Archive for April, 2010

Ethiopia and election drama

Friday, April 30th, 2010

By Yilma Bekele

What do you do when you first wake up in the morning? Some of us cannot move without our first cup of coffee while others require a good breakfast. How about if you went to bed without dinner? I am sure you woke up a few times hungry, you did not have a good restful sleep and it is possible your rest was disturbed by all sorts of dream and nightmare due to an empty stomach.

Food is primary. Food comes first. Without food there is no you. Without food there is no life.

Food is what is lacking in our country. Food has been lacking in our country for eternity. We are famous for not having enough food. Our name has become synonymous with hunger. When you say famine the word that comes to mind is Ethiopia.

Why is there not enough food in Ethiopia? We are lazy? No. Our people are known to farm from sunup to sundown. Farming is a family business. Our land is dry? No. We have plenty of rivers flowing out of our highlands north into Egypt, East to Somalia and west to Sudan. We don’t have enough land. No. We have plenty of virgin land waiting to be developed. We are over populated. No. We have enough land to sustain twice our current population. We are stupid? No. Our dispersed citizens all over the world are proof that we are one clever people that will settle anywhere and thrive.

Thus we are not lazy, we have a beautiful fertile land, we are not over populated and we are not mentally challenged people but we are still hungry and cannot survive without a handout. Why?

There is not enough food because we are not using our resources intelligently. Did I just say resources? As soon as I said resource you automatically thought of mineral or oil or such commodity. No, we have resources more precious than that. The people are the most important resource of a country. We have not figured out a way to harness the abundant resource of eighty million souls in front of our eyes. That, in a nutshell is our problem.

It is nice to have minerals and oil. It is good to be blessed with a vast population. But by themselves they don’t mean much. There is a third important factor that makes the two work in harmony. It is a vital part of the equation. It is what we have been lacking for a long time. That is what we don’t have.

I am glad you asked. What is lacking is good governance. It is enlightened leadership. That is what is missing in our country. Our country goes back thousands of years. Our Ethiopia is not a recent phenomenon. We have such visionaries as Tewodros, Yohanes and Menelik. They have been gone a long time but their legacy still lives.

Today we are lost. We are like a vessel without a pilot but driven by the wind. We stumble from port to port. We travel without knowing our destination, we plan without knowing what we want to achieve and we fail time and time again. We are accustomed to leaders that avoid responsibility. They excel at blaming others for their mistakes and lack of vision but they have this remarkable ability to shake accountability.

Here is a quote from a classic Chinese text (Tao TeChing) written around the 6th. Century BC about leadership:

The best rulers are scarcely known by their subjects;
The next best are loved and praised;
The next are feared;
The next despised:
They have no faith in their people,
And their people become unfaithful to them.

When the best rulers achieve their purpose
Their subjects claim the achievement as their own.

We don’t have that do we? Thus we go hungry. We roam the earth looking for a place to settle. We despair for our country and we fight each other. Whether at home or in a foreign land we have no harmony. There is no peace among the children of Ethiopia. We celebrate our differences and magnify our contradictions. We are one sorry nation.

The way we are going about building our country is not a wining formula. We all know it is not going to happen. You cannot fit a square inside a circle. You can try, but it won’t fit. My son used to try that when he was two. One week with that toy and he figured it is not going to happen. He did not force the issue. He learnt. Here we are responsible adults and we are still trying to fit a square inside a circle.

We are at it again. The current farce billed as an election is bringing out the worst in us. We are stuck with a Party that is unable to let go. It survives from day today. It survives by creating contradiction among its people. It stumbled into power without a clue of what to do with it. It has been improvising for the last seventeen years. It lacks what the American refer to as ‘Exit strategy’. I am sure the TPLF leaders would love to go into the sunset peacefully. Sit back and enjoy their ill-gotten wealth. How is the burning question keeping Ato Meles and company awake at night. Their belly is full but their mind wonders.

Think of it this way. Ato Meles his family a few of his friends can leave. How about their entourage. What is going to happen to the junior abusers that have been doing the actual dirty job? It is a very interesting situation. Lack of ‘exit strategy’ has been the Achilles heel of dictators since time immemorial. Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos, Augusto Pinochet, Mobutu Sese Seko, Alberto Fujimori, Nicolae Ceausescu and so on have all been victims of that simple but vital concept. They always get caught with their pants down.

After all is said and done we are back to square one. Waking up hungry. Fourteen million Ethiopians are in a state of constant famine. Twice that number wake up hungry everyday. When it comes to our children it is said that those that are mal nourished (starved) during their developmental phase, the deficiencies are recognized to have the potential for permanent adverse effects on learning and behavior. A nation of mentally challenged is the outcome.

Everything is inter related. You cannot have food on the table without a good governance that requires a visionary leader. You cannot have a visionary leader without a democratic elections that weeds out the wheat from the chaff. You cannot weed out the chaff without an open transparent competition for the citizen to judge. So we go around this vicious circle we have created.

What do you think the current election is going to accomplish. Definitely it is not going to separate the chaff from the wheat. Why? Because it is all chaff. The wheat knows better. It is going to sit this one out. TPLF is going to win. Medrek will be allowed one hundred seats. The Europeans and the Americans will bless the outcome with ‘some’ reservation. Ato Meles and company will celebrate their emerging democracy.

The Ethiopian people will watch the drama somberly. The hunger will continue unabated. The migration of the young will be accelerated. The sale of our virgin territory will gain momentum.
All is not lost. It might look hopeless but every contradictions carries its own solution. Didn’t the divine Haile Sellasie regime crumble due to internal rot? Didn’t the mighty Derge wither away due its arrogance and abuse? The same fate awaits the criminal TPLF regime. I will leave you with what Tao TeChing said about rebellion:

When rulers take grain so that they may feast,
Their people become hungry;
When rulers take action to serve their own interests,
Their people become rebellious;
When rulers take lives so that their own lives are maintained,
Their people no longer fear death.

When people act without regard for their own lives
They overcome those who value only their own lives.

There will come a time when the people no longer fear death.

Ethiopian man accused of murder arrested in New York

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Alexandria, Virginia (ABC 7)– New York City police have arrested a Virginia resident who is accused of murdering his 3-year-old daughter and her mother, ABC 7 News has learned.

Investigators have been searching for 34-year-old Simon Asfeha, a native of Ethiopia, since April 11, when officers responded to a domestic disturbance complaint and found the woman, 27-year-old Seble Tessema, and her daughter, dead. Both had been stabbed to death.

Asfeha had previously been charged with assaulting Tessema.

The U.S. Marshals fugitive task force, which had been hunting Asfeha, described him as a “monster” to the Washington Examiner, saying he had slashed his own daughter’s throat.

Prominent Eritrean scholar Tekie Fissehatsion passed away

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Tekie Fissehatsion

(VOA) — Distinguished Eritrean scholar and economist, Dr. Tekie Fissehatsion, died last week of a brain tumor. He was receiving medical treatment at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. A memorial service was held on April 24.

Tekie was an economist and author or several books on Eritrea, regional economics and political conflicts. He also served on the commission that drafted a constitution for Eritrea when the nation declared its independent in 1991.The constitution was never enacted and Tekie became an advocate of its implementation. He became chairman of the department of economics at Morgan State University in 1991. He came to the United States in 1964.

Among books he wrote are “Prospects for Economic Cooperation Between Eritrea and Its Neighbors,” “Economic Cooperation in the Horn of Africa,” and “Shattered Illusion and Broken Promise: Essays on the Ethiopian-Eritrean Conflict,” published in 2003.

Three colleagues of Tekie spoke with Tewlede Tesfagabir abtu his life and career: Dr. Gebrehiwet Tesfagiorgis of the University of Iowa; Alemseged Tesfay, a writer and historian; and Kasshun Chekol, whose Red Sea Publishing Company in New Jersey published his books.

Liya Kebede among World's 100 Most Influential People

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Time Magazine has named Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede among the World’s 100 Most Influential People in its annual special edition. The following is a piece about Liya on

By Tom Ford

I first met Liya Kebede about 10 years ago in Paris. I was casting models for a show, and Liya came in. She looked me in the eyes, and I was quite literally stunned. Liya, 32, projects an aura of goodness and calm that outshines even her extraordinary physical beauty. Later in the day, when trying to remember what she looked like, I could only remember her eyes.

I have had the good fortune of coming to know Liya well over the past decade, and I am happy to say that my first impression of her was accurate. I was therefore not surprised when I heard that she had been appointed the World Health Organization’s Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in 2005. Or that she had founded the Liya Kebede Foundation with a similar mission. This year, in recognition of her work in this field, the World Economic Forum named her a Young Global Leader.

In today’s world, celebrity advocates are not rare. What is rare is to encounter one whose devotion and drive come from a genuine desire to better our world. Liya’s work comes from a place of sincerity, and her beauty is much more than skin-deep.

(Ford is a fashion designer and film director)

Violence breaks out at UDJ office in Addis Ababa

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Faction leader Prof. Mesfin argues with UDJ officials at the Party's office

A faction of Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ) led by Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam had attempted to take over by force the party’s headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa today causing violence to break out. The AP reported the incident as follows:

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopian Woyanne police detained a dozen opposition party members after a scuffle broke out at the party’s headquarters.

Yeshiwas Assefa said Thursday that his splinter group went to the Unity for Democracy and Justice-Andinet (UDJ) party’s offices to take over the headquarters and then a fight broke out.

Members of the UDJ’s senior leadership could not be reached for comment.

Police confirmed to The Associated Press that 12 people were detained following the incident Wednesday but they declined to comment further. One person was later released on bail.

Ethiopia is due to hold national elections next month. Prime Minister Warlord Zenawi Meles and his party Marxist tribal junta first came to power in 1991 when they ousted a Marxist dictator after a 17-year insurgency.

Ethiopian appointed as U.N. Assistant Secretary General

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Taye-Brook Zerihoun

NEW YORK (UN) — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Tayé-Brook Zerihoun of Ethiopia as the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs in the Department of Political Affairs. Mr. Zerihoun replaces Haile Menkerios of South Africa, who has been appointed as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan for a one-year period.

Mr. Zerihoun brings to this position a wealth of experience and administrative skills from his various assignments with the United Nations since March 1981. He has worked on special political questions in New York, in different capacities and areas: decolonization; trusteeship; conflict prevention and resolution; peacemaking; peacebuilding; and peacekeeping. Between 1995 and 2003, he served initially as Deputy and then Director of the Africa I Division in the Department of Political Affairs, with responsibility for the countries of the Horn of Africa, Great Lakes and Southern Africa regions, as well as regional organizations, including the Intergovernmental Authority for Development ( IGAD ) and the Southern African Development Community ( SADC ).

Since April 2008, Mr. Zerihoun has served as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus and Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus ( UNFICYP ). He was the Acting Special Representative of United Nations Mission in the Sudan ( UNMIS ) from October 2006 until October 2007, where he also served as the Secretary-General’s Principal Deputy Representative since August 2004 and Chief United Nations Mediator for the Darfur Peace Talks in support of the efforts of Special Envoy Jan Eliasson.

Mr. Zerihoun completed both his undergraduate and graduate studies in New York, and holds a Master of Philosophy degree in comparative politics from Columbia University.

Mr. Zerihoun was born on 13 December 1942. He is married and has four children.

Book Review: Ethiopia and the U.S. – by Getachew Metaferia

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Ethiopia and the United States: History, Diplomacy and Analysis
By Prof. Getachew Metaferia
New York: Algora Publishing, 2009, 208 pp.

Reviewed by Leslie Wilson

Since its establishment, the United States has maintained a unique relationship with Ethiopia. Long regarded by Americans as the most important nation in Africa, Ethiopia has also played a pivotal role in American-African affairs. Ethiopia’s influence grew at the end of the nineteenth century when it rejected colonizers and further during the twentieth century as its ruler appealed to the League of Nations for an end to colonization. Americans of African heritage embraced Ethiopia as the “motherland” and a symbol of pride that many were willing to sacrifice their lives to protect. And, in many respects, Ethiopia was equally regarded as the philosophical birthplace of Negritude and Pan-Africanism as African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans made the nation the site of their philanthropy and capitalistic investment.

Yet, while numerous historians have looked across the Atlantic to this idealized African nation, the reverse analysis has not been given the same attention. The Ethiopian perspective of this long relationship is what makes Ethiopia and the United States so interesting. Getachew Metaferia has skillfully placed his examination within the twentieth century to examine American and Ethiopian relationships during America’s rise to a world power. By viewing Ethiopia from the lens of colonization, World Wars, and the Cold War, Metaferia, in essence, has written an unknown history full of complexities typically not considered by western scholars.

Ethiopia’s long history is not solely defined by what happens in 1896, but it is a good place to begin an examination of national relations through a global racial perspective. By 1890, Europeans had already deemed people of color inferior to themselves. Their scramble for land in Africa and Asia promoted extreme cases of social Darwinism and racism. Europeans were pitted against each other and it came to a climax before the end of the century. The Italians, who are fighting to establish themselves in an European image of whiteness, failed to defeat the Ethiopians, who were depicted as an African representation of blackness, at Adowa in 1896. The defeat changed the course of European history as white men lost their aura of invincibility.

Working backwards from Adowa, Metaferia is able to reshape the Ethiopian identity. In establishing Ethiopia’s two thousand year history, he explains why it is one of the special countries in the world and why America, a non-colonial power, would seek an alliance with it.

From this vantage point Metaferia begins his analysis over fifteen chapters and eight appendices. After two introductory sections, he moves to the development of a relationship that initiates in 1900. At that time, Robert Skinner, an American Consul in France, appeals to President McKinley for a delegation to go to Ethiopia believing that it will be “a country destined to play a large part in the future of Africa.” Three years later, the State Department and President Roosevelt approve of the trip and dispatch Skinner and a delegation to Ethiopia. The mission culminates in an agreement between Skinner and Emperor Menelik that grants Ethiopia most favored nation status.

This event marks the beginning of a century of diplomatic relations that characterizes this book. Metaferia weaves his account from the Ethiopian perspective but provides enough information so that non-Africanist centered readers can feel comfortable. He reveals how Menelik improved the relationship over time by enhancing the status of American diplomats and expanding trade.

The Ethiopian government equally sends representatives to the United States. One particular delegation, a goodwill mission in 1919, is featured in chapter four. This group visits New York, Chicago, Detroit, Washington and San Francisco. Metaferia reveals that this visit enables members of the party to see America and bring western innovations back to Ethiopia, but also exposes them to the extent of American racism. Although the State Department went to great lengths to ensure that the travelers were not victims of discrimination, they could not stop them from seeing aspects of segregation and inequality. Subsequent Ethiopian visitors would not be as lucky and will experience racism first-hand.

Racism was one of the reasons that the United States abandoned Ethiopia from late 1935 to 1941. Rather than denounce Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia, the Americans withdrew military support and suspended trade. American officials were critical of the Italian aggression and massive slaughter of innocents, but following the lead of the British, America refused to push for the indictment of Italian leaders for war crimes. And after 1941, rather than to reject the neo-colonial impulse, the United States supported quasi-British control of Ethiopian assets.

Ethiopia and the United States constantly exposes and refutes western racism. It pinpoints how America regarded Ethiopia as an important nation, but still violated its treaties with the African nation to further its own agenda during World War II and the Cold War.

As a result, Haile Selassie, and not an American leader, emerges as the greatest statesmen in the relationship between the two nations. Activities during his reign span five chapters. Metaferia reveals that Haile Selassie secretly met President Roosevelt after Yalta to ask for more technological and political support. The emperor wanted Roosevelt to go against British dominance in the Horn of Africa. Over the ensuing years Haile Selassie communicated with American presidents asking for greater economic ties and military support. New agreements, treaties and arrangements followed. In return, Ethiopia emerged as the chief American partner in Africa in the fight against communism. Ethiopia sent troops to Korea, supported UN missions in Africa, and developed alliances with Israel. It adopted American style education systems and used American practices in farming and business. From 1941 to 1974, Ethiopia became the foci of American expectations for African nations.

This relationship was brought to an abrupt end by the fall of the emperor in 1974. However, it is important to note that Haile Selassie fearing attacks from Somila asked Washington for military aid in 1973. The refusal of the Nixon Administration to help pushed Selassie and future Ethiopian leaders to seek assistance from the Soviet Union.

Chapters eight, nine and ten focus on the fall of the emperor and the years of military rule. In many respects they are the best sections of the book. Here Metaferia provides details that reveal an insider’s perspective. He shows the growing differences between the Ethiopian monarchy, soldiers, governmental officials, students, and American advisors. His analysis suggests that American officials mis-read the increasing cry for reforms that were born in the 1960s and came of age in the early 1970s. Unfortunately, the United States placed unwavering confidence in Haile Selassie and apparently did not develop alliances with others within the empire.

Refusing to act on the demands of students placed the emperor and his American supporters in conflict with an increasing number of disaffected citizens. The military coup caught the United States by surprise. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam’s anti-west stance created problems for the Ford and Carter administrations, and encouraged the Reagan and Bush administrations to deny Ethiopia economic and military support.

While American historians consistently blame the fall of Haile Selassie on the military, Ethiopian scholars suggest that the soldiers were only the most powerful group responsible for the coup. Dissatisfaction was widespread and Ethiopian-wanted modernization in many ways threatened the concept of a feudal empire.

Metaferia argues that America lost the Cold War not only in Ethiopia, but throughout Africa. Rather than accept the military government, the United States committed all of its resources to destroy it and attempt to return Haile Selassie to the throne. Even when it was confirmed that the emperor was dead, American statesmen still wanted to topple the regime by any means necessary. Its covert actions often hurt the Ethiopian people. Suspicious of American intentions, the regime executed members of the monarchy and Selassie loyalists. Officials resigned and some sought asylum. American refusal to grant financial and food support contributed to economic problems and famine. And in response, the Derg reduced the number of American diplomats further alienating the two nations and supporting the government’s claims that America was not a friend of the Ethiopian people.

Soviet support for the Derg changed the balance of power in the Horn of Africa, forcing American leaders unable to regain Ethiopian favors, to look towards Eritrea and Somalia for new allies. These actions led to new military conflicts that pitted the United States against its former friend and ultimately disrupted the balance of African states long after the demise of the Soviet Union.

The final chapters analyze the post-military regime (1991 to the present) and the restoration of U.S.-Ethiopian relations. Although Ethiopia has supported a significant number of recent American efforts, a great deal of damage has been done. The conflicts in Sudan, Eritrea, and Somalia reveal that American interests may be contradictory to the principles of democracy and freedom. The United States destroyed a longstanding mutual partnership and now, in many respects, has pitted Ethiopia against the best interests of the Horn of Africa, and consequently, itself.

Ethiopia and the United States is a masterful examination of African history. Through the use of key documents and personal insights, what might have seemed to be an ambitious work was actually simplified and perfected through Getachew Metaferia’s detailed framework and style. Ethiopia and the United States should be required reading for all students of diplomacy and American-African relations.

(Leslie Wilson is a Professor of history at Montclair University. The book is available at and at Barnes & Noble.)

Meles Zenawi wants to hear from you

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Ethiopia’s tribal dictator Meles Zenawi and his Woyanne junta (the ruling party) have come up with a new gimmick trying to appear to be interested in what the people of Ethiopia have to say ahead of next month’s fake election. The people of Ethiopia, however, have already spoken five years ago at the May 2005 elections.

Woyanne has provided this following phone numbers and email address for the public to send questions and opinions to the genocidal murderer. The EPRDF (Woyanne) office issued a press release today with this contact info:

0912 85 82 88
0912 04 37 76
0912 09 07 97 and
0913 36 00 89

Land line:
0111 23 43 14
0111 23 41 17
0111 24 34 65
0111 23 39 94


Ethiopian Review has one question to Meles: How much qat (ጫት) did you chew today?

Gilgel Gibe III divides Ethiopians (video)

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Opposition to Gilgel Gibe 3 hydro power dam in southern Ethiopia grows as environmentalists express concern about damage to the ecosystem and the impact on the lives of tens of thousands of people.

Meles Zenawi's double dealings with aid donors

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

By William Easterly and Laura Freschi | Aid Watch

Helen Epstein, author of The Invisible Cure: Why We Are Losing The Fight Against AIDS in Africa, has a stunning piece on aid to Ethiopia published in this month’s New York Review of Books.

Epstein argues that the main cause of fertile southern Ethiopia’s chronic food shortages—the so-called “green famine” —is Ethiopia’s toxic and repressive political system, presided over since 1991 by Meles Zenawi. While Meles placates donors and Western governments with speeches about fighting poverty and terrorism, he has committed gross human rights violations at home, rigged elections, killed political opponents, and imprisoned journalists and human rights activists. Epstein on Meles’ doublespeak:

There is a type of Ethiopian poetry known as “Wax and Gold” because it has two meanings: a superficial “wax” meaning, and a hidden “golden” one. During the 1960s, the anthropologist Donald Levine described how the popularity of “Wax and Gold” poetry provided insights into some of the northern Ethiopian societies from which Prime Minister Meles would later emerge…. “Wax and Gold”–style communication might give Ethiopians like Meles an advantage in dealing with Westerners, especially when the Westerners were aid officials offering vast sums of money to follow a course of development based on liberal democracy and human rights, with which they disagree.

Several Western donors responded to Meles’ more blatant repression by channeling aid directly to local authorities, cutting out the central government. We have argued before that this strategy doesn’t work when there is evidence—which Epstein provides more of—that local government officials are instrumental in election-fixing and using aid to award political supporters and punish dissidents. Now, donors can no longer even support Ethiopian civil society to oppose these human rights violations, since Meles’ government recently passed a law that makes it illegal for civil society organizations to accept foreign funds.

Epstein concludes powerfully:

In 2007, Meles called for an “Ethiopian renaissance” to bring the country out of medieval poverty, but the Renaissance he’s thinking of seems very different from ours. The Western Renaissance was partly fostered by the openness to new ideas created by improved transport and trade networks, mail services, printing technology, and communications—precisely those things Meles is attempting to restrict and control.

The Western Renaissance helped to democratize “the word” so that all of us could speak of our own individual struggles, and this added new meaning and urgency to the alleviation of the suffering of others. The problem with foreign aid in Ethiopia is that both the Ethiopian government and its donors see the people of this country not as individuals with distinct needs, talents, and rights but as an undifferentiated mass, to be mobilized, decentralized, vaccinated, given primary education and pit latrines, and freed from the legacy of feudalism, imperialism, and backwardness. It is this rigid focus on the “backward masses,” rather than the unique human person, that typically justifies appalling cruelty in the name of social progress.

Read the article in full here.

Internet use in Ethiopia remain dismally low

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

( — Ethiopia has the lowest overall teledensity in Africa. The population is approaching 90 million, but there are less than 1 million fixed lines in service, and a little more than 3.3 million mobile subscribers. The number of internet users is dismal below 500,000 at the end of 2009. Communications service provision is reserved for the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC), one of the few monopoly providers left on the African continent.

There are indications that the Ethiopian government will finally start to liberalise the telecommunications sector, and it has already appointed a French partner on a revenue sharing basis to assist with the management and technical operations of the incumbent ETC. Liberalisation will create a substantial set of investment opportunities in the ICT sector. It is expected that the liberalisation agenda will include allowing competition into the mobile segment. Key uncertainties are the timing and scale of liberalisation that will take place, but it is widely recognised that before the country sees any of the benefits of widespread communications access, it will need to allow the private sector to take a prominent role in developing the market.

By 2014 the number of fixed line subscribers in Ethiopia is expected to increase to 4.4 million, representing an annual average growth rate of 38% p.a. The number of mobile subscribers is expected to grow at 43% per year over the period, reaching almost 20 million by 2014. Even at these high growth levels the overall teledensity will be less than 25% in 2014, indicating that the market will be nowhere near saturation. The number of internet users will jump to 12 million, but internet subscribers will still be low at 1.4 million at the end of 2014. Ethiopia presents an opportunity for investors to reap vast returns as the liberalisation agenda gets underway.

In this report we provide a comprehensive analysis of prospects for investment in ICTs in Ethiopia. Forecasts are provided for mobile, fixed and internet usage. Investment opportunities are identified.

Executive Summary: The Ethiopian telecommunications liberalization agenda sets framework for growth and investment The telecommunications market in Ethiopia is on the verge of massive growth, leading to a wide range of investment opportunities in telecommunications and downstream information and communications technology (ICT) segments, according to a new study published by Technology Strategies International in partnership with BroadGroup TMT Ventures. The report, titled Investment Opportunities in the ICT Sector in Ethiopia: 2010, predicts that by 2011 the state-owned incumbent, the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) will have a privatisation timetable in place, and that liberalisation of the mobile market will take place shortly after that.

The Ethiopian Government recognizes that the country is being left behind in terms of digital inclusion, and urgently needs to address this if it wants to reap the benefits that other African countries have demonstrated from embracing ICTs, notes Christie Christelis, President of Technology Strategies International. It may also become an important political issue in the next elections.

While the Ethiopian Government is on record saying that it will not hasten the liberalization process, and will not succumb to pressure from the international community to liberalize its banking and telecommunications sectors in order to accede to the WTO, Christelis believes that there is neither any reason for, nor any benefit from delaying the process further.

Liberalization of the telecommunications environment will create a raft of ICT investment opportunities in Ethiopia, Christelis says. The Chinese have already recognized the potential of Ethiopia and are building an electronics manufacturing facility to address the high growth expected in demand for handsets and accessories. They are also providing supplier financing in certain telecommunications investments in order to address the shortage of domestic capital.

The report predicts that over the next five years the number of mobile subscribers in Ethiopia will grow at an annual rate of 43% (CAGR), to reach almost 20 million subscribers by 2014.

Christelis says that Ethiopia will provide a range of excellent investment opportunities for foreign investors interested in the ICT sector, but warns that the window will not be open indefinitely. He predicts that the next four years will be critical in shaping the Ethiopian ICT sectors future and will provide high return opportunities for foreign investors that have the risk tolerance, and ability, to capitalize on the coming surge in ICT-related markets.

The 37 page report provides a comprehensive review, analysis and forecast of investment opportunities in the ICT sector in Ethiopia. It analyses the investment environment in Ethiopia and in identifies key providers of capital. It highlights growth segments in the Ethiopian telecommunications market in the context of important developments in the economy and in the political environment. Detailed forecasts are presented for fixed line communications, mobile communications and internet usage. Specific investment opportunities are identified and categorized in terms of scale of investment.

Silencing dam critics in Ethiopia

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

By Terri Hathaway

The Gibe 3 Dam and Ethiopia’s coming elections have something powerful in common: the silencing of dissent at any cost. Ethiopia’s government has systematically developed a culture of fear that silences any dissent of the ruling party and its policies. In villages, people fear what they say or do could be reported to officials by their neighbors.

As Gibe 3 Dam is a priority project of Prime Minister Zenawi’s government, anyone seen to be critical of the dam – including project-affected people asserting their legal rights – is seen as an enemy. Up to 63 local associations in South Omo Zone have been suspended, pre-emptively shutting down forums for discussing local issues. The government has denied licenses for community radio stations, and two-way radios are considered contraband. One Ethiopian was arrested for unknowingly wearing a Gibe 3 protest shirt borrowed from a cousin across the Kenyan border. Worse, a translator was reportedly arrested for treason after helping independent researchers communicate with affected communities. Other translators have been harassed and intimidated, helping drive the government’s greatest silencing tool: its culture of fear.

One month from today, Ethiopia will hold its first national elections since 2005, when hundreds of protestors and opposition leaders were beaten, thrown in jail and killed. Several opposition leaders are still in jail, including Birtukan Mideksa, one of Africa’s most notable political prisoners. She was pardoned in 2007 but re-arrested and returned to prison in 2008. Her health is suffering immensely and she has been denied access to medical personnel.

Last September, the International Crisis Group predicted a violent crackdown in the run-up to next month’s elections. Sadly, the crackdown seems to be swinging into full force. In March, Aregawi Gebre Yohannes, an opposition candidate, was stabbed to death in what was believed to be a political murder. Earlier this month, another opposition activist, Biyansa Daba, died a week after being brutally attacked at home.

Any skeptic of Zenawi’s silencing methods should read Human Rights Watch‘s new report, “One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure: Violations of Freedom of Expression and Association in Ethiopia.” The report documents how the ruling party has used its near-total control of local and district administrations to undermine opponents’ livelihoods through withholding services such as agricultural inputs, micro-credit, and job opportunities. New legal restrictions limit the ability of independent Ethiopian groups to monitor the elections; to date, only government-affiliated organisations have been licensed. A recent electoral code of conduct for the media forbids interviewing voters, candidates and officials on Election Day, while observers are barred from making any statements until election results are announced.

The ruling party is also shutting down the media. Ethiopia’s most prominent independent weekly, Addis Neger, shut down in December 2009 after several editors feared arrest and fled the country. Last month, the US State Department criticized Zenawi’s government after it admitted to jamming Voice of America’s broadcasts. VOA officials say their Amharic broadcasts were also jammed in 2005 and 2008 around elections.

Gibe 3 Dam and the election have something else in common: donors who may overlook Ethiopia’s fear factor unless we make enough noise. The International Crisis Group believes that the international community should take Ethiopia’s governance problems much more seriously and that donors must convince Ethiopia to improve current standards of governance and promote democratic reform or risk destabilisation in the Horn of Africa. International Rivers believes that donors must also withhold funds from Gibe 3 Dam. Real development does not come at the cost of human rights and the silencing of dissent.

What you can do

* Don’t let donors support this destructive dam under this repressive regime. Sign the petition to Stop Gibe 3 Dam. Read the Gibe 3 Dam Fact Sheet for more information.

* Watch the media for coverage of the runup to Ethiopia’s May 23 elections and the government crackdown on dissent. Tell your government officials to withhold support of this repressive regime.

(Since joining International Rivers in 2004, Terri Hathaway has visited dam-affected communities and NGOs in Cameroon, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. She lives in Yaounde, Cameroon.)

Tennessee hospital shooter identified as a native of Ethiopia

Monday, April 26th, 2010

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — Police say a gunman who opened fire outside a Tennessee hospital was mentally ill and thought a monitoring device had been implanted in him during an appendectomy in 2001.

Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV identified the gunman as Abdo Ibssa, a naturalized citizen from Ethiopia. The gunman shot three hospital workers, killing one, before killing himself.

Owen said Ibssa first entered a medical tower near Parkwest Medical Center and asked for the doctor who performed the appendectomy. He then went to another area where patients are discharged and opened fire.

Owen said a note alleging the doctor implanted a chip was found in Ibssa’s apartment after the attack. Owen said Ibssa’s family had him committed for mental treatment in February.


KNOXVILLE(AP) — A gunman who opened fire outside a Tennessee hospital seemed focused on the sprawling medical complex, directing his cab to stop first at an adjacent tower before he went to another entrance where he killed one medical worker and wounded two others, a taxi driver said.

Police haven’t said whether the gunman had a connection to the Parkwest Medical Center, where he shot the three women before killing himself. The women were current or former workers at the hospital, police said.

Cab driver Freddys Sakhleh said he picked up the gunman outside an apartment complex, and the man told him he wanted to go to the western side of Knoxville. They stopped at an ATM, where the suspect withdrew $20 before telling Sakhleh to take him to the medical center complex.

Sakhleh said the man seemed angry and depressed and said little about himself, only that he was from Atlanta.

Police, who planned an afternoon news conference, haven’t yet released the gunman’s name or any motive for the attack.

Sakhleh said he was directed to take the man to the medical center tower and told to wait for him to come back. When his passenger returned, Sakhleh said, he told the driver to take him to the hospital entrance.

Sakhleh said the man then got out of the cab, handed him $20 and told him to wait five minutes. He returned, grabbed a gun from his waist and started shooting, first to the right and then to the left.

“I called 911, and I said, ‘Please send some people here, this man is shooting like crazy,'” Sakhleh said. He said the gunman then shot himself in the head.

“All of this happened in a matter of seconds,” the driver said.

The shooting happened Monday outside the discharge area at Parkwest Medical Center, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV said. Police said they had found no connection between any of the women shot and the man, who has not been named.

Police spokesman Darrell DeBusk said investigators don’t think the suspect ever worked at the hospital.

Photographs of the discharge area, where vehicles can pick up patients, showed a man’s body lying face down, surrounded by police. Yellow crime tape was stretched around the area and police took photographs inside of the van taxi.

The two women who survived the shooting were taken to the trauma center at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Spokeswoman Karen Bultman said Tuesday morning the women were in stable condition.

The women’s families issued statements expressing thanks for prayers and support.

The family of Ariane Reagan Guerin, a 26-year-old employee at Parkwest, said they were hearing promising information about her prognosis. The family of Nancy Chancellor, 32, said she was doing well.

The woman killed was Rachel Wattenbarger, 40. Her father, Ray Wattenbarger, said she had worked at the hospital for about five or six years, helping discharge the elderly. He said he would remember his daughter’s smile.

Linda Cody, whose father was a patient at the hospital, had gone to smoke a cigarette when she saw the gunman’s body, surrounded by blood. She quickly learned the victims had been shot in the same area where she normally smoked.

“It was scary,” she said. “It kind of gives you the willies thinking that could have been me five seconds ago.”

Charles Billingsley was taking his sister to a nearby doctor’s office and heard the shooting, though he wasn’t close enough to see the attack.

“I heard five pistol shots, back to back, and then another and then another,” Billingsley said. “I just saw people running from the hospital.”

Sakhleh, the cab driver, said he was lucky to be alive.

“My wife always tells me, ‘Be careful, be careful.’ But after tonight, I’m going to be real careful.”

(Associated Press writer Sheila Burke in Nashville contributed to this story.)

Armed groups wreak havoc in northern Ethiopia

Monday, April 26th, 2010

The Reporter, a newspaper affiliated with the ruling party in Ethiopia, is reporting that armed groups are currently wreaking havoc in northern Ethiopia, particularly outside Gondar. The newspaper calls the armed groups “bandits.” However, every one knows that they are resistance fighters and their targets are ruling party officials and assets.

Bandits wreaking havoc outside Gondar

By Hayal Alemayehu | The Reporter

Armed bandits who carry out ambushes in the woods nearby Dabat as well as Debark and Wogera, small neighboring towns within a radius of 40 to 100kms from the northeast Ethiopian town of Gondar, are becoming a threat to the security of the localities and travelers crossing these village towns, it was leaned.

A spate of bandit attack and theft has occurred outside these small towns particularly over the last one month where two civilians and a police officer were killed by gunmen who have not been wholly identified, according to an official of the regional government who declined to be identified because the concerned authorities are currently conducting an investigation.

While the official put the number of victims at three, some localities said the number could be more than ten.

According to the unnamed government official, the security situation outside these small towns has been worsening at an alarming rate with armed bandits wreaking havoc outside these village towns.

The official said that the concerned government authorities were closely investigating the case and that every effort would be made to keep the unprovoked threat at bay.

According to the official, some of the bandits are said to have been wounded in an operation by a team of a trained militia of the area, including their alleged leader named Gebre Agide.

Officials of some of the localities approached by The Reporter fear that the bandits may get stronger unless they are apprehended soon.

Ethiopia: Information Without Interference

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Alemayehu G. Mariam

“Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets,” fretted Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, as he summed up the informative powers of an independent press. All dictators and tyrants in history have feared the enlightening powers of the independent press because, as Napoleon explained, “A journalist is a grumbler, a censurer, a giver of advice, a regent of sovereigns and a tutor of nations.” It was the fact of “tutoring nations” — teaching, informing, enlightening and empowering the people with knowledge– that was Napoleon’s greatest fears of a free press. He understood the power of the press to effectively countercheck his tyrannical rule, and he used censorship relentlessly to muzzle it. He harassed, jailed and persecuted journalists for criticizing his use of a vast network of spies that penetrated every nook and cranny of French society, exposing his military failures, condemning his indiscriminate massacres of unarmed citizen protesters in the streets and for killing, jailing and persecuting large numbers of his political opponents. Total control of the media remains the wicked obsession of modern day dictators who believe that by controlling the flow of information, they can control the hearts and minds of their citizens.

