Archive for February, 2010

Iran makes inroads in parts of Africa

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Looking back at the last decade, Iran has improved relations with African countries by turning to them for investment and trade as it has become more isolated by the West.

In Africa, Iran has engaged in economic and development projects in a number of countries: in Senegal where Khodro, Iran’s largest car manufacturer, opened an assembly line in 2007; Nigeria with which it has agreed to share nuclear technology for the production of electricity; and it enjoys good relations with South Africa (a regional leader) where its support of the ANC during the apartheid era has meant that South Africa has remained a true friend.

However, nowhere is the success of Iran’s investment quite as clear as in Sudan. “Iran has been successful in strengthening ties with Sudan because the two countries have an ideological link. They are standing up against the West and imperialism,” Sanam Vakil, an expert on Iran at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, told Deutsche Welle.

Why Africa matters to Iran

As a result of its isolation from the world (particularly the West), Iran has had to turn to Africa in an effort to gain more relevance in global affairs.

“By strengthening its relationship with African countries, Iran is trying to overcome its de facto isolation,” Walter Posch, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, told Deutsche Welle.

Vakil agrees: “Iran is always trying to expand its areas of diplomatic and economic influence to counterbalance against its own isolation,” she said.

In spite of all its efforts, Iran’s success at extending its influence in Africa remains unclear, “perhaps with the exception of Sudan where there are Iranian cars,” Posch said.

With a reduction of military aid from China and Russia, Sudan two years ago turned to Iran for help and signed a bilateral agreement that includes military cooperation with the country. At a meeting late last year with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, his Sudanese counterpart, Deng Alor, openly voiced his country’s support for Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Israeli concerns

Iran’s nuclear ambitions are a threat to stability in the Middle East, and naturally its progress in Africa is being closely watched by Israel. In addition, Israel wants to counterbalance Iranian and Islamic influence in Africa, especially in the Horn of Africa which has a coastline with the Red Sea – a gateway to the Suez Canal. Therefore, Israel has tried to establish friendly ties with the only non-Islamic county in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia, which has also used Israeli military aid to counter Islamic militants in the southeast region which borders Somalia.

Israel sees Iran’s inroads in Africa (especially in Sudan) as a threat to its ability to garner African support at the UN, and also as a threat to regional stability in the Horn of Africa because Iran’s advances contribute to the growth of Islam in the region.

In an attempt to counterbalance that perceived threat, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, and Nigeria in September 2009, and pledged Israel’s support for these countries by promising development and economic aid.

Europe turns a blind eye

By and large, Iran’s efforts at establishing better relations with African countries have remained largely ignored by the EU.

Javier Perez, the EU’s political advisor for Sudan told Deutsche Welle that “Sudan is a high priority of the EU foreign policy in Africa, but the interest of Iran in Africa is not being followed as of yet.”

According to Posch, Europe’s current stance may be due to the fact that Iran’s trade and economic cooperation with Africa pales in comparison to that of other countries like China, the US, and some European nations.

Neverthless, Johns Hopkins University Researcher Vakil feels that “the Europeans should be watching this because it is happening in Europe’s backdoor.”

(Source: Deutsche Welle)

Feb. 22 rally further solidifies Ethiopia-Eritrea solidarity

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

By Elias Kifle

A week ago, on February 22, several Ethiopians joined tens of thousands Eritreans at the worldwide protest rally against the UN sanction against Eritrea.

The sanction was a plot concocted by the Woyanne regime lobbyists in the U.S. headed by Ambassador Susan Rice. When Ambassador Rice and other corrupt officials at the State Department had failed to get a bill passed through the U.S. Senate labeling Eritrea a terror-sponsoring state, they brought together some puppet African dictators such as Museveni of Uganda to push a resolution through the U.N. that accuses Eritrea of providing weapons to Somali Islamist group al Shabab without offering an iota of evidence.

In fact, a UN special envoy accuses Woyanne, the ruling tribal junta in Ethiopia, of selling weapons to al Shabab and others in Somalia.

The real reason behind Woyanne’s campaign to have the U.N. impose sanction against Eritrea is that the Eritrean people and government have been providing moral and political support to Ethiopian freedom fighters such as Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF). The hidden purpose of the sanction is to eliminate any opening for EPPF and others to operate in Ethiopia. Therefore, the U.N. sanction is indirectly imposed on Ethiopia so that the Woyanne regime is free to pillage and plunder the country without any serious opposition.

Ethiopians are well aware of this fact and EPPF chapters around the world held an emergency conference on January 3 to take a stand against the sanction, and to also show their solidarity with the people of Eritrea. They passed a strong resolution condemning the sanction.

Feb. 22 provided another opportunity for Ethiopians to stand in solidarity with Eritreans. The unintended consequence of the Woyanne-Rice UN sanction is that it has brought the people of Ethiopia and Eritrea more closer than ever.

When I and other Ethiopians who reside in the Washington DC metro area arrived in front of the White House, where the protest rally was being held last Monday, Eritreans were out in thousands already. The Eritreans, who arrived from several states in the east coast of the U.S., greeted us warmly and enthusiastically. When a large Ethiopian flag unfurled in the middle of the crowed, Eritreans cheered loudly in an expression of appreciation.

After witnessing the excitement with which the Eritreans received us, I knew there and then that we were making history. For the first time since the Woyanne junta took power, I started to see light at the end of the tunnel for bringing change in Ethiopia and the whole Horn of Africa region, which has been made a perennial war zone by the Woyanne warlords.

The reaction by Woyannes to such solidarity with Eritreans is as expected. They were foaming at the mouth in condemning us for standing with Eritreans. I don’t blame them — such solidarity will cause their demise and they more than any one else are aware of it.

Those of us who advocate Ethiopia-Eritrea solidarity are the prime target of Woyannes. They are coming at us from every direction. So when Ethiopian Review’s server crashed right after the Feb. 22 protest rally under mysterious circumstances, I became suspicious. The web site’s massive database completely disappeared without a trace. We are investigating the cause. Fortunately, anticipating such an incident, we have been keeping back ups of all Ethiopian Review files at multiple locations and we were able to bring most sections of the web site back online in a couple of days.

The alliance of Ethiopians and Eritreans should not be allowed to be derailed by Woyanne or any one else. There is a lot at stake for the people of both nations. As long as Ethiopian Review is up and running, it will continue to be a leading advocate of such collaboration and solidarity, which will lead to the liberation of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa from a parasite called Woyanne.

TPLFites to face each other

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Former members of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (Woyanne) led by Seye Abraha are preparing to challenge those in power led by Meles Zenawi in Woyanne’s own turf — Tigray. J. Sirak of opride.com reports the following:

TPLF finds itself having to defend its home turf, the Tigray region, in the upcoming elections. Medrek, a coalition of eight opposition parties, is going after the big names. Despite a growing anxiety about TPLF’s use of force to rig the election, the opposition is fielding candidates in the ruling party’s strong hold areas.

* Seye Abraha a former TPLF politburo member is running in Qola Tembein.

* Gebru Asrat, the former president of Tigray State and chairman of Arena Tigray is running for the parliament seat in Mekele.

* Asgede GebreSelassie, one of the leading TPLF founders, is running against Abay Tsehaye, TPLF’s Minister of Federal Affairs and National Security Advisor to the PM. Abay Tsehaye, was elected to the House of Peoples Representatives from Selekleka in 2005.

* Aregash Adane, the top woman during the TPLF struggle and one of the most revered fighters will run in Adwa against Meles Zenawi. This is a key post because at the event Meles loses the parliament seat, according to Ethiopian constitution, he cannot stand for the Premiership post. Article 73 of the constitution states that the Prime Minister “shall be elected from among members of the House of Peoples’ Representatives”. Reliable sources also tell Opride.com that Mr. Zenawi might run in Addis Ababa.

* Arena Tigray also announced that it will field candidates in 34 of the 38 constituencies in Tigray. The remaining four seats will be contested by Tigreans in UDJ.

Yet despite such interesting strategic moves by the oppositions, it’s inconceivable to think that the TPLF will allow the opposition to pick limited seats in Tigray, let alone win majority.

Back in service

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Dear readers,

EthiopianReview.com’s server had crashed on Tuesday morning causing the site to be down for the past three days. We have been working feverishly to fix the problem. We lost 4 days of data, and we are yet to restore the Forum and other sections of the web site. For now the front page is partially up and Top Stories section is also functioning now. All the other sections will be restored shortly.

On behalf of my colleagues at Ethiopian Review, I would like to thank those of you who sent us emails expressing your concerns and best wishes.

Regards,
Elias Kifle
Publisher

Ethiopia under Woyanne added to money laundering blacklist

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: Also remember that a special envoy to the U.N. reported (read here) that much of Al Shabab’s weapons are being bought from Woyanne and Uganda military commanders in Somalia with the full knowledge of U.S. Department officials. The U.S. Congress needs to investigate this corruption and force the State Department to clean up its acts.

ABU DHABI (Reuters) – The international body fighting money laundering and terrorist financing on Thursday blacklisted Ethiopia, Iran, Angola, North Korea, and Ecuador as posing risks to the international financial system.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), comprising governments and regional organizations named the countries after a meeting in The United Arab Emirates’ capital Abu Dhabi.

Publication of the blacklist follows promises by the Group of 20 major economies last year to crack down on the problem, calling on the FATF to identify “uncooperative jurisdictions”.

Iran has been named as a jurisdiction where risks emanate due to the ongoing and substantial money laundering and terrorist financing, the FATF said in a statement, urging member countries to apply counter measures against Iran to protect the international financial system.

“The FATF remains particularly concerned about Iran’s failure to address the risk of terrorist financing and the serious threat this poses to the integrity of the international financial system,” the statement said.

Angola, the People’s Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ecuador and Ethiopia have been named as jurisdictions that have not committed to the FATFs action plan and the international anti-money laundering/countering terrorist financing standards.

Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Sao Tome & Principe are jurisdictions that continue to have anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing deficiencies that remain to be addressed, the statement said.

Global Witness, an international NGO welcomed the FATF move of coming out with such a list but said that majority of countries on the list are poor countries and not OECD members.

“There are also problems in the world’s key financial centres where those systems allow exposed politicians, terrorists, nuclear proliferators and organised criminals to access funds they need,” Anthea Lawson, a campaigner for Global Witness told Reuters by phone.

The latest list is based on evaluations by FATF on whether a country has laws in place. “What is not measured is whether these laws are enforced and if that is done, many more countries would be on the blacklist,” she said, citing the example of the USA which is not showing signs of what it should do.

(Reporting by Stanley Carvalho; Editing by Ron Askew)

Interview with a member of EPPF leadership (video)

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Interview with Nurjeba Assefa, a member of EPPF leadership committee and other news. Watch below:

What will you do if you are Ethiopia's president?

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Ethiopian Review invites readers to share with us what 10 things you will do immediately if you are elected as the president or prime minister of Ethiopia. Your ideas will help parties to formulate their political program in line with what the people want. We are also asking Ethiopian scholars and prominent individuals the same question. So far we posted responses from the following individuals (click on their names to read):

* Aklog Birara
* Dejenie A. Lakew
* Gabe Hamda
* Getachew Metaferia
* Messay Kebede
* Obang Metho
* Sioum Gebeyehou
* Solomon Negash
* Tecola Hagos
* Teddy Fikre

From Greensboro, North Carolina to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Friday, February 19th, 2010

By Yilma Bekele

The year was 1960. That was only fifty years ago. It was a time of two Americas. One white and privileged and the other black and down trodden. Whites designed the law. It was carefully crafted to serve the interest of the fair skinned citizen. As far as the whites were concerned, things were humming along beautifully as nature intended them to be. World War II is over with the Allies winning decisively and the US economy was booming as never before. There was no single dark cloud in the horizon. Life was beautiful for those born white.

Born Black was a different matter. To be considered as a second-class citizen in your own country is not a desirable place to be. It begs for action to right what is wrong. The history of the Black Diaspora is full of gallant actions by our people for freedom and equality. Nat Turner, Fredrick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King are but a few of the giants of the struggle of the African American.

What happened on Monday, February 1, 1960 in Greensboro, South Carolina was a continuation of that quest for freedom. Four young Black college students sat down at a lunch counter and requested to be served. They were refused service and asked to leave. They refused! Thus started a cascade of events that changed race relations in America.

The American Civil War was fought between the agrarian and slave holding states of the south and the industrial north from 1861 to 1865. The North won. Legal slavery was more or less abolished. The Confederacy, as the south was known reverted to enacting new laws or amendments to existing laws to disfranchise the black citizen. They are commonly known as ‘Jim Crow ‘laws. They came up with what is known as ‘separate but equal’ legal doctrine. This trickery ofthe law justified segregation of the races in all walks of life. This state of affairs continued up to the 1960’s.

The college students of Greensboro, North Carolina were breaking that law when they sat down at that lunch counter. They were refusing to accept the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ garbage peddled by the white majority. In practice this doctrine was a farce. Segregation was real but ‘equal’ it was not. The Bantustans of South Africa and the Kilils of present-day Ethiopia are modeled on this bankrupt and insane doctrine.

The Greensboro sit-ins opened the floodgates of black indignation. It spread like a wild fire and every city, town and village in the south saw politicization of the masses of the black population. In 1960 over a quarter of a million Americans held what is known as the ‘March on Washington for jobs and freedom.’ This is the place whereMartin Luther King Jr. made his famous speech ‘I have a dream.’ The Civil Rights Act of 1964 dealt a deathblow to ‘Jim Crow’ and changed race relations in the US.

There is a lesson to be learnt from this rich history. Oppression is not unique to us. Treated like a second-class citizen in your own land has happened to others too. I am sure at times situations liked hopeless. The problem seemed insurmountable. The enemy looked bigger than life. But somehow they found that inner strength to continue the struggle. Fear was overcome with hope.

We are not strange to adversity. Remember Adwa? Our fathers could have cut and run. To avoid bloodshed they could have submitted peacefully. They could have negotiated a face saving treaty and accepted Italy’s commanding role on Ethiopian affairs. It is not difficult to justify ‘kneeling down’ using sophisticated language. They did none of that. They took maters in their own hands. They said ‘No’ to being bullied.

Remember Maichew? We stood up against a foreign aggressor when the odds were against us. The Fascists have a modern army, airplanes and poison gas. We had old worn out guns, limited munitions and a few trained in the modern art of war. But to our ancestors defeat was not an option. They gave birth to what became known as ‘guerrilla warfare.’

It was only yesterday that our ‘privileged and pampered’ university students choose the side of their people and raised the banner of ‘land to the tiller’ slogan and challenged the Monarchy. University and high school students echoed the cry of South Africans, Rhodesians (Zimbabwe) and stood firm in their belief for freedom and equality. We are not new to fighting for our freedom and human right for others.

The college students of Greensboro, North Carolina challenged the legitimacy of the law. Passage of a distorted and self-serving law does not make it a legitimate peace of legislation. Acceptance by the people is what gives the law a firm ground to stand on. That is the key. The college students said no to a law that demeaned them as a human being. They did not wait for Oregon to act. They did not look up to New York to start their fight. They did not complain about Georgia nor being with them. They did what they believed was morally right. They disobeyed a law that is immoral and unjust.

Thus we have the Ethiopian government passing all kind of laws to curb the civil right of the citizen. They use the law to break the law. They use the law to serve the interest of the minority. In today’s Ethiopia the government use of the law of the land to settle personal score have left society in disarray. There is no institution the Ethiopian people look up to. The executive is a collection of tugs, the Parliament is a hollow body used as a rubber stamp for the wishes of the executive, the judiciary is a den of illiterate sycophants passing pre written judgments.

Who is going to save our country from the calamity awaiting us? Shall we petition the UN? Do we beg the Obama administration? Or do we plead with the European Union? You know it is not going to work. What incentive do they have to involve themselves in this mess? The ferenjis have a simple saying ‘you broke it you fix it.’ Better accept the truth that no one is going to come and liberate us. No one showed up to help the African Americans. Adwa was our battle.

Did you read that ‘a European Union exploratory team is visiting Ethiopia to determine whether to send an observer mission to monitor national elections in May.” That is what they told us and that is what we would like to believe. But that is not the truth. EU was sending a team to assess the mood of the population. They do not want a repeat of 2005 or what happened in Kenya. The delegation is there to see how restive the natives are. They want to gauge how tight the TPLF machine got things under control. They will see security forces deployed through out the country. They will meet the meek and tame opposition. They will be made to sense the atmosphere of fear and apathy. They will go back satisfied that there will be an election, TPLF and its satellites will win and the opposition will be allowed some seats and misery will continue it reign.

No matter how you look at it there is no escaping the fact that the liberation of Ethiopia from dictatorship falls on our shoulders. That is each and every one of us. Our individual actions taken together bring about the outcome we desire. Individual opposition to tyranny taken in tandem will crush the tyrants back. It is not going to be easy. It is not going to be quick. It is not going to be clean. That is why they call it a struggle. But it starts with you. You can fight for your freedom or die a slave. It is a choice only you can make.

Ethiopians in Minnesota celebrate Adwa

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Ethiopians in Minneapolis and St. Paul are organizing a special event to celebrate the Victory of Adwa.

Date: Feb. 28, 2010
Host: Tamagne Beyene
More info: See the flier below

The Battle of Adwa was fought on 1 March 1896 between Ethiopia and Italy near the town of Adwa, Ethiopia. It was the climactic battle of the First Italo–Ethiopian War.

Memorial service program for Abune Zena Markos

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

The memorial service will be led by His Holiness Abune Merkorios, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

Place : St Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Cathedral in Seattle, Washington

Address: 940 26th Ave, South Seattle, WA 98144 USA

Monday, February 15th – Thursday February 18th 2010
5:00 pm – 9:00 pm in the evening, Prayer Service, Hymns by Choir and sermon (at St Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Cathedral hall.)

Friday, February 19th 2010
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm in the evening, Evening Prayer Service at St. Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Cathedral.

Saturday February 20, 2010
1. 4:00am – 6:00am – Matins
2. 6:15am – 8:45am – Eucharistic Liturgy
3. 8:45am ‐ 9:10am – hymns by Youth Choir and North American Sunday school Choir.
4. 9:15am ‐ 9:40am – Sermon

10:00am – 12:25pm
• His Eminence’s Eulogy
• Representative from the EOTC
• Seattle’s Youth group Representative
• St. Gabriel EOTC Cathedral Representative
• Representatives from Several Churches
• Letters of Condolences
• Reading of Poems and Tributes.
• Trip to His Eminence’s resting place

Reception at St Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Cathedral hall.

Sunday February 21st
6:00am there will be an Eucharistic liturgy service in remembrance of His Eminence Abune Zena Markos

The unjust sanction on Eritrea must be annulled – petition

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Add your voice to the February 22, 2010 March in Geneva, San Francisco and Washington DC, and Melbourne. Tell members of the UN Security Council, the U.S. Government and the International Community you want an immediate annulment and Repeal of the Unjust, reckless and baseless sanctions imposed on Eritrea on December 23, 2009 by signing petition: click here

ABC interview on Ethiopia adoption scam (video)

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) interviews with CWA attorney.

Qaddafi imposes sanction on Europe

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

By Dan Murphy | Christian Science Monitor

Muammar Qaddafi is used to throwing his weight around internationally, and usually gets what he wants, thanks to sitting on top of the Africa’s largest proven oil reserves.

Now, he’s taking on the entire European Union in an effort to bring tiny Switzerland to heel. On Tuesday, Libya announced that no visas would be issued to travelers of the “Schengen area” — a reciprocal visa zone for twenty-five European nations, in retaliation for Swtizerland placing Qaddafi and 187 other Libyans on a visa blacklist.

Qaddafi’s hard ball tactics, which have served him well in the past, already appear to be bearing fruit. On Wednesday, Italy, which has extensive trade ties with its former colony, and Malta formally askedSwitzerland to remove the Libyans from the blacklist, which also prevents their travel to the rest of Europe. A number of Italian and Maltese business travelers were detained and questioned at the Tripoli airport in recent days, and some of them complained that the Libyan authorities treated them like criminals.

“The European Union can’t be held hostage over a bilateral issue,” Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Tuesday, urging Switzerland to lift the travel ban before his government’s formal request.

Switzerland’s entanglement with Qaddafi’s regime stretches back to July 2008, when Qaddafi’s son, Hannibal, and his wife were detained in Geneva after their servants complained they were subjected to beatings by the couple. The two were released on bail and the charges were dropped after an anonymous benefactor reportedly made payments to the servants.

But Qaddafi never likes to back down from a fight. Shortly after his son’s original arrest in Switzerland, he had his police arrest two Swiss businessmen in Libya. They have been detained in the country since, something which promptedSwitzerland to place the Libyan officials on the blacklist.

If Qaddafi gets his way on the visa issue, it won’t be the first time.

Last August, Scotland released Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted for the murder of 270 people in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 20 years ago, at a time when the United Kingdom was seeking stronger ties with Libya and BP was seeking a piece of the lucrative oil business in Libya.

Scotland said the release was on grounds of “compassion” and that Mr. Megrahi had only six months to live. But the convicted mass-murderer was received with a hero’s welcome in Tripoli by Qaddafi’s son Saif and he is still alive today.

In the 1990s, Qaddafi had 5 Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor arrested and charged with attempted murder after an HIV outbreak at a Libyan hospital because of lax infection controls. The Libyan state said the foreign medical workers deliberately infected over 400 Libyan children. They served eight years in Libya before being released in 2007, after Libya received a promise of stronger ties with the EU and, Libya said, a promise of payment to the families of the infected children.

If I were the president – Dejenie A. Lakew

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Ethiopian Review has asked scholars and prominent individuals what 10 things they would do immediately if they are elected president or prime minister of Ethiopia. The following is by Dr Dejenie A. Lakew. (Click here to read what others wrote.)

If I have been given an opportunity to serve Ethiopia as a leader, I will accept it humbly but with great responsibility, declaring:

* Leadership is service ship but with vision.
* No person or group can declare he/it is more serving than others.

And determined to do the following:

1. Establish a political system that will be stable and hence will become a culture to all its citizens at all times:

a. Impose term limit (constitutional) for an elected leader with no more than two terms: no elected leader stays in office more than the tenure time allowed. Political systems are more stable, beneficial and progressive when they are cultures, than having a supposedly “strong“ leader or “leaders” at times.

b. Allow elections to be just free, deleting the term fair from free and fair.

c. Craft political parties that share power in the central government based on programs that are designed to work for all peoples of Ethiopia, not for a particular ethnic group or groups.

d. Make our country a melting pot.

2. Promote a cultural philosophy that promotes:

a. Tolerance (which for technical reasons I prefer it to be patience) and peaceful coexistence for the benefit of all.

b. Culture of debate to solve differences by peaceful means.

c. Healthy leaving of all citizens with some level or standard of a modern life: in using clean water, electricity, school, clinics or health centers.

3. Education is one of the most cardinal things that all societies take seriously and invest immensely on it. It is a guide that prompts a society where to go in the future, and helps to solve current problems. It is also equalizer on international plat forms. Therefore it is imperative to develop an education system that:

a. takes care of the returns on its investments — it’s learned citizens paying a better salary that matches the standards of living of the time; allowing financial or market systems so that these citizens can buy cars, homes and therefore they value and appreciate what their country provides to them and the country appreciates what they do to their fellow citizens.

b. facilitates and establishes conditions to the learning of all its citizens emphasizing the fact that learning is a privilege but at the same time a responsibility.

c. Oriented towards solving problems of its citizens and facilitating conditions to its citizens to have a decent and better life.

d. Engages higher learning institutes to produce trained citizens with global knowledge that cooperate and compete in global platforms.

e. Promotes research in higher learning institutes by establishing state of the art research centers that coordinate such activities within and from outside.

f. Helps in crafting policies for the central government based on findings and recommendations from research centers and higher learning institutes .

4. Policy of Economic Development: Establishing effective infra-structures of communications and transport. In this particular category, constructing high ways, railroads across the four corners of the country and developing effective information technologies that are vital and timely. Having access to red sea is as important as having a door to a house and it is therefore imperative that we have that access to the red sea.

Developing means to utilize the most abundant natural resources the country has : minerals, water, natural gas, oil, wind power, solar energy, etc. . To promote a free economy policy and encourage investments by its citizens and foreign nationals.

5. To develop a constitution that guarantees the rights of all its citizens — giving emphasis on the fact that to be a citizen is a privilege but with more responsibility.

6. To establish a judicial system that is completely independent and free from any political power and influence.

7. The boundaries of Ethiopia should not be put to constant delimitation. Therefore, it has to be settled once and for all in order future generations should not be burdened by what we left to them as unfinished business. Particularly I will use all legal means available so thatEthiopia regains its rightful share of the red sea: it is vital for both economic and political reasons. I read a saying in Arab tradition that a country with no sea outlet is like a house with no door, but a house with no door is just a bird nest and I do not want our country to be that, after losing its century standing long sea boundary.

8. Establish a press law that guarantees a complete freedom of expression. There will not be what is called political prisoner during my term of office.

9. Foreign Policy and diplomacy:

a. Diplomats are molecular representatives of the country and hence much is expected from them. Therefore these offices should have not only effective diplomats, but also effective personnel on things the country needs from that particular country in terms of culture, politics, education, investment.

b. Promoting peaceful coexistence with our neighbors, condemning governments who have confrontational stances and promote conflicts.

10. The military is one of the most important sections of the country with all its duties and responsibilities in safeguarding the peace and territorial integrity of the country, but should be neutral to everything that is political and its compositions of files and ranks should reflect the diversity of its citizens.

(Dr Dejenie A. Lakew is Associate Professor of Mathematics at Virginia Union University. He can be reached at dalemayehu@hotmail.com)

Opposition candidates prevented from registering

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

By Barry Malone

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s main opposition coalition said on Wednesday that some of its candidates were being prevented at gunpoint from registering for national elections in May.

The eight-party coalition, Medrek, also said it had obtained a ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) newsletter calling on party officials to follow, photograph and document the movements ofopposition members.

“In a lot of areas we have faced serious problems,” Medrek spokesman Merera Gudina told a news conference.

“In some areas our candidates were turned back at gunpoint. A candidate’s driver was told to leave town immediately or his car would be burned,” he said.

The Horn of Africa country’s election will be the first since a government victory in 2005 was disputed by the opposition. About 200 street protesters were killed by security forces and the main opposition leaders imprisoned.

Analysts say Medrek is the main threat to the 18-year-old government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, but the ruling party is still expected to win the May 23 poll. [ID:nL1641132]

The opposition says this is because they are harassed and jailed. The government says the opposition is trying to discredit the poll because it has no chance of winning.

Meles was hailed as part of a new generation of democratic African leaders in the 1990s but rights groups have increasingly criticised him for cracking down onopposition in sub-Saharan Africa’s second most populous nation.

GATHERING EVIDENCE

Meles has agreed an electoral code of conduct with three opposition parties — two of which are dismissed by opponents as EPRDF aligned. Medrek refused to take part in talks saying crucial issues such as electoral board reform were left out.

Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal told Reuters the code outlined complaint procedures but the opposition had not yet used it to make allegations about being threatened at gunpoint.

“If they want to make the complaints officially they can, and they will be investigated,” Shimeles said. “Why haven’t they? Most of the complaints theopposition have made publicly so far have been proven to be false.”

Medrek described the EPRDF members newsletter it had obtained as an “election manual”.

“It describes us as anti-Ethiopia, anti-people, anti-peace, anti-development, all kinds of anti,” Merera said, showing the document in Amharic to the media.

Former Ethiopian President Negaso Gidada, who joined the opposition after falling out with Meles, said the newsletter tells ruling party officials to track opposition members.

“It tells them to get any kind of document in your hand from opposition parties in your area,” Negaso told Reuters. “And these documents could serve as evidence to be used against opposition leaders to accuse them and bring them to court.”

Ruling party spokesman, Hailemariam Desalegn, acknowledged that EPRDF members had been told to observe opposition members, but only to ensure they were not violating the code of conduct or provoking civil disobedience.

“The opposition always makes unfounded allegations against us,” Hailemariam told Reuters. “We need to ensure that if we accuse them, we have evidence.”

Candidates have five more days to register for the poll.

(Editing by David Clarke and Jon Boyle)

If I were the president – Tecola Hagos

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

By Tecola W. Hagos

A couple of days ago, I came across postings of some self-indulgent exercises by “scholars and prominent individuals” and very many readers/visitors of Ethiopian Review Website. It seems to me that the ever enterprising Editor of the Ethiopian Review had sent out questions to Ethiopian “scholars and prominent individuals” and posted the same question sometimes last Week to the general reader, probably the 11th of February 2010 or there about. The invitation reads as follows: “Ethiopian Review invites readers to share with us what 10 things you will do immediately if you are elected as the president or prime minister of Ethiopia. Your ideas will help parties to formulate their political program in line with what the people want. We are also asking Ethiopian scholars and prominent individuals the same question.”

This form of invitation reminds of the type of questions one asks grade school children. And the purpose in such types of questions is not aimed to gather wisdom from the children, but to stimulate the imagination and cognition of children at that tender age, children who have very limited knowledge or experience of the world around them. I find it insulting to ask such questions of adult Ethiopians let alone Ethiopian “scholars and prominent individuals.” I am even more disappointed in the responses I read posted in that popular Website, even if there were some competent and less polarizing answers, such as that of Engineer Sioum Gebeyehou. The views of the “scholars and prominent individuals” thus posted did address in very superficial manner specific problems the state of Ethiopia and the Citizens of Ethiopia are facing currently. They also attempted to deal, rather clumsily, with problems that were historic problems that had emasculated a people for generations. It seems to me in reading such comments, one cannot avoid the haunting and nagging feeling that no one had really grasped the extent and form of real problems in Ethiopia, which seems to me ever to require a leader to implement very drastic and revolutionary solutions.

To begin with, the question is misleading in the sense that it leaves it to the reader to construct context for it. If one considers the current Ethiopian Government power structure, the “President” has no executive “power” to initiate or execute Governmental policies. He is just a figurehead, and thequestion should be reframed to reflect that existing constitutional reality and the response need be limited to the office of the Prime Minister and his power. The more appropriate question would have been a conditional premised question: “If you have leadership power, what ten things you will do immediately in Ethiopia?” We must understand that the current situation of Ethiopia is not limited to the inadequacy of the current Government or that of the immediate past, but the culmination of poor governance, decomposing culture, atrophying and ever dysfunctional familial relationship of centuries. The inertia that ever pulls us back every time we make some forward stride is enormous and overwhelming.

The way to fulfill our individual aspiration and our collective human purpose is to recognize and guarantee human rights universally not in its reduced form as an aspect of particular culture or as a reward for performance or as a privilege but as an inherent and fundamental attribute of being a person — a human being. A poignant observation by a great scholar of constitutional law succinctly illustrated the paradox between fundamental rights and guaranteed rights. Corwin, writing about the Constitution of the United States, stated that “the course of our constitutional development has been to reduce fundamental rights to rights guaranteed by the sovereign from the natural rights that they once were.” The concentration on ethics brings forth the correct state of mind of universalism without having to forgo our identity and our search for justice for a particular group of people.

Some of the scholars suggested some form of blanket amnesty to criminals that smells of the stench of protecting their own friends and maybe themselves from being tried for crimes committed during past governments or in the workings ofpolitical parties. As far as I am concerned, those who ask or suggest such solutions do not seem to respect individual lives of those who were victimized bypolitical leaders like Mengistu Hailemariam, Meles Zenawi et cetera. The first duty of every Ethiopian is to identify and bring to some form of formal process those leaders who had committed serious crimes of murder, torture, detention of Ethiopians due topolitical differences and struggle for power. In fact, I will include on that long list of offenders military commanders who sent their troops into battle without proper preparation and logistic support resulting in the unnecessary death and destruction of thousands of brave soldiers and weapon.

The model I would use would be a cross between the governmental structures and the relationship with the respective armies of the two countries namely Turkey and South Korea that I believe would serve my purpose, with adaptation to the unique culture andpolitical history of Ethiopia. I would implement the following ten policies vigorously, not just as Prime Minister but also as a “dictator” if need be willing to use force with full support of committed military forces.

1. Establish and enforce the ownership of land and also allow all forms of ownership of property based on freedom of individual rights of free trade. Property and wealth is the biological and moral foundation of all individual rights. Without the right to private property and private ownership of land there can be no solid respect for and safeguard of individualpolitical , civil and fundamental rights. Void all lease of Ethiopian land to foreigners (individuals or nations) for farming and mining purposes. No private ownership of Gold mines in Ethiopia by foreign interests.

2. Remove all international organizations such as the African Union, United Nations’ Agencies, and other international organizations, with the exception of medical missions, from Ethiopia. Reduce drastically the number of Embassies. Declare the Algiers Agreement of December 12, 2000, null and void. Withdraw any recognition of an independent Eritrea. Promote strong ties with selected foreign countries on mutual respect and benefits of trade and cultural exchanges. [The State of Israel should be on that list no matter what other countries would be involved in close relationships with Ethiopia.] Reviewall international relationships and international agreements. It is unconscionable for a poor country with extremely polarized social and economic structure in the local population to host very expensive international institutions and personnel. It is worse than being colonized having such international presence in an utterly poor country where no less than five million of its population are permanently in famine conditions year after year for more than thirty years, and whose budgetary expense is more than by half subsidized by foreign aid. No one denies the fact that there are very many honorable international civil servants working to help disadvantaged populations around the world and in Ethiopia, but they are wasting their good will and hard work on bad policies that had never worked since the establishment of theUnited Nations nearly seventy years ago.

3. Charge Meles Zenawi and his close associate with treason against the state of Ethiopia and for violations of the Constitutional rights of Ethiopians (who were murdered, incarcerated or tortured) under their supervision and power, and for allowing and participating in international conspiracy to destroy Ethiopia by landlocking it and ceding Ethiopian controlled territories to the Sudan and other neighboring states. Establish a Tribune to try especially all pastpolitical leaders in political parties and those individuals involved in both Red and White Terror during the reign of terror of Mengistu Hailemariam. Additional civilian process should be initiated to recover the hundreds of millions of dollars and other hard currencies and Gold stashed around the World by Officials who run REST and later EFFORT. Meles Zenawi, Azeb Mesfin, Abadi Zemu, Sebhat Nega, Mohammed Al’moudi and others being the primary targets of such investigation and court proceedings.

4. Initiate foundational “Cultural Revolution” that promotes personal hygiene. Force equality within inter-family relationships of members, respect and freedom of children, respect and equality of females. Ban all forms of corporal punishment to children whether by parents, guardians, or teachers. Implement forcefully through education and demonstration, and with the assistance of religious leaders, to reverse the population explosion by allowing only two children per married couple.

5. Arm each Ethiopian Family with weapon for defense, at least with a modern gun. The Husband and Wife team is of equal status and with equal access to the family gun. Every Ethiopian shall be trained in self-defense and the use of weapon starting at a young age. There is a risk in that a well armed population may resist drastic changes in its established ways and entrenched interests. Nevertheless, it is the measure of a popular government to be able to implement highly revolutionary but extremely important and necessary changes.

6. Outlaw all forms of sex based trades, trafficking in female and male children, prostitution, pimping et cetera, and close all brothels, bars and camouflaged sex industries. Sexual contact can only be allowed through legitimate marriage. Rape and all other crimes of fornication and adultery will be severely punished. The main reason for the population explosion and moral deterioration in Ethiopia is due to the fact that the Ethiopian family has lost control of the sexuality of its members. In turn the community has turned a blind eye to the unrestricted sexual indulgence of its members. Access to Ethiopian females has become dirt cheap; the Ethiopian male has lost his initiative to upgrade his worth in order to be attractive to the female, for he can now buy sex cheaply because of loose communal control of the sexuality of the members of such communities. No marriage under the age of eighteen will be allowed for both sexes. Modesty in dress and purity in body and soul is the moral guide for all Ethiopians.

7. No Ethiopian female will be given an Ethiopian exit visa to work in Arab Countries or in the Middle East in general as domestic worker. All Ethiopian females in the Middle East will be removed and brought back to their home and provided with adequate means of living. It is established beyond any doubt that Arabs in general are the worst abusers of immigrant workers in the World. Especially the brutality and degenerate sexuality and misogynous culture of Arabs in general is horrendous and an affront to the decency of all Ethiopians Moslems and Christians alike, as was clearly recorded by the number of suicides and beheading or execution of Ethiopian females in the last twenty years.

8. Establish two new Capital Cities one in Northern Ethiopia (Bahr Dar or Gondar) and another in Southern Ethiopia (Assela or Bale). Addis Ababa will be considered as a “Historic City” and Free Trade Zone. The population of the City will be reduced to no more than half a million people, and the rest would have to be resettled elsewhere in Ethiopia. All of the Ministries and other Government Offices will be equally divided into two and removed and reestablished in the two New Capital Cities. I need not remind you the documented fact that Addis Ababa has underdeveloped the rest of Ethiopia because it had sucked over eighty percent of all available funding from international organizations and other nations, leaving next to nothing development funding to the rest of Ethiopia, for the last fifty years. It is immoral to have all the wealth poured in to developing Addis Ababa when Ethiopians within a stone throw are drinking bacteria infested muddy water, starving, and dying of treatable disease, and living in horribly unhygienic huts in shanty towns, no better than the congested nests of the colony of weaver birds.

9. Dissolve the current Killel system and ethnic language based “federal” political organization of the state of Ethiopia. I will enforce a new administrative structure that will be organized based on the small Woreda sized local administration structure. Ethiopia will have a unitary administrative internal structure. Ethnicity will have no role in such administration, and will only be recognized as a social and cultural reality. To date all of our leaders, past and present, bite more than they could chew, and as result we are now in such a state where we are writing self-indulgent elementary wishful thinking. Historically, Ethiopian administrators and civil servants may have succeeded in preserving the State of Ethiopia in an independent existence, but they failed miserably to develop the economic and civil involvement of the people of Ethiopia. Ethiopia remains the most primitive state in the World even though it had the luxury of never having been colonized and mostly left alone to its devices. It is incompetence and narrow vision, and fearful relationships of individual Ethiopians that led to our national sever stagnation.

10. Taking as model for excellence both the Continental and British (American) systems of education, establish and promote a new education system for Ethiopia by empowering communities to create and regulate their schools with close supervision of the Central Government’s Ministry of Education. Education will emphasize science and technology. Primary education up to Eighth grade will provide adequate and nutritious lunch services to all students.

There are several more policies that need be implemented by a responsible Ethiopian Leader and Government. I have only indicated in my ten points the most drastic but also the most needed policies.

(Dr Tecola Hagos can be reached at tecola_w_hagos@hotmail.com)

Official statement on the passing of Archbishop Zena Markos

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Saint Gebriel Church of Ethiopians in Seattle regretfully announces the passing away of our Holy Father, His Eminence Archbishop Zena Markos, on February 13, 2010, in Seattle, Washington.

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in perpetual peace.

Information regarding the funeral arrangement will be announced soon.

Out of state guests who would like to pay their last respect by coming to Seattle: Accommodations are available at Best Western Executive Inn in Downtown Seattle.

For reservations call 206.448.9444 (please mention Ezra Group)

Cost $69.00 per night

Numerous Ethiopian families in and around the greater Seattle area have indicated their willingness to open their homes to out of state visitors coming to attend the funeral service. Anyone who would like to stay with an Ethiopian family instead of a hotel, please contact the following organizers:

Ato Gashaw Anadrega: 206.330.8761
Ato Dagnaw Angaw: 206.271.1138

Visitors who need transportation from Sea-Tac airport to St. Gebriel Church please call the organizer:

Ato Muluneh Yohannes: 206.604.4835

For any information regarding the funeral arrangement please contact the organizing chairs:

Ato Ezra Teshome: 206.391.0326
Engineer Girmah Haile-Leul: 206.713.9403

For up-to-date information regarding the funeral service, please visit the Seattle Saint Gebriel official website at: www.st-gebriel.org

If I were the president – Aklog Birara

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Ethiopian Review has asked scholars and prominent individuals what 10 things they would do immediately if they are elected president or prime minister of Ethiopia. The following is by Dr Aklog Birara. (Click here to read what others wrote.)

If I had the privilege of serving the Ethiopian people as a leader

Ethiopia has a glorious history spanning over three thousand years. It is endowed with untapped and enormous natural resources, a wealth of diverse human capital, and varied cultural heritages that come from more than 80 ethnic groups. These potential assets convey a bright future for the country and its diverse population. The world community knows more about recurring famine than these substantial natural resource and human assets. The country’s poverty is largely human made, and can be corrected by the Ethiopian people. The question is how?

If I had the privilege of serving the Ethiopian people as a leader, I will initiate the following ten things as part of a process to harness the country’s natural and human resource capital with the objective of creating a solid institutional foundation for rapid, equitable and inclusive development in which everyone will be involved in and would benefit. My primary emphasis will be institution building and sustained participation of the Ethiopian people in building an integrated, mutually supportive and collaborative multi-national society.

1. I will call for a series and well-coordinated national conferences under the theme: Visioning Peace, Reconciliation, Harmony, Shared Growth and Development for the Ethiopian People. I will structure these conversational conferences demographically, with top-notch Ethiopian facilitators capable of energizing and enabling participants to talk to one another and to their government officials directly.

a)Wise elders (women and men) from each region vetted and nominated by their communities.
b)Youth representatives from secondary schools, colleges and universities vetted and nominated by their peers.

c) Girls and women from a cross-section of social and nationality groups.

d) Representatives of different college and university faculties throughout the country.

e) Representatives of business groups from all sectors and trades.

f) Representatives of faith groups.

g) Representatives of all political parties.

Each session will seek to stimulate open and frank conversations on vision for the future of the country, with special attention on the type of: geopolitical configuration of a multi-ethnic modern nation, a political system with accountability to citizens that they feel they deserve, an economic and social system that will harness peoples’ potential to the maximum, the education model they wish to see as part of the modernization process, the kind of complementarities and partnerships among the state, domestic private sector and foreign direct investment economic actors they want to see, their views and perceptions concerning the role of the Diaspora, options with regard to regional trade and economic integration and potential benefits that they feel would serve them and the country better. Findings will be distilled and shared with all of the Ethiopian people, and will serve as discussion points with Ethiopian political parties.

2. Ethiopia has always been run by strong persons or parties and not by institutions. The second priority for me will be to establish and confirm that all Ethiopian government institutions are and will be totally independent and free from political parties and ethnicity, durable and serve the needs of all of the Ethiopian people regardless of change in government. These will include the judiciary, military establishment, election board, civil service, all ministries and other key institutions. I will staff these institutions with the best and most competent and diverse individuals in the country, and will ensure that each key official is accountable to the public, and serves as a model for the rest of her/his team. These institutions will be totally de-politicized and de-ethnicized and will generate trust and confidence among citizens as the bedrock of Ethiopian society.

3. Ethiopian society has, for long, suffered from the absence of the rule of law and a political mechanism that ensures government accountability and integrity to citizens. The Ethiopian people deserve an effective and competent government capable of addressing the structural, policy, technological and cultural barriers that keep the Ethiopian people among the poorest in the world, and the country among the ten least developed. To do this, the government must be ready and willing to carryout needs reforms. An effective government is fundamental in the 21st century. A government can’t be effective unless it subjects itself to the same rules and regulations as the rest of society. Transparency and effectiveness in serving citizens occur when government officials are governed by the rule law, and when the political process is subject to public decisions that come from periodic fair, free, open, transparent and competitive elections. I will make sure that my government is held accountable for proper and ethical use of all public budgetary resources, including foreign aid. I will set-up an independent board consisting of representatives from segments of society identified in bullet one above to monitor and disclose to the public the extent to which the government is free from any form of corruption. Anyone identified as corrupt will be held accountable to the full extent of the law, and will be removed from official responsibilities and will be required to recompense.

4. I will convene a ministerial retreat with the most credible technical and professional advisors to review, assess and prepare a short, medium and long-term socioeconomic plan identifying key sector, program and investment priorities with the objective of meeting the immediate and urgent economic and social services needs of the Ethiopian people ; present a road map and provide active government leadership in establishing agric-based manufacturing and industrial capacity in sectors and sub-sectors in which the country has a comparative advantage; establish a transparent, open and stimulating regulatory framework and environment for the domestic private sector, including the Diaspora, to participate effectively; encourage foreign investors to form partnerships with Ethiopian entrepreneurs on a mutually beneficial basis; and negotiate with foreign governments reduce trade barriers and to open up their markets to Ethiopian exporters and urge countries.

5. I will ensure that all ministers and other key government officials are information technology friendly and savvy. The Internet is one of the most democratizing and enabling technologies in the world today. The Ethiopian people deserve to have access to and optimal use of the Internet and other technologies to improve their lives. It is a vital tool to gain knowledge, information, markets and networks. It is indispensable for our society. One of my government’s priorities will be to make the internet available to all schools, and to implement a low cost internet system for use by millions of Ethiopians throughout the country. I will seek financing for this program from foreign foundations and the Diaspora. My government will approach government and non-government organizations, foundations and academic institutions familiar with the technology and persuade them to provide technical guidance and expertise in launching the technology to Ethiopian conditions and culture. I intend to make this

6. The Nile Basin Initiative of 1999 had offered riparian states an opportunity to share the waters of the Nile equitably and fairly to advance their economies. Ethiopia has a legitimate right to utilize a substantial part of the waters that originate from its lands. My government will take the initiative to call on member states of the Nile Basin Initiative to implement the agreed protocol urgently. A major priority of my government will be to use Ethiopia’s water resources to the fullest by building irrigation systems and hydroelectric power for industrial use and for rural and urban electrification. Implementation of the Nile Basin Initiative will be part of my government’s strategy.

7. Ethiopia is among the most aid dependent countries in the world, with total aid this year amounting to over US$ 2 billion and remittances estimated between US$2 to US$2.5 billion per annum. It is not entirely clear from the evidence gathered that the Ethiopian people are getting the maximum value from these resources. There is every indication that the majority of citizens do not have any clue how funds are used and the economic and social priorities for which they are used. For example, the country continues to suffer from food insecurity. There are indications of inadequate or no social services in health, sanitation, safe drinking water, access to education for certain segments of society, including girls and remote communities. There is a high level of disparity and inequality in the provision of services. The almost paternalistic type of top-down government model has not responded to the needs of the population. In light of this, I plan to invite the most experienced and competent Ethiopians with knowledge and experience in development to review aid effectiveness and come up with a set of recommendations that will optimize all aid resources with a view of strengthening productivity, self-reliance and the growth of the domestic private sector. These recommendations will be shared with the Ethiopian people and with the donor community.

8. I will invite all political parties, including those outside the country, to a national round table dialogue session to discuss and reach a consensus on the critical problems facing the country and on the potential options going forward. Political parties cannot simply go on accusing one another and not hold themselves accountable for solutions. I will use data from 1 above in these sessions are reminders to participants what representatives of the Ethiopian people hope, aspire and expect from their government and from political parties. I will use the sessions as a mechanism to persuade the 90 plus political parties to consolidate themselves to three or four, and to move from ethnic-based political processes to national-based political competition.

9.I will organize a truly free, fair, open, transparent and competitive election with domestic and international observers throughout the country. I will devote budgetary resources to allow sufficient air time for all political parties to use the state media to debate and to share their visions for the country unencumbered.

10. I will establish an expert group to study and review the land tenure system and come-up with a set of reform proposals that will enable Ethiopia to achieve food self-sufficiency within 15 years, and expand its agric-based manufacturing, industrial and export potential. The expert group will be asked to examine various options from best practices around the globe, taking Ethiopia’s history, culture, and development practices and limitations into account. This same group will be asked to assess the conditions, benefits, costs and potential damages to communities and the environment of land leases approved by the previous government, with a view of renegotiating the terms and conditions so that affected communities and the Ethiopian people would gain from the agreements.

(Dr Aklog Birara is an economist with the World Bank. He can be reached at biraraa@yahoo.com)

Selling Ethiopian children (CBS News)

Monday, February 15th, 2010

CBS News presents a special report about the adoption scam in Ethiopia. The scam is being perpetrated by businesses affiliated with the ruling Tigrean People Liberation Front (Woyanne). The adoption agencies pay hefty commissions to the notorious female gangster Azeb Mesfin, who is the wife of Ethiopia’s genocidal dictator Meles Zenawi. Watch below:


Watch CBS News Videos Online

Netsanet LeEthiopia Radio on Ethiopia-Eritrea relations

Monday, February 15th, 2010

By Elias Kifle

On Sunday, Netsanet LeEthiopia Radio in Washington DC conducted an interview with me and Ato Neamin Zeleke on the Feb. 22 Eritrean worldwide march where Ethiopians plan to join them. Click below to listen (forward to 15:00):

 

Also on Sunday, Ethiopian Review’s Paltalk Room held a discussion on the same topic where over 200 participants took part. Guests included Ato Sileshi Tilahun, EPPF representative in U.K.; Ato Fekade Shewakena, writer and commentator; Ato Neamin Zeleke, activist, writer and commentator; and Dr Berhe Habte-Giorgis, professor of Business Administration, Rowan University, New Jersey.

If I were the president – Solomon Negash

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Ethiopian Review has asked scholars and prominent individuals what 10 things they would do immediately if they are elected president or prime minister of Ethiopia. The following is By Dr Solomon Negash. (Click here to read what others wrote.)

If I were the president or prime minister of Ethiopia I will do the following:

1) Term limit: quit my position after one term to establish the practice of term limit.

2) Food: promote a strategy to end the chronic famine. Establish a mechanism to feed everyone in Ethiopia.

3) Economy: move the agrarian economy from subsistence farming to large scale farming. Expand manufacturing, financial, and service industries. Increase exports.

4) Education: Increase the rigor, quality, and access of education.

5) National pride: increase national unity through common history and goal.

6) Dependency on foreign aid: become self sufficient.

7) Information Technology: open Internet access; use the Internet as economic facilitator and engine.

8) Health: increase basic health access.

9) Middle income family: develop a strategy to create a vibrant middle income family.

10) Diaspora: encourage an atmosphere of collaboration between Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia everywhere.

(Dr Solomon Negash is Associate Professor of Information Systems at Kennesaw State University,
Kennesaw, Georgia, USA. He can be reached at snegash@kennesaw.edu)

Ethiopia: Tear Down the Stonewall of Secrecy!

Monday, February 15th, 2010

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

It has been said that Africa’s natural resources — oil, diamonds, minerals — have often proven to be sources of woe, suffering and misery than wealth, prosperity and progress for the people of the continent. What should have been a blessing for Africa’s poor has become a curse of corruption, malfeasance and bad governance. Could Africa’s new found wealth in farmlands prove to be a curse once again? If so, how could it be averted?

Last week, Ghanaian Vice President John Mahama contended that transparency, public accountability and scrutiny are necessary to ensure the proper use of natural resources in Africa. Speaking to an international conference in Accra on the public’s right of access to official information, Mahama announced that  “information on all contracts on the oil find [in Ghana] would be made known to the citizenry for public scrutiny.” He explained that “Lack of access to information will create a gulf of confidence between government and the governed, breed mistrust, suspicion, corruption and lack of faith in the building blocks of democracy… It is against this background that the government of Ghana has started publishing all information on contracts on our oil find.” Mahama praised Ghana’s media for its dogged investigative role in promoting transparency and accountability in government contracting. He topped off his speech by declaring that “legitimate governments would not withhold information from the citizenry.” Ex-President Jimmy Carter praised Ghana’s effort at transparency, and reported that “President Mills also told [him] a third of the [oil] revenue will be put away for posterity, a third will be invested into education to benefit future leaders and a third will go directly into national treasury for current expenses.”

Recent oil and gas exploration deals in Ghana have been mired in serious allegations of corruption and criminality. In 2007, Ghana announced it had discovered offshore oil reserves with the potential to produce more than 2 billion barrels of oil by 2030. In 2004, the Ghanaian government signed an oil exploration agreement with various companies whose activities are now under official scrutiny. Last March, the newly-elected President John Evans Atta Mills pledged to make public all past and future gas and oil exploration agreements.

There are many disturbing questions surrounding the 2004 oil exploration agreements. The fact that the government concluded the complex agreements with the companies in weeks has raised questions about the thoroughness of the negotiating process. The agreements, concluded without parliamentary approval or formal cabinet-level review, have led to allegations of cover-ups. More red flags were raised when it came to public light that certain key players in the oil deals had close association with the former president John Kufuor, but little or not prior experience in the oil business. One of the co-owners of the company awarded an exploration contract was a physician in the U.S. who was later appointed ambassador in various European capitals by Kufuor. Little is known about the identities of the individuals or the financial backers of the companies who received the sole-source exploration contracts. Few details are available to the public on production and distribution rights, payments to the government and share transfer agreements between investors and the various companies involved. One of Ghana’s leading media outlets commented: “The sweetheart deals in the oil sector, which spotted powerful oil barons, whose footprints leads to the office of former President John Agyekum Kufuor, is about to turn sour… with the ‘Kufour boys’ about to face 25 criminal charges, [for actions] bordering on criminality [including] blatant falsification of public records in a mad rush to control Ghana’s black gold…”

Transparency and effective public access to information on official decisions and the decision-making processes used to reach them are cornerstones of  international law and the constitutions of most countries. Article 13 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (2003) [ratified by Ethiopia on November 27, 2007] requires signatories to ensure “transparency and effective public access to information”. Article IV of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Resolution on the Adoption of Principles on Freedom of Expression (2002), provides that “Public bodies hold information not for themselves but as custodians of the public good and everyone has a right to access this information, subject only to clearly defined rules established by law.” Article 29 (3) (b) of the “Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia” guarantees an all-inclusive duty of disclosure of official information that meets the test of “public interest”: “Freedom of the press shall specifically include the following… (b) access to information of public interest.” Article 29 is bolstered by Article 12 (“Functions and Accountability of Government”), which sweepingly mandates: “The activities of government shall be undertaken in a manner which is open and transparent to the public…”

For the past couple of years, there have been many questions raised concerning the Ethiopian dictatorship’s numerous foreign “investment” deals involving millions of hectares of farmland[1] and a border agreement with the Sudan[2]. Except for those who secretly concluded the so-called farmland “leases” or sales, or signed the border “demarcation” agreement with the Sudan, the negotiation processes and the complete text of the agreements remain shrouded in a veil of secrecy behind a dense fog of official cover-ups, hush-ups and whitewashes. None of the deals and agreements have been subject to public scrutiny. However, there is sufficient evidence gathered by independent sources which raises many disturbing questions about the negotiation process and the terms and conditions of the farmland and borderland deals.

