or not. That we all have to live with.

Ethiopia is Africa’s fastest-growing non-oil economy, but the U.S. Agency for International Development says that 9 million people in Ethiopia will require food assistance this year.
We have not had as much success in the pastoralist areas of our country as we have had elsewhere in terms of growth. And the pastoralist areas are very vulnerable to changes in weather. We need to move on the one hand to make pastoralism more productive, and on the other hand to try and encourage people, the pastoralists, to settle voluntarily. Secondly, we need to do more in the way of irrigation-related infrastructure, particularly in the drought-affected areas so that people benefit. And then in recent years poverty, which was largely rural is now shifting as the urban poor’s income fails to improve as much as that of those in rural areas. So there are a lot of challenges that we need to address, in spite of the fact that we have had five years of double-digit growth.

Reflection on Haile Selassie (The Daily Observer)

Friday, April 11th, 2008

The Daily Observer (Banjul)

The facts of his life are well known. Haile Selassie’s influence on the world is his most enduring legacy. Born Tafari Makonnen in 1891, Haile Selassie came to be identified inextricably with Ethiopia. Only rarely in the modern world does the story of a man become so closely linked to the story of a nation. It is said that great events beget great men, but they beget failures as well, and the boundary between the two is often defined by singular acts of courage. These the Ethiopian Emperor did not lack.

Not surprisingly, the fortitude of the man sometimes referred to as “The Lion” inspired Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and even Malcom X, each of whom corresponded with Haile Selassie –who advocated civil disobedience when it was necessary to remedy fundamental social injustice or restore freedom to the oppressed. The Emperor’s presence at President Kennedy’s funeral is still remembered.

One speaks of leaders of men as though their public lives were completely divorced from their private ones. For a hereditary monarch, this should not be the case. What his children think of him is as important as what everybody else thinks. Haile Selassie was a devoted husband and father. His wife, Empress Menen, died in 1962. His sons, Sahle Selassie, Makonnen, and Asfa Wossen, had a great sense of duty to their father and to their people. Of his daughters, Princess Tenagne, in particular, excercised various official duties.

Haile Selassie ascended the throne in the era of polar exploration and slow communication. Africa’s oldest nation was little more than a footnote to the great stories of the day –something that Americans and Brits read about in the pages of the National Geographic. Some people still called the country Abyssinia. In certain countries far beyond Ethiopia’s borders, segregation and apartheid were long established and little questioned. Most other African “nations” were colonies. Even at home, slavery was technically still legal.

In such an era, words like “pan-Africanism” and “civil rights” were little more than esoteric philosophical notions entertained by an enlightened few.

That a country as backward as Italy, whose widespread poverty prompted the emigration of millions, would seek to devour a nation like Ethiopia, was an irony too subtle to raise eyebrows outside the most sophisticated intellectual circles. With British backing, Haile Selassie returned to defeat the Italian army which, in the event, the Allies never viewed as much more than a nuisance. The British themselves considered the Ethiopian campaign in its strategic context –as a way to free the Red Sea from possible Axis control– as much as the liberation of a sovereign nation. To the Ethiopians, it was as much a moral victory as a military one.

The Emperor’s speech to the League of Nations denouncing the Italian invasion is remembered more than the aggression itself. It prompted essentially ineffectual international trade sanctions against a European nation but, like the Battle of Adwa four decades earlier, represented in a tangible way one of the few occasions in the modern era that an African nation defied the arrogance of a European one.

There were very few world leaders of the post-war era who had actually led troops in combat. Haile Selassie and Dwight Eisenhower were exceptional in this respect, which partially accounts for their close friendship.

Even when the foe is truly formidable, courage has a psychological side that has little to do with combat or physical victory. One may seem defeated materially without being defeated morally. Perhaps it’s a question of confidence, values or knowledge. Haile Selassie’s greatest strength was as a builder of bridges –across rivers but also between cultures. His travels took him to many countries, and he became one of the most popular heads of state, and one of the most decorated men in the world.

It was during one such voyage, in 1960, that he had to rush home to confront an attempted overthrow of the existing order. This perhaps served as a reminder that the most dangerous revolutions are found in one’s own house. The sovereign who was once known as a reformer now found himself resented by many members of the very social class his economic and educational policies had helped to create. Internationally, however, his prestige did not suffer. The Emperor established the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, with a headquarters in Addis Ababa.

The revolution of 1974 was supported by outside forces, and while its roots were domestic, its covert objectives cannot be said to have been supported by more than a small fraction of Ethiopians.