The importance of an independent free press (media) in any society, including Ethiopia[1], can hardly be overstated. Thomas Jefferson, one of the chief architects of the American Republic was unrestrained in extolling the virtues of a free press: “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. Jefferson became singularly instrumental in the inclusion of a Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution which provided for sweeping and uncompromising protections of expressive freedoms: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of the press.” The free press is so vital to American democracy that the government is absolutely prohibited (“no law”) from passing laws that censor, regulate, restrict or suppress its functions and operations.

Press freedom, along with other expressive freedoms, is now a core value of all humanity. The U.N. General Assembly in its very first session in 1946 adopted resolution 59 (I) which declared: “Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and … the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated.” In 1948, freedom of the press became a core human right principle when the U.N. enshrined it in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.” This universal right is today acknowledged robustly and expansively in Article 29 of the Ethiopian Constitution:

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression without interference. This right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through other media of his choice. Freedom of the press and mass media as well as freedom of artistic creation is guaranteed… [and] censorship in any form is prohibited.

In the past few years, Ethiopia has been ranked at the bottom of the list of nations with the worst records on press freedom. In the 2009 Freedom House’s “Press Freedom Rankings”, Ethiopia came in at a dismal 165/195 countries. Reporters Without Borders ranked Ethiopia at 140/175 countries in 2009. The Committee to Protect Journalists on May 2, 2007 ranked Ethiopia as number 1 among the “top 10 backslider” countries “worldwide where press freedom has deteriorated the most over the last five years.” When Zenawi ordered the jamming of Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts recently, the International Federation of Journalists (world’s largest organization of journalists) on April 1, 2010 vehemently denounced his actions: “We condemn jamming of broadcasts. It is unprofessional, intolerant and flies in the face of promises that the Ethiopian Government is committed to press freedom.”

The recent history of the independent press in Ethiopia is a chronicle of brutal crackdowns, arbitrary imprisonments and harassments of local and international journalists, shuttering of newspapers and jamming of external radio transmissions. Meles Zenawi’s regime declared an open war on the independent press in Ethiopia in November 2005, following parliamentary elections in May of that year. He concocted a bizarre set of excuses and justifications to decimate the country’s small but growing independent press. He publicly alleged that the editors and reporters of the independent newspapers were engaged in a conspiracy with the opposition parties to overthrow the “constitutional order.” He claimed they had incited violence and spread information that led to violence and genocidal acts. Zenawi told the Committee to Protect Journalists that “They [independent press] went beyond their normal bias and went for the jugular. They became part and parcel of the day-to-day preparation for the insurrection after the elections.” But he has failed to produce a shred — a single speck — of evidence to link the occurrence of a single piece of any published material in the independent press to the occurrence of any violence or illegal acts in 2005 or at any other time.

Today Zenawi uses the same unhinged logic and the same old stale, discredited and patently absurd argument to justify jamming the VOA:

We have been convinced for many years that in many respects, the VOA Amharic Service has copied the worst practices of radio stations such as Radio Mille Collines of Rwanda in its wanton disregard of minimum ethics of journalism and engaging in destabilizing propaganda.

As usual, he has been unable to give a single example of a VOA broadcast that even faintly resembles the “worst practices” of the genocide-promoting radio station in Rwanda. The best he has been able to do is point to a dubious catalogue of complaints his regime has lodged with the VOA alleging overly critical reporting on his regime by the VOA’s Amharic service. Criticism of policies and leaders is a standard practice of an independent press in a democracy, but it must seem totally unnatural in dictatorships. Regardless of the irrefutable fact that there is not a single instance of independent press-caused violence or act of illegality, Zenawi’s regime for the past 5 years has used bogus and absurd justifications to jail, harass and intimidate Ethiopian and foreign journalists and close the vast majority of the independent newspapers in the country.

Why is freedom of the press so important that it has become one of the universal benchmarks of a free society?

Few have given a more definitive answer to this question than James Madison, the father of the American Constitution: “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.” A free and independent press serves as the eyes, ears and mouths of citizens in any society. It plays many important roles. As a watchdog, the independent press keeps those in power honest. Where there is a fully functioning free press, leaders no longer become untouchable gods sitting high on a pedestal to be worshipped, but ordinary men and women who are accountable to their citizens for their actions and omissions; and government institutions operate with transparency and openness. A well-functioning independent press will toil vigorously to expose the corruption, abuse of power, misuse and theft of taxpayer money and scandal among those exercising power and their supporting cast of invisible power brokers, influence peddlers and fixers.

When it informs, a free press educates citizens on public policies, choices and decisions. Citizens are informed on societal issues and problems, and are exposed to the range of competing potential solutions. An informed citizenry is better positioned to more effectively participate in public life and help shape its structure of governance and economic development. By informing, the free media becomes the lynchpin that connects citizens for collective action, and effective interaction with their leaders and institutions. Without free access to information and ideas, citizens are unable to participate meaningfully in the political life of their nation by exercising their right to vote or by taking part in shaping the process of public decision-making.

The free press is also plays a vital role in equitable and sustainable economic development as articulated by the former World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn:

A free press is at the absolute core of equitable development. If you cannot enfranchise poor people, if they do not have a right to expression, if there is no searchlight on corruption and inequitable practices, you cannot build the public consensus needed to bring about change. A free press is not a luxury.

A society without a robust free press is a society condemned to live in darkness. Hate, like mushrooms, thrives in the hearts of those who live in the dark; fear grips the minds of those trapped in the darkness of ignorance; anger becomes the light at the end of the tunnel of darkness; corruption, like cancer, spreads in the dark corners of state and abuse of power roils the people in the dark vortex of despair and hopelessness. Without a vigorous free press in Ethiopia today, it is darkness at noon!

The functions of the independent press must be viewed in a broader context, and not only as a source of negative criticism. Leaders benefit from heeding the independent press and correcting their mistakes when it is pointed out to them. They can use the press to communicate with the people they govern and become more accountable, transparent and responsive to their citizens. Governance is not a private affair. When kings ruled by divine right, they claimed to be accountable only to divine authority. Thankfully, those days are long gone. At the dawn of the 21st Century, those who lead and govern must accountable to the people; but a citizenry intentionally kept ignorant does not have the means to demand accountability. That is why an independent media is a vital civic organ in society. President John Kennedy captured the essential role of a vigorous press when he said that the media’s role is not just to entertain but more importantly “to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.”

An independent free press is not the enemy of good government. It is its strongest ally. It is through the press that leaders keep their fingers on the pulse of the people – learn about what ails them, angers them, pleases them, confuses and concerns them. When rumors and falsehoods spread and unfair criticisms are leveled, leaders have the opportunity to answer their critics and challenge them using the independent media itself. A government that persecutes the independent press and remains willfully ignorant of what its citizens think and feel, and refuses to acknowledge and redress their grievances is like the proverbial ostrich that buries its head in the sand while a rumbling volcano cascades behind it. An independent press is ultimately a mirror for leaders and governments; sometimes the face in the mirror is the face of a monster. Breaking the mirror does not make the monster an angel.

The right of the Ethiopian people to receive and give information regardless of frontiers is their inalienable right to have the information they need to make informed decisions about their form of government, leaders and lives. Journalists can not be made criminals because they speak truth to power, reveal the truth about those who wield power or because those in power abhor the truth. Civil and criminal defamation laws can not be excuses to censor criticism and debate concerning public issues.

For any one who truly believes in the rule of law, it is impossible to understand how any leader or government could possibly fear public scrutiny and criticism in the press. A real leader is willing, able and ready to stand up and defend his/her policies, action and omissions in full public view. A real leader understands that criticism is a natural part of political and public life. The chief of state like the chef must get out of the “state kitchen” if he can not stand the heat.

Freedom of the press and media in general in Ethiopia is not about protecting the rights of newspapers, editors, journalists, reporters or foreign correspondents and radio broadcasters. It is fundamentally about the constitutional and internationally-guaranteed legal rights of every Ethiopian citizen “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers and without interference, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through other media of his choice and without censorship in any form.” It is emphatically the duty of every Ethiopian who believes in the rule of law and freedom of expression to help deliver “information and ideas of all kinds” to Ethiopians “regardless of frontiers.” Let us all as Ethiopians join hands and resolve in our hearts and minds to become a thousand points of light shining brightly like the stars on the curtain of darkness that has enveloped Ethiopia today.


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, and his commentaries appear regularly on,, and other sites.

Cooperative Behavior – Transformative Reconciliation (Series 2)

Monday, April 26th, 2010

By Sioum Gebeyehou

Fighting Evil with Evil Breeds more Evil

Change Your Behavior from Adversarial to Cooperative for a Transformative Reconciliation.

If you act like their adversary– they will respond in kind by being hostile to you.

If you behave in a cooperative manner– if you show them that you respect their interests– then they will respond by respecting yours.

If we redirect the energy that fuels our thoughts, feelings, and actions from adversarial to cooperative we will achieve a win-win satisfaction with the outcome.

The choice is ours.

Solutions lie in wanting solutions.

The exhibits below show the solutions / strategies to change our behavior from adversarial to cooperative. (Click here or on the image below to start the slideshow)

Al Amoudi raises funds for Woyanne's fake election campaign

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Al Amoudi drunk as a skunk at a party

A group of businessmen in Ethiopia have raised over 20 million birr this month for the ruling junta Woyanne’s fake election campaign. Chief among the contributors is Ethiopian billionaire Ato Al Amoudi. Other businessmen include Tsegaye Abebe, president of the Ethiopian Horticultural Producer-Exporter Association, and Getu Gelete, owner GetAs International and Getu Commercial Center.

Ethiopian politics and the Diaspora's role – Awramba Times

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

This week’s issue of Awramba Times has a feature article on the Ethiopian Diaspora’s role on politics in Ethiopia. Click here to read (, PDF, Amharic, starts on page 9).

London Ethiopian Artists at their best

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

By Mentesnot Mengesha

Recently I have attended a music and drama show presented by household names in London Ethiopian Artists’ community including Behailu Nekatebebe and Yagersew Yayehyirad in collaboration with St Mary Debre Tsion Orthodox church. The show was not the usual concert one would expect. It was a church musical and drama show organized by musicians and dramatists residing in London and its environs. The purpose was to raise funds for the final coffer in settling the purchase of the church building.

After the audience have fully taken their seats, a number of video and still cameras were in position to roll and record the event. The light men were busy in adjusting the right intensity of light to illuminate the stage where the performance was held. The sound men were plugging in and plugging out their connection cables to sound equipment and make the sound arrangement in the right order.

The usher of the day Liqe-Deacon Dawit Wolde-Yohaness appeared on the stage and announced the start of the show and introduced the programme of the whole afternoon. Following the blessing from the church leader Qomos Aba Girma Kebede, then Behailu Nekeatebe, one of the coordinators of the event, came to the podium and delivered a short speech about the background and purpose of the event. Then a Sunday school choir named after the late and much loved Bishop of London Abune Yohaness, dressed in colorful costumes opened the event with their songs. The songs and their movements were well orchestrated and loved by the audience. I saw the added value of having such a group in delivering their performance in Amharic where many children are deprived from speaking and reading in its unique scripts.

After the children left the stage with a round applause the musician and dancers took their positions to perform the most extraordinary performance that have performed in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church setting for the first time ever. Those known women vocalists including Marta Hailu, Hirut Bekele, Yezina Negash, Melat G/Michael, Genet Assefa and Tsion Assefa took the stage one after the other with their graceful performance. The men vocalist including Girma Tefera Kassa, Kesintu Dejenie, Dagi G/Egziabheir, Belay Melese and Temesgen Zeleke together with traditional music instrument players Yared Afework, Temesgen Melese, Girum Begashaw and Fekret Getnet brought the quality of the event to the higher standard.

The other part of the show that made the event colourful was the drama written and directed by Behailu Nekatebeb. The act was staged by three characters that reflect different generation of the Diaspora who lost their hope and future due to uprooted circumstance from their supporting society.

The message of the drama was to confirm that there is a light at the end of the tunnel when people rest their hope on God. Obviously, one can not expect a less quality show from Behailu Nekatebeb a graduate in Theatre Arts and one of the main character in the Big Battalion Film that was on British screens in 1990’s. His commanding voice echoing the hall like a thunderstorm. The multi-talented Genet Kebede and the young and upcoming actor Tewodros Bezuneh have shown the high level of their respective talents.

Generally, what makes the event interesting as well as different is not the name of these artists whom we knew them for many years on public stages and night clubs. This performance was unique at least in three areas. Firstly, all the performers have been dressed with traditional church attire to reflect the purpose of the day. Secondly, the dance movement was meticulously choreographed to fit with the gracefulness, calmness and cultural values of the church. Thirdly, the lyrics and songs were kept their purpose and messages without losing their artistic appeal to the audience.

I think, this is an extraordinary attempt by a group of artists to keep their artistic license and the church rule, culture and guidance intact and yet make it more entertaining and appealing to all across age and gender divide. The coordinators have to be praised together with their close technical advisers about the Church’s traditions. The concerted efforts of all the people involved produced the best show that everybody has positively talked about. I think this was the beauty of the day that proves partnership work is the answer to success in community works. The event has proven that when artistic talents and creativities are pulled together for a purpose they could produce a miracle. On the other hand there are many untapped talents among the Diaspora community that require continuity to flourish further. There is no doubt that the pool of these talents could be transformed into a significant force if the gathering of such a group constituted to be an organised group with a purpose to serve their communities and benefits from it as well. Without being optimist, I would argue that there are potential talents currently much under-used within the Diaspora Ethiopian community. There is much to be done. One can clearly see that such a talented personalities together with all those actively participated on such an event could come up with other creative endeavours in the future. Well done.

(The writer can be reached at

Explosion kills 5 in northern Ethiopian region of Tigray

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

MEKELE, Ethiopia (Reuters) – An explosion at a cafe in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray killed five people Saturday and wounded 20 others, officials said, blaming the attack on neighboring Eritrea.

“This is an attack by the Eritrean government to deliberately disrupt the upcoming elections,” said Micheal Abraha, Tigray’s administrator.

Ethiopia’s [ruling junta] is scheduled to hold national elections on May 23.

The explosion on a market day in the town of Adi-Daero came only a day after two Eritrean rebel groups said they had killed 11 government soldiers in coordinated attacks on military camps in southern Eritrea.

The two Horn of Africa neighbors have had long running hostilities and tensions simmer along their common border due to a dispute over the frontier.

Relations have been at an impasse since they fought a 1998-2000 war in which at least 70,000 people were killed.

Tigray’s regional president, Tsegay Berhe, said Eritrean agents sneaked into the country and were responsible for the attack.

U.S. should reject the outcome of May 2010 Ethiopian election

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

… history offers a clear verdict: Governments that respect the will of their own people, that govern by consent and not coercion, are more prosperous, they are more stable, and more successful than governments that do not. … In the 21st century, capable, reliable, and transparent institutions are the key to success — strong parliaments; honest police forces; independent judges; an independent press; a vibrant private sector; a civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in people’s everyday lives. – President Barack Obama’s Speech in Ghana, July 11, 2009.

The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party will surely declare a landslide victory in the upcoming May 2010 local elections. The victory will come about because since the 2005 national elections, the party has moved aggressively to manipulate local elections, pass repressive legislations, and to ban free media in order to consolidate its power base throughout Ethiopia.

The U.S. Department of State 2009 Human Rights Reports/Ethiopia, and Human Rights Watch on Ethiopia/March 2010 issued reports critical of the human rights and political conditions in the country. The reports illuminate how the EPRDF uses foreign aid to suppress dissent and intimidate citizens into political submission. Given this revelation, the Obama administration can take two immediate steps to end the misappropriation of U.S. aid by the Ethiopian ruling party: 1). It can order all non-military U.S. aid to reach target audiences directly; 2) It can reject the outcome of the May 2010 elections in protest of the pre-election undemocratic environment.

Why are we, Ethiopian Americans Council calling for the Obama administration to take the two important steps?

EPRDF manipulated the 2008 local elections to control 99.9 percent of the kebele (Kebele means local government) council seats, as well as the Woreda (Woreda means Districts) council seats. Those seats combined, represent close to 85 percent of rural Ethiopia. The kebele administrative structure has four major organs: Kebele council, Kebele Chief Executive, Kebele Standing Committee and Kebele Social Court. Several services are rendered at Kebele level, including development activities, housing, employment, issuance of ID, etc. The Kebele officials use these organs to coerce citizens, including the civil servants, students, farmers and business owners, to become cardholding members of the EPRDF party or face exclusion.

In a country like Ethiopia that depends on foreign aid for one-third of its expenditures, the vast majority of citizens could hardly risk the consequences of opposing the regime that controls all access to their basic amenities. After all, the ruling party uses donor food aid as a political tool to reward or punish individuals and families in the countryside. Allegiance to the ruling party is a matter of life or death decision in the country.

Draconian Legislative

After consolidating its power base in the 2008 local elections, the ruling party turned its attention on restraining civil society. In 2009, it used its rubber-stamp parliament to pass two draconian legislation: the Civil Society Law and the Ant-Terrorism Proclamation.

* The Civil Society Law was passed by the parliament on January 6, 2009, to restrict the activities and funding for civil society organizations (CSOs). The law, “Proclamation for the Registration and Regulation of Charities and Societies”, forbids civil society organizations from engaging in building democratic and human rights culture. In addition, it requires CSOs, which receive more than 10 percent of their budget from outside, to register as “foreign agents.” The objective is to restrict CSOs to mere service providers and to muzzle local human rights groups.

* The Anti-Terrorism Law, which was passed in July 2009, gives the state sweeping powers to arrest individuals it deemed threatening. The law is designed to end peaceful demonstrations, and to persecute and penalize political dissidents.

Through the 2008 local elections and punitive legislative in 2009, the EPRDF regime has effectively instituted a police state. In this repressive political climate, there is no way a fair and free election can take place. Thus, it is absolutely justifiable for the Obama administration to consider our modest recommendations.

Human Rights Watch rightful points out that the Obama administration is yet to reverse the Bush’s policies toward Ethiopia. It is clear that the appeasement policy of the Bush administration toward the Ethiopian regime had left the country on the brink of political and economic disaster. The potential calamity should compel the Obama administration to seriously examine the current policies toward Ethiopia. After all, EPRDF is unpopular not only in Ethiopia, but also in the surrounding countries. It has caused political instability in the Horn of Africa because of its misguided policies and military adventurism. If the current trajectory continues, the Horn of Africa will sink into further political chaos, which is a nightmare scenario for the United States.

Ethiopia is a very influential country in the Horn of Africa. It is also an important country to the United States because of the two nations’ historical ties and Ethiopia’s strategic location. A democratic Ethiopia can be a stabilizing force not only for the Horn of Africa, but for the entire continent.

As Human Rights Watch/March 2010 correctly put it, the United States is “Ethiopia’s largest donor and most important political ally on the world stage.” The United States government should not continue to give credence to a notoriously repressive regime that is growingly become a threat to millions of Ethiopians and to regional stability.

A strong and democratic Ethiopia will prove to be a reliable and durable ally to the United States both in the short-term and long-term.

The Ethiopian Americans Council
PO Box 28597 San Jose, CA 95159

Ruling party thugs killed Medrek activist in north-west Ethiopia

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Addis Ababa (DPA) — An Ethiopian opposition activist has been beaten to death in a politically motivated murder in the run-up to elections in May, an opposition leader said Friday.

“Our activist Biyansa Daba, 23, was attacked at his home in a small town in north-west Ethiopia by members of the ruling party on April 7,” Bulcha Demeksa, leader of opposition party Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), told the German Press Agency dpa.

“He was beaten with the butt of a gun,” he added. “When killings like this happen, many people will be afraid to support us.”

The opposition and international organizations like Human Rights Watch (HRW) regularly accuse Prime Minister warlord Meles Zenawi’s government of intimidation and political repression. Analysts expect a landslide victory for the government in the polls, which are set to take place on May 23.

Information Minister Bereket Simon, Zenawi’s top advisor, accused the opposition of attempting to stir up trouble.

“This has nothing to do with politics,” he told dpa. “The opposition is searching for dead people to say they have been killed.”

“They want to tarnish the whole electoral process and prepare their supporters for acts of violence,” he added.

Simon said Daba was a member of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), while Demeksa said he was working for the opposition.

According to HRW, many Ethiopians in impoverished rural settings are forced to join the ruling party as a precondition for being eligible to receive foreign aid money.

This was the second killing of an opposition supporter in recent times.

Opposition candidate Aregawi Gebre-Yohannes was stabbed to death in March in what the opposition says was a political murder.

The government says Gebre-Yohannes was killed in a bar fight. A man has been sentenced to 15 years in jail for the killing.

Ethiopia, a major ally of the United States in the fight against growing Islamist fundamentalism in the region, has long been accused of crushing all political opposition.

In the aftermath of Zenawis’ hotly disputed victory in 2005, around 200 protestors were shot during demonstrations.

An unknown number of opposition figures, including Birtukan Mideksa, head of the Unity for Democracy and Justice party, remain imprisoned.

Three million residents in Ethiopia's capital without toilets

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

By Muhyadin Ahmed Roble | AfricaNews

About three million residents of Addis Ababa — one of the biggest cities in sub-Saharan Africa — have no access to toilets, according to a new report by the city authorities. It revealed: “Out of this nearly 25 percent of the population have no access to toilets and defecate in rivers crossing the city.”

Speaking at the launch of the report, Mekuria Haile, a senior local government official said Ethiopia cannot endure any more waste in rivers and roads, and want to make sure that the city is clean and a better place to live.

“We should be ashamed. Addis Ababa is fighting against solid waste management and health problems posed by unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation,” he added.

It was believed that the rural area is better than the capital because they have access to good latrines and safe drinking water.

Almost 66% percent of the Ethiopia population has access to safe water while other 56% has access to toilets, Bizuneh Tolcha, Public relations chief at the Water Resources Ministry said in an IRIN report.

Cruelty in Ethiopia – Helen Epstein

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

By Helen Epstein | The New York Review of Books

Parts of southern Ethiopia resemble the scenery in a Tarzan movie. When I was there last fall, the green forested hills were blanketed in white mist and rain poured down on the small farms and homesteads. In the towns, slabs of meat hung in the butchers’ shops and donkeys hauled huge sacks of coffee beans, Ethiopia’s major export, along the stony dirt roads. So I was surprised to see the signs of hunger everywhere. There were babies with kwashiorkor, a disease caused by malnutrition, which I’d assumed occurred only in war zones. Many of the older children were clearly stunted and some women were so deficient in iodine they had goiters the size of cannonballs.

This East African nation, famous for its ancient rock-hewn churches, Solomonic emperors, and seemingly intractable poverty, has a long history of famine. But I had always assumed that food shortages were more common in the much drier north of the country than in the relatively fertile south. Although rainfall throughout Ethiopia had been erratic in 2008 and 2009, the stunting and goiter I saw were signs of chronic malnutrition, which had clearly existed for many years.

What was causing it? Ethiopia’s long history of food crises is shrouded in myths and political intrigue. In 1984, famine killed hundreds of thousands of people and left millions destitute. At the time, the UN attributed the famine to drought. But most witnesses knew it had far more to do with a military campaign launched by Ethiopia’s then-Soviet-backed dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam against a rebel group based in the northern province of Tigray, known as the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).1 Government forces isolated the peasantry, destroyed trade and markets, and diverted food aid to their own troops.

Western governments were slow to respond to this humanitarian crisis, but a global charity campaign led by the rock singer Bob Geldof’s Band Aid concerts and albums raised more than $100 million for relief organizations like Christian Aid and Oxfam. Because Tigray was under assault, these organizations established bases in neighboring Sudan. They handed food shipments over to the TPLF, which was supposed to deliver them to starving peasants in Tigray. However, it now appears that the TPLF may also have been using some of the aid to feed its soldiers and purchase weapons. In a March 2010 BBC report, a former TPLF fighter described masquerading as a Sudanese merchant and selling bags of “grain”—many containing only sand—to the aid workers, who then passed the sacks on to other TPLF cadres, who returned them to the “Sudanese traders,” who resold them to the aid workers, and so on. In this way, bags of grain/sand circulated back and forth across the border, as money poured into TPLF coffers. The CIA apparently knew about the scam.2

The TPLF’s political leader at the time is now Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi. Since it ousted Mengistu and took power in 1991, Meles’s government has received some $26 billion in development aid from Western donors including the US Agency for International Development, the World Bank, the European Union, and Britain’s Department for International Development. Meles, along with Geldof, has vehemently denounced the BBC’s report and demanded a retraction. But many aid workers who were around then have indicated that there is probably some truth to the story.3 Either way, it’s worth asking where Ethiopia’s development aid is going today, bearing in mind the theatrical inclinations of its prime minister.

Shortly before its victory in 1991, the TPLF joined several other groups and changed its name to the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Meles was an instant success with Western leaders including President Bill Clinton, who hailed him as a member of a “new breed” of post–cold war Africans who would bring stability and prosperity to their troubled continent. In 2005, Meles was a coauthor with Tony Blair of the report of the British government’s Commission for Africa, entitled Our Common Interest,4 which argued that reducing poverty, hunger, illiteracy, and the spread of AIDS and other diseases would create the foundation for economic growth, political stability, and democratic governance. The report, released amid a huge publicity campaign known as “Make Poverty History” led by the rock star Bono, called for sharply increased levels of foreign aid, which the authors referred to as “the big push.”5

Meles’s Ethiopia is now the subject of an informal experiment to see whether “the big push” approach to African development will work. Its foreign aid receipts, which have tripled since 2000,6 amounted to some $3 billion in 2008, more than any other nation in sub-Saharan Africa.7 A nominally Christian country surrounded by largely Islamic Somalia, Sudan, and Kenya, Ethiopia is also a key Western ally in the “war on terror,” and this is certainly a factor in how much foreign aid it receives—though most of the money goes not to the military but to development programs, especially health, education, and agriculture projects.8 The big push has financed 15,000 village health clinics, seventeen universities, countless schools, and the beginnings of a new road network that will bring trade and services to many previously isolated rural areas.

Unfortunately, this aid is also subsidizing a regime that is rapidly becoming one of the most repressive and dictatorial on the continent. During Ethiopia’s most recent parliamentary elections in May 2005, the government suspended the vote count in some areas when it seemed that the opposition was winning more seats than expected. When the results were eventually announced, Meles’s EPRDF, to no one’s surprise, had won. European Union observers criticized the conduct of the elections, and opposition supporters organized demonstrations that soon turned violent. Security forces shot into the crowds, killing some two hundred people, and thousands of others, including journalists and human rights activists, were arrested. Seventy opposition leaders were charged with treason. Although most were later pardoned, several, including the leader of the opposition party Unity for Democracy and Justice, Birtukan Mideksa, remain behind bars.9

On May 23, Ethiopia will hold its first parliamentary elections since 2005, but the results seem foreordained. Opposition groups have been prevented from opening local offices and some opposition candidates have been assaulted by EPRDF officials or arbitrarily detained by the police.10 The government uses Chinese spy technology to bug phone lines and Internet communications, and countless journalists, editors, judges, academics, and human rights defenders have fled the country or languish behind bars, at risk of torture. New laws passed since 2005 have made political activity more difficult than ever. The Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009 makes hearsay admissible as evidence in court, and one of Ethiopia’s few remaining independent newspapers recently closed after its editors learned that charges against them were being prepared under the act. Voice of America and other international radio programs are routinely jammed before elections, including this one.11

These events are unfolding as billions of dollars in foreign aid pour into the country. Foreign aid is important. It helps needy people, it creates allies for our causes and markets for our products, and redeems some of the damage inflicted on the third world during the cold war. But aid agencies need to ensure that their programs don’t exacerbate the political problems that are keeping people poor in the first place.

When I asked aid officials why Meles, who seems so committed to poverty alleviation, seems so antagonistic to human rights, most pointed to the nation’s volatile ethnic politics. Ethiopia’s roughly 80 million people are divided among some ninety different groups.

A quarter of the population is Amhara, historically the most powerful tribe, with origins in the northern highlands where traditions of Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity date back to the fourth century. Closely related are Prime Minister Meles’s Tigray people, who make up about 7 percent of the population and whose grip on power is increasingly resented by others. The largest tribe, comprising some 40 percent of the population, are the Oromo, who traditionally herded livestock in the southern, central, and western regions of the country. Other groups include the Somalis, the Afar camel herders, and the Mursi and other southern pastoralist groups famous for their lip rings and colorful body paint. About half the population is Muslim, but at present, ethnic, not religious, tensions are central to the nation’s politics.

As a Tigrayan, Meles would face challenges from parties aligned with the far more numerous Amhara and Oromo no matter what he did, but his repressive policies have often made things worse. In November 2009, a group of military officers, furious that over 90 percent of Ethiopia’s generals are Tigrayan, were convicted of plotting a coup. Ethnically based rebel groups, including the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), are engaged in violent antigovernment insurgencies, and dozens of local conflicts have erupted among various tribes and clans in recent years.12 But these problems have often been exacerbated by a government that allows no genuine opposition or even constructive policy debate. The OLF fought alongside the TPLF against Mengistu, and in 1991 it attempted to transform itself into a peaceful political party. But after facing widespread vote-rigging and harassment of their candidates, its leaders soon returned to armed struggle.

As this vicious cycle of repression and rebellion has escalated, Western officials have tended to express a diplomatic sense of optimism that Ethiopia’s political problems will iron themselves out. In 2007, former US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer praised Ethiopia for the “monumental advancement in the political environment” since the bloody 2005 election.13 At the time, the US was backing Ethiopia’s 2006 invasion of Somalia, on the belief—largely mistaken at that time—that it had become a haven for al-Qaeda terrorists.14

At first, the Europeans threatened to cut off aid until Ethiopia made more progress on human rights, but then reconsidered. The Europeans had their own security and strategic interests in the region, and may have reasoned that without American cooperation, an aid boycott of Ethiopia would have little leverage over Meles’s human rights violations. These were also the days of Our Common Interest, Bono, and “Make Poverty History,” and cutting off aid to one of the poorest countries in the world might have been seen as a bad PR move. However, the Europeans resolved to channel their aid directly to local district authorities, bypassing the central government. This would prevent its use for political purposes, or so it was hoped.

The plan was not a success. As local elections scheduled for 2008 approached, opposition groups, mindful that so much money was now flowing into district coffers, feared widespread rigging. Local government officials earn meager salaries, but are enormously powerful because they control access to food aid programs, fertilizers, educational opportunities, jobs, plots of land, small business loans, and even health care.15 The opposition groups unsuccessfully petitioned the US and other donors to fund independent poll monitors, but when the EPRDF won 99.99 percent of the seats, US officials said they could not comment on the fairness of the elections because they hadn’t monitored them.16

Scholars and human rights groups had for years been alerting the international community to the fact that EPRDF officials frequently deny the benefits of foreign aid programs—food, fertilizers, training, and so on—to known opposition supporters.17 When I asked World Bank officials whether they were concerned about these allegations, they said that they’d heard a few anecdotal reports, but had yet to see convincing evidence that political diversion of resources was a systematic problem in their programs.

No doubt conducting a systematic survey would be difficult. A Human Rights Watch researcher was deported last November while attempting to investigate the politicization of a World Bank food aid program, and a journalist who tried to follow up the investigation was arrested and jailed for two days.18 In December 2009, the Western press began publicizing these stories, and the donors finally agreed to conduct a study of the “distortions” in the uses of aid in Ethiopia. However, this investigation will be overseen by the government.

For years, Ethiopia’s foreign donors supported a fledgling human rights community that provided voter education, documented political repression, and advocated for the rights of rape victims, abused children, the blind, deaf, and other vulnerable groups. In response to increasing criticism from some of these groups, the government recently enacted a Charities and Societies (CSO) law, forbidding them from receiving all but minimal funding from non-Ethiopian sources. Since few Ethiopians can afford to donate to charity, numerous human rights programs have shut down. The donor agency officials who once supported these programs have protested in internal reports and private meetings with the prime minister, but their public pronouncements have been conciliatory. On the day the EU announced a new €250 million aid package for Ethiopia, it expressed the hope that the CSO law would be “implemented in an open-minded and constructive spirit.”19

Western aid officials seem reluctant to admit that there are two Prime Minister Meles Zenawis. One is a clubbable, charming African who gives moving speeches at Davos and other elite forums about fighting poverty and terrorism. The other is a dictator whose totalitarianism dates back to cold war days. During the early 1970s, when Meles was a medical student in Addis Ababa, he joined a Marxist study group that eventually became the TPLF. Meles’s military performance was undistinguished, but he had a talent for speech-making, and was appointed head of the TPLF’s political wing. In the training courses he ran for recruits, he celebrated Stalin’s achievement in modernizing Russia, but didn’t dwell on the blood that was shed in the process.

In 1985, Meles founded a unit within the TPLF known as the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray, which was guided by the Leninist principle of “Democratic Centralism.” In pursuit of revolutionary socialist goals, the peasants were to be mobilized by a “vanguard elite,” which would exert total ideological and economic control over society.20 But after taking office in 1991, Meles downplayed his Marxist past and even enrolled in a correspondence course in business administration at Britain’s Open University. In discussions with US officials and journalists, he indicated that his Marxism extended to antifeudalism, equality, land reform, and teaching farming skills to women, but not to the nationalization of private enterprises or one-party rule.21

At first, Meles’s government allowed a degree of press freedom, multiparty democracy, and privatization of some state-owned enterprises. But as rigged elections and arrests of journalists continued, some observers wondered whether Meles’s political change of heart was genuine.22 In official English-language documents written for the World Bank and other agencies, his government expressed a commitment to human rights and democracy,23: but Ethiopian-language documents intended for internal government or EPRDF consumption told a different story. These documents outlined a policy known as “Revolutionary Democracy”—essentially the same Leninist program that Meles taught to his TPLF cadres in the 1980s, involving top-down decision-making, regular sessions of “self-criticism,” and single-party rule for generations. Revolutionary Democracy would be promoted through the gradual EPRDF takeover of all organs of “propaganda,” including schools, the civil service, the press, and religious institutions.24 “When ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ permeates the entire [Ethiopian] society,” Meles wrote in 2001,

individuals will start to think alike and all persons will cease having their own independent outlook. In this order, individual thinking becomes simply part of collective thinking because the individual will not be in a position to reflect on concepts that have not been prescribed by “Revolutionary Democracy.”25

Consistent with this aim, the EPRDF has used World Bank funds to purge much of the senior civil service of opposition supporters and replaced the independent Ethiopian Teachers Association with a party-affiliated body.26 Meles concedes that a Leninist economic program would not be possible as long as Ethiopia is dependent on foreign aid from capitalist countries,27 but his government still controls all land and telecommunications, and much of the banking and rural credit sectors. According to the World Bank, roughly half of the rest of the national economy is accounted for by companies held by an EPRDF-affiliated business group called the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT).28 EFFORT’s freight transport, construction, pharmaceutical, and cement firms receive lucrative foreign aid contracts and highly favorable terms on loans from government banks.29 Ethiopia is not a typical African kleptocracy, and there is no evidence that Meles personally benefits from these businesses. Rather, they are part of a rigid system of control that aid agency officials, beguiled by Meles’s apparently pro-Western exterior, have only recently begun to recognize.

There is a type of Ethiopian poetry known as “Wax and Gold” because it has two meanings: a superficial “wax” meaning, and a hidden “golden” one.30 During the 1960s, the anthropologist Donald Levine described how the popularity of “Wax and Gold” poetry provided insights into some of the northern Ethiopian societies from which Prime Minister Meles would later emerge. Even ordinary conversations frequently contain double entendres and ambiguities. Levine theorized that this enabled the expression of satire, humor, and even insults in an otherwise strictly controlled and hierarchical society of all-powerful kings, peasants, and serfs.