According to a study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the official reports of the dictatorship with respect to the magnitude of the land deals lacks credibility[3]:

In Ethiopia, for example, enquiries at the state-level Oromia investment promotion agency found evidence of some 22 proposed or actual land deals, of which 9 were over 1,000 ha, in addition to the 148 recorded at the national investment promotion agency. It is possible to speculate that state-level agencies in other Ethiopian states may also have records of additional projects, and that some land acquisitions may not have been recorded at all…. For example, in Ethiopia information about the land size of many deals proposed or concluded in 2008 was missing….

There is further evidence to suggest official under-recording and misclassification to conceal the true nature and scope of the land “leases” or sales. The FAO/IFAD report states: “An investment by German company Flora EcoPower in Ethiopia was reported to involve 13,000 ha (hectare), while it is recorded at the Ethiopian investment promotion agency for 3,800 ha only.” Moreover, the dictatorship intentionally misclassifies the lands “leased” or sold to the foreign “investors” as vacant “wastelands” (that is unoccupied by anyone or just wilderness) in an effort to conceal the fact that inhabited lands are part of a grand land giveaway scheme to foreign “investors”. The FAO/IFAD report specifically points out:

In Ethiopia, for example, all land allocations recorded at the national investment promotion agency are classified as involving “wastelands” with no pre-existing users. But this formal classification is open to question, in a country with a population of about 75 million, the vast majority of whom live in rural areas. Evidence collected by in-country research suggests that at least some of the lands allocated to investors in the Benishangul Gumuz and Afar regions were previously being used for shifting cultivation and dry-season grazing, respectively.

On May 21, 2008, Meles Zenawi publicly described his agreement with Omar al-Bashir as follows:

We, Ethiopia and Sudan, have signed an agreement not to displace any single individual from both sides to whom the demarcation benefits…We have given back this land, which was occupied in 1996. This land before 1996 belonged to Sudanese farmers. There is no single individual displaced at the border as it is being reported by some media.

Zenawi insists on keeping the actual Agreement shrouded in absolute secrecy. There is no reason whatsoever why the border Agreement should not be made public in its entirety. If the Agreement is made public, it will either provide support to Zenawi’s claims or negate them, demonstrating that he is misrepresenting facts. The cloak of secrecy surrounding this Agreement raises many questions: Why isn’t the text of the formal Agreement between the two countries available for public scrutiny? What are the specific terms and conditions concerning the border demarcation lines and the rights of individuals living along the border made public since that would be the best evidence of the vicarious representation of them made by Zenawi? Why wasn’t the Agreement ratified by the “House of Peoples’ Representatives” as mandated by the Article 55, section 12 (“House of Peoples’ Representatives… shall ratify international agreements concluded by the executive.”) of the “Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia”? What conceivable “national security” exceptions apply to an Agreement which has been a subject of public commentary and explanation by the head of the dictatorship? What conceivable justification exists to keep secret an Agreement that merely marks the international borders of the two countries and protects the rights of the population in the border?

The simple point is that the runaway farmland and borderland giveaway deals need to be publicly scrutinized to ensure transparency (detect corruption and criminality) and to make certain that private interests (sweetheart deals) have not overtaken the public interest, or secret deals are not made to harm the Ethiopian national interest.

Mr. Zenawi: TEAR DOWN THE STONEWALL OF SECRECY AROUND YOUR FARMLAND AND BORDERLAND DEALS!” The Ethiopian people have a right to know, and you have a compulsory legal duty to ensure that they have “access to information of public interest.” (See, “Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,” Article 29 (3) (b) and Article 12, section (1) (“government activities must be open and transparent to the public); Article 13 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (2003) [ratified by Ethiopia on November 27, 2007].)

“Legitimate governments would not withhold information from their citizenry.” Ghanaian Vice President John Mahama

(Alemayehu G. Mariam, is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. He writes a regular blog on The Huffington Post, huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/ and his commentaries appear regularly on pambazuka.org, allafrica.com, newamericamedia.org and other sites.)

Worldwide rally against U.N. sanction on Eritrea – update

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Eritrean communities around the world are organizing a worldwide protest demonstration calling for the annulment of the ill-advised U.N. Security Council resolution against Eritrea that was passed in December 2009. Eritrea is being victimized for standing up on the side of the oppressed people of Ethiopia and Somalia who are being brutalized by the West-backed genocidal regime in Ethiopia. When some misguided U.S. Department of State officials were unable to get a bill passed in the U.S. Senate against Eritrea, they gathered some corrupt African leaders such as Uganda’s Museveni and pushed a resolution through the U.N. Security Council. The people of Ethiopia and all Horn of Africa countries stand with Eritrea in opposing the resolution, which will only serve to embolden the Woyanne regime to commit more crimes and incite more war in the region. Let’s stand in solidarity with our Eritrean brothers and sisters on February 22.

The Washington DC Rally
Date/Time: Feb. 22 starting at 10 AM
Place: Lafayette Park, in front of the White House

If I were the president – Gabe Hamda

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Ethiopian Review has asked scholars and prominent individuals what 10 things they would do immediately if they are elected president or prime minister of Ethiopia. The following is by Dr Gabe Hamda. (Click here to read what others wrote.)

Top 10 actions I would immediately take if I were to be elected president of Ethiopia.

1. If the presidency was not through election, decree a fair and free election to elect president.

2. Decree an executive order of amnesty to all former leaders including Meles Zenawi, Mengistu HM and all political prisoners.

3. Decree term limits of president to no more than two terms.

4. Engage Ethiopians in the Diaspora to return on full time or part-time to actively participate in national development.

5. Engage ethnic leaders toward cultivating an environment of inclusion for all people.

6. Initiate a national campaign of education for all.

7. Form and cultivate a transparent government.

8. Establish public servant and civic servant code of ethics.

9. Campaign to create a healthy environment.

10. Initiate a public health campaign.

(Dr Gabe Hamda is an IT consultant and CEO of ICATT Consulting, Inc., which has offices in Florida, Washington DC, and Minnesota. He can be reached at gabe@icatt.net)

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

By Yilma Bekele

It is an old expression meaning waiting for something bad to happen. We Ethiopians are familiar with that expression. Yes sir, nobody can take that away from us. We are unsurpassed in the art of moving ከድ ጡ ወደ ማጡ or from bad to ugly. No question we will walk away with the gold.

This past week our illustrious government dropped a few shoes. The teflon coated regime did not even flinch. We the recipients didn’t flinch either. The bully and the victim are in accord. That is what is beautiful about nature, balance reigns supreme. They kick and we absorb.

So what is all this rant about? Well I can say ‘go ask your tormentor’ , but I wouldn’t. You knew I wouldn’t say that. As a fellow victim I will recount our collective humiliation. አህያውን ፈርቶ ዳውላውንis a nice saying but I am just a recounter so let us leave me out of it. Ok?

Gilgel Gibe II was our first unbecoming. Our 420 megawatt was gone in a poff. Just like that! Ceased to exist! Believe me that is not good. It is only last month the symbolic button was pushed to usher the dream of selling power to Africa. That does sound good don’t it? Ethiopia exporing power to Kenya, Sudan, Djibouti etc. There is a little probllem with this senario. Just look at the following chart.

Country Ethiopia Kenya Sudan
Population 85 Million 39 Million 41 Million
Electricity production 3.46 Billion Kwh 5.23 Billion Kwh 4.34 Billion Kwh

See what I mean? Does the facts on the ground justify such a conclusion. When you divide production by poulation we are history. We will let this madness go. Fine anyway how does a brand new dam stop production? Even my toaster comes with a 30 days return policy. That noise you heard is the other shoe falling. You know what there is no return policy attached to this billion dollar elephant. The whole affair of Gilgel Gibe is Ethiopia in a nutshell. Don’t look no further. We don’t need no freaking enemies. We are the enemy!

The Gibe affair has preplexed both Ethiopinas, Europeans and Kenyans too. The Gibe Project is the face of Ethiopia emasculated.

In a report in 2008 a CEE Bankwatch report stated (www.bankwatch.org/newsroom/documents.shtml?x=2078791)

Overall, the study illustrates the dangers that accompany large energy infrastructure
projects whenever the interests of a major private company coincide not only with weak
governance in the host country but also very clear willingness from financial institutions
to provide funding, in spite of alarming project oversights and impacts. The study shows
how goals to eradicate poverty and support local communities can be easily compromised
when major corporations and/or political elites are intent on maximising profits.
We would like to warmly thank all the people who contributed to this study, often challenging
non-transparent and repressive institutions in Ethiopia, as well as in Italy. Without
them this work would not have been possible.

The report is full of horror stories. It is a finacial report. It is a sociological report. It is a report that should have been written by Ethiopians defending their soverignity. It is bold enough to talk about the element of fear permeating society. It is an ethipian euology. Regarding this report please notice the key words ‘a major private company’ and a ‘weak governace”. In this scenario Ethiopia does not exist. The italian super company Salini Costruttori S.p.A. is bigger than Ethiopia and TPLF is definitely smaller than Ethiopia. Unequal relationship if you ask me.

Are you sitting down? Good, Salini was awarded a ‘no bid contract’ back in 2004. It means it was a closed bid. The Italians and the Europeans called it a ‘public-private partnership’. Salini was the private and EEPC (Ethiopian Power and Electric Corporation) is the supposedly public entity. Please note the Ethiopian Government under TPLF owns EEPC. Even the Italian government started a criminal investigation regarding the Gibe II project. I guess they felt sorry for us.

Thus this wonder of the world dam collapsed ten days after the button pushing ceremony. According to Salini web site 15 meters of the tunnel collapsed. Bottom line is it collapsed. In a tunnel even a crack is not acceptable. A collapse is a disaster. Naturally EEPC is mum on the matter. Since Salini have already handed the keys why they tell us about the problem is not clear. Salini called it ‘an unforeseen geological event.’ Skeptics will point out the tunnel is in the Great Rift Valley that is the mother of all faults what exactly did you expect for a no bid contract with inadequate environmental and seismic studies. Duh.

Of course Salini is fixing the collapse and EEPC is footing the bill and the Ethiopian people and their children will be paying for the foreseeable future. Haile Sellasie got Koka our new leaders paid with Gibe II. Benito is smiling in his grave. Don’t forget Gibe III is coming.

Next was the proclamation on The Reporter regarding ‘code of conduct’ for election observers. We seem to have code of conduct for everything except the government. This one is a winner. Observers are not allowed tape recorders, video equipment, camera and phone cameras. Furthermore foreign observers cannot comment on election procedures and the maximum number allowed is four observers per site. Mute, deaf and blind is the qualification for this job. You know what? The ferenjis will go along with this cockamamie idea too. Did you hear another thump! That is the other shoe dropping.

So you thought it is safe to go back into the water? Not so fast my friend Jaws II is coming? Remember that summer? Same with the TPLF regime. They are full of drama. I doubt they can top this story from London. It is unique. One of a kind. I don’t need to tell you to sit down do I? Any ways please do sit down. A while back the Ethiopian government was contemplating about selling the Embassy in London. It looks like due to our country being ancient and prominent a long time ago we have acquired a property in a very desirable neighborhood. US $38 million dollars worth. Our fearless government saw a profit to be made. As they say ‘birds of a feather’ the regime picked a ‘gangster’ policeman to facilitate the deal. The Daily Mail News revealed the scandal from a government-sanctioned wiretap on the Police gangster. All the Ethiopian Embassy can do was issue a ‘limp denial’ that the building was not for sale. The Ethiopian government sells maids to the Middle East. Sells children to the West. Leases virgin land to the highest bidder anywhere, why are we surprised it is in the market to sell sovereign property?

I am sure you heard another thump. Well it is the third shoe dropping. Wait a minute a third shoe? Hey we are talking of Ethiopians here, anything is possible.

Abune Zena Markos passed away

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

His Holiness Abune Zena Markos

Ethiopian Review has been informed that His Holiness Abune Zena Markos passed away Saturday.

Abune Zena Markos has been the pillar of Ethiopian community in Seattle for the past several years. He is also one of the most revered figures in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

We are awaiting further information from the Holy Synod.

Netsanet LeEthiopia Radio on Eritrean worldwide march

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

The Washington DC-based Netsanet LeEthiopia Radio will have a special program on Eritrean worldwide march against UN sanction tomorrow, Sunday, Feb. 14, at 1:00 PM EST.

One of the cities where the march will be held is in Washington DC on Feb. 22. (Click here for more info.)

Ethiopian political organizations and media around the world are showing solidarity with the people of Eritrea by participating in the march on Feb. 22.

Guests on tomorrow’s Netsanet LeEthiopia Radio:

* Neamin Zelleke
* Elias Kifle

Also tomorrow Ethiopian Review’s Paltalk Room will have two programs:

* 4:00 – 5:00 PM (Washington DC time)
Discussion on the upcoming selections in Ethiopia

* 5:00 – 6:00 PM (Washington DC time)
Discussion on Ethiopians joining Eritreans in a worldwide march on Feb. 22 to oppose the UNjust sanction against Eritrea

Guests:
Ato Sileshi Tilahun
Ato Neamin Zelleke
Ato Fekade Shewakena
Dr Berhe H. Ghiorgis

Visiting Ethiopian freedom fighters (video)

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

The video below is about my recent visit with Ethiopian freedom fighters in the field. It shows training centers and fighters of Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front, Ethiopian People’s Front for Justice and Equality, Tigray People’s Democratic Movement, Benishangul Liberation Front, and Gambella People’s Democratic Front. – Elias Kifle

If I were the president – Messay Kebede

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

Ethiopian Review has asked scholars and prominent individuals what 10 things they would do immediately if they are elected president or prime minister of Ethiopia. The following is by Dr Messay Kebede. (Click here to read what others wrote.)

If I were president or prime minister of Ethiopia, I would fight for the following 10 measures, which I consider absolutely necessary for the revival of Ethiopia.

1. Supervise a transitional process that is free of any revengeful actions, promotes peace and reconciliation, liberates all political prisoners, and allows the expression of basic democratic rights.

2. Create a government of national unity composed of representatives of various ethnic groups, political parties, and major professional activities.

3. Reform the existing army with the intent of making it more representative of ethnic groups and depoliticizing it, thereby enhancing integration and its commitment to national unity and defense.

4. Establish a commission composed of representative ethnic and professional groups that will deliberate on the issue of national education and suggest ways and means to design an agreed curriculum that both centers Ethiopia and reflects its linguistic, cultural and religious diversity while also pushing for a type of scientific and technological education focused on the concrete needs of Ethiopia’s rural and urban populations.

5. Create a task force of experts that reflects on an economic policy with short-term goals targeting the reduction of unemployment and the prevention of famines and long-term perspectives designed to create favorable conditions for the reduction of poverty, the improvement of infrastructures, and the development of productive activities.

6. Set up a commission that writes a new constitution which, while preserving the gains of the existing constitution, emphasizes unconditional unity together with a decentralized system of regional or ethnic self-rule, defends individual and group rights, and establishes an autonomous judiciary system that resolves constitutional disputes and protects against infringement of rights.

7. Ask people to reflect on measures that are necessary to develop democratic culture in Ethiopia in agreement with its ethnic, religious, and national traditions as well as to promote a climate of reconciliation and mutual confidence between elites, classes, ethnic groups, and religious communities.

8. Launch a sincere appeal with firm and guaranteed protections to the Ethiopian diaspora–regardless of past political or ideological affiliations — so that its knowledge and resources are put in the service of Ethiopia’s development.

9. Use diplomatic means and concern for mutual interests to resolve peacefully conflicts with neighboring countries, including Eritrea, which will receive a special treatment owing to common history and heritage.

10. Reinforce international relations, especially with those countries eager to invest in Ethiopia by offering attractive conditions without however allowing any imperialist policy of exploitation or economic dependence.

(Dr Messay Kebede is professor of philosophy at The University of Dayton, Ohio. He can be reached at Messay.Kebede@notes.udayton.edu)

This week on Ethiopian Review's Paltalk Room

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Ethiopian Review’s Paltalk Room this Sunday, 14 Feb. 2010, will have two programs:

* 4:00 – 5:00 PM (Washington DC time)
Discussion on the upcoming selections in Ethiopia

* 5:00 – 6:00 PM (Washington DC time)
Discussion on Ethiopians joining Eritreans in a worldwide march on Feb. 22 to oppose the UNjust sanction against Eritrea

Guests:
Ato Sileshi Tilahun
Ato Neamin Zelleke
Ato Fekade Shewakena
Dr Berhe H. Ghiorgis

If I were the president – Sioum Gebeyehou

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Ethiopian Review has asked scholars and prominent individuals what 10 things they would do immediately if they are elected president or prime minister of Ethiopia. The following is by Ato Sioum Gebeyehou. (Click here to read what others wrote.)

If I were the president or prime minister of Ethiopia, here are the 10 things I would do immediately:

1. Revise / amend the Constitution that genuinely serves the interests of the ENTIRE people of Ethiopia.

2. Freeze / reverse the current secret land give away, long term land lease away and the sale away of Ethiopian assets in Western Capitals.

3. Abolish the current ethnic based Kilil Administrative Map and replace it with a new modernized map of administrative and economic programs by integrating subdivisions based on geographic location, natural resources, man-made features and administrative history.

4. Establish National Reconciliation and Reconstruction Program to heal the wound of religious conflict and repair the ruptured societal relationships caused by the ongoing Kilil experimentation as well as evident and/or assumed past human rights violations.

5. Open a transparent dialogue with Eritrean people for an economic integration through confederation, federation or integration.

6. Establish a National Planning, Tracking and Monitoring Commission for developing and implementing an integrated national long term and short term programs in the four Key Results Areas of economic prosperity.

a. National Peace Creation Program
b. National Human Rights and Justice Program
c. National Democratic Governance Program
d. National Capacity Development Program

7. Design “a one stop shop” to streamline, harmonize or synchronize the wasteful and fragmented budget allocations flowing from multilateral or bilateral nations such as of USAID, UNDP or World Bank loans or grants. This will assist budget allocations based on the integrated national priority programs instead of the current independent, redundant, overlapping or for “nice to do” programs.

8. Design a Diaspora Networking and Interaction Program to attract and facilitate their active and formal participation in the rapid economic development strategy of the nation for Policy and Technical Assistance in the four Key Results Areas of their strengths

a. Introducing Good Governance Programs
b. Attracting Global Resources
c. Transferring Knowledge
d. Developing Local Resource

9. Develop a Quick Win Initiative: Corruption Eradication Program. Unleash the power of Free Press/Freedom of Expression which is the only way to fight corruption by naming and shaming those responsible for it, but equally balanced Human Rights based policy and procedures to establish guidelines to protect whistle blowers as well as to be responsible and accountable for what is being said.

10. Develop a Quick Win Initiative: Export Revenue. By catering organic Ethiopian animal products to World Market by lifting the embargo through Sound Animal Health Programs and Standardized Testing. The three Key Results Areas of Management are

a. Animal Health Management: Animal Health to Enhance Livestock Production.
b. Forage Management: Forage Management and Amelioration of Land Degradation.
c. Marketing Management: New Marketing Strategies to Maximize Export Revenue. (Ethiopia has the largest animal population in Africa)

(Sioum Gebeyehou is a civil engineer and project management consultant currently residing in California. He can be reached at sxg1@aol.com)

This is what African "leaders" do to their people (video)

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Some readers were upset with me for calling African leaders “thieves and murderers” last week as they met in Addis Ababa for African Union meeting. Look at the video below and you will arrive at the same conclusion that these so-called leaders are nothing more than cold-blooded murderers. They do not even deserve to be called human beings. No wonder they elected Meles Zenawi, another genocidal murderer, as their representative. (WARNING: Graphic Content. Not suitable for some people and children.) – Elias Kifle

TEZA premiers in Maryland on Feb. 26

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Hyattsville, Maryland — In celebration of Black History Month, the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area, (ATHA) Inc. and the Hyattsville Community Development Corporation (CDC), in cooperation with the City of Hyattsville, are proud to present the premiere Maryland showing of TEZA, the latest release from world-renowned, independent filmmaker Haile Gerima. A one-week limited engagement of TEZA will begin on February 26th at Regal Entertainment’s Royale Stadium 14, at the University Town Center, in Hyattsville, Maryland.

Movie Tickets will be on sale at the Regal Royale’s box office or online at www.fandango.com or www.regalentertainmentgroup.com. Haile Gerima, a native Ethiopian and distinguished film professor at Howard University, wrote produced and directed TEZA, as well as the critically acclaimed 1993 filmSankofa, a historically inspired dramatic tale of African resistance to slavery. TEZA is Gerima’s eleventh work and seventh dramatic film. Reflecting on the full suite of the filmmakers’ work, Variety magazine described Gerima as, “one of the independent cinema’s chief chroniclers of the African-American and African Diaspora experiences.”

In bringing TEZA to Hyattsville’s Regal Royale, ATHA, Inc. and its partners support another cultural event for Prince George’s County. According to Karen Crooms, Executive Director of ATHA, Inc “this is a great example for like-minded partnerships coming together to offer highquality, culturally relevant arts and entertainment to further enhance the cultural heritage tourism potential of this area.” Stuart Eisenberg, Executive Director of the Hyattsville CDC, co-sponsor of the event said, “hosting this film is a great chance for us to celebrate Black History Month in Hyattsville with our partner, ATHA, Inc. Our community is woven from a rich tapestry of many identities from all over the world, and given the opportunity; we can learn just how intricate, engaging and recognizable that tapestry can be. Through TEZA, we have the chance to see that Black History is both a local and global phenomenon, and we are richer for the glimpse and the insights that the movie provides.”

TEZA, “morning dew” in Amharic, depicts the ways in which the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie affected Ethiopia’s history and society. The film, set in Germany and Ethiopia, examines the displacement of African intellectuals, both home and abroad, through the story of a young, idealistic Ethiopian doctor – Anberber. The movie chronicles Anberber’s internal struggle to stay true, both to himself and to his homeland, but above all, TEZA explores the possession of memory – a right humanity mandates that each of us have – the right to own our past. TEZA, according to actor, Danny Glover, is a “film that people of all cultures and background should
see.”

“Historically, we have found that the success of our most widely distributed films has been largely attributable to grassroots support from organizations like ATHA and the Hyattsville CDC,” said filmmaker Gerima. “Engaging with communities and groups that are large and small, and that are reflective of the full cultural spectrum is the most powerful tactic in our specific methodology of distribution. This intimate and accessible approach is also symbiotic with my vision of what independent cinema should be.”

TEZA is the winner of over 20 coveted international film awards, including the Special Jury Prize conferred at the 2009 Venice Film Festival; the UN-World Bank Special Prize; and Golden Stallion award for Best Picture presented at the 2009 Fespaco Pan-African Film Festival. The film made its U.S. premiere in Washington D.C. this past fall, and enjoyed an eight-week run at the Avalon Theater.

Starting Friday, February 26th there will be four screenings of TEZA daily at Hyattsville’s Regal Royale. The filmmaker will take part in question and answer session opening night at the Regal Royale Stadium 14. Show times are as follows: Fri., Sat. & Sun. at 11:30AM, 2:30PM, 5:30PM and 8:30PM; Mon., Tues., Wed., Thur. at 1:00PM, 4:00PM, 7:00PM & 10:00PM.

The Anacostia Trails Heritage Area (ATHA), Inc. is a public/private partnership dedicated to creating a competitive and sustainable heritage tourism destination within northern Prince George’s County, Maryland. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that partners in the private, public and non-profit sectors to accomplish our goals and mission.

The Hyattsville CDC is dedicated to the revitalization and sustainable development of the Hyattsville community. Founded in the fall of 2000 by community activists, its mission is to develop arts, entertainment, and public spaces; spur economic development and the quality of community life; encourage widespread leadership for community revitalization; and to rebuild the City’s commercial corridors.

Robel Teklemariam receives a hero's welcome in Vancouver

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Robel Teklemariam at Vancouver Airport, Feb 10

Ethiopian Winter Olympics athlete Robel Teklemariam arrived at Vancouver Airport (YVR) yesterday, Feb. 10, 2010, where he was warmly received by several Ethiopians adorning the tricolor flag. Upon arrival, Robel took photos with fans and signed autograph.

The Ethiopian community in Vancouver is hosting a special event honoring Robel at the Collingwood Neighborhood House (5288 Joyce Street) on February 27 starting at 3:30 PM.

(Metro.co.uk) — Robel Teklemariam is the Ethiopian skiing team, its National Skiing Federation and its only hope.

In Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, unfazed by temperatures in the mid-twenties, the 35-year-old regularly pulls on shorts, sunglasses and special ‘roller-skis’ before setting off down a road free of the usual hazards of cars and donkeys.

‘I found this street that had just the right elevation and not too much traffic,’ said the cross-country racer.

‘Roller skiing this close to the Olympics is not the ideal thing. Obviously it’s much better to be on snow. The one good thing is that, in Ethiopia, we’re at 2,700m, so that helps to give you better endurance,’ he added.

Teklemariam found his unlikely calling after spending time as a child in a snow-bound New York state, and was spurred to compete for glory when he saw Kenyans skiing in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

He made it to the Turin Olympics four years ago, meaning Ethiopia was represented at a Winter Olympics for the first time.

Teklemariam came 84th out of about 100 skiers but hopes to improve at the upcoming Vancouver games.

‘If I’m closer to the winner than I was at the last Olympics then I’ll be very happy,’ said the ski instructor.

But he also wants to be a little less lonely as he rolls down the streets.

‘I don’t want to be the first and the last,’ he added.

‘For me, the greatest thing in the world would be that I don’t qualify for the next Olympics because there’s another Ethiopian who’s faster than me.’

The GDP propaganda

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The Woyanne minority junta in Ethiopia, with the collaboration of the World Bank, has been disseminating misinformation about the phantom economic growth in Ethiopia. The following analysis by Gadaa.com exposes Woyanne’s GDP propaganda.

(Gadaa.com) — The real (inflation-adjusted) GDP growth rate of Ethiopia from 1982 through 2008 is shown below. As you can see from the graph, Derg’s Ethiopia was also “registering” positive GDP growth while the country was waging bloody internal wars, was in the mist of biblical famines and was under an extreme form of socialist system.