Truth be told, administrative practices which worked well in 1950 were terribly inefficient by the 1970s, and a series of problems were cited as a pretext for a full scale coup d’etat. Ethiopia’s pre-industrial economy was no better prepared for Marxism than Russia’s had been in 1917.

Communism’s ultimate social and economic failure, in Ethiopia as well as in Russia, certainly indicates democracy’s superiority, whether that democracy is embodied by a republic or a constitutional monarchy. The Derg’s alliance with the Soviet Union made Ethiopia the instrument of a foreign power, precisely the thing Haile Selassie resisted.

He had a Solomonic pedigree, but Haile Selassie was a man of the people. Perhaps that’s how he should be remembered.

Candidates, voters silenced ahead of local polls

Friday, April 11th, 2008

By Human Rights Watch

The Ethiopian government’s repression of registered opposition parties and ordinary voters has largely prevented political competition ahead of local elections that begin on April 13, Human Rights Watch said today. These widespread acts of violence, arbitrary detention and intimidation mirror long-term patterns of abuse designed to suppress political dissent in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government’s repression of registered opposition parties and ordinary voters has largely prevented political competition ahead of local elections that begin on April 13, Human Rights Watch said today. These widespread acts of violence, arbitrary detention and intimidation mirror long-term patterns of abuse designed to suppress political dissent in Ethiopia. “It is too late to salvage these elections, which will simply be a rubber stamp on the EPRDF’s near-monopoly on power at the local level,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Still, officials must at least allow the voters to decide how and whether to cast their ballots without intimidation.”

Human Rights Watch carried out two weeks of field research during the run-up to the polls and documented systemic patterns of repression and abuse that have rendered the elections meaningless in many areas. That research focused primarily on Oromia, Ethiopia’s most populous region and one long troubled by heavy-handed government repression.

The nationwide elections for the kebele (village or neighborhood councils), and wereda (districts made up of several kebeles administrations), are crucially important. It is local officials who are responsible for much of the day-to-day repression that characterizes governance in Ethiopia. Many local officials in Oromia have made a routine practice of justifying their abuses by accusing law-abiding government critics of belonging to the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which is waging a low-level insurrection against the government.

Candidates allied with the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) will run unopposed in the vast majority of constituencies across Ethiopia. On April 10, one of Ethiopia’s two major opposition coalitions, the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF), pulled out of the process altogether. UEDF officials complained that intimidation and procedural irregularities limited registration to only 6,000 of the 20,000 candidates they attempted to put forward for various seats. By contrast, state-controlled media reports that the EPRDF will field more than 4 million candidates across the country.

Violence, Arbitrary Detention, and Intimidation

Local ruling party officials have systematically targeted opposition candidates for violence, intimidation, and other human rights abuses since the registration period began three months ago. Particularly in areas with established opposition support, local officials have arbitrarily detained opposition candidates, searched their property without warrant, and in some cases physically assaulted them.

Credible reports collected by Human Rights Watch indicate a pattern of cooperation among officials across all three tiers of local government — zone, wereda, and kebele administrations — in carrying out these abuses. Victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch across different locations in Oromia recounted a consistent narrative. Some were arbitrarily detained and then interrogated or threatened by wereda administration officials in the presence of zonal officials. Others were arbitrarily detained by wereda police and then transferred to the custody to zonal security officials or federal soldiers.

One 31-year-old school teacher in western Oromia was detained by police and then interrogated by wereda and zonal security officials when he sought to register as an opposition candidate. “I was afraid,” he told Human Rights Watch. “They accused me of being on OLF member and said I would be shot… They put a gun in my mouth, and then made me swear that I wouldn’t go back to the opposition.” He was released nine days later, after the deadline for candidate registration had passed. Human Rights Watch interviewed other OPC candidates who had also been detained after trying to register in other constituencies.

Prospective voters who might support the opposition have been similarly targeted by the government. Secondary school students in Oromia’s Cheliya wereda, many of whom are of voting age, reported to Human Rights Watch that they have been compelled to provide a letter from representatives of their gott/garee — unofficial groupings of households into cells that are used to monitor political speech and intimidate perceived government critics — attesting that they did not belong to any opposition party. Local officials said that unless they produced those letters, they would not be allowed to register to vote. One civil servant in Gedo town was warned by a superior that he would lose his job if he supported the opposition.

“The same local level officials who are directly responsible for much of the day-to-day political repression that occurs in Ethiopia have their jobs at stake in these elections,” Gangon said. “As such, their efforts to intimidate ordinary people into returning them to office are especially intense.”

