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Dear John Kerry: Letter From Prison in Ethiopia by Natnael Feleke of Zone 9

Imprisoned Ethiopian blogger Natnael Feleke of the Zone 9 Collective meets U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a town hall meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sunday May 26, 2013. (AP photo/pool)

The Guardian

By Natnael Feleke

Dear John Kerry,

I first came to know about you back in 2004, during the US presidential election, when you were running for office against George Bush. At just 17 years old I knew little about US politics – or politics in general – but I discussed the campaigns with my schoolmates.

A year later, the historic 2005 Ethiopian national election took place. This election differed from previous votes in that the lead up to it was mostly democratic. This left many Ethiopians hoping they would witness the first elected change of government in the country’s history. But it was not to be.

After polling day, we saw civilian bloodshed, and the arrest of thousands – including journalists and opposition leaders.

I was only young then, but the election gave me my first real experience of politics. It also left me with a strong desire to follow the repressive situation that was unfolding in Ethiopia.

It was this interest and commitment that led my friends and I to form the bloggers’ and pro-democracy activist group we called Zone 9.

The birth of Zone 9

All nine members of the blogging group are young and passionate about encouraging Ethiopia’s democracy.

We aimed to create a platform for Ethiopian youth to discuss political, economic and social issues when we launched our blog, with the motto, “we blog because we care”.

Although our arrest came two years after launching, our site was blocked in Ethiopia early on, but we continued to share our views via social media.

Finally, the regime took drastic measures: in April 2014 they arrested six members of Zone9, and three other journalists too.

We are now facing between eight and 18 years imprisonment.

This hasn’t come as a surprise. Whenever Ethiopians exercise their constitutional rights to free expression, the regime resorts to its security apparatus to silence them.

My charges are tied up with our meeting back in 2013. We met in Addis Ababa University: the minister of foreign affairs Tedros Adhanom invited me and a couple of others for a discussion, in which I raised my concerns about the regime’s tactics to push young citizens away from participating in politics.

I highlighted the negative impact this was having on the political sphere. I told you that I was risking a lot merely by expressing my thoughts freely. At that time, my arrest was only an abstract possibility.

Read the full letter at The Guardian »

Related:
Media Crackdown in Ethiopia By JASON MCLURE (Audio)

One Year After Arrest Zone 9 Bloggers Remain Imprisoned as Trial Drags On
Ethiopian bloggers on trial in case seen as crackdown on free expression (Washington Post)
Continued Detention of Ethiopian Journalists Unacceptable – UN Human Rights Experts
U.S. Students Feature Ethiopia’s Reeyot Alemu in ‘Press Uncuffed’ Campaign
Crackdown on Media & Opposition Costs Ethiopia Development Aid Money
As Election Nears, Increased Focus on the State of Media in Ethiopia

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Addressing Ethiopia’s Migrant Crisis

Demonstrators in Ethiopia hold up photographs of some of those who were killed by ISIL militants. (AP)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Published: Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — The despicable ISIL propaganda video that was recently released by terrorists showing the beheading and shooting of at least 30 Ethiopian Christians is the worst in a long series of disturbing violent acts endured by Ethiopian citizens all over the Arab world.

Sadly, today we live in an era where we are accustomed to watching from afar the plight of Ethiopian nationals as they migrate in large numbers every year in search of jobs and better economic opportunities, and are being publicly abused and murdered in foreign lands.

But as we gather this week in our churches, mosques and streets to mourn and honor the victims in Libya, we should also keep in mind those Ethiopians who need our immediate help and protection in South Africa and Yemen.

As Ethiopian American writer and activist Kumera Genet correctly pointed out in a recent interview that he conducted with individuals in the Middle East regarding the migrant issue: “There have been few coordinated efforts by the African Diaspora to directly support migrant workers in the Middle East in three years since Alem Dechasa’s death.” Coincidentally it was three years ago last month that the Alem Dechasa video surfaced in Lebanon showing the 33-year-old Ethiopian domestic worker and a mother of two children being physically abused by her employer outside the Ethiopian embassy in Beirut. The shocking incident took place only days before Alem was officially declared dead “due to suicide.”

“Often lost in the discourse around migrant rights is that there are local efforts to support the migrant worker community,” Kumera said. “I feel this is important context to better understand how individuals living outside of the Middle East can assist in improving the lives of migrants.” He added: “The news that reaches the Diaspora is normally about the tragedies. This is an unsustainable way of engaging in the issue and in the interim between public abuses, there is little real relationship building with potential allies.”

In addition to pushing governments to respond to the root causes that force people to migrate under life-threatening conditions, we urge interested individuals and organizations to launch private, independent initiatives and collaborations with both local and international agencies to tackle the problem in a meaningful way — one that acknowledges not just the tragedies of xenophobia or terrorism but also honestly addresses the lack of adequate economic resources faced by those who choose to make these dangerous journeys by land and sea.



Related:
Grief Mixes With Anger Over Christian Ethiopian Deaths (NY Times)
Anti-ISIL rally turns violent in Ethiopia (AlJazeera)
Ethiopian police tear-gas crowds protesting against Libya killings (Reuters)
Protest held in Ethiopia over killings by Islamic extremists (AP)
Ethiopians struggle to come to terms with beheadings of compatriots in Libya (Reuters)
Ethiopians Shocked by Islamic State Killings (AP)
Ethiopia in Mourning for Victims of Islamic State Violence (BBC)
Ethiopia Declares 3 Days of Mourning for Citizens Killed by Islamic State in Libya (VOA)
Ethiopia Condemns Purported Executions in Libya of Christians (AFP)
Video: Islamic State kills Ethiopian Christians in Libya (AP)
ISIS ‘executes’ Ethiopia Christians in Libya (Al-Arabiya‎)
ISIS Video Purports to Show Killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya (NY Times)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

In Ethiopia Protest Against Libya Killings Spiral Into Violence (Video)

Ethiopian police clashed with demonstrators during a protest against the recent beheading and shooting of 30 Ethiopian Christians by Islamic State militants in Libya on April 21st, 2015. (Reuters video)

AlJazeera

Tens of thousands of Ethiopians have marched in a government-supported rally against the killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya, but some demonstrators directed their anger at the authorities, prompting clashes with the police.

Wednesday’s march at Addis Ababa’s Meskel Square turned violent as stone-throwing protesters clashed with the police, who used tear gas against the crowd and arrested at least 100 people.

“We are tired of speeches and propaganda! We want action! Revenge for our brothers!” shouted a group of youths, referring to Ethiopians seen apparently being beheaded or shot in a video released on Sunday by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Libya.

“Ethiopia sent troops to Somalia, Liberia, Burundi, but the government is not capable of protecting its own citizens!” shouted one protester, referring to its peacekeeping roles in the African Union and United Nations.

Read more »



Related:
Addressing Ethiopia’s Migrant Crisis (Tadias)
Ethiopian police tear-gas crowds protesting against Libya killings (Reuters)
Protest held in Ethiopia over killings by Islamic extremists (AP)
Ethiopians Shocked by Islamic State Killings (AP)
Ethiopia in Mourning for Victims of Islamic State Violence (BBC)
Ethiopia Declares 3 Days of Mourning for Citizens Killed by Islamic State in Libya (VOA)
Ethiopia Condemns Purported Executions in Libya of Christians (AFP)
Video: Islamic State kills Ethiopian Christians in Libya (AP)
ISIS ‘executes’ Ethiopia Christians in Libya (Al-Arabiya‎)
ISIS Video Purports to Show Killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya (NY Times)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Ethiopians Struggle to Come to Terms With Beheadings of Compatriots in Libya

A woman cries at a gathering of the 30 Ethiopian victims killed by members of the militant Islamic State in Libya, in the capital Addis Ababa, April 21, 2015. (REUTERS/TIKSA NEGERI)

Reuters

BY AARON MAASHO

ADDIS ABABA — Hundreds of grieving relatives gathered outside the homes of two Ethiopians who were among dozens shown being shot and beheaded in a video purportedly made by Islamic State militants in Libya, struggling to make sense of their loved ones’ fate.

Only two of the 30 Ethiopian Christian prisoners displayed being killed in two groups by masked jihadists in a video released over the weekend have been identified by name.

The pair were close friends who grew up as neighbors in the impoverished Cherkos district of the capital Addis Ababa.

“My son is gone. I cannot bear it. I am burning,” a sobbing Ahaza Kasaye, mother of Eyasu Yekuno-Amlak, said at the gathering of family members on Tuesday.

Eyasu’s dreadlocks enabled his family and friends to quickly recognize him in a group of prisoners seen in the video trudging along a beach in orange jump suits before their captors beheaded them as they knelt on the ground.

Though the bodies of the prisoners have not been returned or recovered, mourners erected a tent and a priest delivered a sermon. Wailing mourners held aloft pictures of both victims.

Dozens of others – young men who were both neighbors and friends of the two men – briefly took to the streets and demonstrated in Addis Ababa’s main square before being dispersed by police.

Across town, Ethiopia’s House of Representatives opened an emergency session with a minute’s silence, before voting to observe three days of national mourning and fly the Ethiopian flag at half mast from Wednesday.

Read more at Reuters.com »

Related:
Addressing Ethiopia’s Migrant Crisis (Tadias)
Anti-ISIL rally turns violent in Ethiopia (AlJazeera)
Ethiopian police tear-gas crowds protesting against Libya killings (Reuters)
Protest held in Ethiopia over killings by Islamic extremists (AP)
Ethiopians struggle to come to terms with beheadings of compatriots in Libya (Reuters)
Ethiopians Shocked by Islamic State Killings (AP)
Ethiopia in Mourning for Victims of Islamic State Violence (BBC)
Ethiopia Declares 3 Days of Mourning for Citizens Killed by Islamic State in Libya (VOA)
Ethiopia Condemns Purported Executions in Libya of Christians (AFP)
Video: Islamic State kills Ethiopian Christians in Libya (AP)
ISIS ‘executes’ Ethiopia Christians in Libya (Al-Arabiya‎)
ISIS Video Purports to Show Killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya (NY Times)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Ethiopians Among Over 250,000 East African Refugees Stranded in Yemen

Many refugees and asylum-seekers from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia say they have nowhere else to go. (Getty Images)

Aljazeera America

by Michael Pizzi

Tens of thousands of East African refugees and asylum-seekers are at risk of being left behind in Yemen’s roiling violence, deprived not only of safe options for evacuation but also of a home country that might take them in, activists and U.N. officials said this week.

Since pitched fighting between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and forces loyal to the ousted president erupted in March, escape from the country has been arduous even for foreign citizens and wealthy Yemenis. Airports are under fire and commercial transportation cut off, forcing the most desperate to charter simple power boats and make harrowing journeys across the Red Sea.

But for the over 250,000 registered Somali, Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees and asylum-seekers, the situation is even more trying. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners have a contingency plan to receive 100,000 refugees in Somalia’s relatively stable regions of Somaliland and Puntland, and another 30,000 in Djibouti, but that process will unfold over the next six months. And it is barely underway.

“The reality is that there are limited options for people to get out,” said Charlotte Ridung, the Officer-in-Charge for the UNHCR in Yemen. “Some have fled by boat, but many ports are closed, and fuel is an issue so the options for escape are indeed limited.”

As gunbattles and aerial bombardment engulf the port city of Aden, at least 2,000 people have fled urban areas to take shelter in the nearby Kharraz refugee camp, Ridung said. Thousands more refugees and Yemenis alike have begun to make the dangerous voyage across the water, including 915 people who fronted $50 each for boats from the Yemeni port of Mukha to Somalia — among them Somalis returning home for the first time in decades.

There, the UNHCR registered “women and children who arrived extremely thirsty and asking for water,” Ridung said. They included a pregnant woman who was immediately transferred to a hospital to deliver her baby.

Meanwhile, asylum-seekers and migrants traveling in the opposite direction from East Africa continue to arrive in war-wracked Yemen. Last Sunday, the UNHCR registered another 251 people, mostly Ethiopians and Somalis, who arrived by boat at the port city of Mayfa’a. Whether they were unaware of the violence in Yemen or hopeful mass evacuations from the country might take them somewhere safer is unclear.

Read more »

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Ethiopians Shocked by IS Killings (AP)

Islamic State militants stand behind what are said to be Ethiopian Christians in Libya in this still image from an undated video made available on a social media website on April 19, 2015. (REUTERS)

Associated Press

Monday, April 20, 2015

Many in Ethiopia are reeling from the news that several Ethiopians were killed in Libya by the Islamic State group, which over the weekend released a video purporting to show the killings.

The killings, which have shocked many in the predominantly Christian country, were condemned by Pope Francis and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The victims were planning to go to Europe by boat from Libya but were captured and then killed by the Islamic extremists, said grieving family members and government officials. Ethiopia’s government on Monday declared three days of mourning.

Pope Francis on Monday sent a letter to the patriarch of Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, Abuna Matthias, expressing “distress and sadness” at the “further shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya.

The pope has been very vocal in condemning the persecution of Christians across the globe in recent months, and stressed in the letter to the Ethiopian orthodox patriarch that “it makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the killings and “utterly deplores the targeting of people on the basis of their religious affiliation,” his spokesman said.

Some people gathered Monday gathered in an Addis Ababa slum to mourn two former residents whose faces were recognized in the Islamic State video. The 29-minute video, released on Sunday via social media accounts and websites used by the extremists, shows many Ethiopian Christians held captive in Libya being shot or beheaded by militants.

Eyasu Yikunoamlak and Balcha Belete left Ethiopia two months ago with the aim of reaching Europe. They are believed to have left Ethiopia through Sudan and later traveled to Libya where they planned to take a boat to Europe but they were seized by Islamic State militants, relatives told The Associated Press on Monday.

Relatives and friends of the two victims in Cherkos Village, a poor neighborhood of the Ethiopian capital, said Eyasu and Balcha grew up together and used to live in the same house.

Seyoum Yikunoamlak, the older brother of Eyasu, said he first learned about the death of his younger brother on Sunday evening while checking the news on Facebook.

“I was very worried how to tell our family but everyone is a Facebook user these days so people in our village told our family that Eyasu was among the group that are on the (Islamic State) video,” a tearful Seyoum said.

Family members stopped getting calls from Eyasu a month ago and grew worried, but news of a violent death was never expected, he said.

“His dream was to go to Italy and then reach the U.K. and help himself and his family members,” he said.

Redwan Hussein, an Ethiopian government spokesman, said on Sunday he believed the victims were Ethiopian migrants trying to reach Europe, an account bolstered by local residents who said impoverished young men are tempted to make the perilous journey to Europe.

“There is no job opportunity here. I will try my luck too, but not through Libya,” said Meshesa Mitiku, a longtime friend of the two victims. “I want to move out. There is no chance to improve yourself here. This is the whole community’s opinion.”
Ethiopia’s three days of mourning start Tuesday, when lawmakers will meet to discuss the killings and consider the country’s possible response, the government said in a statement.

Ethiopia has angered Islamic extremists over its military’s attacks on neighboring Somalia, whose population is almost entirely Muslim. A militant in the video said “Muslim blood that was shed under the hands of your religion is not cheap,” but the video did not specifically mention the Ethiopian government’s actions.

The Islamic State video showing the killing of the Ethiopians starts with what it called a history of Christian-Muslim relations, followed by scenes of militants destroying churches, graves and icons. A masked fighter brandishing a pistol delivers a long statement, saying Christians must convert to Islam or pay a special tax prescribed by the Quran.

Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Colleen Barry in Milan contributed.


Related:
Ethiopia lawmakers to weigh possible response to ISIS killings (CBS/AP)
Ethiopia in Mourning for Victims of Islamic State Violence (BBC)
Ethiopia Declares 3 Days of Mourning for Citizens Killed by Islamic State in Libya (VOA)
Ethiopia Condemns Purported Executions in Libya of Christians (AFP)
Video: Islamic State kills Ethiopian Christians in Libya (AP)
ISIS ‘executes’ Ethiopia Christians in Libya (Al-Arabiya‎)
ISIS Video Purports to Show Killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya (NY Times)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Ethiopia Declares 3 Days of Mourning for Citizens Killed by Islamic State in Libya

Militants from the so-called Islamic State stand behind what are said to be Ethiopian Christians in Libya, in this still image from an undated video posted to a social media website on April 19, 2015. (Reuters)

VOA News

Last updated on: April 20, 2015

Ethiopia has confirmed that 30 of its nationals were killed by Islamic State militants in Libya.

The confirmation came Monday, a day after the Islamic State group released a graphic video purporting to show Ethiopian Christians being decapitated or shot in the back of the head.

An Ethiopian government statement condemned what it called the “inhuman mass murder of its citizens.” The government declared three days of mourning Monday which will start Tuesday, when lawmakers will meet to discuss the killings and consider the country’s possible response, the government said in a statement.

The national flag also will fly at half-staff during the days of mourning.

The 29-minute video, released on Sunday via social media accounts and websites is similar to one released in February showing militants cutting off the heads of Egyptian Christians.

Redwan Hussein, an Ethiopian government spokesman, said on Sunday that he believed the victims were Ethiopian migrants trying to reach Europe.

The Islamic State video showing the killing of the Ethiopians starts with what it called a history of Christian-Muslim relations, followed by scenes of militants destroying churches, graves and icons. A masked fighter brandishing a pistol delivers a long statement, saying Christians must convert to Islam or pay a special tax prescribed by the Quran.

US condemnation

The White House has condemned “in the strongest terms” the mass murder.

“That these terrorists killed these men solely because of their faith lays bare the terrorists’ vicious senseless brutality,” a spokeswoman said Sunday, adding that the killings show the urgent need for a political settlement to the chaos in Libya, and a unified rejection of terrorist groups.

Ethiopia long has drawn the anger of Islamic extremists over its military’s attacks on neighboring Somalia, whose population is almost entirely Muslim. While a militant in the video at one point said, “Muslim blood that was shed under the hands of your religion is not cheap,” it did not specifically mention the Ethiopian government’s actions.

Arab League plans Cairo meeting

An Arab League official told the French news agency military chiefs from the region would meet in Cairo this week to discuss creating a joint force against the Islamic State group.

The United States already is leading an international coalition carrying out airstrkes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq, allowing Iraqi forces to seize back areas from the militants.

Some material for this report came from AP.

Related:
Ethiopia in Mourning for Victims of Islamic State Violence (BBC)
Ethiopia Condemns Purported Executions in Libya of Christians (AFP)
Video: Islamic State kills Ethiopian Christians in Libya (AP)
ISIS ‘executes’ Ethiopia Christians in Libya (Al-Arabiya‎)
ISIS Video Purports to Show Killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya (NY Times)

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Video: Islamic State kills Ethiopian Christians in Libya

A video released on Sunday by the Islamic State appears to show fighters from affiliates in southern and eastern Libya executing dozens of Ethiopian Christians. (Image from AP video)

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

By JON GAMBRELL and ELIAS MESERET

CAIRO (AP) — Islamic State militants in Libya shot and beheaded groups of captive Ethiopian Christians, a video purportedly from the extremists showed Sunday. The attack widens the circle of nations affected by the group’s atrocities while showing its growth beyond a self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

The release of the 29-minute video comes a day after Afghanistan’s president blamed the extremists for a suicide attack in his country that killed at least 35 people — and underscores the chaos gripping Libya after its 2011 civil war and the killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

It also mirrored a film released in February showing militants beheading 21 captured Egyptian Christians on a Libyan beach, which immediately drew Egyptian airstrikes on the group’s suspected positions in Libya. Whether Ethiopia would — or could — respond with similar military force remains unclear.

Ethiopia long has drawn the anger of Islamic extremists over its military’s attacks on neighboring Somalia, whose population is almost entirely Muslim. While the militant in the video at one point said “Muslim blood that was shed under the hands of your religion is not cheap,” it did not specifically mention the Ethiopian government’s actions.

The video, released via militant social media accounts and websites, could not be independently verified by The Associated Press. However, it corresponded to other videos released by the Islamic State group and bore the symbol of its al-Furqan media arm.

The video starts with what it called a history of Christian-Muslim relations, followed by scenes of militants destroying churches, graves and icons. A masked fighter brandishing a pistol delivers a long statement, saying Christians must convert to Islam or pay a special tax prescribed by the Quran.

It shows one group of captives, identified as Ethiopian Christians, purportedly held by an Islamic State affiliate in eastern Libya known as Barqa Province. It also shows another purportedly held by an affiliate in the southern Libyan calling itself the Fazzan Province. The video then switches between footage of the captives in the south being shot dead and the captives in the east being beheaded on a beach. It was not immediately possible to estimate how many captives were killed or confirm their identities.

In Ethiopia, government spokesman Redwan Hussein said officials were in contact with its embassy in Cairo to verify the video’s authenticity. Hussein said he believed those killed likely were Ethiopian migrants hoping to reach Europe. Libya has become a hub for migrants across Africa hoping to cross the Mediterranean to enter Europe for work and better lives.

“If this is confirmed, it will be a warning to people who wish to risk and travel to Europe though the dangerous route,” Hussein said.

Abba Kaletsidk Mulugeta, an official with the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church’s Patriarchate Office, told the AP he also believed the victims likely were migrants.

“I believe this is just another case of the IS group killing Christians in the name of Islam. Our fellow citizens have just been killed on a faith-based violence that is totally unacceptable. This is outrageous,” Mulugeta said. “No religion orders the killing of other people, even people from another religion.”

Ethiopia’s options to retaliate remain slim, given its distance from Libya. However, Egyptian Ambassador to Ethiopia Mohammed Edrees said his country could partner with Addis Ababa to strike the militants.

“That could be an option,” Edrees told the AP. “We will see and explore what is possible to deal with group.”

Edrees said Ethiopian officials had yet to approach Egypt to discuss the idea.

Read more »

Related:
Grief Mixes With Anger Over Christian Ethiopian Deaths (NY Times)
Anti-ISIL rally turns violent in Ethiopia (AlJazeera)
Ethiopian police tear-gas crowds protesting against Libya killings (Reuters)
Protest held in Ethiopia over killings by Islamic extremists (AP)
Ethiopians struggle to come to terms with beheadings of compatriots in Libya (Reuters)
Ethiopians Shocked by Islamic State Killings (AP)
Ethiopia in Mourning for Victims of Islamic State Violence (BBC)
Ethiopia Declares 3 Days of Mourning for Citizens Killed by Islamic State in Libya (VOA)
Ethiopia Condemns Purported Executions in Libya of Christians (AFP)
Video: Islamic State kills Ethiopian Christians in Libya (AP)
ISIS ‘executes’ Ethiopia Christians in Libya (Al-Arabiya‎)
ISIS Video Purports to Show Killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya (NY Times)

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SEED: Society of Ethiopians Established in Diaspora Announces 2015 Honorees

Photo from past award event hosted by Society of Ethiopians Established in Diaspora. (Photo: Ulf Niskanen)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Saturday, April 18th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Society of Ethiopians Established in Diaspora (SEED) will hold its 23nd Annual Awards Gala at Georgetown University Hotel & Conference Center in Washington, D.C. on May 24th, 2015.

The organization announced that it will honor ten individuals from the Diaspora this year, including educators, former government officials, artists, activists, journalists and students. The honorees are Aklilu Habtewold, Tamagne Beyene, Yohannes Gebregeorgis, Jane Kurtz, Tesfaye Gessesse, Dr. Zebene Lemma, Dr. Teshome Wagaw and students Elizabeth Elsa Girma, Naomi Fesseha and Woudese Befikadu.

Last year, the awards went to Professor Donald N. Levine, Obang Metho, Menbere Aklilu, Ambassador Zewde Retta and the late Rachel Beckwith.

SEED said it is recognizing former Ethiopian Prime Minister Aklilu Habtewold posthumously “in acknowledgment of his outstanding lifelong public service with integrity, in appreciation of his contribution to the modernization and development of Ethiopia (including building Ethiopia’s defense capability at the time), in connecting Ethiopian Airlines to the rest of the world, in fighting against Italian aggression in his youth, for amicably resolving boarder conflicts with Ethiopia’s neighbors, for being instrumental to making Addis Ababa the home for the AU (OAU) headquarters, for bringing Ethiopia to the world stage by representing it with dignity and resolve in the UN, Europe, the US and Africa, and for his own academic accomplishments, demonstrated love of country.”

In addition, SEED will bestow the accolade on CNN Hero Yohannes Gebregeorgis and Jane Kurtz “as collaborative founders of Ethiopia Reads, an organization that brings books and libraries to rural Ethiopia, in appreciation of the rich and positive contributions they have made by exemplifying the highest ideals and standards education for our young people, as well as in recognition of their own inspiring academic excellence, prolific writings of children’s books, civic responsibilities and continuing the work respectively.”

Artist and Professor Tesfaye Gessesse is being honored “in acknowledgment of his outstanding life-long contributions to the preservation of our culture through his prolific writings, theatrical and poetic talents, as a playwright whose work has inspired many followers of his work, as a founder of Orchestra Ethiopia, as a distinguished role model to the countless young artists in Ethiopia and Ethiopians around the globe, as a venerated teacher with his own stellar academic accomplishments and for all of his lifetime achievements.”

Teshome Wagaw, a founding member of the Ethiopian Mahber of Michigan (EMM) and co-founder of the Ethiopian American Education Foundation (EAF), is also being honored. “Known to a great number of Ethiopians from the 1960s as a pioneer Voice of America Broadcaster, Professor Emeritus, Dr. Teshome Wagaw is an outstanding scholar and exemplary role model to Ethiopians everywhere,” SEED said. “Dr. Wagaw is loved and admired by many across generations.” The organization added: “SEED honors Dr. Wagaw in acknowledgement of his contribution to the development of higher education in Ethiopia (both as respected professor and author), in recognition of his own academic accomplishments, demonstrated patriotism, unselfish devotion to humanitarian causes, unfading interest and love of country.”

For more information on 2015 SEED honorees please visit www.ethioseed.com

If You Go:
23rd ANNUAL SEED AWARDS DINNER
SUNDAY, May 24th, 2015 at 6:30pm
Georgetown University Hotel & Conference Center
Washington DC
Tickets: $75 online
$85 on-site, $35 Children under 12
Buy Tickets Online or make check payable to SEED
P.O. Box 848, Pomona, NJ, 082401
Phone: 609- 407-0496 or 234 -380-1533
www.ethioseed.com

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Harvard Portrait: Ethiopian American Computer Scientist Jelani Nelson

Jelani Nelson is an assistant professor of Computer Science at Harvard University. (Photo by Jim Harrison)

Harvard Magazine

By Jonathan Shaw

JELANI NELSON LIGHTS UP when he talks about algorithms. The soft-spoken assistant professor of computer science is a rising star in a field made vital as data proliferate exponentially faster than the growth of computational power or storage. Algorithms, well-defined procedures for carrying out computational tasks, speed the way to answers. Nelson has a knack for speed: online, where he is known as “minilek”—a handle chosen in youth when he was growing up on St. Thomas, and derived from the name of an early ruler of Ethiopia, whence his mother hails—he has excelled with equal ease in coding competitions and typing contests (topping out above 200 words per minute). Though he is a theorist now, solving real problems quickly “cements the concepts in your mind,” he says. Borne of that conviction, every homework assignment in his undergraduate course Computer Science 124, “Data Structures and Algorithms,” includes an algorithmic programming problem. His own student years were spent practically next door, at MIT, where he majored in mathematics and computer science, and remained to earn a Ph.D. in the latter field. He came to Harvard in 2013 after postdoctoral research at Berkeley and Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study. Nelson’s specialty is “sketching,” an approach to dealing with problems in which there are “too many data in the input.” He figures out how to create compressed, often exponentially smaller, versions of datasets that nevertheless retain useful, accurate information. His proofs defining the limits of such approaches have illuminated fundamental questions, some of them unanswered for decades. Though he is humble and quiet, his colleagues are less reserved: they call him “simply brilliant.”


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South Africa Mob Sets Two Ethiopian Brothers on Fire Inside Shipping Container

Men armed with machetes make their way onto a street in Durban, South Africa on Tuesday. (Photo: AP)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, April 16th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — In one of the most horrifying anti-immigrant mob attacks that’s currently rocking South Africa, two young Ethiopian brothers are said to have been locked inside their small shop in a shipping container and set on fire last Friday in a township near Durban.

The Los Angeles Times reported that “Tesema Marcus, 22, died that night at a hospital, while his brother, Alex, 24, remains in a serious condition.”

“It began after the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, told his followers last month that foreigners in South Africa should pack up and leave,” according to LA Times. “President Jacob Zuma’s eldest son, Edward, had also chimed in that foreigners were “taking over the country.”

The report added: “Last week, violent attacks on immigrant shopkeepers in Durban townships exploded and have continued since. Dozens of immigrants in Johannesburg and other cities shuttered their shops Wednesday as anonymous cellphone text messages warned that Zulu people were coming to kill immigrants in neighborhoods with large migrant populations.”

The spokesman for the Ethiopian Community Association, Dereje Fana, told LA Times that his office “had been pressing South African authorities to take attacks on immigrants more seriously” and to protect them and their property.

Dereje said the Zulu king is to blame for the provocative comments that launched the latest xenophobic violence. “We have heard it’s going to continue,” he said. “We’re trying to highlight it and bring it to the attention of the authorities, to create awareness and protect their lives and protect their businesses.”

CNN noted that “more than 2,000 people fled to South African police stations Thursday after mobs with machetes attacked immigrants in Durban, leaving at least five people dead, an aid group said. The attacks in Durban killed two immigrants and three South Africans, including a 14-year-old boy, authorities said.”

“There has been an outpouring of support from ordinary South Africans who are disgusted with the attacks not only because they are foreign, or African, but because they are fellow human beings,” said Gift of the Givers charity, which is helping those seeking refuge at police stations. “We are preparing aid packages for those who may journey onwards to their home countries.”



Related:
Thousands flee after South Africa mobs attack immigrants (CNN)
South Africa grapples with outbreak of anti-immigrant violence (The Los Angeles Times)

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Ethiopia’s Building Boom Masking Poverty?

(Getty Images)

BBC

By Lerato Mbele

Addis Ababa – Whenever we set up our camera and flapped open our sun reflectors in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, passers-by became curious and eager to help.

But getting them to talk on camera was another matter as in general residents of the city are reticent and keep their views to themselves.

We were filming in Addis Ababa for a programme charting the changes in the country, yet it was only on the flight back to South Africa that I met an Ethiopian willing to be candid.