However, he worried that this mode of communication would hold Ethiopians back in their dealings with Westerners, who tend to value concreteness and rationality. Double meanings and poetry provide no advantage when drafting legal contracts, filling out job applications, or designing nuclear reactors. It didn’t occur to Levine that “Wax and Gold”–style communication might give Ethiopians like Meles an advantage in dealing with Westerners, especially when the Westerners were aid officials offering vast sums of money to follow a course of development based on liberal democracy and human rights, with which they disagree.

I first traveled to Ethiopia in 2008 to study the country’s new public health strategy. Nearly every government and aid agency official I met expressed enthusiasm for the many programs underway. Rates of AIDS, malaria, and infant mortality were falling,31 and Ethiopian health officials told me that there was no corruption; medicines were always in stock, even in faraway rural clinics; and community health workers were trained, efficient, and never absent from their posts. The government newspaper kept readers abreast of development news with such headlines as “Reinforcing UNDAF to meet PASDEP, MDGs”32 (UNDAF is the UN Development Framework, PASDEP is Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty, and MDGs are the Millennium Development Goals).

Most of these programs were in rural areas far from the capital, Addis Ababa, where my interviews took place. I wanted to see them for myself, not least because I knew that some of the claims I was hearing weren’t entirely true. Government officials claimed that in 2005, 87 percent of children had received all major vaccines, but an independent survey suggested that the figure was closer to 27 percent.33 Similarly, the fraction of women using contraception was 23 percent, not 55 percent as government officials claimed. The annual growth in farm production was also probably nowhere near the government’s own figure of 10 percent.34

One day, I heard an aid official give a lecture about a small nutrition project in one of the poorest regions of the country. She showed pictures of the area and that’s when I noticed how green it looked. “It’s called ‘Green Famine,’” she said, but when I asked her what caused it, her answer rambled from rainfall patterns to soil erosion to local preferences for nutrient-poor root vegetables and made little sense.

Nevertheless, a few days later I visited the region myself. I was amazed by what I saw there. Roads were under construction, a university had recently opened, and crowds of children were on their way home from a new school. Health workers spoke enthusiastically about the malaria bednet program, the immunization program, the pit latrine program, and the family planning program. I attended a village meeting at which some fifty “model families” who had followed all the government-prescribed practices of a “healthy household” were awarded diplomas. Local officials gave speeches, everyone cheered, and a basket of popcorn was passed around.

But when I went to visit the nutrition project, my enthusiasm faded. It was intended for children, but many of their mothers were also malnourished. Several had obvious goiter, and a few were so anemic they nearly fainted while they were speaking to me. When I asked these women why they could not adequately feed their children or themselves, most replied that they didn’t have enough land, and therefore couldn’t grow enough food either to eat or to sell.

There is a long history to their predicament. During the nineteenth century, as the European powers were carving up the rest of East Africa into colonies, Amhara rulers from the northern highlands extended their power southward and established the boundaries of what would become Imperial Ethiopia. As they did so, they seized land, exacted tribute, and turned the once independent peoples of this region into serfs. When the last emperor, Haile Selassie, was overthrown in 1974, the new regime immediately enacted a land reform program that assigned each former serf a plot of his own. This was fine for one generation, but in rural Ethiopia, women have on average six surviving children. Now, thirty-five years later, millions of peasant families live on plots too small to support them.35 The government retains all property rights, so if the poor leave their tiny plots, they lose their only asset. Most remain where they are, living on the verge of starvation.

Half a dozen food security programs existed in the area, but for reasons no one, including the aid workers who managed them, could explain, they were having little effect. According to a government survey, half the families enrolled in the largest food aid program had, in order to feed themselves, been forced to sell what few assets they had, including goats, chickens, pots, and buckets.36 One household in eight had lost a child to hunger. Even so, competition for a slot in the program was so fierce that when the food trucks arrived, riots sometimes broke out. The truly destitute received barely enough to survive. One woman I met said that her family of five was somehow living on five kilos of cornmeal a month.

There is no simple solution to this crisis, but as the Ethiopia expert Siegfried Pausewang has long argued, only the peasants themselves have any hope of finding one. Working with agronomists and other experts, they could confront such issues as security of land tenure, the onerous rural tax regime, political favoritism, the low prices offered by party-run cooperatives, and compensation for those whose tiny land parcels can no longer support them. However, there are no independent organizations or other forums in which peasants can openly discuss these issues, air grievances, or advocate for their rights. Under the CSO law such forums are unlikely to emerge.

Ethiopia has an agricultural extension program, but it only gives orders. “They make a plan, they take over, they command us to do this, do that,” a farmer told Pausewang in 2001.37 If the peasants openly disagree with the plans the government has for them, they risk being denied fertilizers or credit, or even losing what land they have. As one farmer, who keeps his support for the opposition party a secret, told Human Rights Watch in 2009, “I am a member of EPRDF because I need relief assistance…. The list of receipts—the proof that I am paying my dues to the party—are required to get [it].”38 While aid officials may lecture about how hunger in Ethiopia is due solely to climate change, soil erosion, and the preference of poor people for root vegetables, this crisis, like the 1984 famine, is also primarily caused by politically motivated human rights violations.

Before I left Ethiopia, I visited an old church in the Amhara highlands. Orthodox Christian traditions in this part of the country date back 1,600 years, and it’s astonishing to think that these impoverished people had a written language and a sophisticated clerical hierarchy that long ago. I was shown a beautifully illuminated set of liturgical manuscripts created in the 1700s, in which images of almond-eyed saints loomed amid the gospels written out in Ethiopia’s ancient Ge’ez script. In some of the paintings, you could see the artists’ struggles to reconcile their turbulent cultural heritage by combining the doctrinal power of the sacred word with the abstract flourishes more typical of the cultures of the African interior.

Outside the church, I noticed that some of the small children hanging around had leather pouches tied around their necks. “That’s to protect against ‘evil eye,’” an Ethiopian friend explained. “The pouches have fragments of scripture inside. They believe the Bible is ‘the word made flesh,’ and those pieces of paper will prevent their children from getting sick.”

In 2007, Meles called for an “Ethiopian renaissance” to bring the country out of medieval poverty, but the Renaissance he’s thinking of seems very different from ours. The Western Renaissance was partly fostered by the openness to new ideas created by improved transport and trade networks, mail services, printing technology, and communications—precisely those things Meles is attempting to restrict and control.

The Western Renaissance helped to democratize “the word” so that all of us could speak of our own individual struggles, and this added new meaning and urgency to the alleviation of the suffering of others. The problem with foreign aid in Ethiopia is that both the Ethiopian government and its donors see the people of this country not as individuals with distinct needs, talents, and rights but as an undifferentiated mass, to be mobilized, decentralized, vaccinated, given primary education and pit latrines, and freed from the legacy of feudalism, imperialism, and backwardness. It is this rigid focus on the “backward masses,” rather than the unique human person, that typically justifies appalling cruelty in the name of social progress.

  1. Alexander de Waal, Famine Crimes: Politics and the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa (Indiana University Press, 1997). I wish to acknowledge helpful discussions with John Ryle, Leslie Lefkow, and Ben Rawlence.
  2. See Martin Plaut, “Assignment: Aid for Arms in Ethiopia,” BBC World Service, March 7, 2010, available at
  3. See Mark Colvin, “Aid Dogfight: Geldof and the BBC in War of Words,” The Drum, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Online, March 17, 2010.
  4. Available at See also UNCTAD, “Economic Development in Africa: Doubling Aid: Making the Big Push Work” (United Nations, 2006).
  5. See Tom Porteous, Britain in Africa (Zed, 2008).
  6. See Jason McLure, “The Troubled Horn of Africa,” CQ Global Researcher, Vol. 3, No. 6 (June 2009).
  7. See the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “Statistical Annex of the 2010 Development Co-operation Report,” Table 25, December 2009, available at
  8. See OECD, Aid Statistics, Recipient Aid Charts: Ethiopia, available at
  9. According to the US government 2009 Human Rights Report, we don’t know how many political prisoners there are in Ethiopia. See
  10. See Human Rights Watch, “One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure: Violations of Freedom of Expression and Association in Ethiopia,” March 24, 2010.
  11. See “Ethiopia Admits Jamming VOA Radio Broadcasts in Amharic,” BBC News, March 19, 2010.
  12. See Jon Abbink, “Ethnicity and Conflict Generation in Ethiopia: Some Problems and Prospects of Ethno-Regional Federalism,” Journal of Contemporary African Studies, Vol. 24, No. 3 (September 2006).
  13. Testimony by Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendeyi E. Frazer, “Ethiopia and the State of Democracy: Effects on Human Rights and Humanitarian Conditions in the Ogaden and Somalia.” House Committee on Foreign Affairs Africa and Global Health Subcommittee Hearing, Rayburn House Office Building 2172. October 2, 2007.
  14. See Bronwyn Bruton, “In the Quicksands of Somalia—Where Doing Less Helps More,” Foreign Affairs (November/December 2009). The 2006 US/Ethiopian invasion of Somalia was extremely brutal (see Ethiopia’s Dirty War, Human Rights Watch, August 4, 2007). This helped radicalize the Somali population, and provided an opening for Middle Eastern jihadis to increase funding for the militant al-Shabab group that had previously been marginal in Somali politics, but would soon control much of the country.
  15. See Sarah Vaughan and Kjetil Tronvoll, The Culture of Power in Contemporary Ethiopian Political Life (Stockholm: SIDA Studies, No. 10, 2003).
  16. See Lovise Aalen and Kjetil Tronvoll, “The 2008 Ethiopian Local Elections: The Return of Electoral Authoritarianism,” African Affairs, Vol. 108, No. 430 (January 2009), pp. 111–120.
  17. See Aalen and Tronvill, “The 2008 Ethiopian Local Elections,” and Siegfried Pausewang, “Ethiopia: A Political View from Below,” South African Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 16, No. 1 (April 2009); Jon Abbink, “The Ethiopian Second Republic and the Fragile ‘Social Contract,'” Africa Spectrum, Vol. 44, No. 2 (2009); Human Rights Watch, “Suppressing Dissent: Human Rights Abuses and Political Repression in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region,” 2005; US State Department Human Rights Report: Ethiopia, 2009, 2010.
  18. Human Rights Watch, “One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure.”
  19. Human Rights Watch, “One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure.”
  20. See Paulos Milkias, “The Great Purge and Ideological Paradox in Contemporary Ethiopian Politics,” Horn of Africa, Vol. 19 (2001), pp. 1–99. Aregawi Berhe, A Political History of the Tigraya People’s Liberation Front, 1975–1991 (Tsehai, 2009).
  21. See Gayle Smith, “Birth Pains of a New Ethiopia,” The Nation, July 1, 1991.
  22. Vaughan and Tronvoll, The Culture of Power in Contemporary Ethiopian Political Life; and Paulos Milkias, “The Great Purge and Ideological Paradox in Contemporary Ethiopian Politics.”
  23. See the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED), Ethiopia, Building on Progress: A Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP) (2005/06–2009/10), Vol. 1, September 2006.
  24. TPLF/EPRDF, “Our Revolutionary Democratic Goals and the Next Step,” internal EPRDF document (June 1993).
  25. See Meles Zenawi, “Perspectives and ‘Bonapartism,'” in “The Gimgema Papers,” 2001; referred to in Milkias, “The Great Purge and Ideological Paradox in Contemporary Ethiopian Politics.”
  26. HRW 2010, “One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure,” and discussions with HRW researchers.
  27. TPLF/EPRDF, “Our Revolutionary Democratic Goals and the Next Step.”
  28. John Abbink, “The Ethiopian Second Republic and the Fragile ‘Social Contract,'” Africa Spectrum 2009, Vol. 44, No. 2, pp. 3–28.
  29. See Paulos Chaine, “Clientism and Ethiopia’s Post 1991 Decentralisation,” Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 45, No. 3 (2007), pp. 355–384.
  30. See Donald N. Levine, Wax and Gold: Tradition and Innovation in Ethiopian Culture (University of Chicago Press, 1965). The name refers to the process sculptors use to transform a wax model into gold. They first cover the model with a clay mold, then they melt out the wax and replace it with gold.
  31. See Sandro Accorsi et al., “Countdown to 2015: Comparing Progress Towards the Achievement of the Health Millennium Development Goals in Ethiopia and Other Sub-Saharan African Countries,” Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 2010.
  32. The Ethiopian Herald, June 26, 2009.
  33. Compare Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey 2005 (Central Statistical Agency/ORC Macro, September 2006), available at, and The Health of Ethiopia: An Update by Ethiopia’s Health Minister (Center for Strategic and International Studies, October 20, 2008) available at
  34. See Stephan Dercon et al., “In Search of a Strategy: Rethinking Agriculture Led Growth in Ethiopia,” Synthesis Paper prepared as part of a study on Agricultural and Growth in Ethiopia, Oxford University, May 2009.
  35. The average per capita landholding fell from a quarter of a hectare to less than a tenth of a hectare between 1970 and 2000, and per capita food production fell by nearly half. See Todd Benson, “An Assessment of the Causes of Malnutrition in Ethiopia,” IFPRI, 2005.
  36. See Dessalegn Rahmato, “Ethiopia: Agriculture Policy Review,” in Taye Assefa, Digest of Ethiopia’s National Policies, Strategies and Programs (Addis Ababa: Forum for Social Studies, 2008), p. 148.
  37. See Siegfried Pausewang, “No Environmental Protection Without Local Democracy? Why Peasants Distrust Their Agricultural Advisers,” in Ethiopia: The Challenge of Democracy from Below, edited by Bahru Zewde and Siegfried Pausewang (Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikaininstitutet/Addis Ababa: Forum for Social Studies, 2009).; see also Kaatje Segers et al., “Be Like Bees: The Politics of Mobilizing Farmers for Development in Tigray, Ethiopia,” African Affairs Vol. 108, No. 430, pp. 91-109, and Tewodaj Mogues et al., “Agricultural Extension in Ethiopia through a Gender and Governance Lens,” IFPRI Ethiopia Strategy Support Program 2 Discussion Paper, No. ESSP2 007, October 2008.
  38. Human Rights Watch, “One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure.”

Medrek and the Ethiopian election

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

By Yilma Bekele

I am sure most of you have heard or read that the leaders of Medrek are on a tour of North America. They have held town hall meetings in Seattle, San Jose, Las Vegas, Washington DC and Atlanta and are coming to Los Angles this coming weekend. The delegation consists of Ato Seye Abreha, Ato Gebru Asrat, Dr. Negasso Gidada and Ato (engineer) Gezachew Shiferaw. All four gentlemen were ex members of TPLF, OPDO or AEUP.

For those not familiar with the alphabet soup, TPLF stands for Tigrai Peoples Liberation Front and OPDO is Oromo Peoples Democratic Union. OPDO is the brainchild of TPLF. That is neither paranoia nor a figment of my imagination. Other TPLF subsidiaries include ANDM (Amhara National Democratic Movement) SEPDM (Southern Ethiopia Peoples’ Democratic Movement) and other minor parties. They call them Teletafi (ተለጣፊ) They are organized as EPDRF (Ethiopian peoples’ Democratic Revolutionary Front).

The current Ethiopian Parliament is composed of 526 members and EPDRF controls 326 seats. That is actually not a true statement. TPLF Party control extends to all the so-called political parties organized as an independent for ‘Ferenjis’ consumption. Thus in reality the Parliament is TPLF’ Party’s’ private playing field. As the Chilean dictator Pinochet said ‘”Not a leaf moves in Chile if I don’t know about it”, nothing in Ethiopian Parliament happens without the permission of the one party state.

If you will forgive me I will start our current story with the 2005 general election as a background. To a majority of Ethiopians May 2005 is day one in the hope of our people for democracy and a better future. May 2005 left the Meles regime physically naked mentally dead and spiritually void of values. The total rejection of ethnic politics and cadre rule unnerved the regime. Meles and company panicked. They communicated with the Ethiopian people with snipers on every roof and concentration camps in every Kilil. The aftermath of 2005 election ushered the quest for a new understanding of the struggle for liberation under a totalitarian state.

Kinijit leaders were forced to forge a new path based on the experience of the 2005 debacle. Kinijit the dragon slayer was an amalgamation of different organization united for the purpose of elections. The two years in Kaliti jail dealt a heavy blow on the young party. The TPLF machine used every evil means at its disposal to create mistrust, mis-information resulting in disarray. Kaliti did a favor to the movement. It differentiated the men from the boys. Ledetu was officially recognized as a subsidiary. Hailu was exposed as spoiler. Merera and Petros became inconsequential. Berhanu reloaded and Bertukan decided to re-calibrate.

Our story revolves around Bertukan Mideksa. Upon her return to Ethiopia from her North American tour, she embarked on the formation of a new political party modeled after Kinijit. If you remember Ato Meles’s court have already handed Kinijit to some obscure individual named Ayele Chamiso. Thus Weizero Bertukan labored tirelessly to form Andenet Party. Despite the many hurdles thrown on her path she was able to dot the I’s and cross the t’s and form Andenet. It was a proud accomplishment that will be told and retold for a long time. Birtukan’s Andenet is a multi national party based on equality and resting on a strong bedrock of Democracy as its foundation.

Weizero Bertukan criss crossed the country forming headquarters in every region and managed to win the trust and respect of the Ethiopian People. Her rising star was eclipsing the faint candlelight of the TPLF cadres. That did not go well with TPLF. Chairman Bertukan was re-hauled back to Kaliti on some funky charge to be kept away until the 2010 election is over.

Her imprisonment created a void in the new party. It was not long before factions were formed and an all out war was declared. The young party was left without a rudder to steer the party in the TPLF shark infested ocean. The battle tested TPLF leaders exploited the weakness of the rookie leaders to the maximum. TPLF was not interested in killing the Party. It just wanted to deliver a crippling blow. It was not long before things degenerated to the extent that Andenet was forced to appeal to the TPLF regime for protection from its own members. Shame is an understatement. It was under these strange circumstances that Andenet joined what is known as Medrek. What exactly is Medrek?

Medrek is a coalition of different parties that include UEDF (United Ethiopian Democratic Forces led by Dr. Beyene Petros and Dr. Merera Gudina) OFDM (Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement led by Ato Bulcha Demeksa) A.R.E.N.A. Tigrai led by Ato Gebru Asrat, and Andenet led by Ato Gezachew Shiferaw. Please note Andenet is the only multi national party in the group. Andenet under the leadership of Chairman Bertukan is the only party with representation in all parts of the country and support organizations in the Diaspora.

The two independent individuals Ato Seye Abraha and Dr. Negasso Gidada joined the weak and wounded Andenet at this critical time. The void felt in the party due to the expulsion of some founding members created a fertile ground for the two ex-officials to assume positions of leadership upon arrival.

Thus, this is the Medrek that is currently touring North America. Some of my esteemed friends have used such expressions as ‘the rebirth of Ethiopia’ and ‘a new political culture in Ethiopia’ to explain the tour. Is this really a Hallelujah or Alhamdulillah moment? It is possible that both declarations are heavy on the cheerleading side but lacking in the friendly but critical assessment option.

The American expression ‘friends don’t allow friends drive drunk’ comes to mind, especially when one is a passenger in the vehicle. We are all passengers in this ship called Ethiopia. The action of the pilot affects the welfare of the passengers. The current tour leaves many questions unanswered and the timing is a puzzle to all well-wishers. The question of raising money is out of the question. The Diaspora is fighting a life and death battle to retain jobs, pay mortgages and raise expensive children. The Diaspora does not vote. Is it possible the expenditure of thousands of hard earned dollars in transporting, lodging and feeding the delegation is not a smart investment?

What exactly is Medrek trying to accomplish in the current election? The short answer is of course win. The next question will be is that possible? The simple answer is a resounding no. That leads us back to the first question, why participate in an impossible, rigged game where the outcome is pre determined? That the TPLF started the preparations for this election way back in May of 2005 is obvious to all. Meles and company vowed not to be caught with their pants down again. Thus the vibrant independent media was destroyed, capable leaders were killed, exiled or jailed, the Constitution was amended to include curbs on NGO activities, a law defining any opposition as terrorism and a new code of conduct was put in place.

In Election Ethiopian style the opposition cannot hold unauthorized meeting, cannot hold a rally, and cannot raise money from outside sources including the Diaspora. It is enough for you to say what a cockamamie idea? Wait there is more; according to the PM candidates cannot criticize the regime under threat of being charged with incitement or sedation. In emerging democratic Ethiopia the opposition cannot campaign except in a few large cities like Addis Abeba and Bahir Dar. Being a candidate or supporter of the opposition is a hazardous duty in most of the Kilils. The only exception seems to be Tigrai where the ex TPLF members can campaign in a limited areas.

Medrek has sacrificed plenty of candidates in this election. Human right activists, foreign correspondents such as VOA, Bloomberg and many others, have recorded party members being prosecuted, hounded in their villages, denied government controlled necessities and even murdered. Ethiopian politics is not for the fain hearted.

The 2005 election was proof that the minority-based regime is a paper tiger. It was resoundingly defeated where the ballot boxes were opened under the watchful eyes of the people and international observers. Thus the lesson learnt was it is not about the campaign but it is all about the counting of the ballots. What we see today is that the regime still controls the election board, recruited trained and is ready to deploy its own cadre observers and have drawn up a strict code of conduct for the Ferenji observers. It is like meet the new situation same as the old situation.

The simple question to Medrek is why do you exactly expect a different outcome when nothing has changed? The truth of the matter is actually things have change in a negative way as far as the opposition is concerned. With its star leader behind bars and its candidates and supporters terrorized by government goons how is it possible to contemplate winning when even trying has become a crime?

Why is Medrek giving legitimacy to a dictatorial regime by its involvement in a rigged game? Some will say half a loaf is better than no loaf, is that Medrek’s philosophy too? Is the idea to win a hundred or so seats in Parliament? Is that considered good whereas the regime with its majority control will continue the abuse of the few opposition members seated for show?

These are the questions Medrek have not addressed both at home and abroad. It was only last October that Ato Gezachew declared ‘The release of Birtukan Mideksa and all Political Prisoners is the main agenda for joining the 2010 Election’. What ever happened to that bravado? How come the political prisoner population of Kaliti and the Kilils has gone up let alone secure the release of our leader?

The lessons of 2005 should not be forgotten. Repeating the same mistake is definitely not a winning strategy. The Ethiopian people have paid a heavy price for an inferior and ugly outcome. We worry that what was done to us five years ago is in the process of being repeated. We ask Medrek to consider the ramifications of kowtowing to a totalitarian state that is hell bent in winning at all cost. We urge Medrek to listen to its constituents that wish it well and include their concerns in its deliberations. We have a very sick regime that considers politics as a game where winning is the only acceptable outcome. They have shown that they will kill to secure their ill-gotten power and wealth.

We feel the pain of the opposition candidates that have sacrificed trying to get involved in the affairs of their nation. We are horrified to witness the death of Ato Aregawi Gebre Yohanes, Ato Beyanza Deba and many other nameless Ethiopians whose crime was wanting to be free. We hope Medrek will take its role seriously and observe the Hippocratic oath like doctors that states ‘do no harm’. Our hope is that they contemplate if their actions bring good or harm on our people.

It is a good possibility the regime will orchestrate an election worthy of an African standard. It is also true that the US and the Europeans will declare ‘a few irregularities’ but ‘an essential first step’. Just like what happened five years ago Ato Meles and company will continue the rape and pillage of our country and sell what is left of it to the highest bidder. We hope Medrek will not be one of those parties that will sit silently in the kangaroo parliament and preach the gospel of ‘working together’ and such crap while dining with killers, psychos and future guests of the International Criminal Court.

Interview with Col. Alebel Amare (Part 3)

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Part 3 interview with Col. Alebel Amare, senior leader of the newly formed armed Amhara resistance group — Amhara Democratic Force Movement. Watch below.

U.S. Census 2010: Ethiopians be counted

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

According to Census 2000, the number of Ethiopians in the US was tabulated as 69,530. This equals to the number of Ethiopians in/around Los Angeles almost ten years ago according to LA Times. For many reasons, what we know does not count, but the American Census office does. Our community grew even larger in the last decade and we owe it to ourselves to get the right number in. To do this we have to answer question # 9 of the Census 2010 correctly. The links bellow will show your readers how, so please spread the news ASAP.

I know we don’t have much time left, but still we can salvage some numbers by using the little time that we have. So, please send the following link to all your friends or post the image on your websites so that people will know how to respond to it for maximum result.

Web link: click here
Image link: click here

If I can answer any question, please let me know.

Elias Wondimu,
Publisher & Editorial Director, Tsehai Publishers

Saving babies in Ethiopia

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Anteneh Roba, M.D.

October of 2003 was only my second time to visit Ethiopia in 25 years. It was an eye opening experience that would change my life completely. I left Ethiopia to pursue higher education and eventually became a practicing physician in the USA. I returned to find out about the health care system in my country of birth. In 2003, I joined a team of doctors who were traveling to Ethiopia for a couple of weeks to perform surgery. The plan was for me to assist the surgeons, which turned out not to be necessary. Instead, I ended up visiting various hospitals in the capital city of Addis Ababa. I was introduced to Dr. Tesfaye Bayleyegn, a local anesthesiologist, who graciously took time out of his busy schedule to accompany me.

We first visited the emergency room at the Black Lion Hospital. What immediately caught my attention was how the babies were bundled up and laying on makeshift dilapidated beds; six to seven of them in a row. One child was sicker than the next with serious communicable diseases that in the United States would have required them to be put in isolation rooms. Some were gasping for air; some were listless and lifeless. Most had their parents hovering over them, anxious and scared with their sacs of clothing and food on the floor at the foot of their babies’ beds. At the other hospitals we visited, the same scenario was repeated endlessly, revealing a health care system with totally inadequate infrastructure, equipment and supplies.

During our visits to the Zweditu and Menelik medical facilities, we met inspiring and dedicated doctors and health care professionals in all areas of medicine that were doing an outstanding, even heroic, job under very difficult circumstances. Their descriptions of the agonies they see every day and the ordeals of the patients were very chilling. The stories of the pediatricians about the children they had to struggle to keep alive were especially heartbreaking and kept me awake at night long after I left Ethiopia.

On a visit to the pediatric ward at Zweditu Hospital, accompanied by the pediatric section head, I noticed a nurse remove the oxygen tube from a baby. Seconds later the baby became agitated. Realizing what was happening, I myself became somewhat agitated and inquired why the nurse was removing the oxygen that the baby clearly needed so much. I was told that there was another baby with an even greater need for the oxygen; but, as the babies agitation got worse and my increasing distress over the situation was becoming evident to the doctor, he ordered the nurse to reattach the nasal oxygen to the baby, who immediately settled down.

During the next few days, I visited many other pediatric wards at the several hospitals and saw too much more of the same: babies with complications of HIV waiting to die because of lack of retroviral medications for infants; babies with extreme forms of rickets (vitamin D deficiency), their bones bent like pretzels because their mothers had deprived them of sunlight for years; children with kwashiorkor (severe swelling of the body due to severe protein deficiency) with minimal intravenous access to correct the deficiency; babies with huge hernias and other surgical problems that could not be operated because they would not survive. These are only some of the terrible problems I witnessed.

The endless suffering at these hospitals made me realize that, as an Ethiopia born physician residing in the USA and lucky enough to have the means and knowledge to make a difference, I had to get involved, and that no matter how small my contributions might be, I would find a way to make a difference.

After three years of consideration and investigation to find a way to help my fellow countrymen/ women, I and my cousin, Seble Nebiyeloul, co-founded the International Fund for Africa (IFA) in 2006, formerly called The Amsale Gessesse Memorial Foundation. Realizing the overwhelming needs of the health care system in Ethiopia alone, it was decided to narrow our focus to the improvement and modernization of neonatal and rural medical care. Although there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence of the huge health care problem in Ethiopia, there is also a good deal of evidenced-based statistical information available to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the magnitude of the health care problems facing this East African country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines “neonatal mortality” (NM) as the “death of a live born during the period which starts at birth and ends 28 completed days after birth”. Two-thirds of neonatal deaths take place in the first week of life (perinatal period). Of deaths occurring in the first week of life, two-thirds occur in the first 24 hours of life. Of all neonatal deaths in the world, 99% occur in developing countries like Ethiopia. Newborn health indicators are not recorded by global agencies although they form a great proportion of child mortality. The highest rates of neonatal mortality occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. Estimates indicate that one in every five women risks experiencing a neonatal death. The high rate of neonatal death in developing countries suggests that there is a relationship between socio-economic status and mortality.

Inability of pregnant women to recognize complications soon enough, followed by delay in seeking and getting appropriate help are among the major causes of neonatal mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that 72% of neonatal deaths can be prevented through the implementation of simple and proven interventions such as good maternal hygiene and nutrition.

Although most hospitals in Addis Ababa have pediatric wards, all of them are ill equipped to handle sick babies. As of June 2009, none of the hospitals had pediatric or neonatal intensive care units. While most of the doctors are well trained and do a remarkable job under the circumstances, the lack of specialists is glaring. Currently, there are only a few neonatologists in the whole country. Issues that contribute to neonatal death are poor health of the mothers during pregnancy due to poor maternal nutrition causing such conditions as anemia, severe and serious infections caused by endemic diseases like Malaria, and untreated hypertension during pregnancy. Inaccessibility to health facilities, poor quality of care or non-existent care at health facilities, poor management of health facilities, misguided and harmful local beliefs and cultural practices such as early marriages and early child bearing, frequent pregnancies, and unsafe sex, also contribute to both maternal and neonatal mortality.

According to recent reports of the U.N, Ethiopia’s neonatal mortality rate is 39 per 1000 live births with neonatal deaths totaling 119,500 annually. Infections are the most common causes of death, followed by low birth weight due to poor nutrition, asphyxia, congenital problems and other causes. A neonate with a surgical emergency presents formidable challenges in patient care, particularly in the resource poor environment of most hospitals in the capital city. This stems in great measure from unavailable or inaccessible prenatal and obstetric care for the majority of the poor, minimal community support services for neonatal care, and inefficient and weak referral systems. To minimize the deaths of newborn babies, easy access to neonatal services must be available at the time of greatest risk, which is at birth and during the first few days of life. Having experienced the very difficult conditions in the pediatric wings of the hospitals in Addis Ababa,and the immense need for neonatal care, the International Fund for Africa, entered into a relationship with Yekatit 12 Hospital (one of the many government run health facilities in Addis Ababa) to develop, establish, and eventually upgrade neonatal services. Yekatit 12 Hospital was chosen because it already had a small unit established by a very determined neonatologist, Dr. Mulualem Gessesse. With only two rooms, a few beds, and limited and inadequate medical equipment and supplies to provide basic care, this determined neonatologist and her staff struggled to save the lives of babies. IFA first visited the Yekatit 12 hospital neonatal unit in 2007 to assess its needs. In order for this unit to have a viable capacity to save lives, Dr. Mulualem and her staff would require support on many levels. We decided to help build a self-sufficient state-of-the-art neonatal unit at Yekatit 12 Hospital.

In the first year of the project, IFA provided a sizeable donation of equipment and medical supplies including incubators, phototherapy machines, neonatal beds, oxygen concentrators, suction machines, pulse oximeters, ECG machine, cardiac monitor and IV cannulas. As a result, the unit was able to upgrade and expand to one of the more comprehensive neonatal units in the country. On four subsequent visits, IFA has provided basic supplies such as uniforms, stethoscopes, etc., and equipment including computers, slide projectors, etc. to assist the staff in its ongoing educational programs.

In June of 2009, IFA donated additional equipment and supplies necessary to create a functioning neonatal ICU, including three pediatric / neonatal ventilators donated by the New York Mt. Sinai Medical School Department of Neonatology through the good offices of Dr Ian R. Holzman, Professor of Pediatric Medicine and Chief of the Division of Newborn Medicine. Cardiopulmonary monitors, a blood gas, blood count and chemistry analyzer machine, portable x-ray machine with fluoroscopy capabilities, defibrillator, condensers, otoscopes/opthalmoscopes and accessories for respiratory care like laryngoscopes were also obtained. In addition, through the efforts of Dr Mulualem and the unwavering support of the hospital administration, the unit has been expanded to seven rooms with over 30 beds and a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

These efforts have lead to very encouraging results. The neonatal service has admitted 1,084 patients and discharged 956 (88.1%) with the total number of deaths being 128 or (11.8%) as ofJune 2009. As of December 2009 neonatal mortality was down to 4.8%. Of 605 newborn admissions, 522 (86%) were discharged in improved condition, whereas 8 (1.3%) cases with congenital malformation and surgically correctable problems were referred to the neonatology unit of the Black Lion Hospital. 75 (12 .5%) newborns died, the major causes being Asphyxia (33.4%), Hyaline Membrane Disease (24%) and Sepsis (21.3%).

Statistics alone do not tell the whole story of this miraculous decline in deaths, of newborn babies, and if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must surely be worth a thousand statistics. View the heroic life-saving accomplishments of Dr Mulualem and her staff combined with the efforts of the International Fund for Africa at

Although the results have been very encouraging, the continuing challenges for Yekatit 12 Hospital are many. It stands as a stark example of the problems that most hospitals face in Ethiopia. Essential to a well-run health care system are increased and continued financial support from the government, allocation of budget for maintaining and upgrading health care facilities, and equipment donated by other organizations. Creating a management team at each health care facility that is knowledgeable, committed, and effective is a necessity. Field-based training of health care providers is also important.

Having had discussions with health care officers from nurse assistance all the way up to the minister of health has lead us to believe that the challenges that need to be addressed to improve both maternal and neonatal mortality are to build women’s clinics to provide ob/gyn and neonatology services and to also have ob/gyn and neonatal services in as many hospitals as possible, and where they do exist, to improve the quality of care by training and expanding the knowledge base of physicians and nurses in obstetrics and neonatology. Streamlining the continuity of care from pregnancy through delivery to the postnatal period, and from home to primary health care facilities and to hospitals is another important goal. Combating the growing number of HIV/AIDS victims that will eventually over-burden the system is also of paramount importance.

Our goals are lofty, but hopefully, with perseverance and hard work, they will be achieved. It will take the participation of Ethiopians in the Diaspora and the friends of Ethiopia all over the world as well as the commitment of the Ethiopian government, medical community and citizenry to turn the tide of death, hunger, despair and pain. We recognize the urge for some to politicize their grievances and to take a confrontational position on many of the issues that plague Ethiopia. In this case, an alternative approach is necessary. Everyday all over Ethiopia babies will die avoidable deaths, a children will go to bed hungry or become homeless because of the loss of one or both of their parents to AIDS. We can stop these and other atrocities by utilizing our time, effort, energy, and money in a cooperative effort by supporting organizations like ours that take an apolitical approach, and who deliver aid directly to those in need in our motherland.

IFA has plans to help establish new neonatal and pediatric services in city and rural hospitals, improve existing programs, and to establish an ongoing volunteer program for visiting U.S. doctors to participate in the delivery of health care and training of medical professionals to advance care of the newborn. In line with this goal, IFA has donated life saving equipment including 5 incubators, 3 phototherapy machines, 5 suction machines, and two oxygen concentrators to Ghandi Memorial Hospital (the oldest maternity hospital in the city) in Addis Ababa on April 14, 2010.

You can make a difference and your contribution now to the International Fund for Africa is a matter of life and death for these babies. A sick and dying baby is every mother’s nightmare. With your donation, you help change that nightmare into a dream come true for a happy, healthy child for that mother. Your support will make possible the further critical acquisition of needed medical equipment and supplies, and help equip and create a new state-of-the-art pediatric unit with an entire floor dedicated to neonatal care now under construction at Yekatit 12 Hospital.