Derg’s best year for GDP growth was 1987 when it “achieved” a GDP growth rate of 13.9% – a record for the period shown below (from 1982 through 2008). Now, everyone knows that “1987″ was hard time in Ethiopia since it was immediately after the famine and internal wars had reached their peaks. Read here about the state of Ethiopia’s economy in 1987. This calls for a real understanding of what a GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is so that the “GDP” propaganda being waged by the Zenawi government can be better exposed as a fallacy designed to buy time for Woyane to exploit Oromia and the rest of Ethiopia.

Zenawi is presiding over a massive transfer of wealth from the state/people into the hands of the few, well-connected members of the oligarchy. While doing so, he flashes “GDP” numbers to hoodwink the public into believing the theft is an “economic growth.”

GDP’s Formula
In simple terms, if a country is a “commodity” and a price is attached to it, then that total worth of the country is its GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The total market value of the products and services produced by the country’s economy come from private consumptions, gross investments, government spending and from total net exports (i.e. exports – imports).

GDP = private consumption + gross investment + government spending + (exports − imports)

Examples of Economies
- The United States of America is a consumer-based economy, meaning that the “private consumption” in the GDP formula takes up a significant portion (some estimates are 70%) of U.S.A.’s GDP.

- Great examples of export-driven economies are Japan, China and Germany. These countries rely on exporting products and services in order to expand their economies (in the GDP formula, the “total net exports” makes up a significant portion of these countries’ GDP).

- Now, let’s come to Zenawi’s Ethiopia. What part of the GDP formula is driving Ethiopia’s GDP increase? According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, the expansion of Ethiopia’s economy is as a result of exports of agricultural products, such as flowers. The government has also rushed into spending sprees (thus, adding to GDP) to construct dams and other structures without adequate feasibility studies (a case in point is the collapse of the main tunnel of Gilgel Gibe-II dam merely ten days after its opening).

The Land-Grabbing Will Inflate GDP in 2010/11 While Enslaving People
For most of the late 2000’s, a significant portion of Ethiopia’s GDP growth came from environmentally unfriendly projects, such as flower farms and gold mines, that have increased the standard of living of local people by 0%. In other words, while companies involved in flower farming and gold mining were racking up millions, the local people have no health clinics, no schools and other basic facilities to show for the so-called “GDP growth.” Yes, the increase in exports has led to the GDP growth; however, the resources of the people were unfairly exploited by the flower farmers and gold miners, and the people were left to rely on relief aid from donor governments. The picture shows the people of Odo Shakiso lining up to receive food aid (more pictures can be found here).
Gadaa.com

The year 2009 saw unprecedented cases of land grabbing in Ethiopia by foreign governments. Zenawi is banking on these neo-colonized localities to further inflate his GDP. Remember that the main objective of the neo-colonialists is to export the grains harvested in Ethiopia. Exporting the grains settles well with Zenawi’s Revolutionary Democracy economic policy. How will this affect GDP? Positively.

To stimulate the land grabbing, Zenawi offered a hectare of prime farmland for $10 (sometimes, less than that or even rent-free). In other words, the government is not making money (unless there’s a side deal) when the land is sold, but the sale is closed for Zenawi when he claims victory for inflating the GDP when the grains are “exported” and when he earns much needed foreign currency.
Gadaa.com

In summary, while grains are exported from the neo-colonized localities in Ethiopia, such as farms in the States of Oromia, Gambella and Benishangul-Gumuz, the GDP goes up and Zenawi claims victory for inflating the GDP. What will happen to the people in Oromia, Gambella and Benishangul-Gumuz where these megafarms are said to be located? They will become slaves sweating for a dime a day in their own country while their “own” government claims to have inflated the economy by their enslavement and by giving away their land! In addition, millions of people in different corners of the country will die of starvation while foreign governments ship out grains harvested in Ethiopia.

Trade Deficit
Ethiopia has a huge trade deficit for an economy that’s claiming to be inflating in double digits. Trade deficit is an excess of imports over exports. That means, Ethiopia imports way too much goods and services because it is unable to produce them itself. GDP formula: when a country imports goods and services, GDP goes down.

Ethiopia’s trade deficit with the world economies has reached $4.7-billion in 2008/9, according to a report by Addis Fortune.

Ethiopia experienced a sharp decline in imports in 2009 (see graph below), which was a positive direction for GDP. Ethiopia’s decline in imports, however, was not because it’s producing more of its goods and services, instead it was as a result of shortage of foreign exchange for imports that was brought about by the decline of exports in Q4 2008.
Gadaa.com

The Zenawi government resorted to controlling foreign exchange by imposing regulations on imports when foreign exchange dried up as a result of the global financial crisis impacting Ethiopia’s export markets. Even during this regulation, Woyane-owned companies were put on no restrictions to exchange Birr to a foreign currency to import goods. Yes, the GDP inflated because of a decline of imports, but non-Woyane companies were made to shrink while Woyane-affiliated companies were growing during the foreign currency control regime.

Here’s a statement from the 2009 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE), published by the United States Trade Representative (USTR):

While larger firms, state enterprises, and enterprises owned by the ruling party do not typically face major problems obtaining foreign exchange, less well connected importers, particularly smaller, new-to-market firms, increasingly face burdensome delays in arranging trade related payments.

Gadaa.com
Chinese Cement Worker in Mekelle, Tigray – Ethiopia

As mentioned above, replacing imported goods with local alternatives helps increase the GDP. Let’s take the case of cement. Close to 50% of cement used to be imported into Ethiopia until recently when the Ministry of Works and Urban Development put a stop on the imports. The question is where are the local alternatives coming from? The answer is clear: Mesebo, one of the several companies owned by the ruling party (Woyane). Even though the Mesebo Cement Factory is located in Mekelle, Tigray, hundreds of Chinese laborers have immigrated to work at the factory (read the recent news about their strike). The major observation here is the local alternatives to imports are being produced by the ruling party companies (therefore, killing two birds with one stone: enriching themselves and claiming to have “grown” the GDP through foregoing imports).

Inefficiencies Inflate GDP

Do you recall the “Bridge to Nowhere” that was to be constructed in Alaska, U.S.A.? An Alaskan Senator managed to acquire federal government money for his home state so a bridge could be constructed to connect an airstrip on an island to a small town at a cost of $223 million.

Guess what? If that money was spent to build the “bridge to nowhere” for an island with population 50, then the GDP would have increased by that much. Why? … because the “government spending” portion of the GDP formula goes up. Wait! If there was a mishap during the construction of the bridge and the government footed the bill, then GDP goes up!

Now, going back to Ethiopia. Tekeze Dam is equivalent to the “bridge to nowhere,” and Zenawi has already claimed inflating the GDP from this project. Tekeze Dam was dubbed the “dam with no water.” For several years, it sat idle since there was no water to fill the dam. An “hydro”-electric dam with no water is more than equivalent to a “bridge to nowhere” – both wasteful spending, but jacking up the GDP figure anyways.

During the construction of the Tekeze Dam (April 2008), “a massive landslide forced developers to spend an additional $42 million on retaining walls to keep the slopes from eroding.” You guessed it; the $42-million extra cost spent by the government has inflated the GDP in 2008 by that much. That $42-million bill was paid to Chinese contractors who would go and spend Ethiopia’s taxpayers’ money in China.

Another aspect of the Tekeze Dam is the craze about exporting energy. That tells you right there and then, the Amhara and Tigray local people who live right next to the dam will benefit nothing from the dam. Export the energy, increase GDP — clap, clap to Zenawi’s Revolutionary Democracy; however, the local people see no penny of that export earning: no health clinics, no schools, etc. Pretty much what has happened to coffee farmers for more than 5 decades – still in destitute living conditions after producing coffee worth billions of dollars over the years.

GDP Growth IS NOT INCREASE IN THE STANDARD OF LIVING
GDP per capita (i.e. the GDP divided by the total population) growth does not mean an increase in the standard of living of the people. As illustrated above with specific cases, unfair farming and mining practices, heavy regulation of non-Woyane companies, and wasteful spending – all contribute to an increase in GDP. While Zenawi’s Revolutionary Democracy policy continues to enrich the few, well-connected members of the oligarchy, it has resulted in zero, naught, zilch, “bado” increase in the standard of living of the poor – which makes up 99% of the population.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) also agrees that GDP size or GDP per capita do not tell anything about how the majority of the people are living (unemployment, inflation, etc). Therefore, UNDP has its own index called HDI (Human Development Index) instead of GDP per capita. If you have read the HDI report for Ethiopia in 2009, there has been no improvement in the standard of living (read the report here); in other words, there had not been no people-centered economic development in Ethiopia.

Will Woyane Change?
The only way Zenawi’s Revolutionary Democracy becomes anything other than the grand “exploitation” policy it is now is when it benefits the majority of the people. However, like South Africa’s Apartheid was not designed to benefit the majority; Zenawi’s Revolutionary Democracy is not inherently designed for the majority, but for the few, the OLIGARCHY.

The Indian Noble-Prize winning economist, Amartya Sen, postulates:

“Shortfalls in food supply do not cause widespread deaths in a democracy because vote-seeking politicians will undertake relief efforts; but even modest food shortfalls can create deadly famines in authoritarian societies.”

That means, a non-democratic government can not bring any increase in the standard of living of the people since the officials of the non-democratic government are not accountable to the people. People do not have the power to vote officials out of office when bad and misguided policies (such as Zenawi’s Revolutionary Democracy) are being implemented by the government. Therefore, the government lacks a feedback loop – from the people about how the government is doing. That is what’s apparent in Ethiopia.

What Will Be Put on the Auction Block to Inflate Next Year’s GDP?
The most daunting question is what will be put on the auction block to inflate Zenawi’s GDP number?

Last year, it was the farmland, taken from the people in Oromia, Gambella and Benishangul-Gumuz and given to neo-colonialists, that would be partly credited for inflating 2010/11 GDP. What’s next?

- More farmland grabbing by foreign governments? By extending the land giveaway over several years, Zenawi will claim “GDP growth” for each of those years …
- Will the rift valley lakes be exploited by Zenawi to inflate his GDP number?
- What part of the GDP formula will they tweak next year – at what cost to people, the environment and future generations?

Ethiopia’s Economy is Fragile (or Bubble?)
The Heritage Foundation’s 2010 Index of Economic Freedom has remarked the following about Ethiopia:

Ethiopia has achieved considerable economic growth over the past five years, driven mainly by exports of agricultural products. The double-digit growth rate of over 10 percent, however, is fragile due to the lack of economic dynamism, and the economy remains highly vulnerable to external shocks. Progress toward greater economic freedom has been uneven and sluggish.

The lack of economic dynamism is because Zenawi is only tweaking (cooking) a few aspects of the GDP formula since control over the economy by the oligarchy is of prime importance. The fragility of the economy comes from the fact that the GDP expansion relies on exploiting natural resources (which will run out sooner or later; the gold mines will dry up at the end of the day – but at what cost?). Wikipedia has a great example on this case.

If I were the president – Teddy Fikre

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Ethiopian Review has asked scholars and prominent individuals what 10 things they would do immediately if they are elected president or prime minister of Ethiopia. The following is by Ato Teddy Fikre. (Click here to read what others wrote.)

If I were the president or prime minister of Ethiopia, here are the things I would do immediately:

1) I would abolish all aid and donations that have strings attached to them where investment in infrastructure, roads, schools, and human capital is not viewed as the prime targets of stated AID.

2) I would feed the people, the countless many in Ethiopia who struggle to make ends meet. Feeding is not only nourishment, but also feeding them with the proper tools to grow their own food or sustain their own family. I would implement a program whereby each person is given tools such as shovels, hoses, and various farming tools that is either given for free or subsidized heavily so that anyone that is willing to empower themselves is given the means to do so.

3) I would require all or most foreign capital that is invested in Ethiopia to build assets in Ethiopia whereby it is managed and operated by Ethiopians. These assets, for example factories, would have to then export products that are finished goods instead of exporting raw resources.

4) I would implement a “made in Ethiopia by Ethiopians” label to be placed on all products that are shipped overseas.

5) I would invest a significant sum of money to then start branding these products and marketing them in the Western world as “Ethiopian made” products. These products would not be marketed for their affordablity, rather, these products would be marketed to the “socially conciseness” consumer, consumers that are willing to pay a premium for products that are lifting a community or a country

6) I would implement a going wage rate in Ethiopia, a sort of a minimum wage so that the gap between the haves and the have nots is lessened and the prosperity enjoyed as a result of this economic development is shared by more than just a few.

7) I would insist that the education system teaches the totality of Ethiopian history so that everyone shares in the pride that is Ethiopia. Thus, the History of the Oromos, Gambella, Tigreys, Amharas, and the rest of the Ethiopian culture is taught to all without prejudice.

8) I would abolish a Presidential Palace, this one is a bit impractical perhaps, but I would require the President to be with the people, thus the President or Prime Minister would be hosted by various Ethiopians for one week. Of course, the “hosts” would be screened to ensure the safety of the President or Prime Minister, but in the end, he/she would live with the people, get to know the pulse of the people and not be walled off by an ivory tower. The annual salary of the President would be that of the lowest paid worker in Ethiopia

9) I would implement a one term restriction on the Prime Minister of five years, and at any time, the Prime Minister could be recalled by a 3/5th vote of no confidence by the people of Ethiopia. The President or Prime Minister would have to give a State of the Country speech twice a year which will be broadcast live and where “common folk” get to ask the Prime Minister or the President questions as if though it was a Press Conference

I have many more ideas, but I would live peacefully in the countryside organizing Ethiopians to make sure that their elected office holders are held accountable.

(Teddy Fikre is an activist with Ethiopian-Americans for Change. For more info, visit ea4c.org)

Why March with Eritreans

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

By Amanuel Biedemariam

Every time Eritreans come across their Ethiopian counterpart, the favorite statement of Ethiopians is that we are the same. We are brothers. Well, here is your time to prove it!

Prove it by standing with your brothers and sisters. Prove it by standing for justice. Prove it by showing your support and readiness for a new beginning; a beginning towards mutual trust, cooperation, understanding and love for each other for the good of the people in the region.

Every thing has a beginning. Elias Kifle, Sileshi Tilahun and Demise Belete among others made the initiative to visit Eritrea and to talk to President Isaias Afwerki, a controversial figure in Ethiopian circles and returned with a different attitude. They were determined to expose the Eritrean perspectives. They wanted to tell Ethiopians that Eritrea was not the enemy but a true friend of Ethiopia. That Eritrea seeks Ethiopian unity, peace, cooperation and partnership. Mr. Elias and his partners sacrificed a great deal; they were ridiculed and called traitors but they stood their grounds and pursued what they felt was the right thing.

They are not ridiculed anymore. In fact, they are regarded very highly. The price they paid and their determination paid off big time. The interview with PIA was a success. It changed the way many viewed president Isaias and, as a result, many Ethiopians are working with Eritreans now. The chance they took became a platform for the stage we are in today, a stage where many are openly saying “We want to march alongside our Eritrean brothers and sisters and express our solidarity with them on the incoming world-wide demonstration against the unjust UN imposed sanction slapped on Eritrea. In fact, we want to work with Eritreans in many other fields of mutual concern” and are doing so.

Likewise, we, Eritreans, want to be a part of a new beginning, to leave the history of hate and bloodshed behind-us and start anew. This demonstration is the first occasion where Eritreans and Ethiopians are to stand together side by side for a purpose in DC and tell the world that we are not enemies; and we will never be. We are brothers and sisters capable to work together. We are united for a purpose and that purpose is to live together side by side as partners; for our successes and interests and not at the expense of each other. That is what we are determined to achieve; what we are striving for and, that is what we want to tell the world.

We need to march in unity to change perceptions. For centuries the West were relaxed because they can take for granted the fact that we will kill one another for no reason. We will march to change that. We need to show the enemies of our people that we can be smart and stand united in order to challenge their evil ways. We need to march to set example to others that peace is the way. But most importantly, we need to march to set a good example for future generations. We need to be the first, so we can say; we are amongst those who marched first for unity, for peace, cooperation between Eritreans and Ethiopians for a new beginning.

We need to march together because we have a much bigger fish to fry. To get rid of a despot, a master of genocides, a thief and a mercenary. To put in jail a person responsible for so much bloodshed, destruction and displacement of millions; and a criminal whose murderous troops shot at point-blank and killed many youngsters who dared to stand up for freedom. We need to stand together and to march in unity to tell our detractors propping-up despots is not acceptable and their ways are hurting the future of our people and killing progress. Because if we don’t, they will think and believe, they are doing well by abusing our peoples. And unfortunately, the people they care most are the handful that are benefiting at the expense of millions while the millions are condemned for handouts. We are marching to break that cycle.

We need to march to annul the illegal, immoral and UNjust sanction imposed on Eritrea:

Firstly, because as Samuel Johnson English author, critic, & lexicographer once said “An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere”! They sanctioned Eritrea unjustly because they have a bully pulpit, ownership of a defunct world body, the UN. Meles, who is a party to the mischief, has been directly responsible for the arms and the bloodshed in Somalia. Eritrea is in no way capable of shipping arms or providing any other logistical support when the US is controlling the Indian Ocean, the land and air and anything in between. Furthermore, Eritrea doesn’t have the resources. What Eritrea did is stand for justice for the Somali people by asking the world community to allow them to resolve their issues without outside meddling. Eritrea took a moral stand just as many Arab states do on Israel by not recognizing Israel so long as the Palestinian issue remains unresolved.

The UN had absolutely no evidence to back up US and Meles Zenawi’s claims about Eritrea’s support for armed groups in Somalia. South African Ambassador to the United Nations Dumisani Kumalo, who served as chairman of the U.N. Security Council’s Somalia sanctions committee, speaking of Somalia, said that 80% of ammunition available at the Somali arms markets was supplied by TFG and Meles Zenawi’s troops. Kumalo also said that the committee had received details of some 25 military flights sent by Meles Zenawi into Somalia and knew that Meles Zenawi’s troops had brought military equipment into the country to arm “friendly clans.” The UN Envoy for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah also said that there was no evidence to prove the allegations made against Eritrea are correct.

The US does not care about the Somalis’ well being, because if it did, it wouldn’t have supported Meles in his quest for Somali blood. If the US truly was for justice, human rights and the rule of law, it would have supported the Somali freedom fighters instead of encouraging and abating the Meles’ and Museveni’s to help create mayhem in that lawless land. But, then again, who exonerated the US? We all know the US is a party to the conflict as well. I guess “Might is right” as the saying goes.

Secondly, the sanctions intended goal is to boost Meles Zenawi, weaken Eritrea (the only country standing on his ways) and render Ethiopians at the mercy of Meles Zenawi for decades without any serious challenge to his reign. Is that what you want? A murderous thief who is selling Ethiopia to individuals, entities and countries that will not have the best interest Ethiopia. He is selling Ethiopia piece by piece with the hopes that his investors will keep him in power in order to maintain their investments. Therefore to lose focus at this point is irresponsible. We need to march together to stop this madness.

Thirdly, we need to march because success means the defeat of Meles Zenawi and his gang. One of the intended goals of the sanction is to reverse the momentum that is ready to engulf the Ethiopian nation; the undercurrent that has been building due to hatred of the detested Meles’s regime. It is by far the most crucial moment in the history of Ethiopian struggle. This is a moment that will define history. Because if Meles is allowed to win, the bloodshed will continue for a long time because, the change his masters seek are dangerous and will mire the region into bloody conflicts worse than what we are witnessing in Somalia.

Conclusion

This is a time when Ethiopians need to take a firm and clear stand and decide whether they want Meles and the TPLF gang gone. There is no need for those who take a hesitant position and fearful to show that they are working with Eritrea because they are afraid of a backlash. No need for those who want to stay in the background afraid to be in a weaker position if Eritrea loses. No need for those who want to put themselves in a favorable position by taking the middle ground in order to switch sides when convenient ala Hailu Shawel. These people or groups have no stand and can not lead. Do you want Weyane gone? Then take a stand. Show the people of Ethiopia that you can stand against Woyanne and lead.

(The writer can be reached at awetnayu@hotmail.com)

Health minister contradicts govt claims on ET-409 crash

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lebanon’s Health Minister is contradicting claims and leaks by his own government that Ethiopian flight 409 crashed because of weather and pilot error. Jawad Khalifeh said yesterday that the plane exploded.

BEIRUT (AFP) — An Ethiopian jet which crashed off Lebanon’s coast last month exploded after take-off, Lebanon’s health minister said on Tuesday in the first such official comment since the mysterious crash.

Remarks by Jawad Khalifeh could not be immediately confirmed by other officials in Beirut and came as Ethiopian Airlines said one of the plane’s black boxes has been sent to France for analysis.

“The plane exploded during flight and the cabin, as well as the bodies of those on board were dispersed into the sea, in different locations,” Khalifeh said to explain why some corpses were found dismembered.

“The first bodies which have been retrieved following the crash were intact but after that, we began to find body pieces or mutilated corpses,” he told reporters.

Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi refused to comment on the reported explosion. “I have no information about this,” he told AFP.

Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 plunged into the Mediterranean before dawn on January 25, just minutes after take-off from Beirut airport during a storm.

It was bound for Addis Ababa with 83 passengers and seven crew on board. No survivors were found and searchers have been struggling to recover bodies as most victims were believed to be still strapped to their seats.

There have been conflicting reports as to whether the jet exploded while airborne or after it hit the water, and officials have said there will be no answers until the data from the black boxes is analysed.

Lebanon has ruled out sabotage, blaming the bad weather for the tragedy, and officials have said the captain was instructed by the control tower to change to a certain heading but then the aircraft took a different course.

Experts have told AFP that the stormy weather may not have been the only reason for the crash, and that the aircraft may have had engine or hydraulics problems.

Witnesses have said they saw a ball of fire as the plane plunged into the sea and a defence ministry official said on the day of the tragedy that the plane broke into four pieces before crashing in the Mediterranean.

Lebanese army divers retrieved one of the plane’s two black boxes on Sunday and Ethiopian Airlines said it has been sent to France for analysis.

“We cannot say when we’ll have news because it is a process and there is an investigation,” spokeswoman Wogayehu Terefe told AFP in Addis Ababa.

Wogayehu said more bodies had been retrieved but said they were still waiting for an exact figure. Twenty three bodies had been found by Sunday.

The probe into the mysterious crash is being carried out by a Lebanese commission with support from a French body responsible for technical investigations of air accidents.

U.S. and Ethiopian investigators are also involved.

Ethiopian Airlines does not rule out sabotage

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ethiopian Airlines responds to leaked information that the crash of ET409 may have occurred due to pilot error. It is becoming all too apparent that the Lebanese regime, with the complicity of Woyanne, is trying to cover up some thing. The following is a press release by EAL.

Ethiopian Airlines would like to express its position on the latest speculative reports released on the cause of the accident on ET-409, 25 January.

As a member of the investigation team, Ethiopian Airlines strictly adheres to the ICAO annex 13 regulation, in which it is mandated to refrain from any inconclusive comments on the process of investigation.

The investigation is still in its early stage and the CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) and the aircraft wreckage are not yet retrieved for analysis, it is therefore, too early to conclude the cause of the accident. Ethiopian Airlines does not rule out all possible causes including the possibility of sabotage until the final outcome of the investigation is known.

Ethiopian Airlines would continue to cooperate with the investigation team to complete the process in accordance with the ICAO regulation and reveal the truth.

We share the pain and sorrow of the families of our crew and dear passengers who have lost their lives in the accident.

More Woyanne propaganda assault against EPPF (video)

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Woyanne junta chief Meles Zenawi told the opposition parties, if you want a change of government, do it like we did it, i.e., through armed struggle. The Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) is doing just that. So why is Woyanne crying now?

Ethiopian Hydropower-Plant Output Halted by Tunnel Collapse

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

By Jason McLure

ADDIS ABABA (Bloomberg) — Electricity output at Ethiopia’s largest hydropower generator, Gilgel Gibe II, has been halted after part of a tunnel that supplies water to the facility collapsed, the builder of the project said.

Production at the 420-megawatt plant may resume in two months, Salini Costruttori SpA, a Rome-based company, said in a statement on its Web site.

Gilgel Gibe II is powered by a reservoir at the Gilgel Gibe I dam in southwestern Ethiopia. Water is channeled through a 26-kilometer (16-mile) tunnel under a mountain before dropping 500 meters (1,640 feet) into the Omo River, according to a description posted on the Web site of Ethiopia’s Foreign
Ministry.

A geological event led to a “huge” rockfall involving about 15 meters of the tunnel, the company said. “Highly qualified personnel are already at work to ensure the earliest resumption of energy production.”

Ethiopia suffered frequent nationwide blackouts from January through September last year due to power shortages.

Meles Zenawi and officials from the state-owned Ethiopian Electric Power Corp. inaugurated the Gilgel Gibe II plant on Jan. 13. The project, which cost more than 5.2 billion birr ($388 million), increased the utility’s generating capacity by as much as 40 percent.

Misiker Negash, a spokesman for EEPCO, declined to comment on the collapse when contacted today by Bloomberg News. Andrea Scanzani, branch manager for Salini, said he couldn’t provide further details when reached on his mobile phone in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, today.

Environmentalist Opposition

Salini is also building the $2 billion Gilgel Gibe III power plant on the Gibe River, which has been opposed by environmental groups that say the project will harm indigenous people in the region and deplete Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.

Completion of the Gilgel Gibe II project had been delayed by two years after tunnel-boring equipment became repeatedly stuck and engineers had to redesign the tunnel’s path, according to International Rivers, a U.S.-based environmental group that has opposed hydropower programs in Ethiopia.

The project was funded in part by a 220 million-euro ($302 million) loan from the Italian government and 50 million euros from the European Investment Bank.

Horn of Africa conference

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Advocacy for Ethiopia hosts Conference on Good Governance, Peace, Security, and Sustainable Development in the Horn of Africa in Washington DC, from April 9 – 11, 2010.

Announcement and call for papers:

The Horn of Africa continues to be extremely fragile. The sub-region’s volatility has increased significantly in the post 9/11 period. The total collapse of Somalia and the irresponsible and imprudent intervention of outsiders in the affairs of Somalia have created fertile ground for the rise of radical Islam in the region. Hence, the complex ethnic, religious and inter-state tensions make the Horn of Africa one of the most volatile places in the world. The Ethio-Eritrea boundary conflict remains unresolved. The absence of democratic institutions in the Horn of Africa and the new tension in the Sudan further makes the sub-region one of the most conflict-ridden and with a potential for more explosive scenarios ahead.

The purpose of this conference is, therefore, to bring together scholars, civil society leaders, activists, diplomats, journalists of the free press and representatives of the international community to one forum to highlight potential tragic conflicts that have escaped the minds of many in the past. The focus of the discussion will be on how to democratize Ethiopia, the biggest entity, in the Horn of Africa. The democratization of Ethiopia will certainly pave the way for peace, security, democracy, good governance, and sustainable development in the region at large.