I found myself seated next to an inquisitive elderly Ethiopian woman, who was chatty despite the early morning departure.

However, she was not so open as to be willing for me to mention her name here.

She wore a green twin-set, leggings and woollen socks with her loafers. After the rigorous security checks, she took the socks off, saying she only wears them to keep her feet clean at the end of the security protocols.

She reminded me a bit of my mother, both caring and bossy all in one person.

During the flight, she cut me a portion of her fruit and insisted that I eat every morsel; her stern gaze suggested that I had no choice.

‘Foregone conclusion’

We talked about a lot of things, including my impressions of Nigeria, especially following the ground-breaking presidential election there when the incumbent lost.

She was proud of the manner in which Nigerians had used their vote to make a strong statement about their government.

I replied that perhaps if Ethiopians have strong views about the ruling party – the EPRDF, in power since 1991 – then they could also do the same when elections are held in May.

My neighbour dispelled that notion very quickly and whispered that she believes the result is a foregone conclusion.

I argued that surely Ethiopia’s democracy is deeper than that, and that many support the government as they are grateful for the development in recent years.

She smirked and told me to open my eyes wider during my next visit.

Beggars

I was urged to investigate the economic statistics.

They show an economy growing in near double-digits, but about 40% live below the poverty line.


This photo is from 2007, but homeless people are still seen on the streets of Addis Ababa. (BBC)

She reminded me of the beggars who are on the streets of Addis Ababa.

Then I recalled our filming around the city.

There is a clear image of frantic construction taking place, with a monorail, new roads and apartment blocks all being built.

But I also noticed that many of the buildings are empty.

I asked my new friend why she thought this was.

She reckons the Ethiopian middle-class cannot afford the rents, and that professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, have resorted to using parts of their home as consulting rooms, because they cannot pay for office space.

Read more at BBC.com »

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US to Take Cuba Off Terror-sponsor List

U.S. and Cuban flags waving from the balcony of the Hotel Saratoga in Havana, Cuba. (AP photo)

VOA News

By Michael Bowman

April 15, 2015

WASHINGTON — Congressional reaction to President Barack Obama’s push to remove Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism spans from ardent support to fervent opposition, with many lawmakers of both parties taking a wait-and-see approach.

“Long overdue,” said Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who ridiculed any suggestion that Cuba today poses a security threat to the United States.

“They are riding the last mile of socialism in a ’57 Chevy. They didn’t belong on the list for a while; it was more a political designation,” he said. “That list ought to mean something. Now [with Cuba’s likely removal], it means a lot more.”

By contrast, Cuban-American Republican Senator Marco Rubio issued a video condemning the president’s move.

“Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism. They harbor fugitives of American justice,” he said. “It is also the country that is helping North Korea evade weapons sanctions by the United Nations. I think it sends a chilling message to our enemies abroad that this White House is no longer serious about calling terrorism by its proper name.”

Cuba will remain on the terrorism-sponsor list for a 45-day review period, during which time Congress could pass a resolution to block Obama’s decision. Other nations on the list are Iran, Sudan and Syria.

Tuesday’s White House announcement came as many lawmakers were focused on another foreign policy question – Congress’ role in Iran nuclear talks – and members of both parties say they will use the review period to examine Cuba’s record more closely.

“We are going to review the [administration’s] rationale and use the 45-day period we are allotted to determine whether we stick with the president’s determination,” said Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, who nevertheless calls himself a “strong supporter” of normalized relations between Washington and Havana.

Equally cautious is Republican Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who says he is drafting a letter to the White House seeking more information on the president’s decision.

“Before we respond, we want to ask some questions,” said Corker.

Others have made up their minds about the Obama administration’s overall engagement with Cuba’s communist government.

“They don’t give freedom of speech, freedom of the press,” said Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, who represents Florida, home to a large Cuban-American population.

“If we are going to have a normal relation with Cuba, they have got to open up, stop human rights abuses, and give the rule of law,” he said.

“I think the president is moving in the correct direction,” said Democratic Senator Edward Markey. “It is time for us to move as quickly as possible toward the normalization of relations with Cuba.”

For decades after the Cuban Revolution of 1959, Havana backed insurgents and leftist movements in the Americas and parts of Africa. Analysts say Cuba’s foreign adventurism all but ended in the 1990s, although Havana continues to harbor a handful of fugitives from U.S. justice.

More recently, Cuba has played the role of mediator rather than agitator, hosting peace talks between the Colombian government and leftist FARC rebels.

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Ethiopians Talk of Violent Intimidation as Land Earmarked For Foreign Investors

New report gives damning indictment of the government’s mandatory resettlement policy carried out in a political climate of torture, oppression and silencing. (Photograph: Siegfried Modola/Reuters)

The Guardian

By David Smith

The human cost of Ethiopia’s “villagisation” programme is laid bare by damning first person testimony published on Tuesday.

The east African country has long faced criticism for forcibly relocating tens of thousands of people from their ancestral homes to make way for large scale commercial agriculture, often benefiting foreign investors. Those moved to purpose-built communes are allegedly no longer able to farm or access education, healthcare and other basic services.

The victims of land grabbing and displacement are given a rare voice in We Say the Land is Not Yours: Breaking the Silence against Forced Displacement in Ethiopia, a report from the California-based thinktank the Oakland Institute.

Some of the interviewees still live in Ethiopia, while others have sought political asylum abroad, and all remain anonymous for their own safety.

‘My village refused to move so they forced us with gunshots’

“My village refused to move,” says one, from the community of Gambella. “So they forced us with gunshots. Even though they intimidated us, we did not move – this is our land, how do we move? They wanted our land because our land is the most fertile and has access to water. So the land was promised to a national investor.

“Last year, we had to move. The promises of food and other social services made by the government have not been fulfilled. The government gets money from donors but it is not transferred to the communities.”

The land grab is not only for agriculture, the interviewee claims, but the community has also seen minerals and gold being mined and exported. “We have no power to resist. We need support. In the villages, they promised us tractors to help us cultivate. If money is given to the government for this purpose, we don’t know how it is used.

“The government receives money from donors, but they fill their pockets and farmers die of hunger.”

Read more »


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Africa’s Hegemon: Ethiopia’s Power Plays

Construction workers in a section of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam, March 31, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

Foreign Affairs

By Harry Verhoeven

In 1991, as the Cold War drew to an end, the only African country that had never been colonized by European imperialists was but a pale reflection of the Great Ethiopia that generations of the kingdom’s monarchs had pursued. A million people lay dead following two decades of civil war. Secessionist movements in the provinces clamored for self-determination. The economy was in tatters, and another catastrophic famine loomed. The world came to associate Ethiopia with images hoards of starving children, and the country’s regional and domestic decline opened questions about its very survival.

Nationalist historians trace the Ethiopian state’s roots to the second millennium BCE. With the story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba as one of its founding myths, Ethiopia’s history has between entwined with the development of the Abrahamic faiths: the Jewish presence in the Ethiopian Highlands predates the destruction of the Temple; Ethiopian Orthodox Christians claim that the Ark of the Covenant is located in Axum; and the first Muslim hijra, or flight from Mecca to escape religious persecution, was to Ethiopia. Mystical ancestry and military greatness provided legitimacy to Ethiopia’s rulers for centuries as they controlled their formidably diverse empire through a policy of violent internal assimilation and external expansion.

But ideas of that greatness lay shattered as rebel soldiers from the countryside marched on Addis Ababa in May 1991 and overthrew the (formerly Soviet sponsored) dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam. The leftist liberation movement promised a constitution that would give self-determination to Ethiopia’s ninety-plus nations and nationalities and address the political-economic inequities that had torn the country apart, but observers were sceptical about the ability of the Horn of Africa’s once mightiest empire to reconstitute itself. When the northeastern territory of Eritrea voted for and got independence in 1993, it not only cut Ethiopia off from the sea, but also risked triggering cascading claims for self-rule.

A quarter-century on, though, the mood in Addis Ababa could not be more changed. Between 2001 and 2012–13, Ethiopia’s economy grew more than seven percent per year on average. It was the only African country to move at a pace comparable to the East Asian tigers—and to do so without a hydrocarbons boom or a huge mining sector. The economic miracle resulted in real pro-poor growth, lifting millions of people out of the vicious cycle of poverty, hunger, and poor health. While the country’s population soared from roughly 40 million in the 1980s to nearly 100 million today, it achieved the 2000–15 Millennium Development Goals for child mortality and is likely to also meet them for combating HIV/AIDS and rolling back malaria. Ethiopia is also making giant strides tackling income volatility and illiteracy. And, with sequential bumper harvests of Ethiopia’s staple crop, tef (a cereal similar to millet), millions of smallholder farmers might well be able to escape the productivity traps that historically have kept them in abject poverty.

Read more at foreignaffairs.com »

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Hillary Clinton: ‘I’m Running for President’

If elected, Hillary Clinton will become America's first female President. (Photograph by Todd Heisler/NYT)

The New York Times

By AMY CHOZICK

Last updated April 13, 2015

For months, the suspense surrounding Hillary Rodham Clinton’s plans to make a second attempt at the White House had little to do with whether, and everything to do with why: What would be her rationale for seeking the presidency?

Yet with her videotaped announcement that she would run in 2016 to fight for American families so they can “get ahead and stay ahead,” Mrs. Clinton has only begun to answer that central question.

“Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top,” she says in the highly polished production, whose release just after 3 p.m. on Sunday after a drawn-out buildup seemed to stop a nation of tweeting political obsessives in their tracks. “Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion.”

With those words, delivered near the end of a 2-minute, 18-second video, Mrs. Clinton ended two years of public demurrals and private maneuvering and instantly put herself in a strong position to become the Democratic standard-bearer. If successful, she would become the first female nominee from either party, with a serious chance to become the first woman to be elected president.

Continue reading at The New York Times »

WATCH: Hillary Clinton: ‘I’m Running for President’

VOA News

Last updated on: April 12, 2015 5:32 PM

After months of speculation, former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton has officially announced she is running for president in 2016.

Clinton made her long-awaited announcement Sunday in an online video posted on social media, promising to work for the middle class.

“Everyday Americans need a champion and I want to be that champion so you can do more than just get by,” she said. “You can get ahead and stay ahead. Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times. But the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top.”

Clinton is the first Democrat to formally announce her candidacy to succeed President Barack Obama, who defeated her in the 2008 Democratic primaries.

Recent polls show Clinton beating every other possible Democrat. They also show her winning the 2016 election over all Republican candidates by a landslide.

Clinton, 67, is considered a huge favorite to win the Democrats’ nomination this time.

A recent Gallup poll found 48 percent of those surveyed have a favorable impression of Clinton, her lowest rating since 2008. Forty-two percent of those polled had an unfavorable rating of her.

But Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus said Sunday he believes voters do not trust her.

“Over decades as a Washington insider, Clinton has left a trail of secrecy, scandal and failed policies that cannot be erased from voters’ minds.”

They include the deadly terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya and using an unofficial email account for official business as secretary of state. Republicans also are likely to bring up scandals involving her husband, former president Bill Clinton.

If elected, Hillary Clinton would be the country’s first female president. She plans to begin her campaign in the early key voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, which hold the first caucuses and primaries.

Ahead of the announcement, Republicans tried to link Clinton to Obama, a regular focus of GOP criticism.

“We must do better than the Obama-Clinton foreign policy that has damaged relationships with our allies and emboldened our enemies,” said former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a potential Republican candidate, in a video Sunday.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who launched his presidential campaign last week, pointed to the Clinton family’s foundation, saying it was hypocritical for the Clintons to accept from Saudi Arabia, which places public restrictions on female movement and activity.

“I would expect Hillary Clinton if she believes in women’s rights, she should be calling for a boycott of Saudi Arabia,” Paul said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “Instead, she’s accepting tens of millions of dollars.”

Foreign policy

The former Secretary of State could turn out to be a lot more hawkish on U.S. foreign policy – issues like Iran, Israel, Syria and Libya – than Obama, analysts said.

“I think that Secretary Clinton will actually try to convey a sense that she is tougher, stronger, more experienced, more professional,” said political analyst Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report.

But the road to victory for the former first lady could be rocky.

Clinton is perceived by some as unapproachable. Her decision to launch her campaign on YouTube is not going to help that image, said Lara Brown of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University.

“I don’t know that I would project this image of ‘I’m prepackaged behind a video’ to start this campaign,” Brown told VOA. “I would think she would want to have real people there, that she would want to be in a boisterous but enthusiastic environment.”

Campaign strategy

Clinton’s presidential campaign will center on boosting economic security for the middle class and expanding opportunities for working families, while casting the former senator and secretary of state as a “tenacious fighter” able to get results, two senior advisers said Saturday.

The senior advisers, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss her plans ahead of Sunday’s announcement, provided the first preview of the message Clinton planned to convey when she launches her long-anticipated campaign on Sunday with an online video.

The strategy described by Clinton’s advisers has echoes of Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. He framed the choice for voters as between Democrats focused on the middle class and Republicans wanting to protect the wealthy and return to policies that led to the 2008 economic collapse.

The advisers said Clinton will argue that voters have a similar choice in 2016. Clinton also intends to sell herself as being able to work with Congress, businesses and world leaders.

That approach could be perceived as a critique of Obama. He has largely been unable to fulfill his pledge to end Washington’s intense partisanship and found much of his presidency stymied by gridlock with Congress.

Speaking on U.S. news shows Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry praised his predecessor for the “terrific job” she did in repairing global ties while she was America’s top diplomat.

Clinton “did a terrific job of rebuilding alliances that had been shredded over the course of the prior years,” Kerry told ABC’s This Week.

But Kerry stressed that as the nation’s top diplomat he was out of politics, and it was not for him to endorse any candidates.

Calling Clinton “a good friend,” Kerry told NBC’s Meet the Press that “she’s highly qualified, and I’m confident we’ll wage no matter what, with or without a primary, a formidable campaign.”

Political past

Clinton’s unlikely path to political office began on the sidelines, as the wife to then Governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton who would go onto serve two terms in the White House.

Both Yale Law School graduates, the Clintons were a departure from more traditional political couples. During his 1992 campaign, Clinton promised voters that they would get “two for one,” by voting him into office but quickly dropped that claim when it proved unpopular.

Reporters covering the White House noted Clinton’s involvement, her unofficial role as primary adviser to the president – an observation bared out in thousands of photos of the Clintons deep in conversation.

Her biggest initiative while her husband was president, national health care reform, fell apart without coming to a vote in Congress.

Emerging from the shadow of her husband in 2000, first lady Clinton went on to become candidate Clinton, carving out a career as a politician representing New York in the U.S. Senate for eight years. It was the first for a former first lady, and the start of many firsts in her career.

By the summer of 2008, Clinton, now a failed presidential candidate was ready to consider former rival Obama’s offer to appoint her Secretary of State.

International work

The international stage would prove far more welcoming to Clinton, who appeared to find her stride, crisscrossing the globe for talks with world leaders and demonstrating a command of foreign affairs. In her new capacity as the U.S.’s top diplomat, Clinton saw her approval ratings soar, reaching 66 percent in 2010.

The burst of approval a few short years after the public’s rejection of her presidential ambitions, the triumphs followed by potentially career ending lows, have been a constant in her more than two decades in public life.

By 2012, Clinton was again on the defensive, answering to Republicans in congress about the Obama administration’s handling of attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

So far, no other strong Democratic candidates have emerged in the 2016 campaign, but there are some two dozen Republicans fighting for the chance to defeat her at the polls.

On the Republican side, Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have announced their intention to run for their party’s nomination, and Senator Marco Rubio is widely expected to join them on Monday. Others expected to join what analysts say will be a crowded Republican field include former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

WATCH: Hillary Clinton’s campaign announcement video

VOA Michael Bowman contributed to this report.

Some material for this report came from AP and Reuters.

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Noh Balcha in Africa Digital Art Challenge

Noh Balcha. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Mahlet Kebede

Published: Friday, April 10th, 2015

College Park, Maryland (TADIAS) — Ethiopian architect Noh Balcha is only a few more Facebook Likes away from winning the next African Digital Challenge organized by the non-profit African Innovation Foundation.

Up for grab is a prize of an invitation to the prestigious Africa (#IPA2015) conference in Morocco next month. Many responded to the challenge to “showcase the innovation ecosystem” around them via photography, graphic design and visual productions.

Among the finalists is the 30-year-old from Ethiopia. Noh’s submission is a digital art, which he describes as a reflection “into the future and seeing a very different Africa where we have taken care of all the difficulties.” He adds: “We have faced the past and have finally started thinking of other goals to pursue for the first time in our history.”

Other participants include Catherine Mirembe and Allan Musije from a design firm in Uganda; Fatoumata Tioye, a 22 year old photographer and artist from Mali; Mariona Lloreta, a 29 year old Egyptian visual artist and filmmaker based between the USA and Nigeria; Mbuotidem Johnson, a 31 year old Nigerian film director and animator; Ismael Mohamadou Djida, a 30 year old Cameroonian artist; and Ntombi Kunye, a 35 year old textile designer and artist from Zimbabwe.

Organizers say the top two winners, who manage to receive the most likes on the prize’s Facebook page, will also have their video image shown at the gala venue in Morocco, as well as the chance to continue working with AIF on the Foundation’s creative material.

This would allow the winners to “gain recognition via our IPA brand, increased opportunities to attract investments, media and social media coverage and attention, and the chance to positively transform the African innovation landscape,” AIF says.


About the Author:
Mahlet Kebede is a 2nd year student at the University of Maryland.

To support Noh Balcha – please visit https://m.facebook.com/AfricanInnovationFoundation

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Ester Rada Returns to New York

(Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, April 9th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Ethiopian Israeli singer Ester Rada will perform live at SOB’s in New York later this month on Apr 27th.

The singer and songwriter is described by critics as “gracefully combining Ethio-Jazz, funk, soul and R&B, with mixed undertones of black grooves.” She has been nominated for the MTV EMA awards “Best Israeli Act.”

“Ester Rada’s cross-cultural sound is a deep reflection of the Israeli born Ethiopian’s heritage,” SOB says. “Growing up in a highly religious Jewish family in more than modest conditions in one of the roughest neighborhoods of Israel, gave Rada the drive to change her way of life and fulfill her dream of creating music.”

SOB’s adds: “Ester is currently finishing work on her debut album, after releasing her acclaimed first self-written and composed solo EP called “Life Happens” produced by Israeli producers Kuti (Kutiman/ThruYou) and Sabbo (Soulico), at the beginning of 2013. Shortly after releasing her EP the world discovered the potential of singer, songwriter, performer, and persona Ester Rada. Ester’s increasing popularity saw her tour the US, Canada, and Europe, and most recently the highly respected Glastonbury Festival. She warmed up for Alicia Keys at her Israel concert, in front of 8500 people,” with Alicia Keys remarking “She is amazing.”

Her video “Life Happens” has aired on MTV France, in Eastern Europe, and Israel, as well as on VH1 UK.

—-
If You Go:
Monday, Apr 27 2015
7:00PM doors / 8:00PM show
$16 in advance – $18 day of show
(age 21+)
R&B / Soul
www.sobs.com

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Tribute to Ethiopia Scholar Don Levine: Reflections & Photos

Prof. Donald N. Levine signing his book at Tsehai Publishers journal launching ceremony in Los Angeles -- November 27, 2006 at Ramada Hotel / Culver City. (Photograph courtesy of TSEHAI Publishers)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Thursday, April 9th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Professor Donald N. Levine, who passed away on Saturday, April 4th at the age of 83, is being remembered by his friends in Ethiopia and the Diaspora as a beloved Ethiopianist, educator, sociological theorist, author, collaborator, advocate, mentor, sensei and friend.

In addition to his well-known credentials as a respected scholar of Ethiopian studies, Levine was also an Aikido sensei and the co-founder of the first Aikido dojo in Awasa, Ethiopia.

Below are reflections and photos sent to us from Don Levine’s friends and colleagues in the U.S. and Ethiopia. Feel free to send us your own reflections at staff@tadias.com. We’ll keep this page updated.

From Tesfaye Tekelu
Aikido Ethiopia & Awasa Youth Campus

“Don was a mentor, a teacher, a sensei and in many ways a father figure to me. I have known him for more than 12 years and he has taught me, trained me, supported me like a father would a son. He was the architect of our project. He helped me found Aikido Ethiopia and the Awasa Youth Campus (Action for Youth & Community) and supported and guided us until the last day of his life. He loved our country and the people, and he was talking about Ethiopia days before he passed away. We will cherish his work and continue working on what we started in our country. Rest in peace, Ethiopiawiwu ye Selam Arbegna.”

From Dag Andargachew
Washington, D.C.


Dag Andargachew and Don Levine. (Courtesy photo)

I’ve known Don’s work for many years and had the pleasure of meeting him 15 years ago when he was in the Bay Area for a meeting. We kept in touch since then and got to hang out again in 2003 when he came back to California to visit an Ethiopian that was imprisoned. Afterwards we went to Yoga Mandala in Berkeley for their 1st anniversary yoga session which was my first ever yoga class!! After that day I was a regular student at that studio till I left the Bay Area and have been hooked on yoga ever since! Thank you Don!!!!

Fast forward a few years and I was living in Addis for a couple of years and had the honor to help Don with administrative staff – organizing meetings, meet and greet events etc. when he came to Ethiopia in Jan 2008, to meet with human rights activists & leaders as well as recently released journalists. I also had the privilege to organize a meeting for him with Gash Mesfin (Prof. Mesfin), who had also been recently released from prison. It was an awesome opportunity for me to sit amongst these two giants and listen-in to their conversation, debate and old stories.

I have driven with Gash Liben to Awasa to check out AYC’s overall progress as well as the setup of the dojo and saw him in action in his beloved Aikido.

It was a pleasure to be around Don and to see him interact with ease with the young, not so young, important officials/diplomats and not so important people attentively and with respect!

Interestingly I found out that my Dad was an undergrad student at AAU when Don first came to Ethiopia and was one of the people that taught him Amharic. I’m glad they got to hang out after so many years in Chicago when my Dad was visiting, and again in Addis when Don visited last.

Don is a true sensei in the whole sense of the word!!

From Mel Tewahade
Denver, Colorado


Don Levine (second from right) with Menze family in Amhara region of Ethiopia. (Courtesy photo)

I am blessed to have known Dr. Don N. Levine. The God that created heaven and earth is pleased in this Easter day, to receive his servant and our friend into his kingdom. May his writing and teaching touch many lives forever and ever. He has willingly accepted and loved being Ethiopian. He dedicated 55 years of his life studying, writing, teaching, advocating and praying for Ethiopia and Ethiopians. He encouraged all of us to dig deeper into the spirit of Menze and Shoa. He also showed us to live our lives with abundance. He reminded me that Queen of Sheba took gold and incense when she visited King Solomon in Jerusalem. He motivated us to develop our skill of negotiation that our ancestors had once mastered. He showed us how to express what we want with class and dignity using what our ancestors called Wax and Gold. He wanted to show Ethiopians not to be ashamed of our history and heritage. For that alone I am eternally grateful. Gashe Liben, as he is called by his Ethiopian name, We will continue your work and be true to ourselves. May you rest in peace.

From Elias Wondimu, Founder of TSEHAI Publishers
Los Angeles, California


(Courtesy of Tsehai Publishers)

I was blessed enough to work with Gash Liben on several initiatives. To mention a few, he was an editorial advisor and author of TSEHAI Publishers, editorial board member and regular contributor of the International Journal of Ethiopian Studies, and a founding board member and senior scholar of the Ethiopian Institute for Nonviolence Education and Peace Studies, but most of all he was one of the few people who took time to answer any questions that I may have. For me, I lost a mentor, a major supporter, and a collaborator on all of my projects, and an author extraordinaire that I had the privilege of publishing his very last book (Interpreting Ethiopia) among other writings and his classic book: Wax and Gold.

The reaction of our people from across international borders is not due to one or few of his successful writings, but it is due to his life-long engagement with Ethiopia and his advocacy to her citizens’ dignity wherever they might be. What we lost today is not only an acclaimed scholar, but a dear friend of our people and a citizen of the world who cares deeply for its future.

From Professor Ayele Bekerie
Mekele, Ethiopia

Professor Donald Levine, the Ethiopianist Insider Remembered

It was June 2004 and the Honorary Doctorate recipients for the 2004 Addis Ababa University Commencement were assembled in the Office of the University’s President prior to our march to Genet Hall of the Sidist Kilo Campus where the Commencement ceremony took place. Among the recipients were Professor Donald Levine, the Late Professor Ali Mazrui and Professor Ephrem Isaac. I accompanied Professor Ali Mazrui to the event from the US. As we passed the Ras Mekonen Hall, Professor Levine looked up the door of the Hall and excitedly pointed the motto of the University posted at the top. He asked us if we know the meaning of the motto written in Ge’ez.

Kulu Amekeru Wezesenaye Atsneu,” Professor Levine read the motto loud. He then quickly shared with us the meaning as if to free us from the instant question he posed to us. The motto, which translates to “Test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good,” was known to Professor Levine since his time as a Professor in the then Haile Selassie I University over fifty years ago. The motto became part of our conversation as we marched to Genet Hall. This anecdote typifies the nature and personality of Professor Levine and his extraordinary immersion into Ethiopian history, culture and society.

Professor Levine has always maintained an insider view, that is, he studied the language, assumed the position of being empathic with the culture and looked at the history and culture of the people Ethiopia from the inside out. Professor Levine was so intimate with the field of Ethiopian Studies that he was able to produce, as most agree, two outstanding and classical books on aspects of Ethiopian culture and society: Wax and Gold: Tradition and Innovation in Ethiopian Culture (1967) and Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of Multiethnic Society (1974).

While Wax and Gold demonstrates the extent and depth of Professor Levine’s understanding of the nuances and complexities in Amharic language and the people who speak it, Greater Ethiopia expanded his scholarly reach within Ethiopian Studies and he ably argued in favor of Ethiopian multiethnic identity. These two books are by far widely quoted and referenced works in the field of Ethiopian Studies. Of course, Professor Levine wrote 5 books and a hundred journal articles. He successfully conducted scholarly works in Social Theory, Ethiopian Studies and the Martial Arts.

Professor Levine to many Ethiopians at home and abroad is known as Gashe Liben. This is an earned name. He earned the most gracious and affectionate title as a result of his remarkable accessibility to Ethiopians and their organizations, be it in social, cultural, educational and political settings. Gashe Liben prefaced many books authored by Ethiopian or Ethiopianist scholars. He contributed a great deal of articles for various journals in Ethiopian Studies. He organized international conferences and gave many media interviews. Gashe Liben helped several Ethiopians with their immigration cases.

More importantly, he always offered his advice, critical but balanced, with regard to current issues of Ethiopia. He always cautioned fellow Ethiopians to seize the moment and get engaged with the modernization of Ethiopia informed by tradition. He urged us to stop missing opportunities.

To me, Professor Levine’s seminal contribution in the field of Ethiopian Studies was his definition and articulation of what he calls the Ethiopian national epic. The professor argued that Kebre Negest is a national epic or mythology. A people with national epic, according to him, are a people with deep-rooted identity. A people confident of their identity are capable and willing to defend it. True, the mythology has to be expanded and should include the multiple mythologies of our people. But as a tribute to Professor Levine, we should all agree that our multiethnic identity is founded on a great epic of a great people.

From Kidist Tariku, Coordinator of Ethiopia’s Long Live the Girls program
Hawassa, Ethiopia

We are very sad to lose such a loving and intelligent man. His name and work always remains in our organization’s history. He is our founder; he will always be respected and loved for what he did for our community. May his soul rest in peace.

Long Live the Girls is a girls’ empowerment program through creative writing initiative founded in 2012 through a partnership between Action for Youth & Community Change & Break Arts: International Arts & Education Collaborative. Using creative writing to spark the imagination and see the world as if it could be otherwise, our model for engagement is unique — we create safe spaces for girls and women to speak and write with freedom, often using both political and poetic documents as the springboard for conversation, writing & performance.

From Dr. Theodore M. Vestal
Professor Emeritus, Oklahoma State University


Ted Vestal. (Courtesy photo)

A Tribute to Professor Donald Levine

Ethiopia lost a stalwart friend, scholar and benefactor of the common good with the death of Professor Donald Levine this week in Chicago. His books about Ethiopia, especially Wax and Gold and Greater Ethiopia, are classical studies of the society, history, and culture of the Land of Prester John that so fascinated him. His many articles and public addresses about Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa leave a profound legacy for Ethiopians to ponder in the years to come. His thoughts about Ethiopia and prescriptions for its future were informed by his life as superbly trained American academic and public intellectual.

Don came to Chicago fresh out of high school and took advantage of the University of Chicago’s accelerated degree program begun during the university’s presidency of Robert Hutchins. In a seven year span from 1950 through 1957, he completed his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in Sociology and went to Ethiopia to undertake field work. He resided in a rural Manz, an Amhara area and learned firsthand about the people and their ways. He studied Amharic and could converse with the subjects of his research. He then became a professor at Haile Selassie I University where he was teaching during the attempted coup in 1960. Levine joined the faculty at his alma mater, the University of Chicago, in 1962 and rose through the academic ranks to become Professor of Sociology and holder of the endowed Peter B. Ritzma chair. He also served as Dean of the College in the 1980s.

Levine’s teaching, speaking, and writing about Ethiopia reflected his grounding in the Chicago method of higher education characterized by independent thought and criticism that is created in the interest of the progress of society. In his continuing dialogue with and about Ethiopia, Don was open-minded and welcomed different points of view. In the process of doing this, he extended the bounds of understanding and wisdom about that ancient land. He epitomized the great professor of cultural studies: one who lived and worked among the people, took part in their festivals and celebrations, learned the language, and studied the literature and great books of their tradition. This “Dean of Ethiopianists” as I fondly called him, set a high bar for those who aspire to study and understand Ethiopia.

I met Don for the first time when we served as international election observers in Addis Ababa during the 1992 general elections. As a two-man team, among other things, we visited several precincts and noted some concerns about electoral activities that were included in the African-American Institute’s An Evaluation of the June 21, 1992 Elections in Ethiopia. We subsequently met in Ethiopian-related meetings all over the world, and he was a pleasure to be with. His devotion to searching for the truth about Ethiopia was inspirational. He will be missed.