Local authorities have also prevented the registration of opposition candidates in many constituencies where the opposition’s success in 2005 parliamentary polls appeared to give them a chance at winning. In Fincha in western Oromia, for example, the opposition Oromo People’s Congress (OPC) made three attempts to register a candidate for an open parliamentary seat. The seat had been vacated by an OPC candidate who won 81 percent of the vote in 2005 but was later forced into exile after local authorities accused him of being an OLF supporter. The OPC tried to replace him on the ballot with three different candidates but each was prevented from registering. All three candidates were physically threatened by members of the wereda administration and police and one was detained for more than a week when he tried to register.

The opposition Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) has encountered similar problems in western Oromia, with 10 of its 14 candidates resigning in response to pressure from local officials. In February, police in Dembi Dollo arrested 16 OFDM members and accused them of belonging to the OLF. Although a court ordered them all released two weeks later when police could provide no evidence to support their allegations, they were subsequently threatened with physical harm by local officials.

The home and crops of one OFDM member in the same area were burned. He reported this to the police with the aid of OFDM officials but alleged to Human Rights Watch that the police then failed to investigate the incident.

Such repression has been widespread in Oromia. The OPC gave Human Rights Watch the names of more than 300 party members it claims have been detained since November 2007. Investigations carried out by the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO), Ethiopia’s preeminent human rights monitoring organization, corroborate claims that many opposition supporters in Oromia have been arrested or illegally detained for periods ranging from days to months, often on the basis of alleged links to the OLF.

Procedural and Other Bars to Opposition Participation

In many cases, acts of intimidation have gone hand-in-hand with unjustifiable bureaucratic and procedural bars on free opposition participation in the polls. Some representatives of the NEB responsible for the registration of candidates at the constituency level have worked with local officials to block opposition registration. In some cases NEB agents have cancelled the registration of opposition candidates either without explanation or based on age and residency criteria despite clear evidence to the contrary. In other instances, NEB representatives provided the names of opposition candidates to local officials and to the police. Police in some of those constituencies then cordoned off access to NEB offices and physically prevented suspected opposition candidates from entering.

Across western Oromia, the country’s largest state, local officials have refused to allow candidates of the two main opposition parties there, the OPC and OFDM, to register more than a token share of candidates. In some constituencies, authorities have closed down OPC and OFDM offices and threatened their candidates with arrest if they persisted in competing.

In some cases, local authorities offered bribes to opposition candidates to withdraw. One OFDM candidate interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that local ruling party leaders offered to pay his college tuition and guaranteed him a job in the local administration if he withdrew from the election.

“The run-up to these elections illustrates how meaningless the process of voting can be in an environment of intimidation and fear,” Gagnon said. “The Ethiopian government must publicly commit itself to ending the systemic human rights abuses that have become part of the foundation of its hold on power.”

Background

The patterns of repression and procedural manipulation that surround the upcoming polls are motivated in part by the increased importance that control of wereda and kebele administration has taken on since 2001. Financed in part by the World Bank and other donors, the Ethiopian government has decentralized the provision of basic services such as health and education. This has effectively empowered wereda administrators, who are appointed by the elected councils, with greater discretion in the allocation of budget expenditures.

The kebele system in particular is also a central part of the ruling party’s elaborate system of surveillance, intimidation, and coercion of ordinary people who are perceived as being unsympathetic to the government. The kebele were originally created by the dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam for precisely this purpose and have been put to the same use by the current government since Mengistu’s ouster in 1991. Because of the kebele system’s importance in this regard, the EPRDF is particularly loathe to contemplate losing control over them.

A dominant theme in the EPRDF’s political discourse on Oromia is the need to combat the activities of the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which has been fighting a low-level insurrection against the government for years with Eritrean backing. Across much of Oromia, local officials have routinely and for many years used unproven allegations of links to the OLF as a pretext to subject law-abiding government critics to arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial killing, and other forms of human rights abuse.

Local officials in Oromia have also made extensive use of the kebele system, along with smaller cells called gott and garee, to keep residents under constant surveillance for signs of government criticism. The overwhelming majority of local and regional authorities in Oromia belong to the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), which is the regional arm of the EPRDF.

Ethiopia’s last elections were parliamentary polls in 2005. The run-up to the elections saw signs of openness in some areas, though in most constituencies the same patterns of repression documented above prevailed. Following the elections, opposition efforts to contest the results sparked a heavy-handed government crackdown that saw several hundred people gunned down in the streets of Addis Ababa, mass arrests of perceived opposition supporters, and several prominent opposition leaders jailed on charges of treason that were ultimately dropped.