The conference is sponsored by a number of civil society networks and advocacy organizations. In many respects this conference will be a unique and historical forum. At the end of the conference, a public meeting will be held where distinguished personalities will address the participants and the community at large. The viability of bringing change through the ballot box will be examined and how to clip the wings of the dictatorship will be outlined. Participants will make commitment to a roadmap for democratizing Ethiopia. Focus will be given to the state of the free press in Ethiopia and the plight of journalists who faced extreme difficulties, persecution and exile for doing their jobs. The conference will also hold a special program to honor those who have made notable sacrifices in the struggle for freedom and democracy. Civil society leaders and academics from the US and rest of Africa will share their experiences.

The three-day long conference will be in Washington DC. It is scheduled to be held from April 9 to 11, 2010. We are expecting it to be the biggest conference that has ever been organized to exclusively focus on Ethiopia within the context of the Horn of Africa.

The State of Governance in Ethiopia:

Past and present elections, post election scenarios; the state of governance, the state of human rights, freedom of the press, ethnic relations in today’s Ethiopia; the quest for a lasting democracy and good governance, etc.;

The role of civil societies, independent judiciary, independent security, freedom of the press in democratizing Ethiopia, etc.;

The State of the Ethiopian Economy:

Poverty, dependence, debt and foreign investment; the role of the TPLF as a Business Empire and a political party; economic inequality and the lack of equitable and sustainable development ; opaque land grab deals with foreign companies and implications for food self –sufficiency , national security and the environment; etc;

Peace and Security Challenges and Prospects in the Horn Africa:

Mr. Meles Zenawi’s policies in the region, the policies of foreign powers in the Horn of Africa, border issues; Prospects and Solutions for the Future of Ethio-Eritrea relations;

The threat of terrorism in the region; absence of good governance, ethnic politics, environmental degradation, climate change, consequences of being landlocked, etc. as causes for interstate and intrastate conflicts, instability, and insecurity in the Horn of Africa sub-region; Conflict prevention and resolution.

The papers must be short and presentable in 20 minutes or less. They must also be in either Amharic or English. Other Horn of Africa indigenous languages are acceptable provided there is translation and an interpreter is available at the cost of the presenter. Tables and annexes must be kept to the minimum.

This is an independent forum that does not advocate the political view of any single party or organization. Papers should be sent to the e-mail address below by March 26, 2010. The organizing committee calls upon all concerned to support and attend this historic conference.

Contact e-mail: HornofAfricaGPS@gmail.com

Concerns and queries could be addressed to Horn of Africa Conference Organizing Committee secretariat Telephone number @ 202-386-3037

Horn of Africa Conference Organizing Joint Committee
Advocacy for Ethiopia (AFE)
Ethiopian National Priorities Consultative Process (ENPCP)

Lebanese leak information on Ethiopian jet crash investigation

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: Any investigation conducted by the regimes in Lebanon and Ethiopia cannot be taken seriously. Both of them seem to have some thing to hide. The Lebanese, in particular, are acting in a highly suspicious manner.

BEIRUT (Reuters) — Pilot error caused the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane off the coast of Lebanon last month which killed all 90 people on board, a source familiar with the investigation into the accident said on Tuesday.

“The investigation team has reached an early conclusion that it was pilot error, based on the information from the black box,” the source told Reuters.

An investigation team involving Lebanese, French and Ethiopian officials had headed to France on Monday with the flight recorders, commonly known as “black boxes”, for analysis.

The Boeing 737-800 plane crashed minutes after taking off from Beirut in stormy weather on January 25, plunging in a ball of fire into the sea.

The pilot had failed to respond to the control tower’s request to change direction even though he acknowledged their demands. The plane made a sharp turn before disappearing off the radar, the Lebanese transport minister said at the time.

The eight-year-old plane, carrying mostly Lebanese and Ethiopian passengers, last had a maintenance check on December 25 and no technical problems had been found. It was bound for the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Since retrieving the flight recorders from the Mediterranean on Sunday, Lebanese and international search teams have also located parts of the plane’s fuselage, where most of the victims’ bodies are believed trapped.

The bodies of at least 23 victims have been recovered so far.

NBC Actor Andrew McCarthy arrested in Ethiopia

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

The star of NBC TV show “Lipstick Judge,” Andrew McCarthy, had a harrowing experience while on assignment for the travel magazine AFAR recently, as he was escorted at gunpoint out of an historic underground church for intruding without documentation.

On the second day of his visit, having already witnessed an exorcism at the famed Lalibela church, McCarthy, 47, was accosted by a guard. The star of NBC’s “Lipstick Jungle” had bought a ticket to visit Lalibela, but had left it in his hotel.

Lebanon hands over ET-409 black box to France

Monday, February 8th, 2010

ADDIS ABABA (PANA) — Lebanon will hand over the recovered Flight Data Recorder (Black Box) of the crashed Ethiopian Airlines jet, ET 409, to the French authorities for investigations, Ethiopian Airlines Chief Executive Girma Wake said on Sunday.

‘The flight data recorder has been recovered. The search crews are in the process of retrieving the cockpit voice recorder. Once they are retrieved, they will be sealed and taken to France for decoding,’ the Ethiopian Airlines CEO told PANA by phone.

The Ethiopian Airlines plane with 90 people on board crashed off the coast of Lebanon on 25 January, shortly after take-off. The search crews located the main parts of the aircraft’s rear wings on Sunday.

Mr Wake said the Lebanese authorities had decided the flight data recorder would be handed over to the French authorities for â~decoding.’

‘It will be read in the presence of the Ethiopian authorities, the Lebanese and the representatives of the Boeing Corporation of US,’ Mr Wake said.

The flight data recorder will tell the investigators the possible causes of the crash.

It will indicate the exact speed at which the jet went down and could also tell if any instruments malfunctioned after take-off.

The cockpit voice recorder, which has not been retrieved, will tell the investigators the exact details of the conversations between the pilot and the airport control tower.

The aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, was last checked in December, 2009 and proved to be fit to fly.

France and Canada have been best known for the decoding of flight data and cockpit data recorders. The French are known to have pioneered the introduction of the flight data recorders in air accident investigations.

Crashed Ethiopian plane's black box recovered

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Navy commandos have recovered the flight recorders from the Ethiopian Airlines jet that crashed off the coast of Lebanon last month, killing all 90 people on board.

The Lebanese military says navy commandos retrieved the jet’s flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder on Sunday.

The recorders were taken to a Beirut naval base, where they were given to investigators.  The two “black boxes” will be flown to France for analysis.

Lebanese Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi said searchers also located the cockpit and parts of the fuselage Sunday. Eight more bodies from the crash were recovered, bringing the total to 23.

The Boeing 737 went down January 25 just minutes after takeoff from Beirut during a heavy thunderstorm.  The plane was headed for Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

The plane abruptly changed direction shortly after take-off, and officials have said the pilot was unresponsive to appeals to correct its course.  But Lebanese and Ethiopian officials have cautioned against blaming the pilot until the flight recorders are reviewed.

The jet broke apart in mid-air, erupted into flames and crashed into the sea.

Ethiopian Airlines is considered one of Africa’s best carriers.  It operates regular flights to Lebanon, where thousands of Ethiopians work.

Western Diplomatic Omerta in Ethiopia

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Last week, in a piece reporting on the eerie silence of Western diplomats in Addis Abeba on Birtukan Midekssa, the first woman political party leader in Ethiopian history and Ethiopia’s # 1 political prisoner, Xan Rice, a reporter for the Guardian wrote:

That foreign embassies, including Britain’s, which have been refused permission to visit Mideksa, have barely made a public complaint about the case appears to back opposition complaints that when it comes to Ethiopia, donors favour stability over democratic reforms or human rights… ‘The [Ethiopian] government says the more we make noise the more difficult it will be to get her [Mideksa] out,’ said one Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. ‘Are we going to risk our entire aid budget for one person? No.’”

Rice questioned in the caption to his piece whether Birtukan is “Ethiopia’s jailed victim of Western realpolitik.”

What kind of double doubletalk is this phrase, “speaking on condition of anonymity?” Is the climate of fear and loathing so oppressive and pervasive in Ethiopia that even emissaries with full diplomatic immunity are scared pantless to mention Birtukan’s name in public? Are these anonymous diplomats so afraid of calling a spade a spade that they have themselves become virtual political prisoners in their own embassies? Has a segment of the Western diplomatic community in Addis turned into pusillanimous pussyfooters and gossipy nabobs of cowardice?

One speaks “on condition of anonymity” when the situation justifies it. For instance, police sometimes “speak on condition of anonymity” to provide information of value to the community as part of their criminal investigations. During policy negotiations or in formal decision-making settings, stakeholders may engage in anonymous disclosures to obtain strategic advantage. Whistleblowers often report corruption, criminal wrongdoing, fraud, waste or abuse in government anonymously to avoid retribution. Could it be that these anonymous informants are actually diplomats-cum-whistleblowers? One really wonders about the palpable diplomatic rationale for speaking about Birtukan behind a veil of diplomatic anonymity. The fact of her notorious imprisonment is well known to the world. Many Western governments have publicly condemned her imprisonment and called for her immediate release. Just last week, the new U.S. ambassador-designate to Ethiopia, Donald Booth, told Senator Russ Feingold, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Africa, that he will aggressively take up the case of Birtukan and other political prisoners with the dictators in Ethiopia. Yet some of the resident Western diplomats in Addis choose to cloak themselves in anonymity while pontificating about “realpolitik.”

It seems these gossipy diplomats have adopted a version of “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” game plan. Everybody knows many nasty and raunchy things happen in Vegas, but no one will care enough to tell about them. Gross abuses of human rights are daily occurrences in Ethiopia and the jails are full of political prisoners, but no diplomat dares speak openly about them or finger the criminals and abusers. Rather, the Western diplomatic community has ensconced itself around this obscene question: “Are we going to risk our entire aid budget for a bunch of nameless, faceless, hopeless, moneyless and powerless nobodies? Hell, No!”

The real reason for invoking anonymity, while enjoying full immunity, is diplomatic omerta — a conspiracy and code of silence, not unlike that time-honored tradition of the criminal societies in southern Italy where no one will tell the truth in public or finger the criminals because they are afraid of the Capo di Tutti Capi (boss of all bosses). The conspiracy of silence has transformed these anonymous diplomats into the proverbial wise monkeys who “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil”. This odious culture of diplomatic omerta in Addis must end!

The “realpolitik” (pragmatic) justification of the diplomats to “speak on condition of anonymity” is flawed and logically untenable. The principles of “realpolitik” apply in the relationship between powerful nations who find it advantageous to deal with each other in a practical and pragmatic manner so as to avoid costly conflict. It is silly to conceptualize the relationship between Western countries collectively and one of the poorest countries in the world in terms of “realpolitik”. Without the budgetary support and massive economic and humanitarian aid of the West, no dictatorship in Africa can survive even for a single day. These anonymous diplomats now want to convince us that “realpolitik” prevents them from exercising their political will on the dictators. Poppycock! We know, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

On the other hand, if the diplomats are “speaking on condition of anonymity” because they believe they can finesse the dictators with reason and logic, they are tripping (or in diplomatic parlance, “it is lunacy”). They ought to know (as they pretend not to know) that they are dealing with some of the rock-hard, dyed-in-the-wool, unyielding and incorrigible ideologues in modern Africa history. These dictators are impervious to reason and common sense; they are driven by the maniacal and insatiable hunger for power. The lessons the dictators draw from the invocation of diplomatic anonymity is that they have succeeded in intimidating the Western diplomatic corps into silence, not that they are buying time to negotiate and craft a fair resolution to the fundamental political problems of the country. Let’s put it bluntly: The dictators are convinced that on the whole Western diplomats in Addis are a klatch of spineless, wimpy, double-talking, forked-tongue equivocators who would rather grovel and wheedle than stand up for principle.

The cunning dictators understand the wishy-washiness of the diplomats and take advantage of their apparent timidity. They carefully orchestrate a program of manipulation, subtle intimidation, vague threats of expulsion and clever misdirection to string them along. “Sure, we let Birtukan out, mañana (tomorrow). Excellencies! Don’t worry, be happy! Did you say ‘Stop human rights abuses’? Not a problem. Consider it done, mañana. Clean elections? Hoo-Hah! Check out our Election Code of Conduct. Any other questions?!”

As Joseph Stalin sarcastically observed, “A sincere diplomat is like dry water or wooden iron.” We are not foolish enough to believe that Western diplomats will work sincerely to help bring change, democratization and hope in Ethiopia. But they need to know that their diplomatic chicanery and double-dealing will not go unchallenged in the court of international public opinion. Let us look at their do-nothing, kiss derrière policy in Birtukan’s case. The anonymous diplomat speaking to reporter Rice said that the West would “not risk [its] entire aid budget for one person.” This is not an idiosyncratic attitude or the view of a single diplomat. It is a wrong-headed outlook widely shared in the general diplomatic community in Addis.

But we should set the record straight: The issue of Birtukan is not a matter of one individual political prisoner. Birtukan is a national symbol of thousands of political prisoners that are held in detention in official and secret prisons throughout the country without due process of law. Birtukan is not a lone dissident on a moral crusade against a dictatorship. She is the head of the principal opposition party in the country and the leader of the largest coalition of political parties. On a level electoral playing field, Birtukan is the kind of leader who could easily beat the pants off the ruling dictatorship. By not raising her righteous cause in public and repeatedly, these veiled diplomats enable and embolden the dictators to remain bullheaded and continue in their gross human rights violations spree. In the end, these diplomats show themselves to be toothless tigers who are afraid of their own shadows and would rather meow than speak the truth in public.

Western diplomats in Addis have the choice of speaking up and standing up for the principles they advocate so passionately and vociferously at the cocktail parties, or remaining silent. It is their right to remain silent to the thundering screams of the torture victims, the faint whimpers of the political prisoners rotting in the dungeons, the cries and lamentations of the opposition leaders and the tormented wails of journalists who flee the country. They can even game us by shedding a few crocodile tears and assuring us that they are doing everything they can to help change things. We know in the final analysis they will wring their hands, pat themselves in the back and tell each other everything is fine and dandy and things in Ethiopia will definitely change, mañana. But they should spare us the crock of anonymous palaver because all they are doing is prove to the world that they do not possess the least scrap of conscience or integrity.

There is a price for silence, which is loss of credibility with the people of Ethiopia. That may not mean much to the hoity-toity excellencies; but they should know that their empty cocktail party rhetoric about democracy and rule of law has as much credibility with us. Diplomatic hypocrisy built on a foundation of anonymity, in our book, is called complicity and compounding a crime. Ethiopians understand and like straight talk, not anonymous talk (and not silence). They don’t like those who talk with “butter on their tongues and dagger in their hearts” (Afu kibe, lebu chube). We hope these invisible diplomats will emerge from the dark side and muster the courage to speak on the record and call a spade, a spade. If they don’t, we will understand. Silence in the face of inconvenient truths is a hallowed tradition in the Western diplomatic corps.

Excellencies, never mind if the dictators say, “the more [you] make noise the more difficult it will be to get Birtukan out.” Go ahead, make a whole lot of noise, not silence. Birtukan and the thousands of Ethiopian political prisoners are on pins and needles (no pun intended) waiting to hear your rapturous noise.

I have said it before[1] Excellencies, and I will shout it out again: J’Accuse!

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/jaccuse_b_349802.html

Alemayehu G. Mariam, is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. He writes a regular blog on The Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/ and his commentaries appear regularly on pambazuka.org, allafrica.com, newamericamedia.org and other sites.

Questions over Ethiopia dam persist

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

ADDIS ABABA (IPS) — Ethiopia’s regime is building a 240-metre high dam on the Omo River that is intended to end the country’s electricity shortage and supply power to neighbouring countries. Not everyone’s happy.

The Gilgel Gibe III dam will hold back 14.7 million cubic metres of water. Its 1,870 MW generating capacity will be a significant boost for the Ethiopian Electric Power Company (EEPCO) which has plans to extend electricity supply within the country and export power to other countries in East Africa.

A 1.7 billion dollar contract to build the dam has been awarded to Italian multinational Salini Costruttori SPA. But the project’s critics have assembled a damning dossier of problems with it.

Two environmental organisations, Friends of Lake Turkana and International Rivers, are challenging the ecological soundness of the project. They say it threatens biodiversity in the Omo River and Lake Turkana which it feeds. The basin has large populations of Nile crocodiles, hippopotamus, and over 40 different species of fish.

IR and FoLT say changes in the river’s flow will also put the livelihoods of up to 200,000 people who depend on the lake for fishing, herding and irrigation at risk.

The groups have raised questions over the quality of the environmental and social impact studies completed for the project.

Gilgel Gibe III’s opponents also point out that the contract to build the dam was not awarded through a competitive international tender; it was negotiated directly with Salini, in violation of Ethiopia’s procurement guidelines.

Procurement

EEPCO argues that both Ethiopian and international procurement guidelines allowed Gibe III’s contract to be reached without a tender process due to its size and huge financial requirements. EEPCO CEO Miheret Debebe says the project’s opponents are using false allegations to try to stop the project.

However Ken Ohashi, World Bank country director for Ethiopia and Sudan, confirmed that the omission of a competitive tender means the Bank cannot loan the Ethiopian government money for the project. This does not rule out World Bank involvement entirely.

“In a situation like this, there is a possibility for us, in line with our guidelines, to help mobilise financing from the private market to finance the project by providing a guarantee to those interested in financing it,” Ohashi told IPS.

“If decided, we will provide guarantee against certain types of risk of non-repayment to commercial financiers – basically ‘political’ rather than ‘commercial’ risk of repayment,” he said.

Construction on Gibe III is already more than a third complete, but more money will be needed. The Ethiopian government’s task of addressing concerns – environmental, social, technical and financial – in order to secure a World Bank credit guarantee has now been complicated by problems facing an earlier phase of the massive hydroelectric project.

A cautionary tale

Barely two weeks after it was formally opened on Jan. 14, the Gilgel Gibe II hydroelectric power station suffered a collapse in its main tunnel, forcing closure of the new facility while it is repaired.

Gibe II, also built by Salini, has – or had – a generating capacity of 420MW; it relied on water released from the Gilgel Gibe I dam channeled through a 26 kilometre tunnel into the Omo River valley. The terms for this project too were negotiated between the Ethiopian government and Salini without competitive bidding.

According to Italian World Bank watchdog group Campagna per la Riforma per la Banca Mondiale (CRBM), the 490 million euro contract for Gibe II (today equivalent to 670 million dollars) violated Italian and Ethiopian regulations. Italy’s Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DGCS) nonetheless approved the largest single aid credit it had ever granted.

This was against the advice of both Italy’s finance ministry and DGCS’s own internal evaluation unit. Reviewing that advice, CRBM lists the flaws: a no-bid contract, an inadequate feasibility study, the absence of funds for environmental mitigation, and an unrealistic projection for servicing the loan.

The European Investment Bank also loaned the project 50 million euros ($69 million at today’s exchange rate); according to the CRBM accepting Ethiopia’s argument that it faced an emergency electrical shortage in lieu of more complete preparation and procedure.

Construction ran into severe difficulties as the tunneling engineers encountered unexpected mud, sand and aquifers; the project was finally completed two years behind schedule, with the Ethiopian government – and taxpayers – picking up the cost overrun as the contract held Salini liable for any delays due to engineering failures, while these problems were due to an inadequate geological survey.

Returning to Gibe III

In 2009, a group of eight academics and consultants collaborating as the Africa Resources Working Group (ARWG) published a sharp critique of the studies done for Gibe III. The ARWG says that contrary to the findings of the environmental and social impact assessments provided by Salini and EEPCO, the downstream impacts of the dam will likely be devastating.

They predict radical reduction of water flowing into Lake Turkana; the loss of cultivation of seasonally-flooded land in the Omo River delta, and of riverine forest and woodland the length of the river, damaging biodiversity and livelihoods.

“Altogether, more than 200,000 indigenous peoples of the lowermost Omo Basin are dependent on riverside and delta recessional cultivation… This population would face massive economic losses, with widespread severe hunger, disease and loss of life occurring on a regional scale, if the Gibe III dam is completed.”

The authors reject the official studies’ claims that lake water levels are already dropping due to evaporation from uncontrolled flooding, or that using the dam to deliberately increase water flow in the river during the dry season will alleviate drought.

Instead, they explain their view that extensive leakage through fissures in the walls of the eventual reservoir behind the dam, as well as the planned abstraction of water for new commercial agriculture and industrial development just downstream will see water levels in Lake Turkana fall by as much as 10 metres. The ARWG also expresses concern that clay rich soil around the dam could become prone to landslides as it fills up – and to top it off: the dam site is on an active earthquake fault line.

“An accurate assessment of environmental and social processes within the lower Omo Basin indicates that completion of the Gibe III dam would produce a broad range of negative effects, some of which would be catastrophic in the tri-country region where Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya intersect.”

As the World Bank’s review board meets on Mar. 5th, it will have much to consider. At stake is the life of a river, the fate of 200,000 people along its banks, and the commitments to transparent and effective aid made by governments and multilateral institutions alike.

Chinese is now being taught in Ethiopian schools

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

By Legesse Allyn

As I sit here reading EthiopianReview.com report that China may be investing in and unfairly influencing Ethiopia, even too much for Ethiopia’s own good, I reflect on my research of 20 years into the ancient Ethiopian investment and importation of goods and technology into ancient Gebts that led to my recent book. Like cheap Chinese-made goods available today in Ethiopia, 5100 years ago it was Ethiopia food crops and goods that were exported to and sold in Gebts by ancient Ethiopian businessmen and women. Not only were crops and goods sold in ancient Gebts markets, but as Chinese are doing in Ethiopia today, 5100 years ago it was Ethiopians investing technology into Gebtsawian infrastructure that led to the very large-scale farming and production, first ever of it’s kind, that called for record keeping that finally became writing — the first written language of business and commerce.

Egyptologists will claim it was Ethiopians who “colonized” ancient Gebts, but far from it was Gebts “colonized” by Ethiopians. As just like with China being handed local Ethiopian commercial opportunities, some might say on a silver platter, it was the Ethiopians 5100 years ago who were handed administration of the ancient Gebts land by whoever controlled that region 5100 years ago, because it was Ethiopians who were providing the food to the Gebts population and that food was increasingly depended on. And with farming and production exported to Gebts shortly after the handover of administration, ancient Ethiopian technology provided the local Gebts people with farming and manufacturing jobs in the ruling Ethiopian farms and factories.

Though I do not get involved in Ethiopian politics, having been born in the USA and never yet having lived in Ethiopia (the land of my grandfather), I find it so interesting how many fear investment in Ethiopia by foreign societies like the Chinese. Especially when 5100 and for the nearly 3000 years that followed, it was Ethiopia that was investing in and influencing the societies of others not only in Gebts, but around the world. It makes me wonder if those foreign ancient societies expressed the same fears of takeover that Ethiopians might really have of the Chinese taking over influence of Ethiopia today.

After I published my book on the ancient Ethiopian involvement in ancient Gebts this past August of 2009, entitled “Amarigna & Tigrigna Qal Hieroglyphs for Beginners” (http://books.ancientgebts.org), now being kicked around like a soccer ball in some Ethiopian circles, Ethiopians regularly ask me what influence the ancient past could ever have on Ethiopian society today. I often answer to beware of the past, because one who forgets the past is doomed to repeat it. And in this case with the Chinese, it looks like the past is repeating itself in reverse, with Ethiopia the one being influenced. Back 5100 years ago when Ethiopia was influencing the world, it was Amarigna that was learned in ancient Gebts and other far away lands, just as Mandarin is said be to taught as part of the curriculum in a Chinese-financed school in Ethiopia, this according to an EthiopianReview.com article entitled “China’s Massive Investment in Ethiopia at What Cost?”

So, while those complain that what my book reports is unbelievable, the Chinese are not sitting on their haunches, but are repeating the very history begun by Ethiopians thousands of years ago in ancient Gebts and spread throughout ancient Europe, India, Asia, and the Middle East. Now the inventors of foreign investment, Ethiopians, whose society and culture is in fear of being unduly influenced this time. Like my book or not, it is our past that we have forgotten and now we might be suffering from, now paying the price according to those who complain about the Chinese investment into Ethiopia. It seems to me I would say to those with such fears to look to the past to capture your future and my book merely is the messenger of what we forgot to remember. After nearly 3000 years of Ethiopians influencing foreign politics, economies, languages, religion, and culture of foreign countries around the world, why are we now not the leaders — at the very least participants — in this very animal that we ourselves invented?

But even if we believe that Ethiopians actually “colonized” ancient Gebts as Egyptologists say instead of it being handed to Ethiopians, as ancient Gebts inscriptions state, it is at least something to think about. This is because if my research reported in my book is true, it is Ethiopians who today have the most to lose, having forgotten itself and its powerful past on its own. With some refusing to believe my account of Ethiopia’s past is true, even willing to try to block my book from ever being read and allowing others to decide for themselves by saying it is garbage or fantasy. But as I posted as a reply to one of these trashing my book and research on a message board thread about my book somewhere in Internetland, “There’s my truth, your truth, and THE truth.” Make sure that ignoring THE truth does not come back to bite you one day.

More information about “Amarigna & Tigrigna Qal Hieroglyphs for Beginners,” along with a sample page from the book, is available at ancientgebts.org, with copies of the book available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and many other booksellers.

(The writer can be reached at legesse@ancientgebts.com)

Searchers locate black boxes of crashed Ethiopian plane

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Searchers located the black boxes of an Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed in the sea off Lebanon last month killing 90 people, Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi said on Saturday.

“The boxes have been found under the rear part of the fuselage” which was found on Saturday morning, the Lebanese minister told AFP.

“Lebanese army divers have gone down to retrieve them, but this operation will take time,” said Aridi.

“We have to be cautious because we must preserve the data contained in the boxes,” he added.

Aridi stressed special measures would be taken to bring to the surface the flight recorders in a way to avoid any damage that could be detrimental to the information they contain.

The minister also said he had been informed by the Syrian authorities that debris from the plane had been found in the Mediterranean Sea off the western city of Lattakia.

He said earlier that the search vessel, Ocean Alert, had located the rear sections of the aircraft’s cabin.

The sections found were between 10 and 12 metres (33 and 40 feet) long, and at a depth of 45 metres (150 feet) off Naameh, 12 kilometres (seven miles) south of Beirut, Aridi said.

The Boeing 737-800 went down before dawn on January 25, just minutes after take-off during stormy weather from Beirut airport. It was bound for Addis Ababa with 83 passengers and seven crew on board.

No survivors were found from Flight 409, and only 15 bodies have so far been recovered.

Aridi said he hoped other sections of the plane would soon be found, along with bodies of the remaining victims still thought to be strapped to their seats.

Of the 15 bodies found, nine were Lebanese, five Ethiopian and one Iraqi. Fifty-four Lebanese were on board the aircraft.

The Lebanese military said on Saturday that “pictures are being taken” of the located section of fuselage with a view to raising it.

Flight recorders are usually placed in the rear of commercial airliners.

Lebanese officials have said the captain was instructed by the control tower to change to a certain heading, but that the aircraft then took a different course.