From Chuck Schaefer
Valparaiso University, Indiana


(Courtesy photo)

Don Levine will be genuinely missed. He had a profound influence on Ethiopian studies. As his grad student, mention of his name open doors for me in Ethiopia even in the dark days of the Derg in the mid 1980s. Deans and/or Vice Ministers may not have always agreed with Don’s “greater Ethiopia” thesis, but they knew it and respected the deep sociological analysis that was at its core.

He was the father of American Ethiopianists. His rapacious appetite for all things involving Ethiopia meant that he served on dissertation committees of sociologists (of course), anthropologists, religious scholars, historians (including myself), linguists, political scientists and probably in a number of other disciplines both here and in Great Britain. To a degree he defined the Ethiopian character in the waining years of the Imperial era, and his “wax & gold” dichotomy ensured that all subsequent scholars had to reckon with Ethiopians as complex, conniving, compassionate peasants and peers alike.

Perhaps Don’s most enduring contribution was his deep understanding of social mobility up and down Ethiopia’s feudal ladder. This made writing a dissertation that would pass his inspection a difficult task, for the normal tropes like social classes had to bend and mend themselves to the realities of Ethiopia’s multiple paths to upward and, simultaneous, downward mobility. Even simple translation had to either be thrown out or appropriately nuanced. For Don, western univocal translation of texts was like paring down a Rembrandt painting to a charcoal sketch, for he was transfixed by the ambiguity inherent in Amharic, its texture, rich meanings and multiple depths of interpretation.

I dropped by Don’s house to discuss an issue related to the 1960 coup d’etat this past summer while Don and Andrew DeCort were editing proofs of “Interpreting Ethiopia.” To the last he was a scholar and a teacher.

I will miss him.

From Ashenaphy Fentie
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


Ashenaphy Fentie. (Google Profile)

Donal N. Levine, a distinguished and great Ethiopianist of all time just passed away at the age of 83. He published important works such as, “Greater Ethiopia”, “Wax and Gold” and “Translating Ethiopia”. GREATER ETHIOPIA is his iconic book that I suggest as a must-read by every Ethiopian. As far as impartiality, evident history and the common past of the Horn are the concerns, I personally do not know any other single writer, both from Ethiopia and abroad that can be credited like Levine. He was much more patriotic to Ethiopia than even those Ethiopians, who think they are historians.

Those of you, who are not familiar with Levine and his works, please, read “Greater Ethiopia” and some of his journals on Ethiopian Studies, then you will find out for yourselves who this man really was. He actually was one of the very reasons that brought me into the study of history. I’m so so inspired by him, and very sad we lost him so soon. Regarding the history of Ethiopia and the Horn in general, I believe, no other single writer has ever taken us as far as Levine already did. His sociological studies of the Horn conducted in the late 1960s and his related conclusive theory of the study were incredibly proven to be accurate 40 years later, by the young and contemporary science of Population Genetics.

Rest in peace, our hero Donald Nathan Levine. Thank you for your irreplaceable and immortal contributions in the history and sociology of our beloved Ethiopia.

From Mulugeta Wodajo
Bethesda, Maryland

I had known Don for close to 60 years when we were both graduate students at Chicago and Columbia University, respectively. His two books on Ethiopia, Wax and Gold and Greater Ethiopia have been considered “must read” classics about our country’s society, history and culture ever since they were first published in the 1960s and ‘80s, respectively. He had recently completed another book for publication also on Ethiopia. He had shown me the finished manuscript of that book less than a year ago; hopefully it will see the light of day very soon. Additionally, he had previously published three major books and numerous articles in professional journals in his field of expertise, social anthropology, that were highly valued by experts in that field. He was a highly regarded professor of sociology at Chicago University until his retirement a few years ago and continued to do so from time to time, even after his retirement..

While doing field work for his first book, Wax and Gold, in Menz in the late 1950’s, he took on the name “Liben”, after a close Menzie friend he got to know well during his field work. Many of his Ethiopian friends, including myself, used to call him by that name until the very end. That pleased him a great deal as one could see from his reaction when called by that name. More recently, he also adopted the name of “Gebre Ethiopia” as he considered himself a genuine servant of our country.

I will greatly miss Don. He was one of the few friends left from those bygone years. He has now joined the great Ethiopian scholars – Ethiopian as well as foreigners – gone forever from our midst. May he rest in peace!

From Alemayehu Fentaw Weldemariam
Boston, Massachusetts


From right: Don, Alex and Hans. (Courtesy photo)

In memoriam: Donald Nathan Levine, 1931-2015

I have known Donald Levine at close range. He was a great friend, spiritual father, and mentor. I would have called him “an intellectual soulmate,” as he has referred to me in a note he wrote on his last book, Social Theory As Vocation (2015). To give you a sense of his generosity, when he learnt that I ended up jobless and without a means to support myself and my family in Addis Ababa after my return from Europe as a result of Jimma University’s decision to dismiss me from my teaching job in absentia, he extended his helping hand. He sent me money and books on several occasions whenever he finds people traveling to Addis Ababa. He was a frequent interlocutor from a distance and we used to exchange tones of emails between Addis Ababa where I was living and Chicago where he was based. Then I came to the US upon his invitation in October 2011. I audited one of his seminar courses on George Simmel at the University of Chicago, practiced aikido on the matt under him at the University of Chicago Dojo, arranged for me to audit Nathan Tarcov’s seminar course on Leo Strauss at the Committee on Social Thought, and generously vetted me to be part of one of the panels in the International Conference on George Simmel in 2011. It was also a great honor and pleasure to have helped him with two of his last books, Interpreting Ethiopia and Social Theory As Vocation, in which he has generously acknowledged my assistance.

Levine was a keen student of Ethiopian civilization for over half a century. His initial scholarly encounter with Ethiopia dates back to 1958 when he, as a young postdoctoral fellow, started his ethnographic work living among the “extraordinarily handsome people in a setting of great natural beauty and [an] [idyllic] climate” of North Shoa, Ethiopia, which “offers a gate through time to a state of being that is richly medieval.” (1965). That ethnographic fieldwork resulted in his Ethiopian classic Wax & Gold (1965). In the realm of Ethiopian studies, he is also most famous for his magisterial book Greater Ethiopia (1974), which has long been considered a major contribution to understanding the phenomena of ethnic diversity and national unity in Ethiopia. Shortly before his death, he managed to put together a collection of essays on Ethiopia, Interpreting Ethiopia (2014), in which he offers his observations on the ethos and worldview, education and literature, history, politics, and cross-national connections of the cultural area that he calls Greater Ethiopia. Levine’s oeuvre is the outcome of a serious scholarly odyssey through Ethiopian civilization over space and time. He has travelled extensively through every quarter of the cultural area that he fondly calls “Greater Ethiopia” –from Massawa to Jimma, from Addis to Aksum. His intellectual odyssey pushed the frontiers of Ethiopian Studies, extending the reach of his research from the culture of the Amhara, in Wax & Gold, to that of a multiethnic society, in Greater Ethiopia, from Aksum As a Seedbed Society to Reconsidering Ethiopian Nationhood, as necessitated by the advent of the internet and immigration.

In explaining what provided the bond that has continued to link him with Ethiopian over the years, he went on record, in one of his personal communication with me, saying: “the greatest thing in life is “aimless camaraderie,” as Frank H. Knight called it. Much of what has bonded me to Ethiopians over the years has been the joy of aimless camaraderie in their company.” Those of us who had the privilege to meet him in Chicago or Addis know what he means by the joy of the interaction in aimless camaraderie with fellow Ethiopians.

Besides his scholarly engagement with Ethiopia, Levine was also an activist. His more activistic engagement dates back to his critical 1961 article on Haile Sellassie’s authoritarianism, which cost him his teaching job at the Haile Selassie I University. He was an ardent advocate of freedom in Ethiopia. More often than not, he voiced his concerns for academic freedom, free press, free association, free and fair elections, and loyal opposition in Ethiopia. It was in the spirit of public service that he gave a testimony before the U.S. Congress on the human rights abuses of the Dergue in 1976, engaged himself in a critical analysis of the Addis Ababa University fiasco in 1993, gave a spirited acceptance speech in defense of academic freedom at the award of an honorary doctorate from Addis Ababa University in 2004, where he emphasied the traditional mission of AAU as a university by reciting the Geez motto: “Kulu Amekeru Wezesenaye Atsneu” (Examine everything, and hold fast to what is best). Indeed, the dialogic turn that he brought to bear upon sociology and Ethiopian studies has also oriented his activistic engagement. It has been his lifelong wish and prayer for Ethiopians of all generation and walks of life to transcend the limitations inherent in their cultures soda as to dissolve the either/or metazez wey meshefet (“obey or rebel”) mentality through dialogue.

In both his scholarly and activistic odysseys, what always strikes me as quite distinctive of Levine is the strength of his character. He was as much courageous in his scholarship as much as he was in his activism. In his activism, he never succumbed to fears of retribution. He criticized the incumbent as well as the opposition in an even-handed manner. In his scholarly pursuits, he refused to succumb to political correctness, which he once described to me in a personal communication as: “Political correctness is the hobgoblin of little minds. That’s the kind of statement that corrupts the search for truth, IMHO. The Janjero who committed human sacrifice can be glossed as culturally inferior to the Dorzes who created polyphonic music and beautiful weavings as central expressions of their cultures.”

Donald Levine is a towering figure in Chicago sociology and social thought in the same league as Robert Park, George Mead, Albion Small, John Dewey, Edward Shils, and Arnaldo Momigliano. Hi sociological oeuvre includes critical interpretations of Auguste Comte, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Talcott Parsons, Robert Merton, S.N. Eisenstadt, and above all Georg Simmel. In the realm of social theory, his work focused on bringing into fruitful dialogue, if not reunifying the sociological traditions and imaginations, in a book venture that he titles Visions of the Sociological Tradition (1995). One evening during my visit at the University of Chicago in November 2011, as we were walking to his home where he generously hosted me for the first week, he started telling me how sociology used to be as big as Humpty Dumpty and how it had a terribly great fall in the 1960s. And after Humpty Dumpty had that fateful fall and it broke into pieces, all sociologists and social theorists that came “couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty in his place again.” That was exactly what he wanted to do with his magisterial book Visions of the Sociological Tradition in which he wrote, “For most of its first century as an institutionalized discipline, the proponents of sociology envisioned it as a unified field. The vision was elusive and consensus hard to come by. Yet for all their profound differences about what sociology should be and do, its principal spokesmen —figures like Durkheim, Simmel, Weber, Park, and Parsons—agreed that sociology should be framed as a coherent enterprise demarcated by clear and defensible boundaries. The narratives constructed by Park and Burgess, Sorokin, Parsons, and others were part of the more general effort to justify’ such a unified vision.”(259)

In his Festschrift, Hans Joas and Charles Camic extol Levine’s achievements in the field of social theory as follows:

the idea that dialogue among different intellectual perspectives is a paramount cognitive and ethical objective in its own right, particularly in the context of the current postdisciplinary age—receives its fullest development at the hands of University of Chicago sociologist Donald N. Levine, whose extensive writings on the subject provide the point of departure for the twelve essays in this volume. As a distinguished theorist and historian of sociological thought, Donald Levine has been closely familiar with these pluralist currents within sociology throughout his career….


Related:
Donald Levine, sociologist and former dean of the College, 1931-2015 (UChicago News)‎
Friend of Ethiopia Don Levine Passed Away

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Friend of Ethiopia Don Levine Passed Away

Donald N. Levine was Professor Emeritus of Sociology at University of Chicago. (Photos: Facebook)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, April 5th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — We are deeply saddened to learn that our friend, a contributor to this magazine and a great scholar of Ethiopian history, Don Levine, has passed away.

His family announced that Levine died yesterday afternoon. He was 83-years old.

Levine, who was affectionately known as “Gash Liben” among his Ethiopian friends, is the author of several books and academic papers on Ethiopia including Wax and Gold: Tradition and Innovation in Ethiopian Culture., Interpreting Ethiopia: Observations of Five Decades (2014), Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society.

“Gash Liben, Ethiopian scholar, lover of Ethiopia, founder of the Aikido Ethiopia Project has passed away today at 1pm,” his son Bill Levine said via Facebook.

According to his biography: “Levine was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania in 1931. For his post-secondary education, he attended the University of Chicago. There, he earned a BA in 1950, MA in 1954, and PhD in 1957. His intellectual development was greatly shaped by the teachers and curriculum of the “Hutchins College” at Chicago.”

Wiki adds: “For five decades Levine has also been active in the area of Ethiopian Studies. In this field he published two seminal books and dozens of papers. He organized the Fifth International Conference of Ethiopian Studies at the University of Chicago in 1978. For his expertise as an Ethiopianist he has served as consultant to public and governmental organizations, include the U.S. Department of State, the United States Senate, and the Peace Corps. Before joining the Chicago faculty in 1962, he taught at Ethiopia’s University College of Addis Ababa. Levine eventually received a Doctor of Letters honoris causa in 2004 from Addis Ababa University, where his citation read: ‘Ethiopianist, sociological theorist, educator: you have succeeded in all three vocations. Your pioneering work, Wax and Gold, has become an Ethiopian classic. As manifested in its title, yours is an exceptionally imaginative quest to reach an understanding of Amhara society from the internal point of view. The very concept of “Wax and Gold” has taken a life of its own: it figures at once in our understanding of Ethiopia’s pre-modern culture and in our coming to grips with Ethiopia’s reception of modernity. Greater Ethiopia draws attention to the deep fact that Ethiopian life is rooted in multicultural identities, and it also demonstrates the salient bonds that hold them together.’”

At the time of his death he held the status of Peter B. Ritzma Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Chicago.


Related:
Tribute to Ethiopia Scholar Don Levine: Reflections & Photos
Donald Levine, sociologist and former dean of the College, 1931-2015 (UChicago News)‎
Coming to America by Professor Donald Levine (2003)
The Obama Presidency & Ethiopia: Time for Fresh Thought (2009) by Don Levine
Five Reasons for Ethiopian-Americans to Support Obama (2008) by Don Levine

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In Israel, New Ethiopian Knesset Member Prioritizes Immigrant Community

Newly elected Knesset Member Avraham Neguise at a Likud party meeting during the election campaign, Feb. 2015. (photo by Office of Avraham Neguise)

Al-Monitor

By Mazal Mualem

March 31, at the age of 57, 30 years after he left the town of Gondar in Ethiopia, Avraham Negusie was sworn in to the Israeli Knesset. He was elated the entire day.

Until election night, Negusie, 27th on the Likud list, watched the polls, which predicted barely 22 seats for the party and thought he was a long way from his dream of becoming a Knesset member. He was therefore surprised when, a half hour before television stations called the elections, he got an urgent call from Likud headquarters with the announcement, “Come to the exhibition gardens. There’s drama. It looks like you’re in.”

On his way from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, Negusie took dozens of phone calls from well-wishers, and since then, he has been busy planning his first term as one of Israel’s 120 elected representatives. It is clear to him that he’ll work on social issues and that he’ll be the advocate and voice for immigrants from Ethiopia on Knesset committees.

Negusie will be the only Knesset member with an Ethiopian background in the twentieth Knesset. Six members of the Ethiopian community have preceded him, among them the first woman Knesset member of Ethiopian descent, Penina Tamanu-Shata of Yesh Atid. Like his predecessors, Negusie seems to be an atypical, unrepresentative symbol for the integration of his ethnic group, most of which lives at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale in Israel, trapped in impoverished neighborhoods.

Negusie, who holds a doctorate in education, built his civic life mostly through political activism, including successful battles he led in the past two decades to bring Falash Mura to Israel. Today, according to Negusie, there are about 5,000 of them in Ethiopia who have families in Israel, and they will celebrate the traditional Seder dinner for Passover far from them in camps in Addis Ababa and Gondar.

“I hope that as a member of the Knesset I can influence the decision to bring them to Israel as soon as possible,” said Negusie in an interview with Al-Monitor. He also explained why the left hasn’t succeeded in becoming the political home of the Ethiopians in the full interview below:

Read the interview at Al-monitor.com »

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Smithsonian Exhibition Features 19 Artists From Africa & the Diaspora

(© Aïda Muluneh)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, April 3rd, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Several contemporary artists from Africa and the Diaspora — including Ethiopia-based photographer Aïda Muluneh and NYC-based Ethiopian American painter Julie Mehretu — are part of an upcoming exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington D.C.

The show, which is entitled The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists, includes video, photography, printmaking, painting, sculpture, fiber arts, and mixed media installation that “probe diverse issues of politics, heritage, history, identity, faith, and the continued power of art to express the unspoken and intangible.”

The exhibition opens on April 8th with a ‘Curator’s Talk’ featuring Simon Njami and Karen E. Milbourne and remains on display until August 2nd, 2015.

“Curated by the internationally acclaimed writer and art critic Simon Njami, this dramatic multi-media exhibition reveals the ongoing global relevance of Dante Alighieri’s 14th century epic as part of a shared intellectual heritage,” the Smithsonian announced. “Including original commissions and renowned works of art by approximately 40 of the most dynamic contemporary artists from 19 African nations and the Diaspora, this visually stunning exhibition will be the first to take advantage of the museum’s pavilion and stairwells, as well as galleries on the first and third floors.”


If You Go:
Location, Hours, and Admission
950 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20560
202.633.4600
202.357.4879 (fax)
nmafaweb@si.edu
10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily except December 25.
Admission is free
www.africa.si.edu/exhibition

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Exciting Fashion Fusion Takes Off in Ethiopia: Could It Go Global? (Video)

Local fashion designer Fikirte Addis is starting to get attention from buyers abroad. She cites Ethiopian fabric - and the stories woven into them -- as her source of inspiration. (CNN)

CNN

By Colin Hancock and Daisy Carrington

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — The country has an international supermodel. It has a world-renown designer, a centuries-old textile industry, and its very own fashion school. It’s Ethiopia, and it’s perched to hit the global fashion industry by storm.

“I do see a trend of Ethiopian fashion going abroad,” admits Mahlet Teklemariam, the organizer of Addis Ababa Fashion Week.

“(Fashion in) Ethiopia in the past was mostly local. It wasn’t known on the international market,” she notes. That, she says, is starting to change.

“A lot of international companies are investing in Ethiopia. The Turkish have a lot of big companies producing here and H&M are producing here.”

Many companies are drawn by Ethiopia’s textiles — stunning woven cotton with a range of rich designs. However, there is also an increasing number of homegrown designers hitting the scene.

Fikirte Addis studied child psychology, but ultimately the pull of her mother’s sewing machine proved too powerful for her.

“I loved cutting (fabric),” she recalls. “I had a box full of dresses that I would reuse.” The self-taught seamstress ultimately changed career, and she hasn’t looked back. For her, Ethiopian fabrics give new meaning to the concept of weaving a story.

“When you look at (Ethiopian fabrics), you might see, for example, the eye of an ox, which is bold and beautiful, and has a lot of history in it,” she says.

Addis’ designs have hit the international market in recent years, and she’s seen an increasing number of sales from abroad.

“The industry is in the making. We have a very rich tradition, good stories and amazing products,” she says, adding, “I think we have a very good shot.”

Watch the video at CNN.com »

Related:
In Pictures: Hub of Africa Fashion Week in Ethiopia

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Marcus Samuelsson’s Streetbird Rotisserie Opens in Harlem

Marcus Samuelsson. (Photo: Melissa Hom/Grub Street)

Grub Street

By Sierra Tishgart

It was only a month ago that Marcus Samuelsson told Grub: “All I can think about is chicken: How to cook it? Who does it best? Should I brine it? Do I have the right seasoning?” The result of all his pondering is Streetbird Rotisserie, Samuelsson’s new kitchenette in Harlem that focuses on — surprise! — chicken. But this isn’t a classic French rotisserie restaurant, or an extension of the luxury chicken boom: Streetbird’s more eclectic, with dishes that reflect Samuelsson’s Ethiopian and Swedish heritage.

The menu includes General Ye’s chicken, with crispy chicken, green beans, mango, and peanuts; something called the “Swediopian,” made from doro wat; C. Chavez, with ripped rotisserie chicken and mole; and non-chicken-based items like fried rice and cabbage-scallion noodles. (Plus, for dessert: a delicious-sounding “Ooey Gooey Cookie” with green tea, candied ginger, peanuts, and marshmallows.

Because this is Samuelsson, the design is a stand-out, too: Graffiti culture served as his inspiration, and Cey Adams (the founding creative director of Def Jam Recordings) created the art on the walls. There’s also an interactive boom-box installation, benches covered in vintage designer textiles, and windowed garage doors — perfect for the warmer weather.

Opening day is April 2, and the restaurant will serve food every day from 11 a.m. through 11 p.m. It’s intended to be a casual, drop-in kind of place: Tables are only available for walk-ins, but there is a separate area for takeout orders.

Read more and see photos at grubstreet.com »

Related:
Tadias Interview With Marcus Samuelsson About His Latest Book

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Trinity: Amazing 3 Young Ladies From Ethiopia in UniverSoul Circus Touring U.S.

(Photo courtesy: UniverSoul Circus)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, March 30th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Their stage name is “Trinity” and the three young female athletes from Ethiopia — Wentana Gebremeskel (16), Azalech Asino Sore (18) and Kidist Keshimo Wereka (22) — are currently in New York as part of the traveling UniverSoul Circus show highlighting global pop culture through an energetic cast of international performers. The circus will perform in the New York area until May 25th, and Kaldidan Zebene Haile of the Gamo Circus in Ethiopia will also be part of the cast.

“Three young ladies from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia mark their first ever United States appearance with the UniverSoul Circus in 2015 with an amazing hand balancing act we call, Trinity,” UniverSoul Circus said in press release. “This precision based act features three female acrobats performing slow, enfolding movements, performed with great fluidity and grace. It’s a combination of strength and flexibility that helps them balance on top of each other while doing handstands. They have performed their act on three continents: with the Gamo Circus in Ethiopia, Lee Academy in Australia and Salto Circus in the Netherlands.”

UniverSoul describes 23 year-old male Ethiopian performer, Kaldidan Zebene, as a “Rolla Bollo performer extraordinaire,” and notes that “Kalkidan, performing since the age of 16, has presented his Bollo act with the Global Village Circus in Dubai, Avrasya Circus in Turkey and Salto Circus in the Netherlands.” This is Kalkidan’s first time performing with UniverSoul Circus.


If You Go:
UniverSoul Circus plays the Bronx
WHEN: Wednesday, March 18 thru Monday, April 6, 2015
WHERE: Across from Bronx Terminal Market at 149th St & Exterior St next to bridge/50 East 150th Street
Bronx, NY 10451

UniverSoul Circus plays Brooklyn
WHEN: Wednesday, April 8 thru Sunday, April 26, 2015
WHERE: Floyd Bennett Field @Aviator Sports, just down from Kings Plaza Mall
3159 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11234

UniverSoul Circus plays Queens
WHEN: Tuesday, April 28 thru Sunday, May 17, 2015
WHERE: Roy Wilkins Park at Merrick Blvd & Baisley Blvd
177th St & Baisley Blvd, Jamaica, NY 11434

UniverSoul Circus plays Newark, NJ
WHEN: Tuesday, May 19 thru Monday, May 25, 2015
WHERE: Across from Broad St Train Station next to Old Bears Stadium
430 Broad Street, Newark, NJ 07102

Visit www.universoulcircus.com for more info, show times, and schedules.

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U.S. Students Feature Ethiopia’s Reeyot Alemu in ‘Press Uncuffed’ Campaign

Reeyot Alemu is one in a number of journalists who have been prosecuted under the vaguely worded and broad-reaching anti-terrorism laws passed by the Ethiopian legislature in 2009. (IWMF/Getty Images)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, March 29th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Students from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism and their professor — Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Dana Priest — have launched the Press Uncuffed campaign to raise awareness about journalists imprisoned around the world.

The campaign, which kicked off last week at the Newseum in Washington, D.C, is being conducted in partnership with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). It features jailed reporters from nine countries, including Ethiopian Reeyot Alemu, winner of the 2013 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. Reeyot is currently serving a 5-year prison term under Ethiopia’s controversial terrorism law.

“These journalists were imprisoned for doing their jobs by governments fearful of a free press,” said CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch in a statement. “By recognizing these nine intrepid journalists-most of whom were jailed on anti-state or retaliatory charges-we hope to increase public pressure for their release and draw attention to the hundreds of others who have been silenced by their governments.”

CPJ added: “The journalists featured in the campaign have been imprisoned on anti-state or retaliatory charges. Two are being held without charge.”

They are: Ilham Tohti (China), Bheki Makhubu (Swaziland), Reeyot Alemu (Ethiopia), Khadija Ismayilova (Azerbaijan), Jason Rezaian (Iran), Yusuf Ruzimuradov (Uzbekistan), Mahmoud Abou Zeid Shawkan (Egypt), Ta Phong Tan (Vietnam) and Ammar Abdulrasool, (Bahrain).



Learn more at www.pressuncuffed.org.

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Photos: Merkamo Ethiopian Bistro Inaugural Diaspora Business Mixer

At Merkamo Ethiopian Bistro in Springfield, Virginia on Friday, March 20th, 2015. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, March 29th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Last week, Merkamo Ethiopian Bistro in Springfield, Virginia hosted its first monthly event called “Afro Diaspora Mixer” that will take place every third Friday of the month.

The inaugural event held on Friday, March 20th brought together business professionals in an informal and intimate environment. “The Afro Diaspora community has achieved admirable progress in the U.S. and the community has significant high caliber individuals who are doing amazing things. Unfortunately, these individuals are not as connected as they should be,” says Alex Habte Cherein, owner of Merkamo. “The idea is to create a space where Afro Diaspora business people and professionals connect and share their story and hopefully collaborate in mutually beneficial projects.”

Below are photos courtesy of organizers:



Related:
Merkamo Ethiopian Bistro in Virginia Launches Afro Diaspora Business Mixer
Meet the New Director of D.C. Mayor’s Office on African Affairs Mamadou Samba

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New Film on the Italian Occupation of Ethiopia: ‘If Only I Were That Warrior’

Megabi Woldetensae, an eyewitness to the 1937 massacre at the monastery of Debre Libanos, is one of the characters featured in the new documentary film "If Only I Were That Warrior." (Awen Films)

Press Release

CPL New York

The idea for If Only I Were That Warrior, took shape in February 2013 when director Valerio Ciriaci and producer Isaak Liptzin attended a panel discussion on the recently inaugurated monument to Rodolfo Graziani organized by the Calandra Italian American Institute at CUNY and Centro Primo Levi NY

An Italian army general responsible for war crimes and human rights violations in Africa, Graziani was first denounced by the League of Nations and, after the war, brought in front of the United Nations War Crimes Commission. Due to diplomatic reasons, he was never tried. In 1948 an Italian court found him guilty of war crimes but was relieved from serving his sentence because he claimed to have only obeyed orders. Graziani and his actions remained in limbo in the Italian collective memory. The 2012 dedication of the monument sparked international protests and brought his role in history back to the forefront of public discourse.

The CUNY panel prompted the two young filmmakers to research the Italian occupation of Ethiopia and understand why it was remembered so little and with such radical divergences. Their quest became a film project on the 1935 Italian invasion of Ethiopia and its unresolved legacy exposing it both from an Italian and an Ethiopian perspective.

The film moves from contemporary debate into the history of the invasion through the work of major historians of colonialism like Angelo Del Boca and Richard Pankhurst. Historian of fascist Italy Mauro Canali and cultural historian Ian Campbell accompany the public through the history of the occupation as documented in the Italian and Ethiopian national archives.

In recent years, scholars have placed Italian war crimes in Greece, Yugoslavia and Africa under the spotlight allowing, among other things, a new approach to the study of fascist racism and a debate on international intervention, post-war justice as well as the effect of lingering prejudice and an unspoken past.

The Massacre of Debre Libanos – If Only I Were That Warrior CLIP from Awen Films on Vimeo.


If You Go:
Screening of excerpts and discussion with the director & producer
Reception to follow.
March 28 | 7:30 pm
March 29 | 2:00 pm
CPL at SF Vanni’s
30 West 12 Street
New York City
RSVP: info@primolevicenter.org
www.primolevicenter.org

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The Nile Project’s Mesmerizing New York Concert at Lincoln Center (Audio)

The Nile Project performing at the Lincoln Center in New York on Thursday, March 19th, 2015. (Tadias)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — The power of music to unite people beyond borders was in full display in New York last week during the Nile Project’s unforgettable performance at Lincoln Center on March 19th and at Pace University’s Schimmel Center on March 20th.

The Nile Project is made up of over a dozen singers and instrumentalists from the Nile Basin countries. As the program notes the group “weaves together the deep grooves of Ethiopia with the Arab classical traditions of Egypt and Sudan, and the rarely heard music of Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya.”

Ethiopian artists include Meklit Hadero, Selamnesh Zemene, Jorga Mesfin, Endris Hassen, Dawit Seyoum, Mekuanent Melese and Asrat Ayalew.

Below is an audio and photo slideshow of the concert at Lincoln Center:



Related:
Lincoln Center & Pace University Present The Nile Project in New York

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Egypt, Ethiopia & Sudan Sign Nile Deal

Egypt's leader Abdul Fattah al-Sisi (Left), Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir (Center) and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Halemariam Desalegn signed the deal in Sudan's capital Khartoum. (Photo: EPA)

BBC News

Three African leaders have signed an initial deal to end a long-running dispute over the sharing of Nile waters and the building of Africa’s biggest hydroelectric dam, in Ethiopia.

The leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan signed the agreement in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.

Egypt has opposed the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, saying it would worsen its water shortages.
Ethiopia says the dam will give it a fairer share of Nile waters.

In 2013, Ethiopia’s parliament ratified a controversial treaty to replace colonial-era agreements that gave Egypt and Sudan the biggest share of the Nile’s water.

Egypt’s then-President Mohamed Morsi said he did not want war but he would not allow Egypt’s water supply to be endangered by the dam.

Mr Morsi’s successor, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi signed the deal with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Halemariam Desalegn and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.

Read more at BBC News »



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Pictures: San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo Meets With Ethiopian Community

The Mayor of San Jose, California, Sam Liccardo greets the Ethiopian community on Saturday, March 21st, 2015 in San Jose at an event hosted by the Ethiopian American Council. (Photo: Courtesy of EAC)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Wearing a traditional Ethiopian scarf Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose, California thanked his supporters Saturday evening during a dinner celebration hosted by the Ethiopian American Council (EAC).