Elections for city councils, kebele councils, and vacated parliamentary seats will be held on Sunday, April 13, 2008. Elections for the wereda councils will follow on April 20. The exercise is a vast one � Ethiopia is made up of 547 weredas, and each of those is broken up into numerous kebeles whose governing councils each seat 300 representatives. The weredas are grouped into zones, whose administrations are not at stake in these elections, and the zones are grouped into nine ethnically-based regions.

Ethiopia’s government is highly dependent on donor assistance but donor governments, including the United States and United Kingdom, have largely refused to criticize repression in Ethiopia or to demand improvements in the country’s human rights record. The United States in particular views Ethiopia as a key ally in the “war on terror,” and donor governments in general often express fear that Ethiopia’s government will react poorly to human rights-related criticisms. The Ethiopian government has refused to allow any foreign observers to monitor the upcoming elections.

Convince your boss to let you work from home

Friday, April 11th, 2008

(Web Worker Daily) — Teleworking has been gaining traction for years and now more than 2.44 million people spend at least part of their work week at home. But recently some major employers have been pulling telecommuters back into the office. The goal of any would-be teleworker is to show your boss how working from home will benefit him and the company. If you’re having trouble getting your point across, here are some possible reasons he wants you in the office… Continue Reading >>

15 Ways to Maximize Your Lunch Hour

Friday, April 11th, 2008

(Readers Digest) — Although the lunch hour was originally designed for just that — lunch — today we spend our midday break running errands, pecking away at a computer keyboard, or returning personal phone calls. When we do actually sit down and eat, it’s often to consume whatever comfort food we can scrape together from the company vending machine or cafeteria. Rather than spend the hour stressing over what you still need to accomplish or quickly inhaling fatty, salty, high-calorie foods, consider the following advice.

1. Go outside.
2. Daydream for 15 minutes
3. Nap for 10 to 15 minutes
4. Pack a frozen dinner
5. Practice the art of quick-and-healthy brown bagging
6. Pack ready-to-eat soup
7. Get away from your desk
8. Choose smarter fast food
9. Create a sandwich-o-matic chart and stick it on your refrigerator
10. Mini-size your sandwich
11. For a healthier lunch, eat a healthier breakfast
12. Exercise as you run errands
13. Walk to the deli
14. Start a lunch bunch group
15. Improve your work performance with healthy food

Continue reading >>

Joke of the Day: China gives media seminar

Friday, April 11th, 2008

The Chinese communist junta that provides technology to African dictators like Meles Zenawi for jamming radio station such as the VOA is giving a seminar on media to journalists from Africa. What a joke!

(GNA) — Professor Liu Liqun, Dean of the Communication University of China (CUC), on Wednesday noted that the activities of the media had made the world a global village, facilitating communication and international relations.

The media, she said, should, therefore be expected to play its role effectively, to ensure world peace and mutual prosperity amongst nations.

Prof. Liu was opening a seminar on Media and Media Education for 43 journalists drawn from 22 developing countries in the Chinese capital of Beijing.

The 15-day seminar was being organized jointly by the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China, and the CUC.

Prof. Liu expressed the hope that the seminar, an exchange development programme, would go a long way to enhance China’s policy of opening to the outside world.

She said it would also deepen her friendship and understanding of the developing world.

Prof. Yang Xiuwen, Vice-Dean of the International Communications College of CUC, stressed the need to sustain the programme, in order to strengthen the bond of relationship among developing countries.

Ms. Ljiljana Toskovic of the Embassy of Montenegro, thanked the organizer for the seminar, and hoped the participants would use such experiences to help shape the destiny of the developing world.

The participants are from Ghana, Liberia, Benin, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ethiopia, Congo, Vietnam, Grenada, Montenegro, Nepal, Seychelles and Kenya.

The rest are from Fays, Myanmar, Eritrea, Macedonia, Lesotho, Afghanistan, Vanuatu, Timor, and Micronesia.

Participants will be taken through lectures related to basic conditions of China; traditional Chinese culture; higher education development process in China; and the countries cooperation and communication with other developing nations.

They will also learn about the history and policies of international communication in china; the history and status quo of Chinese media; history of development and status quo of higher education for the media in China; cultivation of Chinese media talents; and the international communication of media education in developing countries.