To donate, and for more information about the International Fund for Africa, please visit

(Anteneh Roba, MD, is President of International Fund for Africa)

A tribute to Tilahun Gessesse in DC – April 25, 2010 (video)

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Ethiopian artists in the Washington Metro Area are organizing a special tribute to Tilahun Gessesse in remembrance of the first anniversary of his passing away. The event will be broadcast live by

'You Are Not Invited!'

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

By Magn Nyang

Three weeks ago I got a call from a friend of mine whom I grew up with. The reason for his call was to talk to me about two things. He said to me “have you gotten a call from your cousin?” I asked, which one? He told me the name of my cousin he was talking about. I asked, what about him? He said “I lobbied the Gambella government to lobby the Ethiopian government to send at least one Gambellian to Washington, DC. to work as a diplomat. What that got to do with me? I asked. Your own cousin was chosen and he is coming to Washington, DC. to work as Ethiopian diplomat, he said. I congratulated him on his lobbying skills and said to him that my cousin knows where I am and knows how to contact me and he will contact me if he wishes to.

What is the second thing you wanted to talk to me about? I asked. He said “on April 17, 2010, at 2:00pm, a delegation from Ethiopian Government is coming to town for a big meeting with the Diasporas, I want you to come.” On April 17th, I put on my suit and showed up at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Bloomington, MN, where the meeting was being held. At the entrance, there were four men with a list of names. They said to me “are you registered? Is your name on the list?” I said, no. They told me “you are not invited.” Not invited? Why?

I was born in a village located in the far corner of Gambella region in the 1970s. And by virtue of that birth, I became an Ethiopian. Therefore, I see it as my birthright to go to any meeting that is meant for Ethiopians. I take my Ethiopian citizenship very seriously. I allow no one to temper with. On April 17th, 2010, the Meles led Ethiopian government and its supporters tempered with my Ethiopian citizenship by stopping me from entering a meeting that was supposedly meant for Ethiopians. And that did not go well with me. I have never seen or heard about a government that calls a meeting for the people that it clams to represent and then turn around and picks and chooses who should be at the meeting. This is what happened last Saturday. The Meles led Ethiopians’ government handpicked and chose which Ethiopian was allowed to be at the meeting.

There are two kinds of opposition groups among Ethiopian in Diasporas. Some opposition groups do not attend any meeting called by current government of Ethiopia. Some do. I belong to those who attend meetings whenever possible. Though I do not see the merits of not attending and confronting the delegates sent by government that one opposes, I do not judge those who refrain themselves from attending. My Anyuak upbringing had taught me to confront those I oppose face to face. My people always say “if you have something to say to someone go and say it to him/her face to face. Do not spread rumors about others.” Therefore, it is in my nature to confront and challenge all those I oppose and tell them my mind. I fear no one. On April 17th, after being refused entrance, I stood there and started to contemplate my next move. However, a friend of mine who was allowed to enter right in front of me, went and enlisted the assistance of an Anyuak man (a supporter of the government and one of the organizers of the meeting) who came out to the entrance and told the four stooges to allow me in.

I got inside and the meeting had already started. The delegate representing the foreign ministry of Ethiopia was talking about investment when I got in. He was inviting Ethiopians to come home and invest in their motherland. He invited Ph.Ds to come and teach in any of the twenty- two Universities. An Ethiopian man who have tried to invest in Oromiya region since 2004 and was let down, asked the delegates to explain why he was given the run around for the past six years if they seriously want Ethiopians to invest in their mother land. In response to his question, the vice president of Oromiya region (he was among the delegates) praised the man’s effort and promised to look into this let down when he goes back to Ethiopia. Another Ethiopian asked what happened of the money that some Ethiopians raised from all over the United States after they were told by the government to come home and invest in building condominiums. He said “why do you come here and invite people to come home to invest when those who previously tried to invest were let down by the same government you are representing?” The delegates looked unprepared and did not give an explanation to this question.

A Ph.D holder sitting next to me asked the delegates to tell him what the Ethiopians’ government has so far done to recruit and retain Ethiopian scholars in Diaspora. The delegate representing the foreign ministry answered this question by saying “so far, we have not done anything.” This is a government who has built more than 20 universities (with poor educational quality, of course) in the past eight years and is now preparing to built 10 more universities in the next three years and has not yet done anything to recruit Ethiopian scholars in Diaspora? It is embarrassing.

My turn to ask arrived and I wanted to know why my ancestral land is being given away to foreign investors. I asked: why the Gambellians’ land is being given to foreigners? What is the benefit for the natives? Who will be the consumers of the produce from these big farms? The answers to my questions came from the Oromiya region vice president. He was rather rude when answering my questions. He challenged me to produce a data that shows the displacement of native farmers. He said “the land we gave to investors were lands that natives do not use for farming. These pieces of lands were idly sitting there and there seems to be confusion among the Diasporas about these lands. For the first time in Ethiopia’s history, we managed to lease these idle lands to investors to be developed for the benefit of the natives and the Federal Government, and instead of getting praises for job well done from you, the Diasporas, so far what you people did is blame us.” This man wants us, the Diasporas, to cheer them up and to give high-five to the government for given away lands to foreigners. I thought he was out of his mind if that was what he really expected from us.

This article was written to show to Ethiopians in Diaspora and as well as to those in Ethiopia what kind of incompetent government is in power in Ethiopia. The delegates’ answers to the questions were not forthcoming. And by picking and choosing who should come to the meeting, the current Ethiopians’ government showed that it represents only those Ethiopians who support its policies. It showed that this government is not inclusive. It does not represents all Ethiopians.

(Dr Magn Nyang can be contacted at

European Parliament hearing on the Horn of Africa

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Hearing on Challenges in the Horn of Africa — 26 April, 2010
European Parliament, Room Altiero Spinelli ASP1G-2


15.00 – 16.00 Political and Security Challenges in the Horn of Africa

Jeremy Lester, Head of Unit, Relations with the countries and the regions of the Horn of Africa, Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean

Alain Délétroz, Vice President, Crisis Group

Moderator: Ana Gomes MEP

16.00- 17.00 Situation in Sudan: Leading to real change?

Roland Marchal, Research Fellow, CNRS/CERI

Patrice Lenormand, Programme Manager, External Relations, Head of Sector for EOM, European Commission

Moderator: Veronique de Keyser MEP, Chief Election Observer, Sudan

17.00 – 18.00 Elections in Ethiopia: lessons learned from 2005 and current challenges

Berhanu Nega, Ethiopian opposition leader in exile in the US, elected Addis Ababa Mayor in 2005

Siegfried Pausewang, Senior Researcher, Chr. Michelsen Institute, Norway

Jeremy Lester, Head of Unit, Relations with the countries and the regions of the Horn of Africa, Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean

Moderator: Thijs Berman MEP, Chief Election Observer, Ethiopia

18.00 – 18.30 Conclusions

Atlanta Ethiopian Arts Festival in pictures

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

An Ethiopian arts festival was held over the weekend in Atlanta. The event was organized by Hanatzeb Art Gallery. The festival included paintings by Ethiopian artists, music, cultural food, and fashion show.

Ethiopian Arts Festival, Atlanta, April 18, 2010

Artist Tesfaye Negusse

Ethiopian Arts Festival in Atlanta, April 18, 2010


Ethiopian Arts Festival in Atlanta, April 18, 2010

Ethiopian Arts Festival in Atlanta, April 18, 2010

Ethiopian Arts Festival in Atlanta, April 18, 2010

Ethiopian Arts Festival in Atlanta, April 18, 2010

Ethiopian Arts Festival in Atlanta, April 18, 2010

Making a profound impact

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Do you know what Ethiopian website is so powerful that it ranks in the top 5% of all websites in the world? Do you know the Ethiopian website that is recognized as the gold standard of all Ethiopian websites? Do you know the Ethiopian website that gets so many hits that it literally penetrates every continent (excluding Antarctica)? Do you know what website gets over 100,000 hits per day? Do you know which website is so powerful that it literally has become the number one source of information for the Ethiopian Diaspora and beyond?

I will give you a hint; it has the word Ethiopian in the name. No, wrong guess, let me give you another hint; it has the word Ethiopian Review in the name. That’s right! The website is, the most wide reaching Ethiopian related website that has ever been created. Since its inception on January 20th, 1991, Ethiopian Review has exploded to become the number one source of news and information on Ethiopian and East African related events… [read more]

Interview with Col. Alebel Amare (Part 2)

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Part 2 interview with Col. Alebel Amare, senior leader of the newly formed armed Amhara resistance group — Amhara Democratic Force Movement. Watch below.

Opposition alliance MEDREK faces internal crisis ahead of election

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), one of the members of Ethiopia’s major opposition alliance, commonly known as Medrek, is once again engulfed in intraparty squabbles that is threatening to bring down the alliance itself just a few weeks ahead of the general elections next month.

Yesterday, a faction of UDJ led by Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam, held a meeting in Addis Ababa and elected him vice-chairman of the party, dismissing the other executive committee members. (click here to read the press release)

Such an ugly display of infighting only serves to empower the Woyanne junta. If Medrek becomes a powerful alliance, Woyanne will simply order the election commission to give legal status to the faction led by Prof. Mesfin, pulling the rug from under Medrek. It is an opposition alliance that is on a very short leash held by Woyanne.

Medrek is composed of UDJ, Oromo Federal Democratic Movement (OFDM), Arena Tigray for Democracy and Sovereignty (ARENA), Ethiopian Democratic Unity Movement (EDUM), Oromo People’s Congress (OPC), Somali Democratic Alliance Forces (SDAF), and United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF).

Medrek top officials, Ato Seye Abraha, Dr Negaso Gidada, Ato Gizachew Shiferraw and Ato Gebru Asrat, are currently touring the U.S. This past weekend they held town hall meetings in Atlanta, Dallas and Washington DC. Last week they were in Seattle. The turn outs were relatively high, and in Atlanta, particularly, they were received warmly. In Washington DC and Seattle, the delegates have faced though questions and criticism from the audience.

The election next month has a predetermined outcome where Meles Zenawi and the Woyanne tribal junta will be declared winners by the fake election commission.

Distribution centers for YeDerasiw Mastawesha

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Tesfaye GebreAb’s new book, YeDerasiw Mastawesha, are currently available in stores around the world. Click here for more information.

Ethiopia: The Voodoo Economics of Meles Zenawi

Monday, April 19th, 2010

“There are lies, lies and implausible lies,” to quote Meles Zenawi, the dictator-cum-economic spinmeister of Ethiopia. Last week, Zenawi told a snickering Parliament a story that is the equivalent of the proverbial bull that gave birth to a calf (or in Amharic “bere welede”): “We will be seeing an economic growth rate of 10.1 percent this year, while inflation will fall to 3.9 percent. This is the result of sound economic policy.” (Sorry, but this is the result of voodoo economics!)

For the past several years, Zenawi has been making hyperbolic claims of economic growth in Ethiopia based on fabricated and massaged GDP (gross domestic product) numbers, implying that the country is in a state of runaway economic development and the people’s standard of living is fast outstripping those living in the middle income countries. In March 2009, for instance, Zenawi’s bragged that he expected the Ethiopian economy to grow by 12.8 percent. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) disagreed in the same month stating that given the global economic crises Ethiopia could expect only about 6% economic growth. Zenawi dismissively countered those who pointed out the discrepancies: “We have differences with the international financial institutions when we predict our economic growth, but we usually agree on the economic growth statistics at the end of each year.” The questions remain: Did the Ethiopian economy grow by 12.8 percent in 2009/10? Could it be expected to grow by 10.1 per cent in 2010/11? Who is keeping track of the economic statistics?

The Central Statistics Agency (CSA) and the “National Accounts Department of the Ministry Finance and Economic Development” are the two institutions in Ethiopia that are responsible for keeping track of the statistical data and providing analysis on economic performance. But neither organization has the institutional capability to collect reliable and accurate economic data, let alone assemble complete and comprehensive data sets which could serve as empirical bases for economic prognostications. This fact was emphatically stated on March 24, 2010 in the official statement of Paul Mathieu, the IMF team leader who, after conducting an evaluation of the current half fiscal year economic performance of Ethiopia, said: “Statistics collection of the country requires transformations, and we advised the government to do that.” Translated from “diplomatese” into ordinary language, Mathieu’s statement makes it plain that the statistics and data generated and used by the regime to describe Ethiopia’s economic performance and make predictions are basically “cooked up.” The simple fact of the matter is that the statistics buttressing Zenawi’s exaggerated claims and projections of stratospheric economic growth, vanishing inflation and red-hot performance of key economic sectors originate from seriously flawed, massaged and deficient economic data cooked up in the kitchens of the two institutions for whom the IMF recently prescribed “transformations”.

Zenawi’s stated claims of multi-year runaway GDP growth taken at face value defy not only economic realities but also common sense. On March 4, 2009, the IMF reported that Ethiopia’s economic growth could slow to 6 percent in 2009 based on objective factors rooted in the global economic slowdown and specific trends in the critical foreign exchange earning sectors in Ethiopia such as coffee exports (with decreased demand and a 19 per cent decline in price), tourism and transportation, and depreciation of effective foreign exchange rates by 30 percent. The IMF also indicated that Ethiopia has the highest inflation rate (26%) in Africa outside Zimbabwe. In its April 2010 “Background Note: Ethiopia”, the U.S. State Department reported an average inflation rate (FY 2008-2009) of 36%. There is no IMF (or any other credible multilateral institution) year-end or any other report which indicates that Ethiopia could expect a 12.8 or 10.1 percent economic growth or a decline in inflation to 3.9 percent in 2009/10 or any other subsequent year. Indeed, IMF’s Mathieu stated on March 24, 2010 that “non-food inflation remains close to 20 percent, and has been rising in recent months.” The claim that “we usually agree on the economic growth statistics at the end of each year” is simply not true.

However, for a number of years Zenawi’s regime has been pulling a public relations sleight-of-hand by using the IMF as a front to channel its own preferred economic statistics to prove its economic prowess and unrivalled success to the world. For instance, IMF Country Report (Ethiopia) No. 08/264 (July 2008)[1], states: “Growth has averaged 11 percent since 2003/04, far exceeding the minimum target of 7 percent in the Program for Accelerated and Sustainable Development (PASDEP), that is estimated to be consistent with keeping the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) within reach.” On pp. 20-24 of this Report, the origin of the data indicating an 11 percent growth is not some independent data collection and analysis source but the very same Central Statistics Office which last month the IMF said needs massive “transformation”. The footnotes in the above-referenced pages state: “Sources: Ethiopian authorities; and IMF staff estimates and projections.” Similarly, the data source for “Financial Soundness Indicators for Banking” is identified as the “National Bank of Ethiopia; and IMF calculations.” In its official reports, the IMF simply accepts and incorporates at face value the data for GDP growth given to it by the Central Statistics Office (with its own staff estimates) and incorporates those figures in its own report without so much as qualifying it for completeness, accuracy or reliability.

In the above-referenced report, the IMF further presents GDP growth data given to it by Zenawi’s regime for 2005/06 at 11.6 percent and 11.4 percent for 2006/07. The IMF uses its own “estimates” (without fully disclosing its methodology given the fact that IMF staffers are allowed considerable latitude in incorporating country-specific circumstances in making estimates) to make additional GDP growth projections for 2007/08 at 8.4 percent, followed by 6.0 percent for 2008/09; 6.5 percent for 2009/10; 7.5 percent for 2010/11; 7.5 percent for 2011/12 and 7.5 for 2012/13. The discrepancy between the IMF’s and the regime’s estimates appears to reflect the IMF’s clear lack of confidence in the regime’s economic data and analysis.

The bottom line on the regime’s statistical claims of economic growth, financial soundness and the rest of it is that the figures are cooked up in the Central Statistics Office and fed to the IMF, which slavishly (with a wink, nod and a smile) parrots back to the world the same figures with some of its own “staff estimates and projections”. This is the extent of the economic statistical game that continues to be played before our eyes.[2]

On the other hand, with respect to inflation, the World Bank (Policy Research Working Paper 4969, June 2009), citing IMF data concluded, “One of the most affected countries is Ethiopia, which, with the exception of Zimbabwe and small island economies, has had the strongest acceleration in food price inflation during recent years. Average food prices rose by more than 34 percent in 2007/08, but annual inflation reached historical record growth of 91.7 percent in July 2008.” On March 17, 2010, the regime’s Central Statistics Office reported, “Except for cereals, all food components have shown a rise. The prices of fuel, construction materials, clothing and footwear, furniture and personal care (products) are on the rise.” What empirical evidence exists in the first half of 2010 to justify a prediction of a steep decline in inflation to 3.9 percent in 2010/11 or beyond?

All of the statistical fairy tales about the economy told in Parliament were a source of puzzlement and amusement for Mr. Bulcha Demekssa, the leader of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Party (OFDM) and former vice-minister of finance and senior official at various international institutions. Mr. Bulcha asked Zenawi in Parliament how such fantastic GDP figures could be achieved: “The prime minister and the government have repeatedly said Ethiopia has grown by 10 and 11 percent. The prime minister and Ethiopian economists know that it is a miracle for Ethiopia to grow by 11 percent. How is it that Ethiopia grew by 11 percent? We know that China, South-Korea are registering such economic growth. But we are confused how Ethiopia ’s economic is growing like these countries. Our unemployment and poverty is on the rise.” Zenawi’s response was characteristically evasive, and he denied any real discrepancies: “We have differences with the international financial institutions when we predict our economic growth, but we usually agree on the economic growth statistics at the end of each year.

The answer to Mr. Bulcha’s question, of course, is obvious. Magic! All one needs to achieve an 11 percent growth is to invoke the GDP Spirits and recite to them the right incantations about “sustainable development”, “export-led growth” and “improved export revenue sector”. Then sprinkle a palmful of that fine IMF gold dust and command: “Shazam! Let there be economic growth of 10.1 percent! (or 12.8, does not matter any number will do). Abracadabra! Inflation, I command you to go down to 3.9 percent (or 1.1).” But the real “miracle” occurs when the magic wand is waived to deliver economic growth to a precise tenth of a percentage point such as 10.1 percent instead of merely 10.

All of the economic swagger and wind-bagging about unrivalled economic boom, prosperity and progress comes from a regime not known for its economic “literacy”. In an editorial published in the Economist magazine on November 7, 2006 in the context of the Starbucks coffee row, the magazine was graphic in its description of the regime: “The Ethiopian government, one of the most economically illiterate in the modern world, would do well to take Starbucks’s advice.

But there is a more fundamental question to be answered: Could a nation’s economic health be reduced to a single statistical summation? Does GDP growth necessarily mean improved in standard of living? Zenawi says GDP is the only measure of economic performance that has universal acceptance, and he will continue to use it until a better measure comes up. As anyone with an elementary understanding of economics knows, GDP has little value in meaningfully understanding a country’s economic growth, development and prosperity. Its analytical and descriptive value has been thoroughly critiqued in the economic literature. Suffice it to say that to claim that an economy grew by an 10.1 percent is like saying “activity” on city streets increased by 10.1 per cent. The street “activity” without specificity as to crime, car accidents, pedestrian traffic or other events by itself is meaningless. Yet for the past few years, the regime has been trumpeting GDP numbers as some sort of fetish that definitively explains Ethiopia’s economic growth. The GDP numbers, for instance, tell us nothing about the enormous disparity in incomes between the rich and poor in Ethiopia. By overstating economic welfare, GDP calculations do not tell us the magnitude of environmental damage that is taking place. GDP is certainly not a measure of the sustainability of growth, a point repeatedly made in numerous IMF reports on Ethiopia.

Even if actual GDP growth in Ethiopia is 11 percent or more, it is a meaningless statistic when considered in light of the basic needs and well-being of the people. In the vital area of health, for instance, Ethiopia is in a state of absolute wretchedness. According to World Health Organization (WHO) (2006) data[3], to serve a population of 77 million people, there were 1,936 physicians (1doctor for 39,772 persons); 93 dentists (1: 828,000); 15,544 nurses and midwives (1: 4,985), 1,343 pharmacists (1: 57,334) and 18,652 community health workers (1: 4,128). Total expenditure on health as a percentage of gross domestic product was 5.9 per cent. General government expenditure on health as a percentage of total expenditure on health was 58.4 per cent, and private expenditures covered the balance of 41.6 percent. Hospital beds per 10,000 population was less than 25. Per capita expenditure on health was USD$3 at an average exchange rate. WHO’s minimum standard is 20 physicians per 100,000 population, and 100 nurses per 100,000 population. Such is the real matrix of Ethiopia’s 12.8 or 10.1 or whatever fictional GDP number that is pulled from thin air.

On November 3, 2007, the Economist magazine reported:

The fact is that for all the aid money and Chinese loans coming in, Ethiopia’s economy is neither growing fast enough nor producing enough jobs. The number of jobs created by flowers is insignificant beside an increase in population of about 2m a year, one of the fastest rates in Africa…. The government claims that the economy has been growing at an impressive 10% a year since 2003-04, but the real figure is probably more like 5-6%, which is little more than the average for sub-Saharan Africa. And even that modestly improved rate, with a small building boom in Addis Ababa, for instance, has led to the overheating of the economy, with inflation moving up to 19% earlier this year before the government took remedial action. The reasons for this economic crawl are not hard to find. Beyond the government-directed state, funded substantially by foreign aid, there is—almost uniquely in Africa—virtually no private-sector business at all.

The IMF estimates that in 2005-06 the share of private investment in the country was just 11%, nearly unchanged since Mr Zenawi took over in the early 1990s. That is partly a reflection of the fact that, despite some privatisation since the centralised Marxist days of the Derg, large areas of the economy remain government monopolies, closed off to private business. This is where Ethiopia misses out badly. Take telecoms. While the rest of Africa has been virtually transformed in just a few years by a revolution in mobile telephony, Ethiopia stumbles along with its inept and useless government-run services…. There is no official unemployment rate, but youth unemployment, some experts reckon, may be as high as 70%. All those graduates coming out of state-run universities will find it very hard to get jobs. The mood of the young is often restless and despairing; many dream of moving abroad…. Just as the government is slowing the pace of economic expansion for fear that individuals may accumulate wealth and independence, so it is failing to move fast enough from a one-party state to a modern, pluralist democracy. Again, the reason may be that it is afraid to.

The Heritage Foundation, the pre-eminent conservative American think tank echoes the Economist in its 2010 Index of Economic Freedom[4] concluded:

Ethiopia underperforms in many of the 10 economic freedoms. The business and investment regime is burdensome and opaque. The overall quality and efficiency of government services have been poor and are further undermined by weak rule of law and pervasive corruption. Monetary stability is hampered by state distortions in prices and interest rates, and trade freedom is hurt by high tariff and non-tariff barriers…. All imports must be channeled through Ethiopian nationals registered as official import or distribution agents with the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Foreign participation is prohibited in domestic banking, insurance and microcredit services, and several other activities…. Ethiopia ranks 126th out of 179 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2008. Despite legal restrictions, officials have been accused of manipulating the privatization process, and state-owned and party-owned businesses receive preferential access to land leases and credit.

Zenawi is desperate to show economic development of epic proportions in Ethiopia after nearly 2 decades of clinging to power. The fact remains that despite the incredible claims of economic growth, tens of millions of people are starving and go without any health care. Millions of young people remain unemployed and trapped in hopelessness. There is no rule of law and human rights violations are widespread. Whether or not Zenawi’s regime has accomplished an economic feat with few rivals in modern history is not a matter of wishful thinking or public relations. It is a matter of evidence: accurate, complete, reliable and comprehensive statistical evidence that is systematically and carefully collected, analyzed and verified. Such evidence can not be invented, fabricated, manufactured, contrived, concocted or cut from whole cloth. Benjamin Disraeli, the 19th Century British prime minister said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” In Ethiopia today, we are witnessing all three!

[2] To see a consistent pattern of “economic gamesmanship”, see also IMF Country Report (Ethiopia) No. 07/247 (July, 2007); IMF Country Report (Ethiopia) No. 06/159 (May, 2006); IMF Country Report(Ethiopia) No. 05/25 (January, 2005) and other reports prior to these dates.

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, and his commentaries appear regularly on,, and other sites.

Ethiopians' natural tendency to be suspicious

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

By Teddy Fikre

I will admit, I am by no means an expert on the Ethiopian community. In fact, having been away from Ethiopia for over 27 years and growing up in Woodbridge Virginia in a time where there was only two other Ethiopians we knew that lived there, you can say that I have a lot to learn about our community. So take these words not as an authoritative statement but an observation I have made over the past two years as I have endeavored to narrow the chasm between me and my fellow Ethiopians.

If there is one phenomenon I have observed more than any other in these two years in my role of a community organizer is that of a natural tendency of many in our community to be suspicious. It doesn’t matter if a person is advancing a non-profit organization, a business, or a political message, the first inclination of most is to be suspicious of that man or woman. I have my theories for this occurrence ranging from a trauma that has yet to subside of the Derg to people who have come and gone in the past that have advocated a message only to grasp at power or chase fortune. While I am sure that there could be plenty of other reasons for our natural inclination to suspect everyone and everything, I have a high degree of confidence that the two factors mentioned above are the root cause of this problem… [MORE]

Meles Zenawi's propensity for lies

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

By Sophia Tesfamariam

For those of us who are accustomed to Meles Zenawi’s propensity for lies, as well as his trademark boisterous rhetoric and empty bravado, his latest pre-election tantrums and deceptive shenanigans come as no surprise. The leader of the minority regime in Ethiopia, which suffers from delusions of grandeur, has never accepted responsibility for his actions and has always relied on its handlers to clean up his mess, provide it diplomatic, financial and political support as it evades its legal obligations, invades sovereign neighboring states, violates international law, reneges on Agreements it has signed, harasses and intimidates its political opponents, commits genocides and ethnic cleansing in Ethiopia etc. etc. . Today, Meles Zenawi and his cadres find themselves in yet another self created crisis-How can they win in the upcoming Ethiopian elections when the Ethiopian people have clearly spoken and rejected his regime?

The planned elections seem more designed for the consumption of US Congress and world opinion than for the Ethiopian people. With the exception of the US State Department and those who are “clearing the deck” to give Meles Zenawi and his mercenary regime yet another “victory” in the upcoming May 2010 elections, the people of Ethiopia know that the elections will be neither free nor fair. As opposed to the 2005 elections when Meles and his thugs stole the votes, massacred over 200 people on the streets of Addis Ababa and detained over 40,000 people across the country for voting the regime out of office, this time around, the tactics have changed. Meles Zenawi, the street smart Prime Minister and his handlers have come up with a brand new bag of tricks…designed to hoodwink the Ethiopian people and criminalize dissent.

The pre-2010 election preparations include the detention and killing of potential opponents, as well as harassments and intimidations of candidates and their supporters. Many who were eligible and ran in the 2005 elections have been kept abroad by an assortment of legal devices and physical threats. Meles Zenawi uses racial slurs and bigotry to put his opponents on the defensive…every one has his tactics. During Ethiopia’s last elections in 2005, Meles Zenawi branded the Ethiopian oppositions and its major challenger, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), a replica of Interahamwe, and accused them of inciting the violence that erupted after the 2005 elections.

While its handlers concoct excuses for the mercenary regime, Meles Zenawi has taken to the air waves to justify his repressive regime. This foul mouthed and cocky mercenary is heard, once again, making racist and bigoted remarks as he continues to brow-beat his opponents into submission. I am not surprised. I have stated all along that Meles Zenawi was a street smart, genocidal, flip flopping, erratic, bigot and racist and that his regime´s ethnic based policies will eventually destroy Ethiopia, socially, economically and politically. His racist bigotry and ethnocentricity is a matter of public record and well known to the peoples of the Horn region. Allow me to explain.

Bigot and racist

At the height of the Eritrean Ethiopian border conflict, exposing his bigotry and racist attitude, in July 1998, at the height of the Eritrea Ethiopia border conflict ordered the massive and inhumane deportations of over 80,000 Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin from Ethiopia, by saying:

“…The Ethiopian government has the unrestricted right to expel any foreigner from the country for any reason whatsoever. Any foreigner, whether Eritrean, Japanese, etc., lives in Ethiopia because of the goodwill of the government. If the Ethiopian government says ´Go, because we don’t like the color of your eyes,’ they have to leave…”

The African Union, US and European Addis based “diplomats”, “political analysts”, “experts” etc. remained silent as thousands of sick, old, young, and men, women and children, religious leaders, etc. were forced to cross through mine-infested borders because Meles Zenawi did not like the “color of their eyes”. It was a clear violation of international law, but his handlers looked the other way and some even justified his actions and made excuses for him.

So it comes as no surprise that he would use such foul language again to get what he wants. Meles Zenawi is a shameless repeat offender. Today it is African Americans who are being insulted by this racist bigot. It was at a meeting with foreign correspondents on 19 March 2010 that Meles Zenawi made these comments about the Voice of America:

“…We have been convinced for many years now, that in many respects the VOA Amharic service has copied the worst practices of radio stations such as Radio Mill Collins of Rwanda in its wanton disregard of minimum ethics of journalism and engaging in destabilising propaganda…We have from time to time provided piles and piles of evidence to concerned US authorities about it. We have from time to time been promised that they would do something about it. But we have not seen anything being done about it to correct it. Indeed we know, if we shall say, blue blooded Americans being booted out from the VOA if and when they try to correct this violation…”

So who are the blue-blooded Americans-is it only white Americans? Is he saying that President Barack Obama, as a Kenyan-American is not a “real American”? Is he implying that African Americans are not “real Americans”? Are Ethiopian-Americans not “real Americans”? If Johnnie Carson wants to make light of the issue, that is his prerogative. It will only embolden the foul mouthed Meles Zenawi to push the envelope even further. Who will he insult next?

By the way, this blue blooded person that he is referring to is, Jennifer Parmelee, who is today Senior Spokesperson for World food USA. Parmelee is associated with Meles Zenawi´s cousin who also happens to be the brother in law of Samuel Assefa, the Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States. The minority regime may have used Parmelee to influence VoA reporting, that would not be a surprise. Corruption and cronyism, it´s the way Meles Zenawi´s regime conducts all its domestic and international affairs.


A recent report by an Ethiopian group illustrates what I have been saying all along. According to a recent report by an Ethiopian research team, “the current military of Meles Zenawi´s regime is totally dominated by one ethnic group where by some 95% of the top brass of the military emanate from the Tigrayan ethnic group representing about 6% of the population”. Not only are they from Tigray, they are also card carrying members of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF).

There should be no surprises there, as I have previously stated that real power in Ethiopia was efectively in the hands of 7 Tigrayans. As a matter of fact, the most influential, important and key Ministries in Ethiopia are directly and fully controlled, run, supervised and monitored by these 7 Tigrayans: Meles Zenawi, Samora Younis, Abay Tsehaye, Mulugeta Alemseged, Newaye-Kiristos Gebre-Ab, Seyoum Mesfin and last but not least, Bereket Simon, a de facto Tigrayan.

As if Ethiopia has a shortage of qualified and capable sons and daughters, the key and most important government posts are held by Tigrayans. The Prime Minister is Tigrayan, so is the Foreign Minister, Chief of Police, Chief of Staff, Chief of Security, Mayor of Addis Abeba (even though he was voted out of office), Minister of Federal Affairs and his Deputy, even the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church is Tigrayan. In the diplomatic arena, most important Ambassadorial posts are held by Tigrayans or are deliberately staffed by hand picked Tigrayan cadres to act as de facto Ambassadors.

Moreover, Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) members and their families control the transportation, manufacturing and several other industries in Ethiopia. Tigray region is also the single highest beneficiary of the massive aid and loan guarantees that is being given to Ethiopia by the IMF, World Bank and international donors. Schools, colleges, roads, airports, factories, and other infrastructure projects are carried out in the Tigray state while the rest of Ethiopia is ignored, and massive debts are incurred, in the name of the Ethiopian people. Let us take a look at the Tigrayans who are at the helm today:

1. Meles Zenawi, the Tigrayan Prime Minister, serves as Commander in Chief of the Ethiopian Armed Forces with the Tigrayan General Samora Younis as his Chief of Staff, and has absolute control of the Ethiopian army.

2. Abay Tsehaye, founding member of TPLF, is the Public Organization and Participation Advisor to the Prime Minister with the Rank of Minister, and according to the new consolidated structure, he controls, monitors, supervises and runs the so-called Ministry of Federal Affairs.

3. Mulugeta Alemseged, a senior member of the TPLF, is the National Security Affairs Advisor with the Rank of Minister and he controls, monitors, supervises and runs the entire police and security apparatus in Ethiopia.

4. Newaye-Kiristos Gebre-Ab, a Tigrayan from Meles’ village of Adwa, is the Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister with the Rank of Minister and he controls, monitors, supervises and runs all Ministeries associated with economic matters, in particular the Ministries of Finance, Revenue, Trade and Industry, Transportation, Mines and Energy etc. etc.

5. Seyoum Mesfin, another Tigrayan, is the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Because he is a trusted Meles disciple, there was no need to create a “Foreign Policy Advisor position with the Rank of a Minister” in the Prime Minister’s Office. It should be recalled that Seyoum Mesfin served as TPLF’s Foreign Minister for 14 years and has been in the same position since Meles Zenawi´s clique took over power in Ethiopia in 1991.

6. Bereket Simon, (listed as an Amhara), but more TPLF than TPLF itself, is the Public Relations Advisor to the Prime Minister with the Rank of Minister. He controls, monitors, supervises and runs the Ministry of Information.

It is not hard to see that all power has been solidified and consolidated in the hands of Tigrayans, hence my assertion that Ethiopia is ruled by a minority clique. This “supra” body completely dominated by the Tigrayan clique, under the guise of “Advisors with Ranks of Ministers”, is now ruling Ethiopia with an even tighter and ruthless iron fist, and is pursuing the policies of kill, imprison, intimidate, vilify etc, so that it can remain in power, by any means necessary. As for the Ethiopian Afar, Gurage, Hadiya and Somali, whilst they may hold high positions in the Ethiopian Government, they are all controlled, monitored, supervised and run by Tigrayans.

The new form of Apartheid taking hold in Ethiopia has systematically alienated and deprived the Ethiopian people equal rights, but most importantly its divide and rule ethnic policy has rendered the people of Ethiopia hopeless and helpless. But don´t expect Meles Zenawi to feel sorry for them, or take offence if others call out his faults. The cocky foul mouthed street smart Prime Minister has no qualms about biting the hands that feed him. When asked about the imprisonment of Ms. Birtukan Medeska, the street smart Prime Minister retorted:

“…It may sound strange that terrorists who have been taken to court found guilty in a court of law have been characterised as political prisoners by the US which was the country which introduced the world to the concept of enemy combatants who are expected to live in legal limbo in perpetuity. But that is life; I think the French say, “C´est la Vie.” That is how we characterize it…”

Meles Zenawi ought to know; after all, Ethiopia is where some of the so-called “black sites,” part of a C.I.A. network of clandestine overseas prisons are found. Meles is telling his handlers that they do not have the moral or legal authority to question his actions as their´s is the same, or worse. I´ll say he has been a good student, and he seems to be applying the lessons learned quite well. They ought to be proud of their creation.

Ethiopia has a street smart, vote-rigging, genocidal, foul mouthed, racist and bigot for a Prime Minister and the US and the international community have a street smart, vote rigging, genocidal, foul mouthed, racist and bigot as their “staunch ally” in the Horn.

Well, I say…you reap what you sow!

The rule of law must prevail over the law of the jungle!

Ethiopia in Colors Annual Art Festival in Atlanta

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Hanatzeb Arts Gallery will host ‘Ethiopia in Colors Annual Arts Festival’ in Atlanta on Sunday April 18, 2010.