The program was sponsored by Zeni Ethiopian Restaurant, Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant, Selam Ethiopian Restaurant, Mudai Ethiopian Restaurant, Abby’s Ethiopian Delights and Lunch Box Ethiopian Restaurant.

It was the Mayor’s first meeting with the community since taking office in January. The event included a music performance and remarks by EAC officials and Liccardo. “It was a packed house; the event was well attended,” said Abebe Hailu from EAC.

Liccardo was the mayoral candidate endorsed by EAC. Winning a narrow election victory last November by a few thousand votes, Liccardo was in a hotly-contested race against County Supervisor Dave Cortese. Liccardo was one of the first candidates in the United States to release campaign literature translated into Amharic targeting the Ethiopian American community.


Mayor Sam Liccardo posed for a photo with Ethiopian American youth group. (Photo: Courtesy of EAC)


The event was held at 2500 Masonic Center in San Jose on Saturday, March 21st, 2015. (Courtesy of EAC)

Related:
Sam Liccardo Elected Mayor of San Jose

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San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo To Greet Ethiopian Community – March 21st

(Photo courtesy of The Ethiopian American Council - EAC)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, March 19th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — The Mayor of San Jose, California, Sam Liccardo, will greet the Ethiopian community this weekend at an event hosted by the Ethiopian American Council (EAC).

The gathering, which is open to the public, will be held at 2500 Masonic Center San Jose on Saturday, March 21st. It will be the Mayor’s first meeting with the community since taking office earlier this year.

Liccardo was the mayoral candidate endorsed by EAC. Winning a narrow election victory last November by a few thousand votes, Liccardo was in a hotly-contested race against County Supervisor Dave Cortese. Liccardo was the first candidate in the country to release campaign literature translated into Amharic targeting the Ethiopian American community.

Organizers note that Saturday’s program starts promptly at 5:30pm and includes dinner, traditional music performance and remarks by Mayor Liccardo and EAC officials.

The evening is sponsored by Zeni Ethiopian Restaurant, Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant, Selam Ethiopian Restaurant, Mudai Ethiopian Restaurant, Abby’s Ethiopian Delights and Lunch Box Ethiopian Restaurant.


If You Go:
Saturday, March 21st
5:30 – 8:30 (Official program)
8:30 – until (Entertainment)
2500 Masonic Center San Jose
Phone: 408-753-1314

Related:
Sam Liccardo Elected Mayor of San Jose

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BAMcafé Features Dinaw Mengestu in Eat, Drink & Be Literary 2015

Dinaw Mengestu. (Illustration by Nathan Gelgud)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Acclaimed Ethiopian American writer Dinaw Mengestu returns to BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) on April 1st as the featured speaker at the multi-arts institution’s book talk program Eat, Drink & Be Literary 2015.

“Ethiopian-born writer Dinaw Mengestu is the author of the novels How to Read the Air, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, and All Our Names,” organizers note. “He has contributed writing to Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and Harper’s, among other publications, and is the recipient of the National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35 Award, The New Yorker’s 20 under 40 Award, and a 2012 MacArthur Foundation genius grant. He lives in New York City and teaches at Brooklyn College and Georgetown University.”

“For more than 150 years, BAM has been the home for adventurous artists, audiences, and ideas — engaging both global and local communities. With world-renowned programming in theater, dance, music, opera, film, and much more, BAM showcases the work of emerging artists and innovative modern masters.”

If You Go:
Wed, Apr 1, 2015
6:30pm
LOCATION:Peter Jay Sharp Building
BAMcafé
RUN TIME: 2hrs
SUBSCRIPTION PRICE: $51
SINGLE TICKET PRICE: $60
www.bam.org

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Interview: Vital Collaboration with Migrant Community Center in Lebanon

(Photo courtesy: The Migrant Community Center in Beirut)

Huffington Post

By Kumera Genet

The attack and subsequent suicide in 2012 of Alem Dechasa-Desisa, an Ethiopian migrant domestic worker in Lebanon, was a turning point in the consciousness of the Ethiopian and African Diaspora. The video of Ali Mafuz — Alem’s employer — beating her in front of the Ethiopian Consulate in Beirut was one of the first widely shared visual examples of the exploitation that faces many African migrants in the Middle East. Due to a lack of resources and political organization, there have been few coordinated efforts by the African Diaspora to directly support migrant workers in the Middle East in three years since Alem’s death.

Often lost in the discourse around migrant rights is that there are local efforts in Lebanon and other countries — led by activists and the migrant worker themselves — to support the migrant worker community. I feel this is important context to better understand how individuals living outside of the Middle East can assist in improving the lives of migrants. The news that reaches the Diaspora is normally about the tragedies. This is an unsustainable way of engaging in the issue and in the interim between public abuses, there must be more real relationship building with potential allies.

To this end, I spoke recently with Farah Salka who is the general coordinator of the Anti-Racism Movement in Lebanon, which manages the Migrant Community Center in Beirut. The Migrant Community Center is one of the few open spaces for the migrant communities and domestic workers in Lebanon. There are more than 800,000 migrant workers in Lebanon and more than 250,000 serve as domestic workers.

They are currently fundraising to keep up, and hopefully expand, the services offered. This is the first in a two-part interview with Farah to share more about the Migrant Community Center, and Anti-Racism efforts in Lebanon:

Kumera: Hi Farah. Thank you for the time to speak. What is the Migrant Community Center and why is there a need for this in Beirut?

Farah: The Migrant Community Center (MCC) is a free and open space for migrant workers in Lebanon. For the past three years, MCC has been offering free and very low-cost classes, activities, services, and events to migrant workers in Lebanon. During this time, MCC has assisted hundreds of migrant workers individually, and has also helped strengthen their communities in Lebanon. In this time, MCC has become a local hub of migrant workers’ activities and a launching pad for their efforts.

MCC users are all migrant workers who live in Lebanon. They are men, women, and children, hailing from a multitude of African and Asian countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Philippines, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Bangladesh, Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Syria, Egypt, Liberia, and many more. Most of them are women employed as domestic workers in Lebanese households. There are at the very least 250,000 migrant domestic workers in Lebanon, which is a country of 4 million people.

Migrant workers unfortunately make up one of the most vulnerable demographic groups in the country, mostly due to exploitative labor policies. They are excluded from the labor law and are instead governed by the oppressive sponsorship (Kafala) system, a system akin to modern-day slavery. For migrant workers, there is an absence of legal protection and basic rights like freedom of movement or the ability to change employer, etc. And there are widespread discriminatory practices in many public and private institutions. These factors created a climate where migrant workers have difficulty communicating and working together, seeking help, or just living a normal life with their rights and freedoms protected. This climate has contributed to the high rate of abuse of migrant workers, the alarmingly high death and suicide rates, and daily detention and deportation of workers who escape abusive employers.

Read the rest of the interview at Huffingtonpost.com »

Related:
Support the Migrant Community Center in Beirut (Indiegogo)

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Ethiopia: Crackdown on Media & Opposition Costs Country Development Aid Money

Ethiopian PM Hailemariam Desalegn at World Economic Forum. Back home his government has been accused by rights groups of wielding the hammer against opponents. (WEF/Flickr)

Mail & Guardian Africa

By WILLIAM DAVISON, BLOOMBERG

Ethiopia’s crackdown on journalists, opposition ahead of May polls leads to funds cut

THE UK ended support for a programme funding public services in Ethiopia partly because of the Horn of Africa nation’s crackdown on journalists and opposition politicians in the run-up to May elections, the Department for International Development said.

The Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening decided to “accelerate” DfID’s withdrawal from the multi-donor funded Promotion of Basic Services (PBS) in January after making an initial decision in May 2014 to focus more on supporting economic development, according to a statement made to the UK High Court on March 4 and e-mailed to Bloomberg by DfID’s press office two days later.

“This was as a result of ongoing concerns related to civil and political rights at the level of the overall partnership in Ethiopia,” DfID told the court. “And in particular recent trends on civil and political rights in relation to freedom of expression and electoral competition, and continued concerns about the accountability of the security services.”

Ethiopia will hold parliamentary elections on May 24. Rights groups including Amnesty International and donors such as the US have criticized Ethiopia’s government for criminalizing dissent using a 2009 anti-terrorism law. Ethiopian officials say cases against the media and political activists haven’t infringed on constitutionally protected civil rights.

Ethiopian State Minister of Communications Shimeles Kemal wasn’t available to comment when contacted on Tuesday.

Read more »

Related:
Ethiopia’s Growth Program Cuts Out Dissent (The Wall Street Journal)

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How an Ethiopian Priest Changed His Views on Child Marriage

Priest Melak Birhan Ewenetu Yetemegne in Debre Markos, Ethiopia. (PRI)

PRI

BY Colin Cosier

The Orthodox Church dominates life in Ethiopia, and its priests are some of the country’s most respected figures. So when priests take child brides, often age 15 or younger, it’s not something that’s questioned by the community. Rather, it’s expected. Tradition dictates that a priest must marry a virgin.

Before, the priests used to think that marrying a girl over 15 years old, after her menstruation starts, is a bad thing, it lowers her quality,” says Melak Birhan Ewenetu Yetemegne, the second top priest in his region, a rural area in southern Amhara in the cool Ethiopian highlands. His district includes 56 churches and more than 2,000 priests. And his experience with child marriage is personal. When he was 22, he married a girl who was only 9.

“She didn’t really understand she was married,” the 45-year-old says. “She considered me as a brother or father and until she was 15, she never understood that we were married.”

He says though sexually tempted by his new wife, he waited until she was 16 before consummating the marriage. He tells the story of his friend, also a young priest at the time, who was de-robed after injuring his 11-year-old bride with a traumatic fistula. Melak Birhan says he was careful not to make the same mistake.

“He was misguided by the tradition, rather than by the Bible. That was a bad story, while my tolerance is a good story,” he says.

The priest and his wife are still together today. In the years since their wedding, Melak Birhan has blessed countless child marriages. But about a year ago, the priest’s position on child marriage was challenged. A group called Finote Hiwot: End Child Marriage ran a workshop for the top priests in the district. Over five days, the priests were asked to reinterpret the Bible.

Read more at PRI »

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Bitcoin Goes After African Diaspora Remittance Market Share

The multi-billion dollars African Diaspora remittance market is currently dominated by Western Union and MoneyGram, but the arrival of digital currency Bitcoin might mean a new era of lower sending fees. (BBC)

BBC News

By Tom Jackson

Over 30 million Africans live in the diaspora. They sent almost $40bn (£26.5bn) home in 2014, a figure that is likely to grow significantly in the coming years.

While north African countries such as Morocco, Algeria and Egypt receive the most, east African countries are particularly dependent on remittances.

The average per migrant is almost $1,200, representing 5% of GDP on a country-by-country average.

Yet the cost of sending this money is high.

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) reports Africans in the diaspora pay an average of 12.3% to money transmitters to send $200 home, while the cost of sending money between African countries is also high. Each year, the ODI says total fees amount to $1.4bn.

Part of the reason for these high costs could be a lack of competition; Western Union and MoneyGram control 50% or more of the remittance market in most Sub-Saharan African countries. But help may be at hand from an unlikely source: digital currency Bitcoin.

Read more at BBC News »

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Ethiopia’s Blue Party Tries To Reacquaint Nation With Dissent

Thousands of Ethiopian opposition activists demonstrate in Addis Ababa on June 2, 2013. The demonstrations were organized by the newly formed Blue Party opposition group. (AFP/Getty Images)

NPR

By Gregory Warner

Feven Tashome is a study in blue. The 21-year-old’s toenails are painted a rich cobalt, her scarf is baby blue and her leather handbag is ultramarine. To ordinary passersby in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, it’s a fashion statement; to members of Ethiopia’s beleaguered political opposition, it’s a secret handshake.

Feven (Ethiopians go by their first names) is showing her allegiance to an opposition party with an odd name, and an even odder theme song.

The Blue Party is one of Ethiopia’s few remaining opposition parties. Ethiopia is technically a multiparty parliamentary democracy, like Britain, but it is effectively run like a one-party state, with 99.8 percent of parliamentary seats controlled by one ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, or EPRDF.

After the Blue Party was founded three years ago, it organized a peaceful anti-government protest in a country that hadn’t permitted public rallies for a decade. The parade of young Ethiopians demonstrating in jeans and blue T-shirts seemed a sign that the government was relaxing its grip. But with new elections this May, the Blue Party claims that subsequent rallies have been met violently by police. They say hundreds of their delegates have been fired from their jobs or beaten up by thugs.

Blue Party spokesman, 27-year-old Yonatan Tesfaye, says blue is a symbol of two powerful unifying images for Ethiopians: the Blue Nile, and the Red Sea (which is actually turquoise most of the year). Blue is also the color of Twitter and Facebook; social media are one of the last remaining outlets for relatively uncensored expression in the country.

But to the Ethiopian government, “blue” is a symbol of rebellion, like the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine or the failed “Green Movement” in Iran.

Read more at NPR »



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New York Screening of ‘Difret’ Features Q&A with Aberash Diriba, the Film’s Subject

Hirut (Tizita Hagare) plays the role of Aberash B. Diriba in "Difret." (Photo courtesy: Haile Addis Pictures)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, March 9th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) – Aberash B. Diriba who is the subject of the award-winning Ethiopian film Difret will be present at the New York Screening of the movie on Thursday, March 12th at the Ford Foundation.

The Q&A and discussion segment of the screening also includes producer Mehret Mandefro, director and writer Zeresenay Mehari, Too Young to Wed founder and executive director Stephanie Sinclair, Feminist Majority Foundation executive director Katherine Spillar, and Ford Foundation program officer Louis Bickford.

“In Difret a 14-year-old Ethiopian girl is abducted by a group of men who intend to force her into marriage, one of the country’s oldest traditions,” the Ford Foundation highlights in its announcement. “In an attempt to escape, she shoots and kills her would-be husband and faces a death sentence in the ensuing trial. Based on real events, Difret captures the tensions of a country in transition as it moves toward equal rights, and portrays the courageous people leading the transformation.”

“If there is a villain in my film, it’s not a person, it’s the tradition,” the director, Zeresenay, told The Los Angeles Times, as the newspaper declared Difret “effective” and “compelling” in a review published this past December.

“This ability to encapsulate multiple viewpoints is critical for presenting the different strata of a country of multiple divides, not only between the traditions of rural life and the mores of the modern metropolis of Addis Ababa but also the differing attitudes toward women and justice that exist even among the country’s educated elite.”


If You Go:
THURSDAY, MARCH 12, 2015
5:00 pm
Reception
6:00 pm
Discussion, Screening, and Film Q&A
FORD FOUNDATION
320 East 43rd Street, New York, NY
Please RSVP by Wednesday, March 11th Difret2015.eventbrite.com.

Related:
Review Effective ‘Difret’ Looks at Abhorrent Practice in Ethiopia – The Los Angeles Times

Video: Audience Reaction at 2014 New African Films Festival in Silver Spring, Maryland

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A Rare Los Angeles Solo Performance by Pianist & Composer Girma Yifrashewa

Ethiopian Pianist & Composer Girma Yifrashewa will perform live in Los Angeles on March 25th, 2015 at the Carriage House and in San Francisco on March 22nd, 2015 at the Lab. (Photo by Victor G. Jeffreys II)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, March 8th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — A rare Los Angeles solo performance by Ethiopia’s renowned pianist and composer, Girma Yifrashewa, is being presented by Radio Afrique, Dexter Story, and Azla Vegan on Wednesday, March 25th at the Carriage House in South Pasadena.

“This intimate performance hosted at The Carriage House will be Yifrashewa’s only Los Angeles appearance on this tour,” organizers announced.

Girma is also scheduled to play in San Francisco on March 22nd at the Lab.

“Born in 1967 in Addis Ababa, Girma Yifrashewa combines the ecstasy of Ethiopian harmony with the grandeur of virtuoso piano technique,” noted the press release. “Yifrashewa has trained at renowned institutions including the Yared School of Music in Ethiopia, Sofia State Conservatory in Bulgaria, the Royal Academy of Music in London, and the Hochschule fur Music und Theater in Germany. A highly accomplished performer of classical repertoire, Yifrashewa has chosen to remain in Ethiopia, helping to forge a classical tradition for his country.”

“Currently, Yifrashewa works to promote Ethiopian and classical music through cultural commissions and tours throughout Africa, Europe and beyond.”


If You Go:
An Evening of Ethiopian Classical Music with
GIRMA YIFRASHEWA
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25
7pm / 2 Sets / $20
The Carriage House
1215 Garfield Ave.
South Pasadena, CA 91030
Tickets available here
Light fare & coffee ceremony by Azla Vegan
Presented by Radio Afrique, Dexter Story & Azla Vegan
More info at https://www.facebook.com/events

Related:
Photos: Ethiopian Pianist Girma Yifrashewa’s Stellar Performance in Bethesda

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Obama Family Marks 50th Civil Rights March Anniversary in Selma

President Obama and his family joined the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march in Selma, Alabama, March 6, 2015. (Photo: TwitterWhite House)

VOA News

President Barack Obama marked the 50th anniversary of two Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights marches Saturday with a call to Americans to work together to make the country better.

While acknowledging that the race for equal opportunity “is not yet won,” Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, told thousands gathered in Selma, Alabama, that he rejected the notion that nothing has changed.

The anniversary came as the U.S. has been struggling with renewed racial tension over police treatment of African-Americans. Much of the focus has been on Ferguson, Missouri, where a white police officer shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August during a street confrontation.

In November, heated protests erupted in Ferguson and across the country after a grand jury cleared the officer charged in Brown’s death. Adding to the nationwide outcry were several other high-profile incidents, including the police chokehold death of a black man in New York.

But Obama said a Justice Department report this week concluding that Ferguson police had routinely violated black citizens’ rights did not erase the nation’s progress.

“What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it’s no longer endemic, it’s no longer sanctioned by law or by custom, and before the civil rights movement, it most surely was,” Obama said. He called on Americans of all races to try to ensure the U.S. criminal justice system “serves all and not just some.”

“Together, we can raise the level of mutual trust that policing is built on — the idea that police officers are members of the community they risk their lives to protect — and citizens in Ferguson and New York and Cleveland, they just want the same thing young people here marched for 50 years ago: the protection of the law,” he said.

After speaking near the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Obama and a massive crowd walked across the bridge, where police and troopers attacked demonstrators on March 7, 1965, when they tried to march from Selma to Montgomery in support of voting rights for all races.

Two weeks after that day, known as “Bloody Sunday,” the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led a successful Selma-to-Montgomery march. The demonstrations helped spark the Voting Rights Act of 1965, prohibiting discrimination based on race.

On the flight from Washington, Obama awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the marchers, whom he called “foot soldiers” who participated in the two marches.

Thousands of people gathered in Selma ahead of the president and first lady Michelle Obama. The president’s predecessor, George W. Bush, and his wife, Laura, also attended the event.

Also present: U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a leader of the “Bloody Sunday” march who was severely beaten himself. Lewis expressed disappointment that Republican congressional leaders would be absent from the commemoration.

Some information for this report comes from AP and Reuters.

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Meet the New Director of D.C. Mayor’s Office on African Affairs Mamadou Samba

Mamadou Samba is the Director of the D.C. Mayor's Office on African Affairs, (Photo: Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, March 6th, 2015

Washington, D.C. (TADIAS) — Last week, we sat down for an interview with the new Director of the Washington, D.C. Mayor’s Office for African Affairs, Mamadou Samba, who was appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser in January 2015. Prior to his current job Samba was Commissioner of the DC Commission on African Affairs, and worked as a Capital Budget Administration Analyst at the DC government Office of the Chief Financial Officer. He moved to the U.S. in the early 1990′s from Dakar, Senegal as a young adult (his father worked at the Senegalese embassy). After his dad’s term ended, Mamadou said, he chose to stay in order to finish his education, and went on to earn a Master of Public Administration degree from Kennesaw State University, and a Bachelor Degree in Political Science from the University of South Carolina Aiken, where he was awarded an NCAA athletic scholarship.

When we arrived at his office inside the Reeves Center at the corner of 14th and U Street, Samba had been working on a speech that he would deliver the following evening at the Ethiopian Community Center on the eve of the 119th Adwa anniversary. “I have a lot of respect for the Ethiopian community in D.C., for Ethiopian history and Ethiopians in general,” he told us. “You guys are the reason why we now have such a strong African community in Washington.”

The D.C. Mayor’s Office for African Affairs, which is the first of its kind in the United States, was created in 2006 following a series of community demands. Samba explained: “There was a need to have an office to help support the fast-growing African immigrant community and also serve as a liaison between the African population and the district’s government.” The task, he added, was to open “an office that was aware of the barriers — language and cultural barriers — and the challenges of dealing, for instance, with lack of information on jobs, health insurance, and immigration matters. So our office came as result of that,” he said. “We may speak different languages and have different taste in music, but employment is a challenge in all of our communities not only just in the Ethiopian community; immigration is a problem not just in the Ghanaian community. So the point is unless we come together as a community we will always remain separated. And we have to be inspired by the Latino community, by the Asian community and other immigrant communities.”


Mamadou Samba. (Tadias Magazine photo)

In the past, Samba emphasized, “People who have served as directors before me have done a really good job making sure that the office is stable over time.” He added: “So we will keep building on that to make sure that the African immigrant community is more aware than before and has more access than before to services that every resident of the district has access to. We do that by putting in place several types of programs. We have a grant that we use to fund non-profit organizations that serve in different sectors, it could be health, education and other key areas in line with the Mayor’s priorities.”

Aside from that Samba noted that his office also conducts activities that are particularly geared towards empowering young people. “These programs are designed to get African youth engaged, trying to provide them with work experience, leadership opportunities, and just really trying to give them a platform to be part of the discussion,” he said. “But the most important program is our capacity building program where we support small business entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations.” He noted “We do that through workshops an business trainings so they can learn where to find funding, what kind of funding is out there and available for them, how to research and write grants, really put them in touch with each other and to resources.”

“So what’s your goal as the new director?” we asked. “I am going for a more collaborative approach,” he said. “Because I find that as someone who has been here for a long time that our community is not as united as we want it to be.” He added: “There isn’t a lot of intercultural interaction. What I mean by that is Ethiopians are doing things on their own, Nigerians are doing things on their own, Ghanaian are doing something on their own, Senegalese are doing something on their own.” Samba continued: “But when you look at it each one of them is doing the exact same thing that the other one is doing. The only difference is that these are cultural or country focused efforts. So I think there has to be a way for us to work together on commons issues.”

“The Ethiopian community has to be able to go walk with the Ghanaian community because they are more experienced, they outnumber all other immigrants from the continent, so there is something there that we can learn from the Ethiopian community,” Samba said. “There is something that we can learn from the Ghanaian community.”

“The other thing I want to contribute to the office is in raising the visibility of the success within our community,” he said. “We have to tell our own stories. We have to highlight the positive things that your organization is doing, we have to talk about the positive things that other Africans are doing to balance the bad news that we hear daily about Africa.” Samba points out that his office has published a business directory listing African owned businesses in Washington, D.C. covering many sectors from hair braiders to restaurateurs, to proprietors of parking lot management companies, realtors, lawyers, and insurance agents.

“We know that the African Diaspora sends 50 billion dollars annually in remittances to Africa, and that’s projected to reach 250 billion in the next two decades,” Samba said. “What I want to make equally visible is the huge economic impact that African immigrants are making right here in Washington, D.C. in terms of job creation, tax revenue and cultural enrichment of the District.”

You can learn more about the D.C. Mayor’s Office on African Affairs at oaa.dc.gov.

Related:
Good Question: Where Do African Immigrants Live in US? Interactive Map

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Oldest Human Fossil Unearthed in Ethiopia

Scientists have unearthed the jawbone of what they claim is one of the very first humans. (BBC News)

SMITHSONIAN.COM

MARCH 4, 2015

One January morning in 2013, while climbing an eroded hill in Ethiopia’s Afar region, Calachew Seeyoum came across a broken tooth. The graduate student knew at once that it was a fossil, and it was important. The thick enamel was a surefire sign that the premolar had come from one of our extinct hominid relatives. Squatting in the silty soil, Seeyoum found more teeth and half a lower jaw that confirmed his first impression.

Plenty of hominid remains have been unearthedS in the scorched land of Afar, including the first Australopithecus afarensis ever discovered, nicknamed Lucy. What made this particular outcrop at the Ledi-Geraru site special was its age. Layers of volcanic ash beneath the surface, dated by the reliable decay of natural radioactive crystals in the ash, put the mandible at between 2.75 and 2.80 million years old—neatly in between the last of Lucy’s apelike kin and the first-known example of our own genus, Homo

Read more »

Related:
‘First human’ discovered in Ethiopia (BBC News)

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Ethiopian Cinema Tackles Prostitution

Price of Love, in Amharic, has been nominated for Africa's top film award at the Fespaco festival. (BBC)

BBC News

By Emmanuel Igunza

Addis Ababa – Ethiopian scriptwriter and film director Hermon Hailay says she grew up close to prostitutes.

“I know them as young, beautiful women, mothers, sisters and friends,” she tells me at a popular cinema in the middle of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

“I always wanted to tell their story, because I know it well. As a kid, I did not see the shame in what they do.”

At just 28, Ms Hermon has already written and directed three feature films all tackling social issues like poverty and the perils of rural to urban migration.

She was getting ready to travel to Burkina Faso for the Fespaco awards, where her latest film, Price of Love, has been nominated for the top prize.

It follows the life of a young taxi driver who in the course of his job falls in love with a prostitute.


Cinemas showing the latest releases are popular in Addis Ababa.

Read more at BBC News »

Related:
New Animation Movie Features Bilal the Ethiopian: Islam’s First Muezzin
Crumbs: ‘Outlandish & Imaginative’ Sci-Fi Romance Film From Ethiopia

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International Women’s Day: Interview With Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu

As we approach International Women’s Day, ILO News talks to Ethiopian entrepreneur Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, who created one of the world’s fastest growing footwear brands. (Courtesy photo)

ILO news

ADDIS ABABA — “It was pretty basic. We self-financed. Five workers plus myself working inside a workshop situated on my grandmother’s plot of land inside our village of Zenabwork,” recalls Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, now CEO and managing director of soleRebels, one of the first global footwear brands to emerge from a developing country.

“Right from the start of 2004, we aimed to create, grow and control a world class footwear brand that would bring even more jobs and prosperity for the workers by leveraging the artisan skills of our community.”

Alemu, 34, was born and raised in Addis Ababa’s impoverished and marginalized Zenabwork area. Her mother and father, who worked as a cook and an electrician, respectively, had a huge influence on this woman who has recently become a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and a UN Goodwill Ambassador for Entrepreneurship.

Today, the eco-sensitive company she runs sells shoes through numerous retail outlets across Europe and Asia, and employs more than 100 workers locally who are paid over three to five times the local industry average.

“There are people who started with us earning a modest training salary of about ETB 900 (US$ 45) and now earn more than a (medical) doctor,” she told ILO News.

The company has 18 stores around the world, including in Silicon Valley (USA), Japan, Singapore, Austria, Greece, Spain and Switzerland, along with an aggressive e-commerce marketing strategy. It expects to open another 50 to 60 stores in next 18 to 36 months.

Creating jobs, empowering communities


The shoes are made of non-traditional materials, such as recycled tires, organic
cotton, jute and hemp.

Before starting her business, Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu – also known as “BTA”– went to college at Unity University in Addis Ababa and worked with various companies in the leather and apparel sector. “This gave me a good knowledge of the industry, which was extremely useful in terms of setting up the company and making it grow,” she said.

But after working in the private sector for a while, she developed a strong desire to focus her business skills on her community.

“I knew that there were so many talented people out there who could do great things if only given a chance. However, due to extreme poverty, stigma, and marginalization,…many of them could not even get simple jobs. This was devastating for me, as I had grown up with them. They were my neighbours, my family members.”

“That’s why we have always said that this company is about maximizing local talent and local resources to create good paying jobs, that in turn would create extraordinary footwear,” she added.

Footwear platform

The shoes are made of non-traditional materials, such as recycled tires, organic cotton, jute and hemp. And they are handmade through a low-tech, zero-carbon production process.

Named one of the top 12 women entrepreneurs of the last century by CNN, Alemu knew that the initial designs of the shoes (inspired by the selate/barbasso sandals worn by Ethiopian soldiers against the colonial occupation) needed to take advantage of the creative platform of the footwear industry.

The shoes are made of non-traditional materials, such as recycled tires, organic cotton, jute and hemp. And they are handmade through a low-tech, zero-carbon production process.

Moreover, the company sustainability policy extends beyond its products to its workers and the entire production process. The company is now the world’s number one footwear brand to be fair-trade certified by the World Fair Trade Organization (a designation that certifies the sustainability of a company’s entire operation — not just its products).

Between 2007 and 2011, the International Labour Organization (ILO) supported the Ethiopian Women Exporters Association, of which BTA is part of the senior management team. The support consisted of several training sessions on issues such as business management (using the ILO Gender and Entrepreneurship Together/GET Ahead tool), exhibition and fair skills (using the “Improve Your Exhibiting Skills” tool) and the development of strategic plans for the Association.

Produce locally, sell globally

“I wanted to show that it is possible to be a local person, in Ethiopia and in Africa, and to be globally successful,” she said. “It is possible to deploy local resources while creating a market-leading global brand, and to do it all from scratch.”

The construction of a state-of-the-art eco-friendly production facility has already begun. Last week BTA welcomed HRH Princess Mary of Denmark at the building site, where she had the chance to witness the impact of the new facility on job creation and cultural preservation.

“This will be the most innovative and unique production facility of its kind in this country, and I believe anywhere,” said BTA, who now also sits on the board of United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).

The production facility will include a showroom for buyers with a focus on the eco-sensible artisan production methods of Ethiopia. This facility is expected to create thousands of new well-paid jobs while “preserving, promoting and keeping indigenous artisan crafts relevant in the production process,” said BTA.

She also believes that her success story can inspire a whole new generation of young entrepreneurs in Africa.

“If we want to have truly equitable societies, then we need to embrace equity on all levels. And that means women’s economic empowerment and the key to that is women entrepreneurs,” she concluded.


The ILO and International Women’s Day
The ILO will celebrate International Women’s Day with a panel discussion on: “Women and the Future of Work: Beijing+20 and Beyond ” at the ILO Headquarters in Geneva on Friday, 6 March. The theme “women and the future of work” recognizes the importance of the women at work and future of work initiatives launched by the ILO Director-General in 2013 as part of the run-up to the ILO’s centenary in 2019.