Source: GNA

U.S. to punish Ethiopia for refusing to accept deportees

Friday, April 11th, 2008

(MyNews) — A Legislation that imposes sanctions against the countries, including India, who refuse to take back illegal migrants who have been convicted of crimes in the United States, has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

The bill, a companion to the Accountability in Immigrant Repatriation Act of 2008 introduced in March in the US Senate by Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, was introduced by Congressmen Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania and Michael Castle of Delaware.

“Shockingly, criminal aliens (illegal migrants) who have served time in US prisons are routinely released onto our streets after their home countries refuse to take them back,” Castle said.

“This represents a serious loop-hole in our immigration system and I believe our legislation, combined with efforts to expand border enforcement and target fraudulent identification documents, can improve security and the spending of taxpayer dollars,” he added.

As of February 11, 2008, eight countries – Laos, Iran, Eritrea, Vietnam, Jamaica, China, India, and Ethiopia – have refused to repatriate a total of over 1,39,000 illegal migrants. More than 18,000 of them were convicted criminals and were released back onto American streets.

“The AIR Act would suspend all pending visa petitions from those countries until they agree to repatriate our deportees. The legislation would also direct the State Department to withhold funds under the Foreign Assistance Act to countries that persist in this refusal,” Dent’s office said in a statement.


You don’t need to experience all the flights to know that new york flights are far better than any other, whether it is the las vegas flights or the orlando flights.

At Chicago restaurant, Ethiopian politics is on the menu

Friday, April 11th, 2008

By Olubunmi Ishola, Medill Reports

CHICAGO — The men sit around tables, lingering over beer, coffee or tea, after enjoying a dinner of watt, a variety of spicy and mild stews served on top of injera, a pancake-like bread.

The cream-colored walls of the large restaurant are adorned with pictures depicting landscapes, buildings and noble figures.

In the midst of this fragrant and colorful environment, the men often discuss, and sometimes argue, mostly about politics – Ethiopian politics.

This is a common scene at Edgewater’s Ethiopian Diamond Restaurant described by owner Almaz Yigizaw.

Many of these men have been in the United States for more than 10 years, Yigizaw said, but they still show a strong passion for what happens in their country.

A country known for its bad human-rights record and oppressive government, Ethiopia will have local elections this Sunday and again on April 20.

Many Ethiopian immigrants kept up with past elections, but their interest this year is tempered by the lack of a democratic process in their homeland.

Edgewater resident Berhim Melese said he used to be interested, but when the people’s hope was crushed after post-election violence in 2005, he stopped caring.

“At this time everybody is tired of talking about politics,” he said. Many of them, Melese said, are not even aware local elections will soon take place.

During the 2005 elections, the results from the National Election Board showed the opposition parties in a strong lead. However, the board eventually declared the ruling party as the winner.

Protests ensued, resulting in over 60,000 citizens arrested and at least 200 killed. Leaders of the opposition parties were arrested and only released within the last six to eight months.

Erku Yimer said these results have led the East African nation to lose hope in elections in general.

“The election board, it’s appointed by the government,” Yimer, the executive director of the Ethiopian Community Association in Chicago, said. “It’s not neutral. It’s an arm of the government, so [Ethiopians] have no belief in the election board.”

Melese said that while many in Ethiopia’s diaspora may not know about these local elections, they are still very important to the political development of the country. Unlike the 2005 elections, which were national, these elections are for the lower levels of the administration which provides services to the Ethiopian public.

While media like the Voice of America, the BBC and even The Economist have reported on them, Melese said “real information is from the inside, and there is none.”

There is only one media in Ethiopia, controlled by the government, he said. And when he talks to family and friends in Ethiopia, Melese said none of them can speak freely about political situations.

“At this time it’s very hard [to know what’s happening in Ethiopia], because there’s nothing open,” he said. “There’s no clean information.”

“To have democracy, you need media,” he added. “The government now controls all things.”

Assefa Delil, a minster counselor at the Ethiopian Embassy, said he doesn’t expect many Ethiopians in America to be interested in these elections. He compares it to the interest overseas Americans have in the U.S. primaries. However, the interest in the country, located in the Horn of Africa, is very large, he said.

“There’s some 27 million voters registered, and this is even bigger than the national elections in 2005,” said Delis. “In May 2005 we had about 23 million.” In a country with almost 80 million people, the third largest in Africa, he sees this as democratic progress.

“It looks democratic, but it’s not,” Yigizaw said. “People have given up hope, they’ve stopped caring politically.” Of Delis, she said, “He holds a government job; he may feel different internally, but he can’t say so.”