Birtukan Mideksa and a challenge to the Ethiopian Diaspora

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

I will commence a hunger strike in front of the White House to get President Obama or someone from his administration to acknowledge Birtukan Mideksa as a prisoner of conscious and to call for her immediate release from wrongful imprisonment. Fighting for democracy and freedom have always been traditional American values and I will fight for these values for my Ethiopian brothers and sisters. Please join me in the hunger strike which will commence on May 3rd 2010. We can’t save the World but we can certainly do our part. – Chris Flaherty

Watch below the video of Chris Flaherty’s speech at the Horn of Africa Conference in the Washington Metro Area on April 11, 2010:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and conveniences, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

This is a quote from my biggest hero since childhood, Martin Luther King Jr. It was his movement that inspired me to make films documenting the pursuit of democracy and freedom on a World scale. My recent film, Migration of Beauty documents the historical events that led up to the tragic massacre of some 200 unarmed civilians during the 2005 Ethiopian elections. Out of this storm of tragedy rose one of the most promising leaders for Ethiopia’s future, BIRTUKAN MIDEKSA. Shortly after announcing her bid to run against the ruling party in the 2010 elections she was arrested and imprisoned, effectively eliminating any possibility of the ruling party, the EPRDF to lose the election.

Birtukan Mideksa has been declared a “PRISONER OF CONSCIOUS” by Amnesty International and shares the same status as imprisoned Burmese dissident AUNG SAN SUU KYI. President Obama has made a public statement affirming Aung San Suu Kyi’s status as a prisoner of conscious and called for her release. To date, President Obama or the U.S. State Department have not made any such statements concerning the plight of Birtukan Mideksa supposedly because of vested U.S. interest in the Horn of Africa. The Obama Administration is demonstrating their willingness to appease Meles Zenawi and his EPRDF ruling party for the sake fighting the war on terror, trading off the freedom of an entire nation of people.

The New Relation between Eritreans, Ethiopians in the Diaspora

Friday, April 16th, 2010

By Amanuel Biedemariam

For a long time, relations between Eritreans and Ethiopians were antagonistic, combative, competitive and aggressive. Our relation is unique in the fact that we love each other, enjoy each other’s company and, there is a genuine affection for each other. There has always been a respect and love for one another. We have always managed to work and coexist even when situations were at the height of intense conflicts during war times.

However, there is also a love-hate relationship; there is a scar and a history of bloodshed that span for decades. We have paid dearly with countless lives, millions displaced with untold loss, damage and destruction of property. We have squandered opportunities to raise the level and the standard of living for our peoples. We have lost tremendous amount of time without fruitful exchange of ideas that can better the way we live. We have simply wasted valuable time, resources and energy by channeling our energies into unproductive and negative ways.

After the war broke out in 1998, many lost the friendships that lasted for decades before. People argued at work, in their neighborhood and with their friends with hostility. That went-on until the election of 2005. In my view, that is when Ethiopian views started to shift. Because, all of a sudden, Eritrea became less important on their discussions for the future of Ethiopia were suddenly on the table. Soon after the election, the situation in Ethiopia started to tighten. After seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, many Ethiopians were shocked to find the light destroyed and the tunnel filled with smoke to the point that they can no longer see any light.

Right then, the world witnessed the history of Ethiopia unfolding. TPLF dangled some meat for all-to-think that they can have a piece of it, and when the crowed became hungry took-away the meat and, sent the crowd home disappointed and hopeless. That is what happened to the millions, which took to the streets with the hopes of bringing a lasting change for Ethiopia. From there, the situation worsened. Meles started killing people on the streets and placed those who can threaten his power in jail, indiscriminately.

Since then, Ethiopian attitude started to gradually-shift on how they viewed Eritrea as a nation, the people and the government of Eritrea. Many Ethiopians started to look at Eritrea as a viable option to help them on their struggle against the tyrannical regime in Ethiopia. However, the Diaspora-Ethiopian-community believed that they could get help from their US and European friends to pressure Meles and the TPLF. However, after countless hearings, extensive lobbying, demonstrations and other campaigns, the best it yielded was a congressional resolution that failed on the Senate. Ethiopians grew extremely frustrated as a result. They lost the ability to decent in Ethiopia and, when they fled to countries such as Kenya, Sudan and Djibouti they were handed back to Ethiopia by force.

As a result, the idea of working with Eritrea started to grow and became the new reality that Ethiopians needed to come to terms with. Some went to Eritrea from the US and other places to explore and came away feeling good about their trips. These individuals took a risk and paid a price. They were, ridiculed as agents of Shaebia, traitors and so on but they kept on going back for more. One of those trailblazers is Ato Demise Belete, who deserves praise for taking chances and for daring to take the step.

From 2006 until 2008, Ethiopians mulled the idea, flirted with the idea and started experimenting with the idea of working with Eritrea. Suddenly working with Eritrea started to enter into the conversation of mainstream Ethiopia as a major topic of discussion. This signaled a shift on attitude that Ethiopians no longer see Eritrea as threat.

At that moment, two bright individuals decided to conduct an interview with President Isaias by traveling to Eritrea. In preparation to that interview, they decided to engage Ethiopians and asked the question: “If you were to ask any question to President Isaias Afwerki, what would you ask”? The people gave (ER) the answers in the form of questions to President Isaias. ER made the answers public for all to see. By opening dialogue, these two individuals put hard issues on the table and gave people a chance to discuss it. Suddenly, nothing was a taboo regarding Eritrean and Ethiopian issues.

These two individuals are Ato Sileshi Tilahun and Ato Elias Kifle. They deserve tremendous praise for their vision, guts and for daring to ask all the questions on their mind and in the minds of millions of Ethiopians around the world. They asked President Isaias candidly. There were no limits on what they can ask. It was frank and the most candid exchange between journalists and a president I have ever witnessed. President Isaias gave honest answers, and in the process, he changed the minds of many and, they started to see Eritrea differently.

What that interview did, is crack a mountain. It opened a new path. It opened a channel of communication and gave assurance at the highest level; clarified Eritrean positions; empowered Ethiopians by giving them a new channel on their effort to challenge the TPLF gang. It also gave Ethiopians freedom to engage with Eritreans and to find ways that we can work together for mutual interest and benefit. It is from that interview onwards that Eritreans and Ethiopians started to seek partnerships with each other in meaningful ways.

Many may fail to see the importance of the interview. However, the interview created a shift on attitude and is changing the way we see each other. It has given all an option to work towards a common goal. It took the hostility away thus freeing people from anger and resentments they harbored for years. It lifted some of the burden so we can resume a life free from aggression and anger. That is true leadership at work.

From that point on, like-minded-people, from both sides decided to seek each other in an effort to work together. We have worked diligently to establish a working relationship in an effort to galvanize and bring Eritreans and Ethiopians together towards common goals and objectives. When the UNjust sanction 1907 came, many Ethiopians took a principled stand and decided to support Eritreans on their march. The TPLF wanted to sell that solidarity position as if Eritrea is seeking support from Ethiopians because Eritrea is desperate. The reality is, however, the channel of communication and the working-relationship started way before the sanction was on the picture.

The March and what it Meant

After the UNjust sanction measure passed, Eritreans went on full gear to stand against it. There was a limited time from the time Eritreans decided to march until of Feb 22. The decision to invite our Ethiopian sisters and brothers was unanimous. We invited them to give a voice of solidarity and they accepted. We did not seek numbers. All we asked was for representatives from various Horn of African communities to come and give their voice of solidarity.

They came and marched with us blanketed by a colorful Ethiopian flag. It looked and felt natural. Those who were there had the conviction and determination to stand with Eritreans confidently. After the march, they stood on the podium in front of the State Department and gave their voices of solidarity.

All those individuals that stood on the podium took a major step that will have a lasting impact on future relations. They deserve a big kudos for their efforts and sacrifices. The event turned out to be a historic moment in the new era of Eritrean Ethiopian understanding. There is no doubt that whatever relation grows from now on will come from that moment. There are many people worth mentioning however, for the sake of time, I will mention a true dynamo. Ethiopia is lucky to have him; a Community Organizer Extraordinaire Ato. Neamin Zeleke. He deserves tremendous praise and admiration for his determination, vision, bravery, brilliance and doggedness.

This is what the march achieved:

* Eritreans felt good to see Ethiopians in their midst. This is the first time in my life that I witnessed Eritreans and Ethiopians in an important event walking together in support of each other. It was historic and surreal.

* It was joyful to see the reaction of Eritreans as they welcomed their Ethiopian brothers and sisters because it was sincere.

* It showed that we do not have to fight and that we can work together.

* It introduced Ethiopians to Eritrean communities first-hand and, enabled them to see how Eritrean communities operate, in person.

* For the first time, Eritreans and Ethiopians have a legitimate way to reach out for one another using channels they can work with. In other words, a Weyane agent cannot claim to be Eritrean and fool any one because we have a legitimate link. For example, when the decision was-made to set this conference, Ethiopians knew whom to contact. That is important, because it streamlines the process. From now on, all we have to do is build on it.

* It gave the cancer of the Horn of Africa, Meles Zenawi and the TPLF gangs, many sleepless nights because Ethiopians are controlling their agenda and working with Eritreans openly.

The march was symbolic. It was a groundbreaking ceremony. It was a sign of a new day for Eritreans and Ethiopians. It was a moment that Ethiopians shed the past in an effort to move forward. It was also significant because it sent a message to all Ethiopians around the world that, they are welcome by Eritreans everywhere. It was simply magnificent and surreal to witness how Eritreans cheered all those who stood on the podium regardless of what language they used to address them.

The key, President Isaias said Eritreans and Ethiopians needed to talk to each other and work-together. Well, it must be clear to all Ethiopians by now; it is not just President Isaias who welcomed Ethiopians, but thousands of Eritreans welcomed Ethiopians indeed; and those that marched are a reflection of the entire Eritrean nation.

What next?

If the march was a groundbreaking ceremony, it means that we need to build a foundation. We need to build a foundation from concrete, steel and all the sturdy materials that make a foundation solid to the point that nothing can shake it loose.

That foundation needs to be principled and simple. It needs to embrace PEACE as a core- value. We need to embrace the idea of my-brothers-keeper. That means we need to stand for one another, not against each other. We need to refocus on what matters the most to us. That means kids and mothers that suffered for decades, helplessly. We need to make a commitment to support each other. We need to work to rebuild our social and physical infrastructures. We need to build our schools, hospitals and reservoirs. In, simple terms, we need to focus on the bread and butter issues and nothing else. Therefore, we must learn to cooperate in every arena: as sovereign nations, as people, as friends and as neighbors. Now that we have established a link based on people-to-people, we can expand into other areas; but first, let us get rid of the mercenary thug in Menelik Palace.

However, while the possibilities to work for the greater good are there, we cannot underestimate the threats. We need to be aware, know what the threats are, identify them, and be ready to challenge them. The threats are:

* There are many actors with varied interests keen on keeping the status-quo. They are not interested about the people as long as they can benefit by gaining power, influence and money ala Meles Zenawi and his cronies

* There are nations, including the major powers that have a much bigger ambitious agendas. Unfortunately, their interest never-aligns with the interest of the people in the region.

* Some of the threats are-based on our weaknesses, lack of understanding, ethnic and religious tendencies and egos.

* The combinations of these forces can work together all at the same time.

Unfortunately, the people in the Horn of Africa are facing all 4 threats all the time. A combination of greedy individuals, such as Meles, led and financed by superpowers with their own agendas; and the people from the Horn of Africa that are susceptible to division based on race, religion, ethnicity, stubbornness and egos.

In addition, one of the biggest problems we have, as people, is that we fail to communicate with each other genuinely. We lack understanding on how the PR works and how they use it on us. That is the number one weapon for information, disinformation and PR propaganda manipulations.

They have organized mechanisms, think tanks and various institutes to get as to talk about their agendas constantly. They use radio programs they fund through individuals. You can call him Niguse or Rezene, whoever. These people are easy to manipulate cheap. The TPLF gang uses the same tactics to attack the new relation between Eritreans and Ethiopians. However, people have tuned out the TPLF gang because everything they claim is exaggeration, misleading, fabrication, deceitful, condescending and outright lies. And they have learned, effective and aggressive ways to lobby their message- through.

Leading up to the march, TPLF did all that it can to discredit the Ethiopian marchers and the event but failed. After seeing the traction of the new Eritrean-Ethiopian relation, it has gone full force to try to own the issue and stop the momentum. They organized a conference and Meles said that he is willing to talk to President Isaias fully knowing well that it won’t happen.

Here is the kicker. In order to take attention away from this conference, TPLF sent a group, ostensibly in the name of “Opposition” from Ethiopia and they are holding a conference in Seattle as we speak. Here is what is funny. There is an election scheduled to take place in Ethiopia next month and these people are in Seattle campaigning to what end? And not to be outdone; they are featuring Ms. Birtukan Medeksa in their website as if she is there in person. The irony is, these people cannot and do not mention her name while in Ethiopia but they are trying to use her name in Seattle? That shows their total lack of integrity! While that is an attempt to create division and water-down the impact of this conference, it is also a sign of their desperation.

Ethiopians have taken control of their issues and messages. They are doing it on their own time and their way. Weizero Birtukan is here in spirit, and if she were here today, she will not be in Seattle; she will be here to address this group and expose the Weyane duplicity.

Concluding remarks

Our work just begun and we are on the right track. Over the last year, we have accomplished a lot. From the accomplishments, the most satisfying achievement is the fact that we have partners. We know when we want to deal with Ethiopians where to go and vice versa. That will help to streamline our collective messages and propel the relationship to a new height.

For decades, we grew apart and developed unneeded animosity. We all have take responsibility and take part of the blame. But what is sad is we have a lot that unites us. I have used this quote from Dr. Haile Mezghebe in the past and I will use it again because it is very relevant. We need to hear this repeatedly so it can sink in because it will make a difference.

He said, paraphrasing, {when I went to school, I learned how my teachers worked on issues. If there are 10 issues on the table and they disagreed on all nine but agreed on one issue; they set aside the nine and worked on- the-one issue they agreed on and worked up-words from there. To the contrary, while agreeing on all nine issues if we disagree on one issue, that one issue will tear-us-apart and become a major source of conflict.}That is powerful statement.

We have more reasons for unity that any issue that could create a wedge. There should be no hurdle to strengthen our relationship. I personally do not see any issues that could stop us from achieving the highest-form of friendship, partnership and neighborly relation.

The only issue that some Ethiopians dangle is the issue of access to the sea. However, Eritreans want Ethiopians to the have access to the sea as well. Eritreans want Ethiopia to be a successful nation. As President Isaias stated, Eritrea wants a united Ethiopia that is successful. The only impediment to improving the lives of millions of Ethiopians and Eritreans is not lack of access to the sea; it is the emotional barriers, lack of imagination and unwillingness to accept the reality; otherwise, there is no limit to what we could achieve as long as there is respect for territorial integrity and national sovereignty.

Therefore, our focus needs be to work together for the sake of peace and to bring a lasting change for the people of the Horn of Africa. Otherwise, we will continue on the same path, and exacerbate the current problems.

This is a question that we must ask; does any one think that, what is taking place in Somalia would continue if Somalis, Ethiopians, Eritreans and others from the region stood united and stood against it consistently? The answer is, No!

US policy in Africa will not change. That is something we need to accept as reality. For evidence, review the Senate Armed Services Committee March 9, 2010 hearing on Africom. Listen to all the recent comments by various US officials, and most importantly, look-back at the events that unfolded during the climate conference in Copenhagen between President Obama, President Sarkozy and Meles.

The only way US policy will change is if we are united. We have to be able to stand for each other. We have to be a unit to have a voice. That is how we can bring change we can believe in. That is how we can bring respect and sanity back to our people. That is how we can earn respect and demand accountability from politicians.

If we see unjustified incrimination on our Somali brothers today and you failed to stand up today, it will happen to you tomorrow. To do that, we have to overlook the baggage we carried for decades and look forward. We are all in the same boat regardless of where we come from. Therefore, we need to make a personal commitment to make sure that we are committed to the wellbeing of each other, for the safety, growth and wellbeing of our people.

There is a saying in Eritrea and it goes like this. “Firdi Guana Keinan Yu Metakosi.” What that means is when a stranger judges, it is always bent or twisted and creates fights amongst brothers. That means we have to look for indigenous solutions. To achieve that, we need to learn to trust each other by working through legitimate channels, by making a commitment for peace and each other.

As an Eritrean, I am glad and proud to know that my people and government are committed to the ideals I expressed.

I would like to make it clear that all the comments are my comments.

I sincerely thank the organizers of the event for doing a great job and for overcoming challenges. I would like to thank and congratulate Ato Neamin for doing a great job.

(The above was delivered at the recent Horn of Africa Conference on Good Governance that was held in the Washington Metro Area. Ato Amanuel Biedemariam can be reached at

How to win elections in Ethiopia – Ted Vestal

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Governance and Human Rights: How to win elections in Ethiopia

Presented at Conference on Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, 9-11 April 2010

By Theodore M. Vestal

Governance in Ethiopia suffers from deficits of democracy and abuses of human rights. For eighteen years tyranny in its harshest form has persisted. The people endure under a despotic system marked by brutality, corruption, poverty, and suffering. What democratic freedoms the people might once have enjoyed are eroded, and basic human rights, including freedom of religion, conscience, speech, assembly, association, and press are badly abused. Specifically, there are limitations on citizens’ right to change their governments; official impunity; arbitrary arrest and detention; lengthy pretrial detention; difficult prison conditions; and interference with privacy rights. Human rights reports cast doubt on how effective the rule of law really is. Due process of law and equal protection of the law appear lost.

These shortcomings come together in “elections” held in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), since coming to power in 1991, has won all the elections held in Ethiopia. The party has literally written the book on how to win elections in Ethiopia. But the political processes are an integral part of the entire EPRDF gestalt. A “wholeness” that makes difficult the separating of any component parts of the Party’s organization and practices.

In analyzing the theory and practice of EPRDF’s “success” in governing and electioneering, the acronym POSDCORB of classical public administration is relevant.1 The acronym which formulates the responsibility of a chief executive stands for the principles of Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Coordinating, Reporting, and Budgeting. The EPRDF, from the beginning of its reign, has followed, perhaps willy-nilly, these principles of administration. My remarks will look at how and why the EPRDF has governed, abused human rights, and won all the elections by applying the principles of the acronym.

I. PLANNING, that is working out in broad outline the things that need to be done and the methods for doing them to accomplish the purpose set for the enterprise:

A. EPRDF’s “Our Revolutionary Democratic Goals and the Next Steps” (1993) distributed to party cadre but not made public. (Ethiopian Register 1996.2)

Clear statement of political and economic goals of the Front and the strategies and tactics to be used in attaining them. Revolutionary Democracy based on idea that Party leaders at the center of public life should direct all aspects of society on the basis of a superior knowledge of the nature of social development conferred on them by the party ideology. The reality is a classic totalitarian structure, an attitude of “We know what is best for you,” a wholeness of purpose generated from the roots of the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray from which too much resort to reason and language is not welcome and supposedly is conducive to separation from the utopian society envisioned by the Party’s true believers.

1. Political Goal: materializing the peoples’ political and human rights completely vs. “oppressors,” those who oppose the EPRDF. If rights of oppressors or vacillators clash with rights of masses, the rights of the oppressors will have to be suppressed.
a. Constitution protects rights of masses. Institutions are established to protect the constitution and EPRDF-made laws. When oppressors obstruct the exercise of the rights of the masses, any relevant legal article can be cited to punish them. Enforced by police and army.
b. Political parties: the masses will have many parties and oppressors will have the opportunity to organize. If oppressors try to obstruct the masses from exercising their rights, the constitution and other laws will be used to punish them and bring under control their illegal activities.

2. Set up government to ensure all-round participation of the masses. Power structure to enable people to decide on local issues at Kebele, Woreda, zone, regional, and central level.

3. Ensuring peoples’ right to self-determination and building Ethiopia’s unity based on equality and free choice. EPRDF credo: nations, nationalities, and peoples’ right to secede.

B. Political Strategies: ensure permanent hegemony

1. “Only by winning the elections successively and holding power without letup can we securely establish the hegemony of Revolutionary democracy. If we lose in the elections even once, we will encounter a great danger. So, in order to permanently establish this hegemony, we should win the initial elections and then create a situation that will ensure the establishment of this hegemony. In the subsequent elections, too, we should be able to win without interruption.”

2. “Should the enemy and vacillators win elections and gain hegemony, the country will be hurled into an endless crisis and Ethiopia would not survive as a nation.”

II. ORGANIZING, that is the establishment of the formal structure of authority through which work subdivisions are arranged, defined and coordinated for the defined objective;

A. EPRDF’S Organizational Structure and Operation, 1995: to secure the highest unity between the thoughts and action of the Front and its members.3 Struggle for Revolutionary Democratic goals by extending control over political, economic, and social activities of the country. Works primarily through cadres, professional revolutionaries whose occupation is largely or entirely political activity. The work of cadres blurs the line between the state and the ruling party giving them a two-edged sword with which to cut down the opposition.

1. Organizational ladder descends from highest rungs of government to lowest steps of rural locality. “Democratic centralism:” offices of President, Prime Minister, Parliament, central government ministries and agencies, including public enterprises–all are part of Party network.

2. In states, EPRDF organizational units control activities in killil, zonal, woreda, sub-woreda, and kebele administrations and thus are able to intimidate individuals at a household level. Universities, high schools, hospital and non-government organizations, and profit-for-the-party companies are in the scheme.

3. Major responsibility of cadres is “monitoring” (spying on) the people in general and opposition forces in particular. Cadres infiltrate independent associations, such as trade unions, professional organizations, or any other civil associations, and attempt to take over positions of leadership. Any organization that is not controlled from the top by cadre is considered dangerous and is to be opposed vehemently.

4. The ethnic components of the Party, the TPLF, OPDO, ANDM, and SEPDF have their own parallel leadership structures but command of the ethnic fronts remains with the leadership of the EPRDF.

5. Encouraging membership in the EPRDF by making access to fertilizer, food assistance, health care and schools conditional on membership of the ruling party. Conversely, withholding such carrots is used to punish and ostracize those perceived as supporting the political opposition

B. Organization and propaganda mobilize the masses.

1. Mold the outlook of the rank and file members and the public at large by firmly indoctrinating them with the outlook of revolutionary democracy. Party control of mass media is vital to the effort.

2. Party dominates independent associations while maintaining their façade of autonomy. Where difficulties arise, create new organization. The aim of these organizations: to duplicate all existing professional associations and then to destroy the credibility of the older existing ones in the eyes of the general public.

III. STAFFING, that is the whole personnel function of bringing in and training the staff and maintaining favorable conditions of work.

a. Cadre and their training and discipline, omnipresent throughout system.

b. Pervasive bureaucracy staffed by Party. All provide protective mask for the inner, elite corps with their special tool–the secret police. In the center is the Party Leadership exercising total, arbitrary control and demanding instant, unquestioning obedience.

c. Non-independent judiciary to interpret laws in politically correct way.

d. EPRDF-controlled military to provide security for the regime and control of society. Police, under Party control, maintain internal security. Midnight raids of homes of political opponents to haul off suspects for unspecified crimes for unspecified periods of time—frequently to secret places of incarceration. If the suspects get released, they have to sign a pledge to abstain from political activities and have to frequently sign-in with the local kebele to make sure they are behaving. The EPRDF rules by having a monopoly of terror. Controls by inducing fear and repression—classic totalitarianism, according to Hannah Arendt.

IV. DIRECTING, that is the continuous task of making decisions and embodying them in specific and general orders and instructions and serving as the leader of the enterprise.

a. EPRDF maintains power by stifling political opposition and bridling dissent. The number of political prisoners in the country has been a not very secret disgrace since the EPRDF came to power. The most glaring example of that is, of course the imprisonment of opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa, whose pardon for alleged acts of treason was revoked as she was rearrested and given a life prison term for failing to deliver a public apology for acts committed during the post-2005 campaign. The recent murder of a political opponent in Tigray is but the latest in a continuing series of politically motivated killings, kidnappings, disappearances, torture, rapes, and beatings. There have also been insidious threats against leading activists, which have forced a number of them to flee the country. All of this is done with impunity for the perpetrators—official or otherwise.

b. Laws impose difficult requirements on opposition political parties and voluntary associations. Elections sideline the opposition before it gets organized.

c. Regulations purportedly guarantee responsible behavior of independent media in reality muzzle them. Journalists threatened or arrested. Blocking out broadcasts of the Voice of America or controlling content of the internet are flagrant abuses of the citizens’ rights to a free flow of information—without which democracy cannot exist.

d. Prior to the 2010 elections, legislation was introduced in parliament designed to stifle independent activity by civil society groups in Ethiopia, clamp down on election media coverage, and limit acts of political protest, all under the pretext of government concerns about fighting terrorism.

V. COORDINATING, that is the all-important duty of interrelating the various parts of the work.

1. EPRDF in all its guises, governmental and private sector, central government and state governments, ethnic groups—pervasive throughout society.

2. Layer upon layer, like the body of an onion: all but the deadly core operating as automatons in a monstrous, mindless and malevolent bureaucracy. All coordinated from the top party leadership.

VI. REPORTING, that is keeping those to whom the executive is responsible informed as to what is going on, which thus includes keeping himself and his subordinates informed through records, research and inspections.

VII. BUDGETING, with all that goes with budgeting in the form of fiscal planning, accounting and control.

a. TPLF controls the country’s leading corporations and, by extension, most of its trade.

b. EPRDF with crony capitalists occupies the “commanding heights of the economy.” They have done so since their days in the bush taking in humanitarian aid that ended up in other budgeting pockets.

c. The party has an array of anticompetitive weapons, and it has adroitly found ways to restrain trade, rig markets, and suppress competition.

d. According to international financial institutions, the EPRDF controls or owns most of the Ethiopian economy

That is the POSDCORB of the EPRDF. Life is tolerable for cadres and members who believe in the ideological goals and outcomes of the party. For others, especially those identified as enemies of the regime, life is “Hell with the lid off.”

How does Ethiopia escape from the dominance of an autocratic state and party? Past experience suggests that the EPRDF will never willingly share power widely nor will it allow meaningful political competition to thrive. So long as the EPRDF enjoys a monopoly of terror there will be no change in the Party’s domination. Continued repressions may well invite a return to civil war. The alternatives make a negotiated attempt at establishing a liberal democracy all the more attractive.4 I fail to see negotiation coming about without a major change in circumstances. Who or what can make such a change remains to be seen. Friends of Ethiopia can only hope it will come about sooner rather than later.


1. POSDCORB is an acronym created by Luther Gulick and Lyndall Urwick in their “Papers on the Science of Administration” (1937). [Gulick, Luther Halsey, and Lyndall F. Urwick, eds. 1937. Papers on the Science of Administration. New York: Institute of Public Administration.] Developed as a means to structure and analyze management activities, it set a new paradigm in Public Administration. Based on the theories of Henri Fayol’s 14 Principles of Management, Gulick and Urwick disputed the prevailing thinking that there was a dichotomy between politics and administration. Instead that it was impossible to separate the two. It has been called the “high noon of orthodoxy,” due to the assumption that it was the principles that were important and not where they were applied. [Nicholas Henry, “Paradigms of Public Administration,” Public Administration Review, Vol. 35, No. 4, (July – Aug., 1975) p.380.]

2. Vestal, Ethiopia: A Post-Cold War African State (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999), chapter 7, “The Strategy of the EPRDF.”

3. Ibid., chapter 10, “Organizing Revolutionary Democracy.”

4. Ibid., chapter 18, Next Steps Towards Democracy.”

Declaration of the Horn of Africa Conference

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Virginia Declaration of the Conference on Good Governance, Peace, Security and Sustainable Development in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa

A three day conference on Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, which was organized by two civil society organizations- Advocacy for Ethiopia (AFE) and Ethiopian National Priorities Consultative Process (ENPCP), and sponsored by Trans Africa Forum and Africa Action, was successfully held in Crystal City, Virginia, from April 9 to 11, 2010. The participation of several hundreds of Ethiopians, experts, scholars from the United States and Europe, men and women of the Arts, former diplomats and leaders of civic organizations, with Honorable Ana Gomes of the European Parliament, speaking over the telephone from the Sudan, made the conference rich and unique. The conference addressed broad themes of good governance, conflict, civil society and development in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, and has adopted the following roadmap:

ALARMED by the escalation of ethnic and religious polarization, active and latent conflicts in Ethiopia and Somalia, further endangering the livelihood of millions of people and disturbing international peace, and the total absence of a freely elected and accountable governance system in the region;

DEEPLY CONCERNED by the political, economic and social policies implemented by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in the last 19 years, which has failed to make maximum use of the catalytic roles of the donor community’s commitment for good governance, building national consensus, and boosting productivity and alleviating endemic poverty;

NOTING WITH DISAPPOINTMENT that, despite the unabated generous aid flows estimated at $25 billion to $30 billion since 1991, almost all of the credible international economic and governance indices rank Ethiopia at the tail end of world development, to the extent that the country, by the end of 2009, had an estimated 5 million orphans and 13-14 million or 16 percent of the country’s population being identified as dependent on international food aid. Notwithstanding these, the government unashamedly claims double digit economic growth and success in the alleviation of poverty;

RECONGNIZING with dismay that Ethiopia will be entering the next election without adequate preparation, and more importantly, under a cloud of impunity, relentless human rights violations, vigilantism, and the incarceration of political leaders like Ms. Birtukan Mideksa and others, while at the same time the ruling party uses federal and foreign aid funds to recruit youth supporters, all these being done with the intent of building a single-party state.

NOW THEREFORE, We, the AFE and ENPCP, together with the broad cross-section of Ethiopian participants of the three days conference:

1.1 Have agreed that the quagmires that Ethiopia finds itself are by and large a result of the 19 years of poor political leadership of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his TPLF/EPRDF party. We strongly believe that neither peace nor development can be achieved and sustained while Ato Meles Zenawi is in power. Hence, he must immediately exit the Ethiopian political scene, preferably peacefully.

1.2 We call upon all political parties, including the TPLF/EPRDF, to convene an all inclusive National Conference for Peace and Reconciliation, with a view to establishing a Transitional Government of National Unity that prepares the country for an unfettered free and fair election.

1.3. Call on the Ethiopian people to continue their valiant struggle for peace, democracy and respect for the rule of law. We urge all Ethiopians to continue to resist the divide and rule policies of the regime; we also admire the resistance of the Ethiopian people against religious extremism.

1.4 Call upon the Ethiopian people inside the country and in the Diaspora to support and stand with forces that celebrate our diversity while trying to cement the foundations of a united country. We specifically call on all Ethiopians who are being forcefully recruited by the ruling party to side with the people and refuse to engage in any action that may be harmful to their brothers and sisters.

1.5 Commend and applaud opposition parties, civic organizations and their leaders for the work they do under difficult circumstances, and call upon them to create unity, coordinate their efforts, form unbreakable coalitions, and prepare for pre and post election scenarios.

1.6 Call upon the Ethiopian Diaspora to rise to the challenges and provide material, moral and intellectual support to forces that are committed to advancing good governance and democracy in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

1.7 Call for the convening of civil society organizations with a view to establishing strong rights advocacy networks that can better express the voice of the voiceless, and the causes of the people of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

1.8 Encourage all Ethiopians to vote for a party that stands for democracy, good governance, unity, and at the same time support democratic forces that stand to defend and protect their votes.

1.9 Call on Ethiopian Americans to use their voting rights to influence U.S. policies towards Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

1.10 Call upon the citizens of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa to respect and defend the rights of women and children.

1.11 Agreed to establish a working group and broaden the breadth and scope of this declaration so that other stakeholders could join the process in taking the roadmap into action.

2.0 To the TPLF/EPRDF

2.1 Condemn the relentless human rights violations, extrajudicial killings, persecutions and crimes against humanity committed by the TPLF/EPRDF security forces in Addis Ababa, Arba Gugu, Bedeno, Gambella, Hadiya, Hawasa, Ogden, Oromia, and other parts of Ethiopia, and demand that those responsible be held accountable and brought to justice without delay.

2.2 Call for the abandonment of the use of the anti-terrorist and civil society laws as smokescreens to suppress dissent and deny Ethiopians their fundamental economic, social and political freedoms.

2.3 Join human rights organizations, parliamentarians, governments and the Ethiopian people in demanding for the immediate and unconditional release of Ms. Birtukan Mideksa and all other political prisoners.

2.4 Demand that the top brass as well as the rank and file of the Ethiopian military properly reflect the ethnic and religious diversity of the Ethiopian people, and the army’s size, shape, capability and doctrine be improved.

2.5. Demand that the TPLF/EPRDF ceases its manipulation of the electoral process by using federal and donor funds, political party controlled funds, sheltered employment, land and fertilizer.

2.6 Call upon the TPLF/EPRDF and the House of Peoples Representatives to initiate a constitutional reform in accordance to the will of the people, and define a term limit for the office of the Prime Minister.

27 Urge the TPLF/EPRDF to desist from blocking the Ethiopian people from having access to information. We condemn the government’s blocking of the Internet, the jamming of the Voice of America, and the muzzling of the local media.

2.8. Call upon the TPLF/EPRDF to revisit its opaque long-term farmland leases to foreign investors, which we know is dispossessing citizens from the lands and waters on which they depend to survive. We demand the setting-up of an independent expert group, with the full participation of local communities, in order to assess the costs and benefits and ecological as well as social risks of farmland leases to foreign investors. We believe that some of the land leases have the potential to change the geopolitical equation of the region. We also demand that the TPLF/EPRDF discloses all the details of the contracts to the general public.

2.9 Demand that the government discloses the purpose and nature of the ongoing border negotiation with the Sudan, and that TPLF/EPRDF refrains from once again abrogating Ethiopia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

2.10 Demand the immediate repeal of the charities and societies, media, and the anti terrorism proclamations.

2.11 Demand that political party owned and “endowed” companies be urgently reformed.

3.0 To the people of the Horn of Africa:

3.1 We believe that our similarities and connectedness far outweigh our differences. Let peace and stability and democracy shine in our region. Let’s try our level best so that our wounds heal.

3.2 We encourage the continuation of the relationship that has recently been started by scholars from Eritrea and Ethiopia, and hope that such conversations would lead to new beginning which will be mutually beneficial to the brotherly peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia. Everyone knows that Eritrea and Ethiopia are invariably linked by history, religion, culture, economy, and security. It is thus costly and wasteful for both to maintain the status quo.

3.3 We encourage free and fair elections in all of the countries of the Horn of Africa. We wish success to the people of the Sudan in the ongoing election, and in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

3.4 We encourage the international community and the people of Somalia to work together in finding solutions to the complex problems of the country.

4. To the Diplomatic and Donor Community:

4.1 We urge all donor countries, particularly the Government of the United States, especially President Barak Obama to live up to the statements that he has made about Africa. We urge the U.S. not to use double standards. We believe the blind eye afforded to Prime Minster Meles Zenawi by the United States has resulted in strengthening repression in Ethiopia. We, therefore, demand a thorough review of the United States’ policy towards Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

4.2 We call on the Government of China to desist from assisting the Ethiopian Government’s anti democratic practices, particularly in providing technical support to block the Internet and the jamming of radio broadcasts. We also call upon the Government of China to make trade mutually beneficial.

4.3 We call upon the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to attend to the call for the investigation of crimes against humanity in Ethiopia.

4.4 We call upon the United States, the United Kingdom and European Union to investigate whether tax payers’ money collected during the 1984/85 in Ethiopia has indeed been used for strengthening the TPLF’s Red Army.

4.5 Let it be known that we condemn and oppose, in the strongest possible terms, all forms of extremism and terrorism.

Crystal City Virginia, United States of America, April 11, 2010.