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Conference of Diaspora Ethiopian Women Focuses on Elections & Civil Society

At last year's International Conference of Ethiopian Women in the Diaspora. (Photo: by Kebadu Belachew)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — How do you hold elections without the role of civil society? That’s the primary question, organizers say, that panelists will try to answer at the 4th Annual International Conference of Ethiopian Women in the Diaspora when they gather this coming weekend in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The conference hosted by the Center for the Rights of Ethiopian Women (CREW) will be held on March 7th at the Silver Spring Sheraton. The day-long program includes discussions focusing on the impact of Ethiopia’s Societies and Charities Law, which severely restricts the activities of nongovernmental organizations, including women’s associations.

“Because of this Law, these organizations are not likely to have any impact in the upcoming 2015 elections,” CREW said in a statement. “The conference will create an enabling environment for networking among participants to challenge the Society and Charities Law and advocate for the respect of basic human rights, women’s right and the rule of law in the country.”

Guest speakers include Dr. Tsehai Berhane-Selassie, Mr. Kassahun Yibeltal, Dr. Melakou Tegegn, Dr. Erku Yimer, Ms. Soliyana G. Michael, and Mr. Obang Metho.

In addition, CREW said, their event features the screening of Hayal Hayl, a documentary film by Elias Wondimu of Tsehai Publishers, which looks at non-violent movements that brought about fundamental social changes in the 20th century.


If You Go:
Saturday, March 7, 2015
Registration starts at 9:00 AM
Silver Spring Sheraton
8777 Georgia Avenue
Silver Spring, Maryland
centerforethiopianwomen.org

Related:
Photos: 3rd International Conference of Ethiopian Women in the Diaspora

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The World Bank Ethiopia Scandal: Leaked Transcripts of Interviews From Gambella

Inclusive Development International announced today that its releasing leaked transcripts of interviews conducted by the World Bank during its investigation mission in the Gambella region. (Photo: © HRW)

Press Release

World Bank whitewashes Ethiopia human rights scandal

(March 2, 2015) – The World Bank has whitewashed damning evidence of widespread human rights abuses in connection with its flagship program in Ethiopia, Inclusive Development International said today. The evidence, obtained during the course of an internal investigation, appears to have been shelved in order to exonerate the bank and one of it biggest clients of responsibility for mass forcible population transfers that occurred between 2010-2013. To set the record straight, Inclusive Development International today is releasing leaked transcripts of interviews conducted by the World Bank’s Inspection Panel during its investigation mission in the Gambella region of Ethiopia.

The transcribed audio files describe a campaign of intimidation and violence to force farmers to move from their fertile ancestral land to centralized villages, where land was unsuitable for agriculture. Those interviewed during private meetings with the Panel in Gambella described shooting, beating, sexual assault and arrests of local farmers who opposed the move and civil servants who refused to participate in the campaign. They also told the Inspection Panel that they believed World Bank funds were being used to pay for the forced relocations. Yet in its 80-page Investigation Report, the Inspection Panel devotes only one bland sentence to these harrowing testimonies.

The investigation followed a complaint submitted to the Inspection Panel in 2012 by Anuak Indigenous people from Ethiopia’s Gambella region, who are now refugees living in camps in Kenya and South Sudan. The complaint alleges that 2 billion USD in discretionary funding provided by the World Bank under the Promoting Basic Services (PBS) project directly and substantially contributed to the forced population transfers. Under PBS, World Bank and other donor funds are transferred directly into the Ethiopian Treasury accounts to be used at the discretion of regional and local governments to improve access to basic services. In 2010, the Gambella Regional Government decided that the way it would deliver these services was by relocating 70% of the “scattered” rural population into centralized villages. Up to 4 million people in Gambella and other regions of Ethiopia were designated for relocation between 2010-2013. A legal and policy analysis accompanying the complaint, prepared by Inclusive Development International, presents evidence that the World Bank’s failure to track its funds and apply its safeguard policies to the PBS project implicated the bank in the forced relocations in Gambella and the systematic human rights abuses that accompanied them.

Read more »

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Ethiopia: Adwa’s Eternity

The following is our annual exclusive article from Professor Ayele Bekerie of Mekelle University marking Ethiopia's victory at the Battle of Adwa on March 1st, 1896. (Photo: Adwa Mountains by Chester Higgins)

Tadias Magazine
By Ayele Bekerie, PhD

Updated: Sunday, March 1st, 2015

Adwa, Ethiopia (TADIAS) –119 years ago, on March 1, 1896, at the Battle of Adwa, the unexpected happened. Ethiopia, an African country, defeated Italy, a European country. The defeat was decisive and the victory was permanent. More than 100,000 Ethiopian troops, who were led by Emperor Menelik II, were mobilized from all corners of the country and marched to victory at the battle that lasted less than half-a-day. The victory was so decisive, according to Fitawrari Tekle Hawariat, the 20,000 Italian and their ‘native’ soldiers were rushing to surrender and to be declared prisoners of war.

On March 1, 1896, Ethiopians not only kept their sovereignty and independence, but they also taught a lesson to Italians, for that matter to European colonizers. The lesson was that their colonization agenda’s last chapter was written at Adwa. Adwa, therefore, marked the beginning of a new chapter of anti-colonialism and decolonization and end of colonial occupation in Africa and elsewhere. Ethiopia unburdened what the poet Kipling labeled ‘the white man’s burden,’ that is, the pseudo civilizing missions of the Europeans in Africa. Adwa has demonstrated that Africans can and should always be perceived and accepted as subjects of their own histories and civilizations.

The whole world has noted the able leadership of Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taitu Bitul, their gallant generals (the Balambrasoch the Girazmachoch, the Dejazmachoch, the Fitawrariwoch), brave soldiers (Geberewoch, Negadewoch, Setoch, Yeigg Balemuyawoch, Yehaimanot abatoch) at the Battle of Adwa. Their remarkable achievements have been recorded in many languages in the leading news outlets of the time. The libraries of the world have beefed up their shelves by including books about the Battle. To this day, like the historian Raymond Jonas’s (2011) The Battle of Adwa: African Victory in the Age of Empire, the Battle continues to generate new historical narratives. Persons and institutions in the Americas, Europe and Africa, according to Professor Kifle Selassie Beseat of UNESCO, named themselves Menelik, Taitu, Allula and Mekonnen in an attempt to stamp and permanently record for generations their memories of Adwa. In short, the unexpected and triumphal outcome of the Battle speaks to Adwa’s eternity.

When the people heeded the call of their leader, there were no mass media, no radio, and no television. Once Menelik’s Negarit (War Drum) drummed, the message spread and heard by the people throughout the country. Menelik’s Awaj was positively responded to and able-bodied men and women reported to duties in their respective districts, woreda, awaraja and provinces. The historic march to Adwa took more than two months. Along the way to Adwa, fellow Ethiopians, those who had to remain behind assumed logistical roles and offered provisions, such as food and pack animals, to the troops. The Battle took place at the site and time of Ethiopians’ choosing. The Italians were actually outnumbered and outmaneuvered and by mid-day the War was over and the Italians are rushing to surrender in thousands, as noted by Fitawarai Tekle Hawariat.

Adwa proves the common purpose and determination of the Ethiopians. It is an evidence for putting diverse human and natural resources into effective national use. It was an affirmation of what I call Ethiopian nation-ity with all its imperfections. With Adwa, Ethiopians created a new Ethiopia that belongs to diverse ethnic and religious groups. It is the fundamental basis of our national unity.

Adwa marks Ethiopia’s own state of modernization, despite all its limitations and internal contradictions. Ethiopians made it clear at Adwa that a people who are fully aware of their history are capable and willing to rise up and defend their God-given rights. Adwa will always remain a critical precursor to a just world. Adwa reminds the world that there cannot be a world order in which few are supreme and the majority are mere colonial subjects. It is also a catalyst to the present push to national economic development in the country.

According to the distinguished Ethiopian Studies’ curator and archivist Richard Pankhurst, Ethiopia had won or further affirmed international diplomatic recognition. In the months following the victory at Adwa, Emperor Menelik II signed treaties of friendship with major European powers of the time, such as Britain and France. In other words, the victory secured Ethiopia’s modern borders and its lasting effects extended far beyond Ethiopia to all the lands of colonization and subjugation. As George Berkeley, the pro-Italian historian, puts it, the victory was ‘a military factor worthy of our [the West] closest attention.’ Undoubtedly Ethiopia frustrated and brought it to a halt Europe’s deliberate intention to colonize the entire continent of Africa. Ethiopia became a symbol of dignity, respect and freedom for Africans, for that matter, for all colonized people all over the world.

The celebration of the victory at the Battle of Adwa is just and should take place both at home and abroad. This is because Adwa celebrates the little people, the ignored, the neglected, the negatively stereotyped, the other, the oppressed and the colonized. The victory speaks to the hopes and aspirations of the majority of the people in the world. Adwa rhymes with justice, agency and human equality and therefore, once a year in March, it is celebrated with enthusiasm.

History is characterized by nuances and complexities and it is resistant to hasty generalizations. The full account of historical details enable historians to generate narratives of the past, which is a guide to the present and a source of vision to the future. Some like to cherry-pick only some aspects of historical truths and put them into political spin. I would like to argue that the attempt, in some circles, to discredit the gallant leaders of Adwa would be short-lived. History is progressive and only a careful and studied analysis and interpretation of events and deeds help a society to move forward and to bring about peace, democracy and prosperity.

The victory achieved at Adwa set the stage to our social, economic, and cultural history. The freedom and independence that we enjoy today are informed by the outcome at the battlefield of Adwa. Adwa saved us from becoming an extension of colonial Italian history. Adwa made us remained ourselves. Adwa was possible because we were a people, a nation-state, that is, fully self-conscious.

To conclude, we celebrate Adwa because it was a battle won to affirm the universality of human dignity. Human beings, regardless of their geographical locations and income levels, have certain inalienable rights, which cannot be violated by force. We celebrate Adwa because it ushered to the world that the only peace acceptable is peace with justice. I would argue, in this regard, Adwa has made its contribution to what we call the modern world.

We celebrate Adwa, as it is stated repeatedly, for it is a prelude to decolonization in Africa and elsewhere. We celebrate Adwa for it has charted a new paradigm in international relations and diplomacy. International organizations, such as the United Nations, UNESCO, AU would not have been possible in the pre-Adwa global colonial order. Adwa is celebrated annually for it is an eternal symbol of dignity and freedom.



Ayele Bekerie is an Associate Professor at the Department of History and Heritage Management at Mekelle University.


Related:
Reflection on 118th Anniversary of Ethiopia’s Victory at Adwa
The Significance of the 1896 Battle of Adwa
Call for the Registry of Adwa as UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Where Rimbaud Found Peace in Ethiopia

The Arthur Rimbaud Cultural Center, a merchant's home now dedicated to the poet and his time in Harar. (Photo credit Michael Tsegaye for The New York Times)

The New York Times

By RACHEL B. DOYLE

In December of 1880, the mercurial French poet Arthur Rimbaud entered the ancient walled city of Harar, Ethiopia, a journey that had involved crossing the Gulf of Aden in a wooden dhow and 20 days on horseback through the Somali Desert. Several years before, the author of the prose poems “A Season in Hell” and “Illuminations” had abruptly renounced poetry and embarked on peregrinations that would take him around Europe, Asia, the Middle East and, finally, Africa. At age 26, Rimbaud accepted “a job consisting in receiving shipments of bales of coffee” with a French trading firm in a thriving corner of what was then called Abyssinia.

Then as now, Harar was a market town threaded with steep cobblestone alleys that wind between high limestone and tuff walls. Today those walls are painted with geometric designs in green, white, pink and blue. As one strolls down the narrow, mazelike streets lined with single-story dwellings, the city, fortified and enigmatic, feels closed off. Donkeys carrying bundles of firewood wait patiently for their owners near the crenelated entrances of the city’s historic gates. In the densely populated Old City, there are over 180 mosques and shrines, some dating to the 10th century. Occasionally one comes upon open-air markets where spices, khat leaves and coffee beans are sold in huge sacks.

Read more at The New York Times »

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Diaspora Stories: Ethiopian Entrepreneur Loops Back Home To Make Shoe History

(Photo courtesy of Passport ADV)

AFK Insider

By Jessica Harris

Fashion, trends and market value all play a role in the footwear industry — people invest in their feet. Be it Nike, Christian Louboutin, Gucci or Puma, what person doesn’t love a good pair of shoes?

Mikahyel Tesfaye, an Ethiopian shoe designer, was in the fashion industry for more than a decade before he decided to launch Passport Articles De Voyage in 2009 through an exclusive Adidas collection partnership. Spending the early part of his career learning the craft of manufacturing products and working for large New York City-based corporations like Eckō Unltd., Tesfaye was led him into wardrobe styling and eventually design.

Three years after launching Passport ADV in the U.S., Tesfaye decided to take on the ultimate challenge of manufacturing shoes in his homeland.

“But nothing I have learned in ‘the business’ could have prepared me for the experience of working in Africa,” Tesfaye told AFKInsider.

Delving Into Shoe Manufacturing

While Passport ADV is no shoe giant, the brand has made some big steps in the local economy. The brand offers fair wages for employees and business associates, on-site job training that allows factory workers to learn graphic design and mentoring for those interested in entrepreneurship.

Being a native of Ethiopia, it was a no-brainer as to where Tesafaye wanted to permanently root his company. He previously manufactured goods in Asia and Portugal in hopes to create a business model that would be both sustainable and impactful while showcasing the capabilities of Africa.

“My ability to travel and life experience was the ultimate inspiration for this brand,” Tesafaye said. “A [combination] of life experiences around the world were all made possible by my Passport, so the name just seemed perfect. Why not create the ultimate travel brand, built in one of the world’s greatest travel destinations?”

Made In Ethiopia

There are many challenges that most businesses have to overcome such as location, finding skilled workers and even building a facility when working out of Africa. But despite those challenges, many have find working out of Africa to be promising and rewarding.

Prior to Passport ADV’s Ethiopia launch in 2012, Tesfaye spent two years building infrastructure, supply chains and expanding groundwork in Addis Ababa.

“My sister began manufacturing handbags and leather goods in Addis, this created a point of entry for me,” he told AFKInsider.

Read more »

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Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia: New Book on the Remote Churches of an Ancient Land

(Photo credit: Maria-Jose & Bob Friedlander/IB Tauris)

Geographical

By Tom Hart

Ethiopia was among the world’s first Christian countries, but its many remote churches remain hidden – even from the locals.

Ethiopia’s remote churches range from rock-hewn buildings perched on mountains to timber-built caves. These almost forgotten churches contain rich murals and vibrant manuscripts.

‘The churches were looked at by American scholars many years ago, but they only measured them. There was no interest in the paintings,’ says Maria-José Friedlander.

Friedlander set out to document Ethiopia’s most remote churches with her husband, Bob Friedlander. The result Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia has already been published in Ethiopia, and is now available in Europe.


Inside Abraha Atsbeha church (Image: Maria-Jose & Bob Friedlander/IB Tauris)

Read more and see photos at Geographical.co.uk »

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Adwa Victory Celebrations in Chicago and Silver Spring, Maryland

(Posters courtesy: EHSNA and ECAC)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) – As Black History Month wraps up in the United States, we highlight two annual events scheduled this weekend in Chicago, Illinois and Silver Spring, Maryland marking the 119th anniversary of Ethiopia’s victory at the Battle of Adwa on March 1st, 1896.

“The Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago invites all people to celebrate this magnanimous victory and moment in Black History,” the organization announced, noting that this year’s event will take place at their office (1730 W. Greenleaf Ave.) on Saturday, February 28th.

“The purpose of this celebration is to preserve and promote ancient and modern Ethiopian history and to inspire youth of Ethiopian and African descent to be mindful of their glorious heritage,” ECAC added. “The event program includes historical accounts of Adwa by Ethiopian scholars, educators and historians Dr. Shumet Sishagne of Christopher Newport University and Dr. Haile M. Larebo of Morehouse College. The event will also include film clippings, poems and other entertainment.”

Silver Spring

In Silver Spring, Maryland the Ethiopian Heritage Society in North America (EHSNA) will hold their fourth annual Adwa celebration in downtown Silver Spring at the city’s Civic Building on Sunday March 1st, 2015.

“EHSNA will celebrate the Victory of Adwa in honor and recognition of the Ethiopian masses who, under the leadership of Emperor Minilik II fought and defeated the Italian invaders who had provoked this war and came with intent to colonize Ethiopia,” EHSNA said in a press release. “EHSNA strongly encourages all Ethiopians, Ethio-Americans and friends of Ethiopia to join us in celebrating the 119th Anniversary of the Victory of the Battle of Adwa.”

In an article published here last March historian Ayele Bekerie reflected on the global significance of the 1896 Ethiopian victory at Adwa:

In the context of world history, “the Battle of Adwa marked the largest military triumph of an African state over a European army in the nineteenth century and helped Ethiopia retain its independence during Europe’s Scramble for Africa,” writes Stanford University Historical Education Group. Ethiopia’s retention of its independence paved the way for global anti-colonial movements. Paul Henze describes it best when he states “the defeat at the Battle of Adwa as the beginning of the decline of Europe at the center of world politics.” Film Director and Producer Haile Gerima, framed the event as follows: “The victory ignited a lasting flame of hope, of freedom and of independence in the hearts of Africans throughout the world.” Bahru Zewde, a distinguished historian, understood Adwa’s global historical significance, for it “brought Ethiopia to the attention of the world.” The leading Afrocentrist, Molefi Kete Asante, further reiterates: “After the victory over Italy in 1896, Ethiopia acquired a special importance in the eyes of Africans as the only surviving African state. After Adwa, Ethiopia became emblematic of African valor and resistance, the bastion of prestige and hope to thousands of Africans who were experiencing the full shock of European conquest and were beginning to search for an answer to the myth of African inferiority.” In fact, in 1896, outside of Adwa, there was no good news from the continent of Africa. European colonizers were almost on the verge completing their colonial agenda everywhere. In 1896, France dismissed Queen Ranvalona and later annexed Madagascar to its vast colonial empire. British troops defeated Zanzibar in a 38-minute war — A battle that started at 9:02am and ended at 9:40am, the record shows. It is equally important to note the resistance against colonialism in 1896 as evidenced by the uprising of the Matebeles in what is now the nation of Zimbabwe…When Adwa is studied and understood in the context of world history, we find Adwa as one of the most significant beacons of hope for all oppressed and colonized people of the world. It is a victory that shattered the myth of European supremacy. It is a global historic moment that should be remembered and its bigger story should be shared by young and old in the world. Adwa, we call again, for its inclusion in the World Heritage List.

If You Go:
Chicago – Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 2:00 pm
The 1896 Battle of Adwa Victory Celebration
At the Ethiopian Community Association Center
Admission: Free
1730 W. Greenleaf Ave
Chicago, Illinois
Phone: 773.508.0303
www.ecachicago.org

Silver Spring — Sunday, March 1st, 2015
EHSNA Marks the 119th Victory Anniversary of the Battle of Adwa
At the Sliver Spring Civic Building
Admission and Parking: Free
One Veteran Place
Silver Spring, MD
Phone: 202.596.1964
www.ehsna.org

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Brookings Institution Recommends Obama Visit Kenya, Ethiopia & Nigeria

President Barack Obama in the Oval Office at the White House on Feb. 20th, 2015. (Photo by Pete Souza)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday February 23rd, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Before the end of his second term in 2016 President Barack Obama has the opportunity to become the first sitting U.S. president to address the African Union from its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “A visit to the AU headquarters by the U.S. president would be a significant endorsement of the role of the continental organization and would, indeed, be the best forum in which to hold the next U.S.-African Leaders Summit — building upon the success of the first summit held in Washington in 2014,” stated an article published last week by the Brookings Institution. The piece is entitled “Suggestions for Obama’s Last Trip to Africa as President.”

Historically, Ethiopia has served as the continent’s diplomatic home base ever since the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor to the African Union (AU), was established in Addis Ababa in 1963. In addition to urging the American president to make history by addressing African leaders from the AU podium, the article authored by Mwangi S. Kimenyi, Senior Fellow on Africa at the Brookings Institution, recommended that the next U.S. presidential trip to Africa also pay homage to Kenya, the birth-country of Obama’s father, as well as Nigeria, the most populous African nation.

“As the President’s second “home,” Kenya must be included in the itinerary,” Kimenyi argued. “Previous U.S. presidents have shown great pride by visiting their ancestral homes. Notable are the visits by Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton to their ancestral homes in Ireland.” He added: “It will be an opportunity for the president to demonstrate pride in his African roots. A visit [to Kenya] as president will have great significance not only to him but also to Kenyans and indeed other Africans.”

Regarding Nigeria the writer noted that the country is simply too big to ignore: “It is now the largest economy on the continent and has the largest population there,” Kimenyi wrote. “Despite all its shortcomings, Nigeria has, in recent years, undertaken major reforms that are helping stimulate the economy and shift it away from an over-reliance on oil. By all accounts, Nigeria can be considered the continental anchor: Whatever happens in that country has large spillover effects across the continent.”

But both Nigeria and Ethiopia, Kimenyi pointed out, have poor governance records. In Nigeria’s case, the country is well known for its “high levels of corruption and serious ethnic and religious fractures.” He added: “Ethiopia is another large country also characterized by significant governance problems. The country’s past has been characterized by dictatorships, serious conflict and devastating famines. However, since the dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam was deposed, Ethiopia has made important progress, including adoption of a new federalist constitution and far-reaching economic reforms that have seen the country achieve one of the highest growth rates in the continent over the last decade. The economic reforms have attracted new foreign direct investments with the consequential emergence of new industrial clusters, especially in leather processing. Not all is perfect though: Like with governance, Ethiopia still lags far behind other countries in deregulating some key sectors of the economy especially telecommunications, land markets, banking, and finance.”

In terms of Obama’s possible follow-up meeting with African leaders in Addis Ababa, which is purely speculative at this point, Kimenyi said: “President Obama and the African leaders could use the summit to discuss strategies to advance the pace of regional integration especially as pertains to involvement of the U.S. private sector, such as in the building of regional infrastructure.”

Related:
Suggestions for Obama’s last trip to Africa as president

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AERC Named World’s Most Transparent Think Tank

Professor Lemma Senbet is the Executive Director of the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) in Nairobi. He is currently on leave from the University of Maryland, College Park. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — The Nairobi-based African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) led by Ethiopian-American Economist, Professor Lemma Senbet, has received the highest possible rating as the most transparent think tank in the world. According to a report released by Transparify AERC is one of 31 major centers of research worldwide, out of 169 examined, that was given a five-star rating. The list includes several American policy research establishments such as the Center for Global Development, Pew Research Center, Stimson Center, Woodrow Wilson Center and the World Resources Institute.

“We are delighted with this top transparency ranking,” Dr. Lemma, AERC’s Executive Director, said in a statement. “AERC endeavors to observe best global practices in everything it does, and it is encouraging that our outstanding efforts are receiving global acknowledgment.”

Dr Hans Gutbrod, Executive Director of Transparify, said in a press release that “Think tanks can play a positive role producing independent, in-depth policy research to inform politicians, media and the public.” Gutbrod noted: “As key players in democratic politics, they have a responsibility to be transparent about their operations. Encouragingly, our survey shows that think tanks themselves are increasingly sharing this view.”

“While we cherish the global think tank rankings, we also wish to recognize that AERC is not just a think tank,” said Professor Lemma who was appointed two years ago as head of AERC following an international search for the position. Prior to that he served as Chair Professor of Finance at the University of Maryland, College Park. “[AERC] is a think tank plus,” he said, “with multiple arms, including research, collaborative graduate training, and policy outreach with heavy emphasis in capacity building.”

Related:
Five Questions for Prof. Lemma Senbet
Tadias Interview with Professor Lemma Senbet: New Head of AERC

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Genzebe Dibaba Sets 5000m Indoor Record

Genzebe Dibaba setting a 5000m world indoor record at the 2015 XL-galan meeting in Stockholm. (IAAF)

IAAF

By A Lennart Julin

A year ago, Genzebe Dibaba demolished the 3000m world Indoor record at the XL-Galan in the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm. When she returned this Thursday evening (19) she delivered the best kind of deja-vu experience for almost 10,000 spectators at the penultimate IAAF Indoor Permit meeting of the winter.

Despite having pace making help only for the first two kilometres in the 5000m, Dibaba was still capable of running the third world indoor record* of her career when she clocked a stunning 14:18.86 for 25 laps of an indoor track

She took more than five seconds off the previous mark of 14:24:37 set by her compatriot Meseret Defar on the same track in 2009.

Just like 12 months ago, Dibaba was quickly on world record schedule and gradually distanced herself from the intermediate times in Defar’s world record race.

At 1000m, Dibaba was 1.2 seconds ahead; at 2000m, 3.0; at 3000m, 5.2; at 4000m, 6.0. And even though she couldn’t quite match Defar’s final lap of 30.17 Dibaba still stopped the clock in a time that only two women – her sister and world record-holder Tirunesh Dibaba and Defar – have beaten outdoors.

Her unofficial kilometre splits (to 0.1) were: 2:53.3, 2:51.5, 2:52.4, 2:54.6 and 2:47.1.

More than a minute in arrears, Dibaba’s fellow Ethiopian Birtukan Fente was a distant second in 15:22.56.

The 10th world record performance in the arena was, of course, the main highlight of the evening but there were four more world-leading marks.

Read more at iaaf.org »

Related:
In Pictures: The Dibaba Sisters at the 2014 World Athletics Gala in Monaco

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US Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Obama Immigration Directives (Video)

President Obama meeting with young immigrants at the White House this month. (Getty Images)

VOA News

February 17, 2015

A U.S. federal judge in Texas has issued a ruling that temporarily blocks President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration.

District Judge Andrew Hanen announced the ruling Monday in favor of 26 states, including Texas, that had filed a lawsuit seeking to permanently stop Obama’s order.

The president announced in November that he was protecting as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. The states had argued that the president had exceeded his constitutional authority, and would impose undue financial burdens on them.

“Judge Hansen’s decision rightly stops the president’s overreach in its tracks,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement.

The White House issued a statement early Tuesday saying Obama was well within his authority in deciding how to enforce the nation’s immigration laws.

“Those policies are consistent with the laws passed by Congress and decisions of the Supreme Court, as well as five decades of precedent by presidents of both parties who have used their authority to set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws,” the statement said.

Appeal planned

It added that said the Justice Department plans to appeal Hansen’s ruling.

The president’s executive order included expansion of a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the United States illegally by their parents. The program was to begin receiving applications on Wednesday.

The president’s order would also protect parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for at least five years and have committed no serious crimes.

Obama’s executive actions also angered congressional Republicans, who also claimed the president had overstepped his constitutional bounds.

House Republicans have passed a spending bill that authorizes funding for the Homeland Security Department through September, but would undo the president’s orders. The bill has failed to gain approval in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Democrats have successfully blocked the measure from advancing to a final vote.

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, minority leader in the House of Representatives, issued a statement Tuesday that said the Department of Justice, legal and immigration experts, and history support Obama’s executive actions.

A group of 12 states and the District of Columbia filed a brief in support of the Obama administration, saying the president’s orders would economically benefit the states once those undocumented immigrants came out of the underground.

Related:
A Judge’s Assault on Immigration (The New York Times)

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Video: Fox News Visits LA’s Little Ethiopia

Fox reporter Jesse Watters explored Little Ethiopia in Los Angeles Feb. 13th, 2015. (Photo: Fox News)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, February 15th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters made some quick stops at LA’s famous international neighborhoods last week, including Little Tokyo, Koreatown, Little Ethiopia and Little India. The short segment that aired on the O’Reilly Factor on Friday highlights the city’s diverse ethnic communities. The report notes “Four million people reside in America’s second-largest city, and forty percent of those residents are foreign born.”

Little-Ethiopia, which is located on Fairfax Avenue between Olympic and Pico, was officially so designated in 2002 by a unanimous Los Angeles City Council vote. And since then an annual street cultural festival marks the milestone ever year. The host of “Watters’ World” playful trip to Little Ethiopia included a taste of traditional food in the form of Gursha from the restaurant staff.

Watters asked an Ethiopian man: “Why did you come [to the US]?”. The person responded: “Ethiopia [turned] Communist, so I had to run away from home to save my life.” Watters pointed out that the Ethiopian population in LA grew fast in the 1990s. Today, according to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Ethiopians also make up one of the largest African-born immigrants in the Los Angeles area along with Nigerians and Egyptians.

Watch: Watters’ Hysterical Adventure into LA’s Ethnic Neighborhoods


Related:
Good Question: Where Do African Immigrants Live in US? Interactive Map

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Crumbs: ‘Outlandish & Imaginative’ Sci-Fi Romance Film From Ethiopia

Advertised as Ethiopia’s first science fiction film, 'Crumbs' is a futuristic romantic drama set following a mysterious global disaster, "Big War, " that wipes out most of the planet's inhabitants. (Photo via Twitter)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, February 13th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — The Hollywood Reporter calls the new Ethiopian short film Crumbs an “outlandish and imaginative sci-fi” noting that the 68-minute movie makes “potent use of spectacularly extraterrestrial locations in the country’s sunbaked far north around the ghost town of Dallol, the film takes an exotic and sometimes surreal approach to what’s essentially a simple, touching love story.”

The movie, which premiered this month at the 2015 Rotterdam International Film Festival in the Netherlands, is being hailed as Ethiopia’s first post-apocalyptic sci-fi romance. Crumbs is directed by the Addis Ababa-based Spanish writer and director Miguel Llanso and features talented Ethiopian actors including Daniel Tadesse and Selam Tesfaye. The producers of the film are Llansó (Lanzadera Films), Daniel Taye Workou and Meseret Argaw (Birabiro Films).

“Set in an unspecified epoch after a “big war” whose consequences have severely depopulated the planet, Crumbs posits a micro-civilization where the mass-produced tat of the late 20th century is revered as valuable, even holy.”