Experts have told AFP that the stormy weather may not have been the only reason for the crash, and that the aircraft may have had engine or hydraulics problems.

(Source: AFP)

Ethiopian painter Adey Gulilat presents her work in Atlanta

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Hanatzeb Ethiopian Art Gallery in Atlanta has invited Adey Gulilat, an accomplished Ethiopian artist and designer, to present her paintings this coming weekend.

Date: Saturday Feb. 6 and Sunday Feb 7, 2010
Time: 4:00 PM on Saturday and 2:00 PM on Sunday
Address: 49-B Bennett Street, Atlanta GA 30309

More info: 404 352 4373 or 404 838 8433
hanatzeb.com

Gilgel Gibe tunnel collapsed two weeks after inauguration

Friday, February 5th, 2010

By Peter Bosshard | International Rivers

On Januar 13, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister [genocidal dictator] Meles Zenawi inaugurated the Gilgel Gibe 2 scheme, the country’s biggest hydropower project. “It is possible to speed up development without polluting the environment,” Zenawi proudly declared as he cut the ceremonial ribbon. Yet this was wishful thinking.

Due to shoddy preparation, the project had already been delayed by more than two years. And less than two weeks after the inauguration, the project’s core component, a 26 kilometer-long tunnel, collapsed partly. Power generation had to be stopped for several months. Ethiopia’s hydro sector demonstrates that there are not shortcuts to sound infrastructure development. Cutting corners does not “speed up development,” but produces costly mistakes.

Gilgel Gibe 2 has a price tag of 374 million Euros and a capacity of 420 megawatts. The project works without a reservoir, but channels the water discharged from the Gilgel Gibe 1 Dam through a long tunnel and a steep drop directly to the valley of the Omo River. The undertaking was plagued by shoddy management from the beginning. In violation of Ethiopian law, the government negotiated the project contract with the Italian construction company Salini without competitive bidding. No-bid contracts for public works projects are a big red flag of corruption. The Gilgel Gibe deal was awarded without a feasibility study, and construction started without the legally required environmental permit.

In violation of Italian law and against the recommendation of its own evaluators, Italy’s Ministry of Development Cooperation awarded 220 million Euros of aid money for Salini’s no-bid contract. Gilgel Gibe 2 was “the biggest development fund released to a single project in the history of the Italian Cooperation,” the Ministry says proudly. The European Investment Bank, which is notoriously weak in appraising power projects, contributed another 50 million Euros, and the Ethiopian government funded the remaining 104 million Euros.

Gilgel Gibe 2 was supposed to be completed in Dec. 2007. Yet the poor preparation soon took its toll. Deficient geological studies had overlooked sandy soils and aquifers in the rock. The tunnel boring equipment got stuck in the mud, and the engineers had to redesign the tunnel’s path. As we heard, the aqueduct collapsed only 12 days after its inauguration, nine kilometers inside the mountain.

Who pays the price for such development failures? The dubiously negotiated contract for Gilgel Gibe 2 exempts Salini from geological risks, so the Ethiopian electricity consumers and tax payers ended up paying for the cost-overruns. Salini will certainly try to shift the blame for the tunnel collapse to Ethiopia once again. In the meantime, the country’s poor remain without electricity, and the environment gets spoilt for nothing.

Italy’s Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale has documented the numerous legal problems and shortcuts of the Gilgel Gibe 2 project in detail. The Campagna’s Caterina Amicucci comments that aid projects like Gilgel Gibe 2 “not so much address a country’s urgent development needs, but subsidizes a major Italian company.” The Campagna and International Rivers have asked that the bill for the latest disaster be paid by Salini and not Ethiopia’s taxpayers.

Gilgel Gibe 2′s dodgy deal is the rule, not the exception in Ethiopia’s hydropower sector. The contract for the slightly smaller Tekeze Dam was awarded in 2002, and power generation was supposed to start in 2007. Yet in this case, the ground on which the dam was being built was too weak — a fact which a proper feasibility study would have found in advance. Landslides caused further delays, and the project was commissioned two years late in 2009.

The story doesn’t end with Gilgel Gibe 2 and Tekeze. In July 2006, the government awarded a $2.1 billion contract for the Gibe 3 Dam — its biggest infrastructure project ever — to Salini through direct negotiations. Again there was no competitive bidding. Again project construction started without an Environmental Impact Assessment and an Economic, Financial and Technical Assessment. If built, the Gibe 3 Dam will devastate the fragile ecosystems of the Lower Omo Valley and Lake Turkana, on which 500,000 poor farmers, herders and fisherfolk rely for their livelihoods. Even though the project violates Ethiopian law and their own safeguard policies, the African Development Bank and the World Bank are currently considering support for the project.

Will the collapse of the Gilgel Gibe 2 be a wake-up call for the World Bank and the African Development Bank? Latest news indicates that the financiers, who refused to get involved in Gilgel Gibe 2, may yet shy away from the dodgy Gibe 3 deal. They know that their credibility is on the line.

Chinese workers injured in clashes with Woyanne in Mekele

Friday, February 5th, 2010

By Girmay Gebru

MEKELE, ETHIOPIA (VOA) — An estimated 400 Chinese employees on strike for the past two weeks at the Messebo Cement Factory in Mekele charge some have suffered physical injuries in clashes with company officials over wages.

[Messebo is one of the 60 mega-million-dollar companies in Ethiopia that is controlled by Meles Zenawi's wife, Azeb Mesfin.]

Ethiopian Woyanne federal police have now placed tight security around Mesebo cement factory expansion being operated by Hafie Cement Research and Design Institute and the subcontractor, Jention.

The workers told VOA that 800 birr, a portion of their monthly wages, is paid to them but the rest of their salary which was to be deposited in their individual accounts is missing. Some of the workers said there was no money in their account for the last three months.

The contractor said they will be paid for their effort and that the two sides will meet to discuss the dispute soon.

ET-409 and the surplus Ethiopians

Friday, February 5th, 2010

By Yilma Bekele

It took an article on LA Times to help me gather my thoughts together. I knew there was some thing missing in the story unfolding in front of me. The article by Alexandra Sandels and Borzou Daragahi of Los Angles Times brought it all in focus.

ET409 is a tragic story. We all felt the pain. Although death is a natural occurrence, an accident like ET409 has unpleasant effect on all of us. It is death magnified. ET409 was death in the family. Sudden unexpected death.

Then the passenger manifest started to come out. There were eighty passengers and seven crewmembers. Twenty-two of the passengers were Ethiopians returning home from Lebanon. As far as the foreign press is concerned they were ordinary passengers. Business people or vacationers returning home. But we Ethiopians know better. It was no surprise to us that they were all women. No one has to tell us they will all be young. We have close relatives like that all over the Middle East. They are the surplus Ethiopians.

This group of Ethiopians returned home in a body bag. Some will stay in the Mediterranean. All will have a special place in our hearts. On the other hand talk to any Ethiopian Airlines employee and they will tell you the horror stories of the returnees from the Middle East. The trip back home should be renamed the ‘horror express’. Some return with deep psychological scars, some with visible body scars and some in a casket. Some sit there like zombies unable to talk, afraid to move unsure of themselves. Some come back home to die. They will never recover from the deep humiliation and abuse.

They all go there to better themselves and their family. There used to be a long line stretching all the way to the street and sidewalk in front of the old courthouse in Ledeta. It was a line of girls registering a name change to go to the Middle East. Having a Muslim name was a plus. Then came Woyane and institutionalized the process. They called it employment opportunity and started to charge for the service. Woyane makes a lot of money selling citizens. It is a very lucrative business. It is true they started selling maids to the Middle East before they graduated to selling children to the West in the so-called ‘adoption’ scam.

So our sisters flock to the Middle East to make something of their life. In Lebanon, Dubai, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia etc. they join others like them from the Far East in perpetual servitude. They enter a region with no laws, minimal view of human right and total absence of justice. The plight of our people in the Middle East is an open secret. The suffering and humiliation have been told and retold plenty of times. They jump from high-rise building and kill themselves. They kill their tormentors in self-defense. Unable to understand their agony their brain shuts off.

So the ones that died in the accident are the carriers of this horror. Despite all this happening to them our sisters are on of the highest contributors to Woyane’s 10% growth that is told and retold again and again. Let us take Lebanon by itself. They say there are over twenty five thousand Ethiopians working there. Let us assume each one sends US $100.00 per month. That is US$ 2.5 Million per month and US $30 Million a year. In Ethiopia that will be $390 Million Bir. A lot of money if you ask me. That is what you would call a cash cow.

How does the Ethiopian government appreciate the contribution of these citizens that cling to their motherland despite the threat to their well-being. Silence and indifference is their response. So it was a surprise to see the Woyane Foreign Minster in Beirut after the accident. There he was sitting with the Lebanese Prime Minister. Why did he go there is a good question? Did he go there to gather his people around him and console them in this time of grief? Did he go to meet with friend and family of the victims and tell them their government’s commitment to help in the search and rescue effort? Did he go there to give them moral strength? Did he go there to hold their hands and be with them? I am afraid the answer is none of the above. In Woyane’s Ethiopia those who rule don’t mingle with those ordinary Ethiopians. His Excellency does not have time for uneducated simple maids.

Then why did he go? Well he went as his capacity as Board Chairman of Ethiopian Airlines. Yes he is the Chairman of the Board. Don’t ask what his qualifications are for such a high post. Does his resume shows his talent in managing a little kiosk? Does it show his education and capacity for such a demanding job? Does he have a track record of growing a business? The answer is none of the above. His qualification is his membership in TPLF. Thus he went there because some Lebanese officials used to degrading our Ethiopian sisters upgraded their contempt and questioned the skill of the pilots and crew. The Foreign Minster went there to calm the nerves of the Lebanese officials. He went there to protect the integrity of his cash cow called Ethiopian Airlines. Why they don’t change the name to ‘Woyane Airlines’ is a mystery. The only thing Ethiopian is the name. In America they call it truth in advertising.

Thus it was no surprise to see my Diaspora friends decrying the racism of the Lebanese in the ill treatment of those in grief. Despite the fact that the horrible condition of the Ethiopian guest workers is known to all of us some of us choose to vent our rage on the people of Lebanon. I agree with Fekade, it is totally ‘a misplaced rage’. Our rage should be directed at those that allow such conditions to exist. Our indignations should be directed at the root of the problem. We should be careful in our wholesale condemnation of the Lebanese people. We should be aware that there still are over twenty five thousand of our people working there. We don’t want to contribute for their further ill treatment. Our quarrel is with the TPLF regime that considers the rest of us as trespassers in our own land. We fix our house first and the world will shower us with respect and love. As Henry Thoreau said ‘there are thousands hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the roots…’ don’t tell me you are still hacking at the branches! That is so yesterday my friend. Rage against Lebanon is hacking the branch.

Al Amoudi demands retraction

Friday, February 5th, 2010

The following is a letter from DLA Piper, a law firm in Washington DC.

February 5, 2010

Mr. Elias Kifle
Publisher, Ethiopian Review
Annandale, Virgina

Re: January 27, 2010 On-Line Article Entitles “Ethiopian billionaire’s daughter faces stoning in Saudi”

Dear Mr. Kifle:

This firm represents Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi and his family.

We are writing to you regarding the content of your article entitled “Ethiopian billionaire’s daughter faces in Saudi,” appearing on-line in the January 27, 2010 edition of the Ethiopian Review. Your article states that the “identity of the alleged Saudi Princess given secret asylum in the United Kingdom early last year has been revealed” as Sarah Mohammed Al Amoudi, daughter of Sheikh Mohammed Al Amoudi. The alleged Saudi Princess referenced in your article is not the daughter of Sheikh Al Amoudi, The information in your article making the link between the alleged Saudi Princess and the Al Amoudi family is false, highly inflammatory, and is a defamatory statement.

We insist that you immediately cease and desist from making this false and defamatory statement. We also demand that you issue an immediate retraction of the article by issuing a formal statement disclaiming the link between the alleged Saudi Princess and the Al Amoudi family, by removing the reference to Sheikh Al Amoudi and his family from this on-line article, and by issuing an apology to Sheikh Al Amoudi and his family.

If you are represented by counsel, have your counsel contact us immediately to discuss this very serious matter. If you are not represented, you may contact us directly to confirm arrangements for the retraction and apology.

Very truly yours,
Mary E. Gately

DLA Piper LLP
500 Eights Street, NW
Washington DC 20044
mary.gately@dlapipere.com
T. 202 799 4507
F. 202 799 5507
————————————

Ms. Gately,

Here is my formal statement:

Screw yourself. Same goes for all DLA Piper “lawyers.” Stop bluffing and face me in court.

Yours truly,
Elias

OLF fighters attacked Woyannes in eastern Ethiopia

Friday, February 5th, 2010

The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) is reporting that members of its military wing, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), have killed 6 and wounded 9 Woyannes on January 21 in Hararge Zone, eastern Ethiopia.

The attack was carried out at two different locations on the same day. The first attack was carried out by OLF fighters against Woyanne troops who were dispatched to harass civilians in West Haragee Zone, Daaroo Labuu Woreda at a place called Burqituu. In a surprise attack, OLF fighters killed 3 Woyannes and wounded 5.

On the same day, the OLF fighters engaged Woyanne forces in West Haragee Zone at a place called Fullaa Gaangee, killing 3 Woyannes and wounding 5 others.

OLF fighters have also captured several automatic rifles, hand grenades, and other military equipments from Woyanne forces.

Azeb and gang drive Ethiopian banks to the verge of collapse

Friday, February 5th, 2010

By Abebe Gellaw

In mid-January, the ailing Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE) declared once again that it is in need of rescue fund. The business weekly, Addis Fortune, reported that the bank called on the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) to inject more capital to refill its empty cash registers.

Though the health of all state banks has been in dramatic decline within the last ten years, crisis-ridden DBE has been in much more serious trouble carrying a huge burden on its shoulders in the form of non-performing loans. Much of these loans are taken out by crooked “borrowers” like the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), which is infamous for defaulting on the multi-billion birr loans it has been raking out from state banks. [EFFORT is now under the control of Meles Zenawi's wife, Azeb Mesfin.]

In mid-December, Addis Fortune reported that DBE “loaned” a whopping 1.7 billion birr ($141.6 million) to a privileged company, Messebo Cement Factory, one of the many companies owned by EFFORT. Messebo’s business plan was an expansion project, to build a second factory that will extend its market monopoly in the cement business. “The money, 96 million in euro [141.6 million dollars], has been obtained entirely as a loan from the Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE); only 15 percent of this money was required in local currency,” the paper reported.

“The civil work has been completed. The machinery are now coming from China,” Brehanu Werede, acting general manager of the project, boasted.

But the interesting twist in the story is the fact that while ailing DBE has been on the verge of collapse, its incompetent management team and board, filled with the ruling TPLF loyalists and hirelings, clearly flouted the basic rule of banking by approving EFFORT’s greedy loan applications.

As a result of its crisis, cash strapped DBE has been unable to finance essential and productive entrepreneurial projects. It is turning down loan applications from serious entrepreneurs that have little political and ethnic leverage, while funnelling meagre resources to a borrower that has been deliberately confusing loans with grants.

Even more surprisingly, it happened at a time when DBE has once again pressed the red button for rescue injection from the national treasury. It doesn’t make sense to undertake such a mammoth expansion project on the part of Messebo at a time when the cement market is predicted to reach a saturation point with the opening of a dozen of new factories including Sheik Mohammed Al-Amoudi’s Derba Midroc Cement Factory, which is expected to start production at the end of this year.

DBE has a long but difficult history. Over one hundred years ago, the founder of the first bank in Ethiopia, Emperor Menelik II (1844-1913), realized the critical role banks play in development endeavours. When Emperor Menelik inaugurated Bank of Abyssinia on February 15, 1906, he undoubtedly envisioned it to grow, multiply and serve generations to come. That bank played a critical role to push his modernization agenda. It is also credited for financing the construction of the only railway line in Ethiopia, the Ethio-Djibouti railway, which currently finds itself on the verge of extinction.

Emperor Menelik had also set up another bank, solely committed to enhancing development and trade by providing badly needed financial facilities, despite the fact that resources were extremely meager. In 1909, the emperor launched the Societe Nationale d’ Ethiopie Pour le Development de l’ agriculture et de Commerce (The Society for the Promotion of Agriculture and Trade).

Since its establishment, the bank has undergone major restructuring and re-naming at least eight times. During the reigns of HaileSelassie and Mengistu Hailemariam, the bank did not register any dramatic growth nor faced critical illness. After the fall of the Derg, the bank saw dramatic changes as its non-performing loans had reportedly reached as much 94 per cent. In 2003, it was re-established as the Development Bank of Ethiopia. In July 2009, the bank declared that it completed the controversial Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) which has been allegedly used to push the agenda of the ruling elite to tighten its monopolistic grip on every key institution in the country.

It is an open secret that the Development Bank of Ethiopia has been experiencing more difficulties under the Meles regime than its predecessors. The main cause of its dire problems, as mentioned above, is related to the fact that the amount of loans it disburses and the amount it recovers have been showing a widening gap that cannot be easily filled with capital injections from external and internal sources.

According to the data obtained from the bank, from 1972 to 2009, DBE disbursed 13.3 billion birr in loans but could only collect 8.39 billion birr from borrowers. Laden with heavy burden of debts, the bank is making recurrent loan requests from internal and external sources. In fact, had the bank been in healthy condition, borrowing from external and internal sources would not have been a problem due to the fact that the bank was set up to operate as such.

Under normal circumstances, no bank in any part of the world will ever lend money to any borrower with terrible credit history. But the crooked client called EFFORT is a powerful part of the establishment being run by senior TPLF officials, including the Prime Minister’s wife, Azeb Mesfin, who has been appointed by her husband to control EFFORT’s multi-billion business empire.

No state bank official can dare say “No” to any amount of “loan” requests, no matter how outrageous it could be, to the Queen of Mega and her entourage. Obviously, a bank official handpicked by Meles can hardly be expected to refuse to oblige whenever his wife demands a loan or grant be issued, no matter how much or whether it is in local or hard currency. In fact, thanks to the unlimited power accorded to the tyrant’s wife, she has been known to employ real politik to get whatever she desires.

Dr. Seid Hassan, Economics and business Professor at Murray State University pointed out the fact that he had even come across credible complaints about Azeb Mesfin’s underhanded business activities including using her power and influence to force potentially competitive entrepreneurs to “sell” their start-ups to her or her business partners in order to enable her various companies and “joint ventures” to enjoy market dominance.

Last year, DBE celebrated its 100th anniversary in the presence of Zenawi’s octogenarian figurehead, President Girma Woldegiorgis, who recently celebrated his 86th birthday. As the celebration was in high tempo, interesting figures that were rarely made public were released by the officials.

One of the most eye-catching figures came from Abay Weldu, TPLF Executive Committee member as well as Deputy President of the State of Tigray, and DBE Northern Region Manager, Hadush Gebregziabher. At the bank’s diamond jubilee, both of them excitedly disclosed that since the fall of the Derg, the bank loaned over 3 billion birr to Tigray region, i.e. EFFORT and its affiliate business projects, as reported by TPLF’s own media outlet, Walta Information Centre.

What makes the story much more interesting is the fact that from 1970 to 2009, the bank loaned 13.2 billion birr to private businesses and government projects. Out of the total outlay disbursed in four decades, it was learnt that the bank loaned nearly 8.5 billion birr since the fall of the Derg, which was 19 years ago. That makes TPLF the biggest beneficiary of the “loan” bonanza taking the lion’s share, i.e. nearly 40 per cent of loans, from the struggling bank, and its other external and domestic sources of capital, including the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia and the National Bank of Ethiopia.

In addition to the 3 billion birr plus loan, Messebo Cement Factory was recently awarded 1.7 billion birr (147.6 million US dollars). That simply means that in the last 19 years, the TPLF and its ethnic affiliates took out over 4.7 billion birr of fund from the coffers of DBE, not to mention other states banks that are also victims of TPLF money grab scheme.

TPLF companies are currently undertaking “expansion” projects with funding from struggling state banks. But it is quite obvious that the funding should have been allocated fairly and equitably to finance serious development projects throughout Ethiopia including underserved and neglected regions.

In fact, there is also an incredible and outrageous twist to this saga. DBE reportedly had planned to lend around 2.4 billion birr this fiscal year. Of the 2.4 billion birr, 1.7 billion birr has already been granted to Messebo’s so-called expansion project. In other words, the privileged Messebo has been allowed to take well over 70 percent of the total outlay allocated this year to finance businesses and public projects in the whole of Ethiopia, while DBE has fallen in the habit of dialing for emergency services and rescuers. This huge inequality gap in TPLF’s Ethiopia clearly symbolizes Meles Zenawi’s ideology of gangster capitalism that has been designed to benefit only a selected few members of the ethnic junta in power.

As the TPLF leadership has been consistently claiming, EFFORT does not belong to the people of Ethiopia. Abadi Zemu, Sebhat Nega and even Gebru Asrat, who claims to be struggling against Meles Zenawi’s injustice have shamelessly claimed that EFFORT belongs to anyone with Tigrian blood as if being a Tigrian was a privilege to own multiple companies without any contributions. They are telling us that the business empire, which enjoys a huge array of privileges including unrestricted loans, exemption from external auditing, exemption from paying taxes, belongs only to the people of Tigray despite the fact that the EFFORT conglomerate is completely under the control of Meles, his wife and his closest cronies like Abadi Zemu, Arkebe Ekubay, Yohaness Ekubay, Getachew Belay, et al.

In a recent interview with VOA’s reporter Girmay Gebru, Abadi Zemu, who is the CEO of EFFORT and Executive Committee member of the TPLF, has said that Messebo Cement Factory already commands 40 per cent of the cement market in Ethiopia. Messebo was set up in 1995 with a registered capital of 240 million birr. It is puzzling why DBE approved Messebo’s 1.7 billion birr loan in foreign exchange to construct a second factory at a time when businesses are closing down due to severe shortages of hard currency and loan facilities.

It was just a few months ago that the international media jokingly reported about Ethiopia’s Coca-Cola drought as the East African Bottling Company, which was forced to suspend production of the global brand and laid off its employees as the state banks claimed to have run out of their foreign exchange reserves. Tens of thousands of business owners, especially those engaged in the import sector, have been seriously affected by the foreign exchange crunch.

The repeated firing and hiring of senior management officials within the last decade also reveal that DBE’s future has been uncertain and shaky. The bank has also been subjected to scathing criticism for being too generous on risky loans to EFFORT and failing to insist on repayment with interests in time. No matter where the bank is going, the fact that TPLF is draining state banks to undertake its discriminatory, monopolistic and illegal business projects will remain a thorny issue, and even a source of future conflicts for generations to come as the ongoing looting and corruption is too naked and unprecedented in the history of the poor nation.

(The writer can be reached at abe.gelaw@gmail.com)

153 opposition party members arrested after protests

Friday, February 5th, 2010

By Jason McLure

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (Bloomberg) — At least 153 Ethiopian opposition party members were arrested after protests at a remote gold mine controlled by Ethiopian-born Saudi billionaire Sheikh Mohammed Al Amoudi, a leader of the opposition said.

“They were arrested in connection with disturbances at the Midroc Gold Mine,” said Negasso Gidada, a leader of Ethiopia’s Unity for Democracy and Justice party (UDJ) and president of the country from 1995 to 2001.

Those arrested included members of UDJ and the allied Oromo Peoples Congress (OPC), he said at a press conference this week in Addis Ababa. The demonstrations, which took place in early December, were in protest at pollution at the mine and a lack of development in the Shakiso area of Ethiopia’s Oromiya region.

Shimeles Kemal, a spokesman for the Ethiopian government, dismissed the allegations. He said the disturbances were fomented by rebels from the Oromo Liberation Front, 11 of whom were later arrested. He said property belonging to the mine and public buildings including a school were damaged in the unrest.

“We are working there and our operation is effectively going on and nothing has disturbed our activity,” said Tafesse Sehale, a spokesman for Midroc Ethiopia Technology Group, the parent company of Midroc Gold Mine Plc. “What you are telling us is simply what we hear from others and we have no idea.”

Our misplaced rage at the Lebanese

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

By Fekade Shewakena

The harrowing experience of Ethiopians on the doomed Ethiopian airliner in the Mediterranean Sea last week, and the racist ways in which grieving Ethiopians who were trying to know the fate of their fellow Ethiopians on the plane were treated in Lebanon, could have been used to raise important questions and start a more important discussion. Sadly, it is being deflected in a useless direction – complaint about racism, anger at the wrong parties and a cyber-war or words with the wrong culprit. Frankly, I find the self deceptiveness and empty bravado and hypocrisy of my fellow Ethiopians more maddening than the racism and degrading treatment of Ethiopians in Lebanon which we know exists in the region all along. It is good to be angry and not unreasonable at all. But it will be a foolish exercise if we don’t know where to direct our rage to. In my view, this anger has to be directed primarily at ourselves for letting this to happen to us. If we think that this experience is an isolated case then we have closed our eyes. What has gone so wrong with our generation, the sons and daughters of a proud people, who throughout the ages fought hard to keep their pride and dignity and never let anybody look down on them? What the damn went wrong with us!

As we often do in many cases, we are taking our eyes off the big picture, completely failing to raise and answer the most important questions that we need to ask ourselves about our country and ourselves as a people. How and why have we ended up being subjected to this kind of humiliation and racism and how are we going to end it? How is it that the beacon of hope and freedom of black people around the world ended up making an industry out of exporting their beautiful children to slave labor in the Middle East at the turn of a new century?

To those of you who seemed to be angry by the racist treatment of our fellow Ethiopians, I have some more questions for you. What were you expecting a bunch of maidservants who live and work much like medieval slaves were going to be treated like in a country where most people only know them as domestic slaves? Do we expect them to read our history before they buy their slaves and be forced to care that we Ethiopians are a proud and dignified people with a along and proud history of not allowing ourselves to be looked down upon by anybody? Was this the only incident and instance that Ethiopians have been treated in inhuman, degrading and racist ways around the Middle East? Have you asked why even our Airline, Ethiopian, the island of modernity in Ethiopia that we are all proud of for its world class service and record, and frankly, one that dwarfs most Middle East carriers in every respect, couldn’t dodge the racism. Have you seen how minutes after the accident and before any evidence was available, the transport minister of Lebanon and their journalists blamed the accident on the pilot. And mind you, this is a terrorist infested area and the first eye witnesses were saying the plane went down in flames. You see, after all, Ethiopian Airlines is owned and operated by a country and people that dump their beautiful children as slaves in their countries to work seven days a week in the most dehumanizing conditions. So, what in the world have we expected them to treat us like other than in indignity?