Col. Alebel Amare introduces newly formed armed Amhara group

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Col. Alebel Amare talks about the newly formed armed Amhara resistance group — Amhara Democratic Force Movement — in the interview below. Col. Alebel is one of the top leaders of the group and a former deputy commander of the Agazi Army. In a phone conversation with Ethiopian Review today, Col. Alebel said that his group is working in close collaboration with the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF). Watch below:

Ethiopia's dictatorship is not a bulwark of stability

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

By Mike Peter

Open letter to Dr. Charles Tannock MEP, Member of European Parliament for London
Email: ,

Dear Dr. Charles Tannock:

I am writing to express my disappointment and dejection vis-à-vis your article titled “It’s time to give Ethiopia the diplomatic tools that it requires.” By any measure, your article is untimely, inappropriate, and unethical. Are you advising the current regime to hang on to power? Is it not undemocratic and high-handed for any elected official, to endorse the ruling clique before even the votes were cast and ballots have been tallied? Do you really have up-to-date information how our people in Ethiopia are dealing presently with the régime?

When in 1999 you were elected for European Parliament, I had a great appreciation for your decision to give up your highly-regarded psychiatry practice to take office in Brussels. I honestly believed at that time that you as a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists would be one of the elected officials, who will forever have a great respect for human rights of any society in our planet, including that of Ethiopians.

It is a candid statement that past policies of western governments were geared up around the idea that “strongmen” bring stability. Due to their misguided geopolitics, western countries have contributed in the past to instabilities around the world. But we are noticing at present the downside of such unwise and precarious strategy. This is due to the fact that the rulers, which were supported in the past by western governments, have become recurrently oppressive and totalitarian. It is also our recent memory that removing dictators from such countries has required quiet significant human lives and enormous material resources. Despite some progress, several regions of the world are still volatile and above all instability is a looming threat in Western-allied dictatorships that are currently embraced as bulwarks of stability.

In case of Ethiopia, it is no more hush-hush that there are widespread violations of human-rights and annihilation of self-esteem of citizens by the régime. At this instant, Ethiopians are dying from hunger and starvation; this incessant suffering of our fellow Ethiopians is breaking our heart; and absolutely unbearable for any human being. The people of Ethiopia opposite to that you may believe, being in western democracy, are living daily in trepidation and under terror from the régime. There is confrontation between the ruling party and the downhearted people in every corner of Ethiopia. Moreover, due to the discontent and harassment from the régime, there are skirmishes between the régime and several armed groups all over the country. Our unity and existence as a country is in jeopardy. I want to assure you that as noble, proud, and very tranquil people, we Ethiopians wish for ourselves a united, secured, democratic, and wealthy nation; as others do.

Don’t you believe that the innocent British geologist, who was lately shot dead in an ambush, had incorrect information about the security in Ethiopia? Is he got killed by bandits as the Ethiopian regime claims? Is Ethiopia a stable country as you may think, to send your skilled countrymen ( /en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/sub-saharan-africa/ethiopia)? Aren’t you accountable as a British diplomat for not informing your citizens about security issues in any part of the world? Besides, isn’t it appropriate and valuable for you and your colleagues to help Ethiopians to build a democratic and secured nation in the currently unstable Horn of Africa?

I indisputably believe that for a stability of any country it is crucial to have a leader that is intelligent, strong, caring, and devoted to his people. Ethiopians were assiduously looking-for such a leader for several decades. Nevertheless, we were unfortunate and our effort couldn’t bear fruit. That is why; it is deplorable for us at this time to tolerate a ruler, who drove us to more misery and insecurity for more than two decades.

Other issue that I want to bring to your attention is that the régime in power, to extend its survival, is seeding detestation and driving wedges among various ethnic groups in Ethiopia; which is by far the most precarious and dangerous action that is expected only from irresponsible and immature government. As you know that, the circumstance that happened in Rwanda due to the administration in power at that time is not a distant memory. Therefore, I want you and your colleagues in the European Parliament to be aware of the state of affairs in Ethiopia. We do not need any apology in the future, either from you or your colleagues, similar to that of western diplomats’ for their silence in the face of the Rwanda genocide. We call for your support now!

Finally, I want to let you know that freedom is non-negotiable and a question of survival for Ethiopians. I have wished for myself and preferred that your article read “It’s time for western countries to help Ethiopians to build a stable, democratic, and prosperous society.” I hope you as a member of the Europe for freedom and democracy Group will agree with me that Ethiopia as a nation deserves liberty.

(Dr. Mike Peter, PE, can be reached at

Carter Center declined to observe next month elections in Ethiopia

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – The European Union has agreed to monitor Ethiopia’s elections in May, nearly five years after Addis Ababa accused the EU’s chief observer in the last poll of helping to spark violence.

The U.S.-based Carter Centre declined an invitation to observe, saying there was not enough time to prepare for the May 23 vote in the impoverished nation on the Horn of Africa.

“(EU foreign affairs chief) Baroness (Catherine) Ashton last week decided to send a full observation team for the elections,” EU ambassador to Ethiopia, Dino Sinigallia, said late on Tuesday on state-run Ethiopian television.

The monitoring team will be 200-strong and have a budget of about $10 million, Sinigallia said.

Next month’s election will be the first since a government victory in 2005 was disputed by opposition parties and some observers. Monitors said the poll fell short of global standards.

Security forces killed about 200 protesters and imprisoned the main opposition leaders in the aftermath of the vote five years ago.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had accused the chief EU observer of siding with the opposition and stoking the violence.

Some critics and analysts say that the EU presence at the coming election risked legitimising a fraudulent poll, in a country of 80 million people and more than 80 ethnic groups.

“The mission won’t be able to properly observe,” one analyst, who did not want to be named for fear he would be refused entry to Ethiopia, told Reuters.

Family pay tribute to British geologist killed in Ethiopia

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Jason Read

PORTSMOUTH, UK ( — Geologist Jason Read, 39, died on Monday, April 5, when his military escort were ambushed in the conflict ridden region of Ogaden in Ethiopia.

Mr Read was killed and his guards wounded before they were able to return fire.

Mr Read, well known in the Portsmouth area as Justin Packham before he changed his name approximately 15 years ago, had been working in Ethiopa for a geophysics company based in Derbyshire.

In a statement, his father, Stan Packham, said: ‘Justin lived his life to the full and made many friends. He will be sadly missed by a lot of people.

‘Everyone who knew him would have a different story to tell about him.

‘He was due to come home to see Pompey play in the semi-finals, but he never made it. He was Pompey-mad and would have been so pleased to see them win.

‘He grew up in Paulsgrove as a youngster and went to the City of Boys school.

‘He was extremely close to his grandmother. Wherever he was in the world, he would always send her a postcard and a gift home.

‘Justin loved his work because he hated being out of work. We’re a very large, close family. Justin’s got three brothers and a sister, and was uncle to 11 nieces and nephews. He’s also got two step-brothers and a step-sister

‘When he was home, he adored the kids. He went to see each one of his brothers and sisters to spend time with all of them. But once he’d done that, he had to get back to work wherever it was; he hated being out of work.

‘When Justin was 18, he bought a one-way ticket to Hong Kong and slept rough for about six weeks before he got a job at the airport. He ended up driving trucks with massive wheels without even knowing how to drive. When he came back to England, he flew straight back out to Germany to work with me as a bricklayer again.

‘It takes a certain breed of worker to do the jobs he did. He’s been to Uganda, Ethiopa, Madagascar, Somalia as well as Europe with the same firm.

‘He knew what to expect from the job he was doing. The firm, Tesla IMC, has been very good. They’ve been very supportive throughout.’

EPPF fighters free prisoners from Woyanne jail (video)

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Fighters of the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) helped free prisoners from a Woyanne prison… and other news. Watch below:

Horn of Africa conference draws cross-section of experts (VOA)

Monday, April 12th, 2010

By Peter Clottey | VOA

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA — A three-day conference that focused on good governance, peace and security as well as sustainable development in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa ended over the weekend in the Washington-Metro Area of Arlington, Virginia.

Horn of Africa Conference in Washington DC, April 2010

Aklog Birara, a senior advisor at the World Bank and an organizer of the conference, said it was a soul-searching conference, adding that Ethiopia’s future and that of the Horn of Africa will largely depend on the talent pool of experts in the Diaspora.

“One of the features that really attracted me is the fact that it (conference) drew a cross-section of experts — foreign experts, Europeans, Americans, Ethiopians, and Ethiopian-Americans from different backgrounds. Overall, there were more than 70 speakers on different topics,” he said.

The conference organized by Advocacy for Ethiopia (AFE) and the Ethiopian National Priorities Consultative Process attracted specialists, former diplomats, human rights activists, and scholars, as well as top officials of the international community.

Birara said the conference also focused on how countrymen living abroad can help improve the lives of Ethiopians back home.

“The focus was on Ethiopia, the Ethiopian people, and the Horn of Africa particularly. What is it that all of us can do that will make a difference in terms of the ordinary people in Ethiopia. What is it that we can provide in terms of really engendering hope (and) aspiration. Bridging relations, for example, across ideological and ethnic lines,” Birara said.

The organizers believe that development in Ethiopia, the stability and its viability, as well as peace and economic development in the region are tied to how Addis Ababa and the international donor community can work together to address previously unmet challenges.

They also said the stakes for Ethiopia and its population of 83 million people are higher than at any other time in its history.

Birara said unity and dialogue among Ethiopians could help rebuilding efforts.

“One of the areas that we tried to explore was we can’t just be constant critics. How is it that we can bridge relationships in order to contribute our part at least in building durable, strong-pluralized institutions in Ethiopia? I think the fact is that we do not reach out to one another across ethnic lines. Dialogue among us, you know. And also dialogue between the opposition parties and government. We need to really accentuate the reaching out,” Birara said.

He added that if Ethiopians fail to come together, the challenges facing the country will persist.

Ethiopian man kills mother, daughter in Virginia

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Simon Asfeha

Alexandria, VIRGINIA (NBC News) — Alexandria Police are searching for a man they believe murdered his own 3-year-old daughter and the child’s mother.

34-year-old Simon Bahta Asfeha is now wanted for first-degree murder in the deaths of 27-year old Seble Tessema and their child, according to police. Tessema and Asfeha reportedly had a prior relationship, but don’t appear to have been married.

Police were called out to the Brent Place apartments off of 375 S. Reynolds Street around 10:30 a.m. for reports of a domestic disturbance. Instead, they found the bodies of the mother and child. “They found two victims deceased on an apartment on the 14th floor. We’re investigating the case as a suspicious death right now,” said Deputy Chief of Alexandria Police Blaine Corle.

Asfeha is reportedly driving a 1999 silver Acura with Virginia tags XKS-1522. Anyone with information is asked to call the Criminal Investigations Section of the Alexandria Police Department at 703.838.4444 or the Crime Solvers tip line at (703) 838-4858. Detectives would like to remind witnesses that they remain anonymous.

Ethiopia: The Truth, the Whole Truth and…

Monday, April 12th, 2010

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

“Lies, lies and implausible lies,” blasted Meles Zenawi, the enfant terrible of Ethiopia, in describing the March 11, 2010 U.S. State Department’s “Reports on Human Rights Practices” on Ethiopia. Apparently, the U.S. State Department is not worth a damn when it comes to lying: “The least one could expect from this report, even if there are lies is that they would be plausible ones,” snarled Zenawi. “But that is not the case. It is very easy to ridicule it [report], because it is so full of loopholes (sic). They could very easily have closed the loopholes and still continued to lie.” His consigliere, Bereket Simon chimed in, “It is the same old junk. It’s a report that intends to punish the image (sic) of Ethiopia and try if possible to derail the peaceful and democratic election process.”

So here is a representative sample of the implausible, ridiculous and junk lies of the U.S. State Department and the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth of  Zenawi’s dictatorship:

Implausible, Ridiculous and Junk Lie #1:

There were numerous credible reports of unlawful detention of opposition candidates and their supporters. Opposition UDJ party president Birtukan Mideksa, whose pardon was revoked and life sentence reinstated in December 2008, remained in prison throughout the year. She was held in solitary confinement until June, despite a court ruling that indicated it was a violation of her constitutional rights. She was also denied access to visitors except for a few close family members, despite a court order granting visitor access without restrictions. There were credible reports that Birtukan’s mental health deteriorated significantly during the year.

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth #1:

A humongous L I E! Birtukan is actually at the “Akaki Hilton Spa and Resort” doing R&R (rest and relaxation). Her health situation is in perfect condition. She may have gained a few kilos, but other than that, and that may be for lack of exercise, she is in perfect health. All the lies about Birtukan’s bad health situation are made up by the “usual suspects” who shall remain nameless. She is not denied access to visitors, but she is shy and prefers to visit only with her mother and daughter. In short, she is having the time of her life. Or as the French say, “C’est la Vie!”

Implausible, Ridiculous and Junk Lie #2:

The constitution and law provide citizens the right to change their government peacefully. In local and by-elections held in 2008, virtually all of the more than three million seats open at the federal and local levels were taken unopposed by the ruling EPRDF and allied parties. Of the 3.6 million local and by-election seats open to be contested, opposition parties won three.

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth #2:

The State Department should know better than telling this ridiculous lie. The opposition won only 3 seats because “there is no alternative in the opposition.” Everybody knows that including “most Western governments [who] want Meles to continue because there is no alternative in the opposition. As long as the elections are semi-democratic, they’ll probably stay quiet, keep giving aid, hope for liberalisation of the economy and leave full democracy for later.” Here is a hint: The opposition will completely lose again in next month’s election regardless of how many candidates they run because they don’t understand a simple fact about elections: “The people who cast the votes do not decide an election; the people who count the votes do.”

Implausible, Ridiculous and Junk Lie #3:

Although the constitution and law prohibit the use of torture and mistreatment, there were numerous credible reports that security officials tortured, beat, and mistreated detainees. Opposition political party leaders reported frequent and systematic abuse and intimidation of their supporters by police and regional militias… Abuses reportedly include being hung by the wrists for several hours, bound by chains and beaten, held in solitary confinement for several days to weeks or months, subjected to mental torture such as harassment and humiliation…

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth #3:

Lies! Torture is a matter of semantics. The alleged torture-victims in the State Department report have an unusually low threshold for psychological and physical pain and discomfort. They also exaggerate stuff. The truth is that the so-called torture-victims are all wusses and wimps. Intimidation is a state of mind as is solitary confinement. Some people just scare easy. Individuals in solitary confinement are not really “solitary” because they can talk to themselves all day and all night. It is a bold-faced lie for the State Department to say, “the [“Ethiopian”] constitution and law prohibit the use of torture and mistreatment.”

Implausible, Ridiculous and Junk Lie #4:

The country has three federal and 117 regional prisons. There are several unofficial detention centers operating throughout the country. Prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained harsh and in some cases life threatening. Severe overcrowding was common, especially in sleeping quarters. Juveniles were often incarcerated with adults, sometimes with adults who were awaiting execution. Men and women prisoners were generally, but not always, separated… The government continued to prevent International Committee of the Red Cross representatives from visiting police stations and federal prisons throughout the country including those where opposition, civil society, and media leaders were held.

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth #4:

Lies, dirty lies! The so-called prisons are actually popular spas and resorts, as Birtukan can testify. The reason they are “severely overcrowded” is because of high popular demand. It’s “la dolce vita” (the sweet life) as they say in Italian in those spas, or “c’est la vie” as they say in French. As to juveniles, women and condemned prisoners being held together, what difference does that make? A criminal is a criminal is a criminal. The Red Cross? They are too nosy, always asking questions. Shouldn’t they be helping out flood, earthquake and disaster victims somewhere else instead of sniffing around spas and resorts?

Implausible, Ridiculous and Junk Lie #5:

Although the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, the government frequently did not observe these provisions in practice… The federal police acknowledged that many of its members as well as regional police lacked professionalism. In July the Addis Ababa Police Commission fired 444 staff members, including high-ranking officials, for involvement in serious crimes including armed robbery, rape, and theft. There were no prosecutions of those dismissed.

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth #5:

Another pack of lies! The State Department is putting words and numbers in the mouths of the Police Commission. The allegedly “fired” police officials are still in their jobs continuing to do armed robbery, rape, and theft.

Implausible, Ridiculous and Junk Lie #5:

Authorities regularly detained persons without warrants and denied access to counsel and family members, particularly in outlying regions. Although the law requires detainees to be brought to court and charged within 48 hours, this generally was not respected in practice… While in pretrial detention, authorities allowed such detainees little or no contact with legal counsel. Police continued to enter private residences and arrest individuals without warrants.

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth #6:

First of all, the whole due process thing is overrated. Lawyers, warrants, procedure and all that legal mumbo jambo are a big waste of time. The applicable principle is that one is presumed guilty until proven innocent. So, why do guilty people need lawyers? It does not make sense. Why should warrants be required to arrest guilty people? Anyway, even if these people did not commit a crime, they definitely thought about committing one.  They are guilty, guilty, guilty! The State Department is obviously pushing some new-fangled Western idea that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. What a bunch of liars!

Implausible, Ridiculous and Junk Lie #7:

In May the director general of the Federal Police reported that 65 percent of the 45,000 criminal cases filed at the federal first instance court in 2008 were eventually dropped due to lack of evidence or witnesses…. There was a large backlog of juvenile cases, and accused children often remained in detention with adults until officials heard their cases.

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth #7:

As the old saying goes, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. The State Department is fabricating false statistics to show that the regime is going soft on criminals. That is a lie! It is a well-known fact that a criminal case is filed only after a person has been convicted of committing a crime. To claim that nearly 30,000 cases were dropped for lack of evidence is to unfairly suggest that the vast majority of those charged were not guilty. How could that be so? The director general of the Federal Police never reported such statistics. It is all a figment of the State Department’s warped imagination.

Implausible, Ridiculous and Junk Lie #8:

Political party leaders reported incidents of telephone tapping and other electronic eavesdropping. In May a former employee of ETC, the state-run monopoly telecom and Internet provider, reported from self-imposed exile that the government had ordered ETC employees to unlawfully record citizens’ private telephone conversations… The government used a widespread system of paid informants to report on the activities of particular individuals. Kebele officials have been reported to go from house to house demanding that residents attend ruling coalition meetings. Those persons who do not attend party meetings reportedly have difficulty obtaining basic public services from their kebeles.

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth #8:

Ding, dong! All lies told by paranoid opposition leaders who are afraid of their own shadows. By using the phrases “widespread system of paid informants”, “forced attendance of party meetings”, etc., the State Department unfairly suggests that the country has become a police state. Not true! If they had done their “investigations” right and interviewed the “informants”, they would have easily found out that the “informants” are actually researchers doing field studies in social anthropology using “participant observation” techniques. Kebele officials never force people to attend party meetings. The people just love to party and show up uninvited.

Implausible, Ridiculous and Junk Lie #9:

During the year the government loosened restrictions on the delivery of food aid from donor organizations into the five zones of the Somali region in which military activity was the most intense. Approximately 83 percent of food aid reached beneficiaries, a significant improvement from the previous year.

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth #9:

Liars! The State Department in its usual manner is cooking up numbers. No food aid reached beneficiaries in the five zones of the Somali region.

Implausible, Ridiculous and Junk Lie #10:

The government restricted academic freedom during the year. Authorities did not permit teachers at any level to deviate from official lesson plans and actively discouraged political activity and association of any kind on university campuses. Frequent reports continued of uniformed and plainclothes police officers on and around university and high school campuses. College students were reportedly pressured to pledge allegiance to the EPRDF to secure enrollment in universities or postgraduation government jobs. Non-EPRDF members were also reportedly denied teachers’ benefits, transferred to undesirable posts, and restricted in promotions.

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth #10:

Ha! Who would believe in their right minds anything those fog-headed college students and their absentminded  professors say? There is a good reason why they are not allowed to engage in politics or deviate from the official lesson plan. We know from personal experience decades ago that you if give students and their professors an inch, they will take a mile. If you give them “academic freedom”, they will soon be yapping in the streets for speech freedom, press freedom, associational freedom, assembly freedom and all sorts of other freedoms. That is just too much freedom for those crazy students and their air-headed professors to handle.

It is just too bad the U.S. State Department can’t handle the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

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, and his commentaries appear regularly on, and other sites.

Obang Metho at the Horn of Africa Conference on Governance

Monday, April 12th, 2010

By Obang Metho

First, I would like to thank those who organized this meeting—Advocacy for Ethiopia and the Ethiopian National Priorities Consultative Process for their excellent job in creating this historic event. We need more meetings like this and I hope it is beginning to not only talk, but that it will lead to action that will benefit all of us. It has been a wonderful experience so far to come together to listen, to learn and to hear different views on a region of the world about which we all care deeply.

I was asked to talk about the campaign to end impunity. I changed the title just a bit to: Embracing Truth: A Means to End a Culture of Impunity in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

The reason is that impunity is about hiding or denying the truth. Jesus said, “The truth shall set us free.” If this is true, then the lack of truth will enslave us. The lack of truth has been enslaving us for over sixty years and will continue to enslave us until we deal with it head on and begin to embrace truth in every part and sector of our society. Ethiopia has become a culture where lies, deception, cover-up, hidden motives and blatant injustice cover up countless deeds of evil. In such a culture of impunity, the worst actions of the powerful are rewarded and the best, most courageous and most honest of our people are punished for their attempts to expose the truth.

Impunity is also encouraged where people hold to rigid assumptions about the greater worth and dignity of oneself and one’s own select group, in relation to the lesser worth and dignity of another human being, which may be based on ethnicity, regionalism, political alliances, religion, gender, skin color, education and other superficial distinctives. It makes it easier to exclude, exploit and abuse those you devalue and dehumanize while justifying your own and your group’s self-interests; particularly feeling that you should not have to be held accountable for what you do.

Consider our past:

* Feudalism and crimes of Haile Selassie
* Red Terror
* Meles—pattern of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes:
* 2003 Anuak genocide—no one yet brought to justice
* 2005 election—no one yet brought to justice
* Current genocide, War Crimes and Crimes against humanity in the Ogaden

For the last sixty years, no one has been found accountable in this country. Impunity has reigned under every regime. Our current culture of impunity is founded on history and has become a sign of a deeply dysfunctional system that is destroying us.

Impunity often begins with wanting something. Instead of working for it or accepting that we cannot have it, we try to get it in the wrong way and trample on someone else’s rights in the process. These desires can be powerful and caving in to them has led many into trouble. Once in trouble, we fear being discovered and being held responsible for what we have done. The best decision is to face up to the truth and accept the consequences of our actions; however, oftentimes, this is not easy. Many do not want to pay the penalty for what they have done and if they are in a position of power, they use that power to escape accountability.

Impunity is all about the desire to cover up for one’s wrongdoing—to “get away with it!” This can also include covering up for one’s family, clan, ethnic group or cronies. This is one of the oldest flaws of human nature; first recorded in the very first chapters of the Biblical book of Genesis. God had told Adam and Eve they could eat of any tree in the garden but one. The serpent tempted them, but they gave in to the desire. Eve ate first and then Adam. When God asked Adam if he had eaten the apple, did he accept responsibility? No, he blamed Eve. When God questioned Eve, did she admit? No, she blamed the serpent.

The first crime—a murder—was committed by Adam and Eve’s son, Cain, who killed his brother, Abel. Cain covered up the murder and tried to hide from God but could not. When God asked him about his brother, he became angry and defensive, trying to cover up by not answering the question; instead asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It is called deception. God said his brother’s blood cried out and that Cain would be banished. Cain still was not sorry for what he had done, but only expressed self-pity and worry about himself. How far have we come since? Not very far for it is our problem we face today.

The attitude of wanting to cover-up one’s own crimes or to blame someone else is part of every human experience, but usually, in well functioning, healthy societies, families, communities, one’s own conscience, religious institutions and the rule of law hold people accountable. The laws are just, fair and equally applied to all members of society, regardless of power, privilege, wealth or position. No one is above the law—even those at the top—and it prevents most people from committing crimes because they fear the expected penalties. Under these circumstances, societies can flourish with most citizens voluntarily complying. Justice is predictable and not dependent on the political calculations of any powerful individual or group. Peoples’ trust in the institutions increases to the benefit of all.

Now, go to the opposite negative extreme and you get Ethiopia where those on top can do as they please. The guilty are found innocent and the innocent can be found guilty. In Ethiopia, what kind of justice you get depends on whether or not you are a part of the: “inside family of the TPLF,” part of the TPLF repressive system of puppets all over the country or simply call yourself a government supporter, if only in name. On the negative side, if you are an outspoken critic, a political opponent, a resistor of something the TPLF wants, or simply a scapegoat for someone else, you can be assured of being treated as an enemy of the state.

Let’s go back in history. During the empire, a few elite on top totally escaped being held accountable for any of their crimes, which were many. It was the reason the Ethiopian people rose up in a revolution that brought Haile Selassie down. Then Mengistu came in and again, those at the top who were guilty of committing many crimes against the people, escaped justice. When the oppressed people of Ethiopia rose up against him, he brutally clamped down on the people and his regime became known for the “Red Terror.”

Human rights experts estimate that maybe 500,000—half a million people—were killed during his era in power. Now we have Meles and people are again rising up against a system of impunity and terror. It is only a matter of time before history repeats itself as is being done in many other places; for example in Kyrgyzstan, where the people overthrew the government only a few days ago.

In Ethiopia, the rule of law has failed for over sixty years. It affects every sector of society and until it is fixed, Ethiopia will never rise up out of its misery. It is a systemic problem based on denying the truth, making immoral choices, elitism and dehumanizing everyone but yourself and your particular group.

What Can Be Done?

We do not have to wait for regime change to hold the guilty responsible for their crimes. Even this conference is a means to break down impunity by exposing what is happening. At some later date, there may be charges, trials, reparations and methods of transitional justice—all of which we should be thinking about—but for now, I would like to mainly concentrate on the following immediate actions:

Exposure, Exposure, Exposure: Impunity weakens under exposure!

a. Show truth, inconsistencies, illegal practices, vulnerabilities where they exist now and make it public; holding parties accountable where possible.

b. Collect info from the ground—must go to some work to gather ACCURATE information from as many areas/regions as possible and should include: testimonies, reports, facts, pictures, video.

c. Research- so have a factual basis for efforts both now and in the future where information will be important. For instance, Genocide watch interviewed victims and witnesses within approximately six weeks of the genocide, making the information much more reliable than trying to do it now.

d. Develop teams/ think tanks to work on specific important areas of their expertise; for example, money laundering, privatization of national monopolies, foreign investment (land, mineral rights, water, oil, etc), environment, transitional justice, security, etc.
e. Research laws, applications and appropriate legal resources that could be utilized now within and outside of Ethiopia.

f. Use Media to get info out and to provide new facts, research and incidents.

g. Target strategic groups (donor govt.s, NGO’s, faith groups, multinational corporations, etc- get info to best groups for actions and ask for specific actions. Some groups already know the truth, but until it is exposed publicly, they won’t do anything-find out what that is—there may be a threshold where once it is crossed, this regime becomes a liability rather than an asset.

h. Hold as many perpetrators and those complicit with them, accountable now

1. Make it public: list those who are guilty or complicit –name who is who and who is doing what

2. Make clear to them what can happen as a consequence now or later

3. See if you can hold those co-conspirators, outside of Ethiopia, accountable by laws of their own country

Do the Same in all Sectors of Ethiopian Society: The tentacles of impunity reach to every sector of Ethiopian Society; the entire system is broken and should be confronted:

1. Government/parliament
2. Election, election board, voting, observers, etc
3. Business-dealings where Impunity may not last

a. Ethiopia—wide-scale corruption
b. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)-
c. Ethiopia an at-risk country for money laundering, terroristic funding
d. Expose bribes, kickbacks, deals, etc
e. Expose consequences of doing business through impunity

4. Justice – expose names of judges, prosecutors, practices
5. Banking and finance, national treasure, monopolies
6. Land/mineral/natural resources
7. Development
8. Human rights
9. Educational system
10. Military
11. Religious groups (encouraged to stand against systemic impunity, injustice, oppression, corruption, repression)

Rationale for SMNE: Why I became part of this Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia

* the old Ethiopia is unacceptable
* Rationale: Many of my people killed and reason I became involved was because the survival of my people depend on everyone else—a system
* Learned, we Ethiopians are not exception, but instead, like other countries that have hurt others
* Led to form something to speak out about everyone and so created solidarity movement
* Based on moral principles because only way to de-construct impunity is from the inside out!
* Only the healing of a system of oppression and injustice will bring about a New Ethiopia
* Begins with a flawed mindset based on lies; must be replaced with God-given truth

Principles to freedom, justice and to ending impunity

1. Humanity before ethnicity–Impunity made us lose our humanity or Ethiopian-ness (some don’t like name Ethiopia, but among the marginalized, I am among the most marginalized. To genuinely stop impunity, must start with ourselves, with me first. Then take it to the grass roots. To me to acknowledge my part of society, is like recognizing that each of us makes up a part of the body of Ethiopia. When wound in the body, the body is not functioning as it should. The killing of my people pushed me to reach out to Ethiopians, not sweeping the problems under the carpet, but to create a healthier society, we must try to change and correct what is creating the wounds. This is why SMNE created. We are willing to work with everybody, but we will never compromise and become part of the fake unity. No unity is better than chameleon unity where walk on others to get what you want. Faking unity is a tool to deceptively carry on impunity and I will never be part of this.

2. No one is free until all are free

a. Must break the pattern of Serial exclusion: One tribe take all or it’s ‘my group’s’ time to eat, which means, it’s your turn to suffer now (rationale for last regimes’ cruelty and selfishness towards others) For marginalized, it is ALWAYS their turn to suffer.

b. Inclusion of all citizens only way to break impunity and bring about sustainable freedom, justice and opportunity.

1. Impunity has always been a part of exclusionary dictatorships — Haile-Selassie, Mengistu, Meles
2. Must change system—based on flawed thinking—in every sector of the system; this is not just about Meles
3. Assumptions of entitled or non-entitled participants in politics and power are rigid, outdated and must be challenged
4. Equal opportunity and fair distribution of services, etc based on citizenship; not tribe

c. Unity in fight is NOT for unity’s sake, but FOR principles that will free us!

1. What we think matters—our fight against exclusionary practices starts with replacing flawed thinking

2. —the less tolerance we have as a society for exclusion, impunity, deception and lies and, the greater success we will have as a society!

3. the more widespread the support for inclusion and equal justice under the law—the more quickly we will overcome impunity and what has kept Ethiopia in the dark ages for too long!

3. Greed and Ego are the foundation of wrongdoing.

a. Impunity is about covering up for something after choose the wrong thing. Effective and strong institutions can create an atmosphere of respect and compliance with the law or obligation to adequately resolve wrongdoing when social rules or the law is broken
b. Society also has to be ready to confront and hold others accountable.
c. Moral restraints and expectations needed to heal past mistakes and offenses; including remorse and efforts to correct the wrongdoing

4. Strong Rule of law discourages wrongdoing: especially for those of little conscience, who would commit crimes if could get away with it. Getting caught and having to pay the penalty is a deterrent and sometimes enough to prevent many from breaking the law in the first place.

5. High cultural social value on: truth, moral courage, responsibility and humility with accountability, justice and grace and no-tolerance for: impunity, exclusive politics, corruption and deception—both working together will genuinely break down walls of many years of impunity and repair a broken system

6. Start with oneself: If want genuine ending of impunity, each of us must purposely seek it in one’s self and in expectations of others.

I am not here for a political motive, but I am here for a healthy society for when we have a healthy society; then such a society will include my children—where there is not discrimination, but opportunity, where there is no impunity, but equal justice. This can be your goal as well; together we can bring about a healthier society.

May God help us end our destructive culture of impunity, to find healing from the wounds of our past and to bring about a society that embraces truth, righteous behavior towards others and accountability for our own actions. May the truth truly set us free! Thank

(Obang Metho, is the Executive Director of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia,

A tale of Ethiopia’s brutal revolution

Monday, April 12th, 2010

By Abebe Gellaw

Your browser may not support display of this image. Since the 1974 revolution, Ethiopia has witnessed cycles of unimaginable violence. City streets as well as remote villages that are normally far from the influence of the brutal political elites in the center have been washed with blood and littered with the bones of tormented men and women. The tragic 1974 revolution was not just a bumpy transition from a feudo-capitalist monarchy to a more progressive system as we were told time and again. It was also the beginning of untold brutality that has still continued to haunt us. It is a story of man against man, comrade against comrade, citizen against citizen…. It was simply akin to what the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes called a state of nature, where “men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man.” In the state of nature life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Upon the invitation of the Stanford Ethiopian and Eritrean Students Association, Maaza Mengiste came to Stanford University last Friday to share her own story and read a passage from her well acclaimed first novel, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze. She spoke with a mellifluous and passionate voice, not like a fiction writer but as someone who was amidst the turmoil witnessing all the horrors and brutalities that tormented and ruptured her homeland.

Oscar Wild once said, “Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.” The wise man was only half right as women like Maaza are writing history with incredibly powerful imagination. Though it is quite rare to find young ladies flipping through the horror stories of political violence, Maaza was among a few exceptions immersed deeply into revolutions around the world. She read books and watched films about political upheavals in Latin America, Middle East and Africa. She tried to understand human nature in the course of bloody political upheavals.

When her friends were out reveling and partying, she used to spend days and nights reading and writing about a bloodcurdling part of human history. The Ethiopian Revolution was particularly fascinating to her. But her fascination did not end there. After five years of painful emotional journey, her story came out earlier this year as a novel that vividly depicts what happened during the height of the violence.

For Maaza, the horrors and tragedies of the 1974 Ethiopian revolution started to unfold when she was a graduate student. After all, she fled Ethiopia with her family when she was around four during the height of the turmoil. She lived in Nigeria, Kenya and the United States as an exile. When she left Ethiopia, she had only faint memories of the turmoil, slogans of students, marching soldiers, sounds of gunshots, frays and grieving mothers wailing frantically around her neighbourhood.

Until she joined New York University’s graduate creative writing programme in 2005, she hardly wrote anything serious about Ethiopia. But as part of her graduate school work, she made her fist effort. Based on her faint childhood memories, she wrote an 11-page short story about the horrors of the violent revolution that shattered close-knit families across the country. In spite of the fact that the short story was her small debut that broke her silence and brought out her memories, it raised more questions and stirred the curiosity of her classmates. As a result, she began to delve into the grim history researching intensely, weaving the story spinning facts and imagination without any chronological order.

Like a jigsaw puzzle, she assembled the long but gripping story about the popular revolution hijacked by a brutal military junta that copied acts of atrocity from the Bolsheviks and unleashed the Red Terror campaign to silence any forms of dissent and resistance. The more she researched into Ethiopia’s ugly past, the more she was sucked into the torture chambers and the killing fields.

Maaza found writing the book not only a daunting task but also an emotionally disturbing experience. Adding gloom to her personal story was the fact that she was just a poor young woman in New York City who could not even afford a decent writing desk and a warm home. Her favourite place to write was a small café in her neighbourhood. At times, her tears would stream down her tender cheeks while writing about torture and brutal killings. Some customers used to offer her a cup coffee to console her but others feared to approach her thinking that she was out of her mind.

Beneath the Lions’s Gaze is told from the perspective of a medical doctor’s family caught up in the upheavals. Dr. Hailu, who got involved in the tragic revolutionary fervent when he helped a victim of torture, is the main character. To make matters worse, Hailu’s youngest son, Dawit, was radicalized and became a member of an underground student movement that was a target of the killing squads. It was the disturbing history affecting the protagonists of the time of terror, fear, sorrow, anguish and tragedy that has become the central plot of Maaza’s novel.

Maaza’s daring work has received raving reviews in major publications across the US. It is a rare feat for an Ethiopian writer to enter the literary world with standing ovation. The New Yorker said: “Mengiste’s social intelligence and historical research allow her to write compassionately about emotions denatured by brutal regime or calcified by conviction. But the real marvel of this tender novel is its coiled plotting, in which coincidence manages to evoke the colossal emotional toll of the revolution.”