Watch: Crumbs trailer


Related:
‘Crumbs’: Rotterdam Review (The Hollywood Reporter)
Ethiopia’s first post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie looks beautiful and bizarre (The verge)

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NED Presents Ethiopian Statesman & Scholar Dr. Negasso Gidada

Dr. Negasso Gidada (R) chats with German First Lady Daniela Schadt during a meeting at the German Embassy in Addis Ababa on March 18, 2013. (Getty Images)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Washington, D.C. (TADIAS) — Since October 2014 the noted statesman, scholar and former president of Ethiopia, Dr. Negasso Gidada Solan, has been in residence as Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Washington, D.C. Dr. Negasso is now wrapping up his fellowship and will be holding a public presentation on February 24th entitled “A Constitution for a Multinational Democratic State-Nation: The Case of Ethiopia.” The presentation will include comments by Professor John Harbeson of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and be moderated by Dave Peterson of the National Endowment for Democracy.

“Ever since the formation of the modern state of Ethiopia, the country’s diversity, represented by its roughly eighty ethnic groups, has defied common formulas for unity and democratic development,” states the announcement. “Regimes have come and gone, but the central question — whether to forge a nation-state, a multinational federation, or something else—has dominated Ethiopia’s political agenda for decades.” The press release adds: “Looking ahead to the upcoming 2015 elections and the country’s longer-term stability and development, Dr. Negasso Solan will focus on the need for a constitution that mirrors Ethiopia’s ethnic diversity and that lends itself to developing a truly democratic multinational state. As former president of Ethiopia, he will reflect on his experiences drafting the country’s 1995 constitution and offer recommendations for public confidence-building around future amendments.”

Per NED: “Dr. Negasso Solan is an esteemed statesman and scholar who has served as president of Ethiopia (1995–2001), member of the House of People’s Representatives (2005–2010), and most recently, as chair of the United for Democracy and Justice Party, one of Ethiopia’s main opposition parties (2012–2013). A life-long proponent of human rights, ethnic inclusion, and democracy, he participated in the student movement of the 1960s, led the Aira School demonstrations against the Wallaga feudal system in the 1970s, and advocated for the rights of the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group. While living in Germany, Dr. Solan worked to unite the Oromo community, both internally and with other Ethiopian groups, in their struggle against military rule. Returning to his homeland in 1991, he helped to draft a new constitution, chaired the 1994 Constitutional Assembly, and signed the constitution in 1995 as first president of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. During his fellowship, Dr. Solan is writing an article addressing the role of democracy in settling controversies around the Ethiopian ethnic federalist system. Dr. John Harbeson is professorial lecturer at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and professor of political science emeritus at the City University of New York.”


Dr. Negasso Gidada. (Getty Images)


If You Go:
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
3:00 p.m.–4:30 p.m.
1025 F Street, N.W., Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20004
Telephone: 202-378-9675
RSVP (acceptances only) with name and affiliation by Friday, February 20
at http://constitutionforamultinationaldemocraticstatenation.eventbrite.com.
Livestream of the event will be available here.

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Good Question: Where Do African Immigrants Live in US? Interactive Map

Map based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. (Image: Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, February 9th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) – According to the U.S. Census Bureau New York, California and Texas are the top three states that are home to the majority of residents from the African continent. A five-year estimate of the American Community Survey released last year indicates that there are currently 1.6 million foreign-born Africans residing in the United States. And people from the three most populous countries in Africa — Nigeria, Egypt and Ethiopia — also make up the three biggest African-born populations in America: Nigeria (14%), Ethiopia (10.4%), and Egypt (9%). Some of the major metropolitan areas with sizable African communities include New York City, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Columbus, Philadelphia, Providence, Wilmington, Minneapolis-St Paul, Seattle, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Fremont.

The numbers further show that foreign-born Africans in the United States tend to be more educated in comparison with other recent immigrant groups. In New York, for example, where the largest number of African immigrants live, The New York Times points out that “30 percent of African-born blacks in [NYC] had a college degree, compared with 22 percent of native-born blacks, 18 percent of Caribbean-born blacks and 19 percent of the nonblack foreign born.” On a national level, according to the same census, 41% of the African-born population in the United States obtained bachelor’s degrees or higher between 2008 and 2012 compared with 28% of the overall foreign-born U.S. population.

The following is an interactive map that illustrates the geographic distribution of the African Diaspora across the U.S. along with the top ten leading countries of birth for each highlighted region based on data gleaned from the American Community Survey.

Hover over the colored flags and click to see more details for the specific location:



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Ethiopia Bets on Grand Projects – Reuters

A labourer walks along a Metro-line construction in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa February 7, 2015. (CREDIT: REUTERS/TIKSA NEGERI)

Reuters

BY EDMUND BLAIR AND AARON MAASHO

Sunday, Feb 8th, 2015

ADDIS ABABA — Chinese workers mingle with Ethiopians putting the finishing touches to a metro line that cuts through Addis Ababa, one of a series of grand state infrastructure projects that Ethiopia hopes will help it mimic Asia’s industrial rise.

Brought to its knees by “Red Terror” communist purges in the 1970s and famine in the 1980s, Ethiopia has been transformed in the last quarter century, becoming one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.

At the heart of the state’s “Growth and Transformation Plan” are railway, road and dam projects to give the landlocked nation cheap power and reliable transport, as well as the metro line – the first urban light railway network in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“This is the future,” said Abate Yaye, 27, from the poor south as he helped complete the $475 million system being built by China Railway Engineering Corp, much of it on concrete stilts to keep it above the crowded streets of an expanding capital.

“We will become an example for the whole of Africa.”

Hefty state-led investment has kept the economy of Africa’s second most populous nation growing at more than 8 percent a year for over a decade, but economists say Ethiopia’s rulers need to relax their grip and give room for more private enterprise to maintain momentum.

Read more at Reuters.com »

Related:
Ethiopia’s Inflation Rises 7.7 Percent in January (Reuters)

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National Geographic: Ethiopian Shade Coffee Is World’s Most Bird Friendly

Ethiopian coffee farmer Awol Abagojam and his son Isaac harvest their product near the village of Choche, much the same way their ancestors did a thousand years ago. (PHOTOGRAPH BY AMI VITALE, PANOS)

National Geographic

By Brian Clark Howard

Shady coffee plantations in Ethiopia, where coffee has been grown for at least a thousand years, hold relatively more forest bird species than any other coffee farms in the world, new research shows.

The research suggests that traditional cultivation practices there support local forest bird biodiversity better than any other coffee farms in the world.

In Ethiopia, coffee is traditionally grown on plantations shaded by native trees. These farms boasted more than 2.5 times as many bird species as adjacent mountain forest, according to a study slated for publication February 11 in the journal Biological Conservation.

“That was a surprise,” says study co-author Cagan H. Sekercioglu, a biologist at the University of Utah and a National Geographic Society grant recipient. Further, “all 19 understory bird species we sampled in the forest were present in the coffee farms too, and that just doesn’t happen elsewhere.”

Other studies have shown that shade coffee farms provide better bird habitat than full-sun plantations, but the effect may be more prominent in Ethiopia because farmers there tend to use native trees instead of the exotic species popular elsewhere.

Read more at National Geographic »

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Sudden Flowers by Maaza Mengiste

Radait wants to dance. (Photograph courtesy Eric Gottesman)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, February 5th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) – In an article published by The New Yorker magazine this week Ethiopian American writer Maaza Mengiste, author of the novel Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, highlights the Sudden Flowers project in Ethiopia as documented by American photographer Eric Gottesman. “In 1999, Eric Gottesman travelled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to photograph the experiences of children orphaned by AIDS. Sudden Flowers is the collective that he formed with an original group of six children,” Maaza notes. “All of them were between the ages of eight and eighteen, and all of them had lost both parents to AIDS. None had been allowed to attend their parents’ funerals.”

“Each of them had horrible stories to tell, fantastically disturbing, like tragic fairy tales or Biblical fables,” Gottesman recalled.

Maaza adds: “Over the next fifteen years, the collective grew to include more than thirty members. They shot close to three thousand photos, and along the way Gottesman found that the work transformed when the children were given more responsibility. Soon the group developed into a true collaboration, and eventually no one could remember his role in the production and editing process.”


“I tell my family I am HIV+. They forget me and ate at the table.” (Photograph courtesy Eric Gottesman)

Read the full article and view the slide show of images from the project at The New Yorker »

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The People’s Choice: Rough Guides Selects Ethiopia Among Top 10 Best Places 2015

A view of the ancient city buildings in Gondar. (Photo by ctsnow-flickr/Wikimedia Commons)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — One of the leading publishers of travel guidebook and reference information, Rough Guides, recently held an online vote allowing its readers to select their top international destination choices for 2015. According to the results Ethiopia ranks number seven on the People’s Choice list that also includes United Kingdom, Greece, Iceland, Indonesia, Japan, Chile, Turkey, USA and Ireland.

“From the dramatic Great Rift Valley to the lush highlands, the diversity of Ethiopia’s landscapes might surprise you,” Rough Guides wrote in its announcement. “This is one of the most beautiful countries in Africa, and visitors find themselves entranced by the stunning lakes, sprawling national parks and delicious national cuisine.” The publication adds: “We recommended Ethiopia in 2014, and this year you’ve done the same.”

Rough Guides said it is releasing a new e-book on Ethiopia this Spring.

See the full list at roughguides.com/best-places/2015/peoples-choice/

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US-Africa Commercial Relationship: Time is Running Out for AGOA Reauthorization

The following is an update from the Africa Policy Breakfast held in Washington, DC on January 28, 2015 regarding the renewal of AGOA and the future of the US-Africa commercial relationship. (Courtesy Photo)

Tadias Magazine
News Update

Press Release – Office of U.S. Representative Karen Bass

Washington, D.C. — “We’re running out of time,” moderator Witney Schneidman, nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, exclaimed as he opened the January 28 panel discussion at last week’s Africa Policy Breakfast entitled AGOA Today and Beyond: The Future of the US-Africa Commercial Relationship. While AGOA technically expires this September, for many African companies exporting apparel to the United States there is less than two months left in the nine month U.S. supply cycle. For U.S. importers, the fact that AGOA is not yet authorized leads to the inevitable question as to when will it be authorized and should the importer source elsewhere.

Against this backdrop, the panel of experts comprised of Ambassador Eliachim Molapi Sebatane of the Embassy of Lesotho – representing the African Diplomatic Corps; Ms. Rahama Wright – Founder of Shea Yeleen – a small US business utilizing AGOA; and Scott Eisner – Vice President for African Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, spoke in unison about the crucial role that the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act continues to play in strengthening of U.S.-Africa trade relations. Panel Moderator Schneidman described AGOA as “a launching pad for U.S. companies” to do business on the continent, a sentiment echoed by Scott Eisner.

Ambassador Eliachim Molapi Sebatane spoke to the Policy Breakfast audience about recent bipartisan and bicameral meetings an African Union Delegation of Ministers had with Members of the House and Senate on AGOA in January; noting that the delegation left the US with a strong sense of support from all of the members they met and that the real question was when, not if, the reauthorization would occur.

Keynote Speaker United States Trade Representative Ambassador Froman emphasized the growth in exports experienced by AGOA participating countries since the inception of legislation. Exports from the continent have more than tripled, going from $6 billion to $24 billion in a few short years. Ambassador Froman emphasized that we “shouldn’t wait until the last minute to get it renewed,” which drew heavy applause from the audience.

Panelist Rahama Wright was representative of the many small business owners who rely on AGOA as a tool to remove unnecessary barriers to growing their businesses. Ms. Wright, whose skincare products can be found in close to 100 stores in the U.S., noted that she started her company with $6,000 dollars. She stressed that AGOA removed crucial barriers that protected her limited finances and allowed her company to grow. Ms. Wright also spoke of the importance of AGOA to women entrepreneurs in particular.

Ambassador Froman, who testified at two Congressional hearings on January 27 held by the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees respectively reiterated the bi-partisan support enjoyed by AGOA. USTR Froman cited the remarks made by House Ways and Means Chairman Ryan in support for a seamless and early renewal of AGOA. Panelists and members of the audience agreed that AGOA could be characterized as the beginning of a strong and expansive trade relationship between the U.S. and the nations of Africa — a “stepping stone,” with the hope of a stronger and more permanent reciprocal relationship in the future.

Video: Africa Policy Breakfast January 28, 2015


Related:
Tadias Interview with Dr. Gezahegne Bekele: AGOA Renewal in 2015

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Hand-Me-Down Sound From Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, a forward-thinking network of artists are uniting traditional folk and chopped-up beats with whatever equipment they can get their hands on. (Photo of Endeguena Mulu by Pete Kowalczyk)

The Guardian

By Huw Oliver

Tuesday 3 February 2015

In downtown Addis Ababa, most nightclubs have a disappointingly generic, western playlist. But on the outskirts of the Ethiopian capital, you’ll discover a throng of exciting local producers throwing their own impromptu parties and packing out muggy backstreet bars. Meshing street musician samples and traditional folk sounds with UKG and Burial-inspired beats, they call the movement Ethiopiyawi electronic.

Music equipment is notoriously costly and difficult to get hold of in this part of the world but, recently, modern software like Ableton, along with MIDI controllers and hand-me-down drum machines have become more readily accessible. As a result, scene linchpins Endeguena Mulu (AKA Ethiopian Records) and Mikael Seifu (AKA Mic Tek) are offering their studios and equipment for use to local kids. They encourage them to absorb what they hear around them, while at the same time drawing upon the electronic patrimony of the UK and US. And rather than elevating the EDM sound, they prefer the twitching rhythms of Kode9 and Flying Lotus.

Often consisting of little more than a lyre or lute sample, underpinned by a chopped-up house or garage beat and overlaid with the looped chants of azmaris (folk singer-musicians), the Ethiopiyawi electronic style takes its cues from Ethio-jazz legend Mulatu Astatke and South African futurist collective Fantasma in the way that it smoothly blends traditional and modern styles. In a country with more than 80 ethnic groups and 40 native instruments spanning horns, percussion and strings, Ethiopian folk music is inherently diverse.

Read more at The Guardian »

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DC Workshop on African Diaspora Marketplace Business Competition 2015

(Photo Courtesy: USAID)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Thursday, February 5th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) – The Washington, D.C. Mayor’s Office on African Affairs (OAA) in partnership with the U. S. Agency for International Development and Western Union is hosting an informational workshop on the 2015 African Diaspora Marketplace Business Plan Competition next week. “This workshop is part of OAA’s Business Development Program which connects businesses to one another, and to technical assistance, capital, and new opportunities for local and international business,” the D.C. Mayor’s Office announced in a press release. “The African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM) aims to encourage sustainable economic growth and employment by supporting African diaspora entrepreneurs. ADM entrepreneurs are individuals with demonstrable connections to or experience in Africa, and who have innovative and high impact start-ups or established businesses on the continent.”

The workshop follows an eight-city tour promoting the African Diaspora Marketplace in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta.

Launched in 2009 by USAID and Western Union the African Diaspora Marketplace is also supported by The George Washington University Center for International Business Education and Research (GW-CIBER), which provides support and expertise to the program. On its website ADM notes that “This third round of the initiative will introduce three new resource partners: the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) will provide business training and support for potential applicants; Homestrings LLC will provide a platform for awardees to raise follow-on capital; and as an ADM Partner, Deloitte intends to provide up to a maximum of USD 1,000,000 (one million) of in-kind professional technical assistance to either ADM grantees or qualified AWEP members to support the development of the grantees business.”

Information about ADM and past winners can be found at: www.diasporamarketplace.org.


If You Go:
When: Monday, February 9, 2015
Where: Franklin D. Reeves Center Municipal Building
2000 14th Street, NW | 2nd Floor Edna Cromwell Community Room
Washington, DC 20009
RSVP here
Please note that government issued ID is required to enter the Franklin D. Reeves Center. For more information, please email: oaa@dc.gov or call 202-727-5635.
www.diasporamarketplace.org

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Top Energy Players Meet in Washington to Develop Obama’s Power Africa Initiative

The president’s emphasis on Africa’s electricity crisis is triggering action as Washington plays host to seven unique sessions that will outline the global commitment to improving access to power in Africa. (Getty)

The Root

BY: DIANA OZEMEBHOYA EROMOSELE

NEPA take light!”

It’s a popular phrase used by Nigerians when the lights go out. The country’s now-defunct National Electric Power Authority wasn’t the only energy company that struggled to provide reliable power to its citizens. Access to consistent electricity is a widespread problem in Africa, and the U.S. has identified the crisis as one of its top international development goals. That’s why senior U.S. energy officials, their counterparts from several African nations and private companies looking to strengthen Africa’s power grids are meeting in Washington, D.C., this week for the Powering Africa Summit.

“Seven unique sessions will outline the global commitment to improving access to power across the African continent,” according to a press release issued by EnergyNet, the organization hosting the summit.

The statement went on to describe the initiative’s goals. It’s hoping to power the homes of 75 percent of the sub-Saharan Africans currently living without electricity. “[The summit] will also serve as a platform to encourage deals to be brokered between governments and power companies with the end goal of delivering power to the 2 out of 3 sub-Saharan Africans who live without access to electricity,” the press release explained.

During the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit hosted by the Obama administration in Washington in August, President Barack Obama introduced the Power Africa initiative—a global commitment to “increase electricity access” and add “cleaner, more efficient electricity” throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Read more at theroot.com »

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On This Day 1962 Mandela Visited Ethiopian Embassy in Nigeria for Visa to Ethiopia

(Photo © Gediyon Kifle)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, January 29th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — The Nelson Mandela Foundation tweeted Thursday that “On this day, 29 January 1962 Nelson Mandela visited the Ethiopian Embassy in Nigeria for a visa for Ethiopia.”

Mandela’s trip to Ethiopia and other African countries that year is also the subject of an upcoming documentary-drama entitled Mandela’s Gun, which he received as a gift from the government of Ethiopia. “He was given a Makrov pistol by the then Emperor Haile Selassie and he apparently buried it at a farm in Johannesburg before he was arrested,” says the filmmaker Jeremy Nathan. “It was a ceremonial weapon, which is reportedly the first weapon of the armed struggle against the regime.”

Mandela arrived in Ethiopia under the alias David Motsamayi and disguised as a journalist. In his book, Long Walk to Freedom, he shares: “I felt myself being moulded into a solider and began to think as a soldier thinks – a far cry from the way a politician thinks.” In Ethiopia Mandela’s instructors were Colonel Tadesse Birru, Colonel G.E. Bekele and Lieutenant Wondomu Befikadu. In an article published by Think Africa Press last year, Joseph Hammond writes: “Wondomu, a former fighter, led the physical training while Tadesse lectured Mandela in the philosophy of guerrilla warfare.”

Nathan adds: “Everybody thought it was one of the great untold stories [about Mandela]…He was being followed by the CIA, MI6 and the South Africans. And they were obviously sharing information amongst themselves about the activities of ANC and its leadership. So we bring in those elements as far as we can. We trace his journey through Ethiopia, down to Khartoum, Sudan to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, back to Botswana and into South Africa. The film is not only a feature film but a documentary feature. It includes testimony of people who knew him at the time.”

Among the Ethiopians who knew Mandela was Captain Guta Dinka, a young soldier who was assigned to protect him during his stay in Ethiopia. Captain Guta, now 79, lived to tell the dramatic story of how he exposed an attempt to assassinate Mandela by mysterious foreign agents who had approached him to carry out the killing in exchange for cash payment.

The director John Irvin told The Guardian: “There is an aspect of the political thriller, the spy thriller in the story, because he was being monitored by western intelligence services, a lot of whom still had an allegiance to some pretty odd ideas.”

Nathan shares that since they started working on the film the story has blossomed with more research. The filmmakers “delve into the debates for and against armed struggle (within the ANC).” In addition, Nathan notes that the film is “a metaphorical search for the gun starting with Mandela leaving South Africa in 1962 to go and get support across Africa and he under went training in Algeria, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Egypt, across West Africa. We actually have gone out of our way to shoot in the exact locations where he trained, where he slept, where he lived.”



Related:
Photographer Gediyon Kifle’s Tribute to Nelson Mandela

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Ethiopia Says New Railway to Djibouti to Start in Early 2016

(Photo: Erta)

Reuters

By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia expects to open a new railway line linking the capital Addis Ababa with the Red Sea state of Djibouti in early 2016, a project at the centre of plans to create new manufacturing industries, the head of the state railways said.

The 700-km (450-mile)line is being built at a cost of $4 billion by China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) and China Civil Engineering Construction (CCECC). Ethiopia is seeking to have 5,000 km of new lines working across the country by 2020.

“By October 2015, a considerable portion of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti project will be finished,” Getachew Betru, chief executive of the Ethiopian Railways Corporation, told Reuters, adding trains would run soon after. “We will start early 2016.”

Read more at Reuters.com »

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Zone 9 Trial Resumes in Ethiopia

The Zone 9 bloggers being escorted to court in Addis Ababa, January 28th, 2015. (Photo: Trial Tracker)

Tadias Magazine
News Update

Published: Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) – Members of the Zone 9 blogging collective appeared before the Lideta High Court in Addis Ababa today for their 16th hearing where the presiding judges decided to accept most of the accusations against the bloggers and journalists. “The charge not accepted was the point regarding the individual role of each defendant,” reports the Trial Tracker blog.

At previous appointments the court had repeatedly ordered prosecutors to amend their terrorism charges against the defendants. Following the hearing on Wednesday, however, the perplexed Zone 9 defense lawyer held a briefing for journalists and family members at the court compound. The Trial Tracker blog notes that the defense attorney “said that the charges had not been amended at all. He found it to be very strange that the judges accepted it.”

The three journalists and six bloggers, who were arrested last April, are being held on suspicion of attempting to incite violence while utilizing social media as the crime tool. The attorney for eight of the nine defendants, Ameha Mekonnen, says Ethiopia’s contentious anti-terrorism law, under which his clients are charged, is very vague. “It has got only six types of human behaviors that are regarded as terrorist acts,” Ameha told Voice of America earlier this month. “The law itself is not clear – simply, if someone plots to cause damage to the community, it amounts to terrorism.”

The next court date is scheduled for February 3, 2015.


Tesfalem and Zelelem today at court hearing. (Photo via trialtrackerblog.org)

Related:
Ethiopia Bloggers to Enter Pleas in Terrorism Case Next Week (Bloomberg News)

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Post-Ebola Plan Needed to Avert “Double Disaster” in West Africa

Ebola testing at the African Cup of Nations football tournament in Bata, Equatorial Guinea. (Getty Images)

By Magdalena Mis

January 27, 2015

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The three West African countries worst hit by Ebola risk a “double disaster” unless a multi-million dollar plan is put in place to help their economies recover, Oxfam said on Tuesday.

In Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone people were struggling to make ends meet having seen their incomes plummet, the aid agency said.

“The world was late in waking up to the Ebola crisis, there can be no excuses for not helping to put these economies and lives back together,” Mark Goldring, Oxfam’s chief executive, said during a visit to Liberia.

He said a post-Ebola “Marshall Plan” should address three areas of urgent need: cash for families affected by the crisis, investment in jobs and support for basic services.

“People need cash in their hands now, they need good jobs to feed their families in the near future and decent health, education and other essential services,” Goldring said.

Research by Oxfam in three Liberian counties found that three in four families had seen their incomes decline, with an average income drop of 39%.

Coupled with a loss of income, food prices in Ebola-affected areas have risen. In Liberia, rice prices were 40% above the seasonal average.

As a result, some adults said they were cutting back on food in order to feed their children. Oxfam said that 60% of people interviewed told them they had not had enough food in the past seven days.

Liberia and Sierra Leone were two of the fastest growing economies in Africa before the Ebola crisis, but in both countries more than half of the population lived below the poverty line.

According to World Bank, since the outbreak of the disease nearly 180,000 people have lost their jobs in Sierra Leone, and half of household heads in Liberia were out of work.

“Failure to help these countries after surviving Ebola will condemn them to a double-disaster,” Goldring said.

The Ebola outbreak has claimed more than 8,600 lives since it was detected in Guinea in March, the World Health Organisation said last week. It said West Africa’s outbreak is ebbing.

In the countries directly affected, the virus will result in at least $1.6 billion in lost economic growth this year or over 12% of their combined GDPs, according to the World Bank.

Oxfam called for an international pledging conference to discuss recovery plans backed by financial support to help rebuild lives and help crisis-affected economies recover.

Related:
WHO Vows Reform After Ebola ‘Shocks’ (BBC News)
Ambassador Samantha Power Briefs African Diaspora On Ebola Crisis Response
US Updates African Diaspora Communities on Efforts to Fight Ebola
WHO: Ebola Death Toll Passes 7,500
Ethiopians arrive in West Africa to fight Ebola
Ethiopia Holds Farewell Gala for Volunteer Doctors Headed to Ebola-Hit Countries
Africa Sets Up $28.5m Ebola Crisis Fund
Don’t Let Ebola Dehumanize Africa
5,000 Ebola Health Care Workers Needed In West Africa: WHO
Ethiopia to Deploy 210 Health Workers in Ebola-Hit West Africa
In first case, Doctor in New York City is Diagnosed With Ebola
Cuba’s Impressive Role on Ebola
Ebola: Africa’s Image Takes a Hit
U.S. Embassy: No Confirmed or Suspected Cases of Ebola in Ethiopia
Ethiopia Launches Ebola Testing Lab to Combat Epidemic

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Castro Breaks Silence on Ties With US

Fidel Castro pictured in in Havana, Cuba, Friday, July 11, 2014. (AP Photo)

NBC News

HAVANA, Cuba — Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro ended his long silence over his country’s restoration of diplomatic ties with the United States, indicating that he backs the talks even though he distrusts politics in Washington.

The comments were the first by the 88-year-old revolutionary leader on the talks with the U.S. since the historic December 17 declaration that the countries would move to restore ties broken more than a half century ago.

“I don’t trust the policy of the United States, nor have I exchanged a word with them, but this does not mean I reject a pacific solution to the conflicts,” he wrote in a letter to a student federation read at the University of Havana. It also appeared in Communist Party newspaper Granma.

“We will always defend cooperation and friendship with all the people of the world, including with our political adversaries,” he wrote.

A serious illness forced Castro to step down from duties as president, handing over leadership to his younger brother Raul. Two weeks ago, Fidel Castro sent a letter to soccer legend Diego Maradona to quash rumors of his death.

Watch: NBC News Special: Nightly News’ Brian Williams Reports From Cuba


Related:
First US-Cuba Talks Conclude in Havana
US & Cuba Hold Historic Talks in Havana
Mr. Obama’s Historic Move on Cuba (NYT Editorial)
U.S. to Restore Full Relations With Cuba (NYT)

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U.S. Exhibition Highlights the Vibrant Art and Storied History of Ethiopian Icons

(Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, January 25th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — 60 Ethiopian church icons and artifacts are currently on display at The Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts. The paintings, mostly gathered from a European private collection, date back to the 16th century and represent Ethiopia’s ancient Christian tradition. The exhibition, which is on view through April 18th, features “60 small scale icons triptychs, larger icons and illuminated manuscripts. There will also be several cast-brass hand-held processional/benediction crosses with intricate designs for the Museum’s own collection as well as some small pendant/pectoral crosses worn by priest as part of their sacred vestments.”

The announcement adds: “The majority of paintings are religious in nature, often decorating church walls and bibles. From the 16th century, Roman Catholic church art and European art in general began to exert some influence. However, Ethiopian art is highly conservative and retained much of its distinct character until modern times. The production of illuminated manuscripts for use continues up to the present day. Pilgrimages to Jerusalem, where there has long been an Ethiopian clerical presence, also allowed some contact with a wider range of Orthodox art.”


If You Go:
The Vibrant Art and Storied History of Ethiopian Icons
On View January 23 through April 18, 2015
The Museum of Russian Icons
203 Union Street
Clinton, Massachusetts 01510
Telephone 978.598.5000
ADMISSION
Adults $10, Seniors (59 and over) $7
Students (with ID) & children (3-17) $5
Children under 3 FREE
Group Rates: CLICK HERE
museumofrussianicons.org

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First US-Cuba Talks Conclude in Havana

Roberta S. Jacobson (Right), U.S. Assistant Secretary of State of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs in Havana, Cuba, Jan. 22, 2015. (AP photo)

VOA News

January 23, 2015

A U.S. official has wrapped up a visit to Havana, saying her talks there mark an “important step forward” in restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, but noting they are “just a first step” and that the road ahead is long and complex.

The U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson, made the comments Friday after two days of talks with Cuban officials. She said in addition to discussing their shared interests, the two delegations addressed continuing areas of “deep disagreement,” including human rights.

Jacobson, however, said such differences do not mean the two countries cannot have a relationship.

“We will continue to both speak out about human rights publicly and directly now with the Cuban government,” said Jacobson. “I think that it is obviously part of what we’re talking about when we say we have profound disagreements with the Cuban government, when we talk about democracy and human rights and support for civil society and independent actors.”

This week’s meetings come a month after U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced the two countries were prepared to normalize ties after more than 50 years.

Jacobson also held talks Friday with leading Cuban dissidents. The head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Elizardo Sanchez, said the meeting was “cordial” and that the dissidents were satisfied despite the fact that not all civil society members were present.

The leader of the Patriotic Union for Cuba, Jose Daniel Ferrer, said the question of whether everyone in the opposition agrees with the new dialogue between the U.S. and Cuba should be a secondary issue.

“What’s important is for us to maintain unity in (our struggle for) freedom, democracy and respect for human rights, which are the fundamental issues in this case,” said Ferrer.

Jacobson said her discussions with Cuban government officials were also “cordial and respectful.” She said the U.S. is “extremely committed” to moving ahead with the dialogue.

Jacobson said the first day of discussions centered on the two nations’ regular migration talks. The second day focused on the steps for re-establishing relations and went beyond the reopening of embassies to cover a range of shared interests, including global health, counternarcotics, environmental cooperation and human trafficking.

Jacobson also stressed the importance of ensuring that the Cuban people have the information they need to make their own decisions. She said the new U.S. regulations put in place this month to allow greater telecommunications exports to Cuba was one of the subjects raised.

A Cuban diplomat told state news agency Granma the process of “normalizing” relations between Washington and Havana will take longer than merely re-establishing a diplomatic dialogue.

The unnamed official said, “We must not pretend that everything can be resolved in a single meeting.”

Last month’s diplomacy breakthrough occurred after secret negotiations that involved the Catholic Church. The talks led to Havana’s release of U.S. government contractor Alan Gross after five years behind bars. Cuba has also released 53 political prisoners, followed by the Obama administration easing some travel and trade restrictions.