There are many more questions that any Ethiopian worthy of self respect should ask. How many times have you heard epidemic levels of Ethiopian suicides in the Middle East? How many of us have heard Ethiopian girls throwing themselves from the top floors of buildings to end their misery in these countries? Haven’t you heard that the Ethiopian embassies in these countries routinely tell our slave sisters to go to hell whenever they ask for help? How many times have we heard that boatloads of Ethiopians travelling from Bosaso in Somaliland sink in the Red Sea while attempting to reach the cost of the Arabian Peninsula where they were treated like animals? Have you wondered why hours after the first boat capsized with all Ethiopians on board others keep riding the next ramshackle boat taking a chance on their lives? Haven’t we seen pictures of Ethiopian women beaten, sometimes even burnt by their masters in this region? How often have we heard women thrown into jail, or their passports confiscated and thrown out on the streets for voulchers to play with them? Have we not heard that many are often denied their slave salaries by their masters and thrown out on streets? Have we not heard that many dead Ethiopians are simply buried in the sands and vanish like the wind? How many of us have heard Ethiopian maidservants calling the voice of America or Ethiopian community radio stations in the West to tell us harrowing stories of mistreatment and racism pleading with us for help? An Ethiopian airline crew member I met recently told me that it is not unusual to travel from the Middle East to Addis Ababa with many young Ethiopian girls who suffer from extreme forms of depression and trauma, some who lost their minds and behave strangely. Yes, there is some awful thing happening to us as a people and we seem to be lost. If there is anything strange in this particular case, it is our attempt to treat it as an isolated case, a self deception that borders on stupidity. Rather than blame ourselves for letting this happen to us we tend to project it elsewhere.

The first job of any government anywhere is to protect its citizens, so we hear in nearly all countries. In that case we have no government. We have allowed robber barons to rule over us. The anger should be directed at us for letting our country be run by a slave trading oligarchy – the government of Meles Zenawi that turned selling young Ethiopian girls in the Middle East into a huge industry. I hear that this slave trade is now becoming one of Meles Zenawi’s most important hard currency earning businesses in the country.

From time to time I meet some pigs who feed at Meles Zenawi’s trough. They tell me something I already know very well. They tell me the economy in Ethiopia is growing. Nobody is contesting that other than the inflated statistics cooked-up in Meles Zenawi’s office for propaganda purposes. This is not even a secret. I have heard it from people who work on analyzing and reporting the data. These pigs, like any pig, hardly understand the meaning of economic growth and development as it relates to social welfare and how to measure it and account for the source of the growth and who benefits out of it. If they see buildings and asphalted roads and bridges and a few people in Addis Ababa and elsewhere striking it rich overnight, that’s it- economy is growing. They seem to have very little clue that the TPLF is expected to do something for a living or that it is supposed to show us something in the form of growth for being one of the world’s most important destinations of billions of dollars of foreign aid in the world and the huge remittance from millions of Ethiopians abroad, including from the slave labor its sells to the Middle East and the massive number of children it sells for adoption? By the way, have you stood by at major terminals of Ethiopian Airlines? The most common scene is a parade of people carrying small Ethiopian children. I once saw an old Ethiopian woman crying profusely at the site of the little children at Dulles Airport in Virginia. These adopters say they pay a fortune to Mr. Zenawi’s government to get these children. Did you hear that the government of Australia saw the obscenity and was forced to stop it recently? Is this a proud thing to do for a people and a country which boasts “unheard of” economic growth?

The naming of the Abay Bridge by Meles Zenawi is an interesting illustration of how Meles himself and the pigs at his trough perceive economic growth and development. According to the local media reported at the time of the inauguration of the bridge, Meles Zenawi named the bridge “Hidasse dildiy” – meaning the “bridge of renaissance.” What makes this interesting is that the construction of the bridge was 100% funded by the Japanese government! Silu semta doro tanqa motech!

Whatever its source, what is economic growth or development anyway if it is not meant to improve the life of people? Why is it that our loss of pride and dignity and humiliation so positively correlated with this reported growth? I mean, how is it that the more the country grows economically, the more people live in humiliation and desperation, and the number of the poor increases exponentially? Who is getting rich any way? What the pigs and the TPLF officials don’t tell you is that the number of the absolute poor and the perennially aid dependent population more than tripled since TPLF arrived in Addis Ababa almost two decades ago? Beggary is no more a humiliating exercise in Ethiopia. It used to be. If you happen to meet any of these pigs, or any of the government officials who brag about economic growth in Ethiopia, ask them to show you what the country manufactures and sells to the world other than good old coffee and other agricultural products that we began exporting a century ago. Ask them how many extractive industries like mining are operating.

And lo and behold, a slavery of epic proportions is hovering at your door steps. If you are not redirecting the anger and rise up to make changes as any people worthy of dignity and respect must do now, wait until the Middle East tycoons begin operating the land Meles Zenawi is selling them at bargain prices now. If you think the current land grab in Ethiopia is traditional investment and not colonialism, just wait until your relatives begin working in the Egyptian, Arabian and Asian plantations. I am not sure if it will be too late by then. If you are angry that you are despised outside of your country, you will see what it looks like when they come home to take the land our fathers fought hard to leave for us. But when are we going to say enough is enough! Ehhhhhhhhhhh!

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

Ethiopia's ruling party says opposition may incite violence

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

By Jason McLure

ADDIS ABABA (Bloomberg) — Ethiopia’s ruling party said the country’s largest opposition grouping, the Forum for Democratic Dialogue (Medrek), would try to foment violence after elections scheduled for May in an effort to spur foreign governments to intervene.

“They are ready to create violence after the elections,” Hailemariam Desalegn, the parliamentary whip for the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front [a cover for Tigrean People's Liberation Front (Woyanne)], said in a phone interview this week. “Their ultimate objection is not free and fair elections but to get power-sharing like in Zimbabwe and Kenya. I think this is very dangerous and they should be properly told this.”

He said opposition allegations that elections scheduled for May 23 would not be free and fair were designed to fuel popular discontent that would lead to street clashes as happened following the country’s disputed 2005 poll.

The warning came as the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), the largest political party in the Forum, accused the U.S., Britain and other Western aid donors of silence over the jailing of UDJ leader Birtukan Mideksa and other human rights abuses.

The U.S. and U.K. “are following the old way of doing business,” said Andualem Aragie, UDJ’s secretary general. “They are partners in development with the Ethiopian government but I don’t think they are partners in freedom and democracy.”

Following disputed presidential elections in Zimbabwe in 2008 and Kenya in 2007, international mediators brokered agreements that allowed opposition parties to share power with Presidents Robert Mugabe and Mwai Kibaki.

The opposition has sought to raise pressure on the U.S., U.K., and other donors who supply more than $2 billion in aid annually to Ethiopia, saying their silence is tantamount to political support for Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

The U.K. government has a “frank and full dialogue with the government of Ethiopia on human rights and democracy including Birtukan,” said Gavin Cook, a spokesman for the British embassy in Addis Ababa. “Our development assistance, regardless to who is in power, has helped benefit millions of Ethiopians.”

Michael Gonzales, a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa, declined comment.

Proud Teddy at the Proud Bird in L.A.

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Teddy Afro

It is really great to be young; but for those who are not, the next best thing is to be at a Teddy Afro concert and jam late into the night with a ballroom full of irrepressible and euphoric young Ethiopian Angelinos. On February 13, Proud Teddy brought his triumphant “Love Conquers All” world tour to the Proud Bird, a well-known LA institution for one-half century themed around vintage WW II war birds. Teddy was in top form belting out one hit after another as he almost levitated on stage. His Abugida Band and backup singers bellowed flaming rhythms and roots-style music combining traditional Ethiopian melodies with reggae beats. Teddy was on fire at the Proud Bird, as was his enraptured audience.

I have listened to Teddy Afro on CD and viewed his Youtube videos countless times. His voice, his message and powerful lyrics and his melodies have moved me, rocked me, soothed me and lifted me when I was down. But there is nothing that compares to watching this young musical genius live. The difference between watching Teddy live and listening to him on CD/Youtube is the difference between listening to gospel music on the radio and singing it in the choir with the preacher directing. The Proud Bird concert was a quasi-spiritual experience, almost like being at an old time southern Baptist revival. His audience was not only passionately and emotionally involved with the lyrics and melodies in his music, they were spiritually bonded to him with some invisible gravitational force. There was not a single person at the concert who was not movin’, swingin’, rockin’ and rollin’ and groovin’.

For those us who had never seen Teddy perform live and witnessed the standing-room only crowd go into semi-conscious trance, it was a walk down memory lane. I recall seeing such deep spiritual connection between an artist and his audience decades ago when Bob Marley came to my alma mater, the University of Minnesota, on May 30, 1978 (Kaya Tour) and November 15, 1979 (Survival Tour). Those fortunate enough to have present at a Bob Marley concert know exactly what I mean.

As the show began, for nearly a minute we could only hear Teddy singing from backstage using a remote microphone. It was an electrifying moment of anticipation. As Teddy burst on stage wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Marley’s image, the audience went into total frenzy. I could not help but feel the palpable spiritual presence of Bob Marley on stage that night. Teddy was unbound; he sang and danced and pranced, leaped and twirled and fluttered on stage as streams of sweat flooded down his face. The jam-packed audience cheered, clapped, screamed, shrieked, shouted and hopped; and a sea of upward stretched hands swung side to side in the cavernous hall.

Having seen Teddy live, it is plain that he does not sing just to sing. I really believe the man sings for one reason only: He is hopelessly in love with Ethiopia. How is it possible for anyone to sing for over two hours and manage to include in every song something about Ethiopia, its people, its cities and towns, rivers, mountains and valleys, religions, history, geography, politics and on and on? He sang nearly all of his classic hits, but he ignited the audience on a five-alarm fire when he sang about Africa’s “father” H.I.M. Haile Selassie and Yastesereal. “How is it that thousands of young people who were not even born at the time the Emperor was murdered by the Derg military junta have such connection to him”, I wondered. What is it about the song “Yasteseryal” that drives Ethiopians into near-convulsive ecstasy when they hear it?

To say that there is something extraordinary about Teddy as an artist is to state the obvious. But perhaps what is less obvious is the fact of how Teddy has inherited the mantle from the Bob Marley and adapted it for Ethiopia. Some have indeed compared Teddy to Marley for his ability to bring a political, spiritual, and rhythmic power to his music and his raw ability to electrify his audience. Like Marley whose passion was African liberation and pan-Africanism, Teddy’s passion is the freedom, unity, reconciliation and harmony of the Ethiopian people. Like Marley, Teddy’s music is stirring, thrilling and even heart-wrenching. Like Marley, Teddy sings songs of love, peace, hope, faith, charity, justice, reconciliation, understanding and forgiveness. These are the sources of Teddy’s rhythmic power which enable him to reach deep into the Ethiopian soul and psyche and suture the festering wounds of despair, soothe the unendurable pain of oppression and prophesy the coming of a new day of love, peace and justice in Ethiopia.

To describe the “Teddy Afro musical experience” as a mere concert is to do injustice to the truth. It is really more than that. It is the closest thing to a spiritual revival meeting. Teddy just does not sing about the love he has for Ethiopia and its people, he makes you feel it in your bones. He does not just talk about bringing Ethiopians together, he brings them together in his concerts. He doesn’t just warn against hate, he teaches how love conquers hate. He is not nostalgic about the past, but he wants us all to understand it, learn from it and honor those who have made contributions despite their mistakes. Like any revival meeting, Teddy has the audacity to believe in the coming of a new day, and to prophesy Ethiopia’s redemption. Now I know why this young musical genius is loved by millions of Ethiopians, and why he is a national hero and not just an extraordinary artist.

On stage, Teddy appears to be a man of small physical frame and stature, but he is a powerhouse of endless spiritual energy and musical creativity. He not only can mesmerize his audience with the sheer power and purity of his message, he can actually be seen “curing” souls. His uses his voices to dazzle, his lyrics to seduce, his melodies to spellbind; and combines it all in an exhilarating stage showmanship that captivates, delights, enchants, charms and simply overpowers. He gives everything to his audience, and his audience give back to him all their love.

The virtuosity of the Abugida Band and the sweet chorus of the backup singers is simply spectacular. They just kept the collective ecstasy jah-ming. The event organizers are to be commended and appreciated for coordinating such a magnificent tour and for making it possible for Ethiopians in exile to see and enjoy Teddy live. Teddy will continue with his world tour. As he does so, let us be mindful that he is that strong steel bridge that spans the generation and geographic gap among Ethiopians.

In our youth thousands of miles away from our homeland, Jimi Hendrix, a great superstar from Seattle, Washington taught us, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” Teddy has now traveled thousands of miles to America to teach our children, “When the power of love overcomes those who love power in Ethiopia, Ethiopia will know peace.” It is nice to feel young once again. Proud Teddy, thanks for a great lesson. More Love Power to you, brother, and to all of us.
Thanks for a great revival meeting in L.A.!

Jah, Yasteseryal! Love Conquers All! (Fikir Yashenefal)


Egypt to grow tobacco in Ethiopia

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: Grow tobacco while the people don’t have enough food to eat. Stupid.

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s cigarette monopoly Eastern Company (EAST.CA) is negotiating with the Ethiopian government ruling tribal junta in Ethiopia to buy 10-20 hectares of land for growing tobacco, the daily al-Mal quoted its chairman as saying.

Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous state, has been looking to expand its agricultural investments in east Africa. Last month the prime minister sent a committee to investigate growing wheat in Uganda.

Eastern Company will buy the land and seek the expertise of international companies to cultivate the crop. Among companies it is considering partnerships with are Universal Corp (UVV.N), Alliance One International (AOI.N) and a British group.

“Eastern Company will enter into an equal partnership with one of these companies, once an agreement is made, to begin benefitting from its expertise in the field of tobacco cultivation,” al-Mal quoted Nabil Abdel Aziz as saying.

Procedures for receiving the land and agreeing with a company could take up to a year, the paper cited Abdel Aziz as saying.

Eastern Company was not immediately available for comment.

Shares in Eastern Company were up 1.3 percent at 129 Egyptian pounds by 1032 GMT. (Writing by Shaimaa Fayed; Editing by David Holmes) ($1=5.471 Egyptian Pound)

EPPF organizing town hall meeting in Washington DC

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

The Washington Metro Chapter of Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) is organizing a town hall meeting to be held on February 20 in preparation for EPPF’s upcoming general assembly.

On January 24, a similar meeting was held in London by the U.K. Chapter of EPPF.

The DC town hall meeting is intended to rally Ethiopians in support of EPPF, as well as allow those who cannot attend the general assembly in the field to send a message of solidarity to the freedom fighters, according to Ato Demis Belete, EPPF spokesperson in Washington.

Members of the Eritrean community in the Washington DC area and representatives of Ethiopian political and civic organizations are being invited to attend the meeting.

Guest speakers will be announced shortly.

Date: Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010
Time: 3:00 PM
Place: Unification Church, 1610 Columbia Road NW, Washington DC

More information: eppfwashington@gmail.com

African thieves re-elect Meles Zenawi to represent them

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

ADDIS ABABA (APA) — The 14th African Union Summit on Tuesday unanimously re-elected Ethiopian Prime Minister genocidal dictator Meles Zenawi to represent Africa in future consecutive global climate conferences. [In Africa, failure and betrayal are rewarded. That is why the continent is a land of misery.]

The Summit commended the leading and coordinating role of Meles at the tough negotiations at the Copenhagen Climate Conference.  [The fact of the matter is that Meles betrayed Africa in Copenhagen, as reported here.]

The leaders expressed their satisfaction with Meles “who strives to secure the benefits and interest of Africa.”  [Thieves standing up for each other at the expense of Africa they claim to represent. Read about Meles Zenawi’s role in Copenhagen here.]

Meles was elected last year to lead the African Union delegation of thieves to the world climate conference at the AU assembly in Libya .

Tanzanian president, Jakaya Kikwete lauded Meles’s efforts at the Copenhagen climate conference where he took into consideration Africa’s interest. [Liar]

The world climate conference in Copenhagen was a forum where the international community, including the developed countries promised to give Africa tens of billion dollars in the coming three years and another $ 100 billion by 2010.

The money will be utilized for climate change adaptation and mitigation programs in Africa , which severely affected by the climate change. [The money goes into the pockets of these looters who are being propped up by neo-colonialists.]

Selling away Ethiopia piecemeal (video)

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Watch how the Meles crime family is selling away Ethiopia’s fertile land to foreign corporations while millions of Ethiopians are starving.

Ethiopian student killed in Phoenix car crash involving police chase

Monday, February 1st, 2010

By Michael Ferraresi | The Arizona Republic

Abel Abebe

PHOENIX — Dozens of friends gathered Monday at the Laveen home of an Arizona State University student killed in a traffic collision caused by a suspected red-light runner.

Abel Abebe, 27, an immigrant from Ethiopia, died from injuries he suffered when a 2008 Hyundai coupe broadsided his Honda Civic on Baseline Road as he drove to work in Chandler. Investigators said the Hyundai’s driver ran a red light on southbound 19th Avenue as a police helicopter followed overhead.

“He wasn’t sick or anything,” said Fitsum Sima, 25, a friend and fellow Ethiopian immigrant who attended St. Mary’s Orthodox Tewahedo Church in south Phoenix with Abebe.

“It just happened on his way to work,” Sima said. “It wasn’t his fault.”

Phoenix police patrol officers spotted the Hyundai about 12:30 a.m. Monday after watching a female driver switch seats with a male passenger at an intersection near a store where police said the man stole beer moments earlier. After taking the wheel, the man sped away from an attempted traffic stop near McDowell Road and 55th Avenue, police said.

Abebe, an ASU pharmacy student, worked a graveyard shift as caregiver with mentally-challenged adults before he would head to ASU’s main campus in Tempe for class. He tutored students in math and physics.

Dawit Tessema, 23, said he spent nearly every day of the past four years at Abebe’s side between work, church and pickup soccer games.

“One day he’s here talking to me, the next day he’s gone,” Tessema said. “He was a guy you could count on. The more I think about it, the more I wonder, ‘Why him?’ ”

Phoenix Officer James Holmes, a department spokesman, said the 47-year-old driver of the Hyundai could face charges of felony flight from police and possibly vehicular homicide or manslaughter. The female passenger, 30, is not considered a suspect at this time, he said.

Islamist groups unite and proclaim loyalty to al Qaeda

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Somalia’s hardline al Shabaab insurgents have agreed to join forces with a smaller southern militia and both groups professed their loyalty to al Qaeda.

The failed Horn of Africa state has not had an effective central government for nearly two decades, leading to the rise of warlords, heavily armed criminal gangs and pirates who have been terrorising shipping off its long coastline.

Western security agencies say the country has also become a safe haven for Islamist militants, including foreign jihadists, who are using it to plot attacks across the region and beyond.

In a statement dated last Friday but seen by Reuters on Monday, al Shabaab and the smaller Kismayu-based Kamboni rebel group said they had put their differences behind them.

“We have agreed to join the international jihad of al Qaeda … We have also agreed to unite al Shabaab and Kamboni mujahideen to liberate the Eastern and Horn of Africa community who are under the feet of minority Christians,” the statement said.

“We have united to revive the military strength, economy and politics of our mujahideen to stop the war created by the colonisers, and to prevent the attacks of the Christians who invaded our country.”

In this context, “Christians” is believed to refer to Ethiopian troops who invaded Somalia in late 2006 and then withdrew, and to Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers serving with the African Union’s AMISOM force in Mogadishu.

The statement appeared to have been signed by senior rebels including Sheikh Hassan Turki, commander of the Kamboni militia, and the reclusive al Shabaab leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane.

Security experts believe Shabaab’s total manpower is no more 5,000, while there are a few hundred Kamboni militiamen.

In the capital Mogadishu, insurgents fired mortar bombs at the presidential palace overnight, prompting return fire by troops there that killed at least 16 people, medical officials and residents said.

Artillery battles in Mogadishu

Violence has killed at least 21,000 people in the failed Horn of Africa nation since the start of 2007 and driven another 1.5 million from their homes, helping trigger one of the world’s worst humanitarian emergencies.

Al Shabaab rebels routinely fire at the white-washed hilltop Villa Somalia palace compound from other parts of Mogadishu.  Troops at the palace often launch shells back.
Residents and medical officials said several bombs struck around the city’s northern Suqa Holaha, or livestock market.

“At least 16 people died and 71 others were wounded in four districts of Mogadishu,” Ali Yasin Gedi, vice chairman of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Organisation, told Reuters.

At an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital on Friday, Somalia’s Foreign Minister Ali Jama’ Jangeli called for more AU troops to help about 5,000 peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi who are based in the Somali capital.

His Kenyan and Sudanese counterparts backed the call. Djibouti has said it would send 450 soldiers soon.

On Sunday, al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage called on Djibouti to reconsider its decision.

“We warn the Djibouti government and strongly recommend that it not send its troops here, otherwise there will be bad consequences for it,” Rage told reporters in Mogadishu.

(Source: Reuters)

World Bank, Microsoft Sign Agreement to Promote Development in Africa

Monday, February 1st, 2010

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The World Bank and Microsoft have announced a new partnership that will seek to reinforce social and economic development in Africa by leveraging information and communication technology (ICT). The two institutions signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the sidelines of the summit meeting of African heads of State on the theme “ICTs in Africa: Challenges and Prospects for Development”.

Under the agreement, the World Bank and Microsoft will develop programs to support several of the World Bank’s core development priorities across Sub-Saharan Africa including: science and technology, increasing ICT access for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), developing the local software economy and local ICT skills, enhancing remittances technology, and building Sub-Saharan Africa’s disaster response capabilities.

“Our goal is to help bring the region into today’s knowledge society and build its own internal resources to support the creation of competitive local economies,” said Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Vice President for Africa. “We greatly value the expertise that our private sector partners like Microsoft bring, in this case a deep understanding of technology as an enabler. Through this partnership we will explore the transformational power of ICT to create new economic opportunities in the region. We look forward to forging similar partnerships with other ICT industry players.”

A select number of programs will be implemented under the partnership and will include feedback, monitoring and evaluation to drive accountability for results. Proposed initiatives include adapting the Microsoft Innovation Center model to offer software development courses in education, business skills and market development training, and youth empowerment programs, serving as the basis for local job creation.

In the education sector, the partners will organize a workshop to share proven practices with other developing countries on supporting African university diaspora research in collaboration with African universities. And in the area of remittances, the partnership will explore developing mobile telephony to ensure quick and smooth remittance services to remote or rural areas, as well as broadening network coverage of telephone services across the region.

Supporting disaster relief solutions through technology will also be an important part of the collaboration. Using Microsoft’s disaster relief solutions, the World Bank and Microsoft will explore developing a Disaster Management Information System for Africa with applications for risk assessment/mitigation, disaster preparedness and sustainable technologies for Early Warning Systems.

“As partners in Africa’s development, we believe that technology can have a long-lasting and meaningful role in addressing many current challenges. Our partnership with the World Bank, and those with other development organizations in the region, including the African Union, African Development Bank, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), is part of our commitment to help unlock Africa’s potential through ICT,” said Frank McCosker, managing director, Microsoft Global Strategic Accounts.

The World Bank and Microsoft have previously worked together around the world on several initiatives. Also in Sub-Saharan Africa, the World Bank and Microsoft have collaborated in an advisory role to support the development of the Rwandan government’s ICT policy which has already constructed a Knowledge Management solution for the country’s cabinet.

The partnership further reinforces Microsoft’s support to drive internally generated and sustainable growth in Africa. The company first began operations in Sub-Saharan African in 1992 and has expanded to 13 offices in 9 countries, with more than 600 employees and over 17,000 commercial partners across the continent.

(World Bank: Addis Ababa: Gelila Woodeneh gwoodeneh@worldbank.org; Tel: +001-662-7700
Washington: Eric Chinje echinje@worldbank.org; Tel: +1-202-458-8418; Microsoft: Laura Chite
i-lchite@microsoft.com; Tel: +254 20 2868000)

POLITICS-SUDAN: Security Essential to Ensure Peaceful Elections

Monday, February 1st, 2010

By Amelia Lawrence ADDIS ABABA , Feb 01 (IPS) Peace in Sudan remains an uncertainty ahead of the country’s first general elections in 24 years, according to the African Union Commission chief.

With two months to go before the decisive presidential and parliamentary elections, the United Nations (U.N.) and the AU want to ensure that elections take place without an eruption of violence between the north and the south, which can also risk instability in the region.

Addressing media before the start of the 14th annual AU Summit in Ethiopia on Jan. 31, AU Commission chairman, Jean Ping, said the prospects for peace appeared unpredictable ahead of the crucial elections.

"We do not pretend that in 2010 there would be no crisis, but Africa hopes to find African solutions to these crises," Ping said. The AU has also declared 2010 as being the year of peace and security for Africa, in addition to focusing on information, technology and communication.

Ping added that the body remained committed to ensuring Sudan’s April elections were peaceful.

"(The) AU will remain active to assist the Sudanese to ensure they have lasting peace."

A recent report from the Enough Project, a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity, warned that there was a risk of a new civil war and that both the nationwide elections and the 2011 referendum (on whether the oil-rich and semi-autonomous south should secede from the Khartoum-led north) would not be free and fair.

The Sudanese Ambassador to Ethiopia, Akuei Bona Malwal, said: "Preparations (for the) elections are ongoing, but the (possibility) of insecurity is an issue."

He said he hoped the international community and the Sudanese authorities will ensure proper coordination so that the ‘election will take place in a peaceful manner’.

Malwal warned that ‘the question of security is essential to ensure a peaceful election’.

It has been reported from Khartoum that ‘three presidential candidates, including the only woman, have been rejected’.

This ruling has raised further doubts about the presidential and legislative elections after opposition accusations of fraud during registration and of intimidation and vote-buying by the ruling National Congress Party.

The AU High-Level Panel on Darfur, later known as the AU High Level Implementation Panel for Sudan (AUHIP), noted in Oct. 2009 that a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Darfur needed to be achieved before the April elections.

Headed by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, the AUHIP found that the people of both north and south Sudan are keen to live in peace.

"It is therefore self-evident that the resolution of the conflict in Darfur, like those in south and eastern Sudan, cannot but necessitate the restructuring of Sudan as a whole…" Mbeki said in a speech to the U.N. Security Council in Dec. 2009.

Malwal said that his country has accepted the AUHIP report and the re-appointment of the Mbeki team ‘to ensure the implementation of the plan’.

He said the Mbeki’s team was engaging with all the different role-players like non-governmental organisations, civil society, traditional leaders and government. "Mbeki’s team has a big role to play this year," Malwal added.

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, attended a sideline discussion on the future of Sudan held alongside the main AU agenda.

Ban said that ‘the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) is also in the best interest of the Sudanese people’. Sudan’s first multi-party election in over two decades was agreed to in the 2005 CPA that ended the 21-year north-south civil war.

"They have taken a long time to agree on the agreement and the U.N. has been working very closely with the AU to implement the CPA." (The U.N. partnered with the AU two years ago to establish the African Union/United Nations Hybrid operation in Darfur.)

Ban said the U.N. will ‘seek to forge consensus among member states on the way forward’. He said the body will ‘stand ready to respect the outcome of the 2011 referendum whatever the outcome’ but added that the most ideal outcome would be one of national unity.