There is a powerful lesson to be learned from history. As Maaza has powerfully resurrected memories of a tragic segment of our history, we need to reflect on the past and envision the future. Ethiopia is still a nation of uncertainties, a powder keg whose future can be as rapturous as its terrifying past. The nation has gone though the excruciating pains of a violent revolution and a protracted civil war that brought about more calamities, famine, divisions and genocidal killings. The stable and prosperous country that the young revolutionary idealists had hoped to build is still a far cry. Their immeasurable sacrifices have been fruitless and their clarion calls for land to the tiller, equality, justice and freedom have never been answered.

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” as the philosopher George Santayana said. The doom and gloom of Ethiopia perpetuated by tyrants, past and present, must end somewhere if we are really willing to learn from our terrible history of violence and brutality. It is an unacceptable truth for a nation to suffer for nearly a century under three diminutive despots, the king, the army officer and the narrow-minded ethnocrat.

Today Ethiopia is standing at the crossroads of history. It is heavily pregnant with a burning desire for change that can trigger a sudden eruption at any time. Whether we like it or not, the call for change will be answered and the volcano of anger and frustration suppressed by tyranny will eventually. In the face of a tyrannical resistance to change, the peaceful way seems to have lesser chance of success than the curse of violence and vengeance that has already destroyed our rich history and heritage. As John F. Kennedy said: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.”

Revolution is a process; first it is conceived in the hearts of true believers, it becomes contagious spread to the masses and in the final phase it explodes like a volcano. No guns and tanks have managed to stop real revolutions throughout history.

Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, which is a tale of brutality and cruelty in “revolutionary” Ethiopia, is a must read for those who want to understand tortured nations like Ethiopia in a better and deeper way. History has a lot to teach…

(The writer can be reached at

EPPF streamlines its operations (update)

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

The Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF) recently held its general assembly meeting and made a number of major decisions that affect its activities inside the country and around the world. One of the major decisions the general assembly made was to elect 17 new central committee members from the Diaspora and streamline its activities around the world. This was done to eliminate once and for all any doubt as to who is in charge of EPPF in the Diaspora, which was plagued by confusion and other problems.

The following are statements released by EPPF (Amharic):

የኢትዮጵያ ህዝብ አርበኞች ግንባር
ሚያዝያ 6 ቀን 2010 (እ.አ.አ.)

የኢትዮጵያ ህዝብ አርበኞች ግንባር (ኢህአግ) ሁለተኛ ጠቅላላ ጉባኤውን በቅርቡ በተሳካ ሁኔታ አካሂዶ ድርጅቱ ባለፉት 10 ዓመታት ያካሄደውን እንቅስቃሴ ከገመገመ በኋላ የወደፊት የስራ እቅዶች አውጥቶ፥ እንዲሁም የአመራር አባላትን ምርጫ አካሂዶ ተጠናቋል። በዚሁም መሰረት አዲስ የማዕከላዊ ኮሚቴና የስራ አስፈፃሚ ኮሚቴ መርጧል።

ድርጅታዊ መዋቅርን በተመለከተ ጠቅላላ ጉባኤው ከወሰናቸው ውሳኔዎች አንዱ የግንባሩ ህገማህበር ተሻሽሎ ማዕከላዊ ኮሚቴው በዳያስፖራ ያሉ ኢትዮጵያውያንን እንዲያካትት ያደረገው ነው። በዚህም መሰራት ከአሜሪካ፥ ከአውሮፓና ከሌሎችህም አህጉራት በጠቅላላው 17 ተጠሪዎች የኢህአግ ማዕከላዊ ኮሚቴ ውስጥ ተመርጠው ገብተዋል። እነዚህ 17 ተጠሪዎች በዳያስፖራ ያለውን የድርጅቱን እንቅስቃሴ እንዲያስተባብሩ ከጠቅላላ ጉባኤ ሃላፊነት ተቀብለው ቃለ መሃላ ፈጽመዋል።

የውጭው አካል ከግንባሩ ጠቅላላ ጉባኤ በተሰጠው ስልጣን መሰረት የመጀመሪያውን ስብሰባ በዚህ ሳምንት መጀመሪያ ላይ አካሂዶ የስራ ክፍፍልና እቅዶች አውጥቷል። በቀጣይነትም የውጭው አካል ተከታታይ ስብሰባዎች በማድረግ ዝርዝር የስራ እቅዶች አውጥቶ ለህዝብ ይፋ ያደርጋል።

ግንባሩ በተለይ ትኩረት ከሚያደርግባቸው ጉዳዮች ዋናዎቹ የፊታችን ግንቦት ወር የሚደረገውን የወያኔ የተጭበረበረ ምርጫ ማጋለጥና ኢህአግ ሀገር ውስጥ የሚያካሂደው እንቅስቃሴ በይበልጥ እንዲጠናከር አስፈላጊውን እገዛ ማድረግ ይሆናል።

ከዚህ ጋር ተያይዞ ከግንባሩ የስራ አስፈፃሚ ኮሚቴ የተሰጠውን መግለጫ መመልከት ይችላሉ።

ድል ለኢትዮጵያ ህዝብ!

ለተጨማሪ መረጃ፤ አቶ ደምስ በለጠ፥ የፕሬስ መምሪያ ሃላፊ
ስልክ ቁጥር፤ 202 251 2301

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ከኢትዮጵያ ህዝብ አርበኞች ግንባር የተሰጠ መግለጫ

የኢትዮጵያ ህዝብ አርበኞች ግንባር ከተመሰረተ አንስቶ አገርን የማዳን አኩሪ ተግባራትን በተለያየ መስክ ያደረገ ሲሆን፣ ከዚህ በላቀና በተደራጀ መልኩ በግንባሩና በአለም አቀፍ ከሚገኙ ኢትዮጵያውያን አገርና ህዝብን ለመታደግ በሚደረገው ትግል ካለፉት አመታት የበለጠና የተጠናከረ ህዝብ አቀፍ ስራ ለመስራት ከመጋቢት 22 እስከ 25/ 2002 አ.ም በተካሄደው ሁለተኛ መደበኛ ጉባኤ መሰረት ቀጥሏል።

የኢህአግ ሰራዊት በወያኔ ላይ እየወሰደ ያለውን ወታደራዊ የማጥቃት እርምጃ ከእስካሁኑ በላቀ ሁኔታ ወያኔው የሚመካበትን የታጠቀ የግፍ ሃይል ለማንኮታኮት እየሰራ ይገኛል።

በውጭ የሚኖሩ ኢትዮጵያውያን ወያኔን ለማስወገድ በሚካሄደው እንቅስቃሴ ቀላል የማይባል ሚና ተጫውተዋል። ይሁን እንጅ ተሳትፉቸውንና ጥረታቸውን በማዋሃድና አንድ አቅጣጫ በማስያዝ ረገድ በርካታ ሙከራዎች የተደረጉ ቢሆንም የተፈለገውን ያህል ውጤት አላስገኘም። ድርጃታችን ኢ.ህ.አ.ግ ይህን በመረዳት ከውጭ በተመረጡ ማእከላዊ ኮሚቴ አባላትና ከነሱም መካከል በሰብሳቢው በምክትል ሰብሳቢው እና በዋና ፀሃፊው አስተባባሪነትና አመራር ሰጭነት ሲሆን 14ቱ የማእከላዊ ኮሚቴ አባላትና ሌሎች ነዋሪነታቸውን በውጭ ያደረጉ ወገኖች ሁሉ በተመቻቸው አንድ ወጥ መንገድ ስር በመሰባሰብ እና የሚሰጠውን አገራዊ ተልእኮ በመፈፀምና በማስፈፀም አገርና ህዝብን እያወደመ የሚገኘውን አንባገነኑን የወያኔ ቡድን ይበቃል ልንለው ይገባል።

በተለያየ መንገድ በኢ.ህ.አ.ግ ስም ይንቀሳቀሱ የነበሩ ቡድኖች ህዝብን ከማወናበድ ተግባር ተቆጥበው በተመቻቸው መንገድ ውስጥ ገብተው እንዲንቀሳቀሱና በጉባኤው በተላለፈው ውሳኔ መሰረት ሌላ በኢህአግ ስም የተከፈቱ ድረ-ገፆች ህገ-ወጥ መሆናቸውን እያሳወቅን ድርጅታችን በወታደራዊ በፖለቲካና በዲፕሎማሲ… ያለውን ሃይል በመጠቀም ተግቶ ይሰራል።

ወያኔው እየተዘጋጀለት የሚገኘውን የይስሙላ ምርጫ ምእራባውያንም ቢሆኑ እውነታውን የተገነዘቡበትና ፊታቸውን ያዞሩበት ወቀት በመሆኑ በዚህ አጋጣሚ ኢትዮጵያዊ የሆንን ወገኖች ሁሉ ጎጠኛውን አገዛዝ ከስር መሰረቱ ለማስወገድ የኢትዮጵያ ህዝብ አርበኞች ግንባር አንድ አካል ሆነን አገራችን ኢትዮጵያን ከገባችበት አዘቅት ልናወጣት ይገባል።

Conference on Good Governance in the Horn of Africa

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Conference on Good Governance, Peace, Security, Sustainable Development in the Horn of Africa, 9-11 April 2010, Washington DC, Doubletree Hotel, 300 Army Navy Drive, Arlington, VA

The conference is organized by Organized by Advocacy for Ethiopia (AFE) and Ethiopian National Priorities Consultative Process (ENPCP). Co-sponsors: Trans Africa Forum and Africa Action


9:00-10:00 Registration

10:00- 12:30 Plenary session

Opening and Welcome by Ambassador (Ret) Imru Zeleke, Chairperson of ENPCP and Dr Gezahegn Bekele, Executive Director of AFE

Session chairs: Ambassador (Ret) Ayalew Mandefro and Dr Getachew Metaferia

Forum for Keynote Speakers and Guest Speakers:

Congressman Chris Smith (Expected)
A Representative from the US State Department (Expected)
A Distinguished Guest Speaker from Ethiopia (Expected)
Ambassador Princeton N. Lyman, Senior Fellow of CFR (Expected)
Mr. Gerald LeMell, Executive Director, Africa Action
Ms Emira Woods, Director Foreign Policy in Focus (IPS)

Discussants: Professor Getachew Begashaw & Professor Berhanu Nega

12:30 – 1:30 LUNCH BREAK

1:30 -3:30 Guest Speakers: continuation

Session chair: Mrs Wassy Tesfa , (AFE)

(1) Ambassador David Shinn, Former US Ambassador to Ethiopia, Challenges facing the countries in the Horn of Africa

(2) Dr. Terrence Lyons, George Mason University, Ethiopian Elections: Past and Future

(3) Professor Emeritus Theodore Vestal, Oklahoma State University Governance and Human Rights in Ethiopia

Discussant: Dr Aklog Birara

3:30-4:00 COFFEE BREAK

4:00-6:30 Panel Discussion: United States Policy towards Ethiopia

Session Chair: Dr Msmaku Asrat

(1) Ms. Imani Countess, Senior Director for Public Affairs, TransAfrica
(2) Ms. Niemat Ahmadi, Liason Officer, Save Darfur Coalition
(3) US policy towards the Horn of Africa, Mr Gregory Simpkins, Vice President for Policy & Program Development, Leon Sullivan Foundation.
(4) Center for Strategic and International Studies (Expected)
(5) Professor George Ayittey, Free Africa Foundation

Question and Answer

Discussant: Professor Berhanu Mengistu


9:00-12:00 Plenary Session
Welcome and Introduction: Mrs. Wassy Tesfa (AFE)
Session Chair: Ato Negussie Mengesha,
Guest Speaker: Honorable Anna Gomes, Member of the European Parliament
Panel Discussion: Ideology and Political Governance

Session Chairs: Professor Getachew Begashaw & Ato Negussie Mengesha


(1) Towards a political roadmap for peace & stability, Dr Msmaku Asrat
(2) The Ethiopian State and the elite: Past and Present, Dr Aregawi Berhe
(3) Ethiopia: the land of missed opportunities, Professor Berhanu Nega
(4) The dialectics of multi-cultural-ism: reconciling the two nationalisms, Ato Jawar Siraj Mohammed
(5) The legacy of radicalism and the fragmentation of politics in Ethiopia, Professor Messay Kebede

Question and Answer

12:00-1:00 LUNCH BREAK


Session #1 Venue #1 Eritrea and Ethiopia

Session Chairs: Professor Minga Negash and Ato Fekade Shewakena

(1) Time for Reflection: Taking stock of the costs of the status quo in Ethio-Eritrean relations and charting a new path forward, Professor Shumet Sishagne

(2) New relationship between Eritreans & Ethiopians: A view from Eritrea, Ato Amanuel Biedemariam

(3) Access to the sea as a source of conflict and development, Professor Getachew Begashaw.

(4) Eritrea and Ethiopia:- peace and security, Professor Berhe Habte Giorgis

Question and Answer

Session #2: The Horn of Africa

Session chairs: Ato Kidane Alemayehu and Professor Messay Kebede

(1) Peace and security in the Horn of Africa, Mr. Yussuf Kalib, Horn of Africa Peace and Development Center, Dallas, Texas

(2) Ethnic federalism and one-party rule in Ethiopia:-Lessons for the Horn of Africa, Ato Ephrem Madebo

(3) Can Ethiopia be the center of gravity for Horn of Africa peace, good governance and development? Professor Seid Samatar (Expected)

(4) Prospects for the Horn of Africa confederation, Ato Gizachew Zewdu.

(5) Development & environmental sustainability in the Horn of Africa, Mr. Phil Aroneanu, 350.0rg Climate Justice Movement

Question and Answer

3:00-3:20 COFFEE BREAK


Venue Room #1: Conflict Prevention and Resolution

Session chairs: Mr. Jawar Siraj Mohammed & Dr Kassa Ayalew
(1) Ethiopia in the New Millennium: Issues of Democratic Governance, Dr Solomon Getahun.

(2) Contemporary Ethiopian politics:- similarity and differences between Ethiopian political organizations, Ato Gizaw Legesse

(3) Conflict resolution attempts by successive Ethiopian Governments, Professor Berhanu Mengistu.

(4) Legal education as an instrument of conflict prevention, Dr. Abigail Salisbury

(5) Three initiatives for conflict prevention & resolution, Ambassador Ayalew Mandefro

Question and Answer

Venue Room #2: Economic development & corporate governance

Session chair: Professor Seid Hassan & Ato Betru Gebregziabher

(1) Unemployment, poverty and self employment in urban Ethiopia, Dr Getinet Haile.

(2) The pros and cons of leasing land to foreign investors, Professor Alemlante Gebre-Selassie

(3) The land grab in Ethiopia: economic, social and environmental consequences, Ato Fekade Shewakena

(4) The crisis of development theory and its implications for Ethiopia, Dr. Fekadu Bekele (Expected).

(5) The agency and ownership problems of Ethiopia’s political party owned enterprises: some policy options, Professor Minga Negash

Question and Answer

5:20-7:20 Panel Discussion:-Government accountability and civil society

Session chair: Dr. Migenet Shiferaw


(1) Dr. Erku Yimer & Dr Teshome Tadesse, On the role of civil society organizations in democratization and development.

(2) Ms Agere Alehegn, “The Role of Civil Society in Promoting Women’s Participation in Political Organizations

(3) Dr Abeba Fekade, Which roads Ethiopia; to justice, freedom and peace? A call to Ethiopian women.

(4) Ms Yalemzewd Bekele Mulat, “The Impact of the Charities and Societies Proclamation No. 621/2009 of Ethiopia (the Civil Society Law) on the coming 2010 elections”

(5) Ato Girmay Gizaw, “The Birtukan Factor”.

(6) Ato Obang Metho, The campaign to end impunity in Ethiopia (Expected)

Question and Answer

SUNDAY, APRIL 11, 2010

10:00AM -12:15 PM Panel Discussion

Venue Room #1 Panel Discussion: Politics, Freedom of the Press, the media

Session Chairs: W/o Tizeta Belachew & Ato Mulugeta Lule

(1) United Front and Coalition building: Lessons Learned, Dr. Mulugeta Syoum

(2) Ethnic federalism and child health care outcomes in Ethiopia, Ato Henoch Fente

(3) Press freedom, academic freedom and elections, Ato Abebe Gellaw

(4) The Role Ethiopian Diaspora media, Ato Abebe Belew

(5) TPLF’s media control and the freedom of Ethiopians, Ato Tekle Mikael Sahle Mariam

Questions and Answers

12:00-1:30 Lunch with Honorable Anna Gomez

(Limited number of tickets are available, by request and invitation only)



Plenary Session

Opening and welcome: Ato Neamin Zeleke,(AFE) Conference Coordinator

Guest Speakers #1:

(1) Ms Imani Countess, Senior Director for Public Affairs, Trans Africa

(2) Hon Anna Gomez, Member of European Parliament

(3) Mr Gregory Simpkins, Vice President for Policy & Program Development, Leon Sullivan Foundation.

(4) Professor George Ayittey, Free Africa Foundation

Awards and Recognition

Ethiopian Cultural show (Expected)



Panel Discussion: “Which way Ethiopia?”

Ethiopians chart a roadmap to democracy, peace and stability

Session chairs: Ato Betru Gebregziabher and Ato Negussie Mengesha

Reporters : Professor Seid Hassan and Dr Aklog Birara


Group #1: Ato Obang Metho, Ato Jawar Mohammed, Ato Abebe Gellaw, Dr. Abeba Fekade, Artist& Activist Tamagne Beyene, Ato Birhanemeskel, Dr Msmaku Asrat (ENPCP) and Dr Gezahegn Bekele (AFE)

Group #2: Lt. Ayal-sew Dessie, Professor Berhanu Nega, Dr Aregawi Berhe, and Professor Getachew Begashaw

Question and Answer

Statement on the Roadmap to Peace, Democracy & Development in Ethiopia


-Ambassador (Ret) Imru Zeleke (ENPCP) and Mrs Wassy Tesfa (AFE)

To Register Visit:

Horn of Africa Conference – triumph of hope

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

By Yilma Bekele

There is a three days conference on Ethiopia to be held in Alexandra, Virginia. There are plenty of notables involved in this dialogue regarding our neighborhood. All are peoples of stature that have been involved in trying to make life tolerable for their fellow human beings.

If we have to drop a few names here we are tempted to mention Senator Russ Feingold, Congressman Donald Payne, Congressman Chris Smith, the Honorable Ana Gomez, Ambassador Emeru Zeleke, Ambassador David Shinn, Dr. Berhanu Nega and plenty more sitting around a circular table and discussing the dreams and hopes of creating a better future in our neighborhood.

The horn of Africa is a major trouble spot. No one can deny that. Our country Ethiopia is not in good condition. Our nation is epicenter of chaos in the region. Seventeen years after the TPLF assumed power we still find our selves exactly where we started. Famine is still with us, migration of the best and ablest is common and we always show up at the bottom of any and all statistics regarding human accomplishment. No matter how we interpret the statistics today’s Ethiopia is not famous for science, engineering and contribution to human knowledge base. We are famous for civil war, famine and un-relentless migration outwards.

The conference in Virginia is to discuss how to bring about a positive change and build a better future for our people. The participants are people that are working hard to make a difference in the lives of eighty million people. They are not getting paid to attend. There is not any net gain in their private lives for attending the conference. I am sure they spent plenty of their time to prepare for the conference to make their personal contribution a success.

Dialogue and discussion is a preferable method to resolve conflict over fighting. Human experience has proven that approach to be correct and durable. I am sure the organizers are following that footstep pioneered by our ancestors. Thus they have taken the time and resources to apply this proven method to solve the problem facing our old country. We are lucky to have such well-meaning people to take the time and assume responsibility to try to find a solution for our shortcoming.

The question is why are some working over time to derail such a noble cause? Why are a few disparaging such an attempt to find a solution for an old age problem that is evident in our life? Why are a few trading on hate and division to derail our train loaded with hope and goodwill? The short answer is because they don’t know any better. It has become second nature to their existence to put down others worthy contribution.

A friend of mine suggested I visit the web site of the nay Sayers to see the negative and hate filled venom expressed by our brethren. It was not a pleasant experience. It is a sad sight. It begs the question why? Why in the world would anybody oppose an open forum dedicated to find a solution for a problem spot that is affecting over a hundred million humans? There is no rational reason one can think of. May be they have been so comfortable bullying and ignoring the genuine demands of their population that they feel threatened by the mere attempt of others to find a solution to our common problem. Yes the saying ‘like father like son’ comes to mind. It perfectly fits the pattern.

A few weeks back the Prime Minister of Ethiopia was in Mekele, Tigrai celebrating his triumphant anniversary. Instead of using the occasion to celebrate his party’s accomplishment he used the venue to insult, demean and degrade those who do not agree with his views. He painted a dark and sinister picture of those who dare to differ with his blueprint for the future of our country. Their subjects do not view statements by leaders as an empty rhetoric. Words have ramifications. A few days after that hate instigating speech a candidate running for parliament was slayed by the Prime Minster’s supporter. That speech opened the floodgates of hate and negativity. Several candidates running for office have been killed, beaten and threatened through out the country for daring to dream of public service.

It is following that footstep that supporters of the regime have portrayed the ‘horn of Africa’ conference as a negative assembly of anti Ethiopians. The few websites they run has been dedicated to saw discord and ill feeling among people. They have used vile language to describe the participants and organizers of forum. They have resorted to defaming and insulting such worthy public servants because they took the time and showed concern for our country. Their behavior is a sad reflection of the current trend of disparaging and attacking individuals as a person instead of discussing ideas and opinions. It is not like the Ethiopia we know.

Their uttering is far from the truth. Their vain attempt to condemn and vilify is nothing but an attempt to cover their eighteen years of neglect and crime against their own people. Their hate filled diatribe is an attempt to deflect their failure to solve the problems facing the region. On the other hand the conference is an attempt to find a lasting solution rather than blame and finger point. Dialogue is superior form of forging a common path to find a lasting solution. When there is an open and transparent discussion, the outcome is always better and acceptable. It is with that in mind the Virginia conference is set in motion. That is why many East Africans welcome such a positive event knowing the good is definitely far better than the silence and indifference we got on the ground.
Guess what the organizers have decided to involve all of us and judge the event for ourselves. The Conference on the Horn of Africa events will be live-streamed, meaning that you could watch Live Video on your computer with your Internet access where you live in the world. The following is link for the Live streaming of the event on Saturday & Sunday.
We are indebted to the organizers for arranging such a worthy conference. We thank our foreign friends for taking time from their busy schedule and showing concern for our people and country. We are proud of our Ethiopian participants for their relentless work on behalf of their people. Our old nation is better off when her friends and children sit around a table and brainstorm to find a solution and build a better country for all of us. We hope and pray the Ethiopian government will involve itself in building a bridge to find a common ground that will include all the people in finding a solution for our problem. The attempt to bully the participants and vilify the organizers is not worthy of a national government. We hope hate is replaced with love.

Hallo! It is only a conference

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

By Fekade Shewakena

TPLF supporters and embassy personnel have been frantically but naively trying to subvert a planned conference in Washington DC to be held from April 9 to April 11, 2010. Listening to these supporters and staff of the embassy on the DC airwaves and reading what they write on the TPLF website, one thinks that a huge meteor is heading their way. They make it look like the government is about to collapse and the sky is going to fall on them. They seem to think that instead of going home after the conference, participants will march eight thousand miles to the Minilik palace in Addis Ababa to chase Meles Zenawi out. This people are really laughable. In fact, someone among them with a quarter of a brain could have realized that they are doing the opposite of what they intend to do. Instead of derailing the conference, they have publicized it and brought it more supporters and sponsors. The organizers actually told me that it is a windfall. I was told that they are getting floods of calls and emails from around the world to express support for the conference.

In one of perhaps the most laughable attempts, the regime supporters resorted to a complete uninformed individual named Kofi Agyapong who claims to lead some obscure organization named “Sons and Daughters of Africa” to help them dissuade sponsors and participants of African Diaspora groups from participating in the conference and sponsoring it. This person pulled by TPLF supporters to save them from the impending “Armageddon” is a someone who, in one of his incoherent complaints against white people and Arabs, wrote among other garbage that “our [African] names and culture are all Euro Arab names” (see here). Does anyone think this guy, who certainly has zero knowledge of Ethiopia, even knows parts of Africa beyond his own village? That he has even shared his personal communication with the conference organizing committee with the TPLF functionaries and allows it to be published on their website also makes him a paragon of quintessential African ethics. He almost made me puke. It appears the TPLF is fast running out of better expatriate hit men. Where is Mr. Paul Henze these days?

But seriously, I cannot for the life of me understand as to why such a conference whose content and participants are all announced in public and the topics of the papers to be presented are publicly posted weeks before the conference, should be such a threat to the government and the livelihood of TPLF functionaries. In fact the call to present papers was made public months ago. Conference organizers told me they were expecting some papers from regime supporters. None showed up. Perhaps it is due to that well talked public secret that intellectuals are in short supply among the supporters of TPLF/EPRDF. But they complain most participants of the conference are critics and opponents of the regime. Well duh! What else do you expect if you, the supporters of the regime, refuse to show up? Some forget that the largest numbers of scholars participating outside Ethiopia are exiles who left their country because of persecution and lack of freedom.

TPLF supporters and functionaries need to understand that this is not Ethiopia where academic freedom is completely shut down including even in universities. As I see it academic freedom in Ethiopia has to go a long way to reach the levels it has reached during the reign of Emperor Haile Silassie. Instead of accusing Haile Silassie day and night for not introducing the internet, it is better to climb to the levels of academic freedom that we enjoyed at his time. But this conference is held in America, a land where freedom is worshiped. It is a surprise that TPLF supporters are surprised that we will do ruthless examination of Meles Zenawi’s policies and the functioning of his government. We will dissect it to the best of our ability. We will peel it off layer after layer like onion until we get to the core. We will tell our people and every person including the donor nations of our best evaluations of realities in Ethiopia and how best to solve problems. Don’t forget there are hundreds of competent and brilliant Ethiopians across professions capable of doing that.

And surprise, surprise, the conference has a keen interest in the upcoming election in Ethiopia. Everybody who knows Ethiopia understands that this election is consequential in many ways and we worry about the direction of our country given current circumstances. Many of us expect intensified conflicts in the country if this farce is allowed to stand and worry it will exacerbate the country’s problems. The death of 200 unarmed protestors and the thousands brutally interned in concentration camps during the 2005 election is also still fresh in our minds. Regime supporters may want to scratch the record and moved on, we have not forgotten. And yes, I expect Birtukan’s name and spirit will be hanging all over the halls of the conference. You can’t have a conscience and avoid thinking about her plight. The only way to stop making her case a pain in the proverbial back of Meles Zenawi and the whole woyane system is to release her out of that dungeon immediately.

TPLF supporter brothers and sisters,

You should understand that it is not necessarily a bad idea to have varied and strongly held opposing views on the state of governance and a range of policies and politics in Ethiopia. The more we debate the less violent we will become. For now the only entity that has a monopoly of violence in Ethiopia is the regime you support. If you continue with chocking and silencing people, this monopoly will soon be broken. It is a shame that you are so much exercised and throw temper tantrum for the simple reason that we came together and exchanged ideas. By being so angry at our coming together for a discussion you are simply proving to us what you are capable of doing to our people.

If there is any iota of sense of genuineness and respect for your ideas, I strongly suggest that you come to the conference and challenge the participants. I will lobby for waiver of registration fees for those of you who are courageous enough to tell us you are supporters of Zenawi’s regime. As to who funds the conference, you should know that this is taking place in America where though freedom of information you have every right to know where every penny comes and goes. That you resort to phantom lies and conspiracy theories only indicates that you are very backward. May be you will meet friends from the diverse group of people at the conference. You will find literally a person from the varied ethnic groups of Ethiopia including from our neighbors, Eritreans, Somalis, Kenyans etc. You see, none of our neighbors are going to be towed and removed from the Horn of Africa. We have to start discussing our future and how to peacefully live together in the space God gave us without being perpetual enemies. Please come to the conference and come forward with courage. This is a civilized country where physical violence is not allowed and you have to fear nothing. Don’t send spies as you often do. There is nothing to be spied on. Everything is public.

There is something fundamentally wrong with people who hate heated and impassioned debate on issues of national importance particularly in a country like that of ours where we have a mountain of problems. Consider yourselves sick if you hate this.

(The writer can be reached at

Irrational acts and strange behavior

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

By Yilma Bekele

There is no lack of that in our neighborhood. We are blessed with delusional pea brains with inflated view of themselves and their capabilities while masquerading as leaders. They have a tendency to think if they believe it, it must be so. Unfortunately life slaps them with what is commonly known as reality.

Actually ‘unfortunate’, for the rest of us is a better expression, since they already have done the damage and there is no punishment fit for their crimes. We are left cleaning the mess they leave behind. ‘C’est la Vie’ is definitely not appropriate here for the victimizer. If we have to go ferenji with it I would say ‘nolo contendre’ is more fitting. For those of you not well versed in French or Latin ‘nolo contendre’ means that the defendant does not admit the charge but does not dispute it either. Here are a few examples of ‘say it ain’t so, Joe’ moments in East Africa the last two weeks.

A week ago five Somali pirates were taken into custody by a US war ship. Two were waiting on the mother ship further away while the three boarded a ‘skiff’ (a small boat) and fired at the US Navy ship. The report states that the USS Nicholas, a guided missile frigate has been tracking the boat when the hapless pirates decided to open fire. Yes this small rowboat manned by three Kat intoxicated Somalis was going to board a US war ship and hold it for ransom.

The USS Nicholas is no ordinary ship. According to the Navy ‘she is designed to provide in-depth protection for military and merchant shipping, amphibious task force and underway replenishment groups.’ The Nicholas has 17 officers and 108 enlisted men. She has served with distinction is the first Persian Gulf War and played a role in enforcing UN sanctions against the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Its deck brisling with all sorts of radar and sonar, with its short and long range anti aircraft cannons and killer Torpedoes the Nicholas a sight to behold.

Why would a little boat with simple automatic weapons engage such an impressive war machine? Madness is one explanation. A highly inflated sense of one’s power is another. When you throw in Kat into this mix the sky is the limit to the pirate’s delusion.

The Ethiopian Prime Minster when asked about his regime’s interference with Voice of America’s broadcast to Ethiopia said ‘”We have to know before we make the decision to jam, whether we have the capacity to do it,” the prime minister said. “But I assure you if they assure me at some future date that they have the capacity to jam it, I will give them the clear guideline to jam it. But so far there has not been that formal decision to jam.”

VOA broadcasts to Ethiopia in three languages. Amharic,Tigrigna and Afan Oromoo. The regime is focused on the Amharic transmission. Why is a good question? Why are only Amharic speakers targeted not to listen to VOA, defined, as the forerunner to ‘Radio Mille Collines of Rwanda’ by the dictator is not clear at the moment. Is it possible those two groups are immune to that kind of propaganda or they don’t listen to VOA? Nonetheless our fearless leader is investing money and resources to acquire the ability to silence VOA.

I am sure with plenty of resources and know how most things are possible. Please note the key words ‘resources and know how’. Ethiopia does not meet both requirements. The country cannot feed itself and has been on international life support system for a very long time. It definitely does not have the know how inside Ethiopia to manufacture such sophisticated instrument. It looks like with its limited resources TPLF has bought some second-rate technology from the Chinese or East Europeans to interfere with VOA’s broadcast. VOA was not amused. The State Department found the dictator’s pronouncement very offensive. (በለፈለፉ ይጠፉ) A low level official responded in the usual manner dismissing it as yet another example of an African leader’s babble. VOA went into satellite mode. Go ahead find us is what VOA said. Good luck wana be jammers!

If we are bold enough to make a suggestion here the regime is better off sending cadres in to every house to shut off the radio. That is a low level technology and within reach of the totalitarian system. It could also solve the rampant unemployment problem.

According to those who are in the know regarding food our country is in dire need of food aid to feed over eight million starving Ethiopians. Our government refers to the problem as ‘acute mal-nutrition’. The people affected refer to it as hunger and famine. How do you think the regime is trying to solve the problem? May be revise the policy of ‘state ownership’ of land? Devise new policy to help farmers improve production thru education, better seed selection and subsidized fuel and fertilizer?

The short answer is none of the above. The TPLF regime’s approach is a little different. The plan is to attract foreign investment by offering virgin land and generous tax incentives. Thus these foreign entities are going to farm using state of the art means to grow cash crops to be sold on the international market. There are a few kinks in this irrational decision to solve a real problem. First there is no tax to be collected by the state due to the initial agreement. Employment is not going to be a factor since the project is capital incentive using tractors and harvesters. The run off from too much fertilizer use of course will affect the land and the next generation will have to deal with the toxic waste left behind.

It is also true that what is grown on our own land can not be purchased by us since we can not be able to compete in the international open market. So what was in it for the regime? Immediate cash at signing the contract is at the heart of such a foolish decision. For TPLF the issue is solving the problem of not enough foreign currency especially at this time of elections. For the next two months the regime is going to spend a lot of money buying, bribing and coddling their junior partners not to be embarrassed during the coronation. Please note leasing of land is relegated to Gambella, Oromia and the South. Tigrai is not for sale.

Last but not least in this madness is a report from Ethiopia heralding the introduction of Electric car. The report quotes a ‘Mr. Carlo Pironti, general manager of Freestyle PLC, the company producing the Solaris, told the BBC’s Uduak Amimo in Addis Ababa that Ethiopia’s electricity shortages were not a major obstacle to operating an electric car.’

A country unable to produce electricity to light a 20watt.light bulb consistently is in the process of manufacturing an electric car that requires charging. I guess Mr. Pironti must have lived in Ethiopia for a while since he is affected by this abesha sickness of run away imagination. He thinks electric car without electricity is not a problem. Would you say this is an example of taking the slogan ‘Yes we can’ to the extreme? Do you get the feeling that the regime wakes up trying to surpass yesterdays lies and empty bravado by more absurd news and pronouncements? It is highly possible that the policy is to come up with a combination of little fact and more fiction hoping it will deflect the real and depressing condition in the country. It is also possible that insulated from real life, our leaders have become consumers of their own lies and make believe stories.

The small Somali rowboat firing on the war ship, the banana republic challenge of VOA, the land sale to foreigners and electric car without electricity are a perfect example of irrational act raised to the level of a valid policy. Stay tuned for a free and fair election with the winners going to Kaliti and the losers to parliament.

Ethiopia: “C’est la Vie? C’est la Vie en Prison!”

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Alemayehu G. Mariam

When Meles Zenawi, the arch dictator in Ethiopia, was asked about Birtukan’s health in his prison on March 23, 2010, he was comically philosophical about it. He said Birtukan health is in “perfect condition”, except that she may be putting on some weight.

The health situation of Birtukan, the last I heard, is in perfect condition. She may have gained a few kilos, but other than that, and that may be for lack of exercise, I understand she is in perfect health… I am not surprised that they [U.S. State Department] have characterised Birtukan as a political prisoner, because I understand they have also characterised Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and Oromia Liberation Front (OLF) terrorists… as political prisoners… But that is life; I think the French say, ‘C’est la Vie.’