Watch: US diplomat: Normalization will take time (MSNBC Video)


Related:
US & Cuba Hold Historic Talks in Havana
Mr. Obama’s Historic Move on Cuba (NYT Editorial)
U.S. to Restore Full Relations With Cuba (NYT)

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HRW Accuses Ethiopia of Journalist Crackdown Ahead of Elections

Human Rights Watch report on Ethiopia media. (Photo: Public domain)

VOA News

By Marthe van der Wolf

January 22, 2015

ADDIS ABABA — A new report by Human Rights Watch accuses the Ethiopia’s government of systematically cracking down on media ahead of the May 2015 elections. The report, released Thursday, details how Ethiopia has restricted independent reporting since 2010.

Researcher Felix Horne says there are patterns of government abuses against independent journalists.

“After articles are written, harassment comes from government officials, security officials and cadres in the form of threatening phone calls and SMS messages [text messages] and in person visits trying to get the individual to tone down the writings to comply with government perspectives on different issues,” Horne notes. “The next level is threats and harassment against family members, quite often arbitrary detention to intimidate and to pressure the journalist into censoring their writings. If that doesn’t work, the next step seems to involve criminal charges.”

According to the report, “Journalism Is Not A Crime”, six independent publications closed down in 2014 because of government pressure, 22 journalist, bloggers and publishers were criminally charged and more than 30 journalist fled the country. Most journalists are charged under the widely criticized anti-terrorism proclamation. Currently there is a high profile terrorism case going on in Ethiopia against bloggers of the Zone9 group.

HRW says the repression described in the report is leading to self-censorship. The rights group also claims that citizens and junior government officials are afraid of speaking to media, out of concern of being disciplined.

Horne says the repression has led to a reality where alternative views about the upcoming elections are rarely discussed in the media.

“It is crucial and critical that there will be a vibrant and flourishing independent media that can contribute to the political discourse and the political dialogue within the country that can provide critical information and critical analysis about the political issues of the day,” Horne says. ” But sadly, given the decimation of private media that we’ve seen since 2010, that’s just not happening.”

The ruling party, which has been in power since 1991, won over 99 percent of the votes in the 2010 elections, with only one parliament seat going to the opposition.

Responding to the report’s accusations, Getachew Redda, Special Advisor to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister said “HRW had lost their credibility long time ago, even by their own supporters, so there is no point for us to respond to their remarks.”

Asked about the issue of imprisoned journalist, Redda responded that “You can be anything, a journalist or pretending to be a journalist, but being involved in criminal activity is still a crime and they will be held responsible.”

HRW is calling on the Ethiopian government to release those imprisoned journalist and bloggers and to amend legislation such as the anti-Terrorism proclamation.

Video: Ethiopia Media Being Decimated: Reforms Crucial Prior to May Elections (HRW)


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From Ethiopia to Israel to Harlem: Q&A with Beejhy Barhany, Owner of Tsion Cafe

Beejhy Barhany. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Hasabie Kidanu

Published: Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

New York (TADIAS) – In the historic neighborhood of Sugar Hill, Harlem we celebrate one of its newest additions — Tsion Café and Bakery. Formerly known as Jimmy’s Chicken Shack, 763 St. Nicholas Ave had housed the famous eatery and hangout frequented by jazz musicians, writers and poets; Malcolm X worked there washing dishes. Now converted into a trendy cafe and bakery Tsion is located a few doors away from the former St. Nick’s Pub – a renowned jazz club established in the 1940s. That’s where, according to The New York Times, “The musicians Frank Lacey, Olu Dara, Sarah Vaughn and Wynton Marsalis played through Harlem’s ups and down. The pub drew famous faces and busloads of tourists.”

Today, the most delicious Ethiopian food with a Mediterranean and Israeli twist comes out of the same kitchen as Jimmy’s Chicken Shack. It’s a space where you can finish your novel, meet a friend for lunch, sip on fair trade, organic coffee, or simply hang out.

The owner and founder, Beejhy Barhany, was born in Ethiopia, raised in Israel and moved to New York fifteen years ago. Beejhy says her mission is to carry on the essence of the establishment’s former identity – a meeting place for wholesome food, art, culture and musical performance. Behind Tsion Café is an incredibly rich life story that led her here; from bungee and cliff jumping in the Amazon, to trading diamonds in New York, to serving in the army in Israel. Her passion to communicate her Ethiopian heritage, while highlighting her Jewish upbringing has led her to establish a space and platform where the richness of her life experience can be heard, seen, tasted, and experienced. Tsion Café is the physical manifestation of Beejhy Barhany’s personal story spanning continents and cultures.

With sweet traditional tunes humming in the background, we start our chat.

TADIAS: What was the inspiration behind Tsion Café, and why did you choose a location in Harlem?

Beejhy Barhany: It is important for me to highlight Ethiopian culture and its rich heritage, and paying homage to my Jewish background. I moved to New York in 2000, and after living and working here for a few years, I founded BINA (Beta Israel of North America) as a way to create a platform to raise greater awareness about Ethiopian Jews. I started organizing events, film screenings, showcasing cuisine, stories, and music. It kept growing, expanding, I had an office, but I always wanted a venue. And I always wanted something in Harlem; it’s historical, it has some connection to Ethiopia. I was looking at a lot of different places, and I was interested in this particular venue. Jimmy’s Chicken Shack was once this exact place, where all the poets and musicians were spending time, I wanted to bring that back and carry on the tradition, I wanted to honor writers, artists, have readings and performances, and this place simply worked.

TADIAS: Your drive to highlight the beauty of Ethiopian culture is so heavily influenced by your life; you’re Ethiopian, Jewish, a New Yorker. It seems Tsion is a byproduct of your experiences, and even with heavy revision, you’ve had a jam-packed life so far, so I wanted to start at the beginning, tell us a bit about your childhood.

Beejhy: I was born in Tigray, in a small village; I don’t have much memory of Ethiopia since I left at a very young age. From the stories and vague memories, it was a peaceful life, surreal; I remember rivers, cornfields, eating fruit, climbing trees. I left the country with my family and started a journey to Israel, the holy land; we did it because of a strong determination connected to our religious ideology. In a way, we escaped with a mission in mind. We had people show us the way, make sure we didn’t bump into roadblocks, maneuver between villages, take us to Jewish villages to stock up with food and water.

TADIAS: I think this particular journey that you have partaken in comes in story form to the rest of the country and the West, do you think the stories of the Ethiopian Jewish community may be somewhat misrepresented?

Beejhy: I think it is something that is a bit exaggerated, we didn’t suffer in Ethiopia, I think that history needs a bit of revision. It depended on what area you came from. The image of Ethiopia in general that is exported into the West is not completely accurate. Surely, it was a difficult journey but it was a pure and spiritual passage that Ethiopian Jews carried out, not for economic opportunities, not because we were unhappy in Ethiopia, but because we wanted to be in Israel. The level of devotion was incredible, it was difficult on various levels but the people had an unbelievable drive. For instance, there was a pregnant woman walking among us, when she gave birth, people waited until she recovered to continue. We wouldn’t walk during Shabbat – the group had that level of devotion.

TADIAS: I would imagine you had to take intentional detours, to avoid roadblocks and dangers?

Beejhy: Yes, so we walked to Sudan and we stayed there for almost three years. I had a few family members and a cousin who worked with different NGOs and Mossad (the national intelligence agency of Israel) who had secret missions to get families to Israel. So, we were told to prepare, take pictures, pack, and one night we were picked up with a Land Rover and a Scottish and Kenyan driver, all under a secret operation. At the age of 7, I continued this epic journey, I remember sitting on the roof of the truck amongst suitcases looking at wild animals in the safari. It was magnificent time for me, but surely, for the elders it was frightening, especially passing through borders with a Scottish driver who was up for much interrogation. He was consistent in claiming he was a “tour guide.” The authorities wanted to know more, but with the connection and good sum of money, they were able to transport us through multiple borders. At some point I could see Ethiopia from Kenya, but that was the route you used to smuggle. We arrived in Uganda and hid there two weeks, until proper documentation was ready, from there we flew to Israel.

TADIAS: So, after several years, you were finally in Israel. How was the first reaction, reception, and adjusting to a new life?

Beejhy: It was a group of incredibly sincere people who had carried out this journey, and it was an absolutely emotional moment for us. The reception was two-pronged. There were so many who were excited to welcome us, the new Jewish Diaspora! Yet, there was some discrimination. The whole interaction between white and black was not easy – there was name calling on both sides. There was also the notion that you were not good enough, even after that level of devotion during the trip you had to reclaim your religion anew with Mikveh (the ritual immersion in a bath to symbolize the conversion into Judaism, to regain purity before entering the Temple). I was young, but I understood the process of the ‘new immigrant.’ I started a new life, new language, new home. I was integrated into all of it. I learned Hebrew. I met kids form Ethiopia and Russia, and after some time I started taking regular classes – I grew up. I learned to be very independent since all of my family members were integrating into a new life as well. I had to do homework by myself for instance. I decided to do my high school in a Kibbutz (a collective community based on agriculture, a co-operative life where everything is shared). Then I decided to join the army, and I served for three years. After that I wanted to travel the world, so I started with the U.S.

TADIAS: Okay, so now we are getting closer and closer to New York and Tsion. Tell us about the journey that ended in you moving to New York City in 2000.

Beejhy: I had saved some money and went backpacking. I was twenty-two. I traveled a bit in the U.S., the Islands, then to Latin America. I traveled to Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, hitchhiking and backpacking. I did the Machu Picchu trail for a week. I mean the adventures were endless – I bungee-jumped, trekked snow mountains, did 100 feet jumps from bridges into rivers, walked the jungles of Peru. It was madness. I went back to Israel and I could not stay. I had seen too much. I went back to New York in 2000 and started babysitting for a Jewish family. I soon started a job in the diamond district managing an office. I started designing jewelry and trading diamonds while going to school, and graduated with a Liberal Arts degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

In 2003 I founded Beta Israel of North America Cultural Foundation (BINA). Throughout my encounters in life, people did not know about Ethiopian Jews or Ethiopia in general. I wanted to create a platform to bring that richness to the world. I started organizing events and BINA was incredibly important in its role of discarding the negative images of Ethiopia; we are strong people with such a magnificent history, and it was important to underline that. After some years, it was clear that I wanted a venue, so the scouting for Tsion Café started.

TADIAS: How did you decide on this particular location?

Beejhy: It is quite ironic because when I first moved here, people told me not to go to Harlem. Now I live and work here. It was serendipity that we ended up here. I wanted a location that was near to home, because of my family, but also a place that demonstrated the history of Harlem. When I first saw the space I felt there was something to it, but didn’t know what. It was only just before construction began that we learned of the historic significance — any lingering doubts about the space was removed at that time. But, the place was like a junkyard, layers of flooring had to be taken out, walls taken down, everything had to be cleaned up. But eventually, it was up and running.

TADIAS: Your staff is a creative bunch; the head chef is Samson Kebede, a bass player for ARKI sound, an Ethiopian Jazz band. Beniam Asfaw is the Art Director and curates work for the Tsion Art Show. Was that intentional when it came to things like designing the menu or the general ambiance?

Beejhy: The food celebrates my upbringing, so we wanted to craft up something that was Ethiopian with a Middle Eastern, Jewish twist, a sort of hybrid. So we have something like Firfir (a dish made from shredded Injera, in a spicy buttery sauce) that is traditionally Ethiopian/Eritrean, but we also have the Malawa (a layered puff pastry dish served with eggs and tomato dip or honey), which is more of a reference to Yemen/Israel. We also try to be efficient with our ingredients; we serve fresh, organic food. The Ethiopian influence is there for sure, but we add a bit more to it. Soon, we will have some fresh bread and pastries to sell. We also have Ethiopian honey wine, and of course, we will have the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

TADIAS: What are your hopes for Tsion Café in the coming years?

Beejhy: I see it becoming a gathering place for the community – where writers can be comfortable to come here and finish their books for instance. We want to highlight art and culture. I see it as a place where we celebrate the diversity within Harlem, a place for growth of ideas, spirituality, and respect for one another, and in a way you will have a better understanding of Ethiopia. It is a space that is envisioned as a positive addition to Harlem. A gift from my family and me to the Harlem community. Tsion means the ‘ultimate spiritual place.’ You come here, and we fill you with good food and a good cultural grounding to all things Harlem — old and new.



If You Go:
Tsion Cafe
763 St. Nicholas Ave.
Harlem, NY 10031
www.tsioncafe.com

To submit artwork: Please be ready to provide your artist bio and artwork list (i.e. title, medium, dimensions and retail price for each artwork). Please include your name, address, email and phone number on your artist bio and artwork list and submit your art to Tsioncafe@gmail.com to be considered.

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US & Cuba Hold Historic Talks in Havana

A woman walks past a bicycle taxi displaying the U.S. and Cuban flags in Havana, Dec. 17, 2014. (Reuters)

Reuters

WASHINGTON — The United States will urge Cuba to lift travel restrictions and agree to establishing U.S. and Cuban embassies in historic talks in Havana this week aimed at restoring diplomatic ties, a senior State Department official said on Monday.

Roberta Jacobson, the top U.S. diplomat for Latin America, will lead the talks scheduled Wednesday through Friday. It will be the first visit to Cuba in 38 years by a U.S. assistant secretary of state.

“We are looking forward to the Cubans lifting travel restrictions, to trying to lift the caps on the number of our diplomatic personnel, to trying to gain unimpeded shipments for our mission and to the free access to our mission by Cubans,” the official said in a conference call.

The official said the outcome of the first round of normalization talks would depend on how far Cuba was willing to go.

“It is hard to know exactly what will come out of this first conversation,” the official said. “I am not oblivious to the weight of history.”

U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro on December 17 announced plans to restore relations between the Cold War foes, with a view to ending the 54-year-old U.S. trade embargo against the communist-led island.

Cuba has released 53 political prisoners it had agreed to free and last week the United States announced the first easing of trade and investment restrictions against Havana.

Washington has said it will press Cuba to release more political prisoners and end short-term detentions.

The official said Obama’s new policy depends on “mutual consent” between the United States and Cuba. “We are ready to accelerate the pace of engagement as it regards our interests and the Cuban people, but a lot will depend on the tolerance of the Cuban government for that engagement,” the official said.

Washington intends to raise its concerns over Cuba’s human rights record, and the U.S. delegation hopes to meet with human rights and dissident groups while in Havana, the official added. “It has always been our practice to engage with civil society. … I really don’t see any need to change that.”

Related:
Why History Will Be Very Kind to Obama (New York Magazine)
Mr. Obama’s Historic Move on Cuba (NYT Editorial)
U.S. to Restore Full Relations With Cuba (NYT)

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Azarias Reda, GOP’s Chief Data Officer, On Forbes 30 Under 30

Ethiopian-born Azarias Reda is the Republican Party’s New Chief Data Officer. (Photo: Forbes Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, January 19th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Ethiopian American Azarias Reda, The Chief Data Officer for the Republican party, has been named by Forbes Magazine as one of thirty promising young leaders below the age of thirty in Law & Policy. The Wall Street Journal notes: “The 28-year-old data evangelist is helping lead the effort to transform the GOP’s knowledge of voters into the power to win elections. Republicans got thumped in the 2012 elections in no small part because of a voter-data failure. The Obama team crushed the Romney campaign and the RNC: on turnout, on targeting and in social media.” Since then, of course, as evidenced by the GOP’s recent takeover of the U.S. Senate, the party’s voter operation has dramatically improved.

Forbes editors of the 2015 list share that “Reda was born in Ethiopia and moved to the U.S. while he was in college.” In its profile of Reda published this past Fall The Wall Street Journal stated: “He and the nearly 50 data scientists and engineers he has recruited to an in-house tech incubator—Para Bellum Labs—are a mind-blowing sight at RNC headquarters. Hipsters in T-shirts and jeans wade through besuited politicians toward a digital room that sports rows of computers and dry-erase walls…The RNC line is that it intends to leapfrog Democrats in the technology of turnout.”

We congratulate Azarias Reda on a well deserved recognition.

Related:
Presenting the 30 Under 30 2015 in Law & Policy (Forbes)
Azarias Reda Helps Republicans Leapfrogg the Democrats’ Tech Advantage (WSJ)

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Spectacular Photos of Timket Festival

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians celebrate Timket at the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and city of Gondar.

Daily Mail

By RUTH STYLES

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

While for most of us, January means cutting down on alcohol and getting to grips with a new workout regime, for Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians, it marks one of the most colourful celebrations of the year. Timkat, the Ethiopian Orthodox take on Epiphany, brings thousands of pilgrims flocking to the ancient rock-hewn churches at Lalibela and to the ancient city of Gondar nearby each winter.

Taken by French photographer Eric Lafforgue, who has travelled widely in Ethiopia meeting local people, the images offer a unique insight into one of the world’s oldest Christian ceremonies. And as the incredible photos reveal, there’s more to the celebration than prayer and contemplation, with colourful parades and late night dips in the river all part of the plan.

Read more at Daily Mail »

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Julie Mehretu Awarded 2015 Medal of Arts by U.S. State Department

Julie Mehretu has been awarded the 2015 US State Department Medal of Arts. (Photo: ©Sarah Rentz)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, January 16th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) – The U.S. Department of State has named Ethiopian American artist Julie Mehretu as a recipient of its 2015 Medal of Arts in recognition of her internationally acclaimed work and her impact in promoting cultural diplomacy. Julie is one of seven artists who is receiving the recognition for her “outstanding commitment and contributions to the Art in Embassies program and international cultural exchange” a State Department spokeswoman told ARTnews.

“The 2015 winners are Xu Bing, Mark Bradford, Sam Gilliam, Maya Lin, Julie Mehretu, Pedro Reyes, and Kehinde Wiley. The biennial award began in 2013 and that year went to Cai Guo-Qiang, Jeff Koons, Shahzia Sikander, Kiki Smith, and Carrie Mae Weems.”

Julie, who lives and works in New York City, was the featured guest speaker at the 2014 American Artist Lecture Series in London this past September sponsored by the Art in Embassies program, Tate Modern and US Embassy London, which brings “the greatest living modern and contemporary American artists to the UK.”

Julie, who was also one of the Executive Producers of the film Difret, was born in Addis Ababa in 1970 and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1977. She is one of the leading contemporary artists in the United States, and has received numerous international recognition for her work including the American Art Award from the Whitney Museum of American Art and the prestigious MacArthur Fellow award.

Congratulations to Julie Mehretu!

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Related:
American Artist Lecture: Julie Mehretu at Tate Modern in London
Julie Mehretu on Africa’s Emerging Presence in Contemporary Art

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British MPs to Visit Ethiopia in Bid to Secure Release of Andy Tsege

Mr Tsege has been held in solitary confinement for the past six months. (Photo via independent.co.uk)

The Independent

By JONATHAN OWEN

Thursday 15 January 2015

A delegation of British MPs will visit Ethiopia next month in a bid to secure the release of Andargachew “Andy” Tsege, a British father of three who is under a death sentence.

Mr Tsege, 59, a leading critic of the Ethiopian government who came to Britain as a political refugee more than 30 years ago, has been held in solitary confinement for the past six months.

He vanished during a stopover in Yemen last June, during a trip from Dubai to Eritrea, in what campaigners say was a politically motivated kidnapping. Weeks later it emerged he had been imprisoned in Ethiopia.

His precise whereabouts remain unknown.

The Briton, who is the secretary-general of a banned Ethiopian opposition movement, is facing a death sentence imposed at a trial held in his absence in 2009.

The announcement of the visit by British Parliamentarians, yesterday, is in stark contrast to the efforts of Prime Minister David Cameron, whose response to desperate pleas for help from Mr Tsege’s family last year was to write a letter to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister.

Jeremy Corbyn, vice-chair, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights, and Mr Tsege’s constituency MP, will lead the delegation. “He is a British citizen so there is no reason on earth why the British government should not take a very robust view on this,” he said.

Read more at The Independent »

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Ethiopian Opposition Faces Difficulty in Entering Upcoming Elections

Voters at a polling station in Ethiopia during the 2010 elections. (Photo: Reuters)

VOA News

By Marthe van der Wolf

January 14, 2015

ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopian opposition parties say they are facing roadblocks in their efforts to register for the May elections. The parties say the National Election Board is complicating procedures for no good reason, and raising doubt that the elections will be free or fair.

The Unity for Democracy and Justice party has the only opposition member in Ethiopia’s 547-seat parliament. But it is unclear if the party will be allowed to participate in the May elections, as the National Election Board has rejected UDJ logos.

Wondimu Golla of the National Election Board said it was not about the logos, but about procedural rules.

“According to their bylaws it says, the president of the party shall be nominated or elected by the general assembly. But they nominate by some few persons, the high officials there. So we oppose this. They have to strictly follow the bylaws, their own bylaws,” said Golla.

The National Election Board has given UDJ two weeks to organize a general assembly, and if its conduct is approved the party will be allowed to participate in the May elections. But the UDJ has decided to not hold another general assembly.

UDJ vice chairman Girma Seifu — the only member of parliament not affiliated with Ethiopia’s ruling party — said the election board’s actions were not justified.

“They do not have any legal ground or moral ground or administrative guideline to do these things. Because this is just an interference just to put a block on our active participation in the election,” said Seifu.

Voter registration in Ethiopia began last week and up to 60 parties may run for seats in the upcoming elections.

The Blue Party, formed in 2012, will be contesting elections for the first time. Blue Party chairman Yilkal Getnet said he was pessimistic about the elections as the party has repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to work with the election board on certain issues.

“They are reluctant, and they did not give us any positive report or signs to improve these things. We did not get any signs that improve the political climate. Now for the coming elections to be free and fair we need to discuss about the political climate, to have a free media, to have international observers to observe the election, and including the budget sharing systems, and so on,” said Getnet.

During the 2005 elections opposition parties won about a third of the seats, but accusations of vote rigging led to mass demonstrations in which at least 200 protesters died and thousands were arrested.

The ruling Ethiopia’s Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front has been in power since the overthrow of the military junta in 1991.
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Related:
The Role of Civil Society in Upcoming Ethiopia Elections: CREW Conference in Washington DC
African Elections in 2015: A Year of Promise and Peril

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Pictures: Taitu Hotel A Precious National Treasure Burns in Ethiopia

A painting of Empress Taitu hangs inside the now burned-out historic Itegue Taitu Hotel in Addis Ababa at the conference room located on the top floor of the building called "Ergebe Bete." (Photograph: Facebook)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, January 13h, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — For more than a century Ethiopia’s iconic Taitu Hotel in Addis Ababa, which was badly burned by a raging fire last weekend, had stood tall bearing the namesake of its founder and the most admired woman in Ethiopian history — Itegue Taitu Bitul who was also one of the leading architects of Ethiopia’s winning strategies at Battle of Adwa on March 1st, 1896.

Empress Taitu opened the hotel a few years after Adwa as the nation’s first full-service hotel prompted by the increasing number of international dignitaries and travelers visiting Ethiopia after the country’s decisive victory against Italian colonial powers at Adwa. Encyclopaedia Aethiopica notes that for a time the Hotel was nicknamed Bollotatos Hotel for its Greek manager. Taitu Hotel was favored by Emperor Menelik as well as Ethiopian students returning from overseas and the political elite of the times. According to historian Ayele Bekerie, an Associate Professor at the Department of History & Cultural Studies at Mekelle University, Ethiopia hosted a reception at Taitu Hotel in 1903 in honor of the centennial anniversary of the Haitian revolution. Furthermore, Taitu Hotel was where war correspondents and photojournalists from around the globe covering the second Italian invasion of Ethiopia were housed in 1935.

Professor Ayele had written extensively about the significance of that era in modern African history and beyond. “Following the war Taitu and Menelik shared the enormous task of building a newly reconstituted country with diverse population and cultures,” notes Professor Ayele. He shared an article honoring Taitu for Women’s History Month two years ago published here. “Empress Taitu Bitul was actively involved in Menelik’s government. It is worth mentioning that she was married to Menelik at the age of forty-three and she was four years older than him,” Professor Ayele states. “Taitu’s pioneering and enduring work in politics, economics, culture, social welfare, military have added to the definition and implementation of a national agenda. The founding of Addis Ababa as a new capital city allowed people to migrate and settle in this new town from all regions of the country.”

Professor Ayele says the Taitu Hotel is a monument not only to the timeless legacy of our forefathers and mothers who kept Ethiopia free, but also stood as a tribute to the woman who established the capital city that today millions of residents call their home. “Taitu Hotel is one of the most important historic landmarks of Addis Ababa,” he said. “Terribly saddened by what happened. It is a precious national treasure. I am hopeful that the building will be restored as soon as possible.”

Below are photos courtesy Professor Ayele, who visited Taitu Hotel’s burned site on Monday morning along with images from Facebook and other media sources.



Related:
Ethiopia’s Historic Landmark Taitu Hotel Sustains Fire Damage

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Eat, Drink & Be Literary 2015 Featuring Acclaimed Writer Dinaw Mengestu

Dinaw Mengestu. (Illustration by Nathan Gelgud)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, January 12th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Acclaimed Ethiopian-born writer Dinaw Mengestu is the featured guest speaker at this month’s “Eat, Drink & Be Literary 2015″ program presented by BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) in partnership with the National Book Foundation, which celebrates today’s most renowned authors.

Dinaw’s latest book All Our Names tops The New York Times’ list of 100 notable books published last year. The editors of NYT’s Book Review state: “With great sadness and much hard truth, Mengestu’s novel looks at a relationship of shared dependencies between a Midwestern social worker and a bereft African immigrant.”

In addition, Dinaw is the author of the novels How to Read the Air and The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, and is a recipient of the 2012 MacArthur Foundation genius grant. He currently teaches at Brooklyn College and Georgetown University.

Dinaw is scheduled to appear at BAMcafé on Tuesday Jan 27th, 2015. The announcement states: “each event begins with a buffet dinner, including wine and dessert, accompanied by live music. Following dinner, the evening’s featured author reads from his or her work and discusses the creative process. Guests are encouraged to ask questions and have their book signed at the conclusion of the evening.”

All events begin at 6:30pm. Doors open at 6pm, and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Incomplete parties are not permitted to save seats.

If You Go:
Tue, Jan 27, 2015
6:30pm – 8:30pm
Peter Jay Sharp Building
BAMcafé
30 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Subscription Price: 51
Single Ticket Price: $60
Ticket price includes wine, dinner, tax, and tip
www.bam.org/programs/2015/eat-drink-and-be-literary

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Historic Taitu Hotel Sustains Fire Damage

The fire-hit Taitu hotel in Addis Ababa. (Photograph: Zacharias Abubeker/AFP/Getty Images)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, January 11th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — The historic Itegue Taitu Hotel in Addis Ababa sustained serious fire damage today. The blaze also destroyed Jazzamba, the popular jazz club located inside the legendary hotel. Located in the Piazza neighborhood Taitu Hotel is the country’s first establishment providing accommodations, meals, and other services both to travelers and locals since 1898 (Ethiopian Calendar).

No deaths were reported in the incident, but commander Tadesse Gemechu, a fire department official, told the Associated Press that “two people were taken to the hospital after being rescued from the fire at the Taitu Hotel which was built in 1907.”


A fire department official says the fire has damaged the hotel which featured the city’s famous jazz club “Jazz Amba”, now destroyed, which was frequented by foreigners and locals alike. (AP)


Firemen walk through wreckage at the Taitu Hotel following a fire at the historical landmark, built in 1907, in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Elias Asmare)

AP adds: “Tadesse says the cause of the fire is being investigated. Many of the hotel’s rooms, its historic pieces and a bank office were completely burned down before firefighters put out the fire. The city’s famous jazz club that used to be frequented by foreigners and locals alike, Jazz Amba, was also completely destroyed by the inferno. Addis Ababa’s Deputy Mayor Abate Sitotaw said efforts will be made to restore the Taitu Hotel.”

—-
Related:
Fire Damages Historic Hotel in Ethiopia (AP)

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African Elections in 2015: A Year of Promise and Peril

Voters queue to cast their ballots at a polling station in Ethiopia during the 2010 elections. (AP photo)

Tadias Magazine
News Update

Press Release

U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations

2015 is a critical year in the governance and political landscape of Africa, with national and parliamentary elections taking place across the continent. There are currently 14 legislative and presidential elections scheduled for 2015, including those in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic (CAR), Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Lesotho, Nigeria, Somaliland, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia.

While nations such as Tanzania and Zambia seek to extend their advancements in peaceful, democratic transitions in 2015; other African nations face the prospect of holding elections in the context of conflict or post-conflict settings with significant ethnic and/or regional tensions, such as those in Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria and the Central African Republic. These elections could present serious challenges to internal and regional stability across the continent, and will require vital technical, logistical and security-related support from the African Union and the international community.

In addition to these challenges, close attention should be paid to the issue of electoral term limits continent-wide. While there are several African nations where strong adherence to constitutional term limits has taken root – such as Ghana, Namibia and Mozambique; there is an unsettling trend towards constitutional amendments to extend term limits in Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some African leaders argue that without a competent and organized opposition; they are justified in extending their terms in the best interest of their nations. The rejoinder to this argument, from many in African civil society, and the international community is that this logic creates a perennial excuse for African leaders to suppress dissent and political opposition in order to retain power. This same trend was the root cause of the civil unrest late last year in Burkina Faso, which ultimately led to the removal of President Compaore from office.

As Africans across the continent engage in the democratic process, African governments and regional bodies must work to provide maximum transparency and security; as well as mechanisms for electoral grievances and support for the acceptance of results. They should not however, be expected to do this alone. US foreign assistance agencies, the broader international community, and the relevant agencies of the United Nations system must be poised to provide necessary support in this year of numerous African elections.

Related:
The Role of Civil Society in Upcoming Ethiopia Elections: CREW Conference in Washington DC

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The Role of Civil Society in 2015 Ethiopia Elections: Women Conference in DC

Dr. Maigenet Shifferaw (R) President of Center for the Rights of Ethiopian Women CREW. (Photo: Tadias)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, January 9th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Organizers of the fourth annual International Conference of Ethiopian Women in the Diaspora, which is scheduled to take place on March 7th, 2015 in Washington DC, are calling for presentation proposals regarding “The Role of Civil Society Organization (CSOs) in the Upcoming Elections in Ethiopia.”

“The main objective is to create an understanding of the magnitude of the negative impact of the Societies and Charities Law on the activities of nongovernmental organizations,” states the event host, U.S.-based Center for the Rights of Ethiopian Women (CREW). “As a women’s civil society organization, CREW will also pay special attention to Ethiopian women’s participation in the political process. Thus, one of the major questions that the conference will address will be the role of women’s organizations in mobilizing women to seek their rights for fair and free elections.”