Sudanese President Omar El-Bashir, who is awaiting an International Criminal Court decision on whether he will be tried for war crimes in his country, was recently quoted as saying that Khartoum would cooperate with south Sudan.

Some analysts point out that the comments implied a wish to accept the independence of the south.

Khartoum has been working on ‘making unity attractive’ for the south Sudanese who fought the civil war with the north over access to political power and sharing the massive oil revenue.

Both north and south Sudan’s governments have negotiation an agreement on the conditions of the 2011 referendum, in which the country will vote on whether the south will secede from the north.

"They have the right to choose their own future. We are going through a very crucial time to prepare for election and the referendum next year," Ban said.

Ban said that a strong U.N. presence on the ground in Sudan would remain in place.

Mbeki acknowledged the importance of peace in Sudan in his speech to the U.N.

"As we carry out this work, we will be very mindful of the critical importance of Sudan to its neighbours and the rest of our continent. If is self-evident that Sudan, which shares borders with nine other countries in a volatile part of Africa, should serve as a force for peace, stability and development both in this region and in Africa as a whole," Mbeki said.

POLITICS: Security Essential to Ensure Peaceful Elections

Monday, February 1st, 2010

By Amelia Lawrence ADDIS ABABA , Feb 01 (IPS) Peace in Sudan remains an uncertainty ahead of the country’s first general elections in 24 years, according to the African Union Commission chief.

With two months to go before the decisive presidential and parliamentary elections, the United Nations (U.N.) and the AU want to ensure that elections take place without an eruption of violence between the north and the south, which can also risk instability in the region.

Addressing media before the start of the 14th annual AU Summit in Ethiopia on Jan. 31, AU Commission chairman, Jean Ping, said the prospects for peace appeared unpredictable ahead of the crucial elections.

"We do not pretend that in 2010 there would be no crisis, but Africa hopes to find African solutions to these crises," Ping said. The AU has also declared 2010 as being the year of peace and security for Africa, in addition to focusing on information, technology and communication.

Ping added that the body remained committed to ensuring Sudan’s April elections were peaceful.

"(The) AU will remain active to assist the Sudanese to ensure they have lasting peace."

A recent report from the Enough Project, a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity, warned that there was a risk of a new civil war and that both the nationwide elections and the 2011 referendum (on whether the oil-rich and semi-autonomous south should secede from the Khartoum-led north) would not be free and fair.

The Sudanese Ambassador to Ethiopia, Akuei Bona Malwal, said: "Preparations (for the) elections are ongoing, but the (possibility) of insecurity is an issue."

He said he hoped the international community and the Sudanese authorities will ensure proper coordination so that the ‘election will take place in a peaceful manner’.

Malwal warned that ‘the question of security is essential to ensure a peaceful election’.

It has been reported from Khartoum that ‘three presidential candidates, including the only woman, have been rejected’.

This ruling has raised further doubts about the presidential and legislative elections after opposition accusations of fraud during registration and of intimidation and vote-buying by the ruling National Congress Party.

The AU High-Level Panel on Darfur, later known as the AU High Level Implementation Panel for Sudan (AUHIP), noted in Oct. 2009 that a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Darfur needed to be achieved before the April elections.

Headed by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, the AUHIP found that the people of both north and south Sudan are keen to live in peace.

"It is therefore self-evident that the resolution of the conflict in Darfur, like those in south and eastern Sudan, cannot but necessitate the restructuring of Sudan as a whole…" Mbeki said in a speech to the U.N. Security Council in Dec. 2009.

Malwal said that his country has accepted the AUHIP report and the re-appointment of the Mbeki team ‘to ensure the implementation of the plan’.

He said the Mbeki’s team was engaging with all the different role-players like non-governmental organisations, civil society, traditional leaders and government. "Mbeki’s team has a big role to play this year," Malwal added.

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, attended a sideline discussion on the future of Sudan held alongside the main AU agenda.

Ban said that ‘the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) is also in the best interest of the Sudanese people’. Sudan’s first multi-party election in over two decades was agreed to in the 2005 CPA that ended the 21-year north-south civil war.

"They have taken a long time to agree on the agreement and the U.N. has been working very closely with the AU to implement the CPA." (The U.N. partnered with the AU two years ago to establish the African Union/United Nations Hybrid operation in Darfur.)

Ban said the U.N. will ‘seek to forge consensus among member states on the way forward’. He said the body will ‘stand ready to respect the outcome of the 2011 referendum whatever the outcome’ but added that the most ideal outcome would be one of national unity.

Sudanese President Omar El-Bashir, who is awaiting an International Criminal Court decision on whether he will be tried for war crimes in his country, was recently quoted as saying that Khartoum would cooperate with south Sudan.

Some analysts point out that the comments implied a wish to accept the independence of the south.

Khartoum has been working on ‘making unity attractive’ for the south Sudanese who fought the civil war with the north over access to political power and sharing the massive oil revenue.

Both north and south Sudan’s governments have negotiation an agreement on the conditions of the 2011 referendum, in which the country will vote on whether the south will secede from the north.

"They have the right to choose their own future. We are going through a very crucial time to prepare for election and the referendum next year," Ban said.

Ban said that a strong U.N. presence on the ground in Sudan would remain in place.

Mbeki acknowledged the importance of peace in Sudan in his speech to the U.N.

"As we carry out this work, we will be very mindful of the critical importance of Sudan to its neighbours and the rest of our continent. If is self-evident that Sudan, which shares borders with nine other countries in a volatile part of Africa, should serve as a force for peace, stability and development both in this region and in Africa as a whole," Mbeki said.

Insuring Pastoralists Against Increasing Risks

Monday, February 1st, 2010

By Susan Anyangu-Amu

NAIROBI (IPS) The droughts in the Turkana region were less severe when she was growing up, says Laura Letapalel, and pastoralists could still find some grass and water for their animals. Now, she laments, the droughts are longer and there is nothing to eat.

Andrew Mude, an economist with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), says drought is the greatest hazard encountered by herders.

“This is particularly true for northern Kenya, where more than three million pastoralist households are regularly hit by increasingly severe droughts. In the past 100 years, northern Kenya has recorded 28 major droughts, four of which occurred in the last 10 years,” Mude explains.

“In our community the size of one's herd is what signifies his status economically. However, of late we have noticed drastic weather patterns that have left our herds dead, turning once rich men into paupers,” says Letapalel a pastoralist in the Turkana area of Kenya.

Esekon Longuramoe, another pastoralist from Turkana, says erratic climatic conditions have changed his fortunes.

“When we first came here, I saw two beautiful things: there was so much grass and a lot of wild animals. It was a nice grazing place. But now there is no rain, and I have lost 100 sheep and 50 cattle.

“After losing almost all my livestock, I have become so poor that I cannot compare myself to the way I used to be. Even if I wanted to move, I do not have a donkey to carry my possessions, I would have to borrow one,” he says.

The question of how to cushion pastoralist communities against the devastating effects of drought has been a headache for the government of Kenya.

A new project launched by ILRI and its partners promises to help pastoralists.

“Thousands of herders in Marsabit District, a remote, arid area in northern Kenya, will be able to purchase insurance policies for their livestock, based on a first-of-its-kind programme in Africa that uses satellite images of grass and other vegetation to indicate whether drought will put their camels, cows, goats and sheep at risk of starvation,” Mude says.

The programme will use satellite images to assess the state of grazing land. This information will be matched against records of livestock deaths collected over the past decade to calculate stock losses for insurance purposes. This index-based insurance system eliminates the need to verify the individual deaths of animals.

The Marsabit district – adjacent to Turkana – has been divided into two clusters based on risk. It will cost 5.5 percent of the value of livestock to insure animals in Maikona and North Horr divisions; in Laisamis, Loyangalani, Central and Gadamoji, it will cost 3.25 percent.

“We believe this programme has potential because it has the elements insurers need to operate: a well-known risk (drought) and an external indicator that is verifiable and cannot be manipulated, in this case satellite images of the vegetation,” says James Wambugu, managing director of UAP Insurance, which is providing the risk cover.

Sales of the insurance scheme began across the district in January. The premiums can be paid at branches of Equity Bank in Marsabit, or to Point of Sale agents under the Hunger Safety Net Programmes – a scheme that provides regular cash grants to 300,000 vulnerable households in arid districts of northern Kenya and has a presence in most of the major communities in Marsabit.

According to Mude, Marsabit district currently supports about 86,000 head of cattle and some two million sheep and goats which depend on naturally growing vegetation for survival. The livestock in Marsabit alone is estimated to be worth 67 million dollars, though animals are rarely sold or slaughtered.

Given the complexity of the insurance project, a simulation game was developed to help the local communities understand the key features of the insurance policy. Mude says many of the herders who played the game became intensely involved in the simulation.

“The simulation helps them understand how insurance can protect them against losses. They also appear to simply enjoy playing the game itself, which generates a lot of animated discussion,” he explains.

The insurance is valuable even without the deaths of livestock triggering payments.

The policy can be used to obtain credit with which to buy feed or drugs that could help animals survive tough conditions. Expanding herds may also be made easier; private creditors will be more willing to lend if the risk of losing new animals to drought is insured against.

Mude says the pilot project will last three years, during which studies will be carried out to establish the commercial sustainability of the product. If it proves successful, extending it to parts of Uganda, Southern Ethiopia, West Africa and even Asia will also be explored.

Ethiopians in Beirut hold memorial service for crash victims

Monday, February 1st, 2010

By Joshua Hersh | The Faster Times

Hany Gebre was killed in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight on January 25

Sunday morning, I went with the photojournalist Matthew Cassel (Just Image) to the Ethiopian Full Gospel Church, in Sebtiyeh, just outside of Beirut, for Sunday services and the funeral of one of the congregants, Hany Gebre, who died in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 last Monday.

If you are looking to understand the plight of Ethiopian domestic workers in Lebanon, look no further than the fact that this service — six days after the incident — was the first time the Ethiopian community could reliably get time off from work to gather. About 150 women — and they were ALL women — were there, and many cried for the entire three hour service, which was conducted through song and spoken word, wholly in Amharic. Representatives from the Ethiopian Consulate stopped by to pay their respects and distribute their personal mobile numbers, which everyone in attendance dutifully wrote down. They, too, left in tears.

The ceremony itself was spectacular — haunting in its beauty and sorrow.

Read more below by Matthew Cassel at JustImage.org

Ethiopians mourn in Beirut

Ethiopians mourn in Beirut (Photo: Matthew Cassel)

I went with a friend and journalist today to cover a service at an Ethiopian church outside Beirut to remember one its members, Hany Gebre, along with 89 other people, mostly Lebanese and Ethiopians, killed on an Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed into the Mediterranean Sea shortly after takeoff last Monday. Hany was employed as a domestic worker in Lebanon and was on the way to visit her family for the first time since she came to Lebanon three years ago when the plane went down. The community of Ethiopian women at the church is tightly knit, and most women said they knew Hany well. We entered to a roomful of sobbing women listening to the animated preacher singing prayers in Amharic.

It was an awkward experience for me to again take pictures of a room full of people letting their tears flow, and like I told my friend in the church, I hate taking pictures in these situations but I know that I should so others can see. As he sat there with his notebook I thought of a quote by Lewis Wickes Hine, one of my favorite photographers who once said, “If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug around a camera.” Even though my Canon isn’t quite as obtrusive as the cameras were in Hine’s day, the act itself will always be obtrusive in a situation like this and make me wish that I could remain unseen in a corner capturing the scene by jotting down notes in a small notebook.

At one point I had to leave the emotional scene in the church and get some “fresh air” by smoking a cigarette across the street. Outside, I sat staring at the Lebanese passersby. I wondered what a society that many have increasingly called “racist” thinks of the hundreds of black women who gather in their neighborhood each Sunday.

I noticed an older Lebanese woman walk past with her Ethiopian “helper.” In the standard contract that all employers must sign, migrant domestic workers in Lebanon are allowed to take at least one day off per week (usually Sunday), but many employers prevent them from doing so. I assume this was an example of that. The Ethiopian worker, arm-in-arm with her employer, glanced inside the church as they walked past and immediately started crying on the street. The Lebanese woman seemed not to notice (or not to care) as she asked the worker for help while she rummaged through her oversized handbag.

Since the death of Theresa Seda across the street from my home, I’ve been increasingly involved in the plight of foreign workers in Lebanon. Previously, I hadn’t focused on this issue because my reason for being in the Middle East is to combat a highly inaccurate image of this region and its people being portrayed in much of the Western media. If I was going to cover the exploitation of workers, I wouldn’t need to travel half the globe to do so. And I distrust many Western journalists who come here critical of everything Arab while ignoring their own government’s role in shaping this war-torn and unstable part of the world. But the abuse of workers in this country is unavoidable. Every time I leave the house I see a foreign woman carrying a bratty child, picking up dog shit or staring out the window of her “madame’s” car in envy at those of us walking around with relatively few cares in the world. There is a common expression shared by oppressed peoples. Its one that screams of a yearning to spend time with family, swim in the sea, relax on a nice chair, meet friends, have money to purchase goods, travel, be free. And as someone concerned with social justice, it’s impossible to turn a blind eye to the abuse in Lebanon that is happening all around me.

Now, the big question: are Lebanese racists? Some Western journalists feel they’re in a position to say yes, but not this one. Surely there are many racist Lebanese, and it is a serious problem affecting the whole of society — nearly everyone refers to migrant domestic workers as “Sirlankiin” (Sri Lankans) regardless of what country they actually come from. But, for example, is the Ethiopian worker and her Lebanese employer an example of this racism? It’s hard to say. Before making generalizations and pointing the finger solely at Lebanese, I would take a step back and look at the question on a global scale — how many societies existing today don’t contain elements of racism? If these Ethiopian and other workers were to travel elsewhere (or stay in Ethiopia), would that solve the problem?

I thought about all of this before I heard the music sounding (seen in the video below) through the church doors and out into the street. I quickly put out my cigarette and ran back inside lugging my camera along to help me tell a story we don’t often hear.

Ethiopia, a victim of Western realpolitik

Monday, February 1st, 2010

By Xan Rice | Mail & Guardian

At noon every Sunday an old Toyota sedan donated by supporters of Ethiopia’s most famous prisoner pulls up near a jail on the outskirts of the capital.

A 74-year-old woman in a white shawl and her four-year-old granddaughter — the only outsiders the prisoner is allowed to see — step out for a 30-minute visit.

Most inmates at Kaliti prison want their relatives to buy them food. But Birtukan Mideksa, the 35-year-old leader of the country’s main opposition party, always asks her mother and daughter to bring books: an anthology titled The Power of Non-Violence, Bertrand Russell’s Best, and the memoirs of Gandhi, Barack Obama and Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese political prisoner to whom she has been compared.

Birtukan, a single mother and former judge, was among dozens of opposition leaders, journalists and civil society workers arrested following anti-government demonstrations after the disputed 2005 elections.

Charged with treason for allegedly planning to overthrow the government — accusations rejected by independent groups such as Amnesty International — the political leaders were sentenced to life imprisonment. After spending nearly two years in jail they were pardoned, but Birtukan was rearrested in December 2008 for challenging the official version of circumstances that led to her release. Her pardon was revoked, her life sentence reinstated.

“My child did not do anything wrong — she had no weapon, she committed no crime,” said Almaz Gebregziabher, Birtukan’s mother, in her house on a hillside in Addis Ababa after visiting her daughter one recent Sunday. “I want the world to know that this is unjust.”

Many Ethiopians agree. Birtukan’s treatment has cast a shadow over elections due in May. Opposition parties and international human rights groups said the case is proof of the authoritarian government’s stalled progress towards democracy.

It is also evidence, they said, of the double standards of Western donors when dealing with Meles Zenawi, the prime minister, a major aid recipient and ally in the “war against terror”. Although Zenawi makes no attempt to hide his disdain for Birtukan — talk of her release is a “dead issue”, he said in December — he denies the case is political.

But a look at her history with his regime shows why few people outside his party believe him.

Birtukan excelled at university and was appointed a federal judge in Addis Ababa. In 2002 she was assigned a case involving Siye Abraha, a former defence minister who had fallen out with Zenawi and was accused of corruption. Birtukan released him on bail — a rare show of judicial independence in Ethiopia — but when Abraha left court he was immediately rearrested and jailed.

Birtukan’s relatives said she joined opposition forces before the 2005 elections and was arrested and released in 2007.

Upon her release she set about bringing together the various opposition groups from 2005 and helped found the Unity for Democracy and Justice, of which she was elected chairperson. Her age and gender made this extraordinary.

In November 2008 Birtukan told an audience of Ethiopians in Sweden that her pardon had come as a result of negotiations rather than an official request made through legal channels. Although people who were in jail with her said this reflected the truth, the government said it equated to denying asking for a pardon, and sent her back to jail.

And there is no sympathy from the government. “She was advised to obey the rule of law,” said Teferi Melese, head of public diplomacy at the foreign affairs ministry in Addis Ababa. “But she broke the conditions of her pardon, thinking her friends in the European Union could get her released.”

That foreign embassies, including Britain’s, which have been refused permission to visit Birtukan, have barely made a public complaint about the case appears to back opposition complaints that when it comes to Ethiopia, donors favour stability over democratic reforms or human rights.

“The government says the more we make noise the more difficult it will be to get her [Birtukan] out,” said one Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Are we going to risk our entire aid budget for one person? No.”

Putting Lipstick on a Pig, Ethiopian Style

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Last week, there was a great deal of teeth-gnashing, knuckle-cracking and gut-wrenching by Ethiopia’s dictators over Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) 2010 report. The dictators belched out much sound and fury that signified nothing. Their fury had to do with HRW’s conclusion that “Ethiopia is on a deteriorating human rights trajectory as parliamentary elections approach in 2010.” In blunt and unequivocal language, HRW whipsawed the dictators with the facts:

Broad patterns of government repression have prevented the emergence of organized opposition in most of the country. In December 2008 the government reimprisoned opposition leader Birtukan Midekssa for life after she made remarks that allegedly violated the terms of an earlier pardon. In 2009 the government passed two pieces of legislation that codify some of the worst aspects of the slide towards deeper repression and political intolerance. A civil society law passed in January is one of the most restrictive of its kind, and its provisions will make most independent human rights work impossible. A new counterterrorism law passed in July permits the government and security forces to prosecute political protesters and non-violent expressions of dissent as acts of terrorism. Ordinary citizens who criticize government policies or officials frequently face arrest on trumped-up accusations of belonging to illegal “anti-peace” groups, including armed opposition movements. Officials sometimes bring criminal cases in a manner that appears to selectively target government critics…

The dictators bellyached about HRW’s “unfairness” and bitterly complained about its malicious and willful blindness to the great strides and democratic achievements they have made over the past several years. “How could HRW overlook our prized Code of Conduct for Political Parties negotiated by 65 political parties?” they lamented. How could they disregard a “Code” that is so “impressive, transparent, free, fair, peaceful, democratic, legitimate and acceptable to the voters”? To add insult to injury, they even overlooked the appointment “by parliamentary acclamation” of a new human rights commissioner. No matter. All HRW cares about is carping about the “civil society and anti-terrorist laws” and fabricating stories about human rights abuses in the Somali Regional State. Those cynical and contemptible rascals have “no interest in, and no time for, any promising developments.” After all, they are just stooges and mouthpieces of the evil Ethiopian “dissident” Diaspora whose sole aim is to discredit the “democratic achievements” of the dictatorship.

When candidate Barack Obama ran for the U.S. presidency, he used a folksy idiom to describe John McCain’s pretensions as a new force of change in Washington. “That’s not change [McCain is talking about]. That’s just calling the same thing something different. But you know, you can put lipstick on a pig; it’s still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper and call it change; it’s still going to stink.”

Well, you can jazz up a bogus election in a one-man, one-party dictatorship with a “Code of Conduct”, but to all the world it is still a bogus election under a one-man, one-party dictatorship. You can appoint lackeys to issue a whitewash human rights report on “allegations” of abuse in the Ogaden and call it an objective inquiry commission report, but it is still a whitewash. You can appoint a fox to guard the chicken coop and call it safeguarding human rights, but the sly fox will not spare the chickens. You can put lipstick on dictatorship to make it look like a pretty democracy, but at the end of the day, it is still an ugly dictatorship!

Ethiopia’s dictators think we are all damned fools. They want us to believe that a pig with lipstick is actually a swan floating on a placid lake, or a butterfly fluttering in the rose garden or even a lamb frolicking in the meadows. They think lipstick will make everything look pretty. Put some lipstick on hyperinflation and you have one of the “fastest developing economies in the world”. Put lipstick on power outages, and the grids come alive with megawattage. Slap a little lipstick on famine, and voila! Ethiopians are suffering from a slight case of “severe malnutrition”. Adorn your atrocious human rights record by appointing a “human rights” chief, and lo and behold, grievous government wrongs are transformed magically into robust human rights protections. Slam your opposition in jail, smother the independent press and criminalize civil society while applying dainty lipstick to a mannequin of democracy. The point is, “You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper and call it ‘democracy’ but after 20 years it stinks to high heaven!”

Of course, all the sound and fury is a calculated effort at misdirection. Instead of talking about the factual allegations in the HRW report, the dictators want to make Human Rights Watch the ISSUE. But HRW is one human rights organization that needs no lipstick to do its work, or to cover it up. HRW’s investigators do not work on a commission. They don’t get paid a dime for digging up mass graves in distant lands and conduct complex forensic studies. They make no money walking the scorching deserts for days and thumping the under brush in the tropical forests to interview remotely located civilian victims of war crimes and human rights abuse. HRW does not work for profit. They do their exceedingly difficult and dangerous work to prevent human rights abuse and to hold states, armed groups and others accountable for human rights violations. They receive their financial support largely from individual donations and gifts. HRW never takes sides in any conflict. To do their work, they do not make their own rules but use established international human rights conventions, treaties, domestic laws and resolutions of world bodies.

Vile accusations against HRW are not new. All governments and groups stung by HRW’s factual reports squeal like a stuck pig. They try to discredit HRW’s reports as methodologically flawed, unsubstantiated, speculative, slanted, unfair, biased and so on. They try to distract and misdirect public attention from the evidence of their criminality in the reports by attacking HRW as an antagonistic and politically vindictive organization. In the past few years, HRW has been vilified by those on opposite ends of the same conflict. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have called HRW a “Zionist” organization. The Israeli government has accused HRW of being “obsessed with Israel” and dubbed them “supporters of terrorism.” But HRW is an organization with the highest level of integrity. They will not back down from holding any government accountable, including the U.S. In its latest report, HRW praised President Obama for abolishing secret CIA prisons and banning all use of torture, but they clobbered him ferociously for “adopting many of the Bush administration’s most misguided policies” including the policy of “indefinite detention without charge” of “enemy combatants”.

There is no secret to HRW’s investigative work. They conduct extensive interviews of alleged victims of human rights abuse. They work with confidential informants in victims’ communities and gather evidence from others sources within a given country. They talk to officials and top political leaders and analyze government reports and any other relevant documentation and data. They conduct field investigations and their experts conduct forensic studies, perform ballistics tests and examine medical and autopsy reports. They always seek official permission to conduct their investigations, but most governments generally refuse or ignore the requests to enter their countries for such purposes. HRW has a rigorous system of checking and cross-checking facts. Before publication, HRW always presents its findings to the relevant governments for comment and feedback, and to incorporate changes and make corrections where appropriate. Often, regimes and governments remain silent and provide no feedback on the reports before publication. Once the reports are made public, governments sensitive to criticism unleash their spin-doctors to moan and groan about HRW in an attempt to capture media attention and deflect public scrutiny from the evidence in the reports that incriminate them.

“No one loves the messenger who brings bad news.” But attacking the messenger does not make a lie out of the message, just as putting lipstick on a pig does not make the pig a swan (perhaps a vulture).

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Alemayehu G. Mariam, is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. He writes a regular blog on The Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/ and his commentaries appear regularly on Pambazuka News and New American Media.

African leaders meet the master swindler in Addis Ababa

Monday, February 1st, 2010

By Assta B. Gettu

African leaders gangsters have come in great numbers with great enthusiasm to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to get some more training in the art of robbery from the master of swindle, Meles Zenawi and his wife Jezebel.

Each one of these plunderers will introduce himself/herself to the chief thief, Meles Seitanawi, with pride and self confidence that they are all from Africa and that they have come to Addis Ababa to accomplish some pressing issues that their country, Africa, is facing today, and after the chief thief has recognized all of his guests and welcomed them to this beautiful city of Addis Ababa, whose old name, to some Oromos, is Finfinne, they will go quietly to their proper seats.

They have agreed that no camera is allowed while they are discussing certain and sensitive issues such as land dealing, export, import, investment, and one’s own assets. They all have agreed to talk about the pressing issue first, and they found out the urgent issue is how to protect their own personal assets.

Having mentioned some of the names of foreign banks where to put one’s own assets, they suggest that some African leaders with big assets – over a billion dollars – should put their assets in a safest foreign bank in the names of their own friends or families instead of their own names to avoid litigation from their own countries.

Next, they discuss about their personal safeties when there is a government change in their countries. They promise and swear in the name of God or Allah that they will keep their promises to grant a safe place to any African leader who flees his country for his safety and for the safeties of his own family, and whatever crime he may have committed and how much money he may have looted, he will be granted a safe haven in one of the African states.

Case in point, Mengistu Haile Mariam is still alive and enjoying life with his family in Harare, Zimbabwe; Al Bashir of Sudan, after he has been indicted by the International Tribunal Court for genocide against the Darfuri, is still in power and governing his country. Taking these two extraordinary examples and putting their prides on them, these Africans robbers feel more confidence on each other and are determined to loot their country and transfer their money to foreign banks. Again and again, they have promised to stick together to improve their own personal lives and the lives of their own friends and to isolate those who disagree with them and condemn them as advocates of terrorism in the Horn of Africa.

They claim they have the right to rent or give some of their fertile lands for foreign investors who can develop the land and hire more domestic workers and produce more food for the African hungry children and more revenues for their government, and this is one of the quickest ways to swindle money in the form of foreign investment, land development, and unfair taxation of the new companies.

The long term effect of land development is overshadowed by the short term of productivity from this rent-free land given to foreign developers. The long term effect is destroying the ecosystem of the land and changing the life styles of the inhabitants of the land and evicting them from their ancestral land without compensating them for the great lose of their land, their grazing pasture, their grave land, and their historical, cultural, religious, and recreational areas.

Engulfed with personal interests, avarice, lust, and power, these African robbers or leaders think less about their people and think more about themselves. They have come and gathered here in Addis Ababa to find some effective ways to hide their assets instead of sharing them with their own people, to protect their criminal friends rather than bringing them to justice, and to advocate democracy and the rule of law instead of continuing to run their countries in the same old and barbaric ways.

Winding up their unproductive discussions (of course the discussion is very fruitful for their personal interests) for the common people of Africa, and especially for Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea, these daily and nightly robbers or leaders of African states have profusely expressed their deep gratitude to the unsparing hospitality of the Ethiopian people and especially the smiling faces, giggling, and kindness of the Addis Ababa beautiful damsels.