It has now been 461 days since Birtukan Midekssa, the first woman leader of a political party in Ethiopia, was snatched from the streets by Zenawi’s goons and re-imprisoned for allegedly denying a pardon from a bogus political conviction in 2007. On January 9, 2010, Zenawi told a press conference that any discussion of Birtukan’s release was “a dead issue.” On January 15, 2010, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted an opinion finding that Birtukan Midekksa is a political prisoner. In its February 25, 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the U.S. State Department stated: “On December 29, [2008] Unity for Democracy and Justice Party president Birtukan Mideksa was rearrested for accurately telling European media organizations that she had not requested from the government a pardon leading to her release from jail in July 2007.” On December 5, 2009, Amnesty International declared that Birtukan “is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression and association.” In its March 24, 2010 report, Human Rights Watch declared, “Ethiopia’s most prominent political prisoner is Birtukan Midekssa, the leader of the UDJ party.” In its March 11, 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the U.S. State Department reported that Birtukan was a political prisoner who is being held in “violation of her constitutional rights”:

Opposition UDJ party president Birtukan Mideksa, whose pardon was revoked and life sentence reinstated in December 2008, remained in prison throughout the year. She was held in solitary confinement until June [2009], despite a court ruling that indicated it was a violation of her constitutional rights. She was also denied access to visitors except for a few close family members, despite a court order granting visitor access without restrictions. There were credible reports that Birtukan’s mental health deteriorated significantly during the year.

When Zenawi says Birtukan is in “perfect condition” and “may have gained a few kilos”, he is of course mocking her. He is taking a cheap shot. It is his way of distracting attention from the universally accepted fact that she is his personal political prisoner. He gets a kick out of publicly humiliating her. He uses sleazy humor to suggest that she is sitting idly in his prison and getting fat. It is not enough for Zenawi to keep Birtukan in solitary confinement in a filthy dungeon, deprive her of basic human contact for months, deny her the most elementary human rights, torment her day and night and condemn her in public. No, no! That is not enough. Zenawi must mock and heap scorn on her and roll over laughing at the sight of her suffering. The brave young woman who stood up to him in public must be humiliated and slapped in the face in public. “Birtukan Invictus”[1] must become “Birtukan the Vanquished”.

Just imagine the caricature of Birtukan getting “fat” at the “Zenawi Akaki Hilton (a/k/a “federal” prison) Spa and Resort” feasting on steak tartare and washing it down with gulps of tej (a local honey wine). But the “fat joke” aimed at Birtukan is not Zenawi’s first. This past December he described her as a “silly chicken” who ultimately did herself in because she did not know the limits of her modest abilities and his overwhelming and boundless might.[2] Well! Excuse the hell out of me, but I am not laughing! I am not into sick jokes!

Zenawi is right though in saying that Birtukan suffers “from lack of exercise.” It is absolutely true that after being held in total solitary confinement for six months and semi-solitary confinement for nearly a year after that, Birtukan suffers severely “from lack of exercise.”

Lame and sadistic jokes aside, there is something inane in Dr. Zenawi’s bill of “perfect health” for Birtukan. He has never seen or visited her in prison. He has not allowed her friends, extended family members, colleagues and associates to visit her. He has refused to allow a reputable physician to visit her, at her own cost. He has prohibited diplomats, journalists and representatives of humanitarian organization from visiting her. The only persons he has allowed her to see are her aged mother and her 5 year old daughter for one-half hour or less once a week. But he has heard from Birtukan’s jailors that her health is in “perfect condition” and she is getting fat on the gourmet cuisine at the “Akaki Hilton Spa and Resort”. Such is the arrogance of power!

But Birtukan’s health situation is no joking or laughing matter for us. In fact, as the U.S. State Department has documented, her health has been deteriorating since her re-imprisonment in December, 2009. After she was abducted from the streets, she was thrown straight into solitary confinement for the first six months at the “Akaki Hilton”. She now remains in semi-solitary confinement there. As anyone familiar with the operation of penal institutions knows, solitary confinement is a special form of punishment reserved for the most violent, dangerous and predatory prisoners in an institution. Such prisoners are denied contact with other persons, except limited contact with prison staff, because they have a record of being a serious danger to prison staff, other inmates or themselves. They are kept incommunicado as a preventive security measure. Birtukan was placed in solitary confinement immediately upon arrest. What possible or conceivable threat, danger or violence could the former judge, lawyer and political party leader have presented to deserve solitary confinement straight from the streets?

Those familiar with inmates who have served time in solitary confinement know that prolonged isolation produces extraordinarily stressful experiences for detainees with a whole range of harmful health effects. In solitary confinement, the individual is cut off from virtually all human contact and forced to live in an environment with little stimulation. No radio, books or other materials are allowed. Prison staff are instructed to maintain minimal contact with such prisoners. As I have explained elsewhere[3], there are specific psychiatric symptoms associated with solitary confinement including perceptual distortions, illusions, hallucinations, agitation, self-destructive behavior, pervasive sense of hopelessness and overt psychotic disorganization. Prolonged solitary confinement-induced stress often triggers the onset of mental illnesses and psychological impairments such as hearing voices, severe and extreme panic attacks, loss of impulse control with random violence, difficulties with thinking, concentration and memory and overt paranoia. When the March 11, 2010 State Department report diplomatically states, “There were credible reports that Birtukan’s mental health deteriorated significantly during the year”, what it is really saying is that Birtukan has shown many of the solitary confinement-induced “mental” symptoms. In simple terms, Birtukan’s tormentors are doing their best to torment her into madness.

Solitary confinement is a method of subjugation that aims to strip away their pride, honor and dignity of the prisoner. It is a process by which the prisoner is reduced into complete and total helplessness. It is the ultimate demonstration of raw machismo: Those in power seek to psychologically and physically breakdown the prisoner held in isolation, destroy his/her sense of self, well-being and security, instill fear and cause such prisoners to commit self-destructive acts. For political prisoners, the ultimate aim is to drive them mad. Such is the crime that continues to be committed against Birtukan every single day. She is, without a shadow of doubt, a victim of psychological torture.

But why humiliate, mistreat, degrade, mock, dishonor, brutalize, torment and abuse Birtukan?

The answer is simple. For Zenawi, Birtukan’s case is strictly personal. She stood up and opposed him on principle. He mistakes that as stubborn defiance. He has to teach this “uppity” woman a lesson she will never forget. He has to break her down for challenging his power and authority. Birtukan must also be punished for something Zenawi could never have: The love, respect and admiration of the Ethiopian people.

The interdisciplinary scientific literature in the field of political psychology is illuminating in understanding aberrant psychological attributes of political leaders driven by primitive and pent up emotions such as anger, vindictiveness and hatred. For instance, the works of Harold Laswell, Otto Kernberg, Jerrold Post, Eric Fromm and others provide valuable insights in understanding the vindictive personality. Some individuals in positions of power have accumulated deep bottled-up anger and hatred and live in a constant state of rage. They are afflicted by what may be called “pathological anger and loathing”. While healthy anger is a natural reaction to perceived or real injustice, pathological anger and loathing are mechanisms by which some in positions of power lash out at others as a way of restoring to themselves self-esteem, prestige and a sense of power, control and invincibility. They must constantly intimidate, brutalize and terrorize others to gain respect. In the process, they become solipsistic (preoccupied with themselves). They suffer delusions of grandiosity in which they create grossly fantasized self-images and perceptions of their achievements. In pursuit of grandiosity, they become “malignant narcissists” driven by unrestrained aggression, an insatiable need for power and recognition and distrust of others laced with an underlying sadism. Kernberg, for instance, argues that “malignant narcissism” develops as a defense against feelings of inferiority and rejection.

Pathological anger and loathing often leads to a poverty of empathy (the ability to feel for the suffering and pain of others). Those afflicted by this syndrome rationalize their cold-heartedness to themselves by “externalization” (finding outside enemies to blame for their failures) and “splitting” (attempting to hide something in their background that they are ashamed of). In short, such individuals experience an objective sense of “self” only when they are persecuting and inflicting pain and suffering on others and enjoying the havoc they have wreaked on their victims.

In considering Birtukan’s health situation, many are mindful of the fate of Dr. Asrat Woldeyes, the famed surgeon, professor of medicine and Ethiopian patriot who was imprisoned by Zenawi in the late 1990s, and denied medical care until his situation had significantly worsened during detention. His underlying heart condition and diabetes and other complications worsened irreversibly by delays in providing him with adequate medical care. He passed away on May 14, 1999. Many believe Dr. Asrat’s fate is what awaits Birtukan.

Zenawi said the “usual suspects” are spreading lies about Birtukan’s health, namely that she is not in “perfect health”. It is not clear to whom he is referring. Birtukan’s mother? Her 5 year old daughter? The only logical “suspects” are the same people who are telling him that Birtukan is in “perfect health” and “gaining a few kilos.” They are indeed spreading lies because Birtukan is in bad, very bad health. She is suffering. If Mr. Zenawi thinks this is a lie, let him allow the International Red Cross, U.S. Embassy personnel or any other independent international body to visit and report on her.

As I have written before[4], the truth about Birtuka is simple: The dictators are not afraid of her, but they are terrified of what she represents: Ethiopia’s bright future. Birtukan stands for the unity of all Ethiopians and stands against ethnic hatred, division and strife. That petrifies her captors. As Mandela “dreamt of an Africa which is in peace with itself,” Birtukan dreams of an Ethiopia at peace and harmony with itself. That sends shivers down the spines of those who have caged her. Birtukan appeals to Ethiopia’s youth, who represent over 70 per cent of the population. As Ethiopia is the country of the future, young Birtukan and the millions in her generation are the shining stars rising over the horizon of that future.

Since we are all dabbling in French, perhaps Ethiopia’s enfant terrible would appreciate the wisdom of an old French saying: “Ceux qui rient le vendredi, pleureront le dimanche.” (Those who laugh on Friday will cry on Sunday.)

Mr. Zenawi, it is “c’est la vie” (that’s life) for you; for Birtukan it is “c’est la vie en prison” (that’s life in prison).



[4] See footnote 1.

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, and his commentaries appear regularly on,, and other sites.

Security Forces Clamp Down on Gambella

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

(SMNE Update) — New threats are again on the rise in Gambella as the Meles government attempts to exert increasing federal control of the region, leading to new clampdowns against civilians. Many believe that these actions are meant to suppress the deepening local protest over the increasing land-grabs, the upcoming pre-determined election—where names of election ‘winners’ have already been leaked—and to the increasing pressure by government authorities on the citizens to cover up the real perpetrators of the 2003 genocide of the Anuak by attributing the blame to the Anuak themselves.

This is an issue that resurfaced following the recent Voice of America broadcast heard by millions throughout Ethiopia where Genocide Watch President, Dr. Gregory Stanton, spoke of a 16-page document obtained in 2004 from the office of the former Chief of Security, Omot Obang Olom, now the current governor of the Gambella region, which closely linked Meles, his administration and Governor Omot to complicity in the genocide of the Anuak in 2003.

The document provides information regarding a meeting held on September 24, 2003, in the office of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, where the Prime Minister, Governor Omot and other high level officials of the current regime began plans for what to do with those Anuak who had become an obstacle to their plan to exploit the oil on Anuak indigenous land.[1]

Following this the March 10, 2010 VOA broadcast, Governor Omot was allegedly asked during an interview whether the news from the report was true. He reportedly denied it all; answering, “No, this is not true. There are people out there who want to drink my blood!”

In negating this report, now delegates from Addis Ababa, along with Governor Omot, are pressuring the Anuak to go all the way back to 1991[2] to take responsibility for the killing of highlander settlers at that time and for the ethnic problems all the way up to the December 13th massacre, essentially blaming the Anuak for all of it.

The Anuak and other Gambellans were first pressured to hold a public rally in protest of the VOA program’s statements—saying that the defense troops had nothing to do the massacre; however, the people refused. Now, the TPLF government has produced a petition that essentially blames the Anuak for the December 13-15, 2003 Anuak massacre, in an incredible example of the illogical leaps this government must use in an attempt to cover up the vast evidence of their own complicity.

The governor is threatening to take action if the people refuse to sign it. Because of such threats, some 200, especially women, young students, are signing it. Allegedly the goal is to obtain 2,500 signatures, which it looks like they will not accomplish in Gambella town alone so they have gone to the rural areas and have brought 350 people from all the Woredas to the town to sign and intend to keep the pressure up until they have all the signatures. If the young Anuak students do not cooperate, they may find themselves out of school, or worse yet; in jail. However, some are standing up with courage. A particularly noteworthy example came not from an Anuak, but from a Nuer man.
It may be remembered that the massacre was first called an ethnic conflict between the Nuer and the Anuak; mostly blaming the Nuer when in fact there is a conflict between them in the past, they never killed each other in this way. They usually resorted to solving their problems through their elders. The truth is, there were numerous examples where Nuer actually protected the Anuak in their homes.

At the meeting where these demands were made, this bold Nuer student stood up and essentially said, “This meeting is being called to divert attention from the real killers. Why are we trying to look for the criminals who killed the Anuak when we all know who they are? Some of them are the ones running this meeting or are the ones who called it. The criminals you are trying to look for are in here. This meeting is an effort to blame the killing on someone else.” He was then kicked out of the meeting.

At the same time, there are well-substantiated rumors that Governor Omot has compiled a list of some 25 to 30 Anuak to be arrested for allegedly using their access to computers and email to pass on anti-government information to outsiders. It may be recalled that he was also the one who had compiled the list of those Anuak to be targeted for murder in 2003. Now he is the one still actively working with the Meles government to sell out the people of Gambella once again. He may think that stealing the land and the resources is much easier when you make victims cover up for the guilty and then deny them any voice or political rights, but this will all certainly backfire—perhaps, sooner than he thinks!

Substituting Anuak scapegoats in 2010 makes the regime’s effort all the more ridiculous!

Since the 2003 genocide, no one has been brought to justice for the crimes; yet, following the VOA broadcast, which pinpointed Meles and his regime as masterminds of the horrific crimes and called for a full-scale investigation by the UN High Commissioner, Justice Navanathem Pillay,[3] there is now this all-out desperate effort to scapegoat the victims. It flies in the face of the government’s own admissions, their own whitewashed Commission of Inquiry Report and other statements made to the public.

Consider the following statement posted by the UN press group, IRIN, on March 5, 2004, “The Ethiopian government said on Friday that it had apologized to local tribes for its inadequate response to prevent a massacre in the troubled western region of Gambella. A statement released by the federal affairs ministry said the government had not performed ‘proactively’, but promised that the killers would be brought to justice.”[4]

On July 14, 2004, IRIN again posted an official statement made by the head of the Commission of Inquiry, a commission appointed by the government to investigate the Gambella massacre, indicating the government’s own findings of Ethiopian defense troop involvement. They state, “Kemal Bedri, the chairman of the commission, said more than a dozen eyewitnesses had provided evidence of the involvement of defense ministry forces in the attacks.”

In January of 2005, then US Ambassador Aurelia Brazeal made the following statement at a meeting with the local citizens and government officials of Gambella, later covered in the US Embassy’s report, “…as promised by the Ethiopian Government, it is important that all those involved in the outbreak of ethnic strife in the region in December 2003 and early 2004 should be brought to justice, including those in the government, police, or military.” [5]

Now, over six years later, Ethiopian Federal Security agents are trying to force the Anuak into accepting responsibility for the massacre of the Anuak! However, just as the human rights crimes in 2003-2006 were about oil, the current repressive efforts are about both land and resources.

Land-grabs in Gambella accompanied by intimidation and blatant election controls

As many know, genocide, crimes against humanity and other human rights crimes are not random. The targets are almost always marginalized people sitting on valuable natural resources—like petroleum (oil and gas), gold, fertile land, water resources and other minerals. Gambella has all of these. When it is only the people who stand in the way of the powerful; preventing them from gaining access to these resources, only ‘conscience’ will prevent the unthinkable from happening.

This was exactly the position of former US Ambassador Aurelia Brazeal as she summed up the previously-mentioned meeting in Gambella, held on January 28, 2005 following the massacre of Anuak leaders in 2003 and the continuing human rights abuses. Ambassador Brazeal called the region of Gambella, “the conscience of Ethiopia”[6] due to its vast untapped natural resources. She predicted a moral crisis over whether the Ethiopian government would abuse the people in order to gain the resources. Unfortunately, there appears to be too little conscience to subdue the exploding greed of opportunists who are willing to trample on the people to gain personal profit from these new land and resource “deals.”

No one really knows how much land in Gambella has been leased to multi-national companies, foreign governments or wealthy individuals, but the Anuak know that at least 350,000 hectares or more, approximately 865,000 acres, of some of the most fertile indigenous Anuak land, has been confiscated by the Meles regime, with plans to obtain more. Most of this land will now be leased almost exclusively to foreigners for up to 99 years for significantly less than its equivalent value elsewhere—like in Indonesia and Malaysia where similar land goes for $350 per hectare. Most of the production will be exported to their own countries and sold for a profit elsewhere, leaving the local people out of the loop with the exception of working for these companies for salaries below UN standards.

The local people have never been consulted nor paid compensation for any land they lost through eviction. The TPLF government is reported to be independently signing these lease agreements with investors in Addis Ababa, similar to what happened with the Berlin Conference many years ago when decisions of how to divide up Africa land were made without consulting Africans.

No wonder why a level political “playing field” is such a threat and why every aspect of the upcoming election is already concluded, with all the winners selected. Any genuine free and fair election would certainly mean that those in authority would be replaced by leaders more interested in ensuring that new safeguards and protections for ethical business investment in the region were put into place to make certain that the people were not excluded and exploited unfairly.

Wounded man
Wounded man

Under these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that some protest these exploitive arrangements; however, there is no tolerance for any criticism. One outspoken opponent to the land-grabs was a young Anuak man Mr. Kwot Agole, who was shot and wounded in his home. He was accused of being a thief; however, most believe it was intended to silence him and others.

Similarly, a young outspoken Anuk woman was also shot and wounded—as a bystander—by security forces when they opened fire on what they called, ‘trouble-makers,’ in a secluded location; however, again, most believe it was politically motivated. Those who committed these crimes were never arrested.

Wounded man

Meles regime wants land, but not the people!

The only thing that will stop Meles and his TPLF elitist cronies from killing and oppressing the Anuak, as well as other Ethiopians, is when they have taken all they want from one of the poorest regions in one of the poorest countries in the world. For many years and up until now, the entire region of Gambella, also shared with Nuer, Komo, Opo, Mazengir, Tigrayans and other highlanders, has been one of the most neglected regions in Ethiopia. There are three technical schools, but not even one university. Little of the development money ever makes it to Gambella. No money from the Productive Safety Net Program is designated to this region. Much of the infrastructure destroyed by the Ethiopian Defense Forces at the time of the Anuak genocide and two subsequent years of human rights abuses, still have not been restored.

One example is access to clean water. The one poorly equipped hospital in the region does not have clean water. Many of the wells that were destroyed at the time still have not been repaired. Access to clean water in the largest town in the region, Gambella Town, is still so poor that the new troops coming into Gambella are filling their water tank truck from the well at the church—East Gambella Bethel Synod, parking their large truck at a very narrow location near the gate where the Anuak children used to, but can no longer, play. The water flowage has created erosion that if it continues, will damage the fence of the Synod.  

Wounded man

Many of the Anuak intellectuals present in 2003 to help advance the region were either murdered at the time or had fled the region as exiles. Some of those remaining in Gambella have openly aligned with Meles. No one in Anuak history may have hurt the Anuak people more than the present Anuak governor, Omot. Fear of his repressive and often heartless tactics have caused resistance to go underground, causing times to be extremely difficult right now as many are kicked off their land. Considering that the Anuak, perhaps numbering only 100,000 people worldwide, were named as an endangered people by Cultural Survival in 1984, the forces against them since that time have been great.[7]

The Meles government still is a primary threat to their existence as it is obvious that they covet the land and its resources. So, it is only logical that this regime will only due the bare minimum for the people. Investing in the people—their education, health and well being—simply makes it harder for them to take their land and livelihood.

As the TPLF government now seeks to capitalize on Gambella resources, they anticipate new resistance from the local people. As a result, they have sent large numbers of new military troops to intimidate or suppress those Anuak who might “get in their way.” The many new troops in Gambella are again beating up the people. These are the same troops that terrorized the Anuak, raped the women and destroyed homes, clinics, schools, granaries, crops and wells. It is all well documented by Genocide Watch and Human Rights Watch. [8]


The TPLF/EPRDF government, including Gambella Governor Omot, has encouraged the Anuak who had left the country following the massacre, to come back home. Governor Omot even led a delegation to the US with the objective of convincing those in the Diaspora to return home and invest, saying that things were very good and that there was peace in the region.

Last summer, three Anuak men, Obang Kwut, Obang Thamriu and Omot Obang (Omot Wara-Achan) and another fourth who was an Anuak American citizen, decided to return to Ethiopia from Southern Sudan. They were arrested and accused of being insurgents; responsible for the massacre of the Anuak. They were tortured and then brought to Kaliti prison in Addis Ababa. The Anuak who was a US citizen was released last year after a relative in the US advocated for him. The trial for the three who remained took place in March of this year; however to prosecute them, the government needed witnesses so Governor Omot appointed the head of the government-armed Anuak militia, Kwot Agid  and Omot Obang to fly to Addis Ababa to become the needed witnesses on behalf of the government.

After the massacre of 2003, there were Anuak who were resisting in the bush. What the TPLF government did back then was to create their own Anuak militia to fight against the Anuak insurgents. Kwot Agid had become the head of this group; but had carried out his duties in such a way that he earned the respect of the Anuak. However, Governor Omot chose to use them as witnesses, claiming they knew those being charged and believing they would align with the government.

When Kwot Agid and Omot Obang appeared in court in Addis Ababa, they refused to lie. They said that the accused had never been involved in the December 2003 killing of the Anuak. Furthermore, they went on to say that they knew for a fact that the Anuak did not kill the Anuak victims of the massacre. The government prosecutors then asked Governor Omot what to do because they had no evidence now to convict those charged. Insider reports indicate that Governor Omot gave directions to put the two in Kaliti prison. That is where they remain. Word has been received that they have been tortured.

Now the regional government is planning to disarm the Anuak militia, previously under Kwot’s control; believing they no longer hold any allegiance to the TPLF government. They are among the few remaining Anuak who still have guns. With the new influx of troops, the increasing land-grabs, the dislocations of the people, the repression of all political rights, the rumored arrests, the disarmament, the shootings and the increased human rights abuses; all accompanied by intense pressure on the people to cover up for the perpetrators of the genocide, no one knows what will happen next. The last disarmament preceded the genocide. What are they planning now as signs of their desperation are everywhere?

Problems in Gambella happening all over Ethiopia demanding shared response!

The increasing oppression being faced by the people of Gambella are also being faced by people all over the country; from the regions of Afar, Oromia, Beninshangul-Gumuz, Amhara, Ogaden, Harare, Southern Nations and in Tigray. Most Ethiopians have now become either the enemy of this government and a target of their control or they are considered ‘discardable’ people to be forgotten and neglected; that is, until they “get in their way”—like the many voiceless indigenous people whose total way of life will be affected by the opening of the Gibe III Dam.[9]

In Gambella, as the TPLF try to force the Anuak to condemn the VOA and the Genocide Watch report, the Meles regime is also attempting to force students at Jimma University and Haraghe University, as well as in other places, to sign a petition in protest of the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report. They are probably intimidating the students in these locations like they are doing in Gambella.

In the same way, the threats to those who speak out in Gambella are no different from what is happening in other regions. For instance, on March 31, 2010, in Oromia, the regime gave a death sentence to an Oromo nationalist and political prisoner, Mesfin Abebe Abdisa, and a life prison sentence to another Oromo nationalist and political prisoner, Tasfahun Camadaa Gurmessaa. Thirteen other Oromo nationalists were sentenced to ten to twelve year terms.

In another incident, an Oromo opposition candidate from MEDREK, under the sub-party of the coalition, Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), was recently stabbed, but is recovering.[10] The Meles regime is also preventing UDJ imprisoned political leader Birtukan Mideksa from being treated like all other prisoners, preventing visits from party leaders, friends and most family members. They are also opposing efforts to obtain necessary medical care for her deteriorating physical and mental health.[11]

These strongman tactics are the frantic last ditch efforts of a tottering regime, who have few options right now. If they admit the truth and give the opposition an even playing field, they will lose; yet, deepening the repression will create more solidarity among the opposition. They used to be able to count on Tigrayans to hold them up, but that support appears to be disintegrating. As they make futile attempts to cover up an incriminating history witnessed by countless Ethiopians, their expectations are out of touch with reality; reaching the point of the ridiculous. Instead, with each defensive overreaction to the truth, they are simply making more public their repressive nature and further exposing their crimes to the world.

The suffering, hardship and misery of the Ethiopian people from every region, ethnicity, religious group, political group, viewpoint and background has begun to unity us like the land that has held us together as a people and a country. We must be careful to not be manipulated by some groups with their own hidden self-interests, from both inside and outside of Ethiopia, who can profit by a weak and divided Ethiopia. They fear unity will result in a strong Ethiopia (and Horn of Africa), which stands together not only for one’s own rights, but for the rights of our fellow-Ethiopians both inside and outside of our own groups.

Those who stir up our emotions about our grievances towards each other, pretending he or she cares about us while encouraging never-ending anger, hate and alienation, are NOT working in our best interests. As they attempt to create irreconcilable divisions, calling our country a “fake Ethiopia” or “fake Abyssinia,” they pretend to align with the oppressed and downtrodden, but what is their real goal? Is it to bring about an atmosphere where legitimate grievances—and there are many—are openly confronted and dealt with or is it to keep us divided so as to advance their own interests? Have you ever wondered if someone might be paying such people to put so much energy into keeping the rifts going between Ethiopians? Do not be fooled by such people. They have their own agendas that seek to prevent a strong and united Ethiopia from ever emerging.

The answer to the suffering is when we all are valued as diverse people and the evidence of that is legally carried out in our laws, policies and daily practices. With God’s help, we can overcome those who want to divide us for their own purposes by putting humanity before anything else. Like most every other people and nation in the world, we (Ethiopian) have committed terrible wrongs towards each other; but perpetual hate, revenge, violence and anger are not the answer that will free us.

What will free us is reconciliation where forgiveness, confession and equal justice heals the wounds we have carried with us for years. The wounds are real and hurt, but simply inflicting new wounds on others will do little to heal our own. We need a new paradigm of thinking. It is a conscious decision to discard the destructive thinking of hate for loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. This is the revolution we need in Ethiopia!

We, as diverse people from within the boundaries of Ethiopia, must work together for each other because none of us will be free until we all are free!

May God give us the strength, wisdom and grace to embrace each other as we seek to create that new Ethiopia where we value the humanity of everybody and where our diversity becomes our beauty in the splendor of the new gardens of Ethiopia!May God bless Ethiopia and the beautiful and precious people of Ethiopia!

Tense confrontation between Siye Abraha and Kality officials

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

By Peter Heinlein | VOA

Ethiopia’s best-known political prisoner, opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa, is said to be in poor physical and mental health in a jail outside Addis Ababa where she is serving a life sentence. But as Prison authorities have denied visitation requests from friends and colleagues seeking to check on her condition.

A tense confrontation developed outside Kaliti prison Saturday between the facility’s director Abebe Zemichael and a man who was both his former commander and his former prisoner.

Several top officials of Ethiopia’s Unity for Democracy and Justice Party had gone to the prison demanding to see their jailed leader Birtukan Mideksa. Among them, Seye Abraha, a well-known political and military figure who is also a former Kaliti inmate.

Siye says he and prison director Abebe argued over visitation rules.

“The chief of the prison showed up and said it is only blood relatives who are allowed to visit her, we challenged him, as we are ex-prisoners we know family and friends visit relatives in prison,” said Siye.

Siye and the prison chief have a long history. Twenty years ago, Siye was military commander of the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Abebe was a TPLF guerrilla fighter. After the TPLF seized power in 1991, Siye became Ethiopia’s defense minister in the government led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

But the TPLF split in a bitter 2001 dispute. Siye was on the losing side. After being ousted, he was charged with corruption and imprisoned for six years.

He is now free and campaigning for a seat in parliament.

Siye says UDJ officials went to Kaliti to check reports Birtukan’s physical and mental health have deteriorated during her 15 months behind bars.

“Since the government has blocked any information about Birtukan we do not know what precipitated this problem about her health, so we are asking the government to give her access to an independent medical inquiry,” he added.

Birtukan was among dozens of opposition leaders sentenced to life in prison for their part in violent protests against what they said was vote-rigging by the ruling party in the 2005 parliamentary election. All were subsequently pardoned. But Birtukan was returned to jail and ordered to serve out her term after she refused to apologize for publicly stating she had not asked for the pardon.

Amnesty International describes her as a prisoner of conscience, the U.N. Human Rights Council lists her as a victim of arbitrary detention.

The U.S. State Department calls her a political prisoner, and describes as ‘credible’ reports her mental health is deteriorating.

The 35-year-old single mother and former judge was held in solitary confinement for five months after being re-arrested. Since then, her mother and five-year-old daughter have been the only ones allowed to see her.

In an interview Friday, Almaz Gebregziabher, 74, said her daughter seems mentally sound, though they are not able to talk freely during their twice weekly visits. Speaking through an interpreter, she said Birtukan’s physical health is the greater worry.

“Saturday Birtukan complained that she was sick, and on Sunday she said ‘would you please deliver this message to authorities’, that she was severely sick,” she said. “As soon as Birtukan said she was sick, she was almost in tears, and immediately the female guard that was listening to their conversation interfered and told her to leave the premises.”

Officials flatly deny Birtukan is either physically or mentally ill. At a recent news conference, Prime Minister Meles suggested reports about Birtukan’s condition are politically motivated.

“She may have added a few kilos. That may be for lack of exercise,” said Prime Minister Meles. “Other than that, I understand she is in perfect health. Where are they getting it, these reports? The usual suspects.”

He rejected a reporter’s suggestion that outside doctors, diplomats or journalists be allowed to see Birtukan to verify her condition.

“Birtukan is an ordinary prisoner of law. She will be treated like an ordinary prisoner of law. And we will keep her in prison like every other prisoner. No more rights, no less rights,” added Prime Minister Meles.

Birtukan supporter Siye Abraha counters that if Birtukan is treated like any other prisoner, she should be allowed to see friends and relatives.

Government spokesman Shimelis Kemal this week expressed surprise the issue of Birtukan’s health is being raised. He said if she is sick, she can go to the prison infirmary. If her problems are more serious, she would be referred to a hospital, like every other prisoner.

Shimelis said the timing of the issue suggests it might have less to do with Birtukan’s health and more to do with the next election, which is less than two months away.

Art of the Outrageous Statement

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

By Alex Belida

We are all accustomed to hearing political figures, especially from authoritarian countries, make outrageous statements.

But I think Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi may have uttered the most outrageous statement of all this past month when he compared Voice of America broadcasts to Ethiopia to the broadcasts of Radio Milles Collines, the infamous “hate radio” blamed for inciting the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

Here is what Ethiopia’s state-run news agency quoted Meles as saying:

“We have been convinced for many years and that in many respects, the VOA Amharic Service has copied the worst practices of radio stations such as the Radio Mille Collines of Rwanda, in its wanton disregard of minimum ethics of journalism, and engaging in destabilizing propaganda.”

Meles’ opposition to VOA broadcasts is being used as justification for Ethiopian jamming of VOA broadcasts. It now appears his government is expanding its censorship effort by blocking VOA’s website.

The U.S. government recently fired back at the Ethiopian leader. Acting State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid says Meles may disagree with the news carried by VOA but jamming VOA signals contradicts Ethiopia’s public commitment to freedom of the press. He says it also is in conflict with the country’s constitutional statement that all citizens have the right to freedom of expression “without any interference” and that this right shall include freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, “regardless of frontiers.”

As for that vicious comparison between VOA and Radio Milles Collines, Duguid said this: “Comparing a respected and professional news service to a group that called for genocide in Rwanda is a baseless and inflammatory accusation…”

I only wish Duguid could have been even stronger in his response.

(The writer is Acting Director of VOA’s Persian News Network)

Iran jamming TV satellite signals

Thursday, April 1st, 2010


Hot Bird 8 may be Europe’s largest and most powerful television satellite, but it still has little chance when the Iranian regime decides to block its signals. When that happens, the Farsi services of the BBC and Voice of America instantly disappear from television screens — and not just in Iran, but also throughout the satellite’s entire coverage area.

Tehran has targeted the satellite in an effort to prevent critical foreign media coverage from reaching domestic viewers. Even though the United Nations has condemned it as an act of sabotage, the international community can do little to stop it.

The Arabic service of the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle was also affected by the attacks on Hot Bird 8. “We experienced disruptions in December and February,” Deutsche Welle spokesman Johannes Hoffmann told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “A total of over 30 hours of programming was affected.”

Hoffmann believes the attacks were a “targeted act to block news coverage” on Iran. For example, he noted , there were problems in February during celebrations marking the anniversary of the Iranian revolution.

No Accident

France-based satellite provider Eutelsat, which operates Hot Bird 8, also believes the jamming attempts are deliberate. “This is not happening by accident,” says Eutelsat spokeswoman Vanessa O’Connor. The latest attempt to block the satellite occurred on March 20, according to the BBC and Voice of America.

Indeed, it would seem that it is often surprisingly easy for the regime in Tehran to suppress information from abroad. Although Hot Bird 8 is in geostationary orbit about 36,000 kilometers (22,400 miles) above the Earth, it can be easy to sabotage, something which is also true for many other satellites. The Iranians only need to transmit a strong signal in the satellite’s direction using the same frequency with which programs are transmitted from the original ground transmission station.

In the case of Deutsche Welle, the so-called uplink is sent from a ground station in Usingen, in the German state of Hesse. “The satellite cannot, however, determine whether the signal is coming from Usingen or from Tehran,” says Deutsche Welle chief engineer Horst Scholz. If in doubt, he explains, the satellite chooses the stronger signal, which allows it to be deceived by the interference coming from Iran.

Signals from Tehran

That is apparently exactly what happened to Hot Bird 8. Eutelsat’s employees were easily able to detect the jamming signals — with their constant amplitude, constant frequency and high power — on their monitors, but they could not do anything about them. Using a special software package called SatID, they were also able to identify the source of the signals: Tehran.

The satellite operator then informed the French telecommunication regulator Agence Nationale des Fréquences (ANFR) about the signals. The ANFR sent a four-page fax, which has been obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, to the Iranians regarding the issue. A copy of the complaint was also sent to the Radio Regulations Board of the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The 12-member board meets regularly in Geneva. Its meetings typically focus on highly technical issues, with the experts discussing problems related to frequency interference. In fact, given the paucity of free frequences these days, incidents of interference are not uncommon. Still, targeted disruptions are rare, though there had already been complaints about Iran in the summer of 2009.

This time around, the UN experts were unusually outspoken, at least by their standards. In a statement issued last Friday, the board “urged” Tehran to “continue its effort in locating the source of interference (of the Eutelsat satellite) and to eliminate it as a matter of the highest priority.” The Iranians had previously protested their innocence, saying they knew nothing about any jamming attempts, and they assured the board that they would look into the matter as quickly as possible.

Appeal to Goodwill

The issue is also likely to play a role at the next meetings of the International Telecommunication Union. But, in practice, the UN can do little against the jammers. “In such cases, the ITU Radio Regulations Board appeals to the goodwill and mutual assistance of its member states to find a solution and prevent the occurrence of harmful interference of radio signals,” ITU spokesman Sanjay Acharya told SPIEGEL ONLINE. But it is doubtful whether Tehran is interested in cooperating.

Likewise, since the European Union lacks the political will to block Iranian TV broadcasts as a countermeasure, there is no speedy solution to the problem in sight. “These things take time,” says Eutelsat’s Vanessa O’Connor. “We have the patience to accept that.”

In the meantime, the satellite operator has changed how some of its services are distributed. The channels affected thusfar are now transmitted via other satellites that can broadcast to the entire Gulf region, but without being reachable by uplinks from Iran.

Not all the channels on Hot Bird 8 have been affected by the electronic sabotage, however. The state broadcaster Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting also transmits its Press TV foreign service from Hot Bird 8. So far, it has not experienced any problems.