The announcement notes that between the early 1990′s and mid-2000s civil society organizations had actually flourished in Ethiopia, but that changed following a 2009 law called “the Societies and Charities Proclamation” that, organizers point out, neutralized the activities of such associations. The press release added: “Individual initiatives through CSOs are based on the inalienable right to participate in addressing vital political and socio-economic issues, without belonging to political parties. Civil society organizations are autonomous means of participating in public life. They are systems promoting initiatives to ensure that people have the opportunities to pursue their preferred directions in their political, economic or social lives. Without the active role of CSOs therefore, creating awareness of the rights and responsibilities of citizens and having fair and free elections is going to be impossible.”

Organizers emphasize that the conference is intended to address the following themes: “Assessment of the Societies and Charities Law and its impact on the activities of civil society organizations in the upcoming elections: lessons learned from previous elections and challenges and opportunities for the upcoming elections; women’s participation in the political process and women’s advocacy for free and fair elections; plans of action and advocacy strategies for encouraging women to seek political leadership positions; and encouraging the international community to promote free and peaceful elections in Ethiopia.”

If you are interested in presenting papers on any of these areas, CREW asks that you submit a one-page proposal by January 30th, 2015. Learn more at www.centerforethiopianwomen.org.

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US Updates African Diaspora on Ebola Response

Medical supplies from the U.S. delivered in Monrovia, Liberia to assist in the fight against Ebola. (AP Photo)

Tadias Magazine
News Update

Response

Press Release: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs

Last month, the State Department’s Bureaus of Public Affairs and African Affairs, in coordination with interagency colleagues, hosted a conference call with Assistant Secretary of African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield and approximately 200 representatives of the African diaspora community from across the United States. Together with officials from USAID, the National Security Council (NSC) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Assistant Secretary of African Affairs, provided an update on the ongoing response to the crisis.

In December 2014, Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield was part of a U.S. delegation to Liberia, led by Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Lumpkin, to assess the current state of Liberia’s fight against Ebola and U.S. response efforts on the ground. On this call, she reviewed her trip and commended the efforts of U.S. Embassy personnel in Monrovia, who are working around the clock, to support the anti-Ebola effort. She also stressed that the U.S. Government response to Ebola has been a “whole of government” effort.

In response to questions from call participants, Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield noted that, after several very difficult months, Liberia has made significant gains in the fight against Ebola. She also added that more work remains to be done until Liberia is Ebola-free. To that end, she urged Liberians not to change the practices that have been put in place to ensure the eradication of this disease.

The Assistant Secretary also remarked that Ebola is a “regional problem,” not a Liberian problem, and one that requires tremendous teamwork and international coordination. In that regard, she described the collaborative efforts of the U.S. embassy, USAID, the CDC, the African Union and Liberians as nothing short of “impressive.”

Thomas-Greenfield remains engaged in coordination efforts with other U.S. Government agencies and colleagues in the international community around the recovery program in the region, the state of the health sector, and the conditions for improvement in education and infrastructure.

The U.S. Government continues to stand with Liberia, and knows that this is a situation that they cannot fight alone. Liberia and other Ebola-affected countries need the support of the international community and we are committed to providing that support. President Obama made that very clear when he said that this is a national security crisis, not only for the region, but for the world.

For more information on the ongoing U.S. response to the virus, please visit the State Department page here.

About the Author:
David Duckenfield serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Public Affairs.

Related:
WHO: Ebola Death Toll Passes 7,500
Ethiopians arrive in West Africa to fight Ebola
Ethiopia Holds Farewell Gala for Volunteer Doctors Headed to Ebola-Hit Countries
Africa Sets Up $28.5m Ebola Crisis Fund
Don’t Let Ebola Dehumanize Africa
5,000 Ebola Health Care Workers Needed In West Africa: WHO
Ethiopia to Deploy 210 Health Workers in Ebola-Hit West Africa
In first case, Doctor in New York City is Diagnosed With Ebola
Cuba’s Impressive Role on Ebola
Ebola: Africa’s Image Takes a Hit
U.S. Embassy: No Confirmed or Suspected Cases of Ebola in Ethiopia
Ethiopia Launches Ebola Testing Lab to Combat Epidemic

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Ethiopian Christians Celebrate Christmas

Night masses were conducted at churches across the country. At dawn, a cannon was fired nine times to mark the occasion. (Photo: AA)

Anadolu News Agency

By Abebech Tamene

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopian Orthodox Christians celebrated Christmas on Wednesday – along with other Eastern Orthodox Christians around the world – on Jan. 7, some two weeks after December 25, when their Western counterparts celebrate Jesus’ birth.

“Celebrating Christmas on this day [Jan. 7] makes our church unique,” Abba Haile Mariam Melese, the church’s deputy general manager, told The Anadolu Agency.

Two main versions of the Christian calendar are currently in use around the world – the Julian calendar and the Gregorian calendar. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, for its part, uses the former, introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C.

The difference between the two calendars lies in the way they estimate the length of the tropical year, and how they calculate when Easter falls.

“The [Ethiopian] church follows the Julian calendar because it believes it is the most appropriate for counting days and years,” Melese told AA. “Besides, the Julian calendar is derived from the Bible; it is not good to deviate from it when counting days and years.”

Late Tuesday, nighttime masses were conducted at churches across the country. At dawn, a cannon was fired nine times to mark the occasion.

Read more »

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A 40-Day Vegan Fast, Then, At Last, A January Christmas Feast

Ethiopians around the world celebrated Christmas on Wednesday, January 7th. The following is NPR's highlight of the Ethiopian holiday feast that follows 40 days of vegan fast. (Photo: NPR)

NPR

By Gregory Warner

An Ethiopian kitchen can be a place of both succulence and self-denial.

In the kitchen of Abyssinia, a popular Ethiopian eatery in Nairobi, the owner, Abebe, demonstrates how his cook prepares the dish called kitfo. It’s raw minced beef whipped together with cardamom and chili and a spicy butter, with a texture and taste closer to delicate cheese than to steak tartar.

Kitfo is actually Abebe’s favorite food, but it’s one he hasn’t been allowed to eat for the past month. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, one of the world’s oldest, observes Christmas on Jan. 7, following a calendar similar to the Coptic Church. The 40 days prior to Christmas (including Dec. 25) are observed with a vegan fast.

This 40-day Nativity Fast — also observed by the Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Catholic and Coptic Church, among others — typically prohibits meat, dairy, eggs, oil and wine. (Some traditions are ambiguous about whether fish may be eaten.)

The church considers refraining from some meals and some foods to be a form of purification and spiritual preparation. While the term “vegan” was coined only 70 years ago, prohibitions against eating meat and dairy for extended periods have been around for millennia. But no church has as many fasting days as the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Abebe says that at a time of year when others are gorging, there’s something gratifying in self-denial.

Read more »

Listen to the story:


Related:
Ethiopian Christians Celebrate Christmas

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Liccardo Inaugurated Mayor of San Jose

San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo high-fives supporters after the City of San Jose 2015 Inaugural Ceremony at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. (Photo: Bay Area News Group)

Tadias Magazine
News Update

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

San Jose (TADIAS) – The City of San Jose 2015 Inaugural Ceremony for the new Mayor Sam Liccardo took place at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts in downtown San Jose, California on Tuesday, January 6th. Liccardo, who was endorsed by the Ethiopian American Council (EAC), was elected Mayor of San Jose following a hotly-contested race against county Supervisor Dave Cortese during the 2014 midterm elections in November. The city, which is home to tens of thousands of immigrants from Ethiopia and their first generation American-born children, is the 10th most populous city in America and the largest in Silicon Valley.

Below are a few photos from the event via Bay Area News Group.


San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo waits on stage before being sworn in next to his wife Jessica García-Kohl during the City of San Jose 2015 Inaugural Ceremony at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)


The audience listens to speakers during the City of San Jose 2015 Inaugural Ceremony at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)


San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo, right, takes a “selfie” with Melvis Cruz, left, after the City of San Jose 2015 Inaugural Ceremony at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

1420674255_SJM-LICCARDO-0107-007-L
San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo greets supporters after the City of San Jose 2015 Inaugural Ceremony in the lobby of the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

See more photos at San Jose Mercury News »


Sam Liccardo to be Inaugurated New Mayor of San Jose, California


The newly elected Mayor of San Jose, California Sam Liccardo. (Photo: The Ethiopian American Council)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) – Ethiopian American friends and supporters of the new Mayor of San Jose Sam Liccardo, who officially takes office today, are expected to attend his inauguration ceremony this evening. The Office of the new Mayor has already moved the inauguration venue once due to capacity issues. “Tuesday evening’s inaugural ceremony surprisingly outstripped the 1,100-seat California Theatre even before Liccardo officially took office,” reports The San Jose Mercury News. “Fortunately, this was an easy one to fix, and the ceremony has been moved to the roomier Center for the Performing Arts.” The newspaper adds: “With the extra space, registration has been reopened for the free event, which starts at 6 p.m. (Doors open at 5:30 p.m.).

Liccardo, who was endorsed by the Ethiopian American Council (EAC), was elected Mayor of San Jose, California following a hotly-contested race against county Supervisor Dave Cortese during the 2014 midterm elections in November. The city, which is home to tens of thousands of immigrants from Ethiopia and their first generation American-born children, is the 10th most populous city in America and the largest in Silicon Valley.

Regarding the inaugural ceremony today, the San Jose Mercury News notes that you can “register in advance online until noon Tuesday, http://conta.cc/1BC91R6, or by emailing mayorevents@sanjoseca.gov or calling 408-535-4800. Anyone interested in seeing the event without joining the audience Tuesday can watch the ceremony on CivicCenterTV at www.sanjoseca.gov.”


(Photo: Courtesy The Ethiopian American Council)
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Related:
Sam Liccardo Elected Mayor of San Jose
Sam Liccardo Wins San Jose, California Mayoral Primary Election
San Jose Mayoral Candidate Liccardo Releases Amharic Campaign Literature
Ethiopian American Council Endorses Sam Liccardo for San Jose Mayor

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Model & Designer Hiwot Bekele Represents Ethiopia at 63rd Miss Universe Pageant

Hiwot Bekele Mamo, 24, is the current Miss Universe Ethiopia. (Photo: Miss Universe )

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, January 5th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) – 24-year-old Hiwot Bekele will represent Ethiopia at this year’s Miss Universe contest, which will be held on January 25th, 2015 at Florida International University (FIU) in Doral, Miami. Hiwot was crowned Miss Universe Ethiopia in November following a competition held at the Radisson Blu hotel in her hometown of Addis Ababa.

According to the Miss Universe Organization:

Hiwot Bekele was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At a very young age, she fell in love with pageants and fashion design. At 16, she started modeling and doing pageants. When she turned 17, she joined Next Fashion Designing Institute to develop her knowledge and her passion fashion designing. She is a hard worker. She graduated high school first from her department and joined Addis Ababa University School of Commerce. She had one of the best GPA’s at her university, and on top of school and modeling she started working for a production company as a marketer. After a few months she was promoted to Marketing Manager. After graduating from AAUSC, Hiwot started developing her own fashion line. She won several prizes over the years working as a model, designer and a pageant girl. She is now 24 years old, working as one of the top models in Ethiopia and running her own line as a fashion designer.


Left: Hiwot Bekele designing a dress. Right: celebrating her third birthday. (Credit: Miss Universe)

Per the the announcement the upcoming 63rd annual Miss Universe pageant in Florida features 88 participants from around the world and the crowning of the new queen by last year’s winner Gabriela Isler of Venezuela. Organizers add: “Thomas Roberts and Natalie Morales will host the event with live musical acts performing during the show.”

In the United States the competition will be televised live on NBC from the FIU Arena on Sunday, January 25th at 8/7c.



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Tsion Cafe in Harlem Combines Ethiopian & American Cuisine with Community Art

Tsion Bakery and Cafe is located in the historic Sugar Hill section of Harlem at 763 St. Nicholas Avenue between 148th and 149th Street in New York City. (Photo: Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — The newly opened Tsion Cafe in Harlem — which is owned by the founder of the annual Sheba Film Festival, Beejhy Barhany, and her husband Padmore John — will launch the Art at Tsion Series event at a reception on January 22nd featuring four up-and-coming local artists including Brooklyn-based Maro Haile of deseta.net, the Addis Ababa-born and NYC-raised painter and fashion artist Miku Girma (Rep1), graphic designer Jason Auguste, and photographer Feruze Zeko. Tsion Café is extending an invitation to all emerging and established artists to submit artwork for future exhibitions at the cafe.

In addition to serving the residents and visitors of this historic neighborhood a delicious combination of Ethiopian and American food, the owners envision Tsion growing as a platform to showcase new and established artists, both locally and internationally. “Tsion Café is a hip cosmopolitan community space dedicated to serve as a cultural platform where local and traveling musicians, poets, writers and artists can present their work,” the announcement stated.

Tsion Cafe is at a historic location where Malcolm X once worked, we are told, and beginning in February during African-American History Month the place will also introduce open mic poetry evenings.



If You Go:
Art at Tsion Series
Opening Reception January 22nd, 2015
6:30pm to 8:30pm
Tsion Cafe
763 St. Nicholas Ave.
Harlem, NY 10031
www.tsioncafe.com

To submit artwork: Please be ready to provide your artist bio and artwork list (i.e. title, medium, dimensions and retail price for each artwork). Please include your name, address, email and phone number on your artist bio and artwork list and submit your art to Tsioncafe@gmail.com to be considered.

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Ethiopia Dam Project Could Start Power Generation by June – Official

Construction site of the Gilgel Gibe III dam in Ethiopia. (Photo: grandmillenniumdam.net)

Reuters

BY AARON MAASHO

ADDIS ABABA — A much-delayed $1.8 billion dam project under construction along Ethiopia’s Omo river could begin generating power by June and be fully operational by early 2016, an official said on Thursday.

Gilgel Gibe 3 will nearly double the country’s energy output, helping to resolve chronic power outages and sustain a booming economy. Work started in 2008 and was due to be completed around three years later, but the project has faced funding shortages over concerns about its environmental impact.

“88 percent of the work for the Gibe 3 hydropower project has already been completed,” Azeb Asnake, chief executive officer of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation, told Reuters.

Two of ten units would be ready by June, Azeb said, while one additional unit would come on line each month after that. Upon completion the project will generate 1,870 MW of power.

Ethiopia plans to spend a total of $12 billion to tap the rivers that cascade down its craggy highlands over the next two decades in a bid to beat energy shortages and become Africa’s biggest power exporter.

Read more »

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Celebrating the New Year Around the World

From Sydney, Australia's iconic Opera House (above) to New York's Times Square, people across the globe held New Year celebrations last night welcoming 2015. (Photo: VOA News)

VOA News

Published: Thursday, January 1st, 2015

People around the world welcomed the New Year with fireworks, glitter, song and dance, and well-wishing. At least for this day, the world seemed to have one unique goal – to join in celebration, although it was subdued in Indonesia, where people mourned those killed in this week’s AirAsia plane crash.

VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports that world leaders took the opportunity to broadcast messages of peace.

Watch: Celebrating the New Year Around the World (VOA Video)


Related:
Tadias Year in Review: 2014 in Pictures
Ten Arts & Culture Stories of 2014

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People of Ethiopia’s Omo Valley Inspire Dolce & Gabbana 2015 Collection

The brightly colored and evocative traditional style of the Bana people of Ethiopia's Omo Valley is attracting the attention of international fashion designers like Dolce & Gabbana. (Photograph credit: Eric Lafforgue)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

New York (TADIAS) – The colorful hairwear of the people of Ethiopia’s Omo Valley is inspiring international fashion — just take a look at the 2015 collection by style powerhouse Dolce & Gabbana that’s taking the world by storm. “When Dolce & Gabanna sent models sporting piles of colourful hair accessories down the catwalk during their S/S15 show, the fashion world swooned in delight,” notes the Daily Mail. “But the designers’ source of inspiration for the look is an unlikely one – the colourful Bana people of Ethiopia’s Omo Valley, who like nothing better than intricate piles of brightly coloured hair clips.”

The Daily Mail also points out Japan’s Kawaii girls also share a similar tradition of adoring their hair with colorful clips, but the Japanese seem to prefer different shades of a single color – pink.

For Ethiopia’s Bana tribe “getting dressed is less about showing individuality and more about looking as bright and cheerful as possible. Beadwork has long been part of their culture, with many opting for colourful beaded headbands – sometimes combined with the hair clips. Others, regardless of sex and age, adorn themselves with piles of arm bands, heavy metal necklaces and beaded belts in eye-popping shades of yellow and crimson. However they are worn, piles of colourful hair clips have proved one of the most universally popular trends of 2014, with devotees also spotted at Glastonbury in the summer and at festivals across the globe. And with scores of colourful hair accessories cropping up on the S/S15 catwalk, it is probably just a matter of time before they show up on a high street near you.”


Beautiful: Bana woman in Ethiopia — As this photo reveals, her simple t-shirt is almost hidden by her beaded belt and breast plate and she also carries an umbrella. ((Photo credit: Eric Lafforgue)

Read more at www.dailymail.co.uk »

Related:
Tadias Year in Review: 2014 in Pictures
Ten Arts & Culture Stories of 2014

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Tadias Year in Review: 2014 in Pictures

On the eve of the historic US-Africa Summit, Michelle Obama speaks at the summit of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in Washington on July 30th, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, December 29th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) – This year President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) launched the first annual Mandela Washington Fellowship, which included 13 young professionals from Ethiopia. Closing events for the fellows coincided with the historic U.S.-Africa Summit held in Washington D.C.

There was more uplifting news as Ethiopia nominated Dr. Catherine Hamlin for the Nobel Peace Prize. And it was a pleasure to root for Genzebe Dibaba who shattered multiple world records in 2014. The 23-year-old running star, who has yet to reach the pinnacle of her career, went on to earn a nomination for the prestigious annual IAAF Athlete of the Year award, getting a well-deserved seat as one of the finalists at the World Athletics Gala held in Monaco on November 21st, 2014. The award-winning film Difret also sparked a great deal of praise in our community, not to mention the ads directed by David Mesfin, in collaboration with Wondwossen Dikran and Ezra Wube, for the 2014 FIFA World Cup multi-platform commercials for Hyundai car company.

This year also brought a significant share of difficult news, from the arrest of the Zone Nine blogging collective to the violence against student protestors in the Oromia region, as well as the recent hard-hitting television documentary by Dan Rather exposing “The Shameful Side of International Adoption,” which focuses on adopted Ethiopian children in the United States who have been “re-homed, and moved to new adoptive families with little oversight and assistance.” And certainly a review of the past twelve months would not be complete without mentioning the deployment of 187 Ethiopian medical professionals to Ebola-hit West African countries.

Indeed 2014 was also a year where social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter played a key role in bringing global attention to the maddening and heartbreaking case of a 16-year-old girl in Ethiopia who died after being kidnapped and raped by a gang of five men in Addis Ababa a few weeks back: The Yellow Movement at Addis Ababa University Update on Abduction of Hanna Lalango.

The most viewed photograph of the year on our website was our highlight of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s fun dining experience at an Ethiopian restaurant in Bay Area, California this past summer: Cool Moment – Zuckerberg Enjoys Ethiopian Food at Walia Restaurant in San Jose.

We wish all of you the best in the new year! And we look forward to covering more stories in 2015.

Photos: Tadias Year in Review – 2014 in Pictures


Related:
Ten Arts & Culture Stories of 2014

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Lemma Guya: Ethiopian Painter Still Going Strong at 87

Lemma Guya: "I am an African and my Africanness is uniquely rooted in my Ethiopianness." (Photo: AA)

Anadolu Agency

By Seleshi Tessema

ADDIS ABABA – Renowned Ethiopian painter Lemma Guya has just put the finishing touches on his goat skin-mounted portraits of the 53 African leaders who founded the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963.

“I am an African and my Africanness is uniquely rooted in my Ethiopianness,” the 87-year-old Guya told The Anadolu Agency from his mansion-turned-gallery in Bishoftu, located some 40km south of Addis Ababa.

“Throughout my career I have shuttled between these two mutually complementary identities,” he added. “In my paintings I have tried to depict and narrate our acceptable and unacceptable traditions and lives.”

Maybe that’s why visitors to his mansion, which sits on 10,000 square meters of land, will find a yellowish bronze bust of a smiling Nelson Mandela, the late South African leader, as soon as they step into the place.

“Mandela is the most perfect embodiment of Africa’s rise,” Guya asserted. “He radiates dauntless moral courage, a peaceful transition of state power, equality, justice, inclusiveness and democracy.”

Guya traces Mandela’s story to Ethiopia, where the liberation icon received his first military training and his first handgun.

“This is why he stands here as a philosophical inspiration of my works and our lives,” he said.

The veteran painter, who looks much younger than his age, established his “African Art Museum” in 1983 inside his gallery.

“I wanted to make it an African visual art center of excellence,” he said. “But its fundamental objective was to initiate dialogue about African art with the aim of achieving Africa’s rebirth.”

“The then Organization of African Unity joined the vision and it was inaugurated by its then secretary-general, Ahmed Salim Ahmed,” Guya said.

Yet the pan-African body’s promises to financially support the center and turn it into a hub for African painters never materialized.

“I was disheartened by the backpedaling on promises. After years of waiting, I decided to go my way,” he said.

But despite the passage of years, Guya never forgot his artistic engagement with Africa.

“I have presented a project that aims to produce the portraits of the founding fathers of the African body on goat or gazelle skin,” he said.

The idea – along with some sample portraits – was well received by African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in 2013.

In a hand-written note, she promised to stand foursquare behind the artist and his project.

“We are grateful for all the works of art you have produced in authentic African style for the history of Africa, the OAU and AU in a unique way,” Dlamini-Zuma wrote. “Our support is guaranteed.”

Guya has already completed the portraits to be displayed at the AU’s Addis Ababa headquarters.

Read more »

Related:
Ten Arts & Culture Stories of 2014

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Ten Arts & Culture Stories of 2014

The late artist Asnaketch Worku in the new film "Asni," which chronicles her life. (Courtesy photograph)

Tadias Magazine
By Tigist Selam

Published: Monday, December 22nd, 2014

New York (TADIAS) – As we wrap up the year we wish our audience around the world a happy and safe holiday season. And, as always, we look back at some of the top arts & culture stories that captured our attention in 2014. The list is organized in no particular order. Enjoy and see you in 2015!

‘Asni’: A Documentary on the Legendary Ethiopian Performing Artist Asnaketch Worku

The movie Asni was, hands down, one of the best Ethiopian documentary films released in 2014. Directed by Rachel Samuel and edited & co-produced by Yemane Demissie (Associate Professor of Film & Television at New York University), the documentary features the life and times of legendary Ethiopian musician and actress Asnaketch Worku. The captivating narrative gives us a glimpse into the performer’s popular and controversial past through her own words as well as those of her peers. The interview was recorded inside her humble home in Addis Ababa, while she was in bed-rest, a few years before she passed away. After watching the film my first thoughts were “What a woman Asnaketch was!” Free spirited, talented, curious, stylish, beautiful, outspoken and a trailblazer on the stage. It’s moving that at the end Asni — whom in her younger age was in many ways ahead of her time from the rigid and conservative societal norms of her generation — left us a lasting legacy that was built on passion for her profession and pure labor-of-love instead of on feckless pursuit of money and fame. That’s why, I personally believe, that today as Ethiopians everywhere we should cherish and celebrate Asni for she is our cultural treasure and irreplaceable. They did not call her The Lady with the Kirar for nothing. Asnaketch Worku was a born Ethiopian star.

Watch the trailer here: Asni – Courage, Passion & Glamor in Ethiopia

Dinaw Mengistu’s New Novel ‘All Our Names’


Dinaw Mengestu, author of the new book ‘All Our Names.’ (Photograph credit: Michael Lionstar)

Dinaw Mengistu dropped another of his mesmerizing and culturally-transcending novels this year (his third), firmly establishing himself as one of the most important writers of our generation. His latest book All Our Names was published in 2014. The New York Times notes: “All three of Dinaw Mengestu’s novels are about people who, for various reasons, come to this country and fashion new lives…For while questions of race, ethnicity and point of origin do crop up repeatedly in Mengestu’s fiction, they are merely his raw materials, the fuel with which he so artfully — but never didactically — kindles disruptive, disturbing stories exploring the puzzles of identity, place and human connection.” In addition I would say that All Our Names is a great read so share it with friends and family.

Difret Wins Audience Awards at Two Major International Film Festivals: Sundance & Berlin


(Photos credit: Haile-Addis Pictures)

The year started off with a bang for Ethiopian cinema on international big screens with Difret by Zeresenay Berhane Mehari winning two audience awards — at Sundance and Berlin film festivals. And it ended with the feature drama becoming Ethiopia’s 2014 official Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film. Although there could be no doubt that Difret was the most talked-about Ethiopian movie of the year, I hope the film continues to invite conversations about the inherent cruelty of child marriage. (Here is a great review by The Los Angeles Times).

Taitu Cultural and Educational Center Celebrates 14th Anniversary


(Photo courtesy: The Taitu Cultural and Educational Center)

The Taitu Cultural Center marked its 14th anniversary in 2014. Perhaps it speaks more to the vision and determination of Ethiopian actress and playwright Alemtsehay Wedajo, the Founder & Director, that the organization survived for more than a decade without much resources in comparison to institutions of the same category in the Washington. D.C. metropolitan area. Over the last decade-and-half the center has become a staging-ground for established and aspiring Ethiopian artists, including poets, painters, musicians, comedians and Amharic book authors residing near the U.S. capital and beyond. The 14th anniversary celebration took place on November 2nd at Tifereth Israel Congregation in Washington. The event’s program featured a play called Yasteyikal. A comedy and selected poems of the year were also recited by legendary performers, including Alemtsehay Wedajo herself and Tesfaye Sima. Wishing Taitu much success for many years to come!

Aida Muluneh’s Addis Photo Fest


Photo courtesy: Addis Foto Fest (AFF)

The Addis Photo Fest, founded by Ethiopian photographer Aida Muluneh, held its 4th exhibition in Addis Ababa this year. It’s not an easy task to curate an annual show not only because photography as an art form is still a complex subject, but also because choosing the right theme and artists is an even more daunting challenge. The reward, when done properly, is that photography exhibitions could actually be an effective medium to explore pertinent and timely social issues (both local and global) beyond the abstract and academic that are positive, as well as negative, and require the public’s attention. We congratulate Aida on her efforts and we look forward to the Addis Photo Fest continuing to receive the international recognition that it deserves.

Marcus Samuelsson’s Latest Book: “Marcus Off Duty”

Marcus Samuelsson never stops! And that’s not surprising given that he lives in a city that never sleeps either. The New York-based restaurateur and celebrity-chef, who was born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, highlights in his latest book, Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home, the eclectic tastes and cooking-sensibilities of the world’s most diverse ethnic communities found right here in the United States. The following video is our interview with Marcus during his book talk and signing event last month in Washington D.C. where he was hosted by Joe Yonan, the Food & Travel Editor of The Washington Post. His book is available at Barnes & Noble or online at Amazon.com.

Ethiopia Habtemariam: Billboard Women In Music 2014


Ethiopia Habtemariam is President of Motown Records, President of Universal Music Group’s urban music division, and co-head of creative at Universal Music Publishing Group. (Photograph: Universal Music Group)

When it comes to climbing the corporate ladder in the American music industry, it almost can’t get any better than reaching the helm of the country’s historic label — Motown Records. In 2014 34-year-old Ethiopia Habtemariam was promoted to President of Motown Records following a major reorganization at Universal Music Group. It was announced over the summer that Ethiopia will also remain in her previous role as Head of Urban Music division at Universal Music Publishing Group. She was one of Billboard magazine’s “Women in Music 2014″ honored in New York this month along with Beyonce, Aretha Franklin, Taylor Swift and many more. We congratulate Ethiopia on her accomplishments and wish her continued success!

Ethiopian American Painter Julie Mehretu at the Tate Modern in London


Julie Mehretu at her studio in New York. (Photograph: Tim Knox)

Ethiopian-born American painter Julie Mehretu, who was also one of the Executive Producers of the film Difret, was the featured guest speaker at the fifth American Artist Lecture Series at the Tate Modern in London on September 22, 2014. The program, a partnership between Art in Embassies, Tate Modern and US Embassy London, “bring the greatest living modern and contemporary American artists to the UK.” Julie, who was born in Addis Ababa in 1970 and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1977, is one of the leading contemporary artists in the United States. She has received numerous international recognition for her work including the American Art Award from the Whitney Museum of American Art and the prestigious MacArthur Fellow award. She had residencies at the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (1998–99), the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2001), the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota (2003), and the American Academy in Berlin (2007). Julie is an inspiration for many young people around the world and we look forward to more brilliant work in the future.

The 2014 Hub of Africa Fashion Week in Ethiopia


The 3rd Hub of Africa Fashion Week was held in Addis Ababa in October 2014. (Courtesy photograph)

The 2014 Hub of Africa Fashion Week took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on October 23rd and 24th at Galani Coffee and Gallery. The international runway show is getting bigger and stronger. The event this year was dubbed the “Editorial Edition” and included a special event at Monarch Hotel on October 25th targeting buyers and fashion industry players. The participating designers included Modanik (DRC); Ruald Rheeder (South Africa); Katungulu (Kenya) Yohannes Sisters (Ethiopia); Abugida (Ethiopia); Cepha Maina (Kenya); Mela (Ethiopia); Sandstorm (Kenya), Assi’s Collection (Ethiopia) Rooi (Nigeria/London): and Mataano (Somalia). (Click here to see some wonderful photos)

UNICEF Ethiopia Appoints Young Rap Star Abelone Melese as its New National Ambassador


Abelone Melese. (UNICEF video)

Last, but not least, in November 2014 UNICEF Ethiopia named young rap star Abelone Melese, a citizen of Norway with Ethiopian origin, as its new National Ambassador at a signing ceremony held at the UNICEF Ethiopia office in Addis Ababa. The organization notes that “the event was attended by Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, Mrs. Tove Stub, Minister Counsellor/Deputy Head of Mission, Royal Norwegian Embassy, members of the media and UNICEF staff.” Big congratulations to Abelone Melese!
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