The little news that has gotten out of the country all points to an election that will be just as unfair as the last. The ruling party and its affiliates have more candidates than any of the opposition parties, observers say, and many of the parties have faced problems registering, or have yet to receive a license to legally function as a party.

Almost 5 million seats are up for grabs in this local election, 99% of which are allegedly uncontested, as sources say potential candidates are intimidated by the current government and are afraid of being imprisoned.

Delis said that 27 parties are participating in this current election. Anyone can file, he said, so some of the candidates are also independents. While the ruling party may have more candidates, he said this is because many of the opposition parties are newer and therefore have lesser capacities.

“It depends on the capacity of the party,” he said. “You cannot expect everybody to file the same number of candidates … you cannot blame the party that has more capacity.”

Yimer said many of the opposition parties have found financial supporters in the diaspora, many of whom also help the parties network with human-rights organizations. However, he said these numbers are small.

“I think many of the people think of what is happening in Ethiopia and want to help in any way possible,” he said. “But in many ways, they don’t like the government that is in power now they aren’t fully participating in the help and development of the people.”

A proposed bill in Congress will help establish a democratic process in Ethiopia and rekindle hope in its people, Yimer said, which is what the people want.

Melese said the legislation is good for the Ethiopia’s future, and thinks all Ethiopians should support it.

“For Ethiopia, that’s the key,” he said. “That’s the only hope for Ethiopian people, otherwise you cannot have change.”

Injera comes to China

Friday, April 11th, 2008

By Blake Stone-Banks (cityweekend.com.cn)

In addition to being Beijing’s only Ethiopian restaurant, Ras strikingly sets itself apart from the city’s mid-range and upscale restaurants with its decor. Colorful, Ethiopian umbrellas hang upside down from the ceiling, photographs of Ethiopia cover the walls, and above the bar is a large painting of Chairman Mao holding hands with Haile Selassie.

Traditional Western-style tables line Ras’ perimeter, but at the center floor, there are a number of mesobs, vibrantly colored hand-woven baskets that are traditionally used as tables, especially recommended for diners with short legs. Ethiopian cuisine offers a range of tastes, from chilled bean salads to hot, spicy meats, but the process of eating is forever the same: Injera, Ethiopia’s spongy flat bread, is spread across a large plate, and various entrees are spooned on top. Diners tear off pieces of injera, which they use to scoop up the dishes. For an introduction to Ethiopian cuisine The Taste of Ethiopia (300 yuan) is an excellent sampler of the menu and is sufficient for two to three diners. The We’t Combo (120 yuan) offers four small dishes, of which we recommend the Te’siga We’t (berbere spiced lamb) and Gomen (collard greens). For those wanting to try larger entrees, the Kitfo (120 yuan) is a delectable steak tartare served with kibe (herbed butter).

There are live dances each night at 8. The music may be too loud for casual conversation, but diners looking for a taste of Ethiopian culture over a quiet meal will enjoy the coffee ceremony each night at 7.

Tel: 8479-8388
Add: 14 Jiangtai Lu,H14

Woyanne troops head to Jowhar

Friday, April 11th, 2008

(Press TV) — Ethiopian Woyanne army moves toward the capital town of Somalia’s Shabeellaha Dhexe region to fight Islamic Courts Union (ICU) forces in the area.

The soldiers, numbering to thousands, headed for Jowhar some 90 km (55 miles) away from the turbulent Somali capital, Mogadishu, a Press TV correspondent in Somalia reported.

ICU fighters seized the town on Wednesday, without facing any resistance. Upon arrival, the rebels freed prisoners and kept watch over government buildings from potential looters before retreating hours later.

Jowhar, the seat of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, went without a proper administration for a second day on Friday, and is awaiting a possible clash between the Ethiopian soldiers and the remaining insurgents anytime within the few next hours.

Crowds of civilians, fearing their lives, started escaping from their homes in the town where the ICU fighters are said to have built strongholds.

On Thursday, Somali tribal leaders were calling for a crisis meeting to find a solution to end the humanitarian disaster in the African nation, urging the Ethiopian Woyanne troops’ dismissal from the country in order to save civilian lives.

Poll: Why is Woyanne still in power?

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Woyanne is perhaps the most hated regime in the history of Ethiopia. In May 2005, the people of Ethiopia made it clear that they don’t want Woyanne to govern the country. Meles Zenawi & Co. responded by brutally attacking the opposition parties and their supporters. Two years later, this much hated group is still in power and continues to cause death and destruction upon the people of Ethiopia and neighboring countries. ER would like to ask the following:

[poll=6]